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.

 

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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.

 

That Night by Chevy Stevens

Book Description:

Published: March 1, 2010

Format: Audio/OverDrive

They said she was a murderer.

They said she killed her sister.

But they lied.

As a teenager, Toni Murphy had a life full of typical adolescent complications: a boyfriend she adored, a younger sister she couldn’t relate to, a strained relationship with her parents, and classmates who seemed hell-bent on making her life miserable. Things weren’t easy, but Toni could never have predicted how horrific they would become until her younger sister was brutally murdered one summer night.

Toni and her boyfriend, Ryan, were convicted of the murder and sent to prison.

Now thirty-four, Toni is out on parole and back in her hometown, struggling to adjust to a new life on the outside. Prison changed her, hardened her, and she’s doing everything in her power to avoid violating her parole and going back. This means having absolutely no contact  with Ryan, avoiding fellow parolees looking to pick fights, and steering clear of trouble in all its forms. But nothing is making that easy—not Ryan, who is convinced he can figure out the truth; not her mother, who doubts Toni’s innocence; and certainly not the group of women who made Toni’s life hell in high school and may have darker secrets than anyone realizes. No matter how hard she tries, ignoring her old life to start a new one is impossible. Before Toni can truly move on, she must risk everything to find out what really happened that night.

But the truth might be the most terrifying thing of all.

Review –

“In the town of Campbell River, Toni has a rough home life; she can’t wait for high school graduation to escape her mother’s angry disapproval.

Ryan’s home is worse, his father an alcoholic abuser.

Together, however, Toni and Ryan make the broken pieces fit. In school, Toni runs afoul of mean girls Shauna, Rachel, Kim and Cathy, who harass her and spread ugly rumors. Toni has an escape planned—a post-graduation apartment with Ryan—but then her younger sister, Nicole, her mother’s favorite, joins Shauna’s clique and starts dabbling in booze and boys and harassing Toni. It seems like kid stuff, until Nicole is bludgeoned to death.

Toni and Ryan immediately become suspects; they’re convicted of murder and sent to prison. Stevens’ masterful plot spins into evil with “teen girls turning on each other, the viciousness and pack mentality that can arise.” She writes from Toni’s point of view, shifting easily between past and present while delving into family tensions before the murder, then prison life, then back to Campbell River after Toni’s parole. Entirely believable, Toni evolves from a misunderstood, resentful and frightened teenager into an intelligent yet closed-off woman tempered by 15 years in prison.

The writing is crisp and the dialogue realistic as Toni speculates about possible suspects and motives, knowing all the while that finding the killer may reveal one of Campbell River’s ugliest secrets. Tension cranks to the breaking point when Cathy, now a drug-addled misfit, is murdered. Ryan and Toni become suspects again, but they realize it’s a sign that the conspiracy that jailed them has fractured.” Kirkus Review 

 

Not my favorite of Chevy Stevens books, but still a good read.

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!

 

The Kept by James Scott

Book Description:

Published: January 7, 2014

Format: Audio/OverDrive

Set in rural New York state at the turn of the twentieth century, superb new talent James Scott makes his literary debut with The Kept—a propulsive novel reminiscent of the works of Michael Ondaatje, Cormac McCarthy, and Bonnie Jo Campbell, in which a mother and her young son embark on a quest to avenge a terrible and violent tragedy that has shattered their secluded family.

In the winter of 1897, a trio of killers descends upon an isolated farm in upstate New York. Midwife Elspeth Howell returns home to the carnage: her husband, and four of her children, murdered. Before she can discover her remaining son Caleb, alive and hiding in the kitchen pantry, another shot rings out over the snow-covered valley. Twelve-year-old Caleb must tend to his mother until she recovers enough for them to take to the frozen wilderness in search of the men responsible.

A scorching portrait of a merciless world — of guilt and lost innocence, atonement and retribution, resilience and sacrifice, pregnant obsession and primal adolescence — The Kept introduces an old-beyond-his-years protagonist as indelible and heartbreaking as Mattie Ross of True Grit or Jimmy Blevins of All the Pretty Horses, as well as a shape-shifting mother as enigmatic and mysterious as a character drawn by Russell Banks or Marilynne Robinson.

Review –

I don’t know where to start with this one except to say that is the MOST DEPRESSING book I have ever read or listened to (I listened – which made it worse because the narrator made the characters come alive).

