Review: Fear the Darkness: A Thriller by Becky Masterman

fear-the-darkness“Retired FBI agent Brigid Quinn knows how difficult it can be to overcome one’s past. But she is nothing if not a fighter. Even when the return of a serial killer from her past threatened to derail her new marriage, she managed to hold on to the life she’s been trying to build in Tucson with her husband, Carlo.

At first, the new challenges in her life seem pretty mundane compared to a serial killer. After her sister-in-law dies, Brigid’s nineteen-year-old niece Gemma Kate comes to live with her and Carlo, to establish Arizona residency before starting college. Brigid doesn’t exactly love the idea, especially since there’s always been something unsettling about Gemma Kate, but family is family. Meanwhile, Brigid agrees to help a local couple by investigating the death of their son—until dangerous things start to happen. As the menace comes closer and closer to home, Brigid starts to wonder if she can trust anyone.

After spending her career hunting sexual predators, Brigid has seen her share of evil. Nevertheless, the worst threats are not always easy to spot, even when they are right in front of you—partly because few people manage to be pure evil. But Brigid knows it’s what you don’t see, what you never expected, that can be the most treacherous… Becky Masterman’s Fear the Darkness is the masterful follow-up to the Edgar Award and CWA Gold Dagger finalist Rage Against the Dying.” – Publisher Summary

Brigid Quinn is back, y’all, and she’s better than ever! After taking on a serial killer from her past in Rage Against the Dying, the 59-year-old ex-FBI agent is now faced with a case much closer to home. After the death of Brigid’s sister-in-law, she and her husband, Carlo, bring her 17-year-old niece, Gemma-Kate, into their home until she is able to begin college at the University of Arizona. Almost as soon as Gemma-Kate arrives, however, strange things begin happening. As the peculiar incidents multiply, Brigid finds that the common link is Gemma-Kate and begins to wonder if bringing her into her home was such a bright idea after all.

Meanwhile, Brigid is asked to investigate the drowning death of a local teenager. While her goal is to help the dead boy’s mother find a sense of peace by discounting any suspicions of foul play, Brigid soon begins to question the circumstances of the boy’s death and the investigation around it. As she investigates, Brigid begins experiencing unusual physical symptoms that threaten to distract her from discovering the truth.

Becky Masterman has truly come into her own with Fear the Darkness, the second installment of the Brigid Quinn series. Brigid’s character has been more fleshed out, developing more of a personality than in the debut novel – a sardonic and humorous personality, at that. Masterman skillfully pierces Brigid’s thick armor to show us the changes she’s made in her new life with Carlos; even more captivating is the fear she shows when contemplating Gemma-Kate’s possible psychopathy – is this merely part of the darkness born within every Quinn, or something more?

Masterman weaves these storylines together with skill, laying false paths and creating multiple pools of possibility, until she pulls off a surprise reveal with a talent previously unsuspected by myself. As one who usually guesses “whodunnit” early-on in a novel, I was guessing until close to the end – which always earns points in my book. The feisty and tough Brigid Quinn is a heroine to be reckoned with, and I look forward to following her path through future additions to the series. Go and get you some, y’all!

Fear the Darkness: A Thriller by Becky Masterman: At a bookseller near you on January 20, 2015

4 stars

Source: St. Martin’s Press/Minotaur Books {via NetGalley}

 

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Review: As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust by Alan Bradley

as-chimney-sweepers-come-to-dust“Flavia de Luce: part Harriet the Spy, part Violet Baudelaire from Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events (The New York Times Book Review) takes her remarkable sleuthing prowess to the unexpectedly unsavory world of Canadian boarding schools in the captivating new mystery from New York Times bestselling author Alan Bradley.

Hard on the heels of the return of her mother’s body from the frozen reaches of the Himalayas, Flavia, for her indiscretions, is banished from her home at Buckshaw and shipped across the ocean to Miss Bodycote’s Female Academy in Toronto, her mother’s alma mater, there to be inducted into a mysterious organization known as the Nide.
No sooner does she arrive, however, than a body comes crashing down out of the chimney and into her room, setting off a series of investigations into mysterious disappearances of girls from the school.” – Publisher Summary/Goodreads

Flavia de Luce has been cast out of her beloved Buckshaw and sent away on a ship to a cold and unwelcoming Canadian boarding school.

