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Mystery / Thriller

  • A Silver Medallion

    by James R. Callan

    Rating: 8.00

    A Silver Medallion, the second title in the Crystal Moore Suspense series, reads like a gold-medal thriller from page one, when Crystal Moore and her grandmother take in a young Hispanic woman who escaped from a drug-dealing, modern-day Texas slaveholder. Crystal emerges as a compelling heroine with a big heart and bold personality, and her fierce independence allows Callan the creative freedom to take his character into the heart of Mexico to rescue two young girls she’s never met. The novel’s primary shortcoming: Weak male characters that lack either brains or a backbone. 

  • The Lover's Portrait: An Art Mystery

    by Jennifer S. Alderson

    Rating: 8.00

    Alderson alternates between 1942 and 2015 in this gripping mystery that explores the provenance of artwork that was hidden from the Nazis during World War II and reappears in 2015. Intern Zelda Richardson’s work at an Amsterdam museum changes focus as she seeks to prove ownership of a painting stolen by the Nazis and uncovers a mystery. As the narrative unfolds and the truth is revealed, the suspense is intensely magnetic and the characters equally captivating. 

  • Society of the Morning Star

    by Christopher Irwin

    Rating: 8.00

    This novel has something for everyone: intrigue, art, sex, food, lush scenery, murder, and secretive people. Set in Venice, the story centers around Benetta Don, a rich Italian woman, an art collector, who takes in artistic roommates in her mansion, and Mark, an art restorer. Art forgery, immense parties, and mysticism are other important ingredients of the story. The author has painstakingly researched art forgery and ancient Christianity. The novel is well paced, but the ending is a bit muddy.


    by Jim Conover

    Rating: 8.00

    Conover’s novel is a masterfully created murder mystery set in the heart of Chicago that follows former detective turned private detective Deuce Ryker as he tries to uncover the culprit in a judge’s murder that he believes is connected to other killings. The pace continues unabated as the plot behind the murders is revealed to be a scheme with great complexity. Readers will enjoy following the adventures of Ryker whose sense of justice, while not always legal, represents his admirable desire to right a wrong.

  • Last Call Lounge

    by Stuart Spears

    Rating: 7.75

    Spears channels Raymond Chandler in his tale of a Houston bar owner in over his head. A hurricane is approaching Houston, and protagonist Little John gets unexpectedly caught up in the city's violent drug underworld. The engaging narrative and the moral ambiguity of Little John's inner life are buoyed by a cast of complex and often quirky characters. The quickfire prose, taut narrative, and convincing characters make this a winning read.

  • King Daniel

    by Susan Wolf Johnson

    Rating: 7.75

    This intriguing but slow moving novel centers on the disappearance of Daniel, the newly anointed ceremonial king of Gasparilla, a series of pirate-themed festivities similar to Mardi Gras but held in Tampa. The author does a great job with character development for Daniel’s family: his distraught and distracted wife, Natalie; his mentally-challenged daughter, Julia; and his pregnant, unwed granddaughter, Becca. The story unfolds very slowly, with a huge array of characters and a narrator who speaks directly to the reader rather than fading into the background. The mystery surrounding what happened to Daniel takes a back seat to the internal strife each of the characters battles.

  • Scarlet Crosses: The Truth Lies Within

    by J. Beckham Steele

    Rating: 7.75

    New Orleans defense attorney Megan Callahan enjoys the success of achieving an acquittal for a prominent client. But things soon take a dark turn when she is raped. Steele ratchets up the suspense considerably when Detective Harris seeks to find the culprit -- all while faced with protecting his grandson Kyle, who has been bullied at school. The intrigue continues unabated as the depths of the characters are reveled in this engaging read.

  • Borek's novel is a terrific historical mystery set in Philadelphia, the temporary capital city of the fledgling United States during the rumbustious post-Revolutionary War period. When a young girl dies mysteriously, Federalist Senator Jacob Martin, a decidedly reluctant detective, assisted by James Mathers, the Senate Doorman, investigates her possible murder. Vivid descriptions of Revolutionary-era manners and courtesies, food, drink, and newspapers, as well as true-to-life characters lend authenticity. The subversion of Founding Father hagiography is startling. If the mystery wraps up a little quickly and easily, with a thread or two still untied, it’s a minor flaw in an otherwise exhilarating read. A series worth extending.

