Category Archives: Mystery

Review: Everything We Lost by Valerie Geary

Title: Everything We Lost by Valerie Geary
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Genre: 480 pages
Length: Contemporary, Mystery, Suspense
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Edelweiss

Summary:

From the critically acclaimed author of Crooked River comes this fascinating novel about a young woman searching for answers about events that transpired ten years before when her brother disappeared without a trace—an utterly mesmerizing psychological thriller.

Lucy Durant was only fourteen-years-old when she lost her older brother. First to his paranoid delusions as he became increasingly obsessed with UFOs and government conspiracies. Then, permanently, when he walked into the desert outside Bishop, California, and never returned.

Now on the tenth anniversary of Nolan’s mysterious disappearance, Lucy is still struggling with guilt and confusion—her memories from that period are blurry and obscured by time, distance, and alcohol. Now an adult, she’s stuck in a holding pattern, hiding out at her father’s house, avoiding people, and doing whatever she can to keep herself from thinking about Nolan. But when a series of unsettling events leads Lucy back to Bishop, she is forced to reconcile with her estranged mother and come to terms with the tangled memories of her past to discover what really happened to her brother all those years ago.

Told in Lucy and Nolan’s alternating voices, Everything We Lost is a psychological mystery exploring family, beliefs, obsessions, the nature of memory, and fear of the unknown—a haunting, compelling story that will resonate with readers long after the last page is turned.

Review:

Everything We Lost by Valerie Geary is an intriguing mystery that explores UFOs, extraterrestrial and government conspiracies. This compelling novel centers around the still unresolved disappearance of then sixteen year old Nolan Durrant, whose increasingly erratic and paranoid behavior and intractable belief in all things UFO raises makes him an outcast among his classmates and an embarrassment to his younger sister, Lucy.

The ten year anniversary of her brother’s disappearance is the catalyst for Lucy’s return to the small town of Bishop, CA where she hopes to finally remember what happened the night Nolan vanished. The siblings were thick as thieves until Lucy catches the eye of Nolan’s former friend, Patrick Tyndale, and she begins hanging out with him and his friends. This coincides with Nolan’s new relationship with newcomer, Celeste, whose sudden appearance in town and mysterious past fuels his theory that space aliens walk among us. In the weeks leading up to his disappearance, Nolan’s paranoid, volatile and delusional behavior begins to worsen after a few altercations with Patrick. Lucy’s memories of the night Nolan vanished are lost in a drunken haze of disjointed impressions and overwhelming guilt.  Will Lucy’s return to Bishop finally lead her the truth about what happened to her brother?

Lucy and Nolan’s childhood was anything but normal due to their parents’ divorce and their mother’s slow descent into alcoholism. Lucy was more than happy to tag along with Nolan on his fantasy fueled adventures about other planets,  UFOs and space aliens. However, around the time Lucy becomes involved with Patrick, Nolan’s interest in UFOs and extraterrestrials takes a dark turn and he grows increasingly unstable and convinced the government is after him. Patrick is charismatic and Lucy easily falls prey to his manipulations as she tries to keep his interest.  With his lifelong fascination with outer space, Lucy’s attempt to distance herself from her brother and their mother’s neglect, Nolan’s slow descent into mental illness is easily overlooked.

Written from both Lucy and Nolan’s points of view and alternating between past and present, Everything We Lost is an engaging mystery. Valerie Geary does an excellent job keeping readers off balance as she delves into the possibilities of life on other planets and extraterrestrials in our midst. She also broaches the difficult topic of mental illness with a great deal of sensitivity. Although the novel’s conclusion is somewhat open-ended,  it is relatively easy to surmise Nolan’s fate.  All in all, a perplexing mystery that explores some interesting subject matter.

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Filed under Contemporary, Everything We Lost, Mystery, Rated B, Review, Suspense, Valerie Geary, William Morrow Paperbacks

Review: At What Cost by James L’Etoile

Title: At What Cost by James L’Etoile
Detective Penley Mystery Series Book One
Publisher: Crooked Lane Books
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery
Length: 304 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

What would you do to save your child?

