Oak Tree Press Mystery Reviews/Giveaway

Nov 26, 2011 | 2011 Articles, Diana Hockley, Marilyn Meredith, Mysteryrat's Maze

by Marilyn Meredith
& Diana Hockley

This week KRL is reviewing a pair of mystery novels by local publisher Oak Tree Press under their Dark Oak Mysteries imprint. With one of the books we actually have two reviews, providing some different perspectives. At the end of this article is a chance to win a copy of both books!

Jambalaya Justice by Holli Castillo
Review by Marilyn Meredith

The following is the official blurb about the book and gives insight into the story. My thoughts about Jambalaya Justice follow.

The murder of a hooker in a New Orleans crack house is destined to become another unsolved homicide until prosecutor Ryan Murphy takes an interest in the case. Ryan has a connection to the victim and won’t back down until the murder is solved, even if it means she has to go undercover as a hooker herself and keep her fingers crossed that her detective boyfriend, Shep, won’t find out. She’s also juggling her Strike Force cases, including the prosecution of a mobster murderer, a nasty domestic violence case, and the armed robbery of Big Who’s strip club. Not to mention that a home invader she prosecuted is off of probation and might be following her. Being an outspoken pit bull of a prosecutor makes life dangerous enough for Ryan; trying to find a killer and hiding it from the one person who can protect her may end up being deadly.

Shep is on a secret quest of his own, investigating the identity theft of Ryan’s former best friend, Edie, who is presumed dead. As he delves further into the case he begins to question whether Edie may still be alive and out to harm Ryan. Ordered by his captain, Ryan’s father, to keep the investigation quiet, Shep not only has to lie to Ryan, but find a way to protect her from harm she doesn’t know exists. He’ll also have to figure out what to do if Ryan ends up discovering the truth, because secrets have a way of getting out.

Set against the backdrop of pre-Katrina New Orleans, Jambalaya Justice is the second in the Crescent City Mystery Series, which eventually follows Ryan through Hurricane Katrina and into the strange new world of post-Katrina New Orleans.

The third in the series, Chocolate City Justice, is in progress.

My thoughts about Jambalaya Justice:

First, I must confess that I’ve met Holli at the Public Safety Writers Association Conference and I’ve read her first two books. I hear her voice and wonderful accent (she says she doesn’t have one) when reading anything about her heroine, Assistant D. A. Ryan Murphy. I do think Holli is capable of kicking-butt in the same way Ryan does in this most excellent story.

Because the blurb above gives a great synopsis of the story line, I’m going to tell you what I love most about Holli’s books. All of her characters are distinctive and compelling whether they be on the right or wrong side of the law.

Her portrayal of New Orleans from the most beautiful parts to the seamiest, along with the scent of delicious food to the odors from nasty alleys, is as descriptive as those of James Lee Burke.

The story is fast-paced, plenty of action with several plot lines, and I kept turning pages to find out what happened next. Reading Jambalaya Justice was almost as good as making a visit to New Orleans. In short, I loved it.

Scrafitto by Steve Scarborough
Review by Marilyn Meredith

Steve is another author I met at the Public Safety Writers Association’s Conference. Read his bio and you’ll know exactly why his book is filled with authenticity, suspense and excitement.

Steve’s Bio: Steve Scarborough is a Forensic Scientist with over 30 years experience in Law Enforcement with Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department (yes, home of CSI) and the FBI. He has a B.S. degree in Police Science and has testified in court and presented scientific evidence in almost 300 cases. He has written almost 30 articles appearing in numerous publications.

Former Seal Beach P.D. homicide detective, Mitch Sharp, has put his investigative days behind him in favor of being a photographer in a beautiful beach town in Costa Rica. The opening scene begins with Mitch taking photos and finding a trail of blood in the white sand. Though he vows not to investigate, he discovers the still living but bleeding female body. Someone hits Mitch over the head—and when he recovers, the body is gone.

When he returns home, he discovers the Chief of Police searching his casita. When he learns about the slaying of several women, Mitch vows not to get involved. He’s left that life behind in the U.S. Of course, that isn’t to be as Mitch becomes more and more entangled in what’s going on.

Besides the intriguing murder mystery, author Steve Scarborough gives us a wonderful view of Costa Rica, the lifestyles and personalities of those who’ve decided this was the place to “get away from it all,” a look through the eye of Mitch the photographer, and a peek into the mind of Mitch the detective. There is plenty of adventure and intrigue to keep every suspense reader happy—and there’s an authenticity in this novel that’s missing in so many others.

Marilyn Meredith is a Springville, CA mystery author and an ongoing contributor to our Local Literary section. Be sure to visit her website; fictionforyou.com

Jambalaya Justice second review
Review by Diana Hockley

Ryan Murphy is a complicated, hardworking lawyer who throws herself into her cases with passion. She is an energetic and likeable character who tends to get into difficult situations through sheer enthusiasm for her job. The loss of her best friend, Edie (a victim of identity theft and presumed dead) is a constant grief; her determination to find the murderer of Cherry, a hooker, leads her into extreme danger, culminating in a horrific incident at the courthouse.

The background of New Orleans is very well depicted, and takes the reader into the color and energy of the city. Having never been there, for me this was a highlight of the novel.

I did feel the story slowed sometimes, as there are a lot of threads to the plot and these tend to distract from the main focus. The lack of defined chapters threw me, as I found it a little confusing when the plot changed tack without any obvious notification, but got used to this as I got further into the story.

I do not like spoilers; however, the ending is very satisfying but sad, and leaves this reader with the distinct impression that there are more stories to come with Ryan and her boyfriend, Shep, at the helm.

To enter to win a copy of both of these books, simply email KRL at life@kingsriverlife.com with the subject line “Oak Tree”, or comment on this article. U.S. residents only please. A winner will be chosen December 3, 2011.

If you love mysteries, why not check out Left Coast Crime:
Mystery Conference in Sacramento, March 29-April 1, 2012.Registration through 12/31/2011 is only $210 (it goes up to $225 after that). Registration information can be found at the conventionwebsite, or by sending an email to rb@robinburcell.com or cindy@cindysamplebooks.com.

Diana Hockley is an Australian mystery author who lives in a southeast Queensland country town. She is the devoted slave of five ratties & usually finds an excuse to mention them in her writing, including her recent novel, The Naked Room. Since retiring from running a traveling mouse circus for 10 years, she is now the mouse judge for the Queensland Rat & Mouse Club shows. To learn more, check out her website.


  1. I love a good mystery and these books sound really good.

  2. I keep checking our public library everytime I see a review of Holli’s books. If she is at Left Coast Crime in Sacramento,
    maybe someone will sell her books in the bookroom. They sound wonderful.


  3. I have both of these books so don’t need to be entered into the drawing, but wanted to thank you both for the great reviews and to thank Karen for the compliment.

    Holli Castillo

  4. We have picked a winner! Thanks for entering. Check out our contests this week!
    Lorie Ham, KRL Publisher


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