Category Archives: Mystery

Review: Little Secrets by Anna Snoekstra

Title: Little Secrets by Anna Snoekstra
Publisher: MIRA
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Suspense
Length: 336 pages
Book Rating: C+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

What happens when ambition trumps the truth?

A town reeling in the wake of tragedy

An arsonist is on the loose in Colmstock, Australia, most recently burning down the town’s courthouse and killing a young boy who was trapped inside..

An aspiring journalist desperate for a story

The clock is ticking for Rose Blakey. With nothing but rejections from newspapers piling up, her job pulling beers for cops at the local tavern isn’t nearly enough to cover rent. Rose needs a story—a big one.

Little dolls full of secrets

In the weeks after the courthouse fire, precise porcelain replicas of Colmstock’s daughters begin turning up on doorsteps, terrifying parents and testing the limits of the town’s already fractured police force.

Rose may have finally found her story. But as her articles gain traction and the boundaries of her investigation blur, Colmstock is seized by a seething paranoia. Soon, no one is safe from suspicion. And when Rose’s attention turns to the mysterious stranger living in the rooms behind the tavern, neighbor turns on neighbor and the darkest side of self-preservation is revealed.

Review:

Set in a slowly dying town in Australia, Little Secrets by Anna Snoekstra is an intriguing mystery that begins with arson and quickly moves to the creepy porcelain dolls being left for the townspeople’s children.

Rose Blakey’s mom and stepfather are forcing her to move out of the family home and she is counting on a cadetship with a newspaper to help her realize her dream of becoming a journalist. In the meantime, her hometown of Colmstock is plagued by a series of fires and unfortunately, the latest fire claimed the life of thirteen year old Ben Riley.  When a porcelain doll is delivered to her home that bears an eerie resemblance to her younger sister Laura, Rose is shocked to discover a few other children have also received similar gifts.  In an order to jumpstart her journalist career, Rose writes a sensational story that is published by a tabloid. Under intense pressure, the police investigation fails to uncover any leads. Rose’s subsequent articles ratchet up the town’s fears but they lead to unintended consequences.

Rose and her best friend Mia are working dead end jobs at the local tavern. While Mia seems resigned to remaining in Colmstock and marrying a local, Rose is ambitious and cannot wait to leave the economically depressed town behind. Growing desperate following numerous rejections for her articles, she eagerly takes advantage of the uneasiness of the town’s residents following young Ben’s death and the deliveries of the frightening dolls. Rose also exploits the cops who visit the tavern to get insider information for her titillating articles. As events begin to spiral out of control, how far is Rose willing to go in her pursuit of her ambitions? How many people will suffer the consequences of her actions?

Little Secrets is a rather slow-moving novel and quite frankly, none of the characters, including Rose, are particularly likable.  The storyline is interesting and the town’s decay, the townspeople’s fears for their safety and their economic struggles are palpable. Despite the unlikable characters, the bleak setting and the story’s slow pace, Anna Snoekstra brings the novel to a twist-filled conclusion that very neatly ties up all the various story arcs loose threads.

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Filed under Anna Snoekstra, Contemporary, Harlequin, Little Secrets, Mira, Mystery, Rated C+, Review, Suspense

Review: Righteous by Joe Ide

Title: Righteous by Joe Ide
IQ Series Book Two
Publisher: Mulholland Books
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Suspense
Length: 336 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

In this hotly anticipated follow-up to the smash hit IQ, a New York Times Critics’ Best of the Year and nominee for the Best First Novel Edgar Award, Isaiah uncovers a secret behind the death of his brother, Marcus.

For ten years, something has gnawed at Isaiah Quintabe’s gut and kept him up nights, boiling with anger and thoughts of revenge. Ten years ago, when Isaiah was just a boy, his brother was killed by an unknown assailant. The search for the killer sent Isaiah plunging into despair and nearly destroyed his life. Even with a flourishing career, a new dog, and near-iconic status as a PI in his hometown, East Long Beach, he has to begin the hunt again-or lose his mind.

