Category Archives: Simon & Schuster Inc

Review: The Lying Game by Ruth Ware

Title: The Lying Game by Ruth Ware
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Suspense
Length: 384 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Edelweiss

Summary:

From the instant New York Times bestselling author of blockbuster thrillers In a Dark, Dark Wood and The Woman in Cabin 10 comes Ruth Ware’s chilling new novel, The Lying Game.

On a cool June morning, a woman is walking her dog in the idyllic coastal village of Salten along a tidal estuary known as the Reach. Before she can stop him, the dog charges into the water to retrieve what first appears to be a wayward stick, but to her horror, turns out to be something much more sinister…

The next morning, three women in and around London—Fatima, Thea, and Isabel—receive the text they had always hoped would NEVER come, from the fourth in their formerly inseparable clique, Kate, that says only, “I need you.”

The four girls were best friends at Salten, a second rate boarding school set near the cliffs of the English Channel. Each different in their own way, the four became inseparable and were notorious for playing the Lying Game, telling lies at every turn to both fellow boarders and faculty, with varying states of serious and flippant nature that were disturbing enough to ensure that everyone steered clear of them. The myriad and complicated rules of the game are strict: no lying to each other—ever. Bail on the lie when it becomes clear it is about to be found out. But their little game had consequences, and the girls were all expelled in their final year of school under mysterious circumstances surrounding the death of the school’s eccentric art teacher, Ambrose (who also happens to be Kate’s father).

Atmospheric, twisty, and with just the right amount of chill that will keep you wrong-footed—which has now become Ruth Ware’s signature style—The Lying Game is sure to be her next big bestseller. Another unputdownable thriller from the Agatha Christie of our time.

Review:

In Ruth Ware’s latest mystery, The Lying Game, four friends are reunited after a grisly discovery threatens to expose a secret they have been keeping for the past seventeen years.

Meeting at an isolated boarding school, Isa, Fatima, Thea and Kate quickly formed a close-knit friendship. They were not particularly well-liked by their classmates since their “lying game” made it impossible to trust them. Following a scandal involving Kate’s father, Ambrose, the girls were expelled and Isa, Thea and Fatima have not returned to Salten Reach in the intervening years. However, an urgent text from Kate, who remained in town, brings the other three women running after a shocking discovery on a nearby beach.

Isa is a new mom to a six month old daughter and they are the first to arrive in town. She is a fretful new mom who is constantly worried about her baby. Despite her best efforts to glean the reason for Kate’s summons, her friend refuses to divulge any information until all of the women are together.  They quickly fall back into their close friendship and they while away the hours reminiscing about their many adventures they shared while they were at boarding school.  However, Isa remains very uneasy about why Kate has brought them together.

The four women are shocked when Kate divulges the reason for their impromptu reunion and each of them are quite concerned about the effect this news will have on their lives.  Each of them has a lot to lose if their secret comes out but they all know it is only a matter of time before they will be answering a lot of uncomfortable questions. Equally stunning is their realization that Kate’s stepbrother Luc Rochefort also lives nearby and Isa’s recent encounter with him puts the four women on edge since he too has knowledge about the events that separated them seventeen years earlier.

The Lying Game is a somewhat atmospheric mystery that slowly wends its way to a very action packed conclusion.  Ruth Ware masterfully builds the tension until it reaches a fever pitch as Isa finally begins putting the various pieces of the puzzle into place. There are plenty of unexpected twists and turns in store for the foursome as the truth about the events preceding their expulsion from boarding school are revealed.  A completely enthralling novel that I absolutely love and highly recommend to fans of the genre.

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Filed under Contemporary, Mystery, Rated B, Review, Ruth Ware, Simon & Schuster Inc, Suspense, The Lying Game

Review: The Perfect Stranger by Megan Miranda

Title: The Perfect Stranger by Megan Miranda
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery
Length: 352 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Edelweiss

Summary:

In the masterful follow-up to the New York Times bestseller All the Missing Girls—“think: Luckiest Girl Alive, The Girl on the Train, Gone Girl” (TheSkimm)—a journalist sets out to find a missing friend, a friend who may never have existed at all.

