Tag: mystery

Book Review and Blog Tour: Good Girls Lie, by J.T. Ellison

good girls lie
Image belongs to Harlequin/MIRA.

Title:  Good Girls Lie
AuthorJ.T. Ellison
Genre:  Thriller
Rating:  4 out of 5

The Goode School, known as a Silent Ivy, is a prestigious boarding school that accepts only the brightest young women—especially daughters of the rich and powerful. The Good School is known for its traditions, like the secret societies and the honor code—lying will get you expelled. But a new girl has come to The Goode School. And she has a secret.

No one at the school bats an eye when the hazing begins—it’s tradition, after all—it’s just girls being girls and the girls would never do things they aren’t supposed to. No matter how cruel or vicious the reality is, the teachers and the head of the school turn a blind eye—until a girl ends up dead and all the secrets of the school are on the verge of being revealed. Secrets have a way of coming to the light.

I finished reading Good Girls Lie…and I’m still not sure who the bad guy is. The author does an excellent job of getting the reader into the characters’ heads—while casting suspicion on basically everyone, which kept me completely off-balance. The creepy boarding school setting is so well-detected I could practically smell the old buildings. If you need a tidy resolution to make you a happy reader, this might be the best choice for you, but it was absolutely a compelling, engrossing read.

J.T. Ellison is a New York Times- and USA Today-bestselling author. Good Girls Lie is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Harlequin/MIRA. via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Smoke Screen, by Terri Blackstock

smoke screen
Image belongs to Thomas Nelson.

Title:  Smoke Screen
AuthorTerri Blackstock
Genre:  Suspense
Rating:  4 out of 5

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.)

Book Review: Shamus Dust, by Janet Roger

 

shamus dust
Image belongs to author and publisher.

Title:  Shamus Dust
AuthorJanet Roger
Genre:  Mystery
Rating:  4 out of 5

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.)

Book Review: Trace of Evil, by Alice Blanchard

trace of evil
Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press/Minotaur Books.

Title:  Trace of Evil
AuthorAlice Blanchard
Genre:  Thriller
Rating:  4 out of 5

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.)

Book Review: Southern Harm, by Caroline Fardig

southern harm
Image belongs to Alibi.

Title:  Southern Harm
AuthorCaroline Fardig
Genre:  Mystery/thriller, women’s fiction
Rating:  4 out of 5

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.)

Book Review: Tracking Game, by Margaret Mizushima

tracking game
Image belongs to Crooked Lane Books.

Title:  Tracking Game
Author: Margaret Mizushima
Genre:  Mystery/thriller
Rating:  3.5 out of 5

Mattie Cobb is a K-9 officer in Timber Creek, Cole Walker is the town veterinarian. Their romance may be blossoming, but secrets still threaten to keep them apart. When an explosion outside a community dance send them racing outside, they find a burning van and the dead body of Nate Fletcher, a local outfitter. But it wasn’t the explosion that killed Nate, it was two gunshots to the head.

When their only suspect winds up dead and Mattie searches for his body, she hears the growl of a predator—but not one of the cougars native to the area. Soon she realizes that they know nothing of what Nate Fletcher was truly up to—and what they’re up against.

Tracking Game wasn’t a bad read. I was interested enough to keep reading, but some of the details of Robo (Mattie’s K-9), instead of being worked seamlessly into the story, were highlighted to the reader, as if the author were pointing out her knowledge. I’m not really a fan of author intrusion, so that was a detractor for me. This is the first book I’ve read in this series, and Mattie’s reactions to things felt a little…unrealistic to me as well.

Margaret Mizushima  is an award-winning author. Tracking Game is her newest novel, Number five in the Timber Creek K-9 Mystery series.

(Galley courtesy of Crooked Lane Books via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)

 

Book Review: A Spell of Murder, by Kennedy Kerr

a spell of murder
Image belongsto Bookouture.

Title:  A Spell of Murder
Author:   Kennedy Kerr
Genre:  Mystery, fantasy
Rating:  4.0

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.)

Book Review: One Night Gone, by Tara Laskowski

one night gone
Image belongs to Harlequin/Graydon House.

Title:  One Night Gone
Author:    Tara Laskowski
Genre:  Thriller
Rating:  4 out of 5

When Maureen Haddaway arrives in Opal Beach, she’s a Summer Girl:  working at the carnival that sets up at the beach town during the tourist season. She makes her first real friends and decides that her destiny—and her future—is in the seaside town. But some of the people Maureen has met are hiding things, and before the summer is over, Maureen disappears.

Years later, Allison Simpson arrives in Opal Beach to housesit in the off-season as she recovers from a very messy—and very public—divorce. Soon she finds herself drawn into the details of Maureen’s disappearance thirty years before. But Opal Beach still hides secrets, and Maureen’s fate isn’t even the most surprising one.

The setting in One Night Gone is such an integral part of this novel! The beach in the winter is something I have no desire to experience and reading this novel did not change that perception at all. I enjoyed reading the dual perspectives as Maureen’s and Allison’s stories unfolded, and the intricate connections in them kept me reading a little too late at night. I definitely recommend this read!

Tara Laskowski is an award-winning author. One Night Gone is her debut novel.

(Galley courtesy of Harlequin/Graydon House via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Pretty Guilty Women, by Gina LaManna

pretty guilty women
Image belongs to Sourcebooks Landmark.

Title:  Pretty Guilty Women
Author:    Gina LaManna
Genre:  Mystery, thriller
Rating:  4 out of 5

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.)

Book Review: State of Lies, by Siri Mitchell

 

state of lies
Image belongs to Thomas Nelson.

Title:   State of Lies
Author:   Siri Mitchell
Genre:   Mystery, thriller
Rating:   4 out of 5

Georgie Brennan is a physicist, a mother, a wife, and the daughter of the next possible secretary of defense. Then her husband Sean is killed by a hit-and-run driver, and she can barely make it through each day. Her son is struggling to cope with his father’s death. Her parents are consumed with their ambitions for her father’s career. And getting out of bed sometimes just seems like too much effort.

Then Georgie discovers that Sean was lying to her about where he was going the day he died. She realizes his computer—and his knife—is missing. She hears strange noises under the house and starts seeing strange faces in the neighborhood. Soon Georgie realizes she can’t trust a soul:  not her parents, not her friends, and, as the mysteries pile up, maybe not even herself.

I liked Georgie from the first page of State of Lies. She’s smart—very smart, which is always a plus in a protagonist—and even when dealt a crippling blow, she keeps moving forward. The writing is tight, and the plotting kept me guessing what was really going on up until the end—and there were several surprises I never saw coming. This will keep you reading even if you’re supposed to be doing something else.

Siri Mitchell has a business degree and experience working in the government. State of Lies is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Thomas Nelson via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)