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Tuesday, January 29, 2019

A Merciful Truth by Kendra Elliot and Some Interesting Articles

Book #2 in this series.  Mercy Kirkpatrick's family, dominated by her father, has had mixed feelings about her return to the small town of Eagle's Nest.  Her sister Rose is the only one who is wholeheartedly happy for Mercy's return.

After the conclusion of the first book, Mercy took a position with the FBI office in Bend, Oregon to be closer to Eagle's Nest, Rose, and police chief Truman Daly.  Before he died, her brother Levi asked Mercy to take over the care of his daughter Kaylie, so she is also trying to find her feet in parenting a teenager.  

A series of fires, first thought to be the work of teenagers, turns into something more sinister.  An anti-government militia is forming in a secluded area, and Kaylie's boyfriend Cade works on construction at the ranch.  When Cade sees something he shouldn't, an already dangerous situation becomes even more menacing.

A Merciful Truth can be read as a standalone, but since it is only the second in the series, it is easy to begin with the first book for a more thorough background.  I have #3 in hand :)

Kindle Unlimited
Crime/Suspense.  2017.  Print length:  322 pages.  

---------- Interesting---------

An Interview with Lyndsay Faye over at Kittling Books.

Book covers can make the difference on whether or not we give a book a chance.  This article gives examples of iconic dust covers from the 1920's and 1930's.  My, how covers have changed. 

The Year in Sherlockiana 

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Never Tell by Lisa Gardner

Lisa Gardner's Never Tell brings D.D. Warren and Flora Dane back together in a powerful mystery that kept me glued to the pages.  The story is told in three voices:  D.D., Flora, and Evie Carter.

Evie Carter's husband is shot three times at his desk.  Evie takes the gun and shoots his computer twelve times just as the police arrive.  

When D.D. is notified, her interest is amplified because 16 years ago, Evie killed her father.  That death was ruled accidental.  D.D. vividly remembers this case and how sixteen-year-old Evie behaved at the time.   Now D.D. has to wonder whether the death of Evie's father was really accidental.

When Flora sees the news and recognizes the photo of Conrad Carter as a man who met with Jacob Ness, Flora's kidnapper, she is stunned.  (There is a lot of back story on how D.D. and Flora met and how Flora became a vigilante and D.D.'s confidential informant.  Flora's first appearance in this series begins with Find Her.)

Evie, who has been subject to suspicion and media scrutiny for years, tries to figure out what happened to her marriage and to her life.  The answers are surprising, and Gardner carefully introduces them while still keeping the reader in suspense.

Gardner's introduction of Flora Dane into an established series was a brilliant move.  In Never Tell, she introduces two new characters that will give her a broader range of stories to tell.  Evie's character has enough depth to make it possible she may appear again in future works and the computer geek and crime buff Keith Edgar will provide another aspect to future works.

Never Tell is an excellent, well-plotted, and fascinating addition to the series.  I had to slow myself down with this one--it moves quickly and skillfully from one voice to another, but without leaving each chapter as a cliffhanger.  I finished each chapter ready to switch to a new perspective, not frustrated at being cut off in the middle of a story.

If you've already been involved with these characters, you will love this one.  If not, it functions well as a standalone, but you might want to go back to Find Her to get all of the background on Flora Dane.


NetGalley/Penguin Group
Crime Fiction/Suspense.  Feb. 19, 2019.  Print length:  416 pages.  

Thursday, January 24, 2019

A Merciful Death by Kendra Elliot

I found a new series that I enjoy.  Mercy Kilpatrick is an FBI Agent whose latest case has taken her back to Eagle's Nest, Oregon where she was born and raised.  

Mercy is not happy to be back in the town she left when she was 18.  For the past 15 years, she has had no contact with any of her family.  Raised in a family of preppers in a town where many people have chosen the prepper life style and often live off the grid, Mercy may have moved away, but she still has the ingrained need to be prepared in case of any catastrophic event.

The crime Mercy and her partner Ed Peterson have been assigned to involves the murder of several preppers and the theft of weapons from each home.  Is someone building a stockpile of weapons?  Is the purpose some kind of domestic terrorism?

One of the victims is the uncle of the current Eagle's Nest police chief, and he has a personal investment in the case.  Truman Daly is doubtful, but intrigued when Mercy sees a connection between the recent murders and murders from the past.  While there are many differences, the fact that all the mirrors in each house have been broken in the current murders resonates with the murders from fifteen years earlier.  And Mercy ought to know.

