REVIEW: HER EVERY FEAR, BY PETER SWANSON

 

Growing up, Kate Priddy was always a bit neurotic, experiencing momentary bouts of anxiety that exploded into full blown panic attacks after an ex-boyfriend kidnapped her and nearly ended her life. When Corbin Dell, a distant cousin in Boston, suggests the two temporarily swap apartments, Kate, an art student in London, agrees, hoping that time away in a new place will help her overcome the recent wreckage of her life.

But soon after her arrival at Corbin’s grand apartment on Beacon Hill, Kate makes a shocking discovery: his next-door neighbor, a young woman named Audrey Marshall, has been murdered.

When the police question her about Corbin, a shaken Kate has few answers, and many questions of her own—curiosity that intensifies when she meets Alan Cherney, a handsome, quiet tenant who lives across the courtyard, in the apartment facing Audrey’s. Alan saw Corbin surreptitiously come and go from Audrey’s place, yet he’s denied knowing her. Then, Kate runs into a tearful man claiming to be the dead woman’s old boyfriend, who insists Corbin did the deed the night that he left for London.

When she reaches out to her cousin, he proclaims his innocence and calms her nerves . . . until she comes across disturbing objects hidden in the apartment—and accidently learns that Corbin is not where he says he is. Could Corbin be a killer? And what about Alan? Kate finds herself drawn to this appealing man who seems so sincere, yet she isn’t sure. Jetlagged and emotionally unstable, her imagination full of dark images caused by the terror of her past, Kate can barely trust herself . . . So how could she take the chance on a stranger she’s just met?

Yet the danger Kate imagines isn’t nearly as twisted and deadly as what’s about to happen. When her every fear becomes very real.

And much, much closer than she thinks.

My Thoughts: Multiple narrators take the reader back and forth in time within the pages of Her Every Fear. It was easy to immerse myself in the stories of the narrators, as they fleshed out their own perspectives. When Kate had a panic attack upon first arriving in Boston, I could feel the fear and anxiety, and wanted to also experience the calmness finally settling within her body.

What we learn about each of the characters will help us put together the pieces of the puzzle, specifically who might have killed Audrey Marshall, but also what motivated the killer(s).

We learn the “who” fairly early on, but we are eager to keep turning pages to find out whether or not Kate will be safe when she is tucked away in Corbin’s apartment, and which one of the people she sees every day might be a killer.

The intensity mounts as one of the characters lands in Boston, with an unexpected plan, and we are eager to discover who will still be standing after a very disturbing and twisted encounter.

It was hard to review this book, for fear of spoilers, so suffice it to say that you won’t want to stop reading until the final page. And you might want to read only in the daytime. This is my first book by the author, but it won’t be my last. 4.5 stars.

***
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REVIEW: THE PERFECT NANNY, BY LEILA SLIMANI

 

She has the keys to their apartment. She knows everything. She has embedded herself so deeply in their lives that it now seems impossible to remove her.

When Myriam decides to return to work as a lawyer after having children, she and her husband look for the perfect nanny for their son and daughter. They never dreamed they would find Louise: a quiet, polite, devoted woman who sings to the children, cleans the family’s chic Paris apartment, stays late without complaint, and hosts enviable kiddie parties. But as the couple and the nanny become more dependent on one another, jealousy, resentment, and suspicions mount, shattering the idyllic tableau. Building tension with every page, The Perfect Nanny is a compulsive, riveting, bravely observed exploration of power, class, race, domesticity, motherhood, and madness—and the American debut of an immensely talented writer.

My Thoughts: Perfection, or the appearance of it, is a theme in The Perfect Nanny. We see examples of the well-ordered world the nanny creates for the Masses family on a lovely Paris street. She makes their lives easy, with her tireless care, the cleaning, the dinners, and the willingness to stay late.

But beneath the façade, Louise is a complex mix of disordered thoughts, fantasies, fears, and intensity. Back and forth the story goes, offering glimpses of other lives the woman has lived, including one with a very troubled daughter.

As she slowly unravels before their eyes, Myriam and Paul try to sort through their thoughts and decide how to extricate their lives from hers. It should be simple, right? But Louise has so carefully inserted herself into their family that removing her seems impossible.

