Friday, March 31, 2023

Blind Spots

Blind Spots by Thomas Mullen
4/4/23; 320 pages
Minotaur Books

Blind Spots by Thomas Mullen is a highly recommended crime novel set in a dystopian world where everyone is blind but can see through a device.

Seven years ago everyone in the world eventually went blind when the Blinding occurred. Technology came to the rescue creating a device called a vidder, a metal disc implant in the temple that approximates vision for people by downloading visual data directly to people’s brains. Mark Owens is a homicide detective who has been on the force before the Blinding. When a scientist is murdered and the perpetrator was invisible to the witness, detectives are dubious that the witness is telling the truth, until Owens actually "sees" the black blob when he witnesses another murder.

Clearly someone has hacked the vidder and can manipulate what people see. Owen must conduct an investigation in which he can’t even trust his own "eyes." How do you investigate when your perceptions of reality can be manipulated and you can't trust what you think you can see?

Blind Spots is a compelling science fiction/dystopian crime novel that features a detective searching for truth in a world of surveillance and disinformation. Mullen provides plenty of details to develop the world he has created and the addition of the crime that must be solved adds another element that helps hold your attention. The crime is complex, as is the backstory and all the details. The plot moves at a steady pace and is interesting throughout. This mix of a procedural with a dystopian will be appreciated by a wide variety of readers.

Owens is a fully realized, complex character and has a backstory that makes him very sympathetic and interesting. The story unfold through his point-of-view as well as that of other characters. Owens is a thoughtful, careful, and intelligent character who you will trust to solve the case/puzzle of the blurry figures.

There are some slower parts of the plot, but that shouldn't deter you from reading this excellent novel. The combination of a police procedural  with a cautionary tale about technology and government control rings true. 

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

Thursday, March 30, 2023


Homecoming by Kate Morton
4/4/23; 560 pages

Homecoming by Kate Morton is a  highly recommended historical fiction and family mystery.

In Adelaide Hills on Christmas Eve in 1959 the Turner Family Tragedy occurs. The shocking crime, the effects of which echo across continents and generations, is never solved. The town of Tambilla becomes the setting of one of the most baffling murder investigations in the history of South Australia.

In 2018 journalist Jess Turner leaves London and travels back to Darling House in Sydney, Australia, after her grandmother, Nora, injures herself in a bad fall and is in the hospital. Nora raised Jess when her mother (Polly) couldn't. Nora learns that her grandmother fell while trying to retrieve a true crime book, As If They Were Asleep by Daniel Miller, chronicling the Turner Family Tragedy of 1959. When Jess looks at the book she starts looking into the decades old murders and the secrets surrounding them.

Homecoming is beautifully written with exquisite descriptions, layered writing, and great character development. The narrative is told through multiple points-of-view. The first part of the novel is mainly told through the perspective of Jess and Percy while the second half adds additional points-of-view, including excerpts from the book by Daniel Miller. It is a complicated web of secrets and a puzzle to be solved.

Admittedly, the pacing is very slow on this one and the middle of the novel requires endurance and patience. The ending will be worth it, but the struggle through the middle may stay with readers. Fans of Morton will love this novel while those new to her writing might need some encouragement to stick it out to the end. The ending is so satisfying and pulls all the complicated plot threads of the mystery. 4.5 rounded down

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

Wednesday, March 29, 2023

The Soulmate

The Soulmate by Sally Hepworth
4/4/23; 352 pages
St. Martin's Publishing Group

The Soulmate by Sally Hepworth is a highly recommended twisty domestic psychological thriller.

It has been a year since Gabe and Pippa Gerard, moved into their house on the cliffs in Portsea, Australia with their two young daughters, Freya and Asha. The cliffs are well known for the breathtaking views, but are also a known as a spot for people to end their lives. So far Gabe has managed to talk several people out of it. When the latest person, a woman showed up, Pippa called the police and Gabe went out to talk to her.

Gabe was unsuccessful in talking her out of jumping, so now there is an investigation into the death. Pippa happened to be looking out the window when the woman jumped, but Pippa is uncertain about what she seeing. When it comes out who the woman was and that Gabe knew her. Everything quickly becomes much more complicated and now secret after secret and twist after twist start being revealed.

The Soulmate is fast-paced and you will be riveted to the pages as the intriguing, tense, and complicated plot unfolds. The narrative is organized into Now and Then chapters from the viewpoint of Pippa and Before and After chapters from the point of view of Amanda, the woman on the cliff. The entire plot is centered around many, many secrets and numerous twists. Some of the twists require you to suspend disbelief, but they do propel the plot forward with a whole lot of drama.

The characters are all well-written and presented as complicated individuals. Both women married their soulmates and love and support their husbands, but can they trust each other. In addition to the twisty plot, this is a novel about marriage, secrets, lies and betrayal. Really, trust no one, question everything.

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

Tuesday, March 28, 2023

The New One

The New One by Evie Green
3/28/23; 400 pages

The New One by Evie Green is a very highly recommended family drama merged with a science fiction thriller. This is an excellent novel!

Tamsyn and Ed live with their rebellious 14 year-old daughter Scarlett in a camper van and they are doing all they can to make ends meet. Scarlett is rebellious, angry, defiant, moody, and foul mouthed. Both Tamsyn and Ed have had enough. their marriage is on the brink of imploding and Scarlett is impossible. Then the unthinkable happens. Scarlett has an accident and is on life support in the hospital. Everything seems hopeless and the insurance will only last for a limited time.

