“Don’t believe a word” by Patricia MacDonald

In the 1990s I read several titles by Patricia MacDonald. They were all suspense novels that I quite enjoyed.  So… when I saw a book by this author offered on NetGalley, I jumped to request it, to see if I still appreciated this author’s work.

Gladly, I found I do! “Don’t believe a word” is a fast-paced suspense novel that held my interest throughout.

When we first meet Eden Radley, our protagonist, she is living in Brooklyn, New York and working as an associate editor for a small publishing house. Quite a coup, as she is only twenty-seven years old.  She is quite close to her father, but is mostly estranged from her mother who left the family to marry a younger man – back when Eden was still a teenager.

Her mother has not had an easy time of it however, as she gave birth to a son with Katz-Ellison disease.  When she tries to get in touch with Eden, Eden refuses.  She still harbors resentment for her mother’s abandonment.

Then, the worst happens.  Eden is told that her mother and young step-brother have perished in a ‘murder-suicide’.  Her mother’s husband was out of town at the time that they were both asphyxiated by carbon monoxide. Eden travels to Cleveland for their funeral and suffers extreme guilt for not accepting her mother’s wish for a closer relationship.  Now… it is too late.

Back in New York, her boss calls her in to his office.  It seems that her stepfather has written a biographical novel about his life with her mother and their young, disabled son. He has requested that Eden be his editor.  Given the fact that the ‘murder-suicide’ has recently been newsworthy, the novel comes with built-in PR.  The offer is a double-edged sword for Eden.  If she agrees to work on the book, she will feel like a traitor to her father.  If she doesn’t work on the book, she will kiss any career aspirations good-bye.

Against her better judgement, she travels to Cleveland once again to meet with Flynn Darby, her stepfather – whom she never met until her mother’s funeral.  While there she is visited by some insurance investigators who let her know that they are looking into Flynn Darby’s claim on the multi-million dollar life insurance policy on her mother’s and step-brother’s life.  She realizes that Darby has used her.  Now that she has signed the contract to act as his editor, she cannot help them in their investigation which has now raised a red flag to Eden.  After some questioning of her mother’s friends and doctor, Eden goes to the police with her concerns.  She is firmly sent away with the words “Case Closed”.

She believes Flynn Darby’s alibi to be suspect.  She is sure that her mother would never harm her young son, no matter how desperate she might have become. With her career in jeopardy, Eden tries to seek justice for her mother and step-brother and succeeds in putting herself in mortal danger.

Don’t believe a word” is a quick, enjoyable read.  Like any suspense novel worth its salt, it contains a few plot twists that I did not anticipate – which in turn led to a satisfactory ending.  I think anyone who enjoys the suspense genre will appreciate this book.

If you think that you might enjoy this novel, add it to your Goodreads TBR!

I received a digital copy of this novel from Severn House Publishers via NetGalley.

From Severn House Publishers:
Patricia Macdonald‘s darkly hypnotic tales have captivated readers across America, as well as in France, where she is a #1 bestselling author. Her previous novels include Suspicious Origin, Stranger in the House, Not Guilty, and the Edgar Award-nominated The Unforgiven. She lives with her husband and daughter in New Jersey, where she is working on her next novel.

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Cover Love: part 26 – Small boats

The covers of novels entice the reader to enter a different world. Covers are, after all, the way the publisher hooks the reader into choosing one book over countless others.

In this, my twenty-sixth installment of ‘Cover Love‘, I’d like to show you books that feature small boats on their covers.

Empty boats can be inviting and restful, or ominous and foreboding… Here you will see examples of both these and many more.

Some of the following books I’ve already read, some are on my ‘to read’ list,
and some I chose only for their covers.

Some, perhaps, will now be on your TBR!

Just click on the cover to read the book’s synopsis from  Goodreads.

You might just find your next favorite book!

Stay tuned for Cover Love Part 27: “Empty swings“

or… revisit any of the first twenty-five installments of

Cover Love – some of which I’ve updated recently

Posted in Cover Love series, Dustjackets | Tagged | 15 Comments

“Taking on water” by David Rawding

I chose to read this novel because one of the protagonists is a lobsterman.  Since I live in Nova Scotia, where lobster fishing is a huge industry, I thought it would be fun to read a mystery centered around this physically demanding, arduous way of making a living.


When James Morrow, a social worker, first meets Kevin Flynn, he suspects the teen is being abused. To learn more about Kevin’s home life, he gets to know the boy’s father, Tucker, who’s a lobsterman. James is able to put his suspicions to rest, and the two families begin to form a friendship.

