Nostalgia City Mysteries

By Mark S. Bacon

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D.C. intrigue and death highlight new mystery

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Caged
Ellison Cooper
Minotaur, July 2018
Kindle $13.99  Trade paper $25.49
368 pages

Caged is a gripping thriller debut for fans of Kathy Reichs, Thomas Harris, and Patricia Cornwell.

FBI neuroscientist Sayer Altair hunts for evil in the deepest recesses of the human mind. Still reeling from the death of her fiancé, she wants nothing more than to focus on her research into the brains of serial killers. But when the Washington D.C. police stumble upon a gruesome murder scene involving a girl who’d been slowly starved to death while held captive in a cage, Altair is called in to lead the investigation. When the victim is identified as the daughter of a high profile senator, Altair is thrust into the spotlight.

As public pressure mounts, she discovers that another girl has been taken and is teetering on the brink of death. With evidence unraveling around her, Altair races to save the second victim but soon realizes that they are hunting a killer with a dangerous obsession…a killer who is closer than she thought.

Ellison Cooper has a Ph.D. in anthropology from UCLA, with a background in archaeology, cultural neuroscience, ancient religion, colonialism, and human rights. She has conducted fieldwork in Central America, West Africa, Micronesia, and Western Europe and worked as a murder investigator in Washington DC.  She lives in the Bay Area with her husband and son.

Reading group guide for Death in Nostalgia City

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Questions for discussion
  1. The book begins in central Arizona, but the plot leads the main characters to Boston and back. How do the multiple settings contribute to the book? How do they affect the actions of the main characters?
  2. Lyle’s relationship with his father generates both anger and guilt. What does he mean by that and how does this motivate him throughout the story? Does he have other motivations?
  3. How would you describe Kate Sorensen’s role in the story? How does her approach to challenges differ from Lyle’s?
  4. How important is the retro theme of Nostalgia City to the theme of the book? How do they differ? Do you think the author has an opinion about the value of celebrating or enjoying the past?
  5. In the face of Lyle’s fairly obvious instability, is Kate justified in trusting him?
  6. This is a mystery, but the author establishes FedPat Corporation as a likely source of criminal activity early on. Did this leave enough questions for the reader to solve? How close to the actual workings of a large insurance company, excluding perhaps murder, do you think this is? 
  7. Kate uses her background in competitive athletics as inspiration to deal with crises without looking back. How does it work?
  8. How does Lyle employ his “loiter and listen” strategy?  Is it effective?
  9. Lyle and others make references to celebrities and events from past decades, some of which may be obscure.  Do references to people such as Vic Tanny and Jeannie C. Riley puzzle you or contribute to the setting of the story? 

Summer reads full of murder, suspense & death

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Skin of Tattoos
Christina Hoag
266 pages
Martin Brown Publishers, LLC  – Aug. 2016
Kindle $2.99  Trade paperback $12.95

When Cyco Lokos gang member Magdaleno (Mags) Argueta comes home to Los Angeles after serving prison time for a robbery, he wants nothing more than to start a new life. But there’s one obstacle: his old life.

Although he was framed by Rico, the new leader of the Cyco Lokos, Mags tries to let go of his bitterness and stay out of gang life for the sake of his Salvadoran immigrant family and his girlfriend Paloma.  But trying to integrate into society after a stint in prison doesn’t come easily.

Faced with low job prospects and Rico’s demands to help the Cyco Lokos make money, a broke and disillusioned Mags makes the only choice he can.  He soon discovers, however, that being a part of the Cyco Lokos with Rico in charge is far more dangerous than it used to be. Loyalties have shifted, including his own.  With his sister pregnant by a rival gang member and his own relationship with Paloma, his best friend’s sister, a violation of gang code, Mags becomes caught in a web of secrets, revenge, lies, and murder that might ultimately cost him everything.


Christina Hoag is a former staff writer for the Miami Herald and the Associated Press.  Her background is appropriate for a gang crime story.  As a journalist she was threatened by a killer’s girlfriend, had her laptop searched by Colombian guerrillas and phone tapped in Venezuela, was suspected of drug trafficking in Guyana, hid under a car to evade Guatemalan soldiers, and posed as a nun to get inside a Caracas jail. Visit her at www.christinahoag.com

 

The Art of Fear (Little Things That Kill)
Pamela Crane
255 pages
Tabella House – July 2017
Kindle 99 cents  Trade paperback $12.99

A terrifying tale of small-town secrets and murder mark’s Pamela Crane’s new thriller. The author of several award-winning series offers puzzles surrounding an accident and suicide—or was murder involved?

Ari Wilburn’s life ended long ago—the day she watched her little sister die in a tragic accident and did nothing to stop it. Crippled with self-blame and resented by her parents, she stumbles through life … and onto an unexpected clue that casts doubt on whether the death was accidental.

Now a psychological wreck, Ari joins a suicide support group where she meets Tina, a sex-enslaved escapee who finds her long-lost father dead. Suicide, police ruled it. But Tina suspects foul play. As a bond develops between the women in their shared loss, they’re dragged into playing a dangerous game with a killer.

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