NOT LIKE THE MOVIES by Kerry Winfrey

August 2, 2020

NOT LIKE THE MOVIES by Kerry Winfrey. Berkley (July 7, 2020). ISBN 978-1984804044. 320 pages.

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MR. MALCOLM’S LIST by Suzanne Allain

July 31, 2020

7/2020 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

MR. MALCOLM’S LIST by Suzanne Allain. Berkley (July 28, 2020). (July 21, 2020). ISBN 978-0593197400. 256p.

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MUSICAL CHAIRS by Amy Poeppel

July 30, 2020

7/2020 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

MUSICAL CHAIRS by Amy Poeppel. Atria/Emily Bestler Books (July 21, 2020). ISBN 978-1501176418. 416p.

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THE LOST AND FOUND BOOKSHOP by Susan Wiggs

July 29, 2020

7/2020 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

THE LOST AND FOUND BOOKSHOP by Susan Wiggs. William Morrow (July 7, 2020). ISBN 978-0062914095. 368p.

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A STAR IS BORED by Byron Lane

July 28, 2020

7/2020 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

A STAR IS BORED by Byron Lane. Henry Holt and Co. (July 28, 2020). ISBN 978-1250266491. 352p.

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THE PATIENT by Jasper DeWitt

July 21, 2020

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From the publisher:

The Silent Patient by way of Stephen King: Parker, a young, overconfident psychiatrist new to his job at a mental asylum, miscalculates catastrophically when he undertakes curing a mysterious and profoundly dangerous patient.

In a series of online posts, Parker H., a young psychiatrist, chronicles the harrowing account of his time working at a dreary mental hospital in New England. Through this internet message board, Parker hopes to communicate with the world his effort to cure one bewildering patient.

We learn, as Parker did on his first day at the hospital, of the facility’s most difficult, profoundly dangerous case—a forty-year-old man who was originally admitted to the hospital at age six. This patient has no known diagnosis. His symptoms seem to evolve over time. Every person who has attempted to treat him has been driven to madness or suicide.

Desperate and fearful, the hospital’s directors keep him strictly confined and allow minimal contact with staff for their own safety, convinced that releasing him would unleash catastrophe on the outside world. Parker, brilliant and overconfident, takes it upon himself to discover what ails this mystery patient and finally cure him. But from his first encounter with the mystery patient, things spiral out of control, and, facing a possibility beyond his wildest imaginings, Parker is forced to question everything he thought he knew.

Fans of Sarah Pinborough’s Behind Her Eyes and Paul Tremblay’s The Cabin at the End of the World will be riveted by Jasper DeWitt’s astonishing debut.


A well-done horror story written in a low-key style guaranteed to build up the terror using the first-person narrative by the principal character. A newly graduated psychiatrist, Parker takes his first job at a mental institution in the state of Connecticut. He is determined to help the patients assigned to him to the best of his ability. On the first day at his new job, Parker becomes aware of Joe, a 40-year-old patient, that has been there since he was six years of age. There is no working diagnosis for the man and several previous doctors have come to grief in vain efforts to cure him.

Parker sees a challenge in effecting a treatment for Joe and manages to work himself into the position of handling his treatment. During his first session with the patient, Parker comes to the conclusion that Joe is apparently normal and suspects that he is being held at the hospital because his parents continue to pay for his care. Acting on his own conclusion Parker confronts the medical staff at the institution questioning the years of poor diagnosis. He also visits Joe’s parents and with the help of the mother, completes an inspection of the house, and particularly the boy’s bedroom.

Parker’s findings provide an answer to the reason Joe has been diagnosed as mentally ill. DeWitt’s description of the cause introduces a unique answer that certainly delves deeply into a nightmare world and makes the ending as gripping as can be. A short book but certainly one that presents the author as a literary force to be reckoned with causing the reader to certainly look for succeeding novels by him.

7/2020 Paul Lane

THE PATIENT by Jasper DeWitt. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (July 7, 2020). ISBN: 978-0358181767. 224 pages.