Elspeth is a midwife and stays away from home for months at a time and is returning to her homestead, which is a six-hour walk from the nearest town. Once there she finds her husband and four children all dead from gun shots. She is accidentally shot with a rifle by her twelve-year-old son, Caleb, who survived the massacre by hiding and being quiet.

Caleb does the best he can to doctor her wounds but she almost dies. When she is able to stand it he tells her of the three mens with red scarves around their necks who did the killings. She says they must go and hunt them down and kill them. 

Thus starts the saga.

Once arriving in the town they suspect the murders reside Elspeth dresses like a man and gets a job hauling ice and Caleb, who quickly tires of staying all day cooped up in a hotel room, gets a job as a janitor at the brothel.

The things these two endure is amazing and when facts come out about Caleb’s “brothers and sisters” he is not really shocked because by that time he had a suspicion.

Do they find the killers? You’ll have to read the book, but let me warn you it is depressing, especially the ending.

After listening to this, I had to find a “fluff” piece to read/listen because my mind was not ready for another serious tome.

 

The American Girl by Kate Horsley

Book Description:

Published: August 2, 2016

Format: Audio/OverDrive

A riveting psychological thriller about an American exchange student in France involved in a suspicious accident and the dark secrets a small town is hiding. . .

On a quiet summer morning seventeen-year-old American exchange student Quinn Perkins stumbles out of the woods near the small French town of St. Roch, barefoot, bloodied, and unable to say what has happened to her.

Quinn’s appearance creates a stir, especially since her host family, the Blavettes, has mysteriously disappeared. Now the media, and everyone in the idyllic village, are wondering if the American girl has anything to do with the missing family.

Quinn’s appearance creates a stir, especially since her host family, the Blavettes, has mysteriously disappeared. Now the media, and everyone in the idyllic village, are wondering if the American girl has anything to do with the missing family.

A Boston reporter named Molly Swift travels to St. Roch, prepared to do anything to learn the truth and score the ultimate scoop. After Quinn is arrested and a trial by media ensues, she finds an unlikely ally in the young journalist. Molly unravels the disturbing secrets of the town’s past in an effort to clear Quinn’s name, but even she is forced to admit that the American girl makes a compelling suspect.

Is Quinn truly an innocent abroad, or is she a cunning, diabolical killer intent on getting away with murder?

Review –

Quinn is a seventeen year-old American exchange student spending time in a small French town. One fateful morning, she comes walking out of the woods scared, bloody, and unable to remember what led her there. To top it off, her host family has mysteriously disappeared. Is Quinn responsible, or does it have something to do with the small town’s sinister secrets? Desperate for answers and a shocking story, the media descends upon the town. Among the reporters is American, Molly Swift, who will do anything to get to the bottom of it, including getting way too involved and telling lie after lie.

The story is creepy, mysterious, and incredibly fast paced. The viewpoints alternated between Quinn and Molly, and were told in several formats: blog posts from Quinn leading up to the incident, video diaries from Quinn AFTER the incident, and Molly’s viewpoint in the present. I enjoyed seeing what happened before and what happened after and trying to unravel the mystery and the secrets of the town. I was shocked again and again.

To say that this story is intriguing would be an understatement. I was sucked in from the get-go and felt an unrelenting need to know what was happening.  I found myself constantly second guessing what I thought was going on and was continually puzzled. The end is one you won’t see coming!

I’d highly recommend this one to fans of mysteries and thrillers — I gave this five stars!

The Evening Spider by Emily Arsenault

Book Description:

Published: January 26, 2016

Format: Audio/OverDrive

A gripping blend of psychological suspense and historical true crime, this riveting novel—inspired by a sensational real-life murder from the 1800s—by critically acclaimed author Emily Arsenault delivers a heart-stopping mystery linking two young mothers from different centuries.

Frances Barnett and Abby Bernacki are two haunted young mothers living in the same house in two different centuries.

1885: Frances Barnett is in the Northampton Lunatic Hospital, telling her story to a visitor. She has come to distrust her own memories, and believes that her pregnancy, birth, and early days of motherhood may have impaired her sanity.

During the earliest months of her baby’s life, Frances eagerly followed the famous murder trial of Mary Stannard—that captivated New Englanders with its salacious details and expert forensic testimony. Following—and even attending—this trial, Frances found an escape from the monotony of new motherhood. But as her story unfolds, Frances must admit that her obsession with the details of the murder were not entirely innocent.

