Review: Murder in an Irish Churchyard by Carlene O’Conner

Murder in an Irish Churchyard by Carlene O’Conner—Dedicated fans of light, small town murder mysteries with an Irish flavor may enjoy following O’Conner’s sassy heroine, Siobhán O’Sullivan as she negotiates the change from amateur sleuth to official police investigator.

Murder in an Irish Churchyard

by Carlene O’Conner

Publisher: Kensington Books

Publication Date: Feb. 27, 2018

Genre: Mystery & Detective / Cozy Mystery

ISBN-13: 978-1-61773-853-1

Available in print, electronic, and audiobook versions.

After joining the police force of her small Irish village, a local woman must investigate the murder of a stranger in this cozy mystery novel.
 
After solving two murders in the County Cork village of Kilbane, Siobhán O’Sullivan has accepted her calling and decided to join the Garda Síochána. The O’Sullivan clan couldn’t be prouder, but there’s no time to celebrate as she’s already on another case, summoned by the local priest who just found a dead man in the St. Mary’s graveyard—aboveground. 
 
He’s a stranger, but the priest has heard talk of an American tourist in town, searching for his Irish ancestor. As Siobhán begins to dig for a motive among the gnarled roots of the victim’s family tree, she will need to stay two steps ahead of the killer or end up with more than one foot in the grave.

Murder in an Irish Churchyard, set in Kilbane, County Cork, Ireland, is the third of seven novels (the first I’ve read) in Carlene O’Conner’s Irish Village Mystery series. Siobhán O’Sullivan has been running the family bistro while taking care of her five siblings since their parents died. Formerly, an amateur sleuth, in this installment, Siobhán has just graduated from Templemore Garda College and is anxiously anticipating her first day of work as a guard at the Kilbane Gardai Station. The Gardai or “The Guards” is the national police service of the Republic of Ireland.

At the beginning of the book, the village priest, Father Kearney, summons Siobhán O’Sullivan to St. Mary’s Churchyard in the middle of the night, where the body of a man lies in the snow. Someone fatally shot the victim, later identified as American Peter Mallon, the patriarch of the wealthy Mallon family. The Mallon family is in Ireland to explore Peter Mallon’s Irish roots for a documentary. Clues are scarce, but there are plenty of suspects with fingers pointed at everyone involved in filming the documentary. It dismays Siobhán to discover that she must report directly to her ex-boyfriend, Detective Sergeant Macdara Flannery, temporarily called up from Dublin to help investigate the murder, but pleased Flannery permits her to take part given her status as a rookie. The pair forge an uneasy alliance as they question suspects and uncover a tangled web of family betrayal and unresolved heartbreak.

Now Garda O’Sullivan, Siobhán meets up with her ex-boyfriend, Detective Sergeant Macdara Flannery, a good-natured detective sergeant detective, and becomes a member of his investigative team. Together, they work to connect the pieces of the intricate mystery behind Peter Mallon’s murder. It makes the case even more complicated because of Siobhán’s partnership with her former flame, who she has never quite gotten over.

O’Conner takes her time unraveling the strands of the mystery, keeping the reader on edge all the while. Through transportive details of Kilbane and County Cork and charming Irish culture, she fashions an immersive setting for the narrative, which moves nimbly through the murder investigation while providing glimpses of O’Sullivan’s past relationship with Flannery.

Featuring a memorable cast that includes the Mallon family, a cheeky documentary filmmaker, suspects galore, and Siobhán’s endearing siblings, Murder in an Irish Churchyard, makes for interesting reading. Siobhán is a first-class protagonist—a dogged crime investigator and appealing every woman with plenty of smarts and heart.

Dedicated fans of light, small town murder mysteries with an Irish flavor may enjoy following O’Conner’s sassy heroine, Siobhán O’Sullivan as she negotiates the change from amateur sleuth to official police investigator.

I purchased the copy of this book used for this review.

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Review: Tell No Lies by Allison Brennan

Tell No Lies by Allison Brennan, a sizzling thriller guaranteed to please readers who enjoy a complex crime tale.

Tell No Lies

by Allison Brennan

Published by Harlequin

Published: Mar. 30, 2021

Genre: Mystery / Thriller

ISBN-13: 9780778331469

Pages: 432

Available in print, electronic, and audiobook versions.

Allison Brennan’s newest thriller features the edgy young detective Kara Quinn and the ambitious special agent Matt Costa as part of a mobile FBI team brought in to investigate the unsolved murder of a college activist and its possible ties to high-stakes crime in the desert Southwest.

Something mysterious is killing the wildlife in the desert hills just south of Tucson. When a college intern turned activist sets out to collect her own evidence, she, too, ends up dead. Local law enforcement is slow to get involved. That’s when the mobile FBI unit goes undercover to infiltrate the town and its copper refinery in search of possible leads.

