Girls Like Us by Cristina Alger

Book Description:

Published: July 2, 2019

Format: Audio/OverDrive

Stars: 4

From the celebrated and bestselling author of The Banker’s Wife, worlds collide when an FBI agent investigates a string of grisly murders on Long Island that raises the impossible question: What happens when the primary suspect is your father?

FBI Agent Nell Flynn hasn’t been home in ten years. Nell and her father, Homicide Detective Martin Flynn, have never had much of a relationship. And Suffolk County will always be awash in memories of her mother, Marisol, who was brutally murdered when Nell was just seven.

When Martin Flynn dies in a motorcycle accident, Nell returns to the house she grew up in so that she can spread her father’s ashes and close his estate. At the behest of her father’s partner, Detective Lee Davis, Nell becomes involved in an investigation into the murders of two young women in Suffolk County. The further Nell digs, the more likely it seems to her that her father should be the prime suspect–and that his friends on the police force are covering his tracks. Plagued by doubts about her mother’s murder–and her own role in exonerating her father in that case–Nell can’t help but ask questions about who killed Ria Ruiz and Adriana Marques and why. But she may not like the answers she finds–not just about those she loves, but about herself.

Review –

“After scattering the ashes of her father, Martin, Nell Flynn heads to his South Fork home to sift through his possessions after a motorcycle crash took his life. Nell is on leave from her job in D.C. as a member of the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit after she killed a member of the Russian Mafia in the line of duty and got a bullet to the shoulder for her trouble. Nell mourns her father but also looks forward to moving on and never looking back at a town that holds nothing but bad memories, including the brutal murder of her mother, Marisol, when she was only 7. But getting out of town soon isn’t in the cards for Nell. When her old friend Lee Davis, a newly minted homicide detective, asks for her help solving a series of gruesome murders, Nell is intrigued. A young girl, shot, dismembered, and wrapped in burlap, has been found buried in a local park, and she bears a striking resemblance to a young Latina found the previous summer. Nell soon learns that a mansion near the burial is the site of lavish parties attended by Washington elites, where possibly underage girls are provided for entertainment. Nell’s digging leads to young Latina escorts afraid to come forward for fear of deportation and the wrath of their pimp, who is working with some of the most powerful men in New York. When a local landscaper is arrested, Nell isn’t convinced he’s the killer, and disturbing secrets about the local police—even her father—are rising to the surface. Nell carries a palpable sadness and is still haunted by her mother’s murder and her complicated relationship with her father. She has a vulnerable, empathetic core that will pull readers in, and Alger has a feel for small-town dynamics. The tension becomes nearly unbearable as Nell realizes she truly can’t trust anyone. Readers can expect a few genuine surprises, and the light Alger shines on society’s most vulnerable members is an important one.” Kirkus Review

Loved this book and it’s perfect for a hot Summer afternoon .

 

The Roommate(Cormac Reilly #0.7) by Dervla McTiernan

Book Description:

Published: October 2019

Format: Audio/Audible

Stars: 4

This audio novella is a stand-alone prequel to the Cormac Reilly series

Twenty-two year old Niamh Turley thought she had problems, dealing with the obnoxious principal of the school she’s teaching in as well as the anxious parents of her little charges, but when she wakes one morning to a missing roommate and a garda knocking on her door, her life spirals out of control fast…

Review –

Garda Cormac Reilly is still in the early stages of his career when this story takes place.

A young woman has been found murdered in the lobby of a Black Rock apartment building early one morning just before Christmas, and primary school teacher Niamh Turley opens the door to Garda Reilly during the very initial investigation. She’d been fast asleep so there was little she could tell him. Unsettled but safe, she burrows in for a quiet day at home while the investigation unfolds. Later in the day, when she finds Garda Reilly at her door once again, she realises the crime is much closer to home than she’d thought – the young woman who lost her life was Niamh’s roommate, Maya.

The two women had been friendly but not really close, so although Niamh is horrified by the crime and sad for Maya’s family, she also has some pressing practical matters to consider – like how she’s going to pay the rent on her own. A potential solution presents itself, and then Niamh’s own life begins to spiral out of control.

While this story is part of the series due to the presence of Cormac Reilly, it really has no connection to either of the full-length novels published to date, so it probably doesn’t matter in what order it is read. But do read it! McTiernan really knows how to build the tension, even in this shorter form. I could feel myself getting agitated as Niamh’s poor choices led her into a difficult position.

It is short but it packs a punch and gets quite tense at times! I wanted to tell Niamh not to be an ‘eejit’ several times but she was anyway. The narrator is Irish which is nice because the accent is real, and she has a very pleasing voice.

