A NEARLY NORMAL FAMILY by M.T. Edvardsson

June 25, 2019

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This book is the story of a murder trial involving a young, eighteen-year-old girl. The author uses the technique of three narratives in telling his story.

There is the girl’s father, a Pastor and a man dedicated to the truth; her mother, a criminal defense lawyer; and of course Stella Sandell, the lady on trial. The technique, employed quite successfully by Edvardsson, is to utilize three separate sections of the novel, each dedicated to the thoughts and actions of the three people involved. Each part supplies the reader with different facts making up the plot and certainly causes many changes of opinion as the novel progresses.

Stella is a girl that certainly has her own mind and is more than a little rebellious. She is a student reaching the end of high school with the one ambition of taking a trip of several months to Asia. Important to her, and to the story, is her best friend who has been with her almost all of her short life. Amina, her friend, is the exact opposite of her, immersed in studies with the intention of becoming a doctor.

Both Stella and Amina have drifted into a relationship with a man fifteen years older than they are. Each tries to keep her role with him apart and attempting to keep the other thinking that they are not involved with him. It is this man that is killed and circumstances put the blame on Stella. She is arrested and brought to trial.

The strength of the story is the steady building up of suspense and the maintaining of the flow keeping the reader glued to the novel. While it was written in Swedish and takes place in a small city in Sweden, the translation is an excellent one allowing the nuances of the English I read it in to be quite clear. A definite five star novel and one showcasing the work of an author at the top of his game.

6/19 Paul Lane

A NEARLY NORMAL FAMILY by M.T. Edvardsson. Celadon Books (June 25, 2019). ISBN 978-1250204431. 400p.

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MAN OF THE YEAR by Caroline Louise Walker

June 21, 2019

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It is a truly wonderful feeling to pick up the first published novel by an author and realize that she has hit the jackpot on the first try. Hopefully, there will be many more of the same category allowing her readers to look forward to her books and picking them up when available.

The story begins, as the title indicates, with Dr. Robert Hart receiving the Sag Harbor award for the Man of the Year. Dr Hart has it all: a thriving medical practice, a beautiful home, a beautiful and charming wife. His setting is in a lovely and upscale community on Long Island away from the mad hustle and bustle of New York City, hours away by car. His boat sits in the harbor and his dream is to get an even fancier boat in the near future.

His son, Jonah, has just come off the normal teenage rough patch and is apparently entering an adulthood that involves better relationships with his parents. Jonah has a very good friend that he met in the college he is attending and brings Nick home with him for the summer vacation. And therein enters the fly in the ointment.

After a time, Robert comes to the conclusion that Nick is having an affair with Elizabeth, the beautiful wife in the picture. Walker brings out Dr. Hart’s suspicions via innuendos he perceives in watching the interaction between the two. Clues are available for the reader which seem to point in that direction.

We are swept up in the story by the method and style used by the author and it is a book that cannot be put down before finished. There is a surprise ending which is satisfying based on what has gone before it. This in no way is any sort of detriment for the reader. I leave with the hope that I will have the pleasure of reading more Walker books in the near future.

6/19 Paul Lane

MAN OF THE YEAR by Caroline Louise Walker. Gallery Books (June 11, 2019). ISBN 978-1982100452. 304p.

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THE DARWIN AFFAIR by Tim Mason

June 17, 2019

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Mason takes his readers back into the England of Queen Victoria in a period around the 1860’s. He brings to vibrant life a London rife with dirt, filth, crime and disease.

Charles Darwin has recently returned from his five year voyage on H.M.S. Beagle and as a result of his studies and observations had published the very controversial “Origin Of the Species.” His claim was that nature assured the survival of creatures that developed the strongest adaptation of those skills necessary to survive in a competitive world. His views conflicted with those of many people that subscribed to the notion that man was made in God’s image. It was therefore, blasphemy to consider that humans were evolutionary descendants of apes.

At the same time the author Charles Dickens had created Chief Detective Bucket in his novel “Bleak House.” It was thought that Inspector Bucket was modeled after a real life police officer named Charles Field. The Darwin Affair begins with an attempted assassination of Queen Victoria and her husband, the Prince Consort Albert. Field is assigned to protect the royal couple and becomes involved with many of the events described.

