Friday, February 26, 2021

A Fresh Air and Sun Weekly Link Round-Up

Now that Denis is retired, it looks as though I may be getting out and about more. Am I going to complain? What do you think? We had one outing Wednesday and have scheduled another for next Wednesday. We may even schedule another for the Wednesday after that.

Where did we go Wednesday? The Wildlife World Zoo, and it was a sunny, balmy, perfect day for it. Denis and I were enjoying ourselves so much that we stayed longer than we'd intended. Fortunately, we didn't pay for our transgression by getting caught in rush hour traffic. We explored sections of the zoo we hadn't seen before (I told you the place is huge), and naturally I'll be sharing a few photos in the near future.

Before I head off to the corral, I'll leave you with one photo, taken of a very photogenic duck that I have yet to identify. Can any of you help me out?

What am I?

Enjoy the links!

 ►Books & Other Interesting Tidbits◄
►Channeling My Inner Indiana Jones◄
►Channeling My Inner Elly Mae Clampett◄
►The Happy Wanderer◄
►Crafty Gems◄
►I ♥ Lists◄

That's all for this week! Don't forget to stop by next Friday when I'll be sharing a freshly selected batch of links for your surfing pleasure.

Stay safe. Stay healthy. And don't forget to curl up with a good book!

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Nothing More Dangerous by Allen Eskens

First Line: I was fifteen years old the day I learned that Ms. Lida Poe had gone missing.
Fifteen-year-old Boady Sanden is busily saving up money to leave his suffocating little hometown of Jessup, Missouri. One day soon-- poof!-- he's going to be gone. He doesn't think his mother, who's still grieving the death of Boady's father, will miss him, and he certainly won't miss being bullied at St. Ignatius High School.
But all that changes when Thomas Elgin moves in across the road. Becoming acquainted with the Elgins-- a Black family settling in a community with strict notions of "us" and "them"-- forces Boady to rethink the world he's always taken for granted. He begins to notice, really notice, the people around him: his mother who still wraps herself in the loss of her husband, the neighbor with a mysterious past, the quiet boss with his own secret.
But the biggest secret of all is what happened to Lida Poe, the Black woman who keeps the books at a local plastics factory. The rumor mill has it that Ms. Poe left town with a hundred thousand dollars of company money. What Boady doesn't realize is that-- although he's never met Ms. Lida Poe-- the threads of her life are securely woven into the very fabric of his own world, and when it comes to race and class, he's going to be forced to choose sides. 

Young Boady Sanden has the type of voice that grabs hold of me and drags me right into the heart of a story. He's a typical fifteen-year-old boy who is blind to everything unless it has some impact on his own personal wants or desires. Boady isn't an "Us Versus Them" type of person, he's a good kid at heart, but author Allen Eskens does a superb job of showing how Boady has absorbed facets of racism without even realizing that he has done so. This is a lesson that many people need to learn, and Boady begins to learn his when the Elgins move in across the street.
Parts of the mystery surrounding what happened to Lida Poe are relatively easy to deduce, but not all of them, and the journey to Truth is mesmerizing. The scales begin to fall from Boady's eyes, and as he finally starts seeing people like his mother and his neighbor Hoke Gardner and his boss as individuals with their own lives and wants and needs, so do readers.
Nothing More Dangerous is a coming of age story that inexorably gathers momentum until it blossoms into something much larger than the sum of its parts. Boady Sanden's going to be with me for a long time, and I think he will be with you, too.

Nothing More Dangerous by Allen Eskens
eISBN: 9780316509749
Mulholland Books © 2019
eBook, 305 pages
Historical Mystery, Standalone
Rating: A+
Source: Purchased from Amazon.

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

March 2021 New Mystery Releases!

You'd think that, with me staying home, time would be crawling by, but it's not. It's hard for me to believe that March is here already. I must be doing a good job of keeping myself occupied.

Of course, one way I've always kept myself occupied is by keeping an eye peeled for new books to read, and let me tell you, March has a bumper crop of bright, shiny crime fiction to tickle our taste buds.

The following list contains my picks for the best new crime fiction being released throughout the month of March. I've grouped the titles according to their release dates, and the covers and synopses are courtesy of Amazon.

