THE PALACE by Christopher Reich

August 4, 2020

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Simon Riske, Book 3

From the publisher:

In his greatest challenge yet, international spy Simon Riske must face a ring of ruthless masterminds and foil a plot with global implications as he becomes the world’s most wanted man.

Life is good for Rafael de Bourbon. The forty-year-old Spaniard recently married to a wealthy English beauty, and is days away from opening a luxury boutique hotel off the southern coast of Thailand. But when the Royal Thai Police storm the hotel and arrest him for blackmail and extortion, “Rafa” is thrown into Bangkok’s most notorious jail. In desperation, he reaches out to the one man who can prove his innocence.

Simon Riske, ex-con and now “private spy,” owes Rafa his life. Once he and De Bourbon were the closest of friends, until a woman came between them. Riske rushes to Bangkok to secure his friend’s release and overnight, finds himself caught up in a web of intrigue larger and more dangerous than he could imagine. In hours, it is Riske who finds himself the wanted man.

On the run in a foreign country, pursued by powerful unseen forces who will stop at nothing until he is killed, Riske must stay alive long enough to uncover the truth behind an international conspiracy that threatens to wreak carnage across the glittering capitals of Europe. From Bangkok to Singapore and ultimately to Cannes, Riske enlists the help of a daring investigative reporter, a rogue Mossad agent, and his own band of home-grown specialists, to thwart the cabal behind the plot, only to learn its very origins are frighteningly close to his past.

Frighteningly timely, diabolically clever, and ever so stylish, The Palace is Christopher Reich’s sharpest and most exciting book yet.


This is a novel that has all the ingredients to keep the reader glued to the pages. It is high adventure played out in exotic parts of the world and by people with titanic fortunes at their disposal and greedy to add to their wealth.

This is Christopher Reich’s third book featuring Simon Riske, now a private spy, formerly ex-convict, and a man that takes on problem-solving wherever and whenever the mood strikes him. He has the wealth to do so and to also ensure that the ability of a client to pay him has nothing to do with taking on any challenge.

Rafael de Bourbon is a friend of Riske’s and had once literally saved his life. He is also married to a woman that Riske was once in love with. He is in Thailand and in the process of opening up a luxury boutique hotel. While working at finishing up the work on his proposed hotel he is subjected to a raid by Royal Thai police and charged with blackmail and extortion. With no evidence produced, Rafael is thrown into Bangkok’s worse jail. In desperation, he manages to contact Simon Riske who feels obligated to travel to Thailand and work on getting his friend freed.

Simon quickly discovers that Rafael is somehow mixed up in a plot of immense magnitude and incidentally finds himself mixed up in the problem. In working on the solution, the Israeli Mossad, a world-famous financial lady author, and more friends of his join in the proceedings with Simon to come to grips with joining into the search for answers.

The format of the book is continued action, action, and more action with trips undertaken to various countries that have a place in the scheme of things. Needless to say, there is no rest on this one. Another all-nighter for readers of the book, and of course awaiting the next novel by the author.

8/2020 Paul Lane

THE PALACE by Christopher Reich. Mulholland Books (August 4, 2020). ISBN: 978-0316456012. 416 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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THE LAST FLIGHT by Julie Clark

July 11, 2020

From the publisher:

The instant New York Times and USA Today bestseller!

An Amazon Best Book of the Year So Far – 2020!

The Last Flight is thoroughly absorbing―not only because of its tantalizing plot and deft pacing, but also because of its unexpected poignancy and its satisfying, if bittersweet, resolution. The characters get under your skin.”―The New York Times Book Review

Two women. Two flights. One last chance to disappear.

Claire Cook has a perfect life. Married to the scion of a political dynasty, with a Manhattan townhouse and a staff of ten, her surroundings are elegant, her days flawlessly choreographed, and her future auspicious. But behind closed doors, nothing is quite as it seems. That perfect husband has a temper that burns as bright as his promising political career, and he’s not above using his staff to track Claire’s every move, making sure she’s living up to his impossible standards. But what he doesn’t know is that Claire has worked for months on a plan to vanish.

A chance meeting in an airport bar brings her together with a woman whose circumstances seem equally dire. Together they make a last-minute decision to switch tickets―Claire taking Eva’s flight to Oakland, and Eva traveling to Puerto Rico as Claire. They believe the swap will give each of them the head start they need to begin again somewhere far away. But when the flight to Puerto Rico goes down, Claire realizes it’s no longer a head start but a new life. Cut off, out of options, with the news of her death about to explode in the media, Claire will assume Eva’s identity, and along with it, the secrets Eva fought so hard to keep hidden.

