10.9.19

THE BEEKEEPER'S BULLET, by Lance Hawvermale


Germany, 1917. A mesmerizing story of flying aces, feisty heroines, and death in the sky over war-torn Germany. When a British flying ace crash-lands his stolen plane near a German farm, American Ellenor Jantz, beekeeper on the farm, shoots first and asks questions later. She ought to turn the handsome pilot in, but something about Alec Corbin-Dawes instead makes her hide him in the farm's stables.
Alec is on a personal mission: to save his sister, who lives in Metz, which is scheduled to be hit by a massive air-raid in four days. He talks Ellenor into helping to start the plane he plans to steal from the German squadron based on the farm. In the pre-dawn process, as the plane taxis across the field, everything goes terribly wrong.
As usual, you'll get no spoilers here. It's a fun beach read, with a plethora of arcane facts about bees, "crates" as the pilots called their flying machines, and the intricacies of mid-air dogfights. There's also a charming but deadly villain, an underground anti-war cell, and a nice war-time love story. 
It's a 4. A fun read with some interesting historical tidbits and a fascinating in-depth look at the original fighter planes. Unsurprisingly, the author is a beekeeper.

3.9.19

THE DEVIL'S WORKSHOP, by Alex Grecian

Third in the acclaimed Scotland Yard Murder Squad series set in Jack the Ripper's London. If you like brooding atmosphere and psychological terror combined with the graphically gory, this is your series.
London policeman Walter Day is confronted by a sly, cunning murderer...or is it more than one? Could it be a copycat of Jack the Ripper, still at large?
A carefully arranged prison break frees four notorious killers. In theory, the four were supposed to be delivered into the hands of a vigilante group. In practice, the wily criminals are at large. Along with a fifth that nobody ever dreamed would again be on the loose.
Walter Day and colleague Nevil Hammersmith pursue clues and find gory bits of victims as the killers lead them on a chase through London streets and sewers. Hammersmith seems impervious to danger...with the resulting injuries.
While the police sleuth, a far-seeing doctor establishes a morgue to analyze murder victims, and (with typical Victorian disregard) has his teenaged daughter sketch the results. Meanwhule, Day's family is at risk, and while he's away the threat literally comes homes.
Complex, chilling, the perfect read for lovers of detailed and graphic mystery. It's another 5. Read the series in order if you can.
Find the author at https://alexgrecian.com




GAME OVER, by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles

11 in the best-selling series starring London CID Inspector Bill Slider and his incomparable team. One of the great charms of this series is the fully-drawn private lives of the major characters, particularly Detective Inspector Bill Slider and his sidekick, the suave and way-too-debonair Jim Atherton.
Here, Slider and his very pregnant girlfriend Joanne try to find time to tie the knot before their baby is born. In typical incautious style, Jim Atherton gets tangled up with a victim's journalist daughter as they investigate the murder of a noted BBC correspondent. With friends in high places, the victim has influence from the grave.
Complicating matters are the threats Slider receives from an escaped criminal out for the ultimate revenge. For the Detective Inspector, the notion that a game is over when a felon goes to prison is not true. Now, under chilling conditions, he's got to figure out how to stop this personal threat as he investigates corruption in high places. And find time to marry Joanna, of course.
The series is compelling and best read in order. The author combines crime and police procedural with a full array of personal problems and foibles into a marvelous mix of can't-put-down tales. To date, there are 26 books. Think of the binge! It's another 5 from this prolific writer.
Find the author at www.cynthiaharrodeagles.com
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1.9.19

ARTIFACT, by Gigi Pandian

#1 in the Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt contemporary mystery series, for which the author won an award from Malice Domestic.
Historian and professor Jaya Jones receives a package from an old boyfriend and discovers a lovely piece of what she first thinks is costume jewelry: a heavy gold ankle bracelet with a large red stone in it. She quickly learns that the boyfriend, Rupert, has died in a car crash in Scotland. And that the anklet isn't costume jewelry, it's real and part of a lost cache of Mughal-era jewelry lost for centuries. It may in fact have once belonged to Nur Mahal, wife of the famous Jahangir who built the Taj Mahal.
When Jaya's Merkely apartment is burgled, she decides answers to the threat are in Scotland. Accompanied by Lane **, atractive and blond and mysterious, she goes to London. She is followed from the British Library, where they research history of the Raj. In Scotland, the plot thickens as bogus summons to London and Lane's arrest on faked theft charges that put them out of action. But only until Jaya figures out the solution.
Filled with the lore of the Highlands and the history of the British Empire, Jaya and Lane are a great team with just enough romance to muddy the waters.
This prize-winning book and its subsequent series are a fascinating meld of history, mystery, danger, action, and just enough romance. It's a 5.


