Ghost of the Bamboo Road

Ghost of bambooAuthor: Susan Spann

Series: Shinobi Mystery #7

Publisher: Seventh Street Books

Release Date: July 16, 2019

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

I forgot how much I’ve missed these characters until I picked up this book!

As Hiro and Father Mateo make their journey to Edo to warn Iga assassins that their cover may have been comprised, they must stop in a rural mountain village along the way. Another Iga assassin has been stationed here to watch the travel road. They stop at the local ryokan to stay the night and discover that they owners are completing a mourning period. Hiro immediately senses that something is off about this village and wants to find the operative and leave as soon as possible. Unfortunately, that night there is a murder in the burial yard. The innkeeper’s mother is murdered and the village residents believe that a vengeful spirit is responsible. Another murder soon follows and the residents believe that the visitors are responsible for angering the spirit. Father Mateo’s servant Ana is soon accused of theft as well. In order to appease the local Samurai, as well as prove there is no such thing as ghosts, Hiro and Father Mateo begin to investigate the murders and the theft. Hopefully they will find the operative as well and all be able to continue their mission.

It has been quite a while since I had a Hiro and Father Mateo mystery. Way too long actually. I hadn’t realized just how much I had missed their constant banter and adventures. As a reader, I have enjoyed getting to watch the professional relationship between the two become much more personal. Even though they still don’t agree on everything, they can be respectful of each other and work together. This is a lesson from 1566 that could be applied to almost everyone in 2020. I also appreciated that this book focused on the mystery and a showing of Japanese customs as several of the previous books have done. One drawback that I had from the last book was the amount of detail that was given to describing the temples. I know that the author had just finished a pilgrimage and visited several of the temples, so the details were fresh on her mind, but it took away from the overall story. That said, every time I hear there is a new Shinobi mystery coming out, I get excited to continue the journey. I hope it takes several more books to complete the series.

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher. The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

Echoes Among the Stones

echoesAuthor: Jaime Jo Wright

Publisher: Bethany House

Release Date: December 3, 2019

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Wright continues to deliver intriguing time slip mysteries, but goes a little different this time.

Aggie Dunkirk reluctantly agrees to return to live with her grandmother after she receives a letter that she broke her hip. Of course, once she is there, she finds that her grandmother lied just to get her to come. Even so, after losing her job in real estate because her team didn’t keep up their licenses, she doesn’t have much of an option. She takes a job as a secretary at the town cemetery where she will work alongside an archaeologist to remap the burial plots after a heavy rain has disturbed several areas. But as they begin work, strange things begin to happen. Files at the cemetery go missing. A skeleton appears in her grandmother’s yard. Bone fragments are delivered to both her and the archaeologist. And maybe most mysteriously of all, a pink rose continues to appear on the grave for a woman named Hazel Grayson. She wishes she could talk about it to her grandmother, but she has been acting even stranger than usual.

Decades prior in 1946, Imogene Grayson’s world is turned upside down when her sister Hazel is murdered. She worked in a beauty salon, but always dreamed of being a glam girl in Hollywood. Hazel’s death shatters her core and devastates her. Her brother is a deputy sheriff in charge of the investigation but isn’t making much progress. Genie decides to begin her own investigation and starts working at the artillery powder plant where Hazel used to work. Shortly after, the post office is bombed. Then the town hall is burned down. One day on her walk home, she is almost run over by a black pickup truck. It seems that someone is out to make sure she doesn’t find out the truth about her sister’s killer.

Having read all of Wright’s books, there were some comforting similarities that I’ve found in her previous writing. She always manages to reveal a twist that occurs in the past setting that completely shifts the train of thought about what happened. However, this particular book had something a little different too. One of the main characters is common to both time periods. She is young in the past and elderly in the present, but it is her story. This subtle change really brought the story out a little more.

A common theme in this book is learning to put your faith in God and not in a relationship. Both Aggie and Genie had such strong relationships with someone that was taken from them and it utterly devastates them both. Only when they finally manage to let God have control are they actually able to move forward. This is a hard truth to accept, but many will find this book useful.

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher. The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

Top Mystery Fiction for 2019

Merry Christmas to all our followers!  We have a special gift for everyone today in sharing what we think are the top picks for Mystery Fiction this year!  Everyone have a safe and happy holiday!

