Seven and seventeen and five. That's how Aubrey Hamilton breaks down her life.
The seven years before she met Josh, the seventeen years they knew eachSeven and seventeen and five. That's how Aubrey Hamilton breaks down her life.
The seven years before she met Josh, the seventeen years they knew each other and were together and the five years since he went missing. Josh vanished the night of a friend's bachelor party under mysterious circumstances. Five years of questions, rumors and a trial for Aubrey haven't provided any answers as to where Josh went or why.
As the state of Tennessee has her husband legally declared dead, Aubrey's life takes an interesting turn with a man who reminds her a lot of Josh and the coming battle with her mother-in-law, Daisy, over the beneficiary of Josh's rather large life insurance policy.
With the abundance of unreliable narrator mystery/thrillers on the market today, J.T. Ellison's No One Knows could easily feel like it's just another entry in an already crowded field. But Ellison deftly weaves in enough questions about Josh's disappearance and gives readers just enough of a glimpse of the history of Josh and Aubrey to set the hook early and continue reeling you in for the entire story's length.
But there's always the question lurking under the surface of just who is telling the truth and just how much of it we're getting. Ellison allows the layers to slowly be peeled back and takes the reader on an interesting journey with her characters.
As a resident of Nashville, I'll admit that it's fun to hear references to locations and places around Music City.
Overall though, I can't say this is the strongest of the questionable narrator novels I've read in recent memory. It's a good story with a nice hook, but I felt like it overstayed its welcome a bit as we got toward the conclusion. And while Ellison does put the pieces in place for the big reveals that come over the course of the novel, I still can't help but feel that not all the twists and turns were as surprising or as interesting as I'd hoped they would be.
In the interest of full disclosure, I received a digital ARC of this book from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review....more
Murder was easy. The tricky part was getting away with it.
Doak Miller is a retired NYPD cop spending his golden years in sunny Florida. He keeps himseMurder was easy. The tricky part was getting away with it.
Doak Miller is a retired NYPD cop spending his golden years in sunny Florida. He keeps himself in the game a bit by occasionally doing favors for the local sheriff's office.
His latest assignment is wearing a wire to incriminate a woman who wants to do away with her husband. But it just so happens that that woman in question is the girl of Doak's dreams and not only does he help her to not incriminate herself, but he begins a relationship with her that leads to his working out just if and how the husband should be killed.
The latest entry in the Hard Case Crime series, Lawrence Block's The Girl With the Deep Blue Eyes is everything that a reader has come to expect. A sexy cover, a hard-boiled protagonist and a fem fatale. The fact that Doak is carrying on affairs with not only the title character but two other women only helps to underscore his role as the noir lead.
Told in quick chapters, Girl is not for the faint of heart. This novel is an homage to pulp fiction at its best -- lurid, quick to read and full of all kinds of graphic details that aren't normally discussed in polite company. If you're squeamish about adults acting like adults (for good and bad), then this book probably isn't for you.
At multiple points in the story, Doak takes in a few classic noir films that have people trying to get away with murder and always getting caught. These sequences seem to be Block calling upon a shared vocabulary for this type of story and it helps us see how he's trying to not only pay homage to it but give it a bit of a new twist in this story.
Not for the faint of heart, The Girl With the Deep Blue Eyes is gritty, raw and compelling.
I've not read a lot of Block's previous works but after reading this one, I'm intrigued to look at his extensive back catalog and see what other gems are there. ...more
When she was sixteen years old, Tessa was only survivor of the Black-Eyed Susans killer. Dumped in a shallow grave with some of her fellow Susans, TesWhen she was sixteen years old, Tessa was only survivor of the Black-Eyed Susans killer. Dumped in a shallow grave with some of her fellow Susans, Tessa survive to testify against the man authorities believed was the killer. But over the years, Tessa always wondered if she helped convict the right man. As the convicted killer's execution looms, Tessa is forced to question her role in the conviction and if the real killer is still lurking out there, taunting her with black-eyed Susans planted under her window.
