Thursday, February 23, 2023

Murder At Haven's Rock by Kelley Armstrong

Murder At Haven's Rock by Kelley Armstrong


Haven’s Rock, Yukon. Population: 0

Deep in the Yukon wilderness, a town is being built. A place for people to disappear, a fresh start from a life on the run. Haven’s Rock isn’t the first town of this kind, something detective Casey Duncan and her husband, Sheriff Eric Dalton, know first-hand. They met in the original town of Rockton. But greed and deception led the couple to financing a new refuge for those in need. This time around, they get to decide which applicants are approved for residency.

There’s only one rule in Haven’s Rock: stay out of the forest. When two of the town's construction crew members break it and go missing, Casey and Eric are called in ahead of schedule to track them down. When a body is discovered, well-hidden with evidence of foul play, Casey and Eric must find out what happened to the dead woman, and locate those still missing. The longer Casey and Eric don’t know what happened, the more danger everyone is in.

My Thoughts:

After having enjoyed all of Kelley Armstrong's Rockton series (7 of them), I was delighted first to find out that she was taking those characters and doing another series and, secondly, happy to know that I am going to like the spin-off.  The Rockton books were very well done, or that was my opinion, and this reader got very fond of most of the people who lived in the 'hidden' town.  Most of the people - not all were good.  In any case, Casey Duncan, detective, and her now-husband, Eric Dalton, sheriff, are building a new town and calling it Haven's Rock.  I enjoyed reconnecting with both of them and a few other characters from Rockton.  Enjoyed meeting a few new people that might or might not be staying around in Haven's Rock.  

I do think that this book was definitely setting up the new town, new way of handling things (mostly), and telling us what life might be like here as we are still in the Yukon and still trying to be hidden.  There were people who eventually reappeared, but I'll be glad to see more familiar faces in the next book.  There were hints of things to come and also crimes to solve in this book.  Hoping that the next 'Haven's Rock' book will be coming in 2024.  Oh, I don't think you have to read the Rockton books first.  You could start here as a lot of things are mentioned that happened before.  However, for the best experience, start with City of the Lost and see what you think.  Have you 'visited' Rockton yet?

Tuesday, February 21, 2023

What The Walls Know by Skye Alexander

What The Walls Know by Skye Alexander

First Paragraph:

'Are you sure Dracula doesn't live here?' Melody asked as they approached Halcyon Castle.  The pretty blond musician peered nervously out the window of Sidney's Buick, like a child watching a horror movie through her fingers.

My Thoughts:

I very much enjoyed this second book in Skye Alexander's Lizzie Crane series.  The time period is again the 'Roaring '20's' and the protagonist, Lizzie, and her musical group, The Troubadours, have been hired to provide music and entertainment for the 50th birthday celebration of Duncan Fox, owner of Halcyon Castle.  It's the end of October and friends and family of Duncan Fox have been invited to celebrate in a variety of ways, as many of them, including the host, are somehow connected with occult practices.  There is an astrologer, a tarot card reader, and even a man who dresses like a wizard.  Lizzie and her friends are surprised and a bit 'spooked' by the things they see.  And on the first night, a woman dies and our mystery begins.

This book had a lot more Gothic feel to it, not only because of the time of the year, but also the setting, the descriptions of the characters, and also some of the 'spooky' activities that go on at this 'castle'.  Remember, it's the '20's and Prohibition is in full swing, but it's also the time that drugs that had been used for various ailments were starting to be made illegal, like heroin.  Lizzie is curious about a lot of the things that happen and she and her friends are once again in the midst of a crime that needs to be solved.  I will say that Lizzie is the sleuth and the police, while part of the story, are not as 'on the scene' all the time.  Lots of mentions of popular music and other things contemporary to the time.  The author is a good researcher and she shares her finds with us.  As I said, I enjoyed this one a lot and know that #3 in the series will be on the way later this year.  Skye shared a guest post here on my blog last week.  Hope you'll think about reading this series before long!    


In October 1925, four New York City jazz musicians known as The Troubadours travel to the neo-Gothic Halcyon Castle near Gloucester, MA, home of occultist Duncan Fox, to perform a week-long series of entertainments. Halloween is Fox’s fiftieth birthday and he’s invited twelve family members and friends––including an astrologer, a tarot card reader, and a wizard––to celebrate with him.

