Forgotten City: A Claire Codella Mystery
The best skilled nursing facility in New York City is bound to have some famous clients. When former Broadway star and wife of a wealthy banker Lucy Merchant, a sufferer of early-onset Alzheimer’s, is found dead, it seems sad but not shocking. But Merchant’s daughter is not accepting of this death and visits Detective Claire Codella at the police station, providing her with some evidence, including a surreptitiously-obtained video and stained carpet fibers. Codella has been looking for a case to get her back in her game after a bout of cancer and a boss who is not a fan. This could be it. As she pushes the investigation forward, there are plenty of suspects to be checked out. With red herrings aplenty, the mystery is not easy to solve.
Author Carrie Smith is building a franchise with Claire Codella as the centerpiece, and she is a terrific character with a rich, complex backstory. For readers who like police procedurals, this is a good one. The politics of the police department create extra tension beyond the main mystery of the murder to make this a real page-turner. The writing is crisp and the story is solid.
Crooked Lane Books
In the Shadow of Lies
Oliver Wright a homicide detective returns home to Richmond, California, upon his fathers insistence to try and keep his brother Peter out of trouble. Peter Wright is an Assistant District Attorney and insists on investigating the case of two children whom have died in a fire in the woods near their home, sparked by the burning of a cross, most likely the work of the Ku Klux Klan though hard to prove, because no one is willing to speak up, and anyone who tries doesnt seem to live long enough to actually do so.
Life in Richmond during the 1940s is difficult for just about everyone. There isnt a soul in town who isnt experiencing loss, fear, or heartache of some kind. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, anyone of Japanese descent is labeled an enemy of the state, rounded up, and sent to internment camps. The Italians are still on the wrong side of the war, and, thus, they are deemed suspicious and deprived of their fishing boats, homes, and livelihoods. Although African-American men are allowed to enlist in the army, they are treated as second-class citizens, forced to cook and clean after the white recruits, even when they are willing to fight and die for their country. To make matters worse, a serial rapist is on the loose, striking fear among the colored women of Richmond, while shipyard workers are also being beaten to death, with little more than relative apathy as a response from the police force.
Oliver is caught in the midst of all this chaos trying to appease his father, attempting to keep his brother safe, and searching for the truth in a town overcome with fear, yet he is unable to put his mind at ease until he can solve these seemingly unrelated cases plaguing his hometown even after he reenlists in the Army and returns to solve a new crime.
M.A. Adler weaves this taunting mystery through a series of intriguing clues, tragic deaths, awful crimes, and troubled characters. And, although these unusual crimes draw the reader in, begging for a connection and resolution against a backdrop of darkness, hatred, and bigotry, there is a lightness and all-encompassing feeling of hopefulness and camaraderie among the downtrodden folks of Richmond. Whether it is Olivers determination to find the truth, Mrs. Forgiones welcoming nature at Café Avellino, or Roans love for his dog Emma and Peters children, every character is forged out of difficult experiences, unfathomable loss, intricate family relationships, and an ardent desire for a better future and the end of the war. In the Shadow of Lies proves to be a skillfully written mystery taking place during a very distressing period in American history, yet confirms that hope and kindness can triumph over intolerance in the darkest of times.
Death by Romance
Gordon Taylor is murdered right before Christmas, and right before his company makes its initial public offering. His wife, Jessica, is devastated, but alarmed that her partnership with Romance, Ltd., makes her a suspect in her husbands murder, along with many other supporting characters.
Years before the murder, Jessica’s friend, Mavis, concocts a business plan for a lucrative, investor-driven matchmaking service. She calls it Romance, Ltd. Mavis uses Jessica as her investment, using her resources to school her in philanthropy and high culture, with the aim of putting Jessica in Gordon Taylors path. The company’s goal is that the investment marries for money, and the investors get a cut of the spoils when the marriage eventually sours. But what if the investors are impatient, and the marriage isnt souring fast enough? It just might be a motive for murder.
Jessicas clear-eyed earnestness is admirable, if only a bit naïve. Jessica knows that Mavis makes money through their partnership after Gordon Taylors estate is settled, but doesn’t see this as a reason to suspect her. Jessica blames herself for her husbands murder, and continues to forgive Mavis over and over again for being a single-minded, greedy hag the whole time.
A shady lawyer and some investors with mob ties kept me guessing, and threw Ryan, the cop on the case, off the trail. Like many crime novels, the evidence points to multiple characters as being the murderer, but it was almost the one you least expected.
Death by Romance is short, simple and straightforward. The characters are deep and interesting. Jessica’s grief is the readers grief. Maviss anxiety is the readers anxiety. Ryan, the cop with whom readers will spend the most time, loves his cat and loves to cook, has a dismal relationship with his son, and can’t seem to let go of his late wife, Mary. Ryan’s vibrant personality will make readers feel like theyre solving the mystery right alongside him. While there wasn’t a ton of action, some excellent sleuthing made the ride entertaining.
Upon discovering new evidence, a retired detective with months to live races to catch a high school track stars killer. Garnering the support of a PI firm, on-duty cops, and loved ones, the detective and allies face off against a ruthless manipulative psychopath to bring young Sydney Adams case to a successful close.
