Category Archives: Suspense

Review: Murder and Mayhem by Rhys Ford

Title: Murder and Mayhem by Rhys Ford
Murder and Mayhem Series Book One
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Genre: Contemporary, Gay, Erotic, Romance, Mystery, Suspense
Length: 236 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by the Author

Summary:

Murder and Mayhem: Book One

Dead women tell no tales.

Former cat burglar Rook Stevens stole many a priceless thing in the past, but he’s never been accused of taking a life—until now. It was one thing to find a former associate inside Potter’s Field, his pop culture memorabilia shop, but quite another to stumble across her dead body.

Detective Dante Montoya thought he’d never see Rook Stevens again—not after his former partner falsified evidence to entrap the jewelry thief and Stevens walked off scot-free. So when he tackled a fleeing murder suspect, Dante was shocked to discover the blood-covered man was none other than the thief he’d fought to put in prison and who still makes his blood sing.

Rook is determined to shake loose the murder charge against him, even if it means putting distance between him and the rugged Cuban-Mexican detective who brought him down. If one dead con artist wasn’t bad enough, others soon follow, and as the bodies pile up around Rook’s feet, he’s forced to reach out to the last man he’d expect to believe in his innocence—and the only man who’s ever gotten under Rook’s skin.

Review:

Murder and Mayhem is the first suspenseful installment in Rhys Ford’s new mystery series, Murder and Mayhem.

Ex-thief Rook Stevens is walking the straight and narrow now he has opened a collectible shop. So when he arrives to find the very dead body of former associate Dani Anderson in his shop, he is at a loss to understand who killed her or why.  Despite his prior walk on the crime side, Rook is a genuinely kind, caring and compassionate man who goes out of his way to help those who are less fortunate than he is.

Rook’s relationship with his newly found grandfather, Archibald, is a work in progress.  Rook and Archie take great pains to hide the fact that they care about each other and their scenes together are as funny as they are heartwarming. Archie has his grandson’s back no matter what but Rook cannot help but feel great remorse that his grandfather is smack dab in the middle of this increasingly dangerous situation. But Rook is not one to reveal his tender side, so he continues to keep everyone at arm’s length including the cop he has some personal history with, Detective Dante Montoya.

Dante and his former partner worked very hard to build a case against Rook several years earlier, and when their efforts came up empty, Rook became his personal white whale. Never imagining their paths would cross again, Dante does everything possible to ensure he and his new partner, Hank Camden, do everything by the book. However, this plan quickly falls by the wayside when his relationship with their chief suspect crosses over into very personal territory when Rock is very nearly killed.

By this point in the investigation, Dante has very strong doubts that Rook had anything to do with Dani’s death. When the body count continues to rise, he and Hank look to Rook’s past to try to figure out why Rook has been targeted and more importantly, by whom.  Rook makes no secret of the fact there was animosity between him and Dani but since he gave up his thieving ways soon after their last job together, he can think of no explanation for her being in his shop.  With Rook’s input, Dante interviews someone who gives him a possible motive for everything that has been happening, but has he discovered this information too late to save Rook?

Despite the circumstances of their unexpected reunion, there is no denying the sexual tension that underscores Rook and Dante’s interactions.  Dante is a by the book detective who is upfront with both his boss and Hank about their history and he tries to ignore his attraction for Rook.  The circumstances surrounding them giving into their mutual desire are a little unrealistic but there is no doubt there is more to their relationship than just sex. Dante is pretty much an open book with everyone and he has no reason to hide his sexuality. Rook’s default is to deflect and deny so he is not exactly onboard with admitting to himself, let alone Dante, that there might be more to their relationship than sex.  Will Dante find a way to sneak past Rook’s formidable defenses?

With an intriguing mystery, plenty of action and a colorful cast of characters, Murder and Mayhem is a fast-paced and engaging novel. Rook and Dante are wonderful protagonists and their budding romance is an absolute joy to watch unfold. Their sex scenes are definitely on the steamier side but there is little doubt there is more to their relationship than sexual chemistry.  Rhys Ford does an outstanding job with the mystery element of the storyline and the novel comes to a stunning, adrenaline-laced conclusion.

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Filed under Contemporary, Dreamspinner Press, Erotic, Gay, Murder and Mayhem, Murder and Mayhem Series, Mystery, Rated B, Review, Rhys Ford, Romance, Suspense

Review: Tramps and Thieves by Rhys Ford

Title: Tramps and Thieves by Rhys Ford
Murder and Mayhem Series Book Two
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Genre: Contemporary, Gay, Erotic, Romance, Mystery, Suspense
Length: 210 pages/Word Count: 80,852
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by the Author

Summary:

Murder and Mayhem: Book Two

Whoever said blood was thicker than water never stood in a pool of it.

