Category Archives: Suspense

Review: Song of the Lion by Anne Hillerman

Title: Song of the Lion by Anne Hillerman
Leaphorn, Chee & Manuelito Series Book 21
Publisher: Harper
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Suspense
Length: 304 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Edelweiss

Summary:

A deadly bombing takes Navajo Tribal cops Bernadette Manuelito, Jim Chee, and their mentor, the legendary Lieutenant Joe Leaphorn, back into the past to find a vengeful killer in this riveting Southwestern mystery from the bestselling author of Spider Woman’s Daughter and Rock with Wings.

When a car bomb kills a young man in the Shiprock High School parking lot, Officer Bernadette Manuelito discovers that the intended victim was a mediator for a multi-million-dollar development planned at the Grand Canyon.

But what seems like an act of ecoterrorism turns out to be something far more nefarious and complex. Piecing together the clues, Bernadette and her husband, Sergeant Jim Chee, uncover a scheme to disrupt the negotiations and inflame tensions between the Hopi and Dine tribes.

Retired Lieutenant Joe Leaphorn has seen just about everything in his long career. As the tribal police’s investigation unfolds, he begins to suspect that the bombing may be linked to a cold case he handled years ago. As he, Bernadette, and Chee carefully pull away the layers behind the crime, they make a disturbing discovery: a meticulous and very patient killer with a long-simmering plan of revenge.

Writing with a clarity and grace that is all her own, Anne Hillerman depicts the beauty and mystery of Navajo Country and the rituals, myths, and customs of its people in a mystery that builds on and complements the beloved, bestselling mysteries of her acclaimed father, Tony Hillerman.

Review:

Song of the Lion by Anne Hillerman is an absolutely riveting mystery about a car bombing during an alumni basketball at Shiprock High School. Although this latest release is the twenty-first installment in the Leaphorn, Chee & Manuelito series, it can easily be read as a standalone.

Navajo Tribal Police Officer Bernadette “Bernie” Manuelito is off duty at the basketball game when she hears an explosion that sounds close by. Rushing to the parking lot, she discovers one of the vehicles has exploded and she quickly takes charge of the situation.  After discovering the owner of the car is Aza Palmer, a lawyer who is mediating a proposal for a controversial  resort that will be built on the Navajo Reservation, Bernie’s husband, Sergeant Jim Chee is assigned to guard Aza during an upcoming forum. When the identity of the man who was killed at the bomb site is discovered, Bernie hopes retired Lieutenant  Joe Leaphorn might help fill in the blanks about the deceased man’s past.  With tensions running high between protestors who are hoping to kill the resort project, will Jim and Bernie figure out who wants to kill Aza before it is too late?

Although the bombing case is quickly turned over the a variety of federal agencies, Bernie continues trying to understand the connection between the deceased, Richard Horseman, and Aza Palmer.  Both men grew up on the reservation, but their lives took dramatically different turns.  Aza is a very successful lawyer based in Arizona and this is not the first time he has worked as a mediator. Richard, on the other hand, has a bit of a checkered past which includes brushes with the law and an alcohol problem. According to his grandmother, Marie Nez, her grandson has left his problems behind and has been diligently working on steering clear of trouble. If Mrs. Nez’s assertions are true, then Bernie wants to know why he was near Aza’s car the night of the explosion.  Could the reason be completely innocent?

Meanwhile, Jim has his hands full trying to protect Aza.  The biggest threat to the lawyer at this point is his stubborn refusal to heed Jim’s pleas to maintain a low profile and stop going off on his own.  Jim is also rather troubled when a young man keeps appearing on the scene and his questions to Aza about the man’s identity go unanswered.  As the protestors  step up their efforts  to sabotage the public discussion, Jim is grateful for the extra help when Bernie unexpectedly decides to spend her days off with him. But even with the both of them keeping an eye on Aza, can they keep him out of harm’s way?

Despite the injuries that still plague Joe Leaphorn, he is still a vital resource with a formidable amount of information from his years on the police force.  Bernie hopes Joe will be able to provide background information about Richard’s past and her patience pays off once he begins searching through old records. Does Joe hold the key which will break the case wide open?

