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review 2017-04-30 20:29
Against the Paw by Diane Kelly
Against the Paw - Diane Kelly

This was an impulse buy. I saw it at the grocery store and was immediately drawn in by the dog on the cover. Even though I knew it wasn’t the first book in the series, it sounded like something a newbie should be able to jump into fairly easily.

Against the Paw is set in Fort Worth, Texas and stars police officer Megan Luz. Megan used to be partnered with Derek Mackey until he made one crude and sexist comment too many and she tased him. Megan was assigned a K-9 partner named Brigit, and Derek’s job was saved by his friendship with the chief of police. In this entry in the series, Megan and Brigit are investigating reports of a peeping tom at Berkeley Place. There’s a possibility these incidents may be connected to Ralph Hurley, a parolee who recently cut off his ankle monitor.

My latest Booklikes-opoly game roll asked that I read something tagged as a “cozy mystery” on Goodreads or elsewhere. Soon after I started reading, I double-checked that this was indeed marketed as a cozy mystery (Amazon lists it as such), because it had a few features that made me skeptical.

The big one was that one of the book’s three POVs was the peeping tom. I couldn’t recall if I’d ever read a cozy mystery that included the villain’s POV, and I found it to be an unpleasant surprise here (there are things I’m okay with in other mysteries or thrillers that I don’t particularly expect or want in cozy mysteries). Thankfully, for the most part it wasn’t quite as bad as I feared. The peeping tom’s efforts often went awry in some way. Unfortunately, there were a few more distasteful scenes later in the book - for example, one in which the peeping tom spied on a hijabi and got off on seeing her brush her hair, and one in which the peeping tom spied on a woman having sex.

The book’s other two POVs were Megan (first person POV) and Brigit (third person POV). The Brigit POV parts tended to be on the cutesy side but were usually too brief to be annoying, only a page or two long. They were kind of pointless, though. There were only a couple times when Brigit’s POV contributed a little extra information, and it was never anything that wasn’t covered by another POV later in the book. I suppose Brigit’s POV added a bit of extra humor to the book, but I only really laughed at one part.

Megan’s POV wasn’t bad, but she had some blind spots that bugged me. Some examples:

“Anyone who’d served his or her country couldn’t be all bad, right?” (95)

“[Derek Mackey] and Garrett Hawke were cut from the same cloth. Arrogant. Unreasonable. Uncompromising. Still, they worked to protect others. I had to give them that, even if I thought their reasons were less about concern for others and more about basking in hero worship.” (136)

Megan seemed to be prone to the belief that cops and soldiers were unlikely (or less likely?) to be bad people, even if she had evidence to the contrary. Sure, Derek Mackey was a disgusting sexist pig who apparently couldn’t go more than a few minutes without saying something horrible, but hey, he was also a brave cop. Personally, I couldn’t help but shudder at the thought of how Derek probably handled rape victims (female or male) or, hell, female victims in general.

I did really like the partnership between Megan and Brigit, and the parts that dealt with Megan’s efforts to understand what Brigit was telling her were really interesting. There were a couple times when Brigit correctly identified the peeping tom and Megan misinterpreted her actions, but Megan did eventually catch on.

The characters were okay. In addition to Megan and Brigit, there was Seth, Megan’s boyfriend (still working through some personal issues involving his mother), and Frankie, Megan’s friend and roommate. I could tell I’d missed out on some relationship info by starting this series with the fifth book, but the author provided enough background that I didn’t feel lost.

I don’t feel particularly inclined to hunt down the rest of the series, but this was an okay read overall.

 

(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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review 2017-04-17 21:08
Police-procedural with touches of domestic noir and many stories to keep the intrigue going.
Cleaved: Grafton County Series, book 2 - Sue Coletta

I’m writing this review as part of Rosie’s Book Review Team and I was provided with a copy of the book that I freely chose to review.

I have just finished reading Sue Coletta’s Marred and I wanted to see what happened next. Reading the two books back-to-back allowed me to think a bit more about the genre, the characters and the style.