Truman is relatively new to the town, although he spent several summers as a teenager visiting his uncle, he is not fully accepted by the entire town.  Mercy has the background knowledge and understanding of the mindset of many of the town's citizens.  The two work well together and there is a growing attraction between the two that never takes away from solving the case.

Well-fleshed characters, interesting insight into preppers and survivalists, and a town with some memorable inhabitants.  A Merciful Death reads quickly with enough background on various characters and the town's history to give the setting a realistic atmosphere and unique sense of place while never diluting the suspense.

I've already started on the second book.  :)

Kindle Unlimited
Crime/Suspense.  2017.  Print length:  352 pages.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

The Old You by Louise Voss

The Old You by Louise Voss has an intriguing premise.  For Lynn Naismith the onset of dementia in her husband Ed is devastating, but there are a few things that confuse her about the situation.  Although Lynn puts some worrisome situations out of her mind, she does question certain events.  Not too seriously, though.

Unfortunately, I found the pacing slow and uneven until the latter part of the novel, at which point the twists just annoyed me.  It was really difficult to sympathize with any of the characters. 

Not much of the novel rang true for me, and I really lost patience with the bit about the clinical trial.  Lynn's acceptance of all of the trial and all of the discrepancies and inconsistencies was too hard to accept.

NetGalley/Trafalgar Square Publishing
Domestic Noir?  2018 & Jan. 1, 2019.  Print length:  300 pages.

Friday, January 18, 2019

The Night Window, Jane Hawk #5

Although I didn't read the first novel in this series, I've read each of the four following novels.  

About the series:  Groundbreaking, wholly involving, eerily prescient and terrifyingly topical, Dean Koontz's Jane Hawk series sets a new standard for contemporary thrillers. Since her sensational debut in The Silent Corner, readers have been riveted by Jane Hawk's resolute quest to take down the influential architects of an accelerating operation to control every level of society via an army of mind-altered citizens. At first, only Jane stood against the "Arcadian" conspirators, but slowly others have emerged to stand with her, even as there are troubling signs that the "adjusted" people are beginning to spin viciously out of control. Now, in the thrilling, climactic showdown that will decide America's future, Jane will require all her resources--and more--as she confronts those at the malevolent, impregnable center of power.

When reviews call the books suspenseful and categorize the series as thrillers--there is no exaggeration.  Your heart will speed up, your grip on the book or e-reader tighten, and you will wonder if  you can continue.  Sometimes, I had to get up and walk around before coming back to see what happened next in each of the four books I read.

The Night Window won't be released until May, but if you are interested in this series, you have time to check out the earlier books and see what you think.

The Night Window is the concluding book, and I sped through it.  Here is another one of those reading dilemmas:  do you want the series to end? --yes, I want a conclusion and no, I'm not ready for the characters to abandon me. it has ended, and  I'm left with both satisfaction and a little sadness.   

NetGalley/Random House/Ballentine
Suspense/Thriller.  May 14, 2019.  Print length:  432 pages.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Meandering Through January

Prism Cloud by Jeff Wheeler is #4 in The Harbinger series and continues the adventures of Cettie and Sera as war once again breaks out between Kingfountain and Muirwood.  There is a bit of role reversal as Sera becomes more confident in her abilities and Cettie allows herself to become caught up in the schemes of the mother she never knew.  While Sera's transformation seemed logical, Cettie's switch of loyalties didn't ring true for me.  Will see how this twist develops in the next installment.  

I'm liking Sera's adventures much better than Cettie's at this point.

Read in December; review scheduled ---

NetGalley/47 North

Fantasy.  March 5, 2019.  Print length:  332 pages.

The Vanishing Man is another prequel to the Charles Lennox mysteries.  In 1853, Charles is a youthful 26 trying to establish himself in his new profession.  He isn't even sure how to describe himself--investigator, detective?  What he enjoys is solving puzzles.

When the Duke of Dorset approaches him about a missing painting, Charles is eager for an endorsement from an important individual.  However, as the investigation continues, the Duke turns contrary.  What is the secret behind the missing painting and the more valuable one that was left behind?

Read in Oct.

NetGalley/St. Martin's Press

Historical Mystery.  Feb. 19, 2019.  Print length:  304 pages.

Perfect Remains by Helen Fields is the first in the DI Callenach series.  DI Luc Callenach is new to Edinburgh via Interpol and a past he would rather not discuss.  

