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Sunday, May 31, 2020

Stranger in the Lake by Kimberly Belle

What if your new husband was from the genteel side of the tracks and you were were a gas station attendant;  he grew up in privilege and your background was trailer park; he was eleven years older and very rich and you never aspired to much more than a steady job?

What if his first wife drowned under mysterious circumstances and many in the town believed that he may have been responsible?

Then if another young woman is discovered drowned under the dock of your magnificent house--how would you react and who would you trust?

Charlotte and Paul's marriage seems to be working despite the gossip about his first wife's death and Charlotte being designated a gold digger.  But one lie opens up a number of lies and and secrets and questions about the past and the present.

I thought I had it worked out, and I was partly right, but there was another twist that I didn't expect.   Overall...meh.

Read in March.  Review scheduled for May 31.

Mystery/Suspense.  June 9, 2020.  Print length:  352 pages.  

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Eight Perfect Murders by Peter Swanson, Autumn Secrets by Susan C. Muller

It seems like almost everyone has read Eight Perfect Murders, and there isn't much I can add without spoilers. 

from description:  A chilling tale of psychological suspense and an homage to the thriller genre tailor-made for fans: the story of a bookseller who finds himself at the center of an FBI investigation because a very clever killer has started using his list of fictions most ingenious murders.

What's to love:  Malcolm Kershaw owns a bookshop.  A narrator who is holding some things back.  Plenty of twists that keep Malcolm trying to unravel who is killing people based on his own list of perfect murders.  

Mystery/Thriller.  2020.  Print length:  270 pages.

In 2018, I read the three previous books in this series featuring Houston detectives Noah Daughtery and Connor Crawford.  I liked all three, and I enjoyed Autumn Secrets  as well.  

A serial killer has been burying bodies in a field.  When Noah and Conner arrive, they expect only the one body that had been discovered, but a misstep in the muddy field reveals another body and means the use of dogs to see if there are more.  And there are.  (This was interesting because the "borrowed" dogs were being trained to find survivors and become upset when they realize the scents they are locating are not survivors, but the dead). 

A character from the first book, makes another appearance as a romantic interest for Noah.                                                                                                                
This is the final book in the Seasons Pass series.  I hope it isn't the final book for the characters.

Read in April.  

Police Procedural.  2017.  Print length:  276 pages.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Good Girl, Bad Girl by Michael Robotham

I've followed Michael Robotham's Joe O'Loughlin series for years, attached to the characters and appreciative of the well-written narratives.  Last year, Robotham introduced a new series with forensic psychologist Cyrus Vance.  

A child discovered in a secret room, filthy and emaciated, is taken into care.  The girl refuses to give her name, and when there are no records of a missing child, the state gives her the name Evie Cormac.  After the failure of several foster placements, Evie is placed in a secure facility care home.  Six years later, she is seeking emancipation. one knows for sure when she was born, although she claims to be eighteen there are those who don't believe she should be released.  

Because Cyrus Vance once wrote a paper on truth wizards, a former classmate asks him to observe Evie.  The man believes Evie falls into that tiny category of people who can tell if a person is lying with at least 80% accuracy.  Cyrus is doubtful, but he is naturally curious about Evie and about why she reveals nothing about her past, not even her name.  From his experience with those who have endured traumatic experiences, he believes he understands her reluctance.  Cyrus, however, doesn't know what Evie knows.

Cyrus is also involved in a case that involves the murder of Jodie Sheehan, a fifteen-year-old Olympic figure skater hopeful.  The two plot lines pull together and the reader alternates between the two view points, from Cyrus to Evie and back again.  Some of the background of each is revealed, but secrets and questions remain.

A gripping read with complex characters; both Cyrus and Evie have trauma in their past and both are survivors.  Although toward the end, the author allows you to get a hint of the reason behind the murder of the young skater, the conclusion is unexpected.  

(I actually read When She Was Good, the next book, before this one.  The review for that one is scheduled for later.)

I am really pleased with this new series, but hope the author doesn't forget about Joe O'Loughlin.  


Psychological Suspense.  2019.  Print length:  368 pages.  

Monday, May 18, 2020

You Can't Catch Me by Catherine McKenzie

Catherine McKenzie has the ability to generate anxiety in the reader, and her latest novel continues the trend.  The anxiety is often a result of fear that the main character has taken a road that will end in disaster.  You may like and sympathize with the protagonist, but the apprehension generated by her behavior just keeps building.

You Can't Catch Me has two principal threads--one in the present and one in the past.  

from description:  After being fired from her investigative journalism job for plagiarism, Jessica Williams is looking for a break from the constant press coverage. She decides to escape for a week to a resort in Mexico boasting no connections to the outside world. While waiting at the airport for her flight, she encounters a woman with the exact same name, who she dubs Jessica Two. Drawn together by the coincidence, they play a game of twenty questions to see what other similarities they share, and exchange contact information.

The game of twenty questions is clever.  "Jessica Two's" game has elicited answers to questions that will enable her to Jessica Williams' bank account.  Our Jessica on finding her recent settlement money gone, sets out to find "Jessica Two."

