#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.

 

Alone in the Wild @KelleyArmstrong #PublicationDay

Rockton – secluded, secretive and always full of surprises. A tiny town in the Yukon where the most desperate people go to hide. Now the Yukon forest has another hidden surprise for Casey Duncan: a baby.

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Alone in the Wild is the fifth in the Rockton series by author Kelley Armstrong. Centering around the town of Rockton, a secret fortress hidden in the vast Yukon forest, it is a place for those who need or can afford extreme hiding. Some of its residents are victims, some are those who have committed the crime but all of the Rockton residents are colorful, interesting nd not always law abiding. Casey Duncan and her life partner, the hard-assed sheriff, do their best to keep everyone safe – from one another, “the settlers” who have chosen to live outside of Rockton and from the “hostiles,” those who have de-evolved while living in the wild.

When Casey discovers the baby under the coat of a dead “hostile” woman, she begins to search for the murderer and the baby’s parents. Moral questions arise about the capability of the parents, whoever they may be, of caring for a baby through the Yukon winter. Casey’s search takes her directly into the “hostile” camps, to the trailers of those who sell and trade with the “hostiles” and the “settlers” and the “settler” camps themselves. Those who have followed this series finally get a full picture of the life these outcast groups live, how they interact with one another and a deeper look into some of the Rockton residents themselves.

As an avid follower of Kelley Armstrong and the town of Rockton, I found Alone in the Wild to be one of the best written books in this series. Questions that we have had from the beginning are answered and the people, themselves, became fuller and more fleshed out. While it has been suggested that Alone in the Wild could be read as a stand-alone, I heartily disagree. Each book in this series picks up where the previous book left off and, if you are not familiar with the characters, the town and the back-story, you will be more confused than necessary than if you start at the beginning. The characters grow and change, as does the town of Rockton itself. I highly recommend Alone in the Wild for those who like improbable locations and quirky characters.

Thanks to #Edelweiss and @Minotaurbooks for my copy of Alone in the Wild.

Murderous Mondays in the New Year – A Madness of Sunshine @NaliniSingh

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Have you ever been so caught up with the characters of a book that you miss you once you’ve finished? I have been walking around for a week trying to figure out what I’ve misplaced, who I haven’t contacted, what I’ve left undone, only to realize that what I’m missing are the people and places in A Madness of Sunshine! What a marvelous story and even better characters!

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Will is a cop with a past that is dark and tumultuous. Once a rising star in the metro force, he now has been relegated to a very small hamlet by the ocean. There he simply wants to be a ghost, do his job overseeing petty crimes and live out his days in quiet. Ana has come home after fleeing the village and vowing never to return. Her childhood was traumatic and one that she wanted to leave behind her forever. Now, she has returned to forget the new life she has made. She, too, longs to be a ghost, to be left alone in solitude. Neither gets what they want when a beautiful young girl goes missing and rumors begin to tie her disappearance to hikers who vanished 15 years before.

While the premise of the story may seem, on the surface, like one we have read before, what sets this story apart from the rest is the location, the rugged New Zealand West Coast and its beautiful Maori people, and the incredible character development. I’ve read more than my fair share of crime fiction and come across plenty of down and out cops but few have reached out and grabbed me like Will did. There was something about the flaws of all of the characters, the major and minor ones, that made them more real, brought them to life, had them haunting my dreams. Has them in my head even now. A Madness of Sunshine is what all crime fiction should be.

Apparently this is a departure in genres for this author and I can only hope that we see more of this type of writing from her. If you haven’t already read A Madness of Sunshine you will want to add it to your must-read list, I promise.

Thank you to @Edelweiss for my copy of this incredibly book!

 

 

Recent Reads and Rapid Reviews

Recent and Rapid

Below are a few quick reviews of books I’ve read recently. First up is Cold Cold Ground by Adrian McKinty.