Told in alternating time frames, Julia Heaberlin's Black-Eyed Susans expertly doles out detail after detail of Tessa's time in recovery and testifying and now as she tries to help an apparently innocent man avoid a wrongful execution. Heaberlin deftly sews each seed for the truth of what happened to Tessa and who was really behind her disappearance.
I'll admit this one hooked me in the early stages. Tessa's doubting of herself and her narrative (as well as her admission of her manipulating certain aspects of her therapy) made me question her reliability as a narrator. But this comes less from an agenda and more from wondering what Tessa is hiding from herself that may eventually come to light.
There are a couple of plausible explanations for what happened to Tessa and just if and how it ties into her family and her friendship with a girl named Lydia, who mysterious vanished after throwing Tessa under the bus on the witness stand. Heaberlin teases these details early and slowly builds up toward the revelation of what happened.
All the details of Black-Eyed Susans hang together very well. There are some interesting revelations as the book progresses and it's fascinating to get inside Tessa's head as we get to know her and find out about her experiences. The final revelations are well set up and just about everything from the book holds up in the final analysis.
Some things have meaning. Others don't. And it's interesting to see which details become important and which ones are not as important.
The added ticking of the clock as we count down to the alleged killer's execution helps drive the story.
In the interest of full disclosure, I received a digital ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review....more
Cassie's mother taught her a lot of things -- including how to read people. But Cassie's ability is far more than just figuring out clues about a persCassie's mother taught her a lot of things -- including how to read people. But Cassie's ability is far more than just figuring out clues about a person in order to give them a psychic reading. She has a natural ability as a profiler -- something the FBI is aware of and wants to take advantage of.
Recruited to a team of fellow teens with natural abilities (Dean can profile, Lea can read if you're lying, Sloane is gifted in reciting facts and figures and Michael can really, really read people), Cassie is promised that she'll get to enhance her abilities and maybe use the FBI resources to finally track down who killed her mother.
The world that Jennifer Lynn Barnes has created for her The Naturals series is a fascinating one. The idea that there would be five teens who would come together as a kind of Criminal Minds for the younger set works very well. It also creates a very bizarre household where there are body outlines in the swimming pool, a test lab in the basement and a library full of cold cases for Cassie to train on.
When The Naturals sticks its procedural aspects, it works very well. I'll give Barnes a lot of credit -- she was able to put in enough red herrings as to who the central villain of this novel was to keep me guessing (wrongly as it turns out) over the entire run of the book.
It's when The Naturals gives us the young adult trope of a love triangle and a conflicted girl trying to choose between two competing guys that I found myself rolling my eyes and wanting to fast forward the audio book. Dean and Michael both engage in a contest to try and woe Cassie and she's clearly torn between the two. But as I listened to the audio version of this book, I couldn't help but wonder why these two guys were so into. Beyond the mystery surrounding her mother, there really isn't a lot of detail given about Cassie. There's not much reason given to why the guys are so in love with her other than she's our narrator and entry point into this world.
At times, I found myself thinking that a book told from Sloane or Lia's point of view might be a bit more interesting.
I suppose I should just be thanking my lucky stars that there are no sparkly vampires or misunderstood mythical creatures lurking in these pages.
And while Cassie may lack the depth I was hoping for, I will admit that Barnes creates enough of a backstory for Michael and Dean that we can see why Cassie is torn between them. Both offer positives and negative reasons why Cassie could or should choose one or the other.
Luckily Barnes keeps the angst to a minimum, concentrating more on the team and the serial killer who may be targeting Cassie. The final few chapters and the big reveal are all well earned by Barnes and the questions about if and how this ties into the fate of Cassie's mother are intriguing enough.
They're intriguing enough that despite my eye-rolling at the love triangle, I'm willing and interested enough to give the next installment in this series a try. ...more
In the day of social media, it's hard to a book by one of my favorite authors to slip under my radar. So imagine my pleasant surprise when I wanderedIn the day of social media, it's hard to a book by one of my favorite authors to slip under my radar. So imagine my pleasant surprise when I wandered into my local library one day to find that not only had Laura Lippman published a new book but that it was reading and waiting for me on the new books shelf. And not only that but it was a chance to check in again with journalist turned private eye Tess Monaghan.
