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.

 

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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!

 

Jar of Hearts by Jennifer Hillier

Book Description:

Published: June 12, 2018

Format: Audio/OverDrive

This is the story of three best friends: one who was murdered, one who went to prison, and one who’s been searching for the truth all these years . . .

When she was sixteen years old, Angela Wong—one of the most popular girls in school—disappeared without a trace. Nobody ever suspected that her best friend, Georgina Shaw, now an executive and rising star at her Seattle pharmaceutical company, was involved in any way. Certainly not Kaiser Brody, who was close with both girls back in high school.

But fourteen years later, Angela Wong’s remains are discovered in the woods near Geo’s childhood home. And Kaiser—now a detective with Seattle PD—finally learns the truth: Angela was a victim of Calvin James. The same Calvin James who murdered at least three other women.

To the authorities, Calvin is a serial killer. But to Geo, he’s something else entirely. Back in high school, Calvin was Geo’s first love. Turbulent and often volatile, their relationship bordered on obsession from the moment they met right up until the night Angela was killed.

For fourteen years, Geo knew what happened to Angela and told no one. For fourteen years, she carried the secret of Angela’s death until Geo was arrested and sent to prison.

While everyone thinks they finally know the truth, there are dark secrets buried deep. And what happened that fateful night is more complex and more chilling than anyone really knows. Now the obsessive past catches up with the deadly present when new bodies begin to turn up, killed in the exact same manner as Angela Wong.

How far will someone go to bury her secrets and hide her grief? How long can you get away with a lie? How long can you live with it?

Review –

Georgina was an upwardly mobile executive in a highly successful company when she is arrested for helping her teenage boyfriend dispose of the body of her best friend and fellow cheerleader, whom he had killed, fourteen years before.She made a plea deal and only got five years.

Prison is very hard for her and the author goes into detail about her experiences while incarcerated. She receives letters in blue envelopes over the years but after having read the first does not read the others. Of course, we are to think they are from the SweetBay Strangler, her ex-boyfriend, but are they really?

Once out, she goes to live with her father in her childhood home and try to start a new life but people in the neighborhood don’t want her there and vandalize her home and car with red spray paint, because they believe she helped to kill her friend. Her father is very supportive, as is Kaiser Brody, also a best friend from her high school years and now a police detective. He believes Geo, Georgina’s nickname, know where Calvin is and tries to get her to tell him every chance he gets. Fourteen years ago he had a crush on Geo and still loves her but believes it’s a lost cause.

The author  does not flinch from visceral descriptions of murder and rape,( a very important part of the story) it is a much deeper story about a high school girl who fell head over heels with a killer and how it destroyed her life.

Jar of Hearts is an unpredictable and riveting thriller that keeps the pages turning with characters who are stimulating and a storyline that keeps you totally on the edge of your seat.

Five stars!

 

 

 

Kill You Twice (Archie Sheridan and Gretchen Lowell #5) by Chelsea Cain

Book Description:

Published: August 7, 2012

Format: Audio/OverDrive

Nothing makes Portland detective Archie Sheridan happier than knowing that Gretchen Lowell—the serial killer whose stunning beauty is belied by the gruesome murders she’s committed—is locked away in a psych ward. Archie can finally heal from the near-fatal physical and emotional wounds she’s inflicted on him and start moving on with his life.

To this end, Archie throws himself into the latest case to come across his desk: A cyclist has discovered a corpse in Mount Tabor Park on the eastern side of Portland. The man was gagged, skinned, and found hanging by his wrists from a tree. It’s the work of a killer bold and clever enough to torture his victim for hours on a sunny summer morning in a big public park and yet leave no trace.

And then Archie gets a message he can’t ignore—Gretchen claims to have inside knowledge about this grisly murder. Archie finally agrees to visit Gretchen, because he can’t risk losing his only lead in the case. At least, that’s what he tells himself . . . but the ties between Archie and Gretchen have always been stronger, deeper, and more complex than he’s willing to admit, even to himself. What game is she playing this time? And even more frightening, what long-hidden secrets from Gretchen’s past has been dredged up that someone would kill to protect?

Review –

Despite being locked away in the Oregon State Hospital, serial killer Gretchen Lowell still looms large in Detective Archie Sheridan’s life in this installment by bestselling author, Chelsea Cain, and is an utterly engrossing  thriller.  When Gretchen claims that the Portland police detective’s two latest murder victims—one found flayed in a local park and another burned to a crisp atop the iconic city sign—are the work of killer Ryan Motley, Archie knows better than to take Gretchen at her word, but he’s intrigued when she mentions having a child, a new twist.

Meanwhile, Susan Ward, ( I secretly wish that she and Archie will eventually hook up) now working as a freelance reporter, is following both the current murder case and the developing situation with Gretchen, going so far as to interview her at the state hospital, where Gretchen divulges tidbits of her early life, previously uncharted territory.

