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Saturday, January 31, 2015

Review - XO

I had purchased this book, my first Kathryn Dance novel, and am just now getting to read and review it.  I am interested in a CBI agent who specializes in reading body language, known as Kinesics.  Let's see how it fared. 

Author: Jeffery Deaver

Copyright: June 2012 (Simon and Schuster) 516 pgs

Series: 3rd in Kathryn Dance Suspense series

Sensuality: Stocking, sexual overtones, woman-in-jeopardy scenes, some clinical death

Mystery Sub-genre: suspense

Main Characters: Kathryn Dance, California Bureau of Investigation Agent and interrogator and kinesics (body language) expert

Setting: Modern day, California

Obtained Through: Personal purchase

Agent Kathryn Dance takes vacation in Fresno to record some music of a group of Mexican musicians for her private web site, but primarily to visit with country singer friend Kayleigh Towne.  She plans to attend Kaleigh's concert later in the week too.  Kathryn meets up with Kayleigh at a restaurant and realizes she stepped into the middle of Kayleigh being confronted by her stalker who had slipped past her body guard.  Shortly after that incident, Kaleigh's long time friend Bobby Prescott, head of the road crew, is tragically killed in a fire, her stalker Edwin Sharp is the primary suspect.  But proving it is the challenge as alibis are produced.  The stalker seems to have taken Kayleigh's songs "Your Shadow" and "Fire and Flame" as his inspiration and strikes again.  The songs may provide clues to who or where he will strike.  Kathryn Dance is asked by the local law enforcement to help them, after she injected herself initially, in the investigation since they need the extra help.  This deadly stalker may just push a stressed and pressured Kayleigh too far, for she has a secret of her own. 

In the midst of this investigation, Kathryn is worried about boyfriend and their lack of communication during her vacation.  Michael O'Neil, is a co-worker who joins her on the investigation and complicates her emotions too.  A few scenes are told from young Kayleigh's point of view and you get a good sense of her fear and unrelenting pressure she is under. 

Kathryn Dance, a widower and single mother is an expert in body language.  She isn't perfect as she makes her way through this intricate plot pitting her against a devious and calculating murderer.  Lincoln Rhymes and Amelia Sachs make a brief cameo appearance, which was a pleasant bonus.  Michael O'Neil is a major crimes CBI agent in Monteray and has history with Kathryn.  He comes running to assist her on the case.  Bishop Towne, Kayleigh's overbearing father, had a music career that died quickly.  Now he "manages" his daughter's career, but he manipulates her too.  Sheri Towne is Bishop's fourth wife and she likes Kaleigh but can't seem to make friends with the singer.  P.K. (Pike) Madigan, Fresno Chief of Police who is gruff, pig-headed, and addicted to ice cream.

Fresno California is nicely displayed and the California countryside are all given justice.  I liked the plot of a deadly stalker obsessed with a rising Country singing sensation.  It is far too real and some folks don't realize how many celebrities have had determined and deadly stalkers, even Stephen Spielberg experienced it.  There are a few twists and turns that keep you guessing.  The entire book takes place in a three day time-frame and thus the pace moves along briskly.  There is information sprinkled about the science of body language and the record industry which might have slowed sections just a bit.

Deaver is a master at misdirecting the reader, which made the climax tense and even a little too real.  The wrap-up ties loose ends on many fronts and clears the deck for the next installment.  Deaver's take on a celebrity stalker produces a devious villain pitted against a dogged CBI agent. His characteristic plot twists and reader misdirection keeps the pace accelerated in this suspenseful story.

Rating: Excellent - Loved it! Buy it now and put this series on your watch list

As part of this book, an album of the actual songs referenced in the story was recorded and released.  Here are two videos for your enjoyment.

If you would like the CD of the entire album, (click here).

I have been working on my "Create Your Shining Year Workbook," as you see here.  I can't express how much I love this workbook.  I got the combined Biz and Life version, but you can get just one or the other separately.  This is like nothing else I have used and I am sold on it for me, so I just wanted to share it with you.  You can start it any time, so don't worry that one month is done in the year.

Purchase your copy of "Create Your Shining Year Workbook, Planner, and Calendar" while they are available (click here).  I think you will find this a creative way to make 2015 a great year.   

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Monday, January 26, 2015

Sherlock Holmes: Grandfather of Forensic Science?

