Short and Sweet, Quick and Quirky, and #Free

The Outlaw Women is free on all e-book retailers through July 15th.

Folk healer and seer Rhoda-Sue Outlaw Jackson knows her time on earth is running out when she hears the voice of her late husband telling her she has only but so many heartbeats left. She’s had a troubled relationship with her daughter, and has little hope of passing on her extraordinary gifts, either to this difficult daughter or to her granddaughter. With the final hour around the corner, she brings her family together for one more try. Can she leave the world at peace with them, as well as with her legacy?

This prequel to the Mae Martin Psychic Mystery Series introduces Mae at age ten, as seen through the eyes of her grandmother.

Review: Cargo by D.V. Berkom

 

Leine Basso travels to Thailand and Tanzania in her anti-trafficking work, under circumstances that require her to forge an alliance with an Afrikaner poacher, a complex and fascinating rogue. A tightly structured page-turner with vivid settings and compelling characters, Cargo deals with some of the worst in human behavior: cruelty to fellow humans and to wildlife, motivated by greed. The harm to animals takes place offstage—the reader isn’t forced to watch—but the aftermath is tragic and appalling, and the scenes detailing a trafficking victim’s ordeal haunted me. This is an intense read, but I still recommend it. The last line troubled me, though. It’s closure, full-circle justice of a sort, but it’s disturbing, too—not healing.

Review: Bewaji’s Ankara Adventures (The Aso-Ebi Chronicles, #1) by Sharon Abimbola Salu

I was delighted to discover yet another mystery novella with no murder. Not that I don’t enjoy the ones with murders, but there are so many varieties of crime, why not investigate something else for change? And this one is a humorous cozy without cuteness or quaintness, too. With an urban Nigerian setting, it’s truly different.

I loved the main character, Bewaji. She gets lucky in her inquiries, but the luck is plausible, she’s aware of it, and she uses it to do some sleuthing. Though the book is written in the third person, the narrative voice is clearly hers, as much inside her head as the usual first-person cozy narration. And Bewaji is funny. Any book that can make me laugh out loud is a winner.

Review: Low Tide at Tybee by James M. Jackson

James M. Jackson proves you can tell a compelling crime story without death or violence. In this novella, Seamus McCree is on vacation with his eighty-something mother and his six-year-old granddaughter. He hopes to buy a beach condo that can be a vacation home for all generations of the family. In the process, Seamus uncovers a clever and costly criminal scheme, which is just one layer of a complex plot. Megan, his granddaughter, also has concerns about crime, when a suspicious character rifles through her great-grandmother’s bag on the beach. Both the child and the elder are portrayed with full humanity, no clichés or cuteness. It was great to spend time with Seamus again, a likeable sleuth whose weapons are intelligence, creativity, and knowledge. His narrative voice is natural and readable, a guy you’d enjoy getting to know. Series fans or newcomers can enjoy this story.

Review: Planting Pearls by Virginia King

This intriguing novella is the perfect prologue to The First Lie, the first full-length novel in the Selkie Moon series. In Planting Pearls, the reader meets Selkie when she’s taken her first daring steps to reclaim her life from a controlling, psychologically abusive husband. At this point she’s still half-way between the person she was and the one she’s becoming, her true self. The author does a brilliant job in going back to this point in her protagonist’s life with insight and authenticity. It made me realize how much Selkie matures and develops through the series.

The mystery of a possible ghost at an old house in Hawaii intertwines—in the synchronistic, mysterious way things do for Selkie—with her talent for communicating and motivating, her personal journey, and also the initial hints of her psychic gift. The mix of folklore and ceremonies as well as modern life in Honolulu is irresistible. I loved seeing how Selkie’s friendship with Derek Delaney, a key character in the series, began. As always, Selkie is part of a circle, a network, not the go-it-alone type but someone whose nature is to make bonds. The twists in the plot kept coming long after I thought all the questions had been answered. Though some tragic events are woven through the plot, the story is about healing and reintegration for Selkie and for the people associated with the troubled house.

 

Review: What She Fears by Jane Gorman

This is the best so far in this series. Suspenseful, intriguing, and remarkably spare, the story is psychologically intense without needing violence to raise the stakes. The structure of the narrative reminded me of a well-made movie. I was fascinated by the choices the author made for point of view, and what to reveal and how. The suspects are numerous, evasive, and uncooperative. The manner in which Adam Kaminski gets involved in a murder investigation in Ireland seems like bad luck at first, but as his initial reason for the journey begins to collapse painfully, the chance to help solve someone else’s problem when he can’t solve his own gives him purpose and people to care about. As always in Gorman’s books, the setting is vivid and yet not over described, blended perfectly into each scene without a wasted word, and the characters are complex and memorable. I guessed early on who the killer was, but this didn’t spoil the story for me. I kept wondering if I was wrong, considering other possible suspects with equally strong motives.

