The Witch Elm was an acceptable family drama but not much of a thriller.
Toby is a lucky privileged jerk. His girlfriend, Melissa, is a sweet bubblehead. After celebrating his ability to talk his way out of a possibly career-ending mistake at work, Toby goes home. There he surprises two burglars, who promptly beat the tar out of him. While his broken ribs and tailbone will heal, his facial scars and head injury possibly will not fade with time. Toby’s lucky days are over.
While recuperating, Toby stays with his Uncle Hugo, who is dying of brain cancer at Ivy House. When a skull is discovered in the Witch Elm, Toby decides to investigate. Toby is literally the worst detective ever. However, he does stumble over some secrets.
Overall, I didn’t like the pacing of the Witch Elm. It seemed overlong with an extremely slow build to the mystery. While the conclusion was shocking, I’m not convinced that it was worth the six hours of my time to get there. If this had been marketed more as literary fiction rather than a thriller, the pacing would have made more sense. However, it is hard not to rate this based on the author’s previous excellent Dublin Murder Squad series. The Witch Elm is recommended only for fans of family drama and literary fiction rather than mystery or thriller fans. 3 stars.
Thanks to the publisher, Viking Books, and Edelweiss+ for an advance copy in exchange for my honest review.
Marvelous psychological thriller that totally got Under My Skin.
Poppy, a former travel photojournalist, now owns a boutique agency representing other photojournalists. Her husband, Jack, died a year earlier—attacked early one morning while running in a local park. After his death, Poppy had a nervous breakdown with a two-day blackout. Still seeing a therapist, Poppy realizes a mysterious man is following her. She is also having dreams of what happened during her blackout. She is downing both legal and illegal pills with alcohol. Is the person following her only in her fevered imagination? Is she going crazy again?
The soporific mood of Under My Skin is addicting. It feels like the reader is dreaming rather than reading the story. There is also a strong feeling of apprehension of what the denouement will bring. It feels like finally discovering the reason for Jack’s murder will blow Poppy’s entire life apart.
I’ve read a multitude of family thrillers. This is the best of the bunch. By the end, you are no longer reading about Poppy—you are Poppy struggling to maintain your sanity among increasingly untenable facts.
Under My Skin is an excellent micro-thriller. Nothing much happens on the surface but oh so much occurs in Poppy’s mind. If you have given up on sleep one night, this creepy little thriller is a perfect midnight read. 5 stars!
Thanks to Hanover Square Press and NetGalley for an advance copy.
Tear Me Apart is a well-plotted character-driven family drama filled with secrets and lies. It also deals compassionately with mental health issues, DNA, depression, adoption, cancer, suicide and cutting.
Mindy, a 17-year-old downhill skier, is on the fast track to the Olympics when a sudden snow flurry makes her clip a flag and break her leg horrendously. While in surgery to fix her leg, it is discovered that she has the most virulent form of leukemia. DNA is taken from her mother, father and aunt. Mindy is not a blood relation to any of them. The story of Mindy’s birth is slowly revealed, along with exposing many family secrets and lies.
I liked this twisty family drama even though I guessed the ending early. Tear Me Apart is recommended to both thriller and psychological suspense fans. 4 stars!
Thanks to the publisher, Mira, and NetGalley for an advanced copy.
It is amazing such an accomplished thriller with multiple plot lines was written by a debut author. Kudos to Edwin Hill for the marvelous PI/thriller/family drama, Little Comfort!
Hester lives in a separate apartment in the same building as her boyfriend Morgan. Morgan’s twin sister, Daphne, and her three-year-old Kate live in the third apartment. Daphne leaves Kate alone in Morgan’s apartment with a note stating she would return in an hour. Three months later, Daphne is still missing. Hester has taken on primary caregiving activities for Kate forcing her to take a leave of absence from her job as a librarian at Harvard. When she gets a new client in her private missing person service, she begins investigating her client’s missing brother, Sam.
Sam disappeared 12 years ago when only 15 with his best friend, foster child Gabe. The only clue are bi-monthly homemade postcards of locations around the US. All include cryptic movie quotes.
What begins as a simple missing person case quickly escalates into a deadly cat and mouse hunt. Little Comfort ratchets up the reader’s dread with parallel storylines from five points of view.
This book approaches a familiar plot from a different perspective. As the characters’ motivations are reluctantly drawn out even originally unsympathetic characters make the reader empathize with the choices they made. Little Comfort is highly recommended as an emotion-riddled original reworking of the thriller genre. 5 stars!
Thanks to Kensington Books and NetGalley for an advance copy.
Can a soon-to-be ex-husband sell Our House without warning?
