Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Lost Immunity

Lost Immunity by Daniel Kalla
5/4/21; 352 pages
Simon & Schuster

Lost Immunity by Daniel Kalla is a recommended medical thriller.

Lisa Dyer, Seattle’s chief public health officer, is suddenly facing a deadly outbreak of meningitis. The same strain broke out in Iceland six months earlier, with devastating losses. This outbreak explicitly emerged at a nearby camp and the virulent strain of bacteria is now infecting teens and children. Due to the Icelandic outbreak, a pharmaceutical company immediately began work on developing a vaccine and is currently commencing final-phase trials on it. Lisa contacts Nathan Hull, vice president of the pharmaceutical company that developed the new vaccine, and requests doses of it to release to Seattle's citizens in order to stop the meningitis outbreak and save lives. This decision is met with resistance from several fronts and tension increases when people who have been treated begin dying. Lisa must find out why the initial success is now resulting in fatalities.

Kalla is a well-respected writer of medical thrillers and, as a working ER Physician, he has insight into into the medical community that provide a realism to his novels. In Lost Immunity, Kalla takes observations from the current health crisis and applies his observations to a bacterial outbreak of meningitis instead of a viral outbreak. Controversy surrounding vaccines plays a major role in the plot. The believable plot moves along at a brisk pace, keeping the tension high and instilling a palpable interest in the outcome. In some ways this almost mirrors reality too closely.

My qualms about the book are two fold. Lisa wasn't a compelling protagonist for me and it was a challenge to overlook certain aspects of her personality. Secondly, keeping this wording spoiler free, I knew the antagonist almost from the start and what would be a major emotional plot point. So, this is a recommended medical thriller for the fast-paced plot, but parts of the narrative will be very predictable for many readers. It must also be said that I do look forward to Daniel Kalla's next book.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Simon & Schuster in exchange for my honest opinion.

Sunday, April 11, 2021

The Last Thing He Told Me

The Last Thing He Told Me by Laura Dave
5/4/21; 320 pages
Simon & Schuster

The Last Thing He Told Me by Laura Dave is a highly recommended domestic thriller.

Hannah Hall and Owen Michaels have been married for one year and they are happily living on a houseboat in Sausalito with Owen's sixteen-year-old daughter, Bailey. When Hannah receives a note from Owen saying simply "Protect her," Hannah knows that something is wrong because Owen is devoted to his daughter and he is not answering his phone. Owen is a coder at The Shop, a tech firm, and Hannah hears on the news that his boss has just been arrested by the FBI. When Bailey finds a bag full of cash that Owen left in her locker at school, the two are even more flummoxed. Hannah and Bailey have had a rocky relationship, understandable for a new stepmother and a teenager, but they know Owen is a good man and they need to work together to find out what happened.

When a US marshal and later federal agents arrive at their home, Hannah knows that something is seriously wrong. The US Marshall says Owen is not a suspect in the FBI investigation and he just wants to know Owen's whereabouts. She doesn't know who she can trust, so she contacts an old friend, a lawyer, who discovers that Owen isn't who he said he was. It is obvious that Hannah must try to work with Bailey to uncover what exactly is going on and who Owen - and Bailey - really are.

Hannah is a well developed character while Bailey is less developed and portrayed more as a stereotypical teen with an attitude. They both have some advancement in their character development. Seeing Hannah and Bailey work together, learn to trust each other, and form an honest connection helps keep the plot interesting, especially when Bailey's early childhood memories lead them to Texas.

The Last Thing He Told Me is well-written, although a little uneven in some sections. Chapters in the narrative follow the present day search for the truth and alternating chapters offer glimpses into the past relationship between Owen and Hannah. The past chapters provide insight into the current situation as well as providing some clues for Hannah and Bailey to follow. Hannah as a novice investigator is a bit less believable and the final denouement is a little improbable, but the lead up to it helps make it all work together to create an enjoyable novel with a touching final scene. This is a satisfying and effective domestic thriller that will hold your attention throughout.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Simon & Schuster in exchange for my honest opinion.

No Going Back

No Going Back by T.R. Ragan
5/4/21; 288 pages
Thomas & Mercer
Sawyer Brooks Series #3

No Going Back by T.R. Ragan is a highly recommended thriller and the third book in the Sawyer Brooks series.

