THE ALMOST SISTERS by Joshilyn Jackson

August 10, 2017

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If you are not familiar with Joshilyn Jackson, you should be. She writes Southern stories with a touch of mystery and memorable characters, and this book is terrific.

Leia Birch Briggs is an author – she wrote a graphic novel that was a mega success and went on to write for many of the superhero series. At comic book conventions, she is a superhero herself, but her family doesn’t get it, they think she is barely scraping by with her doodles.

At one such convention, Leia has a bit too much tequila and goes back to the hotel with Batman – a black, good looking Batman. A few months later she finds out she is pregnant, and she doesn’t even know the father’s name.

Before she can tell her family or do anything about it, she receives word that her grandmother, who she is very close to, has apparently lost her mind. She immediately heads down south, with her niece in tow. Her almost perfect stepsister is in the middle of a knock down, drag out fight with her husband, and needs some time alone.

Turns out grandma Birchie, as she is best known, does have an illness but her closest friend, daughter of the black maid that raised her, has been taking care of her. The two of them are over 90 years old, so it is a bit of the blind leading the blind, but they have been managing, until now.

When the two old ladies talk their neighbor into moving a trunk out of the attic and into Leia’s car and they try to steal said car before crashing it, all hell breaks loose. There is a skeleton in the trunk, and the cops are investigating.

This is a story about racism and family and love and Dixie. The characters are all well developed, interesting and real and I was so sorry this story had to end. It is at times, laugh out loud funny and often touching. The process of creating a graphic novel is fascinating, too, adding another dimension to this story. That aspect put me in mind of Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, but that was a book for young adults, and this book ultimately has more depth. If you are new to this author, try it, and if you are a fan, you will love it.

8/17 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

THE ALMOST SISTERS by Joshilyn Jackson . William Morrow; First Edition edition (July 11, 2017).  ISBN 978-0062105714.  352p.




September 27, 2016
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Detective Billy Able series, Book 3

Memphis police detective Billy Able lands a murder case with his new partner, the ambitious Frankie Malone. The victim, Caroline Lee, found dead wearing her wedding gown in her car in a cow pasture, is Billy’s old high school girlfriend. It’s been years since they’ve been in touch, so it seems there’s no conflict.

The Lee family is Memphis royalty; the mother runs the family law firm where Caroline worked, and they own other businesses in town. The person who found her body, a recently released felon, is a suspect, but there are others, most notably her ex-fiancé. Lee broke off her engagement to the arrogant Indian doctor, who feels humiliated and has been stalking her.

The Lee family has skeletons in the closet, and the investigation deepens into the family history, which causes Billy to examine his own. Frankie proves to be a good partner, as much a workaholic as Billy, and together they chase down every possible lead until the surprising conclusion.

A good Southern police procedural and should appeal to Caroline Haine or Margaret Maron readers.
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9/16 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

DEVIL SENT THE RAIN by Lisa Turner. William Morrow Paperbacks (September 27, 2016).  ISBN 978-0062136213. 352p.


DARK HORSE by Rory Flynn

June 30, 2016
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Eddy Harkness Novels (Book 2)

They call it Dark Horse and it’s a bit of an anomaly in the drug market: an almost pure heroin sold and darkened as though it’s not. And it’s deadly, resulting in death by overdose all over Boston. Eddy Harkness and his fellow Narco-Intel team members have had their eye on it for some time, but when a hurricane rips through the city a discovery of a large cache of the drug offers their first possible break in the case.

But while Dark Horse and Boston’s drugs are supposed to be the focus of their efforts, Eddy soon realizes there’s something larger going on in Boston’s neighborhoods – the Lower South End in particular. And when citizens of the neighborhood begin taking up questionably legal residence in Eddy’s old hometown, it’s inevitable that he’ll get involved.

I would love for more people to discover this fantastic series. Harkness is a man with a troubled past, much of which is covered in Dark Horse’s predecessor, Third Rail.

In this second of the series, Eddy has put much of that trouble behind him, regaining his place as head of Narco-Intel. He’s also in a much healthier relationship than his last and considering making it permanent.

A literal (and figurative) storm is brewing in Boston when the book begins, and Eddy finds himself caught in the very center. His actions have him branded a hero but it’s clear he may soon make some very powerful enemies.

