The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena

Book Description:

Published: August 23, 2016

Format: Audio/OverDrive

It all started at a dinner party. . .

A domestic suspense debut about a young couple and their apparently friendly neighbors–a twisty, rollercoaster ride of lies, betrayal, and the secrets between husbands and wives. . .

Anne and Marco Conti seem to have it all–a loving relationship, a wonderful home, and their beautiful baby, Cora. But one night when they are at a dinner party next door, a terrible crime is committed. Suspicion immediately focuses on the parents. But the truth is a much more complicated story.

Inside the curtained house, an unsettling account of what actually happened unfolds. Detective Rasbach knows that the panicked couple is hiding something. Both Anne and Marco soon discover that the other is keeping secrets, secrets they’ve kept for years.

What follows is the nerve-racking unraveling of a family–a chilling tale of deception, duplicity, and unfaithfulness that will keep you breathless until the final shocking twist.

Review –

Holy Smokes! What a roller coaster ride!

The Couple Next Door had me gripped right from the very beginning. It essentially follows the disappearance of Marco and Anne’s baby daughter Cora, who is taken from her bed one night while the couple attend a dinner party next door. The couple are racked with guilt, and as the investigation continues, more and more secrets and betrayals are revealed…

The narrative is told in the third-person and follows the experiences of Anne, Marco, Detective Rasbach and Jennings, the couple’s next door neighbour Cynthia, and Anne’s parents Richard and Alice. The narrative provides an in-depth and detailed analysis of all of the characters, as they attempt to piece together the puzzle that is Cora’s disappearance.

Anne and Marco are the central protagonists. Anne, suffering with Postpartum (or Postnatal) depression after the birth of her daughter Cora, is racked with guilt and anxiety after her disappearance. She struggles to cope emotionally, and seeks comfort from her parents and husband. Her motherly instincts take over, and she will ultimately do anything to save her daughter. But of course, she has a few secrets lurking in her own past.

Marco is strong and determined, and puts on a brave face to support his wife. But deep down he is really struggling to come to terms with what has happened, and Cora’s disappearance challenges everything he thought he knew. I flitted between hating Marco and feeling sympathy for him, and if you read the book you’ll discover why. He makes some major mistakes, and must pay the price for them. Marco is a much more complex character than he first appears to be.

The other minor characters are all excellently portrayed. Rasbach and Jennings attempt to solve the case as efficiently as they can, but when lots of new clues and curveballs are thrown in, the investigation becomes difficult. Anne’s parents Richard and Alice are incredibly rich, and it seems they will do anything to get their grandchild back. And the neighbors Cynthia and Graham are much more complex than they first appear to be.

As the narrative goes on, more and more mysteries and secrets are revealed. This is a novel where you think you know where the story is going – but then the author throws in a clever curveball, and all expectations are reversed. There is an excellent attention to detail in this highly-complex narrative – it’s a “blink-and-you’ll-miss-it” kind of narrative. It does require lots of concentration and attention from the reader, but is definitely worth it in my opinion.

So, let’s talk about the ending. I have to say that I was pretty disappointed with the final ending, and to me that majorly let the book down. I was pleased with what I thought was the final revelation, as it gave a sense of hope for the future of the characters. But then a new element in thrown into the story, and to me it just seemed unnecessary and too exaggerated to be deemed as realistic and for me, ruined the whole story. One minute there was a happy ending and the next there was anything but.

Overall, I highly recommend this novel to those of you who like domestic thrillers, particularly if you enjoy reading complex, multi-layered plots. It has excellently-constructed characters, plenty of mystery and suspense, and killer twists. The ending did really disappoint me, but don’t let that put you off – you might enjoy it! A great read.

 

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The Last Thing She Ever Did by Gregg Olsen

Book Description:

Published: January 1, 2018

Format: Audio/OverDrive

The community along Oregon’s Deschutes River is one of successful careers and perfect families. For years, up-and-comers Liz and Owen have admired their good friends and neighbors, Carole and David. They appear to have it all–security, happiness, and a beautiful young son, Charlie.

