Category Archives: St Martin’s Press

Review: The Mother’s Promise by Sally Hepworth

Title: The Mother’s Promise by Sally Hepworth
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Genre: Contemporary, Women’s Fiction
Length: 384 pages
Book Rating: A

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

All their lives, Alice Stanhope and her daughter Zoe have been a family of two, living quietly in northern California. Zoe has always struggled with crippling social anxiety and her mother has been her constant and fierce protector. With no family to speak of, and the identity of Zoe’s father shrouded in mystery, their team of two works—until it doesn’t. Until Alice gets sick and needs to fight for her life.

Desperate to find stability for Zoe, Alice reaches out to two women who are practically strangers, but who are her only hope: Kate, a nurse, and Sonja, a social worker. As the four of them come together, a chain of events is set into motion and all four of them must confront their sharpest fears and secrets—secrets about abandonment, abuse, estrangement, and the deepest longing for family. Imbued with heart and humor in even the darkest moments, The Mother’s Promise is an unforgettable novel about the unbreakable bonds between mothers and daughters, and the new ways in which families are forged.

Review:

The Mother’s Promise by Sally Hepworth is a bittersweet novel about a single mother who discovers she has cancer.  Alice Stanhope is a devoted mom whose worry over her teenage daughter Zoe initially eclipses her concern about her health but she is soon forced to face the implications of her diagnosis.

At the age of forty, Alice has had a few health scares, so she is at first unconcerned about her doctor’s recommendation for surgery.  Reality quickly sets in and despite her claim she does not need any help, nurse Kate Littleton and hospital social worker Sonja step in to lend assistance.  Zoe’s severe social anxiety is difficult to manage when things are normal, so Alice is less than forthcoming with her daughter (and herself) about her diagnosis.  Although things are tense with her husband, David, Kate is more than happy to help out with Zoe but Alice is having a difficult time accepting Kate’s support for her daughter. Sonja is also trying her best to be there for both Alice and Zoe but she is struggling to cope with her psychologist husband’s increasingly rough treatment of her.  Alice’s alcoholic brother Paul is surprisingly helpful but maintaining his sobriety is an impossible endeavor.  In the aftermath of her surgery, Alice remains positive about her prognosis but is she deluding herself?  And if she is, what will happen to Zoe?

Alice and Zoe have lived a very insular life from the time Zoe was about two years old.  Alice founded a business that enabled her to keep her daughter out of daycare and until kindergarten, Zoe was a happy, well-adjusted little girl.  Zoe’s debilitating social anxiety and panic attacks began when she entered school and despite treatment, she has found little success in finding ways to cope with her disorder. Since Zoe only has one close friend, Alice and Zoe spend the most of their time together and Alice is fiercely protective of her daughter.

Kate is happily married with two teenage stepchildren whom she adores.  She loves her job and her affection for the patients in her care is genuine. When Zoe needs a place to stay while Alice is undergoing surgery and chemo, Kate is quick to welcome her into their home.   Although she has a full and happy life, Kate and David are at an impasse in their marriage and with each of them on opposite sides of an issue, the bond between them is becoming quite fragile.

Sonja is shocked by the changes in her husband George and she is not ready to admit his rough treatment of her might be crossing the line into abuse.  After all, a social worker would be the first person to recognize the signs of domestic violence, wouldn’t she?  For the first time in her career, Sonja is beginning to understand why the women she has tried to help continue to stay with their boyfriends and husbands.  Although Sonja remains uncertain about the future of their relationship, she is taking steps to protect herself when circumstances force her to take a stand.

The Mother’s Promise is a captivating novel that is heartwarming and deeply affecting.  Sally Hepworth broaches difficult topics such as social anxiety, cancer, alcoholism, abuse, Crohns Disease  and more with a great deal sensitivity. This deft handling  provides readers with  insightful and educational  information about topics that are rarely discussed. The various situations each of the women are facing intertwine into a meaningful storyline that is heartfelt and emotional. An incredibly moving novel that I absolutely loved and highly recommend.