Years ago, Melisandre Harris Dawes left her daughter unattended in her car on a hot August afternoon. The child died but Melisandre was able to avoid jail time by pleading temporary insanity. After traveling the globe for years to get away from the stigma, Melisandre has returned home to Baltimore to tell her side of the story in a new, self-funded documentary. And she hopes to reconnect with the two daughters she left behind as part of the divorce agreement with her husband.
Tess's uncle Tyner Grey has a past with Melisandre -- they dated before he settled down with Tess's Aunt Kitty. He's also her lawyer and he brings Tess and her new partner in to provide security and investigative services for Melisandre. As Tess juggles her life as a p.i. with motherhood to her three-year-old daughter Carla Scout, the case quickly becomes more than just a nice paycheck for Tess. Melisandre is demanding, manipulative and difficult to work for and it appears she has a different agenda than just restoring her name to the Baltimore community and world.
Lippman deftly balances the questions about what happened that fateful day with a new mystery that slowly emerges in the present, all while giving us glimpses into Tess' life with Carla Scout and Crow. Tess's questions about how motherhood and how she may or may not compare to Melisandre are woven into the threads of the story with Lippman offerings sly commentary on just how far parents will go to protect their children -- and how sometimes children can get caught in the crossfire of adults and their disagreements. As with many of her recent stories, Lippman isn't just interested in solving the crimes that happen in her novel (though she does do that) but also looking at the impact these crimes have on the community and the people involved. One interesting thread is how these crimes have impacted the daughters that Melisandre left behind as well as looking at two new mothers who come into her orbit (Tess and the wife of Melisandre's ex-husband).
It all adds up to yet another satisfying novel by Lippman. As I've said many times before, Lippman is an author whose books may be classified as mysteries but those books have the good habit of transcending genre lines. You don't necessarily have to have read all of Tess's exploits up until now to enjoy this one. If you're looking to see why a lot of people rave about Lippman, you can't go wrong with this one. ...more
Paula Hawkins' debut novel The Girl on the Train is THE book that everyone is talking about these days. And with good reason.
The novel is a compulsivePaula Hawkins' debut novel The Girl on the Train is THE book that everyone is talking about these days. And with good reason.
The novel is a compulsively readable psychological thriller that gives us shifting narrative view points from three different -- and completely unreliable -- narrators. Rachel, Anna and Megan each have pieces of the puzzle as to what happened when, well, that might be giving away too much. Each of these women's lives has multiple points of intersection and watching as Hawkins slowly puts the pieces into place is one of the pleasures of this novel.
So too is the willingness Hawkins has to make her characters completely unlikeable at times, but to give us clues as to why and how they're behaving the way are. Whether it's Rachel's struggles with alcohol and her obsession with her ex-husband and his new family or Anna and her overprotective nature toward her new life and new baby, Hawkins parcels out just enough information to keep the reader making assumptions about these women. Sometimes she leads us down the wrong path and other times, she only confirms what we already suspected.
It's that aspect that makes The Girl on the Train such a compelling and much buzzed about read. Another fact in the novel's favor is that it feels very much like a stand-alone novel. In the day and age where it seems like everything to hit shelves has to be part of a series, it's nice to pick up a novel that can stand-alone as well as this one does....more
I love a good mystery but I'll admit it the murder mystery can wear a bit thin at times. Thankfully, I stumbled across Ridley Pearson's The Pied PiperI love a good mystery but I'll admit it the murder mystery can wear a bit thin at times. Thankfully, I stumbled across Ridley Pearson's The Pied Piper, which is a solidly crafted mystery that doesn't necessarily rely upon murder as the inciting action.
Instead, the plot follows a team of Seattle detectives who are trying to stop ta serial kidnapper. With short chapters, Pearson not only lets us into the lives of his detective team but also into the lives of the victims' families. It makes for a bit of a slow burn early in the novel but it pays dividends once you reach the mid-point of the novel and frustrations begin to boil over.
