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Horatio’s Promise

Horatio’s Promise by [D. Clark Gill]
Horatio’s Promise by D. Clark Gill is a historical fiction story set in the Arkansas Ouachita Mountains in 1950. Alfred Spellman, a high school janitor, travels to the town of Horatio’s Promise, where he has spent summers as a children’s music teacher for the past two decades. He again stays at the boarding house owned by Leonora White. But things are different this year. The landlady’s son, Icky, asks Alfred to find out what happened to his father in 1935 when he disappeared, and a polio epidemic threatens the town. Will Alfred discover that Horatio’s Promise is not the idyllic home he had always believed?

This book provides an interesting perspective on the similarities between the polio epidemic and our current health crisis situation, like the lockdowns and not gathering in big groups, and people thinking the outbreak is a hoax faked by the government or a plot by a foreign power to kill Americans. Author D. Clark Gill made me want to learn more about that time in our history because he capture that time period in an authentic and immersive way. I liked the historical setting of this story, and the specific time period of 1950, which reminded me of my grandparents’ small-town experiences. I could picture my grandparents living a similar everyday life to that portrayed by the author at the beginning of the book. I liked the setting of Horatio’s Promise with its small town atmosphere and the author’s descriptions of shops along Main Street and historic homes. Having such a distinct town may the mystery element of this story all the more enjoyable. Like the small town of Derry in Stephen King’s IT, it helped set the tone of the novel. With Alfred searching for clues about Linwood White’s disappearance in 1935. With an intriguing plot and unique twists that surprised me several times near the end of the book.

While I enjoyed this story I felt that it started out a bit slow with lots of internal dialogue and thoughts of past events and details about various secondary characters. While this did help the reader feel empathy for the characters later on, as they battled sickness and death in their families. I wanted to get right into the mystery of the disappearance of Linwood White, but it was a ways into the book before this was mentioned. And the outbreak of polio did not start until about halfway through.

With that said, Horatio’s Promise by D. Clark Gill is still an intriguing mystery novel that easily pulls you into a quaint town and slowly unravels an absorbing enigma that will delight crime fiction fans.

Pages: 307 | ASIN: B08R5JTRYF

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Being Jack The Ripper

Patricia Catacalos
Patricia Catacalos Author Interview

Bedeviled by Her Suspicions follows a woman who fears that her cousin could be Jack the Ripper and hires a detective agency to find out the truth. What was the inspiration for the setup to this thrilling story?

I wanted to write a series involving three brothers who operate a detective agency in Victorian England. When researching that era for famous murderers and their crimes, Jack the Ripper was of course a prominent figure. Researching that case and the various individuals suspected of being the Ripper inspired Bedeviled by Her Suspicions.

Isabel is an intriguing and well developed character. What were some driving ideals behind her character development?

Isabel is intrinsically good and is torn between doing what she feels is morally correct, seeking the truth to save lives, and the guilt she harbors in suspecting her cousin of being Jack the Ripper. This laid solid ground work for her character development.

I enjoyed the mystery at the heart of this story. Was the mystery planned before writing or did it develop organically?

When I began research for my Zane Brothers Detective Series, I found a female criminal whose crimes were mimicked in Book 1 of the series. But because I chose my setting to be in 1888 London, naturally the crimes of Jack the Ripper and the Torso Killer needed to be intertwined with that mystery. That led to the mystery in Book 2, Bedeviled by Her Suspicions, in which historical suspects in the Jack the Ripper case were incorporated into the historical mystery. So, in the case of Bedeviled by Her Suspicions, I knew how I wanted the mystery to develop.

What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?

Currently I am writing my 26th book, Medley of Murderous Intent, which takes place in 1908 London where the 1908 Olympics were being held and during which the first African American won a gold metal. A new generation of Zane brothers must determine who is threatening the Olympian contestant…the historical personality John Baxter Taylor, Jr. This historical mystery will be available late 2021.

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London, 1888… Leather Apron (Jack the Ripper) is mutilating women in Whitechapel. And Isabel Haynes achingly fears that her cousin, the enigmatic Thomas Haynes Cutbush, could be the serial killer. She hires the Zane Brothers Detective Agency to determine if her fears are founded. The roguish Noah Zane is determined to find the truth while protecting the captivating Isabel to whom he is losing his heart.

