Fatal Code by Natalie Walters – Suspense, Mystery and Intrigue

Since I love reading mystery and suspense novels, I was excited at the opportunity to read Fatal Code by Natalie Walters.  This is the second book in the Strategic Neutralization and Protection Agency (SNAP) series.  This author is new to me, and I haven’t read the first book in the series, Lights Out.

The book opens with Elinor Mitchell attending the funeral service for her beloved grandfather Arthur Conway.  He was a brilliant man, a theoretical physicist, and had worked at the Los Alamos National Lab.  More important than his career was the impact that he made on his granddaughter’s life.  He took Elinor in and raised her while her parents were involved with conservationist causes all around the world.  Elinor is also a scientist and is working on an important project at Lepley Dynamics.

Kekoa Young works for the SNAP Agency and is investigating a possible information leak at Lepley Dynamics.  Concerns have been raised that information has been shared with competitors or foreign governments.  Kekoa is a cyber security expert and was also assigned to keep an eye on his neighbor Elinor Mitchell.  That task that is outside his comfort zone.  Kekoa’s team at SNAP will also be part of the investigation.  Garcia, Lyla, Jack, and Brynn will be investigating other Lepley employees. 

I enjoyed the story more as it focused on Elinor and Kekoa and their growing relationship.  Elinor was closed off and not open to friendship.  Later on, as she opened up, I grew to like the character.  Kekoa was my favorite character.  He was kind, caring, fun, thoughtful, smart, and a diligent worker.  Both Elinor and Kekoa are struggling with their own hurts.  Will they work through those hurts or choose to remain insulated?

I enjoyed the intrigue and mystery and trying to figure out who the bad guys were and why they were involved in trying to steal sensitive information.  Faith was a part of the storyline and it was impactful to Elinor and Kekoa’s lives.  I would like to have seen the Christian faith and Gospel also included.

Toward the end of the book, one of the bad guys threatens a character by describing the torture she will endure.  That seemed over the top especially coming from a Christian book publisher.  It would have been beneficial to have a key or list of characters at the beginning of the book with a brief description.  There are a lot of characters in the book and it’s hard to keep track of them. 

I enjoyed the mystery and intrigue in Fatal Code.  While some of the scientific information was over my head, I found cyber security and code-breaking interesting.  I enjoyed the developing relationship with Elinor and Kekoa and the ties that Kekoa has with his family back in Hawaii.  If you like mystery, suspense, and intrigue you may to read Fatal Code by Natalie Walters

I would like to thank Revell Publishing and NetGalley for an opportunity to read Fatal Code by Natalie Walters.  I was under no obligation to give a favorable review. 

Drawn by the Current by Jocelyn Green – Mixed Reaction

Drawn by the Current is the first book I’ve read by Jocelyn Green.  It’s the third book in The Windy City Saga series, but it works well as a standalone novel.  I wanted to read this story because it tells the story about the capsizing of the SS Eastland while still docked onshore.

Olive Pierce wants to celebrate her friend Claire’s birthday by going to the Western Electric’s picnic.  Boarding the ship, they are anticipating a fun summer day, but soon disaster will strike and leave them and over 2,500 passengers fighting for their lives.  At the end of the day, Claire is one of over 800 people who are missing and feared dead.  As an employee of MetLife Insurance, Olive, will be handling insurance claims from this unimaginable disaster.  There are many mysteries to uncover as Olive searches for the truth.  As she is handling cases, she finds out that someone at the office is sabotaging her work.  Who is responsible and why?  While Olive is investigating several mysteries, she meets a freelance photographer and private investigator, Erik Magnussen.  He will help her uncover the facts, expose the truth, and close cases. 

What works with Drawn by the Current?  My favorite character was Erik because he had an interesting background and seemed like an honest, strong, and brave man.  I liked Olive’s family.  Her mother Meg, aunt Sylvia, and uncle Kristof were a very caring, loving, and supportive.  I loved their store, Corner Books & More.  The author did a good job telling the story of SS Eastland disaster.

What didn’t work?  I struggled with Olive.  I didn’t care for her dishonesty and how she justified it.  There were too many mysteries going on that took away from the main story.  Olive took some risks and made decisions that weren’t logical.  The biggest thing I struggled with in this story was the feminist-like agenda.  Like the struggle Olive encountered trying to show that she was capable of doing more in her job, to her work being sabotaged, to her solving multiple cases, to the abuse her friend Claire endured, and the woman police detective helping to save the day.  Women were portrayed as victims or heroes, and many men were seen in an unfavorable light.  It seemed like the story was told through a feminist lens.   

I would like to have seen the Christian faith better portrayed in the characters’ lives.  Olive was full of remorse over her wrong actions, but it didn’t say she was repentant.  She believed that God had forgiven her for what she had done, but doesn’t explain the basis of her forgiveness.  She seemed prideful about her remorse over her wrongdoing.  That her remorse was better than Blanche’s, who justified what she had done. 

There were some things I really appreciated in Drawn by the Current.  The story about the SS Eastland and what it would have been like handle such a great loss of life, as an individual, family, community, and business.  I liked Olive’s family and Erik.  They were likable and relatable characters.  While I struggled with some aspects of this story, I would like to read other books by author Jocelyn Green.  She had some interesting insight into the characters. 

If you like historical fiction, you may want to read Drawn by the Current by Jocelyn Green.  

I would like to thank Bethany House Publishers and NetGalley for the opportunity to read a complimentary copy of Drawn by the Current by Jocelyn Green.  I was under no obligation to give a favorable review. 

Malicious Intent by Lynn H Blackburn – Mystery, Suspense and Likable Characters

I like reading mysteries and suspense stories and have enjoyed Lynn H. Blackburn’s novels.  That’s why I was excited to read her newest book, Malicious Intent, the second book in the Defend and Protect series.

