Saturday, March 30, 2024

Hard Aground

Hard Aground by Brendan DuBois
4/9/24 (originally published 4/3/18); 232 pages
Severn River Publishing
Lewis Cole #11

Hard Aground by Brendan DuBois is the highly recommended eleventh novel in the Lewis Cole series. In this outing Lewis finds himself "hard aground" as he recovers from major surgery.

Due to an experience when he was in the Department of Defense, Lewis Cole has to check his body for tumors. At the end of the last novel in the series, Storm Cell, a tumor was found. In Hard Aground Lewis is home bound as he recovers. This doesn't stop the action and suspense from coming to Cole. He is hearing someone entering his house at night, but there is no evidence of it. Then he has this couple who claim to be historical/genealogy researchers repeatedly coming to his door. The biggest news is that antiques dealer and a local historian Maggie Tyler Branch was murdered and it may be tied to the opioid epidemic.

There is more action than one would expect in a novel where the main character is home bound, recovering from major surgery and having to deal with draining the wounds. It is always good to see long time characters Felix Tinios, Paula Woods, and Det. Sgt. Diane Woods back. They are all also helping nurse Cole in his recovery. Hard Aground has a Rear Window quality to it. Our main character is very limited in what he can do, but his mind is still active and he can piece information and clues together.

This is a more subdued novel compared to others in the series. There are still several mysteries presented that will come to satisfying resolutions.I really love this whole series. Thanks to Severn River Publishing for providing me with an advance reader's copy. My review is voluntary and expresses my honest opinion.

A Better World

A Better World by Sarah Langan
4/9/24; 368 pages
Atria Books

A Better World by Sarah Langan is set in a dystopian future where safety from crime, weather events, and even future bombs can be found if you are allowed to live in a company town. This genre-bending novel is highly recommended.

The Farmer-Bowens are in a financial crisis. Linda Farmer is a pediatrician and Russell Bowens is a numbers genius who was laid off from the EPA. When Russell is offered a trial position with the eco-engineering firm BetterWorld a company that makes Omnium, a material made from recycled ocean plastics. the family gets to move to the company town of Plymouth Valley (PV) in South Dakota. They will be safe there in the walled-off city. The air is clean, food is available, the schools are good for their teenage twins. The family can live in PV for one year and then at an annual review their future there will be voted on.

Once there, the family realizes that they have no idea how to fit in with these people. The residents are very polite but remote to the whole family. Also questionable is the group of customs and beliefs called Hollow that the residents follow religiously. And then there are the strange birds called Caladrius that are everywhere.

The narrative unfolds through Linda's point-of-view. Also, scattered throughout the novel are excerpts from a handbook and a future research paper. Linda is a fully realized character, but the focus is truly on the odd behavior in the town, the weird festivals, and the family trying to fit in to a closed society that doesn't allow newcomers in so easily - unless you get connected with the right people.

A Better World is a well-written dystopian, mixed with a cult-based thriller, a mystery, and a horror novel. The atmosphere is creepy as are most of the residents. I'm not a huge fan of explicit horror, but do appreciate the creation of an eerie perception. If there were just a few safe places left in the world and in order to fit in and stay you had to participate in their weird cult-ish actions, would you do it? Participation and acceptance means food, shelter, and safety from the outside world. 

Tied into the plot are some pertinent topics people are questioning today, especially the safety of plastic on the health of individuals and GMOs. Thanks to Atria Books for providing me with an advance reader's copy via Edelweiss. My review is voluntary and expresses my honest opinion.

Wednesday, March 27, 2024

The Fellowship of Puzzlemakers

The Fellowship of Puzzlemakers by Samuel Burr 
4/924; 368 pages
Knopf Doubleday

The Fellowship of Puzzlemakers by Samuel Burr is a tale about the joy of puzzles and a young man solving a puzzle and finding himself. It is a highly recommended feel-good novel.

As a baby Clayton Stumper was left in a hatbox on the steps of the Fellowship of Puzzlemakers in Bedfordshire, England. Now 25, he was raised by Fellowship founder Pippa Allsbrook, the esteemed and prolific maker of crossword puzzles, along with the other older members, all enigmatologists living together in the commune. Now Pippa has passed away, and Clayton wants to know who his birth parents were. Lucky for him, Pippa left a series of puzzles that will provide him with the answers he seeks if he can solve them.

The narrative follows dual story lines, alternating between the past, when Pippa started the Fellowship of Puzzlemakers, and the present, as Clayton solves the puzzles and clues left for him. The past allows us the meet Pippa and the other members of the Fellowship before Clayton arrived. It's a look into who raised Clayton. The present follows Clayton's quest to find out who he is as an individual apart from the Fellowship.

