REVIEW: THE GOOD DAUGHTER, BY KARIN SLAUGHTER

 

Two girls are forced into the woods at gunpoint. One runs for her life. One is left behind…

Twenty-eight years ago, Charlotte and Samantha Quinn’s happy small-town family life was torn apart by a terrifying attack on their family home. It left their mother dead. It left their father — Pikeville’s notorious defense attorney — devastated. And it left the family fractured beyond repair, consumed by secrets from that terrible night.

Twenty-eight years later, and Charlie has followed in her father’s footsteps to become a lawyer herself — the ideal good daughter. But when violence comes to Pikeville again — and a shocking tragedy leaves the whole town traumatized — Charlie is plunged into a nightmare. Not only is she the first witness on the scene, but it’s a case that unleashes the terrible memories she’s spent so long trying to suppress. Because the shocking truth about the crime that destroyed her family nearly thirty years ago won’t stay buried forever…


My Thoughts: Living in a small Georgia town populated by angry residents who turn to crime more often than not, the Quinn family stands out. Mostly because they are not like the others, but also because Rusty Quinn defends some of those angry people, to the detriment of his family.

The Good Daughter brings out Charlie’s story first, as she has stayed in Pikeville to help her father, even though she has a separate practice and does not see eye-to-eye with him. But it is easy for the townsfolk to paint them both with the “liberal” brush, which does not endear them to the residents, especially the cops.

When something horrific happens one day, and when Charlie is caught up in the middle of it all, Sam is called back to town. Living in New York for several years, she is still trying to put the past behind her, especially the day of the devastating attack on her family. She still suffers from the aftermath of the events.

What is happening in Charlie’s marriage and personal life that has turned her into an angry person? How are Sam’s lasting injuries adding to the stress she feels when she faces the town again? What will Sam learn about the alleged perpetrator in the recent violence that will change how she and her father approach the case? What unexpected revelations will finally release them from the past?

Just when I thought I had everything figured out, more secrets are revealed and an astonishing denouement makes all the difference for the two sisters. A 5 star read for me.

***

REVIEW: THE LYING GAME, BY RUTH WARE

 

On a cool June morning, a woman is walking her dog in the idyllic coastal village of Salten along a tidal estuary known as the Reach. Before she can stop him, the dog charges into the water to retrieve what first appears to be a wayward stick, but to her horror, turns out to be something much more sinister…

The next morning, three women in and around London—Fatima, Thea, and Isabel—receive the text they had always hoped would NEVER come, from the fourth in their formerly inseparable clique, Kate, that says only, “I need you.”

The four girls were best friends at Salten, a second rate boarding school set near the cliffs of the English Channel. Each different in their own way, the four became inseparable and were notorious for playing the Lying Game, telling lies at every turn to both fellow boarders and faculty, with varying states of serious and flippant nature that were disturbing enough to ensure that everyone steered clear of them. The myriad and complicated rules of the game are strict: no lying to each other—ever. Bail on the lie when it becomes clear it is about to be found out. But their little game had consequences, and the girls were all expelled in their final year of school under mysterious circumstances surrounding the death of the school’s eccentric art teacher, Ambrose (who also happens to be Kate’s father).

My Thoughts: There is something disturbing about a group of young girls, drawn together by circumstances, who find amusement in a game that involves lying. Especially when the goal of the lying is to hurt others, to put them in their place.

They must know that the practice of lying will come back to bite them, if not now, later in life. Or perhaps, in their immaturity, they do not care.

Kate is really at the heart of the lying game, in my opinion, and as much as I could see her need to control her friends through this game, since she has had much sadness in her life, I wished that the girls could have found a way to tell her no.

Isa, whose narrative voice draws us into The Lying Game, has a lot to lose by going along with Kate’s games…and so does Fatima.

Perhaps they did not foresee the consequences when they started the game. But surely they could have stopped at some point, before it all turned dangerous and horrific. Why is Kate able to crook her little finger and bring them all to her side? Ultimately, why does she have so much control over them, and what is she keeping from them? Is she breaking their one rule not to lie to each other?

