Suspense

Summer Shorts, 2015 – Three for the Beach

 

There are two kinds of Beach Reads:

  • Action-packed adventure/thrillers that rev up your blood pressure and provide stay-awake reading
  • Completely relaxing, low-key, fun mystery books that tweak your brain cells, but allow you to nod off on time


Action-packed Beach Reads are books that you can take with you on vacation, or allow you to immerse yourself between the pages if you can’t get away. They transport you to a place and time you will most likely never see and the heroes and heroines are super at what they do. A great action Beach Read delivers pure escapism.

 

Book Cover - Expedition Indigo

 

Stacy Allen’s debut novel, “Expedition Indigo,” introduces us to Dr. Riley Cooper, a Professor of Archeology at a renowned university, an expert in Mediterranean history, a certified diver, but not so expert in picking the right guy, or staying out of danger.

 

The Under Water Sea Adventures salvage company has discovered a sunken ship off the coast of Italy that may hold Charlemagne’s coronation cross, thought to have been lost forever. When Cooper’s boss is injured in a mysterious accident, she gets the chance of a lifetime to work in the field to verify the cross’ authenticity, but suspense and intrigue surrounding the find may be her undoing. The Vatican wants her help, a rival salvage company wants people dead, her love interest may have too many strings attached, and Riley just wants to do her job.

 

Cooper’s refreshing naiveté in the cutthroat world of treasure hunting, and the fascinating look at the world of archeology, combine to make this an entertaining (as well as educational) Beach Read, with plenty of action to boot. Nominated for the Silver Falchion Award for Best First Novel.

 

Visit www.stacyallenauthor.com

 

 

Book Cover - Weakest Lynx

 

 

Fiona Quinn, “Weakest Lynx” – In Quinn’s first solo novel, she delivers an absorbing spin on the thriller genre with an under-the-radar, 20 year old psychic, Lexi Sobado, at the center. When a creepy stalker threatens her life, she receives round the clock protection from the Special Ops teams she has helped in the past. 

 

Quinn’s writing style is taut, as Lexi deals with the stalker that never stops coming, a honeymoon cut short, and constant psychic and physical challenges. Not to give anything away, but Lexi’s recovery from an accident is particularly hair-raising. Her psychic sensations will give you chills and the disturbing stalker will make you think about getting a security system installed before you finish reading the book. With a forbidden love interest, and loads of action from start to finish, this is a wild Beach Read and a Kindle Scout winner. Book 2 of the series, “Missing Lynx,” is out now.

 

Visit www.fionaquinnbooks.com

 

 

For something more mellow, look to…

Book Cover - braun1

 

Lilian Jackson Braun, “The Cat Who…” series

The prolific Lilian Jackson Braun wrote the extremely popular ‘Cat Who’ series of twenty-nine books between 1966 and 2008. They starred James Qwilleran, former newspaper reporter who inherits a large fortune in the fictional small town of Pickax. In order to accept the inheritance and manage a worthy Foundation, he must move to the town. A man of simple means and a huge mustache, this grates against his nature, but the greater good changes his mind.

 

Coming from the big city, Qwilleran isn’t used to the scrutiny of small town living, but settles in with two Siamese cats, KoKo and Yum-Yum. They help him solve cases, mostly murders, by doing what cats do best, knocking over books which miraculously open to pages indicating clues, chasing each other through the Apple Barn (in which he lives for most of the books) when something happens they don’t like. They have diets of salmon and other expensive tidbits – they eat better than most people – and won’t settle for ordinary food. Delightful series, quick gentle reads for those that want to enjoy quirky characters, solve the mystery, and de-stress while on vacation.

 

As always, Happy Reading, whether at the beach or staying home with a tall glass of sweet tea and a great book.  What's your favorite Beach Read? Let us know in the comments below.  🙂

 

 

“Wink of an Eye” by Lynn Chandler Willis

 

Book Cover - Wink of an Eye

“Wink of an Eye,” written by Lynn Chandler Willis, introduces us to a hunky P.I. named Gypsy Moran. Think Gerard Butler, with a Texas drawl (IMO). Gypsy’s colorful past is catching up with him and he returns home to Wink, Texas to hide out for a while. Wink is a small town where everybody knows your name, what you did with whom and how long it took.

