Thursday, December 30, 2010

Crimson City

Crimson City by Liz Maverick

Once, this was the City of Angels. The angels are no longer in charge. From the extravagant vampire world above to the gritty defiance of the werewolves below, the specter of darkness lives around every corner, the hope of paradise in every heart. The city knows a tentative peace, but to live in Los Angeles is to balance on the edge of a knife. One woman knows better than most. She’s about to be tested, to taste true thirst. Fleur Dumont is about to meet the one man who may understand her: a tormented protector who’s lost all he loved. Theirs is one tale of many. This is Crimson City, where desire meets danger and more than just the stars come out at night.
--Crimson City by Liz Maverick, Copyright ©2005 by Elizabeth A. Edelstein, published by Dorchester Publishing

My Review
Welcome to Crimson City, where the vampires and werewolves are not just the stuff of film and books. They’re real, and they share the city with the handful of humans brave enough to share the city with them. There’s a definite caste system, with the vampires occupying the upper strata of the city, the humans on the street level, and the werewolves living in the underground. Though the three species don’t get along, there is a tentative peace that exists over the city.

Fleur Dumont is a member of the ruling family of the vampires. She should be ruling, period, but that job was taken over by two of her half brothers, Christian and Ryan because she was not ready to rule. Because she had made a mistake, one that destroyed any respect she had among the Council members. She ready to redeem herself, but is unsure of how to approach her brothers for that opportunity. When her brothers are killed before her very eyes by a mech—a human converted to a machine—she seizes the opportunity and takes over. But is she really ready?

It takes a brave human to not only live in Crimson City, but to interact with both species. Dain Reston is just such an individual. A member of “Battlefield” Operations, it’s his job to ensure the tentative peace between the species stays. But when he and his partner, Cyd, come across the mech—something that shouldn’t exist—they know something bad is going down.

Now Dain must ally himself with the vampires, and with Fleur specifically, if he is to figure out who sent the mech after the Dumonts and what exactly that person hoped to accomplish. At the same time, he has to deal with his wild, barely-in-control partner, an overeager tabloid reporter, a boss who seems more intent on hampering than helping his mission, and his own growing attraction for Fleur Dumont.

Crimson City is the first in a series of novels. The first five were written by different authors, but numbers six and seven were written by Liz Maverick.

Being the first in a series, there’s a lot of background to present, causing the story to suffer from “too-much-information-itis.” The information is necessary to understand the world of Crimson City, but it just felt like too much of an info-dump for me. I could almost draw lines around sections and label them: here’s background on the city, now background on a character, here’s an action scene, now more information, a bit of dialogue—oops, interrupted by more information—and the rest of the dialogue and finally the end of the scene. Plus, each character had a lot of internal dialogue going. A lot. A lot a lot.

Having never ready anything else by Liz Maverick, I can’t say if this is her usual style or just the style she adopted for this series, but it makes me reluctant to read anything else by her. I will read the other novels that I have in this series (A Taste of Crimson by Marjorie M. Liu is next), but I don’t know right now if I’ll read Liz Maverick’s other entries in this series.

I give this story TWO STARS.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Blood Sins

Blood Sins by Kay Hooper
Young, vulnerable, attractive, Tessa Gray looked like the perfect victim. Which was why Noah Bishop of the FBI’s Special Crimes Unit recruited the novice operative to use as bait for a killer hidden inside the Church of the Everlasting Sin–a fortified mountain compound where at least two women have already been murdered in ways that defy explanation. By entering the cult’s compound, Tessa will expose herself to the dark magnetism of its leader and his fanatically loyal followers. Once she’s inside, no one, not even Bishop or the town’s chief of police, can guarantee she’ll come out alive. And not even Tessa knows if she’s strong enough to resist the lure of a killer who is less than human.
--Blood Sins by Kay Hooper, Copyright ©2009 by Kay Hooper, published by Bantam Books

My Review

Young widow Tessa Gray has been targeted by the Church of the Everlasting Sin—and that’s exactly what she wants. Working undercover for Noah Bishop and the FBI’s Special Crimes Unit, part of Tessa’s job is to find out why (so far) two people have been murdered, one of them an undercover member of the SCU. Sarah had been living inside the compound, gathering information and, whenever possible, smuggling out “special” children so they could no longer be used for the Reverend Samuel’s questionable purposes. Now she’s dead, her body found several miles downriver from the Church’s compound.

