Monday, February 28, 2022

League of Liars - Astrid Scholte

How to spend a snowed in weekend? For me, it was getting lost in the fantasy world in Astrid Scholtes' new YA novel, League of Liars.

"In this fantasy thriller, four teens charged with murder and caught up with the illegal use of magic band together to devise the ultimate jailbreak."

I am always fascinated by the world building in fantasy novels. In this world in magic is forbidden and strictly regulated. Any misuse is dealt with quickly and harshly. The magic itself is interesting as it is shadows that execute the magic when they are called upon. But the end result often doesn't match the user's intent. 

League of Liars gives us four teen protagonists, all with a vendetta against the Regency. There's Cayder, a law intern, his sister Leta and Jey, who is a bit of a rogue. And of course what fantasy world doesn't have a princess? Although Cayder leads the pack, I found myself drawn more to Leta. She's bold and brave, a bit hard headed and is the character I'd choose to play. The cast of supporting characters are easy to separate into 'good' and 'bad'.

The plot itself is busy in a good way - murders, disappearances, court cases, a prison, royalty, a ruling council, the mysterious Veil that is tied to the magic, and a touch of romance. Danger and action filled as well.

When I read YA books, I try not to be "adult eyes" critical of plot devices or directions, the actions of the teen protagonists, their actions and thoughts. For me, fantasy novels are just that - a chance to escape into another world in the pages of a book.

League of Liars weighs in at 464 pages. I do think it could have been tightened up in a few places, but overall I quite enjoyed League of Liars. Now about that ending.....all I can say is I hope there's a second book! See for yourself - read an excerpt of League of Liars. And isn't that cover great!

Friday, February 25, 2022

The Harbor - Katrine Engberg

The Harbor is Katrine Engberg's third entry in her delightful Jeppe Kørner and Anette Werner series last year. I've listened to the first two books and this latest is another great listen.

Jeppe and Anette are detectives with the Copenhagen Police. Their latest case involves a missing teenager, at first assumed to be a runaway by the police. But a cryptic note left behind hints at something darker. And a discovery at a local waste facility ramps up their caseload.

Engberg's plot is well written and not easy to solve. There are a number of seemingly disparate threads will keep the listener guessing. The Harbor moves along at a good pace as clues are uncovered. The rapport between the two partners is very well written. I quite enjoy the repartee between the two.  

Alongside some great plotting are well drawn characters. Engberg has given all her characters rich personal stories that have evolved over the course of the books. The personal storylines are believable and relatable and I was eager to catch up.

And the third piece for me is the reader. The narrator is Graeme Malcolm, one of my favorites. He has an accent that works for many locales. His voice has a lovely, unique, gravelly tone to it and it's quite pleasant to listen to. He depicts the emotion and tone of both characters and plot lines easily with his voice. He also has a somewhat sardonic tone at times that perfectly suits the verbal sparring and inner thoughts of the lead characters. The speed of the reading matches what's going on in the book. He speaks clearly and is easy to understand. Hear for yourself - listen to an excerpt of The Harbor.

Tara F. Chace was the translator for this title. She's done a good job as the narrative doesn't feel or sound choppy, but flows easily instead. 

Fans of character driven police procedural mysteries such as Susan Hill's Simon Serrailler or Deborah Crombie's Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James series would enjoy this series. 

Thursday, February 24, 2022

This Might Hurt - Stephanie Wrobel

This Might Hurt is Stephanie Wrobel's new novel.

Sisters Natalie and Kit have always had a fractious relationship, but they've always stayed in touch. Natalie is worried when Kit decides to get her life together by going to Wisewood. Six month mandatory stay and no communication with the outside world. And Nat doesn't hear from her - until she receives a cryptic email from someone threatening to tell Kit the secret Natalie has kept for years. "Would you like to come tell your sister what you did - or shall we?" She decides she needs to see her sister no matter what, so she heads to Wisewood...

Okay, the creepy feeling started when I read the Charles Manson quote that the book opens with. Uh huh - I had a feeling I knew what Westwood might entail. It might look idyllic, but it's anything but.

This Might Hurt is told from three points of view - a performance artist, Natalie and Kit. The artist scared the socks off me. I had to put the book down after reading her visceral chapters. Relationships of many types are found in the pages of This Might Hurt - most of them dysfunctional and disturbing. Timelines changes as well from past to present. 

