Mesmerizing, heart-breaking first book in reverse order trilogy

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The Darkness by Ragnar Jonasson

Book Review:  5 out of 5 star rating

Detective Inspector Hulda Hermannsdottir is being forced into a slightly earlier retirement, being replaced by a younger person.  She dreads her future although she has met a very nice man who she thinks might be an answer to her loneliness.  Before she cleans out her desk at the police station, she’s been given an opportunity to look into a cold case of her choice.  She knows immediately which case it will be.  A young Russian women who was trying to find asylum in Iceland was found dead and her death was deemed a suicide. However, Hulda knows that the officer who investigated this case didn’t always do a very thorough job and she has a feeling that there was more to this case than he found.

I was so very impressed with this book and can’t wait to read everything else this author has written.  His characterization of Hulda is excellent and very detailed.  This woman has had a successful career as a police officer but hasn’t always been accepted by the men in the department.  She’s determined to end her career on a high note by solving this cold case but as each day approaches her retirement, errors are made and her situation deteriorates.  She begins to pin her hopes on the man she has recently met and envisions a happier future.  I loved Hulda and felt complete empathy for her.  Secrets in her past are alluded to, which when revealed are absolutely heartbreaking.  Also the story of this Russian immigrant is so timely and tragic.

This is the first book in the Hidden Iceland Trilogy.  The series is being told in reverse order so the next book will be set 25 years prior to this book.  It’s an unusual format for a trilogy and I think I may have preferred reading Hulda’s story in chronological order since now I know how her story ends.  But this first book is so brilliantly written that I know I will be anxiously awaiting the next one.  This author is one who isn’t afraid of taking risks and definitely knows how to write Nordic Noir.  The book is mesmerizing and heart breaking and the ending will chill you to the bone.

Most highly recommended.

This book was given to me by the publisher in return for an honest review.

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Quite entertaining

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Lies by T.M. Logan

Book Review:  4 out of 5 star rating

When Joe Lynch unsuspectingly follows his wife’s car one day at the bequest of his small son who wants to “surprise” mommy, he sets off a series of terrible events.  He’s now being framed for a murder that he believes never even happened.  Just when you think things can’t get worse, they do and the noose keeps getting tighter and tighter around Joe’s neck.

This is quite an addictive book and I really cared for Joe and his plight.  He’s such a good guy, good father and good husband that the course of events seemed so very unfair.  Social media and technology play a heavy hand in this suspenseful thriller.  It was quite scary to see how easier this app or that app can be downloaded onto your phone and your privacy is completely gone.  How realistic the tale was, I’m not sure but it was certainly a fun ride.  And I never saw the end coming.  Not only was this a fast thriller but it also touched on the fragility of our relationships with others and how destructive lies can be.

Recommended.

This book was given to me by the publisher in return for an honest review.

 

Excellent addition to the Marlowe collection

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Only To Sleep by Lawrence Osborne

Book Review:  4 out of 5 star rating

At 72 years of age, Philip Marlowe has retired.  But when he’s offered a case by an insurance company, he decides to have one last adventure.  They want Marlowe to investigate the death of Donald Zinn.  They’ve paid Zinn’s widow a very large sum of money but something doesn’t seem right and they think Marlowe is the man to get to the bottom of it.

Who doesn’t know and love Philip Marlowe?  What a perfect delight to have an author such as Lawrence Osborne bring him to life once again.  The Robert Chandler Estate asked Mr. Osborne to write this book and they couldn’t have picked a better author to do the job.  Osborne has done a wonderful job of creating an older Marlowe.  And he has done an excellent job of depicting a man who has led an adventurous life but now is headed to a more sedentary life and all of the conflicting emotions that go along with that.  So enjoyable to once again join Marlowe as he takes on his last investigation.

This is a bit different from Mr. Osborne’s other books in that he adapts the Chandler style of telling this story.  But his particular talents still shine through.  He’s lived in many countries and has quite a knack for detailing each location that he brings his characters to.  Most of this book takes place in different locations in Mexico and the author brings his readers right there with him.  With all the sights and smells and colors, you’ll completely forget that you’re not actually there.  I do hope that one day Mr. Osborne will once again bring Mr. Marlowe out of retirement for another adventure.

Recommended.

This book was given to me by the publisher in return for an honest review.

 

Can always count on this author for an interesting read

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The Disappearing by Lori Roy

Book Review:  4 out of 5 star rating

Lane Fielding has returned home after twenty years to once again live with her parents.  She never wanted to return but her divorce was a hard one and she’s back with her two daughters, Annalee and Talley.  She’s not welcome in town since her father has for many years been suspected of abusing, and possibly killing, young boys at a nearby reform school.  Lane has her own mystery of what happened to her when she disappeared at the age of 13 years old that still follows her around.  Now another young blond girl has disappeared and the reporters are back in town.  The past will soon touch Lane’s fragile family in an even more frightening way.

