Friday, June 30, 2017

A Treat Myself Weekly Link Round-Up

As I write this, Phoenix has been a mite toasty. The 120°F/49°C kind of toasty. Poor Denis has had to work through this, and he's been sitting in his rental car bus with the doors closed to keep in the air conditioning as much as possible. The company that runs the rental car shuttle buses at Sky Harbor is French, and it's obvious that they have no clue about heat-- the employees have to wear black out in this searing sun. And between the sun and the washing machine, you wouldn't believe how quickly his uniform shirts fade. Washing machine? you ask. The water lines run under the concrete and asphalt of our city streets. Concrete and asphalt that soak up that blazing sun all day long. Turn on the cold water tap here in the summer, stick your hand under the water, and you can get burned. Seriously.

Where have I been during this toasty weather? In the pool, in the shade, with a huge container of iced raspberry tea, and reading one book after another as fast as I can go. If a person has to be outside in this weather, it's the best place to be. Of course, I don't have to be outside, I want to be outside. While I read, I'm also being distracted by birds and dragonflies that are looking for shade and cool water. They're finding it because I make sure fresh oranges are put out and the birdbaths are filled. The aerator and the waterfall are also running, and all the birds love that waterfall-- especially the hummingbirds.

We're trying to treat the wildlife to everything they need during this weather, but I've also been treating myself, as you can see by the photo above. Book Depository delivered, and I can't wait to dive in! (Have you been treating yourself to any books this summer?)

But before I do any diving, I'd better head on out to the corral. Those links are looking mighty restless! 

►Books, Movies & Other Interesting Tidbits◄

►Channeling My Inner Indiana Jones◄
  • The history of Koh-i-Noor, the world's most infamous diamond. 
  • A coloring book is found at a botanical garden and it's 256 years old.
  • You can now view an almost-eight-foot-tall atlas from the seventeenth century online.
  • 900-year-old jewelry has been found in a Crusader castle.
  • Police found a hidden trove of Nazi artifacts behind a secret door.
  • Swiss archaeologists are examining an extraordinary Egyptian faux toe.
  • A construction worker has found an incredible 600-year-old sword in a Polish peat bog.

►Channeling My Inner Elly Mae Clampett◄

►Fascinating Folk◄

►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.

Have a great weekend, and read something fabulous!

Thursday, June 29, 2017

The Child by Fiona Barton

First Line: My computer is winking at me knowingly when I sit down at my desk.

When a tiny skeleton is discovered buried on the grounds of an old house that's being demolished, journalist Kate Waters knows that this is a story that deserves much more attention than a throwaway sentence or two in her newspaper. As she investigates, she finds connections to a sensational crime that happened decades earlier: a newborn baby was stolen from the maternity ward in a local hospital and never found.

But Kate learns that there is even more to the story, and she is quickly drawn into the lives, and the pasts, of the people who once lived in the neighborhood. Ultimately becoming the keeper of three women's secrets means Kate is constantly walking the tightrope between what she can and cannot tell.

Fiona Barton's The Child is a story that rapidly draws you in and won't let you go until everyone's secrets have been revealed. The style of this book is reminiscent of Kate Atkinson in the manner in which the story unfolds. Told in alternating chapters by Kate and the three women involved-- Angela, Emma, and Jude-- the voices may not be particularly distinctive, but their stories kept me guessing clear through to the end.

Barton definitely has a knack for creating memorable characters and strong storylines. I can't wait to see what she comes up with next.

The Child by Fiona Barton
eISBN: 9781101990506
Berkley © 2017
eBook, 384 pages

Suspense, Standalone
Rating: B+
Source: Net Galley

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Booked 4 Murder by J.C. Eaton

First Lines: "I'm telling you, Phee, they were all murdered. Murdered by reading that book."

Sophie "Phee" Kimball is a divorced, middle-aged mother who is an accounts clerk for the Mankato Police Department in Minnesota, but when her mother makes a frantic call, she finds herself on a plane headed for Sun City West, Arizona.

Ever since Harriet Plunkett's book club started reading a little-known book, members have started dropping like flies, and word is spreading that the book is cursed. Harriet is convinced that Phee has absorbed all the knowledge she needs from working at the police department to solve this mystery. Phee thinks the whole thing is crazy, but her mother is an irresistible force... and Phee isn't exactly an immovable object.