The reader can't help but hope Natalie and Kit come to no harm, but I couldn't like either of them despite knowing their backstories. And there wasn't a one on the island that I liked either. 

Wrobel has penned a dark, disturbing plot. At times I didn't want to read any more, but I needed to know what happened. Wrobel throws in some twists that I didn't see coming. The ending is good as well - you know what's going to happen, yet its not spelled out. 

Wrobel made my skin crawl! See for yourself - read an excerpt of This Might Hurt. (Gentle readers - this may not be the book for you.)

Wednesday, February 23, 2022

Would I Lie to You? - Aliya Ali-Afzal

Would I Lie to You? is Aliya Ali-Afzal's just released debut novel.

Faiza seems to have it all - she's a stay at home mom with a loving, hard working husband, three wonderful children, a beautiful home, a small, tight group of friends and a larger group of acquaintances. It's that last one that has been the hardest for her...

"At the school gates, Faiza fits in. It took a few years, but now the snobbish white mothers who mistook her for the nanny treat her as one of their own. She's learned to crack their subtle codes, speak their language of fashion and vacations and haircuts. You'd never guess, seeing her at the trendy kids' parties and the leisurely coffee mornings, that her childhood was spent being bullied and being ashamed of her poor Pakistani immigrant parents."

And then Tom loses his job - and Faiza is in a panic. To keep up appearances, she's been borrowing from their emergency fund - and Tom doesn't know. What is she going to do? How is she going to find and replace the money?

I quite liked Faiza as a lead character. She's loving, funny, kind and caring. But, I must admit, her trying to 'keep up with the Joneses' saddened me. The lead mother of the in group made my blood boil with her thinly veiled racism. Now, that thread is part of the overall plot, but the need to replace the money is the driving device of the plot.

Faiza's efforts to save her home - and her marriage are band aids that keep falling off. Each new solution brings it's own set of problems and the deception and lies continue to grow. I did wonder about Tom's ignorance as to their money situation. But I just rolled with it.  

Ali-Afzal tackles a lot of issues in Would I Lie to You?, including workplace harassment, friendship, family and (I loved this....) "how much more should she sacrifice to live someone else's idea of the dream life".

Ali-Afzal is a fresh voice on the fiction scene, successfully combining a fun tale with a number of truths. 

Tuesday, February 22, 2022

The Paris Apartment - Lucy Foley

I've enjoyed Lucy Foley's previous books and was eager to listen to her newest - The Paris Apartment.

Jess needs to get away from her life in England. She calls her half brother Ben to see if she can stay with him in Paris for awhile and he reluctantly agrees. But when she arrives at his apartment building, he's not there and he's not answering his phone either. When she knocks on the neighbors' doors, the other residents of the building say they haven't seen him. They're definitely not a friendly bunch....

"The socialite – The nice guy – The alcoholic – The girl on the verge – The concierge. Everyone's a neighbor. Everyone's a suspect. And everyone knows something they’re not telling."

Well, I was hooked from the opening chapters! The Paris Apartment has that 'locked room' mystery feel to it - a premise I quite like. The apartment itself is older and that added to the ambiance. And yes, there's a cellar and an attic.....

Jess is tenacious in her hunt for Ben and I was firmly behind her. (But she's much braver than I would be!) Each resident of the building is given a voice - including Ben. And so the listener becomes privy to information that Jess doesn't have as she tries to locate Ben.

The journey to the final pages is on a dark and twisted road. Foley's plotting is clever, keeping the listener on their toes. Another great book from Foley!

I really enjoyed having a cast present The Paris Apartment. The narrators were Clare Corbett, Daphne Kouma, Julia Winwood, Sope Dirisu, Sofia Zervudachi and Charlie Anson. I'm not sure who did what role, but they all were excellent. The book takes place in Paris and the French accents were perfect, yet easy to understand. The voices employed suited the characters being played. Jess had a nice, low tone to her voice that drew the listener to her. The dangerous players all showed that threat with their voices. The tension of the plot was easily presented. For me, I know I always feel drawn into a story when I listen. And that was most definitely the case with The Paris Apartment. Hear for yourself - listen to an excerpt of The Paris Apartment. 

