Posted in mystery on September 27, 2010

Phyllis Smallman is the first receipient of the Arthur Ellis Award for Unhanged Arthur from Crime Writers of Canada in June 2007. She was short listed for the Debut Dagger by the Crime Writers of the UK, and nominated for the Malice Domestic Award in the U.S.  Margarita Nights was published in 2008 by McArthur and Co Publishers. It has just been short listed for the Best first Novel of 2008 by the Crime Writers of Canada. 

 The sequels in the Sherri Travis series, Sex in a Sidecar andA Brewski for the Old Man, were published in 2009 and 2010 respectively.Champagne for Buzzards will be published in the spring of 2011.  There are two other books that will follow: Highball Exit and Last Call.


In a small Florida beach town, Sherri Travis is a bartender with attitude and a woman with an inconveniently murdered husband who turns out to be as much trouble to her dead as he was alive.

Sifting through the debris of Jimmy’s life, Sherri finds more than a few people who wanted her lying, scheming, scam artist husband gone — but which one actually did the deed?

My Review:

This is the first book that I have read by Phyllis Smallman.  I do love a good cozy and this one did not disappoint.  While Sherri did a few things that I wouldn’t have done (like left a video tape with evidence in her VCR), if she hadn’t it wouldn’t have been a cozy!  You expect those sort of things from someone investigating a crime without the proper training or experience.  Sherri also has an interesting relationship with her mother, but then who doesn’t?

I also liked how it was set in Florida and the descriptive text used throughout the book.  I was able to picture the scenery in my mind and the various locales depicted within the novel.

Overall I give the book 4 stars and can’t wait to read the next two in the series.  So be sure and check back for those reviews!

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Posted in Australia, contest, fiction, Giveaway, mystery on September 7, 2010

John Howard Reid is a prize winning author and writing contests judge.  He has also worked as a publisher, editor, critic and bookseller.  As a fiction writer, Reid first achieved fame in England and Australia for a series of detective novels, all featuring a Miami police sergeant named Merryll Manning, who made his debut in “Merryll Manning: Trapped on Mystery Island” set in the Florida Keys.

John was once again kind enough to send me copies of this book to read and giveaway here on my blog.  Thank you John!

He also agreed to a mini interview.  John has quite the background so I wanted to know more about that part of his life.

SBR:  You seem to have done a myriad of jobs within the publishing world, was there any one that stood out (good or bad)?

JR: The lower you are on the publishing ladder, the more frustrating your job. You recommend manuscripts, you go to bat for authors, but all your recommendations seem to fall on deaf ears. So the higher your position, the more influence you have. Readers are on the bottom rung. Editors have more say. But when all’s said and done, the Publisher has the final word.

SBR: You have written a variety of books, is any one type your favorite?

JR: At heart, I’m a film buff. I like to write thrillers, but I enjoy watching movies more!

SBR: What made you choose Australia for the scene of this novel since Meryl is from Florida?

JR:  I started to write the Merryll Manning thrillers 30 years ago. At first the setting was one of my own invention. Under the influence of a certain TV show, I changed the locale to Miami. Yet still no-one showed any interest. Then I had a lucky break. I was working for an Australian company. They had signed a well-known British author for a series of thrillers. At the last moment, however, the author’s agent switched to a rival publisher. I told the Board, I would fill the breach myself. They accepted my offer, but insisted I change the setting. I couldn’t do it for the first novel, but I could make the change to Australia for “The Health Farm Murders”. In fact, it would be a big advantage, particularly if I researched the area thoroughly. So that’s what I did.

SBR: There are currently 3 Meryl Manning novels, do you have plans for more?

JR: Right now, I’m re-writing “Merryll Manning On the Rim of Heaven”. This is set in a small town called Tenterfield in the north of New South Wales. This will be followed by “Merryll Manning Has His Price”, set in Adelaide, the capital city of South Australia. Then we are back for good in the U.S.A. in “Merryll Manning’s Brush with Death”. There are actually 14 novels in the series, of which 13 were published in a wide variety of editions (hard cover, trade paperback, mass market paperback, Large Print) in England, Australia and other British Commonwealth countries. But not until now in the U.S.A. See this webpage for complete details.

