Category Archives: Mystery

Review: Almost Missed You by Jessica Strawser

Title: Almost Missed You by Jessica Strawser
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery
Length: 320 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

Violet and Finn were “meant to be,” said everyone, always. They ended up together by the hands of fate aligning things just so. Three years into their marriage, they have a wonderful little boy, and as the three of them embark on their first vacation as a family, Violet can’t help thinking that she can’t believe her luck. Life is good.

So no one is more surprised than she when Finn leaves her at the beach—just packs up the hotel room and disappears. And takes their son with him. Violet is suddenly in her own worst nightmare, and faced with the knowledge that the man she’s shared her life with, she never really knew at all.

Caitlin and Finn have been best friends since way back when, but when Finn shows up on Caitlin’s doorstep with the son he’s wanted for kidnapping, demands that she hide them from the authorities, and threatens to reveal a secret that could destroy her own family if she doesn’t, Caitlin faces an impossible choice.

Told through alternating viewpoints of Violet, Finn and Caitlin, Jessica Strawser’s Almost Missed You is a powerful story of a mother’s love, a husband’s betrayal, connections that maybe should have been missed, secrets that perhaps shouldn’t have been kept, and spaces between what’s meant to be and what might have been.

Review:

In Almost Missed You by Jessica Strawser, unresolved grief and guilt are the basis for an impetuous kidnapping that tests the bonds of friendship and love.

Violet and Finn Welsh, along with their three year old son Bear, are on vacation in FL when Violet returns to their hotel room and finds both her husband and son have disappeared.  She has no idea what prompted Finn’s decision to kidnap their son and as the days pass with no word about them, she discovers Finn and their close friend Caitlin Bryce-Daniels have been keeping secrets from her.  Finn uses some of those secrets from his and Caitlin’s shared past to gain her co-operation when he needs a place to hide while he figures out what to do next.  Caitlin is torn between her loyalty and her fear about what will happen to her family if she does not do what Finn asks.  Will Violet be reunited with her son? Can she forgive Finn for taking their son?

Years earlier, Violet and Finn met while they were both on vacation and despite their instant connection, they are separated before they can exchange even the most basic information.  They each return to their normal lives, but they both wonder “what might have been”.  Years later, they eventually reunite but they do not talk much about what happened in their lives between their first meeting and their reunion.  By all appearances, their marriage is happy and both Violet and Finn are devoted to their son Bear. Violet is beyond stunned when Finn kidnaps Bear and during the subsequent investigation, she learns some very shocking information about her husband. In light of these revelations, Violet looks back on their relationship and comes to some very shocking conclusions about herself, her husband and their marriage.

Almost Missed You is a very suspenseful and engrossing novel. The chapters alternate between Violet, Finn and Caitlin’s perspectives and often end on cliffhanger. One of the most gripping questions that keeps the pages turning at a blistering pace is, of course, why did Finn kidnap Bear? Equally compelling is what happened in the years between Finn and Violet’s first meeting and their reunion years later. Forgiveness, secrets, deliberate omissions and betrayal are just a few of the fascinating topics that Jessica Strawser explores in this well-written and intriguing story. The novel ends on a curious note that is vaguely unsatisfying but overall, readers will be quite pleased with this debut.

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Filed under Almost Missed You, Contemporary, Jessica Strawser, Mystery, Rated B, Review, St Martin's Press

Review: Undertow by R.M. Greenaway

Title: Undertow by R.M. Greenaway
B.C. Blues Series Book Two
Publisher: Dundurn
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery
Length: 424 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

A heartbreaking set of murders bring detectives Leith and Dion together in the Lower Mainland, where violence flows like a riptide.

Last summer the inlet waters washed an unnamed woman’s body onto the rocks of North Vancouver’s Neptune shipyards. When RCMP Constable Cal Dion returns home after a year’s absence, he finds the case still open and grown cold.

