REVIEW: EVIL WOMAN, BY JULIE MULHERN

When Ellison Russell Jones returns from her honeymoon, she’s ready for a restful summer.

But while she was away, an older woman was murdered in her bed. And the police have questions only Ellison and her friends can answer.

She gets to be a sleuth. A real one! But with a new husband, her mother in the hospital (targeted by the murderer?), her sister as a house guest, one too many animals, and a full social calendar, Ellison can’t catch a break, much less a killer.

She’d better focus, or she may be the next victim.
 
 
 

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When Ellison comes home from her honeymoon, she and her new husband hope to enjoy a peaceful time together. But along the way, an Evil Woman has struck, and both Anarchy and Ellison are searching for a murderer. Someone who killed an old woman and attempted to kill Ellison’s mother.

Nothing could be more tempestuous than a quest like this one, but, as always, the author gives us an adventure to follow as we try to find the answers. I couldn’t stop turning the pages! 5 stars.

***
 
 
 

REVIEW: LOCAL GONE MISSING, BY FIONA BARTON

Elise King is a successful and ambitious detective—or she was before a medical leave left her unsure if she’d ever return to work. She now spends most days watching the growing tensions in her small seaside town of Ebbing—the weekenders renovating old bungalows into luxury homes, and the locals resentful of the changes.

Elise can only guess what really happens behind closed doors. But Dee Eastwood, her house cleaner, often knows. She’s an invisible presence in many of the houses in town, but she sees and hears everything.

The conflicts boil over when a newcomer wants to put the town on the map with a weekend music festival, and two teenagers overdose on drugs. When a man disappears the first night of the festival, Elise starts digging for answers. Ebbing is a small town, but it’s full of secrets and hidden connections that run deeper and darker than Elise could have ever imagined.

 

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In the small village of Ebbing, we meet several characters whose lives are interconnected, and some of the layers are not known to us at first. But when a festival comes to town, several things happen that will shake everyone up. First, some teenagers are drugged, a man goes missing, and the residents begin to question what they know about any of them.

Local Gone Missing primarily features Charlie, an older man who seems well-liked, but for some reason, he appears to be completely out of it at the festival. As more people become aware of his disappearance, there are bits and pieces of information that are revealed, and the police detectives, including Elise, who is on leave at the time, begin to find strange little details about him that are puzzling. Alternating chapters bring in the voices of other characters, including Dee, a house cleaner who has access to all their homes, and who quietly seems to wrap herself around them through their habits and activities.

When more and more of the details are revealed, we learn that so much of each of their lives are twisted together, from the past and in the present, and it will take all of them to fit the pieces together. A 4.5 star read.

***

REVIEW: TAKE YOUR BREATH AWAY, BY LINWOOD BARCLAY

One weekend, while Andrew Mason was on a fishing trip, his wife, Brie, vanished without a trace. Most everyone assumed Andy had got away with murder—it’s always the husband, isn’t it?—but the police could never build a strong case against him. For a while, Andy hit rock bottom—he drank too much to numb the pain, was abandoned by all his friends save one, nearly lost his business, and became a pariah in the place he once called home.

Now, six years later, Andy has finally put his life back together. He sold the house he once shared with Brie and moved away. To tell the truth, he wasn’t sad to hear that the old place was razed and a new house built on the site. He’s settled down with a new partner, Jayne, and life is good.

But Andy’s peaceful world is about to shatter. One day, a woman shows up at his old address, screaming, “Where’s my house? What’s happened to my house?” And then, just as suddenly as she appeared, the woman—who bears a striking resemblance to Brie—is gone. The police are notified and old questions—and dark suspicions—resurface.

Could Brie really be alive after all these years? If so, where has she been? It soon becomes clear that Andy’s future and the lives of those closest to him depend on discovering what the hell is going on. The trick will be whether he can stay alive long enough to unearth the answers.

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As we follow the trail of Brie’s disappearance and the sightings of someone who looks like her six years later, we are thrust into a mysterious and convoluted tale that involves almost all the characters who have connections to Andrew and Brie.

There is no way that the events are coincidental, so obviously someone has gone to a lot of trouble to manufacture what we are seeing now.

I knew that someone unexpected would turn out to be the one who had hired Brie’s killer, and someone equally surprising had also brought in the look-a-like person. But we are not sure who those individuals would turn out to be until the very end of Take My Breath Away. Another brilliant 5 star read.

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REVIEW: THE SHADOW BOX, BY LUANNE RICE

After artist Claire Beaudry Chase is attacked and left for dead in her home on the Connecticut coast, she doesn’t know who she can trust. But her well-connected husband, Griffin—who is running for governor—is her prime suspect.

Just before the attack, Claire was preparing for an exhibit of her shadow boxes, one of which clearly accuses Griffin of a violent crime committed twenty-five years ago. If the public were to find out who her husband is, his political career would be over. Claire’s certain her husband and his powerful supporters would kill her to stop the truth from getting out.

