THE MODERN HEROINE: A Mystery Writers Panel


How will Gina Fava’s fierce female characters,



factor into a  panel discussion with mystery writers involving

“the modern heroine”


May 3, Wednesday, 6:30 p.m.
Mystery Writers Panel: “The Modern Heroine”
Gina Fava, Sharon Healy-Yang, Judith Copek
Friends of the Swansea Library
First Christian Congregational Church
1113 GAR Highway, Swansea, MA

And we’ll be selling and signing copies of all our novels!


Review of Jeff Klima’s L.A. ROTTEN: A TOM TANNER MYSTERY

Are you a reader who enjoys a gritty story with a still-beating touch of heart? Jeff Klima’s L.A. Rotten is an intriguing and refreshingly entertaining hard-boiled mystery.

L.A. Rotten: A Tom Tanner Mystery

Book Details
Genre: Suspense Thriller
Published by: Random House Publishing Group – Alibi
Publication Date: May 12, 2015
Number of Pages:

Purchase Link: LA Rotten bk cvr


Book Synopsis:

L.A. Rotten is a thriller about a cleanup man entangled in the viscera of a crime spree as a reluctant sleuth.

My Review:

The perfectly flawed characters, the subtle, edgy humor, and the description so vivid that I found it hard to breathe through my nose in some scenes, all make this a must-read novel for those who enjoy raw, “pulpy” mysteries, akin to Stieg Larsson’s Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. Protagonist Tom Tanner’s character arc, from a man in tune with his basest instincts to one who finally gets in touch with the shred of humanity he forgot he had, is delicious, as the satisfying, issue-ridden secondary characters all struggle to push him over that edge throughout. The reader will surely find that the “A”ntagonist reeks of just the right amount of bile and intrigue to make him a terrifyingly interesting yet astonishingly credible serial killer. Klima must get to work on the next one – I need another Tanner fix!

Engrossing and satisfying, L.A. Rotten is a hard-boiled thriller that readers will be unable to put down.

My rating: 4 out of 5 FAVA beans.



The author, Jeff Klima, an expert cleanup artistjeff klima in Orange County, writes what he knows, and it shows. He’s also written, The Dead Janitor’s Club, and you can follow him on Facebook and Twitter, or visit his website at

Review of Steve Ulfelder’s WOLVERINE BROS. FREIGHT & STORAGE: A Conway Sax Mystery

What does it take to transform an average Joe into a bad ass dick (sleuth, that is)? Pure grit and hard core determination. Just ask critically acclaimed, Edgar-nominated author Steve Ulfelder, whose gutsy yet affable hero, Conway Sax is back, with a vengeance.

Wolverine Bros. Freight & Storage: A Conway Sax Mystery

Book DetailsJH-01027
Genre: Suspense Thriller
Published by: Minotaur Books
Publication Date: May 6, 2014
Number of Pages: 320 print pages

Purchase Link:  



Book Synopsis:  

“Conway Sax is a man on a mission—this time in Los Angeles, where he uses his race-driving experience in a desperate bid to rescue Kenny Spoon, a washed-up TV star who’s been kidnapped. It’s a favor for Kenny’s mother Eudora, Conway’s dear friend and a fellow member of the Barnburners, his tight-knit maverick AA group.

After hauling Kenny back to Massachusetts, Conway finds himself caught between Eudora and her two sons: Kenny, and Harmon, a cop who resents his talented, troubled half-brother. Each member of the Spoon family distrusts and even despises the others, it seems… and each has a past full of dark secrets that may explain why.

While Conway tries to learn why Kenny was kidnapped and protect him from further harm, a shocking murder devastates this complex, all-too-human family. Conway vows to find the killer and avenge the death, but each clue only points to more suspects.

Things get even more complicated when Conway, separated from his girlfriend Charlene, begins a passionate affair that can’t help but cloud his judgment. The more secrets he uncovers, the more danger he’s in as this masterfully written page-turner builds to a wrenching confrontation.” –Official Website of Steve Ulfelder


My Review:

You’ll love this guy. The protagonist, Conway Sax, relies on his keen instincts, a healthy man card, and a zealous reliance on his own baggage to get him to the bottom of the mysteries that encroach on his life as a car mechanic. His lovable soft side, his resiliency in the face of whatever bad guys throw at him, and his enduring loyalty to his friends and his comrades in dependency (“Barnburners”) make him a true hero in my mind.

