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
Three different Amazon boxes — each containing a Ziploc bag with a “Don’t Steal Music” sticker slapped on it and filled with bodily pieces-parts. That is all the evidence SFPD Detectives Qigiq (pronounced “ki-jeek”) and Kandy Dreeson, his partner, have on a missing college student named Sally Bellowi. Their biggest clue comes in when a demented YouTube video goes viral. While further research connects the hideous recording with the “Don’t Steal Music” sticker and peer-to-peer music files, the leads eventually zero in on a psychopathic culprit. But more technological sleuthing reveals viruses, one more deadly than the other, which makes cornering the perpetrator more difficult than expected. Klingler’s new thriller is a ride into the dark side of computers and comedy.
In his second novel, rising author Joe Klingler features Qigiq, who purposefully relocates to California from Alaska in the hope of becoming acquainted with computer crime. A quasi-gumshoe Clouseau, Qigiq is not only technologically behind the times, but also technologically challenged — to the max. Coupled with Kandy, his quick-witted, brawny-ish sidekick, Qigiq’s awkwardness only stands out more. In addition to his clueless main character, Klingler includes a handful of other quirky characters in the mix. Aside of a few scatterbrains, Klingler throws in enough red herrings to leave readers also clueless when it comes to pinpointing the real offender.
Klingler’s plot definitely has a Quentin Tarantino-feel to it. Opening with a graphic crime scene, Klingler quickly shifts scenes by introducing the daring duo with morbidly hilarious misdirected dialogue. But that is only the beginning of the black comedy that he deftly interweaves throughout his somewhat substantial story. Penned in third person, Klingler’s constantly moving narrative principally but not exclusively alternates between the crime investigation, the inner workings of the music media company, Silver Platter (headed by the suave and narcissistic Eddy Blake), and computer programmer and guru Harry Zeto. All periodically laced with snippets of romance, Klingler’s plot slowly builds up to a ticking clock scenario that leads to an ambiguous ending.
Cleverly designed, Mash Up is the perfect detective read, as well as a classic addition to the noir genre.
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.
The Nash Criterion
Obama’s term has come to an end, and Elaine York has stepped up to the plate as the newly inaugurated 45th President of the United States. She soon finds herself compromised, however, as a coup, seemingly initiated by a faction of the military, divides the nation, and America descends into civil war.
Events set in motion by a genius hacker named Fawkes, after he has unleashed a super-virus, have triggered the chaos. Once again, a team of FBI and CIA agents find themselves pitted against the forces of evil, including many within their own government. This story, book four of the Intel 1 series, follows on from The Anonymous Signal, in which an FBI cyber crimes unit went off-reservation with their crime-fighting methodology, and the chief and members of his team were forced to defend themselves and their actions in a military-style trial. However, this novel does function as a standalone, and can be successfully read as such.
Feds John Savas and Rebecca Cohen have to prove themselves worthy of their earlier exoneration, as they attempt to aid the ailing president. Meanwhile, a crack team, including super cybersecurity girl Angel Lightfoote, work on deciphering a secret code which obscures the unpublished work of brilliant mathematician John Nash. Once cracked, it promises to defeat a hidden enemy and restore peace and harmony to the nation. As if this weren’t enough, both groups must battle a divisive contingent of the military, pledging allegiance to this opposing set of puppet-masters, with sophisticated modern weaponry and advanced computational power at their disposal.
The author continues to develop his original creations, an interesting and quirky cast of non-stereotypical misfits, but, in places, paints quite a broad sweep when it comes to character perspective. Though successful in initial chapters when were inside Sava’s and York’s heads, the storytelling becomes less focalized as we switch between the two interwoven plotlines to spend time with the secondary group. It feels like if the reader were to be privy to the interior monologues of all of the characters and their motivations, a much stronger connection could be made, along with a sense of the cast having been more fully-developed. In this instance, I believe this series could be propelled into a league alongside tech thrillers written by masters such as Barry Eisler.
The author’s jargon and technical know-how is believable, as is the convincing fight choreography. All of this, along with the complex and intelligent plotting, makes for an extremely satisfying and page-turning read, and the incorporation of several hot politic topics and fascinating conspiracy theories about elite shadowy governments make it all the more compelling. Erec Stebbins is definitely one to watch, a good writer who just gets better and better.
Veil of Deception
You save an influential politician seeking a run for the presidency from Russian assassins and ultimately find out he is your father and then the love of your life disappears. You would think that is enough excitement and drama to last a lifetime. That is not the case for Jason Conrad. In Veil of Deception, bad luck, lies, and corruption seem to follow him wherever he goes. When a routine practice flight goes horribly wrong and he and a trainer pilot have to eject as their plane crashes, he figures his career is all but done. Especially since television reporter Dane Robinson is quick to jump on the story, set on killing Conrads career. However, instead of a reprimand and dismissal from duty, he is called to Edwards Air Force Base to help test a simulator that will ultimately help with the creation of a new age fighter jet referred to as the F2000 that is being created by a private Chinese run company, TRENCOR, and the Department of Defense (DOD). Uprooted from Oklahoma and set to be moved to California in less than two weeks he receives an unexpected visit before he leaves from old flame, Kathy Delgato, who mysteriously walked out of his life all those years ago. Her arrival is strange and sends off signals but he takes her back. As he settles into his new surroundings he is met with more questions than answers about the people he meets, why he is there and what exactly is going on with this top secret project. A chance run in with investigative reporter, Sherri Davis, who has her own information and theories convinces Conrad that all is not what it seems. As all the pieces begin to come together and information comes to light about money, people, companies and agendas involved in this F2000 project Conrad and Davis end up joining forces to stop a possible disaster. However, at the end of the day, with so many dirty hands in the pot, who survives the fallout?
Michael Byars Lewis created a fast paced military thriller with twists and turns that will hook a variety of readers. His use of military acronyms, brings a sense of real life to this fictional joy ride that flies full throttle until the very end. The characters are well developed and while there are a lot to keep track of, their importance is made apparent and adds to the storys overall impact. A fly by the seat of your pants page turner and not to be missed.
On vacation in Germany, a middle-aged husband and wife hike to a medieval tower. Knowing the tower makes the husband uncomfortable, the wife sends him down the trail and enters the tower alone, waving to him from an upstairs wooden landing. Later, the husband returns, but cannot find his wife. Entering the dark tower, he becomes ill, blacks out, and awakens outside. Still unclear what has happened to his wife, the man returns to his hotel, cleans up a few details without speaking to the authorities, and begins his return trip home to the States as if nothing has happened. Some time later, the womans body is discovered in the tower without identification, and a local, small-town detectives caseload becomes a good deal more complex.
Did the husband kill his wife? Was she killed by an old boyfriend? Did she commit suicide, or did she simply have the bad luck of falling?
Clearly, Katya is a labor of love for husband-and-wife writing team Jon Martell and Jamie McCormick, and the result is a pleasure for those who love a good mystery. The strength of this novel, which spans two continents and several decades, is the depth of thought given to each main characters possible, but no way predictable, back story and the care taken in revealing those stories in the plot. Intrigued from the first few pages, the reader feels the delicious compulsion to keep reading to finally discover how all of these lives interweave to create this unique novel. In the end, the authors tantalize the reader further. Rather than providing clear answers, they leave the reader puzzling. A tribute to their skill, this lack of complete clarity proves a completely refreshing and satisfying result. Katya was four years in the making, and those were four years well spent.