Tag: suspense

Book Review and Blog Tour:   The Wrong Victim, by Allison Brennan

Image belongs to Harlequin/MIRA.

Title:    The Wrong Victim
AuthorAllison Brennan  
Genre:    Thriller
Rating:  4 out of 5

A bomb explodes on a sunset charter cruise out of Friday Harbor at the height of tourist season and kills everyone on board. Now this fishing and boating community is in shock and asking who would commit such a heinous crime—the largest act of mass murder in the history of the San Juan Islands.

Forensic profilers know there are two types of domestic terrorists: those who use violence to instill fear for political purposes but stop at murder because it detracts from the cause, and those who crave attention and are willing to maim and murder for their own agenda.

Accused of putting profits before people after leaking fuel that caused a massive fish kill, the West End Charter company may itself have been the target. But as special agent Matt Costa, detective Kara Quinn and the rest of the FBI team begin their investigation, they discover that plenty of people might have wanted someone dead on that yacht. Now they must track down who is responsible and stop them before they strike again.

I really enjoyed reading these characters again. I like Kara, although she’s a touch too brash and in-your-face for me. I loved the small town setting and even the supporting characters were well-done and vibrant. There’s a lot going on here, but the author handles it all so skillfully, I never got confused at all.

Allison Brennan is a bestselling author. The Wrong Victim is her newest novel.

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

Book Review:  The Witching Tree, by Alice Blanchard

Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title The Witching Tree
Author:   Alice Blanchard
Genre:   Mystery/thriller
Rating:  4 out of 5

As legend has it, if you carve your deepest desire into the bark of a Witch Tree, then over time as the tree grows, it will swallow the carvings until only a witch can read them.

 Until now.

 Detective Natalie Lockhart gained unwanted notoriety when she and her family became front and center of not one, but two sensational murder cases. Now she’s lost her way. Burned out and always looking over her shoulder, Natalie desperately thinks that quitting the police force is her only option left.

 All that changes when a beloved resident–a practicing Wiccan and founder of the town’s oldest coven–is killed in a fashion more twisted and shocking than Natalie has ever seen before, leaving the town reeling. Natalie has no choice but to help solve the case along with Detective Luke Pittman, her boss and the old childhood friend she cannot admit she loves, even to herself. There is a silent, malignant presence in Burning Lake that will not rest. And what happens next will shock the whole town, and Natalie, to the core.

I’ve read the first book in this series, but I missed the second. I did enjoy this one, but it felt far too much like an advertisement for Wicca or I would have rated it higher. Seriously. You cannot tell me every single person in a group is good/peaceful/gets along with everyone (or, alternately, bad/racist/horrible/whatever adjective of choice) and expect me to believe you. If I leave out the pro-Wicca-all-of-us-are-peaceful-angels slant (which accounts for a good third of the book), this was an enjoyable mystery and thriller. But as is, the town of Burning Lake comes off a little too good to be true.

Alice Blanchard is an award-winning author. The Witching Tree is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of St. Martin’s Press in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review:  The Guide, by Peter Heller

Image belongs to Knopf.

Title The Guide
AuthorPeter Heller
Genre:  Mystery/thriller
Rating:  5 out of 5

Kingfisher Lodge, nestled in a canyon on a mile and a half of the most pristine river water on the planet, is known by locals as Billionaire’s Mile and is locked behind a heavy gate. Sandwiched between barbed wire and a meadow with a sign that reads Don’t Get Shot! the resort boasts boutique fishing at its finest. Safe from viruses that have plagued America for years, Kingfisher offers a respite for wealthy clients. Now it also promises a second chance for Jack, a return to normalcy after a young life filled with loss. When he is assigned to guide a well-known singer, his only job is to rig her line, carry her gear, and steer her to the best trout he can find.

But then a human scream pierces the night, and Jack soon realizes that this idyllic fishing lodge may be merely a cover for a far more sinister operation. A novel as gripping as it is lyrical, as frightening as it is moving, The Guide is another masterpiece from Peter Heller.

I don’t think I’ve ever read one of Heller’s novels before and reading The River before this wasn’t a necessity (to me, anyway). The writing here is stellar!  I’m usually not much for in-depth and lyrical description, but it absolutely worked here, bringing the scene to such evocative life I could almost taste it. I don’t know a thing about fly fishing, but I still felt right at home in this novel and with these characters. This was an excellent read!

Peter Heller is an award-winning adventure writer. The Guide is his newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Knopf in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review and Blog Tour: Such a Good Wife, by Seraphina Nova Glass

Image belongs to Harlequin/Graydon House.

Melanie Hale is a devoted mother to her two children, a diligent caregiver to her ailing mother-in-law and a trusted neighbor in their wealthy Louisiana community. Above all, she’s a loving partner to her wonderful husband, Collin.

Then there are the parts of herself that Mel keeps hidden. She’s exhausted, worried and unfulfilled. So much so that one night, after a writers’ group meeting, Mel begins an affair with a successful local author named Luke. Suddenly she’s transformed into a role she doesn’t recognize–a woman who deceives with unseemly ease. A woman who might be capable of just about anything.

