#BookBeginnings Beneath the Surface

Let’s take a look at  Beneath the Surface: An Inspector Tom Reynolds Mystery by Jo Spain for Book Beginnings on Fridays.

Book Beginnings is a fun meme hosted by Rose City Reader blog. To participate, share the first sentence or so of a novel you are reading and your thoughts about it. When you are finished, add your URL to the Book Beginnings page linked above. Hope to see you there!

 

book-beginnings-Gershkowitz

Beneath the Surface: An Inspector Tom Reynolds Mystery* by Jo Spain

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Summary: In this police procedural set in Dublin, Ryan Finnegan, a senior advisor to a government official, is murdered. Inspector Tom Reynolds has to figure out if the motive was political or deeply personal.

Prologue:

The Death
I am going to die.
I know this as surely as  I know I don’t want to.

Chapter 1.

The Investigation
Friday, 11:30 p.m., Dublin

Well, that had been a total and utter disaster.

Discussion:

Oh my, I just started reading this and can’t wait to get back to it. A police procedural set in Dublin is candy to me.

I can already tell Jo Spain is a screenwriter as well as author. The text is pretty dialogue heavy so far. However, I don’t mind a lot of dialogue. It can make a novel fly by.

What do you think? Would you keep reading?

Do you like novels with a lot of dialogue?

Calendar of Crime 2020: February Fever by Jess Lourey

Today’s review of February Fever by Jess Lourey is part of the reading challenge called Calendar of Crime 2020 hosted by Bev at My Reader’s Block. 

Month: February

 

February Fever: Hot and Hilarious* (A Mira James Mystery) by Jess Lourey

(*Amazon Affiliate Link)

 

Summary:  In a sly nod to Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express, a trip to a conference for private investigators in Portland leaves Mira James trapped on a train with a murderer on board. It is soon apparent that some of the passengers are hiding their true identities. Will she be able to figure out who the killer is before someone else dies?

Check out my discussion of the first scene for Book Beginnings.

Review with Possible Spoilers

Lourey has a deft touch with character development. Her main character, Mira, is bright and curious with just the right amount of self effacement. Mira’s sidekick Mrs. Berns is a hoot.  Although she is impulsive and spews one liners, she’s also believable and her quirks are never too much over the top. You probably know someone like her.

The plotting/pacing of the novel isn’t quite as strong, or perhaps just didn’t conform to mystery norms. For example, typically with a mystery, the crime is often revealed near the beginning of the book. In this novel, the story had moved along before the mysterious death. I got so hooked on the characters, however, I was willing to plow through the slower, longer-than-expected set up.

Even though I picked this novel purely because it had February in the title and it fit the challenge criteria, I enjoyed it immensely. I am going to find the rest of the series, and — although this worked perfectly as a stand alone — I’m going to start with the first, May Day.  Maybe that will be my challenge book for May.

In the video below Jessica Lourey reveals why she started writing these novels (be prepared, it is heart wrenching), and encourages others to write as well.  She calls it using fiction to rewrite your life.  Wow. Well worth the few minutes to watch.

 

 

This amazing story is already way more than I expected to get out of the reading challenge.

What do you think?

 

#BookBeginnings February Fever: Hot and Hilarious by Jess Lourey

Let’s take a peek at February Fever: Hot and Hilarious by Jess Lourey for Book Beginnings on Fridays.

Book Beginnings is a fun meme hosted by Rose City Reader blog. To participate, share the first sentence or so of a novel you are reading and your thoughts about it. When you are finished, add your URL to the Book Beginnings page linked above. Hope to see you there!

 

February Fever: Hot and Hilarious* (A Mira James Mystery) by Jess Lourey

(*Amazon Affiliate Link)

 

Summary: In a sly nod to Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express, a trip to a conference for private investigators in Portland leaves Mira James trapped on a train with a murderer on board. It is soon apparent that some of the passengers are hiding their true identities. Will she be able to figure out who the killer is before someone else –possibly Mira herself — dies?