I thought I knew how the story would unfold, so there were some stunning surprises that I realize, in retrospect, were hiding out in dark corners, waiting to be revealed in the most tragic way possible. 4.5 stars.

***

REVIEW: THE OTHER GIRL, BY ERICA SPINDLER

 

Officer Miranda Rader of the Harmony, Louisiana PD is known for her honesty, integrity, and steady hand in a crisis—but that wasn’t always so. Miranda comes from the town of Jasper, a place about the size of a good spit on a hot day, and her side of the tracks was the wrong one. She’s worked hard to earn the respect of her coworkers and the community.

When Miranda and her partner are called to investigate the murder of one of the town’s most beloved college professors, they’re unprepared for the brutality of the scene. This murder is unlike any they’ve ever investigated, and just when Miranda thinks she’s seen the worst of it, she finds a piece of evidence that chills her to the core: a faded newspaper clipping about that terrible night fifteen years ago. The night she’d buried, along with her past and the girl she’d been back then. Until now that grave had stayed sealed…except for those times, in the deepest part of the night, when the nightmares came: of a crime no one believed happened and the screams of the girl they believed didn’t exist.

Then another man turns up dead, this one a retired cop. Not just any cop—the one who took her statement that night. Two murders, two very different men, two killings that on the surface had nothing in common—except Miranda.

My Thoughts: From the opening pages of The Other Girl, the reader is wrapped up in a tantalizing tale that will reveal itself in all its complexities as it sweeps back and forth in time. From 2002, when Miranda Rader was a girl called Randi, a girl desperately needing help, but who was not believed because of her history, we find out about a traumatic experience. One that changes her life.

In the present, she has been a good cop with integrity. But suddenly everything is changing, and the Chief who had believed in her is suddenly distrustful…and doing inexplicable things. Is he on the take? Who is he protecting? Even her partner Jake is seemingly there for her…and then not. Who can she trust?

I couldn’t stop rapidly turning pages, trying to sort through the host of possible perpetrators and all the red herrings, trying to find out who might be setting up Miranda as the perp. Someone wise said to her: “Why is this happening? And who is doing it?” Once she figured that out, she would have the answer. And she did, by going back to the beginning of it all. Surprising twists soon led down just the right pathways. 5 stars.


***My e-ARC came from the publisher via NetGalley.

REVIEW: NOT A SOUND, BY HEATHER GUDENKAUF

When a tragic accident leaves nurse Amelia Winn deaf, she spirals into a depression that ultimately causes her to lose everything that matters—her job, her husband, David, and her stepdaughter, Nora. Now, two years later and with the help of her hearing dog, Stitch, she is finally getting back on her feet. But when she discovers the body of a fellow nurse in the dense bush by the river, deep in the woods near her cabin, she is plunged into a disturbing mystery that could shatter the carefully reconstructed pieces of her life all over again. 

As clues begin to surface, Amelia finds herself swept into an investigation that hits all too close to home. But how much is she willing to risk in order to uncover the truth and bring a killer to justice?


My Thoughts: As we begin Not a Sound, we are swept back to the moments before Amelia’s life changed drastically. It was an ordinary night serving as a nurse in the ER, tending to injured and battered women, collecting evidence, and offering comfort.

As she walks the latest patient to her car, another car comes screeching through the parking lot and slams into Amelia and her patient.

Two years later, we awake to another scenario. Amelia with her kayak and her dog Stitch. She runs and kayaks along the river near her home, a simple A-frame cabin. Everything she had before is gone. Her hearing, her husband, and her home. After the tragedy, she had turned to drinking, and her husband tossed her out.

Today she has a job interview at the cancer unit. Not as a nurse, but as a clerk scanning files. It is a start.

But finding a body in the river that day changes everything again. Not just a body, but a friend, another nurse who also worked with sexual assault victims. Amelia is immediately caught up in the case, and before she knows it, she is in the midst of another catastrophe.