The Fellowship of Puzzlemakers is a sweet-tempered, gentle, cozy tale that has pleasant, appealing characters, and many types of puzzles. The main focus of the novel are puzzles of all types and varieties. They are embedded in the novel and part of all plot threads in the narrative with the characters circling around the puzzles. The pace is slow, almost glacially at times, but if you adore puzzles and novels about finding your family, then this will be a good choice. Thanks to Knopf Doubleday for providing me with an advance reader's copy via NetGalley. My review is voluntary and expresses my honest opinion.

Tuesday, March 26, 2024

The Gathering

The Gathering by C. J. Tudor
4/9/24; 352 pages
Penguin Random House

The Gathering by C. J. Tudor is a so-so procedural set in Alaska where the investigation looks into a murder that may be a vampyre slaying. It is a mystery buried under a lecture.

In Deadhart, Alaska, a fifteen-year-old boy is found murdered. His throat was ripped open and his blood was drained. Residents blame the Colony nearby, a place where vampyres reside and want a cull of the vampyres. However, in 1983, the Vampyr Protection Act was enacted and declared them a protected species. An expert is called in, homicide detective Barbara Atkins, who has her PhD in forensic vampyr anthropology. She will investigate the murder and, if she determines a vampyre is responsible, she can authorize a cull. The residents are angry and want retribution.

Barbara Atkins is an interesting character and the ending makes it clear that a sequel should be expected.

This wasn't a favorite Tudor novel. First, as a British author, perhaps look a little bit closer into the culture, word usage, etc. in the USA. Then, yet again I need to caution an author to keep their personal political/social views on contemporary topics to themselves as it diminishes and dates the novel. Additionally any lecturing in a novel to your readers is also disconcerting. The polarization presented early on in the novel targeted specific religious and political groups was an off-putting distinction that made this an almost DNF. Making different groups you perhaps disagree with the antagonist and stand-in for fear, racism or discrimination between people was unnecessary. Thanks to Penguin Random House for providing me with an advance reader's copy via NetGalley. My review is voluntary and expresses my honest opinion.

Monday, March 25, 2024

The Sleepwalkers

The Sleepwalkers by Scarlett Thomas
4/9/24; 304 pages
Simon & Schuster

The Sleepwalkers by Scarlett Thomas is a recommended epistolary novel that eventually becomes a mystery.

In the opening lengthy letter Evelyn (Evie) is writing to Richard,  her new husband. The two are on their honeymoon on a Greek island and staying at the Villa Rosa, which Richard's mother booked for them. Isabella, the hotel's owner makes it obvious she plays up to Richards and actively despises Evie. It also seems clear that Evie and Richard dislike each other and there are weird things going on at the hotel.

The narrative opens through a very lengthy letter written by Evie to Richard. It is at this point many readers are going to realize that the novel seems populated by unlikable characters and that they will have to suspend disbelief because the letter is so very, very, extremely lengthy. Also trying of my patience were the sudden gaps in the flow of the letter. Richard eventually gets to reply to Evie with a letter of his own along with various other notes, audio transcripts, and letters.

Normally I tend to like epistolary novels, but that is when the letters are actually the length of normal letters or even long emails or text messages. I appreciate the interplay between them to build a plot and different points-of-view. I also like it when the voice of the various characters are distinctive rather than all in the same dialect and tone. The writing is very descriptive but it is also similar in every piece of writing. I struggled along to the end where there are some twists and some closure but also open questions. Thanks to Simon & Schuster for providing me with an advance reader's copy via . My review is voluntary and expresses my honest opinion.

Sunday, March 24, 2024

The Rush

The Rush by Michelle Prak
4/9/24; 272 pages
Crooked Lane Books

The Rush by Michelle Prak is a fast-paced debut psychological thriller set during a storm in the Australian Outback. It is highly recommended.

Quinn Durand has been clearing out her family house on their property which is for sale when she hurries to leave with her dog Bronte and head back to the Pindarry pub where she stays and works before the rain gets bad and flooding occurs. On the way home she finds a man lying in the road and stops. Back at the pub Matt, Andrea, and Ethan, their three-year-old son are serving their last customers, a group of bikers before they begin to prepare for the storm. At the same time a group of four young adults, Hayley, her boyfriend Scott, Brazilian Livia, and Dutchman Joost, are setting out on a trip from Adelaide straight north to Darwin and heading right into the storm. Tension is already beginning to rise in the group and they may not be prepared for what is to come.

The narrative reads like a movie and the action pulls you in, propelling the action forward just as quickly. This is a perfect example of a tension-packed "just-one-more-page" novel. Once you start reading, you will continue reading until the ending. It's a rapidly developing plot and each new development adds to the tension. You may have to suspend your disbelief a time or two, but, just like with a movie, you will go along with it to see what happens next.

The characters are all mainly caricatures of a type of person without a lot of nuance, with perhaps the exception of Andrea, but this choice works well in the novel due to the fast paced action and the cinema-like feel to the novel. The rain becomes a major character too, further isolating characters as the danger increases. There is one surprising twist that you won't see coming because it is very well done. Thanks to Crooked Lane Books for providing me with an advance reader's copy via NetGalley. My review is voluntary and expresses my honest opinion.

