BOOK REVIEW: Local Woman Missing by Mary Kubica

54737068Title: Local Woman Missing

Author: Mary Kubica

Audiobook Length: 11 hours and 40 minutes

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Mystery, Thriller, Suspense, Crime, Contemporary

Read Start Date: August 30, 2022 

Read Finish Date: September 2, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: Shelby Tebow is the first to go missing. Not long after, Meredith Dickey and her six-year-old daughter, Delilah, vanish just blocks away from where Shelby was last seen, striking fear into their once-peaceful community. Are these incidents connected? After an elusive search that yields more questions than answers, the case eventually goes cold.

Now, 11 years later, Delilah shockingly returns. Everyone wants to know what happened to her, but no one is prepared for what they’ll find….

In this smart and chilling thriller, master of suspense and New York Times best-selling author Mary Kubica takes domestic secrets to a whole new level, showing that some people will stop at nothing to keep the truth buried.

My Review: I really struggled between giving this book 3 or 4 stars, but landed on 3 stars. This book is essentially about two women and a 6 year old girl who goes missing in the same town 11 years ago. The story is told by 3 separate POVs, some in the present and some 11 years in the past.

Essentially, the plot of the book is as follows: One woman (Shelby) is found dead, buried in a shallow grave — her husband is sent to prison for her murder. The other woman, Meredith, is found dead in a motel — death by apparent suicide — her 6 year old daughter is missing, and has been for the last 11 years. Meredith left a note saying that her daughter was “safe” and not to bother looking. The daughter, Delilah, is found in the opening scene of the book (after she escapes her captors), but her brother Leo soon suspects that the girl calling herself Delilah is not actually his sister.

I read some Goodreads reviews that said that they didn’t like the way the sentences were written. They were really short — however, this did not come across in the audiobook, so perhaps audiobook in this instance should be the preferred medium. For me, this was an easy listen and one that could be done while doing chores etc.

I liked the suspense of finding out what really happened — this was building through out the entire book. I was entertained and generally liked the book until I got to the end. I was disappointed as to how it all turned out. There was a lot of potential for this to be better than it was — the ending just was not plausible and there seems to be a lot of convenient police incompetence, which would not normally happen. I feel like so many things went wrong just for the sake of the story.

If you want to read this book, please do not read on.

SPOILER ALERT:

I need to give away key elements of the plot to fully state my feelings on why I gave this book 3 instead of 4 stars.

We are told that Leo and his dad always believed that Meredith killed herself after giving away Delilah to some unknown person. Say what now? Does that make sense to anyone? But ok. So they believe this hogwash, which means that they basically have believed the whole 11 years that Delilah is safe and happy living with some kind family.

Did the police really believe that Meredith would go to a motel, kill herself, but before doing that “hide” her daughter somewhere? Essentially give the child away to someone else?  Why would she do that? Meredith was happy in her career, her marriage, her life. The dad was a good guy, husband and father. It just really makes no freaking sense whatsoever. And who would she stash the daughter with? Wouldn’t there be a list of trusted friends?

If there was an Amber Alert out for the girl, how would no one recognize her? How would she be living a good life elsewhere without coming into contact with someone, anyone? A 6 year old girl is old enough to know who her parents are — she is old enough to tell someone. How anyone could have thought she was anything but kidnapped and hidden is ludicrous. And if she was kidnapped, then of course Meredith was murdered. Duh. Also, can’t pathologists figure out it wasn’t suicide by the angle of the wounds? Like, if Meredith was stabbed in the stomach, the angle of the wound would be different than if she stabbed herself in the stomach. Right? Sigh.

Then there is the issue of the girl being found. So Delilah escapes, and the cops take a DNA sample. Turns out, it is not the right girl, but the family keeps on thinking it is Delilah because one detective with a crush of the dad tells him that the DNA results are positive so that he won’t be sad anymore. Uh, what? No one else at the police department checked the file? Was this detective actively lying to everyone? Did she honestly think no one would find out?

By this point in the book, we have almost reached the culmination of the storyline 11 years in the past.

We find out that Shelby was a victim of a hit and run accident (Bea (Kate’s partner) was driving drunk with Meredith in the passenger seat). To hide the crime, Bea and Meredith bury the body in a shallow grave, and then Meredith comes back later to cover her with a blanket. There are so many problems with this. The police eventually arrest Shelby’s husband for the murder (I guess based upon the theory he beat her up or something), but like, hello, how is this even possible? She was HIT BY A CAR! Did the pathologist miss this fact? How did the police think the husband had killed her? And what about the blanket? Couldn’t they tell with forensics that the blanket was placed later — didn’t they look at video surveillance at shops to see who had purchased the blanket? Are the police in this town just crazy incompetent?

