The Killer Next Door by Alex Marwood

Book Description:

Published: June 19, 2014

Format: Audio/OverDrive

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

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

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

Review –

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

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

 

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

Book Description:

Published: September 2, 2014

Format: Audio/OverDrive

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

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

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

Review –

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

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

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

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

This was another great read in a great series.

 

 

 

The Thirst (Harry Hole #11) by Jo Nesbo

Book Description:

Published: May 9, 2017

Format: Audio/OverDrive

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

Review –

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Breakdown by B.A. Paris

Book Description:

Published: July 18, 2017

Format: Audio/OverDrive

Cass is having a hard time since the night she saw the car in the woods, on the winding rural road, in the middle of a downpour, with the woman sitting inside—the woman who was killed. She’s been trying to put the crime out of her mind; what could she have done, really? It’s a dangerous road to be on in the middle of a storm. Her husband would be furious if he knew she’d broken her promise not to take that shortcut home. And she probably would only have been hurt herself if she’d stopped.

But since then, she’s been forgetting every little thing: where she left the car, if she took her pills, the alarm code, why she ordered a pram when she doesn’t have a baby.

The only thing she can’t forget is that woman, the woman she might have saved, and the terrible nagging guilt.

Or the silent calls she’s receiving, or the feeling that someone’s watching her…

Review –

Sometimes the way we THINK we will behave when something happens is NOT the way we do behave when that same thing happens. Cass never thought she would be the sort of person to leave someone marooned in their hour of need – not least a lone female in a dark wood, late at night – but when she passes a stranded car on her way home she doesn’t stop, get out, and go to offer help. She hurries on home, forgets about it, and crawls into bed.

This is not the only breakdown of the story, though. The next morning, Cass awakes to the horrifying news that a woman has been found dead in a car in a wood. Not just a car and a wood, in fact, but that same car in that same wood. The one she ignored. She just can’t shake from her head the knowledge that she was there, and maybe she could have helped and maybe if she had, the woman wouldn’t be dead and she wouldn’t be slowly losing her mind thinking about it.

This is a brilliant psychological thriller about regrets and a past that cannot be changed. All the elements are carefully crafted, right down to Cass’s job as a teacher, meaning she has six long weeks to lounge around the house, going over and over the murder in her mind. It is hard not to empathize with Cass when things start to happen. First, there are the phone calls which haunt her during the day, silent callers who don’t utter a word but just breathe ominously down the phone. Then there’s the other stuff. As if the death wasn’t enough to worry her mind with, her mind itself is becoming the worry as she forgets appointments, cannot remember where she’s put things, can’t find her car in a parking garage, fails to remember invitations she has made, and just can’t remember proposals she agreed to, such as what to get someone for a birthday present on behalf of the whole gang. When her mental health starts to waver, Cass doesn’t know who or what she can trust, including herself.

The story moves swiftly and although there are jolts in your mind that something’s a little off, and although any regular thriller readers will pick on certain characters, convinced they must be involved in a butler-did-it kind of way, the unravelling is wild and absorbing, and the ending hugely satisfying much like in the author’s previous hit  Behind Closed Doors.

This one will keep you guessing from the first page to the last !

 

 

 

My Husband’s Wife by Jane Corry

Book Description:

Published: January 31, 2017

Format: Audio/OverDrive

When young lawyer Lily marries Ed, she’s determined to make a fresh start. To leave the secrets of the past behind. But then she takes on her first murder case and meets Joe. A convicted murderer whom Lily is strangely drawn to. For whom she will soon be willing to risk almost anything.

But Lily is not the only one with secrets. Her next-door neighbor Carla may be only nine, but she has already learned that secrets are powerful things. That they can get her whatever she wants.

When Lily finds Carla on her doorstep sixteen years later, a chain of events is set in motion that can end only one way.

Review –

Newlywed London lawyer Lily Macdonald’s best intentions land her in some of the worst predicaments in British author, Jane Corry’s U.S. debut, in which almost no one proves totally trustworthy.

