Gone The Next by Ben Rehder

Save the Girl!

Gone The Next (Roy Ballard Series Book One) by Ben Rehder, 286 pages, September 15 2012, Genre: Mystery/Suspense. Warning: May Contain Spoilers.

Review by Leigh Holland.

Every year, about 200,000 children are abducted in America. Seventy-eight percent are abducted by the non-custodial parent. 58,000 children were abducted last year by people who were not family members. Of those, 40 percent were murdered last year. When a child goes missing, time is crucial to recovering the child safely. As a parent, I can attest that nothing in the world is more terrifying than the thought of losing your child. Jason Voorhees? No problem. Freddy Kruger? Piece of cake. Missing kid? Parents lose a tiny bit of our minds just thinking about the possibility. If you could see inside our souls at that moment, it’d look a lot like “The Scream” by Edvard Munch, a perpetual state of frozen terror.

In this first installment of the Roy Ballard series, we follow a wise-cracking insurance fraud videographer (Roy) as he sets out to prove worker’s compensation claimants aren’t injured and are defrauding the insurance companies that provide him with lucrative pay for his services. Roy is divorced. He had a daughter from that marriage named Hannah. We’ve all done the same thing at some point- turned away for a minute. But when we look back, our child is there. Roy lost Hannah in the park one day when he turned away for a minute. The nightmare still haunts him, having shaped him. One day as he does routine surveillance on a claimant, he thinks for a moment he glimpses a famous recently missing girl standing in the man’s doorway. He hesitates, he’s unsure if the child was the missing girl. He reports it to the local police who ignore it as having no real merit. Roy continues to try to work with the police as he and his newly acquired partner Mia discover more evidence. But the police don’t want to waste time or resources unless there’s enough evidence to think it’s definite. Finding no help from the cops, Roy and Mia decide to do a little surveillance and investigating of their own. A child’s life hangs in the balance. Roy is worried time is running out to find the girl.

I enjoyed Roy’s sarcastic one liners, his feelings as a defender of women and kids, and willingness to put himself at risk for others. When he does contemplate a wrong or stupid choice, he has Mia there to set him on the right path. Mia is supportive of Roy and considers him her best friend. She’s smart, good-looking, and outspoken. Roy and Mia make a good team. There was limited, appropriate cursing. I found no issues with the grammar or spelling. The plot had a couple of interesting twists. I had to keep reading to find out if they saved the little girl. Rehder does an excellent job of evoking every parent’s worst nightmare.

I really enjoyed this book. It was a page turner for me. I look forward to reading more of Roy Rehder’s series in the future. I’d recommend this to Mystery lovers who enjoy a witty, unconventional private investigator.

This book can be found at Gone The Next .

About the Author:

Edgar Award-nominated author Ben Rehder’s novels have made best-of-the-year lists in Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, Kirkus Reviews, and Field & Stream. Gone The Next is his ninth novel.

Ben Rehder is an Edgar, Shamus, and Barry Award finalist. His Blanco County comic mysteries have made best-of-the-year lists in Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, Kirkus Reviews, and Field & Stream.

To receive an alert when the next Ben Rehder novel is released, sign up for Ben’s occasional newsletter at http://www.benrehder.com.

The complete Ben Rehder bibliography includes:

Buck Fever

Bone Dry

Flat Crazy

Guilt Trip

Gun Shy

Holy Moly

The Chicken Hanger

The Driving Lesson

Gone The Next

Hog Heaven

Get Busy Dying

Stag Party

Bum Steer

If I Had A Nickel

Point Taken

Book Blurb:

Meet Roy Ballard, freelance videographer with a knack for catching insurance cheats. He’s working a routine case, complete with hours of tedious surveillance, when he sees something that shakes him to the core. There, with the subject, is a little blond girl wearing a pink top and denim shorts—the same outfit worn by Tracy Turner, a six-year-old abducted the day before. When the police are skeptical of Ballard’s report—and with his history, who can blame them?—it’s the beginning of the most important case of his life.

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A Penny For Her Heart (Detective Rachel Storme Book 3) by Alretha Thomas

Strong, Classy Heroine

A Penny For Her Heart (Detective Rachel Storme Book 3) by Alretha Thomas, 328 pages, July 10 2017, Genre: Mystery. Warning: May Contain Spoilers.

