Posted in ARC, Book Preview, suspense, Thrillers

The Lost Boy by Jane Renshaw

Rod Clark is an avid birdwatcher. Another bird enthusiast, Anna, from his online birding group, offers him a free one-week vacation on her island/nature preserve off the Scottish coast. Rod is over the moon with excitement. His wife, Penny, not so much. Her concern is saving their failing transportation business. A week away is the last thing she wants.

Penny reluctantly packs up their two boys and heads off with Rod. While he treks off into the woods and along the rocky shoreline, Penny struggles to keep their two hyperactive boys in line while working remotely. Anna appears to be a very understanding hostess. She puts up with the boys’ rather destructive antics while harboring unstable thoughts. But after the older boy goes missing, it becomes obvious that someone besides Anna is keeping dangerous secrets.

The Lost Boy is a captivating thriller of revenge and suspense. I pretty much figured out the twist about a third of the way through the book, but I didn’t lose interest. I love the remote island setting and the way the characters are portrayed. The narration is omniscient, so you get to hear the inner thoughts of several people. This makes the book quite effective despite a fairly transparent plot line.

If you like the suspense and thriller genres, you may enjoy The Lost Boy. But I’d recommend not reading it on vacation in a remote area!

The Lost Boy, Jane Renshaw, Book Cover

My Rating 4 stars, Grade B

Thank you, NetGalley and Inkubator Books, for my Advanced Reader Copy.

Posted in Fiction, suspense

The Vacation by T.M. Logan

Publication Info: Expected publication date, July 21, 2020 by St. Martin’s Press. I read the pre-pub Kindle edition courtesy of NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press. Previous editions available from other publishers.

Summary: Several long-time friends, along with their families, go on vacation in a secluded villa in France to celebrate the women’s fortieth birthdays. They almost all carry secrets with them.

Sean and Kate are on this vacation with their teenage daughter, Lucy, and nine-year old son, Daniel. Recently, Sean has been acting oddly and Kate suspects he’s having an affair. Jennifer and Alistair are there with their two teen-aged sons, Jake and Ethan. Jake has a history of disturbing behavior. Izzy arrives alone, her fiance having been killed by a bus years ago, but she hints at a new illicit relationship. Rowan, the successful businesswoman whose client owns the villa, arranged the vacation, making her less wealthy friends feel both grateful and inadequate. Her husband, Russ, drinks too much. Their five-year-old- daughter, Odette, is the youngest of the group and the only one with nothing to hide.

Based on a text she saw on her husband’s phone, Kate spends most of her vacation obsessed with figuring out which one of her friends is having a relationship with her husband. But when she learns what is really going on, it is far more disturbing.

Comments: The Vacation is full of characters that I’m glad aren’t my friends. The most likeable ones were the two youngest children, Ethan and Odette. Reading it was like watching the proverbial train wreck. I really wanted to slap several of the adults for being selfish twits.

I really loved two other books that I read by T.M. Logan — Lies and 29 Seconds. While still a decent entry into the suspense genre, I felt that The Vacation wasn’t quite up to those standards.

My rating: 3.75 Stars

Posted in Beach Read, Psychological Suspense, suspense

The Safe Place by Anna Downes

Publication Info: Expected publication date July 14, 2020 by St. Martin’s Press/Minotaur Books. I read the pre-pub Kindle edition courtesy of NetGalley.

Summary: Emily Proudman’s life is a mess. She wants to be an actress, but struggles to get jobs. She’s klutzy. Her roommate is a slob. She fights with her adoptive parents. She suddenly gets fired from her temp job as a receptionist and gets an eviction notice from her landlord. As if all that weren’t bad enough, her agent informs her that she’s moving and Emily will no longer have any contacts for acting jobs.

While wandering in a daze trying to figure out what she’s going to do with her horrible life, she doesn’t see the bus that almost hits her. In shock, she realizes that the man who pushed her out of danger is the CEO of her former place of employment, Scott Denny.

Scott Denny is handsome, rich and very successful. When he offers her an unusual lifeline, Emily jumps at the chance. The job details are rather vague, something about assisting Scott’s wife and small daughter, but the job includes a salary, car and relocation to a villa in France. It sounds ideal. Daydreaming about Scott is also a perk for Emily.

