Posted in Book Reviews, Novels

REVIEW: In the Hall With the Knife (A CLUE Mystery #1) by Diana Peterfreund

10842212-c2e3-4416-88d3-1ceafb0c9f5c_1.6cd55c55ecc99d1a4d6b12427058e6d1

*No Major Spoilers*

When a storm strikes at Blackbrook Academy, an elite prep school nestled in the woods of Maine, a motley crew of students—including Beth “Peacock” Picach, Orchid McKee, Vaughn Green, Sam “Mustard” Maestor, Finn Plum, and Scarlet Mistry—are left stranded on campus with their headmaster. Hours later, his body is found in the conservatory and it’s very clear his death was no accident. With this group of students who are all hiding something, nothing is as it seems, and everyone has a motive for murder. Fans of the CLUE board game and cult classic films will delight in Diana Peterfreund’s modern re-imagining of the brand, its characters, and the dark, magnificent old mansion with secrets hidden within its walls.

“Just then, there was a horrible crash right outside the door, and suddenly the sound of the storm got a whole lot louder.”

I loved playing the CLUE mystery game while I was growing up. So when this novel was on a list from one of my newsletters, I knew I had to read it.

This novel is perfect for mystery lovers. There are twists and turns, as well as learning about all of the characters involved in this mystery. The story is told from different perspectives, and at first, it was difficult to tell Orchid and Scarlet apart until more character development helped me differentiate the two.

Scarlet Mistry, she was on the Council for Beautification. She lived, along with other students, in the Tudor Dorm. She would also try to keep up and boost morale with the female students to do better at their schoolwork and activities.

Also, she and Finn Plum were essentially a “Power Couple”, together they ran schemes and Finn helps Scarlet with her Chemistry homework.

Orchid McKee, she never saw Scarlet as a friend, but while they were snowed in at the dorm she confided in Scarlet her biggest secret. It’s a spoiler, but I felt like this should be mentioned because Orchid is a private person.

One of the characters I suspected to be the murderer in this story was Vaughn Green because when the other characters would ask about his sudden change in personality, he would internally blame his brother for the mishaps around the dorm. Even though when Vaughn was introduced we met his brother, he hated the school and the students because they were all preppy, rich kids and the only reason Vaughn was able to attend the school was because of a scholarship. So Vaughn was sort of considered an outcast because his home was next door to Blackbrook in the next town over. Only hearing about his brother during the murder investigation, I suspected Vaughn having multiple personalities.

A character I didn’t know much about in this story because he was introduced about halfway in the story was Sam “Mustard” Maestor. He was a former military academy student and he was kicked out, but we never find out why. The only thing we know anything about his background was when he was first introduced into the story from his perspective. He starts referring to his military experience but never says exactly why he was kicked out.

Beth “Peacock” Picach, is Blackbrook’s best tennis player. She is always righting down what she eats and the calories included and what her exercise routines were. All of her chapters included this log and a few thoughts about her day. She was the most suspected character due to an altercation between her and Headmaster Boddy.

I would highly recommend In the Hall with the Knife if you are a fan of locked room mysteries, the board game Clue, and a twist you won’t see coming, this a great book I’d highly recommend.

Posted in Audiobooks, Book Reviews, Novels

REVIEW: The Goliath Bone (Mike Hammer #14) by Mickey Spillane & Max Allan Collins

GoliathBone

*No Spoilers*

On an amateur dig in Israel, two students discover what appears to be the femur of a very large humanoid, and there’s compelling evidence to suggest that it is the thigh bone of the Biblical giant, Goliath. Back in New York, they are heading into the subway carrying the carefully wrapped bone when a hitman attempts to kill them. Hammer comes to their rescue.

But it is only the beginning of their troubles as various factions will stop at nothing to get their hands on the precious item, each for their own venal and nefarious reasons. Hammer and his loyal assistant Velda assure once again that the decent guys triumph in this cracking post-9/11 hard-boiled detective thriller.

I am a huge fan of crime noir and hard-boiled detectives. The grittiness of the detectives and femme-Fatales was something that attracted me in the first place and keeps me coming back to this genre of story. This one interested me first off because of the book cover, but the synopsis was the other grabbing point.