The activities at Halcyon Castle, however, prove to be anything but what its name suggests. On the first night a Ouija board predicts the death of Fox’s longtime friend Natalie Talbot from a heroin overdose. Her husband insists she never used drugs and suspects foul play.

Lizzie Crane, The Troubadours’ beautiful and talented chanteuse, begins snooping into the unexplained death after local police place her and her colleagues under house arrest. She learns the deceased was a medium, who swindled many grieving people by pretending to communicate with their departed loved ones on the Other Side. Natalie Talbot also made enemies among some of the guests gathered at the castle. Soon the list of suspects grows to include the medium’s lover, her cuckolded husband, and several others with vendettas to settle.

Natalie’s death isn’t the only mystery at Halcyon. The castle also has eerie voices emanating from its walls, a resident ghost, peculiar blinking lights, and secret passageways. As Lizzie pursues her quest into the strange goings-on, she discovers a plot to reap vengeance––and risks her own life in the process.

Friday, February 17, 2023

A Good Place To Die - Guest Post by Skye Alexander

Hello book friends!  Today, I have a guest post authored by my friend, Skye Alexander, sharing how the setting of books can be so important to the tale.  Hope you enjoy it and will think about reading one of Skye's mysteries.  I'm going to try to have a review of the second one, What the Walls Know, very soon.  

Note:  Skye also shared this article on the Ladies of Mystery blog here.  I'm always happy to know of a new-to-me blog featuring mystery writers.  Take a look!


A Good Place to Die by Skye Alexander 

The real estate agent’s axiom about the importance of “location, location, location” holds true for me, too, as a mystery writer––usually the setting is the first thing I establish in a novel. The place where a story occurs provides a backdrop for the action and creates ambiance. It also grounds the tale in a time/space framework with a history, culture, and physical features that dictate what can or cannot happen there. A crime that transpires in a seventeenth-century French chateau, for instance, will be different from one that takes place on the mean streets of Al Capone’s Chicago or in a California mining town during the Gold Rush. 

Sometimes the setting assumes a life of its own and becomes a character in the story, such as the marsh in Delia Owens’s Where the Crawdads Sing and the Four Corners in Tony Hillerman’s novels. In some cases, the setting serves as an antagonist, like the Dust Bowl in John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath and the Parisian flood in Sarah Smith’s Knowledge of Water. The environment challenges the protagonist and either helps or hinders her efforts to solve the crime––or to stay alive.

Much as I enjoy reading about Louise Penny’s fictitious town of Three Pines, Quebec, and Susan Oleksiw’s Hotel Delite in Kovalam, South India, I didn’t want to limit my series to only one setting. Consequently, I created a cast of New York Jazz Age musicians whom wealthy people hire to perform at special events. Each stint takes the entertainers to a different location where they’re presented with a unique set of obstacles and opportunities. 

The most recent novel in my Lizzie Crane mystery series, What the Walls Know, is set in a spooky castle in October of 1925. When the musicians accept an invitation to perform at a Halloween party there, they have no idea they’ll be trapped on an isolated peninsula with real-life wizards, witches, ghosts, fortune-tellers––and a murderer. The actual neo-Gothic Hammond Castle in Gloucester, Massachusetts inspired me, and I incorporated its magnificent pipe organ and some other notable features into the story. The oceanside estate of the plumbing magnate Richard Crane prompted the first book in my series, Never Try to Catch a Falling Knife. Two future novels in the series, The Goddess of Shipwrecked Sailors and Running in the Shadows, take place in Salem, Massachusetts. This city’s colorful history offered up intriguing plot elements, including the clipper ship trade and the notorious smuggling tunnels that once ran beneath the old town.

For the sake of authenticity, I physically visit each place mentioned in my novels––every house, store, hotel, restaurant, church, library, museum, park, railway station, and cemetery. If it ever existed and still does, I’ve been there. In Never Try to Catch a Falling Knife, my characters eat lunch at a resort that unfortunately burned down in the 1950s, dashing my hopes for a site visit. Luckily, though, I located an elderly gentleman whose family owned the resort when he was young and he kindly spent an evening recounting the “good old days” with me. 

What are some of your favorite story locations? How do you feel they contribute to the tale? Does reading about a particular setting make you want to go there? 

Book Blurb:
Halloween 1925, Gloucester, Massachusetts: Jazz singer Lizzie Crane thinks ghosts in a creepy castle are her only worry, until a woman dies of a suspicious heroin overdose and Lizzie becomes a murder suspect––or maybe the next victim.