This is a perfect follow up to Third Rail, another smart installment in what is a real standout series.

(I’d suggest reading them in order as there are some callbacks to Third Rail throughout Dark Horse.)

6/16 Becky LeJeune

DARK HORSE by Rory Flynn. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; 1 edition (June 7, 2016).  ISBN: 978-0544253247. 240p.


HEX by Thomas Olde Heuvelt

June 22, 2016
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For three hundred years, the town of Black Spring has lived under the dark cloud of a curse. And that curse is named Katherine van Wyler, or The Black Rock Witch. Katherine, a Dutch colonist who lived in the village when it was called New Beeck, was convicted of witchcraft and sentenced to death after villagers claimed she raised her son from the dead. Since then, she’s wandered the town leaving fear and death in her wake.

Today, the townspeople of Black Spring have adapted, they even have a special office tasked with managing the witch and use an app to track her movements. Their goal is to keep Katherine contained and never to allow outsiders to discover her existence. In fact, Black Spring residents have to follow a strict set of rules meant to keep their secret from ever making its way across the town line. This is in part protection and preservation: no one knows what Katherine will do if her precarious peace is disturbed.

But Black Spring has grown lax. When a group of teens tired of the restrictions and rules begins to test Katherine, it sets off a chain reaction that could unleash an evil that will devastate Black Spring.

From the start, Thomas Olde Heuvelt carefully and quietly builds an atmosphere of utter and complete dread. When we meet Black Spring, they’ve grown a bit ambivalent and have started to take Katherine for granted. Some folks fear her, sure, but others mock the witch and flaunt the town’s centuries-old laws concerning her. This is due in part to the fact that no one has really witnessed Katherine’s powers for quite some time: the last real incident was back in the 60s, after all, and though everyone knows of the deaths that occurred then many of them have brushed it off.

It’s clear from the start of Hex that something bad is coming and that tension and suspense escalates fabulously throughout the book, bringing it to an eventual frenzied climax of some of the most awesome horrific imagery ever.

Thomas Olde Heuvelt’s US debut is exactly the kind of book any horror fan will delight in reading and I absolutely can’t wait to see more from this Dutch author.

6/16 Becky LeJeune

HEX by Thomas Olde Heuvelt. Tor Books (April 26, 2016).  ISBN: 978-0765378804. 384p.


THE ART OF MURDER by Elaine Viets

June 4, 2016
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Dead-End Job Mystery (Book 14)

The Bonnet House is a lovely old house that has been turned into a museum and gardens. This Fort Lauderdale landmark  is where Viets has set her latest Dead End Job mystery.

I was aware of the hot Miami art scene, but did not know that Fort Lauderdale also has its share of artists and galleries. In this book, a young woman is taking an art class at the Bonnet House, and collapses in the parking lot surrounded by witnesses. She is dead by nicotine poison – Viets is nothing if not cutting edge here – vape liquid is the murder weapon. There are plenty of suspects and a friend of the victim hires Helen Hawthorne to find the killer. Well, she really wants Helen to prove that the victim’s ex-husband is the murderer, but Helen is keeping an open mind, especially after she finds out the current husband has taken out a large life insurance policy on his wife.

Meanwhile, a small enclave of expensive condos known as “Little New York” is having a raft of burglaries of gold coins. When an elderly man is killed during a robbery, the security team steps up and hires Coronado Investigations to find the robber.

There are lots of red herrings and a lot of fun along the way to Helen and her hot hubby solving these mysteries. Another terrific read from one of my favorite authors.

6/16 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

THE ART OF MURDER by Elaine Viets. NAL Hardcover (May 6, 2014). ISBN 978-0451476135. 304p.

PAST CRIMES by Glen Erik Hamilton

May 15, 2016
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Book 1 in the Van Shaw Series

“Come home, if you can.”

Van Shaw might have chosen to ignore his grandfather if Dono hadn’t added the latter part of the request. And if he wasn’t already laid up recuperating from a recent surgery. The request is an odd one considering the two men haven’t spoken in a decade, but the fact that Dono reached out to begin with leads Van to believe it must be serious.

