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.

***
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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.

***

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.

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BOOKISH FRIDAY: “RAINY DAY WOMEN”

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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!

Wow, Friday already!  I’m excited to celebrate with a fairly recent download:  Rainy Day Women (e-book), (Austin Starr #2),  by Kay Kendall.   “An exciting jaunt back to the days of flower power and Women’s Lib, Kay Kendall’s RAINY DAY WOMEN explores serious issues that still resonate today, nearly fifty years later. “

 

 

 

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Beginning:  I stood, careful not to make any noise, afraid to waken the sleeping ogre.  If his constant twitches were any indication, he was only dozing.  If he woke up, he’d be a real beast and leave me no peace.

My bare feet inched along the floorboards.  I knew where the squeaky spots lurked and avoided them.

***

56%:  A tear trickled down my left cheek.

“Are you okay, Austin?”  Mia’s voice was gentle.  “What’s bringing you down? You seemed happy and spunky only minutes ago.”

***

Blurb:  Kay Kendall’s second Austin Starr mystery will have you believing it’s 1969 all over again. In a book where the musical references mean you’ll find yourself humming tunes now known as “classic vinyl,” Kendall peppers her work with references to the times which make the decades disappear – and she respects her readers enough to not overdo it. Her sense of place as she allows the mystery to unfold within Vancouver’s University of British Columbia, beset by the rain for which the “wet” coast is known, is pitch perfect. Hot diggity – a thoroughly enjoyable read. Now I’m off to dig out my Bob Dylan albums and find an old bra I can burn.”
– Cathy Ace, Author of The Cait Morgan Mysteries, and the WISE Enquiries Agency Mysteries

“Feminism, the ’60s, murder, and a friend in big trouble. Austin Starr is back to help, leaving her husband behind but bringing her baby along. Rainy Day Women is an entertaining and fast-paced mystery set in a turbulent time. Right on!”
– Bill Crider, Anthony Award-winning author of The Sheriff Dan Rhodes Mystery Series

***

What do you think?  Would you like a flashback to the 60s?  Do the “changin’ times” resonate with you?

***

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.

ratings-worms-4-cropped***

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.

cropped again 5***

BOOKISH FRIDAY: “THE DOLLHOUSE”

Married to Books-BOOKISH LOGO

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 better way to spend a Friday!

Today I am featuring a recent download.  The Dollhouse, by Fiona Davis, is a stunning debut novel that pulls readers into the lush world of New York City’s glamorous Barbizon Hotel for Women, where in the 1950’s a generation of aspiring models, secretaries, and editors lived side-by-side while attempting to claw their way to fairy-tale success, and where a present-day journalist becomes consumed with uncovering a dark secret buried deep within the Barbizon’s glitzy past.

 

 

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Beginning:  New York City, 2016

She’d forgotten the onions.

After all the preparation, the lists, the running out of work early to finish shopping and buy everything she needed for their special dinner, Rose had forgotten a key risotto ingredient.  She checked the pantry, but the basket was empty save for a few remnants of the papery outer layers.

***

56:  Darby wasn’t so sure.  The place was frightening, and she scanned the exits, wondering which was the quickest way out in case there was a fire or a fight.  All these people pressed together, in the smoke and darkness, made her heart beat faster and her mouth grow dry in panic.

***

Synopsis:  When she arrives at the famed Barbizon Hotel in 1952, secretarial school enrollment in hand, Darby McLaughlin is everything her modeling agency hall mates aren’t: plain, self-conscious, homesick, and utterly convinced she doesn’t belong—a notion the models do nothing to disabuse. Yet when Darby befriends Esme, a Barbizon maid, she’s introduced to an entirely new side of New York City: seedy downtown jazz clubs where the music is as addictive as the heroin that’s used there, the startling sounds of bebop, and even the possibility of romance.

Over half a century later, the Barbizon’s gone condo and most of its long-ago guests are forgotten. But rumors of Darby’s involvement in a deadly skirmish with a hotel maid back in 1952 haunt the halls of the building as surely as the melancholy music that floats from the elderly woman’s rent-controlled apartment. It’s a combination too intoxicating for journalist Rose Lewin, Darby’s upstairs neighbor, to resist—not to mention the perfect distraction from her own imploding personal life. Yet as Rose’s obsession deepens, the ethics of her investigation become increasingly murky, and neither woman will remain unchanged when the shocking truth is finally revealed.

***

What do you think?  Are you intrigued?  I like the dual time lines, and can’t wait to find out what the present day characters discover about the past.

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BOOKISH FRIDAY: “THE TRUTH-TELLER’S LIE”

BOOKISH FRIDAY LOGO

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 better way to spend a Friday!

Today’s featured book is one from a favorite mystery author:  The Truth Teller’s Lie, by Sophie Hannah, is “a superbly creepy, twisty thriller” (The Times (London)) by the internationally best-selling author of The Other Woman’s House and The Wrong Mother…

 

 

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Beginning:  (2006:  Monday, April 3)

I could explain, if you were here to listen.  I am breaking my promise to you, the only one you ever asked me to make.  I’m sure you remember.  There was nothing casual about your voice when you said, “I want you to promise me something.”

***

56:  At no point had she taken a step back into the house.  She stood right on the threshold.  Behind her, in the hall, Simon could see a light-brown ribbed carpet, a red telephone on a wooden table, a scattering of shoes, trainers and boots.

***

Synopsis:  Naomi Jenkins knows all about secrets: three years ago something so terrible happened to her that she’s never told anyone about it. Now, Naomi has another secret: her relationship with the unhappily married Robert Haworth. When Robert vanishes without explanation, Naomi knows he must have come to harm. But the police are less convinced, particularly when Robert’s wife insists he is not missing. In desperation, Naomi decides that if she can’t persuade the detectives that Robert is in danger, she’ll convince them that he is a danger to others. Naomi knows how to describe the actions of a psychopath; all she needs to do is dig up her own traumatic past.

The second book in Sophie Hannah’s beloved Zailer and Waterhouse series, The Truth-Teller’s Lie is a chillingly smart suspense novel sure to appeal to fans of Tess Gerritsen and Gillian Flynn.

***

What do you think?  I am quite hooked on this series, but it’s been a while since I read one of them.

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