A MURDEROUS PROCESSION, by Ariana Franklin

4/series Mistress of the Art of Death. Anatomist and physician Adelia Aguilar is ordered by King Henry II of England to accompany his pre-teen daughter to her future husband. The thousand-mile journey, fraught with more than merely danger from brigands, will traverse Queen Eleanor's French holdings as well as factions not under either monarch's control, including the unruly Cathars. In faxt, the unruly everyone. This was an age of every man for himself. Part of the young princess's dowry is the legendary sword Excalibur, which is coveted by Henry's sons as the emblem of their right to rule.
As the procession slowly wends its way south through France, from castle to monastery, Adelia must keep the princess safe, her own tiny daughter unscathed, everyone healthy, and hope that Excalibur, cleverly hidden, will safely arrive at its destination. But there is a murderer traveling with them, and Adelia must find him before he finds her. It's a 5, as are the other books in this compelling series.
The author does not have a website.
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THE CAIRO AFFAIR, by Olen Steinhauer

An author whose works ought to be more well-known (pardon to the author, maybe they are and I'm just now discovering him). International intrigue in all its convoluted, misleading details. Sophie Kohl has just confessed to a long-ago affair with one of her husband's colleagues when a stranger arrives at their table and shoots her diplomat husband Emmett. The killer is a known assassin-for-hire. Sophie, guilt-stricken, flees to Cairo where she stays with Stan Bertolli, her old lover. Who has never stopped desiring her. What at first appears to be a garden-variety tale of infidelity with an exotic background, soon develops into a tortured mid-east plot awash in murder and intrigue. Steinhauer has been called the next Le Carre, and this tale is ample proof of his writing prowess. Click below for more...

THE SCARLET LION, by Elizabeth Chadwick

2/series on the life of William, Earl of Pembroke and English kingmaker. Medieval fictionalized biography rarely gets better than this. William, one of the most powerful men in medieval England, friend to Richard Lionheart, Eleanor of Aquitaine, and their sons, is ordered by his dying king to see Prince John on the English throne. At that time - 1197 - the English throne was more Norman, with lands on both sides of the Channel. William, Marshall of England, throws his support behind the sly, licentious and unpopular Prince John. Click below for more...

AMERICAN NEOLITHIC, by Terence Hawkins

To be released November 2019. Chilling, terrible, tragic, funny, Orwellian. In an America brought to near-dictatorship by a bogus nuclear scare, a strange-looking fellow named Blingbling is accused of murdering a rap star. Raleigh, a mid-grade Manhattan attorney who remembers the good old days pre-Patriot Amendments to the Constitution, is coerced into defending the oddball.
Little escapes the notice of the ever-vigilant Homeland Police, an enormous and dominating agency with seemingly unlimited power.  When it looks as if Raleigh will actually mount a defence for the accused, a series of events begins that will give chills to many readers.
The most startling aspect of the story is Blingbling's memoir. Narrated in turns by Blingbling and Raleigh, the fascinating, entertaining, horrid tale unfolds. Blingbling, while he cannot talk clearly, is self-educated, and a man of keen observation, dry wit and gently scathing observation. Impossible not to care for him. And for the self-indulgent but calculating Raleigh as well, although they are very different characters.
Many times, after each bizarre turn, I could only think, "This could easily happen."
It's a 5. It will sadden many, perhaps infuriate others. Do not skip to the last pages and read the ending. Part of the power of the book is its gradual slide from gray to black. Every page counts, there are few wasted words here. It ought to be a best-seller.

THE DEAD TRAVEL FAST, by Deanna Raybourn

Theodora Lestrange shudders at the thought she might have to marry, have children, sit by the fire and embroider as she waits for her husband to come home. This is the normal trajectory of the Victorian woman and, now that her well-meaning but respectably poor brother-in-law is her caretaker, it becomes a real threat. When an invitation comes from an old school friend to visit her in Transylvania, Theodora doesn't think twice. She's got her Get Out of Edinburgh card in hand.
The farther east she goes, the more atmospheric and wild the country. She arrives at Castle Dragulescu at day's end and her old friend Cosmina is delighted to welcome her. The elderly, ailing Countess Dragulescu, Cosmina's guardian, introduces her to her arrestingly handsome son Andrei, Count Dragulescu. Theodora is instantly attracted to the enigmatic man who, she quickly discovers, Cosmina is afraid of. The count knows every ploy in the seducer's arsenal and finds the lovely visitor susceptible.
Local lore and the peasants on the count's land believe in strigoi - vampires - and Theodora finds persuasive evidence they may actuaslly exist. As she and Alexei grow closer, his behavior seems more and more odd. A midnight exorcism involving chants and holy water and wooden stakes in the castle crypt - suitably horrific - ups the ante. Why does Alexei's long-deceased father looks so fresh and lively? Who killed the serving girl, whose lifeless body has two puncture wounds on her bosom? Should she believe Alexei's cool claims of indifference?
Matters come to a head in an unexpected moment which, in my zeal to do no spoilers, you will have to discover for yourself in the book.
Very readable, with a feisty heroine and a suitably surprising villain. Very Gothic. Five stars. Raybourn is a great writer of romantic suspense.

31.8.19

DEATH IN THE DORDOGNE: Bruno, Chief of Police 1, by Martin Walker

First in the enchanting series starring Bruno Courreges, a police officer in St. Denis, a small town in the fabled French Department of the Dordogne. Policing the small-town French way, Bruno knows every soul in St. Denis and has his fingers firmly on its pulse. Officials from Brussels here to make life miserable for the vendors at the local market? Bruno's on it, keeping track of the wily officials, and stopping local hotheads from making a bad situation explosive.
When a local man of North African descent is found brutally murdered, the first impulse it to tie it to the "Gestapo" from Brussels. But Gestapo has a harsh connotation in this part of France, which was occupied by the Nazis and resisted by two still-competing factions. The second inpulse is to tie the crime to past events that involved the real Gestapo. When a young man is found tied up in a sexually compromising position in a bedroom with Nazi paraphernalia, he's immediately thought the killer. But Bruno knows the boy, he'd coached him at rugby and tennis, and thinks he's not killer material. But who is?
Bruno must delve into the past to find out. But some secrets are better off unspoken and he has his work cut out for him. Will the Chief of Polcie be able to get to the bottom of this crime?
Much of the charm of this series is that Bruno is a man of the local area, and he loves living there. Ne has a home in the hills, and a hunting dog. He is part of local clubs, and the coach for many of them with the younger generation. In addition, he has a mentor/mentee relationship with the older city mayor. Every female with a pulse flirts with him. And one in particular catches his eye...
Keeping with my rule of no spoilers, that's all I'll write. But this is a series worth spending time savoring. I'm loving every one I've read so far, and the local knowledge has made me want to move to the Dordogne.
It's a five and then some.


