A Stranger on the Beach #MicheleCampbell

A perfect summer read just hit the shelves today and it is one that you will not want to miss: A Stranger on the Beach by Michele Campbell. 41150430Caroline literally has it all: a marvelous husband, a beautiful daughter and an amazing new beach house that has been transformed for exquisite entertaining, lavish parties and relaxing vacations on the beach. She also has a stranger who is very interested in her house. At first she is intrigued with him, when he shows up at her party as a bartender she is concerned by him, but when her life begins to disintegrate she turns to the stranger for comfort. But what if the stranger wants more?

Admittedly, I love Campbell’s writing and I knew going into this book that I was going to enjoy it – which I thoroughly did. Campbell’s characters also are layered, multi-dimensional versions of who you think they might be which enables her to keep you guessing throughout the story. Her plot, particularly in A Stranger on the Beach, never is quite you suspect it of being and just when you think you have the entire mystery solved, you discover that you were completely wrong. I’m not fan of plot twists for the sake of surprising the readers and that is not what Campbell does. She literally takes the reader into areas which the reader never thought to go and that makes her books very enjoyable and satisfying.

A Stranger on the Beach is not only a good summer read, it is a great mystery, thriller and suspense which I highly recommend.

Thank you to #Netgalley, @StMartinsPress, and @MicheleCampbell for my copy of @AStrangerOnTheBeach

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Two for Thursday? The Vanishing Season by Dot Hutchinson

I know, I know… it’s supposed to be Two for Tuesday but since I’m so behind I have to keep going with these reviews and I definitely didn’t want to forget this one by one of my favorite authors: the final installment in the Collector Series by Dot Hutchison.

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We were first introduced to this series with The Butterfly Garden, a book that horrified and traumatized many readers several years ago. It continued with The Roses of May and last years bestseller, The Summer Children. (You can read my review of that book HERE) Each book has built on the development of the team members who originally found girls in the Butterfly Garden and their work within a special unit of the FBI. Now a child has been abducted, their specialty, but the case is eerily similar to kidnapping of Eddison’s sister years earlier. As the team members deal with their own haunting demons from past cases, they also must search through clues to see how and why this case may be linked to the cold cases from old before it is too late to save the missing child.

Let me state up front that absolutely is not a “stand alone” book. I read The Summer Children last year and only slightly fell through the cracks a few times. After that, I promptly went back and read the first two books in the series. All of these books are top notch, horrifyingly marvelous thrillers. This one, however, is the end of the story. For those of us invested in these characters it is a book that ties up all of the loose ends, answers questions from the past and allows us and the author to move on to new topics. It is a must -read for followers of Hutchison’s work, but I don’t recommend starting here. I do, however, recommend reading every single one of the books in the series. They are absolutely fantastic! Hutchison is a masterful storyteller whose tales you will not want to miss.

I’ll Never Tell – the perfect summer read

I’ve never read a book by Catherine McKenzie but have heard so many great things about her books that I wanted to try one to see what I was missing. Well, apparently I’ve been missing a lot. I’ll Never Tell was the perfect summer read for me: not too serious, super quick, a nice mystery and interestingly quirky characters. What more could a reader ask for in a summer book?40201006._SY475_.jpg

The MacAllister siblings grew up at Camp Macaw, the typical summer camp with cabins that surround a lake, stories re-told over and over, sports, games and art workshops. What wasn’t typical was the summer that Amanda, a popular counselor and friend of the siblings, washed ashore dead in a rowboat. The police never found the killer. When the siblings’ parents die and the will is read, they discover that the only way they will inherit the camp is to solve the mystery of Amanda’s death. However, what once was an unsolvable murder mystery is now shrouded in closely guarded family secrets as well. None of these siblings is who they appear to be.

I’ve come to love domestic noir especially when it is done well and I’ll Never Tell does, in fact, handle this genre very well. There are six points of view – yes six – which could get muddled and confusing but McKenzie deftly moves back and forth between the chapters and personalities so that never once does the reader lose focus on who is who. The book also jumps back in time through Amanda’s point of view but this also adds to the dimension of the story rather than detracts. We are able to put into perspective the tales that the siblings are weaving from the actual facts as they happened. This does not, however, give the reader a clear cut view of the actual killer. There are so many twists and possibilities that I was clueless until the very end.  Literally, it could have been any of them, or all.

I’ll Never Tell is a well written “whodunnit” and a great mystery, perfect for any season but even better for summer because of its setting. I highly recommend it and will be pursuing other McKenzie books for myself.

Thanks to #Netgalley, #CatherineMcKenzie @CEMcKenzie1 and #LakeUnionPublishing for my copy of this great read.

The Poison Thread @laurapurcell

When I was a teenager I read Victorian gothic young adult books from sun up to sun down. I simply could not get enough of that genre. As I entered university, my tastes changed and I switched to more “grown up” British Literature but a part of me always yearned for the thrill of the gothic tale. Mary Shelley and Edgar Allen Poe are two of my favorite writers because of their dark, macabre imagination. It comes as no surprise, then, that I have fallen in love with Laura Purcell’s writing. Last year, The Silent Companions, took readers by a storm and now she has given us a new intriguing gothic noir tale, The Poison Thread.

