Before She Knew Him by Peter Swanson

Book Description:

Published: March 5, 2019

Format: Audio/OverDrive

Catching a killer is dangerous—especially if he lives next door

Hen and her husband Lloyd have settled into a quiet life in a new house outside of Boston, Massachusetts. Hen (short for Henrietta) is an illustrator and works out of a studio nearby, and has found the right meds to control her bipolar disorder. Finally, she’s found some stability and peace.

But when they meet the neighbors next door, that calm begins to erode as she spots a familiar object displayed on the husband’s office shelf. The sports trophy looks exactly like one that went missing from the home of a young man who was killed two years ago. Hen knows because she’s long had a fascination with this unsolved murder—an obsession she doesn’t talk about anymore, but can’t fully shake either.

Could her neighbor, Matthew, be a killer? Or is this the beginning of another psychotic episode like the one she suffered back in college, when she became so consumed with proving a fellow student guilty that she ended up hurting a classmate?

The more Hen observes Matthew, the more she suspects he’s planning something truly terrifying. Yet no one will believe her. Then one night, when she comes face to face with Matthew in a dark parking lot, she realizes that he knows she’s been watching him, that she’s really on to him. And that this is the beginning of a horrifying nightmare she may not live to escape. . .

Review –

I absolutely love how Peter Swanson writes in your face psychopaths and mentally unstable people who may or may not be reliable. Truly, he’s brilliant at it.

I found the fact that he shined a bright light on these characters and put the crazy front and center so  refreshing. There’s no beating around the bush about who’s not playing with a full deck. And I was totally happy about that.  In fact, I hated when I had to take a break from listening to do something mundane.Then our of nowhere comes a  major plot twist that  left me reeling.Some may see it as a  pure gimmick, but I thought it was genius. 

This is a psychological thriller, but with just a  bit suspenseful. It’s a story of perversion, cruelty, and deceit. The author skillfully uses it all to keep readers off kilter and breathless to the very last page.  

I have loved every Peter Swanson novel I’ve listened to and I can’t wait for his next book. Mr. Swanson, write faster!!

Five stars.

 

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The Kind Worth Killing by Peter Swanson

Book Description:

Published: February 3, 2015

Format: Audio/OverDrive

A devious tale of psychological suspense involving sex, deception, and an accidental encounter that leads to murder. Fans of Paula Hawkins’ The Girl on the Train will love this modern reimagining of Patricia Highsmith’s classic Strangers on a Trainfrom the author of the acclaimed The Girl with a Clock for a Heart—which the Washington Post said “should be a contender for crime fiction’s best first novel of 2014.”

On a night flight from London to Boston, Ted Severson meets the stunning and mysterious Lily Kintner. Sharing one too many martinis, the strangers begin to play a game of truth, revealing very intimate details about themselves. Ted talks about his marriage that’s going stale and his wife Miranda, who he’s sure is cheating on him. Ted and his wife were a mismatch from the start—he the rich businessman, she the artistic free spirit—a contrast that once inflamed their passion, but has now become a cliché.

But their game turns a little darker when Ted jokes that he could kill Miranda for what she’s done. Lily, without missing a beat, says calmly, “I’d like to help.” After all, some people are the kind worth killing, like a lying, stinking, cheating spouse. . . .

Back in Boston, Ted and Lily’s twisted bond grows stronger as they begin to plot Miranda’s demise. But there are a few things about Lily’s past that she hasn’t shared with Ted, namely her experience in the art and craft of murder, a journey that began in her very precocious youth.

Suddenly these co-conspirators are embroiled in a chilling game of cat-and-mouse, one they both cannot survive . . . with a shrewd and very determined detective on their tail.

Review –

“A chance airport meeting between strangers sets in motion a Strangers on a Train–inspired murder plot. 

