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Publisher's Summary

Three years ago, the nation gasped in horror when the President of the United States barely escaped an assassination attempt that left two dead - the vice president’s wife and the attempted assassin. Even after numerous investigations proved otherwise, conspiracy theorists argue that the assassin was acting on orders from the CIA, FBI, and every federal agency within a hundred miles of the capital.

Aspiring Author Dean Conway is the last person Lieutenant Commander Murphy Thornton wants to spend his Saturday afternoon when they end up at the same wedding reception table. While their wives tend to bridesmaid duties, Murphy is trapped listening to Dean’s latest work-in-project - completing the manuscript of an investigative journalist who’d disappeared months earlier.

“She was number 12,” Dean says.

“Twelve?” Murphy asks.

“Twelve witnesses connected to or investigating The Nutcracker shooting have died either in an accident or suicide.”

Two days later, Dean dies suddenly, but not before sending a text message to Murphy: “13.”

©2020 Terri Lynn Zaleski (P)2020 Terri Lynn Zaleski

What listeners say about The Nutcracker Conspiracy

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Conspiracy, theft, and Gnarly!

The Nutcracker Conspiracy by Lauren Carr is such a great listen! I love how the author weaves several stories into one. The book is both a standalone listen and part of a series. Many characters in this book have made appearances in other books by this author, so its like catching up with old friends. The book has mystery, murder, heists, humor, and suspense. Jessica and Murphy, Nigel and Gnarly all have big parts in this book. I so enjoyed this Thorny Rose book and look forward to more in the series. Mike Alger is wonderful bringing the characters to life. He really does a great job painting pictures in my mind for the characters and settings. I received this audiobook at my request and have voluntarily written this review. This is such a great story!

1 person found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Narration is not good. The story is very good

Story is very good with familiar characters both human and canine. Love Gnarly.

I have listened to all of Mac Faraday books. That narrator was good and he used different voices for each. character as it should be. Different narrator here and the young husband now has the deep voice of his father in law. Jessica’ brother has a high pitched annoying voice which is the same as another character who is disliked and described by other characters as having a nasal, screeching voice.

I have listened to other books in different series by this author who I love and I just don’t care to listen to this narrator. Maybe it’s me.





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What happens when a conspiracy is a conspiracy?

The Nutcracker Conspiracy
A Thorny Rose Mystery #4
By Lauren Carr
Read by Mike Algers

The Nutcracker Conspiracy by Lauren CarrWhen Jessica Faraday's best friend finds herself suspect number
one in her husband's murder, Jessica is determined to prove Amy's innocence. There is just one problem Amy looks good for the
murder of Dean. Just days before at a wedding Dean told Murphy Thornton that he was about to publish a book based on the
Nutcracker Conspiracy - a conspiracy in which 12 people had so far died to keep hidden.

When Dean is killed Murphy, Jessica, and Tristan find themselves digging into an assassination attempt that occurred 3 years ago.
Could Dean's death be tied to his research into the thwarted attempt
on the President's life?

The deeper they dig the more questions they have. And when the Nutcracker Conspiracy has links to
a case that Murphy is currently involved in at work he realizes something even more sinister is at work.

One fun note is that Gnarly is visiting while Mac and Archie are overseas. Yes, that Gnarly and he
is his full of trouble thieving self. He also helps out in more than one instance so he adds a light note
throughout. For fans of Lauren Carr's Chris Matheson series, he makes a guest appearance.


Get ready for a mystery with more turns than a winding road as the truth is searched out. Murder,
espionage, and treason what more could you want? Maybe a little revenge on an ex-girlfriend? Yes,
Tristan has a little bit of mental revenge on his with a little help with his technical skills.

This is not a cozy mystery or a gentle read and is most definitely in the PG category for violence and suggestive scenes. But if your taste in books runs towards mystery, suspense, and murder you will devour
this book! There are suspects aplenty and a few characters that one just can't help disliking. The narration
is well presented by Mike Alger. There is no drag and it progresses at a good
pace for the reading, good for a long commute or just eye-resting listening enjoyment.

