HOPE IS A DANGEROUS PLACE by Jim Baton ~ a review

Hope is a Dangerous Place

Christian Suspense, Christian mystery

 

This novel has a mystery at it’s core and there’s no shortage of suspense. It could even be said to span genres and slip into Christian Young Adult Suspense.

Hope, Colorado has secrets, more than one. There are the ‘haves’ who’ve got all the power and the ‘wannabees’ as high school jock Jordy so crassly calls them. Harmonie Seymour’s family had been in Hope for generations on the black side of town where folks live in run-down houses. The Latino residents practically live in shacks. Bigotry is rampant. Kelsey is the new kid in town. She arrived with her widower pastor dad, Bret Axel. Both girls are outsiders in the high school and soon become fast friends. Pastor Bret Axel has the gift of prayer. He is a mighty prayer warrior, but he’s also bound by anxiety and fear since the untimely death of his wife…so much so that he pops Valerian to calm his nerves.

Enter the new high school teacher Olivia Montez, who has her own baggage. She assigns the three students in her journalism class an assignment  and has no idea will blow up in all their faces. She wants Kelsey, Harmonie, and an angry young Latino student named Miguel to interview elderly residents about the town’s name change. It was once named Purgatory. However in the mid-1940s the name was changed to Hope. There are powerful people, perhaps those in the original families, who don’t want anyone looking into the past and they will go further to stop the investigation than these three students can ever imagine.

This novel is a very good example of redemptive Christian fiction…and yet the author keeps it real, very real. Bad and/or worldly guys act and talk like bad and worldly guys. I’d recommend this novel to anyone from ages 17 to 117 who enjoys suspense and a story where the characters grow in their Christian walk.

 

ALIAS RAVEN BLACK by Barbara E. Brink ~ a review

Alias Raven Blac,

Christian Mystery, Romantic Suspense, International Crime and Intrigue

 

A fun, fast and furious journey with Brenna Blackman (alias Raven Black). The FBI has finally caught up with the erstwhile Raven Black. So has her father who has secrets of his own. He dad, hired a young, handsome private detective to find Brenna. Needless to say, Thomas falls in love with her.

Using her Raven Black crimes against her, FBI agents blackmail Brenna to go into very dangerous waters undercover as a nanny in the house of a ruthless, heartless mobster. Brenna has no skills with children, is pretty indifferent to them. Surprise, surprise…she soon falls in love with both children and is ready to put her own life in danger to protect them.

This is primarily a law-and-order detective novel driven by Brenna/Raven trying to get evidence against an evil man who is a killer…the father of those children. The drive to bring this corrupt, depraved killer drives the story, and it is also story with Christian characters maintaining their values, living their lives and doing their jobs. I recommend it as a suspenseful, seat of your pants read.

Purchase ALIAS RAVEN BLACK on Amazon

SECRETS & LIES by Janet Sketchley ~ a review

Secrets & Lies. 2 jpg

Who can she trust?

The author sets up a situation where Carol Daniels, a pretty blonde waitress at a local café, her son Paul, and wealthy antagonist Patrick Stairs are caught in an elaborate trap set up by drug lord Lear, a man with a far reach. Sadness is a burden Carol carries as her oldest son Keith died of a drug overdose, and his father and her husband, rock ‘n roll guitarist Skip Daniels, abandoned her and Paul. As if that is not enough to weigh her down, Carol’s brother Harry Silver is in prison having been convicted of serial murder and rape. He’s also holding out on Lear, having hidden a large sum of illicit drug money, and the drug lord is threatening Carol to help him get his money back.

The author does a fine job with characterization. We get to know jittery, suspicious, emotionally shut-down Carol who is on the verge and sometimes even crosses the line at being over-protective and controlling toward her teenage son Paul. Yet, the author somehow makes this tense mother likeable, and I found myself in her corner.

Oldies radio jock Joey Hill is likeable from the get go. He’s an all-around nice guy, but unbeknownst to Carol, he’s also got a drug past. When she finds out, she’s unable to trust him and turns to Patrick who is being manipulated by Lear. And so, the treacherous web gets more tangled.

This is a Redemption’s Edge Novel, book two but it is definitely a stand-alone. It is Christian fiction and a clean read. I recommend it to anyone who likes a well plotted suspense novel with well-developed characters.

Guarding Candy Kane by V.B. Tenery ~ a review

Guarding Candy KaneChristmas novella, Mystery, RomSuspense

This is a wonderful Christmas mystery. I enjoyed reading the mystery driven part of it and the Christmas part of it. Loved the main characters. At points, the suspense was chilling, by the end it was uplifting and filled with Christmas cheer.

