Beginning January 1, 2013

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Saturday, June 30, 2012

May & June Book of the Month Poll Winner - Fatal Induction by Bernadette Pajer



Fatal Induction: A Professor Bradshaw Mystery by Bernadette Pajer
Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press
Genre: Historical, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (250 pgs)
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Poinsettia



Seattle, 1901. The race to win an electrical competition incites Professor Bradshaw’s obsession for invention in this sequel to A SPARK OF DEATH. The winner’s telephonic system will deliver music of the Seattle Grand Theater to homes throughout the city, and Bradshaw is confident he can win. But a missing peddler and child divert him, while the assassination of President McKinley drops Bradshaw and the entire nation into shock.

When Bradshaw discovers the peddler’s child may have witnessed a murder, he follows her trail below Yesler Way, plunging into a seedy underworld of bars and brothels. Frustrated by the police department’s apathy and caught between power struggles, he doesn’t know who to trust. Each step of his investigation entangles him deeper in crime and corruption until he realizes that to save the peddler’s child, he must transform his contest entry into a trap to catch a killer.

The Professor Bradshaw Mystery Series features Benjamin Bradshaw, Professor of Electrical Engineering at the University of Washington. Bradshaw’s electrical forensic and investigative skills, combined with a keen understanding of human nature, bring the Seattle Police, and murder, frequently to his doorstep during the social and scientific turmoil of the early twentieth century.


Read the full review here!

Friday, June 29, 2012

Dead Reckoning by Paul Stansfield



Dead Reckoning by Paul Stansfield
Publisher: Musa Publishing
Genre: Suspense/Mystery, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (64 pages)
Rating: Best Book
Reviewed by Astilbe

This time, the zombies aren’t the bad guys.

Kurt Minnifield is a fledgling actor playing a zombie in a low budget horror movie. The director and crew decide to move their shooting to lovely and isolated Watkins State Park...only they don't get proper permission.

Victor Newsome is a thirteen year old trying to both shed his nerdy image and learn outdoor skills at a special survival camp. After teaching the boys how to make shelter and kill their own food, the counselors decide to take a day trip to the neighboring state park--Watkins.

A series of ethical lapses, poor decisions, and bad luck lead to a colossal misunderstanding. Violence erupts as both sides fight desperately against a dangerous set of foes. Who will be more savage--the literal "monsters," or the boys equipped with deadly weapons, and the knowledge of how to use them?


Imagine that you’re taking a leisurely hike through the woods on a sunny afternoon. Suddenly you hear a strange noise in the bushes. How would you react?

Some misunderstandings lead to far worse consequences than hurt feelings. Dead Reckoning is a perfect storm of miscommunications, over-reactions and multiple characters failing to take the time to figure out what's actually going on.

What really made this plot come together was how seamlessly Mr. Stansfield alternates between first-person perspectives, switching between the two sides at pivotal scenes makes it incredibly easy for readers to empathize with Kurt and Victor and to understand how such a serious misunderstanding could occur so quickly. Under the influence of a less talented writer this story could have easily come across as overly dramatic instead of chilling. Luckily Mr. Stansfield tackled the subject matter with the perfect combination of horror and a dash of humor.

My expectations of the conclusion changed several times throughout the course of the plot. Most of the time I’m able to figure out how a story will end early on but this one was full of surprises. Looking back on the first few chapters I’ve now realized that the actions of certain characters were so subtly foreshadowed that many readers won’t realize the significance of those clues until the climax. Piecing them together is highly satisfying, though, and will make your second trip through the the story even more enjoyable.

Dead Reckoning is a must-read for everyone who has been startled by an unfamiliar noise or wondered how he or she would respond to a crisis. This is one of the best mysteries I’ve read so far in 2012 and I highly recommend it.





Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Flying Bloodhound by Homer Eon Flint



The Flying Bloodhound by Homer Eon Flint
Publisher: Musa Publishing
Genre: Action/Adventure, Historical, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Short Story (13 pgs)
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Aloe

When an old prospector is murdered, a sheriff must seek unlikely sources to lead him to the killer--from the air.

Will Bastion has been prospecting for cinnabar–the ore that produces quicksilver–for years. Everyone in the valley knows it and most just think he’s crazy. So when Bastian turns up dead in a deserted old mine, most folks dismiss it as an accident.

