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

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.

THE HANGING JUDGE by Michael Ponsor

April 12, 2014

This legal thriller is told from the unique perspective of the Federal court judge presiding over the first death penalty case in Massachusetts in more than fifty years. The moral story here is highlighted by an occasional chapter dedicated to the telling of a true story of an 1806 hanging that was reversed two hundred years later.

A drive by shooting is at the root of the present day case; a Hispanic drug dealer and an innocent bystander are killed, and a sharp cop ends up nabbing the getaway driver who gives up a name, Moon Hudson, as the shooter. Moon is a family man, married with a baby, but also has a past that the jury will never hear about. The state’s case hinges on the word of a gangbanger who has agreed to testify in exchange for a lighter sentence, and Moon’s life hangs in the balance.

The death penalty case is compelling but the characters are not fully developed, leaving a bit of an emotional void. Richard North Patterson tackled a similar subject in Conviction with considerably more passion, but perhaps that is the impartiality of the judge as storyteller here.

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

4/14 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

THE HANGING JUDGE by Michael Ponsor. Open Road Media E-riginal (December 3, 2013). ISBN 978-1480441941. 376p.

HIDDEN by Catherine McKenzie

April 11, 2014

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It was an almost normal Friday evening when Jeff Manning set off to walk home from work. Almost, in that he had had to fire the person who hired him at the company, but otherwise normal. A few hours later the police arrive at the Manning house with devastating news: Jeff has been killed in a car accident.

Claire is grief stricken at the loss of her husband. She tries to keep herself together for the sake of her twelve-year-old son, Seth, but she never imagined she’d be without her husband.

A few towns over Tish waits to hear how the firing went. When Jeff doesn’t call, Tish is immediately concerned. She worries that Jeff may no longer be interested in her but it’s not until the following Monday, when the company announces the tragedy, that Tish learns the truth.

Catherine McKenzie’s latest is a heart wrenching read about families and relationships. The story is told from three viewpoints—Claire’s, Tish’s, and Jeff’s—bringing the reader through each of the character’s lives and relationships as well as their intersections, allowing the reader an in depth look into the choices they’ve made along the way.

And it’s a sad story, to be sure. Jeff, dead at such a young age and Claire forced to face the possibility of her husband’s infidelity while unable to confront him over it. And Tish who must deal not only with the loss of someone she loves but must face the reality of her feelings and how they will affect her family if brought to light.

Hidden not only lives up to the expectations set by each of McKenzie’s three previous books (all of which have been personal favorites of mine) but also shows great growth on the part of the author. The previous three have all dealt with somewhat serious topics, they’ve also included enough comic relief to make them lighter in general. Hidden tackles infidelity, death, and so much more but in a more serious tone than the previous releases.

4/14 Becky Lejeune

HIDDEN by Catherine McKenzie. New Harvest (April 1, 2014). ISBN 978-0544264977. 304p.

TESTIMONY: The Legacy of Schindler’s List and the USC Shoah Foundation

April 10, 2014

This is a lovely coffee table book from Steven Spielberg and the Shoah Foundation celebrating the 20th anniversary of Schindler’s List.  Behind the scenes pictures and stories about the making of the film comprise the majority of the book, but it also delves into the USC Shoah Foundation which was conceived in 1994.

Spielberg interviewed many survivors making the film, which inspired him to continue doing so, preserving all those first hand accounts on film. The statistics are staggering, starting in 1994 and four years following, close to 52,000 eyewitness interviews were video recorded in 56 countries and 32 languages. The book explains how it was done.

The cast and crew offer their perspectives including Liam Neeson, Ben Kingsley, and of course Steven Spielberg. Spielberg also explains how the film was made, filming on location in Poland and more. Looking through this book brought back all those emotions the film brought.

So on a lighter note -check out this memorable Schindler’s List moment from Seinfeld

It’s an important book commemorating an important film. It would be a very heartfelt gift this Passover.

4/14 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

TESTIMONY: The Legacy of Schindler’s List and the USC Shoah Foundation by by Steven Spielberg & The Shoah Foundation. Newmarket for It Books; 20 Anv Cmv edition (March 25, 2014). ISBN 978-0062285188. 352p.


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