SINCE WE FELL by Dennis Lehane

May 24, 2017

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It’s been about two years since the last Lehane book, World Gone By, but it is always worth the wait and this book is no exception.

Since We Fell starts out as a character study of sorts. The first third of the book examines Rachel’s life in an attempt to help the reader understand what comes next. I thought the mystery of the book was put forth here – Rachel doesn’t know who her father is. Her mother always refused to tell her and when her mother finally agreed to tell her when she became of age, her mother died.

Next is the Rachel who is a successful, globe trotting TV journalist. But that career ends abruptly when she has a breakdown on live television during a trip to Haiti. The destruction and despair are palpable, but it is the personal that finally does her in. We don’t learn exactly what happened until later on, but we learn about the life of an agoraphobe.

Rachel is married to a news manager who can’t deal with her failure. Eventually she realizes he was not the perfect husband and marries again. Her second husband, Brian, is the love of her life. He travels quite a bit for work, but always communicates with her. The second third of the book is about their life together, his willingness to be shut away with her and how well he seems to know and understand her.

The last third of the book is the thriller some readers may be expecting. By this point I was beginning to think everything I’d read up to this point was the point, but I was wrong. The tension starts ratcheting up when Rachel ventures out on her own to meet a friend, then thinks she sees her husband going into a building around the corner. Brian is supposed to be on a plane out of the country, and this sparks the inner reporter in Rachel and off she goes.

There are many twists in this crazy roller coaster ride that positively hurtles to the finish line, and the pacing invariably speeds up towards the end. This was a terrific read for both literary readers and thriller readers, something that is not easy to accomplish. Hats off to Lehane, one of our most gifted writers. This is a cinematic read for sure, and I can see another fine film in Lehane’s future.

5/17 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

SINCE WE FELL by Dennis Lehane. Ecco (May 9, 2017). ISBN: 978-0062129383. 432p.



May 20, 2017

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Kovac and Liska take on multiple twisted cases as #1 New York Times bestselling author Tami Hoag explores a murder from the past, a murder from the present, and a life that was never meant to be. 

Win a copy of the new paperback of THE BITTER SEASON by Tami Hoag!

I loved this book when it came out in hardcover last year. My review:

The Kovac-Liska Series

This is the latest entry in the popular Kovac-Liksa series, but they are no longer working together for the Minneapolis police homicide unit. Detective Nikki Liska is now working the new cold case squad in hopes of spending more time with her teenage sons.

Detective Kovac is lost without her but learning to deal with a young, green partner on a new case; a brutal home invasion. An Asian studies professor and his wife were killed by a Samurai sword from the professor’s collection.

Liska is assigned a twenty-five year old murder of a highly honored sex crimes detective, and for some reason, his family does not want the case reopened and Liska doesn’t even want it. There is no DNA, which is the primary resource to help solve cold cases, but she is determined to do the best she can anyway, even while envying her old partner his new case.

This is a dark, gritty thriller but Hoag manages to lighten it up now and then with some black humor. A real page turner that is sure to please her legion of fans.

Copyright ©2016 Booklist, a division of the American Library Association.

1/16 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

THE BITTER SEASON by Tami Hoag. Dutton; Reprint edition (May 2, 2017).  ISBN 978-0451470072. 512p.

To win a copy of the new paperback of THE BITTER SEASON by Tami Hoagplease send an email to with “BITTER SEASON” as the subject.

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All entries must be received by May 31 2017. One (1) name will be drawn from all qualified entries and notified via email. This contest is open to all adults over 18 years of age in the United States only. Your books will be sent by the publicist.

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A TWIST OF THE KNIFE by Becky Masterman

May 14, 2017

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Brigid Quinn Series, Book 3


Brigid Quinn is a retired FBI agent that has turned into a bit of a rogue, to say the least. In this story she heads to Florida when her father ends up hospitalized. Brigid and her parents are not exactly close, none of the family is. Her father was a cop who shared completely inappropriate information and pictures from his cases with his very young children and all of them went into law enforcement. Brigid’s brother Todd is a Florida cop and their sister Ariel is in the CIA – and completely out of contact.

Brigid has another reason for heading to Florida. Her former protege/partner, Laura, asks for her help. She’s left the FBI and is working as an investigator with an appeals attorney on a death row case. The case has renewed urgency thanks to the governor signing a hurry up and die type law into effect and the clock is ticking.

