Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Caught by Harlan Coben


Wendy Tynes is a TV reporter who has a teenager about to start college, which means she needs to be sure she stays employed.  That's not easy in a profession that idolizes youth and has ten applicants for every job.  When a local high school girl goes missing, Wendy is all over the story as is the rest of the media.  But she also has other irons in the fire.

One of her most popular features is one where she goes undercover online, pretending to be a teenage girl and then trapping on camera the middle-aged men who want to meet a young girl.  She is sure she has a good candidate in Dan Mercer.  Wendy gets a tip about him and sets up a meet.  Dan is the director of a troubled youth center and he thinks he is going to help one of his charges who texts him and asks for help.  But when he goes to the address, he is confronted with bright lights and shouting questions about his lust for young girls.  Dan insists he has been set up but when the police search his house and find porn, he is done for.  He loses his job and is the target of attacks by vigilantes.  

Wendy is hesitant about whether she was right about Dan but when he is tied by forensic evidence to the missing teenager, she is sure again that she is right.  Is she or is she part of the setup of an innocent man?

Harlan Coben is one of the masters of the mystery world.  In this novel the reader will be tossed back and forth in their belief about Dan as the story twists and turns.  Their feelings about Wendy will also change as the story progresses.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Monday, March 28, 2022

Sixteen Horses by Greg Buchanan


Police inspector Alec Nichols has never in his career seen anything like this.  Sixteen horses have been killed, their heads buried with one eye open to the sun.  When he gets the call from one of the small farms that make up the rural community he lives in, he is shocked and appalled.  Who could have done such a thing?  What was their purpose?

The incident is so shocking and it makes the national news.  Local police decide to bring in a veterinary forensics expert, Cooper Allen.  Cooper is used to coming in to an area, helping the police solve a crime and then moving on.  She expects that this time will be the same.

But it is not the same.  Soon anyone who was anywhere near the farm starts to get sick and it is determined that there is an outbreak of anthrax.  More abuse cases are discovered, each cruel and seeming to be targeted at the police and local residents to cause as much fear and panic as possible.  Many are hospitalized and Alec is involved in a wreck, possibly from the effects of the contamination.  His teenage son is with him and cannot be found afterwards.  Cooper, who has developed feelings for Alec she never expected, stays on to try to solve the case without him.  Can the culprits be found before more people are affected?

This is a debut novel and if Buchanan writes more this well, he should have a long, successful career.  The feeling of the novel is dense, confusing as if a fog were swirling around all the characters.  These are not men and women who wear their hearts on their sleeves but rather quiet and purposeful people who wrest a living from an inhospitable land.  I listened to this novel and the narrator carried out the feeling of the book successfully.  This novel is recommended for mystery readers.

Sunday, March 27, 2022

Legendborn by Tracy Deonn


After her mother's death in a car accident, Bree Matthews, sixteen, is determined to get away.  She can't stay in her home and town where every sight reminds her of her loss.  An opportunity comes her way and she and a friend are accepted into a program at the University of North Carolina for teenagers where they can move ahead and take college courses.  They will live in a dorm.  Although her father is reluctant for her to leave, he thinks it could be good for her.

Their first night the two girls go with a friend to an off-campus activity.  That is against the rules but what happens is worse.  The party is broken up by a odd light that Bree can see but others can't.  That is, except for the fighters who rush to take care of the beast from another world.

Bree meets Nick and he introduces her to the society.  It is based on Arthurian legend and its mission is to protect humans from the beasts from another dimension.  Nick is this generation's Arthur and will eventually rule the society.  He is in love with Bree and she falls under his spell.  There is also Sel, Nick's protector and a mighty warrior.  He is suspicious of Bree and thinks she might be a threat.  Bree is not but her native ability plus her connection to root magic through her bloodline make her something different, something the society has never seen.  Will she get her answers before the beasts can take over the world?

This is a YA fantasy.  The author knows the world of UNC and Chapel Hill where the university is located well and readers from the area will delight in the references to well known landmarks.  It is the first in what is planned as a two book series.  The twist at the end of the novel will insure that there is plenty of material for a second book and the references to the Arthurian legend will play well with younger readers.  This book is recommended for YA and fantasy readers.

