Bel, Book and Scandal by Maggie McConnon

  • Title:  Bel, Book and Scandal
  • Series: Belfast McGrath Mystery #3
  • Author:  Maggie McConnon
  • Genre:  Cozy Mystery
  • Pages:  320
  • Published:  December 2017 – St. Martin’s Paperbacks
  • Source:  Publisher; NetGalley

Description:  Maggie McConnon rings in Christmas in Bel, Book, and Scandal, the third adventure for everybody’s favorite Irish-American culinary artist turned amateur sleuth.

Bel McGrath tries her best to keep herself on the straight and narrow but she just has a taste for trouble. This time danger arrives in the form of a newspaper left behind by visitors to Shamrock Manor—and a photograph that jolts Bel out of the present and back into a dark chapter from her past. The person in the photo is Bel’s best friend Amy Mitchell, long gone from Foster’s Landing, at a commune in upstate New York shortly after her disappearance. The picture, and Bel’s burning desire to find out what happened to Amy—and whether she may still be alive—is the catalyst for a story in which old secrets are revealed, little by little…and certain characters are shown to not be as genuine as Bel once thought. (publisher)

My take:  Belfast McGrath is a chef who left her last gig in disgrace and returned home to work for her parents at Shamrock Manor, cooking for weddings and other events. Being back in the place where she grew up is a challenge rife with memories both good and bad. After a meeting with a prospective client Bel finds a newspaper the client left behind that has a startling photo – Bel’s best friend who was thought to have died now appears to be very much alive. This starts amateur sleuth Bel on a search for her friend.

Maggie McConnon’s mystery was entertaining but not in a laugh out loud way (although I did occasionally). I loved her characters – Bel’s parents and brothers were funny in the same way we may see our own family members as funny, quirky, odd.  In addition to her family were assorted towns-people, old boyfriends, new friends. They all added to my enjoyment and any of them could have been a red herring. I didn’t figure out whodunit until close to the end – and then I wasn’t sure!

Bel, Book and Scandal is the third book in the Belfast McGrath series. I haven’t read the first two but didn’t feel lost because McConnon did a good job of bringing me up to speed in the opening chapters. Recommended to fans of the series and the cozy mystery genre.


About the author:

MAGGIE MCCONNON grew up in New York immersed in Irish culture and tradition. A former Irish stepdancer, she was surrounded by a family of Irish musicians who still play at family gatherings. She credits her Irish grandparents with providing the stories of their homeland and their extended families as the basis for the stories she tells in her Belfast McGrath novels, beginning with Wedding Bel Blues.

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A Season to Lie by Emily Littlejohn

  • Title:  A Season To Lie
  • Author:  Emily LIttlejohn
  • Series:  Detective Gemma Monroe #2
  • Genre:  Mystery
  • Pages:  336
  • Published:  November 2017 – Minotaur Books
  • Source:  Publisher

Description:  On a cold dark night in February, as a blizzard shrieks through Cedar Valley, police officer and new mother Gemma Monroe responds to an anonymous report of a prowler at the local private high school, The Valley Academy. In her idyllic Colorado small town, Gemma expects the call was just a prank by a bored teenager.

But there in the snow lies the savaged body of a man whose presence in town was meant to be a secret. And a disturbing message left by his killer promises more death to come.

This is only the beginning . . .

Nothing is as it seems in Cedar Valley and stories, both fact and fiction, ensnare Gemma as her investigation moves from the halls of an elite academy to the forests that surround Cedar Valley.

Against a backdrop of bleak winter weather, stymied by those who would lie to protect what is dearest to them, Gemma hunts a ruthless killer before he strikes again in A Season to Lie.  (publisher)

My take:  Gemma Monroe, just returned from maternity leave, is very happy to be back at work at the Cedar Valley, CO police department. Her plan to ease back into a doable work schedule takes a turn when the body of a famous author is found at the town’s prestigious academy – in the middle of a blizzard. Tracking down the murderer will take up most of her time and energy. It doesn’t help that her boyfriend (and father of her child) is feeling a little stir-crazy being at home full-time. She’s feeling pressure from all sides.

I got a good sense of Gemma and her co-workers, family and other assorted characters despite jumping into the series on book 2. I enjoyed Emily Littlejohn’s style of telling a story and how she developed her characters. I liked what I read of the small Colorado, B-list ski town and want to learn more about it and the people who live there.  No shortage of red-herrings there and I thought any of them were plausible. That explains why I wasn’t shocked when Gemma discovered the murderer. There were a few loose threads involving those red herrings at the end of the novel that I hope will be carried into the next book in the series.


 

Best Day Ever by Kaira Rouda

  • Title:  Best Day Ever
  • Author:  Kaira Rouda
  • Genre:  Mystery; Thriller
  • Pages:  384
  • Published:  September 2017 – Graydon House
  • Source:  Publisher; Wunderkind PR

Description:  Paul Strom has the perfect life: a glittering career as an advertising executive, a beautiful wife, two healthy boys and a big house in a wealthy suburb. And he’s the perfect husband: breadwinner, protector, provider. That’s why he’s planned a romantic weekend for his wife, Mia, at their lake house, just the two of them. And he’s promised today will be the best day ever.

