Stranger in the Lake by Kimberly Belle

Book Description:

Published: June 9, 2020

Format: Audio/Scribd

Stars: 4

When Charlotte married the wealthy widower Paul, it caused a ripple of gossip in their small lakeside town. They have a charmed life together, despite the cruel whispers about her humble past and his first marriage. But everything starts to unravel when she discovers a young woman’s body floating in the exact same spot where Paul’s first wife tragically drowned.

At first, it seems like a horrific coincidence, but the stranger in the lake is no stranger. Charlotte saw Paul talking to her the day before, even though Paul tells the police he’s never met the woman. His lie exposes cracks in their fragile new marriage, cracks Charlotte is determined to keep from breaking them in two.

As Charlotte uncovers dark mysteries about the man she married, she doesn’t know what to trust—her heart, which knows Paul to be a good man, or her growing suspicion that there’s something he’s hiding in the water.

Review –

Charlotte, the narrator of this well-paced novel set in Lake Crosby, N.C., from author, Kimberly Belle, was raised in poverty, but she has achieved her dream of a better life by marrying Paul Keller, the richest man in the Appalachian tourist town of Lake Crosby, N.C., despite the local gossip that Paul drowned his first wife four years earlier.

Then one day she’s disturbed to spot a nervous-looking Paul talking to a strange woman. The next day, Charlotte finds the woman’s body floating under their lakefront dock, just like Paul’s first wife. When shown the body, Paul tells the police he’s never seen the woman. He later takes off without telling anyone where he’s going. Frightened and confused, Charlotte turns to Paul’s two best friends for support, one the town crazy, the other the police chief’s son, both with dark secrets of their own. Belle weaves an intricate web of connections among the characters as the action moves toward the surprising ending. 

This story had intrigue and mystery from the start. I loved the instant suspense of the gossip-inducing relationship and then the first crime right off the top. While Charlotte’s character is not universally loved in their small town, I happened to like her. She handled herself very well with all the drama and her character was one that was inspiring on how she tried to be loyal to those around her and strong willed to get through everything.

While I did guess the killer about two thirds through the listen, how it all played out was very exciting and shocking with each turn. The author sure knows how to write a story that had me on the edge of my seat the entire time. I loved the main characters. I loved the little side characters who helped fill the gaps in this story and shape it into its most interesting parts.

If you love a good mystery, this is it. Thrills, suspense, mystery… Stranger in the Lake has it all.

The Drowning House by Elizabeth Black

Book Description:

Published: January 13, 2015

Format: Audio/OverDrive

Stars: 3

A gripping suspense story about a woman who returns to Galveston, Texas after a personal tragedy and is irresistibly drawn into the insular world she’s struggled to leave.

Photographer Clare Porterfield’s once-happy marriage is coming apart, unraveling under the strain of a family tragedy. When she receives an invitation to direct an exhibition in her hometown of Galveston, Texas, she jumps at the chance to escape her grief and reconnect with the island she hasn’t seen for ten years. There Clare will have the time and space to search for answers about her troubled past and her family’s complicated relationship with the wealthy and influential Carraday family.

Soon she finds herself drawn into a century-old mystery involving Stella Carraday. Local legend has it that Stella drowned in her family’s house during the Great Hurricane of 1900, hanged by her long hair from the drawing room chandelier. Could Stella have been saved? What is the true nature of Clare’s family’s involvement? The questions grow like the wildflower vines that climb up the walls and fences of the island. And the closer Clare gets to the answers, the darker and more disturbing the truth becomes.

Steeped in the rich local history of Galveston, The Drowning House portrays two families, inextricably linked by tragedy and time.

Review –

First off, I rarely rate three stars (I always feel bad when I rate below a four) but this book could have been a five if it had lived up to it’s blurb and hype.

Here’s what the author of The Drowning House wished to do: write the story of a grief-stricken, headstrong woman, Clare Porterfield, who returns to her island hometown and gets wrapped up in the mysteries of her past, and those of Galveston’s wealthiest family. These mysteries dovetail, stretching back to the Hurricane of 1900, and Clare hopes that solving them will bring her peace.

