Wednesday, May 25, 2022

The Girl They All Forgot

The Girl They All Forgot by Martin Edwards
6/7/22; 352 pages
Poison Pen Press
Lake District #8

The Girl They All Forgot by Martin Edwards is a highly recommended procedural and whodunit as well as the eight book in the Lake District Series.

What happened to Ramona Smith? The man who was accused of her murder committed suicide. His son also did so on the same day twenty years late. Now DCI Hannah Scarlet, and her Cold Cases Division have reopened the investigation of Ramona Smith's death. Her body was never found, but Det. Insp. Ben Kind, father of Heather's colleague and lover Daniel, is sure she was murdered. In a small close knit community though, everyone has their own opinion. The race is on as Hannah and her team collect clues and leads on the cold case as the body count rises.

This is a well-written atmospheric whodunit that moves at a relaxed pace until the end. Since I haven't read any of the other books in this series, I did feel a bit out of sorts reading the novel at the beginning. I kept up with what was happening, but still felt for most of the beginning that I was a step behind or off to the side of the action. Once things clicked the reading was smooth and interesting but I can't help but think I should have started at the beginning of the series due to the strong sense of location in the setting.

There are a lot of characters and viewpoints presented in the complex narrative, especially with two narrative threads to follow in pursuit of the answers, but when you continue reading and focus on the plot they all sort themselves out eventually. This is set in a small community, so there are many interrelated rumors and theories swirling around in the populace and all of these must be investigated. Those who like complex mysteries will appreciate The Girl They All Forgot, but may want to start the series from the beginning.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Poison Pen Press.

Monday, May 23, 2022

The Favor by Nora Murphy

The Favor by Nora Murphy
5/31/22; 288 pages
Minotaur Books

The Favor by Nora Murphy is a highly recommended psychological thriller.

Leah and McKenna both have abusive spouses and are leading the same horrific existence, although they don't know each other. Leah is the one who first notices McKenna and recognizes someone who is in an abusive relationship. She begins to secretly spy on McKenna and her husband Zach. When she sees an act of violence perpetrated by Zach toward McKenna, Leah intervenes, altering the fate of both women's lives. Which is good because Leah could use someone who is watching her husband, Liam, and his violence toward her.

Leah and McKenna are fully realized characters who will elicit a lot of sympathy. Their situations are clearly very similar, where their husbands are controlling their every move, leaving them basically prisoners in their homes and marriages. they are both well educated professional women who have found themselves not working and living a life of leisure that they don't necessarily want. The husbands, Zach and Liam are less developed as characters, but this works in the situation that Murphy has set up for her heroines. Later in the novel, Detective Jordan Harrison, of the Clarkstown Police, is investigating and in contact with both women.

The Favor has been compared to a feminist retake on Strangers on a Train, so this might be something to keep in mind when choosing to read it. It does provide a portrait of domestic abuse as seen through the lives of two similar women although the comparison could be stretched to encompass more women in different situations. The voices of Leah and McKenna are shared in alternating chapters so the readers will know their thoughts, struggles, and the truth about what has been going on in their marriages. For those who love procedurals, there are elements of one in the narrative as Detective Harrison conducts his investigations.

Once it starts, The Favor never lets up. It is a totally engrossing compelling novel that should hold your attention throughout. There is a plethora of helpful information regarding domestic abuse after the narrative ends in the notes/ acknowledgements. Murphy also makes the point that a woman's success and education doesn't protect her from domestic violence. This is a debut novel, which is an accomplishment in itself.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Macmillian Publishers.

Sunday, May 22, 2022

Aurora

Aurora by David Koepp
6/7/22; 304 pages
HarperCollins

Aurora by David Koepp is a very highly recommended scientific thriller. This one is going to be made into a movie.

A coronal mass ejection or solar storm, on the sun sends out a massive cloud of solar plasma aimed at the Earth resulting in a Carrington Event. Everyone is on notice that in a short amount of time the whole electric power grid on the Earth will go down. A Carrington event of this size would cause auroras to be seen almost world wide. In Aurora, Illinois, Aubrey Wheeler is caring for her ex's teenage son and trying to stay away from Rusty, her ex, due to his semi-criminal connections. Her brother, Thom, is a billionaire who has been planning for years just for this end of civilization scenario.

