Monday, July 31, 2023

The Spider - Lars Kepler

The Spider is the ninth entry in Lars Kepler's Joona Linna series.

Linna is a Police Detective in Sweden who boasts an unsurpassed solve rate. He sees details that others don't, he's dogged and has faced off with many killers. His sidekick, Saga Bauer has been on leave as a result of their last case. She flouts regulations regularly and puts herself in a sketchy situations. But she too, is a brilliant detective.

This latest case, dubbed The Spider, brings back elements and clues from previous cases that have ties to this new killer. Kepler's crime is dark and unsettling. The path to the final aha moments is clever, devious and can't be predicted. 

Kepler gives the characters personal lives that grow and change with every entry in this series. Like the plotting and atmosphere, there's a lot of darkness woven into the the lead two character's narratives.

Another excellent entry in a great series. Definitely not for the faint at heart! If you like Scandi noir, this is a series for you  See for yourself - read an excerpt of The Spider

Thursday, July 27, 2023

The Second Chance Store - Lauren Bravo

It was the cover of Lauren Bravo's new novel - The Second Chance Store - that caught my eye. I can't ever walk past a second hand store...there are treasures just waiting for me! 

Thirty-eight old Gwen has just been made redundant at work. She's trying hard to convince herself that this is a positive thing - she can take this time to figure out what she really wants to do with her life. She also needs/wants people in her life - friends and maybe a special someone? After cleaning out some stuff in her closet, she finds herself in a second chance store. And finds herself filling out a volunteer application...

I love the characters Bravo has created, especially Gwen. She's believable, and I think many of us will identify with her inner dialogue, thoughts and actions. The supporting cast is a very mixed bag of quirky characters who all bring something to the table. Their stories and lives are just as compelling.

It was a joy to see Gwen move forward (with more than a few side steps). I'm going to leave it for you to discover how that happens. I don't think Gwen is unique in her situation. Covid has left many folks isolated and lonely.

Now, here's the fun bit. Alternating with Gwen's narrative are small stories. About many of the items found in the Second Chance Store! I've done this myself when in a used goods store. Who had this, why did they let it go?

The Second Chance Store is a lovely, slower paced tale. I found myself picking up and putting down the book over a few weeks but I did really enjoy it. See for yourself - read an excerpt of The Second Chance Store.

Wednesday, July 26, 2023

I Did It For You - Amy Engel

I Did It For You is Amy Engel's new stand alone novel. 

Fourteen years ago, Greer's sister Eliza, and her boyfriend were murdered in their small town of Ludlow, Kansas. The murderer was caught and punished. Greer couldn't cope and fled the town for big city life. But fourteen years on, there's been another murder that is eerily similar to that first one. Did did they convict the wrong person? And it is this that drives Greer back home to Ludlow.

Engel has penned an interesting mystery. The book is character driven, exploring many themes - grief, guilt, loss, friendship, relationships, anger, love and more. Much of this through the three main characters. Greer, Ryan and Cassie have been friends from a young age. Their banter and easy manner with each other is well drawn. But Greer isn't warmed back by a number of people, who wonder why she's digging up old troubles. 

I enjoyed picking out clues from conversations, memories, interactions, behaviors and more, coming up with my own answer for whodunit. I had my suspicions, but was caught off guard from a late reveal. And not what I expected at all. Well done! 

I quite enjoyed I Did It For You and this introduction to a new to me author. See for yourself - read an excerpt. 

Tuesday, July 25, 2023

Everyone Here is Lying - Shari Lapena

Shari Lapena is one of my fave authors. I don't read the synopsis of Lapena's books before I dive into reading, as I like to be surprised. Everyone Here is Lying has just released and it was a surprise - a very good one!

From the outside - a nice neighbourhood. From the inside, not so much....

Everyone Here is Lying opens with a bang. A nine year old girl goes missing -  seemingly without a trace. The police start their investigation by interviewing family, then friends and then the neighbours. guessed it, there's more than one liar.