Detective John Penley and his new partner, Detective Paula Newberry, of the Sacramento Police Department are tasked with leading the investigation into a local serial killer who has dumped three bodies in the past six weeks–and all of them are missing their internal organs. But while pursuing a lead, the detectives stumble upon a personal message the killer left behind for Penley. And it’s attached to a human kidney.

How could the killer know Penley’s son is on the kidney transplant waiting list? Now Penley’s baited into an impossible trap that could jeopardize his entire career. Will the detective take down the killer and place his faith in the medical establishment to heal his son? Or, will he make a deal with the devil for the transplant organ his son needs to live?

At What Cost, James L’Etoile’s engrossing new mystery, is a heart-stopping thrill ride that will keep readers guessing at every turn. Fans of Michael Connelly and Thomas Perry won’t be able to put this down.

Review:

In At What Cost by James L’Etoile, Detective John Penley’s investigation of several gang members’ murders turns personal when he and his family are seemingly targeted by the killer.

Penley and his partner Detective Paula Newberry have not made much progress in their investigation of several recent murders of known gang members.  With each of the deceased belonging to different gangs, they cannot help but speculate that the deaths might be retaliation but this line of inquiry soon leads to a dead end.  A series of startling discoveries connected to the most recent murder leads Penley and Newberry to believe the killer is harvesting the victims’ organs.  Unfortunately, Penley has intimate knowledge of the donation process since his nine year old son Tommy is waiting for a kidney transplant.  Despite assurances there is no way anyone could be access the donor list, Penley and Newberry soon learn the killer is manipulating the donor list.  Will they capture the murderer before it is too late?

John Penley tries to keep his professional and personal lives separate, but maintaining his objectively on his current case is virtually impossible.  Using his insider’s knowledge of the donation process proves invaluable but there are limitations to what information can be obtained without jeopardizing patient confidentiality. Quickly realizing that Tommy might be at risk, John is faced with a moral dilemma that could help him flush out the killer but will doing so put his son in danger?

Newly transferred to homicide, Paula is not exactly welcomed by her co-workers due to her previous assignment.  She and John work well together but when their current case heats up, John’s trust in his partner is soon put to the test.  Despite John’s anger over a perceived betrayal, Paula is undeterred as she continues trying to track down a killer who always seems to be two steps ahead of them during their investigation.

At What Cost by James L’Etoile is a fast-paced police procedural with a refreshingly unique storyline.  There is plenty of suspense as Penley and Newberry try to make sense of the murders.  Once the pieces of the puzzle begin to fall into place, their investigation takes on new urgency once they realize John and his family are in danger.  With unexpected plot twists, a twisted motive for the murders and a seemingly demented killer, the novel races to a pulse-pounding conclusion.  An absolutely chilling first installment in the John Penley Mystery series that fans of the genre absolutely do not want to miss.

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Filed under At What Cost, Contemporary, Crooked Lane Books, James L'Etoile, Mystery, Rated B, Review

Review: Sleeping in the Ground by Peter Robinson

Title: Sleeping in the Ground by Peter Robinson
Inspector Banks Series Book 24
Publisher: William Morrow
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Suspense
Length: 336 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Edelweiss

Summary:

MICHAEL CONNELLY calls Peter Robinson “an author with amazing empathy, a snare-trap ear for dialogue, and a clear eye for the telling detail.”

See why in Sleeping in the Ground, the gripping new novel starring Alan Banks  featuring an opening scene you’ll never forget, and a finale you won’t see coming.

At the doors of a charming country church, an unspeakable act destroys a wedding party. A huge manhunt ensues. The culprit is captured. The story is over.

Except it isn’t. For Alan Banks, still struggling with a tragic loss of his own, there’s something wrong about this case — something unresolved. Reteaming with profiler Jenny Fuller, the relentless detective deeper into the crime… deep enough to unearth long-buried secrets that reshape everything Banks thought he knew about the events outside that chapel.