19.8.19

BLOOD ORANGE, by Susan Wittig Albert

This is #24 in the China Bayles/Pecan Springs cozy mystery series.

In all series (the ever-wacky Stephanie Plum instantly springs to mind) there comes a time for the author (even a highly successful one like Ms. Albert) to take a step back and look at what's happening. This is the feeling with this book. To start with, the exhaustive information about various plants was distracting. It's a thick book, and maybe could've used some pruning? And then a few over-familiar plot devices and one particularly egregious moment of mind-boggling stupidity on our plucky heroine's part really loused up what could've been a good read.
China Bayles' new tenant, Kelly Kaufman, employed as a nurse, has a couple of serious problems, one of which she wants to ask China about. But the nurse, going through a nasty separation from her husband, is killed when her car goes off the road en route to China's. Back up a bit. She is injured, but takes several days to die. While her tenant is on life-support, China's relationship with her absent husband may be the same. He's out of town but not where he told China he'd be.
China's being lied to on all fronts, as she discovers Kelly's employment was misrepresented. Then Kelly's paperwork surfaces and things get even murkier. I was on a cruise ship, with limited reading options, so I finished this. But I do hope it is not representative of Albert's writing and plotting. I thought there was too much evidence of hasty writing and not-so-hot editing. But it's #24 in the series so Albert's doing something right!

I'll give this a 3. It should've been more, but that scene in the garage was just too, too TSTL (Too Stupid To Live).

17.8.19

THE FOURTH MONKEY, by J. D. Barker

A taut psychological thriller with a forty-eight hour timeline. Also a police procedural and a murder mystery. The Four Monkey Killer has terrorized Chicago until the anonymous body of a man is identified as the actual killer. Hit by a bus as he crossed a street, the victim's identification leads police to believe he is indeed the Four Monkey Killer. Detective Sam Porter, assigned to the case, begins to follow the trail prvcided by a diary in the dead man's pocket. Then it turns out that the man was pushed.
The story switches between the present day and the creepy, horrible diary entries. At first one feels some compassion for the young writer in his bizarre situation, then as the entire story unfolds it becomes clear that motives and actions aren't as they had seemed. Porter, reading the entries while trying to figure out not only the killer's motivation but why the killer made his fatal stumble, realizes he has only hours to figure it out before another death may happen. Too late, Porter realizes that the web he has followed is as much a trap as a trail.
A 4 for me. The diary entries were a bit too pat. But the story, particularly the very tense and dramatic denouement, was worth reading.

22.7.19

THE BALTIC PRIZE, by Julian Stockwyn

Number 19 in the Thomas Kydd series. While this could stand alone, it makes little sense to skip the first 18 seafaring novels of this great series. If you liked Patrick O'Brien's Aubrey/Mathurin series, you should love these as well.
The impetuous, ambitious but supremely talented Kydd, now Captain Sir Kydd of the Tyger, is sent to be part of the Baltic Fleet, and never a more thankless job has he ever had. Shackled by competing monarchies, Admiral Saumarez finds his hands tied by one recalcitrant British Army officer who feuds with the flighty, autocratic Swedish king.
The fleet is hopelessly trapped in a Swedish harbor and cannot depart to challenge the Russian navy without the King's leave, which he will not give until he gets his way. The fact that Russia has declared war and their fleet will leave St. Petersburg any day does not seem to excite the monarch.
Kydd is sent on individual sorties to gather information and, in typical fashion, winds up destroying a Danish fleet of small boats intent on revenge. This feat does not endear him to many of his fellow captains, some of whom feel Kydd is a grandstanding lightweight.
But further feats are coming as Kydd is dispatched on another mission. From page to page, this book fairly bristles with action of one sort or another. Stockwyn is a sailor and for many years was in the Royal Australian Navy (among many other things). The authenticity of both naval life and maneuvers, and historical events and situations, is enthrealling for a reder like me who adores history.
Read the set in order. From the firsgt to the present book you'll ahve a great time. The series is a 5, right up there with Patrick O'Brien.