When the Church starts to actively recruit Tessa, she is reluctant but plays along. After all, how else is she supposed to get information that will help the SCU bust open the Church and expose the Reverend? Things get a little dicey when the local police chief, Sawyer Cavanaugh, makes his suspicions of the church obvious. Tessa must decide if she can trust Sawyer and if in doing so, can she risk exposing him to the evil that is surely a part of the Church?

A normal Kay Hooper story involves a mystery along with a romance between two of its characters. This story veers from that norm, in that there’s an attraction between Tessa and Sawyer, and that’s it. The rest of the story, say 80% or so, is all about the mystery of the Reverend Adam Deacon Samuel and his connection to Blood Dreams’ serial killer. And even when that mystery is resolved, there are still too many unanswered questions, leading to the twelfth story in the series, Blood Ties.

It’s a good story with enough action to keep the story moving, but it definitely isn’t a stand-alone read. It’s hard to fully understand what’s going on unless you’ve read Blood Dreams and if at all possible, the entire previous 10 books in the Bishop/SCU series. I have, and I’m still a little bit in the dark. Drawing a flowchart detailing all the characters and their attributes along with their varied connections probably would have helped.

I give this story THREE STARS.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Hot Mahogany

Hot Mahogany by Stuart Woods
While dining one night at Elaine’s, Stone Barrington—back in Manhattan after chasing down the bad guys in the Caribbean—meets Barton Cabot, older brother of his sometime ally, CIA boss Lance Cabot. Barton’s career in army intelligence is even more top secret than his brother’s, but he’s suffering from amnesia following a random act of violence. Amnesia is a dangerous thing in a man whose memory is chockfull of state secrets, so Lance hires Stone to watch Barton’s back. As Stone discovers, Barton is a spy with a rather unusual hobby: building and restoring antique furniture. The genteel world of antiques and coin dealers at first seems a far cry from Stone’s usual underworld of mobsters, murderers, and spies. But Barton also is a man with a past, and one event in particular— in the jungles of Vietnam more than thirty years earlier— is coming back to haunt his present in ways he’d never expected. Stone soon finds out that Barton, and some shady characters of his acquaintance, may be hiding a lot more than just a few forged antiques.
--Hot Mahogany by Stuart Woods, Copyright ©2008 by Stuart Woods, published by Putnam Books

My Review
Hot Mahogany is the 15th book in Stuart Woods’ Stone Barrington series. The story opens at Elaine’s, a tony New York restaurant that Stone dines at regularly. He’s surprised to see an older version of his friend, CIA director Lance Cabot, standing at the door. The situation is explained when Lance himself arrives and speaks to Stone quietly. The other man is his older brother, Barton, whom Lance himself hasn’t seen for many years. Barton is suffering a mild case of amnesia…could Stone look after him for a day or two while Lance takes care of a very important, very classified situation overseas? Of course, Stone agrees and Lance departs, leaving Barton in Stone’s very capable hands.

Using his police contacts, Stone is able to find out where Barton lives. As luck would have it, Barton’s home is not far from Stone’s second home in Washington, CT. The next morning, Barton is feeling much more like himself. His memory hasn’t fully returned, but he feels well enough, so Stone drives him home. Barton shows Stone around his home, including the barn where he works as a furniture builder and restorer. But Barton isn’t just an ordinary carpenter. He’s an expert at reproducing antique American furniture. His work is so good, noted furniture experts can’t tell the difference between his work and the original.
He shows Stone a piece he keeps hidden in his workshop, a mahogany secretary made in the 18th century by Goddard and Townsend, a Colonial American furniture maker. The problem is, he’s unsure if the secretary in his barn is the original or the copy. The other is in his van, which was stolen the night of the accident that caused his amnesia. Barton asks Stone to help him locate his stolen van so he can recover his missing secretary. Stone agrees to help.

But there’s more to this tale than just a missing piece of furniture. Becoming an expert furniture reproducer takes not only talent, but money. And Barton has money. Lots of money. What exactly are the origins of Barton’s wealth? What happened to his promising career as a U.S. Marine during the Viet Nam war? Why did he disappear from his brother’s life more than 20 years ago and stay “missing” all those years? Who was responsible for his “accident” and his stolen van? Is the original or the reproduction secretary lost along with the van or is the piece about to make an appearance on the auction circuit, where it could fetch as much as 25 million dollars? And how does Stone’s technical go-to guy, Bob Kantor, connect to Barton Cabot?

