KILLER CHEF by James Patterson

February 19, 2017
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Contributor: Jeffrey J. Keyes

James Patterson is hands down the world’s most prolific, traditionally published, adult fiction author. I’ve read many of his early Alex Cross books, and it is my understanding that he stills writes those. I also read the first half dozen Women’s Murder Club books. But all the other books over the years, the Women’s Murder Club, Private, Michael Bennett series and most of the standalones carry another author’s name. I am not finding fault here, in fact Patterson has turned many midlist authors into international bestsellers, and that is a good thing. Another good thing is his new imprint, BookShots.

BookShots were conceived as a way to get people who don’t read to pick up a book. I pulled this from the BookShots website:

Welcome to BookShots by James Patterson. Life moves fast—books should too. Pulse-pounding thrillers under $5 and 150 pages or less. Impossible to put down. Read on any device. Visit BookShots.com

Last summer, Alexandra Alter wrote an interesting piece about it in the New York Times, and she said, “Mr. Patterson’s plan: make them shorter, cheaper, more plot-driven and more widely available.” The books are all less than 150 pages and less than $5. If he’s right, and so far it looks like he may be on to something, more people will be reading books, and that makes this librarian (and former bookseller) happy.

So I decided to try one out. Killer Chef is set in New Orleans where a serial killer is targeting upscale couples and somehow poisoning their dinners at different restaurants. But the Killer Chef is not the murderer; he is the detective in charge of solving the crime, who works a second job as a partner/chef of a food truck.

The story moves quickly, the hallmark of all James Patterson books. Likewise, the undeveloped characters and plot, also trademark Patterson, but it feels almost deliberate. The book is entertaining in the way of a mediocre TV show, which I think was kind of the point.

I have recommended these Bookshots to high school students through adults who are reluctant readers, and have gotten mixed feedback. But I really like the idea of these books, and there are already quite a few available, and in every genre from romance to mystery to sci-fi to thrillers.

Not sure what the difference between co-author and contributor is, but it doesn’t matter. It has the Patterson name on it and it will sell.

2/17 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

KILLER CHEF by James Patterson. BookShots (November 1, 2016).  ISBN 978-0316317245. 144p.

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RUSH OF BLOOD by Mark Billingham

February 6, 2017
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Billingham publishes a standalone novel about murder in both the United States and England. It first came out as a paperback, and is now being released as a hardcover.

The plot involves three initially unconnected British couples that meet at a pool in their vacation hotel in Florida. They become fast friends and enjoy the respite offered by time lounging away from pressures in their daily life.

The vacation is spoiled, however, by the disappearance of a young girl during their last day in the sun. Her body is discovered hidden in the mangroves close by.

The couples return to their homes and to the normality of work while thinking back about the horror of the murder occurring while they were vacationing. They decide to try and keep their new friendship alive by meeting at each of their homes for dinner.

The three dinners integral to the story bring out flaws and defects in their individual characters not seen during the relaxed atmosphere of their vacation. Also the investigation of the murder in Florida continues with the police in London doing interviews of the six vacationers and reporting the details to the U.S. authorities reviewing the crime.

A murder takes place in the area that the couples live in with details coinciding with the one in Florida. It is a young girl with a mental defect about the same age as the American crime victim. The combination of the effort in both England and the U.S. brings the murders close to a solution with attention focused on vacationers from the U.K. vacationing or traveling to Florida during the period of the first killing. An unexpected ending is logical and well done bringing the mysteries to a close.

I have enjoyed Mark Billingham’s novels in the past, like this one, but have one overall observation. The pace is slower than it should be, the characters just there but two dimensional. I read the book slowly not being led into any all nighter, but certainly did not toss it aside as uninteresting. This observation will not stop me, nor, I feel, other readers from seeking out future novels by the author.

2/17 Paul Lane

RUSH OF BLOOD by Mark Billingham. Atlantic Monthly Press (February 7, 2017).  ISBN 978-0802125910. 480p.

