Category Archives: Review

Review: Unnatural Causes by Dawn Eastman

Title: Unnatural Causes by Dawn Eastman
Dr. Katie LeClair Mystery Series Book One
Publisher: Crooked Lane Books
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery
Length: 288 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

Katie LeClair has finally settled down as the new doctor in Baxter, MI. After years of moving, schooling, and training, she wants nothing more than to find a place she can call home, and a small town outside of Ann Arbor seemed perfect.

Katie quickly gets to work in building a life for herself in Baxter, and beyond reviving her love life, she also finds a pair of business partners in a team of father and son family practitioners. But that idyllic dream is immediately shattered when one of her patients is found dead. That wouldn’t be the worst thing, except the death is ruled a suicide, and as evidence has it, the suicide was a result of the medication Katie had prescribed. But she doesn’t remember writing it.

When a closer investigation reveals it was murder, Katie is catapulted into an off-the-books investigation that leads her down a dark path of past secrets. But someone is willing to kill to keep part of the town’s history in the shadows, and Katie must race to find out who before it’s too late in nationally bestselling author Dawn Eastman’s riveting series debut Unnatural Causes.

Review:

Unnatural Causes by Dawn Eastman is a perplexing and refreshingly unique mystery. This first installment in the Dr. Katie LeClair Mystery series features a charming lead protagonist and a delightful small town setting.

Dr. Katie LeClair has settled into her partnership with Drs. Emmett & Nick Hawkins, the father and son duo who own family a practice clinic in Baxter, MI. However, Katie is bewildered and upset when one of her patients, Ellen Riley, dies from an apparent overdose of medication that she does not remember prescribing for her. Ellen’s husband, Christopher Riley and her daughter, Beth Wixom, are also skeptical that Ellen committed suicide so Katie agrees to help Beth look into the case. When the autopsy proves Ellen was, in fact, murdered, police Chief John Carlson has his work cut out for him investigating her death since the crime scene was not preserved.  Katie and her brilliant computer genius brother, Caleb, discover puzzling information on Ellen’s computer, but will Katie be able to fit the pieces of this confusing puzzle together and unmask a killer?

Katie really enjoys working with both Emmett and Nick but immediately following Ellen’s death, she notices their relationship appears to be a little rocky. She is also concerned by the uncharacteristic dimming of Emmett’s typical upbeat personality. As she tries to uncover the mystery surrounding Ellen’s prescription, Katie becomes aware of some troubling discoveries within the practice.  When Nick unexpectedly takes time off from work,  Katie experiences disturbing suspicions that something is just a bit off when she covers for him in his pain clinic.

Reluctant to search for evidence to back up these misgivings, Katie instead focuses on looking into the research project Ellen was working on just before her death. Ellen inadvertently stumbled across a secret that someone does not want revealed, but Katie is hard put to make figure out exactly what her deceased patient discovered. Her quest for answers leads to digging around in the complicated histories of some Baxter’s citizens but Katie quickly learns just how far people will go to keep the past buried.

With a wonderful cast of quirky characters, an intriguing mystery and a gutsy heroine, Unnatural Causes by Dawn Eastmanis an engrossing mystery. The investigation into Ellen’s death is fast-paced and the situation at Katie’s family practice is quite interesting.  With a dash of romance, a hint of danger and an unforgettable amateur sleuth, the Dr. Katie LeClair Mystery series is off to a promising beginning that will leave fans eagerly awaiting future installments.

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Filed under Contemporary, Crooked Lane Books, Dawn Eastman, Dr Katie LeClair Mystery Series, Mystery, Review, Unnatural Causes

Review: You’re Gonna Love Me by Robin Lee Hatcher

Title: You’re Gonna Love Me by Robin Lee Hatcher
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Genre: Contemporary, Christian, Romance
Length: 320 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

Who knew fate could twist a tragedy into a second chance at love?

Samantha Winters lives her life the way a good accountant should—measured, deliberate, and safe. After watching her father die in a tragic skiing accident, she decided never to allow risk into her life again. But she didn’t count on falling for Nick Chastain, who embodies everything she doesn’t want in her safely constructed world.

Against Samantha’s warnings, Nick plans a dangerous kayaking trip over spring break. Furious that he’s so careless with his life, she ends their fledgling relationship with harsh words.

