“The Trapped Girl” is the fourth book in Robert Dugoni’s engrossing Tracy Crosswhite series. A teenager, out before dawn for an illegal crab pot pickup in Puget Sound, almost tips the boat because of the pot’s weight. He sees a hand sticking up, freaks out, and returns to shore with the very dead, trapped girl.
Tracy Crosswaite and her partner, Kins, catch the call and a complicated case. The body hasn't been in the water all that long, but Jane Doe has had plastic surgery done to her face, which makes ID slower than usual. She is identified, but it seems that there is more going on than first appears.
The husband is a suspect, and seems deserving of that title. A 500K insurance policy was taken out just before the woman’s death, but why? The obvious answer may be too easy. And Dugoni never likes easy.
The characters in "The Trapped Girl" ring true, including the sleazy husband and the wife’s girlfriend. Dugoni writes each of the people with nuances and just enough good/suspicious behavior that I was certain that the deed(s) had been done by more than one person, and I kept changing my mind as Dugoni disproved my theory each time. And then tossed another ‘so-sure-this-time’ clue at us.
Tracy Crosswaite is evolving as a person and as a detective in the series and she is at the top of her game in this wildly tricky, intriguing case. Dugoni has allowed a more human side to be seen in some of the ensemble characters, and even Tracy admits to a flicker of surprise at a colleague’s actions. She remains steadfast in her support of women as cops, and we get to see more of the effect of that stance on her personal life.
The clever twists will keep you enthralled until the very last page. Jane Doe is not who she seems to be and the supposed bad guys are not the most evil in the book. Whom do we trust? Who is telling the truth? Whose story is this, really?
“The Trapped Girl” is a barnburner of a book, with a superb, multilayered storyline that never misses a beat. It was easy to place “The Trapped Girl” on my 2017 ‘Killer Thrillers for the Beach’ list. I’ve already read it twice.
“Close to Home,” fifth in the series, is next on my TBR list.
Please visit www.robertdugoni.com for more information about this award winning, bestselling, gifted writer.
“Cold Heart,” is the second in Karen Pullen’s traditional mystery series about the North Carolina SBI investigator, Stella Lavender. Instead of working undercover on tacky drug buys and dealer shutdowns, Stella wants to work fulltime at her dream job – in Homicide. But the boss hasn’t wanted to listen. He likes that she doesn’t look like a cop and that the guys in the back alleys won’t have a clue of her true identity until the cuffs are slapped on.
A couple days after working another annoying drug bust, Stella picks up a hitchhiker, a babysitter stranded without a ride, and takes her to the babysitting assignment. Thing is, the father is dead and the baby is missing. That drug bust? It overlaps the homicide. Life gets complicated very quickly.
Stella's own free- spirited grandmother, Fern, is an entertaining contrast to Stella’s more serious character, and plays a role in the case of the missing child. The search for the toddler gets knotty, and Stella gets shot – three times in one week. Like I said, complicated.
“Cold Heart” touches on the accepted procedure that is followed for evidence collection in NC, but knowing the rules and actually following them? Stella would be in lots of trouble if Command knew what she was really doing.
Make no mistake, Stella Lavender is bright, and edgy, and well-qualified for the job. Pullen has developed her assertiveness in natural ways in this second book. She is more comfortable with making decisions, and is good at whatever she’s assigned to do – and a bit better with the common-sense part of the work than her male counterparts. With some luck in tough situations, and creative problem solving, she gets results.
“Cold Heart” addresses questionable parenting and lifestyle choices, drugs, and the unexpected reveal that sometimes, nosy neighbors don’t always share what they see. There are plenty of suspects in this twisty family murder mystery. Not many of them like each other, but it's family in the South, so there is always lots of covering up, denial, and looking the other way. Nobody wants to give up a relative, even if that relative is up to no good. Facing grandma’s stink eye at every family dinner is worse than the wrath of law enforcement.
There are three guys in Stella's life – too bad that two of them are otherwise encumbered with spouses. That doesn’t prevent her from getting weak-kneed. Pullen provides us with smart dialogue in “Cold Heart,” a multi-faceted plot, a well-written cast of characters, and a leading gal we hope will be around for a long series.
