The Crow Trap by Ann Cleeves

Finally! I’ve seen Ann Cleeves books for years but never could find the time to go back to the beginning. I’ve even watch the television show, Vera, based on these books but never got around to reading the actual series. With Covid, the time arrived and I’m so glad!

The Crow Trap is divided into sections devoted to the primary characters ending with Vera. We aren’t really introduced to her until halfway through the book, although we do get a glimpse of her early on. There is a suicde, a murder, lots of suspicion and another murder before the book finally settles down into a proper police procedural. For some readers I suspect that the book would read “too slowly.” Cleeves is well known for her descriptive, atmospheric, very detailed writing and it really comes through in these early books more so than in her later series. It is this style of writing that I particularly love about British writers, however. Perhaps you remember books from an earlier time period and recall that it took us more than one day to read them. Yes? That is because of the detail; they contained more than fast paced action and tons of dialogue. I had started to miss that type of writing despite really adoring crime fiction. My answer – Ann Cleeves. If you like crime fiction told with very well developed characters, a great whodunnit with loads of atmospher then give Ann Cleeves a try. She is worth every minute (days) of your time.

The New Husband by #DJPalmer

This is one of those strange books that I read, reviewed and the review disappeared so I read it again and, hopefully, this time around the review will “stick.”

I really like Palmer’s domestic thrillers. They are well written, the women are stronger than you generally find in these types of books and the kids aren’t too annoying. That is certainly the case with The New Husband. In fact, if you didn’t know you were reading a domestic thriller, you would think you were reading a book about second chances until about mid-way through when you start getting the hibbie-jibbies because things just don’t add up or feel right. Then you have to hurry to the end to find out why and, wow, that was a surprise.

I realize I’m late to game with this one since it was published in 2020, but if you have not read The New Husband then you should definitely check it out. It’s a good read!

Aftershock by Judy Melinek & T.J. Mitchell

You know, I realize that I am a horrible blogger. I’m inconsistent. I rarely follow up like I should. My heart is in a good place but my bipolar brain sometimes does it own thing. Then the guilt sets in and I think, oh god, I’m so far behind or my reviews are too lame or too short or too far behind so I just don’t post. It’s a never ended cycle. SO just know that I’m trying. I’m reading like the crazy person that I am and will post as often as my brain allows….

Aftershock is the second in the Jessie Teska series revolving around Teska, an abrasive, hard core forensic pathologist in San Fransicso. I absolutely loved (!) First Cut, the first in the series by this writing duo and anxiously awaited the arrival of this Aftershock. I was quite disappointed with myself, actually, because I simply could not connect with the story line or even with Teska, herself, in this follow up. There is another questionable cause of death, this one at a construction site, but then there is a major earthquake which Teska must survive. Simply put, there was too much going on. Pick one – forensic thriller or earthquake thriller but I didn’t need both on top of Teska’s already bit over the top personality. I’m just not sure I’ll bother with another book, if there is one, in this series despite my love of the first.

One Last Child by #AnniTaylor

Anni Taylor is a new to me author and, truthfully, it was the starkness of this cover that drew me in and made me want to read the book. I’m very glad I judged this book by its cover because I loved it!

Kate Wakeland is an older homicide detective nearing retirement age but that hasn’t slowed her down at all. When she hears about five children going missing from a park, she doesn’t give it a second thought since it’s not her area – mispers vs homicide – that is, until she finds out one of the missing is her granddaughter. Kate desperately wants on the investigative team but is hampered for multiple reasons. Once the brass finally relents, Kate reviews all of the “clues” and begins unraveling who might have taken the children and why. When the children begin reappearing years later, the case is thrown into turmoil. However, One Last Child does not come home – Kate’s granddaughter!

The storyline is well written and it was marvelous reading about a detective who is a woman, brilliant and older!! Some of us who are not young are growing very tired of only seeing young women cops or screwed up old men detectives. I’ll take more like Kate Wakefield any day!! I loved the all of the characters, even the ones that were unlikeable. This definitely is a series I’m going to enjoy!

Out of Her Mind by T.R.Ragan

T.R. Ragan has officially become my new favorite crime fiction author – I just cannot stop reading her books!

Out of Her Mind is the second book in the Sawyer Brooks series. If you haven’t read the first one, Don’t Make a Sound then stop – drop everything – and go read it right now. It’s fantastic. Sawyer Brooks is a crime beat reporter with a amazingly sordid past. Her past, and that of her sisters, is what drives Brooks to investigate a story without stopping until she discovers the truth. I honestly wish we still had crime reporters like this. The world needs them! When a child’s bones are found and another child goes missing, Brooks begins searching for similarities. With the help of her sister, Aria, they soon discover a string of missing children. Could this be the work of seriel kidnapper/murder? Brooks certainly thinks so.

