Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Night Shift

Night Shift by Robin Cook
12/6/22; 352 pages
G.P. Putnam's Sons
Jack Stapleton and Laurie Montgomery #13

Night Shift by Robin Cook is a recommended medical thriller and the thirteenth installment of novels featuring Laurie Montgomery and Jack Stapleton.

Dr. Sue Passero, a good friend of Laurie's, dies mysteriously in the Manhattan Memorial Hospital parking garage. It is suspected that she had a heart attack, but an autopsy is required. Laurie asks Jack to do it because she knows he is more than competent and will be thorough. We know from the opening scene that Sue was injected with something, so once Jack discovers this, he begins looking for someone who would have a motive to kill her.

Laurie and Jack are established characters for fans. This can be read as a stand-alone if you are just looking for a medical thriller to reliably pass the time. It should be noted that Jack complains way-too-much, especially at the beginning, which made his character less appealing this time around.

Cook is master of the medical thriller genre and can turn out a basically okay surefire page turner every time. The plot is too predictable but it does provide escape and suspense. (I did keep wondering if this plot hasn't already been done in the series, or a variation of it?) It is still an enjoyable medical thriller. No real twists or heart stopping reveals happen here.  I personally did some eye rolling over the inclusion of covid and pandemic  opinions inserted in the novel. This is an airplane book. It'll pass the time but you won't cry if you misplace it on your trip.

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


A Dangerous Business

A Dangerous Business by Jane Smiley
12/6/22; 224 pages
Knopf Doubleday

A Dangerous Business by Jane Smiley is a highly recommended historical mystery set in 1850s California.

"As Mrs. Parks says, 'Everyone knows that this is a dangerous business, but between you and me, being a woman is a dangerous business, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise...' "

After Eliza Cargill Ripple’s husband is killed in a bar brawl in Monterey, California, she chooses to work in the well-run brothel of madam Mrs. Parks. Eliza is only 21, but she knows she does not want to go back to her parent's house in Kalamazoo. Work in a brothel provides financial security and allows her to stay in Monterey. Eliza also makes her first real friend, Jean MacPherson, who works in the same profession, but with women. After some working girls are missing and bodies are found outside of town, the two begin to work together investigating who could be targeting and murdering young women as law enforcement isn't interested..

Smiley, as expected, excels at providing descriptions of the setting during the specific time period and furnishing the historical details that bring the narrative to life in this incredibly well-written novel. Eliza's trade is described in a quaint manner, although perhaps too much for the page count, and interesting details about the time period are provided by her clients, many of them sailors. I also appreciate the literary references about novels during the time period included in the plot.

Eliza and Jean are portrayed as realistic and sympathetic characters within the historical time period. Smiley brings them both to life in the narrative as they work together trying to piece together clues and figure out which client could be guilty of the murders. Of course, there are also horses which are all described as unique.

My reticence concerning A Dangerous Business is three fold. The whole plot element involving seeing ghosts and ghosts being sighted almost constantly is suddenly dropped and nothing is done with it. The second is that, no matter how well-written, the pace of the novel is very slow. Finally, the actually denouement was a bit of a let down, as I was anticipating more, which is perhaps my failing, but there it is.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Knopf Doubleday via NetGalley.

Monday, November 28, 2022

Little Red House

Little Red House by Liv Andersson
12/6/22; 320 pages
Crooked Lane Books

Little Red House by Liv Andersson is a highly recommended thriller told through two timelines.

Eve Foster’s daughter, Kelsey, has run away and her mother traces her last known whereabouts to Nihla, New Mexico. It is 1997 and while Eve searches for her daughter, a serial killer has been targeting women in the area and the local authorities seem uninterested in finding the killer, as well as suspicious of an outsider asking questions. Years later Eve has passed away, survived by her adopted twin daughters. Lisa, the compliant twin essentially inherits all of the wealth and the estate in Vermont. Connie, the head strong daughter inherits a dilapidated house in Nihla, New Mexico with a yearly stipend of $5,000 and a caretaker that contractually has to stay for three years.

