Sunday, November 11, 2018

Reason to Doubt by Nancy Cole Silverman: Reading Room Review

The Carol Childs Mystery series written by Nancy Cole Silverman features Carol, who is a forty-year-old investigative reporter for a talk radio station in Los Angles. The radio part is what first drew me to this series, as I'm a fan of radio programs, including news programs and dramas. Carol takes her job seriously as a narrator of events in the fast-moving world of LA. Her determination to be thorough and fair wins her admiration, but in Reason to Doubt, it causes her daughter to accuse her mother of choosing her job over her.

For the past seven months, Carol has been involved in the investigation and reporting of the murders of three young models in the LA area. Carol discovered the body of the first victim and was on the scene of the second victim before any other reporters, so she has had an edge over other reporters on this case. She knew that the police were dealing with a serial murderer after the second murder, and the murderer has come to be known as the Model Slayer. The theory is that the Model Slayer is using a photographic session as a lure to get the girls alone and kill them, as photos of them were left scattered at the girls' feet. 

As fate would have it, Carol's daughter Cate is dating a photographer who happens to have photographed a couple of the girls for their portfolios. The police think he did a final session where he killed the models, and arrest Pete Pompidou on suspicion of murder. Carol's boss, Tyler Hunt, presses her to get the story and bring it to KTLK ahead of the pack. This places Carol in a precarious position with her daughter, but Carol doesn't waiver in her duty to report the news without prejudice. Of course, Cate sees it differently and thinks her mother cares more about her job than her daughter's heartache. Carol can't tell Cate that a confidential source has contacted her, which has led to Carol doubting Pete's guilt, and with Carol's strong instinct for justice and truth, she is pursuing leads that will hopefully exonerate Pete.

Carol's source goes by the stage name, her pole-dancing name, of Xstacy, and claims that the Model Slayer is dead, since she ran over him with her van, on purpose. Xstacy swears Carol to silence on the confession that it was an intentional act. The police think it was an accident and haven't connected the dead man with the killings, as Xstacy killed him before they had any reason to suspect him. She, however, heard him talk about the killings and leaving the photographs at the scene, something the police hadn't let out to the public yet. Also in the loop about the demise of the man is a college girl with the stage name of Jewels who is a friend of Xstacy and helped set up the "accident." Carol certainly has her work cut out for her to prove that the dead man, Ely Wade, was the killer and not Pete, while keeping the identities of her sources secret and safe. 

Pete is released, but the police still consider him their number one suspect, and when another murder like the Model Slayer's occurs almost right outside his door, the police are sure they have their man, although they think he had an accomplice. Carol is desperate to protect her daughter from the publicity surrounding Pete's re-arrest, and to convince the police they have the wrong man. However, the police are demanding that Carol turn over her confidential informants and all the information given to her. The ability of the press to keep their sources confidential when requested or when revelation might endanger them is crucial to a reporter's job, and Carol is adamant about keeping her word. Again, her resolve causes friction with Cate, but a life definitely depends on Carol's silence. Before the truth is complete, more than one life will depend on Carol putting the right pieces together.

Along with Cate, several other people are involved in this complex race to ensure the guilty are caught and the innocent are freed. A recent and brief romantic connection of Carol's, Chase, or Gerhardt Chasen, is called in by Carol's boss, as Chase is a private investigator and could be helpful to Carol's investigations. Carol is aware just how helpful Chase can be, but involved he does become, which proves to be useful. On the opposite side of Carol's pursuits is ex-boyfriend Eric, FBI agent on the case, working for the prosecution and against Pete. Then, there is the delightful Misty Dawn, Carol's psychic housekeeper, who has some reliable insights and is protective of Carol when she senses her friend is in danger. And, of course, there is Carol's best friend Sheri, who has the outfit for any and every occasion, even a trip to the Skylight Bar, where pole-dancing is the preferred choice of entertainment. Nancy Cole Silverman has created an engaging and individually interesting cast of characters in this series, and Reason to Doubt showcases all their carefully developed, engaging personalities. 

