LISTENER

Sally Schmidt

  • 6
  • reviews
  • 3
  • helpful votes
  • 9
  • ratings
  • Campari Crimson

  • Franki Amato Mysteries, Book 4
  • By: Traci Andrighetti
  • Narrated by: Madeline Mrozek
  • Length: 9 hrs and 32 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 37
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 36
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 36

Halloween is looming large in New Orleans, and Private Investigator Franki Amato is in a gloomy mood. Her boyfriend, Bradley, has to leave on an extended business trip, and her slacker brother is coming to town with her matchmaker Nonna, who’s determined to see a Sicilian lemon superstition bear fruit. Meanwhile, the entire city is spooked because a caped figure is targeting its blood banks. Things turn macabre when a psychic makes a dark prediction about Franki’s brother and a frat boy is found in a cemetery crypt with his blood drained. 

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Great Listen

  • By Jean Fauble on 02-10-19

Franki versus Vampires - don't miss it!

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 03-31-19

If you love over-the-top, creepy, spooky fun mysteries with complex, fast-moving plots, then Campari Crimson, #4 in the Franki Amato mystery series, is for you. Although this is the fourth book of Franki’s adventures, it can easily be read standalone. But go back and read them from the start to get the full benefit of Franki and her crazy family and friends and author Traci Andrighetti’s great writing.

It’s Halloween in New Orleans, and there’s a killer who just might be a real vampire on the loose. There’s also a cooking class with garbage and dead bugs, Franki’s less than satisfactory love life which includes getting hit on by the police detective, her slacker brother, the nonna who is determined to get her married off, and a full cast of characters, each more outrageous than the last.

And underneath the laugh out loud fun and craziness is a solid plot and mystery with clues and details throughout that nicely tie together in the end, with non-stop action, real danger, and more than a bit of disgusting gore, and some genuinely terrifying situations.

I received a copy of the audiobook on Audible from the author in exchange for an honest review. Campari Crimson is a thoroughly enjoyable listen – a compelling story that will keep you engaged and fully satisfy you at the end.

  • Close Call

  • By: Laura DiSilverio
  • Narrated by: Emily Emerson
  • Length: 9 hrs and 16 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars 7
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 6
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars 6

After living through the media shaming of a political sex scandal when she was in college, Sydney Ellison fears notoriety above all. So when she stumbles onto a plot to assassinate a senator, she resists contacting the police. Before she can make herself do the right thing, the assassin tracks her down and kills her fiancé. Now a murder suspect and a killer's target, Sydney reluctantly enlists the aid of her estranged sister, who betrayed her fifteen years earlier. Sydney must overcome her distrust and put all she has worked for on the line to stop the killer and his employer before more people die. 

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • I enjoyed this one

  • By Pamela M. Neumann on 08-09-18

How could picking up the wrong phone be deadly?

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 10-17-18

Close Call by Laura DiSilverio begins with something that could happen to any of us - Sydney Ellison picks up the wrong phone in a deli. She doesn’t realize her mistake until she gets a call on that phone talking about murder. Sydney’s first reaction is to just ignore the call; it must be a prank, right? And suddenly she is drawn back to a past she thought she’d left behind for good and that innocent mistake of picking up the wrong phone – and the possible confusion of the caller about her name – Sydney, Syd? – becomes much more than a mistake. Now it’s a cat-and-mouse chase with life and death stakes.

Close Call is a thriller with many layers and unexpected twists and turns. The plot is solid, well-developed, and fast-paced. The story is rich in detail about all of the very compelling characters, making it impossible to simply like or dislike them or characterize any of them as good or evil. Sydney is stubborn, hardheaded, often impulsive. She thinks she’s moved on but she won’t let much of the past go. She’s also loyal and dedicated and brave, but that impulsive rush to action without thinking has serious consequences. She is responsible for much of the danger to those around her because she has a need to act. The story very effectively switches back and forth from Sydney’s point of view to that of the hitman, Paul. The suspense builds to an ending I didn’t see coming, although when I thought about it, all the clues were there. The locations are richly described. You feel are there, in danger along with Sydney or trying to plan your next move with Paul.

