A Leafy Green World


By Sean Dow




His wife and daughter killed by a drunk driver and no justice to be had, bills piling up, his second employment as a doctor gone, Brent Holcomb moves to Portland, Oregon to try to find a new start on his life. Soon, however, he starts feeling a sense of being followed. He then becomes involved with a group of activists, but he realizes that these people could be very dangerous. However, he might have a few ideas.

It’s a little bit drama, a little bit thriller, with some humor laced throughout. I kept wondering if I should take this as a serious story or stick my tongue in my cheek.


Brent Holcomb: 6’2, around 220 pounds, doctor, wife and daughter killed by a drunk driver, came from a wealthy family, fluent in several languages, knows fencing, know martial arts, has a sister and brother, father a criminal, attended Tulane University where he played volleyball, sometimes smokes cigars

Robyn: black hair with a hint of red

Tony Rossi: FBI agent, a bit of 5’6”, divorced with children

Bill: barber, smoker, flat top hair, owns a Labrador, parents dead, father owned the barber sop before Bill, divorced with children

Spike: professorial looks, animal rights activist, Robyn’s former boyfriend

Some of the activist people sound like 60s and 70s beatnik/revolutionary types. With names like Che and Parkeur it harkens back to that time.

However, I never felt close to any character. There is a lot of surface material, a few descriptions, but not enough for me to have a clear image of anybody. Things and scenes happened so fast that any poignant moments slide away. As an example-and I won’t play spoiler-Bill suffers a loss. The scene moves along and although the author doesn’t gloss over the impact he doesn’t really show the effect of the death other than a moment in time.

Part of this surface material lends to the disbelieving of Brent accepting Robyn into not only his life, but his house after the first night. Yes, he’s smitten, but the swiftness of them being together was too much. Doesn’t show her moving in or where she lived before. Just too fast that everything happened.


Some of the authority voices come through and there is some cynicism from Brent.

The problem I had with the conversations was most were usually were over in a short amount of time. A little talk here and bam! move to the next scene. So there was no time for me to assess any action going on other than eating and drinking at times. There were no beats during conversations (or so few as to not matter), nobody picking up a coffee cup or puffing on a cigar. Plus, some of the dialogue was ‘told’ by the narrator, and as I mention below, telling is not a good thing to have if there is too much of it.

There is one bit of emotion seen when Brent tells off his old boss but that’s about it. However, in another scene, I’m told of Robyn’s anger instead of shown it. By doing it this way, it lessens the impact for the sake of a bit of humor.

The exception to the short conversation: Brent does do some lecturing when he’s speaking to the activists and the bad guys but these conversations run too long with no breaks.


First person from Brent’s POV for most of the book. Third person POV from other characters in a few chapters. Profanity. Relatively short chapters.

A spelling mistake or incorrect word placement here and there but not bad.

Continuity problem: Brent was driven, blindfolded, to a warehouse. However, Brent-the narrator told the reader that he was at a warehouse before Brent-the character had removed the blindfold.

This problems stems from the fact there is a lot of ‘telling’ in this book. And not just telling, but telling as from a long time in the future looking way back in the past. The old adage ‘show, don’t tell’ could have been used here. By not showing, I missed extensive reactions from characters. Sure Robyn paled at one point. Okay, but then there was more telling of how the situation was resolved.

By telling, I missed the sensory descriptions of people and places.

Ditto with any action happening. Not enough reaction, of slowing down time to bring me into the moment.

I realize that most of this plot is improbable, but went with it anyhow. However, some realism has to occur. For instance, when a character gets shot, Brent makes up a story about how it happened. However, there would be NO circumstance involving a shooting where the police would NOT be called in.

Some interesting use of words and similes and phrasing. The author exhibits some humorous wit: “There’s a place for all God’s creatures, right next to the potatoes and gravy.”

However, because I sailed through this book with no true reader involvement or excitement, and disappointed with no real climactic danger filled scene, I think I’m going to have to give this a ranking of:

Camouflage Belt


Murder At Cirey

Murder at Cirey_Cheryl Sawyer_Cover and text

By Cheryl Sawyer

Cheryl Sawyer_authpic


NOTE: Before I proceed with the review I wish to compliment Ms. Hingley on her email request. It was one of the main reasons I chose to accept this book for review. As I’ve mentioned in other reviews, I hesitate when it comes to historical mysteries even if they include real people. However, the email that introduced Ms. Sawyer and her book to me was a fine example of how, I think, request letters should be written. It made a fine attempt at connecting with the reviewer and gave a bit of her writing history, then gave an extended back cover blurb about the book. It also gave me a link to her website. So often I see a short one or two sentence email with the casualness of, “Hey, would you want to read and review my book?” No intro, no blurb, and the author makes me do research into what the book looks like and what it’s about. Most emails will have a link but no more. I appreciate the thoroughness put into Ms. Hingley’s request.



