Thursday, April 11, 2024

Lines of Deception by Steve Anderson Blog Tour Book Review

 


Lines of Deception

by Steve Anderson

March 18 - April 12, 2024 Virtual Book Tour

Synopsis:

The Kaspar Brothers Series

A West German nightclub owner goes behind the Iron Curtain on a desperate mission to save his brother, in this Cold War thriller by the author of Lost Kin.

West Germany, 1949. Former actor Max Kaspar suffered greatly in the Second World War. Now he owns a nightclub in Munich—and occasionally lends a hand to the newly formed CIA. Meanwhile, his brother Harry has ventured beyond the Iron Curtain to rescue an American scientist. When Harry is also taken captive, Max resolves to locate his brother at all costs. The last thing he expects is for Harry to go rogue.

Max’s treacherous quest takes him to Vienna and Prague to Soviet East Germany and Communist Poland. Along the way, dangerous operators from Harry’s past join the pursuit: his former lover Katarina, who’s working for the Israelis, and former Nazi Hartmut Dietz, now an agent of East German intelligence. But can anyone be trusted? Even the American scientist Stanley Samaras may not be the hero Harry had believed him to be . . .

Praise for Lines of Deception:

"In this convincing and atmospheric spy tale set on the haunted landscape of postwar Europe, the engaging Max Kaspar leads us into deepening shadows in which the certainties of loyalty and morality grow dimmer at every turn. An intriguing and satisfying read."
~ Dan Fesperman, author of Winter Work

"Steve Anderson brings the past to life… As close as you'll get to a historical guide to the vagaries and treacheries and to the hidden byways and ratlines of post-war Europe."
~ Luke McCallin, author of the Gregor Reinhardt series

"If you like international intrigue on a grand and gritty scale written in language that moves like the wind, this is your read."
~ Mary Glickman, National Jewish Book Award Finalist for One More River

"Kept me on the edge of my seat, and the unexpected twists left me guessing until the final pages."
~ Roccie Hill, author of The Blood of My Mother and other novels

"Readers who know the Kaspar brothers from Anderson’s other tales will not be disappointed, and those who are new to the brothers’ exploits will be faithful hereon."
~ NCR Davis, author of For the Boys: The War Story of a Combat Nurse in Patton’s Third Army

My Review:

While this is a novel, as Anderson says in his Afterward, it is set in the time when the CIA had just been formed. It was a fledgling entity still finding its way. Communists were intently trying to gain power after WW II and the CIA was trying to establish intelligence networks behind the Iron Curtain but was not doing well. Hence, in this novel, operative Harry goes rogue to complete the mission of gathering a scientist to bring him back to the U.S.

There are aspects of the novel I like. One is Anderson's descriptions. One character is introduced with eyes hard marbles, his weak chin and soft cheeks all angles and iron. The descriptions of all the locations in the novel are well crafted too. I liked learning about the Jewish group hunting and assassinating Nazi war criminals and the possibility of countries developing something like germ warfare. There was also an interesting discussion about how immigrants were received by various countries.

I can tell Anderson has done a great deal of research to write this novel, resulting in a plot with good accuracy concerning the clandestine government agencies and their associated activities. This is the fourth novel in this series and there are several references to events in previous novels. I would suggest reading the series from the beginning to fully enjoy this one. Anderson's writing style required more concentration on my part than I am used to in novels of this kind. The methodical pace is consistent.

This is a good novel for readers looking for one about the activities of people and agencies at the beginning of the Cold War.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Book Details:

Genre: Espionage, Historical Thriller, Cold War Thriller
Published by: Open Road Media
Publication Date: March 2024
Number of Pages: 200
ISBN: 9781504086134 (ISBN10: 1504086139)
Series: Kaspar Brothers (#4)
Book Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | BookShop.org | Goodreads | Open Road Media

Read an excerpt:

MUNICH

Tuesday, May 17, 1949
12:01 a.m.

Max Kaspar learned about his brother, Harry, from the little man who brought him the severed ear. The nasty fellow even had the gall to bring it to the Kuckoo Nightclub, keeping it in a small purple box on his table along the wall.

Up on the club’s small stage, Max had just finished belting out a recent jump blues hit from the States, “Good Rockin’ Tonight,” everybody clapping along. He flubbed a couple lines but his few fellow Germans had no idea and the Americans were too drunk to care.

The little man never clapped along. He’d just stared at Max. Max used to be fairly certain that a man watching like that was either a talent agent or a producer. But that was before Total War, before fire bombings, and concentration camps, stranded orphans, souls scarred for life. Before his own rehabilitation.

As the applause died, Max kept the man in a corner of his eye. Small head on narrow shoulders, an outdated curly greased mustache, and a frenzied glare like Peter Lorre, his eyes bulging, never blinking.

Max forced out a grin. “Thank you, folks, meine Damen und Herren,” he said in that mix of English and German everyone used to please both occupier and occupied.

Then he pulled their young waitress Eva onto the stage.

Eva gasped. “Now, Herr Kaspar?” Between them, they embraced speaking their native German.

“You said you want a chance, my dear, so now’s your shot,” Max told her.