In the beginning, we know the ending. As we turn the pages, fear and curiosity keep us going, even as spending another minute in Louise’s mind seems too horrific to bear. A creepy tale of madness, obsession, and the power of routines, at times I wanted to stop reading. But like the Masses family, who could not rid themselves of her, I was unable to extricate myself from this character study of a fascinating and disturbing woman. 4 stars.

***

REVIEW: THE FRENCH GIRL, BY LEXIE ELLIOTT

 

They were six university students from Oxford–friends and sometimes more than friends–spending an idyllic week together in a French farmhouse. It was supposed to be the perfect summer getaway…until they met Severine, the girl next door.

For Kate Channing, Severine was an unwelcome presence, her inscrutable beauty undermining the close-knit group’s loyalties amid the already simmering tensions. And after a huge altercation on the last night of the holiday, Kate knew nothing would ever be the same. There are some things you can’t forgive. And there are some people you can’t forget…like Severine, who was never seen again.

Now, a decade later, the case is reopened when Severine’s body is found in the well behind the farmhouse. Questioned along with her friends, Kate stands to lose everything she’s worked so hard to achieve as suspicion mounts around her. Desperate to resolve her own shifting memories and fearful she will be forever bound to the woman whose presence still haunts her, Kate finds herself buried under layers of deception with no one to set her free…

 

My Thoughts: In Kate’s first person voice, we follow the story in The French Girl. A mystery, possibly a murder, and suspicion that turns friends against one another as the investigator zeroes in on them all. Set in London, the story takes us to the French countryside as the investigator continues his search for a killer.

Kate is literally haunted by Severine, seeing her in various poses as she goes through her days and nights. Do the hauntings hint that she knows more than she thinks? Can she figure out the truth of what happened? Or will she finally realize that her memories have been hidden from her for a reason?

There were many characters to loathe, like Caro, whose presence in Kate’s life these days is an annoying and disturbing reminder of those feelings.

What about Tom, who seems to know more than he is letting on? And then there is Lara, her best friend, who might be hiding something, too.

And, years after their stunning break-up, Kate has to look again at her relationship with Seb…wondering if there are dark secrets she hadn’t previously considered.

I figured out the perpetrator early on, but couldn’t wait to see how it would all play out. I couldn’t stop turning pages, and I enjoyed how Kate’s world seemed to right itself in the end. 4.5 stars.***

REVIEW: LIE WITH ME, BY SABINE DURRANT

 

It starts with a lie. The kind we’ve all told – to a former acquaintance we can’t quite place but still, for some reason, feel the need to impress. The story of our life, embellished for the benefit of the happily married lawyer with the kids and the lovely home.

And the next thing you know, you’re having dinner at their house, and accepting an invitation to join them on holiday – swept up in their perfect life, the kind you always dreamed of…

Which turns out to be less than perfect. But by the time you’re trapped and sweating in the relentless Greek sun, burning to escape the tension all around you – by the time you start to realize that, however painful the truth might be, it’s the lies that cause the real damage…
… well, by then, it could just be too late.

My Thoughts: Lie With Me is a gripping tale narrated in the first person voice of Paul Morris, a writer, whose life is not turning out the way he had hoped. When he runs into an old Cambridge University friend, Andrew Hopkins, he is less than thrilled. There is something about Andrew that always makes him feel…less than. But he can’t show any of this, so he accepts an invitation to dinner.

The lies come tripping off his tongue when Andrew, and then the other guests, ask questions about his work, his life, etc. Little white lies, of course. But the closer he gets to them all, including an attractive woman named Alice Mackenzie, with whom he quickly becomes involved, he finds himself caught up in a web of lies.

The invitation to a Greek holiday comes later, but by then, the story of his life is caught in the trap he has created.

In Greece, nothing is the way he had hoped, and soon the chaos of the friends and their families, their expectations, and Alice’s quest to find a young girl who disappeared ten years before…all of it becomes a disaster in the making. Andrew’s behavior is strange, and so is Alice’s. Are the two of them involved? Are they keeping secrets? Why are odd things happening around the house, where a renovation is taking place?

