The Last House Guest
by Megan Miranda (Simon & Schuster, 2019) is a
deceptively strong mystery. Like its protagonist, it has hidden depths. It’s
billed as a thriller but it isn’t. It is a mystery with an amateur sleuth who
is pulled into investigating a supposed suicide to save herself. It started
slowly but by a third of the way through, I became engaged.
The small coastal town of Littleport,
Maine, relies heavily on the summer tourist trade for its economic viability.
Many of the restaurants and small businesses operate for the four-month
vacation season and close or reduce their operations for the rest of the year.
Avery Greer grew up in Littleport and was fully familiar with the summer cycle
of vacationers who appeared at the beginning of the season and disappeared at
the end. Generally the locals and the temporary residents did not form
friendships but in her late teens, she met Sadie Loman, the only daughter of
the real estate Lomans, who had been buying up rental properties, diverting
what had been a local source of cash flow to an out-of-state corporation. They
developed a bond that aroused suspicion in the locals and in Sadie’s family
because the line between the tourists and the locals had always been set.
Through Sadie, Avery was given a job managing the Loman’s Littleport property.
At the end of one summer, the weekend
after Labor Day, Sadie drowned. The police assumed that she had jumped from a
cliff into the ocean below. Avery and the Lomans are shattered. A year later
they are still coming to terms with their loss when Avery is stunned to find
Sadie’s cell phone, which was assumed to have gone into the ocean with her, in
a blanket chest in one of the rental units. As the implications of this
discovery sink in, she begins to search for more clues that might show Sadie
was murdered. Unfortunately, every clue she finds can be directed back at her.
The story moves back and forth between the time
of Sadie’s death to a year later. This lack of linear timeframe is always
irritating to me but it supports the slowly building suspense that is subtly
woven into the storytelling. Layer after layer is smoothly revealed until the
last two pages, which drop a bombshell. A satisfying mystery along with an
interesting character study.
And reviews and
giveaways of some food and drink mysteries for your Easter Reading
Feast-"Death of a Blueberry Tart": A Hayley Powell Mystery by Lee Hollis,
"On the Lamb": A Kitchen Kebab Mystery by Tina Kashian, "Revenge
Is Sweet": A Vintage Sweets Mystery by Kaye George, and "Lavender
Blue Murder": A Tea Shop Mystery by Laura Childs
For those who prefer to
listen to Mysteryrat's Maze Podcast directly on KRL, you can find the player
here for our latest one featuring the mystery short story "Two Hundred
Miles" written by Margaret Lucke and read by local actor Teya Juarez
Sins of Empire by Brian McClellan is the first book of the Gods of Blood
and Powder Series. This is a sequel series to the Powder Mage Series
with several characters returning from the original series. There are also quite
few surprises in the book that takes place several years after the previous series
and is set in a different land, Fatrasta. As before, there are three main
characters with converging storylines that become tied together in another epic
war story. As it was in the previous series, it is a time of magic where the
musket ball is the most common form of violence.
General Flint and Olem have retired from the army. Bored and
looking for something to do because they are weird like that and can’t just put
up their feet at the house, they get the bright idea to create a mercenary
army. They soon have a paying client in the form of the Dictator of Fatrasta to
help crush a rebellion in her country. However, they soon learn this job will
not be as simple as they were led to believe.
The second main character is Ben Styke. Known as “Mad Ben Styke” he
was a Colonel in a calvary company known as the “Mad Lancers.” These days he is
imprisoned in a labor camp for annoying the wrong people in charge. A lawyer,
Tampo, comes to him and explains he can get out if he agrees to former cavalry
officer who is imprisoned in a labor camp is offered a simple job of getting
close to General Flint, joining her mercenary army, and keeping her safe.
Then there is Michael Bravis who is working for the secret police
tasked with enforcing the rule of the dictator of Fatrasta. His assigned
mission is to keep an eye on General Flint as well as determine who is responsible
for the publication of the anti-government propaganda advocating the overthrow
of the dictatorship.
The explanation above is a massive simplification of the start of
this very complicated novel. Readers familiar with this author will understand
that things often start out one-way plot wise and then go off into a totally
different plot outline by the ends of the book. One of the things the author likes
to do is to take the character and then fundamentally change the character to
such a point that by the end of book the character is in a radically different
place emotionally by the end of the book.