Little does Emily know that Scott is trying to find a solution to a huge problem of his own. As she spends time with Scott’s family and works doing odd jobs at the estate, she realizes that there is something very peculiar going on. When she figures out the mystery, she tries to run for her life.

Comments: I figured out the mystery long before clueless Emily did, but I found The Safe Place to be captivating anyway. There was just the right amount of weirdness without resorting to too many cheap plot twists. The characters were overdrawn and overly anguished, but had quirks that made them interesting. Overall, this was a fun read and I found I didn’t want to put the book down.

Recommended for readers of Psychological Suspense. This would also make a great beach or travel book!

My Rating: 4 STARS

Posted in Beach Read, Best Sellers, suspense, Thrillers

The Guest List by Lucy Foley

Publication Info: I read the Book of the Month Club edition published in 2020 by HarperFiction. Other editions available.

Summary: Jules Keegan wants the perfect wedding. As a style and home magazine publisher, she has a few connections. When one wedding planner offered a deep discount in exchange for a magazine promotion, Jules snatched up the opportunity.

Jules is marrying Will Slater, a gorgeous, hunky TV reality show star. The couple haven’t known each other long, but on the surface they seem as well matched as a wedding cake topper. Family and friends are invited to gather on a small, remote island off the coast of Ireland for a night of celebration.

But when the alcohol flows and the guests mingle, they start sharing some dark secrets. Jules’ fantasy wedding becomes the most memorable night of her life, for all the wrong reasons.

Comments: The Guest List has a whiz-bang finale, parts of which I definitely did not see coming! I loved the format the author used. The book is composed of mini chapters that use foreshadowing as a very effective suspense-building technique.

Reading this book was like riding a roller coaster. It starts out interesting, slows down a bit in the middle, then takes off like a rocket, whipping you along screaming every second of the thrilling ride. Bravo, Lucy Foley!

The Guest List was just chosen to be one of two books on Reece Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine Book Club this month.

Highly recommended for readers of Suspense and Thrillers, although maybe not if you’re in the middle of planning a wedding!

My Rating: 5 STARS

Posted in Fiction, Psychological Suspense, suspense

The Better Liar by Tanen Jones

Publication Info: Expected publication date January 14, 2020 by Ballentine. Kindle pre-pub edition courtesy of NetGalley. Various editions will be available at the time of publication.

Summary: Leslie Voigt desperately wants her inheritance. Her father recently died and left her his house full of junk and fifty thousand dollars. The problem is that she can’t collect the inheritance without her sister, Robin, whom she hasn’t seen since she ran away as a teen.

Leslie finds her sister living under an assumed name in Las Vegas. The problem is that when she finds her, she’s dead of a drug overdose. Her sister was always getting into trouble and using drugs, so her death is not surprising, but it is inconvenient. Now how is Leslie supposed to collect the inheritance? She needs the money immediately and can’t afford to wait until everything goes through the courts.

Despondent, Leslie stops at a local cafe to ponder her options. When she leaves she sees a young woman, who introduces herself as Mary, perched on her car. The two women start talking and after a few more meetings, hatch a plan that will benefit both of them. It becomes clear that both women have secrets. Which of them is the better liar?

Comments: I’ll start with what I liked about The Better Liar. It was definitely a page turner and I finished it in just a couple sittings. I could easily picture the settings because I lived in Henderson/Las Vegas for three years and I’ve visited Albuquerque on several occasions. There were twists and turns along the way and the ending was definitely a surprise.

Now on to what I didn’t like and why my overall score isn’t higher. The ending of the book and the author’s afterward muddied the waters. The author wanted to get a message across–one that definitely deserves attention–and chose this book as a way to do it. In the end, it didn’t do either the book or the message full justice. It made the suspense fall a bit flat at the end and I felt that the message would have been better served in a different genre.

Now that I have you completely puzzled, go read the book!

Genre: Suspense, Psychological Suspense

My rating: 3.5 STARS

Posted in Psychological Suspense, suspense, Thrillers

Exhume by Danielle Girard (Dr. Schwartzman #1)

Publication Info: Published October 1, 2016 by Thomas & Mercer. I read the Kindle Unlimited edition. Other editions available.

