Summit Lake by Charlie Donlea

Book Description:

Published: January 26, 2016

Format: Audio/Audible

Some places seem too beautiful to be touched by horror. Summit Lake, nestled in North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains, is that kind of place. But two weeks ago, Becca Eckersley, a first-year law student and daughter of a powerful attorney, was brutally murdered there. Now the town is reeling with grief, and the police are baffled.

At first, investigative reporter Kelsey Castle thinks of the assignment as a fluff piece. But the savagery of the crime, and the efforts to keep it quiet, hint at something far more sinister than a random attack by a stranger. As Kelsey digs deeper, despite danger and warnings, she feels a growing connection to the dead girl. And the more she learns about Becca’s friendships, her love life and her secrets the more convinced she becomes that walking in Becca’s footsteps could lead her out of her own dark past.

Review –

Becca Eckersley’s brutal rape and murder brings journalist Kelsey Castle to Summit Lake. Recovering from her own trauma,(attempted rape and beating while jogging)Kelsey’s boss believes this story is the best way for her to come to grips with her past. She gets full cooperation from the police commander, which is more than she expects. But he’s been one-oped by the State Police and helps her behind the scenes. A young staff doctor provides surprising autopsy information and eventually a partner in finding out the real facts of the case. Flashbacks to Becca’s college life shed some light on what might have happened in the present and inside sources provide even more shocking information regarding Becca. A missing journal may hold the key, but  Kelsey gets roadblocks thrown her way that threaten her ability to discover the truth. But she persists and doesn’t know that retracing the steps of a dead girl with ultimately resolve her own demons and help her come into a new life.

This is a fast-paced page turner and it has teasing plot twists. The authored a fantastic job of giving just the right amount of information at just the right time. It’s refreshing to find a book that has such a well-developed plot and excellent writing to back it up.

Loved it, however I would have liked to seen a relationship develop between Kelsey and the young doctor.

Five stars!

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Box 21 (Grens and Sundkvist #2) by Anders Roslund and Borge Hellstrom

Book Description:

Published: April 1, 2010

Format: Audio

Three years ago, Lydia and Alena were two hopeful girls from Lithuania. Now they are sex slaves, lured to Sweden with the promise of better jobs and then trapped in a Stockholm brothel, forced to repay their “debt.” Suddenly they are given an unexpected chance at freedom, and with it the opportunity to take revenge on their enslavers and reclaim the lives and dignity they once had. What will happen now that the tables are turned and the victims fight back?
In this masterful thriller, the celebrated team of Anders Roslund and Börge Hellström delve into the seedy underbelly of Stockholm. There we meet Lydia and Alena as they embark on a desperate plan to expose their captor and demand justice; police officers Sundkvist and Grens, on the trail of both Lydia’s enslavers and Jochum Lang, a notorious mob enforcer; and Hilding Oldéus, a junkie on what might be his last—and most destructive—bender. At the Söder Hospital, their destinies begin to converge in unexpected and explosive ways.
Box 21 is a Scandinavian thriller of the highest order: a mind-blowing psychological drama written with powerful intensity. When it was published in Sweden, Solo called it “suspenseful, gripping, and intelligently written . . . Almost impossible to put down,” while SVT exclaimed: “Forget crime literature; this is, simply put, great literature!”
Review –
When a severely wounded woman is brought to a hospital in Stockholm, doctors are horrified to learn that her injuries are the result of a brutal whipping. She is Lydia, a victim of human-trafficking, a young girl from Lithuania sold by her boyfriend and now trapped in a Stockholm brothel, forced to repay her “debt” by serving twelve different men every day.  In the same hospital, police officer Sven Sundkvist and senior officer Ewert Grens are chasing a lead that may just expose a notorious mafia boss, a dangerous man Grens hates with a vengeance because of the connection to the death of his wife. Two stories of passionate reprisal twist together, ending in a dramatic climax,two bullet-riddled bodies and a room full of hostages in the hospital’s basement.  Ewert Grans discovers the truth about Lydia and his best friend, Bankt, who is also on the police force. He destroys evidence to save his widow from learning the horrible things he has done. Sven, finds out that his boss has covered up things and destroyed evidence to protect his friends reputation. But in the cold light of day, will Sven protect the senior officer he so admires, even from his own corruption? 
You’ll have to read the book to find out and there is also a HUGE twist at the very end that left my mouth wide open.
The only other book I have read/listened to in this series is Cell 8 which is number three. I loved it but wished I had read or listened to this one first because it would have given me a better insight into the characters of Grens and Sundkvist and their dynamic.
Fantastic book.
Five stars!

