by Cynthia Chow
& Marilyn Meredith
This week in honor of Earth Day we are once again featuring mostly ebooks. Here are five more mystery ones-Murder in a Good Neighborhood By K.K. Chalmers, A Deadly Denial by Kathy Bennett, The Hollow House by Janis Patterson, Halloween Thirteen: A Collection of Mysteriously Macabre Tales by Bobbi A. Chukran, and The Case of the Murderous Mermaid and Others by Andrew MacRae.
Murder in a Good Neighborhood By K.K. Chalmers
Review by Cynthia Chow
Everyone knows where good intentions lead, and a favor for a friend has Roxanne “Roxi” and her husband Bud Flowers discovering the body of a naked young woman in Eastport, Virginia. Drafted into making a delivery for Forever Young Cosmetics, Roxi instead finds herself explaining to her homicide-detective son why his parents happen to be standing in the middle of a crime scene. As they soon learn, the young woman has no identity, the owner of the home is AWOL, and a clue found at the scene has huge implications.
Accustomed to a military lifestyle, Roxi finds herself enlisted by an intimidating and irresistible abbess. As a result, Roxi’s curious nature is put to use investigating the identity of the dead woman and how she met her fate.
Roxi and Bud’s longtime friend, Lucky Loveland, was an Apollo astronaut before his independent attitude cost him a promotion, but his loyalty and supportiveness to the Flowers has been unwavering. Their relationships have always had an underlying and unspoken tension though, so when Lucky becomes the focus of the Eastport Police Department’s investigation, Roxi feels both betrayed and defensive.
Despite its beginning, this is far from a formulaic meddling-retiree-amateur-detective mystery. Roxi is extremely smart, and Bud’s having been a navy jet pilot and Vietnam POW has led them to value every moment together. The couple may be retired, but their chemistry together is undeniable and sizzling.
Both Roxi and Bud have links to a dark and mysterious past, and I would love to see this explored in future books. The relationships between the Flowers, and their son and granddaughter, as well as with their friends, are surprisingly complex and slowly unfold in unexpected and dynamic directions. The humor is never over the top or unrealistic, and the writing grows stronger as the plot develops. This is a slow-burner of a mystery, and its extremely intelligent and likable characters never behave outlandishly or unrealistically. I will definitely be looking forward to reading more from this author and her very entertaining characters.
A Deadly Denial (A Detective Maddie Divine Novel Book 3) By Kathy Bennett
Review by Cynthia Chow
When a respected and much-liked Los Angeles Police Department sergeant is gunned down after responding to a burglary call, tensions are high within the department. The implication that another officer may have been involved further heightens stress levels, but what really proves explosive is that this is only the first of several killings. As officers are shot every few days, Detective Maddie Devine of the Robbery Homicide Division is tasked with helping investigate whether the target is the department itself or whether the murders are far more personal.
Since Maddie’s current partner is pregnant and on desk duty, Maddie is back working with her old partner, Darius Cutter. She’d prefer to be assigned with Detective Cash McCool, but he’s been out of touch for the past nine months, since his deployment as a Marine reservist. That relationship is definitely on hold, but what hasn’t been put behind her is the death of her husband and the secret psychic connection she shares with him.
Chapters alternate among many different narratives, with perspectives from a large cast that includes an incendiary radio DJ, a predatory and ambitious female deputy chief, and extorted victims. This keeps the pace moving along swiftly, and the officers’ personal machinations quickly become intertwined with the investigative plot.
With nearly three decades of working within the Los Angeles Police Department, author Bennett brings in her experience to add layers of realism to this tale of twisted characters. The continuous pressure placed on LAPD officers is clear, as their days begin with tedious meetings but may end with sudden threats of violence. That’s not to say that their stresses are not alleviated with moments of levity, as the black humor that allows police officers to endure their grim realities is sprinkled throughout this novel. The dynamic characters and a lightning-fast plot will appeal to fans of police procedurals.
The Hollow House By Janis Patterson
Review by Cynthia Chow
In 1919 Denver, the woman who has decided to call herself Geraldine Brunton is on the run and desperate. She’s overqualified for most positions but as a woman seems underqualified for everything else, so an ad for a companion to a semi-invalid may be her last chance at salvation.