Besides great characters, the author keeps the story moving along through clever dialogue, including Carol's silent dialogue that she must keep to herself. The writing never becomes bogged down in unnecessary detail, and yet the reader will feel as if the scenery is familiar and the characters are old acquaintances. It's quite a coup that Silverman pulls off in relaying how gruesome the murders are without being graphic. She knows how to use her words to convey the message without being messy. The suspense will keep readers on point until the final reveal, which will be surprising but not deceiving. Reason to Doubt is the complete package and will entertain and thrill readers to the end. 

In full disclosure, I received a copy of this book from the author. I guarantee that my review is an honest and complete one.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

The Craftsman by Sharon Bolton: Reading Room Review

With The Craftsman, we see Sharon Bolton returning to her early stand-alones, where elements of the supernatural and Gothic are superbly woven into the story. Since I first fell in love with Bolton’s writing with those first books—Sacrifice, The Awakening, and Blood Harvest—I’m happy to once again experience the unconventional thrill of the mystical. The Craftsman is a book that Bolton says has been a part of her for a long time, as its setting in Lancashire, with Pendle Hill looming over both geographically and symbolically is the place of her birth and her formative years. She, in her words, is “a woman of Pendle,” and the women of Pendle are inextricably tied to the Pendle Witch Trials of the 1600s where nine women were executed as witches. It is this background of witches and rites that colors the story of The Craftsman and guides its course. It is also a story of counter forces that are interested in the darkness of the craft. So, while this book is about putting to rest a case of murdered teens, it is also a book about the strength of women and their ability to overcome suspicion and prejudice. The main character of Florence Lovelady embodies that strength and determination to survive. 

It’s August 1999, and Assistant Commissioner Florence Lovelady, the highest-ranking female in the Met, is attending the funeral of a man whom she helped convict of the murders of three teenagers thirty years ago. Hoping for closure to this horrific case where the children were buried alive, Florence revisits the small town in Lancashire, England where she came face to face with an evil that still haunts her. But, closure is a slippery slope when secrets still beg to be opened. After the funeral, Florence visits the dilapidated house of the convicted child killer, and she discovers the past is not letting go so easily. Each child had been buried with a small clay likeness of themselves, and Florence finds such a likeness of herself on the property, something more recently placed there. It’s especially disturbing as it indicates that there is someone connected to the killings still at large.

Part two of the book goes back thirty years in time to August 1969, the story taking us through the events as experienced by WPC Florence Lovelady, when she was just beginning her time in police work and had joined the Sabden department in Lancashire. She has three big strikes against her. She’s not from the area, is better educated than the men with whom she works, and she’s a woman. Her co-workers resent her, but she’s also smart and will prove her worth. A third child in her early teens has gone missing in Sabden, and tensions are running high between citizens and the police, with no progress having been made on finding the children. When Florence is paired with Detective Constable Tom Devine on the case, after fourteen-year-old Patsy Wood vanishes, she gains his support for an idea to flush out some answers. Creating a reenactment on a local television program in which Superintendent Stanley Rushton is appearing results in information leading to the discovery of Patsy buried in a recently interred plot. Now, Florence is in the center of the case, more than holding her own with seasoned policemen. The search for the remaining two missing teenagers and trying to prevent additional abductions will lead Florence into dark, dangerous places before the confession from someone close to her daily zone of living occurs. Solving this case costs Florence and will keep costing her beyond her days as an investigating officer.

Part three of the book has the convicted killer’s last words to Florence haunting her. “I’ve kept them safe for thirty years. Now it’s your turn.” As Florence’s fears grow about the possibility that the wrong man might have paid for the children’s deaths, she once again puts herself in danger, as there are powerful people that want the case forgotten with the burial of Larry Grassbrook. But, Florence can’t ignore the nagging voice that calls for justice. She had planned on spending a night or two in the town that helped shape her career, with her fifteen-year-old son accompanying her, but loose ends aren’t Florence’s style. As more and more bizarre information comes to lights, it suddenly gets too personal to walk away from. Turning first to her former partner Tom and then to a particular group of friends in Sabden who had such meaningful and lasting influence on her life, Florence has no choice but to see it through to the end. Hold on though, you will not see the twist that’s coming.

