April bookshelf

April 1, 2014

I updated the Win Books page for April and I’m really excited about these thrillers! This is a great collection of NY Times bestsellers, solid storytellers and some newbies.

Andrew Gross offers up his latest, Everything to Lose. If you’re not familiar with Gross, and you should be – his thriller training was with the master himself, James Patterson. I adore Lisa Scottoline and her newest, Keep Quiet, is up for grabs. M.J. Rose is back with another historical thriller with erotic overtones in The Collector of Dying Breaths. Whirlwind by Rick Mofina, Code Zero by Jonathan Maberry and Warriors by Ted Bell will delight thriller fans. Also on the bookshelf – The Johnstown Girls by Kathleen George, Stalk Me by Richard Parker, Say That to My Face by Bernard Maestas,  Courier by Terry Irving, and Hanging by a Hair by one of my favorites, Nancy J. Cohen.

If you are new to the site, each month I run a contest in conjunction with the International Thriller Writers group. We put together a list of books including bestsellers and debut authors, so you can win some of your favorites and find some new favorites.

What makes this contest really special is that all of the books (except ebooks) are signed by the author!

Don’t forget, if you subscribe to the newsletter or follow this blog, you get an extra entry into every contest you enter.

Thanks for reading, and good luck!

apr 14 fotor col 2

RUIN FALLS by Jenny Milchman

April 22, 2014

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Liz and Paul Daniels have two young children and live a fairly idyllic life on an organic family farm. Paul is a professor who is determined to live a green, postconsumer lifestyle and Liz goes along with it as much as possible.

They take their first family vacation in years, a road trip to visit Paul’s parents on their commercial farm but stop at a hotel along the way. When Liz wakes up, her children are gone, and then Paul disappears, too.

The police immediately abandon their search, considering it a domestic dispute, and Liz is heartbroken, yet furious. She is determined to find her children, and begins her search with her in-laws, who deny any knowledge of their son or grandchildren. Liz soon heads home to her husband’s computer and his office at the university and quickly realizes that she doesn’t know her husband at all. Her best friend tries to help but she has her own hands full with a son who has suffered a traumatic brain injury.

How far Paul will go to live his politics and how a determined mother can seemingly overcome almost any obstacle is at the heart of this tautly written page-turner. Milchman proves her chops with her sophomore effort and she carves out a new niche with this unusual environmental family thriller.

Copyright ©2014 Booklist, a division of the American Library Association.

2/14 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

RUIN FALLS by Jenny Milchman. Ballantine Books (April 22, 2014). ISBN 978-0345549075. 352p.

THE DETAINEE by Peter Liney

April 21, 2014

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Economic collapse led folks to place blame at the feet of the elderly and infirm. They’ve been deemed to be a burden on society, not contributing enough to benefit and—in the eyes of some—draining limited resources. And so the Island came to be. Life on the Island means almost certain death. With the satellites constantly watching there is no hope for escape and the factions that inhabit the Village and the Camp fight daily for scarce food and supplies. But the real danger comes when the fog rolls in, leaving the satellites temporarily out of order. On those nights, the people in the Village hide in fear, hoping beyond all hope that they can escape the inevitable attack coming from the Camp.

“Big Guy” Clancy was a heavy for the mob once upon a time but having outlived his usefulness he, along with many others, was sent to The Island to live out the rest of his days. He’s accepted his fate, essentially giving up all hope, but when Big Guy meets Lena all of that changes.

Peter Liney’s debut is an incredibly scary premise and one that’s honestly (or sadly) a bit too believable for comfort. The advances in technology are certainly possible—eyes in the sky on constant watch and responsible for law and order—and even the awful degeneration of society has been a common theme in futuristic storylines for decades. In fact, in some ways The Detainee reminded me of Escape From New York.

I quite enjoyed The Detainee, as disturbing as it was. Clancy is a unique hero and all of his cohorts have interesting backstories. This is the first in a projected trilogy, too. I don’t want to give anything away but I’m definitely looking forward to seeing what will come next in this world.

4/14 Becky Lejeune

THE DETAINEE by Peter Liney. Jo Fletcher Books (March 11, 2014). ISBN 978-1623651084. 3524p.

