Tuesday, November 29, 2022

A Ghost of Caribou - Alice Henderson

A Ghost of Caribou is the latest entry in Alice Handerson's  Alex Carter series.

Alex is an wildlife biologist who travels Canada and the US tracking species that are in danger. And, it seems like wherever she goes, Alex attracts danger as well.

This time around, she's looking for confirmation that the reported sighting of a mountain caribou is real, as they are extinct in the contiguous United States. I've quite enjoyed learning about each of the featured animals in this series. Henderson's facts are real and she is a dedicated wildlife researcher who walks the talk.

I really like Alex as a lead character. She's strong, resilient, curious, intelligent, adventurous, and courageous. She doesn't back down from anything. But she's smart about it. Supporting players are her dad and her best friend Zoe. Because of her job, contact is usually over the phone. Their lives are interesting as well and there's usually a mystery one of their lives. 

The setting this time is in the Selkirk mountains of Washington state. Henderson does a fantastic job with her setting details. There's a lot going on in this forested area. Missing women, logging disputes, mysterious tunnels - and mysterious inhabitants. Alex has landed right in the middle of things.

The plot is very good. There are a few grains of salt needed with some of the happenings, but just go with it. There's lot of action and many a dangerous situation, characters to like, and many to dislike (strongly) And the end pages brought a surprise. Those who have read the first two books will be surprised as I was.

I chose to listen to A Ghost of Caribou. The same narrator, Eva Kaminsky, has read the previous two books as well. I really appreciate the continuity. Her voice absolutely matches the characters. Kaminsky captures the tone of A Ghost of Caribou. Her voice easily portrays the danger, the action and emotions of the book. Her voice is clear, easy to understand and pleasant on the ears. The speed of the narration is just right. I often find myself more drawn into a book when listened to, rather than a print copy. And that's the case with A Ghost of Caribou. Hear for yourself - listen to a sample of A Ghost of Caribou. 

Friday, November 25, 2022

The Best American Mystery and Suspense 2022 - Edited by Jess Walter and Steph Cha

I've always meant to pick up one of the annual mystery and suspense year end compilations. This year I finally did! (And now I know what I've been missing.) This is actually the 26th entry in the Best American Mystery and Suspense 2022 yearly collections. 

Jess Walter is the guest editor, who, with series editor Steph Cha were charged with choosing 'the twenty short stories that represent the best examples of the form published the previous year.' The process to try and narrow the field down to just twenty entries is detailed in the editor notes. I wouldn't want to be the one making those decisions.

There were entries from authors than I'm familiar with, such as Dennis Lehane and S.A. Paris. I know their style and knew I would enjoy their entries. (I did) There were many 'new to me' authors and I was excited to experience new voices. This format lends itself to new discoveries. Where was such a wide variety of styles, locales, length, protagonists and more! 

I'm always fascinated by this style of story telling. How to fit in characters, a protagonist, a beginning and an end into a limited time or space. It's nice to pick the story you have time for at lunch - and escape into a book for a short period of time, but with a sense of satisfaction.

I chose to listen to this book. A number of narrators were used for this compilation - Desean Terry, Lindsey Dorcus, Max Meyers, Frankie Corzo, Christopher Salazar and Chanté McCormick, Each and every one was excellent. The readers change their tone, cadence, accent, etc. to suit the stories being told. The speed of speaking was good and all spoke clearly. 

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

The Obsession - Jesse Q. Sutanto

The Obsession is a teen listen from Jesse Q. Sutanto.

What's the premise? The cover says it all. Boy meets girl. Boy stalks girl. Girl gets revenge.

Sutanto puts her own spin on how that revenge plays out. This was a nice addition to a premise I've read before. 

Logan's mindset is definitely off kilter and quite frightening in his thinking. An incident in his past is alluded to that lets us know this isn't his first obsession. There's lots of warning here for younger readers. There's just as much warning in Dee and her mother's situation. That twist changes things for both of them.

 There is a dual point of view narrative.

Now, I know I should be on Dee's 'side' given what's happening to and with her. But. Yeah, there's a but. I just didn't like her at all. Her actions are no better than Logan's. Actually, hers are worse. I just couldn't get behind her at all. And I even started to feel sorry for Logan. I saw him as someone with a mental illness and Dee as an opportunist. 

The narrative ended up being somewhat repetitive for me. The ending seemed to be somewhat abrupt, leaving the door open for the second book in this planned series. 

