Friday, March 29, 2013

Book Review: The Chill of Night by James Hayman

Portland homicide detective Michael McCabe returns in The Chill of Night by James Hayman.

When the naked frozen body of young attorney Lainie Goff is found in sub-zero temperatures at the end of the Portland Fish Pier, detective Mike McCabe and his partner, Maggie Savage, are called in to investigate. They soon discover the only witness to the crime--a mentally disturbed woman named Abby Quinn--mysteriously disappeared the same night.

McCabe is on the track of a clever killer, who may or may not know that Abby is the one who witnessed the crime. He must find Abby and the killer before another life is lost.

Things at home aren't so rosy either. A phone call from McCabe's ex-wife concerning their daughter, Casey, and relationship issues with Kyra, leave McCabe rethinking his past and present, and wondering about the future.

In this follow up to The Cutting, Hayman brings back Mike McCabe, Maggie Savage, and other members of the Portland PD to handle the investigation of the mysterious death of a glamorous, beautiful lawyer, who was moving swiftly toward a partnership in a prominent law firm. Hayman does an excellent job, as he did in the first book, of creating a suspenseful mystery for his characters to solve. Twists and turns keep the reader guessing the identity of the killer right along with McCabe. Hayman also does a fine job of describing the world in which McCabe lives and works.

McCabe's personal life is well drawn in The Chill of Night, as he is once again dealing a bit with his ex-wife, and complications arise in his current relationship with girlfriend, Kyra. My tiny complaint, which actually is a carry over of my feelings from the first book, is that his daughter, Casey, seems to be used solely to give McCabe an eternal tie to his past. In The Cutting, his ex-wife Sandy reappears after she had left Casey behind so she could marry another man. While Sandy's emergence causes conflict, and Casey is mentioned in several chapters of the book, I came away feeling like she was just a pawn the author used to keep McCabe tied to his past. Chapters would go by without a mention of Casey, and you were wondering what the heck she was doing all that time. I didn't cite this in my review because I thought I was being a bit too picky.

In The Chill of Night, however, Casey is absent for most of the book, having gone off with a friend on a trip. While she returns toward the end, I couldn't help but think how convenient her absence was. Though McCabe mentions her a couple of times, it nags at me that I didn't get to see more of them together. It's almost like watching an episode of a television show where you know kids exist, but they are barely mentioned or seen.

It is my hope that Casey plays a deeper, more significant role in future installments of this series. While I'm reading these for the murder mystery, I still need to get to know McCabe as a person, the whole person, not just his work persona or as Sandy's ex-husband or Kyra's boyfriend. His being a single father is an important part of his character, and will hopefully be further developed.

That said, I felt The Chill of Night was a great addition to a series I am very excited about. I'll certainly be on the lookout for Hayman's next book.

Title: The Chill of Night
Author: James Hayman
Publisher: Minotaur Books
ISBN-10: 0312532717
ISBN-13: 978-0312532710

This post first appeared at The Book Connection.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Guest Blogger: Sam Hilliard, Author of The Last Track

Today's guest blogger is Sam Hilliard. We're going to be getting to know a little bit about Mike Brody,the main character from Sam's mystery/thriller novel, The Last Track.

Imagine if being late meant a child disappeared forever. That is the fear that drives Mike Brody—the man you want when the one you love is missing.

In The Last Track, a police detective recruits Mike to help find an asthmatic boy lost in the dense woods surrounding a dude ranch in Montana. An unwitting murder witness, the boy burrows ever deeper into the rugged terrain, fearful of being found. As Mike and a local officer search for the boy, the killer follows them.

While the investigation expands, Mike’s ex-wife, a well-connected journalist, uses her contacts to unravel the truth behind the murder.

Her discoveries threaten to snare them all in a treacherous conspiracy . . .

Getting to Know Mike Brody by Sam Hilliard

While Mike Brody has a broad set of skills—one bordering on supernatural—it is the depth of his childhood wounds that truly forged him. The circumstances of his abduction and the murder of his brother haunt him to this day.

Able to think and adapt in the most chaotic of situations, he sees what others overlook. By tapping into the emotional charge left behind in their tracks, Mike can visualize the circumstances that led to a person’s disappearance, as if through their eyes.

A former Special Forces operative and member of the 75th Ranger Regiment, Mike’s spent most of his twenties in the military. Toward the end of his tour of duty, Mike suffered a serious knee injury during a mission that resulted in several months on the sidelines. Though eighty percent of the mobility in the affected knee returned, specialists agreed that even with a full replacement and months of rehabilitation, he would never return to full capacity. Since the injury could potentially prevent him from giving one hundred percent in a combat situation, both parties agreed not to extend his service upon expiration of his contract.

While his wife, Jessica, celebrated the end of his military career—a recurring point of stress between them—her joy was short-lived. Mike soon began leading extreme excursions all over the world and smoke jumping forest fires in the Pacific Northwest. Occasionally the knee injury flares up and requires treatment, temporarily sidelining him once again.

In the midst of all of this, are the calls from law enforcement agencies and desperate families asking for his help in the search for the missing. He answers, always, no matter what the cost to him personally, emotionally or professionally.

Jessica finally tired of his adrenaline seeking ways and his refusal to seek help for some issues she felt impacted their marriage, filed for divorce. Currently, they work hard to maintain an extremely civil friendship for the benefit of their young son, Andy. But they continue to struggle with an on-again, off-again relationship, that doesn’t work well when they are together, but doesn’t work at all when they are apart.

Besides the knee injuries, Mike suffers from night terrors, as well as post traumatic stress and abandonment issues—the product of losing his parents just before high school and reinforced by his own divorce.

