THE LAKE HOUSE by Kate Morton

October 20, 2015
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Sadie Sparrow was warned about becoming too involved in the Bailey case, but a letter that arrived just as it was all getting started put her in a mindset that definitely wasn’t ideal. At least that’s what she’s blaming for what happened. Now she’s on forced leave, visiting her grandfather in Cornwall, and waiting for the other shoe to drop.

But Sadie has found a new case to keep her mind occupied. After stumbling upon a grand and long-abandoned house in the area, Sadie learns that it was the scene of a decades-old missing persons case that remains unsolved even today. In 1933, the youngest Edevane – coincidentally the brother of the now famous mystery author A. C. Edevane – disappeared without a trace. For years folks speculated as to who could have been the culprit and what happened to the boy, but no solid evidence was ever found. Now, seventy years later, Sadie aims to be the one to solve it.

This latest from Morton is split between the Edevanes’ stories and Sadie’s. We’re shuttled from the 1930s to present day, and back even further than the disappearance, to when Eleanor – the rightful heir of Loeanneth (the Lake House in question) – met and married Anthony Edevane.

A slew of characters offer up their own perspectives of the case, each contributing pieces the others are unaware of until the entire picture begins to emerge. Morton also offers up insight into the emotions and motives each of these characters had in maintaining their silence or, as is the case with Sadie, in doggedly pursuing the truth.

For the most part, The Lake House is a satisfying read filled with Morton’s usual intricate plotting and fabulous atmosphere. Unfortunately, though, the end felt a bit too neat and tidy for my taste (though there are lots of comments about coincidence throughout the book to support this nice and neat ending). All in all, it’s one that will likely satisfy Morton’s fans but maybe isn’t the strongest title to start off with if you’re new to her work.

10/15 Becky LeJeune

THE LAKE HOUSE by Kate Morton. Atria Books (October 20, 2015).  ISBN 978-1451649321. 512p.


WINK OF AN EYE by Lynn Chandler Willis

October 11, 2015
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Gypsy Moran’s return to Wink, Texas was meant to be an attempt to lay low after the fallout from a recent case. Instead, he finds himself roped into a local mystery that could have devastating results.

Twelve-year-old Tatum McCallen is certain his father did not commit suicide. He’s insistent about that fact. The man in question, a cop – as his father was before him, had been investigating a series of missing persons cases the department had already shrugged off, in his personal time, when he was found hanging from a tree in his own backyard.

At first Gypsy isn’t interested in getting involved, but as he learns more about the McCallen family and the case Tatum’s father was digging into, even he begins to realize something is very wrong in Wink. And as his own investigation progresses, Gypsy finds he may not like where the clues are leading.

This 2013 winner of St. Martin’s/PWA Best 1st PI Novel Competition introduces a great new private investigator to the mystery scene. Michael “Gypsy” Moran grew up in Wink and longed to leave from an early age. In truth, it was because he didn’t qualify for a football scholarship and couldn’t see himself working a ranch. And so he left for Vegas where he became a PI. But things, as we soon learn, have gone a bit sour in Sin City forcing him to return to his hometown.

In terms of plotting and setting I think Chandler-Willis has done a fantastic job. I was hooked from page one with Tatum’s plea and found Gypsy to be a compelling and utterly likable character (perfect as a PI series lead, in other words). The clues and story unfold at a great pace and Wink, an actual town in West Texas whose claim to fame is that Roy Orbison once lived there, comes to life completely.

I should be clear, though, in that the case Gypsy is investigating is the death of Tatum McCallen’s father. There are a few cases that are intertwined with this one, including the missing girls, but that case isn’t Gypsy’s focus right now. By pointing that out, I mean to say that there are a few questions left unanswered at the end of the book, questions that likely make for further installments in what I hope will be a series. (The author is reportedly working on her second Wink project as we speak.)

Wink of an Eye has been nominated for a 2015 Shamus award in the Best First PI Novel category.

10/15 Becky LeJeune

WINK OF AN EYE by Lynn Chandler Willis. Minotaur Books (November 18, 2014).  ISBN 978-1250053190. 304p.


THE EINSTEIN PROPHECY by Robert Maselo

October 9, 2015
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What if the outcome of WWII were determined by something of a decidedly supernatural and evil nature? This is the question Maselo poses in his latest, The Einstein Prophecy.

After being injured while on a mission for the Cultural Recovery Commission, Lucas Athan finds himself teaching at Princeton. Though both the student body and staff have shrunk as a result of the war, war hero Athan is exactly the kind of man the university will pull strings to have on their roster. But his job with the CRC hasn’t ended. The very ossuary he was tasked with recovering when he was injured – a sarcophagus of historic significance that Hitler tagged for his own collection – has been recovered and the government wants Lucas to continue his work. The primary goal is to find out exactly what Hitler’s interest in the piece may be.