I received an audio copy of Close Call from the author and have voluntarily left this review. The story is riveting, with more and more layers being revealed as each chapter unfolds, making it ideal for an audiobook. The narrator is skilled and easy to listen to. I didn’t want my daily walks to end. I highly recommend Close Call.

  • ToxiCity

  • The Georgia Davis PI Series, Book 3
  • By: Libby Fischer Hellmann
  • Narrated by: Beth Richmond, Derek Shetterly
  • Length: 8 hrs and 42 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 15
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 15
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 15

When three bodies turn up in rapid succession, all in landfills or waste disposal dumpsters, rookie cop Georgia Davis is drawn into the investigation. Teaming up with her detective boyfriend Matt and his friend, Detective Sergeant John Stone, Georgia must work out who's responsible for the killings, but there's little evidence to go on. The case also tests the strength of Georgia's relationship with Matt - complicating the situation is the daughter of a real estate mogul, who also happens to have her eye on Matt. Who's behind these gruesome killings?

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Tight, Gritty Grip on All Kinds of Melee

  • By Espanolish on 10-08-16

Another top-notch thriller!

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 01-17-17

ToxiCity is another top-notch entry into Libby Fischer Hellman’s library of police procedurals and thrillers. Even though it is the third book in the Georgia Davis PI mystery series, it is in fact a prequel to Easy Innocence and Doubleback. It takes place ten years earlier, back when Georgia was a rookie cop in the Chicago suburbs. It answers the questions, “What really happened with Matt?” and “Why did Georgia leave the police force and become a private investigator?” Georgia’s story is bittersweet. As the story opens she is young, determined, idealistic and tough, but maybe not tough up to stand up against all the Chicago crime and politics and Matt’s sudden interest in the Jewish daughter of a real estate mogul connected to the murders. We witness some of the pain she endured and it helps us to understand how she became the woman she is.

The story opens with a death, so right away you know what is happening, but not who is doing it. And it’s not easy to figure out who it could be. There are a lot of suspects for the murders and many reasons – money, power, greed, love, hate . . . . It’s a complex mystery. Children are sick and dying. Bodies are showing up in landfills and dumpsters. Even though people are doing very bad things, they didn’t always start out as very bad people. So many lives are touched and changed forever.

Libby Fischer Hellman has written another outstanding thriller. It’s fast-paced and keeps you guessing. She captures the look and feel of Chicago as perfectly as ever as well as the impact of current political and environmental issues. The look into Georgia’s struggles explains a lot and makes her a more real, complete character to us.

I received a copy of the ToxiCity audiobook from the author. I have both listened to and read Libby Fischer Hellman’s books and recommend either type of media. Although fast-paced and complex, the plot and characters are well developed and believable and make for an easy to follow, exciting story.

There are two narrators for the audiobook. I enjoyed the performance of the female narrator but the male narration took a little getting used to. Instead of the ‘voice of Chicago’ I grew up with, he sounded more like New York Gangster to me. However, as the story developed and I become more immersed in the action the style of narration faded into the background, and it’s unlikely those listeners who did not grow up in Chicago would notice it at all.

I highly recommend ToxiCity and anything else Libby Fischer Hellman writes.

  • Murder Strikes a Pose

  • A Downward Dog Mystery
  • By: Tracy Weber
  • Narrated by: Anne James
  • Length: 8 hrs and 18 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 76
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 71
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 71

Seattle yoga instructor Kate Davidson often acts more like a champion fighting rooster than the Dalai Lama. When she's not teaching yoga, she spends her time hiding from her creepy landlord and dodging her best friend's relentless matchmaking attempts. Even though her father was a cop, Kate has zero crime fighting aspirations. She has enough trouble keeping her struggling yoga business afloat while trying to live up to yoga's Zen-like expectations.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • It's about love, dogs, and murder!

  • By Jan on 12-05-16

Cats are nice, but a dog like Bella is the best!

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 09-25-16

Murder Strikes A Pose is the first book in the Downward Dog Mystery series by Tracy Weber. I received an audiobook copy in exchange for an honest review.

