Category Archives: Crooked Lane Books

Review: At What Cost by James L’Etoile

Title: At What Cost by James L’Etoile
Detective Penley Mystery Series Book One
Publisher: Crooked Lane Books
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery
Length: 304 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

What would you do to save your child?

Detective John Penley and his new partner, Detective Paula Newberry, of the Sacramento Police Department are tasked with leading the investigation into a local serial killer who has dumped three bodies in the past six weeks–and all of them are missing their internal organs. But while pursuing a lead, the detectives stumble upon a personal message the killer left behind for Penley. And it’s attached to a human kidney.

How could the killer know Penley’s son is on the kidney transplant waiting list? Now Penley’s baited into an impossible trap that could jeopardize his entire career. Will the detective take down the killer and place his faith in the medical establishment to heal his son? Or, will he make a deal with the devil for the transplant organ his son needs to live?

At What Cost, James L’Etoile’s engrossing new mystery, is a heart-stopping thrill ride that will keep readers guessing at every turn. Fans of Michael Connelly and Thomas Perry won’t be able to put this down.

Review:

In At What Cost by James L’Etoile, Detective John Penley’s investigation of several gang members’ murders turns personal when he and his family are seemingly targeted by the killer.

Penley and his partner Detective Paula Newberry have not made much progress in their investigation of several recent murders of known gang members.  With each of the deceased belonging to different gangs, they cannot help but speculate that the deaths might be retaliation but this line of inquiry soon leads to a dead end.  A series of startling discoveries connected to the most recent murder leads Penley and Newberry to believe the killer is harvesting the victims’ organs.  Unfortunately, Penley has intimate knowledge of the donation process since his nine year old son Tommy is waiting for a kidney transplant.  Despite assurances there is no way anyone could be access the donor list, Penley and Newberry soon learn the killer is manipulating the donor list.  Will they capture the murderer before it is too late?

John Penley tries to keep his professional and personal lives separate, but maintaining his objectively on his current case is virtually impossible.  Using his insider’s knowledge of the donation process proves invaluable but there are limitations to what information can be obtained without jeopardizing patient confidentiality. Quickly realizing that Tommy might be at risk, John is faced with a moral dilemma that could help him flush out the killer but will doing so put his son in danger?

Newly transferred to homicide, Paula is not exactly welcomed by her co-workers due to her previous assignment.  She and John work well together but when their current case heats up, John’s trust in his partner is soon put to the test.  Despite John’s anger over a perceived betrayal, Paula is undeterred as she continues trying to track down a killer who always seems to be two steps ahead of them during their investigation.

At What Cost by James L’Etoile is a fast-paced police procedural with a refreshingly unique storyline.  There is plenty of suspense as Penley and Newberry try to make sense of the murders.  Once the pieces of the puzzle begin to fall into place, their investigation takes on new urgency once they realize John and his family are in danger.  With unexpected plot twists, a twisted motive for the murders and a seemingly demented killer, the novel races to a pulse-pounding conclusion.  An absolutely chilling first installment in the John Penley Mystery series that fans of the genre absolutely do not want to miss.

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Filed under At What Cost, Contemporary, Crooked Lane Books, James L'Etoile, Mystery, Rated B, Review

Review: Among the Dead by J.R. Backlund

Title: Among the Dead by J.R. Backlund
Rachel Carver Series Book One
Publisher: Crooked Lane Books
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery
Length: 304 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

Ex-SBI agent Rachel Carver must hunt a group of killers on her own before time runs out in this gripping debut.

Former North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation agent Rachel Carver blames herself for the collateral death of an innocent woman in her last case. Unable to accept her superior’s attempts to cover up the incident, she turned in her badge. But when a former partner asks her to consult on a new murder case, she reluctantly agrees, traveling to a small, remote mountain community, where she’s tasked with leading a group of inexperienced detectives on a hunt for the killer. The trek has hardly begun when what seems to be the act of a loner proves to be much more as Rachel’s team comes under attack—and a detective is killed in the fallout.

Now that the stakes have risen, Rachel’s old employers at the SBI step in to take over the investigation. But Rachel, convinced they are on the wrong track, continues to work the case alone. And just as she delves into the town’s past, she discovers a secret history that connects the victims—one that makes her the target of a man who would kill to keep it a secret.

Perfect for fans of Tami Hoag and J. T. Ellison, J. R. Backlund’s gripping mystery debut Among the Dead is sure to be a knock-out.

Review:

Among the Dead is an intriguing first installment in J.R. Backlund’s new series starring ex-SBI agent Rachel Carver.

