Three Incidents at Foster Manor by P.T. Phronk

Summary

An old mansion. An apocalyptic storm. Whispering voices in the air. She was right to fear the worst-case scenario.

Amy Burnett has been buried in her work as a security expert. She likes it that way—her dark past can’t invade her thoughts as long as she stays holed up in her office. So why the heck has she ended up at a gothic mansion’s doorstep in the middle of the night?

It’s because Craig Foster summoned her there. Amy’s company built the sealed chamber in his basement, for any worrisome worst-case scenario, but now the safe room has presented a scenario of its own: Craig’s daughter is trapped inside.

It should be a quick fix. After all, what’s the worst thing that can happen when a stranger arrives at a remote mansion on a stormy night? An impossible mystery? A haunting? A visit from the lurking strangers in the woods? Surely not all three—that would require extraordinarily bad luck.

Unfortunately, Amy’s been short on luck lately.

Amazon

Characters

Amy is the primary character but there are a litany of supporting characters. She is an interesting character, with a lot of baggage. Despite some of her characters flaws, I quite liked her. Other characters include Caleb the needy teenager, Ash the jerk, Craig the weak-willed father, Marcus the likable dad, Jasmine the plucky one, and Trista the girl locked in the room. Each has a role to play and by saying much more I may be ruining it.

Plot

It reminded me of reading horror  genre clue. A very interesting who-dunnit where it isn’t just about who…but also about the bigger mystery and the bad dudes that show up. It will keep you on your toes with constant tension. Amy is the only one you can trust so everyone else is suspect—leading to great scenes. I did figure out both aspects but it took quite a while and I wasn’t 100% spot on—there are a bit of a twist on each. This book never lets up—in a good way.

Overall

A very easy and enjoyable read. I read this in two sittings and stayed up late to finish it. Because I just had to know if I was right and turning the pages was easy. I felt I could easily have read it on the weekend in one sitting. The writing and imagery created such vivid scenes, many of which had me gripping my phone from the suspense! A real page turner!

My only compliant was—I didn’t catch onto the whole ‘rain is dangerous because this is in the future when the environment is going to heck in a hand-basket.’ So I could not understand why people didn’t just leave. It wasn’t until much later that some very subtle hints finally made sense. Some more world-building throughout would have fixed this but it wasn’t enjoy to ruin my enjoyment of the book.

Rating

4.5 (rounded up)

A great mystery suspense for an airplane ride or a quite night in. You’ll easily read this in one sitting and feel satisfied by the end of it. Be ready for one crazy ride!

Where did I get a copy?

From the author. This review is voluntary.

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A Convenient Death by Laurel Heidtman

Summary

When Tracy Andrews, night clerk at the Eden Quick-Mart, is murdered along with an elderly customer, there’s no shortage of suspects. Tracy liked men more than a married woman should, and her estranged husband, a Raven University police officer, knew it. Did he “lose it” and kill Tracy and her customer, did Tracy put too many demands on a boyfriend, or did a spouse of a married lover decide she’d had enough? Or was it a simple robbery gone wrong?

No one looks at the elderly man killed with her, but when someone breaks into his home, Eden police detective Jo Valentine takes a closer look. What she doesn’t find surprises her.

Characters

I liked Jo Valentine. She was tough and working through some stuff. All made for an interesting character. By contrast I found Ann’s chapters to be a little boring. At first they weren’t but as the story went on, they started to drag. There were a few other characters that came to the forefront including a chief of university police named Lou (woman). I liked the strong women in the book but it would have been nice to have at least one stronger male character—Dan came into the picture too late. Although Sticks (Jo’s partner) was close. Also the names: Ann and Nan, Edna and Eden. It was unnecessarily distracting and the story could have used more original names.

Plot

This is a very plot driven story. Steady storytelling punctuated by action scenes including an assault and a shootout! This book starts with a simple homicide…so you think. It balloons out quickly and just when you think everything has been uncovered…there is another twist!  It brings lots of different elements into a single setting. I thought it did a good job of showing what Detective Valentine had to contend with on an enforcement front without losing the personal piece. The police procedure seemed on point.

