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Friday, December 17, 2021

Freeze Before Burning by Nikki Stern (VBT: Book Review / Contest Giveaway)

In association with Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours, Jersey Girl Book Reviews is pleased to host the virtual book tour event for Freeze Before Burning by author Nikki Stern!

Book Review

Freeze Before Burning by Nikki Stern
Book 3: A Sam Tate Mystery Series
Publisher: Ruthenia Press
Publication Date: PB - December 6, 2021 / eBook - December 8, 2021
Format: Paperback - 300 pages
               Kindle - 2248 KB / 283 pages
               Nook - 2 MB
ISBN: 978-0999548769
BNID: 978-0999548776
Genre: Mystery 

Buy The Book:

Buy The Series: A Sam Tate Mystery Series
Book 1: The Wedding Crasher
Book 2: Bird In Hand
Book 3: Freeze Before Burning

Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book from the author / publisher in exchange for my honest review and participation in a virtual book tour event hosted by Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours.

Book Description:

True Crime Fans Iced by Cold-blooded Killer ...

What do a bartender, a priest, and a librarian have in common? They all work in New York City. They’re all true crime fans. And they’re all dead, courtesy of a predator with a chilling approach to murder. Talbot County, Maryland Lieutenant Sam Tate is in the Big Apple to find answers about her own tragic past when she is pulled onto the case of the Dry Ice Killer by an old friend with the NYPD. Drawn to a new colleague, she questions her long-time relationship with her FBI boyfriend. Meanwhile, she’s caught between the demands of an impatient bureaucracy and an especially sadistic sociopath. This may be Sam’s most dangerous case yet—if she survives.

Book Excerpt:

Ed Rizzo slid his ample body into the ornate confessional, crossed himself, and pushed a strand of thinning hair off his forehead. “Forgive me, Father,” he intoned, “for I have sinned, although I’m pretty sure God will cut me some slack even if my wife won’t, if you take my meaning.”

At ten in the morning, the sanctuary was deserted. Good. He didn’t need anyone listening to his confession, which he unloaded to the figure who sat beside him in the confessional over the next ten minutes.

Even as he talked, he considered who might be on the other side of the grate. Rizzo couldn’t make out the features of the man. He wondered if he’d landed the new priest. Maybe a younger person would make light of his transgressions, which mostly related to his perfectly legitimate reaction to his obnoxious neighbor, Frank Pagonis.

Rizzo had his justifications lined up. He hadn’t survived more than a year of enforced quarantine with three kids and a demanding wife, never mind the missing paycheck for a while, only to put up with the stolen newspapers, a lawn mower returned with a bent blade, and a television loud enough to wake the dead.

“But when his dog, which, by the way, he refuses to leash and that’s against the law, went and dug up my tomato plants, yeah, I sprayed some stuff on whatever the mutt left. Not enough to kill the animal, you understand. He can’t help it if he has a jerk for an owner. I would have sprayed his owner’s food if I could have. The point I’m making is, the dog got sick, but it didn’t die, okay?”

Rizzo cocked his head, thinking he might have heard a faint sigh.

“Now he’s coming around with a pile of vet bills and talking about suing me. I told him to take his threats and shove them. I tell you, Padre, I am this close to beating that smug face or maybe twisting that scrawny neck of his. My wife claims that kind of thinking is sinful. I don’t think it’s as bad as doing the deed. I haven’t told her about poisoning the dog, but sparing her the details isn’t the same as lying, is it?”

Nothing. The guy had probably fallen asleep. The confessional was stuffy, and Rizzo experienced a touch of claustrophobia. Time to move things along.

“If you can just suggest a penance to perform, I’ll get it covered. Then I can be on my way.”

He stopped talking, suddenly aware of the silence, how absolute and enveloping it was. The noises of the city street outside had receded. He could hear himself breathing.

“Hey, Father? You all right in there?” Rizzo scratched the grill dividing the two sides of the confessional. His head was pounding now, and he felt vaguely dizzy.

“I know I’ve been yakking a lot. How about we wrap this up, okay?” Again, no response. It occurred to Rizzo that the other man hadn’t said a word the entire time. What if the good father had suffered a heart attack?

He hoisted his bulk off the narrow bench and pushed himself out of the tiny space. The other side of the confessional had its own entrance. He rapped on the door, then tried the handle, more out of instinct than anything else. It turned in his hand, and he pulled.