I’ve read all of Lori Roy’s books and they never disappoint.  The author is very good at bringing her damaged characters to life and keeping her readers hooked.  This is a slow moving book, sometimes I thought it was a bit too slow but then it would pick up again.  I loved Lane and admired her efforts to be a good mother to the often difficult Annalee and the young vulnerable Talley.  Lane had a hard upbringing and she vowed to do better by her daughters.  She and her twisted family and their battle with their demons makes for an interesting story.  The past is never too far from the present.  This novel is apparently based on the real-life tragedy at the Arthur Dozier School for Boys in Florida.

Recommended.

This book was given to me by the publisher in return for an honest review.

The buzz this book is getting is deserved!

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Jar of Hearts by Jennifer Hillier

Book Review – 4 out of 5 star rating

Georgina Shaw (Geo) has made quite a success of her life.  She’s an executive in a Seattle pharmaceutical company and is engaged to marry the rich CEO of the company.  All of that falls apart when she’s arrested for a murder that was committed fourteen years ago.  Her best friend Angela Wong disappeared then when she and Geo were 16 years old and now her mutilated body has been found.  Also arrested for the murder is Geo’s boyfriend at that time, Calvin James.  Calvin is also accused of three other murders.  On the case is Det. Kaiser Brody, who has loved Geo since high school.  When new bodies turn up, murdered in the same way as Calvin’s prior murders, the past explodes for them all.

This book has certainly been all the buzz around the thriller world and it turned out to be quite an entertaining read.  It’s well constructed and very realistic.  I thought the author’s description of prison life was excellent.  I felt like I was there with Geo and the dangers of her life there sent chills down my spine.  I’ve always been attracted to books dealing with obsession and Geo’s obsession with Calvin and what it led to was done to perfection.  The author is adroit at knowing when to drop shockers on her readers.  While I only give 5 stars to books that have had a deep impact on my life and not to thrillers, this is quite an excellent thriller.  Snagged me from the first page.

Recommended.

I won a copy of this book in a Goodreads giveaway and am under no obligation to write a review.  I found it quite charming that the publisher included an actual jar with some conversation hearts with sayings from the book.  Enjoyed the book and the hearts!

The devastating effects of a rape accusation

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Anatomy of a Scandal by Sarah Vaughan

Book Review:  4 out of 5 star rating

James has it all.  He’s married to lovely Sophie, he has two beautiful children and he’s a successful member of parliament.  He’s handsome and could have any woman he wants, even if Sophie weren’t the love of his life, which she is, so why would he commit rape?  Yet he stands accused and faces a trial that could destroy his family, reputation and career.

Kate is the lawyer who is prosecuting the case against James.  She’s sure that he’s guilty and she’s determined to prove it to the jury.  But this case is turning into one that she may not be strong enough to endure as it has dredged up old memories that still haunt her.

At the beginning of this book, I thought, OK, here’s another book about a possibly philandering husband, same old, same old.  But it turned into something much deeper.  The author did an excellent job in describing how hard it was for the woman accusing James of rape to testify at the trial – or is she just a woman scorned? – and the difficulty of finding justice in such a case.  How can a jury decide who is telling the truth when it’s really one person’s word against the other’s?  Is it really all down to how well either attorney presents his/her case?

The author also presented Sophie’s situation very well.  She loves her husband and wants desperately to believe him.  But hearing the testimony at trial and reading the papers where their marriage and life together is being scrutinized just tears her apart and causes confusion and distance in their marriage.  Even the strongest marriages could be strained to the breaking point under such an accusation.

A well-thought-out, heartfelt novel which I recommend.

This book was given to me by the publisher in return for an honest review.

A fun, fast read

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The Chalk Man by C.J. Tudor

Book review:  3 out of 5 star rating

12 year olds and summer – what a perfect combination.  Eddie and his friends, Fat Gav, Metal Mickey, Hobbo and the only girl in the gang, Nicky, are enjoying every minute of it.  They like to leave each other messages with little chalk stick men drawings.  They’re having a great time of it until they’re led to a dismembered body.  And what has led them to this body?  Little chalk men drawings.  Now they’re grown up and each have received mysterious letters with a chalk stick man.  That’s when they realize that the past isn’t over after all.

The book fluctuates between 1986 and 2016.  I loved the atmosphere that this author created and was pulled right back to the 80’s.  Such fun running all over this English village with these kids, seeing what excitement there is to find on those hot summer days.  This book is reminiscent of Stephen King’s novella, “The Body”, which was made into the film, “Stand By Me”, and is impressive for a debut.  To me, King’s novella is a classic and Ms. Tudor has a way to go before her work can truly be compared to King’s but it did remind me of it but without the deep sadness that King’s book invoked.  It has a spooky feel without anything supernatural going on and I liked that the author didn’t feel the need to include gory details to make her book suspenseful.  Unfortunately, the end didn’t come as a surprise to me and I’m not that quick to pick up on clues.  These clues seemed to be a bit too obvious.  I almost felt like I was a step ahead of the author throughout the book and knew what was coming.  But the book is very addictive, the characters are likeable (at least when they’re children) and it was a fun read.

