Posted in Book Review

The Stranger Inside – Laura Benedict

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You come home to find your key no longer works in your front door and a stranger claims that your house is now theirs. What would you do?

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Kimber has just returned from a long weekend at Lake of the Ozarks to find out that she can’t get into her house because the locks have been changed. There’s a man living in her house!

Frantic, she calls the police. According to Lance, the new occupant, he’s been living there for 6 months after Kimber gave a lease because she was moving in with her boyfriend. She also said to take care of the yard until she decided whether to sell the house or keep it. He presents documents with Kimber’s signature.

How did he get Kimber’s signature on the papers if she was away the whole time?

To which Lance replies that he found the property on a rental website the previous week and rented the house unseen. Her nosey neighbor, Jenny even claims to have seen Kimber hand the stranger a set of keys and documents.

But Kimber insists that there must be a huge mistake; the whole thing is some kind of weird misunderstanding. Besides she has no boyfriend.

While trying to force the intruder out of her home he whispers in her ear, and out of earshot of the police.

“I was there. I know what you did.”

Kimber is shocked. She has no idea what this stranger is on about. Or does she?

As the story progresses, the reader learns that Kimber witnessed a crime twenty-five years ago, which she may be partly responsible for. Someone has discovered the truth and is threatening to expose her. Who is the stranger in her house? Is he someone from her past? And what does he want from her?

The Stranger Inside is a gripping, psychological thriller with enough suspense to keep any reader turning the pages. I would definitely recommend this one.

  • Pages: 336
  • Publisher: Mulholland Books ( 5 February 2019)

Available on Amazon

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Posted in Book Review

The Social Affair – Britney King

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The story follows Izzie Lewis who works at a coffee shop. She is dissatisfied with her mundane life and is forever following people on social media, in an attempt to emulate their lifestyle. She’s even considered quitting her job.

And then one day, a seemingly perfect couple walks into the coffee shop where Izzie works and she is instantly drawn to them. Watching them together and observing how the man fawns over his female companion gives Izzie a glimmer of hope. She wonders what it’d be like being married to the man and she longs for what they have. Following their brief encounter, she decides to seek them out on the internet.

From Izzie’s viewpoint, Josie is happy, abundant, and living her best life. She’s married to a perfect man. Izzie starts stalking the couple in an effort to live vicariously through Josie. What starts as an innocuous past time escalates to something far worse than stalking. Suddenly, Josie becomes the object of her obsession.

“No one really knows what goes on behind closed doors.”

Josie appears to live a charmed life. She’s married to Grant, a renowned plastic surgeon, who also happens to be good looking. They have a beautiful teenage daughter, Avery, and a gorgeous home in the best part of town.

But all is not as perfect as it seems. Beneath this facade, she feels suffocated in her marriage and is desperately seeking a way out. But her husband, who is quite controlling and manipulative, is always thwarting her plans.

Who is Izzie and how did she wheedle her way into their lives?

The Social Affair is an utterly gripping page-turner about the dark secrets that lie behind closed doors. This is my second book by the author and I look forward to reading more from her. 

Favorite quotes:

“She doesn’t walk back out into the great big world, she glides, taking all of the air in the room with her when she goes.”

“No one really knows what goes on behind closed doors.”

  • Pages: 289
  • Published: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (18 January 2018)
Posted in Book Review

Steamed Open – Barbara Ross

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In this 7th book in the A Maine Clambake Mystery series, a man is found murdered in his newly inherited mansion. This book can be read as a standalone.

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It’s summertime in Busman’s Harbor, Maine and the tourist season is in full swing. Julia Snowden is running their family business, Snowden Family Clambake alongside her sister, her mother and her boyfriend. They provide great dining experiences and organize tours of Busman’s Harbor for tourists who are looking forward to spending their time sightseeing and enjoying the Snowden Family clam dishes.