Malicious Intent focuses on Gil Dixon and Dr. Ivy Collins, characters introduced in the first book of the series, Unknown Threat.  Gil and Ivy go way back, but they had a falling out and haven’t seen each other since then.  Secret Service Agents Gil and Zane are following up on counterfeit bills deposited by Hedera, Inc., Ivy’s business.  When they arrive at her home and knock on the door, they find something is amiss as the door opens by itself.  It had been 15 years since Gil had last seen Ivy, and now she was standing before him.  But something is terribly wrong with Ivy.  She looks beat up and is holding a gun.

Other characters from the first book, Luke, Zac, Tessa, Faith, and Sabrina, are also included in this story.  One of the things I liked about this book was the friendships and commitment these people had for one another.  The storyline and investigation were interesting as they tried to determine who was trying to harm Ivy and why.

The romance part of the story was a little rushed, especially considering how Gil and Ivy’s relationship had ended 15 years earlier.  But Gil was ready to put the past behind him.  I did like Ivy and her drive and passion to help people.  I found annoying Gil’s repeated use of a nickname he had for Ivy, who is now a grown woman, not a young girl.  There’s a little bit of faith worked into the story.  I would have liked to have seen more of that.  The characters were likable, but I wish they had been developed more fully.  I appreciate that the novel was clean, without profanity or sexual immorality. 

Overall, I liked Malicious Intent because of the mystery and suspense.  My favorite part was the friendships and commitment between all the characters.  I recommend this book, especially if you like suspense and law enforcement. 

Thank you to Revell Publishing and NetGalley for the opportunity to read complimentary copy Malicious Intent by Lynn H. Blackburn.  I was under no obligation to give a favorable review. 

Trust Me by Kelly Irvin – Lots of twists and turns, but not my favorite.

Trust Me is Kelly Irvin’s newest book, a mystery set in San Antonio in the Arts District. 

Actually, there are two mysteries, one dating back to 2010 in which Delaney Broward’s brother Corey was killed.  Ten years later, Hunter Nash, the man convicted of Corey’s murder, has been released from prison.  He’s maintained his innocence all this time, and now Hunter’s on a mission to find the person who killed Corey.  To investigate and find the real killer, he needs to reconnect with his former girlfriend Delaney.  She wants nothing to do with Hunter.  To make matters worse, on the day Hunter was released from prison, Corey’s former fiancée Ellie was found murdered.  Coincidence?  Did Hunter kill Ellie?  Or is someone out to implicate Hunter?

This novel has a lot going on with two murders, past and present.  While there is action in the story, emotions and memories are a big part of the story.  At times that kind of drags the story. 

I liked Hunter, and he was the one character whose Christian faith was focused on.  He was a changed man from his eight years in prison.  While he wanted to find Corey’s murderer, he wasn’t bitter.  Instead, Hunter was humbled as he reflected back on his life.  I appreciated the support Hunter had from his family and a local pastor who helped him to get a job.  I didn’t care for Hunter pushing his way back into Delaney’s life, and I don’t think her reaction was portrayed realistically. 

Delaney had abandoned her faith and the other characters seemed spiritually empty.  That surprises me in a book from a Christian author.  As the story goes along, it’s revealed that there were a lot of secrets and people weren’t necessarily who they represented themselves to be. 

The ending was a bit of a stretch.  When characters do something that isn’t logical, only to put themselves at risk, it doesn’t make a lot of sense.  I guessed who the villain was but didn’t believe the scenario of the hitman being manipulated because of his low intelligence. 

What was done well?  Kelly Irvin is a good writer and captured the atmosphere and vibe of San Antonio and the Arts District.  I wish the characters had been more likable and relatable.  Other than Hunter, faith was not a big part of the story and I wish it had been. 

If you like Kelly Irvin’s writing or like reading mysteries, you may enjoy this book.  For me there was something a bit off about it and at times rather dark. 

I would like to thank Thomas Nelson Publishers and NetGalley for the opportunity to read a complimentary copy of Trust Me by Kelly Irvin.  I was under no obligation to give a favorable review. 

Labyrinth of Lies by Irene Hannon – Filled with Suspense and Mystery

Labyrinth of Lies by Irene Hannon is the second book in the Triple Threat series.  In this newest book, readers are introduced to Cate Reilly, sister to Eve Reilly featured in the first book of the series Point of Danger

Cate is a detective in St. Louis County, and she’s the right person for an undercover assignment.  Teenagers Stephanie Laurent and Alex Johnson have been missing for two months.  New evidence indicates they are not runaways but victims of foul play.  Cate agrees to go undercover at Ivy Hill Academy to try and find out what happened to the missing teens.  It’s been eight years since she’d last seen Zeke Sloan, the man she loved who walked out on her for his career as a DEA agent.  As it turns out, Zeke is also working undercover at the school as a Spanish teacher.  Cate’s undercover assignment just got a lot more complicated. 

Irene did a great job in building the suspense and mystery.  It was at times unnerving, especially for the characters whose lives were being impacted by the subterfuge around them.  I really liked the characters, especially Kayla, Edwardo Garcia, and his wife Margarita.  As the story unfolds, readers learn how characters got caught up in the evils of drug trafficking.  Because some of the characters go by anonymous names, like Razor and Wolf, you don’t know who the bad guys are.  It was interesting reading about how people justify getting involved in evil.  I liked the friendship that developed between Cate and Kayla.  I didn’t know how Edwardo would be able to get out of the impossible situation he was in.  I also liked how Cate and Zeke worked through their relationship.

I wish the character’s Christian faith had been developed in this storyline.  I think the book would have been richer with that element.  I wasn’t too keen on the feminist aspect of Cate and her sisters and the focus on the physical attraction between Cate and Zeke in a Christian fiction book.

If you like mystery and suspense, give Labyrinth of Lies by Irene Hannon a read.  I liked this second book better than the first one in the series because of some of the characters. 