I felt that, to a certain extent, Mike Hammer was a bit out of place so far in that the way presents himself and his ability to solve crimes fits more in the 20s with mobs and gangsters rather than post 9/11 terrorism. Overall the story did keep my interest based on the religious mythology of David & Goliath and how much interest the cast of characters in the story had in the Goliath Bone itself.

On the negative side, I did feel that the ending was a bit anti-climactic, more in the way that the characters “all win” and yet, no one wins. You’ll have to read the story to see what I mean.

Overall it was a good story to read to pass time, but I’d be interested to read further back into the series to get a larger grasp on the entirety of the series.

Read my review of “Blacksad” by Juan Diaz Canales if you’re looking for more crime noir!

Posted in Audiobooks, Book Reviews

REVIEW: Force of Nature (Aaron Faulk #2) by Jane Harper

img_5689

*No Spoilers*

Five women reluctantly pick up their backpacks and start walking along a muddy track.
Only four come out on the other side.

The hike through the rugged Giralang Ranges is meant to take the office colleagues out of their air-conditioned comfort zone and encourage teamwork and resilience. At least, that’s what the corporate retreat website advertises.

Federal Police investigator Aaron Falk has a keen interest in the whereabouts of the missing hiker, Alice Russell. Because Alice knew secrets, about the company she worked for and the people she worked with.

The four returning women tell Falk a tale of fear, violence and fractured trust during their days in the remote Australian bushland. And as Falk delves into the disappearance of Alice, he begins to suspect some dangers ran far deeper than anyone knew.

“It’s the panic that gets you. Makes it hard to trust what you’re seeing.”
Jane Harper, Force of Nature

I discovered this novel on a themed book list I found on Off the Shelf, and I knew I had to try this one out. Now to see how this novel stands up.

I haven’t read many novels that take place in the Australian wilderness, I think a lot of us who don’t live in Australia forget just how close to nature the country is. Most of us hear about the weird creatures that live in the Outback. Some of the animals are cute and loveable, but others we wish to avoid at all costs.

I listened to this novel on audio and the narrator had a strong Australian accent and it took me a bit to tune my ear to what he was reading. Other than his accent, I found his reading to be entertaining.

I found the main character, Aaron Faulk to be your typical vanilla federal agent. He was observant of the other campers, and he could tell who was lying or holding things back. I felt like the writer put more of an effort into building dynamic characters into the group of female hikers. The only time I felt Faulk got any character development was when he discovered a collection of maps his late father kept.

Even though we learn Faulk didn’t get along with his dad growing up, the discovery of the maps of the hiking trails with notes his dad had written. This including wanting to go on some of the trails with Faulk. I felt like this gave Faulk some human characteristics and made me sympathize with him a bit.

The group of female hikers the whole mystery surrounds is your typical idea of females in the office workspace. Lots of drama, backstabbing, and gossipping. These aspects only got worse the more lost the women became. I felt like they wouldn’t have gotten too lost if the trail had some kind of markers at reasonable intervals to help people stay on the right path. I know that kind of ruins the idea of the retreat, but that’s just my thoughts.

Overall I thought this book was alright, the characters were a bit weak and stereotypical, and the mystery was a big let down. I felt like this could’ve used some work on Faulk’s character and made the group of females a bit more dynamic. If you’re itched for a trip to the wilds of the Australian wilderness, then I’d say to give this novel a try!

Posted in Audiobooks, Book Reviews, Novels

REVIEW: Honky Tonk Samurai (Hap and Leonard #9) by Joe R. Lansdale

GUEST_88356fab-7eeb-40dd-b456-f18ed9869d57

*No Major Spoilers*

Only Hap and Leonard would catch a cold case with hot cars, hot women, and ugly skinheads.

The story starts simply enough when Hap, a former 60s activist and self-proclaimed white trash rebel, and Leonard, a tough black, gay Vietnam vet and Republican with an addiction to Dr. Pepper, are working a freelance surveillance job in East Texas. The uneventful stakeout is coming to an end when the pair witness a man abusing his dog. Leonard takes matters into his own fists, and now the bruised dog abuser wants to press charges.

