Mystery/Thriller/Crime

Black Ridge Falls – Jody Klaire

Black Ridge Falls – Jody KlaireWhen ex-con and person of interest, Aeron Lorelei, goes on vacation with Commander Renee Black all they want is peace and quiet in the Colorado mountains. But peace and quiet aren’t exactly what follow Aeron and Renee around, and they, along with the rest of the SIG special ops team, soon find themselves fighting for their lives as old enemies come back for revenge and old friends step in to help them.

The three key members of SIG, Aeron, Renee and Frei, are masters of their crafts, physically tough, elite members of the special services, and, in their own individual ways, super agents as well. Aeron is the empath and healer, but also, unbeknownst to her, the physical rock whose stubborn determination means she never quits when her friends need her. Commander Renee Black is the crème de la crème of specialist soldiers, with more decorations than room on her uniform she is the Bond style super-agent. General Ursula Frei is the head of SIG, the is the toughest, meanest and strongest of them all, leading by example with her hyper-intelligence and superhero physical skills.

But underneath their amazing abilities these women are the best of friends with a deep and genuine love for each other. They are very real human beings who have insecurities and fears, worry about their capabilities and want to be the best they can, each for very different reasons. And supporting them are a brilliant array of friends and family, real and incorporeal, who we have come to know as well as the core trio over the series of heavyweight action adventures.

Book 6 of the Above and Beyond series follows on shortly from “Noble Heart”. This is very much a serialised story, and while each book is a complete story arc in itself, the whole is so much greater than the sum of the parts. In this episode we learn a whole lot more about Frei’s emotional depths, about Renee’s family background, the truth about the death of her father and brother, and watch with amused affection Aeron’s bumbling realisation of her feelings.

Which is an odd way to describe an action-packed storyline which makes Bond, Mission impossible and Tomb Raider added together look tame. While the story starts with a gentle reunion it is soon ramped up to a multi-scene encounter with the baddies, SIG under attack on several fronts while the Frei and Lorelei families employ their varied skills to support our heroes. The core of the action boils down to a vicious running battle across Renee’s infamous Black Mountain with multiple nail-biting moments and a breathless final escape.

And in the end the cliffhanger from hell, taking us right back to the opening of the series in “The Empath”… and quite frankly ready to wring the author’s neck if book 7, the last in the series,  doesn’t come out fairly soon.

It’s a huge series, epic isn’t big enough. It’s a love story, it’s a deeply engaging tale of three powerful women fighting against cruel and inhumane criminals, it’s a masterful ensemble piece where we have grown to know a huge cast of players, and it is a breath-taking action adventure that will have your mind reeling as it races around the various settings and the diverse groups interact.

There isn’t praise high enough for a series that absorbs the brain and imagination on so many levels. Its breath-taking, enthralling, engaging, well written and simply stunning. If you love good stories, strong women, fast-paced action, deep characters, wide casts and a book you can’t put down you really need to read this series.



Did you know? If you purchase any of the books reviewed on the LRR from our Amazon shop or Amazon page links we receive a couple of cents per book which will help us support the Lesbian Reading Room GCLS Scholarship Fund.

(publisher review copy received)

Product info:

  • Paperback: 310 pages
  • First published 2018
  • Publisher: Bedazzled Ink (October 25, 2018)
  • ASIN: B07JRBTVVL
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Gnarled Hollow – Charlotte Greene

Gnarled Hollow – Charlotte GreeneRecently laid off from her tenure track as an English Professor, Emily Murry can’t turn down the chance to study the journals of one of her favourite authors. Joined by another early 20thcentury literature specialist and historians of art, architecture and landscape, Emily and the team have the summer to work out the secrets of Gnarled Hollow on behalf of the new owner.

What they soon discover is a house full of mystery, cruelty and pain; unhappy childhoods, miserable lives, tortured artists and nasty secrets. The author Emily so loved, somehow a lost voice from a famous social set, turns out to be somebody completely unexpected, and the story of her life, and that of her siblings, tests the specialists employed to investigate in ways they could never have imagined.

Hands up I am not a horror reader, or film watcher, I don’t do ghosts and things that go bump in the night, but this had me hooked from the start.