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At first glance, this appeared to be an ordinary Victorian book about a young socialite, the daughter of a wealthy nobleman, with far too much time on her hands yet no interest in the usual coquetries of society. She was studying phrenology, a popular belief at the time that the skull could predict behavior and be re-shaped to alter such. Although we may sneer at this now, it was the precursor of modern behavioral science. As part of her “studies” and her desire for good works, also a very Victorian endeavor, she visits women in jail, listens to the woes of their crimes and examines their skulls. But one prisoner is unlike the rest: Ruth. This woman weaves a sinister tale about poison, and sewing and garments that can harm their owners. Is she mad? Does she belong is an institution or is she simply playing at being crazy in order to escape hanging? How can one know for sure.

Purcell alternates the chapters between the two women, the present and the past, and as she does so we, the reader, become as entwined into the threads of the story as the victims of Ruth’s garments became ensnared in hers. From the moment I began reading there was no stopping. I had to know how it ended and now, weeks after I finished, I cannot stop thinking about Ruth and her needles, her life and that of those around her. Purcell does an amazing job of bring to life Victorian England – the horrors, the poverty, the wretchedness of the poor, those in debt and, in contrast, those with money and their fineries. She also hints at the problems during this time between those who remained Catholic versus those who, of course, chose the Church of England. It was a strange and misguided time in England’s history – the age of coming knowledge combined with the ignorance of the darkness just left behind and Purcell does an commendable job of conveying all of that in The Poison Thread. This is gothic Victorian at its best and I highly recommend it for those who like this era, horror, magical realism, mystery and British literature. You will find all of that within this fabulous book.

Thank you to #Edelweiss, #LauraPurcell and @PenguinPub for my copy of #ThePoisonThread

The Last List of Judith Kratt @AndreaBobotis

Miss Judith has inherited all that the Kratt family had to offer: a pie safe, a copper clock and a murder no one talks about. 9781492678861_34d7d

Being born and raised in the southern part of the US, I came to love southern literature. It has a flow and charm to it, a rhythm that is unlike any other. When it is done well you can smell the gardenias and magnolias on every page and feel the grit from the dusty Delta roads. The Last List of Miss Judith Kratt is such a novel, one that envelops you and transports you to the hot, humid backroads of the deep south complete with its oppressive heat and family turmoil.

Miss Judith wants to make a list of all that she owns before it is her “time to go.” She doesn’t have much; in fact, she doesn’t have anything of value really except memories and stories and secrets. She would like to keep the worst of those secrets all the way to her grave but she knows that will be impossible when her sister returns home hell-bent on exposing all that she knows regardless of the cost to anyone around her.

The actual story itself is, for many of us, as old as the hills: a family that has grown apart due to a tragedy that had to be kept quiet, in this case a murder that was covered up decades before the story takes place. As Miss Judith tells her story, catalogues her belongings and her life, however, we realize that this is more than an ordinary tale, but rather one that is told beautifully, with eloquence and in a manner not unlike the great story-tellers of the past: Faulkner and Harper Lee, even a touch of Flannery O’Connor’s biting wit comes through in the tapestry that Bobotis has woven together.

Don’t be fooled, however. This is not just a piece of fiction, an historical account of Miss Judith’s life. There is a mystery here, deep and dark, that must be resolved for all those concerned. Regardless of your genre of choice, this is a book for everyone, a classic in the making.

Thank you to #Eidleweiss, @Sourcebooks and #AndreaBobotis for my copy of this amazing book on sale today at your favorite bookseller and Amazon.

Her Daughter’s Mother

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There was so much about this book that I wanted to like. The writing itself was interesting and had a nice rhythm and flow to it. Even the subject matter, IVF with a nefarious undertone, was something that peaked my interest. However, no matter how many times I picked up the book, I could not get into the actual characters. I certainly didn’t like Tyler, the absentee/misunderstood ex, or the egg donor/murder victim who was not at all what she seemed. Even the main character was too self-absorbed and scattered to hold my attention. She couldn’t even hold her own attention, so how could she keep mine? I know that others have seen strong women in this book. Sadly, that is not what I experienced.

Blood Relations @JonathanMoore

Lee Crowe is a dis-barred lawyer, now a PI who has a reputation of getting the job done – regardless. Even he doesn’t realize what that will mean when he finds a body of a beautiful woman, dead, on the roof of a Rolls Royce in the middle of the ghetto. Wait, can we still use the word ghetto? Well, you know…. Being the type of guy that Lee is, he snaps some great photos of the woman and sells them to the highest bidding magazine. That sets him a course that will take him from coast to coast with a trail of dead bodies in his wake.40796146

Blood Relations started off like any other PI/Crime/Detective story: dead bodies, downtrodden former somebody barely getting by in their new life with a beautiful ex-spouse who haunts them. But this isn’t just any ‘ole story; this is a Jonathan Moore story. If you know anything at all about this author then you know that there will twists, turns and a pile of noir throughout and I absolutely was not wrong or disappointed with this one. While the theme of the story, and the atmosphere remains constant – that of a gumshoe looking for a killer – soon we are on the trail of an errant FBI agent and a scientist who is so cutting edge that his work is either insane or genius or both. This is Mary Shelley meets Michael Crichton with some Mickey Spillane thrown in for good measure. How could it be anything other than amazing?

Obviously, I highly recommend Blood Relations and, if you haven’t already Moore’s other books, I absolutely loved The Dark Room. Check him out and let me know what you think.