I Know a Secret (Tess Gerritsen)

I recieved a free copy of I Know a Secret in exchange for an honest review. This did not change my opinion of the book.

Boston police detective Jane Rizzoli and medical examiner Maura Isles return after a horror movie director is found in a startlingly staged murder with an unknown cause of death. Together, they struggle to find the truth filled with symbols of martyred saints and a decades old scandal that is still far from over.

Tess Gerritsen is one of the few mystery writers that hasn’t managed to completely disappoint me over the last several years. Not only is I Know a Secret at least as good as previous stories in the series, it might be better. Part of it is a great mystery, maybe not as interesting as others (I really loved The Mephisto Club), but part of it definitely has to do with the fact that I am invested in these characters now. They are flawed, but understandably so. There is another series that I won’t name where I keep reading even though I want to punch the characters in the face. Not so here. Do Jane and Maura make choices in their life that I don’t agree with? Sure. But they are choices that seem to fit them and I can understand it.

Strangely enough, I also enjoyed the fact that, although the mystery is solved, it is not wrapped up perfectly neatly. I actually loved that ambiguity. She could return to this story again (as she has with others in the past) or not. Either way, it works. Tess Gerritsen also has a magical way of adding something truly chilling in each of her books. Most mysteries have something unsettling in them, it’s just their nature, but hers often have something particular that makes you look over your shoulder. I love it.

If you have not previously read any of the Rizzoli and Isles books, you would probably be alright starting here, but I really think you would be better off starting at the beginning of the series. It’s well worth the time and for me, they go quickly because I usually have to know what happens.

The Last of August (Brittany Cavallaro)

I know I have mentioned before that I have a definite fondness for things relating to Sherlock Holmes. It was this fondness and a really good deal on an ebook that led me to buying A Study in Charlotte, Brittany Cavallaro’s first book in this series. I read the book during my recent vacation and was so enthralled that it largely took my mind off the searing pain from sore muscles and blisters on my feet.

While I have read a few very good homages to the great fictional detective this year (see my post on The Daemoniac and The Lost Property Office), this series might be my favorite. In the first book we are introduced to Jamie Watson and Charlotte Holmes, descendants of the original Watson and Holmes who just so happen to be attending the same boarding school. There is plenty of mystery, mayhem and a Moriarty. Bloody brilliant. Fortunately, I didn’t have to wait long for the next book. Sometimes, there are advantages to being late to the game.

In The Last of August we join our dynamic duo as they are spending their Christmas holidays together, first with Watson’s mother and sister and then with Holmes’ parents. Both are working through messy emotional situations (particularly their feelings for one another) when Charlotte’s uncle Leander goes missing while working on a mystery involving an art forgery ring. They head across Europe to search for clues and find a mystery deeper and more dangerous than they could have imagined.

I definitely found this book to be more tangled than the first in the series. I’m going to have to give the ending a more thorough read because there was a lot going on. Still, I loved it.

Not only do you get a better glimpse into the messy lives of the Holmes and Moriarty clans, but there were a few chapters narrated by Charlotte herself. I really found this helped shine some insight into her typically sphinxian character. It makes Watson’s fascination with her seem much more understandable. Plus, it was fun to see more of Milo Holmes and the (mostly) villainous Moriarty siblings.

So, since it’s been awhile since I’ve done a giveaway, I’ve decided that one lucky winner will receive copies of both A Study in Charlotte AND The Last of August!! Giveaway ends March 3, so get your entries in!!

A Study in Charlotte and The Last of August Giveaway!

Fatal Dose (Russell Atkinson)

I received a free copy of Fatal Dose in exchange for an honest review. This did not change my opinion of the book.

When former FBI agent and current attorney Cliff Knowles is hired by a company that manufactures equipment for radiation treatment, he has no idea how dangerous the case will become. Hired to investigate a series of overdoses, he finds himself in the line of fire when he strays too close to the truth.

Typically, I don’t liked to start a series in the middle. I got lucky with this book. While it is the third book in the series, it didn’t really require you to read the prior books to know what was going on. There were a few references here and there that I didn’t really get, but it did not take away from the story and was not really integral to the plot. It certainly got me interested in catching up on the rest of the series.

I found Cliff Knowles to be a little inconsistent. In one moment he was a super good guy who always walked on the side of the law and in the next he was being super judgemental or roughing people up a little. I suppose if I’m really being honest, this makes him more human. Logically, I should like him more for it, but it was occasionally a little jarring. I didn’t dislike him, but I was super enamored of him either. But, like with a date that was a little off, but ultimately charming, I’ll probably give him another chance to wow me.

