Craig Johnson: Daughter of the Morning Star

This review is by our frequent guest reviewer, Cathy Akers-Jordan.

Walt Longmire has been in some awkward and dangerous situations during his decades as Sheriff of Absaroka county. This year he faces one he had no way of anticipating: guarding a Indian teenage girls’ basketball team. Longmire, big, tough, and a man of few words, is clearly out of his depth. He survives but only due to the help of best friend Henry Standing Bear and Deputy Vic Moretti.

The story focuses on Jaya Long, niece of Tribal Police Chief Lolo Long. A year after Jaya’s sister Jeanie disappears, Jaya begins to receive threatening notes. Knowing she’s unlikely to keep her niece safe when she’s off the rez, Chief Long recruits Walt and Henry to do so and to find whoever is sending notes. Complicating the situation is Jaya’s status as a superstar basketball player. Traveling to other schools for away games means there are more opportunities for someone to kidnap or kill Jaya. read more

Sofie Kelly: Hooked on a Feline

This review comes to us from guest reviewer Cathy Akers-Jordan.

Have you ever lost your cat indoors? You know what it’s like. You look all over the house, in all the cat’s favorite places, call its name, shout “treat!” while shaking the a container of the same, only to turn around and find the cat sitting in the exact spot you’ve already looked five times? Welcome to the life of Kathleen Paulson. Unlike our cats though, her gray tabby Owen can literally disappear. His brother, tuxedo cat Hercules, can walk through walls and other solid surfaces. Neither cat cares who knows about his magical ability but Kathleen tries to hide it so everyone will avoid the feral cat colony on Wisteria Hill where Owen and Hercules were born. Of course, the cats assist Kathleen in solving murders. If you like light-hearted cozy mysteries with a touch of magic, this is the series for you. read more

Rhys Bowen: God Rest Ye, Royal Gentlemen

Poor Lady Georgie.  She’s at last married to Darcy, in residence at a lovely estate, and all she wants is to have a happy family Christmas at her new home.  A typical wish for any young bride, but Georgie seems to have left her planning late, and her invitations are unfortunately declined as all and sundry seem to have made other plans.  Luckily Georgie’s grandfather is able to come, and sadly for Georgie (but happily for the reader) her brother and sister in law, Binky and Fig, also plan to make an appearance. read more

Andrea Penrose: Murder at the Royal Botanic Gardens

This is the fifth installment in Andrea Penrose’s Wrexford and Sloane series, set in London in the early 1800’s.  In each novel, Penrose folds in some sort of scientific discovery, and in this one, the discovery involves a cure for malaria, a huge problem at the time.  Set in the Royal Botanic Gardens, Penrose also includes some real-life scientists (read her interesting author’s note), while at the same time creating an exciting adventure and a bit of romance.

When the series opened, Lady Charlotte Sloane was a widow who had slipped into her late husband’s career as a satiric artist.  She works anonymously, often causing a stir when her work is published in the paper. She assists her now fiancée, Lord Wrexford in investigations. As the book opens, he is introducing her to society at a huge gathering at the Botanical Garden as his future bride.  Unfortunately, a dead body is discovered during the course of the evening, and Wrexford, a now well known amateur sleuth, is called in for advice. read more

Reavis Wortham: The Rock Hole

Review by Cathy Akers-Jordan.

For its 10th anniversary, Reavis Wortham’s The Rock Hole has been reissued with a new cover and a forward by Joe R. Lansdale.

In the 1964 the town of Center Springs, (East) Texas a series of increasingly violent animal mutilations takes place. Most corpses are found with a hint that the killer is looking for human prey. Then a grandfather finds footprints under his grandson’s bedroom window…

The Rock Hole features dual protagonists Constable Ned Parker and his grandson Texas Orrin Parker (called Top), who are based on Wortham and his grandfather. The book reflects Wortham’s childhood memories of daily life in a peaceful small town where no one locks their doors, neighbors listen to each other on the party line telephone, and sit on the front porch of the general store swapping gossip and telling stories. It’s so small that Constable Ned Parker’s main job is running his farm with his Choctaw wife, whom everyone lovingly refers to as “Miss Becky.” read more

Jane Casey: The Killing Kind

This stand alone from Jane Casey is whip smart and terrifying.  I am a big fan of her Maeve Kerrigan series, with its combination of character, complex plotting and nuanced look at police work.  In this standalone, the central character is not a policewoman but a barrister, youngish Ingrid Lewis, happily involved with Mark.

As Ingrid goes through her court routine in the opening scene, which sets up not only the legal surround but some of the relationships and events that carry through the book, she lends a colleague her umbrella.  As she’s hurrying out later to another case, she sees that the umbrella borrower has been a victim of a hit and run.  As she is interviewed by a police officer about her colleague, she mentions a stalker from her past.  She’s afraid the man saw her umbrella and pushed the wrong woman under a bus. read more

Hank Phillippi Ryan: Her Perfect Life

This book will be published on September 14.

Hank Phillippi Ryan’s story telling style is so smooth, her books fly through your reading fingers faster than you can think, almost.  This novel may be the most emotional, heart felt story in all of Ryan’s books.  It’s the alternating story of big sister, Cassie, and little sister, Lily.  While the book opens with Lily telling the reader how perfect her sister is, it fast forwards in time to Lily’s life, which does seem actually perfect. read more

Craig Johnson: Next to Last Stand

While waiting for Craig Johnson’s new Longmire novel, Daughter of the Morning Star (available Sept. 21), I couldn’t resist re-reading last year’s novel, Next to Last Stand.

What do a million in cash and a small study piece of Cassily Adams’s famous painting Custer’s Last Fight have in common? Both are found in the footlocker of veteran Charley Lee Stillwater after he dies of an apparent heart attack at the Wyoming Home for Soldiers and Sailors. Did Charlie have a connection to the famous painting which burned in 1946? read more

James R. Benn: Road of Bones

This book will be published on September 7.

For new readers, the Billy Boyle books are set during WWII and feature an army captain, Billy, who investigates the murders that occur on the edges (or directly inside of) the war. It’s now 1944, and after giving Billy a bit of a break in the last book, The Red Horse, author James Benn plunges Billy and his sidekick Big Mike directly into the action.  Road of Bones begins and ends with two bravura action scenes, a type of writing at which Benn excels.  Action scenes can easily become dull or repetitive (to this crime reading veteran, anyway), but Benn is specific, descriptive in a concise way, and the pacing of his action scenes is perfection.  The more I read, the more I think pacing is all, and Benn has the gift. read more

Ann Cleeves: The Heron’s Cry

This novel will be published on September 7.

The second in Ann Cleeves’ Detective Mathew Venn series finds Matthew investigating a case on the grounds of an artist’s colony and farm.  The book opens with a party attended by a very drunk Detective Jen Rafferty, who meets the victim at the party, but didn’t talk to him for long because of her condition – something she comes to regret.

The dead man, Nigel Yeo, was a doctor who worked with people who had complaints about National Health.  He is discovered with a huge shard of glass in his neck, glass created by his glassblower daughter, Eve.  This incredibly fabulist method of death is carried forward. Ann Cleeves, the most careful and meticulous of writers, nevertheless includes this almost gothic flight of fancy as a murder method.  It suits her updated golden age style of storytelling. read more