That Night by Chevy Stevens

Book Description:

Published: March 1, 2010

Format: Audio/OverDrive

They said she was a murderer.

They said she killed her sister.

But they lied.

As a teenager, Toni Murphy had a life full of typical adolescent complications: a boyfriend she adored, a younger sister she couldn’t relate to, a strained relationship with her parents, and classmates who seemed hell-bent on making her life miserable. Things weren’t easy, but Toni could never have predicted how horrific they would become until her younger sister was brutally murdered one summer night.

Toni and her boyfriend, Ryan, were convicted of the murder and sent to prison.

Now thirty-four, Toni is out on parole and back in her hometown, struggling to adjust to a new life on the outside. Prison changed her, hardened her, and she’s doing everything in her power to avoid violating her parole and going back. This means having absolutely no contact  with Ryan, avoiding fellow parolees looking to pick fights, and steering clear of trouble in all its forms. But nothing is making that easy—not Ryan, who is convinced he can figure out the truth; not her mother, who doubts Toni’s innocence; and certainly not the group of women who made Toni’s life hell in high school and may have darker secrets than anyone realizes. No matter how hard she tries, ignoring her old life to start a new one is impossible. Before Toni can truly move on, she must risk everything to find out what really happened that night.

But the truth might be the most terrifying thing of all.

Review –

“In the town of Campbell River, Toni has a rough home life; she can’t wait for high school graduation to escape her mother’s angry disapproval.

Ryan’s home is worse, his father an alcoholic abuser.

Together, however, Toni and Ryan make the broken pieces fit. In school, Toni runs afoul of mean girls Shauna, Rachel, Kim and Cathy, who harass her and spread ugly rumors. Toni has an escape planned—a post-graduation apartment with Ryan—but then her younger sister, Nicole, her mother’s favorite, joins Shauna’s clique and starts dabbling in booze and boys and harassing Toni. It seems like kid stuff, until Nicole is bludgeoned to death.

Toni and Ryan immediately become suspects; they’re convicted of murder and sent to prison. Stevens’ masterful plot spins into evil with “teen girls turning on each other, the viciousness and pack mentality that can arise.” She writes from Toni’s point of view, shifting easily between past and present while delving into family tensions before the murder, then prison life, then back to Campbell River after Toni’s parole. Entirely believable, Toni evolves from a misunderstood, resentful and frightened teenager into an intelligent yet closed-off woman tempered by 15 years in prison.

The writing is crisp and the dialogue realistic as Toni speculates about possible suspects and motives, knowing all the while that finding the killer may reveal one of Campbell River’s ugliest secrets. Tension cranks to the breaking point when Cathy, now a drug-addled misfit, is murdered. Ryan and Toni become suspects again, but they realize it’s a sign that the conspiracy that jailed them has fractured.” Kirkus Review 

 

Not my favorite of Chevy Stevens books, but still a good read.

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The Killer Next Door by Alex Marwood

Book Description:

Published: June 19, 2014

Format: Audio/OverDrive

No. 23 has a secret. In this bedsit-riddled south London wreck, lorded over by a lecherous landlord, something waits to be discovered. Yet all six residents have something to hide.

Collette and Cher are on the run; Thomas is a reluctant loner; while a gorgeous Iranian asylum seeker and a ‘quiet man’ nobody sees try to stay hidden. And watching over them all is Vesta – or so she thinks. In the dead of night, a terrible accident pushes the neighbours into an uneasy alliance. But one of them is a killer, expertly hiding their pastime, all the while closing in on their next victim…

As a cloying heatwave suffocates the city, events build to an electrifying climax in this dark, original and irresistibly compelling thriller.

