Tag Archives: mysteries & thrillers

The Dish Dog by Peter Davidson Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

An FBI forensic accountant goes up against the perpetrator of one of the largest stock market insider trading schemes in the history of the United States in author Peter Davidson’s “The Dish Dog”.

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The Synopsis 

Someone is operating the largest stock market insider trading scheme in the history of the United States. The perpetrator of the scheme has hidden their identity through elusive actions. However, the perpetrator may not have planned on a brilliant FBI forensic accountant, Dr. Kimberly King, leading the investigation to uncover their identity and to put them out of business and into jail.

The Review

The author does an incredible job of layering the mystery of this financial crime thriller. The way the author is able to bring the reader into each scene so vividly through imagery in the author’s writing style shows so perfectly with each transition. The way the reader felt the tension as the investigators slowly put the pieces together and the relatability of the scenes in which the characters lived their daily lives, going to restaurants or working their way through college, made this story flow smoothly.

Yet the most exciting aspect of the novel came from the cat-and-mouse storytelling style between the protagonist and the antagonist of the narrative. The way Kimberly is able to work through the mystery and the way the author pairs her knowledge of the financial sector with the crimes themselves mirrored the criminal’s brilliant yet devious mind, and the chase between them elevated the tension and atmosphere of the narrative.

The Verdict

Thought-provoking, captivating, and entertaining, author Peter Davidson’s “The Dish Dog” is a must-read financial thriller of 2023. The twists and turns this deceptively straightforward mystery take will have readers hanging on the edge of their seats, and the intellectual way the author weaves the financial aspects of the case with the action and suspense will have readers engaged on a much deeper level. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Peter Davidson is the author or co-author of thirty-one books published by McGraw-Hill Book Company, Perigee/Putnam Publishers, Haworth Press, Sweet Memories Publishing, and Northwestern Publishing.  His works include fiction, nonfiction, college textbooks, and children’s picture books.

For more than two decades, Davidson was one of America’s most active writer’s seminar presenters, having presented 637 one-day seminars in a 15-state area from Minnesota to Tennessee and Colorado to Illinois.  Davidson has owned small businesses, including a professional recording studio, has sold real estate, and taught business courses in a community college.  Whatever else was going on in his life, Davidson kept on writing. 

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The Unraveling: A Jade & Sage Thriller Series Book One by Joanna Vander Vlugt Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

After the client she successfully defended is murdered, a lawyer must rely on her sister’s motorbike club to help defend her from a secret justice society and their assassins when they come after her next in author Joanna Vander Vlugt’s “The Unraveling”, the first book in A Jade & Sage Thriller Series.

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The Synopsis

Jade Thyme celebrates successfully defending Jules Cranbury on a murder charge. Her celebration is short-lived when she finds Jules murdered. Jade investigates and uncovers a secret justice society whose members hide behind white tabs and black robes while delivering their own vigilante justice. Jade locates a once prominent and respected lawyer, now known as Noxzema Man, homeless and panhandling in Fan Tan Alley. He warns Jade. Judges, lawyers and police make up the Society. Trust no one. The MotoCityDolls, her sister’s all-female motorcycle gang, save Jade from a Society assassin. Forced to take a leave of absence, Jade packs up her office, but not before coming face-to-face with another assassin–Jules’s murderer.

The Review

This was such a compelling and chilling crime meets legal thriller. The haunting nature of the conspiracy that unravels throughout this narrative and the frightful tone that the dangers facing the protagonist emit help drive the narrative forward and keep the reader on the edge of their seats as one after the other the dominoes in the character’s lives begin to unravel. The rich setting and adrenaline-fueled blend of mystery and suspense (with a hint of supernatural storytelling elements) made this a completely engaging read.

The character growth and interactions really highlighted the growing mystery and dread that the dangers presented to the cast of characters. Jade is such a strong and inviting protagonist, and her bond with both her sister and Osmond was definitely a compelling element of her story. Yet it was the unraveling of the conspirators and the society that comes after her, as well as the haunting nature of the supernatural twist that affects her journey, that kept me invested in the overall narrative.

The Verdict

Chilling, entertaining, and thrilling, author Joanna Vander Vlugt’s “The Unraveling” is a must-read crime thriller that meets paranormal suspense and mysteries. The brilliant start to the Jade & Sage Thriller series, the rich dynamics between the characters and the haunting nature of the crimes, and even the connection between Jade and the first victim of the crime spree, will keep readers on their toes as these twists and turns up the ante of this narrative. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Joanna Vander Vlugt is an indie author and illustrator. She hosts a podcast called JCVArtStudio from the Dressing Room which provides authors and artists an opportunity to tell their story–a dress rehearsal before taking their book launch or art show on the road.

