A Better Man (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache #15) by Louise Penny

Book Description:

Published: August 27, 2019

Format: Audio/OverDrive

Catastrophic spring flooding, blistering attacks in the media, and a mysterious disappearance greet Chief Inspector Armand Gamache as he returns to the Surete du Quebec in the latest novel by #1 New York Times bestselling author Louise Penny.

It’s Gamache’s first day back as head of the homicide department, a job he temporarily shares with his previous second-in-command, Jean-Guy Beauvoir. Flood waters are rising across the province. In the middle of the turmoil a father approaches Gamache, pleading for help in finding his daughter.

As crisis piles upon crisis, Gamache tries to hold off the encroaching chaos, and realizes the search for Vivienne Godin should be abandoned. But with a daughter of his own, he finds himself developing a profound, and perhaps unwise, empathy for her distraught father.

Increasingly hounded by the question, how would you feel…, he resumes the search.

As the rivers rise, and the social media onslaught against Gamache becomes crueler, a body is discovered. And in the tumult, mistakes are made.

In the next novel in this “constantly surprising series that deepens and darkens as it evolves” (New York Times Book Review), Gamache must face a horrific possibility, and a burning question.

What would you do if your child’s killer walked free?

Review –

She has done it again. With a vengeance. Take the same backwater in Québec, the same core of main characters, and write fifteen crime stories with that. You will probably end up with predictable plots. But Louise Penny doesn’t. Not ever. A Better Man is here to prove it. Once more.

The  author is a mystery in herself. Once again, she managed to deliver a unique book, with an original plot. And red herrings. And many twists and layers. Layers that keep getting more involved. If her last book dealt with drugs in the city, this one focuses on domestic violence. And violence through social media.

Fans of Three Pines have a new chance to enjoy Penny’s great art at describing characters, the depth of human emotions, as well as landscape:

  The sky was grey and stretch and threatened rain. Or sleet. Ice pellets or snow. The dirt road was covered in slush and mud. There were patches of snow on the sodden grass. Villagers out walking their dogs were clumping around in rubber boots and wrapped in layers of clothing, hoping to keep April away from their skin and out of their bones.

     and   

     Woodsmoke drifted from the old fieldstone, brick, clapboard homes. A signal to some higher power. Send help. Send heat. Send a real spring and not this crapfest of slush and freezing, teasing days. Days of snow and warmth.

Armand Gamache does not hurry. He takes time to look, feel, and think. The writing style itself, with many short sentences and pauses, beautifully conveys the same atmosphere.

And yet, when the time is ripe, the book also contains nerve-wracking suspenseful scenes, where events rush too quickly at the protagonists, with the violence of the Bella Bella river threatening to engulf the nearby villages.

Lovers of this series will also enjoy how the author integrated elements of previous books. And of course, we meet the same characters. Including the poet Ruth. And her duck Rosa—featured with short refrains, another nice little touch that helps keep all the threads together.

Reading another book by Louise Penny is like spending some annual time with good old friends. And age and experience have the potential to make them better. The only bitterness to it, is that we’ll have to wait next year to meet them again. Write faster, please !!!

Five Stars!

 

 

 

 

Fatal Burn (Northwest #2) by Lisa Jackson

Book Description:

Published: March, 2006

Format: Audio/Audible

Three years ago, Shannon Flannery was accused of murdering her wife-beater husband Ryan Carlyle, who was found burnt beyond recognition after a forest fire. At the time, many people believed that Ryan was the Stealth Torcher, a serial arsonist who lit many fires in the area, and suspected that Shannon had gotten back at her husband by beating fire with fire. The suspicions about Ryan’s ‘occupation’ seemed confirmed when the fires stopped following his death. However, although Shannon was acquitted for the murder, she still faced much public speculation over the case, especially from those who believed that she had gotten away with murder.
Now, believing that the worst is finally behind her, Shannon is attempting to get on with life. She has just bought a new property, where she hopes to expand her search-dog training facility.
But then strange things start to happen that make her question her safety, as well as the safety of those that she loves. Fragments of her past come back to haunt her, and mysterious fires begin to crop up, leading Shannon to suspect that somebody is out to get her. Then Travis Settler, an ex-Special Forces agent, arrives on the scene. His teenage daughter Dani has been kidnapped, and he believes that Shannon’s dark past has something to do with her abduction.
With the body count slowly rising, Shannon and Travis have to learn to trust one another, and uncover the dark secrets of the fire-loving serial killer before he seeks his ultimate revenge.