I received an ARC copy in exchange for my honest review.

Review by Leigh Holland.

A Penny For Her Heart is the latest installment in the Detective Rachel Storme series from author Alretha Thomas. The book can be read separately from the others as a stand alone. Although this is the first book in the series I’ve read, I intend to pick up the others. Thomas switches perspectives between two strong female characters, Vanessa Rossi and Rachel Storme. She did this masterfully as I never had any trouble keeping up with whose perspective I was reading. I enjoyed being able to see events from the point of view of both the detective solving the murder and the best friend of the victim, forever touched by it.

Vanessa is a bright, ambitious, hard-working political aide who decides to come to city hall on a Saturday to get some work done. She discovers a horrifying murder scene in the ladies’ bathroom. She alerts the guard who looks inside and phones the cops. They confirm that the victim in the stall is Vanessa’s co-worker and best friend, Penelope (“Penny”). Over the course of the story, Vanessa comes to realize her best friend had kept a lot of secrets and even lied- to her, and to everyone. Vanessa, however, has also been keeping a secret from her husband. When he calls her on it, she realizes that even the best intentioned people lie. How well do we really know those closest to us? Are they going through something they believe they can’t talk about? If we don’t really know our nearest and dearest, what awful secrets must strangers hide?

Rachel Storme is honest, dedicated, and relentless in her pursuit of justice for the victim. She shows empathy towards those hurt by the crime and an understanding of human motivation. She doesn’t need her gun or fists most of the time to solve the crime or to get potential perpetrators to talk. She is quick in her assessments and organizes her team well. She has a good ‘gut’ for hunches, too, knowing things aren’t always as cut and dry as they seem. Rachel Storme is a heroine with class.

The plot is very good. I love that the mystery is set against a backdrop of political backstabbing and office politics, giving us many possibilities for the killer’s identity. As information was gained and the net kept widening, it was enjoyable to try to piece together the enigma and solve the crime, traveling the journey with Storme.

I very much enjoyed A Penny For Her Heart. I’d recommend this book to lovers of the mystery genre.

This book is available at A Penny For Her Heart.

A Room Full of Killers by Michael Wood

A Room Full of Killers– A DCI Matilda Darke Novel by Michael Wood, 373 Pages, Killer Reads, February 17th 2017, Genre: Urban Life/ Mystery. Warning: May Contain Spoilers.

Review by Leigh Holland.

“Criminals are made, not born”. Investigators found that sign hanging from the Kehoe Farm’s fence when they arrived to check out the scene. Although this book isn’t about the Bath School Disaster or Andrew Kehoe, it forces the reader to explore the question: why do people commit murder? Are they born with something inside them that destines them to kill? Or do circumstances break them down into a monstrous, angry shell, capable of the worst crimes imaginable?

DCI Matilda Darke is back in this third installment of the series. This book can be read as a stand alone. Matilda and her dedicated team are called to Starling House, a prison for underage boys who’ve committed murder. One of the inmates has been murdered and they race against the clock to discover the identity of the killer and the reasons for the killing before the murderer claims another victim. At the same time, Matilda must keep a low profile while trying to re-investigate the case of one of the boys- a boy she believes is innocent. The book intersperses the stories of each boy’s crime between the main plot of the novel. While all of these tales evoke horror, there are a couple of them that evoke sympathy as well. The boy claiming innocence is one such story. Another is the story of the boy subjected to abuse and abandonment by both parents. When he snaps and murders them, it’s horrifying, but I understand why he did what he did. Each story is unique; each story forced me to reconsider my position and think about it from a variety of perspectives.

I liked the protagonist and her crew. The characters were complex- both cops and criminals. The plot was excellent and it wasn’t until very close to the reveal that I began to figure out the solution. The subplot was as fascinating to me as the main plot, providing a nice juxtaposition between punishment for the guilty and justice for the innocent. The style kept me engaged. The timing of events flowed well. I’d recommend this book to lovers of police procedurals and mysteries.

This book can be found at A Room Full of Killers.

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Dating A Chance by Natalia Vereshchagina

Quirky, Innovative

Dating A Chance by Natalia Vereshchagina, 232 Pages, Natalia Vereshchagina, 1st Edition, June 9th 2016, Genre: Thriller/Mystery/Suspense. Warning: May Contain Spoilers.

by Leigh Holland

Dating A Chance is a compelling, quirky murder mystery unlike any I have ever read. Its author presents an original spin on the murder mystery genre. This book explores deeper ideas such as God, the nature of the universe, fate, choice, luck, and the human cycle within the context of the puzzle being solved.