Confronted by a restraining order and the threat of a lawsuit, failed journalist Leah Stevens needs to get out of Boston when she runs into an old friend, Emmy Grey, who has just left a troubled relationship. Emmy proposes they move to rural Pennsylvania, where Leah can get a teaching position and both women can start again. But their new start is threatened when a woman with an eerie resemblance to Leah is assaulted by the lake, and Emmy disappears days later.

Determined to find Emmy, Leah cooperates with Kyle Donovan, a handsome young police officer on the case. As they investigate her friend’s life for clues, Leah begins to wonder: did she ever really know Emmy at all? With no friends, family, or a digital footprint, the police begin to suspect that there is no Emmy Grey. Soon Leah’s credibility is at stake, and she is forced to revisit her past: the article that ruined her career. To save herself, Leah must uncover the truth about Emmy Grey—and along the way, confront her old demons, find out who she can really trust, and clear her own name.

Everyone in this rural Pennsylvanian town has something to hide—including Leah herself. How do you uncover the truth when you are busy hiding your own?

Review:

The Perfect Stranger by Megan Miranda is a perplexing mystery about a woman who goes missing around the same time another woman is attacked.  Is there any connection between the two cases?

On the same day Bethany Jarvitz is bludgeoned, high school teacher Leah Stevens becomes increasingly concerned over the whereabouts of her roommate Emmy Grey.  Trying to pinpoint the last time she saw her friend is not easy since they work opposite schedules, but Leah decides to err on the side of caution and report the disappearance to the police. Having already been questioned by Detective Kyle Donovan, she turns to him for help in finding Emmy.  However, the more questions Kyle asks about her friend, Leah realizes how very little she knows about Emmy.  When the police are unable to uncover any information about her missing friend, Leah begins her own investigation but there are many surprises awaiting her as she begins digging into her roommate’s past.

Following a scandal surrounding a newspaper article about a series of college suicides, Leah has no choice but to quit her job as a newspaper reporter.  While she is trying to figure out what to do next, she unexpectedly runs into Emmy at a local bar. Although she has not seen nor heard from her friend in eight years, Leah has absolutely no qualms about agreeing to Emmy’s plan to move to Pennsylvania for a fresh start. Leah has secured a job as high school teacher and although she is a little troubled by the unwanted attention of the school’s basketball coach Davis Cobb, she has no regrets about her decision.

Trying to keep the information about her past under wraps, Leah is rather evasive during her interview with local police after Bethany is attacked.  She continues to be a little vague as she reports Emmy’s disappearance and after Kyle cannot find any solid details about her missing roommate, she soon realizes she does not know much about her friend.  Emmy does not have many possessions but after Leah makes a shocking discovery, she aggressively begins her search for information about her friend’s past. The deeper she digs, the more elusive her friend becomes and Leah has difficulty trying to make sense of the things she knows about Emmy.  She is quite introspective as she reflects on their friendship and Leah soon reaches an utterly shocking conclusion as she uncovers stunning clues that leave her reeling and desperate for answers.

The Perfect Stranger is a compelling mystery with a unique storyline. Leah is an incredibly loyal friend and despite her former profession, she is rather naive in the face of overwhelming evidence that Emmy possibly fabricated her entire history. The first half of the novel is a little slow paced but once Leah begins her investigation in earnest, the story then hurtles to a fairly shocking conclusion.  Fans of the genre will enjoy this complex and multi-layered mystery  by Megan Miranda.

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Filed under Contemporary, Megan Miranda, Mystery, Rated B, Review, Simon & Schuster Inc, The Perfect Stranger

Review: The Fall of Lisa Bellow by Susan Perabo

Title: The Fall of Lisa Bellow by Susan Perabo
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Genre: Contemporary, Fiction
Length: 352 pages
Book Rating: C

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Edelweiss

Summary:

The breakout novel from the critically acclaimed author of the short story collections Who I Was Supposed to Be and Why They Run the Way They Do—when a middle school girl is abducted in broad daylight, a fellow student and witness to the crime copes with the tragedy in an unforgettable way.

