REVIEW: THE SECRETS YOU KEEP, BY KATE WHITE

 

What would you do if you realized that your new husband, a man you adore, is keeping secrets from you—secrets with terrifying consequences?

Bryn Harper, an accomplished self-help author, already has plenty to deal with. She’s still recovering from a devastating car accident that has left her haunted by recurring, smoke-filled nightmares. Worse still, she can’t shake the ominous feeling her dreams contain a warning. 

In the beginning, Bryn’s husband Guy couldn’t have been more supportive. But after moving into a new house together, disturbing incidents occur and Guy grows evasive, secretive. What the hell is going on, she wonders? Then, a woman hired to cater their dinner party is brutally murdered.

As Bryn’s world unravels—and yet another woman in town is slain —she must summon her old strength to find answers and protect her own life. Her nightmares may in fact hold the key to unlocking the truth and unmasking the murderer.

My Thoughts: What an exciting premise! I was captivated by the unfolding scenarios in The Secrets You Keep. There were so many characters to distrust that it was impossible to pinpoint who might be a murderer. But in the midst of it all, we also learned a lot more about some past events: the night of Bryn’s car accident and what her colleague, Paul, was trying to tell her, leading to understanding the disturbing elements of her nightmares.

From the beginning, I didn’t like Guy. He was too mercurial, with charming overtures that rapidly turned sullen; lashing out at the slightest questioning was another familiar reaction.

Eve, the caterer, was also blatantly unlikable, making her a target for my suspicion. There were also a handful of characters that I didn’t like, but who turned out not to figure into the murder mystery.

I was a little surprised that one of the annoying characters turned out to be the perpetrator, but I like not being able to guess everything right away. I would have enjoyed a closer look into Bryn’s world as an author, so I gave this one 4.5 stars.

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REVIEW: THE CUTAWAY, BY CHRISTINA KOVAC

 

The Cutaway draws you into the tangled world of corruption and cover-up as a young television producer investigates the disappearance of a beautiful Georgetown lawyer in this stunning psychological thriller, perfect for fans of Paula Hawkins and Gillian Flynn.

When brilliant TV news producer Virginia Knightly receives a disturbing “MISSING” notice on her desk related to the disappearance of a beautiful young attorney, she can’t seem to shake the image from her head. Despite skepticism from her colleagues, Knightly suspects this ambitious young lawyer may be at the heart of something far more sinister, especially since she was last seen leaving an upscale restaurant after a domestic dispute. Yet, as the only woman of power at her station, Knightly quickly finds herself investigating on her own.

Risking her career, her life, and perhaps even her own sanity, Knightly dives deep into the dark underbelly of Washington, DC business and politics in an investigation that will drag her mercilessly through the inextricable webs of corruption that bind the press, the police, and politics in our nation’s capital.

My Thoughts: The Cutaway was a gripping story that kept me fascinated throughout, beginning with the up close and personal look at how television news stories are developed, including the live shots and the video clips that bring a finished product to the viewers. The danger, the intensity, and the insider politics make the story even more compelling. Set in Washington, D.C., we also get an insider view of how corruption breeds within a system, including how funding PACs can be made up of “dark” money.

The characters were especially captivating, beginning with Virginia, whose skill kept me going. I also enjoyed her close familial-like ties with her staff, like Ben, the evening news anchor, who might have turned into a romantic connection. Then there were those like Isaiah, who had been around a long time, and who were loyal…but who could also be tempted to stray when their own careers seemed to be threatened.

Nick Mellay, the news director, was a weasel, IMO. Quick to think of his own needs above others, he turned Virginia’s job upside down, demoting her for his own reasons…carrying out his own selfish plan. Seeing him get a comeuppance was worth the read.

How will Virginia connect the dots when some of her sources have their own dark agendas? What will happen when she comes face-to-face with the killer? Will the story be worth all the drama? Many odd twists and turns finally bring a solution, but I didn’t guess the identity of the killer until she was right in front of me.

