Reviews…the World of Murder~True Crime Series

REVIEW:   Art of Murder, revised and re-released as BRUSH with MURDER is replete with emotionally-charged writing capturing not just the process of a murder investigation, but the emotions of all involved. This focus differentiates Brush with Murder from other murder mystery approaches, adding a human element which, after all, is always a part of any murder scenario – but is too often under-explored in traditional murder mysteries.

As the crime-solving duo find theory after theory dissolving, they find themselves learning more about Sam’s love life than they had bargained for – and suddenly everything begins to make sense.  It’s steeped in emotion, with a sensational cast of characters and interconnected circumstances that weave together to form a neat, involving story line with a tidy finish.  Art of Murder grew out of a one-act play, but you’d never know that: in novella form, its growth represents a satisfyingly rich story. ~~Midwest Book Review

‘I love mysteries and I love seeing the launch of a new series. The dialogue in the novel sparkles, moving the story along on. There are enough question marks about who’s the perp to hold you right up to the end. O’Roarke and Garcia have a great interaction with the other characters and each other. And the people they interact with are reading gold, even to the point of getting to know the victim enough to truly care about her death.’

~~ Midwest Book Review ~~ Video of Murder

By now it should be evident, with Volume 7’s addition to the ‘World of Murder’ series, that Trisha Sugarek has a real winner on her hands in terms of an ongoing theme able to sustain itself through book after book. This latest focuses on the Chinese mafia in New York City, and presents a riveting story line that takes two different cultural milieus and ties them neatly together.

Cover art isn’t usually mentioned by this reviewer because most of it is fairly unexceptional, but the bright, lovely colorful cover by illustrator David White should be noted because it helps make the book a standout attraction (something a book cover should ideally achieve, but too rarely accomplishes).

When done admiring the cover, readers are in for a real treat as they delve into a mystery that embraces death with a back alley homicide and the involvement of police detectives Garcia and O’Roarke, who are assigned to investigating a ‘whodunit’ in the murder of one Roger ‘Crude’ Creed, a trucking company owner who was so hated that the list of possible suspects is long.

An obnoxious taskmaster, Creed’s death is celebrated among many, but the two detectives question who would have cause to hate him enough to kill him. He had his good side, too, which is revealed in the course of a probe that brings them into the heart of New York’s boroughs, politics, and a world of bars, bodies, big rigs, and big bosses, despite the candid appraisals of the boss man’s offensive behaviors: “Creed was always walking the fine line between racist or sexual harassment and a law suit.”

As Garcia and O’Roarke eliminate suspect after suspect, a degree of finely tuned humor often permeates proceedings, lending a sense of comic relief to the somber investigation: “Did you kill Roger Creed? You were on the same route, I-80, during the same time period.” Jack demanded. Jacob laughed so hard, tears came to his eyes. “Oh, yes, I stalked him down I-80, driving an eighteen wheeler with Creed Trucking blazoned on the sides of my rig. When he stopped to take a piss, I killed him. God, that’s rich. You do know the man outweighed me by almost two hundred pounds, don’t you?” As it becomes evident they are being stonewalled, Garcia and O’Roarke begin to learn more than they wanted about Chinese gangs and the way things really operate in the trucking industry. More than ever, they need an insider’s help. But, at what cost?

Steeped in the atmosphere of Chinese clubs, the big rig trucking business, New York City’s gangland, and a fuzzy, elusive perp, Video of Murder offers many satisfying moments as it takes the reader on an unexpected journey through a homicide case that may take a video expert to solve.

Replete with satisfying turns, this story not only fits nicely into the prior series but stands well on its own, expanding the efforts and experiences of Garcia and O’Roarke while adding other characters into a story line that neatly captures and traverses the murky atmosphere of New York City’s underworld. Chalk up another outstanding and different addition to Sugarek’s ‘World of Murder’ series!

Beneath the Bridge of Murder (Book 6 in the ‘World of Murder’ series) just goes to show several things: that a series of murder mysteries can each successfully hone very different settings, characters, and circumstances that tie together under a universal theme; and that an ability to build tight, unpredictable characters is possible across a number of series titles if the author is truly skilled.

This mystery opens on the seedier side of life, with a homeless man who approaches an affluent couple on the streets of New York and a Civilian Militia Company member who rescues them from his unwanted attentions. This prelude to the story then turns to the first chapter, which presents a closer inspection of homeless life under a bridge, a setting which quickly evolves to a senseless murder that’s tied to the prologue.

