Monday, February 27, 2023

The Ship Beneath the Ice

The Ship Beneath the Ice: The Discovery of Shackleton's Endurance by Mensun Bound
2/28/23; 416 pages
Mariner Books; HarperCollins

The Ship Beneath the Ice: The Discovery of Shackleton's Endurance by Mensun Bound is a very highly recommended account of the two expeditions undertaken in 2019 and 2022 to successfully find the Endurance.

Briefly, on November 21, 1914, Ernest Shackleton and his crew sailed the Endurance to Antarctica to become the first to cross the continent, but early season pack ice trapped them in place and the Endurance sank. Since this the Endurance was one of the most legendary lost ships and the most unreachable due to the hostile environment. The Ship Beneath the Ice is the account of marine archeologist Mensun Bound and an elite team of explorers set out to find the lost shipwreck.

This real life adventure story is told through diary entries of Bound and extracts of diary entries of Shackleton and his men. The first recovery operation in 2019 was proceeded by years of preparation and then they had many technical challenges with the AUV. Finally they had to stop the first expedition once the weather deteriorated and the ship got stuck in the ice. The team launched their second attempt in 2022 with new equipment, a Sabertooth diving vessel with a tilt camera, and had success.

For those who enjoy maritime history, the story of the Endurance, or following searches for lost parts of history will likely appreciate this story of successfully uncovering a part of history while also presenting the historical facts of the original expedition. The book is well written and descriptive, although the diary entries require some getting used to at first. The presentation of the history and current situation are expertly written and the tension involved is clearly shown in both timelines.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of HarperCollins and Mariner Books via Edelweiss.

Are You a Miserable Old Bastard?

Are You a Miserable Old Bastard? by Andrew John, Stephen Blake
3/1/23; 176 pages
Rowman & Littlefield
new edition; rerelease

Are You a Miserable Old Bastard?: Quips, Quotes, And Tales From The Eternally Pessimistic by Andrew John, Stephen Blake is a highly recommended collection of quotes from a wide variety of well known personalities. The quotes are organized by very general topics and the quips, putdowns, grumps, and complaints are widely diverse. You can read quotes from P. J. O'Rourke, Dorothy Parker, Michael Moore, H. L. Mencken, Fran Lebowitz, Winston Churchill, Groucho Marx, and W. C. Fields and even quotes from literary and fictional characters, like A. A. Milne's character Eeyore.

All of the quotes are wonderfully grumpy and suitably irritable for the most cantankerous among us, as well as for those who just appreciate a good testy quote about a variety of topics that can annoy the best of us in everyday life. This is a perfect book to read in short snatches or to look through for a suitably petulant quote to fit any situation. First published in 2006, a new edition is being released in 2023 by Rowman & Littlefield and my review copy was courtesy of the publisher.

Sunday, February 26, 2023

Storm Watch

Storm Watch by C. J. Box
2/28/23; 368 pages
Penguin, G.P. Putnam's Sons
Joe Pickett Series #23

Storm Watch by C. J. Box is a very highly recommended crime thriller that is unputdownable. Wow! I have only read a couple C. J. Box novels, but have immediately became a life-long fan. Storm Watch is an excellent novel in every way!

As a snowstorm is rolling in, Wyoming Game Warden Joe Pickett is hunting down a wounded elk when he comes across a vehicle park on a remote mountainside. Upon further investigation he finds a professor's body sticking halfway out of a metal building. After putting the elk down, Joe manages to take pictures of the scene and finds the man's wallet before someone fires two shots at him. Joe hikes back to his truck and heads home, trying to beat the worst part of the snow.

He calls the crime in, which only results in little action. The county Sheriff Scott Tibbs later reports that there was no body, thus no crime scene. The governor Colter Allen orders Joe off the case. He later finds out the building is a remote high-tech facility. After this, Joe's friend Nate Romanowski is approached with an invitation to join a movement called Sovereign Nation. It seems there is more going on than Joe can easily avoid, especially when every crime he investigates seems to be tied to a bigger problem.

The characters were portrayed as realistic individuals with depth and unique characteristics. They are written as unique characters with individual personalities and reactions to events. Joe and Marybeth's daughter Sheridan plays a role in this novel and is very intelligent and likable. There are numerous characters in the narrative, but they are distinctive and easy to keep track of.

