crime

Blood-tied

Blood-tied
Categories: ,
Publisher:
Published: February 13, 2018
Author's Twitter: @wendy_percival
A desperate crime, kept secret for 60 years. But time has a way of exposing the truth. And the repercussions are only just beginning. Esme Quentin is devastated when her sister Elizabeth is beaten unconscious, miles from her home. Two days later Esme discovers that Elizabeth has a secret past. Desperate for answers which the comatose Elizabeth cannot give, Esme enlists the help of her friend Lucy to discover the truth, unaware of the dangerous path she is treading. Together they uncover a trail of unresolved bitterness, blackmail and dubious inheritance and, as the truth emerges, Esme exposes evidence of a harrowing and pitiful crime. Realising too late the menace she has unwittingly unleashed, Esme is caught up in a terrifying ordeal. One that will not only test her courage and her sanity, but force her to confront her perception of birth and family.

Reviewed by Awesome Indies

 

Wendy Percival’s Blood-Tied is a mystery centered on family origins. Esme Quintin rushes to the hospital where her sister, Elizabeth, lies in a coma after being attacked in a park. Witnesses had seen Elizabeth arguing with a man beforehand. The police return Elizabeth’s locket to Esme, and inside are photos of two strangers. Esme, a researcher with unquenchable curiosity, sets out to discover who they are and who put her sister in hospital. She soon learns that Elizabeth is her adopted sister and Elizabeth’s true origin might have everything to do with the attack.

Percival creates some distinctive characters. Esme intrigues me with her quiet determination and unexplained scar. Polly, an old woman whom Elizabeth had been helping, is altogether believable in her fright and anguish. The villain is a nasty piece of work; anyone involved in a disputed inheritance will recognize his type. Other characters could be more fully developed. Esme’s niece, Gemma, comes off as a sulky whiner whose behavior can be excused only because she’s under stress. The story requires that I care what happens to her, but I don’t.

The plot holds together well but occasionally seems contrived. At times Gemma’s opposition to her aunt appears to have no motive other than creating another complication. The police return Elizabeth’s locket and handbag to her sister, who was most likely attacked and now lies in a comma. Wouldn’t they keep the items as evidence and test them for fingerprints? No, because Esme must find the photos in the locket and the keys inside the bag.

Percival’s prose is economical and unpretentious, and she writes effective dialogue. I just wish she trusted her writing more. She inserts explanations as if afraid readers wouldn’t get the story otherwise. I cringe at statements like this: “For Esme it was the first step on what would prove to be a strange and bewildering journey.” Even though the story has only begun, Percival has done her work well enough that I already suspect that Esme will encounter things strange and bewildering. I don’t have to be told. When Esme goes to interview a witness, Percival writes: “He gave no indication as to whether her second visit in such a short time was an imposition. He received her well enough.” The preliminary summary undermines the drama of the scene that follows.

Quite a few mystery readers ought to enjoy Blood-Tied despite its flaws. The backstory of Elizabeth’s birth family is engrossing, and the story culminates in an exciting scene that won’t distress anyone with graphic violence.

And Justice for Some

And Justice for Some
Category:
Tag:
Publisher:
Published: September 16, 2014
Author's Twitter: @joannelessner
Actress Isobel Spice and her best friend Delphi Kramer are thrilled to finally have an opportunity to perform together, even if it’s just a cheesy interactive murder mystery at a judge’s lifetime achievement dinner. But when Isobel’s dramatic death scene is upstaged by a real murder and Delphi is left holding the still-smoking gun, Isobel drops the role of victim and assumes the role of detective.

Reviewed by Awesome Indies

Justice for Some Review: A rib-tickling murder mystery with the wackiest characters

January 4, 2015

Isobel Spice is an aspiring actress, and office temp, and on occasion, an amateur sleuth. When she and her roommate, Delphi Kramer, agree to act in a murder mystery dinner theater performance to honor a well-known judge, a real murder happens, with the guest of honor as the victim. Isobel is then caught up in a maelstrom of lies, double-dealing, and corruption as she first has to clear her roommate, who is the initial suspect, and then sort through a growing list of possible suspects until she finally zeroes in on the most unlikely one.
Justice for Some by Joanne Sydney Lessner is a rib-tickling murder mystery with a cast of the wackiest characters to appear in this genre in a long time. Lessner has a writing style reminiscent of Janet Evanovich; using what almost amounts to slapstick – but stopping just shy of the ‘slip on a banana peel’ brand of humor – to keep the reader laughing, while at the same time salting clues throughout the narrative for those who are paying close attention.
This book has several interesting plot twists, and well-drawn characters that, despite the humor, seem true to life. The story is logically constructed, and flows like a mountain stream in a serpentine fashion to a logical conclusion. When Isobel unmasks the killer, you’ll feel like slapping your forehead and exclaiming, “Darn, how’d I miss that?”

