Tag: murder mystery

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

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


you will be mine
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

the gone world
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.)


Book Review: An Eye for an Eye, by Caroline Fardig

an eye for an eye
Image belongs to Caroline Fardig.

Ellie Matthews is a forensics professor not a crime scene investigator for a reason:  she got tired of her job taking over her life. When she was asked to consult on a high-profile case a few months ago, she got sucked back in, but she’s been happily back at teaching for a while now, enjoying her normal life.

Until a family friend disappears, and Ellie is called to consult again—on the disappearance of someone she cares about. Ellie is thrown together with Detective Nick Baxter as they try to find the missing girl.

When the girl turns up dead with a pointed message, they realize hurting law enforcement is the game the clever killer is playing. Then Ellie’s sister disappears, and the killer strikes a deal: if Ellie and Nick solve a years-old murder case, he’ll release her sister unharmed.

Tensions mount as Ellie struggles to uncover evidence from years ago, while also searching desperately for traces of her sister. She and Nick butt heads as she struggles to cope, and he tries to get her to see just how damaged she is.

I’ve loved everything Caroline Fardig has written (that I’ve read, anyway), and An Eye for an Eye is no exception. The forensics blends seamlessly with the narrative, and the slow investigation had me desperate to find out who the killer was. Nick and Ellie mesh well as they work as an investigative team, but the personal undercurrents grow stronger throughout the novel. This novel works well to both entertain and keep the reader’s mind engaged in the mysteries.

Caroline Fardig is the USA Today best-selling author of The Lizzie Hart Mysteries and The Java Jive Mysteries series. An Eye for an Eye is the second book in the Ellie Matthews series.

(Galley provided by author via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: The Black Painting, by Neil Olson

The Black Painting
Image belongs to Hanover Square.

The Morse family is known for old money, the East Coast, and a stolen Goya painting. The painting, a self-portrait said to cause madness and death in anyone who views it, was stolen years before. None of the four cousins—Kenny, James, Audrey, and Teresa—have visited the family home at Owl’s Point—or their grandfather—since, amidst the accusations and blame over the painting’s disappearance. Not to mention the rumors of madness.

But now their aging grandfather wants to see them. Individually. Considering the patriarch’s age, the cousins think the summons is related to their inheritance, so they go. When Teresa and Audrey arrive, they find their grandfather’s body, his terrified gaze fixed on the spot where the missing painting once hung.

With the family gathered to mourn, old accusations are resurrected, and the police start asking questions—not just about the old man’s death, but about the missing painting, which is worth millions. Determined to find out who killed her grandfather, Teresa starts digging into the past, hoping to prove her own father wasn’t mad…and that she has not inherited that madness. But even missing, the black painting has a strange effect on everyone connected to it, and the darkness may be too much for Teresa.

This book sounded like a perfect fit for me:  I love family mysteries like this, although the painting creeped me out a tiny bit. However, this family is crazy. Legitimately. No matter which family member I was reading about—and even some of the non-familial characters—I could not make a connection because their thoughts and actions seemed completely illogical to me. Which kind of makes sense if viewed through the lens of a family closely associated with a painting that supposedly drives everyone around it mad. I finished reading it, but I am rarely a fan of books without characters I can care about. This book was not the right fit for me.

Neil Olson is a publishing industry professional, as well as an author. The Black Painting is his newest novel.

(Galley provided by Hanover Square via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.)



Book Review: Murder Over Mochas, by Caroline Fardig

Murder over Mochas
Image belongs to Random House/Alibi.

Caroline Fardig is the USA Today bestselling author of the Lizzie Hart Mystery series, the Java Jive series, and the Ellie Matthews novels. Murder Over Mochas is her newest novel, the fifth and final story in the Java Jive series.

Juliet Langley finally has her life all sorted out. Sort of. In addition to working at Java Jive, she’s also a private investigator, and is happy with that choice. She just needs to figure out how she feels about Ryder, her sexy ex who is now dating her friend. Her best friend Pete is acting like he wants to be more than friends…maybe. And her cheating, stealing ex-fiancé, Scott, is back and wants to talk to her. So maybe Juliet’s life isn’t quite so sorted out.

But when Scott begs for her help because he’s afraid for his life, then drops dead in front of Juliet, she’ll have to drop everything else to keep herself—and Pete—from becoming murder suspects. Again. Because Juliet’s history with Scott is anything but friendly, and it looks like she’s not the only one with hard feelings against him. She’ll need Ryder’s help to solve this case, and to keep herself and Pete out of jail.

I’ve been fortunate enough to review all the Java Jive series, and I’m sad to see it end. Juliet is a fantastic character:  smart, resourceful, and with a temper and a lack of impulse control that frequently gets her in trouble (I feel her pain). Her friendship with Pete is great; they’ve been through so many ups and downs and have always been there for each other. All the characters add so many layers to this series, and if Java Jive existed, I’d be there every day to hang out. If you want a funny, light read with shades of Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series, definitely give these a read!

(Galley provided by Random House/Alibi via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Bitter Past by Caroline Fardig

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Image belongs to Caroline Fardig.
Ellie Matthews teaches forensics at a private college now, but she used to be a crime scene investigator, until one horrifying murder case turned personal. Now she teaches aspiring CSI students, and dotes on her young nephew. Then she finds the body of a murdered student, and suddenly her world is in chaos.