Ulfelder’s writing style is steady and approachable, reeling in the reader from the first page. His use of first-person perspective is vulnerable, acute, and engaging. Ulfelder taps into Sax’s recovery from dependency with affecting honesty and humor. He unfolds the mystery with gradual pace that feels real and justified.

Ulfelder also plunges a dip stick into some car racing jargon that’s smooth and slick. You’ll find yourself adding “bootlegger turn,” “tank slapper,” and “bump drafting” to your everyday vernacular. His secondary characters are spot on, full of enough vitality that you’d think they were idling in a Crown Vic outside your front window. The authentic journey through the winding roads of Central MA will have you dropping your Rs. The dialogue, as well as Sax’s inner monologue, is sincere, fresh, funny, and noteworthy (“Two times a year, I wish I had a gun.”)

If you’re a fan of Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer novels, this Steve Ulfelder mystery is for you. It is fresh, raw pulp fiction that’s refined into a sweet and coarse concoction, and it’s sure to please.

My rating: 5 out of 5 FAVA beans.


SteveUlfelder-e1363706586930-150x150Steve Ulfelder is the author of three mystery novels featuring unlikely hero Conway Sax: SHOTGUN LULLABY, THE WHOLE LIE, and PURGATORY CHASM. Steve left journalism to write novels and focus on Flatout Motorsports, a company he co-founded that builds, rents, sells and services race cars. Steve’s debut novel, PURGATORY CHASM, published by Minotaur Books in 2011, was nominated for the Edgar and Anthony Awards in the Best First Novel category, and was named Best First Mystery by RT Book Reviews. Steve is a proud member of Mystery Writers of America (serving as president of MWA’s New England chapter), Sisters in Crime, and International Thriller Writers. He holds a BA in Creative Writing from Ohio Wesleyan University, and lives with his family in Worcester County, Massachusetts. Learn more about Steve Ulfelder’s books at



Review of Michelle Hoover’s THE QUICKENING

In author Michelle Hoover’s debut novel, The Quickening, she explores “the polarization of the human soul in times of hardship and the instinctual drive for self-preservation by whatever means necessary.” 

The Quickening

Book Details
Genre: Historical Fiction
Published by: Other Press
Publication Date: June 2010
Number of Pages: 216 print pages

Purchase Link:  



Book Synopsis:  

“Enidina Current and Mary Morrow live on neighboring farms in the flat, hard country of the upper Midwest during the early 1900s. Despite having little in common, Eddie and Mary need one another for survival and companionship. But as the Great Depression threatens, the delicate balance of their reliance on one another tips, pitting neighbor against neighbor, exposing the dark secrets they hide from one another, and triggering a series of disquieting events that threaten to unravel not only their friendship but their families as well.” –Official Website of Michelle Hoover

My Review:

Lyrical prose, superb description, and dialogue that rings true thrust this novel into a must-read for any book club.  Generally, the story is akin to Alice Walker’s The Color Purple, with its vivid characters and historical resonance.  Personal sacrifice, reliance, and the bonds of family are issues that are pulled taught like guitar strings. Its pace is slow at times, but its voice is pure, which helps pull the reader along to its resolution.

My only issue with this otherwise moving work is that it lacks a gratifying ending.  I felt that Hoover might have left off the last chapter, because the penultimate chapter is raw and edgy and deep, and the last is a poor attempt at a salve for a wound that won’t easily heal.

Selected by Indie Booksellers for the July 2010 Indie Next List and the Winter 2011 Reading Group List, The Quickening is an excellent debut novel.  Michelle Hoover is an accomplished author and teacher, born in Ames, Iowa, the granddaughter of four longtime farming families.  Her experience and polish shine through in this novel.

I’d recommend this novel to readers of historical fiction looking for a gritty transport into the Great Depression, for book clubs seeking a thought-provoking look at the human condition, and for writers that are hungry for a superb lesson in crafting tight, effective prose.