Catherine Ho was one of the narrators. She speaks low and seemingly close to the microphone. Her voice for me was that of an adult and didn't fit my mental image and tone of Dee. David Lee Huynh read the Logan role. He spoke clearly and his voice was pleasant. I thought he captured the Logan character really well. The voice matched the character in this case. Hear for yourself - listen to an audio excerpt of The Obsession. 

Gentle listeners, there are triggers in this book. This was an okay listen, but not a stand out. 

Monday, November 21, 2022

Small Game - Blair Braverman

I admit - I have watched a few (okay, more than a few) survival shows. They're great escapist television that I'm happy to watch from the couch.

I was intrigued by the premise of Blair Braverman's new book - Small Game. 

Four participants, three men, two women, six weeks and the last one standing wins it all. For Mara, it sounds like an easy win. After all, she's been brought up with a survivor mind set and she actually teaches survival skills as her job. 

The book is told from Mara's point of view. We meet the others through her experiences and interactions. I was immediately on board with Mara. We are privy to her inner thoughts, doubts, and reasons for coming on the show. Braverman takes a deeper view with Mara's experiences. The others? Their actions speak volumes. Now, the first bit is as you would expect - setting up camp, getting to know the competition - and the behind the scenes machinations. I've always wondered about how much is scripted on this type of show. 

But things change with startling event - is it real or is it scripted? This is the part where I couldn't stop listening. Why? Well, their continued survival of course. But the second half of the book delves deeper into the here and now., leaving the past behind and hoping for more from life. If they survive. This facet was also well written.

Here's the  neat bit - Braverman herself has been on a survivor show and she's an adventurer and dog sled racer. Her writing benefits greatly from that experience. And I like the title that can be taken more than one way.

I chose to listen to Small Game. I find some books are just better for me in an audio format. This was very much the case with Small Game. I become immersed in the tale when I listen. The reader was Kristen Sieh and she did a fantastic job interpreting and presenting Small Game. Her voice suited the mental image I had drawn for Mara perfectly. Sieh's voice is crisp, clear, and easy to understand. She has a well modulated tone to voice that matches Mara's personality and demeanor. The speed is just right for this characters. She also provides different, believable voice for the other characters. She captures the emotions of the players very well. Hear for yourself - listen to an excerpt of Small Game

Thursday, November 17, 2022

The Twist of a Knife - Anthony Horowitz

Oh, I was so happy to find that Anthony Horowitz had penned a fourth entry in his absolutely wonderful Hawthorne and Horowitz mystery series. The Twist of a Knife has just released. 

I can't recommend this series enough. It's clever in so many ways. The protagonist is the enigmatic Hawthorne, let go from the police force and now working as a P.I. Hawthorne is such a great character - a brilliant detective, but somewhat lacking in personal interactive skills. I quite like him. And playing Watson to his Holmes? Anthony Horowitz. Uh huh - Horowitz has written himself in as a character in the series! He plays himself, writing about Hawthorne's cases. The relationship between the two is...interesting...

There have been three books written about Hawthorn's cases, thereby fulfilling the publishing contract between the two. Tony has no desire to continue the agreement and lets Hawthorn know it. But....when Tony is arrested on murder charges for a death at a local theater, he reluctantly has to call on Hawthorn for help.

I often find myself stopping to check out the literary references related to Horowitz. They're all there and woven into these fictional accounts. And I wonder what it be like to characterize yourself. Horowitz certainly doesn't paint himself as perfect! Hawthorne has been an enigma over the course of the first three books. Slowly, but surely, we're seeing behind the protective barriers he's put in place. 

The choice for whodunit has a 'locked room' feeling, as there is a finite list of suspects who could have done the deed. The mystery itself is excellent. Each and every player is a suspect at some point. I really enjoy Hawthorne's investigative techniques. Alongside Anthony, I question his methods and the information he is gathering. Much seems irrelevant, but as readers we just know there are answers hidden in the interactions. The reader (and Tony) just aren't seeing what Hawthorne does. The journey to the 'ah hah' moment is an excellent read. And the final reveal is a delightful homage to Christie.

Will there be more in this series? I most certainly hope so! See for yourself  - read an excerpt of The Twist of a Knife. 

Tuesday, November 15, 2022

Bleeding Heart Yard - Elly Griffiths

Bleeding Heart Yard is the third book in Elly Griffiths' Harbinder Kaur series. 

For me, it is Griffiths' characters that that have made me such a fan. Yes, Ruth Galloway is my fave, but Harbinder is a close second. She too, is not a cookie cutter character. She's 'real'and her personal life has been moving forward. I really like her inner dialogue. Her professional life is moving forward as well.  She's landed in London with her own squad as a Detective Inspector. The squad is a mixed bag of new players - that I hope will become regulars.