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BEHIND HER EYES by Sarah Pinborough

January 31, 2017
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Louise has been single too long. That’s the only explanation for what happened. That and the fact that the man was handsome and they seemed to hit it off. But he’s married! And worse, he’s her new boss! Vowing it’ll never happen again, Louise painstakingly attempts to ensure a normal and unromantic work atmosphere. But when she runs into David’s wife, things become incredibly complicated.

Adele is pretty and oh-so-put-together. But she seems lonely. The more Adele and Louse spend time together, the harder it becomes for Louise to detach herself. And then things between her and David take a turn as well. But there’s something wrong with Adele and David. The picture Adele paints of their relationship is troubling, to say the least, but the David Louise knows is nothing like that. Or is he?

Having been a fan of Sarah Pinborough’s work for quite some time now, it really was no surprise to me that Behind Her Eyes would turn out to be so fabulous. It seems, though, that she may finally get the readership she deserves Stateside with this latest.

Behind Her Eyes begins almost innocently, and with an edge of humor as well. Louise is in a real pickle. So much so that she hides in the bathroom when David introduces his wife around his new office. So it’s understandable then that Adele would have no idea who Louise is when they run into each other. And for all her faults, Louise is a nice person.

Adele, though, is much less transparent. In fact, it’s clear from the beginning that something odd is going on with Adele and David.

Chapters alternate between Louise and Adele. And Adele’s story is further broken up between “Then” and “Now.” It makes for a truly wonderful reading experience that’s filled with uncertainty and suspicion – and that’s on the part of the characters and the reader.

And then there’s that ending. It’s an ending everyone is talking about (Behind Her Eyes has been out in the UK for some months now) and one that’s definitely worth it. I for one did not see it coming at all.

Behind Her Eyes is a definite favorite of mine for 2017 and one I highly recommend to any thriller fan looking for a fabulous new read!

1/17 Becky LeJeune

BEHIND HER EYES by Sarah Pinborough. Flatiron Books (January 31, 2017).  ISBN 978-1250111173. 320p.

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FATAL by John Lescroart

January 26, 2017
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Kate meets Peter at a dinner she attends with her husband, and becomes intrigued with the charming, married man. She wants a little fling and she sets out to seduce him. She succeeds, ending things then and there, but she has awakened the beast in Peter.

A few days later Kate is having lunch with her closest friend, Beth, a cop, and the women are caught up and severely injured in a terrorist attack in the busy San Francisco restaurant near Peter’s office. That event, coupled with his tryst with Kate, convince Peter to leave his wife and family and follow through on all his sexual desires, even though Kate has rebuffed him.

Months later, Kate and Beth are both on the road to recovery when they hear that Peter has been murdered. Beth is assigned the case and while her partner cares for his sick child, she follows every lead, getting nowhere fast.

These characters are well drawn and Beth would make a great continuing character should Lescroart choose to leave Dismas Hardy, his regular series character, behind. This is a terrific standalone thriller that melds police procedural with plenty of suspense and action, and should appeal to Harlan Coben or Gillian Flynn fans.

Copyright ©2017 Booklist, a division of the American Library Association.

1/17 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

FATAL by John Lescroart. Atria Books (January 24, 2017).  ISBN 978-1501115677. 320p.

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THE PROMETHEUS MAN by Scott Reardon

January 25, 2017
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Tom Reese is not a member of the CIA nor any other lettered agency of the Federal Government. But his brother Eric was and was killed.

The agency has allowed the case of Eric’s death to go cold. Tom assumes the personage of an active CIA operative and gets himself transferred to Paris and joins the team that traces his only link to his brother’s killer.

Remember that authors use literary license in order to make their story palatable. So we will disregard the impossible feat of assuming the identity of an active agent of the CIA and proceed to the events.

Eric Blake and his team were engaged in finding a man who was the test subject of a project to turn out the perfect soldier via augmenting his body. The CIA finally realizes that there are two Tom Reeses’ working for them in two different places. Plus the man that was augmented discovers that someone is after him.

