Tracy Crosswhite series, by Robert Dugoni

Dugoni 1Tracy Crosswhite is a Seattle homicide detective, haunted by the tragedies that have befallen her family – not least the abduction/disappearance of her sister years before. In the first novel, she heads back to her home town in Cedar Grove when her sister’s body is found. Determined to find out the truth about Sarah’s disappearance and murder, she must dig deep into her past. Are some questions best left unanswered as the advice from everyone is to let sleeping dogs lie.

Dugoni 2In the second novel, Crosswhite is back in Seattle and back in the crosshairs of her boss, Johnny Nolasco. Dancers (code for strippers and prostitutes) are being murdered and Tracy has been tasked with finding the serial killer. Again, her doggedness lands her in trouble as she refuses to quit. Along the way, her relationship with her childhood friend, Dan, who plays a central role in the first novel, deepens.

I particularly enjoy series and I’m delighted to have found a new one in Robert Dugoni’s Tracy Crosswhite. I always know it’s a winner when I go straight on to read the second after the first and am disappointed to find that the third instalment won’t be available until 2016.

As with other novels in the genre, a detective is nothing without their ghosts and Tracy’s lie in the disappearance of her sister twenty years before. Her guilt is tied to the fact that she left Sarah to head home alone at the age of 18. Her car ran out of gas … and that was that. Tracy has spent the subsequent years chasing answers, reading files, and generally keeping the rest of her life on hold as her quest for answers remains unfulfilled … until Sarah’s body is uncovered. Then it’s back home to small town Cedar Grove, where everybody knows her name and her story.

The two novels in the series so far chart Tracy’s involvement in her sister’s murder inquiry which continues to impact on her life and professional reputation afterwards. And, as in politics, sometimes the enemy is within, and she has to look out for the shenanigans of her boss, Johnny Nolasco. They had a run-in in the Academy and, as these things go, it has never been resolved and their distrust and dislike of each other has ripples and aftershocks – for both of them – as time moves on.

The love interest angle is covered by lawyer Dan O’Leary, a childhood friend of Tracy who turns up at Sarah’s funeral, having moved back to Cedar Grove. The relationship is handled well and it’s not all spark and fizz as in other novels, moving along at a more realistic and believable pace.

The novels aren’t as fully engaging as others, but I’m happy to have added them to my library nonetheless and will follow Tracy as she ponders her next move. These novels have also whetted my appetite for other Dugoni novels, so that’s surely a compliment.

Review: Dirty Little Secrets, Liliana Hart (2011)

Liliana Hart Dirty Little SecretsJ.J. Graves has seen a lot of dead bodies in her line of work… She’s not only in the mortuary business, but she’s also the coroner for King George County, Virginia. When a grisly murder is discovered in the small town of Bloody Mary, it’s up to J.J. and her best friend, Detective Jack Lawson, to bring the victim justice.

This is the first in the JJ Graves series and for fans of series, like myself, this collection is worth a read.

Jaye, or JJ, has returned home to take over her parents’ funeral home. Her parents have a whole criminal past going and this is explored throughout the series, with a very commendable twist! Jaye’s parents were good on the cash and education front, not so hot on the emotional front. And it is this wall that old friend Jack Lawson must climb in order to make any progress with Jaye.

Over the course of the novels, Hart explores Jaye’s and Jack’s growing attraction – they’re a likeable and believable duo and you find yourself rooting for them. Jaye is also easy to identify with – a bit of a slob but with enough of an edge and enough baggage and wit to be interesting.

The novels are set in Bloody Mary, a quiet backwater of Virginia, that suddenly seems to have an overdose of murders and mayhem – all coinciding with the return of JJ to her hometown. This, and her parents’ background, serve to make JJ enough of an outsider to annoy people and a native to those who can see past the sins of the father to the vulnerable daughter left behind.

The murders uncover the hidden elements in every small community – on the surface, everything potters along and people smile at each other on the street, never knowing the secrets – whether its domestic violence, affairs, racism, or addictions – that run rife in every community.