Song of the Lion is a fast-paced and intriguing police procedural that is quite compelling.  Anne Hillerman does an outstanding job providing readers with fascinating information about Native American culture.  The investigation moves along at a brisk pace and there are several unexpected twists and turns that will keep readers invested in the resolution of the case. Although the identity of the perpetrator is rather easy to surmise, the novel comes to an action-packed and rather dramatic conclusion. Old and new fans of the Leaphorn, Chee & Manuelito series will be absolutely delighted with this latest outing which features a topical storyline and a fascinating mystery.

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Filed under Anne Hillerman, Chee & Manuelito Series, Contemporary, Harper, Mystery, Rated B, Review, Song of the Lion, Suspense

Review: Gone Without a Trace by Mary Torjussen

Title: Gone Without a Trace by Mary Torjussen
Publisher: Berkley
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Suspense
Length: 352 pages
Book Rating: C+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

A jaw-dropping novel of psychological suspense that asks, If the love of your life disappeared without a trace, how far would you go to find out why?  

Hannah Monroe’s boyfriend, Matt, is gone. His belongings have disappeared from their house. Every call she ever made to him, every text she ever sent, every photo of him and any sign of him on social media have vanished. It’s as though their last four years together never happened.

As Hannah struggles to get through the next few days, with humiliation and recriminations whirring through her head, she knows that she’ll do whatever it takes to find him again and get answers. But as soon as her search starts, she realizes she is being led into a maze of madness and obsession. Step by suspenseful step, Hannah discovers her only way out is to come face to face with the shocking truth…

READERS GUIDE INSIDE

Review:

In Gone Without a Trace by Mary Torjussen, lead protagonist Hannah Monroe’s devastation over a shocking break up turns into an obsession.

Hannah’s excitement about a possible promotion at work quickly turns to dismay when she returns home from a business meeting to find her boyfriend of four years, Matt Stone, has left her without warning. Not only has Matt disappeared, but he has erased every trace of him from her life. Frantic to find him in order to learn what prompted the split, Hannah is soon so obsessed with trying to track him down, she jeopardizes her job and begins to alienate her few friends. Before long, she is receiving strange texts and she also suspects someone has been inside her house. Hannah becomes convinced Matt is responsible for these strange occurrences although she lacks any evidence or even a logical reason that supports her theory.

Hannah is initially a sympathetic character and it is easy to understand her compulsion to try to understand why Matt would take such extreme measures after leaving her. According to Hannah, the two have been blissfully happy and Matt gave no indication he was thinking of ending their relationship. Her best friend Katie urges her to move forward and forget about Matt, but Hannah is certain if she finds Matt, he will move back home and they will live happily ever after.

However, after weeks pass and Hannah continues her downward spiral, it soon becomes apparent that she is not the most reliable of narrators. The glimpses of her distant relationship with her parents are a fairly good indication that she might have deeper issues than her missing boyfriend. Her friendship with Katie is also somewhat dysfunctional and there is an unhealthy jealousy between the women that leaves Hannah (and the reader) questioning her friend’s motives. Hannah also has a somewhat complicated past with Katie’s boyfriend James that adds another layer of uncertainty to the unfolding story.

While the initial reaction is sympathy for Hannah’s plight, it does not take long to run out of patience for her growing obsession and increasingly irrational conviction that if she can just find Matt, their relationship will resume right where it left off. Once the shock over the way he left her wears off, curious minds will wonder what prompted Matt to break up with Hannah in such an extreme fashion. Equally fascinating is how quickly Hannah becomes fixated on finding Matt and how nothing seems to faze her as she jeopardizes her career and friendships as she single-mindedly focuses on finding someone who made it blatantly clear he was finished with her.