I would like to thank Revell Publishers and NetGalley for the opportunity to read a complimentary copy of Labyrinth of Lies by Irene Hannon.  I was under no obligation to give a favorable review. 

Present Danger by Elizabeth Goddard – Lots of Intrigue, But Too Many Characters and Details Took Away from the Storyline

Since I had enjoyed Elizabeth Goddard’s earlier mysteries, I was excited to read her newest book, Present Danger the first book in the Rocky Mountain Courage series

Present Danger is filled with suspense, mystery, and intrigue from the get-go.  Private pilot Chance Carter is taking off with a package containing something illegal and headed to a small airstrip in Montana.  He should have listened to that nagging uneasy feeling.  But when his airplane is about to crash, he’s just trying to survive.  The next two chapters seem disjointed from the first chapter.  We are introduced to Sheriff’s Detective Jack Tanner and US Forest Service Special Agent Terra Connors.  They will be joining forces to investigate the questionable death of a local citizen, Jim Raymond, found in the forest.  Jack and Terra’s relationship goes way back, but they haven’t seen each other in years.  Their relationship didn’t end on a good note however they will strive to put their personal feelings aside and solve this case.

Parts of the book I found interesting, like learning about different aspects of law enforcement in remote forested areas and the illegal sale of Native American artifacts.  However, I thought the book had issues that took away from the storyline and characters.

Present Danger very convoluted and packed with details that did not contribute to the story.  There were too many characters, it was hard to keep track of all of them.  While Jack and Terra had a history, there didn’t seem to be much romance between them.  I kind of liked Jack, but his insecurities that he had carried with him all these years (not based on his own failings or history) got kind of old.  It seemed like an unnecessary element and focus of the story.  I can’t recall if Jack ever told Terra why years before he left town without saying goodbye.  He didn’t come clean and explain what he had overheard her grandfather say.  It bothers me when things in the storyline don’t make sense, like when a character does something illogical that puts themself in danger.  Also, there came a point when Terra should have been removed from the case but she wasn’t.  One of the biggest surprises at the end came out of nowhere and didn’t seem believable.

Elizabeth Goddard describes scenery really well so that the reader can imagine what the place looks like or the characters are experiencing.  She’s done her research and knows jobs and locations well.  But I don’t recommend this book because of the negatives in the story: too many characters; too many unnecessary details that distract instead of moving the story forward; and not making the characters compelling enough to care about them.

While this book has been published by a Christian publisher there wasn’t much concerning the Christian faith in the book. 

I would like to thank Revell Publishing and NetGalley for the opportunity to read a complimentary copy of Present Danger by Elizabeth Goddard.  I was under no obligation to give a favorable review.

Unknown Threat by Lynn H. Blackburn – Interesting plot and characters, but had a convoluted ending

When I saw that Lynn H. Blackburn had a new book out, Unknown Threat (Defend and Protect, Book 1), I wanted to read it because I had enjoyed her earlier novel Beneath the Surface

Unknown Threat’s plotline sounded intriguing.  US Secret Service Special Agents Luke Powell and Zack Thacker went out for an early morning run and when they return to their vehicles suddenly, they are under fire.  As they are lying on the ground looking at their vehicles, they realize that their cars are wired with bombs.  Will they survive until help comes?  Who in the world is trying to kill them and for what reason?  FBI Special Agent Faith Malone has been assigned to investigate these attacks and try and protect the remaining US Secret Service team in Raleigh.

This fast-paced story drew me in from the beginning.  Interesting to think about how people who risk their lives to protect others might respond when they are targeted?  I liked the character Luke Powell and the US Secret Service team, their friendships, and their commitment to one another. 

I didn’t quite connect with Faith Malone, she seemed more like a caricature of a tough single woman who sacrificed her personal life for career advancement.  The repeated Cherry Coke references kind of got old.  It was understandable why Faith might be attracted to Luke who was a decent nice guy, but I didn’t understand what he saw in her. 

Faith’s sister Hope was a very likable and refreshing character.  I would like to see her in future books of the Defend and Protect series.  It was hard to understand how the character Special Agent Janice Estes kept her job.  Was she incompetent or just plain corrupt?  She wasn’t very believable. 

While I liked many of the characters, I struggled a bit with the plotline.  It was very convoluted and I don’t see how a reader would have been able to figure out the mystery.  The story ended rather abruptly and if it hadn’t been for the last chapter summarizing whodunnit and why I don’t think I would have put the pieces together.  Not sure that the motives of the bad guys were believable.   

There wasn’t much about the Christian faith included in the storyline.  But I did appreciate that there was no profanity or sexual immorality.   

The good: likable characters and an interesting scenario.  Not so good: the convoluted plot and ending and one of the main characters wasn’t very likable. 

Would I recommend Unknown Threat by Lynn H. Blackburn?  If you like Lynn’s books give this book a read.  This is the first book in the Defend and Protect series and some of the characters will be carried over to future books.

I would like to thank Revell Publishers and NetGalley for the opportunity to read a complimentary copy of Unknown Threat by Lynn H. Blackburn.  I was under no obligation to give a favorable review. 

Aftermath by Terri Blackstock – Fast-paced Suspenseful Story

Terri Blackstock’s books are filled with intrigue and suspense and that’s why was excited to read her newest book Aftermath.  This book will hold your attention from the get-go.

Taylor Reed and her friends Desiree and Mara are at a political rally, the draw isn’t Presidential candidate Ed Loran, but instead their favorite band Blue Fire is playing.  What happens next is the things nightmares are made of.  An explosion, smoke, people screaming.  The only thing Taylor can think of is getting out alive.  Later that night, Dustin Webb is driving home and suddenly the police are pulling him over.  Certain that he wasn’t speeding nor was there any cause to be pulled over, he consents to the police searching his car.  What they find will land him in jail and Dustin will be the suspect in the bombing that left dozens of people dead.  His one phone call will be to his friend Attorney Jamie Powell, whom he hasn’t seen in fifteen years.  If anyone will believe him, it will be Jamie.