Quinn and Cos find themselves scouring the desolate landscape, which keeps revealing clues to something much darker—greed, child trafficking and more murder. As the body count adds up, it’s clear they have stumbled on much more than they bargained for. Now they must figure out who is at the heart of this mayhem and stop them before more innocent lives are lost.

I’ve read some great things about Allison Brennan’s Quinn and Costa Thrillers and was keen to read the second novel in the series, Tell No Lies – a book about family secrets, desperation, and greed. The book almost reads like a story ripped from the headlines given the Biden administration’s new, open border policy that has created an unprecedented surge of migrants flowing across the southern border – circumstances that are further enriching the Mexican drug cartels who control the Mexican side of the border and also engage in the human trafficking of impoverished women and children.

While I haven’t read the first book in the series, Brennan provides plenty of background on the key characters to help the reader get acquainted, which makes Tell No Lies more than a capable standalone novel. In a manner reminiscent of the way Michael Connelly’s makes Harry Bosch and Renée Ballard co-protagonists in his latest Harry Bosch novels, Brennan does the same here putting us alternately into the heads of LAPD detective Kara Quinn and FBI special agent Matt Costa so that we benefit from both character’s perspectives as the story unfolds.

Quinn, temporarily assigned to an FBI task force headed by Costa, is working in an undercover role in a small town in southeastern Arizona as part of an FBI investigation into the murder of a college intern and environmental activist. The team believes someone killed the young woman because she was searching for evidence to link a local copper refinery with illegal dumping of toxic materials that was leaching into the water supplies and killing wildlife. But as the investigation goes forward, the FBI team uncovers clues that show something much darker is going on and the investigation grows increasingly complex.

Brennan does a fabulous job holding the reader’s attention with a tight, well-thought plot, a host of interesting, realistic characters, and the rapid-fire pacing and breathtaking action thriller fans expect.

Tell No Lies by Allison Brennan, is a sizzling thriller guaranteed to please readers who enjoy a complex crime tale with plenty of action that keeps the pages turning.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley for the purposes of this review.

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Review: The Hiding Place by Paula Munier

The Hiding Place by Paula Munier—Must Love Dogs

the-hiding-plkace-by-paula-munier
The Hiding Place

by Paula Munier

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press (Minotaur Books)

Published: Mar. 30, 2021

Genre: Traditional Mystery / Detective

Pages: 336

Available in print, electronic, and audiobook versions

When the man who killed her grandfather breaks out of prison and comes after her grandmother, Mercy must unearth the long-buried scandals that threaten to tear her family apart. And she may have to do it without her beloved canine partner Elvis, if his former handler has his way….

Some people take their secrets with them to the grave. Others leave them behind on their deathbeds, riddles for the survivors to solve.

When her late grandfather’s dying deputy calls Mercy to his side, she and Elvis inherit the cold case that haunted him―and may have killed him. But finding Beth Kilgore 20 years after she disappeared is more than a lost cause. It’s a Pandora’s box releasing a rain of evil on the very people Mercy and Elvis hold most dear.

The timing couldn’t be worse when the man who murdered her grandfather escapes from prison and a fellow Army vet turns up claiming that Elvis is his dog, not hers. With her grandmother Patience gone missing, and Elvis’s future uncertain, Mercy faces the prospect of losing her most treasured allies, the only ones she believes truly love and understand her.

She needs help, and that means forgiving Vermont Game Warden Troy Warner long enough to enlist his aid. With time running out for Patience, Mercy and Elvis must team up with Troy and his search-and-rescue dog Susie Bear to unravel the secrets of the past and save her grandmother―before it’s too late.

The Hiding Place by Paula Munier is the third installment in the Mercy Carr Mystery series. I haven’t read the first two books in the series, but when I started seeing this novel popping up on the crime fiction websites I visit regularly, the buzz intrigued me, so I requested a copy to discover for myself what all the excitement was about.

The granddaughter of a former sheriff, Mercy Carr, pays a visit to her late grandfather’s dying deputy, August Pitts, at his request. Pitts asks Mercy to investigate the case of a missing girl that neither he nor her grandfather had solved. Mercy is determined to work the cold case once she learns the details surrounding it from her grandmother, Patience. Eventually, her sidekick, Troy Warner, a Vermont game warden helps her with the investigation. Mercy has developed a reputation for solving mysteries that have baffled local law enforcement.

