#BookReview A Better Part of Valor (Valorie Dawes Thrillers Book 3) by Gary Corbin @garycorbin

A Better Part of ValorAbout the Book

While jogging off-duty along the riverfront, rookie cop Valorie Dawes discovers the body of a young girl  – and ignites a manhunt for a serial killer.

The Shoeless Schoolgirl Slayer has remained a step ahead of the Clayton, CT police for months. All of his victims drowned. All were found barefoot. And all bear the same strange, fresh tattoo. Then rookie cop Val Dawes notices patterns that eluded the department’s more traditional senior detectives. Following her intuition, she discovers clues that convince her she’s closing in.

But is she? Or is the clever and elusive Slayer laying a trap to make Val the next victim?

Format: eARC (423 pages)                      Publisher: Double Diamond Publishing
Publication date: 21st September 2021 Genre: Crime

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Hive | Amazon UK
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My Review

I seem to be making a habit of reading Gary’s books part way through a series! For example, I’ve previously read The Mountain Man’s Badge, book three in the Mountain Man Mysteries series, and Lying in Vengeance, the follow-up to courtroom drama, Lying in Judgment.  True to form, A Better Part of Valor, published on 21st September 2021, is the third book in the author’s Valorie Dawes series. The book can be read as a standalone but the references to key events in Valorie’s life and the previous investigations she’s been involved in would be spoilers for the earlier two books. So if you fancy embarking on a new police procedural series, start with the first book, A Woman of Valor.

The book contains meticulous detail of police procedure and the step-by-step process of a murder investigation: narrowing down suspects, cross-checking alibis, interviewing witnesses, identifying connections between the victims, trawling social media for background information on victims and suspects, not to mention recording every piece of evidence, every conversation and interaction in minute detail. As the hunt for the killer progresses, the long hours take their toll on everyone involved in the investigation, including Valorie who seems to exist solely on a diet on coffee and the odd snatched breakfast.  How she finds the energy for runs and punishing gym sessions I don’t know! The team also have to put up with interference from the Mayor, Megan Iverson, anxious for a crime wave not to jeopardize her political ambitions, shared by her husband.

Val’s back story, the details of which are slowly revealed, helps the reader understand why she is so driven to solve the case, why she often underestimates her abilities and can at times take unnecessary risks. Luckily, she has former partner, Gil, to provide wise advice. Recovering from a serious injury incurred in a previous case, Gil is the person who knows Valorie best and one of the few people from whom she will accept advice – and actually take it! Gil’s description of Valorie as ‘intelligent, intuitive, relentless, and gutsy as hell’ sums her up nicely and makes her an engaging protagonist. I really liked the relationship between Gil and Valorie, and his wise advice when Valorie doubts herself, ‘Find the best part of you. That’s the key’.

Given the nature of the crime, the suspects are all male most of whom are rather unpleasant characters or suspiciously too helpful.  I had various suspicions about who the perpetrator might be but the author skilfully led me up several blind alleys before returning to main street. The tension ramps up in the final chapters in which the hunter becomes the hunted.  But is the real conflict within Valorie’s heart as she ponders the risks of crossing the boundary between friendship and something more?

A Better Part of Valor is a chunky read but its intricate plot, likeable central character and sense of authenticity kept this reader turning the pages way past her bedtime.  My thanks to the author for my digital advance review copy.

In three words: Intriguing, detailed, suspenseful

Try something similar: Payback (DI Charley Mann #1) by R.C. Bridgestock

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GaryCorbinAbout the Author

Gary Corbin is a writer, editor, and playwright in Camas, WA, a suburb of Portland, OR. In addition to eight published novels, his creative and journalistic work has been published in BrainstormNW, the Portland Tribune, The Oregonian, and Global Envision, among others.  His plays have enjoyed critical acclaim and have been produced on many Portland-area stages.

Gary is a member of the Willamette Writers Group, Nine Bridges Writers, the Northwest Editors Guild, PDX Playwrights, and the Bar Noir Writers Workshop. He serves as treasurer of The Pulp Stage, and participates in workshops and conferences in the Portland, Oregon area.

A homebrewer and home coffee roaster, Gary is a member of the Oregon Brew Crew and a BJCP National Beer Judge. He loves to ski, cook, and root for his beloved Patriots and Red Sox. And when that’s not enough, he escapes to the Oregon coast with his sweetheart.