1735. The Champagne area of France. Where Victor Constant, military policeman, has been stationed. Where one day, the writer, Voltaire, finds the corpse of a murdered man. Who was a secretary of a nobleman and general. Constant begins his investigation and immediately runs into questions. How did the man arrive in the Cirey woods only to be murdered? Why was he there in the first place? And of course, the biggest question – who killed him? Constant’s investigations lead him to discover more to the murdered man’s life than at first suspected.

Of course it’s your standard murder mystery but authors must find a freshness to the old standards and this time it’s in the form of 18th Century France. And not just the time and place but to bring in actual people is a plus.


Victor Constant: military policeman with the title Cavalier, large frame, deep voice, grew up in Paris, cobalt eyes, has a sister, father committed suicide, mother dead

Francois-Marie Arouet De Voltaire: 41, writer, formerly in prison, brown eyes, short dark hair, wealthy

Albert Poirier; average height, solid frame, gamekeeper

Louis Tranchet de Sandre: magistrate, light eyes, fifties, lean, married with two sons

Gabrielle-Emilie Du Chatalet: late 20s, Voltaire’s lover, married, has children, plays the harpsichord, husband a soldier

Christine Verrat: fair hair, slender, father is a draper, plays the harp

Beauregard: ranked a Lieutenant, thin, pointy head, small ears

Olivier Frenot de Caradoc: A Prevot-General

Not too much physical descriptions of some of the character, but some of them I could imagine just by their title and bearing. A nice mixture of characters both military and civilian, even religious.


Voices come through really well, especially Voltaire’s. A little high brow mixed with intelligence and his wonderful use of words. Again, sometimes characters can be rounded out by their dialogue so I’ll let it pass without too much of a black mark on the lack of physical descriptions because of the conversations and voices. At least for me, I could picture every character.


Each chapter is a day. Some unnecessary profanity.

One misspelling of a name.

One of the things that does make historical mysteries enjoyable is the science of the times and how it can be used to solve a crime. In this book, there is an early form of a ballistics test.

The author presented 18th Century France pretty well. The action was what I expected. Constant did a lot of running around from town to town but I don’t think the story dragged.

I was a bit disappointed that Voltaire didn’t play a larger role. At one point he was almost upstaged by his lover in the detecting. I thought maybe Voltaire might play a Watson role to Constant or at least a pesky sidekick.

On the whole, a very well written book and a good murder mystery.

My Rank:

Purple Belt


35 Dog Training Mistakes


By James Goodman



Once again I take a rare occasion to review a book outside my usually preferred genres. Please don’t get the idea that I’m going to always take these types of books, but I don’t think it hurts to venture outside the box, as it were. I only take those outside my preferences if they intrigue me or strike my fancy. This one happened to do so. (Hint: Books with animals always get a second look even if they may not get reviewed.)


This is a list of 35 mistakes people make when training their dogs. Some of these include: giving in to bad behavior, repeating a command, inconsistent training by different family members, underestimating exercise needs, incorrect punishment, feeding certain human food to dogs. Then the author gives alternatives to the mistakes.

Some of these are common sense, but some I hadn’t realized. For instance, I never thought that bacon might be bad for your dog. Another is the ‘alpha roll’ to show dominance. I hadn’t realized doing this might not be beneficial of a healthy relationship with the dog.


No characters, per se, unless the general ‘you’ is counted. You as in the reader and dog owner/trainer. Of course ‘you’ aren’t described other than the above mistakes ‘you’ might make. However, the author doesn’t demean ‘you’, but explains in a no-nonsense way about dog training.


Again, no dialogue other than commands that might be said to the dog. One amusing bit was in the section on consistent training among family members where one person might say “Sit.” and another person might say, “Please have a seat.” The dog might be confused with this.


Author offers a free gift for purchasing the book – games you can play with your dog.

Short read. Titled short chapters. Each chapter is ended by a summary.