For instance, Lily’s generous impulse to befriend nine-year-old neighbor Carla Cavoletti, a bullied Italian immigrant with whose vulnerability she identifies, will eventually change the course of the lives of Lily and her artist husband, Ed, unfortunately not for the better. In the same way, Lily’s drive to champion clients she views as underdogs, which stems in part from experiences with her autistic brother, blinds her to the fact that some are dangerously manipulative liars who actually belong behind bars. But well-meaning as Lily is, readers will discover she isn’t above hiding some rather unsavory secrets of her own. As twisty as little Carla’s glossy curls, which inspire Ed’s best work, this swiftly moving psychological thriller offers surprises right up to the finish.

Great read!

Worth Killing For (D I Fenchurch #2) by Ed James

Book Description:

Published: October 11, 2016

Format: Audio

On a busy London street, a young woman is attacked in broad daylight and left bleeding to death on the pavement. Among the eyewitnesses are DI Simon Fenchurch and his wife.

Fenchurch pursues the attacker through a warren of backstreets and eventually arrests a young hoodie with a cache of stolen phones – an ‘Apple picker’ on the make. The case should be closed but something feels off … Was this really just about a smartphone? Why did the victim look nervous before she was targeted? And why don’t the prints on the murder weapon match the young man in custody?

Before Fenchurch can probe further, his superiors remove him from the case, convinced he has let the real culprit run free. But Fenchurch is determined to get to the truth and, before long, uncovers a conspiracy that reaches high above the street gangs of London.

Review –

This book picks up a few months after the Hope That Kills, and Fenchurch’s life has changed in many ways- he is back with Abi, his formerly estranged wife, he has set aside his ongoing search for Chloe, his missing daughter, and all is great. Until. The moment that will define the weeks to come. He witnesses a young girl murdered right in from of him.

As both a witness/victim and officer, Fenchurch is given a lot more leeway in the investigation, that we would believe would be allowed in modern policing. His dedication and willingness to set aside his own assumptions, allow the case to progress until he is taken off the case. Once the case stalls, he knows he has to get back in the game and find the solution.

 This is another page turner from author, Ed James. Fenchurch and his team are very likable, and this is a mystery locked inside another one, inside another. As the layers peel away, James gives a surprise ending, that many readers may not see coming!

Don’t miss this one!

Persons Unknown (DS Manon #2) by Susie Steiner

Book Description:

Published: July 4, 2017

Format: Audio/OverDrive

Manon has settled back into life in Cambridgeshire with her adopted son, Fly. She’s perfectly happy working on cold cases until a man is stabbed to death just yards from the police station, and both the victim and the prime suspect turn out to be much closer to home than she would like. How well does Manon know her loved ones, and are they capable of murder?

Review – 

When we last saw Manon, she had adopted Fly, an orphan closely related to her last case, Missing, Presumed, and they were moving in with Manon’s sister, Ellie, and her toddler, Solomon, in London.

A year or two has passed, and the unlikely family unit has moved back to the familiar world of Cambridgeshire, where Manon is stuck working cold cases—and she’s five months pregnant, having decided to give up the wait for “Mr. Right” and take matters into her own hands.

She’s concerned about Fly, now one of the only black kids in the neighborhood, and the fact that he’s 12 going on 20. When a wealthy London banker is found stabbed in nearby Hinchingbrooke Park, Davy and Harriet, Manon’s friends and co-workers, quickly discover that he’s Ellie’s ex-boyfriend—and Solomon’s father. But before they can fully investigate this connection, their Chief Superintendent shuts them down and strongly suggests, instead, that they arrest Fly, who’s been caught on camera walking through the park at the time of the murder.

As in her previous novel, the author does not shy away from exploring the racist aspects of the justice system; this only works because she has crafted such complex and believable characters. There is no doubt that Manon is barely making it from day-to-day, but her heart is always in the right place, and for all her awkwardness, she once again proves to be a great cop—and a fierce mother.

A second adventure that strikes all the right notes—layered mystery, incisive cultural context, and a delightful protagonist who deserves a place alongside other beloved literary detectives.