I loved the Colorado setting. In one scene we’re walking with the characters through the quaint village of Christmas Tyme, with all its cheerful seasonal decorations. Then in another scene, we’re in the snow-swept Colorado wilderness fearing for the characters’ lives.

The author is a skillful writer who takes the reader through a delightful Christmas mystery and adds that something additional that makes it a read that’s on more than one level. If I had one question to ask the author, it would be: “What’s next?”

Purchase GUARDING CANDY KANE on Amazon

ACTS OF MALICE, a Lavender Raines/Mac “Mackey” Mackenzie Novel ~ Cover Reveal

AOM CoverDetective Story, murder mystery, national security

Heroine Lavender Raines and hero Mac “Mackey” Mackenzie are polar opposites. Thought not a holiday novel, per se, ACTS OF MALICE has Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s scenes that will touch your heart, make you gasp, have you laughing, or all three.

ACTS OF MALICE IN A NUT SHELL…

ACTS OF MALICE:  A taut and compelling classic murder mystery with a national security underlying theme. Interpersonal relationships, greed, dry humor. Unrequited Love. Uplifting.

Lavender Raines gets the ‘doorbell ring’ no wife ever wants to get. Her husband has been brutally murdered, and the FBI is more secretive than helpful. The problem is, his body was found in Caracas when she thought his business trip had taken him to New Orleans.

Mackenzie just opened a second beach resort-town restaurant, this one in Ribault Beach, Florida…but now the clandestine security organization that from-time-to-time sends him on covert missions wants him to find Lavender’s husband’s killers.

Forces from within the “Deep State” have shaped circumstances that will alter the course of both their lives. Then a local man is murdered. Mackey is emotionally shut down about his life, but protective of others. Lavender is a pillar of strength in her family, but distrusting of Mackey and guarded around him. Can they find common ground amidst this treachery and turmoil?GreenStar Burst

Excerpt:

Chapter Five

Lavender Raines

Yawning, my mother entered the kitchen with a lazy, graceful sway. She tightened her fuchsia kimono-style bathrobe and headed for the coffee maker. “I didn’t sleep well at all last night.”

I placed my coffee mug on the kitchen table and swiveled in my chair to face her. “Was the guestroom bed uncomfortable?”

“Well … no, Darling, not really.” She waved, limp-wristed, as if she were shushing me. “I need to get some coffee in me.”

“On the counter. Help yourself.”

She poured coffee into a mug. “I simply can’t understand why George’s parents didn’t fly in to attend his memorial service.”

If I cared for hard liquor, which I didn’t, I might want a shot in my coffee before long. “Mother, you know Marianne has early onset dementia. Henry doesn’t want her to be told George is gone. Besides they recently moved into an assisted living apartment in Seattle and are still settling in.” The fact was neither of his parents had any idea their son’s death certificate and funeral papers had been falsified to make it appear he’d died while visiting them. I went along with this charade because I had no idea who was behind George’s murder, or why. I was afraid for Kendall’s safety, as well as my own and my mother’s.

“Yes, yes, of course.” She added two percent milk and artificial sweetener to her mug and stirred.

“What a pretty bathrobe.” I hoped to change the topic of conversation.

She brought her mug to the table and sat opposite me. “This old thing? I got it several years ago at this marvelous little shop when your father and I were in Santa Barbara. Now he’s gone, and George is gone. It’s just us three girls.” She tilted her head and slid her fingers through her highlighted, chin length hair.

Hard liquor was looking better and better. I slipped my hand behind my neck and scooped my hair out from under my knit robe that had seen better days. “Mother, we’ll be fine. You’ll see. We girls will pull through.”

She ran her French manicured index finger around the rim of her mug. “I want more for you and Kendall than pulling through. Really, dear, this house is not in good shape. You should sell it and come live with me in Virginia Beach.”

I stifled a gasp at the same time that Kendall lurched into the kitchen. “Sell the house? No, never. This is Dad’s house. We have to keep it.”

I stood and hurried over to her. “Honey, Grandma was just thinking out loud.”

“Kendall, darling, it isn’t ladylike to eavesdrop.” My mother’s sing-song rhythm was light, with a softness to it.

Kendall pouted. “I wasn’t eavesdropping. I was coming into the kitchen to get coffee.”

I sat down at the table and kept to myself that I’d also been unable to sleep. In the wee hours, selling the house had very briefly crossed my mind. “The house does have a few projects still left to be done. George finished the living room, dining room, and kitchen. Only the bedrooms need a little cosmetic touch-up.”

