Expired Listings

Expired Listings
An erotic Novel of Psychological Suspense”,                                           Punctuated Publishing, an e-book by D. M. Barr.

Dana Black had a brutally psychologically damaging childhood where she lost her father most tragically at 6 years of age. Following this was her mother, Cassandra, taking her older sister Melanie and moving away leaving her with her grandmother in a town literally dying from the existence of a natural disaster and insisting upon a legal name change for the child. Through the years, her mother would return for a perfunctory one day visit but never a word from or about her sister. Finally, she left for college, met Harrison, a man who appeared to be loving and introduced her to a somewhat luxurious life of sorts and adventure. She had skipped the usual sex explorations of her student days and was first introduced to sex by Harrison. Unfortunately he practiced the Kinky BDSM (Bondage, Discipline, Sadism, Masochism) type as well as probably suffering from Bi-polar disorder. The relationship dissolved and the reader is introduced to her as a relatively successful Real Estate salesperson working at the same office as her immensely successful sister. It further is revealed that she is in this position after being contacted by Dare, a Dominant BDSM with whom she becomes closely involved. Then suddenly, a number of Realtors are murdered and/or disappear and finally even her best friend Endicott from her college days who is a fellow realtor, is seriously injured opening Dana to become even more of a prime suspect. Dana, along with other severe reactions, is in therapy because she suffers from complete blackouts where she remembers nothing for hours at a time. If not sufficiently complicated already, the ‘plot thickens’ even more. Dare is discovered to be someone other than just her sex partner; her sister Melanie is other than just the successful realtor who hated her; her mother is extremely wealthy but suffering the results of a devastating CVA; her mother’s caring caretaker, Lorelei, becomes further involved; Grayson, Endie’s gay significant other becomes troublesome; Aidan Cummings who Dana meets at a BDSM club, is a former police detective now a PI, who is at the club for purposes other than for the expected reasons – he provides an unexpected source of help for the beleaguered Dana. The highly convoluted tale eventually unravels to terminate in a logical, albeit somewhat incredible fashion.

Discussion: Interestingly, the author opens with a Preference: “This is a satire not to be interpreted as serious regarding Realtors who have definite legal standards, although their public rating is 17%, a little above advertising executives, used car salesmen and politicians, but below lawyers.” Also included are a warning of sexual explicity and a disclaimer with respect to BDSM activity. From here the story unfolds as a provocative, highly convoluted mystery involving mostly persons on various psychologically compromised levels. The level of sexuality provided is far less explicit than that presented in most books featuring erotica and the ‘dirty tricks’ used by the realtors certainly are no different from those endlessly rumored to have been employed by members of this profession.

Conclusion: A mystery that is highly convoluted, somewhat stretches credibility, provides some mild (by many standards) deviant erotic activity but generally a story that should appeal to those who enjoy a tantalizing read.

4* Generally appealing for those enjoying a tantalizing read.

 

A Christmas Tartan

A Christmas Tartan
ISBN: 9781250132659 Minotaur Books, a mystery e-book by Paige Shelton.

Delaney Nichols is a former museum curator from Kansas and now in Scotland hired by Edwin McAlister, the remarkable owner of an unusual book store. One morning he discovers a box containing an odd collection of items on his doorstep and asks Delaney to investigate the possible origin of the collection. The story evolves from this starting point and proceeds into the body of a mystery/fantasy.

Discussion: This purchase was made because the reviewer had a short space of time between review requests. Enjoying mysteries, he noticed this title in the genre, that the author had been recognized for previous work and that it was of novella length. After reading the synopsis, he made the purchase and proceeded to read the book. Reaction was dichotomous. The story evolved into an interesting and well-designed mystery/fantasy. However he was a little chagrined to discover that the already short story actually consumed only 64 % of the purported novella length book. The rest of the ‘novella length’, roughly ONE THIRD, was consumed by an excerpt from the author’s NEXT book. It is granted that the author in her introduction mentioned that it was a “mini mystery”, BUT the prospective reader has no way of learning this fact before purchasing it. It also is granted that the price is nominal. However, it appears that this annoying habit is insidiously and increasingly invading publishing. A sad commentary on a once proud and trustworthy industry and one incidentally that does NOT add appreciably to an author’s reputation.