What happens to the girl left behind?

A masked man with a gun enters a sandwich shop in broad daylight, and Meredith Oliver suddenly finds herself ordered to the filthy floor, where she cowers face to face with her nemesis, Lisa Bellow, the most popular girl in her eighth grade class. The minutes tick inexorably by, and Meredith lurches between comforting the sobbing Lisa and imagining her own impending death. Then the man orders Lisa Bellow to stand and come with him, leaving Meredith the girl left behind.

After Lisa’s abduction, Meredith spends most days in her room. As the community stages vigils and searches, Claire, Meredith’s mother, is torn between relief that her daughter is alive, and helplessness over her inability to protect or even comfort her child. Her daughter is here, but not.

Like Everything I Never Told You and Room, The Fall of Lisa Bellow is edgy and original, a hair-raising exploration of the ripple effects of an unthinkable crime. It is a dark, beautifully rendered, and gripping novel about coping, about coming-of-age, and about forgiveness. It is also a beautiful illustration of how one family, broken by tragedy, finds healing.

Review:

The Fall of Lisa Bellow by Susan Perabo is a family drama that delves into the aftereffects of a traumatic event.

Meredith Oliver and Lisa Bellows are classmates but that is about all they have in common until a fateful day in a local deli.  An armed gunman robs the deli then inexplicably kidnaps Lisa, leaving Meredith to try to understand why she was left behind and try to cope with the lingering  trauma.  This life-altering event  also reverberates throughout the Oliver family and the rest of the community with very different reactions from many of people whose lives are touched by the tragedy.  Lisa’s mom Colleen is lost and desperate for answers about her daughter.  The incident seems to have an adverse effect on Meredith’s mom Claire, who grows increasingly dissatisfied with her life.   Meredith’s older brother Evan finally snaps out of the depression that has plagued him since a baseball accident months earlier irrevocably changed his life.  Meredith is understandably distraught about the events that transpired in the deli and she becomes obsessed with Lisa and what happened to her after the kidnapping.

Until that day in the deli, Meredith is a typical eighth grader who is fairly average in just about every way.  After Lisa’s kidnapping, she gains a certain notoriety at school and quickly becomes part of Lisa’s circle of friends.  Meredith is present in the physical sense, but emotionally, she is just sort of drifting away.  She builds a rather elaborate fantasy about what is happening to Lisa and her imaginings soon take on a life of their own.

Meredith’s mother Claire is not a particularly likable or sympathetic character.  She has sort of coasted into the life she has and her musings do not paint her in a flattering light at all.  She is somewhat self-centered and rather unkind in her reflections about her husband, her chosen career and to some degree, her children.

On the other hand, Meredith’s brother Evan and her father Mark are kind-hearted and quite  likable.  Mark is unceasingly upbeat and cheerful and although he sometimes looks at life through rose-colored glasses, his heart is always in the right place.  Evan has been through a difficult ordeal but he is finally finding his way back.  Despite the four year age difference between them, the siblings are rather close and Evan makes a concerted effort to draw Meredith back into the family’s day to day life.

The Fall of Lisa Bellow by Susan Perabo is a character-driven novel that is somewhat slow paced and very introspective.   The plot is certainly imaginative but a little disjointed with no clear resolutions to many of the story arcs.  All in all, an interesting story that has very little suspense and leaves a lot of unanswered questions.

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Filed under Contemporary, Fiction, Review, Simon & Schuster Inc, Susan Perabo, The Fall of Lisa Bellow

Review: All the Missing Girls by Megan Miranda

Title: All the Missing Girls by Megan Miranda
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Suspense
Length: 384 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Edelweiss

Summary:

Like the spellbinding psychological suspense in The Girl on the Train and Luckiest Girl Alive, Megan Miranda’s novel is a nail-biting, breathtaking story about the disappearances of two young women—a decade apart—told in reverse.

