Tuesday, September 21, 2021

The Killing Kind - Jane Casey

Jane Casey is a Sunday Times bestselling author. Her latest book is a standalone titled The Killing Kind.

Ingrid works as a barrister. She defended John Webster on stalking charges and won. But, he then turned his attentions to Ingrid and her life.

Novels with stalkers in the mix are quite frightening. I think that's because it's quite real, especially with social media playing such a large part in so many lives.  For a novelist, it gives a plot many directions to take.

Casey did a great job creating a wonderfully creepy antagonist in John Webster. His dialogue and actions let the reader experience his sociopathic tendencies. I'm torn on Ingrid. She started off as a likable character, but then seemed to become a different person. In the end, I didn't like her at all. There are unknown characters that also play a part in this plot. We only know there's something afoot from their email exchanges.

Casey flips the timeline from past to present as we learn that what has transpired is affecting what's happening now. The connection is fairly obvious, but Casey puts a nice twist into the mix in the final chapters. (Saw that one coming too)

The Killing Kind was a bit of a chunkster coming in at 480 pages. I do think it could have been pared down a bit. The first bit had me totally engrossed, but the hold the book had on me lessened as it progressed. Ingrid got repetitive, essentially doing the same thing again and again. Cat and mouse games are fun, but only for so many times.  I will be the first to say that I'm quite pragmatic. I did find some of Ingrid's actions to also be more than a little far fetched for a number of reasons including - is she not in fear for her life? 

The Killing Kind is entertaining, but not as believable has I would hoped. That being said, I can see this one as a movie.

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Hercule Poirot: The Complete Short Stories - Agatha Christie

Agatha Christie was truly the Queen of Crime. Her books and stories have been enjoyed around the world.

But I have to say, my absolute favorite recurring character of hers, is Hercule Poirot. I love his style, mannerisms, dialogue, idiosyncrasies - and those "little gray cells" that drive the investigations. I always have enjoyed the deductions, the piecing together, the reasoning, the seemingly innocuous clue tucked into a sentence somewhere along the way. Christie was a clever, clever writer.

Now I'm not much of a short story reader. But! When I saw that Harper Audio had released Hercule Poirot: The Complete Short Storiesan audiobook of 50+ Poirot stories, I knew I wanted to listen. There's 35 hours of listening just waiting for you! Most are just 30ish minutes long, but there are some longer novellas as well. The length of the short stories were perfect - eating lunch, waiting rooms, while crafting and those nights when I can't sleep. There's much satisfaction in having a case presented and solved in thirty minutes. There were some familiar cases and some I'd never read. But each and every one was a treasure.

Now, the real reason I wanted to listen - David Suchet is one of the readers! There have been many actors that have portrayed Poirot, but he is the best in my opinion. Suchet portrayed Poirot for twenty five years! Hearing his voice immediately evoked a strong mental image of the character. And knowing the voice drew me right into the stories. Suchet brings Poirot to life with his voice. He captures Christie's work easily, changing the tone, tenor and emphasis as the plot progresses. Now, as excited as I was about Suchet, I was just as excited to find that Hugh Fraser was also a narrator. Fraser played Captain Arthur Hasting, Poirot's sidekick. Again, a familiar voice was like settling in with old friends to hear a tale. Nigel Hawthorne and Isla Blair rounded out the cast. Excellent performances all round. Hear for yourself - listen to an excerpt of Hercule Poirot: The Complete Short Stories.

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

The Artist Colony - Joanna FitzPatrick - Spotlight and Giveaway

Joanna FitzPatrick's new novel, The Artist Colony, has just released and I have an eBook copy to give away to one lucky reader!

What's it about? From She Writes Press:

"In Joanna FitzPatrick’s charming and gripping new novel, set in 1924, Sarah Cunningham arrives in Carmel-by-the-Sea from Paris to bury her estranged older sister, Ada Belle. En route, Sarah was stunned to learn that Ada Belle’s death had been categorized as a suicide. The inquest’s verdict makes no sense. Ada Belle’s reputation was growing: her plein air paintings regularly sold out, and she was about to show her portraits for the first time, which would have catapulted her career. 