For fans of Lisa Jewell and Liv Constantine, The Last Flight is the story of two women―both alone, both scared―and one agonizing decision that will change the trajectory of both of their lives.


A very well crafted story of two women coming from different backgrounds who meet briefly and change each other’s lives forever.

Claire Cook is an intelligent and accomplished individual married into one of the wealthiest families in the world. She seems to have a perfect life enjoying the things that her husband’s money can bring her. All she has to do is work on various projects that benefit many people and obey her husband. The fly in the ointment is that her husband has turned into an abusive tyrant who insists on complete obedience from her or he will physically beat her up.

Eva is the other woman involved in the story. Through circumstances beyond her control, she has drifted into the life of a drug dealer. Her knowledge of chemistry combined with a need to make a living has forced her into a position that places her on the wrong side of the law.

Both Claire and Eva come together as both are fleeing their current lives and trying to disappear completely. They meet at an airport bar where Claire is to fly to Puerto Rico and Eva to Oakland, California. The women end up telling the other about their desire to escape their lives and start again. It strikes them while talking that changing identities will throw those that are looking for them completely off the track. And, since each has their boarding pass in hand the change is accomplished.

Certainly, just this action will enable a good story to emerge. However, it is complicated by a plane crash to Eva’s plane as it flies to Puerto Rico.

Clark tells the story via the use of rotating first person narratives involving both the women, but also persons that are of interest to the tale. It is an engrossing, well-done novel with the ending completely logical but not telegraphed in the reading. Character portraits, thoughts, doubts, and problems arising are as well done as it has been my pleasure to read. A five-star book that after conclusion will project a desire on the part of the reader toward following the author and obtaining her future novels as they emerge.

7/2020 Paul Lane

THE LAST FLIGHT by Julie Clark. Sourcebooks Landmark (June 23, 2020). ISBN: 978-1728215723. 320 pages.

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MUZZLED by David Rosenfelt

July 10, 2020

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The Andy Carpenter Novel, Book 21

From the publisher:

In David Rosenfelt’s Andy Carpenter mystery, Muzzled, Andy and his beloved golden retriever, Tara, are back on the case as a favor to a friend.

Andy Carpenter is a lawyer who would rather not practice law. He’d rather spend his time working with the Tara Foundation, his dog rescue organization, and being with his family and his two dogs, Tara and Sebastian. But when a friend asks him for a favor that involves both dogs and his lawyerly expertise, he can’t say no.

Andy’s friend Beth has found a stray that seems to have belonged to a murder victim–in fact, the man and two of his colleagues died in an explosion a few weeks ago. But when the murdered man contacts Beth, asking for his dog back, Andy knows there must be more to the story. The man claims his life is in danger, and that’s why he disappeared. As much as Andy doesn’t want to get involved–anything to avoid a new case–he can’t help but come to the rescue of a man who’d risk everything, even his life, to reunite with his dog.

Once again, David Rosenfelt delivers suspense and laughter in equal measure in another engaging mystery from “one of the most unforgettable voices in the genre.”


I’m happy to announce the coming across of another in the long and welcome line of novels featuring the adventures of Andy Carpenter. As in the previous books, Andy is accompanied by his stalwart companions including his wife, Laurie, who was a policewoman, his best friend Willy, who is his partner in a business providing dogs for adoption, the very vocal Marcus, his office manager who has developed an antipathy to work, and other sundry characters populating these books.

What is missing is the usual happy ending in which Andy, openly reluctant to working in his profession of defense attorney due to a large inheritance, is forced to handle a case and manages to resolve it successfully. While the happy ending is conspicuously missing in the novel you can bet that all of the dogs that take part in the story end up well.

The story opens in the usual way, Andy must see to the well being of a dog whose owner may soon be sent to prison for murder. Now it does seem strange that the owner is looking for someone to care for his dog when he was blown to pieces along with two other men on a boat they were riding in before the story starts. Don’t worry, all will be explained as we go along, but in the meanwhile, we are treated to David Rosenfelt’s inimitable style of humor, sarcasm, a lot of attention to the dogs involved in the story and the solving of the conundrum of an interesting tale.

