Category Archives: Macmillan

Review: Murder and Moonshine by Carol Miller

Title: Murder and Moonshine by Carol Miller
Publisher: MacMillan
Imprint: Minotaur Books
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery
Length: 305 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley


A debut mystery set in the heart of moonshine country and brimming with Southern charm

All small towns have secrets—and plenty of them—as every small town waitress knows. Daisy is no different. A young, recently-separated waitress at H&P’s Diner in sleepy southwestern Virginia, she hears more than her fair share of neighborhood gossip while serving plates of hash and peach cobbler. But when a reclusive old man, Dickerson, shows up at the diner one day, only to drop dead a few minutes later, Daisy quickly learns that some secrets are more dangerous to keep than others—especially when there’s money and moonshine involved.

Daisy finds herself caught between whiskey and guns; a handsome ATF agent and a moonshine-brewing sweet talker; and a painful past and a dangerous present. Not sure any longer who she can trust, Daisy must turn sleuth while also protecting her sick mother and keeping a handle on Aunt Emily, her goading, trigger-happy landlord. There’s trouble brewing in her small town, and before it passes, many secrets will come to light.

Carol Miller makes a memorable and charming debut in Murder and Moonshine, the first of an intriguing new series.

The Review:

Carol Miller serves up a big dose of Southern hospitality in her debut novel, Murder and Moonshine. This murder mystery is quite puzzling but it is the delightfully appealing cast of quirky characters that kept me glued to the pages of this compelling story.

Daisy McGovern has her hands full with her ill mother and gun-toting honorary Aunt Emily when local recluse Fred Dickerson unexpectedly passes away in the diner where she is a waitress. This spunky independent young woman is struggling financially in the wake of her husband’s disappearance and the unfair seizure of the family farm by the ATF. So she is not all happy when ATF agent Ethan Kinney shows up to investigate Fred’s death. Deciding there is some truth to the old adage “keep your friends close and enemies closer”, Daisy reluctantly joins forces with Ethan to uncover the truth behind Fred’s demise. A second death hits close to home and puts Daisy in danger as she and Ethan close in on the killer.

A series of misdirects and lack of clear motive keep the plot of Murder and Moonshine moving at a brisk pace as Daisy and Ethan investigate Fred’s death. Inside information about the intricacies of the moonshining business provides valuable insight into how Fred was murdered but they are left wondering why anyone would kill the elderly man. The pair are equally mystified by the sudden interest in who owns Daisy’s old family homestead. But it is Daisy’s preoccupation with new owner’s identity that obscures a vital clue and puts Daisy, her mom and Ethan in harm’s way.

Murder and Moonshine has an interesting and well-developed storyline that is full of twists and turns. The eclectic cast of characters is three-dimensional and quite entertaining. Carol Miller perfectly captures all of the complicated nuances of Southern living and she brings the small town vividly to life. While most of the novel’s mysteries are solved, I am desperately hoping the next installment will answer the question of what happened to Daisy’s husband!

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Filed under Carol Miller, Contemporary, Macmillan, Minotaur Books, Murder and Moonshine, Mystery, Rated B, Review

Review: Once Upon a Lie by Maggie Barbieri

Title: Once Upon a Lie by Maggie Barbieri
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery
Length: 301 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley


Maeve Conlon’s life is coming apart at the seams. Her bakery is barely making ends meet, and one of her daughters spends as much time grounded as the other does studying. Her ex-husband has a new wife, a new baby, and a look of pity for Maeve that’s absolutely infuriating. Her father insists he’s still independent, but he’s slowly and obviously succumbing to Alzheimer’s. And now, her cousin Sean Donovan has been found dead, sitting in his car in a public park, shot through the head.

There was never much love lost between Maeve and Sean and she’s not exactly devastated by his death, but suddenly the police are poking around asking the family questions. It’s just one more hassle Maeve doesn’t have time for, until she realizes that her father, whose memory and judgment are unreliable at best, is a suspect in the murder. Maeve is determined to clear his name, but is she prepared to cope with the dark memories and long-hidden secrets that doing so might dredge up?

Maggie Barbieri will mesmerize readers with Once Upon a Lie, a gripping novel about family, justice, and the choices we make that define who we are.

The Review:

Maggie Barbieri’s Once Upon a Lie is a suspense-laden mystery that takes many unexpected twists and turns. Not the typical police procedural, this compelling whodunnit is a fascinating story that I found impossible to put down.