What begins as a short trip to bid Ada Belle adieu turns into a protracted stay for Sarah. She puts her own artistic career on hold and, trailed by Ada Belle’s devoted dog, Albert, becomes a secret sleuth—a task made harder by the misogyny and racism she discovers in this seemingly idyllic locale. From the posh Hotel del Monte to the windswept sands of Carmel Beach to Robinson Jeffers’s Tor House to Point Lobos’s Whalers Cove, The Sarah immerses herself in the women’s artist colony to discover Ada Belle’s secrets - and to expose a killer. 

Part mystery, part historical fiction, this engrossing novel celebrates the artistic talents of early women painters, the deep bonds of sisterhood, the muse that is beautiful scenery, and the dogged determination of one young woman to discover the truth, to protect an artistic legacy, and to give her sister the farewell she deserves."

"FitzPatrick keeps the pot stirred nicely, with revelations popping up like whack-a-mole. There is also a nice sense of scene, capturing this idyllic place on the Monterey peninsula. . . . The Artist Colony delivers an escape to gorgeous Carmel and an engaging mystery."--- Kirkus Reviews

Cr: Michelle Magdalena
"Joanna FitzPatrick was raised in Hollywood. She started her writing habit by applying her orange fountain pen and a wild imagination to screenplays, which led her early on to produce the film White Lilacs and Pink Champagne. Accepted at Sarah Lawrence College, she wrote her MFA thesis Sha La La: Live for Today about her life as a rock ’n’ roll star’s wife. Her more recent work includes two novels, Katherine Mansfield, Bronze Winner of the 2021 Independent Publisher Book Award (IPPY) in Historical Fiction, and The Drummer’s Widow. The Artist Colony is her third book. Presently, FitzPatrick divides her time between a cottage by the sea in Pacific Grove, California and a hameau in rural southern France where she begins all her book projects. Find her online at The Artist Colony - Joanna FitzPatrick.

If you'd like to read The Artist Colony, enter for a chance to win an eBook copy using the Rafflecopter form below. Open to US only, ends Saturday, September 25.21. 

Monday, September 13, 2021

The Stolen Hours - Allen Eskens

I read Allen Eskens' award winning debut novel, The Life We Bury, back in 2014 - and every book he's written since. They've all been fantastic reads and I can't recommend Eskens enough. 

His latest is The Stolen Hours. We first met Joe and Lila in The Life We Bury. It's Lila who takes center stage in this latest. She almost has her law degree and just needs to put in her time working with a prosecutor in the Hennepin County Attorney's office. Faithful readers will know of Lila's struggles to get this far. But the past comes barreling at her with a prosecutor who is determined to derail her dreams. Even worse is a suspect that Lila thinks has ties to her own past.

Lila is such a great character. She's so likeable and real - wounded, determined, clever and more. Eskens does a great job portraying her inner thoughts, struggles, trauma and memories realistically. The reader will be one hundred percent behind her. Joe makes a cameo and I hope Eskens has more in store for him. The supporting cast were just as well drawn, with Detective Nikki Vang returning and introducing prosecutor Andie Fitch. I hope she too is included in future novels.

I love a good mystery and courtroom battle. Eskens is a former defense attorney and that inside knowledge adds much to his plotting. The 'bad guy' in this case? A malevolent man named Gavin. He's quite sure he is smarter than the cops, his lawyer and the prosecutors. After all, he's been at this for awhile and has a foolproof plan if he's ever arrested. He's given a (chilling) voice with his own chapters. And I have to say that I was completely fooled by Eskens as to the whodunit! I love being unable to predict the final pages. 

Eskens' writing flows easily and makes for addictive reading - I devoured The Stolen Hours in a day. See for yourself - read an excerpt of The Stolen Hours.

Friday, September 10, 2021

Never Saw Me Coming - Vera Kurian

Never Saw Me Coming is Vera Kurian's debut novel.

Kurian's book has an unusual premise. Seven students have been given funds to attend a DC college as part of a clinical study. The hook? All seven are documented psychopaths, but they don't know who the others are.

It was on reading the author's bio that I discovered Kurian is a scientist and has a PhD in Social Psychology. That 'inside' knowledge benefitted the book.

