“Robert Parker’s Grudge Match” by Mike Lupica

“Robert Parker’s Grudge Match” by Mike Lupica

Sunny Randall Book 8

When Sunny’s long-time gangster associate Tony Marcus comes to her for help, Sunny is surprised–after all, she double crossed him on a recent deal, and their relationship is on shakier ground than ever. But the way Tony figures it, Sunny owes him, and Sunny’s willing to consider his case if it will clear the slate.

Tony’s trusted girlfriend and business partner has vanished, appears to have left in a hurry, and he has no idea why. He just wants to talk to her, he says, but first he needs Sunny to track her down. While Sunny isn’t willing to trust his good intentions, the missing woman intrigues her–against all odds, she’s risen to a position of power in Tony’s criminal enterprise. Sunny can’t help but admire her, and if this woman’s in a jam, Sunny would like to help.

But when a witness is murdered hours after speaking to Sunny, it’s clear there’s more at stake than just Tony’s love life. Someone–maybe even Tony himself–doesn’t want this woman on the loose…and will go to any lengths to make sure she stays silent.

Sunny Randall is up in my Top 10 of female detectives so I was very pleased to be granted a review copy of this latest release. This actually turned out to be a quick read from me because I just couldn’t put it down. Sunny’s got a bad history with Tony Marcus but now he needs her help and is willing to let bygones be bygones, or so he says. While Sunny is looking for his missing girlfriend, the competition is trying to move in on Tony and is not afraid of using Sunny as a part of their takeover attempt. Then she is suddenly confronted with the re-appearance of her ex-husband’s son in their lives.

There are a lot of moving parts in this story but the author expertly wove them together into a story that keeps you guessing. Sunny is brash and ballsy on the job, but finds herself getting more and more wrapped up with the little boy. I love that these stories are set in Boston, a city I have visited but don’t really have a good knowledge of. A lot of the enjoyment for me in reading is getting to visit places I don’t know much about. Sunny is a character that has developed over the course of the series into a tough and loyal detective, with a enough of a feminine side to be relatable for us ordinary folk. As for the mob guys, well, I like the uniqueness of their characters but as people I wouldn’t want to get anywhere near them. That Sunny can hold her own in their presence amazes me.

I am recommending this book because I really enjoy the writing and pacing of the story, I love the character of Sunny, and the location is on that intrigues me. If you haven’t discovered Sunny Randall yet that you need to, plain and simple.

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“In Her Shadow” by Kristin Miller

“In Her Shadow” by Kristin Miller

When secretary Colleen Roper becomes pregnant by her boss, Michael, he whisks her away to Ravenwood, his opulent estate. Abruptly thrust into a life of luxury she’s never known, Colleen finds the immense house suffused with the memory of Michael’s wife, Joanna, who left months ago and haunts her imagination. With rooms she’s prohibited from entering and a staff that greets her with hostility, there is little room for a new mistress of Ravenwood.

It’s not long before bones are unearthed in the grove across the street and Michael falls under the suspicion of detectives. The soon-to-be mother of his child finds herself hurled deeper into her lover’s dark past, a past filled with unfaithfulness and deception. Making a claim to her new life is harder than it seems—especially since she’s walking in the shadow of the hauntingly beautiful Joanna. As Colleen untangles truth from lies, she discovers that nothing is what it seems, and that some people will kill to keep their secrets as quiet as the dead.

This mystery is inspired by “Rebecca” by Daphne du Maurier and the first chapter feels very reminiscent of “Rebecca”. But the story’s originality quickly becomes apparent after the first chapter. I was drawn in by the characters immediately. Colleen is a lovely young lady who appears very naive. While Michael comes across as very much taking advantage of Colleen. Don’t be deceived though, these characters are much more complex than they at first appear. Motives shift from one person to another and you will have to get to the end in order to fully understand what has been happening throughout.

This book is loaded with murder, deception, ulterior motives and betrayal, all wrapped up in a mysterious modern setting. I enjoyed this story much more than I expected to and highly recommend it.

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“A Cold Trail” by Robert Dugoni

“A Cold Trail” by Robert Dugoni

Tracy Crosswhite, Book 7

The last time homicide detective Tracy Crosswhite was in Cedar Grove, it was to see her sister’s killer put behind bars. Now she’s returned for a respite and the chance to put her life back in order for herself, her attorney husband, Dan, and their new daughter. But tragic memories soon prove impossible to escape.

Dan is drawn into representing a local merchant whose business is jeopardized by the town’s revitalization. And Tracy is urged by the local PD to put her own skills to work on a new case: the brutal murder of a police officer’s wife and local reporter who was investigating a cold-case slaying of a young woman. As Tracy’s and Dan’s cases crisscross, Tracy’s trail becomes dangerous. It’s stirring up her own haunted past and a decades-old conspiracy in Cedar Grove that has erupted in murder. Getting to the truth is all that matters. But what’s Tracy willing to risk as a killer gets closer to her and threatens everyone she loves?

