“He never carried the scent of business to the table of pleasure.”

Loner Charles Durbin, pet groomer and provider of all icky feelings, is fairly new to the small Montana town. This fresh start provides him with an opportunity to obscure his past and shield his immoralities from his new relationships. But as with any depraved person, he has already set his morbid sights on Marie-Justine and her best friend Anne.

Anne, a Missoula native, and freshly divorced Marie-Justine, have been best friends for years and are all but sisters. A college professor, Marie-Justine yearns for independence, but, in the same turn, is afraid of it. Nearly 24 hours after her divorce finalizing, she finds herself celebrating with retired DEA agent, Joe Nicoletti. He’s immediately smitten with her, seeing that she resembles his deceased wife, but he soon finds he’s more than attracted to her looks and they begin to fall in love.

In the few short days Nicoletti and Marie-Justine have been acquainted, a tragedy befalls Missoula, where fate unites good and evil together in an instant. Has Nicoletti arrived in Missoula and into Marie-Justine’s life in the nick of time to foil Charles Durbin’s malicious plan? Will the war against a serial killer be waged or prevented before it’s begun?

With a Law & Order: SVU quality, Murder in Missoula can easily be categorized as a classic murder-mystery novel, having a synonymous theme of hero versus villain, as the reader hopes good will triumph over evil. Although the villain was apparent, the chase to implicate and prevent him from doing further damage was riveting, challenging Nicoletti’s intuitiveness to be two steps ahead of Durbin.

Laurence Giliotti created several first-person voices throughout the novel, switching from dark and wicked to innocent and pure, an ability Giliotti practiced effortlessly. Charles Durbin’s active voice was concurrently interesting and disturbing to read, while Marie-Justine’s provided hope. Giliotti, author of the Inspector Gambrelli Mystery Series, deservedly made room for himself on the murder-mystery bookshelf.

**** 4 Stars

Murder in Missoula

by Laurence Giliotti

304 Pages

Published by Chateau Noir Publishing LLC in 2015

Genre:  Crime, Fiction, Mystery/Suspense, Thriller

ISBN-13:  978-0990926627

*Disclaimer:  This review was originally published in San Francisco Book Review.

“Maybe change isn’t always bad.  Without change, there’d be no beginnings.”

Arielle Delaney is your typical sixteen year old, spends all her time with her best friend, argues constantly with her older sister who’s about to leave for Harvard, and encounters with what she believes are ghosts. Arielle’s semi-normal life is upturned when a body is discovered in the lake by her house. The corpse is her sister’s long-time best friend, Perdita, the girl Arielle wished her sister was like, with her platinum blonde hair and lackadaisical attitude toward life. Perdita’s death is deemed a drowning, which immediately brings agonizing memories to Arielle’s family—not ten years before her older brother drowned at camp. An investigation is opened into Perdita’s death, and Arielle believes Perdita’s spirit is trying to tell her what happened the night she died. Can Arielle solve the questions around Perdita’s mysterious drowning, while managing personal relationships and changes throughout her own life?

Faith Gardner’s debut, Perdita, was rapid, absorbing, and downright satisfying to read. Arielle’s directness with the reader was refreshing and conversational in tone, while being completely relatable; coupled with a page-turning, tongue-in-cheek narrative made for a gripping and exhilarating novel. Perdita will make you check your periphery a little more frequently.

**** 4 Stars


by Faith Gardner

224 Pages

Published August 2015 by Merit Press

Genre:  Fiction, Mystery, Sci-Fi/Paranormal, Thriller

ISBN-13:  978-1440588112

*Disclaimer:  Hardback copy received from Manhattan Book Review and Merit Press for an honest review.  The review was originally published in the December 2015 issue of Manhattan Book Review, which can be read here.


“The dead could only speak through the mouths of those left behind, and through the signs they left scattered behind them.”

