Archive for the 'Mystery/Thriller' Category

Review: Want You Dead by Peter James

Monday, December 8th, 2014

want you deadWant You Dead by Peter James is a woman’s worst nightmare. You date a guy who seems terrific — he’s handsome and charming, doesn’t mind spending money on you and seems to really enjoy your company — and he turns out to be a crazy stalker. In this case a OMGCRAZYWTF stalker. The kind that breaks into your house, burns down your favorite restaurant, tries to murder your parents…you know the type.

Bryce Laurent is a charmer — on the surface. He meets Red Cameron on a dating site and is immediately smitten with her. He is convinced she’s the one and for a while, so is she. Unfortunately, things take a very dark turn and eventually Red has to involve the police, get a protection order, move to a new flat and get a new job. But that’s not enough. Bryce still finds her, and if he can’t have her, no one can.

It’s a scary situation. A recent article I read reports that one-third of women murdered in the US are killed by their male partners. Do a quick Google search on “women killed by estranged boyfriend” and the results are horrifying. Bryce Laurent is different from many of the cases you see in the news (aside from being, thankfully, fictional)- he has money, and time, and he will stop at nothing to punish Red for leaving him. He is frighteningly clever and utterly ruthless – he wants Red to suffer and he is willing to hurt a lot of people to make that happen.

One of the things I loved about Want You Dead is that first, there’s a great thriller at the heart of it – what will Bryce do next, will the police be able to protect Red, who else is going to get hurt? In addition, the secondary characters are great – there’s a little romance, there’s a little conflict, and the personalities are really interesting. A main storyline won’t keep you reading without a great cast of characters. I also love the way that the relationship between Red and Bryce is slowly revealed. In the beginning, it’s hard to believe that such an amazing guy who could be so awful but over time, as the details come out, you are gradually more and more horrified. The reveal is really handled very well.

This is a great thriller, full of surprises and suspense. My copy of Want You Dead by Peter James was an Advanced Reader Copy, provided free of charge.

Review: Deep Shelter by Oliver Harris

Monday, December 1st, 2014

deep shelterLet me start off by saying: I loved this book. Nick Belsey is a sorry excuse for a cop, probably a worse boyfriend, but he is smart and determined and he just does not quit.

Deep Shelter by Oliver Harris is a terrific story, full of twists and turns, with a lot of great characters. Belsey is trying to find a suspect that disappeared down a rabbit hole. Instead, he finds a tunnel that leads into an old wartime bunker underneath London. It has offices and dorms and workspaces, it’s fully stocked with food and medical supplies — he even finds cases of champagne. They were new went they went down into the tunnels, but they are vintage now. So, of course, Belsey does what any good cop would do: he calls his dealer and his fence and makes plans to sell the drugs and the booze. Then he invites his new girlfriend, someone he arrested a while back, on a romantic trip to the tunnels.

Belsey took the candle and walked into the dorm. Bunk cages danced in the wavering light. No sign of her. He waited for his date to jump out. That would be classic. She didn’t.

“Are you OK?” he called, and his voice sounded like the voice of someone on their own.

Incredibly creepy. And it gets even creepier when he starts getting text messages and emails, taunting him. He knows that if he reports her disappearance, he’ll be the prime suspect, so he doesn’t report it. Instead, he investigates on his own. The investigation leads into an incredibly twisted story of wartime preparations, top-secret cover-ups and a city beneath the city.

If you like complicated storylines, you’ll love this. There is so much going on, so much backstory, so many interesting twists and turns that I could not put this down. I like Belsey – he’s a crooked cop, but he’s trying to do the right thing. He’s got quite an assortment of equally bent contacts, and they make for an interesting crew. The book makes me want to go back to London — I’ve been to a few of the locations mentioned in the book, like St. Pancras Station, but not many — and look for the landmarks in the book and dream of a secret city beneath my feet.

My copy of Deep Shelter is an Advance Reader Copy, provided free of charge.

Review: Ice Shear by M. P. Cooley

Monday, October 13th, 2014

ice shearThis is the start of a great new detective series! At least, I hope it is; I haven’t seen any indication that M.P. Cooley is planning a follow-up to Ice Shear, but I certainly hope she is working on it right now. Ice Shear combined a great mystery, some good twists and turns, interesting characters and a likable lead detective with a great back story – one that holds a lot of promise for future novels.