“’Banished!’ the wild wind shrieked as it tore at my face.

‘Banished!’ the savage waves roared as they drenched me with freezing water.

‘Banished!’ they howled. ‘Banished!’”

Miss Bodycotes Female Academy – also the alma mater of Flavia’s late mother, Harriet – is no ordinary boarding school. Beneath its façade, Miss Bodycote’s has been training young women for nearly half a century to serve in a mysterious agency known only as The Nide. Aunt Felicity has made it clear that this is Flavia’s legacy, as well. Yet when she arrives, no one will speak of it or tell her anything – about anything! The only plus that Flavia can see is that her idol, the poisonous murderess Mildred Bannerman will be her chemistry teacher.

A Flavia de Luce novel would be nothing without a corpse, and one arrives quickly in the form of a skeleton wrapped in a Union Jack flag, dropping out of the chimney in Flavia’s room on her first night at Miss Bodycote’s. Instantly, the hunt is on as Flavia pockets a clue and begins investigating. Meanwhile, Flavia is also roped into searching out the answer to why certain girls at the Academy have been going missing over the years. Plenty of mystery here in Canada for our dear Flavia!

I was concerned about this novel, before reading it, because of my fondness for Buckshaw and the standard cast of characters I’ve come to know and love – but not to worry, y’all. There is plenty of mystery, suspense, fresh blood, personality, and fun to go around here at Miss Bodycote’s! Things are a tad disjointed at times because of the new setting and characters, but that Flavia de Luce magic is present in full force – and who can fight this girl’s quirks, charms, and personality? Not I, folks, not I.

As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust by Alan Bradley, the seventh installment in the Flavia de Luce series, is yet another shining star to add to the constellation of beloved novels Bradley has gifted us with over the last several years. Run, don’t walk, to grab this read for yourself.

As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust by Alan Bradley: At a bookseller near you on January 6, 2015!

4 stars

Source: Delacorte Press {via NetGalley}

 

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Review: The Curious Case of the Copper Corpse by Alan Bradley

the-curious-case-of-the-copper-corpse“Murder! the letter says, Come at once. Anson House, Greyminster, Staircase No. 3. How can Flavia de Luce resist such an urgent plea? After all, examining a dead body sounds like a perfectly splendid way to spend a Sunday. So Flavia hops upon her trusted bicycle, Gladys, whose rubber tires hiss happily along the rainy road, and arrives at her father’s mist-shrouded old school. There, a terrified boy leads her to the loo where, sitting in a bathtub, is what appears to be a statue. But, no: To Flavia’s surprise, the thing is in fact a naked dead man. Save his face, he seems to have been carved out of copper. Never one to shy away from the macabre, Flavia gets to work—only to find that when an investigation begins with a metallic cadaver, ever more curious twists are to be expected.” – Goodreads

As has become much the rage these days, the fabulous Alan Bradley had gifted his readers with a Flavia de Luce short story to whet our appetites just one month prior to the anxiously awaited publication of his most recent novel, As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust.

On a quiet Sunday afternoon, girl detective Flavia de Luce is summoned at home by a local schoolboy. His housemaster has been found dead – the same man that he had threatened to kill just days before. He needs Flavia to prove him innocent before he can be accused of his housemaster’s death. As always, Flavia is up to the task.

Flavia is brought to the scene of death, where she finds the deceased, naked, in a bathtub – completely covered in copper plating. Thankfully Flavia’s history as a chemist extraordinaire will be of great value in this curious case. It’s not long before she meets the rest of the boys in the dormitory, does a little snooping around the school campus, and – as always – nabs her man.

Unfortunately, it is glaringly obvious, after reading The Curious Case of the Copper Corpse, that for Bradley this was merely a homework assignment to be completed – without much effort on his part. The magic that follows Flavia de Luce is not to be seen in this short story, nor is it much of a mystery. I realize, that in 27 short pages, things have to move quickly – but could we not have been given more than 27 short pages to allow this tale to be more fleshed-out? For it’s length, and $0.99 price, I suppose we are getting what we paid for, and I shouldn’t complain. For I know, without a doubt, that when I crack open the cover for As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust, all feelings of dissatisfaction will fade away.

