Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Death in the Walled City by Aditya Banerjee

Death In The Walled CityDeath In The Walled City by Aditya Banerjee
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I loved the plot, the characters, the setting, and the trip back to the early 80s.

On the day of Nitya Chaturvedi's well-deserved promotion to senior management at The New India Courier, a riot erupted inside the old sector of the city known as Old Delhi. Railcars were burned, shops vandalized and looted, and when it was all said and done, 11 people had been killed and dozens injured.

But the incident was still very different than the communal riots that had plagued the ancient walled city. Rather than lasting for days at a time, this one peaked and dissipated within hours, and no one could identify what had touched things off in the first place. Even the torched railcars had been empty ones. Another oddity; one of the victims killed suddenly disappeared – all official records of his death gone, along with the body.

Disgraced senior police officer, Shankar Sen, was on patrol in Old Delhi near the riot's epicenter when the first report was made. He and his driver discovered the first two murder victims in an alleyway near the rail station, their bodies burned. It is one of these bodies that inexplicably goes missing, and Sen is compelled to unravel the secrecy.

Meanwhile, Nitya and her team of reporters at The New India Courier are tasked with writing features about each of the ten victims. When one of her new young journalists discovers they should be looking into the background of 11 lost lives, she teams up with her old friend, Shankar Sen, to get to the bottom of the cover-up, which may involve key members in the police and government itself.

Death in the Walled City is a moody and engaging mystery set in the winter of 1983 in New Delhi. Seeing the inner workings of Nitya's newspaper was intriguing, as was her working environment and the culture of the early 1980s. She was a woman in a man's world. The old boys' club, the office politics of the time, strategic relationships and alliances among colleagues, and the rumor mill are all on full and glorious display. She's joined the senior ranks and there are those that would be glad to see her fail.

The investigation into what was behind this unusual riot was captivating, and the location and culture of Old Delhi were fascinating. The contrasts among the characters' lives were eye-opening, with two separate, and not equal, Indias apparent. I rooted for the underdogs, Shiv and Shankar Sen, and was "all-in" on Nitya's success in her quest for answers from the start.

I really enjoyed the subplots involving the characters' personal and their families. Nitya's mother's machinations to find her a husband was fun. But her sister's marital situation was left at a pivotal juncture. Also, I felt for Shankar and his struggle to balance his work life and family life. I hope there are future books planned so I can see what becomes of these people.

There is quite a bit of exposition throughout the novel. This had me worried, initially, that the book was going to be a lot of telling and not enough showing. However, I came to believe this information was to catch readers up with what had happened historically, not only with the city and culture but with the two main characters, Nitya and Shankar Sen, who have a prior history together. (There is a previous book in which they meet.) But the bottom line is I loved the plot, the characters, the exotic (to me) setting, and the trip back to the early 80s.

I recommend DEATH IN THE WALLED CITY for mystery readers who enjoy stories featuring investigative reporters, underdog police officers, strong female protagonists, a historical time frame, and a setting in India.

I voluntarily reviewed this after receiving an Advanced Review Copy from Reedsy Discovery.

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Friday, January 21, 2022

It Takes Two to Mango (Trouble in Paradise, #1) by Carrie Doyle

It Takes Two to Mango (Trouble in Paradise! #1)It Takes Two to Mango by Carrie Doyle
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Agatha Raisin fans may want to give this fish-out-of-water New Yorker a look!

After Plum Lockhart lost her job as editor of a high-profile travel and leisure magazine (that immediately folded), she couldn't find another job, not anything, in the struggling New York magazine industry. Out of desperation, she accepted a position as a marketing and sales agent with a vacation property leasing agency, Jonathan Mayhew Caribbean Retreats, on the island of Paraiso.

Plum was sure the job would just be a temporary stop-gap until something more suitable came her way. But the heat, humidity, and animosity of one of her new co-workers, Damián Rodriguez, quickly wilted the enthusiasm she had for the job. When his relentless goading evolved into a bet that she couldn't lease out one of their agency's more difficult properties for the coming Presidents' Day weekend, Plum takes on the challenge with a vengeance. However, as the holiday approached and despite the cost discounts and other amenities offered, Plum received only one serious inquiry for the property.

