Category Archives: Arcade Crimewise

Review: The Blood Is Still by Douglas Skelton

Title: The Blood Is Still by Douglas Skelton
Rebecca Connolly Series Book Two
Publisher: Arcade Crimewise
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Suspense
Length: 353 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley


Investigative journalist Rebecca Connolly returns in this riveting, immersive thriller from the author of Thunder Bay—for readers of Ian Rankin, Val McDermid, and Denise Mina

When a man in eighteenth-century Highland dress is found dead on the site of the Battle of Culloden, where Bonnie Prince Charlie led his forces to a rout seared into Scottish memory, Rebecca Connolly takes up the case for the Chronicle. A controversial film about the rebellion and battle is being shot nearby, and it has drawn the ire of the right-wing nationalist movement Spirit of the Gael. Is there some link between the murder—the weapon used to impale the man leaves no doubt it was murder—and Spirit of the Gael or the shadowy militant group New Dawn, thought to be associated with them?

Meanwhile, in the working-class part of town, Rebecca’s assignment to cover a protest against the placement of a convicted child molester into the community leads her to Mo Burke, the unlikely protest leader. Mo is a formidable woman, but she is also the matriarch of a known crime family and usually prefers to shun the spotlight. What has drawn her out? And what of her two grown sons, who share in the family business? The older one, Nolan, with Ben Affleck good looks, is clearly intrigued by Rebecca, as she is by him, despite her better instincts to steer clear of their dangerous, violent world.

And then another body is found, this one wearing the Redcoat uniform of the victorious British army.


The Blood Is Still by Douglas Skelton is a timely mystery set in Scotland. This second outing in the Rebecca Connolly series can be read as a standalone.

Rebecca Connolly is an investigative journalist who becomes intrigued by two cases. The first involves a local family whose matriarch Mo Brooks unexpectedly puts herself in the spotlight. When a child molester is about to be released from prison, she and her neighbors protest a plan to house him in their neighborhood. But when local far right politician Finbar Dalgliesh shows up, the demonstration takes a darker turn.  Mo is also displeased by her son Scott’s recent actions and ties to Dalgliesh . And her other son Nolan is on the cusp of making a big decision.

The other case is the discovery of a murder victim on a historic site.  Detective Chief Inspector Valerie Roach is assigned to the case and the last she wants is sensationalized press coverage. Rebecca and her former boss and current friend Elspeth McTaggart  join forces to cover the story. With a change in management at her paper, Rebecca is eager to scoop other reporters. With the help of Historian Anna Fowler, Rebecca learns information that might help DCI Roach in her investigation. But what will Roach offer in exchange for this detail that might help break her case open?

With plenty of action, The Blood Is Still is a riveting mystery with a topical storyline. Rebecca is a bit contemplative as she ruminates on personal events that have occurred recently. She is also possibly approaching an unanticipated crossroad as her newspaper undergoes yet another management change. DCI Roach is an outstanding addition to the cast of characters. She is a highly intelligent woman whose dedication has consequences in her personal life. Rebecca’s stories and Valerie’s investigation move at a brisk pace. With shocking plot twists,  Douglas Skelton brings this brilliant mystery to a shocking conclusion. Old and new fans will enjoy this newest addition to  the Rebecca Connolly series.

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Filed under Arcade Crimewise, Contemporary, Douglas Skelton, Mystery, Rated B, Rebecca Connolly Series, Review, Suspense, The Blood Is Still

Review: Snake Island by Ben Hobson

Title: Snake Island by Ben Hobson
Publisher: Arcade Crimewise
Genre: Historical (’90s), Mystery, Suspense
Length: 304 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley


For fans of Cormac McCarthy, Phillip Meyer, Fargo, and Justified, a gritty rural noir thriller about family, drugs, and the legacy of violence.

In an isolated town on the coast of southern Australia, Vernon Moore and his wife, Penelope, live in retirement, haunted by an unspeakable act of violence that sent their son, Caleb, to serve time in prison and has driven the couple apart. Ashamed, they refuse to talk about him or visit, but when a close friend warns Vernon that Caleb has been savagely beaten, he has no choice but to act to protect their only child.