When Mel finds Luke’s dead body in his lavish rented house, she realizes just how high the stakes have become. Not only does she have to keep her affair a secret in order to preserve her marriage, but she desperately needs to avoid being implicated in Luke’s death. But who would want to kill him? Who else in her life is keeping secrets? And most terrifying of all, how far will they–and she–go to keep those secrets hidden?

This wasn’t a bad read, but I thought Mel’s sudden impulse and resulting affair with Luke was totally out of-character and without provocation—not to mention her senseless visit to his house when she finds him dead…and she somehow thinks she’s going to get away without anyone knowing she was there.

Everyone has secrets, of course, but Mel—and Collin—are hiding some big ones. With Mel, it’s almost like she has two separate personalities:  the devoted wife and mother and the devious woman willing to do anything or tell any lie to satisfy her own impulses. I think that, despite the solid writing, the characters just didn’t make sense to me and I didn’t care for them at all.

Seraphina Nova Glass has traveled all over the world. Such a Good Wife is her newest novel.

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

Book Review and Blog Tour: You Will Remember Me, by Hannah Mary McKinnon

Image belongs to Harlequin/MIRA.

TitleYou Will Remember Me
AuthorHannah Mary McKinnon
Genre:  Mystery/thriller
Rating:  3.5 out of 5

Forget the truth.

Remember the lies.

He wakes up on a deserted beach in Maryland with a gash on his head and wearing only swim trunks. He can’t remember who he is. Everything—his identity, his life, his loved ones—has been replaced by a dizzying fog of uncertainty. But returning to his Maine hometown in search of the truth uncovers more questions than answers.

Lily Reid thinks she knows her boyfriend, Jack. Until he goes missing one night, and her frantic search reveals that he’s been lying to her since they met, desperate to escape a dark past he’d purposely left behind.

Maya Scott has been trying to find her estranged stepbrother, Asher, since he disappeared without a trace. Having him back, missing memory and all, feels like a miracle. But with a mutual history full of devastating secrets, how far will Maya go to ensure she alone takes them to the grave?

I feel like it’s usually kind of pointless to read a mystery or thriller where you already know who the culprit is. That being said, I never had much doubt who, exactly, was the bad guy in this story. With the multiple POVs in this story, there wasn’t much hidden about that—and sometimes the author was pretty heavy-handed about it as well.

I also feel like an author makes certain promises to the reader with the setup of a novel, and, frankly, I felt like the author broke those promises with the ending. That may just be me, but I doubt I’ll ever read anything from this author again.

Hannah Mary McKinnon was born in the UK and lives in Canada. You Will Remember Me is her newest novel.

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

Book Review: Dead Sprint, by Caroline Fardig

Image belongs to the author.

TitleDead Sprint
AuthorCaroline Fardig
Genre:  Thriller
Rating:  4.5 out of 5

Criminalist Ellie Matthews has turned over a new leaf. For the first time in her life, she’s working on herself and putting the past behind her with the encouragement of the new man she’s seeing, FBI Agent Vic Manetti.

Her first attempt at competitive running is cut short when a woman is found dead along the trail. At first, the case seems to be open and shut. But when a gruesome photo of the victim goes viral, tagged with a chilling caption threatening more violence, Ellie must delve into the mind of a deranged killer to get to the truth.

Though Ellie’s relationship with Detective Nick Baxter has been strained to its breaking point, the two find themselves teaming up once again in a race to bring down the killer before he takes another life.

I really like this series, and I was excited to read this third installment. Ellie is an interesting, flawed character, and it was good to see her working on herself and trying to overcome her issues (those chocolate binges were so relatable).

I’m not the biggest fan of Vic. I think he’s arrogant and condescending, if basically a nice guy, and my opinion didn’t change any with this read. I always enjoy a thriller when I don’t figure out the culprit halfway through the book, and I never did figure this one out, making it even more enjoyable. The banter with Nick, as always, was my favorite part.

Caroline Fardig is a bestselling author. Dead Sprint is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of the author in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: When the Stars Go Dark, by Paula McLain

Image belongs to Ballantine Books.

TitleWhen the Stars Go Dark
AuthorPaula McLain
Genre:  Thriller
Rating:  4 out of 5

Anna Hart is a seasoned missing persons detective in San Francisco with far too much knowledge of the darkest side of human nature. When tragedy strikes her personal life, Anna, desperate and numb, flees to the Northern California village of Mendocino to grieve. She lived there as a child with her beloved foster parents, and now she believes it might be the only place left for her. Yet the day she arrives, she learns that a local teenage girl has gone missing.

The crime feels frighteningly reminiscent of the most crucial time in Anna’s childhood, when the unsolved murder of a young girl touched Mendocino and changed the community forever. As past and present collide, Anna realizes that she has been led to this moment. The most difficult lessons of her life have given her insight into how victims come into contact with violent predators. As Anna becomes obsessed with saving the missing girl, she must accept that true courage means getting out of her own way and learning to let others in.