 

First Sentence:

The upright bass strings resonated, the notes deep and husky. In the background, the finger-snapping began. Peggy Lee’s voice threaded over the top of the rhythm. It was playful, hot, and full of delicious promise.

Discussion:

See the Hot and Hilarious subtitle? The novel starts with a steamy scene between Mira James and her boyfriend, giving the hot part.

Readers might expect the rest is going to be a steamy romance novel. It turns out, however, this is only an attention-grabbing hook. It doesn’t truly reflect the rest of the book, which is a solid mystery with some threads of humor and at times downright wackiness.

Have you read any novels where the hook pointed to a different genre than the rest of the book? Did you feel like it was a bait-and-switch device or did it work for you?

What do you think? Would you keep reading?

 

Dear Blogger Friends, 

For some reason, I can not leave comments on Blogger blogs. Any comments I add disappear when I hit publish. I have tried many different fixes, but nothing has worked yet. I want to let you know I’m still reading your posts. 

Roberta

#BookBeginnings Trace of Evil by Alice Blanchard

I just picked up Trace of Evil by Alice Blanchard for Book Beginnings on Fridays.

Book Beginnings is a fun meme hosted by Rose City Reader blog. To participate, share the first sentence or so of a novel you are reading and your thoughts about it. When you are finished, add your URL to the Book Beginnings page linked above. Hope to see you there!

 

book-beginnings-Gershkowitz

Trace of Evil* by Alice Blanchard

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Summary:  Rookie police detective Natalie Lockhart wants to find out who killed Daisy Buckner, a schoolteacher whom everyone in their small Upstate New York community loved. The good news is Natalie has a suspect. The bad news is that the suspect lapsed into a coma right after Daisy’s death. Has she solved the case or is Daisy’s death somehow linked to the mysterious disappearance of nine transients?

First Sentence:

Detective Natalie Lockhart pulled into the cemetery and parked in front of a run-down church covered in ivy and twining vines, her hands tightening on the steering wheel. This part of the weed-choked graveyard was isolated and neglected.

Discussion:

The cover intrigued me, so I grabbed this at the library today. The premise indicates it is a police procedural novel, which I usually enjoy,  plus I wanted to find out more about the Upstate New York setting.

Why do you think she is visiting an old graveyard? Would you keep reading?

Calendar of Crime 2020: Jeopardy in January

Today’s review is part of the reading challenge called Calendar of Crime 2020 hosted by Bev at My Reader’s Block. 

Month: January

Jeopardy in January* by Camilla Chafer

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Category:  I chose a mystery with the month in the title.

Summary:  As the head of the Calendar Public Library, Sara Cutler is fighting to keep the lovely old building from being torn down by a real estate developer named Jason Rees. When she discovers her assistant dead in the rare books section, handsome Rees is on hand to keep Sara safe. Soon Sara’s life becomes complicated as she must solve the mystery of her assistant’s double life, save the library, and figure out what to do about Rees.

Review with Spoilers

At times I’ve been known to compare a book to food. In this case, I was looking for something light, such as the cozy mystery version of a salad. Jeopardy in January turned out to be a salad, but one of those iceberg lettuce versions you get in diners sometimes, the ones with a few hard, tasteless tomato wedges and perhaps a carrot shred or two. It is a salad, but you are disappointed the creator didn’t put in a tiny bit more effort, like adding some new ingredients or at least better lettuce.

In Jeopardy in January we are offered two men who serve as both love interest and potential killer. Two.  No red herrings, no non-love interest bad guys, no bad women, just those two.  That pretty much takes the joy out of the mystery.

I also expected a head librarian to talk about books once in awhile. Granted, she’s upset about the library being threatened and her assistant being killed, but when the readership is filled with book nerds, throw them a bone. Or because we’re doing salad, a bit of cucumber at least.