The connection to the past is our Jessica's having been raised in a cult which she escaped when she was eighteen.  These sections alternate with the present search for "Jessica Two."

You can count on plenty of twists from Catherine McKenzie.  There are more Jessica Williams that have been tricked and had their accounts emptied, and each one is given a number.  

I really liked McKenzie's last book (I'll Never Tell), but this one didn't work as well for me.  Yes, the suspense was intense as worry for Jessica One increases, and yes, it is slick and manipulative, and yes, the grand twist was a surprise...and yet....  

Read in February.  Blog review scheduled for May 18.

NetGalley/Lake Union Publishing
Suspense.  June 9, 2020.  Print length:  355 pages.

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Favorite Recent ARCs

The following are all NetGalley ARCs, not yet published, but I liked them all and have two reviews scheduled for Aug. 21.

Ann Cleeves latest Vera book is one of my favorites.  There are a couple of changes that I liked.  spoiler:  Not so much emphasis on Vera's weight and a change in Holly.  Other than those two things, The Darkest Evening has the well-developed characters and clever plotting one expects from Cleeves.  (Sept. 8, 2020)

I loved the Ariana Franklin series about Adelia Aguilar, known as The Mistress of Death for her medical and investigative skills.  The books were set during the reign of Henry II and were fascinating historical mysteries.  Ariana Franklin was the pen name of Diana Norman, and after her death, her daughter Samantha finished Death and the Maiden.  A pleasure!  I hope Samantha Norman will continue the series with focus on Allie, Adelia and Rowley's daughter.  (Oct. 20, 2020)

One by One by Ruth Ware may make you recall Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None.  A ski chalet, two likable caretaker/hosts, a group of tech company guests.  As the guests are stranded by an avalanche and as their numbers diminish, survival becomes tricky.  (Sept. 8, 2020)

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

The Benefits of Science Fiction and Fantasy

 As a confirmed fan of science fiction and fantasy, I enjoyed and agreed with the following article.

Science Fiction Builds Resiliency in Young Readers

Some interesting excerpts from the article:

*A 2016 article in Social and Personality Psychology Compass, a scholarly journal, argues that “connecting to story worlds involves a process of ‘dual empathy,‘ simultaneously engaging in intense personal processing of challenging issues, while ‘feeling through’ characters, both of which produce benefits.”

*Reading science fiction and fantasy can help readers make sense of the world. Rather than limiting readers’ capacity to deal with reality, exposure to outside-the-box creative stories may expand their ability to engage reality based on science.

*Science fiction and fantasy do not need to provide a mirror image of reality in order to offer compelling stories about serious social and political issues. The fact that the setting or characters are extraordinary may be precisely why they are powerful and where their value lies.

*Let them read science fiction. In it, young people can see themselves – coping, surviving and learning lessons – that may enable them to create their own strategies for resilience.

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Gone to Darkness by Barbara Nickless

Gone to Darkness by Barbara Nickless is the 4th book in the Sydney Parnell and her K9 partner Clyde series.  I saw it recommended on someone's blog, but can't remember whose.  Anyway, I'm glad I gave it a try!

Although there are references to previous books, Gone to Darkness worked just fine as a standalone.  

An Iraq war veteran, Sydney Parnell and Clyde, a Belgian Malinois,  worked with the railroad police in the earlier books, but have just joined the Denver Homicide Squad.  She has a new partner in Detective Len Bandoni, a weathered veteran of the force.

When Sydney gets a call-out from a colleague in her former unit with the railroad police, she has a personal reason to reply to her friend.  When she arrives on the scene and finally locates him, Heinrich is unconscious from a blow to the head.  When he comes around, he remembers little about what happened.

Sydney and Clyde do a preliminary search of the area to see if Sydney can determine more about what happened.  She discovers what appears to be a small makeshift shrine and a bit of bloody chiffon.

With the second sense of a war veteran, Sydney is certain there is a body involved--but where?  

 Sydney, Clyde, and Bandoni find themselves in an investigation that gets deadlier and more threatening.  Well-written and suspenseful, the plot involves Incels (Involuntary Celibates) and the Manosphere.  

The only thing I didn't like was the prologue.  Too many books begin with a prologue now and sometimes they work.  For me personally, this is the kind that doesn't work because it gives too much away.  Aside from my dislike of the prologue, the characters, police procedural, and narrative kept me riveted .  I will most definitely be looking for the previous books in the series.

Read in April.  Blog review scheduled for May 10.

NetGalley/Thomas & Mercer
Crime/Police Procedural.  June 2, 2020.  Print length:  364 pages.
I found and read all the previous books and reviewed them before this post was scheduled to post.  I can't wait for the next books in the series.

Saturday, May 09, 2020

Gallows Court and Mortmain Hall by Martin Edwards

In 2016, I read and thoroughly enjoyed Martin Edward's The Golden Age of Murder.  It was an enlightening account of the best known writers during the Golden Age of Detective Fiction--Christie, Sayers, and Allingham,  But it was also about the Detection Club formed in 1930 by the best crime writers of the period and still in existence today.