I thought that I would connect more with the medical clinic aspect, but ultimately, it wasn’t that part that hooked me. The medical clinic staff were sort of not super great people. In the end, it was just a really entertaining story, with a little action (but not so much that it gets bogged down) and a well put together mystery. Russ Atkinson is a former FBI agent himself, which helps lend realism to the story.

If you are a fan of mysteries, Fatal Dose is definitely one you’ll want to check out. While it started just a little slow, once it picks up, it’s hard to put down.

The Daemoniac (Kat Ross) and The Lost Property Office (James R. Hannibal)

I received a free copy of The Daemoniac and The Lost Property Office from the publishers in exchange for a review. This did not change my opinion of the books.

Today I’m going for a twofer, since these two books share a common thread.

I have a soft spot for Sherlock Holmes. But, I will confess, I’ve never read the books. I know. It’s shocking. Rather, my affection comes from the BBC’s Sherlock. Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman are my Sherlock and Watson. Nevertheless, I still enjoy a little nod to the characters in my reading. Perhaps someday I’ll even get around to the books.

The Daemoniac

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It’s the summer of 1888 in New York, a mere three weeks before Jack the Ripper begins his reign of terror in London. Detective Harrison Fearing Pell and her friend John Weston take a case that looks like demonic possession. Harry is not convinced that the killer is anything other than flesh and blood. The case will take them from the dangers of the Five Points to the mansions of Fifth Avenue.

I was skeptical of this book from page one. The opening chapter was a little awkward and felt like it wanted to be Sherlock Holmes way too much. However, it ended up being an extremely fun Victorian mystery, with hints of magic. It paid homage to Sherlock without, ultimately, being too heavy handed.

While I loved all the characters, I particularly love the inclusion of Nellie Bly and Arthur Conan Doyle. Harry (who, by the way, is female) is not some know-it-all detective but a smart, capable sleuth and Weston is a charming and able side-kick.

It was a super enjoyable read and I would love to read more of Harry’s adventures in the future. I actually just found out that this is connected to the other books Kat Ross has written. Hmm… guess I’ve got some reading to do.

The Lost Property Office

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Thirteen year old Jack Buckles’ father has gone missing in London, and while Jack has a better than normal knack for finding missing items, unfortunately, his father isn’t one of them. After his sister follows someone she thinks is their father out of the hotel, Jack discovers The Lost Property Office and uncovers a secret. His father is member of a secret society of detectives who have served the crown for generations. Now, the only way Jack can save his father is to find the Ember and defeat the Clockmaker before it’s too late.

This book was absolutely SO much fun. Again, this book also owes some of it’s origins Sherlock Holmes as well, The Lost Property Office itself is on Baker Street. You’ll also find other delightful bits and pieces as you read.

In particular I absolutely loved the scene in the archives. I won’t give it away. You should definitely read this book and see for yourself.

While this is clearly for a somewhat younger crowd (middle grades maybe? I’m a bad judge of these things.), it never condescends. It’s full of smart characters and assumes the readers are as well.

While these two books are fairly disparate, I think they both have something for everyone to enjoy.

Other Books I’ve Been Reading

If you keep track of my little Goodreads shelf over on the sidebar, you may have noticed I’m reading quite a few books that I’m not writing up. There are several reasons for this. Some were just bad. Others were ok, but I didn’t have strong enough feelings about them to write an entire review. Yet others are books I’ll be reviewing at a later date.

I’ve decided to do a quick and dirty summary of some of those, since just because I didn’t rave about them, doesn’t mean you won’t.

Useless Bay (MJ Beaufrand)

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This was actually a fairly enjoyable book. Geared more toward middle grades, it was really well written, but left too many questions hanging for me to really enjoy it thoroughly. It centers around the larger than life Gray quintuplets, the unofficial search and rescue team of Whidbey Island. This one is out October 18.

 

Chasing Embers (James Bennett)

I really want to like urban fantasy, but I nearly always struggle with them. This one isn’t bad, a little wordy at times but a fairly solid read. I have a soft spot for dragons, so that may be part of the appeal for me. I can’t really gush about it, but I will likely read the next book when it comes out.

A Rustle of Silk (Alys Clare)

A decent mystery set against the backdrop of early Stuart England.  Overall, it was an enjoyable mystery, but there were a few moments that I didn’t really think fit and overall the mystery was just a little too easily solved for me. I won’t give away exactly what those parts were, but just be fair warned if you decide to pick this one up.

The Apothecary’s Curse (Barbara Bennett)

This urban fantasy, I actually did enjoy. The story moves between modern and Victorian timelines, but I found that kept me really interested. Victorian doctor Simon Bell and and apothecary Gaelan Erceldoune became immortal and now must stop a modern pharmaceutical from exploiting their secret.