During a delay at Heathrow, wealthy Boston businessman Ted Severson shares drinks with fellow American Lily Kintner, an archivist at a small Massachusetts college. One thing leads to another, but instead of sleeping together, the two confess their deepest secrets: Ted wants to kill his two-timing wife, Miranda, and Lily wants to help him. In case the Patricia Highsmith connection isn’t blatant enough, Swanson (The Girl With a Clock for a Heart, 2014) shows Lily reading The Two Faces of January—“not one of her best”—in the airport. While the title implies that Ted’s (and Lily’s) enemies are the kind worth killing, the reader almost immediately decides it’s the cold, heartless protagonists who should ultimately get the ax. Miranda is indeed cheating on Ted with Brad Daggett, the handsome and dim contractor who’s building the couple’s extravagant Maine vacation home, yet it’s hard to feel sorry for a man who tells a complete stranger that he fantasizes about killing his spouse, let alone a woman who openly encourages such behavior. Lily’s past is slowly, predictably revealed, and we discover her penchant for violence, but instead of making her character more complex, it merely becomes another layer of frustration.

While there are twists, most of them are so clearly telegraphed that only the most careless of readers won’t see what’s coming, especially since Swanson needlessly doubles back over the same events from different points of view. Kirkus Review

I really enjoyed this one and even though I thought I knew all there as to know about the characters, the author throws a curve ball for a great ending.  Fantastic read!

 

 

All the Beautiful Lies by Peter Swanson

Book Description:

Published: April 3, 2018

Format: Audio/OverDrive

From the acclaimed author of Her Every Fear and The Kind Worth Killing comes a diabolically clever tale of obsession, revenge, and cold-blooded murder—a sly and brilliant guessing game of a novel in the vein of Ruth Ware, Paula Hawkins, and Patricia Highsmith.

Harry Ackerson has always considered his stepmother Alice to be sexy and beautiful, in an “otherworldly” way. She has always been kind and attentive, if a little aloof in the last few years.

Days before his college graduation, Alice calls with shocking news. His father is dead and the police think it’s suicide. Devastated, Harry returns to his father’s home in Maine. There, he and Alice will help each other pick up of the pieces of their lives and uncover what happened to his father.

Shortly after he arrives, Harry meets a mysterious young woman named Grace McGowan. Though she claims to be new to the area, Harry begins to suspect that Grace may not be a complete stranger to his family. But she isn’t the only attractive woman taking an interest in Harry. The sensual Alice is also growing closer, coming on to him in an enticing, clearly sexual way.

Mesmerized by these two women, Harry finds himself falling deeper under their spell. Yet the closer he gets to them, the more isolated he feels, disoriented by a growing fear that both women are hiding dangerous—even deadly—secrets . . . and that neither one is telling the truth.

Review –

The crux of this story is this: a woman begins an affair with her stepson. As the story progresses, readers discover she was involved in a similar affair as a young person, too, and are drawn into this repulsive web of taboo relationships. These relationships are not technically illegal, but they’re most certainly uncomfortable and taboo – and the power dynamics between adult and young person presented within them adds a whole other layer of wrong for readers to unpack. The cycle of manipulation and grooming portrayed here was the author’s way of showing how abuse can beget abuse. And that idea – the idea of examining a cycle of abuse – is not in and of itself a bad thing. When portrayed through the lens of commentary on a terrible and very prevalent occurrence, this kind of examination could indeed be quite effective in sparking an important conversation among readers. But it almost takes over the book, in my opinion .

The story is told from a number of perspectives, with the timeline jumping between present and past as pieces of the backstory gradually begin fitting into place. It’s a narrative path well trodden by the modern-day crime writer – here it can serve to confuse and I defy you to reach the end without having to backtrack a little.

While All the Beautiful Lies never quite hits the heady heights of The Kind Worth Killing, it’s still a great read. You may well work out the killer ahead of time, but I’m guessing the clever final twist will come as a big surprise.

Fantastic read!

