Tag Archives: thriller

The Last Thing She Remembers by J.S. Monroe

ABOUT THE BOOK:

Following a rough week of traveling for work, Jemma’s handbag with all her important possessions including her passport, credit cards, laptop, and house keys is stolen at the airport. Even more disturbing, when she goes to report the incident, she realizes she can’t recall her own name. Home and her past no longer exist in her mind, but the only thing in her pocket is a train ticket “home.” Jemma is a source of mystery when she arrives at the sleepy Wiltshire village where she thought she lived and quickly becomes a cause of fear and curiosity amongst the locals when no one recognizes her. Is she a victim or a killer? Where did she come from? All at the same time as she is thinking: Who are these people? Who am I?

LAEL’S REVIEW:

A young woman takes a train home to an English village and finds her house inhabited by the current owners. She cannot remember who she is, relying on their kindness to help her determine what happened, her only memory of the mysterious Fleur. A murderer lived in the house over a decade ago; timing of the murderer’s release and the young woman’s resemblance cast suspicion on her, dividing the owners. The wife leaves town and the husband obsesses over the unknown woman, possibly a murderer. Deception and revenge collide with coincidence and subterfuge, moving toward tragedy, and taking the story to Berlin and a horrific crime. Monroe builds an intriguing world of characters with hidden agendas and convincing personas. Dear reader may not know with whom to empathize as the secrets spill. Layers of the story build with new insights through flashbacks and revelations. This is an excellent look into the psychology of a criminal act and the resulting vigilante justice. I received this provocative novel from Park Row Books through NetGalley.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

J.S. Monroe studied English at Cambridge University, worked as a freelance journalist in London and was a regular contributor to BBC Radio 4. He was also a foreign correspondent in Delhi for the Daily Telegraph and was on its staff in London as Weekend editor. He is the author of six other novels and lives in Wiltshire, England, with his wife and their three children.

Vermin by William A. Graham

The prologue introduces low-level, low-brow politician Henry Lewis, who’s interrupted in his back alley business when his intended victim Davie is rescued. Allan Linton fell into the PI business after a newspaper takeover, and he pulled strong, silent street avenger Niddrie in as his “and Associates.” A mysterious man calling himself Carter hires them to find a woman in a photograph whose name is likely an alias. Then dear reader goes through a flashback on the rise and fall of Allan’s marriage to the daughter of a top dollar barrister, then back to the present where his daughter asks his help with the entitled son of her grandfather’s partner and he explains his love for the Hollies. He seeks help on the case from his best friend Michael, who just happens to be the main drug dealer in town, and dear reader goes through another flashback chapter on the origin of their friendship. There are aliases and backstories galore in this novel, with each flashback its own fascinating short story. If you like backstory woven into the fabric of a novel, this format might confound you. The unusual names and behaviors of the characters make this whodunwhat feel a bit out of time and place, like a cheeky noir film. I received a digital copy of this fantastic story from Black & White Publishing Ltd through NetGalley.

The East End by Jason Allen

ABOUT THE BOOK

A terrible tragedy unleashes a fateful chain of events for two families from starkly different worlds in a breathtaking new tale of suspense that doubles as a razor-sharp take on class conflict in today’s America.

In his remarkable debut, THE EAST END (Park Row Books; May 7, 2019; $26.99 U.S./$33.50 CAN.), novelist Jason Allen constructs a multi-layered story about the powerful and the powerless, about love and loss, and about self-destruction and the possibility of redemption. Set in the Hamptons over one explosive holiday weekend, this immersive must-read illuminates both sides of the socio-economic divide in a place where dreams of escape drive potentially catastrophic decisions. 

Unfolding from multiple perspectives, THE EAST END opens with the countdown to Memorial Day underway and recent high school graduate Corey Halpern in need of a fix.  A townie, he burns off his resentment of the affluent “invaders” who flock to the community in the summer months by breaking into their lavish mansions and pulling harmless pranks. Staring down a bleak future, he sees his hopes of going away to college vanishing. He can’t disappear, not when his troubled mother, Gina, is barely making ends meet, trying to get away from an abusive, deadbeat husband, and chasing pills with too much booze. Trapped in a downward spiral, she staggers towards rock bottom as Corey and his brother look on helplessly.

Before calling it a night, Corey makes one last stop at the sprawling lakeside estate where he and Gina work. There he intends to commit his first-ever robbery but nothing proceeds according to plan. Married billionaire CEO Leo Sheffield shows up to his ultra-exclusive Gin Lane property early, accompanied by his handsome, much-younger lover, Henry. In an instant, everything changes: Drunk, high, and all alone, Henry is the victim of a fatal poolside accident.  Unfortunately for a distraught Leo, Corey saw what happened—and so did someone else.