Aftermath seems like it could have been ripped from today’s headline news.  It’s fast-paced and filled with twists and turns.  What I liked best were the characters Dustin and Jamie, their personalities and friendship that spanned many years.  Taylor was an interesting character, I found myself asking how I would handle the trauma that she endured.  I also found her irrationality and thought processes very disturbing.  Dustin’s friend and business partner Travis and his wife Crystal are going through their own battle as Crystal is fighting for her life.  Dustin understands why Travis can’t be there to help right now, but Dustin’s fighting for his own life, and the world’s about to turn against him unless he can prove his innocence.

I liked the storyline and it grabbed my attention from the beginning.  I liked the main characters Dustin and Jamie, but I was frustrated when Dustin seemed to be making illogical decisions and didn’t believe the evidence that showed who the bad guy was.  I figured out who the bad guy was and his motivation, but had to see how the story all fit together.  In many respects, Taylor seemed like a loose cannon and the most illogical.  I liked the fast clip of the story, it fit the narrative but the end of the book seemed to drag a bit and the story came to an abrupt ending.

The Christian faith wasn’t a big part of the story, I think that the characters’ development would have been richer if their faith had been included.  I appreciated that the story did not have sexual immorality and or profanity.  Aftermath was an interesting story with likable characters, but it could have been richer.  I would like to see the main characters in other books.

If you like mystery, intrigue, and suspense I recommend that you read Terri Blackstock’s newest book AftermathThis book is being released on May 11, 2021.

I would like to thank Thomas Nelson Publishers and NetGalley for the opportunity to read Aftermath by Terri Blackstock.  I was provided with a complimentary copy of the book but was not obligated to give a favorable review.

Obsession by Patricia Bradley – Mixed Feelings

Obsession by Patricia Bradley is the second book in the Natchez Trace Park Rangers series.  I’ve read a couple of books by Patricia and looked forward to this book because of the interesting setting.  

Emma Winters works as a Natchez Trace park ranger and historian.  She is overseeing a project to document and preserve the graves of the slaves who had been buried on this historical site.  As Emma is getting ready to head home, her day’s about to get a whole lot longer when someone takes a couple of shots at her.  Called in to help investigate is her former fiancé Sam Ryker who also works as a park ranger.  While things didn’t end well between them, Sam wants to find the person who is targeting Emma and get out before any feelings between them are revived.

I struggled a bit with the novel.  I wasn’t too keen on the main character, Emma, she wasn’t a very likable character.  She was the independent woman who was also the helpless stubborn female who didn’t want help.  Parts of the story seemed rather contrived to keep Emma and Sam in regular contact.  There wasn’t a lot about faith in this book.  I think the story would have been richer if that aspect of the characters’ lives had been developed.  There were three people in the book that struggled with unforgiveness, Emma, Sam, and Sam’s sister Jenny.  I would like to have seen at least one of them have a biblical perspective and understanding of forgiveness.  Sam did work his way through the unforgiveness he had been harboring.

Something I can’t stand in books is when a character does something really stupid and illogical which puts them at risk and in harm’s way, which Emma did towards the end of the book.  When that happens, I stop caring about the character because I feel manipulated and it’s not logical. 

The character Sam was likable, but I didn’t understand why he continued to be drawn to Emma.  Emma’s continued to blame Sam, and herself, for her brother’s disappearance ten years earlier.  That got old really quick!  She blamed others instead of recognizing her brother’s own personal responsibility for his life choices and the risks he took. 

I liked the character Sheriff Nate Rawling and hope to see him in future books in this series.  He seemed to respect and trust the team that he was working with and was there to work alongside them.  The Natchez Trace park setting was interesting. 

There were a few elements and characters I liked in Obsession, but they were overshadowed by a character and parts of the storyline I didn’t care for. 

I would like to thank Revell Publishers and NetGalley for the opportunity to read a complimentary copy of Obsession by Patricia Bradley.  I was under no obligation to give a favorable review.

Network of Deceit by Tom Threadgill – Filled with Mystery, Intrigue, Suspense – You Won’t Want to Put It Down

It was the storyline, filled with mystery, suspense, and intrigue, that drew me into reading Network of Deceit by Tom Threadgill

On the heels of a highly publicized successful case, Detective Amara Alvarez has been transferred to the homicide division and she’s been assigned her first case.  A young teen, Zachary Coleman, has died at a local waterpark.  The cause of death is not clear and the tox screen won’t be back for weeks.  While there are no clear indications of murder, there’s some suspicious details that Amara wants to investigate.  She’s not one to wait patiently on the sidelines but will take a closer look and delve into the evidence until she has an answer, one way or the other.

The storyline was intriguing, and the evidence was peeled back one layer at a time.  The suspects, Zach’s friends Matias, Haley, and Liam were interesting and obviously trying to cover something up.  But was it related to Zach’s death or was there something illegal that the teens were caught up in?  I enjoyed reading how Amara would reexamine the facts and suspects over and over again until a crack appeared.

My favorite part of the book was the characters, Amara, her coworker Detective Jeremiah Peckham (otherwise known as Starsky).  The relationship between Amara and Starsky was special, they obviously cared about each other and respected one another.  But was there something more going on between them?  I enjoyed Amara’s large and close family especially her mom Maria and Maria’s boyfriend Wylie.  Amara’s family were the kind of people you would want to get to know.  Once you’ve met them, you’ll be welcomed back.  Though work was a big part of Amara’s life, her family was more important and she made time to be with them. 

I very much enjoyed reading Network of Deceit by Tom Threadgill.  It held my attention from the first page to the last.  The plot was interesting and the characters were likable, relatable people that I cared about.  Even the “bad guys” were interesting.  They weren’t vilified to the point that you hated them, but you got to know what made them tick and what made them go down the wrong path.  I didn’t want the story to end.  I hope that these characters come back in future novels. 