Since We Fell by Dennis Lehane

Book Description:

Published:

Format: Audio/Audible

Since We Fell follows Rachel Childs, a former journalist who, after an on-air mental breakdown, now lives as a virtual shut-in. In all other respects, however, she enjoys an ideal life with an ideal husband. Until a chance encounter on a rainy afternoon causes that ideal life to fray. As does Rachel’s marriage. As does Rachel herself. Sucked into a conspiracy thick with deception, violence, and possibly madness, Rachel must find the strength within herself to conquer unimaginable fears and mind-altering truths. By turns heart- breaking, suspenseful, romantic, and sophisticated, Since We Fell is a novel of profound psychological insight and tension. It is Dennis Lehane at his very best.

Review –

“The clinical term for what ails journalist Rachel Childs is “agoraphobia.” Even if the term didn’t appear twice in the novel, it’d be easy enough for the reader to identify—and identify with—her pain thanks to Lehane’s delicate, incisive rendering of her various symptoms. They include panic, rage, depression, and, most of all, self-loathing. (“That’s who I’ve become,” she thinks to herself. “A creature below contempt.”) The reasons behind Rachel’s breakdown are likewise cataloged in short, vivid strokes: a childhood spent mostly with her brittle, brilliant mother who refused to tell her anything at all about her father, leading to a yearslong search for that father culminating in desolation and heartbreak. The coup de grâce to Rebecca’s self-esteem comes when her meteoric rise to prominence as a Boston TV reporter literally crashes from her on-camera nervous collapse while covering the aftermath of the 2010 Haiti earthquake. Through all these jolts and traumas, one person is always around, whether close or from a distance: Brian Delacroix, a witty, handsome Canadian-born businessman whom she first meets as a private investigator, later through his occasional “keep-your-chin-up” e-mails, and then, after she’s all but locked herself away in her apartment, outside a South End bar. Brian gradually becomes the only one who can even begin to draw Rachel out of her deep blue funk, first as a confidant, then as a lover, and finally as her husband. Happily ever after? You know there’s no such thing in a Lehane novel if you’ve dived into such rueful, knotty narratives as Mystic River (2001), Shutter Island (2003), and World Gone By(2015). It spoils nothing to disclose that Brian isn’t quite who Rachel thinks he is. But as she discovers when she tentatively, gradually subdues her demons to seek the truth, Rachel isn’t quite who she thinks she is either.” Kirkus Reviews

Great read!

Wolfhunter River (Stillhouse Lake #3) by Rachel Caine

Book Description:

Published: April 23, 2019

Format: Audio/Audible

She can’t ignore a cry for help. But in this remote hunting town, it’s open season.

Review –

Wolfhunter River is Rachel Caine’s third book in her Stillhouse Lake series (after Stillhouse Lake and Killman .

Gwen Proctor is an amazing character—flawed, brave, vulnerable, fierce, and utterly protective of her children. I found the first two books in this series absolutely spectacular, tautly plotted and full of action and suspense, and they provided a disturbing view into the heart of evil and how it can spread.

I found that this book took a little longer to build up steam, and once it did, there was so much going on and so many things were tangled together that the plot even got a little muddled. It felt like in trying to build on the intensity of the first two books, the author thought she had to triple the suspense. Fortunately, there is still a lot of character development, and we learn more about Sam’s life before he and Gwen met.

This book might be more of a standalone than the first two books were, but I’d still recommend you start reading the series from the beginning. Caine sure does love to keep you guessing about how the plot will unfold! I’m not sure if she intends to keep writing about Gwen, but I hope she does, because she’s definitely full of possibilities.

If you’re a fan of creepy, well-written, suspenseful thrillers, I’d encourage you to pick up this series, starting with Stillhouse Lake. You may find yourself wondering just how you’d react if faced with the same situations Gwen was, and whether you’d be a total badass like she is.

 

Sometimes I Lie by Alice Feeney

Book Description:

Published: March 23, 2017

Format: Audio/OverDrive

My name is Amber Reynolds. There are three things you should know about me:
1. I’m in a coma.
2. My husband doesn’t love me anymore.
3. Sometimes I lie.