Although he swears that he’s not going to see his murderous ex-lover again, Archie’s lured back into contact with her when Gretchen’s interview with Susan Ward, the newspaper reporter whose life Archie saved, concludes its grueling description of Gretchen’s very first murder, the slaughter 16 years ago of James Beaton, with an urgent plea Susan passes on to Archie: “Children are going to die….You have to find the flash drive.” Could one of those children be Pearl Clinton, who’d been staying at the Life Works Center before she disappeared? How much of what Gretchen says can be trusted? Here’s a hint – ZERO!!!!!

This is one of my FAVORITE series and every one is better than the next. I just wish the author hadn’t stopped writing the series when she did. I’m listening to the final book in the series now and it was published in 2013, then she started a new series. The nerve of some authors, doesn’t she know I’m waiting with bated breath for more on Archie and the “Beauty Killer”?  I can’t stand it!!!!!

 

Stillhouse Lake (Stillhouse Lake #1) by Rachel Caine

Book Description:

Published: July 1, 2017

Format: Audio/Audible

Gina Royal is the definition of average—a shy Midwestern housewife with a happy marriage and two adorable children. But when a car accident reveals her husband’s secret life as a serial killer, she must remake herself as Gwen Proctor—the ultimate warrior mom.

With her ex now in prison, Gwen has finally found refuge in a new home on remote Stillhouse Lake. Though still the target of stalkers and Internet trolls who think she had something to do with her husband’s crimes, Gwen dares to think her kids can finally grow up in peace.

But just when she’s starting to feel at ease in her new identity, a body turns up in the lake—and threatening letters start arriving from an all-too-familiar address. Gwen Proctor must keep friends close and enemies at bay to avoid being exposed—or watch her kids fall victim to a killer who takes pleasure in tormenting her. One thing is certain: she’s learned how to fight evil. And she’ll never stop.

Review –

Stillhouse Lake by Rachel Caine is a chilling thriller about what happens to the family of a serial killer and their struggles as the rest of the world continue to judge them as responsible for the killer’s atrocities.

The novel,by Rachel Caine, explores the consequences of the age-old question: how could she not know? Gina Royal is the wife of a serial killer. He killed women in his “workshop,” which was a refinished garage that Gina supposedly never went into. Even though she went to trial and was found not guilty, the jury of the world at large doesn’t believe her. 

Now, after years on the run, Gina—now Gwen—is tired of running. Her kids are tired of running. She hopes that this new house on the shores of Stillhouse Lake will be the perfect new forever home. And all signs point that way: there are police officers nearby, Gwen has learned how to use firearms, and there’s an alarm system and a panic room. It may just be time to settle down. 

Then, they find the woman in the lake. She had  been brutally mutilated and dumped in the lake. The modus operandi is all too familiar to Gwen. Her ex-husband used to do the same thing. Gwen—who has moved from place to place, never letting her children or herself settle into any kind of steady routine—now has to make a choice: run again or stay and hold her ground. 

Every day, Gwen hits the computer and checks the “sicko” boards—people who have followed her husband’s case and her own trial, people who think she is as guilty as he is, people who think she and her children should be punished. 

By the time we, as readers, meet the sickos on the boards, we’ve already spent a lot of time with Gwen and the kids, Lanny and Connor. While the kids are remaining flexible, the strain of constant moves and the inability to put down any roots is showing. There’s trouble at school. There’s trouble at home. The kids are completely caught in the middle of this fiasco—the children could easily be categorized as two more victims of their cruel father. 

But the sicko boards don’t care. Knowing what we know as readers, it’s very hard to read what these strangers want to do to them.  

Despite all its darkness Rachel Caine’s Stillhouse Lake is a great summer read. The central topic is fascinating—haven’t we all wondered about serial killers who were married? Haven’t we all wondered about the spouse, what they knew, and whether they should be considered an additional victim? There’s a hint of romance, of all things. There are definitely scary, tense moments. The author  delves into all this and keeps the pace driving forward, perfect for the beach … maybe a little harrowing for the lake.

Loved this book.

Side Note:

IF the name Rachel Caine sounds familiar, it’s because she is also the author of several young adult books, One series being The Morganville Vampires series and I have read and loved all of those book.

