Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Review: Walking Shadows by Faye Kellerman

Kerry Hammond is here today to review the latest novel in a well-established series by Faye Kellerman.

Walking Shadows by Faye Kellerman is the 25th novel in the popular Decker/Lazarus series. It released on August 28 in Hardcover by William Morrow. The Kellermans are a prolific family of mystery writers. I’m a fan of Jonathan Kellerman’s Alex Delaware series and have even read and enjoyed the new series written by Jonathan and his son Jesse, which features Deputy Coroner, Clay Edison. Even though Faye Kellerman’s series had been around since 1986, I have to admit that I am new to her novels. What better place than to jump in at book 25?

In Walking Shadows, Detective Decker is called out to investigate an act of vandalism and ends up with a murder case. The victim is a young local man named Brady Neil and as Decker looks into his past he finds out that Neil’s father was sent to prison for robbery and murder. Decker needs to find out what, if any, connection there is to link Brady to his father’s crime. The stakes are raised when Decker links Brady’s murder to the disappearance of a co-worker and friend of the victim, and Decker relies on Rina Lazarus to help him sort through the past and find out just what the crimes have in common.

Sometimes you jump into a series midway through and can’t seem to get acquainted with the characters, or the author tries to throw so much of the back story at you that you are overwhelmed with knowledge that you don’t understand. I didn’t feel this way at all with Decker and Lazarus.  I felt like I was reading book one in a series, getting to know new characters in my own time and in my own way. The book had a standalone feel and I enjoyed it for the mystery that it was. The bonus is that I can now go back and check out the earlier books in the series. I really enjoyed the book and look forward to reading more by the author.

This book was provided to Mystery Playground by the publisher. The review is fair and independent.

Friday, August 31, 2018

California Sangria and A Case of Syrah, Syrah

Nancy J Parra AKA Nancy Coco AKA Nell Hampton joins us today on Drinks with Reads. Nancy is the author of over 25 published novels which include five mystery series: The Candy Coated Mysteries (Kensington), The Kensington Palace Mystery Series (Crooked Lane), The Wine Country Tours Mystery Series (Crooked Lane) The Gluten-free Baker’s Treat Mysteries (Berkley Prime Crime), and The Perfect Proposal Mysteries (Berkley Prime Crime).  Her writing has been called witty and her protagonists plucky by reviewers around the world.  Nancy is a member of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America and writes for the Killer Character Blog on the 8th of every month. 

I lived in Northern California for nearly two years right next to an orange grove. The air always held the scent of citrus. I loved going out and visiting obscure wineries in the area, learning about the tradition and tasting all the varieties. I love the concerts in the vineyards, open air yoga and wine tastings and that scent of ocean in the fog that rolled in overnight. That’s why I wrote the wine country tours mystery series to celebrate the quirkiness, joy and beauty that is northern California. In A Case of Syrah, Syrah, someone takes a yoga obsession one stretch too far. Enjoy this fast, fun read with a glass of Sangria on your back patio or at the beach.

Fruit- I chose oranges and limes
A mix of orange and lime juice
Extra fine sugar
A beautiful Syrah
Brandy (I tasted some wonderful warm brandies in California.)

Cut 1 orange into small pieces and remove the seeds. Cut 2 small limes into quarters, removing seeds. Place oranges and limes in a glass pitcher with ¾ cup of extra fine sugar (more or less to taste). Muddle for 45 seconds with a wooden spoon. Add ½ cup of orange juice and 1/4 cup of lime juice, 1/3 cup of brandy (or more to taste). Add the wine and stir to incorporate. Add one cup of ice to chill and enjoy! Don’t want to add ice? Refrigerate for 2 hours.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Review: What Remains of Her by Eric Rickstad

Kerry Hammond found another new-to-her author and is here to tell us what she thought.

What Remains of Her by Eric Rickstad was published on July 24, in Trade Paperback, by William Morrow. Rickstad is a New York Times bestselling author of four other novels of suspense; three of which make up the Canaan Crime Novels series.

