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Men of Valor by Irene Hannon; Things You Save in a Fire by Katherine Center; Something Read, Something Dead by Eva Gates; Bloody Genius by John Sandford

My book choices lately include a police procedural, Christian romantic suspense, cozy mysteries, and a book on women’s lives and relationships. Instead of choosing just one I thought I’d give you a sampling of what I’ve been reading.

Irene Hannon writes, among other things, Christian romantic suspense. Her Men of Valor series is a trilogy centered on the 3 McGregor brothers. The first book, Buried Secrets, introduces the oldest brother Mac. A former Navy Seal, Mac is now a detective. When a construction crew uncovers an unmarked grave Mac is called in to assist small town police chief Lisa Grant. The harder they work to discover the identity of the victim the more desperate someone is to make sure the name and the story stay buried.

The middle brother, Lance, is a new FBI agent and his first case is a possible kidnapping. The twist here is the victim, Christy Reed’s sister, was declared dead in a house fire months ago. Thin Ice brings together Lance and Christy in a race to find the kidnapper before he claims his next victim. Tangled Webs is baby brother Finn’s story. Still recovering from injuries received in the Middle East, the Army Ranger is vacationing in an isolated cabin. Screams in the middle of the night have him racing to the rescue of his neighbor. Neighbor Dana is recovering from trauma herself and now Finn has to rely on his skills to keep her safe and find who wants her gone. These are well-written quick reads.

Things You Save in a Fire by Katherine Center is classified as women’s lives and relationships. Cassie Hanwell is a firefighter and very good at what she does. What she is not so good at is trusting and letting people close to her. On her 16th birthday her mother, Diana, left Cassie and her father. Later that same day Cassie attends a party. What happened is only hinted at but it changed her forever. Now she’s a rising star with the Austin Texas fire department – that is, until aggressively and physically objecting to being groped by the man who is presenting her with an award. Refusing to apologize, Cassie loses the job she loves.

Diana asks her to come to Massachusetts to help her deal with some health issues. To save her career and do her reluctant familial duty, Cassie moves and starts over with the Lillian Fire Department. The Lillian crew are not as forward thinking as the crew in Austin. Working to prove herself and deal with her mother Cassie begins on a path of discovering forgiveness and the true meaning of love.

I like cozy mysteries and I’ve been reading Eva Gates’ Lighthouse Library series. The setting is the Outer Banks in North Carolina and the protagonist is librarian Lucy Richardson. Employed by the Bodie Island Lighthouse Library Lucy also lives in an apartment on one of the upper floors of the lighthouse.

In Something Read, Something Dead Lucy is hosting a shower for her soon to be wed cousin, Josie. Josie runs a local bakery and is planning a small wedding but her visiting relatives are pushing for an expensive, elaborate affair. Cousin Mirabelle sees the wedding as a boost to her own fledgling business and is especially forceful. When Mirabelle collapses and dies at the shower, it is determined she was poisoned. Josie becomes the number one suspect. She provided the treats for the shower including gluten-free food just for Mirabelle. With her bakery shut down, Josie may have to postpone marrying her beloved Jake. Determined to rescue Josie, Lucy begins her own investigation. She has plenty of suspects including Josie’s relatives and Jake’s old girlfriend who has recently relocated to the Outer Banks. This series is a winner with good characters, a unique setting, and plenty of mystery.

My police procedural is John Sandford’s latest in the Virgil Flowers series, Bloody Genius. Virgil is one of my favorite characters and Sandford can always be counted on to tell a good story. Virgil, an agent with the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, goes wherever he is sent in the state. A prominent professor at the University of Minnesota, Bart Quill, was bludgeoned to death in the library. After 2 weeks with no progress and despite his grumblings, Virgil is sent to help the Minneapolis PD.