 

The last thing he wants to do is take on a case while laying low, but he is staying with his sister and she can push his buttons as only sisters know how to do. A former student of hers needs help proving that his dad, a deputy in the sheriff’s department, did not commit suicide. And, by the way, his death may be related to an investigation into some missing teens.

 

“Just hear him out,” sis says. Wow, do people get in trouble when they relent and get persuaded after that plea. When the boy, Tatum McCallen, keeps nagging at Gypsy to help, Gypsy’s first reaction is to say that nothing can be done. But, seriously, how can anyone refuse a 12 year old that is so persistent, or a case that reeks of cover up and injustice and maybe even human trafficking, laced with corruption in the police department?

 

Of course, we know that Gypsy will take on the case, and the way “Wink of an Eye” unfolds, Willis keeps us guessing and laughing and thoroughly engrossed all the way through.

 

Gypsy runs into old flame, Claire, who can ring his chimes and make him lose all his brains and common sense, just as she could back in high school. They have history and at first, Gypsy has selective memory for only the good parts. He meets a sexy reporter while looking into the overlapping cases and life gets more complicated.

 

Gypsy can’t catch a break with his love life, but as a P.I., he’s a phenom. He does the work, has a great brain, can stay one step ahead of his enemies – well, mostly. Snake bites, hospital stays, and a need for frozen peas slow him down a bit.

 

There are multiple story lines in “Wink of an Eye” – what happened to the missing teens, what actually happened between Gypsy and Claire back in high school, how and why did Ryce McCallen really die, why is Gypsy hiding out in his sister’s house, and more. Willis has given Michael ‘Gypsy’ Moran a complex back-story, interwoven throughout the book in bits and pieces. We are brought into his thoughts as if they were our own. We experience his ‘aha’ moments as the facts surface and clarity is revealed.

 

I lived in Texas for more than a dozen years, and Willis (a native North Carolinian) has truly captured the clothes-sticking-to-you August-in-Texas heat. The dust covers your shoes on the dry days and people will walk for a couple of blocks just to park the car in the shade. I laughed out loud when one of Gypsy’s romantic fantasies was cut short by the reality of sweat.

 

The supporting cast is an absorbing mix of innocents, nasty sorts, loyal relatives, savvy contacts, and anxious illegals. Gypsy, himself, is such a well-written character that he could easily carry a successful series for years to come.

 

“Wink of an Eye” was the winner of the Best First Private Eye Novel Competition in 2013, deservedly so. Willis was the first woman in a decade to win that award. Wahoo!

 

Interesting trivia information for fans: Which Country & Western singers does Willis listen to while she is writing?  George Strait and Garth Brooks.  🙂

 

For information about Lynn Chandler Willis, her other books, as well as the next Gypsy Moran book, please visit www.lynnchandlerwillis.com  

Award update:  "Wink of an Eye" has been nominated for the Shamus Award, an award that focuses on Private Investigators in the mystery field. The winner will be revealed at the international Bouchercon Convention in Raleigh, NC on October 9th.  🙂 Congratulations to Lynn for the nomination!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Top 100 Mysteries of All Time

 

MWA logo

I admit it. It is great fun being a member of Mystery Writers of America (MWA). Conferences and seminars on the schedule during the year are informative and… I get to hobnob with some great writers at those events.

 

Back in the mid 90s, voting members of the MWA community selected their 100 favorite mysteries of all time and for mystery lovers, it is a marvelous list! Take a look and see how many you have read.

