Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Do No Harm: The Opioid Epidemic

Do No Harm: The Opioid Epidemic by Harry Wiland
Turner Publishing: 2/25/20
eBook review copy; 304 pages
ISBN-13: 9781684423231

Do No Harm: The Opioid Epidemic by Harry Wiland, with Peter Segall, is a very highly recommended look at the opioid crisis, expanding on the information from the National Public Television series.

The three part mini-series Do No Harm: The Opioid Epidemic presented by author and director, Harry Wiland covered the history and the truth behind the opioid epidemic. "The goal of Do No Harm: The Opioid Epidemic media project is to save lives through prevention and greater education about the scourge of opioid addiction. This book includes longer passages from the many in-depth interviews in the series and digs deeper into the issues of addiction and its treatment. Over a hundred key individuals appeared in the series, so this book was always planned as part of the full media coverage along with the documentary to fully present all the information. 

America's opioid crisis is an on-going public epidemic brought on by Big Pharma’s advertising ploys and misinformation, the medical community's inattentiveness over prescribing opioid painkillers, and a lack of policies and oversight restricting the prescription of these highly addictive drugs. This is, as has been repeatedly said, "the worst man-made drug epidemic in the history of our nation." If you don't know several families affected by this epidemic, I would be , quite frankly shocked. It is prevalent across the country with some areas hit harder than others.

The information from this book and the documentary needs to be spread across the country.

"More people die each year from an opioid drug overdose than in automobile accidents. The statistics are staggering. Do No Harm spotlights experts, journalists, and public health crusaders who are combating the special interests of Big Pharma and informing the world on how an aggressive pharmaceutical mass marketing campaign for the new drug OxyContin misled doctors and the public into our current crisis of death and addiction."

"Wiland highlights the stories of those hit hardest by prescription opioid addiction and overdose death, and sheds light on how whole communities have been ravaged by the spread of addiction. Despite regional health experts, local government, law enforcement, journalists, and the DEA’s efforts to combat the epidemic, people continue to die at an alarming rate from prescription drug overdoses. The chapters of this book chronicle this opioid epidemic in all its complexity from many perspectives including the plight of the millions of Americans who suffer from opioid addiction. People, young and old on the rocky road to recovery, tell their harrowing stories, current victories, and on-going struggles with the disease."

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Turner Publishing.

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Willa's Grove

Willa's Grove by Laura Munson
Blackstone Publishing: 3/3/20
eBook review copy; 304 pages
ISBN-13: 9781982605247

Willa's Grove by Laura Munson is a recommended feel-good women's novel featuring four very different women at a cross road in their lives.

It all started with an invitation from one woman sent to three different women that invited them to the rest of their lives by visiting a lodge at a homestead in Montana for one week. Each of the four women have found themselves at a juncture in their lives where they are entering middle age with uncertain or unexpected futures. The invitations have been sent by Willa Silvester, a recent widow who must say goodbye to her home and town because she can no longer afford to stay there.
Willa's friend, Bliss, is facing her own world of hurt in Wisconsin. When the two talk they plan the weekend where a friend invites a friend who then invites a friend. Bliss invites Harriet, a former motivational speaker living in California. Harriet invites Jane, a highly guarded and proper socialite from the east coast. The three very different women are going to spend the week honestly examining their lives and their futures while helping Willa pack and say good-bye to her town.

The premise is that these extremely different friends of friends will be able to bond together and create a community of mutual support because they are all women. There are parts of this novel that are touching in the honest and open discussion the women have about their lives and what they wanted versus what they have. (Let's just fess up and say that nothing political or controversial, with one exception, was ever discussed between the women.) And while it is true that we all need friends we can be open and honest with, the expectation that you will find that connection because you are all women is unrealistic. There is also something to be said about connecting with people who you have a natural affinity toward and share similarities in beliefs and background.
In the end, Willa's Grove is a feel-good women's novel set in Montana. And it must be said that the setting is as important as the characters. This is a novel to read when you want to pass the time quietly. There is nothing shocking or surprising that happens. (There is one incident that simple could not happen as described, but I don't want to give a spoiler.)

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Blackstone Publishing.

The Dark Corners of the Night

The Dark Corners of the Night by Meg Gardiner
Blackstone Publishing: 2/18/20
eBook review copy; 384 pages
ISBN-13: 9781982627515

The Dark Corners of the Night by Meg Gardiner is a very, very highly recommended thriller/procedural and the third book in the UNSUB series featuring FBI behavioral analyst Caitlin Hendrix.

There is a killer on the loose in Los Angeles who calls himself the Midnight Man, the legion of the night. He sneaks into homes of families in the middle of the night and kills the parents, first the man, then the woman, but he leaves the children alive, terrorized witnesses to his crimes. The attacks are escalating and the FBI has been called in to help track down the serial killer. Caitlin Hendrix is still reeling from the bombing at the hospital where her best friend was seriously injured six months earlier. Now Caitlyn is back in Los Angeles to assist in the hunt for the Midnight Man, but as she delves into the case she begins to notice some settling clues to the killer's identity.

Those of you who love your thrillers and procedurals will want to immediately get your hands on The Dark Corners of the Night. It is a tense, action packed, nail biting investigation into the identity of a killer and just as incredible as the first two books in the series, UNSUB and Into the Black Nowhere. While you can read The Dark Corners of the Night as a stand-alone, the first two books in the series are just as exceptional. This is a stay-up-all-night-reading thriller.