Getting several law enforcement agencies to work together towards freeing a man on death row has as many hurdles as it sounds like, but makes for a really compelling read. I missed Brigid’s late in life relationship with her ex-priest husband  – he barely puts in an appearance here, but other than that I really enjoyed this latest entry in the series.

5/17 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

A TWIST OF THE KNIFE by Becky Masterman. Minotaur Books (March 21, 2017). ISBN 978-1250074515. 320p.


THE RED HUNTER by Lisa Unger

May 2, 2017

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Two women and their interwoven story lines come together in the latest from thriller writer extraordinaire, Lisa Unger.

Claudia and Ayers are happily married and trying to get pregnant when an intruder rips their lives apart. Claudia is raped, and a month later is pregnant but determined to get on with her life. But the marriage falls apart and eventually Claudia and her daughter move out to an old farmhouse she inherits. The place is literally falling apart, and Claudia decides to renovate the property and blog about it, mistakes and all.

Zoey Drake was a teenager when her family suffered a home invasion. Her father was a cop and the men who attacked them were after some money. He denied any knowledge of it, and the family was tortured and left for dead. The men were never caught.

Somehow Zoey survived, and her uncle raised her, bringing her to adulthood a strong – very strong – woman. Zoey studied martial arts and eventually decides to seek her own justice.

This is a story about women who refuse to be beaten down and instead, rise up to the challenges of life. The characters are so relateable that the reader can’t help but be drawn in, making the book unputdownable until the stunning ending. If you haven’t read Lisa Unger, this standalone thriller is a terrific place to start.

5/17 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

THE RED HUNTER by Lisa Unger. Touchstone (April 25, 2017)). ISBN 978-1501101670. 368p.


GONE WITHOUT A TRACE by Mary Torjussen

April 25, 2017

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After a day trip for work, Hannah returns home to find that her boyfriend, Matt, has left her. Not only has he left her, he’s stripped their shared home of any and every item he brought to it: his dvds and cds are gone and Hannah’s previously packed away books have replaced them on the shelves. His art is missing from the walls. Even the comforter and sheets, his before they were together, have been replaced on the bed. But the worst part? Every trace of Matt has been removed from Hannah’s phone, tablet, and social media – no contact information remains, no texts between the two of them, and every photo of Matt has been deleted.

Hurt and confused, Hannah becomes determined to try and find out what happened – why Matt left her and where he’s gone. But as the days and weeks become months, Hannah becomes convinced Matt is following her, sneaking back into their home and leaving messages on her phone. But why? Why would he leave? And why would he torment her so?

Mary Torjussen’s debut is a twisty psychological thriller that begs the question – just how far would you go to get answers if the person you loved most left you? It begs other questions, too, but those would give too much away.

Hannah is understandably devastated to find that Matt has left her. To her mind, everything had been going great between the two of them. Work was looking up too, but that begins to fall apart as well as she tries to find answers.

As a reader, given the information that Torjussen conveys through Hannah, all kinds of possibilities crossed my mind. Was Matt behind the messages in the first place? Did he leave willingly? And most importantly, what’s missing from this story?

I did not see the end coming. The clues are there, but I didn’t guess at all. Torjussen builds a story that is packed with tension, so much so that getting through it is both frustrating and thrilling. And worth it.

4/17 Becky LeJeune

GONE WITHOUT A TRACE by Mary Torjussen. Berkley (April 18, 2017).  ISBN 978-0399585012. 352p.



April 23, 2017

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Peter Harper, a well known and awarded composer, is experiencing what could be devastating writer’s block. Brought on in part by his recent divorce. Given everything, a vacation is definitely in order, and an isolated beach house on the coast of Ireland seems to be the perfect thing.

And it is, until Peter is struck by lightning one summer night. From that moment on, Peter suffers painful headaches and terrible nightmares. But these aren’t ordinary nightmares by any stretch. Peter experiences them as if they’re real, waking abruptly to find himself acting out the very actions he’s been dreaming. Peter knows something is very wrong, but his greatest fear is that the dreams are more than just dreams and that he could become a danger to the people he cares about.

Mikel Santiago’s debut is fabulous. Perfectly atmospheric and excellently chilling.

In Peter Harper, Santiago has built a character who is on the verge of a meltdown already. He’s separated from his family, and he’s unable to pen any new music worth anything. Music is his livelihood and his family is his everything.

Things are looking up regarding the latter, however. Peter’s kids are set to visit him at his rental soon and it’s a visit he’s been looking forward to with great anticipation. Even getting struck by lightening doesn’t put a damper on that. At least not until the dreams begin.