Her legal thriller Dealer’s Child is a 2021 Canadian Book Club Awards finalist and The Unravelling, the first novel in her paranormal thriller series, was a 2019 Canadian Book Club Awards finalist. Her previous publications include her short essay No Beatles Reunion for the Dropped Threads 3 anthology, Beyond the Small Circle; Egyptian Queen for the Dead in the Water mystery anthology and The Parrot and Wild Mushroom Stuffing for the Blood on the Holly mystery anthology.

Joanna’s art can be viewed on Instagram @jcvartstudio

https://www.jcvartstudio.net/

Girl Targeted (An Aoife Walsh Thriller Book One) by Val Collins Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

A newlywed wife who takes an office job whilst awaiting the birth of her daughter witnesses a horrific accident that just may point to a cold-blooded killer, and everyone in her life, including her own husband, may not be able to be trusted in author Val Collins’s “Girl Targeted”, the first book in An Aoife Walsh Thriller series. 

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The Synopsis

Office jobs can be stressful. Aoife’s may be lethal.

Aoife’s life is finally on track. She’s happily married, pregnant with her first child and has the world’s best mother-in-law. But when Aoife accepts a job as an office temp, her entire life begins to unravel.

Is one of Aoife’s colleagues a murderer? Is Aoife the next target? Why is her husband unconcerned?

Can office politics lead to murder? 

The Review

I love how the author immediately draws the reader in with their relatable character development and subtle buildup of tension that allows for those explosive moments to really shock the reader and stay with them long after the scene has ended. The rich setting and captivating mystery that surrounds the setting itself give the reader an equally magnetized pull that draws them into the mystery the same as the protagonist, who takes on this investigative role.

The character development really drove the story home for the reader. The determination and curiosity that Aoife displays are so relatable to true crime enthusiasts and journalists alike, and how she balances this with her life as a wife and mother is great world-building in my opinion. Balance this with the twisted relationship that reveals itself over time with her husband, who displays rudeness and abruptness that so many people will recognize from their own past relationships and informs the reader on how far Aoife’s narrative journey takes her over time.

The Verdict

Captivating, thoughtful, and entertaining, author Val Collins’s “Girl Targeted” is a brilliant story and a great first entry into the Aoife Walsh Thriller series. The twists this mystery takes and the dangers that Aoife comes into contact with are a great foundation for building a new heroine to tackle the mysteries and criminal dangers facing her small corner of the world. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Val Collins is the author of the award-winning psychological thriller GIRL TARGETED and the No. 1 international bestsellers ONLY LIES REMAIN, THE SILENT SPEAK and WHERE LOYALTIES LIE. All four books are stand-alone thrillers and they can be read in any order.

Val has lived in Ireland her entire life, and graduated from University College Dublin. She enjoys chocolate, going for long walks in the countryside, seeing as much of the world as possible, meeting friends, writing, and reading. In fact, she devours books at the rate of one per week, and her favourite authors range from Philippa Gregory and Sophie Kinsella to Lee Child and Linwood Barclay.

Join Val online at valcollinsbooks.com, and on social media @valcollinsbooks.

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Paper Targets: Art Can Be Murder by Steve S. Saroff Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

A young computer hacker hoping to get away from the men forcing him to engage in this criminal enterprise meets and falls in love with a young artist from Japan, and soon discovers she has dark secrets of her own in author Steve S. Saroff’s “Paper Targets: Art Can Be Murder”.

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The Synopsis

A drifter bails an artist out of jail. Then everything goes wrong.

Part Montana wilderness, part crime, ‘Paper Targets’ is a novel that simmers with questions about love and greed and then boils over at the collision of good and bad.

Enzi, a drop-out and runaway, becomes a criminal computer hacker who falls in love with Kaori, an artist from Tokyo. When Kaori confesses through her drawings to a double murder, Enzi questions everything he has ever done. But as Enzi tries to extricate himself from the men he has become indebted to, he is violently pressured to keep “pounding code.” While Enzi plans his escape, he is forced to look for answers about his past.

The Review

This was a brilliant blend of a noir thriller and artistic expression. The captivating setting, Big Sky country, provided the best juxtaposition of nature’s serene beauty clashing with mankind’s never-ending chaos and destruction. The atmospheric nature of the author’s writing style and the imagery it conjures up really fully brought the reader into the narrative.