One week later, a woman named Lilly Buckner drops by their new PI office with a proposition: find her missing granddaughter, or she’ll turn in a video of Leonard beating the dog abuser. The pair agrees to take on the cold case and soon discover that the used car dealership where her granddaughter worked is actually a front for a prostitution ring. What began as a missing-person case becomes one of blackmail and murder.

I was recommended this series through a user on Reddit. Someone was looking for novels about gay detectives, and this was one of the recommendations. I chose this novel purely on the title, the other novels in this series have unique titles as well so let’s jump into Honky Tonk Samurai!

This novel is one of the more memorable detective novels I’ve read. Honky Tonk Samurai is filled with colorful characters, non-stop action, and redneck/Texas humor. I will say that the language used is very vulgar. So if you’re not into that kind of thing, you might want to pass on this one. In defense of the choice words and jokes, I felt like that was part of the charm.

Hap and Leonard have great chemistry! You can tell they’ve been through a lot together. Leonard made me laugh at his love of vanilla cookies and Dr. Pepper. That kind of reminds me of myself, I love cookies and Dr. Pepper.

The main plot twist left me baffled, but in the end, it all made sense once all of the pieces were put together. So bonus points for me not guessing the mystery! Usually, I’m able to figure out the mystery about halfway through the book. This one kept me guessing and I really liked that about it.

More on Hap and Leonard’s chemistry, with them being like brothers from another mother, it was a nice change of pace from a lot of the other stories I’ve read in recent weeks. Leonard, I’d say, is the rougher of the two characters even though he’s gay. He’s one that does not mess around when it comes to protecting those that need it. Hap, on the other hand, is more of the mediator type, kind of like keeping the rough part of Leonard in control when necessary.

Overall this book was something new and interesting that I’d never heard of or thought to look up, the subject matter was a bit different but extremely interesting! If you like a story about rough and tough southern boys and some redneck action, this is most definitely the book for you! Although, like I said if crude and vulgar language isn’t your thing then this book is kind of a pass.

Posted in Audiobooks, Book Club Reads, Book Reviews, Novels

REVIEW: The Last Days of Night by Graham Moore

The_Last_Days_Night_Cover

*No Major Spoilers*

New York, 1888. Gas lamps still flicker in the city streets, but the miracle of electric light is in its infancy. The person who controls the means to turn night into day will make history–and a vast fortune. A young untested lawyer named Paul Cravath, fresh out of Columbia Law School, takes a case that seems impossible to win. Paul’s client, George Westinghouse, has been sued by Thomas Edison over a billion-dollar question: Who invented the light bulb and holds the right to power the country?

The case affords Paul entry to the heady world of high society–the glittering parties in Gramercy Park mansions, and the more insidious dealings done behind closed doors. The task facing him is beyond daunting. Edison is a wily, dangerous opponent with vast resources at his disposal–private spies, newspapers in his pocket, and the backing of J. P. Morgan himself. Yet this unknown lawyer shares with his famous adversary a compulsion to win at all costs. How will he do it?

“Poor people all think they deserve to be rich,” he continued. “Rich people live every day with the uneasy knowledge that we do not.”
Graham Moore, The Last Days of Night

This historical fiction novel was interesting to me because I’ve always had a fascination with the early inventors. The remarkable scientific leaps are amazing even for the times. Without these such inventors, we wouldn’t have things like the Internet, our smartphones and computers.

The mythos that surrounds Nichola Tesla is fascinating. How he was so far advanced for his time, and whether the government was conspiring to hide his inventions or ideas. Tesla is featured prominently in this novel, and I enjoyed how not only foreign in a fact that he is from another country, but foreign in how his intelligence far outpaces everyone else.

Paul’s adventure into this strange new world full of scientific wonders was awe-inspiring. How Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone, Thomas Edison invented the lightbulb and so many other inventions from the scientific community. I can understand Paul’s struggle to comprehend new technologies.

I would highly recommend this novel for lovers of historical fiction, early inventors, Nikola Tesla, Thomas Edison, and early lawyering.