Friday, February 18, 2022

Beneath the Stairs - Jennifer Fawcett

Beneath the Stairs is Jennifer Fawcett's debut novel. 

Twenty years ago teenagers Clare, Abby and two other friends dared each other to go inside a local 'haunted' house, which had been the scene of a murder. They all went in, but Abby came out traumatized. And now she has attempted suicide - back at Octagon House.

Beneath the Stairs is hard to slot into a genre niche. There is definitely a horror element to the book, but it's done subtly and is very effective for that light hand. That being said, I mentally kept yelling "Don't go in the basement!" I'm going to let you discover what's in the basement, but it gave me the creeps.

The plot is actually character driven. The timeline flips from present to past as Fawcett explores family, the relationships between the four friends, coming of age and where they are today. Can you ever go home? How has what happened in the past shaped their lives? And where do they go from here? Well - it's back to the house.....

Beneath the Stairs is a slow burning, atmospheric tale - one that I quite enjoyed. I thought it was a really good debut. Fawcett's writing is easy to get caught up in.

I chose to listen to Beneath the Stairs. Carolina Hoyos was the narrator. She has such an interesting voice. It's low pitched with a hint of a gravelly tone. Her voice draws you in to listen. Her speed of speaking is again, just right for the character and the plot. She's easy to understand and enunciates well. She absolutely captures Fawcett's work with her voice. I've said it before and I'll say it again - I find myself drawn deeper into a book by listening. That was absolutely the case with Beneath the Stairs. Here for yourself - listen to an excerpt of Beneath the Stairs.

Thursday, February 17, 2022

The Deepest of Secrets - Kelley Armstrong

Kelley Armstrong's books make for addictive reading. But, I have to say, the Rockton series is my favorite. The Deepest of Secrets is the seventh entry. 

Rockton is a town that doesn't exist on any map, completely off-grid, hidden in the Yukon. The residents? They're all running from something or hiding from someone. Nobody asks too many questions. A town full of liars, thieves and criminals provides a wealth of opportunities for story telling. But even this town needs some laws - and someone to enforce them. That's where Detective Casey Duncan comes in - she was a homicide cop 'down south'. She and Sheriff Eric Dalton are partners at work - and at home. What a great premise!

This latest finds secrets being brought to light - and bodies to go along with them. The books are written from Casey's point of view. I enjoy being 'with' her as she investigates. I enjoy her internal reasoning and subsequent deductions as she investigates. The mysteries Armstrong presents are not easily solved and I quite like being kept guessing. This latest is no exception.

Casey is such a great lead - she's tough, intelligent and determined - but not perfect.  Her relationship with Dalton is well written. I'm not a big romance reader, but Armstrong does it well. Their relationship is believable, not 'over the top' and enhances the book, rather than being the main focus. There are many, many supporting players, each with their own secrets, strengths and weaknesses. They all have a role to play and I've come to appreciate how they add to the overall depth of the plots and the fabric of Rockton. 

Why do I love this series so much? I'm fascinated with the idea of a hidden town in the northern reaches of Canada. It's certainly a possibility. Armstrong's imagining of this is so detailed, from settings inside the walls and beyond. But there's another threat in Rockton in this latest entry. The council, who dictate from afar what happens in Rockton, have issued a new edict. One that threatens everything and everyone in Rockton.

The Deepest of Secrets was another great read for me. I have my hopes (and fingers crossed) for where Armstrong might take this series. See for yourself - read an excerpt of The Deepest of Secrets.

(Although there's a 'catch up' introduction, I would start with the first book, City of the Lost.)

Tuesday, February 15, 2022

The Cage - Bonnie Kistler

The premise of Bonnie Kistler's new novel, The Cage, really grabbed my attention. And held it through all 352 pages - I honestly couldn't put it down!

What's the premise? 

"Leaving at the same time, the two women, each preoccupied by her own thoughts, enter the elevator that will take them down from the 30th floor. When they arrive at the lobby, one of the women is dead. Was it murder or suicide?"

Now, you would think that the answer to that question would be quite easy, don't you? It's anything but. The lead character is Shay, a lawyer - and the survivor. The story unfolds through her eyes, but can we trust her? Her story changes a number of time as the tale progresses. We're also aware of other narratives and these factions have their own agenda as well. 