In going forward, Tom meets the daughter of the augmented man and agrees to drive her from Paris to Berlin to meet her father. She trusts him to do so (again literary license) and in avoiding both the CIA and a group after them, fall in love. In a coincidence it is also discovered that Tom was augmented in the same experiment as his brother.

The novel does keep the reader’s interest and continually reading. The setting in Europe is well documented and the action sufficient to say that disregarding the improbable makes the book well worth the time spent reading it. I will be on the lookout for additional novels by Reardon and will have no problem overlooking what is, shall we say, far fetched.

1/17 Paul Lane

THE PROMETHEUS MAN by Scott Reardon. Mulholland Books; (January 24, 2017).  ISBN 978-0316310925. 352p.

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THE GIRL BEFORE by J.P. Delaney

January 24, 2017
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From the publisher:

In the tradition of The Girl on the Train, The Silent Wife, and Gone Girl comes an enthralling psychological thriller that spins one woman’s seemingly good fortune, and another woman’s mysterious fate, through a kaleidoscope of duplicity, death, and deception.

SOON TO BE A MAJOR MOTION PICTURE DIRECTED BY RON HOWARD

Please make a list of every possession you consider essential to your life.

The request seems odd, even intrusive—and for the two women who answer, the consequences are devastating.

EMMA
Reeling from a traumatic break-in, Emma wants a new place to live. But none of the apartments she sees are affordable or feel safe. Until One Folgate Street. The house is an architectural masterpiece: a minimalist design of pale stone, plate glass, and soaring ceilings. But there are rules. The enigmatic architect who designed the house retains full control: no books, no throw pillows, no photos or clutter or personal effects of any kind. The space is intended to transform its occupant—and it does.

JANE
After a personal tragedy, Jane needs a fresh start. When she finds One Folgate Street she is instantly drawn to the space—and to its aloof but seductive creator. Moving in, Jane soon learns about the untimely death of the home’s previous tenant, a woman similar to Jane in age and appearance. As Jane tries to untangle truth from lies, she unwittingly follows the same patterns, makes the same choices, crosses paths with the same people, and experiences the same terror, as the girl before.

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Usually I don’t bother with the publisher’s synopsis as they tend to run to lots of superlatives and not much substance. In this case, the superlatives are warranted. This was a terrific read and was an all nighter for me.

I loved the characters, they way the story moved between them, and the way the mystery builds. I am not always a fan of the “girl books”, the unreliable narrator as it were, but it definitely worked here. I loved it.

1/17 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

THE GIRL BEFORE by J.P. Delaney. Ballantine Books (January 24, 2017). ISBN 978-0425285046. 352p.


HER EVERY FEAR by Peter Swanson

January 18, 2017
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When Kate Priddy agrees to a house swap with her cousin in Boston, no one is more surprised than Kate. Well, her parents maybe. To say Kate is not adventurous is an understatement, but after barely surviving being kidnapped by her psychotic ex just a few years ago, it’s no surprise that Kate’s careful. And yet, the simple expectation that she’ll say no to the request when her cousin reaches out to her is enough to move Kate to say yes.

Upon her arrival, though, Kate learns that the girl in the apartment next door has gone missing. Kate immediately jumps to murder as the logical conclusion: unfortunately she’s right. While the girl’s death certainly has nothing to do with Kate, she can’t help but be curious. As more about the girl comes to light, including a possible affair with Kate’s own cousin, the Brit becomes more entangled in the mystery, catching the attention of a very dangerous man. But will Kate unravel the clues in time to save herself?

Swanson’s latest features a character who is, as mentioned, understandably cautious and careful. And paranoid. But she’s overly aware of these things to the point that they almost become a detriment to her very safety.

Any normal girl would be concerned if someone one door away was murdered. Kate seems to have a knee-jerk reaction that results in the opposite. As with her decision to spend six months far away from home, on another continent, Kate’s assumption that the murder has nothing to do with her and therefore couldn’t possibly mean any danger to her seems to be an attempt to reclaim a sense of control and normalcy in her life.