I mean these crimes did not take place in 1940 — DNA existed. I watch enough true crime to know that there is ALWAYS DNA left at the scene of the crime. I mean, come on. Was NO DNA testing done on Shelby’s body? And if not, why not? Did Shelby’s husband have an incompetent lawyer also?

The ending is probably the most farfetched, but I won’t spoil that for you. I could go on, but I won’t. I think you get the idea.

As I said above, I would recommend this book as a beach read or something you can listen to while multitasking. As long as you don’t think too much about the plot holes, it’s actually rather enjoyable.

BOOK REVIEW: The Last Storm by Tim Lebbon

59431951._SY475_Title: The Last Storm

Author: Tim Lebbon

Book Length: 368 pages

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Horror, Sci-Fi, Thriller, Post Apocalyptic

Read Start Date: May 30, 2022

Read Finish Date: September 7, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: A gripping road trip through post-apocalyptic America from Tim Lebbon, New York Times bestseller and author of Netflix’s The Silence.

Struck by famine and drought, large swathes of North America are now known as the Desert. Set against this mythic and vast backdrop, The Last Storm is a timely story of a family of Rainmakers whose rare and arcane gift has become a curse.

Jesse stopped rainmaking the moment his abilities became deadly, bringing down not just rain but scorpions, strange snakes and spiders. He thought he could help a land suffering from climate catastrophe, but he was wrong. When his daughter Ash inherited the tainted gift carried down the family bloodline, Jesse did his best to stop her. His attempt went tragically wrong, and ever since then he has believed himself responsible for his daughter’s death.

But now his wife Karina––who never gave up looking for their daughter—brings news that Ash is still alive. And she’s rainmaking again. Terrified of what she might bring down upon the desperate communities of the Desert, the estranged couple set out across the desolate landscape to find her. But Jesse and Karina are not the only ones looking for Ash. As the storms she conjures become more violent and deadly, some follow her seeking hope. And one is hungry for revenge.

My Review: I received this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This book took me so long to finish because the first 20% or so was a little slow going. But wow, after that it got really good, and I ended up finishing it in only a few days. The Last Storm follows the POV of several characters: Jesse, a Rainmaker. Katrina, Jesse’s wife. Ash: Jesse’s daughter, who is also a Rainmaker. Cee, a woman who befriends Ash, and Jimi, a son of a murdered man out for revenge against Jesse.

I loved the characters in this book. Jesse, a Rainmaker who gave it all up when his gift accidentally killed three people. To make rain, Jesse plugs himself into an “apparatus” of his own construction, transporting him to what seems to be an alternate reality. From this reality, the rain is brought to our reality through Jesse, as though he were a conduit of some sort. In his last attempt it all went wrong, and creatures came with the rain. He tried to teach his daughter in the ways of Rainmaking, to avoid the same mistakes, but when she started to bring down creatures, just as Jesse had, he became afraid. “What if it got much, much worse than anything [he] was ever capable of? What if she did that in a city?”

Jesse injected her with a serum, trying to suppress her rainmaking abilities. “She was far more dangerous than me, even at that young age. What happened to me was worse than anything my mother brought down, and her father before her. It’s a pattern, a degeneration that seems to follow what’s happened here to the climate. The effect we’ve had on the world. I believe it was reflected in my place, the Shore. Maybe Ash’s Skunkville is even more affected. And no on can control that.”

Mistaking it for attempted murder, Ash ran away — and did not come back. For nine years Jesse lived alone, apart from other humans, tortured with the guilt that he had killed his daughter. His wife, Katrina left in search of Ash, and followed her without success for nine years. Hardened by her time of the road, Katrina is barely recognizable to Jesse when she appears on his doorstep. Ash is trying to assemble another apparatus to start bringing down the rain again, and her parents must find her before its too late. Will they succeed? Or will Ash bring down unimaginable terror with the rain?

Rainmaking is in Ash’s blood and the storm is calling for her. When she’s trapped in the tumult she blacks out for days, weeks, months at a time, finding peace only in the eye of the internalized storm. Ash needs to get it out, but at what cost? She thinks she can control it with the help of Cee, a woman she finds on the road, but she will soon realize that the storm is just too dangerous.

Jimi, the son of the one of the three people Jesse killed all those years ago, thought that the Rainmakers were gone. When he finds out that Ash is alive, he seeks her out to exact his revenge of her and Jesse.

As the character’s paths come closer and closer to crossing, the tension mounts, making for a fantastic page turner.