My Rating:  3 out of 5 FAVA beans.


Review of Nathan Farrugia’s The Chimera Vector

Australian thriller-writer Nathan Farrugia packs a punch with his techno-thriller novel The Chimera Vector, the first in a series featuring a rogue black op with a past that comes back to smack her down.

The Chimera Vector Chimera Vector

Book Details
Genre: Techno-Thriller
Published by: Momentum Books (Pan Macmillan)
Publication Date: May 2012
Number of Pages: 353 print pages
Purchase Links:  

Video Trailer: The Chimera Vector

Synopsis:  When an elite operative’s programming goes haywire, the truth behind her past spins her future course out of control.

My Review:

The novel crosses genres as a sci-fi/espionage/techno-thriller with a socio-political message.  So, be prepared to have your mind blown.  Mine was, and I loved every minute of it.

The story opens thick with action, so the reader is plunged right into the deep end.  The pace continues, with enough time to come up for air and learn some background on the main characters.  The protagonist, Sofia, a smart bad-ass with brains and brawn, ala Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and ala Bridget Fonda in Point of No Return, is well-written and rings true throughout the story.  Her fellow team of trained assassins, ala Bourne Identity, is sufficient.  The author dabbles in their pasts, but their development left me wanting to know more.  (Perhaps something to look forward to as the series continues?)

The antagonist, Sofia’s “creator” and employer, The Fifth Column, is an extremely powerful organization that rises above other terrorist villains–a villain without borders, that wreaks havoc and tension in the world for its own gains by manipulating other governments, terrorist organizations, and world leaders like pawns in a chess game of war and money.  The Fifth Column is led by an amped-up psychopath, ala Hitler or Bin Laden, but with grander vision and better engineered DNA.

The overarching premise is superb, but since the reader learns of it via twists and turns, I’d rather not state it outright.  Honestly, when the reader is confronted with the blunt realization of the Fifth Column’s true objective, as well as the conundrum in which Sofia and her rogue team find themselves in dealing with the objective, the whole book is taken to another level.  It moves beyond the Matt Reilly-esque action-thriller into a Crichton-esque world-view novel.  Or perhaps akin to Orwell’s 1984, where the puppet-strings future is NOW.

The author does a great job of showcasing his military background in the weaponry and tactics he employs, and the “warrior soldier” he describes is very Joe Finder-esque in its execution.  For me, however, about half-way through the book, some of the jargon becomes a bit tedious, especially when I really want to concentrate on what the character feels about the situation at hand, as opposed to how he or she reacts to it with another fight scene.

I enjoyed the varied twists and turns in the plot, but about three-quarters of the way through the book, I felt as if the story might teeter on the brink of losing some of its credibility with a few too many plot twists.  However, as the story left me feeling satisfied with the resolution, I got past it, because the thrill of the ride was worth it.  The climax was explosive and gratifying, and I finished the book with a strong urge to read more about these characters.  I’m thrilled to report that there is a sequel, entitled The Seraphim Sequence.  Also, the author is hard at work on the third in the series.

I’d recommend this novel to thriller readers looking for non-stop action sequences, involving hard-core operatives with heart and brains who oppose amped-up psychopaths with bad-ass agendas, and a novel rich with a premise that’s shocking and thought-provoking.

My Rating:  4 out of 5 FAVA beans.


Nathan FarrugiaNathan Farrugia served in the Australian Army in infantry and reconnaissance, and studied film, television and professional writing. He worked as a post-production video editor, colorist and copywriter, where he earned the nickname Fagoogoo because no one could pronounce Farrugia.

Nathan lives in Melbourne, Australia. In his spare time he discovers hidden places around the world with urban explorers, practices lock picking and escaping from plasticuffs and straitjackets (you never know when that will come in handy, right?) and studies Systema, a little-known martial art and closely guarded secret of Russian special forces. Nathan has trained under USMC, SEAL team and Spetsnaz instructors, the Chiricahua Apache scouts and Australian Aboriginals. He also drinks tea.

