Tag: murder mystery

Book Review: Under My Skin, by Lisa Unger

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Image belongs to Harlequin/Park Row.

Title:   Under My Skin
Author:   Lisa Unger
Genre:   suspense, thriller, murder mystery
Rating:   4 out of 5

A year ago, Poppy’s husband, Jack, was murdered while on his morning run in Manhattan. The police have no leads. It seems to be a case of random crime. Poppy is slowly putting her life back together with the help of her best friend, Layla, her therapist, and the pills she takes to sleep.

But Poppy isn’t doing as well as she seems. She’s losing time—again. The first time it happened was after Jack’s funeral, when she disappeared for days and turned up wearing a red dress she doesn’t remember owning. Now she keeps losing track of time. place, people…everything in her life is a swirling maelstrom of confusion.

Poppy believes Jack’s murder wasn’t random, and she intends to find out the truth. When she spots a mysterious man following her, her already-tenuous grip on reality starts to fade, and soon she no longer has any idea what’s real and what’s not.

I don’t think I’ve ever read any of Lisa Unger’s books before. I spent a large portion of this book being just as confused as Poppy was, but completely engrossed in the story. The author weaves together Poppy’s present—distorted and hazy at best—with real memories and her what-might-have-been imaginings until the reader has no more idea than Poppy what is real and what is not. An intriguing read!

Lisa Unger is a New York Times-bestselling and award-winning author. Under My Skin is her newest novel.

(Galley provided by Harlequin/Park Row in exchange for an honest review.)

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Book Review: The 7 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle,by Stuart Turton

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Image belongs to Sourcebooks Landmark.

Title:   The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle
Author:   Stuart Turton
Genre:   Mystery, murder mystery
Rating:   4.5 out of 5

When he wakes up in the forest, he has no idea where he is, how he got there, or what he’s doing there. He doesn’t even know who he is. Minutes later, he sees a woman murdered, and her killer hands him a compass and a cryptic direction. How desperate do you have to be to listen to a murderer? About that desperate. But soon he has a name:  Aiden Bishop.

The Hardcastles are hosting a house party to mark the anniversary of their son’s death. All the guests are there, but no one has seen the hosts, only their remaining son and daughter. Aiden discovers that nothing is as it seems—and no one.

When he wakes up the second day in the body of a different guest, he realizes he must re-live the same day over and over until he solves the murder of Evelyn Hardcastle, who kills herself at the ball that night. He doesn’t know what’s going on. He doesn’t know who to trust. He only knows that someone is trying to stop him from solving the crime—and that person will kill all his bodies to stop him.

This book has one of the most unique premises I’ve ever read. The opening chapter has Aiden with no idea what is going on—and I felt like that the rest of the book. The writing is solid, and the author does a great job of contrasting Aiden’s personality with his host’s. I was intrigued from the very beginning, and I never did figure out what was going on!

Stuart Turton lives in London with his wife. The 7 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle is his debut novel.

(Galley provided by Sourcebooks Landmark in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: #murdertrending, by Gretchen McNeil

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Image belongs to Disney/Freeform.

Title:  #murdertrending
Author:  Gretchen McNeil
Genre:   YA/horror
Rating:   3.5 out of 5

In a near-future where society is obsessed with social media, followers, and apps, The Postman app is the newest big thing. Alcatraz 2.0 takes convicted killers and puts them in a suburbia setting on Alcatraz, where serial killers hunt them down and kill them in graphic, theatrical detail for those watching on the app.

Dee’s sister, Monica, was obsessed with the app, so when Dee wakes up in a deserted warehouse, she knows immediately she’s been sent to Alcatraz 2.0 for the murder of her sister. With social media buzzing with bets on the quickness of her demise, Dee decides she’s not going to just roll over and die.

Instead, Dee takes on the notorious serial killers, determined that this princess is going to rescue herself—and prove her innocence. She just has to survive the worst the island has to offer.

#murdertrending was, to me, a scary look at a future that wouldn’t surprise me at all if it came true, considering how our culture is changing. The characters were a bit underdeveloped, and the identity of The Postman didn’t surprise me at all—the foreshadowing was a little heavy-handed—but it was a quick, easy read. If you’re squeamish, you might want to give this a pass, as it’s pretty graphic.

Gretchen McNeil is a trained opera singer, former circus performer and voice over artist, and current author. Her newest novel is #murdertrending.

(Galley provided by Disney/Freeform in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Darkwater Secrets, by Robin Caroll

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Image belongs to Gilead Publishing.

Title:   Darkwater Secrets
Author:   Robin Caroll
Genre:   Southern fiction, suspense
Rating:   4 out of 5

Managing the Darkwater Inn in the heart of the French Quarter is a dream job for Adelaide Fountaine. The job is demanding and busy, but she loves the hectic pace. The owner, not so much. But the owner’s son, Dimitri, has become her friend, over late-night meals in the quiet kitchen.