It’s a premise with potential. What reader doesn’t enjoy a strong-willed narrator? Who doesn’t like the slow unpeeling of mysteries, or the moody atmospherics of a disaster that continues to inform a community ninety years later? (The story is set in 1990.) The author’s debut offers the ravages of water, fire and wind, and a portrait of Galveston struggling to disentangle itself from a romanticized past.

But the book falls flat.

Claire Porterfield is a photographer, a snoop. She left her native Galveston under a cloud when she was fourteen. Fifteen years later, at a loss for how to live since the death of her six year old daughter, Claire is invited to come home and put her expertise to work creating a photographic exhibit of Galveston’s colorful past.

Lots of personal history awaits her discovery. Her best friend from childhood, Patrick Carraday, still lives on the Island (as the natives call it), working for his rich father, unmarried, going nowhere. Almost accidentally, Claire discovers one tawdry secret after another. But are they really secrets? Is she the only person who thinks so? And why does her mother dance so perfectly with Patrick’s father?

Galveston plays a major role in this novel: steaming, smoldering, blooming outrageously, earning its money by flaunting its seedy, honky-tonk history. People born on the Island (BOI) seem to understand the world, its foibles, and social obligations in an entirely different way than other folk do. The Island has always made its own rules about issues like Prohibition, gambling and prostitution and prides itself on being a place where a visitor can have experiences not available at home.

In the end, I think that’s the problem. Galveston dominates and overshadows the characters. I didn’t care about Clare’s journey or her past. Her loss and her crumbled marriage are so abstract as to almost not be believed. The writing in this is lovely, truly, but somehow the humanity got lost in it.

Sad.

 

 

The Vanishing Season (The Collector #4) by Dot Hutchison

Book Description:

Published: May 21, 2019

Format: Audio/Scribd

Stars: 5

A recent abduction becomes an unexpected link to a decades-long spree of unspeakable crimes.

Eight-year-old Brooklyn Mercer has gone missing. And as accustomed as FBI agents Eliza Sterling and Brandon Eddison are to such harrowing cases, this one has struck a nerve. It marks the anniversary of the disappearance of Eddison’s own little sister. Disturbing, too, is the girl’s resemblance to Eliza—so uncanny they could be mother and daughter.

With Eddison’s unsettled past rising again with rage and pain, Eliza is determined to solve this case at any cost. But the closer she looks, the more reluctant she is to divulge to her increasingly shaken partner what she finds. Brooklyn isn’t the only girl of her exact description to go missing. She’s just the latest in a frightening pattern going back decades in cities throughout the entire country.

In a race against time, Eliza’s determined to bring Brooklyn home and somehow find the link to the cold case that has haunted Eddison—and the entire Crimes Against Children team—since its inception.

Review –

This is the fourth book in The Collector series by Dot Hutchison, which began with The Butterfly Garden.

The Vanishing Season starts when eight year old Brooklyn goes missing on her way home from school. The familiar FBI team (they appear in the other books as well) is put on the case, and soon it becomes clear that one of the agents is connected to the disappearance. Agent Eddison’s eight  year old sister went missing years ago and has yet to be found. Similarities between the cases start to unravel. 
The team starts piecing together the mystery of missing girls and disappearances of other girls with similar looks starts to unfold. In the meantime we are taken on a journey of backstories involving Eddison and other team members. It was a lot to keep track of but I didn’t think it took away  from the current case.
As always, the Butterfly girls and Priya make their appearances and visit the team to help support them through hard times. The author always makes them part of the background story line and this time they are there to tie all four  books together. 
This is really an emotional journey of the intertwining relationships of the FBI agents. If you are looking for shock value and unbelievable thrilling moments like in the previous books, you will not find it in this one. If you haven’t yet read the three previous books, don’t bother with this, as you will be so lost in a huge wave of keeping track of characters.
All in all, it was a fantastic ending to the  series. It was great to see where the characters I have come to love end up.
Not as much suspense and action in this installment but the emotional rescue and ending well made up for it!

