Tell Me (Inland Empire 2) #AnneFrasier

Tell Me, the second in the Inland Empire (a specific area with the Mojave desert) series, picks up a few months after the first with Remi back in her desert abode and she and Daniel physically recovered from their previous ordeal. Daniel is called out to the Pacific Coast Trail in search of hikers who are missing after one of the hikers is found brutally murdered. He, of course, enlists the help of Remi because of her tracking skills. The secondary story line, searching for Daniel’s mother, also plays a key role in this offering.

Tell Me ultimately circles back to the role of social media influence, how much young girls will do in order to attract attention and gain viewers. The story here asks that question – is this really what has happened? Have these girls set up a fake scene in order to gain more followers?

While I didn’t find Tell Me to be as fast paced or compelling as the first in the series, I realize that second books seldom are. However, I love Frasier’s writing, her ability to illustrate the atmosphere from the claustrophobic woodlands of the Pacific Coast Trail to the sheering winds and glorious colors of the Mojave desert. I would read her books for her descriptions of locale alone, the fact that I also like her characters is just icing.

I highly recommend this series but you really must read the books in order or you will be totally lost in Tell Me. Then, after you’ve read these two, go back and pick up her other series. They are terrific as well.

Recent Reads and Rapid Reviews: The Hive, When a Stranger Comes to Town and The One I Left Behind

This is the third book I’ve recently read involving cults, bees and the perfection of their hives. It’s weird BUT I absolutely loved this book! Gregg Olsen is a hit or miss author for me and this one definitely was a hit.

If you think about Mary Kaye Ash, the home based “beauty” guru, and put her philosophy on drugs then you have the main protagonist of The Hive. Marnie, the “queen bee” is obsessed with bees and their royal jelly. All of her beauty products are made with it. In addition, she forms a community of women who help her with her empire – they are called “The Hive.” It’s a cult but it’s a strange one. These women are encouraged to leave their family, their husbands, children and homes behind in order to fully encase themselves into The Hive. As with most cults, it eventually turns deadly.

This is a terrific police procedural, something that Gregg Olsen does very well, and despite knowing the “who,” it is the why and how that is important. If you like good crime fiction then you should enjoy The Hive.

WHEN A STRANGER COMES TO TOWN, various authors, edited by Michael Koryta

Living in a very small town I have found that one of the most used phrases here is “there’s a stranger in town.” Living in the city is so different – who would know if someone is a stranger or not? But here, everyone knows. Are they here for good for bad? That’s always the question.

When A Stranger Comes to Town is a compilation of short stories based on the premise of a stranger in our midst. Admittedly there were some stories that I enjoyed more than others and, surprisingly, some of those were by “new to me” authors. Of course, there also are stories by some of the best mystery writers of today: Michael Connolly, Dean Koontz and Joe Hill (shivers on the thought of Hill and his entry) but you’ll find a collection of really good mysteries throughout the book.

This would make a great summer read because you read each mystery at your leisure, at the beach or beside the pool, in between innings. 😉 This one is a great addition to my library and one I highly recommend.

THE ONE I LEFT BEHIND by Jennifer MacMahon

I read one Jennifer McMahon book and then another and now I cannot stop. I’m hooked – all the way. Her writing style is so fluid that once you begin a story, you simply cannot stop until the end. Literally. I need to sleep but I have another book ready to go. Sleep can wait!

The One I Left Behind, on the surface, is about “Neptune,” a serial killer who cuts off the right hand of his victims, leaves it on the police station steps and then four days later he leaves the body of the dead woman, sans hand, lovingly bandaged, naked with stomach contents of a recently eaten lobster dinner. Bizarre, right? But the real story is that of Reggie and her friends, Tara and Charlie, three outcasts who bonded years ago during the time of the Neptune killings. Reggie’s mom was the only victim to be taken but never returned – now she’s back and the three friends are reunited. This is their story, told in two different timelines. It’s raw, edgy, suspenseful and satisfying. As always, I adored the ending. I truly believe that the powerful stories that McMahon tells make her endings all the more beautiful. And now, I’m off to read another McMahon book….

Tuesday Shorts: The Sacrifice of Lester Yates, The End of Men, Find You First and The Moonlight Child

Of course I’ve been neglectful of writing blog posts and reviews; of course I have. It’s spring and that means gardening for me. That doesn’t mean I stopped reading. In fact, I think I’ve read more books already this year than I did last year during the height of the pandemic. So, bear with me as I post some short, quick reviews of some of the books I’ve read thus far.