When a kid at the local recreation center dies of an overdose, Detective Maya Morrow adds the case to the long list related to the drug problem plaguing the small New Hampshire coastal town of Newborough. But her investigation gets her much too close to the dangerous players.

Both the Morrows and the Flynns are holding dark secrets, and when their lives collide, tragedy is inevitable.

Let me introduce you to the two male protagonists in “Taking on water”.

The main protagonist is James Morrow.  A social worker, James works for New Hampshire Child Protective Services.  He is married to Maya, one of the town’s only black female police detectives.  Crazy about each other, they are trying to have a baby. In his free time James volunteers at a Youth Recreation center.  James comes from a dysfunctional family where his father was an abusive alcoholic. Like his father before him, James has anger management issues which he struggles daily to keep under control.

“We are the products of our memories, for better or worse. They make us into the people we are.”

When James meets Kevin, a young boy with bruises at the rec center, he fears the boy may be abused, so he contrives to meet Kevin’s parents.  He learns that he is mistaken about the abuse, but finds a new friend in lobsterman Tucker Flynn. Tucker takes James out on his boat, and the two couples socialize.

Tucker Flynn, is a lifelong fisherman, married with a young son. (He had two sons, but the eldest one died). He inherited his lobster license and boat ‘Periwinkle‘ from his father. Along with these, he inherited loads of debt and is in danger of losing his house.  A volatile man, he is now being threatened by a fellow fisherman, his lines are being cut, and his livelihood sabotaged. When a devastating storm hits, Tucker loses thousands of dollars worth of fishing gear. He is now a desperate man.

“Lady Justice seemed to lift up her blindfold and wink at the privileged.”

The novel is set in the small New Hampshire coastal town of Newborough. Heroin is taking its toll on the small community.  Maya has been involved in the arrest of one of the supposed dealers, but fears that this is just the tip of the iceberg.  A man jumps to his death from the town’s bridge.  A teenager overdoses at the youth recreation center where James volunteers. Maya has a theory as to how the heroin is entering the town. Proving her theory may endanger everything she holds dear…

David Rawding’s writing has a wonderful flow.  Nothing stilted or contrived – with equal skill at dialogue and narrative. The characters were fully rendered with a mixture of attitudes, thoughts, and past memories making them very ‘real’ for the reader. The plot itself had a realistic feel that I appreciated and I am very anxious to read more work by this author. This is a novel about the lengths desperate men will go to when they feel they have nothing left to lose.  About how avarice breeds corruption, and how corruption can undermine even the most altruistic.

For me, the ending let the novel down in one respect.  Since I never include ‘spoilers’ in my reviews, I can say only that the personality and moral fiber of one of the main characters changed drastically from what it was throughout the rest of the novel.  This change seemed hard for me to come to grips with. Also, I must warn you that if you like books where ‘they all lived happily ever after‘, then this book is NOT for you.

You WILL enjoy it if you like crime thrillers that are well-written and have complex characters. Recommended!

I received a complimentary digital copy of this novel from Red Adept Publishing via NetGalley in consideration of an unbiased review.David Rawding is the son of a lobster fisherman. He has a BA in English from The University of New Hampshire and an MFA in Fiction from Southern New Hampshire University. He has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, and his short stories have been published in numerous literary journals and magazines. David spent three years as a fly-fishing guide in Alaska, worked several years at a non-profit for at-risk youth, was an online adjunct professor, and has a litany of other jobs in his wake. When he’s not writing, he enjoys traveling the world with a backpack and a fly rod.

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“The gift” by Louise Jensen

“Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t after you.” – Joseph Heller 

There is a fine line between paranoia and fear.  Does fear breed paranoia? Or, does paranoia breed fear?

Jenna McCauley is a thirty year old woman who has recently had a heart transplant. A victim of viral myocarditis, she was advised that a transplant was her only option. She is heavily medicated with anti-rejection drugs and is emotionally fragile.  Jenna broke up with her fiance Sam telling him she doesn’t love him anymore – while really initiating the break up so that Sam will be free of her, thus ensuring that he will find someone without all the baggage that now accompanies her.

Jenna’s world has shrunken.  Since the transplant she rarely leaves her apartment. She laments her breakup with Sam and the breakup of her parents who separated shortly after her illness. Now, six months have passed and it is time to return to her work as a veterinary nurse. To celebrate her return to work, her mother treats her to a new hairstyle.  She chooses a much shorter pixie cut and dyes her hair red.