 I highly recommend this short book to everyone and it is a reminder to ask for references before letting a stranger move in with you!

 

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.

Walk the Wire (Amos Decker #6) by David Baldacci

Book Description:

Published: April 21, 2020

Format: Audio/OverDrive

Stars: 4

Amos Decker — the FBI consultant with a perfect memory — returns to solve a gruesome murder in a booming North Dakota oil town in the newest thriller in David Baldacci’s #1 New York Times bestselling Memory Man series.

When Amos Decker and his FBI colleague Alex Jamison are called to London, North Dakota, they instantly sense that the thriving fracking town is ripe for trouble. The promise of a second gold rush has attracted an onslaught of newcomers all hoping for a windfall, and the community is growing faster than houses can be built. The sudden boom has also brought a slew of problems with it, including drugs, property crimes, prostitution — and now murder.

Decker and Jamison are ordered to investigate the death of a young woman named Irene Cramer, whose body was expertly autopsied and then dumped in the open — which is only the beginning of the oddities surrounding the case. As Decker and Jamison dig into Irene’s life, they are shocked to discover that the woman who walked the streets by night as a prostitute was a teacher for a local religious sect by day — a sect operating on land once owned by a mysterious government facility that looms over the entire community.

London is a town replete with ruthless business owners, shady government officials, and religious outsiders, all determined to keep their secrets from coming out. When other murders occur, Decker will need all of his extraordinary memory and detective skills, and the assistance of a surprising ally, to root out a killer and the forces behind Cramer’s death. . . before the boom town explodes.

Review –

FBI consultant Amos Decker and his colleague, Alex Jamison, are summoned to the remote North Dakota Badlands when a hunter discovers the remains of a woman out on the Great Plains.

She appears to have had a post-mortem performed on her, reminiscent of those seen on TV cop shows – but this time, there was no slab, morgue or camera in sight. The reason why Irene Cramer’s murder merits an FBI investigation becomes rapidly clear when key questions surface about the woman’s mysterious past. As a teacher at a school managed by a local male-run sect, the Anabaptists, little is known about who she really was or where she came from.

Seeking information from the local community, Decker and Jamison observe the local town of London, North Dakota, which sits at the very heart of the fracking industry. Enriched with oil money, jealousy and a deep-set rivalry between its richest investors lie beneath a veneer of glitz and opulence.

But it is the nearby ‘eye in the sky’, the London Air Force Station, which may hold the answers. Acting as an early warning system, it can detect a nuclear threat to the US. Was Irene Cramer’s death connected in some way to the highly classified facility? When a mysterious government contact reaches out to assist their investigation, Decker realizes that this town holds secrets so explosive that their implications could destabilize the entire country .

I loved that Alex plays a key role here as well as Decker. She’s sometimes AWOL allowing Baldacci to bring in a few other regulars but this time the pair are partnered up the whole way. 

Readers of Baldacci’s other work will be happy to see a bit of a crossover here, featuring a character (or two) from another series. I won’t say more as it was a bit of a surprise, but well done and their presence doesn’t diminish the achievements of Decker and Alex.

There’s A LOT happening in this book. It’s a three-for-the-price of one kinda book. Or maybe more. And it’s unfortunate for some involved in nefarious dealings that they get tangled up in something bigger that might have otherwise seen them escape scott-free.

Decker and Alex are ostensibly there because a woman’s been killed. Kinda savagely but they’re not quite sure of the reasoning behind their involvement. Until they realise there’s a Department of Defence base nearby.

And then there’s the town of London which felt a bit like a character itself. It’s run by two families – the fathers arch-rivals of sorts, though reliant on each other for business. We meet the next generation of both families and there’s a clash between the old school vs new school way of doing things.

Baldacci’s inclusion of mining / fracking and its impacts on communities is also timely given it’s the subject of debate in many countries. (Along with the economic benefits to towns and its people vs environmental and long term impacts.)

In all honesty I could have done without one of the threads of this mystery. I can’t reveal too much but it overcomplicates things and (in many ways) felt redundant. Although having said that, I was able to follow what was happening; and it does give Baldacci the opportunity to mislead we readers—on several occasions—as we assume we’ve got it all solved.

There’s less reliance on Decker’s abilities here – though his impressive memory does come through when he needs it. I actually kinda like his superpower but it’s a reminder that he was (and is) a good investigator either way. 

I also continue to really like Alex, and we actually get a little more insight into both of their personal lives here.

We know about the murder of Decker’s wife and daughter that led him to crash and burn, but here we learn he’s cut off other family since and been reticent to re-establish contact. And I wasn’t sure I’d remembered (or knew) Alex had been married and there’s certainly a (back)story there!

