Thursday, July 24, 2014

Cathi Stoler - The Hard Way - Review & Giveaway

About the Book

Private Investigator Helen McCorkendale’s childhood friend, Jimmy Scanlan, has just opened January, the most lavish casino and hotel resort on the Las Vegas Strip. After attending the grand opening, Helen returns to New York and encourages her friend, Laurel Imperiole, Senior Editor at Women Now magazine, to create a get-away contest for readers offering a weekend at the hotel as the grand prize. The winner, Dawn Chapman, a jewelry store employee from Cincinnati, denies entering the contest and initially refuses the trip. Finally persuaded by Laurel to accept, she arrives at the hotel and nearly faints when she passes the hotel’s elite meeting rooms where the International Diamond Dealers Consortium is holding its annual meeting. She insists on returning home immediately.

Suspicious of her behavior, Jimmy visits her suite to encourage her to attend the Saturday afternoon pool party, saying she can leave on his private jet the next day. Later in the afternoon, he finds Chapman’s dead body by the pool. She’s been murdered—an unusual double poisoning by cyanide and diamond dust.

Dawn Chapman was not who she appeared to be, and therein lies a mystery. But to Helen and Laurel, the main task is to take Jimmy Scanlon off the suspect list and clear his name. Will their luck hold? Or will it be a crap shoot, as they roll the dice and do it ‘the hard way,’ going for doubles when the odds are against them. Losing may mean losing their lives.

My Review

Yes, this is first and foremost a mystery, but the multiple interwoven love stories are what kept me on the edge of my seat.

Helen and Jimmy. I thought these two had sparks flying out the wazoo but they were either too afraid or too oblivious to act on them. Helen has known Jimmy forever, ever since the third grade. She comes to the opening of his new casino in Vegas with her boyfriend in tow. Mike's a nice guy, but he doesn't seem to have the stomach to keep up with Helen's P.I. work. He's more of a security blanket to Jimmy's overprotective alpha male. Jimmy doesn't want Helen to get hurt either, and when she does, he takes care of her himself, carrying her in his arms and tucking her into his bed. There's something so deliciously swoon-worthy about that kind of man. The strong, take no prisoners type is such a turn on compared to the sturdy, dependable variety, at least in fiction.

From my perspective, I could see how much Jimmy wanted things between them to turn into more. His feelings for Helen were so apparent that his jealous personal assistant, Maddie, certainly picked up on them, no doubt wishing that Jimmy would look at her the way he looked at Helen. My heart went out to Jimmy because he can see Helen moving forward in her relationship with Mike, as she slowly starts to leave him behind and make room in her life for a man that's not him. Jimmy tries to come off as happy for her, but inside he's sad that he's probably going to end up alone.

For me, Jimmy and Helen just seemed to fit together so perfectly, and it's not by chance that they nicknamed each other, Mutt and Jeff. Helen's not used to sharing her life with someone else. She's afraid of having to be attentive to another person's wants and needs when she's so used to going it alone. When it comes to Mike, she doesn't know if she can do it. And to me, that's the red flag that she chooses to ignore. If Mike was the one, she wouldn't have to question her devotion or her ability to put him first. With Jimmy, it comes more easily, like second nature. She drops everything to defend him against a possible murder charge while she leaves Mike back home in New York, letting days go by between phone calls. Jimmy is clearly her first priority, I just wish she would realize that.

Laurel and Aaron. These two I could really relate to. They had something once, but Laurel screwed up big time and Aaron broke things off. Laurel was only helping Helen on a case, but she effectively damaged Aaron's trust in her and now she doesn't know if she can get it back, especially when Aaron almost lost his job on the NYPD because of it. He still loves her, but she just hurt him too much with her betrayal. To thicken the plot, Laurel happens to be Mike's daughter, and Helen will stop at nothing until she gets them back together.

The scene I enjoyed most in the book was the one where Aaron, against his better judgment, goes to Laurel's apartment on behalf of Helen's latest case. When he steps inside the door, Laurel can feel his presence and the way it used to fill her space. She misses him desperately, especially when he takes his usual place on her couch, just like he always did. When she agrees to accompany him to a black tie affair at the Museum of Natural History to help Helen nab her jewel thief, the chemistry between them is still there. He's speechless when he sees her in her black cocktail dress, and she can't take her eyes off him looking dashing in his dark suit. I couldn't resist cheering for them and hoping that they would give their romance another try.

Deirdre and Pieter. She's the victim of this murder mystery and he's her lover. The only evidence of their relationship are a series of photos that Laurel receives after Deirdre's employer snoops through the belongings in her apartment after her tragic demise. What's heart wrenching about the photos is that Deirdre appears head over heels in love with Pieter, but he looks at best disinterested in her. The one-sidedness of their relationship strikes all three of the women who view the images - her employer, Laurel and Helen. They feel the deceased's pain even if they never saw Deirdre and Pieter together in real life.

For me that speaks volumes about the kind of author that Stoler is. She's able to elicit sympathy for a character introduced briefly at the beginning and portrayed as haughty and posh, the typical reserve characteristic of all Brits, even if she was anything but. As Helen later uncovers, her father was a con man who taught her to always strive to act above her station in life in order to get ahead. She was scraping and clawing to get by, even if she looked elegant and poised on the outside.

Stoler spins an entertaining yarn full of suspense and thrills, but her asides into the realm of romance are what give the book its oomph factor. It's what allows the humanity to bleed through. There's no better way to connect with characters than through matters of the heart, and Stoler does that and then some.


The Hard Way can be purchased at:
Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords

Prices/Formats: $4.95 ebook, $14.95 paperback
Pages: 280
Genre: Mystery, Suspense, Thriller
Release: April 15, 2014
Publisher: Camel Press
ISBN: 9781603819497
Click to add to your Goodreads list.

About the Author

Cathi Stoler’s mysteries feature PI Helen McCorkendale and magazine editor, Laurel Imperiole. The Hard Way is the third book in the series. The first, Telling Lies, took on the subject of stolen Nazi art. Book 2, Keeping Secrets, delved into the subject of hidden identity. Stoler’s short stories include: “Magda,” in the Criminal Element Anthology Malfeasance Occasional: Girl Trouble, “Out of Luck,” in the Anthology, Murder New York Style: Fresh Slices, “Fatal Flaw,” a finalist for the Derringer for Best Short Story and “Money Never Sleeps” both published at Beat to A Pulp. Cathi is working on a novella, Nick of Time, which features International gambler, Nick Donahue. She is also starting a new series, Bar None, A Murder On The Rocks Mystery, with female bar owner, Jude Dillane. Cathi is a member of the New York/Tri State chapter of Sisters In Crime. She is also a member of Mystery Writers of America.

Links to connect with Cathi:
Web Site
Blog Tour Site

About the Giveaway

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