At the end of the day, Mike Brody is an unlikely hero. He is a man who wants to do the right thing, for all the right reasons. But it is the way he approaches those situations that the people who care for him the most have trouble accepting.

Read the reviews!

"The Last Track by Sam Hilliard is an emotionally charged mystery thriller."

- Rundpinne

"I hope the Mike Brody series continues because I really enjoyed this first installment and hope to learn even more about Mike during further books."

- My Reading Reading

“From the very start The Last Track captivates with a frenetic pace, keeping the reader engaged in a series of suspenseful events."

- Cindy Otty, Reviewer

Sam Hilliard was born in the Midwest in 1973. Right before he graduated from college, his family moved to Red Bank, New Jersey. He worked at a convenience store, but he knew he wanted to be a writer--even if he wouldn't admit it. After his marriage and subsequent divorce, Sam spent the next two years writing The Last Track. He's now the Director of IT at an all girls boarding school, and lives in New York City with his girlfriend and an army of cats.

You can visit Sam online at

This post first appeared at The Book Connection.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Book Review: Fringe Benefits by F.M. Meredith

A bored, self-centered housewife, a cop who plans the perfect murder, a teenage son who can't handle life at home, a violent rapist who only attacks on Wednesdays, and a series of odd break-ins, come together for an engaging police procedural in Fringe Benefits by F.M. Meredith.

Officer Cal Sylvester has been known to step out on his wife, but he gets more than he bargains for when he hooks up with the greedy wife of a fellow officer. Darcy Butler, the wife of Sylvester's rookie partner, Gordon, is a looker, but his plan to make their affair a more permanent relationship is squashed when Darcy refuses to marry someone who makes as little money as a cop. So Sylvester plans the perfect murder to get his hands on his wife's insurance money.

Sixteen-year-old Adler "Patch" Costello has always been a screw up. Unlike his angelic sister, Jill, he's been a thorn in his parents' side since the day he was born. Unable to deal with his parents' constant criticism, Patch takes to the streets, unaware he's about to become a pawn in a dangerous chessboard that leads to a future he can't conceive.

Members of the Rocky Bluff P.D. work hard to keep the streets of the growing beach community clean, investigating odd break-ins, arresting drunk drivers, and searching for a knife-wielding rapist who only attacks on Wednesday; not knowing that one of their own is operating on the edge of the law.

In the third book of the Rocky Bluff P.D. series, my favorite character is introduced, Gordon Butler. A rookie cop, who if he didn't have bad luck would have no luck at all, is partnered up with Cal Sylvester, a veteran who isn't above taking advantage of the fringe benefits of being a cop.

Gordon is a cop eager to do his best, but the poor guy is the butt of most jokes. His efforts to be a good cop despite his many mishaps, is what endeared him to me in later books in the Rocky Bluff P.D. series. What happened with Darcy had been mentioned in future installments, but it was good to finally know the entire story behind how Gordon found himself single again.

Fringe Benefits definitely has an edge to it. You've got a cop who plans to off his wife to collect the insurance money, a teenager whose home life is so bad that he would rather live on the streets than deal with his parents, and the rising crime rate that growth seems to bring.

Abel Navarro, who was more of a supplementary character in earlier books, also gets some time in the limelight. He's frustrated because he keeps arresting drunk drivers, but the D.A. doesn't even bring the cases to court. Navarro gets his own lesson in fringe benefits when he arrests a fire chief from a nearby community for drinking and driving, but discovers he shouldn't have wasted his time. Abel's wife, Maria, is only mildly supportive, and hopes that her husband won't make too many waves that could interfere with his chances for a future promotion.

As with previous and future installments in the Rocky Bluff P.D. series, there is a perfect mix of police work and how being involved in law enforcement impacts the family.

I've always been more of a mystery type of person, where the identity of the actual perpetrator is unknown until the very end, so it surprises me how much I've enjoyed reading the books in the Rocky Bluff P.D. series, where the reader typically, though not always, knows who committed the crime and journeys along with the detectives as they uncover the clues that lead to an arrest.

It took me a little over a day to finish Fringe Benefits, and if I didn't have a TBR pile that rivaled the Empire State Building, I would reread the next three books in the series.

Fringe Benefits is available through the author's website and also comes in a Kindle edition.

Here is a list of the Rocky Bluff P.D. books in order:

Final Respects
Bad Tidings
Fringe Benefits
Smell of Death
No Sanctuary
An Axe to Grind

Once you read one book in the Rocky Bluff P.D. series you're going to want to own them all. Meredith creates characters you can't help but want to know more about.

This post first appeared at The Book Connection.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Book Review: Secret Sisters by Tristi Pinkston

For a light, comedic mystery, you can try Secret Sisters by Tristi Pinkston.

In an effort to help Bishop Sylvester reduce his stress level and his blood pressure, Ida Mae Babbit, the president of the Omni 2nd Ward Relief Society, suggests the group attempt to handle any slight problems that come to their attention--without mentioning this little tidbit to the bishop, of course.

When the women of the Relief Society discuss how they could help one family who might be in need, their "attempt to handle any slight problems that come to their attention" blossoms into an amateur attempt at detective work. With the help of her counselors, Arlette and Tansy, and some technological expertise from her nephew, Ren, Ida Mae and the Secret Sisters uncover a mystery, while still managing to assist other families under their care.

Just another day's work for this Relief Society.

In this first book of The Secret Sisters Mysteries, LDS author Tristi Pinkston creates a light and funny mystery with characters you'll soon come to love.