I also loved the world building in this book  — near future US where climate change has reduced parts of the country into desert — basically wastelands where only the most hardened of people can survive. I also really loved the alternate reality, different for each Rainmaker. A place of tumult and creatures, waiting to use the Rainmakers as a gateway into our world. Will Ash be the Earth’s salvation, bringing only the rain? Or will she instead bring destruction?

I highly recommend this book.

10 Book Reviews

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Netgalley. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

BOOK REVIEW: The House Across the Lake by Riley Sager

58909880Title: The House Across the Lake

Author: Riley Sager

Audiobook Length: 11 hours and 3 minutes

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Thriller, Mystery, Horror, Suspense, Paranormal

Read Start Date: August 6, 2022

Read Finish Date: August 9, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: The New York Times best-selling author of Final Girls and Survive the Night (“a master of the twist and the turn” – Rolling Stone) is back with his most unexpected thriller yet.

Casey Fletcher, a recently widowed actress trying to escape a streak of bad press, has retreated to the peace and quiet of her family’s lake house in Vermont. Armed with a pair of binoculars and several bottles of liquor, she passes the time watching Tom and Katherine Royce, the glamorous couple who live in the house across the lake. They make for good viewing—a tech innovator, Tom is rich; and a former model, Katherine is gorgeous.

One day on the lake, Casey saves Katherine from drowning, and the two strike up a budding friendship. But the more they get to know each other—and the longer Casey watches—it becomes clear that Katherine and Tom’s marriage is not as perfect and placid as it appears. When Katherine suddenly vanishes, Casey becomes consumed with finding out what happened to her. In the process, she uncovers eerie, darker truths that turn a tale of voyeurism and suspicion into a story of guilt, obsession and how looks can be very deceiving.

With his trademark blend of sharp characters, psychological suspense, and gasp-worthy surprises, Riley Sager’s The House Across the Lake unveils more than one twist that will shock readers until the very last page.

My Review: I think the Goodreads synopsis on this book is pretty good, so I won’t go too much in detail regarding the plot. This book reminded me a lot of The Woman in the Window. Lonely / isolated woman who has trouble with alcohol, has nothing better to do than to spy on her neighbors. What she spies through the binoculars is a dysfunctional relationship, but she isn’t believed by anyone (mostly having to do with her alcohol consumption and the fact that she is spying.)

At some point the two books separate in theme, and the House Across the Lake takes it into a totally different and unexpected realm, where there are 2 twists at the end that I was not expecting at all!

I really liked The BiblioSanctum’s take on this book: “I’m just going to cut to the chase here. Whatever you might think is going to happen from the short synopsis I provided above, I guarantee it will be wrong. That’s because for most of the novel, Sager leads you to believe The House Across the Lake is going to be another one of your ordinary run-of-the-mill thriller mysteries with a perfectly mundane albeit exciting explanation that you would expect, if not perfectly predict. In reality though, it’s all just a ruse to make you feel all the more astonished and knocked for a loop when everything—and I mean everything—is turned on its head once he drops the big twist.

And it’s big. Genre-changing big. Without spoiling even the tiniest of details, I’ll just say that there is a supernatural element to this, and that is why I think reactions to the ending will be mixed depending on the type of reader you are. Even speaking as someone who enjoys fantasy and speculative fiction, I felt the twist was a bit too much, too sudden, and too in-your-face, so if you’re more into earthly non-supernatural thrillers, I can see how the bombshell might frustrate or even anger you.”

I got through this book pretty quickly, because I couldn’t stop listening to it (I was listening to the audiobook). If you like thrillers, murder mysteries and ghosts, then I’d recommend this!

BOOK REVIEW: Verity by Colleen Hoover

59344312._SY475_Title: Verity

Author: Colleen Hoover

Book Length: 336 pages

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Thriller, Romance, Contemporary, Suspense, Mystery

Read Start Date: August 2, 2022

Read Finish Date: August 7, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: Lowen Ashleigh is a struggling writer on the brink of financial ruin when she accepts the job offer of a lifetime. Jeremy Crawford, husband of bestselling author Verity Crawford, has hired Lowen to complete the remaining books in a successful series his injured wife is unable to finish.

Lowen arrives at the Crawford home, ready to sort through years of Verity’s notes and outlines, hoping to find enough material to get her started. What Lowen doesn’t expect to uncover in the chaotic office is an unfinished autobiography Verity never intended for anyone to read. Page after page of bone-chilling admissions, including Verity’s recollection of what really happened the day her daughter died.

