A DISAPPEARANCE, A SERIES OF ARSON FIRES, & SUSPENSE — A REVIEW

San Francisco Police Detective Lindsay Boxer and her Women’s Murder Club friends are back with another mystery that had this reader staying up late and rapidly turning pages.

It all begins with the mysterious disappearance of the ex-governor’s teenage son, and then spins off into a series of mysterious arson fires of luxurious Bay Area homes, leaving the owners dead. Evidence seemingly leads nowhere.

Meanwhile, lurking in the background, two young men who call themselves Hawk and Pidge are orchestrating devastation everywhere they go.

But who are these young men? What, if anything, do they have to do with these events? Are they also connected to the disappearance of young Michael Campion? And what does Junie Moon have to do with any of it?

Just when I thought I’d seen enough to reach some conclusions, the writers threw a curve ball at the end.

I’m a big fan of Lindsay Boxer and her gal pals. In 7th Heaven (The Women’s Murder Club), we also meet her partner Rich Conklin and her boyfriend Joe. There could be some future twists and turns. I can’t wait for the next book. Four stars.

AN INTRIGUING MIX OF SHOE OBSESSION, MYSTERY, & QUIRKY CHARACTERS — A REVIEW

Emily Levine loves shoes. You could almost say she is obsessed with them. So opening a unique shoe store in New York’s West Side could be a satisfactory way to enjoy her love of shoes.

Her marriage to attorney Larry Levine is not technically over, but they’ve been separated since she found him in bed with another woman. So opening the shop is a way to carve out an independent life separate from her husband.

Colorful characters arrive at Emily’s Place to enjoy the special discounts of “Pre-Owned Shoes.” Other unique characters include one of the employees, Merissa, and her niece Fifi.

Author Roz Siegel delivers a fast-paced mystery involving shoes, strange foot fetish snippets at the beginning of each chapter, and a sardonic sense of humor that makes Emily a fascinating first-person narrator for this story.

When women close to Emily start showing up murdered by “shoe,” she has a vested interest in helping Detective Murphy to solve the case. But who is targeting Emily and those close to her, and why? As she and Murphy follow one false lead after another, it almost seems as though the case will turn cold before they find the answers. And what if they don’t find the murderer before he skewers Emily herself with a designer shoe?

Goodie One Shoes had enough quirky twists to keep me turning those pages, and I definitely couldn’t put this one down. I’ve given this story five stars for plot twists, colorful characters, and a fresh and enjoyable narrator’s voice.

TWISTS & TURNS IN AN INTRIGUING JOURNEY — A REVIEW

One summer day, two eleven-year-old girls are “kicked out” of a pool party because of something one of them did. “Good girl” Alice Manning and “bad girl” Ronnie Fuller start off for home, but along the way, they see an unattended baby carriage. Somehow they end up taking the carriage, to “save” the child, but something goes horribly wrong. A few days later, the baby is found dead. Both girls, as juveniles, are given seven years in detention facilities. Upon their eighteenth birthdays, they are released back into the very suspicious environment of their home town.

Suddenly babies start disappearing, and then reappearing mysteriously a few hours later, until one disappears and doesn’t reappear. When the mother of the dead baby begins calling, using her influence to spur the detectives on, the police turn their sights upon the eighteen-year-olds.

What follows is an intriguing journey into the characters’ worlds, from the detectives working the case, like Nancy Porter, to the attorney who once represented Alice, Sharon Kerpelman. Then we peek behind the façade that is Helen Manning, Alice’s mother, discovering her somewhat distorted and fascinating view of the world. Getting to know Ronnie and Alice is another trail of discovery, since each of them is “well-defended” and full of admonitions about what they should and shouldn’t do or say upon their release.

Hovering over the pages of Every Secret Thing is the possibility of finally learning what really happened seven years ago: which of the two girls actually committed the crime and which one was duped. Or was it more complicated than that? Then there is the inevitable question of what, if anything, do the girls have to do with the missing child? And why?

I literally read continually, and even late into the night, until I finally had the answers. There were unexpected twists and turns, and then, seemingly out of nowhere, those a-ha moments came. I loved this book and can’t wait to read more from this author. Five stars.

WHAT YOU SEE ISN’T ALWAYS WHAT YOU GET — A REVIEW

Tess Monaghan, a Baltimore private investigator, has been relegated, in the third trimester of her pregnancy, to bed rest in her sunroom. She has an active imagination, and has always been a fan of the movie “Rear Window,” so when she notices the routine of a young woman in a green raincoat, she is fascinated. The woman is walking her dog, who wears a matching coat. Everyday, she sees them walking alongside the park.

But then one day, the woman has seemingly disappeared, leaving behind a frantic dog. In her quest to discover what has happened, Tess makes phone calls, and then, when the police seem unfazed by her report, she turns to her laptop to search through the records. She discovers that the woman is Carole Massinger, who was married to Don Epstein, and that this wealthy man has lost previous spouses and a girlfriend to mysterious deaths.

