Monday, September 30, 2019

Half Way Home

Half Way Home by Hugh Howey
HMH Books: 10/1/19
eBook review copy; 240 pages
ISBN-13: 9780358211587

Half Way Home by Hugh Howey is a recommended YA science fiction novel. This is a reprint of an earlier published novel.

In order to colonize distant worlds, the purposed colonists are sent out as blastocysts, or fertilized eggs. If the AI determines that the new world is viable and worthwhile to colonize, the future colonists are allowed to start developing in vats. They are trained and educated in the vats and then released or born at age 30. If the world is not deemed viable for the colony, then the mission is aborted and the colonists and the ship is destroyed. When a fire erupts and the colonists are released from their vats prematurely at age 15, they are directed to exit the ship. Only 61 of the sent 500 colonists survive, and these survivors are half taught. Now they need to try and survive as well as complete the ship that the AI, the Colony, is insistent must be sent.

The survivors break into groups/cliques that seem to be based on their job training and some innate inborn genetic issues about control and dominance. Porter is the narrator and he was being trained to be the ships psychologist. Now he is half trained and beginning to realize that he is not attracted to girls, like the other boys. He also realizes, along with others, that the fire was the AI starting the abort sequence but then inexplicably stops it. Why start and stop the abort sequence? And what about the world started this?

First, I actually enjoyed this novel quite a bit and was able to set aside my many logistics questions, misgivings, and doubts. It is imminently readable and the plot is engaging. On the other hand there are several negatives that I overlooked while reading, but couldn't ignore. It's akin to any great idea that is not completely thought out. So, in the end, the narrative is a great concept, but wasn't fully envisioned and realized here. There are some great moments and it is a fast and easy read, so if you can easily set disbelief aside you might enjoy it. This is an airplane book. It will hold your attention, but if you should set it aside or lose it, it ultimately won't matter.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

One Night Gone

One Night Gone by Tara Laskowski
Graydon House Books: 10/1/19
eBook review copy; 352 pages
ISBN-13: 9781525832192

One Night Gone by Tara Laskowski is a recommended novel of suspense where a decades old mystery is solved.

Allison Simpson arrives in Opal Beach to house sit at a beautiful cottage on the beach. She has been let go as a meteorologist in Philadelphia and experienced a messy divorce so this may be a good place to reexamine her life and begin looking for new opportunities. The manager of the local coffee shop, Tammy, immediately befriends Allison, and soon tells her about her friend, Maureen Haddaway, who disappeared thirty years earlier. Maureen was working for the carnival on the boardwalk when Tammy befriended her and the two began to party with the summer crowd. Allison is drawn into the mystery of Maureen's disappearance, especially after a strange package appears on her front step and the contents belonged to Maureen.

The narrative of the story alternates between the points of view of Maureen and Allison. Both tell their story and the reader has to connect the clues to try and figure out the answer to the decades old mystery of Maureen's disappearance. The stories begin to intertwine and people in Maureen's story appear in Allison's present day narrative.

The writing is good and Laskowski has a gift for character development. While I knew where the mystery was going early on, what I really wanted to know was more about Allison's life. She was depicted as a much more interesting character, with little details that could have been developed into an interesting story about starting over. Then again, Maureen could have also been the main character in her own novel. But, together, the two didn't quite merge seamlessly for me into an intriguing mystery that I would care about because it is based on caring about Tammy. To be honest, I didn't and if I were house sitting and had her so eagerly want to befriend me, I'm politely turn down her overly intense attention. A package on the front porch with something odd in it? I'd see if there was some town lost and found to leave it at.

The mystery does go in the direction I predicted and there is a satisfying denouement.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Harlequin.

The Shape of Night

The Shape of Night by Tess Gerritsen
Penguin Random House: 10/1/19
eBook review copy; 288 pages
ISBN-13: 9781984820952

The Shape of Night by Tess Gerritsen is a recommended Gothic tale of a haunted house that may be lethal for women.

Ava Collette, a cook book writer, flees Boston to a remote village in Maine where she has rented an isolated, old restored house named Brodie’s Watch. Ava feels she can finish writing her cookbook here. Soon, though, she sees the spectral vision of Captain Brody, the sea captain who built the original house. The ghost appears to Ava on some night and she begins to look forward to his visits. This haunting prompts Ava to look into the history of the house. She is also looking for the woman who rented the house before her in order to return some of the possessions she left behind. Ava soon discovers that the house seems to be lethal to women.