As expected, this is a superbly written novel with a solid plot where clues, revelations, and suppositions about the killer are shocking and lead to stunning conclusions. The search for the killer is riveting and will completely hold your attention. At this point, having read the previous two books in the series, I know these characters and their flaws, however Gardiner does have forward movement in the character development that make them even more human.

The heart stopping ending to the search is perfectly executed and Gardiner also ends the narrative on a positive note for Caitlyn. This is another stay-up-all-night-stuck-at-the-airport book... in a well lit area near security and lots of foot traffic.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Blackstone Publishing.

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Ten Days Gone

Ten Days Gone by Beverly Long
MIRA Books: 2/18/20
eBook review copy; 384 pages
ISBN-13: 9780778309581 

Ten Days Gone by Beverly Long is a highly recommended police procedural and the beginning of the A.L. McKittridge series.

In Baywood, Wisconsin, small town police detectives A.L. McKittridge and Rena Morgan are on the trail of a serial killer. Four women have been found dead in forty days, exactly 10 days apart. There seems to be nothing connecting the women to each other and the careful killer is not leaving any clues. A.L. and Rena need to find out what connects the victims to each other and the significance of the ten days apart. Hopefully they can discern who the next victim will be and stop the killer before there is another murder. Finding who the next victim will be may be just the beginning of their struggles.

Long writes in an well-done easy-to-follow style. As the case unfolds, the clues are logically uncovered and followed. The narrative is told through alternating points-of-view and it ensures A.L. and Rena are viewed as distinct individuals as the story delves into their personal lives. The background provided in the narrative makes it easy to learn about the personal lives of A.L. and Rena while we follow their professional collaboration. Like most characters in a procedural, they have personal stuff going on while they are trying to stop a killer.

Ten Days Gone is a nice solid start to a new series and would be a nice choice when you want to simply read for relaxation and follow along as the clues as they come. There are no wildly twisty surprises or red herrings in this solid procedural. I'm looking forward to the next book in the series.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of MIRA Books.

The Adventurer's Son

The Adventurer's Son by Roman Dial
HarperCollins: 2/18/20
eBook review copy; 368 pages
ISBN-13: 9780062876607

The Adventurer's Son by Roman Dial is a highly recommended memoir about the author's adventures and his son.

Roman Dial (Mathematics and Biology professor at Alaska Pacific University and National Geographic Explorer) embraced real life outdoor adventures, exploration, and risk taking as a young man and went on to impart his love for exploration, and endurance to his son, Cody Roman. Dial recounts his own adventures and goes on to describe the trips on which he later took Cody, who also went by Roman. Occasionally his wife, Peggy, and daughter Jazz accompanied them, but Cody Roman became his father's ongoing partner on adventures.

Later, when Cody Roman was 27, he went on a solo trek, hiking and exploring in Central America. On July 10, 2014 he walked alone into Corcovado National Park, an untracked rainforest along Costa Rica’s remote Pacific Coast, and disappeared. Once his father and mother realized he was missing, Dial went down to Costa Rica and began the search for his son. It took two years to find out what happened and the search for closure was plagued with government bureaucrats obstructing the search, false information, and rumors.
Losing a child is one of most difficult experiences a parent can have, so losing your son and not knowing what happened to him makes a heart-breaking experience even worse. Certainly Dial blames himself for encouraging his son to embrace going on adventures and exploring dangerous areas.  Having a reality-TV show spinning a murder theory about Cody Roman while they were still searching for what happened to their son took a toll. In the end they find the closure and some sense of the truth behind what happened.
Dial's love for exploration is evident in his writing, as his love for his wife and family. The one drawback of this tribute to Cody Roman is that it begins by telling Roman's own story rather than starting with Cody Roman's solo trek and disappearance. If this were a biography, this would make perfect sense to follow a chronological timeline. As a tribute to Cody Roman, however, it would have been stronger to start with the disappearance and then back-fill with the history of adventures and exploring that made Cody Roman confident in setting off by himself. 
Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of HarperCollins.

Sunday, February 9, 2020

The Lucky One

The Lucky One by Lori Rader-Day
HarperCollins: 2/18/20
eBook review copy; 400 pages
ISBN-13: 9780062938077

The Lucky One by Lori Rader-Day is a very highly recommended novel of suspense.

Alice Fine volunteers her spare time on The Doe Pages, a website that matches missing people with unidentified remains. Her preoccupation with helping search for clues to help reunite people with their missing loved ones is a result of her own experiences. When she was three-years-old Alice was kidnapped from her backyard, and, against all odds, found by her policeman father within twenty-four hours. Alice knows how lucky she was to survive this experience without any harm, unlike so many others. When she sees the picture of a missing person on the Doe site and realizes it is a picture of her kidnapper, she begins looking for him, with help from two other Doe Pages participants. Finding him could protect others and give Alice some closure.

Merrily Cruz is another woman searching for answers about the same man. She considers him, Uncle Rick, a stepfather. Although he didn't visit her, he has been a father figure to Merrily and sporadically texts her. In their search Alice and her Doe friends come across Merrily, and the women all undertake their search for this man, whose surname changes, while trying to uncover what are lies and what is the truth.

The characters are all wonderfully flawed and believable characters that you will feel empathy for immediately. It is understood that they are all unreliable narrators. They don't know the true backstory of the man they are all looking for. We are following along in their search as they look into the past, uncovering information and clues. While following new leads they are piecing together what they learn with what they think they know. 