Kate Davidson owns a Yoga studio in Seattle. Her voice on the audiobook is so quiet and light that you just know she is serene and Zen-like. Well, almost. Turns out she’s just like the rest of us: tries to stay calm and above it all, but that doesn’t always work.

Kate meets George, a homeless alcoholic, and Bella, a big, scary German shepherd with an expensive, serious illness, when they set up outside her yoga studio to sell newspapers. She persuades George to move down the street a bit, and as time goes by a friendship forms. Although she really doesn’t know George very well, when she finds his body behind her studio she knows it can’t be just a drug-related street crime like the police think. And it turns out “Zen Kate” has a feisty side and a stubborn streak a mile wide. Against the advice of everyone she knows she starts looking into George’s past trying to prove he was murdered, while also looking for an appropriate home for Bella. After all, she can’t keep Bella, can she? – Bella is too big, scares the clients, her medicine is too expensive, Kate doesn’t have time . . . .

This was an absolutely delightful story. The descriptions of Seattle were so vivid I almost felt like I was there, and the yoga sounded so relaxing I just might sign up. The plot was strong and the mystery engaging and not easy to solve. There were a lot of viable suspects and interesting characters, and Kate recklessly went down a lot of dangerous paths and met a lot of strange people while trying to find the killer and someone to adopt Bella. Kate has some old issues to deal with, wants to do things her way and isn’t ready to love again, but she cares, a lot – about Bella and maybe about Michael, the pet store owner in the neighborhood.

I loved the understated delivery of the audiobook. It was perfect for Kate and for the story. I have to admit, though, that I sometimes did a double take when I realized just exactly what Kate has just said or thought, like when Michael tried to tell her to stay out of the investigation: “Michael spoke slowly and sternly, as if scolding an obstinate child. ‘Kate, let me be very clear about this. You will not continue this murder investigation, under any circumstances. I forbid it.’ Michael’s words were unequivocal, not to be challenged. He was man. He was in charge. He expected no argument. He was an idiot.”

I loved Bella, enjoyed my visit to Seattle and my introduction to yoga, and want to spend more time with Kate and see what happens with Michael. I highly recommend Murder Strikes a Pose and will be reading the rest of the stories in this fun series.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Doubleback

  • The Georgia Davis P.I. Series #2
  • By: Libby Fischer Hellmann
  • Narrated by: Eva Kaminsky
  • Length: 11 hrs and 3 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 25
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 24
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 24

Doubleback, the sequel to the acclaimed Easy Innocence, reunites PI Georgia Davis with video producer Ellie Foreman. The two women track leads from Northern Wisconsin to an Arizona border town, where illegal immigrants, smuggled drugs, and an independent contractor called Delton Security come into play. Georgia and Ellie go to great lengths to find the truth, and Georgia discovers that you can cross a line, but sometimes you have to double back.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • "Money can't buy happiness but it sure is a start"

  • By Norma Miles on 06-07-16

Georgia & Ellie together again - thrilling!

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 09-10-16

Doubleback by Libby Fischer Hellman is the sequel to Easy Innocence, and reunites PI Georgia Davis with video producer Ellie Foreman, the heroine of Hellman’s other series. Georgia and Ellie aren’t much alike – one is a single, tough, former cop turned private investigator and the other is a divorced mom who is a commercial television producer. They aren’t even really close friends when the story starts, but they are strong, intelligent and curious and want to get to the bottom of things.

The book opens with a scene in a stalled elevator. Although interesting and tense, it doesn’t seem to have anything to do with either Georgia or Ellie. But just wait. Eight-year-old Molly Messenger is kidnapped, her mother asks Ellie for help, Ellie asks Georgia to look into it, and the story is off and running. Molly is returned unharmed, but her mother dies in an accident a few days later. Accident? From Chicago to Northern Wisconsin to an Arizona border town, Georgia and Ellie are confronted with suspicious deaths, fraudulent transactions, a paramilitary training camp, and drug and people smuggling.

