Friday, March 22, 2019

Unrepentant Screwdrivers

E. A. Aymar joins us for Drinks with Reads this week with a screwdriver and his new book, The Unrepentant. I was at the Amazon book store in Columbus Circle over the weekend and they had the book featured because it was a fast reader favorite. The Unrepentant, was published this month by Down and Out Books. His other thrillers include the novel-in-stories The Night of the Flood (in which he served as co-editor and contributor), as well as I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead and You’re As Good As Dead

Aymar’s column, “Decisions and Revisions,” appears monthly in the Washington Independent Review of Books, and he is also the Managing Editor of The Thrill Begins, ITW’s online resource for aspiring and debut thriller writers. In addition to ITW, he is a member of the Mystery Writers of America and SinC.
Aymar also runs the Noir at the Bar series for Washington, D.C., and has hosted and spoken at a variety of crime fiction, writing, and publishing events nationwide. He was born in Panama and now lives and writes in the D.C./MD/VA triangle.
Now let's hear from E.A.

The first alcoholic drink I ever drank, and the first to get me stumblingly, world-spinningly drunk, was not grain alcohol or moonshine or some sort of gruff beer, but instead a simple screwdriver, an unimaginative mixture of orange juice and vodka, topped with a maraschino cherry.
This was my freshmen year in college, and of course it was at a fraternity party, that shaky environment of equal parts friendship and danger. I’d never so much as tasted alcohol before but, for me, college was a loosening of the rigid morals and fear that had guided me through childhood. I can remember walking back to my dorm, clutching a maraschino cherry in my hand (I’m not sure why), and collapsing on my narrow bed. I made certain to sleep on my stomach, since my roommate warned me that if I slept on my back and threw up, there was near-certainty I would choke on my vomit and die.
“And, dude…you don’t want to die because of a couple of screwdrivers. Honestly.”
He went back to the party. Weeping from guilt, I called my father and confessed my intoxication to him (he was fine with it, and a bit surprised at my remorse). And then I took my roommate’s advice and carefully passed out on my stomach, which was one of the better choices I made that night, and also for much of my freshman year.
“Life is all about decisions,” the excellent reviewer Kate Malmon, of Crimespree Magazine, wrote in her review of my new thriller, The Unrepentant. “Some decisions you get to make, others are made for you.” Her review – weighing the decisions that the characters made, and how those decisions affect them throughout the book – has given me the chance to see my own work in a new light. The novel is the story of revenge. A young woman named Charlotte Reyes is kidnapped by criminals, escapes with the help of a reluctant, retired soldier and realizes that, to fully free herself, she needs to exact revenge. Charlotte takes control of her fate, and her decision-making, while not uncomplicated, is firm. Of less resolve is the retired soldier, Mace Peterson, a man whose pained past has led him to shaky ground. A man in the midst of questioning what it is to be a man, and if all necessary decisions are morally correct.
All of my characters have something of me within them, of course, but Mace is the one I identify with the most. Mace is the one who, when writing, caused me to reflect on my past and present, on the boy I was, and the decisions I made. And the decisions I make now, as a husband, a father, a writer. The Unrepentant is a book about bad people who do bad things, and about good people who do bad things, and about moments of hope, but it is very much, as Kate Malmon wrote, a book about decisions. And, for me, that first confused foray into alcohol, into the uncertainties of adulthood, makes a screwdriver the perfect pairing.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Review: Careless Love by Peter Robinson

Kerry Hammond is here today with her review of the latest police procedural by Peter Robinson.

Careless Love by Peter Robinson was published on February 12, in Hardcover, by William Morrow. It is the 25th book in the DCI Banks series. Don’t be discouraged by the number, I’ve read several books in this series, all out of order, and each one stands on its own so that readers can easily follow along without feeling like they’re missing out on a lot of backstory.

In Careless Love, Detective Superintendent Banks is investigating not one, but two suspicious deaths; suspicious because it’s not initially clear that there was any foul play. A young girl is found in a car in a remote area—a possible suicide. A sixty year old man is found dead on the moor—a possible accidental death. Both are anything but clear and both leave Banks with more questions than answers. Two cases that initially had nothing in common begin to show signs of a connection.