Overall

I guessed the ending but the author did a good job of misdirection. I was certain and then I hesitated, thought I’d gotten it wrong. Then I was positive, but it wasn’t until nearly the end. That was a job well done by the author. Lulled you into a state of calm and then starts to build the suspense to a crescendo.

Rating

4 Stars

A solid mystery that will keep you on your toes with each new twist. You might just get this one wrong!

At the River’s Edge by D.R. Shoultz

Summary:

Sunset Peak, North Carolina is cursed by murder and captivated by moonshine money.

The unsolved shooting death of Mayor Hank Richards has a five-year curse hovering over the historic mountain community. Townspeople look over their shoulders in fear as neighbor accuses neighbor.

Rumors of buried moonshine money captivate those seeking unearned riches, but haunt Emily Edwards, the strong-willed granddaughter of the purported moonshiner.

Shortly following the murder of Mayor Richards, James Wolsey returns from college to help his mom manage the family’s hardware business. James and Emily are traveling diverse paths when they meet, but quickly align on a common course. If not for obsessed treasure hunters convinced Emily possesses a map, it seems their future together is promising.

The couple’s attempt to dispel rumors of buried treasure leads them to the gravesite of Emily’s ancestor beside the New River. What they uncover at the river’s edge propels them into the path of the mayor’s killer, and unleashes a chain of chilling events that forever changes Sunset Peak.

Mayor Richards’ murder will not be the last in the previously peaceful town.

Amazon Link

Character:

James and his mother are good main characters. James is a good person if not a little vanilla. Emily is a live wire. Unpredictable for sure but I liked her gutsy demeanor. You also get to meet the two law enforcement personnel trying to solve the murder. The story has POV switches.

Plot:

The story just drops you in without much explanation or set up. Beyond that I hesitate to say more because there are lots of twists and turns. A good murder mystery that doesn’t stop there. When you think you’ve figured it out there are two more twists. I think I can say that a pair of bumbling idiots for side villains.

Overall:

This story was interesting and I struggled with the writing style of this story: was it narrative or third person? It was never clear. Furthermore this story needs clearer breaks! Beyond that it was a very enjoyable read with very vivid characters and believable sequences of events. The author kept it a great length. Easy to read in a few sittings.

Rating:

4 stars

A solid mystery with interesting characters. Lots of twists and turns to keep you guessing!

Where did I get it?

I was gifted a copy from the author. This is a voluntary review.

Shadows of Time by Ann Nolder Heinz

Summary:

Madeline (Maddie) Blake is not like other PIs. She has a unique gift, the ability under certain circumstances to bridge time and relive events that have already happened. When a heartbroken mother calls from Seattle and begs for her help in locating her missing daughter, Maddie cannot refuse. Yet it soon becomes apparent that someone will go to any length to prevent her from taking the case. Maddie’s grit and determination prevail, and she arrives in Seattle only to discover that more is at stake in the wealthy Hallowell house than a simple abduction. Questions abound. Why is the girl’s father so hostile to Maddie’s involvement? It is 1979, the Cold War is at its zenith, and he shows more passion over a famous Soviet dissident than he does in finding his daughter. Why is a man murdered and his body dumped on the curb in front of his house? Why does he summon a group of colleagues to a secret meeting in the middle of the night in what looks to Maddie like a full-blown conspiracy somehow tied to the communist regime in Russia? Why has a self-described freelance journalist ingratiated himself into the household and into Maddie’s investigation? Who is friend and who foe? As Maddie gets closer to the truth about what happened, she finds herself in ever increasing danger. Her psychic gift takes her from the city to the mountains to the coast and onto a Russian fishing trawler far out in the Pacific Ocean. Faced with the most horrendous odds she has ever encountered, she must use every last physical and emotional resource in order to survive and unravel the skein of lies and ambitions that lie at the heart of her case.

Amazon Link

Characters:

Maddie is a very smart but stupid all at the same time. I felt she needed a partner badly. Also I noticed she hesitates to share any information and then does it anyways. She is emotionally damaged but does a lot of growing through the book. Neil is my favorite character. There was something clever and charming about him. He was a good balance for her. There were a lot of supporting characters, but fair warning…don’t get attached to any of them.

