Fiction review: Death the Halls

Death the Halls is one of the Christmas thriller-suspense novellas in the Mistletoe and Murder collection.

Wow! Adam Blumer’s Christmas novella grabbed me from the very first sentence: “Lauren Henry had fantasized about romance during this Christmas break, but she never dreamed she’d end up in the arms of a killer.” It takes off, quite literally, as Lauren is riding on a snowmobile, kidnapped by the man behind her.

The next chapter explains how she knows he is a killer and what happens to her in this just-before-Christmas story. Lauren’s boyfriend, James, is about to meet the family, including Grandma. But, there’s someone already in the house—actually two someones with guns and ski masks. In only a few minutes, one person is dead and another is on the floor, covered in blood. One of the men kidnaps Lauren, while the other guy watches out for her dad and boyfriend.

The action keeps going throughout this murder mystery suspense novel. For me, not only was the story and the pace captivating but also the little details, like the garage of old muscle cars, the woman on oxygen, and a scene at the bank. Who is behind the kidnapping? Why kidnap Lauren?

On Christmas Eve, we find James and Lauren together—at gunpoint. What else happens? You’ll have to read it for yourself.

And as you savor the satisfying ending, you might want to sit next to a fire with a cup of hot chocolate.

This is a wonderful short book, fast-paced, and the ending is perfect. Adam Blumer writes very well. I would definitely recommend Death the Halls. Five stars.

Also, I have read some of the other authors and can hardly wait to read their contributions to Mistletoe and Murder.

Fiction review: The Perks of Meddling

Christy Barritt’s The Perks of Meddling is Book 2 in her Sidekick’s Survival Guide Mysteries. It begins like this: “If there was one thing my mama had taught me, it was to mind my own business. My dad, on the other hand, had told me that meddling when done correctly, could change the world.”

Elliot Ransom goes to work with private investigators Driscoll and Associates. Oscar Driscoll is an interesting boss who fires Elliot about once a week. When a client is refused for her lack of money, Elliot makes this woman’s business her business.

The woman is Rebecca Morrison and her sister, Trina, has been missing for several weeks. Rebecca says she thinks the Beltway Killer is responsible. This sends a shiver up Elliot’s spine, but it only makes her more determined to find Trina.

So begins the adventure. It gets complicated with Elliot’s co-worker Michael and a police detective aptly named Hunter. Whom can she trust? She certainly can’t trust Trina’s old boyfriend Keith.

The situations get crazy and dangerous, and Elliot almost ends up dead—more than once.

You’ll want to read The Perks of Meddling.

It might even motivate you to meddle in the right way—and change the world.

Five stars.

I loved this story so much that I have read the first four books in this series and have preordered the fifth, The Skill of Snooping, which will finally wrap up Elliot’s worst two issues. They are, in order: The Art of Eavesdropping, The Perks of Meddling (reviewed today), The Exercise of Interfering, The Practice of Prying, and The Skill of Snooping. I’m sure you’ll enjoy this clean and exciting series as much as I have.

Fiction review: No Filter

No Filter is Book 1 in the The Barks and Beans Café Mystery Series, by Heather Day Gilbert.

Macy is a recently divorced young woman who goes back home to Lewisburg, WV to undertake a new business venture with her brother, Bo. It’s a novel idea—pun totally intended—mixing dog petting with a coffee shop. Bo’s former career had made him perfect for the coffee part, and the brother and sister think, if people get attached to the shelter dogs, some of them will get adopted into good homes. The Barks and Beans Café is a brand new start for two young adults who need it. Macy says yes.

She soon moves into her deceased aunt’s house, and she and Bo go into business. The Barks and Beans appeals to the up and comings as well as the established people in town, and the mysteries begin.

The golf instructor is dead, “whacked in the head with a golf club and found face down in a shallow pond.”

Macy soon adopts a gorgeous black Great Dane, and he happens to have belonged to the murdered man.

The more Macy gets involved, the more danger she’s in. The suspect list gets longer and longer. Something just doesn’t add up.