Beneath the Bridge of Murder uses many of the satisfying devices of Trisha Sugarek’s previous murder mysteries: solid characters, twisting stories, motivations that are anything but cut-and-dried, and a plot that, here, involves vigilante purposes and homeless issues.

The series keeps evolving and, cemented by these detectives’ personalities and approaches, just keeps getting better and better. It’s not easy creating book after book that both stand alone and interact well as a series: the ‘World of Murder’ series does just that and its latest addition provides a winning recommendation for both newcomers and prior Sugarek fans.’  D.Donovan, Midwest Book Review

tasteofmurder_COVER (1)A Review ** by N.A. Granger **

Trisha Sugarek, is in my opinion, one of the best cozy writers around. She recently sent me a copy of The Taste of Murder, book five in her World of Murder series, and it didn’t disappoint.

The time the murder takes place on the set of a televised cooking competition show, when someone with a serious ax to grind poisons the food of Executive Chef Jeff Kirikos. The killer is never found and Detectives Jack O’Roarke, tall and second generation Irish, and Stella Garcia, petite and with a Cuban husband and children, get it as a cold case three year later. They get the directive with an order to solve it from their commander. Turns out Kirikos is the brother-in-law of the new mayor, so they have to overcome their aversion to cold cases on the spot. O’Roarke and Garcia have featured in the previous four books, and their relationship is easy.

Ms. Sugarek takes us backstage into the world of cooking shows – how they are run and how they are filmed — as O’Roarke and Garcia maneuver through the politics of investigating the mayor’s relative and taking over another investigator’s case. There are plenty of suspects; the chef’s widow, the man for whom the chef left her, people fired from the show, and obsessed fans. The reader has no clue right up to the last chapter.

I highly recommend Taste of Murder for a short, enjoyable read to curl up with on a rainy or snowy day, and I look forward to the next in the World of Murder series. Culinary based murder mystery.

REVIEW:  ‘The Taste of Murder’  D. Donovan, Book Reviewer, MBR     Taste of Murder is Book 5 in Sugarek’s ‘The World of Murder’ series (previously acclaimed by this reviewer as a tight, compelling series that builds powerful scenarios and believable protagonists) and is especially recommended for prior fans of the books who want a continuation of the same successful devices employed in the previous titles: emotion-driven protagonists and a whodunit scenario that puzzles readers as much as the characters doing the investigating.
With its dash of romance, culinary-based intrigue, and a New York City setting,  Taste of Murder is as riveting as its predecessors and offers much to newcomers as well as prior fans.  And having the subject be a culinary competition mystery is perfect timing, by the way, given current TV viewer interest in cooking show competitions (which are proliferating – sans murder scenarios, of course!)

The story opens on the set of a cooking show competition where four chefs are charged with using ingredients from three mystery shopping bags. All is progressing smoothly … until a world-renowned chef/judge keels over dead.
The next scene takes place at the police station, where O’Roarke and his partner Stella Garcia have just been handed the cold case of Chef Jeff’s death from 2011. But the duo doesn’t do cold cases, so why has this one landed on their desk with special direction by their Captain? It seems politics is involved; but when O’Roarke and Garcia do some sleuthing, much more is at stake than the wishes of a new mayor to see closure on an unsolved mystery.

As their probe into an old case turns up more and more suspects and possibilities, so they find themselves probing film directing, culinary cook-offs, and long-dead motives for murder that return to life during the course of their investigations.

Fans of mysteries in general will find The Taste of Murder holds all the trappings of a good yarn, tightly bound with the personalities and motivations of the two investigators themselves. While old fans will find O’Roarke and Garcia’s methods familiar (and just as engrossing as in prior books), newcomers will find this book also stands well alone and assumes no prior knowledge of protagonists and past events to prove a satisfying, compelling mystery read.


new.cover. angelofmurder_COVER Angel of Murder, Book 4 in the series, The World of Murder
Midwest Book Review~~

It takes a tightrope artist of a writer to create chapters that successfully delve into a killer’s thoughts without revealing his identity in the process, but Sugarek achieves this with a dance of introspection that reveals a killer’s religious rituals and the emotional turmoil surrounding everyone involved, from families mourning their children to officers trying to investigate a crime with no clues.

 Angel of Murder is Book Four in the ‘World of Murder’ sequence, and though it can easily be picked up by those with no prior familiarity with the series, it is (ideally) a choice for former fans of cops O’Roarke and Garcia, who face yet another puzzling murderer.  This serial killer is after children and leaves their bodies around New York, dressed up for communion. There are no clues left behind to help track him, so there’s nothing the two investigators can use to even begin building a profile or a solid search. Even more appealing is the fact that readers (even those solidly immersed in the murder mystery genre) remain just as puzzled as the police throughout the story.

