Category Archives: mystery

Review: A Time for Mercy by John Grisham

A Time for Mercy (Jake Brigance, #3)

Set a few years after the events of A Time to Kill, John Grisham’s latest legal thriller a Time For Mercy takes us back to the small-town world of Jack Brigance, aka as Grisham’s answer to Atticus Finch. Living on the reputation of his work in Kill, Jake and Henry Rex are knee-deep in a wrongful death case that could bring a huge windfall to the family involved and to their bank accounts as well when they get their cut.

When a local deputy is killed by a young man named Drew Gamble, Jake is assigned the case by the court. Like the case in Kill and its sequel Sycamore Row, the case against Gamble is steeped in controversy. Drew killed the deputy in question after a pattern of abusive behavior toward his mother and sister, including thinking his mother had been killed in a drunken rage by the deputy on the night of the crime. Facing trial as an adult and the death penalty, Drew’s situation looks desperate as the community makes their collective assumptions about the case and those involved in it.

Grisham’s A Time to Kill may be his best book and I can see how it would be tempting for him to go dip back into the world of Clanton, Mississippi. Wisely, Grisham develops Jake as a human being who is trying to serve the greater good — for his clients and himself. At one point, Jake makes a human error in the case against the railroad that ends up turning around to bite him. This plot point serves well to remind us that while Jake is idealistic, he’s not necessarily a saint.

As for the rest of A Time for Mercy, it felt like a bit of a mixed bag. There is clearly a need for justice to be served here, but somehow I came away from this one feeling oddly unsatisfied. Part of that could be that for a legal thriller, the novel spends less than a quarter of its page count with Jake in court defending Drew. A lot of background is given into the Gamble family situation and the community’s reaction. But if you’re expecting the usual Grisham thriller where the central court case is wrapped up in a neat bow by the time you get to the final page, you may come away as disappointed.

And yet, I can’t deny that it wasn’t nice to spend a few hundred pages with Jake and the world of Clanton again. I can’t help but feel that Grisham has left the door open for one more visit to Jake and Clanton again in the future. And if he does, I will be there to see where just where he takes us and Jake next.

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Review: Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell

Then She Was Gone

Driven to raise her math grade from a B+ to an A, Ellie begs her mother, Laurel, to hire a tutor for her. The tutor does her job, but Ellie begins to get an odd vibe off her and decides to end the lessons. A few weeks before her exams, Ellie mysteriously vanishes.

A decade later, Laurel is beginning to piece her life back together. Divorced, she’s met a new suitor who seems like the perfect guy. He has two daughters and one of them, Poppy, is the spitting image of Ellie. Is Laurel seeing a ghost or is there something more sinister going on here?

All of that sounds pretty exciting, right?

This is why I’m a bit sad to report that Lisa Jewell’s Then She Was Gone isn’t nearly as exciting or thrilling as a whole as the individual components make it sound like it should or could be. Part of the issue is that once Jewell puts all the pieces into play, there aren’t any huge shocks or revelations to come. I’d figured out a large part of what was going on long before the book begins to pull back the curtain on where Ellie went, who Poppy really is, and just how the math tutor ties into all of it. I kept waiting for something darker or more sinister to come of the story and nothing really did. Maybe I’m too conditioned by other suspense thrillers with a dark streak to really fully enjoy this one. But I did find myself reading more to see if my suspicions were correct than because I was fully invested in the story unfolding.

That’s not to say this is necessarily a bad book. It’s just one that disappointed me a great deal, especially after hearing positive reviews from other readers who share my tastes.

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Review: You Were Made for This by Michelle Sacks

You Were Made for ThisNo one here is exactly what they appears to be….

That quote from the first season of Babylon Five applies in spades to the trio of protagonists in Michelle Sacks’ debut novel You Were Made for This.

When Sam inherits a house from his Swedish aunt, he and his wife Merry decide it’s the perfect time to move and set-up the perfect home for their newborn son, Conor. As Merry delves into becoming the perfect stay-at-home mother, Sam pursues his passion to become a filmmaker. But lurking below the surface are secrets that each is hiding from the other — whether it’s Sam’s real reason for fleeing his job as a professor or Merry’s true feelings on becoming a mother.

Enter into this scenario a visit from Merry’s oldest friend, Frank. Frank knows Merry better than anyone else and her visit begins to slowly shatter the illusion that Merry and Sam have built up. It also exposes some older, deeper wounds and resentments that Merry and Frank harbor from growing up together. Continue reading

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Review: The Punishment She Deserves by Elizabeth George

The Punishment She Deserves (Inspector Lynley #20)With her twentieth installment in the Lynley and Havers series (sorry, I refuse to think of it as anything else), Elizabeth George returns to form with one of the best installments in the series to date.

The last two novels found Barbara Havers getting herself into hot water and on the wrong side of her superiors at New Scotland Yard. As The Punishment She Deserves begins, Havers future at the Met is hanging by a thread and a case in the small town of Ludlow may be just the one that finally snaps it. Assigned to work with DS Ardery and look into the death of a local deacon under mysterious circumstances and damning accusations, Havers finds herself walking a fine line between toeing the straight and narrow and following her instincts that there is more to the case than meets the eyes.

