REVIEW: ALL THE LITTLE LIARS, BY CHARLAINE HARRIS

Aurora Teagarden is basking in the news of her pregnancy when disaster strikes her small Georgia town: four kids vanish from the school soccer field in an afternoon. Aurora’s 15-year-old brother Phillip is one of them. Also gone are two of his friends, and an 11-year-old girl who was just hoping to get a ride home from soccer practice. And then there’s an even worse discovery―at the kids’ last known destination, a dead body.

While the local police and sheriff’s department comb the county for the missing kids and interview everyone even remotely involved, Aurora and her new husband, true crime writer Robin Crusoe, begin their own investigation. Could the death and kidnappings have anything to do with a group of bullies at the middle school? Is Phillip’s disappearance related to Aurora’s father’s gambling debts? Or is Phillip himself, new to town and an unknown quantity, responsible for taking the other children? But regardless of the reason, as the days go by, the most important questions remain. Are the kids still alive? Who could be concealing them? Where could they be?

With Christmas approaching, Aurora is determined to find her brother…if he’s still alive.

 

I first discovered Aurora Teagarden in the Hallmark Movies & Mysteries series, and I am a fan. Discovering the books was a gift, as I love following Aurora’s adventures.

In All the Little Liars, we connect with newlyweds Aurora and Robin. Her previous husband had died a couple of years ago, and she reconnected with Robin, with whom she had had a relationship years before. The two of them barely got through the wedding and the excitement over the expected new baby when Aurora’s brother Philip goes missing. Several of his friends are also missing, and as we learn more about each of the kids, we are not feeling that hopeful for a good outcome.

I liked learning more about Aurora’s relationship with her father and what those issues meant for her life as an adult. Her ability to solve mysteries is not as big a theme in this book until the end, when Aurora hatches a complicated plan; I was on the edge of my seat while it played out. In addition, however, we learn a lot about how Aurora is dealing with her new marriage and the pregnancy.

I enjoyed this book and definitely want to read more about her from this author. 4.5 stars.

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REVIEW: BONFIRE, BY KRYSTEN RITTER

 

It has been ten years since Abby Williams left home and scrubbed away all visible evidence of her small-town roots. Now working as an environmental lawyer in Chicago, she has a thriving career, a modern apartment, and her pick of meaningless one-night stands.

But when a new case takes her back home to Barrens, Indiana, the life Abby painstakingly created begins to crack. Tasked with investigating Optimal Plastics, the town’s most high-profile company and economic heart, Abby begins to find strange connections to Barrens’s biggest scandal from more than a decade ago, involving the popular Kaycee Mitchell and her closest friends—just before Kaycee disappeared for good.

Abby knows the key to solving any case lies in the weak spots, the unanswered questions. But as she tries desperately to find out what really happened to Kaycee, troubling memories begin to resurface and she begins to doubt her own observations. And when she unearths an even more disturbing secret—a ritual called “The Game”—it will threaten reputations, and lives, in the community and risk exposing a darkness that may consume her.

 

My Thoughts: Bonfire was a captivating story of environmental poisoning; mean girls who played a horrible Game; and how the past never stays in your rear view mirror.

Abby Williams is an environmental lawyer revisiting her past when her team goes to Barrens, Indiana, to investigate Optimal, a company that seems to control everything about the town.

At first it seemed as though the poisoning in the water was the worst that could be uncovered, but what the company had done to hide its darker secrets gradually unfolded, as Abby kept digging, even when some members of her team had wrapped up their quest.

I enjoyed Abby’s shifting memories of the past, and how their darkest parts slowly came to her in the end, and how even some of the people she thought she could trust turned out to be the most evil. The scent of bonfires on the horizon seemed to hover just on the edges of her mind whenever a new memory would surface. The past and present collide during one dark night when Abby is facing horrific danger that she didn’t see coming. Engaging and slowly revealing how the past informs the present, I give this one 4.5 stars.

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