Book review: My Sister’s Grave by Robert Dugoni

My Sister’s Grave
by
Robert Dugoni

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

If you’re looking for a series starter, you might want to check out My Sister’s Grave by Robert Dugoni. Published in 2014, it’s the first in a crime and courtroom series about Tracy Crosswhite, a homicide detective with the Seattle Police Department, sure that the investigation of her sister’s murder twenty years earlier was handled improperly.

Sarah Crosswhite, then eighteen, disappeared after the sisters competed in a sharp shooting contest. She’d headed home by herself to Cedar Grove, Washington in heavy rain and although police located her truck on a back road, Sarah’s body was never recovered. Edmund House, however, recently released from prison for rape, confessed to the murder and was sentenced to the state penitentiary in Walla Walla. After Sarah’s murder, Tracy fell apart. She quit her teaching job and moved to Seattle to become a detective, hoping to use her skills to uncover what she believed was a conspiracy to frame House. Although she finally put the boxes of evidence in a back closet, her drive to solve the crime cost Tracy her marriage.

Like Tracy, the once-thriving community of Cedar Grove has never been the same since Sarah’s murder, suffering emotionally and economically. And when hunters uncover Sarah’s remains, people in the town, including Sheriff Roy Calloway, want to let things be. “What’s done is done,” says Calloway. But, now, after all these years, this is Tracy’s chance to finally set things right and she returns with a lot of questions. Why are items found at the gravesite inconsistent with prior evidence and why did no one follow up on weak testimonies? Tracy’s more complicated motivation, however, stems from overwhelming guilt in letting her younger sister return alone after the shooting competition, an act of selfishness that she feels led to her father’s and later her mother’s death. She’s the only Crosswhite left and must do right by Sarah. She turns to her childhood friend Dan O’Leary for help. Dan, a lawyer and recently divorced, has returned to Cedar Grove. Could something more develop between them?

I enjoyed this story about family loyalty and how small communities deal with violent crime, together and individually. Dugoni creates a nice home town feel in Cedar Grove and shows how things are not always how they seem. He raises the question of media coverage and whether some things are better left alone, when “those answers could do more harm than good.” I recommend My Sister’s Grave to readers who like crime and romance stories that are relatively nonviolent and clean with a good plot and satisfying finish.

If you’d rather hear an audio verison of my review, you can check it out here on SoundCloud:

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The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett

The Maltese Falcon
by
Dashiell Hammett

Rating:

I wasn’t sure how I felt about reading a hardboiled detective novel from the 1930s, even though I remember liking the Humphrey Bogart movie years ago. But one page in and I understood why Dashiell Hammett is considered a master of this genre. It’s a tightly written story about detective Sam Spade, three murders, a valuable falcon statue and an assortment of shrewd characters on both sides of the law.

The story begins when a beautiful and mysterious Miss Wonderly hires Spade and his partner Miles Archer to keep an eye on man she claims has run off with her teenage sister. Spade and Archer might not believe their new client, but they take the assignment and her retainer. When Archer and the man he’s following turn up dead, the first person the police suspect is Spade. That begins the reader’s view into the long-standing antagonistic relationship between Spade and the police, specifically Detective Polhaus and Lieutenant Dundy.

Written in the external third-person narrative, the reader gets no look into the characters’ thoughts and must decide their motives and truthfulness based entirely on their words and actions. There are plenty of shady characters to figure out, too. Spade quickly discovers Miss Wonderly is lying, that her real name is Brigid O’Shaughnessy and that she’s deeply mixed up in a scheme to get the priceless falcon. But the truth is also muddled up by others who want the bird, a bejeweled and fashionable Joel Cairo, a slick-talking Caspar Gutman and his bodyguard Wilmer.

Spade’s character is a fascinating mix between calculating, cutthroat, self-serving and occasionally soft-hearted, particularly around beautiful women. That makes for plenty of romantic tension between him and O’Shaughnessy, who is just as slick to manage. She says she’s hired him to help her get the statue, which she’s promised to Gutman. Whether it’s a square deal is for the reader to discover in a twisted and fast-moving plot with plenty of red herrings.

The only woman who has Spade figured out is his loyal secretary Effie Perine, who is willing to put up with a lot of guff because she genuinely likes him. The fondness is mutual, but seemingly platonic, with some teasing affection, and maybe that’s why it works.

The big showdown at the end between all the bird’s players is a section worthy of several re-reads, first to get the facts and later to enjoy the smart and manipulative negotiations between Spade and the rest. It’s never clear, until the final page, who has the upper hand.

Every word counts in this terrific story which is just over 200 pages and both easy and fun to read. I recommend The Maltese Falcon to readers of crime fiction and to all readers who are looking for a great story.

