Walk a Crooked Line (Detective Jo Larsen #2) by Susan McBride

Walk a Crooked Line (Detective Jo Larsen #2) by Susan McBride

Being a teenager is much harder than people think. It isn’t just school, dates, hanging out with friends at the mall, and dealing with your parents. For 15 year-old Kelly Amster it’s far worse. She wants to be accepted by the popular crowd, she wants nice clothes, she wants to go to all the good parties, and she’s determined to change herself enough to get those things. But her richer schoolmates have no intention of letting her into their group or even pretending that they acknowledge her. Someone is even posting some mean comments to her Facebook page telling her not to bother being like them, that she’s a loser, that she isn’t even worth the air she breathes, and Kelly eventually believes these posts. The only thing she can do to rectify things is to throw herself off the old water tower and end it all which is exactly what she does.

Detectives Jo Larsen and Hank Phelps are investigating Kelly’s suicide. Jo is sure that there was something more going on in Kelly’s life that would make her want to kill herself. The sad thing is that Kelly’s mother, Barbara, works as a home care nurse to help people cope with their children dying from cancer and Barbara seems to show more love for these children than she does for her own daughter.

Kelly’s best friend, Cassie, is angry at Kelly for wanting to change and become part of the “in-crowd.” Cassie  was angry enough to burn their friendship bracelet thus ending their relationship.

Kelly is now alone, her best friend is gone, her mother spends more time with other kids than with her, and there’s no father around. She honestly believed that death was the only way out of her miserable life. Detective Jo Larsen sees a lot of herself in Kelly since her childhood was horrible too but Jo was strong and fought and struggled and was able to become an adult even though her childhood nightmares are with her everyday of her life affecting every part of it. Jo understood Kelly and is determined to find out who, figuratively, pushed Kelly off that water tower.

As the detectives investigate they discover some information on Kelly’s last few weeks of life. She was invited to one of the popular kids’ parties and something happened to her there. Something terrible but she thinks that no one will believe her unless she has proof and she does have proof. With it she has the means to destroy one of the richest families in the community but she kills herself before any of the proof can be revealed.

The case is very tricky with everyone hiding information or just outright lying to Jo and Hank. And making things a little more difficult is a rash of dog-nappings going on.

Older dogs are disappearing from their yards. Some are occasionally found crawling along a back road, barely able to move because of broken ribs and legs. These dogs were beaten but were able to somehow escape only to shortley die from their wounds. These poor animals can’t speak for themselves so Jo and Hank find themselves trying to find out what happened to them. The detectives are investigating two similar cases; one of an emotionally beaten child who kills herself and the second of physically beaten dogs who die from physical abuse.

Jo is determined to find out who the culprits are and to make sure they pay for the pain they caused both Kelly and the defenseless animals.

Walk a Crooked Line” is a complicated, well thought out, and a thoroughly exciting story by author Susan McBride. It is the second in McBride’s Jo Larsen series.

Like the first book, “Walk into Silence”, this novel is very dark, thought provoking, and a bit uncomfortable at times. It’s not for the very squeamish not that there’s an abundance of violence here because there isn’t but the book does deal with some unsettling aspects of life that not all people care to read about. Ms. McBride does a brilliant job of treating these difficult topics very respectfully for her characters and her readers.

I’ve read a few of Susan McBride’s books. She has a couple of series that are also well-written, cute, and fun. Actually the author does surprise me. Most authors, not all, but most authors, can only write in one style and that’s fine especially if their books are good. But Ms. McBride shows her darker side in the Jo Larsen series, a dark side that really isn’t shown in her two other other series.

Walk a Crooked Line” has nice twist that you don’t really see coming up and that twist gives it a great ending. Again, not for the sensitive reader but wonderful for mystery lovers. A novel not to be missed.

“I received an ARC of this book and voluntarily reviewed it.”

To see other reviews of Susan McBride’s books please go to Susan’s page on my blog.

walk a crooked line



Y is for Yesterday (Kinsey Millhone #25) by Sue Grafton

Y is for Yesterday (Kinsey Millhone #25) by Sue Grafton

After 35 years author Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Millhone series is coming to a swift end. There’s only one more book left and I feel bad about that. I’ve read most of this series twice and a few of the books I’ve read three times. I’m not sure I can let Kinsey go and I hope that Ms. Grafton will somehow continue with the alphabet series and maybe turning it into a numerical one. I can do with lots more of Kinsey.

“Y is for Yesterday” is not an easy book to read. I don’t mean that it’s too complicated or the words are too long and hard and you need a dictionary by your side. I mean the book is pretty dark and disturbing with a story that involves stalking, rape, murder, bullying, and violence against women.

Private Investigator Kinsey Millhone’s new client wants to find out who is blackmailing her family for $25,000. Ten years earlier the client’s teen-aged son was at a party where a girl was killed. The son went to a youth prison for the death of the girl and has recently been released and then a tape was sent to his family. The tape showed the gang rape of a girl at the same party he attended ten years earlier and the son was very much involved in the abuse. The blackmailer threatened to show the tape to the police if the family doesn’t cough up $25,000. If they refuse to give the money their son will go back to jail for rape.

The book travels back and forth between 1979 when the rape and murder happened and then to 1989 when Kinsey is asked to investigate. While investigating that case Kinsey is also being stalked by a man who almost killed her in the previous Millhone novel, “X.” The murdering man in “X” is back where his main and only objective is to kill Kinsey.

Two separate story lines packed into 500 pages and I have to admit I did like “Y is for Yesterday.” I liked it a lot. But not everyone agrees. I have a Facebook friend who was looking forward to this book as much as I was but when she started to read it the novel made her uncomfortable with all the stalking and what happened at the teen party. My friend put it down. She was also a little angry and I think she said she put a note in the library book copy warning the next person who borrowed it about the darkness of the novel.

