A D.B. Cooper Thriller

Cooper's LootCooper’s Loot by Rick E. George
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Book Synopsis: “It’s 1972, but the Neanderthal editors of reporter Bev Wikowski’s newspaper don’t have a clue. They’ve assigned her to the Women’s Pages and put her desk near the door so she can greet newsroom visitors. It’s a wonder they haven’t asked her to make coffee. Then Bev meets a buddy of the infamous hijacker DB Cooper. Cooper has sent him to gather a posse to find and dig up the loot he buried in the Cascade Mountains. Would Bev like to join the group? Suddenly, Bev’s looking at the possibility of a front-page story on every newspaper in the nation—and maybe a Pulitzer Prize. A young widow whose husband died in Vietnam, she leaves her four-year-old daughter with her parents, hides her work identity, and joins the group. But it doesn’t take long before an even bigger challenge demands every ounce of her strength: Survival.”

This was a fantastically paced thriller. An interesting idea of what may have happened during and after a famous unsolved mystery in the late 20th century. The author’s use of setting and weather made the story ring true and dangerous. The character development could have been better executed, but overall a captivating read.

I know a little bit about D.B. Cooper’s crime. It happened before I was born, so I was decades removed from the crime before I heard about it. I am surprised I haven’t come across more fictional ideas about what may have happened. This crime and perpetrator feel fraught with options.

I thoroughly enjoyed the 1970s setting in the Pacific Northwest. While my time in the Pacific Northwest was in Seattle, in the 2000s, the attitudes and landscape felt real on every page. I certainly enjoy reading books set before the Internet took over everything. No cell phones, I will enjoy this story. The forests and the mountains of Washington were carefully crafted. I could see the scene. The end of the Vietnam War was also prevalent in the story; it added to the desperation of the characters and a feel for the time.

Unfortunately, I found most of the characters were not well-fleshed out. I had a hard time keeping track of who was who. I read several times Will was the best of the lot, but honestly I couldn’t remember anything distinct about the man. The women were fighting back and forth and other than Bev, I had no idea which woman was which. It took a bit away from the story for me, but Bev gave me enough of an anchor to continue enjoying the ride.

Finally, the author presented a wonderful use of weather. The unpredictability of the snow and the wind added to the overall sense of foreboding. I am pretty sure my toes froze while reading several scenes in this book.

There was a lot of strong points in this novel, and I will look to reading additional titles by this author.

Thank you to BookSirens and the publisher for a free review copy. This review has been posted voluntarily, and the opinion is my own.

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Another Debut Mystery

The LoopThe Loop by Nicholas Holloway
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Book Synopsis: “In the heart of the Sierra Nevada mountains, a freezing snowdrift blankets the June Lake Loop. For months, aspiring novelist Gallagher Finch has not written a single word. To pass the time awaiting inspiration, Gal satiates his boredom with Adderall, Evan Williams, and one call girl too many. On the eve of his twenty-sixth birthday, he indulges in all three…

And when he awakens, he discovers a bloody secret tangled in his bedsheets.

Still grieving from a tragic murder in the family thirteen years earlier, Gal wonders if old enemies are drawing near once again. He begins to process his nightmares, anxiety, and fear the only way he knows how – he writes. Quickly realizing his own story could be the best-seller he has been dying to publish, Gal weaves together the truth of who killed Daphne Castro, but in the process, he discovers the story that could launch his career may very well be his own deadly ending.

Family becomes foe, dark secrets resurface, and blood can be found on more than one pair of hands.”

Nicholas Holloway’s The Loop is a clever roller coaster of a book. I found this story to have strong characterization, an ideal setting, lots of unexpected twists, and a sense of word play I haven’t seen much of lately. I wasn’t sure I liked this book when I finished it, but upon reflection, I know that I did, and I liked it a lot.

We meet the Finch family in the midst of their newest crisis (and this family has had several). The siblings have survived a troubled history and now each have a collection of secrets themselves. Holloway has done a fantastic job breathing lives into each of this characters, no matter how broken.