Retiring from stealing priceless treasures seemed like a surefire way for Rook Stevens to stay on the right side of the law. The only cop in his life should have been his probably-boyfriend, Los Angeles Detective Dante Montoya, but that’s not how life—his life—is turning out. Instead, Rook ends up not only standing in a puddle of his cousin Harold’s blood but also being accused of Harold’s murder… and sleeping with Harold’s wife.

For Dante, loving the former thief means his once-normal life is now a sea of chaos, especially since Rook seems incapable of staying out of trouble—or keeping trouble from following him home. When Rook is tagged as a murder suspect by a narrow-focused West LA detective, Dante steps in to pull his lover out of the quagmire Rook’s landed in.

When the complicated investigation twists around on them, the dead begin to stack up, forcing the lovers to work together. Time isn’t on their side, and if they don’t find the killer before another murder, Dante will be visiting Rook in his prison cell—or at his grave.

Review:

Rhys Ford jumps right into the action in Tramps and Thieves, the second installment in the Murder and Mayhem series starring reformed cat burglar Rook Stevens and his cop boyfriend L.A. detective Dante Montoya.

Although Rook willingly walked away from his previous life, he cannot deny he misses a few of the thrills from his illicit past. So when the opportunity arises for him to take a brief walk on his former wild side, he is quick to agree. What he does not count on is winding up smack dab in the middle of another murder investigation after discovering his cousin Harold Martin’s corpse. Things go from bad to worse when homicide Detective Mark Vicks is convinced Rook killed Harold in order to assure his future inheritance from their wealthy grandfather, Archie. Since Dante is quick to realize Vicks is going to pin Harold’s murder on Rook, he and his partner, Detective Hank Camden get their boss’s official blessing to conduct an unofficial investigation of their own.  With the bodies piling up at an alarming rate and someone gunning for Rook, Dante and Hank are desperate for answers, but will they catch the killer(s) before it is too late?

Although they are rather comfortable in their new romance, Rook is still a work in progress as he tries to let down his defenses and completely trust Dante.  While Rook is not quite as uneasy with their emotional intimacy, he still finds it difficult to open up to Dante.  Rook is also making strides with his relationship with Archie, but his grandfather still has a habit of lashing out when he feels vulnerable. Rook’s reaction in the aftermath of Archie’s verbal assault is a testament to how much healing he has undergone since meeting Dante.

While they still avoid discussing Rook’s past, Dante has absolutely no doubt that Rook has nothing to do with Harold’s death.  He is very protective of his new boyfriend and his first instinct is to ensure Vicks does not pin Harold’s murder on him. Following a somewhat traumatic and dramatic discovery, Dante and Hank’s unofficial investigation becomes official but finding a motive for the murders remains elusive. When numerous attempts are made on Rook’s life, Dante is under even more pressure to wrap up the case sooner rather than later.

Although the investigation is fast-paced and intriguing, there are a few passages that are overly detailed and just a touch long winded. Some of the banter between the various characters (especially Hank) is irritating since it adds little to the storyline and these discussions occasionally occur at questionable times.

With scorching hot love scenes, a beguiling mystery and an eclectic cast of likable characters, Tramps and Thieves is a pulse-pounding addition to the Murder and Mayhem series.  Dante and Rook are appealing protagonists who perfectly complement one another despite the vast differences between them.  Their relationship is heartwarming yet filled with plenty of heat and sexual tension. The murder investigation keeps the novel moving at a brisk pace and Rhys Ford brilliantly obscures the perpetrator’s identity and motive for the murders until the novel’s exciting conclusion.

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Filed under Contemporary, Dreamspinner Press, Erotic, Gay, M/M, Murder and Mayhem Series, Mystery, Rated B, Review, Rhys Ford, Romance, Suspense, Tramps and Thieves

Review: Little Secrets by Anna Snoekstra

Title: Little Secrets by Anna Snoekstra
Publisher: MIRA
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Suspense
Length: 336 pages
Book Rating: C+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

What happens when ambition trumps the truth?

A town reeling in the wake of tragedy

An arsonist is on the loose in Colmstock, Australia, most recently burning down the town’s courthouse and killing a young boy who was trapped inside..

