Friday, September 29, 2023

The Lost Girls of Penzance

The Lost Girls of Penzance by Sally Rigby
10/5/23; 254 pages
Storm Publishing
A Cornwall Murder Mystery #1

The Lost Girls of Penzance by Sally Rigby is a highly recommended police procedural.

Detective Lauren Pengelly of the Penzance police was supposed to be on leave when she learns that a skull has been found and rushes to the scene. Detective Matt Price, second-in-command to Pengelly, is guarding the scene. This is his very first day and he has never met Pengelly so he doesn't allow her on the scene until the medical examiner vouches for her. There are other bones, obviously not recent, so the site must be seriously examined.

Then the station receives a call about a little girl disappearing from her nursery/preschool. The team rushes over to search for her and check out the staff and buildings security. Pengelly and Price quickly begin to investigate and seemingly have a suspect, but then another little girl disappears from a different nursery/preschool and it is clear that they need to reexamine the facts. The search for the missing girls is intense while the identification of the bones is also being investigated.

Since this is the start of a new series, any development of the characters is beginning with this first novel. The good news is that readers are provided with an excellent foundation for future development. The backgrounds and personalities of both Pengelly and Price are presented as realistic, believable characters with individual personalities and depth. Pengelly is not immediately a likeable character, she is stern and tough, but there are a few hints and a scene late in the novel that show a hidden side of her personality. Price has a heartbreaking backstory and he is immediately likeable.

The narrative moves quickly as both investigations are underway. The missing little girls is the more compelling of the two but both investigations are brought to a conclusion. The action and clues provided will hold your attention. This is a fast read. While there is a twist, The Lost Girls of Penzance excels in presenting a straightforward police procedural where the investigation logically leads to a conclusion.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Storm publishing via NetGalley.

Thursday, September 28, 2023

The Oceans and the Stars

The Oceans and the Stars: A Sea Story, A War Story, A Love Story by Mark Helprin
10/3/23; 512 pages
The Overlook Press

The Oceans and the Stars: A Sea Story, A War Story, A Love Story by Mark Helprin is a very highly recommended literary epic saga that surely reflects the whole title.

Navy Captain Stephen Rensselaer corrects and talks back to the president of the United States, who retaliates to his truth-telling by trying to humiliate him. He assigns Rensselaer to command the Athena, with the intent to humiliate a man who should have been an admiral. While supervising Athena’s fitting out in New Orleans, Rensselaer meets and falls in love with Katy Farrar. It is the love of a lifetime. Soon after this, he is deployed to the Indian Ocean near the Horn of Africa. Rensselaer is ultimately faced with a decision to follow his conscience and keep his integrity intact or disobey an immoral order and faces the consequences of his decision.

Absolutely excellent writing, strongly developed, fully realized characters, and a compelling, detailed, action-packed plot are featured throughout this amazing epic. Using a classic literary form, The Oceans and the Stars commends the virtues of living a life where following your conscience is the obvious choice, despite the consequences. The narrative also demonstrates how using disciplined, intelligent actions may result in sacrifices.

As a character, Rensselaer comes to life in this novel. Readers will know and want the best for him while despairing over the choices placed before him and the fortitude he displays when acting upon his principles.

Those who love stories about the sea, ships, the military, and battles will relish the details and action Helprin includes. Some of the details are brutal, but there are also moments of bravery and sacrifice displayed even during the darkest moments.

This is a perfect choice for those who enjoy literary fiction, action/adventure thrillers (especially those set at sea), and love stories involving the one left at home.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of The Overlook Press via NetGalley.

Tuesday, September 26, 2023

The Death of Us

The Death of Us by Lori Rader-Day
10/3/23; 384 pages

The Death of Us by Lori Rader-Day is a very highly recommended suspense novel following a fifteen-year-old mystery.

Fifteen years ago, Ashley Hay handed over her baby son Callan to his stepmother, Liss Kehoe, and then disappeared. Since that day Liss has loved and cared for Callan, raising him as her own son. Then the shocking discovery of Ashley's car with a body inside in the quarry pond on Kehoe property opens up the question of Ashley's disappearance along with another cold case. In the small town they live in gossip flies and sentiments turn against Liss and her estranged husband, Link. Town Marshall Mercer Alarie, who has been romantically involved with Liss since Link moved out, now has to open up old cases and confront what Link's father, Key, who was the previous town Marshall, may have hidden.