If it’s one thing you can say about the murder mystery genre, it’s that it tends toward redundancy. It’s always about the crime, there are savvy investigators (either professional or unprofessional), motives tend to become clear as the plot thickens… and most of this is about as predictable as can be. In terms of a dance, it’s the type of ballet where the art lies more in conventional movement than surprising leaps of faith.

But the avid murder mystery fan keeps searching for those gems that offer something different, such as emotionally compelling and involving characters, events that don’t form linear patterns or move in logical, predictable paths, and conclusions that are satisfyingly unexpected. For this reader,  Angel of Murder is a winner.  It’s chillingly realistic, its setting and plot are both believable and ever-changing, and The Angel of Murder both relies on the personalities of protagonists developed in previous books and introduces brand new characters who hold different concerns and strengths.

P.I. Vito’s discovery could break the case wide open – but what he finds will challenge police protocol and shake religious foundations alike. There’s a series of movements involved in  Angel of Murder : the focal point of ritual, discovery, revelation, religious justification encircled by a cutting edge of insanity. Sugarek creates this dance and eventually not only characters but readers find themselves gingerly treading on dangerous ground as the truth moves closer and closer.

It’s also a dance on the part of this reviewer not to reveal the surprise outcome of this murder investigation. And so Angel of Murder is about confessions, heaven and hell, innocence defiled, and ultimately the involvement of church and state in a case about an evil allowed to blossom in the very heart of religious institutions.  As this performance draws to a close, the ballet evolves into a complex series of rituals and steps that eventually reveal the killer’s identity – but at a great cost to all involved. It’s the ultimate consequences of this kind of crime that will pull at reader heartstrings even as it injects elements of surprise into a presentation that draws to a close not just with a whisper of motion and emotion, but with a sudden leap of insight and faith.  Donovan, Reviewer, Midwest Book Review~~

REVIEW:  Time for Cozie mysteries to move over and make room for another writer who should also become a Queen of the Cozies;Trisha Sugarek.

Ms. Sugarek, author of the blog Writer at Play, has been writing for four decades. She began her career acting, directing and writing stage plays, but this multi-talented author has also penned two novels, two books of poetry, and a group of children’s books. She began writing The World of Murder series in 2013, and this reviewer popped into the series with book four, The Angel of Murder, published this year.

The author writes in a spare style but draws the characters with precision. She keeps the reader engaged and moves the plot along a breakneck speed with action and good dialogue. I intend to go back and read the three previous books, but it’s not necessary to enjoy this one. ~~ N.

REVIEW   ~~~~  Midwest Book Review

Dance of Murder is Book 2 of ‘The World of Murder’ series and is recommended for fans of murder mysteries. It opens with murder cop Stella Garcia at her desk contemplating cleaning up another case in time to make her quota of resolved cases.  She’s solved many murder cases in her seven years on the job, and she and her partner O’Roarke, make a good team; but they’re about to be slammed by a new murder investigation that involves a serial killer who’s targeting strippers, and they not only have literally a hundred possible suspects, but the media’s gotten hold of the case and politicians and top brass are demanding it be solved quickly.  They make an arrest in the case – but do they have the right perp?

As with any murder mystery, it’s all about sleuthing methods and the personalities of the investigators. And in this case, Stella and O’Roarke’s different investigative methods neatly dovetail: “Waiting for her partner she stood quietly and watched the CSI team at work and the ME’s team carefully bagging the body. Sometime s, when possible, it was good to just be quiet and let the scene come to her. A lone bird trilled a soulful note. Stella looked up toward the sound.”

Some murder mysteries focus primarily on personalities and psychology while others focus nearly exclusively on sleuthing tactics. Much like a crossword puzzle,  Dance of Murder focuses on clues that successfully pair readers with Stella and O’Rourke’s thought processes as they work through a range of possibilities in their case.  As they interview various employers of the dead strippers (all of whom have dubious connections to the deceased and potential motives for murder), they discover patterns and possibilities that lead them ever closer to the truth.