Against the wishes of her parents, friends, and psychiatrist, Jenna wants to make contact with the family of the donor, whose heart now beats in her chest.  They warn that such contact will be not only unethical, but it could impede her own recovery as well.  Ignoring their warnings, Jenna feels an intense need to know more about her donor, Callie.

She experiences survivor’s guilt and wonders why she lived and Callie died.

Jenna begins to have dreams and memories that can only belong to Callie.  She dreams of two little girls on a beach playing with a pink bucket and spade… She does some research online and she learns that “Cellular memory” is a ‘thing’.  A scientific theory that memories and preferences can be stored in cells of the organs as well as the brain. Her doctors dismiss this theory and tell her it is just the prednisone medication she is on – coupled with the stress and trauma of the transplant that is causing her paranoia and dreams.

“The heart remembers”

These dreams and memories become more and more disturbing until she questions that Callie’s death was not just a car accident, but something much, much, more…  She befriends Callie’s boyfriend and parents who remark on her similar hairstyle and colour to Callie’s.   She becomes obsessed with the girl who gave her life.  She visits where she worked, and talks to Callie’s co-workers.

She begins to question herself and wonders if she is losing her mind.  Her paranoia colours her days. She fears that someone is watching her, following her. When someone breaks in to her apartment and rearranges the magnetic letters on her fridge to read “Stop Digging”, she realizes that the threat is not just in her head.

With plot twists and breath-taking suspense, the story moves quickly to a pivotal scene…

An epic plot climax in an abandoned fairground, causes the suspense to heighten even more and make the reader question who are the good guys and who are the bad guys. “The Gift” is a fast-paced novel that will be appreciated by all who love suspense-packed psychological thrillers.

I received a digital copy of this novel from Bookouture via NetGalley.

Last year I read Louise Jensen’s debut novel “The sister” (which I liked even more than “The Gift”.)  You can read my review of “The sister” HERE.

Louise Jensen always wanted to be Enid Blyton when she grew up, and when that didn’t happen she got a ‘proper’ job instead.

Several years ago an accident left Louise with a disability and she began writing once again, to distract her from her pain and compromised mobility. But writing turned out to be more than just a good distraction. Louise loves creating exciting worlds, dark characters, and twisted plots.

Louise lives in Northamptonshire with her husband, sons, a madcap spaniel and a rather naughty cat, and also teaches mindfulness.

Posted in book reviews, NetGalley title, Psychological thrillers, Suspense | Tagged , , | 19 Comments

“Delivering the truth” by Edith Maxwell

Nominated for the Agatha Award for Best Historical Novel 

Blurb from Goodreads:

Quaker midwife Rose Carroll hears secrets and keeps con­fi­dences as she attends births of the rich and poor alike in an 1888 Massachusetts mill town. When the town’s world-famed car­riage indus­try is threat­ened by the work of an arson­ist, and a car­riage fac­tory owner’s adult son is stabbed to death with Rose’s own knitting needle, she is drawn into solv­ing the mys­tery. Things get dicey after the same owner’s mis­tress is also mur­dered, leav­ing her one-week-old baby with­out a mother. The Quaker poet and abolitionist John Greenleaf Whittier helps Rose by lending words of advice and support. While strug­gling with being less than the per­fect Friend, Rose draws on her strengths as a counselor and prob­lem solver to bring two mur­der­ers to justice before they destroy the town’s carriage industry and the people who run it.

One of the great things about reading historical fiction is that you learn so much.  I am not ashamed to admit that before reading this novel I knew next to nothing about Quakers. And I’m also not ashamed to admit that the constant use of ‘thy‘ and ‘thee‘ got to be more than a little annoying while reading the book.  That being said, it was necessary to maintain the authenticity of the speech of “The Friends”.

The novel takes place shortly after The Great Blizzard of 1888.

Set in Amesbury, Massachusetts in early April of 1888, the novel features Quaker midwife Rose Carroll.  At twenty-six years of age, she is unmarried, but has a ‘beau’, Doctor David Dodge. Rose is a strong, observant, forthright, and intelligent woman who lives in the same house as her brother-in-law and his children after the recent death of her sister.  She works as midwife to women of all social status, and she is very skilled at what she does.

“Women giving birth go down into death and bring forth life.”