I don’t remember if I ever read an Andy Carpenter story that wasn’t a five-star book and in no way boring, in spite of the seeming repetitiveness of the stories. “Muzzled” continues the author’s streak of winners and my recommendation is to read this novel then get on line for the next one as soon as available. And oh yes, don’t worry too much about the ending that is not a happy one. Remember, the dogs come out okay.

7/2020 Paul Lane

MUZZLED by David Rosenfelt. Minotaur Books (July 7, 2020). ISBN: 978-1250257116. 304 pages.

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MEXICAN GOTHIC by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

July 6, 2020

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From the publisher:

An isolated mansion. A chillingly charismatic aristocrat. And a brave socialite drawn to expose their treacherous secrets. . . .

From the author of Gods of Jade and Shadow comes “a terrifying twist on classic gothic horror” (Kirkus Reviews) set in glamorous 1950s Mexico—“fans of classic novels like Jane Eyre and Rebecca are in for a suspenseful treat” (PopSugar).

After receiving a frantic letter from her newly-wed cousin begging for someone to save her from a mysterious doom, Noemí Taboada heads to High Place, a distant house in the Mexican countryside. She’s not sure what she will find—her cousin’s husband, a handsome Englishman, is a stranger, and Noemí knows little about the region.

Noemí is also an unlikely rescuer: She’s a glamorous debutante, and her chic gowns and perfect red lipstick are more suited for cocktail parties than amateur sleuthing. But she’s also tough and smart, with an indomitable will, and she is not afraid: Not of her cousin’s new husband, who is both menacing and alluring; not of his father, the ancient patriarch who seems to be fascinated by Noemí; and not even of the house itself, which begins to invade Noemi’s dreams with visions of blood and doom.

Her only ally in this inhospitable abode is the family’s youngest son. Shy and gentle, he seems to want to help Noemí, but might also be hiding dark knowledge of his family’s past. For there are many secrets behind the walls of High Place. The family’s once colossal wealth and faded mining empire kept them from prying eyes, but as Noemí digs deeper she unearths stories of violence and madness.

And Noemí, mesmerized by the terrifying yet seductive world of High Place, may soon find it impossible to ever leave this enigmatic house behind.

An Amazon Best Book of July 2020.


The title of the novel tells us what it is. It is a Gothic story set in the country of Mexico in the 1950’s. And it is a good one, moving slowly up the fright ladder logically until an ending that is a good conclusion to a finely written story.

Noemi Taboada is the young daughter of a well-to-do family living the good life in a growing Mexico City. The period is one that has brought money to Mexican businessmen due to investments in the United States recently at war and the emerging oil industry. Noemi has nothing to do but have a good time, go to parties, and husband hunt for a suitable young man. She already has a dowry with funds she has been given by her family.

A letter arrives from Noemi’s cousin Catalina who has recently married and is living in a rural area with her husband and his family. Catalina writes that Noemi’s father has to come and rescue her since her new husband is poisoning her. Her father decides to send Noemi to investigate the situation which seems a little drastic for a newlywed. Party-going Noemi is really not at all suited for investigating that which Catalina alleges. She does go and finds a strange family living in a huge mansion that has seen better days in terms of its condition in a fairly isolated area. Facts come out about what is going on slowly but surely.

Catalina’s husband makes it obvious that he resents Noemi’s visit. He and his family put restrictions on her movements and her habits. A strange attraction seems to draw Noemi to her brother-in-law and is the epitome of a love-hate relationship. But at the same time, she meets the younger brother of Catalina’s husband. He is shy, somewhat withdrawn, not the real physical specimen that Noemi is normally drawn to.

A well-done picture of events by the author shows Noemi facing many adverse factors, facing them and morphing into a woman rather than the young girl she came as when traveling to visit her cousin. The novel is certainly a draw for the reader and that is not just a horror story designed to create an atmosphere of terror. Moreno-Garcia is not a first-time author and has ventured into the world of science fiction and fantasy. Mexican Gothic is a novel that showcases the author’s literary talents and will certainly cause her readers to look for her future books.

7/2020 Paul Lane

MEXICAN GOTHIC by Silvia Moreno-Garcia. Del Rey (June 30, 2020). ISBN: 978-0525620785. 320 pages.

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HOME BEFORE DARK by Riley Sager

July 3, 2020

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From the publisher:

One of . . .