And when at last the shocking truth becomes clear, it’s almost too late.

Packed with twists and turns, heart and soul, this is another triumph from an author “at the top of his game” (LOUISE PENNY).

Review:

Featuring a ripped from the headlines style mass killing, Sleeping in the Ground is an engrossing police procedural which takes place in the British countryside. This latest release from Peter Robinson stars venerable Detective Superintendent Alan Banks and although it is the 24th installment in the Inspector Banks series, it can easily be read as a standalone.

The novel opens with a mass shooting by an unknown assailant at a wedding that leaves bride Laura Tindall and two people dead and groom Benjamin Kemp and five others wounded.  With little evidence to go on, the investigation does not take long to uncover the probable identity of the shooter. With the murderer dead by his own hand, the case is quickly wrapped up, but a few details bother Detective Superintendent Banks.  After pathologist Dr. Glendenning mentions a few anomalies in the killer’s post-mortem that don’t add up, Banks, DI Annie Cabbot and DC Geraldine “Gerry” Masterson dig deeper into the victims’ pasts.

Banks is rather introspective throughout the investigation as he mourns the recent loss of his first serious girlfriend. Despite his preoccupation with his memories and an unexpected reunion with psychologist Dr. Jenny Fuller, his years of experience and keen instincts are sharper than ever and he quickly zeros in on a possible reason for the shooting spree but the ensuing investigation does not have an overabundance of clues for the investigators to follow.  Instead, subtle pieces of information combined with a few facts and logical conclusions prove Banks and his team are on the right track.  Gerry is instrumental in finding the evidence that provides them with a viable suspect. Days of torrential rain have resulted in area flooding, but with another person’s life hanging in the balance, Gerry disregards her personal safety once she is certain she knows what the killer is planning next.

Sleeping in the Ground is a fantastic mystery that old and new fans of the Inspector Banks series will enjoy.  The characters are brilliantly developed with true to life foibles and frailties that are incredibly relatable. The investigation relies on old fashioned detective work to solve a very modern crime and the storyline unfolds at steady pace. Peter Robinson brings the search for the shooter to an exciting conclusion that completely wraps up the investigation.

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Filed under Contemporary, Inspector Banks Series, Mystery, Peter Robinson, Rated B, Review, Sleeping in the Ground, Suspense, William Morrow

Review: Emma in the Night by Wendy Walker

Title: Emma in the Night by Wendy Walker
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Suspense
Length: 320 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

One night three years ago, the Tanner sisters disappeared: fifteen-year-old Cass and seventeen-year-old Emma. Three years later, Cass returns, without her sister Emma. Her story is one of kidnapping and betrayal, of a mysterious island where the two were held. But to forensic psychiatrist Dr. Abby Winter, something doesn’t add up. Looking deep within this dysfunctional family Dr. Winter uncovers a life where boundaries were violated and a narcissistic parent held sway. And where one sister’s return might just be the beginning of the crime.

Review:

In Emma in the Night by Wendy Walker, fifteen year old Cass and seventeen year old Emma disappear from their dysfunctional home and three years later, only one of them returns. What happened that fateful night? Where have the Tanner sisters been for the past three years?  And perhaps, most importantly of all, where is Emma?

Upon her return, Cass is more than willing to talk to FBI forensic psychologist Dr. Abby Winter and Special Agent Leo Strauss but only if her mother Judy Martin is present. Her explanation of the circumstances surrounding their disappearance is enthralling but she cannot provide more than a vague description of where they were held. She is quite desperate for the FBI to begin searching for Emma but is there more to the story than Cass is revealing?

When the girls first went missing, Abby is the only person who recognized the truth about Judy Martin. After the original investigation stalled, Abby must undergo therapy to put the case into perspective but she never doubts she was on the right track. With Cass’s unexpected return she and Leo are quickly reassigned to the case. While Cass’s account of their disappearance and the years they were gone is quite detailed and much of her explanation rings true, Abby is not certain they are getting the whole truth. Abby’s personal history raises questions about her impartiality in the case but these experiences also make her more sensitive to the subtle nuances in Cass’s behavior and the dynamics of the various relationships in the Tanner/Martin household.