One thing that always stands out to me as a reader is when an author is able to make the characters come to life in such a way that they feel like they could be standing in the room with you. That s what the author crafted here, doing an excellent job of highlighting their character development so that not only does the narrative shine, but the journey these two undergo is both complex and emotional, as well as dangerous and exhilarating. The troubled pasts they are both running away from hold answers to the clues of who they are and what their purpose is.

The Verdict

Thrilling, entertaining, and captivating, author Steve Saroff’s “Paper Targets” is a must-read noir thriller of 2022. The iconic and breathtaking imagery in the author’s writing style brought the Montana skies to life wonderfully, and the rich dynamics and balance of solid themes and exhilarating action made this one book I didn’t want to put down. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Steve Saroff is the host of the podcast Montana Voice, and the author of over 30 traditionally published short stories printed in Redbook and other national magazines. His available books include Paper Targets; The Long Line of Elk; and the forthcoming Mixed Drinks.

https://www.montanavoice.com/

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A Death in Berlin (The Simon Sampson Mysteries Book Two) by David C. Dawson Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

In the 1930’s Berlin, a city that once stood for liberation is about to become the capital of one of the world’s largest waves of oppression, and one man must fight to save the lives of several gay men as the Nazi party rises in author David C. Dawson’s “A Death in Berlin”, the second book in The Simon Sampson Mysteries series.

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The Synopsis

Berlin 1933: When the parties stop…the dying begins

The city that’s been a beacon of liberation during the 1920s is about to become a city of deadly oppression. BBC foreign correspondent Simon Sampson risks his life in a bid to save thousands of gay men from the growing Nazi threat.

This is the second in the Simon Sampson mystery series. The first, A Death in Bloomsbury, was hailed as ‘a good old-fashioned John Buchan-esque mystery reworked for the twenty-first century’.

Simon moves to Berlin where he meets British author Christopher Isherwood and his lover Heinz. He’s also reunited with his banter-partner Florence Miles, better known to her friends as Bill. She’s recruited him into the British intelligence services and he’s got the task of hunting down communist spies.

But when Simon is ordered to spy on an old college friend, his loyalties are brought into question. Who are his real enemies? And how much can he trust his masters?

The Review

This was such a well-developed and engaging historical fiction meets mystery thriller. The atmosphere and intrigue the author was able to infuse into the story really elevated the historical time period the narrative took place in, and the gripping story kept me on the edge of my seat as the author’s balance of fast-paced action and slow-build character growth kept the novel moving at an even pace. The LGBTQ aspect of the narrative and the character growth felt refreshingly natural and insightful, as it played into the history itself quite well.

The rich character dynamics and the unique setting are what really made this story stand out. The chaos and sadness that became such a part of everyday life at the beginning of the Nazi occupation were felt strongly in this novel. The harmonious way the author was able to weave these emotions and facts from our world’s history into the actions and experiences of this cast of characters made this novel so gripping. It allowed the mystery itself felt elevated as the narrative dipped into the espionage spy genre with ease.

The Verdict

Entertaining, thought-provoking, and uniquely pertinent to many of the recurring struggles so many around the world face today, author David C. Dawson’s “A Death in Berlin” is a must-read historical fiction meets suspense thriller and a great addition to The Simon Sampson Mysteries series. With the adrenaline rush and mind-bending twists and turns, this narrative will resonate with readers who enjoy an almost pulpy noir-style storytelling with an LGBTQ-driven cast of characters and a heavy dose of historical research and accuracy. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today! 

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Men in love, men in jeopardy.

David C. Dawson is an award-winning writer of page-turner thrillers with a gay theme and the occasional romance.

His latest novel A Death in Bloomsbury was published in November 2021.

His debut novel, The Necessary Deaths, won bronze for Best Mystery & Suspense in the FAPA chairman’s award. It became the first in the Dominic Delingpole series. The other two books are The Deadly Lies and A Foreign Affair.

His first mystery romance For the Love of Luke was published in October 2018 followed by Heroes in Love.

David lives in London with his boyfriend and ageing motorbike.

You can read his blog here: http://bit.ly/DavidCDawsonblog

In his spare time, David tours Europe on his ageing Triumph motorbike and sings with the London Gay Men’s Chorus.

https://www.davidcdawson.co.uk/

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Hero Haters by Ken MacQueen Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

After becoming the prime suspect in the disappearance of the finalists for the nation’s highest medal of valor for civilians, one man must put himself on the line to find and save these heroes from the sinister web they’ve been ensnared within author Ken MacQueen’s “Hero Haters”.