Amber wakes up in a hospital. She can’t move. She can’t speak. She can’t open her eyes. She can hear everyone around her, but they have no idea. Amber doesn’t remember what happened, but she has a suspicion her husband had something to do with it. Alternating between her paralyzed present, the week before her accident, and a series of childhood diaries from twenty years ago, this brilliant psychological thriller asks: Is something really a lie if you believe it’s the truth?

Review –

Buckle up and hang on because reading this is like being on an out of control roller coaster .

A pathological liar, a woman in a coma, a childhood diary, an imaginary friend, an evil sister—this is an unreliable-narrator novel with all the options.

Amber narrates most of the book and she starts out in a coma on Boxing Day(it take place in England) and we won’t truly find out what put her there until the end of the book. She can’t remember the accident at all and it’s a story so complicated that even after the truth is exposed, it will take a while to get it straight in your head.

As Amber lies in bed recalling the events of the week that led to her accident, several other narrative threads kick up in parallel. In the present, she’s visited in her hospital room by her husband, a novelist whose affections she has come to doubt. Also her sister, with whom she shares a dark secret, and a nasty ex-boyfriend whom she ran into in the street the week before.

He works as a night porter at the hospital, giving him unfortunate access to her paralyzed but not insensate body. Interwoven with these sections are portions of a diary, recounting unhappy events that happened twenty-five years earlier from a ten-year-old child’s point of view. The author has loaded her debut effort with possibilities for twists and reveals—possibly more than strictly necessary—and they hit like a hailstorm in the last third of the book. Blackmail, forgery, secret video cameras, rape, poisoning, arson, and failing to put on a seat belt all play a role.

The ending will leave you shaking your head and re-reading the passage over and over again!!!!!

Great read!

 

Blackwood by Celia Aaron

Book Description:

Published: January 8, 2017

Format: Audio/Audible

I dig. It’s what I do. I’ll literally use a shovel to answer a question. Some answers, though, have been buried too deep for too long. But I’ll find those, too. And I know where to dig—the Blackwood Estate on the edge of the Mississippi Delta. Garrett Blackwood is the only thing standing between me and the truth. A broken man—one with desires that dance in the darkest part of my soul—he’s either my savior or my enemy. I’ll dig until I find all his secrets. Then I’ll run so he never finds mine. The only problem? He likes it when I run.

Author’s Note: This is a standalone mystery/suspense romance with violence and explicit/intense sex. If you need a trigger warning, then this isn’t the book for you.

Review –

Elise Vale is working on her Ph.D in archaeology, focusing on Choctaw culture. She has the perfect site in mind for her next dig, Blackwood Estate, located in the Louisiana Delta Region. She hopes to find not only some Native American artifacts, but also to uncover a mystery. She has a hidden agenda and she’s willing to do anything to solve a mystery that’s been plaguing her.  Now, the only thing she has to do is to make sure the owner of the Estate allows her to survey the land.

Garrett Blackwood is the thirty-two years old reclusive owner of Blackwood Estate. A former history professor, Garrett has a nasty reputation. He doesn’t want anyone digging on his property and makes sure Elise knows that. But Elise doesn’t let Garrett deter her and she’s ready to do anything to find out THE TRUTH, even forging the documents she needs to get the funding.

As time passes, Elise realizes that digging for answers can be dangerous, but also that Garrett might be the biggest mystery on Blackwood Estate.

Mysterious, sexy and fascinating, Blackwood, was fantastically written in such an intriguing way. I couldn’t put it down for one minute, the mystery/suspense and also the multitude of twists and turns sucking me in from the start. The storytelling was really engaging, the story becoming more and more captivating with every single chapter. The author did a wonderful job blending the thriller/mystery aspect with the erotic. The story was hot and passionate with plenty of sexy times that I’m sure will leave you hot and bothered.

The two main characters were well portrayed, fascinating and I enjoyed reading about them. The chemistry between them was hot…to say the least from the beginning. I enjoyed how their relationship unfolded – gradually – their entertaining interactions and how sexy they were at times. The sex scenes between them were extremely hot, their connection being so palpable as the story unfolded.

