Tag: mystery

Book Review: Before I Let Go, by Marieke Naijkamp

 

before i let go
Image belongs to Sourcebooks Fire.

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.)

 

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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 Night Market, by Jonathan Moore

the night market
Image belongs to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

In a near-future society where mindless shopping—the desire for “more”—motivates humanity, darkness threatens to take over. Most people don’t even notice something is wrong—nor do they care. They just want more stuff. Homicide detective Ross Carver notices. Sometimes. When he’s not too busy trying to solve the unrelenting crimes that threaten the streets.

One Thursday evening, he visits a crime scene where the victim is covered in a strange substance that’s eating his skin. When FBI agents surround Ross, he’s hustled to a decontamination trailer, hosed down, and forced to drink a strange liquid that gives him seizures. He wakes up in his own bed three days later, with no memory of what happened. And he doesn’t know why his neighbor, Mia, whom he’s never spoken to, is sitting by his bed, reading.

Ross sets out to find out what’s going on. The bits he uncovers convince him that something terrible is going on in America, something that is being covered up by people in high places. He doesn’t know how Mia’s involved, but something tells him to keep her close—that she knows far more than she’s letting on.

I didn’t realize The Night Market was part of a larger world of stories, so the worldbuilding really threw me for a loop. It was like the present-day world, except slightly skewed. Skewed in a terrifying, I-don’t-want-to-live-on-this-planet-anymore way. Society has taken consumerism far beyond today’s ridiculous levels. The snapshots of marketing stunts and the feeding frenzy that ensues was horrifying to me—and believable.

Ross unknowing walks into a mess far beyond anything he’s every considered, and it takes every ounce of instinct and skill to keep himself alive. This is a dark book, and I really had no idea what was going on until the end. And even then, I’m still not sure.

Jonathan Moore is a Honolulu attorney whose fiction has been short-listed for the Bram Stoker Award. The Night Market is his newest novel.

(Galley provided by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 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: Bad Call, by Stephen Wallenfels

bad call
Image belongs to Disney-Hyperion.

It starts as a poker bet:  Ceo, Colin, Grahame, and Rhody agree to go hiking in Yosemite. In the winter. Except Rhody backs out at the last minute, so Ceo invites Ellie along. Ellie, who doesn’t know she’ll be hiking alone with three guys, and who the guys have never heard of. Ceo is a master manipulator, so this turn of events isn’t a huge surprise to Collin. What is a surprise is the connection he feels with Ellie. With the animosity between Ceo and Grahame rising, soon it’s all Collin and Ellie can do to keep the peace.

Despite warnings from fellow hikers, the group sets off to summit, and finds themselves in the midst of a bad snowstorm, with a leaking Craigslist tent and no food. Trying desperately to survive, they seek to make a camp that will shelter them all from the storm. But one of them does not return, and the circumstances don’t quite add up. In addition to battling the weather, the remaining three will have fight their suspicions—while always watching their backs—if they are to make it off the mountain alive.

I spent most of my reading time for Bad Call wondering why on Earth…1)…did Ellie go hiking in the wilderness with 3 boys, 2 of whom were strangers? 2)…does anyone hang out with Grahame, when he’s such a jerk? 3)…is Collin still friends with Ceo, who totally screwed him over? I had lots of questions about the characters’ motivations, and basically no answers. There was a decent level of suspense, and some chilling bits—creepy and cold—but the characters just didn’t make sense to me.

Stephen Wallenfels is a creative director, IT manager, and author who loves hiking and his family. Bad Call is his newest novel.

(Galley provided by Disney-Hyperion via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: A Murder for the Books, by Victoria Gilbert

a murder for the books
Image belongs to Crooked Lane Books.

After a love affair gone wrong, Amy Webber flees to the small Virginia town where her aunt lives and becomes the librarian. It’s not what she had in mind for her life, but she takes quiet satisfaction in helping the town’s residents. Until one of them turns up dead in the library, and Amy is thrust into a mystery that goes back almost one hundred years.

Amy’s neighbor, Richard, inherited the house that belonged to his great-uncle. The town believes the house’s original owner was poisoned by his wife—who vanished after her trial—and who Richard’s great-uncle was in love with. Determined to find out the truth, Richard convinces Amy to help him solve the case, revealing chilling details that the town’s founders would like to keep secret.