The Cage is a legal thriller that benefits so much from Kistler's own legal expertise. The machinations of all the characters is more than a little frightening. (And I'm sure there is lots of truth there as well.) The plotting is detailed and devious, going in a direction I hadn't foreseen. And I loved how the burning question of innocence or guilt is flipped back and forth, keeping me guessing. 

Kistler's writing makes for addictive reading. I look forward to her next novel. See for yourself - read an excerpt of The Cage. I can absolutely see this one as a movie. And check out the 'behind the book' inspiration here. 

Behind the book - The Cage by Bonnie Kistler

Do you ever wonder where an author finds their ideas? I do! Check out the 'behind the book' for Bonnie Kistler's fantastic new book, The Cage. (Here's my review)

Defying Gravity: The Primal Fear of Elevators by Bonnie Kistler

"Before I was an author, I was a lawyer toiling away in big law firms in high-rise buildings. If it’s true that we all spend a third of our lives in bed, I often felt that I spent at least another third riding up and down in elevators. Because my firms occupied multiple floors of their buildings, I not only took the elevator morning and night, but also many times throughout the day as my work took me from conference room to library to other lawyers’ offices and back again. 
To me, the elevator was fraught with peril.

Many people have a primal fear of elevators, but I’m not claustrophobic, or enochlophobic (afraid of crowds), or xenophobic (afraid of strangers), or even basophobic (afraid of falling). (But note: it can’t be an accident that the word elevator connotes only rising up and never crashing down; Mr. Otis knew what he was doing when he hit upon that descriptor).

None of these fears is unfounded. Incidents involving elevators and escalators kill about 30 and seriously injure about 17,000 people each year in the United States.* (For a thrilling account of the more inventive ways an elevator can kill you, go read Linwood Barclay’s Elevator Pitch). 

The most common fear is of being stuck in a malfunctioning elevator. Some people trapped in this situation imagine that they’re running out of oxygen. They become anxious, and start to experience cold sweats, a racing heartbeat, hyperventilation, shaking, nausea, disorientation – all the classic symptoms of a panic attack.
My fear was a bit different. Yes, I was afraid of being stuck in a broken-down elevator, but only if I were stuck with someone else. I wasn’t afraid of elevators per se. I was afraid of my fellow passengers, or at least of a potential conflict with my fellow passengers. See, I have a fear of confrontation – an unfortunate trait for a trial lawyer, you might say, but it really only surfaced when I found myself trapped in a small space with opposing counsel or some other man with whom I might have exchanged heated words. My lurid imagination would kick in. I’d imagine that the elevator broke down, that I was trapped with this nemesis for endless hours. I’d imagine shouting matches that turned to scuffles and escalated (see what I did there?) to murder, mayhem, and sexual assault. Sometimes I’d even imagine that he was hurting me.

Joking aside, it was this fear that inspired my novel THE CAGE. In the opening scene, two women working late on a Sunday night step onto an elevator going down. The car stalls.
Why do they call them cars? one of the women wonders. Elevators weren’t cars. In a car you were in control. You could stop, pull over, get out, walk free. They should call them what they were. Cages. 

By the time rescue finally arrives, one of the women is dead of a gunshot to the head. Was it suicide brought on by a panic attack as the survivor claims? Or was it murder? 

That’s the launchpad for THE CAGE, and the answer doesn’t touch down, the doors don’t open, until the final page.

*According to data provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Consumer Product Safety Commission."

A former Philadelphia trial lawyer, Bonnie Kistler attended Bryn Mawr College, where she graduated magna cum laude with Honors in English literature, and she received her law degree from University of the Pennsylvania Law School where she was a moot court champion and legal writing instructor. She is the author of THE CAGE (Harper, 2/15/2022) and House of Fire. She and her husband divide their time between Sarasota Florida and the mountains of western North Carolina.

Monday, February 14, 2022

The Overnight Guest - Heather Gudenkauf

There was a foot of snow around my house as I settled in to listen to Heather Gudenkauf's new book, The Overnight Guest. Which was quite fitting!

Wylie Lark writes true crime books. She's penning her latest in a house that was the scene of two murders. A snow storm knocks out the power. (Always a great setting, 'cause you just know the protagonist is cut off and on their own...) When Wylie looks out the window, she sees a child facedown in the snow....

