#NGEW2019, Book Reviews, Domestic Noir/Thriller, Fiction, Noir, Crime and Dark Endeavors, Thriller

The Woman in the Park @teresasorkin @tullanh

A married woman meets a handsome stranger – In The Park. When the handsome stranger’s wife turns up dead, the only suspect is the married woman….

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The Woman in the Park is the exciting debut from the writing pair Teresa Sorkin and Tullan Holmqvist. A woman, Sarah Rock, is determined that her husband is having an affair with his young associate. Sarah, who has been under care for depression in the past, has weekly or twice weekly sessions with her psychologist through which we, the reader, learn more about Sarah, her family, her loneliness after her children leave for boarding school and, quite frankly, this appeared to be more of sad tale about mid-life rather than a suspenseful mystery. When Sarah meets Laurence in the park, however, things begin to change. Her life, formerly heartbreaking, appears to be filled with new life and energy – until the police show up at her door. There has been a murder in the park, a woman, and Sarah is their primary suspect. As Sarah’s world unravels, we go on a desperate journey with her to discover the truth, if the truth is capable of being found.

The Woman in the Park is a very short, extremely taut, marvelously written story that had me enthralled from beginning to the end. I literally read it in one afternoon never stopping once! While we know that Sarah is an unreliable narrator, the last section of the book is so surprising, so amazing that I never suspected until the very end. I was speechless!! Yes, The Woman in the Park really is that good!

Have you watched or do you remember The Sixth Sense with Bruce Willis when, at the very end, you sit there with your mouth hanging open and your head shaking in disbelief? That is exactly what I felt like at the end of The Woman in the Park. If you haven’t see that movie – you need to. If you haven’t read The Woman in the Park, you absolutely must! If this is their debut, I cannot wait to see all of the great books that will come from this writing pair!

Thank you #Edelweiss, the authors and @BeaufortBooks for my copy of this amazing book!

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#historical fiction, Fiction, Recent Reads, Rapid Reviews, Thriller

RecentReads and RapidReviews

Recent and Rapid I have two quick reviews for you today. Let me know if you’ve read them and what you thought about them.

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I actually read two books within a week of each other involving an “escape room” and I could have sworn that I reviewed both. Wrong. Luckily, the review today is for the one that I enjoyed most: The Escape Room by Megan Goldin.

The setting is Wall Street in a brokerage firm that either is everyone’s worst nightmare working environment or is dead-on regarding the cut throat nature of Wall Street. The book is told in present day and through flashbacks of one its workers, Sara, who was a brilliant recent graduate in need of a break. When she is hired at Stanhope and Sons, she believes that all of her dreams have been fulfilled and her problems are over. She could not have been more wrong. In the present, four fellow workers of Sara’s – the most successful team at Stanhope – are summoned to a late night meeting in what appears to be an abandoned building. After entering the elevator, the four discover that they are part of an escape room puzzle that goes horribly and terrifyingly wrong. As the team solves more of the puzzles’ clues, they realize that it is not a game, unless it’s a game to the death.

There were parts of the story line that were questionable and took a little suspension of belief, however, I absolutely loved this book. The characters are developed so well and so thoroughly that I despised each of the four in the elevator. By the end of the book, I was actually hoping they all would die. Seriously. They are bad people. At the same time, the background story of Sara was fascinating and realistically well told. I read this one in one night without stopping. If you like thrilling thrillers and despicable characters, then this is a must-read book for you!

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Laura Lippman is a “hit or miss” author for me, more often hit than miss. Lady in the Lake demonstrates why I keep coming back to her work. It is a stellar mystery set in the perfect era. She manages to capture the frustration of women in the 1960s, the racial tension of then and now and lays out an incredible mystery that keeps readers guessing until the very end. That she does all of this with a very likeable and witty character is “icing on the cake.”

