Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Review: The Night Visitors by Carol Goodman


Curl up in a warm blanket, make a mug of hot cocoa, and read on for Kerry Hammond’s review of a snowy thriller set in upstate New York.

The Night Visitors by Carol Goodman was published on March 26, in Hardcover, by William Morrow. Goodman is the author of adult fiction as well as children’s/young adult books. I read, loved, and recently reviewed the author’s last adult novel, The Other Mother. You can read the review HERE. The Other Mother was my first foray into Goodman’s world and I was immediately hooked and put her on my read anything the author writes list.

In The Night Visitors, Alice and Oren have arrived in Delphi, New York to seek sanctuary; they are escaping abuse and hoping to disappear. Mattie is a social worker who has been asked to pick them up at the bus station and transport them to a safe house. Mattie decides to break protocol and ends up taking Alice and Oren to her home instead, just for the night, partly because of the incoming blizzard and partly because she feels a sort of connection to the travelers. Oren reminds her of the brother, who died at his exact age, thirty years before. In the next two days, the three must face events from their past as well as present, and the storm turns out to be the least of their worries.

The story is told in alternating chapters from the perspective of Alice and Mattie, a slightly different take from books that alternate chapters between past and present. By alternating perspective the reader is able to get two different viewpoints of the same event. To make it even more exciting, Goodman starts off each new chapter where the previous character left off, so you are jumping into the head of Mattie at the exact time you leave Alice, and you are able to get Mattie’s view of what just happened. I absolutely loved this and found it an exciting way to experience the drama that was unfolding, especially in moments of high adrenaline when the action really started to ramp up. I really had a hard time putting this book down and ended up reading it in a 24 hour period. 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 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.

Recipe:

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
Instagram:@Jr.WilliamMyers

Goodreads.com

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.