Review –

“Lisa, also known as Collette, is on the run after witnessing her shady boss, Tony, beat a man to death at the Nefertiti Men’s Club. Now her mother is dying in a nursing home and she wants to be nearby, so she rents a room in a boardinghouse that’s one step up from a homeless shelter. The shabby home, subdivided into apartments, is owned and managed by a grossly obese man who takes advantage of his down-and-out residents: Hossein, who’s seeking political asylum in England; Vesta, who’s lived in the basement apartment all her life; Cher, a 15-year-old who’s slipped the reins of social services; and two single men, Thomas and Gerard. While Collette uses the money she has left, about £100,000, to evade Tony and his henchmen, the residents are dealing with backed-up drains that smell awful. Unknown to the other residents, one of the men has been making a habit of killing young women, including Nikki, the former resident of Collette’s apartment, and what he does to them afterward is beyond horrible. Now the killer is looking for new blood; when something terrible happens to bring the boarders together, things only grow more dangerous. Marwood, a British journalist writing under a pseudonym, not only creates a cast of memorable characters, but also ratchets up the suspense, leaving readers to dread what might be around the next corner.” Kirkus Review

You can’t help but care what happens to Collette and the rest of the boarders while simultaneously waiting for the literary axe to fall.  Fantastic read that grabs you by the throat and never lets go!

 

Jar of Hearts by Jennifer Hillier

Book Description:

Published: June 12, 2018

Format: Audio/OverDrive

This is the story of three best friends: one who was murdered, one who went to prison, and one who’s been searching for the truth all these years . . .

When she was sixteen years old, Angela Wong—one of the most popular girls in school—disappeared without a trace. Nobody ever suspected that her best friend, Georgina Shaw, now an executive and rising star at her Seattle pharmaceutical company, was involved in any way. Certainly not Kaiser Brody, who was close with both girls back in high school.

But fourteen years later, Angela Wong’s remains are discovered in the woods near Geo’s childhood home. And Kaiser—now a detective with Seattle PD—finally learns the truth: Angela was a victim of Calvin James. The same Calvin James who murdered at least three other women.

To the authorities, Calvin is a serial killer. But to Geo, he’s something else entirely. Back in high school, Calvin was Geo’s first love. Turbulent and often volatile, their relationship bordered on obsession from the moment they met right up until the night Angela was killed.

For fourteen years, Geo knew what happened to Angela and told no one. For fourteen years, she carried the secret of Angela’s death until Geo was arrested and sent to prison.

While everyone thinks they finally know the truth, there are dark secrets buried deep. And what happened that fateful night is more complex and more chilling than anyone really knows. Now the obsessive past catches up with the deadly present when new bodies begin to turn up, killed in the exact same manner as Angela Wong.

How far will someone go to bury her secrets and hide her grief? How long can you get away with a lie? How long can you live with it?

Review –

Georgina was an upwardly mobile executive in a highly successful company when she is arrested for helping her teenage boyfriend dispose of the body of her best friend and fellow cheerleader, whom he had killed, fourteen years before.She made a plea deal and only got five years.

Prison is very hard for her and the author goes into detail about her experiences while incarcerated. She receives letters in blue envelopes over the years but after having read the first does not read the others. Of course, we are to think they are from the SweetBay Strangler, her ex-boyfriend, but are they really?

Once out, she goes to live with her father in her childhood home and try to start a new life but people in the neighborhood don’t want her there and vandalize her home and car with red spray paint, because they believe she helped to kill her friend. Her father is very supportive, as is Kaiser Brody, also a best friend from her high school years and now a police detective. He believes Geo, Georgina’s nickname, know where Calvin is and tries to get her to tell him every chance he gets. Fourteen years ago he had a crush on Geo and still loves her but believes it’s a lost cause.

The author  does not flinch from visceral descriptions of murder and rape,( a very important part of the story) it is a much deeper story about a high school girl who fell head over heels with a killer and how it destroyed her life.

Jar of Hearts is an unpredictable and riveting thriller that keeps the pages turning with characters who are stimulating and a storyline that keeps you totally on the edge of your seat.

Five stars!

 

 

 

The Black Book by James Patterson and David Ellis

Book Description:

Published: May 4, 2017

Format: Audio/OverDrive

How can you prove your innocence when you can’t remember the crime?

Being a cop runs in Billy Harney’s family. The son of Chicago’s Chief of Detectives whose twin sister, Patty, also followed in their father’s footsteps, there’s nothing Billy won’t give up for the job, including his life.

After a brutal shooting, Billy is left for dead alongside his tempestuous former partner and an ambitious assistant district attorney out for blood, But somehow Billy survives. He remembers nothing about the events leading up to the shootout and is charged with double murder.