I was provided a complimentary copy of this book with no expectations but that I provide my
honest opinion. All thoughts expressed are my own.

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Enjoyable Mystery, Fun Characters

Narrator Mike Alger does a great job bringing the characters to life by giving a unique voice to each one. His steady pace and distinct tones add depth to this already intriguing story. His mannerisms add to the personalities of the characters making them more realistic to the listeners.

The story is a wonderful mixture of humor, suspense, mystery, and a touch of romance wrapped around a conspiracy plot. The characters are quirky and likeable. The author skillfully weaves canines as major characters making readers/listeners believe their participation in this fascinating story.

There are several leads of thought going on throughout the tale, but it’s easy to follow all and not be lost along the way. While this is the fourth installment in the series, the story stands on its own. If you’re new to the series as I was, it will make you want to follow up on the previous stories just for the fun of it to find out where all the various characters come from.

The Nutcracker Conspiracy will hold your attention with zany characters, unexpected twists, and a tantalizing mystery to solve.

I was proved an audio copy of this book, but the thoughts are completely my own and not influenced by the gift.

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Another Great Story in the Thorny Rose Series

I previously reviewed a physical copy of this book. The audiobook had given it so much more reach. I loved this book all over from the start. This is another great addition to the Thorny Rose series. You really need to check it out!!

A presidential assassination attempt three years prior took the lives of the vice president’s wife and the assassin. Since then there have been all kinds of conspiracy theories about the true target and who ordered the murder.

Zip to present day which finds Murphy Thornton at a wedding reception with author Dean Conway. Dean is going on and on about his book about the assassination attempt. He tells Murphy about how twelve witnesses have died in the last couple years. How when someone seems to be getting close to the results, they end up dying. Murphy doesn’t think anything about it until he receives a text message from Dean saying “13.” Dean is later found dead.

Murphy jumps into the mystery of spies, stolen secrets, and assassinations. What follows is a twisting, turning ride with lots of red hearings along the way. I was kept on my toes the whole way and was completely wrong with who the killer was, as usual. This is what makes me a huge fan of Lauren Carr’s books.

And of course, there are the animals: Gnarly, Newman, and Spencer. The only thing I can say is lycanthrope. Sprinkled through the story are hilarious canine antics.

I love Lauren Carr’s books and strongly recommend checking them out. You can read them in order to get more from the books or you can read them as a standalone without being completely lost. If you like mysteries, you HAVE to check them out. You won’t be disappointed. I really enjoyed this book as a read but listening to it has given it more depth. It's definitely worth the read or listen.


I received a complimentary copy of this book. I voluntarily chose to read and post an honest review.

  • Overall
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You Can Count on Carr to Deliver

I’ve read (with my ears) a number of books from the different mystery series by Lauren Carr, and there are things I can count on, every time: a huge cast of characters, a number of plots and subplots with red flags and red herrings, non-stop action, a high body count, and animal antics to amuse readers. Most importantly, being immersed in one of Carr’s books is always time well-spent.

THE NUTCRACKER CONSPIRACY is no different. It’s the fourth in the Thorny Rose Mysteries (the second for me; I also read book three, Murder by Perfection) with a perfect possible governmental conspiracy plot – and a lot of side stories – to keep readers engaged and on their toes. The first scene in this book is a little different from other books and caught my attention; were we going to have a touch of the supernatural in the story? This piece and the concluding scene, when the paranormal incident is revisited, are fabulous bookends to the story, and that’s all I will say about that.

“No, the pizza guy did not deliver to the wrong house…Gnarly mugged him!”