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The Synopsis

Jake Ockham had a dream job, vetting nominees for the Sedgewick Medallion—the nation’s highest civilian award for heroism. His own scarred hands are an indelible reminder of the single mother he failed to pull from a raging house fire; her face haunts him still. Obligations drag him back to his hometown to edit the family newspaper but attempts to embrace small-town life, and the hot new doctor, are thwarted by unknown forces. The heroes Jake vetted go missing and he becomes the prime suspect in the disappearances. Aided by resourceful friends, Jake follows a twisted trail to the Dark Web, where a shadowy group is forcing the kidnapped medalists to perform deadly acts of valor to amuse twisted subscribers to its website. To save his heroes, Jake must swallow his fears and become one himself…or die in the attempt. 

The Review

This brand-new thriller from a brand new author and seasoned journalist was absolutely fantastic. The author immediately showcased the strength of finding the right balance between character growth and suspense building. The atmosphere and tension really elevated the narrative here, capturing the shocking nature of the crimes and the fight for survival that takes place. The focus on “heroes”, and how we treat our heroes in the world is a great central theme to play into this thriller and did a great job of showcasing the humanity within our heroes.

The brilliant character development and escalating suspense were so well delivered. The chemistry between Tina and Jake as the story develops adds a hint of romance into the narrative, but the complexity of the protagonist’s struggle with his brush with heroism and the blend of guilt for those that couldn’t be saved, as well as the human faults all heroes still have in their daily lives that are often ignored in the wake of their heroism, made their development so mesmerizing to read about.

The Verdict

Thought-provoking, atmospheric, and entertaining, author Ken MacQueen’s “Hero Haters” is a must-read suspense thriller of 2022. The gripping blend of haunting dark web crime and the balance of morality with heroism as a whole made this such a rich and dynamic story to dive head first into, and readers will be hard-pressed to put this novel down. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy or preorder by October 5th, 2022!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Before turning to fiction, Ken MacQueen spent 15 years as Vancouver bureau chief for Maclean’s, Canada’s newsmagazine, winning multiple National Magazine Awards and nominations. He travelled the world writing features and breaking news for the magazine, and previously for two national news agencies.

He has written extensively on crime, politics, disasters, both natural and man-made—and, being Canadian, on the shifting fortunes of Queen Elizabeth II and her clan. All of this is potential fodder for future fiction, though the Queen as action hero seems unlikely.

Hero Haters, set in the Pacific Northwest and rural Pennsylvania, is his debut thriller.

MacQueen covered nine Olympic Games and drew the athletic prowess of Jake Ockham, his protagonist, from tracking elite rowers in training and on podiums in Athens, Beijing and London.

He and his wife divide their time between North Vancouver and British Columbia’s Sunshine Coast.

kenmacqueen.com

Only Lies Remain (An Aoife Walsh Thriller Book 2) by Val Collins Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

The discovery of a body leads to old family secrets being unearthed, and a hunt for a killer who could very well be amongst Aoife Walsh’s family takes center stage in author Val Collins’s “Only Lies Remain”, the second book in the Aoife Walsh thriller series. 

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The Synopsis

Everyone thought Danny Walsh deserted his family when his sons were young. But when Danny’s body turns up fifteen years later and his wife, Maura, is implicated in his murder, accusations and old rumours surface.

Aoife rushes in to clear her mother-in-law’s name. But why is it that Maura’s story surrounding Danny’s disappearance doesn’t quite add up?

Aoife’s investigation uncovers old secrets, long-held jealousies, and lies upon lies. With every new revelation, Aoife realises she doesn’t know her family at all. Now her new boss is acting strangely, her best friend is more and more distant and her husband is no help at all.

With her support network crumbling and her family threatened, Aoife must race to keep one step ahead of danger before more innocent lives are lost. But how will she uncover the truth when only lies remain?

The Review

This was a captivating and thought-provoking thriller. As a newcomer to the series, I was immediately enthralled with the expansive cast of characters. Protagonist Aoife is such a brilliant presence in the narrative, providing both the determination and strength a thriller’s heroine is meant to have and yet infusing the vulnerability and emotional components that make her character feel well-rounded. The balance of everyday developments in her life, from her tumultuous relationship with her soon-to-be ex-husband and her desire to help her former mother-in-law, to her growing relationship with the lead investigator and the close friendship she has with Orla.

