Monday, June 25, 2012

Bookish Thoughts: Thriller 3: Love is Murder edited by Sandra Brown

Thriller 3: Love is Murder edited by Sandra Brown
Mira, 2012
Crime Fiction; 608 pgs

Even at early age I realized romance alone wasn't enough for me.  Don't get me wrong. I do like romance, especially if the chemistry is just right, creating a bit of steam and heat. Still, I needed a bit more excitement in my books. Mixed with suspense and intrigue, well, it's hard to resist. For whatever reason, the more I read the more I've come to realize that I like my romantic suspense heavy in the suspense department and light in the romance. As a result, I tend to be picky about the novels I read that fall into the romantic suspense category.

Add to that my hit and miss record with short stories. Generally, I have found mystery short stories are less fulfilling than other types of short stories. Perhaps because so much time is spent on the plot and not so much on characters. While I love a good story as much as the next person, I am drawn most to good characterization and, in my experience, it is often what is sacrificed in the mystery short story.

With that in mind, I wasn't sure what to expect when I picked up my Kindle and began reading Thriller 3: Love is Murder. Still, I was curious, and the list of authors with stories in this anthology made me drool.  Enough so that when I was offered a spot on the Love is Murder Tour, I jumped at the chance.

One thing I love about anthologies, and the reason I keep giving them a try, is the opportunity to taste test writing by authors I either haven't heard of before or ones I'm thinking of giving a try.  Although short story writing is not always the best barometer for determining an author's talent, it certainly is one way to go about it.  I came away from this particular collection with a nice (maybe too long) list of authors I want to explore further.  And in my mind, that's saying a lot.

I can honestly say this anthology has turned my past view of mystery short stories on its head. It was filled with a wide variety of stories, some heavier on the romance than others.  The stories were a mix of detective stories, CIA, military, FBI, hostage situations, kidnappings, urban fantasy, among others.  Sometimes the main characters were the bad guys, often they were not. There were stories I liked more than others, a couple that were flawed in the ways I expected, but overall, I was quite pleased and enjoyed the reading experience.

There were, of course, stories I was less than enamored with. Sherrilyn Kenyon's "B.A.D." and Heather Graham's "Grave Danger". Kenyon's story was a little too out there for me.  And while Graham's story actually started out really well, I felt it went on a bit long in the end. Mariah Stewart's "Without Mercy" reminded me of the Jaycee Dugard story a little too much. And while I loved the action of "Diamond Drop" by Roxanne St. Claire, the characters were a little too perfect to be believed.

Stories that particularly stood out for me in a good way included "Hard Drive" by Bill Floyd  about a detective who had affair with a woman suspected of killing her ex-husband.  I am not familiar with Bill Floyd, but his story has me wanting to read more by him.  The same goes for author William Bernhardt, whose "After Hours", another murder mystery (to say more would give the story away).

I was especially taken with Beverly Barton's story, "Poisoned", written from the perspective a Post Traumatic Stress victim who had witnessed a murder. Right from the start, Barton had me in her character's head, feeling her fear and anxiety. It was high in intensity all the way through with an ending that, while not a surprise to me, was definitely worth it.

J.T. Ellison's "The Number of Man" was another one I really liked, featuring a television reporter and her stalker. I especially liked the back and forth between the protagonist and antagonist. It was suburb writing.

Then there was Vicki Hinze and her story, "Wed to Death", about a drug agent being targeted for death on his wedding day.  The writing was good; there was plenty of action and just enough romance; the characters got under my skin; and I found the entire story to be sad and heartwarming.  I wouldn't mind spending more time with her characters.

I can't forget to mention Alexandra Sokoloff's "In Atlantis" though.  A broken-hearted woman re-imagines her life while on vacation where she meets a man she is sure is a jewel thief.  There wasn't anything I didn't like about this particular story.  From the characters to the twist, to the romance--and I'm usually not a fan of quick to bed stories.

Lee Child's "I Heard a Romantic Story" was one of my favorites.  It's such a tragic and well told story.  Heartbreaking, is the word I used in my notes.  Another favorite which I absolutely loved was "Holding Mercy" by Lori Armstrong.  Armstrong is an author I've been meaning to try for ages and my little taste of her writing has me salivating for more.  Her heroine is an FBI agent who is finally going to have a date with her man.  Only, a little pick pocket situation gets in the way. It was fun and action packed.