This book was given to me by the publisher in return for an honest review.

 

A thriller with a lot of heart

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The Dry by Jane Harper

Book Review:  5 out of 5 star rating

Aaron Falk has returned to his home town.  He and his father had been run out of that town when Aaron was a teenager due to suspicion of their involvement in a young girl’s death.  Now Aaron’s good friend, Luke, has apparently killed his family and then committed suicide.  Luke’s parents ask Aaron to look into what really happened.  Was Luke so despondent about the future of the farm during the area’s horrendous drought that he lost his mind, killing those he loved?  And will the town accept Aaron back or will the young Ellie’s death still haunt him and all who loved her?

I very much enjoyed this thriller.  It’s as suspenseful and engrossing as you would want any thriller to be but it also is an excellent study of how the past can affect the lives of so many for years to come.  And it’s also a look at how an environmental catastrophe can tear apart a community.  There are many layers to this absorbing book.  This is the author’s debut novel and she’s already nailed how to bring her characters to life.  These were people I knew and cared about, which made the stories of the past and the present all the more heart rending.  You’ll feel the heat from this town, both due to the weather and the anger that has been nursed for years.  An explosion is inevitable.  Perfect plot and perfect character development.  And the best part is that this is only the first of the Aaron Falk series.  There’s more to come with “Force of Nature” to be published in February, 2018.  I’m very much looking forward to it.

Highly recommended.

Very good psychological drama

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The Child by Fiona Barton

Book Review:  4 out of 5 star rating

Kate Waters is a news reporter hot on the trail of a story that she hopes will be a big one. A baby’s skeleton has been found in a construction site.  Kate can’t get the baby out of her mind.  What tragedy was behind the burial of this infant child?  Could this baby be the one who was stolen from a maternity ward decades ago?  As she digs deeper, secrets come to the surface that will change the lives of three women forever.

The reporter Kate also appears in Ms. Barton’s first book, “The Widow”. The chapters in her new book alternate between three women.  First of all is, of course, Kate Waters, the reporter.  She’s relentless in the pursuit of truth.  Angela is the mother of little Alice who she alleges was stolen from a maternity ward shortly after her birth.  Although Angela has two other children, she has never gotten over the loss of her child and longs for closure.  And Emma, a woman who seems obsessed with this baby.

The beginning of the book starts off slowly as the author builds her story. It was slow enough that I was considering giving the book 3 stars but the second half of the book pushed my rating up to 4 stars because that’s when I truly became involved in the story. The twist didn’t come as too much of a surprise but it didn’t matter as the main thrust of this book isn’t the “who done it” or even the why but the effect on the characters.  I loved how much Kate cared for the people she connected with.  I think we have such a callous opinion of reporters, only out for the story no matter what it costs others, so it was refreshing to read of one with a heart.  This isn’t so much of a thriller as an in depth character study of three women.  We know from the beginning that the baby has died so there’s no suspense there.  But the author does a very good job of giving us a look into the hearts and minds of women whose lives were so monumentally affected by one act.

Recommended.

This book was given to me by the publisher in return for an honest review.

 

Beautifully crafted story of the aftermath of a tragedy

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Ash Falls by Warren Read

Book Review:  4 out of 5 star rating

Ernie Luntz is a convicted murderer and now he’s on the loose and is being hunted by the police. Back at home at Ash Falls, his family and all of the residents wonder if he’ll return there.  That’s where the murder happened and Ernie would be a fool to set foot in that town again.  But his ex-wife Bobbie and his son Patrick still live there and that may be enticement enough for Ernie to return.

I became completely immersed in this compelling tale. Not only is there the suspense of “will Ernie return and what will happen if he does” but there’s also the interconnecting stories of others living in Ash Falls.  This is a quiet book that slowly pulls you in.  The author masterfully tells the story of each of these people who have been touched by the same horrendous event in the past and presents their stories through their everyday lives.  These characters are real – Marcelle, the too-young-to-be-married wife of Eugene, Hank, the pot dealer, Patrick, the gay teenager who is struggling to deal with his father’s crime, and Bobbie, the single mom who feels to blame.  I grew to know and care for these people.  The ending brought me to tears.

For those animal lovers out there, there is quite a bit about mink farming though I felt the author was not a fan of it, which made it easier to read. Though personally I had to skip the part about the day the minks’ skins are harvested.

There were sections throughout this book that I had to stop and read again. This quote may not appear in the final edition but I’d like to share it so you can see this writer’s potential.  “The vista shifted quickly from wheat fields to a wide spread of stunted trees, perfect geometrical grids of them that stretched on forever, naked branches reaching up, shocked, as if crying out to be released from the roots that anchored them into the cold earth.”  This is the author’s first novel, though he did write a memoir, “The Lyncher in Me:   A Search for Redemption in the Face of History” about his discovery that his great-grandfather had incited the lynching of three black circus workers.  I’m looking forward to what he’ll come up with next.

Recommended.

This book was given to me by the publisher in return for an honest review.