Well, that's just one of three threads in The Overnight Guest. The second is from the past and told through the eyes of a teenager. And the third? A mother and child - and something is just 'off' in their home. Each thread caught my interest and sparked my curiosity. How and what was going to tie these three seemingly disparate plot lines together? I really enjoy this style of storytelling. Switching between those three stories kept me up late listening to 'just one chapter.'

Gudenkauf did a great job building the tension in each of those three threads. There's danger and darkness in every scenario. As the book progressed, I began to put the pieces together.  Gudenkauf's plotting is clever and well delivered. This was a first listen of Gudenkauf for me and I would happily pick up her next book.

I chose to listen to The Overnight Guest. The reader was Audie award winning Brittany Pressley, who I've enjoyed in the past. She has a very pleasant voice, easy to understand and clearly enunciated. She has a rich undertone to her voice. There's lots of movement to her voice and her reading draws the listener in. She interprets Gudenkauf's work very well, capturing and presenting the action and tension. She provides different voices for all the characters, male, female and child, all suited and believable. An excellent performance. Hear for yourself - listen to an excerpt of The Overnight Guest.

Thursday, February 10, 2022

Marion Lane and the Deadly Rose - T. A. Willberg

I stumbled across T.A. Willberg's debut novel, Marion Lane and the Midnight Murder in 2020. I absolutely loved it and have been eagerly awaiting the next entry in this fantastic series. It's here! Marion Lane and the Deadly Rose has just released. 

What's to love? How about a hidden detective agency below the streets of London, an eclectic group of 'Inquirers', wondrous, magical gadgets that aid in investigations and a spunky female apprentice. The name of the agency, Miss Brickett’s Investigations & Inquiries, conjures up time and place and a bygone method of crime solving. The 1959 time period is perfect. 

Marion Lane is our lead character. You can't help but like her. She's clever, curious, dogged and determined to become a full fledged Inquirer. Willberg fleshes out Marion and gives her a personal life as well. Those personal and workplace relationships will be sorely tested in this second entry. A killer named The Florist is loose in London and Scotland Yard has called on Miss Brickett's for help. A mysterious letter to Marion suggests that one of their new recruits may have ties to the killer....

Willberg's plotting is full of twists and turns, changing and challenging my answer for whodunit with every new clue. Who to trust? Who not to trust?

I wanted to be Nancy Drew when I was younger. Marion evokes that desire and Miss Brickett's brings to mind Platform 9 ¾. Marion Lane and the Deadly Rose was a unique, wonderfully imaginative, delightfully fun read that took me away from the worries of today. I had great fun walking in Marion's footsteps as she pursues the mysteries of Miss Brickett's. I'll be eagerly awaiting the third book! 

See for yourself - read an excerpt of Marion Lane and the Deadly Rose. And personally, I think the reader would enjoy this latest having read the first book.

Wednesday, February 9, 2022

All I Want - Darcey Bell

I enjoyed Darcey Bell's debut novel A Simple Favor. Her latest release is All I Want

Emma and Ben are a couple expecting their first child. They want out of New York City and put an offer in on an abandoned mansion in upstate New York. Getting an idea about the plot? Let me add this...the mansion has a storied past, the townsfolk are more than a little odd and Ben is away at work all week. And Emma finds a notebook in the attic....

All the pieces are there for a tale with a Gothic feel - a favorite genre of mine. 

The first part of the book is told from Emma's viewpoint. There is, of course, something quite wrong in Emma's new life as her relationship with her husband has changed. I got caught up in the story and wondered what would happen next.

Well, we next hear from Ben and then a third person. And for me, that's where All I Want jumped the shark. I don't want to provide spoilers, so I'll be deliberately obtuse. The plot was just too far fetched to be bought. But I wanted to see how things turned out. The last chapter? Completely ridiculous and disappointing.

Movies and theatre are a large part of All I Want's plot. Bell takes inspiration from some classic movies. You'll easily guess which ones. 

The prose are quite often short, staccato statements. Narratives end abruptly and then pick up in the next chapter leaving the listener to imagine what transpired in between. The writing just had a choppy feel to it. He said, she said. 