Except for Sheriff Rogers, who just can’t shake the feeling that there’s some other reason for the old prospector’s death. So begins a game of cat and mouse between murderer and lawman–a game that would end up in a draw if it weren’t for one strange event the Sheriff noticed from his flying bloodhound–his blue-painted plane.


He’s a good shot. He’s all alone. There are no witnesses. He can kill the miner, hide the body and steal his claim. What could go wrong?

This story is an old-fashioned pulp western mystery written by an author who lived in that day and time. I enjoy reading fiction that is time period authentic and has a ring of truth to it. This story certainly does.

Mr. Flint wrote a short tale but the story is big and the unseen witness creates a very ironic ending. He paints you a picture of the wide open mountain land where hunting (whether animals or minerals) is allowed. It’s the abundance of animals that takes our killer to the mountains. Based on the author’s description of him, you almost think of him as an untamed animal, also.

The unique touch the author adds to this story is The Flying Bloodhound, which is a plane. Planes weren’t common on those days, but this sheriff can fly one and he uses it to get an aerial view of the crime scene. I doubt he would have put together the murder scene if he wasn’t flying above and got a bird’s eye view. There are no wasted words or actions in this story. Both characters are strong and determined.

I was disheartened to see that Mr. Flint died at 36. He has a writing style I can appreciate and would enjoy reading more of his work. There are other stories, but he might have even got around to writing a novel if he lived longer. Why not try this story yourself and see what you think. I'm betting you will not guess who the witness is. If you do, go ahead and brag. Otherwise just tell Mr. Flint mentally: “Good job!”



Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Out of Order Murder Mystery by Bert Paul



Out of Order Murder Mystery by Bert Paul
Publisher: Untreed Reads
Genre: Suspense/Mystery, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (37 pages)
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Take everything you've ever known about mysteries, and get ready to toss it out the window. Preferably at the neighbor who stole your newspaper this morning. Go on. We'll wait here.

This story is a spoof of murder mysteries and courtroom dramas, with a bit of science fiction thrown in. It is told, well, out of order. Hence the title. Because of that, the victim finds out ahead of time that he may be murdered and has a chance to take evasive action. Naturally, things don't go well.

Many of the characters come to realize they are not in real life, but have been caught up in "a stupid Uncle Bert story." Yet, they know the only way out is to proceed through the story to the end. Action alternates back and forth between courtroom drama and events happening outside the courtroom. And some actions even happen before other actions start. Or end. Or, in the middle of other actions.

Who will live, who will die and who will escape having to end up in another one of Bert's stories? Will anyone actually get to go on vacation? Whodunit?

A laugh-out-loud, madcap short story.


How do you solve a crime that hasn’t happened yet? I haven’t read many books about characters who are aware that they’re living in someone else’s tale. It was a delightful surprise to see the wide variety of humorous reactions to this dilemma. This is from my favorite scene: “Mrs. Plaid put her bullhorn down. In a sweet voice she said, ‘Well you see, I have this medical condition. Osteo–trichi-psychosis. Something to do with eating undercooked pork when I was young, and the worms are eating my bones, making me shorter and brittle-boned and driving me crazy.’ ‘Well, what’s the treatment for this condition’” asked the judge. “I must be allowed to do whatever I want for the rest of my life,”’said Mrs. Plaid.”

Other funny moments occur when Vladexa, Byron, Mr. P and the rest of the cast argue with Uncle Bert (the author) or one another about what the previous paragraph said had happened. Speaking of Mr. P, his reaction to the news that he will be the victim of this crime was what really congealed this into something I’ll want to read again. Mr. P straddles the line between farce and realism so well that at times I actually forgot I was reading fiction. He acted and sounded as terrified, angered and annoyed as any of us would be in that situation.

Unfortunately I found the rapid jumps between scenes from the end, beginning, and middle of the murder disorienting at first. There were quite a few characters to get to know in a short period of time. It might have been easier to sort them out if Mr. Paul had either jumped around less in the first few chapters so new readers could get used to it or offered a more complete explanation of what was happening in the first scene. At a certain point, though, all of the skipping around feels like a natural extension of the zaniness of the plot and the temporary character confusion is replaced by a basic understanding of the voice of every individual competing for your attention. It’s just too bad that it takes a little while to get settled into what was otherwise a great story.

