Dead Man’s Prayer by Jackie Baldwin

I was recently on a panel during a crime festival with Jackie Baldwin. She is a bestselling Scottish crime writer and I was thrilled to have an opportunity to discuss Dead Man’s Prayer with her. I have always found her main character, Frank Farrell a most interesting one and it was interesting to learn more about him from the author herself.

The Blurb

A dark and gripping crime debut, the first in an exciting new series. Eighteen years ago, DI Frank Farrell turned his back on the church. But when an ex-priest is murdered in his hometown, he has no choice but to delve into his past. Perfect for fans of Stuart MacBride, James Oswald and Val McDermid.

The Review

The author creates a most interesting main character in Frank Farrell: he was formerly a priest but, having left the priesthood has become a police detective. This in itself marks Baldwin’s series out from other police procedurals in the field.

Dead Man’s Prayer takes the reader through the investigation of a priest’s murder and combines this with the kidnapping of twin boys. Considering the chequered past of the main character the author sets herself a challenge and a gripping story for her readers.

Personally, I especially like Farrell as a main character. He stands out as unique amongst the many detectives that are written about in crime fiction. Farrell’s priesthood background and faith adds another dimension to this novel. I also enjoyed Mhaire and thought she made the perfect foil for Farrell.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and plan to read the rest of the series. I highly recommend Dead Man’s Prayer.

The Author

Jackie Baldwin was born in Dumfries. She studied law at Edinburgh University returning to Dumfries to practice criminal and family law for the next twenty years. During that time she married and had two children and a variety of pets. She later retrained as a hypnotherapist. Her DI Frank Farrell series is set in Dumfries and Galloway in SW Scotland. She has recently moved closer to Edinburgh.

Val Penny

The Chair by G.B. Williams

I recently appeared on a literary panel at a crime festival with Gail Williams and, although I had not previously read any of her books, I thought it important to know about her book that we would be discussing and I am really pleased I did. The Chair is a gripping stand alone novel.

The Blurb

On a snowbound Cader Idris, death comes stalking.

Cobb retreated to Cader Idris for a solitary life of peace and quiet, and to escape his dangerous past. Though that illusion starts to crumble after he and Branwen Jones, the local vet, find a mysterious RTA victim and shelter him in Cobb’s home.

When elements of London’s criminal underbelly reach Wales, and their presence throws the close-knit community into stark relief, the chance to settle old scores could prove too tempting.

With no choice but to try and hide the RTA victim from people who want to kill him, Cobb’s not sure he’s ready to rejoin the world he’s running from, when that means putting another woman in the firing line. Meanwhile, Branwen’s not sure she can face the revelation of her darkest secret.

But as they face the final showdown, a race over the snowed-in mountain, will anyone survive unscathed?

The Review

This tense and gripping thriller is set in North Wales. I had just finished reading Torn by Karen Moore set in Wales and Sicily and prior to this, I do not think I had ever read a book set in Wales. I am delighted that I have rectified this. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and it grabbed my interest right from the beginning. Both the plot and characters are credible and the story is exciting.

I became invested in the main characters early in the story because they were so well drawn and had interesting back stories. The backdrop of the Welsh mountain, Cader Idris, and the harshness of the way of life in the little village where the story was set added interest for me. There was an increasing feeling of jeopardy that developed as the story progressed. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and look forward to reading more novels by G.B. Williams.

The Author

I like to walk on the darker side, thankfully there are people and publishers willing to walk there with me.

Once upon a time I was going to walk around Europe. Then I met a guy. I kept the guy, kissed the travel goodbye.

Now I live and work and write in old South Wales, and frequently get mistaken for Clair from New Zealand – no idea why the Clair, but I grew up in Kent, and New Zealand is sort of halfway between Kent and South Wales – if you go the long way around.

Val Penny

Torn by Karen Moore

I had never read any works by Karen Moore, but I had heard a lot about her novel, Torn, and was keen to read it.

The Blurb

Like any mother, Hanna would do anything to protect her small daughter, Eva.

When she discovers that her husband, Luciano, is not all he seems and their blissful life on the island of Sicily is threatened, she wastes no time in seeking refuge abroad. But just as they are settling into their new life in North Wales, Eva disappears. 

