Category Archives: Rated B

Review: Sunburn by Laura Lippman

Title: Sunburn by Laura Lippman
Publisher: William Morrow
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Suspense
Length: 304 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Edelweiss

Summary:

New York Times bestselling author Laura Lippman returns with a superb novel of psychological suspense about a pair of lovers with the best intentions and the worst luck: two people locked in a passionate yet uncompromising game of cat and mouse. But instead of rules, this game has dark secrets, forbidden desires, inevitable betrayals—and cold-blooded murder.

One is playing a long game. But which one?

They meet at a local tavern in the small town of Belleville, Delaware. Polly is set on heading west. Adam says he’s also passing through. Yet she stays and he stays—drawn to this mysterious redhead whose quiet stillness both unnerves and excites him. Over the course of a punishing summer, Polly and Adam abandon themselves to a steamy, inexorable affair. Still, each holds something back from the other—dangerous, even lethal, secrets.

Then someone dies. Was it an accident, or part of a plan? By now, Adam and Polly are so ensnared in each other’s lives and lies that neither one knows how to get away—or even if they want to. Is their love strong enough to withstand the truth, or will it ultimately destroy them?

Something—or someone—has to give.

Which one will it be?

Inspired by James M. Cain’s masterpieces The Postman Always Rings Twice, Double Indemnity, and Mildred PierceSunburn is a tantalizing modern noir from the incomparable Laura Lippman.

Review:

A very atmospheric novel, Sunburn by Laura Lippman is an intriguing mystery that unfolds at a leisurely pace.

After walking out on her husband, Polly Costello meets Adam Bosk at the High-Ho diner/bar in Belleville, DE. Neither is planning on staying in town for long, but after meeting one another, they each decide to town for the time being. Polly is hired as a waitress at the High-Ho but she only plans on staying until she builds up a nest egg before moving on.  Adam is hired temporarily as a cook at the High-Ho and he continues trying to inveigle his way into Polly’s life.  Neither of them are forthcoming about how or why they ended up in Belleville and in fact, Adam knows more about Polly than he lets on.  Over the next several months, Adam and Polly’s relationship deepens beyond co-workers but will Polly’s very colorful past prevent them from building a future together?

Polly is charming and sexy but she is also quite reserved and maintains an emotional distance from everyone in her life. She easily walks away from her present life and she does not offer anyone an explanation for her actions. She is somewhat mysterious and less than forthcoming with the new people she meets in Belleville but she is surprisingly popular with the customers at the High-Ho. Polly does not make female friends which makes for a distant but mostly cordial relationship with Cath, who also works at the High-Ho.

Adam has good reasons for cozying up to Polly and he remains quite vague when anyone asks him personal questions about his life. He is quite fascinated with Polly but he knows he should  not become too close to her.  Before long, Adam’s interest in her has crossed from professional to romantic, but he convinces himself he can maintain his objectivity. But is Adam fooling himself with his assertions that his feelings for her won’t interfere with his real reasons for being in Belleville?

Sunburn is a character-driven, multi-layered novel. Polly definitely has an interesting back story, but she is sometimes hard to like or feel sympathetic towards when the truth about her past comes to light. Adam is an experienced professional but he greatly underestimates how deeply Polly will affect him. Laura Lippman’s  slow parceling of information about Polly’s past culminates with a dramatic confrontation. The novel comes to an unexpected conclusion that is rather poignant. Film buffs will especially appreciate the nod to some classic noir movies from the 40s and 50s.

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Filed under Contemporary, Laura Lippman, Mystery, Rated B, Review, Sunburn, Suspense, William Morrow

Review: Look for Her by Emily Winslow

Title: Look for Her by Emily Winslow
Keene and Frohmann Series Book Four
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Suspense
Length: 304 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Edelweiss

Summary:

Lilling might seem like an idyllic English village, but it’s home to a dark history. In 1976, a teenage girl named Annalise Wood disappeared, and though her body was later discovered, the culprit was never found. Decades later, Annalise maintains a perverse kind of celebrity, and is still the focus of grief, speculation, and for one young woman, a disturbing, escalating jealousy.

