A lighthearted, formulaic, but ultimately satisfying mystery novel with a charming heroine.

Murder for a Cash Crop

A middle-aged mom decides to track down the arsonist who burned down her best friend’s house.

Nell Letterly, the brave heroine of Star’s (Murder in the Dojo, 2011) newest mystery tale, is just starting to get over her estranged husband when a freak accident rocks her hometown of Boulder, Colorado: A fire tears through the house of her best friend, Alice Albright. Alice had been running a struggling art gallery there, and suspicions begin to arise that she was selling newly legalized marijuana—without a license. Nell concludes, “I had to do something…I was going to free Alice from suspicion,” launching her into a twisted web of strange connections and revelations about the townspeople as she conducts her own investigation into the crime. Soon, bodies start turning up in the wake of the fire, including an old friend of Nell’s husband, and her determination to solve the puzzle intensifies. When Alice disappears in the middle of Nell’s search for the perpetrator, she starts to question her friend’s part in the crime. Is Alice an innocent bystander or is there something more sinister behind her innocent exterior? Nell is a scrappy private eye. “No wonder I had to solve his case for him,” she thinks after meeting one of the incompetent detectives working on the investigation. Nell chases down her leads—from the shady French cook who seems to know all the victims, to the spurned ex-wife of a famous painter—while juggling her responsibilities to her teenage daughter, and her own mixed emotions about her husband who abandoned her several months earlier. There’s a cinematic quality to this fast-paced, straightforward, easily digestible thriller, and it’s worth a read just to get close to the clever, “positively old-fashioned” Nell, who though out of touch as she might be, is an admirable, and relatable protagonist. At one point, she muses about pot: “Some thought it was nirvana, others thought it was evil incarnate. I just thought it was a poor substitute for meditation. Of course, I didn’t have experience with any stimulants other than meditation and heavy martial arts.” Star’s latest Nell Letterly mystery is like eating a slice of cake: nothing too substantial there, but enjoyable and delicious nonetheless, a guilty pleasure of a book perfect for the beach.

A lighthearted, formulaic, but ultimately satisfying mystery novel with a charming heroine.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: D.M. Kreg Publishing

Review Posted Online: April 25, 2016

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Packed with riveting drama and painful truths, this book powerfully illustrates the devastation of abuse—and the strength of...

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IT ENDS WITH US

Hoover’s (November 9, 2015, etc.) latest tackles the difficult subject of domestic violence with romantic tenderness and emotional heft.

At first glance, the couple is edgy but cute: Lily Bloom runs a flower shop for people who hate flowers; Ryle Kincaid is a surgeon who says he never wants to get married or have kids. They meet on a rooftop in Boston on the night Ryle loses a patient and Lily attends her abusive father’s funeral. The provocative opening takes a dark turn when Lily receives a warning about Ryle’s intentions from his sister, who becomes Lily’s employee and close friend. Lily swears she’ll never end up in another abusive home, but when Ryle starts to show all the same warning signs that her mother ignored, Lily learns just how hard it is to say goodbye. When Ryle is not in the throes of a jealous rage, his redeeming qualities return, and Lily can justify his behavior: “I think we needed what happened on the stairwell to happen so that I would know his past and we’d be able to work on it together,” she tells herself. Lily marries Ryle hoping the good will outweigh the bad, and the mother-daughter dynamics evolve beautifully as Lily reflects on her childhood with fresh eyes. Diary entries fancifully addressed to TV host Ellen DeGeneres serve as flashbacks to Lily’s teenage years, when she met her first love, Atlas Corrigan, a homeless boy she found squatting in a neighbor’s house. When Atlas turns up in Boston, now a successful chef, he begs Lily to leave Ryle. Despite the better option right in front of her, an unexpected complication forces Lily to cut ties with Atlas, confront Ryle, and try to end the cycle of abuse before it’s too late. The relationships are portrayed with compassion and honesty, and the author’s note at the end that explains Hoover’s personal connection to the subject matter is a must-read.

Packed with riveting drama and painful truths, this book powerfully illustrates the devastation of abuse—and the strength of the survivors.

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5011-1036-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 31, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

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DEVOLUTION

Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z (2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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