(Review) Under Violent Skies by Judi Daykin

Publisher and Publication Date: Joffe Books. September 24, 2020.
Genre: Contemporary fiction. Crime. Detective. Mystery.
Pages: 281.
Source: eBook Kindle. Kindle Unlimited copy.
Audience: Readers of crime, detective, mystery stories.
Rating: Okay.

Amazon link

England. Current/modern time period.
Sara is a cop and is assigned to work in a new area. She’s gotten a promotion. She is bi-racial. Her mother has never wanted to discuss Sara’s father. It’s a topic that causes heated discussion.
Sara’s first case is a murdered male found in a ditch.
Not only is Sara busy solving the case, but dealing with racial prejudice on the job.
She is also set on finding out more information about her father.
Meanwhile, there are 2 young women who live with a group of contracted farm workers. It is apparent they are hostage to the men. The women have certain jobs they do to take care of the men’s needs.

My Thoughts:
I don’t feel an attachment to Sara. I think this story has a very good storyline and plot. I like the character Sara. But, I don’t feel she is revealed to me in a deep level that makes me feel an attachment to her and an investment in the story. It might help if I knew her thoughts, fears, and insecurities. It might help if I saw her failures. [I saw glimpses of these elements and themes.]

The story is tight. I’m using the word tight to describe a tight story that makes for a quick read but not sweeps me away.

The tie-in with Sara and her father is predictable.

I did feel an investment in the outcome of the 2 women being held against their will. I wonder how the story would go if these 2 women were the focus of the story and not Sara?

What I love best about the story is its possibilities.


(Review) A Trace of Deceit by Karen Odden

Publisher and Publication Date: William Morrow/an imprint of HarperCollins. December 2019.
Genre: Historical fiction. Mystery. Detective. Fine art. Victorian.
Pages: 416.
Source: I received a complimentary copy from William Morrow, but was not required to write a positive review.
Audience: Historical fiction readers who love detective/mystery stories.
Rating: Very good.

A Trace of Deceit is book 2 in the series. Book 1 is A Dangerous Duet.

Amazon link

Barnes and Noble link

Link for the tour page: Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours.

About the Author:
Karen Odden received her Ph.D. in English literature from New York University and taught at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She has contributed essays and chapters to books and journals, including Studies in the Novel, the Journal of Victorian Culture, and Victorian Crime, Madness, and Sensation; she has written introductions for Barnes and Noble editions of books by Dickens and Trollope; and she edited for the academic journal Victorian Literature and Culture. She freely admits she might be more at home in nineteenth-century London than today, especially when she tries to do anything complicated on her iPhone. Her first novel, A Lady in the Smoke, was a USA Today bestseller and won the New Mexico-Arizona 2016 Book Award for e-Book Fiction. Her second novel, A Dangerous Duet, about a young pianist who stumbles on a notorious crime ring while playing in a Soho music hall in 1870s London, won the New Mexico-Arizona 2019 Book Award for Best Historical Fiction. A Trace of Deceit is her third novel. She resides in Arizona with her family and a ridiculously cute beagle named Rosy.
Website/ Facebook/ Twitter/ Pinterest/ BookBub/ Goodreads

“Odden’s third effort injects a refreshing level of complexity, both in character development and plotting, into what one typically expects to find in historical cozies. This will appeal to fans of Victorian mysteries, as well as those interested in art history.” –Booklist (starred review)

“Odden keenly evokes the physical as well as cultural milieu of Victorian England, and peoples her setting with fully realized and intriguing characters. This book will delight readers who like their mysteries cloaked in well-researched history.” –Publishers Weekly

“…this thrilling, action-packed story [is] an absolute delight to read.” –Historical Novel Society

“Odden’s literary brushstrokes vividly portray the misogyny and gender bias experienced by women in Victorian society, especially a woman battling to exercise her artistic talent. ” –Washington Independent Review of Books

“Fans of Anne Perry, Deanna Rayborn, and Tasha Alexander will root for Karen Odden’s newest heroine, Annabel Rowe—aspiring painter and now amateur sleuth—investigating the murder of her art forger brother. The novel’s a delightful mix of mystery, history, and romance, served with a delicious helping of lush period detail, while chemistry between Annabel and the investigating Scotland Yard detective add spice to the adventure.” –Susan Elia MacNeal, New York Times bestselling author of the Maggie Hope series

“A darkly thrilling story filled with suspense and secrets, a courageous heroine, an edgy climax, and an atmospheric setting that perfectly captures the underbelly of London’s art world in the Victorian era. A Trace of Deceit is an absolute winner!” –Stefanie Pintoff, Edgar Award winning author

From the author of A Dangerous Duet comes the next book in her Victorian mystery series, this time following a daring female painter and the Scotland Yard detective who is investigating her brother’s suspicious death.