Huff Post’s “10 Of The Most Anticipated Book Releases Of June 2020” • Good Housekeeping’s “The 35 Best Books of 2020 to Add to Your Reading List” • Travel + Leisure’s “20 Most Anticipated Summer 2020 Books” • PopSugar’s 17 Most Anticipated Summer Thrillers • Working Mother’s “The 20 Most Anticipated Books of 2020” • Newsweek’s 20 most anticipated summer reads • Publishers Weekly’s “Summer Reads 2020″ • BookPage’s “2020 Most Anticipated Thrillers and Mysteries” • Today.com’s “16 highly anticipated summer reads” • The Star Tribune’s “Great Escapes” summer reads • BookPage‘s “Private Eye July”

In the latest thriller from New York Times bestseller Riley Sager, a woman returns to the house made famous by her father’s bestselling horror memoir. Is the place really haunted by evil forces, as her father claimed? Or are there more earthbound—and dangerous—secrets hidden within its walls?

What was it like? Living in that house.

Maggie Holt is used to such questions. Twenty-five years ago, she and her parents, Ewan and Jess, moved into Baneberry Hall, a rambling Victorian estate in the Vermont woods. They spent three weeks there before fleeing in the dead of night, an ordeal Ewan later recounted in a nonfiction book called House of Horrors. His tale of ghostly happenings and encounters with malevolent spirits became a worldwide phenomenon, rivaling The Amityville Horror in popularity—and skepticism.

Today, Maggie is a restorer of old homes and too young to remember any of the events mentioned in her father’s book. But she also doesn’t believe a word of it. Ghosts, after all, don’t exist. When Maggie inherits Baneberry Hall after her father’s death, she returns to renovate the place to prepare it for sale. But her homecoming is anything but warm. People from the past, chronicled in House of Horrors, lurk in the shadows. And locals aren’t thrilled that their small town has been made infamous thanks to Maggie’s father. Even more unnerving is Baneberry Hall itself—a place filled with relics from another era that hint at a history of dark deeds. As Maggie experiences strange occurrences straight out of her father’s book, she starts to believe that what he wrote was more fact than fiction.

Alternating between Maggie’s uneasy homecoming and chapters from her father’s book, Home Before Dark is the story of a house with long-buried secrets and a woman’s quest to uncover them—even if the truth is far more terrifying than any haunting.


Riley Sager gives us a very well done ghost story. Things do go bump in the night and the reader will understand the fright of the people involved in the action described. But wait, is it really a story about haunted houses and ethereal entities or not?

Two positives as you read this book. You will enjoy an exceptionally well done novel and not being able to sleep until it is finished, and also not being able to readily answer the question of is it a ghost story or not?

Maggie Holt and a partner are involved in the business of restoring old run down houses and then selling them at a profit. Maggie comes across a Victorian estate located in the Vermont woods which fits the parameters of homes suitable for her partner and herself to fix up and sell. It is coincidentally one that she and her parents had bought twenty-five years ago, lived in for a short time and then fled the premises. Maggie does not recall the reasons for her family suddenly fleeing the house with her memory on that score drawing a complete blank. The only thing she recalls other than fleeing the house is her father, an author of note, had written a book about the mansion that became a best seller and made the family a good deal of money.

When moving in Maggie’s parents had arranged with a sixteen-year-old girl living close to them to babysit for their daughter, and a mystery evolved when that girl suddenly disappeared from home never to be found. The supposition about the mansion being haunted revolves around the girl that vanished and now haunting the house looking for “something.”

Events happen that support the evidence of a ghost, or rather three of them, that are in the house. Maggie notices that things start vanishing and checking looks like no one has entered the mansion. She also revives childhood memories about being visited by three unknowns and told that she will die in the house; with repressed memories that remain with her throughout the years after fleeing it with her parents.

Readers will be caught up in the apparently otherworldly things that have happened over the years to two families involved with the events described. It is a five-star mesmerizing novel and another set of kudos to Sager.

7/2020 Paul Lane

HOME BEFORE DARK by Riley Sager. Dutton (June 30, 2020). ISBN: 978-1524745172. 400 pages.

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ALL THE BROKEN PEOPLE by Leah Konen

June 30, 2020

6/2020 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

ALL THE BROKEN PEOPLE by Leah Konen. Grand Central Publishing (June 2, 2020). ISBN 978-1538726983. 368p.

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