Review –

This novel takes readers into the often-unexplored world of arsonists, and the emotions that they feel when lighting or witnessing a fire. While many people, myself included, cannot fathom the reasons that some people may have for lighting fires that do nothing but cause destruction and chaos, this novel allows readers to view just how some people respond to flames, and makes readers aware of the power that many arsonists experience when dealing with this deadly element.
I am in no way suggesting that all arsonists are murderers, as many do not think of the consequences of their actions. I am simply saying that this novel is a good study of the way that firebugs may react to flame.

The author keeps readers guessing, as she continually introduces new plot twists and scenarios. Travis Settler’s relationship with Shannon adds a bit of romantic spark to the story, and Dani Settler’s determination to survive at the hands of her kidnapper is inspiring, especially considering her age.

This book will keep you guessing and the suspense will burn up the pages (excuse the pun) if reading and heat your ear if listening.

Five stars!

The Toll (Arc of the Scythe #3) by Neal Shusterman

Book Description:

Published: November 5, 2019

Format: Audio/Audible

It’s been three years since Rowan and Citra disappeared; since Scythe Goddard came into power; since the Thunderhead closed itself off to everyone but Grayson Tolliver.

In this pulse-pounding conclusion to New York Times bestselling author Neal Shusterman’s Arc of a Scythe trilogy, constitutions are tested and old friends are brought back from the dead.

Review –

“The sins of the founding scythes now reap terrible rewards in this trilogy conclusion.

The Thunderhead—a benevolent, nigh-omniscient, nanite-controlling artificial intelligence—still runs the world but speaks only to Greyson Tolliver. Now deified as the Toll, prophet of the Tonists, Greyson attempts to advise a populace abruptly cut off from the Thunderhead’s gentle guidance. For the scythes—allegedly compassionate and objective executioners whose irreversible gleanings control the post-mortal population—the Thunderhead’s been silent for centuries, but recent scythedom unrest now tests the Thunderhead’s noninterference. Untouchable and unhinged, Scythe Goddard, self-appointed Overblade, encourages unrestricted and prejudiced gleanings. Formerly formidable opponents Scythe Anastasia (Citra Terranova) and scythe-killer Scythe Lucifer (Rowan Damisch) are now fugitives, saved from the sea but pursued by Goddard’s allies. Even in a post-national, post-racial world, Capt. Jerico’s meteorologically influenced gender fluidity surprises some, but as Goddard’s bigotry indicates, discrimination plagues even the post-mortals. Shusterman (Dry, 2018, etc.) wryly unravels organized religion and delivers a scathing takedown of political demagogues. Yet the whirlwind of narrators, sly humor, and action scenes never obscures the series’ central question: If most death is impermanent, and age can be reset, what’s the meaning of life?

Long but strong, a furiously paced finale that reaches for the stars. (Science fiction. 14-adult)” Kirkus Reviews

I was very disappointed with the final install of the Arc of the Scythe series. It was unexpected and leaves room for future stories if the author wants to expand, which I hope he does not.

Deep Freeze (Northwest #1) by Lisa Jackson

Book Description:

Published: October 29, 2013

Format: Audio/Audible

HER BIGGEST FAN…
When she wakes up, she’s very cold. Colder than she’s ever been in her life. She can’t move or speak. And then she sees him. The one who took her. And before she dies, she wishes she could scream…

IS ABOUT TO BECOME …
Former movie star Jenna Hughes left Hollywood for an isolated farm in Oregon to get away from fame. But someone has followed her – an obsessed fan whose letters are personal and deeply disturbing.
And while Jenna’s already shaken up by what she’s seen on paper, she’d be terrified if she knew what Sheriff Shane Carter is investigating. It’s a shocking case that started with the discovery of a dead woman in the woods. Now two more women are missing, one of whom bears a striking resemblance to Jenna…

HER WORST NIGHTMARE …
As a winter storm bears down on the pacific northwest, a merciless killer’s grisly work has only just begun. And Jenna is Getting Closer to meeting her biggest fan.. one who wants nothing more than to see her dead..

