Nate Beckett is a smoke jumper. He’s always busy fighting wildfires, and he certainly doesn’t have time to come home to the town that believed the worst of him. Fourteen years before, Nate’s father and the preacher got in a very loud, very public argument, and when the preacher was murdered that night, everyone believed Nate’s dad killed him. When the church burned to the ground, everyone believed Nate did it—and rather than stay and fight, he just left.
Fourteen years ago, Nate and the preacher’s daughter, Brenna Strickland were in love—until the night his father was accused of killing her father. After that night, Brenna thought things couldn’t get worse, but now she’s fighting an ugly custody battle with her ex-husband and his younger trophy wife—and his daddy’s money and influence. Brenna turns to alcohol to cope, but when the custody battle grows heated and new information about the murder years before comes to light, Brenna and Nate must work together to find out the truth.
I thoroughly enjoyed Smoke Screen. The things Brenna struggles with are enough to drive anyone to drink—even the preacher’s daughter. Her ex-husband and his daddy were enough to make me want a drink sometimes. The growth of her character through this novel was inspiring. Nate, too, grows a lot in this book. Being the son of a convicted murderer cannot be easy, but he handles himself with class and strength through it all.
Terri Blackstock is a USA Today– and New York Times-bestselling author. Smoke Screen is her newest novel.
(Galley courtesy of Thomas Nelson via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)
Newman is an American PI living in London just after World War II. The city is still a bombed-out wreck—and the people are worse. Early on Christmas morning, Newman receives a call from City Councilor Drake, who tells him to meet an investigator at the murder scene of Raymond Jarrett. The investigator isn’t there, so Newman stars asking questions. Jarrett was a blackmailer and a pimp, so there are a lot of people who might have wanted him dead—but who went through with it?
With the bodies piling up and his own life in danger, Newman is determined to find the killer. But as the suspects keep turning up dead and more questions keep stacking up, Newman realizes the truth has links all over the financial district—and the wealthy have more money and less scruples than he thought.
I’ll say straight away that detective noir stories are not my usual fair. They don’t normally hold my interest. This one did. The setting is incredibly well-realized and realistic—not to mention depressing—and the characters are…quite the character(s). I prefer more connection with the main characters I read, so the distance from Newman was a problem for me, but I realize that’s personal preference. This was well-written and very gritty, and I didn’t figure out who the killer was.
Janet Roger is an award-winning author. Shamus Dust is her debut novel.
(Galley courtesy of the author in exchange for an honest review.)
There’s a lot that six-year-old Aoife doesn’t know. She doesn’t know why it’s not okay to talk to her friend Teddy around other people—Mama says he’s imaginary, but he’s not. She doesn’t know why Momma stopped the car in the middle of an intersection crying and screaming and talking to Aoife’s brother Theo—he’s dead, even Aoife knows that. She doesn’t know if Momma will be home from the hospital in time for the Fourth of July fireworks. But Aoife does know that if she can figure out who killed Theo, Momma will come home.
Uncle Donny takes Aoife home and says he’ll stay with her until Momma comes home, but she’s not sure she believes him. She has to figure out who killed Theo, but no one will even talk to her about him, so the only help she has is her eight-year-old neighbor. And Teddy—but sometimes he’s more interested in getting Aoife in trouble than anything. Finding out who killed Theo will bring Momma home, so Aoife is determined—even if she has to do it all by herself.
All That’s Bright and Gone was an interesting read. I’m not sure I’ve read anything from a six-year-old’s point-of-view, so that was novel. And Aoife is definitely special. The way she sees the world is both charming and terrifying, but her determination to save her family is inspiring. I actually saw things as Aoife saw them—not an adult looking through a child’s eyes—and the writing brought her world to life.
Eliza Nellums Lives in Washington D.C. All That’s Bright and Gone is her debut novel.