From beginning to end The Sacrifice of Lester Yates captivated me. Robin Yocum, a new-to-me author, can seriously write. His descriptions and knowledge of the grittier side of Ohio and midwestern politics are so spot on; it truly is impeccable writing. Labeled as a “legal thriller,” I thought it was more political suspense. It’s a story told well, not an edge of your seat thrill ride.

What was most interesting for me is that the book is told from a Republican politician’s viewpoint which is something I tend to avoid. However, here was a pro-death penalty guy working like crazy to get an innocent man off of death row. He also does a great job of showing the nasty underbelly of party politics which we see so often today in the US.

I loved the book and highly recommend it. I’ll be reading the prequel now and am happy to have found another great midwestern author to follow.

THE END OF MEN by Christina Sweeney-Baird

The End of Men is one of those books where I think the hype is influencing the reviews. I’ve read two other books about a pandemic that wipes out males and they were far better than this one. Far too many characters to keep them straight and, in the end, there still was just greed and nations fighting over crap. I’d like to think that women could do better than this but given the results of the pandemic, perhaps I’m overly hopeful. Read Athena’s Choice for a far superior book about the end of men.

FIND YOU FIRST by Linwood Barclay

Normally I love Linwood Barclay’s books and I did really like Find You First until I didn’t. First, exactly how many people know and are willing to hire “hitmen?” Is this just something that I have missed throughout my life? Executioners around here are generally so stupid that they get caught and then turn out to be young men on drugs. In Find You First there is a plethora of these men just waiting to be hired and apparently screw the wealthy person hiring them. Who does that!? I liked the premise of the main character finding his “offspring.” That was an interesting storyline. However, the book totally went off the rails in the end with the Winnebago. I’m not sure I’ve ever read a serious piece of crime fiction that resorted to something so ridiculous. Ever. So, I gave it three stars because I was semi-sort-of hooked until the end.

Lest you think I haven’t enjoyed my reading material this year, I’ll leave you with one of my favorite books so far:

The Moonlight Child by Karen McQuestion

I didn’t expect to love this as much as I did! This is a beautiful story of horror, loss, love and forgiveness. This author is new to me but her writing is mesmerizing, pulling you into the lives of each character and then wringing your heart out with emotion.

The Moonlight Child is the story of wee little girl named Mia who is kept hidden by a family that she knows is not her own. She knows that her world is different from other children; she is well fed and cared for but also is forced to do the housework which is expected to be done perfectly. The child is only five years old. It is also the story of Nikki, a foster home “graduate,” who knows there is more to life than what she has experienced to date. She is intelligent, caring and, currently, at loose ends. Nikki is taken in by Sharon, her social worker’s mother, and the relationship between these two women is one of the most beautiful that I’ve ever read. Together, Sharon and Nikki try to unravel the mystery of the girl they only see in the moonlight.

This book is emotional and beautiful and one that I I highly recommend.

Have your read any of these books while I’ve been away? What did you think of them? Am I once again out in left field? Let me know!

Snow by John Banville

Not realizing that John Banville was actually one of my favorite authors who used a pen name, I wanted to read Snow, literally, due to the title. We were under a blizzard warning and it seemed quite a appropriate. Imagine my surprise when I discovered I was reading the famed Booker prize winning author whom I’ve always love but by a different name!

Snow is a very traditional piece of crime fiction. St. John Strafford is sent out on a murder inquiry in a small town in Ireland. The year is 1957 and the Catholic church is well in control of everything. As St. John carries out his duty, Banville provides us with a critique of the Catholic church at the time, and the present because not much has changed, the Irish “troubles,” and does so while beautifully using the Snow as a character all unto itself. At times the Snow is beautiful; at times it is oppressing but always it is present as Strafford works to uncover the killer.

Banville has a style of writing that is slow, methodical, atmospheric and brilliant. I’ve grown a bit weary of “fast paced thrillers” and their formulaic gimmicks, so I truly appreciated the writing that Banfield provided in Snow.

Don’t Speak by J.L. Brown

I have had this book on my TBR list for years (!) and it always kept getting pushed down the list. Luckily for me, was a Goodreads’ Giveaway winner for the ebook version! Let me just say – I LOVED this book!

There are two overlapping plot lines in Don’t Speak. It is an election year and Whitney Fairchild, an elegant and eloquent Senator from Missouri is running just left of center race against the very conservative incumbant. In addition, Jade Harrington, an FBI agent, is called in to investigage the murder of a shock jock, conservative radio host who also has had his tongue removed. Soon after the investigation begins, Harrington realizes that it is tied to other similar cases, both in the past and occuring in the present.

