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.

Little Threats by Emily Schultz

In the summer of 1993, twin sisters Kennedy and Carter Wynn are embracing the grunge era and testing every limit in their privileged Richmond suburb. But Kennedy’s teenage rebellion goes too far when, after a night of partying in the woods, her best friend, Haley, is murdered, and Kennedy is sent away for her murder…

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I read the opening pages of Little Threats during the “lock down” of the virus in April thinking that I would pick it up again later in the summer. Nooooooo, from the very first lines of this book I was hooked! The story is so intriguing – twins, a third girl added to the duo who wants to be one of them so badly, bad boys, sex and drugs and seriously messed up parental units! There was no way I could put down this book!

Carter and Kennedy, twins, were teenagers rebelling against their parents’ wealth and control. In the summer of ’93, they were testing the limits by running free and wild, shoplifting items they clearly didn’t need and hanging with a crowd that introduced them to drugs and an element of society that was far different from their own. On July 4th, after a bad acid trip, Hayley – the friend – is found dead in the woods between the wealthy/poor neighborhoods. Kennedy has no memory of the night but circumstantial evidence points to her – along with a desire to “stick it to the rich kid.” Now, fifteen years later, she is out of prison and along with old memories comes someone seeking revenge and and another who wants the truth.

The story is told from multiple points of view, including writing assignments that were given to Kennedy while in prison. The overlapping, often contradictory perspectives allow the reader to understand how confusing the summer really was for all involved and how incredibly out of control the situation became. As these same stories begin to converge with one another, the red herrings disappear and the shocking truth is revealed. Although I suspected who the murderer might have been, there were so many “what about them” or “could it have been…” thoughts along the way that I still was utterly shocked by the very satisfying conclusion to this riveting and well told story. While I missed Emily Schultz’ debut book, you can bet it is on my shelf now and I highly recommend Little Threats to you for your reading list this autumn!

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.

Snow Creek by Gregg Olsen

There are few authors who I will read regardless of what they write: fiction, non-fiction, series, stand-alone. Gregg Olsen is one of those authors. Imagine my surprise when I was reading the second book in the Megan Carpenter series and realized that I never had formally reviewed the first book. AAAggghhh. Let me say that it is difficult to go wrong with one of Olsen’s books and Snow Creek is no exception.

Snow Creek is the first in the Detective Megan Carpenter series. Carpenter has left behind a dark, murky past to start a new career in Snow Creek Washington. Her first case is a missing persons case that appears a likely accident until Carpenter gets a closer look. In addition to solving the murder case, there is a sub-plot regarding a series of tapes from Carpenter’s childhood. It adds a dimension to the story line that I found intriguing. Between the suspense of the murder and the psychological sub-plot, Olsen has, again, provided us with a solid, well written crime story. Both Snow Creek and Water’s Edge are available now at Amazon and local booksellers.

The Pact #LindaCastillo

I just started reading books by Linda Castillo and I’m absolutely loving the series. I never thought I would read books about an Amish community; the books my local library carries had turned me off of them forever I thought. But, I was asked to review a book by Castillo and loved it! Now I can’t read them quickly enough when they hit the shelves which is why I was thrilled to see this little novella pop up before her next book is released.{5B70EB37-D56F-49E8-BBAC-14210C5DD0BA}Img100

The Pact is a short mystery about two young boys who are lost/run away in the deep woods just as a snow storm in approaching. Burkholder is called out to the search and, as always, does her due diligence to solve the mystery/crime. This is actually a rather sweet story and I think that younger middle school aged children would enjoy it as well as fans of Castillo. It’s well written, especially since it is so short. Lots of action packed into those few pages. I definitely recommend it.