Luc's father was Scottish, his mother French, but after his father's death, Luc's mother returned to France where he was raised.  He is not particularly warmly received in his new position and doesn't make things easier on himself.  DI Ava Turner--down-to-earth, practical, and warm--makes an offer of friendship that Luc gradually accepts and feels comfortable with.  Both characters are interesting and well-drawn.

Luc is immediately drawn into the case ofElaine Buxton, a respected lawyer, who has been abducted.  When a body with forensic evidence appearing to identify Elaine is found, the search for a missing person changes to a homicide investigation.  But Elaine is not dead.  This is revealed almost immediately to the reader, although the investigators continue to believe her dead and hunt for the killer.

Then another respected and intelligent woman disappears.  The reader is aware of what is going on, but Luc and Ava and various team members are in the dark.  It is easy to get wrapped up in this narrative, but I could have wished for less emphasis on the sadistic violence.  

In this first in a series featuring Callenach and Turner, the author introduces other characters who will play roles in future books.  (I read Perfect Prey, the second in the series in 2017, and felt about the same: liked the characters and and elements of the plot, but too much emphasis on the gruesome.)

Read in December.  

Crime/Detective Fiction.  2017.  Print length:  417 pages.

Most Talked About Crime Fiction-- I've read The Paragon Hotel, Scrublands, The Burglar, The Last of the Stanfields, and The Boy, but there are 20 titles on the list.  Have you read any on the list? 

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Scrublands by Chris Hammer

Scrublands will be on my list of favorites next year!

After a traumatic event in Gaza, reporter Martin Scarsden is sent to Riversend, a small country town in Australia devastated by a long drought.  A year earlier, a charismatic young Anglican priest had opened fire on the church steps--killing five men.  Martin's assignment is to write about the the effects on the town a year later.  

The question of "why" reverberates--why did Byron Swift shoot down the five men before being killed himself by his friend Constable Robbie Haus-Jones?  Surprised by the response of various town members who still seem to admire and respect the young priest,  Martin is perplexed.  

The owner of the local bookshop urges Martin to investigate the why.  Why a popular and beloved young man committed such a violent and senseless crime.  A simple assignment is thereby turned on its head as Martin's own curiosity pulls him deeper into the story.  Some things about the original story don't seem to fit, and Martin finds himself falling into a rabbit hole leading to more questions than answers.  

Not wanting to give away too much, I found this one of the most fascinating and intricate novels I've read in a while.  The descriptions of the small town of Riversend and the scrublands make the setting an essential part of the story, the characters are complex, and as other developments occur, the question of how everything fits together becomes more acute.  The narrative keeps building, the puzzle more confounding, the action more intense.

Beautifully written, Chris Hammer's first novel is a gripping, curious, and complex tale that kept me engrossed.

Chris Hammer has worked as journalist for more than thirty years, alternating between covering federal politics and international affairs. Chris has worked as Senior Writer for The Age, Chief Political Correspondent for The Bulletin and Online Political Editor for FairfaxAs a roving international correspondent for SBS TV’s Dateline program, he reported from more than thirty countries across six continents. 
Chris is the author of two successful and well-received non-fiction books, published by Melbourne University Press: The River: A Journey through the Murray-Darling Basin and The Coast: A Journey along Australia’s Eastern ShoresThe River was shortlisted for the 2010 Walkley Book Award and won the ACT Book of the Year in 2011. The book recounts Chris’ travels through the Australian bush during 2008 and 2009, from Queensland to South Australia, at the height of the worst drought in Australian history. It’s those travels and the people he met that provided the inspiration, and inform the setting, for Chris’s first work of fiction, Scrublands. (source)
A stunning first novel and highly recommended.

Crime/Investigation.  Jan. 8, 2018.  Print length:  385 pages.  

Friday, January 11, 2019

Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss

When I was young my father had a subscription to National Geographic Magazine and kept his copies year after year.  No longer would all of them fit in the house, so older copies went into shelves in the storeroom.  I'd sit for hours looking through them, mostly interested in the articles and photos about ancient history and archaeology.  The iron age bog bodies have continued to fascinate me.  

Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss opens with a scene of a young woman being prepared as a sacrifice or for an execution.  The details echo those of the 16 year old Yde girl and the Windeby girl.  

Then we are introduced to the current situation in which seventeen-year-old Silvie and her parents are participating in an iron age reenactment along with a university professor and his students.

Set in Northumberland in the 1990's, the descriptions of the small camp, forest, and countryside do create a feeling of an earlier time.  However, the group is not far from civilization, and Molly, one of the students, makes clandestine use of a near by convenience store.  