Plot:

This is not a happy story. I’ll say nothing more than that for fear of getting everything away. What I can say is I was shocked to my core more than once. If you want a story where everything goes well…go to a different book. This one is gritty and realistic in an almost painful way. There were a few coincidences and moments when I felt like characters acted very predictably to push the story but it was few and far between. This book can stand alone.

Overall:

The writing style was very enjoyable. It was consistent and colorful.  I did find the dialogue tags very annoying. They were all over the place. Beyond that it was a very enjoyable. The plot and story can be down right brutal at times, uncompromising, but that is was makes it so impressive.

I was very excited about the aspect of a mystery in 1979. However, it soon began to take on a different feel. It had more of a spy novel. The biggest failing of this book was the setting. It started off decently strong, but faded out very quickly. After that the setting was mostly nonexistent.

Rating:

4 stars

A kidnapping story with a spy novel feel. This unforgiving story will take you on a ride with twists and turns that have a gritty feel.

Where did I get a copy?

The author gave me a copy. This is a voluntary review.

Murder Comes to Elysium by Daryl Anderson

Summary

PI Addie Gorsky is still struggling with her father’s death when a friend asks her to look into the sudden death of his niece, Elena. The young woman died minutes after being discharged from Tender Mercies Psychiatric, one of the darker places in the Sunshine State.

Addie agrees to this small favor, despite Elena’s death from anaphylactic shock appearing like nothing more than a tragic accident.

Soon, Addie uncovers small discrepancies in Elena’s untimely death. Even more troubling is Elena herself, not the inexperienced college student described by her uncle, but a woman with a dark secret.

When a second person dies at the Mercies, Addie discovers a connection between the two deaths. A connection leading back to one of the most heinous crimes in Florida’s history and the horrific poisoning of seven small children.

Suddenly Addie finds herself in a deadly chess match with an unseen opponent, a grand master of murder always one step ahead. Somehow, she must find a way to defeat this ruthless killer before another life is lost.

Characters

Addie is the main character. The book follows her very closely. She is an interesting character—sometimes I couldn’t decide if I liked her or not. She is emotionally closed off, head strong to the point of recklessness, but there is a core goodness in her that is evident by her need to right wrongs and seek out justice. Her business partner is a good supporting character. There are a lot of varied supporting characters!

Plot

What a chilling and powerful plot. There are so many twists and turns that it did a good job keeping me guessing even when I was ‘sure’ what might have happened, I missed guessing the outcome. WOW! What an ending. You likely won’t see it coming. There were some heavy themes but the author did a good job of inserting humor into the story. Which was an excellent balance for the potentially darker themes.

Overall

I was really drawn in by this mystery. At first I underestimated the overall complexity of the mystery that the author was building. There were so many aspects and angles that the author introduced one after another. The story had two drawbacks that detracted from the story. The overall flow of the story is not consistent, marked by highs and lows. I also didn’t connect with the romance…it felt like an afterthought that didn’t add anything to the story. I actually liked the idea of it, but it was poorly executed. Thankfully the mystery was great and more than made up for it! I can tell this is the third book in the series but the author does a decent job filling you in so I don’t think much was missed.

Rating

4 Stars

A solid mystery story with not as solid character development. For sure a great read if you are craving a good mystery with a tough female heroine.

Where did I get it?

Author sent me a copy for a voluntary review.

Seeking Dr. Magic by Scott Spotson

Summary

Chaos reigns around the world. Strange creatures, accorded the title “Phantom Ninjas” by the media, are leaping off tall buildings and somersaulting back up without any scratch – and then disappear. There follows more spontaneous acts of magic, confounding the world. Who – or what – is responsible? In the middle of the mystery arrives Detective Hetfield, a private investigator just recently released from the FBI due to an on-the-job injury. Hetfield, who arose to fame as a star witness in the murder trial of a beloved actress, uses the media to put forward the theory that a person of extraordinary magical powers is behind all the incidents, and labels him Dr. Magic. Hetfield gets much more than what he bargained for when that powerful being does exist – in the form of a young man long disillusioned with his past – and cruelly takes him up on his offer.