Mercy is an interesting character, a former U.S. Army MP who saw action in Afganistan who is still struggling to come to terms with the death of her fiance, another soldier and a dog handler killed there. Honoring his last request, Mercy adopted her late fiance’s work dog, a Belgian shepherd named Elvis, who figures prominently in the book. The novel predominantly unfolds from Mercy’s point of view. She’s still living in her childhood hometown in Vermont. After reading the synopsis, I assumed Mercy was a private investigator, but after reading the book discovered she is more a Jessica Fletcher like amateur detective.

Mercy’s personal life is a bit of a mess. She is struggling not only with her fiance’s death, but with the fallout from her experiences in Afghanistan as a soldier. Both her parents are lawyers, and her somewhat over bearing mother had expected Mercy to follow her parents into law, but Mercy had no interest in becoming an attorney and intends to blaze her own trail. This is also a source of friction. Her relationship with Troy Warner which had previously leaned more toward romance than only friendship is strained. But a part of her wants to forgive him for a lie of omission, and to further explore the possibilities.

What began as an inquiry into the cold case becomes more complicated when the man who killed Mercy’s grandfather escapes from prison and then someone leaves a bomb on her grandmother’s doorstep that explodes and injures both Mercy and her her grandmother, the local veterinarian. A fresh murder occurs and a decades old murder is uncovered and for Mercy and Troy, the present and past intersect in ways they could not have imagined.

Munier puts us occasionally in the heads of other characters–usually significant ones to give us some hints or clues to help us work out the whodunit.

There are a few undercurrents simmering in this book, including themes around grief, loss, love, and trust.

I enjoyed this novel even though I hadn’t read the first two books in the series. Munier has given us some interesting and likeable characters in Mercy, as well as her sidekick Troy, her grandmother Patience, her mother Grace and a host of dogs including Elvis.

The Hiding Place is a traditional mystery with a well-crafted plot, a very conservative story featuring a comfortable social structure (a small town in Vermont), which is shockingly disrupted by a crime. An amateur attempts to solve the mystery through traditional investigative techniques. Like all traditional mysteries, even given today’s rather permissive society, the novel contains no offensive language, dramatic violence, perversion, or sex.

This book is perfect for traditional mystery fans who enjoy a touch of romance and prefer books that don’t contain swear words or other offensive language. And dogs—we mustn’t forget the dogs. You must love dogs.

St. Martin’s Press published the Hiding Place by Paula Munier under the Minotaur Books imprint, and the book is available from March 30, 2021.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes.

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Review: Coffin Cove by Jackie Elliott

As thrillers go, Coffin Corner by Jackie Elliott is a slow burner, but eminently readable, and it delivers the thrills in the end.

Coffin Cove

by Jackie Elliott

Published by Joffe Books

Publication Date: Apr. 8, 2021

Genres: Thriller / Suspense, Psychological Thriller

ISBN-13: 9781789317534

Pages: 248

Andrea “Andi” Silvers is in disgrace. Once a rising star reporter, she has been dumped by her married lover and by the paper they both worked at.

Andi finds a job in a small ailing local paper, the Gazette, in the tiny fishing village of Coffin Cove.

Drinking her sorrows away, she is barely holding it together. Jim, her new employer, is already having doubts about his latest hire.

Then two dead sea lions wash up on the shore. Local fishermen get the blame. Until a dead body turns up.

The deeper Andi digs the more dirt she finds.

Could two dead seals really be linked to a cold case? What happened to the fifteen-year-old girl who was killed twenty years ago? And where does the new murder fit in?

We meet the protagonist, Andrea “Andi” Silvers, in the third chapter of the novel. Silvers, once up and coming major market investigative journalist, has out of desperation taken a job as a reporter at a small local and failing newspaper in the mythical backwater fishing village of Coffin Cove. Once a thriving center of the Canadian logging and fishing industries, Coffin Cove has also fallen on hard times. Silvers spends her early days in the town trying to drown with drink the memories of a disastrous affair with a married man, her former boss, and the cause of her professional demise, a story she had written where she failed to corroborate a source who turned out bogus. After the prominent businessman, maligned in the article based on the phony tip, threatened to sue, Silvers’ paper summarily fired her.

Andrea Silvers is a likeable character whose sad backstory immediately evokes the readers’ sympathy. Likewise, we applaud when she stops feeling sorry for herself and takes her new job seriously once a murder occurs. But I would have liked to have seen Silvers appear earlier in the story. The reason she didn’t is one nuance of the book I didn’t care for much.

The novel begins with a prologue concerning a murder that occurred years before the story takes place. That’s fine since many contemporary thriller writers use the device to set the hook. But then the first chapter is essentially a second prologue with details of an unidentified shadowy figure stealing a rifle. And in the second chapter, the author introduces a supporting character, albeit it an important character to the plot, before we meet the protagonist.

