Friday, April 15, 2022

Revelations (The Ghost Agents Trilogy, #2) by Nita DeBorde

Revelations (The Ghost Agents Trilogy Book 2)Revelations by Nita DeBorde
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The entire story is chockful of eye-opening twists and turns and a more appropriate title I cannot possibly imagine!

Months after the events in Galveston, Claire Abelard is back in Boston at Bureau headquarters, giving yet another account of what occurred there. This time, high-level officials from the world headquarters in Paris are present to hear for themselves what had transpired. After Claire answers the same questions asked during the previous three interrogations, the leadership committee is still dragging its feet, unmoved by the disappearances of rogue entities, disbelieving of her evidence that another secret organization known as “The Syndicate” is responsible. Also, rather than supporting her actions to save the rogue ghosts of Galveston, the committee is taking a hardline approach to her unsanctioned activities.

To make matters worse, Claire’s new love interest, Drew Mitchell, a rare Level 5 sensitive with Force Perceptive Acumen, was recruited by the Bureau after the Galveston incidents and is concluding his training regimen in Boston. Bureau leadership is greatly impressed with his abilities and performance. He is almost guaranteed to be assigned to a role at headquarters, ending any chance the two may have at a long-term relationship.

As she agonizes over what to do since the Bureau seems disinclined to get involved in helping the rogues, Claire’s brother, Zach, who is a Bureau VP, asks her to return to headquarters to listen to a plan he’s developed. But Claire also receives a call for help from Jeff Holden, one of the Bureau’s New Orleans agents and an old boyfriend. Something dangerous and weird is happening to the rogue projections down in The Big Easy, and the Bureau’s official answer to the problem is to destroy the rogue spirits!

Revelations is the second book in The Ghost Agents Trilogy by author Nita DeBorde and a more appropriate title I cannot imagine! Nothing is as it first appears and no one is off-limits from having secrets! The entire story is chockful of eye-opening twists and turns! And I really enjoyed getting to see behind the scenes at the Bureau, the Syndicate, and, of course, the dark world of the ghosts.

Claire continues to be a heroine I can root for as she presses ahead in her search for the truth about what’s happening to the rogue projections (the ghosts not under the protection of the Bureau). Her clandestine investigations are the main plotline for everything that occurs.

I loved the Galveston setting of book one, and the change of venue to Boston and New Orleans certainly did not disappoint. The immensely entertaining spirit of Jean Lafitte returns, and the new locations provide a wealth of opportunities for the ghosts of additional historical figures to make appearances. I laughed out loud at some of Paul Revere’s characteristics and mannerisms. The author also slips in interesting and delightful snippets of history as our protagonists investigate their way across these two great cities.

Readers are introduced to several other Bureau figures, adding to the Ghost Agents’ world-building and increasing our understanding of its history, mission, operations, and politics. So much secrecy, suspicion, and surprising loyalty switches all make for an exciting story of danger, hidden agendas, and betrayal, with Claire Abelard, who is only now realizing her own unique abilities, at the center of it all. The book ends at a very exciting point in the story with a cliffhanger ending, so I will be waiting with great anticipation for the resolution and finale in book three.

If you haven’t read Ghost Agents, Revelations might be hard to get into; so much of its story depends on knowledge from the previous novel, but I highly recommend it to fans of book one. I recommend The Ghost Agents Trilogy to readers of mystery fiction who enjoy a paranormal element in their puzzles, especially those who like ghost stories.

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Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Hour is Come (A Dotty Sayers Antique Mystery, #0.5) by Victoria Tait

Hour is Come (A Dotty Sayers Antique Mystery, #0.5)Hour is Come by Victoria Tait
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A tantalizing beginning for the new Dotty Sayers Mystery series!

When Captain Alasdair Sayers was killed while on a peacekeeping tour in Africa, he left behind a young wife, Dorothy (known as Dotty to all), and two children he’d shared with his former spouse, Angela. The regimental benefits provided Dotty a place to live at the camp and a small annual income; however, the amount earmarked for the children didn’t even cover their school fees, and Angela was beside herself.

Although Angela had left Alasdair for another man, she was bitter that Alasdair, after her desertion, had risen to the officers’ ranks and re-married. She and Dotty had never been friends, but their relationship had never been acrimonious, and she appeals to the younger woman’s naivety and tender emotions for money. She bulldozes Dotty into placing some of Alasdair’s antique furniture for sale in an upcoming auction nearby.