You definitely get a feel for life in a retirement community from reading Booked 4 Murder. I haven't been over on that side of the valley for a while, so it's good to know that you still have to watch out for golf carts. There's a lot to like about this debut mystery even though it has one or two small things I'd rather do without. I've obviously been spoiled by my own family's behavior because pushy, interfering, "colorful" mothers like Harriet Plunkett drive me nuts. Harriet also makes a big production of her rescue dog she's named Streetman, but I found Streetman to be very much underutilized throughout the book-- other than showing that Harriet cares more about the dog's needs than she does her own daughter's. Ah well. If nothing else, I have a greater appreciation for my own mother!

But as I said, there's a lot to like. Phee may not have many police/investigative smarts, but she does have a friend in the Mankato PD whom she can call for advice. And she does need advice. The writing team of J.C. Eaton has created a mystery with many layers, and I had fun watching Phee piece all her clues together. I have to admit that I found the reason for the whole "cursed book" scenario rather disappointing-- probably because it's easy to see it actually happening. Read it for yourself and see if you agree. Phee's mother may have worked my last nerve, but I still found Booked 4 Murder to be a very enjoyable read.

Booked 4 Murder by J.C. Eaton
eISBN: 9781496708564
Kensington Books © 2017
eBook, 320 pages

Cozy Mystery, #1 Sophie Kimball mystery
Rating: B
Source: Net Galley

July 2017 New Mystery Releases!

The one time of year that always goes too fast for my liking is summer. I've always been this way, probably because I suffer from SAD, and the brilliant sunlight and lack of clouds here in the desert go a long way to unburden me of that tiresome disorder.

With my enjoyment of my pool, wildlife watching, and reading, I can go through about seventy-five books over the summer, and that means that I have to keep my eyes peeled for new books constantly, greedy soul that I am.

The following are my picks of the new crime fiction being released during the month of July. They are grouped by release date and contain information that will help you add them to your Must Read lists. Book covers and synopses are courtesy of Amazon. 

Let's get started!

=== July 1 ===

Title: The Cleaner
Author: Elisabeth Herrmann
Translated from the German.
Standalone Thriller set in present-day Germany.
460 pages

*Upcoming review on Kittling: Books

Synopsis: "Judith Kepler has seen it all. She is a crime scene specialist. She turns crime scenes back into habitable spaces. She is a cleaner. It is at the home of a woman who has been brutally murdered that she is suddenly confronted with her own past. The murder victim knew Judith's secret: as a child Judith was sent to an orphanage under mysterious circumstances—parentage unknown. And the East German secret police were always there, in the background. When Judith begins to ask questions, she becomes the target of some powerful enemies. And nothing will ever be the same again.

=== July 4 ===

Title: City of Masks
Author: S.D. Sykes
Series: #3 in the historical Oswald de Lacy series set in plague-stricken mid-fourteenth century England.
336 pages

Synopsis: "It’s 1358, and young Oswald de Lacy, Lord Somershill, is delayed in Venice as he awaits a pilgrim ship to the Holy Land. While the city is besieged by the King of Hungary, Oswald stays at the house of an English merchant, and soon comes under the spell of this decadent and dazzling island state that sits on the edge of Europe―where East meets West.

But Oswald has secrets. He is running away from something in England―a shadow that still haunts him, no matter how much he consoles himself with the delights of Venice. When he finds a dead man at the carnival, he is dragged into a murder investigation that draws him deep into the intrigues of this paranoid, mysterious city.

From the dungeons of the Doge’s Palace to the convent-brothel of Santa Lucia, Oswald must search for a murderer in this bewildering maze of alleys and canals. When he comes up against the feared Signori di Notte, the secret police, Oswald learns that he is not the only one with something to hide. Everyone is watching (or trailing) someone else, and nobody in Venice is who they appear to be. Masks, it seems, are not only for the carnival.

Title: Dead Storage
Author: Mary Feliz
Series: #3 in the Maggie McDonald cozy series set in Silicon Valley, California.
216 pages

*Upcoming review on Kittling: Books

Synopsis: "As a professional organizer, Maggie McDonald brings order to messy situations. But when a good friend becomes a murder suspect, surviving the chaos is one tall task . . .