Saturday, March 26, 2022

Black Swan Green by David Mitchell


Black Swan Green is a small town in Worcestershire.  In 1982, thirteen year old Jason Taylor spends a year there which is momentous in his family life.  Jason lives there with his parents and older sister Julia.  He has the typical concerns of a teenage boy.  Will he be popular or at least have a group of guys to hang around with?  Will he ever find a girl to kiss?  Will the elusive and tantalizing Dawn ever look his way?  

Jason has a speech impediment; he is a stammerer.  That lets him in for teasing at school but he is going to therapy and working on it.  He is a poet although he doesn't tell people since writing poetry is for sissies in the opinion of the guys he lives among.  At home, his sister is about to head off to university and Jason wonders what the house will be like when he is there just with his parents.  They seem to be having issues as well and there are frequent silences.  His mother goes back to work although his father is opposed.  She seems to love her job so that is a plus.

Then there are other events going on in the world.  The biggest is the war in the Falklands.  Of course at first everyone thinks it will be a cakewalk and some of the local guys who are older are involved.  That optimistic viewpoint changes as English casualties start to mount and the truth of war is brought home to those left behind.  

David Mitchell is a frequent author on the Booker Prize lists.  His previous novels include Cloud Atlas, Number9 Dream, Slade House, The Thousand Autumns Of Jacob De Zoet, The Bone Clocks and Utopia Avenue.  In this novel, he captures perfectly the angst and joys of being a teenager finding their place in the world and readers will find Jason endearing.  I would highly recommend it.  This novel is recommended for readers of literary fiction.

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Fallen by Karin Slaughter


Will Trent and Faith Mitchell have been partners for a while now and they trust each other.  That may seem to be a given but Will was responsible for Faith's mother being forced into early retirement from the police force.  Evelyn headed up the drug squad and when it was found to be riddled with corruption, she had to go also.  These days Evelyn is babysitting Faith's newborn baby.

When Faith goes to pick up the baby this day, she notices something is wrong right away.  There is blood on the carport and the door handle going in and rock music is blaring.  Evelyn is missing and the baby is nowhere to be found.  Before Faith can call it in, she finds one man lying dead and shoots another who is about to kill a third.  Then she ends up killing the third man when he escapes and threatens the neighbors.  Once the police arrive, the baby is found but Evelyn is not.  There is, however, a fourth dead man stashed in Evelyn's car trunk.

What is going on?  Will and his boss Amanda are determined to find the truth and find Evelyn before whoever took her kills her.  Faith is put on the sidelines to hold her family together while the investigation progresses.  Amanda is Evelyn's oldest friend and will do anything to find the truth although that doesn't seem to include telling Will all their old secrets.  Will is also distracted by the growing attraction between him and Dr. Sarah Linton.  Can she love a man like Will?  Can he break free of the toxic marriage he is involved in?

This is the fifth Will Trent novel.  Readers will be glad that he is finally getting something good out of life with his new relationship with Sarah.  But the mystery he finds himself entangled in is twisty and secretive and tests his bonds with his partner and his boss, both of whom want the same outcome but still want to protect old secrets.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Monday, March 21, 2022

Great Stories Of Suspense, edited by Ross Macdonald


This anthology, published in 1974, contains both short stories and several novellas.  The novellas include What Mrs. McGillicuddy Saw! by Agatha Christie, Enquiry by Dick Francis, The Strange Case Of Dr. Jekyll And My Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson and The Far Side Of The Dollar by Ross Macdonald.  Short story authors include John Collier, Kenneth Fearing, Stanley Ellin, Graham Greene, Dashiell Hammett, John Cheever, James M. Cain, Margaret Millar, Roald Dahl, Michael Gilbert, Patricia Highsmith and Flannery O'Connor.  Although almost fifty years old, the stories have held up well although there are times when the reader can tell where police technology has moved on or social mores have changed.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Sunday, March 20, 2022

The Killer's Wife by Bill Floyd


Nina Mosley has lived an incredible life.  She married young, a man named Randall Moseley, Randy to his friends.  Randy traveled for his work but when he was home, the couple was happy.  They had a son and Nina thought everything was fine.  Then Randy began to change and eventually, she began to suspect him and found evidence that he was a serial killer.  His trademark was to remove the eyes of his victims and replace the eyes with various items such as marbles or nuts.  Nina went to the police and testified at Randy's trial.  Now he sits on Death Row waiting for his execution date.