Here we have again the married couple of Niko Quintano, now sheriff in Alexandria, Grafton County, New Hampshire, and his wife, crime novelist Sage. They moved trying to leave behind a tragedy but it seems it followed them, and in Marred there was more heartache and family loses for the Quintanos. Now, the couple has a child, their two kids (their beloved dogs, Rugger and Colt, which I didn’t mention in my last review although they play an important role), and they are enjoying life. The book doesn’t allow us to relax though, quite the opposite, as it opens with a terrifying scene, narrated in the first person from Sage’s perspective. She is locked up somewhere, small, dark and cold, floating in water, and can’t recall how she got there. And we, the readers, share in her anguish and fear and are thrown in at the deep end from the beginning. The book then goes back and we get to know how Sage ended up there. Her plight is linked to a new bizarre wave of murders that befall the county but there are several interrelated plots and all of them touch the different characters personally. What should have been a happy time for Sage and Niko turns into another nightmare and nobody is safe.

The story is told from several of the characters’ points of view, as was the case with Marred. Sage, the writer, narrates her story in the first person and is good at observing events, but especially at talking about feelings and analysing the impact their horrific experiences might have on all of them (including her 13 months’ old baby son, Noah, and their two dogs). Her husband Niko and Frankie, the deputy sheriff with attitude, wit and a fashionable sense of dress, also have their own stories, but these are told in the third-person.

I talked about genre in the previous review but I have to come back to it. Whilst the book works as police-procedural, due to the details about murder scenes and also to the lectures on the subject (the deputies in training come handy as a justification and a stand-in for the readers, and this time even Frankie gets to explain some aspects of forensic science), there is a lot of content that relates to family relationships and also to the effects of crime and trauma on the survivors, that put me in mind of what these days is called domestic-noir (although in standard cases, the guilty party tends to be part of the family. Not so here…). Although this aspect is more evident in the fragments narrated by Sage, Frankie also gets confronted with her own relationship and how it can be a source of conflict with one’s profession and moral stance (she’s still one of my favourite characters but she behaves in a more reckless manner that I had ever imagined she would and shows less concern for the law than I expected), and Niko also struggles to try to maintain his professional demeanour when faced with attacks on his beloved family.

There are several story strands and a variety of crimes, and readers will be kept on their toes trying to decide how they related to each other (if they do), how many criminals there are and what their motives are. Although the sheriff notes the difficulties and the limitations of law enforcement in the area as it is not a high-crime place, I couldn’t help but think of series like Murder, She Wrote or Midsomer Murders where a seemingly sleepy town is attacked by an epidemic of crime, courtesy of it being the setting of a series. Also, like in most stories where both members of a couple investigate crimes (professionally or not), at some point, one or both of them end up becoming victims, and this has been Sage’s lot from the beginning, perhaps more so in this book, as she has even more to lose now. This novel might cross over several genres but it does live up to the expectations of the readers and it will keep them turning pages.

The characters keep stumbling on the same stone over and over. If in the previous book they got into serious trouble for not completely trusting each other and lying (with the best of intentions at heart), they still do it here (perhaps not to the same extent) and there is a price to be paid for it. I felt like I do sometimes when watching a horror movie when you see the characters keep getting themselves into trouble, and you want to shout at them: ‘Don’t do that! Don’t be stupid!’ but they don’t listen. The murders are as gruesome as in the previous book and varied; we get a better glimpse at Frankie’s life and some of her connections, but there is more of the personal point of view and dramatic side of the story, at least in my opinion. The book has humorous scenes and the witty dialogue that’s one of the author’s trademarks, but it is also scary and tense, and even more terrifying if you’re an author yourself. (Beware of book signings is all I’ll say.)

Once again, the ending is satisfying (as a psychiatrist I’ll keep my peace rather than discuss the details) but has a hook and leaves readers with an eerie feeling. I wasn’t sure I was totally clear in my mind as to how the different strands fitted in, especially with so many things being hidden and not fully knowing who knew what.  I wouldn’t have minded one of those scenes à la Poirot or Sherlock Holmes, where the detective gives an explanation and everything is tied up with a nice ribbon. Although, perhaps it just shows that the rhythm of the novel is quite fast and if you blink, you’ve missed it.

Another novel by Sue Coletta with an irresistible story that requires a strong stomach but will be of interest to readers who like to dig into the character’s psyche and are after more than just a well-plotted book. Oh, and readers must like dogs too. Especially scary for writers.

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review 2017-04-15 18:10
For police procedural lovers looking for characters they can relate to. And some great secondary players.
Marred - Sue Coletta

I’m reviewing this book as part of Rosie’s Book Review Team and was provided with a copy of the book that I freely chose to review.

