Book Reviews: Assassins, Detectives, and Playful Ghosts

“You’re afraid of opening a bottle of champagne?” she hooted.
“Hey, I’m afraid of opening the tube of biscuit dough!”

Tijuana Nights
In a prequel to the main story, taking place in London, McKenna’s boyfriend cheats on her with her best friend, then demands a whole bunch of money as well as half of the house she was given by her aunt. What’s a poor historian to do? But just when you think she’s wholeheartedly throwing herself into her escort debut, there’s a huge twist that leads into the main story. So rather than becoming a high-priced hooker, she helps out her new buddies in taking out a drug cartel while they train her to become a high-priced assassin. There’s a lot of violence and car chases and even some sex, though possibly at heart this is a love story, even if it takes forever to come out.
This was more enjoyable than I ever would have thought at the beginning, no doubt due to the smart sassy lead. She was so much fun the guys around her didn’t matter all that much. I do give the author credit for making all the bad guys distinct, not just in their jobs in the cartel but also their personalities.
There were a couple of things that annoyed me, though. For one, in between the two stories I would have liked to have seen how she explained her client’s death to the madame. More importantly, I really didn’t need all the brutality so vividly described. But other than that it was a fun ride.

Shine: Wild Love
A lonely college professor with a sad origin story—child bride, then ran for three days straight to get away from the fanatics who killed 13 of their own, THEN her adoptive mother and husband die of cancer, but not before she finds out he was cheating on her—suddenly finds herself with three boyfriends.
Having such a bad history with men, she’s unprepared when a fireman and then a policeman come on to her, adding to the poetry professor she’s already dating. It’s rather amusing that, once all three have resigned themselves to the idea that they would have to share her, she doesn’t give a single thought to having them one at a time, going right into a foursome. It’s certainly a different type of love story, but other than the obvious Mary Sue of it all, it works well.
The scene with her mother and sis-in-law is the best, both hilarious and heartwarming. Also heartening is her ability to finally stop playing it safe and let herself embrace the situation. It helps that her best friend is encouraging her every step of the way, but it’s her character development that really sells the story.

Dark Crimes
There’s been a literal deluge of British crime stories in the past few years, both written and on TV. Yet I keep reading them because most are at least okay, while some are quite well done. This is one of them, as an experienced police detective inspector—female, which in the end doesn’t matter—is tasked with finding who killed a local woman, only for the case to evolve—or devolve—into a hunt for a serial killer.
This lead detective, Sophie Allen, is simply awesome, the story also excellent. More than once I had an idea that she thought of a few paragraphs later, so I’m liking her; it felt like I was whispering in her ear. She’s also quite modest, admitting at various times that they’d gotten lucky, as well as sharing the credit. As in other stories in this narrow niche, there’s a lot of characters, far too many to remember, though all the ones on the police force have their moments to shine.
There’s the same glossary of Brit terms for Americans that this publisher puts in all the books, as well as a character guide, though I still insist this would be more useful at the beginning.
Just wish this publisher would come up with better titles. . .

Johnny Boo Book 7: Johnny Boo Goes Like This!
Johnny Boo is all white, as a ghost should be, and has hair like Donald Trump. His friend is a smaller ghost shaped like a comma. A giant pencil appears and scares them. Then they figure out how to use the pencil, which leads to some crazy shenanigans. The hair comes off, is transferable, and makes animal noises.
I’m not sure if this is for little kids, in which case it’s great, or it’s a bit of adult satire, which is also great. It’s gotta be the former, but it means the supposed grown-ups will enjoy it too.
Some classic lines:
“Boo power is loud!”
“Was that a magic VOOMF?”
“I’m just your friend who sometimes eats you.”
No one in this story has a future as a hair stylist. I have to say, though, that tiger was awfully tame. . .



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