Yet it was the twisted narrative and haunting atmosphere the author built into this story that made the novel so captivating. The rich world-building and stark settings were brought to life brilliantly using powerful imagery and made it feel very cinematic in nature as if it could be turned into the newest BBC murder mystery and thriller series that takes the world by storm much like The Fall or Broadchurch. The chilling nature of the case and the personal connection the protagonist has to it allow the reader to feel the desperation and need to solve the case that drives this story forward.

The Verdict

Brilliantly written, complex yet inviting, and thoroughly entertaining, author Val Collins’s “Only Lies Remains” is a must-read murder mystery thriller. The twists and turns the narrative takes, as well as the shocking reveal of the killer and his or her motives, will have readers hanging off the edge of their seats, and the author’s skills and powerful command over the genre make her future in this industry something that cannot be ignored.  If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Val Collins is the author of the award-winning psychological thriller GIRL TARGETED and the No. 1 international bestsellers ONLY LIES REMAIN, THE SILENT SPEAK and WHERE LOYALTIES LIE. All four books are stand-alone thrillers and they can be read in any order.

Val has lived in Ireland her entire life, and graduated from University College Dublin. She enjoys chocolate, going for long walks in the countryside, seeing as much of the world as possible, meeting friends, writing, and reading. In fact, she devours books at the rate of one per week, and her favourite authors range from Philippa Gregory and Sophie Kinsella to Lee Child and Linwood Barclay.

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To Charm A Killer (A Hollystone Mystery Book One) by W.L. Hawkin Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. 

The High Priest of a powerful coven must search for a killer who is targeting witches as Hecate issues a dreadful prophecy he must race to prevent in author W.L. Hawkin’s “To Charm a Killer”, the first book in the Hollystone Mystery Series! 

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The Synopsis

When a third witch vanishes from Vancouver, the witches of Hollystone Coven spin a charm to catch the killer. But spells ripple with repercussions, and in the ensuing chaos, an innocent seventeen-year-old girl gets caught up in the charm. As obsessed with the killer as the killer is with him, High Priest Estrada vows to find the man and stop him. Then, at their Samhain ritual, Hecate speaks through their high priestess and shocks everyone with her prophecy:

As one of you has spun the charm, now none of you are safe from harm.

One who all felt they could trust, breeds deception cloaked in lust.

One will gain their heart’s desire, while yet another pays with fire.

Before the dark of winter night, four souls pass over into light.

Once begun it cannot end, but circles round as circles bend.

To save the girl and catch the killer, Estrada journeys from the West Coast of Canada to Ireland and Beyond. Abduction, death, fire, and faeries. Who is the killer? Why is he killing witches? And how can he be stopped before Hecate’s prophecy comes true?

WL Hawkin weaves threads of Macbeth and ancient Irish myth with edgy romance in this mysterious urban fantasy. To Charm a Killer is the first in the Hollystone Mysteries series.

The Review

I have had the pleasure of reviewing quite a few books this past year from W.L. Hawkins. Her work always entertains and inspires me both as a reader and a writer, and the interesting thing about this series, in particular, is that I came into it starting with book 2 and then jumping around a bit. I’ve become quite invested in Estrada’s journey throughout this series, and getting to see the genesis of this character and the supporting cast was such a pleasure to read about.

The balance of action and mythos was so strong in this first novel. The way the author is able to integrate the supernatural and paranormal elements into the world so naturally was amazing to read. As someone who is fascinated with the real-world applications of magick, the paranormal, and the supernatural as a whole, it was great to see just how close the author was able to go through real-world practices and mythologies before integrating the more fantastic elements of the narrative.

Yet it was the mystery and suspense of the narrative that was truly great to read about. The shocking murders and the cat and mouse element of the plot between Estrada and the killer kept me hooked on the author’s narrative. Being able to keep the reader guessing the killer’s identity as the clues begin to unravel before them was such a fun aspect of the plot, and kept me on the edge of my seat.

The Verdict

Captivating, entertaining, and thought-provoking, author W.L. Hawkin’s “To Charm a Killer” is a must-read novel and a great first book in the Hollystone Mystery series! The twists and turns in the narrative and globe-spanning mystery blended well into the mythology and supernatural deep dive into witchcraft, magick, and the paranormal as a whole, making this a thrilling story. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

W. L. Hawkin writes myth, magic, and mayhem designed to inspire and entertain. Described as “intoxicating, lush, magically-edgy, page-turners,” her Hollystone Mysteries series features a coven of witches who solve murders using their wits and ritual magic with a little help from the gods. Wendy is also a published blogger, book reviewer, Indie publisher, and poet, with a background in Indigenous Studies and English literature. She loves myth and magic, so when she’s not writing, she’s studying Druidry, shamanism, and mediumship. Although she is an introvert, in each book, her characters go on a journey where she has traveled herself.