Then Charlie vanishes without a trace, and all that seemed safe is shattered by a tragedy that is incomprehensible–except to Liz.

It took one fleeting moment for her to change the lives of everyone she loves–a heartrending accident that can’t be undone. Neither can the second-worst mistake of her life: concealing it. As two marriages crack and buckle in grief and fear, Liz retreats into her own dark place of guilt, escalating paranoia–and betrayals even she can’t imagine. Because there’s another good neighbor who has his own secrets, his own pain, and his own reasons for watching Liz’s every move.

And only he knows that the mystery of the missing boy on the Deschutes River is far from over.

Review –

This novel is crazy! I mean crazy in a good way.  

 I will warn you that there are some uncomfortable scenes in this book, so if you don’t like gritty suspense novels, you might want to pass on this one.  

Charlie, a young boy, is out of his mother’s sight for several minutes and vanishes.  A neighbour and close friend to his mother knows what happens but coming forward will ruin their lives.  Other than Charlie, all the characters were pretty much selfish jerks.  Yet, I couldn’t wait to see where the story would go ands mesmerised listening to the chapters go by.  There was a twist to the ending, I for once didn’t expect and while I am not sure if I liked the ending it was interesting.  This novel had be glued till the end and that’s what I love!

I highly  recommend this one to any suspense fans.

The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager

Book Description:

Published: July 3, 2018

Format: Audio/OverDrive

Two Truths and a Lie. The girls played it all the time in their tiny cabin at Camp Nightingale. Vivian, Natalie, Allison, and first-time camper Emma Davis, the youngest of the group. The games ended when Emma sleepily watched the others sneak out of the cabin in the dead of night. The last she–or anyone–saw of them was Vivian closing the cabin door behind her, hushing Emma with a finger pressed to her lips.

Now a rising star in the New York art scene, Emma turns her past into paintings–massive canvases filled with dark leaves and gnarled branches that cover ghostly shapes in white dresses. The paintings catch the attention of Francesca Harris-White, the socialite and wealthy owner of Camp Nightingale. When Francesca implores her to return to the newly reopened camp as a painting instructor, Emma sees an opportunity to try to find out what really happened to her friends.

Yet it’s immediately clear that all is not right at Camp Nightingale. Already haunted by memories from fifteen years ago, Emma discovers a security camera pointed directly at her cabin, mounting mistrust from Francesca and, most disturbing of all, cryptic clues Vivian left behind about the camp’s twisted origins. As she digs deeper, Emma finds herself sorting through lies from the past while facing threats from both man and nature in the present.

And the closer she gets to the truth about Camp Nightingale, the more she realizes it may come at a deadly price.

Review –

I absolutely loved this book!

Anyone who grew up watching horror movies in the 1980s knows that summer camp can be a dangerous place.

It certainly was for Emma Davis during her first stay at Camp Nightingale. The other three girls in her cabin disappeared one night, never to return. Fifteen years have passed, years in which Emma has revisited this ordeal again and again through her work as a painter. When she’s offered another opportunity to spend a summer at the camp, Emma barely hesitates. She’s ostensibly there to serve as an art instructor, but her real mission is to finally find out what happened to her friends.

Thrillers are, by their very nature, formulaic. The author met the demands of the genre while offering a fresh, anxiety-inducing story in Final Girls. The author is less successful here. Part of the problem is the pacing. It’s so slow that the reader has ample time to notice how contrived the novel’s setup is.

Emma is clearly unwell, so her decision to go back to the site of her trauma makes some sense, but it’s hard to believe that the camp’s owners would want her back, especially since she played a pivotal role in turning one of them into a suspect and nearly ruining his life. As a first-person narrator, Emma withholds a lot of information, which feels fake and frustrating; moreover, the revelations—when they come—are hardly worth the wait. And it’s hard to trust an author who gets so many details wrong. For example, Emma’s first summer at Camp Nightingale would have been around 2003 or so. It beggars belief that a 13-year-old millennial wouldn’t be amply prepared for her first period, but that’s what Sager wants readers to think. There’s a contemporary scene in which girls walk by in a cloud of baby powder, Noxzema, and strawberry-scented shampoo, imagery that is intensely evocative of the 1970s and ’80s—not so much 2018. The novel is shot through with such discordant moments, moments that lift us right out of the narrative and shatter the suspense.