Saturday, March 23, 2024

Daughter of Mine

Daughter of Mine by Megan Miranda
4/9/24; 368 pages
Simon Element 

Daughter of Mine by Megan Miranda follows a daughter returning to her dysfunctional family after the death of her father. It is an exceptional, very highly recommended psychological family drama/murder mystery. Daughter of Mine is another excellent, un-put-downable thriller by Megan Miranda.

After leaving a decade earlier, Hazel Sharp returns home to the small town of Mirror Lake, North Carolina, for her father, longtime police officer Detective Perry Holt's, memorial. As the family, her brothers, Caden and Gage and her Uncle Roy, hold the memorial, across the lake a car is being pulled out of the water. A long running drought has lowered the water level at the lake, leading to the discovery of a submerged car. The mystery of the car disturbs Hazel, as her mother disappeared years ago. Even so, after the memorial Hazel was planning to return to Charlotte where she has a building-renovation business, but then she learns she has inherited the house and her brothers have planned to go through it, so she quickly returns. That's when another vehicle is found submerged in the water behind the house.

The tension is high and suspicions are rampant in the atmospheric mystery Daughter of Mine, perhaps Miranda's best novel to date - which is saying a lot. There are several mysteries occurring in the plot. New mysteries include the disappearance of Caden's wife, Jamie, why Hazel inherited the house, and odd occurrences happening in the house. Old mysteries involve the disappearance of Hazel's mom, the two cars pulled from the lake and the clues people seem to be giving Hazel without actually saying anything. The small town, where people have been around for generations and know everything about you and your family plays a major role in the narrative. The ongoing drought is also a noteworthy part of the novel and each chapter opens with how many days it has been since it rained.

Hazel is a fully realized character and immediately a sympathetic one. You will know her mother left her with just a simple note and that Perry Holt cared for her like a father. The sibling rivalry between Hazel and Caden is evident and Gage, as the older brother, also has a preset role in the family dynamics. There are doubts and uncertainty about the strange things happening and Hazel is unsure who can be trusted to help her or give her honest answers.

The writing is extraordinary. The scenes are all perfectly described and place you firmly in the scene. The tension and family dynamics work together to create a heightened sense of caution and even alarm. Secrets abound and I had all sorts of guesses and suppositions about what was happening along the way, but my guesses weren't even close. The final denouement is phenomenal. Thanks to Simon Element for providing me with an advance reader's copy via NetGalley. My review is voluntary and expresses my honest opinion.

Thursday, March 21, 2024

The Reaper Follows

The Reaper Follows by Heather Graham
4/2/24; 320 pages
Amy Larson & Hunter Forrest FBI Series #4

The Reaper Follows by Heather Graham is the recommended fourth novel in the investigative series featuring Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) agent Amy Larson and FBI Special agent Hunter Forrest as they continue their investigation into a series of crimes linked to the four horsemen in the Book of Revelations.

The discovery of a woman's hand and arm along with other body parts lead Larson and Forrest to the fourth Horseman. They discover an oil drum that tipped over and spilled out the body parts. It is quickly determined that there are dozens of oil drums, all filled with body parts that could only have been cut up by human hands. Larson and Forrest along with other investigators must find out who these people were and any connection between them. When they find a small pale horse they know: The fourth horseman of the apocalypse rides a pale horse—and his name is Death.

After a very strong start the plot slowed down to a crawl which tamped down my interest in following the investigation. It was not completely to my benefit that I only read the first book in the series and missed the second and third. There is a lot of information about the Florida Everglades and the Miccosukee tribe which was interesting, but interfered with the action and pacing of the plot. Admittedly, the identity of the antagonist was also easy to determine. For those who enjoy it, expect some romance along with the investigation. If you've been following the whole series, The Reaper Follows will likely appeal more to you and give you closure. Thanks to MIRA for providing me with an advance reader's copy via NetGalley. My review is voluntary and expresses my honest opinion.

Wednesday, March 20, 2024

Never Come Back

Never Come Back by Joe Hart
4/2/24; 285 pages
Thomas & Mercer
Nora McTavish #2

Never Come Back by Joe Hart has Oregon family advocate and former forensic investigator for CPS Nora McTavish investigating two very different domestic cases. It is a very highly recommended domestic thriller.

Nora is settling into her new practice at Sanctuary Family Advocacy when Gayle and Joel Pearson ask for her help. Gayle’s grandmother, Arlene Jones, has taken custody of their daughter Ivy, seemingly based on their intellectual disabilities. The two can prove that they are good parents and have done everything asked of them. Nora accepts their case and finds them a lawyer, no charge, but it's not as easy as it seems.

