Book 223: DEFENSIVE WOUNDS Review

Theresa MacLean is a forensic investigator. She is also an overprotective mother to a teenage daughter. She thought her daughter would be safe working for the summer at a downtown hotel until there’s a murder on the premises. It doesn’t help that the murder victim is a defense attorney that the local police department loved to hate. Why this hotel? Why this attorney? Why no defensive wounds? These questions are asked and answered in the latest suspense novel by Lisa Black, Defensive Wounds.

Being a single mom can be exasperating, and Theresa understands that she has a tendency to go overboard at times. Her daughter was nowhere near the murder site but she’s still overly cautious and wary. It doesn’t help that she knows nothing about Rachel’s new love interest. Theresa’s interest is further peaked when her friend, another defense attorney, has a suspicious and curious reaction to the teenager. Theresa then asks her cousin, a police detective, to check into the boy’s background. Isn’t that what family connections are for?

Theresa must still continue her forensic investigation but trying to find evidence in a hotel room is akin to looking for a needle in a haystack blindfolded. Just when she thinks she’s the original hovering mother, there are two more murders. By now, Theresa is frustrated because of the mounds of forensic evidence to be looked at from the hotel. If there’s a ton of evidence from the hotel, there’s also a ton of suspects to be considered. One suspect is a former police officer that is currently working as the head of security at the hotel. 

On the personal front, Theresa must field interest from one of the investigating detectives. She also learns that Rachel’s prospective boyfriend has a record . . . for murder. He was found not guilty and said that he doesn’t remember that night, but what really happened? He doesn’t know and the dead girl cannot speak for herself? The evidence points to him, or does it? What follows is an investigation that keeps the reader on tenterhooks. The investigation is like a roller-coaster ride in the dark, the twists and turns kept me on edge because I never saw what was coming next.

I enjoyed reading Defensive Wounds and completely understood that Theresa is the primary character, but since I have family on the police department I also know that forensic investigators don’t generally play such a primary role in investigations and interrogations. Removing that little problem from the equation, Defensive Wounds is a great suspense read. I found myself feeling for Theresa as she worried about Rachel and sympathetic when she mourned the loss of her friend. (I also rather enjoyed the possible play on words as “defensive wounds” may refer to the lack of defensive wounds on the murder victims as well as the wounds they inflicted on victim families as defense attorneys.) If you’re looking for a procedural suspense to read with a strong female character and an emphasis on evidence, then look no further.

Disclaimer: I received this book free for review purposes from Library Thing’s Early Reviewers Program. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Book 204: WHERE ALL THE DEAD LIE

Taylor Jackson is more than a police officer. But being not only an officer but a leader has become more to her than she realizes. Taylor faces her inner demons while recuperating from a recent gunshot wound in Where All the Dead Lie by J. T. Ellison.

Taylor is almost completely recuperated from her physical trauma, but emotionally she is still wounded. She experiences guilt and shame that she wasn’t there in time to save her friend from the torture that resulted in her miscarriage. She bears guilt that she couldn’t foresee that the last madman she hunted, The Pretender, would dare go after her friends and coworkers. Taylor is also feeling quite a bit of anger and jealousy after finding out that her fiancé, John Baldwin, fathered a child with one of his former coworkers. Admittedly the child was put up for adoption and John was never notified of the pregnancy or birth, but Taylor resents the mere idea that he slept with that woman. Now when she is at her most vulnerable, she is unable to even voice her anger, shame or sorry. Is it just post-traumatic stress disorder that has taken her voice away or is it much more?

In an effort to deal with her swirling emotions, Taylor knows she must get away for a while. Enter James “Memphis” Highsmythe with an offer for Taylor to visit his ancestral home in Scotland. He assures her that he will not be in residence and that she can continue her recent therapy with a family friend’s wife. Taylor knows that Memphis has a “thing” for her and their flirtation has been benign up til now, but will it continue to be benign given her current emotions? Taylor goes off with, more or less, John’s blessings, to Scotland to rest and fully recuperate. But has she gone from the frying pan into the fire? While she deals with her inner demons, she fears that she is losing touch with reality. Can Taylor handle the demons of her past while fighting the demons in her present? Are these present demons a figment of her imagination or is she once again in danger?