Definitely a 5 star read for me.

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REVIEW: RAINY DAY WOMEN, BY KAY KENDALL

 

Kay Kendall’s RAINY DAY WOMEN is the second book in the Austin Starr Mystery series. In 1969, during the week of the Manson murders and Woodstock, the intrepid amateur sleuth, infant in tow, flies across the continent to support a friend suspected of murdering women’s liberation activists in Seattle and Vancouver. Then her former CIA trainer warns that an old enemy has contracted a hit on her. Her anxious husband demands that she give up her quest and fly back to him. How much should Austin risk when tracking the killer puts her and her baby’s life in danger?
My Thoughts: Having enjoyed Book One in this series, I was eager to rejoin amateur sleuth Austin Starr. Following along in her adventures in Vancouver, I loved how the reader is introduced to the early feminist struggles via a women’s group.

As a backdrop to Rainy Day Women, the vernacular of the 60s, the music, and the Woodstock festival, along with the Sharon Tate murders, offer up a real taste of what life was like back then.

Austin is an interesting character, determined and skilled at following clues. She was also a little bit naïve, but she made up for it by pushing ahead fearlessly. Her husband, David, opposed to her activities, seemed to take on the thoughts and feelings of a lot of men back then, worried and overly-protective.

Larissa, the daughter of a Russian immigrant, Professor Klimenko, was different in this outing. Previously, while in Toronto, she had been awed by Austin, but in this setting, and probably because she was a suspect in her friend Shona’s murder, she seemed brusque and irritable.

As Austin accompanied Larissa to the women’s lib group, she met other friends of Shona’s, and also a few rivals in the group. How did Shona’s former roommate Mia fit into what happened to her? Were her brashness and her violent ups and downs a factor? How does Becky, another woman in the group, recently separated from her controlling husband, add to the questions Austin has? Did Shona’s ex-boyfriend Jack have a motive to have killed her? Or would the answers lie closer to home in the chemistry lab, with the graduate students?

I did enjoy watching Austin zero in on the killer, and in an exciting finale, bring justice for her friend and the other women in the group. In the end, there were also unresolved threads in the form of an ex-US Senator who had been tailing her. I can see a Book Three on the horizon. 4.5 stars.

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REVIEW: THE VANISHING YEAR, BY KATE MORETTI

 

 

Zoe Whittaker is living a charmed life. She is the beautiful young wife to handsome, charming Wall Street tycoon Henry Whittaker. She is a member of Manhattan’s social elite. She is on the board of one of the city’s most prestigious philanthropic organizations. She has a perfect Tribeca penthouse in the city and a gorgeous lake house in the country. The finest wine, the most up-to-date fashion, and the most luxurious vacations are all at her fingertips.

What no one knows is that five years ago, Zoe’s life was in danger. Back then, Zoe wasn’t Zoe at all. Now her secrets are coming back to haunt her.

As the past and present collide, Zoe must decide who she can trust before she—whoever she is—vanishes completely.

 

My Thoughts: From the first pages of The Vanishing Year, I was caught up in Zoe’s world, both the current charmed life and the one she escaped. I could visualize the criminals who might be pursuing her, even now.

As Zoe begins to experience moments in her present life that collide with the past, we learn more about who she really was…back then. About her adoption by Evelyn, about her birth mother, and the most shocking secret of all that comes when she meets her birth mother.

In her present life, there is her friend Lydia, with whom she worked in a small flower shop…before Henry.

Then there is Cash, a journalist who wrote an article about an event she produced…and who has turned into someone she trusts. Someone who is helping her. But he is someone Henry hates.

How do the strange and frightening events happening in her new life connect with the old one? Who has decided to target her and terrify her all over again? Why does Henry seem to monitor her every activity, and why is he enraged when she questions him?

I had my own ideas about who was behind a lot of what was happening to Zoe…and when the truth started to unfold, I realized that it was all a lot more convoluted than I had imagined. A book I could not put down, I give this one a resounding 5 stars.

