Fall Humor: Ashley Weaver and Tonya Kappes Sunday, Dec 13 2015 

Ashley Weaver’s first Amory Ames mystery, Murder at the Brightwell, was nominated for an Edgar and introduced the wealthy amateur sleuth and her charming and dashing Milo. That first entry is now out in paperback for anyone who missed it.

She returns with Death Wears a Mask, with Amory relaxing in reconciliation at their London flat with Milo, until she turns to full-sleuth mode when high-society marvel Serena Barrington needs her to find who has stolen jewels from her London flat.

There’s an upcoming masked ball and while the host is terribly sexy Viscount Dunmore, Serena’s idea is to have Amory bait a trap for the thief with a copy of Barrington’s jewels to be heisted.

But things to awry when Serena’s nephew becomes a victim and with the help of DI Jones, Amory works her way through the suspect list. Despite Milo’s photo and that of a French film star distracting her and making the advances of the Viscount seem terribly attractive, Amory puts her personal grievances aside to gain Milo’s help in finding a killer–and saving her marriage.

Weaver’s humor reminds readers of Nick and Nora Charles, if they’d been set in 1930’s British society.

GhostlyDemise AGhostlyMurder

Tonya Kappes’ Ghostly Southern Mystery series features Emma Lee Raines, the Eternal Slumber funeral home director who sees dead people. The next two installments in the series have the same hilarious humor that Auntie M’s mum calls “brain candy.”

In A Ghostly Demise, Emma Lee is surprised to find Gephus Hardy at the local deli. The father of her friend, Mary Hanna Hardy, hasn’t been seen in Sleepy Hollow, Kentucky for the past five years and that’s because he was murdered. The town drunk was thought to have disappeared, but Gephus has heard in the spirit world of Emma Lee’s propinquity for helping lost souls move on and her enlists her help.

The request comes at the worst possible time for Emma Lee, as her granny’s mayoral campaign is running in high gear. With a carnival keeping Emma Lee’s boyfriend, the Sheriff, busy in a most humorous way, she’s forced to figure out the connection between the carnival and and a killer.

A Ghostly Murder brings Emma Lee into more of a professional situation when a ghost appears to her in the form of the town’s worst hypochondriac, Mamie Sue Preston. Also one of the richest women in town, Mamie Sue was buried by Emma Lee’s rival, Burns Funeral Home, making her investigation into who killed Mamie even more difficult.

With “I Told You I was Sick” inscribed on her tombstone, Mamie Sue insists she was done in for her fortune. And too many people have benefited from her will to give up their inheritance easily.

Now Emma Lee’s granny is in the frame for murder, and it will take all of her wiles to convince boyfriend sheriff Jack Henry to help her figure out who really did away with Mamie Sue.

Three to Die For: Hutton, Cha and Haines Sunday, Jun 16 2013 

Ewart Hutton’s debut Good People features a most unusual detective: DS Glyn Capaldi, half-Welsh but also half-Italian, and it’s those dark good looks that set him as an outsider.

images_030A case with an less-than-happy ending has sent Capaldi on exile from Cardiff to the rolling Welsh countryside where he’s learning the back roads and mores of the locals.

A call for a minibus hijacking looks like a routine call, especially when the missing van is found the next morning, an apparent prank.

But all is not well: six young men and one young woman appear to be missing, and when not all of them are found, Capaldi smells a case with his detective’s instinct.

Despite the villager’s assurances of the men’s goodness, Capaldi investigates and runs into opposition from the townspeople, who staunchly defend the mens pranking. These rural landowners command a high influence in the area; their word is taken as gospel.

It will be left to Capaldi to unravel what really happened that night, with consequence reaching into the past he could never foresee. Betrayals leading to depravity only scratch the surface when the truth is known, and not before a suicide occurs–or is it murder?

Hutton brings the reader into Capaldi’s world of dark woodlands and small towns that survive by their own code of justice. This is a crime thriller with an edge, and readers will hope the cynical voice of Capaldi returns, and soon.

Steph Cha is a fresh new voice in the noir thriller Follow Her Home, one that will smack you over the head with its heroine, Juniper Song, a devotee of Philip Chandler and LA Noir. images_022

Juniper has a cadre of friends and a troubled past that her favorite noir fiction keeps at bay. Known as “Song” by her friends, she responds to her good friend Luke’s request to find out if the new paralegal at his father’s firm is also his newest mistress.

