Remember Me by Mary Higgins Clark

Remember MeRemember Me by Mary Higgins Clark
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

From the publisher: “Unable to forgive herself for the death of her two-year-old son Bobby in a car accident, Menley Nichols’ marriage to Adam starts to fall apart – until the birth of their daughter Hannah. Determined to rebuild a life together around their precious baby, Menley and Adam decide to rent a house on Cape Cod for a month, confidant that the tranquility of the place will be ideal for Menley and little Hannah. But the peace they crave is disturbed when strange things start to happen – incidents which make Menley relive the horror of the accident in which she lost Bobby… incidents which make her fear for Hannah. And step by step, Menley and Adam are drawn into a dark and sinister web of events which threatens their marriage, their child and ultimately Menley’s sanity.”

An oldie, but a goodie from the Queen of Suspense herself. Mary Higgins Clark was one of my first “adult authors”. I remember devouring her stories in junior high, high school, college and beyond. She was the first author I stood in line for to get her signature. She has an entire shelf (overflowing) in my personal library. She is still putting out books, albeit most of them are co-written, and I still enjoy picking them up once in awhile. But as the days are growing cooler and shorter, I found myself drawn to pick up and older title, by an author who has been so prevalent in my life.

As a more mature reader, I have learned to choose stories with a bit more depth than this, but sometimes, a little brain candy is fun.

One of my favorite things about MHC’s early books are the settings. These are small New England towns with quaint histories. This one is no different. The history of Remember House is tragic and romantic and lends more than a touch of creepiness to the current story.

Another thing that has kept me reading and going back to these books is the female protagonists. Clark does a good job giving us flawed female heroes, with history and somehow a lot of strength to figure out their own stories. I like Menley in this book. She may question herself and doubt herself, but it added to her character. Her drive to find the truth and some satisfaction propelled the story.

I will continue to pick these books off my shelf whenever the mood strikes; and I am sure it will strike many times in the years to come.

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New Detective Series

Little Girls Sleeping (Detective Katie Scott, #1)Little Girls Sleeping by Jennifer Chase
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

From the publisher: “He looked down at the little girl, sleeping peacefully, her arms wrapped around a teddy bear. He knew he was the only one who could save her. He could let her sleep forever.

An eight-year-old girl, Chelsea Compton, is missing in Pine Valley, California and for Detective Katie Scott it’s a cruel reminder of the friend who disappeared from summer camp twenty years ago. Unable to shake the memories, Katie vows she won’t rest until she discovers what happened to Chelsea.

But as Katie starts to investigate, the case reveals itself to be much bigger and more shocking than she feared. Hidden deep in the forest she unearths a makeshift cemetery: a row of graves, each with a brightly coloured teddy bear.

Katie links the graves to a stack of missing-persons cases involving young girls—finding a pattern no one else has managed to see. Someone in Pine Valley has been taking the town’s daughters for years, and Katie is the only one who can stop them.

And then another little girl goes missing, snatched from the park near her home.

Katie’s still haunted by the friend she failed to protect, and she’ll do anything to stop the killer striking again—but can she find the little girl before it’s too late?”

A little detective fiction to start off my fall.

This was a solid mystery. There is a bad guy killing young girls, a flawed detective must use all her wiles to figure out who he is.

I thought this was a good beginning to a new series. Katie, a veteran, returns home with her canine friend and is able to jump into a new career with the help of her family. As the story progresses, we get to meet other people from Katie’s past and new people she will be working with throughout her story. And the weird part at the end could make for some interesting future experiences. (Read the story and you will know what I am talking about, no spoilers here).

There were plenty of twists and developments to keep a slow burn feel to this novel. I do not have issues with the pacing, but this was not a fast-pace thriller. Plenty of suspicion flung in a multitude of directions made this one a little harder to figure out; but the guilty party was certainly not too low on my list of possibilities.

I had not read anything by Jennifer Chase before this, but I will be looking at reading both her earlier novels and additional titles in this series.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for the opportunity to read this book and share my honest opinion.

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A Debut Thriller!

Come and Get MeCome and Get Me by August Norman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

From the publisher: “An intrepid journalist confronts a small town’s dark secrets in Come and Get Me, a breakneck thriller for fans of Tess Gerritsen and Julia Keller.