Has it been a while since you’ve laughed? Out of Order Murder Mystery is the perfect book to tickle your funny bone.





Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Killings in Boulder Valley by Arlen Blumhagen



The Killings in Boulder Valley by Arlen Blumhagen
Publisher: Untreed Reads
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Short Story (13 pgs)
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Stephantois

The beautiful, majestic Boulder Valley. Where locals can enjoy everything that the Montana wilderness has to offer. Where tourists can “get away from it all,” and relax beside a rushing mountain river.

The Boulder Valley. Where a deranged, psychopath hunts for his next victims.

The Killings in Boulder Valley is a terrifying short story of murder, love, and revenge.


When I first started to read this story I thought they’d been some mistake on the page count because it seemed to go into the background of one character with lots of detail. However, I soon realized how clever Ms. Blumhagen had been in packing in so much detail and information in this very short story. It’s a gritty mystery and the author gave us insight into a killer and the killer’s mind which, as I mentioned, isn’t an easy thing to do in a short piece.

The victims were also clearly drawn and I felt myself wishing they could escape the killer. The dialogue is very realistic sounding and the pacing fast. I also enjoyed the wilderness setting and thought it added just the right touch to the theme of this story.

If you like a mystery with lots of depth but haven’t got time for a full length novel, I’d recommend this one to you.





Tuesday, June 19, 2012

American Curls by Nancy Springer



American Curls by Nancy Springer
Publisher: Untreed Reads
Genre: Suspense/Mystery
Length: Short Story (12 pgs)
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Stephantois

When Cindy stops by the local cat shelter where she volunteers, she discovers her coworker Samantha unconscious on the floor. Even more horrifying, to Cindy, is that a mother cat and her kittens have mysteriously disappeared out into the snow. While Cindy leaves the attack to the police to investigate while she seeks out the missing cats, a second assault finishes Samantha off. Soon, Cindy's mixed up in a litter of death, missing cats and the police casting an eye in her direction as a possible suspect. Can Cindy find the missing cats and help pinpoint the murderer, or is she going to end up a victim of her own cat-astrophe?

Cats and a mystery seem to go together so well and American Curls was no exception. I have to admit I do have a weakness for a story centered around animals and especially about people helping them. Despite this one having a few clichés of the genre, I thought it was a fun read.

There was a cast of characters to throw you off track as to the identity of the guilty party. While I did guess who it was, I found myself reading on just to see how the main character figured it out. Despite this story being just twelve pages, the author did a good job developing the characters in the few paragraphs or pages on which they appeared.

The dialogue is natural sounding and the pacing fast. If you’re a fan of a cozy but don’t have time to read a full length novel, this will be a good pick for you.





Monday, June 18, 2012

#20 by Nancy Springer



#20 by Nancy Springer
Publisher: Untreed Reads
Genre: Mystery/Suspense, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (12 pages)
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Little Veronica likes hanging out at Mrs. Life's porch. She can see the whole town from the steps, and Mrs. Life is fascinating in the way that she keeps track of all sorts of numbers and information in her little spiral-bound notebooks. So it's surprising to Veronica when the always-nice Mrs. Life has an argument with Mr. Quickel, the school health teacher and wrestling coach, about the cost of mowing her lawn. Soon, Mrs. Life has started to insinuate things about Mr. Quickel, his marriage and what he might or might not have done with a boy who ran off from the town to live life as an openly gay man. Soon, the entire town is turning on Mr. Quickel with rumors and threats and destroying his sanity. Before too long, Veronica starts to see what Mrs. Life's real motivation is, and what dark secrets she keeps in one of her spiral-bound notebooks.


It’s easy to think of it as innocent speculation but gossip has the power to ruin lives. Nowhere is this more true than in the small, isolated community of Pleasantville where even the slightest whiff of nonconformity has serious consequences.

What makes someone so interested in the affairs of others? #20 never directly answers this question. Part of the fun of reading it is stepping into the minds of each character and figuring out why they behave the way they do. Some seem to be motivated by fear of their own quirks being discovered, others do it as part of an urge to categorize and document everything that happens in their lives.