As if solving those mysteries wasn’t enough to keep Stone busy, there’s also his ever complicated love life. A former lover of his, Eliza, is set to walk down the aisle shortly, a feat Stone is sure is only a ploy to get his attention, while he begins to date one woman with a volatile soon-to-be ex, and then another who appears to be more his type of woman. No woman manages to stay in his life for long, but will Tatiana prove to be the exception to the rule?

I love Stuart Woods’ Stone Barrington novels. They’re not your typical shoot-em-up whodunits or your typical lawyer-centered mysteries with a lot of law-speak. Stone is a simple, straightforward man who gets involved in the most complicated scenarios and always manages to come out clean in the end with barely a hair out of place and usually with a woman on his arm. There is an underlying continuity thread among the series, but each story stands alone and each story is a terrific read. I very strongly recommend Stuart Woods’ books, primarily the Stone Barrington and Ed Eagle series.

I give this story FIVE STARS.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Double Take

Double Take by Catherine Coulter

Are you ready to dive into the world of psychic mediums? We begin with Julia Ransom, widow of the renowned psychic medium August Ransom. For six months the San Francisco police tried to find enough evidence to arrest her, but failed. Then on a clear evening on Pier 39, a stranger knocks her unconscious and heaves her over the railing into the bay. If it weren’t for Special Agent Cheney Stone, Julia would have drowned. Cheney quickly realizes that the attempt on Julia’s life has to be connected with the murder of her husband, and reopens the investigation with the SFPD.

Meanwhile, In Maestro, Virginia, Sheriff Dixon Noble—last seen in Point Blank--learns about a woman named Charlotte Pallack who bears an extraordinary resemblance to his vanished wife, Christine, gone now for more than three years. Dix knows to his soul that Christie is long dead, but he has no choice—he flies out to San Francisco to see this woman.

Dix’s and Cheney’s paths cross, brought together by Savich and Sherlock. They all begin to unlock the mystery of Charlotte Pallack’s identity as well as the forces behind Julia Ransom’s attempted murder and the vicious murder of her husband. The most fascinating aspect of the case is the extraordinary cast of psychics they meet as they push deep into the intriguing, complex world of visions, mind benders, and communications with the dead.

--Double Take by Catherine Coulter, Copyright ©2007 by Catherine Coulter, published by Jove Books

My Review

Life isn’t easy for Julia Ransom.

First her husband, psychic medium August Ransom, is killed. The cops focused on her as the potential killer and never bothered to check any other possible leads. Finally, six months later, the police and the media have backed away, giving her some peace.

Then someone tries to kill her.

Fortunately, Special Agent Cheney Stone witnessed the attack and saved her life. He quickly intuits that the attack on her has something to do with the murder of her husband and gets himself involved in the investigation.

Across the country, in the small town of Maestro, Virginia, Sheriff Dixon Noble learns of a woman in San Francisco (not Julia) who bears an uncanny resemblance to his missing wife. Though afraid of what he might find, he has no choice but to go to San Francisco and see this woman. When he meets Charlotte Pallack, he’s taken aback at how much she looks like his Christie, but he also knows that she is not Christie. So why, when they meet the next day, is Charlotte wearing the bracelet he gave Christie for their anniversary?

Dix and Cheney are brought together by Special Agents Dillon Savich and Lacey Sherlock as their seemingly separate cases in fact run together. Who killed August Ransom? Who’s trying to kill his widow, Julia Ransom? Who is Charlotte Pallack? Does she have a connection to Christie Noble? What role do August’s contemporaries, mediums Wallace Tammerlane, Blevin Wagner, Soldan Meissen and Katheryn Golden play in this increasingly tangled story? And can they figure it all out before the hired killer gets to Julia?

I’m hard pressed to put my finger on exactly what it was that kept bothering me while I read this book. I had a problem with some of the dialogue—in some areas, the dialogue was, well, it felt wrong. Some of her characters say things that I just can’t imagine people saying in real life. Here’s an example:

At the beginning of the story, Julia is at Pier 39 in San Francisco when the killer attacks. He hits her in the jaw but before he can do anything else, Cheney interrupts them, so the killer tosses her over the pier and takes off. Cheney jumps in and rescues her. His friend, Manny, comes out of the restaurant to look for him.

