Tag Archives: Steven James

Top 10 Tuesday — Mystery And Suspense Made In The South

11 Jul

I have lived my entire life in the American South (Florida, Georgia, and Mississippi), and I love a story set here. I also love mystery and suspense and have found a lot of  wonderful books in that genre set in the South. I don’t know if it’s the heat, humidity, or gnats that inspires the murder and mayhem! LOL! Whatever the reason, I am featuring one book per state. Oh yes, there are many more, but my list would be way too long for one post. Some of the authors featured base all their books in the South. Others spread villainy across the country. And . . .  to stave off any rebellion, I’ve included those states that some consider the South as well (although not Delaware, because I don’t know of a book set there 😉 ). I hope one of them will make it onto your TBR list.

Top Mystery/Suspense Made in The South

Annabel Lee by Mike Nappa

Fourteen miles east of Peachtree, Alabama, a secret is hidden. That secret’s name is Annabel Lee Truckson, and even she doesn’t know why her mysterious uncle has stowed her deep underground in a military-style bunker. He’s left her with a few German words, a barely-controlled guard dog, and a single command: “Don’t open that door for anybody, you got it? Not even me.”

Above ground, a former Army sniper called The Mute and an enigmatic “Dr. Smith” know about the girl. As the race begins to find her, the tension builds. Who wants to set her free? Why does the other want to keep her captive forever? Who will reach her first?

Farraday Road by Ace Collins

A quiet evening ends in murder on a muddy mountain road. Local attorney Lije Evans and his beautiful wife, Kaitlyn, are gunned down. But the killers don’t expect one of their victims to live. After burying Kaitlyn, Lije is on a mission to find her killer ― and solve a mystery that has more twists and turns than an Ozark-mountain back road. When the trail of evidence goes cold, complicated by the disappearance of the deputy who found Kaitlyn’s body at the scene of the crime, Lije is driven to find out why he and his wife were hunted down and left for dead along Farraday Road. He begins his dangerous investigation with no clues and little help from the police. As he struggles to uncover evidence, will he learn the truth before the killers strike again?

The Night Watchman by Mark Mynheir

Eleven months ago, Ray Quinn was a tough, quick-witted Orlando homicide detective at the top of his game — until a barrage of bullets ended his career . . . and his partner’ s life.

Now medically retired with a painful handicap, Ray battles the haunting guilt for his partner’s death. Numbing the pain with alcohol and attitude, Ray takes a job as a night watchman at a swanky Orlando condo.

But when a pastor and an exotic dancer are found dead in one of the condos in an apparent murder-suicide, Ray can no longer linger in the shadows. The pastor’s sister is convinced her brother was framed and begs Ray to take on an impossible case–to challenge the evidence and clear her brother’s name.

Ray reluctantly pulls the threads of this supposedly dead-end case only to unravel a murder investigation so deep that it threatens to turn the Orlando political landscape upside down and transform old friends into new enemies. As Ray chases down leads and interrogates suspects, someone is watching his every move, someone determined to keep him from ever finding out the truth — at any cost.

Dangerous Passage by Lisa Harris

When two Jane Does are killed on the outskirts of Atlanta, Georgia, detective and behavioral specialist Avery North discovers they share something in common — a tattoo of a magnolia on their shoulders. Suspecting a serial killer, Avery joins forces with medical examiner Jackson Bryant to solve the crimes and prevent another murder. But it doesn’t take long for them to realize that there is much more to the case than meets the eye. As they venture deep into the sinister world of human trafficking, Avery and Jackson are taken to the very edge of their abilities — and their hearts.

When Death Draws Near by Carrie Stuart Parks

Forensic artist Gwen Marcey is between jobs when she accepts temporary work in Pikeville, Kentucky — a small town facing big-city crime. But before Gwen can finish her first drawing of the serial rapist who is on the loose, the latest witness vanishes. Just like all the others.

Gwen suspects a connection between the rapist and the “accidental” deaths that are happening around town, but the local sheriff has little interest in her theories. When her digitally-obsessed teenage daughter joins her, Gwen turns her attention to a second assignment: going undercover in a serpent-handling church. She could get a handsome reward for uncovering illegal activity — a reward she desperately needs, as it seems her breast cancer has returned. But snakes aren’t the only ones ready to kill. Can Gwen uncover the truth—and convince anyone to believe her — before she becomes a victim herself?