The subplots relating to each of the point-of-view characters—Adam, the Irish detective superintendent investigating the death, and an archaeology professor with a complicated professional and private life—intersected with the mystery plot smoothly. While I wanted to know more about Adam’s personal life events, I admire the author’s choice to keep those scenes to a deft minimum, just enough to let a reader empathize and understand, but not enough to take the focus off the central question.

I look forward to more Adam Kaminski mysteries.

 

Review: Bacon’s Dozen by Anna Castle

This collection of thirteen stories is a must-read for fans of the Francis Bacon mysteries. Some of the short works are mysteries featuring Bacon. Others star major characters from the series, and one features the woman who does his laundry. My favorite series-linked short is All Englishmen Look Alike, not only for the colorful adventure, but for what it reveals that the main characters in the books don’t know. Yet.

The short works not related to the Bacon series are also historical with one exception. They range from the tale of a Mayan beekeeper coping with the arrival of the Spanish in Mexico to a Western caper set in northern New Mexico on Jicarilla Apache land. There’s also a sample Moriarty mystery, a chance to discover Castle’s other historical series. The non-historical exception is Extinction, a mystery with a subtle paranormal touch set in modern Austin TX. The Sneeze is a hybrid of modern Texas and Elizabethan England. If you’ve ever experienced the pollen of the Southwest in early spring, you’ll appreciate this one. Or if you’ve ever gotten lost in your research.

I strongly recommend this collection for an intelligent, original escape from 2020.

 

Review: Ant Farm by James M. Jackson

There’s nothing predictable or same-old-same-old about Seamus McCree or the kind of crime he investigates. He’s not a solo PI, but a former stock analyst working with a sophisticated group of investigators with expertise in financial crime.

Seamus is likeable and multi-dimensional. He’s a risk-taker when it comes to his own well-being and quite the opposite when it comes to his college-age son, Paddy, a computer whiz and hacker. The father-son relationship adds depth to the story.

I appreciated how the energy of the scenes and chapters was orchestrated, with a range from intense and adrenaline-pumping to quietly intriguing. The writing is tight and polished, the plot original, and the characters complex. The romantic subplot was a surprise but believable.

Ordinarily, I dislike the anonymous point of view. However, Jackson handles this device skillfully, giving the anonymous perpetrator enough of an identity and personality that one senses a person driving the events rather than the author playing tricks on the reader. In many books that use this device, the villain’s POV scenes could be subtracted without losing anything except spoilers. In Ant Farm, the anonymous POV chapters create a suspenseful layer of events in which the plot advances. I’m impressed.

And I’m looking forward to the next book in the series. I’ll be buying it as soon as it’s liberated from Kindle Unlimited, along with the rest of the series. It won’t be too much longer. Meanwhile, Ant Farm is free on all e-book retail sites.

Books from Four Authors #Free and #99cents

I hope you’re all well and safe and getting through as well as possible in the strange and stressful new normal. Should you need more books to read …

The Calling is still free, Shaman’s Blues is 99 cents, and the other books in the Mae Martin Psychic Mystery series are $2.99 each. No murder, just mystery. Three other authors—Jean Gill, Kristin Gleeson, and Virginia King—are also offering one book free and another for 99 cents. We’re an international group and can take you to other times and many places. Gill writes historical fiction and fantasy; Gleeson’s books are also historical; and King’s books are women’s fiction with a touch of mystery and mythology. Enjoy the escape.

Sending positive energy,

Amber

Laying Ghosts

The First Lie

When an urgent text message from a long-lost friend lures Selkie Moon to a deserted beach house, chilling events from the past wrap her in ghostly fingers and herald a journey of self-discovery that takes her around the world.

 

Selkie Dreams

The Hostage of Glenorchy

 

 

 

Song at Dawn 

Set in 1150 in Provence… On the run from abuse, Estela wakes in a ditch with only her lute, her amazing voice, and a dagger hidden in her underskirt.

Queen of the Warrior Bees

YA eco-fantasy. A current finalist in The Wishing Shelf Awards.