The main characters are depicted as realistic, complex individuals with backstories and unique personalities. Liss is portrayed as a mother who loves her son, even while she knows in the back of her mind that her connection to him is fragile. Now, with the discovery of what is surely Ashley's body, now she must help her son navigate those complicated feelings.

The small town, where everyone knows everyone's business, or they have at least heard the stories, is a perfect setting for this slow-burning mystery. The setting influences the thoughts and actions of the characters. There are several sub-plots that are as interesting as the main plot threads, and also have the potential to change everything.

The narrative is told through the point-of-view of several characters, including Liss, Mercer, and Key. The Death of Us has a slow start as Radar-Day deftly establishes her characters, the setting, and the background information into place, so it takes some time before the investigation really begins to proceed. Once the investigation starts in earnest, the novel becomes increasingly compelling until it is an immersive mystery and readers will be invested in the outcome. My recommendation is to power through the slow start and get the action. 4.5 rounded up.

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

Saturday, September 23, 2023

The Quiet Room

The Quiet Room by Terry Miles
10/3/23; 432 pages
Rabbits #2
Random House/Del Rey

The Quiet Room by Terry Miles is a very highly recommended mystery following players in a secret world-wide alternate reality game. This is the second novel set in the world of the Rabbits podcast. The underground alternate game called Rabbits crosses inter-dimensional streams in the multiverse. 

Why would the mysterious Rabbit Police be questioning Emily Connors when she appears to be trapped in a dimensional stream where the game Rabbits does not exist. Whether it is the universe she is in or the game itself, something feels off. Or is there some underlying conspiracy underway? If the game is still on, this would be the twelfth iteration. Emily came close to winning the eleventh, but has the next game started in her current dimensional stream?

Rowan Chess, a theme park designer, has never felt like he was in the right place, or totally part of the reality he lives in. This feeling continues when he begins to have some incredibly odd experiences. He has a blind date that is going very well when his date goes to the bathroom and disappears. This marks the start of Rowan being forced into a game he knows nothing about. And Emily was "coincidentally" there to witness Rowan's date disappear, but there is no happenstance in Rabbits. What will happen when Rowan meets Emily and other Rabbits players?

The writing is excellent. There are many of the same elements that I loved from the first novel. We have puzzles and clues, mysterious Rabbit Police, theories, enigmas, patterns, and oddities. There are also a plethora of references to all manner of literature, movies, music, pop culture, and gaming. Following clues and noticing any deviations is vital to the game and the novel.

Rabbits is a great sci-fi mystery series that will have readers questioning every little coincident, anomaly, and oddity in their lives while wondering if they are obscure clues they need to uncover something else. The Quiet Room could be read as a stand alone, but then you would want to go back and read Rabbits anyway, so I'd suggest starting with Rabbits and then jump into The Quiet Room. I'm all in for any and all future novels in this incredible series!

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Del Rey via NetGalley.


Wednesday, September 20, 2023

One Last Kill

One Last Kill by Robert Dugoni
10/3/23; 351 pages
Thomas & Mercer
Tracy Crosswhite #10

One Last Kill by Robert Dugoni is a very highly recommended procedural investigating cold cases from a serial killer and the tenth novel in the Detective Tracy Crosswhite series.

When the Seattle Times plans to run a series of articles about the Route 99 serial killer from 25 years ago, Detective Tracy Crosswhite is ordered to reopening the investigation by Police chief Marcella Weber. After thirteen victims, the serial killer seemed to stop and the task force at the time, lead by Captain Johnny Nolasco, reached no conclusion. Weber assigns Nolasco to work with Tracy in solving the cold cases. The two try to set their rocky relationship aside to solve the decades old cases and bring closure to the families of the victims. They also know that Weber is targeting them for dismissal should they fail.