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THE MAGDALENE DECEPTION by Gary McAvoy

July 19, 2020

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The Magdalene Chronicles, Book 1

From the publisher:

For two thousand years, believers have relied on Christ’s Resurrection as the bedrock of Christian faith. But what if the Vatican had been blackmailed into suppressing a first-century manuscript revealing the Resurrection to be a myth—and that long-hidden document suddenly reappears?

Michael Dominic, a young Jesuit priest expert in the study of ancient writings, is assigned to the Vatican as an archivist in the Church’s legendary Secret Archives. Hana Sinclair, a reporter for a Paris newspaper whose privileged family owns a prominent Swiss bank, is chasing a story about Jewish gold stolen by the Nazis during World War II—millions of dollars in bullion that ended up in the vaults of the Vatican Bank.

When Dominic discovers a long-hidden papyrus written by Mary Magdalene—one that threatens the very foundations of Christianity—he and Hana try to prevent sinister forces from obtaining the manuscript, among them the feared Ustasha underground fascist movement, Interpol, and shadowy figures in the highest levels of the Vatican itself.

Based on illuminating historical facts—including the intriguing true story of Bérenger Saunière, the mysterious abbé of Rennes-le-Château, and the Cathars, fabled keepers of the Holy Grail—“The Magdalene Deception” will take readers on a gripping journey through one of the world’s most secretive institutions and the sensitive, often explosive manuscripts found in its vaults.


Michael Dominic, an American Jesuit priest is a well-prepared expert on ancient writings who has been assigned to work at the Vatican in Rome. His expertise to be used in the categorization of documents stored which have not been classified as of yet. His assignment would have him assigned to the special Vatican secret archives section. At the same time Hana Sinclair, a reporter for a Paris newspaper and whose family owns a prominent Swiss bank is working on a story about Jewish gold stolen by the Nazis during World War II. Millions of this gold look as if it was stored in the vaults of the Vatican bank.

Michael’s searches lead him to the discovery of a document that may have been written by Mary Magdalene. In his investigations to translate and carbon date the document as well as authenticating its source, he is thrown together with Hana through her cousin, who is a Swiss Guard. The Swiss guard are specially assigned to guard the Pope and protect the Vatican. Hana’s story causes both her and Michael to also solicit and obtain the expertise of a Jewish writer who has special permission to use the Vatican library for his own investigations.

McAvoy, in addition to writing a mesmerizing novel, provides descriptions of the inside of Vatican City. His explanations of Michael’s expertise in investigating ancient writings and the work of the Church hierarchy are well delineated and indicate a good deal of research into the subject matter. The selection and training of the dedicated Swiss Guard is treated and is the first time that I have read anything about this unique group. Michael and Hana develop feelings for each other in the course of their investigations and McAvoy does not shy away from discussing Michael’s ambivalent approach to this subject.

The ending of the book solves the immediate problems of investigating the document written by Mary Magdalene and handling the transfer of millions in gold bullion to groups that are seeking to identify and reimburse families that have legitimate claims to it. It also sets up problems that will require the attention of the protagonists introduced in this novel and have them work together again.

7/2020 Paul Lane

THE MAGDALENE DECEPTION by Gary McAvoy. Literati Editions (May 26, 2020). ISBN: 978-0990837657. 368 pages.

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THE ENGLISHMAN by David Gilman

July 17, 2020

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From the publisher:

A clandestine war on the desert border of Mali and Algeria. Murder and kidnap on the suburban streets of West London. A Moscow CID police inspector investigating the assassination of four of her fellow officers by the Russian Mafia. A young MI6 officer facing the possibility that a long-running operation has been fatally compromised.

Connecting them all is the Englishman: Dan Raglan, outsider, exile, one-time member of the French Foreign Legion, fully trained killer.

Raglan’s quest for answers will become a quest for vengeance. It will lead him to the winter-ravaged wasteland of the Sverdlovskaya Oblast and Penal Colony #74, a place that holds Russia’s most brutal murderers. A place of death and retribution.