But, with that being said, I loved the book and count Riley Sager as one of my new favorite writers.

Closer Than You Think (Romantic Suspense #16, Cincinnati #1) by Karen Rose

Book Description:

Published: November 6, 2014

Format: Audio/Audible

Deacon Novak has returned home. The experienced FBI Agent knows that his move to Cincinnati’s Major Crime Enforcement Squad will be challenging, but the greater challenge will be saving his younger brother before he becomes the kind of criminal Deacon is chasing. Faith Corcoran has escaped her identity. Being a therapist to victims of sex crimes was rewarding, but her work with their offenders has jeopardized her life. Her move represents a chance to build a new life in the empty old house her grandmother has left her. What Faith doesn’t know is that a killer has made the house his playground, taking girls into the basement and murdering them. And now Faith is about disturb his fun. With a murderer focused on her, Faith is going to have to put her trust in Deacon if she’s going to survive. Because this killer is always closer than she thinks…The first in a brand new series and Karen Rose at her tense, tantalising and thrilling best.

Review –

“Coming home to her family mansion in Cincinnati, Faith Corcoran hopes to escape a stalker, but the move puts her in even greater danger. Digging for answers with a sexy FBI agent brings unexpected love—if they can survive.

After a year of being stalked by an ex-con, psychologist Faith leaves Florida behind for a new start in her long-abandoned family home, which she inherited from her grandmother. Except that once she gets into town, she nearly runs over a young woman escaping from the boarded-up building, where it soon becomes clear that a serial killer has taken up residence. As body after body is uncovered in the basement, suspicion falls on Faith’s fractured family—including a couple of cousins and two estranged twin uncles. When the FBI is called in to support local law enforcement, Faith is drawn to Deacon Novak, an agent assigned to her case. Soon it becomes clear that someone is determined to kill her, and it’s probably not the previous stalker. In fact, the stalker may have been a convenient cover for someone else’s murderous intentions. Deacon and Faith begin to search for clues in Faith’s past and those of her grandparents and their two sons and two daughters, who have a mysterious history of wealth, secrets and betrayal. Yet as they work through years of lies and misunderstandings, and more bodies show up in other locations, the killer is tightening his net, and it includes Deacon, since it’s obvious that his relationship to Faith has become personal. Rose has written an intricately plotted mystery with enough suspects to keep us guessing and a chilling but believable killer who hides in plain sight.” Kirkus Review

Couldn’t have said it better myself. Fantastic read!  Five stars!!!!!

 

The Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware

Book Description:

Published: May 29, 2018

Format: Audio/Audible

On a day that begins like any other, Hal receives a mysterious letter bequeathing her a substantial inheritance. She realizes very quickly that the letter was sent to the wrong person—but also that the cold-reading skills she’s honed as a tarot card reader might help her claim the money.

Soon, Hal finds herself at the funeral of the deceased…where it dawns on her that there is something very, very wrong about this strange situation and the inheritance at the centre of it.

Review –

In the author’s fourth novel in as many years, Harriet “Hal” Westaway is barely making ends meet as a tarot reader on the Brighton Pier.

Her mother died in a hit-and-run several years before, and in her grief, Hal has drifted into a solitary and poverty-stricken life. Worse still, she’s under threat from a loan shark who’s come to collect the interest on an earlier debt. So when she receives a letter saying she’s been named in the will of, possibly, an unknown grandmother, she decides to travel to Cornwall, despite fearing that it’s probably all a mistake.

There she meets several possible uncles and a creepy old housekeeper right out of a Daphne du Maurier novel, all against the backdrop of a run-down mansion. As Hal desperately tries to keep up her charade of belonging to the family, she realizes that the malevolent atmosphere of Trepassen House has strong roots in the past, when a young girl came to live there, fell in love, and was imprisoned in her bedroom. Hal just has to figure out exactly who this girl was…without getting herself killed.