The reader is treated to the hardworking Ida Mae who seems to be busy taking care of everyone but herself; Arlette, who is always knitting socks in outrageous colors; Tansy, whose amazing ability makes her able to help people without them realizing they are being helped; and Ren, Ida's quirky nephew, whose ability to invent neat gizmos and gadgets provides quite useful.

These women, Ren, and the secondary characters blend well with each other. Ida is an engaging character, whose point of view carries the reader through the book. In less than 300 pages, the reader learns a great deal about Ida, but Pinkston does an excellent job of gradually sprinkling in the backstory, so that it doesn't distract from the present day happenings. And this book, while comedic in nature, gives the reader a good look into the workings of a relief society.

While I truly enjoyed this cast of characters, I felt more emphasis was placed on the daily workings of the Relief Society than on solving the mystery--at least until the final few chapters when things started coming together. There is a lot going on outside of the mystery, too, and every once in a while I felt the focus was lost.

Now, that definitely isn't going to stop me from reading the next book in this series when it comes out; a sneak preview, of which, appears at the end of Secret Sisters. I want to see what Ida, Arlette, and Tansy get themselves into next time, and what Ren will invent to help them along. I would also like to see more of Hannah, whose involvement in the Relief Society was limited when she needed to tend to her own family.

This is a book that I didn't want to put down once I opened it. It is an enjoyable, quick read.

Title: Secret Sisters
Author: Tristi Pinkston
Publisher: Valor Publishing Group
ISBN-10: 1935546090
ISBN-13: 978-1935546092

This post first appeared at The Book Connection.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Book Spotlight: Moonlight Falls by Vincent Zandri

Moonlight Falls is the Albany, New York-based paranoid tale (in the Hitchcock tradition) of former APD Detective turned Private Investigator/Massage Therapist, Richard “Dick” Moonlight, who believes he might be responsible for the brutal slaying by knife of his illicit lover, the beautiful Scarlet Montana. The situation is made all the worse since Scarlet is the wife of Moonlight’s boss, Chief of Detectives Jake Montana.

Why does Moonlight believe he might be responsible?

He’s got a small fragment of a .22 hollow point round buried inside his brain, lodged directly up against his cerebral cortex. The result of a botched suicide attempt four years prior to the novel’s start, an operation to remove the bullt frag would be too dangerous.

But the bullet causes Moonlight lots of problems, the least of which are the occasional memory loss and his rational ability to tell right from wrong. The bullet frag also might shift at any moment, making coma and/or sudden death, a very real possibility.

Still, Moonlight has been trying to get his life together as of late.

But when Scarlet begs him to make the trip over to her house late one rainy Sunday night to issue one of his “massages,” he makes a big mistake by sleeping with her. Later, having passed out in her bed, he will be rudely awakened by a garage door opening and Jake’s unexpected and very drunken homecoming. Making his impromptu escape out a top floor window, Moonlight will seek the safety of his home.

Two hours later however, he will receive another unexpected visit from Jake Montana. This time the big Captain has sobering news to report. He’s discovered his wife’s mutilated body in her own bed. She’s been murdered and now he needs the P.I. to investigate it in association with Albany ’s “overtaxed” Special Independent Unit before I.A. pokes their nose into the affair. Moonlight takes a big step back. Is it possible he made a second trip to the Montana home-sweet-home and just has no recollection of it? Once there, did he perform a heinous crime on his part-time lover? Or is this some kind of set up by his former boss? Is it really Jake who is responsible for Scarlet’s death? Does he wish for Moonlight to cover up his involvement, seal the case before Internal Affairs starts poking their nose into the situation?

There’s another problem too.

Covering Moonlight’s palms and the pads of his fingers are numerous scratches and cuts. Are these defensive wounds? Wounds he received when Scarlet put up a struggle? Or are they offensive wounds? Wounds he couldn’t avoid when making his attack on Scarlet with a blade? The answer is not so simple since Moonlight has no idea where he acquired the wounds.

Having no choice but to take on the mission (if only to cover his own ass), Moonlight can only hope the answers to his many questions point to his former boss and not himself.

Read an Excerpt from Moonlight Falls!

Albany, New York

140 miles northeast of New York City

I’m escorted into a four-walled basement room by two suited agents—one tall, slim and bearded, the other shorter, stockier, cleanshaven.

The space we occupy contains a one-way mirror which I know from experience hides a tripod-mounted video camera, a sound man and several FBI agents, the identities of whom are concealed. There’s no furniture in the room, other than a long metal table and four metal chairs. No wallpaper, no soft lamp light, no piped-in music. Just harsh white overhead light, concrete and a funny worm smell.

As I enter the room for the first time, the tall agent tells me to take a seat at the table.

“We appreciate your cooperation,” the stocky agent jumps in.

Out of the corner of my eye, I catch my reflection in the mirror.

I’m of medium height. Not tall, not short. Not too badly put together for having reached the big four-zero thanks to the cross-training routine I put myself on not long after my hospital release. Nowadays, my head is shaved. There’s a small button-sized scar behind my right earlobe in the place where the fragment of .22 caliber hollow-point penetrated the skull. I wear a black leather jacket over black jeans and lace-up combat boots left over from my military service during the first Gulf
War. My eyeglasses are rectangular and retrofitted from a pair of cheap sunglasses I picked up at a Penn Station kiosk. They make my stubblecovered face seem slightly wider than it really is. So people have told me.

Having been led to my chair, I am then asked to focus my gaze directly onto the mirror so that the video man or woman stationed on the opposite side of the glass can adjust the shooting angle and focus.

“Please say something,” requests Stocky Agent while removing his suit jacket, setting it over the back of an empty chair.

“There once was a cop from Nantucket,” I say to break the ice.

But no one laughs.

“You get that?” the taller agent barks out to no one in particular.