Contains adult situations and occasional adult language.
Please visit www.karenpullen.com for information about North Carolinian, Karen Pullen, her recent release of short stories, “Restless Dreams,” and her other work.
Action-packed adventure/thrillers that rev up your blood pressure and provide stay-awake reading (killer thrillers)
Completely relaxing, low-key, fun mystery books that tweak your brain cells, but allow you to nod off on time
None of the killer thriller titles below are relaxing or low-key. I defy you to nod off while reading any of them. Charge your e-reader, ‘cause you won’t want to take a break – except maybe to eat. Or, you might want to eat while reading. 🙂
Warning: most deal with adult topics and/or contain sporadic adult language.
(Listed in alphabetical order by author)
"The 7th Canon" by Robert Dugoni
Standalone. Priest accused of terrible crimes.
Read review here.
"The Trapped Girl" by Robert Dugoni
Engrossing entry in the Tracy Crosswhite series. Fascinating case. Twists and turns galore. Read my review here.
Edith Maxwell writes award-winning short stories, has several series of full-length mysteries out and has been nominated for Agatha Awards in both the Short Story and Historical Fiction categories for 2017’s Malice Domestic mystery conference. At this writing, she has eleven published novels since 2012 under the names Tace Baker, Maddie Day, and Edith Maxwell, with #12 due out next month. She is working on three more to be published in the near future. She is the one of the most prolific traditionally published authors I know and she is loving all of it!
I first met Edith at a Writers Police Academy conference in the Fall of 2012. At the time, she had just published her first Lauren Rousseau title, “Speaking of Murder,” as Tace Baker. I was hooked by the intelligent, worldly, complex female lead character. She attended WPA in order to research police procedure, and also gathered tons of information about firefighters and EMS personnel that she might use in future novels.
While following her career the last few years, it’s become apparent that solid research underpins all her books. Happily, combined with her own personal experiences, the result is richly developed backgrounds and storylines.
For the Country Store series, Maxwell took a trip to Indiana in order to investigate the setting, special southern Indiana phrasing (“I can’t eat another bite ’cause I’m as full as a tick”), and foods specific to the region. As it happens, she was also returning to the area of her grad school days and the site of a university packed with her own Maxwell family history. Friends of hers in the grad program had restored an old country store and turned it into a restaurant and bed & breakfast, the basis for Robbie Jordan’s ‘Pans ‘N Pancakes’ establishment in the series. In addition, Maxwell loves to cook and there are virtual cooking lessons woven throughout the stories as well as yummy recipes to be found.
Fun fact: my mom had an amazing collection of antique cookware, so when Robbie chats about the vintage pieces in her store, I can see the tools in my mind’s eye. Maxwell/Day’s details? Wonderful!
The Local Foods series features an organic farmer as the lead character, and guess what? Edith ran her own small certified organic farm for a few years and that expertise infuses the series with effortless realism. Readers can pick up tips about what it takes to grow produce organically, both the pitfalls and the plusses, while enjoying the cleverly crafted mysteries.
The Quaker Midwife series is a project close to Edith’s heart. She is a Quaker herself and some of the history and the daily practices of the Society of Friends have found their way into this series. Maxwell now lives in Amesbury, Massachusetts where the books are set, and the local history influenced her short story writing. One of the short stories became the impetus for a 19th c. midwife character. Rose Carroll, the Quaker midwife, is perfectly placed to be a sleuth, since she gets to go where men (and the police) can’t in 1888, and hears all kinds of secrets that help solve the crimes. Beautifully written, “Delivering the Truth” is well-deserving of the Agatha historical mystery nomination this year.
Click on the link to check out Maxwell’s YouTube video of a walking tour of Amesbury, Massachusetts. Maxwell is wearing an authentic self-made 1888 dress and bonnet while she conducts the tour and chats about the sites mentioned in “Delivering the Truth.” What a fun and terrific way to launch a series!
Plus, as Maddie Day, Edith has a new cozy foodie mystery series, Cozy Capers Book Group, set on Cape Cod. “Murder on Cape Cod” will be the first title launched in 2018. The lead character runs a bicycle repair and rental shop and hosts a weekly cozy mystery book group. My dad’s family came from the Cape, and I’m looking forward to reading Maxwell/Day’s take on the region.