In a race against time, Hanna is forced to return to Sicily and face the dark world of organised crime in a bid to secure her daughter’s safe return. She must also confront the truth about Luciano’s business dealings and their horrific consequences.

But will Hanna succeed in getting Eva back and bring Luciano to justice?

Or are the stakes just too high?

The Review

Torn is Karen Moore’s debut novel, but it does not read like a debut novel. It is an assured, gripping tale of a young woman who progresses from a carefree job as a tour guide in Sicily to protecting her young child in a Welsh village.

The story builds gradually as the reader is introduced to Hanna, her daughter Eva, best friend Ceri and Ceri’s brother Rhys. The action jumps between Wales and Sicily as the author weaves the tale of Hanna and how she finds herself hiding in the Welsh village seeking safety for herself and Eva.

Hanna’s husband, Eva’s father, is an exciting, handsome man that Hanna falls completely in love with. It is only after Eva’s birth that she begins to discover more about her husband and his family than she knew when they married.

I usually do not enjoy books that jump either in time or place, and this story does both. However, the changes in place and time were so clearly marked in this book that they posed no problem for me.

The story is carefully constructed and layered so cleverly that the tension mounts and the reader is drawn into the problems Hanna encounters. As a result of the character building in this book the reader lives every emotion and struggle that Hanna encounters.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and think it would be an excellent read for a book group as discussions would be wide ranging and varied.

The Author

Karen Moore is passionate about all things noir – crime, mystery, thrillers – and writes in that genre.

She has been writing all her life, mostly for work purposes, and is now delighted to be able to spend more time developing her own creative work.

Her debut novel, Torn, is a dark tale of intrigue and betrayal set in Sicily and North Wales. She is currently working on the sequel.

Karen worked as a tour guide across Europe, North America and Canada, followed by a career in PR and marketing. She has lived in France and Italy and is now based in Cheshire, England.

Val Penny

Gentlemen of Fortune by A. J. Roberts

I have known A. J. Roberts for several years, but I had never read any of his writing, so, when his first book, Gentlemen of Fortune – A Swashbuckler Tale, was published, I was keen to secure a copy and read. it. The book is slim, only 59 pages in all, that is not a criticism, I was able to read it quickly.

The Blurb

Jamaica 1690

Rosanna Barclay has arrived in Port Royal from England, in search of her missing father. Upon arrival, she meets wandering scoundrels Kestrel and Scar, whom she hires as bodyguards.

She soon learns that her father was a pirate who disappeared after attacking a French payroll carrier. Worse, he double-crossed a powerful information broker who had originally bankrolled the theft.

Rosanna and her companions bluff their way aboard a pirate vessel in order to reach the island where the treasure might be. But their new captain isn’t in favour of a treasure hunt, and the broker’s agents are close behind.

The Review

Gentlemen of Fortune is a short book set in the West Indies in the late seventeenth century. It tells the tale of Rosanna Barclay and her search for her father with the help of two rogues, Kestrel and Scar.

The story is fast-paced and laced with humour that made me laugh out loud. The characters are well described as are the settings. The author avoids a predictable ending and leaves the possibility open for a sequel involving the interesting characters he has created.

I really enjoyed the book and look forward to reading more works by this author.

The Author

Born in Lancashire, A. J. Roberts has been writing as a hobby since the age of seventeen. This initially stemmed from writing campaigns for pen-and-paper roleplaying games and later developed into short stories reminiscent of the pulp magazines. Always a fan of swashbuckler fiction (especially Zorro), he wrote a story featuring a pair of wandering scoundrels partly inspired by Fritz Leiber’s Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser. It was while writing this he found that he wanted to see the protagonists he created get into all kinds of trouble in different stories.

After discovering an annual writers’ retreat in Derbyshire (Swanwick Writers’ Summer School), he decided he wanted to take things further. In 2018 he left his job as an accountant to begin studying for a Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing. While he’s experimenting with new mediums on his course, he hasn’t forgotten the old pulp style he was originally inspired by.

Val Penny

Dreamer by Lorette Kendall

It is a great pleasure to be included in the tour for Dreamer by Loretta Kendall @LorettaKAuthor arranged by Love Books Group @LoveBooksGroup. The book is published by @CayellePub. You can read all about the tour.