Another man’s voice came out of the darkness. “Hey, Cheney, can’t I leave you alone for a single minute? Where’s June? I thought she only came out for a cigarette. I thought you came out to fetch her. What’s going on here? Who is this?”

A minute later:

She heard a woman’s voice. “Cheney? Manny? What’s going on here? I finished my cigarette, but neither of you were at the table when I went back inside. Linda said Manny had come to look for you, Cheney. Come on back inside, they just brought our dinner. Hey, what’s this?”

If you were coming out of a restaurant to look for your friend and found them soaking wet, trying to help another person breathe, would you really say all that before saying “Hey, what’s going on here?” Sure, you might start saying all that, but you’d likely shut up the moment you realized something wasn’t right. Nope, these two had a whole paragraph of stuff to say before they clued the reader in to the fact that they could see something was going on.

This is only the first example of what I’d call meaningless dialog that I came across, but it certainly wasn’t the last.

The story involves several different story lines that slowly—very slowly—start to come together before the mad dash at the end. Each line was interesting, but I think there were just too many of them and they were too separate for too long. I was afraid of putting the book down for more than a day for fear I’d forget what was going on and lose track of the story. This, to me, does not make for good reading.

I give this story TWO STARS.

But hey, that’s just my opinion. I’m not saying I hated Double Take, I’m just saying I had a hard time reading this particular book.

When I start to read a series by an author, I usually like to start with the very first book in the series so I can get a handle on the main protagonists. That way, as I continue to read the series, I’ll know their histories and I’ll better understand some of the ensuing story’s nuances. I haven’t done that with the Savich and Sherlock series. Double Take is number 11 in the series, and the only other one I read is number 12, Tail Spin. So I’ll take the blame if there’s something I’m not “getting” by reading the series out of order.

Catherine Coulter has a huge following of loyal readers who love her Savich and Sherlock stories. Right now, I’m just not one of them. I have a few more of her books and I will read them so hopefully I’ll have better things to say about the next one.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Blood Dreams

Blood Dreams by Kay Hooper
Dani Justice knows all about monsters. They haunt her dreams—and her life. But she never expected to find herself on the trail of a real flesh-and-blood predator so cunning, he’s eluded the best law enforcement could send against him; so deadly, he doesn’t hesitate to kill even a senator’s daughter. Or a cop. Dani doesn’t want to hunt this killer. But she doesn’t have a choice. She alone commands a weapon powerful enough to stop him. And she knows something even Bishop of the FBI’s Special Crimes Unit doesn’t know. Dani knows how the hunt ends. It ends in fire. And blood. And death. What she doesn’t know is who will survive.
--Blood Dreams by Kay Hooper, Copyright ©2008 by Kay Hooper, published by Bantam Books

My Review

We begin in Boston, where a serial killer has the city in his grip. Twelve women killed in only thirty days, the last being the daughter of a prominent senator. Bishop and members of his team join the “regular” FBI agents on the scene to aid in the investigation, but secretly, Bishop has dispatched members of his team to a small town outside Atlanta, which he is convinced is the killer’s next hunting ground. But why would the killer move from a big city like Boston to such a small town like Venture?

Dani Justice and her twin sister Paris are from Venture, and though Dani lives in Atlanta now, she returns to Venture under the cover of being there for her sister as she goes through a divorce. Unfortunately, returning to Venture means meeting up with the local sheriff, her old boyfriend Marcus Purcell. As much as she might want to, she can’t avoid him, especially when women start disappearing.

Her dreams aren’t helping much. Every night she has the same dream of her, Bishop and Agent Hollis Templeton being trapped in a burning building as they hunt for the killer. But now the dreams are changing. Marc is suddenly in the dream and where before Miranda—Bishop’s wife—was in danger, that’s changing too. What does it all mean, and does Dani have the ability to change the dream’s outcome before someone else, someone she knows, winds up on the killer’s table?

Blood Dreams is the tenth book in Kay Hooper’s Bishop/Special Crime Unit series and the first in the “Blood” trilogy. Unlike the other books in the B/SCU series, this book doesn’t really “end.” Several questions are left deliberately unanswered, like: who was the killer working with? How does Hollis fit in with this unknown’s plans? What role does the town’s unusual charismatic church/cult play in all of this?

The answers to these and many others will (may?) be answered in Blood Sins and Blood Ties, books eleven and twelve in the series. Stay tuned!