“Okay to go,” comes a tinny, hidden speaker voice. “You gonna finish that poem, Mr. Moonlight?”

“Knock it off,” Stocky Agent orders. Then turns back to me.

“Before we get started, can we get you a coffee? A cappuccino? You can get one right out of the new machine upstairs.”

“Mind if I burn one?”

Tall Bearded Agent purses his lips, cocks his head in the direction of a plastic No Smoking placard to the wall.

Stocky Agent makes a sour face, shakes his head, rolls up the sleeves on his thick arms. He reaches across the heavy wood table, grabs an ashtray, and clunks it down in front of me as if it were a bedpan.

“The rule doesn’t apply down here,” he says. Then, in this deep affected voice, he adds, “Let’s get started, Mr. Moonlight. You already know the routine. For now we just want to get to the bottom of the who, what, wheres and hows of this train wreck.”

“You forgot the why,” I say, firing up a Marlboro Light. “You need to know the why to establish an entire familiarity with any given case.”

Stocky Agent does a double take, smiles. Like he knows I’m fucking with him.
“Don’t be a dick, Dick,” he says.

I guess it’s important not to take life too seriously. He laughs. I laugh. We all laugh. Ice officially broken. I exhale some smoke, sit back in my chair.

They’re right, of course. I know the drill. I know it’s the truth they’re after. The truth and almost nothing but the truth. But what they also want is my perspective—my take on the entire Scarlet Montana affair, from soup to peanuts. They want me to leave nothing out. I’ll start with my on-again/off-again love affair with my boss’s wife. Maybe from there I’ll move on to the dead bodies, my cut-up hands, the Saratoga
Springs Russians, the Psychic Fair, the heroin, the illegal organ harvesting operation, the exhumations, the attempts on my life, the lies, deceptions and fuck-overs galore.

As a former fulltime Albany detective, I know that nobody sees the same thing through the same set of eyeballs. What’s important to one person might appear insignificant or useless to another. What those federal agents want right now inside the basement interview room is my most reliable version of the truth—an accurate, objective truth that separates fact from fantasy.

Theoretically speaking.

“Ask away,” I say, just as the buzzing starts up in the core of my head.

“Just start at the beginning,” Stocky Agent requests. “We have all night.”

Sitting up straight, I feel my right arm beginning to go numb on me. So numb I drop the lit cigarette onto the table. The inside of my head chimes like a belfry. Stocky Agent is staring at me from across the table with these wide bug eyes like my skull and brains are about to pull a JFK all over him.

But then, just as soon as it all starts, the chiming and the paralysis subsides.

With a trembling hand, I manage to pick up the partially smoked cigarette, exhale a very resigned, now smokeless breath and stamp the cancer stick out.

“Everything you wanna know,” I whisper. “You want me to tell you everything.”

“Everything you remember,” Tall Agent smiles. “If that’s at all possible.”

Stocky Agent pulls a stick of gum from a pack in his pants pocket, carefully unwraps the tin foil and folds the gum before stuffing it into his mouth.

Juicy Fruit. I can smell it from all the way across the table.

By all indicators, it’s going to be a long night.

“I think I’ll take that cappuccino after all,” I say.
For the first time since entering the interview room, I feel the muscles in my face constricting. I know without looking that my expression has turned into something miles away from shiny happy. I’m dead serious.

Read Reviews of Moonlight Falls!

"This is a fast paced book with many twists and turns, some dark humor which I am a fan of and a maybe murderer that you can’t help but like. The plot was very different than other thrillers I’ve read but I enjoyed the book very much, except for the sexual descriptions, but the storyline was engaging and kept me turning the pages to a very surprising ending. Any who is a fan of film noir will love this book." – Reading at the Beach

"Moonlight Falls is a brilliant whodunnit. A thrilling tale with amazing characters who come to life page after page. I’m so glad I had the opportunity to read this book. Mystery/Thriller fans everywhere need to get their hands on a copy." – Readaholic

"I loved this book for so many reasons...I’ll give it five stars and say that thriller and suspense fans should check it out!" – The Cajun Book Lady

"Moonlight Falls is a masterfully written mystery novel filled with plenty of twists, turns, and double crosses to keep any mystery and thriller buff satisfied…" - Rundpinne

"This is a page turner that kept me up into the wee hours of the night! The action began from the opening line 'Man’s life is flashing before his eyes.' There’s not a dull slow moment in the book so it compelled me to want to sit and devour it; which I did and you will to I am sure!" – Jen’s Book Talk

"Tough, hard-boiled noir delivered with the kind of fast-paced taut action that represents the best of the genre, Vince Zandri’s Moonlight Falls gives us the kind of protagonist series are built on. “Get your protagonist up a tree and throw rocks at him” is advice given to novelists from Day One: Zandri’s character Richard Moonlight isn’t up a tree; he’s up a Sequoia and those aren’t rocks being thrown at him—they’re boulders shot out of a cannon. It’s become a cliche to say “I couldn’t put it down,” but in this case, it applies. Not knowing if his next minute might be his last to draw breath—with a bullet fragment lodged in his brain, the artery wrapped around it prohibiting its removal—the tension builds to a fever-pitch as Moonlight is surrounded by enemies all determined to deal one of two outcomes for him—either his death or his arrest for the murder of his lover, and the journey to prove his innocence and the surprise ending will absolutely enthrall readers. Don’t begin reading this at night the day before you have to work unless you have a forgiving boss who won’t mind if you show up bleary-eyed from staying up all night to read it." –Les Edgerton, author of Monday’s Meal and the writing text, Hooked: Write Fiction That Grabs Readers at Page One and Never Lets Them Go