Even the concept that Tracy and Nolasco are working together on a case will certainly be a huge draw for fans of the series who will also be rewarded with many of the characters from previous books making an appearance. Tracy continues to be a fully realized complex character and this time even Nolasco shows more depth and nuance.

As expected, the writing is outstanding. For much of the investigation this is a more cerebral procedural rather than an action-packed thriller, which is to be expected with a cold case investigation from 25 years ago. It will appeal to anyone who enjoys reading about the clues and puzzles that a cold case investigation presents as the evidence is re-examined through a new set of eyes. It also helps that there have been great advances in technology and DNA testing since the original case.

Another great addition to a winning series! The great news is that  One Last Kill can be read as a stand alone.

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


Monday, September 18, 2023

My Darling Girl

My Darling Girl by Jennifer McMahon
10/3/23; 320 pages
Gallery/Scout Press

My Darling Girl by Jennifer McMahon is a very highly recommended psychological horror.  I was afraid to keep reading but more scared not to find out what happened. This one had me start biting my nails. 

Alison's mother, Mavis, could be loving but was also an abusive alcoholic and she still has the physical and mental scars to prove it. It is early December and the family is decorating the house when Mavis's assistant Paul calls to let Alison know her mother is dying from cancer and only has weeks to live. Despite her childhood trauma, Ali is cautiously optimistic that Mavis really wants to try to have a relationship with her family and say good-bye, so she agrees to open up her home to her mother. It quickly becomes clear that her mother is not always who she seems to be and Ali may need to protect her own family.

That Alison would open up her home to her mother after the horrific childhood experiences she endured, is amazing and commendable. Then, when she didn't immediately ship her mother off to a facility when odd things begin to happen is shocking, more so after she begins to suspect what is happening. Clearly Alison is a complex, fully realized character. Once she begins to suspect demonic possession is stalking her family, all bets are off.

The writing is obviously excellent, compelling, and engaging. (Picture someone reading peeking between their fingers, scared, but still actively reading because they need to know what happened next.) The story is chilling and heartbreaking. Alison must unpack her mother's secrets in order to understand what is happening and then she will also know what her response to it will be. But her mothers behavior and words are bone-chilling frightening and her true self, or the evil side, only seems to come out when Alison is around.

The pages fly by in this totally engrossing, eerie foreboding narrative that will hold readers complete attention throughout. Well done, Jennifer McMahon you've proven yet again that you are an exceptional writer!

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

Saturday, September 16, 2023

Duplicity: My Mothers' Secrets

Duplicity: My Mothers' Secrets by Donna Freed
9/19/23; 252 pages
Muswell Press

Duplicity: My Mothers' Secrets by Donna Freed is recommended for readers who appreciate a wide variety of autobiographies and memoirs.

Donna learned she and her older siblings were adopted when she was six, a fact that her parents left unsaid unless specifically asked about it. Her adoptive mother was unconventional and as recorded, not always a very good and caring parent, but they came to terms with their relationship before she passed away. It is after her mother passed away that, as an adult in her 30's, Donna began looking for her birth mother and when she found her she also found a link to a true crime story. In 1967, her birth mother and father were involved with a scheme to collect a double indemnity insurance claim.

This is a novel of two parts. the first is Donna's childhood and her relationship with her dysfunctional adoptive parents, especially her mother. The second happens much later, after the half way point, and covers her search for her birth mother. Generally, I enjoy memoirs, but this one is not quite as compelling or interesting as the description implies. Honestly, the writing is average and nothing in her story reads like a thriller. There are many memoirs that are more engaging even without a tie to a true crime tale. Readers who enjoy memoirs will likely enjoy this more than I did.

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

Friday, September 15, 2023

The Wren, the Wren

The Wren, the Wren by Anne Enright
9/19/23; 288 pages
W.W. Norton & Company

The Wren, the Wren by Anne Enright is very highly recommended literary fiction following the legacy of trauma in an Irish family.