A case takes him and his volatile, dubious sidekick, Dodson, to Vegas, where Chinese gangsters and a terrifying seven-foot loan shark are stalking a DJ and her screwball boyfriend. If Isaiah doesn’t find the two first, they’ll be murdered. Awaiting the outcome is the love of IQ’s life: fail, and he’ll lose her. Isaiah’s quest is fraught with treachery, menace, and startling twists, and it will lead him to the mastermind behind his brother’s death, Isaiah’s own sinister Moriarty.

With even more action, suspense, and mind-bending mysteries than Isaiah’s first adventures, Righteousis a rollicking, ingenious thrill ride.

Review:

In Joe Ide’s Righteous, brilliant detective Isaiah Quintabe (aka IQ) finds himself working two cases that are extremely personal since they both have links to his beloved brother Marcus who died in a tragic hit and run several years earlier. This second installment in the gritty private detective series, IQ, is a suspenseful mystery that easily stands on its own but I highly recommend the first novel as well.

This latest outing picks up where the previous novel left off and having discovered the car from the hit and run that killed Marcus, Isaiah is more determined than ever to find the person responsible. After closely examining the contents inside the car, he stumbles onto a startling realization about the hit and run. Beginning his investigation with his straight as an arrow brother’s business records,  his search for the truth takes him in a surprising direction. As he gets closer to figuring out who is responsible for Marcus’s death, Isaiah’s perception of his brother is forever changed. And his quest for vengeance puts him in a moral quandary as Isaiah questions suspects and eventually comes face to face with his brother’s killer.

While delving into his brother’s past, Marcus’s girlfriend at the time of his death, Sarita Van, reaches out to Isaiah to look into her half-sister Janine’s troubles in Las Vegas. Janine and her ne’er-do-well boyfriend Benny have racked up a huge debt with a loan shark and their harebrained scheme to extort money puts them in the path of Chinese gangsters from the 14K Triad. Isaiah enlists the aid of his former partner in crime, Juanell Dodson, and they quickly travel to Vegas in order to save Janine. Their rescue attempt immediately runs into trouble since the 14K is gunning for both Janine and Benny.

With with the Triad and the loan sharks hot on their heels, Isaiah and Dodson must use every skill they possess as they try to keep Janine out of harm’s way following Benny’s disappearance. Since Isaiah a little off his game as he comes to terms with the revelations about Marcus and Dodson is trying to outthink and outmaneuver him, their collaboration is full of tension and friction as they try to stay one step ahead of the gangsters. But when the case takes a detour that hits extremely close to home, will Isaiah and Dodson put aside their differences before it is too late?

In the aftermath of both cases, Isaiah is forced to take stock of his life when his hopes and dreams are dashed after a rude reality check. A loner by choice, he is shocked by a proposition from Dodson whose plan is surprisingly well thought out and provides Isaiah with a way to make more money while still helping the people in his community.

Righteous is an engrossing, action-packed mystery with an immensely appealing lead protagonist. While Isaiah is not prone to much introspection, the events that unfold during this latest installment of the IQ series will force him to step out of comfort zone. With the chapters alternating back and forth between Isaiah’s search for Marcus’s killer and trying to keep Janine out of harm’s way, Joe Ide brings the novel to an unexpected conclusion. I greatly enjoyed this extremely clever novel and I highly recommend it to fans of the genre.

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Filed under Contemporary, IQ Series, Joe Ide, Mullholland Books, Mystery, Rated B+, Review, Righteous, Suspense

Review: Hide and Seek by M.J. Arlidge

Title: Hide and Seek by M.J. Arlidge
Helen Grace Series book Six
Publisher: Berkley
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Suspense
Length: 409 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Penguin’s First to Read Program

Summary:

Caught in a wicked game of cat and mouse, Helen Grace finds herself trapped among the hunted in the darkest thriller yet from the international bestselling author of Little Boy Blue and Eeny Meeny.

Framed for a murder she didn’t commit…

As one of HM Prison Holloway’s most high-profile new inmates, Helen Grace has a target on her back and nowhere to hide. She has made a long list of enemies over the course of her career—some are incarcerated within these very walls. When one of Helen’s fellow prisoners is found mutilated and murdered in her own locked cell, it’s clear that the killer is someone on the inside.

But time is running out for Helen as she races to expose the person who framed her, and the body count in the prison starts to climb. Helen will need to draw on all her investigative skills and instincts to catch the serial killer behind these murders and discover the truth—unless the killer finds her first.