At Indiana University, someone’s been studying the female student body: their dating customs, nocturnal activities―and how long they can survive in captivity.

When award-winning journalist Caitlin Bergman is invited back to campus to receive an honorary degree, she finds an opportunity for a well-earned victory lap―and a chance to face the trauma that almost destroyed her as an undergrad. But her lap becomes an all-out race when a student begs her to probe an unsolved campus disappearance: Angela Chapman went out one Friday night and never came back.

To find the missing woman, Caitlin must join forces with a local police detective and the department that botched her own case so long ago. But while Caitlin follows the clues behind Angela’s disappearance, someone else is following her…”

This one took me far too long to read!

I started reading it and put it down after our main character announces to a room full of students that she was a rape victim. I was not sure if I wanted to continue down the path of a male author depicting any part of that. However, I am sorry it took me so long to get back to it. I ended up liking it quite a bit.

Caitlin was a fierce, strong character who I wanted to see win with minimal damage, preferably. Every other character was suspect. They were real and each took their turn to be on the hot seat. While I did not guess who the guilty party was, there were clues and bread crumbs throughout the book.

The pacing was perfect; I did not find a dull moment. The glimpses into the perpetrator’s world were well-spaced and while dark, a great addition to the hunt.

It appears this is the author’s first novel and that he is planning a series with Caitlin. I will watch for future titles by this author.

A big thanks to netgalley and the publisher for my advanced copy!

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Wendy Walker’s The Night Before

The Night BeforeThe Night Before by Wendy Walker
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book kept me guessing!!!

I did not want to walk away from the story of Rosie’s missing sister Laura. Although, as life will have it, I did have to put the book down and participate in my own life from time to time. The mystery in this story was kept taut and the suspense was fabulous. I think Wendy Walker has crafted another great story for mystery, suspense, and thriller readers.

I enjoyed the alternating between points of view and time line disorienting in the best possible way. This structure kept me off-balance and unsure of who I should trust throughout the story. This lack of trust in the characters, made it hard for me to *like* any of them, but I did care about how the story concluded. This is a fine line for me. I wanted to see justice for all, but did not feel myself rooting for any of the protagonists, and probably would have been satisfied with any of them being the guilty party.

There was suspense and story a plenty here, and certainly a satisfying conclusion that did not require any stretch to believe it was true. I will watch for future titles by this author.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for an advanced copy of this e-book!

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The Controller by Matt Brolly

The Controller (Lynch and Rose #1)The Controller by Matt Brolly
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This, unfortunately, was one of my less favorite books of late. While it did have some bright spots, overall, it was a miss for me.

I liked the overall premise of a secret organization disappearing people around train tracks. I found it plausible and scary and original. I enjoyed the character Samuel Lynch. I wanted him to win. His motivations and actions were realistic and he became a full-fledged person for me.

I did not like the torture scenes, the Rose character, the British slang coming out of Texans mouths, the lack of characterization outside of Lynch, and the innumerable “you don’t want to know” comments that veiled the true motivations and perclivities of the Railroad. The torture scenes may have been benign by some standards, but they came early and were brutal enough. I never connected with Rose, even with her sub-plot, I just felt like she was a flat character. I am pretty sure there are no native Texans who use the word “whilst”, ever. All of the FBI characters ran together in my head and there was never any reason to truly know which one was which. Thank goodness, because I couldn’t. Finally, while trying to find the truth, the answer Lynch got most often was, “it’s too terrible to name, so I am going to let you just wonder”. This reader was frustrated by that response. Not that I want to know about the terrible things people can and will do to one another, but once in a while, it would have been nice to have a horrible act to attach to the character I am supposed to hate.

While I am not likely to recommend this one, I am intersted in reading other books by this author.

Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for my free copy in exchange for an honest review. Sorry this one was not quite up my alley.

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A Chilling Tale: A book review

The Chosen (Fredrika Bergman and Alex Recht #5)The Chosen by Kristina Ohlsson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Chosen is a dark story that looks into the heinous murders of a pre-school teacher and two young boys. In true Nordic Noir fashion, the motivation is dark, the atmosphere oppressive and every character flawed and suspect.