Next Nora receives a phone call from childhood friend Tess Hannover Grayson. They haven't spoken for years. It seems that Tess's husband, Professor Neil Grayson, was arrested and later released for the murder of student Allie Prentiss. The two are in the middle of a divorce and custody dispute over nine-year-old Kendra (Kenny). Nora visits Tess to catch up and offer support but soon becomes embroiled in the custody case that is increasingly turning treacherous.

This is an exceptional followup to the first Nora McTavish novel, Where They Lie. She continues to be a very sympathetic, trustworthy protagonist and her character is further developed in this outing. Nora did have a difficult childhood, to say the least, but her background also gives her insight and empathy into the cases she works, as does her time with Child Protective Services (CPS) as a forensic investigator. She is really a great character with keen insight into human character and an eye for details. I'm looking forward to more investigations by Nora.

The pace is fast and includes plenty of discoveries, disclosures and twists in the plot. What seems obvious quickly escalates into a dangerous situation and those involved may not be as reliable as they seem to be. The suspense and tension rise with each chapter and the action will thoroughly hold your attention. While it is a domestic thriller, it also delves into the territory of a psychological thriller and a murder mystery, making it even more critical and dangerous. Thanks to Thomas & Mercer for providing me with an advance reader's copy via NetGalley. My review is voluntary and expresses my honest opinion.

She's Not Sorry

She's Not Sorry by Mary Kubica
4/2/24; 336 pages
Park Row Books

She's Not Sorry by Mary Kubica is a very highly recommended psychological thriller full of twists.

Meghan Michaels is working as an ICU nurse and a single mother to her teenage daughter, Sienna. When a new patient, Caitlin, arrives at the ICU in a coma with a traumatic brain injury, Meghan learns that she jumped from a bridge and fell over twenty feet to the train tracks below. After Meghan is assigned to care for her, she becomes increasingly close to the family. Then, when a witness comes forward saying Caitlin was pushed, her case suddenly becomes attempted murder. At the same time, there has been an increasing number of women who have been attacked in her neighborhood by an unidentified man which increases Meghan's concern for her and Sienna's safety. Adding to her worries is Nat an old friend she's reconnected with who seems to be in an abusive relationship.

Truly an un-put-downable novel, She's Not Sorry is a lightning-fast-paced psychological thriller with multiple jaw-dropping twists, unreliable characters, and a heart-stopping ending that all come together to make this Kubica's best thriller to date. I totally understand you'll want to race through it, reading as fast as you can, but Kubica makes every word count so pay attention to the details while reading. She also does an excellent job creating a menacing, creepy atmosphere and the feeling of dread increases with every chapter.

There are three mysteries involved and the novel is presented in two parts. The characters are all fully realized and you'll think you know them but hold that thought. It may be an illusion as the narrative takes one turn after another. The writing is exceptional, the twists plentiful, and the presentation was pitch-perfect. This is one psychological thriller that you will want to read. Thanks to Park Row Books for providing me with an advance reader's copy via NetGalley. My review is voluntary and expresses my honest opinion.


The North Line

The North Line by Matt Riordan
4/2/24; 320 pages
Hyperion Avenue

The North Line by Matt Riordan is an adventure thriller following a commercial fishing crew at the Bering Sea in the early 1990's. It is highly recommended.

Due to a poor choice in his junior year at Danby, Adam has lost his lacrosse scholarship. College officials will allow him to return and finish his senior year, but he need $26,000 for tuition. A friend sets him up to join a commercial fishing crew at the Bering Sea. He has no previous experience, but very quickly learns what the brutal, dangerous job involves. Surprisingly, Adam finds an authenticity in the lifestyle, and even finds the relentless work and way of life invigorating. There are unforeseen challenges coming and an untrustworthy boss, both of which will force Adam to face who he really is.

The descriptions of life at sea and the work involved are extremely well done and will pull you right into the narrative. Once you start reading you will likely want to keep reading right to the end. This is truly a dirty job that people do for one reason: to earn a lot of money quickly. Reading what the job encompasses will make you question if it is worth it, but it clearly is for Adam. He needs money for college and this is his only hope. It begs the question: what would you do in the same situation?

Adam is a complex, fully realized character. The work aboard the ship and interaction with others help establish who he is and also the skills he has that others wouldn't realize. The action does slow a bit in the middle, but picks up the pace again to the dramatic ending. For Fans of "The Deadliest Catch" and novels pushing a man to his limit, this would be an excellent choice. Thanks to Hyperion Avenue for providing me with an advance reader's copy via NetGalley. My review is voluntary and expresses my honest opinion.

Saturday, March 16, 2024

What's Not Mine

What's Not Mine by Nora Decter
4/2/24; 248 pages
ECW Press

What's Not Mine by Nora Decter is a recommended coming-of-age novel.

The summer Bria Powers turns 16 she is living with her aunt Tash and bestfriend/cousin Ains because her mother is long gone, her father is in jail for drug-dealing, and his girlfriend she was living with died from an overdose. During the day Bria and Ains babysit Ains’s younger siblings. Then they both go to work at the Burger Shack. After work Bria is personally struggling with drugs, alcohol, a bad relationship with a man she calls Someboy, and trying to find her place in the world. As if that isn't enough, some male is texting her pornographic images.