While Dion works to fit back in and put closure to the Jane Doe drowning case, newly relocated Constable Dave Leith is learning to cope with his first big-city posting. But they have bigger concerns: Why would anyone beat up a young electrician, then track down his wife and baby girl to finish them off? It is a motiveless and haunting killing that leaves behind one small witness and a handful of cryptic clues. And who battered and asphyxiated a wealthy nightclub owner in his own garage? A case of home invasion, by the looks of it. But Leith has a less abstract set of suspects to deal with: the victim’s business partner and his strange little clan.

The North Vancouver General Investigations Section is put to the test, with two files to solve, one tragic cold case, and Dion seemingly lost at sea.

Review:

Set in Canada, Undertow by R.M. Greenaway is an intriguing police procedural.  This latest release is the second installment in the B.C. Blues series and while it can be read as a standalone, I strongly recommend reading the series in order to fully understand the characters’ backstories.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police Constables Cal Dion and Dave Leith have recently been transferred to North Vancouver and are once again working together.  Leith is struggling with living apart from his wife and daughter and he is also trying to assimilate to his transition to a life in a big city. Dion is still making progress with his recovery from a traumatic brain injury but he is frustrated by  his memory lapses and lack of focus. He is also depressed as he tries to settle back into his old life but does not fit comfortably in the world he once inhabited.

Leith and Dion are both trying to solve the heartbreaking murders of the Liu family when they are called to the scene of the puzzling murder of wealthy businessman Oscar Roth. The investigations into the murders are not really turning up any leads when Dion makes a sudden decision that leads to some very enlightening information.

Dave is much older than Cal and he is a competent constable who relies on old fashioned detective work during the investigation.  Despite Cal’s cognitive problems, he is quite intuitive but these flashes of brilliance sometime slip away before he can fully comprehend what he has just discovered.  The two men do not seem to really like each other but they do set aside their differences during the investigations.

Cal has plenty of tricks to make it appear that he is fit for duty.  But maintaining the facade that he is back to normal is exhausting and he doubts his competence.  His inability to fit back into his old life leads him to make a somewhat impetuous decision about his career.  He then becomes unexpectedly involved with some of the key witnesses in the investigations but can he really turn off the instincts that have become second nature to him over the years? When he unexpectedly stumbles onto a witness that could help solve the Liu murders, he is quick to call Dave but has Cal inadvertently tainted the investigation?

Despite the sometimes confusing storyline involving Cal Dion’s past, Undertow is a riveting murder mystery.  The investigations are fairly straight forward even though it takes a while for the pieces to begin to fall into place.  Dion and Leith are both likable protagonists and in spite of  their very different styles when it comes to detective work, they are a formidable investigative team. R.M. Greenaway has an enjoyable writing style but the slow parceling of information about Dion’s past is sometimes a little frustrating. This newest addition to the B.C. Blues series comes to a very clever conclusion that wraps up all of the loose ends with the current investigations.  However, readers will have wait for further installments to (hopefully) learn more about Cal Dion and his tangled past. 

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Filed under BC Blues Series, Contest, Dundurn, Mystery, Rated B, Review, RM Greenaway, Undertow

Review: A Simple Favor by Darcey Bell

Title: A Simple Favor by Darcey Bell
Publisher: Harper
Genre: Contemporary, mystery
Length: 304 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Edelweiss

Summary:

She’s your best friend.

She knows all your secrets.

That’s why she’s so dangerous.

A single mother’s life is turned upside down when her best friend vanishes in this chilling debut thriller in the vein of Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train.

It starts with a simple favor—an ordinary kindness mothers do for one another. When her best friend, Emily, asks Stephanie to pick up her son Nicky after school, she happily says yes. Nicky and her son, Miles, are classmates and best friends, and the five-year-olds love being together—just like she and Emily. A widow and stay-at-home mommy blogger living in woodsy suburban Connecticut, Stephanie was lonely until she met Emily, a sophisticated PR executive whose job in Manhattan demands so much of her time.

But Emily doesn’t come back. She doesn’t answer calls or return texts. Stephanie knows something is terribly wrong—Emily would never leave Nicky, no matter what the police say. Terrified, she reaches out to her blog readers for help. She also reaches out to Emily’s husband, the handsome, reticent Sean, offering emotional support. It’s the least she can do for her best friend. Then, she and Sean receive shocking news. Emily is dead. The nightmare of her disappearance is over.

