Reviews - July 2016

What They Say

“When writing a novel a writer should create living people; people, not characters. A character is a caricature.”
—Ernest Hemingway


Reviewers

Cynthia Lea Clark, Psy.D., MHt:

Cynthia Lee Clark

Former Miss Chicago (Miss USA), Cynthia Lea Clark continued school, graduating from Northwestern University (multiple degreed), attended nursing school, and became a Firefighter Paramedic. After working as an actress in Chicago, she moved to Los Angeles where she worked on many television shows, such as DAYS OF OUR LIVES and STAT, while continuing her education with a Masters in Psychology and then a Doctorate of Psychology. While working on STAT, she was stalked which led her to work in Forensic Psychopathology. She has over 70 interviews with serial killers, mass murderers, etc. Today she mixes Forensics with writing and acting.  She is a member of Mystery Writers of America, Romance Writers of America, Kiss of Death Chapter of RWA, International Thriller Writers, Sisters in Crime, and the American College of Forensic Examiners International.

 

Aaron Paul Lazar

Aaron Paul Lazar

Aaron Paul Lazar writes to soothe his soul. A bestselling Kindle author of 22 books, including three addictive mystery series, writing books, and a new love story, Aaron enjoys the Genesee Valley countryside in upstate New York, where his characters embrace life, play with their dogs and grandkids, grow sumptuous gardens, and chase bad guys. Visit his website at http://www.lazarbooks.com and watch for his upcoming release, UNDER THE ICE. Aaron has won over 18 book awards for his novels and finds writing to be his form of "cheap therapy." Feel free to connect with him on Facebook or his website; he loves to connect with readers.

 

Please welcome our NEW REVIEWER Barry Gill:

Barry Gill

I love a good mystery and always have. While other 9 year olds were playing in the yard I was spending my time plunked down in a plastic backed chair at our local library becoming, at least in my mind, Sherlock Holmes using Baritsu, the system of Japanese wrestling, to throw Moriarty to his death at the bottom of the Reichenbach Falls, or imagining myself to be Monsieur C. Auguste Dupin solving the diabolical double murders in the Rue Morgue.

Compared to the lives of my paperback and kindle hero's mine has been rather dull but very rewarding. Recently retired from a successful sales career I can fondly look back on forty-three years of marriage to a wonderful woman while raising three beautiful daughters. But throughout all of these years some of my most memorable experiences have been when I've had the opportunity to temporarily inhabit the colorful Florida climes of a John D. MacDonald, the working class Boston of Dennis Lehane or the quick witted PI world of Robert Crais.


 

 

THE FMAM MOSTLY MYSTERY REVIEW is the place to come to find out what to read next. Want to know what readers are saying (as opposed to critics) about the books you see around you? You’ve come to the right place! And, if you appreciate a critical review we’ll have those, too. Come in, sit down and see what’s write with the world! (Or, right in the world of write!)

New reviews will be posted on FMAM the 1st day of each month. Reviews will be kept on the FMAM website for 12 months.

New reviews this month from:

Dr. Cynthia Clark . Barry Gill


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  • Deviant Acts
    JJ White
    Black Opal Books, 268 pages, November 24. 2015. $11.99
    ISBN: 13: 978-1626942851

 

 

DEVIANT ACTS is a departure from the basic procedurals and PI stories.  DEVIANY ACTS protagonist is deeply flawed.  Jackson Hurst, a Vietnam Vet has been hooked on heroin for ages.  He just can’t quite quit until a relative calls him to find her missing daughter – his cousin.  An ear was sent to Aunt Camille as confirmation.  Camille orders Jackson to hunt down the kidnappers and kill them and she will bankroll a PI business for him.  But nothing is as it seems.  Jackson can’t quit the drug.  How does he find Cheryl?  But sometimes one does get lucky and he gets a clue.  When he finds Cheryl with both ears he is quite confused.  But that is not the end of it and Justin spirals into a world he cannot control.  As we journey with Jackson we see a flawed man trying very hard to right a wrong he had no part in.

DEVIANT ACTS is atypical, grounded PI mystery.  Flaws, drugs, loyalty combine to make this an interesting read. Life isn’t perfect and a flawed character is quite real.  Kudos.