Bria is not a likable or trustworthy narrator. She will, however, elicit your sympathy because she is such a mixed-up broken teen who needs more support than she is receiving from those around her. She is in a rough situation that would leave many teens struggling. The hot, dry summer and the plethora of insects invading the area help set the desperate tone.

The pace is steady, but slow. There is some dark humor, but I was left mostly feeling depressed by the novel. (It feels like a YA novel, although it is not presented as one.) The novel does succeed in capturing the sad social realites of fentanyl infiltrating the community and the descriptive passages concerning the natural events of the summer are quite well-written. It does have a satisfying ending. Thanks to ECW Press for providing me with an advance reader's copy via NetGalley. My review is voluntary and expresses my honest opinion.

A History of the World in Twelve Shipwrecks

A History of the World in Twelve Shipwrecks by David Gibbins
4/2/24; 304 pages
St. Martin's Press

A History of the World in Twelve Shipwreck by David Gibbins is a highly recommended history based around 12 shipwrecks written by an expert in both archaeology and diving. In the prologue Gibbons makes it clear that the twelve shipwrecks he covers provide a springboard for looking at the wider historical context. Shipwrecks are unique because it represents a collection of objects used at the time of the shipwreck and thus can be closely dated. This can offer new historical insights into the past. 

The shipwrecks examined are: The Dover Boat constructed in 1575-1520 BC; Royal cargoes at the time of Tutankhamun in 14th century BC and the Uluburun wreck; a Classical Greece wreck off the Aegean coast of Turkey from the 5th century BC;  a shipwreck in the Mediterranean from the Roman Empire in the 2nd century AD; 6th century AD Christianity and early Byzantium; Tang China, the Land of Gold, and Addasid Islam in the 9th century AD;  11th century AD Viking warship of King Cnut the Great; the Mary Rose, the flagship of Henry VIII, 1545;the Santo Christo de Castello a Dutch ship from 1667; The Royal Anne Galley, 1721; the HMS Terror, 1848; and the SS Gairsoppa, destroyed by a Nazi U-boat in the Atlantic during World War II. (The final version will include illustrations, an index, bibliography, endnotes, and resources.)

These shipwrecks are the starting point to a larger discussion of world history. It is well-researched and includes many ties into a wider historical context of the time the ship would have been sea worthy. The people, the cargo, the spread of the materials they carried and the beliefs they held are all tied together with the 12 significant shipwrecks and the insight they provide into the times in which they sailed. 

Admittedly, I found some of the shipwrecks and their historical context more interesting than others, but A History of the World in Twelve Shipwreck will appeal to those who enjoy history and especially maritime history. Thanks to St. Martin's Press for providing me with an advance reader's copy via NetGalley. My review is voluntary and expresses my honest opinion.

Everyone Is Watching

Everyone Is Watching by Heather Gudenkauf
3/26/24; 320 pages
Park Row Books

Everyone Is Watching by Heather Gudenkauf is a very highly recommended locked-room thriller that is absolutely riveting from start to finish.

Five contestants have been chosen to compete for ten million dollars on the game show One Lucky Winner which will be live streamed across the world. The competition is held on a secluded estate in California and the rules are strict - no contact with the outside world and you can't leave the property. The contestants are given the monikers of The Best Friend, The Confidant, The Senator, The Boyfriend, and The Executive. Quite quickly, two facts become clear: they were purposefully chosen for a reason and someone is out for blood.

Set all incredulity and disbelief aside and prepare yourself for a well-written, twisty, unrelenting, immersive, and dangerous locked-room thriller. The story is told through the point-of-view of three women:  Maire Hennessy, a 40-year-old single mother with a chronically ill child (The Best Friend); Camille Tamerlane, a 38-year-old therapist and popular podcast host; and Fern (Fernanda) Espa, the host of the show and assistant to the woman who is the demanding executive producer of One Lucky Winner. We also learn their backstories and gain valuable insight into how the seemingly random contestants are actually interconnected.

Everyone Is Watching is fast-paced, tension-packed and thoroughly compelling from start to finish. The stakes, ten million dollars, are high, but it soon becomes clear that the challenges are very dangerous and made for revenge. What is really on the line is their reputations and exposure of secrets they hold. Thanks to Park Row Books for providing me with an advance reader's copy via Edelweiss. My review is voluntary and expresses my honest opinion.

Wednesday, March 13, 2024

The Truth about the Devlins

The Truth about the Devlins by Lisa Scottoline
3/26/24; 384 pages
G.P. Putnam's Sons

The Truth about the Devlins by Lisa Scottoline is a very highly recommended domestic psychological suspense novel following a dysfunctional Philadelphia family. This is an excellent, un-put-downable thriller that will hold your attention from start to finish.