The Blurb

Luna suffers from an undiagnosed illness causing hallucinations and blackouts that have plagued her for years. The root of her bazaar illness comes to light when she meets her pro-wrestling hero, Gunner Cain, and his wrestling faction friends, The Tribe. Luna discovers her romantic connection to Gunner isn’t just a fangirl crush, he is her eternal soulmate.

After eight years of seeing visions of his mate, Gunner has fallen in love with Luna through their dream connection. He wants the human woman to become his Alpha dreamer mate in this steamy shifter tale of prophecy and romance.

As part of a prophecy written in the Lycan Oracle. Luna must choose to bond to the Alpha of the Tribe wolfpack, or all will be stuck in wolf form, forgetting their humanity forever. Luna learns that the steps they must take to complete the bonding ritual could also end a centuries-old curse, saving lone wolves abandoned by their packs and plagued with the dreaded Lycan fever. Gunner’s connection to Luna is more than prophecy fulfilled; it is hope for Lycan kind.

The Extract

New York, Madison Square Garden—Ten years ago.

Extreme Wrestling International (EWI)…

“That was one hell of a return, buddy! You were on fire out there, and the crowd ate it up. That’s the biggest pop I’ve ever heard. I’m so proud of you, Gunner. To think, when we first met, you were just some lanky kid straight out of the training center. I’m happy to say you are the top guy right now, and I was here to see it.”

Holding the phone to his ear, Gunner Cain beamed with pride at his best friend’s words.

“Thanks, Zane. It was a rush. Can you believe that crowd?”

Gunner removed his wrestling boots and pulled on his street shoes. He stretched his back to relieve the nervous tension he had from the first night back in front of a live audience. It felt good to be back in his element. Of course, he hadn’t had a match on his first day back, just a video promo with his long-time on-screen rival, Drake Black. After eight months of surgery and therapy to repair his torn ACL, he was back in the game.

“It was exhilarating. I never thought I would be able to come back. Not many do. I don’t think it ever felt this good out there.” Gunner pulled his leather jacket over his black shirt, worn tight to accentuate his muscular biceps and hard chest, and took a gulp from his water bottle. “Zane, when are you coming back?”

“As soon as I am cleared by the staff doctors, and our Tribe signs their contracts, it’ll be time to rock. I’ll be back in a few weeks to rock the house.”

Witnessing Zane’s fall from the top of the cage onto the steel barricade during a match with Steve Steel, Gunner had feared his friend had snapped his neck.

“That fall was the worst thing I have ever seen. I don’t know why you do those dangerous high-flying moves. You’re going to kill yourself one day.”

“It’s what I do best. I can’t wait until we actually get to have all five of us together for the first time on stage. But it’ll be a secret for a while, until it’s all planned out. Mister Hargrove wants the element of surprise. He always thinks he has to make an overly elaborate show of power with his top guys in the company. It’s all about money for Albert Hargrove. Part of being the biggest wrestling promoter in the world, I guess. Money, ratings, more money.”

Thirty-year-old Gunner rolled his eyes. “Eh. I guess. For me it’s about the business and the fans. Giving them what they want is what gets them in the seats. It’s going to be cool having our old crew back at EWI. Just like the old days. Too bad this storyline didn’t happen back when we were in our early twenties.”

Zane flopped back in his recliner in his Texas mansion, adjusting the phone to his ear. Checking out his sexy wife’s backside as she walked into the room, he gave a sly smile.

The Author

Loretta started her life with a dream and a story in mind. For as long as she can remember, she was a storyteller, sharing tales with her friends from an overactive imagination. Spending hours spinning stories for their entertainment, derived from her love of books.

After twenty-two years as an image consultant and professional photographer in the entertainment industry, she revisited her love for books and writing. She continues her love for creating photographic images and graphic design telling a story through the visual arts.

Loretta began writing fan fiction in 2017 that put her on an amazing writing journey leading to the completion of several novellas and novels on popular book apps. Her most popular series reaching 70k readers across the globe. She is a traditionally published and self-published author with a passion for creating happily ever after romance with the perfect mix of steamy and slow burn moments.

