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. 

 

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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

The Au Pair #emmarous @BerkleyPub

The Au Pair by Emma Rous is part gothic suspense with a full measure of domestic noir!

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It’s Murder and Mayhem Monday here at Macsbooks and, if I were asked to choose the perfect MMM book, it would The Au Pair! There is absolutely nothing that I love more than dark, domestic tales of suspense and murder. The Au Pair has it all.

Seraphine and Danny are twins who, along with their older brother, Edwin, have been raised in an old Victorian estate in Norfolk (UK.)  Their lives would appear charmed to the outside world, but there is a darkness within the family that pervades their existence. On the day that the twins were born, their mother threw herself off of a cliff. Now the siblings are attempting to cope with their father’s tragic, accidental death. While going through their father’s belongings, Seraphine discovers a photograph of their parents with one of the twins taken on the day they were born. Their mother looks blissfully happy. What possibly could have happened to make her kill herself and why is there only one twin? With stories of changelings, faeries and sprites haunting them all of their lives, Seraphine is determined to find answers. But will those answers be the ones she is hoping to find or will it lead to more heartbreak for this cursed family.

Told from two points of view, Seraphine’s and that of Laura, the au pair at the time of their birth, Rous weaves together a story of a wealthy family with mental instability, far too many secrets and characters who will stop at nothing to keep those secrets hidden. The complex plot twists and turns in very unexpected ways and takes the reader on a journey from the present to the past and back again. Although I am one who does not like surprises in my noir novels, this ending will absolutely blow your mind! The resolution, however, is perfection!

For those who love domestic drama, suspense and fast paced fiction, this is definitely a book you will want to read! Mark it now, order early, it will be published January 8th.

Many thanks to @BerkleyPub and #EmmaRous for my copy of this amazing tale.

Don’t Let Go: World Noir by Michel Bussi, translation by Sam Taylor

If you’ve read my blog or online reviews, you know that I adore World Noir, particularly Nordic Noir. The darker the plot, the better the book. Don’t Let Go by Michel Bussi is, simply put, one of the best world noir books that I’ve read.

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Set on Reunion Island, the backdrop of tropical and French cultures blend to create the perfect atmosphere for this fast paced thriller. Martial and his wife, Liane, are wealthy Parisians who are enjoying a holiday on the island. However, Liane disappears with no trace except bloods in their room. Setting up the timeline for her disappearance, it appears that Martial was the last one to see Liane before she vanishes. But there are secrets abounding and nothing is quite what it appears. What is Martial hiding and what does the hotel staff know that they aren’t sharing?

The story itself is intriguing and one that constantly keeps the reader guessing. Despite the laid back island setting, the book is fast paced, edge of your seat thrilling as Aja, the female detective in charge, races against time following the trail that Martial is setting down. The characters all are so real and relatable that even when one doubts Martial’s story, you still want everything to be okay in the end. But can it possibly turn out alright with a murderer on the lose? There are twists and turns, all of which lend to the credibility of the story line but serve to keep you turning pages until the very end. This is a fabulous read and one that you will not want to miss!

Thank you to #Edelweiss and #Ingram Publishing for my copy of Don’t Let Go. It is on sale now at your favorite retailer.

Those Who Knew by Idra Novey

Those Who Knew is one of the most timely, on point works of fiction for this era.

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With the opening pages of Idra Novey’s sophomore novel, Those Who Knew, you will be hooked into the story of politics, intrigue, masculine abuse, secrets and lies.

On an unnamed island, exactly one week after the death of a young woman is ruled “accidental,” Lena discovers in her purse a shirt that she is convinced belonged to the young woman, Maria. Her friend, bookshop/weed store owner, Olga tries to convince Lena that she only is imagining things. But Lena suspects the girl was pushed in front of the train by an up and coming Senator, Victor, with whom Lena once had a liaison and during which time Victor quite nearly killed Lena in a fit of rage. As the story progresses, we learn more of Victor and the machinations of his rise to power. We meet Victor’s brother, Freddie, a gay playwright, who also suspects Victor. The beginning of the book is filled with twists and turns and intrigue and is told from multiple points of view. One would think that it would get confusing or scrambled, however, the deft writing skills of Novey, smoothly transition from one person to the next, one thought to another beautifully.