The investigative team, which includes a cast of interesting supporting characters, always figure things out in the end. But it’s the how that makes these books great police procedurals. I sometimes imagine I’m watching a British TV series as the detectives investigate the crime. Robinson does a great job of making his characters well rounded and real. The mystery always unfolds through diligent police work and clue gathering, and the reader is always left satisfied.

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

You can always find Mystery Playground on Twitter @mysteryplaygrnd and on Facebook. You can also follow the blog by clicking the link on the upper right-hand corner of this webpage. 

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Review: The Stranger Inside by Laura Benedict

Laura Benedict has a new novel out and it’s dark and mysterious; Kerry Hammond is here with her review.

The Stranger Inside by Laura Benedict was released on February 5, in Hardcover, by Mulholland Books. Laura Benedict is an author that hasn’t been on my radar until now. Since I love to try new authors, I was all in.

In The Stranger Inside, we meet Kimber Hannon. Kimber comes back from a company retreat to find that someone is occupying her home; the locks have been changed and she can no longer enter. The crazy thing is that the guy who is living there has a lease with her signature on it. The police warn her off and she has to find a place to stay while she figures out who the heck is living in her house and why he is pretending that she agreed to the arrangement.

Talk about an unusual set-up for a novel. Benedict creates a strange, yet believable story of deception and obsession, with some family secrets peppered in for good measure. My first foray into the author’s world was wildly successful. I thoroughly enjoyed The Stranger Inside. I found Kimber to be quite the character and saying that she is flawed is an understatement. She is an extremely complex, and slightly unlikeable person, yet I found myself behind her all the way. Kudos to an author who can portray a character to be true to life and slightly reprehensible, yet get her readers to continue reading just to see them prevail. Great read and highly recommended.

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

You can always find Mystery Playground on Twitter @mysteryplaygrnd and on Facebook. You can also follow the blog by clicking the link on the upper right-hand corner of this webpage. 

Friday, March 15, 2019

Drinks with Reads: Death of an Honest Man and The Boulevardier

Hamish Macbeth is back and this time investigating the Death of a man called Paul English, someone whose “honesty” was not appreciated. Before he was murdered, English had insulted just about everyone from Lochdubh to Cnothan. He told people they were fat, boring, and crazy. The problem is, having so many suspects is making it hard for Hamish to work out which one actually committed the crime.

To top it off, Chief Inspector Blair is up to no good again, and Hamish might be losing his latest policeman, who has become fed up with police work.  It’s hard to keep track of who the criminals are and who stands on the side of law enforcement these days, but it’s comforting to know that Hamish is always there to catch the killer and keep the balance.

Hamish is famous for wanting a wee dram if whisky, or anything else on hand. I thought I would mix up a bourbon drink any Scotsman would love.

The Boulevadier

2 ounces bourbon
1 ounce Campari
1 ounce sweet vermouth
Optional: Lemon twist garnish

Combine bourbon, Campari, and vermouth in a cocktail shaker. Fill with ice and shake about 20 seconds. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Review: The Secretary by Renee Knight

Kerry Hammond is here with her review of a new novel by British author Renee Knight.

The Secretary by Renee Knight was released on February 12, in Hardcover, by Harper. It is the second book by the British author and the book jacket claimed that the story was a “razor-sharp, twisting tale of power, obsession, obedience, and revenge.” I just had to see for myself whether or not this was true.

The Secretary is a story about Christine Butcher, a young woman who becomes the secretary to Mina Appleton, heiress to a grocery store chain. Christine is hired for her skills, her discretion, and her loyalty. She works for Mina for nearly twenty years, even taking care of her to the detriment of her own life and family. She will do anything Mina asks. But when events take a turn and her loyalty is truly put to the test, will she do what it takes to protect her employer?

I loved this book. I tried to come up with one word to describe it and the first thing that popped into my head was: riveting. There were plenty of characters in the story, but I was fascinated by Mina and Christine. They were both extremely complex characters and the author did a spectacular job of bringing them to life; fleshing out their good, bad, and devious qualities. They are each equal parts compelling and horrifying.

The plot was suspenseful and perfectly timed to keep me turning page after page, wanting it to end but not wanting it to end at the same time. I don’t know if you’re one of those people who reads the author acknowledgments at the back of the book, but I am. In the acknowledgements, the author thanks her darling Greg, and tells him “it’s safe to come out now, Christine Butcher has left the house.” I can honestly say that her memory won’t leave mine for quite some time.

