The Lover’s Portrait, Jennifer S Alderson

The Lover’s Portrait, Jennifer S Alderson

The Lover’s Portrait: An Art Mystery (Adventures of Zelda Richardson Book 2)

Zelda Richardson is done with web design. She’s tired of living in the USA. She’s decided to turn her life around, and take a Masters in Museum Studies in Amsterdam. However, with stiff competition to make it to the final cut of students accepted, Zelda takes on a volunteer internship with the Amsterdam Museum, hoping for something that will bolster her résumé. She doesn’t expect that a short internship supporting the Stolen Objects museum display will end with her trying to prove provenance on a disputed painting from World War II, and no one expects where that investigation will lead—or the calibre of the opposition.

The Lover’s Portrait is an intricate and well-written story, prefaced with the welcoming, culture-loving face of modern Amsterdam, and underlaid by the city’s wartime past—a past that rises like the tide to infiltrate Zelda’s research assignment. Jennifer S. Alderson is particularly adept at sketching in the complex connections between her characters’ pasts and their present-day actions and motivations, pulling the whole together in a fast-paced and credible plot that is supported by the detail of Zelda’s experiences as she tries to piece together the scattered shards of history. I can absolutely recommend this book to any fans of mystery or art looking for their next read – it will not disappoint.

Her Last Breath, J. A. Schneider

Her Last Breath, J. A. Schneider

Her Last Breath: Detective Kerri Blasco Book 2

Waking up with amnesia next to a dead body is enough to panic anyone. For Mari Gill, suffering from extreme asthma, the shock was nearly enough to kill her too. Injured, arrested, and unable to remember a single thing about the previous night, Mari turns to her ex-husband, a prominent defence lawyer, for help, but her case doesn’t look great. With only one NYPD detective willing to look deeper into the facts of the case, Mari’s just lucky that that one detective is Kerri Blasco: intuitive, driven, and with a reputation for cracking the uncrackable when it comes to cases.

Her Last Breath is another twisty, intelligent mystery thriller from author J. A. Schneider, where the evidence coils and turns like an eel on a hook, and the author’s decision to keep the story’s point of view tight on Mari keeps the reader guessing all the way. Mari goes from trauma to paranoia and back again, her instincts pushing her towards uncovering the blocked memories that could make or break the case, even as she doubts her senses, her memory, and who she can trust. It’s a rare pleasure to come across a mystery that doesn’t give itself away in the first few chapters, and J. A. Schneider’s books have a consistent winning streak on that score. I highly recommend this author – her plots go from strength to strength.

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Cheaters, Peter A Stankovic

Cheaters, Peter A Stankovic

Cheaters

In Cheaters: A Markus Doppler Thriller, a serial killer is running loose in Sydney. A string of women have been turning up dead, missing one front tooth, and with no other real common denominator aside from their gender. The Sydney police call on Markus Doppler, a recently-retired detective, to come in and lead the team on the case. Markus, with a mounting body count and little by way of leads, is trying to balance catching a killer with a relationship with the first woman he’s had serious feelings for since his divorce, met via the Cheaters website – a site advertised as a way for people looking for no-strings sex to meet.

This book is a well-laid out mystery story, constructed to keep the reader guessing right through to the grand reveal and playing on the ongoing theme of websites set up for married couples to experiment beyond their marriage. I found that the sheer number of secondary characters was overwhelming in the beginning, meaning that for me the story only really found a unifying factor about a tenth of the way in, and the constant point-of-view shifts became confusing in sections. However, Peter A. Stankovic does manage to pull all these disparate threads together for the finale, and the locations and characters are solidly convincing. Certainly worth reading for mystery readers who don’t like all the answers handed to them on a plate.

Cheaters cover

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Bounty, J D Cunegan

Bounty, J D Cunegan

Bounty

In Bounty, the ass-kicking sequel to Blood Ties, Jill and her partner Ramon are called to investigate a gruesome murder – just another wonderful day in Homicide, or so they assume. However, Dr. Roberts’ murder quickly turns out to be only the start of Jill’s problems, as his death threatens to bring the top-secret modifications she underwent in the Army out in public – something the military and the unscrupulous billionaire who bankrolled the research will do anything to prevent. Jill is reluctantly forced to face the fact that to solve this case, she may have no option but to reveal her other identity to the world.

J D Cunegan’s storytelling adds that little something extra to this book to mix Bounty’s vigilante struggles, Jill’s investigative work, and the interpersonal relations between the characters into an explosive plotline. Facing the loss of her badge and betrayal by the one person she was certain she could trust, Jill’s struggle to keep going and stay alive makes for a powerful page-turner, her strength as a character making the fantasy elements eminently plausible. Studded with double-crosses, deadly stunts, and corruption in high places, this book is guaranteed to keep you turning pages right through to the end.

Forest: Loss, Love, Legend, Rod Raglin

Forest: Loss, Love, Legend, Rod Raglin

Forest: Loss, Love, Legend

In FOREST: Love, Loss, Legend, Rod Raglin introduces Mathew Bennett, a washed-up foreign correspondent, estranged from family and friends, and dealing with PTSD by drowning it in alcohol. Faced with a bleak future, Mathew doesn’t expect to hear from the small town where he grew up twice in one day, and certainly not in the form of a battered treasure map and a safety deposit key. It’s up to Mathew to face down his oldest memories and find out what really happened to his missing father in some of the toughest country to survive in on the planet – the forests of Canada’s Pacific Northwest.

Rod Raglin’s novel offers a compelling story, with daily life in small-town BC layered over a much stranger story of forest myths peering through from the shadows. Mathew’s character, a hard-bitten journalist, epitomises the contrast between the cynicism of modern society and his half-buried, childhood memories of the extraordinary. Tellingly, the contradictions between the two are making him doubt his sanity and his priorities. FOREST: Love, Loss, Legend neatly encapsulates the battleground of humanity’s greed for natural resources versus the cost to the environment in Mathew’s experiences, right down to his local town’s gang leader’s willingness to do whatever it takes to find out where Mathew’s father allegedly struck gold. Mathew faces weather, illness, beatings, and guns as he reforges ties with his oldest friends and finds out the reality behind the myths and memories. This is a compelling story, studded with evocative detail and underlaid by a very real question – definitely worth the read.

Reviewed for Readers’ Favorite.

Fall, Leaves, Fall, Mike Driver

Fall, Leaves, Fall, Mike Driver

Fall, Leaves, Fall

Fall, Leaves, Fall begins entirely mundanely, on a wet, gray day, on a bus into the small English town of Cletherwood. James Bridge, let go from his latest job, is going back after twenty years to where all his nightmares play. He’s going home, despite the memories, seeking refuge, with nowhere else to go. The Romans thought that the area around Cletherwood was haunted by malign spirits. As far as James is concerned, that may well be true – but his own ghosts are much more recent.

Mike Driver’s use of characterisation in Fall, Leaves, Fall is outstanding. James is damaged, neurotic, and more than slightly unstable, but he’s also a survivor, and his first-person narration is peppered with small, humanising touches. We’ve all known someone a little bit like James, and the authenticity of that character brings the events unfolding in the plot onto a much more personal level, all of it framed in the wet dreariness of an English town in early winter. The horror elements are drawn in via memories, dreams, and flashbacks, leaving the reader to wonder whether the events are real, or figments of James’s imagination. The mystery is also well done, the first person allowing the author to leave the final twist to be as much a surprise to the reader as to James.