Book Review: The Ghosts of Peppernell Manor

Hey, readers. Welcome to my first book review of 2023. I picked up a copy of this one over the Christmas holidays and couldn’t wait to delve into its pages.

My Review

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The Ghosts of Peppernell Manor is the first book I’ve read by author Amy M. Reade. It’s an older title published several years ago, but it didn’t disappoint.

I’ll preface this review by saying if you’re expecting ghostly encounters, don’t. While there is a ghost mentioned, the lead character does not have first-hand interaction with her.

Recently divorced Carleigh Warner is hired by the family of her friend, Evie Peppernell to restore the family’s mansion near Charleston, South Carolina. She and her three-year-old daughter Lucy make the long drive from Chicago and prepare to stay in the area for several months.

Carleigh meets Evie’s family—her grandmother Cora Camille, her parents, two brothers Harlan and Heath, an aunt, and a long-time family employee, Phyllis. Not long after Evie begins the restorative work, things begin happening. Family matriarch Cora-Camille becomes ill. Evie receives a threatening phone call. Someone tries to run her over with their car.

Not everyone in the family agrees on the plans for the manor. Evie’s brother Harlan and her mother Vivian are in favor of allowing a group of investors to pay for the restoration, then turn the house and grounds into a bed and breakfast/venue/tourist attraction. Cora Camille considers leaving the property to the state of South Carolina with the provision the family is allowed to live in the main manor.

Phyllis, whose ancestor Sarah was a slave at the manor, often talks with her apparition. She informs Carleigh that Sarah is not in favor of the restoration, especially when Carleigh wants to restore the property’s old slave cabins. Phyllis is also superstitious. After a stray dog shows up at Heath’s home on the estate, she claims it’s bad luck and bad things will continue to happen until the dog is gone.

For a while, it appears Phyllis is right. Cora Camille dies of natural causes, but the coroner also finds traces of thallium in her system. Harlan is murdered. Carleigh’s ex-husband is mauled by an alligator during a hurricane after he snuck onto the property to spy on her. And someone sets out to sabotage Carleigh’s work. Who is responsible?

The author kept me guessing. I questioned several family members’ motives. In the end, I was totally surprised as to the murderer’s identity.

There’s also a burgeoning romance between Carleigh and Heath. I also liked the historical aspects of the book. While much of history is dark, I think it’s important that we don’t try to change or hide it but learn so that we won’t repeat the same mistakes.

Overall, this was an enjoyable four-star read, and I look forward to more from this author.

Book Review: Secrets of the Ravine

Hey, readers. Hope you’re having a lovely week and enjoying October (my favorite month of the year).

As a reader, sometimes you’re in the minority. Such is the case for me with Secrets of the Ravine, a title I picked up through Kindle Unlimited. There are not many reviews but all are four and five stars and some raved about how much they loved the characters. You’ll see where I differ when you read my review.

My Review

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

An okay read…

Good premise, but this one fell a bit flat for me. The book opens with Magpie Mackenzie (yes, her name is Magpie, not Maggie) meeting Zac who is a dead ringer for her former boyfriend who mysteriously disappeared twenty-eight years earlier—the same day her father’s girlfriend was murdered.

At the time of his disappearance, Mark and Magpie were teenagers. She’s now in her early forties, owns a mercantile shop in a ghost/tourist town, and has two grown children. She learns Zac is twenty-eight years old and begins to wonder if he is Mark reincarnated.

The same day Zac shows up, a body is found in an area known as The Ravine—an area inhabited by old hippies. (Most of whom haven’t left the sixties behind.) Magpie’s father was a suspect in the original murder but after Mark disappeared, suspicion turned from him. When it’s discovered the body was Mark, Magpie’s dad is once again the prime suspect.

Magpie and Zac—who instantly had a sexual attraction to one another, despite the age difference—partner up to catch the real killer. Doing so places both of them in danger.

