Category Archives: Berkley Prime Crime

Cozy Mystery Week: The Thrill of the Haunt (Haunted Guesthouse Mysteries) by E. J. Copperman

CozyMystery2013

  • Series: A Haunted Guesthouse Mystery (Book 5)
  • Mass Market Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Berkley (November 5, 2013)
  • ISBN-10: 0425252396
  • Source: Author

Alison Kerby is used to a house full of spirits.  The guest house she recently purchased is home to a handful of spirits, one being her own father. Tourists have been flocking to her guest house in hopes of witnessing spiritual activity.  While Alison has never publicly accepted her role as the town’s “ghost lady” she does appreciate the money that comes from these tours.   Alison is forced to juggle these spiritual performances with the various private investigation cases that seem to fall into her lap. When the town’s resident homeless man, Everett,  comes to Alison for help in ridding himself of unwanted and unseen ghosts, she’s had enough.  All she wants to do is focus on fixing up her Victorian guest home, giving guests an experience they won’t soon forget.

When Everett is found murdered in a gas station men’s room, Alison is shocked beyond belief. She’s even more stunned when her nemesis hires her to investigate Everett’s death. Now juggling two P.I. cases, Alison can’t even begin to focus on the renovations required at her guest house or her own personal life.  She finds herself not only concerned about the health and safety of the living but the ongoing existence of the spirits she’s come to consider as family.

This is my first experience with this cozy mystery series and I’m enamored!  While it is the fifth book in a series, I had no problem in catching up.  The author does a fantastic job of providing adequate backstory that will give readers to to the series enough details to continue without confusion.  Alison’s character is endearing, despite the fact she is hesitant to live up to her powers and acknowledge that the rumors spread about her ghost, I mean guest, house are true.  Additionally, Copperman so perfectly converging two story lines. Never could have I imagined that they were connected. Honestly, I was shocked as it all came together so perfectly in the end!

I definitely plan on catching up with this series, starting from the beginning! I look forward to watching the characters evolve, watching the crazy antics of Alison’s resident spirits as they interact with the living. Yet another supernatural cozy mystery to add to my list of favorites! Highly recommended.

 

Cozy Mystery Week Day Two: The Haunted Bookshop Mysteries by Alice Kimberly (Cleo Coyle)


 

After her husband commits suicide, young widow Penelope Thornton-McClure returns to her hometown of Quindicott, Rhode Island with her son. There, she finds her aunt Sadie in financial trouble, about to lose the family’s old bookshop. Refusing to allow the bookshop to close, Penelope uses the insurance money from her husband’s death to renovate the bookshop. Unfortunately, the construction awakens the spirit of a private investigator, Jack
Shepard, gunned down on the premises half a century ago. Jack isn’t exactly thrilled with his situation yet can’t help but want to watch over Penelope and her family.  He has his hands full, for Pen & the bookstore seem to be a magnet for mysterious deaths.

One of my favorite things about this series is the chemistry Pen and Jack have with one another. She’s a strong woman forced in the role of single-mother, struggling to help keep her family’s bookshop alive. He’s a suave P.I. with an outdated outlook on life. Their connection is an interesting one; Pen is capable of experiencing Jack’s past cases through her dreams. This “skill” is an important one, especially when his past cases help her solve more current ones.

The setting is another thing I love about this series. Hello, mystery bookstore? My idea of a dream, right? The bookstore’s name? Buy The Book! Genius I tell you!

While there are several books in this series and I highly recommend you starting from the beginning, it is possible to pick up this series at any point. Looking for a fantastic cozy mystery series with a touch of the supernatural? The Haunted Bookshop Mysteries are for you!

Mx3 Review: The Devil I Know by Jackie Barrett

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  • Mass Market Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Berkley (August 7, 2012)
  • ISBN-10: 0425250423
  • Source: Personal Copy

Fans of horror are familiar with devastating killings that took place at 112 Ocean Avenue in Amityville, NY. 23-year-old Ronnie DeFeo was subsequently convicted and imprisoned for killing his entire family.  These killings were just the precursor to decades of unnatural occurrences that took place in this home. Later, another family, the Lutzes, moved into the home. They didn’t last long…the supernatural activity they experience caused them to flee less than a month after moving in. A book and subsequent movie, named The Amityville Horror were released, once again  shining the spotlight on this eerie home.

Countless numbers of press contacted DeFeo after the book was published, wanting to know about the supernatural events that took place in his home. They all wanted to hear about the hauntings; no one wanted to hear about what happened the night his entire family was brutally murdered. DeFeo withdrew from all the attention, growing more bitter and angry as his celebrity status increased. One day, he receives a letter from psychic Jackie Barrett. Barrett insists that she learned about him from an unknown force, but feels she has to talk with him about the evil that has been tormenting him all these years.

DeFeo and Barrett start communicating via letter and then by daily phone calls. Barrett is startled, but not necessarily surprised, when DeFeo is able to mention incidents in her past that aren’t publicly known. The two seem to be forced together an energy that neither one can control. Thousands of hours of recordings and hundreds of phone calls later, Barrett is finally able to extract the truth from one of the most evil individuals, reportedly the Devil himself.