The author continues to refine her gift for the slow unspooling of unease and mystery, developing a consistent sense of threat that’s pervasive and gripping. She uses tarot readings to hint at the supernatural, but at its heart, this is a very human mystery. The isolation of Trepassen House, its parliament of magpies, and its severely creepy housekeeper cultivate a dull sense of horror. Ware’s novels continue to evoke comparison to Agatha Christie; they certainly have that classic flavor despite the contemporary settings.

I rated this book 4 1/2 stars because it was slow to get started but the second half was on fire and I highly recommend it for any mystery/horror enthusiast.

 

Killman Creek (Stillhouse Lake #2) by Rachel Caine

Book Description:

Published: December 12, 2017

Format: Audio/Audible

Every time Gwen closed her eyes, she saw him in her nightmares. Now her eyes are open, and he’s not going away.

Gwen Proctor won the battle to save her kids from her ex-husband, serial killer Melvin Royal, and his league of psychotic accomplices. But the war isn’t over. Not since Melvin broke out of prison. Not since she received a chilling text…

You’re not safe anywhere now.

Her refuge at Stillhouse Lake has become a trap. Gwen leaves her children in the protective custody of a fortified, well-armed neighbor. Now, with the help of Sam Cade, brother of one of Melvin’s victims, Gwen is going hunting. She’s learned how from one of the sickest killers alive.

But what she’s up against is beyond anything she feared—a sophisticated and savage mind game calculated to destroy her. As trust beyond her small circle of friends begins to vanish, Gwen has only fury and vengeance to believe in as she closes in on her prey. And sure as the night, one of them will die.

Review –

Killman Creek is the second book in the Stillhouse Lake Series. You don’t have to read the first book if you do not want to, as much of what happened in that book is explained in this one, but I would recommend it. Gwen Proctor is back as the primary protagonist,, although Sam (a man working with her to stop her ex, Marvin, whose sister was murdered by Marvin) and Gwen’s two children, Lanny and Connor (formerly Lily and Brady), also have their own voices within the story.

I like the back and forth between perspectives even though sometime I found both of the children to be very annoying, which fits with the characters being teenagers.

Killman Creek was darker than its predecessor as Caine took us on the hunt to catch a brilliant and twisted killer. OMG! I was biting my nails and clenching my fists with some of these realistic, terrifying scenes.

Gwen’s story is over, but there will be a third book, Wolfhunter River. Rumors  indicate this  book will deal with one of the supporting characters.  I cannot wait to see who it will be.

The Good Neighbor by A. J. Banner

Book Description:

Published: September 1, 2015

Format: Audio

Shadow Cove, Washington, is the kind of town everyone dreams about—quaint streets, lush forests, good neighbors. That’s what Sarah thinks as she settles into life with her new husband, Dr. Johnny McDonald. But all too soon she discovers an undercurrent of deception. And one October evening when Johnny is away, sudden tragedy destroys Sarah’s happiness.

Dazed and stricken with grief, she and Johnny begin to rebuild their shattered lives. As she picks up the pieces of her broken home, Sarah discovers a shocking secret that forces her to doubt everything she thought was true—about her neighbors, her friends, and even her marriage. With each stunning revelation, Sarah must ask herself, Can we ever really know the ones we love?

Review –

Things I Liked:

I enjoyed all the suspense and mystery in this one and there are plenty of red herrings, twists and one final jaw dropping turn that will leave you shocked. 

I liked the quick pace of this novel and  I was never bored, and I appreciated that the pace never faltered. 

I enjoy a good psychological/ thriller but it isn’t dark and disturbing so if you are one who likes your thrillers without gore and horror, this is a good one.

Things I Didn’t Like:

I was a bit disappointed that it didn’t take time to explore certain things a bit further. For instance, I was wanting way more on the aftermath of the fire. I would have loved more description and discussion on the investigation, the details on that aspect were a bit on the light side for my taste.

There are two story lines that the author takes time to develop only to purposely leave both hanging at the end, leaving me to wonder is there more story coming?