Despite a looming deadline, Maggie thinks she has what it takes to help friends Jason and Stephen unclutter their large Victorian in time for its scheduled renovation. But before she can fill a single bin with unused junk, Jason leaves for Texas on an emergency business trip, Stephen's injured mastiff limps home and Stephen himself lands in jail for murder. Someone killed the owner of a local Chinese restaurant and stuffed him in the freezer. Stephen, caught at the crime scene covered in blood, is the number one suspect. Now Maggie must devise a strategy to sort through secrets and set him free before she's tossed into permanent storage next . . .

=== July 6 ===

Title: Watching You
Author: Arne Dahl
Translated from the Swedish.
Standalone thriller set in Sweden.
400 pages

UK Release

Synopsis: "At each abandoned crime scene there's a hidden clue: a tiny metal cog, almost invisible to the naked eye. Someone is sending Detective Sam Berger a message, someone who knows that only he will understand the cryptic trail.

When another teenage girl disappears without a trace, Sam must convince his superiors that they’re dealing with a serial killer. As the police continue the hunt to find the latest victim, Sam is forced to unearth long-buried personal demons. He has no choice if he is to understand the killer's darkly personal message before time runs out.

=== July 8 ===

Title: Penhale Wood
Author: Julia Thomas
Standalone suspense set in Cornwall, England.
312 pages

Synopsis: "On a cold December night in Cornwall, nanny Karen Peterson disappeared with three-year-old Sophie Flynn. The next day, the child’s body was found on a riverbank in Penhale Wood.

A year later, Sophie’s mother, Iris Flynn, appears on the doorstep of investigating officer Rob McIntyre, determined to make him reopen her daughter’s case. McIntyre has his own personal demons, but Iris hijacks his life in order to find the woman she thinks is responsible for Sophie’s death. Following the slimmest of leads, they are soon confronting ghosts from the past and a chameleon-like killer who will do anything to stay hidden.

=== July 11 ===

Title: 30 Second Death
Series: #2 in the Tobi Tobias cozy series set in Missouri.
220 pages

*Upcoming review on Kittling: Books

Synopsis: "When Tobi Tobias opened her own advertising agency, Carter McDade was there for her every step of the way. A brilliant hairdresser, Carter has just landed his dream project: doing hair and makeup for a theatrical production of Rapunzel. But the dream turns into a nightmare when he runs into Fiona Renoir, a cruel, talentless starlet who won't let Carter touch a hair on her head.

To get Fiona out of Carter's hair, Tobi hires the difficult actress for a bit part in her latest commercial. But true to character, Fiona is a terror on set, and Tobi is starting to think she's made the biggest mistake of her life. But things get even worse when Fiona drops dead in the hairdresser's chair, and the only suspect is the man left holding the tainted hair dye, Carter McDade. And unless Tobi can prove his innocence, he'll never do hair in this town again.

Title: Down a Dark Road
Series: #9 in the Kate Burkholder police procedural series set in Ohio.
304 pages

Synopsis: "Two years ago, Joseph King was convicted of murdering his wife and sentenced to life in prison. He was a “fallen” Amish man and a known drug user with a violent temper. Now King has escaped, and he’s headed for Painters Mill.

News of a murderer on the loose travels like wildfire, putting Chief of Police Kate Burkholder and her team of officers on edge. But this is personal for Kate. She grew up with Joseph King. As a thirteen-year-old Amish girl, she’d worshiped the ground he walked on. She never could have imagined the nightmare scenario that becomes reality when King shows up with a gun and takes his five children hostage at their Amish uncle’s farm. Armed and desperate, he has nothing left to lose.

Fearing for the safety of the children, Kate makes contact with King only to find herself trapped with a killer. Or is he? All King asks of her is to help him prove his innocence―and he releases her unharmed. Kate is skeptical, but when the facts and the evidence don’t align, she begins to wonder who she should trust. Spurned by some of her fellow cops, she embarks on her own investigation only to unearth an unspeakable secret―and someone who is willing to commit murder to keep it buried.