The Lost Girls by Heather Young

Book Description:

Published: July 26, 2016

Format: Audio/OverDrive

In the summer of 1935, six-year-old Emily Evans vanishes from her family’s vacation home on a remote Minnesota lake. Her disappearance destroys her mother, who spends the rest of her life at the lake house, hoping in vain that her favorite daughter will walk out of the woods. Emily’s two older sisters stay, too, each keeping her own private, decades-long vigil for the lost child.

Sixty years later Lucy, the quiet and watchful middle sister, lives in the lake house alone. Before she dies, she writes the story of that devastating summer in a notebook that she leaves, along with the house, to the only person to whom it might matter: her grandniece, Justine.

For Justine, the lake house offers a chance to escape her manipulative boyfriend and give her daughters the stable home she never had. But it’s not the sanctuary she hoped for. The long Minnesota winter has begun. The house is cold and dilapidated, the frozen lake is silent and forbidding, and her only neighbor is a strange old man who seems to know more than he’s telling about the summer of 1935.

Soon Justine’s troubled oldest daughter becomes obsessed with Emily’s disappearance, her mother arrives with designs on her inheritance, and the man she left behind launches a dangerous plan to get her back. In a house steeped in the sorrows of the women who came before her, Justine must overcome their tragic legacy if she hopes to save herself and her children.

Review –

The foundation of the story rests with the disappearance in 1935 of Emily, a six-year-old child, and the resulting destruction of a family unit when the child is not found. As the story opens, it is the end of the 20th century and Lucy, the last living member of the family, writes the story of the tragedy, set during the summer of 1935 at a remote area in northern Minnesota that is the gathering spot for summer and weekend vacations. Its residents arrive at the beginning of summer and leave with the onset of autumn. They are all known to one another, and their relationships ebb and flow. 

Knowing that she is dying, Lucy feels compelled to explain the mystery of Emily’s disappearance as it unfolded that summer. She has made arrangements to leave the home and property that she and her older sister, Lilith, have lived in until the last of their family has died out, to a grandniece, Justine, who is Lilith’s granddaughter. Her journal story is written in the first person and immerses us into that long-ago summer.

With each alternating chapter, we follow Justine as she migrates from San Diego to Williamsburg, Minnesota, with her two daughters. The move is fraught with anguish as Justine leaves her live-in boyfriend, packs the few belongings she and the girls have, and sets out to learn about her inheritance. Her story is told in the third person.

Young is skilled at creating tension and conflict both in the journal (Lucy) chapters and in the Justine chapters.

 Her characters are vivid and come to life as the story unfolds.

Justine’s mother, Maurie, is a hippy-style mother who disappears and then reappears every few years when her life falls apart and she needs financial support. When she learns that Justine has inherited the family summer home, she comes sniffing around searching for anything she can sell for profit. She is a woman older than she believes herself to be and her boisterous and flirtatious ways create pain and embarrassment for Justine.

Patrick, Justine’s boyfriend, is a manipulative man, set on controlling Justine’s life and that of her daughters. She left him with no indication where she was going, but she knew he would find her and come for her . . . and he does.

The characters in Lucy’s journal are equally complex in their relationships with one another. The two older daughters just emerging into their teens, Lilith and Lucy, are inseparable, while the younger child, Emily, is held close and pampered by their mother.

The parents are estranged: the father, a pharmacist in town, comes to the summer home on weekends with his religious bellowing; the mother expresses an overpowering attachment to Emily and a distance from her husband.  

Matthew and Abe Miller are the sons of the man who owns the lodge in the vacation area where tourists come and reside for short periods of time. The boys are mixed race, part white, part Indian, and while the lodge is accepted as a gathering point for the summer residents, the fathers watch the boys with a careful eye. These two characters travel back and forth between the journal, as young men, and Justine’s story as old men.

In Lucy’s journal, Young expresses the angst of young boys and girls as they are entering adulthood and the dances they do around one another with varying degrees of results. She is equally good at reflecting the anger of Justine’s two young daughters who have been ripped away from the small amount of stability they had in San Diego, as they are relocated to a cold, northern, unforgiving environment in Minnesota.

Both stories travel a parallel path of pain with the summer of 1935 heading toward a tragic end and the winter of the end of the 20th century heading on a collision course of battered relationships.