City of the Dreadful Night: The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Jack the Ripper – Book Trailer

Catherine Sloper, a young and beautiful heiress with everything to live for, has been brutally murdered in New York. Harry Ramsay, Pinkerton Detective, is given the job no one else wants – to pursue her sadistic killer across the Atlantic to London.

The year is 1888. His journey takes him to London’s notorious East End, populated by desperate women and broken men. Who can be trusted in this labyrinth of dimly-lit backstreets? Ramsay encounters prostitutes, pimps and violent criminals. There are women like Marie Morgan, an actress fallen on hard times, and Helen Lynch who is looking for the mother she has not seen in 15 years. These women tell him they need his help but are they drawing him deeper and deeper into a trap?

The East End is beyond the reach of the law and The Old Nichol Gang treat everyone as mugs to be conned or robbed. Jack the Ripper roams these gaslit streets at night, leaving the bodies of his victims in the gutters and scavengers pick the pockets of the dead. Then there is the solitary figure that no one talks about yet everyone is afraid of: the strange Mr Hyde.

His search has led Harry Ramsay into this cesspit of deceit and despair. Can he find his way past the charlatans, cheats and racketeers to smoke out Catherine’s killer in this city of the dreadful night?

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Bedeviled by Her Suspicions

Bedeviled by Her Suspicions (Zane Brothers Detective Series Book 2) by [Patricia Catacalos]

Bedeviled by Her Suspicions (Zane Brothers Detective Series Book Two) by Patricia Catacalos is a historical fiction mystery set in London in 1888. Isabel Haynes is a milliner who suspects that her cousin, Thomas Haynes Cutbush, might be the serial killer known as Leather Apron (Jack the Ripper), murdering women in Whitechapel. She enlists the help of the Zane Brothers Detective Agency to prove that her suspicions are wrong. Isabel feels drawn to Noah Zane from their first meeting. Noah pretends to be Isabel’s beau so that he can remain close to her. Can he protect her from harm as they search to find the truth?

I enjoyed reading this riveting historical thriller. I love mysteries that keep me guessing throughout the story. Part of this story is told from the point of view of the killer, and the few clues that are given match up with Thomas, but could also indicate several other characters. I was immediately suspicious of every man described with a handlebar mustache, since that was the only identifying physical feature that was mentioned about the killer. Although this is the second book in the series, it is not necessary to read book one to enjoy this story. This books can be read as a standalone mystery story. Book One, The Mystery of Her, features Noah’s older brother, Zachery. Book Three and Book Four both feature Noah’s younger brother, Evan.

While I enjoyed this story, I felt that the romance happened a bit too quickly for me, with Noah and Isabel declaring their love for each other within a week of their first meeting. I liked the historical Victorian setting of the story, which was vividly described, but I felt that some of the descriptions of actions were unnecessarily specific and distracted from the flow of the story.

With that said, Bedeviled by Her Suspicions is a compelling murder mystery that will appeal to anyone looking for an alluring mystery that will keep them guessing throughout this entertaining book.

Pages: 238 | ASIN: B01NCM4HJY

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A Rose From The Executioner

A Rose from the Executioner by Edward Izzi is a fast-paced and gripping crime thriller that takes a deep and cynical look at the corruption that runs rampant within the Catholic church against the backdrop of Chicago and Italian-American mafia. As someone who grew up in the Catholic Church and since left it, in part to disillusionment with the clergy’s corruption and scandals, I am definitely the right demographic for Izzi’s novel, but it is one that can be enjoyed by Catholics and non-Catholics alike.