She defies genre by writing character-driven fast-paced mysteries and thrillers that involve fantastical characters. See her four book series: To Charm a Killer, To Sleep with Stones, To Render a Raven, and To Kill a King.

Her latest book, Lure, is set on a Chippewa Reservation in the American Midwest and tells the story of Jesse & Hawk.

Devil’s Chew Toy (Hayden & Friends Book One) by Rob Osler Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. 

A gay relationship blogger teams up with a take-charge lesbian and a feisty bull terrier to find a missing go-go dancer and take down an international crime ring in author Rob Osler’s “Devil’s Chew Toy”, the first book in the Hayden & Friends LGBTQ+ Mystery Series! 

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The Synopsis

Perfect for fans of T.J. Klune, Becky Albertalli, and David Levithan, this hilarious, big-hearted LGBTQ+ mystery follows an unlucky in love—and life—gay relationship blogger who teams up with a take-charge lesbian and a fiesty bull terrier to find a missing go-go boy and bring down an international crime ring.

When Hayden McCall’s new crush suddenly disappears, the twenty-something gay ginger relationship blogger and middle-school teacher teams up with a take charge butch lesbian, a gentle giant, and a feisty bull terrier to find the missing guy. 

Driven by a belief that the police won’t take the crime seriously, the improbable crime fighters prove that friendship — fueled by a lot of caffeine — has the power to bring down a diabolic international crime ring.

The Review

I absolutely loved this book. The humorous and captivating story balanced out so well with the rich and diverse characters. The pacing and atmosphere that the author crafted within this narrative were so engaging for a reader to dive into, and each scene and character felt alive on the page as if you could just step right into it. The themes the author explores in this book, from police brutality to the struggle of being “illegal” while living in the United States and so much more made the heart of this narrative feel so important as well.

The thing that really stuck out to me as a reader was the LGBTQ-driven themes and how prominent the ammeter sleuth meets crime thriller and humorous cozy mystery genres were within the story itself. The dynamics between Hayden, Hollister, and Burley were great to see, and getting to see the evolution of their friendship was so fun to connect with. Yet the actual mystery aspect of the narrative kept me on the edge of my seat, constantly guessing the truth behind this young dancer’s disappearance. 

The Verdict

Captivating, thoughtful, and entertaining, author Rob Osler’s “Devil’s Chew Toy” is a must-read ammeter sleuth meets LGBTQ+ humor and crime thriller! The way these cozy mystery reads have gained more and more popularity, especially in the face of the hit Hulu original series Only Murders in the Building, has given bright and original stories like this the spotlight they deserve, and the author’s unique blend of humor, wit, and charm with important themes and heartfelt character growth will have readers eager for more of this engaging series. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today! 

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Prior to Devil’s Chew Toy, Rob Osler’s short story, Analogue, which was published in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, won the Mystery Writers of America Robert L Fish Award as part of the 2022 Annual Edgar Awards. Rob lives in California with his long-time partner and a tall gray cat. 

Website: http://robosler.com

Facebook: http://facebook.com/roboslerwriter

Twitter: http://twitter.com/robosler

Instagram: http://instagram.com/roboslerwriter

Amazon: https://amzn.to/3pb3YYz

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/57997935-devil-s-chew-toy

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Author Q&A

On writing:

How did you do research for your book?

As DEVIL’S CHEW TOY is a contemporary novel set in a city I’m extremely familiar with, there was not a heavy research task. Also, because the two main characters are VERY amateur sleuths, I could avoid needing to get a lot of police procedure right—though there is some police interaction. That said, it’s amazing how many little questions arise in every chapter that require a pause and some desk research. 

Which was the hardest character to write? The easiest?

The hardest character to write was Hollister—not that she was too challenging. I strove to be respectful of Hollister’s identity as a Black lesbian in America without going so deeply into her character that hers became a story that wasn’t mine to tell. 

The easiest character to write was Hayden McCall. Why? Because there’s a whole lot of me in him. We are both naturally shy and smaller of stature (though he’s shorter and slighter). I took Hayden on the type of adventure—with a bolder, stronger, and more courageous friend—that I would love to go on.

There are many cozy mysteries out there….What makes yours different?

My story features two extremely amateur sleuths, one mild-mannered gay ginger and one butch lesbian. I’ve heard from some reviewers and readers that while pairing a gay and a lesbian as the main protagonists is not unprecedented it is uncommon. Also, I intentionally wrote a story in which the queer characters are neither the villains nor the tragic victims. 

