Mystery & Fantasy Books To Put On Your Christmas Wishlist

Dec 3, 2011 | 2011 Articles, Contributors, Diana Hockley, Fantasy & Fangs, Mysteryrat's Maze, Sandra Murphy, Terrance V. Mc Arthur

by Sandra Murphy, Terell Byrd,
Terrance V. Mc Arthur & Diana Hockley

Since we’re all running around trying to think of the perfect gifts for friends and family and to put on our own wishlist, KRL thought what’s more perfect than a book! So here are some suggestions for some great mystery & fantasy books that would make perfect gifts by writers W.S. Cager, Linda Poitevin, Jane Tesh, Nancy Naigle, Phyllis Johnson & Janice Hamrick! And as a bonus, we are also giving away copies of 4 of the 5 books below!

A Case of Hometown Blues by W.S. Gager

Review by Terell Byrd

Mitch Malone, contender for a Pulitzer Prize two years running, has been assigned to teach a seminar at a sister newspaper of the Grand River Journal where he works. He really doesn’t want to teach, he wants to be out in the field working on the next big story. He really doesn’t want to go back to Flatville, the town he grew up in. Mitch knows that he can’t go home again. While he was still in college, he left the town, the house, photographs and even the suit he wore to his parents’ funeral behind to be sold.

Even though home is no longer there, the past is still very much a part of the present day in Flatville. Mitch walks into a class of six with two very hostile young reporters. After making a rash wager about his ability to find a wire quality story, even in Flatville, he stumbles across his class reunion in a popular local bar. Trudy, the cheerleader who chose his cousin, Scott, the old childhood friend he never wanted to see again, his cousin Ram and the bully Sam, the duo that were his tormentors as a teen, are all present. He thinks that the very worst of his past confronted him on his first night in town. Mitch finds that it can always get worse; the next morning Trudy is found murdered.

Mitch was with Trudy late the night before and is the prime suspect. He winds up as part of the Pulitzer worthy investigation into fraud, questionable real estate deals, suspicious deaths and local corruption. There is something rotten in Flatville and the decay stretches out to taint the forgotten corners of Mitch’s childhood.

Who killed Trudy? She and her brother, Kim, had a terrible argument the night before she died. Is it the brutal Sam, now Police Chief and fond of using his steel toed boots on prisoners? Is the death in the present linked to the mysterious drowning of Aaron, a youth found dead right after a confrontation with cousin Ram Malone and Sam? Or is it someone else, as yet unknown, with old scores to settle, old business to finish? You will have to read the book to find out!

This is listed as the third in the Mitch Malone series. It has some references to previous novels but is fine as a stand alone. I am glad I read this story first; I feel I have a real feel for what has made Mitch Malone the man he is now. There are some interesting passages on what constitutes a great newspaper story and how they should be written. In a day when classic journalism is in short supply, Mitch makes us remember what a powerful force great print coverage of events can be.

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Terell Byrd is a native Fresnan, who was born, raised, & educated locally. In the course of a mad gypsy life, she has taken classes in Electrical Engineering, broken into bank vaults at night & worked as a Tax Examiner for the IRS. She now lives quietly, with more cats.

Sins of the Angels by Linda Poitevin

Review by Terrance V. Mc Arthur

Caim, a Fallen Angel, is loose on Earth, killing to find a way back into Heaven. His modus operandi mocks the holy and is too much for some of the crime-scene forces to stomach.

Aramael, his twin brother, is on the hunt to catch him, but he is also assigned to guard a woman whose existence fills him with disgust, yet she stirs emotions in him that have been erased for millennia.

Alex, a Toronto police detective, is on the case from the Mortal end, but she is unknowingly the key that the Fallen One is trying to find, and Alex is seeing her angry, annoying, attractive new partner with wings.

Sins of the Angels is a wild blend of urban fantasy, police procedural, paranormal romance, and psycho-political thriller. The heat rages from the streets of Canada to the realms of The One, whose creations are making her tired.

Alex is a Naphil, descended from the Grigori, angels who gave mortals too much power and information, and who mated with them.Whatever this lineage means, Alex now fears she has inherited her mother’s schizophrenia that left her parentless, since she is hearing and seeing things that can’t be happening.

There are enough intimations of plots behind the plotlines that will delight any conspiracy theorist, with threads reaching beyond the mortal world, touching the courts of the Most High. Poitevin explores the ranks of the angelic hosts, mixing the scriptural with the imaginative, creating a holy realm that resembles a red-tape bureaucracy more than the traditional clouds of harp-players.

