Posted in Book Reviews, Novels

REVIEW: The Peaceful Valley Crime Wave by Bill Pronzini

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*No Major Spoilers*

Nothing much happens in Peaceful Valley, Montana. And that’s just how Sheriff Lucas Monk likes it.

Aside from the occasional drunken brawl or minor disturbance out on the reservation, he hasn’t had to resort to his fists or sidearm in years.

That is, until mid-October, 1914, when the theft of a wooden cigar store Indian sets off a crime wave like nothing Lucas has ever seen. Teenager Charity Axthelm goes missing, Reba Purvis’s housekeeper is poisoned with cyanide Reba is sure was meant for her, and Lucas’s gut tells him that this is only the beginning.

It’s not long before the first corpse shows up, bringing the peace in the valley to a thundering end.

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I have read and reviewed a few Westerns on this blog before. Some include The Ballad of Black Bart by Loren D. Estleman, The Hunger by Alma Katsu, Holmes on the Range by Steve Hockensmith, and recently, Modo: Ember’s End by Arthur Slade. Let’s return to the frontier in The Peaceful Valley Crime Wave by Bill Pronzini! 

I enjoyed how the book starts with the theft of the local cigar store Indian, and the chaos grows from there. Sherriff Monk takes the chaos in stride and does his best to investigate with the clues the case threw at him. Next, the attempted murder of a local busybody and her housekeeper. Finally, the murder of a local young woman who supposedly ran away with a traveling merchant.

First of all, I fell in love with Sherriff Monk. I agreed with his idea of justice and doing things more or less by the book. His dry sense of humor had me chuckling along as he’s questioning witnesses and looking for clues. He is honest, and he’s willing to let his deputies participate in the investigations. 

Out of the three central mysteries, I think the attempted homicide by poisoning ended up being my favorite. I think the idea of a murderess killing wealthy bachelors and taking their money and moving to a new town to start again is fascinating. The case reminded me of the frontier serial killer, Belle Gunness.

Overall, I enjoyed The Peaceful Valley Crime Wave. There was plenty of action, mystery, and old fashioned justice. What caused this sudden and brief crime wave Sherriff Monk isn’t sure of by the time the last case wraps up. Maybe Montana is just dull enough to cause people to go a little batty. 

I would recommend this novel for lovers of westerns, mysteries, and historical fiction. I think you should give this a read if you’re looking for a great western mystery. The Peaceful Valley Crime Wave is an entertaining read that I enjoyed from beginning to end.

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Posted in Movie/TV Reviews

REVIEW: Blacksad: Under the Skin

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*No Major Spoilers*

**This Game and Series is rated M (Video Game Terms) or R (Movie Terms)**

Blacksad: Under the Skin is set in New York City during the 1950s, and takes place chronologically between Blacksad: Arctic Nation and Red Soul. Its story begins when protagonist John Blacksad is approached by Sonia Dunn, daughter of a boxing club owner who has died suspiciously. She asks Blacksad to investigate the situation and locate the club’s starfighter, who has been missing since her father’s death. So it’s up to Blacksad to solve the case, or the daughter will have to shut down her father’s gym forever.

I love the Blacksad series. I am a huge fan of crime noir and hardboiled detectives. This is the perfect series for those that love mysteries and anthropomorphic animals. Blacksad is a private detective who deals with the scum of the Earth. He likes to help others when he can, especially if they are a helpless female.

This game is a must for mystery lovers and visual novels alike. Just when you think you have solved the case before Blacksad, the game throws a wrench in your theory. There were several theories Blacksad had and I was asking him where he came up with that. Nothing against the character himself, it’s just part of being a detective.

I admire how much joy and care the developers put into this game. I can tell they read and studied the graphic novels and took the material to heart when creating this game. The characters are well written and this case was built in a way where I couldn’t solve it before the Blacksad.

Overall, I love this game and I think it’s worth the money for any fans of Blacksad, crime noir, historical fiction, and hardboiled detectives. This game was well worth the money, although I do recommend waiting for it to go on sale, buy it nonetheless. Blacksad: Under the Skin is a great game for fans of Blacksad or just looking for a new mystery to solve.

Read more about Blacksad here!

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Posted in Book Reviews, Novels

REVIEW: Bitter Roots (Bitter Roots Mysteries #1) by C.J. Carmichael

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*No Major Spoilers*

Dispatcher Zak Waller prefers working behind the scenes in the Sheriff’s Office of Lost Trail, Montana, but when a newcomer to the sparsely populated town is brutally murdered—and the Sheriff is quick to pin the death on an unknown outsider—Zak starts his own private sleuthing.

On the surface Lost Trail is a picture-perfect western town, offering a simple way of life revolving around the local ranches and ski hill, but Zak knows the truth behind the façade. When his old school friend Tiff Masterson, whose family owns a local Christmas tree farm, moves back to town, the two of them join forces to get to the truth about the murder.

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I found Bitter Roots on the iBooks app. They had featured some series starters for free, and this one looked the most interesting. I am not the biggest fan of small-town mysteries, but I’ve had decent luck with them here and there. Now, let’s see how this mystery unravels.

First off, this novel is told from primarily three points of view. Zac who works as a dispatcher at the local sheriff’s office, Tiff who is returning home after her big-city dream turns sour, and finally, Justin who is the town’s only lawyer who has adopted his best friend’s daughter and is helping both of them get on their feet.

I loved how this mystery was somehow connected to anyone throughout the town. You never figure who the bad guy is until the big reveal. However, I came close to solving the mystery before the end. Not too bad of a surprise ending.

There is no romance amongst any of the main characters. Only focused on character development and the murder mystery at hand. I liked how Zac and Tiff just remained “good friends” throughout the story. They not only grew up together, but they solved the mystery together.

I would highly recommend Bitter Roots for lovers of cozy mysteries, small-town mysteries, and Montana based novels. This novel is a quick read for those who are looking for a book to break a dry streak or to get out of a rut.

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Posted in Book Reviews, Novels

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

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*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

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*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!