Title: Death on Delos
Author: Gary Corby
Series: #7 in the historical Athenian series set in and around classical Greece.
352 pages

*Upcoming review on Kittling: Books

Synopsis: "Greece, 454 BC: The sacred isle of Delos, the birthplace of the divine twins Apollo and Artemis, has been a most holy pilgrimage site for centuries. Delos is also home to the military fund kept by the Delian League, the alliance of city-states that defended Greece against the Persians, and that vast treasury is protected only by the priests and priestesses of the tiny isle and a scant armed guard.

Then one day the charismatic Athenian statesman Pericles arrives at the head of a small army to forcibly take the treasury back to the safety of Athens. With him are Nico, the only private agent in ancient Athens, and his heavily pregnant wife and partner in sleuthing, the priestess Diotima. She has been selected to give this year’s annual offering to holy Artemis.

In the face of righteous resistance from the priests, Pericles assigns Nico to bribe their leader. But before he can get very far with this dubiously unholy task, Nico ends up with a murder on his hands.

It is a crime against the gods to die or be born on the sacred island. Thanks to the violence over the treasury, the first blasphemy has already been committed. Can Nico solve the murder and get Diotima off the island before they accidentally commit the second?

=== July 18 ===

Title: Collared
Series: #16 in the Andy Carpenter series set in Paterson, New Jersey.
336 pages

Synopsis: "Lawyer Andy Carpenter’s true passion is the Tara Foundation, the dog rescue organization he runs with his friend Willie Miller. All kinds of dogs make their way to the foundation, and it isn’t that surprising to find a dog abandoned at the shelter one morning, though it was accompanied by a mysterious anonymous note. But they are quite surprised when they scan the dog’s embedded chip and discover that they know this dog. He is the 'DNA dog.'

Two and a half years ago, Jill Hickman was a single mother of an adopted baby. Her baby and dog were kidnapped in broad daylight in Eastside Park, and they haven’t been seen since. A tip came in that ID’d a former boyfriend of Hickman’s, Keith Wachtel, as the kidnapper. A search of his house showed no sign of the child but did uncover more incriminating evidence, and the clincher that generated Wachtel’s arrest was some dog hair, notable since Wachtel did not have a dog. DNA tests showed conclusively that the hair belonged to Hickman’s dog. Wachtel was convicted of kidnapping, but the dog and baby were never found.

Now, with the reappearance of the dog, the case is brought back to light, and the search for the child renewed. Goaded by his wife’s desire to help a friend and fellow mother and Andy’s desire to make sure the real kidnapper is in jail, Andy and his team enter the case. But what they start to uncover is far more complicated and dangerous than they ever expected.

Title: The Late Show
Series: #1 in the Renée Ballard police procedural series set in Los Angeles, California.
448 pages

Synopsis: "Renée Ballard works the night shift in Hollywood, beginning many investigations but finishing none, as each morning she turns everything over to the day shift. A once up-and-coming detective, she's been given this beat as punishment after filing a sexual harassment complaint against a supervisor.

But one night she catches two assignments she doesn't want to part with: the brutal beating of a prostitute left for dead in a parking lot and the killing of a young woman in a nightclub shooting. Ballard is determined not to give up at dawn. Against orders and her partner's wishes, she works both cases by day while maintaining her shift by night. As the investigations entwine, they pull her closer to her own demons and the reason she won't give up her job, no matter what the department throws at her.

Title: Arrowood
Author: Mick Finlay
Series: #1 Arrowood historical mystery set in Victorian London.
368 pages

Synopsis: "London is scared. A killer haunts the city's streets; the poor are hungry; crime bosses are taking control; the police force is stretched to the breaking point. 

The rich turn to Sherlock Holmes, but the celebrated private detective rarely visits the densely populated streets of South London, where the crimes are sleazier and the people are poorer. 

In the dark corner of Southwark, victims turn to a man who despises Holmes, his wealthy clientele, and his showy forensic approach to crime: Arrowood—self-taught psychologist, occasional drunkard, and private investigator. 

