THE LAST NIGHT AT TREMORE BEACH by Mikel Santiago

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.

KINDLE


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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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THE DIME by Kathleen Kent

March 25, 2017

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It’s been just over two years since Betty and her girlfriend, Jackie, relocated from Brooklyn to Dallas. Betty, a narcotics officer with Dallas PD, has finally been given lead on a huge case: a local has been in contact with one of the big Mexican cartels and a drop has been scheduled. Betty and her team have spent hours staking out the location where it’s to take place, but an incident with a bystander throws everything off kilter. As bodies stack up, the case becomes more complicated – worse so when it becomes clear that Betty herself has become a target. But a target of exactly what is unclear.

While this is by no means Kathleen Kent’s first rodeo, it is her first crime novel. And I have to say it’s a resounding success.

Betty Rhyzyk is a tall redhead, born and bred in Brooklyn. And she’s just the latest of a string of cops in the family. Her Polish roots run deep and the narrative is peppered with pieces of translated family wisdom. By the time the meat of the story begins, however, Betty is the only surviving member of the Rhyzyk clan.

Not that she’s alone in the world by any means. Her girlfriend, Jackie, a nurse who spends much of her time worrying over Betty’s diet, is steadfast and supportive even when the story begins to take a nasty turn. And Betty is supported by her fellow police officers as well, more or less. Kent does a fantastic job portraying the difficulties of being a female cop in what is still a very male centric career.

She also does a wonderful job bringing Dallas and Texas to life in this tale, so much so that the city becomes more than just a setting. The sense of place is true to its inspiration, as I’m sure anyone in the DFW area can attest (which makes sense because it’s the place Kent calls home.), imbuing the story with a distinct flavor and characteristic.

The Dime is the kind of book that begins with a bang and still manages to become increasingly intense. And the pacing and plot never falter. It is a dark one, so do be warned, but definitely one that’s joining the ranks of my own personal favorites. No word yet on whether Betty will be a new series lead, but I for one certainly hope that will be the case.

3/17 Becky LeJeune

THE DIME by Kathleen Kent. Mulholland Books; First Edition/First Printing edition (February 14, 2017).  ISBN 978-0316311038. 352p.

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SAY NOTHING by Brad Parks

March 20, 2017

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When will I learn not to start a thriller at 11:00 at night when I have to be at work at 7:30 the next morning?! Using every ounce of self discipline I have (which isn’t very much, I’m sorry to say) I read a little more than half of this book by 2:00 a.m, when I forced myself to go to bed. Sleep was slow in coming and I found myself waking at 3:45 and again at 5 to check on my daughter. No, she’s not a young child, but she’s mine and apparently this plotline was weighing heavily on my mind.

This is a hybrid domestic/legal thriller, two of my favorites mashed up together. Judge Scott Sampson is the happily married father of young twins. Wednesday afternoons he picks up the kids and they go swimming, so he’s really disappointed when Allison, his wife, texts him and says she forgot they have a doctor’s appointment that afternoon so she would pick them up.

Except she didn’t. And he didn’t. But someone who resembles Allison and was driving a gray Honda minivan did and both kids are now missing.

The judge is told to say nothing and how to rule in a case coming before him the next day. They are both frightened and freaking out, to say the least. The judge’s first impulse is to call the courthouse cops, but Allison is adamant they follow instructions exactly. But that first instruction is only the beginning. It turns out a much bigger case is in play.

The tension is almost unbearable at times in this fast paced, emotionally riveting read. This is Park’s first standalone thriller. I loved his Carter Ross mystery series but this is a big departure and extremely well done.

Parks’ Say Nothing got the trifecta of starred reviews, an enviable feat, from Publisher’s Weekly, Library Journal, and Kirkus Reviews. And if I starred reviews, he’d get mine, too. Don’t miss it.

3/17 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

SAY NOTHING by Brad Parks. Dutton (March 7, 2017).  ISBN 978-1101985595. 448p.