Ms. Ellison has presented a somewhat softer and definitely more fragile and introspective Taylor Jackson in Where All the Dead Lie. I felt true sympathy for all that she is going through but has difficulty giving voice to as she heals. Taylor relies more on John because of her injuries while she also tries to push him away. She knows that she loves him, but she has that twinge of jealousy over his previous “relationship.” She is also conflicted over her emotional attachment to Memphis. The conflicts in this story are at the forefront of each relationship Taylor must reflect upon and deal with: her friendship with Sam, her romance with John, and her friendship/flirtation with Memphis. I’m glad to report that the kick-butt, take charge Taylor emerges at the end. She has suffered unimaginable horrors, physically and emotionally, and emerged a stronger person. Ms. Ellison provides a series that gets better with each installment, and Where All the Dead Lie is no exception. This is a great fast-paced suspense read.

Disclaimer: I received this book free for review purposes from NetGalley. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Book 182: THE STRANGER YOU SEEK Review

Take the city of Atlanta, mix in a serial murderer with an Asian-American private investigator who’s an alcoholic and former FBI agent that was adopted as a child by a white-bread Southern family and what do you get? You get Keye Street as the main character in the new suspense thriller The Stranger You Seek by Amanda Kyle Williams.


To say that Keye is not your typical Southerner is a bit of an understatement, at least if you base it on physical appearance. In actuality Keye is Southern to the core in so many ways and in others is quite rebellious . . . which is probably a Southern thing in and of itself. She has disappointed her mother because she isn’t married and providing grandchildren, which is possibly a Southern thing (or perhaps just a Mother thing). Keye also feels she’s has disappointed her family by being asked to leave the FBI due to her alcoholism, winding up divorced (definitely a good thing but disappointing still), and not living up to her true potential by becoming a private detective. But Keye is quite good at what she does and she has several true friends that she can depend on, including Atlanta police department homicide detective Lieutenant Aaron Rauser. Keye spends her time working for law offices and bail bond companies until she is pulled into “consulting” with Rauser on a serial murder case. The big question is can she provide the profile necessary to help in this investigation? Does she still have the necessary focus to help or will she be a hindrance? When Keye’s involvement is made public, the question soon becomes can she help the investigation before she becomes a victim?


The Stranger You Seek is a great suspense thriller that kept me on tenterhooks until the very end. I thoroughly enjoyed the mix of subtle humor and laugh-out loud moments with the more serious, investigative scenarios. Ms. Williams’ descriptions of Atlanta and its various neighborhoods made me nostalgic (I lived in Atlanta for 18 years and miss it daily). This was a book that I simply had to read cover-to-cover without putting it down. It grabbed hold and didn’t let go until the last page. If you enjoy excellent writing and the suspense thriller genre then run out and pre-order The Stranger You Seek today, release date is 08/30/2011. And when you finish reading it don’t despair, there’s more Keye Street coming; look for Stranger in the Room in Fall 2012 and Don’t Talk to Strangers in Fall 2013. I’ve added both titles to my “got to have it” list . . . can you tell I liked this book?


Disclaimer: I received this book free for review purposes from NetGalley and ShelfAwareness Pro. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Book 170: ONCE WICKED ALWAYS DEAD Review

Everyone has secrets, but there are secrets and there are Secrets! Once Wicked Always Dead by T. Marie Benchley is filled with secrets, some personal and others deadly. 


Phillip Madison is hiding one very big Secret and Molly Madison, his wife, is the last to know. After 20+ years of marriage to a legal mover-and-shaker, Molly knows that their relationship has changed but she assumes it is because of work. Little does she know that Phillip is living a double life…not with another woman but with another man. As soon as “the other man” outs Phillip, she trades in her car for a truck, meets with a divorce attorney and moves from Florida to Montana to take over her family’s working cattle ranch. Her life has truly been turned upside down, but the problems are just beginning. Fortunately she has Clayton Leatherbe, the ranch foreman, to help her through the transition of society wife to ranch owner.