After the auction house men removed the pieces selected for the sale, Dotty realized she’d not completely emptied Alasdair’s bureau and went to the auction location to retrieve the contents. But as she removed one of the bureau drawers, she was thrown off balance and accidentally bumped into a large grandfather clock, and out fell a dead body.

Hour is Come, a generously sized prequel to author Victoria Tait’s Dotty Sayers Antique Mystery series, is fast-paced and really fills out the background for Dotty and her family and friends. This is not a historical mystery; Dotty is not THE Dorothy Sayers; she’s a namesake via her marriage to the deceased Captain Sayers.

Frankly, Dotty surprised me. She’s meek, timid, and achingly reserved. She is putty in the hands of Angela, the more worldly, bold, and grasping ex-wife. However, as Dotty’s backstory is revealed, I could easily see how she’d developed into her current condition. She came from a sheltered girlhood home straight into a “father-approved” marriage with an older, set in his ways, rigid army captain, not to mention the shock of becoming a widow at age 28. I almost cheered at the mention of her purchasing the china cups from Akemans Antiques Centre, something her deceased spouse would never have allowed her. Baby steps. I’m glad that as the story progressed, she continued to test her wings, desires, and judgment.

Dotty’s world is initially populated by kind Army wives and regimental staff who also display the tendencies to protect, guide, and try to make decisions for the young woman. She abruptly expands her circle of acquaintances through her unplanned involvement with the antique dealers, including members of the local constabulary. I most enjoyed her burgeoning friendship with the “hot mess” known as Constable Keya Varma and anticipate more adventures between the two.

The Cirencester-area setting was terrific. The author gives us enough detail to picture where the action takes place without bogging down the story with exposition. It felt comfortable, and the descriptions of the lovely scenery, bustling markets, quaint shops, and snippets of its long and storied history were tantalizing; just the place to visit next time you travel.

But speaking of tantalizing, Hour is Come is precisely that. After reading it, I was absolutely sold on continuing this series, ready to begin book one, Fake Death. However, the prequel is only available through the author to subscribers to her free e-newsletter, so sign up and get your download.*

I recommend HOUR IS COME to cozy mystery readers who enjoy female protagonists, sleuths with superior baking skills, settings in the Cotswolds, and antiques.

I voluntarily reviewed this after receiving an Advanced Review Copy from the author.

*As of April 13, 2022, Hour is Come is available FREE through Bookfunnel here.

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Monday, April 11, 2022

The Catch (US Marshals, #3) by Lisa Harris

The Catch (US Marshals, #3)The Catch by Lisa Harris
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Catch is the exciting and oh-so-satisfying conclusion to author Lisa Harris’s US Marshals series.

When the judge set to preside over the arraignment of the dangerous drug lord Maxim Cervantes receives threats to his life if he doesn’t rule the right way, the US Marshals Service, including partners Madison James and Jonas Quinn, are sent to protect the officers of the court. No sooner are they on-site when masked and armed men attack the courthouse. Madison and Jonas get the judge safely out of harm’s way, but Cervantes’ men are able to free their boss and escape.

Reporting back to their Seattle headquarters, the two partners are quickly dispatched to the judge’s home, where he’d arrived to find his wife murdered. Believing this is linked to the morning’s attack, they coordinate with the detective assigned to the case, but they soon discover that the shooter they’re looking for is a young woman - the judge’s mistress and mother of his infant son. To make matters worse, when Madison and Jonas track Becca Lambert down, they learn that baby Easton and his sitter, Becca’s trusted friend, Ava, have gone missing, and all indications are that they have been kidnapped! Madison and Jonas must pull out all the stops trying to find Easton and Ava before it’s too late.

This third book in the US Marshals trilogy kept me glued to its pages as federal marshals Madison James and Jonas Quinn search for a missing baby and sitter. The story reveals the truth about the murder of Madison’s husband five years earlier, the series’ major plotline. But will the resolution release the main character from her single-minded mission and allow her to find peace and a new life with Jonas?

I particularly liked Harris’s choice to feature the US Marshal Service in this series. Growing up, a friend of my parents was a marshal, and I always enjoyed his stories and company. And, other than movies like The Fugitive, this law enforcement branch seems infrequently used in the mystery genre, except for minor, minor roles. Of course, that thought sent me down a rabbit hole of research looking for other main role books!