Young drops hints throughout Lucy’s chapters as to what really happened to Emily that summer and in two thrilling scenes packed with tension at the end, she pitches several situations only hinted at earlier, but activities that nonetheless prove vital to the final result. She cleverly draws these parallel stories together as Justine resolves issues and takes her place as the strong protagonist she is meant to be.

Five stars!  Fantastic read.

Home (Myron Bolitar #11) by Harlan Coben

Book Description:

Published: September 20, 2016

Format: Audio/Audible

Ten years after the high-profile kidnapping of two young boys, only one returns home.

A decade ago, kidnappers grabbed two boys from wealthy families and demanded ransom, then went silent. No trace of the boys ever surfaced. For ten years their families have been left with nothing but painful memories and a quiet desperation for the day that has finally, miraculously arrived: Myron Bolitar and his friend Win believe they have located one of the boys, now a teenager. Where has he been for ten years, and what does he know about the day, more than half a life ago, when he was taken? And most critically: What can he tell Myron and Win about the fate of his missing friend?

Harlan Coben delivers a thriller about friendship, family, and the meaning of home.

Review –

There is something very special about reuniting with a cast of characters you haven’t read about for some time. Myron Bolitar and Windsor Horne Lockwood III, (Win) are two of my favourite characters in all of fiction,(next to Harry Bosch) and we haven’t seen them (besides brief appearances in Coben’s YA Mickey Bolitar trilogy) since 2011’s Live Wire. That is a very long time to wait.

Home brings these characters back, alongside the classic cast: Esperanza; Big Cyndi, Myron’s parents. Heck, even the kids wh0 starred in Coben’s YA series play a vital role in proceedings, and it’s great to be reunited with Mickey, Ema and Spoon. Their presence adds a cool continuity to things. So, sure; this book is for the fans. The readers, like me, who clamour each and every year for a new Myron novel. But there’s plenty here for “non-Myron” fans to enjoy. If indeed there even are such people out there.

There’s a big mystery here, and there are surprising twists (unleashed rather late in proceedings, admittedly, but no less effectively than in other novels) but it’s the emotion of the characters that really lifts Home above the rank and file. The heart and soul of this novel are the twin families coping with the loss of a child, and the extremes parents go to in order to protect them.

Ultimately, it’s just great to be back with Myron and the gang. The novel’s ending is possibly conclusive – – with a real lump-in-the-throat moment –(with 28 minutes left tears formed in my eyes and at 19 minutes left they started to fall) – so who knows when we’ll see these characters again? In many respects, I wish I’d taken my time with the novel and truly savoured it. Instead, I smashed through it in almost one sitting. That’s the true evidence of Coben’s class: his books are so gripping, you can’t put them down or turn them off.

Five stars *****

 

The Ice Princess (Patrik Hedstrom #1) by Camilla Lackberg

Book Description:

Published: June 15, 2010

Format: Audio/Audible

Returning to her hometown of Fjallbacka after the funeral of her parents, writer Erica Falck finds a community on the brink of tragedy. The death of her childhood friend, Alex, is just the beginning. Her wrists slashed, her body frozen in an ice-cold bath, it seems that she has taken her own life.

Erica conceives a book about the beautiful but remote Alex, one that will answer questions about their own shared past. While her interest grows into an obsession, local detective Patrik Hedstrom is following his own suspicions about the case. But it is only when they start working together that the truth begins to emerge about a small town with a deeply disturbing past.

Review –

This is the second book from this author that I have listened to and I loved it. The first one was The Stonecutter, and I listened to it over a year ago and it was number three in the series. This was number one and we meet up with the main characters of Patrik Hedstrom and Erica Falck. He is a police detective and she is a writer and most of the action takes place in the small fishing village of Fjallbacka, Sweden.

Erica’s childhood friend, Alex, is found murdered in a bathtub with both wrists slit. Alex and her family moved away when she was around ten and she was never the same outgoing little girl. Soon after Alex’s murder, a  close friend of hers is found hanging in his home. Can these two murders connected?

There are many twists and turns in this foreign crime fiction  and we learn about the horrible things done to Alex as a child by someone who should have been a protector and why she and Anders were close.

The murderer is someone I never expected, which always makes a  book even better.

Right along with the murder investigation we see the chemistry between Patrik and Erica evolve into more. Although they knew each other in school, over twenty years ago, Erica had no idea the depth of feelings that brewed between them.