The story brings into play a kidnapping of a butcher’s boy and what happens to him, a ring of men that rob graves in order to sell the corpses to medical schools and a visit of Prince Albert with Victoria to his native Bavaria. Mason also presents the  woman who became known as Typhoid Mary to later generations of medical students. Mary was thought to be a carrier of a recessed gene for typhoid, infecting all she came in contact with but never showing symptoms herself.

The author has taken great care in researching the events portrayed and the settings in which they take place. Conversations attributed to the characters have carefully been formulated to ring true to the more formal manner of speaking at the time. A rewarding read with the consequent portrait of the period being looked at and one that will cause readers to seek out future books by this author.

6/19 Paul Lane

THE DARWIN AFFAIR by Tim Mason. Algonquin Books; 1 edition (June 11, 2019). ISBN 978-1616206345. 384p.

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RECURSION by Blake Crouch

June 12, 2019

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From the very fertile mind of Blake Crouch comes another novel that is like his past works: almost science fiction, perhaps forecasting the future but most decidedly imaginative and bound to cause sleepless nights for his readers. Crouch has given us the trilogy “Wayward Pines” and recently “Dark Matter” This, his latest novel, continues in the vein of being completely out of the box and going way beyond the limits of imaginative fiction.

Barry Sutton is a detective with the New York City Police Department. He is called to try and stop a possible suicide of a woman who is looking to jump off a building in Manhattan. In talking to her, the lady comes out with the reason for wanting to jump; “my son has been erased.” When she does jump to her death Barry is stirred to begin investigating what she was talking about. He finds a definite surge around the country with cases of people waking up from sleep with memories of a life they never lived. The malady gets the name of “false memory syndrome” and appears to be spreading with resultant suicides when the situation can’t be faced.

Separately, neuroscientist Helena Smith is working on a method of preserving one’s most intense memories and allowing the person involved to relive them. A method seen as providing humans with vivid memories of both wonderful, and even bad in order to enjoy them again.

Barry and Helena meet, becoming lovers and marrying. And Helena’s project gives rise to actually reentering life at certain points in time based on the memories of the person. Is this time travel or something more? Crouch builds a lucid and very logical progression of events involved with using memories to relive the past. While nothing is mentioned in the notes after the book, I believe it would be an incredible movie. Hope Hollywood picks this up and makes it so.

6/19 Paul Lane

RECURSION by Blake Crouch. Crown (June 11, 2019). ISBN 978-1524759780. 336p.

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A FACE IN THE CROWD by Kerry Wilkinson

June 9, 2019

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Lucy and Ben are a very happy couple. They love each other and plan on marriage in a short while. As are many young couples, their incomes are not very big but that does not deter them from enjoying life together living with each other.

Lucy is attempting to complete her university studies while Ben is building up his clientele as a day trader. Ben usually works from their apartment with some travel as needed As the novel opens Ben is getting ready to meet clientele traveling to them by train. He leaves on his trip and the world comes apart for Lucy. She is notified that there was a train wreck with many fatalities and Ben is among them.

Five years later Lucy is working as a cashier in a small supermarket. She unfortunately discovered, much to her chagrin, that Ben had taken all their savings and lost them in the securities market as well as piling up debt for other investments beyond any near term means of repaying it. Lucy became responsible for repayment when it was discovered that her signature had been forged by Ben on loan applications. She is living from hand to mouth with no real means of getting out from under the debt.

Taking the bus to work every day brings the novel to an important moment in the story. Coming home from work she discovers that someone had inserted an envelope with thousands of pounds into her purse. The amount is equal to about three months of her salary from the supermarket but Lucy feels that the only option for her is to look for the person that placed the envelope in her bag and return it.

Finding the money brings Lucy to a juncture in her life. Is the money a means of bettering her situation or is it something causing a host of problems for her. The novel takes the reader through the events occurring due to the finding of the money and makes it a book that cannot be left aside, but must be finished in one reading. Certainly Wilkinson continues his excellent literary career with the expectation that future books by him must be bought and read. There is little doubt that they will be as mesmerizing as this one is.