The setting of this book is beautiful; almost a character in its own right. Such beauty hiding so much pain and danger. Northern California is a beautiful place, and the author clearly knows the region and loves it. The lakes make a nice contrast to the terrible things that are occurring throughout the area.

There were many twists and turns in this story. I rarely settled into a suspect before there was another plot twist. The layers uncovered on each page remind us all that there are shades of gray and good and bad in everyone. Anyone could be the guilty party. And the motive was always shifting.

There was a playful note throughout this book. Each chapter was given a colorful title. I thought the playful-ness may be too gimmicky, but I found myself appreciating it and at some times, even loving it. The over-arching color theme connected the threads within each chapter.

The penultimate chapter of this book almost lost me, but after having sat with the conclusion of this story for a couple of days, I have found I appreciate it even more. It was a logical twist, necessary for the ultimate conclusion.

This book appears to be a debut, but I have seen rumors of both a sequel to this one and a new stand alone by this author. I look forward to reading both.
I received a free review copy of this book from Book Sirens and am leaving this review voluntarily.

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Something Different

Calm the F*ck Down Journal: Practical Ways to Stop Worrying and Take Control of Your LifeCalm the F*ck Down Journal: Practical Ways to Stop Worrying and Take Control of Your Life by Sarah Knight

The art of not giving a f*ck has been a topic of conversation for several years now. I am not a person who deals with general anxiety and have not read any of the other books in this group. So, why did I choose to read this one? Well, the title made me laugh and I was interested in how a journal would work on my Kindle.

Early in this journal, there is a quiz. The quiz is designed to help you identify what kind of anxiety responses you are experiencing. I ended up with a score of no anxiety, maybe I should gift this book. That was good news, and I read the remaining pages anyhow.

There was a lot of blank space in this journal, not a lot to read. But what was there was humorous and insightful. I can understand why so many people enjoy Knight’s philosophy and writing.

The journal has several prompts to encourage you to think about past stressful experiences and allow you to work through them to help build new responses. I have not bought a focused, guided journal in the past, but I do think they are interesting and helpful. Taking things out of the big picture to explore them individually can certainly be helpful. For the Kindle version, one would certainly need an additional notebook. And maybe it would be nice to use that notebook solely for responding to this journal.

This journal is scheduled to be available at the end of October, just in time to record all our holiday anxieties.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for an ARC of this book. I have voluntarily left this review.

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Locked Door Mystery

Ever ToldEver Told by Benjamin Bremasi
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Book Synopsis: “When New Hampshire detective Jill Jennson is called to the scene of a double homicide that took place during a wealthy family’s annual vacation, she immediately realizes that this case will be unlike any other. The victims were brutally killed in their locked bedroom with seemingly no way for the killer to enter or leave undetected. The list of suspects is endless. And the possible motives are even more disturbing.
As the case evolves, the investigation becomes even more complex as secrets are revealed and betrayals come to light. Aided by her partner Caiden and her bedridden father Tony, Jill continues to unearth clue after clue as she desperately tries to solve the mystery and identify the killer. But the more she digs, the more she comes to realize that someone is out to get her as well. Is her unknown assailant connected to the investigation, or does the answer lie much closer to home? Once she discovers that the case may even have personal connections to a horrific event in her own sordid past, Jill will stop at nothing to complete the puzzle and finally put to rest the multiple acts of deception that have all converged into one unforgettable nightmare.”

Ever Told is a debut novel that tried to do a lot of things in fewer than 200 pages. Many aspects of this book fell short of ideal for me, but twist at the end and the promising story-telling made me more of a fan than not.

A locked door mystery set in one of my favorite locations. Locked door mysteries seem to be less popular at the moment, but they are classic for a reason. Limiting the number of characters allows the author and the reader to get to know the characters and their secrets better. This book started to do much of this. Each of the characters had a secret, some of which were juicy. But the characterization available for more than half a dozen characters, in 200 pages is not great. While I have never been there, I thoroughly enjoy books set in Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont. This one is set in New Hampshire and, unfortunately, did not take great advantage of the beautiful setting.

A novel that feels like a cozy mystery, even though the sleuths are professional police officers. A debut novel. A cozy mystery typically has an amateur sleuth, is set in a small community, and has limited violence and sex. This book ticked all of these boxes, except the police were the sleuths. This was not a police procedural and there was little mention of the forensic professionals I would have expected from a more official investigation.