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Filed under Contemporary, Rated A, Review, Sally Hepworth, St Martin's Press, The Mother's Promise, Women's Fiction

Review: The Weight of Him by Ethel Rohan

Title: The Weight of Him by Ethel Rohan
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Genre: Contemporary, Fiction
Length: 336 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

In The Weight of Him Billy Brennan undergoes an unforgettable journey in a startling attempt to resurrect his family and reignite hearts, his own most of all.

At four hundred pounds, Billy Brennan can always count on food. From his earliest memories, he has loved food’s colors, textures and tastes. The way flavors go off in his mouth. How food keeps his mind still and his bad feelings quiet. Food has always made everything better, until the day Billy’s beloved son Michael takes his own life.

Billy determines to make a difference in Michael’s memory and undertakes a public weight-loss campaign, to raise money for suicide prevention―his first step in an ambitious plan to save himself, and to save others. However, Billy’s dramatic crusade appalls his family, who want to simply try to go on, quietly, privately.

Despite his crushing detractors, Billy gains welcome allies: his community-at-large; a co-worker who lost his father to suicide; a filmmaker with his own dubious agenda; and a secret, miniature kingdom that Billy populates with the sub-quality dolls and soldiers he saves from disposal at the toy factory where he works. But it is only if Billy can confront the truth of the suffering and brokenness within and around him that he and others will be able to realize the recovery they need.

Told against the picturesque yet haunting backdrop of rural, contemporary Ireland, The Weight of Him is a big-hearted novel about loss and reliance that moves from tragedy to recrimination to what can be achieved when we take the stand of our lives.

Review:

The Weight of Him by Ethel Rohan is a heartbreaking, poignant and uplifting novel of healing.

Following his oldest son Michael’s inexplicable suicide, Billy Brennan wants to make his son’s life and death matter.  Billy’s plan to raise money and public awareness about suicide is not well received by his family yet he does not let their lack of support stop him.  Publicly vowing to lose 200 pounds, he  puts up flyers and pledge sheets around town and embarks on his weight loss campaign.  Despite a few initial setbacks, Billy comes up with a diet and exercise plan that he sometimes struggles to stick to but with his new friend Denis Morrissey’s help, he begins shedding pounds.  While his ambitious undertaking takes a toll on his relationship with his family, Billy remains fully committed to his cause.  Will his efforts to raise money and public awareness for suicide prevention pay off?  Can he meet his weight loss goal?  Will Billy and his family heal from their terrible loss?

In the aftermath of Michael’s suicide, Billy and his wife Tricia are both trying to understand why their son took his own life.  Tricia just wants their life to return to some semblance of normal and she does not understand why Billy would do anything to bring more attention to their family.  Their children are, of course, struggling just as much as Billy and Tricia.  Fifteen year old John is angry and Billy is often a target of his furious outbursts.  Twelve year old Anna tries to play peacemaker as her parents’ relationship continues to deteriorate.  Nine year old Ivor is a lot like his father and harboring numerous regrets over his self perceived failings, Billy tries to help his youngest son make healthier choices.

Billy’s struggles with weight began during childhood and over the years, he has lost weight only to gain it back time and again.  Having finally given up on diets a few years ago, his weight continues to climb as he binges on his favorite foods in secret.  His relationship with food is complicated and at times, turning away from the comfort he derives from it is almost a herculean task  for Billy. The passages that detail Billy’s shame and low self-esteem from his excess weight are absolutely heartwrenching to read but they provide readers with a discerning glimpse into the struggles he is experiencing.

Equally devastating are effects that Michael’s suicide have on Billy and his family.  Everyone processes their grief differently but they are all grappling to understand why Michael took his own life.  No one is able to pinpoint anything in his behavior that should have been a red flag which makes it very difficult for them to move forward in the grieving process.  Trying to articulate their feelings for their loss is virtually impossible and Billy is helpless to bridge the growing distance between him and his family.  Even more bewildering to him is their lack of understanding for his need to raise public awareness in an effort to prevent another family from losing a loved one to suicide.

