Category Archives: Rated B+

Review: Righteous by Joe Ide

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

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

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

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

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

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

Review:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Review: Hide and Seek by M.J. Arlidge

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

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

Summary:

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

Framed for a murder she didn’t commit…

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

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

Review:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Review: The Secrets on Chicory Lane by Raymond Benson

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

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Edelweiss

Summary:

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

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

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

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

Review:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Review: 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 Last Day of Emily Lindsey by Nic Joseph

Title: The Last Day of Emily Lindsey by Nic Joseph
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Suspense
Length: 338 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

A bone-chilling novel about a woman found holding a hunting knife, covered in blood that is not her own, who communicates with a single, ominous drawing, and the man who must get inside her head to solve a mystery without a crime.

Detective Steven Paul has had the same nightmare for as long as he can remember, a strange symbol figuring prominently into his terror. He decided long ago that the recurring dreams are nothing more than an unfortunate side effect of his often traumatic profession. Until, that is, he’s assigned to the case of Emily Lindsey, the beautiful, elusive, and controversial blogger found alone, who can’t possibly know the symbol from his nightmares… unless she does.

Review:

The Last Day of Emily Lindsey by Nic Joseph is an enthralling mystery about popular blogger Emily Lindsey who is found covered in blood yet she has no injuries.  Clearly traumatized, she remains in the hospital with her husband by her side as detectives Steven Paul and his partner Gayla Ocasio are assigned to the case.

Due to his worsening nightmares and horrifying visions, Steven is in danger of losing his job following his involvement in an incident with a bank robber. Undergoing department ordered counseling, he continues his lifelong habit of keeping his problems to himself. When he and Gayla meet Emily at the hospital, she is unresponsive to their questions and Steven is taken aback to learn his name was discovered in her possession. Immediately following their meeting, Emily begins drawing a symbol that is all too familiar to Steven since he has been seeing it in his nightmares. Delving into her blog, he and Gayla find a starting point for their investigation, but they continue to hit a brick wall when trying to trace her movements prior to her admittance to the hospital.

The chapters alternate between the investigation in the present and a group of five children who are appear to be involved in some type of cult. One of the children, Jack, is trying to find out what happened to his mother, who disappeared without a trace a couple of years earlier. Her disappearance is somehow connected to the mysterious happenings that occur every year on June 2nd. The chapters devoted to this part of the storyline follow the children and their efforts to devise a plan to sneak into the upcoming secret June 2nd meeting.

In the present, Steven and Gayla are frustrated by the lack of progress on Emily’s case. Steven is also struggling to keep his nightmares and visions at bay amid concerns that Gayla will tell his therapist about his ongoing problems. Their investigation about what happened to Emily moves in fits and starts as they continue to run into dead ends. Steven is bothered by some inconsistencies he uncovers and he is also troubled by a mysterious man who keeps turning up at odd times. Their lead from Emily’s blog is initially promising but will it hold up under closer scrutiny?

The Last Day of Emily Lindsey by Nic Jospeh is a fast-paced and intriguing mystery. The story weaves seamlessly back and forth in time but it is initially impossible to understand how the two storylines will eventually intersect. The novel comes to a twist-filled and exciting conclusion that satisfactorily brings the divergent story arcs together. All in all, a compelling police procedural that fans of the genre will enjoy.

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Filed under Contemporary, Nic Joseph, Rated B+, Review, Sourcebooks Landmark, Suspense, The Last Day of Emily Lindsey

Review: Odd Child Out by Gilly Macmillan

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

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Edelweiss

Summary:

How well do you know the people you love…?

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

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

Because the truth hurts.

Review:

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

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

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

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

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

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