The killer’s identity was obvious from the start. The author didn’t throw in any red herrings. The characters were okay, but throughout most of the book, I didn’t even like Magpie. She lusted after/loved Zac, but alternatively, she was jealous of his attention to the investigation. (Come on, Magpie, you’re an adult, not a child.)

Part of the book seemed to drag, and more than once I considered putting it in the DNF pile. The action did pick up at the end, somewhat redeeming it.

Three and a half stars rounded up to four for review purposes.

With books, you win some and you lose some. This book had potential, but I was disappointed. If not for the last couple of chapters, I would have lowered the rating to three stars.

Book Review – The Haunting of Chatham Hollow @StaciTroilo @MaeClair1

Hey, Readers. Last week I was privileged to host Staci Troilo on the first stop of the promotional tour for The Haunting of Chatham Hollow. The book was co-authored by Mae Clair. Today, I’m delighted to share my five-star review.

If you’d like to follow the tour stops, just click on either author’s name above. Both post links on their blogs for the daily stops.

My Review

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The Love of Money…

I’ve read and enjoyed several books by both authors, so you can bet I was eager to get a copy of this one. The Haunting of Chatham Hollow didn’t disappoint.

Ward Chatham, founder of Chatham Hollow was a bitter and evil man. It’s said the love of money is the root of all evil, and that’s certainly the case with him. When he died there were rumors he had hidden all his gold somewhere within his home, Chatham Manor.

Almost a century after his death, the wife of Chatham’s mayor invites several people, including two mediums, into their home (Chatham Hollow) to conduct a séance. Charlatan Benedict Fletcher attempts to summon Ward Chatham’s ghost. He along, with everyone present, got more than they bargained for and left the citizens of Chatham Hollow believing Ward had cursed the town.

Fast forward to the present day when the renowned television show Spirit Search comes to town during the annual founders day celebration for a reenactment of the séance. Will Chatham’s ghost reappear?

Set in two different centuries, the dual timeline flowed seamlessly. The setting and descriptions made me feel like I was in Chatham Hollow—both past and present. The characters are well-developed. It takes skill for two people to co-author a book. These authors certainly know their craft. If you enjoy a good ghost story, I highly recommend this book.

As you can see, I loved The Haunting of Chatham Hollow. If you haven’t purchased a copy, you can do so by clicking on the link above. You might also want to check out some of their other books. I guarantee you won’t be disappointed.

May Book Reviews Part Two

In case you missed last week’s post, I’ve decided to go back to a weekly schedule with individual reviews beginning next week. In the meantime, here are the second half of my May book reviews.

Pretend You Don’t See Her

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I got hooked on reading Mary Higgins-Clark back in the 1970s when I picked up a copy of Where Are The Children from my favorite brick-and-mortar bookstore. (Those were the days!) Recently, I learned that her books are now on Kindle Unlimited. If you’re a fan, now is the time to catch up on the ones you’ve missed, or like me, reread some you’ve enjoyed in the past.

I first read Pretend You Don’t See Her when it was released in the late 1990s. I had forgotten a lot of things, so I was eager to read it again.

Lacey Farrell is a Manhattan real estate agent. She receives a call from a woman named Isabelle Waring about listing her deceased daughter’s apartment. Isabelle is obsessed over Heather’s death, convinced it isn’t an accident, much to the dismay of her ex-husband, Heather’s father.

When Lacey shows the high-rise to a prospective buyer, Isabelle tells her she’s changed her mind about selling it. Later, when Lacey agrees to meet the woman to discuss the matter, she arrives at the apartment to find Isabelle has been shot and the killer still inside. Lacey narrowly misses death herself when she hides in a closet while the perpetrator leaves.

As Isabelle lies dying, she gives Lacey her daughter’s journal, pleading with her to give it to Heather’s father. She reluctantly agrees and justifies her decision to withhold it from the police as a way to keep her promise to a dying woman. What’s worse, Lacey can identify the killer, which puts her in grave danger.

She ends up in the Witness Protection Program and is relocated to Minnesota. But is she safe there? When she tells her worried mother she’s in Minneapolis during a secure phone call, Mona Farrell vows to keep it a secret, but inadvertently leaves clues as to Lacey’s whereabouts.