"…a great read full of interesting and well developed characters. The style is different, yet engrossing." – Broken Teepee

Vincent Zandri is an award-winning novelist, essayist and freelance photojournalist. His novel As Catch Can (Delacorte) was touted in two pre-publication articles by Publishers Weekly and was called “Brilliant” upon its publication by The New York Post. The Boston Herald attributed it as “The most arresting first crime novel to break into print this season.” Other novels include Godchild (Bantam/Dell) and Permanence (NPI). Translated into several languages including Japanese and the Dutch, Zandri’s novels have also been sought out by numerous major movie producers, including Heyday Productions and DreamWorks. Moonlight Falls is his fourth novel. He is the author of the blogs, Dangerous Dispatches and Embedded in Africa for RT ( Russia Today TV) which have been syndicated and translated in several different languages throughout the world. He also writes for other global publications, including Culture 11, Globalia, Globalspec and more. Zandri’s nonfiction has appeared in New York Newsday, Hudson Valley Magazine, Game and Fish Magazine and others, while his essays and short fiction have been featured in many journals including Fugue, Maryland Review and Orange Coast Magazine. He holds an M.F.A. in Writing from Vermont College and is a 2010 International Thrillerl. Writer’s Awards panel judge. Zandri currently divides his time between New York and Europe. He is the drummer for the Albany-based punk band to Blisterz. You can visit his website at or his blog at

This post first appeared at The Book Connection.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Book Review: The Cutting by James Hayman

Suspense, superb writing, and a stellar plot combine to create an outstanding debut in James Hayman's The Cutting.

Detective Sergeant Michael McCabe left New York City to start over in Portland, Maine. Seeking to raise his daughter away from the violence of the city, McCabe settles into his new job, while trying to reconcile himself to the past: an ex-wife who left him for an investment banker and the death of his brother, a hero cop gone bad.

McCabe never expected to find such violence in Maine.

The mutilated body of a blonde high school soccer star is found in a scrap-metal yard. She has been viciously assaulted and her heart cut from her chest with expert precision. On the same day, a young, blonde, athletic businesswoman is abducted as she jogs through the city's west end. McCabe believes both crimes are the work of the same person, and that these crimes sound eerily familiar.

Can McCabe and his partner, Maggie Savage, put the pieces together that will allow them to rescue the missing woman and uncover a sadistic killer?

The Cutting is spectacular! Its gripping storyline, the way McCabe's personal and professional lives intersect, the slight bit of sexual tension between McCabe and his partner, and this unique mystery, all come together to give the reader an action-packed ride.

Hayman has written McCabe with that tough cop edge, but still gives him vulnerabilities to make him believable. In an unusual twist, McCabe is the single father to Casey, whose mother abandoned her when she walked out on McCabe for a rich investment banker. Suddenly Casey's mother reappears to foster a relationship with the girl and McCabe isn't quite sure he likes that too much.

Once you pick up The Cutting, you won't be able to put it down. You'll be racing against time along with McCabe and Savage to unravel this mystery.

Let's hope Hayman has many more McCabe novels in him, because you'll want to keep reading them just as much as I do!

Title: The Cutting
Author: James Hayman
Publisher: Minotaur Books
ISBN-10: 0-312-53129-x
ISBN-13: 978-0-312-53129-4
SRP: $24.95

This review first appeared at The Book Connection.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Book Spotlight: Schooled in Lies by Angela Henry

GED instructor Kendra Clayton’s high school days were nothing to brag about. So she’s not too thrilled when on top of having to take a class to renew her teaching certificate or be fired, she gets roped into serving on her high school’s reunion committee.

Spending time with her former classmates is even less fun than having a root canal. Then to make matters worse, Kendra and the other committee members start receiving strange messages and having freak accidents. When one of the accidents results in a death, Kendra is convinced it’s murder. Unfortunately, neither the reunion committee nor the police take her seriously.

To try and prevent another death-and to keep from worrying about all the time her sweetie, Carl, has been spending with his scheming ex-wife-Kendra digs into the lives of her fellow committee members and uncovers enough secrets, lies, and betrayal to make her head spin. When a second murder occurs, Kendra realizes she needs to watch her back in her search for the truth before a killer turns her into another buried secret.

Read an Excerpt from Schooled In Lies!

She woke up in the dark. Confused and disoriented, she lay still for a few seconds and tried to get her bearings and figure out where she was. She tasted blood in her mouth. Tentatively, she touched her lower lip and discovered it was split. There was also an egg-sized knot on the back of her head, causing pounding that made even thinking painful. Curled into a fetal position on her side, she slowly turned onto her back and reached out a hand hitting something hard and unyielding mere inches from her face. She tried to straighten out her cramped legs but couldn’t. Where the hell was she and why was it so dark? Then another sensation cut its way through the mind-numbing pain in her head. Movement. She was moving.

A familiar smell filled her nose. Exhaust fumes. Car exhaust fumes. She was in a moving car. Judging by the enclosed space she was in, she quickly realized she was in the trunk. Panic welled up inside her and she started screaming and frantically beating on the inside of the trunk. But the car didn’t stop and after a few minutes both her throat and hands were sore. She was feeling around the trunk for something to pry open the lock with when the car came to an abrupt stop. She heard the opening and closing of the car door and footsteps crunching on gravel.

Fumbling around in the dark, her hand came to rest on a hard, round, plastic cylinder. A flashlight. She felt for the switch to the sound of a key being inserted into the trunk lock. When the trunk flew open, she flashed the light into her captor’s face. When she saw who it was, memories suddenly came flooding into her head, jolting her back in time, making her remember how she came to be in the trunk of a car with a murderer staring down at her.

