Saturday
Oct102015

Rave Reviews for Grave Misgivings

Cate Harlow's back with a new adventure that keeps the reader on the edge of her seat from page one to page last. When Myrtle, Cate's secretary and office general, leads a new client into the office, Cate is struck by the woman's exquisite beauty. Accompanied by her fiance, Jennifer Brooks-Warren tells Cate wants to hire her to find and stop a contract killer who is going to kill her on her twenty-fifth birthday. Deft questions from Cate lead Jennifer to reveal she's taken the hit out on herself. She's now changed her mind.

This revelation plunges Cate, her detective boyfriend and ex-husband Will and her once lover, Dr. Gates, the medical examiner, into a chase to find the hitman before he fulfills his contract.

Two minor story arcs, Myrtle's suspicion that her husband Harry is having an affair and Cate's best friend's worry about the exhumation of the body of one of her "clients" add new levels of suspense. It's the central story that keeps the reader turning pages as quickly as she can.

I can't wait for book three, due out in 2016. Write on, Kristen Houghton, right now.

Betsy Ashton, author Mad Max Unintended Consequences

My idea of a good storyteller is that the bad guys aren't totally evil and the good guys aren't insufferable saints. For this reason alone, Kristen Houghton is a fine storyteller. Add in some clever twists and turns, some sassy humor and a bit of sex appeal and you've got a winner. I found Grave Misgivings to be an excellent lazy weekend read and will definitely buy the next one.

Karen T. Bartlett, Gulfshore Life Magazine

Cate Harlow, Private Investigator is the main character in Kristen Houghton's new novel, "Grave Misgivings". I think Kristen has done a great job in bringing Cate's persona and her investigative agency to life, who for me is reminiscent of the series "Hart to Hart" a TV series in the early 1980's. The book is written in First Person which is really very difficult to do; but, Kristen managed the task, for the most part, with just a few areas of redundancy. Overall I found the book engaging and enjoyable.

Sahron Valenti, author

Wednesday
Nov192014

Huffington Post says:'For I Have Sinned' Delivers a Memorable Page-turner

We live in an entertainment era filled with overdoses of testosterone. Let's face it, even Stallone, Schwarzenegger and Willis refuse to let go of the bravura that catapulted them toward stardom decades ago, and female protagonists -- really strong and embraceable ones -- are often overshadowed by their male counterparts. We have made glorious headway in television, however -- Viola Davis, Julianna Margulies and Edie Falco are among the ladies who have captured our attention in the last decade.

And, of course, we can always find compelling female characters in books, in all the forms they arrive in these days.

That said, it's refreshing to discover a noteworthy female protagonist in Cate Harlow. She's the fiery private investigator in author Kristen Houghton's latest endeavor, For I Have Sinned, a memorable read peppered with sass, shame and the sex controversies surrounding Catholic priests. That may sound like a tall order to fill, but Houghton manages to thread together an engaging and often suspenseful outing.

Only those who've had their ears clogged with unholy water during the last three decades would be surprised to learn of the brouhaha surrounding Catholic sex abuse cases. Numerous allegations, investigations, trials and convictions of these child sex abuse cases first began chipping away at the church's spiritual foundation decades ago, but it wasn't until 2002, when the Boston Globe, began a deep investigation into the matter, that the scandals involving priests and other Catholic officials, spawned more headlines and regularly made the evening news. That a bevy of cases were brought against certain titans of the Catholic church who never reported sexual abuse allegations, preferring to, instead, save face and move abusive priests to other parishes, is yet another sin could forget -- or forgive. Since 2001, however, we've uncovered more news that over the last 50 years, there have been allegations of roughly 3,000 priests.

This real-life backstory works as an effective cord in For I Have Sinned. Here, we meet befuddled Marie, who lures Cate into quite the tangled web. At first, Cate is called upon to investigate the disappearance of Marie's brother Joshua. Her initial investigation leads her to believe that Joshua may not have just made a mad dash from home, but, rather, from something much more sinister. You see where things are going here?

When Cate is beckoned to come to a crime scene of a murdered a priest, you get the sense that the author is about to take you on quite the ride. And she does. Other murders follow. Are they connected to Joshua's disappearance? What kind of justice is trying to rise to the surface? These are the questions that Houghton effectively allows her readers to ask in her inventive plot.

So, who is this Cate? And why are we led to believe that we will see more of her after this book? A divorcee with sharp wit, the woman hands off her emotional batons to two main men in her life -- her ex husband, Will, a cop, and Giles, a medical examiner. Added bonus: the interactions between these three characters are noteworthy. And in a surprising move, Houghton successfully weaves in a few different genres -- suspense and mystery, sure, but there's also a dose of terror in here that you would not expect.

Houghton's novel works well, thankfully, because of how dynamic Cate is -- a spirited, confident, well-rounded character that comes to life on the page because of a clever mix of strong dialogue and pitch-perfect storytelling. That, and Cate's distinctly original voice:

To say I'm good at my job is an understatement. It's not vanity; it's a fact. I can get into a lot of places that other PIs can't. Maybe it's my looks. I don't look threatening. I'm five five, fairly athletic and blonde. Not a dumb blonde, either. I speak softly and listen carefully. People tell me things they wouldn't mention to someone who looks tough and street-smart. Let's say that they do underestimate me and I am very good at what I do.