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

You can always find Mystery Playground on Twitter @mysteryplaygrnd and on Facebook. You can also follow the blog by clicking the link on the upper right-hand corner of this webpage. 

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Review: A Case of Bier by Mary Daheim

Kerry Hammond is here to tell us about the latest book in a very long running Bed-And-Breakfast mystery series by Mary Daheim.

A Case of Bier by Mary Daheim is the 31st book in the Bed-And-Breakfast mystery series featuring Seattle innkeeper Judith McMonigle Flynn and her prickly cousin Renie. It was released on February 12, in Hardcover, by William Morrow. Daheim is also the author of the Emma Lord Alpine mystery series, which contains 26 titles. She is a prolific author whose first novels were historical romances; she broke into the mystery genre in 1991.

In A Case of Bier, Judith and Renie, with husbands in tow, have gone on vacation to Banff, Alberta, Canada. It’s a location they visited as children and have looked forward to revisiting memories of the time they spent. The husbands go off on a fishing trip and Judith and Rennie explore the town. Never too far from trouble, they immediately come across a strange family with an even stranger story.

The Stokes family is camped out in the woods near the motel where Judith and Renie are staying. They are there with an aging relative who has requested that his body be placed on a bier and floated down the river once he passes on. Apparently not everyone can wait for nature to take its course and poor old Codger Stokes is murdered. The problem is, the body and the bier go missing, leaving the police—and Judith—wondering just what is going on.

This is my second book in the Bed-And-Breakfast series and I joined very late in the game (at book 30). Daheim’s characters are very quirky and Renie is just downright ornery. There is a lot of humor in the stories and the ladies have a little bit of a Lucy and Ethel relationship, especially the trouble they get themselves into. These are whacky, lighthearted mysteries and quite a bit of fun. I didn’t solve Codger’s murder, but I enjoyed trying.

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

You can always find Mystery Playground on Twitter @mysteryplaygrnd and on Facebook. You can also follow the blog by clicking the link on the upper right-hand corner of this webpage.  

Friday, March 8, 2019

Dirty Shirleys and A Killer's Alibi

William L. Myers is making "Dirty Shirleys" to pair with his novel, A Killer's Alibi. As an author as well as a civil litigation attorney, Bill knows the law, and knows his way around a courtroom, but he writes about criminal law. So, when he sat down to write his first serious full-length novel, he had to do research. He went to murder trials, preliminary hearings, arrangements. He talked to police investigators and criminal attorneys. His goal is to not just write about the criminal side of law but to be as accurate as possible to court and police procedures.

His first book A Criminal Defense came out in 2017 and went on to become the Number 6 best-selling book on Amazon Kindle in 2017. His second book An Engineered Injustice came out in January 2018 and was based loosely off of an actual Amtrak train crash that took place in the Port Richmond section of Philadelphia in 2015. A Killer's Alibi is the fourth book in the series...

When crime lord Jimmy Nunzio is caught, knife in hand, over the body of his daughter’s lover and his own archenemy, he turns to Mick McFarland to take up his defense. Usually the courtroom puppeteer, McFarland quickly finds himself at the end of Nunzio’s strings. Struggling to find grounds for a not-guilty verdict on behalf of a well-known killer, Mick is hamstrung by Nunzio’s refusal to tell him what really happened.

On the other side of the law, Mick’s wife, Piper, is working to free Darlene Dowd, a young woman sentenced to life in prison for her sexually abusive father’s violent death. But the jury that convicted Darlene heard only part of the truth, and Piper will do anything to reveal the rest and prove Darlene’s innocence.
As Mick finds himself in the middle of a mob war, Piper delves deeper into Darlene’s past. Both will discover dark secrets that link these fathers and daughters—some that protect, some that destroy, and some that can’t stay hidden forever. No matter the risk.

Shirley Temples are for good little girls. Daddy’s innocent angles. But is Christina Nunzio the angel her daddy hoped for? Is Darlene Dowd innocent of killing her father? Hmmm.


1. Fill Glass with Ice
2. Pour Cherry Vodka over Ice
3. Top with 7-up
4. Slowly pour grenadine into drink along the side that it can sink to bottom of the drink
5. Garnish with maraschino cherries

You can find him on social media: 
Twitter: @WilliamMyersJr
Facebook: @WilliamLMyersJr

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Review: If You Go Down to the Woods by Seth C. Adams

Kerry Hammond is here today to review a debut novel by author Seth C. Adams.