My thoughts about the characters were negative, overall. Alice was evasive, sneaky, and she and Andrew always seemed to be huddled somewhere, whispering. I didn’t trust either of them, even though Paul had not been truthful about a lot of things. The teens, as usual, were also creating havoc.

Before the story comes to a crashing conclusion, we realize that nothing is as it seems, and Paul is in a lot of trouble. By the time Paul discovers the truth, it is too late for him. Unless someone can extricate him from the mess created not just by his lies…but by the secrecy and manipulation of others. The ending left us hanging…but hopeful. 4.5 stars.

 ***

REVIEW: EAVES OF DESTRUCTION, BY KATE CARLISLE

 

At the annual Victorian Home and Garden Tour, Lighthouse Cove, California’s premier contractor, Shannon Hammer, realizes that the competition is about to turn deadly….

Shannon is in high demand among rival homeowners, who will do anything to win Best in Show. One-upmanship and even espionage break out among neighbors, construction crews, decorators, and landscapers. Thanks to several new hires, Shannon is sure she can handle the extra load—until murder throws a wrench in the works.

The small town’s corrupt building inspector is found dead on one of Shannon’s job sites, and soon plenty of suspects are coming out of the woodwork. When another body is discovered, Shannon calls on her team of close friends and devilishly astute thriller writer Mac to help her nail down the details and build a case against the killer before the door shuts on someone else—for good.

 

My Thoughts: In the beautiful little town of Lighthouse Cove, in Northern California, Shannon Hammer enjoys success with the construction company she inherited from her dad. Renovating beautiful Victorian houses is her specialty.

She also seems to find a lot of dead bodies, and her tendency to try to solve the mysteries is a fun part of the story.

I enjoyed her relationship with the mystery writer, Mac, and couldn’t help but love how she tried to solve another kind of mystery for her newest construction worker, Amanda Walsh.

Some of the characters were clearly suspects just because of their horrific personalities, while others just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Watching Shannon and her crew do their jobs, in addition to helping find the killer, kept me turning the pages of Eaves of Destruction. I also enjoy the TV show based on the books. 4.5 stars.

***

REVIEW: HER LAST GOODBYE, BY MELINDA LEIGH

 

Young mother Chelsea Clark leaves the house for a girls’ night out…and vanishes. Her family knows she would never voluntarily leave her two small children. Her desperate husband—also the prime suspect—hires Morgan to find his wife and prove his innocence.

As a single mother, Morgan sympathizes with Chelsea’s family and is determined to find her. She teams up with private investigator Lance Kruger. But the deeper they dig, the deadlier their investigation gets. When Morgan is stalked by a violent predator, everything—and everyone—she holds dear is in grave danger.

Now, Morgan must track down a deranged criminal to protect her own family…but she won’t need to leave home to find him. She’s his next target.

My Thoughts: From the very first page of Her Last Goodbye, I was immersed in this newest story in the Morgan Dane Series.

Morgan and Lance have a new client, Tim Clark, whose wife Chelsea has gone missing, and they are concerned because of the Sheriff’s attitude of focusing primarily on Tim as a suspect. Their work is cut out for them; finding Chelsea and smoothing the Sheriff’s ruffled feathers. Tim worked at a company called Speed Net, and checking out the employees was one of their first steps.

Chelsea is an alternate narrator in this story, so we know right away that she has been abducted. From her perspective, we learn that she is chained inside some kind of container with no windows, and that her abductor wears a mask.

Juggling the care of her three daughters with this newest case, and also handling health issues now arising with her grandfather, Morgan is even more stressed than usual.

So when one of their suspects seems to be stalking Morgan, the intensity ratchets up…and even after their investigation moves forward, greater potential harm to Morgan comes out of left field. Who is the perpetrator, and why is he now targeting Morgan? Could he be one of the sex offenders in the area, or someone they had previously overlooked? After running investigations on numerous employees, Morgan inadvertently stumbled upon an omission that could make all the difference.

Rather than risk further run-ins with the Sheriff, Morgan and Lance try something very dangerous…which leads to success.

