Murder Theory (The Naturalist #3) @AndrewMayne – Publication Day

I have a confession. I may be a book nerd, but I’m a science geek at heart and this geekiness of mine manifests itself in the strangest of ways. Since I never was allowed to truly follow my scientific love due to parental influences as a child, I did weird stuff instead: became a Trekkie, followed volcano trails throughout the US, collected fossils and rocks, studied astronomy for the fun of it and look for the scientific principles by any and absolutely everything. I know, I know…. you’re wondering what this has to do a book review, aren’t you? Andrew Mayne is one of my very favorite authors. He is a former illusionist. Can one be a “former” illusionist? I don’t think so. Being an illusionist is more than being a “magician.” It’s understanding the psychology and science behind the slight of hand, the trick of the eye. It’s becoming the master of one’s own body. It’s absolutely amazing! Today, Mayne is an author who incorporates these same scientific and “slight of hand” principles into his books. And I love them!

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What a long intro, right? In Murder Theory, Computational biologist and serial-killer hunter Dr. Theo Cray is back after slaying dragons and killing monsters in the previous two novels. Well, okay, no dragons and the monsters were serial killers. Now there is something strange lurking in the dig around the last murder site, something that is making seemingly normal people kill and kill violently. While the local cops and even the FBI are quick to write this off as a one time psychotic break, Cray begins to see a pattern of behavior that could be viral based and, if it is, could spell potential problems if it falls into the wrong hands aka WMD used by any government or military. As Cray searches for the causes, the how and why of the virus and how it could be spread, he begins to trip ever so lightly over the line of good and evil and, at times, appears a little closer to the monster he once was chasing. Has the virus affected him or is this just part of his mad genius working overtime?

Mayne is an excellent story-teller. His writing style and quick chapters propel the story along at a rapid fire pace making this a thrilling ride to the finish. There are times when the story could get bogged down in the scientific jargon, and there is a lot of that, but Mayne makes the science so interesting that it lends to the excitement of the tale rather than detracts from it. It creates substance rather than has the reader skimming over the dry parts because, quite simply, there are no dry parts. I have no idea if any of the science is real but it certainly sounds authentic to me and I love it! And let me tell you – I’m a sucker for last lines that make me go “WHAT!?!?” and the last line of the book had me doing exactly that!!! I would read this book all over again just to get to that last line! You know me well enough by now that when I write that, it’s a killer ending! And in this case it may very well be just that!

Murder Theory could be read as a stand alone. There is enough back story that a new reader could pick up and carry on without reading the first two installments. I do, however, highly recommend the first books as well as his Jessica Blackstone series. They are well worth reading and highly enjoyable!

Murder Theory is available today at your local book seller or library. Many thanks to #Netgalley, #AndrewMayne and #Thomas&Mercer for my copy of this great thriller!

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The American #NadiaDalbuono

The American is a complex, intricate tale of international espionage and intrigue that weaves through Italy, the US and the walls of the Vatican. It is the follow-up to Nadia  Dalbuono’s stunning debut, The Few, featuring her flawed protagonist, Leone Scamarcio, who is back in The American. 

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Detective Scamarcio is called to the scene of an apparent suicide, one who appears to be an American businessman. But Scamarcio is suspicious when he discovers plaster in the man’s pockets. The set-up is reminiscent of a decades old murder of “God’s Banker,” the Vatican’s treasurer. When a Cardinal with links to the church’s bank is killed and the US government sends in “agents” to threaten Scamarcio, he knows he is onto to something big – and something dangerous. He’s right. As the investigation continues, there are links to every dirty war, conspiracy, “hit” job throughout the past few decades and Scamarcio becomes the target of mobs, governments and the church who all have something to hide and do whatever is necessary to keep their secrets hidden.

The American is an expertly written, fabulously researched and an intensely laid out thriller. There have been times when I’ve read international authors where I became a bit “lost in translation,” but that never was the case with The American. It is a fast paced, edge-of-your-seat story that will hold your attention throughout. If ever a series should be put on the screen, it is this one! The intrigue and suspense is palpable throughout.

I did read The Few, the first book in this series, and I like how Scamarcio is evolving as a character. There are times when a flawed protagonist gets worse or their bad behavior becomes piggish, that is not the case with Scamarcio. He is handled very deftly. Because this is the second in the series, I would strongly suggest that you begin with The Few. While this could be read as a stand alone, I wouldn’t recommend it. I do, however, absolutely recommend both books to anyone who likes thrillers, suspense, international intrigue or well written fiction!