Harbinder's first 'in charge' case is a puzzle for sure. A MP is found dead at his school's twenty-first reunion. There are a number of suspects to choose from for the whodunit. But the focus ends up on the members of 'The Group' - an 'elite' group of students.  It took me a few chapters to solidify who was who in the group, specifically the women. 

Bleeding Heart is written from a number of viewpoints - Harbinder's and group members Anna and Cassie. Anna and Cassie's past entries give the reader background, memories and motives - for each and every player. They're all hiding something. Present day chapters let us see how the investigation is proceeding, even as events from the past take on more of a motive for the current day crime. I did find the numerous interviews a bit repetitive.

The settings descriptions are well drawn and I quite liked the lore behind some of them - especially Bleeding Heart Yard. I think Harbinder's change of locale will open up a lot of opportunities for future cases and plots. And for Harbinder's personal life!
All in all, Bleeding Heart Yard is another great entry in this series. A little bit slower than the previous two books but still a very entertaining read. See for yourself - read an excerpt of Bleeding Heart Yard. And a quick P.S. - that cover is fantastic!

Friday, November 11, 2022

A Sliver of Darkness: Stories - C. J. Tudor

I'm a big fan of C.J. Tudor's writing. She's got a vivid (and darkly creative) imagination that has hooked me with every book she's written. I was thrilled to see that her latest, A Sliver of Darkness, is a collection of short stories. 

I like the portability of short stories, the ability to pick out a tale, and have a satisfying start to finish experience. But, with A Sliver of Darkness, I couldn't just read one....I binge read all eleven tales in a day. They're all so so very different and I just had to see what the next one would be about.

Tudor writes a detailed description of how each story came to be, what triggered the idea. I really liked knowing the 'why/how/what behind every story. It's fulfilling for readers like me that wonders where an author finds or imagines their idea for a book or a tale. Some of them are innocuous comments, a memory from years gone by, a location or a personal event. 

Did I have a favorite? Besides all of them? The first one, End of the Liner was apropos - what would happen if a cruise ship escaped the plague by not ever docking? Or being dared to go inside that abandoned building. How about graffiti art - that's just a tad too good? A name that just pops up in your brain - right Ted? Or a reprise visit from a character that briefly appeared in one of Tudor's past books. Anyone else remember Gloria from The Hiding Place? How about a beautiful butterfly sanctuary on an isolated island that ends up being much different than a group of people imagined - or hoped? Tudor has hinted that this last tale might be fleshed out in the future. I hope so! 

An easy five stars for A Sliver of Darkness. See for yourself - read an excerpt of A Sliver of Darkness. 

Wanting more from C.J. Tudor? Me too! Can't wait for her new book - The Drift - coming out January 31/23.

Thursday, November 10, 2022

The Couple at the Table - Sophie Hannah

Sophie Hannah's latest book, The Couple at the Table, is a 'locked room' mystery - one of my absolute favorite premises.

Five couples are enjoying their their getaway at a small, luxury resort. It's all wonderful - right up to the moment when of the guests turns up dead. Ten guests and limited staff are on site. Only eight of those guest are suspect though. It turns out that one couple - Simon and Charlie - are police officers. The investigation begins immediately. You'd think it would be easy to suss out the culprit with such a limited pool of suspects - but you'd be wrong.

Hannah is a master at this style of tale. Things start to unfold and the  listener might feel they've got a handle on the whodunit....only to be proven wrong, over and over again. Hannah is a clever, clever writer. If you love a twisty, turny narrative, this one's for you. Although all is explained by the final pages, if you like to try and solve the case before the end, you'll have to pay close attention. You can't trust any of players!

Simon and Charlie are part of a series, but this could absolutely be listened to as a standalone. The two play off each other well, with two differing mindsets and skill sets. 

I chose to listen to The Couple at the Table. The reader was Julie Maisey and she did a terrific job. Her voice is pleasing, her accent lovely and the speed of reading is just right. She speaks clearly.  Maisey has movement to her voice, easily capturing the emotions of the characters and the actions of Hannah's plot. It was easy to know who was speaking. I often find I become more in a book when I listen and that was definitely the case with The Couple at the Table. Hear for yourself - listen to an excerpt of The Couple at the Table.

Wednesday, November 9, 2022

The Last Party - Clare Mackintosh

Bestselling author Clare Mackintosh's newest book, The Last Party, has just released. 

Rhys Lloyd, a partner in a contentious luxury home development close to a small village in Wales, is found dead on On New Year's Eve, in his condo in that development. 

The village is on the dividing line between England and Wales and jurisdiction is murky. Two investigators are tasked with the case - local copper DC Ffion Morgan and English based DC Leo Brady.