Desperate to clear his name, Billy retraces his steps to get to the bottom of what happened. When he discovers the existence of a little black book that everyone who’s anyone in Chicago will stop at nothing to get their hands on, Billy suspects it contains the truth that will either set him free… or confirm his worst fears.

Review –

I found this  book fascinating from the first chapter and the characters believable, the plot plausible and the action  fast paced. Even though I figured out who the “murderer” was early on, I didn’t see the fact that he had a partner. The storyline was a bit on the predictable side but the suspense  and the surprise twist made the read/listen very worthwhile. I highly recommend it for anyone who enjoys police drama.

 

The American Girl by Kate Horsley

Book Description:

Published: August 2, 2016

Format: Audio/OverDrive

A riveting psychological thriller about an American exchange student in France involved in a suspicious accident and the dark secrets a small town is hiding. . .

On a quiet summer morning seventeen-year-old American exchange student Quinn Perkins stumbles out of the woods near the small French town of St. Roch, barefoot, bloodied, and unable to say what has happened to her.

Quinn’s appearance creates a stir, especially since her host family, the Blavettes, has mysteriously disappeared. Now the media, and everyone in the idyllic village, are wondering if the American girl has anything to do with the missing family.

Quinn’s appearance creates a stir, especially since her host family, the Blavettes, has mysteriously disappeared. Now the media, and everyone in the idyllic village, are wondering if the American girl has anything to do with the missing family.

A Boston reporter named Molly Swift travels to St. Roch, prepared to do anything to learn the truth and score the ultimate scoop. After Quinn is arrested and a trial by media ensues, she finds an unlikely ally in the young journalist. Molly unravels the disturbing secrets of the town’s past in an effort to clear Quinn’s name, but even she is forced to admit that the American girl makes a compelling suspect.

Is Quinn truly an innocent abroad, or is she a cunning, diabolical killer intent on getting away with murder?

Review –

Quinn is a seventeen year-old American exchange student spending time in a small French town. One fateful morning, she comes walking out of the woods scared, bloody, and unable to remember what led her there. To top it off, her host family has mysteriously disappeared. Is Quinn responsible, or does it have something to do with the small town’s sinister secrets? Desperate for answers and a shocking story, the media descends upon the town. Among the reporters is American, Molly Swift, who will do anything to get to the bottom of it, including getting way too involved and telling lie after lie.

The story is creepy, mysterious, and incredibly fast paced. The viewpoints alternated between Quinn and Molly, and were told in several formats: blog posts from Quinn leading up to the incident, video diaries from Quinn AFTER the incident, and Molly’s viewpoint in the present. I enjoyed seeing what happened before and what happened after and trying to unravel the mystery and the secrets of the town. I was shocked again and again.

To say that this story is intriguing would be an understatement. I was sucked in from the get-go and felt an unrelenting need to know what was happening.  I found myself constantly second guessing what I thought was going on and was continually puzzled. The end is one you won’t see coming!

I’d highly recommend this one to fans of mysteries and thrillers — I gave this five stars!

The Twilight Wife by A. J. Banner

Book Description:

Published: December 27, 2016

Format: Audio/OverDrive

Thirty-four-year-old marine biologist Kyra Winthrop remembers nothing about the diving accident that left her with a complex form of memory loss. With only brief flashes of the last few years of her life, her world has narrowed to a few close friendships on the island where she lives with her devoted husband, Jacob.

But all is not what it seems. Kyra begins to have visions—or are they memories?—of a rocky marriage, broken promises, and cryptic relationships with the island residents, whom she believes to be her friends.

As Kyra races to uncover her past, the truth becomes a terrifying nightmare.

Review –

What if everything you remember is a lie?

A diving accident causes marine biologist Kyra Winthrop to lose her memory of the previous four years, and her husband Jacob tries to help her rebuild her life. The Twilight Wife is a psychological suspense thriller set in an isolated community called Mystic Island, and fans of the genre will already know what to expect.

Flashes of memory return to Kyra that don’t quite match up with what she’s been told. She and Jacob have a happy marriage, but why does she have memories of intense attraction to one of his friends? She and Jacob were trying for a child, but why is there a condom in her wallet? Who is the odd man on the island who seems to recognize her but refuses to say why? And why does she dream of a third diver in the accident, when all the newspaper accounts mention only her and Jacob being involved? Add to that the locale of a remote island, which has no Internet connection apart from the line Jacob managed to rig up for their home, and Kyra can turn to only a tiny circle of friends whom she barely remembers.