In the epub version I read there were constant spelling problems with words with double l’s. ‘Will’, ‘allow’, ‘eventually’. The second ‘l’ was missing in almost all instances. I didn’t see it in the pdf file, so I’m going to assume the mistake was only in the epub.

One incorrect word – ‘loose’ should have been ‘lose’.

With a book as short as this, pictures would add to the enjoyment rather than just having a ‘lecture’ type book.

This is a good book for first time dog owners or those who want to be serious about training dogs.

My Rank:

Green Belt


Going Under


By Silas Payton



What is the connection between two murders, an apparent suicide, biker gangs, and the mob? Toronto Inspector Bill Roberts and his team are after the answer to that question.

A straightforward plot, not complicated.


Bill Roberts: Toronto police inspector, 6′, 190, out of shape, recently suffered a broken leg, widower, has two children

Barry Nelson: psychiatrist

Sarah Elliot: married, does triathlons

Cliff Jones: 50, sergeant under Roberts, married with children

Niccola Coppola: married, CEO or the Toronto Port Authority

A lot of characters, most of them minor. Not a lot of physical description other than some on Roberts. One character’s reaction to the situation was not believable. If a person is in front of you, bleeding and saying he’s just been stabbed, your reaction had better be something other than casual.


Conversations don’t wander and some good voices. Roberts’ comes through pretty good. Also Nelson’s.


Fairly short chapters. Chapters headed by the character focused on. Some profanity.

Some tense problems switching from past to present. An easy, quick read. One surprise at the end.

This story could have more punch if it had been drawn out a bit more. This is a relatively shorter book than most novels. There are attempts at humor and I think, for the most part, they’re okay. It moves along fast with no red herrings. The reader knows who the bad guy is pretty much right up front. The ending, while a surprise, might have been set up a bit more, maybe with some foreshadowing.

Still not too bad of a read.

My Rank:

Green Belt


Reagan’s Ashes

Regan's Ashes eBook (mini)

By Jim Heskitt




Reagan Darby’s father is dead. His last request was for her to take his ashes and dump them in a lake in Rocky Mountain National Park. She decides to take the route she and her father had taken the last time. Unfortunately, her cousins Dalton and Charlie have invited themselves along. Along the way, she discovers a secret in her father’s urn. Does it have to do with the real reason Dalton is present?

Meanwhile, Reagan’s injured boyfriend, Liam, is stuck back at her stepmother, Anne’s house with his own problems and wanting to investigate a shady character who is bothering Anne. Are there connections? What do you think?

Decent plot. A little mystery, a little quest story, but I think this settles a bit more on the character driven side.


Reagan Darby: 24, father dead, dropped out of college, works at a restaurant, drives a Honda Accord, suffers from manic/depression

Anne: step-mom, alcoholic, drives a Suburu Outback

Dalton Darby: Reagan’s cousin, gaunt face, thin, tattoos on his arm, smokes, used to sell marijuana, was in the Boy Scouts

Charlie Darby: Dalton’s brother, overweight, uses an inhaler

Liam ‘Spoon’ Witherspoon: Australian, fair-haired, Reagan’s boyfriend, using crutches for an injured knee from Australian football, recovering alcoholic, employed a tech support representative, used to box

Some very nice characters although I didn’t have a mental image of a couple characters (Reagan for example) because of a lack of description. Otherwise, personalities, quirks, conditions, and such al combine to round out the cast. I also like that each is distinct. There’s no blending even with the alcoholism shared by Spoon and Anne. You know the good and the bad, the strong and the weak.


Dalton’s voice comes through as do the parts where Reagan starts experiencing her manic/depressive symptoms. Actually, I think every character has a pretty good distinctive voice. Conversations don’t wander but impart some importance either for the present or foreshadowing something later.


Book separated by Days. Chapters and scene changes headed by time. Profanity. I sort of understand why almost two-thirds of the way through the book, the tense shifts from past to present when it’s Reagan’s scenes but it isn’t necessary.

I enjoy when authors are knowledgeable about what they’re writing. In this book, Heskitt give you tidbits into the Colorado Rocky Mountains, Australians, and bipolar disease. (I know, weird combination, right? Lol). The point is, there’s no vagueness or obvious guessing and hoping that what he writes will be believed. It helped me enjoy it rather than wishing he’d get into more detail.