When one of Claire’s acquaintances is murdered, the authorities suspect the homicide is linked to the attack on Claire. As the dual investigations unfold, Claire must decide how much she’s willing to lose to take down her husband and the corrupt group of elites who will do anything to protect Griffin’s interests and their own.

 

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The Shadow Box created by artist Claire Chase reveals the secrets that can take down a corrupt politician, and Claire is focused on bringing the evil members of his club to justice. They are a group of men who are determined to win and change the state to fit their agenda and eliminate those who know their secrets.

As Claire hides out until she can prove the evil around her, we watch others who are also at work to save those who are targeted by the men protecting Claire’s husband. In the process she discovers just who she can rely on when their job is done. An intense thriller that kept me turning pages. 4.5 stars.

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REVIEW: THE JANES, BY LOUISA LUNA

 

The page-turning follow-up to acclaimed thriller Two Girls Down features the tenacious PI Alice Vega and her electric partnership with Max Caplan, as they follow a shocking murder investigation to it’s even more shocking conclusion.

On the outskirts of San Diego, the bodies of two young women are discovered. They have no names, no IDs, but one of the Jane Does holds a note bearing the name, “Alice Vega.” The police and FBI reach out to Vega, a private investigator known for finding the missing. Fearing the possibility of a human trafficking ring, Vega enlists the help of her one-time partner, former cop Max “Cap” Caplan.

Despite a case with so few leads, Alice Vega is a powerful woman whose determination is matched only by her intellect, and, along with her partner Cap, she will stop at nothing to find the Janes’ killers before it is too late.
 
 
 
 
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The intensity of the search for the missing girls increases as Vega and Cap work together to solve the case. Just as they are closing in on answers, they discover more girls are involved and realize how corruption in the department is at the bottom of these activities.

They carefully keep ahead of those chasing them and connect with others who are dedicated to discovering the truth and finding the rest of the missing girls as well. The Janes was an intricately woven tale that led to answers and freedom for the girls. 4.5 stars.
 
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REVIEW: I KNOW YOU, BY CLAIRE MCGOWAN

When Rachel stumbles upon a body in the woods, she knows what she has to do: run. Get away. Do not be found at the scene. Last time, she didn’t know, and she ended up accused of murder. But when this victim is identified as her boyfriend’s estranged wife, Rachel realises she’s already the prime suspect.

With mounting evidence against her, Rachel’s only hope is to keep the truth about herself well hidden. Because twenty years ago she was someone else—Casey, a young nanny trying to make it as an actress in Los Angeles. When the family she worked for were brutally murdered, all the evidence pointed to her and she went to prison. Back then, she narrowly escaped the death penalty and managed to free herself on appeal. Now she’s fighting to save the life she’s spent years piecing back together.

But with her behaviour raising suspicion and the police closing in, Rachel can’t help wondering: Was her discovery in the woods really just an awful coincidence, or is someone framing her for murder? Someone who knows who she is, and wants revenge…
 
 
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I Know You was a page turner that kept me glued to my chair throughout. From the alternating narratives revealing our protagonist’s fight to prove her innocence when accused, we soon learn that not everything was the way we believed it to be.

As I followed the first-person narratives told by each incarnation of our protagonist, first Casey and then Rachel, I wasn’t sure just what we would learn in the end, but I rooted for her in each version of herself. A 5 star read for me.
 
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REVIEW: THE STRANGER BEHIND YOU, BY CAROL GOODMAN

Journalist Joan Lurie has written a seething article exposing a notorious news-paper tycoon as a sexual predator. But the night it goes live, she is brutally attacked. Traumatized and suffering the effects of a concussion, she moves into a highly secure apartment in Manhattan called the Refuge, which was at one time a Magdalen Laundry. Joan should be safe here, so how can she explain the cryptic incidents that are happening?

Lillian Day is Joan’s new 96-year-old neighbor at the Refuge. In 1941, Lillian witnessed a mysterious murder that sent her into hiding at the Magdalen Laundry, and she hasn’t come out since. As she relates to Joan her harrowing story, Joan sees striking similarities to her own past.

Melissa Osgood, newly widowed and revengeful, has burning questions about her husband’s recent death. When she discovers a suspicious paper trail that he left behind, she realizes how little she knew about her marriage. But it seems Joan Lurie might be the one who has the answers.

As these three lives intersect, each woman must stay one step ahead of those who are desperate to make sure the truth is never uncovered.

 

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Alternating narrators offer up their perspectives in The Stranger Behind You. I found myself liking Joan Lurie more than the others, but each had interesting tales to tell.

When Joan ends up attacked and living in a cloistered apartment where she can feel safe, she soon begins to realize that safety is not necessarily what she finds here.

Melissa’s goals in moving into the same apartment are less about her safety, but more about getting revenge on Joan, who had written about her husband.

The old woman from the 1940s had interesting stories to tell. But who is she really?

As all the characters add to the story, we soon realize how much more there is to tell.

