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Review: The Organ Takers – Richard Van Anderson

Posted on: March 31st, 2015 By Rick Rhodes
The Organ Takers
Paperback: 292 pages
Publisher: White Light Press; First edition (November 17, 2014)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0990759717
ISBN-13: 978-0990759713
Order book here:

amazon

Order E-book here:
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Synopsis:

A disgraced doctor is on the verge of rebuilding his medical career, when he’s approached to help a mysterious organization harvest organs. To refuse, may cost him his life, or worse, the life of his family.

Characters:

David McBride – Lab Technician, with a background in donor organ removal.
Mr. White – A Mysterious figure controlling David’s strings.

Review

This story begins dark, and proceeds to get darker from that point on. We initially see a man named Michael Smith. He sits up, and notices a pain in his side. He stumbles to the street where he collapses. He’s taken to the emergency room, where they determine he’s recently had surgery to have a kidney removed. There are problems however, and he succumbs to problems from the botched surgery. It goes on fairly unnoticed, until other homeless people end up with their kidneys missing.

David McBride is a former transplant surgeon. Due to a scandal with a fellow doctor, he is fired, and reduced to working as a lab technician. Just as he’s gotten a second chance at life, a mysterious stranger approaches David with a dark offer. It turns out however, that David doesn’t really get a choice in the matter. At this point, the story begins to remind me of a medical thriller version of The Firm. You know who the bad guys are, but David has no clue.

The medical details are very well done, and well explained. I actually learned a lot about the process involved in kidney donations. While the subject matter is a bit dark, I’d recommend it for older teens and adult audiences.

I found myself really enjoying this story, and running along in David’s footsteps as he tries to find a way out of the mess he’s in. But will he get out, or will those he loves suffer. To find the answers to that, you’ll have to read the book. So go out, grab a copy, and let us know what you thought.

About the Author

Richard Van AndersonI’m a former heart surgeon and now write full time. I have a medical degree from St. Louis University School of Medicine; performed my general surgery residency at Louisiana State University in Shreveport, Louisiana; attended a two-year research fellowship at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland; and trained in cardiothoracic surgery at New York University. Following my training, I served as a surgical attending at the University of Washington School of Medicine, Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery, and held a joint appointment as Chief of Cardiac Surgery, Seattle Veterans Administration Hospital. My writing instruction includes Internet-based courses, night classes at the University of Washington, and I earned an MFA degree in creative writing from Pine Manor College in Boston, where I was mentored by a distinguished faculty, including New York Times bestselling author Dennis Lehane. I live in Bellevue, Washington, which is a suburb of Seattle.

During my surgical career I violated every cavity and laid hands on every organ in the human body. I’ve drilled holes in the skull, amputated big toes and excised, resected, patched and repaired every body part in between. I know human anatomy, physiology, the pathology of human disease and the carnage that can be wreaked upon the human organism by his fellow man, by machine and by Mother Nature. I’ve spent countless hours standing across the operating table from egomaniacal surgical attendings, and I’ve personally witnessed high-achieving members of a noble profession become corrupted by the quest for notoriety and wealth. This vast experience, combined with a deep understanding of story and character, has resulted in works of fiction that will not only entertain, but will venture below the surface to explore how men of intelligence, drive and compassion sometimes choose, or are forced, to venture down dark paths.

*Disclaimer* A special thanks goes out to Larissa at Claire McKinney PR for a review copy of this book. It in no way influenced my review. You can discuss it here or join my facebook page and discuss it there.

Review: Noise – Brett Garcia Rose

Posted on: March 26th, 2015 By Rick Rhodes
Noise
Paperback: 236 pages
Publisher: Velocity Imprints (June 17, 2014)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0991549406
ISBN-13: 978-ISBN-13: 978-0991549405
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Synopsis:

The world is an ugly place, and I can tell you now, I fit in just fine.

Lily is the only person Leon ever loved. When she left a suicide note and disappeared into a murky lake ten years ago, she left him alone, drifting through a silent landscape.

Or did she?

A postcard in her handwriting pulls Leon to the winter-cold concrete heart of New York City.

What he discovers unleashes a deadly rage that has no sound.

A grisly trail of clues leads to The Bear, the sadistic Russian crime lord who traffics in human flesh. The police—some corrupt, some merely compromised—are of little help. They don’t like Leon’s methods, or the mess he leaves in his wake.