The narrative switches back and forth between Eve's search for her daughter in 1997 and the present day when Connie begins to investigate and ask questions about women who are still disappearing from the area and found murdered. In both time periods the people of Nihla keep tight lips and have little trust in those who are not from the area. In Connie's narrative we learn about the cruel games her mother played with her. A serial killer is loose in both time periods and it may be the same person.

The enjoyment in reading Little Red House is found in the cat and mouse search being undertaken in both timelines, by mother and daughter. The narrative moves along at an even pace and it held my attention throughout. It should also be noted that after a strong start, you must set disbelief aside while reading the novel as there are details in the plot that will leave you shaking your head. Eve is definitely portrayed as a totally unlikable and noxious character. Connie is certainly a more sympathetic character as she tackles her investigation into the murders. Both women have their moments of incredulity.

There is no question that the twists, reveals, and final denouement are a bit over the top. However, it is also an intriguing, interesting plot that will hold your attention even while you are shaking your head. I appreciate that the many questions throughout the narrative are answered in the end. This is an entertaining and intriguing novel that should appeal to many readers.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Crooked Lane Books via NetGalley.

Sunday, November 27, 2022

We Knew All Along

We Knew All Along by Mina Hardy
12/6/22; 261 pages
Crooked Lane Books

We Knew All Along by Mina Hardy is a recommended domestic thriller.

Jewelann Jordan attends her 25th class reunion hoping to see the high school student who broke her heart, Christian Campbell. She does connect with him as well as a few other women she previously knew in school. After the reunion, Christian inserts himself into her life and somehow has her husband, Ken, renting him their carriage house. Jewelann is certain Christian's plans include threatening her marriage to Ken, hurting her son, Eli, and ruining her life.

As Christian's presence becomes increasingly oppressive and complicated, there are apparently other things going on with Ken that has Jewelann questioning his odd behavior. She is worried that he will discover her shopping addiction, let alone her latent feelings for Christian.

The novel is well written with a strong opening that pulls you in. Then it slows down to a melodramatic crawl until the novel is almost over. Yes, it returns interest with a strong ending that presents some huge, unbelievable twists but that doesn't make up for spending most of the novel with a group of very shallow disagreeable people. Admittedly, shallow disagreeable people can be entertaining, as can all manner of unbelievable plot elements where you are required to suspend your disbelief.

Yeah, I'm all over the place on this review. It is sort of a domestic thriller but also kind of a romance novel focusing on bad behavior. If you can find a histrionic, but surprisingly entertaining plot, with unappealing characters fascinating, then give it a try.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Crooked Lane Books via NetGalley.

Saturday, November 26, 2022

Empire of Ice and Stone

Empire of Ice and Stone: The Disastrous and Heroic Voyage of the Karluk by Buddy Levy
12/6/22; 432 pages
St. Martin's Publishing Group

Empire of Ice and Stone: The Disastrous and Heroic Voyage of the Karluk by Buddy Levy is the very highly recommended true story of the 1913 Canadian Arctic Expedition.

When the Karluk departed Canada for the Arctic Ocean, Captain Bob Bartlett was at the helm and Vilhjalmur Stefansson was the leader of the expedition. The expedition set out in June and by early August the Karluk was icebound. Stefansson headed off with five men on a hunting trip and never returned, choosing to head for land and continue the expedition on his own. This left Bartlett in charge of the survivors. When the ship was crushed by the ice, they trekked 50 miles across the ice pack to Wrangel Island. Then Bartlett and an Inuit hunter set out on a 1,000 miles hike to Alaska to summon help to rescue the survivors.

Empire of Ice and Stone reads like a thriller. It is a fascinating, terrifying, and un-put-downable account of a polar expedition gone terribly wrong. Levy takes the facts and uses them to portray these people as real individuals facing a harrowing, impossible situation where a good outcome seems highly unlikely. He also clearly portrays the two different paths taken by Stefansson and Bartlett, with most of the focus on the crew trying to survive. Bartlett is legitimately the hero of this frightening true story.

Anyone who enjoys reading about Arctic expeditions will want to add Empire of Ice and Stone to their list of must read nonfiction. Included at the end is an extensive list of documents, collections, websites, etc. in a selected bibliography that showcases the research that went into writing this account. This is an excellent, well-researched book and one of the best nonfiction books of the year.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of St. Martin's Press via NetGalley.