2 ½*      4* brief mystery/fantasy; 1* for ‘lack of disclosure’.

The Speaking Ghost of Rajpur

The Speaking Ghost of Rajpur
Thought Balloon Books, 3rd edition of a book first published in 2014, in e-book by Priyonkar Dasgupta.

Plot: Brothers journey to Rajpur to vacation with relatives where they join other youngsters in participating in numerous and varied activities available. The activities range from simply reading and local trips to the surrounding countryside and local arcades and fairs to more extended and parenthetically dangerous bus travels and exploration of abandoned factory buildings. The conversations and subjects set forth are mostly typical of those of boys from less sophisticated backgrounds, the trips are somewhat typically serendipitous except perhaps for the one involving the book title’s character.

Discussion: The serendipitous meandering of a group of youngsters as described pretty much follows those of similar groups in most countries with like amenities. As such, this story may provide a certain level of nostalgia for readers inclined to enjoy reminiscence. Beyond this obvious fact is a most interesting feature however. Although light on character development, the author can write beautifully descriptive passages and a really enjoyable mystery BUT simultaneously provide frustration because much of both get lost in the process.

Conclusion: In this reader’s opinion, a good editor will aid an interesting storyteller to emerge.

3* A good editor will aid an engaging storyteller to emerge.

Never Alone

Never Alone
ISBN: 9781683482932, Page Publishing, an e-book by Kara Lumbley.

Plot: Jena, ME for Savannah, GA. and her close friend, lead detective Jordan (female) leave for a trip to the shore after intense activity following recent serial killings that left women gutted and abandoned in warehouses. Actually, she had been another one of the women, only was rescued in time. The killer had not acted again for a period of time leading them to the belief that he may have left the area. They spend a quiet time in a beach house in S. Carolina near Hilton Head and it is only when they are ready to leave that Jordan discovers foot prints outside of where Jenna had been sleeping. She does not inform her because she didn’t want her to be worried. Meanwhile, Jordan’s partner Michael is called by Lt. Vane to investigate a case where an older man is discovered dead just off a popular park trail. He, along with a department newbie, begin the investigation and discover he had been killed elsewhere and deposited along the trail; that he is Arthur Reddings, an apparently wealthy 61-year-old originally from a small GA town; he has an adopted daughter Anne whom he provides for in a rather open-handed manner even after a rather vitriolic divorce from the girl’s mother; that he sends $10,000 monthly to Eastern Cape, South Africa; that he makes frequent trips to Africa and seems to have other strange attributes/activities. The story proceeds to follow a fascinating course as the reader gradually discovers increasingly interesting facts about Arthur’s multi-tasked life along with closely associated activity by the employees of the Savannah and other legal departments, to most of whom the reader already have been introduced. And the story’s finale provides a perfect entry to the next anticipated volume.

Discussion: If you are a reader who enjoys a pleasant story fancifully and charmingly presented in a fast-moving fashion, this story is for you. Buy, read and enjoy but DO NOT reads beyond this point UNLESS you are a devotee of more traditional mysteries.

SPOILER ALERT! Regrettably, the case so pleasantly but rather cavalierly presented by the author would not be the simple matter described. A U.S. Citizen is murdered in a U.S. State city within the jurisdiction of the local police. However, ties are discovered that lead to a foreign country and include the victim being a member of the FBI involved in clandestine activity in a foreign country – an activity that more usually would be the concern of the CIA and INTERPOL (The FBI does maintain some offices overseas but more probably would only tangentially be involved in an incident as described.) Additionally, the level of activity described by the local Savannah authorities is difficult to accept as well as description of the range of Arthur’s dispersal of government money. His cache of weapons also does not seem to have any logical reason.

Conclusion: An interestingly plotted story fancifully and charmingly presented, but not for most usual mystery devotees.

3* Interesting plot, fascinatingly, charmingly presented; not for usual mystery devotee.