Her best friend Jake is a cop, and he is wonderfully supportive, but even he is getting tired of the clues she brings to him. She thinks she has found another suspect for him, but then someone else rings the alarm bells. By the time she is really on the right track, she is in serious danger.

Why is Amelia’s husband David acting nice all of a sudden? Who has planted a bottle of wine on her counter at home? How did a bottle get into her drawer at work?

Finding out who is trying to sabotage her might just bring her face to face with a killer. A wonderfully captivating novel that kept me glued to the pages. 5 stars.


***I received an e-ARC from the publisher via NetGalley.

REVIEW: THE PERFECT STRANGER, BY MEGAN MIRANDA

Confronted by a restraining order and the threat of a lawsuit, failed journalist Leah Stevens needs to get out of Boston when she runs into an old friend, Emmy Grey, who has just left a troubled relationship. Emmy proposes they move to rural Pennsylvania, where Leah can get a teaching position and both women can start again. But their new start is threatened when a woman with an eerie resemblance to Leah is assaulted by the lake, and Emmy disappears days later.

Determined to find Emmy, Leah cooperates with Kyle Donovan, a handsome young police officer on the case. As they investigate her friend’s life for clues, Leah begins to wonder: did she ever really know Emmy at all? With no friends, family, or a digital footprint, the police begin to suspect that there is no Emmy Grey. Soon Leah’s credibility is at stake, and she is forced to revisit her past: the article that ruined her career. To save herself, Leah must uncover the truth about Emmy Grey—and along the way, confront her old demons, find out who she can really trust, and clear her own name.

My Thoughts: The Perfect Stranger was one of those books that had me taking voluminous notes, not sure which details I uncovered that would help me later, as it was clear from the start that many secrets and lies would shake out as we followed the various threads to the end.

First, I was intrigued by the character of Emmy Grey, who may have been someone else entirely. Or perhaps she only existed in the mind of Leah Stevens, through whose eyes we saw most of the events of the story. After all, she leaves no evidence of her existence behind when she goes. Everything is in someone else’s name: in Leah’s name.

How did the attack of a woman who resembled Leah connect to Emmy Grey or even to Leah?

Finding out more kept me reading, and even as each twist and turn led me to still another theory, I knew that the identity of Emmy Grey would be at the heart of it all. Themes of trust were also at the center of the mystery. Who could Leah trust, from her old lover in Boston to Emmy herself?

And what about Detective Kyle Donovan, who seems so forthcoming in the beginning, and then shuts down? Will he finally trust Leah enough to help her?

Twisted threads take us back and forth, with bits and pieces revealed until a startling connection leads us to the very beginning and to the moment of truth. To the place where we finally discover who Emmy is…and to the secrets she had hoped to outrun. 5 stars.***My e-ARC came from the publisher via NetGalley.

REVIEW: ONE PERFECT LIE, BY LISA SCOTTOLINE

On paper, Chris Brennan looks perfect. He’s applying for a job as a high school government teacher, he’s ready to step in as an assistant baseball coach, and his references are impeccable.

But everything about Chris Brennan is a lie.

Susan Sematov is proud of her son Raz, a high school pitcher so athletically talented that he’s being recruited for a full-ride scholarship to a Division I college, with a future in major-league baseball. But Raz’s father died only a few months ago, leaving her son in a vulnerable place where any new father figure might influence him for good, or evil.

Heather Larkin is a struggling single mother who lives for her son Jordan’s baseball games. But Jordan is shy, and Heather fears he is being lured down a dark path by one of his teammates, a young man from an affluent family whose fun-loving manner might possibly conceal his violent plans.

Mindy Kostis succumbs to the pressure of being a surgeon’s wife by filling her days with social events and too many gin and tonics. But she doesn’t know that her husband and her son, Evan, are keeping secrets from her – secrets that might destroy all of them.

At the center of all of them is Chris Brennan. Why is he there? What does he want? And what is he willing to do to get it?

