Review: The Pact

Review: The PactThe Pact (Kate Burkholder #11.5) by Linda Castillo
Series: Kate Burkholder #11.5
Published by Minotaur Books on April 28, 2020
Genres: Mystery
Goodreads
three-half-stars

FINAL DECISION: I always enjoy these short interludes in the Kate Burkholder series. The story doesn’t have the depth or carefully plotted mystery involved in the main books, but the story doesn’t claim to be anything more than a taste of the series.

THE STORY: Two boys, one English and one Amish, disappear and Police Chief Kate Burkholder has to find them. For a short story, it manages to pack in a lot about the cross-cultural biases between the two groups and two boys who just want to be friends. There is some danger and mystery involved, but it is minor.

OPINION: The highlight of this story is the relationship between the two missing boys and their deep friendship in defiance of their parents’ wishes. The story has some adventures for the boys, but the story is really focused on the heartwarming nature of the boys’ friendship and bond rather than death and mystery as is true in the main books. I liked seeing the recurring characters solve something that is more “normal.” I also liked that we got to see Kate and John together working on a case. I miss the books where their interaction was a big part of the story. This shorter story gives a chance to see them in action again.

WORTH MENTIONING: This is a short story.

CONNECTED BOOKS: THE PACT is book 11.5 in the Kate Burkholder series. These short mystery stories are between the novels and are focused on a quick read.

STAR RATING: I give this 3.5 stars.

 

three-half-stars

Review: Outsider

I received this book for free from Netgalley in order to prepare an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.


Review: OutsiderOutsider (Kate Burkholder #12) by Linda Castillo
Series: Kate Burkholder #12
Published by Minotaur Books on July 7, 2020
Genres: Contemporary, Mystery
Goodreads
four-stars

 

FINAL DECISION: The story is good, but the mystery wasn’t as engaging as others in the series. I love reading about Kate, but this one is my least favorite of the series.

THE STORY: Kate’s past arrives in the form of Gina Colorosa, the woman with whom Kate joined the police force. Gina arrives having been shot and on the run. Holed up at an Amish farm, Kate has to find out the truth while confronting the possibility that Gina might be a criminal herself.

OPINION: Things I liked about this book: we got to see quite a bit of John working with Kate; the stories where we learn more about Kate’s past are always better; I liked the Amish family involved in this story, and Kate was pretty savvy during the story.

Things I didn’t like as much: I didn’t really like Gina much and so I didn’t care as much what happened with her story; with the claustrophobic atmosphere of the book there were large parts where little action occurred; some of the turns in the book were not explained.

I enjoyed the story but felt that overall it is the weakest of the series. The mystery/suspense story didn’t work as well. However, I really did love seeing Kate and John working together/

WORTH  MENTIONING: This story takes place in a very confirmed area with only a few prominent characters which is very different from the usual way this series works.

CONNECTED BOOKS: OUTSIDER is the twelfth book in the Kate Burkholder series. The mystery in this book is completely self-contained and can be read without any other book. There are continuing personal storylines, however. Reading the books in order gives the best experience.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

NOTE: I received an eARC of this book via Netgalley. I was not required to write a review and all opinions contained herein are my own.

 

four-stars

Review: Blood of a Gladiator

Review: Blood of a GladiatorBlood of a Gladiator (Leonidas the Gladiator Mysteries, #1) by Ashley Gardner
Series: Leonidas the Gladiator Mysteries #1
Published by JA / AG Publishing on May 21, 2020
Genres: Historical, Mystery
Goodreads
four-half-stars

 

FINAL DECISION: The unusual setting along with the introduction of characters with mysterious pasts kept me turning pages on this one. The author now has three great historical mystery series going. I can’t wait for the next one in this series.

THE STORY: Set in ancient Rome, Leonidas, a famous gladiator, is freed from the deadly games by an unknown benefactor who gives him a place to live and a servant but he has to earn his own living. Cassia, a slave, is sent to help Leonidas, but also to spy on him. Leonidas’s first job is as a bodyguard, but it also lands him — and Cassia — in a series of mysteries involving death and kidnapping.