Leon is deaf, but no sane person would ever call him disabled. He survived as a child on the merciless streets of Nigeria. He misses nothing. He feels no remorse. The only direction he’s ever known is forward.

He will not stop until he knows.

Where is Lily?

Characters:

Leon – Deaf man seeking his “sister”.

Review

I wasn’t sure how the author would go about writing this book. When you think about it, dialogue is an essential part of telling a story. So I wasn’t expecting as much dialogue as I got. But, the author managed to get it covered in a realistic manner. The character of Leon would communicate by writing, and reading lips. Reading this felt very true to what I would imagine the deaf experience to be.

Now that aside, what was the rest of the story like. Action packed. Leon is no weakling. I could very well see this story playing out on the big screen. It was an incredible action/thriller The plot was interesting, and it was a thrill a minute, as the reader follows Leon on the trail of his sister.

I’d rate it NC-17 for all the violence and language, but for those who enjoy a good action film, this is definitely the literary version. Pick up a copy, give it a read, and drop back by and let us know what you thought.

About the Author

Brett Garcia RoseBrett Garcia Rose is a software entrepreneur, former animal rights investigator/activist, and fiction writer. Brett’s work can be found in various literary and consumer publications including Newsday Magazine, The Barcelona Review, Opium, Lit Up, Rose and Thorn, The Battered Suitcase and many other publications.

Losing Found Things, a collection of previously published short fiction, will be available in 2014, along with his first novel, Noise. He is currently living in Miami Beach, working hard on his second novel, Ren.

*Disclaimer* A special thanks goes out to Kelsey at Book Publicity Services for a review copy of this book. It in no way influenced my review. You can discuss it here or join my facebook page and discuss it there.

Review: Guardian – Natasha Deen

Posted on: March 24th, 2015 By Rick Rhodes
Guardian
Paperback: 272 pages
Publisher: Great Plains Teen Fiction (September 1, 2014)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1927855098
ISBN-13: 978-1927855096
Order book here:

amazon

Synopsis:

For seventeen-year-old Maggie Johnson, transitioning the dead isn’t hard. What’s tough is surviving the insults and pranks of Serge Popov, high school thug and the dumbest jock to ever set foot in Dead Falls, Alberta. When she finds him dead and later discovers his spirit trapped in her room, she figures it’s a case of divine justice. Let the jerk rot for eternity, bound to an earthly prison. But someone – or something – has a different agenda. If Maggie doesn’t help Serge cross over, she’ll die at the hands of the otherworldly entity that’s taken an interest in the dead bully. As she digs into the circumstances of Serge’s murder, she’ll uncover the secrets hidden by the world of the living and the wonders revealed by cities of the dead – if her investigation doesn’t kill her first.

Characters:

Maggie Johnson – Young High School girl discovering she has the ability to see and talk to the dead.
Serge Popov – Young High School boy, who is found dead.  Now he wants Maggie to find out why.

Review

This seemed like a strong departure for Ms. Deen, particularly from past works I’ve read of hers. I was used to books that were a bit of a mystery/thrillers but with comic twists. There wasn’t much lighthearted about this, and I think that was a good thing. The characters were so rich, and living. There were also big shifts. I began the story absolutely detesting the character of Serge. There wasn’t a thing to like about him. As a reader I was taken on the same journey as Maggie. I had to learn to tolerate him, and as I learned more about him, I actually began to feel sorry for the guy. To pull you in, and make you have real feelings towards the characters, is a beautiful gift.

It seems as if the story was left open at the end for further adventures of Maggie. If that is true, then I look forward to where her new life might take her. The plotting was very tight, and while I as the reader knew what was going on before the end, there were many other surprises in store for me.

Overall a great story, by a great author. I look forward to more of the story. Due to some dark imagery, I wouldn’t recommend this for all ages, but would recommend it for older teens and adults. So pick up a copy of Guardian, and be sure to stop back by and let us know what you thought.

About the Author

Natasha DeenWhen I was little, there was only one thing I wanted to be when I grew up: a superhero. Sadly, this goal was made moot when I realized that being a klutz was not in fact, a super power, and my super-weakness for anything bright and shiny meant that a magpie with self-control could easily defeat me in a battle of wills. Hence, the turn to writing as an occupation. I don’t get to live on a secret space station orbiting the earth (and thank God, because I get motion sick on a merry-go-round), but I still get to wear leotards, a cape and say things like, “STAND ASIDE! THIS IS A JOB FOR WRITING-GIRL!”