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REVIEW: THE OTHER WIDOW, BY SUSAN CRAWFORD

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The car skidded and crashed, right after Joe Lindsay told his lover Dorrie Keating that they had to end their affair, that they were in danger.

Somehow Dorrie escapes the car unscathed, except for a small cut on her forehead. But Joe has died. His airbag failed to open, and after checking on his condition, she slipped out. She has a marriage and a daughter to protect.

So begins The Other Widow, a story set in Boston, and an intricate tale of deception, lies, secrets, and murder. A story populated with characters who were so engaging that I found myself rooting for them all. Except for one or two, of course.

Joe was co-owner of a company called Home Runs Renovations, and Dorrie was one of his up and coming employees. She had a head for numbers and a mind for putting facts together, so Joe had left her a little clue in a phone message. A link that took her to an individual, and some very big questions.

Karen, Joe’s wife, had just found out about his affair, but had not confronted him. On the day of the accident, she and her best friend Alice had been having a meal. She saw the wrecked car, and feared it might be Joe’s old Audi. Alone, desperate, she reaches out to an old friend, Tomas, whom she suspects might have feelings for her. She is not sure what she feels for him, though, and hesitates before going too far.

Enter Maggie Brennan, an investigator for the insurance company. A former cop who had also served in the military in Iraq, she is dedicated to finding answers. Nothing about the case feels right, and she is dogged and persistent.

Edward Wells, Joe’s partner, had been his friend since college. Karen had always believed he was someone who cared about her, someone she could trust. But somebody in the company has been doing something wrong. The numbers are off, suggesting embezzlement, and Karen cannot believe that the culprit was Joe. Despite his marital deception, he was basically a good person.

So…the three women are all separately seeking answers, and as their lives begin to intersect, and as they start uncovering bits and pieces of the truth, they each sense a presence: that someone is watching. Following. And in a startling moment, just before someone almost pushes Dorrie to her death, the truth begins to reveal itself. Who among the possible characters could have set all these events in motion? I was suspicious of one character all along, but another one was totally a surprise…until the end. And even then, I had some remaining doubts about another character’s involvement. Definitely a book I will remember and ponder, now that I’ve turned the final page. 5 stars.

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REVIEW: DESOLATION ROW, BY KAY KENDALL

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It was autumn in 1968 when their friend from the draft resister’s group was murdered in a church, the very place where they were supposed to gather for a meeting. The others had left, but Reg Simpson had gone back for his jacket. And that is when it happened.

David and Austin Starr had relocated to Toronto when they began to fear that David would soon be drafted. Not willing to actually dodge the draft, the two of them transferred to the University of Toronto and joined other resisters.

But life had a way of changing their plans for them when David was arrested for Reg’s murder. Austin believed that the police evidence was flimsy at best, so she set out to find answers. But soon she became the target of someone sending threatening letters and warning her to stop investigating.

Desolation Row was a story that intrigued me, mostly because of the times. I remember them well, being in university when young men were being drafted for the War in Vietnam that many strongly opposed. I also enjoyed recalling what life was like before technology, as Austin’s search for a pay phone on the night of the murder kept her from arriving at the church on time. And throughout her investigation, the absence of readily available phones added to the intensity.

Austin was not yet comfortable in Canada, not sure if their adopted country could ever feel like home. Especially since she had started to distrust law enforcement for rushing to judgment. By the end of the story, however, and as Austin stumbled upon various clues that led to solving the murder, she began to feel as if she could finally adjust.

I was pleased to learn that this book was the first in a series, so I’m off to find Book 2. 4.5 stars.

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REVIEW: SCANDAL IN SKIBBEREEN, BY SHEILA CONNOLLY

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In Book Two of the County Cork series, Scandal in Skibbereen, we connect with Maura Donovan again, as she runs the pub in Leap. The very pub she inherited from an old friend of her grandmother’s. The characters from the first book rejoin us, from Bridget Nolan to Old Willie. Rose, the teenage daughter of Jimmy, still helps out in the pub, and Jimmy has not lost his attitude.