The Weight of Him is an emotionally compelling novel that is fast paced and engaging. Ethel Rohan handles very difficult subject matter with sensitivity and provides readers with an insightful perspective about the importance of eliminating the social stigma that surrounds both suicide and obesity.  An absolutely breathtaking journey of healing that is sad yet ends on a hopeful note.

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Filed under Contemporary, Ethel Rohan, Fiction, Rated B+, Review, St Martin's Press, The Weight of Him

Review: I Liked My Life by Abby Fabiaschi

Title: I Liked My Life by Abby Fabiaschi
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Genre: Contemporary, Women’s Fiction
Length: 273 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

A story from debut author Abby Fabiaschi that is “as absorbing as it is illuminating, and as witty as it is heartbreaking.”

Maddy is a devoted stay-at-home wife and mother, host of excellent parties, giver of thoughtful gifts, and bestower of a searingly perceptive piece of advice or two. She is the cornerstone of her family, a true matriarch…until she commits suicide, leaving her husband Brady and teenage daughter Eve heartbroken and reeling, wondering what happened. How could the exuberant, exacting woman they loved disappear so abruptly, seemingly without reason, from their lives? How they can possibly continue without her? As they sift through details of her last days, trying to understand the woman they thought they knew, Brady and Eve are forced to come to terms with unsettling truths.

Maddy, however, isn’t ready to leave her family forever. Watching from beyond, she tries to find the perfect replacement for herself. Along comes Rory: pretty, caring, and spontaneous, with just the right bit of edge…but who also harbors a tragedy of her own. Will the mystery of Maddy ever come to rest? And can her family make peace with their history and begin to heal?

Review:

I Liked My Life by Abby Fabiaschi is a poignant yet remarkably uplifting novel about healing, grief and moving forward after enduring a tragic loss.

Brady Starling and his seventeen year old daughter Eve are struggling to understand devoted wife and mom Maddy’s recent death.  Their lives rarely intersect as Brady continues to use work as way to avoid his pain.  Eve no longer has anything in common with  her friends and classmates and already feeling numb with grief, she is becoming increasingly isolated in the weeks leading up to summer break.  Unbeknownst to both Brady and Eve, Maddy is still watching over them and trying to help them work their way from grieving to healing.  She is also doing a little beyond the grave matchmaking  as she tries to find the perfect woman to help both Brady and Eve heal from their heartbreaking loss.

Brady and Eve are floundering in the aftermath of Maddy’s death as they realize how much she did to ensure their lives ran smoothly. They are also trying to understand why the seemingly happy wife and mother would have wanted to end her life. As they realize how incredibly self-absorbed and unappreciative they were of Maddy, they are wracked with guilt that they missed signs she was depressed and unhappy enough to commit suicide.

As they try to work through their tangled emotions, Brady and Eve seem to have little common ground and initially, most of their interactions are so filled with anger and pain they cannot connect.  Brady’s default mode is avoidance and unfortunately, Eve is emulating his less than healthy behavior.  After they finally get a much needed wake-up call, they begin the arduous task of rebuilding their shattered family.  A sometimes daunting task, but with a little effort on both of their parts, Brady and Eve begin to make progress but their newfound peace is often quite fragile.

Maddy is certainly doing all she can to help her family recover from her loss.  She finally discovers she can send thoughts and energy to help Brady and Eve with the healing process.  Some of the people in her family’s lives are a little easier for her manipulate than others and while some of her efforts are misconstrued, most of her attempts are successful.  After much searching, Maddy has found the person she feels is the perfect woman to help Brady and Eve deal with their pain and sorrow, but will her matchmaking yield the results she is hoping for?

I Liked My Life is a well-written novel that deals with very difficult subject manner in a surprisingly humorous and startlingly insightful manner.  The characters are wonderfully complex with all too realistic foibles and frailties.  The storyline is oftentimes heartbreaking as Brady and Eve try to understand the reasons for Maddy’s suicide while at the same time, they are struggling to come to terms with their new reality. I absolutely loved and highly recommend this beautifully rendered debut by Abby Fabiaschi.