The Last Party has a 'locked' room feel to it. The village is small, with everyone in each other's pocket. There is only a small group of condo dwellers as well. We come to know all of the possible suspects through gossip, flashbacks and an ever changing point of view. Honestly, each and every one of them has a reason to not like Rhys...but to kill him? My answer for the whodunit changed with every revelation. There are some really good twists throughout the book as well. I like being kept guessing in a book, especially in a murder mystery. The timeline does flip from present to past and back, so watch the chapter titles.

The setting is well described and I could easily imagine the water, the forest, the village and The Shores.

The two leads are very different from each other in their methodology, creating more than a little friction. At the same time, both are struggling within their personal lives. I enjoy knowing more about the protagonists as it gives the characters more depth. It looks like we might be seeing more of DC Morgan. The Last Party is listed as DC Morgan number one. But I really hope Ffion is also part of future books. 

Another great tale from Mackintosh. See for yourself - read an excerpt of The Last Party. (Gentle readers - there are some trigger situations.)

Tuesday, November 8, 2022

Secluded Cabin Sleeps Six - Lisa Unger

Okay, so I've been a fan of Lisa Unger's writing for many years. But I think her latest novel - Secluded Cabin Sleeps Six - is hands down my favorite. Honesty, I stayed up soooo late to finish it.

What had me burning the night oil you ask? Well, the plotting is crazy (and I mean crazy) good! Three couples are headed off to a 'get away from it all' weekend. Where? As the title says - to a secluded, luxury cabin. And that descriptor (secluded), immediately brought to mind a locked room mystery. You just know it - things aren't going to play out the way they've all imagined. Why? Well, there are undercurrents running through every relationship of the six. The husbands, wives, boyfriend, girlfriend and friends - each and every one is harboring a secret, some darker than others. Who else is suspicious? Well, the owner of the cabin for one. And there are other narratives from unknown, but named characters.  Who are they? What is their connection to those in the cabin. Whoa! You're going to be surprised when the pieces click together. And there's one piece that I don't want to spoil. But I'm sure a lot of us will wonder if our own choice was wise....

Now, yes you might have to suspend disbelief at a few twists, but just go with it. Secluded Cabin Sleeps Six was a page-turner for me. Great escapist reading. See for yourself - read an excerpt of Secluded Cabin Sleeps Six. 

(Gentle readers - there are definitely some triggers in this book. 

Monday, November 7, 2022

Now is Not the Time to Panic - Kevin Wilson

Now is Not the Time to Panic is Kevin Wilson's latest book. And it's one of the most unique, offbeat, complex, additive, perfect books I've read in a long time.

Frankie is sixteen and lives in the small town of Coalfield, Tennessee. She's a loner by choice. When Zeke moves to town, she finds a kindred soul. Frankie writes and Zeke is an artist. They decide to collaborate on a project - a poster that they'll anonymously post around town. Frankie's words are oddly powerful and unsettling. Zeke's illustrations are also compelling and disconcerting. But soon the project grows in dangerous leaps and bounds...

"The edge is a shantytown filled with gold seekers. We are fugitives, and the law is skinny with hunger for us."(Say it a few times - it is addictive and intriguing, isn't it?)

That small town summer is seen through Frankie's thoughts, actions and experiences. The poster is important, but its not all of the story. The book is also a coming of age tale, an exploration of family, young love, self, friendship, and yes, art. Bookending that summer is the grown up Frankie's voice, twenty years on. 

I was immediately drawn to Frankie. Zeke was harder to get to know. I'm sure that Wilson's depiction of teenage angst will spark memories for many readers. But the supporting players are just as interesting and offbeat. Frankie's mom appealed to the adult in me. 

I think Wilson has written a wonderful story, remarkable in so many ways. His insight captured me. As for how it ends - not what I expected, but suits what has gone before. See for yourself - read an excerpt of Now is Not the Time to Panic.

Friday, November 4, 2022

Desert Star - Michael Connelly

Michael Connelly is hands down one of my favorite authors. I've read all of his books and can't recommend them enough.

His latest is Desert Star. It's the fifth book that pairs up Harry Bosch and Renée Ballard. (And is the 36th to feature Harry!) Connelly has kept things moving forward in his series, with his protagonists aging and lives changing. Harry is now retired, but is the proverbial war-horse. With Renée heading up the the newly revived LAPD Open-Unsolved Unit, Harry has a chance to volunteer and clear the 'white whale' case of his career at last. "Everybody counts or nobody counts."