When a man mysteriously disappears and Arrowood's best lead is viciously stabbed before his eyes, he and his sidekick Barnett face their toughest quest yet: to capture the head of the most notorious gang in London…

=== July 24 ===

Title: Bright Shiny Things
Author: Barbara Nadel
Series: #5 in the Arnold and Hakim private investigator series set in present-day London.
352 pages

*Upcoming review on Kittling: Books

Synopsis: "Out of the blue, private investigator and ex-soldier Lee Arnold receives a visit from an old army mate. Abbas al’Barri worked as a translator with him during the Second Iraq War. Now living in Ilford with his family, Abbas is convinced that he’s had a message from his estranged son Fayyaad, who was radicalized and was last thought to be fighting for ISIL in Iraq. Does Fayyaad’s message indicate a change of heart? Abbas is desperate for Lee’s help in establishing some contact with him, a point with which Lee’s Muslim assistant Mumtaz might be able to help. From the bright lights of the Western world, to the murky online recruitment techniques of radical Islamism, Lee and Mumtaz have little to guide them in who to trust as they begin a journey into the belly of the beast.

=== July 25 ===

Title: Deadfall
Series: #19 in the Alex Cooper legal thriller series set in New York City.
400 pages

Synopsis: "A wild heart beats within New York City. Amid concrete and skyscrapers, the Wildlife Conservation Society works to preserve and protect the animal kingdom both within and beyond the borders of the five boroughs. But dangerous creatures don't always have claws and fangs, as Assistant DA Alexandra Cooper and NYPD detectives Mike Chapman and Mercer Wallace know all too well. Predators lurk close to home, and in the aftermath of the shocking assassination of an iconic public figure—someone Alex has worked with for years—the trio must unravel the motive behind the shooting to discover who is the bigger snake: the killer or the victim.

The murder investigation provides more questions than answers, as a tangled mess of secrets slowly comes to light. From street gangs to secret societies, from big-game hunting to the illegal animal trade, from New York City zoos to the highest offices in city government, Alex has her work cut out for her—especially since the task force handling the investigation, led by the US Attorney, seems to be more against her than with her. As tensions rise between Alex and the feds, she must determine just how far she is willing to go to uncover the truth—and uphold the integrity of the office she has so proudly served.

Great lineup for July, isn't it? I'm looking forward to getting my hands on the newest S.D. Sykes mystery, and Michael Connelly's latest has really caught my eye, too. What about you? Which books made it to your own wishlists? Inquiring minds would love to know!

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

The Right Side by Spencer Quinn

First Line: "Just want to make sure I've got your name right."

LeAnne Hogan joined the army determined to work hard and make the military her life. She returned home from Afghanistan in a much-altered state of mind. Having lost an eye and suffering from a brain injury, she can't really remember the desert operation that almost killed her. Her mind is a jumbled mess of confusion and anger, and she's almost convinced herself that the desert op-gone-wrong was her fault-- even though no one will come right out and say so.

The only thing that makes her days bearable in the hospital is her friendship with her roommate, Marci. Marci seems to be dealing well with her amputation, but when she dies suddenly, LeAnne walks out of Walter Reed and starts out on a cross-country drive. Having only the vision in one eye, LeAnne's native land now looks unfamiliar, and her strength and stamina are failing her. When she arrives in Marci's hometown, she learns that Marci's eight-year-old daughter is missing. Just as she decides to make finding the little girl her priority, LeAnne is suddenly adopted by a huge stray dog. LeAnne doesn't even like dogs, but this one refuses to leave her, and somehow a bond forms between the two as they look for a lost little girl.

This is quite a departure from Spencer Quinn's Chet and Bernie mystery series. There is no gentle humor. There is no dog's point of view. No, in The Right Side, Spencer Quinn gives us edginess, uncertainty, and an extremely unpredictable hero with an equally unreadable dog.

LeAnne Hogan is a physical and psychological loose cannon. She's suffering from her injuries. She's suffering from PTSD. She's suffering from feelings of inadequacy and failure. She's not your usual choice for the hero of a book, and that's one of the things that makes The Right Side so good. You literally do not know which way LeAnne is going to jump from one scene to the next. Her anger is explosive and frightening, but Quinn portrays her in such a way that we instinctively know that she's a good person. We want her to get well. We want her to be safe and happy.

This woman needs help, but she's going to fight everyone who wants to give her that help every single step of the way. She even fiercely resists the dog, but this huge beast of unknown pedigree just ignores her. The dog is just as much a mystery as LeAnne, but you know this relationship will work because of one thing: the dog unerringly protects her blind side.