Fans of Janet Evanovich, Sara Paretsky or even that queen of detective yarns, Sue Grafton, could easily wander through these pages with a sense of intrigue. I appreciate works in which the reader can A) enjoy the writing -- we like to find ourselves turning those pages, after all; and B) become invested in. You get that in Houghton's outing and in the end, what we're left with is something memorable: a masterfully woven story about the horrors of the sex abuse scandals rocking the Roman Catholic Church and the impact on both victims and their families. P.I. Cate Harlow handles the case of a missing boy and a pedophile priest with a perfect combination of hard-nosed detective skills and compassion.

A tricky tight-rope to walk creatively, but one, that, fortunately, pays off here.

Greg Archer, The Huffington Post

Tuesday
Sep162014

Rave Reviews: FOR I HAVE SINNED A Cate Harlow Private Investigation

 
Kristen Houghton’s For I Have Sinned is a standout. Not only is it a suspenseful mystery, but it delves into timely controversy of Catholic priests and the scandals throughout history. Houghton relates these true events into the lives of a fictional character, interweaving the two seamlessly.

Both shocking and exciting, For I Have Sinned is a real page-turner. The protagonist Cate Harlow is a sassy and likable private investigator who has two men in her life: the first is Giles, the medical examiner and the second is a cop who also happens to be her ex-husband Will. Needless to say, the divorce was very amicable, if you get my meaning. All of the Houghton’s characters are well-developed and the interchanges between the three make for a fun romp of a ride.

The plot begins when Marie hires Cate to investigate the disappearance of her brother Joshua. Cate starts doing her job only to discover that Josh may have run away on his own. She finds ominous drawings of stalking hyenas and begins to believe that Josh was running away not from his home, but from something else. What follows is shocking and in many ways sad, but always suspenseful.

Things heat up when Will phones Cate to see a crime scene in the middle of the night. Someone had murdered a priest, and there would be more murders to come.

While I could anticipate that the murders are somehow connected to Josh, Houghton nonetheless writes in a way that I could not stop reading. I wanted more. Houghton has the talent to suck the reader into her world and make the reader really care about the characters and root for them. The plot contains many exciting twists and turns and the end is satisfying.

Being familiar with Ms. Houghton, I was delighted to see a subtle sense of humor in her work. For example, when Cate is looking over the titles in a bookcase, she notices one called And Then I’ll Be Happy! which just so happens to be a previous book authored by Houghton.

All in all, For I Have Sinned is a very good book and a worthy addition to any mystery reader’s collection. The novel spans a few genres: it is definitely a mystery--but contains elements of suspense and the gruesomeness of the murders--that creep into horror. So whatever genre you prefer, this book is for you.

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Cate Harlow is a gem! A self-aware woman in touch with her own needs and feelings, who can both take it and dish it out. Her sensitivity is leavened with an intelligent, level-headed approach to getting the job done with or without a gun.  She is a model for other woman as she weaves her way through a tough, well-plotted story with delicacy and aplomb, somehow managing to solve the mystery and juggle steamy romance at the same time. Her author is a sharp storyteller on a mission to bring the bad guys to justice.

Marilyn Horowitz, author of The Book Of Zev

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How would you feel if you were the victim of clerical abuse as a child? For I Have Sinned will rocket you through this world, with Cate Harlow leading the charge.  While trying to solve the mystery of a decade old missing child case, Cate also becomes tangentially involved with the gruesome murder of two priests.  Little does she know that she too will become a kidnapping victim as she interjects herself into solving the mystery of the murdered priests. 

Houghton is a master at weaving these two stories into a tale about the disturbing world of child abuse by those who should be the most trusted. Put that together with the ever-charming character of Cate Harlow, and the result is a read you don’t want to overlook.

 Darin Gibby, author of The Vintage Club

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Fab New PI

Kristen Houghton proves there is room for one more tough, sexy PI with the introduction of Cate Harlow, who takes her place alongside PI Warshawski and Stephanie Plum.

Cate displays a soft heart for the downtrodden when takes the case of  a boy who has been missing for a decade. As she is delving into what happened to the boy, her ex husband, a homicide detective, calls her in the middle of the night to come to a crime scene. There she sees the mutilated body of another man, this one wearing a priest's collar, a lot of blood and nothing else.

The new murder is eerily similar to a case that Cate worked on and which was never solved, although the first body wasn't identified as a priest. She is troubled by the collar and a Latin message written inside. Cate and Will, the ex, combine with Cate's current boyfriend who is the medical examiner to figure out what happened.

The book is fast paced, well written and brings to light a delightful character in Cate Harlow and a wonderful contrasting pair of lovers. This first in a series promises hours of page-turning reading.

Elizabeth A. Ashton, book review, WriteHere WriteNow

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Cate Harlow, a smart, witty and tough detective with a heart. She’s investigates the death of a pedophile priest, which has similarities of a previous unsolved case. And during all this, she has to deal with a rather annoying  ex-husband who enjoys pushing her buttons.

This is a fast paced, tightly written book with strong characters and you will become a big fan of Cate Harlow, with her dry humor and wit. She is intelligent and strong. She is a very relatable character on so many levels.

I reviewed this book by request of the Author.

I look forward to reading more from this author, and more of her Cate Harlow character!

January Gray, critic at The Book Review