Lowen decides to keep the manuscript hidden from Jeremy, knowing its contents would devastate the already grieving father. But as Lowen’s feelings for Jeremy begin to intensify, she recognizes all the ways she could benefit if he were to read his wife’s words. After all, no matter how devoted Jeremy is to his injured wife, a truth this horrifying would make it impossible for him to continue to love her.

My Review: This book was such a mind f***! From the first sentence this book grabbed my attention. I found it very hard to put down, which was a problem since I was reading this book in order to fall asleep. I have read other Colleen Hoover books before (e.g. Ugly Love (see my review here), It End With Us (see my review here)), but this is by far my favorite one.

The main character Lowen Ashleigh is an author who hasn’t had much success — this is mostly because she doesn’t do book readings or tour — she is a self described introvert. This is a shame, because she is in fact a really good writer. Her luck is about to change.

On her way to a meeting with her agent, she witnesses a fatal car accident. Covered in gore, she is approached by a good Samaritan, Jeremy Crawford, who lends her his shirt, so that she doesn’t have to wear her blood soaked shirt anymore. Sparks fly during this encounter, but it doesn’t matter because she is never going to see him again anyway. Right?

Wrong! Fast forward to the meeting, she learns that Jeremy is attending the same meeting. What’s more, he is the husband of best selling author Verity Crawford, who after suffering a near fatal accident, is essentially in a waking coma. Jeremy wants to hire Lowen to co-author the remaining 3 books in Verity’s hit series. Taking this job would change Lowen’s life forever. Verity’s series is already wildly popular and Lowen will be paid a large sum for her work. This is the break she has been waiting for. Despite this, Lowen has some reservations — she does not do book tours.

Lowen, following the slow and emotionally draining death of her mother, is broke and has been recently kicked out of her apartment, so she accepts the job, with the caveat that she doesn’t have to do public appearances, and travels to Jeremy’s home to go through Verity’s office to try to find notes / outlines that will help her write the next books. What she finds is something all together different — a manuscript of Verity’s autobiography, in which she reveals some disturbing things about herself, her relationship with Jeremy, and the circumstances surrounding the death of their twin daughters.

Regarding the alternating story line between Verity’s manuscript and Lowen’s perspective, which added layers of plot: Zainab Chats! writes in her review that “It really felt like each secret that was revealed may have both a literal and deeper meaning to Lowen in regards to how she felt about Verity. And it was very unique because it seemed as she read more and more of Verity’s manuscript she seemed to be even more frightened, of a helpless woman with traumatic injuries.”

I loved the layers of complexity created by this dual narrative.

Verity’s novels are so popular because Verity writes in the villain’s point of view. So what is the truth? Is she really a monster and that is why she can write the part of the villain so well? Meanwhile, Jeremy and Lowen are obviously falling for each other, but then strange things start happening around the house. Door are locked when they shouldn’t be, Crew (Jeremy’s and Verity’s son) talks about his mother as though she is awake, and Lowen even sees an apparition of Verity on the stairs.

What is the truth? What is happening at this house??

What I liked most about this book: It was a total page turner. I wanted to know what happened next. The author kept me, the reader, engaged in the story. I loved to hate Verity as her autobiography was truly heinous–she writes about abusing her kids as babies, about loving one twin over the other etc. Would Lowen and Jeremy finally get together, or were they always going to be stuck in platonic world, seeing as Jeremy was still technically married? What really happened to the twins? Was Verity involved in their deaths? The twist at the end was totally unexpected. It was great!

There was a few downsides about the ending though that left me a little unsettled. Ruminative Philomath says it best: “I don’t understand Verity’s end. It felt forcefully concluded…like there was so much story build-up around her but it turned out to be nothing.”

There’s a reason why this book has been highly recommended on Booktok. I second this recommendation!

BOOK REVIEW: The Cruelest Month by Louise Penny

2277378Title: The Cruelest Month

Author: Louise Penny

Book Length: 310 pages

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Thriller, Mystery, Crime,

Read Start Date: June 27, 2022

Read Finish Date: July 31, 2022

Number in Book Series: 3

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: Welcome to Three Pines, where the cruelest month is about to deliver on its threat.

It’s spring in the tiny, forgotten village; buds are on the trees and the first flowers are struggling through the newly thawed earth. But not everything is meant to return to life. . .

When some villagers decide to celebrate Easter with a séance at the Old Hadley House, they are hoping to rid the town of its evil—until one of their party dies of fright. Was this a natural death, or was the victim somehow helped along?

Brilliant, compassionate Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Sûreté du Québec is called to investigate, in a case that will force him to face his own ghosts as well as those of a seemingly idyllic town where relationships are far more dangerous than they seem.