You know a book is really good when you are thinking about the story or characters when you aren’t reading the book.  Though faith was not a big part of the storyline, I appreciated that this was a clean book, with no foul language or sexual immorality.  Tom Threadgill knows how to tell a good story, he’s a good writer.  Tom skillfully develops the characters and moves the plotline along as he unveils the mystery and builds suspense.  I look forward to reading more of Tom Threadgill’s books.

I highly recommend Network of Deceit by Tom Threadgill.  I would like to thank Revell, a division of Baker’s Publishing Group for the opportunity to read a complimentary copy of the book.  I was under no obligation to give a favorable review.

Backlash by Rachel Dylan – Likeable Characters, Interesting Storyline, Filled with Intrigue

I’ve read several books by Rachel Dylan and really enjoyed them.  That is why I was excited to read her latest book, Backlash, the second book in the Capital Intrigue series.

Layla Karam is a CIA Analyst, which fits her perfectly, but because of her skills, she has been pushed to work as a field agent.  Her assignment was part of a DEA operation in Honduras.  The team is back in the US, but they are not safe because someone is targeting the team.  Following a break-in, bombing, and murder, Layla is just trying to stay alive and figure out who is targeting her and the team?  Is it someone from the drug cartel?  Is there a mole within the CIA or DEA?  Why in the world is Layla at the center of an IG investigation?  To get through this mess, she’s going to have to seek help from the one person she’d like to steer clear of, her ex-boyfriend Hunter McCoy. 

I really like Rachel Dylan’s writing style.  From the get-go, she draws the reader into the story.  The characters are likable, and the storyline is interesting.  Several mysteries are going on in Backlash.  Who is behind the murder and attempts to kill the DEA Honduras operations team?  How did straight and narrow, law-abiding Layla end up the subject of an IG investigation?  The characters from the first novel End Game have returned in Backlash, including NCIS Agent Izzy Cole.  Layla is not the only one facing an investigation.  Her friend Izzy is a prime suspect in the murder of her former police sergeant that had sexually assaulted her.  Layla and Izzy will rely on the support and help of good friends who care.

I appreciated the friendships, people who were committed to each other.  There were some surprises in this book, like who the “bad guy” was.  I was guessing but got it wrong.  Faith was a small part of the book, mostly seen with Layla’s character.  I appreciated that this was a clean novel.  There were times towards the end that the story seemed to drag a bit, but I still liked this book.

I would recommend Backlash, especially for those who like suspense, mysteries, intrigue, or stories involving law enforcement.  I look forward to reading more of Rachel Dylan’s books and the next book in the Capital Intrigue series.

I would like to thank Bethany House Publishers and NetGalley for an opportunity to read a complimentary copy of Backlash by Rachel Dylan.  I was under no obligation to give a favorable review. 

Burden of Proof by Davis Bunn – Fascinating Storyline and Interesting Characters

While I’ve never read any books by Davis Bunn, I was intrigued by the blurb on the cover of Burden of Proof

Who can say that they don’t have things in their life that they regret?  If given the chance to do things differently, would you?  That’s the dilemma that’s facing Ethan Barrett.  He’s been given a death sentence by his doctor, and his time is short.  When he meets his sister-in-law Sonya, whom he hasn’t seen in thirty-five years, she is seeking his help to try and change the course of history.  Ethan wasn’t there with his brother Adrian was shot and killed on the courthouse steps.  If he had been there, would the circumstances have changed?  Ethan is about to find out.

This book is very different from what I typically read.  It’s got a bit of science fiction in the storyline.  Davis Bunn is a good writer because he draws the reader into the story from the get-go.  I don’t take much of an interest in surfing, so I was surprised to like the main character Ethan and enjoy reading about his experiences, what he saw and felt while surfing.  I found the characters very likable and appreciated seeing the characters grow and change.  Early in the book, I didn’t much care for Sonya, but as the story progressed, I really saw her in a new light and came to like the character.  The story was interesting to contemplate and had mystery and intrigue too.  I appreciated the details describing the settings where the story took place because it helped me to envision scenes as I read.

The book is published by Revell Publishing, which is a Christian publisher, so I had hoped that the Christian faith would have been woven into the storyline.  But it wasn’t.  Towards the end of the book, Ethan is talking with a friend who encouraged him to live life with an eternal perspective.  While that was thought-provoking, the story could have been much richer if the Gospel of Christ had been included and woven into the characters’ lives.

I found that the last section was a bit much with the courtroom scenes and Adrian questioning his wife Sonya about her scientific research.  I wish it had been clearer and more concise.  There were allegations hinted at about the company that wanted to buyout Sonya’s company.  Not sure why, but they seemed to dance around it instead of making a clear and straightforward assertion about their motives.

Though the Christian faith is not a part of the story, I appreciated that there was no profanity and the story was clean. 

All in all, I very much liked Burden of Proof by Davis Bunn.  The storyline was compelling and fascinating.  The characters were interesting and well developed.  I look forward to reading more of Davis Bunn’s books.

I would like to thank Revell Publishing for the opportunity to read Burden of Proof by Davis Bunn.  I was under no obligation to give a favorable review. 

The Escape by Lisa Harris – Interesting Story and Likeable Characters

I love reading books filled with mystery, suspense, and intrigue and that’s why I was excited to read The Escape by Lisa Harris, an author whose work is new to me.  This is the first book in the US Marshalls series. 

Could it really be five years since Madison James’ husband Luke had been murdered?  Her life had been changed forever, but she had thrown herself into her career as a US Marshall.  Though it was an important anniversary, she had a job to do, transporting two prisoners from Seattle to Denver.  She would be joined by US Marshall Jonas Quinn, with whom she had trained a few years ago.  Jonas had just moved back to Seattle, though he was planning for a couple days off, duty called.  Any hope for a smooth prisoner transport was quickly abandoned as their private plane crash-landed in the forests over Idaho.  Just because their plane crashed didn’t mean their job was over. 