The book revolves around the disappearance of Rebecca Baum and her young daughter Sally, a case that went cold 25 years ago and left Jonah Baum—husband and father—to try and pick up the pieces of his life. There was speculation that Rebecca took her daughter and disappeared, but there was also small town gossip that Jonah had something to do with their disappearance. Now, 25 years to the day after they disappeared, a broken and reclusive Jonah finds a young girl in the woods. He is struck by her resemblance to his lost daughter and in his mind, muddled by years of grief, he tries to protect and save the girl; something he wasn’t able to do for his own daughter and wife. As the police continue to search for the missing child, Lucinda, a deputy sheriff who is tied to the original case, begins to piece together what happened all of those years ago.

The story drew me in right away and I was mesmerized by the world Rickstad created. The setting was perfect for the story that was being told: a remote part of Vermont, in the wintertime. There was a feeling of isolation that permeated the town and everyone in it. The cold and snow both hindered and helped. It hindered those who wanted to search for clues and helped those who were trying to hide.

There were plenty of twists and turns to keep me guessing and a satisfying ending to wrap things up. I will definitely be checking out the author’s other books.

This book was provided to Mystery Playground by the publisher. The review is fair and independent.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Review: Little Girl Lost by Wendy Corsi Staub

Kerry Hammond is here with her review of the first book in a new series by Wendy Corsi Staub.

Little Girl Lost by Wendy Corsi Staub was published on July 24, in Mass Market Paperback by William Morrow. It’s the first in the Foundlings Trilogy, a new series by the author, who has written more than ninety novels—something not many authors ever achieve. I was a big fan of the Mundy’s Landing series and reviewed all three here on Mystery Playground: BloodRed, Blue Moon, and Bone White. I was excited to try the first book in a new series.

The story toggles between 1968, when a string of brutal attacks by a serial killer rocked New York City, and 1987 where we meet Amelia Crenshaw and NYPD Detective Stockton Barnes. Both Barnes and Crenshaw are searching for answers; Crenshaw wants to find the truth about her birth parents and Barnes wants to solve the missing person’s case of a Park Avenue millionaire. As information is revealed, we find that their two stories don’t just intersect, they are completely entwined, and the answers are not what they expected.

The story toggles from 1968 to 1987 as well as from character to character. This is a trademark of sorts for the author and I don’t usually mind the switches. With this book, though, I found the back and forth between characters to be sometimes hard to follow. There were quite a few characters at play, so this might explain my trouble. I did find the premise of the book extremely interesting and enjoyed the intersecting character paths. On the whole, I enjoy Corsi Staub’s writing, and her ability to tell unusual and intriguing stories.

This book was provided to Mystery Playground by the publisher. The review is fair and independent.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Review: The Mystery of Three Quarters by Sophie Hannah

Sophie Hannah has a new Hercule Poirot mystery out and Kerry Hammond is eager to give us her review.

The Mystery of Three Quarters by Sophie Hannah is the third in the series featuring Agatha Christie’s Belgian detective, Hercule Poirot. It was published on August 28, in hardcover by William Morrow. The first in the series, The Monogram Murders, brought back one of the most famous sleuths in literary history. Fans of Agatha Christie and the traditional British mystery were able to revisit with an old friend and read a new story. Closed Casket was the second in the series and continued to follow Poirot’s investigations, this time the detective is present when the murder takes place but is unable to stop it.

In The Mystery of Three Quarters, the reader immediately feels like they have entered an Agatha Christie story. Four people have received a letter accusing them of the murder of a man named Barnabas Pandy, all signed by Hercule Poirot. There are two problems with this: 1) Barnabas Pandy did indeed die, but the police believed there was no foul play, and 2) Poirot didn’t write the letters. Each of the four people confront Poirot, with differing levels of outrage. He continues to explain his innocence, but his interest is piqued and he begins to wonder if Mr. Pandy’s death is more than what the police originally thought.

Poirot, with the help of Scotland Yard detective Edward Catchpool, looks into Pandy’s death as well as the background of each of the people who received a letter containing his forged signature. He finds the puzzle to be especially difficult to understand and the more he investigates, the more he wonders just what each of the suspects has in common and why they were targeted. Catchpool is our Hastings-like narrator, following along as Poirot uses his little grey cells to solve the case. The Scotland Yard detective takes on more of an investigative role than Hastings ever did, but his skills still pale in comparison to the great Hercule Poirot—as they should!