Bartholomew Frick has inherited a mansion from his great-aunt, Lou, who recently passed. He has also inherited a lighthouse and the lighthouse keeper’s cottage. The mansion overlooks Sea Glass Beach where clammers go to clam for steamers and where beach lovers go to sunbathe. Shortly after his great aunt’s funeral, Frick puts up a chain link gate over his newly acquired property cutting off public access to the beach and the lighthouse. Clammers and lighthouse lovers are incensed by Frick’s actions.

Julia’s Snowden Family Clambake business has been affected since the clammers are unable to supply clams for their clambake meals. Moreover, Frick’s decision will affect clammers who rely solely on supplying clams to provide for their families. The locals have even gone so far as to file an injunction against Frick.

Julia pays Frick a visit and tries, unsuccessfully, to persuade him to change his mind about allowing clammers on the beach.

Following her encounter with Frick, Julia gets a surprise visit from the police. According to them, Frick was found dead that morning in his mansion, stabbed in the neck with a clam rake. They also learned from a witness that Julia was at his house around the same time he was murdered.

Who would have been angry enough to kill Frick? Could it be one of the locals or Ida Fischer, Lou’s housekeeper who was suddenly dismissed from service by the new owner of the mansion? As the cops interview suspects, Julia does a little bit digging of her own to find the killer and restore calm to Busman Harbor once again. Moreover, she is more concerned as to who stands to inherit the mansion with Frick dead.

I absolutely enjoyed this book and I was immediately hooked from the first page. The storyline was easy to follow and kept me guessing until the very end. The characters are likeable and relatable. Overall I found this book engaging and I look forward to reading the next book in the series. Highly recommend to anyone looking for a cozy mystery read.
This book includes mouthwatering clam recipes to sate the appetite of any reader.

  • Pages: 265 pages
  • Publisher: Kensington Books (18 December 2018)
Posted in Book Review

A Vintage Death – Mary Ellen Hughes

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A Vintage Death is the 2nd book in the Keepsake Cove Mystery series.

Callie Reed owns a music box store which she has recently inherited from her aunt Melody in Keepsake Cove. Keepsake Cove is a quaint town on the East coast of Maryland and is well known for its beautiful holiday decorations which attract tourists and collectors who come to browse these quaint shops looking for curios or just do some sightseeing. This year, Callie has volunteered to do the fall street decorations and also host a book signing event for a visiting author.

Few days before the book event, a man is found dead in the park, stabbed with a pair of antique scissors. The scissors come from a vintage sewing shop which the victim’s estranged wife, Dorothy owns. She’s now become a suspect. Callie does not think her friend and neighbour is capable of committing such a crime and decides to investigate. With the help of Lyssa, the visiting author who has secrets of her own, Callie embarks on a mission to prove Dorothy’s innocence and bring the killer to justice. 

I enjoyed this book very much and thought the mystery was well crafted. The characters were interesting and I enjoyed watching Callie and Lyssa solve the mystery. I liked Tabitha, Callie’s assistant and admired her quirky dress sense. Hank, on the other hand, was just a funny character and reading about him made me chuckle. I couldn’t guess who the killers were until they were revealed, and this made it an enjoyable read.
This is my first book by the author and I look forward to reading the next book in the series. Highly recommend to lovers of a cozy mystery.

  • Pages: 266
  • Publisher: Midnight Ink (8 November 2018)

 

Posted in Book Review

The Murder at Redmire Hall – J.R. Ellis

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In this 3rd book in the Yorkshire Murder Mysteries series, a man dies while performing a trick on live TV. This book can be read as a standalone.

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Lord Redmire, the most recent successor to the Redmire Hall has a gambling addiction that has placed him in serious debt. Recently, he discovered the secret to the locked-room illusion that his father once used to perform to a private audience. He sees this as an opportunity to make money and is determined to raise funds to get his estate out of debt. Lord Redmire has invited family and friends to witness his performance on live TV.

He has also invited DCI Jim Oldroyd and his sidekick DCS Steph. As the cameras roll, something goes wrong and Lord Redmire reappears in the locked room dead with a knife in his back.