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Who’s That Indie Author? David Liscio

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Author name:  David Liscio

Genre:  Crime Fiction

Books:  Serial-killer thriller Deadly Fare; mafia thriller Blood Sons; currently working on the third book in the Hannah Summers series.

   

Bio:  A newspaper reporter and magazine photojournalist for over thirty years, I was fortunate to cover crime of all sorts, including organized crime, murder investigations and dramatic court trials. I live on the Massachusetts coast with my wife and dog. An avid sailor, I’m also a volunteer firefighter and emergency medical technician, occupations that inform my writing. I continue to write articles and make photographs for magazines.

Favorite thing about being a writer:  I get to exercise my imagination.

Biggest challenge as an indie author:  Marketing the books. It takes a tremendous amount of time.

Favorite book(s)The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway; Cannery Row by John Steinbeck; Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn and so many others.

Contact Information:
Website:  davidliscio.com
email is davidliscio@gmail.com
Amazon author David Liscio
Goodreads author David Liscio
Twitter: @DavidLiscio
Instagram: d_liscio
Facebook: @authordavidliscio


Are you an indie author?  Do you want to build your indie author network? Get your name out on Who’s That Indie Author!

Email bvitelli2009@gmail.com for a bio template and other details.

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Audiobook: Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter, narrated by Kathleen Early

Audiobook:
Pretty Girls
by
Karin Slaughter

Narrated by Kathleen Early

Rating:

Claire Scott’s older sister, Julia, vanished over twenty years ago. Her disappearance has been largely forgotten, except by her broken family. Pretty Girls is the story of how Claire, her sister, Lydia, and their parents have coped with losing Julia, who is now presumed dead.

Set in Atlanta, the story begins in the present and its main character is Claire, who is celebrating her first day without an ankle monitor, terms of an assault conviction. But Claire considers herself lucky, because Paul, her devoted and highly successful architect husband, supports her, two hundred percent. Tragedy strikes almost immediately, however, and Claire must think for herself to protect and save her family from a sinister and twisted rapist and murderer.

Claire soon discovers that one crime doesn’t mean it’s over and, as she digs, she learns about a sadistic series of crimes and a massive dark web network. Is Julia’s disappearance somehow connected to this current violence? Claire will need to take a hard look at all the people around her and decide whom she can trust. Pretty Girls is a suspense story, but it’s also a story about self-actualization, in which Claire, for the first time in her life, takes control and realizes her strength. In addition, Slaughter includes themes of family, broken relationships and closure to round out the story.

If you choose to read or listen to this dark thriller, be warned. The book includes many scenes of detailed graphic and extreme violence. If it were not for my interest in seeing Claire get revenge, I would have put it down. I felt the violence was over-the-top, and perhaps the audio version made it even more so. The narrator did a great job with voices, and in particular captured the manipulative tone of the killer’s both seductive and evil voices. But at times, she seemed a little too into the crime descriptions. Of course, she was just reading someone else’s words… The author’s surname should have been a warning to me! So that’s why it’s just a 3-bookmark rating for me.

With over thirty-five hundred reviews on Amazon, Pretty Girls has received an average 4-star rating. You can check out these reviews here and decide for yourself.

Karin Slaughter is an award-winning crime writer and has written eighteen novels. Pretty Girls is a New York Times bestseller. Her novels Cop Town, The Good Daughter, and Pieces of Her are all in development for film and television.


I read Pretty Girls as part of my library’s Summer Reading Challenge to listen to an audiobook from our system’s catalog.

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The Lincoln Lawyer – the book and the movie

    

I always wonder if the movie version of a book I’ve read will be a good one. You never know how the two are going to match up, so I was happy to see how well the 2011 film of The Lincoln Lawyer matched the book of the same name by Michael Connelly.

Of course, it doesn’t hurt that Matthew McConaughey plays the lead, but the cast is full of well-knowns, including Marisa Tomei, Ryan Phillippe, William H. Macy and Bryan Cranston. The story revolves around Mickey Haller, an LA defense attorney whose office is the back of a Lincoln Continental. Haller faces his greatest fear when takes on a wealthy client who has been arrested for assaulting a woman: is his client telling the truth? The words of his famous lawyer father echo in his brain, “There is no client as scary as an innocent man.”

Both the book and the movie tell a swift-moving and entertaining legal crime story. I like Michael Connelly’s writing and enjoyed seeing his characters on-screen. The book, of course, provides a lot more detail and back story, including the connection between Haller and Connelly’s other famous character, Harry Bosch (the two are half-brothers).

I recommend both, but read the book first so you can get the full story in your mind. The movie is pure entertainment!

Click here for a full review of the book.