Chloe is one of the seven and is the lead character. She came to Adams College for a different reason. Someone she knew years ago who did her wrong also attends the college and Chloe has plans for him. The reader is privy to who some of the others are and we get a look at their thinking as well.

When one of the seven is killed, the question arises - was it one of the others in the study? Who are the others? Does Chloe have a target on her back? And so begins a nice little cat and mouse game, with the roles blurring and changing with each new action and revelation. I quite enjoyed this part of the book.

As the characters are psychopaths who "lack empathy and can’t comprehend emotions like fear or guilt" it was impossible for me to like any of them or be behind them at all. Instead I was more of an observer, curious as to the final outcome of Never Saw Me Coming. The final pages do have a nice twist, but it was a bit predictable. 

The voices in Never Saw Me Coming are all college students and that's reflected in the dialogue, settings, actions and thoughts of the characters. It does read like a YA novel. 

Overall, a creative premise and a solid debut. See for yourself - read an excerpt of Never Saw Me Coming.

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Friends Like These - Kimberly McCreight

Kimberly McCreight's latest book is Friends Like These.

"Everyone has those friends. Doesn’t matter how long it’s been, or how badly they’ve occasionally behaved, or how late it is when that call finally comes—you show up. No questions asked."

Oh, there's so many avenues McCreight could take us with a premise like that! Five college friends reunite ten years after they graduated. Secrets, lies, complicated relationships - and a dead friend are part of the past that keeps this group of friends bound to each other.

Well, it was very easy to not like any of group. They're all hiding something, they all lie and despite their seeming love for each other, they all have their own agendas. The only character I really liked was the police detective.

I found the plot to be a bit confusing at times as the narrative jumped timelines - and there were many timelines. Past, present, and times within the present - days and weeks. For this listener it was just too much, too many, too convoluted. The ending did however, provide a really good twist.

One reason I was excited to listen to Friends Like These was the use of multiple readers for this title. Eight to be exact - Carlotta Brentan, Ewan Chung, Susan Dalian, Lauren Fortgang, James Fouhey, Stacey Glemboski, Joe Knezevich and Alex McKenna. I can't tell you who played what role, but their voices all suited the characters they were portraying. The standout for me was the police detective - she has a cigarette and whiskey rasp to her voice that really worked for the role. A few voices did seem somewhat similar, so I had to listen to the name given at the top of each chapter to confirm who was taking center stage. I think all the reader's performances were very good. But for this listener, having so many narrators just exacerbated the 'too much' feeling of the timelines and plotting. Hear for yourself - listen to an excerpt of Friends Like These.

I've read and enjoyed previous books by McCreight, but this one ended up being just okay. Three stars.

Monday, September 6, 2021

The Night She Disappeared - Lisa Jewell

I've enjoyed all of Lisa Jewell's previous books, but her latest - The Night She Disappeared - is a new favorite!

Tallulah and her boyfriend Zack disappear one night without a trace. Tallulah's mother Kim knows her daughter would never abandon her wee son. But a year passes and the police are no closer to an answer. That changes when a new headmaster and his girlfriend Sophie, a cozy mystery writer move into the village. When she finds a sign saying 'Dig Here" in her back garden, Sophie does. And the first clue to what might have happened is found...

Jewell tells the tale in three timelines with multiple points of view. I was hooked as every chapter gives us more hints to the past, more information in the present and a cold inkling as to what might have transpired. 

Jewel gives us well drawn protagonists in grieving parent Kim and amateur detective Sophie. These characters are imbued with personal storylines as well, quite believable in their relationships, doubts, loss and more. Jewell ekes out the story of Tallulah before she disappeared and the reader can see what's coming as her narrative progresses. (Don't peek ahead though! I wasn't entirely right in my guess) There are plenty of supporting characters and each and every one of them seems to have trouble with the truth. Who should we believe? 

I really enjoyed Sophie's sleuthing skills. I always wanted to grow up and become Nancy Drew, so mysteries are favorite genre. And Jewell has written a great one - the plotting is excellent, the settings are atmospheric (love the creepy mansion in the woods) and the varying timelines and voices really worked for me. And kept me up late as I really needed to know what (or who) happened to Tallulah. A great page turner. See for yourself - read an excerpt of The Night She Disappeared.