Tag Archives: book review

Review: Justice Delayed, by Patricia Bradley

Justice Delayed, by Patricia BradleyJustice Delayed, by Patricia Bradley (Revell, 2017)

Andi Hollister’s sister, Stephanie, was murdered 18 years ago. Finally, the man convicted of the crime will be executed, and Andi’s glad justice will be done.

Except another crime, and sudden fragments of new information, suggest the man on death row may not be the killer.

As an investigative reporter, Andi has a working relationship with the local police, as well as a personal connection: her brother is a detective, as is their long-time friend, Will. She’s determined to be part of finding the truth… and the real killer is determined to stop her.

Andi is a push-forward, impulsive woman who’ll do whatever it takes to get the story, always championing the cause of the underdog. Her nature, and the tragic loss of her sister, make it hard for her to trust God, especially when trust involves waiting.

She thinks her brother is over-protective when he tries to keep her safe, and these days she’s not sure what to think about Will. She’s developing feelings for him, but she knows his reputation for broken relationships… and it’s his cousin who’s to be executed for Stephanie’s murder.

Well-crafted and with satisfyingly-complex characters, Justice Delayed is a great start to Patricia Bradley’s new Memphis Cold Case series. As well as the main plot, there are layers of relational and spiritual subplots that all weave together to make a full-flavoured novel. Definitely a worthwhile read.

Patricia Bradley is also the author of the Logan Point romantic suspense series. For more about the author and her books, visit ptbradley.com.

[Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. Available at your favourite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.]

Review: Something Buried, Something Blue, by Lorena McCourtney

Something Buried, Something Blue, by Lorena McCourtneySomething Buried, Something Blue, by Lorena McCourtney (Rogue Ridge Press, 2016)

I thoroughly enjoyed the Ivy Malone series, and it seems only fair that with Ivy and Mac planning to get married, we should have a new series to celebrate it. Something Buried, Something Blue is The Mac ‘n’ Ivy Mysteries, Book #1.

Mac should have known there’d be more bodies ahead. Ivy attracts them, and it’s probably contagious. In this new series, Mac gets point of view chapters to balance Ivy’s, and they each have a part to play if they’re going to solve this crime and stay alive until their wedding day.

Mac and Ivy are senior citizens (she’s a self-proclaimed “LOL” – little old lady), and sometimes the “invisibility” that comes with age works to their advantage in solving crimes. Neither of them is known to back away from a challenge.

This book introduces Mac’s school-aged granddaughter, Elle, whose curiosity matches Ivy’s. I hope we’ll see more of this girl in the books to come.

It’s a fun story, amusing in places and without too much rough stuff. I did find it felt like some of the complication-causing characters kind of slipped off into the sunset before the final conflict, but other than that, another fine read. I’m looking forward to the next one.

For more about Lorena McCourtney and her books, see her Goodreads profile, and check out this interview: introducing-lorena-mccourtney.

[Review copy from my personal library.]

Review: Ready to Fumble, by Christy Barritt

Ready to Fumble, by Christy BarrittReady to Fumble, by Christy Barritt (River Heights, 2017)

She’s a TV star who played a detective, but Joey Darling thinks of herself as the character’s klutzy opposite. Now her career is in ruins, and she’s fled Hollywood for the Outer Banks of North Carolina to search for her father.

Joey’s afraid to trust the local police, who may have been involved in his disappearance, but she doesn’t have many clues to follow. As if that weren’t enough challenge for this non-detective, a strange woman asks her to find her missing fiancé.

On the plus side, she’s a method actor who took some self-defense and investigative training. She actually has a PI license, just not for this state.

On the minus side, someone is recreating one of her TV episodes, and Joey doesn’t remember the ending but it might involve death: even her own, if she can’t pull off an escape like her alter ego.

The story is told in first person, and after Joey introduces herself, she asks:

Confused? Just keep reading. Please. Because maybe you can make sense of this mess I’ve made.

With an invitation like that, who won’t read on?

Christy Barritt kicks off her Worst Detective Ever mystery series with her signature snappy humour and upbeat delivery. This isn’t all a surface read, though. Joey has a lot of hurt and self-doubt from her abusive ex, and the two men who attract her more than she’ll admit each have layers of complexity that leave us wondering who they really are.

Plot, characters, and setting all work for me, and I’ll happily continue reading when the next book comes out. Here’s hoping I can keep up: she’s releasing “episodes” monthly. Just like Joey’s TV show. What I like about this is that each one is a full novel. Although the overall mystery of the missing dad spans individual books, Ready to Fumble is a complete story in its own right.

[Review copy from my personal library.]

Review: Another Day, Another Dali, by Sandra Orchard

Another Day, Another Dali, by Sandra OrchardAnother Day, Another Dali, by Sandra Orchard (Revell, 2016)

Someone is replacing privately-owned artwork with forgeries, and one victim is a friend of Serena’s grandmother. How can Serena say no when Nana asks her to investigate privately? But what if her findings only widen the gap between her grandmother and herself?

