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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A Simple Favor by Darcy Bell

Book Description:

Published: March 21, 2017

Format: Audio/OverDrive

She’s your best friend.
She knows all your secrets.
That’s why she’s so dangerous.
A single mother’s life is turned upside down when her best friend vanishes in this chilling debut thriller in the vein of Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train.

It starts with a simple favor—an ordinary kindness mothers do for one another. When her best friend, Emily, asks Stephanie to pick up her son Nicky after school, she happily says yes. Nicky and her son, Miles, are classmates and best friends, and the five-year-olds love being together—just like she and Emily. A widow and stay-at-home mommy blogger living in woodsy suburban Connecticut, Stephanie was lonely until she met Emily, a sophisticated PR executive whose job in Manhattan demands so much of her time.

But Emily doesn’t come back. She doesn’t answer calls or return texts. Stephanie knows something is terribly wrong—Emily would never leave Nicky, no matter what the police say. Terrified, she reaches out to her blog readers for help. She also reaches out to Emily’s husband, the handsome, reticent Sean, offering emotional support. It’s the least she can do for her best friend. Then, she and Sean receive shocking news. Emily is dead. The nightmare of her disappearance is over.

Or is it? Because soon, Stephanie will begin to see that nothing—not friendship, love, or even an ordinary favor—is as simple as it seems.

A Simple Favor is a remarkable tale of psychological suspense—a clever and twisting free-fall of a ride filled with betrayals and reversals, twists and turns, secrets and revelations, love and loyalty, murder and revenge. Darcey Bell masterfully ratchets up the tension in a taut, unsettling, and completely absorbing story that holds you in its grip until the final page.

Review –

“The formula is familiar: The author’s debut is a pale facsimile of The Girl on the Train. True to template, the novel tells the same story from the differing and self-serving perspectives of three narrators. Stephanie is a blogger who writes about mom issues. Recently widowed and raising small son Miles alone, she overshares all manner of anxieties on her blog. Her husband and her half brother died together in a tragic auto crash, but later we learn the edgy part: her husband had suspicions about her ongoing affair with her half brother. Stephanie forms a play-date friendship with fellow Connecticut mom Emily, a busy publicist for a top Manhattan fashion designer. Certainly, Emily has an unusual fondness for serial-killer movies and Patricia Highsmith novels—and, thanks to her high-powered job, is always sticking Stephanie with the kids—but Stephanie thinks, and blogs, that she’s finally found a true friend. The two do share a common dysfunctional past: estrangement from Midwestern parents. After Emily disappears during a business trip, however, the POV shifts to her, and we learn that she and her Wall Street trader husband, Sean (who’s the third narrator), planned to fake her death in order to cash in on a $2 million life insurance policy so they and their son, Nicky, could escape the rat race. From here, the typical who’s-playing-whom standoff between the three principals unspools, and violence accelerates. There are plenty of rationalizations cited by Sean and Emily as to why their scam makes sense, in spite of the likelihood that $2 million is a drop in Sean’s annual bonus bucket, and, in any case, how much time away from the rat race would it really buy? This is just one of many unconvincing motivations driving the plot, which will amply satisfy readers’ lowest expectations.

More like “girl on a train wreck.”” Kirkus Reviews

This would make the perfect book to pack for vacation!

 

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!

Verity by Colleen Hoover

Book Description:

Published: December 7, 2018

Format: Audio/Audible

Lowen Ashleigh is a struggling writer on the brink of financial ruin when she accepts the job offer of a lifetime. Jeremy Crawford, husband of bestselling author Verity Crawford, has hired Lowen to complete the remaining books in a successful series his injured wife is unable to finish.

Lowen arrives at the Crawford home, ready to sort through years of Verity’s notes and outlines, hoping to find enough material to get her started. What Lowen doesn’t expect to uncover in the chaotic office is an unfinished autobiography Verity never intended for anyone to read. Page after page of bone-chilling admissions, including Verity’s recollection of what really happened the day her daughter died.