For this immensely privileged man who is not used to getting his hands dirty, his very existence now depends on containing the collateral damage. And time is running out. Leo’s overbearing wife and three grown children will be arriving soon, along with a house full of high-maintenance guests. Desperate to preserve his fortune and his freedom, Leo takes irrevocable steps that expose him to scandal and far worse. Over the next few tension-filled days, hidden entanglements, unexpected opportunities, and clashing loyalties propel Corey, Gina, and Leo to extremes—and ultimately, to shocking outcomes no one will anticipate.

Atmospheric, emotionally probing, and complexly unmissable, this kaleidoscopic narrative plunges its brilliantly realized characters into timely, all-too-relatable moral quandaries that defy easy answers and resound long after the final page.

LAEL’S REVIEW

Corey breaks into the houses of the wealthy who summer in the Hamptons, to play pranks on them as a way to vent his frustrations as a local serving these “invaders.” The night he chooses to enter the home of his mother’s employer Mr. Sheffield, he learns a scandalous secret and witnesses a tragedy, and then he falls in love. The weekend brings a multitude of challenges for the Sheffield family and Corey’s mom, who’s fighting a drug addiction and a violent ex, as well as Corey and his new love. Allen brilliantly portrays the blurred lines of integrity and honesty for the haves and have-nots in a scenario that flips dependency from one to the other and exposes everyone’s agenda. No character is truly endearing, nor is any character wholly evil, but all are complex, self-serving and compassionate in turn. Fans of “Somethings in the Water,” “Beautiful Bad,” or “Hunting Annabelle” will appreciate this story. It’s a peek at what we might do if we had the chance, and what happens when we involve ourselves in something that’s not our business. I received a digital copy of this fantastic story from Park Row Books through NetGalley.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jason Allen grew up in a working-class home in the Hamptons, where he worked a variety of blue-collar jobs for wealthy estate owners. He writes fiction, poetry, and memoir, and is the author of the poetry collection A Meditation on Fire. He has an MFA from Pacific University and a PhD in literature and creative writing from Binghamton University. He currently lives in Atlanta, Georgia, where he teaches writing. THE EAST END is his first novel.

Beautiful Bad by Annie Ward

Maddie fell hard for Ian, British security detail, when she taught English in Bulgaria and her BFF Joanna was a humanitarian working in Macedonia before and during their civil war. He’s hard to pin down, even after she marries him despite Joanna’s inexplicable hostility toward him. He insists on moving from NYC to her small, Kansas hometown, though he spends much of his time in the Eastern bloc, working in a security business he started with his brother after leaving his government position. The story unfolds in layers as it goes back and forth in time and around the globe to explain the horrible murder. Ward does an excellent job evoking sympathy for Maddie, who appears to be on the receiving end of Ian’s PTSD. This novel portrays young American idealists who get caught up in tragedy, differences in maturity levels of best friends, and how lack of self-awareness contributes to obfuscation, as a mismatched romance leads to its horrifying conclusion. I was fortunate to receive this brilliant story from the publisher Park Row Books through NetGalley.

Forget You Know Me by Jessica Strawser

Liza witnesses, via Skype, a masked man entering her friend’s home while her friend is upstairs tending to a child. She drives all night to make sure she’s okay after her friend doesn’t answer the phone, but Molly, the friend, dismisses the idea that a man came into her house, and she break’s Liza’s heart. Returning home to a life-changing event sends Liza back to her hometown, where no investigation is proceeding for the mystery man. Strawser digs deep into the fears of a married couple in multitudes of trouble, the evolution of friendship, and a reluctant return to one’s roots. She brilliantly intertwines the consequences of the characters’ actions as they rush headlong into premature conclusions. This novel is a great look into love resurrected and the ability to access romantic love after a trauma. Strawser is a talented storyteller. I was fortunate to receive a copy of this wonderful book from the publisher Macmillan through NetGalley.

Lethal White by Robert Galbraith

PI Cormoran Strike and Robin Ellacott share a moment right after her vows to Matthew, coloring their detective partnership. A disturbed young man caroms into Strike’s office to exclaim about a child murder committed decades ago. Being hired by a politician to spy on a colleague distracts them, but the possibility weighs on Cormoran’s mind, as Robin goes undercover in Parliament. The non-case of the wild story becomes entangled within the political investigation and a dubious suicide. Meanwhile, Robin’s husband shows his true colors, but her desire to be independent only prolongs the sexual tension between partners.

Galbraith keeps a fast, at times frenetic, pace throughout the story, with the main characters exasperatingly and credibly human in their complexity. It’s fun to see inside the heads of the good guys when they have fleeting thoughts that are unrealistic / unreasonable, such as when Robin finds herself drawn in by the charm of their client’s tall, dark, and handsome “bad boy” son, a person of interest. Fourth in the Cormoran Strike series, it’s easily a standalone for the case story, but adds layers of nuance to the partnership. The inevitable transition in the nature of the relationship will change the dynamics and sadly may be the beginning of the end, unless Galbraith finds a way to pull it off. Let’s hope she…whoops, “he” can do so!

