Friday, August 5, 2022

Wrong Place, Wrong Time A - Gillian McAllister

Wrong Place, Wrong Time is a first read/listen of Gillian McAllister for me - but it certainly won't be the last!

The premise? "You’re waiting up for your seventeen-year-old son. He’s late. As you watch from the window, he emerges, and you realize he isn’t alone: he’s walking toward a man, and he’s armed. You can’t believe it when you see him do it: your funny, happy teenage son, he kills a stranger, right there on the street outside your house. You don’t know who. You don’t know why. You only know your son is now in custody. His future shattered."

Uh huh, I was hooked immediately. But that's just the catalyst. McAllister's plotting and execution are very, very clever. I went in blind on the full description of the plot, and I think the book was all the better for me that I did so. Some may say that one of the plot devices has has been done before. Well, yes it has, in varying forms, but I think McAllister's take on this idea was unique. And she also gives the listener/reader lots of unexpected twists and turns. (Love this!)  

The murder is a given, but finding out that 'why' is a deliciously winding, surprising path. Alongside this runs an exploration of maternal love, the inside of a marriage and the secrets we keep and the things we hide.

I chose to listen to Wrong Place, Wrong Time. The reader was Lesley Sharp and her voice absolutely suited the lead character of Jen. Her voice is low and throaty, the  kind of tone that you lean in to hear. Her British accent is lovely and pleasant to listen to. The speed of the reading is just right. Her voice rises and falls with whatever situation or emotion is taking place. She enunciates clearly. Sharp interprets and presents McAllister's work very, very well. An excellent reading of a fantastic novel. Hear for yourself - listen to an audio excerpt of Wrong Place, Wrong Time.

Wednesday, August 3, 2022

The Couple at Number 9 - Claire Douglas

The Couple at Number 9 is Claire Douglas's new suspense tale - and it's one you'll want to add to your 'must listen' list. 

Saffron and her boyfriend Tom are expecting their first child. Saffron's grandmother Rose has gifted a house to them as she is now in a care home. The couple decide to make a few renovations to the house. But the builders find something quite unexpected - two bodies under the back patio. The police want to question Rose of course, but she has Alzheimer's. What will she be able to add to the investigation? Saffy also thinks there's someone watching the house. Is it someone from Rose's past? The killer? 

I really like the multiple points of view used in the The Couple at Number 9. The timeline also goes from past to present. The pacing of the book is slower, which actually worked well for this book. There are clues scattered between the two that had me thinking I easily knew who was the culprit was - and why they did it. I'm happy to say that I was proven wrong! Douglas throws in a twist that you won't see coming at all. Well done! 

Relationships of all kinds are explored and are the backbone of the plot. The characters are well developed with quite a bit of detail. I liked Saffy as the lead player. She grows over the course of the book.

I chose to listen to The Couple at Number 9. The reader was Kenton Thomas. She's got a lovely British accent that is easy on the ears, clearly enunciated and a good speaking pace. Thomas does a wonderful job interpreting and presenting Douglas's story. She easily captures the emotions and situations in the book. Thomas provides different, believable voices for each characters, making it easy to know who is speaking. And like I've mentioned before - I become more drawn into a book when I listen. That was definitely the case with The Couple at Number 9. Hear for yourself - listen to an audio excerpt.

Monday, August 1, 2022

Are You Sara? - S.C. Lalli

S.C. Lalli takes a break from writing romance and women's fiction (as Sonya Lalli), to bring us a suspense novel in Are You Sara?

I thought Lalli's premise was great, opening the door for any number of paths...

Two women each call for a rideshare home. The hook? They're both named Sara and they each get into the wrong vehicle. The leading character Sara ends up in a rich neighborhood and has to walk back home. When she finally makes it to her own home, there are flashing blue lights everywhere - and a dead girl named Sarah. Which one of them was the intended victim?

Sara sets out to answer that question for herself and Sarah. Each of the women have a voice. Sarah's starts almost three years ago as a series of journal entries. Her tone is younger and focuses on her relationships. Sara is an older law student, who also works two part time jobs - as a bartender and baby sitter. She's also held a job in the past that really stretched incredulity for this reader. Yes, I'm being a bit obtuse, but I don't want to provide spoilers. As the details of the side gig are revealed, I found it difficult to reconcile that skill set with the student who pulls pints. This was probably the biggest hurdle for me. I didn't like Sara and never became invested in her. There's a fairly larger number of supporting characters that were easy to dislike as well. 

That initial premise got lost in a myriad of sub plots. Too many in my opinion. That being said, the book did hold my attention to the final pages as I wanted to know how things ended. Lalli gives us a few gotchas in the end that were appreciated. See for yourself - read an excerpt of Are You Sara?

Thursday, July 28, 2022

Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow - Gabrielle Zevin

I admit, I didn't even look at the description of Gabrielle Zevin's new novel Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow. I picked it up as one of her past books, The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry. is a favorite of mine.

So, it was a surprise going in. Video games play a large part of the book and that is immediately introduced. And I thought, this book isn't for me. But then I was drawn in... Zevin's imagined games are fascinating and yes, they beckon to the listener to come in and be a part of them. (I was truly fascinated by the details of designing games and the reasoning behind certain decisions.)

On first meeting the adult characters, I thought - oh, I'm not keen on them at all. And then I realized how 'real' they were. Zevin hasn't sugar coated anything. Each and everyone of them has strengths and weaknesses. And yes, I was talking out loud quite often, questioning the actions, decisions and paths that Zevin sets her players on. They were perfect in their realistic portrayal. All of the emotions you can think of are found in the lives of Sadie, Sam, Marx over the course of decades. The supporting characters are just as well drawn. And I was completely immersed in their lives. Each of the lead three is given a voice and we are privy to their thoughts, emotions and actions.

