Review Tour Spotlight: Marie Bartek & The SIPS Team Series by Robin Murphy

Marie Bartek and the SIPS Team Series

Robin Murphy
Genre: Paranormal Mystery/Psychic Suspense
Book 1

Dr. Marie Bartek’s life has been perfect as the local veterinarian on Sullivan’s Island, SC, until her ability to see spirits returns after eighteen years. After confiding in her best friend and realizing their interests in the paranormal, they organize a paranormal investigation team called Sullivan’s Island Paranormal Society, SIPS.Marie learns to channel her ability through the help of one of the team members, who is a medium, but not before learning the spirits are trying to warn her about the murders taking place on Sullivan’s Island. Sullivan’s Secret captivates the reader with murder, suspense, and the world of the paranormal.

Excerpt Page 2
Just before making the cut, Marie spotted a shadow of a little boy out of the corner of her eye. He looked to be six in age and was staring back at her. She immediately closed her eyes hard and tried to push the spirit out of her head. When she opened her eyes, the little boy was gone.
Excerpt Page 11
Her eyes stared motionless into infinity and bulged while her skin was gray and red streaked. Most of her hair had fallen out and her mouth, lips and tongue were swollen. Found floating face down was the description Chief Cory Miller received during the five a.m. phone call Sunday morning that woke him out of a deep sleep.

Sullivan’s Secret
I love how the opening of this book puts you right into Marie’s world. There is a bit of back story to catch up on, but it flows really well within the story. Right away you are introduced to the SIPS team and find out about Marie’s Psychic gifts. Each of the SIPS characters is colorful, an infectious eclectic mix of personalities and strengths. You quickly become attached to them. Though a paranormal thriller, I think it is heavy on the paranormal and light on the thriller. Though the mystery has a strong basis and the story is well written, it is missing some of the suspense and red herrings usually found in the genre. It is almost as if the suspense is just a backdrop for the paranormal and romantic aspects of the story to shine. This was a terrific introduction to the series and quite an entertaining read
4 stars


Book 2

While visiting New Orleans for a conference, Marie Bartek and her friends decide to stay an additional week to do some sightseeing and investigate a few haunted places.

Their vacation turns into something else when Marie has a vision of a woman being tortured and murdered, and decides to contact the police. They soon learn that the woman she saw in her vision has actually been murdered, and after she has another similar vision, Marie and the SIPS team is dragged deep into the investigation.
Are the killings cult sacrifices or something else? Will Marie and her friends be able to figure out what is going on?
Excerpt Page 65
Marie dropped to her knees and the decaying room disappeared when she heard Cory and Gale’s voice yelling for her to open her eyes. As she did, she saw everyone staring back at her while her head rested in Cory’s lap. “What happened? And why am I on the floor?”
Excerpt Page 107
The brilliant moon created a glow through the trees upon the marble altar. He stood at the end of the altar between her thighs and held the dagger in his hands raising it up toward the sky catching the reflection of the moon onto her breast. Carefully he whispered his praise and sacrifice for Beelzebub and set the dagger down between her parted thighs as the golden inverted pentagram swung from the chain around his neck.

Secret of The Big Easy
This is book 2 of the SIPS team series and though I accidentally read it first, I found it was not hard to keep up with the story. Marie has discovered a new talent. By touching objects connected with spirits she can see the visions that they wish to share with her. In this novel, while visiting New Orleans, she is visited by several of the victims of what seems to be occult killings stretching back a number of years. This ended up being my favorite of the four books. The chemistry between to two couples from Sullivan Island is terrific and the friend/sister banter between Gale and Marie is witty and fun. The majority of the SIPS team is still on the island, however New Orleans has a paranormal investigation team that Marie, and friends, visits and collaborates with, along with law enforcement contacts that fill out the story nicely. It was great to see that far away, the strengths of each team member still had plenty to add to the story. This book is fun couple hours read. Cozy lovers and foodies will enjoy
4 stars


Book 3

In the third book of Robin Murphy’s paranormal mystery series, Dr. Marie Bartek and the Sullivan’s Island Paranormal Society investigate hauntings and spirit activity in the heart of Washington, DC.

Marie develops new nuances with her psychic abilities, bringing more depth and intrigue into their ghost investigations, but this lands the SIPS team in the middle of the mafia, politics, secret societies, and murder.
Through the help of a spirit, Marie discovers that the mafia doesn’t take kindly to strangers taking what isn’t theirs. This story will captivate the reader with murder, suspense, and the world of the paranormal.
Excerpt Page 74
There was a thud of an outside door opening and Kelly immediately decided to play possum as she quickly got back into her original position and closed her eyes. If nothing else, she may be able to fool them into thinking she was still unconscious and catch them in an unguarded conversation. As she heard the inner door open she tried to slow down her breathing and hoped they didn’t hear her heart pounding out of her chest.
Excerpt Page 112
“Speak to me in English demon and yes I know this will work. Go away, Seducer! The desert is your home. The serpent is your dwelling. Be humiliated and cast down, for even though you have deceived men, you cannot make a mockery of God. He has prepared Hell for you and your angels.”