SBR: What books are currently on your nightstand?  (or what are you currently reading?)

JR: My current nightstand books: “Leonard Maltin’s 2010 Movie Guide”, “Fat Ollie’s Book” by Ed McBain, “Biblia de Jerusalen Latinoamericana”, “El Sobrino del Mago” (The Magician’s Nephew) by C.S. Lewis, my own “Mystery, Suspense, Film Noir and Detective Movies on DVD”, and the latest issue of “Scarlet: The Film Magazine”.

SBR: You sponsor a writing contest, do you see a lot of potential in these writers and have any gone on and continued writing/publishing?

JR: Many of our contest winners have gone on to carve out significant literary careers. I’d particularly mention Susan Keith, Debbie Camelin, Helen Bar-Lev, Johnmichael Simon, Elaine Winer, Guy Kettelhack, Judith Goldhaber, Marie Delgado Travis, Noble Collins, Ned Condini, Fred McGavran, Laurie Gough. Many others!


Merryll Manning has traveled to Australia for some R&R at a health farm in a small town.  There are only men there during this week and they start dropping like flies and only Merryll seems to be able to get to the bottom of the situation and reveal the murderer for who they really are before someone else loses their life.

The book review:

I had read the first Merryll Manning book so I knew that this one had to be similar, characters running around and many red herrings that led me down many wrong paths in trying to guess the killer.  Trust me when I say it was the last person I expected!  I am very glad to have the list of characters in the front because I couldn’t keep them straight…they were in and out of the storyline fairly quickly and the list is very helpful.

This was also interesting because the cast of characters was all men save the policeman’s daughter and the proprietress of the health farm.

While it is good to read the first Merryll Manning book, it isn’t necessary to enjoy this book and the twist and turns you will encounter.

The Giveaway:

I will be giving away 3 copies of this book.  To win, just leave a comment.  This is open to US & Canadian residents and the contest will end September 19th.

Posted in Cozy, mystery, Washington DC on August 4, 2010

Julie Moffet is a published author and this is her first venture into mystery/suspense and she has the background for this type of novel.  She has a degree in political science and speaks several foreign languages mentioned in this book, so what she writes about she knows and understands.

Lexi Carmichael works for the NSA and is a “Geek Extraordinare” by excelling in math and computer skills.  Lexi is a woman after my own heart with her addiction to chocolate and her favorite stop is Dunkin Donuts.  Helping Lexi out in the book are the Zimmerman twins, Elvis and Xavier, who are even bigger geeks who have taken their computer skills from the NSA to the private sector.  There is also Slash, who no one knows his real name, who works for NSA, the Vatican and who knows what other government body.  The last is Finn, a lawyer and heir apparant to a winery in Ireland.  All of these characters come together to help Basia, Lexi’s best friend, who puts herself in the middle of an international incident simply because of some documents that she translated.

I would give this book 3 1/2 stars.  The book was good but some parts seemed a little longer than necessary.  Plus I would get confused between the two guys named Al-something and who was the Saudi prince and who was the terrorist.  That aside, I enjoyed the storyline and Lexi’s interactions with the twins, Slash and Finn.  For someone who is supposedly “plain” (the character’s words) she has 3 men that are attracted to her so perhaps she did inherit some of her mother’s beauty.  Lexi also gets a taste of what it is like to be a field agent since she decides to do some things her own way, which was probably a good move because the situation could have ended differently had she not involved herself because of Basia.

I believe this book is to become a series and if it is, I will definitely give the 2nd book a chance because it could turn into an interesting series.

Posted in mystery, suspense on July 4, 2010

John Howard Reid is a prize winning author and writing contests judge.  He has also worked as a publisher, editor, critic and bookseller.  As a fiction writer, Reid first achieved fame in England and Australia for a series of detective novels, all featuring a Miami police sergeant named Merryll Manning, who made his debut in “Merryll Manning: Trapped on Mystery Island” set in the Florida Keys.