Whether or not you believe the stories about the Amityville Horror, The Devil I Know is a truly well-researched exploration an study of a truly evil, and obviously imbalanced, man. That said, it portrays not only DeFeo’s story, but Barrett’s herself. Starting at a very early age, she was forced by her mother to take part in a number of exorcisms and seances, her gift to draw out spirits and talk to the dead a valuable one.  But one case involving someone dear to her didn’t turn out the way she’d expected, an event that continued to torment her life. Ultimately, this is a story of freeing one’s own personal ghosts, be it supernatural or spiritual.

There are a few scenes that are particularly spooky…but in my mind not nearly as terrifying as the account of the horrid crime that took place in this home. It could be that it takes a bit more to scare me than the average person?  Ultimately, it’s not the supernatural aspects of this case that are terrifying but instead the documented events that transpired the night of the DeFeo family killing.

Fans of horror and of true crime are certain to enjoy this book. Do a fiction/non-fiction mash-up, read it alongside Jay Anson’s The Amityville Horror. Or even better, watch the film & then read this book. Any way you go about it, this is a book you must add to your Halloween reading list. Highly recommended.

 

Review: Affairs of Steak by Julie Hyzy

  • Paperback:304 pages
  • Publisher:Berkley; Original edition (January 3, 2012)
  • ISBN-10: 0425245837
  • Source: Kaye Publicity

White House chef Olivia Paras has been tasked to work with her nemesis, White House Sensitivity Director Peter Everett Sargeant, on an off-site event for the First Lady. This task, already seemingly unwieldy due to the tense relationship they share, is worsened when they discover the bodies of one of the First Lady’s assistants and the Chief of Staff. 

Olivia has quite the history of becoming involved in murder investigations. It isn’t intentional; she’d much rather stick to her duties in the White House Kitchen. As if all of this isn’t enough, she’s also dealing with other issues: Paul, the head usher, is taking a leave of absence to tend to his sick wife, his replacement is less than stellar; Virgil, the First Family’s personal chef and his “holier than thou” attitude is interviewed and leaks information to the press. Least of all is her pitiful excuse for a love life.  She’s been “seeing” someone but the relationship seems to be going nowhere. Finally, the reputation of Sargeant is at risk when it appears as though he’s making mistakes in his duties. Despite her initial feelings about Sargeant, Olivia decides to help Sargeant find out who is behind all of the seemingly innocent mistakes that keep popping up in the planning of this event.

Not surprisingly, it doesn’t take long before Olivia gets in over her head and her life, as well as Sargeant’s, is put at risk. She’s forced to endure a 24-hour protection detail from the Secret Service when it’s obvious that some high-ranking official wants her dead. Can she and Sargeant pull off this high-profile event without winding up as victims themselves?

The fifth book in the White House Chef series, reading Affairs of Steak is like being reunited with old friends! I can’t tell you how much I missed reading about Olivia’s antics, the goings on of the White House kitchen, and more. This series is truly a delight! While food doesn’t have as big a role in this book as in others, it is still an engaging and entertaining book. I love that it is set in Washington, D.C.; I can imagine the scenes and locations (even the invented ones) as if they were right in front of me.  Olivia’s character is an outstanding one: she’s courageous, incredibly strong and independent, redeeming and refreshing qualities for a female character to have.

As indicated, this is the fifth book in a series. While you can theoretically start reading at any point in the series, I do recommend starting from the beginning in order to get a true feel for the characters.  Highly recommended….I now must wait impatiently for more from this author!

Review: The Perfect Suspect by Margaret Coel

  • Hardcover:304 pages
  • Publisher:Berkley Hardcover (September 6, 2011)
  • ISBN-10: 0425243486
  • Source: Xuni

David Matthews, a widely popular candidate for Colorado’s governor seat is found murdered. Obviously, his death receives all sorts of news coverage. His wife, Sydney, becomes an immediate suspect.  Matthews was known to be unfaithful; perhaps Sydney finally got tired of his wandering ways?

Catherine McLeod, a reporter for the Denver Journal has done a number of articles on Matthews. She receives an anonymous phone call from a woman who claims to have been a witness to the murder.  The woman is afraid to contact the police, for the murderer is one of their own.  Catherine must but her job, and her life, on the line in order to bring the true perpetrator to justice.

The reader knows within the first few lines who Matthew’s killer is: Detective Ryan Beckman.  Beckman & Matthews were having an affair, but when Matthews attempted to put a stop to it, Ryan lost all control and killed him. Ironically, it is Beckman who is asked to lead the investigation.  She goes out of her way to plant and create evidence to incriminate Matthew’s wife as the guilty party.

The Perfect Suspect is an thrilling, heart-pounding chase to see which woman will come out on top. As Catherine attempts to uncover witnesses to bring Ryan to justice, Ryan hunts down these same witnesses to kill them. While the reader already knows the murderer’s identity, this doesn’t alter the reader’s experience in any way. I guarantee your heart will still be pounding, you’ll be tearing through the pages to learn what happens.

While The Perfect Suspect is technically the second book in a series, readers will have no difficulty in picking up the story due to the author providing detailed backstory.  I appreciate that the two main characters are both incredibly strong and determined women; it’s too bad one of them was a heartless killer.

While there were aspects of the book that were a bit unbelievable for me, I still found it to be quite the enjoyable read.  I do plan on picking up the first book in this series, Blood Memory, so I can learn more about Catherine’s character.  Coel is definitely an author to watch; I can’t wait to read more of her work. Recommended.