Then a representative from a medical trial representing VitaNova offers them a life line. Scarlett will be moved into their facility and cared for without any cost to them. All they have to do is allow the team to reanimated (clone) a version of their daughter in Switzerland. The couple will be provided a luxury apartment in Geneva, Switzerland, and have all their financial needs provided for them. Then the reanimated version of Scarlett (Sophie, using Scarlett's middle name) will live with them.

This is an absolutely un-put-downable family drama/sci fi thriller. There are several twists in the narrative that I was not expecting and they totally surprised and startled me. The New One was impossible to read fast enough and the page number at the end stunned me because the pages flew by so quickly. The revelations, twists, and turns in the direction of the narrative kept coming, disturbing and shocking me with each new disclosure.

The writing is exceptional and the narrative is carefully plotted. Each new twist in the narrative changes what you think you know, providing maximum reading pleasure. This is a novel that it is best to read with little information and leave the experience in the capable hands of the Green, the author, in order to fully appreciate it how expertly it is crafted and plotted. If you enjoy thought-provoking science fiction and family dramas this will be an automatic must read for you.

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

Sunday, March 26, 2023

Her Deadly Game

Her Deadly Game by Robert Dugoni
3/28/23; 396 pages
Thomas & Mercer

Her Deadly Game by Robert Dugoni is a very highly recommended procedural and investigative legal thriller.

After ending an affair with a colleague in the prosecutor's office, Keera Duggan has joined her family's criminal defense law firm, Patrick Duggan and Associates. With her father's decline into alcoholism, joining the firm is a way to restore the family reputation. When Vince LaRussa needs a defense lawyer, Keera is the one on call and she rushes to meet with him. LaRussa has been accused of murdering his wife. There is little real evidence against him, but when Keera learns her former lover Miller Ambrose will be the prosecutor, she knows the challenges her family will face in the court battle facing them.

Keera's experience as a chess player will hopefully help her concentrate on the discoveries and the right moves she needs to make in her first homicide defense case. The evidence and the complications become much more complicated as a stranger, who seems to have additional information about the case, emails her and sends her down a trail looking into the clues and uncovering information hidden from her.

This is a well-written, excellent procedural and investigative legal thriller that will hold your attention throughout and keep you glued to the pages while anticipating the next clue or new evidence that is revealed. The case is fascinating and complicated. The fast paced plot and investigative phase followed by the courtroom drama is compelling and holds several shocking surprises. No spoilers here because being introduced to the case and then following the new information uncovered is part of what makes the novel so irresistible.

Keera is a strong, intelligent, well-developed character. Readers will be rooting for her as she tackles the case and puts everything she has behind investigating what really happened and preparing for the case. She has to face some hard facts about her family and herself that will only benefit her. Hopefully this is a new series because Keera is a wonderful character. It would be awesome to see her come up against Ambrose again and give him what he deserves.

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

Saturday, March 25, 2023

Hang the Moon

Hang the Moon by Jeannette Walls
3/28/23; 368 pages

Hang the Moon by Jeannette Walls is a very highly recommended historical fiction and family drama which follows a young woman in Virginia during Prohibition.

Sallie Kincaid is the daughter Duke Kincaid, a wealthy man who owns or runs most of Claiborne County, Virginia. At the Emporium general store he owes, the Duke also sells bootleg whiskey he has received in lieu of rent. Sallie is the daughter of his second wife, who is deceased. She adores her father and his bigger than life personality. His third wife, Jane has a son, Eddie. When she is eight-years-old an accident involving three-year-old Eddie results in, at the behest of Jane, the Duke banishing Sallie to go live with her Aunt Faye.

Nine years later, Jane has died and Sallie is immediately brought back into the family by Duke, ostensibly to teach Eddie. Now, however, Sallie understands more of the world full of secrets, conflicts, and scandals around her and her family. She is determined to never marry and make her own way into the family rental property and bootlegging empire, while navigating the conflicts.  Duke quickly marries his fourth wife and life becomes much more complicated following this decision.

The writing is wonderful and the plot is compelling. I was fully engaged in this family drama and the many surprising turns and the surprising revelations within the narrative. There is a tangle of family intrigue, complications, questionable morals, and hidden secrets in Hang the Moon. Even when the many complexities seem to be over the top, the fact that the plot was inspired by the life of Elizabeth I of England, daughter of Henry VIII makes it even better. History buffs will be able to pick up on the similarities to Tudor England.

Sallie is a great fully realized, intelligent, and complex character. Walls portrays both her strengths and weaknesses. She can be fearless, reckless, stubborn, and outspoken, but she is also damaged. Due to the many characters, not all of them are as developed as Sallie, but they all still resemble real people with very different personalities and proclivities.

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


Thursday, March 23, 2023


Loyalty by Lisa Scottoline
3/28/23; 432 pages
G.P. Putnam's Sons

Loyalty by Lisa Scottoline is a highly recommended historical fiction novel depicting the beginning of the Sicilian Mafia in the 19th-century.