Waste of a Life

Waste of a Life by Simon Brett
12/6/22; 192 pages
Severn House
Decluttering mysteries #3

Waste of a Life by Simon Brett is a highly recommended mystery and the third installment of his entertaining decluttering mystery series.

Ellen Curtis is the owner and sole employee of SpaceWoman, a decluttering company in Chichester, England. She doesn't do major cleaning out of hoarders houses, she helps people overwhelmed with stuff organize what they have. When Social Services asks her to bring order to the home of Cedric Waites, she agrees to work with him. Waites is an elderly recluse who needs to have his home decluttered and repaired in order to live in it. Ellen has to be persistent to finally get Waites to allow her in and eventually start to get the repairs and organization that he needs done. She is shocked and sad to arrive one day and find Waites dead. It is even more shocking when she learns that the police believe he was poisoned.

Along the way Ellen tackles some other interesting cases, does some sleuthing and questioning on her own, and learns of a rivals campaign to smear her. She is also dealing with her two grown children and problematic mother. This is lighthearted entertainment rather than a heart-stopping thriller. The appeal is in Ellen's personable and upbeat narration and descriptions of the people she is working for and events she's experiencing.

As you're reading it may seem that the other decluttering cases are just filler, but they actually provide information pertinent to several mysteries. The pace is quick and Waste of a Life can easily be read in a day. Although this works as a standalone, after reading it I'm definitely interested in reading the first two in the series, The Clutter Corpse and An Untidy Death. Ellen is a great character and this could easily lead to another book in the series.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Severn House via NetGalley.

Friday, November 25, 2022

Friends Don't Lie

Friends Don't Lie by Nell Pattison
9/29/22; 384 pages

Friends Don't Lie by Nell Pattison is a highly recommended domestic psychological thriller.

Izzy (Isabella Butterworth), who works from home, received a few emails that were meant for another woman with the exact same name as her. After a man accosts her outside her home, wondering where Bella was, she begins to look into the other woman's life to try to meet her. Bella Butterworth leads a much more exciting life than Izzy so Izzy begins to obsess over her and finds ways to insert herself into Bella's life, perhaps to warn her that she might be in danger, but under a false name. The two do become friends, but so many questions remain and nothing is exactly as it seems.

The opening to Friends Don't Lie moves at an even, slow pace, however, you will be drawn into the plot. The narrative is told through the points-of-view of different characters, which helps develop them as individuals. None of the characters are particularly likable, but the fact that one character is eventually really stalking another character will grab your attention and hold it while things get switched up in the plot. And the lies, there are most certainly lies and subterfuge in the narrative. There will be a point where you will say "What?" and doubt what you've reading, but the twist will sort itself out.

The plot is really rather pedestrian for most of the novel until the twists which occur later. You will be expecting some twist, however, so when it finally happens most readers will be prepared to figure it out even though it is confusing at first. The second twist then becomes a predicted one. Friends Don't Lie is an entertaining novel. 3.5 rounded up

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

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

The Forever Witness

The Forever Witness: How DNA and Genealogy Solved a Cold Case Double Murder by Edward Humes
11/29/22; 384 pages
Penguin Random House

The Forever Witness: How DNA and Genealogy Solved a Cold Case Double Murder by Edward Humes is a very highly recommended true crime account that reads like a novel. This investigative novel introduces the 1987 cold case of victims 18-year-old Tanya Van Cuylenborg and 20-year-old Jay Cook and then explains how the case was solved thirty-one years later by investigator Jim Scharf and genetic genealogist CeCe Moore.

Canadian citizens Tanya and Jay were taking an overnight trip from Vancouver to Seattle, Washington, to purchase some furnace equipment for Jay's father. The young couple never made it home and their bodies were found in separate locations in rural Washington. There were few clues and no witnesses, so the case went cold and the biological evidence from the crime was frozen.

Thirty-one years later Detective Jim Scharf is examining cold case files, looking for clues. Scharf decided to take a chance and work with CeCe Moore. Moore with her interest in genetic genealogy has been looking at the information from home DNA ancestry kits being used as a forensic tool. It is through the test that a link to familial DNA points out a suspect, Bill Talbott, a 55-year-old Seattle trucker.