While the premise of Gone Without a Trace is quite unique, the story gets somewhat bogged down and repetitive as Hannah’s obsession with finding Matt consumes her. The mystery behind Matt’s behavior is initially what keeps readers engaged in the unfolding drama but readers might become impatient with the lack of details or new information about their relationship or the reasons for the break up. Mary Torjussen throws in a few plot twists at the novel’s conclusion that are completely unexpected and an interesting epilogue offers an intriguing (and rather surprising) glimpse into Hannah’s future.

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Filed under Berkley, Contemporary, Gone Without a Trace, Mary Torjussen, Mystery, Rated C+, Review, Suspense

Review: One Perfect Lie by Lisa Scottoline

Title: One Perfect Lie by Lisa Scottoline
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
Length: 368 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

On paper, Chris Brennan looks perfect. He’s applying for a job as a high school government teacher, he’s ready to step in as an assistant baseball coach, and his references are impeccable.

But everything about Chris Brennan is a lie.

Susan Sematov is proud of her son Raz, a high school pitcher so athletically talented that he’s being recruited for a full-ride scholarship to a Division I college, with a future in major-league baseball. But Raz’s father died only a few months ago, leaving her son in a vulnerable place where any new father figure might influence him for good, or evil.

Heather Larkin is a struggling single mother who lives for her son Justin’s baseball games. But Justin is shy, and Heather fears he is being lured down a dark path by one of his teammates, a young man from an affluent family whose fun-loving manner might possibly conceal his violent plans.

Mindy Kostis succumbs to the pressure of being a surgeon’s wife by filling her days with social events and too many gin and tonics. But she doesn’t know that her husband and her son, Evan, are keeping secrets from her – secrets that might destroy all of them.

At the center of all of them is Chris Brennan. Why is he there? What does he want? And what is he willing to do to get it?

Enthralling and suspenseful, One Perfect Lie is an emotional thriller and a suburban crime story that will have readers riveted up to the shocking end, with killer twists and characters you won’t soon forget.

Review:

One Perfect Lie by Lisa Scottoline is a suspenseful, adrenaline laced thriller that is fast-paced and compelling.

Chris Brennan is a newly hired teacher and assistant baseball coach at Central Valley High School. The staff eagerly welcomes him with open arms and he is a big hit with his student. What no one knows is Chris Brennan is not his real name and he has a nefarious agenda that includes befriending one of his students.  After careful consideration, Chris has narrowed his list down to three possible teenagers and he wastes no time trying to gain the boys’ trust. Chris is cold and calculating as he begins putting in motion what appears to be a very ominous plan.

Raz Sematov is one of the boys on Chris’s list to befriend. He, along with his mother Susan and older brother Ryan, are still mourning the sudden death of his father months earlier.  With the family dynamic completely changed, Susan has failed to step up and take control of the family and she is hard to like considering her self-absorbed attitude.  With the small family floundering, Raz is incredibly vulnerable to Chris’s manipulation, but is the grief-stricken teenager the right person for his plan?

Evan Kostis is rich, entitled and quite popular with his fellow students. His father, Paul, is a doctor whose busy practice keeps him away from home for long hours. Hi mom Mindy is a stay at home mother who uses alcohol to cope with the problems in her marriage and she is hardly the most observant parent. Armed with plenty of suspicions about the possible reasons for  Paul’s frequent late nights at work, she is looking for evidence to back up her theories.  With so much turmoil surrounding the family, will Chris chose Evan to aid him with whatever he is planning to do?

Jordan Larkin is the son of a hardworking single mom who is counting on a baseball scholarship so he can attend college.  His mother, Heather, works as a waitress at the local country club and she is quite proud of her kind-hearted, thoughtful son.  Despite their financial struggles and lack of a male role model, Jordan is well-adjusted and never gives Heather any reason to worry about him. Chris quickly zeros in vulnerabilities that could make Jordan very useful during his preparations for his (worrying) project.

Chris has carefully laid the ground work for whatever he is planning to do and it is rather scary how easily everyone accepts him at face value. However, his inner thoughts provide a much more menacing picture and although he has not given name to his project, it is obviously something quite horrific. The only person who might inadvertently blow his cover is teacher Abe Yomes and Chris makes every effort to stay of his way.  But Abe proves to be incredibly tenacious and he quickly becomes a thorn in Chris’s side.  How far will Chris go to ensure nothing (and no one) prevents him from carrying out his disturbing plot?