6/19 Paul Lane

A FACE IN THE CROWD by Kerry Wilkinson. Bookouture (June 3, 2019). ISBN 978-1786817648. 280p.

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THE LAST THING SHE REMEMBERS by J. S. Monroe

May 30, 2019

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Monroe presents his readers with a puzzle upon another puzzle and so on. The reader is grabbed as soon as the story starts to unfold when an unknown woman arrives at a sleepy Wiltshire village in England directly from an arrival at Heathrow airport from Germany. She is not only unknown but also a mystery to herself when she has no memory of who she is, what her name is, reports her bag missing but has a train ticket home. She goes to a home in the town, knocks on the door and strangely is admitted. She shows a familiarity for the dwelling and the current residents believe that she might have lived there at some point in the past.

The author takes us through the interactions of the woman, the husband in the home she enters, the police and as an aside the appearance and shooting of another woman by the police when that person is thought to be the first lady. Puzzling no?

Monroe takes us on a roller coaster of a ride delivering enough evidence for the reader to change his or her mind several times during the events described. The finale is logical, but as in any conclusion in life is more than a little open ended and leaves some doubts in the readers’ minds. A very well done and satisfying story which leaves no doubt that subsequent novels by the author will be looked for and read.

5/19 Paul Lane

THE LAST THING SHE REMEMBERS by J. S. Monroe. Park Row; Original edition (May 28, 2019). ISBN 978-0778307822. 416p.

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KEEP YOU CLOSE by Karen Cleveland

May 29, 2019

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This is Cleveland’s second published book and it follows on the heels of “Need to Know,” which was a mesmerizing novel dealing with a woman working as an analyst for the CIA. In her second book, the protagonist is a woman working for the FBI and the reader is again drawn into the story and kept there until the novel is finished.

Stephanie Maddox is in charge of an FBI unit dealing with internal affairs. She was promoted to the position at an age younger than her peer group and intends to earn the position as well as more by her hard work and dedication. She is the single mother of a teen age boy about to graduate from high school and awaiting acceptance to college. Stephanie is totally dedicated to Zachary, her son, and only wants what is best for him.

The unthinkable does happen suddenly when she finds a gun hidden in Zach’s effects; fully loaded with extra bullets in the same spot. At the same time, she is visited by a friend of hers that works with the FBI’s domestic terrorism squad. His visit is not social and his explanation is: “It’s about Zachary”.

Stephanie refuses to accept any supposition that her son is guilty of wrong doing and begins her own unofficial investigation into the matter. The book details what she finds and the reader will not be surprised that it involves people in very high places. These include the Russian Mafia and a U.S. senator that Stephanie has worked for in the past as well as an ex-boyfriend of hers.

Tightly woven, the author leads us on to an ending that is a bit tricky to accept but is a fitting one for the story. Another excellent read by Cleveland and definitely making sure that her future books will be high up on her readers’ acquisitions list.

5/19 Paul Lane

KEEP YOU CLOSE by Karen Cleveland. Ballantine Books (May 28, 2019). ISBN 978-1524797058. 352p.

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THE FAVORITE DAUGHTER by Kaira Rouda

May 27, 2019

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Jane Harris lives in a perfect home in a perfect area of Southern California with her perfect family and she herself is a perfect control freak.

About a year before the novel begins, her oldest daughter, Mary, was killed in an accident, falling off a cliff at a park set by the ocean. Since than Jane has not ventured outside of her home, remaining in a miasma with the death on her mind. The story opens with her husband, other daughter and herself preparing to attend a memorial service for Mary planned and organized by her husband and inviting many people living in the area.

The story is told in first person only with Jane’s thoughts, reactions and comments bringing the reader a magnificent portrait of the ensuing events through the mind of a woman who must remain in control at all costs. She takes the position that her attitudes and only her attitudes must take precedence and finds fault with anyone attempting to thwart her ideas. Getting ready to attend the memorial she preens and preps herself to take center stage at the event and give a heartfelt speech about herself and her feelings for her deceased daughter. Her pride takes a blow when it is her husband that makes that speech and she is not invited to speak.

The next event that must be faced is the high school graduation of her other daughter, Betsy. While waiting for this event, Jane brings us her views on several happenings that have been taking place around her. First, her husband is working a great deal of hours at his office and is rarely home. Then her daughter Betsy is dating someone that Jane feels is not worthy of her family’s acceptance.