In the last few decades, the average person has become familiar with forensic science and the high tech equipment that does much of the work (Mass Spec etc.).  This is due in large part to television shows like the CSI suite of shows (CSI Vegas, CSI Miami, CSI NY, NCIS, Bones, Crossing Jordan, and likely others). 

I found this fascinating PBS show that traces our modern forensics back to the Sherlock Holmes stories of  1887 through to 1921.  It may seem fantastic to make such a claim, but here are some of the highlights that I found convincing:

When Sherlock first came on the scene, Victorian England was in the midst of the Ripper murders.  Police didn’t know about preserving a crime scene, they collected little-to-no evidence.  Sherlock’s approach was revolutionary and hadn’t even been considered when he was first published.  The police of the day weren’t there to collect evidence, they rounded up the usual suspects and got confessions.  Conan Doyle, a graduate of medical school, unwittingly wrote the first forensic science examples.  Conan Doyle and his fictional Holmes educated the law enforcement of the day on how scientific investigations should be conducted, and he still inspires forensic scientists today.

 The Sherlock Holmes stories were the first to show law enforcement to look for small items with a magnifying glass, and to look for minute traces and evidence, to sniff and measure, and to preserve a crime scene from contamination.

From fingerprints, footprints, blood, ballistics, and poison he was 125 years ahead of his time.  Sherlock’s deductive reasoning is primarily based on what is now considered Forensic evidence.

Here is the program for you to watch if you are intrigued.  Enjoy!

What do you think?  Is Sherlock the grandfather of our modern Forensic Science?

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Thursday, January 22, 2015

Review - The Thousand Dollar Tan Line

With praise like “Nancy Drew meets Philip Marlowe, and the result is pure nitro” from Stephen King, I snatched this up as a guilty pleasure.  Yes, I am a Marshmallow (Veronica Mars fan), I admit it up front.

Author: Rob Thomas and Jennifer Graham

Copyright: March 2014 (Vintage) 336 pgs

Series: 1st in Veronica Mars Mystery series

adult topics, innuendo, some curse words sprinkled, some violence

Mystery Sub-genre: Noir/Private Investigator Mystery

Main Characters: Veronica Mars, raised as the Police Chief's daughter, graduated law school, has taken up her dad's PI business

Setting: Modern Day, Neptune California during Spring Break

Obtained Through: Personal purchase

This book occurs right after the events in the 2014 movie "Veronica Mars" where Veronica returns to Neptune after completing law school to clear Logan from murder charges.  She stays in Neptune and takes on being a PI again rather than follow her legal career with a position waiting with a law firm in NY.  She is now struggling to keep the business open when a girl goes missing during the wild festivities of Spring Break.  Then a second girl disappears.  Veronica is handed the case by the local chamber in an attempt to stop the diminishing numbers of spring break revelers.

Veronica makes a quick discovery that the party both girls where last seen at was at a house owned by serious criminals.  But the second missing girl's family is distracting Veronica because she knows the mother from her past, and it isn't pleasant memories.   

If you watched the TV series, or even the movie, you will be familiar with the main cast of characters.  But here is a basic breakdown for the uninitiated. 

Veronica Mars grew up with the town sheriff as her dad, so she knew police procedure and regulations better than her school homework. She received her PI license for her eighteenth birthday.  The television series' first season was Veronica solving the murder of her best friend Lily.  She is vulnerable, determined, wicked smart, and has a handy wise-ass comment at the ready. She describes herself in the movie as a possible adrenaline junkie.  

Keith Mars is her dad, a great investigator who was pushed out as Sheriff by the wealthy in town who couldn't manipulate him.  He was Veronica's rock while her mother was an alcoholic and eventually abandoned the family.  They are close and loyal to one another, but he wants Veronica to be a lawyer and leave poisonous Neptune behind.  Wallace is an old friend who is now a High School Basketball Coach. Mac (aka Cindy Mackenzie) became a close friend during the series and is a computer wiz who often mines information for Veronica.  Logan was originally Lily's boyfriend, but eventually in the course of the series he and Veronica had an on-again-off-again relationship that Logan described as "epic".  Logan has only a small part in this book since he is deployed in the Navy.  Weevil, the leader of the local biker gang, is an unlikely friend to Veronica throughout the series.  He has only one very short scene in this book.

Character development within the book seems to rely on the readers prior knowledge of the character's and relationships.  If you know the characters from the series, you will see the actors as if you are watching another episode.  But, it will be harder to get a sense of some of them if you aren't already familiar with them.  This isn't a major shortfall, though.