Read a Recent Review of Schooled in Lies!

"I would recommend Schooled In Lies to anyone looking for a witty, modern cozy mystery; it makes for a light and fun afternoon read." --Rundpinne

Angela Henry was once told that her past life careers included spy, researcher, and investigator. She stuck with what she knew because today she’s a mystery writing library reference specialist, who loves to people watch and eavesdrop on conversations. She’s the author of four mysteries featuring equally nosy amateur sleuth Kendra Clayton, and is also the founder of the award-winning MystNoir website, which promotes African-American mystery writers, and was named a “Hot Site” by USA When she’s not working, writing, or practicing her stealth, she loves to travel, is connoisseur of B horror movies, and an admitted anime addict. She lives in Ohio and is currently hard at work trying to meet her next deadline. You can visit her website at and her blog at Connect with Angela on Twitter at

This post first appeared at The Book Connection.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Character Interview: Darrell Spruce from The Devil in Merrivale by Jackie Griffey

Jackie Griffey, author of the cozy mystery, The Devil in Merrivale is here interviewing one of the characters from the book. We'll slip quietly out of the way and let Jackie do her stuff.

"A KILLER INTERVIEW" performed by Jackie Griffey

My footsteps slowed as I entered the high school. I was aware of it; nervous; out of my element; and didn't like my assignment. That didn't change a thing. I was here and the principal's secretary was smiling at me since I'd asked to speak to her boss.

I pulled out my press card and she took it with her into his office. She soon came out smiling as if trying to put me at ease. John Squires was right behind her and stood in the door wearing a smile that would even have put a teenager at ease with his hand extended.

I took the hand already feeling better and was ushered to a chair as he closed the office door.

"I'm sorry to bother you, sir," I began. He listened patiently. "I tried to get an appointment with Judge Troy Spruce but I couldn't get in touch with him. I've been assigned what's gleefully called the police beat at the paper 'and other related things' as it says on my job description.'" This was accompanied by a hopeful smile. "I just couldn't seem to get past the office help at the Judge's office."

John Squires grinned as if this didn't surprise him. He was smart enough not to say so. Instead he asked, "I'm not sure I can tell you anything either. How can I help you?"

"I'd like to interview Darrell Spruce and it looks like this is the only way I can get to him. If he's not taking a test or something, may I talk to him for a few minutes?"

John Squires thought a few seconds then got up. "I'll see what I can do."

He left the office closing the door behind him. I shook like a leaf not knowing if I might be breaking any laws or not. No one had actually told me I couldn't talk to the people involved in this murder investigation. I'd been turned down before and it hadn't killed me. I was just giving some thought to my last will and testimony when Squires came back looking pleasant enough to raise my hopes.

"He'll be with you shortly. You can talk in here." He hesitated. "He asked for permission to call his father so if I were you, I'd ask my most important questions first." He left on a deep sigh that was as good a warning as what he said. Then I saw the secretary ushering in a big, mad looking kid I'd never seen before except on the football field. I steeled myself and pointed to a chair as the secretary closed the door. I gave him a quick glance at my press card which he ignored.

"I'm hoping to get your insight in this crime investigation and I understand Denise Davis was a classmate of yours—"

Darrell shook his head looking grim. I was glad we weren't in a dark alley and help was at hand.

"No. Not classmates, she was a sophomore and I am a senior. I hardly knew her." He looked like he couldn't care less about the less important students. Or me either.

"But she, Denise Davis, was your father's secretary's daughter?"

After a brief hesitation the answer was, "Yes." Nothing further was offered.

"I understand that Sheriff Larkin has spoken to you— "

"He's talked to everyone here. This a waste of time." He took a deep breath, frowning at me. "I don't know anything about what happened to Denise." He deigned to look me in the eye. "My father has retained Attorney Laurence Fields to represent me."

"The Sheriff has you in his sights then?" The moment it was out I regretted that. He gave me a look, eyes boring into mine like he was planning on having me for lunch.

“That's exactly right. He had no one else and he just went for me." The eyes bored into mine again.

"But he doesn't know what he's getting into." It was a threat and he looked like he could back it up.

I fished for another question, one that wouldn't get me sued, jailed, or bitten by this mean and probably unbalanced bully.

"I've heard you may have psyhic powers, just a rumor I heard. Is that true?"

Darrell actually looked pleased. I could hardly believe I'd hit paydirt with that one.

"I come from a long line of people with—certain powers."

"Certain powers," I thought that over. "I suppose you want this interview off the record?" I probed.

"No! I mean, I'm not ashamed of it. You can print whatever you want to." He paused. "I guess you have quite a large circulation?"

"Yes. Here and in the state capital and of course things of particular interest are always picked up by the larger newspapers." I had got lucky talking about the boy's favorite subject, himself. "I know you're on the football team and are active in a lot of school activities—" he looked away, I'd lost him.

"None of that is important." I could see his muscles tighten up and his hands made fists. "And I don't have to answer your questions about Denise or what happened to her. You can call my father or my attorney. I don't have to talk to you."

Before I could flatter any more information out of Darrell we heard loud voices outside the office. Darrell and I both stared at the door.

The door was flung wide, Janice, the secretary was standing ineffectively near, unable to stop the man who stepped inside.

No spoken words were necessary when father looked at son as if looking for bruises or other forms of ill treatment. The only thing I saw that marred Darrell's looks was the smart-ass expression when he got up to join his father.