It’s been ten years since Nicolette Farrell left her rural hometown after her best friend, Corinne, disappeared from Cooley Ridge without a trace. Back again to tie up loose ends and care for her ailing father, Nic is soon plunged into a shocking drama that reawakens Corinne’s case and breaks open old wounds long since stitched.

The decade-old investigation focused on Nic, her brother Daniel, boyfriend Tyler, and Corinne’s boyfriend Jackson. Since then, only Nic has left Cooley Ridge. Daniel and his wife, Laura, are expecting a baby; Jackson works at the town bar; and Tyler is dating Annaleise Carter, Nic’s younger neighbor and the group’s alibi the night Corinne disappeared. Then, within days of Nic’s return, Annaleise goes missing.

Told backwards—Day 15 to Day 1—from the time Annaleise goes missing, Nic works to unravel the truth about her younger neighbor’s disappearance, revealing shocking truths about her friends, her family, and what really happened to Corinne that night ten years ago.

Like nothing you’ve ever read before, All the Missing Girls delivers in all the right ways. With twists and turns that lead down dark alleys and dead ends, you may think you’re walking a familiar path, but then Megan Miranda turns it all upside down and inside out and leaves us wondering just how far we would be willing to go to protect those we love.

Review:

Told backward over a two week period, Megan Miranda’s All the Missing Girls is a perplexing mystery about the disappearance of two young women who vanished ten years apart.

Following the unsolved disappearance of her best friend Corrine Prescott, eighteen year old Nicolette “Nic” Farrell left the small town of Cooley Ridge, NC behind her. Ten years later, she reluctantly returns after receiving a troubling letter from her dementia stricken father and a phone call from her brother Daniel requesting her help getting their family home ready to sell.  Not long after her arrival, their closest neighbor Annaliese Carter vanishes. Her disappearance bears eerie similarities to Corrine’s still unsolved case and the whole town cannot help but hold their collective breath as the investigation into Annaliese’s disappearance quickly hits a dead end. Fearing Daniel or her ex-boyfriend Tyler Ellison might somehow be involved, Nic is quickly caught up in trying to understand what happened to both Corrine and Annaliese.

With a job she loves and a wealthy fiancé, Nic has come a long way from her small town roots and she is in no hurry to return to Cooley Ridge.  Her relationship with Daniel is fraught with tension and they are stuck in a pattern of ignoring the problems between them.  Her attraction to her high school boyfriend Tyler has not waned in the intervening years and the events from the night Corrine vanished continue to haunt their relationship.  Adding to her anxiety is the mysterious note from her father but she must delicately question him in an effort to avoid confusing him any further.  When her fiancé unexpectedly arrives in town, Nic is caught in a maelstrom of strong emotion while trying to explain why she kept her past a secret from him.

Annaliese’s disappearance brings back Nic’s long forgotten memories of Corrine and with the lens of maturity, she now views her friend much more clearly. Corrine was a force to be reckoned with and she bullied her friends until they agreed to do whatever she wanted them to do.  She reveled in picking and prodding them into revealing their secrets and she enjoyed exposing then exploiting their weaknesses.  Corrine carefully concealed her troubled home life from them and in order to keep her problems a secret, she easily manipulated them into helping her escape her family.  Initially believing Corrine left town by choice, Nic and the police came to the conclusion that she was most likely the victim of foul play but with little evidence to go on, her case grew cold.

With the narrative going back in time, the reader’s perspective about what is occurring in the story is constantly shifting once the preceding events are revealed. This manner of storytelling is a little hard to follow sometimes but it is fascinating learning what lead up to the events of the previous chapters. A large portion of the story concentrates on Corrine’s disappearance and the complicated relationships between her, Nic, Daniel and Tyler.  The events on the night she disappeared are, initially, quite confusing because very little information is known about the various characters’ backgrounds or their complex histories. Since Annaliese vanished at the beginning of Nic’s arrival in town, the events surrounding her disappearance do not become clear until the novel’s final chapters. The conclusion of All the Missing Girls is full of shocking revelations and while most of the loose ends are completely wrapped up, a couple of small, yet important, details remain unresolved. 