How will he get in? More importantly, how will he get out?


David Gilman has given his readers many books filled with action and war. The current novel is no different; on the contrary, there is no rest from the action throughout the book. The story opens six years prior to the main part of the novel when Dan Raglan was with the French Foreign Legion in action at the border of Algeria and Mali. Due to the actions of black ops teams, Raglan’s unit was compromised and all except him were killed.

Six years later a former comrade of his driving in London with his son is kidnapped. He has the time to tell his son a few things and then has him escape. Dan is called in by a member of England’s MI6 who was with both men in the Legion. He is asked to look for and rescue the man kidnapped. MI6 cannot do all the work as they are tied up with the killing of four Russian CID officers in London and have little personnel to spare to do the searching for the kidnapped man.

A Soviet female police officer has been sent to work with MI6 and is searching for the man that killed the CID officers. When it turns out that the same individual murdering the Russian officers has masterminded the kidnapping she starts working with Raglan. Between them they find out who did both the murders and the kidnapping, locate him and stage a raid at the house where he is hiding. Although all of his confederates are caught or killed the main man gets away but not before killing a young woman assigned as Raglan’s driver.

Raglan is of course determined to find the killer and assassinate him. Information is obtained that the killer has fled to Russia and is hiding at one of that country’s toughest Penal colonies and living well while doing so. The problem is simply put: how does Dan get to him and if successful in killing him how does he get out and back home. Hint on getting in – he and the Russian police officer have hit it off.

The action is fast and furious and keeps the reader glued to the pages. There is some character development involved and while nothing major it is sufficient to allow the reader to picture the individuals involved and understand their place in the proceedings.

7/2020 Paul Lane

THE ENGLISHMAN by David Gilman. Head of Zeus (July 9, 2020). ISBN: 978-1838931391.

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THE REQUEST by David Bell

July 15, 2020

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From the publisher:

When a man agrees to do a favor for a friend, he gets more than he bargained for as he becomes embroiled in a woman’s murder in this new thriller from the USA Today bestselling author of Layover.

Ryan Francis has it all—great job, wonderful wife, beautiful child—and he loves posting photos of his perfect life on social media. Until the night his friend Blake asks him to break into a woman’s home to retrieve incriminating items that implicate Blake in an affair. Ryan refuses to help, but when Blake threatens to reveal Ryan’s darkest secret—which could jeopardize everything in Ryan’s life—Ryan has no choice but to honor Blake’s request.

When he arrives at the woman’s home, Ryan is shocked to find her dead—and just as shocked to realize he knows her. Then his phone chimes, revealing a Facebook friend request from the woman. With police sirens rapidly approaching, Ryan flees, wondering why his friend was setting him up for murder.

Determined to keep his life intact and to clear his name, Ryan must find the real murderer—but solving the crime may lead him closer to home than he ever could have imagined.


I began reading this novel at 11:00 pm. Several hours later I was able to put it down for the very good reason that I had finished it. The book was mesmerizing, completely compelling, and one fantastic read.

Ryan Francis and his best friend Blake had a close relationship for many years taking them through college and then out into the business world. Ryan married Amanda and in due course, the couple had a son they named Henry.

Blake came to visit them and see the baby but committed an error. Holding Henry up he allowed the child’s head to be hit by a decoration causing a red mark. The protective Amanda was angered and practically threw Blake out of their house stating that he should not return there.

Rushing home as was normal, one evening Ryan was called by Blake and asked to do a big favor for him. He asks that Ryan break into a girl’s house and retrieve a packet of incriminating letters that Blake had allowed her to get while they were going together. During their college years, Ryan had committed a crime when driving drunk and had killed a young girl. Blake, driving with him prevented Ryan from being arrested by changing the setup of the drivers in the then wrecked car and putting another man who was with them into the driver’s seat. Blake indicates that he had been going with the girl and inadvertently given her letters outlining Ryan’s crime during their relationship. Blake met another girl, fell in love, and told girl #1 that he was leaving her to get married. He did not get the letters held back, for some reason could not reenter her house and convinced Ryan that it was in his interest to break in and get them.