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The Cold Cold Ground is the first book of what has now become a series revolving around Detective Sean Duffy a Catholic cop in the middle of the protestant end of Ireland in the 1980s. Not a good place to stay alive so it’s a good thing they have Duffy, a sharp, educated “peeler” who is as tenacious as a bulldog. Duffy is a combination of Harry Bosch (in his younger days) and Harry Hole with his own brand of justice. I stayed up all night reading this one and I think you will enjoy it too. Now, I’m off to see if I can find the second in this series.

Thanks to Sandy at Sandy’s Book A Day Blog for her fabulous review(HERE) that inspired by search for this book.

LAST DAY by Luanne Rice

Luanne Rice is a master storyteller and that truly shines in her latest novel, Last Day, the story of four friends, two deaths and the secrets kept hidden to the end.

Sisters Kate and Beth had survived a tragic ordeal in their teen years but, like so many, that tragedy pushed them apart rather than pulling them together. Kate is closed off from all emotion and Beth has infused her life with love, giving to the community, loving her daughter and caring for her friends. When Beth is murdered, Kate digs in to find the answers to her sister’s murder. What she finds instead are layers of secrets.

While I was a bit disappointed in the ending, the overall story is brilliantly told. Last Day was my January selection for Amazon First Reads and will be available on February 1st.

THE PASSENGERS  by John Marrs

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I have been on a John Marrs kick for the last year. I’ve loved every single thing he has written. He’s different, his ideas are original, his writing is superb. However I was a bit disappointed with The Passengers. The story itself, self-driving cars which have been “hacked,” is one that actually terrifies me to think about. For reasons I never could put my finger on, though, the characters never resonated with me and I simply didn’t care who survived and who didn’t. Of course I will continue to read Marrs’ books in the future but The Passengers just fell a bit short.

My Favorite Books of this Decade…

I’ve loved reading all of the blogs that have listed the “best books of the decade.” Everyone is so different and unique and the included books say as much about the person as they do about the decade of reading and publishing. I’ve decided to go with my favorites that were actually published from 2010 to the present. I also debated the number I would include finally ended up at plus/minus THIRTY. Choosing a favorite book is much like choosing a favorite child, it cannot be done. These, from various genres, resonated with me for one reason or another. I’ve included links to Amazon for each if you’d like to read one or two of them. Also, because there are so many, I’m dividing them up into two posts. LOL. My attention span is small this time of year and I assume that’s the same for most of you as well.

2010-2019 Favorite Published Works:

1. Little Darlings by Melanie Golding. This was a somewhat controversial book with many readers either loving or hating it. I, however, cannot stop thinking about this little bit of horror. A tale of a woman who truly believes her newborn has been taken and switched with another baby, a changeling. She has proof but it all can be explained away with logical reasoning – or can it. When she ultimately tries to drown “the changeling,” she is institutionalized. It’s a profound story either full of horror and paranormal activity OR one of the best books I’ve read about postnatal depression.

2. Night Film by Marisha Pessel. Wow! Before Night Film I read very light reading such as women’s lit, mild crime-fi like Kathy Reichs. This book was my first foray into the darkness, the noir that lies in the world of fiction. After this there was no turning back. I was a noir reader forever.

3. The Good Detective  by John McMahon (see my review HERE)

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The Good Detective was a book I expected to NOT like. Instead, it has become the high bar against which all other Crime-Fi books that I read are judged. An extremely flawed detective, a great sidekick who is a strong woman of color, exposing the horrors of the southern US and crimes based on true stories. Put all of those together in an amazingly well written thriller and you have a winner.

4. The Fourth Monkey by J D Barker  – I was going to include a link to my review and realized it was published before I had my blog. Geesh, time really does pass quickly. To say that I loved The Fourth Monkey is a huge understatement. I told everyone I know about this book, bought it for friends and family and still think about it all of the time. Yes, there was a lot of gruesome material. No, I didn’t care for the sequels nearly as much as this one but this one was at the top of its game and one of the very best pieces of crime fiction I’ve ever read.