The Morganville Vampires series

  1. Glass Houses (October 2006)
  2. The Dead Girls’ Dance (April 2007)
  3. Midnight Alley (October 2007)
  4. Feast of Fools (June 2008)
  5. Lord of Misrule (January 2009)
  6. Carpe Corpus (June 2009) 
  7. Fade Out (November 2009)
  8. Kiss of Death (April 27, 2010)
  9. Ghost Town (October 26, 2010)
  10. Bite Club (May 3, 2011)
  11. Last Breath (November 1, 2011)
  12. Black Dawn (May 1, 2012)
  13. Bitter Blood (November 6, 2012, Fall of Night (May 7, 2013)
  14. Daylighters (November 5, 2013)

The Roses of May (The Collector #2) by Dot Hutchison

Book Description:

Published: May 23, 2017

Format: Audio

Four months after the explosion at the Garden, a place where young women known as the Butterflies were kept captive, FBI agents Brandon Eddison, Victor Hanoverian, and Mercedes Ramirez are still entrenched in the aftermath, helping survivors in the process of adjusting to life on the outside. With winter coming to an end, the Butterflies have longer, warmer days of healing ahead. But for the agents, the impending thaw means one gruesome thing: a chilling guarantee that somewhere in the country, another young woman will turn up dead in a church with her throat slit and her body surrounded by flowers.

Priya Sravasti’s sister fell victim to the killer years ago. Now she and her mother move every few months, hoping for a new beginning. But when she ends up in the madman’s crosshairs, the hunt takes on new urgency. Only with Priya’s help can the killer be found—but will her desperate hope for closure compel her to put her very life on the line?

Review –

This is the second in The Collector series and HAS to be read first. 

There are a few characters from the first book, The Butterfly Garden, but also has a whole new serial killer and new female lead.

The book opens and dives right into the story. Taking place a few months where the first novel left off but in an unconventional way.  The Butterflies are awaiting the trial of the Gardener and a few of the girls, unable to handle the trauma of the garden, have completed suicide.   The police officers from the original case are dealing with this and also find themselves being pulled back into a different investigation involving a serial killer who murders girls and adorns them with flowers.  When a sister (Priya) of one of the victims’ finds herself a target, the investigators must use their knowledge of the past and what they learned from the garden to find the perpetrator before he collects another victim.

The Butterfly Garden was the narrative style and told of the creepy events that took place in the garden; I found that this one read more like a police procedural. Instead of being character driven, this one focused more on the police investigation and the officer’s relationships to the victims.

It’s a quick and engaging read. I wanted to know what happened, and I was immediately invested in Priya, who’s both strong and vulnerable, in a way that’s reminiscent of Inara (whom I loved in The Butterfly Garden), but not so similar that it feels like Hutchinson is rehashing the same character again.

Although I loved The Roses of May for what it was, it was completely not what I was expecting. I will definitely read the final book in the series,The Summer Children, due out later this year, but I’m holding back on my expectations.

The Butterfly Garden (The Collector #1) by Dot Hutchison

Book Description:

Published: June 1, 2016

Format: Audio

Near an isolated mansion lies a beautiful garden.

In this garden grow luscious flowers, shady trees…and a collection of precious “butterflies”—young women who have been kidnapped and intricately tattooed to resemble their namesakes. Overseeing it all is the Gardener, a brutal, twisted man obsessed with capturing and preserving his lovely specimens.

When the garden is discovered, a survivor is brought in for questioning. FBI agents Victor Hanoverian and Brandon Eddison are tasked with piecing together one of the most stomach-churning cases of their careers. But the girl, known only as Maya, proves to be a puzzle herself.

As her story twists and turns, slowly shedding light on life in the Butterfly Garden, Maya reveals old grudges, new saviors, and horrific tales of a man who’d go to any length to hold beauty captive. But the more she shares, the more the agents have to wonder what she’s still hiding…

Review –

I can’t really say too much about this book without giving away the “stomach churning”(as used in the blurb) events that occurred in the Garden. It’s kidnapping/imprisonment and sexual abuse taken to a whole new level.

Maya was a strong individual with problems of her own when she came to the Garden and was looked upon by the other “butterflies” as a leader of sorts. As she is questioned by the police, after an explosion in the Garden, we find out just how strong she was.

Five stars!

Evil at Heart (Archie Sheridan and Gretchen Lowell #3) by Chelsea Cain

Book Description:

Published: 2009

Format: Audio/OverDrive

Chelsea Cain’s novels featuring Portland detective Archie Sheridan and serial killer Gretchen Lowell have captivated fans through two nail-biting entries, Heartsick and Sweetheart, both of them multi week bestsellers in The New York Times, USA Today, and Publishers Weekly.

Gretchen Lowell is still on the loose. These days, she’s more of a cause célèbre than a feared killer, thanks to sensationalist news coverage that has made her a star. Her face graces magazine covers weekly and there have been sightings of her around the world. Most shocking of all, Portland Herald reporter Susan Ward has uncovered a bizarre kind of fan club, which celebrates the number of days she’s been free.

Archie Sheridan hunted her for a decade, and after his last ploy to catch her went spectacularly wrong, remains hospitalized months later. When they last spoke, they entered a détente of sorts—Archie agreed not to kill himself if she agreed not to kill anyone else. But when a new body is found accompanied by Gretchen’s trademark heart, all bets are off and Archie is forced back into action. Has the Beauty Killer returned to her gruesome ways, or has the cult surrounding her created a whole new evil?

