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.)
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.)
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.
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.
Three years ago, sisters Emma and Cass disappeared one night, leaving no trace of where they’d gone—or why they left. Then Cass shows up at the family home, alone. She tells a story of kidnapping and being held on a mysterious island against her will, and is desperate for the police to find Emma.
But forensic psychologist Abby Winter sees holes in Cass’s story, and it will take delving into her own past to uncover the truth hidden behind a narcissistic mother who twisted the lives of her daughters until they no longer knew the truth. Only Abby can find Emma, because even Cass doesn’t know the true story.
Emma in the Night is not a happy family tale. Not in the least. Cass and Emma’s family is troubled, controlled by their narcissistic mother, an expert at twisting things to get what she wants. There are so many twists in this story! While I knew Cass wasn’t telling the whole truth—there are little signs of that—I had no idea what the truth actually was. The author does a great job of drawing the reader in and bringing them along for a ride filled with unexpected twists and turns.
Wendy Walker is a former lawyer who now writes psychological thrillers. Emma in the Night is her newest novel.
(Galley provided by St. Martin’s Press via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.)
Sara Driscoll is the pseudonym of writers Jen J. Danna and Ann Vanderlaan. They write the Abbott and Lowell Forensic Mysteries, and their new series, FBI K-9s. The first book in the series is Lone Wolf.
Meg and Hawk, a black lab, are part of the FBI’s K-9 unit, called out to disasters to search and rescue anything from a missing person, a criminal, or a body. When they’re called to bombing site at a government building on the National Mall, they find themselves searching for victims in the rubble of a mad bomber’s first target.
Their actions earn them the name “heroes,” and, as the bomber escalates, they are called to more disaster scenes in a desperate search for clues to the bomber’s identity. Because the attacks are spiraling out of control, and they’re sure the bomber has an even bigger target in mind, one that will tear the country apart with fear. It’s up to Meg and Hawk, and the rest of their team, to stop the disaster before it happens.
Lone Wolf contains some scenes that are hard to read, especially for those who can still picture the devastating scenes of 9-11. Meg is a great character, with a tenacious will that makes her fun to read, and the action in this novel never lets up. This series is sure to be a must-read.
(Galley provided by Kensington Books via NetGalley.)
Jonathan Moore finished law school in New Orleans, which probably gave his fiction that creepy twist. Now he works for a firm in Honolulu, after an eccentric career past. He was short-listed for the Bram Stoker award. His new novel, The Poison Artist, hits shelves January 26th.
Caleb Maddox is a toxicologist who studies the effects of pain. His work is demanding and all-consuming, leading to a fight with his girlfriend that leaves him wounded and emotional. He goes to a speakeasy to brood, and over absinthe, sees an alluring woman who whispers in his ear after getting his blood on her fingertips before leaving. Caleb is fascinated and must find her.
But a rash of dead bodies in San Francisco delays his search for Emmeline. One of the men vanished from the speakeasy the same night Caleb was there, so he feels obligated to help his medical examiner friend solve the case. Caleb remembers nothing that will help the detectives, but continues to help his friend in secret while also continuing his search for the tempting Emmeline. Soon the hunt for the killer entwines with Caleb’s obsession with Emmeline, linking with his past in ways he never imagined.
The Poison Artist is a haunting, creepy tale full of twists and turns. Caleb is a conflicted man driven by the horrors in his past. His obsession with Emmeline drives him to places he never believed possible as he seeks to unravel her mysteries.
(Galley courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt via NetGalley.)
Stuart Prebble is a British TV producer and director. He has written thrillers and comedies, including the Grumpy Old…series, as well as the television shows. His new novel, The Insect Farm, is a murder mystery/family drama.
Jonathan and Roger were inseparable. Jonathan was the adventurous, outgoing younger brother. Roger was the mentally handicapped older brother who adored Jonathan and was happy to be at his side. But all that changed when the brothers got older. Jonathan discovered girls, Roger discovered insects, and the two boys slowly grew apart.
Jonathan is away at school with his girlfriend, Harriet, when he gets the call that his parents’ house has burned down, with them inside. The police are suspicious of Roger, who was furious over their father’s threat to destroy his beloved insect farm, but Jonathan believes Roger is innocent. He quits school and moves home to care for Roger, leaving the life he’d hoped for behind. But his new life isn’t all he expected. Soon he realizes there is more going on than he ever imagined, with Roger, with Harriet, and with Roger’s fantastical world filled with insects.
The Insect Farm is a fast-paced story that stretches from childhood to old age. The relationship between the two brothers is ever changing yet static, and Jonathan is not as aware of things as he thinks he is. Filled with unexpected twists, betrayals, and rage, The Insect Farm is a thrill ride down an unexpected road.
(Galley provided by Mulholland Books via NetGalley.)