If You Go Down to the Woods by Seth C. Adams was released on March 5, in Trade Paperback by Killer Reads, a division of HarperCollins Publishers. It is the author's debut novel and I was intrigued by the mysterious hook of the description on the book jacket. 

13 year-old Joey and his family have just moved to a small town in Arizona. They’ve been relocated for his Dad’s job and Joey finds himself exploring his new domain in summertime with his dog Bandit. While walking through the woods he comes across a boy being tormented by three older teens and he jumps to the kid’s aid, making one new friend....and three new enemies. 

Joey and his new friend Fat Bobby team up with a couple of other kids to spend the summer looking for adventure, but what they find is not what they bargained for. They discover an abandoned car containing millions of dollars and human remains; the kids think they’ve hit the jackpot. Instead, they’ve caught the attention of dangerous people who will stop at nothing to get back what they believe to be theirs. 

If You Go Down to the Woods isn’t a mystery as such, rather a coming of age story. At times it was fantastical, but it never stopped entertaining me. Reminiscent of Stand By Me and The Outsiders, it’s a story about kids whose circumstances caused them to grow up too fast. A story of consequences suffered by those who are too young to really anticipate the meaning of the word. How one summer can shape your life forever.

The book is written from Joey’s perspective, but an adult Joey who has spent time remembering his childhood with a mature perspective, reminiscing about the events that happened to him that summer he moved to Arizona. His thoughts are introspective and grown up, but he hasn’t forgotten his boyhood fears. After all, they shaped him in ways he never expected.

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

You can always find Mystery Playground on Twitter @mysteryplaygrnd and on Facebook. You can also follow the blog by clicking the link on the upper right-hand corner of this webpage. 

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Review: Pruning the Dead by Julia Henry

Kerry Hammond is here to review the first book in a new gardening series.

Pruning the Dead is the first book in the new Garden Squad Mystery series by Julia Henry. It released on January 29, in Paperback by Kensington. The author also writes the Theater Cop series and Clock Shop series; both published in paperback.

In the book, Lilly Jayne is an institution in the small town of Goosebush, Massachusetts. She can trace her family back to the founding members of the town and resides in a grand house with a view of the ocean. Since her husband died, Lilly has become a bit of recluse, staying away from community events and happenings. She finally re-engages as many of the town residents attempt to clean up an overgrown park to help beautify Goosebush. It’s during this event, with dozens of people milling about, that a body is found in the garden shed, stabbed with a pair of hedge clippers.

The victim had few friends, and since she was the third wife of Lilly’s ex-husband, Pete, Lilly wasn’t exactly a big fan. But when the police suspect Pete, Lilly doesn’t believe he could be a murderer. She enlists the aid of her group of friends, the Garden Squad, to not only help clean up the town, but to help solve the murder and bring order back to their small community.

I thoroughly enjoyed Pruning the Dead. It was a well plotted cozy mystery with dynamic and interesting characters. Plenty of characters had a motive, many had opportunity, and I enjoyed trying to work out the puzzle of which one was the guilty party.

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

You can always find Mystery Playground on Twitter @mysteryplaygrnd and on Facebook. You can also follow the blog by clicking the link on the upper right-hand corner of this webpage. 

Friday, March 1, 2019

Drinks with Reads: Final Exam with Carol Perry

Carol J. Perry is back with us today to celebrate the release of her latest Witch City Mystery, Final Exam. With so much snow outside, it's a perfect time to cozy up with a cozy mystery. Let's let Carol tell us about her new book...

Life at the house on Winter Street is abuzz with preparations for Aunt Ibby’s 45th Salem High School reunion. Lee Barrett is happy to pitch in, tracking down addresses and licking envelopes. But as a field reporter for Salem’s WICH-TV, her priority is to be on top of the town’s latest news before anyone else.
When the local police dredge up a vintage sports car containing human remains, Lee is thrilled to be the first reporter on the scene. Once she learns the car is connected to the cold case her detective boyfriend Pete is working on, her powers of investigation are quickly alerted. But it’s her Aunt Ibby’s emotional reaction to Lee’s report that puts her on the case. With the help of O’Ryan, her psychic feline sidekick, she’ll race to unravel a tangled trail of secrets—including a long-submerged skeleton, a hidden yearbook, a broken necklace and a one-time prom queen’s crown—before a killer makes history once again!

