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

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.

Murder With All the Trimmings by Shawn Reilly Simmons

Murder With All the Trimmings is quick, fun, holiday cozy mystery.

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I want to reiterate that, for my reviews, a 5 or 6 is not a bad book, it merely is in the middle ground for all of the books of that genre that I have read.

The story revolves around a murder that occurs in a Broadway theatre. There is confusion over the actual identity of victim, who was a dancer with a troupe similar to the Rockettes. The cop who is investigating the murder is also the boyfriend of the main character who happened to discover the body. She is the chef for her dearest friend who is filming a documentary on the theatre and the troupe.

Everything about this book was interesting – the setting of the old theatre, the dancers, the holiday season and the life of a famous chef. However, none of it actually ever clicked for me, I never connected to the story’s characters. I’m unsure if it the manner in which they were drawn, or if I’m simply not into the lifestyles of the rich and famous. I suspect that there many other readers who will find this to be a very enjoyable, delightful read. I, however, was left wanting more.

My advanced copy was furnished by #Edelweiss and #HenryPress

 

 

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.

Mutts and Mistletoe by #NatalieCox

If you are a dog lover, then Mutts and Mistletoe is must read book for you! Even if you aren’t a dog lover, you will enjoy this delightful holiday book!

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The holidays – which for me begin on October 1 – are the only time of the year that I actually read and enjoy cozy mysteries and romance books. I think it has something to do with being raised on holiday classics which morphed into Hallmark Holiday movies. I like feeling nostalgic and magical and in love this time of year. If given the opportunity to read a fun holiday story, I will jump at the chance. Mutts and Mistletoe was such an opportunity!

Charlie’s life has hit the rocks – her boyfriend just ran off with his trainer, her mother has fled to Australia with her new husband and, in a neighbor’s freak explosion, her apartment ceiling caved in on her leaving her injured and homeless just in time for the holidays. She reluctantly agrees to spend time recuperating at her cousin’s home in the middle of nowhere where her cousin runs an upscale doggy day-care. Charlie is not a dog fan and is even less of a fan of the country veterinarian with whom she gets off on the wrong foot. When Charlie’s cousin makes the sudden decision to travel to the Arctic Circle to be with her online lover, Charlie is left in charge of the pooches, including her cousin’s very pregnant, very spoiled pet, Peggy. Mayhem ensues as Charlie learns about dogs, their owners. There is a burglary gone wrong, holiday pet races that include a very well trained reindeer and a duck and so much more leading up the big event – Christmas Day.

The beginning of the book was a close deal breaker for me. I’m not sure what it was about the first chapter or so, but I disliked Charlie and her lifestyle so immensely that I, quite nearly, stopped reading the book. However, once the dogs were introduced into the story, it all turned around. It is very obvious that the author, Natalie Cox, loves dogs and understands their non-verbal communication perfectly. The detail of their personalities, quirks, beauty and relationships was so spot on that I found myself laughing hysterically, crying and nodding my head in agreement throughout. Poor Peggy, the pregnant pooch, was the star of the book without a doubt! Just as they transformed Charlie into a completely different person, they won over my heart and mind regarding the book. By the end, it became one of my very favorite holiday reads of this season.

I highly recommend Mutts and Mistletoes to all of those who have furbabies of their own, to those who love holiday tales and readers who enjoy light romance stories. This one is a winner!

Thank you to #Edelweiss, #PenguinRandomHouse and Natalie Cox for the opportunity to read this heart-warming tale which now is on sale at your favorite retailer.