As a former campaign manager and Sentatorial aid, I can attest to the veracity of the campaign. Obviously a lot of research went into this portion of the book. There were so many people who despised the talk show hosts that suspects grew with each chapter. There was a lot of action, a lot of drama and an extremely well thought out story in Don’t Speak.

Interestingly, the book was first published prior to the 2016 US presidential election so any comparisons come after the fact. There are very obviously some similarities between real and fictional radio hosts but any others are from hindsight. That fact made the book all the more interesting. I’ve read where this is a book that only “liberals” would enjoy but I disagree. Yes, the conservative talk show hosts are the ones who are targeted but because we had to read their on air tirades, you actually get a very two sided view of the two US political parties. I can safely recommend this to anyone who likes political thrillers or crime fiction.

Thanks to #AmazonKindle and #Goodreads for my copy of Don’t Speak.

The Coast to Coast Murders by James Patterson and J.D. Barker

Rating: 5 out of 5.

If I could say only one thing about The Coast to Coast Murders I would say WOW! That’s it…. Wait, okay, there’s more. I haven’t read James Patterson in over a decade but I would read absolutely anything that J.D. Barker wrote – shopping lists even – and it’s Barker’s twisty mind that shines through in The Coast to Coast Murders. WOW!

There are two siblings, Michael and Megan, whose adopted parents were a bit avant-guarde in their parenting. Michael is now a cross county truck driver who discovers his girl friend’s dead body in his house upon arriving home. He calls his sister because he truly believes she is the only one who can help. These are two very bizarre siblings…. and then we meet Mitchell. WOW! Everything about these characters and the games they play had my head spinning! The story, the characters, the plot all were so terrific that I read the book in one sitting and now I want MORE! I always want more of Barker’s story telling, though, so this is nothing new.

If you are a crime fiction fan then you will like The Coast to Coast Murders. If you are a Barker fan like me, then this is “must read.”

Thanks to #Netgalley and @jdbarker for my copy of this edge of your seat thriller!

Fire and Vengeance by Robert McCaw

I am fascinated by volcanoes and have even traveled around the US to view them. When I was offered Fire and Vengeance to read and review, knowing it revolved around a volcano, I jumped at the chance. I was so glad that I did. Not only did I read a great book, I discovered a new author and series to love as well.

Hurricane Ida has pounded the islands of Hawaii and has flooded the Hualapai Mountain’s volcanic crater, causing a build up of steam not unlike a pressure cooker. As the steam vents into the atmosphere, one of the vents opens under an elementary school, coating the students and staff in sulfuric chemicals and white-hot temperatures. Hilo Chief Detective Koa Kane is helicoptered to the scene where he finds mass casualties including multiple children. He vows to find the cause and the persons responsible for this tragedy.

There are several sub-plots intertwined with the primary story line of the school’s tragedy including Kane’s criminal brother who is dying in a jail cell. As Kane attempts to get his brother released for medical care, Kane finds himself caught between administering justice and helping his brother.

McCaw is an excellent writer, interspersing Hawaiian dialect throughout the book which lends to its atmospheric authenticity. He also walks that fine line between writing a taut thriller while adding enough personal details to make the book more interesting. I found Fire and Vengeance to be a great addition to the Crime Fiction genre and, if you enjoy series, this is a good one to follow. You can read Fire and Vengeance as a stand alone – I did – but I’ve since gone backward and picked up others in the series. All three have been terrific. Fire and Vengeance is available now.

Trust No One by Debra Webb

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I’m already a fan of Debra Webb, love her Undertaker’s Daughter series, so I was excited to get an early look at her newest series involving detectives Devlin and Falco. Set in Birmingham, AL, Trust No One revolves around a multiple murder case with connections to the city’s powerful elite as well as having deep reaching tentacles into the past. Devlin and Falco are an interesting partnership, one straight-laced and the other just emerging from years undercover, but their personalities play well off of each other, strengths to weaknesses, and you know that they will make for good reading in the future. There was just enough familiar introduction and past revelations so that we, the readers, could better know why the detectives reacted as they did in certain situations. Yes, this was and will be a good detective series, one a I highly recommend and look forward to reading more of in the future.

