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.

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THE GARDEN OF SMALL BEGINNINGS by Abbi Waxman

May 5, 2017

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How long does it take to get over the death of your husband? For Lili, it’s been four years and counting and it seems the answer to that question is never.

After a little breakdown – she did, after all, witness her husband’s death, so it’s understandable – she’s mostly better these days. She fills her time with her two daughters and work as an illustrator. Oh, and her sister, Rachel, is around all the time to keep her company too. Life is pretty good, all things considered. But in spite of her sister’s urgings, Lili isn’t ready to move on and meet someone new.

The small publisher Lili works for is branching out and has taken on a new project involving a set of vegetable guides Lili is to illustrate. The account could be huge for the struggling company, and they want Lili to do everything she can to impress their new client. Including taking a new gardening class led by them. The class sounds like a fun way to spend a few Saturday mornings, and kids are welcome, so it seems like a win. But Lili isn’t prepared for the feelings she begins to develop for their new teacher. How can she allow love to bloom while she’s still grieving her husband?

Abbi Waxman’s debut is the perfect mix of heart and humor; laugh out loud hilarity balances out the truly heart wrenching moments as Lili learns to move on in life and love.

The Garden of Small Beginnings is a seriously fun feel good read. A sure-footed debut, too, filled with characters you’re guaranteed to adore. From Lili and her kids and sister, to the crew Lili meets in her gardening class, each and every one adds something new and meaningful to Lili’s life and to the overall story.

I adored this book, tears and all (and it’s really not THAT sad). It was the perfect almost one sitting read for spring and a great introduction to a fantastic new writing talent.

5/17 Becky LeJeune

THE GARDEN OF SMALL BEGINNINGS by Abbi Waxman. Berkley (May 2, 2017).  ISBN 978-0399583582. 368p.

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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.

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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.

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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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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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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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RUSH OF BLOOD by Mark Billingham

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2/17 Paul Lane

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

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BEHIND HER EYES by Sarah Pinborough

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1/17 Becky LeJeune

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

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FATAL by John Lescroart

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

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

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

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

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

1/17 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

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

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