Characters

There are two characters – former Detective Tony Hetfield and “Dr. Magic.” Each of them are very unique and everyone else feels like lifeless blobs that are just filler for the story constructed around these two characters. I really liked the inner strength and determination of Tony. He has to be one of my favorite characters written by this author. “Dr. Magic” has a somewhat tragic story but is an adult that never had to grow up. Very much felt like he had peter pan syndrome—having magic helps…

Plot

This is very much a modern mystery with an urban magic feel. I wouldn’t say this necessarily a fantasy in a traditional sense but it did have that super hero feel and a magical abilities piece. There are lots and lots of layers to this story and the strength if this entire novel rests on its plot. Tony is driven to find the identity of Dr. Magic, but is also very principals—so what happens when the most dangerous person meets in an unstoppable force?

Overall

This book was very easy to read and enjoyable to turn the page to find out what came next. A few twists and turns kept things interesting where I wasn’t 100% sure where the story was going to go. I appreciated that there were a few surprises where I was like “Where is he?” out loud. Any book that can make me do that is good! The downside was the secondary characters. They could have used some development to round out the novel and bring extra depth to the characters. Some were decent but others felt very flat.

In short this is a great plot and okay characters – so overall a good read! I’d recommend this book ahead of most of Spotson’s other books just because I felt this book had the best flow. It was pretty consistent and I never felt bogged down by details or overwhelmed by information coming in. Instead I was able to follow along and just get immersed into the story. I didn’t love the ending, I felt like the author wanted to give more closure and show that these characters were moving in a certain direction, but I actually would have preferred if it ended one chapter earlier. I get why it was done and actually appreciated the open-ended conclusion.

Rating

4 Stars

Overall an enjoyable read that was an easy page turner. If you like mysteries where you are following along as each layer is peeled away this is a great book. If you also like magic, this delivers!

This is a voluntary review.

White Clay by Dora Ilieva

Summary

After a horrific car crash which kills her aunt and uncle, Kossara discovers that she has a brother! Tormented by questions, she sets out to find the truth about her family. The search leads her to a secret much bigger than her personal problems. In a race against time, she struggles to decipher the instructions left by her father. Will she be able to carry out the task which has been entrusted to her or will the blind seer’s terrible prophecy come true?

Characters

I liked Kossara. She can be a little fool-hearty but given the circumstances I don’t blame her. Some of the supporting characters are very vivid while others just feel washed out and plain. Her grandfather is a very vivid and nasty character. Andre is one of those fence people, I don’t know how I feel about him and he doesn’t know which path to take. Don’t worry it turns out well. Toughest part of this book was the stilted conversations and the POV shifts. There was a narrative feel with lots of head hoping between characters with no clear transition. I loved the flashbacks with the Doctor and Venera.

Plot

At first I was just somewhat interested but I quickly was sucked in. I just had to know where it was going and how all the pieces fit together. That was as important as how the present mattered so much to the past. I cannot write anything but Kossara is a very resourceful woman who I really loved following around on her adventures.

There is a romance aspect near the end but it is super flat and lackluster. I’m hoping it has long reaching effects and that there is more meaning to it, but as it was not very exciting. I also felt the supernatural aspect was a little convenient as well – the blind seer – but since I was warned of it in the blurb it wasn’t as strange as it could have been.

Overall

I really liked this plot. It had this zigzag feel that the past having impact on the present. I felt a few times that this book was as much about what was said as what wasn’t. A few times you had to take leaps of faith with where the author was going, and fill in context or even movement of characters. It wasn’t as distracting as the POV switching but far warning you’ll have to fill in some gaps. Perhaps the gaps are filled in the first two books? Although I do feel like this book can mostly standalone.

I liked the nice little twist at the end. Well one of the two twists, the first one was very abrupt and more than a little disappointing but I applaud the author for doing the twist near the end, just when you think it is all over, I didn’t see it coming. I wondered if it would happen but thought it wouldn’t happen yet. Nice surprise! I do love a good twist. Not to mention the core idea behind the story – the subtle meaning behind the title and what the whole point was. Very thought provoking.

Rating

3.5 (Rounded up and down)

I was super torn on this book – I liked it so that’s what I’m going to mark on each. The plot was such so catching and I was quickly sucked in. However, with every POV shift and shaky dialogue I was shook out of my revery. WIth a few fixes this could easily be a solid 4 star book.

This is a voluntary review.