Once Wicked Always Dead starts off with a murder and then transitions to a society lunch. Doesn’t seem like these activities have a lot in common but Ms. Benchley does a fine job of bringing it together. There seems to be a lot going on in this story: Molly O’Malley Madison and ranch life and her romantic interest in Clayton; Phillip being outed then accepting his new life and finding a new love interest; Gavin O’Malley’s secrets that may be a threat to Molly; Evin the resident bad guy willing to go to any means to get Molly’s property; and Swan – Phillip’s former lover and personal assistant, who is out for revenge. Oops…I forgot to mention the murderer that is taking out child molesters and bad guys. But Molly isn’t a “bad guy” so why is she being targeted? Are the ghosts of her father’s past coming back to haunt her?


Once Wicked Always Dead may loosely be considered a romantic suspense thriller, light on the romance. (There seemed to be more romantic action taking place with Phillip and Jack, Phillip’s new love interest, than there is between Molly and Clayton.) Although all of the characters intersect due to Molly and her past, present and future, the action doesn’t make much sense or become cohesive until the end. I found most of the action and the characters to be somewhat believable but it stretched credulity at moments (I guess people with money can do almost anything). All things considered, this was a decent read in the suspense thriller genre.


Disclaimer: I received this book free for review purposes from the publisher through NetGalley. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Book 166: THE SAINTS GO DYING Review

A serial murderer is on the loose in the City of Angels, Los Angeles. Unfortunately this murderer clearly aligns himself with evil and is out to kill people that do good or “saints” in Erik Hanberg’s The Saints Go Dying.


Deputy Arthur Beautyman is the lead investigator and coordinator on the case. He is literally being overseen by the entire city thanks to a local television program called ‘Watchdog.’ Beautyman is definitely not a Hollywood or LA version of an investigator. He’s rather short, has graying hair, and has an “average” pockmarked face. This is a case of Beautyman versus the beast, the serial killer. After fourteen months and numerous murders there isn’t even a viable suspect, or is there? Is the killer really that good or is the Sheriff’s department that inept? That is what ‘Watchdog’ would have everyone believe but is it true? Beautyman has his hands full juggling the investigation, public backlash and the ever-increasing popularity of the ‘Watchdog’ series. 


Mr. Hanberg has provided a nicely written suspense in The Saints Go Dying. The characters and the action are very believable, or at least until the end. I found the ending a bit far-fetched but fiction doesn’t have to mirror reality. The Saints Go Dying is a quick read that packs a suspense-filled punch to the end.


Disclaimer: I received this book free for review purposes from the author. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Book 164: THE UNDERTAKER Review

The Undertaker by William F. Brown has been classified as a “fast-paced thriller” and as a “cliffhanger.” Yes, these descriptions are accurate but they don’t paint the entire picture. The Undertaker is a cliffhanger and a fast-paced thriller that incorporates self-deprecating and irreverent humor for a laugh-out loud enjoyable read.


Peter Talbott was erroneously classified as dead a few years ago when his car was stolen and he was being “held” in a Mexican jail. At the time Pete was in mourning for his wife. After returning to the US and clearing up the error he loses his job. His brother-in-law Doug saves him by offering him a job in Massachusetts. Pete packs his bags, leaves California behind and drives to Massachusetts. His life is basically work and more work until the day he is handed an Ohio obituary notice that he has died once again, alongside his already deceased wife. Well Pete knows that it isn’t possible for his wife to have died recently in a car accident when she died three years earlier from cancer. He does what any self-respecting person does, he drives to Ohio and attends his own funeral. He also uncovers a mess, possibly a government covert ops mess and/or a mafia mess but a mess nonetheless. Pete’s quest for the truth leads to Chicago where he encounters Sandy Kasmarek, a photographer and kick-ass woman. Sandy and Pete quickly bond over car chases and flying bullets.