But as Paul and Mia drive out of the city and toward the countryside, a spike of tension begins to wedge itself between them and doubts start to arise. How much do they trust each other? And how perfect is their marriage, or any marriage, really?

Forcing us to ask ourselves just how well we know those who are closest to us, Best Day Ever crackles with dark energy, spinning ever tighter toward its shocking conclusion. In the bestselling, page-turning vein of The Couple Next Door and The Dinner, Kaira Rouda weaves a gripping, tautly suspenseful tale of deception and betrayal dark enough to destroy a marriage…or a life. (publisher)

My take:  Paul is a confident and successful man. He has life figured out and knows he deserves all he has, and more. He’s planned a weekend away with his wife, Mia. She needs a nice getaway – she’s been sick lately with a mystery illness that countless doctors haven’t been able to figure out. He’s certain this vacation is exactly what she needs. It will all start with the best day ever. But what happens when Paul’s plan doesn’t go the way he intends? Kaira Rouda’s novel takes the reader inside the mind of Paul. It’s creepy and disturbing and yet I couldn’t stop reading. I had an idea where everything was heading – and I was right. It was a departure from my usual reads and I enjoyed it. I loved discovering the significance of the eye-catching cover as well. Yes, a creepy good afternoon of reading about someone’s best day ever.


 Check out my Spotlight post for more information about BEST DAY EVER


The Trust by Ronald H. Balson

  • Title:  The Trust
  • Author:  Ronald H. Balson
  • Genre:  Mystery
  • Pages:  368
  • Published:  September 2017 – St. Martin’s Press
  • Source:  Publisher

Description:  The newest novel from Ronald H. Balson, the international bestselling author of Once We Were Brothers, finds private investigator Liam Taggart returning to his childhood home for an uncle’s funeral, only to discover his death might not have been natural.

When his uncle dies, Liam Taggart reluctantly returns to his childhood home in Northern Ireland for the funeral—a home he left years ago after a bitter confrontation with his family, never to look back. But when he arrives, Liam learns that not only was his uncle shot to death, but that he’d anticipated his own murder: In an astonishing last will and testament, Uncle Fergus has left his entire estate to a secret trust, directing that no distributions be made to any person until the killer is found. Did Fergus know, but refuse to name, his killer? Was this a crime of revenge, a vendetta leftover from Northern Ireland’s bloody sectarian war? After all, the Taggarts were deeply involved in the IRA. Or is it possible that the killer is a family member seeking Fergus’s estate? Otherwise, why postpone distributions to the heirs? Most menacingly, does the killer now have his sights on other family members?

As his investigation draws Liam farther and farther into the past he has abandoned, he realizes he is forced to reopen doors long ago shut and locked. Now, accepting the appointment as sole trustee of the Fergus Taggart Trust, Liam realizes he has stepped into the center of a firestorm. (publisher)

My take:  Liam Taggart gets more than he bargained for when he returns to Northern Ireland for his beloved uncle’s funeral. He accepts the request to act as trustee for the estate, much to his relatives’ dismay. He will have to untangle a knot of family secrets, old grudges (both political and familial), and nefarious activities before he can return to life with his wife and young son in Chicago.

Ronald H. Balson’s story was interesting and grew in intensity with each chapter building to an exciting climax that was cinematic in scope. The setting and historical circumstances were intriguing as were the characters. I grew quite fond of Inspector McLaughlin and Officer Megan Dooley. I enjoyed this legal thriller and look forward to reading more of Balson’s novels.


About the author:

RONALD H. BALSON is a Chicago trial attorney, an educator and writer. His practice has taken him to several international venues. He is also the author of Karolina’s Twins, Saving Sophie and the international bestseller Once We Were Brothers.

 

 

Praise for Ronald H. Balson:

“A heart-wrenching…triumphant story.” —The Chicago Tribune on Karolina’s Twins

“Secrets, friendships, survival, and the Holocaust are woven together in Ronald H. Balson’s haunting Karolina’s Twins.”—Family Circle on Karolina’s Twins

“A new look at an old story…will stay with you long after you have finished it.” —The Huffington Post on Once We Were Brothers

“Uplifting and moving, intelligently written…an unusual insight into human character.” —Library Journal, starred review on Once We Were Brothers

 “A page-turning read filled with despair and anger but with hope, love, and humanity at its core.” —Jewish Book Council on Saving Sophie


Best Intentions by Erika Raskin plus US Giveaway

  • Title:  Best Intentions
  • Author:  Erika Raskin
  • Genre:  Mystery
  • Pages:  288
  • Published:  August 2017 – St. Martin’s Press
  • Source:  Publisher

Description:  Marti Trailor is a mother of three, a New York congressman’s daughter, and wife to a successful obstetrician. Tired of playing the dutiful stay-at-home mom, she jumps at the opportunity to return to her stalled career as a hospital social worker. The catch? The job is at the same hospital where her husband works, and the doctor is not so keen.