The recipe:
                                             KICKIN’ MULE 

We get to use New England’s old favorite drink—rum, along with those cute copper mugs we hardly ever take out of the cabinet!

1.5 ounces of White Rum
3 ounces of Ginger Beer
3 Lime Wedges
A sprig of fresh mint

Squeeze 2 lime wedges into a copper mug filled with ice. Add the white rum and top it with ginger beer. Garnish with the additional lime wedge and mint sprig.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Crime & Beyond Book Club Reads Bring Me Back by B.A. Paris

The Denver-based book club Crime & Beyond recently discussed the latest book by author B.A. Paris and Kerry Hammond is here to give us the report.

Let’s face it, book club meetings are more exciting when club members disagree about the book. If everyone loves a book—or hates it—the discussion can get boring. When the reviews are split you can really delve into a book, and break down the plot and characters.

This month Crime & Beyond read Bring Me Back by B. A. Paris. In the book, Finn and Layla are a young couple in love. One their way back from a vacation in France, they stop at a rest stop where Finn leaves Layla in the car while he uses the restroom. When he returns, Layla is gone without a trace. The police investigate her disappearance and possible murder, but can find no evidence and no leads. Flash forward ten years and Finn is now engaged to Layla’s sister, Ellen. 

Right before the couple is set to marry, someone reports seeing Layla. Finn then starts to receive emails that seem to point to Layla being alive. Finn isn’t sure if it’s true, but if it is, where has she been all this time, and why did she leave?

We had a great book club discussion. Quite a few club members liked the book, and an equal number found it unbelievable. We discussed the need to suspend our disbelief to enjoy the story and all of the false trails we were led down before the final reveal. I can’t guarantee that your book club will love the book, but I can say that you will get a great discussion out of it.

Friday, February 22, 2019

Drinks with Reads: Restaurant Weeks Are Murder

It's Restaurant Week on Drinks with Reads and author Libby Klein says murder is in the air. Libby Klein graduated Lower Cape May Regional High School sometime in the ’80s. Her classes revolved mostly around the culinary sciences and theater, with the occasional nap in Chemistry. She has worked as a stay at home mom, climbing the ladder up the ranks to the coveted position of Grandma. She also dabbles in the position of Vice President of a technology company which mostly involves bossing other people around, making spreadsheets and taking out the trash. She writes from her Northern Virginia office while trying to keep her cat, Figaro, off her keyboard. Most of her hobbies revolve around eating, and travel, and eating while traveling.

Libby has a special drink to match with her new book, Restaurant Weeks are Murder. Let's see what it is...

Poppy McAllister is working hard to transform Aunt Ginny’s Victorian manor house into the Butterfly Wings B&B—but being a professional pastry chef has always been her real dream. For a short time, her dreams seem like they’re coming true as she teams up with her former fiancĂ©e, Tim—and his condescendingly perky partner, Gigi—during Cape May’s first annual Chopped style Restaurant Week Competition. Misfortune is dished up with every mystery basket until the panel of judges is served a pinch of murder with a dash of death. 

Fans of Chopped and all of its spinoffs will be familiar with the mystery basket style cook off. Chefs are surprised with four seemingly random ingredients to test their culinary prowess, and for three rounds they have to serve something fabulous enough to impress the fussiest of judges. Only the best can pull together something delicious out of the madness. 

The perfect drink to pair with Restaurant Weeks Are Murder should come from a mystery basket. The ingredients don’t make sense at first, but they often have one of every category of Sweet, Salty, Sour, and Bitter. Poppy decided to invent a drink to honor the Chopped challenge, and Aunt Ginny was devious enough to put together the mystery basket. We’ve combined bitter grapefruit and sour lime with sweet Orange Vanilla Syrup and Marshmallow Fluff Vodka. Aunt Ginny thought she would trick us with the Cotton Candy Pop Rocks, but we had the last laugh. 

Taste testers insist this beautiful pink drink tastes just like birthday cake. If - like me - you’re not much of a drinker, you can make this a Mocktail by substituting one ounce of marshmallow syrup for the vodka.

