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RAVEN RAIN

From the The Delarosa Series series , Vol. 3

Sharp prose and vivid characterizations elevate this detective story.

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An East Coast private eye’s blackmail case spirals into murder in this third installment of a mystery series.

Johnny Delarosa’s newest client is former pro football player Stan Shelton, now a successful car dealer. Shelton needs the Port City private investigator’s help when a blackmailer threatens to expose the married dealer’s link to an escort service. Johnny and his research assistant, Katie Pitts, trying to track down the blackmailer, inadvertently witness someone dumping a body. With the corpse left outside a building Shelton owns, Johnny struggles to keep the ex-athlete’s name out of the press. The PI eventually teams up with Monica Mattson, a police detective working a sex trafficking case that’s focused on the very same escort service Shelton had been using. Behind this shady company are malicious types determined to cut off any loose ends, which soon results in a second homicide. Complicating Johnny’s inquiry is the possibility that Shelton isn’t telling him everything he knows. The PI suspects his client is more deeply involved in illegal activities than he’s admitted. Johnny races to find answers before he, Monica, or even Katie becomes the next murder victim. While following Johnny’s investigation is entertaining, Stever’s vibrant characters turn out to be the story’s greatest components. For example, Katie is learning the gumshoe ropes from former cop Johnny, whose case takes an unexpected turn when he recognizes a potential criminal as someone from his past. Similarly, the women in this novel are smart and capable, particularly Katie and Monica. The author’s concise descriptions make for a breezy narrative and a quick read. While metaphors are sometimes blatant, they’re also delightfully tongue-in-cheek, such as Johnny’s assuring his client that, though Shelton “made a bad play…it is now first and ten again. A new set of downs.”

Sharp prose and vivid characterizations elevate this detective story. (acknowledgements)

Pub Date: July 22, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-9983371-4-2

Page Count: 295

Publisher: Cinder Path Press

Review Posted Online: Sept. 22, 2020

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A CONSPIRACY OF BONES

Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

Another sweltering month in Charlotte, another boatload of mysteries past and present for overworked, overstressed forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan.

A week after the night she chases but fails to catch a mysterious trespasser outside her town house, some unknown party texts Tempe four images of a corpse that looks as if it’s been chewed by wild hogs, because it has been. Showboat Medical Examiner Margot Heavner makes it clear that, breaking with her department’s earlier practice (The Bone Collection, 2016, etc.), she has no intention of calling in Tempe as a consultant and promptly identifies the faceless body herself as that of a young Asian man. Nettled by several errors in Heavner’s analysis, and even more by her willingness to share the gory details at a press conference, Tempe launches her own investigation, which is not so much off the books as against the books. Heavner isn’t exactly mollified when Tempe, aided by retired police detective Skinny Slidell and a host of experts, puts a name to the dead man. But the hints of other crimes Tempe’s identification uncovers, particularly crimes against children, spur her on to redouble her efforts despite the new M.E.’s splenetic outbursts. Before he died, it seems, Felix Vodyanov was linked to a passenger ferry that sank in 1994, an even earlier U.S. government project to research biological agents that could control human behavior, the hinky spiritual retreat Sparkling Waters, the dark web site DeepUnder, and the disappearances of at least four schoolchildren, two of whom have also turned up dead. And why on earth was Vodyanov carrying Tempe’s own contact information? The mounting evidence of ever more and ever worse skulduggery will pull Tempe deeper and deeper down what even she sees as a rabbit hole before she confronts a ringleader implicated in “Drugs. Fraud. Breaking and entering. Arson. Kidnapping. How does attempted murder sound?”

Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-3888-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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THE COMFORT OF GHOSTS

A fitting finale to a marvelously entertaining series full of finely drawn characters often scarred by the horrors of war.

Farewell, Maisie Dobbs.

Once a maid in Lady Rowan Compton’s household, then a university student, a nurse, and an agent of the British Secret Service, Maisie has blossomed into a psychologist and private investigator. Her first husband, James Compton, died while test-flying an experimental aircraft. The end of World War II finds her living in the Dower House of the Compton estate with her second husband, Mark Scott—an American diplomat—and their adopted daughter, Anna, and comforting her former mother-in-law, Lady Rowan, who’s just lost her own spouse. When she hears there are squatters living in the Comptons’ London house, Maisie heads to Belgravia, where she finds four teenagers in residence along with an ailing Will Beale, the son of Maisie’s business partner, who survived a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp. Checking with her old friend DCI Robbie MacFarlane, whose help she’d asked in finding the previously missing Will, she gets a bad feeling about Robbie’s interest in the squatters. Worried about the youngsters, who were part of some secret government project, Maisie talks them into letting her into the house to help Will. When they admit they witnessed the murder of a Nazi sympathizer that the government wants covered up, she moves the group to a safer place. Her investigation of the murder discloses a mass of nasty secrets. One of the teens found a packet of letters under the floorboards of the Compton house belonging to one of Maisie’s fellow maids, killed in an explosion, who had a child with James when they were very young. Finding that child, who was put up for adoption, may be the most challenging task Maisie’s ever undertaken.

A fitting finale to a marvelously entertaining series full of finely drawn characters often scarred by the horrors of war.

Pub Date: June 4, 2024

ISBN: 9781641296069

Page Count: 360

Publisher: Soho Crime

Review Posted Online: April 5, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2024

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