Category Archives: mystery

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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Review: No One Knows by J.T. Ellison

No One KnowsSeven and seventeen and five. That’s how Aubrey Hamilton breaks down her life.

The seven years before she met Josh, the seventeen years they knew each other and were together and the five years since he went missing. Josh vanished the night of a friend’s bachelor party under mysterious circumstances. Five years of questions, rumors and a trial for Aubrey haven’t provided any answers as to where Josh went or why.

As the state of Tennessee has her husband legally declared dead, Aubrey’s life takes an interesting turn with a man who reminds her a lot of Josh and the coming battle with her mother-in-law, Daisy, over the beneficiary of Josh’s rather large life insurance policy.

With the abundance of unreliable narrator mystery/thrillers on the market today, J.T. Ellison’s No One Knows could easily feel like it’s just another entry in an already crowded field. But Ellison deftly weaves in enough questions about Josh’s disappearance and gives readers just enough of a glimpse of the history of Josh and Aubrey to set the hook early and continue reeling you in for the entire story’s length. Continue reading

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Review: Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter

Pretty GirlsFor the first half of Pretty Girls, Karin Slaughter teases us with details of the lives of sisters Claire and Lydia. Their family was torn apart twenty years ago when their sister vanished under mysterious circumstances from the University of Georgia and now a recent, similar girl’s disappearance unearths some old memories, feelings and resentments.

Both sisters hold pieces of the story — and it’s not until Claire’s husband is killed in a random act of robbery on an Atlanta alley that the two get back together and begin to see that things weren’t necessarily what they seem in their family, then or now.

It’s once we reach the the mid-point of the novel and the threads start unraveling that Slaughter’s Pretty Girls takes a big left turn and slowly begins to leave credibility in the rear view mirror. I found myself rolling my eyes on multiple occasions as Slaughter reveals the secrets held not only by Claire’s husband but by members of her own family in connection with the kidnappings. Instead of being shocking, these revelations made me think, “Oh really? You must be kidding” on multiple occasions.

With cover blurbs by some of the better suspense writers in the business today, I was expecting a lot more from Pretty Girls. And for the first half of the book, it delivers on the promise of those blurbs. It’s just the ending that left me feeling a bit let down by the entire experience. This was the first novel I’ve read from Slaughter in some time and while the first half had me eager to dive into her back catalog, the last half of the story made me a bit wary.

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Review: The Girl With the Deep Blue Eyes

The Girl with the Deep Blue Eyes

Murder was easy. The tricky part was getting away with it.

Doak Miller is a retired NYPD cop spending his golden years in sunny Florida. He keeps himself in the game a bit by occasionally doing favors for the local sheriff’s office.

His latest assignment is wearing a wire to incriminate a woman who wants to do away with her husband. But it just so happens that that woman in question is the girl of Doak’s dreams and not only does he help her to not incriminate herself, but he begins a relationship with her that leads to his working out just if and how the husband should be killed.

The latest entry in the Hard Case Crime series, Lawrence Block’s The Girl With the Deep Blue Eyes is everything that a reader has come to expect. A sexy cover, a hard-boiled protagonist and a fem fatale. The fact that Doak is carrying on affairs with not only the title character but two other women only helps to underscore his role as the noir lead.

Told in quick chapters, Girl is not for the faint of heart. This novel is an homage to pulp fiction at its best — lurid, quick to read and full of all kinds of graphic details that aren’t normally discussed in polite company. If you’re squeamish about adults acting like adults (for good and bad), then this book probably isn’t for you.

At multiple points in the story, Doak takes in a few classic noir films that have people trying to get away with murder and always getting caught. These sequences seem to be Block calling upon a shared vocabulary for this type of story and it helps us see how he’s trying to not only pay homage to it but give it a bit of a new twist in this story.

Not for the faint of heart, The Girl With the Deep Blue Eyes is gritty, raw and compelling.

I’ve not read a lot of Block’s previous works but after reading this one, I’m intrigued to look at his extensive back catalog and see what other gems are there.

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Review: Hush Hush by Laura Lippman

Hush Hush (Tess Monaghan, #12)

In the day of social media, it’s hard to a book by one of my favorite authors to slip under my radar. So imagine my pleasant surprise when I wandered into my local library one day to find that not only had Laura Lippman published a new book but that it was reading and waiting for me on the new books shelf. And not only that but it was a chance to check in again with journalist turned private eye Tess Monaghan.

Years ago, Melisandre Harris Dawes left her daughter unattended in her car on a hot August afternoon. The child died but Melisandre was able to avoid jail time by pleading temporary insanity. After traveling the globe for years to get away from the stigma, Melisandre has returned home to Baltimore to tell her side of the story in a new, self-funded documentary. And she hopes to reconnect with the two daughters she left behind as part of the divorce agreement with her husband.

Tess’s uncle Tyner Grey has a past with Melisandre — they dated before he settled down with Tess’s Aunt Kitty. He’s also her lawyer and he brings Tess and her new partner in to provide security and investigative services for Melisandre. As Tess juggles her life as a p.i. with motherhood to her three-year-old daughter Carla Scout, the case quickly becomes more than just a nice paycheck for Tess. Melisandre is demanding, manipulative and difficult to work for and it appears she has a different agenda than just restoring her name to the Baltimore community and world. Continue reading

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