Against her boss's orders, Plum secretly accepts a contract from a bachelor's party group, considered a "no-no" client at the Mayhew agency. All seems to be going well until one of the three young men is found dead by the villa's pool.

Even when all the apparent evidence seems to point at murder, everyone at the resort, including the local police, wants to rule it a tragic accident and sweep it under the rug so as not to upset the tourist trade. But Plum feels responsible and convinces the local police captain investigating the death to take a second look.

But things in Paraiso move at a much slower pace than in New York City, and patience is not Plum's strong suit, so she partners with the resort's head of security, the handsome and sexy Juan Kevin Muñoz, to investigate and move the case along.

This first book in Carrie Doyle's Trouble in Paradise series was fun and frothy, yet a seriously good murder mystery. Plum Lockhart is a tough sell as a likable main character at first. She's pushy, self-centered, and obliviously blunt at times. However, as the story unfolds, she begins to realize some of her flaws and softens up. She still has a ways to go, and it will be fun to witness any further reformation, much like M.C. Beaton's notoriously and originally unlikable heroine, Agatha Raisin (who is actually mentioned in this novel.)

Plum has some engaging supporting characters in the office manager, Lucia Garcia, and the somewhat enigmatic Juan Kevin. I liked that Plum perceives she has a rival for Juan Kevin's attention around every corner; she's that personally insecure. I felt for her that she had so many frenemies, such as her former employee, Gerald Hand, lurking everywhere to see her at what she feels is her most vulnerable.

The author has created a beautiful island resort setting in Las Fruitas on Paraiso. The descriptions of just the drive between Plum's office, townhouse, or the hotel are full of atmospheric beauty, heat, and luxury.

The murder mystery and investigation were intriguing and made sense. There were plenty of possible suspects all along the way for readers' consideration. I was happy with the solution.

I recommend IT TAKES TWO TO MANGO to cozy mystery readers, especially those who would like a trip to a warmer climate, talk of exotic, fruity, umbrella-clad adult beverages, a laid-back pace, and a luxurious resort setting. In addition, I think that fans of M.C. Beaton's Agatha Raisin may enjoy this new sleuth that shares many of her famous foibles.

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Friday, January 14, 2022

Dying to Get In by Peter and Laurie Interland

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Surreal, dark comedy set in an upscale retirement community

After his beloved wife, Hillary, experiences a stroke, retired cybersecurity expert Bill Hurley decides it's time for them to relocate to a seniors' community closer to doctors and medical support than their beautiful Maine country home. The only problem is their choice of retirement community has a five-year waiting list: the only openings occur when a current resident dies. Being a man of action, Bill plans to find a way to lessen the wait.

Dying to Get In is a new dark comedy by husband and wife writing team Peter and Laurie Interland that had me laughing out loud and cringing (but with delight!) at times. It's a shorter novel and PERFECT for reading straight through from cover to cover as you'll want to know what is coming next!

I loved the main character, Bill, and seriously rooted for his success. I laughed at what his son, Paul, was having to deal with as his frisky, talented, genius, and fun-loving parents cruised into their golden years. I also liked the friends they were making at Golden Shores; they seemed like fun people, too (well, except for those that weren't supposed to be!)

The age group we're reading about at Golden Shores is beginning to include the children of the 60s and 70s, and it was fun to see that the vices of their youth followed them into their golden years. There is drinking, smoking, pot, THC, and sex featured in the story, so be aware if any of these are an issue for you as a reader.

With a plethora of great characters, a fun, irreverent plotline, and a lovely setting on the coast of Maine, I recommend DYING TO GET IN for general fiction readers, cozy mystery lovers, and readers who enjoy a story with older characters.

I voluntarily reviewed this after receiving an Advanced Review Copy from Reedsy Discovery.

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Wednesday, January 12, 2022

The Interchange by Andrew Orange

The InterchangeThe Interchange by Andrew Orange
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Imaginative Russian Sci-Fi novella!