"I've put in a call to the paper and I'll have your job for this." The judge's statement was accompanied by one of those looks I know the condemned must have got before his gavel fell. I had sense enough not to answer and was already planning on interviewing some of Darrell's friends and fellow students while I was there. Looking the opposition in the face brought out all my reporter instincts and I was no longer scared silly. If I lost my job, by George, I'd not be the only loser. This was just the first round. I made myself quit biting my lip and stood straighter.

Judge Troy Spruce put his arm around his son's shoulders and slammed out of the office.

The door and I shuddered.

Jackie Griffey likes to read as well as write cozy mysteries and romantic suspense. She and her family, two cats, a Chihuahua, and a couple of wild bunnies live in Arkansas where she is working on another cozy mystery. You can visit her website at
About The Devil in Merrivale

Murder isn’t the usual order of business in the little town of Merrivale, Tennessee, so the brutal stabbing death of popular high school student Denise Davis sends a shock through the community. Sheriff Cas Larkin is determined to find the killer, and the last thing he needs is distractions like the increasing reports of missing cattle and other livestock.

But as he digs deeper, Cas uncovers another mystery–a strange “club” the members are afraid to talk about, and for good reason. One of the recruits is brutally beaten when he refuses to take the club’s activities seriously. He also refuses to talk about those activities–until they turn turn deadly.

There’s something dark and sinister going on in Merrivale, and if Cas can’t figure out what it is and put a stop to it, there’ll be the devil to pay.

This post first appeared at The Book Connection.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Guest Blogger: Kim Smith, Author of Buried Angel

Shannon Wallace is finding trouble in the most bizarre places these days, but not as bizarre as the ones her sidekick Dwayne Brown is finding. When his friend, Bubba, is found stuffed in a cooler in his flower shop, the hunt is on to find his killer.

Could it be Bubba’s sister who is now his heir, or maybe one of the flower shop guys who worked with Bubba? You can be sure the dreadful duo of Shannon and Dwayne won’t rest until they have helped South Lake’s police department, and the Hispanic hottie investigator, Sal Ramirez, find his man. Or was that woman?

Inspiration Comes From the Strangest Places
by Kim Smith

It’s interesting to note that when I wrote Buried Angel, I had no idea that some of it would be situated in a cemetery, the least popular place on earth for this author. Cemeteries in the south are pretty cool places, however, and worth noting that they are sometimes set up as historical landmarks due to the famous persons buried in them.

South Lake, Mississippi is a fictional place. I made it up from knowledge of a couple of places near where I live. Likewise, Scott’s Funeral Home and Cemetery is a fictional place from several similar places nearby.

I have used the small cemetery on the corner of two really busy streets, the funeral home in the middle of a small town, the cemetery where my parents are buried, and the funeral home where my mother-in-law was memorialized.

The catalyst that sent me off to write this book was when I was on the way to a doctor’s appointment and ended up behind a hearse. The thing that came to my mind was, why on earth do they put curtains in a hearse? They doll them all up and make them look pretty. For what purpose? It isn’t like the passengers care!

This led to Shannon Wallace and how she would ask that very question and how she would react if she had to work in a cemetery. Followed closely by how Dwayne would react to the exact same thing. As we all know, Dwayne Brown would rather die than be near the dead!

The problem with this scenario was, I had a lot of experience being the bereaved and none being the behind-the-scenes person in such a situation.

So what do you do?


This is the neat thing about being a writer. You do not have to have a specific place to write about. Use what you already know. What your memories are about a place or places and embellish on them.

Scott’s cemetery is a very busy place in the book. A lot happens there and my poor characters are subjected to a lot of things there that I pray have never happened in any cemetery or funeral home.

In fact, as research for the book, I made sure that enough of the info was accurate so that the invented parts would seem real.

Believe me, no humans, dead or alive, were injured in the making of this book!

Kim Smith is the author of the zany, Shannon Wallace cozy mystery series available now from Red Rose Publishing. You can visit Kim’s website at

This guest post first appeared at The Book Connection.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Book Review: The Case of the Bouncing Grandma by A.K. Arenz

Do you love Christian cozy mysteries? Then The Case of the Bouncing Grandma (A Bouncing Grandma Mystery, Book 1) will be right up your alley.

After breaking her leg in a skateboarding accident, Glory Harper is stuck in a wheelchair; and Bouncy Grandma--named by her grandson, Seth--is bored out of her skull. When the new neighbors start moving into the house across the street, Glory is sure she sees a foot sticking out of a rolled up carpet, and things might start getting interesting.

Problem is, no one will believe her.

Glory's sister and daughter think she imagined the whole thing thanks to watching too much Law and Order, and as soon as the police realize the woman reporting the foot in the carpet sighting is the same one whose skateboarding adventure caused a multi-car pile-up, they aren't about to take her seriously. Undeterred, Glory keeps learning more and more about her new neighbors; and when she realizes she stumbled upon something more than a murder case, her research kicks into high gear. While following leads to what looks like the obvious culprits, the real criminals are closing in, placing Glory and her family are in danger.

Can she convince anyone of what she's uncovered? And if she does, will it be in time?

Right away I knew I was going to love this series by A K. Arenz. The youthful and adventurous Bouncing Grandma, Glory Harper is the perfect amateur sleuth. She reminds me a bit of Jessica Fletcher from Murder, She Wrote, with her ability to ask the questions that help to solve the crime and how her abilites can sometimes be discounted.

In the first book of this series we meet several characters, all of whom are interesting in their own way. From the rude father and son who move in next door to the cautious, yet pleasant twin girls whose luck is what prompted their familiy's move to the quiet town of Tarryton, from the peculiar realtor Elsie Wilkes to the handsome Harrison Ford look-alike, Detective Rick Spencer, who might just be interested in more than friendship with Glory, each of these characters blends together to create a cozy mystery that is both engaging and fun to read.