Dance of Murder offers a strong focus on problem-solving and sleuthing. This allows readers to test their own skills in piecing together the puzzle, and to become involved in a story line that focuses on eliminating suspects and arriving at truth.  With its swift assessments of possibilities and motivations, it’s a satisfying murder mystery that deftly captures the interactions between murder detectives and their professional and political challenges in solving crimes. Any murder mystery reader will find Dance of Murder a fast-paced, involving read.  ~~ D. Donovan

New.cover. actofmurder_COVERREVIEW:    (Book 3)

Act of Murder is Book 3 of ‘The World of Murder’ series, and continues to explore the partnership and investigative skills of Detectives O’Roarke and Garcia as they hunt killers.

The story marches deftly to a gripping, unpredictable courtroom conclusion, involving murder mystery fans every step of the way and creating directions that change at a moment’s notice in a winning recommendation for even the most seasoned murder mystery fan.   Now, one might expect that it’s better to have too many possibilities than not enough; but as with their past cases, the detectives find this isn’t true. The theater world is simply packed with suspects who not only have good motives for

murder, but more than enough resources to pull it off.

This approach keeps readers interested, capturing attention first through probing the emotionally-charged personality of an abusive director and then by offering a series of clues that embrace the essence of a murder mystery puzzle along with insights into motivations on all sides. Director Ruben DiMaggio isn’t just any Broadway success. Of course crack detectives O’Rourke and Garcia would be chosen to oversee such a high-profile case; and of course by the time the death is labeled a homicide, any possible evidence has long been trampled during the opening night show. It’s a convoluted web of intrigue that emerges as The Act of Murder becomes darker and darker and the investigators draw ever closer to a deadly truth that may in fact wind up fingering the wrong perp.
~~~Midwest Book Review

 ~~ Review

Book #9 in the World of Murder series is, as its predecessors, inspired by real life events which add an extra dimension of authenticity to the story line. It opens with the dilemma of Penny, who is experiencing an independent life after being buried in childcare and being a wife for eighteen years. A special arrangement has been made with husband Tony that preserves the semblance of their twenty-year relationship while allowing her more freedom; but when she meets Lyle at a bar, things change not because he loves her, but because he, too, plans to entrap her.

Investigators O’Roarke, Garcia and Sneed, come to investigate a murder where Penny is the victim. Could Penny’s husband, who loves her, be the perp? As the homicide detective team uncovers a myriad of perps, mishaps, and convoluted triads of circumstance, readers receive a vivid and fast-paced investigative story that offers more suspects than answers and keeps the action taunt with a guessing game that holds no obvious answers and many possibilities.

As a love relationship and a special arrangement morphs into shootings, a cunning perp, and boys who inadvertently become part of a bigger picture they’d never planned, Triad of Murder excels in a romp through juvenile involvements and adult activities that challenges investigators and a community alike.

Stella, Jack, Phoebe, and friendships gone awry intersect over a murder that will keep readers involved in police procedurals and family relationships right to the end. While mystery fans and prior readers of the series will find this a compelling addition, true crime enthusiasts should also place Triad of Murder (and the entire series, for that matter) on their reading radars: the reality-based events and action are exquisitely detailed and the story is hard to put down.   D. Donovan, Midwest Book Review

‘Winter of Murder is the tenth book in the World of Murder series, and like its predecessors, it both stands alone as a remarkable read for newcomers and as an excellent addition to the series as a whole. In this story, Detective Stella Garcia journeys to Alaska to visit her son, who is interning with a field biology group in the Alaskan wilderness. He’s only been away from home for six months, but it seems an impossible distance away from her urban world. Unfortunately, the one thing that consumes her professional life is as active in Alaska as in New York, as Stella soon discovers.

While prior familiarity with these characters and their experiences will enhance appreciation for how much Stella and her comrades have grown since their first appearances in the series, newcomers will find the story completely accessible and thoroughly engrossing. Personal and professional dilemmas abound, encounters between all are realistically portrayed, and the contrast between Stella’s urban world and the rural wilds of Alaska are well done, creating a compelling environment in which Stella finds herself far from familiar scenarios or approaches to solving problems.

The background and atmosphere of Native Alaskans are particularly well done and lend to a story which is vivid on more than one level: as a detective piece, as a story of character growth and personal advancement, and as a cultural inspection of Alaskan peoples and places. As Stella navigates uncertain territory and affairs, she gains new perspective not only about murder investigations, but her own relationship with her son.

Steeped in personal growth and revelation as well as a satisfyingly complex murder mystery that ventures into cross-cultural perceptions, Winter of Murder is an engrossing and strong addition to a powerful series. ’ ~~ D. Donovan, Midwest Book Review


Available in Paperback and also available as an e-Book and Audio Book.

Cover artwork by David White