Girl behind red rope

 

1.  The Girl Behind the Red Rope by Ted Dekker and Rachelle Dekker

Teaming up for the first time, father and daughter Ted and Rachelle Dekker deliver an intense and fascinating read that will leave fans thirsting for them to team up again and again and again.

Read the full review here.

 

 

 

 

the eighth sister

 

2. The Eighth Sister by Robert Dugoni

Robert Dugoni’s newest series starts off with a stellar story that will hook readers and keep them guessing until the very end. Another well-crafted story by one of the very best.

Read the full review here.

 

 

 

 

Gryphon Heist

 

3. The Gryphon Heist by James R. Hannibal

Readers are set up for a thrill ride full of suspense, danger, mystery and so many twists and turns they won’t be able to stop until the very last page!

Read the full review here.

 

 

 

 

 

alistar ainsworth

 

4. The Disappearance of Alistair Ainsworth by Leonard Goldberg

This series has quickly become a crowd favorite.  If you are a regular sleuth, these will keep you guessing till the final reveal!

Read the full review here.

 

 

 

 

 

a bitter feast

 

5. A Bitter Feast by Deborah Cromble

Don’t let the fact that this is the 18th book in a series deter you from selecting this title, because it may hook you to go back and read a few of the previous novels.

Read the full review here.

Smoke Screen

Smoke Screen.pngAuthor: Terri Blackstock

Publisher: Thomas Nelson

Release Date: November 5, 2019

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Terri Blackstock has done it again with another thrilling story that pulls at the heart-strings in the most suspenseful ways! Smoke Screen had all the right moments that kept me turning the pages well past my bedtime!

After his father is convicted of murdering the preacher, and father, of the girl he has been dating in his hometown, Nate Beckett leaves the lies and rumors behind. It’s been fourteen years and his father has been released from prison. After an injury, Nate takes a break from his work as a smoke jumper, which brings him back home. Coming back home means he will have to face the girl he left behind, Brenna. When his father was accused of the murder, their relationship changed. Brenna is having a hard time dealing with the news that her father’s killer is free and her ex-husband is suing her for custody of her kids, which threatens to send her over the edge. Turning to alcohol to get through the hard times she runs into Nate at her lowest. The spark between the two is still there. With wildfires breaking out across the state and close to home, things have become much more complicated. Nate and Brenna work together to find out the truth from the past and keep her family from falling apart.

Terri Blackstock brings a different type of suspense with Smoke Screen. This is a mystery with a romantic suspense angle, but the suspense here comes more from the drama within the families. Nate with his father coming home and his feelings for Brenna with her problems with her ex coupled with the possibility of losing her kids brought up the suspense. As the story progressed and we see Brenna struggling and dealing with hardships, my heart was in my throat with anticipation. This was such a different form of suspense than most, which made it more special to read. So many characters in this book where unlikable, but they were supposed to be that way and Blackstock wrote them so perfectly. Even so, many of the same characters were very relatable which is hard to do. Making one or two characters is relatable is one thing but being able to fill the pages of a book with so many of them is difficult. Each twist and turn was perfectly placed and the story flowed so well I couldn’t put it down. This is one of my favorites by Blackstock, and I seem to say that after each one which I don’t see that changing anytime soon with the way she always seems to surprise me. I recommend this book to fans of a great mystery with a little bit of romance thrown in at all the right times.

A Bitter Feast

a bitter feastAuthor: Deborah Cromble

Series: Duncan Kincaid & Gemma James #18

Publisher: William Morrow

Release Date: October 8, 2019

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Fun mystery set in the English countryside.  Does an autumn read get better than that?

Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James have been invited by Gemma’s coworker Melody out to Melody’s parents’ estate in the English country for a harvest festival.  What Gemma hopes to be a restful weekend is abruptly changed when her husband Duncan is broadsided in his car by a local retired hospital administrator named Nell Greene.  Unfortunately, Nell does not survive the crash.  But what is more mysterious is that there was a man in her car who appears to have already died prior to the impact.  As Duncan and Gemma join the local detective investigator to make sense of the situation, another mysterious death occurs.  It will take everyone to figure out what is really going on in the small town of Lower Slaughter and hopefully they can figure it out before more deaths occur.