17.7.19

LADY OF VALOR, by Tina St. John

All too often, historical romances are too predictable, with the hero having a neat laundry list of flaws that make him the exact opposite of the feisty heroine and her own flaws. That is not the case here. St. John has created two interesting and totally invested characters whose ultimate goal is really at odds.
Lady Emmaline of Fallonmour, secretly aghast at how delighted she is to hear of her husband's demise whole on Crusade in the Holy Land, is horrified to learn that the brutal Sir Cabal will manage the property for the crown. Emma has managed the estate for the three years her husband has been raping and pillaging (mostly the former) in the Middle East. She has built up the estate into a flourishing asset. Sir Cabal appreciates the effort but wants her out of his thick, dark hair at once.
Emma's brother-in-law, the sleazy and contemptuous Hugh, is out for her hand. One way or another - he's no more particular about details than his brother was - he'll have her More importantly, he'll have the flourishing and profitable estate.. Once it's in his hands, the Crown - in the person of his friend Prince John - will approve.
But Emmalyn comes to know the dark and brooding Sir Cabal and wonders if she can work with him to secure the future of her beloved Fallonmour. She's right, and she's wrong. And that's where the fun begins...
Part of a series, this book will stand alone as well. Chock full of steamy sex scenes and moments of bloody derring-do, the book should appeal to anyone who enjoy a high-passion historical tale. It's a 4+ (one fatal flaw which some readers may pick up on keeps me from a solid 5). Heat level 4.

11.7.19

A GENTLEMAN IN MOSCOW, by Amor Towles

Shortly after the 1917 Bolshevik revolution tore Russia from the grasp of medieval life and thought, the new Soviet state began its tracking of Special persons, or those deemed dangerous to the new state. Count Alexander Ilyich Rostof was just such a person, but he escaped the usual fate of a firing squad. Instead,in June of 1922  he was forced into internal exile of an unusual sort: he was never again to set foot outside the Metropole Hotel, where he had resided for the past four years in a sumptuous suite furnished with precious family antiques.
The balance of this big book deals with Rostov's life in exile inside the building, and how he adjusts (or doesn't) over the following twenty-odd years.
It is amazing that, in an era and a regime that stripped all human dignity from people, Alexander Rostov managed to retain his innate dignity, humor, courtesy and charm. That last leaps off the pages in scores of moments of stress, surprise, even humiliation and passion. Around him, stupid, petty people were making stupid and petty decisions. People made demands of him few men would have been able to endure with anything approaching good humor. Count Rostov - although nobody referred to him in public other than Comrade Rostov - weather it all and, in the end, triumphed.
A fabulous, elegant read. This is a 5+, one of my favorite books this decade.

10.7.19

UNTOUCHABLE, by Jayne Ann Krentz

Part of the Sons of Anson Salinas paranormal series. The three sons are foster children whose parents were victims of the same deranged killer.
Winter Meadows has come to Eclipse Bay to hide from problems. Jack Lancaster is there to recoup between investigating the cold cases he's so good at. A hypnotist with extraordinary powers, Winter finds she msut support herself through other means: meditation counseling. Jack, an obsessive with a small problem of getting trapped in his dreams, goes to her for help. The attraction comes into the open when one of Winter's problems breaks into her house to kill her. Winter thinks the man is there only because he manged to track her down; Jack's convinced there's more to it. They join forces to find out the truth behind the attack The brilliant Quintin Zane, Jack's old nemesis and his mother's killer, has tracked him down, and will do anything in his considerable power to settle old scores. The chase is two-sided, however, and leads Winter and Jack on an intense chase through a labyrynth of clues to a denouement neither one of them could've foreseen.
No spoilers here. There's plenty of action, a fair amount of hot and heavy sex, and a couple of murders. Typical Krentz. I'll give it, barely, a four. it's a four in the sex department as well.

The prolific Krentz writes under two other names: Jane Castle (futuristic) romantic suspense and Amanda Quick (historical romantic suspense); she has written under a total of seven aliases, but has fined it down to three. She has over fifty New York Times Best Seller titles.).

9.7.19

BLOOD ORANGE, by Harriet Tyce

This may be the shortest book review on record.
I do not like whiny drunk female protagonists. Male ones don't do anything for me either. This one, a female, is particularly repellent as she's not only a drunk (albiet a functioning one, at least during the day), but a cheating, lying drunk wife and mother who is engaged in a particularly repellent and demeaning extramarital affair. What a total turn off.
Did I like this book? No.
The writing is excellent. But I'm not slogging through 200+ pages of sodden misery to find the pearl at the bottom of the compost.
I did not like it, and quit after about fifty pages.
You, of course, may feel differently.

TWICE TOLD TAIL, by Ali Brandon

#6 in the Black Cat Bookshop cozy series.
Everything you love about cozies is here: a winning amateur sleuth with a fascinating job (inherited, a bookshop and brownstone, a very generous auntie),  a wide range of good friends one of whom becomes a corpse.
And the cat, Hamlet: big, black, brilliant, and very adept at pushing books containing clues at his mistress. I personally find extra-intelligent felines a bit much (in our own homes, the beasts are sometimes too intelligent for their owners' good!).
When bookstore owner Darla Pettistone and her boisterous friend Connie Capello find a dear friendof Darla's dead in his own shop, one of his antique pieces (a small pillow) in his lap, Darla finds herself involved in what turns out to be a murder. Connie, on edge from a last-minute wedding gown search, actually finds the body (second of the day), and her fiance is the investigating detective.
Connie is the take-over-your-life kind of friend, and Darla spends a lot of time keeping the fast-approaching nuptials on an even keel, even though she and the soon-to-be-groom have a history. Pushing aside what might be feelings for the detective, she and Hamlet see someone lurking in the shadows near the murder site. Hamlet shows a keen interest in the lurker; is he also tied to the weird wedding dress shop employee? Is he the mysterious book purchaser who rejects a sought-after sale  for being the wrong book? Is it even a he?
A convoluted tale well told. It's a 4.