Neptune California lives another day and the class war and corruption is ever present.  Neptune has always been a microcosm of the class interactions on a larger scale and that is presented a bit in this book as well, but not as heavily as the series.

The plot had some good twists and the pacing was steady as you follow the investigation.  I didn't see the climax coming, great twist there.  The climax was nail-biting good.  The wrap-up was classic Veronica. 

This is the beginning of the Veronica Mars franchise living on in books, and I found it quite satisfying with everything fans expect.  Those new to VM may take a while to warm up to the characters.

Rating: Excellent - Loved it! Buy it now and put this author on your watch list 

Don't forget to purchase your copy of "Create Your Shining Year Workbook, Planner, and Calendar" while they are available (click here).  I think you will find this a creative way to make 2015 a great year.  

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Monday, January 19, 2015

Create a Fantastic 2015 

I don't often provide product information other than books.  I have passed along a few book related curiosities here or there, but never actually gave my recommendation on any.  Until now, that is.  I want to tell you about this product that I thought you might find worthwhile, fun, and help you make 2015 a fantastic year. 

I found this yearly goal and planning workbook through one of the blogs I follow, and I was intrigued.  I ordered it and I have to say, I love it.  Setting goals at the beginning of a year might be okay or even fun, but I don't keep up with it. So, before a month of so has gone by, my good intentions of setting goals and keeping my eye on the prize has amounted to little.   

These workbooks are colorful and creative tools that walk you through more than just setting a few goals, but regularly updating your goals in a supportive, fun, and warm way.  This is particularly geared towards women who are not feeling fulfilled in their work life, and for those who are wanting more out of life in general too.  I don't know many women who don't relate to that at least a little!  Apparently 40,000 women are already repeat customers and these workbooks were featured in the Huffington Post article "Out With the Old, in With the New" in 2013.

If you are looking for a way to say goodbye to 2014 and welcome in the new with a bit of creativity, flair, and special meaning so you can craft this year into what you really want for your life, this is for you.  And if you have a business you want to grow by expanding your mindset and generating new ideas, there is a business specific workbook too.

So take a look at the "Create Your Shining Year Workbook, Planner, and Calendar" (click here).  I think you may find this refreshing.  Here's to an amazing year for all of us!

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Friday, January 16, 2015

Review Slow Horses

In one of the many end-of-year round ups of books, I read one writeup presenting several authors recommendations for their favorite books read in the last year.  I don't remember which author, but this book was highly recommended.  I was intrigued by the comments and grabbed it from the library.  Here is a completely new-to-me author and intrigue series.

Author: Mick Herron

Copyright: June 2010 (Soho Constable) 320 pgs

Series: 1st in Slough House series

Sensuality: Some violence, a couple scenes with brief graphic death, some swearing and crude remarks

Mystery Sub-genre: British Intrigue

Main Characters: River Cartwright, disgraced and demoted spy

Setting: Present day, London

Obtained Through: Library

River Cartwright has been banished to the British Intelligence home for misfits, Slough House.  All the rejects at Slough House screwed up in some way and are barely still in the service.  They are now called Slow Horses and get the absolute lowest jobs of all, if they get any jobs at all.  The book begins with the assignment that got River sent to Slough House, which leaves the reader to wonder if River had been a fall guy for another's screw-up.  Regardless, River is stuck going through trash and pulling long surveillance in the rain after being demoted to the Slow Horses unit.  

Everything changes when a young man of Pakistani descent is kidnapped off the street and the kidnappers have an internet site showing a short video of him with the message they will broadcast his beheading in 48 hours.  River seems to think that he may have a piece to the puzzle from his surveillance of a radical reporter.  Suddenly Slough House and its ragtag group of misfits could become embroiled in a bigger scheme.  They must start acting like a real team and not screw up this "op" to stop the beheading or they could all take the blame for this young man's death.  Oh, and the young man is the nephew of a Pakistani military no pressure.

