Kale to the Queen: A Kensington Palace Chef Mystery
In Nell Hampton’s first installment of the Kensington Palace Chef Mysteries, Kale to the Queen, we meet Carrie Ann Cole, who has accepted a dream position cooking for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and their children. This would be more than enough to cause serious stress for any young chef, but add murder to the mix and you’ve got a recipe for potential chaos.
Carrie Ann knows that it will take a lot of adjustment to fit into the rigid hierarchy of the palace, but she is more than confident that her cooking skills are up to par and is anxious to get to work in her kitchen in the private family apartment. She sets to trying to fit in and navigate the confusing palace, but when her prep cook, Frank Deems, is found murdered and Michael Hargrove, her butcher, is accused of the deed, she feels it is her duty to try to clear Hargrove’s name and figure out who really killed Deems.
Hampton’s debut foodie cozy couldn’t be more lovely! Her characters are likable and interesting, and her descriptive settings make you feel like you are walking the unseen halls of Kensington Palace. This sweet novel is a treat for both foodies and anglophiles alike. I truly look forward to many more installments in this series!
Crooked Lane Books
My first thought upon finishing Missing Mona was that it is well-tailored novel for those enthusiasts of crime drama novels. Readers outside of this genre may find themselves bored with the density of the book at times, but the story is nothing, if not engrossing. The bones of the plot were set up well: Tommy Cuda is a protagonist with almost nothing to lose, who goes out to rediscover himself, and the adventure he gets is a result of accidentally stumbling into an opportunity that was the consequence of being in the right place at the wrong time. Its the classic story of the inexperienced average Joe who gets swept up in a mystery more grand than he ever could have imagined. When Tommy decides to leave behind what he knows and heads toward Chicago, he picks up an attractive hitchhiker on the way who goes by the name of Mona, and she hires him as a private investigator in order to find someone for her. But theres a twist. When he wakes the next morning in the motel room where they had stayed for the night, all he has is a photograph of Mona with a message on the back that reads: Find Me Tommy M”.
A seemingly simple mystery, Missing Mona rather quickly turns into a complicated plot with strong political and monetary motives. Particularly as the unanswered questions start tying in together to paint the bigger picture of Tommy Cudas mysterious hitchhiker. The story gets convoluted at times, and I found that the overall timeline was not the easiest to follow. I lost track of how many days Tommy Cuda was actually in Chicago, and I think it was in reality a much shorter time frame than it felt while reading. That being said, the action was well-paced, which made for some exciting moments. I was definitely invested enough to want to find out where Klingler was driving this novel. And aside from a few minute inconsistencies, all major questions were addressed making the novel feel concluded.
Klinglers Chicago made me want to visit the city in Tommy Cudas world. It was exciting and gritty, and set up to be the perfect type of place for our protagonist to find some adventure. I think the character was able to live the life that epitomizes the notion of finding oneself. Tommy Cuda had beautiful girls, great music, an old car on the open road, and an enticing unsolvable mystery. I dont think he could have sought out a more drastic change from the monotony of the life he had.
The Paris Protection
The Secret Service is in some ways like the NSA, CIA or some other government lesser known acronym group: just about everyone knows who they are, but they dont really know exactly how they operate or what they do. The Secret Services job is to protect the President of the United States 24/7, no matter what it takes. Their lives are always on the line for this one person. But what does this truly unique job entail?
The premise for The Paris Protection seems somewhat mundane and ordinary: a terrorist group has infiltrated the hotel where the United States President is staying and plans to assassinate her. They are fully confident in their success, while the Secret Service knows the job they have to do.
Abigail Clarke has done a lot of work – as a state prosecutor, US Senator, and governor of Virginia – and sacrificed much to become one of the most powerful and important people on the planet; many say THE most important. President Clarke does not take her job lightly and has very little free time. She is now in Paris for a summit meeting as she hopes to bring the prickly subject of organized crime to the international stage and address it as a terrorist attack. For now, the days work is done and she is at her hotel carrying out various conference calls with important people back on US soil and around the world.
Maximillian Wolff, who once served on the Israeli Security Protection team when Yitzak Rabin was assassinated, has suffered much during his life and holds the United States accountable for its world domination, and with a huge and highly trained team of mercenaries, his plan is to remove the head of power and bring the US to its knees. His right hand man, Kazim Aslan, has spent his time as an insurgent soldier in Iraq who has lost loved ones because of the United States policies and wants their assassination plan to be just as successful. Maximillian also has a hero: Hannibal Barca who once brought Rome to its knees.