So, how does she keep up this writing pace and still maintain the quality in her books? First, she is doing what she loves. She has a writing schedule for each day – mornings are the best for her – but when a deadline looms, she sometimes goes away for a few days on retreat. She turns off the internet so that there are no distractions at all and she can write from dawn ‘til midnight if she needs to. When slipping away to a retreat, Maxwell likes to take along comfy clothes, walking shoes, a laptop, a favorite pen, and an actual paper notebook. Oh, and of course, wine and dark chocolate. 🙂
Maxwell writes traditional mysteries with absorbing puzzles to solve, and appealing characters that engage us on every page. With strong female leads, fascinating details, and multi-layered plots, this is an author we want to follow, wherever (or whenever) she leads us.
Read the review of “A Tine to Live, A Tine to Die,” (Local Foods series) here.
Read the review of “Grilled for Murder,” (Country Store series) here (written as Maddie Day)
Read review of “Delivering the Truth” (Quaker Midwife series) here. 🙂
“Delivering the Truth” has been nominated for an Agatha Award for Best Historical Mystery. And “The Mayor and the Midwife” has been nominated for an Agatha for Best Short Story. Read the short story here.
Robbie Jordan’s restaurant/country store, ‘Pans ‘N Pancakes’ has been open for six weeks in Maddie Day’s “Grilled for Murder.” Robbie specializes in selling vintage and unusual pans which double as decorations on the walls, but it’s her food that really packs in the locals for breakfast and lunch.
Robbie (short for Roberta) has agreed to cater a welcome-home party for Erica, apparently not well-liked by anyone except her own family. Even they’re not crazy about her. The party goes off almost as planned, complete with tasty food and more than a little drama between Erica and nearly everyone else.
Robbie lives in an apartment in back of the store and comes out to set up in the morning, only to find the guest of honor from the night before, dead on the floor. Next to the pickle barrel. When the barrel is emptied in order to look for evidence, I knew that I would never look at a pickle the same way again. Who killed Erica and why? Considering said drama at the welcome-home party, there is certainly no shortage of motivated people.
“Grilled for Murder” flows nicely between the mystery, the country store, the romance in Robbie’s life and the wonderful people that form the core ensemble. Her aunt Adele is the former Mayor, Buck is second in command at the police department and probably eats more than all her other customers, Phil is her dessert maker and close friend, Abe and his son Sean are new in Robbie’s life and will probably stay around a while. With their small-town friendliness and genuine support for each other, these are people with whom you’d like to spend a lot of time.
As the lead character in a cozy series, Robbie Jordan is a great one. Robbie is an athletic young woman, prefers to walk or bike if she can, wears colorful comfortable clothes, and has worked hard to live her dream. It’s her nature to listen and pay attention during conversations and she loves solving puzzles, so she’s a natural for amateur sleuthing. Her skills also include carpentry – she did most of the renovation work herself to get the place exactly the way she wanted it. Robbie’s knowledge and curiosity about vintage tools play an important role in identifying the killer and despite her petite size, she is no timid soul.
Maddie Day transfers her own love of cooking to Robbie’s character and we are treated to her techniques throughout the book, whether Robbie is in the restaurant or cooking for herself. I kept getting up to have a snack while reading “Grilled for Murder.” Cheese bubbling, fresh crust aroma, curried potato puffs with apple chutney, colorful coleslaw, cheesy biscuits made with eggs – yum. When reading Day’s step-by-step biscuit making, including the use of vintage tools, I ‘made’ the biscuits along with Robbie in my mind. All that is missing is the list of exact amounts and it is a recipe unfolding on the page.
In “Grilled for Murder,” book #2 in the Country Store Mysteries, there is more than one secret to be uncovered, more than one mystery to be solved. A jaw dropping discovery about one of the local business owners reveals the lengths some people will go to in order to protect/save those they love. With life behind the scenes in a small restaurant, and a budding relationship thrown in, “Grilled for Murder” has the right combos for an entertaining read.
“When the Grits Hit the Fan,” book #3 in the Country Store Mysteries, was published in March, 2017. Maddie Day is Edith Maxwell. Please visit www.edithmaxwell.com for more information about the Country Store Mysteries as well as Maxwell’s other series.
