Readers' Favorite

June 9, 2018

4 Mysteries to Bring Out Your Inner Detective

by MK French

Mysteries can be fun reads as the reader tries to solve the crime before the characters in the story. Here are 4 mysteries to satisfy your inner detective.
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Lights Out Summer by Rich Zahradnik

Lights Out Summer
October 2017; Camel Press; 978-1603812139
ebook, print (288 pages); hard-boiled
March 1977 is full of juicy news stories that set the newspapers competing for sales including a series of shootings, the Son of Sam killings. Going after the stories that few care about, Coleridge Taylor stumbles upon a murder that implicates a wealthy and prestigious New York family. He and his girlfriend Samantha, a private investigator, look further into the story, which is complicated by a blackout that summer.

I haven't read the previous three Coleridge Taylor novels, but this definitely has been well researched and captures the feel of Queens in the 1970's. There's mention of racial and class prejudices, which Taylor acknowledges that he doesn't know enough about. Because of the time period, the investigation takes weeks instead of the more immediate information grabbing in contemporary novels. There's a lot of writing in notebooks, faxes (new enough that they're still referred to as facsimiles!) and calling from pay phones. Even so, the story moves at a fairly quick pace, and you get the sense of Taylor's frustration and helplessness at the system, as well as his drive for justice and knowledge for everyone.

The mystery is a good one, too, with side characters and tangents that don't seem to be central to the primary death that Taylor is looking into. There is also the continual commentary in the background of the other murders, shootings and danger in the city adding to the tension in the story. More clues are discovered in an organic kind of way, which sucked me in and helped me lose track of time. It's a really engaging story, and not just for the fun glimpses into New York City history.

Buy Lights Out Summer at Amazon

Mind Me, Milady by Anne Rothman-Hicks and Ken Hicks

Mind Me, Milady
March 2017; Melange Books; 9781680464382
ebook, print (290 pages); woman sleuth
The Gentleman Rapist has decided to leave messages and chilling threats to Jane Larson, a lawyer working out of the Upper East Side in New York City. When he begins to stalk her latest client, Jane is forced to try to find him, especially when he escalates to murder.

Mind Me, Milady follows Weave A Murderous Web (read my review) in the Jane Larson series. There are a lot of themes at work here because of Jane's caseload and personal life: divorce, betrayal, fear, memory, and family. Jane is dealing with her mother's clients as well as her own and falls into the caretaker role very easily. Susan is fragile, and everyone feels an attachment to her. Jane, of course, wants to protect her from those that would take advantage of her fragility and naivete, and there are plenty of those willing to use Susan for their own ends.

Jane's frustration is palpable and all too real. There are almost too many different plot threads to deal with, much like real life, yet she still keeps it together probably better than I would. As with any thriller and mystery novel, the different plot threads start weaving together and we start seeing connections between them. Jane is clever and steadfast, one of her admirable qualities. Getting to the mystery around Susan and the Gentleman Rapist is gripping, especially in the last third of the book. It really takes on an intensity that sucks you right in until the book is done.

Buy Mind Me, Milady at Amazon

Stone Cold Sober by Rebecca Marks

Stone Cold Sober
September 2017; Black Opal Books
978-1626947498; print; cozy
Dana Cohen is a former NYC detective, used to drinking a lot and doing as she pleased without consulting others. Her friend Marilyn is putting together a show on Long Island and taps her to be security as a way to help her get back together with her lover. While this does force them into proximity so that they can talk and determine what to do with Dana's unexpected pregnancy, there is also a double murder that Dana is determined to solve, even when everyone around her wants her to stop.

I hadn't read the first two books in this series, but I don't feel as though I missed anything. The estrangement between Dana and Alex is remarked upon enough that I can get the gist of the prior book's plot and run with it, which is always good when entering a series partway through. We get a lot of the relationship between Dana and Alex, as well as the realities of early pregnancy and the worries that accompany being an older first-time mother. That definitely grounds this part of the novel in reality, and it's dealt with in an honest and engaging way.

The first part of the novel involves time skips, because we start with the murders, then flash back to the relationship issues, then flash forward to the investigation part leading up to the discovery of the murders. I admit I don't really like how it jumps back and forth. If it was done in a linear manner, though, we'd have two distinctly different novels within the scope of this single story. The mystery is fairly engaging, delving into the relationships of all the players involved and how each little bit of information Dana learns opens up a bit more of the story is definitely a way to hook in the reader. There are too many potential killers along the way, particularly if you're a suspicious kind of reader. Because of that, however, finding the actual culprit feels almost sudden. It is all neatly tied up at the end, even if we never find out for certain what was happening in some relationships.

Buy Stone Cold Sober at Amazon

Old Fashioned with a Twist by Rebecca Marks 

Old Fashioned With A Twist
January 2018; Black Opal Books
978-1626948419; ebook, print (328 pages)
By July, Dana is four weeks away from her due date and not enjoying the New York summer heat. Her ex-husband Pete calls her in a panic, as his fiancee had given birth the month before and their son is missing. While looking into that, she is also fielding her pregnancy, Alex's conversion to Judaism, their wedding, and the worry that her father's dementia is getting worse.

I understand why Dana would be drawn into finding Pete Jr, even though Pete himself is such an unlikable character. As far along as she is in her pregnancy, it's feeling very real for her, and she hadn't even done a lot of the usual preparations for her baby. She also can't resist solving mysteries, and there are no clues as to who stole the baby. This time, we spend a lot more time in Brooklyn than in the last novel and see a lot more of Dana's softer side, as well as Itzy. Again, it's all about the relationships and finding out the hidden motivations of people that really make the difference in solving the mystery. It's far more convoluted than it seems at first glance, which really draws you in.

There's a little bit of sadness at the very end to temper the happy ending, but it works out in a believable way and still leaves room for more mysteries in the series. Dana and Alex together are a wonderful couple to read about, because they do understand each others' strengths and weaknesses, and support each other. It will be interesting to see how motherhood changes Dana because I don't see her giving up being a detective/investigator anytime soon.

Buy Old Fashioned with a Twist at Amazon

Born and raised in New York City, M.K. French started writing stories when very young, dreaming of different worlds and places to visit. She always had an interest in folklore, fairy tales, and the macabre, which has definitely influenced her work. She currently lives in the Midwest with her husband, three young children, and golden retriever.

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  1. Oh! I definitely need to check out Mind Me, Milady by Anne Rothman-Hicks and Ken Hicks. I LOVE their book, Weave a Murderous Web!

  2. This one is just as good as the first!