Let's see how many of my picks are on your own personal MUST READ lists!

=== March 1 ===
Title: The Deadly Mystery of the Missing Diamonds
Author: T.E. Kinsey
Series: #1 in the Dizzy Heights historical mystery series set in 1920s England.
335 pages
Synopsis: "London, 1925. With their band the Dizzy Heights, jazz musicians Ivor ‘Skins’ Maloney and Bartholomew ‘Barty’ Dunn are used to improvising as they play the Charleston for flappers and toffs, but things are about to take a surprising turn.

Superintendent Sunderland has had word that a deserter who stole a fortune in diamonds as he fled the war is a member of the Aristippus private members’ club in Mayfair—where the Dizzy Heights have a residency. And the thief is planning to steal a hoard of jewels hidden there under the cover of a dance contest.

As mutual pal Lady Hardcastle has suggested, Skins and Dunn are perfectly placed to be Sunderland’s eyes and ears—and Skins’s wife Ellie soon lends a hand with a bit of light snooping. But the stakes change dramatically when a mysterious death at the club brings a sinister note to the investigation.

With the dance contest fast approaching, the trio must solve the mystery of the missing diamonds, unmask the murderer, and prevent more deadly crimes—all without missing a beat.
=== March 2 ===
Title: Fatal Scores
Series: #8 in the Blackman Agency Investigations private investigator series set in North Carolina.
272 pages
Synopsis: "Sam Blackman and Nakayla Robertson, partners in a private investigation agency in Asheville, North Carolina, are hired by the widow of an environmentalist who died while monitoring water quality in the nearby Pigeon River. No soil or water samples were found near the deceased, and his widow doesn't believe his death was an accident.
Sam had, in fact, witnessed a public altercation between the man and local mill heir Luke Kirkpatrick just two days prior. Both Luke and his father, Ted, are prime suspects because of the threat that contamination poses to their proposed business expansion. Meanwhile, preparations for a local festival suffer some violent setbacks. Are the events related? And can Sam and Nakayla identify the killer and serve justice before Asheville is threatened once again?
Title: We Begin at the End
Author: Chris Whitaker
Standalone thriller set in California.
384 pages

Synopsis: "Walk has never left the coastal California town where he grew up. He may have become the chief of police, but he’s still trying to heal the old wound of having given the testimony that sent his best friend, Vincent King, to prison decades before. Now, thirty years later, Vincent is being released.

Duchess is a thirteen-year-old self-proclaimed outlaw. Her mother, Star, grew up with Walk and Vincent. Walk is in overdrive trying to protect them, but Vincent and Star seem bent on sliding deeper into self-destruction. Star always burned bright, but recently that light has dimmed, leaving Duchess to parent not only her mother but her five-year-old brother. At school the other kids make fun of Duchess―her clothes are torn, her hair a mess. But let them throw their sticks, because she’ll throw stones. Rules are for other people. She’s just trying to survive and keep her family together.

A fortysomething-year-old sheriff and a thirteen-year-old girl may not seem to have a lot in common. But they both have come to expect that people will disappoint you, loved ones will leave you, and if you open your heart it will be broken. So when trouble arrives with Vincent King, Walk and Duchess find they will be unable to do anything but usher it in, arms wide closed.

Title: Dark Sky
Author: C.J. Box
Series: #22 in the Joe Pickett game warden series set in Wyoming.
368 pages
Synopsis: "When the governor of Wyoming gives Joe Pickett the thankless task of taking a tech baron on an elk hunting trip, Joe reluctantly treks into the wilderness with his high-profile charge. But as they venture into the woods, a man-hunter is hot on their heels, driven by a desire for revenge. Finding himself without a weapon, a horse, or a way to communicate, Joe must rely on his wits and his knowledge of the outdoors to protect himself and his companion.