A young painter digs beneath the veneer of Victorian London’s art world to learn the truth behind her brother’s murder…

Edwin is dead. That’s what Inspector Matthew Hallam of Scotland Yard tells Annabel Rowe when she discovers him searching her brother’s flat for clues. While the news is shocking, Annabel can’t say it’s wholly unexpected, given Edwin’s past as a dissolute risk-taker and art forger, although he swore he’d reformed. After years spent blaming his reckless behavior for their parents’ deaths, Annabel is now faced with the question of who murdered him—because Edwin’s death was both violent and deliberate. A valuable French painting he’d been restoring for an auction house is missing from his studio: find the painting, find the murderer. But the owner of the artwork claims it was destroyed in a warehouse fire years ago.

As a painter at the prestigious Slade School of Art and as Edwin’s closest relative, Annabel makes the case that she is crucial to Matthew’s investigation. But in their search for the painting, Matthew and Annabel trace a path of deceit and viciousness that reaches far beyond the elegant rooms of the auction house, into an underworld of politics, corruption, and secrets someone will kill to keep.

My Thoughts:
This is the first book I’ve read by Karen Odden. I’m hoping to read other books she’s written in the near future.

Several reason why I love this story!
~I became quickly apart of the story.
~Annabel Rowe is a painter. She has an artist vision. She describes her environment as an artist because she looks at color and shape through an artist’s discerning eyes.
~When Annabel is told about her brother’s death I felt her reaction believable. Her reaction is not over the top in hysterics. Her reaction is not without emotion. Annabel, in being true to her character and personality, shows a remarkable strength in hearing the news. In the days and weeks after his death, I saw her grieving as important. Grieving is hard work. Grieving takes physical and emotional strength. A great part of her character is in how she handled herself during this event. I consider Annabel a person of high character. She is an admirable person.
~I love the unique blend of this story: Victorian, fine art, mystery, detective, family saga, and romance.
~The romance is gentle and real. I love how the couple grew close as partners and friends.

There is a sad memory that is reflected on but is not developed for the larger part of this story. It is something that happened in the past. I am glad people can read about this character’s sad story of abuse and understand how it affects life. This particular type of abuse causes a soul wound.

During the Blog Tour, we are giving away one paperback copy of A Trace of Deceit! To enter, please use the Gleam form below.

The giveaway is open to US residents only and ends on October 2nd. You must be 18 or older to enter.

Direct link to the giveaway.

(Review) Girls Like Us by Cristina Alger


Publisher and Publication Date: G.P Putnam’s Sons. July 2, 2019.
Genre: Fiction. Detective. Mystery.
Pages: 276.
Source: Library.
Rating: Very good.
Audience: Readers who love a female crime solver.




Nell Flynn is a FBI agent with no real home address. Her dad (that she’s estranged from) had been a homicide detective in Suffolk County, Long Island, New York for many years. Her mother was murdered when Flynn was young. Her dad died in a recent motorcycle accident. Flynn returns home for the funeral. She believes the accident that killed her dad is suspicious. In Suffolk County, two women are murdered with ties to the same escort service. Flynn is asked to help investigate the case of the murders.

My Thoughts:
The first thing I love about this book is the layers of themes running in the book.
•Unanswered questions about Flynn’s mother’s death.
•The estrangement between Flynn and her dad.
•Another mystery woman. What relationship did this woman have with Flynn’s dad?
•Flynn’s PTSD.
•Is the Suffolk County Police Department good guys or bad guys?
•A mystery about her dad’s death.
•The mystery about who killed the women.

Girls Like Us has a solid pace or rhythm. It’s a story where it doesn’t get to ahead of itself, even during moments that are intense. It moves steadily along helping the reader stay tuned.

It’s a realistic story. I’ve read some detective stories that are too over the top with action and it comes across as not believable. Girls Like Us is believable; and, because it’s believable, the story has a dark and frightening atmosphere.

A solid tie-up or closure for the ending left me satisfied.

(Review) Blackout, Book 3 of Dark Iceland by Ragnar Jonasson


Publisher and Publication Date: Minotaur Books. Originally published in 2011. Published in the English translation 2016.
U. S. edition, August 2018.
Genre: Mystery, detective.
Pages: 272.
Source: Library.
Rating: Very good.
Audience: Readers of mystery/detective stories.