The latter portion of the book reads differently from the first as the characters examine their past actions, what they have done; what they might have done differently and how those different actions might have affected a different outcome. It is here in which the beauty of the book resonates and the true talent of the author shines. I gladly would read this book multiple times over and again just to have the pleasure of reading the second half with its beautiful prose.

Those Who Knew is succinctly written and is, quite quick of a read and yet there is so much power and such a weighty message within so few pages that you will be left wondering how that could and also wanting more. Idra Novey is considered an “up and coming” American writer – I daresay that with Those Who Knew, she has arrived there already!

Thank you #Edelweiss, @VikingBooks, and @IdraNovey for my advanced copy of this book. Those Who Knew is available for pre-order now and will be published November 6, 2018.

Penitence @MarkDCampbell

A deadly influenza pandemic. An escaped convict. 
A single mother desperate to protect her only child.  Dystopic fiction at its best!

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This is me reading outside of my comfort zone again – no, wait, I think apocalyptic/dystopic fiction may actually be something I like. The Stand, The Road, Fahrenheit 451, 1984, The Clockwork Orange, The Handmaid’s Tale…. yeah, okay, I really like this genre just fine. And I like it even more after reading Mark Campbell’s new book, Penitence. 

Set in the near future, Penitence opens with a scene from anyone’s worst nightmare: a poultry farm worker is exposed to a new strain of avian flu, one that can jump species. It is fast moving, fast acting and deadly! Within a week the nation is in crisis, although the government does a fine job of lying to the people about the severity of the outbreak. Marshall Law is declared and the nation goes into panic mode. Well, almost the entire nation. A population that is forgotten resides within the prison walls. It is here that we meet Teddy Sanders, a lifer who stays alive by sticking to his routines and keeping his head down low. For Teddy, whatever is happening on the other side of the prison walls couldn’t be nearly as bad as what is happening on the inside. As chaos erupts in the prison. with an unprecedented mortality rate wiping out both prisoners and guards, Teddy realizes he has to make an escape or die of thirst and starvation. In an epic “battle” scene, Teddy fights his way to freedom only to discover a world that has collapsed. For Teddy, survival is second nature but is he willing to do anything to survive in this new world order?

From the moment I began reading until the very last page, the action never stopped. With the exception of the beginning scenario, Penitence is told exclusively through the eyes of Teddy Sanders: a killer, bank robber and convict. We learn of his fears, regrets, hatreds, disgust, and, ultimately his love. Sanders is one of the best drawn anti-heroes that I have come across since The Man in McCarthy’s, The Road. His story is heartbreaking and compelling, violent and good-hearted and, ultimately hopeful.

Campbell has worked inside of the US prison system and his experience shows throughout the book. The prison scenes are graphically drawn, horrendous, horrifying and action-packed. I’m not sure I’ve ever read of a prison scenario this well told. However, what I loved best about the book happens after Teddy leaves the prison. In a world that is dying, this section of the book could quite dark and depressing – and it is – but Teddy manages to find a woman and her son and the interaction between these characters is golden. Their relationship will rip your heart out and leaving it on the ground. It is stunningly beautiful.

I also appreciated Campbell’s knowledge of FEMA and Homeland Security. He not only gets their “official” line correct, he creates a world that is very much as most political analysts have described the future – FEMA and DHS are the new world order and Marshall Law strips away every last one of your perceived rights. Campbell could have taken this into a realm similar to King’s The Stand, where virtually no one is left alive and those who are alive are divided into Good vs Evil. Instead, this world is full of gray areas – good people doing bad things; bad people doing good things and a whole lot of government enforcers keeping “the peace” at any cost. Campbell, however, keeps an underlying feeling, just a tremor at times, of hope. In a world that is dead and dying, rather than being left depressed at the end of this book, I felt hopeful. The ending is absolutely amazing and it is worth reading the entire book just to get to the final scene. I shouted, “I want MORE,” and I was thrilled to discover that there is at least one more book to come – HURRAY!

I wholeheartedly recommend this book regardless of the genres in which you normally hang. It is a book for the masses but especially for those who love speculative fiction, dystopic fiction and post-apocalyptic tales. If I could give this book 10 stars I would! Now go… find your copy here and read it.