When DNA linked to the Annalise murder unexpectedly surfaces, cold case detective Morris Keene and his former partner, Chloe Frohmann, hope to finally bring closure to this traumatized community. But the new evidence instead undoes the case’s only certainty: the buried body that had long ago been confidently identified as Annalise may be someone else entirely, and instead of answers, the investigators face only new puzzles.

Whose body was unearthed all those years ago, and what happened to the real Annalise? Is someone interfering with the investigation? And is there a link to a present-day drowning with eerie connections? With piercing insight and shocking twists, Emily Winslow explores the dark side of sensationalized crime in this haunting psychological thriller.

Review:

Look for Her by Emily Winslow is a baffling mystery about a decades old murder that has yet to be solved. Although this newest release is the  fourth installment in the Keene and Frohmann series, it can be read as a standalone.

Morris Keene is now a civilian working in the cold case squad and his current case involves a recent DNA match in the long unsolved murder of teenager Annalise Wood. In 1986, Annalise disappeared on her way home from school but her skeletonzied remains were not discovered until 1992.  Advances in DNA testing reveal a match for a stain found on her skirt and Morris asks his former partner, DI Chloe Frohmann, who is currently on maternity leave, to accompany him as he interviews the suspect.  Although their relationship has been a little strained due to a previous case, the two still work well together.

At the same time as the Annalise investigation is finding new life, therapist Dr. Laurie Ambrose encounters two patients who have mentioned the missing young woman. One client’s obsession is due to the fact her mother knew Annalise when they were kids. Her other client has recently learned about a possible connection to Annalise. Laurie is stunned to learn that one of these two women has recently died and her death might be the result of foul play.

The two story arcs unexpectedly converge following the death of Laurie’s patient. Morris is still trying to figure out the implications of the information revealed during his meeting with the new suspect in Annalise’s murder. His investigation leads to a very unexpected conclusion which coincides with the suspicious death of Laurie’s patient.  At this point, Morris ends up working with a Detective Sergeant with whom he shares a tangled history but he puts aside his animosity long enough for them to make significant progress on the recent death. Morris then turns his attention back to Annalise’s case where he makes an absolutely astonishing discovery.

Look for Her is a twist-filled police procedural that is intricately-plotted and well executed.  Morris and Chloe are fantastic protagonists whose history is complex and quite interesting. The two story arcs intertwine in a unexpected, but completely believable manner.  Although the pacing is a little slow initially, it eventually hits its stride once the connection between Laurie’s patients and Morris and Chloe’s cold case investigation is revealed. Emily Winslow brings the novel to a stunning, but completely satisfying, conclusion. This newest addition to the Keene and Frohmann series is a clever mystery that fans of the genre are sure to enjoy.  

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Filed under Contemporary, Emily Winslow, Keene and Frohmann Series, Look for Her, Mystery, Rated B, Review, Suspense, William Morrow Paperbacks

Review: Murder in Bloomsbury by D.M. Quincy

Title: Murder in Bloomsbury by D.M. Quincy
Atlas Catesby Series Book Two
Publisher: Crooked Lane Books
Genre: Historical, Mystery
Length: 304 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

Acclaimed author D. M. Quincy is back with a second captivating mystery as adventurer Atlas Catesby must put aside his own feelings for Lady Lilliana as they work together to get justice for someone she holds dear.

Aristocratic adventurer Atlas Catesby has spent the last year trying to forget Lady Lilliana Warwick, but when she reappears in his life imploring him to help her solve a murder, Atlas feels compelled to say yes.

The ner’re-do-well brother of Lilliana’s maid died of arsenic poisoning. Authorities are ruling his death an accident, but his sister suspects he was murdered. As Atlas and Lilliana investigate, they discover that the victim had a mysterious lover—a high-born lady he threatened with scandal after she spurned him. When they finally uncover her shocking true identity, the case blows wide open and it turns out there is a whole string of women who had reason to kill the handsome charmer. Now, as Atlas fights his growing feelings for Lilliana, they must work together to catch the assassin before the killer gets to them first.

Perfect for fans of Charles Finch and C. S. Harris, Murder in Bloomsbury is the magnificent second Atlas Catesby mystery.

Review:

The second installment in D.M. Quincy’s Atlas Catesby series, Murder in Bloomsbury is a beguiling historical mystery.