Fortunately for Geraldine, those placing the ad have not had much luck filling the position. Emmaline Stubbs’ opulent mansion is certainly not a happy one. Her daughter has changed her name from Eula to Eustacia in a social-climbing bid, and Emmaline herself rules the household with a domineering hand. Her son-in-law is far too handsome with a wandering eye, and despite his pretense of being an ambitious businessman, he appears to have little success. Despite Emmaline’s general state of irritability and irascibility, she proves to be the most sensible and unpretentious of the bunch.
What Geraldine learns is that this very dysfunctional home hides as many secrets as she herself is hiding: Geraldine Brunton is certainly not her name, as her true one carries with it scandal and the trauma of abuse. She allies herself protectively with Mrs. Stubbs, but Geraldine fears that the elderly woman may be the target of threats from within the house.
Patterson creates an absolutely fascinating and extremely detailed world of 1919 Denver and the divisiveness between the “upstairs” and “downstairs” realms. We see the extremes through the eyes of Geraldine Brunton, who must adjust to the change from a high-pedigreed background. As sympathetic as she becomes to the working class, Geraldine also can’t help but feel a bit superior to the New Money’s attempt at social graces.
What is fun is watching her navigate through the elaborate social structure. The writing is continually compelling, and suspense builds within the close confines of the household. Patterson has crafted a highly engaging historical novel, full of illustrative details and realistic and engaging characters. The strongly written mystery is enough to please any reader, but the class warfare, social structures, and domestic drama add layers of enjoyment to this suspenseful novel.
Halloween Thirteen: A Collection of Mysteriously Macabre Tales By Bobbi A. Chukran
Review by Cynthia Chow
Despite what one might think, the title reflects the tone, not the theme of this collection of thirteen dark and darkly comical short stories. The first tale, “The Best Halloween Ever, 1965,” may be the only actual Halloween story, but it is the inspiration for both the author and the following stories of revenge, hauntings, and a history of family spookings.
It is the first story that reveals the author’s early affection for the fall holiday, as the narrator’s greatest fear is being unable to participate in her favorite day of monstrous pretense. It also indicates a possible history with overbearing female relatives, whether alive in “Little Window in the Door,” or deceased in “Phone Calls from Dead People.” Literary figures make an appearance as well, as the author images what life would be like living with a singularly-focused Edgar Allan Poe, as well as what it would be like to meet Count Dracula in “Vampire Fever! (Or, Hairum Scarum Vampire).” As one might guess from the titles, the interactions result in far more giggles than screams.
This collection ends on a high note with “Good Neighbors,” where anyone who has ever had an annoying neighbor will sympathize with the narrator’s intrusive, busy-body of a neighbor. Revenge is a dish best served cold, and retaliation is as meticulously researched as it is satisfyingly sweet.
Each of these thirteen tales, whether one of the short poems or longer stories, provides a glimpse into the offbeat, twisted, and often sentimental mind of the author. Introductions to each entry add to the appreciation of these charming tales, which never become too macabre. In truth, they succeed in delighting that little hidden side in each one of us, that wouldn’t mind taking a stab at revenge now and again.
The Case of the Murderous Mermaid and Others By Andrew MacRae
Review by Marilyn Meredith
In the first story, “The Case of the Murderous Mermaid”, we’re drawn into the strange world of a “mermaid” performance. Of course things don’t go well, hence the title.
“The Case of the Villainous Vaudevillian” is about old-time theater, the kind where the audience can boo the villain. I enjoyed the fact that not only was this a long-running performance, but also that the actors and actresses were aging. Best of all, there is a great twist at the end.
In “The Case of the Silver Suspect” the reader is given a peek into the life of street performers in general, plus a more intimate peek at mimes. Once again, nothing is as it seems, resulting in another surprise ending.
These tales are quick, fun reads.
To enter to win ebook copies of all of these books, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Earth Day,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen April 25, 2015. U.S. residents only. If entering via email please include your mailing address, and if via comment please include your email address.
Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & short stories in our mystery section.