Book Review: Holy Smoke by Frederick Ramsay

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Holy Smoke

Frederick Ramsay

Poisoned Pen Press


247 pages

Genre: Mystery

Reviewed by Laura Hartman

Holy Smoke is the product of burning sacrificial animals. Frederick Ramsay explains the history and ritual of Holy Smoke in the most interesting way: in the midst of a mystery. Holy Smoke is the final book in a trilogy set in Jerusalem in the year 29 C.E.

Gamaliel, the highest-ranking Rabbi in Judea and his friend Loukas, a knowledgeable and trusted physician find themselves in the mist of murder and intrigue. A body is found in the holiest place in the Temple.  This is no ordinary murder – the charred body is a sign from an angry God or someone managed to dump a body in the place considered the most sacred place on earth for Jews without getting caught.

The mystery widens out into the far corners of Jerusalem. If God didn’t kill the victim, the murderer could be lurking in plain sight. Will Gamaliel and Loukas solve the mystery before becoming the next victims?

Ramsay’s novel is interesting on so many levels, it appeals to a wide range of readers. Mystery lovers will enjoy the challenge of this well written novel’s twists and turns.  If you are fond of cozy mysteries, Holy Smoke, by definition, fits. It has two very unlikely sleuths plunked in the middle of a crime, in an interestingly different setting and the murders are all done “off camera” without blood and gore.

If this isn’t enough to tempt you, add in the bonus of learning really cool facts about life and customs in Jerusalem when it was under Roman rule.  This includes mention of a controversial young rabbi from Galilee shaking things up by doing things like healing someone on the Sabbath, which is against Jewish law.

Frederick Ramsay is as interesting as his book. Check out his website and you will begin to understand where his ability to write so many diverse novels comes from. His background includes serving in the Army, teaching, theology, insurance salesman and working at the BWI airport.  It is the reader’s good fortune that he took all of his life experiences and began to spin stories to intrigue, enlighten and entertain us.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy that I can keep for consideration in preparing to write this content. I was not expected to return this item after my review.

Copyright © 2013 Laura Hartman

Book Review: The Boogie Trapp by Kerry Copeland Smith

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The Boogie Trapp

Kerry Copeland Smith

The Peppertree Pressboogie trap


356 pages

Genre: Thriller

Reviewed by Laura Hartman

Copyright © 2013 Laura Hartman

Alabama backwoods in the 1940s was a smaller community than it is today. Poor families lived side by side, facing day-to-day struggles of survival, just trying to make ends meet and feed their family. Young boys growing up during these times given freedom and responsibilities that would be considered crazy today. They spent time in the surrounding woods and creeks, riding bikes and trying to outwit other boys their age while charming the girls in town.

Written as a memory being brought to light, this story is a confession of sorts. The story of best friends beginning an adventure that was much more than they bargained for.

Boogie and his best friend Trapp were cigarette smoking, beer snitching, girl chasing 13 year olds without fear of the future. They went to church with their families, respected adults and occasionally swiped a few dollars from Boogie’s older brothers to buy a soda or gum.

Dressed up in their Sunday best, Boogie and Trapp can barely contain their excitement. They were invited to a boy/girl party; rumors about kissing games being the featured entertainment made them more nervous than they wanted to admit. They spent the hours before the party goofing around and even found a way to make a bit of money.

Then the day went terribly wrong. Their lives were changed forever as the events tumbled over, around and through them faster than a perfectly chosen rock sent from Boogie’s slingshot. Would they live to tell the tale?

Kerry Copeland Smith hit a home run his first time at bat. He pulls the reader into the Deep South with vivid descriptions of sights, sounds and smells.

The pictures of a quieter time, before cell phones and the internet, that held heart stopping terror that rivals the horrors of today’s headlines fill the pages and the reader’s head.

If you only choose one new author to read this year, make it Copeland Smith.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy that I can keep for consideration in preparing to write this content. I was not expected to return this item after my review.

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