Review:

Featuring concurrent story arcs, Hide and Seek by M.J. Arlidge is an electrifying, nail-biting addition to the DI Helen Grace series.

Picking up where Little Boy Blue left off, Helen Grace is in HM Prison Holloway awaiting trial for three murders that she insists she is not guilty of committing. Incarcerated with criminals she put behind bars, she is still struggling to adjust to prison life when one of her fellow inmates is murdered in a particularly gruesome manner. Despite her circumstances, Helen is at heart, a homicide detective so she begins her own investigation into the death. When another inmate is murdered in the same exact way, Helen knows she must stop the killer strikes again.

Outside the prison, Helen’s good friend and fellow copper, Detective Sergeant Charlie Brooks risks her career (and relationship) to clear Helen’s name. The only person on the force who believes Helen’s vehement assertion she was framed, Charlie refuses to stop searching for the man they know is responsible for the murders Helen is accused of committing. Coming very close to insubordination after defying her newly minted boss Detective Inspector Joanne Sanderson’s order to immediately cease working on the firmly closed case, Charlie manages to uncover an important lead that breaks the investigation wide open. Will Charlie manage to capture the wily and intelligent man who meticulously planned and carried out the diabolical plan to frame Helen for three brutal murders?

Back at HM Prison Holloway, Helen is painstakingly attempting to investigate the murders that one of the most sadistic guards thinks she is responsible for committing. Relying on the post-mortem reports and her finely honed instincts, a shocking theory is beginning to emerge. Certain she knows the killer’s identity, Helen tries to uncover the evidence she needs to prove her theory whilst avoiding vicious inmates with an ax to grind and the depraved guards who abuse the inmates in their charge.

Hide and Seek is an exhilarating police procedural with an exciting storyline and an brilliant cast of characters.  M.J. Arlidge breathes fresh life into the series by putting the Helen into a completely foreign and extremely dangerous environment where she is forced to use every skill in her arsenal to stay alive.  Both story arcs move at a blistering pace as the search for the serial killer inside HM Prison Holloway intensifies and Charlie desperately pursues the person responsible for framing Helen. With stunning twists and turns, the novel comes to an action-packed, adrenaline laced conclusion.

While most of the mysteries in the DI Helen Grace series can be read as standalones, I highly recommend reading Little Boy Blue in order to fully appreciate the events that unfold in Hide and Seek.

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Filed under Berkley, Contemporary, DI Helen Grace Series, Hide and Seek, Mystery, Rated B+, Review, Suspense

Review: We All Fall Down by Natalie D. Richards

Title: We All Fall Down by Natalie D. Richards
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Genre: Contemporary, Young Adult, Mystery, Suspense
Length: 368 pages
Book Rating: C

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

A new romantic thriller—with a dash of horror—from the author of One Was Lost and Six Months Later

Theo’s always been impulsive. But telling Paige how he feels? He’s obsessed over that decision. And it’s time. Tonight. At the party on the riverbank, under the old walking bridge, site of so many tales of love and death.

Paige has had a crush on Theo since they first met, but she knows her feelings are one-sided. She’s trying to move on, to flirt. A party at the river is just what she needs. Except a fight breaks out, and when Paige tries to intervene—Theo’s fist lands in her face.

All Theo and Paige want to do is forget that fateful night. But strange events keep drawing them back to the bridge. Someone, something is determined to make them remember…and pay for what they each did.

Review:

We All Fall Down by Natalie D. Richards is a suspenseful young adult novel with a few supernatural elements.

Theo Quinn and Paige Vinton-Young are best friends who rely heavily on each other to help deal with their respective mental health issues. Theo is struggling with a fairly severe problem with ADHD and he has gone through a host of medications to try to help manage his disorder. Paige has been plagued with rather intense anxiety from a young age.  Just as Paige is ready to move on from her unrequited crush for Theo, he realizes he has feelings for her.  Attending a party together one night, Theo jealously lashes out at the guy she is interested in and when Paige attempts to stop him, things go horribly wrong.  Six months later, they are estranged but when both of them begin experiencing eerie occurrences that are connected to that fateful night, will Paige and Theo reunite in order to discover the truth about what is happening to them?