Soon, Macy’s dog is missing.

Despite her brother’s protective warnings, Macy goes out on her own. Not only is she looking for the dog, she’s looking for the killer.

Poor Alice never gets to taste the eclairs.

This book is a page-turner, for sure. Twists, turns, and as many suspects as an Agatha Christie novel. There are lots of quirky people from all walks of life. You won’t be disappointed.

I was thoroughly entertained, on the edge of my seat, and loving every minute of this novel. The end partially wraps things up, leaving plenty of room for a sequel—which is already written. (Iced Over is Book 2. Fair Trade is Book 3.)

Mrs. Gilbert’s writing is excellent. This book is squeaky clean in every way—except for murder, of course. She doesn’t even leave out tea drinkers and cat people. Do you enjoy art? There’s some of that, too.

You will love it. Easily five stars.

Fiction Review: The Edge of Mercy

The Edge of Mercy by Heidi Chiavaroli begins when Sarah is on a huge rock and accidentally drops and loses her wedding rings. Her husband has asked her for a summer separation, and worse, he’s invited their teenage son to spend it with him.

Sarah is mad, perplexed, and doesn’t understand at all. Why would Matt need a break from her? Sarah thought everything was going well. No way is she going to talk to Matt about it either. He needed to come to her.

They live in a very nice house with a beautifully manicured lawn. Their son, Kyle, is terrific, and Sarah had thought everything was fine.

Sarah’s neighbor lady dies, and in her will are several surprises. In order not to spoil, I don’t want to tell you more. You simply need to read this.

The parallel stories–one historical, the other Sarah’s–are incredible. The way Ms. Chiavaroli weaves the historical story with the present is masterful.

I loved the stories. The writing is superb, and there’s a wonderful, satisfying ending. I definitely look forward to reading more from this author.

Five stars.

Advisory: While this is a clean story with good moral tone, it is only for mature adults. There is some sensuality in both married and extra-marital contexts. Nothing is graphic, but I personally wouldn’t want a young teenager to read this one.

Fiction Review: Grace Like A River Flows

Grace Like A River Flows is the first book I’ve read by R. Marshall Wright. I look forward to reading more.

Billy Maddox is the proverbial “meaner than a junkyard dog” kind of person. He beats his girlfriend, abuses liquor, and leaves his trash around his badly kept home.

Glencoe is a nice little town, but the Oaks—where Billy lives—is across the tracks and another story entirely. Not even the police like going there.

Brad and his dog Beasley find out Billy is beating Heather, and Brad decides to do something about it. His methods may not be acceptable to the law but they’re effective, and the sheriff doesn’t mind a little bit of help. Brad becomes the conscience of those who act like Billy, and there are several in this town who need his special voice to their consciences.

Reagan Lamb is the pastor at Glencoe Community Church. He has a big heart and an excellent grasp of the gospel. He knows Jesus can transform lives and wants his congregation to get a taste of revival. Reagan’s one vice—if you can call it that—is driving his 1991 Miata sportscar … fast. He has a good marriage and a solid home. If only his church could get a vision for its community.

He answers the call to go and see Heather in the hospital. He can hardly recognize her, since her face is bruised and swollen.

Brad goes to work with his unique brand of “angelic” persuasion, and Pastor Reagan gets busy, too. The Oaks might never be the same.

I absolutely loved this book. For one thing, it has heart—a gospel-centered heart. It is also fast-paced and story-driven.

The writing is not without a few grammar and spelling mistakes, and it uses some crude words (no cursing). Also, there’s some violence, and there are references to bodily functions. But, this is one of the few books I have read where those flaws and my personal preferences didn’t disturb my great enjoyment. Maybe it’s the substance over style thing, but maybe it’s just that it’s a great read, period.

I wish Mr. Wright would have gotten this book professionally edited, but truthfully, it’s charming as it is. His pastor’s heart and down-to-earth style, coupled with his military background, make this a good read for any Christian.

Mr. Wright has written at least two more books. I look forward to reading them.

Five stars for sure.