This is a well written novel, but it does require the reader to be into Gothic/paranormal/BDSM/murder novels. I'm not a fan of the combination. I am choosing to overlook parts of the novel that I skimmed while reading in order to get to the ending of the novel. You can easily do this and not lose the narrative thread. Gerritsen is an excellent writer, which I'm taking into consideration in my rating.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Penguin Random House.

You Can See More From Up Here

You Can See More From Up Here by Mark Guerin
Blazing Sapphire Press: 10/1/19
eBook review copy; 436 pages
ISBN-13: 9781936135714

You Can See More From Up Here by Mark Guerin is a highly recommended family drama and examination of a father/son relationship.

It is 2004 and Walker Maguire's father is dying so he returns to the small Illinois town he left behind years ago. His arrival brings to the forefront of his thoughts the summer in 1974. That summer he returned from college and went to work in the auto factory where his father, a retired Air Force colonel, was the company doctor. After he was forced out of the military, Walker's father was bitter and took out his anger on Walker.  Walker rarely returned home after that summer. It was the summer he first noticed prejudice when he witnessed a fight between his ex-girlfriend's father and a Mexican immigrant. It was the summer he truly fell in love. It was the summer where his fear of his father came to the forefront. Now a successful journalist, Walker is certain that he needs to reexamine this summer in order to finally understand/come to some sort of understanding of his father.

This is a beautiful written examination of a life-long alienation between son and father and an exploration of the past events that led to it. The narrative alternates between Walker in 2004, at the hospital, sitting with his father, and events from the time his family moved to Belford, Illinois, when Walker was 14 and his younger sister Paige was 9. Paige was their father's favorite child and often was the impetus that caused their father's anger to be taken out on Walker. As he is sitting at the hospital, it becomes important for Walker to write his memoir, and reflect on the summer that pitted son against father and changed their relationship. Unflinchingly honest, father, daughter, and son are flawed characters, but the empathy will be with Walker.

The strained relationship between father and son is an enduring struggle that stretches across time and families, as does a favored child in a family. Walker is a sympathetic character and Paige, well, she just inspires anger as does their father. The alternating narratives from 2004 and 1974 stand in stark contrast to each other because it is actions of a young man juxtaposed with the recollections of a middle aged man. There are times when Walker does become repetitive and the novel would have benefited in places from a quicker pace.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of the publisher/author.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Sarah Jane

Sarah Jane by James Sallis
Soho Press: 10/1/19
eBook review copy; 216 pages
ISBN-13: 9781641290807

Sarah Jane by James Sallis is a highly recommended character study set in a crime novel.

Sarah Jane Pullman is currently a cop, but she has a complicated past. From a rocky childhood that eventually led to a court-ordered Army stint where she still has the scars from her combat experience in the Gulf War. She got back and spent years drifting around, taking on jobs as a cook in various places. She has had several relationships and plenty of heart-break and bad times, including her relationship with a violent cop. Life eventually led her the small southwestern town of Farr where she accepted a job with the police department. Sheriff Cal Phillips recognized she was a vet and taught her what he knew. When Cal disappears, Sarah becomes the acting sheriff, and begins investigating his disappearance.

This is an exquisitely written character study of a complicated woman making a life out of the chaos she's been through. The opening of this this is a bit hard to become engaged with at the beginning when Sarah is sharing memories and anecdotes from her life, before we really have a context in which to place the information. Things do fall into place, eventually, at about a third of the way through this short novel, but in my opinion it did  take away from the narrative.

Where the narrative is good, though, it is excellent. As I said, the prose is exquisite, spare and brief, but with nary a wasted word. It is worth it to read through to the end as this is an empathetic, insightful, thoughtful observation on the human condition, as well as a mystery.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Soho Press/Penguin Random House.