Posted in Book Reviews

REVIEW: Holmes on the Range (Holmes on the Range #1) by Steve Hockensmith

bdh9-square-1536

*No Major Spoilers*

1893 is a tough year in Montana, and any job is a good job. When brothers Big Red and Old Red Amlingmeyer sign on as ranch hands at a secretive ranch, they’re not expecting much more than hard work, bad pay, and a few free moments to enjoy their favorite pastime: reading stories about Sherlock Holmes.

When another hand turns up dead, Old Red sees the perfect opportunity to employ his Holmes-inspired “deducifyin'” skills and sets out to solve the case. Big Red, like it or not (and mostly he does not), is along for the wild ride in this clever, compelling, and completely one-of-a-kind mystery.

“You can follow a trail without even knowing you’re on it. You start out just ambling, maybe get to thinking you’re lost–but you’re headed somewhere all the same. You just don’t know it until you get there.” – Holmes on the Range by Steve Hockensmith

As much as you hear about how Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s fictional detective Sherlock Holmes affected pop culture, you really don’t see it much outside of the United Kingdom. I am thrilled to see a western twist on the Sherlockian mystery subgenre. It makes the western genre unique and intriguing, not knowing who’s behind the murder until the unveiling at the end of the novel.

The Amlingmeyer brothers are just trying to survive in the late 1800’s America. When they stumble unto a murder mystery too difficult to ignore, they are in for an adventure. Lives and reputations are at stake as Old Red starts to meddle in places where he doesn’t belong.

The unlikeliness of a poor ranch hand solving an intricate mystery made the Amlingmeyer brothers’ struggle to solve the mystery all the more difficult. Old Red was more of an illiterate Sherlock Holmes and Big Red more of a brother trusting his kin. Big Red and Old Red is the only family they have left, so there’s no other choice but to stick together when things get dicey.

I would highly recommend this novel for lovers of westerns, mysteries, and Sherlockian style storytelling. This novel will leave you guessing until the big reveal, and even then you may be surprised to learn the answer to the mysteries.

Posted in Audiobooks, Book Reviews, Novels

REVIEW: Gone to Dust (Nils Shapiro #1) by Matt Goldman​

img_5344

*No Major Spoilers*

Private detective Nils Shapiro is focused on forgetting his ex-wife and keeping warm during another Minneapolis winter when a former colleague, neighboring Edina Police Detective Anders Ellegaard, calls with the impossible.

Suburban divorcee Maggie Somerville was found murdered in her bedroom, her body covered with the dust from hundreds of emptied vacuum cleaner bags, all potential DNA evidence obscured by the calculating killer.

Digging into Maggie’s cell phone records, Nils finds that the most frequently called number belongs to a mysterious young woman whose true identity could shatter the Somerville family–but could she be guilty of murder?

*Just my thoughts real quick about book summaries before my review*

Why do the authors put too much about their novel in the summary? I’ve read some novel summaries and thought yeah I already know how this is going to end. I prefer a summary that focuses on the main ideas. What is the mystery? What makes this case unique? That’s all I need to know.

I usually copy and paste the summaries from Goodreads. I have to edit them sometimes due to spoilers, and too much of the story.

Ok, now on to my review. I honestly can’t remember whether I found this on a book list or if I found this on my own. No matter, I’m glad I got the chance to read this one!

Nils Shapiro was a relatable character, he was going to be a police officer, and when he graduated from the police academy he decided to become a private detective. Since private detectives and the local police force are not quite the best of friends, the fact that the local police are asking Nils for help is surprising.

Most private investigators tend to work more in the gray areas of crime, cheating spouse, being hired to find dirt on someone important. So the police don’t usually ask them for assistance on a case unless the family of the victim(s) hires them.

This investigation was surprising and kept me guessing on how committed this heinous crime. I felt the use of the vacuum cleaner bags to cover up evidence made this mystery all the more intriguing.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this mystery. This is one of the more memorable ones I’ve read in the past months. The conclusion was thrilling and exciting. I can’t wait to hear more from Nils Shapiro in the future.