Rally ‘Round the Corpse by Hy Conrad

I received this book in exchange for an honest review. You can view the Rally ‘Round the Corpse blog tour schedule right here.

Summary: In the series debut, “Rally ‘Round the Corpse,” we meet Amy Abel, two years after the death of her fiancé.
Amy needs a fresh start.  And what better way for a shy, risk-averse woman to start over than to sink her savings into a travel agency specializing in adventure.  Her first project?  A mystery road rally through the European countryside.
At the starting line in Monte Carlo, Amy finds herself attracted to Marcus Alvarez, the most mysterious of her two dozen game-loving clients.  But the rally gets off to a rocky start when an eccentric writer, the only person who knows the game’s solution, is himself murdered back in New York.
Weird accidents begin happening along the route and Amy discovers that this fictional mystery was based on a real, unsolved case, one that Marcus knows too much about.  Now she has no choice but to join forces with Fanny, her domineering mother, before the killer strikes again.
My thoughts: The idea of the mystery road rally is as charming as it sounds. Well, until all the murdering, of course. But that’s what made me love this book so much. The characters were interesting and the dialogue had me chuckling every two seconds. You hear mysteries described as thrilling, intense, gruesome. Even words like blood curdling are thrown in. But I’ve never enjoyed reading a suspense novel so much before. This book was pure fun, and that is a word I would rarely pair with the word mystery.
Not to mention, the very mystery is great, the plot is brilliantly crafted. It may be because I don’t read mysteries very often, but I doubt that was the reason I just couldn’t guess what was coming, however hard I tried. The plot twists and red herrings just keep coming. I was on the edge of my seat till the very end, which, by the way, did NOT disappoint. Very few writers could reveal the suspense the way the author has: surprising you so utterly, while still managing to be convincing.
A classic mystery fan is sure to love this book. But I do think that people who don’t usually read / enjoy reading mysteries should give this one a try – it might just change your opinion of the genre. It is a quick, engaging read, and I can’t think of a reason not to read it – grab your copies right here, while I wait for the next book in the series!

About the author: Best known for his work in mysteries, Hy was one of the
original writers for the groundbreaking series, Monk.  He
worked on the show for all eight seasons, the final two as Co-Executive
Producer, and received three Edgar Nominations from the Mystery Writers of
America for “Best TV Episode.” In a related project, Hy was Executive Producer
and head writer of Little Monk, a series of short films featuring
Adrian Monk as a ten-year-old.  His latest TV work was as writer and
Consulting Producer for White Collar.

Hy is also the author of hundreds of short stories and ten
books of short whodunits, which have been sold around the world in fourteen
languages.  Hy’s first full-length comedy/mystery play, Home
, premiered at the Waterfront Playhouse in Key West in May
2012.  He recently authored a humor book called Things
Your Dog Doesn’t Want You to Know. 
Visit the author’s website right here

Dangerous Past by A. F. Ebbers Virtual Tour – Review and Giveaway

I have received this book in exchange for an honest review.

To visit the rest of the virtual book tour stops, visit the Partners in Crime Tours page. 

Genre: Suspense, Thriller, Mystery
Published by: Silverhawk Books
Publication on: September 8th, 2011
Pages: 240

To win an e-copy of this fabulous book, scroll down.

About the author: A. F. Ebbers, a journalism graduate of Ohio University was a reporter/writer for major newspapers, ad agencies, and in public relations for Cessna Aircraft Company. He also graduated from Army Flight School and flew for the Ohio and Kansas Army National Guards. Later he was called to active duty and served two flying tours in Vietnam. After retirement from the military, he flew for corporations and for regional airlines. A dual rated ATP pilot, he has written for numerous national magazines, Sunday supplements and trade and travel magazines and has written screenplays and short stories. Today he lives with his wife in the Austin, Texas area and, when not writing, enjoys tennis, golf, flying and piano. Dangerous Past is his debut novel.