(Galley courtesy of Crooked Lane Books via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)
Natalie Lockhart is a rookie detective in the town she grew up in. Burning Lake, New York has a dark past, full of covens, mysteries, and murder. Now Natalie’s been tasked with finding a link between the Missing Nine—nine homeless people who have gone missing over the years. And Natalie sees a connection she doesn’t like—a connection to a decades’ old death.
Then Daisy Buckner, a local schoolteacher turns ups dead, and the one suspect collapses into a coma only hours later. Everyone loved Daisy—or so Natalie thinks—but Daisy was hiding secrets, secrets that just might have gotten her killed. But the darkness in Burning Lake hides secrets that Natalie cannot even fathom.
Trace of Evil is well-written, compelling, and I didn’t have a clue who the killer was. (Either of them, actually.) But, two things caught my attention: 1) I never felt like I was truly experiencing Natalie’s thoughts and feelings. The point-of-view felt quite distant to me. And 2)…No one in this town—adult, teenager, police officer, no one—gave a second thought to the prevalence of covens. They were everywhere, as if it were a normal, expected part of the teenage experience. Which seemed weird to me, honestly. I have zero experience with a place where teenage covens are the norm, so this seemed just past far-fetched to me. But that’s just my own experience.
Alice Blanchard is an award-winning author. Trace of Evil is her newest novel.
(Galley courtesy of St. Martin’s Press/Minotaur Books via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)
Quinn Bellandini just wants to enjoy her quiet life with her new boyfriend, Tucker, running her family’s B&B—and staying away from murder investigations. But when Quinn finds bones in Tucker’s Aunt Lela’s yard and Lela is accused of the 33-year-old murder of a homecoming queen, she and her sister Delilah end up on the case again.
Tucker is devastated by his aunt’s arrest, so Quinn wants to help. Soon she and Delilah are asking questions, talking to everyone from busybody neighbors to old high school teachers to society matrons. The case is cold, and people don’t want to talk, but Quinn keeps asking questions, and turns up answers that seem to lead to the least likely of suspects—including her own parents!
I enjoyed the second novel in the Southern B&B Mystery series. Fardig’s novels are always so enjoyable: light, funny, and charming, with quirky, likable characters. There’s a lot of family drama in this one—we are talking about the South, after all—and even the secondary characters are excellent. Lela is especially memorable, but so are the rest of this delightful cast.
Caroline Fardig is a bestselling author. Southern Harm is her newest novel, the second book in the Southern B&B Mystery series.
(Galley courtesy of Alibi via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)
When Libby Jones turned 25, she received the letter she’d been waiting on her whole life, the letter telling her who she really was and who her parents were. She wasn’t expecting to find out she is the sole inheritor of an abandoned mansion on the banks of the Thames worth millions of dollars. She wasn’t expecting the story of how she was found, either.
Twenty-five years ago, neighbors called the cops to report a crying baby. The officers found Libby—called Serenity then—a happy, healthy 10-month old, in her crib. In the kitchen they found three dead bodies starting to decay and a hasty note. There was no trace of the other two adults, or the four kids rumored to live there. Nor was there any trace of whoever had been caring for the baby.
Libby has been waiting her whole life find out who she is—but she’s not the only one who’s been waiting. And asking questions about the past just might draw more than answers out of the dark.
This was a creepy tale of family suspense—not to mention dark manipulation and the growth of a cult. Weird family. Weird kids. Weird situation. But I was completely intrigued with the tale and finished it in one sitting.
Lisa Jewell is a New York Times-bestselling author. The Family Upstairs is her newest novel.
(Galley courtesy of Atria Books via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)
Love’s Curiosities Inc. is a small shop full of odds and ends and curiosities that most people overlook. Temerity Love and her sister Tilda grew up there and now own it. Things have changed a bit since their parents owned the shop but magic still happens there. Tilda is a witch and Temerity is renowned for her ability to touch objects and see where they came from.
When a local schoolteacher is murdered by a poisoned cup of tea, an antique hand mirror is found nearby, and the local investigator asks for Temerity’s help finding the murder. Too bad his new protegee, grumpy out-of-towner Angus isn’t so open-minded. As Temerity starts asking questions, she’s determined to find out who killed the schoolteacher—with or without the help of the townspeople.