Officer June Lyons is nearing the end of her overnight shift in the small town of Hope Falls when she makes a gruesome discovery: a young woman, impaled on a spike of ice in the Mohawk River. Instead of heading home for breakfast with her young daughter, Lyons will be dealing with frigid temperatures and a hostile Assistant District Attorney, with even more surprises in store. The dead girl is the daughter of a powerful Congresswoman and her sketchy past is going to make this a tough case for everyone involved.

Lyons returned to her hometown during a particularly rough patch in her life. She has family here, but she isn’t totally accepted by some of her colleagues on the police force. When the FBI is called in, it gets even more difficult – now she’s also dealing with hostile former colleagues. Her interactions with the locals and the outsiders really drew me into the story – a single mom, pressure from all sides, trying to do a really difficult job – she’s a great character and there is a lot of potential for future stories.

Really, this is a great mystery from cover to cover. If you can imagine a Senator’s daughter married to the head of a motorcycle gang, that’s all the suspension of disbelief you;ll need (and certainly not the craziest thing we’ve ever seen from a Senator’s kid). Lyons’ backstory is great and there is a lot to uncover there. It will be interesting to see where her personal story goes in the next book.

My copy of Ice Shear is an Advanced Reader Copy, provided free of charge.

Review: The Kill Call by Stephen Booth

Monday, August 4th, 2014

kill callThe Kill Call by Stephen Booth is the first book I’ve read in the Cooper and Fry series. I’m not sure this is a series I’ll keep reading, for reasons I’ll get to later, but it’s a pretty good mystery.  The story starts on a rainy moor – Sean has come up to one of his favorite quiet, deserted spot, where he goes when he needs to get away from everything. Today, something feels different. There’s a smell. And a corpse.

It’s an interesting mystery, with a couple of storylines to follow, and quite British, tied up in the odd world of fox hunting. The body was discovered during the annual Eden Valley Hunt, which is hotly protested by animal rights activists. The area was crowded with hunters and the folks who handle the horses, as well as the protesters (referred to as “sabs” or saboteurs by the police) and a host of police officers there to keep them from killing each other. The “kill call” of the title refers to the long, wavering notes on the horn that the hunters blow to call in the hounds to kill the fox. Only in this case, it wasn’t a fox.

Detective Constable Diane Fry is in charge of the case and totally out of her depth, although she would never admit it. She’s a city girl in a country police district and she has tremendous disdain for the citizens there. She quite clearly turns up her nose at the country life – from the quiet towns to the smell of horses in the barn. She’s supposed to be a great detective, but she can’t seem to see anything beyond her own nose. Even when she recognizes that she is putting people off, she can’t seem to change it. She clearly sees Detective Constable Ben Cooper as a rival, even though he not only helps with the case but tries to offer some personal support. She is so unlikable in this that I can’t see wanting to continue with the series. I may have missed some of her character’s development, and I know that some people enjoy a story with unlikable characters, but that really isn’t for me. If someone has read more of these, I would love to hear about them.

Even with those caveats, it was quite a good read. I enjoyed the various twists and turns of the story, I find Ben Cooper a very interesting character, and I am curious about what happens to Diane Fry – she seems to be at a turning point, trying to get her career back on track and resolve some personal issues. I’m just not sure that I am curious enough to put up with more of her abrasive behavior.

My copy of The Kill Call was a digital ARC provided free of charge.

Review: Face Off, edited by David Baldacci

Sunday, June 29th, 2014

faceoffNow, this is a book that had me hooked from the very first pitch!

Ever wonder who would win in a fight if the most popular thriller characters were paired against their most worthy opponents? Would you bet on Lee Child’s Jack Reacher or Joseph Finder’s Nick Heller, or even Dennis Lehane’s Patrick Kenzie over Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch?

Oh yeah! If you love your detectives the way I do, I know that you have daydreamed about pairing them up. FaceOff is less about these characters fighting it out, it’s more about them teaming up and working together. And that is worth the price of admission.

It certainly says something about the quality of work that Simon & Schuster puts out that they have so many great characters to pair up. And I will warn you, Readers: you are going to get hooked on new series. You might as well know that going in. Unless you have a lot more spare time than I do, there are going to be characters here that are unfamiliar to you, and I guarantee these stories are going to make you want to run right out and pick up a few of their adventures. (You know the great thing about a Kindle Fire? No matter how many books you put on it, it never gets any heavier.) Smart thinking, S&S.