We learn a lot more about all of them, with additions to their stories, and we discover that some were not to be trusted. There was a surreal element that kept me on my toes. 4.5 stars.

***

REVIEW: GONE FOR GOOD, BY JOANNA SHAFFHAUSEN

 

The Lovelorn Killer murdered seven women, ritually binding them and leaving them for dead before penning them gruesome love letters in the local papers. Then he disappeared, and after twenty years with no trace of him, many believe that he’s gone for good.

 

Not Grace Harper. A grocery store manager by day, at night Grace uses her snooping skills as part of an amateur sleuth group. She believes the Lovelorn Killer is still living in the same neighborhoods that he hunted in, and if she can figure out how he selected his victims, she will have the key to his identity.

Detective Annalisa Vega lost someone she loved to the killer. Now she’s at a murder scene with the worst kind of déjà vu: Grace Harper lies bound and dead on the floor, surrounded by clues to the biggest murder case that Chicago homicide never solved. Annalisa has the chance to make it right and to heal her family, but first, she has to figure out what Grace knew—how to see a killer who may be standing right in front of you. This means tracing his steps back to her childhood, peering into dark corners she hadn’t acknowledged before, and learning that despite everything the killer took, she has still so much more to lose.

 
 
 
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 I liked Annalisa from the very beginning, as she showed us her backstory and the actions of the Lovelorn Killer who had seemingly disappeared for twenty years, maybe Gone for Good.

But as another victim is taken, someone who had been studying the killer and his victims, Annalisa doubles down to try to find him.

She believes he is possibly someone right in their midst, someone who knows the group members are looking for him, a fact that he uses to tease and entice them.

A page turner that roped me in until the very last page as I held my breath, guessing and watching. I knew that I would be stunned by the big reveal…and I was. 5 stars.

 
***

REVIEW: THE NECKLACE, BY MATT WITTEN

Susan Lentigo’s daughter was murdered twenty years ago—and now, at long last, this small-town waitress sets out on a road trip all the way from Upstate New York to North Dakota to witness the killer’s execution.

On her journey she discovers shocking new evidence that leads her to suspect the condemned man is innocent—and the real killer is still free. Even worse, her prime suspect has a young daughter who’s at terrible risk. With no money and no time to spare, Susan sets out to uncover the truth before an innocent man gets executed and another little girl is killed.

But the FBI refuses to reopen the case. They—and Susan’s own mother—believe she’s just having an emotional breakdown. Reaching deep, Susan finds an inner strength she never knew she had. With the help of two unlikely allies—a cynical, defiant teenage girl and the retired cop who made the original arrest—Susan battles the FBI to put the real killer behind bars. Will she win justice for the condemned man—and her daughter—at last?
 
 
 
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A story that sweeps back and forth between the past and the present, The Necklace kept me turning those pages, unsure of how it would all unfold.

Susan was a character I felt connected to since her love of her lost daughter and her uncertainty about events she is only now remembering kept my heart pounding as I turned to the very last page. And the final reveal was one I had been hoping for all along. 5 stars.
 
***My e-ARC came from the publisher via NetGalley
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REVIEW: EVERY LAST FEAR, BY ALEX FINLAY

“They found the bodies on a Tuesday.” So begins this twisty and breathtaking novel that traces the fate of the Pine family, a thriller that will both leave you on the edge of your seat and move you to tears.

After a late night of partying, NYU student Matt Pine returns to his dorm room to devastating news: nearly his entire family—his mom, his dad, his little brother and sister—have been found dead from an apparent gas leak while vacationing in Mexico. The local police claim it was an accident, but the FBI and State Department seem far less certain—and they won’t tell Matt why.

The tragedy makes headlines everywhere because this isn’t the first time the Pine family has been thrust into the media spotlight. Matt’s older brother, Danny—currently serving a life sentence for the murder of his teenage girlfriend Charlotte—was the subject of a viral true crime documentary suggesting that Danny was wrongfully convicted. Though the country has rallied behind Danny, Matt holds a secret about his brother that he’s never told anyone: the night Charlotte was killed Matt saw something that makes him believe his brother is guilty of the crime.

When Matt returns to his small hometown to bury his parents and siblings, he’s faced with a hostile community that was villainized by the documentary, a frenzied media, and memories he’d hoped to leave behind forever. Now, as the deaths in Mexico appear increasingly suspicious and connected to Danny’s case, Matt must unearth the truth behind the crime that sent his brother to prison—putting his own life in peril—and forcing him to confront his every last fear.

Told through multiple points-of-view and alternating between past and present, Alex Finlay’s Every Last Fear is not only a page-turning thriller, it’s also a poignant story about a family managing heartbreak and tragedy, and living through a fame they never wanted.

 

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As we follow the characters in Every Last Fear, we are swept up into the past and thrust forward into the current situation involving the Pine family.

I enjoyed some of the characters more than others, but I didn’t really like how the story lagged at times, making me wonder what was really going on.

A story that earned 3.5 stars from me.

***