An American woman, Althea Melville, comes into the pub early in the week, and from her clothes and her demanding tone, Maura concludes that she is probably from Manhattan. Soon Althea’s interest is revealed, and despite the entitled way she goes about making requests, Maura finds herself helping the woman, who is looking for a painting. A famous one, at that, and she immediately realizes that it might be at Mycroft House, where the Townsends live. In fact, Eveline Townsend, an elderly woman is the only one in residence now, except for her caretakers, Tom and Florence O’Brien, and a gardener named Seamus Daly.

Harry Townsend, her nephew, comes down regularly, though, to check up on her. An artist, who also spends summers in the village, Gillian Callanan, joins the group that has been drawn into the mystery of the painting.

On the same night that Althea arrives, Seamus Daly is killed and found dead the next morning. Sean Murphy, a detective, begins investigating, and in the ensuing pages, we learn a lot more about the inhabitants of this small village, and more about the art world.

I loved how the author’s descriptions of the characters, the village, and how things are done in Ireland seemed to wrap themselves around the reader and kept me intrigued throughout. Solving a murder mystery and an art mystery as well was an engaging way to capture this reader. 4.5 stars.

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REVIEW: WHEN ALL THE GIRLS HAVE GONE, BY JAYNE ANN KRENTZ

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In the opening pages of When All the Girls Have Gone, an unidentified killer waits for revenge. Soon the target appears, Gordon Greenslade, owner of the second largest employer in the town of Loring, Washington. He sees the killer, and apparently it is someone he knows, as he does nothing to ward off what happens. He is shot and killed in what will later be ruled a hunting accident.

Fast forward to the Rainy Creek Gardens Retirement Village, where Charlotte Sawyer is leading a Write Your Life workshop. After several previous jobs in Oregon, she has moved to Seattle, where her stepsister Jocelyn lives, and she is settling in nicely. Her recent devastating break-up with her fiancé, five days before the wedding, could have sent her into a tailspin. But support and a new purpose are helping.

As Charlotte is leaving work for the day, a man approaches and asks about the availability of units, as he is searching for a place for his grandmother. She responds with suggestions, and as she walks away, she looks back, only to find him staring after her. Red flag?

From the eerie first pages to what happens next, the story ratchets up with a murder of one of Jocelyn’s friends, Louise Flint, in what looks like a drug overdose. But Louise’s cousin, Daniel Flint, doesn’t believe that conclusion, and hires Max Cutler, a former profiler turned PI, to look into the matter.

Somehow, Charlotte and Max cross paths, because Louise was a friend of Jocelyn’s…and now Jocelyn, who was supposedly at a tech-free retreat, had received a package at her condo, where Charlotte was watering the plants and checking the mail. It was a package from Louise with a secret message. Charlotte wants to know more about the sender, but discovering her death sets off more alarms.

What is the connection between Jocelyn, Louise, Victoria, Emily, and Madison…all of whom belong to a mysterious investment club that might be a front for something else? Charlotte joins forces with Max to uncover what led to Louise’s death, and the trail takes them both to Loring, Washington, and to some assault cases and a rapist who might have progressed to murder. Will they find the answers before the girls in the club are all dead?

There were so many layers to the story, and whenever the mysteries and secrets seemed close to being uncovered, something else would happen to change up the scenario. How do all of the connections lead back to people in Loring, especially those who might have been bought? People who have secrets too hot to see the light of day?

A page turner that was full of mystery, secrets, some romantic moments, and fleshed out characters that were fascinating and often troubled, one theme stood out: The past has a way of coming forward into the present, and this 5 star read was another very satisfying story from this author.

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BOOKISH FRIDAY: “WHEN ALL THE GIRLS HAVE GONE”

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Welcome to another Bookish Friday, in which I  share excerpts from books…and connect with other bloggers, who do the same.