The writing is outstanding in this well-paced novel. I was entrenched in the story and totally engrossed in the twisty plot from start to finish. The investigation the women undertake unfolds naturally as new information and clues are uncovered. Alice has other clues she is looking at related to her present life while looking into her kidnapping as a child, which adds an additional depth to the narrative. All the threads in the plot are wrapped up, although not in any way you would expect. This is an excellent novel of suspense. The final twisty denouement is what rocketed The Lucky One to my highest rating.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of HarperCollins.

Ghosts of the Missing

Ghosts of the Missing by Kathleen Donohoe
HMH Books: 2/11/20
eBook review copy; 320 pages
ISBN-13: 9780544557178 

Ghosts of the Missing by Kathleen Donohoe is a so-so tale of loss, memory, and traditions.

Adair McCrohan has long been haunted by the unsolved mystery of the disappearance at age twelve of her best friend girl, Rowan Kinnane, on October 28, 1995, in Culleton, New York. She returns to her family home, the Moye House, an old mansion that is currently a writer's retreat to stay with her poet uncle, Michan McCrohan. A writer currently living there, Ciaran Riordan, has a personal connection to Rowan and hopes to solve what happened to his sister. Adair joins forces with Ciaran to try and discover what happened to Rowan. In the process of investigating they uncover some hidden secrets and ghosts of the past.

In this very slow moving novel the chapters alternate between Adair in the present and in 1995, as well as various other people who have lived in Cullenton since the 1800s. Mixed into the melancholy, atmospheric tale is Irish folklore, legends, conspiracies, mysticism, rumors, murder, and science. While the plot is supposedly focused on solving what happened to Rowan, it really isn't at all. This may be as problematic for many other readers as it was for me. There is no closure in solving a mystery. This is more of a character driven family saga that jumps around in time between decades and characters.

The quality of the actual writing is quite alluring. It is beautifully rendered and poetic. The problem is twofold. The jumping around between time periods and characters detracts from the novel rather than creating interest and becomes distracting. The second is the premise that a mystery is to be solved. It isn't a true focus of the plot at all. This really wasn't a good choice for me, but may be a better fit for others.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of HMH Books.

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Eden Mine

Eden Mine by S. M. Hulse
Farrar, Straus and Giroux: 2/11/20
eBook review copy; 272 pages
ISBN-13: 9780374146474

Eden Mine by S. M. Hulse is a very highly recommended novel that examines the aftershocks of an act of domestic terrorism in a small Montana town. This eloquently written, artistic novel is one of the best novels I've read so far this year.

It is a Sunday morning and Josephine (Jo) Faber is packing up the home that she and her brother Samuel inherited near Eden Mine in Montana. Their home has been seized by the state through eminent domain. While packing she learns about the bombing of the district courthouse at Elk Fork on the radio, but it is not until friend and unofficial guardian Sheriff Hawkins shows up at her front door that she realizes something is wrong. Hawkins wants to know where her brother, Samuel, is. As far as she knows, he left that morning to go find work.

When Jo is told that Samuel was caught on a security camera near the court house, she knows he is likely responsible. The tragedy is that a church was meeting in a nearby store front and the bomb blast blew out the window. Now a nine-year-old girl, the daughter of the pastor, is in critical condition. Jo knows that Samuel would never have meant for anyone to be placed in harm's way because of their family history. He has been taking care of Jo since he was 17 and she was 10.

Eden Mine is a finely crafted, nuanced, and beautifully written heart-breaking novel about family bonds, loyalty, love, individual freedom, injustice, the testing of faith, and redemption. It also touches on the anger, injustice, and disaffection tearing apart many communities. The novel is told mainly through Jo's point-of-view, with short chapters from Asa Truth, the pastor whose daughter is hospitalized, and Samuel, who is in hiding and writing to Jo on a map he has with him. The complete backstory slowly unfolds over the course of the novel, making what happened more nuanced and complicated that it would appear to be at first.

All of the characters are well-developed, complicated individuals. Hulse captures these damaged people and their thoughts, feelings, and struggles with an acumen and sensitivity that makes the story richer. The inner thoughts of the characters will resonate with readers. Some of the questions that Eden Mine raises are those that are struggled with almost universally. A case could be made that the novel is allegorical and reflects human struggles Biblically. In the end this is an eloquently written, touching novel that will stay with me for years.
Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

The Last Day

The Last Day by Andrew Hunter Murray
Penguin Random House: 2/4/20
eBook review copy; 384 pages
ISBN-13: 9781524745813

The Last Day by Andrew Hunter Murray is a recommended dystopian thriller set in 2059.

The earth has stopped rotating, leaving half the world in perpetual light and the other in darkness. Great Britain is lucky enough to be in a narrow habitable region and is now a totalitarian nation with closed borders. A small section of land has been given to the United States for colonization.  Ellen Hopper is a scientist living on a rig in the Atlantic, studying ocean currents. When two government officials come to the rig via helicopter she is basically forced to go back to London to visit the bedside of her dying former Oxford mentor, Edward Thorne. He has a secret he has been keeping and government officials are sure he will tell her where to find the information they seek.

Ellen knows a secret about Thorne's past, which she keeps to herself, but she doesn't know the secret information the government seeks. They hope Thorne will tell her. What happens is that she secretly sends herself on the mission to try and figure out the truth, his secret, on her own, following clues and leads as she uncovers them. She is being watched and followed, beaten up and interrogated, yet still managing to stay one step ahead of the officials who want to destroy the information Thorne has hidden away.

The writing is good and the short chapters keep the plot moving along swiftly in this very changed world. The characters are compelling and interesting. The dystopian world will interest science fiction fans, but the plot requires setting disbelief aside in order to enjoy the mystery of Ellen's search. Her search makes this more of an espionage thriller, where the setting makes the search more interesting, but you have to believe she could find what others could not find. The ending leaves room open for a sequel.