Eva beamed at him. Their four-piece band made anyone sound good since they had a hepcat GI playing drums and another on piano, a former Swing Kid from Cologne on the horn, and a steady old Kabarett veteran on bass. Eva’s dimples and curves and sweet voice did the rest. She launched into a rousing version of “Slow Boat to China” festooned by her thick accent and the crowd cheered her on.

Not bad for a Tuesday. But Max was creating diversions. He’d needed to surveil the man, which meant throwing him off. He made for the bar. Then he disappeared into the kitchen and went down into the cellar, passing under the dance floor and tables above.

What could the little man want? He threatened to throw Max’s shaky world spinning out of kilter. The day had started like any other here in Schwabing, that Munich quarter once home to pioneering artists, then to a small-handed, fatheaded blowhard named Adolf, and now to free-spending American occupiers. Max had peacetime, normalcy, a cozy routine. Fresh white bread from his American friends, toasted, with real butter and orange marmalade. Real coffee. He was finally forgetting what ersatz coffee tasted like, thank god or whoever was responsible. He’d arrived early at the club like usual, before noon, before anyone. Drank another real coffee. He went through the ledgers and checked the earnings stacked in the cellar safe, if only to confirm all truly was well and normal. Then he wandered the Kuckoo, his Kuckoo, wincing at the few dirty ashtrays and beer glasses left out from the previous night. He rolled up his sleeves, emptied the ashes and cleared the glasses, and wiped things down. His staff could do this, but a little chore always gave him something like peace of mind. A part of him was even hoping that Eva would arrive early and see him doing it. He went through his mail, finding the usual inquiries from bands and singers, and bills he had no problem paying now, at last. The occasional letter came from Mutti und Vati in America. But, still nothing from his brother, Harry, here in Europe. The void of letters, postcards, or even a surprise visit had been growing, swelling, prickling at him low in his gut. Just this morning, Max had gotten that creeping feeling he knew from combat: Things were all too quiet.

Down in the Kuckoo cellar, Max now felt a shudder, deep in his chest, and the normalcy dwindled as only a memory, a fog. An opened bottle of American rye stood atop the safe and he thought about taking a shot for courage, then decided he didn’t need it. He needed to move.

He came back upstairs on the other side, behind their red curtain at the back of the stage. He eyed the little man closer from the shadows while Eva gave it all she had. The man was now watching the bar, craning his compact noodle for any sight of Max. That purple box stood in equal proportion to his short neat glass of Fernet, to his fresh pack of Chesterfields, to his sterling jeweled lighter, his gnarled knuckles revealing him to be older than his shiny face let on.

Why show off, Max thought, when any secure communication would do? This peacock was certainly not CIA. The Munich desk was more likely to send some new kid with a crew cut.

Eva was bowing now, the crowd whooping and stomping. As if sensing Max, the man slowly swiveled Max’s way, still not blinking.

Max rushed out along the wall and sat down next to the man. They waited for the crowd to quiet, silent like two passengers aboard an airliner off to a rocky start.

“Good evening, Herr Kaspar,” the man said in German, his accent as inscrutable as Max expected. “I enjoyed your routine.”

“It’s not a routine,” Max blurted, sounding more annoyed than he’d wanted.

The man smirked, which released a sniffle. “You did not know all the words, yes? Tricky, keeping up with these Americans.”

“What in the devil do you want?”

His waiter came over, Gerd. Max sent poor Gerd away with a snap of fingers.

The little man lost the smirk. He slid the small purple box over to Max.

It was larger than a ring box, smaller than for a necklace. Max pushed the box open with his index finger. He saw one human ear, lying on its side, with a neat cut and cleaned up.

“Harry Kaspar,” the man said. “Perhaps he hears too much.”

“My brother?” Max’s head spun. Everything blurred and he shut his eyes a moment. “Just tell me what you want.”

“Harry Kaspar is your brother, yes?”

The man had said brother like a curse word. Hot pressure filled Max’s chest, and he wiped away the sweat instantly sopping his eyebrows. He grabbed the man by the collar. He could smell the man’s toilet water, and possibly a bad tooth. “Why, you . . .” he roared.

“Now, now. Listen. You will find instructions with the ear, which I leave with you. You deliver the ransom soon? Perhaps the ear can be reattached, yes?”

Max had to assume it was Harry’s ear. He realized he didn’t know what his brother’s ear looked like, not exactly, and the thought made his heart squeeze a little. He let go of the man.

“Why Harry?” he asked.

“I told you: He hears too much. But I suppose it could’ve been an eye—”

“Listen to me. You don’t know who you’re playing with. Harry’s an American.”

The man gave the slightest shrug. “Naturalized American. Unlike you. Still a lowly German . . .” He gave a tsk-tsk sound. “But with means now, I see.”

Max’s jaw clenched from loathing. “Who are you? I thought kidnappers were supposed to be anonymous.”

The man pressed a hand to his chest. “Oh, we’re better than kidnappers. And we’re confident that you will comply. Because Harry told us that you would pay.”

“He did? Why?”

The man smiled. “I don’t think he wanted his embassy involved, and certainly not the Soviets.”