Review –

The story was well thought-out and the characters well-developed. I could not guess the killer until the author revealed him to me!

The beginning was slow, but eventually started to pick up. I actually appreciated the slow start, though, because it gave me a chance to get to know the characters, relationships, and setting. Plus, it made the escalation at the end all that more terrifying.

The killer’s point of view was fantastic because it was both believable and disturbing. I kept wondering, “how can a person actually think like this?”

Jackson executed third person point of view in a way where it almost felt like first person. I enjoyed reading different character’s thoughts and digging through their mind so that I could better understand the characters.

There is a sex scene, which I don’t think I’ve seen in a Lisa Jackson book. While it wasn’t necessary to the plot, it was nicely done and added to the tension between the two leads.

You can not go wrong with a book by Lisa Jackson, so if you’ve never read anything by her, please give one a try. You will not be disappointed !

 

Born to Die (To Die #3) by Lisa Jackson

Book Description:

Published: July 26, 2011

Format: Audio: Audio/Audible

Appearances. . .

A sad, strange coincidence. . .that’s Dr. Kacey Lambert’s initial response to the deaths of two women who bear an uncanny resemblance to herself. It’s not like there was any real connection between Kacey and the B-movie actress or the elementary school teacher. But Detective Selena Alvarez suspects otherwise.

Can Be. . .

One of the bodies contained traces of poison at the time of death. Selena and her partner, Detective Regan Pescoli, can find no motive for murder. But Kacey has started to notice ties between the dead women’s lives and her own–all close in age, born within miles of each other. And all have links to Trace O’Halleran, the man Kacey just started dating.

Deadly. . .

The deeper Kacey digs, the more reason she has to fear. More look-alikes are dying, and the killer is getting bolder and more brutal. And Kacey knows it’s only a matter of time before hers is the next name on a list of those who were born to die. . .

Review –

This is the third installment of Lisa Jackson’s series, To Die, and again features feature Detectives Selena Alvarez and Regan Pescoli,of  the two Grizzly Falls, Montana police department. This time they look into the suspicious fall of schoolteacher, Jocelyn Wallis, onto a rocky ledge. Jocelyn, who later dies in the hospital of her injuries, turns out to bear an uncanny resemblance to Hollywood actress Shelly Bonaventure, whose recent death from a pill overdose was officially ruled a suicide, though the police suspect foul play. When Kacey Lambert, a doctor who coincidentally resembles Jocelyn and Shelly, reports that her home has been bugged, Alvarez and Pescoli step up their investigation before Kacey becomes the next victim. Jackson skillfully interweaves the suspense surrounding the look-alike women with the romance that develops between Kacey and local rancher Trace O’Halleran.  There are skilled characterizations, in particular the strong female leads, and a well-crafted plot to make any lover of a good crime fiction/mystery take note.

Excellent read.

A Boy Called Christmas(Christmas #1) by Matt Haig

Book Description:

Published: November 16, 2015

Format: Audio

You are about to read the true story of Father Christmas.
It is a story that proves that nothing is impossible.
If you are one of those people who believe that some things are impossible, you should put this book down right away. It is most certainly not for you.
Because this book is FULL of impossible things.

Are you still reading?

Good.

Then let us begin . . .

A Boy Called Christmas is a tale of adventure, snow, kidnapping, elves, more snow, and an eleven-year-old boy called Nikolas, who isn’t afraid to believe in magic.

Review –

Eleven-year-old Nikolas—nicknamed “Christmas”, because he was born on Christmas Day,—has received only one toy in his life: a doll carved out of a turnip. But he’s happy with his turnip doll, because it came from his parents, who love him.