The Paris Protection is three-hundred-and-fifty-odd pages that is anything but ordinary and mundane. Devore skillfully takes the reader step by step through the attack, giving POVs from both sides and plenty of detail of tactics, weaponry, and skill. It is a gripping thriller at its best. Here and there, he provides some back story to his characters–again on both sides–that help the reader understand what is fueling their desire and drive. Maximillian goes into numerous contemplations of how Hannibal handled certain situations to help them in their current one, which is juxtaposed with Secret Service Agents contemplating their skill and training and what past agents have done in similar situations.
It is the ideal blend of action and story with plenty of well-researched details that keep the reader glued to the page. The story passes throughout the hotel with some impressive battles, eventually leading down deep into the haunting Paris catacombs that serves as a terrifying arena for a chase scene. The Paris Protection is one of those books where you dont know who will make it out alive and how its really going to end; a perfect example of the thriller genre.
A Season to Kill
Sheriff Holbrook of Macon, Pennsylvania has died suddenly and the town is distraught and wary that Deputy Chris DeAngelo can fill the enormous shoes Sheriff Holbrook has left behind. The rookie sheriff has been known to drink too much in public and discovers nearly the entire town, including the mayor, believes he is ill-equipped to handle his new position. Unprepared or not, Chris is about to be tested on his ability as sheriff.
Days after Sheriff Holbrooks funeral, simpleton Louella frantically rushes into Chris office claiming her boyfriend, Roger Sharperumored drug dealer, has gone missing. On top of Rogers disappearance, Chris believes the police department may have been misappropriating funds, but hes skeptical to believe that the respectable Sheriff Holbrook would be capable of embezzling. But, Jake Ranser, local newspaper reporter, piques Chris interest with a theory called, The Curse of December, that for the past eleven years each December a person goes missing, never to be seen or heard from again.
Throughout the investigation, Chris continues to have a nagging feeling that theres a larger picture and something is terribly wrong in the town of Macon, but his friends the Deerbusters (Phil, Michael, and Cindy) as theyve termed themselves, ease his anxieties of The Curse of December and sum up Jake Ranser as a nosy, pot-stirring reporter looking for a good story.
The prologue of Michael Muccis debut novel, A Season to Kill, immediately sets the tone for the entirety of the book, with a hunt ensuing in the woods, although the prey and hunter are both human. The story of an underdog was an overall easy read with well-developed characters and storyline. In this page-turning thriller, Michael Mucci will gratifyingly delight your senses, make you question conspiracy or coincidence, and intrigue your curiosity, while whetting the appetite for a chilling well told narrative. A Season to Kill left the reader championing the new sheriff in town.
Finding Claire Fletcher
On the day that Detective Connor Parks has jeopardized his career for killing a man, he meets Claire Fletcher in a bar and spends one night with her, catching a glimpse of the girl she once was. Trouble is Claire Fletcher is no longer that girl. When she vanishes from his bed leaving an address, he tries to follow up for a chance to re-encounter this intriguing woman only to discover shocking news. The enigmatic Claire has been missing for years. As his work life disintegrates he sets out to solve the mystery of her disappearance. Claire becomes as ethereal to Parks as the ghost of whom she used to be is to Claire herself due to the man who has unmade her.
Returning to the living hell that is her new life, Claire is overcome with guilt for endangering the man who has woken a part of herself she had thought was long since dead. The question is how will she find the resolve to ensure no one else loses their life in her name?
From the opening first person narration of the mystery woman herself, or a version of her, the question hooks are planted that lead us into the story which is really four separate story lines cleverly shuffled. As each one ends on a crisis point or question we alternate to the next which deftly pulls us along as we search for the next big reveal. Major questions demand answers. Why isnt the most obvious and simple solution to Claires dilemma possible?
We follow Parks quest to find Claire from his third person narration as he weathers the situation with his career. Intermingled with all this we become a party to Claires current life as well as the history of her past which has led to now, when she still was wholly Claire Fletcher.
This gripping tale of psychological abuse is realistic and well-written. At times, I felt my breath become tight as I empathized with Claires ordeal, which is a testament to the books inherent craft. Clearly much research on trauma had been undertaken to underpin the heroines motivations. Dark it may be, but not gratuitous. Part way through however I became disappointed when Id thought Id figured out who Claires abuser was, but I had just been led into a skillful trap by this talented author who had sent me off down a blind alley, laying a trail of pseudo clues that had me fixing on how smart I was.
I finished the book and remained in the world Lisa Regan had created for a while. Its always a good sign when a story lingers. Its even better when you discover an author you enjoy and want to hear more from then find out there are several other works to encounter.
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.