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#BookReview Everyday Magic by Charlie Laidlaw

Everyday MagicAbout the Book

Carole Gunn leads an unfulfilled life and knows it. She’s married to someone who may, or may not, be in New York on business and, to make things worse, the family’s deaf cat has been run over by an electric car.

But something has been changing in Carole’s mind. She’s decided to revisit places that hold special significance for her. She wants to better understand herself, and whether the person she is now is simply an older version of the person she once was.

Instead, she’s taken on an unlikely journey to confront her past, present and future.

Format: Paperback                        Publisher: Ringwood Publishing
Publication date: 26th May 2021 Genre: Fiction

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Publisher | Amazon UK
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My Review

I was first introduced to the writing of Charlie Laidlaw when I read his book The Things We Learn When We’re Dead so when he contacted me to let me know he had a new book on the way I was delighted to take up his offer of a digital review copy.

As Everyday Magic opens, Carole (with an ‘e’) finds herself not so much at a crossroads in her life as at a dead end. She feels ‘tethered’ to her home and family, and rather undervalued by her husband Ray and daughter Iona. She idly wonders if they would even notice if she just disappeared – until of course they ran out of food or clean clothes. I think many of us with domestic responsibilities have had the same thought at some point!  Carole also feels in an emotional rut, the shiny sparkle of her marriage now tarnished by routine.  As she observes, her love for Ray has become an ‘assumption rather than a fact’.

Her reflections on how her life might have turned out had she made different decisions brought to mind Robert Frost’s well-known poem ‘The Road Not Taken’. Carole’s solution to her current malaise is to revisit places from her past – the Edinburgh flat she lived in as an undergraduate, the pub where she first met her husband, her childhood home. It’s much like what she did in her former career as an archaeologist trying to ‘stitch together the lives of long-dead people from fragments of artefacts’. However, before long Carole has the strange sensation that her journey into her past is being steered by forces outside her control. Might that explain the objects that keep turning up in unexpected places, or the chance meeting with a former colleague that opens up the possibility of a different future for Carole?

The book has plenty of humorous touches such as the accident involving Granny and its aftermath. (Trust me, it is funny!) Or Carole’s admiration for the husky-voiced ‘sat nav lady’ who, unlike Carole, never seems uncertain about which fork in the road to take and who, Carole imagines, enjoys a glamorous lifestyle between trips. And, like me, devoted fans of a famous seasonal work by Charles Dickens will have fun spotting the subtle allusions to characters and events in that book, a graveyard revelation being one of my favourites.

Everyday Magic is a heartwarming story about rediscovering what really matters in life and the importance of treasuring the people who mean the most to you while you can.

In three words: Intimate, insightful, engaging

Try something similar: Saving Missy by Beth Morrey

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Charlie LaidlawAbout the Author

Charlie writes: ‘I was born in Paisley, central Scotland, which wasn’t my fault. That week, Eddie Calvert with Norrie Paramor and his Orchestra were Top of the Pops, with Oh, Mein Papa, as sung by a young German woman remembering her once-famous clown father. That gives a clue to my age, not my musical taste.  I was brought up in the west of Scotland (quite near Paisley, but thankfully not too close) and graduated from the University of Edinburgh. I still have the scroll, but it’s in Latin, so it could say anything.

I then worked briefly as a street actor, baby photographer, puppeteer and restaurant dogsbody before becoming a journalist. I started in Glasgow and ended up in London, covering news, features and politics. I interviewed motorbike ace Barry Sheene, Noel Edmonds threatened me with legal action and, because of a bureaucratic muddle, I was ordered out of Greece.  I then took a year to travel round the world, visiting 19 countries. Highlights included being threatened by a man with a gun in Dubai, being given an armed bodyguard by the PLO in Beirut (not the same person with a gun), and visiting Robert Louis Stevenson’s grave in Samoa. What I did for the rest of the year I can’t quite remember.

Surprisingly, I was approached by a government agency to work in intelligence, which just shows how shoddy government recruitment was back then. However, it turned out to be very boring and I don’t like vodka martini.  Craving excitement and adventure, I ended up as a PR consultant, which is the fate of all journalists who haven’t won a Pulitzer Prize, and I’ve still to listen to Oh, Mein Papa.

I am married with two grown-up children and live in East Lothian.’ (Photo credit: Author website)

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