One Perfect Lie has an ingenious and very unique storyline and Lisa Scottoline brilliantly keeps readers guessing what Chris is planning to do for a good part of the novel. Chris is rather chilling as he meticulously puts the three boys at odds while he decides which teenager will be the most helpful in carrying out what appears to be a very chilling and deadly plot.  Once the truth about Chris is revealed, the riveting story hurtles at breakneck speed to an exciting, pulse-pounding conclusion.  An absolutely breathtaking rollercoaster of ride that mystery/thriller/suspense lovers are going to LOVE!

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Filed under Contemporary, Lisa Scottoline, Mystery, One Perfect Lie, Rated B+, Review, St Martin's Press, Suspense, Thriller

Review: The Day I Died by Lori Rader-Day

Title: The Day I Died by Lori Rader-Day
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Suspense
Length: 432 pages
Book Rating: C+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Edelweiss

Summary:

From the award-winning author of Little Pretty Things comes this gripping, unforgettable tale of a mother’s desperate search for a lost boy.

Anna Winger can know people better than they know themselves with only a glance—at their handwriting. Hired out by companies wanting to land trustworthy employees and by the lovelorn hoping to find happiness, Anna likes to keep the real-life mess of other people at arm’s length and on paper. But when she is called to use her expertise on a note left behind at a murder scene in the small town she and her son have recently moved to, the crime gets under Anna’s skin and rips open her narrow life for all to see. To save her son—and herself—once and for all, Anna will face her every fear, her every mistake, and the past she thought she’d rewritten.

Review:

The Day I Died by Lori Rader-Day is an intriguing mystery about a missing young boy.

Anna Winger is a handwriting analyst who assists federal and local law enforcement with a variety of cases. When two year old Aidan Ransey goes missing, she is asked to aid Sheriff Russ Keller with the investigation. Keller reluctantly turns documents relevant to kidnapping over to Anna but the two continue to clash over his lack of cooperation with her requests. Anna is also growing increasingly concerned over her thirteen year old son Joshua’s increasingly troubling behavior.  When Joshua  begins asking difficult questions that she is reluctant to answer, Anna eventually has no choice but to face the past she has been running from for over thirteen years.

Anna was forced to make a rather decision years earlier which has resulted in an itinerant, solitary lifestyle for her and Joshua.  Having recently relocated to Parks, Indiana, Anna is already second guessing whether or not she made the right choice to settle in the small town. Seriously lacking the anonymity she desperately needs to feel safe, the missing person’s case attracts far more attention that she desires. She is also rather troubled by the parallels between herself and Aidan’s mom, Leila Ransey.  She is already struggling to maintain her objectivity as she examines the documents associated with the disappearance when she meets Aidan’s father, Bo. Their encounters bring back unpleasant memories of her own past and Anna continues to worry about whether or not she can remain impartial during the investigation.

Adding to Anna’s discomfort is Sheriff Keller’s skepticism about the veracity of handwriting analysis. His office is on the periphery of the investigation but he continues to follow leads in an effort to locate the missing boy.  A shocking murder adds another complication to the case and Keller reluctantly continues to seek assistance from Anna as they recover documents that are pertinent to the investigation. Their interactions continue to be a little adversarial as Anna offers her expert opinion on the evidence he provides for her analysis.

The pacing of the novel is somewhat slow as Anna becomes increasingly introspective during the investigation. Her self-confidence is gradually undetermined as she juggles her professional duties with the increasingly tense situation with Joshua. Completely out of her depth as she deals with her suddenly tumultuous relationship with Joshua, Anna is stunned when he takes matters into his own hands after she fails to give him the answers he desperately needs.  With nowhere else to turn, Anna is forced to return to the place where her life went so tragically wrong but will she find what she is searching for?