Emily is a wholly sympathetic character who engages the reader from the opening scenes. Her need for the work, along with her desire to study the author, puts her in a position of vulnerability from the beginning. When Gnarled Hollow starts playing its tricks it is impossible not to get swept up in the fear of the situation, but also the drive to find out why the house is as it is.

The other main characters are well drawn, each playing a role, each reacting differently to the unfolding situation, giving us an interesting psychological study of how people react to the paranormal. The gentle romance between Emily and June is both a subplot and adds a strand of the angst, but definitely doesn’t define the book; this is a paranormal mystery/horror first, a historical whodunnit second and only then a romance.

The language and descriptions are excellent, it is easy to visualise the house, grounds and specific rooms; the creepy bathroom, the 1920’s pool house, the claustrophobic steam room and the attic prison. Greene has done an outstanding job of weaving in all sorts of layers; mysterious patterns in the gardens, missing rooms, odd disappearances, blandly boring journals, unknown artwork, and each mystery is eventually revealed as part of the horrific whole.

Combined with intensely emotional descriptions of the fear the characters experience as they are targeted by the tortured spirit and this book is genuinely a page turner… not only could I not sleep after reading it, I didn’t want to put it down. And the resolution, the tying up of ends and completion of the story arc is excellent, a very satisfying read.

I’m not converted, but I thoroughly enjoyed pushing my ghostly boundaries;  highly recommended and perfect for Halloween.



Did you know? If you purchase any of the books reviewed on the LRR from our Amazon shop or Amazon page links we receive a couple of cents per book which will help us support the Lesbian Reading Room GCLS Scholarship Fund.

(publisher review copy received)

Product info:

  • Paperback: 314 pages
  • First published 2018
  • Publisher: Bold Strokes (September 11, 2018)
  • ASIN: B07H7XHMPL
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Cypher – Barbra Winkes

Cypher – Barbra WinkesSet some unknown time in the future a city state has become a virtual dictatorship due to the power wielded by the head of the IdA, a murky quasi police force that has the power to take away your identity if you cross it.

51308 was convinced to give up her baby and become a cypher as a temporary solution. But 8 years later and she is no closer to escaping the drudgery of her black and white life or the virtual slavery of her job. When she is accused of stealing an IdA officer takes her into custody, and suddenly everything is about to change, ut whether for the better or worse depends wholly on the humanity of the IdA Inspector.

This is a cleverly worked and interesting tale. The concept of a socialist style ‘jobs for all’ where those who cant support themselves for various reasons are given a basic place to live, bai food and a menial job is not unusual, but here the powers of the IdA have allowed that to be twisted. Anyone who crosses the head of the IdA can be put into the cypher program, with no hope of getting back out, and their identity sold on after 3 years.

Enter inspector Katlena Cervantes, a rising star who has played the game I order to position herself as the next Chief. Underneath the ambition there is a heart, and a desire to improve the system, clean out the corruption and end the excesses of the Cypher system. Her attraction for 51308 leads her to unusual steps, and from there a whole world of deception is uncovered.

The plot is complex and skilfully worked. The characters are well drawn with depth and complexity, and the overall concept of power gone bad is ingeniously twisted. 51308 and Katlena are sympathetic and likeable characters, both have made mistakes and both have flaws, but both are essentially good people doing the best they can. The twists and turns do take some keeping up with and the level of suspense is high, it’s a long time until we really know who is really on the side of good and evil as every player seems to have multiple agendas which only resolve at the end.

Personally I did struggle a little with the start of the 51308 and Katlena’s relationship. There was no buildup, they went from arrest to hug to relationship faster than you can order a U-Haul and I found it a little hard to swallow, but the rest of the storyline was excellent. Unusual, intriguing and an interesting read.



Did you know? If you purchase any of the books reviewed on the LRR from our Amazon shop or Amazon page links we receive a couple of cents per book which will help us support the Lesbian Reading Room GCLS Scholarship Fund.