In the opening, five-year-old Dante Michangeli is abducted while at the Festival of St. Rosalia with his mother and left in a madhouse. During this same time Franco Fiorvanti manages and works in the lemon grove on the estate of a baron. Any ambition he has is limited by the rigid class system in Sicily. He and his twin brother Roberto Fiorvanti have a money making idea to protect people traveling to the market with their produce, a protection racket that will provide the power and wealth he desires. Dante was kidnapped by Franco at the bequest of the baron but did not kill him as ordered, which changed the history of Sicily. Fifteen years after the kidnapping, local attorney Gaetano Catalano searches for Dante, now 20-years-old.

This is just a small part of the many plot threads, sub-plots, and multiple characters in this expansive action-packed historical thriller. While it took time, patience, and careful concentration to follow all the sub-plots and keep track of the many characters, which made reading take on a slow pace, everything does come together at the end. A list of characters is found at the beginning of the novel, which is very helpful as more and more are introduced. The characters portrayed are memorable, interesting, and come to life.

Loyalty is an epic tale of good versus evil, love, and justice while bringing historical fiction to life. I'm a huge fan of Scottoline's thrillers but not quite as enamored with historical fiction, however, fans of historical crime fiction who appreciate broad stories with many plot threads will enjoy this novel. 

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

Wednesday, March 22, 2023


Commitment by Mona Simpson
3/21/23; 416 pages
Knopf Doubleday

Commitment by Mona Simpson is a very highly recommended. This is an excellent, heartbreakingly beautiful family drama that explores the dynamics between the family members and the challenges they face.

Diane Aziz is a single mother who works as a nurse to support her three children, Walter, Lina, and Donnie. Now Walter is heading off to college. Driving him from Los Angeles to college at UC Berkeley will be the last thing she does before falling into a debilitating depression. Lina is still in high school and Donnie is much younger when the two have to deal with a mother who won't get out of bed. When Diane needs to be institutionalized in a state hospital, a close friend of their mother, Julie freely chooses to care for them as their father has never been a part of their lives.

Commitments are the thread that weaves this multigenerational saga together. Commitments to each other, between family and friends. Commitments to an institution, school, work. The narrative is also a coming-of-age drama as it follows Walter, Lina, and Donnie from 1972 in to the 1980s as they each endeavor to deal with their individual trials, personal and financial, while finding their way into adulthood and trying to do what they can for their mother.

Commitment excels as an in-depth character study. Anyone who enjoys family sagas with incredible character development will appreciate Commitment, as will those who have experienced life-changing events and have found friends to stand in the gap with them. The emotions and inner life of the siblings is captured in a realistic manner and each of them are full realized characters. You will care about them and wish them well.

The quality of the writing is absolutely exquisite. Simpson captures the realistic, complex emotions and struggles that each sibling faces. There are no dramatic twists other than those experienced as the characters navigate life and all the problems and pressure that can occur. They persevere and manage to make their way to adulthood without parental support but with the support and help of each other as well as others along the way. I love Commitment and it will surely be on the list of my favorite books in 2023.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Knopf Doubleday.

Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Bones Under the Ice

Bones Under the Ice by Mary Ann Miller
3/21/23; 336 pages
Oceanview Publishing
Jhonni Laurent #1

Bones Under the Ice by Mary Ann Miller is a highly recommended procedural and the first novel in the Jhonni Laurent series.

Two days after a blizzard hits Field’s Crossing, Indiana, Sheriff Jhonni Laurent finds the frozen body of high school senior Stephanie Gattison under a pile of snow. This is her first homicide case and it just happens to occur when she is in a reelection battle. Complicating matters further is the location -  a small community where everyone seems to know everyone else's business and old feuds between families are still an issue. adding to the stress is a local news paper reporter who is working closely with her opponent. When a second murder occurs, it complicates everything while it also makes it clear that there may be more involved than Jhonni originally thought.

This is a well written, carefully crafted debut procedural that follows the clues and teases out the information needed to solve the cases. There is a bit too much repetition of information already provided, but that can perhaps be chalked up to events being at the forefront of a character's mind. The small town setting rings true in the details of farm culture and in the pressure to solve the case. The investigations are believable in the uncovering of information and following clues. The turmoil surrounding the reelection is equally interesting.

Jhonni is an interesting character who has personal connections with many of the local citizens who support her in her efforts to investigate the murders as well as her reelection bid. She is a well-developed character as she navigates a narrative filled with a plethora of ancillary characters. All the characters are distinctive and add depth to the plot and enhance the small town setting.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Oceanview Publishing via Edelweiss.

Sunday, March 19, 2023

The Strange

The Strange by Nathan Ballingrud
3/21/23; 304 pages
Gallery/Saga Press

The Strange by Nathan Ballingrud is a highly recommended alternate history science fiction novel featuring a wild west Mars settled by humans.

In 1931 in New Galveston, Mars, the Mother Earth Diner, run by fourteen-year-old Anabelle Crisp, her father Samuel, and Watson, a robot kitchen engine assists them, is robbed by Silas Mundt and his cohorts. They stole food, but also a recording of her mother's voice, which is one thing that Sam relies on listening too following the Silence. After Annabelle's mother left Mars for a trip to Earth a year ago, communication between Mars and Earth suddenly ceased. This event is the Silence. Then, when they finally reopen the diner after a few days, another group of miners starts an altercation that results in Annabelle's father being thrown into jail on a murder charge.