With an unusual premise and a unique lead protagonist, The Day I Died is a compelling mystery with plenty of twists and turns. Despite the suspense surrounding Aidan’s disappearance, the storyline quickly becomes bogged down in the secrets of Anna’s past. However, the various story arcs finally come together in a rather unexpected (and far too coincidental) manner. Lori Rader-Day brings the novel to an action-filled conclusion that neatly ties up all of the loose ends.

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Filed under Contemporary, Lori Rader-Day, Mystery, Rated C+, Review, Suspense, The Day I Died, William Morrow Paperbacks

Review: Abigale Hall by Lauren A. Forry

Title: Abigale Hall by Lauren A. Forry
Publisher: Skyhorse Publishing
Genre: Historical, Young Adult, Mystery, Suspense
Length: 376 pages
Book Rating: C

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Edelweiss

Summary:

Amid the terror of the Second World War, seventeen-year-old Eliza and her troubled little sister Rebecca have had their share of tragedy, having lost their mother to the Blitz and their father to suicide. Forced to leave London to work for the mysterious Mr. Brownwell at Abigale Hall, they soon learn that the worst is yet to come. The vicious housekeeper, Mrs. Pollard, seems hell-bent on keeping the ghostly secrets of the house away from the sisters and forbids them from entering the surrounding town—and from the rumors that circulate about Abigale Hall. When Eliza uncovers some blood-splattered books, ominous photographs, and portraits of a mysterious woman, she begins to unravel the mysteries of the house, but with Rebecca falling under Mrs. Pollard’s spell, she must act quickly to save her sister, and herself, from certain doom.

Perfect for readers who hunger for the strange, Abigale Hall is an atmospheric debut novel where the threat of death looms just beyond the edge of every page. Lauren A. Forry has created a historical ghost story where the setting is as alive as the characters who inhabit it and a resonant family drama of trust, loyalty, and salvation.

Review:

Abigale Hall by Lauren A. Forry is a creepy Gothic mystery set in Wales during the late 1940s.

Having lost both of their parents during the  World War II, seventeen year old Eliza Haverford and her troubled twelve year old sister Rebecca live with their unpleasant Aunt Bess in a rundown apartment in London.  Although the second World War has finally ended, jobs, food, housing and clothing remain scarce so Bess seizes the opportunity to rid herself of her troublesome nieces and make a tidy sum of money in the bargain. Eliza and Rebecca are sent against their will to Wales where they begin working for Mrs. Pollard, the housekeeper at the desolate, ramshackle Thornecroft estate. When Eliza begins experiencing increasingly eerie phenomena,  she starts looking into the mysterious disappearances of other young women who worked for Mrs. Pollard. Equally concerning is Rebecca’s behavior which is growing more disturbing the longer they remain at the estate. Unbeknownst to  Eliza, her London boyfriend Peter Lamb is desperately searching for her, but will he find her before it is too late? And if he cannot, will Eliza find a way to save herself from the same fate as her predecessors?

Thornecroft is a very atmospheric setting and Mrs. Pollard, caretaker Mr. Drewry and the mysterious Mr. Brownawell add to the overall sinister feel of the novel.  Eliza is a strong lead character but her quest for answers are quickly shutdown by the very formidable housekeeper.  Eliza tries to pry information out of the nearby town’s residents, but with no one but Ruth Owen willing to talk to her, she does not receive very many new details about the odd occurrences at Thornecroft. Daring to search the huge manor, Eliza does uncover very disconcerting  signs that something ominous is going on, but the answers she is searching for remain elusive.

Back in London, Peter is running into trouble as he tries to figure out what has happened to Eliza. His search takes him into the very seedy underbelly of London as he follows the few clues he has managed to unearth. With a shadowy figure following his every move, Peter tenaciously refuses to give up trying to find Eliza but will his efforts to save her pay off?