Atlas Catesby has not been home long from his latest travels when he unexpectedly teams up with Lady Roslyn Lilliana Sterling Warwick to investigate the death of Gordon Davis, the brother of Lilliana’s maid, Tacy.  Gordon died from an overdose of arsenic and his death has been ruled accidental.  However, there are enough inconsistencies surrounding his death that Atlas agrees there is chance foul play might be involved, so he and Lilliana begin their investigation.

Atlas quickly discovers that Gordon had no shortage of enemies. He was incredibly good looking and he was well liked by the ladies. He definitely had aspirations of rising above his lower class status and he had no trouble turning the heads of aristocratic young women. Atlas also learns that Davis lost more than a few positions over his improper relationships. He also hears a rumor about Gordon’s ongoing romance with a married woman whom he supposedly truly loved.  He and Lilliana quickly determine that Gordon was an indiscriminate lover who did not care if he ruined the young ladies’ reputations and he was quick to use blackmail to line his pockets.

In between the investigation, Atlas tries to keep his distance from Lilliana due to their complicated history together. He holds her in the highest esteem so he wants nothing but the best for her and her two young sons. Atlas is dismayed by the news that she is being courted by the Marquess of Roxbury but he also knows the Marquess can offer her everything she deserves in life.  But will Lilliana agree with Atlas’s assessment?

Murder in Bloomsbury  is a fast-paced mystery with a charming cast of characters. Atlas is quite clever and his penchant for solving puzzles serves him well as he tries to unearth the truth about Gordon’s death. Lilliana is a strong and independent woman who knows her own mind and does not hesitate to go after what she wants. D.M. Quincy brings the setting and time period vividly to life. An absolutely delightful addition to the Atlas Catesby series that will leave readers eagerly awaiting Atlas and Lilliana’s next adventure.

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Filed under Atlas Catesby Series, Crooked Lane Books, DM Quincy, Murder in Bloomsbury, Mystery, Rated B, Review

Review: The Queen of Hearts by Kimmery Martin

Title: The Queen of Hearts by Kimmery Martin
Publisher: Berkley
Genre: Contemporary, Women’s Fiction
Length: 348 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

A debut novel set against a background of hospital rounds and life-or-death decisions that pulses with humor and empathy and explores the heart’s capacity for forgiveness…

Zadie Anson and Emma Colley have been best friends since their early twenties, when they first began navigating serious romantic relationships amid the intensity of medical school. Now they’re happily married wives and mothers with successful careers–Zadie as a pediatric cardiologist and Emma as a trauma surgeon. Their lives in Charlotte, North Carolina are chaotic but fulfilling, until the return of a former colleague unearths a secret one of them has been harboring for years.

As chief resident, Nick Xenokostas was the center of Zadie’s life–both professionally and personally–throughout a tragic chain of events in her third year of medical school that she has long since put behind her. Nick’s unexpected reappearance during a time of new professional crisis shocks both women into a deeper look at the difficult choices they made at the beginning of their careers. As it becomes evident that Emma must have known more than she revealed about circumstances that nearly derailed both their lives, Zadie starts to question everything she thought she knew about her closest friend.

Review:

Weaving seamlessly back and forth in time, The Queen of Hearts by Kimmery Martin is an engaging and heartfelt novel of friendship.

Zadie Anson and Emma Colley’s friendship has endured the rigors of medical school, marriage and the births of their children. However, the reappearance of Dr. Nick Xenokostas, their former chief resident, rocks both their worlds since he was part of their lives when a shocking tragedy occurred during their third year of residency. Neither Zadie nor Emma are eager to renew their acquaintance with him especially at time when a professional calamity could prove to be disastrous for one of the their careers. With so much upheaval, Zadie and Emma try to avoid seeing Nick or discussing the traumatic incident that left an indelible mark on both women. However, Zadie, Emma and Nick are on collision course that seems unstoppable and in the aftermath of a stunning revelation, can Emma and Zadie salvage their friendship?

Zadie is a warm and well-liked pediatric cardiologist.  She juggles her career with a hectic family life since her husband, Drew, works long hours with frequent travel. The one constant in her life is her rock solid, close-knit friendship with Emma. Although neither woman has much free time, they both make their friendship a priority and they squeeze in time together whenever possible.