I thought this book was a stand alone, so imagine my surprise when I discovered that it is actually the 18thbook in a series.  Don’t let that deter you from selecting this title, because it may hook you to go back and read a few of the previous novels.  At first I was a little overwhelmed because there are so many different points of view, several within each chapter.  However, after about fifty to seventy-five pages, the characters voices really fleshed out and the story really took off.  I enjoyed getting to see so many supporting characters build out their flaws and really get developed.  As I said earlier, I’m going to have to go back to some of the previous novels and discover more about these characters.  There is some occasional foul language as well as some implied sex between characters, but nothing graphic.  Even so, I still recommend this to mature readers that enjoy a good mystery with a British setting.

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

The Glass Ocean

Glass OceannAuthors: Beatriz Williams, Lauren Willig, & Karen White

Publisher: William Morrow

Release Date: September 10, 2019

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Very intriguing time-slip mystery that will keep readers turning the pages to discover the truth!

Set between 2013 and 1915, three women find themselves entangled in the tragedy of the RMS Lusitania.  In 2013, Sarah Blake is beginning to see that she is running out of money from her big-time book deal five years ago.  She was enjoying being offered talk shows and interviews, but now must settle for the occasional book club.  Her mother has Alzheimer’s and the nursing home bill is looming over Sarah.  When she opens her great-grandfather’s trunk that was found in the wreckage of the Lusitania, she discovers that a new chapter in history could be written.  Unfortunately, she will have to obtain help from a disgraced member of British parliament to do it.

In 1915, Caroline Hochsetter yearns to return to her home of Savannah, where she can enjoy the warmth and hospitality of the south.  Unfortunately, she is stuck in New York with her husband who seems to be out to prove that he is just as well off with his self-made fortune as the old money families.  He decides that they need to set off to England in first class accommodations aboard the Lusitania to sell an unfinished piece of classical music that also happened to be a gift to Caroline.  Caroline tries to convince him to not sell the piece nor make the trip to England as the war is escalating between the Germans and Britain. The only bright spot is that a good friend of hers is also on the ship, whom she discovers she has developed romantic feelings for, but can Caroline take charge of her own happiness?

Con artist Tessa Fairweather is trying to get out of the family line of work, but there always seems to be one more job she gets pulled into.  When her sister convinces her to steal a music manuscript from Caroline Hochsetter, she believes that she can finally put the past in the past.  Unfortunately, the manuscript isn’t where it should be the night she enters the house and in order to obtain it, she will have to board the Lusitania.

This was an incredibly interesting story.  Sometimes three points of view can be a little intimidating, but it worked great in this case.  Each story was uniquely crafted and brought out great character development for each of the main characters.  I often found myself wanting to continue one of the stories further but realized that I was going to have to read the next chapter in a different point of view to really get the whole picture.  Everything wound together perfectly spiraling toward a collision until the truth was discovered.   Great story.  Would love to read another book by these three authors.

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher.  The views and opinions express within are my own.

The Disappearance of Alistair Ainsworth

alistar ainsworth

Author: Leonard Goldberg

Series: Daughter of Sherlock Holmes #3

Publisher: Minotaur

Release Date: June 11, 2019

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Great story, great mystery, and great pace!

 One stormy night, the occupants of 221b Baker Street receive an unexpected visitor.  An old colleague of Dr. Watson, Dr. Alexander Verner, comes to them with an extraordinary tale.  He was requested to make a house call to someone complaining of stomach pains, but not before he was blindfolded and taken by carriage to the house.  Once there, he realized that the patient did not have stomach pains and was actually signaling for help.  Unfortunately, he was unable to convince the captors that the man needed to be hospitalized, so upon being returned to London, he came strait to the Watsons and the daughter of Sherlock Holmes.  As the crew begin their investigation, it quickly becomes apparent that this is yet another national intelligence case and it appears to involve German spies as well as a group of unorthodox code breakers for the Royal Navy.  As the group unravels the clues, it seems that the German’s always have a head start which can only mean one thing, someone on the inside is working for the Germans.  With no time to spare, the group works alongside Scotland Yard and Naval Intelligence to rescue the victim before secrets can be released that will be devasting to Britain’s success in the war.

 These books are quickly becoming my favorite mystery series.  The demeanor between the three main characters is always entertaining.  I always find myself wandering how Joanna will end up solving the case.  She is intelligent, attentive, and very persistent.  Her character reminds me of Sherlock himself and I enjoyed getting to see the glimpse of her son in this novel.  He is very headstrong, but she knows what is best for him but allows him to make his own decisions, even if she might have had a bit of play in determining the outcome.  The story is very entertaining and the mystery will have you wrapped up quickly in trying to figure out the whole story, which only Joanna can truly unravel.