But all of this is laid bare in this series, and you can feel the twitching curtains and gossip lift off the page as JJ and Jack seek to right the wrongs being inflicted, sometimes close to home.

The characters are well coloured in – the third novel fills in Jack’s background more, with a crime tied to his SWAT past. His mother pops in and out, along with friends Dickie, Vaughn, and FBI agent Ben Carver.

If you like series, you’ll definitely enjoy this one and even miss the twosome when you finish. That’s surely the definition of a good read!

Review: The Forgotten, David Baldacci (2012)

Military criminal investigator John Puller is back, this time called to Paradise, Florida, by a letter from his aunt.  She’s suspicious of goings on in the seaside town. When Puller arrives, his aunt is dead and he’s determined to find out if she’s been murdered and why.

This is my second John Puller novel and I’m sure I’ve commented before that there are huge similarities between Puller and Lee Child’s character, Jack Reacher. Both are tall, involved with the military, attractive to women, a magnet for scrapes, happy with their fists as a form of dialogue. Reacher is homeless by choice, Puller lives close to his workplace.

In this novel, Paradise naturally is anything but. People are disappearing, and there’s a trade in people – product – that’s particularly well narrated. It’s particularly relevant at the moment with thousands of people migrating across Europe on foot and receiving a variety of receptions from water bottles to water cannons, blankets to bread thrown at them.

For me, that storyline is the most interesting and is a fairly harrowing account of how slavery today has a different hue but the same result: the inhuman treatment of people by those whose only motive is profit on the backs of other people’s misery.

For thestoryline alone, it’s worth a read.

The Secret Place, Tana French (2014)

tanafrenchthe secretplaceThe photo on the card shows a boy who was found murdered, a year ago, on the grounds of a girls’ boarding school in the leafy suburbs of Dublin. The caption says, I KNOW WHO KILLED HIM.

Detective Stephen Moran has been waiting for his chance to get a foot in the door of Dublin’s Murder Squad—and one morning, sixteen-year-old Holly Mackey brings him this photo. The Secret Place, a board where the girls at St. Kilda’s School can pin up their secrets anonymously, is normally a mishmash of gossip and covert cruelty, but today someone has used it to reignite the stalled investigation into the murder of handsome, popular Chris Harper. Stephen joins forces with the abrasive Detective Antoinette Conway to find out who and why.


Even though this is the fifth instalment of the Dublin Murder Squad series, they’re all standalone novels, so this is as good a place to start as any.

Set in a girls’ secondary school, the book is a study of the hype, drama,  hyperbole, and secrets beloved of teenage girls. Add in the make up, lip gloss, hairspray and tight tops to attract the boys from the school next door and you can see why murder is the least of their concerns.

Into this world apart come Detective Conway who failed to solve the murder last year and Detective Moran who’s languishing in Cold Cases and desperately wants to break into the Murder Squad. But first they must penetrate the wall of lies,  misdirection, and deceit thrown at them by teenage girls who are always one step ahead.

The girls are divided into two gangs: Joanne, Alison, Orla, and Gemma are hell bent on running the show as long as Joanne sets the agenda. Julia, Selena, Rebecca, and Holly are too cool for all that and wedded to each other by a loyalty the others can’t break.

And yet someone killed Chris Harper.

I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. It’s a classic study of teenage girls, what unites them, what divides them, what obsesses them, what drives them. Between confusion over who likes who, who’s lying about whom, who’s into what boy, how far should you go, how far did she go, what should she wear, why is she wearing that, it’s an impossible fog of hormones and mind games to navigate.

French has it down to a tee in this novel, where you’ll laugh out loud at some of the descriptions. There’s a scene in The Court shopping centre where the boys and girls mingle (preen) that is a pure anthropological study of the mating rituals of teenagers. And very funny. But also very insightful about the pure trial of being a teenage girl where your body becomes a battlefield between your own desires (or not), the desires of teenage boys (who are always trying it on, just because), and the rumour mill which damns you no matter what you do.