I literally held my breath through many scenes in this book, so I am definitely giving this one 5 stars.

***

REVIEW: A STRANGER IN THE HOUSE, BY SHARI LAPENA

Karen and Tom Krupp are happy—they’ve got a lovely home in upstate New York, they’re practically newlyweds, and they have no kids to interrupt their comfortable life together. But one day, Tom returns home to find Karen has vanished—her car’s gone and it seems she left in a rush. She even left her purse—complete with phone and ID—behind.

There’s a knock on the door—the police are there to take Tom to the hospital where his wife has been admitted. She had a car accident, and lost control as she sped through the worst part of town.

The accident has left Karen with a concussion and a few scrapes.  Still, she’s mostly okay—except that she can’t remember what she was doing or where she was when she crashed. The cops think her memory loss is highly convenient, and they suspect she was up to no good. 

Karen returns home with Tom, determined to heal and move on with her life. Then she realizes something’s been moved. Something’s not quite right. Someone’s been in her house. And the police won’t stop asking questions.

Because in this house, everyone’s a stranger. Everyone has something they’d rather keep hidden. Something they might even kill to keep quiet.

My Thoughts: A story that wrapped itself around me from the first page, A Stranger in the House takes us into the world of Karen and Tom, living in upstate New York in a lovely neighborhood. But then, one night, everything changed.

Karen’s accident in a sketchy neighborhood left her with amnesia, but also with detectives appearing on her doorstep regularly, asking questions, looking at her as if they don’t believe her. They even turn their skepticism on Tom. Because now it is not just an investigation into an accident, but something more happened that night, and Karen and Tom are both looking like suspects.

Across the street, Brigid is watching, too. Supposedly Karen’s best friend, she has secrets…and reasons to keep them. Why is she obsessed with Tom and Karen?

Besides the cops and the investigation, there is more. Who is skulking around in Karen’s house, moving things, messing things up just enough that she will know it?

I am one of those people who always knows when someone has moved my things, just a bit. It drives me mad! Karen cleverly has started taking photos before she leaves the house. What will she discover?

A captivating story that held me in its grip until the very end, not knowing who to trust and who might be the stranger in the house. Then came a stunning twist I did not expect. 5 stars.

***

REVIEW: HEARTBREAK HOTEL, BY JONATHAN KELLERMAN

 

At nearly one hundred years old, Thalia Mars is a far cry from the patients that child psychologist Alex Delaware normally treats. But the charming, witty woman convinces Alex to meet with her in a suite at the Aventura, a luxury hotel with a checkered history.

What Thalia wants from Alex are answers to unsettling questions—about guilt, patterns of criminal behavior, victim selection. When Alex asks the reason for her morbid fascination, Thalia promises to tell all during their next session. But when he shows up the following morning, he is met with silence: Thalia is dead in her room.

When questions arise about how Thalia perished, Alex and homicide detective Milo Sturgis must peel back the layers of a fascinating but elusive woman’s life and embark on one of the most baffling investigations either of them has ever experienced. For Thalia Mars is a victim like no other, an enigma who harbored nearly a century of secrets and whose life and death draw those around her into a vortex of violence.

My Thoughts: Heartbreak Hotel begins with an apparently straightforward meeting between Alex Delaware and an almost one-hundred-year-old woman, and then veers off into a series of murders, all seemingly connected to her in some way.

How did Thalia become so wealthy, when her career as a CPA seemed to suggest a more modest financial portfolio? Who are the seemingly nefarious people surrounding her through the years, and what, if anything, does a certain mobster have to do with her wealth? And with her death? Could an unsolved jewel heist in Beverly Hills bring in more possible suspects?

I always enjoy watching Alex and Milo work their cases, seemingly finding connections when others cannot. The author also shows us a peek into their personal lives, like Alex’s longstanding relationship with Robin, and their gorgeous house in Beverly Glen, and Milo Sturgis’s long term relationship with Rick, a doctor.

Sometimes I believe that Alex and Milo have nothing else to do but work on whatever case has taken over a particular book…but then we see them juggling other cases, too, forming a somewhat realistic picture of their days.

