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Murder Comes by Mail by A. H. Gabhart 

About six months ago, I read Murder at the Courthouse, which introduced us to Deputy Sheriff Michael Keane and the rest of the characters in Gabhart’s small town of Hidden Springs.  The first novel in the series was so interesting that I requested the second installment, Murder Comes by Mail, from the publisher.  This second novel was as well-written as the previous one, but an undertone of evil was more prevalent throughout Murder Comes by Mail.  

From the first chapter, Michael Keane has a sense of foreboding that terrible things are to come.  Who knew that saving someone’s life could cause so many problems?  What sinister game is the killer playing?  The mystery and suspense for Michael continue through the final chapter.  

The life-long friendship between Michael and Alexandra continues to hover between friends and something more, but they are both afraid of venturing into the unknown.  There is just enough romance to keep the romantic happy, but not enough to turn away those who have no interest in romance.  

My only complaint (if I can even call it that) is that I figured out who the killer was before the main character did.  I just researched the phrase “whodunnit” and learned that this is a genre of books and movies.  

I’m accustomed to authors who conceal the identity of the perpetrator until the climax, so I was surprised to be able to deduce who the killer was in both of Gabhart’s novels.  Now I understand, and I’m looking forward to reading the next book in the Hidden Springs Mysteries series. 

I received this book for free from Revell in exchange for an honest review.  

Vendetta by Lisa Harris

  

I used to read every novel in a series of FBI thrillers by a certain author, and I really enjoyed peeking into the lives of FBI agents, even if they were fictional characters.  The suspense and action kept me enthralled while the humor and romance entertained me.  Unfortunately, the author started adding supernatural elements to her plots, and I prefer more realistic fiction.  I had not found anything close to that series until I read Vendetta this week.

Vendetta is the first novel in the Nikki Boyd Files by Lisa Harris.  This fast-paced mystery is filled with action, adventure, suspense, humor, and romance, but the author also addresses grief and a faltering faith in response to the death of a loved one.  While there is some discussion of faith and God, it is not enough to turn off those who are not Christians.  Lisa Harris does not shy away from the tough questions but allows her characters to work through their doubts in their own way.

Nikki Boyd is an agent with the newly-formed Tennessee Missing Persons Task Force.  In Vendetta, Nikki works with state and local authorities to hunt down an abductor before it’s too late.  The race to find the missing person kept me reading late into the night.  This is an exciting mystery, full of plot twists, set in a majestic area.  The characters are likeable and well-developed, and I’m looking forward to the next book in the series. 

I received this book for free from Revell in exchange for an honest review.  

Gingham Mountain by Mary Connealy

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The final book of the Lassoed in Texas trilogy is set in a small town that lies at the end of the “orphan train”, and a single man named Grant adopts all the “leftovers”–the kids who have a disability, appear angry, look troublesome, or are too young or old, and haven’t been chosen by any family at any of the stops along the way. Hannah Cartwright, the new school teacher, fears for the safety of the children entrusted to the care of a single man, since she had been adopted by the same evil man as Grace Calhoun (Calico Canyon). Grant does his best to convince the meddling schoolmarm of his good intentions, but circumstances continually paint him in a poor light. Shirt Lady also complicates Grant’s life and adds to the mystery. Gingham Mountain ties up a few loose ends from the previous book while introducing an interesting cast of new characters.

Murder at the Mikado by Julianna Deering

I have been debating how to write this review for nearly a month now. I’m finding it difficult to discuss this book without giving away how the previous book ended, and you really should read the first two books in the Drew Farthering series before you read this one. Besides being wonderful Agatha Christie-style murder mysteries, the first two books provide humorous history between the main characters. You can read my reviews for the two books by clicking on the links: Rules of Murder and Death by the Book.

The main character Drew Farthering has successfully solved murderous mayhem in the recent past and has developed a reputation for solving crimes that stump the authorities. In Murder at the Mikado, Drew resists getting involved for personal reasons but finds himself investigating anyway. The truth proves elusive as he questions actors and actresses who have a flair for the dramatic and make a living pretending to be someone they are not.

I don’t want to write any more for fear I will ruin the second book for you, but I did enjoy reading this novel and would highly recommend it.

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I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. These thoughts and opinions are my own.