I read and reviewed Sue Coletta’s Wings of Mayhem, book one in The Mayhem Series (check the review here), and was impressed and intrigued. Now, on the occasion of the launch of the second book in the Grafton County Series, Cleaved (yes, I’m reading and reviewing that too, try and stop me!) I managed to catch up with the author’s first book in that series, that chronicles the lives of Sage and Niko Quintano, a couple who now live in Grafton County, New Hampshire, where they took refuge after something horrific happened to Sage. Niko is the new sheriff and Sage is a successful author of crime novels, although, unfortunately, she ends up playing the part of the victim in real life more than once.

Sage and Niko are trying to recover from their personal tragedy, as Sage lost a baby she was carrying when she was assaulted but they are both keeping things from each other, in an attempt at protecting the other. During the book, they’ll realise they are stronger together and the best way to beat evil is to be honest with each other and to share the truth, however hard it might be to hear.

The novel has strong elements of the police procedural genre. Niko is an accomplished detective, although sometimes hindered by his personal feelings and his inability to see and accept the unacceptable, and as there are not as many crime fighting means in a small town, he gets to share his expertise (his training one of the deputies gives the reader the perfect opportunity to eavesdrop and learn, although it might be a bit too much detail for those with no appetite for the grosser things in the art of detecting) on issues such as blood spatter and how to process a crime scene. Frankie, his fiery and fashion conscious deputy, is a fabulous character who takes no prisoners and tolerates no fools. Sadly, that means she has little opportunity for career advancement, as tact is not her strong suit, but through the novel, we get to understand her better, see her softer side, and she’s great at one-liners and gritty and witty repartees. Although Niko might complain about Frankie’s evident disdain for authority, he enjoys the banter and their relationship is one of the fun and lighter elements in the novel. The crimes are gruesome, bizarre and puzzling, as it appears the killer is trying to send a message but nobody knows what it is or who the intended recipient might be. There are red herrings and confusion, as it becomes clear that these crimes relate to what happened to Sage years back, in Boston, but we don’t know how or why. Lies and withholding of information don’t help and Sage does a fair deal of amateur investigating too.

Apart from the police procedural aspect, there are also other elements that give the novel a distinct flavour. The strong relationship between the couple and their shared (at least in part) trauma plays a big part in the action and also in the reactions and behaviours of the characters, that at times might stretch reader’s suspension of disbelief but would fit in with somebody trying to survive to a horrible ordeal. This is not the typical novel about the lone detective, who lives only for his work and solving cases but is totally unable to have a meaningful relationship. Thanks to Sage’s memories we share some of the couple’s high and low points. Pet names, real pets and home life (including thoughts about the laundry) ground the characters and their relationship making them more relatable and real, rather than just case-solving automatons. Sage’s otherworldly encounters (she consults a spiritual guide and has a very special experience during the investigation, but I won’t spoil the story) are also outside the norm for a book otherwise very realistic and detailed.

The story is told from the points of view of several characters. Sage’s point of view is narrated in the first person and that makes the reader identify with her more closely. She is also a writer through and through and observes everybody around her, everything that happens and analyses her own thoughts and feelings in detail. Niko and Frankie are also given a narrative, although theirs is in the third person but still manages to make us see their different perspectives, helps us understand their behaviours and thought processes, and provides more information the readers can try and use to put together the jigsaw puzzle.

The book has a great sense of rhythm, and alternates very tense and dark scenes with moments of light relief (Frankie and the other deputies are always at hand with some strenuous comment or mishap, Sage and Niko also have their humorous moments and the novel is tongue-in-cheek about possible comparisons, including comments about Castle) and is particularly effective at dropping the readers right into the action and making them share the experiences and emotions of the characters.  The ending manages to be satisfyingly upbeat while also introducing a final disquieting note.

A recommended reading for those who love detailed police procedural novels (and TV series like CSI, Criminal Minds and yes, Castle), with characters who carry a heavy baggage, in a backwoods/small-town setting and with less down-to-earth elements thrown in too. A strong stomach is a necessary requirement. I’d also recommend it to writers keen on the genre as there’s much to be learned from the author.

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review 2017-04-06 11:55
A great example of the genre and the characters and the setting complement the mystery perfectly
11:05 Murders (The Inspector Sheehan Mysteries) (Volume 2) - Brian O'Hare

I write this review as a member of the Online Book Club org.

This police procedural novel, the second in The Inspector Sheehan Mysteries series, is set in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and it has it all: mysterious murders, a complex set of suspects that will keep fans of the genre spinning the wheels of their brains, a fascinating backdrop that includes political and religious issues, secondary themes that are in everybody’s minds (police corruption, sexual harassment, domestic violence, rape, stalking, financial crisis…), a team of policemen made up of distinct and realistic individuals, great dialogue, detailed crime scene investigation, touches of humour and even a dab of romance.