One niggling concern in involving the reader's investment in the plot is that the science behind the slow down and stop wasn't presented until a bit later in the story when it should have been explained earlier. I found myself wanting the explanation behind it long before it was given. The second is the search by Ellen herself, which requires you to believe that the nefarious government officials wouldn't have thought of what she does and couldn't find out the information without her help.

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

Thunder Bay

Thunder Bay by Douglas Skelton
Simon & Schuster: 2/11/20
eBook review copy; 312 pages
ISBN-13: 9781950691340

Thunder Bay by Douglas Skelton is a very highly recommended atmospheric mystery/thriller.

Scottish reporter Rebecca Connolly learns that suspected murderer Roddie Drummond will be returning to the Hebridean island of Stoirm to attend his mother's funeral. Fifteen years earlier his girlfriend Mhairi was murdered, and, even though he was not convicted, Roddie is guilty in the eyes of many islanders. He left the island immediately after the trial and hasn't been back since. His return will certainly stir up resentments and trouble. Rebecca has other, personal, reasons for wanting to visit the island so she goes ahead and travels there in defiance of her editor. She is looking into both the story of Mhairi's murder and her own family history.

Thunder Bay is a beautifully written mystery/thriller. Skelton introduces the large cast of characters via their interactions in the local social structure as Rebecca begins her investigation. All the characters are complex and well-developed, and the island, "it's an island thing," is as much a character as the people in this atmospheric mystery.  Secrets abound on the island. Rebecca's interactions and the answers she receives to the questions she is asking perfectly captures the social culture and setting.

As the plot advances, the information Rebecca is uncovering begins to create a tension. This tension increases and builds incrementally until it is palpable. The hostility and unease she experiences is from both her investigation of the murder, as well as questions about her family's history on the island. As in any closed, tightly knit community, there are secrets and resentments that people have kept hidden. Skelton uses flashbacks to enhance the plot and tell some of the backstory. I enjoyed this novel immensely, but have to admit that I was disappointed with the reveal of the secret that made Rebecca's father leave the island forever.

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

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

All the Best Lies

All the Best Lies by Joanna Schaffhausen
St. Martin's Publishing Group: 2/11/20
eBook review copy; 336 pages
ISBN-13: 9781250297389
Ellery Hathaway #3 

All the Best Lies by Joanna Schaffhausen is a highly recommended mystery/procedural. FBI agent Reed Markham and his friend and suspended cop Ellery Hathaway take on a very personal forty year old cold case in this third book in the Ellery Hathaway series.

Reed Markham's birth mother, Camilla Flores, was stabbed and beaten to death in Las Vegas, Nevada, in 1975, while her baby, Reed, was in the apartment. Her case was never solved. Reed was adopted by Virginia state senator Angus Markham. So when his sisters ask him to take a mail-in DNA test, just to see if he has some distant biological connection to them, he was hesitant, but did it. Instead of a distant link, Reed learns that adoptive father is actually his biological father. Reed wants to look into his mother's death because now he suspects that his father may be involved.

Reed enlists Ellery Hathaway to help him with the investigation. Ellery has her own reasons to want to leave town, not the least of which is that she is currently on suspension from the police force. Reed and Ellery have a complex relationship, but they work well together as an investigative team. They are also tentatively moving toward a closer personal relationship.

While this third book in the series can be read as a stand-alone novel, a more complete picture of the relationship between Reed and Ellery will result in reading them in order. They are both complex, flawed characters and have both chemistry with each other as well as a complicated relationship. I have read The Vanishing Season, book one, but not the second, No Mercy. I sort of wish I had read the second book before diving into this one, but Schaffhausen does do a very good job explaining their past while keeping the current investigation/mystery moving along.

The writing is excellent and the plot moves along quickly as does the character development. As the two dig deep into the past and try to find out what really happened, it becomes clear that not everyone is telling the truth and there are hidden motives. The clues are followed and Reed and Ellery work well together questioning people and following clues in this intriguing procedural/mystery. Be prepared for several surprises as the investigation unfolds and an ending which ties everything together.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Macmillan Publishing.

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

The Inhabited Island

The Inhabited Island by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky
Andrew Bromfield (Translator)
Chicago Review Press: 2/4/20 (rerelease)
eBook review copy; 416 pages
ISBN-13: 9781613735978 

The Inhabited Island by Arkady and Boris Strugatskyis a very highly recommended classic grim science fiction dystopian story set on a post-apocalyptic planet.

"When Maxim Kammerer, a young space explorer from twenty-second-century Earth, crash-lands on an uncharted world, he thinks of himself as a latter-day Robinson Crusoe. Eager to establish first contact with the planet’s humanlike inhabitants, he finds himself increasingly entangled in their primitive way of life. After his experiences in their nightmarish military, criminal justice, and mental health systems, Maxim begins to realize that his sojourn on this radioactive and war-scarred world will not be a walk in the park."

It is a pleasure to read the 2020 edition, which is a new translation of the original Strugatsky brother's novel released by Chicago Review Press. The original novel was published in the magazine Neva in 1969. The first published book form of the novel was in 1971, but that edition had many changes that were demanded by the state censor in the Soviet Union. The English translation, Prisoners of Power, was released in 1977, but this edition was based on the censored version of the novel. There was also a film based on the novel called Dark Planet. Once you have read The Inhabited Island you will know why the original novel was censored - assuming that you know and understand world political history. This is a fine example of social allegory disguised as a science fiction novel so the Strugatsky's criticism against the Soviet Union would be disguised as literature. The bonus to the new translation is that it better captures the richness of the original novel.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Chicago Review Press.