My Review: In this third installment of the Armand Gamache series we are back in Three Pines again. For such a small town, there is certainly a huge crime rate! The whole cast of characters is back and we get to learn more about their characters.

For example, Clara Marrow is an aspiring up and coming artist, having been recently discovered (in the second book). She is working on a masterpiece to be shown at a gallery and everyone loves it. It is truly fantastic. In a bout of jealousy, her husband Peter tells her the colors are off, and Clara obsesses over what needs to change. I was pretty annoyed at Peter for this — the painting was wonderful and didn’t need any changing, but he was such a jerk and basically sabotaged Clara’s success. Peter is also an artist and relished the spotlight, which has now has shifted to his wife. I spent most of the book really disliking Peter as a character — this feeling was only slightly changed when Peter redeems himself at the end.

We also learn more about the Arnot case and why Gamache took on his superiors. Essentially, Arnot was commanding his officers to not only look the other way in Native Canadian’s murders and other crimes i.e., they do not try to solve the cases, but eventually the police start committing the murders themselves. Gamache discovers this horrendous corruption and brings down Arnot and the other perpetrators. There are still some officers loyal to Arnot and they are trying to bring down Gamache — little does Gamache know that some of the people closest to him are the ones trying to take him down. The conspiracy is mounting, false stories are beginning to hit the newspapers and Gamache is trying to avoid them while solving the murder in Three Pines.

Along with our old friends from books past, we meet several new characters. Among these is Madeleine, who has moved in with her old school pal Hazel and Hazel’s daughter, Sophie. Madeleine’s boyfriend Monsieur Beliveau, and also Odile and her boyfriend Gilles.

I really love how rich, deep and complex these characters and their backgrounds are. These people feel very real to me and it is one of the reasons why I love this series so much.

Speaking of the murder, Gabri and Olivier decide to have a séance at their bistro on Good Friday led by a Wiccan, Jeanne, who has been lured to the town by an ad sent to her by the killer stating that the town is home to spiritual power. The séance does not go well (there are no spirits because the psychic Jeanne says that the village is “too happy”) and the participants decide to have another one at the Old Hadley place. In case you don’t remember, the Old Hadley place was the scene of the murder in the first book, was the home of the murderer in the second book, and in general the people of Three Pines think the house is evil or houses evil / is haunted. So, of course, what better place to hold a séance?

It seems fit then that the place where the villagers direct their negative energy has killed one of their own — newcomer Madeleine dies of fright during the séance, scared to death by the house itself. It is soon discovered that she was given a diet drug known to cause fatal heart attacks. Enter Gamache and his team to try to solve the case. Who wanted Madeleine dead? Everyone seems to love her — both women and men alike.

The dynamics on the team are, as always, interesting. We have Beauvoire, who most certainly loves Gamache like a son loves a father. Nichol, who everyone loves to hate is back again. I can’t figure out whether she is on Gamache’s side or not — this is still a mystery. Although she is loathsome character to be sure, her background is just as deep as the other characters in this book. Lacoste and Lemieux are also back again — and Lemieux is definitely a hidden fly in the ointment.

Can I say again how much I love Penny’s world building?

I am starting to see a pattern here — by the third book it is pretty clear that one of the new characters has committed the murder. Each has a motive, but which one did the deed?

You should definitely read to find out!

Other Books in this Series:

Book #1: A Still Life is the first book in the series where we are introduced to Armand Gamache and the village of Three Pines.

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: The discovery of a dead body in the woods on Thanksgiving Weekend brings Chief Inspector Armand Gamache and his colleagues from the Surete du Quebec to a small village in the Eastern Townships. Gamache cannot understand why anyone would want to deliberately kill well-loved artist Jane Neal, especially any of the residents of Three Pines – a place so free from crime it doesn’t even have its own police force.

But Gamache knows that evil is lurking somewhere behind the white picket fences and that, if he watches closely enough, Three Pines will start to give up its dark secrets…

You can find my review of Still Life here.

Book #2: A Fatal Grace is the second book in the series.

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: Welcome to winter in Three Pines, a picturesque village in Quebec, where the villagers are preparing for a traditional country Christmas, and someone is preparing for murder.

No one liked CC de Poitiers. Not her quiet husband, not her spineless lover, not her pathetic daughter—and certainly none of the residents of Three Pines. CC de Poitiers managed to alienate everyone, right up until the moment of her death.

When Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, of the Sûreté du Québec, is called to investigate, he quickly realizes he’s dealing with someone quite extraordinary. CC de Poitiers was electrocuted in the middle of a frozen lake, in front of the entire village, as she watched the annual curling tournament. And yet no one saw anything. Who could have been insane enough to try such a macabre method of murder—or brilliant enough to succeed?