Great read and a great who-dun-it.  Looking forward to finding more in the series.

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You Will Know Me by Megan Abbott

Book Description:

Published: July 26, 2016

Format: Audio/OverDrive

Katie and Eric Knox have dedicated their lives to their fifteen-year-old daughter Devon, a gymnastics prodigy and Olympic hopeful. But when a violent death rocks their close-knit gymnastics community just weeks before an all-important competition, everything the Knoxes have worked so hard for feels suddenly at risk. As rumors swirl among the other parents, revealing hidden plots and allegiances, Katie tries frantically to hold her family together while also finding herself drawn, irresistibly, to the crime itself, and the dark corners it threatens to illuminate.

Review –

At first I didn’t know if I could into this book because it was about gymnasts , but it was sooo much more than that!

Megan Abbott’s novel You Will Know Me takes readers deep into the obsessive, highly structured world of young female gymnasts and the families who help push these athletes to victory. It’s a masterful tale that’s both suspenseful and an eerily accurate portrait of the way teenage and parental cliques operate.

The book’s central characters, Katie and Eric Knox, have overextended themselves emotionally and financially to support their fifteen-year-old daughter, Devon. Ever since Devon was three and began excelling at Tiny Tumblerz, gymnastics has been “the mighty spine of everything for them.” Even the arrival of Drew, Devon’s younger brother, didn’t displace her from the spotlight. Now, Devon is on the brink of possible Olympic greatness, under the expert tutelage of Coach Teddy, “the gymnast whisperer,” who presides over BelStars gym, which has become the Knoxes’ little corner of the universe. The gym’s “booster parties” constitute the extent of their social life; the other girls’ parents are their only friends. Or, “sort of” friends. Because Devon, after all, is the sun and the other girls merely her satellites.

One fateful night, however, that solar system threatens to collapse when a handsome young man named Ryan who works at BelStars is found dead, a victim of an apparent hit-and-run. Perhaps, some suggest, Ryan should have known better. It wasn’t smart to walk alone on a dark country road; it also wasn’t smart to be the lone young man amid a crowd of adolescent female gymnasts, whose natural sexual desires could be sublimated for only so long into soaring vaults and sweaty floor exercises.

This is where the book turns into a “who-dun-it” because the author leads you to believe that several people could have killed Ryan. But why? Each person has their reasons and although I went back and forth on who the killer was, I was pleasantly surprised and ending OMG!!!!!!

To find out who killer Ryan and why you’ll have to read or listen to the book. I highly recommend it.

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Wilde Lake by Laura Lippman

Book Description:

Published: May 3, 2016

Format: Audio/OverDrive

Luisa “Lu” Brant is the newly elected—and first female—state’s attorney of Howard County, Maryland, a job in which her widower father famously served. Fiercely intelligent and ambitious, she sees an opportunity to make her name by trying a mentally disturbed drifter accused of beating a woman to death in her home. It’s not the kind of case that makes headlines, but peaceful Howard county doesn’t see many homicides.

As Lu prepares for the trial, the case dredges up painful memories, reminding her small but tight-knit family of the night when her brother, AJ, saved his best friend at the cost of another man’s life. Only eighteen, AJ was cleared by a grand jury. Now, Lu wonders if the events of 1980 happened as she remembers them. What details might have been withheld from her when she was a child?

The more she learns about the case, the more questions arise. What does it mean to be a man or woman of one’s times? Why do we ask our heroes of the past to conform to the present’s standards? Is that fair? Is it right? Propelled into the past, she discovers that the legal system, the bedrock of her entire life, does not have all the answers. Lu realizes that even if she could learn the whole truth, she probably wouldn’t want to.

Review –

“What begins as a tale of lost innocence in the summer of 1980 becomes, woven with alternating chapters set in the present, an unsettling study of the moral compromises people make to keep their lies hidden. As the events of her childhood insinuate themselves into her current life, Lu begins to question essential truths about her beginnings: Who is her father beneath his comforting words and mysterious behavior? Who was her mother before she died in childbirth? What really happened with her brother on that fateful graduation day? (Free to attend Yale, AJ got rich with the Lehman Brothers, left to take up with a yoga instructor, and now is an “Eat, Pray, Love”-type guru and MacArthur fellow.)

Lu, who moved into her father’s house with her two daughters following her husband’s death, is no angel herself. She regularly meets with one of AJ’s old friends for bruising motel room sex. As assertive and irreverent as she is (“Have you ever noticed only another competitive person will ever call you competitive?”), she didn’t get to become state’s attorney without making political — and personal — compromises.