“The Soviets? Hold on. Where did you come from anyway?”

The man gave another slight shrug. He nodded at the box. He scooped up his Chesterfields and lighter, stood, straightened his black crushed velvet blazer, blinked around the room, and left.

Harry smoked Chesterfields, Max recalled, and the thought stiffened his neck with worry. The ear box remained on the table. He pulled it closer, glanced around for privacy, and then opened it again. Tucked up into the lid was a note, typed on a small white square of paper:

Ransom: $1,000 or equivalent.
Come alone. No tricks.
9 Lessinggasse, Vienna

***

Excerpt from Lines of Deception by Steve Anderson. Copyright 2024 by Steve Anderson. Reproduced with permission from Steve Anderson. All rights reserved.

 

Author Bio:

Steve Anderson is the author of numerous novels, mostly historical thrillers about gutsy underdogs. In an earlier life he earned an MA in history and was a Fulbright Fellow in Germany. Day jobs have included busy waiter, Associated Press rookie, and language instructor. He’s also written historical nonfiction and translated bestselling German novels. A hopeless soccer addict, he lives in his hometown of Portland, Oregon with his wife René.

Catch Up With Steve Anderson:
www.StephenFAnderson.com
Goodreads
BookBub - @SteveAnderson
Instagram - @steveawriter
Twitter/X - @SteveAwriter
Facebook - @SteveAndersonAuthor

Check out his Substack Newsletter: @steveawriter

 

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I received a complimentary egalley of this book through Partners in Crime Book Tours. My comments are an independent and honest review. The rest of the copy of this post was provided by Partners in Crime Book Tours.

(My star ratings: 5-I love it, 4-I like it, 3-It's OK, 2-I don't like it, 1-I hate it.)

Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Night Falls on Predicament Avenue by Jaime Jo Wright Book Review

About the Book:


As the walls of the house at Predicament Avenue reveal their hidden truths, two women--generations apart--discover that fear and foreboding are no respecters of time.

In 1910, Effie James is committed to doing anything to save her younger sister, who witnessed a shocking murder, leaving her mute and in danger of the killer's retribution. Effie must prove what her sister saw, but when a British gentleman arrives, he disrupts Effie's quest with his attempts to locate his wife, Isabelle Addington, who was last seen at the supposed crime scene in the abandoned house at 322 Predicament Avenue. Just as Effie discovers what she seeks, she finds that the blood staining the walls will forever link her to a scandal she couldn't imagine, and to a woman whose secrets promise to curse any who would expose them.

A century later, Norah Richman grapples with social anxiety and grief as she runs her late great-aunt's bed-and-breakfast on Predicament Avenue. But Norah has little affection for the house and is committed only to carrying out her murdered sister's dreams until crime historian and podcaster Sebastian Blaine arrives to investigate the ghostly legacy of the house's claim to fame--the murder of Isabelle Addington. When a guest is found dead, the incident is linked to Isabelle's murder, and Norah and Sebastian must work together to uncover the century-old curse that has wrapped 322 Predicament Avenue in its clutches and threatens far more than death.

You can read an excerpt here.

My Review:

Wright's novel follows her usual concept of combining a murder mystery from a century ago with a current one in the same location. She skillfully reveals the action in each situation as information is uncovered. The plot technique in this novel is a current true crime podcaster investigating the long ago murder.

Wright is a wordsmith. The bedroom is not just dark, it is shrouded in vampire black. She is skilled at creating spooky scenes and scary situations. There is much suspense in this novel and a hint of romance. The faith message is vague but there is an exploration death, grief and what happens in the hereafter.

The resolutions of both mysteries seemed a little forced to me, something I do not remember in previous novels from Wright. The reason the historical murder remained a mystery bordered on unbelief. The answer to the current murder meant some actions had been hidden from those close by for some time, bordering on being unrealistic.

I do like very much Wright's writing style and her characteristic plots and, even though I do not think this is her best effort, will be watching for the next novel from her.

My rating: 4/5 stars.


About the Author:


Jaime Jo Wright
 (JaimeWrightBooks.com) is the author of ten novels, including Christy Award and Daphne du Maurier Award-winner The House on Foster Hill and Carol Award winner The Reckoning at Gossamer Pond. She's also a two-time Christy Award finalist, as well as the ECPA bestselling author of The Vanishing at Castle Moreau and two Publishers Weekly bestselling novellas. Jaime lives in Wisconsin with her family and felines.

Bethany House Publishers, 368 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher. My comments are an independent and honest review.

(My star ratings: 5-I love it, 4-I like it, 3-It's OK, 2-I don't like it, 1-I hate it.)

Tuesday, April 9, 2024

Private Equity by Carrie Sun Book Review

About the Book:


A gripping memoir of one woman’s self-discovery inside a top Wall Street firm, and an urgent indictment of privilege, extreme wealth, and work culture

When we meet Carrie Sun, she can’t shake the feeling that she’s wasting her life. The daughter of Chinese immigrants, Carrie excelled in school, graduated early from MIT, and climbed the corporate ladder, all in pursuit of the American dream. But at twenty-nine, she’s left her analyst job, dropped out of an MBA program, and is trapped in an unhappy engagement. So when she gets the rare opportunity to work at one of the most prestigious hedge funds in the world, she knows she can’t say no. Fourteen interviews later, she’s in.