And where do all those years take the three? Sometimes where I wanted and often where I didn't want to go. But again, Zevin has written "the good, the bad and the ugly' paths for her characters to travel. Just as we do. 

I chose to listen to Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow. Which really worked for me - I was drawn into the story in a way a print book would not have. The reader was Jennifer Kim and I thought she was a great choice. Her voice suits the plot and style of writing. Her voice is clear, easy on the ears and enunciated well. Her speed of speaking is just right. She captures Zevin's characters and plotting easily, giving movement to her narration. Julian Cihi has a lesser role as a narrator, but again, the voice is perfect for the mental pictures I had drawn of the characters. A wonderful presentation of a book I didn't think I would enjoy. I was so very wrong - I loved it. Hear for yourself - listen to an audio excerpt.

Don't wait for tomorrow - pick up a copy of Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow today

Tuesday, July 26, 2022

The Last to Vanish - Megan Miranda

I have quite enjoyed all of Megan Miranda's books and was looking forward to listening to her latest - The Last to Vanish. The one thing that Miranda's books have in common is suspense. What's different about The Last to Vanish is how that suspense is played out.

The Last to Vanish is such a well paced book. Miranda builds the story with layers of atmospheric observations, happenings, interactions, suspicions and more - all seen through Abby's eyes. The sense of danger is not overt, but instead preys on the listener's imagination. I very much enjoyed the subtle hand Miranda used in building her story. 

I chose to listen to The Last to Vanish and I'm so glad I did. Alex Allwine was the reader. She's a new to me narrator and I thought she was was really good. She has a lovely low, well modulated, gravelly undertone tone to her voice that is easy on the ears. Her pace of speaking is thoughtful and matches the tone of Miranda's book. Her enunciation is clear. Her voice matched the mental image I had constructed for Abby.  Allwine interpreted and presented Miranda's book really well. Five stars for both the story and the performance!

Friday, July 22, 2022

Dark Objects - Simon Toyne

I've read and enjoyed previous books from Simon Toyne. But I could not stop listening to his latest book, Dark Objects. It's fantastic!

A cleaner is the one who finds the body of a wealthy woman, murdered in her upscale home. Her killing includes a message to someone, as there are very specific objects displayed around the body. One of those objects is a book titled 'How to Process a Murder' by Laughton Rees. Laughton is a forensics academic, but finds herself drawn into this live case. Working with her is DCI Tannahill Khan of the North London Murder Squad.

That's just the bare bones of the plot. There's so much more to this case with no predicting who, what, why. I loved the layers of storytelling, the dark and devious direction the plot went. And my personal favorite, a lovely twist that I didn't see coming. The addition of excerpts from Laughton's book, news articles and a neighborhood WhatsApp group add epistolary elements to the book. 

Toyne does a great job with his two lead characters. They're given detailed personal lives, especially Laughton. Her past figures greatly in the here and now. DCI Khan isn't a cookie cutter cop, he's somewhat quiet, but he's a clever and intuitive copper. There are many supporting characters that round out the viewpoints. Especially the tabloid journalist, Brian Slade, who would sell his soul for a story. Social issues such as knife crime, racism, bullying and more are woven into the book.

I'm truly hoping that this is the first in a series. I think Laughton and Tannahill have many more tales to tell...

I chose to listen to Dark Objects. The reader was Shazia Nicholls and her voice was just perfect for this book. She has a lovely low, gravelly, rich, full tone to her voice. He British accent is lovely. Her speaking is clear, easy to understand and is well modulated. The speaking speed is just right. Her voice has presence and suits the plot and characters. Nicholls interprets Toyne's book very well. I've said it before, but I'll say it again - I become so much more immersed in a book when I listen. And that was definitely the case with Dark Objects. Hear for yourself - listen to an excerpt of Dark Objects. 

Wednesday, July 20, 2022

The Murder Book - Mark Billingham

Mark Billingham is one of my favorite authors. I don't bother with reading the flyleaf as I just know I'm in for a great read. Billingham writes stand alones that are really good as well, but it is the Tom Thorne series that I enjoy the most. The latest entry (#18!) is The Murder Book

There's a core group of three that are at the heart of this series. Tom is a Detective with the the London force as is Nicola Tanner. The third member of the trio is Coroner Phil Hendricks. They're good friends in and out of the station and all three also harboring a dark secret. (Nope, not going to tell you what it is!) Thorne and Nicola are on the hunt for a murderer using some truly grisly methods. And then the shoe drops. There is evidence found at a murder scene that should not be there...

Billingham gives his characters rich personal lives than bleed into their professional lives. Sometimes for the good - and sometimes not. I quite like Thorne - he's not grown predictable or tired after seventeen books. He's ornery, obstinate and driven to solve his cases at almost any cost. And the cost could be very high in this latest case. Hendricks seems to be settling down at last and Nicola is slowly trying to move on as well. 

Billingham consistently comes up with dark, devious plots that hold the reader captive until the last page has been turned. Loyal readers will know the name Stuart Nicklin. New readers, be prepared to meet one of the most manipulative psychopaths that ever lived in the pages of a book. His scenes give me shivers. I also love twists and turns. There's a doozy as the books nears the end that had me flipping back and re-reading to make sure I had read it correctly. 

Billingham has kept the series moving forward, always giving the reader a satisfactory ending, but leaving us with enough questions to wonder what's next in store for Thorne et al. This reader can't wait for the next in the series! Read an excerpt of The Murder Book.

Who else enjoys this series? 

“Billingham is a world-class writer and Tom Thorne is a wonderful creation. Rush to read these books.”—Karin Slaughter

“With each of his books, Mark Billingham gets better and better. These are stories and characters you don’t want to leave.”—Michael Connelly