Paige’s parents are extremely overprotective and due to their strong influence over her after the events with Theo, she cannot trust her instincts about him.  Trying to respect their wishes, she has cut Theo completely out of her life.  When she begins finding objects associated with the night things went so drastically wrong between them, Paige wants to give Theo the benefit of the doubt, but she is having difficulty deciding whether to trust Theo or listen to her parents.

Theo is spending the summer with his uncle Denny who understands all too well some of the problems his nephew is going through. Theo is committed to adhering to his new medication regimen and when he begins experiencing unexplained phenomena, he cannot figure out whether it is side effects from the meds or something more sinister. He accidentally runs into Paige one day which sets the stage for a possible reunion, but Paige’s trust issues remain a source of conflict between them.

We All Fall Down by Natalie D. Richards is a rather slow moving novel with likable characters that seem defined by their respective mental health issues. The storyline is initially intriguing but it becomes a little repetitive as Theo tries to make sense of what is happening to him. Paige’s parents’ interference in her life is also extremely exasperating due to their lack of faith in her ability to manage her anxiety and day to day life. The supernatural element falls a little flat as does the explanation for Paige’s discoveries.   The conclusion is a little rushed but all of the loose ends are nicely tied up.

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Filed under Contemporary, Mystery, Natalie D Richards, Rated C, Review, Sourcebooks Fire, Suspense, We All Fall Down, Young Adult

Review: The Secrets on Chicory Lane by Raymond Benson

Title: The Secrets on Chicory Lane by Raymond Benson
Publisher: Skyhorse Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Historical, Mystery, Suspense
Length: 256 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Edelweiss

Summary:

From the New York Times bestselling author comes a new novel of suspense about coming-of-age in the 1960s—and the neighborhood street where first love, a child abduction, and abuse collide.

Sixty-one-year-old Shelby Truman, a romance novelist, has received a request to visit her childhood friend, Eddie, who is on Death Row. Though mentally ill, Eddie is scheduled to be executed for the disturbing, brutal murders of his wife and unborn child.

As Shelby travels home to Texas for the unnerving reunion, she steps back into memories of her past, recalling her five-decade-long relationship with Eddie in order to understand what led the beautiful but troubled boy who lived across the street to become a murderer. Shelby and Eddie used to visit an abandoned fallout shelter in his backyard, their “secret hiding place” where they could escape Eddie’s abusive father, enjoy innocent playtime, and, later, adolescent explorations. As they grow increasingly close, a tragedy occurs one July fourth, an event that sets in motion a lifelong struggle against an Evil—with a capital “E”—that has corrupted their all-American neighborhood.

With only a few days left for Eddie to live, Shelby braces herself for a reunion that promises to shed light on the traumatic events that transpired on her street, changing everything Shelby thought she knew about the boy on Chicory Lane.

Review:

The Secrets on Chicory Lane by Raymond Benson is a spellbinding, reflective mystery that has quite a few twists and turns.

Sixty one year old romance author Shelby Truman gets the shock of a lifetime when her former first love and on again/off again lover Eddie Newcott requests to see her before he is executed for a horrific murder. Although she has not spoken to him in years, she alters her plans in order to fulfill his request. Her journey from her home in Chicago to the Texas prison is fraught with her memories of her relationship with Eddie. Their childhood friendship turns to romance when they were young teenagers but after tragedy strikes her family, they gradually drift apart then lose touch after Eddie goes to Vietnam.

Over the years, Shelby goes on to embark on intense, short term romances with Eddie but these relationships are unsustainable over the long term. While Shelby finds success as an author, Eddie travels down a very troubled path and becomes rather infamous as the head of a Satanic Church.  Although no one in their small hometown is surprised when he commits a gruesome murder, Shelby is stunned to learn the truth about what happened to Eddie during childhood and his subsequent struggles with mental illness throughout his adulthood.

Uncertain why Eddie wants to meet with her one last time, Shelby goes into their meeting with a few trepidations. Initially disappointed by his incoherent ramblings, she eventually deciphers what he is trying to tell her.  Much to Shelby’s shock, she uncovers a shocking secret that explains why Eddie was so incredibly tormented throughout his life.