Summary: Airline Captain Frank Braden and his wife Nicole are suddenly stalked by professional assassins who have a deadline to make their deaths look like an accident or a suicide. And the couple doesn’t know why they are being targeted. They don’t realize that they stand in the way of a deadly conspiracy. Little by little they are pulled into a dangerous web of intrigue by a murderous criminal network that deceptively offers the pilot his wife’s life if he will concede to their demands. This is a thriller that rocks the highest levels of Washington.
Dangerous Past is a story of a man who must choose between doing what ought to be done or keeping his family alive by allowing a murderous and powerful VIP to escape his past.

My thoughts: I think it was Spider Robinson, who said (in Callahan’s Crosstime Saloon) that people should write about things that they know, irrespective of what those things are. I have paraphrased it, of course, what he said was definitely much funnier. I realized how true that was as I read this book. The author’s confidence with his own material is striking throughout the book and that makes it unlike most debut novels. The book is a page turner and can be read in one, exciting sitting.

The suspense is well maintained and quite frustrating (in a good way.) I could never figure out what was going to happen next and the author kept me well on the edge of my seat throughout the book. I loved the climax and the shocking revelations it brought. The theme of the book is also haunting and the title perfectly suits the story. The idea that someone can be so thoroughly framed is scary. The setting is very visual, and I liked the descriptions of Vietnam. The characters are convincing and not overly stereotypical. I liked the dialogue, I think very few authors can write good, realistic conversations.

My only problem with the book might have been the jumps in time and point of view and the confusion caused by them. Another thing was that the plot and action was at times a bit cliched and it felt too much like watching a movie. But in a combo of mystery, suspense, thriller, that is to be expected of most books.

Dangerous Past by A. F. Ebbers is a riveting read and I recommend fans of the genre as well as anyone looking for a fast read to try it out. You can buy it on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Rating: 3/5 – I liked it!

Giveaway: Answer a simple question right HERE.
One randomly chosen winner gets a free copy of the book. Provide your e-mail address within the answer and I will send one lucky entrant an eBook (format of your choice)!

The Krishna Key by Ashwin Sanghi

This review is a part of the Book Reviews Program at BlogAdda.com. Participate now to get free books!

Summary (from here.) The Krishna Key follows Ravi Mohan Saini, a historian, who has been accused of the murder of his childhood friend Anil Varshney. To clear his name and save his future, Saini must look to the past and uncover the truth about a serial killer that believes himself to be Kalki, the final avatar of Krishna. Saini has to travel from ancient ruins to Vrindavan temples in an attempt to discover one of Krishna’s treasures and stop his friend’s murderer.

(Krishna, by the way, is a Hindu god, who is supposed to be an incarnation of Vishnu, the preserver of the universe.)

My Thoughts: If I didn’t know better, I would have called Ashwin Sanghi’s The Krishna Key a fan-fiction. He is supposedly known as the Indian Dan Brown and it is apparent throughout the novel whom he draws his inspiration from.

It is one thing to be inspired by someone and entirely another to imitate someone. The author’s style is clearly inspired by the likes of Dan Brown, Robert Ludlum and others who write these kind of action-packed thrillers. Sure, he adopted someone else’s style, but he also made it his own. It was maintained throughout the book and did not seem out of place. I actually liked the writing. What I didn’t like was how weak the plot and characters were: mere shadows of characters created by others. The characters and their back-stories were too typical and it didn’t seem like the author had put much thought into creating them. The whole story seemed, at some points, like a framework the author designed to effectively write about his extensive research without making it a non-fiction book (which, come to think of it, I may have liked better.)

I loved the way the story was interspersed with accounts from Lord Krishna’s life, told by Lord Krishna. I’ve read reviews where people have said that they didn’t understand what that had to do with the plot, but I think it is a nice parallel that the author has drawn. On the one hand, they are trying to prove, today, that Krishna actually existed, and on the other, we have the Lord himself narrating what “actually happened.” It may not be what the author intended, but I could almost imagine the playful dark-skinned youth smirking as people ran around looking for his true story. That being said, had I ever thought about it, I would have imagined Krishna to have a more informal and fun writing style: I guess, it would have suited him more; but again, that’s just me.

I have to say, despite the problems I had with the plot and the characters, it’s a nice book. It’s not very filmy, there is no Hindi in the English (though there are the frequent errors that I’m going to blame on the editor) and it isn’t about today’s increasingly depressing urban life. The book is quick and not too long and to tell you the truth, whatever the author has copied, he has done it surprisingly well (copying can be done quite badly too, and we have a whole bunch horribly remade Bollywood movies to prove it.)