Detective Beau Savoie has been friends with Adelaide since childhood, but when a murder in the Darkwater brings up secrets from her past and leaves Adelaide a suspect, Beau starts to wonder if he really knows her at all. With the murder investigation pushing her into Dimitri’s arms, Beau wants to be mad at Adelaide, but he’s hiding secrets of his own.

I love suspense novels, Southern fiction, and New Orleans, so I was eager to read this novel. And I was not disappointed. The author captures the feel of the French Quarter—and the boutique hotels found there—with style and charm. I was so caught up in the drama between the characters, I didn’t even really care who the murderer was!

Robin Caroll is the best-selling author of almost 30 novels. Darkwater Secrets has just been released in paperback.

(Galley provided by Gilead Publishing in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Paper Ghosts, by Julia Heaberlin

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Image belongs to Random House/Ballantine Books.

Title:   Paper Ghosts
Author:  Julia Heaberlin
Genre:   Thriller
Rating:   4 out of 5

Carl Louis Feldman was once a famous photographer who took eerie pictures. Then he was charged with the murder of a young woman, acquitted, and disappeared from the public eye. Now he’s in a halfway house for those with dementia and he doesn’t remember killing anyone. Or so he claims.

But his daughter is visiting him, and she doesn’t believe him. She’s planning to take him on a trip to see if she can jog his memory. Except she’s not really his daughter.

She’s spent years getting ready for this day. Years looking for clues to her sister Rachel’s disappearance, even after the cops gave up. Years of painstaking research finding Carl and tracking him down. Years of training to see to it that he doesn’t come back from their little trip. Is Carl telling the truth, or are they both lying? The middle of the Texas wilderness is no place to be with a serial killer.

You know that little thrill you get when you read a book and it’s set someplace you’re familiar with? I got that on the first page of this book, with the mention of the cemetery in Weatherford, Texas and Mary Martin’s grave. I grew up in Weatherford, after all, so I was hooked from that sentence.

But I stayed hooked throughout the book by the twists and turns the story kept taking, and my curiosity to find out what was going to happen. This is an accurate look at dementia—and the way some dementia patients are sometimes self-aware enough to pretend they don’t remember things (I saw my grandmother do that). It’s an unsettling, creepy read, but the characters are intriguing. And how can you beat Texas as a setting? (You can’t.) Those pictures of the little twin girls were also creepy enough for me to keep reading.

Julia Heaberlin grew up in Texas before becoming a journalist, then an international bestselling author. Paper Ghosts is her newest novel.

(Galley provided by Random House/Ballantine Books in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Shattered Mirror, by Iris Johansen

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Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title:   Shattered Mirror
Author:  Iris Johansen
Genre:   Thriller
Rating:   4/5

When someone leaves a box containing a skull—and two mirrors, one shattered and one complete—at Eve Duncan’s home, she knows she has a work to do. As a forensic sculptor, it’s her job to reconstruct the faces of the dead and bring closure. But this time, it’s personal.

With a killer watching every move as Eve tries to reconstruct the skull, the face of a beautiful woman emerges beneath her hands. A face with ties to Eve and her family. With everyone she loves in danger, Eve must find out who the killer is and stop him—before the unthinkable happens again.

What is there to say about an Eve Duncan book? I’ve read this series for years, and every single one is a solid read, full of mystery, intrigue, and danger. Confession:  I’ve not read any of the Eve books since the 2013 series—no idea why not, just got busy, I suppose, so there were some surprises here for me. (Eve and Joe have a son? I have no memory of this…)

I enjoyed Shattered Mirror as I enjoyed Johansen’s other books and found it both compelling and unique. Considering how many books have been written in this series, that in itself is a fantastic accomplishment for the author.

Iris Johansen is a NYT Times best-selling author. Shattered Mirror is her newest novel.

(Galley provided by St. Martin’s Press in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Whispers of the Dead, by Spencer Kope

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Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title:  Whispers of the Dead
Author:  Spencer Kope
Genre:  Thriller, murder mystery
Rating:  4.5/5

Magnus “Steps” Craig and his partner, Jimmy, are part of a special FBI tracking unit, called in to solve the tough cases. Only three people know, but Steps can see “shine,” a unique color trail left where a person has touched. This ability makes Steps very good at tracking and finding killers.

But this case is different. The killer is more cold-blooded than any Steps and Jimmy have ever seen. The only part of the victims found are their feet, left in a portable cooler for the next target to find.

The first body found was left in the home of a federal judge in El Paso, but when another body is found in Baton Rouge, Steps realizes the killer has big plans, and the FBI has almost no clues. It will take every scrap of ability Steps and Jimmy have to unearth clues before the Icebox Killer strikes again.

I didn’t realize this was part of a series until I finished reading it, but I had no trouble getting up to speed. The characters make this novel! Steps’ ability is unique and interesting, but he’s a complex guy with a lot of layers, and his deadpan humor and snarkiness were a joy to read. The relationship between him and Jimmy, and the rest of the team, was well-developed and believable, and I found myself glued to the page, watching the characters interact. This is not your boring, predictable police-procedural/forensic mystery, but a detailed story about fascinating characters with great relationships.

