Category Archives: St Martin’s Press

Review: Poison by Galt Niederhoffer

Title: Poison by Galt Niederhoffer
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Suspense
Length: 304 pages
Book Rating: C+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

Cass and Ryan Connor have achieved family nirvana. With three kids between them, a cat and a yard, a home they built and feathered, they seem to have the Modern Family dream. Their family, including Cass’ two children from previous relationships, has recently moved to Portland —a new start for their new lives. Cass and Ryan have stable, successful careers, and they are happy. But trouble begins almost imperceptibly. First with small omissions and white lies that happen daily in any marital bedroom. They seem insignificant, but they are quickly followed by a series of denials and feints that mushroom and then cyclone in menace.

With life-or-death stakes and irreversible consequences, Poison is a chilling and irresistible reminder that the closest bond designed to protect and provide for each other and for children can change in a minute.

Review:

Poison by Galt Niederhoffer is an inventive domestic mystery about a woman who is being gaslighted by her husband.

At first glance, Cass and Ryan Connor have the perfect marriage.  The couple relocated to a suburb of Seattle with Cass’s two children from her first marriage, seven year old Pete and ten year old Alice, along with their son, two year old Sam. The children adore Ryan, who is spontaneous and playful, but Cass finds these traits a bit annoying since he sometimes disrupts the kids’ routines. Ryan is the family’s main breadwinner but Cass also works outside the home as a college professor. Despite their outward happy appearance, their marriage has deep cracks that widen after Cass begins to suspect Ryan is having an affair.

Cass is an award winning journalist who sometimes yearns for the career she willingly gave up to raise her children after her marriage to Ryan. She is still strongly attracted to Ryan and even after she catches him in a lie, this never changes. Cass is stunned by the sudden changes in Ryan’s behavior but even in the aftermath of a shocking threat, she remains under his spell. As the tension mounts between them and her health rapidly deteriorates, Cass gradually begins to realize she has completely ignored rather unsavory aspects of Ryan’s personality.

As her marriage takes a dark turn, Cass becomes more isolated and rather helpless as she becomes a victim of both Ryan and the legal system. Her judgment is seriously skewed as she puts her trust in the wrong people then makes questionable decisions that endanger not only herself but her children. With her situation becoming increasingly dire, Cass finds herself in the crosshairs of a diabolical man who will do absolutely anything to win.

While the plot is unique, Poison is a slow-moving novel that quickly becomes bogged down in long passages of wordy narration that lacks much action or dialogue. Galt Niederhoffer brilliantly highlights societal issues regarding crimes against women and how they are often victimized as they attempt to seek justice.   Readers will have to suspend disbelief as the novel wends its way to a somewhat dissatisfying and abrupt conclusion that does not completely wrap up all of the dangling threads.

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Filed under Contemporary, Galt Niederhoffer, Mystery, Poison, Rated C+, Review, St Martin's Press, Suspense

Review: The Stolen Marriage by Diane Chamberlain

Title: The Stolen Marriage by Diane Chamberlain
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Genre: Historical (40s), Fiction
Length: 384 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

Steeped in history and filled with heart-wrenching twists, The Stolen Marriage is an emotionally captivating novel of secrets, betrayals, prejudice, and forgiveness. It showcases Diane Chamberlain at the top of her talent.

One mistake, one fateful night, and Tess DeMello’s life is changed forever.

It is 1944. Pregnant, alone, and riddled with guilt, twenty-three-year-old Tess DeMello abruptly gives up her budding career as a nurse and ends her engagement to the love of her life, unable to live a lie. Instead, she turns to the baby’s father for help and agrees to marry him, moving to the small, rural town of Hickory, North Carolina. Tess’s new husband, Henry Kraft, is a secretive man who often stays out all night, hides money from his new wife, and shows her no affection. Tess quickly realizes she’s trapped in a strange and loveless marriage with no way out.

The people of Hickory love and respect Henry but see Tess as an outsider, treating her with suspicion and disdain. When one of the town’s golden girls dies in a terrible accident, everyone holds Tess responsible. But Henry keeps his secrets even closer now, though it seems that everyone knows something about him that Tess does not.

When a sudden polio epidemic strikes Hickory, the townspeople band together to build a polio hospital. Tess knows she is needed and defies Henry’s wishes to begin working at there. Through this work, she begins to find purpose and meaning. Yet at home, Henry’s actions grow more alarming by the day. As Tess works to save the lives of her patients, can she untangle the truth behind her husband’s mysterious behavior and find the love—and the life—she was meant to have?

Review:

The Stolen Marriage by Diane Chamberlain is a well-researched, historically accurate novel set during the mid 1940s in North Carolina.