Emma has traveled far from her humble beginnings but her social awkwardness makes her feel like she does not belong in the life she carved out for herself. A well-respected and talented trauma surgeon, she is a workaholic whose husband Wyatt is gregarious and outgoing. They have a young son whom they both adore but Emma initially felt a little out of step with motherhood since young Henry was not exactly an easy baby.

Emma panics when she discovers that Nick has joined her practice. Neither women have ever discussed the tragedy that occurred when he was their chief resident and Emma is determined to keep Nick out of Zadie’s life. Through a series of flashbacks, the details of that fateful third year in residency emerge.

The Queen of Hearts is an interesting and well-written debut that is quite riveting. The characters are richly developed with relatable strengths and flaws. There is plenty of tension as the chapters weave back and forth between the present and the pivotal year of Emma and Zadie’s residency. The truth is revealed in a rather dramatic fashion and  Kimmery Martin keeps readers on the edge of their seats as the novel wends its way to a very unexpected but uplifting conclusion.

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Filed under Berkley, Contemporary, Kimmery Martin, Rated B, Review, The Queen of Hearts, Women's Fiction

Review: The Undertaker’s Daughter by Sara Blaedel

Title: The Undertaker’s Daughter by Sara Blaedel
Ilka Series Booke One
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Women’s Fiction, Mystery
Length: 336 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

Already widowed by the age of forty, Ilka Nichols Jensen, a school portrait photographer, leads a modest, regimented, and uneventful life in Copenhagen. Until unexpected news rocks her quiet existence: Her father–who walked out suddenly and inexplicably on the family more than three decades ago–has died. And he’s left her something in his will: his funeral home. In Racine, Wisconsin.

Clinging to this last shred of communication from the father she hasn’t heard from since childhood, Ilka makes an uncharacteristically rash decision and jumps on a plane to Wisconsin. Desperate for a connection to the parent she never really knew, she plans to visit the funeral home and go through her father’s things–hoping for some insight into his new life in America–before preparing the business for a quick sale.

But when she stumbles on an unsolved murder, and a killer who seems to still be very much alive, the undertaker’s daughter realizes she might be in over her head . .

Review:

With a slight mystery element, The Undertaker’s Daughter by Sara Blaedel is an interesting novel about a Danish woman who unexpectedly inherits a funeral home in Wisconsin from her estranged father.

Forty year old Ilka Nichols Jensen is shocked to learn her father who abandoned her over thirty years ago has included her in his will.  Ignoring her mother’s advice to remain uninvolved with the inheritance, Ilka quickly heads to Wisconsin hoping to learn more about her dad but instead discovers the funeral home is in dire financial straits. With the help of Artie Sovino and Sister Eileen O’Connor, Ilka jumps right into planning funerals while trying to decide what she should do with the business.

Ilka is a bit of an inconsistent character as she tries to decide the future of the funeral home.  One minute she is prepared to stay and the very next minute she is ready to book her return flight to Denmark. At the same time, Ilka is trying to understand why her father abandoned her and her mother and she is hoping to find answers among his belongings and the business.

Ilka’s memories of her father are somewhat hazy and fleeting and seem to center around her dad’s love of horse racing and his gambling at the racetrack. She only has the vaguest of clues about the events surrounding his move and her memories are filtered through her mother’s animosity over the situation he left them in. Although Ilka gleans a few clues about his life in the US, she is puzzled by the information she has discovered nor can she make sense of some of the troubling items she has unearthed.

Although Ilka has no experience working in a funeral home, she has no choice but to help the bereaved lay their loved ones to rest. Although the few funerals she helps plan are somewhat mundane, the arrival of an unidentified  homeless person’s corpse embroils her, Artie and Eileen in a bit of a mystery. While the police do eventually discover who he is, his identity raises some very intriguing questions about a still unsolved murder from twelve years earlier.  This mystery plays out on the periphery of the novel and even though Ilka is curious about what happened to the man, she does not play much of a role in the investigation.