The Secrets on Chicory Lane by Raymond Benson is an incredibly well-written and compelling mystery that tackles some dark subject matter. Shelby is an engaging character who has to face some hard truths about the mistakes and missteps she has made throughout her life. Eddie is a surprisingly sympathetic character once the truth about his very troubled past is fully revealed. This haunting story comes to a somewhat shocking, but completely satisfying conclusion.  An absolutely riveting novel that I absolutely loved and highly recommend.

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Filed under Contemporary, Historical, Mystery, Rated B+, Raymond Benson, Review, Skyhorse Publishing, Suspense, The Secrets on Chicory Lane

Review: Odd Child Out by Gilly Macmillan

Title: Odd Child Out by Gilly Macmillan
Jim Clemo Series Book Two
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense, Mystery
Length: 432 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Edelweiss

Summary:

How well do you know the people you love…?

Best friends Noah Sadler and Abdi Mahad have always been inseparable.  But when Noah is found floating unconscious in Bristol’s Feeder Canal, Abdi can’t–or won’t–tell anyone what happened.

Just back from a mandatory leave following his last case, Detective Jim Clemo is now assigned to look into this unfortunate accident.  But tragedy strikes and what looked like the simple case of a prank gone wrong soon ignites into a public battle.  Noah is British.  Abdi is a Somali refugee.   And social tensions have been rising rapidly in Bristol.  Against this background of fear and fury two families fight for their sons and for the truth.  Neither of them know how far they will have to go, what demons they will have to face, what pain they will have to suffer.

Because the truth hurts.

Review:

Odd Child Out by Gilly Macmillan is a suspenseful, character driven novel that also deals with complex issues such as immigrant bias and childhood cancer. Although this latest release is the second installment in the Jim Clemo series, it can be read as a standalone.

Abdi Mahad and Noah Sadler are best friends despite the disparity in their socio-economic and ethnic backgrounds. Abdi is the son of Somali immigrants who fled to Britain when he was just a baby. His father Nur supports the family by driving a cab and his mom Maryam volunteers at a local refugee center. Their parents’ plan for a better future for their children is coming to fruition as his older sister Sophia attends university as she pursues her dream of becoming a midwife. Noah is the son of a successful war photographer but his life has been a blur of hospital stays and treatment for his childhood cancer. Both boys attend the prestigious Medes College and by all accounts, their friendship is trouble free. However, after the teenagers sneak out one evening, Noah is clinging to life after a near drowning in the Feeder Canal and Abdi is so traumatized by what happened that he is practically catatonic.  Detective Chief Inspector Corrinne Fraser assigns the case to newly returned to duty Detective Inspector Jim Clemo who carefully begins his investigation along with Detective Constable Justin Woodley.

Needing to prove himself to both his boss and his co-workers, Jim treads lightly as he tries to uncover the truth about what happened to Noah. Since Abdi either can’t or won’t answer questions, Jim and Justin attempt to recreate the events from the evening Noah ended up in the canal. While nothing in Noah’s behavior is out of the ordinary, they quickly learn that something was troubling Abdi by night’s end.  Finally pinpointing what triggered Abdi’s unease, Jim struggles to understand the underlying reason for the teenager’s unrest.  How this figures into the events that precipitated Noah’s fall into the canal is unclear and Jim remains unable to tell if he fell or if Abdi pushed him.

Jim’s former love interest Emma Zhang is now a reporter and she is stirring up controversy with her inflammatory and oftentimes, speculative, accusations. She deliberately creates doubt with Noah’s mother Fiona who was not exactly a fan of her son’s friendship with Abdi. Emma deliberately exploits Fiona’s grief over her son’s accident and anti-immigration rhetoric threatens to derail Jim’s investigation.

Odd Child Out is a compelling mystery that touches on relevant social issues. The main focus of the story is uncovering the truth about what happened to Noah but Gilly Macmillan skillfully weaves the Mahad family’s heartbreaking past into the storyline.  The plot is complex and the characters are multi-faceted with realistic strengths and weaknesses. With a few startling revelations, shocking family secrets and unexpected plot twists, the novel comes to an action-packed, tension-filled conclusion.

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Filed under Contemporary, Gilly Macmillan, Jim Clemo Series, Mystery, Odd Child Out, Rated B+, Review, Suspense, William Morrow Paperbacks