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.

 

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Sweetheart (Archie Sheridan and Gretchen Lowell #2) by Chelsea Cain

Book Description:

Published: September 2, 2008

Format: Audio/OverDrive

Portland detective Archie Sheridan, the former head of the Beauty Killer Task Force, hunted Gretchen Lowell for years before she kidnapped him, tortured him, and then let him go. Now that she is behind bars, Archie is finally piecing his life back together. He’s returned home to his ex-wife and their two children. But no matter how hard Archie tries, he just can’t stop thinking about Gretchen!

When the body of a young woman is discovered in Forest Park, Archie is reminded of the first corpse he discovered there a decade ago: it turned out to be the Beauty Killer’s first victim, and Archie’s first case. Then, the unthinkable happens: Gretchen escapes from prison, and once the news breaks, all of Portland goes on high alert; but secretly, Archie is relieved. He knows he’s the only one who can capture Gretchen and now he has a plan to get out from under her thumb once and for all. Even if it means becoming her last victim!

Review –

In Sweetheart Archie’s best friend and detective, Henry, as well as his wife step in and stage a whole intervention scene. They are severing all ties between Archie and Gretchen. Henry explains that they are moving her to a place far out of his reach and banning all phone calls and visits with her. It doesn’t matter that every time Archie visits her she gives up another name of another victim. It’s just not worth it anymore.

This novel opens up with the shuffling of transporting Gretchen from one prison to another, in which she escapes. Archie knows she will kill anyone, especially those who are important to Archie. She will kill anyone to get his attention.  She wants him and she will not stop until she has him all to herself. With so many people Archie cares for there are a lot of people she can come after to gain his attention. But Gretchen isn’t playing games anymore. After a few leads that send the detective all over the city yet seem to get them nowhere to finding her, Gretchen comes directly for Archie and he goes to her willingly.

With Archie missing, our favorite reporter Susan Ward is back in action. Of course, she never left the action of trying to find the real scoop on the U.S. senator who seduced his children’s babysitter a decade ago. Only he’s dead and the babysitter is too. Susan worries her story is long gone? Until she finds a connection between the dead bodies that seem to be popping up everywhere and the sex scandal? Working with Henry trying to find Archie, Susan struggles with who to trust with the clues that she keeps uncovering about the other case she is working on.

The story goes back and forth between Archie’s relationship with his captor and Susan’s struggle to piece together all the parts of more than one head-scratching case.  I found the book a bit sluggish at times and felt that Cain was not doing as great a job at holding my attention with this installment of her Gretchen Lowell series.  The tension in this book was not up to par compared to her first book and the gory details of the previous book was traded for some lewd scenes between Archie and Gretchen ( we find out that Archie and Gretchen were having an affair before she kidnapped and tortured him and no one know but just the two of them.). Cain does however utilize the multiple plots going on in the book quite well and is easily switched from one to the other. I give kudos to Cain for incorporating the psychological complexities to the relationship between Archie and Gretchen as well as keeping the main characters busy with moving the storyline in the right direction. Though I feel the book could have been a wee bit better it was still a page turner (Archie tries to commit suicide while handcuffing Gretchen to the stairs in a cabin in the middle of a wild fire) for the most part.  It’s believable or as believable as one who’s never experienced a psycho serial killer can be and I am totally looking forward to the third installment, Evil at Heart.  I have it on hold on OverDrive but there are two people ahead of me.

Excellent read!

 

 

Everything You Want Me To Be by Mindy Mejia

Book Description:

Published: January 3, 2017

Format: Audio/OverDrive

No one knows who she really is…

Hattie Hoffman has spent her whole life playing many parts: the good student, the good daughter, the good girlfriend. But Hattie wants something more, something bigger, and ultimately something that turns out to be exceedingly dangerous. When she’s found brutally stabbed to death, the tragedy rips right through the fabric of her small-town community.

It soon comes to light that Hattie was engaged in a highly compromising and potentially explosive secret online relationship. The question is: Did anyone else know? And to what lengths might they have gone to end it? Hattie’s boyfriend seems distraught over her death, but had he fallen so deeply in love with her that she had become an obsession? Or did Hattie’s impulsive, daredevil nature simply put her in the wrong place at the wrong time, leading her to a violent death at the hands of a stranger?