This is a well-written and well-paced true crime story that follows the facts of the case and how a suspect was found and reads like a novel. Humes does an excellent job introducing us to the victims, the detectives working the case and later the cold case. There is an accessible discussion covering the advances of DNA research, the science behind it, and explaining the creation of GEDmatch, the DNA database that genetic genealogists and law enforcement use to solve cold cases. There is also a thoughtful discussion involving the pros and con of using genetic genealogy. Included at the end are notes for Humes research.

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

Sunday, November 20, 2022

The Personal Assistant

The Personal Assistant by Kimberly Belle
11/29/22; 352 pages
Park Row Books

The Personal Assistant by Kimberly Belle is a highly recommended novel of domestic suspense following the downfall of a social media influencer.

Alex Hutchinson, a 39-year old social media influencer, is mother to 12-year-old twins Penelope and Gigi, and married to Patrick, a moneyman and news personality. When Unapologetically Alex hits one million followers, Alex and her personal assistant A.C. have a drunken celebration. The next morning Alex immediately realizes that something is wrong. A post she appears to have made the previous evening has went viral and for all the wrong reasons. She can't remember making it, but the sentiments within are clearly things she has shared in the privacy of her home. Now the trolls and indignant are out in force attacking her and A.C. appears to have vanished. As her whole influencer world begins to implode, and she is doxxed, the naysayers are becoming more emboldened and violent.

The narrative unfolds through three points-of-view, Alex and Patrick in the present day, and A.C. in 1994. Readers will be immediately pulled into the drama while trying to figure out who may have published the inflammatory post. Obviously, whoever did it was trying to hurt Alex and the repercussions keep amplifying. The suspect, at first, is A.C., but soon her husband is also on the list as Patrick seems to be hiding something. The voice of A.C. is from years ago when she is a maid in a motel and meets a wealthy man who pursues her.

The plot will pull you in and the tension, suspense, and action will keep you reading. The character development is light, but the main focus of the novel is the intrigue and figuring out who is the guilty party. If you are looking for an entertaining novel, The Personal Assistant is a good choice. Parts of the plot are a bit over the top, but the intertwining stories will hold your attention.

Anyone who has been online for any length of time will certainly relate to Alex's emotional turmoil. As a long time book reviewer and blogger (since 2007), who predates the word influencer, I once had a negative review go viral due to trolling by a group of people years after the original review. At that point, I pulled the review down for a time and required comments to come from identifiable people. The fact that many people will be able to relate to Alex's experiences on some level helps to make the novel relatable even when the actions in the novel far exceed basic trolling behavior.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Park Row Books via Edelweiss.

A Quiet Life

A Quiet Life by Ethan Joella
11/29/22; 304 pages

A Quiet Life by Ethan Joella is a very highly recommended heartbreaking and heartwarming literary novel following the lives of three people who have all suffered a terrible loss. Joella's first novel, A Little Hope, was on my list of best novels of 2021 and A Quiet Life is also an excellent novel.

In a Pennsylvania suburb, Chuck Ayers, Ella Burke, and  Kirsten Bonato are all experiencing tremendous grief and loss. Chuck's wife, Cat, has died and he is struggling with living without her. Ella is simply trying to survive by working constantly while hoping for information about her missing daughter. Kristen's father suddenly died and she has set aside her goals while working at an animal rescue center and trying to deal with the loss.

This is a beautifully written novel that you will cherish as you read each carefully crafted word and connect with these wounded souls who are trying their best to carry on while under a great emotional burden. Chapters alternate between the lives of these richly portrayed characters in heartbreaking narratives until their lives converge unexpectedly and emotionally.

A Quiet Life is very much a character driven novel. With empathy, hope, sympathy, and emotionally accessible language, Joella makes these character all realistic individuals you will care deeply about. All of them are portrayed as fully realized characters with great insight and realistic details. There is great comfort found in the journey these characters undertake and the healing they are slowly experiencing. In the end the encouragement to be there for someone are words that can speak to all of us.