Rachel left the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation under a bit of a cloud when a case she was working on ended badly.  So when her former partner Danny Braddock, who is now the Chief Detective for the Sheriff’s department in small NC town, asks her to work as a consultant on a murder case, she reluctantly agrees to help with their investigation.  Rachel’s expertise is invaluable to the small department since they lack experience in murder investigations. There is little evidence to go on as they investigate Dean McGrath’s murder and after Andy Coughlan is murdered under the same circumstances, the biggest fear is a serial killer might be responsible. Rachel is certain there is a something in the victims’ pasts that lead to their deaths, but the SBI takes over the case in the aftermath of tragedy. However, Rachel is not convinced the SBI theory is correct but will she solve the cases before the killer strikes again?

Rachel is a flawed but immensely appealing protagonist. She can sometimes become a little overly involved and obsessed with cases and while this trait sometimes works against her, it does make her a an excellent investigator. With many years of experience under her belt, Rachel has plenty of tact and diplomacy and she does an excellent job guiding the inexperienced team during the investigation.  Rachel is very hard on herself and she tends to take on misplaced guilt when things veer off course.

While the killer’s identity is known right from the beginning of the novel, the motive for the murders remains shrouded in mystery. The murderer is extremely well versed in preventing transfer of evidence so the investigation is forensically challenged right from the start.  Rachel urges the team to focus their efforts on victimology in hopes they will uncover the link between the deceased and their killer but that connection is also somewhat elusive. A huge break seems to crack the case wide open but a shocking turn of events culminates in a devastating blow to the detectives.  Rachel is determined not let political maneuvering derail the investigation but will she uncover the truth before it is too late?

Among the Dead is a meticulously plotted mystery with a suspense-laden storyline and an outstanding cast of characters.  The novel is fast-paced with plenty of clever twists and turns. J.R. Backlund brings the story to brilliant conclusion that completely wraps up all of the  loose ends.  The Rachel Carver series is off to a strong beginning and it will be interesting to see what the intrepid sleuth will face in the next installment of the series.

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Filed under Among the Dead, Contemporary, Crooked Lane Books, JR Backlund, Mystery, Rachel Carver Series, Rated B+, Review

Review: Hunting Hour by Margaret Mizushima

Title: Hunting Hour by Margaret Mizushima
Timber Creek K-9 Mystery Series Book Three
Publisher: Crooked Lane Books
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery
Length: 320 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

Deputy Mattie Cobb is in a dark place and has withdrawn from Cole Walker and his family to work on issues from her past. When she and her K-9 partner Robo get called to track a missing junior high student, they find the girl dead on Smoker’s Hill behind the high school, and Mattie must head to the Walker home to break the bad news. But that’s only the start of trouble in Timber Creek, because soon another girl goes missing—and this time it’s one of Cole’s daughters.

Knowing that each hour a child remains missing lessens the probability of finding her alive, Mattie and Robo lead the hunt while Cole and community volunteers join in to search everywhere. To no avail. It seems that someone has snatched all trace of the Walker girl from their midst, including her scent. Grasping at straws, Mattie and Robo follow a phoned-in tip into the dense forest, where they hope to find a trace of the girl’s scent and to rescue her alive. But when Robo does catch her scent, it leads them to information that challenges everything they thought they knew about the case.

Mattie and Robo must rush to hunt down the kidnapper before they’re too late in Hunting Hour, the third installment in critically acclaimed author Margaret Mizushima’s exhilarating mystery series.

Review:

In Hunting Hour, the discovery of a missing teen’s lifeless body has a rather profound effect on K-9 handler Deputy Mattie Cobb. Although this latest release is the third installment in Margaret Mizushima’s Timber Creek K-9 Mystery series, it can easily be read as a standalone (but I highly recommend the entire series).

Mattie is still trying to work through the deep-seated and extremely troubling issues from her highly dysfunctional and abusive childhood when her search for missing thirteen year old Candace Banks ends in tragedy. The subsequent investigation uncovers startling information that makes Mattie suspicious that the girl’s father, Burt, might have been molesting his daughter. Although there is no evidence to substantiate her theory, inconsistencies in his alibi definitely make him a person of interest in the case. The investigation into Candace’s death is barely underway when Mattie’s friend, local veterinarian Cole Walker’s youngest daughter is kidnapped.  Certain the two cases are linked, Mattie, Chief Deputy Ken Brody and Detective Stella LoSasso begin a frantic search to locate eight year old Sophie before it is too late.