Simone Rashid and her father know all too well what the ossuary represents and what it is capable of. They were, after all, the ones who discovered it in the first place. But even Simone doesn’t understand the full potential of the ossuary or what Hitler’s goal may be. What she does know is that if she isn’t able to intercept the piece or at least warn the people involved, no good will come of opening the ancient coffin.

The Einstein Prophecy is what would happen if The Monuments Men and Indiana Jones had a baby and invited The Manhattan Project to the shower. (The CRC is a fictional creation based on the Monuments Men.)

The story is set in 1944 and Einstein, Gödel, Oppenheimer, and a few others all make appearances. Of course, too, there’s the very real history behind Hitler’s obsession with the paranormal and the occult, the also very real Manhattan Project (which does play a big role in the story), and the biblical history of the ossuary as well. Maselo uses the actual history of the era and the key players to anchor a tale that is based in mythology/theology to create an action packed mashup that’s a quite fun read.

If you’re a fan of James Rollins and the like, you’ll love The Einstein Prophecy.

10/15 Becky LeJeune

THE EINSTEIN PROPHECY by Robert Maselo. 47North (August 1, 2015).  ISBN 978-1477829400. 326p.


JILLIAN CADE by Jen Klein

October 4, 2015
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(Fake) Paranormal Investigator

Jillian doesn’t believe all the paranormal mumbo jumbo her father peddles but she does know that an all but orphaned teen has to earn money somehow. Umbra Investigations is Jillian’s somehow – a PI agency focused on cases of an unusual sort. In other words, taking advantage of the same folks her father does.

But then Jillian gets a case that definitely sounds more serious: a missing person, and she’s been hired to find him. Of course the person hiring her believes the missing guy has been cursed and the new boy in school who has suddenly latched himself onto Jillian also believes this to be the case. (He blackmailed his way into partner status.) Nevertheless, Jillian needs the paycheck more desperately than ever and is determined to solve the case even when the clues start to point in some pretty unbelievable directions.

A writer on Grey’s Anatomy with a slew of other show credits to her name, Jen Klein definitely has the chops for a clever and catchy novel and she absolutely delivers in her debut! Jillian Cade: (Fake) Paranormal Investigator is a fun blend of Veronica Mars sass and Buffy the Vampire Slayer supernatural and is perfect for fans of both.

But Jillian Cade is no Veronica or Buffy – she’s all Jillian. She puts up a bad-ass front all the while dealing with some heavy stuff, most prominently the recent weird death of her mother and her father’s abandonment. And things only get harder for the teen. Confronted by the fact that not one but two people are threatening to out her as a fraud, she knows she has to solve this case.

I expected the whole story to be “(Fake) Paranormal” and was quite surprised to find that wasn’t at all the case. There are some pretty big revelations both for our skeptical heroine and for the reader as well. Considering all of that, I assume that Jillian Cade is the first in a series and will most definitely be looking forward to more.

10/15 Becky LeJeune

JILLIAN CADE by Jen Klein. Soho Teen (September 1, 2015).  ISBN 978-1616954345. 288p.


THE BEST HORROR OF THE YEAR, ed. by Ellen Datlow

September 5, 2015
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Volume 7

Once again Ellen Datlow has culled through the past year’s mass of horror shorts and novellas to put together a collection of some of the best highlights for genre fans.

Datlow not only has great taste, but with these “best of” anthologies she’s essentially offering readers a snapshot of the year’s releases. The chosen tales are narrowed down from multi-author anthologies, single author collections, magazines, online publications, and any other place that might have featured horror shorts for the previous year. What’s more, Datlow also takes the time to list additional readings of note including shorts that didn’t quite make the cut (because there are such a plethora to have to choose from), genre novels, award winners, etc from the calendar year.

This year’s twenty-two tale selection runs the gamut of horror with tales inspired by Lovecraft (Brian Evenson’s “Past Reno” and Livia Llewellyn’s “Allochton” were both originally part of the Letters to Lovecraft anthology edited by Jesse Bullington), a sin eater (Genevieve Valentine’s “A Dweller in Amenty”), vengeance from beyond the grave (Laird Barron’s “The Worms Crawl In”), and of course a couple of tales of the apocalypse as well, just to mention a few.

Some of my own favorites this time around include Garth Nix’s “Shay Corsham Worsted” and Keris McDonald’s “The Coat Off His Back,” both of which center around some quite historic criminals, the abovementioned “Past Reno,” and Angela Slatter’s revenge tale “Winter Children.”