Carrie is the sole assistant to the firm’s billionaire founder. She manages his work life, becoming the right hand to an investor who can move mountains and markets with a single phone call. Eager to impress, she dives headfirst into the firm’s culture, which values return on time above all else. A luxury-laden world opens up for her, and Carrie learns that money can solve nearly everything.

Playing the game at the highest levels, amid the ultimate winners in our winner-take-all economy, Carrie soon finds her identity swallowed whole by work. With her physical and mental health deteriorating, she begins to rethink what it actually means to waste one’s life. A searing examination of our relationship to work, Carrie’s story illuminates the struggle for balance in a world of extremes: efficiency and excess, status and aspiration, power and fortune. 
Private Equity is a universal tale of self-invention from a dazzling new voice, daring to ask what we’re willing to sacrifice to get to the top—and what it might take to break free and leave it all behind.

My Review:

This memoir was a bit hard for me to get into. Sun's writing style seemed disjointed, at times overly specific and at other times lacking detail. I had hoped there would be more insights into the world of hedge funds. Often memoirs like this one would be a balance of information and memories. This book is more of a commentary on her own character and personal experiences in childhood and at MIT. It seems this book is one person's experience in the finance field rather than about the field in general. A decent memoir, it just was not what I expected.

My rating: 3/5 stars.


About the Author:


Carrie Sun
was born in China and raised in Michigan. She holds an MFA in creative writing from The New School. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband. Private Equity is her first book. Photo: © Beowulf Sheehan 

Penguin Press, 352 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher. My comments are an independent and honest review.

(My star ratings: 5-I love it, 4-I like it, 3-It's OK, 2-I don't like it, 1-I hate it.)

Monday, April 8, 2024

Sandcastle Inn by Irene Hannon Blog Tour Book Review

About the Book

Book: Sandcastle Inn

Author: Irene Hannon

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Release Date: April 2, 2024

Vienna Price never intended to return for more than a passing visit to Oregon and all the bad memories she’d left behind. But when your career tanks, home is where you go to nurse your wounds and chart a new course. Only temporarily, of course—because as much as she loves her quirky mom, anything more than a short stay would drive them both crazy.

A trip to Oregon isn’t in Matt Quinn’s plans, either, until a perfectly timed appeal for help arrives from his sister. What better place to decompress after a shattering loss than a quiet, seaside town named Hope Harbor? But R&R isn’t on the agenda when he arrives to find his sister’s new enterprise on life support.

Vienna, however, may have just the skills needed to resuscitate the foundering B&B—if Matt can convince her to hang around long enough to mend an inn . . . and his heart.

Click here to get your copy!

My Review

Returning to Hope Harbor is a joy. It was fun to read about people getting second chances or a new start in life. Some of those second chances are not planned but rather surprises. The characters remind us to be open to forks in the road we had planned to travel and unexpected opportunities. There are also some good examples of restoring relationships. A more serious issue is dealing with grief and false guilt.

The romance was well done as Matt and Vienna try so hard to not fall in love. People finding hope for the future are woven well into the idea of restoring an old B&B into a high end inn. Besides new people finding blessings in Hope Harbor, it was good to see old friends from previous novels in the series. Charley, maker of the best fish tacos is so wise and insightful. And I liked being reunited with Floyd and Gladys, two of the friendliest seagulls ever.

Hannon has written a wonderful feel good novel and I recommend it for an encouraging experience.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

 

About the Author

Irene Hannon is the bestselling and award-winning author of more than 60 contemporary romance and romantic suspense novels. In addition to her many other honors, she is a three-time winner of the prestigious RITA Award from Romance Writers of America. She is also a member of RWA’s elite Hall of Fame and has received a Career Achievement Award from RT Book Reviews for her entire body of work.

More from Irene

In my world, the approach of April signals not only tulips, dogwoods, and daffodils, but a return to my little seaside town of Hope Harbor on the Oregon coast. And this year marks a milestone. Sandcastle Inn is the tenth book set in this charming locale.

When I conceived of this series back in 2013, neither I nor my editor had any idea how long it would run—or that Publishers Weekly would deem my small fictional town “a place of emotional restoration that readers will yearn to visit.”

But visit they have. Hundreds of thousands of copies of the books have been sold worldwide, the novels have been translated into multiple languages, and taco-making artist/town sage Charley Lopez has become an iconic figure.

It’s been an amazing journey—with more books to come.

If you’ve never visited Hope Harbor and are reluctant to dive in at this stage, no worries. Each book stands alone, with a whole new cast of main characters. Each story also begins and ends in each book, with no hanging plot threads from book to book. The town is the unifying element in the series—along with a few secondary characters like Charley, the bantering town clerics from neighboring churches, and the seagull couple Floyd and Gladys, who always seem to be around when romance is in the air.

