Tag Archives: romantic suspense

Review: Reign of Error, by Christy Barritt

Reign of Error, by Christy BarrittReign of Error, by Christy Barritt (River Heights, 2017)

Reign of Error is book 2 in the Worst Detective Ever series, and while readers would have a better overall grasp of the series by starting with book 1, Ready to Fumble, they could begin here without feeling lost.

Joey Darling’s acting career is on hiatus while she looks for her missing father and tries to recover from some personal disasters. The problem is, she has one or more over-the-top fans who want her to play detective in real life, the way she did on TV.

The death of a stranger shortly after she’d spoken with him is all it takes for her invisible “fans” to start pushing her to solve the mystery. Unfortunately, the killer wants her to stop.

This is a light-hearted mystery series, complete with two appealing guys competing for Joey’s attention. Each novel is a complete story, with the over-arcing mystery of Joey’s missing father.

Joey is a bit of a drama queen, as one might expect of an actress, so she can be a bit tiring at times, but she’s a likeable character. The obstacles she faces make it easy to root for her to succeed.

Christy Barritt is a prolific author whose Christian fiction includes mysteries and suspense for adults and tweens. For more about the author, visit christybarritt.com.

[Review copy from my personal library.]

Review: Pursued, by Lisa Harris

Pursued, by Lisa HarrisPursued, by Lisa Harris (Revell, 2017)

Special Agent Nikki Boyd is a missing persons investigator in Nashville. Usually she hunts for strangers, but this time it’s more personal: she met Erika, the missing woman, on a plane, just before it crashed. Erika disappeared from the crash site, and Nikki must help the FBI find her before she’s found by the man who wants her dead.

I’ve enjoyed this series, and each book is better than the last. The pacing in this one is relentless, with the entire story packed into 48 hours. As the case becomes even more personal, Nikki can’t back away, despite being pushed beyond her physical and emotional limits.

At the same time, she’s trying to discover the next step in her relationship with Tyler, the friend she’s fallen in love with, and to process some devastating news from her doctor.

One of the things I most appreciate in this series is how Nikki faces the darkness of her cases with faith that God will help her do her job, and that He can take even the broken pieces and make something beautiful. This is never superficial, but grows out of deep struggle.

Pursued is book 3 in the Nikki Boyd Files series, and book 4, Vanishing Point, releases in the fall of 2017.

Author Lisa Harris writes romantic suspense and romance. For more about the author, visit lisaharriswrites.com. To follow the conversation about this series on Twitter, look for the hashtag #nikkiboydfiles.

[Review copy provided by the publisher.]

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.]

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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: Traces of Guilt, by Dee Henderson

Traces of Guilt, by Dee HendersonTraces of Guilt, by Dee Henderson (Bethany House, 2016)

Evie Blackwell has a different take on cold cases: the intervening years are a bonus, because they’re full of opportunities for the criminal to have left further clues to this and other crimes. Her approach is methodical and effective, and her time in Illinois’ Carin County is a test-run for a soon-to-be-announced cold case task force.

Her two assignments: an abducted child, and a missing family. The child belonged to a family who were passing through, but the family were local. In both cases, the locals are reluctant to revisit past pain if all it brings is more disappointment.

Long-time fans of Dee Henderson will recognize beloved characters from her previous works: Ann Silver and Paul Falcon. The Thane family sounds like they’ve appeared before, too. Everyone was new to me, and other than being a bit confused by the references to so many key people in the first chapter or two, I was fine.

One challenge about solving cold cases is that in the re-thinking and new investigating, multiple possibilities must be considered before the truth is found – if it can be found. These two cases bring up others, which may or may not be related and which may show up in future books in the series.

Although this is a romantic suspense series, for this first book those relationships are more in the cautiously-developing stages. That’s one benefit of a series: love doesn’t have to be instant.

Relationships are a key part of the novel – friendship and families more so than romance. This adds the heart to balance the mental, puzzle-solving aspects of the police work.

Traces of Guilt provides a twisting plot and deeply-drawn characters to care about, and it kept me turning pages. I did find that one character who appeared near the end seemed too coincidental in terms of age, and the key players have a jarring habit of referring to one another by name far too often, the way people do when they’re trying to sell you something.

This is the Evie Blackwell Cold Case series, but clearly the Carin County sheriff, Gabriel Thane, will be an ongoing connection no matter where Evie’s work takes her. All three Thane brothers make appealing romantic leads, and we may see more of the other two in future books as well.

Dee Henderson is a long-time favourite author in the Christian romantic suspense genre, and Traces of Guilt is sure to be well received. For more about the author and her books, visit www.deehenderson.com.

[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.]

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Review: The Domino Effect, by Davis Bunn

The Domino Effect, by Davis BunnThe Domino Effect, by Davis Bunn (Bethany House, 2016)

Risk analysis. Esther Larson excels at it in her position with a major US financial institution. But if her personal projections are right, the global economy is teetering on the brink of disaster. There are too many high-level trades that skirt just past the safety restrictions.

The fear of economic disaster is something many North Americans live with, and The Domino Effect catches our imaginations with its horrifying “what if” that could conceivably play out in our  real-life near future.

As the plot builds and Esther risks revealing her fears, she moves from feeling afraid yet helpless and alone to choosing to do even the small amount she can – and finding out she’s not alone. That’s a message many readers will appreciate.

If financial thrillers don’t appeal to you, check this one out anyway. I confess I skimmed the technical details (although Esther does a good job of translating her concerns into everyday language) but this is a novel with heart.

