What the Dead Know by Laura Lippman

Book Description:

Published: March 13, 2007

Format: Audio/OverDrive

Stars: 4

Thirty years ago two sisters disappeared from a shopping mall. Their bodies were never found and those familiar with the case have always been tortured by these questions: How do you kidnap two girls? Who—or what—could have lured the two sisters away from a busy mall on a Saturday afternoon without leaving behind a single clue or witness?

Now a clearly disoriented woman involved in a rush-hour hit-and-run claims to be the younger of the long-gone Bethany sisters. But her involuntary admission and subsequent attempt to stonewall investigators only deepens the mystery. Where has she been? Why has she waited so long to come forward? Could her abductor truly be a beloved Baltimore cop? There isn’t a shred of evidence to support her story, and every lead she gives the police seems to be another dead end—a dying, incoherent man, a razed house, a missing grave, and a family that disintegrated long ago, torn apart not only by the crime but by the fissures the tragedy revealed in what appeared to be the perfect household.

In a story that moves back and forth across the decades, there is only one person who dares to be skeptical of a woman who wants to claim the identity of one Bethany sister without revealing the fate of the other. Will he be able to discover the truth?

Review –

“A hit-and-run on the Beltway forces the Baltimore County police to reopen a thirty year old kidnapping.

No one thought trust-fund brat Chet Willoughby would make a good cop, but in the twenty years before he retired to care for his ailing wife, Evelyn, he cleared every case but one. Willoughby never learned why or how someone abducted Sunny Bethany, fifteen, and her sister Heather, twelve, from the Security Square Mall, despite his dogged legwork and a burgeoning friendship with the parents: countercultural Dave, whose craft shop struggled until the unwanted publicity brought an embarrassment of customers, and his beguiling wife, Miriam, an Ottawa transplant whose alibi was an illicit liaison with her boss. Now a middle-aged hit-and-run driver is claiming to be Heather. Detective Kevin Infante has to evaluate that claim while dealing with ball-busting attorney Gloria Bustamante, the increasing reticence of her client and the demons of his own failed marriages. Social-worker Kay Sullivan gives the alleged victim the benefit of the doubt, but Kevin remains skeptical, even when his former partner Nancy Porter finds what could be corroboration in her cold-case files. The key to the case lies in the tortured memory of the victim, if she can just be persuaded to unlock it.

Lippman crafts a tale that resonates long after the last page is turned.” Kirkus Review

I thought I had it figured out, and I did, up to a point; that’s when the author pulled off a coup that was epic!!!!!

The Drowning House by Elizabeth Black

Book Description:

Published: January 13, 2015

Format: Audio/OverDrive

Stars: 3

A gripping suspense story about a woman who returns to Galveston, Texas after a personal tragedy and is irresistibly drawn into the insular world she’s struggled to leave.

Photographer Clare Porterfield’s once-happy marriage is coming apart, unraveling under the strain of a family tragedy. When she receives an invitation to direct an exhibition in her hometown of Galveston, Texas, she jumps at the chance to escape her grief and reconnect with the island she hasn’t seen for ten years. There Clare will have the time and space to search for answers about her troubled past and her family’s complicated relationship with the wealthy and influential Carraday family.

Soon she finds herself drawn into a century-old mystery involving Stella Carraday. Local legend has it that Stella drowned in her family’s house during the Great Hurricane of 1900, hanged by her long hair from the drawing room chandelier. Could Stella have been saved? What is the true nature of Clare’s family’s involvement? The questions grow like the wildflower vines that climb up the walls and fences of the island. And the closer Clare gets to the answers, the darker and more disturbing the truth becomes.

Steeped in the rich local history of Galveston, The Drowning House portrays two families, inextricably linked by tragedy and time.

Review –

First off, I rarely rate three stars (I always feel bad when I rate below a four) but this book could have been a five if it had lived up to it’s blurb and hype.

