Category Archives: Crooked Lane Books

Review: Don’t Get Close by Matt Miksa

Title: Don’t Get Close by Matt Miksa
Publisher: Crooked Lane Books
Genre: Contemporary, Domestic Terrorist, Suspense
Length: 347 pages
Book Rating: C+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley


An infamous reincarnation cult resurfaces in the wake of a deadly bombing, and it’s up to an FBI novice to learn its true aim—and uncover its dark past before it consumes her. 

Special Agent Vera Taggart walked away from a promising career as an artist to join the FBI, and she impresses her new colleagues with her eerie ability to divine conclusions from the grisliest crime scenes. Taggart’s first assignment is a decades-old cold case centered on a cult of suicide bombers known as the Sons of Elijah who believe they’ve been reborn hundreds of times, going back centuries. It seems like a low-risk assignment until a bomb tears apart a crowded Chicago restaurant. The Sons of Elijah have returned—and now it’s up to Taggart to stop their modern-day reign of terror.

Taggart’s investigation begins with Dr. Seth Jacobson, a renowned psychiatrist who claims to help people remember past lives through hypnotherapy. Jacobson had treated two of the Sons of Elijah’s founders before they’d gone on to commit a series of horrific murders. Desperate to understand how these ordinary patients could have taken such a violent path, Taggart agrees to undergo similar treatment with Jacobson.

Through her hypnosis sessions, Taggart comes to suspect the Sons of Elijah are targeting a high-tech government laboratory that could expose the group’s greatest secret with a controversial experiment. To save millions of innocent lives, Tag must come to grips with the shocking truth about the cult and her own puzzling role in its timeless mission. The fate of humanity rests on her ability to determine which threats are real and which exist only in her mind—and to decide whose side she’s really fighting for.


Don’t Get Close by Matt Miksa is an intriguing mystery.

FBI Agent Vera Taggart has just completed training when she is assigned to the Sons of Elijah case. This doomsday cult has been quiet for decades but Caleb Miller’s domestic terrorist bombing revives interest in the case.  Vera has a vested interest in catching Caleb and she is sometimes reckless as she pursues him and questions his psychiatrist Dr. Seth Jacobson. With time slipping away, Vera must figure out what the cult’s next target might be but will she uncover the truth in time?

Vera’s desperation for answers takes her down an unexpected path with Dr. Jacobson. She also learns shocking information about the people who were originally part of Sons of Elijah cult. Vera and the other agents are puzzled by the resurgence of the cult and why it originally went dormant. Unbeknownst to her, Special Agent in Charge Gina Butler has an ulterior motive for recruiting her and a shocking discovery leaves Vera reeling.

Don’t Get Close has a unique premise that is quite interesting. Vera is a well-drawn character that is unusual but appealing. The other characters are well developed and the Chicago setting springs vibrantly to life. The storyline is a bit convoluted and some of the passages slow down the pacing. With unforeseen twist and turns, Matt Miksa brings this suspenseful mystery to a dramatic conclusion.

Comments Off on Review: Don’t Get Close by Matt Miksa

Filed under Contemporary, Crooked Lane Books, Domestic Terrorism, Dont Get Close, Matt Miksa, Rated C+, Review, Suspense

Review: L.A. Burning by D.C. Taylor

Title: L.A. Burning by D.C. Taylor
Publisher: Crooked Lane Books
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery
Length: 282 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley


An ex-con hits the streets of L.A. to find her twin sister’s killer. Is it a mission of justice—or a quest for vengeance?

Cody Bonner, identical twin, daughter of a major movie star, a teenage street kid in Los Angeles, a bank robber at nineteen, and a prison inmate at twenty. When she’s released after six years, she returns to L.A. with a purpose: to learn the truth about her sister Julie, who washed up on a Malibu beach a year earlier. The connection between the twins was so powerful that the day Julie died, Cody collapsed in the prison yard. Now that bond is driving her to seek justice—at any cost.