Breaching her isolation brings Esther into contact with single dad Craig Wessex and his struggling daughters, Samantha and Abigail. Esther’s work with the girls helps her process her grief over her brother’s apparently-permanent injury as well as her childhood grief over her parents’ deaths.

This is also a novel with villains playing for high stakes. And it builds to a suitably tense conclusion. Numbers may be dry, but imminent disaster is most definitely not. The final pages of this one sent a chill across my scalp and some mist to my eyes.

Favourite lines:

Beneath his mild-mannered exterior beat the soul of a cautious assassin. [p. 88]

The sight was so jarring, the images did not want to fit together. [p. 196]

Davis Bunn has a reputation for accurate research, and he includes quotes from accredited sources endorsing the novel. A combination of plausible danger and characters worth caring about makes this a compelling read.

Davis Bunn is a multi-published, multi-award-winning author of Christian fiction. He also writes fantasy and science fiction as Thomas Locke. For more about the author and his books, visit sites.kensingtonbooks.com/DAVISBUNNBOOKS.

[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.]

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Review: Out of Circulation, by Heather Day Gilbert

Out of Circulation, by Heather Day GilbertOut of Circulation, by Heather Day Gilbert (WoodHaven Press, 2016)

Katie McClure is the only one in her family who wanted to follow her father’s footsteps into the FBI. Instead, she works in the library in a rural Appalachian town and lives in an apartment that’s only steps away from her mother’s house.

When masked intruders invade the library with guns – and call Katie by name – her mother hires a handsome stranger to protect her. Ace Calhoun claims to be a freelance bodyguard, but he has ulterior motives for getting close to the McClure family.

Katie and Ace are appealing characters, even though Ace is deceptive. This is a novella, not a full-length novel, yet there’s time for character development, a budding relationship, and of course the mystery.

Out of Circulation is book one in Heather Day Gilbert’s new Hemlock Creek Suspense series. The McClure family is Katie, her sister and brother and their mother. Their father is dead. I hope the series will follow Katie, since I found her easiest to relate to. I’m also hoping her brother will move back home and resolve his resentment toward their father.

Heather Day Gilbert is also the author of the Murder in the Mountains contemporary suspense series and a Viking historical novel, God’s Daughter. For more about the author, visit http://heatherdaygilbert.com/.

[Review based on reading this novella in the romantic suspense collection, Smoke and Mirrors, from my personal library. Out of Circulation is now available as a stand-alone book.]

Review: Random Acts of Murder, by Christy Barritt

Random Acts of Murder, by Christy BarrittRandom Acts of Murder, by Christy Barritt (River Heights Press, 2014)

Having only a year to live affects a person’s choices. Social worker Holly Paladin knows she can’t change the world, but she can make a difference for a few people – even if her random acts of kindness could get her in a heap of trouble.

Case in point: she breaks into a client’s empty home to clean it. The occupant is a single mom, overworked, underpaid, and out of hope. Won’t a surprise cleaning job give her a boost?

We’ll never know, because as well as a mess, Holly finds a dead body. She flees in panic, but now her cleaning supplies, and maybe her fingerprints, are present at a crime scene.

Afraid to confess to the police and bring scandal on her exemplary family, Holly lives in fear of being found out. The murderer has already found her out, and starts leaving identical cleaning supplies at the scene of his next murders. “The Good Deeds Killer” has been born.

Holly’s family love her but don’t understand her. Her good friend, Jamie, does both. And Chase Dexter, who humiliated her in high school but who claims he’s changed, seems to understand her too. Which may be a bad thing, since he’s the detective assigned to the case.

Favourite lines:

She was tiny and blonde and wore expensive business suits and handed out her business card with all the ease of a little kid spreading the flu. [Holly describing her mom. Kindle location 366.]

Maybe being alone outside wasn’t the smartest idea after being shot at twice, but I refused to live in total fear. Partial would have to do. [Kindle location 1437.]

I had forgotten how much I enjoy Christy Barritt’s sense of humour. She’s the author of the Squeaky Clean Mystery series and other novels, and she’s so prolific that I’ve fallen behind with her books. I definitely want to read the next one in this series, Random Acts of Deceit. For more about the author and her books, visit www.christybarritt.com.

[Review copy from my personal library.]

Review: Smoke and Mirrors, a romantic suspense collection

Smoke and MirrorsSmoke and Mirrors, a romantic suspense collection (2016)

This is an ebook box set of “hidden identity” Christian romantic suspense novellas. At present, it’s only available for Kindle.

Some characters are in witness protection, some are undercover, and some are just plain hiding – either from danger or for nefarious purposes. It can be love at first sight, a relationship that’s been developing for a few years before the story opens, or characters with a past connection now thrown together again.

Stories are set in various parts of the US, including Alaska. Sometimes the tension is high, other times more moderate.

My pick of the set is Heather Day Gilbert’s Out of Circulation, mostly because I always enjoy her characters and her writing, but also because her protagonist walks with a limp and isn’t as beautiful as her sister. It seemed I met a lot of gorgeous people in this collection.

I also found a spiritual nugget in Connie Almony’s The Long View, where one of the Christian characters searches his Bible for a verse to tuck into his mind to meditate on in his worship time. His reverence for God’s holiness challenged me.

If romantic suspense is all you read, then devour the whole collection in one go. I like more variety, and should have spaced them out a bit.

These eight original novellas are written by authors Connie Almony, Sally Bradley, Hallee Bridgeman, Heather Day Gilbert, Kelli Hughett, Alana Terry, Rachel Trautmiller, and Alexa Verde. In some cases they’re stand-alone stories, and in others they either begin or continue other works from the authors.

[Review copy from my personal library.]