Unfortunately, Van arrives in town and at his grandfather’s house just moments after the old man has been shot and left for dead. Before he can even connect with 911, the police have arrived and it’s only a neighbor’s confirmation that Van appeared after the shots were fired that saves him from becoming a suspect. Dono has always been into shady business but nothing that would have him gunned down in his own home. And with his grandfather laid up in a coma, it’s up to Van to find out exactly who has it in for the old criminal.

Glen Erik Hamilton’s debut is the start of a brand new series featuring a kick ass hero.

Van Shaw is an ex criminal himself, trained at his grandfather’s knee from a very early age. But Van left that life way behind him the day he joined the military. His leaving was prompted by circumstances that also caused the two men to break any and all contact, circumstances the author lays out through a series of flashbacks outlining Van’s life with Dono.

Van dons the hat of amateur investigator, using the skills and connections Dono himself passed on, at the risk of angering the local authorities but (of course) turns out to be much better equipped for breaking Dono’s case than anyone else. It makes for fabulous reading and is sure to be a hit for readers looking for another Reacher-esque hero/antihero to follow.

5/16 Becky LeJeune

PAST CRIMES by Glen Erik Hamilton. William Morrow; Reprint edition (February 23, 2016).  ISBN: 978-0062344564. 448p.


MWA Announces 2016 Edgar Award Winners

April 29, 2016
Edgar Statues

April 28, 2016, New York, NY:  Mystery Writers of America is proud to announce the winners of the 2016 Edgar Allan Poe Awards, honoring the best in mystery fiction, non-fiction and television published or produced in 2015. The Edgar® Awards were presented to the winners at our 70th Gala Banquet, April 28, 2016 at the Grand Hyatt Hotel, New York City.



Let Me Die in His Footsteps by Lori Roy (Penguin Random House – Dutton)


The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen (Grove Atlantic – Grove Press)


The Long and Faraway Gone by Lou Berney (HarperCollins Publishers – William Morrow)


Whipping Boy: The Forty-Year Search for My Twelve-Year-Old Bully by Allen Kurzweil (HarperCollins Publishers – Harper)


The Golden Age of Murder by Martin Edwards (HarperCollins Publishers – HarperCollins)


“Obits” – Bazaar of Bad Dreams by Stephen King (Simon & Schuster – Scribner)


Footer Davis Probably is Crazy by Susan Vaught (Simon & Schuster – Paula Wiseman Books)


A Madness So Discreet by Mindy McGinnis (HarperCollins Publishers – Katherine Tegen Books)


“Gently with the Women” – George Gently, Teleplay by Peter Flannery (Acorn TV)


“Chung Ling Soo’s Greatest Trick” – Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine by Russell W. Johnson (Dell Magazines)


Walter Mosley


Margaret Kinsman
Sisters in Crime


Janet Rudolph, Founder of Mystery Readers International


Little Pretty Things by Lori Rader-Day (Prometheus Books – Seventh Street Books)


April 16, 2016
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A Blake and Avery Novel (Book 1)

It’s 1837 and the East India Company reigns almost supreme in India. William Avery was drawn to the country thanks to the work of his favorite writer, Xavier Mountstuart. But the India Avery discovers after joining the Company isn’t quite what Mountstuart’s adventures led him to expect. Then Mountstuart himself goes missing and Avery is tapped to be part of the mission to find him. It’s not an assignment Avery relishes in spite of the fact that it revolves around his personal hero. First off it means leaving the relative comfort of Calcutta. And second, his superior in the assignment is a man whose distaste for Avery rivals the soldier’s own feelings. Jeremiah Blake is, in Avery’s eyes, a man on the brink of madness. He’s unkempt to the point of resembling the natives more so than the company man he’s said to be and his methods are beyond questionable.

Mountstuart was last said to have been seen in Jubbulpore, home of the famed Thuggee Department, where Mountstuart was rumored to have been studying the fearsome Thuggee culture for the purpose of his next piece. But months have passed with no sign of Mountstuart and, in light of his more scandalous recent release, the Company has reason to want him found and ejected from the country quickly.

This first in the Avery and Blake series is equal parts mystery and adventure, but in addition to that, there’s history too. Through Avery and Blake, Carter offers readers two different perspectives of colonialism and India.