Murder in the Synagogue

Murder in the Synagogue
Categories: ,
Publisher:
Published: July 2, 2012
This true crime classic is a precise and harrowing account of the assassination of Rabbi Morris Adler by 23-year-old Richard Wishnetsky, a Phi Beta Kappa scholar at the University of Michigan and a Woodrow Wilson Fellow bound for the Divinity School at the University of Chicago. A troubled intellectual seeker, Wishnetsky knew Rabbi Adler one of the nation’s most prominent and venerated religious leaders, yet he settled on this learned and charismatic man as the appropriate target of his deepest rage.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Obsession

The Obsession
Publisher:
The Obsession is a vibrant novel of suspense and murder, by turns intriguing and surprising, as three smart, driven people match wits with their lives at stake. When Stan, an American grad student falls for Lina, a lovely Italian scholar, his unrequited passion turns perverse. When he follows her from a mid-west college town to Bologna’s ancient streets, they are joined by John, Lina’s American lover and Stan’s mentor. Their love-lust triangle re-ignites, and they flee and chase down the storied Italian boot to a shocking conclusion on volcanic Mt. Etna.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Car Bomb

The Car Bomb
Publisher:
Published: May 7, 2013
Detroit’s top TV anchor Frank DeFauw hunts down the story of a judge who may be corrupt—and is one of his best friends. Booze, drugs, womanizing and a passion for the news are all part of what makes this brilliant, erratic newsman a major player in this deeply troubled city. Finally, Frank is forced to decide if digging out the truth about his pal the judge is worth risking his own career, family and skin. With supple prose, brilliant dialogue, sharply-drawn characters and a surprising plot, this is a gripping tale of betrayal, murder and redemption.

Reviewed 

A Noir Mystery With A Slight Twist

3 Stars

The Car Bomb by T.V. LoCicero opens on the streets of a dying Detroit that’s trying desperately to survive. A young mother and her two children are incinerated in a fiery explosion as witnesses watch in horror. It’s up to an aging, hard-drinking, womanizing news anchor to come to grips with his life and solve the crime which may involve his best friend. The tale builds to an edgy crescendo of action that you won’t want to miss.

Although the story is well-told, there are still some aspects that could have used work, and became impossible to ignore. The first half of the book is slow, concentrating on the character of a conceited, adulterous newscaster, Frank DeFauw. However, I missed the motivation that drives him to rise above his depravity in order to righteously go after his best friend who was only vaguely suspected of illegal activities.

The story is told to the reader which doesn’t give us much opportunity to get involved inside the plot or imagine ourselves as part of the drama. I wanted to feel what it was like to be in Detroit’s ghetto, hear the cries of those society has cast aside, smell the gas fumes rising above the sidewalks, see a poet’s graffiti scribbled across a rundown cityscape, and taste the merchandise dealers were pushing on the street corner.

In spite of its faults, it’s worth a read. The Car Bomb is a noir mystery with a slight twist. The lascivious characters are found in the lap of suburbia while the moral prize-winners emerge from the bleak, sleazy side of town. This book should appeal to fans of old-fashioned crime fiction.

3 Stars.

Bloodie Bones

Bloodie Bones
Publisher:
Published: May 11, 2015
Author's Twitter: @LucienneWrite
In 1796 Bow Street Runner and amateur pugilist Dan Foster is sent to Somerset to infiltrate a poaching gang suspected of murdering Lord Oldfield’s gamekeeper, Josh Castle. Dan has walked into a volatile situation: the locals are up in arms against Lord Oldfield for enclosing Barcombe Forest and depriving them of their rights to gather fuel and food. Against a background of vandalism, arson and riot, Dan discovers that there were others with a grudge against Josh. However, Lord Oldfield orders him to arrest the poachers. When Dan learns that Josh had a claim to the Oldfield estate his suspicions focus on Lord Oldfield. Before he can confront him, rioters attack Oldfield Hall protesting against the arrests. During the fight, Dan finds himself at the mercy of the local doctor and realises that he and Josh were rivals in love. Dan narrowly escapes death and arrests the murderer: Doctor Russell.  