Another aspect I enjoyed was that the action traversed the Pacific Northwest. Readers are treated to the area’s broad variety of settings, including the vibrant city of Seattle, forestland, mountains, wilderness, the coast, its water and beaches. The changing venues energized an already exciting story that, once it started, never let up. There was so much unseen danger constantly looming over the characters, not only the two marshals but the missing woman and baby Easton.

The story also incorporated what looked like a simple mistake of communication between two federal agencies. This lapse led to unexpected collateral consequences that truthfully had me wondering how law enforcement can possibly coordinate all the things they do in reality. In this instance in the book, it seemed like their hands would have been tied no matter what.

But The Catch is not just a mystery. The book beautifully weaves together a puzzling mystery, heart-thumping suspense as well as a second chance romance. The emerging feelings between Madison and Jonas and their circumstances were heart-aching and, at all times, clean and honest. The series targets the Christian fiction market, and this author’s ability to deftly reveal her characters’ faith-filled lives and thoughts felt natural and genuine. The story warrants a broader audience, and readers who think they are not Christian fiction readers should definitely try this one.

I recommend THE CATCH to fans of the first two books in the trilogy and readers who enjoy exciting, suspense-filled mysteries with a clean and poignant underlying romance.

I voluntarily reviewed this after receiving an Advanced Review Copy from the author through Lone Star Literary Life/Lone Star Book Blog Tours.

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Wednesday, April 06, 2022

The Bones of Amoret by Arthur Herbert

The Bones of Amoret: A NovelThe Bones of Amoret: A Novel by Arthur Herbert
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A great story and another book by this author that I didn't want to put down.

In the mid-80s, border town physician Dr. Noah Grady tends to the health needs of the people of Amoret, Texas, and those of numerous folks nearby in even tinier communities. He works his ranch outside of town on his "off" days alongside his hired man and friend, Gilberto, and Gilberto's grandson, Hector. However, occasionally, in the dark, early pre-dawn hours, Noah and two friends slip away to a secret meeting spot on a lonely highway that tracks the Rio Grande River and the border to help groups of illegal immigrants coming through the desert from Mexico.

The men feel this is a humanitarian mission and take the travelers to a remote motel whose owner is willing to look the other way. Noah offers them health exams and minor treatment before they are picked up the following day and moved to their next destination. Many have never seen a doctor before Noah and are glad of the opportunity. All has been going smoothly, and quite a few of the rescued immigrants settled in the area to the relief and approval of the residents languishing there, watching what resources and amenities they had leaving due to lack of population. Noah met his wife, Angelica, among one of the groups. She and her son, Miguel, had fled their past and some very bad men back in Mexico.

Noah and his partners had developed a workable system to get these people situated north of the border. Although they suspected law enforcement might be turning a blind eye, they were always cautious and on their guard. During one such transfer, the Mexican guide alerted Noah to the presence of a young man he'd seen on his desert trek. He'd had to leave him unconscious, sunburned, and in dire condition at the time. Together, he and Noah retrieved the young man and took him to the motel so Noah could try and save his life.

As fate would have it, the young man wasn't a simple immigrant looking for a better life but a drug smuggler, his heavy backpack filled with cocaine belonging to an extremely dangerous Mexican cartel, who were most likely already searching for their missing product and someone to punish. Noah quickly gets him in good enough shape to continue his journey, extracting a promise that he won't talk about his rescue. But Noah worries and his partners are convinced that helping this man has been a fatal mistake, and they are all loose ends the cartel must now handle.

On returning to Amoret, Noah and his friends hear that one of the town's prominent citizens has gone missing. Blaine Beckett taught theology at the local religious college and had married the girl Noah had loved from childhood. Darla had married Blaine Beckett, who was from a distinguished old Boston family, right out of college, rather than the local boy with fewer prospects, under pressure from her wealthy family. However, the two lovers had secretly kept up their liaison for over 20 years until Noah had met Angelica and completely broken things off.

When Blaine's burned-out vehicle was found near Noah's ranch, and the police discovered some old love letters from Noah to Darla in Blaine's desk drawer, Noah was suddenly the sheriff's prime suspect in Blaine's disappearance and possible murder.

The Bones of Amoret is the second book I've read by this author that I didn't want to put down once I started reading it. The story bowls along, and I was carried right along with it. Noah is a great character, the protector of his family, friends, and the unnamed immigrants and poor along the border. He is forced to make some impossible decisions, some of which result in unthinkable costs, heartbreaking and shocking.