Full of twists and turns, Everything You Want Me to Be reconstructs a year in the life of a dangerously mesmerizing young woman, during which a small town’s darkest secrets come to the forefront…and she inches closer and closer to death.

Evocative and razor-sharp, Everything You Want Me to Be challenges you to test the lines between innocence and culpability, identity and deception. Does love lead to self-discovery—or destruction?

Review –

Five Stars !!!!!

This story pulled me in from the beginning and held me captive to the end.

I see IDENTITY as the theme running through the storyline.  Hattie wasn’t sure who see was so she became what people wanted, the seemingly loving girlfriend, the knowledgeable student, the obedient daughter, the best friend, to name a few, and she hides behinds all of these. Others in the story hid behind their identities to a point: the English teacher behind literature and the sheriff behind his badge but not to the point that Hattie does.

Hattie has an epiphany and realizes that she can not hide behind her “fake” selves and has to come to terms with her true self but it is too late.

She truly loves Peter and he loves her too but as a reader I knew their relationship was doomed  from the beginning so I was not surprised by the outcome, but there is a huge plot twist that I didn’t see coming. 

This is a captivating story and I loved it and I highly recommend it!

The Drafter (Peri Reed Chronicles #1) by Kim Harrison

Book Description:

Published: September 1, 2015

Format: Audio/OverDrive

The Bourne Identity meets Minority Report in this first highly anticipated installment in number-one New York Times best-selling author Kim Harrison’s sexy new romantic suspense trilogy, featuring a brilliant special task agent at the top of her field and set in a futuristic Detroit.

During a routine but dangerous Opti task, Peri Reed finds out her trusted partner has made her a corrupt agent. Her unique ability to jump back 40 seconds in time to correct a mistake leaves her vulnerable when her partner, who is responsible for replacing her memory of the event, gives her a false one. But Peri lives and dies on her intuition, and she begins to piece her twisted reality together as she flees her one-time secure situation at Opti and tries to find the truth with a sullen but talented psychologist named Silas who works for the very agency trying to bring the Opti corruption to light.

With Howard, tech and med specialist, and Taf, gun-toting daughter of the opposing grass-roots agency, Silas and Peri try to rebuild her memory of the night she killed her partner, knowing it will put her mental stability in danger. Peri remembers, and thoughts of revenge keep her alive and moving forward as she tries to put an end to Opti, working with the very faction that wants to see her dead.

Review –

If  you’re a fan of Kim Harrison’s The Hollows series with Rachel Morgan, you are going to love this new series with Peri Reed, a highly trained  covert government operative, who has the added panache of being able to skip back in time, a minute or two, when a mission goes bad. 

As cool as it is, the ability also has serious consequences. Living through two timelines can ravage the mind, and drafters need the help of an “anchor” to reconcile the events in their minds… and even then, sometimes memories are lost. But as the story begins, Peri believes what she’s doing is worth the sacrifice –and she couldn’t be more in love with her anchor, Jack.

Over the course of the book, Peri has to face some uncomfortable truths about what she does and who she does it for. And it’s made so much more difficult because she is missing her own memories and she doesn’t know who she can trust. The author does so many things right here by making the reader feel Peri’s internal conflict. I believed in this crazy world she lives in and I was shaken right along with her every time Harrison dropped a new bomb in her lap.

There were so many parts where I didn’t know what to think –or who to believe. That could be frustrating at times, and even after reaching the end, I still don’t know what to make of some characters, especially Allen. But then I remind myself that there are still two books to go in the series.

I love the story and would classify it as a suspense/thriller yet futuristic  and sci-fi. It’s not a romance, but there is a romance somewhere in Peri’s memories but she does not get an HEA, at least not in book one!

Pitch Dark by A.M. Wilson and Alex Grayson

Book Description:

Published: September 15, 2017

Format: E-Book

One girl disappeared. After fifteen years, her cold lifeless body was found on the damp forest floor. Not an inch of her was unmarked by the horrors she endured. Alone, malnourished, abused in horrific ways; this was how she died.

One girl was found walking the streets, covered in dirt and scars. She had no memory of who she was, where she came from, or what happened to her. Even though the marks on her body attested to years of heinous abuse, her strength shone through at every turn.