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DARE YOU by Jennifer Brown

February 24, 2017
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Nikki Kill Series, Book 2

Jennifer Brown’s synesthete heroine returns in this follow up to last year’s Shade Me.

In the months following her discoveries regarding Peyton Hollis and her murder, Nikki Kill has tried to live a fairly normal life But really, how normal can you get when you discover your mother had another child who was murdered by her own shady (but ridiculously rich) family. And considering said family then set their sights on Nikki, killing yet another Hollis child (Nikki’s boyfriend) instead… But crazy Luna Hollis is behind bars and the rest of the Hollises have fled the country, so Nikki is seemingly safe.

Safe enough to graduate, anyway.

When Nikki is arrested at a post-graduation bash, however, she finds out Luna is free once again. Not only that, but the DA’s office has now turned to Nikki as their number one suspect in Peyton’s murder. It’s clear Nikki’s being framed and it’s also clear Luna is the one responsible. But that doesn’t mean Nikki will have an easy time proving it.

Nikki’s story is a tangled web of secrets and lies, and she only barely scratched the surface in Shade Me. Considering her investigation seemed to be at a dead end, though, I was interested in seeing just how Brown would continue the tale.

Brown does a great job with this sequel. A witness allows Luna to be released, leaving Nikki once again the focus of crazy Hollis rage and obsession. And it turns out Peyton’s clues from before have more meaning than Nikki originally gleaned from them.

Nikki is a bit like a darker, more troubled Veronica Mars. No, Nikki doesn’t have a cop turned PI for a father. But Brown works the story in a way that it does make sense for Nikki to be investigating a murder and (as she has by now) to gain the trust of an actual cop in the official investigation. Her synesthesia isn’t a super power, but it does allow her to see things differently than those around her, giving her an added set of clues on top of anything the police might have at hand. And considering Peyton used it as their own secret language, it also makes sense that Nikki would uncover revelations the police aren’t clued into.

This is technically a teen series, but it absolutely has cross over appeal for adult mystery/thriller fans. Dare You does satisfactorily address some of the remaining questions left from Shade Me but also leaves the current duology open to continuation. And given how this second outing ends, I definitely hope to see more of Nikki Kill.

2/17 Becky LeJeune

DARE YOU by Jennifer Brown. Katherine Tegen Books (February 14, 2017).  ISBN 978-0062324467. 480p.

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THE PRISONER by Alex Berenson

February 20, 2017
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A John Wells Novel, Book 11

Alex Berenson, who is a reporter for the New York Times, introduced the character of John Wells in his first published book. Wells stood out as one of the most amazing personages presented for readers in a novel. He was an American working for the CIA who had succeeded in joining a unit of the terrorist group Al Qaeda. They had gotten to trust him making him privy to their plans. John became so rapt in his role that he even learned to appreciate Islam’s religion and converted to it.

After leaving the group with this mission accomplished, further books described the deeds of this dark individual in fighting terrorism. The Prisoner returns full circle to the beginnings of Wells’ career.

A high level mole is thought to be active at the very top levels of the CIA. To find this traitor John is forced to repeat his actions of the first book. He must be arrested by Americans or their allies and be imprisoned with a terrorist who is thought to know who the mole is.

Wells gets himself captured in circumstances that would point to him being a member of ISIS, allowing him entree to the terrorist organization. What happens to John during his capture and while imprisoned is described graphically enough to follow Berenson’s thoughts of the U.S. handling of terrorist suspects held outside of our country.

This book, like its predecessors, moves rapidly and keeps the reader glued to the pages following the process to its conclusions. There should be further novels featuring John Wells. He is just too interesting a character to let go without maximum development during the current conflicts with Islamic Terrorists. All Berenson’s novels featuring Wells are all-nighters, and there is no reason not to assume that those following will be any different.

2/17 Paul Lane

THE PRISONER by Alex Berenson. G.P. Putnam’s Sons (January 31, 2017).  ISBN 978-0399176159. 432p.

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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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