I truly love this series and can’t wait for the third installment, and hopefully it will be out soon. Hint, hint… write faster, Susie Steiner!

 

Beartown ( Bjornstad #1) by Fredrik Backman

Book Description:

Published: April 25, 2017

Format: Audio/OverDrive

People say Beartown is finished. A tiny community nestled deep in the forest, it is slowly losing ground to the ever encroaching trees. But down by the lake stands an old ice rink, built generations ago by the working men who founded this town. And in that ice rink is the reason people in Beartown believe tomorrow will be better than today. Their junior ice hockey team is about to compete in the national semi-finals, and they actually have a shot at winning. All the hopes and dreams of this place now rest on the shoulders of a handful of teenage boys.

Being responsible for the hopes of an entire town is a heavy burden, and the semi-final match is the catalyst for a violent act that will leave a young girl traumatized and a town in turmoil. Accusations are made and, like ripples on a pond, they travel through all of Beartown, leaving no resident unaffected.

Beartown explores the hopes that bring a small community together, the secrets that tear it apart, and the courage it takes for an individual to go against the grain. In this story of a small forest town, Fredrik Backman has found the entire world.

Review –

This novel concerns a Swedish youth league hockey team and its  place in a declining town. “Hockey is just a silly little game,” he writes. “We burn and bleed and cry, fully aware that the most the sport can give us, in the very best scenario, is incomprehensibly meager and worthless: just a few isolated moments of transcendence. …But what the hell else is life made of?”

Beartown quickly turns dark as the author exposes the one-track hearts and minds of some of Beartown’s residents. The isolated community in the novel is in Sweden, but “Beartown” is a universal story of homophobia, sexism and politics that could take place anywhere.

“Small towns need a head start if they’re going to have any chance in the world,” Backman writes, and, as readers soon learn, covering up a heinous crime is not up for debate if the town is going to make economic and social advances. It’s why Backman’s descriptions of screeching hockey parents who yell at coaches and other parents during games — we’ve all seen them — seem almost comical set against the ugly group mentality that takes over after a teen is raped and the Beartown Ice Hockey Club’s star player is accused of the crime.

Current fiction may have no more courageous young female character than Maya, who faces hate and threats after she comes forward about the rape. Backman writes a gritty, heart-stopping account of the sexual assault after which the novel then pivots into even more ominous territory as the town turns on her and her family.

Beartown is not just about a sexual assault; it’s also about Beartown families closing ranks and perpetuating falsehoods to protect themselves and the hockey team. It’s also about the all-encompassing culture of youth sports — the physical, mental and emotional commitment demanded of the players (not necessarily a bad thing) and the way that team sponsors, coaches and fans treat players like products rather than human beings.

So, although the book initially seems to be about the sport of hockey in a very small Swedish town, it is about sooo much more than that.

Five stars and I highly recommend it.

 

The Missing by Caroline Eriksson

Book Description:

Published: January 1, 2017

Format: Audio/Audible

An ordinary outing takes Greta, Alex, and four-year-old Smilla across Sweden’s mythical Lake Malice to a tiny, isolated island. While father and daughter tramp into the trees, Greta stays behind in the boat, lulled into a reverie by the misty, moody lake…only later to discover that the two haven’t returned. Her frantic search proves futile. They’ve disappeared without a trace.

Greta struggles to understand their eerie vanishing. She desperately needs to call Alex, to be reassured that Smilla is safe, or contact the police. But now her cell phone is missing too. Back at her cottage, she finds it hidden away under the bedsheets. Had she done that? Or had someone else been in the cottage? But who, and why? As Greta struggles to put the pieces together, she fears that her past has come back to torment her, or she’s finally lost her grip on reality…

In this dark psychological thrill ride—with more twists than a labyrinth and more breathless moments than a roller coaster—Greta must confront what she’s always kept hidden if she has any hope of untangling the truth.