Faith plays a role in this book, as it does in all books published by Sheaf House Publishers. It's definitely not overpowering in this book, but faith in God is a part of many of the characters' lives and some events take place at their church.

I've already purchased the next book in this series, The Case of the Mystified M.D., an excerpt of which you'll find at the back of this book. I look forward to reading Book 2 and more Bouncing Grandma Mysteries from A.K. Arenz!

Title: The Case of the Bouncing Grandma
Author: A.K. Arenz
Publisher: Sheaf House Publishers
ISBN: 978-0-979-74856-1
SRP: $12.99

This review first appeared at The Book Connection.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Book Review: The Girl on Legare Street

Those who enjoyed Melanie Middleton and Jack Trenholm in The House on Tradd Street will definitely want to pick up the next book in this series, The Girl on Legare Street.

Melanie Middleton's mother abandoned her when she was just a child, leaving her with a father she was forced to take care of through his bouts of excessive drinking. Now Ginnette Prioleau Middleton has returned to Charleston and moved into their ancestral home on Legare Street. She seeks Melanie's help to restore the historical home, but the more time Melanie and her mother spend together, the more Melanie is reminded of how Ginnette deserted her and how the only thing they have in common is their ability to communicate with ghosts.

Ginnette's return has awakened a dark spirit whose strength continues to grow and who is out for revenge. Determined to protect her daughter, with Jack's help, Melanie and Ginnette must work together to fight the malevolent presence and save their family.

What a superb addition to the Tradd Street series from Karen White! Beautifully written, and with all the charm and mystery of the South, The Girl on Legare Street is certain to please readers.

In this new book, released by New American Library, several of the characters from the original book return: realtor Melanie Middleton and writer Jack Trenholm, Melanie's friends Sophie and Chad, Melanie's father, Jack's parents and a few others. White has done an excellent job of developing these characters further, while adding new mysteries and new characters into the mix.

Bringing Melanie's long lost mother home and forcing Melanie to deal with all the feelings she has toward the woman who deserted her over thirty years ago allows for a great deal of conflict. Add that to the uncertain relationship between Jack and Melanie, which seems to hover somewhere between friendship and romance, and the dark presence which Ginnette's return has awakened, and you've got a paranormal romantic suspense novel with Southern flair that grips you from the very first page.

Again, I am impressed with the beauty of the cover art, and the history lover in me likes to read of the past of the ghosts--nice and not so nice--that inhabit these homes while Melanie is forced to deal with her own past.

A story that is spooky, yet tugs at your heartstrings, is what you will find in The Girl on Legare Street.

Title: The Girl on Legare Street
Author: Karen White
Publisher: New American Library
ISBN: 978-0451227997
SRP: $15.00

This review first appeared at The Book Connection.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Spotlight: Carolina Heat by Christi Barth

Well-known journalist Annabelle Carlyle is stunned by the personal twist of her latest assignment: her best friend Vanessa is missing. Annabelle goes undercover in the Old South to search for answers. Full of thick accents and a way of life rooted in the past, Charleston is as foreign and strange a place as any Annabelle's visited. And before she finds a single clue, she runs into a sexy man she can't shake.

Tall, dark and charming, Mark Dering is happy to show the gorgeous Yankee his hometown. He's captivated by the quick witted, quick tempered redhead. But when they're shot at, he realizes she's far more than just another tourist. Soon they're knee deep in a mystery that goes all the way back to the Civil War. For once Annabelle is in over her head. Desperate to find Vanessa, she reluctantly accepts Mark's help. It isn't long before romance blooms right alongside the magnolias.

The stakes grow higher when a body is discovered. Someone is willing to kill to keep a century old Confederate secret hidden. With her best friend missing and a killer on the loose, it's the worst possible moment for Mark to try and unlock Annabelle's heart. Or is love exactly what her life's been missing?


He tensed, waited for a bullet to slam into his body, but nothing happened. Mark looked up and saw Jillian and Annabelle reeling in the rope, hand over hand. It felt like forever before they pulled him up the side and onto the deck. He flopped onto his back and concentrated on breathing.

“Mark, are you ok? Are you hit?” Annabelle’s voice quivered as she ran her hands frantically over his body checking for blood.

“I’m fine. Got the wind knocked out of me when the engines revved and slammed me against the boat. Think I swallowed about a gallon of river water, too.”

“What the hell is going on?” Ashby yelled over his shoulder, holding tight to the wheel. “Kind of a dramatic entrance for you. Want to fill me in? Tell me where we’re headed? And why I’m apparently stealing this boat?”

It was Annabelle who answered. “Head to the harbor. This river does connect to the harbor, doesn’t it?”

Jillian nodded. “If we use the engine instead of raising the sails we should be there in about ten minutes.”

“I haven’t navigated this part of the river in a while. Not too familiar with the layout. Might be a good idea to cut the engine and take it a bit slower,” said Ashby.

“Don’t slow down!” Mark and Annabelle shouted as one.

“Why not?”

Mark pulled himself to his feet and tucked Annabelle securely against his side, still gasping greedily for air. “Because someone tried to kill us. We don’t want to wait around and give them a second chance.”

Christi Barth spent years performing in musicals, singing about love and giving people a happy ending in every performance. Then as a wedding planner she spent every day immersed in romance. Now she writes it! After winning 1st place in the 2008 Heart to Heart contest, and 1st place in the 2009 Emily contest, she is thrilled to be able to share Carolina Heat with the world. She lives in Maryland with the absolutely best husband in the world (sorry ladies, its true!).

You can find Christi online at and

Purchase Carolina Heat at

This spotlight first appeared at The Book Connection