Review –

“She’s extracted his spleen, hammered nails into his chest, broken his ribs, whittled away at him with an X-Acto knife, but these and an array of other scarifications, emotional as well as physical, have not dampened Archie’s ardor. He remains crazy about Gretchen Lowell, aka the Beauty Killer. And crazy, too, in the sense that as the result of her ministrations, he currently resides in Portland, Ore.’s Providence Medical Center, termed by Archie “the loony bin.”

As for Gretchen, until recently she’s been residing in the slammer, where Archie helped put her. Having busted out, however, she’s up to her old tricks—murdering with undiminished enthusiasm, leaving her signature heart carved into the torsos of her victims, usually before they’re dead.

Seldom indeed, when in the hands of Gretchen the grotesque, does anyone die in a hurry. And now, perversely, she’s become a media darling. Her glam photographs seem omnipresent. She sells newspapers, she boosts ratings, she has fan clubs: global constituencies, gleefully marking the days their hero has been able to elude slew-footed police forces—76 and counting. So suddenly the question takes on an unsettling nuance. Is it Gretchen and Gretchen alone who’s been dismembering and disemboweling? Or has she been joined by copycats?

It’s enough to get Archie into his clothes, out of the hospital and back into bossing his catch-Gretchen task force, the trauma of it all having driven him sane.” from Kirkus Review

The reader or listener never does find out for sure if Gretchen is or is not responsible for the latest killings but in my mind she was.

Looking forward to the next installment.

 

Redemption Road by John Hart

Book Description:

Published: May 3, 2016

Format: Audio/OverDrive

Imagine:

A boy with a gun waits for the man who killed his mother.

A troubled detective confronts her past in the aftermath of a brutal shooting.

After thirteen years in prison, a good cop walks free. But for how long?

And deep in the forest, on the altar of an abandoned church, the unthinkable has just happened…

This is a town on the brink. This is a road with no mercy.

After five years, John Hart returns with Redemption Road, his most powerful story yet.

Review –

This book is set in a  small city in North Carolina. The protagonist is police detective Elizabeth Black, who has been put on suspension because she appears to have used excessive force — 18 bullets — in killing two men in the basement where they were raping and torturing an 18-year-old girl. “Hero Cop or Angel of Death?” a newspaper headline asks.

Adrian Wall, a fellow officer whom she once idolized but who was convicted of murdering a woman in a ritualized way,  finishes serving his time and arrives back in town, and the killer strikes again. Besides sexual chemistry, Liz and Adrian share a reluctance to tell the truth about the incidents that have brought them under suspicion, and their motives for silence are the same: protecting someone else.

Liz’s campaign to clear Adrian is hampered by her suspension and her sizable shoulder chip. She has alienated her father, a rigid-minded minister, most of her fellow officers, and the brutal warden of the prison in which Adrian was confined. On the other hand, she has lavished motherly affection on 14-year-old Gideon, the vengeance-seeking son of the woman whom Adrian was convicted of killing, and Channing, the girl whose rape occasioned all those gunshots. 

This story is so convoluted and gets more so deeper into the plot we go. There is buried treasure, we find out who the serial killer is and the warden and his henchmen get there just due. BUT…Beckett, Liz’s partner of four years is paralyzed from a gut shot given by the warden, and exited his back, Gideon is left behind because he also needs urgent medical care at the end and Liz, Adrian and Channing one on the run.  BUT… there is an hea but you’ll have to read or listen to this book yourself to find out what it is.

Fantastic book!

Five stars!!

A Cold Heart (Alex Delaware #17) by Jonathan Kellerman

Book Description:

Published: December 30, 2003

Format: Audio/OverDrive

LAPD homicide detective Milo Sturgis summons his friend, psychologist-sleuth Alex Delaware, to a trendy gallery where a promising young artist has been brutally garroted on the night of her first major showing. The details of the murder scene immediately suggest to Alex not an impulsive crime of passion, but the meticulous and taunting modus operandi of a serial killer.

Delaware’s suspicions are borne out when he and Milo find there’s a link between the artist’s death and the murder of a noted blues guitarist. The twisting trail leads from halfway houses to palatial mansions, and from a college campus to the last place Alex ever expected: the doorstep of his ex-lover Robin Castagna. As more killings are discovered, unraveling the maddening puzzle assumes a chilling new importance — stopping a vicious psychopath who’s made cold-blood murder his chosen art form.

Review –

I’m finding more and more of this series, Alex Delaware, that I haven’t read or listened to but I was disappointed with this one.

It’s a bit on the boring side and predictable to boot. The identity of the killer is a little too easy to guess and the action packed ending a tad too obvious. All in all, not the authors’ best work.