I give this story THREE AND A HALF STARS.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Killer View

Killer View by Ridley Pearson

When a skier goes missing at Sun Valley’s Galena Summit, Sheriff Walt Fleming quickly assembles his crack search-and-rescue team and heads out into the snowy night. Despite the treacherous conditions, Walt and his group, including deputy Tommy Brandon and Walt’s best friend, Mark Aker, set off on skis, accompanied by highly trained search dogs. Within minutes, something goes horribly wrong: a shot rings out, and one of their team is dead. By morning, Mark Aker has disappeared.

Torn between professional responsibility and the desperate urge to find his friend, Walt is further challenged by an unexplained illness at a local water-bottling plant that sends workers to the hospital and sets off biohazard warnings. Following threads of questionable evidence through the glitter of Sun Valley leads Walt to an unlikely—and darker—source, and reveals a crime played out on a much larger scale than he originally envisioned. Waist-deep in snow and knee-deep in lies, the life of his friend in the balance, Walt begins to suspect that the whole operation is controlled by people of great wealth and power, which leaves him where he started: out in the cold.

--Killer Weekend by Ridley Pearson, Copyright ©2008 Ridley Pearson, published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons

My Review
It started off as a simple search and rescue mission. It ended with one member of Sheriff Walt Fleming’s search-and-rescue team dead and another missing. Fleming focuses his energy on finding his missing friend but is soon distracted by other problems: employees of a local water-bottling plant are getting sick and local ranchers are inexplicably burning their sheep in open pits.

Veterinarian Mark Aker, the missing friend, proves to be much more resourceful than his kidnappers could ever have imagined. Members of a radical group calling themselves the Samakinn plotted the whole missing skier scheme so they could get their hands on Mark and force him to help their cause. He not only can help them, he’s perfectly willing to…but he’s not an easy prisoner to hold and when he makes his escape into the snowy countryside, they have to find him before anyone else does, or before he dies of exposure.

Meanwhile, Walt’s personal life is in disarray as he tries to be a good father to his twin daughters as he and his wife proceed with their divorce. It doesn’t help that she’s the jealous sort. It’s perfectly all right in her mind for her to live with another man—Walt’s chief deputy Tommy Brandon—but as soon as she sees Walt and Fiona, the sheriff department’s part-time photographer, together in what she assumes is a romantic clinch, she goes crazy and takes the girls away from him.

Somehow, Walt must divide his attention between getting his girls back and finding Mark, all the while trying to unravel the mystery of the sick employees and the euthanasia of the local cattle. He starts drawing the different lines together and begins to paint a picture of a cover-up on a scale that’s much bigger than any he could have ever imagined.

Compared to the first Walt Fleming book, Killer Weekend, Killer View far outshines its predecessor in plot construction and story telling. The different story lines all seem unrelated at first, but the more you read, the more they all start to come together until you can’t put the book down because you want to know how it all ends. I laughed out loud when Walt decided to take Tommy up in his glider—because Tommy doesn’t like small planes and he’s sleeping with Walt’s soon-to-be ex-wife—and let out a loud “ewwww!” when I found out where the bad guy was hiding from Walt in the shed (very clever, but yuck yuck ewww!!!).

As a reader, you want your favorite authors to throw something new and different at you and not the same old story lines with one or two little tweaks. Killer View may start out sounding familiar but slightly different, but stay with it…it will take you places you never thought you’d go.

I give this story THREE AND A HALF STARS.

I Am Not A Cop!

I Am Not A Cop! – A Novel by Richard Belzer with Michael Black

When famous TV detective Richard Belzer meets Rudy Markovich, NYC medical examiner, for dinner in Brighton Beach, he has little reason to expect anything more than a friendly bull session. But in the next twenty-four hours the Belz finds himself in the middle of a vicious street bgrawl, splashed across the tabloid headlines as an out-fo-control celeb, and fearing for the life of his good pal—who police assume is sleeping at the bottom of the East River.