My Thoughts: The story begins with our introduction to Chris Brennan, who has mysteriously presented himself in a false light in order to accomplish some unstated goal. We start guessing about his plans and what might unfold, but soon our imaginings are toppled as his true identity and mission are revealed.

In the small town of Central Valley, Pennsylvania, there are core characters whose lives connect with Chris almost immediately. I liked Heather, a single mom who is struggling to support her son while performing at a job she hates for a boss she does not respect.

Mindy Kostis, whose privileged life sets her apart and might make her unlikable, surprised me when I discovered unexpected depths and a moral compass that puts her in a great position to challenge her husband and her son Evan. Both have been keeping secrets and lying.

Then there is Susan, whose beloved husband Neil has recently died. Her sons, Ryan and Raz, are finding their way in a world without their father’s guiding presence, and they are making mistakes and bad choices.

How will Chris Brennan’s mission affect these small town residents? What will he do to achieve his goals? A page turner that kept me guessing, while biting my nails, One Perfect Lie was a perfectly fine-tuned read. 5 stars.  

***My e-ARC came from the publishers via NetGalley.

***

BOOKISH FRIDAY: “HEARTBREAK HOTEL”

Welcome to another Bookish Friday, in which I  share excerpts from books…and connect with other bloggers, who do the same.

Let’s begin the celebration by sharing Book Beginnings, hosted by Rose City Reader; and let’s showcase The Friday 56 with Freda’s Voice.

To join in, just grab a book and share the opening lines…along with any thoughts you wish to give us; then turn to page 56 and excerpt anything on the page.

Then give us the title of the book, so others can add it to their lists!

What a great way to spend a Friday!

Today’s featured book is from the Alex Delaware series:  Heartbreak Hotel, by Jonathan Kellerman.  Alex Delaware and LAPD detective Milo Sturgis investigate the death of Alex’s most mysterious patient to date in the sensational new thriller from the master of suspense, #1 New York Times bestselling author Jonathan Kellerman.

 

Beginning:  I lead a double life.

Some of my time is spent using the doctorate I earned:  evaluating the mental health of injured, neglected, or traumatized children, making recommendations about parental custody, providing short-term treatment.  My own childhood was often nightmarish and I like to think I’m making a difference.  I keep my fees reasonable and bills get paid.

***

56%:  Walking back to the unmarked, I said, “Ex-spouses and disgruntled waiters, let’s hear it for resentment.”

Milo said, “Five percent.  He’s right, who does that?”

***

Synopsis:  At nearly one hundred years old, Thalia Mars is a far cry from the patients that child psychologist Alex Delaware normally treats. But the charming, witty woman convinces Alex to meet with her in a suite at the Aventura, a luxury hotel with a checkered history.

What Thalia wants from Alex are answers to unsettling questions—about guilt, patterns of criminal behavior, victim selection. When Alex asks the reason for her morbid fascination, Thalia promises to tell all during their next session. But when he shows up the following morning, he is met with silence: Thalia is dead in her room.

When questions arise about how Thalia perished, Alex and homicide detective Milo Sturgis must peel back the layers of a fascinating but elusive woman’s life and embark on one of the most baffling investigations either of them has ever experienced. For Thalia Mars is a victim like no other, an enigma who harbored nearly a century of secrets and whose life and death draw those around her into a vortex of violence.

***

I’m intrigued.  What do you think?  Would you keep reading?

***

REVIEW: SATURDAY REQUIEM, BY NICCI FRENCH

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Frieda Klein is a London psychotherapist who has, in the past, assisted the police in a consultant role on some of their cases involving psychiatric disorders. In recent years, there have been troubles between Frieda and some higher-ups on the force. Nevertheless, some still consider her intuitive approach to be worth the risk.

In Saturday Requiem, the sixth novel in the series, Frieda has been asked to assess a young woman, Hannah Docherty, who has been held in Chelsworth Hospital for the past thirteen years for killing her family: mother, stepfather, and brother. What Frieda finds is appalling. Not only is Hannah almost mute, but she is covered with bruises and heavily medicated. What is happening to her behind closed doors? And why does Frieda find so many irregularities when she studies the case files? Was the case against Hannah mishandled? If so, why? Who is covering up the truth?