The one thing that stopped me in my tracks-and I won’t be playing spoiler for the rest of the story-is in one scene, Reagan shoulder blocks an attacking moose. Now before you go nuts, I discussed this scene with the author, and he mentioned that his intent was to show the mental state of Reagan at the time and for the reader to pick up on what is going on with her. I hope other readers will understand, but although I understood some of her mental state in succeeding chapters, I didn’t catch the references to or with this scene. Again, that’s just me.

Pretty solid and tight writing. I found two capitalization errors, but otherwise all good. Very enjoyable story by a fundamentally knowledgeable author.

My Rank:

Purple Belt


Ribbons Of Death

Ribbons of Death

By Edita A. Petrick

Edita 1



There is an ancient legend that one of the gods cursed humanity. A figure known as the Peacetaker is born repeatedly throughout the centuries. Does that legend bear any truth? Professor Stella Hunter, author of a mythology book, didn’t think so. That is until an enigmatic stranger named Carter shows her a video of a women’s rally that turned tragic. This is followed by a suddenly violent Washington demonstration. Is there an actual person who can turn ordinary people into killers? If so, how can he, or she, be stopped. Hunter and Carter must find the answer before the world devolves into chaos.

I enjoy mysteries/adventures with history mixed with fiction. Legends, ancient documents, secret cabals, all that sort of thing. This book is a dip into that pool. Adventure and intrigue abound.


Stella Hunter: 45, professor at Michigan University, published author, married with children, a bit overweight, orange hair, parents-dead-were missionaries, attended Oxford, used to play softball, has a peanut allergy

Nicola Moses: 65, billionaire, dusky skin, black hair, dark eyes, married with children, owns the Meridian Obelisk Corporation, has three sisters who are dead, parents and other family dead, attended Oxford

Timothy J. Carter: 43, not his real name, divorced, has a teenage daughter while the other daughter is dead, former Army Ranger, works as a government contractor

Paige Smith: FBI agent in Washington D.C., used to work in Atlanta, freckled

Kevin Denton: Smith’s partner

Martin Kirsch: director of a museum in Toronto, wears glasses, drives a BMW SUV

Abigail McEwan: museum curator, married with a daughter, Ph.d, had an affair with Hunter’s husband, has similar features to Hunter’s

I like the interplay between Hunter and Carter. Hunter’s the stronger and Carter, I think, enjoys exasperating her often. I kept waiting for Carter’s strengths to come through, but for awhile he basically followed Hunter wherever she thought she needed to go. He made good points this only went to show Hunter’s expertise. For much of the time, he seemed bored by the entire mess. Even though he played hero sometimes, he was less action-oriented than I would have thought.


Good voices. The biggest concern I have with these types of stories is that they tend to become lectur-ish because somebody has to explain to the reader what is going on. Has to explain the history, the legends, etc. Sometimes, those lectures become lengthy and I get to the point of thinking, “Get on with it.” Meaning the story.

This book had some lecturing but each time the conversation didn’t turn into a marathon session. The ‘history’ was concise and to the point with little interruption or digression.

One problem I’ve encountered a lot in recent reviews: sentences used as tag lines that can’t be tag lines. It isn’t a major problem, but an instance or two.


Some chapters headed by location and date and Egyptian mythology.

Profanity. A few misspelled words, but not enough to distract. Okay, it’s a little thing, but I did tire of Hunter and Carter constantly mulling over how their quarry entered the country legally. The author overused the word legally. Yes, it was over several chapters, but find another word or way of saying the same thing over and over.

I enjoyed the action, the ‘chase’ to find the answer by Hunter and Carter. The ending, though, was anti-climactic. Sure, our heroes avoided the danger and saved an innocent, but the rescue was a bit quick and the fate of one of the guilty parties wasn’t explained. Well, it was, sort of, but I would have enjoyed a classic showdown or concrete evidence of the person’s demise. As to the other guilty party, his fate was fitting but I would have liked to have seen it, rather than been told about it. (You know, the old adage about showing not telling?)

Because of the several bits of off-ness mentioned with character strength and writing, and even though I enjoyed the book, I have to be fair. So…

My Rank:

Green Belt


Killer Of Killers

Killer of Killers Cover

By Mark DeRobertis




Master Martial artist Trent Smith is on a mission. He is a dealer of justice to killers who have walked away from murder charges. One problem, though. The men he kills are part of test group for billionaire Abraham Soriah who’s developed and promoting a drug to heal wounds and injuries faster and may reverse aging, but also has tragic side affects. Trent is also wary of a beautiful homicide investigator out of the San Francisco area who knows all about Soriah and would like to know what Smith is all about.