Celebrated Irish poet Phil McDaragh is the grandfather of Nell, father of Carmel, and was the husband of Terry. Each of them experiences the legacy of his poems differently. Nell was raised by her single mother, Carmel. She is a recent university graduate who never knew her grandfather, but his love poems speak to her. She's involved in a toxic relationship that she struggles to leave. Carmel is a hard, practical realist who knows the spells her father's poetry can spin, but also knows he abandoned his wife who had breast cancer and left his two daughters to care for her as he went off to charm women and had affairs. She is fiercely the mother to Nell while viewing her father realistically. She has heard how he charmed Terry and witnessed his later actions.

The novel is filled with lyrical poems featuring birds, but also very real episodes of cruelty and violence. There is a strong juxtaposition of the expressive beauty of the poetry with the realistic violence and betrayal. The narrative switches between the point-of-view of Nell, Carmel, and Phil. The complicated feeling Carmel feels for her father while also knowing the worse of his behavior illustrates the sharp contrasts between his poetry and  behavior. Nell's entanglements also seem to mimic this same disparity.

Both Nell and Carmel are portrayed as realistic, fully realized characters, with flaws, struggles, and strengths. You will hope for the best for both of them and their relationship as daughter and mother while they deal with their issues and the complications from their family name.

What sets this literary family drama apart from other novels is the impeccable writing that soulfully captures the yearning, betrayal, and longing of the characters as they must each journey to their own conclusions. They have inherited the ties to Phil's poetic accomplishes, but must determine what inheritance this will mean for their lives. That Enright successfully tackles this quandary in the narrative and accomplishes this, seemingly with ease, is part of what made this an exceptional novel.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of W.W. Norton & Company via NetGalley.

Wednesday, September 13, 2023

Murder in the Family

Murder in the Family by Cara Hunter
9/19/23; 480 pages

Murder in the Family by Cara Hunter is a highly recommended murder mystery presented in a unique format.

The murder of Luke Ryder in December 2003 was never solved. Ryder was the stepfather of filmmaker Guy Howard, who was 10 at the time of the murder. Guy and his two sisters were home when the body was found in the garden of their suburban family home. This was a high profile crime and true crime fans have sought clues to solve it for years. Guy Howard is now using his television series Infamous to solve this case involving his family. There is a panel of six experts, biographies with photos included, that are introduced and start looking at the evidence.

This thriller is written like a teleplay of a true crime documentary.  The text includes photos, maps, coroner's reports, newspaper articles, emails, text messages, and voicemail. Readers can follow along, review the evidence and testimony, and try to piece together what happened along with the experts on the show.

This is a rather fun, unique format for a novel and is entertaining at the start. Now, keep in mind that I know someone who will love and adore everything about this format, however, two important points need to be made for those considering the novel. First, you really have to enjoy the format of reading a teleplay script, along with all the other evidence. There is no "standard" novel/story with the other things mixed in. The novel consists of the teleplay transcript. Second, it becomes tedious reading everything digitally after awhile and I'd get a hardcover copy. (I am getting a hardcover copy for the person I know who will love the novel, especially  the format.)

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

Tuesday, September 12, 2023

North Woods

North Woods by Daniel Mason
9/19/23; 384 pages
Random House

North Woods by Daniel Mason is a highly recommended imaginative historical fiction, but with a different point of reference.

This is a novel about all the lives that lived in a single house in the woods of New England. The novel consists of twelve stories that tie into the seasons and months of the year, all set around the land and house, beginning with two young Puritan lovers who escaped from their colony. Residents also include in part, an English soldier who wants an apple orchard, twin sisters, a landscape painter, the wealthy Farnsworths, and subsequently their daughter and her schizophrenic son, Robert, and a true crime writer.

This is also the story of the land, animals, insects, spores, etc., and the changes experienced over the years. Finally, it is a ghost story, where the former inhabitants may still be haunting the area.  Included within the narrative at different points are also folk ballads, letters, diary entries, real estate listing, and accounts of nature's changes, seeds, blights and insects coming to the land. Taken in totality, it all culminates in a tale of how all things in a specific environments are interconnected over time.

The quality of the writing is simply gorgeous and undeniably compelling. The writing will pull you in and keep you reading, however, as with any collection of interconnected stories, not all stories will be as compelling as others throughout the whole novel. The structure and decision to tell a story in this manner, over decades and through different characters on one piece of land, is interesting yet also challenging. I was not especially interested in all the characters and ghosts, however I kept reading for the little gems within the writing.