Lead protagonist Maeve Conlon is one of the most complex and well-crafted characters that I have encountered in a very long time. On the surface, she is a typical harried divorced mom juggling the demands of caring for an aging parent, raising her teenage daughters and trying to keep her bakery in the black. She has a dry wit and off beat sense of humor that kept me giggling off and on throughout the story. Her patience with her father is never-ending and this part of the storyline is quite poignant and a little bit heartbreaking. Maeve is fiercely protective of her daughters and I just had to laugh at the lengths she is willing to go to in her attempts to keep them out of trouble.

But there is a dark side to Maeve that has its roots in her tangled past with Sean. Bits and pieces of her traumatic childhood are slowly revealed throughout Once Upon a Lie and although I had a pretty good idea of what Maeve’s secrets might be, the complete truth is still pretty shocking. What, if any, impact these past events have on the present remains unclear for most of the story and even with full knowledge of Maeve’s past, I was absolutely stunned by not only her actions, but the novel’s dramatic conclusion.

Once Upon a Lie is a riveting murder mystery with a well-developed and sympathetic cast of characters. The plot is unique and full of surprising twists and I cannot wait to see what Maggie Barbieri has planned for future installments inthis innovative and intriguing series.

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Filed under Contemporary, Macmillan, Maeve Conlon, Maggie Barbieri, Minotaur Books, Mystery, Once Upon a Lie, Rated B, Review

Review: Outlaw by Mark Sullivan

Title: Outlaw by Mark Sullivan
Publisher: Macmillan
Imprint: Minotaur Books
Genre: Contemporary, Political, Thriller
Length: 334 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher


While conducting top-secret negotiations aboard a tanker in the South China Sea, the U.S. Secretary of State and the foreign ministers of China and India are kidnapped, and the tanker they are on is hijacked. The “Sons of Prophecy” take responsibility and issue an ultimatum: If their demands are not met in seven days, the three will be beheaded live on the Internet.

With the presidential election in only eight days, sitting President Sands, about to leave office, calls in former CIA operative and master thief Robin Monarch and convinces him to save the diplomats before the threatened execution.

In Outlaw, Monarch and his counterpart, a mysterious Chinese agent named Song Le, embark upon a dangerous journey into the underbelly of Southeast Asia, a world of corrupt Vietnamese Army officers, fanatical pirates, Hong Kong triad leaders, and volatile mercenaries living around the red light districts of Thailand. As they get closer and closer, with time quickly running out, Monarch learns that the daring kidnapping and ransom pot diabolical plot is only a front. Behind it is another plot, one designed to alter the outcome of the election itself, a conspiracy that reaches deep inside the White House, back to the very people who hired Monarch in the first place.

The Review:

Mark Sullivan’s Outlaw is an action packed and suspense laden political thriller. This second installment starring Robin Monarch is full of unexpected twists and turns that culminate in an unpredictable but very satisfying conclusion.

The non-stop thrill ride begins immediately as Robin Monarch enlists the aid of his eclectic but multi-talented crew to assist him as he begins his search for U.S. Secretary of State Agnes Lawton and the foreign ministers of China and India. Accompanied by Song Le and Bashir Rhana, agents from China and India, Robin and his team are quickly immersed in a race to save the kidnapped victims before the fast approaching deadline.

Robin is one of those characters that is impossible to not to like. He might be a thief and a mercenary, but in this outing, he is not using or selling his services for personal gain. Robin is quick thinking with a vast array of skills that he puts to good use on numerous occasions saving not only himself but his compatriots as well. His daring risks are breathtakingly ingenious and yield key information that proves to be invaluable as they search for the diplomats.

While one of the adversary’s identity is revealed early in the novel, his co-conspirators remain shrouded in mystery. The kidnapping plot is quite complex and the reason for the unfolding events is nearly impossible to decipher. Trusted contacts prove to be unreliable and lead the team into dangerous, life-threatening situations.

Outlaw is an intricately plotted and shrewdly executed novel. Mark Sullivan brings readers a unique story that is incredibly fast paced and full of fiendishly clever plot twists. All of the loose ends are neatly wrapped up but a worthy opponent and a few niggling doubts continue to plague Robin Monarch and I cannot help but wonder if they will play a role in the storyline of the next book in the series.


Filed under Contemporary, Macmillan, Mark Sullivan, Minotaur Books, Outlaw, Political Thriller, Rated B, Review

Blog Tour Stop, Contest & Review: Black Venus by James MacManus

Title: Black Venus by James MacManus
Publisher: Macmillian
Imprint: Thomas Dunne Books
Genre: Historical
Length: 367 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Blog Tour Company


A vivid novel of Charles Baudelaire and his lover Jeanne Duval, the Haitian cabaret singer who inspired his most famous and controversial poems, set in nineteenth-century Paris.