I liked the shocking conclusion and the big twist, but I have to admit, I thought it was a tiny bit unrealistic, but I guess that’s why it’s called fiction.

 

The Names of the Dead Girls (Canaan Crime #3) by Eric Rickstad

Book Description:

Published: September 12, 2017

Format: Audio/Audible

Every murder tells a story. Some stories never end . . .

In a remote northern Vermont town, college student Rachel Rath is being watched. She can feel the stranger’s eyes on her, relentless and possessive. And she’s sure the man watching her is the same man who killed her mother and father years ago: Ned Preacher, a serial rapist and murderer who gamed the system to get a light sentence. Now, he’s free.

Detective Frank Rath adopted Rachel, his niece, after the shocking murder of her parents when she was a baby. Ever since, Rath’s tried to protect her from the true story of her parents’ deaths. But now Preacher is calling Rath to torment him. He’s threatening Rachel and plotting cruelties for her, of the flesh and of the mind. When other girls are found brutally murdered, and a woman goes missing, Rath and Detective Sonja Test must untangle the threads that tie these new crimes and some long-ago nightmares together. Soon they will learn that the truth is more perverse than anyone could guess, rife with secrets, cruel desires, and warped, deadly loyalty.

Mesmerizing, startling, and intricately plotted, The Names of Dead Girls builds relentlessly on its spellbinding premise, luring readers into its dark and macabre mystery, right to its shocking end.

Review –

Frank Rath, a retired Vermont state police detective, is horrified to get a phone call from Ned Preacher, who raped his sister, Laura, and killed her and her husband, Daniel, sixteen years earlier. Preacher is now free, having pleaded guilty to lesser crimes and acted like a saint while in prison to reduce his sentence. Preacher is threatening to harm Laura and Daniel’s daughter, Rachel, whom Frank raised as his own after their deaths.

Meanwhile, Dana Clark, the only survivor of an attack by the Connecticut River Valley Killer, disappears, and another young woman turns up dead. Inspector Gerard Champine, a Canadian police detective, calls Rath because there are similar murder cases in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu. Rath leaves retirement to take charge of the investigation. the author throws in some wicked twists as Rath tries to make sense of the killings, but they’re not enough to make up for the weak detective work.

The story starts off promising, and certain scenes, especially when Rachel can feel eyes on her, are downright creepy. The twists and turns are, at times, predictable, and there’s a whole lot of buildup for an ending that feels simpler than readers might expect. That said, the plot is quick and the dialogue is tight, which makes the reading experience fun and entertaining.

This is  a great read and would be a good choice for any lover of the mystery-suspense genre.

 

Her Every Fear by Peter Swanson

Book Description:

Published: January 10, 2017

Format: Audio/OverDrive

Growing up, Kate Priddy was always a bit neurotic, experiencing momentary bouts of anxiety that exploded into full-blown panic attacks after an ex-boyfriend kidnapped her and nearly ended her life. When Corbin Dell, a distant cousin in Boston, suggests the two temporarily swap apartments, Kate, an art student in London, agrees, hoping that time away in a new place will help her overcome the recent wreckage of her life.

Soon after her arrival at Corbin’s grand apartment on Beacon Hill, Kate makes a shocking discovery: his next-door neighbor, a young woman named Audrey Marshall, has been murdered. When the police question her about Corbin, a shaken Kate has few answers, and many questions of her own—curiosity that intensifies when she meets Alan Cherney, a handsome, quiet tenant who lives across the courtyard, in the apartment facing Audrey’s. Alan saw Corbin surreptitiously come and go from Audrey’s place, yet he’s denied knowing her. Then, Kate runs into a tearful man claiming to be the dead woman’s old boyfriend, who insists Corbin did the deed the night that he left for London.

When she reaches out to her cousin, he proclaims his innocence and calms her nerves–until she comes across disturbing objects hidden in the apartment and accidentally learns that Corbin is not where he says he is. Could Corbin be a killer? What about Alan? Kate finds herself drawn to this appealing man who seems so sincere, yet she isn’t sure. Jet-lagged and emotionally unstable, her imagination full of dark images caused by the terror of her past, Kate can barely trust herself, so how could she take the chance on a stranger she’s just met?