While I understand the author uses the prologue and first two chapters to provide readers with important backstory information, there are much more effective ways of accomplishing that. The effect was a painfully slow start after the promise offered by the prologue that made the novel difficult to get into. By the time I reached chapter three, I didn’t even find the introduction of the main character that compelling. Because of the initial drag placed on the story, things seemed to move forward at nearly a glacial pace until almost the mid-point of the book.

Elliott employs the third person omniscient point of view in the novel, with the narrator telling the story from multiple characters’ perspectives. Third person omniscient is difficult to carry off well, and I found it here a bit jarring. Again, I understand it was used to communicate important information to the reader, but this too moved the story forward at a very slow pace. Bluntly put, it was a bit of a slog to get through the first half of the novel.

Finally, in the second half of the book, the author hit her stride. There is more focus given to Andrea Silvers’ perspective, and the pace picks up substantially. Three-quarters of the way through, I was feeling pleased I had persevered rather than giving up on the book in the early chapters. And Elliott rewards the reader with a twisty surprise at the satisfying conclusion.

Coffin Corner is a novel suspense / thriller fans will enjoy who are patient enough to forgive the slow start and are unperturbed by the multiple character perspectives. Just be mindful this one is a slow burn that takes a while to get up to true thriller pace. But the author rewards perseverance with excellent storytelling in the second half.

I received an advance copy of this book from NetGalley for review purposes.

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Review: Bound by Vanda Symon

Bound by Vanda Symon is a twisty mystery & detective novel by an author at the top of her game.

Shortlisted for the CWA New Blood Dagger
Bound

by Vanda Symon

Published by Orenda Books

Published: Jan. 11 2021

Genre: Mystery & Detective

ISBN-13: 9781913193522

Pages: 320

Available in print, electronic, and audiobook versions

“I’d been called out at eleven-thirty at night to the scene of a home invasion, and from all accounts a nasty one.”

“When the official investigation into the murder of a respectable local businessman fails to add up, and personal problems start to play havoc with her state of mind, New Zealand’s favourite young detective Sam Shephard turns vigilante…”

In the fourth installment of the Sam Shephard series, Sam, now a full-fledged detective, and her Dunedin Police crime solving mates investigate the murder of a well-regarded local business owner killed during a bloody home invasion. The deeper they dig into the case, the more it seems the victim, John Henderson, may have been involved in things not entirely legitimate when the cops learn he carried on regular business with one of Dunedin’s most infamous crooks.

The unfolding mystery involving the dead entrepreneur, along with additional threads concerning Sam’s love interest, fellow detective, Paul Frost, a serious family crisis Sam had expected, but isn’t truly prepared for, and an unexpected personal development that catches her completely off-guard means there’s a lot happening in the book.

Vanda Symon’s books are always satisfyingly twisty with complex characters, usually with frailties, and there’s often a moral or ethical challenge at the heart of the book. Her latest is no exception.

There is a theme around right and wrong; good and bad. There are moral or ethical dilemmas about actions taken and meting out “justice.”

I really liked where Symon ended up taking Sam’s character in the book, which is one strength of this novel. This is probably my favorite Sam Shephard book, and I’ve read all four books in the series. It’s twisty, unpredictable in terms of the who-done-it, and in how the other threads eventually unfold.

I really love this series, and I adore everything about the character Sam Shephard. Also, I love Symon’s conversational style of writing. It feels as if Sam is telling us her story. As the narrator, she is engaging and funny and an unabashedly witty, clever, and cheeky young woman who often finds it necessary to bite her tongue—though she’s always quick to tell us exactly what she is thinking.

Because Sam is our narrator, the thoughts, the words and the phrasing Symon offers readers are witty, warm and honest. She is without a doubt one of my favourite crime fiction characters—serving up humorous thoughts and observations. There’s plenty of local Dunedin color on offer in Symon’s books, too.

If you’re new to Sam Shephard’s world, Bound, a twisty mystery & detective novel by an author at the top of her game, is a great place to jump in. Then go back and start the series from the beginning.

I purchased the electronic copy of the book used for this review.

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Review: Who Took Eden Mulligan? by Sharon Dempsey

A thoroughly absorbing thriller full of breath-holding moments and pulse pounding tension.

Who Took Eden Mulligan?

by Sharon Dempsey

Published by Avon Books UK, a division of HarperCollins

Published: Feb. 18, 2021

Genres: General Fiction (Adult) | Mystery & Thrillers

ISBN-13: 9780008424466

Pages: 368

“They’re dead. They’re all dead. It’s my fault. I killed them.”

Those are the words of Iona Gardener, who stands bloodied and panicked inside a local police station as she confesses to the murder of four friends she shared a cottage with outside Belfast.