With Rudy kidnapped, or worse, it falls to Belzer to solve the riddle of his trusted friend’s mysterous disappearance. As The Belz finds himself increasingly required to call upon the reseources he taps to portray his TV cop character, he maintains his signature sense of humor and carries us along on a rollicking ride through the underworld of New York City. In I Am Not A Cop!, Richard Belzer’s off-camera persona comes to life on the page as one of America’s great comics brings us all of his talents to bear in bookform to produce a captivating, often hilarious, debut mystery.
--I Am Not A Cop! by Richard Belzer with Michael Black, Copyright ©2008 by McBelz Enterprises, published by Simon & Schuster Paperbacks

My Review

The story starts with Richard Belzer—as himself—meeting his good friend Rudy Markovich for dinner. Rudy needs Belz’s help in a delicate matter, one that may require Belz’s contacts in the police department. When Belz protests, saying “I’m not a cop. I just play one on TV,” Rudy drops the subject and offers Belz a ticket to a boxing match featuring a mutual friend, Alexi Zotkin. Rudy has the other ticket, but doesn’t show up for the match. When Max Kaminsky, a NYPD Detective and friend shows up, he reluctantly informs Belz that Rudy’s car was found down by the East River, riddled with bullet holes. Rudy’s coat was there too, covered in blood. It does not look good for Rudy.

Belz is all for letting the police do their work, but Rudy was his friend, and when he receives an intriguing letter from Rudy, posted shortly before his death/disappearance, Belz has to act.

Using the skills he’s learned throughout the years of portraying Detective John Munch and enlisting the aid of Kalisha “Kali” Carter, his studio-assigned babysitter/personal assistant, Belz begins his own investigation and before long, finds himself in very serious trouble, not only with the police, but with the Russian mafiya. Can he get to the bottom of Rudy’s disappearance before Kali and he are made to disappear?

Having enjoyed the comedy of Ricard Belzer in the eighties and his witty, acerbic portrayal of Detective John Munch in Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, purchasing this book at The Green Valley Bookfair was an easy decision.

Co-authored by Michael Black, a former Chicago police officer and author of three novels and two non-fiction books, I Am Not A Cop! is a well plotted novel involving … um … well, I don’t want to give away more of the plot. If you enjoy Richard Belzer’s humor—which permeates this book as Belz himself is the primary character—then you’ll enjoy this book.

I give this story THREE STARS.

This story has a sequel, I Am Not A Psychic! which I will add to my to-be-read list for next year. Given the size of the list, it may not get read until 2012!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Kiss Me, Kill Me

Kiss Me, Kill Me by Maggie Shayne

She’s protected him since the day he was born. Since the day the lie began.

A longago act of kindness to a desperate woman changed Dr. Carrie Overton’s life forever. Before disappearing, the grateful stranger had given Carrie her newborn son. When the woman is murdered, the secret becomes Carrie’s alone.

She has kept both it and her son, Sam, safe for sixteen years. But now a friend of Sam’s has gone missing. The police believe he’s a runaway—until he’s found dead. Then another teen disappears, and talk turns to that longago murder.

Newcomer Gabriel Cain is asking too many questions, befriending Sam, getting too close. Carrie distrusts him even as she finds herself falling for him. But Gabriel has secrets too…

Is it time for the lying to end?
--Kiss Me, Kill Me by Maggie Shayne, Copyright ©2010 by Margaret Benson, published by Mira Books

My Review

Welcome back to Shadow Falls where sixteen years ago, with her infant son Sam, Dr. Carrie Overton settled down to begin her medical practice. Today, she’s a long-standing respected member of the medical profession and the community, Sam is a star on the high school soccer team and Sam’s best friend Kyle has gone missing.

Search teams are assembled, comprising mostly of the town inhabitants, but several seasonal tourists give their time to help find the teen, including Gabriel Cain, itinerant songwriter and Ambrose Arthur Peck, CEO of a Milwaukee investment firm. Both men are attracted to Carrie and while Ambrose is the type she usually goes for—the nerdy, serious type—her eye keeps wandering back to Gabe with his guitar, pony tail and psychedelic 1960’s VW Bus.

When Kyle’s body is found, Sam has a hard time dealing with the loss of his best friend. The two of them and Sam’s girlfriend, Sadie, practically grew up together. Carrie tries to help Sam cope, but it’s Gabe, not Carrie, that seems to get through to the teen with his calm, take-life-as-it-happens philosophy. Carrie may not agree with him, but if it helps Sam, she’s willing to go along with it.

Gabe is a mystery to her, but she finds herself growing more and more attracted to him as the days go on. But she needs to be careful, more careful now than she’s ever been. Some of the new people in town have been drawn to Shadow Falls because of the mysteries that had been uncovered in the past few weeks, and the still unsolved mystery of what happened to Olivia Dupree’s missing baby, known only as Baby Doe. Carrie’s the only one in town that knows the answer to that mystery, and she’s not telling anyone.