Song as no real idea how to proceed, but armed with her pack of Lucky Strikes, in best Chandler fashion she tails various suspects and the young woman herself–and finds herself up against more than she’d bargained for when she agreed to help Luke.

At one point she is knocked unconscious and wakes up as the body in the trunk of her own car. This is carrying things to far for Song, and she steels her determination to conquer her past and plunges into LA’s underground, determined to find out whose buttons her minor investigation have pushed.

Cha gives readers a fascinating and yet disturbing lesson as she examines young Asian woman as fetish objects, which will come as a surprise to many readers. This adds a depth to this already compelling story while keeping the twists and turns flwoing as the story plays out.

What starts out in an almost playful mood turns serious, yet Cha keeps Song’s voice smart and crisp in an almost heartbreaking worldy manner, in this striking debut with a modern twist on old town noir.


images_003Taking a leap across the nation and a huge change in tone, Carolyn Haines returns with the twelfth Sarah Booth Delany Mystery in Smarty Bones.

Enjoying time with her hunky fiance Graf before his next Hollywood shoot, Sarah Booth’s usual friends surround her: her partner in their PI firm, Tinkie; her long-time friend CeCe; and even Jitty, the Civil War ghost who inhabits Dahlia House and drives Sarah Booth to distraction when she appears in various guises.

This time around Jitty is hooked on cartoon characters, but her words of wisdom are destined to revive Sarah Booth’s spirits when she reluctantly agrees to look into the claims of a professor who has arrived in her hometown of Zinnia, Mississippi.

Prof. Olive Twist is indeed the product of Dickens scholar parents, but she resemble Olive Oyl more accurately, with her thin frame and huge feet. But those big feet hide an even bigger brain, and Twist has arrived to prove that the mysterious Lady in Red, found in an anonymous grave and lovingly preserved, was involved in the plot to kill Lincoln–and she plans to implicate the families of Sarah Booth’s best friends.

Then Twist’s  young assistant is murdered at a nearby Bed & Breakfast where they were staying and things take a dramatic turn despite the large amount of humor that fills the pages.

Complicating matters are the family secrets and devious plots of some of these very families, and Sarah Booth soon finds herself and Graf involved on a level that turns deadly and will have far-reaching consequences for several of those Sarah Booth has come to love.


The King of Lies Monday, Mar 21 2011 

North Carolina author John Hart is one of the legal eagles of writing, a lawyer who turned his hand to authoring a novel that proved so popular he is able to now write full time.

Therefore it was no surprise to pick up The King of Lies, Hart’s New York Times bestselling debut, and find its protagonist to be . . .wait for it!. . . a lawyer.  BookPage called Hart “Rookie of the Year” when the novel was published, and he’s gone on to write two others, which no doubt you’ll find in these pages down the road. But I prefer to read a writer as he writes his book, to gauge the growth of his or her craft, and to follow the lives of recurring characters, if there are any.

I read an article where he credited his wife with reading and early draft and telling him he had no story. Hart certainly heard her. “The King of Lies” turns out to be Ezra Pickens, a fabulously wealthy Southern lawyer of the domineering kind who give that coterie a bad name. Ezra disappeared years ago, after his wife’s suspicious death. The protagonist is his lawyer son, Jackson Workman Pickens, known to all as “Work,” a sobriquet that is especially ironic since work is one thing Work is soon to be out of. Inheriting his father’s failing law practice, Work is caught in a loveless marriage to a distant wife who married his name and heritage instead of the man himself.  Work’s estranged sister, Jean, who bore the brunt of their father’s wrath, becomes a pivotal character once Ezra’s body turns up.

Set to inherit is father’s fortune, Work becomes the prime suspect in his father’s murder. That’s the setup, but then things get interesting. Throw in a hungry female detective striving to advance, who’s certain Work is guilty. Add an overpowering partner for the bruised Jean who hates Work. Up the ante with evidence all pointing to Work, the whispers and rumors of a small town, and don’t forget the seemingly homeless park walker who strolls around town, long coat flapping at his heels, oblivious to its inhabitants, but observant just the same. All of this elevates The King of Lies from the usual mystery to a terrific whodunit, with a clear-eyed story of love and hate that will keep you turning pages.

The suspense is there, as is the family saga that unfolds. Hart’s prose is lyrical and lush, at times poetic, but he manages to stop short of becoming overdone. The climax was one that was truly built up to, one I didn’t see written on the wall. This is great first novel, one Pat Conroy says: “Reads like a book on fire.” I quite agree.