Author Bio:
Skye Alexander is the author of nearly 50 fiction and nonfiction books. Her stories have appeared in anthologies internationally, and her work has been published in more than a dozen languages. In 2003, she cofounded Level Best Books with fellow authors Kate Flora and Susan Oleksiw. The first novel in her Lizzie Crane mystery series, Never Try to Catch a Falling Knife, set in 1925, was published in 2021; the second, What the Walls Know, was released in November 2022. Skye lives in Texas with her black Manx cat Zoe. 

Buy links:

Monday, February 13, 2023

The joy of reading the two latest books in two favorite series...authors are Deborah Crombie and Elly Griffiths

One thing that helps me get my reading back into the 'normal' zone is to have the joy of diving into the latest books in two favorite mystery series.  And that joy was mine in the last few days.  I'll tell you about it in just a bit.  I also want to invite everyone back here on Friday of this week to enjoy a guest post by my friend (who is also a mystery writer) Skye Alexander.  Her latest mystery is What the Walls Know - more about that later. 


I have enjoyed all 19 of Deborah Crombie's books featuring Scotland Yard detectives Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James.  Truly, truly loved them.  The latest (#19) is called A Killing of Innocents.  This book starts with a trainee doctor, Sasha Johnson, hurrying across Russell Square, on her way to meet a friend.  Unfortunately, Sasha doesn't make it to her meeting because she is very quickly stabbed and then dies.  Detective Superintendent Duncan Kincaid is called to the scene and he and his partner, Doug Cullen, begin the investigation.  Duncan contacts his wife, Gemma James, who along with her partner, Melody Talbot, have been assigned to a special task force on knifing crimes.  And we, the readers, get to follow along as we learn more about the victim and whether her death was targeted or if she was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.  

Deborah Crombie is a master at developing characters that the reader wants to know and follow along.  She's also a great crime writer, so the puzzle to solve is also interesting.  I have enjoyed all her books and learning about London (she does her research admirably there), other parts of England, and finding out the who's and why's and how's.  However, as I said, the characters, their lives, how they grow and change - definitely a master.  Well done, Deborah, and by the way, when will the next be ready?  Ha!  A highly recommended series. 

The second series favorite that I was able to enjoy was #15 in Elly Griffiths' series featuring Ruth Galloway, forensic archaeologist, and DCI Nelson, representing the police.  The title is The Last Remains and I once again 'cheated' and ordered this book from the UK.  Well, it comes out in February there and won't be out until April 25 here.  You see my dilemma.  Ha!  I have linked to the US copy and will be showing that cover as well.  In this book, a skeleton is discovered in the wall of a cafe that is being renovated.  The police are called (DCI Nelson) and Dr. Ruth Galloway is brought in to examine the bones and determine the age and possibly how the person died.  There turns out to be connections to other favorite characters (Cathbad) and the trail also leads to some Neolithic flint mines.  

I said that the author above was a master at character development and I believe that Elly Griffiths is another that is so, so talented in this area.  I have loved Ruth and Nelson since the very first book, The Crossing Places.  As the series has progressed, we have learned more and more about Ruth's profession of archaeology and more and more about Ruth herself, Nelson, his team, their families, and other characters that have been included.  Each book lets us catch up with the whole 'family' and solve a crime as well.  

I don't think it's a spoiler to say that this one may be the last in this series for a while.  Elly Griffiths has not said it's the end, but other reviews have said this.  I think she said - the last...for now.  The crime-solving here is good, the updates and appearances of characters from all over the series are good, and the references (not by name but by small tidbits) to previous books are good.  I don't think a reader would catch all of those references had they not read the previous books - just saying.  I loved the book and I love this series.  Finishing it made me want to start at the beginning and read them all again.  If you haven't read this series, it is highly recommended by me.  Elly Griffiths has been writing a couple of other series lately and also done some middle grade mysteries.  She's busy.  My request to her is to please let us see a bit more of Ruth and Nelson as time goes by.

Have you read either of these series or parts of them?  What are your favorite mystery series?  I can always use another one, right?  LOL   

Friday, February 10, 2023

The Drift by C.J. Tudor

The Drift by C.J. Tudor

First Paragraph:

They circled the body in the snow.  Scavengers.  Looking for anything they might strip from the corpse.