Sins of Empire: Gods of Blood and Powder Book One by Brian McClellan is
just as deep as the original series. The same epic style action, world building,
incredibly complicated characters and relationships, as well as the flashes of
humor are present in this book. The fantasy novel has lots of interesting
social issues that apply to our world now. This book has some great plot twists
and does a good job of creating something new with connections to the previous
The book has strong ties to the original series, so it is very
helpful if one has read the original series of novels. That series in order
of Blood, The
Crimson Campaign, and The
Autumn Republic. I highly recommended Sins of Empire: Gods of Blood and Powder Book One by Brian McClellan for fans of the
My review came in hardback from my Dad’s childhood library
stomping grounds of the Audelia Road Branch of the Dallas Public Library
Among the Shadows: A Detective Bryon
Mystery by Bruce Robert Coffin is the first
book in a police procedural series. Set in Portland, Maine, and the surrounding
area, it features Detective Sergeant John Bryon and his team of detectives.
Internal politics and rivalries play a role in this complicated police
procedural where former officers are dying a variety of ways.
Detective Sergeant John Byron is your classic hard-working
detective who drinks a lot, has a failing marriage, can’t get along with the
bosses, and has a slowly building attraction to his female partner. He is also
a very good detective and does not know how to back off in his search for the
He is called out in this far too warm
September morning to the house of Mr. James O’Halloran. At least he is missing
the weekly time wasting CompStat meeting that does nothing to suppress crime,
but does give the bosses an illusion that they are doing something and practicing
effective leadership while chewing out those under them. Mr. James O’Halloran was
under hospice care thanks to terminal bone and lung cancer, so his death is not
a surprise. However, as the body is examined in place in the home, it quickly
becomes clear that this was no suicide or natural caused death. Somebody
decided to speed up the process by forcefully applying a pillow over his face
and suffocating him. His current nurse is on the short list of possible
suspects, but nobody seems to be likely including her and she found the body.
Then a second retired former officer is also killed, and
Detective Sergeant John Bryon realizes that something far more sinister is
going on. Something that may also link back to his own father’s time on the job
decades ago and sudden death.
This is a classic police procedural that uses many of the
tropes familiar to readers and yet manages to twist them in ways that create a
highly entertaining read. Politics and rivalries serve as the backdrop to an
increasingly violent murder investigation that puts Bryon as well as many
members of his detective team at substantial risk. A solidly good read well
worth your time Among the Shadows: A Detective Bryon Mystery by
Bruce Robert Coffin is recommended.
My reading copy came by way of the
Skillman Southwestern Branch of the Dallas Public Library System. The second
book in the series, Beneath the Depths, is now on my hold list.
It is only available in print and the library system is closed tight until at
least April 30th if not way longer.
Mystery Weekly Magazine: November 2019 is a six-course
smorgasbord of mystery dishes along with a couple of detectable appetizers. As
always, this is a magazine that embraces a wide range of mystery readers and
this issue is no exception.
opens with “Giving Up The Ghost” by Shea E. Butler. Belle Lopez was a hooker at
one time. These days she is a private investigator. The recently departed, Conrad
Charles, was her client. The problem is that he was really the client of her
mentor and boss, Leo Gillepski, who was also recently murdered. She knew
nothing about the case before his death and Conrad Charles did not tell her
much when she took it over beyond why he had hired Leo. She is sure the cases
are linked and starts poking around and things get really weird.
Heidi is going to marry Greg as “Cold Feet” by Nils Gilbertson
begins and her brother is less than impressed. But Mitch knows how his sister
is and Greg seems to understand her as well. He seems to have had a good
influence on her so Mitch is reserving judgement and hoping for the best. That
is until she starts expressing misgivings about who Greg really is or what he
might be in this technologically crazy world.
Clearly the driver was shot in the head before he crashed the car
in “Midnight In A Sea Of Marble” by Dev Bennett. He wasn’t the only one shot
and killed. Dead guys in a stolen Cadillac SRX are eventually identified as
guys with links to organized crime. A neighborhood canvas is going to be done
for an area the dead guys had a keen interest in acquiring. This is an intense
and complicated story and was my personal favorite in this issue.
The need for a shovel should have clued Nathan Shields into
thinking that things were going to go wrong in a bad way. The fact that the
property was posted should have warned him off as well. Neither did and soon he
was under the glare of police lights and guns in “Digging Up Bones” by Brandon
Things have gone decidedly wrong and now a certain food critic is
very much dead in the historical mystery “Murder On The First Night’s Feast” by
Robert Mangeot. The murder charge is against Vicomete Montvaste and he is in
custody. Now, Madam Feubert and others must put up with an investigation led by
Duplanche who, not only is beneath her in stature and dress, may also be poor
at his job.
If you are going to complain, you need to do it in writing and do
so in a certain way as explained in “To Whom It May Concern” by Kathleen Gerard.
Listen to the expert who parlayed her talent in written complaints into a quite
well-paying gig that improved her quality of life dramatically.