But everything is not revealed right away. Lapena slowly and deliciously discloses the secrets of the residents through their own thoughts and the police interviews. 

The two police are characters I would be happy to see again - especially Gully. The neighbours? Not so much. Lapena does a great job building the characters, giving them realistic emotions and actions. 

I have to say I was caught off guard with the unexpected development in part three. What a good twist! A few details ask the reader to suspend disbelief, which I happily did.

If you like their psychology suspense and unreliable characters, you'll enjoy Everyone Here is Lying. See for yourself - read an excerpt. 

Thursday, July 20, 2023

Dead Eleven - Jimmy Juliano

Dead Eleven is Jimmy Juliano's debut novel. 

I liked the premise of the book. Clifford Island is an insular, small island in Wisconsin that seems to be stuck in 1994. Willow Stone thinks the island holds clues, and maybe answers as to the death of her son. But something about Clifford Island is wrong...very, very wrong. 

Juliano keeps the reader guessing as to what that wrong is - and what's up with the throwback to the 90's. I loved the world building of the island, the town and it's residents.

Willow's sleuthing gives credence to her suspicions. But it also marks her as a problem. When she disappears, her brother Harper comes to the island to find her. 

The second part of the book introduces an alternative reason for the actions, patterns and rituals of the residents that would explain much. But is it reality or conjecture? Or madness? The next part ramps up on the way to the final answers. Juliano often touches on grief in Dead Eleven.

I know I've been a bit obtuse, but I'm trying to not provide spoilers! A strong debut and an interesting take on horror. I did find some of the same ideas to be a bit repetitive. And I found myself looking for a bit more 'action'. But overall, an interesting debut

See for yourself - read an excerpt of Dead Eleven.  And as always - stay out of the basement.  (And A&E have picked up rights already!)

Tuesday, July 18, 2023

Strange Sally Diamond - Liz Nugent

Okay, the combination of the title and cover made Liz Nugent's new novel, Strange Sally Diamond, a must read for me. 

The unsettling prologue sealed the deal. I was hooked, binge reading 'til late at night. 

Sally Diamond is decidedly different. Her background harbors many secrets and events that account for her actions, thoughts, demeanor and more. 

The 'why' and 'how' of this is slowly and deliciously eked out by Nugent over the course of the book. One answer brings yet another question. I thought Nugent manipulated the reader wonderfully. There are surprises and twists throughout the book.

I loved Sally's straightforward manner and was firmly behind her as she navigates the path to owning her life. And sad for what has come before. Nugent populates her supporting cast with a wide variety of temperaments. They play a large part of the plot. Some good, some bad. 

Nugent's plotting is dark and unsettling. It's also very hard to put it down! See for yourself - read an excerpt of Strange Sally Diamond.

Gentle readers, there are many triggers, and this may not be a book for you.

Friday, July 14, 2023

How Can I Help You - Laura Sims

How Can I Help You is Laura Sims' new novel - and it's such a good one!

Why? Okay, let's start with the setting. The main locale is an older public library in a small town. Having worked in a public library myself, I can say that Sims has really captured every day in a public service setting. The patrons, the services offered, the telephone calls, the inappropriate use of the net in a public space, the verbal abuse, the undercurrent of violence that could erupt any time and so much more...

But what about the staff? How Can I Help You is told from Margo's point of view. She is stone. cold. dangerous. What the other staff see is "only her middle-aged normalcy, congeniality, and charm." And that's enough to sustain Margo's even keel. Until a new librarian named Patricia joins the staff and disrupts Margo's world. What's really in Margo's thoughts will have your skin crawling. Patricia is also given a point of view. Her inner thoughts surprised me in the beginning. As readers we know what both women are thinking. And that only serves to ramp up the tension and the fear that something bad is going to happen...