John was kind enough to send me copies of this book to read and giveaway here on my blog.  Thank you John!

Trapped on Mystery Island is the first in a series featuring Merryll Manning, a police sergeant who has gone away for the weekend with his girlfriend for a mystery weekend on a remote island.  There are many guests who have paid to be there for a chance at a $5,000 pot for solving the mystery that is played out for them.  However, things don’t go quite as planned as some guests are murdered on the island and it isn’t a part of the script!  Because of Merryll’s background, he attempts to figure out who doesn’t belong on the island before anyone else is murdered.

I enjoyed this book because I was not able to figure out who the killer was in this book.  There were many times where I thought it was one character or another but then something would happen and I would be wrong and have to start looking at the clues again.  I also liked that it was set at a murder mystery weekend where at first the guests wouldn’t have suspected anything was wrong because that should have been part of the game.  However, once things were evidently wrong their true personalities came through.

If you like mysteries and like to be kept in suspense, check out this first book in the series and the second which is The Health Farm Murders.

To Win a Copy:

Leave a comment on this blog and I will draw 4 winners on July 12th.  Yes, John kindly sent me 4 copies to giveaway.

Posted in California, mystery, Sue Grafton on January 9, 2010

U for Undertow is the 21st book in the alphabet series by Sue Grafton.

Kinsey Millhone is a PI in Santa Teresa CA, a small bedroom community.  The year is 1988 and Kinsey is hired by Michael Sutton who seems to think her remembers seeing two “pirates” burying a little girl that was kidnapped in the summer of 1967.  He was 6 years old at the time and doesn’t really seem to remember much for sure.  Yet he hires Kinsey for a day (that is all he could afford) which sets off a chain of events that no one could predict.  Is Michael really remembering the past or is it something that he just thinks he saw?  The story also brings together several families and how their lives intersected in the late 60’s and reflects who they are today, well at least 1988!

I started reading this series of books about 10 years ago and one of the things I really enjoy about the books is the time period.  The 1980’s is when I was in high school so any references to pop culture I understand.  I also like that she doesn’t have computers and the internet at her disposal and has to solve crimes the old fashioned way, with lots of hard work and getting out there and talking to people.

I definitely recommend this series but if you do decide to take it on, you need to start with A is for Alibi and work your way through the alphabet.  It just better that way, trust me!

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Posted in Cozy, mystery on September 22, 2009

I know I know….I am wayyyy behind in posting a review or something book related. Work doesn’t play nice with us and internet access anymore.

I have been reading a lot lately and will try to get to those soon but wanted to highlight an author that I have enjoyed reading lately. Victoria Laurie writes cozies and has two series out that I have read (am reading).

The first is the Psychic Eye series featuring Abby Cooper and her mini dachshund Eggy. Abby is a psychic and manages to find herself in many situations that she could have avoided if she had just listened to her spirit guides. Of course then we wouldn’t have this series of books to read if she did that!

I’m on the 4th book in the series, Killer Insight, and currently there are 7 in the series.

In the 3rd book, A Vision of Murder, she introduces M.J. Holliday which spun off another series called The Ghost Hunter mystery series and yes, M.J. is a ghost hunter.

On top of that, Victoria is a psychic herself, so what better way to write a book than about something you know.

If you are looking for a cozy series to start, check out either one of these series by Victoria Laurie and you won’t be disappointed!

Posted in Cozy, Eileen Davidson, mystery, soap opera on July 12, 2009

Author: Eileen Davidson

Published by Obsidian, a division of Penguin Group

From the back of the book:
Alexis Peterson’s days are flled with scheming, backstabbing, adultery and murder. She is a soap opera star after all. But a new role has her feeling like she’s in the horror business.