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

Sunday, September 10, 2023

I'd Rather Not

I'd Rather Not by Robert Skinner
9/19/23; 176 pages
Steerforth Press

I'd Rather Not by Robert Skinner is a highly recommended collection of fourteen essays/stories. 

Skinner, from Australia, is extremely funny at times and entertaining throughout. I laughed out loud several during some stories, while others were enjoyable, although perhaps not as genuinely humorous to me. As I was reading this collection it did seem that citizens of Australia might appreciate all of these stories more than I would. Other readers should appreciate musings about his job history and other adventures. This collection can be read all at once or one at a time.

Some highlights (not quotes, modified) that had me laughing in tears include: a remark about holding racism against the Swiss;  leadership defined as when you to jump in front of a pack of charging camels after being told to; needing money from a first magazine issue to pay for the second being a Ponzi scheme; people compared to pack animals who need to know their place to thrive (still laughing over the context and complete paragraph); listing his reason for visiting a country as "Idiot."  This is a quick, easy, entertaining collection with a gorgeous book cover on the edition from Steerforth.

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

Saturday, September 9, 2023

Normal Rules Don't Apply

Normal Rules Don't Apply by Kate Atkinson
9/12/23; 224 pages
Knopf Doubleday

Normal Rules Don't Apply by Kate Atkinson is a highly recommended collection of eleven interconnected short stories. 

The title of the volume tells you what to expect from the contents. Although the stories are interconnected in regards to some recurring characters and themes, the stories themselves take place in non-linear parallel worlds where expected rules don't apply and sudden and puzzling endings can leave readers wanting more. Franklin Fletcher is a character who appears in several stories and encounters a whirlwind of different experiences.

As with any collection of short stories some will resonate with readers more than others. The stories I loved, I really, absolutely enjoyed. The few that fell flat, honestly failed for me. The rest were very good, not as exceptional as expected, but certainly above average.

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

The Sky Vault

The Sky Vault by Benjamin Percy
9/12/23; 320 pages
William Morrow
Comet Cycle #3

The Sky Vault by Benjamin Percy is a very highly recommended science fiction thriller and the third novel in the Comet Cycle. I loved this one so much I've purchased the first two novels in the series, The Ninth Metal and The Unfamiliar Garden (which I had a review copy of in December 2021). You can read The Sky Vault as a stand-alone novel, but science fiction aficionados will likely want the series.

The Sky Vault follows an investigation of a mysterious weather phenomena in Fairbanks, Alaska, and a government secret buried since WWII. The meteorite debris field of the Comet named Cain left a new metal, "omnimetal," which interferes with physics and relationship between time and space.

Chuck Bridges, a local DJ, has been trying to warn people and experts that there is a new kind of cloud over Fairbanks and has been summarily dismissed as a lunatic. He sees things in the clouds and sometimes hears soft voices. Something happens to him that send his son Theo and his friends searching for answers. Rolf Wagner, the local sheriff, finds himself investigating some odd, peculiar things. Joanna Straub is a contractor recently hired to construct a new facility on an old government site used in WWII. Sophie Chen, an agent with the shadowy group that calls themselves the Collectors, is in Fairbanks looking for something and she will do whatever she deems necessary to get what she seeks.

I was engrossed in this novel from start to finish. The writing is exceptional. The narrative is irresistible and completely engrossing. Percy expertly develops all the plot threads and brings them all together to create the larger story. The WWII chapters which are excerpts from a log book, are interesting but the full significance of them isn't revealed until later. Readers will know they need to pay attention to them as their importance becomes increasingly ominous.

The characters in The Sky Vault are varied, sympathetic, and all fully realized. I especially connected with the dialogue and thoughts of the characters and there were many times I said, "yes!" or laughed and felt as if I knew and understood these people. The Sky Vault is on my list of the best books of 2023.

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

Thursday, September 7, 2023

Blessing of the Lost Girls

Blessing of the Lost Girls by J. A. Jance
9/19/23; 352 pages
A Brady and Walker Family

Blessing of the Lost Girls by J. A. Jance is a highly recommended investigative thriller looking for a serial killer. 