Want to know more about the movie? See the whole cast and crew on IMDb.com.

And to reward you for reading to the bottom of this post, here’s a nice pic of McConaughey.

Image: Popsugar

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Who’s That Indie Author? Kathleen Doler

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Author name:  Kathleen Doler

Genre:  Crossover Fiction: Literary, Crime and Action/Adventure

BookTHE HOOK: Surfing to Survive a Shattered Family, Drugs, Gangs and the FBI

Bio:  I was raised on the coast of Northern California. I’m an author, journalist and adventure sports addict. I write for national newspapers and magazines on everything from business and finance to helicopter skiing, sea kayaking and scuba diving. I also travel extensively, mostly to wild places, often while pursuing sports that have the potential to maim me. I own a wardrobe of wetsuits and a closet full of Gor-tex.

Favorite thing about being a writer:  I love being able to tell stories that touch people. I’ve enjoyed working as a journalist, but in business journalism you have to shelve the emotion. Now that my first novel, THE HOOK, is out, I get to experience how different readers connect with various pieces of the story.

Biggest challenge as an indie author:  I have to pump myself up to remain upbeat every day in my efforts to promote THE HOOK and build my readership and distribution network one contact at a time. As a self-published author, it’s all on me. But I’m a journalist; tenacity is part of my DNA. And I’ve been pleasantly surprised and gratified at how other authors have shared information, opportunities and advice.

Favorite booksDamage, by Josephine Hart, is my all-time favorite. I love how she can just gut the reader with a short sentence or phrase. For the rest of my top five: I Know This Much is True by Wally Lamb, The Wave by Susan Casey, Wild by Cheryl Strayed, and The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls.

Contact Information:
Website:  kathleendoler.com
Facebook: @kathleendolerauthor
Twitter: @kathleendoler

Awards/special recognition:  THE HOOK now has 43 5- and 4-star reviews on Amazon. Also, in May THE HOOK was named a “Finalist 2017, Action-Adventure,” by the National Indie Excellence Awards. And Blueink Review gave THE HOOK a “STARRED” review and named it a “Notable Book of 2017.”

This editorial review made me swoon: “In THE HOOK, the pace is swift, the plot is involving, and character development is thorough … Plus, there is a lyrical, almost mystical homage to surfing, sailing, and the sea itself. Participants in this tale are never far from its enticing allure.” — Joe Kilgore, the US Review of Books.


Are you an indie author?  Do you want to build your indie author network? Get your name out on Who’s That Indie Author!

Email bvitelli2009@gmail.com for a bio template and other details.

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Who’s That Indie Author? Sue Coletta

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Author name:  Sue Coletta

Genre:  Psychological Thriller/Mystery

BooksCleaved, Marred, Wings of Mayhem

          

Bio:  Member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and International Thriller Writers, Sue Coletta is a multi-published author in numerous anthologies and her forensics articles have appeared in InSinC Quarterly. In addition to her popular crime resource blog, Sue co-hosts the Blog Talk Radio show “Partners in Crime.” She’s also the communications manager for the Serial Killer Project and Forensic Science and founder of #ACrimeChat on Twitter.

Favorite thing about being a writer:  Witnessing readers’ reactions to my stories

Biggest challenge as an indie author:  Marketing

Favorite books:  My all-time favorite book is Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris. Other favorites include Pressure Points and Bait and Switch by Larry Brooks.

Contact Information:
Website: suecoletta.com
Goodreads Author Sue Coletta
Amazon Author Sue Coletta
Facebook:  @SueColetta1
Twitter: @SueColetta1
YouTube:  Crime Writer Sue Coletta

Awards/special recognition:  Best Author in Crime, Mystery, Heist


Are you an indie author?  Do you want to build your indie author network? Get your name out on Who’s That Indie Author!

Email bvitelli2009@gmail.com for a bio template and other details.

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Who’s That Indie Author? Marc D. Crepeaux

whos-that-indie-author
Author name
:  Marc D. Crepeaux

Genre:  Crime, Poetry, Letters and Correspondence

Books: Modern Waste; Worked Stiff: Poetry and Prose for the Common; Letters Never Meant to be Read (collaborative)

Bio:  Marc D. Crepeaux is a curator, editor and writer for Letters Never Meant to be Read. Marc has also authored the gritty, Southern crime novel Modern Waste and the poetry collection Worked Stiff: Poetry and Prose for the Common. He is from Killawog, NY and spent much of his late-teens and early twenties in NYC where he acted like a maniac. He now works as an English teacher and a Captain in the Army Reserves, among other entrepreneurial endeavors, and holds an MFA in Creative Writing. Marc lives in a more calming environment with his wife, two daughters, two dogs, and two fish in Rome, GA.

