REVIEW: SHE’S GONE, BY DAVID BELL

When 17-year-old Hunter Gifford wakes in the hospital on the night of homecoming, he’s shocked to learn he and his girlfriend, Chloe Summers, have been in a terrible car accident. Hunter has no memory of the crash, and his shock turns to horror when he is told Chloe’s blood has been found in the car—but she has disappeared.

Back at school, his fellow students taunt him, and his former best friend starts making a true-crime documentary about the case—one that points the finger directly at Hunter. And just when things can’t get any worse, Chloe’s mother stands in front of the entire town at a candlelight vigil and accuses Hunter of murder.

Under mounting pressure from the police, Hunter takes matters into his own hands by questioning anyone who might know the truth and posting videos to prove his innocence. When Hunter learns he and Chloe were seen arguing loudly outside the dance, he faces a sickening possibility. Was he angry enough to kill the person he loved?

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She’s Gone is the story of Hunter and Chloe, and what happened to them at Homecoming and before…before she disappeared. Whatever went on between them was forgotten by Hunter, blocked out, and despite what others believe, he is determined that there are answers and that he isn’t guilty.

We watch as he and some of his friends search for answers, but along the way to finding out the truth, more obstacles appear.

Hunter’s voice is compelling, and no matter what comes up, I am rooting for him. Feeling that there is more to the story.

I liked how we keep following clues, not knowing where they’ll lead, and then, surprisingly, we seem to stumble on the truth. Stunned, but not really that surprised. A 4.5 star read.

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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: THE PARIS APARTMENT, BY LUCY FOLEY

Jess needs a fresh start. She’s broke and alone, and she’s just left her job under less than ideal circumstances. Her half-brother Ben didn’t sound thrilled when she asked if she could crash with him for a bit, but he didn’t say no, and surely everything will look better from Paris. Only when she shows up – to find a very nice apartment, could Ben really have afforded this? – he’s not there.
The longer Ben stays missing, the more Jess starts to dig into her brother’s situation, and the more questions she has. Ben’s neighbors are an eclectic bunch, and not particularly friendly. Jess may have come to Paris to escape her past, but it’s starting to look like it’s Ben’s future that’s in question.

The socialite – The nice guy – The alcoholic – The girl on the verge – The concierge
Everyone’s a neighbor. Everyone’s a suspect. And everyone knows something they’re not telling.

 

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Jess is trying to find her brother Ben, after she arrives at The Paris Apartment and finds him missing. She is amazed at how big and beautiful it is, and she is curious about how he can afford it. She is also curious about the people living in the apartment complex, who appear to be part of a dysfunctional family.

As she follows the clues, she learns that Ben was on a quest to find answers to what was happening with this strange family.

But what happened to him? Was Jess able to find him, or will he be lost to her?
A story that could have been compelling but was not. There were too many strange twists in the road. 3.5 stars.

***

REVIEW: FINLAY DONOVAN KNOCKS ‘EM DEAD, BY ELLE COSIMANO

Finlay Donovan is—once again—struggling to finish her next novel and keep her head above water as a single mother of two. On the bright side, she has her live-in nanny and confidant Vero to rely on, and the only dead body she’s dealt with lately is that of her daughter’s pet goldfish.

On the not-so-bright side, someone out there wants her ex-husband, Steven, out of the picture. Permanently. Whatever else Steven may be, he’s a good father, but saving him will send her down a rabbit hole of hit-women disguised as soccer moms, and a little bit more involvement with the Russian mob than she’d like.

Meanwhile, Vero’s keeping secrets, and Detective Nick Anthony seems determined to get back into her life. He may be a hot cop, but Finlay’s first priority is preventing her family from sleeping with the fishes… and if that means bending a few laws then so be it.

With her next book’s deadline looming and an ex-husband to keep alive, Finlay is quickly coming to the end of her rope. She can only hope there isn’t a noose at the end of it…
 
 
 
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As we dive into Finlay Donovan Knocks ‘Em Dead, we are rapidly turning pages and trying to keep track of all the twists and turns.

As usual, Finlay is funny and a character we want to root for. I am not so sure about her nanny Vero, however, and hope that whatever she is up to doesn’t ruin things.

A unique website offers some answers about what might be going on with some of the characters. But will Finlay figure things out so she and those she cares about can be safe? I liked how the ending wrapped up, so I give this one 4.5 stars.
 
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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: THE STRANGER IN THE MIRROR, BY LIV CONSTANTINE

Addison’s about to get married, but she’s not looking forward to the big day. It’s not her fiancé; he’s a wonderful man. It’s because Addison doesn’t know who she really is. A few years ago, a kind driver found her bleeding next to a New Jersey highway and rescued her. While her physical wounds healed, Addison’s memory never returned. She doesn’t know her real name. Or how she ended up injured on the side of a road. Or why she can’t shake the notion that she may have done something very, very bad . . .

In a posh home in the Boston suburbs, Julian tries to figure out what happened to his loving, caring wife, Cassandra, who disappeared without a trace two years ago. She would never have left him and their seven-year-old daughter Valentina of her own free will—or would she?

 

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A story that reveals the fragility of memory, The Stranger in the Mirror offers interesting perspectives for the characters. A woman who can’t remember her past and a man who has lost his wife bring layers to these lives.

As we follow along with Addison’s story, and then when we skip over to how Julian becomes part of the picture, I had suspicions and concerns. Did anything about this scenario ring true? Or, as some of the other characters believe, is Julian pulling some trick on Addison?

