Dark, chilling tale of race violence and the KKK

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Gone Too Long by Lori Roy

Book Review:  4 out of 5 star rating

Beth is 10 years old and lives with her alcoholic mother in Georgia.  She’s been told to stay in the house and not go to the door when she’s home alone.   But she’s not alone one fateful day.  Her babysitter is there and that babysitter does go to the door and opens it.  That’s the day Beth disappears and thus begins a horrendous journey for her.

Imogene Coulter’s family is known for its connections to the Ku Klux Klan.  Edison Coulter, the man she calls Daddy, is one of its local leaders.  He’s being buried now but his legacy with the Klan continues with his son, Eddie, his daughter, Jo Lynne, and her husband, Garland.  Imogene tries to distance herself from this part of her family but when she’s asked by her mother to get rid of a wire that leads to her grandfather’s house, she’s tragically pulled into the family’s past and history.

This is a dark, chilling tale of violence against race.  This isn’t a typical thriller but rather an in depth character study of people whose oppose all that the KKK stand for but whose family members are involved in it.  Their lives and families are torn between these opposing forces.  My heart broke for Beth and the life she led after being taken from her home.  And Imogene, who is no stranger to tragedy herself, is so courageous and broken, she’d melt anyone’s heart.

What makes this book even more disturbing are the true life historical references the author places between chapters telling the history of the KKK.  The most chilling historical fact of all is the most recent one – the 2017 United the Right rally in Charlottesville.

Recommended.

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

 

Intelligent and compassionate

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The Body in Question by Jill Ciment

Book Review:  5 out of 5 star rating

A teenage girl has been accused of murdering her toddler brother in a horrific way.  The jury for her murder trial has been chosen and sequestered in an Econo Lodge.  Jurist Hannah, known in much of the book as juror C-2, is a 52-year old married well-known photographer.  She’s married to a much-older man, an 85-year-old Pulitzer Prize winner.  She finds that she’s very attracted to one of the jurists, Graham (known as juror F-17), who is a 41-year-old anatomy professor.  Hannah and Graham find ways to be alone, which is prohibited by the court, and they begin to have an affair.  They don’t discuss the case when alone but find that the affair causes some distraction during the hearing of evidence.  However, the effects of their affair are not seen only during the trial and deliberation but for long afterwards.

This is an intelligent and compassionate look at two people drawn to each other during a time in their lives when they’re asked to weigh some heavy issues that will result in finding a young girl innocent or guilty of a horrendous crime.  I found these characters to be true to life and believable.  The author handles the plot with delicate finesse and never makes a misstep.  The case at trial is a heart-breaking one and the jurors are not always given all of the facts, which is the way it often happens in trials.  The story of Hannah and her elderly husband is a touching, faithful rendition of the effects of old age in a marriage.  And the affair between Hannah and Graham is portrayed with a non-judgmental hand.  I loved reading this book and thought it was very well written.

Most highly recommended.

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

 

Portrait of an immigrant family

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Searching for Sylvie Lee by Jean Kwok

Book Review:  3 out of 5 star rating

Sylvie Lee is a successful, beautiful woman.  Her younger sister, Amy, idolizes her.  When news reaches them that their grandmother is dying in the Netherlands, Sylvie flies there to be with her.  Sylvie grew up in the Netherlands.  Her parents were too poor to take care of her when she was born and sent her to live with her grandmother and the Tan family.  Sylvie didn’t return to the US and her parents until she was 9 years old.  But now Sylvie has returned to the place she thinks of as home.  But Amy and her parents become deeply upset when Sylvie disappears and they are unable to get any answers as to what happened.  Shy Amy must find the courage to go find her sister.  Her search for Sylvie uncovers long concealed family secrets.

The book fluctuates between chapters detailing Amy’s search for Sylvie and Sylvie telling her story starting a month earlier when she leaves for the Netherlands and occasionally a chapter from their mother’s point of view.  The character development in this book is very good and I cared about this family.  The author does a particularly good job of detailing the cultural differences and problems this immigrant family faced and the racism shown to the Chinese in the Netherlands.  But I was disappointed in some respects and felt parts of the books were too much like a soap opera.  I did not feel that the ending rang true at all and it felt out of place to me.

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

A deeply satisfying, gripping tale

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The Lost Man by Jane Harper

Book Review:  5 out of 5 star rating

The Bright brothers are overseers of a vast amount of land in the Outback in Queensboro.  The land is extremely hot, unforgiving and dangerous and no one leaves home without a large amount of supplies.  When one of the Bright brothers, Cameron, doesn’t come home one day after supposedly going out for a repeater mast repair, an alert is put out.  He’s found dead at the foot of the stockman’s grave, which is a great source of legend in the area.  Cam’s brothers, Nathan and Bub, cannot understand why Cam would have left his car, which was fully stocked with emergency supplies, to walk 5.5 miles, which he knew would be a death warrant.  Cam has left behind their mother, Liz, his wife, Ilse, and two young daughters, all of who are devastated and confused.  This has all happened right before Christmas.  While the police and others believe this to be a suicide, doubts and suspicion abound among family members and threaten to tear them all apart.