The Misfortunes of Family

The Misfortunes of Family by Meg Little Reilly
MIRA Books: 2/4/20
eBook review copy; 352 pages
ISBN-13: 9780778369424

The Misfortunes of Family by Meg Little Reilly is a recommended family drama.

The Bright family is a political family. Newly retired senator John Bright and his wife Patty have four sons: JJ (John Junior), Spencer, Charlie, and Phillip. Every summer they have the sons and their partners for a family reunion at their lake house in the Berkshire Mountains of western Massachusetts. It is a stressful time for "the extras," as JJ's wife Mary-Beth and Spencer's husband Ian call themselves. The older three Bright boys are all dominated by their father and their mother still mothers them throughout the reunion. The youngest son, Phillip, who has always been an outlier in the family, makes an announcement that further sets him apart.

This summer is different and ripe for more stress for the extras than usual for two reasons. First the reunion is three weeks long instead of the usual one. Secondly, this summer a documentary filmmaker will be filming the entire Bright family the whole time. It is a situation ripe for tension and highly guarded secrets are certainly going to be exposed. Family reunions are usually fraught with underlying tension. How many families can withstand potentially having all their secrets uncovered?

The narrative unfolds through the point-of-view of the extras and Farah, the filmmaker, as they observe the sometimes larger-than-life Brights. The three weeks is full of drama, unbelievable stress, emotional releases, some self-realization, and, eventually, several shocking secrets are disclosed. The plot moves along quickly, but the connection with the characters becomes more distant with each new chapter. Ian was the most appealing character, partially because he was the only character who was content with his life and didn't come to the reunion with some hidden need or agenda.

The writing is good, but I pretty much knew or guessed most of the secrets that were going to be outed so I was anticipating when my predictions would be revealed in the plot. That meant that my interest in the novel needed to be focused on the various characters and their personal development. While character development does happen, most of it felt truncated, which left me pining for the richness and depth that great character development and personal growth can provide to a plot that is otherwise rather predictable. I would look for another Meg Little Reilly because this novel shows promise for her future works. 

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of MIRA Books.

Sunday, January 26, 2020

The Third to Die

The Third to Die by Allison Brennan
MIRA Books: 2/4/20
eBook review copy; 464 pages
ISBN-13: 9780778309444
Mobile Response Team #1 

The Third to Die by Allison Brennan is a very highly recommended procedural/thriller and is a captivating, exciting start to a new series. I'm hooked and cannot wait for the next book in the series!

Undercover Detective Kara Quinn, who is on forced leave/vacation from the LAPD, decides to spend it with her grandmother in Liberty Lake, Washington. While jogging early one morning she discovers a body by the lake. It is that of a woman who is a nurse and her death indicates rage. The method of the murder is identified as likely being done by a psychopathic serial killer called the Triple Killer, named because he murders three random victims, three days apart, every three years. So, according to his profile, this is the first of what will be three murders.

In Washington DC, the newly minted FBI Mobile Response Team, which is designed to cover rural areas underserved by law enforcement, is mobilized and sent to the scene to investigate the murder. The MRT team is led by FBI special agent Mathias (Matt) Costato. The killer will strike again in three days and this is a chance to stop the murder of two more people until the psychopath disappears for another three years. Kara is also assisting local law enforcement as the clock counts down, and things heat up between her and Matt.

Why have I never read a thriller by Allison Brennan? I loved this procedural/thriller and was totally engrossed in the plot from start to finish. The writing was very good. I found it hard to put down - following and exploring clues and leads as the investigation continued. The plot unfolds through three different points of view, Matt, Kara, and the killer. I will concede that some sections were a bit slower, but I felt they were needed to add depth to the plot as well as convey information we needed to know.

Kara and Matt are both great characters. Kara is complicated, prickly, strong, damaged, and intelligent. Matt is smart and driven; his damage is more contained but you get hints about his past. That the two would connect, work well together, be attracted to each other, and clash at the same time, was a given. I'm looking forward to the second book in this series. I'd like to see Matt and Kara take on another investigation.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of MIRA Books.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

The Museum of Desire

The Museum of Desire by Jonathan Kellerman
Penguin Random House: 2/4/20
eBook review copy; 368 pages
ISBN-13: 9780525618522
Alex Delaware Series #35

The Museum of Desire by Jonathan Kellerman is a very highly recommended police procedural featuring psychologist Dr. Alex Delaware.

LAPD Lieutenant Milo Sturgis has a bizarre case and he calls in friend and psychologist Dr. Alex Delaware to assist him in the investigation. On the grounds of a deserted mansion in Bel Air four people are found murdered in a stretch limousine. But these four people have been arranged and displayed in a grotesque tableau that must mean something to the killer but is difficult for investigators to comprehend what it means. They are at a loss to explain the motive behind how the diverse group of people came to be found murdered together and arranged at the scene. Alex and Milo must use all their skills to uncover the truth, but the way to the answers is full of twisty turns and blind alleys. 

The complex story grabbed me from the start and I enjoyed following all the trails and lines of questioning in the detailed investigation immensely. The writing is excellent. At this point in his writing career Kellerman is skilled enough to tell a complicated, interesting story while keeping the plot moving along swiftly. The denouement was unexpected and startling, but totally satisfying and fit right in with the case.