OPINION: This book is a mystery set in historical Rome, during the time of Nero. In this book we get to meet Leonidas who has been retired from gladiator fighting — something he has been very good at but is heart weary and does not desire to continue to kill and maim. One of the overarching mysteries is who Leonidas’s mysterious benefactor is and what his plans for Leonidas are. Leonidas’s story is interesting as he tries and find a place for himself and determine what he wants after years of his life being decided for him. I really liked him as a character because he has secrets that are yet to be mined in the story.

Cassia is also an intriguing character. What is her history, her purpose and her true motives. She is clever and because readers are not privy to her thoughts, she remains mysterious throughout the story. I really liked reading about her because she uses her brains and her recording skills (she is a scribe) to help resolve the mysteries.

Cassia and Leonidas are a good pair. Thrown together for some mysterious purpose, they are developing a good working relationship in this book. I especially liked the respect and care that they show for one another. The book also manages to have quite a bit of action along with the mental exercise of the crime — which is appropriate for a man of physical feats and his scribe slave.

The mystery here has multiple layers which I really enjoyed. The plot is developed through the interviews with various characters in different stations in life — from the emperor himself to merchants to builders to gladiators to brothel women. The story gives a nice view of Roman society along with a good mystery.

I really enjoyed this book, and I look forward to reading more about these characters.

WORTH MENTIONING: This is a straight-up mystery without any romance — at least right now. I have hopes for the future.

CONNECTED BOOKS: BLOOD OF A GLADIATOR is the first book in the Leonidas the Gladiator series. This book occurs before the events in the novella BLOOD DEBTS.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

NOTE: I received an eARC of this book from the author. I was not required to write a review or to write a positive review. All opinions contained herein are my own.

 

four-half-stars

Review: A Murderous Relation

I received this book for free from Netgalley in order to prepare an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.


Review: A Murderous RelationA Murderous Relation (Veronica Speedwell, #5) by Deanna Raybourn
Series: Veronica Speedwell #5
Published by Berkley on March 10, 2020
Genres: Historical, Mystery
Pages: 320
Goodreads
five-stars

FINAL DECISION: The book I have definitely been waiting for in this series. Funny and romantic and a great mystery.

THE STORY: Veronica Speedwell and her partner in crime Stoker are asked to retrieve a jewel that can link the prince to a notorious private club. Veronica and Stoker end up having to go undercover at the brothel where they run across a murder victim whose murder threatens the royal family. At the same time, it is 1888 and Jack the Ripper is haunting the streets of London.

OPINION: Smart and funny. I loved this book. This is the book that fans of the series have been waiting for. The book has mystery and thrilling adventure and romance and humor and emotion. I couldn’t put in down from page one and I was cheering by the end of the book.

As with the other books in this series, I love how Veronica and Stoker use their intelligence and daring to solve the case. There is more going on than it appears in teh beginning and the multiple threads of the stories are woven together so well by the end.

The book is entertaining and the connection between Veronica and Stoker just keeps getting better. This series is not a romance but rather a historical mystery with strong romance parts, but I just love the story here. These two are perfect together — both as partners in their investigations and as love interests.

I don’t want to give away anything as to the mystery…but it is good as well.

WORTH MENTIONING: Good news that the series will continue.

CONNECTED BOOKS: A MURDEROUS RELATION is the fifth book in the Veronica Speedwell series. Each book has a self-contained mystery story. There are, however, overarching stories related to the characters which makes this series better read in order.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.

NOTE: I received an eARC of this book via Netgalley. I was not required to write a review or to write a positive review. All opinions contained herein are my own. I also purchased a hardcover copy of the book after its release.

five-stars

Review: Death at Brighton Pavilion

Review: Death at Brighton PavilionDeath at Brighton Pavilion (Captain Lacey Regency Mysteries Book 14) by Ashley Gardner, Jennifer Ashley
Series: Captain Lacey Regency Mysteries #14
Published by JA / AG Publishing on 17th December 2019
Genres: Historical, Mystery
Pages: 269
Goodreads
five-stars

 

FINAL DECISION: I loved this one. The mystery strikes right into the heart of Captain Lacey — his past, his wife, his view of himself. The detective investigating whether he himself is a murderer is a grand plot and this one kept me turning page after page.