The Hotel Westend

The Hotel Westend
ISBN: 9780996521031, Barrington House Publishing, a mystery by Ashley Lynch-Harris.

Plot: Elsie Maitland is taking a trip that she and her mystery writer sister had planned to provide a virtual experience for her, as well. Elsie is the somewhat timid, rather reserved sister, and owner of a book store while Frances is a constant adventurer whose last trip resulted in a lengthy rehabilitation. The directions she has been given with her rental car land her at the Hotel Westland, miles from her destination. Here she finds herself involved in a double murder that seems to duplicate an unusual death twenty years earlier when the hotel had been a private mansion. An interesting and most relevant factor is that a number of guests have been persuaded to come to the hotel by one or another ‘invitation’. She begins her usual copious correspondence with her sister and between them, with help from a number of locals, the mystery is solved.

Characters: Elsie, Dennis Needling, hotel manager; Paul Hulling, who sets much of the activity in motion for a shadowy Davis; Elbert Turnbull, the hotel’s only full-time resident; Norma Kemper, hotel’s not particularly efficient maid; Iradene Hartwell, 51-year-old unpleasant socialite; her sister Marian, ‘mousy’ and dominated; James Rennick, Journalist and cross-word puzzle aficionado; Richard Wellington and new bride Olivia; Reverend Pennington, visiting prelate; Dr. Linder, town physician; Amos Hartin, gardener; Mr. Reddy, town pharmacist; Doris Malford, local florist; Vesta Tidwell, town’s most prominent gossip purveyor and her husband, local fish store owner; Sargent Wilcox, town’s law; and Ted Rennick who appears very late in the story.

Discussion/Conclusion: The author has set forth a really intriguing plot. It is unusual, involved, has numerous possible perpetrators and a solution that is appealingly ‘different’. The presentation is not exactly smooth, but the pace is good, the plot intriguing and in summation, a rather enjoyable first novel that augurs well for the anticipated series.

3* Interesting first mystery with appealingly ‘different’ solution.

FIXIN’ To DIE

Fixin’ To Die (1)

ISBN: 9781635110401, Henery Press, a Kenni Lowry Mystery Series presented here in e-book by Tonya Kappes.

Plot/Characters: Kendrick (Kenni’) Lowry is the elected Sheriff of Cottonwood, Kentucky, a small, sleepy town in which everyone knows everyone and their business. She had majored in judicial/criminal investigation and assumed the job, against her mother’s wishes, after the long-time sheriff, her adored father, had passed away. She is awakened in the morning by her office “calling all units”, really unnecessary because she was the only unit since the lone deputy had retired. Anyway, she reported that Ronald Walton, the town’s old doctor, was dead seemingly murdered. Shortly thereafter, she is called again about a break-in at the town’s jewelry store. From this auspicious beginning the reader is taken on a variously paced ride through the town and surrounding environs, it’s surprisingly many hidden elements and the people involved to greater and lesser extents. Included among the characters are Finn Vincent, a Kentucky State Reserve officer assigned to help, Wyatt Granger, the county jailer, longtime resident Sterling Stinnett, Edna Easterly, the town reporter, mobile café owner Jerel Fisher, Lulu McClain, owner of a boutique of the same name and troublemaker, Camille Shively, M.D. the new doctor in town (who had argued bitterly with Walton), town dentist Beverly Houston, Toots Buford who had worked for Walton and was fired, Polly Parker, and her parents, Chance Ryland the town’s mayor and others of lesser importance in solving this heinous crime and the jewelry robbery as well. AND most prominently, Kenni’s dad who returns in his ghostly form to aid his beloved daughter.

Discussion: The author has devised a plot that is unique, has some interesting twists, and depicts quite knowledgeably a small town and its people in an engaging manner that will bring smiles to readers who ever have experienced such an environment. For those who enjoy mysteries with a touch of the occult and ‘a ‘homey’ setting, this book especially is for you. Readers who prefer the more usually ‘structured’ mystery where obvious clues are not ignored/missed and protocol is followed probably will not enjoy.

3*                      5* For devotees of ‘homey’ mysteries featuring the occult; 3* for traditionalists.