Reviewed by Awesome Indies

May 18, 2014

5 Stars

 

When Lord Oldfields, a magistrate and wealthy landowner, asks for assistance to determine who murdered his gamekeeper, Josh Castle, Foster’s superior dispatches him to the small village. Disguising himself as a wandering itinerant, Foster becomes part of the gang of poachers who are Lord Oldfields’ real targets. In the process, he uncovers deeds from the past, some so evil that their perpetrators will do anything—including murder—to keep them hidden.

Lucienne is a masterful storyteller, skillfully weaving history, culture, and the social customs of the period into the story in a natural manner that not only piques the reader’s interest, but helps the reader with a watchful eye and attentive mind to figure out whodunit.

This story has a profound theme. The injustices perpetrated upon the poor by the privileged, how people react to events over which they have little or no control, and the importance of integrity and empathy in alleviating the human condition.

Not one word in this story is wasted, and it is told in a manner that both entertains and educates—the true sign of a master wordsmith. Extremely well edited, I could not find one comma or semicolon out of place, and unlike books by some of today’s bestsellers, no misspellings or grammatical glitches—nary a one.

Unlike many books I read, which are good stories, but contain a few formatting or other errors, making it impossible for me to give them a top rating in all honesty, I found nothing here that gives me pause; and, I re-read several passages just to make sure. Actually, I have to get personal here and say that I re-read several passages because I found the prose so entertaining, I just wanted to go back over it to enjoy reading truly great writing.

I found everything about this book engrossing, from a cover that conveyed in stark symbolism the theme of the story, to passages that glistened with brilliance. The characters were magnificently portrayed. Dan Foster, the protagonist, is totally captivating—from his willingness to face his own weaknesses, to his devotion to right and justice, but most compelling, his sense of honor and decency. Even the secondary characters were fully fleshed and well-rounded, creating a setting that made me feel that I was there. I could see, hear, and smell the surroundings, and sense what characters were thinking and feeling in a story that was impossible to put down once I started reading.

An easy five stars.

Generation

Generation
Author's Twitter: @_william_knight
A grotesque figure emerges from the sodden undergrowth; lost, lonely and starving it is mown down by a speeding car on the edge of a remote forest. Ghostly apparitions haunt a rural Northumberland community. A renowned forensic scientist is troubled by impossible results and unprecedented interference from an influential drug company. Hendrix ‘Aitch’ Harrison is a tech-phobic journalist who must link these events together. Normally side-lined to investigate UFOs and big-beast myths, but thrust into world of cynical corporate motivations, Hendrix is aided by a determined and ambitious entomologist. Together they delve into a grisly world of clinical trials and a viral treatment beyond imagining. In a game of escalating dangers, Aitch must battle more than his fear of technology to expose the macabre fate of the drugged victims donated to scientific research.

Reviewed by Alexes Razevich

AIA Reviewer

A Fast-Paced Story That Will Stretch Your Imagination

Four Stars.

What do you get when you combine a medical/crime thriller with science fiction/horror? A creepy yet compelling page-turner of a book. Told from multiple points of view, including several characters who are undead but not your stereotypical zombies, Generation takes us into a world of corporate greed, gene manipulation, and people desperate either to live or to die. I can’t attest to the accuracy of the science in Generation, but Knight makes it sound entirely plausible. Anyone who has ever worked in an office will recognize the truth of the politics, even if a character or two carry it to the extreme.

In fact, the villains are one of the few disappointments of the novel. The journalist who discovers a story much bigger than the one he set out to cover, the forensic scientist/teacher focused on her work, the National Enquirer-type journal editor, and other characters are nuanced and ring true. The chief villain, sadly, is the stop-at-nothing type we’ve seen too often. The best, most poignant characters are the undead, each of whom deals with his or her fate the best they can.

The other disappointment is a gratuitous sex scene that leaves the two main characters naked during the climactic (not that kind of climax) scene. The romance between them seems more grafted on than natural, and their sudden falling into bed together unlikely. The author could have sent them to have coffee at her flat and the plot wouldn’t have changed.