Twenty-three year old Tess DeMello is happily engaged to next door neighbor Dr. Vincent Russo. Looking forward to her upcoming wedding and completing her nursing studies, she is disappointed yet understanding when Vincent goes to Chicago to help out during a serious polio outbreak. When his return date continues to get pushed back, she and her best friend take a trip to Washington, DC that forever alters Tess’s life and eventually leads to a loveless marriage to furniture maker Henry Kraft.

Tess is a strong, confident young woman who has a close relationship with her mother and Vincent’s family. Her one misstep has far reaching implications and she loses everything dear to her the aftermath. Not expecting Henry to offer marriage, she nonetheless accepts his proposal and relocates to his hometown of Hickory.  Needless to say, neither her mother-in-law Ruth nor her sister-in-law Lucy welcomes her into the family and Tess grows incredibly lonely in her new circumstances. She is also puzzled by Henry’s lack of interest in their marriage and although she would like to confront him, Tess is fearful of upsetting their fragile bond. Tess remains hopeful things will improve over the coming months and despite her reluctance to go against her husband’s wishes, she nonetheless holds firm when it comes to attaining her RN license.

Tess is definitely a fish out of water in her new home. She is expected to conform to Ruth’s wishes and she gradually loses her sense of self under the weight of these expectations. Dealt a crushing blow in the aftermath of tragic losses, Tess unexpectedly finds the opportunity to fulfill her prior dreams when the town comes together and builds a hospital for polio patients.  When her past crashes headlong into the present, Tess realizes the enormity of everything she has lost, but will she find a way to escape her increasingly unhappy life?

The Stolen Marriage is an enthralling historical novel with a rich cast of vibrantly developed and life-like characters. Tess is an extremely sympathetic and appealing protagonist who is a victim of not only her impetuous decisions but the strictures of time period. The small town of Hickory is realistically depicted but it takes the townspeople’s generosity in the face of adversity for Tess to realize she has misjudged most of its residents.  Diane Chamberlain’s meticulous research of Hickory’s past highlights a remarkable but little known piece of important history. An incredibly captivating and thought-provoking novel that provides an insightful glimpse of turbulent race relations, haunting polio epidemics and limited choices women endured during the mid 1940s in America.

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Filed under Diane Chamberlain, Fiction, Historical, Historical (40s), Rated B+, Review, St Martin's Press, The Stolen Marriage

Review: The Trust by Ronald H. Balson

Title: The Trust by Ronald H. Balson
Liam and Catherine Series Book Four
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Suspense
Length: 367 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

The newest novel from Ronald H. Balson, the international bestselling author of Once We Were Brothers, finds private investigator Liam Taggart returning to his childhood home for an uncle’s funeral, only to discover his death might not have been natural.

When his uncle dies, Liam Taggart reluctantly returns to his childhood home in Northern Ireland for the funeral—a home he left years ago after a bitter confrontation with his family, never to look back. But when he arrives, Liam learns that not only was his uncle shot to death, but that he’d anticipated his own murder: In an astonishing last will and testament, Uncle Fergus has left his entire estate to a secret trust, directing that no distributions be made to any person until the killer is found. Did Fergus know, but refuse to name, his killer? Was this a crime of revenge, a vendetta leftover from Northern Ireland’s bloody sectarian war? After all, the Taggarts were deeply involved in the IRA. Or is it possible that the killer is a family member seeking Fergus’s estate? Otherwise, why postpone distributions to the heirs? Most menacingly, does the killer now have his sights on other family members?

As his investigation draws Liam farther and farther into the past he has abandoned, he realizes he is forced to reopen doors long ago shut and locked. Now, accepting the appointment as sole trustee of the Fergus Taggart Trust, Liam realizes he has stepped into the center of a firestorm.

Review:

As with previous novels written by Ronald H. Balson, his newest mystery, The Trust, is well-researched and historically accurate. Set in Ireland, the Taggart family and its history with the IRA are under the microscope after Liam’s estranged Uncle Fergus dies under mysterious circumstances.

Although Liam is conflicted about his cousin Janie’s request that he attend his uncle’s funeral, his wife Catherine easily him to make the trip.  He is stunned to discover that Fergus made him the executor of his estate which has been placed into a trust. Equally shocking are the terms of the will and Liam finds himself on the opposite side of his cousins Conor and Riley as they attempt to remove him as the trust administrator. In between the legal maneuvering, Liam teams up with the police inspector assigned to the case to try to solve his uncle’s murder.