Present day: Abby has been adjusting to motherhood smoothly—until recently, when odd sensations and dreams have begun to unsettle her while home alone with her baby. When she starts to question the house’s history, she is given the diary of Frances Barnett, who lived in the house 125 years earlier. Abby finds the diary disturbing, and researches the Barnett family’s history. The more Abby learns, the more she wonders about a negative—possibly supernatural—influence in her house. She becomes convinced that when she sleeps, she leaves her daughter vulnerable—and then vows not to sleep until she can determine the cause of her eerie experiences.

Frances Barnett might not be the only new mother to lose her mind in this house. And like Frances, Abby discovers that by trying to uncover another’s secrets, she risks awakening some of her own.

Review –

“In 2014, high school history teacher and new mom Abby Bernacki worries over “odd” happenings in her 19th-century house, such as her baby daughter’s mysterious bruise. After consulting with a past owner, Abby obtains a historic resident’s journal and befriends a local archivist, who introduces her to a trove of puzzling artifacts. In 1878, another new mother who lived in the house, Frances Barnett, was ordered to a month’s “rest” in bed to cure her nervous condition. Once she’s out of bed, Frances fakes enthusiasm for domestic tasks while concealing from her husband her obsession with the trial of a gruesome murderer. The historic parts of the novel draw on the tale of a real-life 1879 murder and trial, even including several real New York Times articles that covered the story. Readers will squirm at the courtroom scenes involving a removed and preserved face and experiments with arsenic and donated stomachs. In another bit of historical accuracy, Frances toils in the Northampton Lunatic Hospital in Massachusetts, which at the time turned a profit on the work of its residents. The novel consists of three threads: Abby’s 2014 perspective, where she reads notes Frances kept in a cooking journal in 1878; Frances’ mental-hospital monologue to her visiting brother in 1885; and the 1998 death of a college student in Abby’s dorm. The college thread is minimally developed and seems incidental, until it ties in as the foundation of an emotionally satisfying ending. Abby’s and Frances’ mirrored stories are the stars of the show; despite their very different circumstances, both women are humbled by the pressures of new motherhood before they find empowerment in the hunt for justice.” Kirkus Reviews

I love this type of book where the past and present collide. Great read! Five stars!!!!!

The Twilight Wife by A. J. Banner

Book Description:

Published: December 27, 2016

Format: Audio/OverDrive

Thirty-four-year-old marine biologist Kyra Winthrop remembers nothing about the diving accident that left her with a complex form of memory loss. With only brief flashes of the last few years of her life, her world has narrowed to a few close friendships on the island where she lives with her devoted husband, Jacob.

But all is not what it seems. Kyra begins to have visions—or are they memories?—of a rocky marriage, broken promises, and cryptic relationships with the island residents, whom she believes to be her friends.

As Kyra races to uncover her past, the truth becomes a terrifying nightmare.

Review –

What if everything you remember is a lie?

A diving accident causes marine biologist Kyra Winthrop to lose her memory of the previous four years, and her husband Jacob tries to help her rebuild her life. The Twilight Wife is a psychological suspense thriller set in an isolated community called Mystic Island, and fans of the genre will already know what to expect.

Flashes of memory return to Kyra that don’t quite match up with what she’s been told. She and Jacob have a happy marriage, but why does she have memories of intense attraction to one of his friends? She and Jacob were trying for a child, but why is there a condom in her wallet? Who is the odd man on the island who seems to recognize her but refuses to say why? And why does she dream of a third diver in the accident, when all the newspaper accounts mention only her and Jacob being involved? Add to that the locale of a remote island, which has no Internet connection apart from the line Jacob managed to rig up for their home, and Kyra can turn to only a tiny circle of friends whom she barely remembers.

The Twilight Wife is a quick read/listen and finished it in one sitting. The twists and turns are packed right in, and to Banner’s credit, she doesn’t go overboard with the red herrings designed solely to build suspense.  The ending felt rushed, and the last two chapters seemed disconnected from the rest of the story and seemed to come from nowhere. But overall, it’s a fun and fast-paced read that’s a perfect weekend treat for fans of the genre, and i must admit-it is one of my favorites.

My favourite part of this novel was the atmosphere. The isolation of the island adds to the dreariness of the plot and as trouble ensues, a storm begins to brew on the island. I loved this use of pathetic fallacy and found myself completely absorbed into Kara’s struggle.  

Fantastic read!