The Summer Children (The Collector #3) by Dot Hutchison

Book Description:

Published:

Format: Audio/Scribd

Stars: 4

This FBI agent has come to expect almost anything—just not this…

When Agent Mercedes Ramirez finds an abused young boy on her porch, covered in blood and clutching a teddy bear, she has no idea that this is just the beginning. He tells her a chilling tale: an angel killed his parents and then brought him here so Mercedes could keep him safe.

His parents weren’t just murdered. It was a slaughter—a rage kill like no one on the Crimes Against Children team had seen before. But they’re going to see it again. An avenging angel is meting out savage justice, and she’s far from through.

One by one, more children arrive at Mercedes’s door with the same horror story. Each one a traumatized survivor of an abusive home. Each one chafing at Mercedes’s own scars from the past. And each one taking its toll on her life and career.

Now, as the investigation draws her deeper into the dark, Mercedes is beginning to fear that if this case doesn’t destroy her, her memories might.

Review –

The Summer Children is the third book in the series The Collector by Dot Hutchison. Though I did read it as a standalone, because it has been over two years since I read the first two books in the series. There are characters that come and go in this book who have made their appearance in the previous installments. The Summer Children is a about an FBI team of which Mercedes Ramirez is a member. They are in Crimes Against Children section of the FBI. She has been there for ten years and has helped  and rescued more children than she can count.

The book begins with Mercedes and her girlfriend returning to Mercedes’ home where they come across a little boy waiting for Mercedes. The little boy, Ronnie, is covered in blood and holding a teddy bear with gold wings. He claims to be deposited on her porch by the angel who killed his parents. A few days later, Mercedes and her teammate Eliza Sterling return to Mercedes’ place to see three kids on her porch. Sarah, Ashley and Sammy with faces streaked with blood and holding a teddy bear with gold wings  say the same thing as well. All the children were brought here by the angel who killed their parents and deposited here because Mercedes would keep them safe. These kids had to watch their parents be killed, and then they were told they’d be safe with Mercedes. Safe because they are all victims of abuse. Ronnie was abused by his father while Sarah by her stepfather. As more and more children from similar backgrounds turn up at Mercedes’ place, the local PD asks to partner with the FBI to solve the crime. And solve it they do.

There is a good plot in this book. While abuse is a thread running strong throughout the book, certain sections of the book have a much horrific version than the rest. Stomach turningly horrific. There is evil in this world and sometimes we choose to ignore it willfully. This is something that a few characters do with confidence in The Summer Children.  But the CAC team tries hard to stop further damage. So, if you are someone who can not read about bad things being done to children, then skip this book.

What I loved about this book was the team in which Mercedes works. A unit that works together in sync and a team that’s more family than friends. Office politics and other distractions do not hinder their investigations or stop them from pursuing criminals. Each of them, be it the head of the unit or the newest member, is involved in their job hoping to save one more child. A noble cause, for which they all have their own reasons to contribute to.

The book starts off a bit slow, but, never does it get boring. There is a nice pace that begins once the children start arriving. It is a book that has blood, sweat and tears and makes us question rules and regulations, between right and wrong.

Again, there is a lot of child abuse, be it physical, sexual or emotional in this book.  If you can handle it, then put on your TBR list.

Fantastic read!

 

Second Skin by Christian White

Book Description:

Published: April 2, 2020

Format: Audio/Audible

Stars: 4

Listening Length: 4 hours and 28 minutes

Stan Weir is mourning a tragic loss when he meets a mysterious nine-year-old girl, who claims to be the reincarnated spirit of his late wife. Marcy Keef is a single mother trying to make ends meet, when her daughter Erin starts describing “past life memories.” Neither wants to believe Erin, but as violent secrets are revealed, the truth becomes harder to deny.

With echoes of Stephen King, Second Skin is a propulsive thriller about grief, guilt, and truths better left unknown.