THE STORY: Captain Lacey awakens with a sword in his hand, a dead body, and no memory of what happened. As Lacey tries to figure out what has happened, he has to contend with his past with the dead man and the possibility that he might have committed the murder.

OPINION: This was one of my favorite of the series. The close connection between the mystery and Lacey’s past made this one compelling. I also love the twist of Lacey not being sure whether or not he committed the murder especially with a definite motive that he possesses.

Captain Lacey must seek the assistance of all of his friends to help him find out what happened. Once again, I loved seeing all the supporting characters who have their own developing stories in the series.

This book nicely works on the relationship between Lacey and his wife. There are complications which stretch the characters and give them more depth.

The connection between the mystery and the personal always makes the story more compelling for me. This one kept me guessing throughout and Lacey’s dealing with his own past and his own impetuous personality that gets him into trouble made this compelling.

WORTH MENTIONING: There are loose ends here that are left open nicely leaving possibilities for future books.

CONNECTED BOOKS: DEATH AT BRIGHTON PAVILION is the fourteenth book in the Captain Lacey Regency Mysteries series. Each book, including this one, is a self-contained mystery. It is not necessary to read the other books to jump into this one. There are continuing character storylines that go through the entire series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.

NOTE: I received an eARC from the author which was used in the preparation of this review. I was not required to write a review or to write a positive review. All opinions contained herein are my own.

five-stars

Review: The Art of Theft

I received this book for free from Netgalley in order to prepare an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.


Review: The Art of TheftThe Art of Theft (Lady Sherlock, #4) by Sherry Thomas
Series: Lady Sherlock #4
Published by Berkley on October 15, 2019
Genres: Historical, Mystery
Pages: 336
Goodreads
four-half-stars

 

FINAL DECISION: This book leans towards adventure more than cerebral mystery, but it works very well. I especially enjoyed those surrounding Sherlock Holmes joining together as a group to investigate. Grounded nicely in character and emotion, I enjoyed the progression of the various characters stories.

THE STORY: Following the intensely personal events of THE HOLLOW OF FEAR, this book turns to the supporting characters in the series who have bigger roles here and their history and relationships are explored more. It is Mrs. Watson who desperately needs the help of Sherlock Holmes and the cast of characters to help an old friend. The group end up traveling to France to steal a piece of art.

OPINION: After the intensity of the prior book being focused on Charlotte and Lord Ingram, this book primarily focuses on others in Sherlock’s orbit. There is much progression here character wise. (We do also get some of the emotional aftermath between Charlotte and Ash).

This book goes in a new direction with more of a heist book than a thoughtful mystery. I enjoyed both the mystery and the character moments in this book. As with all the books in this series, this feels original and interesting. Charlotte is a singular character — my favorite adaption of the Sherlock Holmes character.

Every moment feels fresh and interesting. I love the characters and I want to know how they are going to solve the mystery that comes before Charlotte. This book is very much a collaborate effort between the various characters and while Charlotte is definitely the lead, this one feels more like a group effort. There are more characters who rise to importance and their stories are intriguing as more secrets are revealed.

With plenty of exciting adventures, this one kept me turning pages until the end. (And what an ending…now I have to wait a year for the next in the series, oh no!)

WORTH MENTIONING: As with other books in this series, the main story here is completed, but the book ends on a cliffhanger for the next in the series.

CONNECTED BOOKS: THE ART OF THEFT is the fourth book in the Lady Sherlock series. While the mystery here is self-contained, the characters and the overarching stories make this deeply connected with the other books in the series. I believe a reader should start at the beginning, otherwise, there is much to the mystery that will be unanswerable.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book via Netgalley. I was not required to write a review or to write a positive review. All opinions contained herein are my own.