Two years later, Samantha is desperately in need of a change. When she learns her grandmother has had an accident and is in need of a caretaker, Samantha quickly packs her bags and heads to Thunder Creek, Idaho. But nothing could prepare her for the surprise awaiting her in her grandmother’s hospital room . . . Nick.

With the charming backdrop of small-town friends, beloved cousins, and a whole church congregation rooting for them, can they set aside the disastrous ending of their first try at love? Has Nick changed enough to meet Samantha in the middle—and can she realize that a risk in love might be worth taking?

Review:

You’re Gonna Love Me by Robin Lee Hatcher is a charming second chance at love Christian romance which is set in the delightful small town of Thunder Creek, ID.

Samantha Winters is risk-averse to the point it affects her personal and professional relationships. Even though she is passed over time and again for promotions, she remains in a stagnant job with a boss she dislikes. In her personal life, Samantha’s fears lead her to end her eight month relationship with outdoorsman and adventure seeker Nick Chastain.  When her beloved grandmother, Ruth Johnson, is injured in a fall and needs some assistance with day to day tasks, Samantha does not hesitate to take a leave of absence from work to care for her. What she does not expect is to immediately cross paths with Nick, whom she has not heard from since their painful break up two years earlier.  She is stunned by how drastically different he is from the man she once dated, but can Samantha trust that Nick will not revert back to his daredevil ways?

Samantha avoids confrontation at all cost and runs away instead of facing problems. She has worked for the same company and boss for several years and despite her unhappiness at how her boss treats her, she refuses to look for another job since she does not like change.  However, spending time with Ruth, Samantha begins to question some of her decisions but will she be willing to walk away from the comfortable (and somewhat boring) life she has created for herself?

Nick has undergone dramatic changes since he last saw Samantha and he is refreshingly honest about how selfish  he was during their relationship.  While these significant alterations in his life might not have been of his choosing, Nick readily admits he is a much better person than he was when he dated Samantha. He is quick to take responsibility for how his actions affected their relationship in the past and he is not shy about discussing the reasons his life has changed so radically. Nick has also undergone a considerable amount of spiritual growth in the intervening years and he is now quite devout.

In spite of Nick’s assertions these changes in his lifestyle are permanent, Samantha is doubtful he can resist his adventurous spirit.  Despite her reservations, she is willing to give him a second chance, but she is also quick to doubt him when she misconstrues his actions in emergency situations. Samantha’s propensity to run away from problems also causes trouble between them because her first instinct is to shut down instead of discussing the issues between them. Will Samantha finally deal with her deep-seated fears or is her second chance at love with Nick doomed to fail?

With a strong element of faith, You’re Gonna Love Me is a heartwarming novel of forgiveness, reconciliation and love.  Nick and Samantha are wonderfully developed, likable characters that readers will find it easy to root for. Their romance moves at a slow but realistic pace as they try to work through the issues that ended their relationship in the past. Since Nick’s life changes occurred during their separation, the story focuses mainly on Samantha’s character growth. Robin Lee Hatcher has created  a warm and inviting community in the small town of Thunder Creek and readers will enjoy revisiting characters from previous works. A heartfelt romance that fans of the genre will enjoy.

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Filed under Christian, Contemporary, Rated B+, Review, Robin Lee Hatcher, Romance, Thomas Nelson Publishing, You're Gonna Love Me

Review: Bury the Past by James L’Etoile

Title: Bury the Past by James L’Etoile
Detective Penley Mystery Series Book Two
Publisher: Crooked Lane Books
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery
Length: 320 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

How do you stop a killer who’s already behind bars?

Sacramento Police Detectives John Penley and Paula Newberry are enlisted to investigate a case involving the trafficking of stolen street drugs. But they quickly find it’s more difficult than they first imagined when the crime is being committed by a group of corrupt cops undermining the system.

That’s not the only wrench thrown at Penley and Newberry, however, as Sherman, the leader of the group, is orchestrating murders against those who testified against him. He turns the lens onto Newberry, who begins to receive blame and as the political pressure mounts, it’s clear someone has to pay for the crimes. And it comes down to Newberry or Sherman.

With a plot full of twisty, hairpin runs and heart-pounding action, Jim L’Etoile’s Bury the Past is a riveting follow-up to the first in the Detective Penley mysteries, At What Cost.