Cotton Candy Sizzle

3 ½ ounces of unsweetened pink grapefruit juice
2 ounces of Marshmallow Vodka
2 ounces of orange vanilla syrup
1 pack of cotton candy Pop Rocks
Lime wedge for rimming
Lime twist

Combine grapefruit juice, vodka, orange vanilla syrup, and ice in a shaker bottle or martini shaker. Shake well. Rim a martini glass with the lime wedge and dip into the Pop Rocks until the edge is covered. They will begin popping and snapping immediately. Pour cocktail into your martini glass and add your lime twist. Enjoy the popping.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Review: The Gun Also Rises by Sherry Harris

Kerry Hammond is here to review a cozy mystery by a new-to-her author.

The Gun Also Rises by Sherry Harris is the sixth book in the Sarah Winston Garage Sale Mystery Series. It was released on January 29, in Paperback by Kensington Publishers. In the fictional town of Ellington, Massachusetts, Sarah Winston owns her own professional garage sale business. She makes a living buying and selling treasurers she finds, sometimes falling over a dead body in the process.

In The Gun Also Rises, Sarah Winston has been commissioned by a wealthy widow, Belle Winthrop Granville, to catalog and sell her mystery novel collection. Sarah dives right into the task, searching the attic and finding books in trunks, boxes, and suitcases. When she opens one suitcase, she can’t believe her eyes; she sees what appear to be original pages of text written by Ernest Hemingway. Stories that went missing on a Paris train in 1922.

She takes her find to Belle and soon after, Belle is assaulted, the stories are stolen, and Belle’s maid winds up murdered. Sarah doesn’t know who to trust, or where she can hide out from the media storm that descends on Ellington when Hemingway’s name gets out. She is determined to find out who stole the priceless papers, who killed Belle's maid, and hopefully get her life back.

I loved the Hemingway angle and the search for the missing papers. Harris writes a good story; I enjoyed the characters and locale as much as the mystery. It’s a perfect book to take on vacation with you, it will keep you entertained but won’t take up too much room in your carry on.  

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

You can always find Mystery Playground on Twitter @mysteryplaygrnd and on Facebook. You can also follow the blog by clicking the link on the upper right-hand corner of this webpage. 

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Review: The Next to Die by Sophie Hannah

Sophie Hannah has taken a break between Hercule Poirot novels to write a new installment to her own series and Kerry Hammond is here with her review.

The Next to Die by Sophie Hannah was released on February 19, in Hardcover by William Morrow. Hannah’s books are always entertaining and I look forward to each new release to see where the author will take me. The Next to Die is the 10th in the Spilling CID series, or the Waterhouse and Zailer series, depending on your preference. However you spin it, Simon and Charlie are married police officers who work for the Spilling police department, handling some of the most psychologically twisted cases you can imagine.

In their latest escapade, they are searching for a murderer that the police have dubbed “Billy Dead Mates.” Billy appears to be targeting pairs of best friends, killing them with a gunshot to the head. Before he kills them, he gives them a little white book that contains several blank pages and a line from a poem. Enter stand-up comedienne Kim Tribbeck; she has received a little white book but she hasn’t been murdered. To make the case even more confusing, Kim claims to have never had, nor wanted, a best friend.

Hannah’s stories are wildly imaginative; the plots she dreams up are like nothing you’ve ever read. They’re strange, creative, and highly addictive. Per her usual, she intersperses emails, additional stories, articles, and other bits and pieces of real life in the story. You have to pay close attention as you start her books because she is going to immediately throw quite a bit of information your way—in various forms—and you have to digest it as you go. Stay strong, it’s worth it.

I can’t remember the last time I read a book and tried so hard to solve the case. Simon Waterhouse solved it, why can’t I? But as I turned the pages and tried to follow his logic, I was just as clueless as his colleagues. I didn’t get there in the end, until all was revealed, but as hard as I tried to solve the mystery, I really do like it better when I can’t. I’d much rather have a surprise ending.

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

You can always find Mystery Playground on Twitter @mysteryplaygrnd and on Facebook. You can also follow the blog by clicking the link on the upper right-hand corner of this webpage.  