Indian mythology (or as the book seems to suggest, history) is very vast, fascinating and for anyone who hasn’t had to listen to stories of Krishna since they were two, it’s also very exotic. This is definitely a book that would interest anyone who likes historical fiction and quick paced, action-packed thrillers.

Grab your copy right here!

For Keeps by Aaron Paul Lazar

I received this book in exchange for an honest review from the author. I’ve been kind of busy lately so it took me a long time to get around to writing this review.

Summary (from here): When retired family
doctor Sam Moore’s old girlfriend is murdered in a local hotel, the police
suspect his involvement. The coroner, a former med school colleague whose
husband is about to desert her, reveals that she had a crush on Sam in med
school. When she is strangled the next day in her own morgue, Sam is once again
in the hot seat.

Sam’s world falls
apart when he returns home to find a family member killed in the laundry room,
stabbed with his own garden shears. Rocketed into a world of denial and
temporary insanity, Sam faces his worst fear, and is locked up in the very same
psych ward he was in when his brother Bill died fifty years ago. Sam is
determined to ask his long dead brother to help him. Billy, who
communicates through a little green marble, has the ability to propel Sam
through time and has helped Sam unwrap baffling mysteries in the past.
Sam’s plan: to
change time, and bring his loved one back to life.

My Thoughts: This is a pretty good book. Firstly, I was a bit worried that I was reading the third book in a series without having read the first two, but it didn’t matter at all. The writer has made this perfectly clear for anyone who is new to the series. It might as well be a standalone novel.

To tell you the truth, I didn’t know what to expect from the book and was pleasantly surprised. I am not really the biggest fan of mysteries and was very glad that this book is anything but a typical mystery. At the beginning, I can’t quite explain why, it seemed like the writer was trying too hard to impress. The writing style  took some time getting used to. However, the plot is fast paced and action packed and right from the very first page, the author dives into the story, revealing chunks of background information as we go along. The characters were great; one problem I had with the book was that they characters were, perhaps, too developed, if there is such a thing. Sam was too likable and a bit unrealistic, but maybe that’s just me. I loved the element of time travel. Anyone who has ever lost someone can relate to that feeling of helplessness and urge to bring back whoever’s lost, it’s a feeling that just haunts you. And to be able to go back in time and stop a tragedy is a fabulous idea.

This is usually where I recommend a book to fans of that genre. But I have no idea what category a book that deals with love, sadness, loss, the supernatural, suspense, murder and gory stuff all well combined together falls into. So I’m just going to recommend it to anyone looking for a quick, engaging read. Grab your copy here!

Fire Baptized by Kenya Wright

I received this book in exchange for an honest review from the author.

Summary (partly from here): Since
the 1970s humans have forced supernaturals to live in caged cities. Silver
brands embedded in their foreheads identify them by species. Lanore Vesta
is marked with a silver X, the brand of Mixbreeds, second-class citizens
shunned by society. She stays to herself, revealing her ability to create fire
only during emergencies. All she wants to do is graduate college and stop
having to steal to survive. But when she stumbles upon a murder in progress,
she catches the attention of a supernatural killer. Now all she wants is to
stop finding dead bodies in her apartment. Enlisting help from her
Were-cheetah ex-boyfriend MeShack and a new mysterious friend named Zulu, she
is steered through the habitat’s raunchy nightlife. But their presence
sometimes proves to be more burden than help, as they fight for her
The book has a fast pace, it begins with action, rather than
an introduction to this new world we’re in. The characters are strong and
realistic, in that, in spite of the stereotypical traits, they do manage to
surprise you. The book deals with race and gender and discrimination in a clear
way, without overdoing any of it. I found the romance, sex and the love
triangle a bit overdone, unnecessary and irritating, but that may just be
because I don’t like romance novels. I couldn’t say the idea of this book
is different or new, because I can’t really confirm that, but it is genuine. It
makes sense and it seems complete and well thought out. It also creates a
perfect place to set a series in, with endless possibilities. I would love to
find out what happens next! 
Let me just say: this is not the kind of book that I usually
read. I can think of many people who can overlook the problems I had with it
and find it amazing. If you’re a fan of paranormal romance, urban fantasy fiction,
contemporary fiction, do make it a point to read this book – it’s one of the
better ones. For me, though, it’s both good and bad at the same time. It’s the
first book in a series, and the one thing that makes me lean more towards
calling it good, is the fact that I definitely want to read the sequel. And I hope you do too, because Book Two, titled The Burning Book is coming out in mid-September.  
You can buy Fire Baptized (Book One) here. Go read it before the next one comes out! For more reviews, visit Goodreads.