Verrrry interesting plot. There are hints of familiarity from other stories here, but this is something fresh for those who need something a little different.


Trent Smith: not his real name, master of martial arts, 5’9”, 195 lbs,

Josh Jones: Blond, handsome, drives a white Mercedes, played pro football, around 6’7” and 300 lbs

Samantha Jones: Josh’s sister, blonde, blue eyes, homicide investigator, around 5’7”

Silvio Gutto: Samantha’s Captain, middle aged, overweight

Amman Bey: Turkish, has a mustache and facial scar, drug dealer, owns a limo

Karl Manoukian: middle aged, dark eyes, wears glasses, graying black hair but going bald, former employee of Soriah, wealthy

Abraham Soriah: billionaire, elderly, white hair, long and thin face

Susie Quinn: black, stripper, long black hair, small nose, bisexual

Soriah comes across as a classic Bond villain, somebody who believes he’s king but over the top in doing so. There’s the ‘girls’ in Quinn andSamantha, the ‘hero’, of sorts, in Smith (even with a Bond-like sexual prowess), and a nice cast of side characters who pop up to provide some color and intrigue. The one character missing is the quirky baddie with the unique body feature or way of killing people. (lol) Not much physical description of Trent. And his decision at the very end, after all that he’d gone through, didn’t seem quite right.


Susie’s voice comes through. The book is not too long so conversations don’t wander to far afield. Some of the dialogue is a bit off. In one scene, for instance, Smith is being chased by the bad guys and people keep asking him, “Are you the guy they’re after?” What a goofy question. As if they really expect someone to answer with honesty: “Yes, I’m the guy causing all the problems, please report me.” This type of dialogue doesn’t happen often but enough for me to notice and wonder, Huh?


Titled chapters.

The action is quick, even in the longer fight scenes. A couple instances of profanity.

There is a bit of background on Trent and some recollections of his martial lessons throughout the years, but I wondered about the reason Trent left Japan. His motivation for coming back to America to start killing killers isn’t very solid. To mete out justice, I don’t think, is a strong enough motive. It should have been something that affected him on a deep person level. The minor explanation doesn’t make complete sense. Nor is it mentioned how he affords to travel/eat.

There are some good martial arts, martial arts training/reflection, and a ‘trick’ with diversionary smoke. That’s fine. A little razzle-dazzle doesn’t hurt, but the author needs to explain the trick, even if it’s a ‘Doc Savage hidden capsule in the lining of his shirt’ type of thing. Otherwise the reader doesn’t get to enjoy the fun.

There is some medicalese that is explained.

What isn’t quite believable is in one scene Soriah’s associate lets Trent know that Trent is better at killing because he doesn’t leave a mark. However, Soriah had to pay off a pathologist to falsify records so the external marks might not be apparent, but any good post-mortem doctor will find C.O.D.

Part of the ending scenes I didn’t understand. It went from a straight thriller into shades of Robin Cook with a metaphysical something-or-other from Trent that threw me.

It’s a good story, but confusing in some places. I hope sequels will delve into Trent a bit more, explain a bit more. The clean writing (no punctuation, spelling, capitalization errors), kept it from being ranked lower.

My Rank:

Green Belt


Tracking A Shadow


By R. Weir




Denver private investigator Jarvis Mann accepts an assignment from consultant Emily White to track down a stalker. There are several suspects including an ex husband and a former coworker. The intrigue grows when a construction boss with suspected ties to the mob enters the picture.

Pretty standard fare with the expecting twists and turns and lies and falsehoods. As I’ve written before, I don’t care if the plot has been done countless times, if it’s a good story it can still be enjoyable.


Jarvis Mann: private investigator, owns a 1969 Mustang, athletic build, 6′, 180 pounds, has had martial arts training, grew up in West Des Moines (bonus points! Lol), studied criminology at Denver University, worked security, parents dead, has an older brother

Emily White: divorced, 30s, long brown-blonde hair, blue eyes, works for a retail consulting firm, drives a BMW

Tony Bristol: Emily’ lawyer, 6’2”, slender, short brown hair with gray temples

Mark Remington: Emily’s ex husband, has a sister, worked in construction, curly blond hair, dark brown eyes, played football and baseball in high school and college, parents dead, left handed

Rickie Ward: Emily’s former co-worker, 5’9”, slender, brown-red hair, works for a consulting firm

Brandon Sparks: owns Sparks Builders, 6’2”, 250 pounds, 50s, flat face, nose scars, short graying auburn hair

A nice cast with some expected good guys and bad guys and minor characters. Some good descriptions on most…except for Jarvis. Other than his build I didn’t get a picture of his looks. The author put in enough characters to make the story complex without it getting confusing.