Review –

This book is one released only on Audible and free for members in April 2020. Audible usually provides 5-7 free books at the first of every month and in April I chose four. In May, I didn’t;t choose any-none of them were “my cup of tea”, but I love that they do that for their members.

At four and a half hours of audio it is not a long book, but I thought the author packed quite a lot of story, characterizations and twists in that short period. It was an easy listen and I did not see the ending coming until a large twist was revealed.

Second Skin was a good mystery with a paranormal angle to it and some unexpected twists along the way. Can’t reveal too much as it would be a spoiler. The narration by Ellen Archer in all voices was especially outstanding.

The cover image seemed to have absolutely nothing to do with the plot, unless I blinked and missed it. I hate this! I wish I had the job of choosing book covers, but a girl can only dream!

If this book comes out later this year in print or e-book form you should really give it a try. You will not be disappointed .

Loved it!

The Last Time I Saw You by Liv Constantine

Book Description:

Published:

Format: Audio/Scribd

Stars: 4

The internationally bestselling author of The Last Mrs. Parrish follows that success with an addictive novel filled with shocking twists about the aftermath of a brutal high-society murder.

Dr. Kate English has it all. Not only is she the heiress to a large fortune; she has a gorgeous husband and daughter, a high-flying career, and a beautiful home anyone would envy.

But all that changes the night Kate’s mother, Lily, is found dead, brutally murdered in her own home. Heartbroken and distraught, Kate reaches out to her estranged best friend, Blaire Barrington, who rushes to her side for the funeral, where the years of distance between them are forgotten in a moment.

That evening, Kate’s grief turns to horror when she receives an anonymous text: You think you’re sad now, just wait. By the time I’m finished with you, you’ll wish you had been buried today. More than ever, Kate needs her old friend’s help.

Once Blaire decides to take the investigation into her own hands, it becomes clear that all is not as it seems in Baltimore high society. As infidelity, lies, and betrayals come to light, and tensions rise to a boiling point, she begins to alienate Kate’s friends and relatives with her relentless, accusatory questions, as she tries to find Lily’s killer. The murderer could be anyone—friend, neighbor, loved one. But whoever it is, it’s clear that Kate is next on their list. . .

In The Last Time I Saw You, Liv Constantine takes the lightning pace of The Last Mrs. Parrish and raises the stakes, creating an exquisitely tension-filled and absorbing tale of psychological suspense in which innocent lives—and one woman’s sanity—hang in the balance.

Review –

This book is about murder, mental health, friendship, secrets, marriage, money, memory, and mother-daughter relationships. It’s well paced – not fast, not slow – and this pacing kept me engaged throughout the book.

Kate is a unreliable narrator just like Nellie/Vanessa in The Wife Between Us, and she gets worse as the story progresses. I wasn’t sure if she was imagining things or if she was the person wreaking all of the havoc. I would have liked more of a backstory on her, but this book had plenty of character development and I enjoyed the ride.

Liv Constantine’s last book drew me in right away and when I got comfortable with its direction, bombs were dropped and the plot turned unexpectedly. This time, I was on guard for bombs as I read this book. I was not disappointed; I loved the surprises, twists, and turns.

If compared to The Wife Between Us, I like this book so much more. It was creepier and had more mystery and suspense. It has a sinister feel and everyone seemed to have an ulterior motive; it was hard to figure out who to trust. This book is a psychological suspense and thriller wrapped in one, and I loved it.

 

The Whisper Man by Alex North

Book Description:

Published: August 20, 2019

Format: Audio/Scribd

Stars: 4

In this dark, suspenseful thriller, Alex North weaves a multi-generational tale of a father and son caught in the crosshairs of an investigation to catch a serial killer preying on a small town.

After the sudden death of his wife, Tom Kennedy believes a fresh start will help him and his young son Jake heal. A new beginning, a new house, a new town. Featherbank.

But the town has a dark past. Twenty years ago, a serial killer abducted and murdered five residents. Until Frank Carter was finally caught, he was nicknamed “The Whisper Man,” for he would lure his victims out by whispering at their windows at night.