Bram and Fi are a typical London family with two young sons and most of their money tied up in their house. When Fi throws Bram out for adultery in their kids’ playhouse, Bram moves in with his mother until their finances are divided equally between them. When Fi pushes to keep the house “for the boys’ sake”, Fi and Bram decide to alternately stay in the house with their sons and in a separate small London flat. Fi comes home early from a business trip to find strangers moving into her house. Bram has sold the house to them and absconded with the 2 million selling price. Using alternating chapters with a podcast for Fi and Word documents for Bram, the real reason for the sale and the marriage dissolution is slowly revealed.
Despite having absolutely no empathy for either main character, I enjoyed this twisty tale of their lives. Stripping off the clothes of propriety shows some amazingly ugly truths. There are crimes both committed by and done to both Fi and Bram up to and including murder. Though the book drags a bit in the middle, the finale is well worth sticking with it. This book is highly recommended for readers who like a multitude of unexpected twists and turns in plot. As long as character likeability and a uniformly fast pace is not a requirement, Our House is worth 4 stars.
Thanks to the publisher, Berkeley, and NetGalley for an advanced copy.
Claire desperately wants to find her missing father to discover his reasons for living A Double Life.
Claire was only eight when her father bludgened her live-in babysitter Emma to death and attempted to do the same to her mother. After her mother escaped the house, her father disappeared. When she is told he may have been found, Claire reminisciences about her mother and father’s romance and life before the crime. Claire’s father is the first British Lord accused of murder in the 20th century. He and her mother were separated and planning to divorce before the incident. Could her mother have set up the crime to keep her father’s wealth?
A Double Life begins slowly with a very long flashback about how Claire’s parents relationship began. If I hadn’t been reading this book to review it, I probably would have stopped reading as it was boring and seemingly pointless. The book does have an eventful conclusion. However, the overall melancholy feel and depressingly dark inevitability was just not for me. A Double Life is recommended to those readers of literary fiction who enjoy escaping into someone else’s, so much worse, life. 3 stars.
Thanks to the publisher, Viking Books, and NetGalley for an advanced copy.
Hanna doesn’t speak but has an abundance of thoughts. Hanna loves her Daddy but hates her Mommy. Hanna is evil. Hanna is four.
Hanna has some mental health issues but feels if she can get rid of her Mommy, she would have Daddy all to herself. However, Mommy appears to have some mental health issues of her own.
The reader has to suspend their disbelief that a four-year-old could think this “rationally” and plan complex schemes to punish people. In the original Bad Seed, the child was nine, which seems more reasonable. However, once past that hurdle, the reader is in for a crazy fun ride.
Baby Teeth is highly recommended for those wanting to read a character-based thriller with an unusual protagonist. It is an intense journey into a demented and unusual worldview. 4 stars!
Thanks to the publisher, St Martin’s Press, and NetGalley for an advanced copy.
Liar Liar is an engrossing study of a woman willing to do anything, regardless of the impact on her family, to achieve her dreams.
Didi Storm wants riches and fame. When her acting career is derailed with a teen pregnancy, she becomes a celebrity impersonator in Vegas. Realizing she’ll never be rich, she attempts a long con by giving birth to a rich man’s twins and trying to get paid for the male infant. Remmi, her teenage daughter, sees it end horribly with both Didi and the twins missing, possibly dead. Fast forward to the present, someone has published a true crime book about Didi’s life when Didi is sighted in San Francisco.
Nice mystery with a few twists. Recommended for fans of mysteries more than than thrillers as the slow build of the family dynamics is what drives the plot. 4 stars!
Thanks to the publisher, Kensington Books, and NetGalley for an advanced copy.
Romance, history, southern charm, friendships, family and secrets swirl in the High Tide Club.
At 99, Josephine is dying on her half of an island off the coast of Georgia. She calls Brooke, an attorney, to help search for her best friends, Ruth, Millie and Varina, from over 80 years earlier. Josephine had a falling out with her friends but now wants to deed her island home to them or their descendants. She also wants Brooke to stop the state from taking her home under eminent domain.
Brooke is a single mother with a 3-year old son and has a past as a runaway bride. She also has plenty of bills that are barely covered by her one-woman law firm. She needs to keep Josephine as a client despite the ethical issues of one of the friends being her grandmother. To setup the trust for Josephine, Brooke asks her old boss and mentor, Gabe, for help.
Alternating between the 1940s and current day, the reason for the friends’ schism and the disappearance of one’s finance is slowly revealed. The High Tide Club is a perfect beach read: light and frothy with a murderous undertow. It is recommended for both mystery, thriller, historical fiction and especially romantic suspense fans. 4 stars!
Thanks to the publisher, St. Martin’s Press, and NetGalley for an advanced copy.
Then She Was Gone is recommended to thriller rather than mystery readers. Mothers especially will relate to this moving family story.