Review:

Bury the Past is a fast paced mystery with a complex storyline about police corruption and revenge. This second installment in James L’Etoile’s  Detective Penley Mystery series can easily be read as a standalone.

Penley is one of the few cops who do no not have a problem with the fact that his current partner, Detective Paula Newberry, worked in Internal Affairs before her current assignment in homicide. One of her most prominent cases involved exposing major police corruption on a narcotics task force. Several cops from this case begin turning up dead just as former Sheriff department officer Charles Sherman is released from prison after his conviction is overturned.  This puts Newberry in the crosshairs of District Attorney Linda Clarke who makes it clear that she is convinced Paula is responsible for the murders.  With only a short span of time, Penley and Newberry are desperately attempting to show that Sherman is framing Paula for the murders. Will they find the evidence they need to bolster their case despite the fact that Sherman was behind bars when murders started?

Despite the ever increasing amount of evidence to the contrary, Penley has absolutely no doubt that Newberry is not a killer. Together, they frantically try to find the evidence they need to not only clear her name, but prove that Sherman masterminded the plot.  An equally daunting task is showing the evidence recovered at the crime scenes has been planted in an effort to frame Paula. With Sherman quickly evading their attempts to keep him under surveillance, Paula and John immediately run up against the white supremacists that Sherman befriended behind bars. With Paula under investigation by Internal Affairs and increasing pressure from DA Cooke, the crime fighting duo turn up the heat on Sherman’s former associates in an attempt to uncover the truth but a shocking revelation turns the entire case upside down.

Bury the Past is an outstanding police procedural that has an clever but slightly unrealistic storyline.  Penley and Newberry are well-developed characters who are very easy like despite their flaws and quirks. With plenty of cunning twists and turns, James L’Etoile keeps this readers on the edge of their seats as the novel wends its way to an action-packed, exciting conclusion.  A wonderful addition to the Detective Penley Mystery series that old and new fans are sure to enjoy.

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Filed under Bury the Past, Crooked Lane Books, Detective Penley Mystery Series, James L'Etoile, Mystery, Rated B, Review

Review: Bel, Book, and Scandal by Maggie McConnon

Title: Bel, Book, and Scandal by Maggie McConnon
Belfast McGrath Series Book Three
Publisher: St. Martin’s Paperbacks
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery
Length: 315 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

Maggie McConnon rings in Christmas in Bel, Boiok, and Scandal, the third adventure for everybody’s favorite Irish-American culinary artist turned amateur sleuth.

Bel McGrath tries her best to keep herself on the straight and narrow but she just has a taste for trouble. This time danger arrives in the form of a newspaper left behind by visitors to Shamrock Manor—and a photograph that jolts Bel out of the present and back into a dark chapter from her past. The person in the photo is Bel’s best friend Amy Mitchell, long gone from Foster’s Landing, at a commune in upstate New York shortly after her disappearance. The picture, and Bel’s burning desire to find out what happened to Amy—and whether she may still be alive—is the catalyst for a story in which old secrets are revealed, little by little…and certain characters are shown to not be as genuine as Bel once thought.

Review:

Bel, Book, and Scandal by Maggie McConnon is an entertaining cozy mystery with a fantastic cast of delightful characters and a perplexing missing person’s case to solve. This third installment in the Belfast McGrath Mystery series can be read as a standalone.

A photo in a newspaper gives Bel McGrath a starting place in her search to find her long missing best friend, Amy Mitchell.  Amy went missing right after their graduation and the case has cast a long shadow over Bel since many of the townspeople believe she was involved in her friend’s disappearance. Without thinking, Bel impetuously rushes to the small town  where she hopes to learn more about the now defunct commune that might have been a haven for Amy. Coffee shop owner Tweed Blazer quickly shuts down when Bel begins asking questions but she remains undeterred as she follows every lead she uncovers. Will Bel finally uncover the truth about Amy’s disappearance?

Bel is still trying to make peace with the unexpected detour her life has taken in the past few years. Never expecting to return home, she is making the best of her position as the chef at her parents’ special events and wedding business. She is also still smarting over the painful breakup with her ex-boyfriend, Brendan Joyce, and her former high school boyfriend Kevin’s recent marriage to the police chief’s (in Bel’s eyes) perfect daughter Mary Ann.

