Scorched Grounds by Debbie Herbert

At least one Saturday a month I like to feature southern literature. I may not be a southern gal any longer, but writers from that region have a gift that is quite different from most other authors. Their writing is grittier, darker, have sly wit and so much charm. Southern Literature is definitely in my soul.

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Scorched Grounds is the second book by Debbie Herbert in the Normal, Alabama series. For those wondering, yes there is a Normal Alabama. It’s an…. unusual place and one I don’t care to drive through again. The series is set in the same location but with totally different characters so join us as we get to know the people from Normal.

Della Stallings’ father went to prison for murdering her mother and brother. Della was the sole survivor of this tragedy, one that has left her with a debilitating phobia. She has worked her entire life to cope with this phobia, including working only the night shift. But now, her father is being released from prison on a technicality and murders begin happening almost immediately. Della has no idea if it is her father who is killing people or, worse, he is being framed by someone else – someone very close to Della.

From the cover, alone, you can tell that this story is very dark. The characters are not very likable. The places are dreary and, some, in ruins. Despite that, you get the sense that Della is trying desperately to rise above this, not to be pulled down by the horror that is her life. There is, however, someone who is determined not to allow that to happen. From Della’s father, to her very bizarre psychologist, to her gosh-awful aunt and uncle, there are so many suspects, a myriad of twists and turns and chilling acts of terror to ensure you are captivated from start to finish.

Herbert does an amazing job at creating an atmospheric thriller that is a perfect example of southern noir. I loved it and hope you will too!

Thank you to #Thomas&Mercer and #Netgalley for this intriguing thriller

Three Shorts for Thursday: Snakes and Ladders/ Dark Pattern/ These Little Lies

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It’s time for some quick and short reviews from my “backlist” or TBR list. It is obvious that I read far quicker than I write!

SNAKES AND LADDERS by #VictoriaSelman

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I absolutely love and adore this series by Victoria Selman. Snakes and Ladders is the third book revolving around Ziba MacKenzie, former special ops now a profiler for the Met. She’s also known as the Serial Killer Hunter because finding serial killers is what she does best – primarily because she is fearless.  One such killer is now terrorizing London, cutting off body  parts and leaving a rose in their place. It appears to be a copy-cat killing or perhaps someone killing on behalf of the original murderer, Dr. Vernon Sange. It is necessary to talk with Sange to see if he is, in fact, conducting these killings from afar, but the only person he will talk with is Ziba. As the murders continue, the horrifying reality sets in that the killer is stalking Ziba as hard as she is stalking them.

Every book that Selman has written has been dark, gritty and frighteningly realistic. They are, in fact, everything one could ask for in a crime fiction thriller. Selman’s writing is on point, tough and, at times, quite harsh. That is what makes these books so fascinating. Nothing at all is “sugar-coated.” Her characters, not just Ziba who is one tough cookie, are very well written and developed. Once I’ve finished with one of Selman’s books, I feel as though I’m missing friends. Not that there is anything friendly about Ziba. She has her guard up due to past emotional trauma and that guard protects her from a lot – especially in this book!  While this is the third installment in the series, and I do highly recommend reading them all in order, Snakes and Ladders can be easily read as a stand-alone. The background on the characters is thoroughly laid out for readers who are just joining in the game. ALL the stars and more for Snakes and Ladders.

Genres – Noir Crime Fiction

DARK PATTERN by Andrew Mayne

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Every single book that I have read by Andrew Mayne has completely blown my mind! His series, both, are fascinating, sharp, in a word: brilliant. I can feel my brain expanding with the scientific, technological and mathematical information he includes in each of his books. He’s amazing.

Dark Pattern is the fourth in The Naturalist series featuring Dr. Theo Cray, a mathematician who is, literally, a genius. Using his expertise in maths and computer technology, he is able to see patterns in crimes committed that others cannot see. This time he is more vulnerable as a parasite may – or may not – be eating away at his brain. Even in the end, we are not sure what will become of Dr. Theo Cray. Dark Pattern is exciting, inventive and exceptional and, while I encourage you to read the books in order, I cannot recommend ALL of his books highly enough. This techno thriller will leave your reeling!

Genres: Techno Thriller, Crime Fiction

THESE LITTLE LIES by Gretta Mulrooney

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DETECTIVE INSPECTOR SIV DRUMMOND IS LOOKING FOR A FRESH START. WHAT SHE GETS IS TWO DEAD BODIES.

Gretta Mulrooney is well known for her brilliant police procedurals and you all know how much I love those! Now she is back with a brand new series featuring a tough, smart female Detective Inspector, Siv Drummond, a character you will thoroughly enjoy!

There are two dead bodies lying next to each other, one with a photograph of a young girl placed on top. The bodies appear to be totally unrelated to one another but their proximity would suggest otherwise. As DI Drumond begins to investigate she finds more questions than answers and dark secrets that no one in this small town want revealed. These Little Lies is action packed and so well written that I didn’t put it down from start to finish. Then, I hated that I was finished because I loved Siv! This is one series where I will be stalking the author to see when the next book is going to hit the shelves. If you are new to Mulrooney’s writing, These Little Lies is a great place to begin. I adore new series, especially when they are this well written.

GENRES: Crime Fiction, Police Procedurals

Three great books, three thrilling reads. Have you read these? What are your thoughts about them?

 

Two for Thursday? The Vanishing Season by Dot Hutchinson

I know, I know… it’s supposed to be Two for Tuesday but since I’m so behind I have to keep going with these reviews and I definitely didn’t want to forget this one by one of my favorite authors: the final installment in the Collector Series by Dot Hutchison.