In a thrilling race against time, When Death Draws Near plunges us into cold-case murders, shady politics, and a den of venomous suspects.

Whispers of The Bayou by Mindy Starns Clark

Miranda Miller wasn’t looking for the news the day the letter came. But, trying to survive in troubled circumstances, she welcomes the chance to change her location for a period of time. The letter informs her that her grandparents’ estate is finally about to become hers. She immediately heads down to Louisiana and the old house by the bayou. There Miranda finds secrets that lead to life–changing revelations.

This suspenseful story reminiscent of old Gothic tales has a complex mystery and a vivid sense of the Deep South. It shows how God can take the darkest circumstances and use them to light a bright path leading to the future.

Still Life by Dani Pettrey

Blacklisted in the photography business over a controversial shot, Avery Tate answered an ad for a crime scene photographer. She expected to be laughed at, but crime scene analyst Parker Mitchell hired her outright–and changed her life. But six months ago, when her feelings for Parker became too strong, she left his employ to sort out her heart.

Now, for the first time, Avery is facing the world that rejected her to attend the gallery opening of a photography exhibit and support her best friend, who modeled for the show. But the only image of her friend is a chilling photo of her posing as if dead–and the photographer insists he didn’t take the shot. Worse, her friend can’t be found. She immediately calls Parker for help. As Avery, Parker, and his friends in law enforcement dig into the mystery, they find themselves face-to-face with a relentless and deadly threat.

Buried Secrets by Irene Hannon

After seven years as a Chicago homicide detective, Lisa Grant has hit a wall. Ready for a kinder, gentler life, she takes a job as a small-town police chief. But the discovery of a human skeleton by a construction crew at the edge of town taxes the resources of her department. A call for assistance brings detective Mac McGregor, an ex-Navy SEAL, to her doorstep. As they work to solve the mystery behind the unmarked grave, danger begins to shadow them. Someone doesn’t want this dead person telling any tales–and will stop at nothing to make certain a life-shattering secret stays buried.

A Promise to Protect by Patricia Bradley

Acting Sheriff Ben Logan hasn’t heard from Leigh Somerall in a very long time, but it doesn’t mean he can get her–or their whirlwind romance of ten years ago — out of his head. When she calls out of the blue, it is with a strange request to protect her brother, Tony. When Tony dies just days later, Ben is charged with a different task — protecting Leigh and her nine-year-old son, TJ, from the killers. But how can Ben keep an eye on Leigh if she’s doing everything in her power to avoid him? And could the secret that Leigh is keeping change Ben’s life forever?

Suspense, intrigue, and a touch of romance make A Promise to Protect perfect for readers who like their stories with a hearty dose of mystery.

The Pawn by Steven James

Special Agent Patrick Bowers had only met one man who made him truly afraid. Until now. When he’s called to North Carolina to consult on the case of an area serial killer, he finds himself in a deadly game. Cunning and lethal, the killer is always one step ahead of the law, and he’s about to strike again. 

It will take all of Bowers’s instincts and training to stop this man who calls himself the Illusionist. And just when the pieces start to come together, Bowers realizes they’re not quite adding up. Can he unravel the pattern and save the next victim? Or will the Illusionist win the game by taking one of his opponent’s pieces? 

 

The Real Enemy by Kathy Herman

Brill Jessup would rather work than deal with the bitterness she feels about her husband Kurt’s infidelity. They’ve made a fresh start with Brill taking a job as the new police chief in a small East Tennessee town. Kurt is genuinely contrite and making every effort to show his commitment to Brill. Meanwhile Emily, their nine-year-old, is being the perfect little girl, as if she can make everything okay again. So why can’t Brill get over this anger? Work presents the perfect distraction as rumors and superstition are running rampant in the wake of the disappearances of seven people in seven days. As fear rises in the community, Brill works desperately to solve the mystery… until it threatens her family and she is forced to confront the real enemy.

Firewall by DiAnn Mills

After a whirlwind romance, Taryn Young is preparing to board a plane at Houston International Airport, bound for a dream honeymoon, when a bomb decimates the terminal. Injured but still alive, she awakens to discover her husband is missing and they’re both considered prime suspects in the attack. Further, the FBI is convinced her husband isn’t who he appears to be.