*Disclaimer* A special thanks goes out to Natasha for a review copy of this book. It in no way influenced my review. You can discuss it here or join my facebook page and discuss it there.

Review: Trigger Warning – Neil Gaiman

Posted on: March 19th, 2015 By Rick Rhodes
Trigger Warning
Hardcover: 352 pages
Publisher: William Morrow (February 3, 2015)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0062330268
ISBN-13: 978-0062330260
Order book here:

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Order E-book here:
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Synopsis:

Multiple award winning, #1 New York Times bestselling author Neil Gaiman returns to dazzle, captivate, haunt, and entertain with this third collection of short fiction following Smoke and Mirrors and Fragile Things—which includes a never-before published American Gods story, “Black Dog,” written exclusively for this volume.

In this new anthology, Neil Gaiman pierces the veil of reality to reveal the enigmatic, shadowy world that lies beneath. Trigger Warning includes previously published pieces of short fiction—stories, verse, and a very special Doctor Who story that was written for the fiftieth anniversary of the beloved series in 2013—as well “Black Dog,” a new tale that revisits the world of American Gods, exclusive to this collection.

Trigger Warning explores the masks we all wear and the people we are beneath them to reveal our vulnerabilities and our truest selves. Here is a rich cornucopia of horror and ghosts stories, science fiction and fairy tales, fabulism and poetry that explore the realm of experience and emotion. In Adventure Story—a thematic companion to The Ocean at the End of the Lane—Gaiman ponders death and the way people take their stories with them when they die. His social media experience A Calendar of Tales are short takes inspired by replies to fan tweets about the months of the year—stories of pirates and the March winds, an igloo made of books, and a Mother’s Day card that portends disturbances in the universe. Gaiman offers his own ingenious spin on Sherlock Holmes in his award-nominated mystery tale The Case of Death and Honey. And Click-Clack the Rattlebag explains the creaks and clatter we hear when we’re all alone in the darkness.

Review

I’ve never read Neil Gaiman’s work before. As such, I’m not 100% sure how qualified I am to critique it. When I was approached to do this review though, I thought it was a great opportunity to get to know his work. I expected, that with a title like Trigger Warnings, that there would stuff that offended my sensibilities. That really didn’t seem to occur.

What did occur, is that I struggled with the book. My first impressions was of someone on an acid trip, writing about the things he was having during his hallucinatory fantasies. I wasn’t sure that I was able to finish, then I talked to others, and discovered this was just Mr. Gaiman’s style of writing, and was intended to leave me scratching my head.

With that knowledge in hand, I returned to the book and continued to trudge through the stories, and found a few that I really liked. My personal favorites: A Doctor Who story, an elderly Sherlock Holmes story, and a twist on the Sleeping Beauty story.

While I didn’t love or even understand the point of everything written, maybe the point was there was no point, I found myself entertained, and for that alone I’d recommend this. I’d say definitely due to content, that it is only for older audiences. But for those who are fans of Mr. Gaiman, or of his style, I think you’d like this. Check it out and be sure to drop back by and let us know what you thought.

About the Author

Neil GaimanA sophisticated writer whose creative genius is unparalleled, Gaiman entrances with his literary alchemy, transporting us deep into the realm of imagination, where the fantastical becomes real and the everyday incandescent.

Full of wonder and terror, surprises and amusements, Trigger Warning is a treasury of delights that engage the mind, stir the heart, and shake the soul from one of the most unique and popular literary artists of our day.

*Disclaimer* A special thanks goes out to Heid at Harper Collins for a review copy of this book. It in no way influenced my review. You can discuss it here or join my facebook page and discuss it there.

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Classic Corner Review: The Moving Finger – Agatha Christie

Posted on: March 17th, 2015 By Rick Rhodes
The Moving Finger
Paperback: 240 pages
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks; Reprint edition (April 12, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0062073621
ISBN-13: 978-0062073624
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amazon

Order E-book here:
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Synopsis:

In a small English town, a visitor is drawn into a mystery as residents of the town begin getting a letter pointing out their sins. The letters seem harmless, until people start dying. Jerry Burton, a visitor to the town is determined to get to the end of it.

