Amateur gumshoes bolstered by a tropical setting and the added pressure of trying to sustain a business.

Rum Luck


From the A Bar on a Beach Mystery series , Vol. 1

In this debut thriller, a Canadian man purchases a Costa Rican beachside bar, but cops are more interested in him as a suspect in the previous owner’s murder.

A hung over Ben Cooper has no idea why he awakens in a Tamarindo jail. He doesn’t remember anything from last night, much less buying a bar—or killing its owner/seller, Antonio Guiterrez. Nevertheless, authorities arrest him for the murder, and Ben’s attorney pal back in Toronto, Victoria Holmes, comes to his rescue. His other friend, Miguel Valares, is in Costa Rica with Ben, both taking advantage of the latter’s defunct wedding and nonrefundable honeymoon tickets and hotel accommodations. Victoria gets Ben out of prison, but now he has a bar to run, especially because a stop payment isn’t feasible. (He drunkenly changed the password and security question to his and ex-fiancee Tara Whitmore’s joint bank account and, of course, forgot them.) Since the bar’s in debt, new partners Victoria and Miguel help financially and by drumming up business; Victoria, for one, shows off her DJ skills. The murder, however, takes precedence thanks to Detective Vasquez, who’s convinced that Ben’s guilty, and an anonymous note implying Ben will be the next victim. The three Canadians, along with Ana, Antonio’s niece, who believes in Ben’s innocence, set out to thwart a murderer. The author keeps his tale popping with ample subplots, tossing a blackmailer and an apparent vandal targeting Ben and Miguel’s rental car into the mix. Some of these turn out to be red herrings, but it’s unmistakable that Ben, and possibly others, is in jeopardy, particularly once the killer lets his (or her) presence be known. There’s a good deal of humor, a highlight being Miguel’s Uncle Enrico, who pays for a “pretend-ownership” of the bar and believes solving a murder is part of said deal. Contrarily, Ben’s recurrent, daily endeavors to guess his password are ultimately redundant. He’s no longer attempting to cancel payment—he and his partners/friends are completely invested in the bar— while his reasoning that “it would be nice to have access to his bank account again” is too blasé to bear much weight for readers.

Amateur gumshoes bolstered by a tropical setting and the added pressure of trying to sustain a business.

Pub Date: June 22, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4328-3189-9

Page Count: 258

Publisher: Five Star

Review Posted Online: April 26, 2016

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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. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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One protest from an outraged innocent says it all: “This is America. This is Wyoming.”

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Once again, Wyoming game warden Joe Pickett gets mixed up in a killing whose principal suspect is his old friend Nate Romanowski, whose attempts to live off the grid keep breaking down in a series of felony charges.

If Judge Hewitt hadn’t bent over to pick up a spoon that had fallen from his dinner table, the sniper set up nearly a mile from his house in the gated community of the Eagle Mountain Club would have ended his life. As it was, the victim was Sue Hewitt, leaving the judge alive and free to rail and threaten anyone he suspected of the shooting. Incoming Twelve Sleep County Sheriff Brendan Kapelow’s interest in using the case to promote his political ambitions and the judge’s inability to see further than his nose make them the perfect targets for a frame-up of Nate, who just wants to be left alone in the middle of nowhere to train his falcons and help his bride, Liv Brannon, raise their baby, Kestrel. Nor are the sniper, the sheriff, and the judge Nate’s only enemies. Orlando Panfile has been sent to Wyoming by the Sinaloan drug cartel to avenge the deaths of the four assassins whose careers Nate and Joe ended last time out (Wolf Pack, 2019). So it’s up to Joe, with some timely data from his librarian wife, Marybeth, to hire a lawyer for Nate, make sure he doesn’t bust out of jail before his trial, identify the real sniper, who continues to take an active role in the proceedings, and somehow protect him from a killer who regards Nate’s arrest as an unwelcome complication. That’s quite a tall order for someone who can’t shoot straight, who keeps wrecking his state-issued vehicles, and whose appalling mother-in-law, Missy Vankeuren Hand, has returned from her latest European jaunt to suck up all the oxygen in Twelve Sleep County to hustle some illegal drugs for her cancer-stricken sixth husband. But fans of this outstanding series will know better than to place their money against Joe.

One protest from an outraged innocent says it all: “This is America. This is Wyoming.”

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53823-3

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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