I really enjoyed reading The Escape.  From the get-go, I found this book very engaging.  The characters were likable, and the storyline was interesting.  I liked the rapport between Madison and Jonas and that they had mutual respect for one another.  There was a little bit of romantic attraction and it was expressed appropriately for a Christian book.  I liked how the characters were revealed over time as they got to know one another.  I’ve never read anything about the US Marshalls and learned a little bit about this law enforcement agency.  The author was good at describing the scenic settings. 

I very much liked this book, yet there were times that the story seemed to drag.  The number of times the escaped prisoner got away and posed a threat to the general public seemed a bit much.  I wondered in real life that if a US Marshall had been foiled by the bad guy too many times, would they be fired? 

Something else that didn’t seem realistic was the plane crash where both Madison and Jonas sustained injuries.  But those injuries didn’t seem to stop them in their quest to get the prisoner.  The story wasn’t wrapped up entirely at the end, but it appears that there will be a book two where their story will carry on. 

I love finding a new author whose work I like and look forward to reading more books by Lisa Harris.  What I liked best about her writing is how she develops relationships. 

If you like suspense, mystery, intrigue, romance, or books on law enforcement, I recommend The Escape by Lisa Harris

I would like to thank Revell Publishing and NetGalley for the opportunity to read The Escape by Lisa Harris.  I was under no obligation to give a favorable review. 

Don’t Keep Silent by Elizabeth Goddard – Beautiful Setting, Filled with Intrigue and Suspense

Don’t Keep Silent by Elizabeth Goddard is the third book in her Uncommon Justice series.  I had read the second book, Always Look Twice, and was excited to read her new book.

When Rae Burke’s brother Alan asks her to search for his missing wife Zoey she agrees and uses her tenacious and keen investigative skills to try and find her sister-in-law and friend.  As she heads up to Jackson Hole, Wyoming she hopes to enlist help from former DEA agent Liam McKade, but since they part ways last time she’s not confident that he will be willing to join forces and help find Zoey.

Don’t Keep Silent grabbed my attention from the get-go.  It was filled with lots of suspense and twists and turns.  There were some likable characters, but my favorite was Liam.  He seemed like a faithful friend, brave and willing to put himself on the line to protect Rae, try and find Zoey and expose the bad guys and bring them to justice.

Author, Elizabeth Goddard did a good job of describing the scenic area of Jackson Hole, Wyoming during the wintertime.  Made me want to go there on vacation.  The reader is left guessing as to whether some of the characters are good guys or bad guys, and there were some surprises.  The faith aspect of the novel was minimal and confined to mostly one-sentence prayers for protection or help.  I wish the characters’ faith had been more developed, especially with Liam.  I think the book would have been richer if the author had done that.

What I struggled with is the main character, Rae.  Something that really bugs me is when characters do things that don’t make a lot of sense or aren’t logical.  Rae seemed to do that repeatedly, she was emotionally driven and had a high estimation of her own abilities.  Why Liam stuck by her I don’t know.  Rae seemed to have no issue with putting her life on the line, not only hers but Liam’s too.  Not just once but on multiple occasions.  That got old and I found Rae less likable.

I won’t give away the ending, but the ending and reason why Zoey was kidnapped kind of stretched the imagination.  Towards the end, the story kind of dragged and was very convoluted.

There were things I liked about the book, the character Liam, the setting, and the suspense and intrigue, but there were some things I wasn’t too keen on.  I would recommend Don’t Keep Silent if you are a fan of Elizabeth Goddard or you like suspense, mystery, and intrigue.

I would like to thank Revell Publishing for the opportunity to read Don’t Keep Silent by Elizabeth Goddard.  I was provided a complimentary copy of the book but was under no obligation to give a favorable review.

 

The Crushing Depths by Dani Pettrey – Romance, Mystery and Suspense

The Crushing Depths by author Dani Pettrey is the second book in her Coastal Guardians series.  The storyline is why I wanted to read this book.

The Dauntless is an oil rig 38 miles off the coast of North Carolina.  Greg Barnes has had a very bad day and he’s looking forward to having a cigarette break.  When he steps outside, he can hear the environmental protesters chanting.  Do they ever take a break?  When he flicks his lighter, little does he know that his day is going to get a whole lot worse.  Was this a tragic accident or something more sinister?  Former friends are reunited when Rissi Dawson and Mason Rogers are called in to investigate the accident as part of the Coast Guard Investigation Services team.  Before investigators can even reach the Dauntless the action heats up.

What I really liked most about this book was the relationship between Rissi and Mason.  Especially learning of their friendship from when they were young.  I liked the support that the CGIS team gave one another and their friendships.  I appreciated that faith was included through prayer.  I would like to have seen the characters personal faith developed further.  It was interesting learning about what it’s like working on an oil rig out in the ocean.  Those are some of the elements that worked well.

I struggled with the book in a few areas.  There were so many characters that it was kind of hard to keep track.  While I liked the characters, Noah and Brooke, I thought that the storyline involving these characters didn’t advance the main story and was almost a distraction.  I think another book about Noah would be good.  There was a lot of action and at times the story dragged switching between the main story and the one involving Noah.

Something that seemed odd was the personal relationships and romance that developed between characters that worked together, especially in light of how that is viewed in today’s culture.  Since there was a deep bond between Rissi and Mason focusing on their physical attraction seemed unnecessary and perhaps not what I would expect in a book by a Christian author.

I thought that the transitions between storylines within chapters could have been handle better.  I would recommend some kind of a break, like a line, to show the story is now focusing on different characters or have shorter chapters.

If you are a fan of Dani Pettrey or like romantic mysteries, suspense or stories that involve the military you may want to read her newest book The Crushing Depths.

I would like to thank Bethany House Publishers and NetGalley for the opportunity to read a complimentary copy of Dani Pettrey’s newest book The Crushing Depths.  I was under no obligation to give a favorable review.