The tale is being related in the present time. The now elderly Dr. Grady tells his story to a reporter researching a 40-year-old mystery. Grady only occasionally refers to his audience, the young female reporter, and the whole device is subtle and entertaining on its own.

Amoret is populated by people we all know and recognize. I was delighted to see that the sheriff was portrayed as an intelligent and capable man, as were his deputies, and not a bunch of bumbling country bumpkin incompetents. In fact, the sheriff is a good man and a force to be reckoned with, a friend of Noah's, and becomes a person for him to fear during the investigation.

The author describes the town and surrounding countryside in such a way that I felt I knew where I was. I'm somewhat familiar with the general area and conditions from having spent time there, and I could clearly see the setting in my mind's eye. But you aren't bogged down with a lot of exposition; the story takes off and flows, the details are incorporated smoothly, and the places really come to life.

The plot is fast-paced and will surprise you with its twists and turns as it crashes to a remarkable and satisfying ending. Although the book is a follow-up to the author's The Cuts That Cure, it can be read and enjoyed as a standalone novel. I am personally looking forward to more from Arthur Herbert.

I recommend THE BONES OF AMORET to mystery and thriller readers, especially those who enjoy a medical-themed story or one set in southwest Texas's desert-like borderland.

I voluntarily reviewed this after receiving an Advanced Review Copy from the author through Lone Star Literary Life/Lone Star Book Blog Tours.

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Tuesday, April 05, 2022

The Cuts That Cure (Amoret, #1) by Arthur Herbert

The Cuts that CureThe Cuts that Cure by Arthur Herbert
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

An exciting story with tense action and a main character you want to root for!

Dr. Alex Brantley has been a man teetering on the brink well past too long. Three years earlier, Frieda had left him, and since that time he'd narrowed his life down to taking temporary replacement gigs at hospitals or practices wherever he could, living in provided housing, and grabbing some sleep whenever he could. With massive student loan debt for medical school hanging over his head and the frantic, life-and-death pace of the emergency room surgeon, his coping mechanisms had long since failed. They were now manifesting themselves in dangerous ways.

Now back in west Texas, in a town much like the one he grew up in, Alex was completing his final shift at his latest contract when a case came through the ER doors that shoved him right over the edge. But before he can successfully fulfill his last act of self-destruction, the police intervene, and Alex is placed in a facility for observation, where he finally gets the help he desperately needs.

Critical to Alex's recovery, though, is for him to leave medicine. So, rather than seek reinstatement of his medical license, which he lost as a result of his implosion, he chooses to pursue a career as a teacher.

He lands his first position teaching science and coaching track at the high school in Three Rivers, Texas.

But what with the internet and Google, Alex's past is soon uncovered, and speculation quickly spreads through the small town. Alex, however, maintains his candor about his past, weathering the storm better than he expected. He gets a dog, immerses himself in the life associated with the school, and starts to feel like; maybe, things are going to work out.

Stu Perry is a successful real estate attorney with an office in San Antonio and is an integral part of the town. The father of one of Alex's students, Stu invites Alex to barbeques, hunting trips, and other activities where he mixes and mingles with the upper crust of the Three Rivers community. But as Alex and Stu continue to associate, Alex soon realizes that some of Stu's clients aren't regular real estate speculators and have their hands in some dark and deadly dealings across the border in Mexico.

Life takes a turn for the worse when Alex's student loans up their game for repayment, and a student he'd been tutoring in physics decides to act on a dark and hidden desire. Then suddenly, Stu's most sinister client offers Alex an opportunity to make all his problems disappear.

The Cuts That Cure was an intense, action-packed mystery/thriller that I read in one sitting, cover to cover. Alex was such a sympathetic character, and I had to find out how things would end up for him. His story had some shocking moments as the plot took a couple of massive twists that I never saw coming. I literally gasped out loud as I read – and kept reading.

The characters of the small west Texas town felt authentic and familiar. The personable, neighborly, and welcoming people were balanced with those with dangerous secrets and hidden lives. You never know what's going on in someone else's life, do you? The spread and escalation of gossip, including the wild speculations that became "fact," were all too true.

The plot is a rollercoaster ride. It slowly cranks up each lift, the tension mounting, and then suddenly plunges into the drop. I loved how the author entwined student Henry Wallis's plotline with Alex Brantley's: its parallel progression building a palpable foreboding as it inched its way toward involving Alex in a most unfortunate way.