I’ve read each of Hannah’s Poirot mysteries and can honestly say they get better and better as the series continues. I love the plots and characters, which remind me so much of Christie’s work. There is enough of Hannah’s own voice that still make the books hers, and that’s somehow comforting. She’s not trying to impersonate the Queen of Mystery, she is merely carrying on in her absence with enough skill to please Christie’s fans and honor her legacy. I hope to see many more books in this series.

This book was provided to Mystery Playground by the publisher. The review is fair and independent.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Review: Under a Dark Sky by Lori Rader-Day

A new book with an exciting setting is the subject of Kerry Hammond's review today.

Under a Dark Sky by Lori Rader-Day was published on August 7, in Hardcover, by William Morrow. Rader-Day is the award winning author of three previous standalone mysteries, and you can read a Mystery Playground review of The Day I Died here. One of the things that always draws me to Rader-Day’s books are the unique premises and characters.

In Under a Dark Sky, the story is set in a part of northern Michigan near a Dark Sky Park. A Dark Sky Park is an area noted for its exceptional star and constellation viewing. It’s where the public can go to view starry nights without light pollution. It’s also where Eden Wallace finds herself mixed up in murder.

After a traffic accident took the life of her husband of nearly 10 years, Eden finds among his paperwork a reservation for a week’s vacation at a Dark Sky Park. When she arrives she finds that she doesn’t have the place all to herself, but is sharing the house with six college friends who are having a reunion of sorts. Still grieving over the loss of her husband, and experiencing an acute fear of the dark, Eden decides to leave but can’t do so until daybreak—at least that was the plan. Instead she wakes to find one of the other guests has been murdered and she, along with the other five, are suspects.

Part of what sucked me right into this book was the unique premise. I love a good closed universe mystery where all the characters are snowed in or on a remote island. During the murder this was the case, and the darkness added an extra eerie aspect to the story. I found myself picturing myself there with the characters, experiencing the intense darkness, wondering how I would feel in a similar situation. 

We watch Eden struggle to make sense of the murder as well as her life and her grief. It’s a story of personal awakening as much as it’s a murder mystery. Eden was very much alone, a 7th wheel in a situation where emotions ran high between the six friends. As can be expected, the friends toggled between acceptance of her and blame—since it’s easier to blame an outsider. The flip flopping of their feelings toward her got a little bit much, but on the whole I enjoyed the story and it kept me guessing. It inspired me too, I’m now off to find a Dark Sky Park to visit!

Friday, August 17, 2018

The Reckless ARC Giveaway and Drink Recipe

We have advanced reader copy giveaway today on Drinks with Reads. David Putnam's new book Reckless doesn't come out until this February, but the first five readers (US residents only) to comment on this blog post will receive the book early before it's available to the public, a copy of the first "early years" Bruno Johnson novel, and The Innocents. 

David Putnam's latest novel in the "early years" of the Bruno Johnson series includes a few references to Yoo-hoo, the chocolate drink. Dave tells me there's a law-enforcement term in California: "wet reckless" which is when you essentially just miss DUI. Of course, we do not recommend drinking and driving at all, ever, but we borrowed from that term for the name of this yummy chocolate beverage, which can be made with or without the alcohol. 

Wet Reckless (Chocolate)

Yoo-hoo chocolate drink (or chocolate milk)
Chocolate vodka (optional, here I used s'mores flavored)
Whipped cream (can be alcohol-infused)
Chocolate syrup

Add chocolate syrup to your empty glass (I was a bit RECKLESS with my chocolate syrup application, works better if you chill the syrup first).

Add whipped cream, and optional chocolate/s'more flavored vodka to taste. 

Add Yoo-hoo or chocolate milk.

Add more whipped cream and chocolate syrup. And even more if you like. We can always use more chocolate! Enjoy and don't forget to comment to receive an early copy of the book, plus two of David's other books (US residents only). 

Available for pre-order now: The Reckless, by David Putnam. 

Early reviewers are raving: "...dazzles with authenticity, sharply-drawn characters, crackling dialogue, and insider details that only a real cop could bring to the page. Putnam can stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Joseph Wambaugh and Michael Connelly." ―Lee Goldberg, New York Times best-selling author

“David Putnam scores again with The Reckless, his new prequel thriller featuring major crimes detective Bruno Johnson... The Reckless will make crime-fiction fans eager to read more of Bruno's past adventures." ―Glen Hamilton, Anthony and Edgar Award-winning author