Agent Grayson Hall’s number-one priority is to catch those responsible for the day’s act of terror. All evidence is pointing to Taryn and her new husband. But his instinct tells him her pleas of innocence are genuine. Is her naiveté just for show, or could she truly be another victim of a master scheme, possibly linked to the software she recently developed for her company?

With both their lives and reputations on the line, and the media outcry for justice increasing with each passing minute, Taryn and Grayson have no choice but to trust one another . . . and pray they can uncover the truth before they become two more casualties.

Always Watching by Lynette Eason

The bodyguards of Elite Guardians Agency have more than just skill and prowess in common–they’re also all women. When it becomes clear that popular psychiatrist and radio personality Wade Savage has a stalker, his father secretly hires Elite Guardians in order to protect his son.

But when Wade’s bodyguard is attacked and nearly killed, agency owner Olivia Edwards must step in and fill the gap. Olivia’s skills are about to be tested to the limit as Wade’s stalker moves from leaving innocent gifts at his door to threatening those closest to him. Olivia has the feeling that she’s next on the list. And to complicate things even further, she realizes that her heart may be in as much danger as her client.

The Stones Cry Out by Sibella Giorello

When nobody talks, the stones cry out.

In the searing heat of a Virginia summer, two men plummet from a roof top to their deaths on the sidewalk below. One of them was a white police officer. The other, a black man with a murky past. Hundreds of people stood on the sidewalk below, yet nobody will say what happened.

The FBI wants a quick verdict — with or without the truth — and sends in rookie agent Raleigh Harmon.

Between the tight-lipped witnesses and the secrets hidden among the city’s most powerful families, Raleigh’s forced to use her forensic geology skills to uncover the truth.  But can she solve this case before the city’s simmering rage burns out of control?

And will her choices bring down everyone involved — including Raleigh herself?

Miranda Warning by Heather Day Gilbert

Child of the Appalachian mountains, Tess Spencer has experienced more than her share of heartache. The Glock-wielding, knife-carrying housewife knows how to survive whatever life throws at her. But when an anonymous warning note shows up in her best friend Miranda’s mailbox — a note written in a dead woman’s handwriting — Tess quickly discovers that ghosts are alive and well in Buckneck, West Virginia. Hot on a cold trail, she must use limited clues and her keen insight into human nature to unmask the killer . . . or the next victim might be Tess herself. Tinged with the supernatural and overshadowed by the mountains’ lush, protective presence, this twisting psychological mystery is the first in A Murder in the Mountains series.

 

How about you?

What state or region is your favorite?

 

 

Book Review: Placebo

1 Jul

734251_w185While covertly investigating a controversial neurological research program, exposé filmmaker Jevin Banks is drawn into a far-reaching conspiracy involving one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical firms. After giving up his career as an escape artist and illusionist in the wake of his wife and sons’ tragic death, Jevin is seeking not only answers about the questionable mind-to-mind communication program, but also answers to why his family suffered as they did. 

Rooted in ground-breaking science and inspired by actual research, Placebo explores the far reaches of science, consciousness, and faith. 

Chapter One

Steven JamesSteven James has penned 30+ books spanning the genres of psychological thrillers, prayer collections, dramas, monologues, a nine book series on creative storytelling, YA fantasy, and inspirational nonfiction. He has received wide critical acclaim for his work including four Storytelling World Honor awards, two Publishers Weekly starred reviews, and 2009, 2011 and 2012 Christy Awards for best suspense. His latest thriller, The Queen, won a 2012 ECPA Book Award and the 2012 Christy Award for Best Suspense Novel. Steven earned a Master’s Degree in Storytelling from ETSU in 1997 and is an active member of International Thriller Writers, the Authors Guild, Mystery Writers of America, and International Association of Crime Writers.  He is a contributing editor to Writer’s Digest, and has taught writing and storytelling principles on three continents.

He lives in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee with his wife and three daughters. When he’s not writing or speaking, he’s rock climbing, playing disc golf, or (shh….) slipping away to a matinee.

My Impressions:

Placebo was on the shortlist of novels nominated for the mystery/thriller category of the Inspy Awards. I was honored to serve as a judge of this category — so many great books! It certainly was a tough decision. Here are some of my thoughts regarding Placebo.