I always forget how much I enjoy Tracy Crosswhite until I pick up the next book and can’t bear to put it down. This one was especially interesting because Tracy has become a mother and I was very curious to see how this was going to impact her work. I think the author did a very good job of exploring that through Tracy’s inner dialogue as she investigates the case and in her interactions with Dan. This story also has some very intricate plotting, complicated by the fact that it takes place in Cedar Grove, where Tracy grew up and where her sister was also murdered. I think the setting of the story also gave some insight into how Tracy became the person she is as the reader gets to see her through the eyes of the townspeople, many of whom remember her from her childhood.

I particularly enjoy a series where you get to see the character develop, change and mature with time and the situations that they find themselves in. This is one of those series. I really enjoyed this installment and look forward to many more books in this series.

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Tracy Crosswhite Book 1

“Strike Me Down” by Mindy Mejia

“Strike Me Down” by Mindy Mejia

Nora Trier catches thieves. As a forensic accountant and partner in her downtown Minneapolis firm, she’s unearthed millions in every corner of the world. She prides herself on her independence, the most essential currency of accounting, until her firm is hired by Strike.

An anti-corporate, feminist athletic empire, Strike is owned by Logan Russo, a brash and legendary kickboxer, and her marketing genius husband, Gregg Abbott. They’re about to host a major kickboxing tournament with twenty million dollars in prize money, and the chance for the champion to become the new face of the company. Gregg suspects his wife already has a new face in mind—a young trainer named Aaden, for whom Logan feels an unexpected connection.

Days before the tournament begins, it’s discovered that the prize money is missing. Gregg hires Nora’s firm to find both the thief and the money but Nora has a secret connection to Strike that threatens her independence. Her partner pressures her into taking the case anyway, hinting he has information about Strike that could change the course of the investigation in a shocking and deadly way.

“Strike Me Down” had me excited and a little nervous from the beginning. The lead character Nora is a CPA, like me, and this immediately drew my attention. Let’s face it, the accounting profession doesn’t get my time in fiction. The martial arts aspect of the story had me a little nervous though because I’m not a particular fan. I was very curious to see how this story was going to develop, but Mindy Mejia hadn’t let me down before so I quickly dove in. This turned out to be a great story. The criminal is not immediately obvious and my suspicions changed several times before I was able to narrow down my suspect pool. Once again, the character’s in this book are complicated, with motives that are sometimes obvious and other times completely unexpected. I liked the way that each of the players in this story had a different background that influenced their behavior.

This story takes place in Minneapolis, mostly in the downtown area and I really like the way that the overhead covered walkways became such an integral part of the action. A foot chase in the winding corridors of downtown is definitely intriguing. I have come to really enjoy Mindy Mejia’s books as this is the 3rd one I’ve read now. I always find the stories to be complex, unexpected and mysterious. I appreciate the way she develops her characters and uses the landscape as a tool to enrich the story. So pick up this book, and spend a little time the Twin Cities.

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Other books by Mindy Mejia:

“Poison Orchids” by Sarah Denzil & Anni Taylor

“Poison Orchids” by Sarah Denzil & Anni Taylor

Narrated by Aimee Horne

Young backpackers Gemma and Hayley arrive at a remote fruit farm in Australia’s Northern Territory, out of money and desperate for work. 

The weeks go on, a blur of fruit picking, parties, campfires and wading beneath waterfalls in the nearby hot springs. Until the night the girls find themselves on a dark highway, bruised and bloodied.  

Senior Detective Bronwen McKay and psychologist Megan Arlotti question the terrified girls. But Hayley and Gemma are telling two very different stories of what happened to them over the past three months. 

Buckle up people, this is a bumpy ride. There is some pretty graphic violence so if you are sensitive to that type of content this would not be a good choice. That being said, I was all in with this story. It starts with a bang near the end of Gemma and Hayley’s journey together and then shifts back and forth between what’s happening to them now and the events that led up to their current situation. This story is very complex with some very intriguing characters and you need to be paying attention in order to keep it all straight. I felt that listening to this story just heightened the drama overall and made it all feel more real, though I hope that some of the situations are never anybody’s reality. This story is very dark but it completely captured my imagination. In the past few months, I have found myself really enjoying books set in Australia and this is one of the best I’ve read.

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“If She Wakes” by Michael Koryta

“If She Wakes” by Michael Koryta

Narrated by Robert Petkoff

Tara Beckley is a senior at idyllic Hammel College in Maine. As she drives to deliver a visiting professor to a conference, a horrific car accident kills the professor and leaves Tara in a vegetative state. At least, so her doctors think. In fact, she’s a prisoner of locked-in syndrome: fully alert but unable to move a muscle. Trapped in her body, she learns that someone powerful wants her dead – but why? And what can she do, lying in a hospital bed, to stop them?

Abby Kaplan, an insurance investigator, is hired by the college to look in to Tara’s case. A former stunt driver, Abby returned home after a disaster in Hollywood left an actor dead and her own reputation – and nerves – shattered. Despite the fog of trauma, she can tell that Tara’s car crash was no accident. When she starts asking questions, things quickly spin out of control, leaving Abby on the run and a mysterious young hit man named Dax Blackwell hard on her heels.