Using bootleg skills she learned in prison, Cody begins to peel back the layers of mystery. Her search leads her to the darker alleys behind the dazzle of the film business, and into the world of high-powered agents, high-priced call girls, and men with a taste for sexual violence. As she homes in on her mother’s powerful agent, Harry Groban, a man with ugly accusations of abuse in his past, Cody becomes more deeply enmeshed in the life she left behind as a teenager: her mother’s star power, her former classmates-turned-producers, glitzy parties, and a handsome former love who knows all the players. Is Groban at the center? Could there be others who had a hand in Julie’s murder?

As Cody gets closer to the truth, another ghost from her criminal past is stalking her—one that could put her back in prison for years.


L.A. Burning by D.C. Taylor is a beguiling revenge mystery.

Ex-con Cody Bonner is determined to find her twin sister Julie’s killer. Her mother Karen is a popular actress who would rather Cody not go looking for trouble. The police have no leads so Cody gets as much information she can about what her sister was doing before her death.  Trying to figure out if Julie’s murder is linked to her career as a lawyer, Cody discovers her sister worked with a classmate of theirs, Curtis Whyle. He has left the firm and now works in the movie business. Through her renewed romance with him, Cody is reacquainted with Terry Gwinn and Mark Siegel who also pal around with Hollywood elites. Cody’s best suspect turns out to be agent to the stars, Henry Groban. Will her risky attempts to uncover the truth lead to the evidence she is searching for?

Cody and Julie might have been twins but their personalities could not have been more different. While Julie paid more attention to getting good grades, Cody skipped school and dabbled with drugs. Although their mother paid for her to go to rehab, Cody slips into addiction and eventually becomes homeless.  After turning to bank robbery, Cody has just completed her sentence.

Cody hopes to find answers at her sister’s place. She also wants to crack the password on Julie’s laptop. Utilizing her connections from her past and her time on the streets, Cody’s behavior becomes increasingly reckless in her quest to locate Julie’s killer. At the same time, she must dodge the detective who believes she is responsible for other unsolved bank robberies.

L.A. Burning is a tightly-plotted mystery with a stubborn lead protagonist. Cody is tough, intelligent and will go to any lengths to find Julie’s killer. She sometimes has a little tunnel vision as she winnows down the suspect list and she makes perilous choices as she plots her revenge. The detective on her heels is dogged as he tries to find evidence to arrest her for the bank robberies. With a dangerous fire bearing down on the city, D.C. Taylor brings this suspenseful mystery to a twist-filled conclusion.

Comments Off on Review: L.A. Burning by D.C. Taylor

Filed under Contemporary, Crooked Lane Books, DC Taylor, LA Burning, Mystery, Rated B+, Review

Review: The Wrong Woman by Leanne Kale Sparks

Title: The Wrong Woman by Leanne Kale Sparks
Publisher: Crooked Lane Books
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Suspense
Length: 316 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley


The past is never far behind, as a string of murders threatens to unleash long-buried secrets in this pulse-pounding thriller for fans of Melinda Leigh and T. R. Ragan.

The only survivor of Denver’s notorious “Reaper” serial murders, FBI Special Agent Kendall Beck grapples with the ghosts of her past by seeking justice for victims of abuse. She’s neck deep in a particularly ugly case involving the disappearance of five-year-old Emily Williams—but her investigation is derailed when her best friend and roommate, Gwen Tavich, turns up dead floating in a nearby lake.

Devastated by the news of Gwen’s death, Kendall teams up with Denver detective Adam Taylor to find the killer. Gwen’s fiancé, Ty Butler, is being evasive about the last time he saw Gwen, and as the evidence mounts against him, he’s arrested for the murder. With every new clue, Kendall questions how well she really knew her friend. And when Gwen’s dark secrets begin spilling out one by one, she begins to understand the devastating magnitude of her murder. The Reaper has returned to Denver—and he’s not stopping at just one victim.

As the trauma of Kendall’s past comes roaring back, she and Adam have no time to spare before more bodies start piling up. And then Kendall makes a shocking discovery that reveals the horrifying truth behind Emily Williams’s disappearance. Now, Kendall must confront her darkest fears as she and the Reaper face off one more time.


The Wrong Woman by Leanne Kale Sparks is a suspense-laden mystery.