Rouda’s portrait of Jane and the way she deals with the world as she sees it is a fascinating adventure into the mindset of a woman that must
retain control of everything she takes part in. The characterization of her is an adventure into the thoughts and feelings of someone that is actually quite a bit off normal. This does nothing to detract from the novel, but is the factor that makes it a mesmerizing read.

5/19 Paul Lane

THE FAVORITE DAUGHTER by Kaira Rouda. Graydon House; Original edition (May 21, 2019). ISBN 978-1525835148. 368p.

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WHITE PEAK by Ronan Frost

May 25, 2019

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Frost presents a novel with both high adventure and some science fiction. The book is exciting, a fast read and one geared towards keeping the readers glued to the pages until finished.

The story opens as Rye Mckenna is holding onto a telephone listening to his wife being murdered when she is caught in a shooting at the mall she was shopping at. Rye is devastated. He is approached by a man representing the multi billionaire Greg Rask and asked if he would like to exact revenge for his wife’s murder.

Rask is assembling a team to search out a map that, if real, will point out where Hitler’s Ahnenerbe hid the three stones that have mystic curative powers. Hitler was a firm believer in the occult and did have this organization make many expeditions searching for the stones. Rask, who has a terminal illness, believes that the map will prove useful to him in curing the disease and has already spent a fortune looking for a miracle.

Rask does arrange for Rye to meet with his wife’s murderer even with the individual in prison. Rye has his chance to exact revenge and does so after which he agrees to join Rask’s team. Along with the other members of the squad journeys are undertaken both to France and than to Tibet where the search is centered on discovery of a lost city where the map is thought to reside. The action is fast, the writing compelling and the reader experiences the feeling that he or she is with the group and traveling in some of the most exotic places on earth.

The ending is one based on a science fiction theme and I felt that it was a bit out of kilter with the rest of the book. It does cause the novel to become more than a little off balance and might even spoil a good book with a poor finale. But again the beginning is compelling and the description of an exotic land well done. This factor could very well negate the ending.

5/19 Paul Lane

WHITE PEAK by Ronan Frost. St. Martin’s Press (May 21, 2019). ISBN  978-1250130082. 336p.

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DECEPTION COVE by Owen Laukkanen

May 22, 2019

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Neah Bay, Book 1

With the publication of “Deception Cove,” the author introduces two very unique and quite interesting characters while doing his normal job of capturing the attention of the reader and holding it.

The first is a lady named Jess Winslow who a) got married b) joined the Marines and c) did two tours in Afghanistan seeing all the action one can see. Jess’s husband was killed while she was serving her country and she was discharged from the corps and sent home. Due to the combination of her time in action and the untimely death of her husband, she was diagnosed as suffering from PTSD, released from duty and sent home. She was given a dog especially trained to work with and help returning veterans suffering from PTSD.

The second person is Mason Burke, who is nearing the end of a 15 year prison term for taking part in a robbery that saw the owner of the store shot dead. Towards the end of his sentence, Mason is allowed to train a dog for the purpose of helping those veterans suffering from PTSD, and of course, the dog named Lucy is awarded to Jess. Getting out of prison Mason makes inquiries about Lucy, finds out who she was awarded to and also learns the disturbing news that the dog will shortly be put down for attacking a man. He decides that the only course open to him is to travel to where Jess lives and try and save the dog. This is in a remote but quite beautiful area in the state of Washington. Mason travels there, manages to make contact with Jess and both work on making sure that Lucy is not destroyed.

The story is well done, quite engrossing with the protagonists defined, and that includes the villains of the piece. The best part is an afterward. Laukkanen indicates that he is currently working on future books featuring Jess, Mason, and of course, Lucy. My recommendation is to read this book, find out what happens and what events shape the future. Enjoy a good read and make note of looking for the future novels promised by the author. Readers will not be disappointed in the events depicted in the book and certainly welcome the news that there will be more in the near future.

5/19 Paul Lane

DECEPTION COVE by Owen Laukkanen. Mulholland Books (May 21, 2019). ISBN 978-0316448703. 384p.

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