Annabelle, a feisty teen with an attitude, has had enough and wants vengeance and the recording of her mother's voice. After threatening Joe Reilly, the last Earth-to-Mars pilot of a ship stuck on Mars, she travels with Watson and Reilly to find Sally Milkwood, a supply runner. Then the group sets off to get the voice recordings from the man who stole them. Complicating the trip is the Strange, the mineral ore mined on Mars that permeates the land, air, and the bodies of everyone who comes in contact with it along with a whole lot of otherworldly events.

The Strange is a compelling and engrossing debut novel that I totally enjoyed reading even though there are some flaws along the way. The narrative is organized into three sections: What Happened, What I Did About It, and the Consequences Thereof. The whole western on Mars plot theme combined with a coming-of-age tale, a failing society, and the ever-present strange ore that changes things and people was fascinating.  Adding to the enjoyment is the trek across Mars to get to where Silas is to recover her property. There is also some ghosts, freaky moths and mushrooms in the plot.

Annabelle is a great character. She has numerous flaws, but she is also determined and obnoxious. In spite of her bravado, she really doesn't quite have a grip on the totality of what she wants, what she is asking of people, and what is really going on. She is a young teen and doesn't have the experience or knowledge adults would have, but she doesn't know that she doesn't know it all.

This is honestly a very entertaining sci-fi novel that crosses several genres in that category. The ending wasn't entirely satisfying, but don't let that stop you from reading it.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Gallery/Saga Press via Edelweiss.

Saturday, March 18, 2023

Something Bad Wrong

Something Bad Wrong by Eryk Pruitt
5/1/23; 446 pages
Thomas & Mercer
Jess Keller #1

Something Bad Wrong by Eryk Pruitt is a highly recommended investigative thriller/police procedural.

Jess Keeler, a podcaster, is determined to solve the 1972 murder of Linda Harris and Steven Hicks. The couple from Lake Castor, Virginia, disappeared on Christmas Eve in 1971. Their bodies were found a couple weeks later just over the border in North Carolina. Jess's grandfather, Big Jim Ballard was a detective in Deeton County, North Carolina and was put in charge of the investigation by Sheriff Red Carter. Jim, however, was keeping the fact he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease a secret. 

Jess recruits disgraced news caster Dan Decker to help her with the investigation in hopes of solving the crime in a true crime podcast. Jess has found an old notebook from her grandfather and is using the notes he made to assist them in the direction their research should take. As they begin looking into the case and background information, it becomes clear that the notes may not have all the answers and that there were several problems and conflicts in the original investigation.

The narrative unfolds through two timelines, Jess and Dan in the present day and all those involved in the official investigation in 1972. There are also several different points-of-view from a variety of characters. The complexities of the original case are presented along with the conflicts between characters and psychological motives. The first investigation was plagued by dueling egos, corruption, and secrets.

The depiction of Big Jim and his struggle with Alzheimer’s disease is well executed and heartbreaking, however all of the characters are not quite fully realized. There is some devolving into using caricatures of a type of person, Sheriff Red Carter, for example, but generally the male characters are better written than Jess. Jess isn't as compelling of a characters and seems to be much younger than her age, almost 40.

Both timelines are interesting as they both lead to the eventual answers, although the present day investigation is slower-paced. The dual timelines work well in the novel, while the ending felt rushed.

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

Thursday, March 16, 2023

No Good Lie

No Good Lie by Claire Stibbe
3/15/23; 348 pages

No Good Lie by Claire Stibbe is a recommended psychological thriller.

When Freya Thorne is out running early one morning she finds a woman's body on the beach and is again reminded of her daughters death. She is sure there are similarities in the body found to her daughter's death, especially a red ribbon on the wrists of both women. But her daughter's death was determined to be accidental, so no one believes her. Even more concerning is the fact that she is sure she has a stalker and begins to receive threatening letters. Can she trust anyone?

Chapters are mainly told from Freya's point-of-view with occasional chapters told through the voice of Edward, the stalker. Freya and her stalker are the main characters of the novel. Freya is a flawed character who is struggling with grief, while harboring secrets and fears. Edward seems to have inside information on her and his presence helps increase tension in the plot.

The writing in this atmospheric thriller is uneven, as is the pace, which made it a struggle to focus on reading at times. After a rather slow beginning, it does become more compelling later in the narrative. Adding chapters in Edwards voice was a good choice and increased interest in who he was. There are parts of the plot where you have to set aside disbelief in order to enjoy the novel. The ending is satisfying.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley

Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Hello Beautiful

Hello Beautiful by Ann Napolitano
3/14/23; 416 pages
Random House

Hello Beautiful by Ann Napolitano is a very highly recommended, poignant and complex family saga. One of the best novels and character studies I've read this year. Absolutely excellent!

William Waters grew up feeling completely isolated and unloved by his parents. One world he was accepted in was playing basketball and so he embraced that identity. When Julia Padavano, an assertive young woman who knows what she wants, meets him during their freshman year of college, she decides William will be her boyfriend. She introduces him to her three sisters: Sylvie, Cecelia, and Emeline and then has him come to their home for dinner. William is overwhelmed and immediately accepted by the loving but boisterous family and he is grateful Julia cares and is in charge.