What advice would you give budding writers?

Understand that whatever amount of patience you have will be depleted and then some. Publishing moves in increments of months. It takes a long time—and a lot of collaborators—to bring a book to market.

Your book is set in Seattle. Have you ever been there?

I set the book in Seattle because it’s my “Spirit City.” I lived there for nearly twenty years and loved it. Given as much time as it takes to write a book, I wanted to return to Seattle and its neighborhoods and hills and waterways during the long writing process.

Do you have another profession besides writing?

I have been a marketing and branding strategist for many decades, both at agency/consultancies and at technology corporations. I think the general mind set of prioritizing activities that matter most has helped me with all aspects of writing and the navigating the publishing process.

How long have you been writing?

I actually started my professional career as advertising copywriter writing television commercials for Kellogg’s and Tropicana and Procter & Gamble. Fiction writing also uses words to communicate but that’s about the only commonality I’ve found! It’s the difference between landing one memorable message versus telling a compelling, captivating story over three hundred-plus pages. Trust me, a novel is way harder.

Do you ever get writer’s block? What helps you overcome it?

You know, I really never do. But then I’m not much of a procrastinator either—not that they’re the same thing. My biggest challenge is going off on a tangent with a character or a scene that needlessly complicates the story and “writes me into a corner.” I do a lot revisions.

What is your next project?

I have recently sold my second short story to Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine. It features a fifty-something cross-dressing whacky amateur sleuth named Perry Winkle who solves a murder at his Palm Springs condo community.

What genre do you write and why?

I write traditional mysteries because that has been the genre I have always most loved to read. And I feature LGBTQ+ main characters because I am gay and we need more books—of all genres—that represent the great and glorious rainbow of humanity. 

What is the last great book you’ve read?

Two spring to mind. The first: THE SAVAGE KIND by John Copenhaver, who also happens to be a very nice human being. This novel—no surprise—won the Lambda Literary Award for best mystery this year. The second: DEAD LETTERS FROM PARADISE by Ann McMan is sheer delight. Both books are truly terrific.

What is a favorite compliment you have received on your writing?

“I can’t wait to read the next one!”

How are you similar to or different from your lead character?

Both Hayden and I are gay, mild-mannered, quiet, but good for an occasionally humorous one-liner. We both play tennis and enjoy big personalities. As Hayden says, “we balance each other out.”

If your book were made into a movie, who would star in the leading roles?

The characters are so distinct in my head, I can’t picture a known movie star playing either Hayden, Hollister or Burley. However, I can see Della Rupert, the oddball proprietress of Barkingham Palace, played superbly by Melissa McCarthy.

If your book were made into a movie, what songs would be on the soundtrack?

Stanley Kellogg’s “Falling Hard,” of course! This song, which was made up along with the new country star himself, reoccurs throughout the story. Fun fact! After the book was published, a good friend, Ben Davis, and I completed the lyrics and Ben wrote the music and produced the track. It’s on my website. Check it out!

What were the biggest rewards with writing your book?

Hearing from readers that they enjoyed it. 

In one sentence, what was the road to publishing like?

Long.

What is one piece of advice you would give to an aspiring author?

Every time you are certain you’re done working on a book, know that you aren’t.

Which authors inspired you to write?

Agatha Christie and Armistead Maupin.

What is something you had to cut from your book that you wish you could have kept?

There’s a line that 91-year-old Jerry delivers in reply to Hayden’s question: “How did you get to be so wise old man?” Over the whistle of the kettle, Jerry replies, “I managed to live a long damn time.”  That “damn” was an Eff-bomb until the final edit. It was the only strong swear word in the book. By removing it the book avoided an R rating, if you will. But I still love the idea of Jerry saying the line with more gusto!

On rituals:

Do you snack while writing? Favorite snack?

No snacking. But I do try to drink plenty of water.

Where do you write?

I have a home office. I’ve never been able to do the coffee shop thing. I am too easily distracted.

Do you write every day?

Not every day. But I do write most days. 

What is your writing schedule?

I usually write in two- to three-hour spurts. In a mystery, context and pacing is so important I am not skilled enough to dipping in and out.

Is there a specific ritualistic thing you do during your writing time?

Nope. I just plop my butt down and starting tap, tap, tapping. I will say I find it very difficult to stop writing before I finish a chapter, even in the roughest draft form.

In today’s tech savvy world, most writers use a computer or laptop. Have you ever written parts of your book on paper?

No. But I do use notebook paper to scribble plot ideas before I write.