Lowen decides to keep the manuscript hidden from Jeremy, knowing its contents would devastate the already grieving father. But as Lowen’s feelings for Jeremy begin to intensify, she recognizes all the ways she could benefit if he were to read his wife’s words. After all, no matter how devoted Jeremy is to his injured wife, a truth this horrifying would make it impossible for him to continue to love her.

A standalone romantic thriller from #1 New York Times bestselling author Colleen Hoover.

Review –

It’s interesting (and amazing) when an author explores writing something that is completely different from what we are used to seeing from them.  And it also helps that I love reading thrillers as well.  Keep in mind if you are here for the romance, although there is one in this book, it’s definitely darker and grittier and I don’t think it’s really intended to be “romantic”.

There’s a deep, dark secret that Verity Crawford has been hiding.  She’s been in a serious accident and her publisher hired author Lowen Ashleigh to finish writing the three books left in Verity’s hugely popular series.  But when Lowen moves into the Crawford home to go through series notes she discovers some sinister secrets about Verity and her family life.  And she can’t help but feel an undeniable attraction to Verity’s husband, Jeremy.

The great thing about this is that the whole book seemed pretty straight forward.  I mean, awful in some parts, but straight forward.  It had some creepy, nail biting moments but I didn’t feel the need to solve the mystery at any point.  I thought I had it figured out.  I should’ve known better and kept my mind engaged in gathering clues if there were any. I have to give the author credit for making me so wrapped up in the story that first off, I didn’t want to stop listening and second, I just experienced it as it came. The shocker will come at the very end of the story and yes, I didn’t see it coming, (love when that happens)  Also, I think that’s the morally grey point of the book.  Where you question the characters actions and think back on the what’s right and what’s wrong.  There is an HEA but it may feel like a questionable one for people that fall on one side of that moral spectrum than others.

Nevertheless, Verity was a thrilling and exciting ride.  It’s dark and horrific at times but I couldn’t not continue listening.  I really hope that Ms. Hoover writes more in this genre because I’m definitely here for that side of her.

Five HUGE stars!

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.

 

The Dark Water Bride by Marty Ross

Book Description:

Published: September 29, 2018

Format: Audio/Audible

Late Victorian London. When the most respectable of Scottish businessmen is pulled, dead, from the Thames, his daughter is drawn into an investigation which reveals a whole world of secrets and corruption and leads all the way to the tragic truth behind the ghostly legend of The Dark Water Bride.

An epic drama combining the genres of the Victorian mystery thriller with the equally classic Victorian mode of the ghostly tale.

Review –

OMG! This a mesmerizing , gory, dark little tale and I was completely absorbed listening to it.

I love a bit of mystery, gothic horror, and bloodthirsty murder and The Dark Water Bride combines all three delightfully. The business man’s daughter is a great character, feisty, determined, headstrong and not your typical simpering Victorian woman. I loved her determination to know the truth regardless of the cost.

The story starts out with a business man found dead in the river Thames. His daughter is told it was a suicide but she couldn’t believe it so travels to London to find out what happened to her father. Some uncomfortable truths and a local legend are revealed as the plot unfolds.

The story is very creepy, exploring the underbelly of London and it’s a dark dirty underbelly at that. This isn’t something for someone who is sensitive to sex and violence, there is quite a lot of both in it. In fact, most of the criticism I’ve seen about Darkwater Bride is the amount of sex and violence. I find it strange that this is the primary complaint about a story that explores the seedy, dark sides of the world.

There is certainly plenty of violence and sex but there’s also a good amount of intrigue, fright and suspense. Even a bit of rommance! This may disturb you, may upset you and might frighten you. But isn’t that what good horror is all about?

Overall the performances were all very good and convincing. The legend of the Darkwater Bride is fully explained , so no worries you won’t be left hanging.

The true story of the ghostly bride was heartbreaking.

If you have an Audible subscription and love creepy stuff, download this one and start listening, you’ll love it. Consider signing up for a free trial, would be worth it just to listen to this one!

Five stars !!!!!