Ryan had to agree, but when he entered the girl’s home he found her dead on the floor, obviously a murder victim. Ryan flees the scene, realizes that he has probably set himself up as the murderer and makes the determination that it is up to him to find the real killer.

Bell, in a fine piece of writing, takes his readers through a series of events that will cause them to constantly change their minds about who the killer is, and arriving at a logical ending drained. I’m sure that readers of this book will be lined up like I am awaiting David Bell’s next novel and just keep a pot of coffee boiling for that occasion.

7/2020 Paul Lane

THE REQUEST by David Bell. Berkley (June 30, 2020). ISBN: 978-0440000907. 416 pages.

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THE BLACK SWAN OF PARIS by Karen Robards

July 13, 2020

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From the publisher:

From New York Times bestselling author Karen Robards comes one of the most anticipated novels of the summer…

A world at war. A beautiful young star. A mission no one expected.

Paris, 1944

Celebrated singer Genevieve Dumont is both a star and a smokescreen. An unwilling darling of the Nazis, the chanteuse’s position of privilege allows her to go undetected as an ally to the resistance.

When her estranged mother, Lillian de Rocheford, is captured by Nazis, Genevieve knows it won’t be long before the Gestapo succeeds in torturing information out of Lillian that will derail the upcoming Allied invasion. The resistance movement is tasked with silencing her by any means necessary—including assassination. But Genevieve refuses to let her mother become yet one more victim of the war. Reuniting with her long-lost sister, she must find a way to navigate the perilous cross-currents of Occupied France undetected—and in time to save Lillian’s life.

For fans of The Nightingale, The Women in the Castle and The Lost Girls of Paris, this exquisite novel illuminates three women’s strength, courage and capacity for unconditional love.


Karen Robards turns her attention temporarily away from the successful contemporary suspense novels she normally writes in order to give her readers a war story. The book gives the reader many stories in one. It is about war – a bloody one – World War two. It tells the story of the French resistance to Nazi occupation braving the horrors of absolute repression practiced by the German conquerors. It takes place during the last period of the war at a point where an allied invasion is planned and both the Germans and allies are working to bestow their own ending on it. The Germans to find out where it will take place in order to turn it back, and the allies to hide it, surprising the enemy and making it into the final stage against the third Reich. Most importantly, the novel does not detract in any way from the author’s ability to mesmerize her readership and serves only to increase her range with those enjoying her books.

Genevieve Dumont is a singer that has created herself as a persona with an exceptionally good voice, a marvelous stage presence, and the ability to take charge of her audience. She is the daughter of French upper-class people, but has had a falling out with her mother Lillian de Rocheford, and has fled from her family and ending up in Casablanca, Morocco eking out a living singing in various venues to earn some money to live on.

Discovered there by Max, a British officer seconded to the French resistance movement, she is molded by him into a spy and guided into creating scenarios that allow her group to obtain information important to the French Partisans. Over the years they work together their emotions are kept in check, but the author creates a very plausible situation leading to the couple falling in love. The final section of the book finds that Lillian de Rocheford has been captured by the Germans and is being subjected to torture in order to force her to release the location of the coming invasion. Lilian knows the site due to the fact that the allies have given her an important role on the day of the invasion.

Family is family and Genevieve gets Max and her group to try and effect her mother’s release in order to carry out her assigned mission. That the book grabs hold of the readers and doesn’t let go until the end is a given. It is indicative of the literary talent that is Karen Robards and her ability to capture and keep her readers fixed on the book as well as looking for the next one.

7/2020 Paul Lane

THE BLACK SWAN OF PARIS by Karen Robards. MIRA; Original edition (June 30, 2020). ISBN: 978-0778309338. 480 pages.

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