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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The Line Between @ToscaLee

Wow! Rarely would I begin a review with just “wow” but rarely have I read a book this amazing! Wow! The Line Between is a seamless marriage of dystopia meets thriller that will have you on the edge of seat from start to end which, if you’re like me, will be a day of non-stop reading!

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Wynter Roth had lived in a doomsday cult since her mother entered New World when Wynter was 7 years old. It was a cross between apocalyptic fear mongering meets vegan preppers with a lot of male chauvinism thrown into the mix. The cult leader was “Magnus,” a former scientific researcher who developed seeds. Now Magnus is attempting to bring about the end of the world to prove his prophecies are true. Wynter, for reasons you have to read to know, is kicked out of the cult shortly before a pandemic begins sweeping across America. Only she knows who is behind the deadly disease and only she can stop it.

Wynter is one of the best written characters I have read in ages. She’s vulnerable, yet strong; naïve but keenly intelligent. Most of all, she is fearless. All of these qualities will be needed in order for her to trek across America in an attempt to bring the knowledge that she has in her possession to a researcher who can find a prevention or antidote for a virus that is creating madness in the human race.

Tosca Lee is a masterful story-teller. At no point throughout the book did I doubt the plausibility of the characters or their actions. Lee takes time in the beginning of the book and through a “flashback” dual timeline, to allow readers to truly know Wynter, the cult members and their lifestyles and, through her eyes, we are able to watch as her disbelief begins to grow as well as her struggle with her faith as doubt creeps into her thoughts. I also thought that way Lee described Wynter’s post-cult re-integration was deftly written. However, the writing toward the end of the book was brilliant and breath-taking! The ending itself is nothing short of perfection – except, I WANT MORE!!

The Line Between is an amazing thriller, an even better dystopian novel and an absolute must read for 2019! You can pre-order your copy today for a January publication.

A million thanks to #Netgalley, #ToscaLee and #HowardBooks for my advanced copy of The Line Between.

The Burglar @ThomasPerry

In the crime fiction genre, few authors are as well known as Thomas Perry and few books are written as intelligently as those he has authored. Fans of his anti-hero thrillers are in for a treat with Perry’s newest, The Burglar.

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Elle is a unique burglar. She takes great care to blend into her surroundings, often appearing as a wealthy sorority girl just out for a run. She scopes out the houses meticulously, insuring that there will be no mistakes and no one home to create violence for anyone. Her newest mark should have been an easy one – she was sure no one was home and hadn’t been there for a few days. However, once inside she doesn’t find an empty home but rather three dead bodies. Covering her tracks, she thinks she has escaped a problem, instead someone now is stalking her! Unable to go to the police for help, Elle realizes that she has to solve the murders herself and catch the killer(s) before they catch and kill her.

The premise for The Burglar has been written in both books and movie scripts. What sets this one apart from all others is Elle – a woman, obviously – and the skillful, methodical writing of Perry that takes what could be a ho-hum mystery to the next level of edge-of-your-seat thriller. Yes, this is a game of cat and mouse, but Perry works in so many twists and little puzzles throughout the book so that the reader stays engaged from start to end. I also thoroughly enjoy books that feature an anti-hero rather than focusing on the same cop-detective-gumshoe theme. In all, The Burglar is one of the best suspense/crime/thrillers I’ve read in quite a long time. I highly recommend it to those who enjoy any of these genres.

The e-book will be available in January, 2019 or you can purchase the physical book now. Either way, I’m sure you enjoy this thrilling read.

Thank you to #Netgalley, #ThomasPerry and #GroveAtlanticMysteriousPress for my copy of this engaging read.

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.

 

 

 

Pieces of Her @KarinSlaughter

Different is good, and this book IS GOOD!

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I am a Karin Slaughter fan. I thought a few of her previous books were graphically violent just for the sheer shock value, but Slaughter remains a masterful story-teller. I also like her stand-alone books better than her series. While I adore Amanda and Will, too much more of Sarah’s perfection would make me ill. Every book has a reader for them and those who adore Slaughter’s series most likely will find this book too different for their tastes. I, however, loved it. Aside from Cop Town, Pieces of Her is my favorite Slaughter book.

Slaughter creates a scenario that is plausible. Not every woman in America is a ball of fury, strong and has their life together. I live in the “rust belt” where there are very few strong, “life-together” women and most of the 20-30 year old women that I know are exactly like Andrea. They are struggling, never have been made to stand on their own two feet and, barring some major life-altering event, this is exactly the way they will stay. A handful of the women in their 50’s are exactly like Laura. I know because I am one of them. We marched, we rallied, we protested and we fought. Not all of us have had a personal experience with a “cult” but we knew people who did and we personally saw far too many of them in the news. Now, we are mothers, lead boring lives but there are pieces of us that are not like other people. We want change but we live in a world that is different now. Our kids don’t understand us – they think they do – but they don’t. They can’t. They didn’t experience Watergate, Vietnam, the PLO, the SLO, Beirut, Civil Rights and more. We fought so they wouldn’t have to – maybe they should have to! Which is, to an extent, the point of this story! I think many missed it. They wanted a good crime novel. They wanted a good guy and a bad guy. This, however, is a story that can teach you something if you try just as Cop Town did.