Cormoran Strike is a middle-aged veteran and private detective.  He is at the lowest point in his life as he is in deep debt, sleeping in his shabby office, and has just broken up with his long-time on-again-off-again girlfriend.  He is the son of a former pop star with whom he does not keep in touch and the worst is he has lost part of his leg while deployed to Afghanistan.  His luck seems to turn around when almost simultaneously he is approached by a bright, young lady to be his office administrator; and a new case drops in his lap about the famous Lula Landry.

Lula Landry, “cuckoo” to her friends, was a successful model leaving a string of men, vying for her attention, behind her.  Her brother, John Bristow, arrives at Strike’s office to inquire of him to investigate his sister’s recent death which police have ruled a suicide.  Bristow claims she was pushed off her balcony, while the public side with police due to Lula’s wild and erratic behavior.  At first, Strike thinks Bristow is a looney tune, but his bills need to paid so he decides to take a second look.  Cormoran is surprised by how many different theories have revealed themselves to him while investigating Lula’s death.  Was it an accident?  Did she jump to her death because she was miserable and unhappy?  Was she pushed?  Homicide or suicide?  And why?

In J.K. Rowling’s new role of writing a crime novel she was anything but, pun intended.  She was successful at switching genres and in no way seemed a beginner.  At times I felt as though the book really dragged on, and needed to get to the point faster than the pace she was going.  Granted, many details couldn’t have been left out, but some we could have done without, the meat of the story was well thought out and no questions were left unanswered.  This is a series, the second book has been released, “The Silkworm (Cormoran Strike Series – 2).  Look for the review in the next couple of weeks.

The author Robert Galbraith is a pseudonym for J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series.

**** (4 stars)

464 Pages

Published in 2014

ISBN-13: 9780316206853






“If you’re going to bury the past, bury it deep, girl.  Shallow graves always give up their dead.”

-Jackie Shaw

Young Josephine “Jo” Montfort comes from a very wealthy and well-to-do family, but she dreams of journalism, a career she will never likely possess.  She abides by 19th’s century society rules:  plans to marry well and maintain her sterling reputation as a Montfort.  But, Jo’s world falls apart when she learns her father, Charles Montfort, accidentally shoots himself while cleaning his loaded gun.  Uncertainty immediately clouds her mind; she knows her dad would never clean a loaded gun, but she remembers, “The moment a girl learned how to talk, she was told not to”.  Her family motto, “Fac quod faciendum est” (Do what must be done) reverberates in her mind, as she sets her sights on solving what really happened to her esteemed father.

As she begins to risk her reputation, she sneaks out of her house at night, visiting the worst parts of New York City luckily in the company of reporter, Eddie Gallagher, whose unexpected arrival is welcomed.  Eddie and Jo are thrown into a world of unanswered questions and even more mysterious circumstances surrounding Charles Montfort’s death.  The clues lead them on a winding chase deep in the slums and around characters Jo’s not accustomed to, making unusual and unlikely life-long friends.  Love and appreciation begin to blossom between Jo and Eddie, but will Jo resign her comfortable life with Bram Aldrich for a more blue collar role in society with Eddie?

Don’t let the page count fool you, it read faster than a biographical 200 page book.  Jennifer Donnelly brilliantly created this page-turning, thriller in the 19th century, which is quickly becoming my favorite fiction time period to read.  These Shallow Graves is shrouded in secrets that grabbed my attention from page one.  I immediately fell in love with Josephine Montfort and what she stands for:  fighting for justice in a world where she had no voice.  So under the blanket of stars she eventually finds the answers to why and how her father died.

Happy Halloween readers!

**** 4 Stars

These Shallow Graves

by Jennifer Donnelly

496 Pages

Published October 27, 2015 by Delacorte Press

Genre:  Age 12 and up, Crime, Fiction, History, Mystery, Thriller, YA

ISBN-13:  978-0385737654

*Disclaimer:  This eBook was received through NetGalley and Penguin Random House for an honest review.