There are a few other things I noticed, but perhaps I’m being too harsh. On the whole the main character, Sara, was spunky and resourceful, plus the small town setting sounded delightful.  So, let’s say I was actually in the mood for coleslaw instead of a salad. Either that, or this review is sour grapes because I really wanted the harried police detective to get the girl in the end.

Public domain image by Marina Shemesh at Publicdomainpictures.net

#BookBeginnings Jeopardy in January by Camilla Chafer

Let’s take a look at Jeopardy in January by Camilla Chafer for Book Beginnings on Fridays.

Book Beginnings is a fun meme hosted by Rose City Reader blog. To participate, share the first sentence or so of a novel you are reading and your thoughts about it. When you are finished, add your URL to the Book Beginnings page linked above. Hope to see you there!

 

book-beginnings-Gershkowitz

Jeopardy in January* by Camilla Chafer

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Summary:  As the head of the Calendar Public Library, Sara Cutler is fighting to keep the building from being torn down by a real estate developer named Jason Rees. When she discovers her assistant dead in the rare books section, handsome Rees is on hand to keep Sara safe. Soon Sara’s life becomes complicated as she must solve the mystery of her assistant’s double life, save the library, and figure out what to do about Rees.

First Sentence:

Discussion:

I love novels set in libraries, but after reading this first paragraph I have to admit I was a bit disappointed.  The protagonist sounds young and immature rather than what I would expect for a head librarian. Hopefully it gets better.

What do you think? Would you keep reading?

This novel is part of the Calendar of Crime 2020 challenge.

#BestsellerCode100: The Hit By David Baldacci

Time to discuss a novel from The Bestseller Code 100 list,

The Hit* by David Baldacci

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

The Hit is the second title in the Will Robie thriller series.

Summary: When a fellow CIA assassin Jessica Reel starts killing their colleagues, Will Robie accepts the task of hunting her down. Soon the clues aren’t adding up, and Robie must figure out who is telling the truth before he becomes the next target.

Review:

Right at the beginning we realize this novel is going to be a roller coaster ride because Baldacci sets up expectations that one thing is about to happen when “Bam!” there’s a big surprise. The plot continues to twist and turn throughout the book, until it is unexpected when things don’t twist.

Overall, it was a good read except for the very end, which  in my opinion was too forced. I won’t go into details, but it felt tacked on.

Notes:

In The Bestseller Code, the authors suggest that emotional beats are one characteristic of bestselling novels (like for example, in Fifty Shades of Gray). In this novel, however, the characters have the emotionalism of a sharks hunting prey. They are cold and calculating, and bury their emotions.

So, how did it make the list? It turns out that although the emotions don’t bounce up and down like a dribbling basketball, the pacing does. In a typical chapter there is a short burst of violent action with tight, terse pacing, then the rest of the chapter involves the character reflecting on what happened and what is going to occur next. It seems likely the computer algorithm picked up the action-reflection-action-reflection pattern.

The point of view also jumped between characters from chapter to chapter, but not as regularly or evenly as the pacing. Plus, frankly, the voices weren’t that different.  After all, the two main characters were both CIA assassins and it is their similarities that makes the story compelling;  two equals going head to head.

Bottom Line:

If you are a writer, check out how David Baldacci handles his characters’ reflections. They are undoubtedly  part of what makes this novel a bestseller.

Have you read The Hit by David Baldacci? We’d love to hear your thoughts.

You can also join us on social media:

Public domain photo courtesy photos-public-domain.com

#BookBeginnings The Hit by David Baldacci

Today we have one of the novels from The Bestseller Code 100 list, The Hit by David Baldacci for Book Beginnings on Fridays.

Book Beginnings is a fun meme hosted by Rose City Reader blog. To participate, share the first sentence or so of a novel you are reading and your thoughts about it. When you are finished, add your URL to the Book Beginnings page linked above. Hope to see you there!

 

book-beginnings-Baldacci

The Hit* by David Baldacci

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

The Hit is the second title in the Will Robie thriller series.