In the cottage’s back garden, the police find five ghastly old dolls hanging from a tree. Inside the cottage which looks like a proper slaughterhouse scene, someone had scrawled the words “WHO TOOK EDEN MULLIGAN?” on a wall, suggesting the murders are somehow connected with the disappearance of Eden Mulligan, a mother of thirty-three with five children, who went missing years before during The Troubles.

Review

This book encompasses two primary time frames, the present and then 1986, the year Eden Mulligan disappeared during The Troubles, also called Northern Ireland conflict, a violent sectarian struggle from about 1968 to 1998 in Northern Ireland between the overwhelmingly Protestant unionists (loyalists), who desired the province to remain part of the United Kingdom, and the overwhelmingly Roman Catholic nationalists (republicans), who wanted Northern Ireland to become part of the republic of Ireland.

There’s something really powerful about this story. For me, it wasn’t as much about the mystery… who committed the murders, or why. It was the sense of foreboding about what I might learn about the connection with the Eden Mulligan disappearance and the edge-of-your-seat suspense.

Thematically, the focus of this book is on relationships–including the relationship we have with ourselves. It’s underpinned by powerful and confronting themes of honesty and lies; of shame; and of messed-up lives and whether redemption is always possible.

When we meet Rose Lainey, a forensic psychologist, she’s just reluctantly returned to Belfast for her mother’s funeral after a fifteen year absence. Rose had fled Belfast at eighteen to escape her domineering mother and the troubles in Belfast at the time, becoming estranged from her family. During the visit home, Lainey reconnects with an old friend, DI Danny Stowe, who is to investigate the murders Iona Gardener confessed to committing and the recently reopened Eden Mulligan cold case. He convinces her to take a leave of absence from her position in London to consult on the twin investigations.  

It’s the Eden Mulligan cold case that brings Rose’s childhood memories to the fore. They’ve always been there and evidenced in the secretive personal life she’s led, but now delving into the decades old disappearance of Eden Mulligan forces her to confront the events of the past.

DI Danny Stowe, recently separated from his wife, has thrown himself completely into his work to mute the anguish of his failed marriage. But Rose’s reappearance in his life rekindles feelings he’d felt for Rose since college that go beyond just close friendship.

I very much liked Rose, a wonderfully complex character. Having spent her entire life running away from her childhood, a source of shame for her, she learns she has never been able to put it all behind her. And, now back in Belfast, she realizes she has missed home more than she’s ever admitted to herself. Of course, things and people are never as they seem, and soon Rose learns she’s not the only one with secrets.

Early on, Rose and Danny determine that Iona Gardener hadn’t killed her friends. The evidence at the scene reveals that’s impossible. But, for some reason, Gardener felt compelled to make the false confession. The bulk of the novel revolves around their investigation of the murders at the cottage as they attempt to make sense of the graffiti scrawled on the wall and to determine whether there is an actual connection with the decades old disappearance of Eden Mulligan.

I felt the author may have over complicated things a little with the attention devoted to the thread involving Rose’s mother Evelyn’s suspected involvement in the IRA that added little to the central plot and—though important to understanding Rose’s estrangement from her mother—felt somewhat irrelevant. That aside, there’s plenty to like about Who Took Eden Mulligan? by Sharon Dempsey. She times the big reveal and climax perfectly. I certainly felt a sense of closure.

This is an unpredictable, face-paced, and engaging read, and one I’d certainly recommend.

Who Took Eden Mulligan? was published by HarperCollins (Avon UK) and is now available.

I purchased an electronic copy of this book from Amazon used for this review.

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Review: Murder in Pembrokeshire by Gretta Mulrooney

Great storytelling, a quirky setting, and a well-thought out plot make this a winner for traditional British mystery fans.

Source: NetGalley in Exchange for an Honest Review
Murder in Pembrokeshire

Publisher: Joffe Books

Publication date : Mar. 23, 2021

Genre: Traditional Detective Mysteries

ISBN-13 : 978-1789317398

Print length: 270 pages

Available in paperback and electronic book versions

Former Met police officer and now private investigator, Tyrone “Ty” Swift finds evil afoot in Pembrokeshire when an intended holiday and a catch up with an old friend turns into a murder investigation.

Murder in Pembrokeshire by Greta Mulrooney takes place in modern-day Wales. When a friend he hasn’t seen in over ten years invites private investigator Tyrone “Ty” Swift to visit him for a few days in Wales, Swift thinks a bit of solitude and a catch up with an old friend far from London seems a sensible idea. But after Swift arrives at his friend’s home at a quirky nature-loving conservationist cooperative called Tir Melysa, his friend, Afan, is absent and fails to turn up.