 

Closer Than She Knows by Kelly Irvin – Interesting storyline, characters and setting. Christian faith was portrayed rather worldly.

I became acquainted with author Kelly Irvin’s writing through her Amish themed books and was excited to read her newest book Closer Than She Knows.

Closer Than She Knows is about Teagan O’Rourke, a court reporter in San Antonio, Texas.  She comes from a family that works in law enforcement.  Teagan’s life is about to unravel as people around her are being targeted by some sicko and she finds herself at the center of an investigation.  Why are these innocent people being targeted?  How are they all connected?  What can she do to stop this before another innocent life is taken?

One of the things I like about Kelly’s writing is how she portrays relationships with family, friends, and co-workers.  I especially like the O’Rourke family, Teagan, her father Dillon and step-family Billy, Gracie, and Leyla.  My favorite character was her friend Max who seemed like a real gem, and her friends Julie and Evelyn.  They were a tight-knit group that cared for one another and were there for each other.

I found Teagan’s job as a court reporter fascinating and learned a few details about that job.  Kelly does a great job describing the setting in the San Antonio downtown area and neighborhood where historic homes were being rehabbed.  It seems inviting and picturesque.  The story is very suspenseful and will keep you guessing until the end.

This book is written by a Christian author and the Christian faith is part of the story.  The best example of that was Max, a man redeemed and dependent upon the Lord each day.  He was gracious and caring.  I found Teagan’s faith to be immature and nominal.  When talking about her reluctance to having children her explanation seemed very secular and lacking faith.  She seemed to care more about the environment than lost souls and sin.  At one-point, Teagan describes herself in very politically correct terms and does not mention that she is a Christian.  Her understanding of the death penalty was not in keeping with what God has declared in the Bible.  Teagan and Max’s physical attraction could have been portrayed a little less worldly.

If you are a fan of Kelly Irvin’s novels or like mystery, intrigue, and trying to solve a whodunit, you may like Kelly’s newest book Closer Thank She Knows.

I would like to thank Thomas Nelson Publishers and NetGalley for the opportunity to read Closer Thank She Knows by Kelly Irvin.  I was under no obligation to give a favorable review.

 

Standoff by Patricia Bradley – Mixed – interesting setting, likeable characters, but too many characters and dragged a bit.

I love mysteries so I was excited to read Patricia Bradley’s newest book Standoff, the first book in the Natchez Trace Park Rangers series.

Standoff is about the rather brutal and ugly business of moving illegal drugs through Natchez Trace National Parkway a corridor that runs from Natchez, MS to Nashville, TN.

Brooke Danvers was looking forward to riding along with her dad District Law Enforcement Ranger, John Danvers.  She has followed in her father’s footsteps and will soon be sworn in as a LE Ranger despite her parent’s concerns.  When John gets a call, plans change and Brooke will have to wait another day.  Only that won’t be happening when John is found dead at Emerald Mound later that night.  His death is ruled a suicide, but Brooke does not believe it and will stop at nothing to find out who brutally murdered her dad.  Old ex-friend and neighbor Luke Fereday is back in Natchez working as an undercover park ranger trying to infiltrate the drug ring.  Not only is he working to stop the flow of illegal drugs, but he too wants to find John’s murderer.

Standoff has a whole of stuff going on.  There are a lot of characters introduced early on in the story, law enforcement, drug dealers, potential bad guys, family, friends. and neighbors.  It was kind of hard to keep all the characters straight.  It would have been helpful to have a key at the front of the book with a list of characters and a brief description.  The first part of the book seemed to dragged, but about midway through the story picked up moved at a faster clip.  The number of characters could have been trimmed down some.

There were a number of things that seemed off or not quite believable.  It seemed odd that Brooke’s mother would leave town so quickly after the death of her husband.  It didn’t seem plausible that Luke could pass off being in town to visit his grandmother because his behavior and weird hours would raise suspicion.  He just happened to show up wherever Brooke was at way too many times.  The scene where Brooke makes a discovery seemed contrived.

I liked the main characters, Brooke and Luke.  My favorite character was Luke’s grandmother Daisy.  The action scenes, especially toward the end were well written and easy to visualize.  I like the setting of the Natchez Trace law enforcement.  I think the series has some good potential.  I will read future books in this series.  I appreciated that the book was clean, not filled with vulgar language or sexual immorality.

I would like to thank Revell Publishers and NetGalley for the opportunity to read a complimentary copy of Standoff by Patricia Bradley.  I was under no obligation to give a favorable review.

 

Collateral Damage by Lynette Eason – Likable engaging characters in a suspenseful story

As someone who loves to read Christian mystery/fiction books, I was excited at the opportunity to read Lynette Eason’s newest book, Collateral Damage, the first book in the Danger Never Sleeps series.

Collateral Damage starts off at an army base in Afghanistan where the men are preparing to arrest a fellow soldier, Isaiah Michaels who is suspected of being a traitor and selling information to the jihadists.  Sergeant Asher James doesn’t believe the allegations because it doesn’t square with the man he knows.  But he has been charged with leading the operation as two MARP vehicles set out to Kabul to arrest Specialist Michaels who has been spotted at a bar.  Military psychologist, Brooke Adams is looking forward to heading home in three weeks.  She’s meeting some friends at The Bistro in Kabal.  When Specialist Michaels tries to catch her eye, Brooke does her best to tune him out and focus on her friends who have become like family so far away from home.

What happens next is just the beginning of an action-packed story filled with suspense and lots of twists and turns.  What information did Isaiah Michaels find?  Did he betray his country?  What accounts for the large increase of adoptions at Morning Star Orphanage over the last year?  How does it all fit together?

I found myself invested in this story because I liked the main characters and I wanted to get to the bottom of the mysteries.  I appreciate that the story did not have filthy language or sexual immorality.  The Christian faith was a part of the storyline and the two main character behavior and choices were influenced by their faith.

