REVIEW: HIS & HERS, BY ALICE FEENEY

 

When a woman is murdered in Blackdown, a quintessentially British village, newsreader Anna Andrews is reluctant to cover the case. Detective Jack Harper is suspicious of her involvement, until he becomes a suspect in his own murder investigation.

Someone isn’t telling the truth, and some secrets are worth killing to keep.

Narrated by alternating characters, His & Hers weaves a tale of darkness, secrets, school bullying, and murder. As we follow the path between the past and the present, we are shown connections that will lead us to the answers.

Anna Andrews tells “her” view of events, while her ex-husband Jack Harper reveals his perspective.

A group of girls that were connected at school, and who were not exactly friends— but frenemies—do not appear to share connections in the present. But then we begin to note how their present-day lives do intersect…when they all begin to turn up as murder victims, one by one.

Who is targeting them? Not knowing who to trust, we muddle along. Just when we begin to figure it out, the author throws a few dramatic curves, and we are biting our nails as we plummet toward the denouement.

An alternate narrative from the killer reveals the details as they unfold, and we finally know the identity of that individual at the very end. I loved trying to guess who did what, and the satisfactory conclusion for my favorite characters left me smiling. 5 stars.

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REVIEW: AFTER SHE FELL, BY MARY-JANE RILEY

Catriona needs help. Her seventeen-year-old daughter Elena was found dead at the bottom of a cliff near her boarding school. The death has been ruled a suicide, but Catriona isn’t convinced.

When her old friend, journalist Alex Devlin, arrives in Hallow’s Edge to investigate, she quickly finds that life at private boarding school The Drift isn’t as idyllic as the bucolic setting might suggest.

Amidst a culture of drug-taking, bullying and tension between school and village, no one is quite who they seem to be, and there are several people who might have wanted Elena to fall…

My Thoughts: I was immediately caught up in Alex’s quest to find answers. Soon after she settles into the cottage provided by Catriona Devonshire, she is threatened, hassled, and even beaten up.

I liked Alex Devlin, and enjoyed a previous book in which she dealt with the aftermath of a family tragedy.

Set near London, After She Fell was a story that had me rooting for the main characters. I liked how Alex persisted in her attempt to find out the truth, and how she managed to keep going despite the efforts of the people of Hallow’s Edge to block her.

What, if anything, does Elena’s stepfather Mark have to do with events? How are the teen druggies involved? Are the posh girls somehow connected to how things play out? What responsibility did the school head play in what happened?

Our first person primary narrator was Alex, but we alternately see Elena’s perspective providing us with clues, just weeks before she died. As we follow the bread crumbs, we finally realize the truth in the story that kept me engaged throughout. The pace was a bit slow at times, but the characters intrigued me. 4 stars.

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REVIEW: APPLE & RAIN, BY SARAH CROSSAN

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She was just three years old when she heard her mum and her nana yelling and shouting. It was Christmas Eve, and when her mother left, to head to NY and to find herself, Apple was sure that she would come back soon. She imagines her on Broadway, famous, and this fantasy helps her cope.

But it would be eleven years, and when her mum came back, she had a surprise with her. A ten-year-old daughter Rain, Apple’s sister.

Set in Brampton, England, Apple and Rain is a poignant story of family, loss, and redemption. It also shows, from Apple’s point of view, what her world looks like, with school bullying, friendships tarnished, and finding new friends. We get to feel what she’s feeling, and experience how poetry helps her reclaim her own uniqueness.

Rain’s obsessive attachment to a doll reminds us that sometimes the pains we hold inside are manifested in unexpected ways.

As I read this novel, a coming-of-age tale that reminded me of some of my own childish fantasies and fears, I couldn’t stop turning the pages. 4 stars.

REVIEW: RECONSTRUCTING AMELIA, BY KIMBERLY MCCREIGHT

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In an upscale private school in Brooklyn, secrets and hatred flourish. Reconstructing Amelia: A Novel unveils the consequences in this story about one young girl’s mysterious death, and turns a spotlight on the privileged teenagers whose insecurities are unleashed in venomous ways.

Amelia was a talented student and budding writer. Confused about many of her feelings, she is swept up into a club that can only enhance her insecurities and target her for bullying.

Kate is Amelia’s mother, a lawyer with a well-known Manhattan firm, and with her own secrets.

What happened to Amelia in the months leading up to her death? How did her relationships somehow result in the tragedy? Did Kate’s secrets cloud the issues? What betrayals would come to light in the ensuing investigation?

There were many characters to abhor in this story with multiple narrators. There was Zadie, the leader of the pack; and then there was Sylvia, an old friend whose loyalty seemed questionable at times. Dylan seemed the least obnoxious of the “mean” girls, but how did her passive behaviors intensify everything? Some of the adults, like Liv, add to the list of unlikeable characters masquerading as friends.

Hatred and bullying in the age of cyberspace was deftly portrayed via texts, e-mails, and Amelia’s first person narrative.

This unforgettable tale had me wondering until the very end, even as I had my suspicions early on, so I am awarding this book five stars.

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