 

TOP 100 MYSTERY NOVELS OF ALL TIME Selected by Active MWA Members (mid 1990s)

  1.   The Complete Sherlock Holmes, Arthur Conan Doyle Including these individual high   vote-getters:

The Hound of the Baskervilles
A Study in Scarlet
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes The Sign of Four

  2.   The Maltese Falcon, Dashiell Hammett

  3.   Tales of Mystery and Imagination, Edgar Allan Poe

Including these individual high vote-getters:

The Gold Bug

The Murders in the Rue Morgue

  4.  The Daughter of Time, Josephine Tey

  5.  Presumed Innocent, Scott Turow

  6.  The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, John le Carré

  7.  The Moonstone, Wilkie Collins

  8.  The Big Sleep, Raymond Chandler
  9.  Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier

10. And Then There Were None, Agatha Christie

 

  11. Anatomy of a Murder, Robert Traver

  12. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, Agatha Christie
  13. The Long Goodbye, Raymond Chandler
  14. The Postman Always Rings Twice, James M. Cain
  15. The Godfather, Mario Puzo
  16. The Silence of the Lambs, Thomas Harris
  17. A Coffin for Dimitrios, Eric Ambler
  18. Gaudy Night, Dorothy L. Sayers
  19. Witness for the Prosecution, Agatha Christie
  20. The Day of the Jackal, Frederick Forsyth


  21. Farewell, My Lovely, Raymond Chandler
  22. The Thirty-Nine Steps, John Buchan
  23. The Name of the Rose, Umberto Eco
  24. Crime and Punishment, Fyodor Dostoevski
  25. Eye of the Needle, Ken Follett
  26. Rumpole of the Bailey, John Mortimer
  27. Red Dragon, Thomas Harris
  28. The Nine Tailors, Dorothy L. Sayers
  29. Fletch, Gregory Mcdonald
  30. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, John le Carré


  31. The Thin Man, Dashiell Hammett
  32. The Woman in White, Wilkie Collins
  33. Trent’s Last Case, E.C. Bentley
  34. Double Indemnity, James M. Cain
  35. Gorky Park, Martin Cruz Smith
  36. Strong Poison, Dorothy L. Sayers
  37. Dance Hall of the Dead, Tony Hillerman
  38. The Hot Rock, Donald E. Westlake
  39. Red Harvest, Dashiell Hammett
  40. The Circular Staircase, Mary Roberts Rinehart


  41. Murder on the Orient Express, Agatha Christie
  42. The Firm, John Grisham
  43. The Ipcress File, Len Deighton
  44. Laura, Vera Caspary
  45. I, The Jury, Mickey Spillane
  46. The Laughing Policeman, Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö

  47. Bank Shot, Donald E. Westlake
  48. The Third Man, Graham Greene
  49. The Killer Inside Me, Jim Thompson
  50. Where Are The Children?, Mary Higgins Clark

 

  51. “A” is for Alibi, Sue Grafton
  52. The First Deadly Sin, Lawrence Sanders
  53. A Thief of Time, Tony Hillerman
  54. In Cold Blood, Truman Capote
  55. Rogue Male, Geoffrey Household
  56. Murder Must Advertise, Dorothy L. Sayers
  57. The Innocence of Father Brown, G.K. Chesterton

  58. Smiley’s People, John le Carré
  59. The Lady in the Lake, Raymond Chandler
  60. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee


  61. Our Man in Havana, Graham Greene
  62. The Mystery of Edwin Drood, Charles Dickens

  63. Wobble to Death, Peter Lovesey
  64. Ashenden, W. Somerset Maugham
  65. The Seven Per-Cent Solution, Nicholas Meyer

  66. The Doorbell Rang, Rex Stout
  67. Stick, Elmore Leonard
  68. The Little Drummer Girl, John le Carré
  69. Brighton Rock, Graham Greene
  70. Dracula, Bram Stoker

 

  71. The Talented Mr. Ripley, Patricia Highsmith
  72. The Moving Toyshop, Edmund Crispin
  73. A Time to Kill, John Grisham
  74. Last Seen Wearing, Hillary Waugh
  75. Little Caesar, W.R. Burnett

   76. The Friends of Eddie Coyle, George V. Higgins

  77. Clouds of Witness, Dorothy L. Sayers
  78. From Russia, With Love, Ian Fleming
  79. Beast in View, Margaret Millar
  80. Smallbone Deceased, Michael Gilbert