Summary:  When a fellow CIA assassin Jessica Reel starts killing their colleagues, Will Robie  accepts the task of hunting her down. Soon the clues aren’t adding up, and Robie must figure out who is telling the truth before he becomes the next target.

First Sentence:

Feeling energized by the death that was about to happen, Doug Jacobs adjusted his headset and brightened his computer screen.

Discussion:

Doesn’t that first line make you want to keep reading?

I’ve read far enough to know that what happens next is not expected.

Last week’s novel, Twelve Sharp by Janet Evanovich was on the same list of 100 bestsellers, but the two novels couldn’t be more different in voice.  Twelve Sharp was hot and emotional.  This one is cold, calculating, and denies emotions.  What a contrast.

Have you read any of David Baldacci’s thrillers ?

New Reading Challenge: Calendar of Crime 2020

Thanks to Margaret at BooksPlease, I just found about an intriguing reading challenge called Calendar of Crime 2020  hosted by Bev at My Reader’s Block.  This year’s Calendar of Crime runs from January 1, 2020 to December 31, 2020.

How to participate:

Check out the calendar of categories on the sign-up page, choose a mystery novel that fits one of the categories listed (each month has 9 different choices), read it, post a review and then link to that month’s  post.  You can choose any book under the “mystery” genre (from spy thriller to true crime to cozy) and there are no restrictions on publication date.

For example, one of the choices for January is to find a mystery with January in the title.  Let’s see what comes up in a search:

1. Jane Doe January: My Twenty-Year Search for Truth and Justice by Emily Winslow is a true crime memoir by the victim of a serial rapist.

2.  The Door to January by Gillian French was a 2018 Bram Stoker Award Nominee for Superior Achievement in a Young Adult Novel. Looks like it is a paranormal thriller?

I think I might keep looking for my choice this month, but you get the idea.

If you pick one category per month, you will read 12 new mysteries by the end of the year. Or you can pick two or three categories each month. Margaret read 42 novels for this challenge last year!

Hope you decide to join us! It should be fun.

#BookBeginnings Twelve Sharp by Janet Evanovich

Today we have one of the novels from The Bestseller Code 100 list, Twelve Sharp by Janet Evanovich for Book Beginnings on Fridays.

Book Beginnings is a fun meme hosted by Rose City Reader blog. To participate, share the first sentence or so of a novel you are reading and your thoughts about it. When you are finished, add your URL to the Book Beginnings page linked above. Hope to see you there!

 

book-beginnings-Evanovich

Twelve Sharp*by Janet Evanovich

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Twelve Sharp is number twelve in the long-running Stephanie Plum series. Each new novel features the series number in the title, starting with One for the MoneyTwisted Twenty-Six is the most recent.

Summary:  Bounty hunter Stephanie Plum spends her days trying to outwit criminals who have skipped bail plus figuring out what she should do about the two guys she’s attracted to, police detective Joe Morelli and the mysterious Ranger. When a crazy woman shows up and says she is Ranger’s wife, it should make her decision easier, but soon it is evident things just got way more complicated.

First Sentences:

When I was twelve years old I accidentally substituted salt for sugar in a cake recipe. I baked a cake, iced the cake, and served it up. It looked like a cake, but as soon as you cut into it and took a taste, you knew something was going on. People are like that, too.

Discussion:

Okay, the writer-geek in me adores that Evanovich worked the word “twelve “into her first sentence. Isn’t that clever?

Previously I have read maybe the first five of this series, so when Twelve Sharp showed up on The Bestseller Code list of 100 best books (picked by a computer algorithm) I knew I wanted to read it.

Wow. I had forgotten who much I loved Evanovich’s snarky humor and her awesome use of the “will they or won’t they?” trope. I’m such a sucker for that.

In case you were wondering, Twelve Sharp works well as a stand alone because she takes time to introduce everything and everyone you need to know to enjoy it.

Have you read any of the Stephanie Plum novels by Janet Evanovich?

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