The two marry, according to Julia's plans, and she presses on with her agenda for their future. When events occur in the family that she can't control, it unsettles the foundation of her plans. The sisters continue to hold their strong bond to each other, but when a crippling darkness and depression take William over, Julia and William divorce, and William gives up all rights to their infant daughter, Alice. Sylvie, however, understands Williams struggles and she stays by his side, along with support from Cecelia and Emeline. Julia takes Alice and starts a new life in New York City, apart from his sisters.

The narrative alternates between the voices of William, Julia, Sylvie, and late in the book, Alice. At the beginning of each chapter are the years covered in the narration. The events corresponds realistically to the time periods covered. William is the first narrator and the chapter covers 1960-1978, starting with his birth. This continues until the last chapter set in 2008.  Written into the narrative is a homage to Louisa May Alcott’s, Little Women, with the four sisters each taking on a different role.

Hello Beautiful is an exquisitely written, complicated, and perceptive family drama that asks if love make a broken person whole? Beyond that it is so much more. It is an exceptional character study. With great compassion and care, the narrative is an examination of how people can support each other during times of struggle and build a meaningful life. It is a celebration of family and friendship during the difficult times.

Honestly, these are some of the most finely written and well-developed characters I've encountered in a long time. All of the characters in Hello Beautiful are fully realized, and portrayed as authentic, unique individuals with flaws and strengths. They all experience change and growth. There is great insight into their inner lives and relationships with each other. Certainly Hello Beautiful will be on my list of best novels of 2023.

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

Monday, March 13, 2023

I Love It When You Lie

I Love It When You Lie by Kristen Bird
3/14/23; 352 pages
MIRA Books

I Love It When You Lie by Kristen Bird is a highly recommended domestic drama which is strong on character development and Southern small town ethos.

The three William sisters are gathering together in Willow Gap, Alabama, in the Appalachian foothills, to bury their grandmother, Pearl Williams. Tara, the oldest is married to the local Southern Baptist pastor. June is a nurse and has married a doctor. Clementine, the youngest, is still in college and is having an affair with her professor.  Stephanie, a Northerner, is married to Walker, their brother,  and Willow Gap’s mayor. The three sisters have learned some lessons from their grandmother. Stephanie has learned there family secrets and where the dirt is buried. They are all attending the funeral, but one of the men attending will also go missing before the funeral is over.

This is more of a character driven novel and study of the four women, secrets they have, and one man who will disappear before the weekend is through. Readers know right at the start that someone is dead, beyond their grandmother. Chapters alternate between the voices of the four women and each of them have a very unique voice and personality. The narrative is told in reverse chronology and each chapter provides more information about and development of the sisters.

These four women are portrayed as fully realized, singular individuals with their own concerns, secrets, and lives. They are all rooted in the customs and traditions, as well as revenge, of Southern women all handed down through the generations. As Stephanie says, "Justice would be great, but revenge is so much sweeter." The real question is which man deserves justice, because a case for revenge by the women can be made for each of them.

The writing is quite good and will hold your attention throughout. The enjoyment is found in the strong, well-developed characters and the tension found in the gradual revelation of what is really going on in this atmospheric character-driven thriller.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of MIRA Books.

Sunday, March 12, 2023


Moths by Jane Hennigan
3/14/23; 312 pages
Angry Robot

Moths by Jane Hennigan is a highly recommended dystopian novel concerning a pandemic which infects men and boys and is spread via toxic threads left by mutated moths.

The pandemic hit forty years earlier and either killed males quickly or turned them into raging killers. The surviving males are kept confined in special clean facilities to keep them safe. Mary was an adult when it hit and she remembers life before. Now she is in her seventies and works in a facility helping to care for the male residents. She has no real clout or power, but she does hear and has secrets. She also knows how to keep silent and simply do her job.

Mary's narration alternates back and forth in time between the present and flashbacks in the past. This novel depicts a world where women are in charge and men are subservient, sort of an antithetical A Handmaid's Tale (only not as well written) where the roles are due to natural forces rather than societal, at least at first. The characters are caricatures, but that and a role reversal of sexes is seemingly sort of the point of the novel and the virus is simple a way to set everything into motion.

The pace is even and the narrative is interesting enough to capture your attention and hold it throughout the entire novel. The ending is satisfying. Moths is a novel that you only need to know the basics before reading so nothing spoils it for you. Those who like dystopian fiction will very likely enjoy Moths. This is an impressive debut novel for Hennigan and it will be interesting to see what she writes in the future.

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

Saturday, March 11, 2023

Collateral Damage

Collateral Damage by J. A. Jance
3/14/23; 320 pages
Gallery Books
Ali Reynolds Series #17

Collateral Damage by J. A. Jance is a highly recommended mystery/procedural and the seventeenth novel in the Ali Reynolds series.

After 20 years in prison former cop Frank Muñoz is being released on parole and revenge is on his mind. Targets include his wife, mistress, and the police detectives involved in his case. One of the former cops, Hal Holden, is now retired and works as a chauffeur. Ali Reynolds' husband, B. Simpson, founder of the cybersecurity company High Noon Enterprises, is heading to a conference on ransomware in London, England, and Hal is the one driving him to the airport.

On the way there is an accident that appears suspicious and both Hal and B. are seriously injured. B. insists that Ali represent High Noon at the conference and also that the accident was done purposefully. Ali attends but also becomes a suspect. She wonders who would be trying to stop B. from attending the conference or was Hal the target?