I did struggle with the first chapter because it was long and it introduced at least fourteen characters in a very fast-paced story.  After that chapter, the pace and number of characters slowed down.  I think it would have been better to break it up into two chapters.  I did figure out who the bad guy was but that didn’t take away from enjoying the book.  I was interested to find out his motivation.

Collateral Damage is the first novel I’ve read by Lynette Eason and I really liked it.  The best part of the book for me was the engaging likable characters.  I look forward to reading more of her books in the future.

If you like suspense and action with likable characters, read Lynette Eason’s newest book Collateral Damage.

I would like to thank Revell Publishing and NetGalley for the opportunity to read Collateral Damage by Lynette Eason.  I was provided a complimentary copy of this book to read but was not required to give a favorable review.

 

Smoke Screen by Terri Blackstock – Likable Characters in a Compelling Story

Terri Blackstock is on my shortlist of authors, who when they write a new book, I want to read it.  I was excited at the opportunity to read Terri’s newest book Smoke Screen.  She has a way of drawing the reader into the story with an honest portrayal of likable characters with broken lives.

What makes Smoke Screen a good book?  In this book, it was the main characters, Brenna and Nate and an interesting storyline.  Brenna is in a rough season of her life.  She’s had a divorce that she didn’t ask for or want and now she is battling a weak but powerful and strategic ex-husband for the custody of their children.  Nate, an admirable man with proven character, a hero who along with his teammates puts his life on the line to save lives and protect communities when wildfires are burning.

Both characters bring their history of brokenness to the table.  One whose father was murdered and the other whose father was convicted of that murder.  Imagine what losing a father does to a family with children.  It tears them apart and leaves scars that take a long time to heal.  Can the love between two teens possible survive?  What if the man who served 14 years for a crime that he didn’t commit is set free?  How will that impact the families involved as well as the community?  Will the truth ever be made known and will justice be served?

Nate was my favorite character.  A strong man of courage, who lives out his Christian faith with grace and forgiveness.  Yet, even he will have that faith tested.  Brenna, a woman who has been through a lot of tragedy in her life.  Her faith is wavering and her walk is stumbling along.  The secondary characters, especially Nate’s brother and mother were likable too.

There were a few things I struggled with.  One being Brenna’s alcohol problem.  I understand that she was overwhelmed and just trying to get through, but as a Christian how did she get there.  Nate was very solid in his faith walk, except for a couple of areas where his response didn’t seem fitting.  One, when testifying in court he waffled and played loose with the truth.  Two, when Brenna is out of control with her drinking one night, he just lets her drink, to her very public detriment.  I didn’t understand that response.  It didn’t seem fitting of his character, especially when Brenna had so much to lose.

I appreciate that the story included the Christian faith.  There were some good examples, but I would have like to have seen it portrayed deeper and stronger.

I liked this story and the characters, even with some of the messiness and brokenness of their lives.  I really like Nate’s commitment and faithfulness as a son, brother, friend, teammate, and firefighter.

If you like Terri Blackstock, or mysteries and suspense, give Smoke Screen a read.  I found myself thinking about the characters even when I wasn’t reading the book and I was challenged to ask how I would respond if I faced similar situations that the characters faced.

I would like to thank Thomas Nelson Publishers and NetGalley for the opportunity to read a complimentary copy of Smoke Screen by Terri Blackstock.  I was under no obligation to provide a positive review.

 

Lake Season by Denise Hunter – Likeable characters, in a lovely town with a blend of mystery and romance. I didn’t want this story to end.

I love a good mystery and when it’s tied to a little romance that’s a book I’ll want to read.  That’s why I was excited to read Denise Hunter’s newest book Lake Season (A Bluebell Inn Romance).

Molly, Levi and Grace Bennett are siblings whose parents had died in a tragic accident a year ago.  Grace is 18 years old and set upon staying in Bluebell.  But it will take the commitment of all three of them to fulfill their parent’s dream and turn their home into a bed and breakfast inn.  Ten months later, their inn is about to open when their first unofficial guest Adam Bradford walks in.  Little do they know but under their roof is the famous author, who writes under the pen name Nathaniel Quinn, whose work Molly loves.  Adam is in town to do a little research to help him get inspired so he can write his next bestseller.  Adam is quite taken with Molly whom he considers his muse and he gets distracted when he tries to help Molly find the writer and recipient of a letter that’s been lost for 57 years.

That’s the background of Lake Season, which is set in the lovely lakeside town of Bluebell, North Carolina.  My favorite character was Adam, he was kind and caring.  He was rather shy and had some insecurities you wouldn’t expect for an accomplished writer.  Molly was sweet, unpretentious, passionate and caring.  She even cared about people she never knew.  But she knew the importance of the letter she had in her possession and wanted to get it into the hands of the people it belonged to.  I appreciated the caring and commitment that Levi, Molly, and Grace had for one another, a self-sacrificing love.  I especially liked the relationship between Adam and Molly.  They got to know each other and their attraction more than skin deep.  I enjoyed the unfolding mystery of who Lizzie and Ben were and what had happened to them all those years ago.

Lake Season was a story that I didn’t want to end, so I took my time reading and savoring this story.  When I finished, I felt a little sad leaving behind the characters I had come to care about.  The characters were very likable and the town seemed inviting and like a place I would like to visit.  I loved the blend of mystery and romance.  Denise Hunter is on the shortlist of writers whose work I want to read.  When I was reading Lake Season, I thought this would be a perfect Hallmark Channel movie.

I wish there had been more of the character’s faith included in the story, I think it would have been a richer story.  I appreciated that the novel was clean in content and language.

If you like a blend of romance and mystery be sure to read Lake Season by Denise Hunter.

I would like to thank Thomas Nelson Publishers and NetGalley for the opportunity to read a complimentary copy of Lake Season and the opinions expressed are entirely my own.