Cut to the Bone by Ellison Cooper

A cop and a teenage girl are dead, the girl found lying inside a circle of animal figurines below a cryptic message written in blood. She is one of twenty-four missing high school students, all science proteges who are now gone. Agent Sayer Altair is called in to investigate and soon she discovers a dark, twisted tie to her own past. It is now a race against time to save the remaining the students.

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When I was first offered Cut to the Bone, I never had heard of the author, Ellison Cooper. After reading this book, the third in the series, I immediately went back and purchased the first two to read. Yes, the series is that good! Let me first tell you about the author. Ellison Cooper has a Ph.D. in anthropology from UCLA, with a background in archaeology, cultural neuroscience, ancient religion, colonialism, and human rights. She has conducted fieldwork in Central America, West Africa, Micronesia, and Western Europe. She has worked as a murder investigator in Washington DC, and is a certified K9 Search and Rescue Federal Disaster Worker. I tell you this because she brings every bit of that extensive knowledge into her writing. I was fact checking various things she had written left and right and finally quit because it was pointless. She’s brilliant. Her writing is brilliant. While the story line is fiction, the knowledge is real and it is fascinating! However, it isn’t just the intelligent writing that I loved – her characters are fantastic. They are real. They are quirky. They are full-bodied, not ever what you expect and ever evolving, growing and changing with every book, just as you would expect your friends to be in real life. I loved – and hated – them all!

I read this series completely out of order as I could get the books but if you want to fully enjoy them I would suggest reading them order but I truly do encourage you to read this series. It’s fantastic!

Thank you to  @ecooperauthor #MinotaurBooks and #Edelweiss for my copy of this amazing book!

#MurderousMondays – The Look-Alike and When You See Me

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I’m doing my best at “beating the backlist” which includes some amazing crime fiction that earlier got erased from saved files. Just because I failed to review them in time does not make them less than stellar suspense thrillers. I hope you’ve either read them or will be enticed to do so after today.

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Erica Spindler has become of my favorite suspense authors. While she began her writing career in the romance genre, she has quickly made a name for herself with her crime fiction series and her stand-alones, which are the ones I love most. Now she is back with The Look-Alike, a can’t put down thriller that will have the reader doubting their own sanity. Let me also state, up front, that I admire any author or publisher who remembers to put a hyphen in the wordd look-alike!

Sienna Scott, our primary character, has led a bizarre and rather sad life living with a mother who a diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic. She literally lives a life in constant fear and paranoia. Sienna’s father has done everything he can to protect Sienna from her mother including shipping Sienna off to London to keep her from “shattering” after Sienna discovers a fellow college student dead on campus. However, now Sienna is back home, with her mother, where she begins wondering if, in fact, she was the target of the killing so many years ago. The victim could have been Sienna’s exact “look-alike.”

Spindler weaves a tale of suspense that will leave you doubting your own sanity as much as Sienna and her mother doubt theirs. The Look-Alike is filled with twists and turns that will keep you reading until the end – but, never once do the surprises appear staged for shock value, Rather, they are the perfect course for a case like to take. Who is telling the truth? Who is really behind the murder and how much paranoia is real and how much is being exacerbated to make Sienna and her mother off balance. Fabulously written, this is a thriller that I highly recommend to all who enjoy crime fiction, thrillers and suspense.

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I have come to adore Lisa Gardner’s writing and the characters from her various series. Now, in When You See Me, Gardner has brought together the most-loved characters of two of series together: DD Warren, Kimberly Quincy and Flora Dane. Detective series just don’t get much better than this!

Earlier in the series we were introduced to Flora Dane who spent over a year as a captive of a deranged killer. Now bones have been discovered in a remote area of Appalachia that suggest the killings are associated with Flora’s kidnapper. FBI agent Quincy, Det Warren and Flora go to the site in hopes of finally putting to rest Dan’s abductor once and for all. What they find is a crime far larger than they bargained for.

When You See Me is an extremely well written, tense thriller. We’ve come to know these characters through other reads and feel a connection to them, their quirks and their flaws so much so that it is very easy to become fully engrossed in the danger that is lurking in the dark, rural mountains. As mentioned, this is part of a series – two actually – and I do not recommend reading it as a stand-alone. I started the series in the middle with the introduction of Flora Dane and have since gone backward to catch up and to read the Profiler series which includes Agent Quincy. When You See Her feels more like a conclusion to a story-line that should be followed, rather than a place to begin. I know that many of you already follow Gardner, as do I, and if you haven’t read this one yet, it is a must read for her fans. For others, at least go back to Find Her and start the series there. You will be glad you did.