Category Archives: Mystery

The Boy from Reactor 4 by Orest Stelmach

Last week, I reviewed The Altar Girl, the prequel to the Nadia Tesla series by Orest Stelmach. Today I continue reviewing the series.

boy-from-reactor-4TitleThe Boy from Reactor 4
AuthorOrest Stelmach
SeriesNadia Tesla, Book 01
Publish Date: March 19, 2013
Genre: Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Source: Purchased

Publisher’s Description: Nadia’s memories of her father are not happy ones. An angry, secretive man, he died when she was thirteen, leaving his past shrouded in mystery. When a stranger claims to have known her father during his early years in Eastern Europe, she agrees to meet—only to watch the man shot dead on a city sidewalk.

With his last breath, he whispers a cryptic clue, one that will propel Nadia on a high-stakes treasure hunt from New York to her ancestral homeland of Ukraine. There she meets an unlikely ally: Adam, a teenage hockey prodigy who honed his skills on the abandoned cooling ponds of Chernobyl. Physically and emotionally scarred by radiation syndrome, Adam possesses a secret that could change the world—if she can keep him alive long enough to do it.

A twisting tale of greed, secrets, and lies, The Boy from Reactor 4 will keep readers guessing until the final heart-stopping page.

Possible spoilers beyond this point.


Agent_Annie_100Agent Annie says…

The first in the Nadia Tesla series, The Boy from Reactor 4 once again teaches me much about Ukraine, Russia and the aftermath of Chernobyl.

The author, Orest Stelmach, has done a good job of creating a believable and tough female protagonist. I accidentally read the prequel before reading this book so I was more familiar with the main character than if I had started with this book. Stelmach has written 4 total books in the series so far and his writing has definitely improved. This first in the series has so many characters, many of which with unfamiliar names, that I had a hard time keeping track of them but he kept the story moving along and Nadia stayed one step ahead of the bad guys throughout.

badge4v5I was particularly fascinated by the events that took place in the Bering Straights. I know nothing about the area, but the idea of walking between Russian and Alaska is not something I would ever want to face.

I give this book a 4. Simply because I know the author can do better as evidenced by his work in The Altar Girl.

Our reviews in this series…

The Altar Girl by Orest Stelmach

This prequel is a wonderful introduction to the Nadia Tesla series.

alter-girlTitleThe Altar Girl
AuthorOrest Stelmach
SeriesNadia Tesla, Book 0.5
Publish Date: May 1, 2015
Genre: Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Source: Purchased

Publisher’s DescriptionThe daughter of uncompromising Ukrainian immigrants, Nadia was raised to respect guts, grit, and tradition. When the events around the seemingly accidental death of her estranged godfather don’t add up, Nadia is determined to discover the truth—even if she attracts the attention of dangerous men intent on finding out what she knows through any means possible.

Her investigation leads her to her hometown and to the people least likely to welcome her back: her family.

In this thrilling prequel to the Nadia Tesla series, Nadia must try to solve the mystery surrounding her godfather’s death—and his life. The answers to her questions are buried with the secrets of her youth and in post–World War II refugee camps. What Nadia learns will change her life forever.

Possible spoilers beyond this point.


Agent_Annie_100Agent Annie says…

This is the first of the series that I have read. I feel it worked well to read it before any of the others. There are 3 more in the series, which I plan on reading.

The author created characters I could empathize with and really got to their emotional status with regard to their family relationships. I like the main character very much. She is defined by her 1st generation Ukrainian up-bringing but also has that New York City girl grit, too. When a person grows up in a dysfunctional family, those characteristics don’t go away when you are an adult. Orest Stelmach created a very believable heroine.

badge5v5I was intrigued by the historical information about the displaced persons that were basically refugees that fled Russia and ended up in Western Europe at the end of the war but none of the Allied countries wanted to take them in. This was a real eye-opener for me since so much of WWII history is focused on the treatment of the Jews or the starvation of the Russian Army. I particularly liked the detail about the PLAST that Nadia had to undergo as a child in order to be truly accepted into her community.

I also thought the mystery was particularly good and kept me guessing as to what would happen next.

I give this book 5 stars. It’s a great mystery and is an excellent example of the genre.

The Skeleton Friend by R.C. Johansen

Persistence pays off in the end, though the courage it takes to get to the end is huge.

I received an ARC of this book book from the author/publisher. All opinions are my own.

the-skeleton-friendTitle: The Skeleton Friend
Author: R.C. Johansen
Series: The Skeleton Friend #1
Publish Date: February 2, 2016
Genre:  Mystery/Suspense
Source: Author

Publisher’s Description: Meredith Carlyle is living an unhappy, lonely life as an EMT in the city of Seattle. During a campus shooting, she breaks the rules and helps save a life by going way outside of her scope of practice. Disgraced, she is left without a job or an identity to call her own.

That night, she literally stumbles over the body of a headless teenager left by the shore of the Montlake Shipping Canal. Meredith is plunged into the world of forensic investigation and police procedure, finding herself stuck between good cops and bad. She is faced with the decision to find this skeleton’s identity or to save her own life.

Nervous Nellie’s nervousness necessitates knowledge of the novel (or, in other words, SPOILERS).


Nervous_Nellie_100Nervous Nellie says…

This was an amazing book.  A little sex, a little violence, and a very persistent heroine.

This story was sort of along the lines of Kathy Reich’s character, Temperance Brennan, but yet entirely different.  This character was Tempie when Tempie was really young . . . and less put together.