The “You-Solve-It” puzzle this month is “Disappearing Diamonds” by
Peter DiChellis. Ms. Olivia Hadlowe is quite upset and for very good reason.
Her best diamond earrings are gone. She wants them found and can’t have the
police involved. She wants the narrator, a private detective, to find them and to
do so quickly.
The solution to the October “You-Solve-It” puzzle “Cater-Wail” by
Laird Long brings the issue to a close.
The eight in total tales here on all good ones. Like any good
mystery, each one is far more complicated than the brief synopsis here would
suggest. Variety is the spice with this publication, and such is the case here
with Mystery Weekly Magazine: Nov 2019. It is well with your time
For quite some time now I
have been gifted a subscription by the publisher with no expectation at all of
a review. I read and review each issue as I can. To date, I have never
submitted anything to this market and will not do so as long as I review the
Less Than a Moment: A Posadas County Mystery by Steven F. Havill is
the latest installment in a series that began long ago with Heartshot.
This is a series where characters age, relationships evolve over time, and
always present is the stark beauty of Posadas County, New Mexico. That aspect,
a distinct and deep appreciation of setting, is always raised to a level that
is its own constant presence in the series. The setting is a character in its
own right. Sometimes the desert country is front and center in the tales and
other times it is more of a backdrop to the mystery and the crimes that are
In this case, the desert country is very much in the forefront of
the read as is the legendary “NightZone” development. Designed to bring
tourists as well as scientists to an astronomy based scientific installation in
the New Mexico desert, it is home to various telescopes aimed at the wonders of
the heavens above. There are frequent detailed references to the events in Come Dark: The Posadas County
Mysteries published in 2016. Readers are encouraged to, at the very least, read
that book before embarking on this read.
Undersheriff Estelle Reyes-Guzman has a lot going on this Friday
morning in late May. That includes a meeting out at Night Zone with Miles Waddell,
owner and financial backer of NightZone. That meeting will also include
Frank Dayan, publisher of the local paper, and Kyle Thompson. Kyle Thompson,
through a development company, has purchased a massive amount of acreage that
abuts the NightZone project and rumors are swirling as to what will be
built on the property. Thompson is not a local and no one knows what his
intentions are which is causing stress among the locals. That includes the many
folks who now rely on the NightZone project for good jobs.
What will be built is very important to Waddell as he has spent
millions and millions of dollars on the project. His entire development is
designed to avoid all outdoor lighting of any type on the mesa it sits on or on
the surrounding land. Everything has been meticulously designed to preserve the
dark night skies. If the rumors of a planned housing development are true, this
would be devastating to NightZone which is now fully embraced by all in
That meeting is the launching pad for the main mystery of the book
that soon features a murder, several suspects, and a complicated case with several
interesting angles. While family certainly takes a role in the primary
storyline, family is a far more major player in the two secondary storylines.
One of which is the fact the kids are back in town and Undersheriff Estelle
Reyes-Guzman is again having a hard time finding time to spend with them as
various local events and the schedule of the kids work against her. One does
not want to be an obtrusive grandmother, but one does not want to miss out on
everything either and crime stops for no one.
The second of the two secondary storylines involves the no
nonsense Sheriff, Robert Torrez, and his nephew, Quentin Torrez. As anyone who
has read the latest edition of the local newspaper, Posadas Register, already
knows, the young Quentin Torrez was arrested in recent hours for his third DUI.
If that was not bad enough, he soon finds himself the target of an angry Sheriff
who also suspects he might have been the culprit behind some vandalism. Then a
murder happens and soon he is one of several potential suspects as law
enforcement works hard to identify and apprehend a killer.
As always in this series, things are complicated, and they
certainly are in Less Than A Moment: A Posadas County Mystery. Billed
as the 24th in the series, this latest one has all the elements
that have made this entire series so very entertaining. Less Than A
Moment: A Posadas County Mystery by Steven F. Havill is another great
read and is strongly recommended.
Big time thanks go to Lesa Holstine who mentioned late last week
this book was out. Big time thanks go to my son, Scott, who able to figure out
what to do to get the eBook through our closed Dallas Public Library System and
make it all work so that I could happily read the tale on my iPad and escape
reality for a few hours.
The latest published read from Barry Ergang is a short story. Originally published in 1982 in Stereophile Magazine , his short story, ...
Supporting The Blog
In my wife's memory and honoring a promise I made to Sandi, the blog continues...at least for now. If you would like to make a donation of support, you can do so at the links below. Most of the donated funds go to the purchase of medical supplies for me. Some of it goes to the purchase of various short story anthologies and collections which eventually are read and reviewed here.