Thrilling addition to the field of mystery series featuring strong female protagonists; hopefully, Allison Baca’s future...

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TOO CLOSE TO HOME

AN ALLISON BACA MYSTERY

A retired cop must unravel a gritty mystery before assassins hired to kill her finish the job.

Allison Baca’s abrupt retirement from the San Francisco police was newsworthy enough; the local media enjoyed dealing with the beautiful, talented spokesperson. But Allison soon makes the news for another reason—killing her attempted murderer in her living room. Recovering from her injuries at her parents’ home, Allison investigates the link between her attack and an earlier meeting with a pedophile developer, Paul Albert, who expressed interest in hiring her as a private investigator. Allison’s gruesome discovery, quickly followed by a second attempt on her life, draws her former boss—and the principal reason for her resignation—Lt. Phillip McCarthy deeper into the case, and into Allison’s life. In a decision that will raise warning flags in the mind of anyone who has ever seen a horror movie, McCarthy, Allison and her father Ross travel to the family’s remote mountain cabin (with limited cell coverage) for Allison’s protection. Unbeknownst to them, Allison’s third potential hitman is very familiar with the area and seems destined to meet with success. Told from multiple points of view, the novel is an engrossing, fast-paced page-turner. Smith even manages to imbue the hitmen with sympathetic qualities. Smith touches upon many seamier aspects of 21st century crime—pedophilia, human trafficking, meth addiction and Aryan gangs—Smith doesn’t lose touch with of a traditional mystery/thriller. Portions of the plot may require some suspension of disbelief; it’s never clear how Allison and McCarthy transition so quickly from adversaries to potential lovers, for example. But Smith demonstrates such skill in building suspense, such as when Ross and McCarthy’s dithering on their approach to the cabin leaves Allison vulnerable, that readers will be captivated regardless.

Thrilling addition to the field of mystery series featuring strong female protagonists; hopefully, Allison Baca’s future cases will be as enjoyable as this one.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-1466382817

Page Count: -

Publisher: Smashwords

Review Posted Online: Oct. 4, 2011

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Locke’s advancement here is so bracing that you can’t wait to discover what happens next along her East Texas highway.

HEAVEN, MY HOME

The redoubtable Locke follows up her Edgar-winning Bluebird, Bluebird (2017) with an even knottier tale of racism and deceit set in the same scruffy East Texas boondocks.

It’s the 2016 holiday season, and African American Texas Ranger Darren Matthews has plenty of reasons for disquiet besides the recent election results. Chiefly there’s the ongoing fallout from Darren’s double murder investigation involving the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas. He and his wife are in counseling. He’s become a “desk jockey” in the Rangers’ Houston office while fending off suspicions from a district attorney who thinks Darren hasn’t been totally upfront with him about a Brotherhood member’s death. (He hasn’t.) And his not-so-loving mother is holding on to evidence that could either save or crucify him with the district attorney. So maybe it’s kind of a relief for Darren to head for the once-thriving coastal town of Jefferson, where the 9-year-old son of another Brotherhood member serving hard time for murdering a black man has gone missing while motorboating on a nearby lake. Then again, there isn’t that much relief given the presence of short-fused white supremacists living not far from descendants of the town’s original black and Native American settlers—one of whom, an elderly black man, is a suspect in the possible murder of the still-missing boy. Meanwhile, Darren’s cultivating his own suspicions of chicanery involving the boy’s wealthy and imperious grandmother, whose own family history is entwined with the town’s antebellum past and who isn’t so fazed with her grandson’s disappearance that she can’t have a lavish dinner party at her mansion. In addition to her gifts for tight pacing and intense lyricism, Locke shows with this installment of her Highway 59 series a facility for unraveling the tangled strands of the Southwest’s cultural legacy and weaving them back together with the volatile racial politics and traumatic economic stresses of the present day. With her confident narrative hands on the wheel, this novel manages to evoke a portrait of Trump-era America—which, as someone observes of a pivotal character in the story, resembles “a toy ball tottering on a wire fence” that “could fall either way.”

Locke’s advancement here is so bracing that you can’t wait to discover what happens next along her East Texas highway.

Pub Date: Sept. 17, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-316-36340-2

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Mulholland Books/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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Like her cast, James gets in a little more drama for a lively continuation of her series.

CARELESS WHISKERS

An impossible actor’s career ends when he dies midperformance, leaving a cast and crew who would have been all too willing to have done the deed.

Charlie Harris and his feline sidekicks, Maine coon Diesel and kitten Ramses, are all excited that Charlie’s daughter, Laura, and her husband, Frank, will be headlining Athena College’s spring production as lead actress and director in a homegrown new play, Careless Whispers. Laura was excited too until the male lead, who had to bail suddenly, is replaced by someone she knows all too well: Luke Lombardi. Laura’s had run-ins with Luke in the past and knows that he’s a drama queen in all the wrong ways. When Luke shows up in Mississippi, Charlie and his partner, Helen Louise Brady, are suitably unimpressed with his imperious attitude and clueless mini-entourage, but both figure there’s little to worry about until a string of pranks seems to escalate to Luke’s onstage murder. Though Charlie is concerned that Laura’s dislike of Luke might point to her as a suspect, c’mon! Chief Deputy Kanesha Berry, whom Charlie’s earlier investigations (The Pawful Truth, 2019, etc.) have made something of a family friend, doesn’t think Laura is guilty either, though she does have to follow procedure and question anyone with means and motive. While there aren’t many folks in the means category, Luke’s volatile and narcissistic manner has heaped the motive category with suspects—and can anyone blame them? It may all come down to unraveling the mystery behind the identity of the playwright, Finnegan Zwake, a pseudonym no one had thought to question until Charlie decides he can’t help but, once again, get involved.

Like her cast, James gets in a little more drama for a lively continuation of her series.

Pub Date: Jan. 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-451-49115-2

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Berkley Prime Crime

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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