Quinn gives us two mysteries in The Right Side: one involving the missing child, and one that concerns what really happened to LeAnne in Afghanistan. Both are strong and grab your attention. Another mystery for me is... will Quinn write about LeAnne again? She's one of the best characters I've encountered in a long time, and I wouldn't mind reading more about her. But sometimes it's best to see just one adventure in a character's journey through life. Whatever the author does, I'm certainly glad I met LeAnne-- and I hope you'll decide to meet her, too.

The Right Side by Spencer Quinn
eISBN:  9781501118425
Atria Books © 2017
eBook, 336 pages

Suspense, Standalone
Rating: A+
Source: Net Galley

Monday, June 26, 2017

Laurie R. King at The Poisoned Pen!

I can't always get to all the author events I want to attend at The Poisoned Pen. I missed Laurie R. King recently when she came to talk about her latest standalone book, Lockdown. I don't like it when I miss her because she's so knowledgeable and entertaining, and she and host Barbara Peters have such a good rapport. 

Fortunately I have resources that sometimes make up for the fact that I can't be in two places at the same time. This time I thought I would share some of those resources with all of you. So here you go: photos taken at King's launch of Lockdown (which happened a day earlier than the honest-to-goodness official launch) and the Livestream event. Now you can enjoy it, too. All photos are courtesy of Miles at The Poisoned Pen. Thank you, Miles!

Barbara Peters (R) introducing her friend, Laurie R. King (L)

Little did Laurie know, but there was a little surprise for her....

You can't have a book launch party without cake!

Laurie busily signing books and talking with fans.

I did have the Livestream event embedded in this post, but I've received emails from some of my regular readers that it was not loading properly. The video could not be seen yet the audio was running non-stop and could not be muted even if they were reading a completely different post. Now... that would drive me around the bend, so I've removed it. Here's the link to the Laurie R. King Livestream event. I do apologize for driving some of you crazy, but-- as you can see-- I do respond to emails!

Friday, June 23, 2017

The Good News Weekly Link Round-Up

It seems to me (and probably to you, too) that I've been dealing with mammograms and biopsies since, well, forever. This needless circus has shown me a thing or two. One, the people at my oncologist's office are the best, and two, the people who deal with customers for my insurance company are most decidedly not the best. When even the supervisors cannot handle simple questions, it makes you question how well the company is going to be dealing with anything else. However, I did title this the Good News round-up, so I'd better cut to the chase, right?

With the help of Jamie at my oncologist's office, I finally got my biopsy scheduled at HonorHealth Breast Health and Research Center here in Phoenix. Everyone I dealt with there was friendly and knowledgeable, especially the doctor and her assistant. The three of us spent most of the time during the biopsy laughing and talking.

Dr. Greer told me that she would call me back with the results the very next day by 4 PM, which-- after a couple of months of people telling me they'd call back and then never doing it-- I hoped was true. It wasn't. Dr. Greer called me at 10:30 AM the next day to give me the all-clear! What a relief!

This has been one of those conscious/subconscious experiences for me, and not the first one I've had. On the surface, I haven't been worried about the results of this biopsy, about the chances that I may have cancer again, but I think the worry was bubbling way down deep. After I got that All Clear Call, I suddenly felt worn out. I think I was worrying and not even realizing it.

Now that that's all over, I'm going to take care of things out in the link corral... and then Denis and I are going to celebrate! Yeeeeeeee Hawwwwwwwwww!


►Books, Movies & Other Interesting Tidbits◄

►Channeling My Inner Indiana Jones◄

►Channeling My Inner Elly Mae Clampett◄
  • This bear took an unexpected trip down a waterfall.
  • A woman waved at a bear from her car, and the bear's reaction is priceless.

►The Happy Wanderer◄

►Fascinating Folk◄
  • One of my all-time favorite character actors (who has one of the best names), Slim Pickens.
  • Lady Pinkertons, the smart and savvy female sleuths who placed themselves in harm's way to protect America.

►I ♥ Lists & Quizzes◄

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.

Have a great weekend, and read something fabulous!

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Blood Atonement by Dan Waddell

First Line: The candle on the ledge guttered as it neared its end, shadows dancing on the wall.