Jevin Banks is an illusionist turned film maker focused on exposing charlatans — televangelists, psychics and now a Nobel prize winning researcher. He along with his colleagues become entangled in a conspiracy reaching from the  boardroom of a pharmaceutical company to the Pentagon and beyond. There is a lot at stake in the research — money, power, and national security. There are also a lot of shadowy characters influencing the action.

I found Placebo difficult to get into. There is quite a bit of discourse on the theory of entanglement at the sub-atomic level. I got lost amid the quantum physics and metaphysical discussions. Finally, I had to skim rather than try to understand the theories discussed and just focus on the action. Thankfully the action took off, and I got into a better reading rhythm. The characters in Placebo are quite interesting. Jevin’s wife and twin sons were killed in a drowning incident that was no accident. It is his failure to prevent his wife’s murder/suicide that fills his nightmares and his waking life. Riah Colette, a researcher with RixoTray Pharmaceuticals is a psychopath who has learned to restrain her nature. Her quest  to understand love has led her to her current position as researcher and her involvement with Jevin near the end of the book. This novel is a thriller and there are a lot of psychopaths — complex characters and motives. At the end of the book the immediate threat is averted, but some of the characters with the least exposure and most influence have gotten away — and I think may make appearances in the next novel.

Placebo is not a book for everyone. There are some disturbing images that ramp up the creep-factor of the book. It is also not a quick read — you have to be willing to invest some time to understand the background of the research and the motivations of the characters. The faith message is subtle, and the spiritual journey of Jevin Banks has just begun. But if you like a gasp-inducing thriller, interesting characters and mental workout, you will enjoy Placebo.

Recommended.

(I received Placebo from the publisher for judging purposes. The opinions expressed are mine alone.)

To purchase a copy of this book, click on the image below.

Book Review: The Pawn

11 Aug

Special Agent Patrick Bowers has met only one person he’s feared—until now. Working on a North Carolina serial murder case, he’s caught in a macabre game of cat-and-mouse with a cunning killer called the Illusionist. The pieces of the puzzle don’t add up. Can Bowers unravel the pattern in time to save the next victim?

 

Excerpt

 

 

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Award-winning Author of The Patrick Bowers Files Steven James has penned 30+ books spanning the genres of psychological thrillers, prayer collections, dramas, monologues, a nine book series on creative storytelling, YA fantasy, and inspirational nonfiction.

He has received wide critical acclaim for his work including four Storytelling World Honor awards, two Publishers Weekly starred reviews, and 2009, 2011 and 2012 Christy Awards for best suspense. His latest thriller, The Queen, won a 2012 ECPA Book Award and the 2012 Christy Award for Best Suspense Novel.

Steven earned a Master’s Degree in Storytelling from ETSU in 1997 and is an active member of International Thriller Writers, the Authors Guild, Mystery Writers of America, and International Association of Crime Writers.  He is a contributing editor to Writer’s Digest, and has taught writing and storytelling principles on three continents.

He lives in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee with his wife and three daughters. When he’s not writing or speaking, he’s rock climbing, playing disc golf, or (shh….) slipping away to a matinee.

 

My Impressions:  

The Pawn, the first book in Steven James’ Patrick Bowers series, was this month’s pick of my book club.  We had mixed feelings on the book — some could not finish it, others found it disturbing, and one member had nightmares while reading it.  I would describe The Pawn as chilling and intense.  It’s subject matter, the investigation by the FBI of serial murders in the Asheville, NC area was spellbinding, but if you are the least bit squeamish or don’t like violence at all, you don’t need to read this book!

Not sure what it says about me, but I liked The Pawn.  I agree with one of our member’s assessment that it was definitely disturbing — the images and the cold cruelty of the serial killer known as the Illusionist.  I could not put this book down though.  I was intrigued by the character of Patrick Bowers, an FBI forensic investigator who is battling the loss of his wife 8 month’s prior to the novel and his struggle with parenting his 17 year old step-daughter.  When things get personal between Patrick and the Illusionist, Patrick kicks his efforts into full gear and the action becomes nonstop.

So should you read The Pawn?  Yes if you like psychological thrillers and don’t mind violent imagery.  But beware, you will never look at a locked door in the same way again!

(I purchased The Pawn for my Kindle.  The opinions expressed are mine alone.)