Nordic Noir has been characterized by it’s Scandinavian setting, it’s bleak landscape and plain language. There are many authors who are finding their home in the genre and readers continue to seek out these morally complex, disturbing tales. This is a new Nordic author for me. And this title is touted as a #1 Bestseller in Sweden on the cover of my edition. While noir is not one of my go-to genres, it is one I find myself comfortably enjoying when the mood strikes. I would not consider this a good place to begin a journey into Nordic Noir, but if already a fan, this is a good author to add to your reading schedule.

Once again, I am reading a series out of order; but, in this case, I did not feel like I missed anything by doing so. There were several references to earlier exploits by our detectives, but enough information was shared that I could follow along with where the characters were. The fifth installment in this series focuses on a tight-knit Jewish community in Sweden. As the detectives fight their own personal demons, they must also solve the crime and for one involved, it’s going to hit much too close to home.

The author uses an interesting construct of interspersing pieces of the ‘conclusion’ throughout the story. The reader is set up to know one of the characters is going to have a very bad day early on. The information given in these conclusion parts keeps the reader guessing right to the end. The language is straightforward and easy to read, even if the material is occasionally more than one wants to imagine.

The comments about the snow littered throughout the story helped to set the stage: “Snow is falling from the dark sky, settling like frozen tears of angels on her head and shoulders,”
“The falling snow was like confetti made of glass,” “It was as if the snow was whispering to him”. And those are just a few of the examples from the first 50 pages.

I picked up a copy of this book at a library bag sale. I was surprised to see it came from a library system in the UK. I will be searching out additional titles by this author, so I am hoping her books have crossed the pond!

This is a very dark story, as is typical of the genre. There is a tight knit community with secrets galore and all those secrets will need to be exposed in order to find the hunter of children. There is no lack of suspects and even as they are cleared, they come back under suspicion. This story will keep you guessing and may keep you up at night.

New Thriller Coming May 3

Gone in the Night (Alex Devlin)Gone in the Night by Mary-Jane Riley
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

From the publisher: “When the victim of a car crash begs journalist Alex Devlin for help before disappearing without trace, Alex finds herself caught up in a mystery that won’t let her go.

Determined to find the missing man, she is soon investigating a conspiracy that threatens some of the most vulnerable members of society.

But will Alex be prepared to put her own life on the line to help those who can’t help themselves?”

This was a fast-paced thriller which I thoroughly enjoyed. Once again, I chose to read a series out of order. This was my first in the Alex Devlin series, and my first by this author, but I am pretty sure it will not be my last.

The story begins with several story lines, setting the stage for our main characters’ convergence. Throughout the novel, we see the story through the eyes of several characters. The author succeeds in making each voice unique and I did not question whose story I was hearing at any given time. Most of the chapters were short, but they stayed focused on one character at a time which made the story accessible and kept this reader wanting more.

The mystery was present, but I found the thriller aspects were much better well done. I did not particularly find there to be a lot of suspects, but hunting down the killer or killers and stopping them sooner rather than later felt urgent. Another reviewer mentioned the cat-and-mouse game in this book, and I wholeheartedly agree with that characterization.

I am not good at geography in general. I do recognize this book took place in the UK somewhere, but not in London. I did not find the exact location to be required knowledge to enjoy the story. There was some vocabulary in the book with which I was unfamiliar and I do believe it is English slang which has not yet made it over the pond (at least not yet to me). I also kept in mind that the word f*ck is not viewed as offensive in the UK as it can be here in the US, so I overlooked the liberal use of the word. Not that it was out of place, the characters generally used it in appropriate places and ways for their situations.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for an advance e-copy of this book.

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Murder in Belgravia by Lynn Brittney

Murder in Belgravia (A Mayfair 100 Murder Mystery #1)Murder in Belgravia by Lynn Brittney
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Another historical mystery for me. This one is set during WWI London. I really like the premise of this novel: a police officer realizes he is going to need help from the fairer sex and sets up an under the table operation in order to investigate more sensitive crimes. Then the crimes got a bit dark.

I am enjoying reading more historical mysteries and WWI has been a good time period for me. This one reminded me that the seedy underground has always existed. Heroine available at the local chemist shop, brothels, sex slaves, corrupt police officers and murder. And a war will not stop these activities from continuing.