Blake is one of the old guard, somewhat encouraged to learn the language and cultures of the region the Company was commandeering. As such, he sympathizes with the natives and has understandably come to reconsider the Company’s position in the country.

Avery on the other hand has very little interest in Indian culture or the natives. In fact, when faced with leaving Calcutta and its overwhelmingly English atmosphere, he immediately tries to turn down the assignment. Fortunately Avery is still able to be molded and influenced, but only if he can set aside his prejudices long enough for Blake to reach him.

The mystery of Mountstuart’s fate and the threat of the Thuggee draw the reader in, propelling the story and giving it a fantastic suspense element perfect for any mystery/thriller fan. Even more appealing is the fact that Carter does this all the while staying true to the history of the region itself. Cameo appearances by actual historic figures help lend an air of authenticity to the tale, making it that much more entertaining.

The Strangler Vine is a fantastic series opener and has even been nominated for the Edgar Award for First Novel this year. The second title in the series, The Infidel Strain, is out now.

4/16 Becky LeJeune

THE STRANGLER VINE by M. J. Carter. G.P. Putnam’s Sons (February 23, 2016).  ISBN: 978-0425280744 400p.


BYE BYE BONES by Lala Corriere

April 11, 2016
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A Cassidy Clark Novel, Book 1

Jaxon Giles’ beloved dog is dead. He can’t prove it, but he knows who killed Gecko. His stalking ex-wife wants to take away anything and anyone he loves. 

Private investigator Cassidy Clark agrees to run surveillance, while in the midst of helping the city of Tucson. Women are disappearing. Gone. Were they murdered? Kidnapped and being held captive? A cult that enticed them to leave all belongings behind? 

Without bodies and any crime scenes, there is no DNA. No evidence. No trace.

My first read of a Corriere book, but certainly not the last. Potty mouth PI Cassidy Clark is at the center of this novel, but leaves room for other characters as well – the Tucson Chief of Police, the perp, and the victims. Not your usual fem-jep scenario which I liked.

A recommended read.

4/16 Jack Quick

BYE BYE BONES by Lala Corriere. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform; one edition (October 20, 2015).  ISBN: 978-1518705946. 308p.



THE POISON ARTIST by Jonathan Moore

April 10, 2016
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Dr. Caleb Maddox is one of the top toxicologists in the field. His research into the chemical analysis of pain is highly admired and heavily funded, which means his own lab is better equipped than most. And so when his friend Henry Newcomb, San Francisco’s medical examiner, asks for help on a case, Caleb doesn’t turn him down. Henry fears there may be a serial killer in their midst, but one whose methods are so obscure that even the police haven’t caught the connection. What’s worse, Henry suspects his own lab could have made the link but for faulty equipment or possible oversight on the part of his own employees. Sure enough, Caleb does find a connection in the cases that indicates undeniably foul play. And Caleb himself is considered a witness in one of the murders.

Caleb doesn’t know anything about the victim in question except that they spent the same evening at a local bar one weekend night. But Caleb only had eyes for one particular patron that evening – the mysterious woman who ordered absinthe. And it’s this woman he’s determined to keep all to himself, obsessed with tracking her down and keeping her out of the attention of the police.

From the start, I had no real idea where this story was taking me but I knew I was in it for the long haul. First, there’s the murder mystery: the idea that someone is killing men in and around San Francisco for so long with just one person making the connection was definitely intriguing. Maddox’s research and eventual discovery about the connection between the cases leads to a secret investigation that hinges completely on Maddox staying uninvolved as far as the police are concerned. Which creates something of a secondary mystery – what exactly is in Maddox’s past and why is he so determined not to have to be a witness should a case go to court?

And then there’s Maddox’s obsession with the absinthe woman. At first, this element was a bit jarring. It felt like two different stories at times – Maddox’s hunt for his mystery woman and the hunt for San Francisco’s twisted serial killer. But as Maddox chases this strange woman down a rabbit hole of modern speakeasies and cocktails, his story becomes more and more entwined with that of the city’s murders.

The Poison Artist is a brilliantly plotted psychological thriller, the kind that definitely stays with you well beyond the final page.

4/16 Becky LeJeune

THE POISON ARTIST by Jonathan Moore. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; 1 edition (January 26, 2016). ISBN-13: 978-0544520561. 288p.