The narrative is detailed, complicated, intelligent, and interesting as Box keeps the tension high while adding more and more complications and new developments to the plot lines. The numerous complications include: murders, liars, poachers, falconry, politicians, bitcoin mining, extremists, bad weather, family, and more. The detailed setting places the action firmly in a specific place and time. There may be some suspension of disbelief required, but it was something I very willingly did when it occurred.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of G.P. Putnam's Sons via NetGalley.

Saturday, February 25, 2023

A Cry in the Dark

A Cry in the Dark by Jessica R. Patch
2/28/23; 368 pages

A Cry in the Dark by Jessica R. Patch is a very highly recommended mystery/thriller. This is an excellent novel!

FBI special agent Violet Rainwater is a forensic psychologist and an agent with the Strange Crimes Unit, Southern Division. She is called to the Appalachian Mountain town of Night Holler in Kentucky to investigate the murder of three young women whose bodies were found in a cave. Their deaths are obviously due to a serial killer, especially considering the gruesome detail that they are all missing their eyes and their eyelids were sown shut. Detective John Orlando joins the team to assist because he thinks the case might be related to the murder of his wife several years earlier.

Violet is a sympathetic and fully realized character. She had a tragic childhood due to the appalling circumstances that led to her mother giving birth to her. Her mother has never allowed her to forget why she was born and has treated her terribly her whole life. Once Violet was in a position to find her contemptible father, who abducted her mother when she was fifteen, she started trying to find him along with half-siblings. She has suffered her whole life, never feeling loved or wanted.

The writing is absolutely excellent in the plot, execution, and development. The case is completely compelling and the narrative will hold your attention throughout. As the investigation unfolds and new clues are uncovered, there are several suspects that will come to the forefront. Follow the clues and expect plenty of twists along with new information. There is an ominous, creepy atmosphere throughout the novel, but there is also a wonderful corresponding spiritual message of personal redemption, surrender, healing, and love.

The first book in this series following the Strange Crimes Unit is Her Darkest Secret that follows agents Fiona Kelly and Asa Kodiak. You don't have to read it first, but you will absolutely want to read it after reading A Cry in the Dark.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Harlequin via Edelweiss.

Thursday, February 23, 2023

Device Free Weekend

Device Free Weekend by Sean Doolittle
2/28/23; 288 pages
Grand Central Publishing

Device Free Weekend by Sean Doolittle is a highly recommended new take on a locked room thriller.

Seven friends who met three decades earlier in college are offered a Labor day get away on a private island near Puget Sound owned by one of them. Ryan Cloverhill, incredibly wealthy founder and CEO of a popular social media platform, has invited Stephen, Emma, Perry, Will, Beau, and Lainie for this special reunion, all expenses paid. The one stipulation is that they must surrender all their devices upon arrival. The first day is an enjoyable time of reminiscing and reconnecting. The second day is perplexing. Ryan is gone, as are their devices. Where their phones were left is a touchscreen tablet with its on-screen challenge: Unlock Me! The six friends must figure out what how to open it and Ryan wants them to do.

Locked room thrillers are always entertaining and that holds true for Device Free Weekend, once you set disbelief aside and go with the premise set forth. What Ryan planned is thwarted almost from the start, when two of the friends get locked out of the house and all six are needed fro any decision to be made. The decision Ryan wants his old friends to make has no good outcome. Stephan is the only fully realized character, but enough traits and information is presented on the others that they do present themselves as individuals. Basically, they have very different traits and you can tell them all apart.

The pages fly by as the action keeps the pace of the plot moving along. Even in the slower-paced sections, readers will know that the pace is going to pick up again soon. A case could be made that the motive for Ryan's actions could have been better developed, but as the narrative moves forward enough information is uncovered to handle this qualm. I enjoyed Device Free Weekend. It's not a perfect novel, but it is engaging and held my attention throughout.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Grand Central Publishing via NetGalley.

Tuesday, February 21, 2023

It's One of Us

It's One of Us by J. T. Ellison
2/21/23; 400 pages

It's One of Us by J. T. Ellison is a highly recommended psychological thriller.

Olivia Bender desperately wants to be a mother so when she miscarriages again, after the latest fertility treatments and IVF, she doesn't want to tell her husband, Park, that she has failed again. (Trigger warning.) Before she can talk to him, however, the police show up at their home. DNA from the crime scene at a recent murder investigation show that the perpetrator is Park's son. But Park doesn't have any children, or does he? It then comes out that years ago Park donated sperm to a clinic. He has no idea how many times his sperm was used. Additionally, the scene of the murder seemingly mirrors that of Park’s ex-girlfriend in college, where he was briefly a suspect.