On a scale of 1 to 5, I give it a 4.0

Dr. Cynthia Lea Clark, Psy.D., Ph.D., MHt., Diplomate Homeland Security

 

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  • Mast Island
    Anne Nichols Reynolds
    Peppertree Press, 296 pages, $28.95
    ISBN: 978:1614934042

 

 

The sudden death of Abby Parson’s grandmother leaves her reeling.  If this woman she called grandmother all her life was not her grandmother, then who was she and who is Abby Parsons?  Where does one begin such a journey?  But before Abby can figure that out a box arrives.  It contains clues as to who she was and why she was invented.

As Abby begins her search we are treated to a rocky road of ups and downs.  She learns that although she is not Abby Parsons, her identity was created to protect her not to hurt her.  But why?  What was so bad that everyone lied?

Abby’s search takes us to Savannah and then to Mast island.  Mast Island brings danger to Abby.  Can she find out who she was in time to save her life?

MAST ISLAND is a roller coaster od adventure and intrigue. 

On a scale of 1 to 5, I give it a 4.9.

Dr. Cynthia Lea Clark, Psy.D., Ph.D., MHt., Diplomate Homeland Security

 

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  • Troubled Water
    John DeDakis
    Strategic Media Books, 260 pages, $18.95
    ISBN: 978-1939-5210-7-1

 

 

Lark Chadwick has just begun a new job on the crime beat when she finds the body of a girl.  The girl has been strangled.  Lark has a jump on other reporters which brings about petty jealousy.  And when a colleague becomes a suspect all goes to hell.  Shortly, after the discovery of the girl another murder occurs signaling a serial killer.  As Lark investigates, all of her intelligence is strained as she not only pursues her story but the killer.

Fun, exhilarating read.  Enjoyable and well written.  Great way to pass the time with a good book.  Exciting. 

On a scale of 1 to 5, I give it a 4.9.

Dr. Cynthia Lea Clark, Psy.D., Ph.D., MHt., Diplomate Homeland Security

 

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  • The 3rd Covenant
    David Brollier
    Publish America, 306 pages
    ISBN: 9-7814130787085

 

 

Father Rierdon is murdered.  Detectives Nat Addams and May K. Wish are assigned to investigate.  Nat considers himself a good Christian as he struggles with this case.  Their chief suspect is a former convict who has started his own church. But this case is just not simple and pretty soon more bodies turn up.

Nat and May had wished they could wrap this case quickly but alas that will not happen.  To further complicate things, a “religious” cult seems to be at least one step ahead of them at all times.  They rub it in Nat and May’s face by leaving a bayonet behind.  Who is this cult?  What do they want?  Can Nat and May stop them before more deaths?

THE 3RD COVENANT is an intriguing, fast paced who and why “dunit.”  Highly enjoyable and exciting.

On a scale of 1 to 5, I give it a 4.9.

Dr. Cynthia Lea Clark, Psy.D., Ph.D., MHt., Diplomate Homeland Security

 

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  • The Magician’s Daughter
    Judith Janeway
    Poisoned Pen Press, 236 pages, $14.95
    ISBN:  978-1-4642-0340-4

 

Valentine Hill is a magician!  She begins all her performances with “Reality is illusion, illusion is reality and nothing is what it seems.”  Great start!  What is reality?  What is illusion?  As you read THE MAGICIAN’S DAUGHTER you will wonder exactly that!  It keeps you on your toes!  

Valentine does not know who she is.  Her mother, a con artist has never been straight with Valentine about when she was born, where, or who her father is.  She only says he was a magician. 

Not only has Valentine attempt to learn who she is, she has spent years trying to find her mother.  Valentine is robbed in Las Vegas where she chases it down leading her to San Francisco.  In San Francisco, she finds her mother – but absolutely no one is who they seem to be.  Reality?  Illusion?  Both?  As Valentine evaluates her new knowledge an FBI agent is killed forcing Valentine to pretend to be someone she is not.  Illusion or Reality? 

THE MAGICIAN’S DAUGHTER is a grand roller coaster of excitement.  Just when you think you got it – yep – reality or illusion?  Wonderful!  Well written.  Exciting.  An excellent read.

On a scale of 1 to 5, I give it a 5.

Dr. Cynthia Lea Clark, Psy.D., Ph.D., MHt., Diplomate Homeland Security

 

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  • Funeral Hotdish
    Jana Bommersbach
    Poisoned Pen Press, February 2, 2016, 254 pages, $15,95
    ISBN: 978-1-4642-0458-6

 

Investigative reporter Joya Bonner never expects a story to just drop into her lap, but while dining out she sees notorious Sammy Gravano stroll in.  Sammy, called The Bull, was rumored to be in witness protection.  But if Joya recognizes him don’t others?  And why is her boyfriend a detective on the Phoenix police force acting so strangely?  This story could be her Pulitzer or so she thinks.  But just when she thinks it’s in the bag she receives world of a murder in her hometown of North Dakota.  And to make matters even worse, her father seems to be somehow connected to the murder.