VINTAGE by Susan Gloss

April 20, 2014

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Violet lives and breathes Hourglass Vintage. It’s all hers. It’s her baby, her concept and creation. Even before the shop was a reality, Violet was gathering and collecting items to sell. Items that all have a story. But now she’s in danger of losing it all.

April adored the wedding dress she discovered at Hourglass Vintage but with the wedding cancelled and a baby on the way, she’s not sure what to do. With a little help, April is offered a position as an intern at Hourglass Vintage. Violet accepts her return of the dress but finds it harder to accept the changes April suggests about running the store.

Amithi’s discovery of Hourglass Vintage comes at an opportune time. Thanks to events she’s yet to share with others, things that were once dear to Amithi are a burden to her now. She’s sure these things can find a new home with Violet’s customers, though.

These three women and so many more are brought together by Violet’s little shop and they will all have to work together if they are to save it before it’s too late.

Gloss introduces readers to a slew of women from all different walks of life, each of them undergoing a pretty big transition and the one thing that connects them all is Violet’s charming shop. As the story progresses Gloss shares more of their stories, drawing the reader into each of their lives. And yes, they are all fictional creations but it’s almost impossible not to get attached to them. Vintage is a fun and sweet read.

4/14 Becky Lejeune

VINTAGE by Susan Gloss. William Morrow (March 25, 2014). ISBN 978-0062270320. 320p.

A CIRCLE OF WIVES by Alice LaPlante

April 19, 2014

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I loved LaPlante’s first novel, Turn of Mind, and it took two years to get the second – but it was worth the wait.

Dr. John Taylor is a renowned plastic surgeon who shuns vanity procedures; instead he uses his skills to help children. But when Taylor is found dead in a Palo Alto hotel, apparently of a heart attack but with some suspicious bruises and a needle mark, a young detective, Samantha Adams, is assigned the case. Her normal caseload includes an occasional burglary or dog barking complaint, so she is a little out of her depth here but determined.

Taylor is a pillar of the community, as his wife Deborah, until it is discovered that he was a closet polygamist, with two other wives in other cities. Deborah knew about the others and shocks Samantha when she explains that she helped coordinate John’s time with them. But the other wives, Helen and MJ, had no knowledge of Deborah or each other.

Each wife and the detective get to tell their own stories here, and motives abound. And to complicate things further, Taylor’s partners, who basically made the money for the partnership by doing facelifts and breast augmentations and other popular procedures, had been pressuring him to allow them to add hire more plastic surgeons to grow their side of the practice but he held veto power and used it.

Practically every character has motive but none seem to have opportunity, creating quite the conundrum for Samantha.

The writing is crisp and the characters well developed. All the varied relationships are explored and themes of trust, love, passion, jealousy and more will give book groups lots to discuss.

This is another excellent literary thriller from LaPlante.

4/14 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

A CIRCLE OF WIVES by Alice LaPlante. Atlantic Monthly Press; First Edition edition (March 4, 2014). ISBN 978-0802122346. 325p.


April 18, 2014

Italian carabinieri Captain Valentina Morassi is back along with her romantic interest, ex-priest Tom Shaman (The Venice Conspiracy) as they try and solve a mysterious case that starts with a severed hand found in the famous carving of Bocca della Verita, the “Mouth of Truth,” in Rome.

A woman is found nearby, covered in blood and carrying an ancient sword, but she cannot help; she suffers from multiple personality disorder and the blood on her clothes does not match the bloody hand.

As Valentina and Tom try to find answers, they discover a secret cult of women held prisoner in catacombs underneath the Eternal City, eunuchs, ancient symbols, and dismembered bodies. Tom is able to shed some light on the religious aspects of the case, and Valentina has to deal with all this horror without support from her boss.

Brutality is rampant in this historical religious thriller, but the characters are not fully developed and the pacing is erratic, slow through the first half, faster towards the end. Recommended for readers who enjoy James Rollins, Steve Berry, and Dan Brown. Originally published in the UK under the pseudonym Jon Trace.

Copyright ©2014 Booklist, a division of the American Library Association.