Now, the stories! I don’t even know where to begin. The weirdest and creepiest of the bunch was Special Agent Pendergast (Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child) vs. Slappy the Ventriloquist Dummy (R.L. Stine) – it sounds bizarre, but it works. Now, I am not a Pendergast fan – on paper, it seems like the sort of thing I should love, but I don’t) and I haven’t read any of Slappy’s…adventures, but that didn’t matter. The story is great and I can’t think of a better way to pair up this odd couple.

The first of my absolute favorites was Lincoln Rhyme (Jeffery Deaver) vs. Lucas Davenport (John Sanford). I have many of the Prey novels (several of them autographed, after meeting Sanford several years ago at a book signing) and I’ve read several of the Lincoln Rhyme novels, so I knew this was going to be good. The characters are so different and they butt heads ion such interesting ways. In addition, you’ve got their trusty sidekicks – Amelia Sachs and Lily Rothenburg – to spice things up. Really fabulous – I would love a full-length novel of this pairing!

But really: Nick Heller (Joseph Finder) and Jack Reacher (Lee Child). I can’t say “versus” there, because they really end up working together. I’m familiar with Jack Reacher, read a few of the books, and I’ve already ordered a couple of Heller novels. This one was so much fun – from the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry, to the fact that some poor Boston accountant got more help, for free, than he could have possibly paid for and he didn’t even know it! Great, great story.

So, thanks to my friends at Simon & Schuster and Meryl L. Moss Media Relations for providing this free Advanced Reader Copy of FaceOff. The rest of you – hit your local bookstores and libraries for it. And start saving your pennies, because I guarantee this book will spawn a shopping spree!

Review: The Abduction by Jonathan Holt

Friday, June 27th, 2014

abductionI was thrilled to receive a copy of The Abduction by Jonathan Holt, the second book in the Carnivia trilogy. It wasn’t long ago that I reviewed The Abomination, which I thought was a terrific mystery, so I was eager to see where the story went next.

The Abduction focuses again on the unlikely trio of detectives: Venetian police captain Kat Tapo, Second Lieutenant Holly Boland, and reclusive genius Daniele Barbo. Tapo has filed a sexual harassment suite against her former lover, Colonel Aldo Piola – and good for her, because the resolution of their affair was really unfair for her. There is tension between Tapo and Boland, as well as an entirely different sort of tension between Boland and Barbo. These characters are so very different and it is really interesting to see the way they interact.

The novel starts with an erotic swingers event at an upscale nightclub, which is a great way to begin a story! A young woman is abducted – a teenager who should definitely not have been at this party. Her name is Mia and she is the daughter of a US Army officer. There is no ransom demand, but there is a video – a very strange video – and eventually, the kidnappers’ plans become clear. It’s a chilling plan and since the kidnappers are online, it is going viral all over the globe.

And then, just like the storyline in The Abomination, the story veers off into entirely new territory. There are interesting tendrils – a secret society, hacked email, disturbing documents found in the Vatican archives. This is what I love the most about this series! No matter where the story starts, it take you places you had no idea were even on the map. It’s such a refreshing change from plodding procedurals and predictable detective stories and I have been recommending this one to everyone. I am really looking forward to reading the third book in the trilogy – but I am not looking forward to the end of their stories!

My copy of  The Abduction is an Advanced Reader Copy, provided free of charge.

Review: The Neighbors by Ania Ahlborn

Wednesday, June 4th, 2014

At the intersection of Blue Velvet and Basic Instinct lies The Neighbors.

theneighborsAnd that about covers it. What a fun (fluffy) summer read, for those of us who like a little blood and guts with our romance and thrills. There is absolutely nothing believable about this book, but I couldn’t stop turning the pages.

Drew Morrison thinks he’s been saved by his old friend, Mickey. Just as Drew had had enough of his alcoholic mother, of his miserable existence taking care of her, Mickey steps in and offers him a place to stay. Drew leaves his mother to fend for herself, quits his job, plans to start with a clean slate. Unfortunately, Mickey’s place is more hovel than home; dark, dreary and dirty. But next door! Next door is nirvana:

“Easing his truck along the curb, he stared at the house just outside his window. It was gorgeous, a gingerbread house pulled straight from a fairy tale. This one had a white picket fence as well, rosebushes bursting with bright red blooms. Matching hydrangeas, heavy with blossoms, dangled from pots that hung beneath the eaves of the porch. A wind chime shivered in the breeze, small rounds of capiz shell sparkling in the sun. A hammock stretched across the right side of the patio.”