Revenge and justice were sworn.

Years of searching brought up nothing but dead ends. Detective Niko James was too late to save his childhood friend, but he vows not to let down another.

The clock is ticking and the trail is pitch dark.

Review –
PitchDark is a very dark and gritty thriller, one that was difficult to read at times.  It’s intense, heartbreaking, edgy, and raw.  So be aware, it’s very explicit with the details of  child abuse.
It’s been fifteen years since Niko’s childhood friend, Aislin, has disappeared and in his heart he knew she was abducted while his parents and the police just thought she ran off.
A body is found in the woods covered with scars, old and new, and open sores, cuts, scrapes, and old and new bruises. She is identified as Aislin. Niko is heart-broken and angry because he hadn’t rescued her from such torture.
Later a girl is found walking the streets, barefoot and with similar markings on her body as the dead girl and she has no memory of who she is or her previous life.
While Niko helps to find out who this girl is and who did this to her (because he’s positive the same individual killed Aislin)he begins to get close to her and develops feelings he knows he shouldn’t.
I’m not going much further with the story because it would be too easy to include spoilers. Just surface it to say that it’s well written with engaging characters. Sometimes it seems draw out and repetitive but even that didn’t take away from the storyline although because of that I only gave it four and a half stars.
Excellent who-dun-it but there are many triggers and it’s not a romance so if you are easily disgusted and traumatized; stay away from this book!

A Tapping At My Door (DC Nathan Cody #1) by David Jackson

Book Description:

Published: April 7, 2016

Format: Audio/Audible

A woman at home in Liverpool is disturbed by a persistent tapping at her back door. She’s disturbed to discover the culprit is a raven, and tries to shoo it away. Which is when the killer strikes.

DS Nathan Cody, still bearing the scars of an undercover mission that went terrifyingly wrong, is put on the case. But the police have no leads, except the body of the bird – and the victim’s missing eyes.

As flashbacks from his past begin to intrude, Cody realises he is battling not just a murderer, but his own inner demons too.

And then the killer strikes again, and Cody realises the threat isn’t to the people of Liverpool after all – it’s to the police.

Review –

This is my first time to experience any of David Jackson’s writings and if his others are half as good as this one, he has a fan for life!

The book starts off with a bang and with a spooky and suspenseful murder and the action just keeps going from there.

Someone is horribly  killing policemen and leaving dead birds beside the bodies. Cody, who was previously in UnderCover is now in the Murder Investigation Team,  and is partnered up with an ex-girlfriend – DC Megan Webley and although there is clearly some issues between them relating to their past history, the chemistry works very well and Webley is more than a match for Cody’s unpredictable nature. Although Megan is now engaged to someone else, there seems to be unfinished business between her and Cody.

 It is clear that a previous case has gone horribly wrong and has caused Cody extreme trauma, because during this investigation he loses it many times and at one point has a severe panic attack. He needs help but is afraid to seek out a therapist for fear that word will get back to the police force and he will be suspended or fired, and his job is ALL he has.

He tells Megan what happened to him a year ago and believe me it was HORRIBLE and the men who did it are still out there.

I loved the story, it was well paced and cleverly structured with the twists and turns that you would expect in a crime thriller. The who and the why came as a complete surprise – and will leave your jaw dropping.

It is a suspenseful story with a dramatic finale and with some teasing loose ends that will no doubt be followed up (I hope!) – this is a series that I will happily follow and I look forward to meeting DS Nathan Cody again.

Five stars.

 

The Back Road ( DCI Tom Douglas #2) by Rachel Abbott

Book Description:

Published: March 18, 2013

Format: Audio/Audible

One girl is fighting for her life. One village is struggling to hold tight to its secrets.

When a young girl is knocked over and left for dead at the side of the road, the small community of Little Melham goes into shock. Why was Abbie out so late at night, and why wasn’t she missed?

For Ellie Saunders, the truth about that night could put her marriage and even the safety of her children in jeopardy. She has to protect her family, no matter what the consequences.

Former DCI Tom Douglas thought that Little Melham would offer a peaceful retreat from the daily trauma of his work for the Met. But as he is drawn into the web of deceit, his every instinct tells him that what happened to Abbie was more than a tragic accident.