The Curious Case of the Copper Corpse by Alan Bradley. Read it today!

3 stars

Source: Personal Library

 

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Review: Fear Nothing by Lisa Gardner

fear-nothing“In #1 New York Times bestseller Lisa Gardner’s latest pulse-pounding thriller, Detective D. D. Warren must face a new fear as a serial killer terrorizes Boston.
My name is Dr. Adeline Glen. Due to a genetic condition, I can’t feel pain. I never have. I never will.
The last thing Boston Detective D. D. Warren remembers is walking the crime scene after dark. Then, a creaking floorboard, a low voice crooning in her ear. . . . She is later told she managed to discharge her weapon three times. All she knows is that she is seriously injured, unable to move her left arm, unable to return to work.
My sister is Shana Day, a notorious murderer who first killed at fourteen. Incarcerated for thirty years, she has now murdered more people while in prison than she did as a free woman.
Six weeks later, a second woman is discovered murdered in her own bed, her room containing the same calling cards from the first: a bottle of champagne and a single red rose. The only person who may have seen the killer: Detective D. D. Warren, who still can’t lift her child, load her gun, or recall a single detail from the night that may have cost her everything.
Our father was Harry Day, an infamous serial killer who buried young women beneath the floor of our home. He has been dead for forty years. Except the Rose Killer knows things about my father he shouldn’t. My sister claims she can help catch him. I think just because I can’t feel pain doesn’t mean my family can’t hurt me.
D.D. may not be back on the job, but she is back on the hunt. Because the Rose Killer isn’t just targeting lone women, he is targeting D.D. And D.D. knows there is only one way to take him down:
Fear nothing.” – Publisher Summary

Crime/Mystery series have long been a secret reading pleasure of mine – a preference leftover from my teen years, as a matter of fact. I have a few authors that I have been following religiously since that time, and a few that I discovered a little bit later in life. Lisa Gardner is one of the latter, and I’ve been a fan ever since. Fear Nothing is the 7th addition to the Detective D.D. Warren series (one of many series Gardner has created) and once again she has woven a tale of intrigue and suspense that will keep readers on their toes until the very last page.

Detective D.D. Warren of the Boston P.D. is re-visiting the crime scene of a grisly murder when she suffers a fairly debilitating injury that affects the use of her left arm as well as her memory of the event. Because her gun was discharged during this event, Warren is temporarily suspended from duty – but neither her suspension nor her injury keep her from participating in the murder investigation.

As part of the rehab process for her injured arm, D.D. crosses paths with pain specialist Adeline Glen. Adeline is somewhat notorious for a few reasons: she has a disorder that allows her to feel absolutely no pain whatsoever; her father, now dead, was the area’s most notorious serial killer; her sister has been serving a prison sentence since her teen years for murder, as well.

A serial killer is on the loose in Boston, and his crimes are eerily similar to those of Dr. Glen’s deceased father’s. As D.D. and her team race to track the murderous villain, Adeline – and D.D. herself – become targets. Will the mystery of the killer’s identity be solved in time to save them?

I will admit that this was not my favorite Lisa Gardner novel. There were some issues with the plot and the pacing was just a bit… off. Yet that does not prevent Fear Nothing from grabbing readers’ attention and taking us for an roller coaster ride through this exciting tale of suspicion and suspense!

Fear Nothing by Lisa Gardner: Read it today!

3 stars

Source: Penguin/Dutton {via NetGalley}

 

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Review: Murder at the Brightwell by Ashley Weaver

murder-at-the-brightwell“Amory Ames is a wealthy young woman who regrets her marriage to her notoriously charming playboy husband, Milo. Looking for a change, she accepts a request for help from her former fiancé, Gil Trent, not knowing that she’ll soon become embroiled in a murder investigation that will test not only her friendship with Gil, but will upset the status quo with her husband.
Amory accompanies Gil to the Brightwell Hotel in an attempt to circumvent the marriage of his sister, Emmeline, to Rupert Howe, a disreputable ladies’ man. Amory sees in the situation a grim reflection of her own floundering marriage. There is more than her happiness at stake, however, when Rupert is murdered and Gil is arrested for the crime. Amory is determined to prove his innocence and find the real killer, despite attempted dissuasion from the disapproving police inspector on the case. Matters are further complicated by Milo’s unexpected arrival, and the two form an uneasy alliance as Amory enlists his reluctant aid in clearing Gil’s name. As the stakes grow higher and the line between friend and foe becomes less clear, Amory must decide where her heart lies and catch the killer before she, too, becomes a victim.
Murder at the Brightwell is a delicious mystery in which murder invades polite society and romance springs in unexpected places. Weaver has penned a debut in the tradition of Jacqueline Winspear.” – Goodreads