Monday, September 23, 2019

Full Throttle

Full Throttle by Joe Hill
HarperCollins: 10/1/19
eBook review copy; 496 pages
ISBN-13: 9780062200679

Full Throttle by Joe Hill is a collection of thirteen short stories of supernatural suspense.
The tales in this collection showcase the personal struggles of the characters placed in the dark settings and situations. Hill really excels at creating characters and firmly placing them in the settings of his stories. While I enjoyed the majority of the stories, as with many collections, there are hits and misses. The writing is very good, even in the stories I didn't enjoy as much. There is a nice diversity in the stories included. I appreciated the fact that Hill includes in his introduction the authors who have influenced his writing. Naturally, his parents certainly play a role, but there are also many others.
Stories in the collection include...
Throttle: This is a tribute piece to a short story by Richard Matheson and is about a semi bearing down on a group of bikers; co-written with Stephen King.
Dark Carousel: A group of friends ride on a rundown carousel and a bad decision leads to horror.
Wolverton Station: Wolves are living among us.
By the Silver Water of Lake Champlain: Two children find a dead prehistoric creature on the shore of a lake. This was originally written for a Ray Bradbury tribute.
Faun: A group of hunters pay to enter an otherworldly portal to hunt mystical animals in this dark twist on Narnia.
Late Returns: A book mobile sometimes has ghosts from the past return and check out books.
All I Care About Is You: A girl hires a robot to be her friend on her birthday.
Thumbprint: A vet is being stalked by someone. 
The Devil on the Staircase: The story is formatted to look like a staircase at the beginning and the ending.
Twittering from the Circus of the Dead: The story is told in tweets that become increasingly terrifying.
Mums: A young teen boy is living as a separatist with his family.
In the Tall Grass: Two siblings are driving through Kansas when they hear a cry for help coming from the tall grass; co-written with Stephen King.
You Are Released: Nine people are on a flight across the USA when they learn that WWIII may have broken out.
And there is a very short extra story at the end.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of HarperCollins.


Entanglement by Andrew J Thomas
Ursus Publishing: 9/10/19
eBook review copy; 312 pages
ISBN-13: 9781916044012

Entanglement by Andrew J Thomas is a highly recommended, funny, quirky, science fiction mystery and the first volume of a new trilogy.

Fate was bored, and then odd things began to happen. A secret research station vanished, as did a colony of moles. A brick began to do some odd things. And a young woman called TC began to shift from one alternate universe to another. These four mysteries occur and set into motion a series of entanglements, resulting in road trips, intertwining relationships, and cake. Entanglement can occur in relationships and in physics. In relationships, entanglement occurs when people are deeply involved with each other. In quantum physics, entangled particles remain connected so that actions performed on one affect the other, even when separated by great distances.

This quirky story takes the threads of several different odd occurrences, explored in alternating chapters, and follows the various story lines along until everything coalesces into a single plot. The writing is very good. It starts out a wee bit too derivative of Douglas Adams, but then, once the narrative begins to explore relationships and the entanglement between people, it takes off and holds its own in a delightful, comedic, touching story about friendships, relationships, and fate.
Part of my enjoyment was in the characters, who are all well developed and unique individuals. Another delight was found in closely noting the details. While science certainly plays a role, this novel is more about relationships, and it is the characters set in this plot that makes it a special start to a new series. This is a novel that got better as it went along and by the end I was a fan and wanted the next two in the series.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Cameron Publicity.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

The Liar's Sister

The Liar's Sister by Sarah A. Denzil
Bookouture: 9/25/19
eBook review copy; 276 pages
ISBN-13: 9781786817389

The Liar's Sister by Sarah A. Denzil is a recommended mystery featuring two sisters.

Heather is back in the village of Buckthorpe helping her dying mother during her final days. Now that the end is near, her mother is asking for Heather's older sister, Rosie. The problem is that Heather and Rosie have not spoken to each other for years, not since Rosie's addictions resulted in her passing out at their father's funeral. But even more troubling is that Heather is sure that ten years ago Rosie killed their neighbor boy, Samuel Murray, who was also Heather's first love. When Rosie responds to Heather, it seems that she is now sober and straight. Rosie quickly travels to Buckthorpe to say good-bye to their mother.  But the drama for the two sisters is just beginning, especially when the town constable is telling them to sell and leave, their home is robbed, and a threatening note makes it clear that the whole village may be against them.

