The Gem Connection by Michael R. Lane

The Gem Connection by Michael R. Lane is the first book in a three part series originally published April 2016.

Coined as a C.J. Cavanaugh Mystery this book completely threw me into C.J.’s world from the first page. Suddenly I was smelling expensive cologne and carrying a cognac leather shoulder holster- in my dreams. Really I could only dare to dream to be as slick as C.J.

This is a man’s world…

Not that C.J. would ever be so crass as to belt out the old James Brown classic.

But I am!

And in this man’s world he is no “regular degular” gumshoe private detective. He is a former DEA agent who has clearly been in some harrowing situations but survived with enough skills to actively pursue a contract killer while juggling two ladies who are vying for his love and attention. Oh and money, seeing as he is obligated to pay the woman who works for him. More on that later.

This isn’t a game of Bejeweled

C.J. is forced to work for an unknown employer who wants him to identify who killed Clinton Windell- who is a CEO of a jewelry dealer with a lot to lose. We know that Clinton has just returned from a trip in which he has collected $20 million in uncut gems through a killer deal and is hoping to use this great deal to keep his position.

Until he is killed of course. Which is why C.J. is hired sight unseen, literally or maybe not, by this mysterious employer. We can’t really tell. And the real fun is that I didn’t really want to. Seeing this former DEA Agent sliding into action as a private eye was pretty thrilling.

His leading lady… beautiful and more patient than I

Having a police detective for a girlfriend created a fascinating dynamic. Destini is described as being about as gorgeous as Naomi Campbell with a temper that possibly rivals the great diva supreme- but of course only when she is reasonably riled up. And I would say in my opinion she had every bit of a reason to want to cut up C.J.’s clothes after kicking Renita out of his house.

Also the fact that Destini is a member of law enforcement assigned to the Clinton Windell case creates an entire host of problems. It’s apparently hard to share small talk about your workday when you’re both holding onto confidential information. Talk about trust issues!

Destini handles finding C.J.’s junior partner living at his house with some anger but kept it down to a dull enough roar to the point where I wonder what dosage of Xanax is she on. Basically she was this version of Naomi…

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Whereas I think the average woman would have been more like this version of Naomi.

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Because moving beautiful subordinates into your home without your girlfriend’s knowledge is grounds for high treason at worst and destruction of property at best. I am team Destini. Now let’s meet her competition.

Renita… every girlfriend’s worst nightmare

Renita is clearly in love with C.J. and has the nerve to not hide it. While she is smart and competent in her role as a junior partner it is evident from the start that this is a woman who doesn’t mind showering in the office in hopes of giving C.J. a little peek. She is too excited to be invited to his place in order for him to protect her.

The good thing is that there is Naomi, I mean Destini, ready to clock her upon arrival.

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Yeah Renita, not so fast friend, you can keep your clothes in your duffle bag. You’re only here because of this high stakes case y’all are working on and should leave C.J.’s house in fear of Destini.

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By any means necessary

C.J. never seems to lack in confidence. His interrogation skills rely on instinct and experience. And I enjoyed watching him deduce and anticipate his opponents next moves every single time. He is also not bad with a gun and would be the guy you want on your side in any shootout.

It made me really wonder more about his DEA past which is briefly mentioned in flashbacks. This is a man who earned his stripes working undercover in South America so he’s certainly played with the big fish before. And it shows.

Case closed…

I really enjoyed this book. The pace was steady and kept me guessing until the end. Admittedly the love triangle made me chuckle. It was entertaining which is more than I can say about the majority of romances that appear in mystery novels. On the sunny side I am sure most of my male friends would be green with envy at the thought of two hot women living with them.

In future novels I do hope that the backstory of his prior detective work is explored. If it spanned an entire series I wouldn’t complain. I also hope to find out what happens with Destini and C.J. and wonder if they will ever bump into each other through their casework again. I hope I have a chance to read more of this series in the future. Thank you to the author for entrusting me with his book in exchange for a review.

Hollywood Homicide by Kellye Garrett

Hollywood Homicide is book one in the Detective by Day Mystery series. Written by Kellye Garrett this book was released on August 8, 2017.