(publisher review copy received)

Product info:

  • Paperback: 291 pages
  • First published 2018
  • Publisher: Independent (October 2, 2018)
  • ASIN: B07HDCH1WZ
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The Third Eye – Jenna Rae

The Third Eye – Jenna RaeWhen a new Officer is killed by a bad cop, Captain Borelli takes it hard. She wasn’t the rookie’s commanding officer but feels responsible as a mentor, responsible enough that when the shooting it “handled” politically to minimise the fallout she takes time off to do her own investigation. When her ex-partner disappears, the shooter turns up dead, and the bad cop’s girlfriend appears to be abducted, she knows this is something way bigger than a cop on the take

This is an excellent cop crime drama, great characters, engaging storyline and a real whodunnit until the last chapter. It soon becomes clear there is a cover-up, but who is behind it all remains a mystery.

Brenda Borelli is a very well-drawn character with depth and subtlety, somebody we can really empathise with as she tries to make sense of her life since she caught her partner in bed with another woman, struggling to find her feet, work out what went wrong, and find a way forward.

Really enjoyed this one. Would be a great start to a series.



Did you know? If you purchase any of the books reviewed on the LRR from our Amazon shop or Amazon page links we receive a couple of cents per book which will help us support the Lesbian Reading Room GCLS Scholarship Fund.

(publisher review copy received)

Product info:

  • Paperback: 308 pages
  • First published 2018
  • Publisher: Bella Books (September 14, 2018)
  • ASIN: B07H37FSKW
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Captive – Donna K Ford

Captive – Donna K FordWhen Greyson and Olivia bump into each other in a coffee shop they have no idea they just sealed a joint fate. Greyson, about to hike the Appalachian Trail for two months, has been targeted by a human trafficker to be taken and sold to one of his employers, and the “Recruiter” instantly wants Olivia for his own collection. The two women will soon be literally fighting for their lives to satisfy the pleasure of the men who control them.

This is definitely an unusual romance, another distinctive tale from Donna K Ford. The real story is the trade in women, mostly illegal immigrants and the poor, marginalised girls who won’t be missed. A cross between a suspense/thriller and an action adventure, the romance is important to our main characters and their personal development but secondary to the bigger plot.

Its fast paced and full of action, the story twists and turns as the women try to survive and learn who to trust. The cast is wide ranging from a seemingly innocent caretaker figure to the monsters who use women for their amusement. The captive women form a strong backdrop to the plight of the main characters and it becomes a collective piece, both in our emotional engagement with the imprisoned women and their fight for survival.

The setting is evocative as always with Ms Ford’s writing, the scenery, or in this case the place the women are held, is used as an emotive tool to heighten the intensity of their plight and the feelings of despair. The emotional intensity of the whole piece is high, from the anger and fear of the captives, through the budding romance and the individual relationships between the women.

In a way the whole seems farfetched, but shockingly is not, this happens, and we should all be aware of it. Ms Ford is once again using her writing to highlight the plight of a group without a voice and manages the difficult task of telling a gruelling story with integrity and without lecturing. In all honesty I suspect it is the “happy ever after” ending which is far-fetched for most of these unfortunate victims.

Well written, exciting and absorbing, this captivated my attention and I couldn’t put it down. My only complaint is that it ended to easily, all wrapped up without a problem. I’m hoping for a sequel, to find out what happens next. Did they really catch the Recruiter that easily and who was Lucile?



Did you know? If you purchase any of the books reviewed on the LRR from our Amazon shop or Amazon page links we receive a couple of cents per book which will help us support the Lesbian Reading Room GCLS Scholarship Fund.

(publisher review copy received)

Product info:

  • Paperback: 233 pages
  • First published 2018
  • Publisher: Bold Strokes (August 14, 2018)
  • ASIN: B07FY1RVW2
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Calling Home – Jen Silver

Calling Home - Jen SilverSarah Frost manages the Frost Foundation and several writers retreats around England. Her favourite, The Lodge on the Lake, is set on a small island somewhere in the North and managed by her childhood friend Berry. The women share a dark background, escapees from a hippie commune gone wrong, and as always Sarah was the lucky one who avoided the worst excesses to became grand-daughter of the welcoming and wealthy Frosts, while Berry suffered cruelly and escaped into a hard life of survival while making her own way.