I was completely glued to the pages of this book.  It’s a fascinating tale and the author is an expert at making her characters come alive.  Not only that, but what a forbidding area this took place in, one where your life depended on having enough water and air conditioning to survive.  It’s a land that could be hated but also loved for its stunning beauty.  The author has created a dark, suspenseful atmosphere that is completely riveting.   This is a slow burning, heart breaking book that blew me away.  It’s not only the mystery of Cam’s death that was fascinating but also the relationship of Nathan and his teenage son Xander and Nathan’s complicated history with Cam’s widow, Ilse.  And then there’s their mother, Liz, who loves them all so dearly.

A deeply satisfying, gripping tale that I most highly recommend.

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

 

Predictable and a bit of a disappointment

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The Suspect by Fiona Barton

Book Review:  3 out of 5 star rating

18-year-old Alex and Rosie are taking a trip of their lifetime to Thailand.  They don’t know each other very well but hope to be good traveling companions.   They promise to keep in touch with their families but now a week has gone by and no word from them.  Kate Waters is a journalist who tries her best to always be the first reporter to nab any news relating to this disappearance.  She’s a bit distracted because she hasn’t seen her son, Jake, in two years when he left to travel the world.

Maybe I’ve just read too many books of this type.  Or maybe I’ve become a psychic or something.  I just always seemed to be one step ahead of this author and knew exactly what was coming each step of the way.  That’s not to say that this book didn’t have quite a few “big reveals”.  I just knew what they would be before they were revealed.  If I didn’t know this book wasn’t published yet when I read it, I would have thought that I’d read it before.  I really have no explanation as to why I knew what would happen as I don’t think the author spoiled things in any way.

The book is rather long for a thriller at over 400 pages.  I can’t say I raced through it.  I did care about the journalist Kate, but the young girls and their parents could be aggravating at times.  Unfortunately, my commitment to the book did start to wane by the end.  The ending was a bit ambiguous, too.  While it wasn’t a bad book, I didn’t feel it was as good as the author’s first book, “The Widow”.

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

An addictive read about obsession, betrayal and morality

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An Anonymous Girl by Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen

Book Review:  4 out of 5 star rating

It sounds like an easy way to make some much-needed money to make-up artist Jessica Farris.  Just answer a few questions for Dr. Shields’ psychology study, what could be difficult about that?  But some of the questions are tough to answer and cause Jessica quite a bit of discomfort.  But she tries to be honest and do what she’s being paid for.  Then she meets Dr. Shields and is asked to expand her participation in the study and quite a bit more would be asked of her.  The excellent pay pulls Jessica in further and further until she doesn’t know who to trust or just what to think about Dr. Shields’ strange study.  What will Dr. Shields do with the information she’s gathering and why does she need it in the first place?

I was immediately pulled into this book and was completely intrigued.  I couldn’t read fast enough wondering just what was going on and what this study was all about.  I have to admit that when I found out the “why”, I was a bit disappointed.  But I was hooked by that point and had to know more.  This is a book that has a surprise around each bend in the road.  Like Jessica, you won’t know who can be trusted or what’s next in store for this very likeable character.  Try not to read too many reviews about this one because you want to go in blind and not know too much.  Let these excellent authors tell the story the way only they can.  An addictive read about obsession, betrayal and morality.

Recommended.

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

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.

Entertaining, thought-provoking spy novel

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Transcription by Kate Atkinson

Book Review:  4 out of 5 star rating

It’s 1940 and Juliette Armstrong has been recruited to work for M15.  She’s 18 years old and quite naïve.  She’s been given the tedious job of transcribing recordings of meetings of British Fascist sympathizers.  But she’s soon pulled even deeper into this frightening espionage world.  When the war is over, Juliette believes the past is behind her.  But she learns that there are still consequences that need to be dealt with.

There are sometimes light hearted moments in this novel that are deceiving because this is quite a deep, thought-provoking work.  While I very much enjoyed Juliette’s witty remarks, there are layers and layers to explore in this book.  I feel like starting the book from the beginning again and dissecting it, scene by scene, which is not something I’ve ever enjoyed doing.   The fragility of loyalty, how thin the line can be between “them” and “us”, how contradictory our inner beliefs can be and how history can be re-shaped in its telling are all explored.

On the negative side, I did get bogged down some with all of the boring transcriptions but I don’t really see how the author could have gotten around those.  Also, while most of the book is very realistic and believable, there were some scenes toward the end that were a bit far-fetched.

Overall, this is was a very interesting and enjoyable read.  Recommended.

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

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.

 

Haunting, touching psychological drama

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The Boy at the Keyhole by Stephen Giles

Book Review:  4 out of 5 star review

Nine-year-old Samuel misses his mother.  She’s left him alone with the housekeeper Ruth.  Ruth as told Samuel that his mother had to go to America to try to save the family business.  She didn’t even say goodbye and left in the middle of the night while he was sleeping.  But she’s been gone months and he begins to suspect that something has happened to her.  He begins to believe that Ruth has murdered his mother.

The comparisons of this book to the work of Shirley Jackson and Daphne Du Maurier convinced me that it was a must read.  I believe the book is closer to the work of Jackson than Du Maurier.  The author has created a very tense, suspenseful atmosphere.  At points in the book, you think you know where it’s headed but then the author turns it around, again and again, until you’re really not sure what to expect.  My heart was touched by the anguished plight of young Samuel.  It’s quite a sad story, either way the author decided to go.  I had a hard time putting it down and found it to be a very satisfying read.

Recommended.

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