Gone Astray

Everyone thinks Roy Naysmith is past his prime as a detective. His bum heart doesn’t help matters. When he makes a switch from Omaha PD to tiny Winterset, Nebraska, his first major case involves the shooting death of Homer Coot, a Vietnam vet with a drinking problem. This investigation quickly takes a backseat, however, when a prominent citizen, Lydia Mullins, goes missing during a snow storm.

Through the course of the novel, Naysmith must work with eager rookie Clarence Thacker to unravel the corruption and petty crimes that plague Winterset and seem to add up to one giant conspiracy that could undo the entire town.

Terry Korth Fischer has a strong sense of police procedure, which she details with Hemingway-eque specificity. There is no gray area with how her detective solves the two cases he finds himself embroiled in, nor is there much suspension of disbelief required on the part of the reader. While the Homer Coot case falls by the wayside for a majority of the book, its relevance becomes apparent in the parallel investigation, whose actors are both more relevant to the community and more time-sensitive, so this also makes logical sense.

This mystery will appeal to mid-westerners and fans of realistic police procedural novels, but the characters of Roy Naysmith and Esther Mullins in particular give readers of any genre much to enjoy.

Get a copy at Amazon ($4.99) or Barnes and Noble ($4.99) today!

Wild Rose Review: Murder Undetected

After her husband runs off with the girl next door, psychologist Britt Thornton decides to blow off some steam by accompanying her friend Arielle to France where Arielle is planning on purchasing a cheese shop.

Once in France, Britt immediately realizes her accounts have been frozen. Not only has her husband been unfaithful, he’s been embezzling funds and is now being tracked down by the FBI. They also track Britt down overseas.

Viane Thibaudet is a young, ambitious chef whose great aims lay far beyond her town of Chevalier. She wants to buy a restaurant in Paris with her husband’s money, only Jean-Luc isn’t willing to do it.

When Jean-Luc collapses after eating something his wife made for him, Britt is there to give him CPR. It is after all Viane’s cheese shop her friend Arielle is trying to buy.

This was a solid mystery with a delightful setting. Like the author, I am also a bit of a Francophile and it made me long to visit this fictional village. The only thing that didn’t connect for me was a B-plot or C-plot about a troubled teen named “Thirteen.” Britt receives steadily more unsettling text messages from him back in the states, but the tension never really rose for me. It is a very minor thread, however, and didn’t take anything away from the read.

Fans of cozy mysteries, especially those set in international locations, and epicureans will find much to enjoy about these characters and their strife.

Amazon

The Wild Rose Press: Scarlet at Crystal River

After history teacher Darrell Henshaw has his bachelor party crashed by a cake-inhabiting medium, he knows he’s going to have one interesting honeymoon. In a strange Slavic accent, she whispers, “Ven you go to Crystal River, you vill have…two visitors from the other side, two visitors vaiting for you.” These visitors quickly turn out to be Daniel and Mia, the children of migrant workers. Through the course of the novel, Darrell and his new wife Erin must work with translator Luis to get to the bottom of what happened—all while simultaneously having a honeymoon.

This is my first paranormal mystery. It has a lot in common with traditional mysteries. For instance, the detective conducts interviews, gathers clues, and faces personal peril. However, much of what drives his investigation, as the genre suggests, comes from otherworldly agents. A medium tells him about the victims, visions of phantoms and a weeping painting help him ID children, and then eerie Christmas carols haunt a crucial scene.

The setting, Florida in the late 90s, appeals to me as I lived in Florida in the late 90s. I remember bringing in the new millennium in Tangerine, Florida at my aunt’s house as I was living in Orlando at the time. Overbeck portrays this strange time and place accurately, dropping in several fun Easter eggs, such as swimming with manatees and the approaching Bush-Gore election, which would become big drama in Florida politics.

If you’re a fan of paranormal mysteries or 90s paranormal film, you’re sure to enjoy Scarlet at Crystal River.