In recent months, Mattie has distanced herself from Cole, his daughters and her co-workers as she undergoes therapy in an effort to come to terms with her traumatic past. With these terrible memories fresh in her mind, she is exhausted and emotionally battered as she and her canine partner Robo begin searching for Candace. After finding the young girl’s body, Mattie and the team soon discover somewhat unsavory and very unexpected information about the young teenager and Mattie’s childhood experiences lead her to a very troubling conclusion. Since Stella is the only person with any knowledge of the demons that are haunting Mattie, she gently, but diligently, cautions her to try not to let her past cloud her judgment and maintain her focus on the evidence they are uncovering.

Despite Mattie’s unsettling suspicions, there are other viable suspects who have valid reasons for harming Candace. Several members of the high school football team are brought in for questioning but is one of the young men Candace’s killer? After Sophie’s disappearance, suspicion then falls on Gus Tilley, one of Cole’s clients whose out of character behavior in recent days moves him to the top of the suspect list. Mattie and the rest of the Sheriff’s office are also frantically searching for a recently paroled pedophile who has been spotted in Timber Creek, but their efforts have thus far yielded few results.

With an engrossing storyline and an intriguing mystery to solve, Hunting Hour is a riveting police procedural that is incredibly suspenseful. Mattie is a deeply flawed yet immensely appealing protagonist who is gradually making progress with coming to terms with her past. Cole is a wonderful possible love interest but he is also carrying emotional baggage that leaves Mattie doubtful he is ready for a new relationship. The investigation into Candace’s death and Sophie’s disappearance is fast-paced and without a discernible motive for either crime, Mattie, Robo and the Sheriff’s department are faced with an almost daunting task as they ramp up their search for answers. Margaret Mizushima continues to keep the Timber Creek K-9 Mystery series fresh with the addition of new characters, evolving relationships between Mattie and her co-workers and perplexing mysteries. This newest addition to this phenomenal series is sure to be a hit with loyal followers and readers who are just now discovering this fantastic crime fighting duo.

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Filed under Contemporary, Crooked Lane Books, Margaret Mizushima, Mystery, Rated B+, Review, Timber Creek K-9 Mystery Series

Review: Dead Man’s Bridge by Robert J. Mrazek

Title: Dead Man’s Bridge by Robert J. Mrazek
Jake Cantrell Mystery Series Book One
Publisher: Crooked Lane Books
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Suspense
Length: 288 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

For fans of Linwood Barclay, this exhilarating series debut by award-winning author Robert Mrazek features former Army officer Jake Cantrell as he tries to solve a series of murders at a small college town in upstate New York.

Unfairly disgraced former army officer Jake Cantrell has only one friend left: Bug, a wolf-dog he saved while serving in Afghanistan. Together, they try to put his bitter past behind him and Jake settles for employment at the bottom rung of the campus security ladder of a small upstate New York college. But things only turn worse when the college’s richest and most powerful alumnus is found hanging from a campus footbridge on the eve of homecoming weekend.

Jake is convinced the man was murdered, but with no credibility to his name, no one agrees—at least not until a second body is found hanging from the same bridge. But as a vicious hurricane sweeps up the Eastern seaboard, the clock is ticking and it’s only a matter of time before the killer strikes again.

Trusting his instincts, Jake puts his own life in peril as he attempts to uncover the buried secrets at the heart of the murders in acclaimed author Robert J. Mrazek’s Dead Man’s Bridge, the first in a new heart-pounding mystery series sure to keep readers hooked until the very last page.

Review:

In Dead Man’s Bridge by Robert J. Mrazek, disgraced Army  veteran and St. Andrews College campus security officer Jake Cantrell is certain the hanging death of college alum Dennis Wheatley is murder but his boss Captain Janet Morgo declares it a suicide.

Jake left the Army under a cloud due a mission gone horribly wrong and he still shoulders a great deal of guilt for the loss of several men under his command. Virtually unemployable in the aftermath, his longtime friend and college president Jordan Langford secures a position for Cantrell as campus security officer. Captain Morgo might not have a choice in hiring Jake, but this does not mean she likes him nor does she trust his judgment. Jake immediately clashes with Morgo over their differing viewpoints on the death but when Dennis’s wife demands Cantrell be put in charge of the investigation, Janet has no choice but to acquiesce to the request. With another victim and a hurricane induced storm bearing down on the college, Jake is soon in a race against time to catch the killer before it is too late.

Despite his somewhat checkered past, Jake is  an immensely appealing protagonist who is incredibly compassionate and caring. His tenderness when caring for his ailing dog, Bug, shows the type of man he is as does his loyalty to his longtime friend Jordan.  Despite their somewhat complicated past, Jake does not hesitate to agree to look into a very delicate situation that jeopardizes Jordan’s career at the college.  In addition to looking into Jordan’s problem, Jake is also willing to risk both his job and his life in order to uncover the truth about Wheatley’s untimely death.

Robert J. Mrazek’s Jake Cantrell Mystery series is off to a very strong beginning with Dead Man’s Bridge. Jake is an intrepid sleuth who is willing to buck authority when necessary but it is his endearing loyalty that will win readers’ hearts. The mystery surrounding Dennis Wheatley’s death is quite intriguing as is the story arc dealing with Jordan’s embarrassing predicament. The novel comes to an action-paced and adrenaline laced conclusion that completely wraps up the various storylines. I absolutely loved and highly recommend this exciting first installment in what promises to be an outstanding mystery series.

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Filed under Contemporary, Crooked Lane Books, Dead Man's Bridge, Jake Cantrell Mystery Series, Mystery, Rated B+, Review, Robert J Mrazek, Suspense

Review: Murder in Mayfair by D.M. Quincy

Title: Murder in Mayfair by D.M. Quincy
Atlas Catesby Series Book One
Publisher: Crooked Lane Books
Genre: Historical, Mystery
Length: 304 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

In 1814, Atlas Catesby, a brilliant adventurer and youngest son of a baron, is anxious to resume his world travels after being injured in a carriage accident in London. But his plans are derailed when, passing through a country village, he discovers a helpless woman being auctioned off to the highest bidder–by her husband.

In order to save her from being violated by another potential buyer, Atlas purchases the lady, Lilliana, on the spot to set her free. But Lilliana, desperate to be with her young sons and knowing the laws of England give a father all parental rights, refuses to be rescued–until weeks later when her husband is murdered and Atlas is the only one who can help clear her name of the crime.

Fortunately, Atlas is a master at solving complicated puzzles, with games as well as the intricacies of human motivation, and finds himself uniquely suited to the task, despite the personal peril it may put him in. But soon Altas learns the dead man had many secrets–and more than a few enemies willing to kill to keep them quiet–in Murder in Mayfair, the first in a new historical mystery series by D. M. Quincy.

Review:

With a cast of eclectic characters, an intriguing murder and a wonderful setting, Murder in Mayfair, the first release in D.M. Quincy’s Atlas Catesby series, is a marvelous mystery set in 1814 England.

Atlas Catesby’s zest for adventure usually keeps him far from home, but he has been sidelined for months while waiting for an injury to heal.  When he and his good friend, the Earl of Charlton Gabriel Young stop for a meal, Atlas chivalrously steps in to rescue Lilliana Warwick when her odious husband Godfrey sells her at a public auction.  He then takes her to his sister Thea Palmer’s home and they begin to brainstorm how to permanently reunite Lilliana with her two young sons, Peter and Robin. Godfrey continues to be a thorn in her side as he attempts to force her to return to their country home. After Atlas discovers Godfrey’s corpse, he becomes Bow Street runner Ambrose Endicott’s prime suspect when the death is ruled a homicide.  Uncertain whether Endicott is pursuing the case with enough vigor, Catesby turns amateur sleuth in order to unmask the killer.

Atlas is quite intelligent with a penchant for solving puzzles.  He is growing increasingly restless as his recovery takes much longer than he originally anticipated. He is rather forward thinking for the time period as he eschews  many  of society’s rules and champions women’s rights.  Atlas is unable to leave behind his guilt from a long ago tragedy and he cannot resist stepping in when he witnesses a damsel in distress.

Lilliana is a bit mysterious as she reveals as little as possible about herself to her new acquaintances. She is fiercely devoted to her sons and she will do anything to maintain contact with them.  Despite her untenable marriage, Lilliana is a strong, resilient woman who refuses to let fear prevent her confronting her vile husband when she needs to.

During his investigation into Godfrey’s murder, Atlas discovers there are many people who have good reason to kill the despicable man. Topping the list is the mysterious man who was recently involved in a physical altercation with Godrey not long before the murder.  But with only a vague description of a man wearing distinctive ring, Atlas’s efforts to locate him are quickly stalled. Another clue leads Atlas to a local tailor with a secret to keep but would he kill Godfrey in order to silence him? Atlas also discovers that Godfrey recently had a falling out with his only friend but is this a motive for murder?