Characters:

Miss Marple – Amateur Detective
Jerry Burton – A man recuperating from an illness in a small English country town.
Joanna Burton – Jerry’s sister, and caretaker

Review

First of all, let me say I was pretty disappointed in this novel. It’s categorized as a Miss Marple mystery, so I was expecting the main character of the title to be Miss Marple. However, she doesn’t even make an appearance until about 40 pages from the end. It’s as if she’s only thrown in there to solve the mystery, after it seems Jerry has done all the work.

Now saying that, I wasn’t all that put off by Jerry being the main investigator. He was rather interesting, it just felt a bit deceiving. The characters are pretty stock and cardboard cutout characters for this genre. Ms. Christie never seemed to do a lot of work on characters outside of her main characters. This leaves all the border characters as rather forgettable.

The plot is simple enough to follow, and the solution in the end does make sense. I think above the character development, Ms. Christie’s strong suit is in designing a plot that keeps you guessing. So far I haven’t been successful in solving one of her mysteries.

Overall though, for fans of Miss Marple, Ms. Christie, or of the cozy mystery in general, I think this would fit into your reading pleasures. For others, it may not be their cup of tea. The language can be a bit off putting, as it’s early twentieth century and British.

Overall, a pleasant mystery, and a good way to spend a few hours, but no the most memorable of the Christy books I’ve read. Check it out, if you like mysteries, and be sure to drop back by and let us know what you thought.

About the Author
Agatha Christie was born in 1890 and created the detective Hercule Poirot in her debut novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles (1920).

She achieved wide popularity with The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (1926) and produced a total of eighty novels and short-story collections over six decades.

You can discuss it here or join my facebook page and discuss it there.

Review: A Ghostly Undertaking – Tonya Kappes

Posted on: March 12th, 2015 By Rick Rhodes
A Ghostly Undertaking
Mass Market Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Witness (February 24, 2015)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0062374648
ISBN-13: 978-0062374646
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Order E-book here:
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Synopsis:

Everything was normal in Emma Lee Rains life. Well, as normal as life could be, when you run a funeral home. That is until a plastic Santa fell on her head at he local deli. That’s when she discovered that she could see the ghosts of the dearly departed. Her new job in life is to help these restless spirits move on to their eternal slumber.

Characters:

Emma Lee Raines – Newly empowered ghost communicator.
Ruthie Sue Payne – Deceased Hotel Proprietor.

Review

This book was a lot of fun. From the character of Emma Lee Raines, to the antics of her grandmother, and the sometimes acidic personality of Ruthie Sue Payne. All the characters bring life to the story, and really bring the small southern town to life. Each character is very well designed and developed, and has a robust personality. Even the side characters are 3 dimensional and add to the story.

The plot is rather simplistic in it’s nature. Ruthie needs Emma Lee to find out who killed her. But along the way, are roadblocks, including a long desired potential suitor for Emma Lee. Emma must carry out her goal of helping the ghost of Ruthie, while keeping the rest of her town from having her locked up for having the “funeral trauma.”

Meanwhile she also has to deal with her Grandmother in a separate subplot. The character of Zula as a foil to some of Emma Lee’s work fits right in, and I’m able to picture this little old lady zipping around on her moped.

Overall a very fun mystery, and a great first entry in a new series for Ms. Kappes.

About the Author

Tonya KappesFor years, USA Today bestselling author Tonya Kappes has been self-publishing her numerous mystery and romance titles with unprecedented success. She is famous not only for her hilarious plotlines and quirky characters, but her tremendous marketing efforts that have earned her thousands of followers and a devoted street team of fans.

HarperCollins and Witness Impulse is thrilled to be publishing this insanely talented and wildly successful author for the first time with A GHOSTLY UNDERTAKING (Witness Impulse; February 24, 2015; $7.99 mass market), the first in her hilarious and spooky Ghostly Southern series.

*Disclaimer* A special thanks goes out to Andrea at Witness/Impulse for a review copy of this book. It in no way influenced my review. You can discuss it here or join my facebook page and discuss it there.