4/14 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

THE ROME PROPHECY by Sam Christer. Overlook Hardcover (January 9, 2014). ISBN 978-1468301090. 368p.


April 17, 2014

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When a suburban wife and mother is murdered in her home, DCI Karlsson and his team are sure it must have been a burglary gone bad. They even have a suspect in hand. But when they discover their perp has a solid alibi for the time of death they’re essentially back to square one. That is until they begin to discover the murdered woman’s secrets. Ignoring orders, Karlsson once again brings Frieda Klein in to consult, but this time Frieda is working on a mystery of her own.

Hal Bradshaw, the official consultant for the police, has been none too pleased with Frieda showing him up. In what seems to be a growing vendetta against her, Bradshaw helms an investigation into therapists’ practices, sending fake patients out to Frieda and a number of other therapists throughout London. Rather than get angry, Frieda becomes curious about one of the pieces of the fake patients’ stories. Sure it could be a holdover from nearly dying, and it could be a needed—but created—distraction on her part, but as she traces the story further to its source Frieda becomes more certain there’s something to her inquiry.

This series really does keep getting better and better with each new installment.
Waiting for Wednesday picks up in the wake of Tuesday’s Gone with Frieda having returned home to continue recuperating from her wounds. Karlsson and his team have been sworn off consulting with Frieda, an order they soon ignore especially when they find out their murder victim’s son is friends with Frieda’s niece. The fact that Bradshaw has proven that he’s not only fairly useless but that he’s more focused on revenge against some interpreted wrong Frieda has done against him further convinces Karlsson to avoid all dealings with him.

What makes this series stand out is the continued progression in the characters’ stories. Each new installment features a new mystery but also continued growth of each individual character.

4/14 Becky Lejeune

WAITING FOR WEDNESDAY by Nicci French. Pamela Dorman Books (April 3, 2014). ISBN 978-0670015771. 384p.

EAT WHAT YOU KILL by Ted Scofield

April 16, 2014

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Evan Stoess graduated from one of the best prep schools in the country, courtesy of an absent father who left him with an abusive alcoholic mother and stepfather, and a full scholarship. But despite a stellar education, Evan always felt like an outsider, and lived with the nickname “Kmart” for years.

When he lands the job of his dreams as a stock analyst and picks a winner, he is riding on top of the world – until the CEO of the company dies, plunging the stock price into the cellar and costing Evan his job. A few months later, he finds a new job, this time with a company that shorts stocks, betting they will falter. Once again Evan is riding high until he’s not – and he realizes that if this CEO dies, that will work in his favor.

Murder is now an option, and if he gets away with it, there will be no stopping him. Stoess is a sympathetic character despite his murderous ways, making this financial thriller an emotional rollercoaster of a read. Fans of Christopher Reich and Joseph Finder will love this debut.

Copyright ©2014 Booklist, a division of the American Library Association.

4/14 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

EAT WHAT YOU KILL by Ted Scofield. St. Martin’s Press (March 25, 2014). ISBN 978-1250021823. 304p.

THE CHASE by Janet Evanovich & Lee Goldberg

April 15, 2014

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Fox and O’Hare

This is the sequel to The Heist, which I really enjoyed. For those Evanovich fans that enjoy her humor but are getting tired of the Stephanie Plum books, you might enjoy this bit of fresh air.

Nick Fox is a con man. Kate O’Hare is the F.B.I. agent (and former Navy Seal) who was obsessed with catching Fox. She got her man, but instead of prison, her boss has forced them to work together in an unorthodox and often illegal manner with the ends justifying the means. If you can get past that premise, you should enjoy this book.

Carter Grove is the former White House Chief of Staff and heads up Black Rhino, a security/mercenary black ops type business for hire. Wealthy beyond reach, his passion is collecting stolen artwork from some of the world’s most famous museums. Nick and Kate are assigned with stealing back a Chinese antiquity that the Smithsonian needs to return to China.

This is the kind of crime Kate can get behind but it irks her that she can’t arrest Carter. But when Carter threatens her family, all bets are off and the con gets even bigger. They end up moving through Washington D.C., Scotland, Montreal, and Shanghai before solving the case.

