“Dance on His Grave” Review & Audiobook Giveaway!

14538706Well butter my buns and call me a biscuit! Oh how I love Southern mysteries set deep in the heart of the hauntingly beautiful East Texas-Louisiana borderlands.  Sylvia Dickey Smith has mastered the art of evoking a sense of dread in her lyrical atmospheric descriptions of the mysterious bayou country.  Moody atmosphere, colorful characters, good food and one heck of a strong-willed protagonist are all key ingredients for a quality Southern fiction novel. This author delivers all of these things in spades in her Sidra Smart mysteries. That’s why I put Sidra Smart on the top of my list of favorite Southern detectives—right next to David Robichauex, Hap Collins and Leonard Pine. If you haven’t heard of those other guys, I advise you to Google James Lee Burke and Joe Lansdale immediately!

In this first installment of the Sidra Smart Mystery Series, Sid has emancipated herself from a loveless, sheltered marriage. No longer an obedient preacher’s wife, she’s thrust into a whole new world of independence and opportunity.

She reaches a crossroads when she inherits her dead brother’s PI business. With zero knowledge of how to run a business—let alone solve mysteries—she’s ready to sell it off to the lowest bidder. Yet when her controlling ex-husband tries to push her into doing just that, she decides to slap on her gumshoes out of sheer defiance! And really, that’s what I love about Sidra Smart. She’s bold, brave and ready to take on new adventures, despite the legions of naysayers who will stop at nothing to watch her fail.

Before she’s ready to pick up a  copy of “How to Run a PI Business for Dummies,”  her first client walks in with a cold case that would stump even Sherlock Holmes. Despite her best interest, Sidra agrees to look into the 30-year-old mystery revolving around two innocent girls caught up in an unimaginable world of horrors.  The horror show intensifies as she looks deeper into the case and discovers a tangled web of town secrets, torture and arson. Trust me, once you get to know the villain, you’ll understand the meaning of the book’s title, “Dance on His Grave.”

The plot thickens when Sid finds a connection between the bizarre cold case and her brother’s mysterious car accident. And just with any good thriller, the danger heats up as our heroine gets closer to the truth. Who is sneaking into her home and leaving ominous threats? Is it her ex-husband’s God-fearing disciples, or could it be a demented child-abusing killer? You’ll have to read the book to find out!

With some help from her newfound friend and fellow PI, George Leger, she carries on with the case—even when all hope seems to be lost.  She also gets a little help from her meddlesome Aunt Annie, who is always there to help Sid pick up the pieces when the chips are down. I’m especially fond of the Cajun-speaking George, who’s interesting enough to have his own spinoff story.

This is not your typical amateur sleuth mystery, mainly because there are some really weighty issues at the core of the story. Some of the descriptions of are rather dark and disturbing, so this book is not for the squeamish. Filled with punchy dialogue, cliffhanger chapter endings and unspeakable crimes, this book is somewhat of a mash-up of Karin Slaughter meets Gillian Flynn with a Cajun twist. Hard-boiled mystery fans are sure to enjoy this puzzling whodunit.

Enter to Win a Free Audiobook!

imagesU9JY9PEDI should also mention that the author gave me this book via Audible.  The narrator did a fantastic job unfolding the story in a somber tone. Unlike other narrators who drive me bonkers with their rapid-speed chipmunk-on-crack storytelling, she did a stellar job keeping the pace and capturing Sid’s voice.  I highly recommend listening to this on audio. In fact, the author has offered to give away a free audiobook. All you have to do is post a comment answering the following question and the winner will be picked at random. Don’t fret if you’re not an Audible member.  You can still receive the audiobook without an account.

Who is your favorite thriller author?

The Crypt Thief: A Hugo Marston Novel by Mark Pryor

9781616147853I knew I had to read this book when Scott Montgomery, the resident mystery maven at BookPeople, mentioned that it has the one of the creepiest opening chapters he’s ever read. This guy is a voracious reader of mysteries and horror, so that’s a pretty impressive feat for Mark Pryor.

It’s been a while since I’ve read a hard-boiled, tough-guy mystery, so I decided to give this Hugo Marston series a test drive. Considering the author is an assistant DA, I was expecting it to read like a procedural. No offense to Patricia Cornwell fans, but I’d rather watch a Perry Mason marathon than read a procedural.

But Scott Montgomery never steers me wrong, and I’m so glad I gave this book a try! Some authors are just born to write – and Mark Pryor is one of them. He knows how to rope his readers in with loveable, complex characters, and he has mastered the art crafting page-turning suspense.  But what I love most is the setting. I’ve never been to The City of LIght, but I could travel there vicariously through his atmospheric descriptions of street-side cafes, rolling green pastures and creepy cemeteries.  Here’s a fun little spine-tingling teaser:

As the last traces of orange tinged the skyline, the shadows cast by the crypts around them grew. The Patches of gray that in early evening had circled the monuments like little skirts now spread like spilled blood, staining the grass and the stone walkways, tinting the newest of the marble monuments in a slow, inexorable creep of darkness that silenced all sound, except for the occasional hoot of an owl, and the noises of discomfort that they made themselves as they waited for a man with a gun. A man with a gun, and they suspected, a bag in which to carry away the bones of someone long since dead.

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It all begins in a Parisian cemetery, where a giggling young couple inadvertently bump into a grave-digging fiend named The Scarab.  Annoyed by the interruption, he shoots them in cold blood and peels off a little prize from the girl’s back. You see, he’s rather fond of tattoos…and skeletons…and Moulin Rouge dancers.

Enter Hugo Marston, the tall, handsome chief of security for the U.S. embassy. I have to confess, I have a bit of a crush on this guy. He’s ballsy, smart and fiercely devoted to his friends, especially his self-destructing alcoholic partner. I’m a tad jealous of his “friends with benefits” crime reporter sidekick, Claudia. They are so perfect for each other, but complicated circumstances keep them apart. I’m really excited to delve into the next Hugo Marston mystery to see how their relationship develops.

But I digress. Let’s get back to the mystery, shall we? It turns out that one of the victims is the son of a U.S. senator who’s hell-bent on blaming it all on a suspected terrorist. When Hugo looks into the case, he finds that all of the evidence points to a serial killer with a penchant for human bones. Hugo’s investigation gets derailed as the senator insists on going public with the terrorist manhunt, thus giving The Scarab more freedom to continue his macabre cemetery excursions.  Why is he collecting old bones from dead can-can dancers? How does he pop in and out of cemeteries unseen? You’ll have to read the book to find out!

A word to the wise, don’t read this book alone at night. I made the grave mistake of reading it while my husband was out of town and had to call him in the middle of the night so he could talk me off the ledge. Parts of this book really gave me the heebie jeebies – especially the cemetery shootout scene. Come to think of it, this book is a good cautionary tale for staying away from cemeteries after sundown – and to sign up for a self-defense class. It’s a scary world, and I shudder at the thought of real-life Scarabs roaming the city streets. 

Overall, this book is one heck of a thrill ride that is sure to impress fans of fast-paced mysteries by the likes of Jeff Abbott, Harlan Coben and John Sandford. Hugo Marston is my kind of hero, one who’s willing to rush into a burning building to take down the bad guy – and risk everything to save his friends.  This author has the rare ability to make sitting on my cushy couch feel like a heart-pumping chase through creepy Parisian graveyards.