“Both bathrooms need a complete renovation. The master bath is very outdated. Really, Darling, there’s not even a hint of open concept. With your talent in home décor, you should know that.” My mother wriggled her nose.

“Grandma, you make it sound like Daddy didn’t provide a good place for us to live.”

“Kendall, darling, I’m expressing my feelings. Would you like me to be dishonest with you and your mother?”

Kendall smacked her mug on the countertop, and liquid sloshed over its brim. She ignored it. “Daddy’s memorial service was only yesterday. So, Grandma, I don’t mean to be rude, but if you can’t put him in a good light, don’t say anything.”

She rushed out of the room, her eyes brimming with tears.

Lavender Raines, Afternoon 

A walk along the waterfront might calm my jangled nerves. I’d been a walking enthusiast for years and had been known to go for miles. Sunrise Boulevard wasn’t that far away and was a lovely stroll along the beach.

I slipped into and tied my running shoes. Did I need a sweater? I checked my phone for the weather report. High seventies. No sweater. I’d be exerting myself, and that would keep me warm enough. I slipped the phone into the diminutive leather bag slung across my body.

After a slow trot to the end of our driveway, I turned and inspected the house. A white concrete ranch on residential Catalina Street with a large picture window, a dark-blue front door, and a couple of palm trees in front. We lived in a respectable neighborhood. George had wanted the house. After growing up in the sizable two-story colonial with a pool I thought of as the house my father bought for my mother, I would’ve preferred a three-bedroom townhouse. Still, George, Kendall, and I had been happy here. So, why had I felt so defensive during my mother’s manipulative harangue, feeling almost as if our house was a hovel?

While walking along Sunrise Boulevard at a leisurely pace, the blahs of self-recrimination had set in and settled. When I pulled my gaze up from the sidewalk, I realized I’d turned the corner onto Mystic Drive. I found myself standing before Funky Boutiking and immediately felt a bit better. The quaint shop sat behind the graceful yet casual Blue Dolphin Boutique Hotel.

Ribault Beach benefited from naturally occurring, softly rolling dunes which somewhat protected the city during fierce storms. Sunrise Boulevard, one of the city’s major thoroughfares ran north and south along the beach. At its southernmost end, a small concrete and steel bridge crossed a short expanse of ocean to Cannoner Island.

“Such a funny shape.” I placed my flattened hand over my sunglasses to block out the hot sun and stepped to the side, trying to get a better view of the small island. Not used to talking to myself, a giggle bubbled up. Then I giggled again. “Looks like my feet brought me here for a reason.”

Recalling the often-told tale charmed me. French Huguenot settlers in the mid-1500s gave the island that name because its seaward end rose higher out of the ocean than its landward end. They thought it resembled a cannon. Of course, the name had long since lost its French spelling and pronunciation– and Ribault Beach had also lost its French pronunciation.

I turned toward the pale yellow 1950s bungalow that was Funky Boutiking and placed my foot on the first step. Should I go in? “I don’t want to be a burden.” This talking to myself was weird.

The house rested on a foundation of concrete blocks two-feet-high with spaces between them which would allow a rushing storm surge to pass underneath. The bungalow sported a craftsman-style stone porch with concrete steps and blue painted wooden pillars. It was a sturdy little structure.

I held onto the railing and walked up the steps and onto the porch which displayed outdoor and indoor pieces of furniture for sale. I continued into the store.

Abigail Hunter stood at the front counter, behind the register, worry reflected in her eyes.

A well-dressed, thirty-something man on the opposite side of the wooden counter faced her. Randall Creston, another of George’s distant relatives. He hadn’t come to the memorial service. He and his family lived in Crescent Beach, just north of our city. We hadn’t seen him or heard from him for so long, all memory of him had escaped me, until now.

He slapped his hand on the counter. “You and your sister are two stubborn old ladies.”

Abigail winced but still managed a thin smile. “It’s probably true we’re set in our ways.”

“I’ll be back again, and we’ll continue this conversation. I have an appointment in less than twenty minutes.” He turned on his heel and stalked off.

His shoulder nearly brushed against mine as he left. He grunted and nodded. “Good day.”

“Good … day.” I turned and watched him rush out the door, not sure if he recognized me.

When I turned back, Abigail clasped and unclasped her hands.

I walked up to the register. “Are you all right? Wasn’t that Randall Creston?”

“Our cousin Randall, the lawyer. He helps with our finances, such as they are.”