This is a fast-paced, complex plot with a whole lot of information and action going on. There are plots and subplots and so many pieces to this puzzle that you have to pay close attention to details to follow everything that is occurring. There are also a multitude of characters that require recognition throughout the plot. You may wish you had High Noon's AI helper, Frigg, to assist you, just as characters have to rely on in the narrative for information.

However, it is an engaging investigation that is action-packed and will hold your attention until the satisfying conclusion. The characters are all interesting and distinctive as individuals. It is very enjoyable, but, admittedly, this is my first Ali Reynolds novel and it would have helped if I was acquainted with the series and reoccurring characters before jumping into the seventeenth installment.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Simon & Schuster via NetGalley

Friday, March 10, 2023

The Nature of Secrets

The Nature of Secrets by Debra Webb
3/14/23;352 pages
Thomas & Mercer
Finley O'Sullivan #2

The Nature of Secrets by Debra Webb is a highly recommended investigative thriller and the sequel to The Last Lie Told (2022).

Finley O’Sullivan is a legal investigator for her friend and mentor, attorney Jack Finnegan. She is still recovering from her husband's murder a year ago, which caused her to leave the district attorney's office. Their new client is wealthy businesswoman Ellen Winthrop. She is the head of a financial consulting firm in Nashville, Tennessee. Ellen is accused of killing her new and much younger husband, Jarrod Grady. Ellen had recently discovered her husband had wiped out her bank accounts, which is a clear motive for killing him in their home. The murder weapon was a titanium hammer which was given to Ellen from a friend to mark her breaking into the Fortune 500, so naturally she is the main suspect. It is Finley's job to learn everything about Ellen so the firm can defend and protect her

This complex and engrossing investigative thriller is a sequel to 2022’s The Last Lie Told. There are plenty of secrets people are holding and they aren't all cooperating as much with Finley's investigation. At the same time, Finley is still trying to uncover information about her husband's murder. She knows he was lying to her, but she needs closure to move on. The Nature of Secrets is an intricate, fast-paced thriller that will grab your attention and will hold it throughout. You will root for all the many secrets to be exposed and see the light of day.

The main characters, especially Finley, are flawed, but fully realized. Finley is a wonderful, tenacious character that should appeal to most readers. This holds up as a stand-alone, but reading the first novel will likely provide more background and additional information about the characters and especially Finley's ongoing investigation into her husband's murder. The ending ties up all sorts of loose ends and provides closure.

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

Wednesday, March 8, 2023

The Golden Spoon

The Golden Spoon by Jessa Maxwell
3/7/23; 288 pages
Atria Books

The Golden Spoon by Jessa Maxwell is a highly recommended locked-room mystery.

It's the tenth season of Bake Week, a TV baking competition show filmed at the Grafton Manor, home of celebrated baking legend and the ultimate judge of all baked goods, Betsy Martin. Six contestants arrive at the estate in the mountains of Vermont: Hannah, Stella, Gerald, Lottie, Peter, and Pradyumna. This years competition includes a co-host, award-winning baker, Archie Morris, who will join Betsy in judging the baked goods. As the competition begins, something is immediately amiss. Peter's first baking efforts are sabotaged when the contents of his sugar canister is replaced with salt. Several other subtle but subversive incidents occur so by day three it is clear that someone is undermining the competition. But the competition turns deadly when a body shows up

After the opening scene which informs the readers that a body will be found, the six contestants are all introduced with a brief biography along with the pertinent staff for the show. The contestants are all very different and readers will easily be able to keep track of who is who. It is also revealed rather early in the plot that not everyone is exactly who they say they are and may have other motives.

The characters are portrayed more as caricatures of a certain type of individual so the bulk of the character development is along these lines. Not all characters are fully realized as individuals. The plot is formulaic, so presenting the characters all as a different type of person follows the conventional choice for the classic theme of a locked-room mystery.

The plot moves quickly and The Golden Spoon is an entertaining, comfortable locked room mystery with aspects of a cozy mystery. Apparently this may be made into a Hulu miniseries, which would be a great choice.

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

Forget What You Know

Forget What You Know by Christina Dodd
3/7/23; 384 pages

Forget What You Know by Christina Dodd is a highly recommended romantic suspense novel and sequel to Point Last Seen (2022).

After an opening introducing readers to the Dragon's Heart, Dodd returns to the setting of Gothic, California. Lowering water levels allows a car to be seen in a lake. Inside are the remains of a man who was shot in the back of the head and in the backseat is the priceless and legendary Dragon's Heart that has inspired greed and murder for centuries. Morgayne Phoenix has some interest in this case because it relates to her past and could harm her remaining daughter, Zoey.

Zoey Phoenix is a flower breeder in Gothic. She is unaware of drama that is headed her direction when she is almost killed in a hit and run accident. Morgayne disappears after making sure Zoey is recovering but contacts Zoey's ex-husband, Luca Damezas, to look after her. Luca, a former professional wrestle, is aware that more threats may be coming. Also, he is still in love with Zoey and hopes for a reconciliation. It is clear that more is going on when Zoey finds her flower farm has been vandalized. Adding to the stress is the upcoming Gothic Garden and Flower Show.