The chapters alternate between the points-of-view of Heather and Rosie, and covers events and the secrets they are both keeping, from the present and the past. While presented as a psychological thriller, this is really more of a mystery about what happened ten years earlier, when Samuel disappeared, and uncovering the truth about who is currently threatening them. While there are plenty of secrets, there really is no heart-pounding action until the final denouement. Some of the ending reveal you will have predicted, but there will be a few surprising twists too.

The Liar's Sister is a quick, entertaining read, though, and Denzil does a good job with the setting and the sister's strained relationship. She also includes interesting little tidbits of information that will help you deduce some of what is going on.
Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Bookouture.

When I Got Out

When I Got Out by Peter Seth
Story Plant: 9/17/19
eBook review copy; 464 pages
ISBN-13: 9781611882650

When I Got Out by Peter Seth is a recommended story about starting over after being in prison for forty years.

Larry Ingber is the "The Ivy League Killer" from the late 1960's and has just been released after spending forty years in prison. Although his crime was not murder, he admittedly helped his girlfriend, The Girl, and was convicted as an accomplice for helping dispose of the bodies. After so many years behind bars, Larry is struggling to understand the outside world, which is very different from the one he knew. He has help settling into an apartment and getting a job and tries to adjust to his new life. He has to report to his parole officer, Fusco, who hates him. He is also obsessed with finding his lawyer, Mantell. Lester Mantell has disappeared with the money Larry's parents set aside and left specifically for him, for when he got out. And, surprisingly, Larry is also falling in love again.

There are some excellent qualities to When I Got Out and some parts that need tweaking. The diverse characters are all very well developed and interesting. Seth does an exceptional job portraying his characters as real individuals, while capturing their emotions and reactions in scenes. Larry's obsession with finding Mantell is relatable and you will sympathize with his dilemma. Honestly, the characters are a big draw to keep you continuing to read the novel. The settings and locations are also well described and envisioned.

The plot could have been tightened up a smidgen. The goal is for Larry to settle into his life outside of the system and recover his inheritance. There are several additional scenes that could have been edited out or tightened up to keep the plot running smoothly. There is a lot of foreshadowing of something bad to come, but all the extraneous stuff dampened the tension that a tighter plot would have created. I kept reading to find out what happened to Larry. Did he get his money? Did he and Betsy stay together?

 Seth chose to slowly release details about how Larry came to be called "The Ivy League Killer," rather than sharing all the details all at once. I felt like this worked, but we also should have been given the whole story by the end of the novel. Rather than a thriller, although there are several heart-stopping scenes, this is much more of a character study of Larry.  (Apparently Seth's first novel, What It Was Like,  covers the whole story of Larry's crime.)

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Story Plant.

Monday, September 16, 2019

The Day It Finally Happens

The Day It Finally Happens by Mike Pearl
Scribner: 9/17/19
eBook review copy; 304 pages
ISBN-13: 9781501194139

The Day It Finally Happens: Alien Contact, Dinosaur Parks, Immortal Humans-and Other Possible Phenomena by Mike Pearl is a very highly recommended entertaining, yet serious look at nineteen different events that may spark some fear or trepidation from people.

Pearl writes: "I’m not a statistician or a physicist. In fact, I’m terrible at math, but I do like to predict the future, and I’ve made a job of it. I just approach it a little differently because my main qualification is a paralyzing fear of things that are going to happen. My fear comes from an anxiety disorder - a very common mental illness. It’s a mixed blessing for someone who works as an explanatory journalist: it fills my head with ideas, but I hate the ideas."

This is very well written examination of events that includes research, entertaining speculation, statistics, practical discussions, and a measure of personal anxiety. The scenarios he presents open with the title of the event to be discussed and/or feared then there is a breakdown covering: Likely in this century?; Plausibility Rating? (rating is a number out of a possible 5); Scary? (an assessment of how scary the situation is); and finally the question is posed, Worth changing habits? Pearl goes on to present the facts and information along with his thoughts about each situation, but does so in a funny, personable, and logical manner. It all combines to make The Day It Finally Happens a very interesting and entertaining look at events that can and do cause anxiety in many people. After the epilogue Pearl includes notes from each chapter.

