Thursday, February 25, 2021

Book Review: Double Shot (A Top Shelf Mystery) (Top Shelf Mysteries Book 4) by Lolli Powell

If Scientists Start Looking for the Self-Preservation Gene, They Shouldn’t Check Ricki

It’s not so much that Ricki Fontaine, the hero of the Top Shelf Mysteries, laughs in the face of death as it is that she wisecracks her way through peril. Take the bar owner’s thoughts as she stares down the barrel of a handgun in this latest installment:  If she died then her employees “… would be swamped at the Shelf. Murder always increased business, and I liked to think mine would draw more than an out-of-town real estate developer’s.” Of course, as a long-time reader of the series, I knew she was a bit low on the self-preservation trait (like into negative numbers), but I’ll deal with that because there are few fictional characters that make me laugh more than Ricki. I mean, all the life lessons she gives us readers for free! “Murder in close proximity to your person is not conducive to a good night’s sleep, so do your best to avoid it if you can.” Who would have thought that?

Of course, there’s a whodunit to be solved in this mystery series, and like the predecessor books, this one’s good. Mose Franklin and his grandson, Trey, are being evicted from their family home after the Savings & Loan makes an unprecedented decision to sell the delinquent mortgage to an outside developer. Trey gets arrested for the crime. Author Powell, however, keeps us guessing by introducing several other suspects with possible motives – mobsters, mean alcoholics, unscrupulous land developers, even law enforcement. Each is well portrayed through Ricki’s thoughts. But the book also gives us a double shot of mysteries, the second being of the romantic variety. Will Ricki let her past, detective boyfriend, Gabe, back in her life? Or will she take up with the newspaper editor, Logan? And, as the author’s synopsis says, “And then there’s that FBI agent….” I don’t believe it’s a spoiler to say that neither of these mysteries ends in a cliff-hanger.

I had only minor issues with the book (perhaps because it’s tough to have concerns when you’re laughing). There were some minor repetitions in the text, sometimes just a word, and sometimes between Ricki’s thoughts and the dialog: “Victor still had a few things to do, and I shook my head. ‘No, that’s okay. Looks like you’ve still got things to do.’” A more general concern was the emphasis on the Gabe vs. Logan backstory. For my taste, that quandary was repeated a bit too often during the tale. But I suppose if you’re going to live on the edge, it’s better to have someone special when you back away from it.

Overall, Double Shot is an excellent read. I look forward to the next installment in the series, wondering whose warnings Ricki will ignore and how I’ll get along without more of her life philosophy until then.

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Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Mind in the Clouds is a Finalist

I'm honored to announce that Mind in the Clouds has been selected as a 2020 finalist in the Wishing Shelf Book Awards.

Try a sample for yourself:

Or pick up a copy from one of these fine retailers:

Mind in the Clouds:  A suspenseful whodunit, where not all the suspects are human

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Book Review: The Trafficking Murders (The Inspector Sheehan Mysteries Book 5) by Brian O'Hare

Another Formulaic Mystery? Not in this Series!
I’ve read several of the novels in The Inspector Sheehan Mysteries series. One of my favorites was The Occult Murders. But when reading it, I admit to wondering if it signaled an end to the police procedurals that I liked in favor of fantasy. The Trafficking Murders, however, is about as far from make-believe as possible, dealing instead with one of the gut-wrenching realities of our world—human trafficking.
Though no single book could cover all the forms of this horrific crime, author Brian O’Hare obviously did his homework, giving readers a couple of distinct looks into this illicit industry. On the one hand, Alina Balauru travels from a poor farm in Romania in search of a better life, only to be abused and beaten into sexual slavery. On the other, Lin Hui and Cheung Mingzhu come from more prosperous families in China. They, however, succumb to the glitzy life of call girls, held captive there by threats to their lives and their families. And though different on the surface, Inspector Sheehan gets to the heart of these women’s situation when he notes, “No matter how gilded their cages, these girls are victims.”
Though the subject matter is distasteful, the story is presented without grisly details using a vivid literary style that I’ve come to expect from O’Hare. The pace is typical of mysteries as Sheehan and his team systematically peal back the layers of clues and suspects. And there is no lack of suspects. Fortunately, the book provides a list of characters, which I soon bookmarked in my Kindle for easy and often reference. The mystery is engaging. Is there a connection among these victims that seem so different on the surface? Who is the sinister enforcer, the Shadow, who keeps these girls in line? As the police close in, can this individual be stopped before tying up all the remaining loose ends? O’Hare keeps the reader guessing.
A few things occurred in the book that seemed a little too convenient for my tastes. For example, Sheehan and his team decided to pressure a hardened criminal to help solve one of the cases. Not only does their scheme work, but of all the information this individual knew from his years in crime, he gave up the one thing Sheehan wanted. In another scene, when the Shadow couldn’t locate one of the intended victims, he/she tried blackmailing the police to turn over the woman. Other than demented serial killers, are there criminals who openly challenge the police? But while these unlikely occurrences reduced tension a bit, there was still plenty of white-knuckle material from the crimes themselves.
Overall, The Trafficking Murders is another outstanding mystery and without a formula to know where O’Hare is taking his characters next, I’ll just have to wait for the next installment in the series.
I was given a copy of this book by the author. I elected to write this candid review.
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(I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for me to earn fees by linking to and affiliated sites.)