Friday, February 15, 2019

Skin Game and The Bloody Beam

JD Allen is here making wild drinks, with quite a kick, to match her new book, Skin GameJ.D Allen's Sin City Investigations series launched with 19 Souls in 2018, Book 2, Skin Game followed February 8th. She is a  Freddie Award-winner and has short stories in the Anthony Award-winning anthology, Murder under the Oaks. She’s past chair of the Bouchercon National Board, a member of MWA, PI Writer’s of America, and president of her local Sisters in Crime chapter. She’s an Ohio State Univ. Alum with a degree in forensic anthropology and a creative writing minor. Now let's hear about her new book, Skin Game...

Jim's not a fancy guy. And his choice of adult beverages is no exception. He spends many a hungover morning at the Coffee Girl Diner which had been taken over by a mad vegan and ruined breakfast. The place is across the street from his townhouse so he never bothered to change his routine. Jim Bean stars in the Sin City Investigations books. Yes. Bean. Not Beam. His favorite waitress at the diner across the street likes to send him a zinger about his name occasionally. One particularly rough Sunday morning she switched out the traditional vodka with Jim Beam in his 'hair-of-the-dog' go to and accidentally started a tradition. To go with the fake egg omelets and seventy-grain toast, Jim found the Bloody Beam helps the health food go down. 


2 Basil Leaves
1 shot Jim Beam® Bourbon
3 dashes Tabasco® Sauce
Black Pepper
4 parts V8® Light Mix
4 dashes Worcestershire Sauce
Sandy sticks in a couple of olives and a pickled green beans just to be funny.

In a mixing glass muddle the sauces, spices, and basil. Add all remaining ingredients and roll back and forth with ice in a mixing tin. Pour over ice in a glass rimmed with Cajun spice.

In Skin Game,  private investigator Jim Bean has worked hard to create his new identity in Las Vegas. Now his life’s on cruise control, destination nowhere.  He’s got clients enough to pay his bills, a cat, and a stash of whiskey and scotch. 

But life’s not as static as he’d like. His tragic past collides with a dangerous present when ex-fiancĂ© Erica Floyd walks into his investigation. She’s looking for her missing sister. Bean can’t refuse her, and the clues lead him to human traffickers and one of Vegas’ biggest hotel moguls. 
He’s got to face ghosts of his past, his anger of the present, and a brand new enemy to save four women from a fate worse than death. 

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Review: Don't Wake Up by Liz Lawler

Fans of domestic thrillers will want to hear what Kerry Hammond has to say about Liz Lawler’s debut novel.

Don’t Wake Up by Liz Lawler was published on February 5, in Paperback, by Harper Paperbacks. It is the author’s debut novel and a standalone that takes place in Bath, England.

Alex Taylor is a well-liked and capable doctor at the hospital where she works in Bath. She leaves work one evening and the next thing she knows, she’s awake and strapped down to a gurney with a masked surgeon standing over her. She doesn’t recognize the hospital room or the surgeon’s voice, but she is terrified as he tells her what he is about to do to her.

When she next wakes up she is fully clothed, with no signs of trauma. But the worst part is that no one believes she was abducted or held against her will. They choose to think that she’s gone off the deep end and has hallucinated the entire thing. When people around her start dying under mysterious circumstances, the police begin to view her as a suspect, especially one officer, who has made it her mission to prove Alex guilty.

Domestic Thrillers are all the rage lately and Lawler’s book definitely falls into this category. You have a woman who has suffered a traumatic event but no one believes her, she turns to pills and alcohol to help her get through it, and while this is happening she becomes even more vulnerable to the person who is playing with her mind.

The author spent more than twenty years as a nurse and her knowledge shows in the story. I will be the first to admit that I read through some of the medical scenes very quickly; if it were a movie I would have closed my eyes. This was a quick read that kept me turning the pages, a good debut and a new author to watch.

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

You can always find Mystery Playground on Twitter @mysteryplaygrnd and on Facebook. You can also follow the blog by clicking the link on the upper right-hand corner of this webpage. 

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Review: The Wrong Boy by Cathy Ace

Cathy Ace has a new atmospheric novel on bookshelves and Kerry Hammond is here with her review

The Wrong Boy by Cathy Ace was released on January 9, in Hardcover by Four Tails Publishing Ltd. Ace is the author of the Cait Morgan and the Wise Enquiries Agency mystery series. The Wrong Boy is a standalone novel featuring about to be retired DI Evan Glover; perhaps a soon to be third series is in the works.

