Monday, January 13, 2014

Review and Giveaway: Playing With Fire

Playing With Fire (Sweet Pepper Fire Brigade - Book 2) by J.J. Cook

Publication Date: 01/07/2014
Publisher: Penguin Group
Imprint: Berkley Prime Crime
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Pages: 304
ISBN-10: 0425252450
ISBN-13: 978-0425252451

(Received for an honest review from Berkley Prime Crime)

Purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, Indiebound

J.J Cook (aka. Joyce and Jim Lavene) on the WEB: website, twitter, facebook, goodreads

Books in the series

That Old Flame of Mine (2013), Playing With Fire (2014)

Coverart: Click the Image for a larger, clearer view of the covers in this series.


Welcome to Sweet Pepper, Tennessee. Nestled in the Great Smoky Mountains, it’s home to the hottest and sweetest peppers in the world—as well as at least one ghost and a hotbed of secrets…
Fire Chief Stella Griffin is working to solve the mysterious death of her predecessor, Eric Gamlyn—who also haunts her cabin. Yet the more she learns, the more burning questions she must answer. Just as Stella thinks she has a lead from Deputy Chum, someone snuffs her hopes—and the lawman.
Adding fuel to the fire, Stella’s parents soon arrive—with her ex-boyfriend—hoping to persuade her to return to Chicago. Now Stella is torn between the life she left behind and uncovering what happened to her ghostly friend. But she’d better think fast or more than her investigation could go up in flames…


J.J. Cook, aka. Joyce and Jim Lavene bring readers the second book in the Sweet Pepper Fire Brigade series, Playing With Fire. This series is about a small town fire house that needed a helping hand. But when Stella Griffin comes to help out she didn't figure on having a ghostly roommate, the former fire chiefs murder to solve, or the unusual town of Sweet Pepper to entice her to stay. Cook does a fantastic job of drawing the ready in and holding on to them. Playing With Fire is as much about a 40 year old murder as it is about a new one that has just occurred. With two mysteries, a ghost and a HERO, this one is hard to put down!

What I liked:

Joyce and Jim Lavene are something else when it comes to writing cozy mysteries. They have it down to a science. Just when I think, they may have reached their limits in the genre, they come up with something new. The Sweet Pepper Fire Brigade was a great idea for a series. There are a lot of things to like about this one. 

The firefighting theme is exceptional. I think service men and women, whether it be Fire, Police, EMT or anything else are heroes from the git go and using that kind of theme in a mystery series is a no-brainer. It adds a human element that grabs the readers attention before they even turn the first page. One of the things that I think these authors do so well, is gauging what readers want to read about. They know the market well and it comes across in everything they write. What better hero than a firefighter? Great idea.

I also enjoy the fact that the Lavenes are not hesitant to use unusual plot devices and paranormal elements to enhance their stories. This is a very popular theme in writing of any kind these days and I think they use it well here. Eric Gamlyn's ghost is an excellent example of how to do it right. Eric is the victim of a 40-year old murder and he wants justice. The fact that he may be falling for his would be hero certainly complicates matters, but it also adds a romantic edge to the story as well. This may be a cozy mystery but there is something here for many different types of readers from the romantic enthusiast to the paranormal fan.

My favorite part of this series and book is of course Fire Chief, Stella Griffin. Stella is a strong female character that has a streak of curiosity to rival any feline. The authors are very good at writing unconventional female leads and Stella is no different. The roles of women in the Lavene's books have always interested me. They are not only writing good mysteries but they are also influencing how readers view female role types and showing what women are capable of. That in itself is a good reason to read this series.

Let's not forget Hero, the inherited dog. Stella's partner in crime, if you will. I have always enjoyed the idea of a canine mascot for the fire department and I think this one is written well and is believable. You can't have a good firefighter related story without the faithful dog and the authors do a great job of making Hero a part of the story. 

The mystery aspects of the story, as usual are spot on. Readers are not only trying to solve the mystery of Eric's death right along with Stella, but they are also trying to figure out the current murder and how they might be related. There were plenty of suspects and motives to go around and enough twists and turns in the plot to keep readers guessing right til the end. I couldn't quite put my finger on it, until right before the big reveal. The ending was satisfying and left me wanting more. I wouldn't call it a cliffhanger ending, but it will definitely entice readers to come back to Sweet Pepper, TN. for more.

What I didn't like:

This one is easy, not a thing. I liked everything about this book. It was a great sophomore effort in the series and gave readers a lot to think about in Eric's murder as well as Chum's. 

Bottom Line:

This is shaping up to be a very good series. I like the characters, the paranormal elements, the romantic idea of a ghost falling in love with one of the living and so on and so on. You don't want to miss this one. Playing With Fire is a great addition to the series!