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

Thursday, November 17, 2022

Secluded Cabin Sleeps Six

Secluded Cabin Sleeps Six by Lisa Unger
11/8/22; 400 pages
Park Row Books

Secluded Cabin Sleeps Six by Lisa Unger is a very highly recommended locked-room thriller with a tension-filled secret that could be fatal.

Three couples are going to spend a weekend at a secluded luxury cabin in the North Georgia woods. Hannah and Bruce need a break but both accept the invitation with some trepidation. Hannah doesn't want to leave their baby daughter and Bruce, a workaholic, would feel better if they were paying for their share of the cabin. Hannah's older brother, Mako, has planned and paid for the whole weekend. One benefit for Hannah will be the opportunity to strengthen her connection with Liza, Mako's wife. The third couple is a long-time, close family friend, Cricket, and her new boyfriend, Joshua.

What could possibly go wrong. The cabin is a beautifully appointed accommodation, but is also extremely isolated. The owner and host, Bracken, seems a bit odd, and the private chef seems to delight in sharing the ghost stories associated with the area. The Wi-Fi is unreliable. To add to the anxiety and sense of impending danger is a real storm that is forecast to hit the area and will surely isolate them completely.

This is a compelling, complex novel that held my attention throughout. The tension rises slowly, doubts are introduced carefully, the atmosphere seems to become increasingly disturbing with every page. Unger has carefully plotted this narrative. It opens with a family gathering which sets in place the beginning of the tension and drama. Then this suspense is allowed to grow into fruition.

The narrative is told mainly through Hannah's point-of-view, but we also hear from Liza, Cricket, Bracken, and then three characters whose connection to this plot doesn't materialize immediately, mainly Henry, but also Trina, and Cat. The characters are all fully realized individuals and very different from each other.

The writing is excellent, intelligent, and absolutely riveting. Both main story lines, through Hannah's and Henry's points-of-view, are equally interesting, engrossing, and very different. Part of the appeal is trying to predict where, when, and how these story lines will connect and collide. When the direction becomes clear, it is gripping, twisty, and un-put-downable. This is a wonderfully executed locked-room thriller.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Park Row Books via NetGalley.

Tuesday, November 15, 2022

Summary of Battle for the American Mind: Uprooting a Century of Miseducation

Summary of Battle for the American Mind: Uprooting a Century of Miseducation
by Book Summary Publishing
8/18/22; 82 pages

This is a review of the Battle for the American Mind by Peter Hegseth (6/14/22, 288 pages). Book Summary Publishing has condensed the information in the original book to a succinct in-depth presentation of the key points and facts presented in the original book. Since I have not read the original, my review is about Book Summary Publishing's summary, which I found to be a very highly recommended and helpful survey of the original material.

What Book Summary Publishing provides is a three fold advantage. An overview of the original material is presented in a clear, accessible manner. This brief analysis allows the reader to learn the contents of the original to either have the thumbnail sketch of what it is about to enhance following discussions of the topics and/or decide if they want to take the time to read the original material. This can be especially helpful in contemporary, topical books. The book provides an overview, summaries of each chapter, background information, and discussion questions at the end.

This is only my second foray into a summary of a book in lieu of reading the original and it was actually a positive experience. The original book discusses how the progressive Left has slowly infiltrated and changed the education system in the country and how to collectively return it to the quality education that used to be provided. This is actually a topic I have first hand experience with, so it was highly interesting to read this summary of Hegseth's book. What the summary does is condense the information into the key, relevant points which allows you to follow discussions about the topic with ease.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of  Book Summary Publishing via Library Thing.

Summary of The Great Reset: And The War For The World

Summary of The Great Reset: And The War For The World
by Book Summary Publishing
10/23/22; 47 pages

This is a review of a summary of The Great Reset: And the War for the World by Alex Jones (261 pages, published on 8/30/22). Book Summary Publishing has condensed the information in the original book to a succinct in-depth presentation of the key points and facts presented in the original book. Since I have not read the original, my review is about Book Summary Publishing's summary, which I found to be a very highly recommended and helpful survey of the original material.

What Book Summary Publishing provides is a three fold advantage. An overview of the original material is presented in a clear, accessible manner. This brief analysis allows the reader to learn the contents of the original to either have the thumbnail sketch of what it is about to enhance following discussions of the topics and/or decide if they want to take the time to read the original material. This can be especially helpful in contemporary, topical books. The book provides an overview, summaries of each chapter, background information, and discussion questions at the end.