Or is it? Because soon, Stephanie will begin to see that nothing—not friendship, love, or even an ordinary favor—is as simple as it seems.

A Simple Favor is a remarkable tale of psychological suspense—a clever and twisting free-fall of a ride filled with betrayals and reversals, twists and turns, secrets and revelations, love and loyalty, murder and revenge. Darcey Bell masterfully ratchets up the tension in a taut, unsettling, and completely absorbing story that holds you in its grip until the final page.

Review:

A Simple Favor by Darcey Bell is a surprisingly compelling debut mystery.

A mommy blogger and widowed mother of young son Miles, Stephanie agrees to do her best friend Emily Nelson a rather simple favor: pick up her son Nicky from school and keep him with her until she gets off work later that evening.  Since this is something Stephanie does for Emily on a semi-regular basis, she has no reason to believe this favor will be any different than usual. It is not until Emily fails to  pick up Nicky later that evening that Stephanie becomes a little concerned but she wonders if she misunderstood her friend.  Days pass and Emily has yet to return so Stephanie tracks down her friend’s husband, Sean, who is out of the country on business.  Initially, Sean is not alarmed by his wife’s absence but upon his return, he reports Emily’s disappearance to the police whose investigation is rather lackluster until her body is recovered near her family’s vacation cabin. Sean and Stephanie turn to one another for comfort and support but Stephanie begins to wonder if Emily is, in fact, really dead.

In her blog posts, Stephanie is perky, unfailingly upbeat and endearingly honest about her flaws and worries.  In real life, she is nowhere near as likable or as seemingly perfect as her online persona.  She has struggled to make friends in the small town so she is thrilled when she befriends Emily.  Despite the differences in their lives, the two are soon thick as thieves as they exchange confidences and house keys in between play dates and excursions.  It is not until Emily’s disappearance that Stephanie begins to wonder if she really knew her friend as well as she thought.  While Stephanie felt no compunction about spilling her deepest, darkest secrets (and boy are they doozies!), she soon realizes that she knows very little about her friend’s past.

Despite being best friends with Emily, Stephanie has little information about Sean except for the details Emily shared about him.  He works long hours and travels frequently for his job so she spent very little time around him until Emily goes missing.  After Emily’s disappearance, she is more than happy to continue helping out with Nicky but she is a little unnerved by her sudden attraction to her friend’s grieving husband. Gradually, the two households merge together when, much to Stephanie’s delighted surprise, their friendship turns into a relationship.

At this point in the story, the tone of the novel shifts and unexpected revelations illustrate how truly naive Stephanie is.  She is quite easy to manipulate which makes it very easy to turn her into an unwitting accomplice to a somewhat nefarious and vengeful plot.  Incredulous readers will be left shaking their heads as Stephanie transitions from someone who makes morally questionable choices into an empty-headed dupe. There is also very little mystery about the rather unbelievable direction the plot is about to take.

And yet, despite some of the absurd plot twists, A Simple Favor  is a compulsively readable novel.  Darcey Bell is a gifted storyteller with a twisted imagination and although the storyline is unabashedly predictable and somewhat hard to believe, readers will be captivated by these thoroughly unlikable and somewhat unreliable characters.  Although this debut novel is far from perfect, it is a highly entertaining read that I found impossible to put down and highly recommend to fans of the genre.

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Filed under A Simple FAvor, Contemporary, Darcey Bell, Harper, Mystery, Rated B, Review

Review: The Cutaway by Christina Kovac

Title: The Cutaway by Christina Kovac
Publisher: Atria / 37 Ink
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Suspense
Length: 320 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

The Newsroom meets Gone Girl.” —Cosmopolitan

The Cutaway draws you into the tangled world of corruption and cover-up as a young television producer investigates the disappearance of a beautiful Georgetown lawyer in this stunning psychological thriller, perfect for fans of Paula Hawkins and Gillian Flynn.