With his trademark compassion and courage, Gamache digs beneath the idyllic surface of village life to find the dangerous secrets long buried there. For a Quebec winter is not only staggeringly beautiful but deadly, and the people of Three Pines know better than to reveal too much of themselves. But other dangers are becoming clear to Gamache. As a bitter wind blows into the village, something even more chilling is coming for Gamache himself. 

You can find my review of A Fatal Grace here.

BOOK REVIEW: The Christie Affair by Nina de Gramont

57693165._SY475_Title: The Christie Affair

Author: Nina de Gramont

Audiobook Length: 10 hours and 23 minutes

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Historical Fiction, Mystery, Thriller, Crime

Read Start Date: June 24, 2022

Read Finish Date: July 1, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads:Why would the world’s most famous mystery writer disappear for eleven days? What makes a woman desperate enough to destroy another woman’s marriage? How deeply can a person crave revenge?

In 1925, Miss Nan O’Dea infiltrated the wealthy, rarefied world of author Agatha Christie and her husband, Archie. In every way, she became a part of their life––first, both Christies. Then, just Archie. Soon, Nan became Archie’s mistress, luring him away from his devoted wife, desperate to marry him. Nan’s plot didn’t begin the day she met Archie and Agatha.

It began decades before, in Ireland, when Nan was a young girl. She and the man she loved were a star-crossed couple who were destined to be together––until the Great War, a pandemic, and shameful secrets tore them apart. Then acts of unspeakable cruelty kept them separated.

What drives someone to murder? What will someone do in the name of love? What kind of crime can someone never forgive? Nina de Gramont’s brilliant, unforgettable novel explores these questions and more.

My Review: Why does this book have only 3.75 stars on Goodreads (as of the date of this post)? This book made me feel so many things! Nina de Gramont flawlessly blends fact with fiction to the point where I don’t know what she made up! It could all be plausible from the time period.

The book is told in the first person by the character Nan O’Dea, who is having an affair with the husband of Agatha Christie. When Agatha finds out about the affair, she disappears, igniting a countrywide search. Nan takes a vacation to keep herself out of the spotlight. While staying at a hotel, there are two suspicious deaths.

The book switches between present day (during the period of Agatha’s disappearance) and the past, when Nan was a young girl in a star-crossed love affair with an Irish boy. I love the twist in the end where everything comes together. I was not expecting it at all!

SPOILER ALERT:

To really give a proper review, I have to reveal spoilers. In the storyline taking place in the past, Nan becomes pregnant and is sent to an Irish convent by her boyfriend’s parents (without his knowledge–he was deathly ill at the time). She is forced to give her baby up for adoption to an Englishman, and when she finds out that her baby is gone, she nearly kills the nun responsible. I had so many feelings about this scene. Firstly, I know it was common practice “back in the day” that unmarried women could not keep their babies because it was “shameful” to have babies out of wedlock, but WTF. That’s seriously f***ed up. I could not imagine having my baby taken away from me, and was disappointed that the vindictive nun, who gave away the baby out of spite (she was angry with Nan), was not murdered right then and there! Godly my a**!

Secondly, there was a priest at the convent who was raping a pregnant woman. What a total POS! These people are supposed to be Godly, but they are not better than sick and twisted criminals! It is because of people like this, the ones supposed to be representatives of God on Earth, that spoils religion and everything it stands for. Hypocrites the lot of them!

So anyway, rant over.

I haven’t really read any Agatha Christie books (I have been meaning too), but I suspect this book is written in the style of Christie. So if you are a fan of her books, I’m sure you’ll enjoy this one as well.

I really liked this book and I would say that this should be on your must read lists for 2022.

BOOK REVIEW: A Flicker in the Dark by Stacy Willingham

57693172Title: A Flicker in the Dark

Author: Stacy Willingham

Audiobook Length: 11 hours and 1 minutes

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Mystery, Thriller, 

Read Start Date: June 19, 2022

Read Finish Date: June 24, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: When Chloe Davis was twelve, six teenage girls went missing in her small Louisiana town. By the end of the summer, Chloe’s father had been arrested as a serial killer and promptly put in prison. Chloe and the rest of her family were left to grapple with the truth and try to move forward while dealing with the aftermath.

Now 20 years later, Chloe is a psychologist in private practice in Baton Rouge and getting ready for her wedding. She finally has a fragile grasp on the happiness she’s worked so hard to get. Sometimes, though, she feels as out of control of her own life as the troubled teens who are her patients. And then a local teenage girl goes missing, and then another, and that terrifying summer comes crashing back. Is she paranoid, and seeing parallels that aren’t really there, or for the second time in her life, is she about to unmask a killer?

