Goslyn County by A.M. McKnight

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Publisher/Date:  CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, Nov. 2015
Genre(s):  Mystery, Romance, Crime
Pages:  320
Website: https://ammcknight.wordpress.com/

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

 

A mostly black community with its roots in farming, Goslyn, Virginia lay just south of the State’s Capital. The once small, close-knit county had grown rapidly in the past two decades and boasted a population of just over fifty thousand. But the county’s crime stats had grown as well, and the latest offenses included several break-ins and rumors of a meth lab. Time had brought many changes, and many of the longtime folks of Goslyn no longer recognized their community and longed for days gone by. Goslyn PD Detective Olivia “Ollie” Winston loves her family and friends and shows it through her sense of humor. Just like her neighbors, she too worries about the recent events, and it’s her job to find out who’s behind the crime spree. While investigating three burglaries, Olivia meets IRS Special Agent Maureen Jeffries who is pursuing a tax fraud suspect. Their cases are connected, and both soon discover they have much in common, personally and professionally. 

Last year, I was really into cozy mysteries. Quick and satisfying reads, I was enamored by the kind of mysteries set in sleepy towns where everyone knows your name, and the crimes always wrapped up nicely.

That’s why I was so drawn to GOSLYN COUNTY by A.M. McKnight, a story set in a predominantly black community in Virginia. This mystery-romance featuring detective Olivia “Ollie” Winston finds her trying to unravel the recent break-in of a local tax filing office and the theft of its customers’ personal information. Ollie is good at what she does – rising from beat officer to detective within 10 years – but her small town’s department doesn’t have the technological capability to track down the offenders; that’s where Ollie depends on best friend, Pat Henley-Rice, owner of an IT service provider, to assist in the case. Down with each other like four flat tires since elementary school, Ollie and Pat have this friendship that’s more like sisters, and Pat is refreshingly funny.

Ollie also has help from the feds in this criminal matter, namely IRS special agent Maureen Jeffries, who is investigating a tax fraud case in nearby Atlanta that could be related to Ollie’s break-in. When the two begin comparing information is when *ta-da* sparks begin to fly. Shy around each other at first, the professionals slowly cultivate a relationship with lunches and long conversations. Everything about it is old-fashioned, but not stuffy, and it’s a grown-woman romance.

To tell the truth, the entirety of Goslyn County is grown-folk relating to each other. The richness of the town and the characters are what really drew me in. Every chapter is a revolving look into why people do what they do, including the criminals themselves. We get to know why Ollie and Maureen are hesitant about love, and why Ollie should really watch her back when it comes to her job. That’s one of the things what A.M. McKnight does best with this novel.

Like with any mystery revolving around detectives, the behind-the-scenes of an investigation is important. I got that message clearly in Goslyn County. McKnight places you there, right along with Ollie and Maureen as they both chases leads separately and together. While I think the ending did wrap up a little too quickly, the ride – and the exciting car chase – is what’s important.

I’m glad McKnight is planning a sequel, because I’m raring to see what else little ole Goslyn County can cook up next.

Reviewed March 2016

About A.M. McKnight

A.M. McKnight grew up in the south and practices law as a first profession. She decided to try her hand at writing after getting hooked on reading lesbian crime and romance novels.


Inside Out by Juin Charnell

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insideoutPublisher/Date:  CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, Oct. 2011
Genre(s):  Romance, Suspense
Pages:  148
Website:  http://juincharnell.blogspot.com

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Being a black lesbian prison investigator ain’t easy. Ask Lieutenant Perri Stone.

Between the rape of a prisoner at the maximum-security Dexter Correctional Facility and her home life exploding, she can’t catch a break in INSIDE OUT, the first in the Perri Stone series by Juin Charnell.

In addition to the rape, Perri also has to figure out why her inmates are being murdered. Of course, the convicts aren’t talking, and a couple of the officers are proving their incompetence. Perri’s worked in this system for 12 years, enough to know who to trust. Back then, as a 5’4”, Afro-wearing, 20-year-old officer, she gained the respect of the male prisoners and fellow employees alike by taking her licks and not being afraid to get dirty. Now at 32, there wasn’t much you could get past Perri Stone.

Her homelife, though, is a different ball of wax. Perri’s partner, Cassidy, is somewhat in the closet, and on top of that, has issues with her ex-husband who is determined to kidnap their daughter because of her relationship with Perri. It also doesn’t help that Cassidy’s mother meddles in their affairs.

Through it all, Perri stays cool as a cucumber; it seems nothing fazes her. It’s part of her charm – and what makes Inside Out interesting.

Charnell herself is a 10-year veteran in Corrections, writing Inside Out with authority and no-nonsense flair. Based on her novel’s realistic and gritty view of prison life, I’m motivated to read the sequel, Quiet Riot.

You will be, too.

Reviewed December 2012


Dying for a Change by Sean Reynolds (Feb. 2011 Pick of the Month)

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Publisher/Date:  Suspect Thoughts Press, Sept. 2009
Genre(s):  Mystery, Suspense
Pages:  256
Website:  http://www.booksbyseanreynolds.com

Rating: ★★★★★ 

The year is 1965, the place is Chicago. The streets are hot, not just because it’s August, but because racism lives and breathes with a fierce determination to tear apart any civility between blacks and whites.