An aspiring journalist desperate for a story

The clock is ticking for Rose Blakey. With nothing but rejections from newspapers piling up, her job pulling beers for cops at the local tavern isn’t nearly enough to cover rent. Rose needs a story—a big one.

Little dolls full of secrets

In the weeks after the courthouse fire, precise porcelain replicas of Colmstock’s daughters begin turning up on doorsteps, terrifying parents and testing the limits of the town’s already fractured police force.

Rose may have finally found her story. But as her articles gain traction and the boundaries of her investigation blur, Colmstock is seized by a seething paranoia. Soon, no one is safe from suspicion. And when Rose’s attention turns to the mysterious stranger living in the rooms behind the tavern, neighbor turns on neighbor and the darkest side of self-preservation is revealed.

Review:

Set in a slowly dying town in Australia, Little Secrets by Anna Snoekstra is an intriguing mystery that begins with arson and quickly moves to the creepy porcelain dolls being left for the townspeople’s children.

Rose Blakey’s mom and stepfather are forcing her to move out of the family home and she is counting on a cadetship with a newspaper to help her realize her dream of becoming a journalist. In the meantime, her hometown of Colmstock is plagued by a series of fires and unfortunately, the latest fire claimed the life of thirteen year old Ben Riley.  When a porcelain doll is delivered to her home that bears an eerie resemblance to her younger sister Laura, Rose is shocked to discover a few other children have also received similar gifts.  In an order to jumpstart her journalist career, Rose writes a sensational story that is published by a tabloid. Under intense pressure, the police investigation fails to uncover any leads. Rose’s subsequent articles ratchet up the town’s fears but they lead to unintended consequences.

Rose and her best friend Mia are working dead end jobs at the local tavern. While Mia seems resigned to remaining in Colmstock and marrying a local, Rose is ambitious and cannot wait to leave the economically depressed town behind. Growing desperate following numerous rejections for her articles, she eagerly takes advantage of the uneasiness of the town’s residents following young Ben’s death and the deliveries of the frightening dolls. Rose also exploits the cops who visit the tavern to get insider information for her titillating articles. As events begin to spiral out of control, how far is Rose willing to go in her pursuit of her ambitions? How many people will suffer the consequences of her actions?

Little Secrets is a rather slow-moving novel and quite frankly, none of the characters, including Rose, are particularly likable.  The storyline is interesting and the town’s decay, the townspeople’s fears for their safety and their economic struggles are palpable. Despite the unlikable characters, the bleak setting and the story’s slow pace, Anna Snoekstra brings the novel to a twist-filled conclusion that very neatly ties up all the various story arcs loose threads.

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Filed under Anna Snoekstra, Contemporary, Harlequin, Little Secrets, Mira, Mystery, Rated C+, Review, Suspense

Review: Righteous by Joe Ide

Title: Righteous by Joe Ide
IQ Series Book Two
Publisher: Mulholland Books
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Suspense
Length: 336 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

In this hotly anticipated follow-up to the smash hit IQ, a New York Times Critics’ Best of the Year and nominee for the Best First Novel Edgar Award, Isaiah uncovers a secret behind the death of his brother, Marcus.

For ten years, something has gnawed at Isaiah Quintabe’s gut and kept him up nights, boiling with anger and thoughts of revenge. Ten years ago, when Isaiah was just a boy, his brother was killed by an unknown assailant. The search for the killer sent Isaiah plunging into despair and nearly destroyed his life. Even with a flourishing career, a new dog, and near-iconic status as a PI in his hometown, East Long Beach, he has to begin the hunt again-or lose his mind.

A case takes him and his volatile, dubious sidekick, Dodson, to Vegas, where Chinese gangsters and a terrifying seven-foot loan shark are stalking a DJ and her screwball boyfriend. If Isaiah doesn’t find the two first, they’ll be murdered. Awaiting the outcome is the love of IQ’s life: fail, and he’ll lose her. Isaiah’s quest is fraught with treachery, menace, and startling twists, and it will lead him to the mastermind behind his brother’s death, Isaiah’s own sinister Moriarty.

With even more action, suspense, and mind-bending mysteries than Isaiah’s first adventures, Righteousis a rollicking, ingenious thrill ride.

Review:

In Joe Ide’s Righteous, brilliant detective Isaiah Quintabe (aka IQ) finds himself working two cases that are extremely personal since they both have links to his beloved brother Marcus who died in a tragic hit and run several years earlier. This second installment in the gritty private detective series, IQ, is a suspenseful mystery that easily stands on its own but I highly recommend the first novel as well.

