ARC REVIEW: Engaged In Danger – by Barbara Venkataraman

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Title: Engaged In Danger
(A Jamie Quinn Mystery #4)
Author: Barbara Venkataraman

Genre: Mystery, Suspense
First published: September 11th 2015
Finished reading: September 24th 2016
Pages: 242
Rating 3,5qqq

“I believe people are like Rubik’s Cubes – many different sides, but only one side showing at a time. We keep that crazy mixed-up side hidden, like the dark side of the moon.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by the author in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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I enjoyed reading the first three books of the Jamie Quinn Mystery series a while back, so I was excited when the author offered the fourth book of this cozy mystery series in exchange for a review as well. And Engaged In Danger was exactly what I needed at the moment I decided to start reading it. Like the first three stories, this one is another fast-paced and entertaining cozy mystery. The third story (Peril In The Park) is still my absolute favorite, but this one isn’t far behind when it comes to the plot and balance between the case and Jamie’s personal life. I don’t think Engaged In Danger should be read as a stand-alone since Jamie’s character develops quite a lot during the series and some of the references to earlier cases will probably not be understood. But if you are looking for an easy and entertaining cozy mystery, I can definitely recommend reading this series!

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WARNING: Possible spoilers! Please don’t read this summary if you haven’t read the first three books of this series yet. I’ll keep the summary super short but it’s impossible to keep it completely spoiler-free…

Family law attorney Jamie Quinn finally seems to have managed to get her life back on track… She is working to get her father his visa to travel back to the US and she is more than happy with her boyfriend. Her law practice is doing great as well, but when she reluctantly agrees to take on a high-profile divorce case everything seems to fall apart. It first looked like a great opportunity to work together with her friend Grace, but their client’s soon-to-be ex-husband is more dangerous than they could have imagined… And the case soon turns into a deadly game that might destroy more than their friendship.

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If you like reading cozy mysteries, you will probably really enjoy reading this series including its fourth book Engaged In Danger. It’s the perfect mixed of contemporary, romance, legal thriller and PI work; easy and fun to read and fast-paced as well. Jamie’s character develops quite a lot during the series and it’s interesting to follow her over time. Recommended!

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ARC REVIEW: Jamie Quinn Mystery Collection – by Barbara Venkataraman

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Title: Jamie Quinn Mystery Collection
Author: Barbara Venkataraman
Genre: Fiction, Mystery, Crime
First published: September 3rd 2014
Publisher: Createspace Independent Publishing Platform
Finished reading: August 2nd 2016
Pages: 360

Rating 3,5qqq

“It’s strange how technology enhances life and diminishes it at the same time.”

*** A copy of this collection was kindly provided to me in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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I can always enjoy a good cozy mystery read, so when I was approached by the author if I wanted to read and review her collection of three Jamie Quinn stories it was easy to say yes. And Death By Didgeridoo, The Case Of The Killer Divorce and Peril In The Park are without doubt fast-paced and entertaining cozy mysteries that are perfect vacation material. A huge bonus: since important character background is repeated in each sequel, it’s really easy to read them separate as well. The main character herself, Jamie Quinn, is a family law lawyer in a town called Hollywood and I liked the way her character develops during the three books. She sure has some surprises in store for her that are not related to her cases at all! The balance between the cases, PI work and Jamie’s personal life is well done, especially in the first and third book. Peril In The Park is without doubt my absolute favorite of the three, but the other two stories are good as well. If you like cozy mysteries and are looking for a fast-paced and entertaining read, this collection by Barbara Venkataraman is without doubt recommendable.

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Death by Didgeridoo: 3,5/5 stars

Family law lawyer Jamie Quinn is still struggling to deal with the death of her mother, but she is forced to get back to action when her cousin is wrongly accused of murder. Adam is autistic and the whole experience is highly traumatic for him… And the worst part is that the police seem to think he is guilty. It is up to Jamie to find the real murderer before it’s too late, because the case is getting a lot of media attention. The victim is a former rock star with a lot of enemies… But who killed him? Jamie asks for the help of an old client and PI, Duke Broussard, but the clock is ticking.