Ellie’s mentor asks her to consult on the case, and soon Ellie is in the thick of a murder investigation in which her closest academic colleague is the chief suspect. While Ellie races to make sense of the evidence and identify the killer, more bodies pile up, and soon Ellie has no idea who she can trust.

I’ve read—and loved—all the Java Jive books, so I was excited to read Caroline Fardig’s newest endeavor, and I was not disappointed. Ellie is a complex character, and her past haunts her, no matter how much she tries to pretend otherwise. She likes her quiet life as a professor, but her past as a CSI calls to her as well. I had to keep changing my guesses as to who the murderer was, and I didn’t quite get it right. I loved the premise, and the setting, and I look forward to reading more of Ellie’s adventures.

Caroline Fardig is the best-selling author of the Lizzie Hart Mysteries and the Java Jive Mysteries series. Her newest novel, Bitter Past, is the first book in the Ellie Matthews series.

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

Book Review: The Innkeeper’s Sister, by Linda Goodnight

the innkeeper's sister
Image belongs to Harlequin.

Grayson Blake and his brother have come home to Honey Ridge, Tennessee to turn an old gristmill into one of their up-and-coming restaurants. Grayson has a strict schedule he plans to stick to, no matter what. Time is money, after all. But when an old skeleton is found in the basement of the mill, his schedule comes to a screeching halt.

Valerie Carter is a former ballet dancer and now co-owner of a charming inn in Honey Ridge. The secrets from her past haunt her, as does the love of the dance she still yearns for. Regret and memories threaten to overwhelm her, when she meets Grayson and finds herself swept into a Civil War-era mystery that ties the skeleton in the mill with her beloved Peach Orchard Inn.

I didn’t realize The Innkeeper’s Sister was part of a series when I started reading. Fortunately, it’s also a standalone, so readers who haven’t read the other books will be fine. I’m from the South, and this novel is Southern through-and-through, from the sweet iced tea to the everything-is-perfect façade put on by Valerie’s mother. Both Grayson and Valerie have faced tragedy in their lives, tragedy they are still struggling to overcome. There are two storylines here:  the modern-day one of Valerie and Grayson, and the Civil War one that tells the story of the skeleton in the mill. Both lend depth to each other, and strengthen the family bonds of the Carters. An uplifting story about characters that are flawed and struggling to find their strengths while overcoming their weaknesses.

Linda Goodnight is a best-selling and award-winning fiction writer. Her newest novel is The Innkeeper’s Sister, part of the Honey Ridge series.

(Galley provided by Harlequin via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Murder on Black Swan Lane, by Andrea Penrose

murder on black swan lane
Image belongs to Kensington Books.

The Earl of Wrexford isn’t your average aristocrat:  for starters, he has a keen scientific mind and an interest in chemistry. Secondly, he has no time for fools and doesn’t care what the rest of society thinks of him. When Reverend Holworthy publicly condemns him for his wickedness, he retaliates, and the war of words escalates, and cartoonist A.J. Quill uses the feud as fodder, drawing even more attention. Then the reverend is found dead, with chemical burns, and Wrexford finds himself the primary suspect.

Charlotte Sloane is a talented artist, but knows the public would never follow a female cartoonist, so she uses her late husband’s pen name to put food on the table…at the expense of the rich and famous she scathingly depicts. When the Earl of Wrexford figures out her identity, she’s afraid he’ll expose her. Instead, he seeks her help in solving the mystery of the reverend’s death before he swings for the crime. But the crime has roots in dark secrets, and the perpetrator will stop at nothing to see that they fail, even adding more victims to the list.

Murder on Black Swan Lane is a richly-detailed story set in Regency England. Charlotte is an engaging character, full of curiosity and a secretive past, but determined to make her own way in the world. Wrexford is fascinating, with his dry sense of humor, brilliant mind, and disdain for traditions. Together, the two of them enter a dark and twisted world full of secrets that takes them places they’d never imagined.

Andrea Penrose is a romance author who writes under several pen names. Murder on Black Swan Lane is her newest book, the first book in the Wrexford & Sloane Regency series.

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

Book Review: The Sixth Victim, by Tessa Harris

the sixth victim
Image belongs to Kensington Books.

Tessa Harris is a journalist who writes crime fiction set in the past. Her newest novel is The Sixth Victim.

Jack the Ripper stalks the street of the Whitechapel district of London, leaving women afraid to be on the streets at night. Constance Piper fears the Ripper, but she has other worries as well, like the odd things that have been happening to her, making her question all she’s ever known. If only her mentor, Emily Tindall, was around to give her advice.

But Emily is gone, returned to Oxford, they say, so Constance is on her own to deal with the sudden influx of clairvoyants, all offering to talk to the murdered girls. The gossip is about the latest horrifying remains found, and a lady tracks Constance down and asks for her help, afraid the latest victim is her missing sister. Constance agrees, and soon finds herself on the receiving end of help that makes her question everything she ever thought she knew about the world around her.

The Sixth Victim is a well-researched look into the famous serial killer of the 1800s. It depicts the squalor of Whitechapel, through the eyes of a character who wants more than the life she’s living, and who finds out that what she thought of the world isn’t quite true. At turns creepy and gruesome, the novel explores one of the greatest unsolved mysteries in history.

(Galley provided by Kensington Books.)