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Review: The Dead Key – D. M. Pullley

Posted on: March 10th, 2015 By Rick Rhodes
Paperback: 477 pages
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer (March 1, 2015)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1477820876
ISBN-13: 978-1477820872
Order book here:

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Order E-book here:
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Characters:

Iris Latch – Low level worker for an Architecture firm.
Beatrice Baker – New work in secretarial pool at Cleveland Bank.

Synopsis:

In November of 1978, Beatrice Baker began working at the First Bank of Cleveland. In December of 1978, First Bank of Cleveland closed under mysterious circumstances. In 1998, Iris Latch, entry level designer at a Cleveland architectural firm is assigned the task of mapping all the floors of the building. Iris soon finds herself on a mission to find why the bank was closed, and why there were so many deaths connected with the bank.

Review

This was an interesting style of book. It’s along the lines of your classic thriller. However, with this it’s set in two different decades, and follows the point of view of two different women. You follow Beatrice in 1978, and Iris in 1998. This is both bad and good. It’s good, because as a reader I get to see bits and pieces of the story unfold over time. I see things Iris discovers, then I see from Beatrice’s view how those things go to where they were 20 years later for Iris to find. This connects the two narratives, but at the same time, it can be a bit confusing as a reader when they switch back and forth. I also found myself more drawn for whatever reason to the Iris character, than to Beatrice.

The characters themselves are well developed. The plot is beautifully connected. When you meet a character through the Beatrice part of the story, you might see the same character 20 years older from Iris’ side of the story. This helps create a continuous flow to the story, instead of leaving you with the feeling that you are reading two different stories.

For content, I’d rate it PG-13 for some acts of violence. But as a weekend thriller, it’s a good choice, and I recommend it. I think for all the thriller/mystery fans out there, that you’d find you like this.

About the Author

D. M. Pulley’s first novel, The Dead Key, was inspired by her work as a structural engineer in Cleveland, Ohio. During a survey of an abandoned building, she discovered a basement vault full of unclaimed safe deposit boxes. The mystery behind the vault haunted her for years, until she put down her calculator and started writing.

The Dead Key was the 2014 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award grand prize winner. Pulley continues to work as a private consultant and forensic engineer, investigating building failures and designing renovations. She lives in northeast Ohio with her husband and two children, and she is currently at work on her second novel.

*Disclaimer* A special thanks goes out to TLC Book Tours at Lisa for a review copy of this book. It in no way influenced my review. You can discuss it here or join my facebook page and discuss it there.

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Posted on: March 9th, 2015 By Rick Rhodes

Review: In Flames – Richard Hilary Weber

Posted on: February 24th, 2015 By Rick Rhodes
Print Length: 167 pages
Publisher: Alibi (February 3, 2015)
Language: English
ISBN-10:
ISBN-13: 978-
Order e-book here:
amazon

Characters:

Dan Shedrick – American Architect living and working in San Inigo.
Elaine Ferguson – A powerful woman, runs a local bar and hotel.

Synopsis:

An American working for an American firm on a Carribean Island is drawn into a plot of murder, betrayal, and conspiracies to overthrow the local government.

Review

At first I expected this to be a murder mystery. While there is a murder that occurs, it isn’t really a major focus of the story. In the beginning section of the novel, I was reminded quite a bit of Casablanca, with Elaine playing the part of Rick. There were a lot of similarities, a military threat, love, betrayal, and then the tropical setting.

Then the story makes a shift, and becomes a story of survival. Dan must survive people wanting him dead, for whatever reason, he needs to find out. This is where the action picks up in the story.

Then finally we get drawn back into the murder in Act 3.

Overall, the characters were well developed. They felt like real people, the situations seemed realistic, and the plot moved at a good pace. It was written from a 1st Person perspective, with the POV character being Dan. It was an enjoyable story, and I would check out more from this author. Due to language, violence, and strong situations, I’d recommend it for older teens and adults.

About the Author

Richard Hilary Weber, a native of Brooklyn and a Columbia University graduate, has taught at the universities of Stockholm and Copenhagen, and has been a scriptwriter for French and Swedish filmmakers. He lives in Provence, France.

*Disclaimer* A special thanks goes out to TLC Book Tours at Lisa for a review copy of this book. It in no way influenced my review. You can discuss it here or join my facebook page and discuss it there.