When brilliant TV news producer Virginia Knightly receives a disturbing “MISSING” notice on her desk related to the disappearance of a beautiful young attorney, she can’t seem to shake the image from her head. Despite skepticism from her colleagues, Knightly suspects this ambitious young lawyer may be at the heart of something far more sinister, especially since she was last seen leaving an upscale restaurant after a domestic dispute. Yet, as the only woman of power at her station, Knightly quickly finds herself investigating on her own.

Risking her career, her life, and perhaps even her own sanity, Knightly dives deep into the dark underbelly of Washington, DC business and politics in an investigation that will drag her mercilessly through the inextricable webs of corruption that bind the press, the police, and politics in our nation’s capital.

Harkening to dark thrillers such as Gone Girl, Luckiest Girl Alive, and Big Little Lies, The Cutaway is a striking debut that will haunt you long after you reach the last page.

Review:

With a clever plot and a resourceful lead protagonist, Christina Kovac’s debut mystery The Cutaway is a riveting mystery about a missing woman.

Missing person notices come across TV news producer Virginia Knightly’s desk on a fairly regular basis, but she is  soon obsessed with the case of Evelyn Carney.  An up and coming lawyer, Evelyn appears to have vanished into thin air after a rather tempestuous dinner with her war hero husband, Peter.  With her newly estranged husband’s alibi immediately clearing him of suspicion, the investigation is quickly stalled.  Virginia is a little puzzled to discover her ex-boyfriend Michael Ledger, who is now the commander of the Criminal Division, is involved in the case, but she pushes aside her curiosity in order  to utilize him as source.  With the help of Evelyn’s co-worker, Paige Linden, Virginia quickly discovers Assistant US Attorney Ian Chase is a “person of interest” in Evelyn’s disappearance. However, after uncovering some irregularities and inconsistencies in the investigation, Virginia is uncertain whom she can trust as she continues delving into what happened to Evelyn.

Virginia is a talented journalist with an uncanny ability to remember images from photographs and news stories and she knows right away that she has seen Evelyn in a cutaway from a news story.  She is right in the middle of trying to locate the footage when the somewhat smarmy news director Nick Mellay begins throwing his weight around and handing out pink slips.  Smarting from her temporary demotion, Virginia throws herself into uncovering as much information about the missing lawyer as possible.

Although she wants to stay as far away from Michael as possible, Virginia is too smart not to make use of a valuable resource, so she shoves down her misgivings and pays him a visit.  Trying to keep her personal feelings out of their renewed professional relationship, she is soon trading information and favors for insider details about the case.  While Virginia finds working alongside Michael a distasteful prospect, she views him as a trusted source even though she knows he is not being completely forthcoming about certain aspects of the investigation.

After some of her leads dry up, Virginia turns to Paige for assistance.  Despite the attorney’s reluctance to go on the record, she does provide some very valuable insight and information about Evelyn’s professional and personal lives. Some of the details Virginia gleans from Paige corroborates other facts she has unearthed while some elements of their discussions point her in new directions.

However, the one fact that seems to be irrefutable from both of Virginia’s sources is that Evelyn was personally involved with Ian Chase.  She is also aware that Ian is refusing to talk to the police, but she is hoping he will be willing to talk to grant her an interview.  Virginia is quite tenacious and rather inventive in her attempts to talk to Ian but he is firmly refusing to go on the record. When the police investigation into his role in Evelyn’s disappearance heats up, readers will enjoy the exciting peek into the process in which journalists obtain footage for their broadcast.

The Cutaway  is a very intriguing mystery that has plenty of interesting twists and turns. Christina Kovac utilizes a few red herrings and misdirects in an attempt to obscure the perpetrator’s identity and motive for the crime.  Savvy readers will most likely pick up on a few details that will provide them with a suspect almost right away but the motive for Evelyn’s disappearance will remain elusive. Chock full of suspense, this fast-paced and riveting mystery culminates with a rather surprising conclusion.  Hopefully this is just the first of many investigations starring the very intrepid and immensely appealing Virginia Knightly.