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We were first introduced to this series with The Butterfly Garden, a book that horrified and traumatized many readers several years ago. It continued with The Roses of May and last years bestseller, The Summer Children. (You can read my review of that book HERE) Each book has built on the development of the team members who originally found girls in the Butterfly Garden and their work within a special unit of the FBI. Now a child has been abducted, their specialty, but the case is eerily similar to kidnapping of Eddison’s sister years earlier. As the team members deal with their own haunting demons from past cases, they also must search through clues to see how and why this case may be linked to the cold cases from old before it is too late to save the missing child.

Let me state up front that absolutely is not a “stand alone” book. I read The Summer Children last year and only slightly fell through the cracks a few times. After that, I promptly went back and read the first two books in the series. All of these books are top notch, horrifyingly marvelous thrillers. This one, however, is the end of the story. For those of us invested in these characters it is a book that ties up all of the loose ends, answers questions from the past and allows us and the author to move on to new topics. It is a must -read for followers of Hutchison’s work, but I don’t recommend starting here. I do, however, recommend reading every single one of the books in the series. They are absolutely fantastic! Hutchison is a masterful storyteller whose tales you will not want to miss.

#MurderousMondays: The Thin Edge #PeggyTownsend

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It’s Murderous Monday here at Macsbooks and I am very excited about the book I have to share with you today! The Thin Edge is by a new-to-me author Peggy Townsend and it held me riveted to my seat from beginning to end! What a surprise and a treat!

Aloe Snow is a fallen from grace crime reporter in Bay area who is attempting to pick up the pieces and begin writing again as an independent reporter. She has acquired a rather interesting group of friends, a gay couple who own a bar and a trio of former (?) anarchists who gather around to discuss their glory days and guide young minds toward higher intellectual thinking. When of the trio’s son is found to be the likely suspect in a murder case, he asks Aloe to investigate further to prove his son’s innocence. What Aloe discovers could prove far more dangerous than any story she has followed before.

There are multiple story lines within The Thin Edge. There is the primary case of the murder itself which should prove straight forward but is anything but. The victim was married to a quadriplegic who was a former interrogator for US Special Intelligence Services. His care giver has a somewhat surprising past of his own and the victim has a myriad of secrets that are uncovered in layers. In addition, through her work, Corrine, the victim, came in contact with some of the city’s worst criminals and any one of them could have been her killer. As Aloe traces some of them down, she stumbles across a vigilante cult that is a dangerous as it is fascinating. To say that there is a ton of action and thrills in this book is a vast understatement. However, Townsend does a remarkable job at keeping everyone straight, fleshing out the characters, even the secondary ones, so that the reader never gets lost or confused. You will be invested in each one throughout and the conclusion will stun you. While I might have figured out the who, the how and why was astounding!! This was a top-notch psychological murder thriller with heavy emphasis on the psychology! I absolutely loved it!! I also should add that, while this is the second in the Aloe Snow series, I had no idea that it was a follow up until the end. It works very well as a stand alone. Of course, I adored this one so much that I’ve already got my hands on Townsend’s first book, See Her Run, and will have a review for you on that one soon. Have a marvelous week everyone!

So much thanks to #Netgalley, @peggytownsend and #Thomas&Mercer for my advanced copy of #TheThinEdge.

What about you? What murderous delights have you read this week? Let me know! Here is a link to The Literary Potpourri and their post for this Monday’s edition of their Murderous Monday. Be sure to check it out! It’s great!!

 

 

 

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.

 

Nothing to Lose @VictoriaSelman

Blood for Blood was my Amazon First Reads selection for January and I absolutely loved (!) the book and the character, Ziba Mackenzie, a former special ops agent now freelance profiler working for the MET in London. When I found out there was a second book in the series, I was thrilled! Nothing to Lose is the continuation of Ziba’s story and she is back, despite her personal loss and her close encounter with a serial killer in Blood for Blood. 

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When Ziba gets a call in the middle of the night regarding the second murder eerily similar to one a few weeks before, she isn’t thrilled to be called back to work and there are those at the MET who aren’t there with open arms to welcome her either. Ziba has just discovered a hard drive with information pertaining to her murdered husband’s last case and much of that information points directly back to dirty cops somewhere within the MET. However, when Ziba arrives on at the scene of the murder she realizes that the murder victims bear an uncanny resemblance to her. If anyone should profile this case, it is Ziba. With divided attention, Ziba throws herself into both cases but her split attentiveness could lead to danger.

Ziba Mackenzie is a character full of flaws. She brassy, rash, drinks too much, is moody, abrasive and impulsive. These are her good qualities, actually. They are what make her an excellent profiler and an interesting person for a thriller. You know from the beginning that she will end up in trouble; there’s simply no way for her to avoid it. You also know that if you needed someone working on your case, you’d want someone like Ziba.  Victoria Selma does a fantastic job bringing this character to life. I can envision exactly what Ziba would look like, how she sounds, even to the point that I want to tell her to cut out the slang already when it gets to be too “over the top.” When you, as a reader, can feel the character’s persona then you know the writer has done their job. In addition, the plot is ripped from today’s headlines. It’s gripping, suspenseful and not so horrific – although it is quite awful – that I would think it’s unbelievable. Selma even goes to the point of explaining a fugue state involving one of the victims and a nuance of that state of which most people are unaware. It’s attention to detail like this that puts Nothing to Lose in category of top-notch thriller. If you like action as well as old fashion detective work, you will love Nothing to Lose. And yes, you can read this as a stand alone, there is plenty of back story included, but I highly encourage you to read both books.

Thank you to #Thomas&Mercer, #VictoriaSelman and #Netgalley for my advanced reader copy of #NothingtoLose

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