We are due for another massive solar storm that perhaps could reach this size, which makes Aurora is a compelling and intriguing scientific thriller. Koepp takes the basic science and writes an irresistible narrative which places the characters in the situation. Personally, I love science fiction novels that are based on facts and Aurora covers all the bases as we have the event and we follow several characters through it. Even better the movie rights have already been sold; this novel was written to be made into a movie.

While you will like some characters and dislike others, all of them are fully realized and will experience change and growth for the better or the worse in the plot. I appreciate how Koepp has reduced his action down to the local response to it, especially in Aubrey's cul-de-sac, because an event of this nature would very much play out locally for most people. Suddenly the big picture wouldn't matter as much as how you and your neighbors are able to cope and, hopefully, work together.

When you are in the hands of an experienced writer, you know it. Koepp does an exceptional job setting up the action with all the pertinent information readers will need and then allowing the events to occur. The tension builds gradually as the action unfolds. The narrative switches between characters and locations while developing the characters and allowing the plot to take hold. It becomes clear that events will lead to some kind of major confrontation, but Koepp includes some humorous and heartwarming scenes along the way. This is escapism at it's finest.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of HarperCollins.

Saturday, May 21, 2022

The Favor by Nicci French

The Favor by Nicci French
10/18/22; 448 pages
William Morrow & Company

The Favor by Nicci French is a highly recommended psychological drama.

Jude has reached her life goal to be a doctor. She has found love, is planning her wedding and is happy and satisfied with her life. This all makes it a completely unexpected and shocking surprise when her first love, her boyfriend from 11 years ago, suddenly shows up at her work. She hasn't seen him since the car crash they were in as teens. Liam wants a favor from Jude. It's an odd favor. He wants her to drive to a country cottage in his car and then pick him up at the train station later that night. She's not supposed to tell anyone what she's doing and he'll explain it all when he arrives. Jude does as he asks, including lying to her fiance about where she is, but Liam never shows up on the train.

Back at the cottage, Jude is uneasy, especially when she hears a noise and realizes that it is Liam's phone, in his bag which she brought to the cottage for him. Someone is trying to call him and after this the police call his number. Jude learns that Liam has been found dead. Her favor makes her part of the murder investigation and could result in the loss of everything she has.

It is a huge leap of logic that Jude would do this odd, weird favor for someone she hasn't seen in 11 years. This preposterous plot point will hang over the story until, finally, her reason for doing it is explained later in the narrative. Now, many readers may has guessed something like her secret was the case, but Liam also making her along with his brother an executor of his will is equally odd. The house of unusual people Liam was living with, including his girlfriend and son, are also offbeat. Jude quickly becomes entangled into secrets and lies swirling around Liam's social circle.

Jude is a fully realized, engaging character and easy to connect with even when you are questioning her choices. As she becomes involved in Liam's life after his death, a picture of his life and character also emerges. Once she begins looking into Liam's life, she begins to realize that she is perhaps the only one who

The writing is excellent in this psychological drama and held my attention even while I was doubting almost all of the choices Jude was making over everything. Author Nicci French (Nicci Gerrard and Sean French) are well known for their tension filled psychological thrillers and dramas that are filled with misdirection and twists. The Favor compares favorably to their other collaborative novels and is an enjoyable, engrossing page-turner.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of William Morrow & Company.

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Deep Water

Deep Water by Emma Bamford
5/31/22; 320 pages
Gallery/Scout Press

Deep Water by Emma Bamford is a recommended tale of a newlyweds trip gone disastrously awry.

When a yacht is sending out a distress signal in the Indian Ocean, Royal Malaysian Navy Captain Danial Tengku orders his crew to aid the boat. On board is a British couple, Virginie Durand and her gravely injured husband Jake Selkirk. As Jake is rushed to receive medical help, Virginie tells their story to Captain Tengku and confesses that what happened was all her fault and she killed them. After this foreshadowing, the novel jumps back in time when newlyweds Virginie and Jake bought their yacht and were planning to travel to Thailand. Then they heard about Amarante, a tiny, remote island with unspoiled beaches, and decide to change their plans.

The couple arrives on Amarante, and finds there are already visitors there. Pete and Stella are a Canadian couple, and Roly is from Australia. They’re soon joined by the wealthy, enigmatic Vitor and his girlfriend, Teresa. At first things go well, but then Virginie and Jake have engine problems, and tensions begin to rise between couples.

