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The Burning Girls

Title: The Burning Girls

Author: CJ Tudor

Genre: mystery/thriller/horror

Thank you Netgalley for this book!

Holy smokes! (pun intended) What a crazy, great book. Let me make it clear that before I even finished this one, I requested The Chalk Man from my library. I was just so impressed with this book and its multiple plots that wove together so well. The book has so many layers of mystery all were so well-written and cohesive. I’m so glad I got to read this one. Oh, and Tudor makes a reference to my favorite band, The Killers, so I immediately tweeted my thanks to her, and she replied. So cool! Hi again, if you are reading this, Ms. Tudor! =)

From Goodreads: Welcome to Chapel Croft. Five hundred years ago, eight protestant martyrs were burned at the stake here. Thirty years ago, two teenage girls disappeared without a trace. And two months ago, the vicar of the local parish killed himself.

Reverend Jack Brooks, a single parent with a fourteen-year-old daughter and a heavy conscience, arrives in the village hoping to make a fresh start and find some peace. Instead, Jack finds a town mired in secrecy and a strange welcome package: an old exorcism kit and a note quoting scripture. “But there is nothing covered up that will not be revealed and hidden that will not be known.”

The more Jack and daughter Flo get acquainted with the town and its strange denizens, the deeper they are drawn into their rifts, mysteries, and suspicions. And when Flo is troubled by strange sightings in the old chapel, it becomes apparent that there are ghosts here that refuse to be laid to rest.

But uncovering the truth can be deadly in a village where everyone has something to protect, everyone has links with the village’s bloody past, and no one trusts an outsider.

What I loved most about this book was that the story is really about the vicar’s past, the town’s past, and the town’s present, all at the same time. You learn more about Jack and why she left her previous post. You learn more about the martyrs from centuries ago and the girls who disappeared decades ago. And you learn about the townspeople and just what they have to hide. What I found interesting was that the story is told in first person from Jack’s perspective, but some chapters are told third person about Flo. I can’t say I’ve read a book that switches between first and third narrator like that. It didn’t confuse me at all, and I really appreciated the uniqueness of that. This book was great, plain and simple. I can’t wait to dive into The Chalk Man soon!

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Lock Every Door

I now have read every Riley Sager book. I started with Final Girls, next was The Last Time I Lied, then Home Before Dark and now this one. I was a bit bummed by the first two because I didn’t think they were as good as the hype that surrounded them. However, Home Before Dark was really good, and I appreciated the creative way the story was told, but Lock Every Door is my favorite. It. Was. Bonkers.

From Goodreads:

No visitors. No nights spent away from the apartment. No disturbing the other residents, all of whom are rich or famous or both. These are the only rules for Jules Larsen’s new job as an apartment sitter at the Bartholomew, one of Manhattan’s most high-profile and mysterious buildings. Recently heartbroken and just plain broke, Jules is taken in by the splendor of her surroundings and accepts the terms, ready to leave her past life behind.

As she gets to know the residents and staff of the Bartholomew, Jules finds herself drawn to fellow apartment sitter Ingrid, who comfortingly, disturbingly reminds her of the sister she lost eight years ago. When Ingrid confides that the Bartholomew is not what it seems and the dark history hidden beneath its gleaming facade is starting to frighten her, Jules brushes it off as a harmless ghost story—until the next day, when Ingrid disappears.

Searching for the truth about Ingrid’s disappearance, Jules digs deeper into the Bartholomew’s dark past and into the secrets kept within its walls. Her discovery that Ingrid is not the first apartment sitter to go missing at the Bartholomew pits Jules against the clock as she races to unmask a killer, expose the building’s hidden past, and escape the Bartholomew before her temporary status becomes permanent.

The big reveal (no spoilers, but this book is a mystery, so you expect there to be a resolution) is crazy, and I didn’t see it coming at all. Jules is a great character, not only trying to solve the mystery, but also having to deal with her past. Sager does a great job putting little hints in the story here and there that give you a little insight into the big twist, but even as I picked up on them, I still didn’t see where it was going. If you’re new to Sager’s books, this is a great one to start with.

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The Maid’s Secret

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I’m so glad I discovered Emily Organ and the Penny Green series. These books are just much fun to read. I started with Limelight and recently finished The Rookery. The stories follow a female news reporter in the late 1800s in London. Penny isn’t well-received by most because she is unmarried, has no desire to be married, and has a job. Penny is a great character though. She makes no apologies for her position and is very good at her job.

Penny has some overarching plots that have, so far, extended through the first three books. Namely, her quest to find her father’s whereabouts. He’s an explorer, but no one has seen him in several years. Penny and her sister, Eliza, fear him dead. Penny also has a working relationship with a member of the Scotland Yard, James Blakely. It’s obvious they have feelings for each other, but he’s engaged and she has no desire to be married. But their relationship is fun to watch.