The widely varied, yet potentially frightening events contemplated include: The Day the UK Finally Abolishes Its Monarchy; The Day a Tech Billionaire Takes Over the World; The Day Doping Is Allowed at the Olympics; The Day Humans Become Immortal; The Day Anyone Can Imitate Anyone Else Perfectly; The Day the Last Human-Driven Car Rolls Off the Lot; The Day Saudi Arabia Pumps Its Last Barrel of Oil; The Day a Real Jurassic Park Opens; The Day Antibiotics Don’t Work Anymore; The Day the Last Fish in the Ocean Dies; The Day the US Completely Bans Guns; The Day Nuclear Bombs Kill Us All; The Day a Baby Is Born on the Moon; The Day the Entire Internet Goes Down; The Day the Last Slaughterhouse Closes; The Day Humans Get a Confirmed Signal from Intelligent Extraterrestrials; The Day the Next Supervolcano Erupts; The Day the Last Slave Goes Free; The Day the Last Cemetery Runs Out of Space.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Scribner.

The Stranger Inside

The Stranger Inside by Lisa Unger
Park Row Books: 9/17/19
eBook review copy; 384 pages
ISBN-13: 9780778308720 

The Stranger Inside by Lisa Unger is a very highly recommended psychological thriller featuring survivors, murder, kidnapping, and vigilante justice.

Rain is currently a stay-at-home mom taking care of her one-year-old daughter, Lily. She left her career in journalism as radio news producer to do this, but the lure of her career is calling her back, especially when a man who escaped justice is found dead, in another case of a vigilante murder. This could be a serial killer at work, with the first case being the man who attacked Rain (Laraine) and kidnapped her two friends, Tess and Hank, when they were twelve. Tess never came home and Hank was held captive before he escaped. Their attacker spent years in a psychiatric facility and after his release he was killed by an unknown assailant.

Rain and Hank were both traumatized by the event, but Rain has tried to set her past aside and move on. Hank is a psychiatrist specializing in victims of trauma, but he realizes he is still suffering the consequences of his attack and abduction. This current case of a vigilante murder is the third known case and it brings back memories for Rain, especially because there are similarities between the three cases. Rain starts investigating her attack, looking for clues to tie the three cases together. 

The writing is excellent. Chapters tell the story through chapters presenting the point-of-view of Rain, 12-year old Laraine, and Hank. The opening chapter is through the mind of the vigilante, so this is a given fact at the start. You may think you know the whole story, but the suspense rises as the plot seems to indicate that something else, something horrible is going to happen.... and then there is a huge, unsuspected twist that changed the whole novel.

All the characters are extremely well developed and intricate as Unger explores their inner thoughts and motives. There is a mid-way point where it feels like the plot may have stalled out, but stay with the novel, note the details, and follow the story carefully.  As the narrative progresses and more information is revealed, the lines between being a survivor and victim, right and wrong, and crime and justice are blurred. The ending is explosive and shocking. This was a solid four rating until the end, when it soared to a five.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Park Row Books

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

The Butterfly Girl

The Butterfly Girl by Rene Denfeld
HarperCollins: 10/1/19
eBook review copy; 272 pages
ISBN-13: 9780062698162
Naomi Cottle Series #2 

The Butterfly Girl by Rene Denfeld is a highly recommended investigative mystery.

Naomi Cottle is a child finder, a private investigator with a special ability to find missing children. Naomi returns to Portland, Oregon, to search for her missing younger sister. As a young child, Naomi escaped her captor, but had to leave her even younger sister behind. In Portland there are scores of young homeless children roaming the streets, doing all sorts of heartbreaking, risky things trying to survive. There are also young homeless girls that have been turning up dead in the city.
While on the streets, Naomi notices the children, especially a twelve-year-old girl named Celia, and the fear and mistrust in their eyes. Celia, who loves butterflies, escaped from an abusive stepfather and an addict mother. She fears for her younger sister, but no longer trusts the system to do the right thing. She feels safer on the streets with her friend Rich than she does in her home, and she always has the library where she spends time reading about and drawing butterflies. Danger is moving closer to both Celia and Naomi, as they slowly become acquainted.

This is a heartbreaking, beautifully written novel that showcases Denfeld's experience with and knowledge about homeless children living on the street and the foster care system. Although, at times, because of her personal experiences, the narrative does lose sharp focus on the plot and focuses more on the harsh realities and plight of the homeless children. It is an appalling situation, and stands out in stark contrast to Celia's dreaming about butterflies.

