Friday, May 28, 2010

LAUGHED 'TILL HE DIED by Carolyn Hart (William Morrow)

There is so much that I love about Carolyn Hart's books. Her distinctive writing style employs empathetic characters and sensuous descriptions of the South Carolina's Low Country. Her main characters, Annie and Max, are determined to bring justice to a wronged world. And of course, each book tantalizes readers with the mystery water color painting contest.

Laughed 'Til He Died is Carolyn Hart's latest Death on Demand mystery. Booth Wagner, wealthy retiree, likes to get the last laugh. He has no qualms about cruelly taunting his shy step-son, cheating a business associate or threatening his former mistress. Annie and Max are soon drawn into the investigation of several deaths connected to Broward's Rock island youth recreation center. They feel the sheriff is focusing on the wrong suspect and set out to clear her name.

If you're looking for a fast-paced classic mystery Laughed 'Til He Died definitely fills the bill.

--Karen Kiley

FTC Full Disclosure - Book provided by publisher

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Guest Blogger Chris Grabenstein

Hi folks. I'm sorry to announce that Chris Grabenstein's guest blogging efforts have been detained. We'll get back to him as soon as possible.

Please check back next Tuesday and visit with Julie Hyzy. She'll be talking about her new series, beginning with GRACE UNDER PRESSURE.

I hope to be posting some reviews between now and then.


Happy reading!


Monday, May 17, 2010

Guest Blogger Elaine Viets

The Mystery of Consignment Shopping
By Elaine Viets

Why do customers insult an item when they want to buy it?

It’s one of the great mysteries of retail. I’ve seen it in store after store.

For my ninth Dead-End Job novel, I did my research at Hibiscus Place Emporium on chic Las Olas Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale.

Recycling is the rage. Reselling your designer duds is doubly fashionable. Fashionistas earn a little green for their last season’s styles. (They wouldn’t be caught dead wearing anything that isn’t cutting edge.) Women who appreciate quality but can’t afford suits that cost the same as a house payment will find designer labels they can buy. They don’t care if hot pink is so last year.

When I was at the consignment shop, an older woman I’ll call Mrs. Rude wanted a well-cut jacket.

“It’s twenty-five dollars,” the shop owner said. “It’s a Gucci.”

“It has a stain on the collar and a loose button,” Mrs. Rude said. “Can’t you lower the price?”

“I’ve already dropped the price from forty-five,” the store owner said. “It’s a $500 jacket. It was new this season. A nice pin would cover the stain. Michelle Obama has made pins fashionable.”

“Don’t want it,” Mrs. Rude said. She dropped the jacket on the counter and slammed out the door.

I thought she’d thrown away a bargain.

The store owner shrugged off her behavior. “It’s a ritual,” he said. “The idea is to convince me I’m selling something so worthless I’ll give it away. I’m immune to it.”

A store can only slash prices so far. Then the unsold clothes are donated to charity.

In Half-Price Homicide, I named the designer consignment shop Snapdragon’s Second Thoughts. When a customer is found hanged in the dressing room with a Gucci scarf (talk about dying in style), Helen investigates the murder to save her job.

Helen and I both know bargaining is permitted at consignment stores. The price is usually negotiable, if you ask at the right time – politely.

Quality consignment stores often have a three-tier pricing system, with the dates marked on the tags. Let’s say you like a chartreuse Laundry sweater set. The price tag will show the date it went on the rack – May 15 – and the price – $40.

A month later, on June 15, the same sweater set will be $32.

After July 15 you can buy it for $20 or less.

If you’re in the shop May 12 through May 14, ask the shop owner to lower the price. Chances are the shop will knock it down to $38—or even $32. The closer you get to the final sale date, the cheaper that sweater will be.

And the faster it will sell. If you see something you like, buy it immediately.

Too many good bargains are lost to second thoughts. A pink shirt from Barneys New York got away when I decided to wait a day. Someone else wanted it.

In Half-Price Homicide Helen has her own wants. She’s still on the run from the court in St. Louis. The divorce judge awarded her obnoxious ex-husband, Rob, one-half of her future income. She wound up in South Florida. Now her greedy ex has tracked her down.

Helen wants to clear her name with the court.

She wants her awful ex to go away.

She wants to marry the man she loves.

In Half-Price Homicide, Helen will get everything she wants—and regret she gets what she wants most.


Elaine visit North Carolina with the “Unarmed But Dangerous” tour June 5 through 8. She’s traveling with mystery writers Donna Andrews, Meredith Cole and Rosemary Harris through the Research Triangle. For details, go to her website.

Now You See Her by Merline Lovelace (Berkley)

Lt. Samantha Spade, USAF is in charge of a small team of civilians and one career sergeant responsible for evaluating inventions for desert warfare. She is a sarcastic and lovable lady who has a tendency to act and then think. In this second episode, she is evaluating goggles that allow you to see around buildings. Samantha takes them out for an unauthorized trail run and becomes involved in a shoot-out. How does she explain her involvement to her boss? Once again she is caught up in a criminal investigation and in trouble with the good guys and the bad guys. Sometimes it is difficult to tell the difference. The story is fast paced and a very quick read with a lot of twists and turns. Her “love” interest, Border Patrol agent Jeff “Mitch” Mitchell, becomes involved also. As I said in my review of the first book, I would like to see the members of her research team more involved. Their characters are very interesting and could take this series a long way.