This was a good mystery/thriller. I did not figure out who the bad guy was—until just a few minutes before Anna did. The foreshadowing was there, but it was so well done I didn’t pick up on it. I enjoyed the scenes from Anna’s past, in the woods with Hap the most. She’s a complex character with a lot of darkness in her life, but she struggles to help other women overcome their own darkness. This is well-worth reading.

Paul McLain is a bestselling author. When the Stars Go Dark is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Ballantine Books in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Bitterroot Lake, by Alicia Beckman

Image belongs to Crooked Lane Books.

TitleBitterroot Lake
AuthorAlicia Beckman
Genre:  Suspense/thriller
Rating:  4 out of 5

Twenty-five years ago, during a celebratory weekend at historic Whitetail Lodge, Sarah McCaskill had a vision. A dream. A nightmare. When a young man was killed, Sarah’s guilt over having ignored the warning in her dreams devastated her. Her friendships with her closest friends, and her sister, fell apart as she worked to build a new life in a new city. But she never stopped loving Whitetail Lodge on the shores of Bitterroot Lake.

Now that she’s a young widow, her mother urges her to return to the lodge for healing. But when she arrives, she’s greeted by an old friend–and by news of a murder that’s clearly tied to that tragic day she’ll never forget.

And the dreams are back, too. What dangers are they warning of this time? As Sarah and her friends dig into the history of the lodge and the McCaskill family, they uncover a legacy of secrets and make a discovery that gives a chilling new meaning to the dreams. Now, they can no longer ignore the ominous portents from the past that point to a danger more present than any of them could know.

This was a decent read, but I wasn’t surprised at the resolution. The author tried to throw out some red herrings, but I was never in much doubt. A lot of bitterness in these people’s lives—amidst a lot of money. It was a solid read, but I was never on the edge of my seat. Lovely descriptions of the lodge and the landscape. Made me want to visit!

Alicia Beckman lives in Montana. Bitterroot Lake is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Crooked Lane books in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review and Blog Tour: The Jigsaw Man, by Nadine Matheson

Image belongs to Harlequin/Hanover Square Press.

TitleThe Jigsaw Man
AuthorNadine Matheson
Genre:  Thriller
Rating:  4 out of 5

On the day she returns to active duty with the Serial Crimes Unit, Detective Inspector Anjelica Henley is called to a crime scene. Dismembered body parts from two victims have been found by the river.

The modus operandi bears a striking resemblance to Peter Olivier, the notorious Jigsaw Killer, who has spent the past two years behind bars. When he learns that someone is co-opting his grisly signature—the arrangement of victims’ limbs in puzzle-piece shapes—he decides to take matters into his own hands.

As the body count rises, DI Anjelica Henley is faced with an unspeakable new threat. Can she apprehend the copycat killer before Olivier finds a way to get to him first? Or will she herself become the next victim?

Nadine Matheson lives in London. The Jigsaw Man is her debut novel.

I enjoyed this novel, although the first half felt very slow to me. Olivier is creepy beyond words, and the crime scene descriptions were a little much for me, but entirely believable. I liked Anjelica, and would definitely read more about her. The reader is solidly in her head and emotions throughout the novel, bringing every detail to life.

(Galley courtesy of Harlequin/Hanover Square Press exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Every Last Fear, by Alex Finlay

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

TitleEvery Last Fear
AuthorAlex Finlay
Genre:  Thriller
Rating:  4.5 out of 5

After a late night of partying, NYU student Matt Pine returns to his dorm room to devastating news: nearly his entire family—his mom, his dad, his little brother and sister—have been found dead from an apparent gas leak while vacationing in Mexico. The local police claim it was an accident, but the FBI and State Department seem far less certain—and they won’t tell Matt why.

The tragedy makes headlines everywhere because this isn’t the first time the Pine family has been thrust into the media spotlight. Matt’s older brother, Danny—currently serving a life sentence for the murder of his teenage girlfriend Charlotte—was the subject of a viral true crime documentary suggesting that Danny was wrongfully convicted. Though the country has rallied behind Danny, Matt holds a secret about his brother that he’s never told anyone: the night Charlotte was killed Matt saw something that makes him believe his brother is guilty of the crime.

When Matt returns to his small hometown to bury his parents and siblings, he’s faced with a hostile community that was villainized by the documentary, a frenzied media, and memories he’d hoped to leave behind forever. Now, as the deaths in Mexico appear increasingly suspicious and connected to Danny’s case, Matt must unearth the truth behind the crime that sent his brother to prison—putting his own life in peril—and forcing him to confront his every last fear.

I enjoyed this read! Solid writing and not too heavy-handed with the trail of clues. I liked Matt and the Misfit Toys a lot. They gave this a fun edge, despite the intrigue and danger. I did figure out whodunit, but it wasn’t because the foreshadowing was too much or anything, just a lucky guess. There’s a lot going on in this novel, but it was a good and engrossing read.

Alex Finlay lives in Washington, D.D. Every Last Fear is Alex’s debut novel.

(Galley courtesy of St. Martin’s Press/Minotaur Books in exchange for an honest review.)