This story finds Penny undercover as a maid for the newspaper (and James is aware of the situation) trying to find out the secrets of a family that has a reputation for being cruel to its factory workers. While there, one of the members of the family meets an untimely end and it’s up to Penny and James to figure out if that person was murdered, and if so, by whom.

I just fly through these books. As much as I enjoy modern-day mysteries with DNA and fingerprint analysis, a good old-fashioned whodunit and also a lot of fun. I have all intentions of finishing these books and highly recommend them. They are on Kindle Unlimited, for those who have it. Absolutely delightful books.

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The Likeness

If you have been following me at all, you know how particular I am about my murder mystery books. Most are crap. Let’s just lay it all on the table. When I find a book or an author worth my while, I’m pretty excited. When I read In the Woods a couple of years ago, I was hooked. Tana French wrote an excellent thriller that kept me guessing without using tired old tropes. For the record Robert Galbraith (AKA JK Rowling) writes great thrillers, too. Start with The Cuckoo’s Calling.

What’s clever about French’s books is they are connected but not direct sequels. The first book features two detectives, Rob and Cassie. The second book features Cassie and her superior, Frank. The third book (I peeked) features Frank but takes place in the past. So, there are familiar characters, but the plots aren’t directly hooked so I would say you could read them in any order.  A few things from the first book were mentioned in the second, but you don’t really need to understand them to follow the plot.

Cassie used to work undercover as a girl named Lexie Madison. Said Lexie turns up dead and happens to look exactly like Cassie. So, the police get creative and send Cassie back home with her four claiming innocence roommates. They tell her Lexie was injured rather than dead and let Cassie take her place to see if she can dig up any dirt. What’s really great about these books is the lack of red herrings. I am exhausted by “the killer reveal on page 30…oh wait just kidding” plots. French just lets it all unfold and evolve naturally. It’s what I like best about her books.  I can’t wait to dig into her next book.

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The Woman in the Window

Friend after friend after friend told me to read this book. I was really excited to start it, but quickly discovered the entire plot is based around my least favorite trope- I’m an alcoholic and can’t remember things. I absolutely despise it. Other than alien abduction, it’s my least favorite plotline in a book. It’s not creative and is way overdone.

And not only is this main character, Anna, an alcoholic, she is also medicated due to severe anxiety and agoraphobia (she can’t leave her house). A while ago, she and her family were in a car accident, leaving Anna house-bound. Her biggest forms of entertainment include watching old movies, playing online chess, and spying on her neighbors. Side note: There’s an old movie called Copycat about this very thing. Sigourney Weaver is a house-bound woman in this movie and is so after a brutal attack. It’s not a great movie, but worth watching if you can catch it. Harry Connick, Jr. plays a delightfully awful murderer. Anyway, Anna is a psychotherapist (or psychiatrist, I forget, but you get the idea) so she’s fully aware of what is happening to her.

One night, she sees something terrifying. But she can’t convince anyone that she wasn’t hallucinating. Plot twists (some obvious, some not), more alcohol, plenty of crazy revelations, and finally an explanation as to what, if anything, happened. I can’t believe this book is so popular. I gave it three stars for the couple of plot points that did fool me, but overall, I was so disappointed in this book. A movie of it is coming out later this year, and I have zero desire to see it. Blah.

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Murder at the Vicarage

I’ve never read an Agatha Christie book. She is someone who clearly deserves the respect she is given, but she’s never really been on my radar. I know she has a few one-off books like And Then There Were None, but she is mostly known for her Miss Marple series and her Hercule Poirot series. For the book challenge, I needed to read a book with a female protagonist over the age of 60, and although Miss Marple is simply described as elderly, I am making the leap of faith that she is at least 61 years old.

Agatha Christie died before I was born, so it’s safe to assume her books are considered classics. There’s no DNA evidence, no forensic investigation, just old-fashioned police detective work. So when a man is found murdered, the police, unhappily aided by busybody Miss Marple, are left to simply put the pieces together. Witnesses are interviewed, secrets are kept, affairs are had, and the mystery gets solved.

What I wasn’t expecting was a level of humor in the book. I chuckled a few times at Christie’s clever turn-of-phrase. The story is told from the vicar’s perspective and the murder happened in his home (he’s clearly not the murderer, so take that out of the equation now) but he aids the police in finding the killer. He likes Miss Marple’s snark and doesn’t mind discussing his information with her, as opposed to the police who are just annoyed by her. Marple is a likable, fun character, and I really enjoyed this book. I will also be reading the first Hercule Poirot book later this year, so keep an eye out for that review.