The characters are well-developed, and even though could easily follow the narrative, I think it might have been better to read The Child Finder first and then The Butterfly Girl.  I still felt like I was missing part of Naomi's story. So I recommend reading The Child Finder, the first book featuring Naomi first. The topics are harsh, and could be difficult for people who have experienced childhood trauma and sexual abuse. There is hope and a future at the end. 

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of HarperCollins.

Ice Cold Heart

Ice Cold Heart by P. J. Tracy
Crooked Lane Books: 9/10/19
eBook review copy; 320 pages
ISBN-13: 9781643851327
Monkeewrench Series #10 

Ice Cold Heart by P. J. Tracy is a highly recommended police procedural and the tenth book featuring the Monkeewrench crew.

Minneapolis Detectives Leo Magozzi and Gino Rolseth are called to investigate the murder of Kelly Ramage. Her homicide was a gruesome planned act and pointed to a secret life Kelly was living. The investigation leads back to an art gallery where Kelly was last seen attending the opening for a artist whose work is disturbing and may have inspired Kelly's murder. To complicate matters, a show by the same artist apparently inspired a murder in another city at a previous opening, and a psychic who came in before Kelly's murder and predicted it is later found dead.
At the same time the genius tech partners at Monkeewrench are working on increasing the security for Bit Monster, the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange. After a cyberattack that cost them nearly $400 million, they need to find the guilty hacker and stop it from happening again. Soon it becomes clear that the killer Magozzi is looking for, is likely a serial killer and a digital trail begins to suggest a link between the Bit Monster cyber theft and the murders.

With all the returning characters, it make it less imperative to add a lot of character development in the long running series, although there is some advancement in the characters, especially Roadrunner. All of the returning characters are likeable, although if you are new to the series it will seem like a whole lot of characters to keep straight and follow all at once.
Ice Cold Heart is a satisfying police procedural/mystery, even for someone jumping into series a bit late. The investigation by the police is expertly integrated with the Monkeewrench crew's involvement. The great writing and short chapters coordinate together and keep your interest high while carefully covering all the various plot threads and the developments in them. The complicated plot of this mystery and procedural takes several diverse story lines and ends up weaving them all together into a very satisfying denouement.
Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Crooked Lane Books.

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

The Nature of Life and Death

The Nature of Life and Death: Every Body Leaves a Trace by Patricia Wiltshire
Penguin Random House: 9/3/19
eBook review copy; 304 pages
ISBN-13: 9780525542216

The Nature of Life and Death: Every Body Leaves a Trace by Patricia Wiltshire is a highly recommended account of a pioneer in forensic ecology.

Patricia Wiltshire share stories from several of the cases she's been an investigator on as well as personal stories from her life.  Wiltshire is an expert palynologist—somebody who analyses pollen grains and other spores. "When a crime has been committed, my role is to read and present the possibilities told by the grains of pollen, the fungi, lichens, and micro‑ organisms that have been retrieved, to try and piece together facts from the natural world." It is a fascinating area of study and she adroitly explains how she uses her knowledge to help solve real cases in the UK. This is real scientist working on an investigation, not an excerpt of a CSI episode. The unseen world all around us and underneath our feet does touch and actually cling to us every day. This includes plants, animals, pollen, spores, fungi, and microbes. They can mark where we have been as surely as a map.

In between walking us through some of her cases, she also shares some of her biographical background. Although this is not strictly a biography, it does intermingle stories from her professional scientific work with her upbringing and background - and, you know, sometimes when and where you were raised and some of the particulars of your childhood do influence your life as an adult. Those who believe in an afterlife will want to take note that Wiltshire does not and succinctly shares her belief that once dead, a person will simple be reduced to the elements which the body contains.
The case studies are fascinating and that alone is deserving of a higher rating, even though sometime the personal opinions shared are a bit too sharp. It might have served Wiltshire better if she decided on either a biography or a series of interesting case studies. I would be up for reading either, but the mix between the two was sometimes incongruous. When presenting the cases, Wiltshire is at her best, explain how she determined vital clues bases on the microscopic evidence she found. I found the cases and her investigations to be captivating and could esily breeze through the biographical or opinion parts of the book.
Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Penguin Random House.