Nina is left behind to support herself and raise her son alone.  She moves across the country from the West Coast to North Carolina and changes her name to Leigh Wren.  Leigh finds a job and over the years is promoted until she has a good position.  She has friends and even dates a bit.  But all that changes one night.

Leigh is grocery shopping when she is approached by an older man.  He tells her that he knows who she is because Randy killed his daughter and he doesn't believe she never knew what Randy was doing.  He has hired private detectives to find her and plans to publicize who she is.  He does just that, accusing Leigh of being involved in the murders.  Leigh's life is blown up.  Everyone knows who she is and her son now knows his father is a serial killer.  Worse, a copycat killer is now recreating Randy's crimes and he also knows where the woman who testified against his mentor is.  Can Leigh and the police find this new killer before he finds Leigh?

This book was released in 2008 and was the debut novel of the author.  I can find no evidence that he wrote any more novels which is a shame as this was a good start.  The author got Leigh's personality down pat, how someone could be fooled and then find out an earthshaking secret that required them to completely reinvent themselves.  The twist at the end is well done.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Friday, March 18, 2022

The Guilt Trip by Sandie Jones


Will and Allie are getting married in a fantastic destination wedding trip on an island.  Allie had worked for Will's brother, Jack, who had introduced them.  Jack is married to Rachel and they have one son.  Jack and Rachel's best friends, Paige and Noah, are also going although they aren't that close to the bride and groom.

It seems like it would be a marvelous trip but there are undercurrents everywhere.  Jack and Allie seem to have tension between them for some reason.  Rachel notices that and chalks it up to Jack's recent distance from them all.  She knows he is working something out and is giving him space to do so.  While Paige is Rachel's best friend, she has known Noah longer and the two of them had been best friends for quite a while.  Perhaps because of this, Jack and Noah have never been close and seem at times to be hostile to each other.

Once on the island, things are still strange.  Rachel starts to believe that Jack is having an affair with Allie.  He had spread a rumor about Allie and another man at work but what if that was just camouflage?  Then there is Noah.  He has decided now is the time to tell Rachel he still loves her and that he believes Rachel and Jack's son is actually his, an idea that could possibly be true.  Paige is ready to go for Allie on any grounds as they are oil and water.  Will this marriage ever take place?

Sandie Jones has written a twisty tale that leaves the reader changing their viewpoint over and over again.  Each person seems to have secrets and as these are slowly revealed, the relationships change also.  Some are lying but how to determine the truth?  This book is recommended for psychological thriller readers.

Wednesday, March 16, 2022

The Last Dickens by Matthew Pearl


It is 1870 and the literary world is reeling.  Charles Dickens has died and the successful author was in the middle of a novel, The Mystery Of Edwin Drood.  James Osgood is the younger partner of Dicken's sole American publisher.  The firm had expected a huge boost in revenue with the rest of Dicken's novel but now face ruin without it.  The partners send Daniel Sand, a young employee to the docks to see if possibly Dickens had finished the novel and sent the rest of the installments.  When he is found murdered in the street, it is clear something must be done.

The partners decide that Osgood should travel to London and then to Dicken's home to see if he can find the missing installments.  He asks Daniel's sister, Rebecca, to accompany him as she is also an employee of the firm and he will need clerical help.  The two set off to London and encounter issues on the trip.

Once in London the issues continue.  It is clear that there are other individuals looking for the remainder of the novel.  Flashbacks of Dicken's last trip to the United States reveal the enemies he had to fight on a daily basis and it could be that these same people have now redirected their attentions to James.  Can he find the missing chapters and return safely to the United States?

Matthew Pearl is known for his novels based on historical fact.  Readers will learn not only about Dickens and his last novel but also facts about his lecture trips to the United States as well as the state of American publishing.  The opium trade is brought in as is the British rule in India.  Facts about Dicken's family and his house and finances are discussed.  The state of divorce in the United States in the 1870's is an interesting sideline.  This book is recommended for readers of historical fiction.

Monday, March 14, 2022

Broken by Karin Slaughter


Doctor Sara Linton is headed home for Thanksgiving.  She doesn't go home anymore.  Instead she moved to Atlanta where she works in a busy emergency room and where she doesn't have as much time to think about how her husband was shot down before her.  She knows she won't ever get over his death but it's good to be busy all the time.