Joya tries to decipher why Sammy is in Phoenix and whether it is more than being in witness protection.  Could he be up to something?  Joya is pulled in two directions – Sammy and her dad.  Can she solve both of the problems? 

FUNERAL HOTDISH is a captivating read.  Torn between family and the probably biggest story of her career keeps her and us, the readers on our toes.  Highly enjoyable.

On a scale of 1 to 5, I give it a 4.8.

Dr. Cynthia Lea Clark, Psy.D., Ph.D., MHt., Diplomate Homeland Security

 

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  • Book Title: Waterkill (Dave Henson series)
    Author Name: Mark Donovan
    Publisher: Amazon Digital Services LLC
    Page count: 303 pages
    Published date: November 17, 2015
    Price: $ 0.99 Kindle, $13.99 print
    ASIN: B017Q9593K
    Rating: 4 stars

Waterkill by Mark Donovan is a well-researched, face-paced international thriller dealing with the horrifying topic of biological weapons in the hands of fanatical terrorists.

(I don’t rehash plots in my reviews because everyone else does, and one can simply read the synopsis above.)

Waterkill moves fast from one continent to another, with plenty of details for those who enjoy military weaponry and tactics, the science of nanoparticles, aircraft, and more. The book also explores the twisted mindset of terrorists, which was very well done and deeply explored. I enjoyed learning about the backstory of the primary villain and the reasons that drove him to his fanatical behavior.

I also liked the main characters, Dave and his wife, Dana, and was on the edge of my seat when Dana was pulled into terrible danger by another of the world’s worst villains, who was, by the way, well-depicted and very creepy.

The world threat was quite palpable, and all-too real.

The main reason I gave this book four stars is because I feel the dialog could use some work and there were sections of  ‘information dumping.’ (too much narrative telling details in one section) The dialog seemed a bit wooden and unnatural at times to me, sounded more like a writer telling us “what someone said,” rather than the person actually speaking. But that aspect of the work didn’t really subtract from the overall enjoyment of the high-speed ride, which was very good.

I was most impressed with the author’s knowledge of science, geography, international customs, terrorists and their habitats and characteristics, and the very real possibilities of what could happen in this all-too realistic thriller. Kudos for doing such thorough research!

Recommended for those who enjoyed books like The DaVinci Code.

Note: I was given a free copy of this book to review, but that did not in any way impact my rating or comments. Thanks for the opportunity to read this, Mr. Donovan.

 Aaron Paul Lazar
www.lazarbooks.com

 

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  • Book Title: Dry Bones in the Valley
    Author:  Tom Bouman
    Publisher: W.W. Norton & Company
    Page Count: 288
    Release Date:  July 1, 2014
    Price: $14.95
    ISBN: 978-0-393-24302-4

Sad but so very good.

Dry Bones in the Valley by Tom Bouman was the winner of the 2015 Edgar Award, Best First Novel by an American Author as well as the Winner of the 2015 Los Angeles Times Book Prize in the Mystery/Thriller category.

Henry Farrell is the only police officer for the Pennsylvania township of Wilde Thyme. A dark and mysterious corner of rural Pennsylvania where slights, both real and imaged, go back generations and come to a head in Tom Bouman’s Dry Bones in The Valley.

Henry who is a deeply damaged and conflicted man bringing home with him to Wilde Thyme the ghost of his wife who died a painful death caused by the ecological soup left on their Wyoming property by the gas drilling method called fracking. He soon finds that the hardscrabble environment of his childhood is in the process of being transformed by the same fracking methods.

All of that is complicated by the murder of his deputy George Ellis, the death of an unknown young man, and the discovery of a mysterious grave on the property of Aub Dunigan a 94-year-old man whose mind has long disappeared deep into his own past.

A remarkable multi-leveled tale of rural noir where Tom Bouman’s central character, Henry Farrell, works through his pain, both physical and emotional, to unearth and bring to the light of day the dark secrets of Wilde Thyme Pennsylvania.

On the scale of poor, good or great Tom Bouman’s Dry Bones in The Valley is a great read.

Barry Gill