The day after his arrival at the commune, fearing his friend has met with an accident, Swift searches for him. He discovers Afan’s dead body on a coastal trail near the community. Swift barely has time to acclimate to his new surroundings before learning his friend is a murder victim. Remorseful that he had allowed so many years to pass without making the attempt to keep in touch with his old friend, Swift remains in Pembrokeshire to assist the understaffed local constabulary with the investigation. While probing the murder, Swift has his own person struggles: his memories of past failed romances, the impending wedding of his former partner and young daughter’s mother, and his daughter’s upcoming medical procedure for a serious hearing problem.

Review

Here’s a modern-day British mystery written by a London born and educated author of Irish parents, and this book is very good. Ty Swift is a former Interpol operative and Metropolitan Police Service officer who has left the official police work in his past behind in order to become a London-based private detective. But even in a quiet environmentalists collective on the coast of Wales, Swift can’t seem to escape violence and murder.

Murder in Pembrokeshire is the eighth Tyrone Swift novel, but the first book I’ve read by this author. While set in the contemporary times of microwaves, mobile phones, and computers, I classify this novel as a traditional British detective mystery. You have all the usual suspects—a conservative story (with little in the way of offensive language, dramatic violence, perversion, or sex) featuring a comfortable social structure shockingly disrupted by a murder, with a detective attempting to find the killer by traditional investigative techniques, such as questioning suspects, observing clues, and making deductions from them. And of course, there is the tea and the gardens.

Mulrooney has crafted an interesting, believable, and multi-dimensional protagonist in Tyrone “Ty” Swift. The way she expertly weaved Swift’s backstory into the narrative made me feel as if I was well-acquainted with Swift, even though this is the first book in the series I’ve read. Her delightfully descriptive character passages were most helpful in this regard.

“… his cousin Mary kindly said that his frayed look was shabby chic – and he could never fathom where buttons vanished to, but he tried to achieve a reasonably tidy appearance for clients and when needed, judges.”

Often, in traditional British mysteries, authors create characters that are mechanical figures with little depth or inner lives they use only to move the plot along and have. Nothing could be further from the truth with this book. Mulrooney puts fine effort into breathing life into the supporting cast.

“She was mannish, with a dumpy muscular shape and although she must have been in her late thirties, she wore her hair in two juvenile pigtails tied with dark read ribbon. Now and again, she took the end of a pigtail and sucked it.”

Greta Mulrooney’s prose has literary quality, unsurprising given she studied for a degree in English Literature at the University of Ulster, Magee college in Derry. I found it a welcome counterbalance to the gritty noir mysteries I make a steady diet of usually. In that regard, I saw similarities between Mulrooney’s writing style and that of the legendary New Zealander Ngaio Marsh, a fabulous traditional mystery author.

Murder in Pembrokeshire is a fast read. I started the book one morning and finished it before tucking in for the night. I liked the way Mulrooney ratcheted up the tension while leaving you unawares until you sense your pulse has quickened. She effectively kept me in the dark about the murderer’s identity until the very end, and who it turned out to be was a complete surprise.

Recommendation

If you love traditional British mysteries, Murder in Pembrokeshire is probably a no-brainer. Now, of course, I want to read the other novels in the Tyrone Swift series.

Literary quality prose with a cast of fully developed, believable characters and an imaginative plot.

About Gretta Mulrooney

Gretta Mulrooney was born and educated in London, of Irish parents. She studied for a degree in English Literature at the University of Ulster, Magee college in Derry. Mulrooney has worked in education and social care.

Mulrooney started writing in her thirties, publishing books for children and teenagers. She has since published five literary fiction novels to critical acclaim. Having always been an avid reader of crime fiction and psychological thrillers, Gretta took to crime writing after she retired.

Website: https://grettamulrooney.com

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Review: Poe’s First Law by Robert W Stephens

Two murder investigations with multiple suspects seasoned with a liberal dose of comic relief make for an entertaining detective mystery read.

poe's-first-law
Source: Purchased on Amazon

Poe’s First Law

Publisher: Independently Published

Publication Date: Oct. 8, 2020

ISBN-13: 979-8692668172

Print Length: 288 pages

Paperback, electronic, and audiobook versions

Out Now

poe's-first-law
Poe’s First Law strikes an engaging balance between humor and an earnest who-done-it mystery tale.

Synopsis

Against his better judgment, Edgar Allan “Poe” Rutherford, private eye, takes on a case for Mele Akamu, the grandmotherly godmother (as in mob boss) of Maui. A dog walker discovers the remains of Eric Ellis, one of Akamu’s former associates, who went missing five years past after trying to blackmail her. The police learn someone killed Ellis with a single gunshot to the back of the head before burying his body in a shallow grave. Knowing the Maui police will put her at the top of their murder suspect list, Akamu hires Poe to identify the actual killer. Along the way, Poe picks up a second murder case, this time involving a former client on trial for killing his wife. Poe’s First Law is the thirteenth standalone novel in the clever and humorous Murder on Maui mystery series. I’ve read them all, which should tell you I’m a fan of the series.