        

  81. The Franchise Affair, Josephine Tey
  82. Crocodile on the Sandbank, Elizabeth Peters
  83. Shroud for a Nightingale, P.D. James
  84. The Hunt for Red October, Tom Clancy
  85. Chinaman’s Chance, Ross Thomas
  86. The Secret Agent, Joseph Conrad
  87. The Dreadful Lemon Sky, John D. MacDonald
  88. The Glass Key, Dashiell Hammett
  89. Judgment in Stone, Ruth Rendell
  90. Brat Farrar, Josephine Tey
 
  91. The Chill, Ross Macdonald
  92. Devil in a Blue Dress, Walter Mosley
  93. The Choirboys, Joseph Wambaugh
  94. God Save the Mark, Donald E. Westlake

   95. Home Sweet Homicide, Craig Rice
  96. The Three Coffins, John Dickson Carr
  97. Prizzi’s Honor, Richard Condon  
  98. The Steam Pig, James McClure
  99. Time and Again, Jack Finney
100. A Morbid Taste for Bones, Ellis Peters,
100. Rosemary’s Baby, Ira Levin (tie)


 

 

The MWA members are in the process of voting for their current faves of all time. I don’t know about you, but I wonder which older titles will pop up on the new list. There are some truly classic mysteries here, several of which went on to be made into movies and/or TV series. But the intervening twenty years have given us some remarkable writers and deliciously wicked new mysteries.
 

Save this list and compare it with the new one when it is announced later this year. In the meantime, cozy up to a great mystery and happy page-turning!
 

But, better keep the lights on.  😉


 

 

 

 

Reader Favorites – New Reviews 2014

 

Book Cover - Upstairs at the White House

It’s always fun to discover which new reviews get the most attention during the year. The most popular reviews were ReTweeted dozens of times, shared on Facebook, and Google+, and got some attention on Pinterest. There were old titles, new titles, fiction and non-fiction, seasoned authors and debut authors in the mix. Several were best sellers.

 

In case you missed the reviews, here are the 2014 favorites on NightstandBookReviews in alphabetical order by author. Click on the titles and take a look:

 

Lucy Burdette, “Appetite for Murder

 

Robert Dugoni, “My Sister’s Grave

 

Robert Dugoni, “The Conviction

 

Sarah Graves, “Triple Witch

 

Edith Maxwell, “A Tine to Live, A Tine to Die

 

Leigh Perry, “A Skeleton in the Family

 

MJ Rose, “The Book of Lost Fragrances

 

Barbara Ross, “Clammed Up

 

Daniel Silva, “The English Girl

 

JB West & ML Katz, “Upstairs at the White House

 

Lynn Chandler Willis, “The Rising


Happy reading!

 

“The Rising” by Lynn Chandler Willis

 

Book Cover -The Rising

“The Rising,” by Lynn Chandler Willis, is the story of a baffling event that nobody – detectives, medical personnel, bystanders – can explain. A young child is found in an alley, apparently beaten to death. The crime scene is checked by a detective, and the lifeless, bloodied body is delivered to the hospital by ambulance.

 

After thirty minutes of testing for respiration, pulse, and brain wave activity, the ER physician pronounces the boy dead and has him moved to the morgue on a gurney. And yet, the next day, that same little boy walks into the morgue office with no bruises and no blood, wearing the toe tag on his foot, and asks to go to the bathroom.

 

Say what?

 

The Homicide Detective covering the case, Ellie Saunders, saw that the boy was dead. Everybody at the hospital saw that the boy was dead. And, now thirty hours later, he’s not.

 

Saunders and her partner are called in to investigate the (now) assault. The child does not know who he is or what happened to him and the hospital is labeling this a Lazarus Syndrome case – very rare and usually only linked to people who have ‘come-back-to-life’ after an hour or two. Unheard of after this long.