The Devotion of Suspect X by Keigo Higashino

I received this book in exchange for an honest review through Blogadda.

The Devotion of Suspect X is a Japanese crime thriller first published in 2005. It is the third and the most acclaimed book in Keigo Higashino’s Galileo series. The first two chapters tell us, the readers, of the murder that is committed by single mother Yasuko Hanaoka and the cover-up designed by her strange and mysterious neighbour, a genius mathematician called Tetsuya Ishigami. The murder has the police completely puzzled. And it is upto detective Kunasagi, assisted by physicist Manabu Yuwaka (Galileo) to figure out just what happened.

(What I liked) Usually, twist endings in crime novels leave me thinking; “What!! Did that just happen?”. They almost always make me wonder if the writer just got tired of coming up with a decent ending. It’s safe to say, that there are very few unexpected turns of events that I actually like. But this one was one of those few. As a reader, you are an observer of a story, which is carefully veiled. The veil is lifted slightly every so often, but never quite so much that you know exactly what is happening. The author does a great job of maintaining the suspense, of not letting on too much, without making you impatient. Every page gives a little more information, and every page creates a new question.

This was also one of the few psychological thrillers I have read, where the hero isn’t suffering from an actual mental disorder. And yet, it was also the most thrilling, in that respect. I know people who don’t like mysteries/crime novels because you don’t get anything valuable out of them. I disagree, because the biggest reason I read is to just get lost in a new kind of world. But this book had a lot more to offer than just that. It was highly unrealistic in many places, but at the same time, it said something about human nature that is uncannily real. I couldn’t tell you that without disclosing the best parts of the book, so let me just leave it at this; the book has the most apt title! Plot-wise, I think The Devotion of Suspect X by Keigo Higashino was really quite fabulous.

That being said, I did not exactly love the book.

(What I did not like) Firstly, let me just say, I might have enjoyed this book a tad bit more, if I could have read the original. It was obvious in many places, that this was a translation. The sentence construction was awkward. Another thing I did not like was that it seemed too much like an unrealistic and cheesy detective movie. Crime fiction is so vast a genre, and has seen so many bests over the years, that it must be hard to write something that would count as different. The scenes were repetitive and it seemed to me, as if I was viewing a combination of all the crime dramas there on TV these days.
Which brings me to the next thing; the book read like a movie script at times; and that, according to me, is the worst thing when it comes to a thriller.
It was also kind of weird, how the writer kept explaining every thing over and over again, from the different perspectives of all the different characters. It was almost as if he assumed the readers were too stupid to figure things out on their own.
The characters had the potential to be much better than they actually were; much more developed. But somehow I kept thinking that the author was juggling a lot more characters and viewpoints than he should have been.

It’s not the worst book I’ve read, but it’s certainly not the best. I would recommend people to read this book, for all the good parts. But I would like to remind you, 2 million people might even be wrong; Twilight taught us that!

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The Little Drummer Girl by John le Carre

Reading John le Carre always makes me realize that a good mystery does not need to be fast-paced. In this book, as well, le Carre takes his time introducing us to the different characters and creating an apt background for the story that is about to begin. I like the slow-ish pace, because the writing is engaging and the descriptions are very close to real. That being said, the book is certainly action-packed. The opening scene itself is a carefully arranged bombing that takes place in Berlin, which leads to the events of the book.

