review: the ghost hunter next door

The Ghost Hunter Next Door by Danielle Garrett (2017)

Looking for a light read that offers a good mystery, a bit of the paranormal, and a dash of romance? The Ghost Hunter Next Door by Danielle Garrett checks all the boxes. This is book one in Garrett’s Beechwood Harbor Ghost Mystery series, which I would categorize as cozy mystery/ paranormal suspense. For my readers who (like me) have a book budget you try not to bust every month, here are your options: (1) it’s in Kindle Unlimited if you are a subscriber or (2) it will cost you $1 (plus tax). It wasn’t available from my local library. Between you and me, it’s worth your book dollars, especially if you are a fan of cozy mysteries. I’m not a huge fan of cozy mysteries, but every once in a while I want something that’s a little different from my favorite genres. This is my first time reading Danielle Garrett’s work, and I was pleasantly surprised and fully satisfied with my reading experience. Continue reading

review: southern secrets

Southern Secrets by Willow Monroe (2016)

I stumbled upon Southern Secrets by Willow Monroe by accident. I wasn’t necessarily looking for a cozy mystery to read, but I was looking for something to read. Southern Secrets is the first book in the Ace Baxter Ghost Chronicles paranormal cozy mystery series. In terms of the cozy mystery genre, this book is a bit of a unicorn in that the main character is male (the main character of a cozy is almost always female) and that’s one of the main reasons I picked it up and decided to give it a try. That and the fact that it’s a short read, which meant I didn’t have to make a lengthy time commitment. On a budget? At the time of this writing, Southern Secrets isn’t available from my local library but it is available in the Kindle Unlimited library. If you’re not a KU subscriber, then it’ll cost you $2.99 plus tax. If I’d spent my book budget dollars on Southern Secrets I probably would have regretted the decision. That being said, it’s a decent read and when prompted I gave it a three-star rating. Continue reading

review: skin and bones

Skin and Bones by Susan Harris (2016)

Skin and Bones is the first book in Susan Harris’ urban fantasy series, The Ever Chace Chronicles. Before you have a chance to read the blurb teasing the story, the first thing appearing in the back cover copy is a pronouncement identifying the book as a “2017 RONE award nominee for best paranormal romance!”. Not going to lie—after I read the description of the story, the suggestion that this book is part of the paranormal romance genre was the gentle push I needed to download the book and give it a try. Do not be fooled like I was—this is not a romance novel. Yes, there is a love plot, but it’s definitely not the A plot. Paranormal suspense is probably a better descriptor of the book’s genre. This is not to say that, once my expectations were adjusted, I didn’t enjoy reading the book. I just didn’t get what I thought I was getting, and while that is sometimes a good thing (like when you get even more than what you were expecting or you get something you didn’t even know you wanted and it was totally awesome), Skin and Bones presented a few other challenges that were difficult for this reader to overcome. Continue reading

review: the dead play on

The Dead Play On by Heather Graham (2015)

This is the third book in Heather Graham’s paranormal suspense series set in New Orleans and featuring Danni Cafferty and Michael Quinn.  Danni and Quinn, with the help of police detective Jake Larue and the rest of the supporting cast, work on cases that involve objects embued with evil or that have some sort of paranormal power and capturing those individuals who would use the objects for murder, mayhem and terror. In that way it reminds of my Warehouse 13 on Syfy.  Although the first two books in this series had definite paranormal elements, The Dead Play On is more rooted in the everyday world, and while there is still an object that is the focal point of the mystery and the murderer, readers who aren’t big fans of paranormal stories would find pleasure in this particular story.

Like the first two books, part of the story arc involves a quest for the object of power.  In The Dead Play On, that object is a saxophone that was played by Arnie Watson, a veteran returned home to New Orleans who was working as a musician in the city’s music scene.  The music scene within the city makes up much of the backdrop of the book, and the city’s musicians make up the group of suspects and victims.  The murderer wants the saxophone because Arnie had always called it his “special sax” and the murderer believes it has magic, a magic that makes the person playing the instrument a great musician.  This is what motivates the murderer–he wants the saxophone so that he can be a great musician and so that others will actually “see” him.  Because Graham has chosen a third-person narrative style for these books, readers are able to get a glimpse of the murder’s mind every now and then, and we learn that one of the things that drives the murderer is his sense of feeling invisible.  If only he can find Arnie’s “special sax” he won’t have to be invisible anymore, and he’s willing to do anything–including kill–to obtain the instrument.

In order to capture the murderer, Danni and Quinn immerse themselves in the music scene.  Quinn plays the guitar and begins sitting in with the band, and Danni sings backup vocals.  The device helps them to interview potential suspects and victims and learn more about Arnie Watson and his special sax, which everyone who knew him had heard him play and talk about.  Danni and Quinn are a couple, and one of the arcs in the story is the internal struggle Quinn wages with himself between protecting Danni and trusting in her ability to take care of herself.  With the third-person narrative, Graham switches between Danni’s and Quinn’s points-of-view, and this book seems to spend more time telling the story from Quinn’s perspective.  He’s definitely more the main character in this book, but this was something I enjoyed, being able to learn more about him and seeing his character developed and fleshed out a little more. While talking about characters, the supporting cast for this series is also further developed and you learn a little bit more about most of them, particularly Billie, whose experience with the bagpipes allows him to be able to play the saxophone.  At times, there are a lot of characters to keep up.  Between the usual supporting cast and the cadre of musicians there are a lot of people to keep up with, but Graham succeeds in giving most of them distinct enough personalities that you can keep them straight in your mind as you read along.

The revelation of the murderer was no surprise for me.  I had figured out the murderer’s identity about halfway through the book, though I can’t say anything in particular gave it away, maybe just experience reading detective fiction.  Even with this knowledge, though, the story is nicely paced and once it does finally reach the points of crisis and showdown, Graham doesn’t rush unwinding these pivotal points in the story. The final denouement where the remaining loose ends get tied up once again happens with the all of the characters gathered together in the style of Hercule Poirot.  It’s a satisfying conclusion to the book and at the end I was more invested in the characters and want to see more of them.  This is definitely a point in this series’ favor, since recently I have started a lot of series and not found a whole lot to like for one reason or another.

If you like suspense I would say give this series a try.  The first book is Let the Dead Sleep followed by Waking the Dead (which I think is my favorite of three books so far), and though I would recommend reading them in order, Graham does a good job of hinting at the previous cases while not spoiling anything about them.