The synopsis written for this book does not do it justice and is misleading. There is no dark spell of the island with creeping evil. There are human failings and frailties. If you enter the novel with the perspective that it is a trip that has taken a terrible turn it will help your appreciation of the novel and result in less disappointments.

Virginie is telling us what happened on the island that lead to the distress signal. Captain Danial Tengku is listening to Virginie's recount of what happened before she tells the full story and then afterward, once they are found. His own internal monologue and reactions are added to the opening and concluding chapters. Her account of their time on the island moves too slowly for any real tension or suspense to build as it mostly feels like normal disagreements and tension that could be found among any group of people.

The writing is very good, enough that I kept reading, experiencing vicariously life on a remote tropical island. It is not quite good enough to make this slow paced novel a thriller. By the time action/suspense does pick up, the novel is basically over. This will appeal to fans of novels that feature remote islands where the people provide the danger, or the guilt. 

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Simon & Schuster.

Sunday, May 15, 2022

The Daughters

The Daughters by Julia Crouch
5/26/22; 324 pages
Bookouture

The Daughters by Julia Crouch is a highly recommended thriller featuring a highly dysfunctional family.

First, lets look at the basics of this blended family. Carys has been married to Bill for 12 years, is 25 years younger than him, and the two have a daughter, Binnie. Bill's first wife Alice died by suicide. Bill and Alice had two daughters, Sara and Lucy. Lucy was only 6 when her mother died so Carys has been a step-mother to her while Sara, 5 years younger than Carys, has been off living in Australia during their marriage.

Now Sara is coming home for a long visit. She has evidence that her mother's body was never found and the casket was empty at her funeral. She blames Carys for controlling everyone since she and Bill married shortly after Alice's death and she's going to confront Carys. She also knows she needs to come back to help Lucy.

At the same time, Lucy has been suffering from various struggles with her mental and emotional health. Carys has tried to help her, so when she meets a hypnotherapist who is sure he can get to the root of Lucy's trauma, Carys takes Lucy to him without telling Bill. Lucy's sessions bring out all kinds of hidden secrets and thoughts from her childhood. She is sure she saw someone killed... and maybe more than one person. And she thinks she knows who the killer is.

There is a whole lot going on in the plot, so you have to pay attention while following all the various twists, turns, and new revelations. None of the characters are particularly likable and all of them have some aspersions cast their direction. You won't know who to believe or if anyone can be trusted, which is what makes The Daughters so entertaining. You have to set some disbelief aside as you sit back, enjoy reading, follow the clues left in the narrative, and see if you figured it all out by the end.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Bookouture via NetGalley.

Saturday, May 14, 2022

Glitterati

Glitterati by Oliver K. Langmead
5/17/22; 288 pages
Titan Books

Glitterati by Oliver K. Langmead is a highly recommended satirical, allegorical dystopian novel.

Simone is one of the beautiful people, the Glitterati. The Glitterati are at the top echelon of society, the extremely wealthy leisure class who all closely follow the rules of fashion. They ardently follow the daily couture magazines on trends, the rules of what to wear on each day of the week, and how to act in every situation. No one wants to be one of the unfashionable or ugly people. The pinnacle of the top of the Glitterati would be to set a new fashion trend.

Then several disconcerting events happen to Simone and his wife Georgie. Simone has, shudder, a nosebleed at fellow fashionista Justine's party and he asks her to make sure there are no pictures of it. Justine instead takes this incident and steals it, using it to set a new trend. The second event was when Georgie and Simone find a child in their garden. The creature, as they are unsure exactly what this is, is dressed in another shudder, denim. They shoo it into their greenhouse for the time being but have to deal with her more later.

The vapid Glitterati are living in a weird dystopian world of their own choosing and their concerns are so removed from any reality it is farcical. This is actually a humorous novel throughout the majority of the plot and you will find yourself laughing at the absurdity. Within the narrative Glitterati is also a satire which becomes allegorical as it exposes uncomfortable truths about a wealthy ruling leisure class that is disconnected with all reality, like children, and are totally consumed with themselves, fashion, and appearances.

Character development is present, as Simone goes through a drastic change which is a major part of the denouement. I was actually surprised at how much I enjoyed this novel by the end. The introduction to the Glitterati and their obsessions was interesting and funny, but I did wonder where the plot was going to go as their lives were too silly and tedious to hold your attention throughout a novel. Readers should keep reading until they reach the event that changes things and results in real depth to the character of Simone; it will be obvious.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Titan Books.