Review: What The Fly Saw – Frankie Y. Bailey

Posted on: February 9th, 2015 By Rick Rhodes
Hardcover: 352 pages
Publisher: Minotaur Books (March 3, 2015)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1250048303
ISBN-13: 978-1250048301
Order book here:

amazon

Order E-book here:
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Characters:

Hannah McCabe – Detective, Albany Policy Department.
Angus McCabe – Hannah’s father and her sounding board.
Baxter – Hannah’s Partner.

Synopsis:

Albany, New York, January 2020 (parallel universe)

A blizzard sweeps up the coast and shuts down the city. When it is over, funeral director Kevin Novak is found dead in the basement of his funeral home. The arrow sticking out of his chest came from his own hunting bow. A loving husband and father and an active member of a local megachurch, Novak had no known enemies. His family and friends say he had been depressed because his best friend died suddenly of a heart attack and Novak blamed himself.

But what does his guilt have to do with his death? Maybe nothing, maybe a lot. Three people — the minister of the megachurch, the psychiatrist who provides counseling to church members, and a medium visiting from the South – say they reached out to Kevin Novak. One of them might know why Novak was murdered. But Detective Hannah McCabe and her partner, Mike Baxter, must sort through lies and evasions as they try to find the killer.

The relationship between the partners is threatened as McCabe deals with a political controversy involving her family, unanswered questions about their last high-profile case, and her own guilt because a young woman died after McCabe failed to act.

Excerpt

Chapter 1

Saturday, January 18, 2020
5:47 AM

After the storm had passed, in the chilly hour before dawn, the last of the “space zombies” found their way back to their nest in the derelict house.

From his command post, the squad leader gave the signal. “Go!”

A black van pulled up in front of the house. Albany PD vice cops wearing protective gear jumped out and stormed up the walk. They used a battering ram to smash open the wooden door.

“Police! Albany PD!”

“Police!”

Their high-powered torches illuminated the grotesque horror movie creatures in the 3-D posters on the walls.

One of the cops ripped down a dangling black plastic replica of the 2012 UFO. He tossed the boomerang-shaped object to the floor.

Hippie freaks, he thought. Ought to make them all go live out in the Mojave Desert and wait for the mother ship to arrive.

He kicked at the nearest mattress on the floor. “Police!” he shouted down at the long-haired occupant. “On your feet!”

Blank eyes in an eerie white-painted face stared up at him.

“Hands up! Hands up!” the cop yelled as the kid stumbled to his feet. He shoved him against the wall and patted him down.

Upstairs, in a bathroom, another cop had found a girl sprawled out, unconscious, on the dirty tile floor beside the toilet. She had vomited in the toilet bowl. Her jeans were stained with urine and feces.

Reaching down, he shook her, and then rolled her onto her side to see her face beneath the mop of dark hair. A nasty bruise on her cheekbone stood out against the streaked white paint. He moved her red scarf aside to feel for a pulse in her throat. The scarf was damp, like her tee shirt and soiled blue jeans.

“Whaddya have?” another cop asked from the doorway.

“Looks like an OD,” the cop inside the bathroom said. “Still breathing, but the wagon had better get here fast.”

“Got it,” the other cop said, touching the comm button on his helmet.

The cop in the bathroom spotted a smear of blood on the corner of the sink. That explained the bruise. She’d banged her face on the sink when she passed out.

Downstairs in the kitchen, cops surveyed the debris of dirty dishes and rotting garbage – and an impressive array of drugs and paraphernalia. One of them lowered her weapon and observed, “With a stash like this, they could have stayed zonked out until the next UFO came to visit.”

Chapter 2

Saturday afternoon
3:17 PM

Funeral director Kevin Novak stared at the Cupid and Psyche bronze clock on his host, Olive Cooper’s mantel. He had allowed himself to become marooned on a conversational island with Paige, Olive’s great niece.

As Paige complained about the conversation and laughter filling the long room — the “rabble babble,” as she put it — Kevin found a name for what he had been feeling for the past forty-eight plus hours. Grief.

He was experiencing first-hand what he had often observed when relatives came into the funeral home after the unexpected death of a loved one. That first stage of grieving the experts described as denial, but he often thought of as amazement and disbelief. The stage of bereavement when family members spoke of their dead loved one in the present tense because they couldn’t yet believe their lives had been ripped apart.