The cast of characters is as zany as it gets. Kate’s dad is retired black ops and often gathers old friends with amazing skills to help out. A surgically enhanced beauty with a penchant for driving anything at top speed, a method actor who doesn’t mind crossing the line of the law for a juicy part and a healthy payday, and a techie whistle blower who’s been reduced to working for the Geek Squad round out the crew and create lots of laughs while getting the job done.

There is great chemistry between Fox and O’Hare, adding another level of intrigue to the mix. This is an enjoyable read with enough action to keep the pages turning quickly.

4/14 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

THE CHASE by Janet Evanovich & Lee Goldberg. Bantam; First Edition edition (February 25, 2014). ISBN 978-0345543080. 320p.

NOTORIOUS by Allison Brennan

April 14, 2014

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Investigative reporter Maxine Revere takes on cold cases both in print and on her cable TV show. In this introduction to the series, Max goes home to Atherton, California, a wealthy enclave outside of San Francisco.

Kevin, Lindy, and Max were best friends all through school until their senior year when Lindy was murdered, and Kevin was accused but not convicted by the hung jury. Max stood by Kevin but later found out he had lied to her.

Upon her return home, a new murder is committed, and Max finds herself looking into a couple of old mysteries and a new one. She also has to deal with her large, wealthy family; her former friends; and all their egos and infighting.

Working with ex-special forces turned detective Nick Santini, in charge of the homicide, Max finds that she shares a work ethic and a strong mutual attraction with the young, good-looking, and smart Nick. But Max is able to go outside the law on occasion, and Nick finds her reckless streak both maddening and endearing. Fireworks erupt on more than one occasion, and it seems like the beginning of an interesting relationship and a terrific new series. Sandra Brown and Hank Phillippi Ryan fans will feel right at home.

Copyright ©2014 Booklist, a division of the American Library Association.

4/14 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

NOTORIOUS by Allison Brennan. Minotaur Books; First Edition edition (March 25, 2014). ISBN 978-1250035059. 336p.

I REMEMBER YOU by Yrsa Sigurdardóttir

April 13, 2014

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A Ghost Story

For Líf, Garðar, and Katrín a week in Hesteyri fixing up their newly purchased house was supposed to be an adventure. It was Líf’s husband’s idea. A hiking trip to the area proved to be inconvenienced by a serious lack of accommodations. He’d suggested that they buy a house—the only empty one in the small seasonal village—and fix it up for guests. But then Einar died. Líf, Garðar, and Katrín decide to push forward with the idea, part in honor of Einar and part in hopes that their investment will pay off. As soon as they arrive, however, they realize there’s something amiss with the house they’ve purchased. Strange sounds haunt them throughout the night and morning reveals shells, seawater, and sand strewn about the rooms. Plus, in spite of it being off-season and the town completely abandoned, all three of them have seen a child running around the otherwise empty village.

At the same time, in nearby Ísafjörður the police have asked a local psychologist to consult on the vandalization of a school. Freyr isn’t at all certain what kind of help he might be able to offer, but a chance encounter with an elderly patient leads him to believe this isn’t the first crime of its kind. The problem is that the previous case is over fifty years old. As he digs further, Freyr finds more strange connections, this time between the recent disappearance of his son and another child who’d gone missing decades earlier.

The stark setting and Sigurdardóttir’s particular style blend perfectly to create a chilling (literally and figuratively) ghost story. There’s a sinister feel from the very outset of the book: three friends left for a week in an abandoned town, cut off from all outside contact, and the parallel story of a doctor whose son has been missing without a trace for three years. As the connections between the two storylines are slowly revealed, the tension increases dramatically.

I Remember You does have a slower build than some readers may like. I found that the pacing not only allows time for character development (which can be neglected in horror for sure) but gives the reader multiple instances of false security—a calm before the storm so to speak in between instances of intense creepiness.

Sigurdardóttir is best known for her Thora Gudmundsdottir thrillers. I Remember You is a stand alone.

I Remember You won the Icelandic Crime Fiction Award and also was nominated for The Glass Key Award.
4/14 Becky Lejeune

I REMEMBER YOU by Yrsa Sigurdardóttir. Minotaur Books (March 25, 2014). ISBN 978-1250045621. 384p.


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