Chapters in the narrative are told through the point-of-view of multiple characters and each viewpoint makes the dialogue more rich and complex along with furthering the character development. The multiple viewpoints work well in this novel and adds realism and complexity to the plot. The chapter openings note who is talking/thinking during that particular section of the story.

Secrets play a huge role in the plot and add to the twisty layers of the narrative. Suspects are plentiful as well as secrets. Some secrets characters hold, such as participating in a group of women or offspring of a specific sperm donor, seem obvious. Others seem more nefarious. The characters are portrayed as complex, realistic individuals and are interesting.

The writing in excellent, as one would expect from J. T. Ellison. The story will totally engage you and keep you reading to the end. Some of the twists and ending are predictable, but the journey is still worth the read. There are plenty of revelations, betrayals, connections, and secrets exposed to keep you totally engrossed in the narrative. There is a very personal author's note at the end that many readers will appreciate.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of MIRA.

Sunday, February 19, 2023

Vanished in Vermillion

Vanished in Vermillion by Lou Raguse
2/21/23; 384 pages
Post Hill Press

Vanished in Vermillion: The Real Story of South Dakota's Most Infamous Cold Case by Lou Raguse is a very highly recommended account of a cold case being solved after over forty years but only after a series of unbelievable investigative deficiencies.

In May 1971, Pam Jackson and Sherri Miller were two seventeen-year-olds who disappeared when driving to an end-of-the-school-year kegger being held at a gravel pit out in rural, south eastern South Dakota. The girls, who were in Sherri's grandfather's rundown Studebaker Lark, didn't know exactly where the party was but they ran into some boys they knew from school and were following them down a dirt road when they disappeared. The boys assumed they went back to Vermillion to another party by the Missouri River.

It is at this point, right at the start, that the investigative failures began with a sheriff who treated the search very lightly, assuming, with no evidence, that the girls just ran away so he didn't bother to seriously look into their disappearance. The families all suffered, the girls were never heard from, and the case went cold. Thirty years later it was reopened by the cold case unit took and the twists, turns, and incredible incompetence that followed was unbelievable and went on for over a decade.

Raguse, an investigative journalist, does an excellent job thoroughly presenting the many details of this case from the start to the conclusion. The entire narrative follows the timeline of the events as they occurred so it reads like a procedural while it also clearly reveals the facts, failures, and foibles swirling around all of the official investigative attempts from start to finish. The actual closure of the case is found in such a careful, logical way it will dumbfound readers that no one thought to undertake that particular search.

The descriptions were true to life. Knowing the area well due to the presence of the University of South Dakota in Vermillion, it was easy for me visualize and place the local small towns and distances between them. It also gave me a clear understanding of the layout of the land while following the revelations in the cold case. 

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Post Hill Press via Edelweiss.

Thursday, February 16, 2023

Sea Castle

Sea Castle by Andrew Mayne
2/21/23; 316 pages

Thomas & Mercer

Sea Castle by Andrew Mayne is a very highly recommended procedural/psychological thriller. This is the fourth novel in the Underwater Investigation Unit series which also includes The Girl Beneath the Sea, Black Coral, and Sea Storm, but it can most definitely be read and relished as a stand alone novel.

Police forensic diver Sloan McPherson of the currently inactive Florida Department of Law Enforcement Underwater Investigation Unit is called in to assist when a young woman's body is discovered on a Fort Lauderdale beach. Floating near the body is a bag containing the woman's clothing. Sloan is positive it is murder and the dead woman, identified as Nicole Donnelly, was strangled. The rest of the team of investigators have questions and doubts after the autopsy. Sloan decides to pursue the case, which leads her to Gwen Wylder.

Gwen is a rude, obsessive, intelligent Miami homicide detective. While she looks at Sloan's case, she demands Sloan look at two different cold cases she is investigating. As Sloan looks into the cold cases and finds new clues and answers, another woman disappears. Sloan and Gwen form a fractious partnership trying to find the person who is killing women.

Sloan and Gwen are both wonderfully strong and fully realized female characters. Their backgrounds are explored within the plot and the development of their characters continue throughout the novel. As the narrative progresses there is a character presented that will confound and throw most readers off course.

