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  • Writer's pictureJudith D Collins

Dangerous Women

Secret Lives #2

Narrator Patrick Lawlor

Dreamscape Media

ISBN: 9781728258331

Publication Date: 10/24/2023

Format: Other

My Rating: 5 Stars (ARC)

A refreshingly different crime novel." ―Mystery and Suspense Magazine for Secret Lives

"This light and lively series launch from de Castrique introduces 75-year-old Ethel Fiona Crestwater, a retired FBI agent who remains a legend among her former colleagues...Ethel is an elderly Nancy Drew: sure of herself and her convictions, and ready to bend a few rules to achieve her goal of seeing justice done. She’s off to a fine start." ―Publishers Weekly

In a case deciding the future of clean energy, everything hinges on how the chief justice of Supreme Court will lean. DANGEROUS WOMEN stirs up the perfect cocktail of ingenious spy-craft and political intrigue of Thomas Perry's The Old Man brightened with the charming, uncanny energy of Killers of a Certain Age. This urgent, cleverly plotted high stakes thriller is set in motion by botched attack on two law clerks leaving one dead and the other in a coma. The ensuing cover up leaves a string of bodies and too many players at cross-purposes. It also leaves Chief Justice Clarissa Baxter with a target on her back.

We'll need an off the grid hero with friends in high places: enter retired FBI agent-turned-boardinghouse landlady, Ethel Fiona Crestwater (legend) and her double-first-cousin-twice-removed Jesse Cooper (sidekick). Although in her mid-seventies, Ethel is no bumbling amateur sleuth; she's a seasoned pro with razor-sharp instincts and Bond-worthy skills. College-aged Jesse brings tech savvy and boundless enthusiasm, along with an innate talent for intrigue. Together, the unlikely duo will face malicious back-stabbing political sycophants, conniving lobbyists, and a motivated assassin bent on removing the Chief Justice from the equation—along with Ethel, who stands defiantly between the hitman and his payday.

My Review

A master storyteller, Mark de Castrique returns with his popular Secret Lives Mystery series with #2, DANGEROUS WOMEN —with the sharp and witty 75-year-old ex-FBI agent Ethel Fiona Crestwater involved in a high stakes, highly controversial lithium mining case in this riveting political thriller.

Clean Energy is a Dirty Business.

We met & loved the feisty 75-year-old retired ex-FBI agent/owner of a boarding house, Ethel Fiona Crestwater, and her sidekick, Jesse, a double-first-cousin-twice-removed tech-savvy college student in Secret Lives #1.

Ethel runs a boarding house for federal agents and law enforcement officers in her Arlington, Virginia home. Since Jesse is the only family she has left, she is happy to have him stay with her while he works on his postgraduate degree.

It is the night before the Supreme Court decision with significant implications for the lithium mining industry—which is all but sure to come down to a vote from 48-year-old Chief Justice Clarissa Baxter.

A Supreme Court law clerk is attacked. The thugs get the backpack with the notes for the upcoming highly controversial lithium mining case. He winds up dead.

This is the beginning of a coverup and a string of bodies leaving Chief Justice Clarissa Baxter with a target on her back. The talented Crestwood and Jesse, with all her FBI contacts and skills, are determined to keep her safe, find the bad guys, and help uncover the conspiracy.

We also meet Arlington Police Detective Frank Mancini's niece, Brooke, a boardinghouse resident run by Ethel and a close friend of Frank, who is caught in the crossfire and in a coma. Brooke’s laptop has gone missing.

Ethel sets in motion a masterful plan with her mad skills, and fireworks fly with all the DC politics, conspiracy, and dangers. With the help of her savvy cousin Jesse Cooper (dynamic duo), Ethel breaches more than protocol as she attempts to keep the chief justice–and herself–out of the crosshairs of a very determined killer.

Ethel is not always a rule follower and will bend them to achieve her goal of seeking justice.

The author has created a fascinating, intelligent, highly relatable, witty main character and clever heroine. DANGEROUS WOMEN is fast-paced, action-packed, suspenseful, and timely. What an adventure!

THOUGHT PROVOKING! I enjoyed the author's note regarding climate change, and in response, the effort to convert vehicles from fossil fuels to batteries has become a national priority. The critical battery element lithium is in short supply. Exploration for new domestic sources that can be minded is desirable and essential for national defense.

The author proposes critical questions: what environmental price do we pay to save the environment? What people do we harm in the process? These are complex answers for the courts, politicians, energy companies, and our country.

While DANGEROUS WOMEN can be read as a standalone, I highly recommend reading SECRET LIVES #1 to get to know Ethel and Jesse!

Thanks to Poisoned Pen Press, Sourcebooks, and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest opinion.

@JudithDCollins | #JDCMustReadBooks

Pub Date: Oct 24, 2023

My Rating: 5 Stars


"A bewitching political thriller." Publishers Weekly, Starred Review
"Ethel looks like Marple but acts like Marlow." Kirkus Reviews


"Add another wise, experienced senior sleuth to a group that includes Richard Osman’s Thursday Murder Club series and even Miss Marple. De Castrique’s quirky characters and offbeat twists will appeal to Osman’s readers."

― Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW for Secret Lives

About the Author

Mark de Castrique grew up in the mountains of western North Carolina where many of his novels are set. He's a veteran of the television and film production industry, has served as an adjunct professor at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte teaching The American Mystery, and he's a frequent speaker and workshop leader. He and his wife, Linda, live in Charlotte, North Carolina.


Mark was born in Hendersonville, NC, near Asheville. He went straight from the hospital to the funeral home where his father was the funeral director and the family lived upstairs. The unusual setting sparked his popular Barry Clayton series and launched his mystery writing career.

Mark is the author of twenty-three novels: seven set in the fictional NC mountain town of Gainesboro, nine set in Asheville, four in Washington D.C., one science thriller in the year 2030, and two mysteries written for Middle Graders and set in the Charlotte region.

His novels have received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, and Booklist. The CHICAGO TRIBUNE wrote,“As important and as impressive as the author’s narrative skills are the subtle ways he captures the geography – both physical and human – of a unique part of the American South.”

Mark is a veteran of the broadcast and film production business. In Washington D.C., he directed numerous news and public affairs programs and received an EMMY Award for his documentary film work. Through his company, MARK et al., he writes and produces videos for corporate and broadcast clients.

His years in Washington inspired his DC thrillers, THE 13TH TARGET, involving a terrorist plot against The Federal Reserve, THE SINGULARITY RACE, a winner-take-all quest for Artificial Intelligence, and SECRET LIVES and DANGEROUS WOMEN, featuring feisty and fearless ex-FBI agent Ethel Fiona Crestwater.

Mark and his wife Linda have two daughters: the older, Melissa Thomson, is the author of the Keena Ford Journals, a children’s series published by Penguin Press. His younger daughter, Lindsay, works as a communications consultant in Washington D.C.

Mark lives in Charlotte, but he and his wife Linda can be often found in the NC mountains or the nation’s capital. WEBSITE







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