As I mentioned, there is always a huge cast of characters, but in each book, readers get to better know the regulars. This time, we’re getting to know Tristan and his sister Jessica, and they are as different as night and day and a hoot. Many of the characters are crossover characters from other Carr mysteries. For readers who are familiar with all the series books and characters, this is an especially fun treat, but it can be a little confusing about who is married to/related to whom and from which series they come. Since my favorite series is the Chris Matheson Cold Cases, I was thrilled that Chris and his feisty mom, Doris (and Sterling, their dog!) were along for the ride in THE NUTCRACKER CONSPIRACY. But my favorite cameo, hands down, is Gnarly, the German shepherd who is not only a food thief but a scene stealer and manipulator of humans. He provides much needed clever comic relief when the storyline gets complicated – and complicated it gets.

Typically, readers are required to suspend their disbelief a time or two, and that’s okay, but THE NUTCRACKER CONSPIRACY pushed it a bit too far for me around a major plot point and related detail. I just couldn’t accept the conclusion. Nonetheless, as the seemingly wild, unrelated threads of the story begin to untangle, Carr works her magic and masterfully weaves them together with all loose ends tied. Another thing I enjoy with Carr’s books is that readers can count on all questions being answered for a satisfying conclusion, and this time, we get an epilogue that is a massive loose-end tier-upper.

ABOUT THE NARRATION: Mike Alger has narrated every book of Carr’s that I’ve listened to (and may be her only narrator), and he just keeps getting better. Admittedly, I wasn’t a fan of the early books, but in THE NUTCRACKER CONSPIRACY, he has upped his game by adding lots more accents than just the usual variations on male/female (and the female voices are much improved). Pacing was great, and I didn’t notice any odd pronunciations like I have in the past. The technical aspect is improved as well, and I didn’t notice any glitches or hitches or background noises. Well-done!

Thank you to the author and iRead Book Tours for providing me an audio download in exchange for my honest opinion – the only kind I give.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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Clever, fast-paced, fun

Note: Even though this is book 4 in the series, it works fine as a stand alone.

This was such a fun story! I have liked all of Carr’s books, but this one was great, one of her better works. I love all of the humor and the pet companions. I especially enjoyed Nigel, the house AI. Tristan is responsible for him and his family makes good use of him. Nigel has a very dry sense of humor that is put to good use in this story.

The mystery was pretty good too. We have more than one victim and more than one motive. It was great seeing how the clues came together for our sleuths. A chunk of the plot revolves around a certain nail polish – Cocktails for Two. I’m not big on makeup but I still liked this plot bit.

Everyone loves the dogs and I love how the dogs are so central to the story. They provide humor, sure, but also backup to our heroes. Then there’s Thor the rabbit – the growling rabbit! Ha! Of course he growls.

Murphy Thornton is the last of an elite military group and sometimes this works for me and sometimes it’s a little over the edge. Maybe because there is so little other military stuff, but it just feels a bit forced, sticking out like a sore thumb. Yet, I really want it to work because I like Murphy and I like all this stuff he does, but sometimes his hunches or contacts or abilities or history is just a little too convenient for the plot, pushing it along.

That said, the plot is fast-paced and fun. I was never bored with the tale. 4.75/5 stars.

The Narration: Mike Alger is a delight to listen to. He’s been narrating Carr’s books for years now and I can’t see anyone else doing them. I especially liked his deep smooth voice for Nigel, the house AI. That was a surprise! He also had this perfectly annoying voice for a lazy husband. His female voices sound feminine and he has unique voices for all the characters. There were no tech issues with the recording. 5/5 stars.

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A Complex Mystery

4.5 stars

Unlike most of Lauren Carr’s books, The Nutcracker Conspiracy features one body after another after another and it’s no wonder that Dean Conway believes a conspiracy is tying so many of these deaths together. It all started with an attempt on the President’s life that actually claimed two other lives and it’s only natural to think that such an assassination attempt must have involved one federal agency or another, maybe more than one. Murphy Thornton didn’t pay much attention to Dean’s theory, that is, until Dean himself was blown up by a bomb.