Muscovite and student Tim Ivanov is an underdog in every sense of the word. He's undersized, under-motivated, under-funded (and mom has told him he's now on his own), and the ladies won't give him the time of day. So, when a voice in his dreams - the voice of Hautama, the supreme ruler of the entire world in the year 3500 - proposes to change places (bodies) with him for 13 days in the distant future, he's listening. And agrees. Then nothing happens. So Tim goes about his business as a poor student.

To complete his course of study at the university, Tim and his coursemates are scheduled for a summer at practice camp for ummm… practical experience. But on arrival, the students discover the camp is practically falling down. Not only are the facilities minimal, but those present don't work, and the closest town seems to have based their entire economy on getting money out of the desperate students.

It's pretty grim until that night when the students organize a wild orgy of a party on the shore of the river that runs through the camp. Tim, turned off by the antics of some of his fellow students, is leaving the party to go back to his bunk when he is confronted by a drunk local, getting into a losing brawl. When next he awakens, Tim discovers he's no longer at the camp nor in his own time or body. The Interchange has occurred.

The Interchange is an imaginative novella of time travel set in and near Moscow. The depiction of Russian student life seemed typical of what is usually portrayed in the media, but the author's vision of the future is creative, unexpected, and frightening. The language is a bit rough and crude, as are the characters, but still, I found myself rooting for the main character Tim. I like how Tim gained confidence in his new situation and took action. And I appreciated the footnotes the author provided for terminology and additional explanation tremendously.

I recommend The Interchange for readers who enjoy stories of time travel, visions of a far distant future, or with a Russian flavor and setting.

I voluntarily reviewed this after receiving an Advanced Review Copy from Hidden Gems.

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Tuesday, January 11, 2022

The Vanished Collection by Pauline Baer de Perignon

The Vanished CollectionThe Vanished Collection by Pauline Baer de Perignon
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The fascinating story of one woman's search for her great-grandfather's lost art and true-life story.

When a cousin mentioned that the Nazis might have pillaged their great-grandfather's art collection during their occupation of Paris in World War II, author Pauline Baer de Perignon was caught entirely off-guard. At no time in her life had she ever heard a whisper of such!

Intrigued, she began to research her great-grandfather's collection and, in the process, discovered the truth about her great-grandparents' lives during the occupation. She'd always understood they'd come through that dark time in history pretty much unscathed, and that just wasn't the case at all.

The Vanished Collection is a wonderful tribute to the author's great-grandfather, renowned collector of Impressionist art, Jules Strauss. It is also an exciting tribute to perseverance and dedication to researching the truth. I found the author's recounting of her experiences easy-to-read and absolutely fascinating. I was so caught up in her story that time flew by. I was immersed in her search.

The difficulties she ran into getting the museums responsible for preserving and reuniting the stolen art with their rightful owners or their heirs was eye-opening. So little concerted effort appears to have been put into the process of returning these sentimental, not to mention priceless, items to where they belong.

Also, the story is a heartbreaking, sobering reminder of the Jews who lost everything: their property, possessions, families, and lives. I hope this book spurs other descendants to question what family treasures may be locked away in some museum, safe yet forgotten. I know that I want to read more about this topic now.

I voluntarily reviewed this after receiving an Advanced Review Copy from the publisher and France Booktours.

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Monday, January 10, 2022

The Foe in the Forest (Stonehaven Mysteries, #3) by Linn Chapel

The Foe in the Forest (Stonehaven Mysteries Book 3)The Foe in the Forest by Linn Chapel
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Exciting new entry in the fresh and unique Stonehaven Mysteries series.

Laurel Bachmann is back in Bar Harbor on assignment with a fellow photographer when the two are accused of being involved in a jewelry theft aboard a cruise ship docked nearby. Neither one had anything to do with the heist, but an earring from the stolen collection is inexplicably discovered in Laurel's camera case.

Laurel's former beau, Marc Chevalier, uses his influence to have the two housed at Stonehaven rather than the local lock-up while the investigation ensues. However, the police seem to have already concluded Laurel is the thief.