“Whispers Beyond the Veil” is the first book in the Change of Fortune series. Jessica Estevao has penned a self-reliant female character who thinks on her feet in risky situations and when cornered, often chooses the path most likely to keep her out of jail.
Jail? This is no ordinary gal growing up in a quaint family business. Ruby Proulx is a con artist, who makes a living by taking money from the gullibles passing through the circus tents. But, even with all the flimflam miracle cures and tarot card readings, she and her father are just getting by, in part because he drinks and schemes the earnings away. This is 1890s Canada, and when a dangerous scam results in a death, and her father disappears, she flees south to Maine to an aunt she’s never met.
Ruby’s arrival at her aunt Honoria’s hotel is a surprise to everyone except Honoria. Happy to repay Honoria for her kindness, Ruby continues to use her skills with séances and Tarot cards to help her aunt’s hotel survive. A hotel that features ‘spiritualists’ as the main attraction.
But, Ruby is caught between skeptics who feel that Honoria is scamming the visitors and stealing their hard-earned money and a wish to have a home she’s never had before. She’d like to fess up that she’s a fraud, but telling the truth may only put her on the street or put her aunt in jail. What’s a con artist to do?
The characters are either sweetly oblivious to the cons, in on them, or working hard to expose them. A handsome policeman, a psychic investigator, bodies popping up, and peeks behind the scenes of a con artist’s life, enrich the story, but when Ruby becomes a suspect in several crimes, she must guard both her heart and her skills to escape the snares.
With an inventive main character and Old Orchard Beach as the setting, this new series is off to a great start and “Whispers Beyond the Veil” has been nominated for an Agatha Award. Please visit www.jessicaestevao.com for more information about the Change of Fortune books as well as her other series, written as Jessica Crockett, also great fun.
Kristan (Stan) Connor is back in “Custom Baked Murder,” this time with more furry friends in residence and a love life that is heating up. Kristan is busy getting ready to open her long-anticipated pet café, with specially designed display cases, and new ideas to make both human and furry customers happy. She has two new backers for the business – one she’s happy about; the other she puts up with in order to realize her dream.
Her mother, ever detail oriented and still driving Stan crazy, is getting engaged to the Mayor and the big announcement will be made at a blowout party at the groom-to-be’s house. But the Mayor doesn’t show, and Stan’s irritating former colleagues do – along with her former fiancée. Talk about cringe worthy events. Oh, and there’s the murder at the party. Certainly, a memorable evening. And not in a good way.
The murder victim isn’t well-liked, so the question the police must answer is not who killed her, but instead, which one on the long list of enemies got to her first? Rumors fly and suspicions drive wedges into the small community, with several misunderstandings and family surprises thrown into the mix. Kristan must shield her mother from the press, while trying to prove her own former fiancée innocent. The overlapping story-lines are intriguing and keep the pages turning in this well-plotted mystery.
Including old friends and enemies in “Custom Baked Murder” adds a delicious twist. Sometimes we hope that the oldies (but baddies) will fade away from our lives forever, or that they might have changed, but wham! There they are, creating havoc yet again when least convenient. Mugavero captures this dynamic perfectly as she delivers the multiple red herrings.
Mugavero has expanded the relationships among the ensemble characters throughout the Pawsitively Organic series, evolving them in a natural way as time has passed. One gem of a character is Cyril, the reporter. Anyone who has ever met a small-town journalist will recognize the dogged chase after any detail that will make headlines. His shifts between investigation and bargaining for information are spot-on. And, then we have Stan’s hunky love interest, Jake, who keeps proving why he’s one of the good guys. The sisters have a larger role this time and fans will love that the series has become an engaging family affair.
Never fear, dogs and cats play important roles, including when Kristan throws a fund-raiser for a K-9. Mugavero continues to show us ways we can help the real-life animals in our lives. Happily, “Custom Baked Murder” includes more healthy pet recipes. The blueberry biscuits look tasty enough to be people food.
Don’t miss “Custom Baked Murder,” the fifth in the highly entertaining series.
Read my review of the Agatha nominated, “Kneading to Die,” here.