The gingerbread house belongs to Red and Harlow Ward, Drew’s new, too-perfect neighbors. Whether it’s a plate of cookies or a job offer, they are right there to offer Drew everything he needs. With Mickey sulking in his room and acting strangely, Drew can’t resist the offer of a home-cooked meal, especially when it’s served up by the luscious Harlow Ward. But are these neighbors too good to be true? Why is Mickey acting so strangely – and what is behind the locked door at the end of the hallway? What secrets are hiding behind the pleasant facade of 668 Magnolia Lane?

Okay, there is nothing remotely plausible about this story, but the over-the-top quality is what makes it so much fun. The story just gets crazier and crazier and crazier! There’s no deep meaning here, just a fun story, a few sympathetic characters, and a vampy villain you have to read to believe. It’s exactly my idea of a summertime beach read.

My copy of The Neighbors by Ania Ahlborn is from my private Kindle library.

 

Review: Only the Innocent by Rachel Abbott

Tuesday, April 29th, 2014

only the innocentRachel Abbott was “the epublishing sensation of 2012″ and Only The Innocent was her first novel. This is the sort of author story I love to read – I love the variety that epublishing brings us, and I hope that the trend continues. I only wish that I had enjoyed the book more.

Only The Innocent has some major issues and plot holes, in my opinion. There is still an entertaining mystery here, if you can suspend enough disbelief. The writing (aside from the plot issues) was pretty good and I would definitely give another story of Abbott’s a try, even if it wouldn’t be at the top of my TBR pile. That said, I had some serious issues with this novel.

There will be some spoilers below, so you may want to skip to the end if you don’t want to be clued in!

Laura Kennedy is a modern young career woman, working for a film company, when she meets Sir Hugo Fletcher. Hugo is older, very rich, very married, so of course she immediately starts dating him. The hilarious thing is that Laura has just won an award for a documentary film on abusive relationships, and yet she falls into every cliche – he cuts her off from friends and family, makes her quit her job, demeans her and criticizes her at every turn. He refuses to meet any of her family until the wedding – won’t even let her see his house until after the wedding, every detail of which he plans right down to her dress and flowers. No way a woman like the Laura they describe would fall for it – and if she would, she wouldn’t make a very likable or sympathetic character.

After her husband’s murder, Laura “reconnects” with her former best friend, Imogen. They haven’t spoken in years and there is a lot Imogen doesn’t know about Laura’s marriage and their estrangement (entirely due to Hugo, of course). Over the years, Laura has written letters to Imogen, letters that she has kept hidden and never mailed, explaining the bizarre circumstances of her marriage. When Imogen shows up after Hugo’s death to comfort Laura, Laura gives her the letters to read.

Okay, some of that is plausible – except for the fact that first, we learn that Laura was writing these letters to Imogen, undetected, while she was forcibly confined in a mental hospital, drugged and keenly observed. How could she have written them and where would she have hidden them? Makes no sense. And we later learn Laura and Imogen have been back in contact for quite some time. In fact, Laura has drafted Imogen to assist in her plan to blackmail her husband. And she did this without telling her about the sham of  a marriage and her reasons for needing protection? That also makes no sense.

There are a number of mysterious, italicized asides from a mystery woman. We glean that she is locked up, chained actually, in a remote room somewhere, without food or water, waiting for her mysterious benefactor to return. As soon as we learn that Hugo’s family charity dealt with helping young prostitutes, we know who she is and who her captor must be. The book would have been considerably better without those snippets; they gave way too much away.

In the end, I kept reading just to see how Abbott would finally resolve the story. It was pretty much what I suspected, and not terribly satisfying. For someone who was under constant observation by a husband who had threatened to kill her, Laura had a lot of leeway, it seems. The explanation for Hugo’s sexual proclivities was pretty ridiculous. It just wasn’t satisfying for me. I could see the glimmers of a great story here – the writing was quite good, there were some interesting characters, and Abbott created a pretty intricate plot – but in key ways, it fell apart for me.