The Undertaker is a quick read that captures the attention from the very beginning. Pete and Sandy may be an odd couple but their quirkiness and humor in the face of danger are what made this such an enjoyable read for me. If you’re looking for a well-written, quick read that melds humor and thrills, then you need to add The Undertaker to your reading list.


Disclaimer: I received this book free for review purposes from the author. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Book 139: THE KEEPER OF LOST CAUSES Review

There has been much hype and hoopla written The Keeper of Lost Causes by Jussi Adler-Olsen and it is all well deserved in my opinion. Some books that are best sellers in one language and are subsequently translated seem to lose a bit in the translation process. I can only say that if The Keeper of Lost Causes has lost anything in the translation process, good riddance. 


The story begins by introducing Carl Morck, a police investigator. Carl is recovering from a shooting that has seriously injured one of his partners and killed the other. Now that he is back at work, his bad attitude results in no one wanting to work with him. So his bosses promote him to the newly crafted Department Q, a national cold case file department. The intention is anything but a promotion. The hope is to exile and silence Morck until he either retires or quits. Morck is assisted in Department Q by a non-police employee and Syrian refugee, Hafez Al-Assad (even Morck finds it interesting that his assistant has the name of the deceased Syrian President). Initially Morck isn’t very interested in doing much of anything other than biding his time in his basement banishment. Eventually he is forced into picking a case and launches an investigation into the disappearance/murder/suicide/accident of Merete Lynggard.


Ms. Lynggard was a Member of Parliament and she disappeared five years earlier while on a ferry. It is presumed that she was the victim of foul play, accidentally fell overboard, committed suicide or has simply taken off to parts unknown. The few people that know her realize she would never kill herself or take off and leave her disabled brother Uffe behind. Both she and Uffe survived a horrible car accident as young teenagers that took the lives of both of their parents and several occupants of another vehicle. Merete walked away without permanent injury but Uffe suffered brain damage. She has been taking care of Uffe ever since.


The investigation in Merete’s case starts off with little care or consideration by Morck. However, Hafez is quite excited to be participating in a police investigation and prods and pushes to get Morck more involved, primarily by asking questions and providing information. One of the things that kept my attention was the constant switching between Morck and Merete’s points of views. The suspense is allowed to gradually build until the very end. I found the beginning a little slow but after reading a few chapters the pace picks up. The characters are all interesting and have the right amount of quirkiness to make them believable. Although this is slightly longer in length, over 400 pages, it is definitely worth reading. The Keeper of Lost Causes is scheduled to be released on August 18, 2011. If you don’t have this on your TBR list and you enjoy mystery-suspense novels add it. I’m looking forward to getting this in ebook format when it’s released so that I can re-read it.

Disclaimer: I received an advanced reader copy of this book free for review purposes from BookReporter.com. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Book 136: ODD JOBS Review

Kevin Davenport seems to be your typical college student, willing to take odd jobs to get money for college. But Kevin is anything but typical. During a summer job at a meat processing plant he learns that his “boss” was behind his father and younger sister’s deaths many years ago. So Kevin does what any self-respecting person seeking revenge does, he goes back to college, becomes a drug-dealer and bookie with the intention of bringing down the mafia boss responsible for his father and sister’s deaths, Jimmy Balducci.


Odd Jobs is not a typical mystery, suspense thriller novel. That may be appealing to many readers. I enjoy different and quirky reads but this simply wasn’t one of those reads for me. There were parts of the story that were enjoyable to read and others that seemed far-fetched, such as the elaborate plot to bring down Jimmy Balducci. The characters are interesting enough but all seem to be willing to overlook illegal actions simply because they are for the greater good, including beating up a teenage sibling to a college basketball player to get a “fixed” game “unfixed” so they don’t lose money. I’m not quite sure why I didn’t enjoy this book, perhaps my sense of right-and-wrong interfered in any possibility of enjoying this book. Although this didn’t appeal to my reading tastes if you enjoy reading an atypical suspense thriller then Odd Jobs may be just the book for you.


Disclaimer: I received this book free for review purposes from the publisher through NetGalley. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”