Still, the novel worked for me, and I would have given it five stars were it not for the clichéd villain, the unnecessary sex scene, a few info dumps, a couple of typos, and some weird hyphenation. I give it a solid four stars and recommend the book to readers who want a fast-paced story that will stretch their imaginations.

Admission of Guilt

Admission of Guilt
Publisher:
Published: June 2, 2013
A 12-year-old girl is the desperate focus of three men–John, a dedicated young teacher, Charlie, a small-time private detective, and Steven, a major narcotics importer. Their lives collide when John makes a shocking move to save his students from the city’s drug wars, Steven’s young daughter goes missing, and Charlie, hired to find her, confronts a moral dilemma that will change all their lives.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lies of the Dead

Lies of the Dead
Published: June 26, 2013
Author's Twitter: @shaunabickley
What would you risk to find the truth? When Liam disappears in a suspected suicide, his brother Tom is propelled into a world of lies and crime. Liam’s legacy of deceit is dangerous, and when Tom and his sister Andi find themselves in a dangerous showdown, Tom realises the truth may have too high a price. How well do we know those closest to us? When the police accept Liam’s disappearance as suicide, his older brother Tom needs to know more. Tom and his sister Andi search for answers, but don’t know who they can believe as they discover Liam’s friends and associates aren’t the people they claim to be. They are propelled into a world where their ideas of right and wrong don’t exist, and where people demand what neither of them possesses. Liam’s legacy of deceit is dangerous, and when Andi and her twin daughters find themselves in a dangerous showdown, Tom realises the truth may have too high a price. What would you risk to find the truth?

Reviewed 

 

Great Scenes & Well-Written Passages

Lies of the dead is an enjoyable mystery that becomes a thriller at the end. The book held me as I read to find out what Tom and Andi’s brother had been doing to warrant them being hounded after his death by a crime boss and his thugs. I soon found myself caring about the characters, who were ordinary people and easy to relate to. Would they get out of this difficult situation, and if so, how?

Tom thought he knew his brother Liam, but after his apparent suicide, he discovers that much of what he knew of Liam was a lie. I can’t say what Liam had been up to to get a huge debt to a crime boss without giving the mystery away, but I can say that the boss transfers the debt to the dead man’s family (Tom and Andi) and that the race to find the money and escape the thugs throws Tom and Andi’s life into turmoil. They find themselves faced with decisions that no one should be forced to make and doing things way outside their comfort zone.

Tom is a simple fellow who lives in a small sea-side village and earns his money renting out his boat. His sister, mother of teenage twin girls, lives elsewhere and is estranged from her husband. Her relationship, or lack of it, adds another thread to the story.

There is a lot to recommend this story. The plot is well constructed; the characters are well drawn; their dialogue and interactions are realistic, and the action scenes are engaging. The author builds the tension well throughout and culminates in a situation worthy of a novel. It’s an easy, undemanding read, simply entertaining with no pretensions, and as that, it works well, but if you’re looking for anything with deep themes, bold statements, or a creative vision, this isn’t it.

The characters develop well as the story progresses, reacting to events as you imagine that they would, and the spark between Janine and Tom is a nice touch in amongst the difficulties. The romantic aspects, though fairly minimal, allow for a satisfying ending.

The book has some great scenes and well-written passages. When I first read this, the prose suffered from bouts of passive writing, but the author attended to these issues after I mentioned them to her. The copy-editing is clean.

All up, this is a very enjoyable read.

Reviewed by Amy Spahn

5 Stars

This is a fabulous story. Bickley paints beautiful backdrops in which to set her books, and this is no exception. When the characters are on the shore, you can smell the salt water.

The characters are realistic and well-drawn, and you quickly come to care about their family struggles as you would for the worries of a close friend. Bickley seems to specialize in taking ordinary individuals with ordinary problems, and putting them in extraordinary circumstances that challenge them without minimizing the importance of their everyday struggles. This book is a mystery, but it is also an exploration of relationships and parenting, and it interweaves both themes flawlessly.

The plot moves quickly and keeps the pages turning right from the beginning. The subplots integrate smoothly and seamlessly, leading to a believable, if not completely comfortable conclusion.

All in all, a great read for fans of mysteries and/or family dramas.

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review.