Look, my Facebook friend was right. “Y is for Yesterday” is a tough one to get through and I’m sure it made a lot of women very uncomfortable and if that happens while reading a book then you should put it down. While at first I was taken a little aback by the subject I continued on because author Sue Grafton’s books are not happy, and sparkly,  filled with unicorns and rainbows and I expect a certain amount of darkness in her novels. Kinsey’s character is very troubled and has had, and still has, her share of problems. All 25 books in the series never backed away from this. Through the course of 35 years fans of this really terrific series has seen Kinsey at her worse and have read about some terrible people she investigated and had contact with. Some books just take on the darker sides of life.

The Kinsey Millhone series is well written. Sue Grafton has a way with telling a good story and creating some wonderful characters who have been with Kinsey all these years which is why I continue to look forward to each installment and I make sure I read it.

I do recommend “Y is for Yesterday” but like my friend who put a warning note in the library copy of the book I will warn you that this 25th novel can be very uncomfortable but bear with it if you can because the story is amazing.

Y is for Yesterday

Murder by Fireworks (A Kay Driscoll Mystery #3) by Susan Bernhardt

Murder by Fireworks (A Kay Driscoll Mystery #3) by Susan Bernhardt

It’s summertime in Sudbury Falls but the living is far from easy for Kay Driscoll. Her son, Andy, is getting married in under a week and the reception is being held at Kay’s home. Her husband, Phil, isn’t doing all that much to help with all the chores that need to be done. If anything, he’s adding on to Kay’s work load.

Phil’s cousin, Loren, is in the hospital and someone has to take care of his 12 year-old daughter, Janey, until Janey’s mother arrives in town to pick her up. Of course Phil agrees to take the girl into their home but Kay knows she will be the one watching her for the time she’ll be with them.

Janey is not the easiest of kids to like but then again most 12 year-old children are hard to deal with. But Kay is expecting two hundred people for the wedding reception and has to make sure the house is in good order, decorations are in place, and the catering will be perfection. All Phil has to deal with is rehearsals for his band because they will be entertaining.

A few days after the wedding Kay, Phil, Janey, and her friends are at the July 4th fireworks display when they they think they hear gunshots. A book club member, James, is found dead in the sand. The police think he killed himself but Kay believes otherwise.

No one loved James as much as James loved himself. He was having affairs with numerous women who adored him and he also just started a new job that he loved. Life seemed to be going his way. Kay felt that James had absolutely no reason to commit suicide no matter what the police thought.

But James was not well liked. He was rude to people, made crude comments, basically stole his new job from another man, and many of his love interests were married women and their husbands probably didn’t appreciate James showing that kind of attention to their wives. In other words, there’s a huge list of people who would love to see James dead.

Kay didn’t like James either but she did want justice to be served so she started investigating his death along with her friends Deidre and Elizabeth. Investigating came easy to Kay and she helped solve other murders in her town but asking questions made her a target to the murderer and put her life in danger.  

Between weddings, taking care of 12 year-old Janey, being a loving wife and mother, and watching out for her life Kay has her hands full this summer. It was summertime but the living was far from easy.

“Murder by Fireworks” is the third Kay Driscoll novel is this excellent series by Susan Bernhardt. I’ve read them all and each book is better than the previous one. This is my favorite of the three.

Ms. Bernhardt is becoming a wonderful mystery writer. Through reading all her books, not only the Kay Driscoll series, I’ve seen how the author honed in on her craft. It’s obvious that she takes her time thinking about story lines and how the plot leads to the bad guy. The stories are well-thought out and complicated. The murderer is not someone you would suspect by page 50 and her explanations for why the murder was done forms a near perfect murder/mystery.

Do not expect a simple cozy while reading this. “Murder by Fireworks” is up there with most any other good mystery novel. The book isn’t just for women and I’m sure it would appeal to any mystery lover.

The characters are wonderful and that includes the character of the Town of Sudbury Falls. It makes city dwellers, like myself, wish they lived in a small town where everyone knows your name, people you can share the joy of holidays with and are willing to help out with a crises at a moment’s notice.

While Reading any of Susan Bernhardt’s books you’ll find yourself engrossed in a good mystery and you won’t want to stop it reading until the mystery solved.

Do yourself a favor and grab a copy of any book in the Kay Driscoll Series and discover what a good writer this author is.

For more about Susan Bernhardt’s books please see Susan’s section on my blog.

murder fireworks

Clown Moon by Alex Jameson

Clown Moon by Alex Jameson

Okay, clowns frighten me. I don’t like clowns, they creep me out. When I was five years old my dad and I were walking when a parade came by. Maybe it was some holiday, I don’t remember. Anyway, suddenly I saw a clown walking towards me and I started to cry. My dad tried to tell me not to be afraid and the clown tried to give me a lollipop. I loved candy but even that green lollipop didn’t stop my tears. The clown felt bad and gave my father a balloon to give to me for when he left. Clowns still frighten me and “Clown Moon” by Alex Jameson showed me how right I am about not liking or trusting these painted horrors.

The book follows brothers  Sam and Jake Asher as they  seek revenge on a killer clown who murdered their nephew. The clown is having a good time going on a killing spree and the public is battling down the hatches hoping that they and no one in their family spots a red nose because seeing a clown means a sure death.

The book drew me in and Sam is a good character especially if you need a hero. This is a thriller and not to be missed if you enjoy something like it. But, let me say this, I still do not like clowns and my mind will never change but the book is a good one.