My Thoughts:

What do you think about that first paragraph?  More than a bit creepy, right?  Let me tell you, this book definitely continues on with the creepy, icy, scary, cold, and sometimes icky scenes.  Maybe get a nice hot cup of tea or cocoa and then settle in for a really wild ride.  

I thought I had read several books by this author, but I think I've only read one.  C.J. Tudor's first book was called The Chalk Man and I liked it quite a bit.  This one was told from three points of view - Hannah, Meg, and Carter.  It's got an apocalyptic feel to it - sort of end-of-the-world stuff.  There is a new sickness and it's been bad, really bad.  People are either 'nice guys' or survivors.  With the three protagonists, it's tough to see how they all relate to each other.  It took me most of the book to get a glimmer of an idea.  Even the title has a 'secret'.  Lots and lots of twists and then there was the ending.  Wow!

I did like this one.  Some might not be ready for this sort of book yet.  I have seen several of my blogging friends sharing positive reviews.  I will continue to read C.J. Tudor's writings or maybe find and read more of her backlist.  However, I think now I need a 'nice' murder mystery - maybe set in the hot summer.  Ha!  If you've read this one, what did you think?  If not, are you intrigued?  


Hannah awakens to carnage, all mangled metal and shattered glass. Evacuated from a secluded boarding school during a snowstorm, her coach careered off the road, trapping her with a handful of survivors. They’ll need to work together to escape—with their sanity and secrets intact.

Meg awakens to a gentle rocking. She’s in a cable car stranded high above snowy mountains, with five strangers and no memory of how they got on board. They are heading to a place known only as “The Retreat,” but as the temperature drops and tensions mount, Meg realizes they may not all make it there alive.

Carter is gazing out the window of an isolated ski chalet that he and his companions call home. As their generator begins to waver in the storm, something hiding in the chalet’s depths threatens to escape, and their fragile bonds will be tested when the power finally fails—for good.

The imminent dangers faced by Hannah, Meg, and Carter are each one part of the puzzle. Lurking in their shadows is an even greater danger—one with the power to consume all of humanity.

Monday, February 6, 2023

One book read and an ice storm - sigh!

Hello to all my book friends!  How are you this Monday?  I'm doing well and so, so happy that the ice event that Central Texas 'enjoyed' last week is over and done with.  OK, we've had ice events each of the last three years and I am ready for them to go away and not come back.  Maybe once every 10 years or so.  That's about how often Central Texas sees snow that is actually pretty and sort of deep, etc.  Ice is not fun at all.  Power outages and all those things are not fun.

I really shouldn't complain because our area fared much better than the Austin area.  We had friends and family sending us picture after picture of the damaged trees with limbs all over the ground and fallen on cars and power lines.  Power outages in Austin are still continuing and hopefully will be solved in a day or so.  Our daughter had to stay at her hospital for 'only' 3 days this time.  The big 2021 winter storm had her there for 5 or 6 days as I remember - until my husband could get his big pick-up through the snow and ice to get her home.  It also wasn't as cold this time, just below freezing, but the moisture made lots of ice and tree limbs just could not take it.  The picture above is one that my brother-in-law sent us from his neighborhood in Austin.  We will hope spring is coming soon - March, please!

Our house renovations are almost finished.  Yay!  So, so happy.  Just a few little things to finish up.


In the reading area, I have finished one book and enjoyed it.  It is The Violin Conspiracy by Brendan Slocumb and the Austin Mystery Book Group will be discussing it tomorrow evening.  I just sent my thoughts to Gayle so she could share them with the group.  This book is about a Black classical violinist, Ray, who grows up in North Carolina and is incredibly gifted.  His mother wants him to stop wasting his time and go to work so he can help out with the bills.  His grandmother loves the fact that he plays the violin and tells him the story of her father who also played a 'fiddle'.  As Ray gets older, his grandmother gives him her father's 'fiddle' and amazingly changes Ray's life completely.  There's lots of story here - the violin is stolen and held for ransom - Ray discovers a lot about his family and their history - there are crimes of all kinds depicted.  The author, Brendan Slocumb, is a music educator and violinist himself and this debut was a good one.  His next book is out in April, Symphony of Secrets, and I hope to read it as well.  Have you read this one?  I think it ought to come with a soundtrack - lots of wonderful classical pieces mentioned.

Currently, I'm reading C.J. Tudor's new book, The Drift, and liking it, but Deborah Crombie's new book, A Killing of Innocents, comes out tomorrow and I have it ordered.  May have to read two books at once!!  What have you been reading lately???