I really enjoyed this book – the sixth in the series. It probably didn’t need to be as convoluted as it was, but Baldacci always manages to keep all of the balls in the air and doesn’t give us plot holes that cause us sleepless nights (or am I the only one who struggles if there’s a lack of closure?!).

Another excellent Amos Decker novel.

The Shuddering by Ania Ahlborn

Book Description:

Published: June 18, 2013

Format: Audio/Scribd

Stars: 4

Ryan Adler and his twin sister, Jane, spent their happiest childhood days at their parents’ mountain Colorado cabin — until divorce tore their family apart. Now, with the house about to be sold, the Adler twins gather with their closest friends for one last snowboarding-filled holiday. While commitment-phobic Ryan gazes longingly at Lauren, wondering if his playboy days are over, Jane’s hopes of reconciling with her old boyfriend evaporate when he brings along his new fiancée. As drama builds among the friends, something lurks in the forest, watching the cabin, growing ever bolder as the snow falls — and hunger rises. After a blizzard leaves the group stranded, the true test of their love and loyalty begins as the hideous creatures outside close in, one bloody attack at a time. Now Ryan, Jane, and their friends must fight — tooth and nail, bullet and blade — for their lives. Or else surrender to unspeakable deaths in the darkened woods.

Review –

This book could be described as an old-school creature feature in novel form. When a host of sarcastic twenty-somethings stage a reunion at a secluded winter cabin, a devastating blizzard traps them indoors, forcing them to circle the wagons against an onslaught of attacks from ashen, long-limbed monsters that legend has it only come out when it snows.

The creatures are introduced in a riveting prologue, but once the author  establishes her mundane characters, winter woods setting, the plot devolves into a slow plod toward a final confrontation. We know the monsters are there, we know our heroes will be forced to fight them, but Ahlborn insists on saving the good stuff until the finale.

Essentially, there are no twists or turns just very predictable actions by the cabin dwellers. For the first half of The Shuddering, tension and suspense are clearly lacking. Though a peripheral character does become the first to “bite the dust” (or should I say snow).

But then, suddenly, things start getting good. Once the characters are fully aware of their plight and begin to mount a defense, The Shuddering magically transforms from rich boy melodrama into a stark, unsettling tale of snowbound survival. Things get dirty, things get nasty, and when the author  finally forces her twenty-somethings to knuckle up, the book really delivers. It’s a few chapters  of good old-fashioned monster magic tacked onto the back end of some super predictable happenings.

The ending is right out of Twilight Zone or a Stephen King novel and you can see it coming a mile away. Is the book good? I gave it four stars just because I love a good spooky story and I don’t care how predictable it was! 

I wish I had waited and read it in the winter instead of a hundred degree Spring day.

 

 

I Know Everything by Matthew Farrell

 

Book Description:

Published: August 6, 2019

Format: Audio/Scribd

Stars: 5

A psychologist grapples with his own sanity as murder evidence mounts against him.

Police investigator Susan Adler is ready to close the book on a deadly car accident, but after the medical examiner discovers evidence of foul play, she knows she has a murder on her hands. The victim was the wealthy wife of Randall Brock, a renowned psychologist who treats patients with disturbing, brutal fantasies. And just like that, Susan’s got a suspect.

Randall has a violent past but knows he didn’t kill his wife. In the midst of his crushing grief, Randall receives a visit from a stranger with information to share about his wife’s death. But there’s a catch: in exchange for the stranger’s information, Randall must reveal dark secrets he’s kept hidden for years. As this shady figure applies more pressure and Susan closes in, Randall begins to doubt himself, clinging desperately to the pieces of his sanity.

Revelations and suspicious coincidences send shock waves through the investigation, and circumstances spin out of control. Susan must race to put it all together before it’s too late—before the next murder strikes too close to home.

Review –

The author opens with a gruesome prologue set in a basement, where an unnamed dying man chained to a wall surveys two corpses while hearing noises upstairs.

Chapter One jumps to psychologist Randall Brock’s research on talk-therapy methods designed to reduce and eliminate patients’ homicidal fantasies. Brock himself becomes a murder suspect after his wealthy philanthropist wife, Amanda, dies in an automobile accident the same night she’s received a humanitarian award. Police officer Susan Adler leads the investigation; she’s a single mother struggling to balance her commitment to criminal analysis while raising two sons whose father fails to take them on a promised ski trip to Vermont. Adler’s attractive new partner, Tommy Corolla, charms Adler and her children and wants to take her out after the case closes; he suspects Brock: “It’s always the husband.”