With Laurel restricted to Stonehaven, Marc decides to investigate on his own, all the while brooding over the relationship between Laurel and Brandon, the other photographer. (Has she settled on another man? Another man who can provide her with the security and peace of mind of a safe life?)

But that's not the only concern at Stonehaven. Something terrible is making its presence known in the Stonehaven forest. A strange gray fog has been spotted, and the very bedrock of the island is developing what could be catastrophic cracks and discolorations. Also, the devastation is creeping closer and closer to the mansion perched on the cliffs above the sea. The forest creatures avoid the north end of the property, where the damage seems to have started. Even "The Cat" and the "Guardian of the Forest" are wary of what lies within. And once he gets Laurel's situation sorted, Marc will have to deal with whatever or whoever is threatening his home.

The Foe of the Forest is the third entry in the paranormal series, the Stonehaven Mysteries, by Linn Chapel. Several months have passed since the events of the previous book, and Marc and Laurel, unable to reconcile their lifestyles with each other, have gone their separate ways, though clearly, they are still in love.

Marc's mother, Serena, falters in her hopes that the two will get back together when she sees Laurel and Brandon in town, jumping to the conclusion that they are a couple. She reports her sighting and conclusion to Marc, who takes it to heart.

Marc's paranormal abilities and more about his magical legacy are explained and explored in this book. The author has created a fresh and unique plot, skill set, and an intriguing backstory for the Chevalier family. Laurel continues to work through her personal need for safety in her life, but she also displays great courage to help the man she loves. An author's note mentions that the next book will conclude the series. Although I'm greatly looking forward to what's ahead for Laurel and Marc, I will really hate to see this story end.

I recommend THE FOE IN THE FOREST to readers who have enjoyed the previous books in the series. I recommend the Stonehaven Mysteries to readers who enjoy a paranormal element in their mysteries, especially those looking for something fresh and new.

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Friday, January 07, 2022

Mrs. Betty Jones: Lady Vigilante Prequel by Hayley Camille

Mrs. Betty Jones: Lady Vigilante (Avon Calling!, Prequel)Mrs. Betty Jones: Lady Vigilante by Hayley Camille
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Fun historical action-adventure featuring an Avon Lady in 1940s New York City

Mrs. Betty Jones: Lady Vigilante is an excellent introduction to the characters and plot that evolves in Lady Vigilante Season 1. This prequel foreshadows what is to come as Betty Jones AKA Suzie Poletti, a seemingly average pre-WWII housewife and mother faces the changes the war in Europe is bringing to daily life and the behind-the-scenes machinations of NYC’s criminal organizations.

Betty is far from your average homemaker, mother, and Avon Lady.

I recommend this series to cozy mystery readers that enjoy a touch of the paranormal in their stories.

Mrs. Betty Jones: Lady Vigilante is currently free on, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo.

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Monday, January 03, 2022

Entrapped (Stonehaven Mysteries, #2) by Linn Chapel

Entrapped (Stonehaven Mysteries, Book 2)Entrapped by Linn Chapel
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A delightful follow-up to The Gargoyle's Secret!

Photojournalist Laurel Bachmann is on assignment in Bar Harbor, Maine, again, and to be polite, she contacts Serena Chevalier, her former boyfriend's mother, just to let her know she's back in the area. Laurel and Marc Chevalier had parted ways during the previous year because Laurel believed she wanted a safer, steadier future than the one Marc could offer. However, Serena still has matchmaking on her mind. She immediately invites Laurel, her father, and her father's friend, Stanley, traveling with them on this working vacation, to dinner at the remote family estate.

When Laurel and her companions arrive, she discovers Marc laid out cold on the floor of his workshop, the victim of a random attack or attempted murder no one knows. She helps him back on his feet, and they find out that they both are involved in the upcoming music festival Laurel is there to cover. Marc is restoring some important garden sculptures in preparation for the big event.

The next day they meet up with each other on the mainland at the estate hosting the festival, and as Marc is reinstalling the final sculpture in the home's beautiful garden, Laurel discovers the dead body of the estate's owner. Worried the death may be related to the rumor that someone is murdering the owners of the grand old estates in the area and fearing for Serena, Laurel and Marc decide to investigate on their own.