Although Georgia is a fearless and dedicated investigator, she is also inexperienced and reckless enough to get in serious danger. Attempts are made on her life and she is physically battered and bruised, and may actually die trying to find out who is responsible and just how many people are involved.

This is another excellent novel by Libby Fischer Hellman. The action is believable and non-stop. The suspense is almost unbearable at times and the mystery is not easy to solve. As usual, she blends current events with an amazing knowledge of Chicago and its inner workings. There are a lot of details and the story is complicated, but Hellman makes it easy to follow and hard to put down. She shifts focus seamlessly from Georgia to Ellie and everyone in between and from location to location.

I highly recommend Doubleback. I first read it, and then received an audiobook in exchange for an honest review. It was just as thrilling and exciting the second time around. The narrator, Eva Kaminsky, fit the story perfectly and quickly became transparent because I was so focused on the action of the story. I recommend anything and everything by Libby Fischer Hellman, and hope Georgia and Ellie get together again soon.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Permed to Death

  • The Bad Hair Day Mysteries, Book 1
  • By: Nancy J. Cohen
  • Narrated by: Mary Ann Jacobs
  • Length: 7 hrs and 15 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 49
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 46
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 46

Sassy salon owner Marla Shore is giving grumpy Mrs. Kravitz a perm when her client dies in the shampoo chair. If that isn't enough to give her a bad hair day, handsome Detective Vail suspects Marla of poisoning the woman's coffee creamer. Figuring she'd better expose the real killer before the next victim frizzes out, Marla sets on the trail of a wave of wacky suspects. Her theory regarding whodunit gels only after she looks for the culprit closer to home.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Surprisingly Better Than Anticipated!

  • By Cheri on 07-11-16

Great start to a series - has it all!

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 09-04-16

Permed to Death is the first book in Nancy J. Cohen's Bad Hair Day Mystery series. I received a copy of this audiobook from the author in exchange for an honest review.

We meet Marla Shore, the owner of the Cut 'N Dye hair salon in Florida, when she comes in early for her not-so-favorite client Bertha Kravitz. She gives Bertha a cup of coffee with her special coffee creamer and leaves the room. When she returns she finds Bertha dead, and the story takes off from there. Marla is the prime suspect in the murder, a fact that seems to surprise and annoy her. However, we find out, little by little, that not only does Bertha have a long list of enemies, Marla has a past she does not want revealed and was in fact being blackmailed by Bertha. And just when we think we have learned all there is to know about Marla – vindictive ex-husband, bossy Jewish mother, business problems – we, and the smug but appealing Detective Dalton Vail, learn yet another detail that keeps Marla #1 on the list of suspects.

So Marla decides to solve the crime herself. She wants to clear her name, protect the secrets of her past, and last but not least also see just where this mutual attraction with the detective might lead.

Marla is your typical cozy mystery amateur sleuth – she has good problem-solving skills and wants to set things right, but is not quite as clever as she thinks she is and recklessly gets herself into danger several times. As she bumbles along we meet an interesting cast of characters, laugh a bit, and feel the relationship with Dalton heating up. We also feel the danger, and clues and details about Marla’s past are revealed like the peeling of an onion. Just when you think you’ve figured it out, something happens and you have to stop and think – who is the killer??

This was a very enjoyable introduction to a series, and perfectly told for an audiobook. Once the action starts it doesn’t stop. The plot is solid. The story is complicated, but not so much so that you can’t follow what is happening. This is especially important for an audiobook, because it’s not that easy to just flip back a few pages to clarify some confusing detail. The setting was authentic; I felt like I was in hot, humid Florida with Marla, and lost myself in the action and the suspense.

Marla and Dalton and her beauty shop employees and friends were believable and interesting enough to make me want to know them better. I care about Marla and want to see where the relationship with Dalton goes and what trouble she might get into next.

The narration was transparent, which I think is critical for an audiobook. When I put in my ear buds I don’t want to be aware of the narrator. Instead, I want to be so caught up in the story that I recognize each character and can’t wait to see what’s next, and that is exactly what happened. I highly recommend this series. I am way behind and intend to catch up with all of Marla’s adventures soon.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful