After leaving a California psychiatric prison, Sean Suh relocates to Austin, Texas, where he spends his days drawing people and their auras at a local Disneyland knockoff. A girl with a copper aura tempts him despite his understanding that he need protect her from himself. He witnesses her kidnapping, but no one believes him based on his mental health and conviction record, and suspicion falls more heavily on him as he conducts his own investigation. He learns interesting things about this girl he has immediately fallen for, but he could not have foreseen who did it. Heard brilliantly leads the reader through Sean’s emotional turmoil at each new piece of information; this could well be a manual for becoming a serial killer. Flashbacks from Annabelle’s point of view would have given her more depth. Being privy to Sean’s thoughts exposed his internal struggle, a fascinating insight that almost (but not quite) invokes compassion. Fans of Liane Moriarty and Gillian Flynn will appreciate this novel. I was fortunate to receive a digital copy of this fantastic thriller from the publisher through NetGalley.
Christine and Marcus want a baby so much that they use a sperm donor. Pregnant Christine sees their donor on the news being arrested for multiple murders. Against Marcus’ wishes, she visits him and helps him with his defense. She vacillates between thinking him innocent and guilty, believing he is her sperm donor and desperately wanting him to be a good person.
Scottoline’s standalone novels are as twisty and turny as her lawyer series. Her unique storylines are compelling and emotional. As in most of her books, Scottoline’s protagonist proceeds on her mission with confidence despite those she loves disagreeing with her. Christine relies on her best friend when her husband opposes her. She does what she believes is moral and ethical.
Readers who like John Grisham and / or David Baldacci would likely appreciate Scottoline. If you love a fast-moving thriller with complex characters and ambiguous situations, you’ll like this story.
Writing prompt from Facebook group Writing Bad:
The pain returns sooner after each successful release. It’s only been four hours and I already feel the ice creeping into my veins. I must find a sweet girl before the stiffness sets off the tremors. Carrying a book has always worked, so I set out again with a fresh copy of “Pride and Prejudice.” Jane Austen fans are the kindest, ironically. I’m not shivering yet, so my walk comes across as innocent still, and soon enough, a girl about my age starts walking next to me, glancing every so often at my book. She’s perfect, so naive.
“Are you going to the library?”
“Yes, to return this book.” I show her as I continue walking, not allowing myself a full head-on look to avoid climaxing too soon.
“I love Jane Austen. Is this your favorite?”
“No, I love ‘Northanger Abbey’,” choosing a less popular book to prevent discussion. Jane Austen bores me. She was not a sweet, kind girl, not like this precious flower walking next to me.
“Oh.” I can feel her disappointment.
“Are you walking to the library too?”
“Um, yes.” Now you are, my lovely.
I turn into an alley. She hesitates. I pretend to care and half turn toward her.
“I always take this shortcut. If you want to take the longer route, that’s fine.”
“No, no. I just didn’t know about this way.” She flounces into the alley. Such a flouncer, I almost break into two huge icicles.
Halfway down the alley, I swiftly thrust my foot in front of hers. She falls flat on her face.
“Omigod, I’m so sorry. Here, let me…”
Then my knee is on her back and my hands are on her face, wrenching her head back fiercly enough to rip the skin at her neck and stretch her vocal cords. I bash her face into the asphalt until the warmth caresses every inch of my body. Once again I have saved my life.
A scream breaks me from my revelry. A scream? There’s never been a scream before. I must be losing my mojo. I’m losing it. I’m really losing it.
“Rawr!” I growl down the alley. Something pierces my body and I fall forward, barely processing the woman leaning out the window holding a pistol that seems much too big for her. It’s still smoking as I go.
“You didn’t see that coming, did you?”
“Nope. What the hell?”
“Hell. Exactly Hell.”
“Usually people start wailing at this point.”
“Oh. What now?”
We go down a long hallway with padded walls and ceiling baffles, presumably for the wailing. At the end, he turns left and I try to keep up as I peruse my new surroundings. Frankly, I’ve always kind of looked forward to Hell. It couldn’t possibly be as bad as Earth. The Ice Age has been catching up to me this year. I didn’t realize that releases were coming so closely together until I needed another one on the same day. Hell and brimfire, here I come!
My tour guide explains every door that we pass on the left as classes in comportment, compassion, karma, etc., and every door on the right as services for well-being.
“You’re free to partake of everything as often as you wish, but you must attend all classes every morning. Afternoons are free time.” With that, he makes a u-turn and, walking past the hallway from which we’d originally come, leads me to an entrance that opens upon a cavernous, um, well, cavern. It looks exactly like the biblical representation of Hell. Fires are actually shooting out of the walls. Man, am I psyched. There are several people holding things up to the fires to watch them burn.
“Yes.” His face turns down at the mouth like a scolding grandma. Weird.
He motions me to follow again, so I do. We continue through the cavern, which is so big that it takes almost half an hour to cross. Women chase men past us. Men chase women. Adults chase children. There are some wicked costumes, no need to pardon the pun.
At last, we reach another hallway, with doors closer together. My guide opens #4,327.
“This is your room.”
“Remember, the only rule is that you must attend classes all morning.”
I settle into this life so easily. After working up the nerve, I lure a young girl to the lengthy hallway leading to the entrance to Hell and I wrench her neck while looking directly into her eyes.
Just for fun.
She is back the next morning. I see her in Karma class. She smiles at me. Shows all her teeth.
How delightful! I ask her again to walk with me, but she says no, that I am not fun.
So I find another sweet, kind girl. I wrench her neck in what I am now considering the ‘foyer’ of Hell. She too returns, smiles at me, and also turns down a second walk, as I am not fun.
My days become routine, classes all morning, a hot stone massage every afternoon, and a new sweet girl each evening just for fun. It seems as though everyone comes to Hell. The cavern I saw was not the only one, and the foyer not the only entrance. Hell is huge! Even if someone passes us in a foyer, no one stops me. No girl ever resists.
Three months into this amazing new lifestyle, my tour guide shows up at my door just as I am about to go in search of a sweet girl. He beckons me to follow with a crooked finger, his mouth in the grandma scold. We walk to the entrance room and through it to an office, where three others wait.
“Please sit,” requests the iron-haired lady in the 50s skirt suit. I sit in the lone chair facing them.
The two flanking her look to her, then at me. My guide stands behind me after closing the door. I feel as though I’ve been called to the principal’s office, which never happened in my life, ironically.
She begins, in a gravelly, yet firm, voice, “We’ve given you an extension due to your age. However, we’ve overestimated your ability to learn to live properly with your fellow man. The fact that at only 13 you are so capable of gleefully taking the life of another is disturbing. You cannot move onto Heaven and you cannot stay in Hell.”
“I had no idea.”
“Obviously, you fail to listen in class. You’ve gone through the Heaven and Hell class 14 times and gleaned nothing.”
“Wait. What? Heaven and Hell class?”
Disappointed grandma looks emerge on those flanking iron-hair, whose eyes shoots lasers at me.
Literally. Hurts like hell.
“You cannot be rehabilitated. You must be reincarnated.”
The floor slides open in front of my chair, which tilts forward too quickly to glom onto……….and
Bright lights blind me. I cannot speak. I can only cry. I cry as loud as possible to voice my distress. I recognize fur coats and mukluks, and then the memory of what they are fades………..and
I cry to voice my distress at the cold and the new sensations. The warmth is gone.