Given that she sees women from all walks of life, it is understandable then that she also inadvertently overhears secrets…

John Greenleaf Whittier

Rose is a contemporary of the famous poet and abolitionist, John Greenleaf Whittier, who is an elder in the ‘Society of Friends‘, and acts as her mentor. A devout Quaker, Rose realizes that non-Quakers have a hard time understanding her faith.

“I have been explaining the odd ways of Friends for twenty some years, ever since I became aware of our differences from the rest of the world.”

There has been a deadly fire which has burned many of the town’s world famous carriage companies and incurred much loss of life.  The town relied heavily on the thriving carriage industry and the townsfolk are appalled that it may have been set deliberately! When she aids in the apprehension of a criminal, a local policeman enlists Rose to keep her ear to the ground to help in finding the arsonist.

Then, the peaceful town experiences the unthinkable.  The son of one of the most prominent carriage makers has been murdered!  When Rose learns that the murder weapon was one of her own cherished knitting needles, her own reputation is in jeopardy!

Soon after, one of Rose’s newly delivered mothers is also murdered.  Rose is determined that since the police seem to have no luck in solving these crimes, it is up to her to do so.

In addition to the crimes portrayed, I enjoyed reading of Rose’s personal dilemma and thought it added greatly to the story. She is torn about her relationship with Doctor David Dodge.  The obstacles and problems that an interfaith marriage would produce are daunting, and could have long-lasting repercussions to a Quaker woman.

Well researched historical detail adds to the allure of this ‘cozy’ mystery. The time period of this novel was when women had few, if any rights.  A time when childbirth often took the life of the new mother and when infant mortality rates were high. A time when technology in the home meant that your sink had a pump right beside it, instead of the need of carrying water in from a well. A time before fingerprints were used in the apprehension of criminals and a time LONG before DNA testing.

As I mentioned earlier, Rose is a strong, independent thinking woman in a time when women were expected to meekly adhere to a man’s point of view.  For that I quite admired her.  On the other hand, I found Rose to be a bit too selfless and noble to be quite believable.  Perhaps her Quaker customs and way of thinking were just too vastly different from life as I’ve experienced it…

This is the first novel in the author’s Quaker Midwife series.  I don’t think this is a series I will pursue, but I did enjoy this book and liked the suspense-filled climax and I appreciated the satisfactory ending.  I think it will be relished by those who like spunky heroines and historical mysteries that are cozy, yet well-plotted.

I received a digital copy of this novel from Midnight Ink via NetGalley.

Some Quaker ‘Quick Facts’ you may not know: (it was all new to me)

  • Quakers address everyone by their first name as they believe everyone is equal in the eyes of God regardless of their race, gender, religion, or social station.
  • Quaker ‘meetings’ are silent affairs with no singing or preaching.  They believe that God is within everyone and they utilize this silent time to reflect and accept God’s inner light.
  • Quakers do not drink alcoholic beverages of any kind.
  • Quakers do not use the common names for the days of the week.  They use First Day, Second Day, etc.  Months are referred to as First Month, Second Month, etc.
  • Quakers dress plainly and usually in dark colours.  This is an extension of their beliefs in moral purity, integrity, honesty, simplicity and humility.
  • Quakers do not act in a reactionary way – they wait for situations to rest and evolve before making any decisions.  They are strongly opposed to warfare.

Some further reading on Quakers.

Agatha-nominated and Amazon bestselling author Edith Maxwell writes the Quaker Midwife Mysteries and the Local Foods Mysteries, as well as award-winning short crime fiction. As Maddie Day she authors the Country Store Mysteries and the Cozy Capers Book Group Mysteries. She also wrote two Lauren Rousseau Mysteries (as Tace Baker). Maxwell lives north of Boston, in Amesbury, Massachusetts. She has two grown sons, and lives in an antique house with her beau, their three cats, and several fine specimens of garden statuary.

You can also find her at www.edithmaxwell.com, @edithmaxwell, and on Facebook.

Posted in 1st in series, book reviews, Christian fiction, Historical fiction, Mystery fiction, NetGalley title | Tagged , | 4 Comments

Cover Love: part 25 – Dandelions

The covers of novels entice the reader to enter a different world. Covers are, after all, the way the publisher hooks the reader into choosing one book over countless others.

In this, my twenty-fifth installment of ‘Cover Love‘, I’d like to show you books that feature dandelions on their covers.

The ephemeral quality of the dandelion clock lends itself to many genres of fiction.