This was my first dive into a summary of a book in lieu of reading the original and it was actually a positive experience. The original book discusses the World Economic Forum and the global elite's international conspiracy to enslave humanity and all life on the planet. Certainly those who follow current news topics have heard about this. What the summary does is condense the information into the key, relevant points which allows you to follow discussions about the topic with ease.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Book Summary Publishing via Library Thing.

Monday, November 14, 2022

I Know Where You Live

I Know Where You Live by Gregg Olsen
11/15/22; 304 pages
Thomas & Mercer

I Know Where You Live by Gregg Olsen is an intense family drama involving a search for closure and revenge.

Violet told her mother, Rose, what Papa, her grandfather did to her when she was a child and she wasn't believed. Rose told her to forget about it, to let it go. Violet's younger sister Lily didn't know what happened, but she knew her sister was experiencing some emotional trauma. Now Violet is getting married and she does not want Papa there, but he shows up with Nana anyway. At the reception he experiences a severe allergic reaction to shellfish, collapses, is hospitalized, and then unexpectedly dies in the hospital.

At the same time Violet, who has been attending a support group for survivors of sexual abuse is trying to take back her power. She believes the best course of action is to eliminate the perpetrators permanently. If the monsters are removed, the survivors can experience healing and reclaim their power.

Chapters alternate between the point-of-view of Violet, Lily, and Rose. All three women are fully realized characters. Their relationships with each other are complicated. Violet calls Rose by her given name and not mom. She talks to her, but gives a measured amount of time to her. Lily will not speak to her mother at all. Roses mother, Nana, has been in denial over what her husband has done too. It is truly a family legacy of abuse and denial which may be difficult for some readers.

The writing is quite good and the pace moves along quickly. Along with the multiple characters there are also multiple timelines, all of which is easy to keep track of as the narrative continues. The interaction and drama between the family members is compelling and realistic. The surprises aren't really twists or shocking reveals as they are easy to guess. The vigilante behavior is a shocking surprise, but also sadly understandable as a form of justice. This is a family trying to heal a deep wound and overcome a devastating legacy.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Thomas & Mercer via NetGalley.

Sunday, November 13, 2022


Wayward by Chuck Wendig
11/15/22; 816 pages
Random House Worlds
Wanderers #2

Wayward by Chuck Wendig is a highly recommended post-apocalypse sequel to his 2019's pandemic novel, Wanderers. Events in Wayward start in 2025.

In the Wanderers the "white mask" fungus devastated the world's population. The shepherds Benji, Marcy, and Shana helped the sleepwalkers cross the country to Ouray, CO, where the AI known as Black Swan kept them safe. Now the sleepwalkers are awake and the fungus threat mitigated, so the focus is on how people are living in this new reality. Now it is 2025 survivors Benji Ray, Shana Stewart, who is pregnant, Sheriff Marcy Reyes, and pastor Matthew Bird are in Ouray working on rebuilding society while the Black Swan threatens it. At the same time, Ed Creel, has assumed the presidency and lives in a bunker in Kansas where he is planning to raise an army to take over what is left of the world.

This novel takes a traditional format of a quest by a chosen few heroes who, in this case, are setting out to save the world. While this common plot formula makes some of the novel predictable, the world building is terrific and imaginative. The characters are realistically depicted and wonderfully portrayed. Along with the world building and character development, one of the best aspects of the novel is the glimmer of hope that the characters have in an impossible, challenging situation.

At 800+ pages, there is some fortitude required to undertake the novel. The good news is that the plot and writing is interesting enough to keep you reading. Alternating between the point-of-view of several different characters, the chapters keep the narrative moving while providing context. The political satire ever present in the novel does becomes a bit much and the whole plot element involving Creel could have been reduced without harming the elements that are good in Wayward.

It would really behoove readers to read Wanderers first. Alas, I didn't and although a background was provided in the narrative, it really felt like it would have been so much better had I read Wanderers first and then Wayward.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Random House Worlds via NetGalley.