The writing is excellent in this fast-paced engrossing procedural that reads like a psychological thriller. I absolutely loved this entertaining and gripping novel and need to look at the other books in the series. The twists and new revelations in the plot are focused, surprising and unique. I found myself glued to the pages and totally immersed in the story. Even though there isn't a lot of underwater investigation in Sea Castle, there is still a fascinating and exciting investigation related to the ocean. The final denouement was a surprise and unexpected. Sea Castle is an outstanding novel with a captivating narrative!

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


Tuesday, February 14, 2023

Getting Even

Getting Even: Two Thrilling Novels of Suspense by Lisa Jackson
2/21/23; 512 pages

Getting Even: Two Thrilling Novels of Suspense by Lisa Jackson is a recommended collection (if you enjoy romance novels) of two previously published romantic suspense stories from 1986.

Yesterday’s Lies and Zachary’s Law are both romantic suspense novels that share revenge as a plot element. I enjoy suspense but don't read romance novels. I have enjoyed several of Jackson's more recent suspense novels, so to be honest, the romance aspect, a central theme, bores me. However, if you enjoy novels focused more on romance with light suspense in the plot, this collection of two novels might be more up your alley. I read them because I have very much enjoyed more recent novels by Lisa Jackson. These two earlier novels most definitely showcase Jackson's growth as a novelist.

In Yesterday’s Lies Tory learns that Trask is back in town and wants to see her. Trask used her five years earlier to put her now deceased father behind bars and she is not interested in anything he has to say. Trask talks to her anyway and wants Tory to help him further investigate the incident that landed her father in prison because he has learned that they may have been others involved.

Zachary’s Law features Zachary Winters, an unconventional attorney with a dark reputation who locates people. Lauren Regis hires him to find her ex-husband who has kidnapped her two children as he won't share custody.

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

Sunday, February 12, 2023

The Writing Retreat

The Writing Retreat Julia Bartz
2/21/23; 320 pages
Atria/Emily Bestler Books

The Writing Retreat Julia Bartz is a so-so psychological thriller.

Alex wants to be a published author, but with writer's block she hasn't written anything lately. Then a friend sends feminist horror writer Roza Vallo one of her previous stories. Roza loves the story and invites Alex to the exclusive, all-female writing retreat at her Adirondacks estate, Blackbriar. Even though she learns that her former best friend, Wren, will be there, Alex can't turn down this opportunity. When she arrives, Alex learns the rules. All the five women invited must write a complete novel in 28 days and are required to write 3,000 words a day. Roza's editor will publish the best manuscript and pay a million dollar advance for it.

There is no doubt that the quality of the writing is good, but this was not quite the novel I was expecting based on the description. The premise is very compelling. Yes, there is a high pressure writing competition, there are cruel mind games, and, okay, the mansion might be haunted, but I wasn't prepared for all the focus on the occult as well as the drugs, sex, and other actions of the women. It also seemed a bit too predictable and I didn't care for the ending. Somewhere after the opening the idea of a writing competition and a book about writers went down a totally different rabbit hole and one I wasn't interested in.

I'm an outlier here. Many people love this novel. I just didn't enjoy the novel beyond the opening premise. While I forced myself to finish it, I should have just left it DNF and kept working through the many novels on my to be read list. 2 stars, one given for the quality of the writing beyond the plot and that I read it.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Atria/Emily Bestler Books.

Shore Lodge

Shore Lodge by Susan Specht Oram
11/4/22; 296 pages
Victory Editing NetGalley Co-op

Shore Lodge by Susan Specht Oram is a highly recommended novel of psychological suspense.

Jacklyn Stone's husband Albert passed away and left her grieving and overwhelmed. She realizes that she isn't handling her daily life well and letting things slide at her business, but the grief is still so raw and she is struggling to find her way through this new reality. She also discovers after Albert's death that he gave away almost all of their savings to their son, Dusty, to help him in his construction firm. Dusty is the one nearby, where her daughter Rose is living in the city. She gives Dusty the power of attorney over her affairs due to his proximity.

Dusty talks to Rose and informs her that Jacklyn needs to take a break, a week or two away at a lodge that offers counseling and grief care. He sets everything up and talks Rose into it, for their mother's well being. Jacklyn agrees to two days away, believing that the rest and relaxation will be good for her. However, shore Lodge is not exactly what Dusty claimed it was. It is a psychiatric facility and Jacklyn soon discovers the truth. She can't leave or contact the outside world, her son has used his power of attorney to basically imprison her against her will. Soon she finds her focus and determination coming back as she tries to find a way out.