All in all, this adult debut by young adult author Megan Miranda is a riveting mystery that fans of the genre do not want to miss.

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Filed under All the Missing Girls, Contemporary, Megan Miranda, Mystery, Rated B, Review, Simon & Schuster Inc, Suspense

Review: Still Mine by Amy Stewart

Title: Still Mine by Amy Stewart
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Suspense
Length: 320 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Edelweiss

Summary:

The Girl on the Train meets The Silent Wife in this taut psychological thriller.

WHAT HAPPENS IF YOU VANISH FROM YOUR LIFE AND LEAVE NO STORY BEHIND?

SOMEONE WILL MAKE ONE UP FOR YOU.

Clare is on the run.

From her past, from her husband, and from her own secrets. When she turns up alone in the remote mining town of Blackmore asking about Shayna Fowles, the local girl who disappeared, everyone wants to know who Clare really is and what she’s hiding. As it turns out, she’s hiding a lot, including what ties her to Shayna in the first place. But everyone in this place is hiding something—from Jared, Shayna’s secretive ex-husband, to Charlie, the charming small-town drug pusher, to Derek, Shayna’s overly involved family doctor, to Louise and Wilfred, her distraught parents.

Did Shayna flee? Was she killed? Is it possible she’s still alive?

As Clare uncovers the mysteries around Shayna’s disappearance, she must confront her own demons, moving us deeper and deeper into the labyrinth of lies and making us question what it is she’s really running from. Twisting and electrifying, this is a get-under-your-skin thriller that will make you question what it means to lose yourself and find yourself in the most unlikely places.

Review:

Still Mine by Amy Stewart is an intriguing, suspense-laden mystery that is full of unexpected twists and turns.  On the run from an abusive husband, Clare O’Dey is persuaded to look into the disappearance of Shayna Fowles, a young woman whose life is eerily similar to Clare’s.

When Clare arrives in the desolate and poverty stricken former mining town of Blackmore, the townspeople, are, at first, suspicious about why she is town.  Although most remain a little wary of her, it is not long before she forms a friendship, of sorts, with some of the locals.  With few people concerned about or searching for the missing young woman, Clare feels a kinship with Shayna and despite warnings from several residents, she is determined to find out what happened to her.

Clare’s past is just as troubled as the inhabitants of Blackmore and although she has overcome a few of her demons, they are still nipping at her heels.  Married young, her idyllic relationship with Jason quickly turned violent and it is not until she suffers a tragic loss that she is finally decides to leave her abusive husband.  On the outs with her brother Christopher and her best friend Grace following an intervention for her drug problem, Clare has no one to turn to until she meets Malcolm Boon, the investigator Jason hired to find her.  Although she has no investigative experience, she agrees to Malcolm’s request to try to get to the bottom of Shayna’s disappearance.

In spite of the townspeople’s lack of co-operation, Clare rents a decrepit trailer from Charlie Merritt, Shayna’s parents’ neighbor and Blackmore’s resident drug dealer.  Despite his resemblance to her husband, Clare is drawn to Charlie and she finds herself on the precipice of  risky behavior while in his company.  After befriending his girlfriend, Sara, Clare’s presence in town is more easily accepted but that acceptance could come with a high price tag.

Using Charlie’s property as a home base, Clare’s path quickly crosses with Shayna’s parents, Louise and Wilfred.  Louise suffers from early dementia and while Clare believes there is a kernel of truth in her confusion, separating fact from fiction is not always possible.  Wilfred has never been the same since the mine collapse years earlier and he is embroiled in a long running feud with Charlie.  He is volatile with a hair trigger and his lack of compassion for Louise makes him a difficult person to like.

After meeting the town’s doctor, Derek Meyer, Clare cannot help but feel that he knows more about Shayna’s disappearance than he lets on.  She soon suspects his relationship with the missing woman runs deeper than just doctor/patient but she cannot find proof to support her theory.  After discovering troubling information, her suspicions about the doctor deepen, but Clare remains uncertain about his role in Shayna’s disappearance.