 

I Know Who You Are by Alice Feeney

Book Description:

Published: April 23, 2019

Format: Audio/OverDrive

l Know Who You Are is the brilliant tale of two stories. One is about Aimee Sinclair—well-known actress on the verge of being full-on famous. If you saw her, you’d think you knew her. One day towards the near-end of her shoot on her latest film, Aimee comes home from filming to find her husband’s cell phone and wallet on the dining room table. He never goes anywhere without them. But he’s nowhere to be found. She’s not too concerned—they had a huge fight the night before. They both said things they didn’t mean. He might have done things he didn’t mean, things she can’t forget. Even though she has a history of supposedly forgetting. After all, she’s a very good actress.

The next morning she goes for her morning run and then goes to her favorite coffee shop. But her card is denied. When she calls the bank they say her account has been emptied of $10,000. She immediately suspects her husband. But they say no, it was Aimee herself who closed out the account. And thus begins a bizarre rabbit hole into which Aimee finds herself falling where nothing is at it seems.

Alternating with Aimee’s story is that of a little girl who wandered away from home. We always tell our kids not to talk to strangers or bad things will happen. Well, bad things happen.

In I Know Who You Are, Alice Feeney proves that she is a master at brilliantly complicated plots and twists after twists.

Review –

Usually when a debut author writes a second book I don’t really expect it to be as good as the first, BUT, Alice Feeney has written a second book that, in my opinion, out shines the previous Sometimes I Lie.

Holy H*ll !!! Just finished I Know Who You Are and my head is spinning.

Aimee,(the unreliable narrator) an actress whose husband has disappeared after an argument. The police notice she’s not very upset about it. Is she being gaslighted? Does she drink too much? Is she a killer? Yes, to all three.

Aimee is a wounded and insecure soul, born Ciara to a poor family in Ireland. Her mother died in childbirth, and both Ciara and her alcoholic father blame her for killing her mother.

Five-year-old Ciara runs away and is kidnapped by a manipulative numbers-runner named Maggie, who renames her Aimee, after another child who died in unclear circumstances (unsolved mysteries abound in this book). Maggie proceeds to treat Ciara/Aimee with such depraved cruelty that she makes Cinderella’s stepmother look like Mother Teresa.

Two episodes, in particular, stand out: One involves a McDonald’s Happy Meal that will make the treat hard to choke down on your next trip to the drive-through, and another involves a pet hamster and a deep fryer. Need I say MORE?

Aimee survives life with Maggie and John, her predatory partner in crime, until a robbery attempt ends in a bloodbath. Fast forward twenty years, and Aimee is a rising actress, able to shape-shift her way through various roles – an opportunity for the author to weigh in on the familiar symbolism of the masks we wear each day.

The ending isn’t a just twist, it’s a triple axel and depending on how seriously you take things you will be appalled by the “yucky” or “eewww” factor. Myself, I read for my pleasure and enjoyment and I always enjoy a well written book, no matter the subject matter or ending.

Be aware that there may be triggers for some because included in the book child abuse, marital rape and incest.

I gave the book 4 3/4 stars because there were too many questions left unanswered and I won’t spoil the book by saying what they were.

 

The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton

Book Description:

Published: April 7, 2009

Format: Audio/Audible

A foundling, an old book of dark fairy tales, a secret garden, an aristocratic family, a love denied, and a mystery. The Forgotten Garden is a captivating, atmospheric and compulsively readable story of the past, secrets, family and memory from the international best-selling author Kate Morton.

Cassandra is lost, alone and grieving. Her much-loved grandmother, Nell, has just died and Cassandra, her life already shaken by a tragic accident ten years ago, feels like she has lost everything dear to her. But an unexpected and mysterious bequest from Nell turns Cassandra’s life upside down and ends up challenging everything she thought she knew about herself and her family.

Inheriting a book of dark and intriguing fairy tales written by Eliza Makepeace—the Victorian authoress who disappeared mysteriously in the early twentieth century—Cassandra takes her courage in both hands to follow in the footsteps of Nell on a quest to find out the truth about their history, their family and their past; little knowing that in the process, she will also discover a new life for herself.