Lady in the Lake is actually inspired by a true story of the unsolved murder of Shirley Parker in Baltimore. Although that case remains unsolved, Lippman’s indomitable character, Maddie, is on a mission to prove that she has what it takes to be an ace reporter and solve the mysterious death of Cleo aka The Woman in the Lake. The story is told from multiple points of view but Lippman seamlessly transitions through each of them as she makes each of their voices clear and understood. Lippman’s past as a reporter shows in her astute descriptions of the newsroom. Add to that the nuances of racial tension that was simmering throughout America at this time and you have a winner of book. To say that this was one of my favorite books of the summer is an understatement. I loved the characters, the era and the writing immensely.

Thank you to the publishers, #Netgalley, #MeganGoldin and #LauraLippman for my copies of #LadyintheLake and #TheEscapeRoom.

#NGEW2019, Book Reviews, Domestic Noir/Thriller, Horror

Theme Music by T. Marie Vandelly

She didn’t run from her dark past. She moved in with it…

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Theme Music was one of the most hauntingly bizarre tales that I’ve read in a very long time. There is a paranormal element to it that adds to the horror aspect of the story but the story line itself is macabre enough to frighten off those with weak constitutions. Never-the-less, I couldn’t put this book down!

Dixie was the sole survivor of a family massacre that occurred when she was two. The official story is that her father murdered the family with an axe before slitting his own throat, leaving only Dixie alive in her high chair. Dixie, who was raised by her aunt and uncle, has grown up with the stigma that surrounded her family as a result; so when the house – THE house – is put on the market, Dixie decides to buy it and move in. Not only that, but she gathers all of the old furniture and belongings that have been in storage and creates the house as near to the original as possible. Talk about a bit “off,” or perhaps just slightly obsessed. Of course, once inside the house, all hell breaks loose for Dixie. The problem for the reader is that we never are clear if Dixie is as crazy as her father allegedly was or if there is more to the story that Dixie – or us – even suspect.

Admittedly the story was brilliant until the midway point and then I found myself hurriedly reading through to the end to find out what was going on with the characters – all of them. I think there could have been a bit more editing, especially toward the end of the story. However, even with that in mind, Theme Music is a terrific book, frightening, suspenseful and definitely horrifying.

Thanks to #Edelweiss, the author and #PenguinPublishingGroup #Dutton for my copy of this book.

#NGEW2019, Book Reviews, Fiction, Tags and Challenges, Thriller, Uncategorized

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

Book Reviews, Domestic Noir/Thriller, Fiction, Women's Fiction-Interests

Alice’s Island #DanielSanchezArévalo

A happily married woman’s perfect life shatters when her husband turns up dead hundreds of miles away from where he should have been. Suddenly she discovers that there was a part of him about which she knew nothing at all.

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I’ve never read anything by this author from Spain before reading this novel but already want to read everything he has to offer!  Alice’s Island was not at all what I was expecting. I thought it would be the run-of-the-mill cheating husband, husband dies, wife finds out, oh no oh no, boring read and instead it is more domestic drama where, yes, the husband had secrets and dies but the wife and her two children are the primary focus as they are searching for answers, putting their lives back together, coming to grips with the reality of their new situation. This is a very character driven novel and Arevalo does a marvelous job creating intriguing, multi-dimensional characters that will fascinate and hold you captive throughout. I highly recommend Alice’s Island for those who like suspense over thrillers, slow burning, character driven novels.

Thank you to #IAWR for my copy of #AlicesIsland

#NGEW2019, Fiction, Murderous Mondays, Tags and Challenges

#MurderousMonday on a Wednesday #TheScholar

Murder monday with textYes, I know. It really has been that kind of week here at Macsbooks. I’m not sure what the attraction to the Midwest is right now but there are a LOT of travelers visiting the fair state of Indiana. If you’re ever this way, please do stop by The Wisteria House. I truly thought I had these posts ready to go without me, but sadly, I’m just not that coordinated and on top of things. Luckily for my guests, I AM on top of clean rooms and delightful breakfasts :)Whew! 