The night of the accident, a mysterious stranger catches Brock’s attention at the awards dinner, then shows up at his office after Amanda’s death. The stranger knows about the death of Brock’s brother when they were children, declares to Brock that Amanda was murdered, claims to have seen the whole thing, and offers to tell Brock who killed her in exchange for Brock’s revealing his own truths, although the arrangement will be off if Brock tells police about their encounters. The stranger seals the deal by revealing one of Amanda’s dirty secrets.

An intriguing premise inexpertly executed though some of the plot twists were predictable.

Great read!

Pretty Girls Dancing by Kylie Brant

Book Description:

Published: January 1, 2018

Format: Audio/Scribd

Stars: 5

Years ago, in the town of Saxon Falls, young Kelsey Willard disappeared and was presumed dead. The tragedy left her family with a fractured life—a mother out to numb the pain, a father losing a battle with his own private demons, and a sister desperate for closure. But now another teenage girl has gone missing. It’s ripping open old wounds for the Willards, dragging them back into a painful past, and leaving them unprepared for where it will take them next.

Bureau of Criminal Investigation agent Mark Foster has stumbled on uncanny parallels in the lives of the two missing girls that could unlock clues to a serial killer’s identity. That means breaking down the walls of the Willards’ long-guarded secrets and getting to a truth that is darker than he bargained for. Now, to rescue one missing girl, he must first solve the riddles that disappeared with another: Kelsey Willard herself. Dead or alive, she is his last hope.

Review –

Pretty Girls Dancing is Kylie Brant’s latest standalone  novel, and the first book of hers that I’ve tried.  It’s described as a dark thriller, although I disagree.

A series of kidnappings/murders is devastating a small town and the families involved. The world is believed to be done by a serial killer called the Ten Mile Killer (TMK for short). Okay, so a lot of this is probably pretty obvious from the description of the novel. The TMK villain kidnaps and tortures little girls. While the torture is necessarily graphic, it is still very much torture. Bodies are found during the course of the novel, as is (spoiler warning) a surviving victim. While they don’t use the word, it’s very clear that she has been sexually assaulted by her TMK captor. I know these themes can be upsetting to many, so just be aware of them going in.

 

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!

 

Here to Stay by Mark Edwards

Book Description:

Published: September 1, 2019

Format: Audio/Scribd

Stars: 4

A beautiful home. A loving wife. And in-laws to die for.

Gemma Robinson comes into Elliot’s life like a whirlwind, and they marry and settle into his home. When she asks him if her parents can come to stay for a couple of weeks, he is keen to oblige – he just doesn’t quite know what he’s signing up for.

The Robinsons arrive with Gemma’s sister, Chloe, a mysterious young woman who refuses to speak or leave her room. Elliot starts to suspect that the Robinsons are hiding a dark secret. And then there are the scars on his wife’s body that she won’t talk about . . .

As Elliot’s in-laws become more comfortable in his home, encroaching on all aspects of his life, it becomes clear that they have no intention of moving out. To protect Gemma, and their marriage, Elliot delves into the Robinsons’ past. But is he prepared for the truth?

Review –

Author Mark Edwards describes his psychological thrillers as stories “in which scary things happen to ordinary people”. No kidding! I actually had nightmares about this book and felt so stressed throughout that it gave me a tension headache. I’m serious. I had to turn off my listening device, take a decompressing break by listening to a lighter/no angst book and ONLY then go back and finish it.

After a whirlwind romance followed closely by marriage to the gorgeous Gemma, science teacher Elliot feels like his life is complete. He has everything he can ever want: a loving partner, a beautiful home, a job he loves and an adored cat who is like a child to him. That’s until his in-laws come to stay for two weeks – and never move out. Which in itself is terrifying, except that you have no idea how bad it can get, because these are not your average family but a bunch of utter psychopaths! Sweet Elliot, whose own parents are long dead, has no chance against the destructive force that is about to be unleashed on his life.

 There are crazy twists at every turn, some so hair-raising that if this was a scary movie I would have to turn the volume on low and peek through my fingers. No such luck here, though. The story slowly unrolled in all its horrifying glory, and I felt like I had knives thrown at my heart. 

As I am sitting here writing this review, I still feel the remnants of tension in my gut, the sort that only a strong White Russian and a night off the thrillers can fix. 

if you suffer from high blood pressure, anxiety or poor impulse control (i.e. book throwing), do not enter into this without consulting your doctor first. Also, this book is like reading about a plane crash before embarking on a long-haul flight, so if your in-laws’ visit is imminent, I recommend skipping it for now. Who am I kidding? This book is pure hell!!!!! Enter at your own risk! And don’t say I didn’t warn you ….

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!