But his mother has died, and his father, Joel is an impoverished woodcutter. Desperate for money, Joel joins a group of men on a quest to prove the existence of elves, leaving Nikolas with his ill-tempered aunt, Carlotta. Nikolas runs away to find his father, but trudging months through the woods, he faces starvation, freezing, and hopelessness. Then he comes across a reindeer with an arrow stuck in his leg. Nikolas helps him and names him Blitzen, and they continue their journey to the elf village together. Unfortunately, once located, the elves do not offer a warm welcome but instead lock Nikolas in the tower. It’s there that Nikolas discovers, with the help of a drimwick, or hope spell, that he’s become more than just the simple boy he used to be. 

In many ways it’s a coming of age story for Nikolas who has had a hard life and learns who he truly is and what the value of family and love really mean. It’s a story of unlikely friendships between a poor boy, a mouse, a reindeer named Blitzen and a village of downtrodden elves who are struggling to find their Christmas Spirit. But perhaps most importantly it’s a story about the unexpected and impossibility of life and the true meaning of Christmas and the Christmas Spirit. It’s heart warming and a fantastic read.

One feature I particularly loved about this book was the cameos made by well known Christmas figures (i.e. the reindeer etc) and the way we get little glimpses at how today’s much loved traditions came to be what they are. For example, How Father Christmas’ name came to be, where the idea for presents delivered by Santa came from and where the suit itself came from. This feature of the book actually made me take a step back and reevaluate everything I took for granted about Christmas and question it’s origins and it’s made this Christmas in turn all that much more special.

This book came into my possession over two years ago and I don’t know why I let it sit on the shelf for so long. I had the audio and narrator did a fantastic job, but I hear that the book has excellent illustrations and that it would make a great read-aloud.

 

 

 

The Night Fire (Harry Bosch #22, Renee Ballard #3) by Michael Connelly

Book Description:

Published: October 22, 2019

Format: Audio/OverDrive

Harry Bosch and LAPD Detective Renee Ballard come together again on the murder case that obsessed Bosch’s mentor, the man who trained him — new from #1 New York Times bestselling author Michael Connelly

Back when Harry Bosch was just a rookie homicide detective, he had an inspiring mentor who taught him to take the work personally and light the fire of relentlessness for every case. Now that mentor, John Jack Thompson, is dead, but after his funeral his widow hands Bosch a murder book that Thompson took with him when he left the LAPD 20 years before — the unsolved killing of a troubled young man in an alley used for drug deals.

Bosch brings the murder book to Renée Ballard and asks her to help him find what about the case lit Thompson’s fire all those years ago. That will be their starting point.

The bond between Bosch and Ballard tightens as they become a formidable investigation team. And they soon arrive at a worrying question: Did Thompson steal the murder book to work the case in retirement, or to make sure it never got solved?

Review –

A cold case pulls Harry Bosch back from retirement and into another eventful partnership with Detective Renée Ballard of the LAPD.

The widow of Bosch’s retired mentor, Detective John Jack Thompson, has a present for Bosch, and it’s a doozy: the murder book for the unsolved killing of ex-con John Hilton, shot to death in his car one night nearly 20 years ago, which Thompson swiped from the archives without authorization or explanation. Bosch, who wonders why Thompson lifted the murder book if he didn’t intend to work the case, is eager to take a crack at it himself, but he needs the resources that only an active partner can provide. But Ballard, settled into the routine of the midnight shift after her exile from Robbery-Homicide, has just started working her own case, the arson that killed Eddie, a homeless man, inside his tent. As if that’s not enough criminal activity, Bosch’s half brother, Lincoln lawyer Mickey Haller, faces the apparently hopeless defense of Jeffrey Herstadt, who not only left his DNA under the fingernail of Walter Montgomery, the Superior Court judge he’s accused of killing, but also obligingly confessed to the murder. Working sometimes in tandem, more often separately, and sometimes actively against the cops who naturally bridle at the suggestion that any of their own theories or arrests might be flawed, Ballard and Bosch slog through the usual dead ends and fruitless rounds of questioning to link two murders separated by many years to a single hired killer. The most mysterious question of all—why did John Jack Thompson steal that murder book in the first place?—is answered suddenly, casually, and surprisingly.” Kirkus Reviews