The Wild Rose Press: Good Lookin’

Today, I have the honor of reviewing a book by a fellow mystery writer at my publisher. T. L. Bequette, when he isn’t writing mystery novels, is a criminal defense attorney in California who serves on an annual faculty clinic at Stanford Law School.

Joe Turner, Bequette’s protagonist and narrator, is an Oakland defense attorney as well. When we first meet Turner, he is meeting with a current client, Leonard Dunigan, who is accused of killing a man by “squeezing his skull until it caved in.” From this very first scene we are thrust into Turner’s world in all its dangerous ambiguity.

Ricocheting from this hopeless case, Turner meets with Darnell Moore, a nineteen-year-old black youth who has become entangled with an Oakland gang, the IceBoyz. Moore stands accused of killing a rival Cashtown Killer gangster, the high-school aged Cleveland Barlow. The case seems open and shut. Turner could reduce the charges with a guilty plea. The only problem is, when Moore says he didn’t do it, Turner believes him.

With his southern-accented private eye, Chuck Argenal, Turner races to assembly the clues and the testimony needed to ensure Moore’s freedom. Unfortunately, thanks to a web of nefarious influences posed by the IceBoys and Cashtown gangs, witnesses are reticent to speak. Including Darnell Moore himself. What does he know, and why won’t he tell Turner?

One surprising element of this novel that I really enjoyed was a parallel story told in short inter chapters. Set in 2006, these chapters tell the story of twin boys shuffled around the foster system. When their too-good-to-be-true foster father turns out to be Iago-level evil, they only have one shot to escape. At first I wondered how this would all come to bear on the Moore case, but it kept my attention regardless. All I’ll say is that it does come to bear—in a big way.

All legal dramas will forever remind me of John Grisham, and this one is no exception. For anyone in search of some legalistic suspense or wanting to get an inside view of how criminal defense lawyers approach a case, look no further. The protagonist also reminds me of Robert B. Parker’s detective Spenser. Something about Turner’s wit and the playful relationship he has with the love interest, Edna “Eddy” Busier, a distinguished archeologist, smacks of Spenser. For this reason, fans of Spenser novels and other rye private eyes will find much to enjoy in Joe Turner.

Buy now!

The Sanatorium

With motives and methods so convoluted it takes the antagonist ten entire pages to explain them to our detective, The Sanatorium is certainly not a mystery you’re going to crack on page two. The author, Sarah Pearce, is able to blend together misogyny, archaic medical treatment of TB patients, modernist architecture, abuse of the mentally ill, bribery, serial murder, and Swiss resort life in such a way that this reader came away nauseated. Oh, also modern approaches to depression and anxiety, plus sibling rivalry and repressed memories. One imagines Pearce choosing keywords for her book.

“Which ones would you like?”

Pearce: “Um, all of them, obviously.”

In a typical mystery/thriller fashion, our detective must move from likely suspect to likely suspect. The difficulty inherent in The Sanatorium, however, is the suspects become increasingly unlikely until we are left with a pair of murderers who’ve been given so little attention and motivation that their capture rings hollow. Let me get specific—and warning there are spoilers ahead:

  1. The killings are a two-woman job. That’s right, lady serial killers, so you know their motives must be big.
  2. The primary killer is reeling from a date-rape. This attack, by her brother’s friend, leads her to bind, torture, and murder a series of uninvolved young women. Wait, what? I can’t have written that correctly. Let me check…nope, that’s right.
  3. The secondary killer is all in it for revenge. Namely, she seeks to avenge her great-grandmother’s grisly…wait, great-grandmother? I don’t even know my great-grandmother’s name! The idea that someone would know what happened to their great-grandmother and then take any action whatsoever is far-fetched. That the distant trauma would turn them homicidal is laughable.

Then comes the epilogue. There we learn of a super-secret character lurching around the sanatorium this entire time, watching our detective and intervening when necessary. Either Pearce is covering her bases and tying up inconsistencies or she’s planning a sequel. Let’s hope it isn’t the latter.

I made the colossal mistake of not reading reviews beforehand. I should’ve checked Kirkus Review, at least. Their pithy verdict says it all: “Oh, dear.”