Too Close to Breathe
April 3rd, 2018 by diane92345

Nothing is as it seems in the new top-notch thriller Too Close to Breathe by debut Irish novelist Olivia Kiernan.

Detective Chief Superintendent Frankie Sheehan is back to work after being stabbed in the line of duty.  Frankie is placed in charge of a large team looking into the death of Professor Eleanor Costello. One small forensic finding makes Eleanor’s hanging not a suicide but a murder.  There are indications that Eleanor may have been a victim of physical abuse. Eleanor’s husband has also disappeared.  As the body count rises, it appears that a serial killer is at large in Dublin.  I won’t say more as the fun is trying to follow the twisty plot.

Frankie’s PTSD is almost another character in Too Close to Breathe. The case against her assailant is going to trial soon.  Frankie’s back story is slowly unveiled through flashbacks.

Too Close to Breathe was a thrilling read until the last 15%.  I wasn’t happy with the end.  It didn’t necessarily play fair with the amateur detective reader.  Or maybe I’m just upset because I didn’t guess who did it.  It was also rather abrupt. There were also many coincidences toward the end.  However, this book still deserves 4 stars for the innovative structure of a detective with PTSD and some of the other surprising aspects of the crime not often used in thrillers. I hope this is the start of a long and productive series.

Thanks to the publisher, Dutton, and NetGalley for an advanced copy.

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Look for Me
February 12th, 2018 by diane92345

Boston Sergeant D.D. Warren and her partner Phil are back at work in this excellent addition to the series.

A family of four are shot in their home while their teenage daughter is walking their dogs. D.D. and Phil are called in to investigate. Sixteen-year-old Roxanna never returns to the house. Is she guilty of the crime? Or is she running scared from the killer?

Flora Dane is an abduction survivor who runs an unofficial survivor group online. Roxanna had joined the group shortly before the murders. She seemed scared but of who or what? Flora decides to look for Roxanna on the dark side of the law while D.D. and Phil follow official channels.

Roxanna wrote a multi-part story of her “perfect” family. Her mother and step-father’s drinking lead the three children to be placed in foster care. Something happens to the two girls, then 11 and 8, that changes their personalities forever. Lola, the younger and prettier sister, begins to act flirtatious to older men. Roxanna acts even more protective of her sister. The family reunites after a year but that alone can’t save this fractured family.

The story structure of D.D.’s police procedural, Flora’s coloring outside the lines approach and Roxanna’s apparent fear merge well into a coherent and pulse-pounding plot. Look for Me is a thrilling look into how a family can be ripped apart by well-meaning government officials. Simple decisions can spiral into life altering results.

Look for Me is highly recommended for its mystery but also for its realistic characters and family dynamics. 5 stars!

Thanks to the publisher, Dutton, and NetGalley for an advanced copy.

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Pretty Girls Dancing
February 5th, 2018 by diane92345

The underlying family dynamics of missing children wrapped within a compelling police procedural.

Pretty Girls Dancing tells the stories of two families that share the tragedy of a missing teenaged daughter. When Kelsey disappeared seven years ago her family was distraught. Now Kelsey’s father has moved on but her mother, Claire, has not. When another teenaged girl is reported missing from a nearby town, the police begin to see similarities between the two crimes. Both had recently stopped their dance lessons. There is an active serial killer leaving his victims in a nearby woods dressed in ballet clothes. Is there a true connection? Or is it just a fiction dreamed up by the local press to boost their ratings? As a new detective looks into the two cases, he realizes that everyone has secrets that may or may not relate to the kidnappings.

Pretty Girls Dancing was an enjoyable read. The family dynamics were the best part. All the characters and dialog were very authentic and believable. The mystery was not very difficult to solve.  However, the police procedures seemed realistic. 4 stars!

Thanks to the publisher, Thomas & Mercer, and NetGalley for a review copy.

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January 8th, 2018 by diane92345

A deadly cat and mouse game between a bomber and the LAPD Bomb Squad.

Dick Stahl is the owner of a security company. He is famous for doing whatever it takes to rescue American business people from kidnappers in foreign lands. Dick was also a former head of the LAPD Bomb Squad. When a bomb kills the current leader and most of his senior staff, Dick accepts a temporary post as interim bomb squad chief.

The bomber is a loner skilled at creating explosives, blasting caps and detonators by hand. He is targeting the Bomb Squad. But why?

Alternating perspectives of The Bomb Maker and the squad trying to catch him makes for a compelling read. The bomb defusing scenes are particularly tense. The science of bomb creation is fascinating and well detailed. This reader is hopeful that at least one ingredient is left out of each explosive recipe.