But this trip won't be a relaxing one.  Sara arrives home to find the town abuzz.  A local college girl has been pulled from the lake, weighed down with cinder blocks.  There's a suicide note but there's also a stab wound to the neck so it's a murder.  When the police go to her apartment, they find a man already there.  He has something in his hands and when they try to arrest him, he runs and ends up stabbing one of the police.  The policeman is taken to the hospital and the man, a young mentally challenged teenager, is taken to the station.  There Lena Adams gets a confession from him.  The man begs to see Sara as she had been his pediatrician growing up and he trusts her.  But when Sara arrives, it is to find Tommy dead in his cell, his wrists slit with a pen.  

With a disaster this large, the state needs to be called in.  Sara calls the head of the force and asks that Will Trent and his partner be sent.  Will's partner can't come as she is about to give birth so Will heads down alone.  He arrives to find a hostile police force but that's common.  But it's not common to find the level of lies and deception he is met with.  Can he find the truth?

This is the fourth Will Trent novel.  In it, his attraction to Sara deepens and hers to him although it's unclear if they will ever act on it.  Will is still married, although that's a loose term for a wife who left within a week of their marriage and only rarely returns for a day or so.  There is a subplot about the animosity between Sara and Lena since Sara blames Lena for her husband's death.  The twists and turns are exciting and the ending comes with a surprise.  Will Trent is on of the most fascinating characters I've encountered in a crime series.  This book is recommended for mystery  readers.

Saturday, March 12, 2022

Magic For Liars by Sarah Gailey


Ivy Gamble is a private investigator.  She is good at it but it's not anything she thought she would do with her life.  But her life hasn't turned out to be anything from a fairy tale.  She was separated from her twin sister when the realization hit that Tabitha had magic and Ivy did not.  Tabitha was sent off to a special magic school and never lived at home again.  Ivy's mother died early of an aggressive cancer and Tabitha wasn't around for it, which Ivy resented.  These days the two are totally alienated and haven't really spoken in years.

Ivy is excited when she gets a visitor.  The woman was impressive and was a headmaster, and most thrillingly, wants to hire Ivy to solve a murder.  Ivy only hesitates a minute when she realizes the woman is headmaster of the magic school where Tabitha is now teaching.  She has been anxious to do more with her career and a successful murder case will do wonders for it.

Ivy goes to the school where she is expected to reside until she is through with her investigation.  The murdered woman was Sylvia whose mutilated body had been found in the library.  Of course, being a magic school, the books in the section where the body was found spend their time whispering clues just out of range to be understood.  Ivy starts interviewing school faculty and staff as well as the students.  She uncovers a 'mean girl' clique headed by school queen Alexandria as well as a teenage boy who is convinced he is destined to be a once in a lifetime mage to outperform all mages.  On the staff side, there are rivalries and love affairs and Ivy develops an interest in one of the male teachers.  More importantly, she and Tabitha slowly start to rebuild their relationship.  Will Ivy be able to solve the case?

This was an interesting cross-genre novel.  The juxtaposition of science fiction and mystery intersect well and provide more depth.  The author has managed to avoid the twin sister cliché of good twin, evil twin and several of the characters are gay or bisexual.  The ending is surprising and the reader will have fun following the twists and turns.  This book is recommended for fantasy and mystery readers.

Tuesday, March 8, 2022

Whisper Network by Chandler Baker

 Things are going to change at the law offices where the women have worked for years.  The CEO has died and a new one will be chosen.  When it appears that the frontrunner is Ames, a man who has a reputation for sexual harassment in the firm, some of the women lawyers decide enough is enough.

The women are all elite lawyers but quite different.  There's Sloan who is a driven women determined to make her way up the ladder and who had an affair with Ames years ago.  Grace is a new mom with a baby at home and struggling to keep up.  Ardie is a bit older and is recently divorced, realizing that she is now the sole support for her new household of her son and herself.  Katherine is a new hire, and seems to be Ames' new target.

The women decide to file a sexual harassment lawsuit against the company for providing an unsafe working environment and against Ames in particular for his acts over the years.  The company is determined to fight back.  When Ames goes over the railing on the rooftop of the firm to his death, lines are quickly drawn.  Was it suicide?  Was Ames pushed to his death?

Chandler Baker is an attorney herself and has written this novel from her own experiences and from stories other professional women have told her.  Sexual harassment in the workplace is still a very real experience and not every women has the legal knowledge and expertise these women did to deal with a job threatening experience.  I listened to this novel and the narrator was great and sounded like a sharp, professional woman would sound.  This book is recommended for both mystery and women's fiction readers.