Amory Ames is in the middle of a love/hate relationship with Milo, her husband of five years. After a whirlwind romance and marriage, Milo soon returned to his bachelor behavior – traveling to various exotic locales such as Monte Carlo, and is widely known as quite the playboy. Amory never knows when she will see him: when he’ll return home, or – god forbid – when he’ll be leaving again. When Amory receives a surprise visit from her former fiancé, Gil – the man she jilted to run away with Milo – and he requests a favor, she’s all ears. Gil wants her to accompany him to the Brightwell Hotel, near the seaside – but that’s not all. He wants her to to tell their fellow guests that she has left Milo and is there as Gil’s romantic interest. Gil quickly explains that he is trying to prevent his sister, Emmaline, from marrying her fast-talking playboy fiancé, Rupert Howe. His hope is that Emmaline will learn from Amory’s “mistake” and realize that marrying Rupert would be a grave error. Amory, who is thrilled to see Gil after all of this time – and who is angry and resentful toward Milo – happily offers her assistance, begins packing immediately, and the fun begins to flow.

When Amory and Gil arrive at the Brightwell to meet the rest of their party, Amory is not impressed – while thrilled to see her old friend Emmaline, she takes an immediate dislike to Rupert, as well as several other odd or unpleasant members of the party. The hotel, however, is gorgeous, and Amory is excited to be near the seaside – a welcome respite from the boredom and loneliness of the English countryside. The only downside to her stay at the Brightwell is the potential for scandal due to her association with Gil. To make things harder, Amory is faced with the task of sorting out her feelings for Gil, as well as for Milo. Is her marriage over? Is it time to call it quits and move on – possibly to Gil? Or does she still love Milo enough to stay with him and try to work things out? It’s a complicated matter, which becomes even more so when Milo arrives at the hotel to join the party. Amory’s decision-making is pushed to the side, however, when Rupert Howe turns up dead!

Gil is an immediate suspect – his distaste for Rupert is well-known, and there is incriminating evidence pointing in his direction. He is eventually arrested, to Amory’s shock and dismay. She vows to prove Gil innocent if it’s the last thing she does. Investigating Rupert’s death, however, exposes her to danger she didn’t expect – and when other members of her party start “dropping like flies” Amory realizes she may have bitten off a bit more than she can chew.

Murder at the Brightwell by Ashley Weaver is an absolutely delightful read. This is a light but interesting murder mystery with just enough playful banter added in to bring on a bit of a smile every few pages. I loved that the reader is kept guessing until the very end – I had made my guess much earlier in the novel, but doubted myself throughout, until I was rewarded in one of the final scenes with the true identity of the killer. The love triangle between Amory, Milo, and Gil was a very real one; the state of Amory and Milo’s relationship broke my heart – there were a couple of scenes between the two of them that had a few tears leaking out of my eye. I have to say I truly, truly enjoyed this reading experience and am so very hopeful that Ashley Weaver adapts this novel into a continuing series. She would have a faithful reader right here, and there is no doubt in my mind that she would find many, many more to spare.

Murder at the Brightwell by Ashley Weaver. Read it today!

5 stars

Source: Lincoln City Libraries

 

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Review & Giveaway: Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult

leaving-time“For more than a decade, Jenna Metcalf has never stopped thinking about her mother, Alice, who mysteriously disappeared in the wake of a tragic accident. Refusing to believe that she would be abandoned as a young child, Jenna searches for her mother regularly online and pores over the pages of Alice’s old journals. A scientist who studied grief among elephants, Alice wrote mostly of her research among the animals she loved, yet Jenna hopes the entries will provide a clue to her mother’s whereabouts.
Desperate to find the truth, Jenna enlists two unlikely allies in her quest. The first is Serenity Jones, a psychic who rose to fame finding missing persons—only to later doubt her gifts. The second is Virgil Stanhope, a jaded private detective who originally investigated Alice’s case along with the strange, possibly linked death of one of her colleagues. As the three work together to uncover what happened to Alice, they realize that in asking hard questions, they’ll have to face even harder answers.
As Jenna’s memories dovetail with the events in her mother’s journals, the story races to a mesmerizing finish.” – Goodreads