Murder in Mayfair is an enthralling mystery with a fascinating storyline and an interesting cast of characters. The slow build up to Godfrey’s murder provides D.M. Quincy with ample opportunity to develop the various characters and the storyline. Atlas’s investigation reveals a vast pool of suspects who have viable motives for murder, but which one of them is the killer? The novel hurtles to an absolutely stunning conclusion as Atlas finally uncovers the jaw-dropping truth about Godfrey’s murderer.  A wonderful beginning to the Atlas Catesby series that is sure to delight fans of historical mysteries.

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Filed under Atlas Catesby Series, Contemporary, Crooked Lane Books, DM Quincy, Historical, Murder in Mayfair, Mystery, Rated B, Review

Review: One by One by Sarah Cain

Title: One by One by Sarah Cain
Danny Ryan Thriller Series Book Two
Publisher: Crooked Lane Books
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery
Length: 336 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

Philadelphia journalist Danny Ryan is finally getting his life together. Two and a half years after losing his family, he’s moved to a new house, started working again, and even began getting close to fellow reporter Alex Burton. Then an old high school acquaintance, Greg Moss, shows up asking for help. He’s been getting threatening text messages, and he’s not the only one. Other members of Danny’s high school class have gotten the same messages, and now they’re dead. And then Greg becomes the next victim.

Between shady political connections and crooked land deals in his real estate business, Greg had plenty to hide, but it might have been an incident from his youth that led to his death. Now Danny finds himself drawn down the dark corridors of his own life as he tries to put together the lost memories from one fateful high school party all those years ago.

But when Danny receives a text of his own, it’s a race to find the truth before the killer, much like his own past, can catch up to him in One by One, the electrifying follow-up to Sarah Cain’s The 8th Circle.

Review:

In this second outing in Sarah Cain’s Danny Ryan Thriller series, One by One, journalist Danny Ryan is once again embroiled in a complex murder investigation.

The novel opens with old high school acquaintance, Greg Moss, asking Danny to look into some ominous text messages he has been receiving. The request is immediately complicated by Greg’s revelation that several of his old high buddies also received threatening texts before they were murdered.  When Greg is then murdered, Danny’s suspicions are raised by the lead detective on the case, Ted Eliot, and Danny, along with fellow journalist, Alex Burton, decide to do a little digging around. They quickly uncover Greg’s ties with a development firm, Cromoca Partners, which is linked to Danny’s ex-father-in-law Senator Robert Harlan and Congressman George Crossman. However, after Danny begins receiving mysterious texts, he cannot help but wonder if the murders in the present are somehow connected to the parties that Greg hosted back in high school.  With assistance from both Alex and his detective brother Kevin, Danny tries to fit the pieces of the puzzle together before he becomes the killer’s next victim.

There have been a few changes in Danny’s life since readers met him in The 8th Circle.  He is now a freelance journalist and he has moved into a new house.  Since he is now living in the same neighborhood as ex-coworker Alex, he has become close to her and her husband, Sam.  His relationship with Kevin is still a work in progress, but they are closer than they were in the past.  Danny is still struggling with the loss of his wife and son but he is not as depressed as he has been.

Danny begins his investigation working off the idea that Greg’s murder, along with the earlier deaths of his football buddies, are somehow linked to the past.  When an attempt is made on the life of one of the people he interviews who knew Greg in high school and is still in touch with him in the present, Danny remains unsure what a possible motive for the murders.  When another person from high school he interviews meets an untimely death, Danny knows he is on the right track but when his former classmates are less than forthcoming with him, his investigation hits a dead end.

Although he is not assigned to the case, Kevin does an little off the books digging around into Ted Eliot’s background.  While his relationship with Danny might be a little strained, he does take his brother seriously when he notices a few inconsistencies with the detective.  Uncovering some rather interesting information about Ted, Kevin is still struggling to figure out if there is more to his story than he is telling.

Alex learns some troubling information about the Cromoca Partners latest business ventures but she is stonewalled when she tries to dig a little deeper.  She is also a little curious about the long ago death of another classmate of Danny’s and at first, her request for an interview is turned down.  Alex is excited when the person reconsiders but is she making a mistake not talking to Danny before she sets out for the meeting?

One by One is another pulse-pounding installment in the Danny Ryan Thriller series.  The investigation is compelling and Sarah Cain brings it to a close with an adrenaline-filled, action packed denouement.  The novel ends on a very intriguing note and readers will be anxious to see what Danny decides to do with the curious information he has received. A riveting mystery that fans of the genre do not want to miss!

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Filed under Contemporary, Crooked Lane Books, Danny Ryan Thriller Series, Mystery, One by One, Rated B+, Review, Sarah Cain