I was very disappointed in this, the latest Harry Bosch novel, because it was, to me, so dry and procedural. Give me action and suspense, murder and mayhem over policy and courtroom capers. But, starting at chapter 46, the book jumped into action and it was like a different book.  Loved it,(huge Harry Bosch fan) but only gave it three stars.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Wild Inside (Glacier Mystery #1) by Christine Carbo

Book Description:

Published: June 16, 2015

Format: Audio/Audible

A haunting crime novel set in Glacier National Park about a man who finds himself at odds with the dark heart of the wild—and the even darker heart of human nature.

It was a clear night in Glacier National Park. Fourteen-year-old Ted Systead and his father were camping beneath the rugged peaks and starlit skies when something unimaginable happened: a grizzly bear attacked Ted’s father and dragged him to his death.

Now, twenty years later, as Special Agent for the Department of the Interior, Ted gets called back to investigate a crime that mirrors the horror of that night. Except this time, the victim was tied to a tree before the mauling. Ted teams up with one of the park officers—a man named Monty, whose pleasant exterior masks an all-too-vivid knowledge of the hazardous terrain surrounding them. Residents of the area turn out to be suspicious of outsiders and less than forthcoming. Their intimate connection to the wild forces them to confront nature, and their fellow man, with equal measures of reverence and ruthlessness.

As the case progresses with no clear answers, more than human life is at stake—including that of the majestic creature responsible for the attack. Ted’s search for the truth ends up leading him deeper into the wilderness than he ever imagined, on the trail of a killer, until he reaches a shocking and unexpected personal conclusion.

As intriguing and alluring as bestselling crime novels by C.J. Box, Louise Penny, and William Kent Krueger, as atmospheric and evocative as the nature writing of John Krakauer and Cheryl Strayed, The Wild Inside is a gripping debut novel about the perilous, unforgiving intersection between man and nature.

Review –

Grizzly bears, murder, mauling, and mayhem mix in this author’s debut novel.

Ted Systead’s past and present intersect in an unexpected—and chilling—manner against the gorgeous backdrop of Glacier National Park in Montana. When Systead was a boy of fourteen, his father, a pathologist, was dragged off and killed by a grizzly bear in Glacier.

Now, decades later, Systead is a homicide investigator for the Department of the Interior based out of Denver. When the body of drug user and general low life, Victor Lance, is found shredded by a park grizzly after having been secured to a tree with duct tape, Systead must push back against his own demons to work the case. In the process, he reluctantly teams with Park Officer Monty Harris, who he suspects is little but a spy for his boss, Eugene Ford. But, as they work their ways through the people who populated Lance’s life (his mother, former girlfriend, and others), Systead gains a grudging respect for Monty and finds himself unraveling other peoples’ lives in order to get at the truth.This author likes detail and packs the book with trivia about the park and its wildlife inhabitants, which prove interesting.  The author also provides background details on some of the numerous characters, bringing them to life for the reader/listerner.

This book was stunning from the beginning until the very end. I’ve never been to Montana, or Glacier Park, but let’s just say it’s in my heart after reading this book. Superbly written; it has everything you’d love in a murder mystery, and then some. I’ll say again, if you haven’t heard of Christine Carbo or read one of her books, you’re missing out

Join Special Agent  Ted Systead for the Department of the Interior as he investigates a mind-boggling crime involving a grizzly and a hidden perp. Great twist at the end!

Christine’s writing rivals that of bestselling crime novels of C.J. Box and Nevada Barr.

Five stars !!!!!

 

 

 

Cold Blooded (New Orleans #2) by Lisa Jackson

Book Description:

Published:  June 1, 2002

Format: Audio/Audible

His Vengeance Will Be Repeated. . .

A woman’s slashed, incinerated corpse is found in a seedy New Orleans apartment. Her killer is certain there were no witnesses, unaware that his every move was seen by a beautiful stranger–from her bed in a bayou cottage on the outskirts of town. . .

And Repeated. . .