If there's a drawback to this novel, it would be that it's the fifth book of a series and I haven't read the four leading up to it. This means that certain storylines don't quite hold as much weight with me early in the story as they might had I read a few of the initial installments. But this one was strong enough that I will seek out other installments of the series and give them a try....more
Cemetery Girl has been languishing on my to-be-read shelf since I picked it up at a bargain book sale a couple of years ago. I'd heard some buzz aboutCemetery Girl has been languishing on my to-be-read shelf since I picked it up at a bargain book sale a couple of years ago. I'd heard some buzz about the book and was excited to get my hands on a copy of the book since my local library didn't have a copy at the time.
I'm guessing that initial enthusiasm wore off or else I got distracted by other books either that I purchased, received as ARCs or checked out from the local library. And so it was that I was getting ready for last weekend's World Read-athon day that I stumbled across the book in my to-be-read pile and decided maybe it was time to move it up in the rotation.
Four years ago, Tom and Abby's 12-year-old daughter Caitlin disappeared from their local park while walking their dog. In that time, Abby and Tom have grown apart as Tom continues to follow up any lead or shred of evidence that he thinks could bring Caitlin back and Abby turns to more spiritual means to find comfort and acceptance that their daughter has vanished and may not come back. Just as Abby is ready to close the door on Caitlin's return and Tom chases down what he feels is the promising lead they've had in years, Caitlin is returned, dirty, bruised and refusing to discuss where she's been the past four years.
Caitlin's return isn't necessarily the happy ending that Tom imagined it would be. Her return only fuels his anger and determination to find out what happened and who took her. And Caitlin refuses to give away any answers to her parents or to the authorities.
Cemetery Girl is a fascinating but ultimately frustrating novel. It's a suspense thriller whose pages turn by quickly and where a new development or red herring comes up at a nice clip. This is a good thing because it doesn't allow the reader to slow question things taking place in the novel or certain developments. At least until the novel's final third when David J. Bell begins to pile on absurdity on top of the next as the dominoes begin to fall and we find out what happened to Caitlin and some of her motivation for staying silent.
Bell sews a seed of doubt about Caitlin early in the novel as Tom relates an incident from early in her life where she lied to him to his face. I kept expecting this incident to have more of an impact on things or to imply that Caitlin was somehow involved in her disappearance but these seeds never bear any fruit. Instead it feels more like one more red herring in a novel that has one or two red herrings too many.
There's also a subplot about Caitlin's uncle that never quite pays off as it should or could.
Cemetery Girl is a novel with a lot of potential and yet I couldn't help but come away feeling dissatisfied by it. The twists and turns of the final third don't seem quite exaggerated enough based on what the plot threads and details Bell includes in the first third of the novel. There's also a lot of questions I had about characters and their motivations in the final third that aren't adequately addressed or explained. And the ending feels a bit abrupt and pointless. After spending three hundred or so pages with the story, I wasn't necessarily looking for a "happy ending" but I was hoping we'd get something more than what Bell gives us.
This novel had a lot of potential. It's just too bad it didn't live up to all of it. ...more
In general, I've found Holmes stories or novels not written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle to be a bit of a mixed bag. I always look forward to enjoying onIn general, I've found Holmes stories or novels not written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle to be a bit of a mixed bag. I always look forward to enjoying one more adventure with one of my favorite literary characters, but I generally walk away feeling a tad bit disappointed or (most likely) feeling like I should just re-read the Holmes canon again.
Anthony Horowitz's Moriarity has a twist that other non-Conan Doyle Holmes stories don't -- it's focused on two minor characters from the Holmes canon instead of Holmes and Watson.
I'd hoped going into the novel this might give it a leg up. Unfortunately, it did not.
Set between "The Final Problem" and "The Empty House," Moriarity teams up Inspector Athelney Jones (introduced in The Sign of Four and a New York Detective Frederick Chase, who is a member of the Pinkerton Agency. The two were working to prevent a meeting between Moriarity and the head of a London-based crime syndicate. But news of the Professor's death has the two scrambling to try and bring the elusive head into the light of day so he can be arrested and brought to justice. The duo decide to impersonate Moriarity to keep their plan going forward.