 

four-half-stars

Review: The Widow of Rose House

I received this book for free from Netgalley in order to prepare an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.


Review: The Widow of Rose HouseThe Widow of Rose House by Diana Biller
Published by St. Martin's Griffin on October 8, 2019
Genres: Historical, Mystery, Paranormal
Pages: 352
Goodreads
four-stars

 

FINAL DECISION: Enjoyable historical romance combined with a ghost story. While the book had some parts that dragged, overall, I thought this was a good story with interesting characters. I wanted to read more of the Moore family.

THE STORY: Alva Webster returns to New York after the death of her estranged husband as the notorious widow. She intends to build a life for herself by renovating a dilapidated house and using it as the subject of a book. But when her plans are derailed by tales of ghosts that haunt the house, she ends up working with Samuel Moore, a scientist and inventor, who takes up investigating what is haunting the house. Samuel also is intrigued by Alva even as she wants to avoid any entanglements. As the two get closer and search for the secrets of Alva’s house, Alva’s own secret past threatens her plans for the future.

OPINION: This book is an interesting combination of a Gilded Age historical romance, a mystery, and a ghost book with the attendant thriller and suspense aspects. I thought the combination of these genres worked really well. I never felt that the story was out of balance. I enjoyed all aspects of the story.

I liked the relationship between Alva and Samuel. Alva has been grievously injured by her marriage and she treats Samuel pretty poorly because of it. Indeed, if I have a complaint, it is that Samuel is way too accommodating to Alva. She leads Samuel on knowing his feelings for her. I also thought that her insistence on handling her past problems herself was pretty idiotic. The inability to ask for help is not strength but a weakness.

But apart from that, I really loved when Alva and Samuel’s relationship was working. He is adorable and there was such fun and sweetness in their interactions.

The book had some really interesting parts. I thought that parts were repetitive and the book dragged somewhat when Alva is dealing with her past. But the parts with Alva and Samuel together were lovely. I also thought that the ghost portions themselves were suspenseful and scary without being too graphic. The portions of Samuel and Alva doing investigations of the origins of the ghosts in the house also introduced readers to a variety of well drawn characters.

And ultimately, it was the strength of the characterizations which made this book for me. I not only really enjoyed Alva and Samuel, but also Samuel’s family and other more minor characters that help with the investigation.

I thought the ghost story portion was well done and certainly was rooted in real trials of the time.

WORTH MENTIONING: I really want to read the stories of the other Moore siblings (including Henry).

CONNECTED BOOKS: THE WIDOW OF ROSE HOUSE is a standalone.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book via Netgalley. I was not required to write a review or to write a positive review. All opinions contained herein are my own.

 

four-stars

Review: Death in Kew Gardens

Review: Death in Kew GardensDeath in Kew Gardens (Kat Holloway Mysteries, #3) by Jennifer Ashley
Series: Below Stairs Mysteries #3
Published by Berkley on June 4, 2019
Genres: Historical, Mystery
Pages: 320
Goodreads
four-stars

FINAL DECISION: A solid entry in the series. Here the mystery predominates over the character stories.

THE STORY: Cook Kat Holloway finds herself mixed up in murder again when a man with a secret gifts her with a box of teas. When he becomes the prime suspect in the murder of the man next door. Kat becomes embroiled in the investigation which involves issues of colonialism and tea secrets stolen from China.

OPINION: The mystery here was good in that I didn’t figure out the culprit until the end. On the negative side, I was not that interested in the details of the tea trade here. That led my mind to wandering during lengthy explanations regarding motives and such. I wanted the story to be more personal to Kat. Instead, this felt like a standard mystery book, and I really didn’t buy her connection to the story here. Despite this, I enjoyed the book but it is my least favorite in the series so far.

WORTH MENTIONING: There is not much on the romance side here in this book. I wanted more Kat and Daniel.

