Thursday, September 27, 2018

Book Review: Bewitcher (A Mompesson Mystery Book 1) by Hickory Crowl

Who hunts this plague-ridden English village?  A human?  A demon? 

Set in the Derbyshire village of Eyam in 1666, Betwitcher is a tense, action-filled thriller.  The story has its roots in history, as Eyam fell victim to the bubonic plague in 1665.  But rather than fleeing and possibly infecting the rest of England, the residents decided to quarantine themselves.  Several hundred people in close quarters, many dead or dying, armed only with limited medical knowledge, religion, and superstition.  What could possibly go wrong?  Well, according to the book, a human murderer might appear … or a demon … or both.  If you enjoy action, especially of the gruesome sort, between the ritualistic killings of the demon/human and the carnage of the disease, it’s hard to find twenty pages without a vividly described death.

Interspersed with these grisly scenes, the author delivers equally rich descriptions of setting.  Often, those scenes are dark and menacing – forest paths at night, decrepit houses, empty streets.  But sometimes they are peaceful and serene, a contrast that author Crowl uses to full effect.  Character development is also a strength.  Reverend Mompesson is particularly well done as the man of the cloth, torn between religion and the science he hopes may save his village.  It’s an eternal theme, well done in this work.

The detractions from the story were few and minor.  There were a few mechanical errors – a missing word, an awkward phrase.  Second, there were some leaps in reasoning not well founded.  For example, how the Reverend deduced the meaning of a symbol he found at each murder scenes could have used additional development.  And finally, the conclusion is a mixed bag.  The way Reverend Mompesson escapes is a bit convenient, but his ‘situation’ at the end raises all sorts of questions for book 2.  I’ll be watching for it.

Overall, Bewitcher is an entertaining and often grisly mystery well worth the read.

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Saturday, September 22, 2018

LAST WEEK for this Giveaway

The drawing for a signed, proof copy of the paperback, Of Half a Mind, ends on September 30.

If you are an existing subscriber, all you have to do is send me an email ( with the subject line, “Enter Me”.  That’s it!  

If you haven't already subscribed, use this link to sign up:  

There’s only one limitation – sorry, but you must have a US mailing address to win.

Two winners will be picked randomly and announced on the blog in October.

Good luck,

Of Half a Mind is rated 4.5 stars with 15 reviews since it's release six months ago.  See on Amazon:

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Book Review: Dancing for a Stranger by Isabella Adams

A Cozy Thriller…If There Was Such a Genre

Dancing for a Stranger appears to be the second book in the Markos Mystery series written by Isabella Adams.  It sees the return of Dr. Andromeda “Andie” Markos, family physician and amateur sleuth, along with her three gal-pals and her boyfriend, Detective Sean Malone.  In this installment, Andie and Sean are hunting a serial killer who has taken an unhealthy interest in one of Andie’s friends, Aphrodite.

The story starts strong, when Aphrodite interrupts the killer mid-act.  After that opening, however, the pace slows as backstory dominates – you learn a surprising amount about how Andie feels about her aging car, as well as her thoughts about Sean, her friends, her ex-husband, her daughter, and the Greek culture as transplanted to Tarpon Springs, Florida.  It’s a solid section for character development, but the crime thriller takes a back seat.  Then in the second half, the tension ratchets up as our serial killer stalks his prey.  Despite the unsavory character and sleazy settings, Dancing with a Stranger is not a gritty crime novel.  The author generally alludes to the murders and the sexual abuse the killer endured as a child.  That fact, coupled with the good-natured ribbing and unwavering warmth shared among the women makes this book feel something like a ‘cozy thriller’ – violence, but not enough to interrupt the friends’ Saturday morning coffee dates.

Realism suffers in places where it would have helped maintain the story’s tension, particularly in the actions of the police.  For example, there was no fingerprinting when they recovered a car the killer had used; a trip to a state prison became a romantic interlude for two detectives, Andie, and a friend; there was no statewide bulletin even after the police had the killer’s name and occupation; and so on.  The killer, driven by an insatiable urge he called ‘The Beast’ took extreme chances – killing in plain sight of the backdoor of a strip club; posing as a doctor doing CPR in a hospital room when he was caught in the act; returning to the same strip club to kill in one of their public restrooms.  His brazen actions further highlight the lack of what most would consider a standard police response.

Overall, the story brings into contrast the brutality of a deranged, serial killer and the warmth and support of good friends.  That comparison would have been more balanced and considerably starker had the drama felt a bit more real.

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Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Your Chance to Win a Signed, Proof Copy Of Half a Mind

Ever wonder why new customers get all the breaks?  Faster speeds from the Internet service providers?  Lower cost data on cell phone plans?  Free months of premium movie channels from the cable companies?

How about a break for existing customers?  Well, here it is.

Existing Email Subscribers:

Send an email to with the subject line, “Enter Me”.  That’s it!  And if you do, you’ll be entered for a chance to win one of two, signed proof copies of the paperback, Of Half a Mind (see

There’s only one limitation – sorry, but you must have a US mailing address to win.

Two winners will be picked randomly from those responding in September and will be announced on the blog the following month.

And, if you or someone you know isn’t a current email subscriber, please use this link to sign up:

New Email Subscribers:

Since there are separate drawings for existing and new subscribers, sending this link to a friend won’t hurt your chances of winning!

Good luck,

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Book Review: A Convenient Death (An Eden Mystery) by Laurel Heidtman

The List of Suspects Will Keep You Guessing ‘til the End

You and Sticks have fallen into the biggest pot of suspects I’ve ever seen.”  That was the opinion of the chief of police and boss of Detective Jo Valentine, the protagonist of A Convenient Death.  And it was mine too.  Jo and her partner, Gerald “Sticks” Mullens unearthed a veritable menagerie of possible killers of a convenience store clerk and an elderly customer, from a meth addict to other law enforcement officers to the Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs at a local university.  And just when you think you know who the killer is, our detectives turn over another stone and a few more suspects scurry out.

The book is an Eden Mystery, one of several.  But for the interested reader, it isn’t part of a numbered series and this novel is clearly standalone.  About the only theme with a continuing thread was a romantic interest between Jo and Dan Cobb.  There seemed some history there, but otherwise, everything is neatly tied up by the time you read ‘The End’.

Author Heidtman followed the dictum, write what you know, as according to her bio, she was once a police officer.  It shows in the story; the police work feels real.  About the only exception was how readily the suspects broke under questioning by Jo and Sticks – I thought one or two might have given them more trouble.  Of course, that’s based on my extensive experience watching crime shows on TV.  I also enjoyed the author’s informal writing style, laced with dry humor.  Consider this description of one of the many suspects:  “The old saw ‘nice guys finish last’ came to mind when she looked at Walton and wondered how he'd convinced a hot babe like Tracy Andrews to say ‘I do’.”  A style like that makes for a fun, fast read.

Overall, if you want to play the whodunit guessing game with a talented author, give A Convenient Death a try.  My money, however, is on Ms. Heidtman.

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