—Helen Jones

FTC Full Disclosure - book provided by the publisher

A Timely Vision by Joyce & Jim Lavene (Berkley)

This is the first novel of a “Missing Pieces Mystery." The mayor of Duck, NC, Dae O’Donnell, has psychic powers that allows her to find things other people have lost. She does this by touching hands with the owner of the lost item and concentrating on the item. She has a vision that allows her to tell the person where the item is; however, sometimes she just has to shake a person’s hand and she knows what they have misplaced! Dae also has the ability to locate unusual items that may have unknown significance. If you can believe all of this then you will enjoy this mystery.

Two feuding elderly sisters, Miss Elizabeth and Miss Mildred, live in Duck. Miss Mildred asks Dae to help her find a watch she has lent to Miss Elizabeth. This leads to the discovery of Miss Elizabeth’s body and Miss Mildred's being charged with her murder. As Dae becomes involved in trying to clear Miss Mildred, she teams up with a new resident, former FBI agent, Kevin Brickman. Brickman has purchased an old inn and is in the process of renovating it. This adds a touch of possible romance as well as a few ghosts. There are many twists and turns and lots of clues as well as another body. There are lots of characters and small town social-political situations. I enjoy reading mysteries set in familiar locations and this one does have a few surprises in it.

—Helen Jones

FTC Full Disclosure - book provided by the publisher

The Cat, The Professor and The Poison by Leann Sweeney (Obsidian)

This is the second book in the “Cats in Trouble” series. Cat quilt maker, Jillian Hart, and her best friend, Deputy Candace Carson, are investigating the case of a missing milk cow when Jillian follows a stray cat. The cat leads her to an area housing about 50 other cats. Are they strays someone is trying to care for or is there something much more evil? It doesn’t take long for the dead bodies to start appearing.

Jillian’s step-daughter, Kara, whom Jillian hasn’t seen her since her husband died over a year agoshows up unexpectedly. Kara is a journalist and gets involved in trying to solve the mystery. This adds conflict and suspense to the story. Of course, Jillian’s three cats, each with a very different but very cat-like personality, are around to help find clues. If you are an animal lover and enjoy the antics of cats along with a good mystery you will want to read this book.

—Helen Jones

FTC Full Disclosure - book provided by the publisher

Sunday, May 09, 2010

The Bride Collector by Ted Dekker (Center Street)

This is a story full of “I can’t put it down” suspense. A serial killer is killing beautiful women is a very creepy way, leaving all the bodies on display with a bridal veil. FBI agent, Brad Raines is always a step behind the killer. He seeks help from four residents of a center for the gifted and mentally ill. At times the dialog between the residents is distracting but worth the effort to get through it. Raines becomes attracted to one of the residents, Paradise, who struggles with psychosis. The killer is psychotic with super intelligence. It becomes a very dangerous game between Raines, Paradise, and the killer. This is not a book to read when you are alone on a dark and stormy night! If you like really scary thrillers this is the book for you.

—Helen Jones

FTC Full Disclosure - book provided by the publisher

Monday, May 03, 2010

Guest Blogger Elizabeth Lynn Casey

Am I or Am I Not Like My Protagonist?

If you’d asked me five days ago whether the main character in my Southern Sewing Circle mystery series was anything like me, I’d have said no. After all, Tori Sinclair is a twenty-something librarian who loves to sew. And while I must confess to an occasional fantasy regarding the first part, I opted to follow a different career path while simultaneously managing to avoid anything that even slightly resembles a needle and thread…

See? We’re nothing alike.

Or are we?

Just this past weekend I had the opportunity to attend Malice Domestic 22 in Arlington, Virginia where I spent three glorious days catching up with friends. Some of those friends were fellow writers and some were fellow readers. But regardless of which camp they inhabit, they’re friends I’ve made because of mysteries…

Would I have crossed paths with Jan K. from Chicago if it weren’t for our shared love of the genre? Probably not.

Would I have spent hours plotting and giggling with Hannah Dennison and Clare Langley Hawthorne if we’d pursued a different career? Probably not.

Would Dru Ann Love have thought I was nuts for practically hopping up and down as I waited for Mary Higgins Clark to sign my book if she, too, didn’t love books and the people who write them? Probably.

But here’s the thing. Jan and I did cross paths…and I did laugh away an entire afternoon with Clare and Hannah…and Dru did get it…

Because we have a common passion that binds us together in a way that wouldn’t have happened without the glue that—for all of us—is mysteries.

The same holds true for Tori.

Would Tori have been able to fill the costume trunk in the Sweet Briar Public Library’s new children’s room as quickly as she did if it weren't for Rose Winters and Margaret Louise Davis? Probably not.

Would Tori have found herself an unwilling accessory in a bunny-napping if it weren't for Leona Elkin’s newfound kleptomaniac tendencies? Probably not.

Would she have been by Debbie Calhoun’s side when the woman walked into her home and found her husband missing…and his blood all over the house? Probably not.

Yet she did and she was…

Because of a common glue that brought them together. And no matter what the glue may be (bunko, books, sewing, golf, coffee, etc), one thing is certain. When it sticks, it sticks.

I, for one, wouldn’t have it any other way.

And neither would Tori.

Elizabeth Lynn Casey is the national best selling author of the Southern Sewing Circle Mystery Series with Berkley Prime Crime. Sew Deadly—the first in the series—debuted last August. Death Threads—the second in the series—releases in bookstores nationwide today.

To learn more, visit her website.