Thursday, April 4, 2024

Two Heads Are Deader Than One 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
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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
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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
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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 Two Heads Are Deader Than One:

 This is the second book in a series. While it reads relatively well on its own, it will be better enjoyed if the previous novel is read first. The first novel explains who Chava is and how she came on the scene. Eddie and Chava form a good investigative duo. As Eddie explains it, she is more suited to computer searches while Chava is more suited to investigating violent crime.

Violent crime there is in this novel and it has roots in Eddie's past. We know there was a tragedy in her teen years and much becomes clear here when a high school friend resurfaces. Soon there is a murder (or perhaps two). Eddie is implicated and she needs to clear her name. The plot is a bit complex as Eddie's old friend is anything but honest about why she seeks Eddie's help.

There is an interesting exploration of a couple of mental illnesses. While psychopaths are rational, psychotic behavior is a break from reality. And schizophrenia is a condition in which people can learn to live and function in society.

I like the Washington state settings of these novels, here Bellingham and Spokane. Hartwell's writing style is good and the novel reads well. I like the development of the characters as we get to know more about their lives and personalities. I look forward to the third novel in this series.

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:


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

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

Catch Up With Elena Hartwell:
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.)


Wall-to-wall books said...

Thanks for the review. I look forward to reading this one!

Elena Hartwell said...

I'm so glad you enjoyed spending time with Eddie Shoes. Thank you for your kind words.