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Girl in Snow

I really love Netgalley, but I’m just really bad at making the books I get from them a priority. When I got Girl in Snow from them a couple of years ago, I had every intention of reading it quickly, but it just got buried under all my other books. But when I saw I needed a book with a weather element in the title, Girl in Snow jumped right into that slot. And if you’ve been following my blog for a while, you know I’m very particular about mystery/thriller books because so many of them are poorly written. I’m always nervous when I start a book by an unfamiliar author, but wow this was a great one. I’m so happy to report that this was a very well-written, interesting book.

The story is told from three perspectives, all third-person narrator, but from that particular character’s point-of-view. We meet Cameron, an outcast with a rough family story who draws amazing portraits, but who also has a secret. Next is Jade, also an outcast with a rough family, but much angrier about it. Finally is Russ, the police detective tied to the case in an unusual way. At the center of the story is beautiful Lucinda, who is found murdered one morning on the playground of a sleepy Colorado town. It’s likely Russ didn’t do it, considering he didn’t even know her, but Cameron and Jade are on the fringes of suspects because they lived near Lucinda and both knew her. Equally a suspect is Lucinda’s ex-boyfriend, Zap.

I’m really not sure if this book fits into the adult or young adult category, but no matter, because it’s great. I really didn’t know which character murdered Lucinda until the reveal, but the murderer wasn’t just thrown in as a random person never mentioned in the book (like a drifter), so the rationale was explained and legitimate. This book was a quick little read with great, clever language, and I enjoyed it quite a bit.

 

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The Woman in Cabin 10

I like a good thriller. And after reading Gone Girl and In the Woods, I got a bit spoiled with well written stories that kept me guessing. But finding a good writer has proven difficult. I think I just have high expectations, but I really want an author to be creative and not use cheap plot devices. And, granted, it has been a couple weeks since I finished this book and I have forgotten a bit, but I gave it 3 stars on Goodreads.

Here’s what I remember not liking about it. There was a lot of telling rather than showing. You spend so much time in this character’s head that nothing really happens. She is trying to figure out who the woman in cabin 10 is, why this person has vanished, and who might be behind it all. But there’s a really ridiculous plot device of the main character, Lo, being drunk and tired so she second guesses herself a lot. This is just not creative storytelling at all. And I was really disappointed that this book got such great reviews.

If anyone has great mysteries that are creative and unique, send them my way. Because I keep getting let down.

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The Hail Mary

I discovered Todd Travis a few years ago through the free book service, Bookbub. It’s an email service that alerts you do book deals, either free or deeply discounted. His first book in this series, Creatures of Appetite, was free, and once I read it I was hooked and considered myself a fan. I found his fan page on Facebook and joined, hoping to be in the know for his book releases. And it worked! As soon as his books came out, he would post to let us know, and I immediately bought them. My reviews of his previous works are here Creatures of Appetite and Trophies . The fourth book in the series is available for preorder, and I was lucky enough to receive an advance copy in exchange for a review. So here I am!

To summarize without spoilers, the Thorne/Kane series follows FBI agents Jacob Thorne and Emma Kane, unlikely partners who are trying to solve a variety of crimes. Each book focuses on a new event. The newest book leaves Kane on her own, of sorts, to solve a three-year-old cold case with only days to get the job done.

What I like most about these books is that I never see the ending coming, but they are all plausible. None of that out of the blue and doesn’t make a lick of sense business that I find so often in mystery books. Travis writes a tight book, snappy language, and clever twists that don’t make me roll my eyes and groan in frustration at the end. I highly recommend his works. If you can catch one for free on Amazon, great, but each book is definitely worth the asking price.

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In the Woods

I’ve heard of the Dublin Murder Squad books for awhile now and have been meaning to read them for awhile. I finally sat down and made a point to read the first one, In the Woods. I like a good thriller/murder mystery, and was really pleased with how well done this one is. It seems like most thrillers are cheap, predictable, and churned out so quickly that much thought isn’t put into craft. However, there were some really great passages in this book that made the reading experience much more enjoyable than the average thriller.

Det. Rob Ryan is a member of the Dublin Murder Squad, meaning his job is to investigate murders. His partner, Cassie, is like a sister and together, they make a great team. However, Rob’s secret has the ability to hinder his perspective. When he was a kid, three kids went into the woods to play, and only one, Rob, came out. The other two have never been found and Rob doesn’t remember much. He now goes by his middle name, went to boarding school and acquired a different accent, so he flies under the radar and no one, save Cassie, knows his story.

Their newest case is the death of a 12 year old girl whose body is found near the woods were Rob was found. His memories are triggered, and he wonders if the two situations are connected. The book is full of several twists and turns, some of them I saw coming, but most I didn’t, and by the end, I was reading as quickly as I could to see who killed the young girl and whether or not Rob was able to put all the pieces of his own childhood together. There are several other books in the series, all are spin offs of the previous one, and I can’t wait to delve back into this series.