Jacklyn is a character worth caring about. Anyone who has ever lost someone they are close to will understand the brain fog she was going through. It will also be clear to most people that talking about it and grief therapy could help, but so does a familiar setting and routine. Dusty is a despicable character from the start. A self-centered narcissist whose only focus was himself and he shows his true character almost immediately. Rose is a more complicated character who soon realizes that Dusty does not have their mother's best interests in mind.

Shore Lodge is an intense, compelling thriller and will hold your attention from start to finish. The pace is fast and the pages will fly by as you discover along with Jacklyn what has happened to her and follow her plans to try and get out. At the same time you will see the extent of Dusty's plans and what Rose is doing. The final denouement provides a satisfying conclusion to the narrative. This is a four star for me because, even though she was grieving, I find it hard to believe Jacklyn would sign any documents giving Dusty the power of attorney over her life. She knew his character. She should have had him sign papers to pay back the money Albert gave him.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Victory Editing NetGalley Co-op.

Saturday, February 11, 2023

The Weekend

The Weekend by L. H. Stacey
2/13/23; 322 pages
Boldwood Books

The Weekend by L. H. Stacey is a slow-paced so-so thriller.

On the night of their graduation party at the Kirkwood estate amid an excess of alcohol and drugs, Lizzie's boyfriend Thomas Kirkwood is found murdered. Lizzie now goes by Elizabeth and she has sworn to never return to the manor. Ten years have passed and Elizabeth receives an invitation to return for a memorial weekend for Thomas organized by his mother, Ada. For some inexplicable reason she decides to attend to go. She knows almost immediately that it was a mistake.

The narrative alternates between the present day and ten years ago. In order for this alternating timeline to be successful, Elizabeth/Lizzie needs to be a character who is tenacious. self-aware, and compelling enough to carry the story and keep readers interested in what is happening in both timelines. I'm afraid that the character is unable to accomplish that task. Lizzie can be depicted as a young, gullible, inexperienced woman but after ten years one would think she would grow up and toughen up. If she's going to make the decision to attend this weekend after ten years of no contact, she needs to have the intestinal fortitude to deal with it.

Additionally, although I appreciate Stacey's author note that it was difficult to delve into a world surrounded by drugs and hedonism, I'd add that it was also very difficult to read about it and have any compassion for the numerous unlikable characters. I finished the novel but there were really no shocking surprises or twists.

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

Thursday, February 9, 2023

Her Final Breath

Her Final Breath by Carolyn Arnold
2/17/23; 323 pages
Detective Amanda Steel #7

Her Final Breath by Carolyn Arnold is a very highly recommended procedural and the 7th novel featuring Detective Amanda Steele.

A dog walker reports a fire made in Prince Park by a group of teens. When the firefighters arrive, one of the teens end up stumbling upon a body in a shallow grave. Prince William County Police Department Homicide Detective Amanda Steele is called and she contacts her partner Trent Stenson as well as others, including department Sergeant Katherine Graves. The team uncovers a woman and a child. They quickly identify them as Jill Archer and her daughter six-year-old Charlotte, who were reported missing the previous week. The autopsy reveals Jill was abused and the . When Amanda and Trent talk to Jill's husband, Roy, he seems very shifty and is immediately the main suspect - until another grave is uncovered in the park of another mother and daughter.

The opening scene where we learn that a woman and her daughter are captives somewhere, provides a sense of urgency in the narrative when combined with the bodies in the park. Clues are logically uncovered and discovered while leads are followed up on in an intelligent manner. The women could be the recipients of domestic abuse, or someone could be targeting mothers and daughters. The latter explanation is even more frightening than the first and Amanda and Trent know they need to find the culprit before another mother and daughter are killed.

This is an excellent procedural. The writing is great, the novel is well plotted, and the tension rises with each new discovery. Although this is the 7th novel in the series, it can be read as a stand-alone. For those already familiar with the series, this new installment will be a welcome addition to their story. New readers are provided enough backstory to understand events from the past and the effect of this case on both Amanda and Trent. All the main characters are fully realized, likable, and experience growth, even a surprising development to Graves character. Her Final Breath is a perfect choice for those who like procedurals.