Thursday, November 10, 2022

Doomed Legacy

Doomed Legacy by Matt Coyle
11/15/22; 320 pages
Oceanview Publishing
Rick Cahill Series, #9

Doomed Legacy by Matt Coyle is a very highly recommended crime novel and the ninth in the series featuring private investigator Rick Cahill. This is another outstanding addition to the series.

Rick Cahill has been trying to take things easy these days and focus on background checks for businesses. His CTE (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy) is progressing and he is having a new symptom that he is scared to share with Leah, his wife. He and Leah now have a fourteen month old daughter, Krista, and they are living in San Diego, California. At the last minute an incident has Leah taking Krista up to Santa Barbara. This same day, a distraught Rick receives a phone call from Sara Bhandari. Sara is with the human resources at Fulcrum Security and Rick conducts background checks on potential employees for the business. Sara wants to meet him in an out of the way place to discuss some irregularities which concern her.

The next thing Rick knows Sara is found murdered. The police think it is the work of a serial rapist, but Rick thinks there is something, or someone, else responsible. Although he had promised his wife to avoid risking his life to pursue the truth and justice, he begins to investigate Sara's death. His quest starts with a shady PI agency and proceeds to uncover deeper, more sinister secrets.

It is always thrilling to read a Rick Cahill novel. For fans, Rick is a known, fully realized character. His is flawed, compassionate, principled, intelligent, and observant. He experiences growth and challenges in the novel while following the clues in his investigation and his conscience.

This is an excellent addition to the series. The riveting, complex novel is very tightly plotted and fast-paced. The new revelations and discoveries Rick uncovers will keep readers engrossed in the narrative. Doomed Legacy is the ninth novel in this outstanding series. Although the novels can be read as a stand-alone since any needed background information is provided in the context of the plot, the order of the series is: Yesterday’s Echo, Night Tremors, Dark, Blood Truth, Wrong Light, Lost Tomorrows, Blind Vigil, Last Redemption, and Doomed Legacy.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Oceanview Publishing.

Monday, November 7, 2022

The Hollows

The Hollows by Daniel Church
11/8/22; 464 pages
Angry Robot

The Hollows by Daniel Church is a recommended folk horror novel.

In the Peak District an intense snow storm is about to hit when Constable Ellie Cheetham responds to a call about a body being found. It appears the man froze to death, but there are clues that point to his death being something else and that he his death was watched. Then the storm hits the village and the next victims are two families on the outskirts of town. Ellie soon realizes that something is killing people under the cover of darkness and the storm, and what ever it is, it is moving in closer to the village.

The writing is good, but the novel is over-written. After a strong, riveting start full of suspense and trepidation, the narrative then began to drag on a bit, drawing the story out longer than was perhaps a prudent choice. It would have benefited the overall plot to tighten up the writing and keep the focus on the action. However, many readers will be able to push past this as the ancient creatures are creepy, their actions are frightening, and the battle between good and evil is fought on several different levels.

There perhaps should be a language warning for a portion of the prospective readers. Some will be able to simple put it in context and read on, but there is a lot of usage of certain objectionable words that others may find unpleasant. The length slowed the pace down a bit too much for me. 3.5 rounded down

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Angry Robot via NetGalley.

Saturday, November 5, 2022

A Sliver of Darkness

A Sliver of Darkness by C. J. Tudor
11/8/22; 256 pages
Random House

A Sliver of Darkness by C. J. Tudor is a very highly recommended collection of eleven chilling short stories.

After an introduction explaining why the short story collection was released, Tudor follows with eleven excellent short stories. All of the stories are introduced with a personal note, which provides a visceral context to the themes and the reason she wrote the story. The collection starts out strong with "End of the Liner" and follows it with ten more outstanding short stories. Stories include: End of the Liner; The block; Runaway Blues; The Completion; The Lion at the Gate; Gloria; I’m Not Ted; The Copy Shop; Final Course; Dust; Butterfly Island.

The characters are all relatable, realistic people which makes them very empathetic even when the situations they find themselves in seem fantastical. Tudor can make the most bizarre situation seem believable. Every story in this collection was a winner for me. As with any collection, some will resonate more with certain readers than others, but this collection provides ample opportunities for readers to certainly find several stories they will enjoy immensely. In general, fans of the Twilight Zone will appreciate this collection.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Random House via NetGalley.