River Cartwright was raised by his grand parents and his grand father had the greatest influence on the young River.
Jackson Lamb is the boss at Slough House, fat and sloppy but don't let that fool you, he still has "game" in spy-craft.  The down-graded spooks (who don't all live) include:  Min Harper, who once left a top secret file on the public transportation;  Sidonie Baker, River's office mate; Catherine Standish, a recovering alcoholic; Roderick Ho, a computer wiz with absolutely no people skills; Jed Moody, over-anxious agent specializing in intimidation and muscle; and
Louisa Guy.  James "Spider" Webb is River's former friend who River believes gave him wrong information and sank his career.  The Pakistani youth is the breakout character, as you see such an emotional transformation in him and you are routing for him every step of his journey.  The characterization is excellent and stands out for an espionage book.

The setting is modern London, with its varying faces and Slough House's building that reeks of despair and isolation to Regent's Park where the reputable active spies work are all cast in rough shades that make you feel the paranoia and grime of the city.

The plot is very well done and developed beautifully. There are many, many British terms throughout that slowed up the pace for me as the meaning wasn't always obvious.  That was annoying as it happened a lot throughout the book.   There were some good tense moments and a cheer worthy climax.  The resolution is pretty believable as events begin to unravel without the typical "villain confrontation."  Wrap-up leaves plenty of room for the continuation of the series.

Slow Horses is a memorable espionage novel with a unique voice and great concept that delivers spies who aren't slick nor sauve, but rather flawed in their humanity.

Rating: Excellent - Loved it! Buy it now and put this author on your watch list 

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Monday, January 12, 2015

Mystery & Crime Fiction Blog Carnival - January 2015

It is the second Monday of the month and overdue for another highly anticipated Blog Carnival.  I apologize, I was delayed -- sometimes life just throws a curve ball and schedules get tossed out the window.  But here it is, better late than never.  Now that the holiday stress is a memory, I hope everybody is staying safe and warm as winter cold and snow hits many parts of the U.S.

Now on to this month's blog carnival.  Click on the title or author's name to go to that link.

Police Procedural / PI Book Review / Legal

Mysteries and My Musings reviewed Blue Labyrinth (Agent Pendergast Thriller #14) by Preston and Child

Booking Mama reviewed The Burning Room by Michael Connelly

Mysteries and My Musings reviewed Thunder Bay (Cork O'Connor Investigation #7) by William Kent Krueger

Amateur Sleuth / Cozy book Review

Mysteries and My Musings reviewed Meow If It's Murder (Nick and Nora Mystery #1) by T.C. LoTempio

Booking Mama reviewed Scorched Eggs by Laura Childs

Debbie's Book Bag reviewed Aground on St. Thomas by Rebecca Hale

Carstairs Considers reviewed Tagged for Death by Sherry Harris and shares "After her divorce, Sarah is trying to start over.  But when she finds her ex-husband's clothes covered in the blood of a missing woman, she has to figure out what is happening."

Debbie's Book Bag reviewed Murder Served Simply by Isabella Alan

Mysteries and My Musings reviewed Keeper of the Castle by Juliet Blackwell

Carstairs Considers reviewed Death with All the Trimmings by Lucy Burdette and shares "Hayley Snow gets tangled up in sabotage at the newest restaurant in Key West just days before Christmas."

Debbie's Book Bag reviewed Geared for the Grave by Duffy Brown

Carstairs Considers reviewed The Nightingale Before Christmas by Donna Andrews and shares "Meg is coordinating a show house made up of multiple decorators.  But if trying to get these creative types to finish up by the Christmas Eve deadline wasn't hard enough, one of them is murdered in the house."

Debbie's Book Bag reviewed Doghouse (A Gin and Tonic Mystery #3) by L.A. Kornetsky and shares "Ginny Mallard, Teddy Tonica, With the help of Ginny’s pet shar-pei puppy and Tonica’s tabby cat provides a great mystery and a series featuring animals"

Thriller/Suspense Fiction Book Review

Tea Time with Marce reviewed Into the Darkest Corner by Elizabeth Haynes

Booking Mama reviewed reviewed HER by Harriet Lane and shares "This novel is definitely a literary novel of suspense and there is an element of mystery to the story"

Author Interview

Mysteries and My Musings had guest post by T.C. LoTempio

Sue Coletta at her blog interviewed Joe Clifford and shares "The most honest author interview I've ever read."

Mysteries and My Musings had guest post by Juliet Blackwell

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

A huge "THANK YOU" to all the wonderful bloggers out there who contributed to the carnival.  Keep them coming and keep this carnival going. 

Let's make next month's Carnival even better. For more information on the specifics of the Carnival and how to submit your posts go here
Spread the word far and wide!!!