The perpetrator of the beating is a local thug from a crime family whose patriarch holds sway over the town, with the police in his pay. Everyone knows they trade in drugs. When Vernon maneuvers to negotiate a deal with the father, he makes a critical error. His mistake unleashes a cycle of violence that escalates to engulf the whole town, taking lives with it, revealing what has been hiding in plain sight in this picturesque rural community and threatening to overtake his son.

Told from shifting perspectives at a sprint, in language that sometimes approaches the simple profundity of parable, this gritty debut was hailed on its Australian publication as “a darkly illuminating thriller that soars across genre constraints . . . [and] engages with pressing contemporary issues while exploring timeless questions. Hobson writes as if his life depends on it” (The Australian).


Snake Island by Ben Hobson is a dark and gritty mystery set in rural Australia.

Vernon and Penelope Moore have not seen their son, Caleb, since he went to prison two years ago. They are deeply ashamed of him and they feel like their absence is teaching him a lesson. But when Vernon’s friend William Kelly cryptically tells him he should visit Caleb, Vernon unexpectedly takes his advice. When he discovers Caleb is getting beaten by someone in their local community, Vernon’s actions lead to a cascade of violence he could not have foreseen.

Ernie Cahill and his sons, Sidney and Brendan, are a crime family who have the money to pay people to look the other way. They have ties with some very ruthless criminals in Melbourne and Ernie knows better than to cross them. When Vernon decides (rather naively) to ask him to stop his son from  hurting Caleb, he unwittingly puts  his family and others in danger.  What follows is a shocking array of  poor decisions, brutal attacks and, quite possibly, redemption for some of those involved in the violence that follows.

Sharon Wornkin is a local cop whose dysfunctional past plays a part in her decisions in the present. She is somewhat detached from both her husband and son.  Sharon also plays a pivotal role in the criminal activity taking place in the local community. With her own life on the line, Sharon is faced with a moral decision that could save someone else.

Snake Island is a riveting mystery that is stark yet quite atmospheric. The characters are deeply flawed  yet some of them are surprisingly appealing. The setting springs vibrantly to life and provides the perfect backdrop for the shocking events Vernon inadvertently sets in motion.  Ben Hobson brings this incredibly fascinating novel to an edge of the seat, suspenseful conclusion.

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Filed under Arcade Crimewise, Ben Hobson, Contemporary, Historical, Historical (90s), Mystery, Rated B+, Review, Snake Island, Suspense

Review: Forging Fire by Lisa Preston

Title: Forging Fire by Lisa Preston
Horseshoer Mystery Book Three
Publisher: Arcade Crimewise
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Suspense
Length: 288 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley


The Third Book in the Horseshoer Mystery Series, Featuring the Incorrigible Female Horseshoer, Rainy Dale

Days before her wedding, Rainy Dale jumps at a chance to visit the fabled Black Bluff bull sale down in California, but things go awry when she is assaulted and her truck is stolen.

In this twist on the “locked-room” form, more than one mystery is hidden on the ranch where Rainy and her dog, Charlie, end up. Everyone—the owners, ranch hands, angry neighbors, and perhaps even the deliveryman who brings coke coal for the ranch’s old-fashioned forge—is harboring a damaging secret. When Rainy realizes that even her dog knows a grisly hidden truth, the stakes are raised as high as life and death.


Forging Fire by Lisa Preston is an intriguing mystery starring amateur sleuth and horseshoer Rainy Dale.

With her wedding just days a way, Rainy Dale makes the impetuous decision to haul a tempestuous bull to the Black Bluff bull sale in California.  Upon her arrival, she is able to check an item off her bucket list but everything goes downhill from there. Rainy is unexpectedly the victim of a crime and even worse, her beloved dog, Charley is missing. She finds herself on a nearby ranch and accepts the hospitality that is offered by ranch owner Ivy Beaumont. Rainy eventually finds Charley and she also ends up solving the mystery of a ranch hand who disappeared two years ago.