Review –

Like a lot of thrillers, this book is told  POV (point of view) style from an unreliable narrator–in this case, Greta, a young Swedish woman. Greta is on vacation with her boyfriend, Alex, and his four-year-old daughter, Smilla, staying in a cabin in the woods. They decide to take a boat across the appropriately named Lake Malice to an island. Greta waits on the boat while Alex and Smilla explore the small forested space, but as it grows dark, she becomes concerned when they don’t return.

This is a very small island–not the sort of place a grown man and a child can hide. And no one else is coming or going. So where the hell did Alex and Smilla go?

I was pulled into the mystery immediately  but as the book unfolds I became absolutely addicted. It turns out Greta has a complicated past–she tells us her father disappeared, too. And Greta isn’t behaving like I’d expect someone to given the situation. She isn’t calling the police, but rather is searching herself while becoming increasingly untethered.

I can’t say more about this book without ruining it, but I will say that it offers some excellent “Not Sorry Not Sorry Female Rage”, as well as reflection on the relationships women have with their mothers. Trigger warnings need to be issued for depictions of domestic violence and animal abuse (the latter happens off screen).

The Missing is a dark, dark book, but a deeply satisfying one. 

 

Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough

Book Description:

Published: January 31, 2017

Format: Audio/OverDrive

Why is everyone talking about the ending of Sarah Pinborough’s Behind Her Eyes?

Louise is a single mom, a secretary, stuck in a modern-day rut. On a rare night out, she meets a man in a bar and sparks fly. Though he leaves after they kiss, she’s thrilled she finally connected with someone.

When Louise arrives at work on Monday, she meets her new boss, David. The man from the bar. The very married man from the bar…who says the kiss was a terrible mistake but who still can’t keep his eyes off Louise.

And then Louise bumps into Adele, who’s new to town and in need of a friend, but she also just happens to be married to David. David and Adele look like the picture-perfect husband and wife, but then why is David so controlling, and why is Adele so scared of him?

As Louise is drawn into David and Adele’s orbit, she uncovers more puzzling questions than answers. The only thing that is crystal clear is that something in this marriage is very, very wrong, but Louise can’t guess how wrong―and how far a person might go to protect their marriage’s secrets.

Review –

FIVE STARS !!!!!!

Just finished listening to this book and my heart is pounding so hard I feel like it’s going to come through my chest.

The author’s story is told from two perspectives, neither of which we are sure is reliable. There’s Adele, the beautiful, fragile wife of psychiatrist David. She loves her husband – “I will never fall out of love with him. I won’t give that up. I can’t” – and hopes their fresh start in London will mend both the cracks in their marriage and a past about which we get only hints. Then there’s Louise, a single mother who only discovers that the man she meets and kisses in a bar, David, is going to be her new boss when he’s given a tour of her workplace, along with his wife.

Louise is easier to warm to: friendly, kind, hideously embarrassed by her actions but still drawn to David. But she has her own secrets – what are the origins of the night terrors that send her wandering through her home? And why is she getting to know both David and Adele without explaining what she’s doing to both parties? “I don’t want it to stop. That’s the honest, unpleasant truth. I want to have my cake and eat it.” She’s not as straightforward as she seems.

Adele, meanwhile, is more intriguing with every chapter, as her past is slowly revealed, and glimpses of the truth at the heart of her marriage are given (at one point, David is described, brilliantly, as “a walking Agatha fucking Christie plot”). “The past is as ephemeral as the future – it’s all perspective and smoke and mirrors. You can’t pin it down, can you?… The truth is different to different people,” muses Adele.

“Questions, questions, questions,” ponders Louise. “It seems that ever since David and Adele came into my life I’ve been filled with questions. They’re like weeds in water. Every time I think I can swim away another one tangles around my legs to drag me back down.”

When the first of the author’s  twists is revealed, it is fantastically creepy, if not entirely unexpected. The second twist turns the creepy factor up to eleven and is a total wrong.. #WTFthatending indeed – the sort that makes you go back to the beginning to check if it all pans out. And it does.

FANTASTIC!!!!!!!!

You HAVE to put this book on your TBR list.