Sawyer has been covering the female vigilantes dubbed The Black Wigs, but now it appears that there are copycats out there dispensing their own extreme and fatal justice to sexual predators and capturing their fear to share on social media. The police think that these copycat vigilantes are related to The Black Wigs group of women, The Crew, and their actions, but Sawyer is positive it is a new person and she sets out to uncover who is behind the crimes. Her investigation leads her to nefarious bullying by a group at a Sacramento children’s home and a gang rape at a fraternity party.

It was very enjoyable to return to Sawyer Brooks and her investigative journalism, setting aside the dark, disturbing content that leads to her investigations. Admittedly, I liked the second book a little more than this third installment in the series, but it still featured a compelling plot and returning readers, like me, will be invested in the novel. The first two thirds of the novel was gripping and much better than the ending in No Going Back. Since I felt book two, Out of Her Mind, did not have a resolution to one of the story lines, I was hoping for that this time around. There is more forward movement in character development and resolution of many of the story lines. It seems that the series may be continuing in a new direction and I'd be interested to see where it goes.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Thomas & Mercer via NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion.


Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Local Woman Missing

Local Woman Missing by Mary Kubica
5/18/21; 352 pages
Park Row Books

Local Woman Missing by Mary Kubica is a highly recommended domestic thriller/mystery.

This thriller grabs your attention right at the start. First, young mother Shelby Tebow goes missing. Then Meredith Dickey and her six-year-old daughter, Delilah, disappear in the same neighborhood. The narrative then jumps to eleven years later and follows the thoughts of a girl who has been trapped in a dark basement for years who is planning her escape. At this point the novel begins to alternate between the present day where Delilah’s younger brother, Leo, now 15, narrates the chapters. Chapters set in the past following Meredith, before she disappears, and the search for her after she disappeared. The chapters act together to create a complex, complete picture of what happened to the two missing women and ultimately who was responsible.

As the plot unfolds you will see the characters making a lot of assumptions and you will realize that you have also made assumptions while reading. Kubica uses this to her advantage as she introduces various characters who could be suspects. There are several very believable, appealing characters and several suspects. The reliability of any of her characters is never questioned - unless she wants you to. Let's be honest, Kubica is a pro at manipulating what you think as you read. As the narrative alternates back and forth in time it develops the story line, and this writing device also assists in controlling who you suspect.

The writing is very clever, complex, and the end will likely be shocking to most readers. I didn't find the denouement completely believable, but it certainly did surprise me. My dissatisfaction with the ending is because the guilty person really left no clues that they were suspect and the actions didn't seem realistic in terms of what we know about the character. This certainly makes the ending a surprise, but it does not necessarily mean a completely satisfying conclusion.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Park Row Books in exchange for my honest opinion.


Sunday, April 4, 2021

The Other Side of the Door

The Other Side of the Door by Nicci French
4/27/21; 400 pages

The Other Side of the Door by Nicci French is a highly recommended who-dun-it and a re-release of 2009's Complicit.

The novel opens with Bonnie Graham seeing a body on the floor, but instead of calling the police, she calls a friend to help hide the body and clean up the crime scene. Then the novel flips back and forth in time between the present in "After" chapters referring to events after the body was taken care of and "Before" chapters following the events that happened before the death. Bonnie is a music teacher who, before the death, gathers together a group of musicians to form a band to play at her friend's wedding. Hayden is a professional musician who joins her band and the two become involved. Hayden is the man found dead in the opening and the investigation is in the After chapters.

The unfolding of the plot is a complicated knot of interpersonal problems, misinformation, and misunderstandings in both timelines. The alternating between before and after helps keep the suspense up and the tension high. In the after chapters we follow the investigation into the death but in the flashbacks also learn more information about the characters in this book and the events that lead up to the death. There are actions by the characters and abuse that is tolerated that seems questionable, but as more information about all the characters is carefully presented there is a lot of satisfaction in the final twist. Since this is a renamed re-release of a previously published novel, I'm uncertain if the original novel was rewritten or revised before publication.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of HarperCollins in exchange for my honest opinion.