Review

The protagonist, Edgar Allan “Poe” Rutherford, is my favorite character in this book, and in the other books in the series. He is sort of “the poor man’s Magnum PI (Tom Selleck).” At the beginning of the series, loyalty to his best friend, Doug Foxx, forced Poe to become an amateur detective to clear his friend of an unjust murder charge. Then private investigations became something of a hobby. But over the course of the series, Rutherford, who is independently wealthy and doesn’t need to work, has developed into a more professional private investigator type.

One reason I enjoy this series so much is Robert W. Stephens’ unique, conversational writing style. Reading Poe’s First Law makes you feel as if you are following the detective around while he explains his theories and his take on the stories he gets from the suspects and witnesses he interviews. That’s why I believe this character reminds me quite a lot of Selleck’s character in the original Magnum PI television series, who used to do a similar thing for the benefit of the show’s viewers. In Poe, Stephens has created a highly relatable protagonist who is very intelligent and has an eye for finding out the details and a knack for figuring out the meanings behind his observations. The supporting cast of characters is also excellent and lifelike. There is Poe’s best friend and sidekick, Doug Foxx, a former NFL star, his wife Alana Hu, a Maui police detective, and his contentious, man-hating mother-in-law. I also like the way Stephens uses humor in this book (as he has throughout the series) to counterbalance the serious treatment of Poe’s murder investigations. Up to his usual standards, Stephens does all in his power with this one to amuse, confuse, and bamboozle readers attempting to solve the mysteries ahead of Poe. The plot, the red herrings, and the twists and turns along the way combine to keep the pages turning.

Anyone who enjoys a light-hearted detective mystery somewhat akin to a cozy should enjoy reading Poe’s First Law as well as the previous novels in the series.

A cast of quirky characters adds depth to a light-hearted who-done-it tale.

About Robert W. Stephens

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Robert W. Stephens is an author and a filmmaker. His writing career started at a small video production company where he did all sorts of odd tasks, including sweeping the production studio floor, painting the greenscreen wall, checking out rental equipment, etc. But it opened the door for him to start writing, directing and producing commercials and videos. Shooting a television pilot on location on Maui led Robert to write the first book in the A Murder on Maui series, Aloha Means Goodbye.

Website: https://www.robertwstephens.com/

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Review: Knife Edge by Kerry Buchanan

Knife Edge by Kerry Buchanan—A wickedly sharp debut psychological thriller from an author to watch.

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Source: NetGalley in Exchange for an Honest Review

Knife Edge

Publisher: Joffe Books

Publication Date: Apr. 15, 2021

ISBN-13: 9781789317510

Print Length: 231 pages

Paperback and electronic versions

Available for preorder

Synopsis

“They had been making a night of it in Belfast, a whole group of them in Katy’s bar, deep inside the Limelight nightclub. Exams were on the horizon, but it had been Hannah’s birthday, and they’d all gone out.”

When Nicola “Nic” Gordon, a twenty-year-old college student, and her friend Colm go to a Belfast nightclub to celebrate a roommate’s birthday, things go terrifyingly wrong. She wakes up in a shabby, rural cottage, naked and shivering, bound and gagged and unable to work out how on earth they both ended up there. A masked, sadistic monster holds them captive and tortures them for six days until Nic breaks free and escapes. She is lucky to be alive, but the nightmare is only beginning.

Review

Isn’t it just fantastic when you pick up one of those psychological thrillers that grabs you by the throat and won’t let go, demanding that you sit on the edge of your seat for every suspense-filled, nail-biting moment of it? Knife Edge is one of those novels for me.

Thematically, the reader finds mental illness, a dissolving sense of reality, obsession, pursuit, paranoia, and murder. Knife Edge ticks all the boxes you expect from an absorbing psychological thriller—a maniacal killer, intense pacing, suspense, unbearable tension, unexpected twists, high stakes, anxiety, and terror.

Oh, and don’t forget about the knives. We hate the knives.

“With methodical slowness, her captor ran his thumb along the blade of the knife. It was just for show, just to prolong the suspense: all his knives were sharp, so sharp you didn’t feel the initial cut – not until the hot gush of blood.”

Buchanan’s narrative is straightforward but descriptive. I particularly liked her effectual use of similes and metaphors. While thrillers often are more plot-driven than character-driven, Knife Edge is not only a tightly plotted and tense thriller. It has lots of interesting character development and a multitude of twists along the way. Besides Nic, the protagonist, there is a human-feeling cast of supporting characters, including Nic’s family and the police detectives—Detective Inspector Ram and Detective Sergeant Asha Harvey—who are desperate to apprehend the killer before he claims more victims.