The Twilight Wife is a quick read/listen and finished it in one sitting. The twists and turns are packed right in, and to Banner’s credit, she doesn’t go overboard with the red herrings designed solely to build suspense.  The ending felt rushed, and the last two chapters seemed disconnected from the rest of the story and seemed to come from nowhere. But overall, it’s a fun and fast-paced read that’s a perfect weekend treat for fans of the genre, and i must admit-it is one of my favorites.

My favourite part of this novel was the atmosphere. The isolation of the island adds to the dreariness of the plot and as trouble ensues, a storm begins to brew on the island. I loved this use of pathetic fallacy and found myself completely absorbed into Kara’s struggle.  

Fantastic read!

A Stranger in the House by Shari Lapena

Book Description:

Published: August 15, 2017

Format: Audio/OverDrive

In this neighborhood, danger lies close to home. A domestic thriller packed full of secrets, and a twisty story that never stops—from the bestselling author of The Couple Next Door

He looks at her, concerned. “How do you feel?” She wants to say, Terrified. Instead, she says, with a faint smile, “Glad to be home.”

Karen and Tom Krupp are happy—they’ve got a lovely home in upstate New York, they’re practically newlyweds, and they have no kids to interrupt their comfortable life together. But one day, Tom returns home to find Karen has vanished—her car’s gone and it seems she left in a rush. She even left her purse—complete with phone and ID—behind.

There’s a knock on the door—the police are there to take Tom to the hospital where his wife has been admitted. She had a car accident, and lost control as she sped through the worst part of town.

The accident has left Karen with a concussion and a few scrapes. Still, she’s mostly okay—except that she can’t remember what she was doing or where she was when she crashed. The cops think her memory loss is highly convenient, and they suspect she was up to no good.

Karen returns home with Tom, determined to heal and move on with her life. Then she realizes something’s been moved. Something’s not quite right. Someone’s been in her house. And the police won’t stop asking questions.

Because in this house, everyone’s a stranger. Everyone has something they’d rather keep hidden. Something they might even kill to keep quiet.

Review –

Karen Krupp is left with a bad concussion after crashing her car into a pole while fleeing from an abandoned restaurant in a sketchy neighborhood in a town in upstate New York. She claims she has no memory of what happened, and her doctors acknowledge that this could happen, but add that she might regain her memory.

Police surmise that Karen may have something to do with a man found shot to death in the empty restaurant. Karen’s husband, Tom, is at a loss at what to believe. Karen’s accident, and the fact that she left that night without her purse or cellphone, are out of character for his normally calm, organized wife. Tom begins to wonder just how well he knows Karen. She never talks about her background and her family, and she appears to have only one friend, Brigid Cruikshank, who lives across the street. But Brigid is hardly the caring friend, spending most of her day in front of her living room window watching the comings and goings of the Krupps, consumed with jealousy over their life.

The author keeps the well-developed twists churning, with each a surprise notch in this ever-evolving plot, and she continues this skillful storytelling until the stunning twist at the end, which I’m sorry to say was very predictable about half way through the book.   Usually in a story such as this there is at least one likable character but it’s hard to connect with the cold Karen, the naive, almost vapid Tom or the creepy Brigid. That being said, I enjoyed it very much and look forward to the author’s next book.

 

 

Back of Beyond (A Highway Quartet #1) by C.J. Box

Book Description:

Published: August 2, 2011

Format: Audio/OverDrive

Cody Hoyt, while a brilliant cop, is an alcoholic struggling with two months of sobriety when his mentor and AA sponsor Hank Winters is found burned to death in a remote mountain cabin. At first it looks like the suicide of a man who’s fallen off the wagon, but Cody knows Hank better than that. Sober for fourteen years, Hank took pride in his hard-won sobriety and never hesitated to drop whatever he was doing to talk Cody off a ledge. When Cody takes a closer look at the scene of his friend’s death, it becomes apparent that foul play is at hand. After years of bad behavior with his department, he’s in no position to be investigating a homicide, but this man was a friend and Cody’s determined to find his killer.