Summary: A woman is found dead in a San Francisco apartment. The victim is arranged on the bed in a yellow dress with a bouquet of yellow flowers. Her brown, wavy hair is fanned out on the pillow. As medical examiner Dr. Annabelle Schwartzman examines the body, she finds a pendant necklace and nearly faints. The necklace is an exact match for the one she wears daily. The cross with Star of David design was a one of a kind item…and yet, here is another. Between the necklace and the yellow flowers, Anna knows her controlling, abusive husband has found her again.

Comments: I’m not going to say much more lest I give away too much of the plot in this thoroughly creepy thriller. Exhume grabbed me from the start because I also hate the color yellow. I’m not sure why–maybe I was frightened by something yellow as a child, but the use of this color definitely added an additional layer of terror to this novel.

The detailed descriptions of the autopsies reminded me of very early Patricia Cornwell books — just a bit of warning if anyone is squeamish about that sort of thing.

I got this book free from Kindle Unlimited. The other three books in the Dr. Schwartzman series are also available.

Recommended for readers of Thrillers and Suspense novels.

My Rating: 4 STARS

Posted in Murder Mystery, suspense, Thrillers

Someone We Know by Shari Lapena

Publication Info: Published July 30, 2019 by Pamela Dorman Books. Hardcover edition courtesy of my local library. Other editions available.

Summary: After his wife doesn’t arrive home from a shopping weekend with a girlfriend, Robert Pierce files a missing person’s report with the police. During questioning, Robert insists that he has a happy marriage and that his wife couldn’t have left of her own accord.

A teenage boy, Raleigh Sharpe, who lives on the same street as Robert Pierce has been breaking into neighborhood homes and hacking into their computers for the fun of it. After a ill-timed text from a friend gives his activities away to his mother, Olivia, Raleigh is in deep trouble. He confesses to his crime, but downplays the extent of it. He tells her he only broke into two houses — the Pierce home and that of a new neighbor, who is a lonely, nosy widow. Feeling guilty for what her son did, Olivia types up anonymous apology notes and drops them in the mail slots of the two houses. This starts a cascade of unintended consequences.

Meanwhile, Robert Pierce’s wife is found dead. The police now take the case more seriously as they have a murder on their hands. As they start asking questions, they learn that several of the neighbors are much too friendly with each other and there are multiple motives for murder. But which one killed Amanda Pierce?

Comments: I couldn’t put this nail-biter of a thriller down. I read Someone We Know in a single day–almost a single sitting. (My husband insisted I stop to eat dinner with him–the nerve!) I just put the author’s other thrillers on my reading list. They will make perfect travel, beach or trapped inside on a snowy day books.

Highly recommended for readers of Thrillers, Suspense and Murder Mysteries.

My Rating: 5 STARS

Posted in Beach Read, Humor, Popular Fiction, suspense, Thrillers

What Rose Forgot by Nevada Barr

Publication Info: Published September 17, 2019 by Minotaur Books. Hardcover edition courtesy of my local library

Summary: Rose Dennis wakes up sitting outside in a hospital gown and doesn’t remember how she got there. A young boy finds her wandering around dazed and dehydrated. Soon two men in white coats come and take her back to a facility where she is sedated.

As Rose drifts in and out of consciousness, she becomes aware she is in a memory care unit for early onset Alzheimer’s patients. She hears two people talking about her in the hallway — one of them says that Rose isn’t expected to live out the week. Deep inside her addled mind, Rose knows something is very wrong and begins to plot her escape.

Once she gets out, she contacts the two people she trusts: her teenage grand daughter and her older sister. Her sister, Marion, is an agoraphobic computer nerd and her grand daughter, Mel, is extremely resourceful. With Mel’s help, Rose heads to her house, the home she shared briefly with her husband until he died suddenly. Still full of unpacked boxes, the house is a temporary haven at best. She knows someone will be looking for her. When a man breaks in and tries to kill her, she realizes she must figure out who is behind the plot to get her out of the way before it’s too late.