My copy of Only The Innocent by Rachel Abbott came from my personal Kindle library.

Review: Cadaver Blues by J. E. Fishman

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014

cadaver_20blues_20cover_20finalCadaver Blues is an interesting idea for a series. Phuoc Goldberg (what an awesome name!) is not your typical private detective – in fact, he’s not a private detective at all. He’s a financial advisor to the down-and-out, the guy you call when the collection agencies are knocking down your doors. He helps people who are over-extended and under-financed keep a roof over their heads – doesn’t seem like a lot of opportunities for solving mysteries. Until he meets Mindy.

Mindy Eider is smoking hot, kind-hearted, and a little gullible. Her Uncle Gunnar, more of an honorary uncle, is off on one of his annual retreats – Mindy doesn’t know where he goes or how to reach him – and Mindy is looking after things in his absence. She has come to Phuoc because someone is trying to foreclose on Uncle Gunnar’s house and she doesn’t know why. There has never been a problem with the bills during these little walk-abouts before, and since it isn’t her account, she can’t speak with anyone at the mortgage company. She hopes that Phuoc can help.

The book is a reminder that the world tends to bow before a beautiful woman. If Mindy had been an ordinary-looking schoolteacher, there is no way that Phuoc would have ended up risking his life for her. Maybe I’m a little cynical. Anyway, what follows is a pretty entertaining mystery. Part of what makes it entertaining is that Phuoc is clearly not a detective – he’s doing all this for a beautiful woman in distress. The situations he gets himself into are pretty funny, even if I found the mystery itself a little implausible. (Okay, more than a little.) They start out in Wilmington, Delaware, spend a weekend snowed in at a resort in the Poconos and end up skulking around mysterious mushroom farms in the dark of night. Throw in some cool friends, a few decadent chocolates and perhaps some magic mushrooms and you’ve got a fun story that kept me turning the virtual pages.

Now, I don’t know where the series will go from here. How many mysteries can a debt consolidation specialist in Wilmington, Delaware run into? Still, you can get me to suspend a lot of disbelief if you have good characters and a snappy storyline, and this had both. I enjoyed this one (a bargain on Amazon) and I would definitely give the next in the series a try.

My copy of Cadaver Blues by J. E. Fishman came from my personal Kindle library.

Review: The Abomination by Jonathan Holt

Thursday, April 17th, 2014

the-abomination-coverEverything is a trilogy these days! I’m serious – I cannot begin to tell you how many review copies come to me that are Book One is some trilogy or other. Most of the time, as I may have said before, I’m unimpressed. Often it means that the writer can’t seem to figure out how to wrap up the story in a single book. I think it’s great if a book is so good and so well-received that it inspires a sequel, but just like movies, every book these days has to come with a sequel.

In The Abomination by Jonathan Holt, I can actually see the need for a sequel. The plot is so complex, with so many threads to follow, that you could never wrap it up in one book. A few of the plotlines you’ll need to keep straight:

- Captain Kat Tapo of the Carabinieri is investigating her first murder case: a woman found in the canal, shot in the head, wearing the robes of a Catholic priest.

-  Colonel Aldo Piola, a seasoned investigator, is supervising Tapo on this case. There’s chemistry between the two of them and Piola has a reputation…

- Second Lieutenant Holly Boland is thrilled to be back in Italy, even if the assignment – a sort of community liaison officer – doesn’t sound terribly exciting. However, Boland’s first official task – look for some documents related to a Freedom of Information Act request – may be very exciting. And Dangerous.

- Daniel Barbo, a computer genius with a tragic past, has designed the ultimate virtual reality space for Italians – Carnivia.com, a detailed and eerily accurate rendition of Venice. Like the city itself, Carnivia contains many secrets – some that might be worth killing for.

There are actually a couple of other interesting plotlines, but if that doesn’t pique your interest, you may be unpiquable. Holt does an excellent job of moving the story forward, keeping the plotlines interwoven but not tangled, and keeping you turning the pages. It’s a great mix of characters, an amazing and exotic setting, with plenty of action and intrigue. The plot takes off in completely unexpected directions, and by the end of the book, you feel as though you have wandered into a totally different story. It was an excellent read and I am actually looking forward to the sequel, The Abduction, coming out in May.

My copy of The Abomination was an Advanced Reader Copy, provided free of charge by the good folks at HarperCollins Publishers.