Playing With Fire is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.

I'm giving this one 5 out of 5 apples from my book bag!

About the Author:

Joyce and Jim Lavene write award-winning, bestselling mystery fiction as themselves, J.J. Cook, and Ellie Grant. They have written and published more than 65 novels for Harlequin, Berkley, Amazon and Gallery Books along with hundreds of non-fiction articles for national and regional publications. They live in rural North Carolina with their family.

Giveaway Details:

The publisher is sponsoring a giveaway for one copy of Playing with Fire by J.J. Cook.

~ You must be an email subscriber to participate.
~ US addresses only.
~ The deadline to enter this giveaway is Midnight EST, January 27th.

1. Please leave a comment in support of your local fire house. Do you know the firefighters? Is there a special story or thing they have done? Etc. Etc.
2. Please fill out the FORM.


traveler said...

I am not familiar with the firefighters. saubleb(at)gmail(dot)com

Linda Kish said...

I know nothing about the local firefighters. California firefighters work really hard since we seem to always be under sever fire danger (like today). There are so many fires that pop up and spread so fast from wind, low humidity and whatever triggers them, they always have to be ready to roll.

lkish77123 at gmail dot com

cyn209 said...

oh eeks!! I don't even know where my own Firehouse is!!!

thank you for the giveaway!!

Unknown said...

Thanks, Debbie!

Angela - Bookaunt said...

One of the ladies I used to work with is a volunteer firefighter and her mom was a fire chief - now she has taken over that position and she is very good at what she does. My dad was on the volunteer fire department when I was growing up as well.

Carol N Wong said...

I don't know my local firefighters. We are kind of isolated in this retirement home. My cousin used to be a volunteer fire fighter. The little town could afford a fire fighter.


Unknown said...

I know some of the volunteer firefighters (they are all volunteers) and my husband knows most of the others. They work at the school where my children are students or at the mine where my husband works. My dad was a volunteer firefighter here for a bit, before he moved to Texas. They have a hard job, ensuring they stay current on that training, keep grants written for firehouse funding, and still find time to spend with their families.

Karen B said...

I don't know any of our volunteer firefighters but my hat goes off to them! They all are HEROS. kpbarnett1941[at]

Rita Wray said...

I do not know the firefighters in the town I live in now. Years ago I had a fire in my home and the firefighters were absolutely wonderful.


Sue Farrell said...

Our local firefighters are all volunteer and they do a great job.

Dotty Kelley said...

When I was a teenager a house across the street from us caught on fire. The firemen were professional and kind.

bn100 said...

No, I don't

Unknown said...

I personally do not know the firemen for our area, but I believe they have a very hard job and should be thanked. At Christmas, my Mom and I made candy and we took some to our local firehouse to show our appreciation.

Thank you for the chance to win this giveaway.
Barbara Thompson

Unknown said...

I am an email subscriber!!

Barbara Thompson

lag123 said...

Our local firefighters drive Santa through the neighborhoods at Christmas. Children love to run out to the street to see Santa on the fire truck.

lag110 at mchsi dot com

Bonnie said...

Did you know that firehouses have public bathrooms? Yep, if your out somewhere and have to go, go to the nearest firehouse.
They also usually have cool tshirts.

Natasha said...

I know where the firehouse is located but I don't know anything else.
Thanks for the chance to win!

Carol M said...

I don't know any of the firefighters but I do know where the firehouse is.

Nancy said...

Because of our location several different firehouses could respond.While one of my brothers was a volunteer firefighter for many years in Yorktown, Indiana, I not sure of who would respond here. In fact when our renters a long while back had an electrical fire, several responded. No one hurt and my DH had it out before they got here. We live in Madison, Indiana and the volenteers here do a great job.

catslady said...

I don't know any personally but our community just built our local firefighters a new station right down the street from us - I respect firefighters very much!

Anita Yancey said...

I don't know any of the local firefighters in our area. I live in the country and don't live near a firehouse. Thanks for having the giveaway.


Linda said...

Do not know firefighters personally, but do support their fundraisers.

Anonymous said...

I do not know the firemen from my area, but see them going to fires or wrecks a lot. I respect these men and women for what they do, and putting their lives in danger everyday to try to save lives and homes. Would be really bad without them. I know for I've lived in a small country town where the equipment was very old fashioned and most of the volunteers were older men, including my husband. It was always scary. Maxie mac262(at)me(dot)com
Debbie, I am a follower by email.

Karin said...

don't know anything about the local firefighters-- I think most of them are volunteers though.

holdenj said...

I have a co-worker who is on call as a volunteer in another area. I don't really know anyone out of my local fire department, but have really enjoyed learning about all they do when they hold their open house in the fall.