Meanwhile, Joe's closest friend, Nate Romanowski, and his own daughter Sheridan learn of the threat to Joe's life and follow him into the woods. In a stunning final showdown, the three of them come up against the worst that nature--and man--have to offer.
Title: The Postscript Murders
Series: #2 in the DS Harbinder Kaur police procedural series set in Scotland and across Europe.
336 pages
*Upcoming review on Kittling: Books.
Synopsis: "The death of a ninety-year-old woman with a heart condition should not be suspicious. Detective Sergeant Harbinder Kaur certainly sees nothing out of the ordinary when Peggy’s caretaker, Natalka, begins to recount Peggy Smith’s passing.

But Natalka had a reason to be at the police station: while clearing out Peggy’s flat, she noticed an unusual number of crime novels, all dedicated to Peggy. And each psychological thriller included a mysterious postscript: PS: for PS. When a gunman breaks into the flat to steal a book and its author is found dead shortly thereafter—Detective Kaur begins to think that perhaps there is no such thing as an unsuspicious death after all.

And then things escalate: from an Aberdeen literary festival to the streets of Edinburgh, writers are being targeted. DS Kaur embarks on a road trip across Europe and reckons with how exactly authors can think up such realistic crimes...

Title: Legacy of Death 
Series: #2 in the Matthew Rowsley historical mystery series set in Victorian England.
240 pages
*Upcoming review on Kittling: Books.
Synopsis: "With his lordship's mental health failing, management of his grand country estate has been assigned to a group of trustees, including land agent Matthew Rowsley and his capable wife Harriet. But the smooth running of Thorncroft House is disrupted by a series of unforeseen events. Building work on the estate workers' new cottages is halted by the discovery of Roman remains. Shortly afterwards, the family butler is brutally assaulted and left for dead. A random attack - or was he deliberately targeted? Matters take an even more disturbing turn when Lord Croft's long-lost cousin and heir, Julius Trescothick, arrives from Australia, ready to claim his inheritance. But is he who he claims to be . and what are his true intentions? If they are to preserve Thorncroft House and a way of life that has continued for centuries, Matthew and Harriet must uncover the truth behind Trescothick's identity and solve a series of interlocking mysteries.

=== March 9 ===

Title: The Stills
Series: #3 in the Kinship historical mystery series set in 1920s Ohio.
352 pages
*Upcoming review on Kittling: Books.
Synopsis: "Ohio, 1927: Moonshining is a way of life in rural Bronwyn County, and even the otherwise upstanding Sheriff Lily Ross has been known to turn a blind eye when it comes to stills in the area. But when thirteen-year-old Jebediah Ranklin almost dies after drinking tainted moonshine, Lily knows that someone has gone too far, and―with the help of organizer and moonshiner Marvena Whitcomb―is determined to find out who.

But then, Lily’s nemesis, the businessman George Vogel, reappears in town with his new wife, Fiona. Along with them is also her former brother-in-law Luther Ross, now an agent for the newly formed Bureau of Prohibition. To Lily, it seems too much of a coincidence that they should arrive now.

As fall turns to winter, a blizzard closes in. Lily starts to peel back the layers of deception shrouding the town of Kinship, but soon she discovers that many around her seem to be betraying those they hold dear―and that Fiona too may have an agenda of her own.

=== March 23 ===

Title: Every Vow You Break
Standalone psychological thriller 
320 pages

Synopsis: "Abigail Baskin never thought she’d fall in love with a millionaire. Then she met Bruce Lamb. He’s a good guy, stable, level-headed, kind—a refreshing twist from her previous relationships.

But right before the wedding, Abigail has a drunken one-night stand on her bachelorette weekend. She puts the incident—and the sexy guy who wouldn’t give her his real name—out of her mind, and now believes she wants to be with Bruce for the rest of her life.

Then the mysterious stranger suddenly appears—and Abigail’s future life and happiness are turned upside down. He insists that their passionate night was the beginning of something much, much more. Something special. Something real—and he’s tracked her down to prove it.

Does she tell Bruce and ruin their idyllic honeymoon—and possibly their marriage? Or should she handle this psychopathic stalker on her own? To make the situation worse, strange things begin to happen. She sees a terrified woman in the night shadows, and no one at the resort seems to believe anything is amiss… including her perfect new husband."