Joined on the retreat staff by a burned out vet, Galen, the friends are happy in their quiet and settled lives; Sarah with a new love interest in the local village and Berry with a decided interest in her new colleague. Neither woman could imagine the upset and upheaval about to be created by the arrival of the weeks residents or the uncovering of 3 long-buried bodies in Northumbria.

Jen Silver’s voice is decidedly English, bringing to life the countryside and people of her native North. More than just the setting and character though there is something delightfully colloquial and decidedly British about her tales, echoes of the quintessential voice of Britain of the 50’s like a Poirot movie or The Famous Five.

The romances are always gentle and sympathetically drawn, not that there aren’t hot scenes, but the emotion is deep and the unfolding realistic. The mysteries are intriguing, unusual and pulled from the past, influencing and affecting the women of today from the grave. The settings are subtly drawn but solidly present as a part of the story.

In “Calling Home” Silver has created another complex plot and enjoyable ensemble piece with eight women collected at the island retreat for a week; the old friends, the heartbroken drunk, the new lovers, the mysterious autobiography writer and the doting but grumpy Gran. The characters are well drawn and their interactions a perfect people watchers composition.

There is a huge twist in the tale, the past really does come out and bite them in the most unexpected way, overturning everything they thought they knew about their lives and themselves, and despite the gentle pace and subtle build Ms Silver keeps us on the edge of our seats.

Thoroughly enjoyable and well done.



Did you know? If you purchase any of the books reviewed on the LRR from our Amazon shop or Amazon page links we receive a couple of cents per book which will help us support the Lesbian Reading Room GCLS Scholarship Fund.

(publisher review copy received)

Product info:

  • Paperback: 276 pages
  • First published 2018
  • Publisher: Affinity (June 1, 2018)
  • ASIN: B07D3L5SF1
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Alias – Cari Hunter

Alias – Cari HunterCari Hunter writes exceedingly good books and this is the best yet.

It starts with a literal “bang” when a car goes off the road in the Welsh hills leaving one woman dead and the other severely injured and suffering amnesia. Who she is and why she is there elude her, and us. Working with Detective Bronwen Pryce from the local police the survivor must piece together her life, and then survive the what she finds.

The plot is fast and sometimes furious, but as usual with Ms Hunter’s writing has moments of calm which allow us to catch our breath. The crime is multi-layered, the baddies found in unexpected places, and the allies equally unforeseen.

The scenes shift between metropolitan Manchester and rural Wales providing a distinct and well-drawn background. As always in Cari Hunter’s books the setting provides an important part of the plot. Here she uses the Welsh hills to represent increasing security, despite the crash, against the unexplained malice of the Manchester streets.

Our two main characters are well rounded, interesting and well matched. The romance takes second place to the mystery, and the attraction starts almost imperceptibly, building quietly between two complex women who have bigger issues to deal with. Both soften as the story unfolds, one from the consummate professional who conceals her compassion and the other finding who she really is and learning how to be herself again.

“Alias” is written in the first person, not everybody’s favourite, but this is extremely well done and even for those not keen on the mechanism I would urge you to give it a go. The writing is smooth and flows along, the plot is well constructed, the characters revealed slowly as the mystery unfolds, and being written in the first person adds to the mystery as we, the readers, discover the world along with our crash victim.

I have enjoyed all Cari Hunter’s books from the North Cascades to the English Peaks. This is another step up in her writing and it’s wonderful to watch an author grow into her craft. Her depiction of backdrop, the slow reveal, the handling of complex plot and character, and the always hard to manage first person, makes this an exceedingly good read. Highly recommended.



Did you know? If you purchase any of the books reviewed on the LRR from our Amazon shop or Amazon page links we receive a couple of cents per book which will help us support the Lesbian Reading Room GCLS Scholarship Fund.

(publisher review copy received)

Product info:

  • Paperback: 332 pages
  • First published 2018
  • Publisher: Bold Strokes Books (June 12, 2018)
  • ASIN: B07D7LDF19
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Wake Me When It’s Over – Cheryl A Head

Wake Me When It's Over - Cheryl HeadCharlie Mack and the gang are back in a second whodunnit. This time set in Detroit at the international car show, the team have a week to find a murderer and foil a terrorist plot. Full of multiple layers of conspiracy, from pipe bombs to industrial spying, Chinese plots and twisted European madmen, this starts with a bang and never lets go.