In the book, DI Evan Glover is just days from retirement when remains are found in the remote Welsh town of Rhosddraig. Town may be stretching things a bit, Rhosddraig is a small community located on the cliffside in Wales. It’s a place where everyone knows everyone else, and many have a history they don’t want shared with outsiders.

The remains found on the clifftop are burned beyond recognition and the police are hard pressed to identify the victim. Glover knows he won’t be able to solve the case before he retires, and leaves it in the capable hands of DS Liz Stanley. But Glover’s assistance is needed to unravel the mystery and catch the killer.

What follows is a twisted tale of family secrets and lies, and the lives that they forever change. The story is told from the perspective of each of the key characters; at times it reads like a diary entry and the reader is able to see behind the scenes and into the minds of the characters. Ace creates a dark and atmospheric mystery whose harsh cliffside backdrop has shaped the lives of the people who have lived there for generations. The plot is a twisting tale and the end was a surprise that I found to be quite satisfying.

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

You can always find Mystery Playground on Twitter @mysteryplaygrnd and on Facebook. You can also follow the blog by clicking the link on the upper right-hand corner of this webpage. 

Friday, February 8, 2019

Island of the Mad and a G&T with Bitters

We're matching Laurie R. King's latest in the Mary Russell series, Island of the Mad, with her choice of beverage - a Gin & Tonic and Angostura Bitters. This is one of my favorite series - where the character of Mary Russell matches intellects with her older husband, Sherlock Holmes, as they solve crimes in Victorian England. The series as a whole is great fun and this book in particular.  

Here's a little about the book...
The last thing Mary Russell and her husband, Sherlock Holmes, need is to help an old friend with her mad, missing aunt. Lady Vivian Beaconsfield has spent most of her adult life in one asylum after another, since the loss of her brother and father in the Great War. Although her mental state seemed to be improving, she’s now disappeared after an outing from Bethlem Royal Hospital . . . better known as Bedlam. Russell wants nothing to do with the case—but she can’t say no. To track down the vanished woman, she must use her deductive instincts and talent for subterfuge—and enlist her husband’s legendary prowess. Together, the two travel from the grim confines of Bedlam to the murky canals of Venice—only to find the shadow of Benito Mussolini darkening the fate of a city, an era, and a tormented English lady of privilege.

When we asked Laurie what drink she thought might go with this book, she said...

Gin & Tonic with Angostura Bitters

  • 1 oz Gin
  • 2 oz Tonic Water
  • 6 dashes Angostura bitters
I tried it and it's a fabulous way to have a gin and tonic and it pairs really well with the book.
Although, if you are new to this series, you may want to start with the first book, The Bee Keeper's Apprentice. That way you get to see how Mary and Sherlock began their relationship.

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Review: A Murderous Marriage by Alyssa Maxwell

Author Alyssa Maxwell has a new installment in her Lady and Lady's Maid series and Kerry Hammond is here with her review.

A Murderous Marriage by Alyssa Maxwell was released in Hardcover by Kensington on January 29, and is the 4th book in the Lady and Lady’s Maid mystery series. I’m new to this series and was a little nervous at jumping in at book four, but I can honestly report that I had no problem joining the series mid-swing and was immediately wrapped up in the story.

In A Murderous Marriage, Lady Phoebe Renshaw and her maid Eva find themselves knee deep in a murder. The police have a solid suspect, but it happens to be Phoebe’s sister, Julia. Julia has just married Gilbert Townsend, a wealthy man who is 40 years her senior and Julia now stands to inherit his fortune. To make matters worse, prior to the wedding Julia was heard admitting that she was marrying Gil for his money. Phoebe is determined to find the real culprit and saver her sister, and she once again enlists the help of her maid, Eva.

I picked this book up and didn’t want to put it down. I fell in love with the characters, specifically Phoebe and Eva. I was transported back to a different era, a Downton Abbey-esque time of British Noblemen and Noblewomen. Maxwell is adept at creating a fictional world where a lady and a lady’s maid work hand in hand to solve murders.

The author tells a story of fiction, but the reader is treated to a history lesson along the way. Details of the time are peppered into the narrative and add an extra element to the story. The book is a well written mystery, with both an interesting plot and detailed characterization. I enjoyed the book enough to seek out the three earlier titles and I hope that more are in the works.

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

You can always find Mystery Playground on Twitter @mysteryplaygrnd and on Facebook. You can also follow the blog by clicking the link on the upper right-hand corner of this webpage.