It’s a race against time for the feds and the Manhattan police to find the murderer and bring him to justice before Lacey ends up being his next victim.

Despite the changes in writing styles since the 90s, I enjoyed this book. The pacing is good, and suspense is weaved throughout. I also find it refreshing that MHC’s books don’t have a lot of gore and foul language, something that is often overdone in today’s novels. I recommend Pretend You Don’t See Her if you enjoy reading a lighter mystery.

Amazon Link

Red Knife

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Continuing with book eight of the Cork O’Connor series.

Kristie Reinhardt, the daughter of an Aurora businessman, dies from meth addiction. Her father vows to get revenge against the prime suspect Lonnie Thunder, who is a member of an Ojibwe gang known as the Red Boyz. Alexander Kingbird, the gang’s leader calls on Cork to deliver a message to Kristie’s father promising him justice.

By the following morning, Alexander and his wife are dead—shot execution-style. The Red Boyz suspect Buck Reinhardt, and tensions begin to mount between the whites and the Ojibwe. Cork is caught in the middle, and Lonnie Thunder has disappeared. Will Cork be able to locate him before there are more deaths or all-out war?

The plot of this book is a little more complicated in that there are several things happening. Potential drug trafficking by the Red Boyz. Kingbird’s younger brother, a classmate of Cork’s daughter Annie, is bullied at school. A sniper kills Buck Reinhardt. A house belonging to the mother of one of the Red Boyz burns to the ground at the hands of an arsonist.

While there is plenty of tension and action, I had a couple of issues, one of which is Cork’s involvement in a Tribal matter. (I won’t say what to avoid a spoiler.) There was a surprise ending that almost seemed to be an afterthought as there were few clues pointing in that direction.

Lastly, the final chapter looks into the future and “tells” the reader about a major decision in Annie O’Connor’s life. I would have much rather learned this in one of the following books.

Amazon Link

The Fallen Man

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Okay, maybe I’ve been living under a rock, but this was my first time reading anything by Tony Hillerman. It won’t be my last. This is the second book I’ve read this month that was first published in the 1990s.

The Fallen Man is book twelve of Hillerman’s Leaphorn and Chee series, but I found it worked as a stand-alone novel.

There are two mysteries to unfold. The first begins when climbers find human remains on Shiprock or Tse Bit’ a’i in the Navajo language. It turns out the skeleton belonged to a man who had vanished over a decade earlier. Did he fall to his death or was it murder?

Retired Lieutenant Joe Leaphorn is hired by the man’s family to investigate. When a Navajo guide dies from a sniper’s bullet, Leaphorn becomes convinced the incidents are related. He had worked on the missing person’s case years earlier, so he has a vested interest in solving the crime.

Acting Lieutenant Jim Chee has his own issues to deal with. His captain wants him to investigate a string of cattle thefts in the area. He has to deal with Dick Finch, a New Mexico brand inspector. Finch is arrogant and rubs Chee in the wrong way. Chee is determined, with the help of Officer Bernadette Manuelito to learn the identity of the rustler before Finch does.

The story is well-paced and keeps the reader in suspense. While this was my first introduction to the main characters, I had no problems connecting with them. After reading The Fallen Man, I’m interested in the other books of the series.

Amazon Link

That’s it for this week’s reviews. I’ll be back next week with another review.

May Book Reviews Part One

The reading continues. Five months into the year and I’m going strong. I didn’t expect to read this much, but since I am, I’ve decided to go back to a weekly review schedule. Today’s post is the first half of my May reviews. The second half will be next week. Beginning in June, I’ll post individual reviews.

Thunder Bay

Rating: 5 out of 5.

After feeling a bit let down by the fifth and sixth books of the Cork O’Connor series, Thunder Bay did not disappoint.

There are a few characters from the Cork O’Connor books that have become favorites. Henry Meloux is one of them. The Ojibwe medicine man has been a friend and advisor to Cork throughout the series. Now, we finally learn his story.