Let’s begin the celebration by sharing Book Beginnings, hosted by Rose City Reader; and let’s showcase The Friday 56 with Freda’s Voice.

To join in, just grab a book and share the opening lines…along with any thoughts you wish to give us; then turn to page 56 and excerpt anything on the page.

Then give us the title of the book, so others can add it to their lists!

What a great way to spend a Friday!

Today’s featured book is a recent download from an author I enjoy.  When All the Girls Have Gone, by Jayne Ann Krentz, is a thrilling novel of the deceptions we hide behind, the passions we surrender to, and the lengths we’ll go to for the truth…

 

 

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Beginning:  The killer waited patiently for the target to emerge from the cabin.

There was no great rush, after all.  The waiting allowed time to savor the prospect of revenge.

It was rather pleasant sitting there, propped against a mossy tree, rifle at the ready.  High summer in the Cascades was a very enjoyable time of year.

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56:  The phone went dead in Max’s hand.  He set it on the old wooden table and looked out the kitchen window.  A light Seattle drizzle was soaking the quiet neighborhood.  He could see the glow of a television set behind the curtains of the little Victorian down the street.

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Synopsis:  When Charlotte Sawyer is unable to contact her stepsister, Jocelyn, to tell her that one of her closest friends was found dead, she discovers that Jocelyn has vanished.

Beautiful, brilliant—and reckless—Jocelyn has gone off the grid before, but never like this. In a desperate effort to find her, Charlotte joins forces with Max Cutler, a struggling PI who recently moved to Seattle after his previous career as a criminal profiler went down in flames—literally. Burned out, divorced and almost broke, Max needs the job.

After surviving a near-fatal attack, Charlotte and Max turn to Jocelyn’s closest friends, women in a Seattle-based online investment club, for answers. But what they find is chilling…

When her uneasy alliance with Max turns into a full-blown affair, Charlotte has no choice but to trust him with her life. For the shadows of Jocelyn’s past are threatening to consume her—and anyone else who gets in their way…

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I’m enjoying this one, with the Seattle setting, the mysterious happenings, and the characters that feel real to me.  What do you think?

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SEND IN THE CLOWNS, BY JULIE MULHERN

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If only Grace hadn’t missed curfew that night. Then her mother, Ellison Russell, wouldn’t have gone to the Halloween haunted house to find her.

Stumbling into the creepy interior, Ellison is stunned when a clown, who seems to be bleeding, calls out her name…and falls into her. Dead.

Standing behind him is another clown, who quickly disappears.

Thus begins another tale that seemingly places Ellison in the recurring position of finding dead bodies. She calls Detective Anarchy Jones, who by now is a good friend and possibly a potential lover who believes her story…and even when the body is no longer there, he sets off to find it.

Send in the Clowns was another delightful story in the Country Club Murder series, and, as always, I found Ellison funny and engaging. As the mother of a teenager, she has her quips down pat. She can ground her daughter without losing a beat…or her sense of humor. She regularly converses with her Mr. Coffee, which she believes is the only reliable “male” in her life. She is annoyed that her father, as well as another potential suitor, Hunter Tafft, and the ubiquitous Anarchy Jones, all seem to want someone to manage her. She would prefer to manage her own life.

In her country club set, she has friends…while others are judgmental gossips. Her best friend Libba is dating a man, Jay Fitzhugh, whom Ellison has decided is too boring for words, and not good enough for her. Could the feeling she has about him signify something else?

Solving the mystery of who killed the “clown,” who turns out to be a young man named Brooks Harney— a disappointment to his wealthy family, but who seemed to be turning his life around, and just in time for his inheritance—kept me turning pages, even after I started to suspect a number of possible individuals. Could one of Brooks’ siblings have killed him? Or could someone from the drug world he was leaving behind have targeted him? The eventual reveal surprised me, but then again, not entirely. 5 stars.

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