J-L, a top rated physicist working in a CERN-esque environment, has been working on his theory that particles can be manipulated at the quantum level in order to attract positive events and people into one’s life, if one but knows how. His theory is basically “the Secret” for scientists. J-L is excited as he believes he has successfully cracked the code for mankind to finally be able to draw positivity into their individual lives. Then killer bees attack him and there goes that prospect.

J-L is survived by his shrew of a wife Sylvia and his pregnant girlfriend/secretary Irene. Sylvia wants Irene out of the cottage Irene shared with J-L, but Irene believes she has rights to it as she is going to be the mother of J-L’s child. J-L’s physicist co-workers Andy, William, and Steve come by to check on Irene. When William and Steve come by after work, they discover Irene’s deceased body, apparently a victim of accidental self-poisoning. As the corpses begin to pile up, William and Steve, both obsessed men of science, must work to discover the truth. Are people being murdered and the deaths being made to appear as accidents? Or did J-L unlock the ultimate secret, only to unleash a curse that skips to those he knew in life? Are they next on the list?

I loved the idea behind this book. It’s fresh and unique. The plot was intriguing. The characters came across as educated, proper gentlemen physicists, as obsessed with solving the puzzling deaths as they were with unlocking secrets of the universe. The author’s voice is unique. While sentence constructions were at times lengthy, I often enjoyed the manner in which Vereshchagina put words together. However, I felt that this book could have benefited from further editing. If you like unconventional, innovative angles on murder mysteries, you’ll probably enjoy Dating A Chance.

It is available at Amazon at Dating A Chance by Natalia Vereshchagina .

September Sky by John A. Heldt

Journey Through Time!

September Sky (American Journey Book One) by John A. Heldt, 585 pages, January 1st, 2015, Genre: Time Travel/Historical Romance/Victorian. Warning: May Contain Spoilers.

by Leigh Holland

September Sky is a novel combining elements of mystery, adventure, romance, time travel, and the historical American Victorian era all in one book. It’s hard to pin a genre down for this book and John A. Heldt combines these elements in a refreshing and unique manner. Although we begin in 2016, we quickly find ourselves traveling back to Galveston, Texas at the turn of the twentieth century. The author’s research into events and places of Galveston in 1900 seemed thorough and added a deeper enjoyment to the story.

This is the story of a father, Chuck, and his adult son- two travelers in life who have lost everything suddenly. Chuck was so obsessed with his work he failed to see what truly mattered. Once he is laid off, and his ex-wife and her parents killed in a tragic accident, he is filled with regret over his choices. Meanwhile, Justin’s life feels empty and hollow to him, and he has dropped out of college. Both men are at transitional periods in their lives, searching for meaning and purpose. Chuck wastes no time bonding with his son Justin on a cruise where they attend a lecture on time travel by Professor Bell. Later, Bell invites them to his home where he offers them the chance of a lifetime- to travel through a time tunnel beneath his house to a specific time in the past. They are given devices to help them return once their journey is complete. Once in 1900, they ignore Bell’s rules and plans, and instead head to Galveston to try to stop an innocent ancestor from being executed for a crime he didn’t commit. Chuck believes righting the injustice will restore his sense of purpose. What neither Chuck nor Justin could have foreseen was falling in love with Charlotte and Emily, Victorian women of 1900 Galveston.

Chuck’s initial experiences in the past mirror his beginning state- a lost soul looking for meaning. He and Justin are both honorable men who come to care deeply about the town and its people. Aware of an impending natural disaster set to wipe out thousands, they must decide whether to interfere in the past and if so, how much they are willing to change it. While helping his great uncle avoid an unjust fate is noble, Chuck realizes righting the wrong won’t give him long term happiness and a sense of purpose. When both men fall in love, they seem to harbor the unrealistic expectation that their lady loves will leave everything behind and follow them back to 2016. Selfishly, they both proceed with romantic, meaningful relationships knowing the turmoil they may bring into the women’s lives. But perhaps that’s part of the theme- the ties that bind us inspire us to make radical, life altering choices in the name of love. Love gives our lives meaning and purpose.