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

Wednesday, February 8, 2023

Trembling River

Trembling River by Andrée A. Michaud
translated by J. C. Sutcliffe
2/7/23; 416 pages
House of Anansi Press

Trembling River by Andrée A. Michaud, translated by J. C. Sutcliffe is a highly recommended mystery and explores the heartbreaking disappearance of three children.

In August 1979 twelve-year-old Michael disappears in the woods of Trembling River while with his friend Marnie Duchamp. A search only came up with a muddy sneaker. The disappearance of her friend has haunted Marnie ever since it happened. Thirty years later Billie Richards never makes it to her dance class and disappears just before her ninth birthday. Her father Bill, a children's book author, is devastated and falls into a deep inconsolable state of grief and mourning. Neither knows that another child will disappear from the village of Trembling River.

The writing is exquisite and captures the anguish, mourning, guilt, and even anger while Marnie and Bill attempt to somehow comprehend their loss. Marnie constantly questions what she could have done to prevent Michael's disappearance. Bill is despondent and struggles with his mental health. Understandably, he is heartbroken and can't comprehend a life without his beloved daughter.

The structure of the novel is divided into three parts but these parts are written with no chapters. The narrative switches between viewpoints and readers are expected to follow who is speaking. This can be a bit off-putting, especially in the second part when the novel delves into lengthy and very emotional interior monologues from Marnie and Bill. I'm not a fan of protracted stream-of-consciousness passages, so this was a bit of a struggle to get through, although it is highly distressed and heartbreaking. Then, when tragedy strikes again and another child disappears, the mystery and heartbreak deepens.

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

Tuesday, February 7, 2023


Maureen by Rachel Joyce
2/7/23; 192 pages
Random House
Harold Fry #3

Maureen by Rachel Joyce is a very highly recommended character study of Maureen, the wife of Harold Fry, and represents the third and final book in the series that began with The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry followed by The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy. Joyce never set out to write a trilogy but Maureen is an excellent addition to the previous two novels and a wonderfully moving novel that stands on its own.

Harold is now seventy-five and Maureen is seventy-two. It has been ten years since Harold made his six-hundred-mile journey by foot to see a friend and the two have settled into a comfortable and even loving relationship. But the story doesn’t end there. Now his wife, Maureen, has her own pilgrimage to make. She wants to see Queenie's sea garden where there is a sculptural tribute or memorial to their son David, who killed himself thirty years earlier, as well as one to Harold.

Maureen, however, is not Harold. She is prickly, standoffish, opinionated, easily irritated, and, well, not a people-person. Her journey, by car rather than foot, perfectly highlights their differences. She doesn't easily warm up to people and speaks her mind way-too-often. The hurdles she faces are quite different from those Harold faced, but they are truly a challenge for her.

I truly loved this final novel focused on Maureen. It is wonderfully focused, poignant, and perceptive character study of Maureen, with all her flaws, misgivings, and doubts. She is still trying to deal with the loss of their son, David, even though years have passed. She feels a strange compulsion to make this journey and see Queenie's garden, but she is completely unsure of what she will find and how she will react. Her reaction is surprising, but in the end life changing for Maureen.

Maureen highlights the skill, empathy, and insightful details Joyce provides for her characters. While reading, even when Maureen is being especially difficult, Joyce also provides an avenue for readers to empathize with her and her curmudgeonly attitude. This is a short novel with a powerful impact.

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

Monday, February 6, 2023

A Killing of Innocents

A Killing of Innocents by Deborah Crombie
2/7/23; 368 pages
Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James Series #19

A Killing of Innocents by Deborah Crombie is a highly recommended procedural and the 19th book in the series featuring Scotland Yard detectives Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James.

In London's historic Russell Square Sasha Johnson, a trainee doctor at Thomas Coram Hospital, is fatally stabbed. The only witness, a child, just saw someone bump into her and quickly walk away into the crowd. When Detective Superintendent Duncan Kincaid and his sergeant, Doug Cullen, are called to the scene, they realize they just saw the women twenty minuted earlier in a pub, seemingly waiting for someone who didn't arrive. As they begin to look into Sasha's background, there doesn't seem to be an obvious motive for someone to want to murder her.

Kincaid immediately calls in his wife, Detective Inspector Gemma James, who is on a task force on knife crimes, and her partner detective sergeant Melody Talbot, to aid in the investigation. Sasha Johnson, however, doesn’t fit the profile of a typical knifing victim. There are several suspects with some ties to Sasha or with  people she knows. Sasha herself had secrets she was keeping.