Just as Tom and Jake settle into their new home, a young boy vanishes. His disappearance bears an unnerving resemblance to Frank Carter’s crimes, reigniting old rumors that he preyed with an accomplice. Now, detectives Amanda Beck and Pete Willis must find the boy before it is too late, even if that means Pete has to revisit his great foe in prison: The Whisper Man.

And then Jake begins acting strangely. He hears a whispering at his window…

Review –

The Whisper Man managed to be creepy, suspenseful, chilling, and stressful all at the same time, while keeping me guessing. (Something I’ve noticed with thrillers is that the narrators are generally unreliable, and then there are—usually—pretty predictable twists.) However, the main narrator of The Whisper Man, Tom (the father), is fairly reliable, and he’s just trying to do his best raising his son as a now-single, widowed father. It’s a credit to the author that I was suspicious of basically every character, and I still ended up incorrectly guessing the perpetrator.

The biggest theme of this book is father-son relationships, and I found it touching how North wrote about Tom’s son, Jake, who doesn’t quite fit in with his classmates, but also doesn’t seem to want to conform. Tom doesn’t want him to struggle socially, but also, as a credit to his late wife, wants his son to be himself. Ultimately, Tom’s unconditional love for his son is what brings the book to its satisfying conclusion.

Suffice it to say that this book is well worth your time if you don’t mind being slightly creeped out. Some thrillers can be a bit frustrating because the main characters often make dumb decisions, to their own detriment, but I found Tom’s motivations very believable.

Great read and I love the cover!

Missing Molly by Natalie Barelli

Book Description:

Published: January 5, 2018

Format: Audio/Scribd

Stars: 3

Everyone has secrets, and Rachel Holloway is no exception.She’s worked hard to keep the past where it belongs: dead and buried. And so far, she’s been very successful.

But now the small newspaper where she works wants to produce a podcast on a cold case: the disappearance twelve years ago of little Molly Forster.

Some secrets should never see the light of day, and as far as Rachel is concerned, whatever happened to little Molly is one of them. Rachel has a life now, a boyfriend she loves and a three-year-old daughter she adores, and she will do anything to protect them.

But to do that, no one can ever know that she is Molly Forster.

Review –

I’m usually a big crime drama fan, but this one sucked.

Rachel Holloway works at a floundering newspaper with the bright idea to boost readership by starting a podcast focused on a true unsolved crime story: what happened to little Molly Forster, the 12-year old only survivor of the massacre of her family twelve years earlier? Rachel panics, and does everything she can to sabotage the podcast, because she has a secret: she is Molly. And she’s been hiding ever since, terrified that the killer would finish what he started.

My problem is that from the get-go we know where the missing child is and who she is and a few chapters later we discover who the killer is. So why read any more? it’s a done deal. Of course, I finished this book(because I never NOT finish a book) but it was a real struggle to the very end.

I do like the cover very much, however.

 

 

Lying In Wait by Liz Nugent

Book Description:

Published: June 12, 2018

Format: Audio/Scribd

Stars: 3

From the international bestselling author of Unraveling Oliver, an “unputdownable psychological thriller with an ending that lingers long after turning the final page” (The Irish Times) about a Dublin family whose dark secrets and twisted relationships are suddenly revealed.

My husband did not mean to kill Annie Doyle, but the lying tramp deserved it.

On the surface, Lydia Fitzsimons has the perfect life—wife of a respected, successful judge, mother to a beloved son, mistress of a beautiful house in Dublin. That beautiful house, however, holds a secret. And when Lydia’s son, Laurence, discovers its secret, wheels are set in motion that lead to an increasingly claustrophobic and devastatingly dark climax.

For fans of Ruth Ware and Gillian Flynn, this novel is a “seductively sinister story. The twists come together in a superbly scary denouncement, which delivers a final sting in the tail. Brilliantly macabre”

Review –

“Laurence Fitzsimons has a mother who’s determined to control everything, and everyone, around her—even if she has to kill to do it.