 

Saunders becomes obsessed with finding the boy’s family as well as the person that hurt him so badly. She is horrified at the fact that anyone could have done this to the child, and (without giving away the plot) wants to protect him from further insult or injury. Roadblocks are placed in Saunders way at many turns and as this unusual story unfolds, we are drawn into not only the investigation, but an exploration of faith vs science.

 

The supporting characters are fully fleshed out; a likably wacky morgue attendant, an assortment of interesting colleagues, quirky locals, caring as well as flirtatious doctors, reluctant witnesses, a supposedly lost love, an outspoken aunt, and an estranged preacher father. Saunders herself is complex, mostly in control of her actions and emotions until the case triggers memories of her troubled past. Those memories drive her to bend a few rules in her tenacious pursuit of the truth.

 

Willis’ depiction of the child is perfect. She draws on her considerable research with her own delightful family, but there’s another layer here that many writers miss when creating the children in their books. The child’s relationships and personality develop in a natural way through “The Rising,” revealing a combination of shyness, intelligence, appropriate language and reactions. Johnny Doe puts up with the adults’ questions for a bit and then his attention turns to trucks and coloring. Spot-on writing that will tug at your heart and remind you of a child you know. Willis also taps into an understanding of the unspoken messages that children reveal in their play, and makes that a part of the mystery that Saunders must solve.

 

Along the way, Saunders must come to terms with her own loss of faith and how it has impacted her decisions. Discussions with friends and family are not always welcome. Then, two parallel storylines merge nicely with the Johnny Doe case and Willis brings us home with an action packed, satisfying ending.

 

It’s easy to see whyThe Rising won the 2013 Grace Award for Excellence in Faith-based Fiction in the mystery/romantic suspense/thriller category.

 

By the way, Johnny Doe’s fictional situation is an actual medical condition – Google ‘Lazarus Syndrome’ and read the real-life case studies.

 

Please visit www.lynnchandlerwillis.com for more information about Willis’ other books and upcoming events.

 

 

“My Sister’s Grave” by Robert Dugoni

 

Book Cover - My Sisters Grave

 

In “My Sister’s Grave,” Tracy Crosswhite, a Seattle homicide detective, is still investigating her sister’s murder twenty years after the fact. A paroled rapist was convicted at the time and is sitting in jail for the crime, but Tracy believes the wrong guy was put away.

 

Her 18 year old sister, Sarah, disappeared the evening following their championship shooting competition, and though a thorough search was conducted, her body was never found.  Deep down, Tracy wanted to believe there was a chance that Sarah might still have been alive. But, if not, who killed Sarah? And why? Tracy’s obsession with solving the case has even driven away her sympathetic, once supportive husband.

 

When Sarah’s body is discovered in a now dry lakebed, Tracy returns to Cedar Grove and wants the case reopened. She faces resistance from unexpected directions as people urge her to let it go, saying that the town has suffered along with the Crosswhite family and wants to move on. What had been a place of unlocked doors has become a place of anger and sadness, without trust. The more Tracy pushes for answers, the more she suspects a cover-up has been buried along with her sister for all that time, the more her own life is in danger.

 

“My Sister’s Grave” is an absorbing look at the actions of a loved one left behind, consumed with guilt that she was responsible for her sister’s death. Who could move on from that in real life? We know that Tracy should not be shouldering that guilt, but we are drawn into the story and want to find the truth as well.

 

As always, Robert Dugoni writes fully fleshed out characters, people we can root for as well as people we can despise. Dan, a childhood friend, now a lawyer living in Cedar Grove, works nicely as Tracy’s sounding board and support system when she needs it. Their personal relationship develops naturally and provides balance to the intensity of the fast-paced, mature-themed storylines and jaw-dropping plot twists.

 

How does Robert Dugoni write the women in his books so beautifully? Get inside their heads in such a believable way? I learned this summer that the man has four sisters. ‘Nuf said. 

 

He also has a knack for creating memorable settings for the climactic scenes in his books. Not to give anything away, but I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough during the snowstorm section.