The Honest Lies by Elizabeth Lyvers

I had heard a great deal of chatter about The Honest Lies, Elizabeth Lyvers’ debut novel. Naturally, I wanted to read the book to form my own opinion and one thing I can tell you straight off: this does not read like a debut novel. The author tells the story in a most assured way.

The Blurb

Jack Murphy’s past died with his parents. Since then, he’s crafted a lonely but successful life operating the family’s drug wholesale business in a place miles and years away from Detroit. He’s even falling for his next-door neighbor Megan, a young woman grieving the recent death of her husband.

But when twenty million dollars’ worth of drugs disappear from one of Jack’s warehouses, he grapples to connect past mistakes with a new, as yet invisible enemy. Someone remembers. Someone is settling the score.

Megan loved her husband, enough to move a thousand miles before asking questions about his past. With nothing but their memories left to protect, she struggles to reconcile the documents she finds in his closet – evidence tying him to a robbery committed months after his death.

It isn’t until Megan is kidnapped that she grasps how deeply her husband’s sins were intertwined with Jack’s past. Only then can she begin to unravel the complex relationship between truth and love – and lies told with the best of intentions.

The Review

The Honest Lies is a confident, assured novel that weaves between past and present to develop the great characters early in the book. The author makes the characters vivid and well-rounded. She allows the reader to really care for them and what happens to them. This makes the book very hard to put down. The mystery begins at the very beginning of the book when Jack’s mother dies of cancer and he takes over the family’s multi-million dollar pharmaceutical company.

Jack’s neighbour, Megan, recently lost her husband after he was hit by a car. Jack and her husband, Lane, had been at high school together and that connection holds the key to some peculiar things which happen. Then, the author grabs the reader again when an important incident occurs within the plot which creates havoc within Jack’s life and everyone seems to be against him. All the way through the novel I had doubts about who was on Jack’s side, and the half-truths the characters told were confusing, as the author intended!

After this the story picks up even more pace and, having been gripping beforehand, it suddenly becomes even more exciting. Some of the incidents in the book are brutal and bloodthirsty and there are some vile characters. However, the author sprinkles in relief by way of humour in the shape of building manager, Mrs Carp and some scenes between Jack and his friend Pete.

I often get confused with a story that jumps between time frames, but the  author dealt with that clearly, so I did not find it overly problematic in this book. I did find the many refences to faith annoying, but again, the author keeps those within the characters lives which made it credible and minimised my irritation. I found the end completely satisfying and highly recommend this thrilling and captivating debut novel. I am sure it would create excellent discussions in book groups.

The Author

Elizabeth Lyvers grew up in West Virginia, part-time in the library and part-time on the basketball court. As insinuated, she read voraciously – at the dinner table, on the bus to basketball games, occasionally in the locker room. At some point between Ivanhoe and The Woman in White she grew to believe that story is the clearest way to understanding Life. She most loves a book that doesn’t shy away from exploring darkness but that can still find its way to beauty and truth.

She currently lives in Texas with her best friend, chief reader, and husband. They have a dog and a brand new baby who enjoys walks, car rides, and staying up past bedtime.

The Honest Lies is her first published novel.

Val Penny

Cultivating a Fuji, Edition 2 by Miriam Drori

I am delighted that bestselling author Miriam Drori has made time to stop by the blog today to tell me about writing a second edition of her novel Cultivating a Fuji. Thank you for your time, Miriam.

The Extract

“But… I can’t believe it. How can they send Martin?” Carol’s voice rose to a squeak and a frown appeared below her fringe.

“I know. But the powers-that-be have pronounced verdict. And we’re supposed to pretend that it’s absolutely normal, so no laughing in front of Martin, okay?”

The grin that had formed on Carol’s face vanished as she bit her lower lip. “Okay. But they’ll murder him in Japan.” She burst into a fit of laughter, displaying a bright red smudge on her upper teeth.

“None of that. I mean it.” Sue’s lips twitched unintentionally.

Yes, Martin is being sent to represent the company in Japan, and Carol, Sue and the rest of the staff think it’s a big joke. Apart, that is, from Ian and John. They’re sad about Martin’s imminent failure, because they know it will shut down the company.