How Can I Help You is addictive, edge of your seat reading. Kudos to Sims for an such a creepy plot and such disturbing characters. See for yourself - read an excerpt of How Can I Help You.

Wednesday, July 12, 2023

The Summer Skies - Jenny Colgan

I've read most of Jenny Colgan's books and I always pick up the latest, knowing I'm in for a feel good read. The Summer Skies is newly released. 

The Summer Skies is a stand alone, introducing us to a new set of characters to enjoy and more wee villages on a set of islands off the coast of  Northern Scotland. I always want to live in the villages Colgan creates. And I'd be quite happy to call the characters friends. (I have to say that Barbara the chicken is one of my favourite supporting charterers!)

Our lead character in The Summer Skies is Morag MacIntyre, the third generation of her family to be a pilot. Her grandfather pilots the small island plane that delivers the mail, tourists, medicine, supplies and pretty much anything! Morag learned to fly on 'Dolly' but has moved to the city and onto bigger planes. Two recent incidents though, have her questioning her choices - in love and in the air.

Tales from Colgan always give us a plucky lead, a love life that doesn't quite work out, decisions to be made, some laugh out moments, a wonderful supporting, tightknit family, some 'aha' moments that will have you thinking 'what if'... and so much more. Oh, and lots of flying stuff. 

The Summer Skies was another wonderful for me. Heartwarming and heart tugging See for yourself - read an excerpt of The Summer Skies.

(And for fans of all of the wee villages Colgan has created - see if can catch the Mure reference.)

Monday, July 10, 2023

With A Kiss We Die - L.R. Dorn

With A Kiss We Die is L.R. Dorn's new novel. 

L.R. Dorn is the pseudonym for two award winning film and television writers. That skill set bring much to the writing of With A Kiss We Die.

The novel is told in an epistolary style, which is one of my absolute favorites. The entire book is told as a podcast! It totally rang true and I felt like I was reading the transcript of an actual case.

And it is about a case - the viscous murder of the parents of college student Jordan. The police seem to be leaning towards him and his girlfriend Victoria as the lead suspects. In an unexpected development, the pair make a preemptive move, calling on The Raines Report podcast to tell their story on air.

Dorn keeps the reader guessing right down to the last pages. Ryanna Raines spends a lot of time with them and slowly but surely the pair provide details that seem to prove their innocence. But are they telling the truth? I'll that answer for you to discover. (And there's a nice gotcha waiting for you in the last few pages.) 

It's just so well plotted! I couldn't put the book down. See for yourself - read an excerpt of With A Kiss We Die. (And I bet the audio version would be just as good. I see that a full cast was used.) 

Gentle readers there are some triggers in this tale. 

Friday, July 7, 2023

The Clearing - Simon Toyne

The Clearing is the second entry in Simon Toyne's Laughton Rees series. It can absolutely be read as a stand alone though.

Laughton is an academic, but she is also a forensic expert with ties to the Met. Her latest research has uncovered a large number of missing women - far too many - for the small village near the Forest of Dean. Another woman has just been listed as missing, so she decides to visit the area herself.

What does she run into you ask? A town steeped in folklore and legends, unhelpful police, a lord of the manor with his own agenda and a hostile settlement in the forest. Laughton and the missing woman's sister start their own investigation.

I really liked Laughton as a lead character - she's tenacious, highly intelligent and brave. She has a way words - she can easily tie up someone with her speaking. And she's somewhat rash, often acting before she thinks. A protagonist that's easy to like. Toyne has given her a personal life that rounds out the character.

Toyne does a great job building the setting. The forest descriptors gave me shivers and the town and it's residents had me looking over my shoulder.

The plot uses some familiar elements, but Toyne puts his own spin on things. He also gives the reader many choices for the final whodunit. Lots of red herrings had me changing my final answer more than once on the way. Lots of suspense scenes as well that gave me goosebumps.