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Filed under Abby Fabiaschi, Contemporary, I Liked My Life, Rated B, Review, St Martin's Press, Women's Fiction

Review: Because I’m Watching by Christina Dodd

Title: Because I’m Watching by Christina Dodd
Virtue Falls Series Book Three
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Suspense, Romance
Length: 352 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

From this “master of the genre,” Christina Dodd, comes a white-knuckled suspense of this remarkable mesmerizing series (Library Journal starred review) set in the quaint–and deadly–coastal town of Virtue Falls…

She had survived, but she is still held captive…
Of her memories, her loneliness, her delusions. But are they truly delusions?

The survivor of a college dorm massacre, a woman accused of her lover’s murder, Madeline Hewitson is haunted by ghosts and tormented by a killer only she can see. At night, she works, writing and drawing the monster that slithers through her imagination, and living in fear of those moments when the doors of her mind unhinge and her nightmare lives in the daylight.

A seasoned military veteran, Jacob Denisov lives alone in his small, darkened home, sleepless, starving, and angry. Every day he lives with the guilt that comes from his own failures and the carnage that followed. When neighbor Madeline Hewitson drives her car through the front wall of his house, she breaks his house–and his life–wide open. Forced to view the world outside, Jacob watches Maddie, recognizes a kindred spirit and wonders what she fears more than herself. Has someone caught her in a twisted labyrinth of revenge and compassion, guilt and redemption, murder and madness?

When Maddie’s imaginary killer takes form, she fights, screaming her fear and defiance. But will she be strong enough to triumph, or is the killer she fears no more than a shadow, an illusion … that watches?

Told with Christina Dodd’s trademark twists and turns, BECAUSE I’M WATCHING is a tour-de-force thriller that will keep you guessing with every turn of the page.

Review:

From the attention grabbing first chapter until the novel’s final word, Because I’m Watching by Christina Dodd is a spellbinding mystery set in a small coastal town in Washington.  While this newest release is the third installment in the Virtue Falls series, it can easily be read as a standalone.

Madeline “Maddie” Hewitson is the lone survivor of a murderous rampage that took the lives of her close friends and dorm mates only to find herself in the public eye after she is accused of murdering her fiancé.  Needing a fresh start, she moves to the small enclave of Virtue Falls where she manages to fly under the radar until a series of unexplained events earns her the nickname of “Mad Maddie”.  Terrified, sleep deprived and utterly haunted by strange occurrences, she meets her neighbor Jacob Denisov under inauspicious circumstances after she crashes her car into his front room.

Jacob is fighting a few demons of his own and while dismayed by the damage to his home, he is more upset that he survived the accident.  Struggling with survivor’s guilt and severe PTSD after he and his team are captured and tortured, Jacob hates being exposed to his neighbors.  Forced to deal with workman rebuilding his house, he slowly rejoins the world of the living and finds himself utterly charmed by his vivacious neighbor. After a series of crimes begin happening in their small neighborhood, suspicion falls on Maddie but Jacob has plenty of doubts about her involvement. But if Maddie is not responsible for what is going on, then who is?

No one in Virtue Falls is willing to give Maddie the benefit of the doubt.  Despite having lived there unnoticed for quite some time, everyone is quick to believe she is crazy when she begins hallucinating and experiencing mishaps around her home.  After numerous calls to the police who discover nothing untoward during their investigations, Maddie is dismissed as a crackpot who has a few loose screws.  She keeps to herself and forces herself to stay awake until daylight in an attempt to avoid the terrors that haunt her nights.  Still surprisingly upbeat and positive despite the tragedies in her life, Maddie easily deduces  that Jacob is even more tortured than she is.  Not one to shy away from uncomfortable discussions, she is completely honest with him about her past and Maddie essentially forces him out of his self-imposed isolation.

Jacob is guilt-ridden over what happened to the young people in his care and he is working up the courage to take his own life when Maddie crashes into his house and his life.  Although he does not want to become involved with her or his neighbors, he cannot ignore what is happening around him.  Forced to see what is going on in the neighborhood as his house is being repaired, Jacob becomes curious about what is going on with Maddie.  Although still on self-destructive path, he finally opens up to her about the demons that haunt him.  These two wounded souls help one another truly begin to heal, but is their fragile bond strong to survive what happens next?