Liam is quite upset that he never made the effort to mend the sixteen year rift with Fergus and he is utterly confused about his uncle’s conviction that he is the only person he can trust to carry out his wishes. The terms of the will are clear but unfortunately, everything about the last few months of his uncle’s life is rather murky. Liam quickly discovers Fergus was convinced someone was going to kill him, but he was deliberately vague about who the killer might be or why he might targeted.  Liam’s family is certain his murder is a vendetta from forty years earlier, but local police Inspector Farrell McLaughlin is equally convinced the killer is most likely related to Fergus.

The investigation is slow moving and Liam also must contend with inner family squabbles, overt threats and memories of his distant past. He vacillates back and forth between abdicating his responsibilities and returning home, but his remorse over his role in the longstanding estrangement is a powerful inducement to carry out Fergus’s last wishes. He is also a bit angst-ridden over Catherine and their baby’s safety but his wife is equally certain the threats she is receiving are nothing more than a bothersome nuisance. Even when the killer begins targeting other family members, Liam and the police are still unable to discern a motive for the murders and without a motive, it is even more difficult to narrow down the suspect list.

Rich with historical details, The Trust is an intriguing mystery that old and new fans of the Liam and Catherine series will enjoy.  Although the investigation into Fergus’s murder is interesting, readers might a little frustrated with the lack of progress and the narrow focus on a list of very obvious suspects while glaring inconsistencies with other characters are ignored. Catherine is a little blasé about her and their baby’s safety and Liam comes across as rather unfocused as he deals with the emotional aspects of his unexpected family reunion. Despite a few minor irritations with the mystery aspect of the storyline, Ronald H. Balson provides a fascinating look into Ireland’s deeply troubled past between Protestants  and Catholics that still reverberates amongst its citizens today.

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Filed under Contemporary, Liam and Catherine Series, Mystery, Rated B, Review, Ronald H Balson, St Martin's Press, Suspense, The Trust

Review: The Vengeance of Mothers by Jim Fergus

Title: The Vengeance of Mothers by Jim Fergus
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Genre: Historical, Fiction
Length: 352 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

The stunning sequel to the award-winning novel One Thousand White Women.

9 March 1876

My name is Meggie Kelly and I take up this pencil with my twin sister, Susie. We have nothing left, less than nothing. The village of our People has been destroyed, all our possessions burned, our friends butchered by the soldiers, our baby daughters gone, frozen to death on an ungodly trek across these rocky mountains. Empty of human feeling, half-dead ourselves, all that remains of us intact are hearts turned to stone. We curse the U.S. government, we curse the Army, we curse the savagery of mankind, white and Indian alike. We curse God in his heaven. Do not underestimate the power of a mother’s vengeance…

So begins the Journal of Margaret Kelly, a woman who participated in the U.S. government’s “Brides for Indians” program in 1873, a program whose conceit was that the way to peace between the United States and the Cheyenne Nation was for One Thousand White Woman to be given as brides in exchange for three hundred horses. These “brides” were mostly fallen women; women in prison, prostitutes, the occasional adventurer, or those incarcerated in asylums. No one expected this program to work. And the brides themselves thought of it simply as a chance at freedom. But many of them fell in love with their Cheyenne spouses and had children with them…and became Cheyenne themselves.

The Vengeance of Mothers explores what happens to the bonds between wives and husbands, children and mothers, when society sees them as “unspeakable.” What does it mean to be white, to be Cheyenne, and how far will these women go to avenge the ones they love? With vivid detail and keen emotional depth, Jim Fergus brings to light a time and place in American history and fills it with unforgettable characters who live and breathe with a passion we can relate to even today

Review:

In The Vengeance of Mothers, Jim Fergus whisks readers back to the 1870s when the US government was doing everything possible to eradicate the Native American people. Between the Black Hills gold rush, ranchers and white settlers, eliminating the People is a high priority as the Army viciously strikes their camps, the government reneges on deals made through peace treaties and Indian tribes are forced onto government reservations.  In an effort to assimilate Native Americans into the white way of life, a deal is struck with the Cheyenne Nation and white women, many of whom are from prisons and mental asylums, are sent to marry the braves. Although this newest release is a sequel which picks up One Thousand White Women (which I HIGHLY recommend) ends, it can be read as a standalone.

Written in diary format, the story alternates back and forth between the perspectives of original brides Margaret “Meggie” Kelly and her sister Susan “Susie” and newcomer Molly McGill. Meggie and Susie have survived the horrific massacre which left their husbands and many of their fellow brides dead. As they fled for safety, they suffered horrific personal losses and they have vowed to take revenge on the soldiers who are indiscriminately and viciously attacking the various tribes’ villages. Molly and her fellow brides’ train has been attacked by the Cheyenne but they decide they still want to follow through with the plan to marry into their tribe.  Still grieving from recent events, Meggie and Susie become the other women’s reluctant guides as they, along with the surviving Cheyenne warriors, set out to reunite with the rest of their tribe.