It seemed in this state of mind, one went through the usual motions, saying what was expected. But the shell was thin. His was developing cracks. He could tell because he felt no inclination at all to warn Paige Cooper that he had glanced over her shoulder and seen her Great Aunt Olive headed their way and Paige had better shut up. So he must be moving into the next stage: anger.

“Where in the galaxy did Aunt Olive find these people?” Paige said. “Look at them.”

“Some of them are from the church’s community outreach,” Kevin said.

True, Olive’s guest list for this celebration of her life reflected her eccentricities. An odd assortment of guests: old friends, relatives, church members and business associates, and other people who tickled Olive’s fancy or touched her big heart. But they had all cleaned up and put on their best in Olive’s honor.

“It’s freezing in here,” Paige said. She pulled the belt of her hand-knit cardigan tighter and held her hands out toward the fireplace.

“Feels fine to me,” Kevin said.

“It really is annoying we have to come out for this farce when there’s a blizzard on the way. The least Aunt Olive could do is heat this mausoleum. Everyone here except her will come down with pneumonia, and we’ll still have to do this all over again when she finally does kick off.”

“When I finally do ‘kick off’, Paige,” her great aunt said, right behind her. “You may feel free not to attend my funeral. In fact, if you die first – maybe of the pneumonia you expect to catch – you’ll spare us both that annoyance. And for your information, it was your father who insisted on including you in this shindig.”

Paige flushed an unbecoming shade of scarlet. “Aunt Olive, I didn’t mean –”

“I know what you meant. Get yourself a glass of champagne, now you’re actually old enough to drink, and make the best of the situation.” Olive’s sharp gaze fastened on Kevin. “And since you already know you’re going to get to bury me when I’m dead, you can relax and enjoy the party.”

“I always enjoy your parties, Olive,” Kevin said.

“Come with me,” she said. “There’s someone I want you to meet.”

Aware of Paige’s suspicious glare, Kevin smiled in her direction. That would teach the little brat to say funeral directors reminded her of vultures without first checking for one of the species within hearing distance.

Vultures sometimes exacted their petty revenge.

“At your service, Olive,” he said, offering his arm to the woman, who was eighty-five years old and counting and might well live to be a hundred.

“How have you been?” she asked him.

“Fine,” Kevin said. “Never better.”

“Don’t give me that. Anyone who knows you can tell you’re still taking Bob’s death hard.”

“Having your best friend collapse with a heart attack while you’re beating him at tennis and then die on the operating table can have that effect.”

“It’s been over four months since it happened. You should be coping with it by now.”

“I am coping with it.”

“You’re still off-kilter. Not your usual self. That’s why I want you to meet Luanne Woodward.”

“Luanne? That medium or spiritualist or whatever she calls herself that you found somewhere?”

“I didn’t find her ‘somewhere’. She was the featured lecturer at a fundraiser.”

“Lecturer? Don’t you mean ‘performer’?”

“She talked about being a medium and answered questions. She’s an interesting woman. I think you could benefit from talking to her.”

“I don’t believe in that hocus-pocus, Olive.”

“I don’t believe in most of it, either. I’m almost ancient enough to remember the Fox Sisters and their flimflam. But, as I said, Luanne’s interesting. I invited her today so you could meet her.”

Kevin noticed one of Olive’s guests filling his plate high with the urgency of a man who expected the bounty in front of him to disappear. “And do what?” he said in belated response to Olive. “Sign up for her next séance?”

“That might not be a bad idea. Spiritual therapy, so to speak.”

“I get my spiritual therapy at church on Sunday from our minister. You might consider doing the same.”

“At my age, I take what I need from wherever I happen to find it. And the fact you’re going all righteous on me instead of laughing about my eccentricities, as you like to call them, proves you’re off-kilter. We need to get you put to right.”

“Olive, I don’t think a medium and a séance will do the trick.”

“You need an opportunity to confront your feelings.”

“I have confronted my feelings. I confronted them after Bob died. I sought counseling from both Reverend Wyatt and Jonathan Burdett.”

Olive stopped walking and glared at him. “Now, if you want to talk about hocus-pocus, psychiatrists are right up there. You lie on their couch spilling your guts. And they mumble an occasional Freudian pearl of wisdom while they’re thinking about how they intend to spend what they’re charging you.”