Nathan blogs at You can also find him at or at or at



Review: In Her Shadow, by August McLaughlin

Writer and Author, August McLaughlin, has released her debut novel, In Her Shadow, a psychological thriller.

In Her Shadow

Book Details
Genre: Thriller; Contemporary Women’s Fiction
Published by: Dystel & Goderich Literary Management
Publication Date: January 2013
Number of Pages: 262
Purchase Links:  

Synopsis:  One woman locked in a basement, nearing death and longing for escape. Another baffled by the inexplicable symptoms wreaking havoc on her life. Both are lost and alone, yet somehow connected. And time is running out…

My Review:  Always intriguing, at times disturbing, and other times touching, In Her Shadow is a psychological thriller that delves into the minds of the psychopath and his victims that leaves the reader guessing for much of the story, while weaving a poignant look at the problem of dealing with an eating disorder throughout the narrative.  

Suspense builds from the start, and never lets up until the end.  The unraveling family secrets lend an air of mystery that’s both sinister and surprising.  The author is adept with dialogue and language; the use of metaphor is spot on and enhances the story.  While the characters are fairly typical, the issues with which they’re presented are not, and it’s clear that the author researched the body-image topic well and handled it with sincere sensitivity.  

I’d recommend this novel to anyone looking for a story that doesn’t let up until the thrilling end, and that handles a serious issue amid mysterious and terrifying circumstances with heartfelt aplomb. 

My Rating:  It’s worth a hill of beans, 4 out of 5 FAVA beans to be exact.


Biography:  August McLaughlin is a Los Angeles based writer and journalist who worked in the fashion, film and wellness industries before releasing her debut novel, In Her Shadow.  She is represented by John Rudolph of Dystel & Goderich Literary Management.  August connects with her readers via her blog, Facebook, and Twitter.


DISCLAIMER: I do not have any affiliation with  I am providing link(s) solely for visitors that may be interested in purchasing this Book/eBook.

Review: Dinner at Deadman’s, by C.J. West

Dinner at Deadman's

Established author, C.J. West, has released something completely different from anything he’s written thus far, a novel entitled, Dinner at Deadman’s.

Dinner at Deadman’s

Book Details
Genre: Mystery
Published by: 22 West Books
Publication Date: November 2012
Number of Pages: 298
Purchase Links:  

Synopsis:  Junk man Lorado Martin discovers that one of his clients has been murdered and believes her estate is headed to a homicidal grandson.

My Review:  A traditional who-dun-it mystery, Dinner at Deadman’s revolves around a burly, family-man junk dealer with an affinity for aiding recovering addicts.  Lorado Martin is an atypical, intriguing character with whom anyone would want to sit back and have a beer and some laughs before jumping into his car to take down the local riff-raff that’s messing with his family or his junk.

The other characters are also well-thought out, but it’s mostly his wife, Roxie, and his brother, Chris, who always have Lorado’s back, that kept me wanting to come back for more.

Great local flavor seeps from the pages of the story.  I felt like I was traipsing the neighborhoods of the Massachusetts South Shore tracking murder suspects right there with Lorado; it left me wondering if the underbelly of society might be closer to home than I once thought.

I must admit that I guessed the identity of the murderer early on, but the perfectly paced suspense, the hearty helpings of humor, and the affability of the main character kept me reading until the end.  The journey was worth it.

I’d recommend this novel to anyone looking to sink their teeth into a juicy mystery with an unusual, yet solid premise, based around an unlikely hero that one just can’t help rooting for.

My Rating:  It’s worth a hill of beans, 4 out of 5 FAVA beans to be exact.



C.J. West is the author of seven suspense novels including The End of Marking Time and Sin and Vengeance, which was optioned into development for film by Beantown Productions, LLC (screenplay by Marla Cukor).

C.J. blogs at You can also find him at or at


DISCLAIMER: I received a copy of this book, at no charge to me, in exchange for my honest review. No items that I receive are ever sold…they are kept by me, or given to family and/or friends. I do not have any affiliation with or
Barnes & Noble.  I am providing link(s) solely for visitors that may be interested in purchasing this Book/EBook.