CONNECTED BOOKS: DEATH IN KEW GARDENS is the third book in the Below Stairs Mysteries (also known as the Kat Holloway Mysteries/Murders). The mystery here is self contained and thus this book can be read as a standalone. There are ongoing storylines for the characters, however, so new readers should be aware that the characters and their personal stories develop from book to book.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

four-stars

Review: Shamed

I received this book for free from Netgalley in order to prepare an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.


Review: ShamedShamed (Kate Burkholder, #11) by Linda Castillo
Series: Kate Burkholder #11
Published by Minotaur Books on July 16, 2019
Genres: Mystery
Pages: 304
Goodreads
five-stars

 

“You see a lot of things when you’re the chief of police in a small town.”

FINAL DECISION: Loved this one. Pulse pounding exciting mystery/suspense with plenty of Kate and John together. Plus, this one once again gives more complexity to the Amish.

THE STORY: An Amish grandmother is murdered and her young granddaughter is kidnapped. Chief Kate Burkholder is in a race against time to find the girl. The investigation leads Kate to uncomfortable information about the Amish that challenges what she thought she knew about them. She discovers that there are a lot of secrets to be uncovered.

OPINION: I loved this book. I was drawn into the story from the first page and the pacing of the book kept me breathless throughout. This was a fast paced and dramatic book until the very end.

I’m a big fan of this series especially because Kate is such an independent and competent character. She makes mistakes and she thinks too much, but everything she does comes from deep caring. Kate’s emotional connection to cases is always both problematic but also part of her great strength as an investigator. As always, Kate’s connection to the Amish give her an entry to the important people in the investigation, but often the reality conflicts with Kate’s faith in the Amish.

Here, there are serious secrets at work and Kate has to discover the truth in order to save the girl and find the killer.

There was a lot happening in this book which made it a read that I couldn’t put down. Every time I finished a chapter, instead of being able to put the book down, I wanted to know what happened next. I ended up reading the book in one large gulp.

I also really enjoyed that Kate’s love interest John is involved in the case rather than just being on the sideline. Kate and John work so well together that I love them having more “screen time” together. I was a little disappointed that we didn’t get more followup from the prior book, but I always enjoy seeing how their relationship is developing.

Fans of the series will find all the elements that make this series worth reading. New readers will also get an exciting read as this book can be a gateway to the series.

WORTH MENTIONING: The format of this book add to the tension of the story. The construction is a bit different than others in the series but it works well here.

CONNECTED BOOKS: SHAMED is the eleventh book in the Kate Burkholder series. This book has a self-contained mystery and thus can be read as a standalone. There are ongoing character developments that will have less impact if the series is not read in order.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.

NOTE: I received an eARC of this book via Netgalley. I was not required to write a review or to write a positive review. All opinions contained herein are my own.

 

five-stars

Review: In Plain Sight

Review: In Plain SightIn Plain Sight (Kate Burkholder, #10.5) by Linda Castillo
Series: Kate Burkholder #10.5
Published by Minotaur Books on May 28, 2019
Genres: Mystery
Pages: 60
Goodreads
four-stars

FINAL DECISION: A small mystery about a teenage Amish boy who is struck by a car and questions that arise when it looks like it might not have been an accident. This is a small mystery benefiting its length, but I liked it as we get to see all the best parts of the characters in the series.

THE STORY: When a teenage Amish boy is found seriously injured by the side of the road, it initially appears to be an accident. But Chief Kate Burkholder soon finds out that not everyone in town was happy that the Amish boy was dating an English girl.

OPINION: This is a pretty straightforward story, but has some of the hallmark issues raised in the series: the conflict between the Amish and the others in town, emotional and sex relationships, Kate being a strong person who does her job in a kickass fashion, the relationships she has with her staff and John. This short story (it’s too short for me to even consider it a novella) gives a nice taste of what is involved in the series. I thought the plot was well executed.

WORTH MENTIONING: Only small glimpses of Kate and John in this one.

CONNECTED BOOKS: IN PLAIN SIGHT is book 11.5 in the Kate Burkholder series. This short story can be read as a standalone and gives some idea of the stakes in the main books in the series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

 

four-stars