I chose to listen to All I Want. I often find I become more immersed in a book when I listen, rather than reading. If I was reading, I would have glossed over the choppy flow, but listening only amplified this.The readers were Kevin R. Free, Madeleine Maby and Emily Tremaine. They're all talented narrators that I have listened to in the past. They all turned in excellent performances. Their voices were clear and easy to understand. I did find the default speed to be a bit slow and bumped it up to 1.1. Hear for yourself - listen to an excerpt of All I Want.

I think I was expecting so much more after that stellar first book. A passing grade, but just.

Tuesday, February 8, 2022

When You Are Mine - Michael Robotham

Michael Robotham is a perennial favorite author for me. I don't bother reading the synopsis as I know I am going to enjoy whatever tale awaits me. The latest is When You Are Mine - a stand alone. 

Philomena McCarthy is an officer with the Met in London. She's passionate about her job and is a stickler for upholding the law, not cutting corners and protecting the public. She's also the daughter of a London crime family.

Phil responds to a domestic violence call and ends up arresting Darren Goodall, who just happens to be a decorated officer with Scotland Yard. And that's the beginning of a nightmare for Phil - although she doesn't know it yet. She is determined to help Tempe - the victim of the assault. Despite knowing she should set limits, Phil invites Tempe into her life. And that too may not have been the smartest thing to do.

Phil is a great lead character - she's smart, fearless and determined, a protagonist you'll be behind all the way. But, she has some blind spots and I myself shaking my head at some of the choices she makes. But of course those decisions drive the plot forward. Goodall is easy to despise. Tempe is complicated. Robotham did a fantastic job with her - she's hard to nail down - are her motives well meaning or does she have her own agenda? 

And, as always, Robotham's plotting will keep you reading until the wee hours. There are also some harsh realities to be found as well. I do hope we see Phil again, as well as her family. Despite the 'crime family' label, I quite liked her father and uncles.

I chose to listen to When You Are Mine. The reader was Katy Sobey, a favorite of mine. She speaks clearly and at a good speed, enunciates well and is easy to understand. Her voice is expressive, capturing the tone and emotion of the novel. And she is so versatile! Different voices and accents are used for the main players. They're easily identifiable and match the mental images I had of the players, both male and female. I have to say that the voice for Tempe is a stand out - lovely and chilling. An excellent performance of a great book from Sobey. Hear for yourself - Listen to an excerpt of When You Are Mine.

Friday, February 4, 2022

The Good Samaritan - C J Parsons

C J Parsons' latest North American release is The Good Samaritan.

Carrie is plunged into every parent's nightmare when her five year old daughter Sofia disappears from the park. One of the other moms quickly organizes a search party, but they have no luck and finally call the police. Thankfully she is found unhurt by another good Samaritan a few days later. And then another young girl goes missing...

Parsons gives us an unreliable lead character in Carrie. She is 'face blind' - unable to read facial expressions and she is also on the spectrum. She can't read situations or emotions. But she's a dedicated mother. 

Parsons gives us many choices for the whodunit, all quite plausible. The choices are whittled down as the book progresses until there are only two left. But which one is it? Parsons does a good job of keeping the reader guessing until the run up to the last pages. Lots of tension and action  had me quickly turning pages to see if my supposition was right. (I was)

I'm going to be deliberately obtuse here - one big problem I had with The Good Samaritan was Carrie letting new friends have such a familiar relationship with her child. Of course, that also drives the plot forward. For this reader though, a few grains of salt were needed. 


Thursday, February 3, 2022

The Goodbye Coast - Joe Ide

A Philip Marlow novel? You caught my attention Joe Ide! Ide puts his own spin on this iconic character, setting his tale in current day, in his new novel - The Goodbye Coast

Marlowe is an unlicensed private investigator in Las Angeles, often taking cases from a crusty old investigator. He often gets help from his Dad Emmet - currently on leave from the LAPD.

Now, I must admit, I went in with pre-conceived notions as to what this Marlow would be like - his thoughts and actions, who the other players would be and what the crime might entail. And I discarded them quickly. This Marlowe isn't what I expected - but I very much liked Ide's reinvention.

Marlowe has two cases on his plate - a missing wealthy teenager and a mother desperate to find her missing child. Enter the femmes fatale. Again, happily not what I was expecting - these two will give Marlow a run for his money.  Bring in Russian and Armenian gangs and the action ramps up.