If you’re new to the series, Sandcastle Inn is a fine jumping-off point. This story features a hero struggling to recoup from a tragic loss and a heroine still reeling from an unplanned career detour. When they join forces to save a floundering inn, challenges ensue…and sparks fly. Because if it’s Hope Harbor, there has to be romance!

The book resonates with multiple other themes too—dealing with grief, moving on, changing direction, mending past relationships, taking a leap of faith. And of course there’s a happy ending.

It’s the kind of book that will put a smile on your lips and hope in your heart.

So I invite you to find a comfy spot, pour a mug or cup of your favorite beverage, and travel with me to Hope Harbor, where hearts heal…and love blooms.

Insider’s Tip: If you ever decide to book a stay at Sandcastle Inn, ask for the seaside room upstairs at the end of the hall that leads to the right. The view is stunning!

Blog Stops

Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, April 4

Happily Managing a Household of Boys, April 4

Texas Book-aholic, April 5

Blogging With Carol, April 5

Locks, Hooks and Books, April 6

For Him and My Family, April 6

Jeanette’s Thoughts, April 7

Splashes of Joy, April 7

Book Reviews From an Avid Reader, April 8

She Lives To Read, April 8

lakesidelivingsite, April 9

Truth and Grace Homeschool Academy, April 10

Southern Gal Loves to Read, April 10

Gina Holder, Author and Blogger, April 11 (Author Interview)

Mary Hake, April 11

Cover Lover Book Review, April 12

The Lofty Pages, April 13

Melissa’s Bookshelf, April 13

Blossoms and Blessings, April 14

Labor Not in Vain, April 14

Wishful Endings, April 15

By The Book, April 15

A Modern Day Fairy Tale, April 16

Pause for Tales, April 16

Batya’s Bits, April 17

JESUS in the EVERYDAY, April 17

Giveaway

To celebrate her tour, Irene is giving away the grand prize package of a full set of the Hope Harbor series (10 books) and a $50 Bookshop.org gift card!!

Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter.

https://promosimple.com/ps/2ac75/sandcastle-inn-celebration-tour-giveaway


I received a complimentary egalley of this book through Celebrate Lit. My comments are an independent and honest review. The rest of the copy of this post was provided by Celebrate Lit.

(My star ratings: 5-I love it, 4-I like it, 3-It's OK, 2-I don't like it, 1-I hate it.)

Sunday, April 7, 2024

Just for the Summer by Melody Carlson Book Review

About the Book:


If you lived in a different place and had a different job, couldn't you have a different life?

Ginny Masters manages a popular boutique hotel in Seattle and manages it with aplomb. But the daily challenges and irritations of a fast-paced job and a demanding boss are starting to get to her.

Jacqueline Potter manages her grandfather's fishing lodge in Idaho because it was the only job she could find after graduating with her hospitality degree. She's grateful for the work but longs for a more sophisticated and cosmopolitan life she's just not going to find in this backwoods town.

The solution to both their problems seems obvious. Just for the summer, they'll swap jobs and lifestyles--and even love interests. But they'll soon find that there's more to finding happiness than just switching up the scenery.

You can read an excerpt here.

My Review:

This is a fun novel of the trading places style. It is a good combination of romance and a coming of age experience. The characters make the story. Ginny is a kind and gentle person in a high pressure job with a demanding boss. Jacqueline is the epitome of an entitlement personality, believing she deserved a top job without working her way up to it.

Carlson explores the idea of being happier in another place, another job, or another location. Both of the women had coming of age style experiences. I was a bit surprised at the quick personality changes in Jacqueline and Diana in an ending that felt rushed. Such fast character transformation could only happen in fiction.

This is an entertaining light read and a good lesson on contentment. Romance is present but somewhat subtle as is the faith message.

My rating: 4/5 stars.


About the Author:


Melody Carlson is the award-winning author of more than 250 books with sales of more than 7.5 million, including many bestselling Christmas novellas, young adult titles, and contemporary romances. She received a Romantic Times Career Achievement Award, her novel All Summer Long has been made into a Hallmark movie, and the movie based on her novel The Happy Camper premiered on UPtv in 2023. She and her husband live in central Oregon. Learn more at MelodyCarlson.com.

Revell, 288 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher. My comments are an independent and honest review.

(My star ratings: 5-I love it, 4-I like it, 3-It's OK, 2-I don't like it, 1-I hate it.)


Saturday, April 6, 2024

Three Strikes, You're Dead by Elena Hartwell Book Review

 

The Eddie Shoes Mysteries

by Elena Hartwell

March 18 - April 26, 2024 Virtual Book Tour

 

One Dead, Two to Go

One Dead, Two to Go by Elena Hartwell
Get Your Copy:
Amazon | B&N | Goodreads

Book One in the Eddie Shoes Mystery Series

Private Investigator Edwina “Eddie Shoes” Schultz’s most recent job has her parked outside a seedy Bellingham hotel, photographing her quarry as he kisses his mistress goodbye. This is the last anyone will see of the woman … alive. Her body is later found dumped in an abandoned building. Eddie’s client, Kendra Hallings, disappears soon after. Eddie hates to be stiffed for her fee, but she has to wonder if Kendra could be in trouble too. Or is she the killer?