Undeterred when her investigation into Amy’s disappearance hits a snag, Bel, along with her new friend, Alison Bergeron, doggedly continue following the scant clues they manage to unearth. She stumbles onto more proof that Amy might still be alive, but she is frustrated when she quickly hits a dead end. Bel is certain Tweed knows more than he is telling but before he can tell her everything he knows, someone tries to make sure his long buried information remains hidden.

Bel, Book, and Scandal is an intriguing cozy mystery that is quite humorous due to Bel’s snarky sense of humor and hilarious one-liners. Bel’s attempts to uncover new evidence about Amy’s whereabouts end in disappointment but she remains hopeful she will find her long missing friend.  Maggie McConnon brings this third installment in the Belfast McGrath Mystery series to a twist-filled and action packed conclusion.

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Filed under Bel Book and Scandal, Belfast McGrath Series, Contemporary, Mystery, Rated B, Review, St Martin's Paperbacks

Review: Imperfect Justice by Cara Putman

Title: Imperfect Justice by Cara Putman
Hidden Justice Series Book Two
Publisher: Thomas Nelson Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Inspirational, Romance, Suspense, Mystery
Length: 352 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

The police say the woman was a murderer. Emilie Wesley knows they can’t be talking about her client . . .  can they?

To the world it seems obvious: Kaylene Adams killed her daughter and then was shot by police. Attorney Emilie Wesley knows a different story: Kaylene would never hurt anyone and was looking for a way out of a controlling, abusive relationship. Her death shakes Emilie’s belief that she can make a difference for women in violent marriages. Self-doubt plagues her as she struggles to continue her work in the wake of the tragedy.

Reid Billings thought he knew his sister—right up until he learned how she died. He discovers a letter from Kaylene begging him to fight for custody of her daughters if anything should happen to her. No attorney in her right mind would support an uncle instead of the father in a custody case, but Kaylene’s letter claims Emilie Wesley will help him.

Thrown together in the race to save Kaylene’s surviving daughter, Emily and Reid pursue the constantly evasive truth. If they can hang on to hope together, can they save a young girl—and find a future for themselves in the process?

Review:

Imperfect Justice by Cara Putman is an intriguing legal mystery with a gentle undercurrent of faith. This second installment in the Hidden Justice series easily stands on its own.

Emilie Wesley is a lawyer who is employed at a foundation that helps women escape from abusive relationships. She is worried when her client, Kaylene Adams, does not show up for a court appearance for an order of protection but nothing can prepare her for the reason Kaylene missed their appointment. Emilie is absolutely stunned by the news Kaylene is dead and authorities suspect she shot both her daughters, killing one and critically wounding the other,  before turning the gun on herself. Emilie knows Kaylene would never do anything to harm her children so she is very eager to help when her client’s younger brother, Reid Billings, requests her help in gaining custody of his niece, Kinley.

Emilie is quite shaken and she has a bit of a career crisis in the aftermath of Kaylene’s death. She is having difficulty concentrating as she tries to figure out whether or not she might have overlooked crucial information in her former client’s case. Her friends are aware of her distress and they quickly rally around her and offer unsolicited advice about her career. Adding to her worries is Emilie’s fear that her stalker is back but she  is having difficulty getting anyone to take her concerns seriously.

In the aftermath of his sister’s death,  Reid feels incredibly guilty that he let his professional aspirations prevent him from spending more time with her and her family. Stunned by his brother-in-law Robert’s demand that he stay away from him and Kinley, Reid cannot help but fear for his niece’s safety. After stumbling onto a worrying letter written to him by Kaylene, he ramps up his efforts to gain custody of Kinley. He immediately requests Emilie’s help since she has intimate knowledge of what was going on in his sister’s life.

Emilie and Reid are well aware that gaining custody of Kinley is a long shot, but fearing what will happen if she remains with Robert, they immediately begin investigating the shootings.  They leave no stone unturned as they question neighbors and Reid’s oldest niece’s friends. Reid uncovers information that supports Emilie’s assertion that Kaylene was planning to escape her marriage with her daughters but they have yet to find definitive proof that Robert was abusing her. Will they find the evidence they need before Kinley is released from the hospital into her father’s care?