FBI Agent Kendall Beck is working an intense case involving missing five-year-old Emily Scott. Suspecting she has been kidnapped, Beck is determined to find the young girl. In the midst of the deeply troubling case, Kendall’s best friend and roommate Gwen Tavich fails to return home. Gwen co-owns a successful restaurant with her fiancé Ty Butler who seems somewhat unconcerned about her whereabouts. As a professional courtesy, Denver Detective Adam Taylor is assigned to Gwen’s case. When are putting much effort into finding Gwen, Kendall launches her own search for her missing friend.  After her worst fears about Gwen come true, will Beck and Taylor uncover the truth about who murdered Gwen?

While still in college, Kendall tries to rescue a young woman who turns out to be a victim of a serial killer known as The Reaper.  This experience lead her to decide to join the FBI in order to try to help victims of violent crimes. Kendall is tenacious as she puts in long hours trying to learn the truth about what happened to Emily.  Despite her reputation for keeping cool under pressure, Kendall’s actions threaten to derail the case and her career is soon in jeopardy.

While attempting to find out what happened to Gwen, Kendall uncovers information that leaves her wondering how well she really knows her longtime friend. She is also frustrated by Ty’s lack of cooperation so she tries to find out what secrets he is keeping. Unbeknownst to Kendall, Adam is discovering shocking details that turn a couple of his investigations completely upside down.

The Wrong Woman is a mesmerizing mystery that moves at a brisk pace. Kendall is a little impetuous as she desperately tries to find answers about both Emily and Gwen’s cases. Adam understands Kendall’s need to catch Gwen’s killer and he is caught off-guard as the case takes an absolutely stunning turn. The two investigations are intriguing and Kendall unwittingly puts herself in harm’s way. With devious twists and turns, Leanne Kale Sparks brings this clever mystery to an action-filled conclusion.

Comments Off on Review: The Wrong Woman by Leanne Kale Sparks

Filed under Contemporary, Crooked Lane Books, Leanne Kale Sparks, Mystery, Rated B+, Review, Suspense, The Wrong Woman

Review: Wolf Hollow by Victoria Houston

Title: Wolf Hollow by Victoria Houston
Lew Ferris Mystery Series Book One
Publisher: Crooked Lane Books
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery
Length: 282 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley


Murder stalks the Wisconsin northwoods in a gripping novel from the author of the acclaimed Loon Lake mysteries.

It’s mid-May in the tiny northwoods Wisconsin town of Loon Lake, and the fish are biting. Walleye’s not the only thing on the hook. There are rumors that a precious vein of nickel and copper is buried on the property of wealthy Grace McDonough, and the drilling is about to begin. But not if environmentalist Pete Ferris can help it.

When Grace’s 24-year-old son, Noah, is caught in a sordid sex crime, police chief Lew Ferris makes the arrest. But a day later, Lew is stricken when her brother Pete turns up dead, a bloody pry bar found in the woods nearby. Then, Grace’s body is discovered in a car at the bottom of a river–and Noah has vanished. Lew puts out a statewide APB, but before long, Noah is also found murdered on the McDonough property.

It’s beginning to look like mother and son were killed by the same person. And when Lew learns that her brother had planned to file a lawsuit to prevent drilling for the sulfide mine, a key piece of the puzzle suddenly falls into place.

Lew is beginning to close in on the truth. But has the killer set his bait again, angling for his biggest catch yet?


Wolf Hollow by Victoria Houston is an engaging small-town mystery. This first installment in the Lew Ferris Mystery series is a continuation of the Loon Lake Mystery series, but it can be read as a standalone.

Police Chief Lewellyn “Lew” Ferris is busy with her campaign for Sheriff when her beloved brother Pete is murdered. He and a group of activists have been working to prevent a mining company from destroying the nearby rivers. Lew’s investigation is interrupted by the discovery of landowner Grace McDonough’s body. Then Grace’s son Noah also turns up dead. Lew cannot help but suspect the three deaths are connected but will she unmask the killer before he/she strikes again?

Loon Lake, Wisconsin is a close-knit community that relies on tourism to keep it afloat. If the mining company purchases the land and begins mining, the residents fear the environmental damage will destroy the nearby rivers and lakes. Lew has her work cut out for her as she investigates the recent murders. She is also mourning the loss of her beloved brother while also trying to stay out of his recent widow’s way. Lew relies on her trusted circle of friends to help her throughout the investigation.