Elise was a great heroine, smart, loyal and courageous, she was a strong character and I have to say that I loved her determination. Garrett was a very intriguing hero. While at first, he’s rude and grumpy, as the story unfolded and his relationship with Elise started to change, he became a total different man – kind, sweet, caring, but still gruff and so very manly. I liked these two together and how perfectly they completed each other. The romantic aspect was well done and the rough sex handled very well.

All in all, Blackwood, was a fantastic mystery/thriller I recommend if you are looking for a gripping read filled with steam, action and suspense.

 

The Second Opinion by Michael Palmer

Book Description:

Published: July 17, 2009

Format: Audio/Library Book

Dr. Thea Sperelakis, diagnosed as a teen with Asperger’s syndrome, has always been an outsider. She has a brilliant medical mind, and a remarkable recall of details, but her difficulty in dealing with hidden agendas and interpersonal conflicts have led her to leave the complex, money-driven dynamics of the hospital, and to embrace working with the poor, embattled  patients of Doctors Without Borders. Her father, Petros, is one of the most celebrated internal medicine specialists in the world, and the founder of the cutting-edge Sperelakis Center for Diagnostic Medicine at Boston’s sprawling, powerful Beaumont Clinic.

Thea’s rewarding life in Africa is turned upside-down when Petros is severely injured by a hit-and-run driver. He is in the Beaumont ICU, in a deep coma. No one thinks he will survive. Thea must return home. Two of Petros’ other children, both physicians, battle Thea and her eccentric brother, Dimitri, by demanding that treatment for their father be withheld.

As Thea uncovers the facts surroundingthe disaster, it seems more and more to be no accident. Petros, himself, is the only witness. Who would want him dead? The answers are trapped in his brain . . . until he looks at Thea and begins slowly to blink a terrifying message.

In The Second Opinion, Michael Palmer has created a cat-and-mouse game where one woman must confront a conspiracy of doctors to uncover an evil practice that touches every single person who ever has a medical test. With sympathetic characters and twists and betrayals that come from the most unlikely places, The Second Opinion will make you question…everything.

Review –

I love an intriguing medical mystery and this is a GOOD one. It’s all about medical fraud taking place in a big, fancy Boston hospital  and Dr. Petros Sperelakis  has found out and  was supposed to be killed by the hit and run driver but is now in a coma. When he comes out of the coma, his daughter, Dr. Thea Sperelakis, discovers that he has locked-in syndrome and is only able to communicate with his eyes. She finds out some interesting facts and gets into trouble but together with an hunky ex-cop turned security guard, who also becomes her love interest, solves the mystery and saves the day!

The Second Opinion is also interesting because It centers around a character with Asperger’s syndrome — a condition I knew next to nothing about. It is very interesting how the author uses his personal knowledge of the condition (one of his children has Asperger’s syndrome) to create a character you begin to understand on a different level than many others. It is not often a main character is different in this way, and it certainly adds an element of surprise to even ordinary conversations.

I really enjoyed this book and recommend it to anyone who likes  medical suspense thrillers and Tess Gerritson novels.

Jane Doe by Victoria Helen Stone

Book Description:

Published: August 1, 2018

Format: Audio/Audible

A double life with a single purpose: revenge.

Jane’s days at a Midwest insurance company are perfectly ordinary. She blends in well, unremarkably pretty in her floral-print dresses and extra efficient at her low-level job. She’s just the kind of woman middle manager Steven Hepsworth likes—meek, insecure, and willing to defer to a man. No one has any idea who Jane really is. Least of all Steven.

But plain Jane is hiding something. And Steven’s bringing out the worst in her.

Nothing can distract Jane from going straight for his heart: allowing herself to be seduced into Steven’s bed, to insinuate herself into his career and his family, and to expose all his dirty secrets. It’s time for Jane to dig out everything that matters to Steven. So she can take it all away.

Just as he did to her.

Review –

When her best friend commits suicide after being dumped by a worthless man, Jane, a self-described sociopath, decides revenge will be slow and sweet.