I really enjoyed this cozy mystery mixed with magic! The characters are unique and quirky, and the town was vibrantly alive, filled with a sense of history and stories lurking around every corner. The writing is solid, and I just sort of settled into this novel and enjoyed it.
Kennedy Kerr is an author with a love of all things Scottish. A Spell of Murder, the first book in the Lost Maidens Loch Mysteries, is her new novel.
(Galley courtesy of Bookouture via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)
A serial killer is after her. Dr. Rowan Dupont knows this. And she’s ready for the waiting to be over. But first, she wants answers. She was just a child when her mother took her own life, and now she realizes she didn’t know her mother at all. How well did the killer know her mother? And what secrets was her mother hiding?
When a bizarre double murder leads to even more horrible discoveries, Rowan works with her lifelong friend Billy, now chief of police, to uncover the truth. But Rowan’s childhood home—a Victorian funeral home—has seen more dark secrets than Rowan can imagine. And her desire for answers only leads to more questions.
I have not read the first book in this series, but that didn’t significantly detract from reading this one. I had no problem catching up with the backstory and settling myself into this story. Rowan is struggling with the horrors from her past—and there are a lot of them—as well as waiting for the serial killer she’s known for years to come after her. She knows he’s watching, but she can’t just not seek to find answers to her questions. This a is a solid suspense read, with just a hint of romance.
Debra Webb is an award-winning, bestselling author. The Lies We Tell is her newest novel, the second in The Undertaker’s Daughter series.
(Galley courtesy of Harlequin/Mira via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)
At the exclusive spa where the Banks wedding is about to take place, the luxurious surroundings promise a peaceful, posh vacation where old friends can catch up and relaxation is key. Until a man ends up dead—and four different women claim they murdered him.
Kate is used to excess and luxury—but not to being dumped at the front desk by her wealthy boyfriend. She’s used to being envied, but she is the one feeling jealous on this trip as she meets up with her college roommates and sees the lives they have.
Ginger has just about had it with the chaos of family life. Her kids won’t listen, her husband is oblivious, and everyone depends on mom to hold things together. Ginger just wishes she were a bit more carefree—like her college days before her best friend betrayed her.
Emily just wants the pain to stop. She’ll eventually drown it in a bottle, like always, but seeing her old friends dredges up secrets she’d prefer to keep hidden.
Lulu’s used to love being easy-come, easy-go, but she really loves her fifth husband. Now he’s hiding something, and she’s determined to find out the truth—or else.
This book was well-written and engrossing from the first page. All these women are fascinating, and I was drawn into their stories immediately. I love how the story is told in bits and pieces from each of their viewpoints, while drawing out the mystery of what really happened. Entirely binge-worthy, this is a book that will keep you hooked as you race to find out what really happened.
Gina LaManna lives near the beach. Pretty Guilty Women is her newest novel.
(Galley courtesy of Sourcebooks Landmark via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)
Clara Porterfield had a crush on Griffin Tomlin as long as she could remember, but he was always just the boy across the street, never anything else. Until that night: the night that he showed her who he really was and made her realize that people are not always what they seem.
Four months ago, Griffin was found dead and Clara’s sister, Emily, was arrested for his murder. Emily isn’t saying a word, but she wants Clara to. Clara doesn’t know what to think. Did Emily murder Griffin for what he did to Clara—or is there even more to this story than Clara can imagine? Finding out the truth might set her free from her guilt, but what else will it drag into the light?
What Happened that Night was not what I expected. At all. I liked Clara. She’s been through some horrific things, but she’s struggling to be strong and find out the truth—even if the truth will change the way she sees the world forever. I wasn’t a fan of her dad, but her mom and the other supporting characters were great, especially Anniston, who lives in pink and wants to be a journalist.
What Happened that Night is the new book by Deanna Cameron.
(Galley courtesy of Wattpad Books via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)