One of my favourite parts of this story was how it handled the issue of labeling others. Gay, HIV-positive, pedophile, eccentric, depressed, suicidal, on the brink of a divorce - all of these labels and more are pasted onto people who in many cases are never proved to actually warrent some or all of those things. What was really interesting, though, was seeing how the targets reacted once it became widely assumed that certain labels defined them as human beings. Words and the harsh judgements and social ostracism that accompanies them can cut more deeply than the sharpest knife.

The ending, while it fit in well with the tone and general message of the story, felt abrupt. I would have liked to see it foreshadowed and drawn out a little more for a bigger impact on the audience.

#20 is an eye-opening look at the damage caused by idle talk. Whether you’ve been on the giving or receiving end of gossip you’ll find at least one character in this story with whom you can relate.





Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Fanged by Wade J. McMahan



Fanged (A Richard Dick Mystery)by Wade J. McMahan
Publisher: Untreed Reads
Genre: Suspense/Mystery, Paranormal
Length: Short Story (31 pgs)
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Stephantois

Count Earl Duke is three hundred years old, and a vampire…arguably the world’s most pitiful vampire, but a vampire nonetheless. Private investigator Richard Dick becomes embroiled in a lethal investigation when Count Duke suddenly drifts into his Chicago office.

In this latest laugh-out-loud release in the worldwide bestselling Richard Dick mysteries series, Count Duke hires Dick to recover blood stolen from his high-tech blood cellar. From there on, Dick confronts the deadly “Grand Fang” himself, Professor von Schweinzturd, and his equally dangerous associate, the beautiful seductress, Serafina. Dick makes a ghastly discovery during his perilous, undercover investigation of the storeroom at the local chapter of the Vampires Lodge.


Just when you think everything’s been written about vampires, you stumble upon a short story like Fanged.

I have to admit I do have a weakness for PI stories and especially ones with some humor thrown in. While it did have some clichés of both PI and vampire stories, overall it’s humor won me over. What’s stranger than a vampire hiring a PI to find out who stole his stash of blood? And why does he need a stash in the first place?  He’s a toothless vampire.

The dialogue was great, lots of witty banter and the pacing fast. It kept me turning the pages and I definitely want to read more stories featuring Richard Dick.

If you like a good story, a good laugh and like some paranormal elements thrown in, check out Fanged.





Monday, June 11, 2012

Fatal Induction: A Professor Bradshaw Mystery by Bernadette Pajer



Fatal Induction: A Professor Bradshaw Mystery by Bernadette Pajer
Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press
Genre: Historical, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (250 pgs)
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Poinsettia



Seattle, 1901. The race to win an electrical competition incites Professor Bradshaw’s obsession for invention in this sequel to A SPARK OF DEATH. The winner’s telephonic system will deliver music of the Seattle Grand Theater to homes throughout the city, and Bradshaw is confident he can win. But a missing peddler and child divert him, while the assassination of President McKinley drops Bradshaw and the entire nation into shock.

When Bradshaw discovers the peddler’s child may have witnessed a murder, he follows her trail below Yesler Way, plunging into a seedy underworld of bars and brothels. Frustrated by the police department’s apathy and caught between power struggles, he doesn’t know who to trust. Each step of his investigation entangles him deeper in crime and corruption until he realizes that to save the peddler’s child, he must transform his contest entry into a trap to catch a killer.

The Professor Bradshaw Mystery Series features Benjamin Bradshaw, Professor of Electrical Engineering at the University of Washington. Bradshaw’s electrical forensic and investigative skills, combined with a keen understanding of human nature, bring the Seattle Police, and murder, frequently to his doorstep during the social and scientific turmoil of the early twentieth century.


Will Bradshaw’s obsession kill him before he solves the mystery?

I knew I was in for a real treat when I read the first sentence of Fatal Induction. “The first indication that Professor Benjamin Bradshaw’s life was about to plunge again into chaos appeared in the form of a flatulent horse eating Mrs. Prouty’s broad beans over the garden fence, its huge teeth tugging greedily at the vines.” Ms. Pajer’s excellent word choice allowed me to picture the scene clearly in my mind. With a smile on my face, I eagerly dove into the book and lost myself in Professor Bradshaw’s world.