The above excerpt comes near the beginning of this story of transformation, a tale that is poignant, humorous and ultimately uplifting.

Why is there now a second edition of this novel? There are two reasons.

The first is out of necessity. The book left my publisher, Crooked Cat, who is now publishing only dark novels (crime, horror, thrillers, etc.) under its imprint, Darkstroke. That led to the second reason.

I had long wanted to make minor modifications to the text. The changes are dotted around the novel, but focus on the beginning and the ending. The opening words didn’t appeal to me as much as they did when I wrote them, and opening words, as we all know, are vitally important to a novel. So, I changed them. I like the beginning now. I hope that lasts!

The new ending is the one I really wanted for the first edition, before I allowed myself to be persuaded by a suggestion from an author I admire. Instead of explaining why my ending worked better, or simply ignoring the suggestion, I told myself that she knew better.

So, for me, this novel has been a lesson in trusting myself as an author. It’s important to listen to what readers have to say, but ultimately the decision must remain with the author.

Fortunately, this novel has been enjoyed by many and I hope it continues to satisfy readers and cause them to reflect.

Cultivating a Fuji is available on Amazon.

Miriam Drori can be found on Facebook, Twitter, her website and elsewhere.

The Author

Miriam Drori took up creative writing following careers in computer programming and technical writing. Her books span several genres: romance, historical fiction, uplit, crime and non-fiction. Her short stories and poems have appeared in anthologies. She is passionate about raising awareness of the widespread but little-known disorder called social anxiety.

Born and raised in London, Miriam now lives in Jerusalem with her husband and one of three grown-up children.

The Last Widow by Karin Slaughter

This is the ninth book in Karin Slaughter’s riveting Will Trent series, although it does work as a stand alone. I treated myself to The Last Widow during lockdown for Covid-19 when reading and writing were my escapes from the real world.

The Blurb

A mysterious kidnapping

On a hot summer night, a scientist from the Centers for Disease Control is grabbed by unknown assailants in a shopping center parking lot. Vanished into thin air, the authorities are desperate to save the doctor.

A devastating explosion

One month later, the serenity of a sunny Sunday afternoon is shattered by the boom of a ground-shaking blast—followed by another seconds later. One of Atlanta’s busiest and most important neighborhood’s has been bombed—the location of Emory University, two major hospitals, the FBI headquarters, and the CDC.

A diabolical enemy

Medical examiner Sara Linton and her partner Will Trent, an investigator with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, rush to the scene—and into the heart of a deadly conspiracy that threatens to destroy thousands of innocent lives. When the assailants abduct Sara, Will goes undercover to save her and prevent a massacre—putting his own life on the line for the woman and the country he loves.

The Review

This is the ninth book in Karin Slaughter’s Will Trent series but it works perfectly well as a stand alone novel too. I enjoyed this book because it developed Will’s character further and I felt I got to know him better. He becomes involved in the case almost by accident when he and his girlfriend, Sara, are at her aunt’s house for lunch. Will has been working in the garden when Sara goes to tell him lunch is ready but an explosion goes off at the nearby hospital.

They go to try to help but Sara is abducted by the perpetrators. Her mother blames Will for letting her get taken and this colours their relationship. Although Will is injured during the abduction but insists on going undercover to try to rescue Sara and secure her release. Sara discovers that she is not the only woman they have abducted, Michelle, a scientist who specialises in dangerous viruses is also captive.

Sara and Michelle are being held by a white supremacist group that lives independently in a hidden hamlet. The group lives a simple life following their leader Dash and his wife Gwen. Gwen’s father established the group but is now held prisoner.

This is a gripping story and I really enjoyed the twists and turns through which the author led her readers. Unfortunately, I felt there were parts of the story that were too verbose and could have been shortened or even deleted. There are only so many times I needed to know about Sara exercising to relieve her boredom. Also I knew Dash and Gwen were strange, wicked people without repeatedly being told about their odd gatherings for family lunches.

Nevertheless, The Last Widow is a gripping tale and I highly recommend it.