=== March 30 ===

Title: The Hiding Place
Author: Paula Munier
Series: #3 in the Mercy & Elvis series set in Vermont.
336 pages
*Upcoming review on Kittling: Books.
Synopsis: "When her late grandfather’s dying deputy calls Mercy to his side, she and Elvis inherit the cold case that haunted him―and may have killed him. But finding Beth Kilgore 20 years after she disappeared is more than a lost cause. It’s a Pandora’s box releasing a rain of evil on the very people Mercy and Elvis hold most dear.

The timing couldn’t be worse when the man who murdered her grandfather escapes from prison and a fellow Army vet turns up claiming that Elvis is his dog, not hers. With her grandmother Patience gone missing, and Elvis’s future uncertain, Mercy faces the prospect of losing her most treasured allies, the only ones she believes truly love and understand her.

She needs help, and that means forgiving Vermont Game Warden Troy Warner long enough to enlist his aid. With time running out for Patience, Mercy and Elvis must team up with Troy and his search-and-rescue dog Susie Bear to unravel the secrets of the past and save her grandmother―before it’s too late.

Once again, Paula Munier crafts a terrific mystery thriller filled with intrigue, action, resilient characters, the mountains of Vermont, and two amazing dogs.
Title: Murder at Wedgefield Manor
Series: #2 in the Jane Wunderly historical mystery series set in 1920s England.
288 pages
*Upcoming review on Kittling: Books.
Synopsis: "England, 1926: Wedgefield Manor, deep in the tranquil Essex countryside, provides a welcome rest stop for Jane and her matchmaking Aunt Millie before their return to America. While Millie spends time with her long-lost daughter, Lillian, and their host, Lord Hughes, Jane fills the hours devouring mystery novels and taking flying lessons--much to Millie's disapproval. But any danger in the air is eclipsed by tragedy on the ground when one of the estate's mechanics, Air Force veteran Simon Marshall, is killed in a motorcar collision.

The sliced brake cables prove this was no accident, yet was the intended victim someone other than Simon? The house is full of suspects--visiting relations, secretive servants, strangers prowling the grounds at night--and also full of targets. The enigmatic Mr. Redvers, who helped Jane solve a murder in Egypt, arrives on the scene to once more offer his assistance. It seems that everyone at Wedgefield wants Jane to help protect the Hughes family. But while she searches for answers, is she overlooking a killer hiding in plain sight?

Title: Knitty Gritty Murder
Series: #7 in the Knit & Nibble cozy series set in New Jersey.
288 pages
*Upcoming review on Kittling: Books.
Synopsis: "Most times of the year, the tight-knit community gardens in quaint Arborville, New Jersey, overflow with seasonal vegetables and herbs. But who planted the dead body? Farm-to-table enthusiast Jenny Miller had a cookbook in the works when she was suddenly found strangled by a circular knitting needle in her own plot. Now, the pressure is on Pamela and her neighbor Bettina as they weave together clues in search of the person who kept Jenny's renowned heirloom plants--and budding career--from growing. With suspects and victims cropping up like weeds, it'll take a whole lot more than green thumbs and creative minds this spring to entangle the crafty culprit...

See what I mean about a bumper crop? Any month that has a new Elly Griffiths and Jess Montgomery is stellar, but March also has several more of my favorite authors. Isn't it great to be spoiled for choice?

Which books caught your eye and just had to be added to your Need to Read lists? 'fess up!

Monday, February 22, 2021

The Deadly Mystery of the Missing Diamonds by T.E. Kinsey

First Line: May 1925. Singer Mickey Kent announced the Charleston, and the gentlemen of the Aristippus Club and their lady guests whooped their approval.
The members of the jazz band Dizzy Heights keep busy playing the Charleston for flappers and toffs, but they become even busier when Superintendent Sunderland asks them to do a little spying for him. It seems that a deserter who stole a fortune in diamonds as he fled from serving in World War I is a member of the Aristippus Club in Mayfair, and a mutual acquaintance, Lady Hardcastle, believes the two founders of Dizzy Heights, "Skins" Maloney and "Barty" Dunn are perfectly placed to do a little snooping for the policeman.
With Skins' wife Ellie helping them, they begin to narrow their search for the thief, but a death at the club has their investigation taking a sinister turn. Are they going to be able to find the diamonds and unmask a murderer before a widely publicized dance contest is held?
I have long been a fan of T.E. Kinsey's humorous Lady Hardcastle historical mystery series, so when I found out that he was branching out, I jumped at the chance to read The Deadly Mystery of the Missing Diamonds. While I didn't find it quite as much fun as following Lady Hardcastle and her redoubtable maid Florence Armstrong on their adventures, the potential is certainly there, and I look forward to reading the next book in the series.