TJ Devlin is the youngest son and the greatest disappointment in his family of lawyers. Both his parents, Paul and Marie, and two older siblings, John and Gabrielle, are lawyers in the successful family firm of Devlin and Devlin. TJ, on the other hand, is an ex-con and, after rehab, has maintain his current sobriety for two years. The only employment he has been able to find is with the family law firm in a make-work job with the title of investigator. 

When his older brother John is frantic because he thinks he murdered Neil Lemaire, an accountant he confronted with proof of embezzlement, he privately turns to TJ for his help. TJ agrees to help him and this act of brotherly fidelity sets into motion a complicated entanglement of schemes and deception, especially after John falsely tells his family that TJ is drinking again. At the same time, he is helping Gabby on a heart-breaking pro bono case.

TJ is a likable, genuine character who is honest about his many flaws and failings. He is determined, intelligent, tenacious, but also self-effacing and realistic. This is truly a family drama and the interpersonal dynamics in the Devlin family play an important role. TJ remains loyal to his family, even when it is to his own detriment. His father is a disagreeable, unlikable character and John is an arrogant, pompous jerk. His mother, Marie, and sister Gabby are both likable, agreeable characters.

As expected, the writing is exceptional and descriptive. The pace is fast and compelling for most of the novel, although there is a more even pace in the middle. The narrative is full of action and suspense, containing a good dose of family drama and hysterics, as well as several twists along the way. The Truth about the Devlins is truly an un-put-downable, just one-more-chapter book that had me staying up way-too-late to finish it. The pages flew by. There are several shocking surprises and twists along the way. You will be cheering TJ on as it seems more and more mud is slung in his direction while he is trying to do his best.

The Truth about the Devlins is another winner from Scottoline! Thanks to G.P, Putnam's Sons for providing me with an advance reader's copy via NetGalley. My review is voluntary and expresses my honest opinion.

The Memory Bank

The Memory Bank by Brian Shea and Raquel Byrnes
3/19/24; 328 pages
Severn River Books

The Memory Bank by Brian Shea and Raquel Byrnes is a murder mystery that features an exciting, action-packed blend of a police procedural and technothriller. It is very highly recommended and marks the start of an engrossing new series.

Detective Morgan Reed and new partner Detective Natalie (Nat) De La Cruz start an investigation into a series of deaths with some disconcerting and strange similarities. The most recent case is the death of technology pioneer Dr. Gerald Price. The evidence seems to point to a suicide, but after another death Reed notices a strange clue that becomes the impetus to further investigate the two cases along with some previous cases. Clearly, Reed and Nat are on to something as they discover more clues, they also become targets.

Set in a near future The Memory Bank features cutting edge technology that is easily to envision happening. The technology is in the hands of the police too, and Nat is the one gifted in knowing how to use it or who to go to for information. Reed is the one with the innate instinct to see clues and question assumptions. The two have skills that compliment each other, work well together, and have a dynamic partnership. They are both great characters and I look forward to their next case.

The well-written narrative moves at a lightning-fast pace and is compelling from start to finish. Once started it is impossible to put down. Sure, there are high-tech innovations as part of the plot, but the technology is well-presented and the concepts are easily grasped. The corporate treachery in the plot is readily understood as is the heart-stopping action. Thanks to Severn River Books for providing me with an advance reader's copy via Edelweiss. My review is voluntary and expresses my honest opinion.

Sunday, March 10, 2024

Good Half Gone

Good Half Gone by Tarryn Fisher
3/19/24; 304 pages
Graydon House Books

Good Half Gone by Tarryn Fisher is a thriller with two timelines following a sister seeking her twin who was abducted in front of her. It is highly recommended.

When they were both fifteen, twin sisters Iris and Piper Walsh went to the movies. As they were leaving a couple young men grabbed Piper, threw her into a car and sped off. Iris contacted the police, but the officers didn't believe her, assuming Piper was just another runaway. By the time they took her seriously, it was too late. The girls were being raised by their loving grandmother who rescued them from their neglectful mother. A decade later after college Iris accepts an internship at Shoal Island Hospital for the criminally insane. She believes her sister's killer is locked up there.

The plot unfolds through two timelines. In the first Iris is a teen looking for Piper, seeking clues about her abductors, and struggling to continue on without her twin. In the second Iris is now in her 20's with a son and she accepts the internship position at the Shoal Island Hospital with ulterior motives. Both plot threads are compelling and add important details to the narrative. They also move at an uneven pace with several distractions along the way.

Iris is a fully realized character. Readers will know what motivates her and drives her to proceed as she does in each time period. Piper, her twin, has a very different personality and that also comes through. Readers will appreciate her grandmother and the love she has for the girls. The depiction of the grief Iris and her grandmother share for the loss of Piper is well done, as is the obsession Iris has in her search for her twin.