The dreams are threatening, at the very least, his sanity. Even those who know him best are worried. And from the moment his kids arrive, all of Peter’s energy is spent ensuring their safety. His greatest fear is that he’ll be some sort of threat to his own kids and that makes him an incredibly easy character to sympathize with.

As we root for Peter, in hopes he’ll find answers and that all will be ok, the mystery behind the dreams drives the story to an almost frenetic pacing. The result is an irresistible page-turner of a tale – the kind I’d recommend carving out enough time to read in one sitting.

Highly recommended – I can’t wait to see more from this author.

4/17 Becky LeJeune

THE LAST NIGHT AT TREMORE BEACH by Mikel Santiago. Atria Books (February 14, 2017).  ISBN 978-1501102240.  320p.


ONE PERFECT LIE by Lisa Scottoline

April 14, 2017

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It’s always a happy day in my house when a new Lisa Scottoline book appears on my doorstep. While my heart truly belongs to her series (Rosato & Associates which turns into Rosato & DiNunzio) I also enjoy the nonfiction books she writes with her daughter, Francesca Serritella, which are collections of the columns they write for the Philadelphia Inquirer. Then a few years ago (probably more than a few at this point) Lisa started writing standalones, sort of ripped from the headlines thrillers and family dramas that are most reminiscent of Jodi Picoult books. This one is a real suburban thriller, so if you like Harlan Coben or Jodi Picoult, add Scottoline to your reading list.

One Perfect Lie starts out one way and then takes a sudden, shocking turn. Set in a small, Pennsylvania town, Chris Brennan applies for a teaching position, taking over for a teacher out on leave. He also applies to be the assistant coach of the baseball team, and through the application process and then his starting days at the high school, he comes across as creepy and evil.

The story really focuses on some of the kids on the baseball team. One of them is suspected of stealing fertilizer that is used for explosions. And this is just days before the anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing. There’s Raz, who lost his father earlier that year and whose mother is having trouble adjusting. Jordan’s mom is a struggling single mother, but he never knew his father. And Evan is the golden child, son of a surgeon and a mom who lives for Facebook, posting one perfect family picture after another.

The teachers, students and their families all accept Chris and for the first time in his life – a life that seems to have been very difficult – he feels a sense of being at home. But it may all blow up – literally and figuratively.

Scottoline excels at character development and they propel the story along. And the ending was exceptionally gripping. This was a one night read for me and I really enjoyed it. Another winner from one of my favorites.

4/17 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

ONE PERFECT LIE by Lisa Scottoline. St. Martin’s Press (April 11, 2017). ISBN 978-1250099563. 368p.


BUM LUCK by Paul Levine

April 3, 2017

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Levine writes two of my favorite series, the Jake Lassiter series and the Solomon & Lord books. With 2016’s Bum Rap, he put his series characters together in one book, and he’s done it again here to great success.

Bum Luck is a terrific legal thriller and humorous crime novel, but more than that Levine tackles a tough subject: CTE, chronic traumatic encephalopathy. Lassiter is an ex-Miami Dolphin whose spent his pro career, not to mention high school and college ball, suffering one concussion after another and those headbanging injuries have come home to roost.

Lassiter realizes he has a problem when he gets his client, a famous and hugely popular football star, a not guilty verdict based on Florida’s infamous “stand your ground” law. Convinced his client is really guilty, Lassiter has fantasies of killing him himself – a little vigilante justice. Meanwhile, Solomon & Lord are opposing counsel in an insurance claim case and Lassiter is helping them more than his client, the insurance company.

Lassiter is also suffering from tremendous headaches, dizziness and tinnitus, in addition to his vigilante fantasies, and meets a neurologist that he wants to date, but she’s more interested in his brain issues. Lots of twists and turns keep the pages turning and this was a one nighter for me.

I’m deeply troubled by all the news about CTE and this was the perfect vehicle for a closer look at it. Levine manages to make it all easy reading and never gets preachy, and I am most appreciative that he made that leap in this excellent read.

4/17 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

BUM LUCK by Paul Levine. Thomas & Mercer (March 28, 2017).  ISBN 978-1477823101. 332p.


THE OUTSIDER by Anthony Franze

March 29, 2017

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Anthony Franze debut novel, The Advocate’s Daughter, was so good that it made my best books of 2016 list. I always worry about the so-called “sophomore slump” – writers generally have years to work on their first novel and a much, much tighter timeline for the second. I’m happy to report that The Outsider is a terrific legal thriller as well. And with the Supreme Court in the news, it’s also timely.