Review: Stolen Hearts, Andrea R Cooper (2015)

andrea r cooperTrained to be a thief from a young age, Crystal is driven to do whatever it takes to find evidence against the man who had her parents murdered. She’s given up her name, love and even her face in pursuit of justice. When Crystal is forced on a blind date with the cop who is investigating her, she finds herself playing a dangerous game of hearts that could land her in a prison cell.

Kade is in search of a new life, after losing his partner. He’s taken a new job, in a new city, and met a new girl. In order to keep his fresh start, he will have to catch an elusive thief targeting one of the largest corporations in the country. Desperate to forget the failures of his past, Kade has no intention of failing.

Thanks to the author for this review copy.

This is a fast-paced romance thriller with two central characters, Crystal and Kade, both of whom have secrets from each other. That’s a recurrent theme in the book – each character has secrets, none more so than Westridge whom Crystal suspects of murdering members of her family and attempting to murder her and her sister.

The plot is a good one – Crystal and Ruby are effectively modern-day cat burglars with IT hacking skills who are building up evidence to convict the man who got their dad jailed. In too much of a coincidence, they both end up with the cops who are investigating them, though all is not as it seems there either.

Set in New York, there’s little of the city on offer, a lack of depth that’s reflected elsewhere. For instance, we never really get a good feel for the girls’ uncles, George and Gustin, two shady characters whose introduction into the girls’ lives is never well explained. Neither is the character of Tommy, the uncles’ henchman and the girls’ protector/sparring partner fleshed out. Maybe these details will be fleshed out in further novels, as this is the first in a series seemingly.

Of the two cops, Kade and Paul, Kade is well drafted, with a background in gangs to make him interesting. Paul is annoyingly difficult to get a handle on in terms of character substance, but maybe that was a deliberate fudge … or not.

Overall, I enjoyed the book. Would I read more? Maybe. For an enjoyable canter across the pages, this is a good choice. Not too taxing but interesting enough to keep you turning the pages. And that’s a lot more than can be said for a lot of books!

Review: Murder, Madness & Love, Yolande Renee (2013)

YolandeWealthy Businessman Dies in Car Crash … BLACK WIDOW SUSPECTED!

Graphic images swirl through her head and a tear rolls down her cheek. She drifts toward an easel and a trembling hand dips a sable brush into a palette of paint.The Westminster doorbell chimes. The brush slips and blood-red paint stains the floor.

Detective Steven Quaid waits. His Tlingit, Indian features carved from granite, mask his Irish passion … Will he arrest her this time?

All fingers point to her guilt.

But, is she guilty of this cunning plot? Or just a victim of circumstantial evidence?

Thank you to Curiosity Quills for offering me this book for review.

Set in Alaska and Seattle mosly, the book features Sarah Palmer who has moved home after the death of her husband, Michael. Sarah’s accused of murdering Michael for his millions. She says no. The evidence hints otherwise but isn’t convincing enough for an arrest warrant.

In Alaska, she heads up her husband’s corporation and sets up his new Foundation. However, with their wedding anniversary coming up on Valentine’s Day, women start to end up dead. Each time, Sarah gets a Valentine’s note beforehand. And, each time, the woman has a connection to Sarah.

There’s an array of characters – good friends John and Eddie and their respective partners, work colleagues Jonathan, Karen, and Gerald, housekeepers, security guys, and, of course, the cops.

Enter Steven Quaid, the Alaskan detective, who’s fighting his feelings for Sarah and his concerns about her guilt or innocence.

This book is an accomplished run out. Plenty of characters, strong plot lines, unexpected ending. On the downside, (as an editor) I felt it could have done with a good ol’ edit, with some of the dialogue polished off, some of the characters made a little more rounded (including Sarah), and a little more showing, not telling us about emotions and developments.Those irritations aside, I stuck with it because I was curious to see exactly who was committing all these murders. There are plenty of red herrings, and the book is a decent starting point for future work.