Moss creates the feeling of isolation and repression immediately in taut descriptions that involve more than the physical setting.  Professor Slade is pretty easy-going, but Silvie's father Bill is not, and  it is clear that he would like his dictatorial and controlling views to be accepted by more than his wife and daughter.

Physically and emotionally abusive, the father tries to keep a wall around his family and particularly around Silvie.  If the others are aware, only Molly seems concerned.  Retreating to the past is, for the students, an exercise for credit, but for Bill it carries much more weight.  Silvie and her mother are only there because of Bill.

Ghost Wall is actually a novella, but it didn't feel like one because of its density--packing so much in so few pages. There are numerous themes, each handled in an understated manner that seeps into your consciousness.  I was both pleased and frustrated by the conclusion which was a little rushed, and I was curious about some of the outcomes, wanting to know more.

There are walls aplenty--physical, mental, social, and metaphysical--and plenty to think about in this short book.   

NetGalley/Farrar, Straus & Giroux

General Fiction/Coming of Age.   Jan. 8, 2018.  Print length:  144 pages.

Wednesday, January 09, 2019

Some of 2018 Favorites

Finally managed to decide on a favorite list for the past yer and I'm still not at all sure about it.  Maybe I will pay more attention to favorites each month to make the final selection a little easier.  :)

Favorites for 2018

Circe by Madeline Miller

The Paragon Hotel by Lyndsey Faye
Our Homesick Songs by Emma Hooper
The Exes Revenge by Jo Jakeman
Snap by Belinda Bauer
A Sharp Solitude by Christine Carbo
Lost for Words by Stephanie Butland
Lullaby Road by James Anderson
Censored:  A Literary History of Subversion & Control by Matthew Fellion and Katherine Inglis
And the Fire Came Down by Emma Viskic

Honorable Mention:

Paper Ghosts by Julia Heaberlin

Look for Me by Lisa Gardner
The Broken Girls by Simone St. James (read in 2017, but review posted in 2018)
The Hollow of Fear (Lady Sherlock #3) by Sherry Thomas
Salt Lane by William Shaw
The Last of the Stansfields by Marc Levy
Stranger Diaries by Elly Griffiths 

and several books by Kerry Wilkinson, Joy Ellis, Anne Bishop, Kelly Armstrong; authors who always fall in my favorite lists


For all readers of novels this tweet should prove interesting.  I mean, who hasn't read a book with a cemetery setting and a mysterious figure in black, standing at a distance?

Even funnier--all the responses and suggestions.  I cracked up when Neil Gaiman got in on this, wondering if he should put it in his will or pay in advance.  :)  

Tuesday, January 08, 2019

The Plotters by Un-Su Kim

Translated by Sora Kim-Russell, The Plotters is the American debut of Korean author Un-Su Kim.  

From Description:  Behind every assassination, there is an anonymous mastermind--a plotter--working in the shadows. Plotters quietly dictate the moves of the city's most dangerous criminals, but their existence is little more than legend. Just who are the plotters?

The Plotters is a strange book that mixes noir with absurdist situations.  Reseng, an antihero, is an an assassin raised  in the library of Old Raccoon, the librarian.  The reader is introduced to contractors, plotters, fixers, assassins guilds, assassins--and targets.

Assassins maintain a distance from their work that lets them discuss the deaths of their targets and the deaths of their fellow assassins  with detachment and acceptance.  This emotional detachment is necessary for an assassin, but Resang has, in the back of his mind, an awareness of the situation and actually chooses this distance to continue with his "profession."  After all, he was raised for it.

Several events over the years, however, have begun to weaken the disassociation.  Two particular deaths (murders) of assassins he has respected have gradually interfered with his typical "just a job" attitude.  A chance to have another life with a young woman he met at 22, a chance he threw away, also begins to figure into his questioning of his role--questions he has resisted most of his life.  He revisits these events in his mind.

Two recent jobs bring doubts to the forefront, and although he has always known that he will probably be a target himself, acknowledging this fact in relation to his recent experiences results in a change of goal.  This is not to say that he feels remorse, exactly, but the sea change that has been building over several years takes a more dramatic turn when his friend is murdered and he gets involved with three curious women, one of whom is a plotter that had a bomb placed in his toilet.

Filled with offbeat and provocative characters, The Plotters' smooth translation is geared to making the novel flow easily for Western readers.  I hope Un-Su Kim will have another English translation soon.

Read in November; blog review scheduled for Jan. 8, 2019.

NetGalley/Doubleday Books

Thriller?/Satire.  Jan. 29, 2019.  Print length:  304 pages.