For anyone who loves the authors (and their characters) of the time, The Golden Age of Murder is a rewarding experience.

When NetGalley offered Mortmain Hall by Edwards, I requested and received it, but decided to read Gallows Court first.  

A revenge novel with an interesting premise, Gallows Court introduces Rachel Savernake, the Truemans, and Jacob Flint.   Rachel is the daughter of the notorious Judge Savernake and grew up isolated on Gaunt Island with the Truemans (Hetty, Clffi, and Martha) as servants and friends.  She has a mind for murder, but her intentions are ambiguous and Rachel is a cold and enigmatic character.

Jacob Flint, a crime reporter, is drawn into the mystery as he looks for a scoop.

More complicated than complex, there are plenty of twists and turns.

There were parts I enjoyed and parts that seemed far more confusing than necessary.

Mystery/Crime.  2018.  Print length:  368 pages.

Mortmain Hall also has multiple threads and multiple characters.  The threads are tied together at the end, but the narrative  is disjointed, skipping around from one seemingly unconnected crime to another.

The characters have little depth, which is not atypical in Golden Age Detective novels, but usually there is something likable about the main characters and a hint of more in their personalities.  Rachel remains distant, aloof, detached from the other characters (with the exception of the Truemans) and undisturbed by the many deaths.

The events are often disconnected, and only at the end are the links all untangled.  There are hints, some obvious, others subtle, but still a stretch of the imagination.

Despite Martin Edward's love of the time period and the novels of the Golden Age, neither book was as entertaining as I had hoped.

NetGalley/Poisoned Pen Press
Detective/Crime.  April 2, 2020.  

Tuesday, May 05, 2020

Until It's Over by Nicci French

I recently received Until It's Over from NetGalley.  I like Nicci French and have read several of the husband and wife team's books.  When I started reading it, I was surprised that it felt so familiar.  The first part was pretty good, but Part II was much less so...and repetitive as a character recounts the same events from a different perspective.  After I finished, I noted that the book was first published in 2007, and sure enough, I read it in 2010.  New cover and republished , but I read it about 1500 books ago,  I didn't remember enough to know what happened, but just enough that it seemed familiar. 

Anyway, it isn't the best of this team's offerings.  I've liked a number of their stand-alones, but my favorites are their Frida Kline books.

NetGalley/Harper Collins
Mystery/Thriller.  2007, 2020.  Print length:  376 pages.

 I have several book reviews scheduled:  Shadows of the Dead by Spencer Kope, An Inconvenient Woman by Stephanie Buelens, You Can't Catch Me by Catherine McKenzie, Stranger in the Lake by Kimberly Belle.  As much as I love NetGalley, it is frustrating to get the books so far in advance of publication.  It is so easy to delay writing a post when the book won't be published for months.  

Such an irony that one of my 2020 goals was to get out more.  Now, I'm lucky to be able to go pick up groceries, but I am appreciating walking in the neighborhood and checking out the flower beds and the robins searching for worms.

My big event yesterday was cleaning pollen and dust off everything on the porch, then celebrating Cinco de Mayo a little early with a margarita.  

This post on Twitter is inspiring!

(My husband does help with the dishes.  I just have to wash them again later when he does.)

Friday, May 01, 2020

What Rose Forgot by Nevada Barr and Other Stuff

Nevada Barr is best known for her Anna Pigeon mysteries, and I've enjoyed a fair number of these over the years.  What Rose Forgot, however, is a stand-alone featuring Rose Dennis, a widow in her late sixties who wakes up in a hospital gown having escaped from a memory care unit.  

It isn't the kind of mystery that you are intended to take seriously, even though there is serious intent to put Rose six feet under.  She escapes the nursing home, is recaptured, realizes she doesn't have dementia, begins stashing the drugs she's being fed, escapes again, and later breaks back in to rescue someone else.  

Who wants Rose dead and why?  With the help of her thirteen-year-old granddaughter Mel, Rose does her best to figure out the answers to these questions, but she is still weak and confused.

As Rose deals with her impaired memory, she must face the fact that even Mel had believed Rose had early onset dementia, possibly brought on by the recent death of Rose's husband Harley.  A respected artist from New Orleans, Rose had never been conventional,  but her behavior after her husband's death  was bizarre and worrisome.   

The book is full of suspense and dark humor, as attempts on Rose's life and efforts at her recapture become more intense and often comical.  The villains are one-dimensional caricatures, the conspiracies too complicated for belief, but feisty Rose and her investigation and adventures are entertaining and funny.

Rose has a particular piece of evidence after one attempt on her life, and I laughed out loud in shock and amusement when she calmly tells Eddie what she did with the evidence.   At the very least, that statement convinced Eddie that Rose wasn't just crazy, but damn scary.

Recommended by my daughter, What Rose Forgot is a satisfying romp that occupied my day!

A few books added to my list of books I want to read:

Book Ban Backfire in Alaska   I think I love this town!  Best way to combat the banning of books!  The Great Gatsby, Invisible Man  Catch-22, The Things They Carried, and I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings are now very popular in Palmer, Alaska.