This story is told in back and forth story lines. We see the family before and after the murder in alternating chapters (for the most part). I found this handled very well. The parts that take place immediately before the murders each add a new piece of the puzzle and throw further suspicion on different characters. After the murders, the investigation and the side stories were engaging.

The ending offers a twist that I suspected and discarded early, but upon reflection, makes perfect sense.

While I thought there were some imperfections in this book, I would be interested in reading future titles by this author.

Thank you to BookSirens and the publisher for an e-copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

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A New Cyberthriller

FirewallFirewall by Eugenia Lovett West
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Book Synopsis: “Former opera singer Emma Streat has survived the murder of her husband and the destruction of her beautiful old house. Now a full-time single mother, she struggles to move forward and make a home for her two sons. Because of her detection skills, she has become a go-to person for help–so, when her rich, feisty, socialite godmother is blackmailed, she turns immediately to Emma. Soon, Emma founds herself thrust into the dark world of cybercrime. Mounting challenges take her to exclusive European settings where she mixes with top people in the financial and art collecting worlds and has intriguing and emotion-packed experiences with men–including her dynamic ex-lover, Lord Andrew Rodale. When she is targeted by a cybercrime network using cutting-edge technology, it takes all of Emma’s resilience and wits to survive and bring the wily, ruthless criminal she’s hunting to justice. Action-packed and full of twists and turns, this third book of the Emma Streat Mystery series does not disappoint!”

I did not realize this book was part of a series when I started it. Early in the book, I was worried I may have missed too much information to jump in where I was, but quickly found the author gave plenty of hints and information about what had gone on before to be able to read this one on its own.

Firewall started out reading like a mystery, I certainly suspected several characters as being the original blackmailer, but as the story unraveled, I found it built more like a thriller, each part taking the reader a bit deeper into a larger conspiracy. The novel felt a little more like three linked novellas than one novel, but the links were there and there was some tying up of loose ends at the end of the book.

I liked our heroine, Emma. She was smart and humble. I have not read many books about former opera singers and thought that was an interesting background, I wish there could have been a little more about it in this book. It is nice to see a heroine who has a little bit of life experience, knows who she is and is still able to grow as a person.

The settings were the star of the book for me. France, Italy, Ireland, Boston were all beautifully portrayed. The bits of history and local color were utilized well in this story.

This story was full of twists and turns with bad guys turning up at the most inopportune times. I said earlier this was like three novellas, there were certainly distinct parts to this novel, but maybe it’s more like uncovering an iceberg. We discover the blackmailer quickly, but then we have to figure out who is blackmailing the blackmailer and so on through a litany of crimes. Reading this book was similar to a roller coaster; up and down for awhile, then a couple of straightaways lulling you into safety before plunging you down again at a dizzying speed.

I enjoyed this novel and am hoping to get my hands on the two earlier books in this series. This book will be available November 5.

Thank you to NetGalley, the publisher, and the author for my free copy in exchange for an honest review of this book.

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Medical Thriller

CODE BLUE: The Other End of the StethoscopeCODE BLUE: The Other End of the Stethoscope by Debra Blaine
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Book Synopsis: “CODE BLUE follows Dr. Tobi Lister, a physician trapped in a wildly dysfunctional system and entangled in deadly intrigue. It is becoming obvious that something strange is happening at her clinic, but she has enough to deal with just trying to practice medicine, now that patients have become “customers” and the medical field is dictated by entrepreneurs whose sole objective is profit. And now suddenly, after nearly two decades, the man who broke her heart has resurfaced, but Tobi is determined to ignore his desperate attempts to communicate. She has no idea he is trying to warn her about a vicious Russian hacking scheme that is making billions of dollars murdering patients. But if he can’t get through to her soon, Tobi will be next.

This medical thriller emphasizes the loss of humanity felt by both physicians and patients now that medicine has become a consumer-driven industry.”

Dr. Blaine has penned a scary medical thriller that captures our current time and attitudes toward the medical profession.