Here’s what the author of The Drowning House wished to do: write the story of a grief-stricken, headstrong woman, Clare Porterfield, who returns to her island hometown and gets wrapped up in the mysteries of her past, and those of Galveston’s wealthiest family. These mysteries dovetail, stretching back to the Hurricane of 1900, and Clare hopes that solving them will bring her peace.

It’s a premise with potential. What reader doesn’t enjoy a strong-willed narrator? Who doesn’t like the slow unpeeling of mysteries, or the moody atmospherics of a disaster that continues to inform a community ninety years later? (The story is set in 1990.) The author’s debut offers the ravages of water, fire and wind, and a portrait of Galveston struggling to disentangle itself from a romanticized past.

But the book falls flat.

Claire Porterfield is a photographer, a snoop. She left her native Galveston under a cloud when she was fourteen. Fifteen years later, at a loss for how to live since the death of her six year old daughter, Claire is invited to come home and put her expertise to work creating a photographic exhibit of Galveston’s colorful past.

Lots of personal history awaits her discovery. Her best friend from childhood, Patrick Carraday, still lives on the Island (as the natives call it), working for his rich father, unmarried, going nowhere. Almost accidentally, Claire discovers one tawdry secret after another. But are they really secrets? Is she the only person who thinks so? And why does her mother dance so perfectly with Patrick’s father?

Galveston plays a major role in this novel: steaming, smoldering, blooming outrageously, earning its money by flaunting its seedy, honky-tonk history. People born on the Island (BOI) seem to understand the world, its foibles, and social obligations in an entirely different way than other folk do. The Island has always made its own rules about issues like Prohibition, gambling and prostitution and prides itself on being a place where a visitor can have experiences not available at home.

In the end, I think that’s the problem. Galveston dominates and overshadows the characters. I didn’t care about Clare’s journey or her past. Her loss and her crumbled marriage are so abstract as to almost not be believed. The writing in this is lovely, truly, but somehow the humanity got lost in it.

Sad.

 

 

Starter House by Sonja Condit

Book Description:

Published: december 31, 2013

Format: Audio/OverDrive

In the vein of Heart-Shaped Box and The Thirteenth Tale, Starter House is a haunting and skillfully told debut novel about a newlywed couple and their first home — a home that seems to be haunted by a very malicious ghost.

Lacey Miszlak grew up homeless; her crazy mother dragged her from one terrible living situation to the next. But now she thinks the pieces of her life have finally come together. She’s pregnant with her first child, and she and her husband Eric have moved into the home of their dreams. She knows soon its beautiful sunlit rooms will be filled with the joy of the new family she will build there.

But there’s a strange darkness on the stairway and an odd little boy who won’t leave Lacey alone, and soon she’s forced to realize that a danger she never suspected is lurking in the hallways of her beautiful new home. She’s going to have to solve a decades-old mystery to save her family from an evil that has lingered in wait for them for years.

Review –

In Condit’s creepy debut, a young couple’s dream home turns out to be haunted.

The cottage at 571 Forrester Lane in the Southern town of Greeneburg is perfect for Lacey and Eric Miszlak. She’s pregnant and wants to be near the best schools; he wants a 20-minute commute to his uncle’s law firm. Lacey brushes aside the spooked reaction of their broker (who knows more than she’s telling) but discovers after they move in that the house harbors a ghost: Drew, a needy little boy who asks her to be his mother. Lacey, a former elementary school teacher, prides herself on being good with difficult children, but she quickly learns to fear Drew’s rages and his hostility toward her unborn child. “The thing in the house. It eats babies,” blurts out the broker’s daughter. The trouble started in 1972, when Andrew Halliday killed his wife, three of his four children and himself. Only Andrew Junior survived the massacre; he’s changed his name to Lex Hall and has retained Eric in a custody battle over his young daughter. Yes, it’s a lot of coincidences to swallow, and Drew’s ability to travel as far afield as Australia seems more convenient than likely even within the parameters of a ghost story, but Condit paints such a convincing portrait of the Miszlaks’ tension-riddled marriage and does such a good job of escalating the menace in Lacey’s encounters with Drew that readers won’t care much about probability. The novel has unusually strong characterizations as well, in particular the depiction of Lacey’s New Age–y mother, Ella, who proves to be stronger and more protective than her daughter could understand in childhood. Eric too, controlling and overcautious though he is, comes through with flying colors in the violent denouement at the top of the stairs that have seen so many previous deaths.