I quite enjoyed The Clearing. I look forward the next book in this series. See for yourself - read an excerpt of The Clearing. 

Wednesday, July 5, 2023

The Librarianist - Patrick deWitt

The Librarianist is award winning author Patrick deWitt's latest novel. 

The life of Bob Comet is the heat of the plot. The timeline opens with Bob at seventy one years old, ruminating on his life. The next jump takes us back to Bob as young man, next a child, and finally, circling back to the end.

Bob, in his words and thoughts, lives a small life, and it is and has been enough in his opinion.

"Bob had long given up on the notion of knowing anyone, or of being known. He communicated with the world partly by walking through if, but mainly by reading about it."

I liked Bob immediately and enjoyed his observations of time, people and place. But I also felt sad for him - he seems so very alone. But that view is seen through my own filters and opinions. I loved the childhood time frame and the epic adventure he embarks on. I wanted him continue to grow that venturesome spirit. But on the flipside, his quiet, calm, thoughtful manner is very appealing. And his love for books is much appreciated by this reader. 

deWitt's writing is quite different for me. The interactions, escapades, situations, thoughts and more took on the feel of vignettes. The dialogue is often funny, but I had to get used to the bantering, off center style. I quite enjoyed the ending. A bit implausible, but fitting.

If you enjoy character drawn tales, this is for you. See for yourself - read an excerpt of The Librarianist. 

Tuesday, July 4, 2023

The Housekeepers - Alex Hay

Oh. My. Gosh. The Housekeepers is Alex Hay's brilliant debut novel. 

Say the word 'heist' and I'll watch it, or in this case, read it. (Plus that cover caught my eye.) 

Hay's heist takes place in 1905 London England. Hay does a wonderful job of bringing the time and place to life. Society and mores of the time play a large part in this tale. There's the rich, who want for nothing. And then there are the staff, those who cater to every whim and want of the upper-class. And then there's those outside the manor who do what they need to survive - the con men, thieves and more. 

Hay has created some truly memorable characters, each with their own reasons to undertake the heist of all heists. Mrs. King is the driving force behind the group of six women, all looking for retribution. There are tangled threads of connections amongst them that I didn't see coming. 

Their plan is audacious and bold and the reader can't help but behind them. The details of the 'how' are wonderfully imagined. 

From the author's notes - "And the thrill and joy of writing this novel was to imagine what might have happened if some of the women working below stairs had decided to claim some of that privilege for themselves."

What a inventive, ingenious, captivating read The Housekeepers was! Definitely in my top five for the year. See for yourself - read an excerpt of The Housekeepers

I received a review copy of this title from the publisher. This in no way influences my opinions. 

Monday, July 3, 2023

A Good House for Children - Kate Collins

One of my favorite genres to read is gothic fiction. After reading the synopsis, I happily picked up Kate Collins' debut novel - A Good House for Children.

All the right elements are there - an isolated, large old house outside of a small village, a house the villagers whisper about, one that has been home to 'outsiders' who don't know the history of the house. What else? Women left alone in the house with the children while the husband is away for work. And....small glimpses of something? someone? on the steps, at the end of the hallway, in the garden by the pond...and who are the children talking to?

All of this and more is told in a now and then timeline - the current residents of the house - and the family before.

Orla is our protagonist in the present and Lydia is from four decades back. I always enjoy this style of storytelling. I can't help but read one more chapter 'til late in the night. Lydia's situation seems more dire to me. As readers, we're privy to those past events and can only hope Orla can see what's happening before....

"Orla invited herself in, and the house woke up." (I live in quite an old house and this gave me the shivers...)

The house is both a character and setting in A Good House for Children. Collins does a wonderful job of ramping up the danger with a slow burning, insidiously clever plot. Collins does a great job writing the two timelines and weaving them together. Also wound into the tale is a dissection of motherhood. And the ending is perfect.

A satisfying read and a really good debut! See for yourself - read an excerpt of A Good House for Children.