Following Frederick’s death, two long-term employees are found dead on the estate, and DCI Jim realizes he has a tough case on his hands.

As he questions Lord Redmire’s family and staff, DCI Jim Oldroyd learns that Lord Redmire was a womaniser and was running his estate to the ground with his compulsive gambling habits. DCI Oldroyd now believes this to be an inside job as someone close to Lord Redmire has a grudge against him and wants to stop him from gambling away his fortune.

This is a beautifully written book that draws you in from the start. The story is easy to follow and full of well-drawn characters that were interesting. The pace is steady as the story builds and the identity of the killer is revealed. This is a traditional police procedural set in Yorkshire, a county steeped in rich history. The descriptions of the Yorkshire countryside easily transport you to the setting in this book.

  • Pages: 300
  • Publisher: Thomas & Mercer (13 September 2018)
Posted in Book Review

The Lady in the Cellar – Sinclair McKay

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Set in the 18th century, The Lady in the Cellar is a gripping story based on real-life events following the discovery of a woman’s body in the basement of a reputable boarding house in London.

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When the novel opens, in May 1879, a woman’s body is found in a coal cellar of a basement of a boarding house on number 4 Euston Square. The boarding house belongs to Severin Bastendoff, a bamboo cabinet maker who runs the lodge with his wife Mary and several employees. This disturbing discovery raises questions and there are speculations surrounding her death.
Who is she? How did she get there? How did she die? Was she strangled? Did she commit suicide?

Inspector Charles Hagen of Scotland Yard is called in to investigate this gruesome death. The police attempt to identify the victim by tracing her dental history. Their leads are promising when an orthodontist near Euston Square tells them that a female client had come in to get new dentures and he had taken a cast of her mouth and remaining teeth. He says the woman never returned for the dentures but he kept the cast. Surprisingly, the cast matches the victim’s teeth.

Shortly afterwards, an elderly gentleman, Edward Hacker finally comes forward and relays his concerns to the police after reading about the Euston Square mystery in the papers. He identifies the victim as his sister, Matilda Hacker, whom he has not heard from in two years. It appears some of Matilda’s personal effects are missing, in particular, a gold watch, which Edward claims is a family heirloom. Hagen follows the trail of the gold watch and it leads him to a pawnbroker, who runs a pawnshop in Euston Square. The pawnshop owner identifies a Hannah Dobbs as the person who pawned the gold watch.

We soon come to learn that Hannah Dobbs once worked as a maid in the boarding house but was discharged on account of stealing from the lodgers. She’s currently serving a prison sentence in London for petty theft. The inspector also gathers evidence that puts Hannah Dobbs in the lodge at the same time, where the victim once stayed while in London.
Why did Hannah pawn Matilda’s gold watch? More important, why did she pawn the watch under the name of one of Severin’s daughters?

Inspector Hagen gathers more evidence that proves that Matilda was murdered, and this raises more questions: Who killed Matilda? Was it the maid? Was it the owner of the lodge or one of his brothers? Or maybe an employee? Was it a fellow lodger? How come the occupants of the boarding house have no idea there was a decomposing body in the cellar for two years?

As the story progresses, we get some insight into the history of boarding houses in the 18th century and how they were run, citing a few incidents that occurred between lodge owners and their tenants. The reader also learns about Matilda Hacker’s background: a rambunctious and wealthy lady in her mid-60s and a native of Canterbury who moved to London following her sister’s death, how she finally took up residence at the lodge on number 4 Euston Square, and the events leading to when she was last seen in the boarding house.

Hannah, now a prime suspect in the murder of Matilda Hacker has been arrested and is put on trial. During the court proceedings, witnesses are called to the stand to give an account of any evidence that might shed some light into the death of Matilda Hacker. Severin and his wife, Mary are also called to the stand.