Review –

If I had to pick just one thing that Kate  Morton does extremely well with her writing it would be how she brings the settings featured throughout the story to life. One can feel the warm, thick air in Australia, hear the busy, bustling streets of London, and see the magic that surrounds Cornwall, England. I have never laid my eyes on any of these locations, but I could picture them all so vividly with the way that Morton breathes life into her words.

Overall, The Forgotten Garden is a magical novel; it was as delightful as it was suspenseful. I truly did not want to put this book down because the author is so careful to feed her readers little spoonfuls of information—enough so as to keep one partially satisfied but still craving more. I just thoroughly enjoyed watching the many beautifully executed components of this book unfold. This is a must-read specifically for those who are a fan of the historical fiction genre. 

I rated this book Five Stars and it shines brightly as one of my favorites of the year so far!

The Dispatcher by John Scalzi

Book Description:

Published: October 4, 2016

Format: Audio/Audible

One day, not long from now, it becomes almost impossible to murder anyone – 999 times out of a thousand, anyone who is intentionally killed comes back. How? We don’t know. But it changes everything: war, crime, daily life.
Tony Valdez is a Dispatcher – a licensed, bonded professional whose job is to humanely dispatch those whose circumstances put them in death’s crosshairs, so they can have a second chance to avoid the reaper. But when a fellow Dispatcher and former friend is apparently kidnapped, Tony learns that there are some things that are worse than death and that some people are ready to do almost anything to avenge a supposed wrong.
It’s a race against time for Valdez to find his friend before it’s too late…before not even a Dispatcher can save him.

Review –

Five stars!

Wow, I didn’t know what to expect of this short listen (only two hours and eighteen minutes long) but it was fantastic. I loved the premise and more so the character of Tony, the Dispatcher. I wish the author would have made a series of this book, but alas, it is not.

If you enjoy sci-fi with a mystery story line thrown in, this is the book for you.

 

Not a Sound by Heather Gudenkauf

Book Description:

Published: May 30, 2017

Format: Audio/Audible

When a tragic accident leaves nurse Amelia Winn deaf, she spirals into a depression that ultimately causes her to lose everything that matters–her job, her husband, David, and her stepdaughter, Nora. Now, two years later and with the help of her hearing dog, Stitch, she is finally getting back on her feet. But when she discovers the body of a fellow nurse in the dense bush by the river, deep in the woods near her cabin, she is plunged into a disturbing mystery that could shatter the carefully reconstructed pieces of her life all over again.

As clues begin to surface, Amelia finds herself swept into an investigation that hits all too close to home. But how much is she willing to risk in order to uncover the truth and bring a killer to justice?

Review –

“After losing her hearing in a freak hit-and-run accident that also killed a woman, Amelia has struggled with alcoholism and unemployment and is finally striving to get her life together. She finds peace on the water, kayaking or paddleboarding with her service dog, Stitch, another survivor and misfit, until the day she discovers a body left in a shallow channel. Shocked not only by her discovery, but also by the realization that she used to be friends with the victim, Gwen, Amelia also worries that the publicity surrounding her 911 call might lead the killer right to her doorstep. In the meantime, she takes a job doing clerical work for a doctor friend of her estranged husband, himself a doctor, and she begins to wonder if Gwen may have been silenced because of a secret she discovered about something or someone in the medical community. Someone clearly has his or her eye on Amelia and is working to discredit her with both boss and husband, so she must be close to finding out the truth. Gudenkauf has created a memorable character in Amelia. Self-deprecating and sometimes angry, her candid voice is a breath of fresh air and an antidote to traditional thriller heroines. In addition, she is self-reliant and strong. The plot contains some clever twists, and the final showdown crackles with tension. It’s hard not to root for Amelia and Stitch; flawed as they are, they’re tough, engaging fighters.

Come for the mystery; stay for the taut suspense, the unique heroine—and of course, the ugly, loyal dog.” Kirkus Review

Having been born with a profound unilateral hearing loss the author gives us a special look into the life of a very unique character.

Great read!