The Author

Karin Slaughter is one of the world’s most popular and acclaimed storytellers. Published in 120 countries with more than 35 million copies sold across the globe, her nineteen novels include the Grant County and Will Trent books, as well as the Edgar-nominated COP TOWN and the instant NEW YORK TIMES bestselling novels PRETTY GIRLS, THE GOOD DAUGHTER, and PIECES OF HER. Her most recent book, THE LAST WIDOW, features Sara Linton and Will Trent. Slaughter is the founder of the Save the Libraries project—a nonprofit organization established to support libraries and library programming. A native of Georgia, Karin Slaughter lives in Atlanta. Her standalone novels PIECES OF HER, THE GOOD DAUGHTER, and COP TOWN are in development for film and television.




Val Penny

Chasing Petalouthes by Effie Kammenou

It is lovely to be involved in the tour for the third part of this delightful trilogy. Chasing Petalouthes by Effie Kammenou works well as a stand alone novel, but why would you want to deny yourself the full intensity of this wonderful story. The tour is run by Love Book Group.

The Blurb

The Gift Saga concludes with the next generation coming into the forefront of the story during their tumultuous years between adolescence and adulthood.

*Read as a standalone or as part of the trilogy

Evvie has lived through more tragedy than a young girl should ever endure, having lost both her father and a most beloved grandmother at a young age. Her rebellious ways are her only defense to mask the ever-present pain in her heart. Closing herself off emotionally, Evvie vows to never let anyone into her heart. But will her determination to keep everyone out see her lose the only person who could heal her broken soul?

Over-achieving, focused, talented, determined to succeed. Those are the traits Stella envies in her siblings and cousins. Her insecurities and lack of confidence stunts her ability to realize her own worth. When an older, handsome young man claims her as his own, Stella believes she has finally found who she has been looking for—someone to love her enough to mold her into the best version of herself. But has she fallen in love too quickly for a man she barely knows anything about?

Chasing Petalouthes (Chasing Butterflies) is the coming of age story of two flawed, young women who push their way out from the confines of the cocoons they’d built around themselves and discover how to soar.

Chasing Petalouthes can be read as a standalone novel. To understand the full emotional impact of these characters histories and lives read Evanthia’s Gift & Waiting for Aegina.

The Excerpt


August 2005

“Quality! Precision!” Madame Rousseau commanded, pacing about the practice room scrutinizing each student’s technique one by one. “Mademoiselle Evanthia, this is not the United States. More is not better here.”

Evvie stared at the stern woman blankly, her lips tightly pressed together. She’d been singled out more than the others for her mistakes and, as a consequence, the other dancers steered clear of her.

“For now, two perfected pirouettes with a higher leg in passé are sufficient and more impressive than three poorly executed ones. Have I made myself clear?”

“Yes, Madame.” Evvie said, making an effort to sound contrite.

“Class is dismissed.” Madame Rousseau tapped a finger on Evvie’s shoulder. “Not you. I’d like a word.”

As they waited for the other students to file out of the room, Evvie wondered why she’d let her mother talk her into this. The schedule was grueling. Every morning she woke at the crack of dawn, greeted by a full day of warm-ups and classes, with only a short break for lunch. There was time for little else, and by the end of the night when she finally arrived back at her tiny, rented flat, exhausted, she collapsed onto her bed and fell sound asleep.

“You need to adjust your attitude.”

Evvie’s eyes widened. “Excuse me? Have I been disrespectful somehow?”

“By adjust I mean soften. Blend. Stop trying to outdo.” Madame Rousseau arched an immaculate eyebrow. “This isn’t a competition or an audition. It’s a workshop for you to master your craft.” She pursed her ruby-painted lips. “Naturally, that can’t be done in a couple of weeks. Normally, our students train year-round and have been with us from a very young age.”

“What are you trying to say?”

“Evanthia, you’re a talented girl. Quite talented, actually. That is why I bother to correct you so fiercely. But I don’t see a hunger in you that tells me dance is your life—your one and only priority.”

The Author

Effie Kammenou is a believer that it is never too late to chase your dreams, follow your heart or change your career. She is proof of that. At one time, long ago, she’d thought that, by her age, she would have had an Oscar in her hand after a successful career as an actor. Instead, she worked in the optical field for 40 years and is the proud mother of two accomplished young women.