Tabloids and fans are stunned when Alexis Peterson leaves her popular show for another soap, but she’s too busy preparing to be a presenter at the Daytime Emmy Awards to even notice. When her copresenter loses his life before presenting a winner, Alex realizes she has another murder mystery on her hands.

Working behind the scenes to find out how her costar could have met such an end, Alex invites handsome Detective Frank Jakes – a man she can’t stop imagining having a real love scene with – back into her life. But first Alex must focus on finding the killer before she sees another one of Hollywood’s brightest stars burn out.

My thoughts:
They always say you should write about what you know and Eileen Davidson has done just that. As an actress who has had roles on The Young and the Restless and Days of our Lives, she definitely has an in to the soap opera world and is able to use that knowledge to her benefit. She even mentions some well known soap actresses in the book although she has changed the names of the various shows but the titles aren’t too far off!

This is the second in a series and while this book could stand on its own, it would be best to read “Death in Daytime” before this one because there are many references to the murder that occurred in that book. I did feel a little lost at times not having read “Death in Daytime” but not too much! Plus the storyline between Alex and Jakes started in the first book and continues to develop in this installment.

Alex is like many of the main characters in other cozies, she gets involved in helping to solve a murder even though she has another career field. But somehow she manages to stumble across the murderer but not without putting herself in danger.

With all that said, I really enjoyed this book. While I don’t watch soaps anymore, I used to watch Days of our Lives and remember Eileen Davidson on the show. Reading this book was like going back to those days and a behind the scenes look at what goes on the set of a soap. The book is fast paced and has short chapters (some are only 4 pages!) which made it quick reading for me but would easily give me a place to stop. There is a nice cliff hanger at the end that leads you wondering what will happen in the next book (no title or date as of yet).

If you like cozies, check out this book. I’ll even make it easy for you, the publisher has given me 2 copies to give away. So leave a comment with contact info and I will draw two names on Monday, July 20th.

Posted in christmas, mystery, suspense on January 29, 2009

Author – David Morrell
Publisher – Vanguard Press, The Perseus Books Group
November 2008

And a child shall lead them
5 out of 5 stars

David Morrell is an award winning author for his novel First Blood in which the character Rambo was created. He has written other best selling novels such as Extreme Denial, Brotherhood of the Rose and Desperate Measures. He currently resides in Santa Fe with his wife.

‘The Spy Who Came for Christmas’ starts off with Pyotyr (aka Paul) running for his life in downtown Santa Fe being chased by his “partners” in the Russian mafia for a package that he took from the job they just started. The package turns out to be a child that is the son of a charismatic Palestinian, Ahmed Hassan, who preaches peace in the Middle East and is destined to change the future. Needless to say, Pyotyr’s boss is not happy that he took this child because those that want him have paid a pretty penny and they want him now and will not accept failure by those they contracted for the job.

The book starts off in the middle of the story and then goes back and forth to fill in the story until near the end where they only go forward. By doing this they really grab the reader’s attention because you wonder why this man is running through Santa Fe and you wonder what he is carrying and why.

As Pyotyr is running along the streets of Santa Fe, he has to find a safe place for him and the child. He stumbles across a residential community and finds a home that is occupied by a woman, Meredith, and her son, Cole, that are planning to leave her husband, Ted, because he is an alcoholic and a drunk. Cole is very protective of his mother and when he sees Pyotyr he thinks it is his father returning and is determined to not let Ted hurt his mother again. However, Cole realizes that this is not his father and manages to bring Pyotyr and the child into the house. This sets them up for potential danger should Pyotyr’s partners find him. Pyotyr manages to secure the house with the help of Meredith and Cole and while they wait to see what happen, he begins to tell the story of Jesus’ birth in the bible and the role of the Magi to Cole.

I truly enjoyed this book and the author’s spin on the story of Jesus’ birth and the possible role that the Magi had in helping keep Jesus alive and away from King Herod. It was interesting to see how the author took a story that we all know but in a different direction, that the Magi were spies (like the main character, Pyotyr) and perhaps their destiny was to keep the child alive.