The Undertaker’s Daughter by Sara Blaedel is an easy to read novel with an unusual premise and a mostly likable but sometimes frustrating protagonist. The funeral home is an out of the ordinary backdrop for the unfolding story and it is quite obvious Sara Blaedel carefully researched the intricacies involved with the funeral business.  While the current mystery is completely wrapped up, the novel ends with a cliffhanger about Ilka’s father. Hopefully the next installment in the Ilka series will be less of a character study and more of a mystery.

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Filed under Contemporary, Grand Central Publishing, Ilka Series, Mystery, Rated B, Review, Sara Blaedel, The Undertaker's Daughter, Women's Fiction

Review: This Fallen Prey by Kelley Armstrong

Title: This Fallen Prey by Kelley Armstrong
Casey Duncan Series Book Three
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Suspense
Length: 368 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

In This Fallen Prey, the next installment of New York Times bestselling author Kelley Armstrong’s thriller series, Casey Duncan is about to face her toughest job as police detective in Rockton yet.

When Casey first arrived at the off-the-grid town, an isolated community built as a haven for people running from their pasts, she had no idea what to expect, with no cell phones, no internet, no mail, and no way of getting in or out without the town council’s approval. She certainly didn’t expect to be the homicide detective on two separate cases or to begin a romantic relationship with her boss. But the very last thing she expected was for the council to drop a dangerous criminal into their midst without a plan to keep him imprisoned, and to keep others safe.

Of course Oliver Brady claims he’s being set up. But the longer Brady stays in town, the more things start to go wrong. When evidence comes to light that someone inside Rockton might be working as his accomplice, helping him to escape, Casey races to figure out who exactly Brady is and what crimes he’s truly responsible for committing.

In the next page-turning entry in Kelley Armstrong’s gripping series, life in Rockton is about to get even more dangerous.

Review:

In This Fallen Prey, Kelley Armstrong’s latest novel set in the remote off the grid town of Rockton, Detective Casey Duncan and Sheriff Eric Dalton are blindsided when an extremely dangerous criminal is literally dropped in their midst without warning.

With nothing but a letter from the council detailing his savage crimes, Casey and Eric are tasked with guarding Olivier Brady for the next six months. Not only does Rockton lack a secure facility to house him, but Casey and Eric attempt to keep depravity of his crimes under wraps in order to minimize the residents’ reaction to Brady’s incarceration. Rockton’s citizens are divided on the police force’s handling of the prisoner and half of the town thinks he might be innocent while the other half are demanding immediate punishment. Before work on secure building is completed, Brady manages to escape with a hostage. Casey and Eric immediately send out search parties but will they recapture Brady before it is too late?

Before Oliver escapes, Casey cannot quite decide whether or not his protestations of innocence are the truth.  She remains highly suspicious he is attempting to manipulate everyone into letting down their guard. She also tries to isolate him from Rockton’s residents but key members of the militia want to ensure the prisoner receives fair treatment. The situation quickly careens out of control and Casey and Eric are then forced onto the defensive after Brady is on the run.

With very limited resources and no way to contact anyone outside of Rockton, Casey and Eric must rely on their skills and trusted townspeople to search their escaped prisoner who has quickly disappeared into the surrounding forest. They are not only battling the elements as they try to locate him; they must also contend with the first settlers and the Hostiles. Various residents make dubious choices and there is plenty of self-doubt and self-recrimination when things go wrong. Underlying all of these issues is the question of whether or not Oliver is guilty of the atrocious crimes he is accused of committing. Casey and Eric encounter more problems with the unexpected arrival of more outsiders and Oliver’s guilt or innocence becomes even more murky.

This Fallen Prey is another intricately plotted mystery that is full of shocking twists and turns. The storylines becomes rather convoluted at times but there is plenty of action to keep readers glued to the pages. The town of Rockton is on the periphery of the unfolding drama since most of the hunt for Oliver takes place in the forest surrounding the enclave.  Kelley Armstrong skillfully builds the tension to a fever pitch as Casey and Eric frantically try to recapture a wily and potentially dangerous felon.  While the main mystery is solved by novel’s end, a few dangling threads will leave fans impatiently awaiting the next installment in the Casey Duncan series.

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Filed under Casey Duncan Series, Contemporary, Kelley Armstrong, Minotaur Books, Mystery, Rated B, Review, Suspense, This Fallen Prey