Spencer Kope is a former Russian linguist with the Navy. Whispers of the Dead is his new novel, the second in the Special Tracking Unit series.

(Galley provided by St. Martin’s Press in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: The Liar’s Girl, by Catherine Ryan Howard

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Image belongs to Blackstone Publishing.

Alison Smith was just a teenager when she moved to Dublin as a freshman at St. John’s College. She’d dreamed of it for years, and the reality was so much more than she imagined. Her best friend, Liz, was with her, and she soon fell in love with Will, a charming boy she spent all her time with.

Then she found out Will was the Canal Killer, who murdered five women by dumping them in the canal—and one of them was Liz. Alison fled to the Netherlands, with no intention of every returning to Dublin. Until the police showed up on her doorstep ten years later, telling of new bodies, a copycat killer, and Will’s request to speak only to her.

After she sees Will, Alison doesn’t know what to think. Could he be telling the truth about his innocence? She’s not sure, but she knows she must find out the truth once and for all. Because she’s the reason Will went to jail in the first place…

Catherine Ryan Howard is an award-winning author from Cork, Ireland. Her newest thriller is The Liar’s Girl.

(Galley provided by Blackstone Publishing in exchange for an honest review.)

 

Book Review: You Will Be Mine, by Natasha Preston

 

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Image belongs to Sourcebooks Fire.

Lylah has finally moved on from her past. She’s at college, and she has a great group of friends that she lives with. She’s doing well in class, but she looks forward to going out with her friends, too.

One evening as they’re all getting ready, the doorbell rings and they find a note. ROSES ARE RED, VIOLETS ARE BLUE. WATCH YOUR BACK, I’M COMING FOR YOU. Lylah is freaked out, but her friends laugh it off. Except Sonny never comes home from the club. And a new note arrives.

Now Lylah and her friends are the target of a mysterious killer with an agenda. A killer the cops can’t seem to find…or even figure out who they’re looking for. Incidents from Lylah’s past give them clues, and soon the group is desperate to catch the killer before any more friends are targeted.

I’ve read a couple of Preston’s books before, so the twists didn’t really surprise me…I usually decide the least likely suspect is the culprit until proven wrong (Note:  this is not always accurate, but that’s how my brain works.). The creepiness level in this book was on-point, but the characters’ actions kind of ruined it for me. Um, I’m pretty sure that if several of my friends had been lured out of the house and murdered, I would not go anywhere by myself without telling a soul. Nor would I feel like the cops protecting me were in the way of my life and try to slip away from them. Maybe that’s just me? Verdict: great premise, creepy execution, but the characters just weren’t believable enough for me to be truly riveted. (I was actually quite annoyed at several points…to the point where I didn’t actually care if they died.)

Natasha Preston is the English author of The Cellar and The Cabin. You Will Be Mine is her newest novel.

(Galley provided by Sourcebooks Fire in exchange for an honest review.)

 

Book Review: The Gone World, by Tom Sweterlitsch

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Image belongs to Putnam.

Shannon Moss is a secret agent in the Naval Criminal Investigative Service. She’s part of a special unit that tracks crime though space—and time. Almost no one knows about her unit, so she can’t always explain her findings to people. Sometimes, she’s sent into the future to gather information about crimes in the present, but her departure from that future always ends that timeline, as she returns home.

In Pennsylvania 1997, Shannon is assigned to solve the murder of a Navy SEAL’s family, and to find his missing daughter. She discovers the SEAL is from the missing spaceship, Libra, presumed lost in Deep Time. As she works, Shannon also discovers anomalies that give her more questions than answers, so she travels into possible futures to gather information.

There, Shannon realizes the case has far greater implications:  it’s not just the fate of the SEAL’s family that’s at risk, but the entire human race, as the case is inextricably linked to the Terminus, the end of humanity. Now Shannon must solve a murder case, a girl’s disappearance, and stop a plot destined to end the human race, in a case that shares eerie links with Shannon’s own past.

I’m still not sure what to think about this book. The concept of Deep Time was both baffling and understandable in the narrative—although the visuals did not always coalesce for me. (Those never-ending lines of trees and the crucifixions.) Shannon is a strong, capable woman, haunted by her past and her experiences in Deep Time, and she finds herself amid events that can shatter existence into pieces. Her visits to possible futures were strangely compelling, as the people she knows in the past become startlingly different people in these futures. This reminded me of the time I read Stephen King’s Desperation and Richard Bachman’s The Regulators back-to-back (Bachman was King’s pen name.)

Tom Sweterlitsch was born in Ohio, grew up in Iowa, and worked with the Carnegie Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped for twelve years. The Gone World is his newest novel.

(Galley provided by Putnam in exchange for an honest review.)