I received a copy of this latest release in the series from St. Martin’s Press for an honest review.

The Girl Without Skin by Mads Peder Nordbo—pub date June 21


Matthew Cave is assigned to report on a mummy suspected to be the first Viking found in Greenland. After the mummy disappears, and the police officer guarding it killed in a most horrific manner, Matthew investigates a story decades old based on the similar style of murder of four local men. The tale grows exponentially as he learns about the murders’ connections to child molestation, kidnapping, politics, and a mysterious, tattooed woman just released from prison. Secrets are revealed, crimes are solved, and living / dead are confirmed.

Nordbo writes a graphic, bones-laid-bare crime novel with the setting of Nuuk, Greenland as prominent as a main character. The Danish / Greenlandic tension is pushed and pulled throughout the story, with national politics and corruption affecting local affairs. Twists and turns abound as new evidence surfaces, but the main source of a policeman’s journal written during the earlier crimes takes the reader back in time for a more intimate feel. A major information dump at the end does its best to feel natural, coming from the appropriate characters. In any case, the tale is multi-layered, with storylines that converge for a revelatory denouement. I was fortunate to receive a digital copy from Text Publishing Company through NetGalley.

Reasons to Kill God by I.V. Olokita—pub date tbd

In Brazil, Nazi fugitive Klaus Holland, aka Matheus Esperanca, raises his son by a prostitute with a Jewish kapo from Udenspul, the concentration camp he commanded. The son, Deus, considers the kapo his mother, and after her death, takes mysterious photos from her to a professor in his US university to research his ancestry, where he learns the true identity of his father and the extent of his crimes. Olokita brilliantly uses the concept of god as a measurement of morality, or rather lack of humanity, as Klaus plays God in determining who dies, though his own religious beliefs remain deliciously ambiguous. The character development is so well done that dear reader will be researching names. Although written in third person for everyone else, Klaus is in first person, bringing the reader up close and personal to a man with his own version of right and wrong based on his complete lack of empathy, exploring the idea of how powerful he believes himself. The ending revelation is quite coincidental and is evidenced only by Klaus’ perception, so it’s not clear why it’s readily believed by Deus and his new love Heidi. It’s anti-climactic after the delightful irony of Klaus’ downfall. With so many rumors, legends, and news items, inspiring a plethora of literature, on the Holocaust, this unique story of a fugitive hiding out in South America is a definite must-read. It’s themes rove beyond the simple good vs. evil and the idea that one can distinguish such traits in anyone, with characters revealing the dangers within themselves. I received a digital copy of this fantastic novel from the author for an honest review.

The Truth Waits by Susanna Beard

Anna finds a teenage girl’s body on the beach in Lithuania while on a business trip to her textile factory. Prevented from leaving by a natural disaster, she meets a journalist named Will, who moves into her carefully constructed life. He and her friends warn her against pursuing the girl’s murder, but her own past urges her on, until she finds herself in danger, and Will is incommunicado. Beard portrays a workaholic with repressed emotions and memories vividly, though Anna seems to throw up a lot and has quite a few anxiety attacks, not to mention the breakdown from grief. The story seems as self-oriented as Anna, focusing on her distress throughout, when it could have explored the horrors of sex trafficking further. Even as Anna is justified in her wavering faith in Will, his character is not developed enough for the reader to make a judgment call either way. Though the story is a good one, it could have given a little more weight toward other characters, and even considered location a main character in its cultural presence, but Anna simply comes across as too neurotic to notice anything else. I was graciously given a digital copy by the publisher through NetGalley.

Tell Me No Lies by Alex Sinclair—pub date October 25

Grace Dalton watched her husband die after being struck in a hit and run accident. After a brief period of submerging herself in the grief, she begins to move on, speaking with his lawyer to learn of a secret bank account and life insurance. Then she sees her husband, sending her best friend into conniptions for some reason, and she ends up in several bizarre emergency sessions with her psychiatrist. Much of this story, once you get past the repetition (and the repetition continues throughout the book), lacks credibility, such as Grace’s phone sessions with her psychiatrist, and then her best friend dragging her to so many emergency sessions instead of listening to Grace. Her best friend comes across as more like a mean sister, making the ending even less likely. This story had such potential, and then Grace ended up being more crotchety than the damsel in distress. The reader does not need reminding in every chapter that Grace wallowed in her grief for six weeks. The story is in there if you want to earn it! I was graciously given an early copy by Bookouture through NetGalley.