Eddie usually balks at matters requiring a gun, but before she knows it, she is knee-deep in dangerous company, spurred on by her card-counting adrenaline-junkie mother who has shown up on her doorstep fresh from the shenanigans that got her kicked out of Vegas. Chava is only sixteen years older than Eddie and sadly lacking in parenting skills. Her unique areas of expertise, however, prove to be helpful in ways Eddie can’t deny, making it hard to stop Chava from tagging along.

Also investigating the homicide is Detective Chance Parker, new to Bellingham’s Major Crimes unit but no stranger to Eddie. Their history as a couple back in Seattle is one more kink in a chain of complications, making Eddie’s case more frustrating and perilous with each tick of the clock.

Two Heads are Deader Than One

Two Heads are Deader Than One by Elena Hartwell
Get Your Copy:
Amazon | B&N | Goodreads

Book Two in the Eddie Shoes Mystery Series

Private Investigator Eddie Shoes is enjoying a rare period of calm. She’s less lonely now that Chava, her card-counting mom from Vegas, is sharing her home. She also has a new companion, Franklin, a giant dog of curious ancestry.

Hoping for a lucrative new case, Eddie instead finds herself taking on a less promising client: her best friend from her childhood in Spokane. Dakota has turned up in Bellingham, in jail, where she is being held on a weapons charge. Eddie reluctantly agrees not only to lend her friend money for bail but to also investigate who is stalking her.

Soon after Dakota is freed, she disappears again, leaving Eddie to answer to the local cops, including her ex-boyfriend Chance Parker. Has Dakota been kidnapped? If not, why did she jump bail? What are Eddie’s business cards doing on the bodies of two murder victims?

The key to these mysteries lies in Dakota and Eddie’s shared history, which ended when Eddie left home after high school. As a person of interest in both murder cases, Eddie is forced to go in search of the truth, digging into the past and facing her own demons.

Three Strikes, You’re Dead

Three Strikes, You’re Dead by Elena Hartwell
Get Your Copy:
Amazon | B&N | Goodreads

Book Three in the Eddie Shoes Mystery Series

Private investigator Eddie Shoes heads to a resort outside Leavenworth, Washington, for a mother-daughter getaway weekend. Eddie’s mother, Chava, wants to celebrate her new job at a casino by footing the bill for the two of them, and who is Eddie to say no?

On the first morning, Eddie goes on an easy solo hike, and a few hours later, stumbles over a makeshift campsite and a gravely injured man. A forest fire breaks out and she struggles to save him before the flames overcome them both. Before succumbing to his injuries, the man hands her a valuable object. He tells her his daughter is missing and begs for help. Is Eddie now working for a dead man?

Eddie wakes in the hospital to find both her parents have arrived on the scene. Will Eddie’s card-counting mother and mob-connected father help or hinder the investigation? The police search in vain for a body. How will Eddie find the missing girl with only Eddie’s memory of the man’s face and a photo of his daughter to go on?

Praise for The Eddie Shoes Mysteries:

"ONE DEAD TWO TO GO is a well-written fast-paced story that kept me fully engaged from beginning to end. It’s one of those stories where you get to the end of a chapter and think, “Okay, just a few more pages.” And the next thing you know, you’ve read three more chapters."
~ Mayor Sonni, Readeropolis

"…an engaging mystery that will keep you stumped to the very end."
~ Susan Sewell, Readers’ Favorite

"THREE STRIKES, YOU’RE DEAD gives us another vivid adventure with the quirky, genuine private eye Eddie Shoes. As usual, author Elena Hartwell’s characters are so real you feel like you could run into them at your local dive bar. Three Strikes takes us even deeper into Eddie’s complex family relationships with her charming-but-deadly father Eduardo and hilarious mom Chava, giving us further insight into Eddie’s psyche. The laugh-out-loud moments are many in this vital third installment, and you’ll find yourself wishing you could stay longer in the world of Eddie Shoes."
~ LS Hawker, USA Today bestselling author

My Review of Three Strikes, You're Dead:

 I have enjoyed reading this series set in Washington state. This time we are taken to Leavenworth, a picturesque town just on the east side of the Cascades. Much of the area is national forest and Eddie has an exciting adventure escaping a forest fire but creating a mystery in the process.

I appreciate learning something in a novel and here it was about different patterns of forest fires. Part of the plot includes immigrants, individuals seen often east of the Cascades due to the farms and ranches there.

I like that Hartwell has added Eddie's father to the investigative mix. Adding people to the mix (Chava in the last novel) has kept the the plots involving Eddie from going stale. Eduardo takes investigation to a whole new level with his connections and ability to acquire expensive equipment, like a drone.

I like this series. Eddie is a fun heroine, flawed but tenacious. Hartwell's writing style is entertaining. These have been good mysteries and I hope Hartwell will be crafting more of them.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Book Details:

Genre: Private Eye Mystery
Published by: Open Road Media, March 2024
Series Book Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Read an excerpt from One Dead, Two to Go:

CHAPTER ONE

Call me Eddie Shoes.