If you’ve already made up your mind to only like Slaughter’s very safe series, then this is not the book for you. IF, however, you would like to have your mind opened, explore a different perspective of a different time and era; IF you understand that growth comes from change – and Andrea did grow – then this is a book for you. I remain a Slaughter fan and I am a fan of this book!

Let me Lie by #ClareMackintosh

 

The police ruled her parents death a suicide but on the anniversary of their death Anna receives an ominous, anonymous note suggesting otherwise. Is it just a hoax, or is it a clue to what really happened to Anna’s parents?

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Clare Mackintosh is so well known in the Crime/Suspense genre that you know you’re going to get a terrific read. Let Me Lie is no exception, perhaps even better than her previous publications which I loved. Her writing strength is that she creates every day people that we can relate to but who find themselves in situations that are mind-blowing even to the characters themselves. In this case, we have Anna who, still grieving from the loss of both parents the year before, has fallin in love with her therapist and has a new child. She already is stretched to a breaking point dealing with these issues when a note arrives on her doorstep:

SUICIDE – Think Again

Anna knows she should leave the past alone but how can she after this note. She elicits the help of a retired cop who, by the way, is far more interesting than most secondary characters, and together they begin to unravel what really happened. Or do they? The story is murky, the characters extremely well drawn and the suspense is palpable. Mackintosh is well known for her twisty plots and surprise endings but this story exceeds all others. I don’t enjoy a surprise ending that is written just to surprise you but when the surprise is something that you should have anticipated, an eneding that shocks you but you should have seen coming, then I get really excited – and this ending really was quite shocking. It is worth reading the entire book just to get to the final pages. And, I have to say, that once I began reading Let Me Lie, I did not stop once. It was an all night read for me… and a very blurry following day! The suspense will pull you in and keep you hooked long after you have finished reading.

Five suspenseful and satisfying stars for Let Me Lie!

 

 

The Fifth To Die by #JDBarker

When girls go missing, later turning up dead in a different person’s clothes, the public suspects the MK4 killer has returned or is this a new madman stalking the streets of Chicago?

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The Fifth to Die by J.D. Barker picks up just after the event of his previous book, The Fourth Monkey. The much loved characters from the first book have returned, although much battered after the events that transpired and with reputations tarnished after Bishop’s (aka the Fourth Monkey) escape. When the murdered girls begin appearing, while sadistic and horrifying, the murders do not have the same “MO” as The Fourth Monkey. Soon, however, Det. Porter sets off on his own “secret” mission to find Bishop by looking for his mother which, of course, will lead to disastrous and dubious results.

The Fourth Monkey was one of my favorite books for 2018 and ranks very high in my all-time favorites of all time. The writing was fresh, the characters were original. I loved the dialogue between the cops and between them and Bishop. It was the type of conversation that you know happens with cops but rarely is included in crime fiction. Knowing that I had high expectations for this follow-up, I tried to tamp down my excitement when I read The Fifth To Die. The second book is a series is always difficult to write, especially when following one as marvelous 4MK. However – don’t you just hate howevers – I was very disappointed in The Fifth To Die. 😦

While I knew that Porter was struggling after the death of his wife, his complete derailment was puzzling for me. Tiny “tells” that were so intriguing in the first book, were plodding in this second. Without giving anything away, there were certain characteristics about Bishop that made him the mad genius that he was – now many of those “facts” were called into question. Yes, I know that there is a storyline that Barker is following and “all will be revealed in the final book,” but to suspend belief in this book was more than I was willing to do. But the one thing that pushed me over the edge was the dialogue. It was so incredibly brilliant in the first book, yet in the second I wanted to put tape over their mouths just to get them to shut up. If Nash had called Clair “Clair Bear” once more, I would have stopped reading the book and series completely! In the era of the #metoomovement, you show me one female cop, regardless of circumstances outside the force, regardless of their relationship with their partner, who allows a male cop to call them by a “pet name” as belittling as this one IN PUBLIC! Not one. It is too hard to be a female cop in the first place, to keep your reputation in tact to allow this continue. It was infuriating.

There has been a lot of hype about the ending – it’s a cliff hanger. The ending didn’t bother me in the least. That is what cliff hangers do – leave you hanging, wanting more. I hope I want more but it is going to take a bit of time to get over my disappointment in this book. I love Barker’s writing. I’ve read his previous books; I’ve read his upcoming co-authored book, Dracul, and he really is a genius. But this one left me tattered, sad and disappointed.

Thank you to the author and to Maxine (Booklover Catlady) for my copy of this book. I apologize for taking so long to review – I read it three times hoping I would feel differently.