The Case of the Killer Divorce: 3/5 stars

Jamie Quinn has returned to her family law practice after she had to deal with her cousin’s case. Things are going well enough, until a bitter divorce case turns into a murder investigation. Jamie’s client becomes the prime suspect, and she decided to yet again hire Duke Broussard to try and clear her client’s name. There are a lot of lies floating around, and it is getting difficult to find out the truth… And it’s not the only thing that goes around in Jamie’s head, since she is also trying to find her long-lost father.

Peril in the Park: 4/5 stars

Someone is trying to make things difficult for Jamie Quinn’s boyfriend. Kip Simons is the new director of Broward County Parks, but it seems like not everybody is happy to welcome him. Someone has been vandalising the parks and there are a lot of unhappy people on the list of suspects. An angry supervisor that wanted the job himself, fired employees… They will have to figure it out soon, because someone has even threatened to do harm if Jamie and Kip don’t back off. Jamie has to call in the help of Duke Broussard yet again to solve the mystery before it’s too late.

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If you like the genre, you will without doubt enjoy these three cozy mystery stories as well. They turned out to be easy to read, fun and fast-paced. All three stories have the perfect mix of contemporary, mystery and legal thriller elements, although the third story Peril In The Park is my absolute favorite. Without doubt recommended for fans of the genre!

BOOK REVIEW: The Ex – by Alafair Burke

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Title: The Ex
Author: Alafair Burke
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: January 26th 2016
Publisher: Harper
Finished reading: June 20th 2016
Pages: 304
Rating 4qqq

“When he was gone, I blocked his number and then deleted it from my phone. When I say good-bye, I mean it.”

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One of my goals this year is to read more mystery/thriller books, and since The Ex has been recommended to me by various bloggers it was an easy choice. Lately I have been looking for fast-paced and entertaining reads because I don’t have a lot of free time to read, and this thriller written by Alafair Burke is exactly that. While some of the scenes and plot twists might be a bit farfetched and have that ‘Gone Girl/The Girl On The Train spin-off‘ vibe, I still really enjoyed reading The Ex. The prose is easy to read and combined with a fast pace and the whole mystery around what really happened that morning at the waterfront it is without doubt a book that can be called a pageturner. The character development is interesting, although I’m still not sure I actually like the main characters. But I guess the whole ‘unlikeable’ character theme seems to be quite popular in recent thriller reads anyway. The complicated relationship between Jack Harris and his criminal defense lawyer Olivia Randall is a nice touch, although not that original. The mystery around Jack’s possible guilt is well played as well, although I do wish Olivia would have been less like the typical broken, but kick ass defense lawyer/detective. It does fit her character, but it’s quite cliche… The ending of The Ex was without doubt a surprise though, and all in all I would definitely recommend reading this one if you are looking for an entertaining mystery/thriller.

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Olivia Randall is probably one of the best criminal defense lawyers in New York, even though she hasn’t been that lucky in her private life. When she hears that her former fiancé, Jack Harris, has been arrested for a triple homicide, she decides that helping Jack might make up for some of her mistakes in the past and take away some of the guilt. Jack claims he is being framed for murder and Olivia believes him, because the Jack she knows wouldn’t be capable of murder. But his story is quite unbelievable… After his wife Molly was murdered, Jack hasn’t been dating anyone, but one day he spots a woman during his morning run that reminds him of what could be. His best friend decides to try to find the woman in question by posting a message on her website and to everyone’s surprise the woman responds a few days later. The mystery woman invites Jack to meet her in person at the same place they first saw each other, but she never showed up… And then three people were shot not far from where the two were supposed to meet. Of course, Jack is now the main suspect. But who is manipulating who? Is Jack really innocent, and who would benefit from framing him in the first place?

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If you are looking for a fast-paced and entertaining read, The Ex is definitely an excellent choice. The story is interesting and easy to read, even though I had some minor issues with the plot, originality and characters. There are a few pretty interesting plot twists involved and the ending will most likely surprise you, but the journey itself is definitely entertaining as well.