Ironically this was the first cozy mystery I ever picked up. I had never even heard of the genre before. I found the cover to be intensely interesting and beautiful.

The premise itself- a former actress turned sleuth drew me in. I had not seen many mystery leads who were black or of color before and for it to be a female to boot made it all the more appealing to me.

Lights, camera… Dayna?

Dayna, known as Day, is having a rough go at life lately. Once she was the star of nationally syndicated commercials for a chicken chain. She was also known for her attitude fueled catchphrase.

It could wear anyone thin. When we meet Day she no longer has the chicken slinging deal. She has put on a few pounds and signed up with temp agencies which has distanced her from her famed character. Not that she isn’t still recognized- but now it’s because people think they know her but can’t place her in their minds. People who encounter her all feel like she is some random classmate that you saw at a pep rally years ago in high school and you still can’t remember her name.

She has very few of the accoutrements of her old Hollywood lifestyle left. Having packed away her size 4 garments and moved into her friend Sienna’s “bloset”. Her bloset being an actual closet filled with Sienna’s shoe collection but large enough to hold a bed for Day.

Her problems are way bigger than her bloset. Her parents home is facing foreclosure and she signs up to bail them out despite not having enough money to fill the gas tank of her Pepto Bismol pink Infiniti.

Even her car isn’t prepared to embark on a murder investigation. Neither is Day but she vows to in order to obtain reward money for a tip leading to the arrest of a hit and run killer. Simply put she doesn’t fit the role.

Hollyweird happenings…

We learn from Dayna some information about how Hollywood works. From agents and managers to the differences in the houses in the surrounding areas. Sure, she may have had a fall from grace and a star status that has faded but she is now a California girl.

It doesn’t hurt that she fits right in with her friends who are willing to help her while pursuing their own dreams. One of which is Sienna.

Sienna… bloset owner in red

I think Sienna deserves a novel of her own. She owns the shoes and bloset that provide a home for Dayna. No one knows where her money is from aside from maybe an ex husband. She’s ambiguous in some ways but it is crystal clear that she wants fame.

She will even wear all red all the time to get attention from bloggers and possibly reality tv gigs. Who am I to judge her life ambitions?

Emme… the hermit twin to the star

Another friend who helps the main character in times of need is Emme. She just happens to be the twin sister of a mega celebrity. Which doesn’t stop her from being a recluse who is far more comfortable in front of her computer screen than anywhere else on earth.

Aubrey… the former cop now on his own bike patrol

An unlikely ally from the start we find that Aubrey has had his own fall from grace from the police force. He rides a bike, always. Clearly they’re above being inconspicuous when it comes to tracking suspects. Kind of hard to do with a bright pink car running on fumes or a ten speed built for sidewalk travel.

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Case closed…

The author knows her stuff. The ins and outs of Hollywood are clearly familiar to her and I felt as if I was there while reading.

I appreciated that Day was quite wrong, quite often. In a series debut I wouldn’t have expected her to be an actress turned expert detective which made me free to laugh along the way at the silly jokes and quips. After all this is a cozy mystery.

But she can at least act her way out of a paper bag, and a lot of other precarious situations. Although challenged financially (we’re talking she is using a phone card and living in a closet) she has what anyone would call “heart”. For her first attempt as an investigator she could have done worse.

Yes, the main character is a bit of an airhead, but I liked her silly personality. I also liked the crew of people that surrounded her. You could tell she has a few real friends in her life who are willing to help her out of a bind. Dayna was smart enough to use her acting skills in order to, at times, make up for her lack of knowledge and know how. There was some entertaining Hollywood style action movie scene at the end that stayed true to the heart of the novel.

Reading this was like a wild goose chase. Day thought just about everyone did it at some point. Meanwhile I figured the culprit from the time they were introduced. I still enjoyed the journey through the streets and metropolitan area of Hollywood and all of the fashions and celebrity happenings along the way

I am excited to see how her detective skills improve in the future. I would love to find out more about what lead her friends to where they are today. I very much look forward to reading the second book in this series, Hollywood Ending. Hopefully she uses her acting skills to even greater advantage than before.