Rainy is determined to make it back to her safe harbor, fiancé Guy Kittredge in time for their wedding. But a mild concussion and a stunning discovery mean she must remain on the Beaumont Ranch. She likes ranch owner Ivy and they easily bond over their love of dogs. Rainy also meets housekeeper Eliana who makes meals that rival anything Guy whips up at his restaurant and their home kitchen. Ranch hands Gabe, Stuckey and Oscar round out her new acquaintances.  Rainy also runs into neighboring ranch owner Reese Trenton who bears appears to bear a grudge against his neighbors.

Since Rainy is unable to leave just yet, she cannot resist trying to understand what happened on the ranch two years ago. She stumbles across one clue after another but it takes a while to put the pieces together in the right order. Rainy is also trying to discover who is responsible for the series of events that brought her to the ranch.

Forging Fire is an absorbing  mystery with a plainspoken, independent and honest to a fault lead protagonist who will do anything to find her beloved dog.  The other happenings on the ranch are interesting and the final reveal is rather shocking. Lisa Preston keeps the Horseshoer Mystery Series fresh by putting Rainey in a new location and surrounding her with strangers. Fans of the genre will enjoy this engaging mystery.

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Filed under Arcade Crimewise, Contemporary, Forging Fire, Horseshoer Mystery Series, Lisa Preston, Mystery, Rated B, Review, Suspense

Review: Thunder Bay by Douglas Skelton

Title: Thunder Bay by Douglas Skelton
Publisher: Arcade Crimewise
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Suspense
Length: 312 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Edelweiss


Stoirm’s secrets are worth killing for in this gripping thriller for readers of All the Missing Girls and Neon Prey.

When reporter Rebecca Connolly gets a tip that suspected murderer Roddie Drummond will be returning to the island of Stoirm, she smells a story. Though never convicted in the death of his girlfriend Mhairi fifteen years earlier, Drummond is still guilty in the eyes of many islanders, and his return for his mother’s funeral is sure to stir up old resentments, hatreds, possibly even violence. Rebecca has another reason for going to Stoirm. Her own father came from there, but he never went back, and he always refused to speak of it or say what drove him away.

Defying her editor, Rebecca joins forces with local photographer Chazz Wymark to dig into the mystery surrounding Mhairi’s death and her unexplained last words, “Thunder Bay”—the secluded spot on the west coast of the island where, according to local lore, the souls of the dead set off into the afterlife. When a string of violent events erupts across the island, Rebecca discovers the power of secrets, and she must decide what to bury, and what to bring into the light.

Longlisted for Bloody Scotland’s McIlvanney Prize for best crime book of the year, Thunder Bay has been hailed as “Immersive, compelling . . . [with a] jaw-dropping climax” (Neil Broadfoot, author of the MacGregor and Drummond thrillers).


Thunder Bay by Douglas Skelton is an atmospheric mystery set on the island of Stoirm.

Reporter Rebecca Connolly defies her editor to pursue a story when acquitted killer Roddy Drummond returns to Stoirm after a fifteen year absence.   Despite the jury’s verdict, no one believes he is innocent of the brutal murder of his then girlfriend Mhairi Sinclair. Working with local photographer Chaz Wymark, Rebecca successfully interviews some of the key players in the tragedy.   In an insular community that protects its own, is there any chance that Rebecca will uncover the truth about who murdered Mhairi?

Rebecca is sensitive to the painful wounds of those who are still mourning Mhairia’s loss. She delicately asks questions and patiently waits for her interviewees feel comfortable confiding in her. Unfortunately, not everyone is receptive to her presence so she meets plenty of resistance.  However, Rebecca is learning just enough to pique her curiosity and she remains hopeful she will find out if Roddy is, in fact, Mhairi’s killer. But if Rhoddy did not murder Mahairi, then who did?

Rebecca has a secondary reason for visiting Stoirm. Her father left the island as a young man and he would never talk about his past. Now that he has passed away, Rebecca is hoping his ex-girlfriend will fill in the gaps in her family’s history. But is she prepared for the truth about her family’s stunning history?