Cass’s first-person narration offers a chilling and heartrending peek into the extremely unhealthy and toxic environment with their manipulative and self-absorbed mother. Her parents’ divorce and the ensuing custody battle resulted in a horrific rift between Cass and Judy and led to a breakdown in her relationship with Emma.  Judy’s quick marriage to a divorced man with a teenage son whose troubling relationship with his new stepsisters also contributes to the increasingly tense atmosphere in the household.  Over the years, the various relationships continue to deteriorate to a shocking degree.

Emma in the Night is a slow burner of a story that alternates between Cass and Abby’s points of view. Wendy Walker’s portrayal of Judy’s narcissistic behavior is a realistic depiction of a rare psychiatric disorder that results in incredibly dysfunctional and psychologically abusive relationships.  The truth about what happened in the years leading up to Cass and Emma’s disappearance is extremely heartbreaking and given the circumstances, very easy to believe. With plenty of unexpected twists and turns, the novel wends its way to a fairly shocking yet completely satisfying conclusion.

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Filed under Contemporary, Emma in the Night, Mystery, Rated B, Review, St Martin's Press, Suspense, Wendy Walker

Review: Among the Dead by J.R. Backlund

Title: Among the Dead by J.R. Backlund
Rachel Carver Series Book One
Publisher: Crooked Lane Books
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery
Length: 304 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

Ex-SBI agent Rachel Carver must hunt a group of killers on her own before time runs out in this gripping debut.

Former North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation agent Rachel Carver blames herself for the collateral death of an innocent woman in her last case. Unable to accept her superior’s attempts to cover up the incident, she turned in her badge. But when a former partner asks her to consult on a new murder case, she reluctantly agrees, traveling to a small, remote mountain community, where she’s tasked with leading a group of inexperienced detectives on a hunt for the killer. The trek has hardly begun when what seems to be the act of a loner proves to be much more as Rachel’s team comes under attack—and a detective is killed in the fallout.

Now that the stakes have risen, Rachel’s old employers at the SBI step in to take over the investigation. But Rachel, convinced they are on the wrong track, continues to work the case alone. And just as she delves into the town’s past, she discovers a secret history that connects the victims—one that makes her the target of a man who would kill to keep it a secret.

Perfect for fans of Tami Hoag and J. T. Ellison, J. R. Backlund’s gripping mystery debut Among the Dead is sure to be a knock-out.

Review:

Among the Dead is an intriguing first installment in J.R. Backlund’s new series starring ex-SBI agent Rachel Carver.

Rachel left the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation under a bit of a cloud when a case she was working on ended badly.  So when her former partner Danny Braddock, who is now the Chief Detective for the Sheriff’s department in small NC town, asks her to work as a consultant on a murder case, she reluctantly agrees to help with their investigation.  Rachel’s expertise is invaluable to the small department since they lack experience in murder investigations. There is little evidence to go on as they investigate Dean McGrath’s murder and after Andy Coughlan is murdered under the same circumstances, the biggest fear is a serial killer might be responsible. Rachel is certain there is a something in the victims’ pasts that lead to their deaths, but the SBI takes over the case in the aftermath of tragedy. However, Rachel is not convinced the SBI theory is correct but will she solve the cases before the killer strikes again?

Rachel is a flawed but immensely appealing protagonist. She can sometimes become a little overly involved and obsessed with cases and while this trait sometimes works against her, it does make her a an excellent investigator. With many years of experience under her belt, Rachel has plenty of tact and diplomacy and she does an excellent job guiding the inexperienced team during the investigation.  Rachel is very hard on herself and she tends to take on misplaced guilt when things veer off course.