Poitevin creates a decent level of suspense, delivers a goodly amount of gore, ratchets up the romance level with numerous references to lower-body heat, and delivers some chuckles and grins with Aramael’s fish-out-of-water experiences as he tries to adapt his angelic seek-and-find methods to a world of police work where you have to read files and canvas the neighborhood for witnesses.

For a novel about angels, Fallen and otherwise, there is a lot of strong language in Sins of the Angels, and not only from the hard-boiled police detectives. This book is subtitled The Grigori Inheritance, and is the beginning of a series, so some storylines are left open-ended. It will be interesting to follow this saga and see where it leads. With some of the hints of parallels to Biblical stories that have already been planted, the results could be Heavenly.

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Stolen Hearts by Jane Tesh

Review by Terell Byrd

As our story opens, David Randall is living in his 1967 Plymouth Fury. He wakes to the sound of sirens and the noise of emergency vehicles and personnel. An old man has been murdered in the neighborhood. When David gets out of his car to look around, he stumbles on a notebook with writing about music. Something about the harmless old man who has been murdered catches his attention and he vows to himself that he will work on the case.

David is at the bottom of his life: emotionally, physically and financially. He has one friend that he knows will take him in, Camden. He tries to avoid going to Camden’s house on Grace Street, looks for a motel and accidentally meets Camden at a store. Well, maybe the meeting isn’t accidental: Camden is psychic. The constant intrusion of bits and pieces of other lives and times is painful for Camden, but he has a large heart and an open house. He has boarders who are there because they need to be and are not really reliable about paying for the upkeep of the house.

David Randall is offered not only a room but an office in the lovely old house at 302 Grace Street. He soon has his first client, Melanie Gentry. She asks him to help her prove that her great grandmother Laura Gentry was the author of a definitive collection of Appalachian folk songs and was murdered for the rights and credit. Laura Gentry’s lover and possible killer, John Barrows Ashford, is going to be listed as the author on the new edition coming out. Since PBS is coming out with a series on American folk music, there is the potential for a lot of fame and fortune in a revival of the old songs. Is there a link to the music notebook found at the murder scene? Is there evidence in another old notebook from the period? Is the spirit of John Ashford telling the truth when he says he was sole author and innocent of any crime? You will have to read the book to find out!

This is the first in the Grace Street mystery series. It is a promising start. There are some very interesting characters with real problems – especially David Randall. I especially liked the resolution of the great tragedy in his life. The people in the rooming house and their friends are fresh and appealing. The setting in the fictional Parkland, North Carolina, is the real South in the fall of the year. Break out the spiced apple cider, a cozy afghan and enjoy a fun read!

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Terrance V. Mc Arthur is a California-born, Valley-raised librarian/entertainer/writer. He is currently writing a stage adaptation of Jack London’s The Call of the Wild for the Fresno County Public Library’s next The Big Read. He lives in Sanger, four blocks from the library, with his wife, his daughter, and a spinster cat.

Out of Focus by Nancy Naigle

Review by Diana Hockley

Nancy Naigle’s Out of Focus, in spite of its emotive subject matter, is a charming story with genuinely nice characters – except for the perpetrators of the crime!

Nancy’s style is laid back and easy – I read it in one night. Her small town settings work well with the story of a young professional photographer who loses her husband and three year old son in an accident. However, all is not what it seems; the child’s body is not found.

The story follows the months after the accident, the search, the new friends the young mother – Kasey Phillips – makes along the way, the surprise which her husband and son planned and which awaits her in Adams Grove. The heartbreak and rising tension, as time passes and her son appears to be lost forever is brilliantly depicted. The pace is steady and tension rises at just the right time. Although I did recognize the perpetrator early in the story, it was not until the end that Nancy Naigle reveals the betrayal behind the tragedy and how it was executed.

I reviewed Nancy’s first Adams Grove novel, Sweet Tea and Secrets, some time ago, and although I was impressed, I am of the opinion that this story is even better in terms of technical expertise and emotive imagery.

Highly recommended!

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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.

InkBLOT by Nancy Naigle & Phyllis Johnson writing as Johnson Naigle

Review by Terrance V Mc Arthur

In Johnson Naigle’s InkBLOT, Ronnie Wright is a teen with his own website,, where people take quizzes about what they see in a series of abstract inkblots, earn points, and build and furnish their own InkPads, creating virtual communities. Oddly enough, Ronnie’s site is proving to be a fairly accurate way of predicting criminal behavior.