Ultimately, “Wilde Lake” is not so much a crime novel that rises to the level of serious literature as serious literature that rises to the level of great crime fiction. ” taken from the Chicago Tribune.

This book was so much more than I had expected and I recommend it to anyone that likes a heart-breaking mystery.

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The Hangman (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache #6.5) by Louise Penny

Book Description:

Published: 2010

Louise Penny wrote:

l’ve been meaning to mention THE HANGMAN for a while. Some of you wonder if it’s part of the Gamache books. A very good question. In fact, I wrote THE HANGMAN a couple of years ago as part of GoodReads Canada – an initiative for adult emerging readers. The idea is to give adults who are improving their literacy skills adult books to read – so they don’t have to read children’s books. It’s a wonderful idea – one that started, I believe, in the UK and has since spread. THE HANGMAN is in fact a novella – written intentionally at a grade 3 level…simple words and sentences, but adult themes. It’s set in Three Pines and is a mystery featuring Gamache. But, it doesn’t really fit into the actual arc of the characters….sort of a ‘one off’. Hope I’m making sense. It’s also a fundraiser for literacy, and there are lots of wonderful writers contributing novellas to GoodReads and similar projects. It’s also good, I’ve since learned, for people learning English as second language – or after a stroke and needing to re-learn the language. So pleased to be a small part of this terrific initiative. I think your local bookstore can order a copy of THE HANGMAN, or other books in the literacy series, if you know someone who might like them.

On a cold November morning, a jogger runs through the woods in the peaceful Quebec village of Three Pines. On his run, he finds a dead man hanging from a tree.
The dead man was a guest at the local Inn and Spa. He might have been looking for peace and quiet, but something else found him. Something horrible.
Did the man take his own life? Or was he murdered? Chief Inspector Armand Gamache is called to the crime scene. As Gamache follows the trail of clues, he opens a door into the past. And he learns the true reason why the man came to Three Pines.

Review-

This is just a very short story involving a hanging man in the village of Three Pines and it is written on a third grade level (see above)

Even though it is short, it still has the same “who-dun-it” air that all of the Inspector Gamache has and I enjoyed it very much.

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Entwined With You (Crossfire #3) by Sylvia Day

Book Description:

Published: June 4, 2013

The worldwide phenomenon continues as Eva and Gideon face the demons of their pasts, and accept the consequences of their obsessive desires…

From the moment I first met Gideon Cross, I recognized something in him that I needed. Something I couldn’t resist. I saw the dangerous and damaged soul inside–so much like my own. I was drawn to it. I needed him as surely as I needed my heart to beat.

No one knows how much he risked for me. How much I’d been threatened, or just how dark and desperate the shadow of our pasts would become.

Entwined by our secrets, we tried to defy the odds. We made our own rules and surrendered completely to the exquisite power of possession…

Review –

OMG, Gideon killed Nathan, Eva’s evil step-brother who raped her multiple times, and someone is covering up his tracks.  Why, no one knows, but Gideon realizes that nothing comes free.

Eva meets up with a former rock-star-wanna-be who is also a former lover from years past and now he is a famous rock-star and has written a song about Eva and Gideon sees her kissing Brett and all hell breaks loose and Gideon beats him  fiercely in front of plenty of witnesses and then of course gives Eva the cold shoulder. So what does Eva do-she thinks she’s an awful person and doesn’t deserve to walk in Gideon’s shadow(she really doesn’t think that-but almost). Nothing is ever his fault-she is always the one to blame.

We find out more about his abuse as a child and who lied about it and why. We also learn that his former fiancée, Corrine, is hounding him because she realizes that he really is interested in another woman, Eva. This causes a lot of trouble between Eva and Gideon because of her jealousy.

Cary is 1) beaten to a pulp by Nathan, 2) trying to makes relationships work with Trey and Tatianna AT THE SAME TIME  and 3) surprised and scared  when he finds out that Tatianna is pregnant.  Poor Cary.

Gideon convinces Eva to marry him secretly and then has to rush to the hospital where Corrine is rushed after swallowing a bottle of pills and loses a baby.

With all this turmoil you would expect the book to end on a sad or ominous note, but it ends on a particularly high note, so that tells you that BAD THINGS are coming.

Starting the last of the series tomorrow.  Can’t wait.

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