Fast-paced, complex and intriguing, it will literally keep you glued to your seat as the layers and leaves unfold. Just who are the baddies? Will another twist uncover more traitors inside? Will Charlie and the gang put all the post-it notes together in time?

Cheryl Head’s Charlie Mack Motown Mysteryseries is an excellent read. Extremely well written, the story flows along at a reckless pace without ever feeling forced. The characters are well drawn with foibles and flaws, friendships and mock enmities that make them a real team. The plot is complex; the detail and threads convoluted and elaborate, and while they weave together, fading in and out, at no point do you feel that they wont resolve into a comprehensive whole.

Very well done and highly recommended.



Did you know? If you purchase any of the books reviewed on the LRR from our Amazon shop or Amazon page links we receive a couple of cents per book which will help us support the Lesbian Reading Room GCLS Scholarship Fund.

(publisher review copy received)

Product info:

  • Paperback: 310 pages
  • First published 2018
  • Publisher: Bywater Books (May 22, 2018)
  • ASIN: B079K6SSS3
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Heart of the Devil By Ali Vali

Heart of the Devil By Ali ValiJump back to the beginning of Cain and Emma’s romance and we have a ‘fill-in’ to the wonderful Cain Casey Series.  A full blown romance that also give us a more detailed view of the Casey family and the build up to extra Special Agent Kyles obsession with Cain.

Well done, with a host of details linked to the rest of the books and a complex early reveal of so many characters we get to know. It’s great to spend more time with Billy, Marie and Therese, although rather heart rending if you know the rest of their stories. The only problem now if which order to read the series in!



Did you know? If you purchase any of the books reviewed on the LRR from our Amazon shop or Amazon page links we receive a couple of cents per book which will help us support the Lesbian Reading Room GCLS Scholarship Fund.

(publisher review copy received)

Product info:

  • Paperback: 269 pages
  • First published 2018
  • Publisher: Bold Strokes Books (January 16, 2018)
  • ASIN: B078RDKBY4
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Outside the Law – Carsen Taite

Outside the Law - Carsen TaiteTanner Cohen and Sydney Braswell had the perfect college romance, future plans and ideal partnership… except that what Sydney had planned wasn’t precisely what Tanner wanted, and while Syd didn’t listen, Tanner didn’t really make her.

Years later they are forced to work together when Syd is assigned to the task force Tanner and her FBI/DEA/USA team-mates have formed to investigate their seemingly dodgy boss and his mob connections. Can Syd and Tanner work together and find a way to be friends, or will they face up to the thread of connection still between them? In the last of the Lone Star Law Romance’s Peyton, Tanner, Bianca, Dale and Syd will finally find the answers to their questions as a line is drawn and the good and bad are finally revealed.

This has been an excellent series of romance/crime thrillers and “Outside the Law” pulls it all together and ties up the loose ends. In each successive book we have had a team member find romance, so it won’t be a shock that this time its Tanner’s turn, and when the love of her life turns up in the opening scene we know where the romance plot is going, however bumpy the road might be getting there.

At the same time the plot thickens as US Attorney Herschel Gellar seems to be getting more and more involved with unpleasant characters and shady deals. The big reveal puts an interesting twist on the whole story, especially one dominated by powerful women.

I’m a series junky as I freely admit and it was great to read the final instalment, revisit the characters we have come to know and love, see the ongoing relationships and friendships take another step, and finally find out just who was behind everything from the murder of Lindsey Ryan onwards. Thoroughly enjoyable reading, only sad the series is over.



Did you know? If you purchase any of the books reviewed on the LRR from our Amazon shop or Amazon page links we receive a couple of cents per book which will help us support the Lesbian Reading Room GCLS Scholarship Fund.

(publisher review copy received)

Product info:

  • Paperback: 233 pages
  • First published 2018
  • Publisher: Bold Strokes Books (May 15, 2018)
  • ASIN: B07CMCGPFF
Amazon.com
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