Weeks later, another violent vision shatters Olivia Bechet’s sleep. Convinced a serial killer is stalking the city, Olivia turns to the authorities. But jaded detective Rick Bentz doesn’t believe her–even when a second body turns up, slain in exactly the same bizarre, ritualistic manner Olivia described. . .

And Repeated. . .

As New Orleans panics in the icy grip of a merciless killer, Olivia is frustrated by Bentz’s skepticism–and captivated by her attraction to him. But soon her dreams are invaded by images of another murder. One that has yet to be committed. This time, Olivia recognizes not only the victim’s face–but the murderer’s. And both are closer than she ever imagined. . .

Review –

Another serial killer is wreaking havoc in New Orleans, ( it seems to be the serial killer capital of the world) and it’s up to detectives Rick Bentz and Reuben Montoya, the protagonists from Jackson’s previous thriller, Hot Blooded, to catch him. This time around, the detectives are joined by Olivia Benchet, a reluctant psychic who hails from a highly dysfunctional family. Olivia’s visions of a priestly killer who tortures and sacrifices young females provide Bentz and Montoya with their best clues, but Olivia may be the next victim if Bentz doesn’t shrug off his cynicism concerning visions and romantic entanglements with the wild-haired psychic. Twice burned by his former wife, who had an affair with his half-brother, Bentz now lives for work and his rebellious, nineteen year-old daughter, Kristi. The hunt for the murderer escalates when Olivia realizes her visions are a two-way mirror, and the killer has Kristi and Olivia in his sights. Jackson’s sanctimonious serial killer, who refers to himself as The Chosen One, is predictable, but the dynamics between her protagonists, particularly between Bentz and Olivia, are a welcome counterpoint to the violent action. Although some readers may be repulsed by the killer’s sexually sadistic crimes, which are depicted in graphic detail, others will be intrigued by the authors portrayal of the abominations that result when faith and family are perverted. 

Five stars!!!!

 

Hot Blooded (New Orleans #1) by Lisa Jackson

Book Description:

Published: August 1, 2001

Format: Audio/Audible

With “Hot Blooded”, Lisa Jackson follows firmly in the footsteps of fellow New York Times bestselling authors Iris Johansen and Tami Hoag. An acknowledged master at crafting tales of romantic suspense, Jackson now weaves even stronger threads of tension and intrigue into this pulse-pounding tale.A prostitute lies strangled in a seedy French Quarter hotel room. Miles away, in a rambling plantation house on the sultry shores of Lake Ponchartrain, popular late-night radio host Dr. Samanatha Leeds receives a threatening crank call. Soon, another hooker’s corpse turns up. Samantha’s ominous caller persists, along with a mysterious female claiming to be a woman from her past — a woman who’s been dead for years. With Detective Rick Bentz convinced that the serial killer prowling the shadowy streets of New Orleans is somebody close to Samantha, she doesn’t dare trust anyone. Especially Ty Wheeler, her seductive new neighbor who seems to know more about her than a stranger should.

Someone has discovered Samantha’s darkest secret. Somebody is convinced that lives must be sacrificed to pay for her sins. So far, the victims have been strangers. Prostitutes. But as a cunning, cold-blooded killer grows bolder, Samantha wonders in dread if she will be the next to die.

Review –

Lisa Jackson does a great job of spinning a mystery that keeps you guessing… enough characters to throw several red herrings into the mix and twists so that you can’t really guess the whole story… This one is about a psychologist that has a Radio show format to help people… that is until a psycho dredges up something from her past that she would have much preferred was left buried. And who is that handsome strnager that moved in up the road – is he connected or is he the one… only time will tell!

I’ve read several other books by this author but I am really glad I got into her New Orleans series… 1) I like reoccurring characters 2) I love a good mystery that I can’t easily predict 3) I like her style of writing – very fast reads 4) although they are deemed romantic mysteries, I like that they are light on the romance and heavy on the mystery… do people hook up, yeah sure… but the more interesting part is the mystery which says a lot.

Her characters are likeable… I am attached to Montoya and Bentz who are the lead detectives through the series. I am interested in what happens to them and what twists are thrown their way… Great book… hard to put down… 

Great read.