Overall, I enjoyed reading this novel. The writing style is very good; although there were a few sections of dialogue that perhaps could have been condensed. People often choose to obsess over other aspects of their lives, such as career, and we often take those we love for granted, imagining we’ll always have more time with them. The depiction of the Great Galveston Hurricane of 1900 was dramatic, nail-biting, and reminded us that we can lose everything and everyone at any moment. The romantic elements weren’t graphic and were flirtatious and sweet. I’d recommend this novel to readers who enjoy time travel, mystery, and adventure novels.

This book is the first in a five book series. You can purchase this book at Amazon at September Sky

The Death of Anyone by D.J. Swykert

Gritty, Intense!

The Death of Anyone by D.J Swykert, 222 pages, Melange Books LLC, February 25th, 2013, Genre: Crime/Serial Killers, Adult themes. Warning: May Contain Spoilers.

“The death of anyone lessens us,” we are told at the beginning. Indeed, Frigyes Karinthy in 1929 put forth the idea that there are a mere six degrees of separation between each human being, showing how much more intimately connected we are than we may perceive. Yet nightly, the wealthy, the powerful, the influential- they may sleep soundly in their beds, believing the horrors that touch the poor won’t affect them personally. They believe they can ensure it through neighborhood watches, gated communities, additional police protection, and security services. When one is not personally affected, one makes excuses for why more cannot be done to bring justice to victims of violent crime; the city budget won’t allow it, the police department is over budget, it won’t look good on a District Attorney’s record if he can’t convict.

The Death of Anyone is a graphic and gritty police procedural. Instantly, we’re pulled into the dark, tense world of homicide detective Bonnie Benham, a tough-as-nails cop determined to get the killer. A little girl from Ohio has been raped and strangled, her corpse left in a Detroit alley. Bonnie and her partner, Detective Lagrow, search missing persons and cold case databases for matches to the crime. They find two similar crimes spaced over a year apart, the victims both from the Sherwood Forest neighborhood of Detroit. Approaching the coroner, they ask her about the autopsies of the two prior victims and request that she do the autopsy on the current victim. She agrees and finds DNA evidence- the killer left sweat on the victim. The DNA doesn’t find a match and they’re turning up dead ends on canvassing. Lagrow suggests a method accepted in the UK- a Familial DNA match. The FBI can run a Familial DNA match. If a relative of the killer is in the system, this type of match would provide a lead. They request permission from their Lieutenant and the D.A.’s Assistant, Marion Johnson. Marion strikes the idea out because in America, this type of DNA testing has never been tested for use as evidence in court, and they don’t want to risk losing a conviction if the case is built on it and a judge throws it out. Once the child of a powerful person becomes a victim of the clever serial killer, all walls fall away, all resources granted to bring the killer to justice.

My favorite characters are the best developed- Bonnie Benham and Neil Jensen, her lover and fellow homicide detective. They are soul mates, both having struggled with addiction, both trying to be and do better, to move forward past the pain and self-blame of their pasts. They have some different interests but there is no denying the love and passion they find for one another. The love between them provides a warm light in Bonnie’s dark world. We have all hurt; we have all felt guilt and blamed ourselves, rightfully or not, for our mistakes. We want to prevent the suffering of innocents and deliver justice to the guilty. Bonnie and Neil were well developed and relatable.

After finishing this book, I was convinced that Familial DNA matches should be the norm in the United States, not the exception. Confronted with an ugly truth of our society- that money and position make all the difference in determining which crimes get solved- I realized how many more murders could be prevented if we shifted our priorities and treated every murder victim as though they were the child of a powerful person, as if nothing mattered more than bringing about justice, equally to all.

The Death of Anyone was an intense read with a heavy theme. This page-turning, quality story is not for the faint of heart. If you love police procedurals, don’t miss out on this one. I’d recommend this book to those interested in detective fiction, police procedurals, and serial killer crimes.

No man is an island,

Entire of itself,

Every man is a piece of the continent,

A part of the main.

If a clod be washed away by the sea,

Europe is the less.

As well as if a promontory were.

As well as is a manor of thy friend’s

Or of thine own were;

Any man’s death diminishes me,

Because I am involved in mankind,

And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;

It tolls for thee.

-John Donne