I did roll my eyes in disbelief at one minor character (and I’m not playing spoiler here) who needed to go to the bathroom. However, there were people with guns in the bathroom and when she sees the weapons she asks how long the people and their situation was going to last because she had to really pee. She acted like those with the guns were having a discussion about a broken toilet. A normal person would either scream (as with the previous lady in the restroom) or run away.


I wasn’t too sure about the dialogue. Many conversations seemed just a bit off. I know authors don’t write exactly how people actually talk, but there has to be a natural-ness to conversations and many in this story are a shade or two off. I noticed this in the first conversation between Emily and Jarvis. For a woman who has gone through a stalking incident before her emotions, words, and manner didn’t reflect the expected concern or fear. The initial meeting sounded more like a business discussion instead of a woman afraid of another stalker. There were other conversations akin to this. Some of the characters just didn’t sound like I would have expected. Sometimes that’s okay but others I question.

Part of the problem is that many characters don’t use contractions when they ought to. Again, sometimes that’s okay but other times the sentence sounds stilted and too formal for the tone of the conversation.

I didn’t hear very many distinctive voices. They all sound like I mentioned above. A couple characters use the phrase ‘clean his clock’ or ‘clean your clock’, which I don’t think anybody says anymore and is too cliché to be used by two people.

Many characters, at one point, speak for a lengthy period. Line after line with no breaks either in explanation or pleading. Again, not the way normal people speak.


First person from Mann’s POV. Some profanity.

The only slow(er) parts of the story were: A) the party scene. I didn’t care for the extensive info/conversation with the number of guests included. B) the stakeout scene about 80% of the way through. Sometimes the kind of music a P.I. listens to adds to the story and character but in this one I didn’t care. I was more interested in Mann’s thoughts about the case and if figured out something.

My Rank:

Green Belt


Swan Deception

Swan Deception_A psychological thriller_400x638

By Glede Kabongo

Author Photo_Glede Kabongo_b&w



Shelby Cooper has a past she’d like to keep hidden. Of course, it won’t be. Her troubles begin when she tries to help a friend disappear from a bad marriage. Said friend ends up dead in her automobile trunk. Shelby is arrested for murder. Her husband, Jason, takes steps to prove her innocence. The troubles aren’t over for her family as her daughter, Abbie, has to contend with a stalker and Jason has problems with a coworker. Oh, and let’s not forget about Jason’s past.

A lot going on here. Some interesting sidelines, but a concern I had was it jumped right into matters with hardly any set up. Sometimes that works but I felt like I do when I watch many British mysteries…as if I’ve come in part way into the story and should already understand what is happening.


Shelby Durant Cooper: 40, black, has a doctorate, large eyes, works in bioinformatics, drives a Mercedes, owns a motorcycle, owns a Golden Retriever, attended Duke and Johns Hopkins, has a brother

Jason Cooper: black, Shelby’s husband, handsome, CFO for Orphion Technologies, father worked for a brokerage firm, has a sister, attended Duke and Texas University

Abbie Cooper: 15, Shelby’s daughter, black hair

Miles Cooper: 11, Shelby’s son

Andrew Clarke: banker, volunteer fireman, large frame, married

Mia Lansing: black, blonde, wears colored contacts, smokes electronic cigarettes, freckles

Greg Marr: co-founder of Bryant International, fit, tanned, salt and pepper hair

Dr. Singer: psychiatrist, attended Harvard, mostly white hair, married with children, owns a dog

Tom Bilko: private investigator, former cop, 6’5”, large arms

Vivian March: Shelby’s friend, thin, art consultant, attended the Art Institute of Chicago

Rayne Revington: 20s, bachelor’s in education, taught kindergarten, brown eyes

Shelby has a stalker who’s making over threats and she acts like she’s a former covert agent. Yes, she’s fearful, but her actions match a professional operative rather than a research assistant/mother. That’s fine, but the reader needs to know that she’s been an operative at the outset. Otherwise, the character comes off as not believable.


The first couple of conversations between Shelby and the bad guy didn’t seem right. Yes, Shelby has a range of emotions because of these conversations, but it’s not exhibited in the dialogue, especially the first encounter. I didn’t see the fear and confusion.