Thank you #Netgalley, and #ScribeUS for my copy of this terrific thriller

 

You Belong to Me #MarkTilbury

There is dark and then there is Noir DARK. You Belong to Me is on the darker shade of that Noir scale. It was so gritty that I had to take breaks, sit the book down and come up for air. Yep, it’s that good!

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Let me tell you first – THERE ARE NO SPOILERS HERE! Unfortunately, I read a review for this book that, quite literally, gave away the twist at the end. And what a great twist it is, too. Or, it would have been if I had not had it spoiled for me!! WHY do people do that!? Reviews do not include spoilers people!! The ending of this book is worth the reading of the entire book! I love great twists at the end. I love them!

Briefly, this is the story of four teenage boys who already are living on the wrong side of the tracks. They don’t have the best that life has to offer, particularly Danny, but they are making it okay. Until one fateful day when they decide to seek revenge against Danny’s brother for a lifetime of abuse that he has waged against all of them but especially upon Danny. What happens to these boys, what they discover about the brother and about themselves, will alter their lives to an extent that the four of them barely eek out an existence into adulthood.

Now it is several years later and events have aligned to bring these men back together again. A girl is missing, these men have seen this before. Can they find her before it’s too late? What happens to them now will shock you to your core. Did I mention dark and twisty!? Tibury’s writing will have you gripping the book and tearing through the pages to the end. The characters are sad and heartbreaking, some of them I didn’t even like, but they were real and very dimensional. I cared about them and I came to care about their fate! The storyline could have been have placed in midwestern America as well as Ireland or any place in Europe. It’s universal in its bleakness. It is a well told tale. If you like noir, psychological thrillers then this is absolutely the book for you!

Thank you to #Netgalley, #BloodhoundBooks and #MarkTilbury for my advanced copy of this – did I mention dark – thrilling book!

The Suspect by Fiona Barton

Fiona Barton, bestselling author of The Child and The Widow, is back with her newest thrilling suspense novel, The Suspect.

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Reporter Kate Waters is back in this third offering of Barton’s, along with DI Bob Sparkes. For Kate getting the story, being first on the scene and first to press is key to her success so when she hears about two British girls who have gone missing in Thailand, she manages to find a way into the confidences of the girls’ families. The girls, teens on their “gap year” abroad, were supposed to follow an itinerary but it soon becomes apparent that the girls are not where they were meant to be and are no longer phoning home. As Kate calls on resources in Thailand, she learns that the bodies of two young girls have been discovered in a “flop house.” Their deaths have been ruled accidental. But Kate and the families want answers – they want to know what happened to the girls. Or do they? The answers to the questions will have far reaching implications that fall closer to home than any parent could possibly imagine.

The Suspect is every parent’s worst nightmare – a missing child, the subsequent death of a child, and mountains of international bureaucratic red tape that stymies all questions. I truly empathized with these parents, perhaps because I have grown children who travel abroad nearly as often as they stay at home in the states and they have done so since they were teens. There is such a fine line between trusting your kids and knowing when to be wary of what they are telling you. So, for me, these parents and their reactions were very believable. I also have been a small-time reporter in my much younger days so Kate is someone with whom I also identify. In the end, the entire story – while focusing on the girls’ travels and exploits – ultimately is about the parents, their lifestyles, decisions and, in the end, what they will do to protect their children and their families.

This is, of course, the third book in what appears to be a series but, maybe I’m just dense, I didn’t read it as part of a set. Yes, Kate has been in the previous books but until The Suspect she was not a focal character. She and Sparkes are recurring characters, and I hope they continue to be, but certainly this book could be read as a stand-alone. It should be noted, I suppose, that there is a lot of graphic sex, drug use and descriptions of dead bodies. I’ve grown somewhat callous to this type of thing in suspense/thrillers but I’m noting it just the same. I adore Barton’s writing style and have loved each of her books. She has become an author whose book I know I will relish and I hope that you will enjoy this, her latest book. I couldn’t wait to read it and, now, I cannot wait to read her next one.

Much appreciation to #Edelweiss, @BerkleyPub and #FionaBarton for my copy of #TheSuspect

The Stranger Diaries @EllyGriffiths

Elly Griffiths has woven together a tale of gothic suspense, psychological terror and marvelous detective work and thrown in a full measure of classical literature, all of which create a beautiful tapestry called The Stranger Diaries. Whew.

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If you think that opening line was a lot to absorb, just wait until you read the book. I’m still trying to untangle my mind from the who’s and who’s nots and what’s real and what’s not! For someone who had an imaginary playmate until she was 10 years old and still has a crush on Harry Bosch, whom I’ve been told is not a real person, trying to decipher a book within a book within a book written by fictional character written by an author with a nom de plume was a lot to comprehend. But, hand on heart, this book – The Stranger Diaries – was worth every single moment spent reading it. It is fantastic!

