Foreword Reviews

An Outsider's Perspective

Experience Isn't Always Necessary When Solving a Murder

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Change can be troubling even in the best of times, but it’s especially vexing when the old guard is comfortable with the way things are. Sometimes an outsider’s perspective is needed to shake things up.

The protagonists in these eight thrillers and mysteries all have a sense of otherness to them, a feeling of not quite belonging. Some of them are simply geographically displaced, fish out of water, and others hang out on the margins of society, ignored, or, worse, victimized by those in power. What they do all have in common is their outsider’s view, providing an ability to see things that others miss.

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Cathi Unsworth
House of Anansi Press
Softcover $19.95 (407pp)
978-1-77089-387-0
Buy: Local Bookstore (IndieBound), Amazon

After Detective Sergeant Sean Ward is wounded in the line of duty and forced into a very early retirement from the force, he decides to take up work as a private detective specializing in cold cases. Retained by a lawyer intent on proving her client’s innocence in a twenty-year-old case, Sean heads to the seaside town of Ernemouth where, in 1984, sixteen-year-old Corrine Woodrow was convicted of a ritualistic, satanic murder. But Ernemouth is a town that protects its own and will do anything to keep its secrets.

Cathi Unsworth is a master of suspense. Chapters alternate between Sean’s investigation in 2003 and the lives of the key Ernemouth players for the year leading up to the 1984 murder. At first, it’s not clear how the two story lines connect beyond the mutual inclusion of Corrine. But as the story progresses, Unsworth deftly weaves the two together, illuminating a spiderweb of darkness and deceit as the chilling tale becomes clear. Unsworth doesn’t identify the murder victim until the actual act itself, carefully crafting a story in which it could be nearly anyone from the 1984 sections, which ratchets up the tension. The icing is Unsworth’s beautiful way with words, from haunting descriptions of an old farm to her knack for nailing a character completely in two sentences: “There was something in Edna’s manner that put Wayne’s teeth on edge. That sense of hysteria bubbling under those chintzy dresses and that helmet of hair was much too close to the surface.”

ALLYCE AMIDON (November 27, 2014)

The Ice Cap and the Rift

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Marshall Chamberlain
The Grace Publishing Group
Softcover $22.95 (354pp)
978-1-4975-6986-7
Buy: Local Bookstore (IndieBound)

When the shifting of tectonic plates up and down the Atlantic opens up a huge fissure in a glacier in Iceland, a long-dormant volcano is revealed and, embedded in an interior wall, a cave filled with technology that is far too advanced for the twenty-first century, let alone for the Stone Age it comes from. John Henry Morgan, new director of the UN’s Institute for the Study of Unusual Phenomena (ISUP), heads out with a team to investigate. But in a world of satellite surveillance and wiretapping, nothing’s really a secret, and the Americans and the Chinese both want the technology for themselves.

Marshall Chamberlain maintains a commanding breakneck pace driven by short chapters. The mystery of where the technology came from, the hint of the supernatural, the constant one-upmanship of vying world powers all make this book impossible to put down. Chamberlain excels at description, from the rain-soaked streets of Prague to the screaming void of the rift in Iceland. Much like the Indiana Jones movies the book calls to mind, the bad guys read as stereotypical baddies, with no redeeming qualities. The second book in the Ancestors Series, The Ice Cap and the Rift can be read and enjoyed as a stand-alone, but the experience will be improved by reading the first book, The Mountain Place of Knowledge. Readers will eagerly anticipate the third and final book in the series.

ALLYCE AMIDON (November 27, 2014)

Eyewitness to Murder

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Peter S. Fischer
Grove Point Press
Softcover $12.95 (219pp)
978-0-9886571-5-1
Buy: Local Bookstore (IndieBound)

Hollywood publicist Joe Bernardi is back, in the ninth book of Peter S. Fischer’s eminently entertaining Hollywood Murder Mysteries series, Eyewitness to Murder. The year is 1955, and Burt Lancaster and Harold Hecht want Joe to do the publicity for their new venture, Marty. Joe isn’t sure the project has much potential, but it does mean a trip to New York, and Joe’s just received word that Bunny, his long-lost love, is in New York and in some kind of trouble. Trouble is an understatement; Bunny’s in police custody and now the sole eyewitness to the brutal murder of her cellmate by a man dressed as a cop. Joe’s on a mission to save Bunny, but it won’t be easy when the smoking gun points at the wealthy and influential Claymore family. Joe is stirring up trouble, and soon it isn’t just Bunny who’s in danger.

A tight plot, a full cast of well-drawn characters, and beautifully written twists should come as no surprise when the author is none other than the cocreator of Murder, She Wrote. Fischer is an expert at his craft, drawing readers into the setting and time period, made even more realistic by the inclusion of actual historical people and events.

ALLYCE AMIDON (November 27, 2014)

The Richebourg Affair

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R. M. Cartmel
Crime Scene Books
Softcover $13.95 (309pp)
978-0-9929486-0-3
Buy: Local Bookstore (IndieBound), Amazon

Parisian police commander Charlemagne Truchard is called back to his family’s vineyard in the small village of Nuits-Saint-Georges after the death of his older brother, in R. M. Cartmel’s fascinating debut, The Richebourg Affair. Though the death is put down to natural causes, Truchard soon finds that all is not as it seems in the quiet wine community. And when a local wine merchant with ties to the Truchard vineyard shows up with a bullet in his head, Truchard finds himself working with the local police to figure out just what’s going on.