Suddenly Serena’s in danger. Is it because of her unofficial case, or her involvement in FBI co-worker Tanner’s investigation?

Another Day, Another Dali continues in the same light-yet-potentially-deadly style as A Fool and His Monet. I enjoy the humour in this series, and yet there’s a deeper thread, too, as Serena learns a few things about herself as well as about the case.

There’s plenty of action, multiple suspects, schemes, and secrets. After a heart-warming ending, I’m not sure all my questions were answered, but the important ones were.

My vote for favourite character in this novel is Mr. Malgucci. Can’t tell you why without spoiling part of the story.

As if mystery and danger aren’t enough, Tanner and Nate, Serena’s apartment supervisor, seem to be competing for her attention, and her relatives are choosing sides. Author Sandra Orchard has had a reader poll going since book one to decide which man Serena will choose, and we’ll find out in book 3. They’re both such nice fellows, and I really don’t want to see either of them hurt.

Favourite line:

Tanner turned over every rock, log, and snitch for a lead on who was bent on terrorizing me. [Kindle location 2880]

Sandra Orchard is an award-winning Canadian author of romantic suspense. The Christian thread in the Serena Jones mystery series is present, but it’s low-key enough that readers of other (or no) faith should be comfortable reading. For more about the author and her work, visit sandraorchard.com.

[Review copy from my personal library.]

Review: Book of Days, by James L. Rubart

Book of Days, by James L. RubartBook of Days, by James L. Rubart (B&H Publishing Group, 2011)

Cameron is in his early 30s but he’s losing chunks of his memory. His only hope lies in a cryptic mission from his father: to find the Book of Days. If such a thing exists, it holds everyone’s memories – past, present and future.

Supposedly this is God’s Book, based on Psalm 139:16. Cameron doesn’t believe in God, either, so that’s not much help. But his father did, and so did his wife.

Cameron’s quest forces him to turn to his dead wife’s foster-sister Ann for help, and it takes him to his father’s boyhood town, where secrets abound.

I enjoyed James Rubart’s writing style and the characters he created. There were plenty of clues, obstacles, and surprises along the way, as well as a few heart-warming moments. Looking back from the end, the only thing that doesn’t make sense to me is why a certain photo had been so carefully hidden.

The novel includes some well-turned phrases. Here’s my favourite:

…all he’d achieved was exhaustion. And a neck that felt like guitar strings tuned three octaves too high. [Kindle location 5415 in the Rooms/Book of Days/The Chair ebook box set]

Despite some of the New Age townsfolk, this is not an overly mystical novel, and I think it would suit anyone who enjoys a good contemporary story that includes Christianity, mystery and romance.

James L. Rubart is a writer and speaker whose website tag line is “Live free.” His most recent novel is The Five Times I Met Myself. For more about the author and his books, visit jameslrubart.com.

[Review copy from my personal library.]

Review: Cold Shot, by Dani Pettrey

Cold Shot, by Dani PettreyCold Shot, by Dani Pettrey (Bethany House, 2016)

When recent remains are found in an old Gettysburg burying site, forensic anthropologist Finley Scott must work with a park ranger who’s more than he seems. Griffin McCray is a former sniper who left the Baltimore police force after a tragic incident. There’s more pain than that in his past, which is why he’s trying to keep his distance from the attractive Finley.

Someone is desperate to prevent the body being identified, and to stop the investigation. Griffin and Finley, as well as two of Griffin’s trusted contacts (he used to call them both friends) must find the truth before the sniper they’re hunting targets them.

Cold Shot is a fast-paced suspense with a strong romantic thread, with Griffin as Finley’s self-appointed guardian. Despite his need to stay aloof, he can’t leave her unprotected. There’s also a significant amount of history between the three men.

Other key players in the novel are FBI agent Declan Grey and crime scene analyst Parker Mitchell. This is book 1 in the Chesapeake Valour series, and it looks like subsequent books will feature Declan and Parker, as the three friends and their associates tackle other crimes. The main characters are engaging, and I look forward to following them through the series. They’re all Christians, and they’ll definitely need their faith to get them through their struggles.

Finley and Parker both live in Baltimore, a city the author clearly knows well. She captures a strong sense of place in Finley’s neighbourhood and in the other settings of the book. As I read, I wondered if I’d really find some of the restaurants and other places in real life, and the answer is yes.

Dani Pettrey is the author of the popular Alaska Courage romantic suspense series. For more about the Dani Pettrey and her books, visit her website. Her books page includes a sample chapter of Cold Shot as well as tour of Finley’s neighbourhood.

[Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. Available at your favourite bookseller from Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group.]