Franze is an attorney who has argued before the Supreme Court, and that’s where he sets his thrillers. He offers a wonderful backstage tour of our highest court, complete with notes at the end so you know what is true and what is made up. Plus his stories are riveting, as is the case here.

The “outsider” is Grayson Hernandez, a young man who graduated from a non-Ivy League law school and is working as a messenger in the Supreme Court building. Hernandez grew up in a poor part of D.C., and his best friends really related with S.E. Hinton’s Outsider. In fact, Hernandez’s nickname was Pony Boy.

The day he stumbles onto an assault against the Chief Justice in the parking lot changes his life – in more ways than is at first obvious. Hernandez saves the Chief Justice but the attacker escapes. Shaken, the Chief Justice decides to offer Hernandez a clerkship, the most sought after position for law school graduates.

Most, if not all, the clerks are from top tier law schools, the brightest of the brightest. Hernandez is bright, but had to stay home to help run his family business so those opportunities didn’t come his way. And then the Justice offers him some perks along with the job; his apartment in Georgetown, which comes with a new Audi. Hernandez is overwhelmed but the justice convinces him to accept the offer.

Hernandez loves his new job, discussing law with these brilliant scholars and the smartest one of all, the beautiful Lauren Hart. He has a hard time fitting in, of course, but the Justice offers advice from time to time and eventually he finds his place.

Meanwhile, it appears a serial killer is at work in the D.C. area, and the murder sites all have one thing in common; a feather quill pen, a gift that the justices present to all attorneys who come before them, is found at all the crime scenes. Hernandez is approached by the FBI to help, and he quickly gets in over his head.

There are enough plot twists to keep the pages turning and the suspense just keeps ratcheting up until the final denouement. If you’re a fan of legal thrillers, or just fast paced adrenaline reads, you won’t want to miss this one.

3/17 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

THE OUTSIDER by Anthony Franze. Minotaur Books (March 21, 2017). ISBN 978-1250071668. 320p.


WHAT YOU BREAK by Reed Farrel Coleman

March 27, 2017

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A Gus Murphy Novel, Book 2

Setting a thriller out in Suffolk County, Long Island, New York immediately drew my attention. I went to high school in that area and still have friends there. Nelson DeMille may own Nassau County, Long Island, NY (love the John Corey books and all his earlier thrillers) but now Coleman owns Suffolk. It’s always fun to see places you know pop up in a book and it adds another level of enjoyment. Of course, if you’ve never been to New York you get an interesting overview of an area even most visitors don’t see.

When I got married (in Nassau County) one of my bridesmaids was my roommate from the University of Miami. She was from Kansas City, Missouri and had never been to New York. She was shocked at Long Island. She thought all of New York was like the city, Manhattan, which is heavily featured in most NY films and TV shows. And in reality, Manhattan is only 23.7 square miles while the state of NY is 54,556 square miles, so you can see it is just a drop in the bucket. But I digress.

Gus Murphy is a retired Suffolk County detective who lost a child and never really recovered from it. His marriage fell apart, and he took a job as security at the Paragon hotel near MacArthur Airport in Islip, a sleepy little airport that mostly shuttles snowbirds back and forth to Florida. He also runs the shuttle to and from the airport and the train. In exchange for his services, he lives for free in a hotel room, a rather dreary existence but one that suits his needs.

Gus’s friend, former priest Bill Kilkenny, introduces him to a wealthy businessman, Micah Spears, whose granddaughter had been murdered and he wants to know why. Having lost a child himself, and being offered remuneration that would help keep his son’s name alive, Gus can’t say no despite not liking or trusting the man.

Gus is friendly with another hotel employee, Slava, who has a shadowy past that comes to the forefront. Gus delivers a new hotel guest to the Paragon and something about him just sets off Gus’s cop spidey-sense. When he sees the guest go off with Slava, he follows them to Brooklyn.

Gus parks down the street and watches as they talk to a man outside a house there and leave, and the man is brutally assassinated immediately after. After witnessing the cold blooded execution, Gus ends up protecting his friend from a Russian mercenary, street gangs and even some cops.

The pages fly in this ultimately dark and violent thriller. I didn’t read the first book in the series, but didn’t feel like I missed anything because Coleman offers enough back story to fill in the blanks. Coleman delivers another very good thriller.

3/17 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

WHAT YOU BREAK by Reed Farrel Coleman. G.P. Putnam’s Sons (February 7, 2017).  ISBN 978-0399173042. 368p.