Shadow Falls by #WendyDranfield

Finally! A seriously great crime fiction novel that does not sugar coat the US legal system. Thank you Wendy Dranfield!!!

I first read about Shadow Falls, the first in the Madison Harper series, on Zooloo’s Book Diary blog. It sounded so intriguing and different from the norm that I had to give it a try. I am SO glad that I did. Madison Harper is a former detective who is on early parole for manslaughter of a fellow cop. She insists that she was set up and is determined to prove her innocence. To help her, she enlists the aide of Nate, also a recently released prisoner who was wrongfully convicted of murder and was on death row in Texas -three months out from his death sentence. Now this is a great combination right here. Seriously! When writers come up with flawed characters this is not the norm but they are so, well, I won’t say perfect together but they are great. However, their perspectives are so incredibly spot-on for what we are experiencing in today’s US society that I was shocked with its accuracy. All politics aside, though, the real mystery in this first book is a missing child that Nate has been hired to find. Madison’s answers have to wait until this child is found and what a crazy, mixed up world this poor child has fallen into. Don’t ever send your child to summer camp!!!

To say that I loved this book is an understatement. Not only did I read it in one sitting, I immediately downloaded book two and read it!! Now what!? I want MORE!!!!! Thank you Zoe for another terrific review and putting me onto another great read and author!!

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.

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.

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.