There is a seperate sub-plot that runs along with this primary one revolving around The Black Wig women. I won’t divulge much about this group but I find their story just as fascinating as Sawyer Brooks.

This series, like others that Ragan writes, is a well done piece of crime fiction. The characters – all of them – are well written and fully fleshed out for the reader. You see their weaknesses as well as their strengths and, beginning in this second book, you also begin to see their growth past their pain and their insecurities. I highly recommend Out of Her Mind as well as the remainder of the series.

Thanks to #Netgalley and #ThomasMercer for my copy of Our of Her Mind.

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 Boy From the Woods by Harlan Coben

Let me be frank, I’m not an avid reader of Harlan Coben’s work. I didn’t enjoy his series at all but I’ve come to appreciate many of his stand-alone thrillers. That said, The Boy From the Woods was a non-stop read for me.

The boy referenced the title was found decades ago living, surviving, wandering in the woods. He was placed into foster care, later adopted but as an adult he still prefers to live in the woods – naturally – albeit with state of the art “of the grid” conveniences. He had a normal upbringing and even attended West Point – which seems to be a sticking point for many other readers that perplexes me. Now, he works occasionally as a “consultant” to his foster sister’s private security firm. When his god-son’s friend goes missing, they turn to Wilde (the boy, now man) to help them find the missing girl. After all, he has a skill set that makes him uniquely qualified. Soon, another teen goes missing and we realize that there is far more to this story than realized at first.

There are multiple characters in the book despite the title suggesting otherwise. One of the primary personalities is Hester, the mother of the boy who “discovered” Wilde so many years before. Hester is now one of the most famous and successful attorneys in the New York area. I absolutely adored her. Her wit, intelligence, insight was like nothing I’ve read or known in a long time. She would say exactly what I was thinking every single time! She’s seventy years old and still crushing on the local chief of police. I LOVE when there are well written characters in books over the age of twenty!!

The book also has a myriad of plot lines which apparently confused many readers. I thought they were great and tied together very well at the end of the book. Bullying is a strong theme in this book and it is discussed brilliantly. How many times do we have to see nastiness only a daily basis before we become immune to it? Obviously, for Americans, less than four years has been enough. There are discussions about Wilde’s intelligence which I found very insightful. How can a boy who literally raised himself for years turn out to be so brilliant? Hmm, anyone who has ever been around self-educated, unschooled homeschoolers would know the answer to this question. Some of the most remarkable young adults I know were “unschooled.” There are stories of young romance, romance over the age of 60, falling in love after the death of a spouse – so much love and yet so much hate as we deal with the politicians and their puppet masters throughout the book. In a nutshell, reading The Boy From the Woods was quite a bit like living in the year 2020. There was a lot to deal with but Coben deftly handled it all and brought it to terrific, if somewhat, surprising conclusion. I just really REALLY wish that Wilde and Hester were characters in a new series from Coben because I didn’t get nearly enough of them in this book!!

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!

Don’t Look for Me by Wendy Walker

A woman has gone missing and her daughter is desperate to find her. The police have called the disappearance a “walk away,” citing that her mother left a note telling her family not to look for her. Her daughter, however, will not “walk away” from what she knows and believes to be true – someone took her mother.

Today is publication day for Wendy Walker’s newest book, Don’t Look for Me, a story that crime fiction lovers definitely will not want to miss! The writing for this suspenseful tale is taught, full of twists and perhaps some gaslighting as well. Told from two different perspectives – the mother and daughter – we see the grit and determination that both of these women bring forward in order to save the mother’s life. It is impossible to write about the plot without giving too much away, but suffice it to say that Don’t Look for Me will captivate you from the first page to the last. It is a gripping, well written, character driven story had me enthralled throughout. I highly recommend it.

The Watcher by Jennifer Pashley

The Watcher by Jennifer Pashley is the first in a new crime fiction series featuring Kateri Fisher. Fisher has just moved to a new police force in a small, rural town in upstate New York. She has a past that she wishes to forget but is reminded of daily through the physical scars that she wears. Assigned to desk duty for months, her first “real” case involves the murder of the town’s outcast, Pearl Jenkins. The prime suspect is Pearl’s son, Shannon, who has become entangled with two men, both of whom are mysterious in their own right. From the beginning to the end, Pashley weaves a tale that is never quite what we expect as Fisher attempts to thread together the scattered pieces of the Jenkins’ family’s life.

Pashley is a gifted writer who captivates and enthralls her readers with her effluent prose. While The Watcher is one heck of a good crime story, the core of the book is about the characters who brilliantly are brought to life. I have not read a crime fiction tale this good in such a long time that The Watcher soars to the top of my favorites this year.