Despite a bit of a slow start, The Vengeance of Mothers is an engrossing peek into the hardships and life and death battles these women and the Native Americans endured as they government continued their efforts to wipe out the indigenous people. This historically accurate and impeccably researched novel has an incredibly realistic and compelling storyline that is heartrending. There is a bit of a mystical feel to the present day aspects of the plot and  Jim Fergus brings the story to an intriguing, but somewhat  ambiguous, conclusion. Both The Vengeance of Mothers and its predecessor, One Thousand White Women, are incredibly well-written novels that bring the appalling plight of the Native American tribes vividly to life.  I absolutely loved and highly recommend both of these incredible novels.

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Filed under Fiction, Historical, Jim Fergus, Rated B, Review, St Martin's Press, The Vengeance of Mothers

Review: The Other Girl by Erica Spindler

Title: The Other Girl by Erica Spindler
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Suspense
Length: 247 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

From the New York Times bestselling author of Justice for Sara and The First Wife Erica Spindler comes The Other Girl, a chilling new thriller about a ritualistic murder of a college professor that sends a small town cop back into the trauma she thought she’d put behind her.

A horrific crime. One witness—a fifteen year old girl from the wrong side of the tracks, one known for lying and her own brushes with the law.
Is it any surprise no one believed her?

Officer Miranda Rader of the Harmony, Louisiana PD is known for her honesty, integrity, and steady hand in a crisis—but that wasn’t always so. Miranda comes from the town of Jasper, a place about the size of a good spit on a hot day, and her side of the tracks was the wrong one. She’s worked hard to earn the respect of her coworkers and the community.

When Miranda and her partner are called to investigate the murder of one of the town’s most beloved college professors, they’re unprepared for the brutality of the scene. This murder is unlike any they’ve ever investigated, and just when Miranda thinks she’s seen the worst of it, she finds a piece of evidence that chills her to the core: a faded newspaper clipping about that terrible night fifteen years ago. The night she’d buried, along with her past and the girl she’d been back then. Until now that grave had stayed sealed…except for those times, in the deepest part of the night, when the nightmares came: of a crime no one believed happened and the screams of the girl they believed didn’t exist.

Then another man turns up dead, this one a retired cop. Not just any cop—the one who took her statement that night. Two murders, two very different men, two killings that on the surface had nothing in common—except Miranda.

Review:

The Other Girl by Erica Spindler is a twist-filled police procedural set in a small southern town in Louisiana.

Detective Miranda Rader is a cop with a past that she refuses to let define her.  In the aftermath of a terrifying ordeal when she was a teenager, she completely turned her life around and she is now a well-respected police officer.  Called to the scene of the brutal and gruesome murder of Professor Richard Stark, who by all accounts is well-liked and popular, Miranda makes a discovery that brings the events of that long ago night to the forefront of her mind.  Immediately informing her boss, friend and mentor Police Chief Buddy Cadwell of her suspicions, she is dismayed by how easily he dismisses her concerns.  Will she have better luck convincing her partner Jake Billings that she is on the right track?

Miranda is an excellent detective but her objectivity during the investigation of Richard Stark’s murder is compromised right away. She becomes impulsive and makes some incredibly questionable decisions that not only jeopardize the case, but her career.  Chief Cadwell also harbors a few doubts about her but thankfully she can count on Jake to watch her back. Miranda cannot help but wonder if Cadwell is reluctant to pursue all avenues of inquiry due to the fact the victim’s father is very influential in their small town. However, she is convinced she is on the right track but will Miranda find anyone to corroborate her suspicions?

Weaving back in forth in time between what happened to Miranda in the past and Richard Stark’s murder in the present, The Other Girl is a compelling mystery.  Miranda is a complex character  who is sometimes her own worst enemy as she brashly refuses to allow Chief Cadwell deter her from attempting to prove her theory about Stark is correct. Although it is very easy to surmise who killed the Professor and why, the perpetrator’s actual identity is not readily apparent. Erica Spindler keeps readers off balance with diabolical plot twists and an action-packed, jaw-dropping conclusion. A clever police procedural that fans of the genre will definitely want to add to their to be read list.

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Filed under Contemporary, Erica Spindler, Mystery, Rated B, Review, St Martin's Press, Suspense, The Other Girl

Review: Emma in the Night by Wendy Walker

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

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

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

Review:

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

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

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

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

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

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