When 22-year-old Annie Doyle is murdered, it’s ugly and sudden. Her life ends in 1980 on a Dublin beach at the hands of Lydia and Andrew Fitzsimons, for reasons not immediately made clear. Lydia doesn’t feel at all bad about the deed: “I like to think I did the girl a kindness, like putting an injured bird out of its misery. She did not deserve such kindness.” Lydia is disillusioned with Andrew after more than 21 years of marriage, and although they live in a lovely estate called Avalon, they are nearly penniless because of Andrew’s bad investments. All Lydia really cares about is her 17-year-old son, Laurence, whose every move she attempts to control. Laurence is overweight and bullied at school, but he’s also observant and not at all stupid. His parents are acting squirrelly, and he soon suspects one or both of them had a hand in Annie’s death. Meanwhile, Annie’s sister, Karen, is convinced something bad has happened to Annie, who has always been troubled: At 16 she became pregnant, was sent to a home for unwed mothers, and was forced to give up her baby girl, Marnie. It left her forever changed. Karen begins investigating on her own, eventually becoming intimately tied to the Fitzsimons. Like Unraveling Oliver (2017), this is a whydunit, not a whodunit, and the real meat lies in Nugent’s exploration of motherhood, mental illness, and what could drive a person to murder, told through first-person accounts from Lydia, Karen, and Laurence. Lydia is a Gothic villain for the ages, and Annie is sympathetically drawn; a letter she wrote to Marnie, riddled with misspellings, is heartbreaking. Society failed Annie, and her victimization never ended, even after her death.

A page-turner chock full of lies and betrayals and a very creepy mother-son relationship.” Kirkus Review
This book was a bit of a let down for me.

A Lesson in Thorns (Thornchapel #1) by Sierra Simone

Book Description:

Published: March 19, 2019

Format: Audio/Scribd

Stars: 5

When librarian Poe Markham takes the job at Thornchapel, she only wants two things: to stay away from Thornchapel’s tortured owner, Auden Guest, and to find out what happened to her mother twelve years ago. It should be easy enough—keep her head down while she works in the house’s crumbling private library and while she hunts down any information as to why this remote manor tucked into the fog-shrouded moors would be the last place her mother was seen alive. But Thornchapel has other plans for her…

As Poe begins uncovering the house’s secrets, both new and old, she’s also pulled into the seductive, elegant world of Auden and his friends—and drawn to Auden’s worst enemy, the beautiful and brooding St. Sebastian. And as Thornchapel slowly tightens its coil of truths and lies around them, Poe, Auden and St. Sebastian start unravelling into filthy, holy pleasure and pain. Together, they awaken a fate that will either anoint them or leave them in ashes…
***
From the author of the USA Today bestselling New Camelot series comes an original fairy tale full of ancient mysteries, lantern-lit rituals, jealousy, money, murder, sacred torment, and obsessions that last for lifetimes…

Review –

First off, if dirty filthy talk and sex scenes offend you DO NOT read this book.

There’s a little bit of love for everyone in this diverse M/F, M/M, F/F, M/M/F orgy, and holy HOT tamale, was it a sinfully sexy scorcher!

Thornchapel is a mystery and it has an unexplainable pull that sucks you in like gravity. Six children went on an adventure and found themselves in the mystical ruins of the chapel… and years later, now as adults, they find the same pull leading them to the same place they met at as kids.

There is a higher power at play and ancient pagan rituals that have the heir, the dreamer, the priest, the genius, the socialite and the saint binded and bloodied by thorns keeping them anchored to this magical place and captivated by each other. I couldn’t even tell you why because Thornchapel hasn’t revealed all of its secrets yet but I am completely fascinated by this story. The story ends on a giant cliffhanger, so be forewarned. I’m now listening to a book in a different genre so I can decompress before listening to the next installment .

The way the author, Sierra Simone, weaves her words is hypnotic all on its own. This lady could make her grocery list sound poetic and mesmerizing. This is my first book of  hers I’ve tried and it was the cover that first drew me in. Some cover, huh ?