Federal investigator Dan Pardee is a field officer with the newly formed Missing and Murdered Indigenous People’s Task Force, MIP. Pardee, is the son-in-law of Brandon Walker, and also meets with Sheriff Joanna Brady as he tries to find a serial killer operating around rodeos across the Southwest. The man he is looking for calls himself Charles Milton, a serial killer who is targeting young women. Milton is careful to not leave evidence behind but Pardee has just been assigned Rosa Rios' cold case that may stop him. Joanna's daughter Jennifer also provides help to the investigation.

Jennifer has a bigger role in the investigation, but, honestly, the whole Walker family plays a smaller role in this novel. As the investigation evolves, Native American folklore is incorporated into the story at the beginning of each chapter. The narrative provides clues along the way as the investigation unfolds. Although readers know the guilty party, the tension is in following the investigation as more information is uncovered.

The writing is excellent, however, after a frightening start, the pace does slow down in this novel. The actual investigation is very interesting and detailed. Pardee is a great character and hopefully Jance will include him in another novel. Blessing of the Lost Girls should still appeal to fans of the series.

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

Tuesday, September 5, 2023

Dark Ride

Dark Ride by Lou Berney
9/15/23; 256 pages

Dark Ride by Lou Berney is a very highly recommended unique thriller. Once you start reading Dark Ride you won't be able to stop. One of the best.

Twenty-three-year-old Hardy “Hardly” Reed is an easy-going stoner who is coasting through life working at an amusement park until he sees something he can't un-see. Hardly see two children sitting on a bench with no emotion at the DMV and notices cigarette burns on both children. He tries to check and see if they are okay, but they won't talk to him. Their mother comes out, they leave, and Hardly can't forget them. 

He manages to find out who the mother was and contacts Child Protective Services about them. Soon he realizes that CPS is overworked and understaffed so the two children are going to fall through the cracks, so Hardly does the unthinkable, for him, he starts investigating them in order to save them. For the first time in his life he is willing to fight for something, but he doesn't realize exactly what he is getting involved with.

Hardly is not exactly hero material, but the perfect quote is in the synopsis, "Sometimes the person you least expect is just the hero you need." And I was supporting this guy the whole time. The pace is fast, the plot is compelling, and Hardly is focused, in his own unique way, on saving these two kids the whole time. Yes, he has numerous flaws, but he knows this one cause, saving those two kids, is worth fighting for. Goodness, I really liked this completely flawed character with such a good heart.

The writing is pitch-perfect and simply excellent. I was totally immersed in this novel from beginning to end. I laughed, held my breath, rooted for Hardly, and cried. I rooted for Hardly, the kids, and the friends who helped him throughout the narrative. One of the best of the year.

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

Monday, September 4, 2023


Dreambound by Dan Frey
9/12/23; 400 pages
Random House

Dreambound by Dan Frey is a fantasy novel that is highly recommended for lovers of the genre.

Byron Kidd’s twelve-year-old daughter Liza vanishes from their home in Boston. She leaves a note stuck in her favorite fantasy book written by Annabelle Tobin saying that she’s going to the end of the world - basically to the land found in the book. Liza is not the only child to do so. Byron is a reporter and decides to uncover the truth behind his daughter's disappearance along with others. The last known clue to her whereabouts is a ping from her phone identifying her location as in Los Angeles. Byron goes to L.A. and begins to use all his skills to interview people and uncover clues about where his daughter could be.

The narrative is told through journal entries, transcripts, emails, texts, and excerpts from Tobin’s novels, Dreambound and other fairy tales. This modern epistolary approach to the novel works very well and moves at a smooth, quick pace. The plot is compelling and interesting while the suspense remains high to the end.

The characters are unique and all portrayed as fully realized individuals. Not all characters are likeable or trustworthy, but they all resemble people you may know or see daily. In the end, setting all the fantastical elements aside, this is a novel about a father searching for his missing daughter, as well as an ode to the love of stories.

I will admit to not being a huge fan of all genres of fantasy novels and tend more to science fiction, but the plot held my interest throughout. Those who enjoy fantasy will likely enjoy this novel even more than I did.