5. I read a lot more historical fiction over the past years, more than I have since my university days in fact. There are some terrific books in this genre and the authors go above and beyond when it comes to research, research and more research. I tend to fact check a lot of books as I read and I’m always stunned by how much I learn from historical fiction. To that end, I have a few favorites from this decade beginning with House of Gold by Natasha Solomons (MY REVIEW) This is a sweeping saga that follows the story an Austrian heiress leading up to and during WWII. She is an Austrian who marries an Englishman and ultimately has to choose between her new family and her old. Generally I don’t read books set during WWII because they are very one sided. History is told from the winner’s perspective but House of Gold includes minor story lines from all of the Gold family which is scattered throughout the various countries involved in the war from England to Germany to Austria and across Europe. Most importantly, not since books about the Vietnam War have I read such realistic, horrific descriptions of the war itself. There were places where brother literally was fighting against brother to the death. This is a book that I will not forget for a long time, if ever.

6. Sold on a Monday by Kristina McMorris. Oh My. This was one highly emotional read based on a photograph that the author discovered of children with a “for sale” on them. You know already that it’s going to be heart-wrenching. Set in the Great Depression, a reporter/photographer snaps a photo of these children and then sets out to find out who they were and what led to the circumstances of their being sold. I read the author’s notes on the selling of children and then did my own background research and was so dismayed to discover that this was not a unique occurrence. Single women, particularly, who could not afford to take care of their children often sold them to families who wanted work hands. These were kids, not teens or young adults, but kids. It’s a horrible time in our history and a story that I encourage you all to read so that, perhaps, we can learn from our past sins.

7. Coptown by Karin Slaughter, a stand alone historical fiction novel. Karin Slaughter is one of “must read” authors. I love both of the series that she wrote and is writing but, a huge but, of everything she has written Coptown is the book that has stayed with me, made me really think about our racial divide, especially in the south and, most importantly, how far women’s rights have come just since the 70s. Although I came of age in the 70s, it never occurred to me the rights that I take for granted like having a checking account in my own name. This book, while fiction, is one of the best portrayals of women, especially women of color, in an era that seems like it was only yesterday. In reviews I often write the sentence, “yeah, but have you read Coptown….” because it was one of those books that set the standard for historical fiction.

8. Fast Falls the Night by Julia Keller – This is the book I talk about the most to anyone who will listen. While I adore Julia Keller and her characters, part of the reason that I feel like they are “family,” is because of this book. Set in a period of 24 hours – exactly – this is the story of a struggling town in West Virginia that broke the record for most the overdose deaths of the opioid crisis we are facing today. Based on true facts, in this story we watched as characters we have come to know either die or watch their loved ones die in a harsh, realistic look at just how pervasive this epidemic truly is in the US. Doctors, politicians, addicts, politicians, church family, ALL are affected. We often live in a sheltered world assuming that this epidemic does not affect us. Fast Falls the Night changes this town forever and we get a glimpse of how it would affect each and everyone of us should it happen in our own towns – if it hasn’t already happened in yours.

9/10. Because I’m a historian, I like to read the occasional historical biography. Over this decade there two that really stood out for me: Hoover and Grant. Grant by Ron Chernow was an eye-opening read about one of the most misunderstood and chronically lied about men in US History. Cast as a loser, a drunk, a bad general, this biography sets the story straight. The research is impeccable and tells the story of a recovered alcoholic, a devout man who hated war, hated fighting and yet, along with Gen. Sherman, conducted a military campaign that is still taught at West Point. Generals world wide have come to the US to study the genius of these two men. The civil war is over and it’s time to recognize the brilliance of the men who bravely fought to keep the US Union together as one.

Likewise, Hoover has been blamed for “the Great Depression,” as if one man could be responsible for worldwide famine, poverty and circumstances beyond anyone’s control. The entire world was in a depression, one NOT caused by Herbert Hoover. More importantly, the work Hoover did after the war is phenomenal. The airlifts from Poland where the survivors literally were starving in the streets are a result of Herbert Hoover’s work. He was an amazing man who should be admired and not vilified. Herbert Hoover by Glen Jeansonne a must-read for anyone who enjoys American history.

