Foreword Reviews

Secrecy, Conspiracy, & Crime

Bring It On!

mystery & thriller

Grab your calabash pipes and deerstalkers, and prepare to give Sherlock Holmes a run for his money with this international collection of mysteries, thrillers, and chillers. Crime fighters and seekers of justice clash with killers and villains and all the irresistible men and women who fall somewhere in the murky middle. The fascination with solving riddles and exposing secrets is universal, timeless, and, in the end, it’s elementary, my dear Watson, elementary.

Life for a Life

A DCI Gilchrist Investigation

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T. Frank Muir
Academy Chicago
Softcover $14.95 (400pp)
Buy: Local Bookstore (Bookshop), Amazon

A rash of grisly murders disrupts the Scottish coastal town of St. Andrews, putting the pressure on Andy Gilchrist, the hard-drinking, hard-working detective chief inspector charged with finding the killer. Life for a Life, book four in T. Frank Muir’s DCI Gilchrist Investigation series, is a true crime-fighting murder mystery loaded with action, humor, horror, and heart.

Newcomers to the Gilchrist series will be hooked from the start by the team at St. Andrews Crime Management Division, from prickly transfer DS Jessie Janes and her secrets to the lovely coroner Doctor Rebecca Cooper and the analytical mind of Gilchrist himself. Whether chasing down leads or downing chasers at the local pubs, personalities and private lives have unexpected repercussions when the case turns personal.

An exhilarating blend of action, suspense, and dangerous liaisons, the investigation confounds the police, who struggle to name a suspect. The twisted plot propels Gilchrist and Janes as they run into block after block, his level head and understated humor matching her sharp-tongued observations as the body count continues to rise, each slaughter more horrific than the last.



A Danny Cleary Novel

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Barbra Leslie
Titan Books
Softcover $14.95 (343pp)
Buy: Amazon

First in an intense trilogy from Barbra Leslie, Cracked introduces Danny Cleary, a paradoxically strong and intelligent young woman hooked on crack cocaine. Intent on escaping the pain and depression of an emotional divorce by smoking away her savings, Danny’s hidden drug abuse is cast into the light when news arrives that her beloved twin sister, Ginger, has died suddenly. Danny and her rockstar brother, Darren, race from coast to coast, vowing to avenge Ginger’s suspected murder, but Danny is struggling to keep her addiction fed while surrounded by cops, killers, kidnappers, and well-meaning siblings.

Self-aware, self-deprecating, and self-destructive, Danny is a new breed of heroine, fiercely loyal to her family and committed to getting to the bottom of Ginger’s tragic death while trolling seedy bars for her next score and engaging in scandalous behavior. Danny’s repentant yet unapologetic style will appeal to all the rebels and rule breakers out there, or anyone determined to live life on their own terms, come what may.

Teeming with twists and turns, the action continues to gain momentum throughout Danny and Darren’s tumultuous attempts at sleuthing and revenge. Cracked is a rollercoaster from start to finish, an addictive ride that will leave fans jonesing for the Clearys’ next adventure.


Killing Pilgrim

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Alen Mattich
House of Anansi
Softcover $15.95 (440pp)
Buy: Local Bookstore (Bookshop), Amazon

Part historical fiction, part political thriller, Killing Pilgrim is the second installment of the Marko della Torre series from Alen Mattich. Set during the onset of the explosive war that divided Yugoslavia in the early ’90s, della Torre, nicknamed “Gringo” for his American roots, investigates government-sanctioned assassinations, but when CIA agent Rebecca Vees demands his cooperation, della Torre finds himself in the center of a very deadly international game.

Unexpectedly promoted, della Torre’s new duties find him navigating checkpoints and hostile territories, underscoring the mounting tensions between the Croats and the Serbs. Awash with authenticity, fact and fiction unite around a true-life unsolved mystery that, combined with della Torre’s commentary and observations, delves into the heart of the conflict, personalizing the local shootings, rampant bribery, and corruption, but also the selfless humanitarian acts that characterized this period in Croatian history.

Filled with dark humor, della Torre and his contacts entertain and lighten even the toughest spots with dry wit and pragmatism reminiscent of the rough and grizzled old-school crime-fighting motifs. The resilience and indomitable spirit shown in the face of war may inspire clinking glasses of slivovitz or rakija as della Torre moves through dangerous waters, both figurative and literal.


The Lady Agnès Mystery: Volume 1

lady agnes
Andrea Japp
Lorenza Garcia, translator
Gallic Books
Softcover $18.95 (600pp)

The Lady Agnès Mystery

Volume 2

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Andrea Japp
Lorenza Garcia, translator
Katherine Gregor, translator
Gallic Books
Softcover $18.95 (624pp)
Buy: Local Bookstore (Bookshop), Amazon

Set in France amidst the medieval Inquisition, an era known for its intolerance and repression, one woman seems to attract trouble like magnesia (the fourteenth-century precursor to the magnet). Agnès Philippine Claire de Larnay, Dame de Souarcy, is a widow and mother, more concerned with clothing and feeding her family and her estate in the countryside than with the tangled politics of King and Church, but the Lady herself seems to be the center of intrigue, with a rash of suspicious deaths forcing Agnès to acknowledge some very dangerous buried secrets.

The Lady Agnès Mystery is a collection of four stories from Andrea Japp, a forensic scientist and toxicologist well versed in both French history and poisons. Translated from the original French by Lorenza Garcia and Katherine Gregor, “The Season of the Beast,” “The Breath of the Rose,” “The Divine Blood,” and “Combat of Shadows” showcase the courage and cunning needed to survive in a time when women had few choices in life other than being “born to wealth, married, nuns, or prostitutes.”