I liked Benjamin Bradshaw immediately. At first, he seemed like the typical disheveled, forgetful professor with a brilliant mind and less than stellar social skills. However, underneath all that, Bradshaw is a man who truly cares not only for his friends and family, but all the people who live in his city. I absolutely loved the tender moments when Bradshaw would take a moment to look at his son and marvel at how much he’d grown. Bradshaw’s interactions with a young woman named Missouri also serve to reveal his softer side and add just a hint of romance to the story.

When a young girl goes missing after witnessing the murder of her father, Bradshaw immediately throws himself wholeheartedly into the task of finding her. While I admire his genuine concern and determination, this situation exposes a dangerous element of Bradshaw’s personality. Bradshaw has the tendency to obsess over any problem his mind latches onto, whether it's experimenting with a new electrical invention or helping the police solve a crime. He works himself to the point of physical and mental exhaustion. Since Bradshaw is a single parent, I do wonder why he wouldn’t take better care of himself for the sake of his son, if not for himself. I also couldn’t help but wonder if Bradshaw’s exhaustion is completely due to overwork or if something a bit more serious is going on. Perhaps I’ll find out in future installments of this series.

In addition to creating a compelling main character, Ms. Pajer has sprinkled her book with a host of delightful secondary characters. Bradshaw’s son, Justin, is my favorite. In many ways, he's a typical eight year old boy who loves to run around outside playing with frogs and getting into some innocent mischief. However, like his father, there's much more to him than meets the eye. Justin is an intelligent and somewhat sensitive boy who has inherited his father’s caring nature. While Justin retains a childlike innocence, in some ways he demonstrates a maturity far beyond his years.

Ms. Pajer wove her mystery well and I was right about one of the people involved in the crime, but I didn’t know how this person had done it until the very end. I must admit I smacked myself in the forehead when everything was revealed because I had forgotten an important clue early on that would have allowed me to fit all the pieces together. Even though I wasn’t successful in solving the mystery before Bradshaw did, I certainly enjoyed the journey to the solution. I thought the conclusion was bittersweet. There are certainly elements contained in the final pages that are cause for celebration and others that make the heart ache a little. While I can’t say that I completely loved the ending, it did have a very realistic feel to it.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading Fatal Induction. While it's the second book in a series about Professor Bradshaw, Ms. Pajer included enough background information throughout the story so seamlessly that I never felt lost. I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves a great, historical mystery filled to the brim with interesting characters and suspense.



Monday, June 4, 2012

Trust No One by Laurel Bradley



Trust No One by Laurel Bradley
Publisher: Storyteller Publishing
Genre: Mystery/suspense, Contemporary
Length: Full Length (330 pgs)
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Stephantois

It’s all about secrets.

Taylor Wilson’s husband, Phil, has them. His best friend and art agent, Sean, has them. Everyone has them except Taylor—yet she’s the one someone is trying to kill.

Moments before a bomb destroys Taylor’s home, Phil disappears. Soon after, her landscape design business blows up as well. FBI agent Mark Cochran puts her into protective custody, but whoever is behind the bombings continues to stalk her.

Cochran thinks Taylor’s husband is the culprit, but she refuses to accept it. She believes the cryptic messages Phil is sending her are proof he’s trying to protect her and lead her to where he is hiding. However, while searching for Phil, Taylor learns he may not be as innocent as she believed.

Will Taylor’s faith in the man she loves keep her safe—or get her killed?


Women in jeopardy stories are some of my favorites and "woman in trouble" just about sums up the theme of Trust No One. It was full of twists and turns. Just when I thought it was safe for Taylor to trust someone, they turned out to be not so reliable or were somehow involved in the mess her husband appears to be tied up in.

I thought the clues Ms. Bradley planted, especially in the beginning of the book when Taylor decides to take her safety into her own hands, clever and definitely made me think. Was she on the right track or heading for more trouble?

The pacing was perfect for this length of book and the dialogue natural sounding for all the characters. I also thought there was the right mix of dialogue with narration.

The only thing I felt would have drawn me into the story more was a different introduction to Taylor and her relationship with Phil. I was cheering her on but somehow needed to have more of connection with her to amp up the enjoyment of the story. I think had the opening chapter been more of a "get to know Taylor" and a look into her life with Phil, the consequences of what happened to her and what followed would have had more of an emotional effect on me as a reader.

However, I did enjoy Trust No One and if you like mysteries and suspense stories with a female lead character this is a good pick, especially for summer reading.