Crombie follows the discoveries in the investigation while also realistically covering the many complications of their personal lives while balancing work and family. Both the story lines are interesting, although the personal complications will be more interesting for fans of the series who really know these characters. At this point in the series all the characters are full realized and well-developed.

The writing is excellent and the case is interesting. The compelling plot keeps the narrative moving along swiftly along. There are many characters and many point-of-view presented which readers of the series will easily follow but those new to the characters may feel a bit overwhelmed. The good news is that A Killing of Innocents can be read as a stand-alone for anyone who is not following the series, just skimming over the personal drama, while those who follow the series will be equally interested in the investigation and personal lives of these characters.

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

Saturday, February 4, 2023

Every Missing Girl

Every Missing Girl by Leanne Kale Sparks
2/7/23; 272 pages
Crooked Lane Books
Kendall Beck #2

Every Missing Girl by Leanne Kale Sparks is a very highly recommended procedural and the second novel in the series featuring FBI Special Agent Kendall Beck set in Denver.

FBI Special Agent Kendall Beck and Denver Homicide Detective Adam Taylor team up to investigate the kidnapping of Taylor's niece, Frankie, at a local hockey rink. This closely follows the shooting at a minimart where two people are shot and a child is taken form the scene by a good Samaritan. Kendall is sure that the child is the victim of child trafficking. After Frankie has disappeared, Adam’s brother, Mark, and sister-in-law, Poppy, have no information to share, but Kendall is suspicious that something more is going on.

The details of the investigation and discovery of clues in Every Missing Girl is fantastic and the suspense is palpable as Kendall and Adam race time trying to find Frankie while uncovering everyone involved in the trafficking ring, along with other things. Following the compelling investigation kept me glued to the pages. The plot and the investigation are equally enthralling. I really enjoyed this procedural and will have to check out Sparks previous novel featuring Agent Beck, The Wrong Woman. I found that  Every Missing Girl worked fine as a stand alone novel for everyone who loves a great procedural.

The character development was great and the characters were all portrayed as realistic, credible individuals with their own beliefs and reactions. Both Kendall and Adam are portrayed as intelligent, sympathetic, tough, and proficient. The dialogue between characters is great. They are likable (when they want to be), extremely competent, and you will be hoping that they find the clues they need to solve their investigations.

With a fast moving plot that includes twists and surprises revealed within the investigation, the final denouement is extraordinary and perfect. All the investigative threads are followed to a satisfying conclusion. This is a wonderful novel and reminds me of how much I enjoy a well-written procedural.

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

Thursday, February 2, 2023

The Sanctuary

The Sanctuary by Katrine Engberg
2/7/23; 336 pages
Gallery/Scout Press
Kørner and Werner #5

The Sanctuary by Katrine Engberg is a very highly recommended procedural. This is Scandinavian noir at it's finest and the fifth novel in the Kørner and Werner series.

In Copenhagen, Anette Werner is leading the investigation into a severed corpse discovered in a suitcase. Jeppe Kørner is on leave from the force and living on the island of Bornholm and cutting limber for the local sawmill for a living. Esther de Laurenti is also on the island, working on her biography of a female anthropologist after a friend's death. As Anette follows the clues into the identity of the body, they lead to Bornholm, so she asks Jeppe to look into some leads.

This is an exceptional police procedural, both in the plot and the writing and an excellent final novel in the series featuring Jeppe Kørner and Anette Werner. I was engrossed in the gripping plot throughout and appreciated the careful disclosure of new information as clues are discovered and new information is revealed. Esther is tied into the overall investigation too. Part of the story includes Esther's research and the correspondence she is reading for her research. The letters she reads end up foreshadowing leads in the investigation.

All of the characters are portrayed as fully realized individuals. Those who have been reading the series will appreciated the additional character development in this finally installment.  If this is your first introduction to the series, you can read it as there is enough information provided to follow along and not feel lost or that you don't know the characters. It will inspire you to red the whole series, or those books that are translated into English.

The pace is even but picks up at the heart-stopping ending. There are multiple suspects, and several different directions the plot could take as the investigation unfolds in this atmospheric novel and intriguing mystery. The narrative is focused on solving the case, which is appreciated, and the details and complications make the case interesting and keep you glued to the pages.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of  Gallery/Scout Press via NetGalley.