Please help the newsletter for the blog carnival to get more subscribers. If a blog reviews mystery/suspense/thrillers (even occasionally) then I would like to feature those reviews. I send the newsletter out once a month announcing the deadline for submitting to this blog carnival. Multiple entries from a blog are welcome.

Subscribe to our carnival reminder mailing list

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Thursday, January 1, 2015

Review - The Prime Minister’s Secret Agent

I wish all of you a healthy and prosperous new year. 

I have followed and reviewed each of the books in the Maggie Hope series:  #1 Mr. Churchill's Secretary (click here), #2 Princess Elizabeth's Spy (click here), #3 His Majesty's Hope (click here), and a wonderful interview with Ms. MacNeal (click here).  Today I review the newest addition to the series.  I received this book from my Secret Santa at, yeah!

Author: Susan Elia MacNeal

Copyright: July 2014 (Bantam) 320 pgs

Series: 4th in Maggie Hope Spy series

Sensuality: N/A

Mystery Sub-genre: Historical Intrigue

Main Characters: Maggie Hope, a spy who started as Churchill's secretary

Setting: November 1941, London, Scotland, and Pearl Harbor

Obtained Through: Personal purchase

This book is in the wake of Maggie's return from her mission in Berlin where several surprises awaited her and she had to fight to get out alive.  We find her recuperating emotionally as a teacher at the spy training camp based in the Scottish coastal lands.

Maggie is encouraged to attend her dear friend Sarah's ballet performance in Glasgow where she witnesses the lead ballerina collapse, dead, in the middle of the show.  Quickly, Sarah is hospitalized with similar black blisters on her hand.  Maggie recognizes the black blisters from dead sheep she found in Scotland but has no clue what is causing it. Maggie partners with an MI-5  agent who is a friend of her ex-fiance, to determine what is causing the deaths (a second ballerina is afflicted too) and if it is of national concern. But it’s the approaching attack on Pearl Harbor that looms throughout the book.  The book weaves what we know of the approaching bombing with a time line of who potentially knew what information when leading up to the Japanese attack on Dec 7, 1941. This is meant to build suspense surrounding an event we know is coming in the story.

While the Pearl Harbor information is nicely interspersed throughout, it isn't "Maggie" focused.  This might be distracting to some.  This book deals with Maggie on a more personal level during her scenes and has fewer action events than prior books (some, but fewer.) 

Maggie Hope is struggling to gain her emotional equilibrium after surviving her assignment in Berlin.  She rallies to save BFF Sarah from whatever has struck her ill, which Maggie suspects is a targeted illness. Maggie's innocence is gone forever and the Maggie who emerges is better able to handle what the future will require of her as an agent.  Sarah Sanderson, extraordinary ballerina and good friend, is changed by the war like never before.  Clara Hess, Maggie's mother and Nazi spy, is due for execution and is desperately maneuvering to have time with her daughter.  John Sterling (the ex-fiance) and David Greene are back as aids to Churchill.  Winston and Clementine Churchill are great in this outing.  I appreciated the serious questions raised about how far is too far in a war for your nation's continued existence that Churchill faced and the toll that the war was extracting from him mentally.  Satoshi Nagoka is a minor character that made an impression.  His training of agents in martial arts is a little slice of history best not forgotten, even if his real name wasn't properly recorded for posterity.

Balmy Pearl Harbor and the island of Oahu, frigid Scotland, and war-ravaged London are each rendered as vital elements to the story.  You feel the Hawaiian sun or the bone-chilling cold of the Scottish coast.  The plot is two-fold in reality, first is Maggie's uncovering what and who killed two ballerinas and has Sarah fighting for her life, and secondly Maggie's place in the global drama unfolding with Pearl Harbor.  Subplots are her emotional struggles and growth as an agent.  The confrontation of who was the immediate catalyst for the ballerina deaths was pretty straight forward, the investigation had more thrills.  The wrap-up showed how stunned and shocked Maggie is by the Pearl Harbor attack and sets her up to be at Churchill's side for the next book.

This book may get labeled as a transition book, or even filler, but I disagree.  This book shares Maggie's emotional and mental growth in the midst of an increasingly insecure world all while fighting the odds to uncover what has struck-down her remaining dear friend.  Maggie's struggle is not in a vacuum and the reader is drawn into the drama of the approaching Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. 

Rating: Excellent - Loved it! Buy it now and put this author on your watch list

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