In a debut novel that has already been optioned for a limited series by actress Emma Stone and sold to a dozen countries around the world, Stacy Willingham has created an unforgettable character in a spellbinding thriller that will appeal equally to fans of Gillian Flynn and Karin Slaughter.

My Review: I had checked this audiobook out from the library without really knowing the plot. I am so glad that I did! Chloe Davis is the daughter of a serial killer, who has been in prison since she was a young child. To say that her life has been affected by her father’s crimes is an understatement. Everyone she meets knows who she is, and she is judged by her father’s actions.

Despite her past, her life is finally coming together. She has a burgeoning psychology practice, she has the love of a good man, and they will even soon marry. The only cockroach in her bowl of cherries? It’s the 20th anniversary of her father’s killing spree, and a copycat killer is on the lose — and the girls he is choosing are linked to Chloe.

Teaming up with a journalist, Chloe plays the amateur detective to try to figure out who the killer is before he strikes again.

I was really surprised by the ending — I did not see the identity of the killer coming. This book kept me guessing with several twists, turns, and false leads. I couldn’t stop listening…I just wanted to find out who the murderer was.

Highly recommended for murder mystery fans!

BOOK REVIEW: Black Mouth by Ronald Malfi

59120294Title: Black Mouth

Author: Ronald Malfi

Audiobook Length: 12 hours and 12 minutes

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Horror, Mystery, Thriller, Paranormal

Read Start Date: July 25, 2022

Read Finish Date: August 1, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: Perfect for fans of Stephen King’s IT, a group of friends return to their hometown to confront a nightmare they first stumbled on as teenagers in this mesmerizing odyssey of terror.

For nearly two decades, Jamie Warren has been running from darkness. He’s haunted by a traumatic childhood and the guilt at having disappeared from his disabled brother’s life. But then a series of unusual events reunites him with his estranged brother and their childhood friends, and none of them can deny the sense of fate that has seemingly drawn them back together.

Nor can they deny the memories of that summer, so long ago – the strange magic taught to them by an even stranger man, and the terrible act that has followed them all into adulthood. In the light of new danger, they must confront their past by facing their futures, and hunting down a man who may very well be a monster.

My Review: I received this audiobook as an ARC from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Okay so this book was touted as a book for lovers of Stephen King’s It. I thought it also had elements of King’s The Outsider as well.

Jamie, his special needs brother Dennis, and friends Mia and Clay grew up in Suttons Quay, West Virginia. A once vibrant town, Suttons Quay is now desolate in the wake of a mine collapse. The location of the collapse has been dubbed Black Mouth by the towns people, and living nearby the site is a black stain of sorts on the kids. For this reason they become very close to one another.

While strolling through the woods they come across a homeless man living amongst the trees (the Magician). He offers to make them his apprentices by teaching them various magic tricks and they are so elated that they overlook how strange and bedraggled he is. For his last and final trick he wants them to murder Dennis, but in the end, the kids refuse. Instead they start a fire in the woods, which unintentionally kills a woman and her newborn. The kids are sent away for the crime.

Moving on a decade later, Jamie was so traumatized by the past events that he has become an alcoholic, abandoning his brother in Black Mouth with their horrible mother.

Clay is a social worker who takes on the case of a woman accused of murdering her friend. She claims that the murderer was a man who resembles the Magician, and Clay begins to wonder whether the Magician is back at it again all these years later.

Mia now a famous horror movie director living in LA, spots who she believes is the Magician. She gets in touch with the rest of the crew, and getting the band back together, they attempt to piece together the mystery of the Magician so that they can get rid of him once and for all.

What I liked about the book: SPOILER ALERT, I do give away some things.

The characters were well developed and interesting. The pacing was good — I never got bored and I did NOT have to increase the listening speed to 1.25x. While having similarities to It and The Outsider, it was a work apart. Yes the kids went back to their hometown to defeat a monster they met in their childhood, but it wasn’t all supernatural — the monster turned out to just be a man and his copy cat. I kind of liked that because while It was all fiction, this story had more real elements to it.

What I didn’t like about the book:

The animal abuse. I know that writers use this to show how truly evil a person is, but really…I don’t need to read that shit. I don’t like. I don’t appreciate it. I think most of the time its superfluous. It gives me fucking nightmares. I HATE graphic animal abuse. If you are like me, do yourself a favor and skip this part.

Other than that, I liked the book and would recommend it.