This latest outing picks up where the previous novel left off and having discovered the car from the hit and run that killed Marcus, Isaiah is more determined than ever to find the person responsible. After closely examining the contents inside the car, he stumbles onto a startling realization about the hit and run. Beginning his investigation with his straight as an arrow brother’s business records,  his search for the truth takes him in a surprising direction. As he gets closer to figuring out who is responsible for Marcus’s death, Isaiah’s perception of his brother is forever changed. And his quest for vengeance puts him in a moral quandary as Isaiah questions suspects and eventually comes face to face with his brother’s killer.

While delving into his brother’s past, Marcus’s girlfriend at the time of his death, Sarita Van, reaches out to Isaiah to look into her half-sister Janine’s troubles in Las Vegas. Janine and her ne’er-do-well boyfriend Benny have racked up a huge debt with a loan shark and their harebrained scheme to extort money puts them in the path of Chinese gangsters from the 14K Triad. Isaiah enlists the aid of his former partner in crime, Juanell Dodson, and they quickly travel to Vegas in order to save Janine. Their rescue attempt immediately runs into trouble since the 14K is gunning for both Janine and Benny.

With with the Triad and the loan sharks hot on their heels, Isaiah and Dodson must use every skill they possess as they try to keep Janine out of harm’s way following Benny’s disappearance. Since Isaiah a little off his game as he comes to terms with the revelations about Marcus and Dodson is trying to outthink and outmaneuver him, their collaboration is full of tension and friction as they try to stay one step ahead of the gangsters. But when the case takes a detour that hits extremely close to home, will Isaiah and Dodson put aside their differences before it is too late?

In the aftermath of both cases, Isaiah is forced to take stock of his life when his hopes and dreams are dashed after a rude reality check. A loner by choice, he is shocked by a proposition from Dodson whose plan is surprisingly well thought out and provides Isaiah with a way to make more money while still helping the people in his community.

Righteous is an engrossing, action-packed mystery with an immensely appealing lead protagonist. While Isaiah is not prone to much introspection, the events that unfold during this latest installment of the IQ series will force him to step out of comfort zone. With the chapters alternating back and forth between Isaiah’s search for Marcus’s killer and trying to keep Janine out of harm’s way, Joe Ide brings the novel to an unexpected conclusion. I greatly enjoyed this extremely clever novel and I highly recommend it to fans of the genre.

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Filed under Contemporary, IQ Series, Joe Ide, Mullholland Books, Mystery, Rated B+, Review, Righteous, Suspense

Review: Hide and Seek by M.J. Arlidge

Title: Hide and Seek by M.J. Arlidge
Helen Grace Series book Six
Publisher: Berkley
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Suspense
Length: 409 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Penguin’s First to Read Program

Summary:

Caught in a wicked game of cat and mouse, Helen Grace finds herself trapped among the hunted in the darkest thriller yet from the international bestselling author of Little Boy Blue and Eeny Meeny.

Framed for a murder she didn’t commit…

As one of HM Prison Holloway’s most high-profile new inmates, Helen Grace has a target on her back and nowhere to hide. She has made a long list of enemies over the course of her career—some are incarcerated within these very walls. When one of Helen’s fellow prisoners is found mutilated and murdered in her own locked cell, it’s clear that the killer is someone on the inside.

But time is running out for Helen as she races to expose the person who framed her, and the body count in the prison starts to climb. Helen will need to draw on all her investigative skills and instincts to catch the serial killer behind these murders and discover the truth—unless the killer finds her first.

Review:

Featuring concurrent story arcs, Hide and Seek by M.J. Arlidge is an electrifying, nail-biting addition to the DI Helen Grace series.

Picking up where Little Boy Blue left off, Helen Grace is in HM Prison Holloway awaiting trial for three murders that she insists she is not guilty of committing. Incarcerated with criminals she put behind bars, she is still struggling to adjust to prison life when one of her fellow inmates is murdered in a particularly gruesome manner. Despite her circumstances, Helen is at heart, a homicide detective so she begins her own investigation into the death. When another inmate is murdered in the same exact way, Helen knows she must stop the killer strikes again.

Outside the prison, Helen’s good friend and fellow copper, Detective Sergeant Charlie Brooks risks her career (and relationship) to clear Helen’s name. The only person on the force who believes Helen’s vehement assertion she was framed, Charlie refuses to stop searching for the man they know is responsible for the murders Helen is accused of committing. Coming very close to insubordination after defying her newly minted boss Detective Inspector Joanne Sanderson’s order to immediately cease working on the firmly closed case, Charlie manages to uncover an important lead that breaks the investigation wide open. Will Charlie manage to capture the wily and intelligent man who meticulously planned and carried out the diabolical plan to frame Helen for three brutal murders?