Monday, March 7, 2022

The Snowdonia Killings by Simon McCleave


DI Ruth Hunter has had it with London.  She is sick of the never-ending violence and crime and has requested a transfer to North Wales, in Snowdonia.  Surely the crime rate is lower in a rural jurisdiction.  She also has a personal reason.  Her lover got on a train three years ago and disappeared.  An extensive investigation was done but no clues ever emerged.  She had disappeared as if she had never existed.  

But as soon as she arrives, a teacher at the local high school is murdered and the case is assigned to Ruth.  She has to get to know her new team, who are suspicious of a London transferee as well as get to know the case and the locale.  It's a daunting task.  The murdered woman was the kind of woman who made enemies in both her business and personal life.  Was it a student, a townsperson she argued with or someone from her love life?

Ruth's second in command, Nick, has his own issues.  He is an alcoholic and trying to wean himself off without medical help.  He is also not sure about an outsider coming in and trying to solve a murder.  When another person from the school is also murdered, the tension rackets up.  Can this new team solve the murders?

This is the first novel in the Ruth Hunter series.  Ruth is a common sense woman whose life has been upended with a personal tragedy.  There is a big of heavy handedness about the lesbian life but it doesn't really detract from the story and is necessary to lay the backstory for this character who will be featured in other novels in the series.  The setting is interesting as is the Welsh names and phrases throughout the book.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Friday, March 4, 2022

Undone by Karin Slaughter


A retired couple is driving on a country road when the horrific happens.  A woman bolts from the shoulder and runs right into their car.  Luckily, the car behind them has an EMT as the driver and he is able to provide first aid until an ambulance arrives.  But the woman's injuries are much more than being struck by a car would cause.  She is beaten, starved, cut and burned on every inch of her body.

When she arrives at the hospital, her case is assigned to Sarah Linton.  Sarah has fled to Atlanta after the death of her police chief husband three years before.  Now she works in the ER room and she hasn't seen this kind of damage often.  As she fights to save the patient, police arrive at the crime scene.

Will Trent and his partner, Faith, are assigned to the case.  Will finds a cave that has been dug under the ground and set up as a torture chamber.  They also realize once there that there was another victim and a search is soon on for the other woman.  She is found but did not survive.  Soon other women are kidnapped and taken and everyone knows the same horror is in store for them if they can't be found.  Can Will and Faith find the killer in time?

This is the third novel in the Will Trent series.  In this one, the relationship between Will and Faith grows stronger but interestingly, Will and Sarah are immediately drawn to one another.  The case is intricate and horrible and the reader will find themselves turning pages quickly to find the answers.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Thursday, March 3, 2022

Fractured by Karin Slaughter


Will Trent is called to one of the most expensive neighborhoods in Atlanta.  Upstairs a teenage girl lies dead, the victim of a savage attack.  Downstairs a teenage boy's body is displayed, having been killed by the mother of the girl as he tried to flee.  The Atlanta police are there but make a critical mistake in the first hour.  The girl upstairs is not the daughter of the house but her best friend.  The daughter is missing, kidnapped by whoever broke in that day.

After that mistake and with the wealth of the parents, the case is transferred to the state investigators and assigned to Will.  He is given a female partner from the city police, Faith.  Faith and her family have issues with Will, who recently did an internal affairs investigation of the city police that resulted in jobs lost.  Will is a pariah to the city police.

Even worse, the father of the household is someone Will knew in the foster system they both grew up in.  The father was one of Will's chief tormentors and gave him the name Trashcan, since Will was found in a trashcan at five months old.  There is still animosity between the two that makes it even more difficult to concentrate on the crime.

As Will and Faith investigate, it turns out that many of the people surrounding the daughter of the house are not what they seem.  The clock ticks on, with each hour making it more unlikely that the girl can be rescued.  Will this case be a failure?

This is the second Will Trent series.  Readers get a bit more of his background and the dyslexia issues that he hides to save his job.  There are other characters discussed, Will's partner, Angie, who blatantly cheats on him, Will's boss Amanda who knows about his disability and uses it to control him and Faith who will be Will's partner going forward.  The crime is intricate and horrific and Will's special talents are needed to try to unwind the tangles.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.