‘The First to Lie’ by Hank Phillippi Ryan

the first to lieHank Phillippi Ryan is the master of mystery and deception. Her novels are filled with people who are not quite who they appear to be, and “The First to Lie,” as we are warned in the very title, is no different. The story is about a pharmaceutical company that will stoop as low as possible to push their drug that often helps women become pregnant. The problem? One of the side effects is sterility, meaning that women who were promised a baby ended up with a future that meant they would never be able to have a baby of their own.

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“Muzzled”: Another Rosenfelt/Carpenter ‘Killer’ novel

muzzled

“Muzzled” is the twenty-first entry in David Rosenfelt’s “Andy Carpenter Mystery” series, and it seems quite clear that Rosenfelt’s many fans hope it’s the first of at least twenty more. The protagonist in the series, Andy Carpenter, is one of the most charmingly devilish characters in the world of legal mystery novels. And he’s also one of the funniest. Andy might be viewed as the Don Rickles of defense attorneys; he’s a genius of insult humor. But unlike Rickles, Andy’s main target is himself. With his hilarious self-deprecating comments, he willingly exposes himself as a coward, a meanie, and a downright jerk. Yet he’s also a most lovable character. Even as he bravely places himself in dangerous, even life-threatening situations, he admits that he’s scared to death while, for example, shakily clutching a loaded pistol while dealing with a murderous villain, as he does in “Muzzled.”

As usual, the unfolding of the novel’s plot begins with Andy’s big heart and sense of justice forcing him to take on the case of a man wrongly accused of murder. In this case, that man is one Alex Vogel, who has suspiciously escaped unscathed from a boat that has exploded, killing two of his business partners. Their company has been working on the development of a mysterious drug which is soon to be introduced to the world via a stock market IPO. Everybody but Andy believes Vogel, a munitions expert, has blown up the boat with the express intent of murdering his two partners — though nobody knows exactly why this respectable (and dog-loving!) man would commit such a dastardly act. So Andy decides he must defend Alex, thereby getting himself inextricably involved with shady characters, the Russian Mafia, and assorted other villains.

“Muzzled” boasts all the uniquely humorous characters and characteristics of the entire series: the wonderfully wacky and weirdly eccentric members of his investigative team and staff, the frustrated cops, lawyers, and judges who have to cope with Andy’s antics and insults, and villains who are sly, smart, and arrogant but who, in the end, can never quite match the hero’s off-the-wall brilliance.

If you’ve never read one of Rosenfelt’s Andy Carpenter Mysteries, start with “Muzzled,” and treat yourself to an enjoyable, laugh-inducing — and, by the way, suspenseful — good time. And if you’ve already read earlier entries in the series, rest assured that you’ll find this one every bit as involving, gripping, and entertaining as the first twenty.

This review was first published on Bookreporter.com.

“The Vacation” of Doom by T. M. Logan

vacation

Almost all of us have taken long-planned vacations that turned out to be much less enjoyable than we had hoped. But this T.M. Logan novel,”The Vacation,” takes us on a trip so filled with gloom, anger, profound disappointment, paranoia, and near-madness that we might ourselves avoiding future vacations for fear that they might be anything at all like the one Logan describes so vividly in this excellent mystery novel.

There are twelve characters in the story, each of them bearing ugly scars, secrets, and deeply hidden problems primarily due to past misdeeds. Four of the characters are forty-year-old women who have been best friends since college but have rarely communicated for ten years. They love each other. But they have all hurt each other in the past, and those hurts and harms and horrors are slowly and painfully forced back into their memories and revealed to us as the story proceeds. Their husbands and children comprise the rest of the cast, and all of them are similarly troubled. So a lovely vacation at a mansion in a small French town becomes an ugly portrait of suspicion, fear, and, yes, loathing.

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‘The Blues Don’t Care’ but they sure make a good read

blues

Paul D. Marks is a multiple award-winning author whose latest novel, “The Blues Don’t Care,” is a striking illustration of the talent that has brought him those awards. It’s the first entry in what promises to be an entertaining and thoughtful series of “Bobby Saxon Novels” — mysteries with not only the requisite twists, turns, surprises, and reveals, but also a penetrating look into our ubiquitous all-too-human flaws — greed, corruption, fear of the “other,” and, especially, racism.

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‘The Finders’ by Jeffrey B. Burton

the finders

There are a few authors who write wonderful mysteries with something that makes them extra-fun to read — that extra-something is dogs. There is the “Chet and Bernie” series by Spencer Quinn and David Rosenfelt’s wonderful “Andy Carpenter” mysteries. Now we can add Jeffrey B. Burton’s new series, the Mace Reid K-9 Mysteries, that begins with “The Finders.”

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“Lockdown”: Disgustingly Superb Short Stories

lockdown

“Lockdown: Stories of Crime, Terror, and Hope During a Pandemic” is a set of twenty excellent short stories dealing with the terrible effects of pandemics and lockdowns on both normal and abnormal human beings — and on normal people who become abnormal as the result of attempting to cope with viral plagues. The editors, Nick Kolakowski and Steve Waddle, have done a fine job of collecting and presenting the material; the stories range in intensity from quite intense to horrifyingly compelling.

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‘Don’t Turn Around’ by Jessica Barry is a thrilling road trip with two women dealing with a mysterious threat and their pasts

“Don’t Turn Around” by Jessica Barry is this author’s second novel under this pseudonym. Her first, “Freefall” was a huge success (film rights were sold), and this novel has just as much action and intrigue. At first blush, it wouldn’t seem to be a thriller. After all, the plot centers around two women taking a car ride from Lubbock, Texas to Albuquerque, New Mexico.

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‘The Wife Stalker’ by Liv Constantine is a twisted tale of treachery

wife stalker

“The Wife Stalker” by Liv Constantine is a suitable second book for the authors who created the thrilling “The Last Mrs. Parrish.” Like the first book by the two sisters who write together under the name Liv Constantine, this one features alternating narratives and stories that appear to lead in one direction only to completely turn us around when we realize that things — mostly — are not as they seemed.

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‘City Spies’ by James Ponti is a fast-paced thriller for middle grade readers that’s a perfect adventure to escape into

city spies“City Spies” by James Ponti is an action story that kids (and adults) will love. A group of underdog kids as young as twelve live in an old manor home in Scotland and work with a British spy nicknamed “Mother” as a team foiling international villains.

First we meet Sara, from whose perspective the story is mostly told. She is in custody after hacking into the New York City computers to expose her cheating, horrible foster parents. But when a debonair man offers to represent her, she quickly chooses him as her lawyer rather than the public defender who was going to agree to her serving time in a juvenile detention home. After she quickly hacks into the State of New York court computers to substitute in the new lawyer, the change of attorneys looks legitimate . By that evening, she’s on a plane to Scotland and a new life. Continue reading

‘Alone in the Wild’ by Kelley Armstrong is the newest in the mystery series about Rockton, the mysterious town for people who want to disappear

alone in the wild

“Alone in the Wild” by Kelley Armstrong, like all the novels in this series, begins with a bang; it involves an infant and a corpse. Casey and Eric, Rockton’s sheriff and detective, a couple who are getting away for a one-night vacation camping in the wild, find a dead woman with a live infant hidden in her clothing. That sets off the mystery of whom the infant belongs to and why the baby was left with a woman who clearly wasn’t the child’s mother.

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