Still on the mend from the events in The Blood Detective, DCI Grant Foster is supposed to be on light duty. That goes out the window when a single mother is murdered and her fourteen-year-old daughter abducted. When his investigation turns up strikingly similar circumstances in the disappearance of another young teenager three years previously, Foster believes there is a link, and he turns to genealogist Nigel Barnes to piece together the facts and find the connection.

The trail leads Barnes right back to 1890 when a young couple arrived in the UK. This husband and wife were running away from a terrible crime...a crime that is having horrible repercussions in the here and now.

Having enjoyed the first book in this series, I had to get my hands on this second, which also appears to be the last. Blood Atonement acknowledges the elephant in the room: the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints and the powerhouse position they have in the world of genealogy. Members may not be happy with Waddell's depiction of their religion since it touches on fundamentalist offshoots that practice polygamy as well as the actions the church has taken to erase (or at least cover up) things that have happened in their past that may not show them in a favorable light. It's this subterfuge that makes Barnes' investigation for the police so difficult.

The solution is convoluted and laced with a heavy dose of irony, but this isn't really what grabbed most of my attention. The still-healing Foster is brought face-to-face with a young boy-- eleven-year-old Gary-- whose life is in danger, and he takes it upon himself to protect him. Gary has been nothing but trouble most of his short life, but it's heart-warming to see how Foster warms up to him-- and how Gary reacts to him. Protecting Gary brings several of Foster's own shortcomings into sharp focus, and the seasoned copper knows he needs to mend his ways.

To be honest, Blood Atonement's mystery had a bit too much religion for my taste, but the characters are what made the book. I like watching how Nigel Barnes sifts through archives to find answers, and DCI Grant Foster is just the sort of homicide detective I like.

Blood Atonement by Dan Waddell
ISBN: 9780141025667
Penguin Books © 2009
Paperback, 344 pages

Amateur Sleuth, #2 Nigel Barnes mystery
Rating: B+
Source: Paperback Swap

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Murder in Thrall by Anne Cleeland

First Line: Her eyes were five centimeters apart.

Two unlikely Scotland Yard detectives find themselves hunting for an elusive killer. DCI Michael Sinclair, Lord Acton, is handsome, enigmatic, and absolutely brilliant at solving London's high-profile homicides. When he takes fledgling Constable Kathleen Doyle under his wing, her fellow rookies are jealous, but Doyle is a hard worker and has investigative skills that Sinclair appreciates. Poor, Catholic, and Irish down to the roots of her red hair, she's an odd partner for Sinclair, and they have their work cut out for them in searching for a killer who began with murdering a horse trainer and has busily increased the death toll as the days pass.  

I've wanted to read this book since I met the author at Left Coast Crime in 2016. Murder in Thrall sounded like the perfect read for me, and the rave reviews I heard from other readers only increased my interest. I'm sure that you've all heard it said that no two people ever read the same book. That's because we each have our own life experiences we bring with us each and every time we open a book. Well, my life experiences were not well suited to this book. Not at all.

Murder in Thrall is told from Doyle's point of view, and she's an interesting blend of intelligence, intuition, and naïveté. This leaves DCI Michael Sinclair very much in the shadows... or at least I thought in the beginning that it did. In addition, the story isn't told in a linear fashion which may be confusing for some people. But I didn't get very far into the book at all before I realized that linear storytelling was the very least of my problems. Speaking of problems, I have one here: how to talk about what bothered me so much about this book without using spoilers. It's going to be extremely difficult.

For one thing, I am a reader who doesn't care to read romances. Murder in Thrall is 85% romance and 15% mystery. That percentage just does not work for me. The characters' libidos need to take a definite backseat to the mystery. That does not happen here.

Secondly, each chapter begins with what I thought was a glimpse into the killer's mind. It's a technique that's been used in several mysteries that I've read. However, those chapter headings were not from the mind of the killer, and when I realized the real speaker, I was profoundly shocked.

If you like a book that's more romance than mystery, Murder in Thrall will be your cup of tea. If heavy overtones of stalking don't bother you, I do think you will enjoy this book. Having been the victim of a stalker, I just cannot recommend this book. Sometime in the future, I will read the next book in this series; it's got so many passionate fans that I just have to give it one more try. I have to let this book dim in my memory first.