Here’s the full table of contents:

The Atlas of Hell by Nathan Ballingrud

Winter Children by Angela Slatter

A Dweller in Amenty by Genevieve Valentine

Outside Heavenly by Rio Youers

Shay Corsham Worsted by Garth Nix

Allochton by Livia Llewllyn

Chapter Six by Stephen Graham Jones

This is Not for You by Gemma Files

Interstate Love Song (Murder Ballad No. 8) by Caitlin R. Kiernan

The Culvert by Dale Bailey

Past Reno by Brian Evenson

The Coat off His Back by Keris McDonald

The Worms Crawl In by Laird Barron

The Dog’s Home by Alison Littlewood

Tread Upon the Brittle Shell by Rhoads Brazos

Persistence of Vision by Orrin Grey

It Flows From the Mouth by Robert Shearman

Wingless Beasts by Lucy Taylor

Departures by Carole Johnstone

Ymir by John Langan

Plink by Kurt Dinan

Nigredo by Cody Goodfellow

 

9/15 Becky LeJeune

THE BEST HORROR OF THE YEAR 7, ed. by Ellen Datlow. Night Shade Books (August 18, 2015).  ISBN 978-1597808293.  368p.

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THE UNINVITED by Cat Winters

August 29, 2015
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Ivy has only just recovered from the flu, but when she hears that her father and brother have murdered a local German shop owner she knows she can’t stay in their house one moment longer. Ivy has always seen spirits – they’re harbingers of bad things to come – and the last thing she can take is seeing the ghost of the man her father murdered.

When she arrives in town, though, she finds that Buchanan has been hit hard by the war and Spanish flu. The hospital is bursting at the seams and turning away patients with the wrong background or address. Fear is a predominant feeling amongst the locals – fear of being called out for being unpatriotic, fear of getting sick, fear of losing one more loved one… Ivy knows that fear makes men like the one her father murdered prime targets but she still feels a responsibility to the dead man’s brother and is desperate to make amends. At the same time, Ivy is certain something awful is about to come to pass. Why else would she be seeing her dead brother at every turn?

Cat Winters makes her adult debut with The Uninvited. It’s historical fiction set in an imagined town that’s pretty wonderfully representative of the era: the undertone of sadness and dread and the overwhelming anxiety of the town certainly feels true to the time.

Imagine watching your brothers, classmates, and sometimes even fathers going off to fight a war against an enemy overseas. Imagine being told that your neighbors could be collaborating with that enemy. And now imagine that a truly deadly and virulent sickness is making its way through your town as well. This is Ivy’s reality and her only relief comes from music and a love that’s pretty much forbidden.

There’s more than a hint of the supernatural to this tale – Ivy does see ghosts, after all – but The Uninvited is somewhat less of a ghost story than I’d initially expected. It’s more a story about human nature and the terrible effects of war. The combination makes for an eerie and emotional read.

 

8/15 Becky LeJeune

THE UNINVITED by Cat Winters. William Morrow Paperbacks (August 11, 2015).  ISBN 978-0062347336.  368p.

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X by Sue Grafton

August 25, 2015
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Hallie Bettancourt’s biological son has just been released from jail. Hallie put the boy up for adoption over two decades back and has since become quite wealthy, so even if her son doesn’t want to meet her, she wants to offer some sort of help. And that’s where Kinsey comes in. Hallie has hired the PI to find out where the parolee lives and provide contact info so Hallie can reach out to him. Nothing could be simpler from Kinsey’s perspective.

But that simple job becomes less so when the feds show up investigating a marked bill that passed through Kinsey’s hands. A bill Hallie paid Kinsey with. Kinsey soon discovers that Hallie Bettancourt doesn’t exist. But why would anyone go to so much trouble to pull one over on Kinsey?

Meanwhile, Pete Wolinsky’s widow has grown concerned over some calls she’s received on Pete’s behalf from the IRS. Since Kinsey was the last one to go through Pete’s files – files Ruthie recently trashed – she’s hoping Kinsey might have come across something that can help. Kinsey never saw any financials but she did hang onto one old Byrd-Shine box that has a few curious items she decides are worth a closer look.

Kinsey is back in this twenty-fourth installment of the series. That’s right. Twenty-four. That means, sadly, that there are just two more to go.

Of all the long-term series that I read, this is by far my favorite. Kinsey – still trapped in the 80s, still enjoying her pb & pickle sandwiches, and still renting Henry’s guest house – is a character you want to be with for a while. And in spite of how it sounds, this isn’t a series that’s stagnant or stiff at all. Kinsey is constantly growing – this far along she’s a bit more cynical and a bit more snarky, which is why she’s so certain that the files she finds are another shady scheme of Pete’s. And while Ruthie is a staunch supporter of her husband, Kinsey really wants to stick to her guns based on what she thought she knew about him.