 Although this is a series, it easily reads as a standalone.  Fair warning though, if you do read this first, you will probably want to go buy the first two!  If you’re a fan of Holmes or just love a good mystery, give this a try!

 I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher.  The views and opinions express within are my own.

The Girl Behind the Red Rope

Girl behind red rope

Authors: Ted Dekker & Rachelle Dekker

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: September 3, 2019

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Teaming up for the first time, father and daughter Ted and Rachelle Dekker deliver an intense and fascinating read that will leave fans thirsting for them to team up again and again and again.

 It has been over ten years since Grace and the rest of her community saw something that would forever change their lives. Since that time, they have lived within the confines of the red rope, a boundary that is supposed to keep them all save from the evil furies of the world. They live under strict rules put in place by Sylous, their leader who only shows himself when necessary and usually only to one in the community, Rose. After so many years, Grace and her brother Jamie wonder if it might be safe to venture outside the rope and see what is happening with the rest of the world. Jamie has gone a few times without any consequences and when they speak up to the community with their concerns, they are sent out further to see what happens. It only takes one night out for them to encounter the Fury and let the community know. While the community lets them return, they are now looked at in a different light. It doesn’t take Jamie long to repent and change to the ways of the community, but Grace has a harder time going back to believing so easily. With each passing day, the things Grace has been taught and believed for the past decade start to unfold before her eyes and she must decide if what she has always believed is still true or trust what she sees.

 Anyone that has ever read a Ted Dekker novel knows they are going to be in for a fantastic ride full of fantasy, thrills, emotions and allegorical underlying spiritual tones that can be interpreted in several ways. Dekker has always had a way of pulling readers in and giving them a story that is more than an escape. His newest novel is going to give readers an escape into this world and leave their minds churning long after they turn the last page. While this was a collaboration between him and his daughter, Rachelle Dekker, I found it to be another incredible Dekker novel, no matter it was written by two Dekkers. I can’t tell yet if that gave it strength or not. It is hard to say whose writing is where within the pages. As I have read Rachelle’s novels, I have noticed the influence of her father in her writing; they are good books, but I couldn’t really see her own individual distinct voice. I enjoyed her books and maybe with her style so similar to the Elder Dekker it enhanced the story to make it more than what it would have been without the two writing together. With the two Dekker’s combined, the story takes off and pulls the reader in with no chance of escaping until the story is over. I almost read this in one sitting, if I hadn’t had anything to do, I could have easily finished this in one sitting and I can’t say when the last time I sat with a book and wanted to finish like that was. The authors did a fantastic job of portraying these characters in a way that kept the reader from questioning their actions. The empathy used to reach an emotional level was stunning. I loved Grace and the way she kept her head and tried to solve the ridiculously hard puzzle life was putting in front of her. The evil she goes up against is written in a way we can all relate to in one form or another. I recommend this book to fans of Dekker and those that enjoy a great mystery/thriller. If you have read Ted Dekker before, you will see little snippets that relate to other books he has written, (not in actual characters or settings but similar themes). If you have never read a Dekker book this would be the perfect one to get you hooked.

 I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

Recursion

RecursionAuthor: Blake Crouch

Publisher: Crown Publishing

Release Date: June 11, 2019

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A fast-paced, mind-bending thriller that could only come from the likes of Blake Crouch!

It’s 2007 and Alzheimer’s disease is becoming more prevalent with no apparent cure in sight.  Helena Smith’s mother is a victim of the disease and she has made it her life’s work to combat the disease with science.  As a researcher, she hasn’t made much progress, but all that changes one day when a stranger walks into her lab and offers her an open checkbook to build the contraption that she dreams of: a memory chair.  Now secluded on an abandoned oil rig that has been outfitted into a secret laboratory, Helena is making advancements on her chair light years ahead of where she was at Stanford.  Once her team finally manages to capture and recreate memories, Helena can’t wait to use it for her mother.  But the chair’s mysterious benefactor seems to have other plans for the chair’s use, plans that she never saw coming or thought possible.