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Filed under Atria / 37 Ink, Christina Kovac, Contemporary, Mystery, Rated B+, Review, Suspense, The Cutaway

Review: Find Me by J.S. Monroe

Title: Find Me by J.S. Monroe
Publisher: MIRA
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Suspense
Length: 400 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

A sighting of a woman who supposedly died years ago sparks a desperate search for the truth in this breakout suspense thriller, perfect for readers of The Good Girl and The Widow

Sometimes we choose to see only what we want. Sometimes what we see changes the way we look at everything… 

Jarlath “Jar” Costello’s girlfriend, Rosa, committed suicide when they were both students at Cambridge, and Jar has thought about her every day since. It’s been five years, yet Jar is still obsessed with the idea that Rosa, the one true love of his life, is alive. He’s tormented by disturbingly real sightings of her—experiences the psychologist treating him describes as “post-bereavement hallucinations.”

When Rosa’s aunt uncovers an encrypted file on her laptop that she believes is Rosa’s diary, she gives Jar the hard drive, sending him on a frantic quest to unlock the mysterious document and finally make sense of the suspicious circumstances surrounding Rosa’s suicide. But the deeper he digs, the more confused he becomes as he is pressed into a dark underworld where nothing is as it seems and no one can be trusted. When a startling discovery convinces him more than ever that these are not just hallucinations—that Rosa really is alive—Jar is thrust into the heart of a larger intrigue that may finally shed some light on Rosa’s death…even as it dangerously threatens his own life.

Review:

With plenty of suspense and unexpected twists and turns, Find Me by J.S. Monroe is a spectacular yet chilling psychological thriller.

Jarlath “Jar” Costello lost his girlfriend, Rosa Sandhoe, to suicide five years earlier.  However, due to the fact her body was never recovered, he is convinced she is still alive.  His life has gone steadily downhill as he works a job that he hates, drinks to excess and ends up having meaningless one night stands.  Jar is also continuing to experience “post-bereavement hallucination” where he sees Rosa in a variety of different locations and situations.  After Rosa’s Aunt Amy stumbles onto a what is believed to be her niece’s computer diary, Jar discovers grows more convinced Rosa is still alive and he intensifies his search for her with the help of his friend, Carl.

Although their relationship had barely started when Rosa vanished, there is never any doubt she and Jar were deeply in love.  It is not until Jar begins reading the diary entries that he realizes how deeply she was still grieving the death of her father but Jar still does not believe she was suicidal.  With each diary entry he reads, Jar becomes aware there was a lot going on in Rosa’s life that she kept hidden from him.  He is also more certain than before that she is still alive and in fact, some of this newly discovered information helps explain some of the odd events that have been happening to him recently.  Although Jar learns valuable details about what might have happened to Rosa, he has no idea how he will find her.

Broken into two parts with chapters alternating between Jar’s perspective and a hodgepodge of diary entries, there is an incredible sense of urgency as Jar uncovers the truth about Rosa. The diary entries are non-sequential since they are decrypted in random order but each chapter is clearly marked with the correct date so they are easy to follow. Initially, Jar appears to an unreliable narrator who is seemingly paranoid since he certain that someone is following him. However, as part one comes to a close, there is little doubt that Jar is on the right track about Rosa.

The pacing of part two is even more frantic as Jar’s investigation intensifies and the diary entries are now written from two characters’ perspectives.  The truth about Rosa’s disappearance is still a little murky, but the details that begin to emerge are completely horrifying.  Jar makes an absolutely shocking discovery that he first finds impossible to believe.  Will he find irrefutable proof to prove that his suspicions are, in fact, correct?

Find Me by J.S. Monroe is an utterly engrossing mystery that is part crime drama and part spy novel.  With unspeakable acts of violence committed by a thoroughly sick and twisted individual, there is a high degree of suspense as Jar uncovers the grisly  truth about what happened to Rosa.  This high octane novel moves at breakneck speed and has no shortage of breathtaking twists, turns and stunning revelations.  All in all, it is an incredibly well-written mystery with an original storyline that tackles some fascinating yet very dark subject matter.