Favorite thing about being a writer: I love the ability to work all the jobs and live all the lives I always wanted. I am sponge, a social chameleon with a loose moral code, and a hopeless romantic who often falls in love with the smallest of details. Writing gives me the outlet I need to satisfy all of my cravings.

Biggest challenge as an indie author: Marketing is the biggest challenge by far and a task that can lead any Indie author to the pits of despair. I stand by my work but struggle to get it in front of the right eyes.

Favorite book: Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury

Contact Information:
Website:  marcdcrepeaux.com
Twitter:  @marcdcrepeaux
Amazon Author Page:  Marc D. Crepeaux


Are you an indie author?  Do you want to build your indie author network? Get your name out on Who’s That Indie Author!

Email bvitelli2009@gmail.com for a bio template and other details.

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Who’s That Author? Tom Franklin

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tom-franklin
Source: bookfans.net

Tom Franklin is a best-selling, award-winning American writer from Dickinson, Alabama.  He is currently an associate professor in the MFA program at University of Mississippi.  He is considered a diverse Southern writer of several genres, including crime fiction, mystery and literary fiction.  Franklin’s wife, Beth Ann Fennelly, is an American poet and prose writer.  She also works at Ole Miss and is the Poet Laureate of Mississippi.  They met at the University of Arkansas MFA program.

Franklin put himself through college at University of South Alabama, after his father cut off his tuition because of bad grades.  To pay for school, he worked in a wide range of places:  in a warehouse, at a plant that made sandblasting grit and at a chemical plant where he cleaned up hazardous waste.  He also worked in a morgue, a job that was unpopular, but one he enjoyed because of the stories he heard.

When asked about his writing, Franklin responded,

I’m a very happy person and very lucky with my life, my wife and my children, but when I’m writing I find conflict interesting and it goes to dark places for me.  I’m interested in the shadowy part of humans.  If I try to write against the dark, it feels false.

Awards include the Guggenheim Fellowship, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and the Crime Writers’ Association Golden Dagger Award.


Books by Tom Franklin:

Mississippi Noir (2016)
The Titled World (2013) – co-written with his wife, Beth Ann Fennelly
Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter (2010)
Smonk or Widow Town (2007)
Hell at the Breech (2003)
Poachers (2000)


Check out these links for more information:

Amazon Author Page – Tom Franklin
Harper Collins Publishers
LitLovers
Wikipedia


crooked-letter-crooked-letterbookmarks-5a
Interested in Tom Franklin’s books?  Click here to read
my 5 Bookmark review of Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter.

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Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin

crooked-letter-crooked-letter
Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter

by
Tom Franklin

Rating:
bookmarks-5a

When Cindy Walker goes missing in 1982, the people of Chabot, Mississippi blame Larry Ott, the boy who picked her up for a date, but never brought her home.  Although never arrested, Larry is shunned by the townspeople, who hate him for what they think he did.  Now, twenty-five years later, a second girl disappears.  Is Larry, now a loner on the outskirts of town, responsible?  Could there have been other girls?  Silas Jones, the town constable and once Larry’s boyhood friend, is determined to find out.

Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter is a mystery crime story about a town hampered by racism.  As boys on their own and running through the woods, it didn’t matter that Larry was white and Silas was black.  Now grown men, they are no longer friends, but they share a history that neither completely understands and both have struggled to get past.  Years ago, Silas ran and Larry stayed.  Now they must overcome massive obstacles and if they do, they must then ask themselves, “Can a broken friendship be fixed?”

I loved this book, which is a great story on many levels, first with an intriguing scenario and a character-driven plot, but second with an important setting, full of moral questions about the impact of decisions and equally of the characters’ action or inaction.  Themes of family, friendship, religion and love are prominent, making the book a true literary work as well.  No wonder it is an award-winning best-seller!

Franklin jumps between the two time periods and fills in the details regarding Cindy’s disappearance.  We learn about Larry and Silas as both boys and men, and begin to understand their relationship to each other as well as to their families.  All this is enhanced by a close look at the culture of Chabot, the perspectives of people who perpetuate prejudice and others who try to rise above it.  Franklin puts his characters in situations in which they have the chance to step up and make things right and he makes the reader ask, “Is it ever too late to do that?”

With an uncertain, but hopeful finish, this is the type of book that generates thought long after the last page, one of my favorite measures of a great read.  While more about the people than the crime, it also stands as a mystery, with a well-paced plot and developments that help tie up the details.  I recommend Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter to anyone who likes mysteries, but also to readers of books about conflicted characters.

Who's that author finalWant to know more about the author?  Click here to read Who’s That Author?  Tom Franklin

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