As for Pamela Callow's story, "Break Even" . . . There was little question as to which author I would feature on the tour.  I was quite taken with Pamela Callow's first novel, Damaged, and so am excited about the opportunity to feature her here on Musings of a Bookish Kitty as part of the Love is Murder Tour. Her short story, "Break Even", is one of many stories in the anthology, and I am happy to report it is a great one.  It actually was among my favorites--and no, I'm not just saying that.

As I mentioned earlier, there's always the risk of putting too little into character development because of the briefness of a short story, and yet Callow was able to bring her characters to life in just a few pages while at the same time tell a rather intriguing and suspenseful story. Eddie Bent is a defense attorney, once at the top of his game. An unfortunate loss on a major case landed him at the bottom of the heap--until now. He is assigned the case of a young woman on the verge of being accused of murdering her rapist, a professor with a shady past. Eddie is sure this will put him back on top of the game.

A little taste of "Break Even" by Pamela Callow:
Tuesday, 4:58 p.m.

“Elaine, it’s me.” Eddie Bent cradled the phone to his ear, stubbing his cigarette in the plastic lid from his morning coffee. Ash pebbled the newspaper printouts strewn on his desk. It didn’t matter that his wife couldn’t actually see him smoking while they conversed over the phone, she would just know. That’s what being married for fifteen years did to you.
“Hi, honey,” she said. “I’m on my way home. What’s up?” Two years ago, she wouldn’t have asked that question—she would have known that if he called at supper time, it meant he’d been held up on another case. At that time, he was the go-to guy for high-profile clients on the wrong side of the criminal justice system.
What I especially liked about "Break Even", besides getting to know Eddie and his wife, was the way Pamela Callow built up her story, introducing the characters, their histories, all leading to an intense climax.  This particular story is light on the romance, although there's a lot to be said for the background story about Eddie and his wife and the deep love they clearly share for one another.
About Pamela Callow: Inspired by a U.S. tissue harvesting case, Pamela Callow wrote Damaged (June 2010), the first installment of her legal thriller series for MIRA Books. Pamela drew on her experience working in a blue-chip corporate environment to create series lead Kate Lange, a struggling thirty-something lawyer, whom RT Book Reviews hailed as, “…a standout character.” Damaged was chosen by Levy Home Entertainment as a June “Need to Read” Pick, with Top Ten Bestseller placement in Target and Walmart.

Indefensible (MIRA, January 2011), the second book of the Kate Lange thriller series, was described by Omnimystery Reviews as, “…a superbly plotted and suspenseful novel with a…riveting, dynamic storyline.” Tattooed, the series’ third installment, will be published in 2012.

Prior to making writing a career, Pamela worked as a strategy consultant for international firm Andersen Consulting. She is a member of the Nova Scotia Bar, and holds a Master’s degree in Public Administration.

Pamela lives in Nova Scotia, along with her husband, two children and a pug. She loves to go for walks (unlike her dog), drink coffee, and is currently working on the next installment of the Kate Lange thriller series. Visit her at or at

Be sure and stop by the BookTrib website for the Love is Murder Tour roster!  See what other authors were featured and what bloggers had to say about the book.

Source: Many thanks to the publicist for allowing me to be on the tour and providing me an e-copy of the book for review.

© 2012, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved. If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.


  1. Now, this is one that I could get into I think!

    1. Staci - It was such a good collection of stories. Even the stories I mentioned I found fault with were good in their own ways.

  2. Sounds interesting(: I'd like to see how Romance and Murder mix~

    1. Eustacia - You should definitely give it a try! There's such a variety in this collection too that if you like really hot and steamy romance, there are stories for you--or if you prefer something more action packed or even in between, it's here too.

  3. OK now this is interesting. I'm wondering how Lee Child did in here, because I'm a pretty big fan of his. Can he spin a web without Jack Reacher? Hmmm. I'm definitely curious.

    1. I really liked Lee Child's story, Sandy. It was one of the more original stories in the anthology, actually.

  4. This sounds great! When life is hectic short stories work really well for me.

    1. Kathy - That is so true! Short stories are great for those moments in time.

  5. I have this one on my list to read. It sounds really good!

    1. I hope you enjoy it, Yvonne! There are a lot of great stories in the collection.

  6. I'm not a fan of short stories either so I've really looked right past this one, but maybe I could pick it up to read some of my favorites.

    1. Stacy - I almost passed this one up to be honest because it was a book of short stories. So glad I didn't though. Short stories are hit and miss with me--and it sounds like it's the same with you.


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