23.5.19

UNTO US A SON IS GIVEN, by Donna Leon

#28 in the Commisario Guido Brunetti mystery series
Over the years, Donna Leon has given the world a marvelus series of murders set in Venice, Italy, and its surrounding area. Brunetti, the police inspector, is a deeply-drawn character, as is his wife Paola and their two children, Rafi and Ciara. Brunetti's colleagues run the range from brilliant to seriously challenged, but all are handled by the inspector with care and respect. In each book, Leon has managed to bring Brunetti to new realizations and new insights. The reader gets to enjoy the ride, too.
Venice, of course, plays an important part in the tales, as does the Italian system of justice and - in this particular story - the Italian inheritance laws. In Italy, your relations get your estate. None of this cat shelter givewaway decisions.
When Brunetti's father-in-law, Count Falier, asks him to check out a young man the Count's oldest friend plans to adopt, Guido is uneasy. It's a family matter. He knows the man, an accomplished art dealer with a large fortune. A homosexual, the older man has found a new companion after his partner of many years left him. If the young man a fortune hunter? Does it matter? Once he's adopted, the entire estate of the elderly art dealer devolves to the young man.
It not only matters to the art dealer, it matters to his long-time friends. Including a delightful woman who shows up in Venice. Brunetti meets her, is impressed. And then...
Read the book. It's one of Leon's better books, multi-layered and thought-provoking.

17.5.19

BLACK RABBIT HALL, by Eve Chase

Set in Cornwall, at the edge of the sea, Black Rabbit Hall is the crumbling ancestral home of the Altons, a down-at-heels family whose scion. Hugo, and his American wife Nancy bring their four children for a springtime visit. Tragedy strikes, ending one life and upending all the others.
Billed as women's fiction, the story is told in part by the oldest Alton child, Amber, and is loaded with raw emotion. I'm not a crier, but this was a two-hanky read (in a good way).
The other part of the story is told from the point of view of a young couple from London who, forty years later, come to the house to plan their wedding festivities. Fallen on harder times than before, it is either rent out the rooms for events or face selling everything. Lorna is mesmerized by the old house, which she thinks she remembers from childhood caravan trips to the area. Jon, a carpenter by trade and able to clearly see the house's perilous condition, is less than thrilled.
The lady of the house, Caroline, invites Lorna to stay as well as gives the couple a deal on their celebration. Caroline knows that one happy client will encourage others to book. Lorna, despite her intended's reservations, does come to Black Rabbit Hall.
In the spirit of our No Spoiler policy here at Nuts4Books, I can tell you no more. Sadly, you will have to actually read the book to find out what happened to Hugo and Nancy Alton, the four Alton children, how Caroline arrived on the scene, and what happened the fateful night that changed all their lives forever.
It's a 4, a no-rush book of unfolding cross-purposes, desires, bereavements, and bad decisions.

12.5.19

RADIANT ANGEL, by Nelson DeMille

Book seven in series. Further adventures of John Corey, feisty former New York City detective and now part of a task force monitoring the activities of the Russian espionage agents working in New York.
Corey, whose short fuse is legendary as well as the despair of his FBI wife, tracks members of the Russian delegation to the U. N., among them one deadly agent of the KGB. Russian colonel Vasily Petrov of the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service goes to a weekend party at the eastern end of Long Island, playground of the rich and devious. Corey, of course, violates protocol and masquerades as a caterer to follow the Russian into a wealthy oligarch's stronghold.
When Petrov and a dozen beautiful escorts walk down tthe beach and disappear from view at the height of the party. alarms go off in Corey's head but nobody else is disturbed.  Rejecting the conservative approach of asking his superiors for direction, Corey and a reluctant counterpart with mysterious connections follow the fast-vanishing trail.
If you enjoy edge-of-the-seat, high body count tales, DeMille is the author for you, and John Corey is the character, in every sense of the word. Confrontational, confident, smart-ass Corey will keep you entertained as well as terrified.
It's a 5. The series is best read in order as there's quite a bit of carry-over.

WHO SLAYS THE WICKED, by C. S. Harris

Further adventures of Sebastian St. Cyr, Viscount Devlin, Regency-era not-exacty-nobleman sleuth and upsetter of applecarts. Devlin,  acknowledged heir to the Earl of Hendon, is asked to investigate the grisly murder of a sadistic nobleman who happens to be his own niece's dissolute husband. Found slashed to death in his bed, limbs tied with scarlet silk cords,  there is not a single person who mourns the end of Lord Ashworth. But St. Cyr, as always, will try to find the killer. It quickly is evident the murderer well could be a woman. Which leads St. Cyr reluctantly down a path to his beloved neice.
As always, Hero Jarvis plays an important part in the story, as do St. Cyr's physician friend Dr. Gibson. For evil pomposity, we get St. Cyr's father-in-law Charles, Lord Jarvis, and the bloated Prince Regent, Prinny. The great and good are contrasted through Hero's research with the mass of unwashed, uneducated, tragic humans upon whose backs the entire system rode.
I am totally hooked on this series.  They should be read in order if only to keep track of the twists and turns Devlin takes in his search for the truth about his own heritage. The first book will grab you, and the rest is gripping reading and a series of crimes that illuminate the glittering, glamorous, grisly, gruesome era. As always, the rich and connected had it good and the rest did not. Harris brings it to vivid life. A 5+, what else?

WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING, by Delia Owens

Most serious readers know about this book. Many, many others have reviewed it so there's little to say in that regard. It's beautifully written, with a nice easy-flowing style that will draw you in. For a debut novel, it is extraordinary. Owens has published award-winning non-fiction, but writers know that fiction is a whole other language. Which Owens has mastered on her first shot. Not many writers are that fortunate.
The main characters are finely drawn and compelling, the story likewise. Even minor characters get their hundred words of description. Nobody is a throwaway in this tale. Except, perhaps, Kya.
BUT...if you are the type of reader who compulsively sneaks to the last page of the book and reads it, you may as well not read the book at all. The pacing in this big story is complete, right down to that last paragraph. I urge you to resist that sneak-peek urge.
This is a 5 for me.

13.12.16

LAND OF SHADOWS, by Rachel Howzell Hall

1/series starring LA Homicide Detective Elouise Norton. For a debut novel, this is impressive. The author has done her homework and constructed a fast-moving crime tale with a troubled, feisty, black, female cop as lead detective. At times I felt that the whole tale was built around check-lists (let's see, this is the place a character has to have final evidence of spousal betrayal...) but the many layers to the back story are very well revealed. Detective Norton catches a murder: a teen-aged girl, the location tying in to her own sister's long-ago and unsolved disappearance. Click below for more, but no spoilers...

THE WINTER WITCH, by Paula Brackston

2.series set in Wales, is a mesmerizing tale of Morgana, descendant of witches, a young woman who has not spoken since she was a small child. Now of marriageable age, her mother finds her a husband, an earnest young widower who owns a farm. In his home village, Cai Jenkins is a man of substance and importance. He is the area drover, the man who drives the cattle to market and returns with the village's wealth in his pockets. Cai knows nothing of his pretty young bride other than she is essential to his position. A drover must have a wife, it's tradition and what legitimizes him. One of the many things Cai doesn't reckon with is Morgana's fierce independence. And then there's her uncanny abilities. Click below for more... 

9.12.16

DRINKING GOURD, by Barbara Hambly

7/series, starring Free Man of Color, Benjamin January. Eagerly awaiting the birth of his child, January is called away to Vicksburg on an urgent errand. A man deeply involved in the Underground Railway has been wounded and January, a physician and surgeon, must patch him up so he appears normal. Vicksburg is solidly in  slave-holding America, and anyone of color is fair game for poachers and slave-stealers. For a man his size, the perfect field hand, there is no law and no protection save his friend and companion Hannibal Sefton. Click below for more...

BROKEN MUSIC, by Marjorie Eccles

A post-Great War tale of love, both good and bad, deception, and lives broken by "The War to End All Wars". Herbert Reardon has returned to the village of Broughton Underhill, determined to solve the death of a young woman that happened just before he went into the British Army. Horribly scarred from a fire, Reardon has vowed to determine if the death was accidental or not. The village's "big house" family at Oaklands Park, beset with problems of their own, doesn't want the case reopened. Click below for more...

4.12.16

SKIES OF ASH, by Rachel Howzell Hall

2/series in the LA-based police procedural starring black homicide detective Elouise Norton. Feisty just begins to describe Norton, whose sidekick is a big white guy with a Tic-Tac problem. A woman and her two children die in a home fire. The husband survives, but barely, as he tries to go inside the inferno to rescue his family. Click below for more...

28.11.16

THE NAMESAKE, by Conor Fitzgerald

3/series with Commissario Alec Blume.American-born Italian murder squad cop Blume is not your average cop, he's unruly, untidy, single-minded, with incredibly poor people skills and an almost fatal (for Italy) sense of honesty. This time, however, Blume may have gone too far. His friendship with court magistrate Matteo Arconti leads him into a Ndraghetta-spawned plot with more layers than an Italian sfogliatelle  (pictured at right for your edification). In the toe of Italy's boot, this secretive mafia/camorra-type criminal organization is intimately involved with nearly every aspect of life, and has spread its tentacles north of the Alps as well. Click below for more..

DINNER WITH EDWARD, by Isabel Vincent

A charmer of a memoir about the author's long dinner relationship and growing friendship  with an elderly neighbor, Recently-widowed, his reason for living gone, Edward makes a comeback by cooking gourmet dinners for his new, troubled, neighbor. And, from time to time, a variety of friends he's made as he searches New York's gourmet food emporiums (not those you'd first think of) for the perfect ingredients. But it's about much more than food: Edward serves up lessons in living a meaningful life to a woman whose own life has gone sideways. A small, short read of significance; good things do indeed come in small packages. This could make a nice stocking stuffer for a foodie friend.
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18.11.16

THE MISTRESSES OF CLIVEDEN, by Natalie Livingstone

Three centuries separated the founding of Cliveden by the scandalously high-living Charles Villiers, 2nd Duke of Buckingham and the Profumo Affair, the less-sordid-than-portrayed sex scandal that brought down a government. But those eras were filled with excitement, intrigue and power struggles.Set on a bluff overlooking the Thames, and a mere five miles from Windsor Castle, the imposing Italianate building has always been part of the power structure of England. Click below for more...