The romantic element of the storyline is somewhat understated but there is no mistaking the attraction between Emilie and Reid. Emilie is also very aware that she must take care not to blur the lines between her professional and personal lives. However, Reid and Emilie do enjoy a few sweetly romantic dates during their investigation.

Imperfect Justice is a even but somewhat slow placed legal mystery. The characters are interesting  and well-developed but the storyline is a little busy due to multiple story arcs. The domestic violence aspect of the plot is realistically and sensitively depicted. Cara Putnam brings the novel to a somewhat exciting and satisfactory conclusion.  Old and new fans will enjoy this latest addition to the Hidden Justice series.

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Filed under Cara Putnam, Contemporary, Hidden Justice Series, Imperfect Justice, Inspirational, Mystery, Rated B, Review, Romance, Suspense, Thomas Nelson Publishing

Review: You Can Run by Steve Mosby

Title: You Can Run by Steve Mosby
Publisher: Pegasus Books
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Suspense
Length: 327 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

A page-turning psychological thriller, the new novel from CWA Dagger winner Steve Mosby explores the blurred lines between truth and fiction.

When a car crashes into a garage on an ordinary street, the attending officer is shocked to look inside the damaged building and discover a woman imprisoned within. As the remains of several other victims are found in the attached house, police believe they have finally identified the Red River Killer—a man who has been abducting women for nearly twenty years and taunting the police with notes about his crimes. But now the main suspect, John Blythe, is on the run.

As the manhunt for Blythe intensifies, Detective Inspector Will Turner finds himself fighting to stay involved in the investigation. The Red River killings hold a personal significance to him and he must be the one to find the killer, although he’s determined to keep this from his fellow officers at all costs.

Review:

In You Can Run, Steve Mosby puts a truly clever and unique twist on the serial killer plot device. This police procedural is a fast-paced and engrossing crime drama that is absolutely brilliant.

When a car crashes into the garage of a residential home, police are shocked when they find kidnapping victim Amanda Cassidy barely clinging to life. Detective Inspector Will Turner and his partner DI Emma Beck are assigned to the case and they make a stunning discovery in the basement of the home: four barrels containing the decomposing bodies of women who have been abducted and murdered by the Red River Killer. Their attempts to locate homeowner and now suspected serial killer, John Blythe, result in a massive manhunt. Will is troubled by an unexpected detail after the bodies are removed from the barrels. However, it is his interview of Jeremy Townsend, the husband of victim Melanie West, that really sets his alarm bells ringing. Turner is also convinced that John Blythe might have someone helping him evade capture but will Emma believe his theory once the truth about his personal connection to the case is revealed?

Will is an excellent detective who greatly relies on gut instincts and feelings during his investigations. He easily picks up on nebulous clues that everyone else overlooks but his co-workers consider him to be a little weird. Will does not have the same career aspirations as his partner Emma and he sometimes feels like he is hindering her career. Will is not one to talk much about his personal life, but in the Red River Killer investigation, he is holding back vital information that could have far reaching implications for both of their futures.  After Will has a rash confrontation in full view of his fellow police officers, he jeopardizes both his and Emma’s roles in the investigation.

While there is absolutely no doubt that John Blythe is the Red River Killer, there are plenty of twists and turns during the manhunt to capture him. There is, of course, a great deal of suspense surrounding Jeremy Townsend which leads to more questions than answers due to his somewhat bizarre behavior. Simon Bunting is also a rather mysterious addition to the cast of characters and it is virtually impossible to figure out exactly how he figures into the unfolding storyline. Will’s childhood friend Rob is a mystifying piece in this perplexing puzzle that will keep readers guessing how he fits into the Red Killer investigation.

You Can Run is an intricately plotted and suspense-laden police procedural that has a dazzling array of cunning twists and turns.  Will and Emma are a well-matched investigative team that are more than capable of solving this increasingly complex case. Steve Mosby puts a fresh spin on the serial killer plot device and he keeps the tension high as the novel wends its ways to a jaw-dropping conclusion. I greatly enjoyed and highly recommend this un-put-down-able mystery to fans of the genre.

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Filed under Contemporary, Mystery, Pegasus Books, Rated B+, Review, Steve Mosby, Suspense, You Can Run