Is Carole dead or is she missing? And is her disappearance connected to the deaths of the other Epstein spouses?

Tess enlists the assistance of best friend Whitney, along with colleague Mrs. Blossom. Then she discovers other intriguing facts about the deceased wives…they were all fairly isolated, and nobody seems to really “miss” them or push for answers to the seemingly obvious questions. A few other facts she uncovers seem suspicious and worrisome.

But what Tess learns next will completely throw her theories out that rear window. Will her discoveries lead to her unfortunate demise? What, if anything, can she do to save herself and her unborn daughter?

A compelling mystery with humor and colorful characters that the reader will want to connect with over and over, The Girl in the Green Raincoat: A Tess Monaghan Novel, was definitely a five star read for me. It was a quick read with great descriptions and dialogue. I would like to follow Tess in more of her adventures.

IN PURSUIT OF A MADMAN — A REVIEW

In 1920s Munich, Faye Kellerman’s backdrop for this murder mystery is a war-torn city steeped in political unrest. As a barbaric butcher stalks the city, hate-mongers abound, ready to point fingers at any suspect in order to solve the crime and settle the unrest.

But Axel Berg is persistent in attempting to solve the crimes, and not just to close his case; he relentlessly pursues this goal, despite the obstacles he encounters along the way. Beautiful women are murdered and dumped in close proximity to one another, artfully arranged, suggesting psychological issues of childhood trauma. The closer Berg comes to identifying a possible suspect, another one crops up. As he draws closer to finding the ties that link the suspects to one another, he sets himself up as a target for the madman.

Kellerman’s clues kept me guessing all the way through, and I enjoyed the way she sprinkled them on the pathway to finding out the madman’s identity at the very end.

The beginning was a bit slow and I didn’t completely connect to the story for awhile, but once I did, I couldn’t put Straight into Darkness down. Kellerman’s skill swept me along to a startling finish. Four stars.

CONVOLUTED PATHWAY ENMESHED IN SECRETS & LIES — A REVIEW

Set against the backdrop of the London art scene, The Dead Lie Down: A Novel, by Sophie Hannah, almost immediately grips the reader with a spellbinding mystery enmeshed in a web of secrets, lies, and twisted motivations.

It all begins when an art framer named Aidan Seed confesses to his girlfriend Ruth Bussey that he killed a woman several years ago. A woman named Mary Trelease. The only problem with his story, other than the fact of the murder itself, is that Ruth knows a Mary Trelease—an artist she met a few months ago—and she is very much alive.

Enter Sergeant Charlene “Charlie” Zailer and DC Simon Waterhouse, a very quirky couple who also happen to have their own issues and secrets and the stage is set for a very absorbing tale indeed.

Suffice it to say that the meandering pathways that finally lead to the resolution of this case will be confusing at best and convoluted at worst. Add to the mix a couple of superior officers who are seemingly determined to thwart Zailer and Waterhouse at every turn, and you have a case that almost doesn’t seem solvable.

Having read other books by this author, I was prepared for the inevitable thrill ride, and I wasn’t disappointed. The characters, from Zailer, Waterhouse, and their crew to the artists were all wonderfully fleshed out with flaws and quirks that set them apart and made them memorable. Then the plot was so twisted at times that I couldn’t even begin to figure it out until the final moments.

The unexpected turn of events had me reeling for a bit, which added to my enjoyment and led me to award this story five stars.

A WINDING TRAIL OF CLUES….

In Sara Paretsky’s newest novel, she brings her private eye V. I. Warshawski back to her readers in an edgy mystery that seemingly centers around a Body Artist performing at a Chicago club called Club Goudge.

The artist is a mysterious woman whose true identity seems unknown; her body serves as a canvas on which others convey their own artistic renderings, including one that is made up of numbers only. One such artist is a young woman, Nadia, who is gunned down outside the club one night when V. I. is there. Chad Vishneski, a young vet is later arrested for the crime, primarily because of some angry outbursts he had directed at the artist. When his parents hire V. I. to find out what really happened that night, our detective pulls out all the stops.

Her investigation leads her on many winding trails, from Chicago’s South Side to Iraq and back again. In the process, she is stalked, beaten up, and others who happen to get caught up in the fray are also targeted.

What strange messages are being conveyed via the Body Artist, and what connection do they have to the events in Iraq? What really happened to Nadia Gauman, and to her sister Alexandra, who died in Iraq under mysterious circumstances? And why do all connections seem to begin and end with the strange Body Artist, Karen Buckley, whose name is really an alias? What are her secrets, and how does her mysterious disappearance tie in to all the events that keep happening?