Federal City’s Secret
Book 3 in the SIPS series is an enigma to me. Of course I enjoyed hanging out with the team once again. They are fun bunch, like old friends. The story veered from the usual formula, which wouldn’t be necessarily be a bad thing, except that it was kind of muddled. It seems like that author wrote herself into a corner with her carryover from book two and no idea how to move past it. Though it was handled fairly well, to me, it just didn’t have a place in Kelly’s story. The main story about Kelly, was fantastic and I really think she should have her own book or even a series of books because she, along with Nick Lowry, has great potential as a character. It just seems the SIPS team was wholly unneeded for this mystery, except in the most peripheral ways and could have gone home after their own investigation was finished. Once again the team’s paranormal investigation was top notch with lots of details and information for the arm chair paranormal investigator to enjoy and, despite the sad turn of events, it is fun seeing Marie’s talents expand and relationships among the team grow stronger. There is plenty here for  SIPS fans to enjoy.
4 stars


Book 4

Dr. Marie Bartek and her fiancé, Police Chief Cory Miller, have finally tied the knot. Their wedding festivities are interrupted, however, by the discovery of a headless corpse.

While criminal investigations are Cory’s milieu, Marie and her team of psychic researchers have been instrumental in solving mysteries in the past, and she has already received visions that seem to pertain to the mystery at hand. After suffering a fatal heart attack, her mentor and friend Myra has continued her mentorship from the other side, and Marie takes comfort in her presence and guidance.
Once again, Marie uses her psychic ability to lead the police in the right direction. Are there pirates amiss killing those who betray them by decapitation? And is Captain Kidd’s treasure really buried on Sullivan’s Island?
Excerpt Page 1
The ocean waves pounded out a rhythm that soothed your soul as its spray danced in the air with the seagulls. Crystal-like sands glistened in the sun as the sea slowly melted away the shore. With each ripple of water the sand eroded away the remains of the coffins revealing headless skeletons facing west. Tiny sand crabs scurried in and out of the chest cavities and nibbled on century old plankton and bacteria. The smell of decay mixed with salt gave out a sulfur-like odor even too putrid for the beach animals to ignore, while the sound of a sword sliced through the air. . .
Excerpt Page 30
He stopped his wagon at the edge of the smelly green dumpster and dragged a concrete block that was lying on the other side of the lot to the edge of the bin. He stepped up on the block and shoved the lid up on the top and winced at the pungent stench emanating from inside. He carefully gripped the first plastic bag and heaved it inside and grabbed the frame to keep from losing his balance. As he bent down to grab the next bag he noticed his hands were covered in a red sticky substance.
He wiped them off on the bag, but his curiosity got the best of him as he placed both hands on the frame of the dumpster and slowly pulled himself up to look inside. There staring back at him were maggot filled eye sockets and what appeared to be the remains of a head.

Secret of Coffin Island

Book 4 opens on a eerie vision and then gives way to Marie and Cory’s wedding day. It seems like business as usual for the intrepid SIPS team. Once again the team is facing a serial killer on their island and it should have been loads of fun. Once again though I am confused as to the role of the SIPS in team in the arc of the story. Much like in book three the main story centers around other characters, not the team or even Marie, who is ostensibly the main character. Rather this story is about a young psychic named Isabelle. Though she fits in quite nicely with the team as she learns to use her talents, I see the great potential for a middle grade or YA series of books spun off with her character and the other girls, maybe a cyber group. Would a cyber seance be effective? The team seems relegated to a support role in this book, not even being involved in the solving of the mystery as this is done by the girls, away from the action. Another concern I have is that the psychic dialogue is becoming cliche. This series started with an average working woman who has a gift that she was exploring and sharing. Paranormal terminology was used only when necessary and explained when needed, that was refreshing. This latest installment reads like an episode of New Jersey Medium or any number of similarly exploitive shows and for me it just changes the whole feel of the story.

It was nice to get Sullivan Island and the surrounding areas a bit more fleshed out and the slice of beach living described in the story makes for a beautiful setting. The invocation of Edgar Allen Poe, the father of the modern suspense thriller, was a nice touch and made me want to re-read The Gold Bug, as I haven’t since my high school detective fiction class. Over-all this was a nice afternoon read.

A True SIPS fan will enjoy this book, I would dearly love to see some other stories from this author, she has some terrific ideas.
4 stars

Robin Murphy, of Sharpsburg, Maryland, serves as the Administrative Associate assisting with student admissions, registration, financial aid, and business processes for the Masters programs in the Graduate Studies and Continuing Education departments at Shepherd University.
Robin attended Penn Highlands Community College and is a graduate of Long Ridge Writers Group. She was inducted as a member of Phi Theta Kappa Society, an International Scholastic Order of the Two-Year College in 1997, was nominated to The National Dean’s List in 1998, and received the honor of “New Executives 2000” by the Greater Johnstown/Cambria County Chamber of Commerce.
Robin is an Amazon best-selling author and a paranormal mystery and travel writer. She is a speaker on author platforms, self-publishing, and marketing, and recently became the sole-proprietor of Rookie Writers Solutions. Robin has over thirty year’s experience in the administrative, graphic design, desktop publishing, writing, and self-publishing fields.

* Disclaimer: I received copies of all four of these books
in exchange for an honest review

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