The novel follows Detective Phil Dorian, a police officer in the Chicago Police Department that’s looking for a serial killer who is targeting former priests in Chicago. As Dorian begins his work to uncover the murderer, he finds himself digging into the underworlds of the secretive Italian-American mafia, the shockingly corrupt Catholic clergy, and an ancient, secret brotherhood dedicated to pursuing an illicit mission. Dorian himself is a strong and likable protagonist – he is a well-seasoned detective, and I enjoyed the passages where he uses his detective powers to progress the case. He seems like someone you might really know in your own life, and Izzi does a good job of creating a complicated, multifaceted lead for this novel. The supporting characters of the novel are enjoyable too, and I particularly enjoyed the passages with the mysterious and often sinister Monsignor Kilbane, whose power and corruption seem to have no end. However, I felt that the lead female character, the stunning and intelligent Olivia Laurent, was not as developed as she should have been. Olivia is described with the same handful of adjectives throughout the novel, most of which focus on how good she looks in tight blue jeans.

A Rose from the Executioner succeeds in its creative plot and with its strong protagonist. The plot itself is interesting and progresses at a fast clip to keep readers engaged. I also enjoyed how Izzi played with time, throwing in flashback scenes throughout the novel to serve as a prelude for what was to come in later chapters. However, I didn’t like how some words were unnecessarily in air quotes, and I found it to be distracting.

All in all, I feel that A Rose from the Executioner is an entertaining read. I never felt bored while reading it, and the characters were unique but realistic, and I felt as if I knew some of them personally by the end of the book. I also appreciated that Izzi put the Catholic Church’s leadership under pressure and did not whitewash their crimes, acknowledging the ubiquity of the corruption and ill deeds that have been done over the centuries.

Pages: 422 | ASIN: B07N57FBML

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The Dime Box

The Dime Box by Karen Grose is a thrilling crime novel about a young woman who tries to move on from her past, but it comes back to haunt her. Greta Giffen grew up in an abusive home, but she fled from her father’s house in northern Ontario when she was almost sixteen and moved to Toronto. Now three years later, she finds herself a suspect in a murder investigation. Greta’s memories of the night of her father’s death are not clear, plus she has a strong motive to want him dead, which makes her seem guilty to Detective Sergeant Astra Perez. What is the truth about what really happened that night? And will Greta find herself a victim once more, charged with Ian Giffen’s murder?

Karen Grose has written a compelling mystery novel. It drew me in from the very beginning and kept my attention throughout. The further I got into the story, the more questions I had (Who were Greta’s real parents? Was it a legal adoption?). These intriguing questions is what kept me flipping pages and what kept calling me back to this book. I liked the mystery aspect of the book because it didn’t follow the standard formula of simply settings up a mystery and then solving it. Detective Perez spends much of the book interviewing Greta, but even though the story is told from Greta’s point of view, the reader does not know what happened because Greta can’t remember all the details of the night in question due to a head injury she suffered as a child.

The book starts out in the present and Greta reveals more and more details about her past as the story progresses. I typically prefer books that follow a character’s life in chronological order, but in this case the style worked, adding additional intrigue to the story for the reader. This book is much more about Greta’s story and her life leading up to her father’s death, rather than solely focused on solving the case of how Ian died. However, at times I grew impatient to learn the truth of whether or not Greta was responsible for his death. Since everything remained uncertain as I read the story, it kept me constantly guessing how the book would end. Some things that I suspected were correct, but the ending still surprised me, but some of the questions remained unanswered.

The Dime Box is a thriller with a refreshing take on the murder mystery genre. With an engaging character to follow and an elusive mystery to solve, readers will have plenty to enjoy in Karen Grose’s novel.

Pages: 267 | ASIN: B081XH5CFP

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Canada’s Great Unsolved Murder

Ann Shortell
Ann Shortell Author Interview

Celtic Knot follows a young girl who’s caught up in a murder mystery that has national consequences. What was the inspiration for turning this historical event into a thrilling mystery novel?

It was true inspiration, through a dream. I awakened with the vision of a girl, writing by candlelight, “I was on the other side of the door when Mr. McGee was shot.” I knew she meant the 1868 assassination of Canadian Father of Confederation T. D’Arcy McGee. Irish rebels were blamed, and one was hanged for the crime. Yet this remains Canada’s great unsolved murder mystery.

Clara is an intriguing and well developed character. What were some driving ideals behind her character development?