Stuck Together by Mary Connealy

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This was my first time to read a book by Mary Connealy, but it won’t be my last. Stuck Together is actually the third volume in her Trouble in Texas series, so I’ll have to go back and read the first two books–Swept Away and Fired Up. I received this book free from Bethany House in exchange for an honest review, so I didn’t take the time to read the previous two books, but they tell the stories of some of the central characters. I didn’t feel like I was missing out by not reading the other books first, but I would now like to get to know the other characters better.

Tina Cahill is a sassy, young woman in a small town in west Texas in the late 1860’s, who has learned to take care of herself because she feels unwanted and unloved. She makes the sidewalk in front of the saloon her mission field and attempts to dissuade men from entering, which sometimes causes more harm than good. She is also the only single woman in town.

Vince Yates is a lawyer and the unpaid sheriff of Broken Wheel. He shares a close friendship with three other men in town. The four of them fought for the union in the Civil War and were held as prisoners-of-war at Andersonville. Through a series of events, Tina and Vince end up “stuck together”, much to their chagrin, on more than one occasion.

Stuck Together is a great summer read–light, funny, and fairly short. The characters were interesting and genuine. The setting was what you’d expect from a western, and the author describes the area vividly. The gospel is woven through a few conversations but doesn’t come across as preachy.

I learned something new in reading this romantic comedy about cowboys. I had never heard of Andersonville before, nor did I know that the South imprisoned POWs during the Civil War. After finishing the book, I did a little research and found the author’s depiction to be quite accurate. I usually enjoy learning something about our nation’s history, but there was nothing enjoyable about Andersonville. Men were lucky if they survived, or maybe the ones who died quickly were the lucky ones. The photos online of emaciated men reminded me of the photos of men in concentration camps during WWII. The book doesn’t go into much detail on this, so you can enjoy the light-hearted romance.

Skull Creek Stakeout by Eddie Jones (guest post by my son)

I started this blog for my mother and I to share what we think about the books we are reading, but my mom has yet to write her first post.  My eight year old son has become quite an avid reader and wanted to know when he could write a “book report” on my blog.  He’s so cute and maybe a little nerdy like his mama.  Here is a photo of him with the book he finished reading last night.

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This is the second book in the Caden Chronicles series, which was written with middle school boys in mind.  My son is reading above his grade level, and he thoroughly enjoyed both books and can’t wait to get the next one.  There have been a few nights where he has gotten in trouble for reading past his bedtime.  He couldn’t believe how late it was because he was so engrossed in the book.  He is so much like me when it comes to reading.  I may have to change the name of this blog if he’s going to continue to write reviews, especially if my mom doesn’t get on board pretty soon.  I know she has been reading.  I think she’s just shy.  My son obviously has no lack of self-confidence!

Here is his “book report”:

What I like:  I like how Nick Caden follows people around and kind of interviews them.  He is on a vampire case in Transylvania, North Carolina.  The book is very suspenseful.  He has a crush on a girl Meg.

About the book:  In Skull Creek Stakeout, a vampire’s running loose, and 14 year old Nick Caden’s on the case.  Nick has to find out who killed Mr. Forester and save Meg.  Don’t forget to read book one Dead Man’s Hand.

I have read several pages over his shoulder, and the book seems well written and interesting.  It is a mystery with an amateur detective who often gets himself in trouble with his sleuthing.  If you have a boy/young man that likes to read (or one that needs to read more), this book would keep him entertained.

Update: I should have mentioned that my son purchased this book at our church bookstore, and it is Christian juvenile fiction, so the ghost and vampire theories are interesting but disproved in the end.

Death by the Book by Julianna Deering

This is the second installment in the Drew Farthering Mystery series. You can read my review of the first book here. Death by the Book could be read alone, but I would highly recommend reading Rules of Murder first. As with the first book, I received Death by the Book from Bethany House Publishers for free in exchange for an honest review.

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Death by the Book continues the romance between two of the main characters who, along with Drew’s best friend, share a passion for good mysteries. Aunt Ruth from America enters the fray as a somewhat comedic antagonist to the charming Englishman.

The setting is a small, English village in 1932, and Drew Farthering finds himself in the middle of another murder investigation, but these murders are different. The clues are vague, and there seems to be no motive nor any connection between the victims. It proves to be a real puzzle for Drew and the Chief Inspector, who actually requests Drew’s help this go around and even calls him Detective. Drew and his friends put many pieces of the puzzle together, but this murderer may prove more clever than they are.

This mystery does not disappoint and will keep you guessing until the murderer’s identity is revealed at the end. I am thoroughly enjoying this mystery series and hope there will be a few more installments before Drew retires from his amateur sleuthing.