Oh, y’all. Y’all, y’all, y’all. Have I got the book for you. I do not know what is up with all the haters, because Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult (October, 2014) will positively curl your toes! In her most recent novel, Picoult has run off of the beaten path, straying from her usual successful formula (drama + courtroom drama + dramatic twist) and forged into new territory. Oh, and trust me, y’all – she has hit it. Out. Of. The. Park.

When Jenna Metcalf was three years old, a mysterious death occurred at the elephant sanctuary she and her parents lived on. That same night Jenna’s mother, Alice, disappeared, and her father was institutionalized due to mental illness. Jenna wound up in her grandmother’s care, although it’s not quite clear how that happened.

Now, at age thirteen, Jenna is tired of wondering where Alice is and is taking action. Her own detective skills can take her only so far, so she seeks additional assistance. Out of her limited options, Jenna chooses a washed-up psychic, Serenity Jones, and an alcoholic, ex-cop PI, Virgil Stanhope. Together. the trio works to solve the mystery of Alice’s disappearance and what exactly happened on that tragic evening ten long years ago.

As often happens in Picoult’s writing, this story is narrated by the various characters. Also woven into the narrative are Alice’s scientific journals and observations of elephant behavior. As the story advances, the layers begin to peel away and readers are introduced to many different theories as to the reason for Alice’s disappearance. As more and more pieces of the puzzle fit together, Jenna’s memory of the night in question – and the time surrounding it – begins to emerge. Slowly the smoke begins to clear until everything comes together in a shocking twist that the reader (aka: you!) will never see coming.

My favorite character by far was Serenity Jones. I had read about her previously in Picoult’s e-short story, Where There’s Smoke, a prequel to Leaving Time, which had left me all the more anxious to get to the actual novel. It was interesting to watch Virgil’s struggle against his own demons as he journeyed from despair and loneliness to having something to fight for as he joined forces with Jenna and Serenity. Readers also had a chance to meet Alice Metcalf in yet another e-short story prequel, titled Larger Than Life. As in Leaving Time, the observations of elephant behavior were a bit extensive and have been a cause of complaint for certain other readers, however, I found the extra detail informative and fascinating.

The big seller here, folks, is the ending. Ah-ma-zing. It absolutely blew me away, and that does not happen very often. As soon as I finished the novel, so much made sense to me. There were all of these little inconsistencies that had been bothering me from the prequels and all throughout the novel, and suddenly it all came together for me. I can’t wait to read this one again!

My only regret is that none of my friends are readers, so I have no one to gift with this novel! Thus, I am holding a book giveaway. One lucky reader will receive a brand-new, hardcover copy of Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult! The winner will be chosen at random, of course. To enter, you need to do three things:

  1. Follow this blog.
  2. “Like” Pathologically Literate on Facebook
  3. Leave a comment on this post stating your Facebook name, and the name of the book you’re currently reading.

And that is how you do it, folks. The giveaway will be open to entries until 11:59 PM on Saturday, December 6th, 2014. A winner will be announced on Monday, December 8th, 2014. Good luck!

{This giveaway is in no way associated with Jodi Picoult or Ballantine Books. It is furnished solely by me, myself, and I.}

Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult. Read it today!

5 stars

Source: Lincoln City Libraries

 

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Review: Gray Mountain by John Grisham

gray-mountain“John Grisham has a new hero . . . and she’s full of surprises

The year is 2008 and Samantha Kofer’s career at a huge Wall Street law firm is on the fast track—until the recession hits and she gets downsized, furloughed, escorted out of the building. Samantha, though, is one of the “lucky” associates. She’s offered an opportunity to work at a legal aid clinic for one year without pay, after which there would be a slim chance that she’d get her old job back.
In a matter of days Samantha moves from Manhattan to Brady, Virginia, population 2,200, in the heart of Appalachia, a part of the world she has only read about. Mattie Wyatt, lifelong Brady resident and head of the town’s legal aid clinic, is there to teach her how to “help real people with real problems.” For the first time in her career, Samantha prepares a lawsuit, sees the inside of an actual courtroom, gets scolded by a judge, and receives threats from locals who aren’t so thrilled to have a big-city lawyer in town. And she learns that Brady, like most small towns, harbors some big secrets.
Her new job takes Samantha into the murky and dangerous world of coal mining, where laws are often broken, rules are ignored, regulations are flouted, communities are divided, and the land itself is under attack from Big Coal. Violence is always just around the corner, and within weeks Samantha finds herself engulfed in litigation that turns deadly.” – Goodreads