Since Dean’s wife, Amy, is a close friend of Jessica’s, the latter is drawn into Murphy’s investigation when Amy is pegged as a prime suspect in the bombing. With a little help from Jessica’s brother, Tristan, and Nigel, the Thorntons’ very efficient AI butler, not to mention even more family members and friends, Murphy and Jessica start down a very complex trail of clues, theories, motives and potential perpetrators that lead them to a multitude of puzzle pieces. Putting the puzzle together kept me listening into the night hours while the couple worked as hard as they ever have to catch the killer…or maybe more than one.

As it happens, Jessica’s dad’s dog, Gnarly, is visiting—he needed to get out of town for a while till the furor dies down—and he’s settled right in with the other two dogs, Newman and Spencer. Newman is perfectly happy with the visitor as long as Gnarly doesn’t mess with his TV remote and Spencer seems to have a bit of a crush on the German Shepherd but Gnarly is more interested in continuing his life of minor crimes and misdemeanours, a habit that doesn’t fit well with his position as elected mayor of the town of Spencer. You can imagine, I’m sure, the chuckles and outright guffaws that ensue when these pups are on the page.

Mike Alger continues his stellar performance as narrator of so many of Ms. Carr’s books and he really has become one of my favorite readers; Mr. Alger has a way with words and vocal personalizations, not to mention a clear sense of mood and pacing. Between his narration and Ms. Carr’s deviously tangled plot and vivid characters, a listener/reader won’t be the least bit disappointed in this latest Thorny Rose adventure.

  • Overall
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Thorny Rose #4 is my favorite so far

I chose to listen to this book after receiving a free audio copy. All opinions in this review are my own and completely unbiased.

I read The Nutcracker Conspiracy in January and was happy to listen to it as well since it’s my favorite Lauren Carr book so far. I like her humor, and I usually smile or giggle several times when reading one of her books, but The Nutcracker Conspiracy made me actually laugh out loud several times (gotta love Mac’s dog, Gnarly). While there was humor, there was plenty of mystery and drama with several twists.

The book starts with an assassination attempt of the president gone wrong. According to the Nutcracker Conspiracy, several people wanted the president dead so the vice president could take over and the FBI, CIA, and other government agencies were in on it. But the vice president’s wife is the one who ends up dead. When 12 other people end up dead, several supposedly in accidents, it looks like maybe the Nutcracker Conspiracy is true…or is there more to it? Murphy ends up investigating the deaths and what a ride!

When I first start listening to one of Lauren Carr’s audiobooks, it’s like listening to an old friend. Mike Alger has narrated many of her books, he does a great job, and I know his voice the minute I hear it.

I definitely recommend The Nutcracker Conspiracy. It does stand alone but I got more out of it having read previous books in this series and other series in which the characters cross over.

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Lauren does it again

The Nutcracker Conspiracy is the 4th book in the Thorny Rose Mysteries Series by Lauren Carr. I am a huge fan of Lauren Carr. I love how she keeps all of her characters the same in each book so they feel like old friends. I also love how she connects all of the characters in all of her different series. I like keeping up with old friends in real life and her books let me keep up with all the different characters from all of the different series. Characters from different series show up in all of her books even if it's just a phone call or a shopping trip.


Mike Alger is back to narrate the Audiobook. As usual he does and amazing job of bringing the story and characters to life. I don't know how he does it but he keeps the voice of each character exactly the same from book to book.


I just have to say: Lauren you didn't go there. You killed the Vice President's wife. In a botched attempt to kill the President the 2nd lady is shot and killed, or was he the intended victim. Three Years later the body count is adding up.


Murphy Thornton is the main character and of course the dogs of Lauren's list of characters in this book. Every time I think I figured out this who done it, a new person or a new bit of info pops up and i have to rethink it all over again. I love this about Lauren Carr's books. You do not have the killer pinned down in the first chapter and just learn the details the rest of the book. These books keep you guessing all the way through.


I also love that there is not a ton of graphic sex, foul language, and lots of descriptions that mean nothing to the story. There's enough going on in these books not to have to add filler with with descriptions and steam.


I was given this free review copy audiobook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.