Abbie doesn’t sound fifteen at times, but several years older.

Some of the dialogue sounds forced.


Book divided up into title Parts. Part of the story is first person from Shelby’s POV. Other parts are third person. Relatively short chapters. Profanity. Written in present tense from Shelby’s POV, past tense when it’s third person. One or two times the tense gets switched within one part.

One of the problems I had with the story is the secondary plot regarding one of Shelby’s friends and her efforts to help him and his daughters disappear. The situation is introduced almost as if the reader should know everything about it. There is very little background information. Again, the way Shelby reacts doesn’t fit her character. How would she know to arrange the things she arranges? Plus, the reason for the disappearance isn’t explained. There’s spousal abuse, but I wouldn’t think that would necessarily warrant a trip abroad. Plus, it’s later revealed the guy was going back to his home country, which would be an obvious choice if anybody cared to investigate.

Continuity error: Abbie blocks a boy from texting her on her cell phone and doesn’t reverse the action. Yet days later she receives a text from him.

Some grammar and punctuations errors.

I mentioned some subplots above and I wonder if there aren’t too many. This reads like a soap opera with connections spider-webbing off. This gets complex but there was enough to keep me interested.

My Rank:

Green Belt


Murder, Mayhem, And Bliss

Murder,Mayhem and Bliss- Amz - ebook

By Loulou Harrington

yellow hat-1



Auto dealership bigwig Harold Kerr is found dead in his pool. Of course the wife, Bliss, is the first suspect in what turns out to be murder. She’s also part of a wealthy family in the oil business that includes her great aunt Vivian Windsor. Vivian and Jesselyn Camden, partner in a tea room/coffee shop, and other members of an impromptu ‘garden club’ will try to solve the mystery. And there are several suspects: Harold’s former business partner; someone connected to a nude photo of one of Harold’s affairs; jealous exes.

Nice small town murder in a small town atmosphere. The amateur detective (or in this case, detectives) vs the cops who just want them to leave things alone. But, of course, they never do. A nice plot that doesn’t get to complex.


Jesselyn Camden: 50, operates a tea room/coffee shop and an antique shop, shoulder length light brown/blonde hair, green eyes, drives an old pickup, divorced

Sophia Camden: 69, Jesselyn’s mother, cook and helps with the shops, green eyes, white blonde

Bliss Windsor Kerr: brown eyes, parents dead

Vivian Windsor: Bliss’ great aunt, family is in the oil business, husband dead, wheat blonde hair, son died in an auto accident

Joe Tyler: sheriff, deep voice, drives a pickup

Arnie Holt: county medical examiner

SueAnn Bailey: waitress, 19, redhead, freckled

Bill Marshall: former partner in Harold Kerr’s dealership, drives a black Cadillac

Cindilee Marshall: Bill’s wife, wheelchair bound, blue eyes

Maria Ortiz: administrative assistant at the dealership, dark brown eyes, has a degree in business, drives a red convertible Mustang

I know, I know. Jesse is the main character, but I loved Vivian. She stood out so well. I enjoyed at the beginning how her southern charm and grand dame attitude is roughened when everybody just walks right into her house without calling first. Then when she got her spunkiness (if I can create a word here) up I just wanted more.

I guess Jesse came across as younger than fifty for some reason.


Some overuse of ‘ing’ and ‘ly’ words in tag lines. Some pretty good voices. Vivian’s and SueAnn’s come through well as does the gruff, exasperated sheriff.


Profanity. A few punctuation errors.

Two questions that I had that seemed to have gotten bypassed. 1. Jesse’s mother was anxious that Jesse get downstairs to help in the coffee shop on the morning of the first day. Then Jesse leaves to go to Vivian’s soon afterward. Then Sophia shows up. The question is: Who’s minding the store? I suppose if the time was after three, it would have been closed for the day.

2. Alcohol plays a role in this story and when a bunch of the women are at Vivian’s they go through, what I think was, a fair amount of daiquiris. The question is: Did nobody see anything wrong with two of them driving home?

However, those were just a couple of questions that don’t really take down the story, just stuff I caught.

I really enjoyed the southern-type life, the very light humor. Other than a few minor errors, it’s very clean and tight. There is real potential here for a good series. With the number of members in the club, there are scads of possible angles for future murder mysteries.

My Rank:

Purple Belt



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