A topic particularly fitting for spring as many of us wage war on the little lawn invaders.  They are beautiful, but are better viewed in a farmer’s field than in our own backyards. LOL

Some of the following books I’ve already read, some are on my ‘to read’ list,
and some I chose only for their covers.

Some, perhaps, will now be on your TBR!

Just click on the cover to read the book’s synopsis from  Goodreads.

You might just find your next favorite book!

Stay tuned for Cover Love Part 26: “small boats

or… revisit any of the first twenty-four installments of

Cover Love – some of which I’ve updated recently

What is your favorite ‘Cover Love‘ series post so far?

Have you found anything to add to your TBR?

I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

Posted in Cover Love series, Dustjackets | Tagged | 28 Comments

“Death of a ghost” by M.C. Beaton

Blurb from Goodreads:

There are many ruined castles in Scotland. One such lies outside the village of Drim. Hamish begins to hear reports that this castle is haunted and lights have been seen there at night, but he assumes it’s some children or maybe the local lads going there to smoke pot, or, worse, inject themselves with drugs. Hamish says to his policeman, Charlie ‘Clumsy’ Carson, that they will both spend a night there.

The keening wind explains the ghostly noises, but when Charlie falls through the floor, Hamish finds the body of a dead man propped up in a corner of the cellar. After Charlie is airlifted to the hospital, Chief Detective Inspector Blair arrives to investigate the body, but there is none to be found. Dismissed as a drunk making up stories, Hamish has to find and identify the body and its killer before the “ghost” can strike again.

When the publisher invited me to review M.C. Beaton’s latest Hamish Macbeth mystery I thought “Why not?”  In the 1980s I read the first five of the series and remembered them as light, entertaining, ‘cozy’ police procedural mysteries.  Now, these many years later, the author has penned the 32nd novel featuring Hamish Macbeth and little has changed.  I ask myself is that good or bad?

Macbeth is still on the ‘right side of forty’.  He is still long, lanky, red-headed, and as unambitious as he ever was.  His love of his remote Sutherland village, Lockdubh is still as true as ever.  Detective Chief Inspector Blair is still the bane of Hamish’s life. He eschews female company after having his heart broken by the beautiful Priscilla whom I remember from those early novels and who is STILL in evidence in this one.  He adores his menagerie of animals which includes his dogs, Lugs and Sally, his wildcat, Sonsie, and various hens, sheep, etc.  He likes nothing better than taking his dogs and spending the day fishing in the loch.

Village – Sutherland, Scotland

The problem?  Hamish Macbeth is clever.  That cleverness combined with his Highland instinct/intuition ensures that he invariably solves all the crime that Lochdubh and the surrounding environs has to offer.  He never takes credit for his crime solving though – in fear that he will be promoted out of his beloved village.

“It’s that great loon, Macbeth. He solves cases and lets someone else take the credit because he doesnae want to be promoted and lose his wee station in Lochdubh.”

And this is book #32!   Some things never change.  At times the characters were more like caricatures. Reading M.C. Beaton’s Hamish Macbeth is a bit like putting on an old pair of slippers that have the shape of your feet worn into them.  Comfortable, but not exciting.

The writing was, as ever, entertaining.  With many humorous scenes (crossing the line over into farce on several occasions), M.C. Beaton has found her niche and countless readers love her in it.  On the other hand, I found that this ‘sameness’ was just “ho-hum”. I read the book through in its entirety, but I probably won’t read another in this series.

I realize I’m probably in the minority here, but although I can understand why M.C. Beaton is a best-selling novelist, I fear this series has ‘run its course’.

I was invited to read and review this novel by the publisher Hachette/Grand Central Publishing; I received a digital copy from NetGalley on their invitation.

Here are a few Scottish slang words that I found (and enjoyed) in this novel:

drookit (adj.) – extremely wet, drenched, soaked with rain

stramash (n.) – an uproar, disturbance, racket

scunner (n.) – a strong dislike, irritating dislike


M.C. Beaton (a.k.a.Marion Chesney) was born in Glasgow, Scotland.
She began her writing career by authoring Regency romances. After she had written close to 100, and had gotten fed up with the 1811 to 1820 period, she began to write detective stories under the pseudonym of M. C. Beaton.
She is the prolific author of the best-selling Agatha Raisin mysteries (set in the Cotswolds) and the Hamish Macbeth mysteries (set in Scotland)

Posted in book reviews, Mystery fiction, NetGalley title | Tagged , , , | 14 Comments