At the beginning of the book, Henry is rushed to the hospital and the doctors suspect his issues are cardiac-related. Turns out it is his heart, but it’s not physical. We learn that Henry fathered a son seventy years earlier—one that he’s never seen except in visions. The old Mide asks Cork to travel to Thunder Bay, Ontario to find him.

Henry Wellington has become a recluse and Cork’s meeting with him isn’t pleasant. After Cork returns to Minnesota, an attempt is made on Meloux’s life and evidence points to his son.

The book is written in three parts—the present-day events, back in time seventy years to when Henry was young, and the conclusion. We learn how Meloux met Wellington’s mother and also how he became a medicine man.

There is a secondary story of Cork’s family, and as usual, I enjoyed the family dynamics. In each book, I see Cork’s character grow as he becomes more aware of the most important things in life.

“The biggest word in the human vocabulary has only four letters and no definition that’s ever been adequate… But ask most human beings what they value above all else in this life and, five’ll get you ten, it’s love.”

This book is so far, one of my favorite books in this series.

Amazon Link

Artifacts of Death

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Next on the list is a book from another series, this time by author Rich Curtin.

I read my first Manny Rivera book earlier in the year, not realizing it was the eighth in a series. Having enjoyed that story, I picked up a copy of Artifacts of Death. It didn’t disappoint.

Deputy Sheriff Manny Rivera is assigned to investigate the murder of a ranch hand near Moab, Utah. Eager to please his boss and hoping to redeem himself after an earlier botched assignment, Manny tries to piece together the few clues from the crime scene.

One clue is an ancient Indian potsherd. Manny’s investigation leads him to the story of a man who disappeared in 1938, an elderly woman who pines for her lost love, and a surprising confession that causes Manny to face a moral crisis.

Manny is a likeable character, and I enjoyed learning about his background. He’s a hard worker who enjoys his job, but his insecurity over being assigned a murder case shows through (a perfectly natural reaction). But his determination and perseverance overshadow any feelings of inadequacy.

The author did a wonderful job of describing the southeastern Utah area. It’s a plus for me when a writer makes his readers feel like they are in the setting.

An underlying theme in Artifacts of Death is how money can drive people to do things out of character. Some in the name of a good cause, others for greed. This line really stood out to me:

“The smaller your desire for material things, the larger your happiness.”

The book is well-paced and the ending is satisfactory with a resolution to a decades-old mystery as well as the current events. I look forward to reading more of this series.

Amazon Link

The Girl Before Me

After reading a lot of psychological fiction last year, I’ve focused more on mystery and suspense in 2022. However, when I learned Laura Wolfe had a new release, I had to jump on it.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Rachel Gleason has a chance to start over, leaving behind an abusive ex-husband and moving from the suburbs to the city. There are times she can’t believe her luck. She gets a great deal on an apartment after the previous tenant broke her lease and disappeared without a trace. Her daughter, Lily, receives a scholarship at a prestigious private school.

Most of her new neighbors are friendly, especially Alex who lives next door, and Bridget, an attorney who lives upstairs. However, life isn’t without problems.

Keith, the ex-husband, is determined to see his daughter outside of court-appointed visiting times. He tracks her down to the city, thanks to Rachel’s neurotic mother. The principal at Lily’s school is also a womanizer, and he makes it clear he’s interested in Rachel, threatening to pull Lily’s scholarship if Rachel doesn’t do what he wants. Then, there is the weird neighbor Drake who is more than creepy.

The biggest mystery is what happened to Annie, the woman who lived in 4B before Rachel moved in. When Rachel opens a card addressed to Annie from her sister in Australia, she begins to question. Add to that the strange noises she hears during the night and the tone is set for a suspenseful read.

“Revenge is the best medicine… Sometimes justice needs a little push in the right direction.”

There are plenty of twists and turns that kept me guessing right up to the end. Laura Wolfe is a go-to author for me, and once again she delivered.

Amazon Link