Fun stuff:

If you could go back in time, where would you go?

The seventies. The music was awesome. Though I’m still wary of bell bottom pants.

Favorite travel spot?

Switzerland.

Favorite dessert?

Raspberry rhubarb pie

If you were stuck on a deserted island, which 3 books would you want with you? 

The Mouse and the Motorcycle

Tales of the City

All the Light We Cannot See

What’s the most courageous thing you’ve ever done?

I set off for Alaska to work on fish processing barge after my sophomore year at college. If fish were running, the shift was 16 hours, every day until all the fish were processed. I still don’t know why I did it, but I returned two more summers. 

Any hobbies? or Name a quirky thing you like to do.

I have been life-long tennis player and watcher. I can usually name the top twenty men players—and often in order!

If there is one thing you want readers to remember about you, what would it be?

Rob Osler writes traditional mysteries featuring LGBTQ+ main characters. 

What is something you’ve learned about yourself during the pandemic?

We are social creatures who need human interaction.

What TV series are you currently binge watching?

Inventing Anna by Shonda Rhimes on Netflix.

What is your theme song?

“Sultans of Swing” by Dire Straits. 

What song is currently playing on a loop in your head?

“The Seaside” by The Lazy Eyes

What is something that made you laugh recently?

Jinx Monsoon’s roast performance on RuPaul’s Drag Race. Hi-lar-ious.

What is your go-to breakfast item?

Toast and yogurt with berries.

What is the oldest item of clothing you own?

I have a green argyle sweater I bought in Seattle thrift store about forty years ago.

Tell us about your longest friendship.

Twin girls, Kelly and Shelly. I grew up with them. We went to elementary, middle school, high school and then to the same out-of-state college! Just a few months back, I did a book event at the wonderful Boise bookshop Rediscovered Books. Guess who was in the front row?

Who was your childhood celebrity crush?

Willy Ames who played the role of Tommy on Eight is Enough.

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Guest Post: Adding More Color To Cozies

Adding More Color to Cozies

Within the mystery genre are several sub-genres, including suspense, hard-boiled, noir, historical, amateur sleuth, police procedural, detective, and cozy. Perhaps the one in the list that is least familiar to most readers is the cozy. If the term is new to you, just think of Jessica Fletcher and Murder She Wrote or most of Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple mysteries. The hallmarks of a cozy are the avoidance of gratuitous violence, graphic sex, and profanity. But being on the tamer end of the mystery spectrum doesn’t mean a cozy can’t deliver a terrifically entertaining read packed with engaging characters, adventure, intrigue, and loads of humor. 

Given the nature of cozies, they have tended to appeal to a more conservative audience, predominately featuring white and straight main characters in smaller towns populated with other white and straight residents. That said, there have been many truly great exceptions. To name drop just a few: Dean James Simon-Kirby Jones series that features a gay vampire (now that’s different!), Stephen E. Stanley’s Luke Littlefield series, Michael Craft’s Claire Gray series, Mystery Writers of America Grand Master, Ellen Hart’s Jane Lawless series, among others, and Kellye Garrett’s HOLLYWOOD HOMICIDE. 

While diverse cozies are nothing new, it seems there are more coming than ever before. And that’s a very good thing.

Michael Craft is back with DESERT GETAWAY, a delightful new Dante (gay guy) and Jazz series (Black woman P.I.). Raquel Reyes’s MANGO, MAMBO, AND MURDER (A Caribbean Kitchen Mystery), Mia P. Manansala’s ARSENIC AND ABODO, Jennifer J. Chow’s DEATH BY BUBBLE TEA, Frank Anthony Polito’s RENOVATED TO DEATH (yes, gay 😊), and Zac Bissonnette’s A KILLING IN COSTUMES (also gay). And yes, my own debut novel, DEVIL’S CHEW TOY, features a gay, ginger middle-school teacher and gay dating blogger and his amateur sleuth partner, a Black butch lesbian.

Representation is important. While I hope the murders and other crimes that anchor even cozy mysteries don’t befall readers, it’s important to have book options that put diverse characters at the center. True inclusion isn’t relegated to the periphery. I, for one, enjoy reading stories I can relate to because of a shared experience with a character and characters that introduce me to new cultures and experiences. That’s an adventure. That’s transportive and escapist. Isn’t that why we read fiction? 

And here’s the best part: a good book is a good book. So even straight readers can enjoy a great mystery with diverse main characters. 

So hooray for the new wave of diverse cozies. They promise any mystery lover a delightfully colorful read.