Back at HM Prison Holloway, Helen is painstakingly attempting to investigate the murders that one of the most sadistic guards thinks she is responsible for committing. Relying on the post-mortem reports and her finely honed instincts, a shocking theory is beginning to emerge. Certain she knows the killer’s identity, Helen tries to uncover the evidence she needs to prove her theory whilst avoiding vicious inmates with an ax to grind and the depraved guards who abuse the inmates in their charge.

Hide and Seek is an exhilarating police procedural with an exciting storyline and an brilliant cast of characters.  M.J. Arlidge breathes fresh life into the series by putting the Helen into a completely foreign and extremely dangerous environment where she is forced to use every skill in her arsenal to stay alive.  Both story arcs move at a blistering pace as the search for the serial killer inside HM Prison Holloway intensifies and Charlie desperately pursues the person responsible for framing Helen. With stunning twists and turns, the novel comes to an action-packed, adrenaline laced conclusion.

While most of the mysteries in the DI Helen Grace series can be read as standalones, I highly recommend reading Little Boy Blue in order to fully appreciate the events that unfold in Hide and Seek.

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Filed under Berkley, Contemporary, DI Helen Grace Series, Hide and Seek, Mystery, Rated B+, Review, Suspense

Review: We All Fall Down by Natalie D. Richards

Title: We All Fall Down by Natalie D. Richards
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Genre: Contemporary, Young Adult, Mystery, Suspense
Length: 368 pages
Book Rating: C

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

A new romantic thriller—with a dash of horror—from the author of One Was Lost and Six Months Later

Theo’s always been impulsive. But telling Paige how he feels? He’s obsessed over that decision. And it’s time. Tonight. At the party on the riverbank, under the old walking bridge, site of so many tales of love and death.

Paige has had a crush on Theo since they first met, but she knows her feelings are one-sided. She’s trying to move on, to flirt. A party at the river is just what she needs. Except a fight breaks out, and when Paige tries to intervene—Theo’s fist lands in her face.

All Theo and Paige want to do is forget that fateful night. But strange events keep drawing them back to the bridge. Someone, something is determined to make them remember…and pay for what they each did.

Review:

We All Fall Down by Natalie D. Richards is a suspenseful young adult novel with a few supernatural elements.

Theo Quinn and Paige Vinton-Young are best friends who rely heavily on each other to help deal with their respective mental health issues. Theo is struggling with a fairly severe problem with ADHD and he has gone through a host of medications to try to help manage his disorder. Paige has been plagued with rather intense anxiety from a young age.  Just as Paige is ready to move on from her unrequited crush for Theo, he realizes he has feelings for her.  Attending a party together one night, Theo jealously lashes out at the guy she is interested in and when Paige attempts to stop him, things go horribly wrong.  Six months later, they are estranged but when both of them begin experiencing eerie occurrences that are connected to that fateful night, will Paige and Theo reunite in order to discover the truth about what is happening to them?

Paige’s parents are extremely overprotective and due to their strong influence over her after the events with Theo, she cannot trust her instincts about him.  Trying to respect their wishes, she has cut Theo completely out of her life.  When she begins finding objects associated with the night things went so drastically wrong between them, Paige wants to give Theo the benefit of the doubt, but she is having difficulty deciding whether to trust Theo or listen to her parents.

Theo is spending the summer with his uncle Denny who understands all too well some of the problems his nephew is going through. Theo is committed to adhering to his new medication regimen and when he begins experiencing unexplained phenomena, he cannot figure out whether it is side effects from the meds or something more sinister. He accidentally runs into Paige one day which sets the stage for a possible reunion, but Paige’s trust issues remain a source of conflict between them.

We All Fall Down by Natalie D. Richards is a rather slow moving novel with likable characters that seem defined by their respective mental health issues. The storyline is initially intriguing but it becomes a little repetitive as Theo tries to make sense of what is happening to him. Paige’s parents’ interference in her life is also extremely exasperating due to their lack of faith in her ability to manage her anxiety and day to day life. The supernatural element falls a little flat as does the explanation for Paige’s discoveries.   The conclusion is a little rushed but all of the loose ends are nicely tied up.

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Filed under Contemporary, Mystery, Natalie D Richards, Rated C, Review, Sourcebooks Fire, Suspense, We All Fall Down, Young Adult