Bleak and isolated, the town of Blackmore is the perfect backdrop for the unfolding story.  Dark and slightly foreboding, poverty-stricken and poised on the brink of extinction, the dying town adds to the Clare’s overall feeling of desperation as she tries to uncover the truth about Shayna’s disappearance.  The simmering undercurrents and residual anger from the mining accident that set the town on the path to ruin adds another layer to this increasingly complicated  mystery.

Still Mine by Amy Stewart is a riveting novel with a complex cast of characters and a slightly unreliable lead protagonist. Clare is a multi-faceted character with a dark but fascinating backstory. The mystery surrounding Shayna’s disappearance is riveting and although this part of the plot is completely wrapped up, Clare’s storyline is not fully resolved. Despite these loose ends (my fingers are crossed for a sequel), Still Mine is outstanding debut that I recommend to fans of the genre.

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Filed under Amy Stuart, Contemporary, Mystery, Rated B, Review, Simon & Schuster Inc, Still Mine, Suspense

Review: The Passenger by Lisa Lutz

Title: The Passenger by Lisa Lutz
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense
Length: 320 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Edelweiss

Summary:

From the author of the New York Times bestselling Spellman Files series, Lisa Lutz’s latest blistering thriller is about a woman who creates and sheds new identities as she crisscrosses the country to escape her past: you’ll want to buckle up for the ride!

In case you were wondering, I didn’t do it. I didn’t have anything to do with Frank’s death. I don’t have an alibi, so you’ll have to take my word for it…

Forty-eight hours after leaving her husband’s body at the base of the stairs, Tanya Dubois cashes in her credit cards, dyes her hair brown, demands a new name from a shadowy voice over the phone, and flees town. It’s not the first time.

She meets Blue, a female bartender who recognizes the hunted look in a fugitive’s eyes and offers her a place to stay. With dwindling choices, Tanya-now-Amelia accepts. An uneasy―and dangerous―alliance is born.

It’s almost impossible to live off the grid today, but Amelia-now-Debra and Blue have the courage, the ingenuity, and the desperation, to try. Hopscotching from city to city, Debra especially is chased by a very dark secret…can she outrun her past?

With heart-stopping escapes and devious deceptions, The Passenger is an amazing psychological thriller about defining yourself while you pursue your path to survival. One thing is certain: the ride will leave you breathless.

Review:

With plenty of secrets and startling twists and turns, The Passenger by Lisa Lutz is a riveting, suspense laden mystery.

After discovering the body of her husband, Tanya Dubois makes a life altering decision to flee due to her mysterious past. Following a seemingly fortuitous meeting with bartender “Blue”, Tanya is well on her way to forging a new life for herself in Wyoming when Blue’s past lands on her doorstep. Forced to change identities once again, Tanya quickly discovers that she is running out of options as she continues trying to outrun her past.

Initially, Tanya is not an easy character to like. She is little cold and comes across as rather opportunistic as she takes advantage of the people who cross her path. However, as more information about her past is revealed through a series of e-mails spanning several years, it is much easier to view her actions and reactions in a much more favorable light. Surprisingly, she has a pretty strong moral compass and she is greatly bothered when circumstances force her to compromise her principles. Tanya is also quite introspective and it does not take her long to begin to question the decisions she is making in order to survive.

On the other hand, Blue, who is also on the run, seemingly has no conscience. On the surface, her offer to help Tanya appears to be genuine but as Tanya soon discovers, her help comes with a pretty hefty price tag. Only time will tell whether their uneasy partnership will become Tanya’s downfall or ultimately, her salvation.

Well-written and compelling, The Passenger is an intriguing novel with an unusual premise that mystery lovers are sure to enjoy. Lead protagonist Tanya is flawed yet likable and as more of her backstory is revealed, she becomes a much more sympathetic character.  The overall storyline is interesting and Lisa Lutz brings the novel to a dramatic but surprisingly, uplifting, conclusion.

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Filed under Contemporary, Lisa Lutz, Mystery, Rated B, Review, Simon & Schuster Inc, The Passenger, Thriller