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.)
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.)
Title: Then She Was Gone Author: Lisa Jewell Genre: Thriller, mystery Rating: 3.5/5
Ten years ago, Laurel Mack’s teenage daughter, Ellie, disappeared without a trace. The police say she ran away, but Laurel wasn’t so sure. After her daughter disappeared, her marriage fell apart, and Laurel still struggles with her incomplete life.
Then she meets Floyd, a charming author, at a café, and finds herself involved in an intense relationship. Soon she’s meeting Floyd’s youngest daughter, Poppy, who looks exactly like Ellie.
Now Laurel wonders if there’s a darker motive behind Ellie’s disappearance, and she’s desperate to find out the truth as she seeks to untangle the strange relationship between Floyd and Poppy.
I had a hard time putting this book down, but the characters were all a bit strange and distant to me. The mystery surrounding Ellie’s disappearance was compelling, but there were several layers of creepiness connected to Laurel and Floyd, and even the decidedly odd Poppy. Basically, while I was intrigued, I didn’t find any of the characters likable, and their motivations weren’t entirely believable to me.
Lisa Jewell was born and raised in London. Her newest novel is Then She Was Gone.
(Galley provided by Atria Books in exchange for an honest review.)
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.)
Title: The Coincidence Makers Author: Yoav Blum Genre: A mix of several: mystery, romance, literary fiction-ish. Rating: 3.5/5
We’ve all had something happen “by coincidence,” like running into your childhood best friend on the side of the street when you have a flat tire. Or meeting someone new in a coffee shop after you knock your drink off the table onto their shoes. But what if those things don’t just happen by chance?
Guy, Emily, and Eric are Coincidence Makers: they work for a secret organization, creating the coincidences they are assigned through complex manipulations and machinations. Sometimes, they create a love match. Sometimes, they just give someone the push they need to live their dreams.
Guy used to be an Imaginary Friend, and he fell in love with another Imaginary Friend. He’s never forgotten her, and thoughts of her haunt every day, so he tries his best to ignore Emily’s overtures. But when Guy is assigned a coincidence that’s higher than anything he’s done before, he realizes even his hidden world has deeper secrets.
I liked this book. The concept is unique and fascinating—even if the “science” is sometimes a bit over my head. Guy, Emily, and Eric are characters I liked, and they would be fun to hang out with. The book is dreamy, and reading it felt like floating…or I probably would have enjoyed it more (not the right type of book for my mindset at the time), but it was a good, creative read.
Quinn Bellandini runs a B&B with her grandfather, her sister Delilah, and the ghost of her late uncle Frank—whom everyone but Quinn believes in. She bakes scones, keeps the B&B running smoothly, and plays guitar in a band with her friends. She doesn’t even have time to date.
Her friend Drew runs a restaurant down the street with his brother, Jason, a surly, argumentative guy who fights with everyone—including his wife. When Quinn finds Jason’s body one night, she’s horrified—but not really surprised, considering how everyone disliked Jason.
What does surprise her is her presence near the top of the list of suspects, along with Drew. When Drew suggests they try to uncover a more-likely suspect to save their own necks, Quinn reluctantly agrees. She’s more suited to baking than investigating, but she finds her talent for killing people with kindness to thinly disguise her pointed remarks comes in handy. And she’ll need every trick she has to stay out of jail while she searches for a murderer.
I thoroughly enjoyed Southern Discomfort. I’ve never been to Savannah, but as a born-and-raised Southern girl, I found the setting believable and familiar (especially the popularity of sweet tea). Quinn and Delilah’s relationship was fantastic, and their interactions made the book even better! A great read for cozy mystery fans and anyone who loves Southern fiction.
Caroline Fardig is the author of the Lizzie Hart series, the Java Jive series, and the Ellie Matthews series. Southern Discomfortis her newest novel, the first in the Southern B&B mystery series.
(Galley provided by Alibi in exchange for an honest review.)
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.)
One moment, Mira was at the mall shopping with her little brother. The next instant, 95% of the world’s population vanished, along with sunlight, most of the animals, food, and stuff. What isn’t missing is in huge random piles. The survivors eke out a living by scavenging the Piles and banding together in haphazard communities.
Four years after the Rending, Mira spends her days scavenging for her community of Zion, hanging out with her best friend, Lana, and avoiding people she might come to love—she can’t bear to lose anyone else. Then Lana tells her she’s pregnant, the first pregnancy since the Rending. For the first time since everything changed, Mira feels hope.
But when Lana gives birth to an inanimate object—and so do other women in Zion—Mira’s world crumbles again. An outsider named Michael lures Lana away, and Mira must decide how much she’s willing to sacrifice to save her friend, her community, and her own pregnancy.
I’m not going to lie: this is an odd book. Dystopian, with no explanation for why the Rending occurred (so if you must have a “why,” you’re out of luck here). The world is both strangely familiar and oddly skewed, like everything is just a bit off-kilter. Mira and Lana—well, everyone—are hiding secrets from their before, secrets that they need to deal with before they can truly accept their now. The Babies are creepy—and weirdly fitting—and I was drawn into the story from the first page as Mira struggles to make sense of this new world while still trying to sort out just who she is. Despite the oddness, this is an enthralling book, with a vividly realized setting that’s just as intriguing as the characters.
Kaethe Schwehn is an award-winning writer of prose and poems. The Rending and the Nest is her new novel.
(Galley provided by Bloomsbury USA in exchange for an honest review.)
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.)
Corey and Kyra grew up as best friends in tiny Lost Creek, Alaska. Kyra was vibrant and artistic—and manic/depressive, so the town ostracized her for being different. But Corey was always there for her. Until Corey’s mom got a new job and Corey had to move away, promising Kyra she’d be back in exchange for Kyra’s promise to stay strong.
Days before Corey’s visit home, Kyra dies, and Corey is devastated. Her grief turns to confusion when she returns to Lost, and discovers the town has changed in her absence. Everyone grieves for Kyra, but whispers that her death was meant to be.
Corey doesn’t know what to think. The town that shut Kyra out seems to have embraced her in the past months, but the more Corey asks questions, the more she’s treated as an outsider herself. As she tries to learn more about what happened to Kyra, the more her suspicions grow. Lost is hiding a secret—and Corey can’t get through the darkness to the truth.
I’m just going to say it: this was a weird book. It’s a mix of YA, magical realism, and death investigation—kind of. Lost comes to vivid, haunting life on the pages, and the characters are both compelling and strange. Kyra and Corey’s friendship was heartwarming and sad, and I enjoyed Corey’s attempts to find out the truth about her friend. In the end, though, I still wasn’t quite sure what happened. An interesting, unpredictable read.
Marieke Naijkamp was born and raised in the Netherlands. She is the New York Times bestselling author of This is Where It Ends. Her newest novel is Before I Let Go.
(Galley provided by Sourcebooks Fire via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.)