Fifteen-year-old Ellie Mack disappears one day. Did she run away or was she kidnapped? Her disappearance tears apart her family. Laurel, Ellie’s mom, has two older children and a husband but she is obsessed with finding Ellie. Ten years later, Laurel finally meets a man, Floyd, almost as nice as her ex-husband. Floyd has two daughters. The younger daughter, Poppy, bears an uncanny resemblance to Ellie. Poppy’s mother left Poppy with Floyd one day and was never seen again. When Laurel discovers the identity of Poppy’s mother, the plot really takes off.
While this was a thriller, it was not successful as a mystery. Almost from the beginning, it was obvious what was going to happen next. The format of alternating narrators and time periods was used well. Most of the characters were interesting, if not very likeable or relatable. Some of their actions seemed contrived. However, the gripping plot still resonates long after finishing Then She Was Gone. Even though I guessed the plot twists, I was still compelled to finish the book as quickly as possible. 3.5 stars rounded up to 4.
Thanks to the publisher, Atria, and NetGalley for an advanced copy.
Maggie and Noah were married and happy as they could be After Anna arrived, chaos occurred as all will agree
Range Rovers, sexual allegations
Inappropriate pics on vacations
Within the court and out, there are two sides to the couple’s tale
Hopefully this one won’t end with Noah locked up in a jail
Ultimately who was Anna’s killer?
To find out read this excellent thriller
#FrugalFriday’s short review is being presented this week
In rhyme for National Poetry Month-I’m just a word geek!
Even if this poem’s gobbledygook,
The author deserves 4 stars for the book!
Thanks to St. Martin’s Press and NetGalley for an advanced copy.
Complex and completely different from other thrillers, the Last Equation of Isaac Severy is highly recommended.
Isaac Severy is a famous mathematician. Now retired, he is still working on his last equation: how to use chaos theory to predict Los Angeles traffic. As the book opens, Isaac is preparing a breakfast for two in his home. The next day Isaac is found dead in his hot tub along with a set of live Christmas lights with a single bulb crushed. His death is accepted as a suicide. At his funeral, his adopted granddaughter, Hazel, opens a cryptic note from Isaac mailed the day before his death. Isaac tells Hazel that he is only the first of three people soon to die. He commands her to destroy the work he left behind in a mysterious room 137 and deliver his last equation to the elusive John Raspanti. Hazel is advised to not involve other members of the family or the police. Isaac states that he selected Hazel for these tasks because she would be the least likely to be suspected. He says that he cannot do the tasks himself because he is being followed.
Isaac’s note leads Hazel on a merry chase through literature, mathematics and physics. Hazel works with various family members while trying to follow the instructions in Isaac’s puzzling letter. Neither Hazel nor the reader can identify who is a hero and who is a villain. This book has a multitude of side plots. What is the elusive and wealthy P. Boone Lyons after? Why is a physicist who has been dead for sixty years attempting to contact Hazel?
Ostensibly a thriller, the family dynamics are almost more intriguing. Phillip is a tenured physics professor at CalTech. However, his opportunities of winning a coveted Nobel prize are slipping away and his best years are behind him. Tom is released from a long prison term. Why was he in prison and how does that relate to Hazel and Gregory’s fear of his release?
Since the family relationships are rather confusing, I created this handy family tree.
Since Isaac’s work is with chaos theory, it follows that the reader truly doesn’t understand what is going on until almost the end of the book. It is reminiscent of the movie Chinatown, where there are a multitude of plot layers that don’t cohere until the end. I like that uncertainty but some may not. However, the resolution definitely is worth the wait.
The Last Equation of Isaac Severy is a brilliant tour-de-force from a debut author. It is highly recommended to thriller readers. It would also appeal to fans of quirky family dynamics like those in movie, The Royal Tenenbaums. 5 stars!
Thanks to the publisher, Touchstone Books, and NetGalley for an advanced copy.
While doing your job as a CIA Analyst, you find something that will rip your family apart. Do you reveal it to your superiors?
Vivian is a counterintelligence agent with the CIA. While employed, she developed a new program to find Russian sleeper cells inside the United States. She is married with a perfect husband and four kids including a set of infant twin boys. Without providing spoilers, Vivian discovers something that may rip her family apart. Even with confirmation, she decides to approach the problem from a unique angle leading to a twist-filled tale of conflicting loyalties.
The author was formally a CIA Analyst so she knows of what she writes. To be honest, that is actually scary since the security at the CIA seems remarkably lax.
Need to Know is an enjoyable fast-moving read. The best part is the fantastically unexpected ending. It has been optioned to be a movie with Charlize Theron. I can’t wait! 4 stars!
Thanks to the publisher, Ballantine Books, and NetGalley for the review copy.