For readers who have been drawn to The Paris Wife, Black Venus captures the artistic scene in the great French city decades earlier, when the likes of Dumas and Balzac argued literature in the cafes of the Left Bank. Among the bohemians, the young Charles Baudelaire stood out—dressed impeccably thanks to an inheritance that was quickly vanishing. Still at work on the poems that he hoped would make his name, he spent his nights enjoying the alcohol, opium, and women who filled the seedy streets of the city.

One woman would catch his eye—a beautiful Haitian cabaret singer named Jeanne Duval. Their lives would remain forever intertwined thereafter, and their romance would inspire his most infamous poems—leading to the banning of his masterwork, Les Fleurs du Mal, and a scandalous public trial for obscenity.

James MacManus’s Black Venus re-creates the classic Parisian literary world in vivid detail, complete with not just an affecting portrait of the famous poet but also his often misunderstood, much-maligned muse.

The Review:

Black Venus is a mesmerizing fictionalized novel about French poet Charles Baudelaire and his oftentimes turbulent relationship with his mistress and muse Jeanne Duval. James MacManus brilliantly incorporates fact and fiction into an incredibly fascinating story that I found impossible to put down.

Beginning in 1842 as Charles turns twenty-one and ending in 1867 with his death, Black Venus is a gritty and in-depth account of Charles’ life. Mr. MacManus does not downplay Charles’ extravagant lifestyle, his excessive drinking, his dependence on opium or his longstanding money problems. Charles is spoiled, petulant and his lack of impulse control leads to astoundingly poor decisions that haunt him for most of his life.

Nor does Mr. MacManus gloss over Charles’ tumultuous twenty year relationship with cabaret singer Jeanne Duval. In most books about Charles, Jeanne’s general portrayal is unflattering, but in Black Venus, we see her in a more sympathetic light. Their relationship is volatile and plagued by jealousy and infidelity and neither Jeanne nor Charles understand their dependence on one another. Despite their numerous and tempestuous breakups, Jeanne is clearly the inspiration for many of Charles’ poems and his devotion to her never wanes.

Mr. MacManus’ research of both the time period and Charles’ life is exemplary. It is easy to romanticize both Paris and the Bohemian way of life, but Mr. MacManus avoids this pitfall with accurate depictions of harsh living conditions and a non-glamorous representation of Charles and Jeanne’s sometimes seedy lifestyle. His descriptive and compelling prose brings the streets and businesses of Paris vibrantly to life and adds authenticity to the overall story.

I have little knowledge of poetry or Charles Baudelaire, but I was quite intrigued by Black Venus. I love history, but often find non-fiction works to be, well, a little on the dull side but I cannot resist a fictionalized novel about real places, people or events. The right author can breathe life into long ago events and James MacManus brilliantly succeeds in not only keeping, but piquing, readers’ interest about this significant moment in history with this enthralling character study of Charles Baudelaire and Jeanne Duval.

For more insight into Black Venus here is a short video by author James MacManus:

Contest Info:

I am giving away a print copy of Black Venus to one lucky commenter (Contest is open to US addresses ONLY). To enter the contest:

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It’s that easy! The winner will be selected using Monday May 13th. The winner will be posted HERE on Monday.

Follow the rest of the tour HERE.


Filed under Black Venus, Blog Tour, Contest, James MacManus, Macmillan, Rated B+, Review, Thomas Dunne Books

Review: Now You See Me by S.J. Bolton

Title: Now You See Me by S.J. Bolton
Lacey Flint Series Book One
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Imprint: Minotaur
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery
Length: 400 pages
Book Rating: A

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher

One night after interviewing a reluctant witness at a London apartment complex, Lacey Flint, a young detective constable, stumbles onto a woman brutally stabbed just moments before in the building’s darkened parking lot. Within twenty-four hours a reporter receives an anonymous letter that points out alarming similarities between the murder and Jack the Ripper’s first murder—a letter that calls out Lacey by name. If it’s real, and they have a killer bent on re-creating London’s bloody past, history shows they have just five days until the next attempt.

No one believes the connections are anything more than a sadistic killer’s game, not even Lacey, whom the killer seems to be taunting specifically. However, as they investigate the details of the case start reminding her more and more of a part of her past she’d rather keep hidden. And the only way to do that is to catch the killer herself.

Fast paced and completely riveting, S. J. Bolton’s Now You See Me is a modern gothic novel that is nothing less than a masterpiece of suspense fiction.