Thunder Bay is a mesmerizing novel with an intriguing mystery, a distinctive setting and interesting characters.  As Rebecca soon learns, the close-knit community and families protect their own. Her persistence pays off but unfortunately, Roddy’s return revives old resentments and frustrations. With shocking plot twists, Douglas Skelton brings this multi-layered mystery to a very dramatic conclusion.

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Filed under Arcade Crimewise, Contemporary, Douglas Skelton, Mystery, Rated B, Review, Suspense, Thunder Bay

Review: Dead Blow by Lisa Preston

Title: Dead Blow by Lisa Preston
Horseshoer Mystery Series Book Two
Publisher: Arcade Crimewise
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, suspense
Length: 264 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley


The Terrific Second Book in the New Horseshoer Mystery Series, Featuring the Incorrigible Female Horse Shoer Rainy Dale

A dead blow hammer leaves little to no mark on the surface it strikes. It’s not a shoer’s tool, but horseshoer Rainy Dale knows them and knows there are more questions than answers about how her new client became a widow. The old woman says there was hardly a bruise on her dead husband. Why was he driving his tractor so dangerously near the killer bull? How long did it take him to die after the machine rolled and pinned him? The whole town seems aware of the dead man’s wandering eye. Did the widow know? It all happened just before Rainy came to town, about the time that her fiancé, Guy, volunteered with his buddy to help search for a young woman who went missing from Cowdry, Oregon. Rainy is supposed to be making wedding plans and friends, but she can’t help being drawn into the town’s old intrigues.

Once again, Rainy will have to dig deep and use all the tools in her box to both defend herself and the people she’s just learning to love.


Dead Blow by Lisa Preston is an intriguing mystery starring horseshoer Rainy Dale. This second book in the Horseshoer Mystery series can be read as a standalone, but I highly recommend the previous installment as well.

Horse Shoer Rainy Dale is still building up her clientele, so she is thrilled for the opportunity to work for local rancher owner, widow Donna Chevigny. Donna has a decent sized herd to re-shoe so Rainy welcomes the chance to get to know her client better. Their first day working together comes to a very shocking end when Donna’s dog makes a grisly discovery.  Rainy’s curiosity is also piqued by the accident that claimed the life of Donna’s husband, Cameron. She is puzzled by a few observations at the scene where he died in a tractor accident. However, once the remains of Arielle Blake are discovered, Rainy becomes more convinced Cameron’s death might not be an accident. But are Arielle’s and Cameron’s deaths connected? And who would have wanted to murder Cameron?

Rainy is still adjusting to her decision to marry her chef fiancé Guy. So she welcomes the distraction of trying to figure out what happened on the Chevigny ranch and  nearby  federal land. Although she and Guy are now more settled as a couple, Rainy is not in any hurry to set a wedding date. She enjoys many aspects of their life together, but she reamins irritated by Guy’s devotion to creating new dishes. But with her self-awareness continuing to evolve, Rainy begins to realize Guy might feel the same way towards her passions in life. As they truly settle into domesticity, Rainy make a concerted effort to make friends and become a little more sociable.

Rainy does not intend to become involved with the investigation into Arielle’s death but she cannot help asking questions about Cameron’s accident. After finding out the local detective only gave his death a cursory look before determining it was an accident, Rainy starts asking a few questions of her own.  Unexpectedly aided by police clerk Melinda Kellan, they make a discovery that turns Cameron’s case upside down. But is it too late to unmask his killer? And will Rainy accept Melinda’s friendly overtures?

With a rural setting, Dead Blow is a clever mystery with an unusual but likable lead protagonist.  Rainy is an extremely likable yet somewhat quirky young woman. With  Rainy and Melinda close to finding out the truth about Cameron’s and Arielle’s murders, Lisa Preston brings this engaging mystery to an exciting conclusion. I highly recommend this latest outing in the Horseshoer Mystery series to readers who enjoy women sleuths and small town settings.

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Filed under Arcade Crimewise, Contemporary, Dead Blow, Horseshoer Mystery Series, Lisa Preston, Mystery, Rated B+, Review, Suspense