Review: The Bitter End, by Linda Hall

The Bitter End, by Linda HallThe Bitter End, by Linda Hall (2015)

Most contracts see Captain Em Ridge delivering sailboats to wealthy owners who don’t like to do their own long-haul trips. This time, though, she’s ferrying an over-the-top TV host around the Bermuda Triangle looking for evidence of the bizarre.

It’s an uneventful assignment, until they discover an abandoned sailboat whose occupants seem to have vanished over dinner. Unlike the crew of the Mary Celeste, though, someone put out extra food and water for the ship’s cat before disappearing.

Em knows this boat – and the cat. They belong to her beloved Uncle Ferd, the family black sheep – and the one who taught her to sail.

At first she fears he’s been taken by pirates, but the truth may be worse: he’s wanted by the authorities in connection with a murder. In setting out to clear her childhood hero’s name, Em may discover Uncle Ferd isn’t the man she thought he was.

The Bitter End is the second Em Ridge mystery, and I’m looking forward to more in this series. You could start with this one, but book 1, Night Watch, is also a good read and it lets you meet Em at the start of her adventures.

As well as being satisfying mysteries, the books give readers a taste of the sailing life. Author Linda Hall does a stellar job of sharing the experience with readers in a way that feels natural and without confusing us with jargon. Having logged many hours on her own sailboat, she knows the best details to include.

She also knows how to write memorable, flawed characters, and vivid descriptions. My favourite in this book:

“Where the doorbell should have been, a few threads of twisted wire stuck out like the veins of a robot.” [Kindle location 1159]

In the past, Linda Hall has written for the Christian market, but her Em Ridge novels are mainstream. As such, she allows her characters the occasional mild profanity, and there isn’t an overtly Christian thread through the stories. Em’s mother has a rigid faith, which sounds like it has a lot to do with Em’s lack of relationship with her family as well as with God. While I don’t think we’ll see Em experience a dramatic conversion in the series, I do hope we’ll see some resolution in these areas. She’s not happy this way, and her mother’s not healthy her way either.

Em is a widow, and there’s a handsome detective who keeps crossing her path, however he has baggage of his own – including an estranged wife.

These ongoing threads tie the novels together and keep me looking forward to the next one even after the current mystery has been satisfactorily resolved.

Linda Hall is an award-winning writer of mystery and suspense. For more about the author and her books, visit writerhall.com.

[Review copy from my personal library.]

Review: Leopard’s Heart, by Kimberly A. Rogers

Leopard's Heart, by Kimberly A. RogersLeopard’s Heart, by Kimberly A. Rogers (2015)

In this Earth-based present-day urban fantasy, three species co-exist: Humans, Elves, and Therians. There are also assorted nasties held back by a mysterious barrier.

Humans know about the Elves, but they don’t know about the Therians, who work incognito for their protection. Therians are shape-shifters with three forms: humanoid, animal, and half-beast. Each Therian is born into one beast family and has only one beast form.

If this intrigues you and you haven’t read the prequel, Tiger’s Paw, don’t read any farther because there’s a spoiler to the prequel below. I highly recommend reading the prequel so you’ll be oriented in this complex world before starting book one, Leopard’s Heart.

I found Tiger’s Paw a bit of a hard read, partially because it’s from the point of view of General Baran (the tiger) and he’s, as the impudent leopard he’s assigned to work with says, “Tall, Dark, and oh-so-Serious.” The major difficulty in reading was simply absorbing the way the story world works: the hierarchies and relationships among the different species of beasts, and how they work unseen among the humans.

Now, if you’re still here, prepare to learn something about how Tiger’s Paw ends.

Raina (the leopard on the cover of Leopard’s Heart) is in an arranged marriage to Baran. Raina’s also half-Elven, exposing her to prejudice and attacks from those who want to keep the Therian race pure.

The novel is about the two of them working together to thwart a plot to expose the Therian race to the Humans. A subversive element among the Therians, the Fringe, is behind this and is also stirring up hate crimes against half-Elven Therians.

Among the unfamiliar circumstances, though, we find two strong and likeable characters in an arranged marriage: a classic romance situation that we’re comfortable with. We may not be able to relate to shape-shifters, but we can relate to hearts. And to danger and the need to stop the villains.

The story is mostly told in the first person, from either Raina’s or Baran’s point of view. I wish the chapters opened with the narrating character’s name, for easier reading, but it only took a few paragraphs to find out each time.

Leopard’s Heart is a compelling read, clean fiction with a Christian theme (the Therian Way is a code of honour based on faith in Yeshua). It’s violent in places, with more fighting and blood than I’m used to, but nothing is gratuitous. Still, by the end I was a little battle-weary.

I won a copy of Leopard’s Heart in a giveaway, and bought Tiger’s Paw so I could start at the beginning. I like Raina and Baran, and I’m glad to have come this far with them in the series.

Kimberley A. Rogers is a fantasy author and Masters in Religious Education student. For more about the author and her books, visit her website, So You Want to Write Christian Fantasy?