This is a wonderful police procedural.  The characters are all well established at this point, but anyone new to the series could easily jump in and read The Museum of Desire without enjoying any of the previous Alex Delaware novels. Those who know the characters will appreciate this latest case. I've gleaned a new favorite quote:
"I've already got a mood disorder."
"What's that?"
"Personal variant of bipolar. Half the time I'm pissed off, the other I'm merely irritated."

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Penguin Random House

Perfect Little Children

Perfect Little Children by Sophie Hannah
HarperCollins: 2/4/20
eBook review copy; 336 pages
ISBN-13: 9780062978202

Perfect Little Children by Sophie Hannah is a recommended domestic thriller.

Beth Leeson is driving her 14 year-old son to his soccer game when she decides to take a little detour, since she's in the area, and look at her ex-best friend's house. She parks outside the house of Lewis and Flora Braid. She hasn't had contact or seen Flora in 12 years after the Braids came into money and moved, which was quickly followed by a schism in their friendship. Beth parks near the house when she sees Flora, but she also sees two young children and hears Flora call them Thomas and Emily. Beth is stunned by this since when she knew Flora, Thomas and Emily were five and three years-old. Flora looks older, but these two children look the same age, but they should be 17 and 15 now. And where is the baby, Georgina? Beth is shocked and decides to try and further investigate her former friend, with help from her husband Dom and daughter Zannah.

The story is unique, but, alas, I had a difficult time keeping my interest in finding out what was really happening with the Braids early in the novel. It is slow moving I just kept thinking that Beth's behavior was creepy. If you haven't seen someone for 12 years and you have ended the friendship, why would you be stalking them in real life? Sure, I can see some occurrence bringing an old friend to mind and you undertake some low key harmless on-line stalking, but Beth quickly escalates her curiosity to the level of questioning neighbors and further.

When the denouement is finally reached, it was satisfying, but I also felt a sense of relief that it was over. The basis of the plot stretches credibility. Combining a plot that requires you to suspend disbelief along with the lack of significant character envelopment made this novel a chore to read at times. At first I was freakishly hoping that there would be some science fiction twist to the story, but that was not to be. There are some twists and surprises. Probably a 2.5, but I'll round up.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of HarperCollins.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Behind Every Lie

Behind Every Lie by Christina McDonald
Gallery Books: 2/4/20
eBook review copy; 336 pages
ISBN-13: 9781501184031 

Behind Every Lie by Christina McDonald is a highly recommended domestic thriller.

Eva Hansen is engaged to Liam Sullivan and seems to be getting her life back on track after an earlier unnamed traumatic occurrence (that will be revealed later). When she wakes up in the hospital and discovers that she was struck by lightning, she learns that she was found down the street from her mother's home and that her mother, Kat, has been murdered. Apparently Eva is a suspect and the police are eager to question her. Eva can't remember what happened, but knows that she couldn't have murdered her mom, could she? Then she finds a letter addressed to her in her mother's things that sends her traveling from Seattle to London. Kat lived in London before moving to the USA with Eva, so Eva hopes that the answers to what happened will be found there.

The action moves along quickly in Behind Every Lie, setting a break-neck pace as more and more details and secrets are revealed from both Eva and Kat's past. The narrative is told through Kat and Eva's point of view in alternating chapters, so you follow what Kat was going through back in England up to the present day while at the same time learning about Eva's discoveries and her past trauma. As more of the diverse stories are told, you will begin to make sense of what happened in the past and question what actually happened to Kat. 

I liked the alternating points-of-view between mother and daughter, and the suspicion that every character is under as the plot unfolds. All the characters seem untrustworthy at some point and the final denouement may take many readers by surprise, although others may have been suspicious about what was going on. Even though believably is frequently stretched, I was hooked into frantically reading to discover what happened next and if my suspicions and guesses about plot points were correct.

While very entertaining and engaging, McDonald seemed to throw a whole lot into this plot that would have benefited from being a bit more focused and not so wildly full of so many diverse secrets, coincidences, and implausible circumstances. I didn't quite believe some of the secrets would have been kept or not recalled much sooner. Character development suffered under the weight of so many different secrets and new developments. McDonald does regain points for sheer entertainment value.

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

Within Plain Sight

Within Plain Sight by Bruce Robert Coffin
HarperCollins: 2/4/20
eBook review copy; 432 pages
ISBN-13: 9780062971340
Detective Byron Series #4 

Within Plain Sight by Bruce Robert Coffin is a highly recommended police procedural and the fourth book in the series.
Detective Sergeant John Byron and his team are called to the scene of a horrific crime in Portland, Maine. The body of a young woman has been found in an abandoned Portland lumber yard, posed, sitting up. Beyond not knowing who is responsible for her murder, the biggest question is where is her head? The crime may have ties to murders committed in Boston by a serial killer labeled the Horseman, so Byron needs to figure out if this is the case, if it is a copycat murder, or just a gruesome coincidence. 

As they start investigating the case, it becomes clear that there are some well-known local people who knew the victim and may have some connection to the case. As they investigate the case there are more and more people and lines of questioning that need to be covered. It is not making their jobs easier that some details are being prematurely leaked to the press.

This is a well-written, intricately plotted and detailed police procedural that follows the investigation step by step as more information is dug up and new lines of questioning need to be pursued. There are also problems with colleagues and departmental and relationship problems going on during the investigation. This is my first Detective Sergeant Byron novel but I had no problem keeping track of the numerous characters and following the plot. The characters are developed and given depth while the investigation Within Plain Sight is a perfect choice for procedural fans who like intricate, detailed investigations with the twists and turns along the way.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of HarperCollins.