With an idyllic setting and small-town charm, Wolf Hollow is an inviting cozy mystery with an appealing cast of characters. Lew is no stranger to loss and she does not let her grief prevent her from investigating the spate of murders. She has an excellent support system to assist her both personally and professionally. The search for the murderer(s) is interesting and Lew follows the evidence where it leads her. With clever twists and turns, Victoria Houston brings this intriguing mystery to a satisfying conclusion.


Filed under Contemporary, Crooked Lane Books, Lew Ferris Series, Mystery, Rated B, Review, Victoria Houston, Wolf Hollow

Review: Garden of Sins by Laura Joh Rowland

Title: Garden of Sins by Laura Joh Rowland
Victorian Mystery Series Book Six
Publisher: Crooked Lane Books
Genre: Historical, Mystery, Suspense
Length: 304 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley


Award-winning author Laura Joh Rowland is back with the sixth in her critically acclaimed Victorian Mystery series in which Sarah must search for the killer of a woman she found murdered on a train all the while waiting for the verdict of her father’s trial for heinous crimes committed two decades earlier.

London, November 1890. Crime scene photographer Sarah Bain Barrett faces a perfect storm of events. She and her husband Detective Sergeant Barrett are riding on a train that crashes. While rescuing other passengers, they find a woman who’s been strangled to death. Their search for her identity and her killer lead them to Cremorne Gardens, a seedy riverside pleasure park that’s a combination carnival, theater, freak show, and museum of oddities. It’s among the most challenging cases that Sarah, Barrett, and her friends Lord Hugh Staunton and Mick O’Reilly have ever undertaken. The suspects include a dwarf, a female acrobat, and a member of the Royal Family. Due to the royal connection, the police commissioner declares the case top-secret. Sarah and company must investigate on the quiet, keeping the suspects, the press, and the public in the dark. That’s easier said than done. The investigation is complicated by the injury Hugh sustained during their last case, Mick’s romance with a woman who has psychic powers, and Barrett’s old flame.

Meanwhile, Sarah’s father Benjamin Bain goes on trial for a rape and murder that happened more than two decades ago. The victim was a teenage girl named Ellen Casey. Is Benjamin Bain as innocent as he claims? Sarah has serious doubts. The trial is the scandal of the year, a media blitz. The outcome–and the truth about the murder on the train–are beyond Sarah’s wildest imaginings. What dangerous secrets are hidden behind the tawdry glamor of Cremorne Gardens? Is Benjamin Bain wrongly accused, or a guilty sinner who deserves to be hanged?


Garden of Sins by Laura Joh Rowland is a multi-layered historical mystery. Although the sixth installment in the fabulous Victorian Mystery series, this newest release can be read as a standalone.

Photographer Sarah Bain Barrett is on leave from the newspaper where she works while waiting for her father Benjamin’s murder trial to begin. She and her half-sister Sally Albert are at odds over his innocence. So, Sarah welcomes the distraction when she and her husband Detective Sergeant Thomas Barrett are assigned to a secret investigation by the police commissioner.

Sarah and Barrett were on a train when it derailed and they stumbled across a woman who was murdered. Sarah takes the woman’s camera and after the film is developed, they manage to find the hotel where was staying. The photos were taken in the Cremorne Gardens so that is where Sarah and Barrett start looking for answers. Cremorne’s owners are former circus members who also perform at their business.

In between their attempt to find out why the murder victim was interested in the Cremorne, Sarah also attends her father’s trial. She grows increasing tense as the prosecution lays out its damning case. With a guilty verdict a distinct possibility, Sarah’s effort to exonerate her father unexpectedly leads to new information. Will this discovery prove his innocence?

Garden of Sins is an atmospheric mystery with a fast-paced storyline. Despite her recent marriage, Sarah is still independent and incredibly stubborn. Old issues arise between her and Barrett and their marriage is suddenly under immense strain. The secret investigation also causes friction as Sarah makes rash decisions while angry. Benjamin’s fate hangs in the balance and results in even more tension between Sarah and Barrett.  With breathtaking twists and clever turns, Laura Joh Rowland brings this gripping mystery to a shocking conclusion. Old and new are sure to enjoy this latest addition to the Victorian Mystery series.