I thought the characters were well drawn and nuanced. Caroline, the high society doctor lady, was probably my favorite. Although, the very handsome Greek (Billy) was a close second. I am looking forward to see how this group of characters grows and continues to solve mysteries during WWI.

The mystery in this story was a little convoluted. As I said above, there was a lot going on in this very short novel. An abusive husband is murdered after gravely injuring his wife. The investigation uncovers many more undesirable activities. While the major characters were well done, the minor characters felt more like caricatures and did not distinguish themselves well in my head. I was not surprised by the guilty party, but did have a hard time figuring out who it was.

I will be looking for future titles in this series.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for my advanced copy!

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And Then You Were Gone by R.J. Jacobs

From the Publisher:

After years of learning how to manage her bipolar disorder, Emily Firestone finally has it under control. Even better, her life is coming together: she’s got a great job, her own place, and a boyfriend, Paolo, who adores her. So when Paolo suggests a weekend sailing trip, Emily agrees—wine, water, and the man she loves? What could be better? But when Emily wakes the morning after they set sail, the boat is still adrift…and Paolo is gone.

A strong swimmer, there’s no way Paolo drowned, but Emily is at a loss for any other explanation. Where else could he have gone? And why? As the hours and days pass by, each moment marking Paolo’s disappearance, Emily’s hard-won stability begins to slip.

But when Emily uncovers evidence suggesting Paolo was murdered, the investigation throws her mania into overdrive, even as she becomes a person of interest in her own personal tragedy. To clear her name, Emily must find the truth—but can she hold onto her own sanity in the process?

This book read more like a cozy mystery, to me, than it did a psychological thriller. I happen to be a fan of cozies in addition to thrillers, so it did not bother this reader.

The amateur sleuth, Emily, struggles with bipolar disease and this is front and center to the narration. While I have little personal experience with this condition, I thoroughly appreciated the unreliability of the narrator due to her own questioning of her sanity and interpretation of events. During a romantic overnight trip on a boat, Emily’s boyfriend mysteriously disappears. She becomes suspect number one, and sets off on a self-destructive quest to clear her name. Due to some poor personal choices, she loses her job and ends up living at her mom’s house, so she has plenty of time to conduct her own investigation. She finds a willing sidekick in a friend of her missing boyfriend.
The majority of the violence happens off-screen. A boyfriend disappears, a body is discovered, and Emily hears secondhand about a potential serial killer in her area complete with some of the violence that has transpired.

For a plot-driven novel, there was a lot of inner monologue presented. These thoughts provide a lot of the background to the story. I did not find these to be very distracting, but neither did I find them showing growth in Emily.

I liked the solution to this mystery. I felt like it was a little rushed at the end, the final solution being sprung on the reader with fewer hints/clues than I would have liked. There was a lovely red herring though!

Overall, I thought this was a well-done debut novel. I read somewhere that this may be the beginning of a series, I hope that means we will get to see more of Emily in future installments. I will absolutely read the next book this author publishes.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for allowing me to read an advance copy of this book.

Anatomy of a Murder by Robert Traver

This is a very early example of the courtroom drama.  Since the original publication of this book in 1958, the genre has blossomed.  Reading this book was a lot like watching the old Perry Mason re-runs.  It was not an easy read, nor was it a quick one, but it was rewarding to read through to the last page.

Travers takes on a case in which the accused murdered a barkeep in front of witnesses and immediately confessed to a deputy.  Paul Biegler, one of two defense lawyers in small town Michigan accepts the case.  The story then unfolds in two parts: the investigation and the trial.

The investigation helped establish our characters as real people.  The trial helped to show the inner workings of the American judicial system of the time.  As Paul and his partner talked to people involved in the case, the reader was able to decide who was liked and who was in the wrong.  During the trial, the procedure was front and center.  It may have been a little drudgery, but for the most part, it was intricately detailed and informative for those who have never (and likely never will) encounter this process.

One of  the key parts of this case is a brutal rape.  The 1950s handling of this situation was tame to a current day reader.  Rape is never palatable, but the straightforward handling of the details was almost refreshing for it’s lack of shock factor.

This book was  made into a movie starring Jimmy Stewart.  I have never seen it, but may look into getting my eyes on it.