There are gaps and inconsistencies in their testimony: Mary claims she has no idea who the victim is and has no recollection of seeing any woman who matches the victim’s description in her boarding house. Severin goes on to recall one or two incidents where he saw a drunk woman who stumbled on the footsteps of his home but he sent the woman away. The reader gathers more about the case from the courtroom scenes and snippets from the Press.

In the succeeding chapters, the reader gets a glimpse into Severin’s personal life: a native of Luxembourg who moved to London with his sister and his brother-in-law, his foray into furniture making, his thriving business which he runs with his brothers, how he met his wife, Mary Pearce in London, and finally acquiring the lodge from its previous owner, a sculptor named Mr. Milnes.
From his backstory, the reader can surmise everything about Severin Bastendorrf; a decent family man who works hard to provide for his wife and four children. Wonderful isn’t it? Well, no it isn’t, because under this veneer of modesty lies something very dark.

As trial finally comes to an end, Hannah is acquitted and the story takes an unexpected turn. 

Following her release, Hannah returns to her home in Bideford, Devonshire. The reader learns about her background: her birthplace, her family, her dreams and aspirations, and circumstances leading to her working as a maid in the boarding house on 4 Euston Square.

Back in Scotland Yard, the investigating officer, Inspector Hagen is not satisfied with the court ruling and tries to gather more evidence for a retrial. He even offers £100 to anyone who would come forward with any relevant information that could be used to convict Hannah.

But Hannah Dobbs makes a preemptive move that shocks everyone. With the help of a ghostwriter, she shares a chilling account of what really happened to Matilda Hacker in number 4 Euston Square. In her tell-all memoir, she also divulges some bizarre incidents that occurred during her stay in the lodge, revealing some dark secrets about the occupants of the boarding house on number 4 Euston Square, including her clandestine meetings with one of the brothers, and providing fresh new insights into their behavior. But are her stories entirely true?

To say more would be giving away spoilers.

The Lady in the Cellar is a blend of history and historical crime steeped in mystery. I enjoyed reading this book and had a hard time putting it down. There are so many twists and turns and even the aftermath of this case was shocking.

I admire McKay’s work and the amount of research he has undertaken in writing The Lady in the Cellar. This is my first book by the author and I will definitely read more from him. If you like true crime mysteries set in this era—even if this isn’t your genre of choice—give this book a try. You will not be disappointed.

  • Pages: 320
  • Publisher: White Lion Publishing (30 October 2018)
Posted in Book Review

The Hour of Death – Jane Willan

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In this 2nd book in the A Sister Agatha and Father Selwyn Mystery series, Sister Agatha investigates the death of a church member. This book can be read as a standalone.

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It’s Christmas time in Pryderi, a picturesque village set in the Welsh Countryside near the Irish Sea. The Pryderi Women’s Art Society is set to hold their annual Christmas gala in the St. Anselm Church. Tiffany Reese, a church member and president of the Art Society, is found slumped in the parish hall. A painting belonging to the victim is also missing. The coroner and the police believe she died of natural causes—but Sister Agatha is convinced that she was poisoned.

Sister Agatha is a nun at Gwenafwy Abbey and the abbey librarian. She also writes mystery novels and hopes to get published someday. She draws her inspiration from the likes of Agatha Christie and Louise Penny.

Someone is desperate to keep their past a secret. Sister Agatha enlists the help of her childhood friend and vicar at St. Anselm, Father Selwyn and they both investigate Tiffany’s death. As Sister Agatha digs deeper into the murder case she learns the seemingly perfect Tiffany had some secrets stewing in her personal life.

I absolutely enjoyed this book and was immediately hooked from the first page. The story flowed well and the characters were likeable and relatable. I enjoyed the dynamics between Sister Agatha and Father Selwyn, and how they worked together to solve the case. I loved the close-knit community and their sense of love and companionship. The other sisters at the abbey were warm and caring and I loved how they supported Sister Agatha.

I was easily transported to this beautiful setting, not to mention all the mouth-watering descriptions of the Welsh cakes, Welsh Tea, buttered scones, and other treats at Sister’s Agatha’s favorite place in the village, the Buttered Crust Tea Shop.

I enjoyed watching Sister Agatha piece together the puzzles using all the clues she gathered along the way. The twists and turns in the book were well done and the outcome was satisfying. I am looking forward to the next book by this author. I would highly recommend The Hour of Death to mystery lovers.

  • Publisher: Crooked Lane Books (9 October 2018)
Posted in Book Review

Those Who Go by Night – Andrew Gaddes

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Set in the 14th century in England, a vicar is found dead in a small village of Bottesford and there are rumours surrounding his death. Some say he died of natural causes, others think he was poisoned. Following the vicar’s death, a beggar is found murdered in St. Mary’s Church and his body draped across the altar. Worried that this incident might lead to a conflict with the Dominican Order, Bishop of Lincoln sends his emissary, Thomas Lester to investigate the murders.

At Bottesford, Thomas meets the Lord of Bottesford Manor, Sir Mortimer de Bray, and his daughter Cecily who is too outspoken for her own good.

Dame Alice, one of the wealthiest women in Ireland and Cecily’s aunt has fled her home in Ireland where she has been accused by the Church of being a witch and is hiding in a little cottage in the village.

Friar Justus from the Dominican Order and the emissary of the Archbishop of Canterbury has been sent to investigate the recent murders in Bottesford. The Friar suspects both murders are connected and there may be sorcery and witchcraft involved in their deaths. Or are there?

I like the author’s style in writing this book. I thought it complemented the story well. The story moved steadily and the twists and turns were well done. The characters are believable and interesting, although some might find the actions of some of the characters outrageous. Yet these quirky characters lend some credibility to the story considering the era in which it was set, where people were superstitious and engaged in pagan practices and all manner of debauchery.

Those Who Go By Night is an interesting blend of mystery and medieval history, debauchery, blackmail, and somewhat tempered by smidgens of romance. The outcome was satisfying and unexpected, and some parts made me chuckle. I’ll be looking forward to the next book if there will be a sequel.

Overall it was an enjoyable story for me, and with the authors strong writing style, I found myself finishing this one sitting. If you like historical fiction set in the Medieval period and steeped in mystery and superstition, you will love this book.

  • Publisher: Crooked Lane Books (13 November 2018)
Posted in Book Review

All This I Will Give to You – Dolores Redondo

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All This I Will Give To You is a well-written mystery that grabbed me from the first page. The characters were well developed and brilliantly crafted to feel real and believable. Manuel was a complex character with so much depth. The author captures his grief perfectly and as the reader, you feel his pain and sense of loss. I felt a great deal of sympathy for him as he went through the ordeal of dealing with his husband’s passing and when he learned his husband had been keeping secrets from him during the time they were together.

At first, it was a little difficult to get into it, because I struggled to warm up to some of the secondary characters. But as I learned more and more about Alvaro’s dysfunctional family, I couldn’t help sympathizing with them. The book was so gripping and intense that I had to read it with some sense of detachment seeing as almost everyone was a suspect. I wasn’t sure which of the characters I could trust and this kept me on my toes and heightened my anticipation.

I loved the setting in the garden and the vineyard, and how beautifully the author describes the environment and the scenery. I was easily transported to the location in the book. I loved how the writing reflects the tone of the scene— creating an atmosphere that is inviting and eerie when necessary. The tension in this book is palpable, and the reader can feel a sense of foreboding that anything could happen at any time.

Although the plot was slow-paced, I really enjoyed the way the author carefully crafted the mystery. It had many twists and turns which were a complete surprise. Some parts of the book were intense and quite disturbing. The author created a cast of unstable characters steeped in mystery and suspense. The book was like a puzzle and each chapter was a piece that fell into place and the conclusion was satisfying and yet deeply unsettling.

If you’re looking for a gripping mystery, I couldn’t recommend this book enough. This is my first book by the author and will not be my last.

  • Pages:490
  • Publisher: AmazonCrossing (1 September 2018)