And it’s something of an admirable quality in her as a heroine. Rather than becoming a shut in who books the first plane home, she snoops. She snoops around her cousin’s apartment. She snoops into the dead girl’s life. She snoops around the apartment building too.

And maybe snooping isn’t best decision.

Not that it makes any difference. Swanson offers up multiple perspectives throughout the novel, making it quite clear that Kate’s mere presence in the apartment means catching the eye of the killer. It makes the reader wonder if even her return to London would have kept her out of trouble.

Her Every Fear is deliciously paced twisted fun!

1/17 Becky LeJeune

HER EVERY FEAR by Peter Swanson. William Morrow (January 10, 2017).  ISBN 978-0062427021. 352p.

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GLAXO by Herman Ronsino

January 17, 2017
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Samuel Rutter (Translator)

Glaxo is the first novel by Ronsino to be translated into English and published in the United States. It is a short novel; actually more of a short story. The summary presented indicates that it is a chilling tale of murder, betrayal and romance.

It does bring these incidents into play, but without any development of the four boys, than men, that interact in the book. I finished it in a very short time continuing to look for the excitement promised. Never happened.

What did interest me was some description of the Pampas in Argentina during a fairly recent time. The characters are all interested in a movie shown in the local theater starring John Wayne. I guess that represents a situation that influences them, and the town they live in and the movie house showing the film is depicted as deteriorating over the several years involved in the action.

Ronsino’s credentials indicates that he is a sought after Latin American author. I would like to read a longer book that he has published and had translated into English. That would undoubtedly be a more rewarding way to develop an opinion about him as an author.

1/17 Paul Lane

GLAXO by Herman Ronsino. Melville House (January 17, 2017). ISBN: 978-1612195674. 112p.

 


THE RIVER AT NIGHT by Erica Ferencik

January 12, 2017
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Wini is at a bad place in her life; her marriage has fallen apart and her troubled younger brother has died. Pia is the alpha female, strong and successful, Sandra is in an abusive marriage, and Rachel is an emergency room nurse.

These women have been best friends for years, and take an annual vacation together. This year Pia convinces them to go white water rafting in Maine at an off-the-grid location with a new young guide. Only Pia is physically ready for such a trip, but she convinces her 40-something year old friends to go anyway.

Their guide, Rory, is twenty years younger than they are, and Pia quickly seduces him. After the briefest possible instructions, they take off on the raft and of course disaster strikes. To survive this trip, these women must fight the currents, the elements, and the mother-son duo who are living off the grid and don’t take kindly to visitors.

The action moves as fast as the white water rapids and should appeal to fans of Ruth Ware and Lisa Unger.

Copyright ©2017 Booklist, a division of the American Library Association.

1/17 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

THE RIVER AT NIGHT by Erica Ferencik. Gallery/Scout Press (January 10, 2017).  ISBN 978-1501143199. 304p.

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THE DRY by Jane Harper

January 10, 2017
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This is a thriller that is garnering a lot of attention and tons of starred reviews, and I did enjoy reading it. But I did keep putting it down, so don’t know that I’d give it a starred review myself.

It is set in rural Australia, which felt like it could have been rural North Dakota or some other area I’m not all that familiar with. A small farming town. A drought. And a family murdered in their own home, the father an apparent suicide.

The local sheriff is not comfortable with the scenario that the father did it. Something isn’t sitting right with him. So when Federal Agent Aaron Faulk returns to town for his childhood best friend’s funeral, he ends up staying to help with the investigation.

The story meanders off in several directions. Luke, the suicide and assumed murderer, was Aaron’s alibi when a young girl friend of theirs turned up drowned when they were in high school. A page was found with the name Faulk written on it in her room, making Aaron and his father prime suspects. Nothing was ever proven, but Aaron’s father felt it best to leave town. So that’s one unsolved murder. The family is another.

There are a lot of red herrings and suspicious characters, and the ending was quite suspenseful and a bit of a surprise, all the hallmarks of a good thriller. This is a debut so expect more from this talented author.

1/17 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

THE DRY by Jane Harper. Flatiron Books (January 10, 2017). ISBN 978-1250105608. 336p.