Cold-Blooded continues the trials and tribulations of Lisa Regans previous heroine last seen in Hold Still. Jocelyn Rush barely survived a horrific attack that left her, and her partner Anita, scarred. Rush left the force to focus on her daughter, but opening a PI firm to continue helping Philadelphias underserved citizens. A case is dropped in her lap by the nearly dead Augustus Knox. Knox lost everything he loved in the pursuit of Sydney Adams murderer. Discovering pictures that link Adams to the beloved Coach Cash Rigo, Knox implores Rush to help him solve the case before he dies. With just a theory and some weak evidence, Rush and Knox hound Coach Rigo in the hopes of forcing a confession. Between flashbacks and investigating, its soon made clear that there is a more sinister killer waiting in the wings for a time to strike.
Lisa Regan is clearly at the top of her game as a suspense novelist. The plotting is impeccable. Its difficult to determine the actual killer until nearly the last page. For instance, no spoilers, Coach Rigo had repeated affairs with underage girls. Everyone believes he must have been the killer, but just as evidence begins to mount the rug is ripped out from under everyone. Flashbacks to Rigos and other characters pasts help flesh out the story and add dramatic irony. The characters are dynamic and worn in, with strong backstories. Rush and her partner are carry-overs from a previous book, but Knox is such an interesting and tragic figure. He gave everything he had to find Adams killer and lost it all. Drunk, dying of various illnesses, he clings to life. With the dark and disturbing plot, the strong characters, and engaging prose, Cold-Blooded is not just a page-turner, the pages fly by on their own and you just have to hold on as it races to a stunning conclusion.
The Schwarzschild Radius
After four months of dead-end searches, eighteen-year-old Rachel Wallen decides to take matters in her own hands to find her adopted sister, Olivia, who suddenly vanished out of thin air. Rachel heads to the homeless shelter, where Olivia used to be a volunteer counselor, and is admitted under a pseudonym in the hope that she can gain leads. A staff member shares disturbing news that Olivia had been making porn flicks just before she vanished. Even more disturbing, Rachel learns that Olivia has a twin, Achara, who is living in Thailand and trapped in the sex trade. Discovering the instant messages between the twins on Olivia’s PC, Rachel assumes Olivia’s identity to continue the conversation since she realizes that Olivia is Achara’s only means of escape. While Olivia apparently took care of Achara’s passport prior to her disappearance, Achara needs more than $2000 to get Achara to New York. Rachel’s decision to take a job at a local adult emporium to obtain fast cash leads her not only closer to solving Olivia’s whereabouts, but also into a deadly snare.
Rising and award winning author Gustavo Florentin has pulled out all the literary stops to create his second novel. Florentin’s third person narrative is a combination of well-developed characters, nonstop conflicts, and rich contrast. Florentin’s use of irony, undoubtedly, is a key literary tool that is prevalent throughout his plot. Good examples are found in his characters, such as Rachel and Father Massey. Rachel, who is a highly intelligent Ivy League student, acts like she left her brains behind when she decides to work in the sex industry. And then there is Father Massey whose life is not as holy as one expects. Florentin has a whole slew of characters, many who take on supporting roles and are deftly interwoven in scenes that alternate from chapter to chapter. Scenes shift between Rachel’s sleuthing, her communication with Achara via the internet, Fr. Massey and his dastardly deeds, Detective McKenna’s investigation, the enslaved Olivia, and the infamous Webmaster, just to name a few.
Amid the alternating character scenes that are filled with constant un-clichéd twists, Florentin incorporates a plethora of red herrings a lineup of sleazy characters to throw readers off from zeroing in on the story’s main antagonist. While readers are madly trying to figure out who the real culprit is, Florentin makes sure to keep his themes alive. Certainly the heaviest theme not only centers on the sex trade, but on the pervasive sadomasochistic culture that accompanies this industry. A second theme focuses on family dynamics, such as Rachel’s opinion of her parents and how she thinks they shower more love and attention to Olivia than Rachel. Another example is Detective McKenna whose ardent search to find and return Olivia to her heart sickened parents is a constant reminder of his strained relationship with his estranged daughter.
A great read, which is guaranteed to win an award, The Schwarzschild Radius is a top-rate thriller that is not only gripping and fast paced, but also a superb blend of crime with a touch of sci-fi.
When we left Nicki McJacob in Regret Things, trouble had stormed through her front door at dinnertime, ruining her familys dinner plans. Now Sin and Nicki are back, and wherever they go, a few things follow. Guns. Money. Bad guys in good suits. In To Guns, we meet the McJacob family two years past that dinner debacle, safe but unhappy in a European paradise, missing the American dream they left behind.
As Nicki considers moving the family back to a small town nestled into the Colorado Rockies, risks of coming stateside be damned, little brother Sin is hooking up with the synergistically named Sindy. Suddenly, its looking like an idyllic time for a family reunion.
But Matt Ingwalson isnt that type of author, and this isnt that type of book. This is a guns-up book, a chase and showdown type of book. A world weary hit man is hot on Nickis heels. Then, gun-happy Sin steps into the wrong back-country domestic dispute. All this escalates into a classic Western gun battle that is at times hilarious, and at times high-throttle, but always memorable.
Sin and Nicki are a great combination of stealth and sass. Gun-loving, ever-brooding, smooth Sin is always an enigma, and Nicki stands as his flamboyant and unapologetic opposite. Ingwalson also brings to life Sins love interest Sindy, a self-proclaimed skater girl who manages to hold her own with the rough and tumble Kenfax and McJacob clans.
Ingwalson once again uses his trademark smooth, noir style to draw the reader into the novella while not distracting from the action at hand. To Guns is written in a novella style as it follows the action of this single chase to Colorado, so it is great for thriller fans looking for a quick read to pick up and breeze through.