Review: Sweet Dreams Boxed Set (2014)

sweetdreamsThis is a great read – with all proceeds raised from the sale of this boxed set of 13 thrillers donated to the US Diabetes Research Institute.

I’ve taken the summary of the books from Goodreads and just given a one-liner feedback to each one. But I was delighted to come across this and have discovered several new authors.

AIM TO KILL by NYT bestselling author Allison Brennan: When disgraced former cop Alex Morgan is shot saving the life of California’s Lieutenant Governor, she doesn’t expect to be caught in the middle of a deadly conspiracy, an FBI sting, an old rivalry … and cold-blooded murder. ~ Liked it, new author for me, will read again

NYT bestselling author Cynthia Eden invites readers to enter a world of darkness and obsession in her new romantic suspense tale, UNTIL DEATH. ~ Liked it, new author for me, will read again

From NYT bestselling author J.T. Ellison comes the long awaited prequel to her Taylor Jackson series. CROSSED, the story of a madman trying to create his own end-of-days apocalypse, introduces Lieutenant Taylor Jackson to the young, troubled FBI profiler Dr. John Baldwin. ~ Liked it, second read of this author for me, will read more

In TOYS IN THE ATTIC from NYT bestselling author Heather Graham, Michael Quinn is accustomed to dealing with the deadly, the dangerous, and the extreme—but a haunted spinning wheel? And on the eve of his wedding? He’ll have to risk his life, limb and soul for love to save Danni Cafferty from the cursed creation if he’s ever to get them both to the church on time—and live. ~ Not for me, I’m afraid

J.J. Graves and Jack Lawson investigate a ritualistic murder while on their honeymoon in DIRTY DEEDS by NYT bestselling author Liliana Hart. ~ Liked it, new author for me, will read again

From NYT bestselling author Alex Kava comes the prequel readers have been waiting for, and the case that destined Special Agent Maggie O’Dell to a career of chasing killers. ~ One of my fave authors

From NYT bestselling author CJ Lyons: When workaholic FBI Agent Lucy Guardino takes her daughter on vacation, the last thing she expects is to become embroiled in a murder—or for her teenaged daughter to play amateur sleuth with disastrous consequences. ~ Liked it, new author for me, will read again

When her twin sister disappears, Ellen Galway enlists the help of a Texas Ranger in SECRET HIDEAWAY, a story of love, danger and revenge from NYT bestselling author Carla Neggers. ~ Liked it, new author for me, will read again

HANOVER HOUSE, from NYT bestselling author Brenda Novak, features Evelyn Talbott, a psychiatrist who studies serial killers at a revolutionary new medical health center in remote Hilltop, Alaska. Evelyn’s determined to unlock the mysteries of the anti-social mind, even if it kills her—and being surrounded by men who feel no remorse means it just might…~ Liked it, new author for me, will read again

NYT bestselling author Theresa Ragan’s newest suspense, DEAD MAN RUNNING, is set in motion when an accused murderer escapes prison in a body bag and sets out to prove his innocence. ~ Liked it, new author for me, will read again

From NYT bestselling author Erica Spindler comes the prequel to her exciting new series starring reformed southern belle turned kick ass cop, Michaela Dee Dare. In RANDOM ACTS, Micki must uncover the link between a series of bizarre and seemingly random murders in New Orleans. ~ One of my fave authors

Someone is slaughtering homeless people in WITHOUT MALICE, Jo Robertson’s latest suspense-thriller. It’s personal to Parole Officer Santiago Cruz because the targets are his parolees. With no motive or murder weapon, but with help from prison doctor Frankie Jones, Cruz must trace the brutal killings back to their tragic origin. ~ Liked it, new author for me, will read again

Before Kathleen, there were just two brothers: Blane and Kade. One bonding trip to Vegas later and Sin City will never be the same in TURN THE TABLES, prequel to the Kathleen Turner Series by Bestselling Author Tiffany Snow. ~ Not for me, I’m afraid (less)