The book opens with a line from “The Stranger,” a gothic short story written by RM Hammond, whom our main character, Clare, is studying in hopes of writing a book about his life and works.

“If you’ll permit me,” said the Stranger, “I’d like to tell you a story.”

Clare is an English teacher at a school that is nestled in the old home where Hammond once lived. Her fellow teacher and best friend, Ella, is found stabbed to death with a note lying next to her body which reads, “Hell is Empty,” also a line from Hammond’s book. As The Stranger Diaries continues, the body count rises as does the spooky, creepy factor of the entire tale. Folded within the story itself is the re-telling of The Stranger and the more we as readers learn, the more similarity there is between current events and the haunting, gothic tale of the past. <shivers>

The Stranger Diaries reads, at once, both as a ghost story and a gothic suspense. The writing is marvelous, intelligent and might possibly have you scrambling to look up classical literature references along the way. (Note: Hammond is a fictional writer, much to my dismay.) I loved all of the characters, except the ex-husband and even he was the perfect ex. In all, this is a terrific mystery, ghost story, gothic tale that crosses multiple genres and can enjoyed by many. I highly recommend it.

Thank you to #Edelweiss, #HoughtonMiflinHarcout and #EllyGriffiths for my copy of The Stranger Diaries. 

 

Fairwood #EliYance

Fairwood is a modern day Bonnie and Clyde with a darkness so dark it gives noir a new meaning.

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If Wayward Pines and Lost had a lovechild, it would be Fairwood, a twisted tale of suspense. Dexter and Pandora are on the run from the law. They are bandits, bank robbers who, at one time were notoriously celebrated for their feats, but now have made a fatal mistake and need they to hide to stay alive. They discover the town called Fairwood, a small, rural community with little – okay, no – technology and it appears to be the perfect place to hide. However, what they have run to may be far more terrifying than what they have run from. This storyline alternates with that of a very burned out cop who is somewhat on their tail. Eventually his narrative intertwines with theirs in a shocking way that you must read to find out what happens!

Fairwood is a masterfully told story that is unlike any I have read before. Yes, I read Wayward Pines and I have read some similar books but none took me to the psychological places that Fairwood did or surprised me the way Eli Yance managed to do. Yance is a gifted storyteller who teeters between genres much like Stephen King did in his beginning: horror, paranormal, thriller, suspense – where the reader questioned themselves and reality but couldn’t put down the book – and you will not be able to put down Fairwood either. If you like any of these genres then you truly will enjoy Fairwood!

Thank you to #Edelweiss and #EliYance for my advance copy of the reprint of #Fairwood.

The Paragon Hotel @LyndsayFaye

The Paragon Hotel is a taut, well told historical mystery that will captivate you from its startling beginning to its breathtaking conclusion.

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There are few things that I enjoy more than a great mystery and when it is set in a historical context, it is like icing on a cake. That is exactly what Lyndsay Faye has created with The Paragon Hotel.

It is the era of prohibition and Alice “Nobody” James is mysteriously wounded and fleeing from the mobs of Harlem, New York where she was raised by her prostitute mother. She runs as far as she can to Portland, OR where she befriends the porter for The Paragon Hotel, an all black hotel with mysteries of its own. But events on the west coast are not a lot better than the east as the KuKluxKlan is gaining strength and has targeted the Paragon, the only all black hotel in the city. Alice, who is white, is barely accepted by its black residents and understandably so given the hate that is Klan is bringing to their door step, but she does make friends with Blossom Fontaine, the singer at the hotel, and her ward, Davy Lee. When Davy Lee goes missing, tension rise, alliances are questioned and the racial tension that has been simmering threatens to erupt.

The Paragon Hotel is one of those rare books that is both a suspenseful thriller as well as a looking glass at the past, one that allows the reader to see the important lessons from that era and how those lessons learned might be applied today. One might think that Harlem would have nothing in common with Portland, or that the 1920s is too far removed from current events today, and yet this story blends it all together seamlessly. What should have been a typical mystery, one filled with hate and ugliness, instead evolved into a tale of hope and encouragement.

I was riveted by The Paragon Hotel and could not put it down from the first to the very last page. Its characters were so beautifully drawn that they will continue to haunt me for a very long time and the story itself changed me profoundly. I cannot recommend this book highly enough.

My thanks to #Edelweiss, @PutnamBooks, and @LyndsayFaye for my copy of this incredible tale