#reviews

Book reviews of mysteries, thrillers, and other irresistible reads.

7 Life-changing books to read right now

Fall is here. Our New Year’s resolutions petered out long ago and the holidays, with overspending and family drama, loom on the horizon. In this season between what-might-have-been and what-will-overwhelm-us-soon, dive into one of these life-changing books. You'll get...

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Department Q and The Keeper of Lost Causes

THE KEEPER OF LOST CAUSES, the first Department Q novel by Jussi Adler-Olsen, has toppled Jo Nesbo from the top of my Nordic Noir favorites list. And I didn’t even know I wanted to go to Denmark. Some series take a few books before all the pieces are...

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Book review: RED SPARROW by Jason Matthews

RED SPARROW by Jason Matthews is a gripping Cold War espionage thriller in the style of John le Carré’s thrillers. Except longer. SPARROW starts with a heart-pounding and authentic scene of spy tradecraft in Moscow. Nathaniel “Nate” Nash is...

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The Postman Always Rings Twice

THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE by James M. Cain is a noir classic from 1934. I stumbled on a copy in a used bookstore and realized I’d never read it. I didn’t know what I’d been missing all these years. Frank Chambers is a drifter, roaming...

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Book Review: 2 Tickets to Venice

Venice is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Architecture, canals, and history make it a prime setting for a mystery. Two favorite authors, Donna Leon and Martin Cruz Smith have new books set in Venice that take you on two very different...

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Book Review: Claws of the Cat by Susan Spann

CLAWS OF THE CAT is one of those books you wish you’d written, but grudgingly know you’d never come up with the premise. Related: Author to Author with Susan Spann Author Susan Spann takes us to imperial Japan in 1565. The Jesuits, in the form of Portuguese priest...

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Book Review: A Madras Miasma by Brian Stoddart

In A MADRAS MIASMA, New Zealand author Brian Stoddart takes us to India in 1920 with an extraordinary sense of place and time. India is on the brink of explosion and the murder mystery is another lit fuse on the powder keg. Related: Author to Author with Brian...

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Book Review: The Trespasser by Tana French

THE TRESPASSER by Tana French is the 6th novel in the chronicles of the fictional Dublin Murder Squad. Each is narrated by a different member of the squad, whose private life is somehow linked to—and tragically impacted by—the central crime. When in Dublin last year,...

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What Happened to the Jesse Stone Mystery Series?

When mystery author Robert B. Parker passed away, I mourned the end of the Spenser and Jesse Stone mystery series, as well as his Westerns featuring the enigmatic Virgil Cole. Sunny Randall, not so much, as I never quite connected with the female PI and her annoying...

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Book Review: Midnight Sun by Jo Nesbo

For those mystery lovers who reveled in Jo Nesbo’s Harry Hole series, his new stand-alone novel Midnight Sun will be a bit of a surprise. Midnight Sun is easier on the blood pressure than Harry, with a sympathetic protagonist and the wooded setting of Norway’s  remote...

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Book Review: The Blackhouse by Peter May

In The Blackhouse by Peter May, the setting is the remote, windy, and rainswept Hebrides islands off Scotland’s western coast. The murder is gruesome and mimics a recent killing in Edinburgh being investigated by police detective Fin McLeod. Fin’s young son has just...

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Book Review: A Death in the Family by Michael Stanley

A DEATH IN THE FAMILY by Michael Stanley is a deeply authentic visit to Botswana, hosted by Detective David “Kubu” Bengu of the country’s Criminal Investigation Division. The novel stands alone but if you like international culture wrapped up in a mystery, I recommend...

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Book Review: Jihadi Apprentice by Bruns & Olson

I write mysteries and thrillers and love to read them, too. In this book review, I look at JIHADI APPRENTICE by David Bruns and J.R. Olson, a very modern thriller with an insider’s ring of authenticity. With a compelling scenario and characters at cross purposes,...

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Book Review: Bangkok Rules

Carl Engel is hardly the typical hero of a mystery series but he's the main character in BANGKOK RULES by Harlan Wolff. The mostly drunk Brit has been in Bangkok for 30 years, surviving as a fixer who plays both sides of every local intrigue. He is well known to both...

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Book Review: Weapons of Mass Deception

Like spy and military thrillers? Books based on current events? Polished prose? Great plots? WEAPONS OF MASS DECEPTION is for you. WEAPONS is a high caliber thriller, using a very plausible Iraq War scenario as its core: Saddam’s sons move the country’s nuclear...

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Book Review: The Ragman Murders

Based on a true family story, THE RAGMAN MURDERS is clearly a labor of love. The novel tells the story of two immigrant families, the Amatos and the Tassones, and the circumstances that bring them into conflict within Hartford CT’s teeming immigrant neighborhoods in...

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Book Review: Devoted to Death by Andrew Chesnut

If you want to understand Mexican culture, DEVOTED TO DEATH must be in your personal library. It is a detailed examination of Santa Muerte, Mexico’s most famous folk saint. Santa Muerte is regarded as the personification of death; a active deity with amazing powers. I...

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Book Review: The Orphan Uprising

The Orphan Uprising is the riveting last book in the Orphan Trilogy by the father-and-son writing duo of Lance and James Morcan from New Zealand. I hear they are making a movie based on the books and if so, it ought to be a blockbuster. The first two books, The Ninth...

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Book Review: Smokescreen, a thriller

Smokescreen by Khaled Talib is a thriller for today’s audience. It’s got a politically driven plot based on current events, an everyman hero, and enough double-dealing and deranged killers to keep the reader flipping pages and skipping meals. What makes Smokescreen...

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Book Review: Top Secret Twenty One

The Stephanie Plum books are like Pringle’s potato chips—I can’t eat just one despite the fact I know they’ll be full of empty calories. Maybe it’s the salt. Whatever. Pass the can. Top Secret Twenty One is the latest in the Stephanie Plum bounty hunter series by...

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Book Review: The Witch of Napoli

The Witch of Napoli by Michael Schmicker is an unexpected trip to 1890’s Italy, when Garibaldi’s unification of the country was still tenuous and Italy’s city-states retained their strong regional rivalries and flavors. At the same time, the study of the occult was...

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Book Review: Hotel Pastis by Peter Mayle

Up for a trip to southern France, where mirth, mayhem, and Champagne rule? C'est vraiment drole! Translation: keep reading. I not only write mysteries but I love reading them, too. My favorites are the ones that take me to new places and this week it's a trip to...

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Book Review: The Coroner’s Lunch by Colin Cotterill

Not only do I write a mystery series, but I read them, too. My favorite mysteries are the ones that take me to new places. This week's book review is of THE CORONER's LUNCH by Colin Cotterill. Following the advice of a fellow book clubber, I downloaded it and was...

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Book Review: A Common Evil by Billy Ray Chitwood

Not only do I write mysteries but I love reading them, too, especially the ones that take me to new places. This week's book review is of A COMMON EVIL by Billy Ray Chitwood, a gem I discovered via Twitter. There aren't many mysteries set in Mexico but Chitwood's...

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