The plot is intricate and complicated with several suspicious incidents, humor, magic realism, romance, and sub-plots going on. Really, the main plot of the novel is the rekindling of the romance between Zoey and Luca, which even overshadows the Dragon's Heart. It might help if you have read the previous novel set in Gothic, but it can be read as a stand-alone novel. The main characters are all portrayed as fully realized individuals and there are several. There are also a whole lot of ancillary characters. The final denouement is exciting, but almost resembles slap-stick comedy in the absurdity of the scene.

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

Monday, March 6, 2023

Old Babes in the Wood

Old Babes in the Wood: Stories by Margaret Atwood
3/7/23; 272 pages
Random House

Old Babes in the Wood: Stories by Margaret Atwood is a highly recommended collection of fifteen short stories. Some of these stories are new and some have been previously published. As with most short story collections, some will resonate with different readers more than others.

The stories are arranged into three different sections. Section I, Tig & Nell has three stories: First Aid; Two Scorched Men; Morte de Smudgie. Section II, My Evil Mother contains seven stories: My Evil Mother; The Dead Interview; Impatient Griselda; Bad Teeth; Freeforall; Metempsychosis; Airborne; Death by Clamshell. Section III, Nell & Tig has four stories: A Dusty Lunch; Widows; Wooden Box; Old Babes in the Wood.

As expected the descriptive quality of the writing is excellent. I appreciated all of the stories in the sections featuring Tig and Nell (or Nell and Tig) that follow a married couple across decades and after the death of one of them. The stories in section two were a bit more uneven for me. I didn't care for The Dead Interview, which imagines Atwood interviewing George Orwell, Bad Teeth, or Airborne.

After reading Margaret Atwood's novel and short stories for many years, I feel confident to say that most Atwood fans will enjoy the majority of the stories included in this collection. Additionally, I would certainly recommend that those who are fans along with those new to Atwood give this collection a try due to the wide variety of genres the stories included cover.

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

Sunday, March 5, 2023

All That Is Mine I Carry With Me

All That Is Mine I Carry With Me by William Landay
3/7/23; 336 pages
Random House

All That Is Mine I Carry With Me by William Landay is a very highly recommended, excellent and compelling mystery and family drama that is unputdownable.

In November 1975 ten-year-old Miranda Larkin comes home from school to find no one home. Her mother gone. Hours pass and her brothers  Alex, seventeen, and Jeff, twelve, as well as her father, Dan Larkin arrive home at their usual time. Dan, a criminal defense attorney, calls the police but a missing persons investigation can't be opened for 48 hours. This begins the four decades long question about what happened to Jane Larkin, which becomes a homicide investigation. Their father is a suspect but there is no body or concrete evidence.

The novel is divided into 4 books, each with a different author and style. In the first an author, Philip Solomon, is writing a novel about a cold case. The other three books cover different aspects and time periods surrounding the case and the family. The family has been divided for years, but the four different books within the novel help document why there is turmoil and division within the family. Read the different books carefully to see whose point of view is being portrayed.

All That Is Mine I Carry With Me is part family drama, part crime/mystery novel, part psychological suspense. The four different book that comprise the novel are compelling and unputdownable. The plot is intelligent and emotionally complex. The writing is outstanding. Landry details the facts of Jane's disappearance, along with the speculation, struggles of the family, especially Jeff and Miranda, and the division and secrets within the family. There were several passages I highlighted due to the insight and depth they contained.

The characters are fully realized and portrayed as realistic, complicated individuals facing an impossible situation. Do they support their father, who may have murdered their mother, or do they stay loyal to him and bury any doubts.  Jane's sister, Katie, blames Dan and is sure he murdered her sister. Alex supports his father. Jeff and Miranda are the ones who most miss their mother and who suspect their father is involved, but still hold onto a modicum of doubt. All That Is Mine I Carry With Me is an absolutely excellent novel!

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

Saturday, March 4, 2023

What Have We Done

What Have We Done by Alex Finlay
3/7/23; 368 pages

What Have We Done by Alex Finlay is a highly recommended suspenseful mystery/thriller.

Twenty-five years ago five abused and neglected kids, Jenna, Nico, Donnie, Benny, and Arty, are at from a group home for troubled teens, Savior House, when they take turns firing a gun into a shallow grave. What happened, why, and who is was isn't revealed until the end. There are numerous problems at Savior House, where young girls keep disappearing, and the friends have bonded together in order to survive the abuse. Now, twenty-five years later, someone is trying to kill them.

Benny, a federal judge, has already been murdered. Jenna, a stay-at-home mom with a sketchy past as an assassin is forced back into the role when she is contacted to complete an assignment or her family dies. When she realizes the target is Arty, she purposefully misses, but is then relentlessly pursued by a young woman determined to kill her and her family. Donnie, a rocker and alcoholic, is forced over the side of a cruise ship at gunpoint. Nico, a reality show producer and gambling addict, is trapped in a coal mine. These three former friends unite to try to discover who is trying to kill them and why.

The action races along in this action-packed mystery/thriller. This is without a doubt a genre novel and reads like an action movie, which does have a certain appeal. The narrative alternates between events in the past at Savior House, covering the character's backstories, and the present day threat. Finlay includes plenty of misleading clues and twists to keep you guessing who could be responsible and why. The answer has to be in their backstories because their past is what connects them, but what part and why?