Voyagers: Twelve Journeys through Space and Time by Robert Silverberg
4/20/21; 448 pages
Three Rooms Press

Voyagers: Twelve Journeys through Space and Time by Robert Silverberg is a very highly recommended, excellent collection of twelve science fiction stories of voyages. Science Fiction Grand Master Robert Silverberg has selected a sampling of twelve short stories/novellas that span his career from 1957 to 2021. All of the stories represent voyages of various kinds and are set in a wide range of time periods. The variety of stories are well-chosen and riveting, as well as thoroughly engrossing and entertaining. The quality of all the stories is excellent and Silverberg has chosen well from the plethora of choices found in his writing career. As with any collection of stories, some will resonate with you or capture your imagination more than others, but they really are all outstanding. Each story begins with a brief opening introduction by Silverberg.

Contents include:
Introduction by Robert Silverberg
In Another Country: This novella is set in the world of Vintage Season written by C.L. Moore and interweaves Silverberg's story in the world she created.
Travelers: A group of intergalactic tourists who visit various worlds visit a nightmare world of monsters.
Chip Runner: A young man wants to live in the subatomic space between electrons.
Looking For The Fountain: An alternate history story featuring Don Juan Ponce de Leon.
Ship-Sister, Star-Sister: A ship that is 16 million light years from earth can only communicate with Earth through the telepathic link of a twin with her sister who is still on Earth. He expanded the idea into a novel in 1996, Starborne.
The Changeling: A man on a vacation in Mexico suddenly finds himself in the life of a man in an alternate universe.
We Are For The Dark: A novella where a religious order chooses who leaves Earth to spread their beliefs through the universe.
The Trouble With Sempoanga: A tourist destination known as the most beautiful planet in the galaxy harbors a parasite which places you in permanent quarantine on the planet should you contract it.
The Sixth Palace: Two soldiers of fortune travel to a world where a treasure is guarded by a robot.
Why?: A team of two men who joined the External Exploration Corps and spend their time endlessly visiting and documenting new planets begin to question their career choice.
The Pleasure Of Their Company: A leader fleeing a junta only has AI copies of family, friends, and historic figures to keep him company as he journeys in space to his place of exile.
Thebes Of The Hundred Gates: A time traveler goes back to ancient Egyptian in search of previous travelers who didn't return.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Three Rooms Press via Library Thing in exchange for my honest opinion.

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Her Three Lives

Her Three Lives by Cate Holahan
4/20/21; 352 pages
Grand Central Publishing

Her Three Lives by Cate Holahan is a highly recommended domestic thriller.

Greg Hamlin, 52 years-old is waiting for his pregnant fiancée, Jade Thompson, 32 years-old, to get ready for a party they have to attend when a home invasion leaves him with a traumatic brain injury. After he emerges from a coma, he learns Jade was beaten, loss their baby, and had her engagement ring stolen. At the hospital, Greg's soon-to-be ex-wife, Leah, and his children, Violet, 23 years-old, and college-aged son Paul clearly are united against Jade, although they met after Greg left and filed for divorce. Jade loves Greg and is determined to stay with him as he recovers in their new home.

To ensure their safety, Greg buys a home security system with a plethora of cameras. Both Jade and Greg are nervous about why they were targeted for the brutal attack. As the police investigate, Greg begins to watch Jade's every move on the security cameras and track her whereabouts. Jade is wondering what Greg may have known about their attackers or if something from her past is the cause of the invasion. Both Greg and Jade are tense, with Greg's PTSD making him increasingly paranoid.

Chapters alternate between the point-of-view of Greg and Jade. You will know that Jade really does love Greg, and, although she has kept secrets from him, she is trying to protect him during his recovery. It is also clear that Greg is becoming increasingly paranoid and mistrustful. Progressively, he becomes a malignant character. The trust between the two is totally broken. Actually, I increasingly began to ask myself why did Jade stay with Greg. I understand she loves him, but most people would have reached a breaking point. The actions of both characters increasingly became far-fetched and implausible.

The writing is good and keeps the drama moving along as more and more information is provided and the alternating thoughts and actions of the two characters are juxtaposed. Although the lead up to the denouement is predictable, reaching the conclusion is where the enjoyment is found in this domestic thriller.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Grand Central Publishing in exchange for my honest opinion.