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Filed under Contemporary, Find Me, Harlequin, JS Monroe, Mira, Mystery, Rated B+, Review, Suspense

Review: The Fire Child by S.K. Tremayne

Title: The Fire Child by S.K. Tremayne
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
Length: 400 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

THE PERFECT HUSBAND. THE PERFECT STEPSON. THE PERFECT LIE?

When Rachel marries dark, handsome David, everything seems to fall into place. Swept from single life in London to the beautiful Carnhallow House in Cornwall, she gains wealth, love, and an affectionate stepson, Jamie.

But then Jamie’s behavior changes, and Rachel’s perfect life begins to unravel. He makes disturbing predictions, claiming to be haunted by the specter of his late mother – David’s previous wife. Is this Jamie’s way of punishing Rachel, or is he far more traumatized than she thought?

As Rachel starts digging into the past, she begins to grow suspicious of her husband. Why is he so reluctant to discuss Jamie’s outbursts? And what exactly happened to cause his ex-wife’s untimely death, less than two years ago? As summer slips away and December looms, Rachel begins to fear there might be truth in Jamie’s words:

“You will be dead by Christmas.”

Review:

With an isolated setting and increasingly unreliable characters, The Fire Child by S.K. Tremayne is an atmospheric, suspense-laden psychological thriller.

After a whirlwind courtship, thirty year old Rachel Daly marries forty year old lawyer David Kerthen who then whisks her and his eight year old son Jamie to the family estate in Cornwall.  Initially blissfully happy, Rachel is struggling with her stepson’s increasingly upsetting behavior that eventually brings her to ask a few probing questions about his mother Nina’s somewhat tragic death.  David is reluctant to divulge very many details and as Rachel becomes more concerned about Jaime’s mental state, she makes a decision that has violent consequences and puts her in a very precarious situation with her husband.  Will Rachel find out the truth about Nina’s death? Can she protect herself and Jamie after events begin to escalate out of control?

Rachel has come a long way from her humble beginnings but she is still somewhat uncomfortable as she tries to resume the elegant renovations of David’s family estate.  With David working long hours in London, Rachel is lonely but she keeps busy investigating her new surroundings.  She is also busy with Jamie but she is becoming increasingly worried about his strange behavior and she becomes quite frightened after he makes a rather dire prediction.  As Rachel begins piecing together the details of Nina’s fatal accident, some of the information she uncovers does not make sense and David is reluctant to discuss the night his first wife died.  What secrets are her husband keeping?  Why is he so unwilling to do more to help Jamie handle his grief?

At first glance, David is the perfect catch.  He is a devoted father and he is a well-respected lawyer who works long hours.  Through hard work and a lot of determination, he saved the estate after his father’s gambling problem nearly bankrupted the family. He positively adored his first wife, but David is quite smitten with Rachel and he has a great deal of respect for her.  However, he is most displeased when she begins asking questions he does not want to answer and he is infuriated after she takes steps to try to get Jamie help for his odd behavior.  In the aftermath of violent altercation, David is cold-hearted and ruthless in his attempts to take complete charge of his fracturing family.

In some ways, Jamie is a perfectly normal little boy.  He loves his dad and he cares a great for Rachel.  However, he is completely confused about some of the things that happened the night his mother died and with the anniversary of her death fast approaching, he is becoming quite desperate. Jamie’s declarations are unsettling and he is quite adamant that she is alive despite evidence to the contrary. However, inexplicable and unexplained occurrences play into some of Rachel’s doubts and fears and she becomes convinced that Jamie might have a legitimate reason for some of his beliefs.

For the most part, The Fire Child is an incredibly riveting mystery that moves at a very brisk pace.  S.K. Tremayne does an absolutely brilliant job building suspense as Rachel tries to uncover the truth that David is trying so hard to keep from her.  With the tension reaching a fever pitch, this psychological thriller comes to a pulse-pounding adrenaline-filled conclusion that neatly wraps up all of the various threads of this spell-binding  and somewhat eerie story.

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Filed under Contemporary, Grand Central Publishing, Mystery, Rated B, Review, SK Tremayne, Suspense, The Fire Child, Thriller