In this suspenseful, creepy thriller, Jane travels to Minneapolis after her friend, Meg, commits suicide. Jane isn’t sure she herself has ever felt love, or any emotion other than hatred for her abusive family. But college roommate Meg gave Jane her best chance at seeing how normal people lived. When Meg became involved with Steven, though, she turned from a funny, bold woman into a submissive girl who accepted Steven’s cruel comments and control, until in her despair she killed herself. Now Jane has insinuated herself at Steven’s company. She pretends  to be just the sort of woman Steve wants—meek, mousy, and needy. It’s fascinating to hear Jane, who narrates the novel, comment on her plans and observations of others. The author does a fantastic job of creating in Jane a complex character, making her both scary and more than a little appealing. As the novel progresses, our view of Jane gradually shifts. Is Jane really a sociopath or the rare woman who doesn’t care what others think? And which of us wouldn’t at least dream of sweet revenge against those who cause such pain? Stone even provides the perfect ending, which can’t be commented on without ruining its perfection.

This beautifully balanced thriller will keep readers tense, surprised, pleased, and surprised again as a master manipulator unfolds her plan of revenge.

Fantastic  read !

The Perfect Stranger by Megan Miranda

Book Description:

Published: April 11, 2017

Format: Audio/OverDrive

Confronted by a restraining order and the threat of a lawsuit, failed journalist Leah Stevens needs to get out of Boston when she runs into an old friend, Emmy Grey, who has just left a troubled relationship. Emmy proposes they move to rural Pennsylvania, where Leah can get a teaching position and both women can start again. But their new start is threatened when a woman with an eerie resemblance to Leah is assaulted by the lake, and Emmy disappears days later.

Determined to find Emmy, Leah cooperates with Kyle Donovan, a handsome young police officer on the case. As they investigate her friend’s life for clues, Leah begins to wonder: did she ever really know Emmy at all? With no friends, family, or a digital footprint, the police begin to suspect that there is no Emmy Grey. Soon Leah’s credibility is at stake, and she is forced to revisit her past: the article that ruined her career. To save herself, Leah must uncover the truth about Emmy Grey—and along the way, confront her old demons, find out who she can really trust, and clear her own name.

Everyone in this rural Pennsylvanian town has something to hide—including Leah herself. How do you uncover the truth when you are busy hiding your own?

Review –

Megan Miranda’s The Perfect Stranger is billed as being a sequel to her highly successful All the Missing Girls, although as far as I can tell, there are no common characters or plot threads, unless one counts the fact that one of the characters in The Perfect Stranger is a “missing girl”!  If you haven’t read the first one you will have no problem with this one, it’s a  standalone, and is a thoroughly enjoyable and intriguing read that asks some interesting questions.  How well we can ever know another person?  How honest and accurate are our self-perceptions?  Just how far would you go for a friend who’d done a lot for you?

Megan Miranda does a terrific job in this book of creating and maintaining an atmosphere of menace and uncertainty.  She skillfully and slowly feeds the truth about Leah’s situation, hinting at what she’s running from and slowly fitting the pieces of the puzzle together – although it’s not until well into the story that we finally discover the nature of the terrifying events that set her on the path she’s now travelling.  And there’s also the fact that Leah is somewhat of an unreliable narrator, something the author plays with so cleverly that there are times the reader even questions the fact of Emmy’s existence, wondering if the police are right and she’s just a figment of Leah’s obviously active imagination.

On the negative side, however, there are times when there is perhaps just a little too much going on, there are a few plot-threads that are not suitably resolved, and a couple of large inconsistencies that really had me scratching my head – and not in a good way. The mystery is full of satisfying twists and turns, with a few suitably head-shaking moments of realization along the way, but the ending is somewhat of a let down.  Things end well for Leah and Kyle, but it’s all a little low-key, so while I was pleased that everything was nicely tied up, I’d expected something a little… well, MORE.

With all that said, however, I enjoyed The Perfect Stranger enough to recommend it to fans of adult angst filled  mysteries.  It caught my interest early and kept me listening to the end.