Friday, November 4, 2022


Flight by Lynn Steger Strong
11/8/22; 240 pages

Flight by Lynn Steger Strong is a highly recommended family drama.

For the first Christmas celebration after the death of their mother Helen, three siblings, Henry, Kate, and Martin, their spouses, and children gather together. They are celebrating the holiday but must also decide what to do with Helen's house. Martin, the oldest son, is married to Tess. Henry is married to Alice, and Kate is married to Josh. Kate is hoping that the others will agree to her and Josh moving into her mother's house. There are financial problems, long held resentments, and other tensions that are present from the start. Adding to the mix is the story of Quinn a young mother and her daughter, Madeleine (Maddy).

The key to appreciating the novel is to take care at the beginning to keep track of who the couples are, what they are struggling with, and what children belong to what parents. Once you have the characters firmly in place, you can fully appreciate the character development and the complexity of their interactions with each other. Sibling relationships can always be fraught with tension and underlying resentments that go back decades. The relationships here reflect that complexity and the challenges the group faces in making any decision that requires an agreement.

There are no exciting thrills and twists in the novel as the drama is in the nuances and interactions between the still grieving family members and spouses. The pace is slow as the focus is on the reactions of the characters. The whole family has been grieving Helen's absence especially as she had a way of helping everyone get along and find common ground with others. It is also a novel about the struggles and rewards of mothers, motherhood, and daughters.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of HarperCollins.

Thursday, November 3, 2022

A Rattle of Bones

A Rattle of Bones by Douglas Skelton
11/1/22; 312 pages
Arcade Crimewise
Rebecca Connolly #3

A Rattle of Bones by Douglas Skelton is a highly recommended third Rebecca Connolly thriller.

Rebecca Connolly is sure there is a story when banners proclaiming the innocence of convicted murderer James Stewart are placed by the grave site of his namesake. Stewart has been in prison for ten years, so why the sudden interest in his case? Rebecca decides to look into the case and talks to Stewart's mother, Afua. Rebecca isn't the only person interested in the banners, the case, and in Rebecca's investigation, and they don't want her pursuing the story.

Although this is the third book in the series, you can read it as a stand alone and still appreciate it. All of the characters, both protagonists and antagonists, are fully realized individuals and the whole cast of characters is well integrated into the complex plot. The Scottish Highlands themselves are a character, both harsh and beautiful, and they play a role in the atmosphere created.

The writing is quite good and the plot is intricate and involved in this slow-burning atmospheric thriller. There are plenty of revelations and twists as the narrative unfolds. The tension runs high as the many different story lines come together to create a complete picture of the complicated plot. The ending is surprising and the whole novel was very satisfying.

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

Tuesday, November 1, 2022

The Couple at the Table

The Couple at the Table by Sophie Hannah
11/1/22; 368 pages
Spilling CID #11

The Couple at the Table by Sophie Hannah is a recommended murder mystery.

Jane and William are on their honeymoon at Tevendon Estate Resort, an exclusive couples-only resort, that her father owns. During the same time William's ex-wife, Lucy Dean, is also there with her fiance, Peter. Five other couples are there also, including Constable Simon Waterhouse and his wife Sargent. Charlie Zailer. During the stay Jane has received two notes that she finds threatening and decides to verbally attack Lucy. As the drama unfolds, Jane leaves and is later found murdered. The plot is a closed room whodunit.

The quality of the writing is good and following the clues in this case and the beginning of the novel are both strong elements. Then it proceeded to keep going on and on, only to became tedious and over long. I appreciate following the clues to find the guilty party, but after a strong start, the plot was a slog to get through. All the various theories and motives were simply too much. Jane was a thoroughly unlikable character, so who wouldn't want to see her gone. Although this is part of a series, it can be read as a stand alone.

The timeline moves between July 2019, at the resort, and January 2020 during the investigation. All of the couples at the resort have secrets, but the question is what secret are worth murder. The number of characters made it a challenge at times to keep everyone straight and follow the narrative. While it is an enjoyable, Hannah has written better novels.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of HarperCollins.