While the killer’s identity is known right from the beginning of the novel, the motive for the murders remains shrouded in mystery. The murderer is extremely well versed in preventing transfer of evidence so the investigation is forensically challenged right from the start.  Rachel urges the team to focus their efforts on victimology in hopes they will uncover the link between the deceased and their killer but that connection is also somewhat elusive. A huge break seems to crack the case wide open but a shocking turn of events culminates in a devastating blow to the detectives.  Rachel is determined not let political maneuvering derail the investigation but will she uncover the truth before it is too late?

Among the Dead is a meticulously plotted mystery with a suspense-laden storyline and an outstanding cast of characters.  The novel is fast-paced with plenty of clever twists and turns. J.R. Backlund brings the story to brilliant conclusion that completely wraps up all of the  loose ends.  The Rachel Carver series is off to a strong beginning and it will be interesting to see what the intrepid sleuth will face in the next installment of the series.

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Filed under Among the Dead, Contemporary, Crooked Lane Books, JR Backlund, Mystery, Rachel Carver Series, Rated B+, Review

Review: The Good Daughter by Karin Slaughter

Title: The Good Daughter by Karin Slaughter
Publisher: William Morrow
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Suspense
Length: 528 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Edelweiss

Summary:

The stunning new novel from the international #1 bestselling author  a searing, spellbinding blend of cold-case thriller and psychological suspense.

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…

Packed with twists and turns, brimming with emotion and heart, The Good Daughter is fiction at its most thrilling.

Review:

The Good Daughter by Karin Slaughter is an utterly spellbinding mystery that is also quite heartrending.

Twenty-eight years ago, thirteen year old Charlotte (Charlie) Quinn, her fifteen year old sister Samantha (Sam) and their mother Gamma are brutally attacked in their home by two masked gunman. The perpetrators were searching for patriarch Rusty, a reviled criminal defense attorney whose client list features such lowlifes as rapists, killers and drug dealers. In the present, Rusty’s clientele is much the same and Charlie is a criminal defense attorney who is currently separated from her husband, ADA Ben Bernard. Following a one night stand with a stranger, Charlie discovers she and her hook-up have inadvertently switched cell phones. Going to the local middle school to exchange phones, Charlie finds herself in the middle of a school shooting that stirs up all of the unresolved trauma from her past. In the aftermath of the devastating shooting, two people are dead and Rusty quickly agrees to represent the alleged shooter, Kelly Wilson, and Charlie is forced to confront the demons that have haunted her for the last twenty-eight years.

Charlie is not one to mince words and she might have a tough outer shell, but she is still clearly traumatized by the attack that forever altered her family’s lives. At one time blissfully happy with Ben, her caustic tongue and endless haranguing in recent years have finally driven him to leave her. Making no progress in fixing her tattered marriage, Charlie’s one night stand with a stranger is completely out of character and she is deeply ashamed of this decision. Now a witness in the case against Kelly, Charlie is stunned to realize she harbors doubts about Kelly’s guilt despite the fact the teenager was literally caught red-handed at the scene of the crime.

As events play out after the shooting, Charlie must finally deal with the trauma from the childhood attack. Although she shares office space with Rusty, she is NOT his legal partner and they manage to put aside their ideological differences. Their exchanges are playful but their discussions lack depth or much substance. While Ben knows about what happened to Charlie, her past is clearly still affecting her behavior and decisions, yet she refuses to discuss it with him or anyone else.

The Good Daughter is a dark and gritty mystery but there are surprisingly humorous, laugh out loud passages that lighten the storyline. The characters are brilliantly developed, deeply flawed yet personable and even some of the “bad” guys manage to elicit sympathy. The two story arcs seamlessly flow together and it is impossible to say which storyline is more compelling. Karin Slaughter brings the novel to a jaw-dropping, twist-filled conclusion that wraps up all of the loose ends. An absolutely enthralling mystery that fans of the genre do NOT want to miss.

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Filed under Contemporary, Karin Slaughter, Mystery, Rated B+, Review, Suspense, The Good Daughter, William Morrow