This book is a fairly quick read and it kept me on the edge of my seat wondering if good or evil would prevail. The ending was a little bit of a surprise but it was a very good ending and I can’t see it turning out any other way now that I have finished the book. It is a combination of a spy novel crossed with a Christmas story and while it seems an unlikely combination, it works for this novel.

Reviewed by Leslie Storey for RebeccasReads (1/09)

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Posted in Greece, Mykonos, mystery on November 10, 2008

Publisher – Poisoned Pen Press
Even beautiful places are not exempt from murder
4 out of 5 stars

Murder in Mykonos is the first novel for author Jeffrey Siger but he is no stranger to Greece and the island of Mykonos. He was a resident for 25 years and is able to translate that knowledge and his personal experience of the island into his novel.

The story starts with a beautiful young woman arriving on the island to enjoy the island and revel in the all night partying that Mykonos is known for. She is only able to enjoy the nightlife for a few days before she disappears with no fanfare.

Also new to the island is newly appointed Chief of Police is Andreas Kaldis. He is a former homicide detective from Athens but has been moved to the island in a political power play. He isn’t thrilled to be here but does his best to improve the law enforcement on the island. However, he arrives on the island in time to be caught up in a mystery that spans 20 years upon the discovery of the young woman found dead along with bones from at least 3 other victims.

Then another young woman disappears and this time someone is looking for her: her mother and her uncle, Deputy Minister Renatis. However, time is running out and they must find the killer before he strikes again. Will they find her before he follows through and kills again?

I thought for a first book that the author did a great job of pulling me into the storyline and throwing in just enough suspects that I was not able to figure out the killer might be and even at the end it took some deciphering of the conversations to figure out who the killer was since he was not named. This may have been the only part that I didn’t like because I had to go back and figure out who it was based on some information that was provided.

As I got closer to the end I definitely couldn’t put it down, it had me hooked and reading faster because I wanted to know who was killing the women, especially since he had been doing it for 20 years and had gotten away with it thus far. I don’t know that I liked that one of the police investigators was involved and knew what was going on but that is what makes a story, intrigue and underhandedness.

If you like mysteries and thrillers you will love Murder in Mykonos.

Reviewed for RebeccasReads (9/08)

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Posted in Eliza Blake, kidnapping, mystery on November 10, 2008

Publisher – Harper Collins
Life can be turned upside down in a moment
4 out of 5 stars

Author Mary Jane Clark is back with her latest novel involving Eliza Blake, the host of a morning news show on KEY News. Eliza has lost her husband and it is now just her and her seven-year old daughter, Janie. The day starts off as a normal day, Janie is off to camp for the day, Eliza is off to work, and the housekeeper, Carmen, is doing her daily chores. All is going well until one of Carmen’s rituals backfires and she is taken against her will and forced to take Janie from camp, possibly to never to be seen again by her mother.

Enter Stephanie Quick, a psychic that has helped police departments in the past solve crimes. She offers her assistance but is brushed off by the local police, until something she told them that she saw in her dream makes them at least consider the possibility.

Also involved are Eliza’s co-workers and friends, Annabelle, BJ and Margo. While they have Eliza and Janie’s best interests at heart, they also interfere with the investigation of the FBI by not revealing information to them that could assist in the search.

It has been a little while since a book pulled me in so quickly and I didn’t want to set it down. I read half the book during my lunch break and finished it that evening. The short chapters also helped!

The timeframe of the story is only a few days. There are a variety of characters and it took me a short bit to keep them straight and while I tried to figure out who kidnapped Janie and why, the ending was a HUGE surprise. I did not see it coming and didn’t figure it out until the main character, Eliza, did.

If you have never read anything by Mary Jane Clark, read this one. You needn’t have read any of the other books featuring Eliza to be reeled into this storyline, especially since it is one that most parents fear, their child being abducted for unknown reasons.

This reviewer definitely gives the book 2 thumbs up!

Reviewed for RebeccasReads (9/08)

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