The ending requires the reader to accept a colossal dose of disbelief, which I just couldn't do. I can often set aside disbelief and go with the flow, but in this case it was too implausible. I can't ruin the ending by listing all the reasons why, but let's just say it would be paragraphs and lists. However, it can't be denied that it is an entertaining, action-packed ending. Thanks to Graydon House for providing me with an advance reader's copy via NetGalley. My review is voluntary and expresses my honest opinion.

Saturday, March 9, 2024

Has Anyone Seen Charlotte Salter?

Has Anyone Seen Charlotte Salter? by Nicci French
3/19/24; 544 pages
William Morrow

Has Anyone Seen Charlotte Salter? by Nicci French is a domestic mystery which ends as a police procedural. This gripping story of families seeking closure while dealing with a missing person and death is very highly recommended.

It is December 22, 1990 in the village of Glensted in East Anglia and Alec Salter's 50th birthday party is being held in a cleaned-up barn. The four Salter children are present, Niall, Paul, Ollie, and Etty, along with most of the village. It becomes clear that Alec's wife, Charlie (Charlotte), is missing. Alec doesn't seem to care, but fifteen-year-old Etty becomes increasingly worried and finally ends up calling the police to report her missing. The police aren't as concerned. As the days pass by and nothing is heard. Then the body of neighbor and family friend, Duncan Ackerly is found in the river, a presumed suicide, and the police tie the two cases together with no supporting evidence.

The narrative is presented in three parts. Part one is in 1990 and covers the missing person case of Charlie and death of Duncan. It is mainly told through Etty's point-of-view. Part two is set in 2022 and finds the Salter's reunited to move their father Alec to a care facility. It has the two Ackerly brothers also reuniting in the area to make a podcast about their father's death and Charlie's disappearance. Part three has London sending Detective Inspector Maud O’Connor to Glensted to in response to the podcast. Her job is to seriously look at the facts and evidence to find a resolution to the 30 year-old case.

Has Anyone Seen Charlotte Salter? is an exceptionally well-written character-driven murder mystery that transforms into a procedural. It was enjoyable to meet the characters when the majority were young and living in dysfunctional homes, and then viewing them as adults where you could see the damage the tragedies inflicted on them and how their lives will always be interconnected. The time span provided a full examination of them as individuals. Alec is shown to be an angry, disagreeable man. Both Charlie and Duncan are also developed as characters.

The first two parts are emotional, have an even pace, and the characters are handled with great compassion. The switch between a character driven mystery and psychological examination into a procedural, where the same characters are viewed by a third party was a wonderful choice. The contrast between the two investigations thirty years apart is disconcerting, as is the introduction of Detective Inspector Maud O’Connor into the plot. She is an excellent character and I quite enjoyed the switch to a procedural to bring closure to the case.

Nicci French is the pseudonym adopted by writers Nicci Gerard and Sean French. Has Anyone Seen Charlotte Salter? is an excellent novel that showcases their skill and talent. This very highly recommended novel is outstanding. Thanks to William Morrow for providing me with an advance reader's copy via Edelweiss. My review is voluntary and expresses my honest opinion.

Wednesday, March 6, 2024

Still See You Everywhere

Still See You Everywhere by Lisa Gardner
3/12/24; 416 pages
Grand Central Publishing
Frankie Elkin #3

Still See You Everywhere by Lisa Gardner sends Frankie Elkin to a tropical island where her mission is to find a living girl who has been missing for twelve years. It is a very highly recommended thriller that is un-put-downable and compelling from beginning to end.

Frankie Elkin normally helps find the marginalized cold case missing persons that are overlooked, so she is surprised to be asked to locate a living person. It is the long-lost younger sister of Kaylee Pierson, a female serial killer facing execution in three weeks’ time. Twelve years ago, Kaylee's sister, five-year-old Lea (Leilani), went missing in Hawaii. She has received a letter from Leilani. Now she knows that Leilani is the "ward" of Kaylee's abusive ex-boyfriend, tech mogul Sanders MacManus and Kaylee believes he kidnapped her. Kaylee and her attorney are asking Frankie to take a job as base camp support staff on the remote Hawaiian island of Pomaikai in the middle of the Pacific where MacManus is building an eco resort. Once on the island she will hopefully be able to reach out to Leilani.

It was thrilling to read Still See You Everywhere, the latest novel by Lisa Gardner. Once I started reading, I was completely immersed in the satisfying and intense plot. Sure, readers will have to set aside some disbelief, but in such a well-written and irresistible narrative this is not a problem. The setting becomes part of the story as the island is remote and isolated. Adding this to the limited staff makes the novel akin to a locked-room mystery with heat, humidity, and huge, omnivorous coconut crabs.

Frankie is a great character and it was good to see her back. She is a recovering alcoholic who has settled into a nomadic life traveling and picking up jobs along the way. She fits right in at the island and joins an interesting group of characters. The development of all the characters and the descriptions of the island are pitch-perfect. The dialogue is engaging.  As reading you will feel like you are there, experiencing the events and the island along with Frankie. Adding to the atmosphere are plenty of unexpected twists and turns in the plot.