Olivia peeked out from the behind a display toward the back of the store. The sizable bungalow accommodated a small two-bedroom apartment in the back and sat on a half-acre lot. “Is he gone?” She noticed me and rushed over. “Lavender, I’m so glad to see you. I just put on water for tea. Would you like to join us?”

“Thank you, that would make my day.”

The kettle whistled, and the petite woman spun around and hurried to the back.

I returned my attention to Abigail, wondering if I’d just witnessed elder abuse, or perhaps intimidation. “This is none of my business, but it seemed as if Olivia was trying to avoid ‘cousin’ Randall’. I made quotation marks in the air with my fingers.

“Lavender, honey, you have your own troubles. Come sit and have tea with us.” Abigail walked toward an alcove to the side of the front counter.

I sat on the cushioned bench built into the alcove. “Abigail, you and Olivia are my husband’s family. If you’re having any problems, you can come to me.”

Abigail settled her long frame into the seat of an upholstered chair. It was positioned to one side of a small coffee table. “You’re sweet, just like Georgie.”

Olivia bustled in carrying a tray which she placed on the coffee table. “You’ll have to add milk and sugar to your taste. Please help yourself to home-baked oatmeal cookies.” She sat in an upholstered chair on the other side of the coffee table in front of the alcove.

I added a splash of milk to my tea, and then took a cookie which I rested in a napkin on my lap. “Olivia, Randall Creston nearly collided with me as he rushed out.”

She rolled her eyes and mixed two heaping spoons of sugar into her tea. “He’s a very busy man. His clients are the cream of the crop in Ribault Beach. He wouldn’t even come here otherwise, except for this business deal he’s all worked up about.”

“You and Abigail are also his clients?” I sipped my tea.

Olivia shifted in her seat. “We’re his poor church-mouse relatives. His charity account.”

 

ACTS OF MALICE IS NOW ON PRE-ORDER ON AMAZON

NIKE N. CHILLEMI’S AUTHOR PAGE ON AMAZON

 

Christmas Under Wraps (Mullet Harbor Book 1) by Fay Lamb ~ a review

Christmas Under Wraps

Romance, Humor, Christmas

This is such an engaging Christmas story. The cast of quirky, sometimes baffling townsfolk living in Mullet Harbor pull you right in.

English Professor Christian Abrams and his nephew Dylan are on the run and wind up in Mullet Harbor, a unique hamlet in the Florida everglades. Chris is broke, out of gas, and has a child to feed. This is when he meets sweet and compassionate local school teacher Kaylee McFarland who talks him into staying in Mullet Harbor at least until after Christmas. That’s when it starts to get interesting…and when Chris learns the townsfolk really do take care of each other and they rely on their faith.

We meet Herb, the mayor who wears flip-flops…and Abigail, the shy town baker who flits around like a hummingbird. Then throw in a Cajun sheriff not afraid to take a chance on a good man. Stir in a delightful little girl named Sophie who’s had more than her share of sorrow in her short life. Could the icing on the top be a Christmas miracle? Perhaps more than one.

This is a fun, delightful read…a romp through the swamp. There’s also an alligator named Abercrombie.

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GATHERING SHADOWS (Finding Sanctuary, Book 1) by Nancy Mehl ~ a review

Gathering Shadows

Romantic Suspense, Old Order Mennonite, Mystery

I received GATHERING SHADOWS in 2014 from the publisher (the other two novels in the series followed). That was the year my husband began getting sick and these stories along with a great many other WONDERFUL works I hoped to read went on a shelf that became my To Be Read (TBR) list. I’ve finally gotten to this novel and I’m so glad I did.

Sanctuary is picturesque and inviting, but it’s a sleepy little Mennonite town chock full of secrets. Nearly every resident is hiding something, it seems.

St. Louis TV news reporter Wynter Evans hopes to propel herself into the anchor’s seat at her station with a human interest story on unusual Missouri towns. However, her station manager has told her to stay away from Sanctuary.

Those plans change when she is handed a photo of an Old Order Mennonite family living in Sanctuary whose teenage son closely resembles what Wynter’s brother, who had been kidnapped as a child, could look like now. Wynter is also hiding something…her real name.

What I like so much about Nancy Mehl’s writing is that she makes difficult, painful, even horrific incidents come alive on the written page that do happen to actual living people. This is true of Wynter/Emily Evans when she deals with a painful past that has come crashing into her present life and confronts implied threats that are confusing and don’t add up to any real leads in the case. I felt her frustration, disappointment, fear, and anguish.

This is a page turner. When I finished it, I immediately picked up the next one in the series, DEADLY ECHOES.

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