Comments: This book was a lot more fun to read than the synopsis would suggest. What Rose Forgot is a bright and witty book in the usually tense and gloomy thriller genre. There are lots of unexpected wryly humorous twists and turns. It is obvious very early in the novel that there is nothing wrong with Rose’s mind and she becomes a very likeable main character — I’d love to have her as a neighbor!

Many years ago I read several books in Nevada Barr’s “Anna Pigeon” mystery series. This is a standalone novel. It was so much fun to read that now I want to go back and read her series again. I should start at the beginning because I have no idea which ones I read.

Highly recommended for readers of Thrillers and Suspense novels who are looking for something a little different. Mystery readers and those familiar with her other books may enjoy this too. I sure did!

My Rating: 5 STARS

Posted in Beach Read, Contemporary Fiction, Mystery, Police Procedural, Psychological Suspense, suspense, Thrillers

Lying Next to Me by Gregg Olsen

Publication Info: Published May 21st 2019 by Thomas & Mercer. I read the Kindle edition through Amazon’s Prime Reading

Summary: Adam Warner is out on the lake with his three year old daughter, Aubrey, when they witness a shocking scene on shore. Adam’s wife, Sophie, is suddenly attacked and hauled off by a strange man. Panicked, Adam rows to shore as quickly as he can but by the time he gets there, the man is gone–and so is his wife. The only witness to the crime is a nearsighted old man. Sophie is soon found dead on the beach.

Besides the cottage Adam is in, there are two others rented out. In one is a grandmother, watching her two very active grandsons. She was busy inside at the time of the incident. The other is rented out by a married couple, Kristen and Connor. The woman says she didn’t hear anything and the man was sleeping off an alcoholic binge.

The police investigate and, of course, the suspicion falls on the husband, Adam. But, Lee, one of the officers knew him from childhood. Adam found her after a she was abducted as a young girl and she just knew he couldn’t have done it. Adam was one of the good guys.

As the novel progresses, it becomes clear that more than one person may have had a motive for killing Sophie Warner, and that the motive for the murder is far more complex than it first appears.

Comments: Lying Next to Me is an engrossing, rapid-fire tale of murder and deceit. The reader is led to a conclusion about the murderer and then just knows there is more to come. And there is — in a stunning conclusion.

There was one part at the end that didn’t quite ring true, but it was about a secondary character and not important to the overall plot.

Recommended for readers of Mysteries, Psychological Suspense, Thrillers, Suspense and those looking for something for a long flight or the beach.

My Goodreads rating: 4 STARS

Posted in Beach Read, Best Sellers, British, Contemporary Fiction, Psychological Suspense, suspense, Thrillers, Women's Fiction

Twenty-Nine Seconds by T.M. Logan

Publication Info: Expected publication date Sept 10, 2019 by St. Martin’s Press. Pre-pub Kindle edition courtesy of NetGalley. Previously published in the U.K.: other editions available.

Summary: Dr. Sarah Haywood works hard at her job at the University. She really needs a promotion to a permanent position, as she is currently single mother. Her husband ran off with another woman to “find himself”, leaving her with two young children. Sarah works hard, keeps on top of her busy teaching schedule and even comes up with an idea for additional funding.

But all of this is threatened by one man, Professor Alan Hawthorne. Alan won’t let her — or any woman — get ahead unless they agree to his terms. At the university, Alan is untouchable. He has an impeccable public reputation on his BBC show. If a woman complains about his sexual harassment, she is disgraced and dismissed. When he steals Sarah’s ideas, she feels completely overwhelmed.

One fateful day, Sarah inadvertently does a good deed for a stranger. That stranger offers to make one person, any person, in her life disappear forever. Sarah must decide if the risks outweigh the consequences.

Comments: I couldn’t put this book down. I read until late in the evening, fell asleep, woke up and finished it. It absolutely had me gripping my Kindle until the very last few pages.

This is a very timely story of one man’s abuse of power and the fear he instills in others to keep his secrets. I know there are women out there who will relate to the situation, if not the solution.

Highly recommended for readers of Psychological Suspense and Thrillers. It would also make a terrific Beach Read and I’d love to see it on the best seller lists.

My Goodreads rating is 5 stars.