As Marti gets enmeshed in the world of the hospital—long hours, overworked doctors, entrenched and dangerous politics—she witnesses something that she cannot unsee. Marti takes it upon herself to do the right thing. But the right thing comes with unintended consequences, and before she even has time to plead innocence, Marti finds herself thrust under a dangerous spotlight.

Peeling back the layers of one woman’s precipitous journey from stay-at-home mom to murder trial defendant, Best Intentions is Erika Raskin’s sophomore gem, a domestic mystery set against a captivating emotional backdrop. (publisher)

My take:  Marti is the beleaguered wife of a successful doctor in Richmond. She is almost single-handedly raising their three children and is getting kind of fed up with the whole deal. When she’s offered a job in her chosen profession of social worker at the same hospital where her husband works, she grabs it. He’s less than thrilled but knows better than to try to change her decision. When something happens at the hospital to one of Marti’s clients her life is turned upside down and she finds herself facing a murder charge.

I thought this whodunit was okay but I had a few quibbles:  pacing – it didn’t take off for me until almost half-way in; Marti’s snarky (mostly) inner dialogue got old fast; there are a lot of stereotypes in this novel. Even though I had a good idea of what happened I wanted to see how Erika Raskin wrapped it all up – and I thought she did a decent job. Fans of a mysteries that involve hospital politics, social work, and the law might want to give Best Intentions a try.


About the author:

Erika Raskin’s debut novel, Close, was nominated for a Teen Choice Book of the Year award. Her work has appeared on public radio and publications including The Washington Post, Salon, and Washingtonian Magazine. She was a fellow at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts and a panelist at the Virginia Festival of the Book.


US Giveaway

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Giveaway ends August 23, 2017


Spotlight/US Giveaway: Dead Certain by Adam Mitzner

Description: 

Ella Broden is living a double life.

By day, Ella works as a buttoned-up attorney on some of the city’s most grueling cases. By night, she pursues her passion for singing in the darkest clubs of Manhattan.

No one knows her secret, not even Charlotte, the younger sister she practically raised. But it seems she’s not the only one in the family with something to hide. When Charlotte announces she’s sold her first novel, Ella couldn’t be more thrilled…until she gets a call that her sister’s gone missing.

Ella starts investigating with the help of Detective Gabriel Velasquez, an old flame in the NYPD, and what she finds is shocking. If art imitates life, then her sister’s novel may contain details of her real-life affairs. And any one of her lovers could be involved in her disappearance.

Desperate to bring Charlotte home, Ella works through her list of suspects, matching fictitious characters with flesh-and-blood men. But will it be too late to save the sister she only thought she knew?


About the author:

Adam Mitzner is a practicing attorney in a Manhattan law firm and the author of several acclaimed novels.  Suspense Magazine named A Conflict of Interest one of the best books of 2012, and in 2014, the American Bar Association nominated A Case of Redemption for a Silver Gavel Award. He and his family live in New York City.

http://www.adammitzner.com


US Giveaway

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Giveaway ends June 23, 2017


The Ridge by John Rector

  • Title:  The Ridge
  • Author:  John Rector
  • Genre:  Mystery; Thriller
  • Pages:  284
  • Published:  April 2017 – Thomas & Mercer
  • Source:  Publisher

Description:  With its manicured lawns, pastel houses, and quiet, tree-lined streets, Willow Ridge seems to be the perfect place for Megan and Tyler Stokes to start a new chapter in their lives together. But soon after settling in, Megan begins to notice cracks in the neighborhood’s bright suburban facade—cracks that reveal a darker secret hidden just beneath the surface.

After an angry encounter with a neighbor takes a horrifying turn, Megan’s waking nightmare truly begins—growing ever more chilling and bizarre with each shocking twist. Suddenly forced to question everything around her, Megan finds herself trapped between the specter of madness and the shadow of something far worse. Her only hope is to expose the community’s pretty lies and discover the truth about what is really going on in Willow Ridge—a truth so devastating that her life will never be the same. (publisher)

My take:  While thrillers aren’t my go-to genre I was intrigued by the blurb and thought it would be a good read for my vacation. My instincts proved correct. The Ridge was a fast-paced novel that had me remembering The Stepford Wives (was even joked about by a couple of characters).

There’s something different about the town of Willow Ridge. When Megan and her husband move there for his job she can’t wait to move back to Chicago. But she agrees to give it a year. When she begins to notice odd things about her neighbors she may not be able to keep her promise. I couldn’t blame her!

I won’t share any more except to say if you like a short mystery/thriller with light sci-fi overtones you’ll want to look for The Ridge. It was a perfect poolside read.


About the author:

John Rector is the bestselling author of the novels The Ridge, The Cold Kiss, The Grove, Already Gone, Out of the Black, and Ruthless. His short fiction has appeared in numerous magazines and has won several awards, including the International Thriller Award for his novella, Lost Things.

He lives in Omaha, Nebraska.