This story is fascinating, thrilling, and a little bit creepy. All the things I look for in a thriller. There is an urgency to the story from the very first words. A sense of something ominous about to happen. Tara is just trying to be friendly with the guest speaker she is escorting to the college event. Then it all goes terribly wrong.

I love the way the author uses Tara to push the investigation forward, even though she is suffering from locked-in syndrome and seemingly has no way to communicate. I really appreciated how he explored what was going on in her thoughts, the feeling of indignity when the nurses talked about her like she wasn’t in the room, the desperation she feels when she realizes that she can’t communicate, and the relief when her sister fights for her rights when she is helpless. This aspect of the story is a reminder that just because a person is medically unable to talk to you doesn’t mean that you can treat them with disrespect.

Abby, the investigator, is a whole different kettle of fish. She is intent on finding the truth but must confront her internal demons in order to get through this investigation alive. The path to the truth is twisted and full of the unexpected. When she finds herself at the mercy of a serial killer she uses every resource she can muster thwart his deadly intentions. I found it easy to identify with Abby and cheer her on. Her methods may be unorthodox to some but they are definitely effective.

I listened to the audiobook version of this story and was on the edge of my seat throughout. The narrator’s pacing was excellent and it was a real pleasure to listen to. This was a thoroughly enjoyable read.

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“Running Blind” by Lee Child

“Running Blind” by Lee Child

Narrated by Johnathan McClain

Across the country women are being murdered by a killer who leaves no evidence, no fatal wounds, no signs of struggle, and no clues to a motive. They are, truly, perfect crimes. In fact, the only thing that links the victims is the man they all knew: Jack Reacher.

Warning: this story has a lot of potentially triggering scenes about crimes against women. Jack Reacher is my latest fictional hero. “Running Blind” is his 4th story. The FBI suspects him of murdering women across the country who had, while in military service, reported sexual assault. Reacher had been the investigator in all the cases, therefore he must be guilty. Then the tables turn and he’s helping the FBI find the real killer.

I find Jack Reacher so fascinating because I just can’t quite figure him out. Every book reveals a little bit more about him and just when I think I’m starting to understand him he throws me another loop. This is a character that keeps my interest. In this book, he’s paired with an FBI agent who, I’m sorry to say, has no redeeming qualities in my mind. She’s just way more nasty than she needs to be, but Reacher just takes it all in stride.

The plot of this one really had me guessing. I’d say I was about 85% through the book before I started to think that maybe I was wrong about the suspect and of course I was. Because Lee Child is good at unexpected twists, there are plenty of them. I was also impressed with the way the author handled the trauma that the women experienced. He doesn’t dismiss or trivialize what happened which I appreciate, especially from a male author.

I would definitely recommend the audiobook version of this story. I think Mr. McClain did a great job of voicing this one. The characters are distinctive and his narration is very well paced so you don’t have a chance to “zone out”. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and am looking forward to the next one.

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Other books in this series:

“The Only Child” by Mi-ae Seo

“The Only Child” by Mi-ae Seo

Criminal psychologist Seonkyeong receives an unexpected call one day. Yi Byeongdo, a serial killer whose gruesome murders shook the world, wants to be interviewed. Yi Byeongdo, who has refused to speak to anyone until now, asks specifically for her. Seonkyeong agrees out of curiosity.

That same day Hayeong, her husband’s eleven-year-old daughter from a previous marriage, shows up at their door after her grandparents, with whom she lived after her mother passed away, die in a sudden fire. Seonkyeong wants her to feel at home, but is gradually unnerved as the young girl says very little and acts strangely.

At work and at home, Seonkyeong starts to unravel the pasts of the two new arrivals in her life and begins to see startling similarities. Hayeong looks at her the same way Yi Byeongdo does when he recounts the abuse he experienced as a child; Hayeong’s serene expression masks a temper that she can’t control. Plus, the story she tells about her grandparents’ death, and her mother’s before that, deeply troubles Seonkyeong. So much so that Yi Byeongdo picks up on it and starts giving her advice.

I find myself on a bit of an international tour with my reading. Recently, I was in Nigeria with a police procedural and now I’m visiting South Korea with this intense psychological thriller. I had a little difficulty getting going with the story at the beginning because of the names but once I decided in my head on a pronunciation this book was hard to put down. The writing also struck me as a little stiff at times but I’m wondering if that is due to translation rather than any failing on the part of the author. The author so effectively takes the reader into the minds of her characters that is was impossible for me not to be impressed.

What really fascinated me with this story is the psychology behind the three main characters. The reader gets to go right along with Seonkyeong as she works her way through her own reactions to Yi Byeongdo and Haeyong and tries to use her training as a psychologist to understand how each of them has been shaped by their experiences. There are unexpected twists along the way and the ending could have gone a few different ways and wasn’t quite what I expected. Overall, I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this book. Even though the story is set in South Korea, the issues addressed are universal.

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Carson Mansion Update

Progress is being made. The first two pages of the design are now complete. Definition will be added with backstitching and work will begin on the first floor followed by landscaping. This project is moving forward at a slow but steady pace. No completion date has been announced yet.

Carson Mansion by Nancy Spruance Designs

#crossstitch #crossstitching #CarsionMansion #VictorianHouse #crossstitcher #needlework