The strongest parts of this first Dizzy Heights mystery are its setting in Jazz Age London when people are still reeling from the slaughter of World War I and its superb mystery that kept me guessing every step of the way.

There are three main characters in The Deadly Mystery of the Missing Diamonds. We're first introduced to Skins Maloney's American heiress wife, Ellie, by her letters written to Florence Armstrong while Ellie was a nurse during the war. Ellie first met Skins in 1910 when he was in a band playing ragtime, and when they eventually married, the executors of her father's will invoked the "gold diggers" clause to prevent Skins from running off with all Ellie's money. They are truly in love, have a wonderful family life, and really don't care that they have to wait until their tenth wedding anniversary to come into Ellie's inheritance. Barty Dunn, on the other hand, is the quintessential single man-about-town who can't settle down and lives in a flat with a doting landlady and an old prune next-door who makes it her life's ambition to get him thrown in jail.

Part of the humor in this Dizzy Heights mystery concerns Ellie being from across the pond, and I laughed when I read this line: "I asked Cook to get corn on the cob but apparently the greengrocer looked at her like she was asking for mermaid tears collected in a unicorn horn." The differences between our two cultures are always good for a laugh, and although I didn't feel that the dialogue sparkled as much as it can (and does) in a Lady Hardcastle mystery, I know that Skins, Ellie, and Barty haven't quite hit their stride-- and I'm looking forward to the time when they do.

The Deadly Mystery of the Missing Diamonds by T.E. Kinsey
eISBN: 9781542020787
Thomas & Mercer © 2021
eBook, 330 pages

Historical Mystery, #1 Dizzy Heights mystery
Rating: B+
Source: Purchased from Amazon.

Sunday, February 21, 2021

On My Radar: Mette Ivie Harrison's The Prodigal Daughter


I attended Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. It is owned and operated by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS/Mormons). I am not LDS, but I did not advertise the fact, and almost all the people I associated with assumed that I was. (In other words, I was not a wild and crazy young woman way back then.) The years I spent there were eye-opening, and when Mette Ivie Harrison's first Linda Wallheim mystery, The Bishop's Wife, was published I had to read it. I was stunned by Harrison's even-handed portrayal of her church, and her continuing honesty has cost her dearly.

I have consistently recommended this (now) five-book series to readers who like to learn about other cultures because, to most people, Mormonism will seem like stepping into a foreign country. The fact that there is a strong female lead solving intriguing mysteries is a decided plus as well. So... it should come as no shock to you when I was happy to see that the next Linda Wallheim mystery will be released in May. Let's find out more about it.

Available May 25, 2021!
"In the wake of the #MeToo movement, has it become easier to speak out about sexual assault in religious communities?

Linda Wallheim, who is increasingly jaded with the Mormon church, has begun marriage counseling with her bishop husband, Kurt, hoping to reconcile their household and philosophical disagreements. On other days, Linda occupies herself with happier things, like visits to see her five grown sons and their families.

When Linda's eldest son, Joseph, tells her his infant daughter's babysitter, a local teenager named Sabrina Jensen, has vanished, Linda can't help but ask questions. Her casual inquiries form the portrait of a girl under extreme pressure from her parents to be the perfect Mormon daughter, and it eventually emerges that Sabrina is the victim of a terrible crime at the hands of her own classmates—including the high school's academic and athletic superstars.