The Other People

The Other People by C. J. Tudor
Penguin Random House: 1/28/20
eBook review copy; 336 pages
ISBN-13: 9781984824998 

The Other People by C. J. Tudor is a very highly recommended unsettling thriller.

Three years ago Gabe Forman was driving home on the M1 stuck in traffic behind an old rusty car covered with bumper stickers when suddenly his five-year-old daughter Izzy's face appears in the back window and she mouths "Daddy." Gabe tries to follow the car but loses it. When he returns home, he finds out his wife and daughter were killed, but Gabe knows what he saw and he knows his daughter is still alive, despite the fact that his father-in-law positively identifies the bodies. He was a suspect in their murders for a while, but cleared. Now he spends his days driving up and down the motorway looking for the car he last saw his daughter in.

Fran and her daughter Alice are constantly on the run, trying to keep ahead of the people who want to hurt them. She knows too much and owes some people. Alice has a problem with mirrors, can suddenly fall asleep and has terrifying visions of a girl on a beach. When she wakes up from these visions, she has a pebble in her hand. Alice carries around a bag filled up with these pebbles.

These characters, along with others, are introduced and their stories are told. Eventually the stories and characters merge together at the ending of The Other People - and the title is explained. I don't want to explain any more of the plot than this as it is best to read it and experience what happens and is revealed as the narrative threads are explored. All of the characters are all well-developed and realistic. You will feel for Gabe, endlessly looking for his daughter, Izzy, and you'll be interested in what is happening to all of the characters as they rush to the point where their stories merge.

Great writing is notably present throughout The Other People. The plot is a thriller, as the mystery of what happened to Izzy is ongoing and the narrative also has mysterious undertones. Really, it's a little eerie and a little creepy with supernatural undertones. Once you start reading, you will find it difficult to stop. There are enough twists and surprises to keep you guessing until the story reaches a very satisfying denouement.

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

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

When You See Me

When You See Me by Lisa Gardner
Penguin Random House: 1/28/20
eBook review copy; 400 pages
ISBN-13: 9781524745004

When You See Me by Lisa Gardner is a very highly recommended thriller featuring Detective D. D. Warren, Flora Dane, and FBI Special Agent Kimberly Quincy. It is a great day when Lisa Gardiner has a new character-driven thriller released so set aside time to read this ASAP!

When hikers discover skeletal remains in the mountains of Niche, Georgia, they are identified as those of 17-year-old Lilah Abenito. She was kidnapped 15 years earlier and it has been suspected that she was one of the earliest victims of now-deceased serial predator Jacob Ness. Because of the ties to Ness, FBI Special Agent Kimberly Quincy and Sergeant Detective D. D. Warren, who have a task force following any clues left behind by him, are on the scenes. They bring along Flora Dane, a survivor of Ness, and Keith Edgar, a computer analyst and true-crime follower.

As volunteers search the mountains for the rest of the remains of Lilah, another mass grave of more skeletal remains is discovered. This escalates the search to include the possibility that the team is looking at a serial killer dump site. Is this where Ness buried some of his other victims? An initial visit to the mayor of Niche, Howard Counsel, and his wife, Martha, at their Mountain Laurel B&B, leaves the team with some questions, including the story behind their nameless maid,  but even more after Martha suddenly, suspiciously hangs herself. The investigation begins to widen at the same time as threats to the team begin to increase.

As is expected from Gardner, the writing is exceptional. The plot is a page-turning, nail-biting, twisty, tension-filled, and emotionally powerful story that will grip you from start to finish. The crimes from the past seem to be stirring up trouble in the present, but the question is who is involved and how is all of this connected. This is a novel that will be very hard to put down once you start it. I admittedly stayed up late just to finish it and it was worth it. 

All these characters are well developed and, quite frankly, loved by many of us, so a new novel with D.D., Kimberly, Flora, and Keith marks an exciting new addition to their stories. The sensitive treatment of Flora's recovery from her trauma at the hands of Ness is handled with compassion and understanding. It is exciting to see some major forward movement in Flora's character development and healing. Along with others, I appreciate the strong female characters.

I really loved this one from start to finish. Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Penguin Random House.

Losing You

Losing You by Nicci French
HarperCollins: 1/28/20; reprint from 2008 edition
eBook review copy; 368 pages
paperback ISBN-13: 9780062876034

Losing You by Nicci French is a recommended story of a desperate mom looking for her missing teenage daughter. This a re-released edition.

It is Nina Landry's fortieth birthday and she and her two children, Charlie (Charlotte, 15) and Jackson, are planning to take a vacation over the Christmas holiday with Nina's boyfriend, Christian. They will be leaving their home on Sandling Island, off the coast of England, and flying to Florida. Much to Nina's annoyance, Charlie is late returning home after going to a sleepover last night. Nina's annoyance turns to concern when Charlie isn't answering her phone - especially when she didn't show up after inviting a whole group of people to show up at 11 am for a surprise birthday party for Nina. They need to finish packing and leave for the airport by 1 pm. Where could Charlie be?

Nina contacts the police as she is sure something has happened to Charlie, but they insist that she probably just ran away or is doing something with friends. Teenagers are notoriously unreliable. Nina knows this can't be true so she starts a one-woman task force to question all of Charlie's friends, track down her movements, and look for any clues to her disappearance.