With an engaging main character, an evocative setting, and adrenaline-rich action, I recommend THE CUTS THAT CURE to mystery and thriller readers who have the stamina to take a gut punch or two along with the blood and gore.

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Saturday, April 02, 2022

A Most Peculiar Malaysian Murder (Inspector Singh Investigates, #1) by Shamini Flint

A Most Peculiar Malaysian Murder (Inspector Singh Investigates #1)A Most Peculiar Malaysian Murder by Shamini Flint
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Engaging characters and a vibrant locale set the stage for this exciting mystery to play out.

When a famous Singaporean model is arrested for the murder of her husband, a lumber magnate, in Kuala Lumpur, his superiors in the Singapore Police send Inspector Singh to Malaysia to ensure Chelsea Liew receives a fair shake. With a pretty much cut-and-dried case against Liew, this assignment is viewed as a no-win situation for Singh and seen as a possible way to rid the department of him. And although Singh has a successful investigative history, he is considered a pariah within his department for an as-yet unrevealed reason.

He is not greeted warmly at his arrival on the Malaysian Police Commissioner’s doorstep, but his “cooperation” in the case is grudgingly accepted, and he’s assigned a local officer as an assistant. Sergeant Shukor, the Commissioner’s aide-de-camp, is supposed to keep an eye on Singh, subtly thwart his participation, and hurry him on his way back to Singapore. However, Shukor is a genuinely earnest cop and feels Singh is on to something. He quickly switches to Singh’s camp, and together, they pursue the elements that make up the evidence against Chelsea.

The accused and the deceased, Alan Lee, were going through a bitter divorce and custody battle at the time of his murder. During their last court appearance, Lee’s attorney had dropped a bombshell on everyone, announcing that his client had recently converted to Islam. According to the Malaysian constitution, this development put the question of the custody of their children in the hands of the religious Syariah court, where they would most certainly award custody to their now-Moslem father. Lee, an abusive wife-beater, known repeat adulterer, and disinterested parent at best, is suspected of making a sham conversion to spite his wife and separate her from her beloved children, giving her a strong motive for his murder.

With things looking grim for Chelsea, a conviction means a mandatory death sentence for her; she has mentally given up as she languishes in the local prison awaiting her trial. Singh is eventually able to shake her out of her stupor, though, with his offer of help.

A Most Peculiar Malaysian Murder is the first book in Shamini Flint’s Inspector Singh Investigates series. It is a superb beginning with a curious lead detective, a colorful and exotic Malaysian setting, and an intriguing, surprise-filled plot. Interestingly, we don’t learn much about the main character; he’s even addressed as Singh or Inspector Singh throughout, never a first name. We know he is married, a Sikh, has a widowed sister living in Kuala Lumpur whom he ends up staying with during the extended investigation, and that his Singaporean colleagues would love to have him gone. Physically, he’s short, rotund, sweats profusely, smokes, and snores like a freight train, according to his sister. He’s just not a very engaging sounding lead character, but somehow, he is just that, and very much so. He coaxes witnesses to tell all and wins over his Malaysian counterparts quite handily. The missing pieces to the puzzle of his backstory, though, will act like catnip on me; I will need to read further in the series for sure. In addition, I enjoyed both Shukor and Inspector Mohammed, the Malaysian connections, one for his genuineness and the other for his elegance and grace. I hope they reappear in series down the road.

The Malaysian setting was exotic; I haven’t run across any other mysteries using this location as a backdrop. The descriptions immersed me in the place. I felt I had a reasonably good image of what the inspector and other characters were experiencing. And although the story doesn’t linger in Borneo, I thought I got a clear impression of that place and a good idea of the events of the time with the logging industry, palm oil, and the Penan people (which continues today.)

Along with its engaging characters, multiple points of view, and vibrant locale, the plot provides many viable suspects and red herrings to dismiss before getting to its final resolution. I never saw the answer until a tiny action clued me in, thinking, “No, really?” Not that the suspect was implausible but that I’d been had – completely. Having admitted that, I will say the resolution also satisfied me – completely.

I recommend A MOST PECULIAR MALAYSIAN MURDER to readers of mystery fiction who would enjoy a different sort of police detective, competent for sure but with flaws and perhaps storied background. Also, this book might fit the bill for mystery readers who, although they aren’t into the cozy subgenre, don’t care for a lot of blood and guts in the details of their crime stories.

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