In addition to the storylines with Jacob, Maddie and the mysterious happenings in their neighborhood, there is plenty of drama going on in the small town of Virtue Falls.  Sheriff Kateri Kwinault is the midst of a heated campaign for the upcoming sheriff’s election.  She also finds herself in the middle of an unexpected romance with a longtime friend and she is unnerved when her unresolved past with her father rears its ugly head.  Cordelia Markham provides Kateri with some unsettling information about a series of troubling text messages but figuring out who is in danger is like finding a needle in a haystack.  When the truth about what is happening with Maddie finally begins to emerge, will Kateri be able keep her out of harm’s way?

With a cast of quirky characters and a baffling mystery, Because I’m Watching is a suspense-laden addition to the Virtue Falls series.  With numerous subplots and plenty of secondary characters, the story is a little busy but overall, it is easy to keep track of what is going on. An astute reader will have a fairly good idea about who is responsible for what is happening to Maddie and why but Christina Dodd manages to throw in a few unexpected plot twists late in the novel.  The conclusion is certainly action-packed and most of the storylines are fully resolved.  An entertaining installment that old and new fans will enjoy.

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Filed under Because I'm Watching, Christina Dodd, Contemporary, Mystery, Rated B, Review, Romance, St Martin's Press, Suspense, Virtue Falls Series

Review: Damaged by Lisa Scottoline

Title: Damaged by Lisa Scottoline
Rosato and DiNunzio Series Book Four
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense
Length: 416 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

One boy. One lawyer. One chance for justice.

Ten-year-old Patrick O’Brien is a natural target at school. Shy, dyslexic, and small for his age, he tries to hide his first-grade reading level from everyone: from his classmates, from the grandfather who cares for him, and from the teachers who are supposed to help him. But the real trouble begins when Patrick is accused of attacking a school aide. The aide promptly quits and sues the boy, his family, and the school district. Patrick’s grandfather turns to the law firm of Rosato & DiNunzio for help and Mary DiNunzio is on the case. Soon Mary becomes Patrick’s true champion and his only hope for security and justice. But there is more to the story than meets the eye and Patrick might be more troubled than he seems. With twists at every turn and secrets about the family coming to light, Mary DiNunzio might have found the case that can make her a true protector, or break her heart…

With Lisa Scottoline’s trademark emotional depth and fast-paced action, Damaged will have readers riveted to the last page as they root for the beloved characters and their fight for justice.

Review:

Damaged, the latest addition to Lisa Scottoline’s Rosato and DiNunzio series, is a perplexing legal mystery that delves into the intricacies of special education law and family law.

Mary DiNunzio is the final two weeks of wedding preparations when she finds herself knee deep in a heartbreaking case involving a ten year old boy and his grandfather.  Retired accountant Edward O’Brien hires Mary to defend his grandson Patrick after the child is accused of attacking his teacher’s aide, Steven Robertson, with a pair of scissors. Robertson’s attorney is notorious and diabolical legal shark, Nick Machiavelli, whose immature taunts and dastardly manipulations immediately infuriate Mary.  After the case takes a deadly turn, she jeopardizes her relationship with her fiancé Anthony Rotunno when she impetuously makes a decision without consulting him.  Desperate to rescue Patrick before he is irreparably damaged by the system that is designed to protect him, Mary works feverishly to solve a shocking murder but will she become the killer’s next victim?

Helping special needs children get the best education possible is what Mary does best and she is willing to do whatever is necessary to help Edward navigate the complicated system for his grandson.  She is incensed at Nick’s legal shenanigans and she sometimes acts before she thinks.  She is immediately on the offensive trying to anticipate his next move, but Mary is stunned at how far he will go to outmaneuver her.  As the situation with Patrick worsens, she genuinely wants what is best for the young boy, but some of her decisions are a little naive and ill-planned.  Mary’s heart is in the right place, but she is definitely out of her depth and making choices that could do more harm than good in the long run.