I couldn’t stop turning the pages, though, as all the details of the past finally become clear. Should we believe what was happening, or should we doubt everything?

By the end of the tale, I was biting my nails, hoping that there would be happiness for somebody. A five star read.

***

REVIEW: SYCAMORE, BY BRYN CHANCELLOR

Out for a hike one scorching afternoon in Sycamore, Arizona, a newcomer to town stumbles across what appear to be human remains embedded in the wall of a dry desert ravine. As news of the discovery makes its way around town, Sycamore’s longtime residents fear the bones may belong to Jess Winters, the teenage girl who disappeared suddenly some eighteen years earlier, an unsolved mystery that has soaked into the porous rock of the town and haunted it ever since. In the days it takes the authorities to make an identification, the residents rekindle stories, rumors, and recollections both painful and poignant as they revisit Jess’s troubled history. In resurrecting the past, the people of Sycamore will find clarity, unexpected possibility, and a way forward for their lives.

 

Skillfully interweaving multiple points of view, Bryn Chancellor knowingly maps the bloodlines of a community and the indelible characters at its heart—most notably Jess Winters, a thoughtful, promising adolescent poised on the threshold of adulthood. Evocative and atmospheric, Sycamore is a coming-of-age story, a mystery, and a moving exploration of the elemental forces that drive human nature—desire, loneliness, grief, love, forgiveness, and hope—as witnessed through the inhabitants of one small Arizona town.

 
 
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Sycamore takes the reader back and forth through time, as we follow the residents of the small Arizona town. One of their own, a young teenage girl new to the town, went missing in December 1991. But as our tale sweeps back and forth from the past to the present, we learn about a relationship that turns the town upside down just before Jess disappears, and for many years, there was speculation that she had either run away due to the shame or that someone had hurt her.

 

As the residents’ lives continue and change, the town itself goes through its own metamorphosis until one day, a newcomer makes a discovery that will spin them all out again. What was the truth about Jess Winters and her disappearance? Would any of them ever recover from it?

The characters were interesting and were all linked around these events in some way. It was hard to keep track of them all throughout the story, but I couldn’t stop turning the pages. 4.5 stars.

***

REVIEW: SIX WEEKS TO LIVE, BY CATHERINE MCKENZIE

A gripping psychological suspense novel about a woman diagnosed with cancer who sets out to discover if someone poisoned her before her time is up, from the bestselling author of the “addictive and fast-paced” (Mary Kubica, New York Times bestselling author) thriller You Can’t Catch Me.

Jennifer Barnes never expected the shocking news she received at a routine doctor’s appointment: she has a terminal brain tumor—and only six weeks left to live.

While stunned by the diagnosis, the forty-eight-year-old mother decides to spend what little time she has left with her family—her adult triplets and twin grandsons—close by her side. But when she realizes she was possibly poisoned a year earlier, she’s determined to discover who might have tried to get rid of her before she’s gone for good.

Separated from her husband and with a contentious divorce in progress, Jennifer focuses her suspicions on her soon-to-be ex. Meanwhile, her daughters are each processing the news differently. Calm medical student Emily is there for whatever Jennifer needs. Moody scientist Aline, who keeps her mother at arm’s length, nonetheless agrees to help with the investigation. Even imprudent Miranda, who has recently had to move back home, is being unusually solicitous.

But with her daughters doubting her campaign against their father, Jennifer can’t help but wonder if the poisoning is all in her head—or if there’s someone else who wanted her dead.

 

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From the very first page of Six Weeks to Live, I was hooked. I have loved every book by this author, and this one did not disappoint.

The book is full of family drama with characters you love to hate, including our first-person narrator Jennifer. Is she guilty, too? Or are others in her family circle to blame?

In the beginning, we all want to point our fingers at the horrible ex-husband Jake, but as more is revealed about each daughter, we can’t stop peeling back the layers to find the truth.

By the very last page, we have our answers, but I was still stunned by what we had learned. But then again, sometimes the least likely person becomes the villain.

A brilliant read that earned 5 stars.

***

REVIEW: BEFORE SHE DISAPPEARED, BY LISA GARDNER

Frankie Elkin is an average middle-aged woman, a recovering alcoholic with more regrets than belongings. But she spends her life doing what no one else will–searching for missing people the world has stopped looking for. When the police have given up, when the public no longer remembers, when the media has never paid attention, Frankie starts looking.

A new case brings her to Mattapan, a Boston neighborhood with a rough reputation. She is searching for Angelique Badeau, a Haitian teenager who vanished from her high school months earlier.

Resistance from the Boston PD and the victim’s wary family tells Frankie she’s on her own—and she soon learns she’s asking questions someone doesn’t want answered. But Frankie will stop at nothing to discover the truth, even if it means the next person to go missing could be her.

 

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Frankie Elkin brings a down-to-earth vibe to Before She Disappeared. As the first person narrator, she invites us into her world and her thoughts, and I felt right at home with her.

I enjoyed following her along as she searched for the missing teenager, and attended some AA meetings with her, too.

As she stood up against the official detectives, bringing her unique insights to the search, I applauded her efforts and her abilities. She gave us a peek into the world of the family members and the missing individuals, adding something extra even as she revealed more about herself.

I enjoyed her journey as she pieced together the clues that might lead to the missing girl, and then still another one, and the pursuit kept me intrigued throughout.

The book was long and winding, but I couldn’t stop turning the pages. 4.5 stars.

***