Books in the series of Dark Iceland:
Nightblind-Book 1
Snowblind-Book 2
Rupture-Book 4
Whiteout-Book 5

It’s confusing about when the books were published in English versus when they were published in Iceland.  The order in Iceland is Snowblind 2010, Blackout 2011, Rupture 2012, Whiteout 2013, Nightblind 2014.

Author page at Amazon: Ragnar Jonasson.

The books were written in the Icelandic language and later translated to English for publication.

Website for Ragnar Jonasson.

To give you a little info on the country of Iceland. The population in 2017 was 341,284. The country is 39,769 square miles. The capital and largest city is Reykjavik. Iceland is a Nordic Island, and a Scandinavian country. For further information: Britannica.

An American art student traveling in Iceland discovers a dead body near the road. Ari is the police inspector for the case. A woman named Isrun is the journalist who is to covering the story. Other police inspectors are Tomas and Hlynur. During the investigation, the personal stories of characters are explored.

My Thoughts:
Until now, I’ve not read a book about Iceland. It’s a bit of a mystery to me. An island that has the name of ice in it. A place that seems so remote and sparse in information from the news, I had to read a book about this country, even it’s a work of fiction.
I still don’t know how to pronounce the names correctly.
The focus of the book is solving the crime of a man who was murdered and found near the roadside. However, I loved the personal stories of the journalist and police inspectors. The characters are dimensional, because they are shown for the imperfect humans they are; both their positive and negative traits are shown.  They each carry burdens and scars from their past.
A theme that runs through the book is the work of criminals goes on everywhere. Iceland is considered a country where violent crime is rare. However, the story shows evil manifests everywhere.
There is a secondary mystery story. I love it when there are secondary/understories amongst the main story. This keeps me even more interested in the reading the book.
Through the descriptive scenes, I was given a visual picture of what Iceland looks like.
The closure of Blackout left me with both a sense of unanswered questions but a deep sadness. A sadness because not all of the characters have happy endings.
I’m definitely interested in reading more Ari Thor Thriller books in this series.

(Review) Threads of Suspicion: An Evie Blackwell Cold Case (Book 2) by Dee Henderson


Publisher and Publication Date: May 2, 2017. Bethany House Publishers.
Pages: 429.
Genre: Christian fiction, mystery, detective.
Source: Self-purchase.
Rating: Good.

Dee Henderson’s website

The first Evie Blackwell Cold Case book is Traces of Guilt

Evie Blackwell is a cold case investigator with the Illinois State Police. She recently began working in the Missing Persons Task Force. She has a new partner, David Marshal. David’s girlfriend is Maggie, a popular singer in a band known as Triple M. David is a Christian and hopes to marry Maggie. Maggie is not a Christian, and because of this David is holding off on marriage. Evie has a boyfriend named Rob. They too are contemplating marriage. David and Evie are working on a case involving the disappearance of Jenna Greenhill. When David and Evie interview people who knew Jenna, they get strong reactions of intense like or dislike.

I don’t read Christian fiction often. Most Christian fiction books I find are unrealistic. In order to maintain a clean content, the stories are void of the realness of life. The topics in the books are real, but things are stripped or omitted that give the reader a believability to the story. The characters seem pasty and inhuman. Some Christian publishers and authors are able to pull off a believable story, and some authors miss the mark.

My Thoughts:
An interesting element in Threads of Suspicion is a Christian engaged to an unbeliever. David Marshall wants to marry Maggie. Maggie is not a Christian, and David makes the decision to post-pone marriage for a while. They are still in a relationship, but he will not marry a person who is not a Christian. David shows patience and tender love for Maggie. His feelings for her did not change, but he was not going to progress to marriage unless she became a Christian. To an outsider, a person who is not a Christian, this attitude and action of David seems cruel. The topic of religion in marriage is huge. Eventually there is going to be a showdown between a married couple about religion. I feel this topic is an interesting add to the overall story. The characters, David and Maggie, are loving and gracious to one another. This shows Christian teachings of love and grace. Another Christian teaching: “Don’t become partners with those who do not believe. For what partnership is there between righteousness and lawlessness? Or what fellowship does light have with darkness?” 2 Corinthians 6:14, CSB. On one hand, I am glad David and Maggie acted loving to one another. However, I wanted to see turmoil. I needed to see intense friction.

I enjoyed reading the interesting and insightful conversations between Evie and David. David is a smart guy. He is both intelligent and wise. Several things he said in the story stood out to me. For example, “Life is mostly captured in the decisions we make, the choices, the pivots.”

The details of gathering and studying information to solve the case is shown to be a slow and steady progression. Patience is required to be a detective. A good eye for detail is important. These things were brought through in the story and created a solid piece for this detective mystery story.

Overall, Threads of Suspicion is an enjoyable read.