I found Code Blue to be engaging and accessible. The story moved along at a comfortable pace with challenges popping up around every corner. The opportunity for medical jargon was eschewed for more everyday language.

Code Blue follows two distinct story lines: an urgent care doctor and an investigation into a cybercriminal ring. The two pieces merge logically and make a cohesive, engaging thriller.

Dr. Tobi’s scenes can get a little preachy, but it left no doubt that that patients need to be patients and not customers. The scenes in the clinic, between the doctor and her patients, were entertaining and often enlightening. In an era where we believe we are the most important person in any situation and we know everything, doctors have a lot with which to compete.

The cybercrime circle had several POVs which removed much of the mystery from this story, but increased the suspense as we learn more about their motives, operations, and lack of values.

Running between these two stories, is an old flame who draws the two sides together for the explosive climax. While this character was a little too good to be true, he was entertaining and I am ok with a perfect character from time to time in my fiction.

There was a lot going on in this book, besides the medical profession, we touched on some ecological conservation, corruption in Washington, the danger of on-line medical records, and the Jewish religion. Much of this added to characterization for me and I could imagine having a glass of wine and an interesting conversation with Tobi.

I had some minor quibbles with the book: characters named Tobi and Tony can be confusing, the situation with her brother bothered me a bit, and sometimes I was annoyed by the repetitive preaching. But overall, I enjoyed the time I spent with this novel and would read more by this author.

I would recommend this book to people who like thrillers and are interested in America’s current health care situation.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for a free e-copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

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A Literary Mystery

Lady in the LakeLady in the Lake by Laura Lippman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Synopsis: “In 1966, Baltimore is a city of secrets that everyone seems to know–everyone, that is, except Madeline “Maddie” Schwartz. Last year, she was a happy, even pampered housewife. This year, she’s bolted from her marriage of almost twenty years, determined to make good on her youthful ambitions to live a passionate, meaningful life.

Maddie wants to matter, to leave her mark on a swiftly changing world. Drawing on her own secrets, she helps Baltimore police find a murdered girl–assistance that leads to a job at the city’s afternoon newspaper, the Star. Working at the newspaper offers Maddie the opportunity to make her name, and she has found just the story to do it: a missing woman whose body was discovered in the fountain of a city park lake.

Cleo Sherwood was a young African-American woman who liked to have a good time. No one seems to know or care why she was killed except Maddie–and the dead woman herself. Maddie’s going to find the truth about Cleo’s life and death. Cleo’s ghost, privy to Maddie’s poking and prying, wants to be left alone.

Maddie’s investigation brings her into contact with people that used to be on the periphery of her life–a jewelery store clerk, a waitress, a rising star on the Baltimore Orioles, a patrol cop, a hardened female reporter, a lonely man in a movie theater. But for all her ambition and drive, Maddie often fails to see the people right in front of her. Her inability to look beyond her own needs will lead to tragedy and turmoil for all sorts of people–including the man who shares her bed, a black police officer who cares for Maddie more than she knows.

I thoroughly enjoyed Lippman’s latest novel. This was not my first novel by this author, nor will it be my last.

I think this would be considered a literary mystery. It is not a whodunnit really, although that is the crux of what keeps the novel moving forward.

This was a story that illuminates a time and place in history. There were discussions about race tensions, religious differences, laws, expectations and class differences. While I found the people in this book to be mostly superficial characters, the 1960s Baltimore setting was fully alive on every page. There were so many POVs including a ghost, a waitress, a nurse, and reporters. Each of these characters showed up for a very short period of time, offered their piece of the story and vanished. But I felt that was by design, people are temporary, the city and the culture last much longer.

The investigation into a murdered black woman was in the background throughout the book, but life continued and there were other things that needed doing. The life of a reporter at the time, especially an almost 40-year old cub reporter, could be difficult and degrading. The mystery had several twists and turns and intrigued me to the end.

The glimpse of a time I have never seen was more engaging then anything else. This may not be the perfect place for a new Lippman reader, but I enjoyed it enough to recommend it to others.

Thanks to NetGalley, the publisher and the author for providing me with an advanced e-copy of the book.

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