I loved Marlowe's wry internal thoughts and observations. And his wishful thinking on the romance front. The dialogue is short and snappy, suiting the character and the overall tone of the book. It's often quite humorous as well. The setting of Los Angeles is portrayed in all it's glitz and grime. Marlowe and Emmet have a complicated relationship and Ide explores the father and son relationship with a keen eye.

This reader quite enjoyed this homage to Chandler and other 'classic' crime novels. Here's hoping that it's not too long of a wait for the next Marlow case. See for yourself - read an excerpt of The Goodbye Coast.

Wednesday, February 2, 2022

The Appeal - Janice Hallett

Oh my gosh! Janice Hallett's new novel, The Appeal, is absolutely brilliant!

From Simon and Schuster: "Perfect for fans of Ruth Ware and Lisa Jewell, this “dazzlingly clever” (The Sunday Times, London) murder mystery follows a community rallying around a sick child—but when escalating lies lead to a dead body, everyone is a suspect.

Okay, so that descriptor alone had me hooked. But! What really had me excited was that book is an epistolary novel, told only through emails, messages, memos, newspaper stories, letters and more. I adore this style of story telling.

What else? Well there's a large (but manageable) set of characters (suspects), all with a connection to the Fairway Players, an amateur theater group. One of the troupe has been incarcerated after the death of one of their fellow thespians. Two young law students have been tasked with going through the correspondence in an effort to launch an appeal and clear that conviction.

The clues are slowly revealed from differing viewpoints. I felt like I was in an Agatha Christie novel, trying to ferret out the damning piece of evidence, ready to point my finger with a satisfied ah ha! Well, point I did, but at almost every character along the way. Hallett's plotting is deliciously devious. It's all so very, very clever. The Appeal is easily one of my favorites for the year!

I chose to listen to The Appeal. I wondered if the epistolary element would translated to the audio version well. For this listener it was even better. The readers were Aysha Kala, Daniel Philpott, Rachel Adedeji and Sid Sagar. They all did a spectacular job. There are two female characters that 'speak' more than others. The voices for these two were perfect - Sarah Jane is no nonsense and forceful. Izzy is not as sure of herself and a little clueless and her voice reflects that. The male characters' voices were also perfect for the mental images I was creating - smooth and cultured - and yes, a little bit smarmy. The British accents are very easy to understand. The speed of speaking was just right and was easy to understand. All of the readers captured the tone of the book and interpreted it well, doing justice to Hallett's book. As much as I know I would have enjoyed reading The Appeal, I found the audio version to be even better. Soooooo good!! Hear for yourself - listen to an excerpt of The Appeal.

Tuesday, February 1, 2022

Finlay Donovan Knocks 'Em Dead - Elle Cosimano

I had so much fun reading Finlay Donovan is Killing It last year! It was the first book in a series from Elle Cosimano. The second entry - Finlay Donovan Knocks 'Em Dead - releases today. And it's just as good as the first book.

Who is Finlay and why does she make me laugh? Well, she's a single mom of two, an author with an editor breathing down her neck for a new book (Finlay does take inspiration from her own situation), a sister, a daughter, an ex who is being quite a pain -  and a contract killer. Well, technically not really - but the criminal underworld she's blundered across thinks she is. And fair enough, as she seems to stumble across bodies with frequency. Finlay is just so likeable. Her struggles are real and she's a hot mess a lot of the time. Every lead character deserves a dependable sidekick right? In this case it's Vero, Finlay's childminder. She's clever, has a sardonic sense of humor - and seems to have some dodgy connections herself.

Cosimano's plotting is inventive, clever and engaging. There's no down time in this book - action (and a body with the threat of another) propel things along at a fast paced clip, Yes, some situations are improbable, but just go with it. There's a side of romance included too. And more than one choice!

So, yes - a humorous mystery with a side of romance. What more could you want? Escapist reading at it's best. See for yourself - read an excerpt of  Finlay Donovan Knocks 'Em Dead. And yes, this reader will be waiting for the third entry.

I do think, for full effect, it would be good to read the first book and then pick up this latest. If you've enjoyed Janet Evanovich books, you'll want to meet Finlay Donovan.