Only one person knows the whole story – why Abbie was out that night, and who was driving the car. For that person, the accident spells disaster, and somebody has to pay.

Review –

This book is a sequel to Only the Innocent (which I have not read) finds former Chief Inspector Tom Douglas retired to what should be a quiet life of contemplation in Little Melham. As it turns out, the village proves to be a hive of infidelity and betrayal, of tragic histories and old shames.
One night on a back road, Abbie Campbell, a 14-year-old girl fleeing dark revelations of her own, is struck by a car and left for dead. Tom, a supporting character in this sometimes overwrought tale of modern life, suspects there’s more to the accident than meets the eye. Meanwhile, Tom’s neighbor, Ellie Saunders, discovers that a moment of weakness has left her vulnerable to blackmail. She’s being stalked, and feels threatened even when she’s in her own home. The identity of her stalker is carefully withheld, which makes his constant, watchful presence seem all the more menacing. Abbott builds the tension carefully and cleverly, and releases it at just the right time.
This is  a thoroughly modern novel, in that much of the characters’ cruelty and plotting rely on modern inventions such as mobile phones and the internet. Threatening and misleading texts are sent with remarkable regularity, while other characters are trapped and deceived by online stalkers. 

The mystery of the hit and run is kept secret almost to the end of the novel, and then it come as a complete surprise. There are many complexities in the myriad relationships between the residents of the community that will draw the reader into the story.

There are plenty of twists and turns and red herrings here, enough to keep you guessing right to the end.
I really enjoyed this book and would like to read more in the series but haven’t found any that are free or on audio but I will keep looking.

Unintended Consequences (Innocent Prisoner Project #1) by Marti Green

Book Description:

Published: November 11, 2012

Format: Audio/Audible

How much would a father sacrifice for his child?

Nineteen years ago, Indiana police found the body of a young girl, burned beyond recognition and buried in the woods. They arrested George Calhoun for murdering his daughter, and his wife testified against him at the trial. The jury convicted him. Now his appeals have been exhausted, and his execution is just a few weeks away. George said he didn’t do it. That the body isn’t his little Angelina. But that’s all he’s ever said – no other defense, no other explanation.

Dani Trumball, an attorney for the Help Innocent Prisoners Project, wants to believe him. After all, there was no forensic evidence that the body in the woods was George’s daughter. But if the girl isn’t Angelina, then who is it? And what happened to the Calhouns’ missing daughter? For nineteen years, George Calhoun has stayed silent. But that’s about to change, and the story he tells Dani—if it’s true—changes everything.

Review –

The series is called the Innocent Prisoners Project.  That spells it out.  The main character, Dani Trumbull, is an attorney who works for Help Innocent Prisoners Project (HIPP).  Part of her responsibility has been to go through cases to decide which to accept.  The cases, death penalty convictions, where her office may be their last hope.

Enter George Calhoun, scheduled for execution in six weeks for killing his own daughter.  He has always claimed it was not his daughter, but would never tell what had happened to her.  After being imprisoned for 19 years, he hopes HIPP will take his appeal.  Convicted based on his wife’s confession that they had indeed killed their child, the investigation itself was lax, without even a blood test to confirm the body was the daughter.

Dani finally agrees to take on the case.

That begins a bizarre tale of appeal after appeal, leads that go no where, and difficulty finding the truth at every turn.  With little time left, they can’t afford to lose an hour, yet each potential clue seems to take them in a direction they hadn’t expected, taking more time than they have.

Then the threats begin to Dani’s team.  Why does someone want to stop them? Who would want to stop them?   Is it to see George executed or to hide the truth that could prove his innocence?

There are a ton of unexpected twists included, plenty of tension as you begin to feel the clock ticking down.  A few times the directions they went seemed unrealistic, with obvious things they should have done.  That  didn’t detract for the suspense.  Knowing there are more steps to take, more people to find, more places to be, while George sits in a cell awaiting death in a very few days.

The author was a lawyer, though practicing corporate law. Since she grew up reading, finally leaning toward legal thrillers such as Scott Turow, she wanted her character to be a strong woman attorney in the genre. 

I loved this book and look forward to reading more in this series.

Excellent read!