Linda's search for Sabrina will lead her to the darker streets of Utah and once again cause her to question whether the Mormon community's most privileged and powerful will be called to task for past sins.
Harrison is a talented writer whom I admire. Here are some words I wrote after attending a panel she was on at Left Coast Crime in Phoenix in 2016. They will explain why I feel the way I do about Mette Ivie Harrison.
"Mette had to fire her agent who'd insisted that she not write The Bishop's Wife. ("That made me braver than I'd ever been before.") Her father-in-law is pressuring her son to go on a mission for the Mormon Church, and-- due especially to the issues she brings up in her second book His Right Hand-- she fears excommunication daily. This is a woman who has truly suffered for writing something that she believes in with all her heart and soul. After an emotion-filled pause, Mette said, "If I knew what would happen, I don't think I would've written these books."

I don't think there was a single person in that room who didn't want to wrap her in a hug. I was (and still am) upset. I lived in Provo, Utah for three years, and after reading her two mysteries, I honestly couldn't see how she could escape some dire consequences. We may have free speech in this country, but many times it comes at a very high price."
These books (which ideally should be read in order) will not be everyone's cup of tea, but I hope some of you will feel adventurous and give one a try. They are good mysteries with fascinating insight into another culture.

Friday, February 19, 2021

A Dear Reader, He's Home! Weekly Link Round-Up

If all had gone according to plan, Denis would have retired at the end of May when his commercial driver's license expired; however, all did not go well. Two things drove a stake through his plans. One: all the Covidiots flocking to Phoenix day after day after day, and the pressure of having to deal with them and worry about becoming ill. Two: the City of Phoenix monkeying around with the bus drivers' schedules and trying to force them to work five ten-hour shifts per week whether they wanted to or not (because their beloved Sky Train was going to be out of commission for over a month).
Denis thought it over, talked with me, and put in his notice. Come to find out, the scheduling the City had come up with was a no-no with the Union, and when the revised one came out-- lo and behold-- there were several slots with Denis's preferred shifts on it. However, once he put in his notice, it was as if something clicked over in his brain, so after more thought and more talking it over with me, he decided to go ahead and retire anyway. Screw 'em.
Monday night was his last shift, and we've already had a little ceremony to get rid of his work uniforms. Now all I have to do is become used to his being home seven days a week-- something I'm looking forward to!
 Enjoy the links!

►Books & Other Interesting Tidbits◄
►Channeling My Inner Indiana Jones◄
►Channeling My Inner Elly Mae Clampett◄
  • Watch a clever chipmunk strategically stuff three giant unshelled peanuts into his cheek pouches.
  • Sea cucumber poop could revitalize coral reefs. (A round of laxatives, on the house!)
  • And while we're on the subject... wombats poop cubes, and scientists finally got to the bottom of it.
  • Eavesdropping marmosets understand other monkeys' conversations.
  • The hedgehog highway that knits an English village together.
  • Grand Teton's Grizzly #399 emerges with quadruplets.
  • Noise pollution interrupts crickets' sex lives. (I would imagine it has an effect on the sex lives of others, too.)
  • A large new whale species has been identified in the Gulf of Mexico.
►Fascinating Folk◄
  • Eleven African American inventors who changed the world.
  • The sheer logistics of this one boggles my mind... Smuggler Wenqing Li was caught with nearly 1,000 endangered cacti and succulents strapped to her body.
  • Tobey King of Corpus Christi, Texas, sold the Bernie doll for which she created a pattern for over $20,000 and donated the money to charity.
►Crafty Gems◄
►The Wanderer◄
►I ♥ Lists◄

That's all for this week! Don't forget to stop by next Friday when I'll be sharing a freshly selected batch of links for your surfing pleasure.

Stay safe. Stay healthy. And don't forget to curl up with a good book!

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Missing and Endangered by J.A. Jance

First Line: Late on Wednesday afternoon, the first week in December, Sheriff Joanna Brady sat at her desk, mired in paperwork.
While Cochise County, Arizona, Sheriff Joanna Brady and her team are involved in a very sensitive officer-involved shooting, her daughter Jennifer has returned to Flagstaff for her sophomore year at Northern Arizona University. Jenny quickly becomes a big sister to her new roommate, homeschooled Beth Rankin, a brilliant yet extremely sheltered freshman who's away from home for the first time.