  • Mustang Shuffle

    by Jeff Norburn

    Rating: 7.50

    There's a delightful sense of the perverse in this novel that wears the influence of Hiaasen and Leonard on its sleeves, to good advantage. Starting with a man being killed while playing a practical joke, the entire zany plot -- which involves stolen cars, multiple mistaken identities, and fast food -- probably doesn't hold up to close scrutiny, but really isn't meant to. It's a fun tale with some solid and memorably flawed characters.

  • Hoochy Koochy

    by Cliff Yeargin

    Rating: 7.50

    In Yeargin's novel, Jake Eliam, a baseball bat maker and sometime private investigator, is a little hung up on the past. While the book is well plotted, the missing music manuscript at the heart of the novel is a bit of a stretch. Many of the set-piece scenes are well done, and Jake's interactions with Catfish, his sometime employer and benefactor, have an especially easy rhythm. The climatic action seems more labored than the rest of the book, and Yeargin needs to commit to a little more energy to his depictions of violence, so the reader gets a better idea of the stakes. Jake Eliam has potential, and Yeargin has clearly set him up for a series.

  • A Girl Like You

    by Michelle Cox

    Rating: 7.50

    This pleasure-filled book, set in 1930s Chicago, convincingly transports the reader into its vision of the past. The author has created a cast of believable, idiosyncratic characters, a compelling love interest that doesn'st overrun the novel's action, and a who-dun-it that is satisfyingly clever, but not impossible to figure out before the conclusion. The prose is not flashy, but is fairly well-wrought throughout.

  • A Hint of Silver: A Gordan Hudde Novel

    by Mark Hudson

    Rating: 7.25

    The third book in the addictive Gordan Hudde series finds the title character — a former soldier and CIA man — settling into civilian life in rural Georgia. Following a series of child abductions, the local sheriff enlists Hudde’s help  in tracking down what turns out to be a multinational operation that steals kids for sex trafficking, body-parts trading and illegal adoptions. Graphic and violent, the gritty manuscript powers along relentlessly. Hudson conveniently drops characters from his narrative, and holes can be poked in the plot, but it’s hard not to root for a hero like Hudde.

  • Darkroom

    by Mary Maddox

    Rating: 7.25

    When her houseguest disappears, Kelly Durrell is determined to find the unreliable but talented photographer in this suspenseful mystery.  Kelly is a believable and sympathetic character and the supporting cast is equally strong. Detailed descriptions create a convincing setting and atmosphere. And while there are no huge surprises, the gradual revelation of the story is well-paced, engaging, and builds to a well-orchestrated climax. The open ending adds realism to an enjoyable page-turner.

  • Cuban Exile

    by Sandy Mason

    Rating: 7.25

    In the alcohol- and beautiful woman-fueled spirit reminiscent of Travis McGee, Florida sailor Johnny Donohue and his friend and ex-cop, Lonnie Turner, attempt to deliver a doctor to Key West. Although a slow starter, the novel boasts a skillful connection of past to present and vivid descriptions of life on and off a boat headed for danger. The characters are well crafted and once this voyage gets started, there's no stopping it -- or Johnny.

  • Reparation

    by Laine Cunningham

    Rating: 7.00

    Cunningham infuses convincing Native American atmosphere into this duel between malevolently inclined, returned-to-life shaman Gidgee Manitou and Aidan Little Boy. The fascinating presence of spiritual entities in everyday life enlivens the conflict, and historical and cultural asides flesh out the action. Aidan's commitment to genuine Native American culture provides a defining contrast to Manitou's self-consciously cynical manipulation of image and increasing quest for power. An interesting, captivating, and entertaining novel.

  • What Doesn't Kill You, the Mystery (Retitled)

    by Donna Huston Murray

    Rating: 7.00

    Murray's delightful Pennsylvania mystery pits tough but compassionate Lauren Beck, insurance investigator and ex-cop, against unknown adversaries following the death from cancer of her friend Corinne.  Beck's ability to cope with unexpected setbacks, including accusations of murder from Corinne's daughter, keeps the action interesting.  Murray's characterization and resourcefulness create a consistent persona that supports the central narrative role, and the supporting cast is interesting if sometimes sketchy.  The welter of convincing, well-phrased detail sustains atmosphere and keeps the plotting vigorous.  Readers are guaranteed a satisfactory experience.