In the FANTASY category, or perhaps they are more paranormal and magical realism, I honestly never know. For me, fiction is just fiction.

11. Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman – okay, seriously, I loved this book from start to finish but it really didn’t occur to me until nearly the end that this was fantasy and not reality. I think that should tell you something about me and my love of the fictional world. This is a beautiful book, a fairy tale of sorts, about survival, the magic all around us and of believing in the impossible. It is, by far, my favorite book by Gaiman

12. Where the Forest Meets the Sky by Glendy Vanderlah – This is, quite simply, one of the most beautiful books I’ve ever read. The story of a child who wanders into the lives of two people who need this child the most. They are broken, faced with debilitating illnesses and this child, who claims to be from another planet, brings these adults back to life, figuratively, as they care for him and try to unravel the child’s story. A stunningly written book that I’m so glad found its way into my world.

13.The Cottingley Secret by Hazel Gaynor – simply put, it is based on a true story, one that will have you believing in fairies by the end of the book. If you haven’t read The Cottingly Secret, which is part paranormal, part historical fiction, then I truly encourage you to do so. The magic is real. 51wvP7ALclL._SX330_BO1,204,203,200_Thirteen is my lucky number so I will stop here for this post. Stay tuned for PART 2 tomorrow…. In the meantime, tell me which ones you’ve read. Were any of these on your favorites list for the decade? What was your favorite book this decade OR this year? Can you name just one?

 

 

#Caged #Buried by @ECooperAuthor

Two books. Two mind-bending thrillers. One amazing agent.

Recently I was asked to read the third installment in the SSA Sayer Altair series by Ellison Cooper. The problem was that I hadn’t read the first two. I have had Caged bookmarked to read since it was first published but you know how TBR lists are, more books piled on top of that one. So, I thought before I read the upcoming book due in 2020, I would catch up with the first in the series. Was I ever glad that I did!

Agent Altair is one bad-assed woman. She has been knocked down by the death of her fiance, her job is in jeopardy and she is an orphan whose parents were killed in a tragic accident but none of those tragedies can stop Sayer. As a neuro-scientist she studies the brains of psychopaths for the BAU. She also is one of the best at hunting them down when they take the form of serial killers.

Both books are fascinating, not only for how well they are written but by the science behind psychopathy. Cooper is obviously brilliant and she brings that knowledge into the books that she writes. I, for one, have grown tired of the same old stalker-chases-woman thrillers and, if you are like me, you will find Cooper’s books a refreshing change. Yes, we have serial killers but their methods and reasons for killing are far more than man-murders-woman. Both Caged and Buried taught me more about psychology and the classics than I thought I ever would know. They are fantastic! Ten stars for this new to me author and now I cannot wait to begin her next one!

 

Third to Die @Allison_Brennan

That Ending!! It may not have been a cliffhanger but it definitely left me wanting more, now…. immediately. How soon can she write the next in this series!?!

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Brennan is well known for her psychological thrillers so when I was offered an ARC for her newest book I jumped at the opportunity. The Third to Die is the first book in a new series by Brennan revolving around the FBI’s Mobile Response Team. This newly formed segment of the FBI consists of highly specialized agents who are top in their field, whether it is forensics, crime scene specialists or investigators. They are mobilized primarily in rural areas where the local force most likely is lacking in either experience or equipment. This is their first case in the field and it is a nightmare. A serial killer has re-emerged after years of silence. His method is killing someone on March 3rd, 6th or 9th. This story is made more interesting by the addition of a SFPD officer who is on “vacation” in the area and ends up helping the FBI solve their case. This detective, Kara Quinn, is one of the most interesting characters I’ve run across in a thriller in a long while. The chemistry between her and FBI agent Matias Costa is electric – and fun! The story is engaging, interesting and, yes, thrilling! So much so that I’m reading past written books by Brennan and cannot wait for her next in this series – and this one is not out yet!! But it will be soon and should be bookmarked on your to-read list.