A Murder for the Books is more than a cozy mystery. It’s a comfy, enjoyable read in a small-town full of quirky, memorable characters. The town feels like home—complete with the family member no one wants to claim, the town grapevine, and people like Amy and Richard you’d really like to spend time with. A light read that you can sink into, without getting bogged down into weighty matters.

Victoria Gilbert has worked as a librarian and writes cozy mysteries. A Murder for the Books is the first book in the Blue Ridge Library Mystery series.

(Galley provided by Crooked Lane Books via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Dead Man’s Chest, by Kerry Greenwood

dead man's chest
Image belongs to Poison Pen Press.

Phryne Fisher has decided that a vacation by the sea is just the thing, so she packs up her household, heads for Queenscliff, and sets out, promising her companions there will be no murders to solve.

But when they arrive at their vacation home, the caretakers have vanished, along with most of the home’s contents. When their missing dog shows up a few days later, Phryne is sure something is amiss. Added to that, a group of Surrealists is causing a stir, there are rumors of smugglers on the coast, and a movie crew has the town in an uproar. And let’s not forget the dreaded pigtail thief. This vacation is anything but relaxing.

Dead Man’s Chest is a fun, light read filled with entertaining characters, set in my favorite time period—the 20s. Phryne is fascinating, a female James Bond, but with more style and class. I enjoyed this mystery, and the characters were the stars of the show.

Kerry Greenwood is the award-winning author of the Phryne Fisher series. Dead Man’s Chest is the 18th novel in the series.

(Galley provided by Poisoned Pen Press via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Little Broken Things, by Nicole Baart

LBT
Image belongs to Atria Books.

Quinn Cruz hasn’t had much to do with her family for years, until she and her husband moved back to her hometown a few months ago. Her brother is too busy. Her mother is too intrusive. And her sister has been aloof for years. So, when Quinn receives a text from Nora one night, “I have something for you,” she jumps at the chance to meet up with her sister.

That “something” is a frightened little girl named Lucy, whom Nora begs Quinn not to speak a word about to anyone before Nora vanishes into the night. Lucy’s haunted eyes trouble Quinn, and she struggles to connect with the girl who is terrified of “him.” Quinn doesn’t know the evil that Nora is facing, but the two of them are desperate to keep one little girl safe, and find out the truth of who she is.

Little Broken Things is extremely well-written, with a pace that builds slow momentum to a breakneck finish. Lucy is so innocent and so broken the reader will immediately care for her, and want to know her truths. Quinn and Nora’s family is broken, and has been for years. The sisters are united in their desire to keep Lucy safe, but the secrets still lurking in the dark may tear the family apart.

Nicole Baart’s books have been nominated for awards, and she is the co-founder of One Body One Hope. Little Broken Things is her newest novel.

(Galley provided by Atria Books 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: The Breathless, by Tara Goedjen

the breathless
Image belongs to Delacorte Press.

Roxanne Cole died a year ago, and her family still hasn’t come to terms with her death. Ro was the light of the Cole family, and everything has been dark since her death. Her boyfriend, Cole, vanished the night she died, and no one has seen him since, but when he shows up at the door to Blue Gate Manor asking where Ro is, Mae doesn’t know what to think.

Her sister’s death hit her hard, and Mae is still struggling, but to Cole, Ro was just alive yesterday. When Mae finds the little green book that was never far from Ro’s hands, she also finds dark secrets about her family’s past, and realizes that Ro might be gone now, but that doesn’t mean she has to stay gone.

The Breathless is a creepy Southern gothic mystery that tells three stories:  the present-day tale of Cole and Mae struggling to deal with Ro’s loss, Cole’s memories of his relationship with Ro, and a dark time in the family’s past. The setting adds an eerie layer to an unsettling story, as Mae finds out just what was in that little green book. The storyline about the family’s past does deal with a history of racism that was common in that era, but does not glorify it, instead it reveals the results of such violence and hate.

Tara Goedjen was raised in Alabama and now lives in California. The Breathless is her debut novel.

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