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.***

Advertisements

REVIEW: PROMISE NOT TO TELL, BY JAYNE ANN KRENTZ

 

A painter of fiery, nightmarish visions throws herself into the sea—but she’ll leave some of her secrets behind…
 
Seattle gallery owner Virginia Troy has spent years battling the demons that stem from her childhood time in a cult and the night a fire burned through the compound, killing her mother. And now one of her artists has taken her own life, but not before sending Virginia a last picture: a painting that makes Virginia doubt everything about the so-called suicide—and her own past.
 
Like Virginia, private investigator Cabot Sutter was one of the children in the cult who survived that fire…and only he can help her now. As they struggle to unravel the clues in the painting, it becomes clear that someone thinks Virginia knows more than she does and that she must be stopped.

Thrown into an inferno of desire and deception, Virginia and Cabot draw ever closer to the mystery of their shared memories—and the shocking fate of the one man who still wields the power to destroy everything they hold dear.

My Thoughts: Two children who had escaped a burning barn fire in Quinton Zane’s cult 22 years ago are reunited in the early part of Promise Not to Tell. Cabot Sutter was one of the children, and Virginia Troy was another.

Before Hannah Brewster’s death, she had been sending paintings to Virginia, who owned an art gallery. Something in Hannah’s latest painting, of which Virginia has a photo, stirs up some questions.

Anson Salinas heads up a team of investigators, and because he raised three of the children saved from that fire, including Cabot, he has a vested interest in learning more secrets.

Set near Seattle and on one of the San Juan Islands, the story captured my interest from the beginning. There was a great mix of mysteries from the past and current attractions that kept me turning the pages.

What do Cabot and Virginia learn after another fire reveals some previously unknown connections? Why do some of the people in a high tech company show signs of nefarious intent?

I loved the mix of mystery and the hint of future normalcy, which included glimpses of other connections, like Virginia’s grandmother Octavia.

The hint that Quinton Zane might still be alive hovers over the story, and near the end, there is a suggestion of more drama and mystery ahead. A captivating 5 star read for me.

***

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: LITTLE BROKEN THINGS, BY NICOLE BAART

 

I have something for you. When Quinn Cruz receives that cryptic text message from her older sister Nora, she doesn’t think much of it. They haven’t seen each other in nearly a year and thanks to Nora’s fierce aloofness, their relationship consists mostly of infrequent phone calls and an occasional email or text. But when a haunted Nora shows up at the lake near Quinn’s house just hours later, a chain reaction is set into motion that will change both of their lives forever.

Nora’s “something” is more shocking than Quinn could have ever imagined: a little girl, cowering, wide-eyed, and tight-lipped. Nora hands her over to Quinn with instructions to keep her safe, and not to utter a word about the child to anyone, especially not their buttoned-up mother who seems determined to pretend everything is perfect. But before Quinn can ask even one of the million questions swirling around her head, Nora disappears, and Quinn finds herself the unlikely caretaker of a girl introduced simply as Lucy.

While Quinn struggles to honor her sister’s desperate request and care for the lost, scared Lucy, she fears that Nora may have gotten involved in something way over her head—something that will threaten them all. But Quinn’s worries are nothing compared to the firestorm that Nora is facing. It’s a matter of life and death, of family and freedom, and ultimately, about the lengths a woman will go to protect the ones she loves.

 

 

My Thoughts: From the first page of Little Broken Things, I was captivated by the story of a child in hiding. Who was her mother? What about her father? And why did Quinn’s sister Nora bring this secret child to her in the middle of the night, with instructions to keep her safe, but with no answers to the big questions?

Quinn, married to Walker, has been wanting a child of her own, but it doesn’t take long for her to fall for this child called Lucy. Across the lake, Quinn’s mother Liz lives in the family home, staring at the little A-frame house she has rented to her daughter…and wanting to be a part of her life. She pushes her way in the next day, and discovers the child.

Meanwhile, Nora is still at large, and somehow her connection to her high school friend Tiffany becomes another piece of the story. How does the death of Tiffany’s aunt and guardian play a role in the unfolding story?

We watch as the alternating narrators tell bits of the tale, and I thought I had it all figured out…but at the last minute, we are thrown one more piece of the puzzle, one that changes our view of things…and now the broken pieces are starting to make sense. 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: 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.

***

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: THE CHILD, BY FIONA BARTON

As an old house is demolished in a gentrifying section of London, a workman discovers a tiny skeleton, buried for years. For journalist Kate Waters, it’s a story that deserves attention. She cobbles together a piece for her newspaper, but at a loss for answers, she can only pose a question: Who is the Building Site Baby?

As Kate investigates, she unearths connections to a crime that rocked the city decades earlier: A newborn baby was stolen from the maternity ward in a local hospital and was never found. Her heartbroken parents were left devastated by the loss.

But there is more to the story, and Kate is drawn—house by house—into the pasts of the people who once lived in this neighborhood that has given up its greatest mystery. And she soon finds herself the keeper of unexpected secrets that erupt in the lives of three women—and torn between what she can and cannot tell…

My Thoughts: Slowly the three women who are central to the story in The Child are revealed to us in bits and pieces. We do not know what, if anything, connects them. But they are all struck by the news of the infant. A baby that has been buried on the site for a number of years. The story takes us from the present to the past through alternating narrators, who show us moments in their lives and offer up thoughts, feelings, and clues to their histories.

Emma Massingham Simmonds is struggling every day, her mind a mess of anxieties, dark thoughts, and nightmares. Her husband Paul takes care of her, and she works at home as a book editor. But her conflicted relationship with her mother Jude seems to be at the heart of her emotional angst, and she has dark secrets that come to her in nightmares.

Angela Irving is still heartbroken over her lost infant Alice. Her husband and other children have given up on her constant grief. But she hangs onto her hope. Something about the buried baby calls to her.

Jude, Emma’s mother, seems worried about what might be discovered about that baby, and her mind flits to memories of her great love for a man named Charlie…and then her relationship with a professor named Will Burnside, whom she cannot forget. She seems to blame Emma for losing these “loves of her life.”

Kate Waters, the reporter, is such an interesting character who searches for answers, interviews people who lived in the neighborhood where the baby was found, and gradually finds herself drawn more and more to the women who all seem to have a personal interest in the story. Her ferocious pursuit despite discouraging moments kept me intrigued, as she met with numerous characters, many of whom were troubling and sometimes unreliable.

I loved watching how she pushed ahead to find the answers…and then, just when I thought she had it all figured out, a startling twist turned everything upside down. Suddenly, out of the confusion, the clarity came. An unputdownable novel that earned 5 stars.

***

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.

***