There’s no clear lead but plenty of loose threads to pull and Virgil is pretty good at unraveling thread. Why did Quill have a reserved study room in the library when he had his own lab? Why was he there after hours? Was his research important enough to kill for and what about his feud with his academic rival? As usual with Sandford this is fast-paced, compelling and a little humorous. It’s hard to put down.

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Gone to Dust by Matt Goldman, Sweet Tea and Sympathy by Molly Harper, Deadly Proof by Rachel Dylan

Lately I’ve been reading random things that catch my eye.  Some I’ve enjoyed, others not so much.  Here are some of the former.

TV writer (Seinfeld, Ellen, Wizards of Waverly Place) Matt Goldman penned his first novel last year, Gone to Dust. It features Minneapolis PI Nils Shapiro and is the first of what I hope will be a long series. Nils was a police officer for only a few weeks before being laid off. Instead of waiting for the promised recall he apprenticed with and became a private investigator.

Nils is a likeable character, a little snarky, tenacious, and hopelessly in love with his ex-wife. He is observant with a keen eye for details. He’s a little Monk-like in his ability to process what he sees and hears to make connections other don’t make.

In Gone to Dust he is called in to assist local police at the behest of academy alum and Edina officer, Ellegaard. The scene inside Maggie Somerville’s upscale Edina home is bizarre. Maggie is dead in her bed with no signs of forced entry. There won’t be much forensic evidence to offer clues so Nils and Ellegaard must search for clues in Maggie’s life and relationships. There are enough red herrings and clutter in this story to keep you intrigued.

The second in the series, Broken Ice, published in June and like the first novel has lots of twists and turns. If you’re a Robert Parker or Lawrence Block reader, try Goldman.

Novelist classifies my next book by Molly Harper as contemporary romance but I think it is family not romantic relationships that drive Sweet Tea and Sympathy. Margot Cary, an event planner in Chicago, is on the fast track to promotion when disaster strikes. Everything is set and going beautifully until Margot discovers the chef has ignored the carefully chosen menu and served shrimp. The client for the event is highly allergic and the flamingos who are there as unobtrusive backdrop love shrimp.

The ensuing calamity costs Margot her job and makes finding another position in her chosen field impossible. One step away from becoming homeless Margot gets a call from a relative she didn’t know existed. Margot’s mother left her father when Margot was only a few years old and she hasn’t had contact with the McCready family since. What Aunt Tootie offers, a job and a place to live, Margot can’t refuse.

Margot is planning her escape before she even begins her job on the funeral side of the McCready Bait Shop & Funeral Home. But life in the small Georgia town of Lake Sackett begins to grow on her as does her fondness for the McCready family, well except for her estranged father. Margot also finds Kyle Archer, a widower with two girls, hard to ignore.

The appeal of this book is the quirky characters and small town life Margot comes to know. This is a light-hearted look at a city girl changing and adapting to life with a big family in a small southern town. The library has this in both regular and large print editions.

Deadly Proof by Rachel Dylan also has some romance but it’s a legal thriller. Kate Sullivan is part of a class-action lawsuit against Mason Pharmaceutical.  She has just been appointed lead counsel for the group and how she does with the first trial will determine how the other litigants fare

Kate’s team is searching for the smoking gun that will show the company knew about the deadly side effects but released Celix anyway when a whistle-blower comes forward. Kate hires PI Landon James to check out the veracity of the witness. Before he can begin his investigation the witness is murdered. The death appears to be a mugging gone wrong but Landon suspects otherwise. Kate is warned off the case then attacked. Landon steps in to become both investigator and bodyguard. To complicate things Kate’s opposing counsel is a friend. She slowly realizes he is desperate to win and may be withholding crucial evidence.

This novel is fast-paced and intense but it has its quieter moments. Kate’s faith is strong but Landon feels abandoned by God. There are discussions on faith and belief flowing through the story but they don’t diminish the intensity. If you like Irene Hannon and/or Terri Blackstock books, you should try this first book in the Devoted Defender trilogy.

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