The atmosphere of this book is expertly set, with nighttime visits to cemeteries and a local witch coven that meets on Pendle Hill and a method of death especially gruesome. It’s why there used to be bells on a grave that were rigged to a casket underground. The very saying “saved by the bell” may have originated in the bell connected caskets called safety coffins. Bolton’s use of “buried alive” as a murder method bumps this story up to hit you where your phobia dwells. The “supernatural” elements of the story are an integral part, flowing into the natural fabric of the place where the story was born. Bolton also gives us a police procedural that will satisfy those interested in the crime solving techniques of earlier times and present. The Craftsman is one of Sharon Bolton’s best works and is sure to garner much praise and awards in its wake.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

November Books to Warm up the Cold

November is here and so is the cold.  Not bitter cold, but jackets and coats now required.  It always seems there is far too little fall weather that is between hot and cold, just pleasantly warm.  But, the good news is that November also brings lots of great reading our way in new book publications, so it's not quite so hard to stay indoors. Below is a list of new fiction, mostly mystery and crime, that has gotten my attention and hopefully will make it to your TBR lists.  I'm including Elly Griffiths' new stand-alone book and Catriona McPherson's new Dandy Gilver book even though they're not out in the states.  Those of us who can't wait for our favorite British authors' books know how to get them when they come out in the UK first.  And, if you don't know how, I suggest you start with Book Depository, with its timely and free shipping.  I've also included Ovidia Yu's The Frangipani Tree Mystery, even though it's already out on Kindle, as the print copy won't be out until this month.

November Releases:

The Stranger Diaries by Elly Griffiths (Nov. 1st in the UK)

Day of the Dead (A Gia Santella Crime Thriller) by Kristi Belcamino (Nov. 2nd) 

Past Tense: A Jack Reacher Novel by Lee Child (Nov. 5th)

You Don't Own Me by Mary Higgins Clark and Alafair Burke (Nov. 6th)

Reason to Doubt (Carol Childs #5) by Nancy Cole Silverman (Nov. 6th)

The Skeleton Makes a Friend (A Family Skeleton Mystery #5) by Leigh Perry (Nov. 6th)

Nighttown (A Junior Bender Mystery #7) by Timothy Hallinan (Nov. 6th)

A Christmas Revelation: A Novel by Anne Perry (Nov. 6th) 

The Best Bad Thing: A Novel by Katrina Carrasco  (Nov. 6th) 

The Shadows We Hide by Allen Eskens (Nov. 13th)

A Scandal in Scarlett (Sherlock Holmes Bookshop Mystery #4) by Vicki Delany (Nov. 13th)

Blood is Blood: A Barker and Llewelyn Novel #10 by Will Thomas (Nov. 13th)

City of Secrets (A Counterfeit Lady Novel, #2) by Victoria Thompson (Nov. 13th)

Long Road to Mercy (Altee Pine #1) by David Baldacci (Nov. 13th)

Naughty on Ice: A Mystery (A Discreet Retrieval Agency Mystery) by Maia Chance (Nov. 13th)

A Step So Grave (Dandy Gilver #13)  by Catriona McPherson (Nov. 15th in the UK)

The Frangipani Tree Mystery (Crown Colony #2) by Ovidia Yu

Kingdom of the Blind (Inspector Gamache #14) by Louise Penny (Nov. 27th)

Storm Rising  (An F.B.I. Canine Novel #3) by Sara Driscoll (Nov. 27th)

The Other Wife by Michael Robotham (Nov. 27th)  

Let the Dead Keep Their Secrets (Gilded Age Mystery #3) by Rosemary Simpson (Nov. 27th)

The Whispered Word (Secret, Book & Scone Society #2) by Ellery Adams (Nov. 27th)