Not a very feminine moniker, but it suits me. My father’s name was Eduardo Zapata. In a fit of nostalgia, my mother Chava named me Edwina Zapata Schultz, even though by the time I was born she hadn’t seen my father in seven months. Edwina was a mouthful to saddle any child with, so at the ripe old age of six, I announced that I would only answer to Eddie. I didn’t have any nostalgia for a guy I’d never met, so Zapata just seemed like a name no one ever spelled right the first time. Chava wasn’t particularly maternal in any conventional sense, so not a lot of nostalgia for Schultz either. At eighteen I legally changed my name to Eddie Shoes.

It said a lot about my sense of humor.

Chava and I had come to an understanding. She stayed in my life as long as our contact was minimal and primarily over email. It was just enough to allay her guilt and not enough to make me crazy, so it worked for both of us. She’d always been down about my choice of career, but what did she expect from a girl who called herself Eddie Shoes? If I hadn’t become a private investigator, I probably would have been a bookie, so she should have been a little more positive about the whole thing.

My career was the reason I sat hunkered in the car, in the dark, halfway down the block from a tacky hotel, clutching a digital camera and zoom lens, waiting to catch my latest client’s husband with a woman not his wife. I’d already gotten a few choice shots of the guy entering the room, but he’d gone in alone and no one else had arrived. I assumed the other woman was already waiting for him. After tailing the guy for a few days, I had a pretty good guess who the chippie would turn out to be. I didn’t think he’d hired his “office manager” for her filing skills, and sleeping with the married boss was a cliché because it happened all the time. I could already prove the man a liar. He’d told his wife he played poker with the boys on Wednesday nights, and I didn’t think he was shacked up in this dive with three of his closest buddies, unless he was kinkier than I imagined.

But then, people never ceased to amaze me.

December in Bellingham, Washington, often brought cold, clear weather and that night was no exception. Starting the engine to warm up sounded tempting, but I didn’t want anyone to notice me sitting there. Nice it wasn’t raining, but if the thermometer had crept much over twenty, I hadn’t noticed. To make matters worse, I’d scrunched my almost six-foot frame down in the driver’s seat for more than two hours. Even with a blanket wrapped around my shoulders, I was half frozen, and desperately hoped my mark didn’t have more stamina than I’d pegged him for. All I wanted was to go home and go to bed.

And at some point, I would need to pee.

Up on the second floor, the door of the hotel room I had my eye on finally opened. I brought my camera up, ready for the money shots. My earlier pics proved that the dirty white stucco on the side of the building bounced the pale glow from the minimal exterior lights enough for pictures to be clear without a flash. Even from this distance, there was a nice unobstructed view of the location. The only barrier between someone standing on the narrow walk and my camera lens was a flimsy, rusty-looking, wrought-iron railing. The balusters looked too thin to stop anyone from falling the height of the first floor to the asphalt parking lot below. I doubted anything at the tawdry place passed code.

But what did I care? I wasn’t going to stay there.

The “liar”—I have always been creative with nicknames—stepped out, straightening his tie. I snapped a few pictures and held my breath, hoping the other woman would come out behind him. Even if I took pictures of her exiting a few minutes later, the husband needed to be in the picture with her. A surprising number of wives would argue with me about what actually took place in these various, if interchangeable, hotel rooms. For some reason they would rather believe the info about their husband cheating was fake than admit he strayed, which confused me because I got paid either way. It felt especially crazy when they must already know the truth, otherwise they wouldn’t have hired me in the first place. But I knew better than to look for logic in the ways of the human heart and got the best evidence possible.

The man turned sideways. Light from the room behind him threw his face into silhouette. He had an exceptionally generous head of hair, which made him very recognizable even in bad light. Mid-forties, and mostly in good shape, he appeared athletic as long as he didn’t unbutton his sport coat. I could see why women were attracted to him, though he didn’t do a thing for me. I preferred men a little more honest.

But then, I’d never been married, so what did I know?

A figure moved from behind him into the shadow of the doorway.

“Come on, honey, step out into the light.” I held the camera to my eye. “One more step, so I can see your face.”

The woman obliged by leaning into the cold blue glow cast by the old style, energy inefficient streetlights, her cheeks stained red in the flash of the vacancy sign. I happily clicked away as the “office manager” wrapped her arms around his neck and whispered sweet nothings in his ear. She clearly wore nothing but lingerie. She must assume no one else would be out this late on such a cold weeknight. Or maybe she enjoyed having people see her, a bit of an exhibitionist in the happy homewrecker. Whatever the cause, she had him in the perfect spot for the best pictures.

I loved it when guilty people made my job easy.

My photos might not be art, but they were gold in my book. No way the wife could believe this was anything other than what it looked like.

Several photos later, the husband extricated himself from the mistress and she ducked back into the room and closed the door. He walked briskly toward a shiny red Chevy Camaro. The guy owned a GM dealership and drove a new car every day. He lit a cigarette, which he puffed on for a few drags before he tossed it into the gutter. Not just a cheater, a litterer. The bastard. The cigarette stench backed his poker party story and covered the smell of another woman, killing two birds with one cancer-causing stone.