10 Book Reviews

Professional Reader

Reviews Published

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Netgalley. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

BOOK REVIEW: A Fatal Grace by Louise Penny

352921Title: A Fatal Grace

Author: Louise Penny

Book Length: 311 pages

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Thriller, Mystery, Crime,

Read Start Date: May 13, 2022

Read Finish Date: May 30, 2022

Number in Book Series: 2

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: Welcome to winter in Three Pines, a picturesque village in Quebec, where the villagers are preparing for a traditional country Christmas, and someone is preparing for murder.

No one liked CC de Poitiers. Not her quiet husband, not her spineless lover, not her pathetic daughter—and certainly none of the residents of Three Pines. CC de Poitiers managed to alienate everyone, right up until the moment of her death.

When Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, of the Sûreté du Québec, is called to investigate, he quickly realizes he’s dealing with someone quite extraordinary. CC de Poitiers was electrocuted in the middle of a frozen lake, in front of the entire village, as she watched the annual curling tournament. And yet no one saw anything. Who could have been insane enough to try such a macabre method of murder—or brilliant enough to succeed?

With his trademark compassion and courage, Gamache digs beneath the idyllic surface of village life to find the dangerous secrets long buried there. For a Quebec winter is not only staggeringly beautiful but deadly, and the people of Three Pines know better than to reveal too much of themselves. But other dangers are becoming clear to Gamache. As a bitter wind blows into the village, something even more chilling is coming for Gamache himself. 

My Review: This is the second book in the Armand Gamache novel series, and Gamache is back again in Three Pines investigating a murder. CC de Poitiers is an awful woman, hated by everyone, even her lover and family. The first 8-10% of the book is setting the scene for the murder, so Gamache doesn’t really enter the story until afterward.

The murder is imaginative — electrocution by metal chair, outside in the snow during a curling event. Several things had to fall into place, which on its face seemed rather impossible. CC had to have bare hands, in the freezing cold. CC had to be standing in water. CC had to be wearing shoes without rubber soles. And most of all, the chair had to be connected to electricity. How was this accomplished, and by whom? Was it more than just one person?

This series is fast becoming one of my favorites. Not only are the murder plots interesting, but the clues unfold in a natural way — and the author doesn’t make you feel like Gamache is some super smart super hero who figured it out when no one else would. He is just a good cop, with personal flaws, like everyone else.

I really recommend this series.

Other Books in this Series:

A Still Life is the first book in the series where we are introduced to Armand Gamache and the village of Three Pines.

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: The discovery of a dead body in the woods on Thanksgiving Weekend brings Chief Inspector Armand Gamache and his colleagues from the Surete du Quebec to a small village in the Eastern Townships. Gamache cannot understand why anyone would want to deliberately kill well-loved artist Jane Neal, especially any of the residents of Three Pines – a place so free from crime it doesn’t even have its own police force.

But Gamache knows that evil is lurking somewhere behind the white picket fences and that, if he watches closely enough, Three Pines will start to give up its dark secrets…

You can find my review of Still Life here.

BOOK REVIEW: The Paris Apartment by Lucy Foley

58468990._SY475_Title: The Paris Apartment

Author: Lucy Foley

Audiobook Length: 12 hours and 53 minutes

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Mystery, Thriller, Suspense, Contemporary

Read Start Date: May 19, 2022

Read Finish Date: May 23, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: Jess needs a fresh start. She’s broke and alone, and she’s just left her job under less than ideal circumstances. Her half-brother Ben didn’t sound thrilled when she asked if she could crash with him for a bit, but he didn’t say no, and surely everything will look better from Paris. Only when she shows up – to find a very nice apartment, could Ben really have afforded this? – he’s not there.

The longer Ben stays missing, the more Jess starts to dig into her brother’s situation, and the more questions she has. Ben’s neighbors are an eclectic bunch, and not particularly friendly. Jess may have come to Paris to escape her past, but it’s starting to look like it’s Ben’s future that’s in question.

The socialite – The nice guy – The alcoholic – The girl on the verge – The concierge

Everyone’s a neighbor. Everyone’s a suspect. And everyone knows something they’re not telling.

My Review: Jess is struggling in England and has run into some issues at her place of work — she decides to crash with her half-brother Ben in Paris, but when she arrives at his apartment in an upscale apartment building, he isn’t there. He cannot be found. Where did he go? How does he afford such expensive digs? Where did all this blood come from? Suspecting the worst, but hoping for the best, Jess starts the search for her brother, enlisting the help from Ben’s friend Nick, who also lives in the building.

The other characters in the book are the other occupants of the apartment building, and through their narratives we soon get to learn how they are intertwined with Ben and in a more general way, each other and the building.

This book kept me guessing to the end and I never expected the twist!