It's an interesting premise and for the first few pages, I found myself intrigued by it. But as with much of the Holmes canon, I find that less is more. About two-thirds of the way through, I felt that the story might have been better served as a short story.
Horowitz wins points for his extensive knowledge of the Holmes canon and his attention to detail. But that doesn't quite make the story as interesting or as compelling as I'd hoped it might be. ...more
If I'd stopped after three chapters Killing Ruby Rose might have been one of the better guilty pleasure books I'd read in a long time. For those firstIf I'd stopped after three chapters Killing Ruby Rose might have been one of the better guilty pleasure books I'd read in a long time. For those first few chapters Jessie Humphries channels Veronica Mars at its best -- with a smart, drive heroine who isn't intimidated and refuses to back down from a challenge.
In this case, the challenge is solving the murder of her father by investigating five potential subjects, all of whom could have a connection to the case. But it's here that the issues that ultimately dropped this novel down a lot in my estimation began to rear their ugly head.
I'm all about willing suspension of disbelief (my favorite TV show of all time features a character who can change bodies and travels through space and time in a blue box that is bigger on the inside) but sometimes it has to be earned. And it's unfortunately not earned in Killing Ruby Rose. Even though her father was a police officer and her mother is DA, I find it hard to believe that Ruby would be able to have the amount of access to the files she does or that she could cover her tracks on having them as effectively as she does. And while I'm not female and have never worn high heels, a bit of Googling makes it hard to believe that any sane person would chose to do a bit of undercover investigation in the shoes that Ruby describes in the book. (Honestly, I can't see Veronica Mars in high heels like this).
All of those could be niggling things if the characters were consistent. We've got Ruby's mom, the driven DA who had an affair with her father's partner and nemesis. Ruby's mom is all over the map in terms of characterization, morphing from one cliche to the next as the plot or scene requires. That's to say nothing of her best friend and potential love interest who may or may not be connected to the whole conspiracy to set Ruby up as the fall girl when the culprits from her list of five all begin dying (several of them at Ruby's hand, but more on that in a minute).
And then there's Ruby herself, who has the bad habit of naming everything (her car, her shoe closet, her gun) and describes herself as tough as nails. And if it was only Ruby seeing herself this way and contradicting herself, I could go along with that. But just about everyone in the novels sees her as one tough cookie -- except there is no evidence of that. This tough as nails teenager who has a gun permit and carries her (again, named) gun around with her, is quick to make life and death decisions one moment and then be fainting because of a secret message for her hidden in a school art project.
It's enough that I found myself wanting to toss the book aside in frustration until I remembered I was reading it on my Kindle and I didn't want to break it.
The novel pulls out a couple of twists and turns (OK, a lot of them) in an attempt to keep the reader guessing. But instead of keeping this reader guessing, it made my growing frustration with the novel increase.
And it's a shame because, again, those first three chapters had a ton of promise to them. The ending was just interesting enough that I may jump into the sequel and see if things improve. But I may not be in a huge hurry to pick it up. ...more
I love a good short story and Laura Lippman's Five Fires is not only a good short story, it's a great one.
It's summer time in the small town of BellviI love a good short story and Laura Lippman's Five Fires is not only a good short story, it's a great one.
It's summer time in the small town of Bellville and Beth is holding down a job at the local sandwich shop while dreaming of escaping to college and a major in Criminal Justice. But when a series of fires breaks out across town, Beth puts her deductive skills to the test and thinks she's got the tip that will break the case wide open for the police.
As with her other works, Lippman is more than just about the mystery, she's about the impact of the mystery on her characters and the community as a whole. In her typical fashion, there's more going on here than meets the eye and having Beth as a first-person narrator helps set things up for the final few reveals and some well-earned surprises.
Lippman's storytelling is sound. As I generally say with all Lippman works, if you haven't read her yet, you should be. And if you're looking for just a taste to find out what those of us who love her have been raving about, then this short story is a quick way to get hooked.
In the interest of full disclosure, I received a digital ARC of this story from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review....more