Monday, September 2, 2019

The Return of the Incredible Exploding Man

The Return of the Incredible Exploding Man by Dave Hutchinson
Solaris: 9/3/19
eBook review copy; 336 pages
ISBN-13: 9781781085844 

The Return of the Incredible Exploding Man by Dave Hutchinson is a highly recommended science fiction thriller.

Multibillionaire Stanislaw Clayton has bought a town and county in Iowa to build his dream supercollider, but now he needs someone to write about the evolution of Sioux Crossing and his project. Clayton recruits and hires Alex Dolan to write some articles and a book about the Sioux Crossing, Iowa, Supercollider.  Alex is a Scottish science/tech journalist living in Boston who has been struggling to make a living, so the generous offer is too tempting to pass up. When Alex arrives to look over the town and everyone in the town knows who he is and why he is there, he begins to find the town a little unsettling, especially when a few people tell him to get out why he can. Alex, however, needs the money and can't back out anyway because a spy at the British embassy in Minneapolis has contacted him and threatened deportation if he doesn't spy on the facility for him.

From this beginning, when it seems to be just a mystery and you're expecting problems on the collider campus, the narrative rolls along, intriguing and interesting with little sightings and observations of odd, disturbing occurrences popping up now and then. And, make no mistake, it is a compelling plot and had my attention but I was waiting for the titular theme promised by the title. When that hits, in the last quarter of the book, the novel absolutely erupts and I dare you to set it aside. It's at this point that the narrative is all-consuming, riveting and engrossing. There was no way I was going to stop reading.

Now, I'm going to admit that there were some issues with the narrative, especially in saving the big bang for essentially the end, when it could have been explored and used to the advantage of the plot sooner. The lead up to the final quarter was great as a mystery, but it would have made for an even stronger and more exciting story line if what was the last twenty-five percent of the plot had been extended and further developed. The ending felt rushed and I was left wanting more. I did like it quite a bit, though, and do highly recommend The Return of the Incredible Exploding Man.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Solaris.


Rewind by Catherine Ryan Howard
Blackstone Publishing: 9/3/19
eBook review copy; 304 pages
ISBN-13: 9781538519707

Rewind by Catherine Ryan Howard is a very highly recommended mystery set in a remote holiday town in Ireland that opens with a video of a woman being killed in a bedroom.

Andrew is the socially awkward manager of Shanamore Cottages, a set of six holiday cottages near Cork, but he's also a voyeur who watches his guests via a secret camera in the bedroom. Natalie O’Connor Kerr is a social media influencer on Instagram. She suspects her husband, Mike, is having an affair and clues point to him staying at the Shanamore Cottages. When she tells her followers she's taking a few days off to relax, what she is really doing is going to spend a few nights at Shanamore to try and uncover proof of Mike's affair. When she isn't heard from in a week and has seemingly disappeared, Audrey, a reporter for an online gossip rag, is assigned to try and find out some information about what happened to the Instagram star. Audrey, who wants to move up to the newsroom and do some actual reporting, digs deep into the story and becomes a part of the investigation. Adding to the suspense is a mystery woman who is in love with Mark and hates Natalie. 

Opening with the murder encourages readers to follow the action and look carefully to clues in this clever whodunit mystery. The narrative jumps back and forth in time, using rewind, fast-forward, play, rewind to start, and pause, all with timestamps, as chapter headings. It also alternates between the points-of-view of the different characters. And there are several appropriately creepy suspects moving around whom all have had encounters with Natalie before she disappeared. The pacing of the plot is steady, allowing the tension to slowly build as you try to piece the clues together. Interwoven into the plot is the backstory of Andrew.

Characters were introduced and developed as needed within the plot. I appreciated the carefully controlled release of information and clues. It kept me glued to the pages, trying to figure out who was the creepiest of the assorted creeps. With the alternating points-of-view and timelines, you do have to pay attention to who is narrating the chapter, but as the characters are so different that is relatively easy to do. The setting of Shanamore is like and additional character and richly described, making the setting seem even more sinister.

Rewind is a good choice for readers who like solid mysteries with an interesting cast of characters. 4.5 rounded up.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Blackstone Publishing.