Entrapped is the entertaining sequel to The Gargoyle's Secret, book one in Linn Chapel's delightful Stonehaven Mysteries series. Picking up almost a year after the previous novel's events, Laurel and Marc have sadly gone their separate ways though they are clearly still in love. Watching his mother's attempts to get the two back together was great fun, and I was behind her efforts all the way. You can't help but feel for Laurel and her fears for the future, though.

The mystery quickly gives you several good suspects, and I enjoyed discovering who the murderer really was. An exciting chain of events ensues from the discovery of the culprit to the finale.

As Entrapped's story builds on details revealed in book one, I recommend reading The Gargoyle's Secret first. It was a great story, too. Readers who enjoyed the series premiere will also enjoy this sequel. This series is for cozy mystery readers who enjoy a paranormal element in their stories.

I voluntarily reviewed this after receiving an Advanced Review Copy from Book Sirens.

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Sunday, January 02, 2022

The Prison Dome: Survive or Die Trying by Warren Wagner

The Prison Dome: Survive or Die TryingThe Prison Dome: Survive or Die Trying by Warren Wagner
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’m so glad I was given the opportunity to read this book; it was so good!

Chuck Berger was a great guy: likable and easy to get along with. But during his time as an Army Ranger in Afghanistan, he missed being killed along with his best friends and tent-mates because he'd been out playing poker. His friends died alone when a bomb destroyed their tent, and Chuck has carried the weight of guilt, survivor's guilt, on his shoulders ever since. Out of the Army and back home in the states, Chuck was a changed man, and when he caught his wife in bed with another man, he snapped, killing them both in a moment of rage and black-out. For his crime, he was sentenced to three years inside "The Dome:" a wilderness prison that once was part of South Dakota but now enclosed by an invisible, impenetrable barrier that keeps whatever was inside in and whatever was outside out. Three years didn't seem like much, except no one had ever come out of "The Dome" after their sentence was up…ever.

Such a good story! I was immediately engaged by the plot, the characters, and the wilderness setting, and now I’m fervently hoping there will be a sequel.

Chuck Berger was an unlikely hero. He’s a convicted criminal, a multiple murderer, but even before he went inside “The Dome,” he had become a very sympathetic character. The reader is told that Chuck is a nice guy, and he really is, and he’s also very troubled by survivor guilt.

The denizens and setup of the community he encounters upon his arrival in “The Dome” seemed pretty normal at first. But like Chuck, I could feel that something was just “off” about the whole thing. Their means of waylaying new arrivals to the wilderness prison was extreme yet clever. The author did a fabulous job setting things up to reveal the true nature of the group (and the prison), including the fictionalized portrayals of how things were inside “The Dome” by social media and the entertainment industry of Chuck’s former life.

This is a tale of a dystopian society existing in a wilderness that was once South Dakota. I especially enjoyed the author’s inclusion of nature and woodcraft (I.e., knowledge of the woods, camping, and other outdoor pursuits) throughout the story. I also liked the workarounds for the lack of tools and technology: a couple of interesting MacGyver-ish moments.

I want to note that none of the above slowed the story down one little bit. It enhanced a plot that was exciting and truly action-packed. There is never a dull moment as Chuck overcomes everything that comes his way using the skills he has acquired as a former Army Ranger: realistic, believable skills.

The tension between characters is present every second of the story. There is absolutely no trust anywhere. It really kept the characters off-balance and uneasy, and I felt the same way, too - always wondering about everyone's motives and true agendas.

Another thing I liked is the author had his characters reason through their problems with each other on occasion. The reader can follow their logic and ultimate decision-making as the characters move from problem to solution to implementation. This made the characters seem more human, like regular people you could identify with and get behind. The story made sense.

I recommend The Prison Dome for readers of action-adventure stories and those who enjoy tales of dystopian communities. I’m so delighted I picked up this book and look forward to more from this author.

I voluntarily reviewed this after receiving an Advanced Review Copy from Reedsy Discovery.

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