The allegations against Patrick are not easy to prove but they are equally difficult to disprove as well.  While Mary knows the special education laws inside out, backwards and upside down, she is on unfamiliar ground once Patrick reveals shocking  information about Steven Robertson.  After the case takes a heartrending turn, she is even more determined than ever to save the young boy, but things begin moving so fast that she can barely keep up.  Mary is puzzled by some of the details she stumbles across but she is so overwhelmed by everything that is happening, the truth remains tantalizingly out of reach.  Will Mary be able to solve the mystery before it is too late?

With plenty of intriguing twists and turns, Damaged is a fast-paced and compelling mystery. Lisa Scottoline’s research into special education laws and family law is absolutely impeccable and provides depth to the various story arcs.  The storyline is interesting with unexpected plot twists that will keep the reader guessing whodunit and why right up until the dramatic showdown between Mary and the murderer(s).  Although Damaged is the fourth book in the  Rosato and DiNunzio series, it can easily be read as a standalone.

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Filed under Blog Tour, Contemporary, Damaged, Lisa Scottoline, Mystery, Rated B, Rosato and DiNunzio Series, St Martin's Press, Suspense

Review: All Is Not Forgotten by Wendy Walker

Title: All Is Not Forgotten by Wendy Walker
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Suspense
Length: 319 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

It begins in the small, affluent town of Fairview, Connecticut, where everything seems picture perfect.

Until one night when young Jenny Kramer is attacked at a local party. In the hours immediately after, she is given a controversial drug to medically erase her memory of the violent assault. But, in the weeks and months that follow, as she heals from her physical wounds, and with no factual recall of the attack, Jenny struggles with her raging emotional memory. Her father, Tom, becomes obsessed with his inability to find her attacker and seek justice while her mother, Charlotte, struggles to pretend this horrific event did not touch her carefully constructed world.

As Tom and Charlotte seek help for their daughter, the fault lines within their marriage and their close-knit community emerge from the shadows where they have been hidden for years, and the relentless quest to find the monster who invaded their town – or perhaps lives among them – drive this psychological thriller to a shocking and unexpected conclusion.

Review:

All Is Not Forgotten by Wendy Walker is a gripping mystery that has an unusual premise and a unique narrator.

Fifteen year old Jenny Kramer is brutally raped and in an effort to spare her the psychological trauma of the attack, her parents make an unorthodox decision to erase her memories of the assault.  The controversial treatment blocks the memory of the act but as Jenny and her family soon discover, the accompanying emotions are still keenly felt. Without a tangible event to attach these feelings to, Jenny suffers from residual fear and anxiety. After a desperate attempt to end her torment, Jenny’s family turns to Dr. Alan Forrester, a local psychiatrist who is also treating another patient that was given the same drugs as Jenny. Due to Dr. Forrester’s limited success in helping war veteran Sean Logan retrieve his memories of the attack that left him an amputee and took the life of a fellow soldier, the Kramer family is hopeful that he can help Jenny remember the details of the rape and possibly identify her attacker. At the same time, the police are finally making progress on the case but outside interference soon hinders the investigation.

Written from the point of view of a very surprising narrator, All Is Not Forgotten unfolds at a steady pace.  The narrator is unemotional and distant as the details of Jenny’s attack and the months leading up to her therapy are slowly revealed.  While this technique is a little off-putting initially, it does not take long to get used to this somewhat unusual form of narration.  The flow of the story is sometimes interrupted as the narrator reveals tantalizing bits of information then backtracks to explain how these details were discovered.  While it appears the storyteller is an impartial observer, the narrator’s careful parceling of information keeps readers off balance and wondering whether or not this person’s account of events is truly unbiased.

With a cast of flawed characters, jaw-dropping revelations and shocking plot twists, All Is Not Forgotten is an intricately plotted, suspenseful mystery that is impossible to put down. Wendy Walker  makes an unusual choice for a narrator but this atypical narration is what makes this novel stand out in the mystery/suspense genre.  A thought-provoking, riveting novel that I highly recommend to readers who enjoy a twisty, turny psychologically complex mystery.

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Filed under All Is Not Forgotten, Contemporary, Mystery, Rated B+, Review, St Martin's Press, Suspense, Wendy Walker