The Good Daughter (Good Daughter #1) by Karin Slaughter

Book Description:

Published: August 8, 2017

Format: Audio/OverDrive

Two girls are forced into the woods at gunpoint. One runs for her life. One is left behind…

Twenty-eight years ago, Charlotte and Samantha Quinn’s happy small-town family life was torn apart by a terrifying attack on their family home. It left their mother dead. It left their father — Pikeville’s notorious defense attorney — devastated. And it left the family fractured beyond repair, consumed by secrets from that terrible night.

Twenty-eight years later, and Charlie has followed in her father’s footsteps to become a lawyer herself — the ideal good daughter. But when violence comes to Pikeville again — and a shocking tragedy leaves the whole town traumatized — Charlie is plunged into a nightmare. Not only is she the first witness on the scene, but it’s a case that unleashes the terrible memories she’s spent so long trying to suppress. Because the shocking truth about the crime that destroyed her family nearly thirty years ago won’t stay buried forever…

Review –

Five Stars !!!!!!

What a roller coaster ride! Just when I thought I knew where this book was headed Karin Slaughter (one of my favorites) throws in a giant twist.

I had the audio version and listening was very painful in some parts and I won’t say which because it would give too much away.

The Good Daughter is the kind of exceptional psychological thriller that only comes around once every so often—a story as in-your-face shocking as it is tender and heartbreaking. Chapter by chapter, the author unceremoniously  unfolds the history of two sisters, and reveals the horrific past that has both tied them together and driven them apart.

This is a brilliant, bold crime novel that examines the unbreakable bond of family and the lengths two women will go to uncover the truth about the brutal secrets of their past.

It is  tough and dark  and  Slaughter doesn’t shy away from describing violence in graphic detail, yet each moment of violence is purposeful and intentional, driving character development and giving readers firsthand investment in finding justice for the victims of these horrific acts. 

It is character driven and readers who want a straight police procedural or a true legal thriller will be better off looking elsewhere—THE GOOD DAUGHTER is first and foremost a story of a family struggling to overcome its dark and secret-laden past. While this isn’t the kind of read I went into the book expecting, the story’s rich character development and emotional, often horrific flashbacks left me all the more invested in it.

This book is dark, but it’s dark for a purpose. 

I highly recommend it!

 

 

Second Life by S.J. Watson

Book Description:

Published: June 9, 2015

Format: Audio/OverDrive

The sensational new psychological thriller from the bestselling author of Before I Go To Sleep …She loves her husband. She’s obsessed by a stranger. She’s a devoted mother. She’s prepared to lose everything. She knows what she’s doing. She’s out of control. She’s innocent. She’s guilty as sin. She’s living two lives. She might lose both …

Review –

From what I’ve heard others say about this book – you either hate it or love it. I loved it BUT it wasn’t love at first sight. The first third of the book is dreadfully S L O W, but then picks up momentum.

This story is complex, and it is highly, if not totally, character-driven. My absolute favorite type of book is a strong character-driven crime/suspense/thriller novel. And while I can see Julia turning off a lot of readers, as she certainly isn’t role model material, I felt I understood her and why she did the things she did. A lot of women will connect with her.She  has a good life, yet when her sister was murdered, she could not control her overwhelming need, no matter what, to bring closure to the case, which had become cold in the hands of the French police. This becomes more understandable when we learn she is a recovered/recovering alcoholic. We also find out other things that in context with what I just mentioned clearly demonstrate Julia has an addictive personality. Falling under the control of her addictions, she does things that most reasonable people would not do, given all there is to lose in the process.

There are several provocative themes running through Second Life. We are given an eye-opening look at the dangers of the cyberworld. Really quite frightening. Another prominent subject is whom can we trust implicitly? Our spouse? Our lover? Our best friend? Our siblings? Who? Anyone? No one? And again, we are shown how an addictive personality can take one down a road no one wants to go. It becomes clear that addiction trumps intelligence, addiction trumps judgment.

There are differing opinions on the ending of Second Life. Upon listening to the very end of the book I was dumbfounded. But after thinking about it, I do think Mr. Watson ended the tale the only way it could have ended and that’s all I’ll say about that.

READ THIS BOOK!!!!!!!!!        FIVE STARS.