The black-garbed figure sat with head bowed, hands folded in his lap as if in prayer or contemplation. Or asleep. Rizzo put a tentative hand on the man’s shoulder. With a sigh like a punctured balloon, the black-robed figure tipped sideways off the bench, fell to the floor, and rolled like a blow-up toy.

Startled, Rizzo jumped back. Stay cool, he told himself.

He bent over with an umph and put two fingers to the priest’s throat to search for a pulse. He expected to feel cold, not the scalding heat that burned his skin.

“Jesus Christ!” he yelled, forgetting for a moment where he was. He waved his blistered hand in the air and hopped around until a wave of nausea stopped.

With his foot, he nudged the body so that it rolled onto its back. He stared, speechless for once, at the face of the priest. Then he stepped farther back, pulled out his cell phone, punched in 9-1-1, and gave his report to the dispatcher in a calm, measured tone.

He agreed to wait for the police and medical authorities just outside the church. He even accepted the suggestion that he might dissuade others from entering until help arrived.

Without looking again at the body of the priest, Ed Rizzo crossed himself. He walked slowly to the front door, stepped into the fresh air, and threw up.


Excerpt from Freeze Before Burning: A Sam Tate Mystery by Nikki Stern. Copyright 2021 by Nikki Stern. Reproduced with permission from Nikki Stern. All rights reserved.

My Book Review:

In Freeze Before Burning, the third book in the Sam Tate Mystery series, author Nikki Stern transports the reader to New York City, to catch up with Samantha Tate's latest investigative adventure.

While on vacation in New York City visting her Aunt Rosa and to find answers to her traumatic past, Sam gets drawn into a serial killer case that becomes dubbed The Dry Ice Killer. The sadistic killer is targeting the fans of Deep Freeze, a popular true crime podcast. As a consultant to the NYPD, Sam and task force members investigate the case hoping to bring the serial killer to justice before another member of the Deep Freeze Detectives online chat room becomes the next victim. And just when you think Sam has enough on her plate, her traumatic past from twenty-six years ago keeps haunting her dreams, and suddenly she finds herself having to balance her own private demons and spotty memories, along with helping the NYPD find the serial killer before more murders are committed. 

Author Nikki Stern provides a multi-layered storyline that has enough mystery, suspense, drama, treachery, secrets, dark traumatic pasts, and intriguing twists and turns that keeps the reader guessing, while weaving an intricate and complicated web of figuring out who the serial killer is, and why he would use a gruesome technique to torture the victims. And if that isn't enough to captivate the reader, the author adds a wonderful touch of humor, wit, grit, and a persistence to pursue the trauma of Sam's past, while also having a complicated long-distance romance with FBI Special Agent Terry Sloan.

Freeze Before Burning is an intriguing mystery story intertwined with enough police procedural aspects and realistic characters; witty dialogue and interactions; and a rich description of the post-pandemic setting that transports the reader to the legendary Big Apple. This fascinating multi-layered storyline draws the reader into the serial killer murder case investigation as Sam assists the detectives of the NYPD engage in a frustrating cat-n-mouse game with the serial killer, until the pieces of the investigation puzzle comes together and is dramatically solved. But alas, just when you think Sam's investigative adventure is over, the author leaves the reader with a cliffhanger ending that will keep them in limbo when Sam's traumatic past continues to surface with new clues, leaving a suggestion that perhaps there will be a fourth book in the Sam Tate Mystery Series.

Freeze Before Buring is the kind of mystery that easily keeps the reader captivated, guessing, on their toes, and wanting more!


About The Author

Nikki Stern is the author of six books, two non-fiction and four fiction. The Wedding Crasher, a 2019 Kindle Book Award Winner, and Bird in Hand, a 2020 Shelf Unbound Notable Indie, are the first two books in the Sam Tate Mystery Series. Freeze Before Burning is the latest. Nikki shares author credit on a series of interactive murder mysteries published by Samuel French. She’s a member of Sisters in Crime and the Independent Book Publishers Association. This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Nikki Stern. There will be 1 winner of one (1) Gift Card. The giveaway runs December 13th through January 2, 2022. Void where prohibited. 

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  1. Thanks so much for this great review! I love seeing so many positive reviews just before I am about to start the book! :-)

    1. Thank you for stopping by, I appreciate it. I hope you enjoy reading the book.

  2. Thanks for the review. So glad you enjoyed the book.

    1. Thank you for the opportunity to read, review, and feature the latest Sam Tate mystery book on my blog. Keep em coming!