Beth is experiencing her first taste of freedom (and the internet) and Jenny is concerned that she's too naive for her own good. Since Beth is at war with her parents, Jenny invites her home for a Brady Christmas. Joanna doesn't mind even though her investigation into the officer-involved shooting has her entire department stretched thin. 

All that changes when Beth vanishes. Jenny alerts campus authorities, local police, and her mother, who calls in a favor. Beth is found, but Jenny's concern has put her at the top of the list for a criminal bent on revenge.


It's been three long years since the last Joanna Brady mystery, Field of Bones, so I couldn't wait to pick up Missing and Endangered. J.A. Jance's series set in Cochise County, Arizona, is one of my all-time favorites and never disappoints. Jance grew up in Bisbee, and her setting is so true-to-life you can almost follow her descriptions like a road map. (Yes, I've been there many, many times and have followed those descriptions.)

Written over twenty-eight years, this series-- so far-- describes nine years in the life of Joanna Brady, from her first becoming sheriff to now when her eldest daughter is a college sophomore. Jance's smooth pace and narrative chops draw readers right into the story, and one of the things I admire most about it is how well it shows the daily lives of law enforcement in one sparsely populated county with an area larger than some states. We see how budget cuts affect the department, how the sheriff's office interacts with other law enforcement agencies, and what parts paperwork and the media plays in it all. Joanna has worked hard in her job as sheriff, gaining knowledge and experience, and one of the ways that experience pays off is in her networking skills. She may not know the answer to something but chances are one of her contacts does-- and she does it all while juggling an extremely busy family life.

One thing that I admire even more about this series than the way it portrays the daily life of a sheriff is the "people angle." As Jenny tells her mother, "Your job is about way more than just catching bad people; it's about helping good people, too, and about putting broken lives back together." You may be pleased to know that, in this series, Jance concentrates more on the good people and putting lives back together than she does on the criminals. In Missing and Endangered, readers can feel a sense of dread crawling up their spines at Beth Rankin's naivete. Their hearts can break over two little children who face becoming lost in a system of bureaucracy. But they can also rest assured that Joanna Brady is going to do everything in her power to make things right. 

It was three long years since the last Brady mystery, but I found that I hadn't forgotten a thing. This is the type of series with the kind of characters that sticks with you. If you doubt you'll pick this book up because it's book number nineteen and you just don't want to invest that kind of time in a long-running series, well... as much as I want you to read all nineteen books, I will say that you can pick this one up and read it as a standalone. The subplot concerning an officer-involved shooting has Joanna thinking about many incidents from her past, so the backstory is there and you won't feel confused.

Missing and Endangered is vintage Jance, and now I'm back to cooling my heels until my next visit with one of my favorite sheriffs, Joanna Brady. But no matter how long, I know it will be worth the wait.

Missing and Endangered by J.A. Jance
ISBN: 9780062853462
William Morrow © 2021
Hardcover, 384 pages
Police Procedural, #19 Joanna Brady mystery
Rating: A
Source: Purchased from The Poisoned Pen Bookstore.

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Cover Love: Laurien Berenson


As a rule, I pay very little attention to covers. A cover is not going to make me buy a book. I attribute this to growing up in a library where the books were shelved spine out which made me pay much more attention to titles than artwork. But I do have to admit to a fondness for certain covers. They may not make me buy the book, but I certainly do like to look at them.

This week's case in point is Laurien Berenson's Melanie Travis Canine cozy series. I read a short story in this series and enjoyed it, and I do intend to read further in the series, but as I was taking a look at all the various titles and covers, I noticed that the series has undergone changes through the years. (There are currently over twenty books in the series.)

The covers have gone from cartoonish to what we Americans are used to seeing as a traditional cozy cover to what they are now-- and it's what they are now that puts the smile on my face and the "awwww" in my voice.

If you don't like dogs, you may as well move right along, but if you do like dogs or cute animals in general and feel in need of a good, warm, fuzzy feeling, feast your eyes upon a selection of covers from Berenson's Melanie Travis series. They'll do your heart good.

I don't know about you, but after gazing at all those soulful eyes and furry faces, my batteries are recharged, and I'm ready to go out and fight the good fight. I hope you enjoyed them, too!