I was so eager to see where Harry's life was now. Long time readers, there's an opening chapter that will have you already cringing. Enough said.

There are literally thousands of unsolved cases to tackle. The one Harry wants cleared is the murder of an entire family of four. The one they need to solve to keep the unit open is the death of a politico's sister many years ago. The methodology of working on decades old cases is fascinating. New techniques can be used on old evidence. DNA is prominent in investigations. But it still needs someone who can put the pieces together, ask the right questions and follow the right clues. And that's Harry Bosch. But, he's not a rule follower and continues to work things in his own fashion, ruffling feathers along the way.

I devoured Desert Star, immediately caught up again in Connelly's writing and plotting. Both are outstanding. Connelly knows what he's writing. The dialogue, interactions, investigation and more have the ring of authenticity. 

An easy five stars. See for yourself - read an excerpt of Desert Star. More please.  

And I'll leave you to ponder this.... is it ever okay to do the wrong thing for the right reason?

Wednesday, November 2, 2022

Going Rogue - Janet Evanovich

Going Rogue is the 29th entry in Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series. 

And although it's a series, you can easily read or listen to Going Rogue as a stand alone. There's lots of background provided to let you know who's who etc.  

I've missed a few along the way, but the Plum books are my choice for some escapist, light hearted, comfort listening that doesn't take itself serious at all. The characters are familiar and you just know things will work out in the end. 

Stephanie works at her cousin Vinnie’s Bail Bonds in Trenton, New Jersey. When she arrives at work morning, the door is locked and the office manager is not there. Connie never misses a day of work. Or forgets to bring the donuts. Something isn't right. That supposition is cemented when she receives a call from Connie's kidnappers and the hunt to find Connie is on for Stephanie and her partner Lula. Is the plot over the top? Yep, but that and the characters are what make this series comfort listening for me.  

Recurring storylines include love interests. Yes, that's plural - Stephanie's love life has more than choice, but she seems to have finally decided on who she wants to be with in this latest. Maybe. (Me? Team Ranger) Stephanie's long suffering parents and her Grandma Mazur make appearances in every book as well. I must admit that Grandma is my favorite - I like her take on 'aging gracefully'. There's a plethora of supporting characters that have been fleshed out over the years. And the descriptor quirky could be applied to any and all.

I chose to listen to Going Rogue. I'm so happy that Lorelei King is again the reader. She's been the voice of this series for many years. The continuity is wonderful as it feels like jumping right back into life in the 'Burg'. King has a very versatile and expressive voice. She has created different voices for the characters and it's quite easy to know who is speaking. The voice for Stephanie is pretty calm, no matter what's going on. Lula however is always big and loud. Grandma Mazur's has a perpetually happy voice, always seeing the bright side. Each of the love interests have distinct voices as well. Babe. There's many more and they all fit the mental images I've created for all the players. King speaks clearly, she is easy to understand and her pace of delivery is just right. She brings the action, emotions and calamities of the plot to life with her voice, changing up the tenor and tone to match what's going on. A great performance. Hear for yourself - listen to an excerpt of Going Rogue.

Tuesday, November 1, 2022

Racing the Light - Robert Crais

Robert Crais pens another of my favorite series - the Elvis Cole and Joe Pike crime novels. The 19th entry is the newly released Racing the Light

Elvis Cole is a private investigator in Hollywood, California. Cole's methods are sometimes unorthodox, and his manner is irreverent, but he's a dogged detective who sees every job to it's conclusion. I love his tenacity. His partner is Joe Pike, a man of few words, but lots of action. Jon Stone also has a role in this latest. 

Their newest client is Adele, who comes to the office with no appointment and two 'minders'. Her adult son is missing and she's brought payment in cash. According to her, the cops aren't doing much, so he hears her out. She starts talking about conspiracies and he almost....almost says no. But he's intrigued.

Well, kudos to Crais for this 'absolutely no way I could have ever predicated' plot! Multilayered, intriguing and yeah - conspiratorial. I don't want to give anything away, so I'll stop there. 

The case is great, but for me it's the characters that are the stars. They have personal storylines, with Elvis's taking the stage in this book. His past is back in the form of an ex-girlfriend and her son. And again - the 'I got your back' relationship between Elvis and Joe. 

Crais' writing is wonderful. I can't put his books down. They're action filled and move very quickly as one clue leads to another. But there's also humor woven in - Elvis's dialogue is often not what you have expected. 

Another great read from Robert Crais that I finished too quickly. I'm looking forward to Robert Crais' next book. See for yourself - read an excerpt of Racing the Light. And if you're a fan of John Sandford's Davenport and Flowers books, you need to read Robert Crais.