1.11.16

THE MEMORY KEY, by Conor Fitzgerald

4/series starring irascible Commissario Alex Blume. Winter in Rome is no joke, and Alex Blume is called out on a freezing night to the murder of a pleasant young women, shot in the head in what appears to be an assassin-style killing. Previously, another woman had been shot, this one an ageing terrorist who, many years before, had arranged a train station bombing that killed 80 people. The terrorist, miraculaously, survives, but the bullet took out her memory, both past and present. Is the young woman's death connected with the murder attempt? They must be: it's the same type of bullet. Click below for more...

BITTER REMEDY, by Conor Fitzgerald

5/series, with irascible, bull-headed Commissario Alec Blume. Estranged from work, girlfriend Caterina, and new daughter, Blume has signed on for a course in healing through flowers. The course is cancelled at the last minute and Blume, with nothing else to do but return to his disastrous apartment on the edge of Rome, stays. A Romanian lap dancer has vanished; Blume's landlady is a feisty 90+ year old countess, the flower expert is a slightly flaky but very pretty girl whose father saves Blume when he accidentally ingests some toxic seeds. Click below for more...

31.10.16

THE FORGOTTEN MAN, by Robert Crais

12/series starring World's Greatest Detective Elvis Col. A man is murdered in an LA alley. His last words: Elvis Cole is my son. But Elvis, who has never met his father, doesn't think so. Unravelling the mystery of who the man is and why he sought Elvis takes both the World's Greatest Detective and his impenetrable sidekick Joe Pike into unknown territory, and a terrible crime that dated back two decades. Click below for more...

26.10.16

THE FATAL TOUCH, by Conor Fitzgerald

2/series, set in Rome, starring Commissario Alec Blume. The art world and art forgeries figure in this mesmerizing novel. An artist is found dead on the pavement of a Trastevere piazza where scores of muggings have taken place. Known widely as a barely-functioning drunk, it may be misadventure. But a local, notoriously corrupt (even by Italian standards), Colonel of the Carabinieri inserts himself in Blume's investigation, and it appears that the artist may have written information many don't want to be known. Click below for more...

SUNSET EXPRESS, by Robert Crais

6/series starring Elvis Cole. This is an early Cole (there's over a dozen now) but it's a good one. A wealthy and obnoxious restauranteur is accused of murdering his wife, found in plastic trash bags on the side of a hill. The arresting cop will be tried first: she once was accused of fabricating evidence, and now the high-profile defense attorney will accuse her of the same. Elvis, hired by the defense attorney himself, finds no evidence of the cop's guilt. He's put on TV to proclaim this, the beaming attorney at his side. Click below for more...

ENEMIES AT HOME, by Lindsey Davis

The Flavia Albia series, #2, set in ancient Rome. A delightful, cheeky spin-off from Davis's long-running Marcus Didius Falco series, we follow the cases of the young but widowed adopted daughter of Falco and his noble wife Helena Justina.
Albia and aedele Manlius Faustus must clear a group of slaves from certain death. Their master and mistress were brutally strangled while the slaves were in house. By Roman law, they will go to the Colosseum as bait for gladiators and animals: slaves as supposed to defend their owners even to their own lives.
In this era, slaves outnumbered free Romans many times. The "enemies at home" could often be the most dangerous. The nine slaves protest their innocence, but Albia is sure they're not telling the whole truth. Saddled with the aedele's whining, unwashed slave as straggling "protector", she criss-crosses the city's seven hills in search of evidence, along the way bumping up against organized crime bosses, snooty matrons, corrupt vigiles, and a bunch of slaves soon to be sent to the auctions.
It's another 5 for this talented author. If you're in the mood for a binge, this series - along with the Falco series - make entertaining, satisfying reading that you could beach binge for weeks.
Find the author at www.lindseydavis.co.uk
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16.10.16

SMOKE, by Dan Vyela

The old nickname for London - The Smoke - no doubt had to do with the smog from thousands of coal fires that once made the city's air nearly unbreathable and created impenetrable fogs. In this novel, set in (probably) the early 20th century, Smoke alludes to a visible evidence of sin, in thought or deed. Hundreds of years before, this strange manifestation changed British history, and over time isolated the island from the world's progress. We open at an elite boy's school where the children of the "smokeless" class send their sons.Click below for more...

14.10.16

THE DOGS OF ROME, by Conor Fitzgerald

1/series starring American-born Italian cop Alec Blume. An animal rights activist is bizarely murdered in his home. The victim's wife, a prominent politician, calls in favors before calling the police. The crime scene is totally compromised. Blume's corrupt supervisor wants a quick solution, hand-picks a victim, and wants it rolled up over night. The perp, a low-end criminal with a long record of running illegal dog fights, could easily be fitted up, but Blume knows he's not guilty. Click below for more...

7.10.16

VOODOO RIVER, by Robert Crais

5/series starring Elvis Cole .and unstoppable Joe Pike, world's greatest sidekick. Louisiana calls in this tale, sending Elvis to the bayous outside Baton Rouge where he nvestigates the past of a newly-discovered movie star. It quickly becomes apparent to the World's Greatest Detective that the information he received from the actress's delightfully crass agent is off-kilter. Then a new plot appears. But what's really important is the lawyer in Baton Rouge. Click below for more...

4.9.16

RAVISHING THE HEIRESS, by Sherry Thomas

2/series, The Fitzhughs. Despite the absurd title which doesn't have much to do with the plot, you'll have another great read on your hands from this award-winning author who specializes in feisty heroines and unusual situations. This Victorian confection (sour apple flavor) illuminates a marriage of convenience: the heiress bride has the money, the handsome groom has the title. The groom also has a love he won't let go of, despite the perilous financial position his title is in. Click below for more, but never a spoiler...