As usual, the characters were richly detailed and believable, with all the quirks and flaws of real people. I love the way we can visualize the lives of the characters through the detailed context built around them. I’ve always admired the character V. I., because even when she might be afraid or worried, she pushes forward and doesn’t let anything or anyone stop her. She is fiercely loyal to her family and friends. Another character I love is her downstairs neighbor, Mr. Contreras, who is like a father figure. He tries to look out for V. I., despite her attempts to manage without his assistance.

Body Work (V.I. Warshawski Novel) earned five stars from me. I can’t wait for the next mystery for V. I. Warshawski to solve!

DECONSTRUCTING A LIFE

Susie and Jonah Gersten have the perfect life…and perfect marriage. He is a renowned plastic surgeon and she is a floral designer and mother to their four-year-old triplets. They live in a gorgeous home in Shorehaven, Long Island.

At least that’s how Susie sees her world. But then one day, Jonah doesn’t come home from work. And after several days, during which police detectives and private investigators are consulted, the police arrive at her door to announce that her husband Jonah is dead. Murdered. In the East Side apartment of one Dorinda Dillon, a call girl.

Absorbing the shock and horror, Susie is numb. But then, after the initial few hours and days, she has questions. And not just about the fact that her husband was in a call girl’s apartment, or that he was murdered—but about her life and what she believed to be true about it. So Susie begins asking her own questions, much to the chagrin of her “proper” in-laws; she even enlists the help of her grandmother Ethel–who has been estranged from the family for years—and together they form a team of proactive investigators. For Susie is not at all sure of the facts, as the police lay them out, nor is she as convinced as they are that Dorinda, whom they arrested, is the perpetrator.

As Husbands Go: A Novel, by Susan Isaacs, is one of those perfect mixes of comedy, mystery, and thought-provoking social satire that kept me reading and reading. I loved the characters, finely drawn and true-to-life, especially Susie and Ethel. I didn’t care for Babs and Clive, the in-laws, but that was a natural reaction. This story was told in the first person narrative by Susie, so everything was viewed through her perspective.

Throughout this tale, I kept trying to piece the puzzle together, and I must admit that, in the end, I was quite surprised. But then again, the clues were there.

As much as I enjoyed this story, I didn’t find it nearly as compelling as some of this author’s other works, which is why I’m giving it four stars. But it is definitely a book I’d recommend for anyone who loves to laugh and try to figure out a mystery at the same time.

DELICIOUS AND ADVENTUROUS ROMP

In this fifteenth Stephanie Plum adventure, we follow her in her job for a bail bondsman, but typically, her adventures carry her off onto divergent pathways as she inadvertently gets mixed up in a murder case. A gruesome decapitation, no less! And one of her coworkers is a witness, which also puts her at risk.

Stephanie also is trying to figure out who is breaking into the homes with Rangeman security systems—a part time gig that lands her in another batch of trouble—while trying to escape the various fire bombs that always seem to be going off around her. Not to mention the paint bombs.

Yes, just as in previous books, Stephanie Plum seems to be a disaster waiting to happen everywhere she goes.

I love the way this character is so down-to-earth and real, almost as if she’s part of our neighborhood or our family. She is a flawed, yet courageous soul who loves her life, even when it’s falling down around her.

Finger Lickin’ Fifteen (Stephanie Plum Novels) is my second book by this author, and hence satisfies one of my reading challenge tasks. But I’m not stopping with this one…I want to go back to the beginning of this series and read them all…which is why I’m awarding five stars to this book.

REBUILDING A DREAM

A young woman, Cilla McGowan, former child actress, whose mother is a star and whose grandmother was a legendary star, returns to her deceased grandmother’s farmhouse in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia—dubbed Little Farm by its original owner. She has big plans. Not only will she be renovating the home, restoring it to its former glory, but she will bring her own special vision to this house that will, finally, be home for her.

After her child star days, Cilla found her own niche rehabbing and flipping houses. Her renovations of Little Farm will be the first time she’ll be keeping what she renovates.

But she has barely launched her project when several unexpected things happen. First, she meets her drop-dead-gorgeous neighbor, Ford Sawyer, who writes and illustrates his own graphic novels. Then she discovers a box of secret unsigned letters to her grandmother, Janet Hardy, from a married lover. Next, an unpleasant and frightening series of events, from vandalism to outright threats, begins to cast a troubling pall over her dreams and her vision.

As we follow Cilla’s progress in her rehab, we begin to search for clues as to who is frightening Cilla. When one of the enemies is identified and taken into custody, the frightening events continue, suggesting an additional perpetrator. As Ford and Cilla search for answers, the reader begins to piece together a few tidbits that just might lead to the identity of the vengeful one.

What is the significance of a lipstick pink couch with white satin pillows? And what unlikely person, close to Cilla and Ford, could have the most to gain by attacking her?

Tribute is a wonderful blend of romance, family legends, mystery, and lots of house rehabbing details. I loved this book and would like to read a sequel. Five stars at least!