Henry, Rosie, William, and the regulars are back, but there are a few cameo appearances by past favorites too (Dietz.). But that doesn’t actually mean that you have to have read all of the books in order to be able to get into X. In fact, it could serve as a good starting point if you’ve yet to dive into the series.

8/15 Becky LeJeune

X by Sue Grafton. Marian Wood Books/Putnam (August 25, 2015).  ISBN 978-0399163845.  416p.

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THE RECKONING by Carsten Stroud

August 20, 2015
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Book Three of the Niceville Trilogy

Hearing voices in your head takes on a deadly new meaning in this disturbing conclusion to the macabre Niceville trilogy. The evil “Nothing” in this Florida town has moved inside, so to speak, and the towns people are on a murderous rampage.

Detective Nick Kavanaugh, and his wife, attorney Kate, figure out what is going on; all they have to do is figure out how to stop it. Rainey Teague, the orphan they’ve taken in, has always had issues but things are really spiraling out of control.

The Kavanaughs enlist the help of local historian Lemon Featherlight, and ex-cop Charlie Danziger is also on the hunt for answers. There are lots of characters that each have their own story, but Stroud manages to pull it together and make sense of it all, as much as possible in the mystical world he has created.

While this is the last book of the trilogy, each book does stand on its own. Niceville is a real town on the west coast of Florida, and this thrilling supernatural trilogy has surely put it on the map.

Copyright ©2015 Booklist, a division of the American Library Association.

8/15 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

THE RECKONING by Carsten Stroud.  Vintage (August 18, 2015).  ISBN 978-1101873021. 432p.


LITTLE GIRLS by Ronald Malfi

August 16, 2015
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Laurie’s father has died and so, with her husband, Ted, and daughter, Susan, in tow, she has returned to the childhood home she left behind so many years ago to settle the estate and hopefully put the house on the market. Laurie has reservations about staying in the house, it’s never been a happy place for her and now there’s the added fact that her father didn’t just die there but actually committed suicide by jumping out of the belvedere window.

Ted and Susan are instantly smitten with the old place, though, and convince her otherwise. It’s only for a little while, after all,  and it’ll mean time for Ted to work on his latest play. Susan has even found a friend in the girl next door. But the house holds bad memories for Laurie and the girl next door reminds her just a little too much of a girl who lived there when she was a child. A horrid girl who died on Laurie’s father’s property decades ago.

Even if Laurie and her family were a unified unit, which we soon learn they may not be, the house is enough to begin tearing away at them. Laurie is plagued by memories of her childhood, the girl next door is creepy as all get out, and there are clues around the house that maybe her father was suffering from more than just dementia. It all starts to make Laurie – and even Ted – wonder about her sanity.

Ronald Malfi’s latest is a pretty classic take on the haunted house tale: a creepy old house, inexplicable noises, a mysterious locked room… And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. In fact, Little Girls is a solid and scary tale with more than a few twists – some a little more expected than others. It’s utterly satisfying and maybe a little nightmare inducing as well.

8/15 Becky LeJeune

LITTLE GIRLS by Ronald Malfi. Kensington (June 30, 2015).  ISBN 978-1617736063.  384p.


LOVE IS RED by Sophie Jaff

August 14, 2015
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The Nightsong Trilogy (Book 1)

It’s summertime in New York and the city is plagued by more than just hot weather. The Sickle Man stalks the streets, killing women in their own homes. Though this does mean a certain extra level of caution, it doesn’t mean that Katherine Emerson has given up on  the dating scene and finding Mr. Right. In fact, she’s recently met two men who could fit the bill.

What Katherine doesn’t know is that the Sickle Man already has her in his sights. In fact, he’s been looking for her for quite some time and now that he’s found her, her death is his ultimate goal.

Love is Red is a book that almost defies every attempt to sum it up in a nutshell. First, there’s the fear of giving too much away. Second, it’s truly standout and somewhat unconventional. It’s a cross-genre thriller, one that includes supernatural elements, romance elements, and mystery elements. As such, unless you really shy away from dark reads (because it is quite dark) there is something for just about every kind of reader here.

The story alternates between Katherine and The Sickle Man himself. Jaff plays with the style of the narrative quite a bit with The Sickle Man’s chapters told from a second person perspective and by adding in therapy Q&As, internal monologues, and other different aspects in Katherine’s narrative as well. This ratchets up the suspense quite a bit while also giving the reader a more unique experience.

Honestly, this is one of my absolute favorite reads of the year. It’s also the first in a trilogy and there is a pretty massive cliffhanger of an ending. Of course that means that I’m waiting, along with everyone else who’s so far enjoyed the book, with baited breath to see what will happen next.

8/15 Becky LeJeune

LOVE IS RED by Sophie Jaff.  Harper (May 12, 2015).  ISBN 978-0062346261.  384p.