Saturday, February 17, 2018

Murder in the One Percent by Saralyn Richard

Murder in the One Percent is a winning romp of a mystery. It’s a cozy procedural featuring a clever and determined detective, a cast of the nation’s wealthiest and most powerful suspects, and a surprising narrative. As most Americans ponder the widening disparity between the haves and have-nots, this winsome tale highlights those differences as seen via an over-the-top birthday weekend. Despite its sardonic insight into current issues, Murder in the One Percent manages to illuminate today’s consumerist culture without using words that might offend your Aunt Agatha.

The tale begins when Caro Campbell invites her influential husband John E.’s closest friends to a weekend celebration of his 65th birthday at their rural Pennsylvania estate. Caro’s first cousin, Preston Phillips certainly came by his invitation via his relationship with her as everyone attending the party detests him despite his achievements. The former Chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, U.S. Secretary of the Treasury, outstanding athlete, and a man now on wife number four is not someone the other guests look upon seeing with pleasure as they contemplate the coming weekend.

The youngest guests, Libby and Les Bloom and her older sister Margo who was left at the altar by Phillips years previously, can’t stand Phillips. Marshall and Julia Winthrop blame Phillips for heavy losses in their financial portfolio. Vicki and Leon Spiller fault him for the long-ago death of their teenage son. Kitty and Gerald Kelley, he the head of a major Wall Street firm and author of a best-selling book touting the path for “everyone to earn millions,” don’t want to go either. Kitty can’t forgive Phillips for what he did to her dear friend Margo and Gerald opined of Phillips, “It’ll be a miracle if one of us doesn’t wring his neck in those thirty-six hours.”

Andrea and Stan Baker, the Campbell’s next-door neighbors who annually appear on Forbes’ billionaire list aren't looking forward to spending time with Phillips. Andrea, a notable crime writer, doesn’t like his values and was secretly glad that she and Stan weren’t staying overnight at the Campbell estate. Only Phillip’s young wife Nicole seems enamored with him until she has an accident and he ignores her plight.

When Phillips is found dead in his bedroom, Detective Oliver Parrot wonders if it might be easier to determine who doesn’t have a motive to kill him rather than who actually might have committed the crime.  Set among the extremely rich guests who don’t relish his questions, the African-American detective provides welcome relief from the excessive privilege the guests exhibit. When even the former President of the United States begins calling Parrot’s boss to complain that the investigation is taking too long, Parrot painstakingly continues his quest. When the medical examiner finds that a rare poison used in home aquariums may be the cause of death, Parrot shows that he’s far more capable than many of the suspects expect him to be.

Details are what make this mystery fascinating and are also what occasionally slow it down. A litany of fashion labels, vintage wines, and multi-carat diamonds highlights the extreme wealth of the guests. These stand in contrast to the detective’s life of Chinese carry-out meals, late hours, and yearning for his fiancĂ©, a Navy SEAL serving halfway around the world.

Summing It Up: Murder in the One Percent is an engaging procedural with an unexpectedly delicious twist of an ending that will leave readers wanting more of Detective Oliver Parrot. The satirical jabs at the suspects and their “affluenza” deliver a tasty treat of a whodunit.

Note: It's a small world. Many years ago, Saralyn Richard and I lived in the same Chicago suburb and our sons were on a little league baseball team together. She taught at Thornridge High School in Dolton, IL. Find her book launch events (including one in Chicago) here

Richard lives in Galveston, Texas where the town is excited about her book. Last night a local restaurant featured this neon tribute. 

Rating: 4 stars   
Category: Chinese Carryout, Fiction, Mysteries and Thrillers, Book Club
Publication date: February 17, 2018
Author Website:

Saralyn Richard on her research for the book:
What Others are Saying:

Some might call Murder in the One Percent an American cozy with nods to contemporary social issues.  I call it a page-turner packed with humorous lines that made me laugh out loud.  Or maybe it’s best to call this delightful mystery a satire about the upper class.  However you describe it, Saralyn Richard successfully delivers a rollicking whodunit that will make you stay up late at night and leave you guessing until the very end.  Move over, Dame Agatha Christie.  There’s a new kid on the block. – Ann Weisgarber, The Promise and The Personal History of Rachel DuPree

The twists unravel, then turn around and bite you. Saralyn Richard’s take on the classic murder mystery is fresh, fun, and deadly. – Bob Bickford, author of Deadly Kiss, ITW Best First Novel Award Winner

Thursday, February 15, 2018

The Kremlin's Candidate by Jason Matthews

The Kremlin’s Candidate is Jason Matthews’ third and final book in the Red Sparrow trilogy and it’s just as exciting as The Red Sparrow and Palace of Treason were. You’ll want to read these books in order and, if you can, read The Red Sparrow before the movie starring Jennifer Lawrence hits the big screen on March 2. Dominka Egorova, a rising star in Russia’s intelligence service, formerly a “sparrow” trained to sexually entrap would be foreign agents, is a now also a spy for the U.S. She’s the primary protagonist of all three political thrillers whose emphasis on Russian spying seems more realistic every day. 

Author Matthews retired after serving 33 years in the CIA’s Operations Directorate and his inside knowledge and disdain for politicians and some inside the CIA are on display in his writing. What makes his novels unique is that he builds page-turning suspense and offers word pictures that put the reader into the story. One example occurs when a CIA agent lands in Khartoum. “Outside the terminal, the brakes of the canary-yellow taxi squealed like a pissed-off baboon. Probably the red Sudanese dust on the pads, thought Gable. The shit gets everywhere.”

In The Kremlin’s Candidate, Dominika and her American handler and lover Nate Nash must stop a U.S. Admiral who’s a mole spying for the Russians and who’s on the short list to become the next CIA director. Not only would her appointment disrupt American intelligence goals, it would also endanger Dominika. In addition to several terrifyingly exciting action scenes, the novel also offers a delightful, yet chillingly realistic caricature of Vladimir Putin. The book stays away from portraying or even hinting at any current or previous U.S. Presidents which means that readers of every political bent can enjoy it. This review won’t supply any more details of the story as readers will want to discover them for themselves.

Summing it Up: Read The Kremlin’s Candidate to fall under the spell of political intrigue, spy tricks, great descriptions, frightening characters, and a cast of regulars you’re sure to love.

Rating: 5 stars   

Category: Fiction, Five Stars, Mysteries and Thrillers

Publication date: February 13, 2018

What Others are Saying:
The Washington Post: