REVIEW: FOLLOW ME, BY KATHLEEN BARBER

Everyone wants new followers…until they follow you home.

Audrey Miller has an enviable new job at the Smithsonian, a body by reformer Pilates, an apartment door with a broken lock, and hundreds of thousands of Instagram followers to bear witness to it all. Having just moved to Washington, DC, Audrey busies herself impressing her new boss, interacting with her online fan base, and staving off a creepy upstairs neighbor with the help of the only two people she knows in town: an ex-boyfriend she can’t stay away from and a sorority sister with a high-powered job and a mysterious past.

But Audrey’s faulty door may be the least of her security concerns. Unbeknownst to her, her move has brought her within striking distance of someone who’s obsessively followed her social media presence for years—from her first WordPress blog to her most recent Instagram Story. No longer content to simply follow her carefully curated life from a distance, he consults the dark web for advice on how to make Audrey his and his alone. In his quest to win her heart, nothing is off-limits—and nothing is private.

 

From the very beginning of Follow Me, I knew that the story of Audrey would be creepy and probably would not end well. Who would so openly announce her every move, every thought, and even every wish? Certainly not a savvy young woman who should know better. But there is something completely narcissistic about Audrey that could be her undoing.

Alternating narrators tell the story of Audrey and Cat, Audrey’s somewhat pathetic friend, alongside the tale of an obsessive stalker who was seemingly everywhere, but then completely nowhere when the police are called. Could their paths have crossed in some innocent way over the years and could he be someone destined to be her true love?

At times I was frustrated with Audrey’s blatant self-obsession, those actions that kept her in the eye of danger. It would be inevitable that these characters’ paths would cross in a tragic way.

I kept turning the pages, despite the parts that seemed to slog, until the intense end that left me wondering what might happen next. 4.5 stars.***

REVIEW: THE GOOD NEIGHBOR, BY A. J. BANNER

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Shadow Cove, Washington, is the kind of town everyone dreams about—quaint streets, lush forests, good neighbors. That’s what Sarah thinks as she settles into life with her new husband, Dr. Johnny McDonald. But all too soon she discovers an undercurrent of deception. And one October evening when Johnny is away, sudden tragedy destroys Sarah’s happiness.

Dazed and stricken with grief, she and Johnny begin to rebuild their shattered lives. As she picks up the pieces of her broken home, Sarah discovers a shocking secret that forces her to doubt everything she thought was true—about her neighbors, her friends, and even her marriage. With each stunning revelation, Sarah must ask herself, Can we ever really know the ones we love?

My Thoughts: From the first moments of sheer terror in the prologue to the slowly unfolding secrets and tragedies of the following pages, The Good Neighbor captured me. The setting in Shadow Cove was the perfect place to start a home and family, and the neighborhood with seemingly friendly people made it just the kind of place Sarah and her husband Johnny had been seeking.

But Sarah, a writer of children’s books, starts to feel a niggling doubt almost immediately. It starts with the next door neighbors, Chad and Monique. Monique’s seductive ways hint at more beneath the surface when she whispers to the men in the room.

Several strange phone calls suggest a stalker, but Sarah also fears that her husband has been unfaithful to her.

Why does the realtor, Eris Coghlan, come across as a little bit too accommodating? What about the flirtatious way that Theresa Minkowski, another neighbor, seems to behave around Johnny? Is Sarah just insecure, or is there more going on?

I was surprised, but not totally stunned when events unfolded as they did, and I had little trouble figuring things out. On the last page, however, another whopper was unleashed, reminding us that secrets just keep coming once the genie is released from the bottle. 4 stars.

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REVIEW: BLOOD RED, BY WENDY CORSI STAUB

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In Mundy’s Landing, on the banks of the Hudson River, a gruesome heritage lurks. The Sleeping Beauty murders of 1916 are memorialized by the Historical Society, and have become legendary.

Rowan Mundy is married to Jake, descendant to some of the more famous (or infamous) Mundys, but Jake and Rowan are upstanding citizens. Parents, professionals, and contributing members of the community.

Their three children, Blake, Katie, and Mitch, are their pride and joy, even though Mitch is sometimes as troubled as Rowan recalls herself to be as a teenager. But nowadays, Rowan is a fourth-grade teacher in the school that she herself attended.

Rowan’s red hair has become the focus of an unknown person, a stalker, and possibly the man murdering young red-haired women throughout the Tri-State area.

Blood Red: Mundy’s Landing Book One has multiple narrators, including Rowan, her sister Noreen, her youngest son Mick, and a stalker called “Casey,” although it isn’t long before we suspect that there is much more to “Casey” than we can tell from his narrative.

Fourteen years ago, Rowan had a brief encounter with Rick Walker, the next door neighbor, and while their interaction was mostly kissing, she is still troubled by what happened.

When she starts receiving anonymous packages, beginning with a box of burnt cookies, symbolic of that afternoon encounter, she begins to suspect Rick. But as more and more time passes, along with some very strange incidents, we realize that Rowan is in danger…and the mysterious narrator is somehow involved.

Who is Casey? And what, if anything, does Rick have to do with these events?

Numerous characters suddenly look suspicious, and before long, we begin to think that the killer could be someone very close to Rowan. But who? And as more bodies pile up, NYPD detectives also become involved, and they are zeroing in on Mundy’s Landing. I enjoyed this page-turning mystery with characters that felt so real they might have been neighbors or friends, and can easily award 4.5 stars.