An undemanding cozy with a colorful setting, pleasant characters, a promise of romance, and some forgivable plot...

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LAST PEN STANDING

Adultery! Blackmail! Murder! Paper crafting!

Delta Douglas’ dream comes true when her grandmother makes her a pre-inheritance gift that allows her to quit her job, move to Tundish, Montana, and go into business with her longtime friend Hazel Bray. Hazel’s stationery shop, Wanted, is located in an old sheriff’s office, complete with hitching post, and aims to keep up the traditions of a former gold-mining town. Delta joins Hazel in the Glitter Galore workshop at the Lodge, a high-end inn that’s been in the Taylor family for generations. Although Hazel, Delta, and their Paper Posse are supposed to keep out of sight of the elegantly attired guests at the annual gold-miner party, Delta strays far enough from the workshop to overhear a heated conversation between tipsy Vera White and her more sedate sister-in-law, two guests. When Vera’s found dead in the Lodge’s bar, both Hazel and her brother, Finn, are in trouble: Finn because he’s allegedly had an affair with Vera, and Hazel because she tries to cover for him. Finn, who works for the Taylors, is engaged to their younger daughter, though their elder, who manages the Lodge, disapproves. Their brother is a failed football star who’s come back to the family business. With the help of the Paper Posse, Delta uses paper products to create charts of possible suspects and motives and to try to figure out what Vera was doing in the bar, what she was hiding in a safe-deposit box, what bearing the tangled Taylor family dynamics have on Vera’s murder, and who has the goods on whom. An old-fashioned anonymous letter warning Delta off the case—and the help and support of a wildlife photographer/ex-cop and his retired K-9 partner—make her even more determined to clear Finn’s name and save Wanted in this series launch from Conroy (The Butterfly Conspiracy, 2018, etc.).

An undemanding cozy with a colorful setting, pleasant characters, a promise of romance, and some forgivable plot contrivances.

Pub Date: Aug. 27, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4926-8403-9

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Poisoned Pen

Review Posted Online: June 17, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

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Inside this bloated novel is a lean thriller starring a strong and damaged protagonist who's as compelling as Lisbeth...

THE THIRD TO DIE

In Brennan’s (Nothing To Hide, 2019, etc.) new series launch, a hard-edged female LAPD undercover cop and an ambitious FBI special agent race to catch a serial killer before he strikes again.

On paid administrative leave since an incident with a suspect went wrong, a restless Detective Kara Quinn is on an early morning run in her hometown of Liberty Lake, Washington, when she discovers the flayed corpse of a young nurse. In D.C., FBI Special Agent in Charge Mathias Costa is staffing the new Mobile Response Team, designed to cover rural areas underserved by law enforcement, when his boss assigns Matt and analyst Ryder Kim to Liberty Lake. The notorious Triple Killer, who murders three random victims, three days apart, every three years, has returned. With only six days to identify and catch the culprit, and only three days until he kills again, the team is “on a very tight clock.” What should be on-the-edge-of-your-seat suspense turns into a slog marred by pedestrian prose (“she heard nothing except birds chirping…”), a convoluted plot slowed down by a focus on dull bureaucratic infighting, and flat character development. The sole exception is the vividly drawn Kara. Smart, angry, defensive, complicated, she fascinates both the reader and Matt ("Kara Quinn was different—and he couldn’t put his finger on why”).

Inside this bloated novel is a lean thriller starring a strong and damaged protagonist who's as compelling as Lisbeth Salander.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-7783-0944-4

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Harlequin MIRA

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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Sluggish plot hemmed in by too much backstory and going-through-the-motions prose. Not Brown’s best.

WHITE HOT

Lukewarm thriller from bestselling Brown (Hello, Darkness, 2003, etc.).

Sayre Hoyle doesn’t believe her brother Danny committed suicide, and she’s returned home to prove it—but it seems nothing ever changes in Destiny, Louisiana. The small town looks the same as ever, and the same good old boys are sitting in the same vinyl booths at the same diner, conniving and backstabbing and telling lies. Too bad one of them just happens to be Sayre’s daddy, Huff Hoyle. A self-made rich man in a poor parish, he owns a smoke-belching iron foundry, a hellish place that at least provides employment for the beaten-down men of Destiny. If industrial accidents do happen in one of ’em now and then, well, that’s God’s will. Tough-talking Huff don’t want the government OSHA boys anywhere near his foundry, and that goes double for union organizers and other un-American busybodies. Sayre’s heard it all before—and still doesn’t trust either him or her creepy older brother, Chris, who took so much pleasure in tormenting her when they were young. And there’s Huff’s new right-hand man, lawyer Beck Merchant, to contend with. What exactly does Beck stand to gain by his involvement with Huff and cronies? If only he weren’t so good-looking and sexy. . . . Back to the story: Did Slap Watkins, jug-eared, degenerate scion of inbred bayou-dwellers, kill gentleman Danny in a fit of rage when Danny refused to hire Slap’s fellow parolees? Nah. Slap doesn’t have the brains or coordination to kill a June bug. Back to the subplot: Will the tyrannical Huff resort to violence when his ironworkers defy him and go out on strike? And back to the reason Sayre hates Huff: He forced her to have an abortion, performed by an incompetent doctor who tied her, screaming, to the table in his back room. And now for the reason Beck hates Huff . . . .

Sluggish plot hemmed in by too much backstory and going-through-the-motions prose. Not Brown’s best.

Pub Date: Aug. 17, 2004

ISBN: 0-7432-4553-9

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2004

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