Well. It’s about time, y’all. Twenty-one years after Darby Shaw’s shining debut in John Grisham’s The Pelican Brief, he finally introduces his readers to a new female protagonist: Meet Samantha Kofer, former associate attorney at a prestigious law firm in New York City, who has been displaced after the 2008 collapse of Lehman Brothers and the beginning of America’s most recent recession. Luckily, Samantha’s firm makes her an offer that most of her co-workers do not receive: work for free at a non-profit legal aid clinic for one year, and possibly be brought back to her former position at the exclusive Wall Street law firm.

Thus, Samantha finds herself in the middle of coal country: Brady, Virginia, population 2200. The staff of the Mountain Legal Aid Clinic – Mattie, Annette, Claudelle, and Barbara – welcome Samantha into their chaotic midst and introduce her to real-life law: working face-to-face with real people in real trouble, facing opponents in the courtroom, and fighting for justice. Samantha takes clients under her wing and fights for them – spurring investigations that, in coal country, can mean big trouble for her clients – and for herself.

To echo many others, Gray Mountain: A Novel by John Grisham (October, 2014) is primarily an “issue” novel – Grisham is making a strong statement about coal mining and its evils, specifically mountain-top strip mining and the destruction it brings about to both the environment and to the defenseless population of Appalachia. It is this statement, however, that takes over the novel and keeps it from becoming what it could be. I felt that there was potential for a great story here, but instead there were a collection of various plot lines, none of them especially pulse-quickening. Grisham’s writing is flawless as ever, of course, and Gray Mountain is still a good read, although die-hard Grisham fans might feel a tad disappointed. If you’re looking for a dazzling legal thriller, you might want to look elsewhere. If you’re looking for a good read about environmental issues relevant to the population today, you’re in the right place. You can check out the book trailer for Gray Mountain below:

Gray Mountain by John Grisham. Read it today!

3 stars

Source: Personal Library

 

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Review: Queen of Hearts by Rhys Bowen

queen-of-hearts“Lady Georgiana Rannoch, thirty-fifth in line for the British throne, knows how to play the part of an almost royal—but now she’s off to Hollywood, where she must reprise her role as sleuth or risk starring in an all-too-convincing death scene
My mother, the glamorous and much-married actress, is hearing wedding bells once again—which is why she must hop across the pond for a quickie divorce in Reno. To offer my moral support, and since all expenses are paid by her new hubby-to-be, Max, I agree to make the voyage with her.
Crossing the Atlantic, with adventure in the air and wealthy men aboard, Mother all but forgets about Max and matrimony—especially when movie mogul Cy Goldman insists on casting her in his next picture.
Meanwhile, I find myself caught up in the secret investigation of a suspected jewel thief. Lucky for me, the lead investigator happens to be my dashing beau, Darcy!
Mother’s movie and Darcy’s larceny lead everyone to Cy’s Hollywood home, where the likes of Charlie Chaplin are hanging about and there’s enough romantic intrigue to fill a double feature. But we hardly get a chance to work out the sleeping arrangements before Cy turns up dead—as if there wasn’t enough drama already…” – Goodreads

It’s 1934, and Lady Georgiana (Georgie) Rannoch is a cousin of the present King of England; she is also 35th in the line of succession for the throne. Although they are royalty, her family is near penniless and do not provide for Georgie. Because of her standing she is not allowed to work and struggles to support herself and her unorthodox maid, Queenie. When Georgie’s much-absent Mummy shows up and offers to bring her to America with her as she seeks a quickie divorce from a Texas multi-millionaire, Georgie jumps at the chance for some free travel and adventure. After all, what could go wrong?