The Review:

Now You See Me is the sensational first installment in S.J. Bolton’s series starring Lacey Flint. This page turning murder mystery is full of unexpected, mind boggling twists and turns that are quite stunning.

Now You See Me is mostly narrated in first person from lead protagonist Lacey Flint’s point of view. Lacey is a complex, compelling character with a rather dark and mysterious past. She is emotionally scarred by her traumatic past and some her actions are not quite what you would expect from a detective.

Dana Tulloch and Mark Joesbury are the investigators assigned to the case. Dana is just as flawed as Lacey and she, too, has secrets that she is keeping. Mark is a seasoned, shrewd investigator and he is incredibly perceptive and observant. The dynamic between Mark and Lacey is quite interesting and I am very curious to see where Ms. Bolton takes them in future books in the series.

Now You See Me is an exciting and suspenseful murder mystery. S.J. Bolton’s research of Jack the Ripper is exemplary and she provides some very fascinating theories about the original murders. Interesting characters, an intriguing plot and plenty of action keep the story moving at a brisk pace. Mystery lovers are sure to enjoy this refreshingly unique novel that is full of surprising revelations and jaw dropping plot twists.

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Filed under Contemporary, Lacey Flint Series, Macmillan, Minotaur Books, Mystery, Now You See Me, Rated A, Review, SJ Bolton

Review: The Perfect Ghost by Linda Barnes

Title: The Perfect Ghost by Linda Barnes
Publisher: Macmillian/St. Martin’s Press
Imprint: Minotaur Books
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery
Length: 320 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley


Mousy, timid, and shy to the point of agoraphobic, Em Moore is the writing half of a celebrity biography team. Her charismatic partner, Teddy, does the interviewing, the negotiating, the public schmoozing. But Em’s dependence on Teddy runs deeper than just the job—Teddy is her bridge to the world and the only source of love in her life. So when Teddy dies in a car accident, Em is devastated, alone in a world she doesn’t understand. The only way she can honor his memory and cope with his loss is to finish the interviews for their current book—an “autobiography” of renowned and reclusive film director Garrett Malcolm.

Ensconced in a small cottage near Malcolm’s Cape Cod home, Em slowly builds the courage and strength to interview Malcolm the way Teddy would have. She finds Malcolm at once friendlier, more intimidating, and far sexier than she had imagined. But Em soon senses trouble between Malcolm and one of his former stars, the washed-up Brooklyn Pierce, and she hears whispers of skeletons in the Malcolm family closet. And then the police begin looking into the accident that killed Teddy, and Em’s control on her life—tenuous at best—is threatened.

In this stunning breakout novel from the beloved author of the Carlotta Carlyle mystery series, Linda Barnes slowly winds the strings tighter and tighter, leading the reader ever more deeply into the complex lives of her characters with pitch-perfect pacing and mesmerizing prose.

The Review:

I love it when an author decides to stretch their writing wings and deviate from their typical writing style. This is exactly what mystery writer Linda Barnes does in her latest release, The Perfect Ghost. This is not a straight forward investigation with the intrepid sleuth uncovering clues to unmask a killer. The circumstances surrounding Teddy’s death are ambiguous and it is unclear that a crime has even been committed. The mystery element is obscure for much of the novel but as the investigation deepens, new information emerges and begins to raise suspicions about whether or not Teddy’s death was indeed an accident.

Em Moore is a fascinating and flawed protagonist. She comes across as shy and timid, yet Em is quite assertive in her various interactions. Her relationship with Teddy is quite complex and it takes much of the novel to understand the full scope of their involvement.

For the most part, The Perfect Ghost is told in first person from Em’s perspective. The writing style is quite unique and takes some getting used to since Em’s inner dialogue is presented as conversation directed towards Teddy, her deceased writing partner. Interspersed throughout the story are e-mails from the detective investigating Teddy’s death and transcripts of Teddy’s tape recorded interviews with various people for their upcoming autobiography of Garrett Malcolm. These e-mails and interviews provide valuable clues and insights about Teddy’s death and the various characters.

With The Perfect Ghost, Linda Barnes delivers a flawless mystery that is full of unexpected twists and turns. The characters are meticulously detailed and full of hidden depths. The clues are subtle and even in retrospect, the jaw dropping and stunning conclusion is impossible to predict.

An absolutely captivating novel that mystery enthusiasts are sure to enjoy.

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Filed under Contemporary, Linda Barnes, Macmillan, Minotaur Books, Mystery, Rated B+, Review, St Martin's Press, The Perfect Ghost