As soon as he pulled out onto the street, I stretched back up to full height, relieved to still feel my feet. I started up my ancient green Subaru Forrester, cranked my heater, and headed for home, relieved I didn’t have to wait around in the cold for the mistress to reappear. Whatever she did next wasn’t my concern. Having the two of them in the pictures together convinced me my work was done.

The hotel was located downtown—the blue-collar north end, not the high-priced, brick, historical south end, so I dropped down to Lakeway Drive, scooted under the freeway, and wound through the streets that curved around Bayview Cemetery. Traffic at ten o’clock on a midweek winter night was light, and I arrived at my little house by ten-thirty. I downloaded the photos from the hotel onto my computer, wrote up a final bill for my client, and went to bed content.

What could possibly go wrong with such an easy case?

***

Excerpt from One Dead, Two to Go by Elena Hartwell. Copyright 2024 by Elena Hartwell. Reproduced with permission from Elena Hartwell. All rights reserved.

 

Author Bio:

Elena Hartwell

Elena Hartwell spent several years working in theater as a playwright, director, designer, and educator before turning her storytelling skills to fiction. Elena is also a senior editor with Allegory Editing, a developmental editing house, where she works one-on-one with writers to shape and polish manuscripts. If you’d like to work with Elena, visit www.allegoryediting.com.

Her favorite place to be is at Paradise, the property she and her hubby own south of Spokane, Washington. They live with their horses, Jasper, Radar, and Diggy, their dogs Polar and Wyatt, and their cats Coal Train and Cocoa. Elena holds a B.A. from the University of San Diego, a M.Ed. from the University of Washington, Tacoma, and a Ph.D. from the University of Georgia.

She also writes as Elena Taylor, to learn more visit www.ElenaTaylorAuthor.com

Catch Up With Elena Hartwell:
www.ElenaHartwell.com
TheMysteryOfWriting.com
Goodreads
BookBub - @elenahartwell
Instagram - @elenataylorauthor
Twitter/X - @Elena_TaylorAut
Facebook - @ElenaTaylorAuthor

 

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I received a complimentary egalley of this book through Partners in Crime Book Tours. My comments are an independent and honest review. The rest of the copy of this post was provided by Partners in Crime Book Tours.

(My star ratings: 5-I love it, 4-I like it, 3-It's OK, 2-I don't like it, 1-I hate it.)

Friday, April 5, 2024

Worth Fighting For by John Pavlovitz Book Review

About the Book:

John Pavlovitz has inspired millions to keep boldly loving both neighbors and strangers throughout the years of Trump’s hate-mongering campaign and presidency and continues to be a voice of sanity and urgency when so much is still at stake.

It’s a scary time for America, with rights for women and transgender people being rolled back, the truth about Black history and experience being silenced, and unrestricted gun violence on the rise. People who value inclusion, compassion, and the common good are understandably anxious and angry—but we can’t give up hope. We need motivation to keep fighting for justice.

This inspiring volume features Pavlovitz’s most important writing from the past several years alongside brand-new essays to provide the encouragement, stamina, and direction we need to keep going, even when things feel bleak.

Access free resources, including sermon series prompts and a group discussion guide, at www.wjkbooks.com/WorthFightingFor to expand the use of this book to communal and worship settings.

My Review:

Many people may feel overwhelmed and defeated by the current situation. Pavlovitz reminds us there is much worth fighting for. Each of us still has great agency in the decisions we make and the way we use our time and resources.

Pavlovitz is not shy in his opinions. He'll irritate evangelical Christians I am sure with his view that the GOP is unwell and our leaders in the U.S. are really unwell. He is sickened by this thing called Christianity and says Jesus would be horrified by it. (73) Pavlovitz is more concerned with people being loved and getting the help they need than he is about right doctrine. The way you treat others, he says, is the only meaningful expression of your belief system. (62) “[Love] is still the antidote to all that afflicts us.” (61) He encourages us to do the difficult work of loving the people we dislike. (44)

I appreciate this collection of short essays Pavlovitz has written on a variety of subjects. While I do not agree with all he says, I found his writings thought provoking and a wake up call to those of us calling ourselves Christians. He encourages us to be Christlike, being the best people we can possibly be. This is a book offering hope to those who feel hopeless.

My rating: 4/5 stars.


About the Author:


John Pavlovitz
 is a writer, pastor, activist, and storyteller from Wake Forest, North Carolina. Over the past decade, his thought-provoking blog, Stuff That Needs to Be Said, has reached a diverse worldwide audience with over one hundred million views. A twenty-five-year veteran in the trenches of local church ministry, Pavlovitz is committed to equality, diversity, and justice-both inside and outside faith communities. His books include A Bigger Table, Stuff That Needs to Be Said, and If God Is Love, Don't Be a Jerk. He currently directs Empathetic People Network, a vibrant online community that connects people from all over the world who want to create a more compassionate planet.

Westminster John Knox Press, 168 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher. My comments are an independent and honest review.

(My star ratings: 5-I love it, 4-I like it, 3-It's OK, 2-I don't like it, 1-I hate it.)