While the premise of Abigale Hall is certainly intriguing, the story is a little slow paced and becomes rather repetitive. The slow parceling of information is frustrating as is Eliza’s blind devotion to her obviously very troubled sister.  Her loyalty to Rebecca is understandable given their circumstances, but there comes a point where it is very obvious she is in desperate need of medical intervention.  Peter is a wonderful character and his efforts to find Eliza are quite touching especially since he has to dig deep to find the courage to follow his convictions. Lauren A. Forry brings the novel to a pulse-pounding, twist-filled conclusion that will catch readers completely off-guard.  An eerie, suspenseful young adult historical novel that, while imperfect, is still a chilling yet entertaining read.

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Filed under Abigale Hall, Historical, Historical (40s), Lauren A Forry, Mystery, Review, Suspense, Young Adult

Review: Betrayed by Karen E. Olson

Title: Betrayed by Karen E. Olson
Black Hat Thriller Book Three
Publisher: Severn House Publishers
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Suspense, Thriller
Length: 224 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

Computer hacker Tina Adler discovers that her true enemy could be someone terrifyingly close to home in this cunningly-plotted tale of identity and suspense.

Framed for ordering a hit on mobster Tony DeMarco, Tina Adler is forced to re-enter the shadowy world of computer hacking she thought she’d left behind. In order to clear her name, she reluctantly joins an FBI team led by her old flame, Zeke Chapman, tasked with scouring the deep web to unearth DeMarco’s darkest secrets.

The trail will lead Tina to the person who framed her – but it may also reveal other secrets, secrets she would rather not know. DeMarco may, in fact, be the least of Tina’s worries. Could her true enemy be someone much closer to home?

Review:

Betrayed, the third installment in Karen E. Olson’s Black Hat Thriller series, former hacker Tina Adler (aka Nicole Jones, Susan McQueen and Helen White) must return to Miami in order to discover who is framing her for ordering a hit on mobster Tony DeMarco. With FBI Agent Zeke Chapman at her side, Tina confronts the ghosts of her past while trying to decide whom she can trust during this latest investigation. This newest addition to this fantastic series easily stands on its own, but I highly encourage readers to read the first two novels as well.

Tina’s attempt to eke out a normal life is once again interrupted when FBI agents show up at the bike shop where she works on Cape Cod.  Ready to flee once she is released after questioning, Tina is dismayed when she finds Zeke waiting for her. Stunned to discover the laptop she gave to him a month earlier has evidence linking her to the hit on Tony, she has no choice but to accompany Zeke back to her former hometown.  Upon their arrival, she is unhappy to learn Zeke wants her to work alongside the team of hackers he has assembled to try to trace the person (or persons) responsible for the frame up.  Tina also wants to try to uncover the identity of  “the shadow” who previously hacked into her computer and demanded a hefty ransom from her.  Uncomfortable working with Zeke’s group, Tina tries to find a safe place to work on her own and she soon uncovers information that rouses her suspicions and leaves her wondering whom she can trust.

Tina’s hacking skills are much sharper now she is back in the game. Realizing the answers might lie in her very distant past, she returns to where everything started.  Armed with a nifty device that enables her to gain access to other people’s computers, she manages a quick glimpse of what she believes to be the hacker’s computer.  What she sees during her brief foray raises some very uncomfortable misgivings about the one person Tina thought she could trust.

With her location quickly compromised, Tina is again on the run when Zeke unexpectedly arrives on the scene.  Barely escaping unscathed after a hair raising car chase, they are soon deep are soon immersed in the Dark Web as they continue their efforts to find the hacker who is leaving evidence that implicates both of them in numerous illegal activities. Time is not on their side as they desperately try to uncover the truth about who is behind the various money transfers, fake e-mails and messages and the hit on Tony DeMarco.

Betrayed is another fast-paced and compelling addition to Karen E. Olson’s Black Hat Thriller series.  Old and new fans will have no problem keeping up with Tina and Zeke as they race to find the hacker who is setting them up for a plethora of misdeeds.  On the dark web where evil lurks behind anonymous screen names and impossible to trace IP addresses, will Zeke and Tina  unmask the hacker’s identity before it is too late?

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Filed under Betrayed, Black Hat Thriller Series, Contemporary, Karen E. Olson, Mystery, Rated B+, Review, Severn House Publishers, Suspense, Thriller