When clues found at the scene link the murderer to an outfitter leading tourists on a multi-day wilderness horseback trip into the remote corners of Yellowstone National Park–a pack trip that includes his son Justin–Cody is desperate to get on their trail and stop the killer before the group heads into the wild. Among the tourists is fourteen-year-old Gracie Sullivan, an awkward but intelligent loner who begins to suspect that someone in their party is dangerous.

In a fatal cat and mouse game, where it becomes apparent the murderer is somehow aware of Cody’s every move, Cody treks into the wilderness to stop a killer hell-bent on ruining the only thing in his life he cares about.

Review –

I believe this is my first read/listen by C.J. Box and found out the Edgar Award-winning author has built an impressive career with mysteries and thrillers set amongst the small towns, vast expanses, and rugged beauty of America’s rural and backcountry areas.

Along with his terrific series starring Wyoming game warden Joe Pickett, Box has penned some impressive standalones (Blue Heaven and Three Weeks to Say Goodbye). This novel brings back Cody Hoyt, the maverick, alcoholic cop first seen in that latter book. Hoyt is now living in the Montana mountains, struggling with the mess he’s made of his life; he’s two months sober, divorced, disliked and distrusted by many, and barely sees the son he loves. Things get worse when a body is found in a burned cabin in the woods, and Hoyt realises it’s his AA sponsor Hank Winters, the only man who’s kept him off the ledge recently. Despite initial evidence to the contrary, Hoyt can’t believe Winters fell off the wagon and was burned to death in an alcoholic stupor, accident or suicide.

Determined to find a killer others don’t even believe exists, Hoyt digs himself into an even deeper hole when he shoots and wounds the county coroner in a botched stakeout, and is suspended from duty. Badge or not badge, Hoyt can’t let go, and is driven to find justice for one of his only friends – and perhaps, in doing so, a small measure of salvation for himself.

When clues point Hoyt in the direction of an outfitter leading a multi-day horseback trek, a trip that includes Hoyt’s estranged son, he – and the novel – shifts focus to the remote ‘back of beyond’ that is the magnificent, rugged landscapes of Yellowstone National Park. On the hunt for a killer disguised amongst the motley crew of tourists. A killer that is far too close to the only thing that Hoyt really cares about in his downward-spiralling life.

The story lulls a bit for a brief period as it switches from Hoyts misadventures following Winters’ death to the pursuit through Yellowstone, as an intriguing cast of characters on the horse trek are introduced and we adjust to their layered interactions. But Box gives readers a terrific sense of Yellowstone, especially its mix of beauty and danger (with or without the added human element). Box’s wilderness isn’t just a pristine or spectacular backdrop, a natural curtain in front of which the action is played out – it’s layered and textured itself; Mother Nature in all its vim and volatility. It’s clear that Box has a real appreciation and understanding of the great outdoors, which comes through in the authentic evocation of the landscapes.

It’s a great read and I will definitely be reading more from this author.

 

 

The Secret Place (Dublin Murder Squad #5) by Tana French

Book Description:

Published: September 2, 2014

Format: Audio/OverDrive

The photo on the card shows a boy who was found murdered, a year ago, on the grounds of a girls’ boarding school in the leafy suburbs of Dublin. The caption says, I KNOW WHO KILLED HIM.

Detective Stephen Moran has been waiting for his chance to get a foot in the door of Dublin’s Murder Squad—and one morning, sixteen-year-old Holly Mackey brings him this photo. The Secret Place, a board where the girls at St. Kilda’s School can pin up their secrets anonymously, is normally a mishmash of gossip and covert cruelty, but today someone has used it to reignite the stalled investigation into the murder of handsome, popular Chris Harper. Stephen joins forces with the abrasive Detective Antoinette Conway to find out who and why.

But everything they discover leads them back to Holly’s close-knit group of friends and their fierce enemies, a rival clique—and to the tangled web of relationships that bound all the girls to Chris Harper. Every step in their direction turns up the pressure. Antoinette Conway is already suspicious of Stephen’s links to the Mackey family. St. Kilda’s will go a long way to keep murder outside their walls. Holly’s father, Detective Frank Mackey, is circling, ready to pounce if any of the new evidence points toward his daughter. And the private underworld of teenage girls can be more mysterious and more dangerous than either of the detectives imagined.