Review –

“A young Englishwoman named Kate, mending after a horrific trauma—her jealous ex stalked her, locked her in a closet, and killed himself just outside it—decides a change of scenery might help restore her, and she agrees to a six-month apartment switch with Corbin, an American cousin she’s never met.

If she’s looking to tamp down her paranoia and learn to trust again, though, her cousin’s ultra-luxe Boston apartment is a disastrous choice. As soon as she arrives, Kate discovers there’s been a grisly murder next door. A series of small discoveries in the borrowed apartment, a little police attention/skepticism, and a couple of “chance” conversations with neighbors and acquaintances of the victim lead her increasingly to the conclusion that Corbin was romantically involved with the young woman and is the prime suspect. 

The author is most persuasive when we’re with the vulnerable but resourceful Kate, who ends up carrying on an ever more dangerous shadow investigation, and with her unlikely romantic interest, an awkward, somewhat creepy (the “somewhat” makes him a rarity—and a catch—in this world of fiction), but well-meaning neighbor named Alan. The book flounders a bit when Swanson enters Highsmith territory, attempting to inhabit the minds of sociopathic killers, but he does complicate things interestingly and engineers a tense and intricate finale.

A solid and quick-paced thriller—but one that seems to feature a pop-up psychopath behind every door and under every bed.” Kirkus Review

This is a great, creepy read.

The Forgetting Time by Sharon Guskin

Book Description:

Published: February 2, 2016

Format: Audio/OverDrive

What happens to us after we die? What happens before we are born? At once a riveting mystery and a testament to the profound connection between a child and parent, The Forgetting Time will lead you to reevaluate everything you believe…

What would you do if your four-year-old son claimed he had lived another life and that he wants to go back to it? That he wants his other mother?

Single mom Janie is trying to figure out what is going on with her beloved son Noah. Noah has never been ordinary. He loves to make up stories, and he is constantly surprising her with random trivia someone his age has no right knowing. She always chalked it up to the fact that Noah was precocious―mature beyond his years. But Noah’s eccentricities are starting to become worrisome. One afternoon, Noah’s preschool teacher calls Janie: Noah has been talking about shooting guns and being held under water until he can’t breathe. Suddenly, Janie can’t pretend anymore. The school orders him to get a psychiatric evaluation. And life as she knows it stops for herself and her darling boy.

For Jerome Anderson, life as he knows it has already stopped. Diagnosed with aphasia, his first thought as he approaches the end of his life is, I’m not finished yet. Once an academic star, a graduate of Yale and Harvard, a professor of psychology, he threw everything away to pursue an obsession: the stories of children who remembered past lives. Anderson became the laughing stock of his peers, but he never stopped believing that there was something beyond what anyone could see or comprehend. He spent his life searching for a case that would finally prove it. And with Noah, he thinks he may have found it.

Soon, Noah, Janie, and Anderson will find themselves knocking on the door of a mother whose son has been missing for eight years. When that door opens, all of their questions will be answered.

Gorgeously written and fearlessly provocative, Sharon Guskin’s debut explores the lengths we will go for our children. It examines what we regret in the end of our lives and hope for in the beginning, and everything in between.

Review –

The author  presents reincarnation against the backdrop of reality: a mother’s love and a mother’s grief. There is none of the fantasy world often found in novels based on reincarnation, so the premise seems more plausible—even to a skeptic.

What also separates The Forgetting Time from other novels based on a similar premise is that the author points out that according to case studies done by credible psychiatrists, a child troubled by the memories left over from another life begins to forget at around age six. This theme of forgetting underlies the plot. At some point one must let go of the past and live in the present.

The Forgetting Time is both a mystery and a philosophical novel, and lacks the flaws found in so many debut novels. There are no weak and unbelievable characters; the plot has no holes in its construction; and the portraits of love and grief offset one another in a balanced manner.

This book tells a sentimental story with a murder mystery at its core, and it’s interesting even if you don’t go for the premise.