Ten years later, New York City cop Barry Sutton is called to a potential suicide jumper.  As he tries to talk her off the ledge, she confesses that she has FMS or false memory syndrome.  Becoming more prevalent, people are stricken with a second set of false memories of a completely different life that they never lived.  In many cases, it drives the person crazy until they commit suicide to escape from the madness.  Although Barry tries to persuade her, he is unsuccessful, and she jumps to her death.  Experts aren’t sure how the disease is transmitted nor is there any known cure.  He only hopes that he hasn’t contracted it from this woman.  As Barry investigates what loose ends there are, he finds something that doesn’t add up.  What Barry doesn’t realize is that this investigation will set forth a series of events that will change the world as he knows it, and possibly several other alternate worlds too!

Only the mind of Blake Crouch could conjure up a thriller this mind-bending.  His previous novel Dark Matter was such an intense read that it stayed with me for days and I kept telling people about it.  This was just as intense and will be sure to make my top list for the year.  Crouch has a way of making his reader’s question what they think they know.  Sure, it’s science fiction, but just think about it if it were true.  Disrupting the space-time continuum would cause all out chaos.  Where his previous novel dealt with string theory, this one focus in on actually traveling back in time and the ramifications of even living the exact same life over again.  He makes theoretical physics fun to read about and will hopefully inspire some future minds to continue developing this type of science.  I also just learned that this is going to become a movie on Netflix in 2020, so I highly recommended getting your copy now so that you can digest this awesome read.

There is quite a bit of strong language throughout the book as well as implied sex scenes  that is more appropriate for mature audiences.

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

Light From Distant Stars

LIght from distant starsAuthor: Shawn Smucker

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: July 16, 2019

Reviewer: Jennifer S. Roman

Cohen Marah has lived near death his whole life.  As a young boy, his parents divorced, and his father moved into an apartment above a funeral home.  Later, Cohen works as a funeral director with his family.  One day, he enters the embalming room and finds his father on the floor, blood everywhere, and an embalming instrument shoved up through his father’s chin.  Freaked out because he thinks his father is dead and he is somehow to blame, he exits the room and leaves his father’s body for someone else to find.  Much to his surprise, he is called and told that his father is alive but in critical condition at the hospital.  The rest of the story takes place in the hospital as Cohen revisits some of his childhood memories and attempts to come to terms with his fragile relationship with his father.

The story bounces between the past and present, with readers finding out a lot about Cohen from the flashbacks.  His parents’ divorce is hard on him because they each took a child, so Cohen does not get to see his beloved sister as much as before.  He has a hard time making friends, and is especially thrilled when he meets a brother and sister at an abandoned, burned-out trailer that they used to live in.  He spends a lot of time with them when he can find them, but they are secretive and very rarely available to spend time with him.  Baseball is his one salvation.  It ties him and his father together and causes him to meet a girl, Ava, who turns out to be a reliable friend.  Present day Cohen turns to the church for healing while his father is fighting for his life, and it brings Ava back to him because she is the detective investigating his father’s injuries.  He knows he is a prime suspect, especially because Ava knows his background.  Cohen can’t tell for sure if he killed his father, or if his imagination is running away with him.  He’s hoping his more frequent meetings with the priest will help him figure it out.

Yes, this synopsis seems helter-skelter, but I promise that if you read through the book, it will make sense.  Once I started, I was hooked.  I too had a hard time deciding if Cohen’s memories and actions were real or just part of his imagination.  It was quick reading because it was so enthralling and fascinating, and yet, by the time it was over, I was just as confused as I had been throughout.  I am not sure if that was the author’s intent or if it was just me missing something really big, but I didn’t really get the final resolution of the story.

I really enjoyed the various characters throughout the book; they are messy, human, and ultimately interesting.  Cohen’s father’s misguided ways lead his family to shatter, and each family member deals with it in unique ways.  For Cohen, he is stuck with a fallen man who doesn’t seem to connect, and Cohen is left to his own devices.  His loneliness is a catalyst to a lot of the story, and it’s easy to see how things happen as they do.  His mother is just a side note to the majority of the story, but she plays a big part at the end.  His sister Kaye is the stability and normalness that Cohen so desperately wants, but being separated from her, he misses out on that.

I did enjoy the whole story until the confusing ending.  That is not to say that this is not a good book, but rather, I am one who needs things to be wrapped up at the end.  If you enjoy books that leave a lot up to the reader, you will be happy to read Light from Distant Stars.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.