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
The Odd Fellows Society
The Odd Fellows Society is one book not to be missed. When left an urgent message by his friend and colleague, Jasper, Father Santiago Torres agrees to meet him, but is left stood up by his friend and the new owner of a chicken bestowed upon him by an insistent Chinese woman. It is only later that Santiago learns that his friend did not stand him up, but that Jasper has died of an apparent suicide. Grief-stricken by the death of his friend, Santiago feels that it was not a suicide that killed Jasper and that there is more to his death than meets the eye. When he begins receiving cryptic messages from The Odd Fellows Society, he is led on a scavenger hunt that takes him through the monuments and mysteries of Washington, DC. Santiago believes these clues are being sent to him so that he can find the final copy of Jaspers thesis that apparently holds valuable information. With the help of his friend Abigail, Santiago follows the clues given to him by The Odd Fellows Society and uncovers information that goes back centuries. He also uncovers another secret society, called the Stewards, that may or may not still exist. The more he learns on his hunt helps him on his quest, but also begins to put himself and those closest to him in danger. Reluctant to accept help or heed the warnings of many, including his brother Nico, who is in the FBI, Santiago continues to follow the messages from The Odd Fellows Society. Relentless in his search, even as his job and life are on the line, Santiago knows that he must solve the clues for his friend and the greater good. Whether he will be able to do this and end up alive is uncertain at every turn.
C.G. Barrett has created an amazing book that combines so many genres it should have one of its own. The Odd Fellows Society is a mystery, a thriller, a romance, a treasure hunt, an adventure, historical fiction, and full of suspense at every turn. Barretts ability to combine all of these genres creates a book that truly keeps you guessing until the very end. There are times that you think you have it figured out and then he throws a curve ball, leaving readers reeling as to what just happened. Not only is the storyline strong and consistent throughout the book, the characters are all very well thought-out and written. You can tell that each character has a purpose and, while you may not know what it is right away, you know you need to remember them.
This book was exciting and thoroughly enjoyable to read, and I highly recommend it to anyone who likes a book that keeps you engaged.
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.
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.
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 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.