The story wasn’t exactly a whodunnit.  I knew who did it, but it was the journey that was the main focus of the story.  Carly was incredibly persistent in finding out who killed the boy she found.  I know for a fact I wouldn’t have the courage she had.  Also, if it weren’t for her, there would be more deaths on this killer’s badge4v4belt in no time.

The ending wasn’t exactly a happily ever after, but this is a journey, and though the end was good, there is a whole lot left for Carly to do, and she’s got the gumption to do it.

I received an ARC of this book  from the author/publisher. All opinions are my own.

Journey to Munich by Jacqueline Winspear

In her 12th novel, Maisie goes to Nazi Germany at the behest of the British government just before WWII begins to bring back an imprisoned man who is vital to Britain’s war (preparation) effort. I particularly liked the intrigue that made this novel more of a classic espionage tale rather than the detective story I’m used to.

journey-to-munichTitleJourney to Munich
Author: Jacqueline Winspear
SeriesMaisie Dobbs, Book 12
Publish Date: March 1, 2016 by Harper
Genre: Historical Mystery
Source: Purchased

Publisher’s DescriptionIt’s early 1938, and Maisie Dobbs is back in England. On a fine yet chilly morning, as she walks towards Fitzroy Square—a place of many memories—she is intercepted by Brian Huntley and Robert MacFarlane of the Secret Service. The German government has agreed to release a British subject from prison, but only if he is handed over to a family member. Because the man’s wife is bedridden and his daughter has been killed in an accident, the Secret Service wants Maisie—who bears a striking resemblance to the daughter—to retrieve the man from Dachau, on the outskirts of Munich.

The British government is not alone in its interest in Maisie’s travel plans. Her nemesis—the man she holds responsible for her husband’s death—has learned of her journey, and is also desperate for her help.

Traveling into the heart of Nazi Germany, Maisie encounters unexpected dangers—and finds herself questioning whether it’s time to return to the work she loved. But the Secret Service may have other ideas. . .

Possible spoilers beyond this point.


Agent_Annie_100Agent Annie says…

Journey to Munich by Jacqueline Winspear is a very satisfying Maisie Dobbs novel. Maisie continues to process through the tragic loss of her husband, James, and is struggling with how to be in London as a widow. Winspear deftly uses the daughter of John Otterburn, who Maisie blames for the death of James, as the means through which Maisie learns forgiveness, to understand how people are not what they seem, and that she must continue to learn the lessons her mentor taught. One particular lesson is eloquently stated:

“May I know what it is to feel the weight on another’s shoulders. May I know forgiveness in my heart. May I be given strength to extend my hand across the divide to pull another from the abyss, though that person has wounded me.”

badge5v4I give this novel a 5. Winspear has captured the feel of the original Maisie Dobbs novels and left the reader with the characters and story in a place where Maisie can continue as a psychologist and investigator.

Our reviews in this series…

Check out the Series Spotlight by Agent Annie.

Missing Pieces by Heather Gudenkauf

FTC Notice: This book was provided free in exchange for an honest review. This is no way impacts my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

25785334TitleMissing Pieces
AuthorHeather Gudenkauf
Series: stand-alone
Publish Date: February 1, 2016, MIRA
Genre: Mystery Suspense
Source: From where you got the book

Publisher’s DescriptionA woman uncovers earth-shattering secrets about her husband’s family in this chilling page-turner from New York Times bestselling author Heather Gudenkauf.

Sarah Quinlan’s husband, Jack, has been haunted for decades by the untimely death of his mother when he was just a teenager, her body found in the cellar of their family farm, the circumstances a mystery. The case rocked the small farm town of Penny Gate, Iowa, where Jack was raised, and for years Jack avoided returning home. But when his beloved aunt Julia is in an accident, hospitalized in a coma, Jack and Sarah are forced to confront the past that they have long evaded. 

Upon arriving in Penny Gate, Sarah and Jack are welcomed by the family Jack left behind all those years ago—barely a trace of the wounds that had once devastated them all. But as facts about Julia’s accident begin to surface, Sarah realizes that nothing about the Quinlans is what it seems. Caught in a flurry of unanswered questions, Sarah dives deep into the puzzling rabbit hole of Jack’s past. But the farther in she climbs, the harder it is for her to get out. And soon she is faced with a deadly truth she may not be prepared for.

Possible spoilers beyond this point.


Agent_Annie_100Agent Annie says…

Missing Pieces by Heather Gudenkauf is definitely a page turner. I stayed up late to finish the final chapters just wanting to see “who dun it!” That being said, Gudenkauf is still firmly an Iowa author and has many references to settings in Iowa and captures the small town reality that exists. I also enjoy trying to figure what actual town she may be basing her stories on, this particular one takes place somewhere in Eastern Iowa, perhaps Linn County.

The mystery itself was well thought out and I enjoyed that the whole narrative was told in the first person of an outsider – Sarah, the wife of one of the hometown boys who moved away. This kept the mystery fresh and even more suspenseful because there were so many missing pieces due to the fact that the narrator didn’t have the background of having grown up in the community, so she had to discover the old crime while figuring out what was currently going on 15 years later.

badge4v4The only issue I had was the ending seemed a bit too pat, almost as if the author didn’t want to describe the scene in the detail it warranted. The final confrontation was dealt with in the epilogue when someone explained to Sarah what had happened after she was knocked out. This seemed a bit of a cop-out and the only reason I didn’t give this book 5 stars instead of 4.

If you like this book…

…you might try One Breath Away and These Things Hidden both by Heather Gudenkauf or Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin.

FTC Notice: This book was provided free in exchange for an honest review. This is no way impacts my opinion of the book or the content of my review.