Ardery wants to simply close the book on the case as quickly as possible, for both professional and personal reasons. She’s desperate to get back to London in order to fight her ex-husband’s desire to move her two children to New Zealand and she’s determined to ensure that Havers finished committing professional suicide. The fact that Ardery can’t go long without a drink is slowly beginning to unravel her life on all sides. Ignoring Havers’ pleas that the investigations is overlooking something, the duo returns to London and Ardery orders Havers to leave certain details out of her report. Continue reading

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Review: What She Knew by Gilly Macmillan

What She Knew (Jim Clemo #1)While spending a normal Sunday evening at the local park, Rachel Jenner allows her son Ben to run ahead to the tire swing. Upon arrival at the swing, she finds no trace of Ben. Things escalate when Ben’s clothes are found and the police begin a search to find the missing boy.

What unfolds over the course of the next week quickly evolves into a nightmare not only for Rachel but also for the police officers assigned to the case. Rachel and the police are put under the microscope by social media with every move they make being questioned, debated, and dissected in the court of public opinion. Things aren’t helped when Rachel decides to go off script of broadcast appeal to whomever has kidnapped her son.

At each turn, the pressure builds and builds with the reader knowing the case had negative ramifications for all parties involved. The prologue lets readers in on the fact that something bad happened in the course of the investigation and there were negative outcomes for many of those involved. But just how negative is something that is kept hidden until the final chapters. Continue reading

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Review: I Let You Go by Claire Mackintosh

I Let You GoA rainy afternoon turns into a parents’ worst nightmare. A five-year-old boy slips from his mother’s grasp and runs out in front of a car. What follows is a set of tragic events that set into motion that gripping mystery story, I Let You Go.

Haunted by the event, Jenna Gray flees to an isolated town, renting a home with little or no contact with the outside world. Meanwhile, the police task force assigned to the case is haunted by the fact that no witnesses will come forward and they can’t seem to find the missing piece of the puzzle to understand this tragic event, much less track down the culprit.

After an initial character choice that took me out of the novel for a moment (the lead detective’s name is Ray Stevens. As a big fan of the musician Ray Stevens, it took me a few pages to not see my favorite singer in the role as the lead detective), I Let You Go, slowly ratchets up the tension and suspense until the layers of the central mystery are slowly peeled back. It all adds up to one of the more satisfying series of revelations, character examinations, and solutions to the central mystery I’ve read. Every twist is earned and while I saw a few coming, Mackintosh pulls up a few surprises within the story.

I Let You Go is a bit of a slow-burn. The first half is all about putting the pieces on the board and setting up our assumptions of the characters, situation, and mystery. The second half is about pulling the rug out from under the readers in the most satisfying way possible. Be prepared to blaze through the second half of the novel and possibly stay up a bit later reading than you’d originally planned.

 

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Review: Closer Than You Think by Karen Rose

Closer Than You Think (Romantic Suspense, #16; Cincinnati, #1)Seeking to escape from her patient turned stalker, psychologist Faith Corcoran changes her identity and relocates to Cincinnati to begin a new life in her grandmother’s home. Her desire to have a quiet life off the radar quickly goes sideways when Faith comes across one of two kidnapping victims on the lonely road to her new home. Now, she’s drawn into the investigation and its lead investigator, Deacon. Will they be able to figure out how Faith’s stalker might be tied to this new kidnapper before time runs out on the other kidnapping victim?

Billed as “romantic suspense,” Karen Rose’s Closer Than You Think is chock full of both. Faith and Deacon’s instant chemistry screams off the page, despite multiple warnings from Deacon’s co-workers that he shouldn’t get involved with a victim in a case he’s investigating. The suspense factor comes from the investigation into where the other girl is and what the potential connection is to Faith’s family and her past. Continue reading

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Review: Into the Water by Paula Hawkins

Into the WaterWhen you write a book as successful as The Girl on the Train, expectations for your second novel are going to be through the roof. Paula Hawkins crafted one of the most page-turning novels of the year with Girl.

For her sophomore effort, Hawkins presents another shifting viewpoint mystery/thriller, but this time around readers are given more than three characters viewpoints to follow. With Into the Water, Hawkins attempts to go a bit deeper into the mystery of two drowning in a small town and the impact the crime has on the community. Like many of today’s better mystery writers, Hawkins’ story is not just interested in revealing the solution to the crime but also at the factors that led to the crime being committed and what that means for the characters that inhabit her world. Continue reading

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Review: Everything You Want Me to Be by Mindy Mejia

Everything You Want Me to BeHenrietta Hoffman (better known as Hattie in her small town) wears a lot of hats. Whether it’s honor’s student near the top of her senior class, the loving daughter of her parents or the dutiful girlfriend. But does anyone really know the REAL Hattie Hoffman?

Mindy Mejia’s Everything You Want Me to Be examines a year in the life of Hattie Hoffman as she struggles to find out the role she really wants to play in life. The big problem is that just as Hattie is figuring out who she wants to be, she meets an untimely end under suspicious circumstances. Continue reading

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Review: The American Girl by Kate Horsley

The American GirlIt seem like a lot of the mystery novels I’m drawn to these days feature an unreliable narrator (or narrators in the case of The American Girl). Whether this is due to the success of novels like Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train has encouraged publishers to jump on the unreliable narrator bandwagon or that it’s just that I’ve become more aware of this particular narrative hook, I’m not sure.

What I do know is that, at this point, it takes a lot to make an unreliable narrator story stand out to me.

Kate Horsley’s The American Girl was able to do that. Well, at least it was able to do that for the first hundred or so pages. Continue reading

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