Due to its nice mixture of science and suspense, The Bomb Maker is highly recommended for fans of Michael Crichton and Robin Cook. 4 stars!

Thanks to the publisher, Grove Atlantic, and NetGalley for an advanced copy.

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Death Makes a Prophet
January 2nd, 2018 by diane92345

Originally published in 1947, Death Makes a Prophet is one golden age mystery that deserves to find a new audience.

The Children of Osiris, or Cooism for short, is a church/cult based on a mishmash of Egyptian gods, astral bodies, meditation and vegetarianism. Its founder, Eustace Mildmann, is the High Prophet. One of Cooism’s highest members, Mrs. Hagge-Smith, donates substantial funds to the church including a 5,000 pound annual stipend to the High Prophet.  However, she is entranced by the dynamic personality of the Prophet-in-Waiting, Peta Penpeti. So rapt that she creates an additional annual stipend of 500 pounds for him. Penpeti and Hagge-Smith plot a coup on Cooism: hoping to overthrow Mildmann if favor of Penpeti. Several church members remain loyal to Mildmann and tell him of the rebellion. Meanwhile, Terrence, Mildmann’s son, is attracted to Mrs. Hagge-Smith’s secretary, Denise, but the romance is thwarted by both his father and Mrs. Hagge-Smith.

Death Makes a Prophet is bursting with plots.  It is one part Preston & Child and two parts Agatha Christie. The plot synopsis above is only from the first 10% of the book. There is a cauldron of attempted murder, mistaken identity, murder, suicide, theft, sex without benefit of marriage, blackmail and more within the storyline. It is genuinely awesome how all of these disparate puzzle pieces magically transform into a clear picture by the end of the book. Mr. Bude was a master at misdirection and it is a treat to read this book. It kept me guessing until the end. However, the book is best read on a Kindle as some of the words may be unfamiliar to modern audiences (e.g. toper, rissoles, abeyance, paucity, surfeit). Some of the phrases also take a little detective work to figure out.

“I’ll cut the cackle and come to the goose, eh?”

seems to mean I’ll get to the point.  Some phrases are rather racist and one contains the n-word so sensitive readers may not enjoy this book. However, for all other mystery lovers this book is highly recommended.

Thanks to the publisher, Poisoned Pen Press, and NetGalley for an advanced review copy.

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Two Girls Down
January 2nd, 2018 by diane92345

Captivating character study of what happens when two young sisters disappear one morning.

Kylie is 10 and a fire-cracker who back-talks her mother and uses her makeup. Bailey is 8 and loves school especially vocabulary.  Jamie, their mother, needed to pick up a quick kid’s birthday gift for a party for which they were already late. Jamie decided it would be faster if she ran into Kmart by herself. It shouldn’t take more than 5 minutes. When she looks out of the store a few minutes later the girls are no longer in the car.  She searches the nearby businesses but can’t find the girls.  They are gone.

Jamie’s aunt, a local real estate agent, hires private detective Alice Vega.  Vega is famous for solving several other missing children cases.  Vega hires a local private investigator, Max Caplan, to help her get access to the local police files. Caplan quit his job with the department five years earlier in a messy scandal after a kid died in lockup. Both Vega and Caplan have heavy emotional baggage but are intent on finding little Kylie and Bailey before it is too late. The girls’ family also have an interesting dynamic.

Two Girls Down is a thriller but more thought-provoking viewed as a character study.  The characters are all distinct and authentic. The resolution is unexpected and unlike a typical thriller.  4 stars!

Thanks to the publisher, Doubleday, and Netgalley for an advanced review copy. Two Girls Down will be published on January 9, 2018.

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Season to Lie
November 14th, 2017 by diane92345

Riveting character-driven police procedural set in February in the Colorado Rockies.

Gemma has just returned from maternity leave to her job as a Cedar Valley Colorado police detective. She is conflicted about letting her baby-daddy and live-in boyfriend work from home while watching her daughter. Her first case is the murder of a famous writer working under an assumed name in an exclusive private prep school in town. At the school, there is also a bully and graffiti artist forcing students to perform weird tasks. Are the two connected?

The characters are well-formed and the mysteries are riveting once past the relatively slow beginning. The endless blizzard and ominously oppressive forest sets the stage for the exciting and unexpected conclusion.

The pacing and focus on character and setting reminds me of golden age mysteries of Agatha Christie, which I love. However, it is also a good police procedural detailing the methods of small town policing. There is no miraculous DNA analysis leading to the killer here-just old fashioned interviews. I’m looking forward to the next book in the series. 4 stars!

Thanks to the publisher, Minotaur Books, and Netgalley for an advanced review copy of A Season to Lie.

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