Jenna, Nico, and Donnie are all unique characters, but also written as caricatures of a type of individual. This also makes What Have We Done read like an action movie, but a good one with a complex plot and surprises along the way. The suspense, fast-paced plot, and compelling action held my attention throughout.

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

A Flaw in the Design

A Flaw in the Design by Nathan Oates
3/21/23; 304 pages
Random House

A Flaw in the Design by Nathan Oates is a highly recommended novel of psychological suspense.

Gil Duggan learns some shocking news. His sister and her husband have been killed in a car accident and their 17 year-old son, Matthew is going to live with Gil and his family. Gil, a creative writing professor at Essex College, his wife Molly, an artist, and his two daughters Ingrid and Chloe are living in Vermont, far from the privileged life in NYC that Matthew is accustom to. With Matthew, whose parents were incredibly wealthy, also comes an unbelievable monthly stipend that could help Gil's family enormously.

The problem is that ever since a life-threatening incident with one of his daughters, Gil dislikes and does not trust Matthew. He was estranged from his sister and her husband since that event seven years earlier, and hasn't seen Matthew since then. There were earlier encounters with Matthew that indicated he was a troubled child. Now Matthew, who seems to be intelligent, urbane, and charming, will be living with them, but can Gil trust him?

The descriptive writing is absolutely excellent in this debut novel and provides the impetus for the apprehension and tension to build and grow in the narrative. The question is whether it is Gil projecting his feelings onto Matthew or if Matthew really is a psychopath. Actually, at first it is Gil's resentment, suspicion and constant assessment of Matthew's every word or action that drives the plot and makes Gil an unlikable character, but soon doubts will arise about Matthew, especially when Matthew join's Gil's creative writing class and turns in stories that seem to be about imagined deaths Gil's family.

Including the real written stories within the narrative where imagined stories abound works very well in A Flaw in the Design. The final denouement wasn't quite as impactful as anticipated, but this is still a very good novel and definitely worth reading. 4.5 stars

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

Thursday, March 2, 2023

The Kind Worth Saving

The Kind Worth Saving by Peter Swanson
3/7/23; 320 pages
William Morrow & Company; HarperCollins

The Kind Worth Saving by Peter Swanson is a very highly recommended twisty psychological thriller.

Henry Kimball is working as a private investigator after the events in The Kind Worth Killing (2015) when former student Joan Whalen shows up at his office. She is sure her husband Richard is having an affair and wants Kimball to investigate and document proof of his infidelity. What seems like a simple case soon turns into something more. Present day chapters alternate with chapters that flashback to years earlier and follow Joan when she was fifteen and vacationing with her parents in Maine. Something more was going on then too.

The Kind Worth Saving is an engrossing thriller with excellent writing and a complex, twisty, shrewd plot that kept me riveted to the pages through out. And yes, it is a perceptive, chilling psychological thriller that you will finish in one sitting because you will not be able to put it down. The two timelines work well together. Both are equally interesting and have plenty of surprises along the way. It is best to not have too much information before reading this novel. Read mindfully and try not to make assumptions because Swanson will surprise you with the directions the narrative take.

Henry is a realistic, well-developed character and is relatable and likable. For those who read The Kind Worth Killing, Lily Kitner is back. You can read The Kind Worth Saving as a stand alone, but it is, according to Swanson, a semi-sequel. There is a history and backstory. Pertinent information and details are contained within the narrative to provide background information, but The Kind Worth Saving is impressive enough that you will likely want to read The Kind Worth Killing.

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

Wednesday, March 1, 2023

The Watchmaker's Daughter

The Watchmaker's Daughter by Larry Loftis
3/7/23; 384 pages

The Watchmaker's Daughter: The True Story of World War II Heroine Corrie ten Boom by Larry Loftis is a very highly recommended, moving biography of WWII Dutch resistance member Corrie ten Boom (1892-1983). Many will know her from her bestselling 1971 memoir, The Hiding Place. The Watchmaker's Daughter retells her story and expands on it with many photos, dairies, and letters from people involved.

Before WWII, Corrie worked in her father's shop in Haarlem repairing watches and went on to become a watchmaker herself. From her family she learned early on to rely on her Christian faith in all things and this was put to the test in WWII during the German invasion of the Netherlands. Corrie and her family became a part of the Dutch resistance and transformed their house into a hiding place straight into shelter for Jews and other refugees. This selfless behavior resulted in her and her family being turned in and Corrie and her sister Betsie were sent to Ravensbrück, a concentration camp, where Betsie died.

Corrie was eventually released and, even though she loss most of her family, her faith allowed her to forgive and to move on, providing witness about the Holocaust, and ministered to people in need. Corrie set up rehabilitation centers to support survivors along with others whose lives were effected by the occupation. She was honored as one of the "Righteous Among the Nations" by the Yad Vashem Authority in 1967.

The Watchmaker's Daughter is a very well-researched, well-written, and thorough portrait of a woman who was a hero. There is included at the end of the book a section called "The Rest of the Story,” which covers the accomplishments of those central to the overall Dutch World War II story and includes picture. There is also an Appendix on refugees who stayed with the ten Booms, Bibliography, Notes, and Index.

Even though I knew the story, I cried as I read The Watchmaker's Daughter and I was glued to the pages as I read Loftis' account of Corrie's life. This is a story of faith and courage, at a great cost, that needs to be brought to the attention of people again.

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