“Burdett offers the option of sitting in a comfortable armchair, and, as you well know, his services are free to church members.”

“The church pays his salary, so he’s not free. He’s full of his diplomas and his jargon, that’s what he is.”

“And what about your medium? Is she one-hundred percent jargon free?”

“Not a chance. They all have their language intended to impress, but she’s a hell of a lot more fun then Burdett. So come along and meet her.”

“I suppose it would be a waste of time to say no?”

“Yes, it would. You said you were at my service.”

“Yes, I did say that.”

Not much sleep last night or the night before. His moment of irritation with Paige had given way to weariness. No doubt he would feel the anger later. No chance he’d be able to skip over that stage. Not with the piper to pay.

“Luanne,” Olive said to the plump, blonde woman sipping from a champagne glass as she observed the people around her. “I’d like you to meet Kevin Novak, the friend of mine I was telling you about.”

“I’m so happy to meet you, Mr. Novak,” she said in a Southern drawl that suited her pleasant, round face. Her blue gaze met and held his.

If he believed in such things, Kevin would have sworn she’d looked past his tailored suit and crisp white shirt, straight into his tarnished soul.

He took a step back, and reached out to steady Olive, whose hand rested on his arm.

“Sorry, Olive” he said. “I just remembered something I need to do.”

Luanne Woodward said, “It’s all right, Kevin, honey. You don’t have to run away from me.”

But he did, Kevin thought. He had to run as fast as he could.

Review

A police procedural style mystery is set in an alternative future. This at times threw me a bit off as I’d get so engrossed in the story that I’d forget I was in an alternate world, and then it would mention historical events differently than I remembered. While a great spin on all the detective stories placed in our time period, it could be a bit disconcerting at times. I also found myself confused by some of the technical jargon. I’m still not sure what an Orb is, or why people have them, but everyone does and it’s tied to the individual, almost like a fingerprint it seems. Perhaps if I read her previous novel The Red Queen dies this would all be explained. However, as a reader, I should have that explanation somehow within this novel. Maybe I did though and missed it, but that’s about my only negative.

On the positive, I loved the characters. I loved the relationship between Hannah and her father. He functioned as a kind of Watson to her Holmes The supporting characters were all interesting as well. The plot was tightly woven and like all good mysteries leads you into thinking one person is the killer, only to change the direction when you least expect it.

I enjoyed the story writing, and the style of this author and would definitely pick up more of her work in the future. This has actually enticed me to go out and read her previous entry. Overall a great mystery that will keep the reader involved from the beginning. Pick it up, and drop by and let us know what you thought.

Tour List

02/02/15 Showcase Showcase @ The Book Divas Reads
02/05/15 Guest Post Writers and Authors
02/08/15 Radio Interview Suspense Magazine
02/08/15 Review Literary R&R
02/09/15 Review Rhodes Review
02/11/15 Showcase Ryder Islingtons Blog
02/16/15 Review A Dream Within A Dream
02/17/15 Guest Post Babs Book Bistro
02/18/15 Guest Post Mythical Books
02/19/15 Review Vics Media Room
02/20/15 Review For Life After
02/23/15 Review Carol Wong
02/24/15 Review Bless Their Hearts Mom
02/28/15 Interview Hott Books
03/02/15 Review Booksie’s Blog
03/03/15 Review The Top Shelf
03/04/15 Review Booked on a Feeling
03/10/15 Showcase The Pen & Muse
03/16/15 Review Bunnys Review
03/20/15 Review FictionZeal

About the Author

Frankie Y. Bailey is a mystery writer and a professor in the School of Criminal Justice, University at Albany (SUNY). Her academic research focuses on crime history, popular culture/mass media, and material culture. She has done research and written about topics ranging from local history and women who kill to African American characters in crime and detective fiction. She is currently at work on a book about dress, appearance, and criminal justice. She is the author of two mystery series, featuring crime historian Lizzie Stuart, and Albany police detective Hannah McCabe. Frankie is a past executive vice president of Mystery Writers of America and a past president of Sisters in Crime. A dog lover, she now shares her home with a Maine Coon cat/mix named Harry.

*Disclaimer* A special thanks goes out to Gina at Partners In Crime Tours for a review copy of this book. It in no way influenced my review. You can discuss it here or join my facebook page and discuss it there.