The danger and intrigue begin on the luxury liner Queen Mary in the middle of the Atlantic, when it becomes clear that there is a jewel thief in the travelers’ midst. Shortly after a famous and expensive piece of jewelry is stolen, Georgie thinks she sees someone thrown overboard in the night – yet no one is missing, and she cannot prove her suspicions. Thankfully, it turns out that Georgie’s much beloved beau, Darcy, is hot on the trail of the jewel thief and close by should Georgie need him.

While travelling across the Atlantic, Georgie’s Mummy, Claire, is invited to star in a Hollywood film. After quickly filing for divorce in Nevada, she and Georgie hightail it to Hollywood to begin filming. When the cast and crew gather at the studio head’s home for a weekend romp, the defenseless guests are like fish in a barrel and a shocking murder has everyone running for their lives.

Fans of Rhys Bowen and her Royal Spyness Mysteries will not be disappointed with her newest addition to the series, Queen of Hearts (August, 2014). Georgie’s innocent charm shines as always, and Bowen marches her usual cast of historical characters through the pages as well, even introducing us to a young – and amorous – Charlie Chaplin in glamorous old Hollywood!

I’ve had the pleasure of reading the entirety of the Royal Spyness Mysteries series and I can safely say that Queen of Hearts is one of Bowen’s better ones to date. While each novel in this series can be read as a stand-alone novel, to be ensured the best experience you will want to read them all, and in order, if at all possible. Trust me, y’all – you won’t regret it.

Queen of Hearts: A Royal Spyness Mystery by Rhys Bowen. Read it today!

4 stars

Source: Lincoln City Libraries

 

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Review: The Missing Place by Sophie Littlefield

the-missing-place“Set against the backdrop of North Dakota’s oil boom, two very different mothers form an uneasy alliance to find their missing sons in this heartrending and suspenseful novel from the Edgar Award–nominated author of Garden of Stones.
The booming North Dakota oil business is spawning “man camps,” shantytowns full of men hired to work on the rigs, in towns without enough housing to accommodate them. In such twilight spaces, it’s easy for a person to vanish. And when two young men in their first year on the job disappear without a trace, only their mothers believe there’s hope of finding them. Despite reassurances that the police are on the case, the two women think the oil company is covering up the disappearances—and maybe something more.
Colleen, used to her decorous life in a wealthy Massachusetts suburb, is determined to find her son. And hard-bitten Shay, from the wrong side of the California tracks, is the only person in town even willing to deal with her—because she’s on the same mission. Overtaxed by worry, exhaustion, and fear, these two unlikely partners question each other’s methods and motivations, but must work together against the town of strangers if they want any chance of finding their lost boys. But what they uncover could destroy them both…
Sure to please fans of Sandra Brown and Gillian Flynn, The Missing Place is a moving chronicle of survival, determination, and powerful bonds forged in the face of adversity.” – Publisher Summary

Two young men have gone missing – on the same day – in Lawton, North Dakota, where the two friends work together on an oil rig. When their mothers cannot get satisfactory answers from the oil company – or the local police – they each head for Lawton on their own, intent on securing the answers to their questions about their sons. When mothers Shay and Colleen stumble upon each other unexpectedly, they decide to join forces.

The two mothers have not met before now: Colleen comes from a privileged background in Massachusetts. She has money and connections, and is skilled at communicating with the right people. Her missing son, Paul, keeps her at a distance due to her over-protective and sheltering ways. On the flip side, Shay, mother of the missing Taylor, is privy to inside information about the boys’ daily lives because of her close and loving relationship with Taylor. Shay is a single mother from the “wrong side of the tracks”; while she is brash and tends to be grating, her street smarts and determination to find Taylor make her an essential asset to the two women’s search for their sons. While Shay and Colleen have their missing sons in common, that is about it. Littlefield shines a light on the marked differences between the two throughout the novel and this provides for plenty of tension and even a little humor.

Much focus is placed on the oil companies and their practices in North Dakota, their relations with the Native Americans on the nearby reservation, and the conspiracies that have erupted within those dynamics. We are led down this path through much of the novel until offered an alternative theory much later in the book. Is it possible Paul himself did something to Taylor and is now in hiding? When the shattering truth is finally revealed, it is something that I, personally, did not see coming – and I have to say that is quite unusual for me.