Murder in Thrall by Anne Cleeland
ISBN: 9780758287922
Kensington Books © 2014
Mass Market Paperback, 336 pages

Romance/Police Procedural, #1 New Scotland Yard mystery
Rating: D+
Source: Purchased at Left Coast Crime 2016.

New Mexico Road Trip: Taos...almost!

Back in the day when I was growing up in a small farm town in central Illinois, my family had a time-honored tradition of the "Sunday drive." My grandparents, my mother, and I would pile into the Chevy and head somewhere. Sometimes we knew where we were going, sometimes we didn't. Gas only cost 27¢ or so per gallon, so our destination didn't matter so much-- as long as we got back in plenty of time to fulfill our Monday commitments. I got to see a lot of Illinois during these drives. Mom and I continued the tradition while we lived in Utah, and this is when I fell in love with hunting down old ghost towns. Gas was more expensive, but we'd economize elsewhere in the budget since we loved getting out and about so much.

Now I'm all grown up. My working life was spent in a job where I worked most weekends, so there went my Sunday drives. Or so you'd think. Denis and I got used to having our "weekends" in the middle of the week, so the Sunday drive usually takes place on Wednesday or Thursday. It's still a lot of fun.

While we were in Santa Fe, we both wanted to see the Taos area and possibly the Taos Pueblo as well. We chose to head up there on a Sunday, and although things didn't turn out quite like we'd planned, we still managed to really enjoy ourselves.

Santa Fe stoplights

We'd been noticing, appreciating, and sometimes questioning the differences between Santa Fe and Phoenix during our stay-- like no plastic bags, only paper (and you have to ask for them), the lack of solar panels, an amazing number of metal roofs, and the horizontal stoplights as you can see in the photo above. Every place else I've been, those lights have been hung vertically, and I decided I liked them on the horizontal. Funny how little things like this catch your eye, isn't it?

The road north to Taos went through a valley lined with mountains on either side. There were many turn-offs to Native American pueblos, and almost as many to casinos. It wasn't until we got much closer to Taos that we saw snow on the mountains. Let's see some photos of our drive...and remember that all you have to do to see them in more detail is to click on any one of them. When you do, a new window will automatically open, and you can take a look at them all.

Road to Taos

Going to Taos

Most of the traffic is heading north....

There's snow on them there mountains!

And there's the Rio Grande!

I think the Rio Grande is probably one of the most recognized rivers in the United States since it forms the border between Texas and Mexico. The Mississippi, the Colorado, and the Rio Grande constitute my Top Three US Rivers list in terms of being the most well-known. What I'd forgotten is that the Rio Grande begins in Colorado and winds its way through New Mexico before arriving at El Paso to form a natural border.

The closer to Taos we got, the more congested traffic became. As we sat outside in the sun to eat lunch, we watched the traffic heading into town become gridlocked. Then it dawned on us: this was the Memorial Day weekend, and it was obvious Taos was an extremely popular place to visit on a holiday weekend. To be honest, most holidays mean nothing to Denis and me. I worked them all for years and now Denis works them, too. The longer we watched, the more traffic backed up, and we decided not to even attempt to make our way through town and onto the pueblo. It was disappointing-- moreso for Denis than for me. Denis doesn't have that Sunday drive tradition to fall back on. 

But as we headed south once more, we found something fun to do. Dozens of people were whitewater rafting on the Rio Grande, so we stopped to watch.

Kayak on the Rio Grande

Taking the trickier lower side

Paddle harder!

The second raft got hung up on those rocks.

It was a gorgeous day in the mountains with plenty of sunshine and blooming wildflowers. Taking a long break to watch those folks navigate the whitewater was icing on the cake and made our Sunday drive a winner. On the way back to Santa Fe, I remembered to take a photo of one of the decorated overpasses....

Overpass bridge

I absolutely love the fact that new interstates and freeways are being built that aren't just bare concrete. The overpass bridge you see here has local Native American art on it. The phrase you see means "place of the falling rocks."  I think the state Departments of Transportation are to be commended for this. The same thing has been done in southern Arizona: Native American art and language, and native plants have been used along these busy roads to not only "pretty them up," but to prevent erosion and cut down on noise pollution. 

Yup... when I'm on the road, I tend to look at everything-- including freeway overpasses! Next time I'll tell you about the afternoon we spent at the Randall Davey Audubon Center and Sanctuary.