Comments Off on Review: Garden of Sins by Laura Joh Rowland

Filed under Crooked Lane Books, Garden of Sins, Historical, Laura Joh Rowland, Mystery, Rated B+, Review, Suspense

Review: Down a Dark River by Karen Odden

Title: Down a Dark River by Karen Odden
An Inspector Corravan Mystery Book One
Publisher: Crooked Lane Books
Genre: Historical, Mystery
Length: 336 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley


In the vein of C. S. Harris and Anne Perry, Karen Odden’s mystery introduces Inspector Michael Corravan as he investigates a string of vicious murders that has rocked Victorian London’s upper crust.

London, 1878. One April morning, a small boat bearing a young woman’s corpse floats down the murky waters of the Thames. When the victim is identified as Rose Albert, daughter of a prominent judge, the Scotland Yard director gives the case to Michael Corravan, one of the only Senior Inspectors remaining after a corruption scandal the previous autumn left the division in ruins. Reluctantly, Corravan abandons his ongoing case, a search for the missing wife of a shipping magnate, handing it over to his young colleague, Mr. Stiles.

An Irish former bare-knuckles boxer and dockworker from London’s seedy East End, Corravan has good street sense and an inspector’s knack for digging up clues. But he’s confounded when, a week later, a second woman is found dead in a rowboat, and then a third. The dead women seem to have no connection whatsoever. Meanwhile, Mr. Stiles makes an alarming discovery: the shipping magnate’s missing wife, Mrs. Beckford, may not have fled her house because she was insane, as her husband claims, and Mr. Beckford may not be the successful man of business that he appears to be.

Slowly, it becomes clear that the river murders and the case of Mrs. Beckford may be linked through some terrible act of injustice in the past—for which someone has vowed a brutal vengeance. Now, with the newspapers once again trumpeting the Yard’s failures, Corravan must dredge up the truth—before London devolves into a state of panic and before the killer claims another innocent victim.


Set in 1878, Down a Dark River by Karen Odden is a fascinating historical mystery.

Chief Inspector Michael Corravan does not have a good feeling following the discovery the body of Rose Albert in a lighter on the Thames River. She is a young woman from a good family and there are few clues to follow. When another young woman is found murdered in the same manner, Corravan’s worst fears are realized. With the reputation of Scotland Yard already battered from a recent scandal, his boss, Director Howard Vincent, implores Corravan to tread lightly with the victims’ families. Will Michael be able to contain his frustration and concerns over his lack of progress in catching the killer?

Just as the first victim is found, Michael makes progress in another case involving a missing woman, Mrs. Madeline Beckford. After locating her, his attempt to drop her off at her home leads to a shock response. Concerned about her safety, Corravan instead takes her the hospital where his friend Dr. James Everett works. Michael puts his young partner Inspector Stiles in charge of remaining by Madeline’s side in an effort to discover what drove her from her husband’s side.

Meanwhile, more murdered young women are found in lighters and Corravan’s vexation with his inability to find the murderer results in impetus decisions that threaten the case. He is rough around the edges and works hard to contain his impatience. Corravan can be brusque and his irritation with some of the victim’s family members is difficult to contain. After angering a person with unexpected connections in high places, Director Vincent puts Stiles in charge of the investigation. Will Michael heed his boss’s warning to stay away from the case?

Down a Dark River is a compelling mystery with an outstanding cast of characters. Corravan is multi-layered with a temper sometimes gets the best of him. Inspector Stiles patience and compassion perfectly complement Michael’s bull in the china shop tendencies. The storyline is quite engaging with a very perplexing mystery to solve. With brilliant twists and cunning turns, Karen Odden brings this clever mystery to an unpredictable yet satisfying conclusion. An Inspector Corravan Mystery series is off to a strong beginning and fans will be eagerly awaiting the next installment.


Filed under An Inspector Corravan Mystery, Crooked Lane Books, Down a Dark River, Historical, Karen Odden, Mystery, Rated B+, Review, Suspense