Review –

Detective Stephen Moran, ambitious and working in the Cold Case unit and hoping to graduate to the Murder Squad, gets a surprise visit from Holly Mackey. Holly is the teenage daughter of a colleague ,Frank Mackey, and a boarder at St Kilda’s school, a very private  girls school. She has brought a message she’s spotted pinned up on the eponymous “secret place”, a noticeboard where the girls may relieve their feelings by anonymously posting their innermost secrets. A photograph of murder victim Chris Harper, 16-year-old heart-throb student from Colm’s, the neighbouring and equally exclusive boys’ school, is accompanied by the words “I know who killed him” – cut, in the manner of a ransom note, from a book.

Moran presents the evidence to Antoinette Conway, the detective who has been investigating the as-yet-unsolved year-old case, and he is permitted to accompany her to St Kilda’s to help with the resulting inquiry. Hard-bitten and abrasive, Conway isn’t popular with her colleagues, and both she and Moran have a lot to prove. Neither of the detectives, both of whom come from working-class backgrounds, are particularly comfortable in such a bastion of privilege, and the headteacher, Miss McKenna, already unhappy about the damage done to the school’s reputation when young Chris was found in the grounds with his head bashed in, is less than delighted to see them.

Taking place over a single day, with flashbacks to events in the preceding year counting down the time to the boy’s death, The Secret Place is told from the points of view of Moran (the present) and Holly and her three friends (the past). The characterization of the girls is particularly strong: all the manufactured attitude, intense loyalty, harsh judgment and vying for alpha status with a rival clique in the way that only adolescent girls can. Joanne Heffernan, a rival clique’s queen bee – dealing out casual humiliation even to her acolytes and claiming virtual, if not actual, droit du seigneur over any boy she fancies – is an absolute masterpiece of vulnerable cruelty. Here, as in Megan Abbott’s Dare Me and The Fever, the incessant and often vicious jockeying for position is described with such appalling accuracy as to leave this reviewer practically weeping with gratitude that she is no longer a teenager.

Beyond the murder mystery, which leaves the reader in suspense throughout, the novel explores the mysteries of friendship, loyalty and betrayal, not only among adolescents, but within the police force as well.

This was another great read in a great series.

 

 

 

The Thirst (Harry Hole #11) by Jo Nesbo

Book Description:

Published: May 9, 2017

Format: Audio/OverDrive

In Police—the last novel featuring Jo Nesbø’s hard-bitten, maverick Oslo detective—a killer wreaking revenge on the police had Harry Hole fighting for the safety of the people closest to him. Now, in The Thirst, the story continues as Harry is inextricably drawn back into the Oslo police force. A serial murderer has begun targeting Tinder daters—a murderer whose MO reignites Harry’s hunt for a nemesis of his past.

Review –

I love this series and the character of Harry Hole, especially. He is portrayed as a REAL human being, not a Super Cop.

Hole has retired from the murder detective business and is teaching in Oslo’s police academy when a series of grisly murders rocks Oslo. The killer appears to be a “vampirist,” someone who drinks the blood of his victims – presumably, it is thought, to get some kind of kinky sexual thrill.

The early chapters of the book deal with a lot of intramural infighting in the Oslo police department. From a plot perspective, this is necessary to get Harry back into the thick of the investigation as opposed to being merely a lecturer in the academy. Harry assembles a team made up of some characters from previous books as well as a few new additions. His detective instincts come back into full flower as the danger to him increases.

Clever and surprising twists keep the reader on edge, leading up to an exciting crescendo  in the final third of the book. As with previous books by this author, when the twists come, you realize they had been set up all along from the beginning, if only you had been able to recognize them. It’s the kind of plotting device that makes you feel like reading each book a second time!

The  murders are grizzly and creepy as the author describes the killer’s stalking and disposing of victims and his habit of using  pointed steel dentures. Nesbo knows how to do gore.

Harry is no longer sober by the end of the book and I can’t wait for the next book to see how Harry reclaims his life.