I started to get a little dizzy from all the possibilities in this book, but then as we began checking off the red herrings, I was almost ready to guess what person or persons in the past had come back to haunt poor Thalia. Almost. But there were some final surprises in this enjoyable book that earned 4 stars.

***

REVIEW: SUNDAY MORNING COMING DOWN, BY NICCI FRENCH

Psychotherapist Dr Frieda Klein once again finds herself in the midst of a criminal investigation when the rotting body of an ex-policeman is found beneath the floorboards of her house.

The corpse is only months old but the main suspect, murderer Dean Reeve, died over seven years ago.

As the killer picks off his next victims and her home is turned into a crime scene, Frieda’s old life seems like a hazy dream.

With eyes of the world upon her and no answers from the police, Frieda realizes that she will have to track this killer before he tracks down those she loves.

My Thoughts: I have been a fan of this series from the very first outing. Some readers find Frieda Klein to be unlikable, but I am not one of them. Yes, she is determined, and she pursues her goals, even when others disagree with her; she has no qualms about telling others when they are wrong. She is almost always right, too, which annoys the police.

She loves London, and her famous walks through the streets when she is trying to think, to solve a problem, are a big part of her routines. She is a bit obsessive in these routines, but as a reader, I take comfort in how she goes through her days following these patterns. I can count on her to take certain actions when others will not.

I also like how she enjoys her cozy mews house, so when this book opens with the discovery of a dead body under the floor boards of that house, we know that Frieda will be deeply affected.

But what happens next will be even more disturbing. Someone appears to be copying Frieda’s nemesis Dean Reeve, the perpetrator in previous murders that the police do not believe is still alive. Now her friends and loved ones are being targeted. That same Someone is sending Frieda a message. When she figures out who, someone the police have not even suspected, she has a hard time convincing them.

One more person, a police detective, almost dies before they finally get the message.

But will the perpetrator be captured? Will the police finally find Dean Reeve? The ending left me in a quandary. Is the series done, leaving so many loose ends? Or will there be another outing? No matter what, I loved this series and Sunday Morning Coming Down. 5 stars.

***

REVIEW: GIRL IN SNOW, BY DANYA KUKAFTA

When a beloved high schooler named Lucinda Hayes is found murdered, no one in her sleepy Colorado suburb is untouched—not the boy who loved her too much; not the girl who wanted her perfect life; not the officer assigned to investigate her murder. In the aftermath of the tragedy, these three indelible characters—Cameron, Jade, and Russ—must each confront their darkest secrets in an effort to find solace, the truth, or both. In crystalline prose, Danya Kukafka offers a brilliant exploration of identity and of the razor-sharp line between love and obsession, between watching and seeing, between truth and memory.

My Thoughts: Flowing back and forth in time, via alternating narrators, the life and death of a young teenager living in a small Colorado town is shown through the eyes of her watchers; and then we follow their meandering and introspective thoughts about their own lives.

Who were these watchers, and which of them could have taken her life? Or could the perpetrator be someone completely different, someone not on our radar at all?

Cameron was described by other students as a stalker and a boy most likely to bring a gun to school. Actually, he was a budding artist and loved drawing what he could see.

Jade is an abused girl, someone unafraid to push her way into the inner circles, only to be ignored or taunted. She believes that Lucinda stole her boyfriend. Throughout, we see snippets of her writing in the form of a screenplay.

Russ, a police officer, has some secrets from the past. He once had a partner named Lee Whitley, Cameron’s dad, whose actions led to an arrest and his disappearance from town. What had Russ been willing to do to cover for his partner?

Girl in Snow kept me engaged throughout, although it was sometimes difficult to connect with the characters; we saw them only in bits and pieces, and sometimes, like a shift in a kaleidoscope, we watched them morph abruptly into the past.

I was surprised by the reveal at the end, and while it made sense, there were no hints of this person’s culpability ahead of time. After the revelations, there were moments in which we saw the lives of the other characters as they started to move on. I did like knowing what was ahead for them. 4 stars.

***My e-ARC came from the publisher via NetGalley.