Chelsea Pressman is a newspaper reporter who wants to escape from writing fluff features to the world of front-page-grabbing hard news. Sent to fill in for a sick journalist as a minor follow-up on a strange death, she makes some connections that the reporter missed. Providing a clue to a female police detective on the case, she forges an alliance that could provide her with improved access to police contacts. Ronnie has been following Chelsea’s blog and wants to impress her, even though he is ignoring Tiffany, his loyal website partner.

Ronnie is selfish and insensitive, but aren’t most men in mysteries? His obsession with the girl reporter threatens to put his self-made empire in jeopardy, but he doesn’t let that stop him from buying a Corvette, getting a tattoo, or trying to win the girl in a celebrity auction.

A number of people are dying in odd ways in the city, people who seem to have connections to the popular InkBLOT site, which puts Ronnie high on the suspect list of a police investigation. When he is taken into custody, it is up to the woman who really cares for him to recognize the patterns, work with the detective, clear his name, and find the culprit.

Johnson Naigle is the pen name of Phyllis C. Johnson and Nancy Naigle. Phyllis came up with the idea of online websites being twisted into diabolical uses, while Nancy had the techno background to make things happen.

The premise is intriguing, and there are enough unusual background characters to keep things moving, like the tattoo artist who dispenses sage advice, and his spunky daughter who is a fan of the InkBLOT site.

In a world where Internet wonderboys can turn their concepts into megabucks, it is fun to watch Ronnie trying to parlay his brand into wider usage, while someone else tries to spin him into police custody. There are lessons in marketing savvy that add to the fun of this quirky novel.

Click here to buy this book & support Indie bookstores & KRL

Terrance V. Mc Arthur is a California-born, Valley-raised librarian/entertainer/writer. He is currently writing a stage adaptation of Jack London’s The Call of the Wild for the Fresno County Public Library’s next The Big Read. He lives in Sanger, four blocks from the library, with his wife, his daughter, and a spinster cat.

To enter to win a copy of these first 4 books, simply email KRL at with the subject line “Christmas”, or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen December 10, 2011. U.S. residents only.

Here is our final Christmas gift selection! However, KRL is filled with great book and CD reviews that could help you with your Christmas list this year so be sure and check out our Kings River Reviewers Section.

Death on Tour by Janice Hamrick

Review by Sandra Murphy

When the temperatures drop and snow threatens, what is the best way to stay warm? If a trip to warmer climates isn’t in the picture, try traveling within a book.

Egypt. The Sphinx, pyramids, sand and camels, vendors in the marketplace, new foods, new people and murder. Yes, murder, two, in fact, and secrets by the score.

One of the first things school teacher Jocelyn Shore learns on her Egyptian trip is that all you know about your fellow passengers is what they tell you—and what they don’t.

Jocelyn’s saved for this tour for a long time, memorized the tour guides and loves every minute of her trip—well, except for the sharp-tongued Millie who is caught going through the luggage of others and spreading gossip. Is it any wonder the book opens with Millie’s fall from a pyramid? Was it an accident or murder?

As the tour moves through the countryside, Jocelyn finds herself drawn into the mysteries of fellow tourists. Everyone has a secret but how many have to do with the murder?

Hamrick tells a good tale with information about Egypt scattered throughout. She avoids a new writer’s pitfall—the dreaded Information Dump, where description of the scene, the characters, their mannerisms and backgrounds all drops into the story like a scoop of mashed potatoes hitting the floor. Jocelyn is a believable character whose enthusiasm for the trip shows as she spouts facts to her cousin and other passengers—without becoming annoying.

The relationship between Jocelyn and her cousin Kyla is believable and witty. Pretty Kyla’s disbelief when mystery man Alan Stratton seems to prefer Jocelyn is the revenge of the studious.

From the doctor who loves to haggle, the shoplifter, the elderly sisters, a young woman who goes to extremes to hide herself and a couple with exuberant kids, the tour has a variety of personalities and possible motives for murder.

With subplots and side stories, the mystery isn’t lost in this debut novel, winner of the 2010 Mystery Writers of America/Minotaur Books First Crime Novel Competition. Available in hardcover or paperback, this is a new author you don’t’ want to miss. Look for her second book, Death Makes the Cut, due out in July 2012.

Click here to buy this book & support Indie bookstores & KRL

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 or

Sandra Murphy lives in the shadow of the arch, in the land of blues, booze and shoes—St Louis, Missouri. While writing magazine articles to support her mystery book habit, she secretly polishes two mystery books of her own, hoping, someday, they will see the light of Barnes and Noble.


  1. These all sound good! Thanks for the gift ideas!

  2. They all sound wonderful! Thanks for giving me new books to add to my unread list!



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