Even though it is the third book featuring Frankie Elkin, it can be enjoyed as a stand alone novel. Thanks to Grand Central Publishing for providing me with an advance reader's copy via NetGalley. My review is voluntary and expresses my honest opinion.

One Moment

One Moment by Becky Hunter
3/12/24; 352 pages
Forever (Grand Central Publishing)

One Moment by Becky Hunter is a domestic drama about friendship, grief, love, and living with MS. It is highly recommended.

Scarlett and Evie became best friends after they first met at ten years old and have been there for each other ever since. The day Scarlett died changed everything. Now her spirit is still around, watching Evie grieve and reliving memories of her life. Evie is struggling with trying to live without Scarlett and dealing with her MS. Nate, the man who Scarlett was helping when she died, keeps turning up, trying to support Evie and help her live with her grief, while Scarlett watches everything.

Chapters alternate between the point-of-view of Evie and Scarlett and the two women are well-developed characters. While deeply missing Scarlett, Evie is dealing with her grief, flaring MS symptoms, and Nate constantly turning up. Scarlett observes this but also tells the reader stories from her past that she now views with a changed perspective. The depiction of Evie's love of music, grappling with grief, and her MS is well done. Nate is an essential character to the plot, as is Astrid, a teenage neighbor of Evie.

Admittedly, for me, the plot lagged a bit until later in the narrative. I'm also not a huge fan of the spirit of a deceased character looking on, following the actions of the living. It wasn't until much later in the story that I appreciated what Hunter was doing in this choice and it provides a poignant moment. The last part of the narrative actually raised the rating for me. Thanks to Forever for providing me with an advance reader's copy via NetGalley. My review is voluntary and expresses my honest opinion.

Saturday, March 2, 2024

Dark Dive

Dark Dive by Andrew Mayne
3/12/24; 296 pages
Thomas & Mercer
Underwater Investigation Unit #5

Dark Dive by Andrew Mayne brings back divers Sloan McPherson and Scott Hughes from the Florida Underwater Investigation Unit. It is a highly recommended procedural.

Sloan and Hughes are summoned by their boss George Solar to recover a coroners van and the two bodies in it from an alligator breeding ground. After the harrowing dive Sloan had to make, their next case is that of a missing person, Fred Stafford, who is also a longtime family friend of Sloan. It seems Stafford was diving and/or treasure hunting with a group of underwater cavern junkies called the Dive Rats. It also is clear that he was diving in the many sinkholes located in Florida and his truck is found near an unmarked sinkhole. Sloan is concerned that they may be looking for a body. The investigation takes some twists and turns along the way to an exciting conclusion.

Dark Dive meets the criteria for an exciting thriller/procedural, further cementing Mayne as a dependable go-to writer for the genre. There are plenty of twists and interesting details uncovered during the investigation. Although I was pleased with the main case, there is one story line that is left unresolved and a few other questions that were left unanswered. I liked the inclusion of Hughes' ROV, remotely operated vehicle, and AI into the narrative. Dangers the team face are numerous and many of them in the wild - big cats, alligators, crocodiles, anacondas, pythons, to name a few, along with the human threats.

For those new to the series, it can be read as a standalone novel. There is enough information and background about the characters to easily slid into their world and enjoy the investigation. Thanks to Thomas & Mercer for providing me with an advance reader's copy via NetGalley. My review is voluntary and expresses my honest opinion.

Watch Where They Hide

Watch Where They Hide by Tamron Hall
3/12/24; 256 pages
William Morrow
Jordan Manning #2

Watch Where They Hide by Tamron Hall follows Chicago TV crime reporter Jordan Manning as she investigates the disappearance of an Indiana mother of two. It is recommended mystery.

Shelly Biltmore calls Channel 8 News to talk to reporter Jordan Manning because her sister Marla, has been missing for several weeks and she suspects foul play. Marla, who is in the middle of a divorce, dropped her two children off at daycare and then disappeared. Shelly doesn't think the police are taking her concerns seriously and does not believe her sister would leave her children willingly.  She thinks Marla's husband is responsible. Jordan travels to Indiana and begins to look into the case.

Jordan Manning is an interesting, fully realized, likeable character and it was a pleasure to see her following clues and uncover hidden secrets to solve the mystery of what happened to Marla. The missing person case here has Jordan mainly following up on information her sources uncover or reveal. It would have been nice to see some more ground breaking discovery of information, a more intricate, interesting plot, and some heart-stopping suspense along the way.

Even though this is the second in a series, it was easily read as a stand-alone novel. I like the character of Jordan Manning and see potential in future installments of the series. Thanks to William Morrow for providing me with an advance reader's copy via Edelweiss. My review is voluntary and expresses my honest opinion.