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

Sunday, September 3, 2023

This is How We End Things

This is How We End Things by R.J. Jacobs
9/12/23; 336 pages

This is How We End Things by R.J. Jacobs is a highly recommended locked room mystery.

A disparate group of graduate students at Dorrance University in Forest, North Carolina are conducting experiments on the psychology of lying and deception. Their methods are questionable, which is clear when their current test goes awry. However, it becomes deadly when, as the grad students are working at night in the psychology department building on the campus which is closed for a break, one of them is subsequently found murdered in the office of the chair of the psychology department, Joe Lyons, the next morning.

As a major snow storm rolls in, Detective Alana Larson is assigned to the case. The group of suspects is obvious. The key is to figure out who did it among a group of suspects who are experts in the science of deception.

This was an interesting closed-room mystery and following the investigation into the group of suspects is entertaining. The pacing is even and which keep the action moving. The tension rises incrementally as it is apparent that the danger is still present.

All of the characters are depicted as unique, realistic individuals and it is easy to keep in mind each of them as the investigation is underway and action unfolds through their different points-of-view. The culprit was rather easy to figure out, but the enjoyment is in the hunt and the deep-dive into the characters.

It was interesting to see a popular meme included as dialogue between characters and a viral story written into a character's development. Sort of a hat-tip to authors finding words and events around them to write into their novels.

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

Saturday, September 2, 2023

The Raging Storm

The Raging Storm by Ann Cleeves
9/5/23; 400 pages
Minotaur Books
Detective Matthew Venn Novel #3

The Raging Storm by Ann Cleeves is a highly recommended procedural and the third book in the Matthew Venn series.

Jem Rosco arrives for a visit in Greystone, Devon during a storm and stops in at the local pub, Maiden’s Prayer, for two pints. The famous sailor and adventurer, immediately charms the residents as he stops in for two pints nightly. He is closed mouth about why he is visiting, only saying he is expecting a visitor. This makes it even more shocking when he suddenly disappears and his body is later found in an anchored dinghy. Detective Inspector Matthew Venn and his sergeants, Jen Rafferty and Ross May, are called from Devon to investigate.

Venn is not thrilled to return to Greystone, a place he visited years ago with his parents. The village is home to the Brethren, a religious sect he once belonged to as a youth. Returning to the area brings back memories. It is also an area of plenty of intricate secrets, rumors, and relationships that can be circuitous to figure out the truth from the misinformation. This incorporates plenty of mystery into the investigation.

The Raging Storm is a character driven procedural set in an atmospheric location that adds to the mystery and tension. The investigation has several twists as the team uncovers plenty of secrets. When the body count rises, it becomes clear that the investigation is much more complex. The plot is even paced, although a bit too slow at times. It also might behoove new readers to start with the previous books in the series for even more insight into the characters.

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

Friday, September 1, 2023

Killer Waves

Killer Waves by Brendan DuBois
9/5/23; 292 pages
Severn River Publishing
Lewis Cole #4

Killer Waves by Brendan DuBois is a highly recommended mystery. Originally published 4/26/2014, this is a re-release and the fourth in the eleven book series.

Lewis Cole wakes up early to watch the Space shuttle Endeavour fly over his house in Tyler Beach, New Hampshire, when he notices red and blue flashing lights in the state park. He walks over to see what is happening and sees a dead man in a car in the parking lot and two officers waiting for the state police. The state police don't show up, but three cars pull up with obviously some branch of federal agents inside. Later Cole has a visit from them which eventually results in Cole being forced to assist in their investigation. They claim to be from the DEA and are looking into drug smuggling. Cole reluctantly uncovers more information than the agents expected.

This is an even paced mystery with an interesting plot. While I haven't read any other novels in the series, that presented no real problem. All the characters are unique, however, as can be the case in a series, not are all fully developed here. This won't hamper your enjoyment of Killer Waves. After starting reading and not knowing my copy was a re-release of a previously published novel, I quickly picked up clues. The first clue is the Endeavour. The second will be small town papers being printed. There are several others that pop-up while reading.

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