If you love an intense, creepy, and suspenseful psychological thriller that you cannot put down once you’ve started it, this book will absolutely thrill you. I’m eagerly anticipating the release of Small Bones, the sequel to Knife Edge.

About Kerry Buchanan

Kerry Buchanan lives amid the rolling County Down hills that feature in her debut crime series. When she isn’t writing, Kerry performs her work at literary events and participates in literary panels, and works with new writers. She is disabled, and passionate about sailing and attempting to outwit the slugs in her vegetable patch. Generally the slugs win.

Website: https://kerrybuchanan.com

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Review: Dark Horse by J D Underwood

In Dark Horse by J. D. Underwood, his debut novel, an ambitious young Sydney bank manager expecting a promotion, instead gets banished to an under-performing bank in a backwater farming community after her ex-boyfriend steals the promotion she coveted. An assumption that her big-city smarts will see her back in the game in the big smoke in no time proves wrong. The woman not only learns things work a little differently out in the bush, but that there is serious mischief afoot in the town she hadn’t counted on encountering.

dark-horse-by-j-d-underwood
Source: Complementary Copy In Exchange for An Honest Review
Dark Horse (Brooksdale Book 1)

Publisher : Independently published
Publication date : January 12, 2020
ISBN-13 : 9780648773313
Paperback : 414 pages

Available in paperback and as an electronic book

Dark Horse explores the cleaning up of a corrupt town, and the struggle of good versus evil.

“Now was her time. For the past eighteen months, she had been the branch manager at John & Mitchem Bank in Manly—the youngest manager in the bank’s history. In that time, she had grown the customer base and increased the branch’s profitability. Now she had a meeting at the head office about a promotion to the Commercial Banking division.”

Synopsis

Maria Henderson, an ambitious 29-year-old bank branch manager attends a meeting at the head office, confident she is about to ascend the next rung up the ladder of success. But she gets a shock when the board informs her they are giving the promotion she expected to her ex-boyfriend. Adding salt to the wound, the home office ships her out to a small town in the bush to turn around the struggling bank branch there.

So begins a young woman’s quest to advance in the male-dominated world of Australian banking. Haunted by the unfairness of it all, she journeys to the tiny farming community in northern New South Wales, determined to restore the small branch to profitability and to return to Sydney within a year’s time. In the end, Maria discovers much more in the small town called Brooksdale than she ever imagined.

While Maria Henderson struggles to gain her footing at her new bank branch, Brooksdale native, Tony Carpenter, who recently left a life of thuggery as a member of an outlaw motorcycle gang, has recently returned to town to help an elderly friend, Bob, save his failing gym. Yet try as he might to stick to the straight and narrow, Carpenter’s unsavory past continues to follow him. His former gang moves into Brooksdale to take over the local drug trade. To make matters worse, a dodgy local entrepreneur is determined to buy out Bob because he wants the land for a redevelopment scheme.

The lives of Henderson and Carpenter intersect, when Maria decides to foreclose a loan taken out by the gym’s aging owner when Bob falls behind on his payments. But after Maria develops a romantic attraction for Tony and discovers the shady developer and his henchmen are employing every dirty trick in the book to wrest the gym and property from Bob, she opens her heart to Tony and dropping the foreclosure action, becomes an ally of Tony and his old friend.

Once the crooked business developer and the outlaw biker gang join forces against Tony and Bob, the stakes rise and the sparks fly. Someone could get hurt, or worse.

The Review

Dark Horse was not at all what I expected when I accepted the book for review. While categorized as a thriller, at its heart, this is a fetching moral tale encouraging readers to never give up on life when faced with hardships and struggles with inner demons.

While the plot includes its fair share of thugs, hustlers, gangsters, outlaw bikers, and other riffraff, a taut thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat, it’s not.

That’s not to say it isn’t a pleasing read. I loved the book. But I think it’s a better fit for romance or literary fiction. Underwood, an entertaining storyteller, held my interest throughout and kept me turning the pages from beginning to end. Since crime fiction is my passion, had I known more about this book before reading it, I might have given it a miss. But I’m so glad I didn’t because I found it a delightful read.

If you’re seeking a novel that is fast-paced, full of conflict, tension, suspense, unexpected twists, and high stakes where every single scene propels the action forward, tests the characters, and take the reader on a roller coaster ride, Dark Horse isn’t that. But if you enjoy an engaging tale, well told with believable characters, you will enjoy reading this book.

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Author’s website: https://jdunderwood.net/