 

Dugoni revealed that the idea for "My Sister's Grave" came from an actual water diversion that caused water to recede and then expose previously covered land. His mystery-focused mind went in the direction of murder and an unsolved crime.

 

This is not an addition to Dugoni’s bestselling David Sloane series, but not to worry. Crosswhite is a character from “Murder One” and Dugoni has done a terrific job of building on that persona and giving her the strong voice she deserves in order to be the lead in “My Sister’s Grave.” If you’d like to read a bit of background on the Tracy Crosswhite character and what makes her tick, Dugoni published a novella a few months ago, titled “The Academy,” that works nicely as an intro to this book.

 

With so many missing persons on record in the www.NamUs.gov database, what is fiction for “My Sister’s Grave” may be tragic truth for some grieving family out there. What drives Tracy to keep digging would be natural for most families. It’s about closure. We want a wandering family member to be okay. If we suspect that a crime has been committed, we want justice for the victim. We want to help victims of amnesia, restore them to a loving home. Our humanity wants help for the lost, and if we felt that we had anything to do with the disappearance, we would feel guilt and maybe even an obsessive need to discover the facts. I’d like to think that if I had been trapped or lost, that a ‘Tracy’ in my life would not have stopped looking.

 

Dugoni mentioned on Facebook that he is working on the sequel. Can’t wait! (It is now 15 months later, and happily for us, he has written more books in the series)  🙂

 

Read my review of “Wrongful Death” here.

Read my review of “The Conviction” here.

 

Please visit www.robertdugoni.com for more information about his work, his book signings, and the writing classes he conducts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Submerged” by Dani Pettrey

 

Book Cover - Submerged

Dani Pettrey’s debut Christian novel, “Submerged,” is set in the world of Alaskan dive rescue, a frequently dangerous profession. The book opens with what may be an engineered plane crash into the sea, off the coast of Tariuk Island. Cole McKenna’s team attempts a harrowing rescue, with a tragic outcome.

 

When one of the deaths turns out to be the aunt of a former girlfriend, Bailey Craig, life gets complicated. Aunt Agnes owned a popular Russian-American store in Yancey, where McKenna and his family have a dive shop. Bailey reluctantly returns to Yancey to sell her beloved aunt’s business, knowing that her own dicey past will be painful to relive once she sets foot there. She vows to take care of the estate and leave as soon as possible. But, her position as a Professor of Russian Studies uniquely qualifies her to help with a murder investigation that may be tied to sunken treasure and so much more.

 

As romantic suspense dictates, Cole and Bailey are drawn to each other again, afraid to trust, but now ten years older and wiser. Their interaction is aching and intense; yet as they are forced to work together to solve the mystery of the ‘why’ of the plane crash, we hope that Bailey comes to understand what true forgiveness means.

 

There is a noisy, active family support system for Cole that Bailey envies and never had – dumped on her aunt’s doorstep, unwanted by her mother. The dialogue flies back and forth as people drift through rooms at gatherings, interrupting each other, teasing each other – as it would be for any large family and their close friends who depend on each other and know each other so well. Pettrey captures that verbal chaos beautifully.

 

The book is a tight read with plenty of dialogue to advance the story and the action scenes. My ebook version seemed to be missing a few scattered transitional sentences that would have clarified when some scenes were ending, but those small omissions did not keep me from enjoying this multi-layered story of a Christian family caught up in some challenging circumstances. Cole’s faith is more developed than Bailey’s and Pettrey manages to convey that without getting preachy.

 

“Submerged” won the 2013 Holt Medallion for Best First Book and the Colorado Romance Writers 2013 Award of Excellence in the Inspirational Category.

 

Readers who enjoy Dee Henderson’s books involving the O’Malley family might also enjoy Dani Pettrey’s ‘Alaskan Courage’ series. “Submerged” was followed by “Shattered,”  “Stranded,” and “Silenced.”  “Sabotaged” will be released in 2015. The personable McKennas are featured in each of the books.

 

For more information about Dani Pettrey and her work, please visit www.danipettrey.com.

 

 

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