Thank you, Thomas. Readers have described Celtic Knot as “Alias Grace meets a dark, twisty Anne Of Green Gables”. Certainly, Canadian author L.M. Montgomery’s heroines, such as Anne Shirley and particularly her writer protagonist Emily Byrd Starr, served as inspiration. There’s a bit of Jo March in Clara as well. Yet Clara is a young female immigrant, the ultimate outsider viewing a strange new world with the particular gaze of a post-famine Irish-Catholic (& one hiding her late mother’s scandalous mixed-marriage to her negligent Anglo-Irish Protestant father.) Clara is bright, & surrounded by powerful men, yet absolutely powerless—except for her education, her knowledge of events, and her ability to ferret out information. She must work as a domestic servant to live, and must always make a fine calculation to balance her ethical duty and her best interests.

I enjoyed the historical references used throughout the book. What research did you undertake to ensure things were accurate?

There is a plethora of information available about McGee and his assassination, including books, trial transcripts, his own writings, newspapers of the day, and letters of prominent politicians & their civil servants. There is also no dearth of lore surrounding this story in the Irish-Canadian community, to this day. Much of what I’ve written is factual, but I’ve also learned facts and then taken great liberties with them. The trial is a representative pastiche, and I invented some character backstories and subplots—including the ending. One fact that still intrigues me: when slain, McGee did in fact have a recently-completed, politically-sensitive manuscript that went missing.

What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?

Yes, Thomas, young Clara Swift off having more misadventures–this time amidst a western Canadian rebellion, followed by high-level American Washington D.C. political intrigue, all of which culminates in a border raid of Canada by Irish-American Civil War veterans. This work-in-progress is titled An Irish Goodbye A Clara Swift Tale, and its publication date is Clara’s—and my—latest mystery.

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1868 Ottawa

Politician Thomas D’Arcy McGee is assassinated. As Prime Minister John A. Macdonald cradles his friend’s bloody head, he blames transplanted Irish terrorists: the Fenian Brotherhood. Within a day, Patrick James Whelan is arrested. After a show trial, Whelan is publicly hanged.

That much is history. Did Whelan do the deed?

What if Clara Swift, a mere slip of a girl, sees the trace-line of a buggy turn off Sparks Street, moments after the murder? What if housemaid Clara understands her dead mentor’s shorthand, and forges an unlikely alliance with the Prime Minister’s investigator? And ends up being trusted by the condemned man’s wife — and by Lady Agnes Macdonald . . .

Celtic Knot.
It’s reimagining a crisis that tested a new country.
It’s history with a mystery.
It’s A Clara Swift Tale.

And it all begins with a shot in the dark.

Betrayed

Betrayed by Joseph Lewis is a contemporary psychological thriller and the third installment in a series revolving around a family of adopted brothers, some of which have had traumatic experiences in the past. George Tokay receives a panicked phone call from his childhood friend, whose brother has mysteriously gone missing. George and his adoptive brothers Brian Evans and Brett McGovern take a trip to Red Rock, Arizona, to aid the law in finding their missing friend. Little do they know, they’re playing with fire in an adventure that will suck them into a world of greed, intimidation and murder. As they focus on solving the mystery a dangerous group on men seem intent on killing them.

The novel is mainly narrated through the point of view of the principal protagonist Brian. An introspective boy, who throughout his journey questions his sexuality and contemplates his place in the world and within his adoptive family; all while keeping a promise even if it could mean his own death. This makes for a believable and relatable character. I found it easy who to understand and connect with him. The story takes place in Red Rock, a small Native-American town located at the top of the Navajo Nation Reservation in Arizona. Lewis does an excellent job of alluding to the readers senses and creating realistic scenes, which make you feel like you are in the story. While the storyline is riveting, with action-packed chapters that make the book hard to put down, an element that was too hard to believe was the fact that the FBI not only recruited three teenage boys to aid them in an incredibly dangerous mission, but also provided them with driving permits, vehicles, and firearms. It is explained that the boys were owed a favor from law enforcement, and its understandable that it was a necessary development story-wise. All things taken into account, the setting and character descriptions were extremely detailed, the story is well paced, the tone is fun and easy to follow.

Betrayed by Joseph Lewis is an enthralling crime thriller that is persistently entertaining. I look forward to reading more books in the series to follow the characters I’ve come to love.

Pages: 339 | ASIN: B08GCTV2XH

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