Good, scary fun, packed with emotional nuance.” Kirkus Reviews

Fantastic read!

 

 

 

Silent Boy by Sarah A. Denzil

Book Description:

Published: January 22, 2017

Format: Audio/Audible

n the summer of 2006, Emma Price watched helplessly as her six-year-old son’s red coat was fished out of the River Ouse. It was the tragic story of the year – a little boy, Aiden, wandered away from school during a terrible flood, fell into the river, and drowned.


His body was never recovered. 
Ten years later, Emma has finally rediscovered the joy in life. She’s married, pregnant, and in control again…… until Aiden returns.

Too traumatized to speak, he raises endless questions and answers none. Only his body tells the story of his decade-long disappearance. The historic broken bones and injuries cast a mere glimpse into the horrors Aiden has experienced. Aiden never drowned. Aiden was taken.

As Emma attempts to reconnect with her now teenage son, she must unmask the monster who took him away from her. But who, in their tiny village, could be capable of such a crime?

It’s Aiden who has the answers, but he cannot tell the unspeakable.

Review –

Silent Child tells the story of a parent’s most fervent prayer answered after their worst nightmare, but with complications.  While Emma Price’s son Aiden is returned to her after ten years, he is far different from the energetic, little boy whose red jacket was fished out of the flood swollen river. His body tells the tale of imprisonment and sexual assault that he can’t bear to utter and so he remains deliberately silent.

By the time Emma received that phone call from the hospital, she’d finally come to terms with Aiden’s disappearance and supposed death.  No longer with his father, her high school boyfriend Rob, she is currently married to a man named Jake and is pregnant with his child.  Aiden’s reappearance back into her life initially evokes obvious joy, but when she realizes how broken her son is, her happiness quickly turns to horror, grief, and an eventual terror and uncertainty about what Aiden might do to his new baby sister.  Her husband and the ex-boyfriend who’s now back in her life only serve to complicate matters more.

Right off the bat, Jake (the husband) comes off as a complete asshole.  There’s a part in the beginning where he fat shames her.  Um, she’s your wife, and she’s pregnant with your fucking child, but it was when Emma mentioned how he had to “train” her that my suspicion meter really went up.

Jake is an excessively tidy person whereas Emma is much messier, but when she moved in with him, she learned that in Jake’s house everything has its place.  Rob (the ex) points this out a bit derisively, and there’s a point where Emma recalls how Jake moved her beloved childhood desk to the garage, replacing it with a newer one (that Emma in no way asked for or wanted), because it didn’t fit in with his perfect scheme.  Throwing a potentially unpredictable Aiden into the mix upsets everything, though Jake does try to be supportive for Emma’s sake.

The author does an excellent job of showing how uncaring the media can be when there’s a story to be had.  The well-being of those involved means nothing, and a perfectly valid outburst is ripe fodder to be used against you, as Emma learns to her regret.

This is one of her many hard lessons.  Some of us are lucky to have a sheltered youth, but then as adults, we have a better understanding of what the world is, but there’s often more than one awakening to this truth, and the lesson Emma learns about masks and the ones who wear them breaks down her trust and that shelter even more.

By the middle of the story, I had a suspect, and the narrative did nothing to discourage me, which I thought was fantastic.  It’s a red herring.  Ms. Denzil wants us to suspect this person. Then later another character seems just as guilty and could there be an accomplice ?
Although the story has a happy ending, it’s muted and not really celebrated. I loved the book and I think any one who appreciates a good psychological thriller will want to add this one the their list to be read.
Five stars!