A true historical thriller and murder mystery, an ancient prophecy unites an abbess, a knight, an illegitimate daughter, an assassin, and more, but corruption and evil intent often hide behind pretty words and faces, leaving Lady Agnès fighting for survival.


The Detective’s Daughter

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Lesley Thomson
Head of Zeus
Softcover $13.95 (496pp)
Buy: Amazon

Compelled by recent events to follow a trail of clues left behind by her father, Detective Chief Superintendent Darnell, Stella finds herself immersed in the details of the decades-old unsolved murder of Kate Rokesmith, a hauntingly beautiful and vibrant young mother, but no one is quite who they seem, and the players are closer to home than Stella could ever imagine.

The Detective’s Daughter, first in a trilogy of mysteries from Lesley Thomson, is a virtual travelogue of London’s side streets, gardens, and local riverside destinations as Stella and her erstwhile sidekick, Jack, clean house for a variety of notable characters. The narrative switches voices and points of view seamlessly, entering the psyche of a troubled child, an eccentric aging socialite, an estranged father and daughter, and ultimately a killer.

A cerebral thriller, The Detective’s Daughter evokes chills from more than just the frigid winter nights, and Stella’s methodical thinking coupled with Jack’s curiously compelling style strike just the right note to keep things on edge as they navigate the snow covered, secret filled back alleys of London. Twists and surprises abound as Kate’s secrets are slowly uncovered, and Stella learns to look at her relationship with her father through new eyes.


The Spy on the Tennessee Walker

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Linda Lee Peterson
Prospect Park Books
Softcover $15.00 (256pp)
Buy: Local Bookstore (Bookshop), Amazon

The arrival of a mysterious package inspires outspoken magazine editor Maggie Fiori to travel from her home in San Francisco to explore her family’s roots in the deep South, in The Spy on the Tennessee Walker, book three of Linda Lee Peterson’s Maggie Fiori mystery series.

Old photographs, a journal, and some handwritten letters from another era provide the intrigue and suspense this time around as Maggie uncovers the secret romance and daring escapades of Victoria Cardworthy, a Civil War nurse and dead ringer for Maggie herself. Intellectuals and trivia buffs will appreciate both Maggie’s and Victoria’s obvious love of current events, music, and literature, separated by generation after generation, over a hundred and fifty years. Victoria even philosophizes on occasion with the likes of Walt Whitman, William Faulkner, and “Walter’s friend, Ralph Waldo Emerson.”

A complete family affair, Maggie recruits her husband, sons, and an elderly aunt and uncle. Even the presence of the South, replete with its distinctive accents, foods, and traditions, is prevalent enough to be considered another character altogether as the pieces of the puzzle slowly come together. Historical action, romance, and modern mystery unite as Maggie and her crew solve the mystery of The Spy on the Tennessee Walker.


The Body Snatcher

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Patrícia Melo
Clifford E. Landers, translator
Bitter Lemon Press
Softcover $14.95 (220pp)
Buy: Local Bookstore (Bookshop), Amazon

Gritty and raw, Patrícia Melo’s The Body Snatcher pushes the limits of acceptable behavior as one man’s impulsive action leads to a chain of events that quickly spirals out of control. When a small private plane falls out of the sky, the only witness relieves the dying pilot of some valuables, including a cache of cocaine. What follows is his desperate attempt to redeem himself from the disgust and attraction of the constantly evolving and ever more desperate endgame.

Translated by Clifford E. Landers from the original Portuguese, the language and tone retain an exotic and edgy appeal, from the banks of the Paraguay River to the seedy underbelly of Corumbá. Corrupt cops, drug traffickers, and an array of colorful locals reveal the passion and violence that coexist in the small towns of Brazil, allowing the conscience, or “internal radio,” to warp even the purest of intentions.

Themes of death and closure, domestic abuse, and self-destructive behavior abound, along with the age-old question of what it means to be a good person, a definition that flows and changes as the action unfolds and the antihero wrestles with his own demons. The unnamed narrator’s internal dialogue and justifications, together with his scandalous behavior, make this sordid tale a page-turner not to be missed.


The Conciliators

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James J. Kaufman
Downstream Publishing
Hardcover $25.99 (400pp)
Buy: Amazon

A legal drama with heart, The Conciliators, book three in the Collectibles series from James J. Kaufman, finds CEO of Wilson Holdings and dealer of luxury vehicles Preston Wilson suddenly at odds with just about everyone, including his wife, his daughter, his company CFO, the FBI, the Secret Service, and even, unbeknownst to him, the Russian mafia. When a breaking scandal and talk of indictment threaten to unravel his empire, Wilson must dig deep to determine what or whom is truly worth fighting for in his suddenly chaotic life.

From boardrooms to courtrooms and splashed across newspaper headlines, The Conciliators manages to humanize the names and faces involved in a dangerous, corrupt, and complicated bank-fraud scheme while focusing on Wilson’s growing and changing relationships with his family, friends, and mentors. Integrity and strength of character are hallmarks of the series, and Wilson’s daughter Katherine continues to challenge him as she runs her own investigation for the local paper.

As Wilson and Katherine each struggle to get to the bottom of the far-reaching con—Wilson to restore his company and name, and Katherine in pursuit of the truth—fast cars, meaningful relationships, and some good old-fashioned litigation keep them on their toes in this thoughtful thriller.


Pallas Gates McCorquodale

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