The story is told in the third person and it is narrated from the point of view of a variety of characters (mostly members of the police team, although also some chapters by some of the suspects), but there are no sudden changes in viewpoint and it does not cause any confusion. Instead, the style of the storytelling helps create a puzzle where the reader has more clues than any of the given characters, but there are also delayed discoveries and many red herrings, so things aren’t quite as easy as one might initially think. Being able to share in the different characters’ opinions and motivations gives the reader a multifaceted view that increases the intrigue.

At the beginning of the story we have a female Sergeant Detective, Denise Stewart, join Sheehan’s team. She has been through a harrowing experience at her previous post that has made her defensive and suspicious. Despite that, it doesn’t take long for her to realise Sheehan’s team is different and she starts to relax. Unfortunately, other things start going on in her life that seem, initially, completely unrelated to the murder they are investigating, a rather gross and well-planned crime that took place on a Tuesday at, exactly, 11:05 pm. There are several lines of enquiry, a fragment of a cufflink that keeps popping up, suspects galore, assaults on one of the detectives (young and handsome Tom Allen, who has taken an interest in Stewart), and Sheehan has the feeling that he’s missing something. His famous intuition seems to be letting him down but…

This is the second book in the series and although I have not read the previous one, I had no difficulty getting into the story. This is a standalone book that can be enjoyed without having read the first one but after having read this one I hope to read more in the series.

This novel could serve as an illustration on how to write mystery and police procedural books. The writing is precise, with enough descriptions and fleshing out of the characters to make the readers recognise them and care for them, with clues masterfully shared throughout the book, with no extraneous details or anything that does not move the story forward included. Even seemingly innocuous or passing comments have a reason and the twists and turns of the story will have readers choosing and discarding numerous suspects, keeping them always on their toes. The pacing and timing of the reveals work very well. When I was getting close to the end, I kept stopping and trying to run all the clues in my head to see who the perpetrator was. I had my suspicions from the beginning but kept changing my mind as the story went.  Ah, and the ending did not disappoint.

Both the murder being investigated and the detectives are interesting in their own right and readers will end up feeling a part of Sheehan’s team. The light and humorous moments alternate with tense and scary moments enhancing both. The local touches and references to locations and historical events (the troubles) make it particularly memorable and distinct. I recommend it to any readers who love police procedural mysteries with great characters and complex plots. A word of warning, due to the nature of the crime and to some of the other scenes, this is not a book for the faint-hearted and is definitely not a cozy mystery.

 

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review 2017-03-29 15:27
Giveaway, Interview, Excerpt & Review – Remnants by Carolyn Arnold @Carolyn_Arnold @GoddessFish
Remnants (Brandon Fisher FBI) - Carolyn Arnold

 

Amazon  /  Goodreads

 

Remnants by Carolyn Arnold

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

GENRE: Mystery

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

MY REVIEW

 

I love thrillers, suspense, murder and serial killers, not necessarily in that order. LOL

Remnants by Carolyn Arnold has them all.

 

It is amazing how quickly someone can just vanish. There one minute, gone the next.

Body parts are being found in a Georgia river. A leg here, an arm there, here a skull, there a torso, but no hands or feet. Why?

 

The parts don’t match. How many bodies are there?

 

A serial killer is on the loose.

 

Step by step, clue by clue, law enforcement follows the path to the Unsub in a Criminal Minds fashion.

 

You may not want to eat before you read this. The killings are brutal, gruesome, savage.

 

The case became more involved than I thought it would when I first started reading. I didn’t put all the pieces together until the last part of the book and it was Carolyn Arnold that took me there. I love that I can’t figure it out early. Keeps the mystery alive.

 

Though, if the book is well written it doesn’t matter…either way is fine with me.

 

There are some seriously messed up characters that deserve worse than they got.

The FBI team had issues of their own. Makes them come across as realistic people.

I love these kind of stories and would highly recommend following the stand alone series.

 

I voluntarily reviewed a copy of Remnants of Carolyn Arnold.

 

Animated Animals. Pictures, Images and Photos  4 Stars

 

To read more and enter the giveaway, go HERE.

 

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Source: www.fundinmental.com/giveaway-interview-excerpt-review-remnants-by-carolyn-arnold-carolyn_arnold-goddessfish
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