The Missing Place by Sophie Littlefield is a mystery meant to shock and awe. I feel it fell short of this. The relations and bickering between Shay and Colleen appear forced and stereotypical much of the time, which grew to be tiresome for me. I was also a little bored with all of the oil company talk, although I understand that it was a major part of the plot so it could not be helped. The “page-turner plot twist” near the end of the boys’ ordeal was such a reach from the rest of the mystery that it did not ring true to me. It just didn’t all tie in together for me; Littlefield could have done a better job of this and I, for one, would have been much more captivated. Please don’t just take my word for it – The Missing Place is loved by many, many more readers than those who don’t. Based on the huge discrepancy of opinions on this novel, I would definitely have to say this is one case where it’s every man (and woman!) for him/herself! Go and get you some, y’all!

The Missing Place by Sophie Littlefield. Read it today!

2.5 stars

Source: Gallery/Threshold {via NetGalley}

 

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Review: First Impressions: A Novel of Old Books, Unexpected Love, and Jane Austen

first-impressions“A thrilling literary mystery costarring Jane Austen from the New York Times bestselling author of The Bookman’s Tale.
Charlie Lovett first delighted readers with his New York Times bestselling debut, The Bookman’s Tale. Now, Lovett weaves another brilliantly imagined mystery, this time featuring one of English literature’s most popular and beloved authors: Jane Austen.
Book lover and Austen enthusiast Sophie Collingwood has recently taken a job at an antiquarian bookshop in London when two different customers request a copy of the same obscure book: the second edition of Little Book of Allegories by Richard Mansfield. Their queries draw Sophie into a mystery that will cast doubt on the true
authorship of Pride and Prejudice—and ultimately threaten Sophie’s life.
In a dual narrative that alternates between Sophie’s quest to uncover the truth—while choosing between two suitors—and a young Jane Austen’s touching friendship with the aging cleric Richard Mansfield, Lovett weaves a romantic, suspenseful, and utterly compelling novel about love in all its forms and the joys of a life lived in books.” – Publisher Summary

Told in a two-part narrative set both in the present day and in the early 1800’s, Charlie Lovett’s newest novel, First Impressions, is a love letter to bibliophiles everywhere – and an intriguing literary mystery involving Jane Austen and the authorship of Pride and Prejudice.

Sophie Collingwood, self-professed bibliophile and Jane Austen junkie, has recently moved to London to live in the flat she inherited from her late, beloved Uncle Bertram. She is brought under the wing of one of Bertram’s close friends, an antiquarian bookseller who offers her a job in his store – unknowingly setting Sophie on a path of intrigue and danger. On her very first day of work, Sophie receives two requests for the second edition of a collection of morality tales by Richard Mansfield – something that appears to be non-existent. As Sophie is wined-and-dined by one of her customers and threatened by the other, she slips ever deeper into the mystery of finding this piece of work.

Meanwhile, back in 1796, a young Jane Austen makes the acquaintance of an elderly cleric, Richard Mansfield – and thus begins a beautiful friendship and literary partnership. Mansfield delights in serving as a sounding board and critic for Austen’s writing as their friendship deepens and blooms into a sort of innocent love as the months and years pass.

Other than Sophie’s obsession with Austen, these two plot lines are seemingly unrelated near the beginning and middle of the book. Things begin to mesh together as Sophie continues her hunt for the rare book she has been asked to find. While there is no way to know where Sophie’s search will lead her, we are eventually offered some clues from the secondary plot line involving Austen and Mansfield.

The more our two plot lines begin to entwine and make sense together, the mystery and tension surrounding Sophie picks up its pace. In questioning (fictionally) the authorship of Pride and Prejudice, Lovett creates a fascinating tale full of wonder and suspicion.  There are some unrealistic “coincidences” that occur; necessary, I’m sure, to steer the plot in the direction Lovett needed it to go. I did find the Austen plot line to be more compelling than Sophie’s; the prose was more inviting and the “love” story between Jane and Richard was touching. In all, this charming novel is sure to appeal to book lovers and collectors of all shapes and sizes, as well as those of you who are simply out looking for a good read. Go and get you some, y’all!

First Impressions by Charlie Lovett. Read it today!

4 stars

Source: Penguin/Viking {via NetGalley}

 

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