Pros include that the plot is very fast-paced, as the novel takes place in just one day, from start to finish, and will hold your attention. The action and the clues zoom along and you can chose to enjoy the ride, following the action and developments in the narrative. Cons are firmly all in the "you must suspend disbelief in order to enjoy the plot" category. Additionally, as Nina's character is developed, she actually becomes less likeable. Nina is depicted as a super-character who knows and can do it all, making everyone else, especially the police, look inept. Well, all the other characters are rather inept.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of HarperCollins.

Saturday, January 11, 2020

Daisy Jones & The Six

Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Penguin Random House: 3/5/19
eBook; 368 pages
hardcover ISBN-13: 9781524798628 

Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid is a very highly recommended account of sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll via the history and breakup of a legendary fictional 70's rock band. This one is a winner.

Daisy Jones, the daughter of a famous artist and a French model, grew up in LA in the late 1960's. At fourteen she started hanging out at the famous clubs on the Sunset Strip and drinking and doing drugs followed. Her friend, disco singer Simone, is the only one trying to look out for her.  Daisy is a free spirited "it" girl who is first noticed for her looks, but soon has her voice capturing the attention of those with influence and she is signed with Runner Records.

Billy Dunne and his brother Graham started the band that eventually grew and took off to become The Six. Billy is the song writer and charismatic front man for the band and has artistic control over the group. On their first tour, Billy went wild and nearly ruined his marriage to Camila, who was pregnant with their first child. After the tour he went to rehab and his overwhelming goal beyond making it big with The Six, is to stay sober and faithful to Camila and their family.

After they have one hit where Daisy sings with Billy on one of his songs, Runner Records decides that Billy and Daisy need to work together. While they are both dynamic on their own, when they sing together they are extraordinary, electric, and transcendent.  Billy doesn't want Daisy as part of his band, but they end up working together writing the songs on the album that produced some of the biggest hits in the seventies. No one knew the story behind the band and the split that ended it all - until now.

Daisy Jones & The Six is written like a documentary novel, an oral history, with quotes from the band members, Billy, Daisy, Camila, and Simone. All the characters are written with unique voices in their comments so you can tell who is talking even if you didn't note their name. While reading you can't help but envision the video in your mind, flipping between comments from the different people involved in Daisy Jones & The Six. This is part of what makes the book so amazing. You will easily believe this was a real band and real members are being interviewed. You will be surprised once you learn who is conducting the interviews and asking the questions.

The plot unfolds through the oral history interviews, starting with their beginnings up to their rise to fame. Reid definitely sets her story in the time and place of the late sixties to the late seventies. The clashes, struggles, and power of Billy and Daisy working together, writing the music, is captured perfectly. This really is a riveting and unforgettable novel; my attention was captured right at the start and held fast to the end. Remarkably, at the end of the book Reid has written all the lyrics for the songs. Need I mention that the writing is amazing? Well, it is an incredibly well-written book and captured my attention from beginning to end. I simple could not read it fast enough as I was desperate to learn what happened next.

(When I first read the synopsis for Taylor Jenkins Reid's Daisy Jones & The Six, I immediately tried to get a review copy as I knew it would be a novel I would love. I never did get the advanced reading copy, but I was right to try as this is an amazing novel. Now I need to find time to read Reid's The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo.)

Friday, January 10, 2020

Little Boy Lost

Little Boy Lost by J. P. Carter
Avon; 1/23/20
eBook review copy; 400 pages
ISBN-13: 9780008313340
DCI Anna Tate #3 

Little Boy Lost by J. P. Carter is a very highly recommended police procedural/thriller and the third in the DCI Anna Tate series.

All hell is breaking loose in London. After an accidental police shooting during an arrest, riots break out across London - arson, looting, violence, and chaos is rampant. Anna Tate is supposed to be on two months leave after recently being reunited with her abducted daughter, Chloe, but she is called back into to work a case. In the basement of an abandoned pub that is set on fire by the rioters, the body of a child is found. He is identified as ten year old Jacob Rossi and is part of a kidnapping investigation after he went missing on his way home from school. His father is a well-known celebrity, Mark Rossi. The arsonists likely didn't know Jacob was being held in the basement and their actions killed him. Anna just has a limited team to help her find out who kidnapped Jacob and for what purposes.

So Anna can work the case, she asks her boyfriend, Tom, to go to her house and look after Chloe, especially as night approaches and all the violence spreading across the city will escalate. Unknown to Anna, violence strikes her neighborhood right when Tom arrives to take Chloe to his place. Tom is attacked and Chloe is suddenly left on her own, trying to find some safe place amidst the rampant violence and roaming gangs. While Anna is working the case, Chloe is threatened at every turn, and the violence is spreading.

Little Boy Lost is an un-put-downable thriller. I was engrossed in both narrative threads - Anna working the case and Chloe's flight for safety. We are viewing the rioting from two different viewpoints and it makes it even more heart-stopping that Anna does not know Chloe is in danger and Chloe has no way to contact her. I kept reading this one long into the night. For those who haven't read the previous two DCI Anna Tate books, Little Boy Lost works as a standalone novel. All the backstory is told and you will quickly be up to speed. This is my first J.P. Carter book and based on it, I will pick up another. The characters are all well-developed.

The writing is fantastic. I liked following the narrative as it alternated between Chloe's desperate danger-filled plight and Anna's steady and careful investigation being hampered by the same riots. The juxtaposition of the action with the investigation in the plot keeps the suspense building in both parts of the narrative. They are equally compelling story-lines but also very different. On the one hand there is a police procedural and clues to follow. On the other hand is a twelve-year-old girl running for her life caught up in a night full of violence.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of HarperCollins