As with all his books, le Carre’s characters are introduced and depicted with skill. I really do appreciate the kind of effort the author takes to make his settings seem not only realistic but also relatable to the common readers. The central character in this story is woman named Charlie; the little drummer girl; a mediocre English actress, a flower-child/gypsy of sorts, who is recruited by the Israeli intelligence to track down a Palestenian agent. Her role in this ‘theater of real’ is that of a terrorist’s lover, whose brother they are trying to capture.

“Her name was actually Charmain, but she was known to everyone as “Charlie”, and often as “Charlie the Red” in deference to the colour of her hair and to her somewhat crazy radical stances, which were her way of caring for the world and coming to grips with its injustices. She was the outsider of a rackety troupe of young British acting people who slept in a tumbledown farmhouse half a mile inland and descended to the shore in a shaggy, close-knit family that never broke up. How they had come by the farmhouse in the first place – how they had come to be on the island at all – was a miracle to all of them, though as actors they derived no surprise from miracles.”

The writing, as you can see, is descriptive; and there’s a tinge of dry humour to all of it. In what outwardly seems like just another mystery, the author talks about morality and identity; it’s not a book about political conflicts; but about how these conflicts affect the people. Now I haven’t read any other spy novelists, like Graham Greene or others, so I am no expert on spy stories. But, I do read a lot of mysteries and this is one of the best ones I’ve read.

Children of the Street by Kwei Quartey

I received this book in exchange for an honest review through Netgalley.

“In the world of homelessness, poverty, and desperation, you fight for survival, and there are no polite limits to the fight.”

Children of the Street is a mystery novel by Kwei Quartey. It is the second book (after Wife of the Gods) in the Inspector Darko Dawson series.
Rating: 4/5

Summary: Darko Dawson works as an inspector in Accra, the capital of Ghana. He has seen a lot of things in this brutal place, laced with poverty and unemployment. Yet something about the latest series of murders makes them much worse. Street children are turning up dead, each body mutilated and thrown away in the exact same way. All the deaths seem to point to one killer. It is up to Inspector Dawson to figure out if it is some sort of a ritual killing or the job of another psychopathic serial killer. But the list of suspects isn’t short, as this murderer isn’t the only bad thing roaming the dark streets of Accra. Everyone’s got skeletons in their closet.

My thoughts: I loved the book right from the cover design. I haven’t read the first book in the series, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. The book did have a rough start for me. What struck me as odd were the sudden and many gory details. The writing seemed repetitive and there were a few page-long descriptions that were almost entirely unnecessary! The story did catch pace, though, and it was a soon a smooth and enjoyable read.

Considering how little I know about Ghana or even Africa for that matter, I thought the author painted a very complete picture; with all elements, the good and the bad! What I loved the most was the story had no villain and hero, as such. Every had problems and secrets and regrets. The characters were strong, and dark in a way which (and this is a huge compliment coming from me) reminded me of Stephen King’s books. I felt the plot slack a couple of times, but the characters never became even remotely uninteresting. Their secrets and lives so intricately stringed together became for me, the highlights of the book. I can think of very few mysteries that aren’t almost completely focused on the plot.

I can’t wait to read more books by the author. Meanwhile, I definitely recommend this one to all mystery and crime fiction fans or anyone in search of a short, exciting read!

R.I.P. Challenge

I found this challenge over at Adventures in Borkdom. It is a yearly challenge hosted at Stainless Steel Droppings. The purpose of the R.I.P (R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril) Challenge is to read and enjoy books that could be classified as: Mystery, Suspense, Thriller, Dark Fantasy, Gothic, Horror, Supernatural. R.I.P. VI officially runs from September 1st through October 31st.

I am officially signing up for Peril the First, which means reading four books of R.I.P. literature. And since I started reading Frankenstein today, that can be my first read. Though I might add a few Perils of the Short Story and Perils on the Screen!!

Update: I started the challenge by reading Carrie by Stephen King. I’ll link the reviews here as and when I post them!

Peril the First:

1. Carrie by Stephen King

2. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

3. The Spy Who Came in From the Cold by John Le Carre

4. Ghost Story by Peter Straub

Peril on the Screen:

1. The Nightmare Before Christmas

2. Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit

Peril of the Short Story:

1. Metzengerstein by Edgar Allan Poe

2. The Lame Priest by S. Carleton