PRIVATE ARRANGEMENT, by Sherry Thomas

2/Romance trilogy. With a specialty in mesmerizing beginnings (followed by an entire  mesmerizing story), this finely-crafted tale of estrangement and second chances will grab you by the heart and not let you go. Lord and Lady Tremayne have the perfect Victoria marriage. He lives in America and she lives a lavish life of privilege in London. This has gone on since their wedding, when the bride had discovered her groom had betrayed her. Now Gigi wants her freedom so she can re-marry, and long-gone spouse Camden Saybrook is back to fight for his marriage . . . or not. Click below for more...

27.8.16

LAMENTATION, by C. J. Sansom

6/series starring Tudor-eras lawyer Matthew Shardlake, who this time in in really deep. Queen Catherine Parr asks Matthew to find a dangerously provocative manuscript that's gone missing. A religious tract by the queen herself, in the atmosphere of the court her enemies could use it to turn Henry against her. A printer is murdered, and a fragment of the manuscript is found in his hand. The dead man was possibly an Anabaptist, a sect believing in commonly-held property that Henry loathes and fears. When an old adversary of Matthew's lies dying, instead of reconciliation, the man wonders what will happen to Matthew now. Before he can learn more, the man is gone. Click below for more...

19.8.16

BODY LINE, by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles

13/series with London Detective Inspector Bill Slider. If you ever yearn to binge on a series of ferociously well-written English police mysteries, this is the author, and the series, for you. A perfect combination of grit, disaster, humor, pathos, grief and laugh-out-loud dialogue, you'll stay entranced through all twenty of the tales. And they are not re-hashes, each is unique, and the problems faced by Slider and his team, and in their personal lives as well, are presented flawlessly. Click below for more...

THE HARVEST MAN, by Alex Grecian

4/series starring Walter Day and Nevil Hammersmith of the Scotland Yard Murder Squad. Victorian England had its share of serial killers, but communication wasn't good enough for news to travel far. The killer known as The Harvest Man may have eluded the police, but he's set his sights on the Day family. Walter Day has troubles of his own: his wife's wealthy, hostile family has come to visit and taken over the household. Hammersmith, recklessly throwing himself into his work, was stabbed in the chest; his superior, fearing Hammersmith would merely get killed on the job, fired him. Walter Day, whose injured leg still troubles him, is confined to a desk job. Click below for more...

11.8.16

THE BLACK COUNTRY, by Alex Grecian

2/series, starring Walter Day and Nevil Hammersmith of the Scotland Yard Murder Squad. Set in a tottering, snowed-in coal town in western England, where a mother and father have vanished, leaving behind three children who are curiously unaffected by their loss. The searchers include a massive American whose presence is unclear, but who refuses to reveal why he stays. Stalking the search party is a mysterious marksman with American roots. The town, built atop the coal tunnels, sinks from time to time as supports give way. Click below for more...

HEARTSTONE, by C. J. Sansom

5/series set in Tudor England. Few people today realize that France nearly invaded England at this time, and well might have succeeded given the perilous state of the country, its bankrupt economy and sullen, resentful population. When lawyer Matthew Shardlake visits Bedlam for clients religiously-obsessed son (a burn at the stake offense). An inmate, Alice, appears "normal" but seems to be afraid to leave the building. Bedlam is expensive. What put her there and who pays for it?  As the vicious battle between religious factions swirls around Henry VIIIs court, the ailing, licentious king is pulled in various directions, but still pursues his ruinous, futile war with the French. Click below for more...

3.8.16

THE DEATH OF ACHILLES, by Boris Akunin

3/series, translated from the Russian. Returning to Russia after six years in Japan, the mesmerizing Erast Fandorin is at once thrust into high-level plots and counter-plots when the country's most celebrated general is found dead in his hotel suite. Once again, the mesmerizing sleuth finds murder where nobody else has. The general, Sobolev, known to the adoring masses as the White General, is also known to Fandorin (they had fought together in The Turkish Gambit, reviewed in another post on this blog). Immediately, Fandorin knows all is not as arranged. Click here for more...

KING MAYBE, by Timothy Hallinan

5/series starring LA burglar-for-life Junior Bender. Sent to burgle the home of a notorious hit man called The Slugger, Junior's promised window of opportunity is abruptly closed just as he lays fingers on the prize. It's a set-up. Bender, with typical chutzpah and a spectacular save by his girlfriend, escapes, but The Slugger and a like-minded sidekick are hot and heavy on his trail. Along with the chase, his ex-wife texts a change in his daughter's birthday party plans. Yet another set-up that could turn lethal! Click below for more no-spoiler review...

26.7.16

THE FEAR ARTIST, by Timothy Hallinan

/series set in Bangkok starring Poke Rafferty. As he leaves a paint store, a man stumbles into Poke and dies in his arms. Police, including a Bangkok CIA contact, immediately cordon the area and question poke. He denies understanding the man's last words. They made no sense: a woman's name, an American city. Thugs visit Poke, who's hidden by his feisty little neighbor (who probably runs a brothel, but who really knows?). All Poke wants is to finish painting the apartment before Rose and Miao get back. But he's been sucked into a big problem, and there are people who want him dead. Click below for more...