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The Scholar by Dervla McTiernan is the second book in a series featuring DS Cormac Reilly. As usual, I had not read the first book (I have now) before beginning this one and did not once feel lost or confused.

DS Reilly has been assigned to cold cases until the night his girlfriend frantically calls him. She has found a young woman in the street, the victim of an apparent hit and run. The dead girl is carrying an ID of Carline Darcy, heir apparent to Darcy Therapeutics, Ireland’s most successful pharmaceutical company and the company for whom Reilly’s girlfriend, Emma, is conducting research on the first successful artificial kidney. Reilly is certain that Emma cannot be involved so he takes the case, but as it continues to unfold, doubts into Emma’s innocence start to rise, complicating their relationship and eroding his reputation at work.

The Scholar is a multi-layered mystery with heaps of suspense and fabulous, complex characters. McTiernan is a marvelous writer who capably molds her characters into realistic people that often remind us of those we see every day. Never does she cross the line into hyperbole or drive Reilly into a farce of what a DS should be. He is flawed, but not the typical drunk, broken, woe-is-me copper who has become the stand-by for far too many police novels. Instead, he has real flaws like we all do. He makes mistakes like we all do and that creates a character who is far more relatable to the reader.

This is not a “fast paced thriller” but rather a well-done suspenseful mystery and when I say “well-done” I mean superb. I highly recommend both The Scholar which is due for publication in the US in May and The Ruin, which you can find at your local bookstore or library.

Many thanks to #Edelweiss, @DervlaMcTiernan and @Penguinbooks for my copy of #TheScholar

 

#NGEW2019, Book Reviews, Domestic Drama-Dysfunctional Families, Fiction, Tags and Challenges

The Stillwater Girls by Minka Kent

I find that writing reviews for really awesome books and really horrible books are the easiest. Writing reviews for those that are solidly in the middle are the most difficult of all for me. The Stillwater Girls, my first book by Minka Kent, is a solid 3 star: a good read, interesting, but quite flawed.

51CFdbIbZ9LamazonStillwater is a forest in upstate New York in which two girls, Sage and Wren, have lived with their mother and younger sister, Evie, for their entire lives. They, quite literally, have had no contact with civilization. There are no cell phones, radios, televisions, internet – nothing. They never have seen another human being outside of the women in their cabin. At least, not that they can remember. Their mother occasionally meets up with a “supply man” who sells their homemade soaps and brings them supplies but, for the most part, they are self sufficient and adequately living off of the land around them. Until the night that Evie falls ill and their mother leaves the cabin to take her to find medical help. Wren and Sage wait….and wait…. Wren carefully marking off the days on her homemade calendar, weeks, then a month and then two. Then a man arrives at their cabin and their lives change forever.

Stillwater Girls completely had me hooked for the majority of the book. Kent is an amazing writer and the story of these girls, how they survived, their meager happiness and their fears, were palpable. I absolutely loved them. Until the final stage of the book. It was as though I was watching a ball of yarn unraveling. The storyline itself began to come apart string by string. While I appreciate plot twists and surprises, those in Stillwater Girls, felt so contrived and unbelievable that I wanted to back up and re-read it all again hoping for a different outcome. Surely all of the great writing at the beginning couldn’t fall apart like this at the end, could it? But, sadly, it did. That’s not to say that as whole the book wasn’t good because it was. It could have been terrific, though, and it wasn’t.

I appreciate the advanced copy given to me by #Netgalley, #Thomas&Mercer and #MinkaKent. I have read such great things about Kent’s books and definitely will read one of her other works.

 

Book Reviews, Murderous Mondays

Bone on Bone #JuliaKeller

I wasn’t sure what to think after Fast Falls the Night, Julia Keller’s stunning book about 24 hours in a rust belt town forced to cope with the mounting, egregious death toll from tainted drug overdoses. The protagonist, Bell Elkins, and her town, were left shattered and broken with a deputy fighting for his life and Bell making the decision to confess to a crime she only recently remembered was her fault. I had no idea how, or even if, the series could continue. Bone on Bone, puts the pieces back together and, like things that have been broken, it never will be same but, thankfully, the pieces are there.