When Sadie goes missing, Carrie is forced to confront her fears and must figure out a way to carefully unleash the secret she’s been hiding for sixteen years. Because whether Sadie is found dead or alive, she alone knows who will be next on the kidnapper’s list: Sam.

I have to admit, I had a hard time writing this review because there are so many layers to this story, so many intertwining story lines that tie up the Shadow Falls trilogy that I was afraid to give anything critical away or make the review so long you wouldn’t bother to read the book because I would have told the entire story in the review! I strongly encourage anyone interested in romantic suspense to read these stories. Maggie Shayne is an excellent author who has woven together a terrific trilogy of memorable characters and intriguing story lines that will have you wishing for more. She joins my rank of new authors I’ve come to love thanks to this year-long experiment and I’m sure I’ll read more of her work next year.

I give this story FOUR STARS.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Kill Me Again

Kill Me Again by Maggie Shayne

I’m not who they say I am. Trust me.

But can she?

Reclusive novelist Aaron Westhaven, a man she’s admired—and more—for years, has accepted Olivia Dupree’s invitation to speak at a local fundraiser. But the day he’s due to arrive, she gets a call summoning her to the beside of a John Doe whose sole possession is her business card.

Can this undeniably compelling man—survivor of an execution-style gunshot wound—really be the novelist the lonely Olivia has grown to think of as a near soul mate? If not, he can be in Shadow Falls for only one reason: to kill her.

Olivia, too, has secrets. And discovering the truth about the man in the hospital bed means dredging up her own past—a past she’s been hiding from for sixteen years.
--Kill Me Again by Maggie Shayne, Copyright ©2010 by Margaret Benson, published by Mira Books

My Review

Welcome back to Shadow Falls, where Professor Olivia Dupree has been living a secret life for sixteen years. She moved here to escape a bad—seriously bad—relationship and has lived in relative anonymity all that time. She’s had no relationships, save for a few friends and her English mastiff, Freddy. And a secret crush on a certain reclusive author named Aaron Westhaven. She’d written to him every time he published a new book, praising his work for touching her so emotionally. She never expected a response, not even when she wrote to him asking him to speak at her college’s annual fundraiser. Imagine her surprise when he responded to her invitation with a ‘yes’ provided his appearance was kept strictly confidential. He even wanted to stay with her at her house. Then imagine her surprise when he fails to show up. Imagine even further her surprise when she receives a call from the hospital, saying they have a John Doe with amnesia and no possessions, save for a pocket watch, a key, a packet of gum and her business card. She agrees to speak to the man in the hospital bed, telling him what she knows about him.

He listens to her, and while he likes what he sees, he can’t help feeling that something about her story is wrong. If he wrote such beautiful, touching stories as the professor insisted, why would anyone want him dead? He needs to get out of the hospital, the sooner the better, but has nowhere to go. Subconsciously calling upon skills he didn’t know he had, he manages to get out of the hospital and find his way to Olivia Dupree’s house just in time to stop an intruder.

Olivia admits that she’s been hiding from killers for sixteen years, but refuses to tell him why. Deciding it’s best for both of them to hide out for a while, at least until they can find some answers, they go into hiding. Olivia eventually admits that her former lover, a police officer in Chicago, was abusive with her. He was also a drug dealer who kept meticulous details of his transactions, including sales ledgers and photographs. His customers may not have been well known back then, but today, if news of their illegal activities got out, their careers and lives would be ruined. Tommy obviously found her and sent someone to obtain the disks and take care of her, permanently.

Aaron’s memory, meanwhile, has been coming back to him in fits and starts. A dream tells him his real name may be Adam, and as for his profession, well, he’s in Shadow Falls for a reason, and he has Olivia’s business card…could he be the killer hired to take out Olivia?

He doesn’t want to believe it, yet every instinct he has says it’s true. And not true at the same time. Olivia seems to be falling in love with him, but is she falling for Aaron, a man she’s already infatuated with, or Adam, the potential hit man? Somehow, he’s got to get to the bottom of this mystery of who tried to kill him and why. If he can figure that out, maybe he can save Olivia, even from himself.

I give this story THREE AND A HALF STARS.