Confession of a Serial Killer: The Untold Story of Dennis Rader, the BTK Killer (Katherine Ramsland, Ph.D.)

Talk about books that will make your skin crawl, this was beyond just creepy. Much of the story is told in Dennis Rader’s own words and while it’s interesting, it’s also scary as hell.

Garden District Gothic (Greg Herren)

It could be that I wasn’t super excited about this book because I hadn’t read any of the others in the series (this is the 7th Scotty Bradley book). The worst part for me was that the mystery seemed to be just too easily solved. It had the build up to be a really great mystery and I was really let down. I was a little iffy at the beginning because it really seemed to want to be the gayest thing that ever was gay, but things leveled off so that I wasn’t constantly saying to myself, “OK, I get it, these guys are gay!” It’s gay fiction and it seriously wants you to know it. Regardless, ultimately I found the super easy wrap up to be the deal breaker here.

Choose Your Own Misery: The Holidays (Mike MacDonald, Jilly Gagnon)

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I wanted to love this. It was (supposed) to be pure nostalgia for me, since I grew up with the Choose Your Own Adventure books. This was a humorous take on how much the holidays can suck. It was okay, I suppose. Cute. But, it was clearly written from a purely male perspective and I quickly lost interest.

The Private Lives of the Tudors (Tracy Borman)

I absolutely loved this one. As I’ve mentioned before, I have a passion for all things Tudor and this really gave me a lot of new insight into the everyday lives of the Tudor monarchs. I decided to forgo a full review of this one, just because I don’t know many people that would get as excited about the minutiae of Henry VIII’s private life as I do.

The Red Ripper (Peter Conradi)

Another book about a creepy serial killer, this time it’s Russian killer Andrei Chikatilo. It was an interesting read, but didn’t really expand on anything I hadn’t read previously.

True Crime Addict (James Renner)

I made a little bit of a mistake when I was reading this book. I plowed through the last half or so of the book in one evening. But, that wasn’t the mistake. The problem was, I read it right before bed. While home alone. And there were parts that were a little freaky.

True Crime Addict is primarily about the disappearance of Maura Murray. Intertwined with Maura’s story is that of the author, James Renner, and the effects that his own personal true crime addiction has had on his life.

Here's something that looks mysterious, because I couldn't find any better pictures.
Here’s something that looks mysterious, because I couldn’t find any better pictures. Or get permission to use the cover image in time for this post. There’s probably a lesson here in procrastination. Moving on…

I first heard about Maura Murray’s disappearance pretty recently, actually, on a comedy website, of all places (Cracked.com, which you should also read, it’s fantastic). She was listed in an article called 5 Weirdest Disappearances No One Can Explain. I absolutely love a good mystery, in real life or fiction, and this one was certainly compelling. The All-American girl abruptly leaves school. She gets into an accident on the way to locations unknown and vanishes before the police can arrive, only minutes after she was last seen by witnesses.

I’ve seen a fair amount of criticisms that this book was basically exactly the same as James Renner’s blog. However, never having even heard of James Renner before I found this book, I can safely say that that fact does not bother me in the slightest. For me, the book almost read like a novel. It was impossible to put down. On one hand, this sometimes made it almost too easy to forget that this was something that happened to real people. The family of Maura Murray did not want this book written, most of them declined to even speak with the author. On the other hand, it made it ridiculously hard to not get sucked in.

James Renner was also sucked in, so much so that it had an adverse affect on his life. This wasn’t a first for him either: after getting deeply involved in the murder investigation of Amy Mihaljevic (whom he also wrote a book about), Renner suffered PTSD.

My own criticisms are fairly small, but, I do wish he had gone into more detail on certain things. When he spoke to one of the Murray daughters’ former husband, he says that he asked him a sensitive question about the girls’ father. Now, obviously, you can read a certain amount into this, but I would rather know what exactly it was that he asked. I kept waiting for the answer to that, and he never revealed it. Considering that there was a fair bit of speculation going on about what exactly had happened to Maura, I don’t feel like revealing the contents of that particular question would have been out of line. Ok, maybe it would have been somewhat invasive. Maybe, I’m a little nosy. I can live with that.

Ultimately, nothing is really definitely concluded. Not all mysteries are going to have answers that wrap up with a neat bow. However, James Renner does make some decently compelling arguments for his theory of what happened to Maura and where she might be.

All in all, I recommend this for any fans of true crime, or even crime fiction. It’s a quick read and very hard to put down. That being said, I can’t really suggest reading it before bed. It definitely shines a light into some of the darkest corners of mankind.