From the first page, I was thoroughly engaged with Frieda’s quest for answers, and not at all surprised that she met many obstacles and dangers along the way. As she connects with possible witnesses and interviews many of the same people the police talked with years ago, she meets resistance from almost everyone. But slowly a picture emerges, and as Frieda finds clarity, I held my breath, wondering how it would all play out.

Twists and turns are an understatement for the path Frieda follows to find a solution. But will she find out the truth soon enough? An alternate narrator, unknown to the reader, is spinning another plot from within the institution, and someone has nefarious plans for Hannah. 5 stars.

cropped-again-5***

REVIEW: BURIED IN A BOG, BY SHEILA CONNOLLY

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When Maura Donovan leaves her Boston home following her Grandmother Nora’s death, she is on a mission to connect with family in Ireland. It was her grandmother’s last request, and after her death, Maura found an envelope with just enough money set aside for the trip, along with her passport.

Nora Donovan’s family home was in Leap, by way of Dublin and then Cork, where Maura would meet up with her grandmother’s oldest friend, Bridget Nolan.

But what Maura finds there is not just her grandmother’s old friend, but a whole community of people who already know a lot about her, and who are ready to welcome her. Tea with Bridget led to stories, photos, and learning about Nora’s life before she left Ireland, widowed and with a young son (Maura’s father) in tow.

Everyone seemed ready to step up, offering a place for Maura to stay across from Sullivan’s Pub…and even the use of a car. Soon she is also helping out at the pub. It’s as if the villagers have taken her under their wing in honor of her grandmother.

But past events begin to surface, and Maura is suddenly swept up into a mystery involving a long-buried family secret. A mysterious man seems to be stalking Maura, making her question why someone is trying to scare her away.

Buried in a Bog was a story of community, secrets, and the strength of family bonds. I enjoyed it, although it seemed as though many things came together rather serendipitously for Maura. What I loved most, however, was how I felt as though I was visiting the Irish countryside along with Maura, having tea in an Irish cottage, and hanging out in the Irish pub. 4 stars.

HUMP DAY SERENDIPITY: “JUST FALL”

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Welcome to another Waiting on Wednesday event, hosted by Jill, at Breaking the Spine.

Every week, we gather around the blogosphere and search out the upcoming book releases, sharing our thoughts and blurbs.  Today I am eagerly awaiting a book from an author new to me:  Nina Sadowsky’s Just Fall will be released on March 22, 2016.

 

 

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Synopsis:  Perfect for fans of Patricia Highsmith and Gillian Flynn, this sexy and seductive debut novel asks: How can you find out that the person you love is a killer . . . and continue to love him anyway?

THEN

Ellie Larrabee’s life is perfect. She’s thriving at work, living in a fabulous apartment, and engaged to the man of her dreams. To all appearances, Ellie and Rob Beauman are a golden couple—blessed with good looks, success, and romantic chemistry that’s off the charts. Surely their future together promises nothing but happiness.

But on what should be the most wonderful day of her life, moments after saying “I do,” a shocking secret threatens to shatter Ellie’s happily-ever-after. She learns that the man she just married and loves with all her heart hides a dark past beneath his charismatic exterior. And the more harrowing truth she uncovers, the deeper Ellie is swept into a vortex of betrayal and uncertainty from which she may never escape.

NOW

On the island paradise of St. Lucia, Ellie isn’t basking in honeymoon splendor—she’s grappling with the chilling realities of her violently derailed life: Rob has blood on his hands and some very dangerous people on his trail, and only Ellie stands between him and the lethal destiny he’s facing. Rob never dreamed that Ellie would be dragged into the deadly world he’s trapped in—or used as a pawn against him. And Ellie could never have imagined how far she’d be forced to go to save the man she loves.

***

What do you think?  Are you also waiting for this one?  Have you read it?  Come on by and share your thoughts.

***