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As always, Keller’s writing is superb and her characters are brilliantly and realistically drawn. There are few series characters with whom I identify with more than I do than Bell Elkins. While this book is much slower, not nearly as much action as those in the past, it was needed in order to serve as a bridge from what was to what will be in the future of the series. If you haven’t read Keller’s books before, then I suggest you start at the beginning. If you are a fan, then one is not to be missed!

Domestic Noir/Thriller, Fiction, Magical Realism, Thriller

The Missing Years #LexieElliott

MY FATHER IS….

Missing…  Ailsa Calder’s father is missing and has been for several years. Rumor floating among the little village where he lived is that he ran off with jewels that he stole from his employer. Perhaps he ran away to start a new life or fell to his death into the sea or was murdered and hidden and the jewels stolen. Ailsa has come up with many theories throughout her lifetime but now she has to find out the truth. Her mother is dead and she has inherited one half of a manse. The other half is owned by her missing father. She cannot do anything with it until she either finds her father or proves he is dead.

52681134_642264552856741_4538588784605790208_nI really enjoyed reading Lexie Elliott’s first novel, The French Girl, last year but I will tell you now that The Missing Years eclipses her first and has landed its way onto my favorite’s list! The Missing Years crosses genres from suspense, mystery, a touch of romance to a fair amount of magical realism and she marries these together seamlessly. It has an essence of a ghost story while keeping the reader firmly planted in the here and now and much of what one suspects as supernatural turns out to be ominously too close to reality for comfort.

While both The French Girl and The Missing Years comprise a large ensemble cast of characters, with this one Elliott does a better job of fleshing out her characters so that they are more manageable to distinguish from one another and also easier to relate to, feel compassion for and, ultimately invest in their story. As someone with roots in Scotland, I found the history that was included particularly intriguing and learned more about my own past than I was expecting. Trust me, the history is subtle, never boring for a moment.

The Missing Years is an eclectic, atmospheric and suspenseful tale that I highly recommend. While some readers have questioned the addition of magical realism in this book, I found that it was absolutely marvelous and hope this is a continued direction for Elliott’s future work.

I am very grateful to Elisha @berkleypub and #elliott_lexie for my advanced copy #TheMissingYears.

#NGEW2019, Book Reviews, Domestic Noir/Thriller, Tags and Challenges

The Promise #TeresaDriscoll

Happy Publication Day to Teresa Driscoll and #ThePromise

Three girls held a deep, dark secret. Three girls made a promise they vowed to keep forever. Now something and someone is threatening that promise. Will the truth come out or will these women do anything possible to keep their secret hidden forever?

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I am a huge Teresa Driscoll fan and have previously rated her books very highly. The Promise is a slow burning psychological suspense novel – not a thriller – but a book filled with plenty of atmospheric drama. The book begins when the three women are at a private girls school. While we don’t actually learn what the secret is, I suspect that most of us can guess. It’s a terrible thing that happens and traumatizing, too, for each of the girls. However, the secret more than the event becomes the catalyst for problems down the road as is generally the case with secrets, right?

Without giving any of the plot away, I will say that I enjoyed The Promise but not nearly as much as I have liked Driscoll’s precious work. While it’s well written, I had a difficult time actually connecting with any of the three women. Perhaps it’s because I’m too bluntly honest for my own good and keeping a secret for a lifetime isn’t something I can conceive of doing. Just deal it already! Despite misgivings, however, I found myself engrossed in their story and I did read it in one very quick sitting. I suspect that if, like me, you are a Driscoll fan then you will like this selection. If you enjoy slow-burning psychological reads then this will be good one for you as well. If, however, you like thrillers, then this one is not for you. It is very much a solid three-star rating from me.

Thank you to #Netgalley and #ThomasMercer for my advanced copy of #ThePromise