In the midst of this is cool-as-a-fan Chan Parker, 33-year-old numbers runner, working her dead-end profession with all the enthusiasm of a broken toaster. With her boyish good looks, she makes much more money than the average Negro, but being on the bottom rung of a mobster operation making its money off the backs of blacks isn’t her idea of a career. As Chan says in DYING FOR A CHANGE, “Prostitution is doing any job you would rather not do, and I was beginning to feel whorish.”

The bright spots in Chan’s life are her 55 black-over-black T-Bird, her eclectic jazz collection, and best friend Henrietta Wild Cherry. A 300-pound drag queen, Henrietta has been Chan’s rock since childhood, and when the lady asks for help finding a fellow dragster who’s come up dead, Chan is hot on the trail of discovering what happened to Miss Dove.

Dying for a Change paints a vivid scene of old Chicago as she and Henrietta track down a killer. In the midst of it all, Chan’s job proves to be a more of a liability while discerning who’s on the right side of the law – and who’s twisted in the game.

Sean Reynolds’ prose in Dying is deftly captivating, and the slang from 1960s Chicago is authentic, refreshing, and a character in its own right. As you read, you’re transported to that time of juke joints and back rooms, a time when being the wrong color on the wrong side of town could mean trouble. Dying is a mystery, history lesson and cool suspense at the same time.  I would have liked to see more romance, but nonetheless, Reynolds knows her genre, knows her people, and most importantly, knows how to tell a fantastic story.

Reviewed February 2011


In the Game by Nikki Baker

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inthegamePublisher/Date:  Naiad Press, Sept. 1991
Genre:  Mystery
Pages:  224

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 

When your best friend’s lover turns up dead, do you:

a. accuse your friend of murder
b. hire her a top-notch attorney who begins stalking you after your affair goes sour
c. begin your own investigation that almost gets you killed
d. all of the above

If you picked D, you’re one step ahead in Nikki Baker’s debut, IN THE GAME, a mystery starring Virginia “Ginny’ Kelly as an amateur detective trying to piece together a crime of passion.

What begins as a romance through the personals for Ginny’s best friend, Bev, ends as a homicide. Bev meets Kelsey through the newspaper, and they do the whole U-Haul thing after only a month of dating. Ginny is skeptical of the whole arrangement, always having a soft spot for Bev and detesting the way Kelsey took advantage of her. The last straw is when Ginny discovers Kelsey is being unfaithful to Bev, and she has to find a way to tell her friend that her lover is no good.

But she never gets a chance to – Kelsey winds up dead shortly thereafter. Despite their differences, however, Ginny never wanted Kelsey to be killed.

On top of all this, Ginny has her own fish to fry with Em, her white lover of three years. They’ve reached a plateau in their relationship where it’s neither good nor bad, but just is; the lesbian bed death has hit their household and Ginny can’t find a cure — until she meets Susan, the attorney enlisted to help Bev in her sticky situation.

Aside from these issues, Ginny doesn’t want to see her friend framed for this heinous crime. The two have remained tight since their days at a lily-white business school, depending on each other in a world that caters to the white majority. They need each other for strength and that familiar, unspoken comfort that comes being sistahs. It’s only right that when Kelsey is murdered that Ginny try to track down her killer. What Ginny uncovers, though, is way more than she bargained for, cause Kelsey has way more skeletons in her closet than is allowed.

Baker manages to engage with In the Game, providing an interesting picture of an upper-scale, professional black lesbian. Ginny knows the game well enough to play it with finesse, and has a great sense of whom she is. The story was a little predictable in parts, but I will be glad to read more in this mystery series featuring a great sleuthing sistah.

Reviewed March 2008


Keeping Secrets: A Gianna Maglione Mystery by Penny Mickelbury

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keepingsecretsPublisher/Date:  Kings Crossing Publishing, 2003
Genre(s):  Mystery, Crime
Pages:  193
Website:  http://www.nghosibooks.com/Inkwell/pennymain.htm

Rating: ★★★★½ 

Girl, watch out!!!

There’s a killer hunting the gay community in KEEPING SECRETS, the first in the Gianna Maglione series from mystery writer Penny Mickelbury.

But no worries, Gianna is on the case. A top-notch lieutenant in the Hate Crimes Unit with the Washington, D. C. police department, she’s trying to find out who’s been targeting prominent, in-the-closet inhabitants of the nation’s capital.  Not only is it a matter of who’s been killed but how, as the victims are shot in the gruesome fashion. It’s racking Gianna’s brain and what’s worse is that could be only a matter of time before she or someone she knows could be on the hit list.

On the other side of the case is Mimi Patterson, a black investigative reporter. Gianna won’t let Mimi get anywhere near the case, for fear that the journalist will turn the investigation into a media frenzy. All Mimi wants is some answers, and with good sources on a high-profile case like this, she won’t rest until she gets discovers who’s behind the crime. Even if it means dealing with hard-nosed Gianna.

At odds, the two women are just trying to do their jobs—and trying to fight their growing attraction to one another. Their blossoming romance can’t be good for the case. Especially when they know that one false move could jeopardize any luck they have in trying to find the serial killer.

Mickelbury has created an excellent first novel in a series you will want to read more of. Keeping Secrets kept me on the edge of my seat, and the romance between the two enhanced the story of a cop and a reporter trying to do good. I must admit I had a clue about the killer half-way through, but it was still gripping to see how they would get the sick bastard. And I enjoyed the behind-the-scenes work of the detectives, as well. I definitely plan to read more of the Gianna/Mimi mysteries.

Cause it also doesn’t hurt that the women are hot, too.

Reviewed Aug-Sept 2006