This intriguing, slow-paced mystery is replete with rich descriptions. As might be expected in a book involving fine French wines, meals are described in mouthwatering detail and the wine can practically be tasted. Cartmel also does a thorough job describing the often unfamiliar culture of the wine business, from the care of grapes to the aging of wine. This is executed fairly well, though occasionally a character will have something explained to him that he should reasonably know. This is excusable, however, given the sheer volume of information that must be conveyed. A wry humor is threaded through the book, mostly surrounding or coming from Trucard. After revealing his somewhat unusual first name, Truchard is asked, “But why did your parents think that Charlemagne was a suitable name for a child?” To which he replies, “Being rather young at the time, I wasn’t conscious of very much when I was being christened.”

ALLYCE AMIDON (November 27, 2014)

Sinking Suspicions

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Sara Sue Hoklotubbe
University of Arizona Press
Softcover $16.95 (224pp)
978-0-8165-3107-3
Buy: Local Bookstore (IndieBound), Amazon

In Sara Sue Hoklotubbe’s newest Sadie Walela mystery, Sinking Suspicions, Sadie is trapped in Hawai’i after an earthquake hits, leaving her far away from her Oklahoma home at a time when she’s most needed. Her neighbor, Buck Skinner, a Native American World War II veteran, has gone missing, and local police chief (and Sadie’s temperamental boyfriend) Lance Smith has joined the search. But the bodies are stacking up, and they all seem connected to Buck and his feud with the IRS.

Hoklotubbe does an excellent job of maintaining tension, as chapters alternate between Sadie in Hawai’i, Lance in Oklahoma, and Buck stuck somewhere in the wilderness, creating a race against time as the story lines interweave. A series of sharp plot twists keeps readers guessing as the story barrels toward its conclusion. Though this is the third book in an ongoing series, Hoklotubbe does a good job of catching readers up on the previous two installments, and it can easily be read as a stand-alone. Clearly well researched, there’s a lot of fascinating history packed into this relatively short book. Readers will be on the lookout for the next book in the series.

ALLYCE AMIDON (November 27, 2014)

Horoscope

The Astrology Murders

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Georgia Frontiere
Violet Mountain Press
Softcover $14.95 (320pp)
978-0-9903101-3-6
Buy: Local Bookstore (IndieBound), Amazon

Georgia Frontiere’s Horoscope is a thrilling race against time, as a serial killer obsessed with astrology terrorizes the east coast. Women are turning up dead, tied together by the astrological symbols carved into their legs. And Kelly York, an agoraphobic “intuitive astrologer,” finds herself playing cat and mouse with a man intent on revenge. The only thing the police are certain of is that a man in Kelly’s life is responsible. And when anyone could be the killer, everyone starts to look suspicious.

Frontiere does a superb job of building suspense, as chapters shift between Kelly, the police, and the killer. Pulling from the same sense of entrapment as Rear Window, Kelly’s fear is both palpable and real. Though the book suffers from a tendency to tell instead of show, the chapters from the killer’s perspective are spine-tinglingly creepy and especially well written. With plenty of plot twists, the ending is one you’ll never see coming.

ALLYCE AMIDON (November 27, 2014)

The Mystery of the Trinity

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Richard Gid Powers
Pleasure Boat Studios
Softcover $19.95 (352pp)
978-0-912887-01-2
Buy: Local Bookstore (IndieBound), Amazon

Richard Gid Powers’s The Mystery of the Trinity takes off in medias res and doesn’t let up its relentless pace until the very end. Ann Grayce, heiress and one of America’s most prominent Catholics, suddenly finds herself leading a movement to reform the soul of the Catholic Church after the movement’s leader, Father Stan Klaves, is gunned down in the middle of mass. But uniting Greek Orthodoxy with Roman Catholicism is a dangerous task, and Ann’s work is digging up long-buried secrets in America and El Salvador that high-ranking members of the church would prefer stay forgotten.

This religious thriller careens around the globe at breakneck speed. Powers makes smart use of subsections within chapters, with headings delineating date and place. Consequently, the story flits rapidly from character to character and back again without confusion. The predominant use of dialogue also propels the story along. Setting it apart from other religious thrillers are the Sophie’s Worldesque interludes of Ann’s fiance, Jack, attempting to marry science and religion.

ALLYCE AMIDON (November 27, 2014)

Silent Partner

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Stan Schatt
Pen-L Publishing
Softcover $14.97 (239pp)
978-1-940222-45-5
Buy: Local Bookstore (IndieBound), Amazon

In Stan Schatt’s Silent Partner, a tabloid reporter into S&M and his lover of the week are found dead in a motel room, and Detective Frankie Ryan is back on duty just in time to get the case. As a woman in a male-dominated profession, things are complicated enough— especially with a legacy partner who has political aspirations and dislikes her—but they’re further confused when the murdered man’s colleague Josh Harrell turns up with details on the case he shouldn’t know. It turns out that the lunacy running rampant through the Harrell line is actually psychic ability. And now that Josh has just turned thirty, he’s having visions and coming face-to-face with his snarky guardian angel. He’s also starting to understand why all the men in his family were alcoholics.

Schatt’s various careers have included police department administrator, autopsy assistant, and, of course, indie author, and this inside knowledge is one of the book’s greatest strengths. There are no romantic views of police work here, and the self-publishing process is accurately portrayed. The subplot of a sadistic killer who self-publishes books detailing the torments he’s enacted, labeled as fiction, is chilling.

ALLYCE AMIDON (November 27, 2014)

Allyce Amidon

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