Her debut novel, Evanthia’s Gift, is a women’s fiction multigenerational love story and family saga, influenced by her Greek heritage, and the many real life accounts that have been passed down. She continues to pick her father’s brain for stories of his family’s life in Lesvos, Greece, and their journey to America. Her interview with him was published in a nationally circulated magazine.

Evanthia’s Gift: Book One in The Gift Saga was a 2016 award finalist in the Readers Favorite Awards in the Women’s Fiction category. Waiting for Aegina: Book Two in The Gift Saga is Kammenou’s latest release.

Effie Kammenou is a first generation Greek-American who lives on Long Island with her husband and two daughters. When she’s not writing, or posting recipes on her food blog,, you can find her cooking for her family and friends.

As an avid cook and baker, a skill she learned from watching her Athenian mother, she incorporated traditional Greek family recipes throughout the books.

She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Theater Arts from Hofstra University.

For updates on promotions and the release of Book Three in The Gift Saga
Follow Effie on Twitter @EffieKammenou

Girl Trap by Cynthia Hamilton

I received a copy of Girl Trap by Cynthia Hamilton from my daughter at Christmas. I had never read any of the books by this author before, but they had been highly recommended to me.

The Blurb

A seemingly simple missing persons case leads two PI’s into the criminal secrets of California’s rich and powerful in this West Coast mystery thriller.
When a pair of sisters step off the bus from Minnesota and promptly go missing, it seems like a simple case for private investigators Madeline Dawkins and Mike Delaney. But when the trail leads them to a strange heiress who has never touched her eight-figure fortune, Madeline and Mike give up hope for a quick and easy solution.
The case will take Mike deep into his troubled past, and Madeline into a cold case that could expose the dirty deeds that have made people wealthy beyond imagination, at a deadly cost for others to pay. Ruthless criminals will go to any length to protect what they have built, and it will take all of Madeline’s intelligence and grit to tear down the whole rotten mess without getting crushed.

The Review

Girl Trap is the third book in the Madeline Dawkins Series by Cynthia Hamilton, although it can be read as a stand-alone. It is a fast paced detective series with exciting storylines and interesting characters.

In Girl Trap, the main characters, Madeline and Mike, are working on different missing women cases so the reader gets two stories at the same time. Madeline is looking for Hannah, who has been missing for ten years because her mother is dying and wants to reconcile with her estranged daughter before she dies. Of course, what unfolds is a completely different story that has a very unexpected ending that I did not see coming.

Mike, however, is looking for his cousin Jesse’s missing girlfriend and her sister and this storyline leads you into the dark and murky world of woman trafficking and I could not put this book down.

Cynthia Hamilton knows how to write a well thought out thriller that gets the readers invested in the plot and the characters. I highly recommend Girl Trap. It is an exciting, engaging story.

The Author

I started my writing adventure in 2000, when a collection of bizarre symptoms forced me to find a creative outlet I could pursue from bed. Since then, I’ve written several novels and two memoirs. I love creating characters and setting them down in situations to see how they react. My latest effort—The Patience of Karma—is the fifth book in the Madeline Dawkins Mystery Series, a concept that came to me out of the blue one day, and has been a gift that keeps giving. I’m proud of the way Madeline has gone from being the victim to being the champion of others.

I didn’t start reading for pleasure until I was nineteen. But once I discovered the joy of stepping inside someone else’s imagination, I was forever hooked. Because of the magic I experienced when I read, I believed writing was something I would never be capable of doing. It was only when I forgot that I couldn’t write that I discovered that I actually could. I still read a lot – I always have multiple books going at once – and I’m still getting a thrill out of testing my characters’ strengths. Both pursuits help me to better understand my fellow human beings and the complexities of life.

I’m deep into the sixth installment of the Madeline Dawkins series, cooking up more trouble for the MDPI team. The series is now in the capable hands of Severn River Publishing, with an eye on at least 8 Madeline adventures and a new series set in New Orleans. And I’m thrilled to announce an audio version of Madeline’s debut novel “Spouse Trap” will be released in Sept. 2020.

When time permits, I share behind the scenes looks at books written by me or some of my author friends on my Goodreads blog, “The Story Behind the Story.”

You can also find me at and Twitter (@AuthorCynthiaH) and Facebook:

Please feel free to contact me. I love to discuss reading and writing!

Val Penny