BOOK REVIEW: The Appeal – by John Grisham

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Title: The Appeal
Author: John Grisham
Genre: Mystery, Legal Thriller, Crime
First published: January 29th 2008
Finished reading: May 6th 2014
Pages: 484
Rating 2

“The Senator did not know who owned the jet, nor had he ever met Mr. Trudeau, which in most cultures would seem odd since Rudd had taken so much money from the man. But in Washington, money arrives through a myriad of strange and nebulous conduits. Often those taking it have only a vague idea of where it’s coming from; often they have no clue. In most democracies, the transference of so much cash would be considered outright corruption, but in Washington the corruption has been legalized. Senator Rudd didn’t know and didn’t care that he was owned by other people.”

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I usually enjoy books written by John Grisham. Why do I say usually? Because this one disappointed me. Big time. The end just made me want to throw my mobile (e-book) against the wall, which would have been painful (and expensive). I’m not sure what he was thinking, but it looked more like a political statement  than the typical legal thriller. And I’m sure I’m not the only one feeling this way. It’s really a shame since I’m used to Grisham writing solid stories, but now I’m not so certain anymore… I’ll pick up the next book with great caution for sure.

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The story is about a big company situated in Mississippi dumping toxic waste close to a small town’s water supply, and therefore after a few years turning it into a town suffering from cancer, death and undrinkable water. The company tries to hide the evidence and moves its business elsewhere, but they cannot escape justice… Or can they? There is a big line of people wanting to sue the company, the first in line being the poor Jeanette who lost her husband and little boy to cancer. A small law firm owned by the Paytons is taking the case, almost bankrupting them in the process. Surprisingly they win the case, but the enormous 41 million verdict is worth nothing as the company directly appeals.

The owner of the company feels the Mississippi Supreme Court isn’t friendly enough, and he decides to buy a seat in order to save his company. We then see a election race between the supposedly liberal acting Justice and a new conservative and unsuspecting candidate named Ron Fisk. Fisk is being modelled into the perfect candidate, supported by and supplied for by big business. You can say they almost brainwash him into thinking whatever they want, and Fisk doesn’t even suspect anything… After a lot of mud throwing he wins the race, and even a terrible accident insolving his son cannot change the way he feels he has to act… And he does the unthinkable.

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Like I said before, the ending completely ruined The Appeal for me. The story itself wasn’t that bad, although Grisham was too political for my taste in some of the opinions expressed in this novel. All in all this definitely belongs to his best work and I would recommend picking up a different title if you want to read his work; he has plenty of books to choose from.

BOOK REVIEW: The Lincoln Lawyer – by Michael Connelly

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Title: The Lincoln Lawyer
(Mickey Haller Series #1)
Author: Michael Connelly
Genre: Mystery, Legal Thriller, Crime
First published: October 3rd 2005
Finished reading: May 26th 2013
Pages: 505

Rating 3

“She always asked the irrelevant question. It didn’t matter in terms of the strategy of the case whether the defendant “did it” or not. What mattered was the evidence against him — the proof — and if and how it could be neutralized. My job was to bury the proof, to color the proof a shade of gray. Gray was the color of reasonable doubt.”

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While The Lincoln Lawyer is not the next literary masterpiece, it is still quite an entertaining read. The main character is Mickey Haller, a criminal defense lawyer who prefers his clients guilty and rich, the so-called ‘franchise’ clients. The client being innocent doesn’t make him that much money, and he couldn’t forgive himself if he would lose a case of an innocent either… So all in all Mickey Haller is not the typical lawyer who pretends to be just; he admits almost openly he is doing it mostly for the money. Although he does have a conscience and he is afraid he wouldn’t recognize innocence when he finally finds it… This novel by Michael Connelly is perfect for a few hours of easy reading, although I’m not sure if I would continue this series at some point myself.

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Mickey Haller has just catched a big franchise client accused of beating and attempting to rape a woman named Louis Roulet. Haller knows his client is guilty, but he needs the money and with the help of the Roulet’s status and ability to lie it’s not too difficult to claim innocence. But Mickey has a new problem: he finds evidence that another of his clients currently in jail is actually innocent. But he won’t be able to get him out without damaging his current Roulet case…

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For a legal thriller The Lincoln Lawyer is quite easy to read and the courtroom parts are not boring at all. The plot is actually quite interesting and the main character is actually quite human. Haller might not be the perfect attorney, but the flaws make him easier to sympathize with. All in all not a bad read if you don’t mind the use of some colorful language…