REVIEW: THE OTHER SIDE OF THE DOOR, BY NICCI FRENCH

Who is more dangerous? An enemy, a friend, or a lover?

When Bonnie Graham arrives at her boyfriend’s apartment in London, she is horrified to discover a dead body in a pool of blood on the floor. But she doesn’t call the police. Bonnie hides the corpse and then carefully wipes away any evidence she was ever there.

Bonnie is a music teacher who spent a long, hot summer in London rehearsing with a band to play at a friend’s wedding. It was supposed to be fun, but the band members find the complicated knots of their friendships—some old, some new—unraveling as the days themselves unwind. What was meant to be a summer of happiness, love, and music turns deadly as lovers betray one another, passions turn murderous, and friendship itself becomes a crime.

Everyone tells lies. But is anyone prepared to tell the truth to uncover a murderer?

 

an interior journey thoughts

From the beginning of The Other Side of the Door, we are swept back and forth in time: “Before” narratives followed by “After.” We only slowly come to realize what has happened and how a dead body ended up in Liza’s flat.

I thought I had it figured out, but soon realized with each piece of information provided in the flashbacks that I had been wrong.

But who did kill the man found on the floor? For a while, we didn’t even know who that was. I liked the unveiling of moments, which piqued my interest and kept me reading. Then, with each new revelation, everything is seemingly tipped upside down once again. By the end, nothing seems sorted, but life goes on. 5 stars.

REVIEW: ALL THE BEST LIES, BY JOANNA SCHAFFHAUSEN

FBI agent Reed Markham is haunted by one painful unsolved mystery: who murdered his mother? Camilla was brutally stabbed to death more than forty years ago while baby Reed lay in his crib mere steps away. The trail went so cold that the Las Vegas Police Department has given up hope of solving the case. But then a shattering family secret changes everything Reed knows about his origins, his murdered mother, and his powerful adoptive father, state senator Angus Markham. Now Reed has to wonder if his mother’s killer is uncomfortably close to home.

Unable to trust his family with the details of his personal investigation, Reed enlists his friend, suspended cop Ellery Hathaway, to join his quest in Vegas. Ellery has experience with both troubled families and diabolical murderers, having narrowly escaped from each of them. She’s eager to skip town, too, because her own father, who abandoned her years ago, is suddenly desperate to get back in contact. He also has a secret that could change her life forever, if Ellery will let him close enough to hear it.

Far from home and relying only on each other, Reed and Ellery discover young Camilla had snared the attention of dangerous men, any of whom might have wanted to shut her up for good. They start tracing his twisted family history, knowing the path leads back to a vicious killer—one who has been hiding in plain sight for forty years and isn’t about to give up now.

 

an interior journey thoughts

 

As we begin digging into the forty-year-old murder, All the Best Lies begin to surface as well.

I liked getting to know Ellery and Reed, as they pursue the mystery from the past while exploring their own feelings for each other.

Just when we think the two of them have uncovered clues that might lead to solving the mystery, another obstacle pushes things back for them.

It would only be at the very end that an astonishing new secret would be revealed and the answers would come. 5 stars.

***

REVIEW: YOU WILL REMEMBER ME, BY HANNAH MARY MCKINNON

Forget the truth.
Remember the lies.

He wakes up on a deserted beach in Maryland with a gash on his head and wearing only swim trunks. He can’t remember who he is. Everything—his identity, his life, his loved ones—has been replaced by a dizzying fog of uncertainty. But returning to his Maine hometown in search of the truth uncovers more questions than answers.

Lily Reid thinks she knows her boyfriend, Jack. Until he goes missing one night, and her frantic search reveals that he’s been lying to her since they met, desperate to escape a dark past he’d purposely left behind.

Maya Scott has been trying to find her estranged stepbrother, Asher, since he disappeared without a trace. Having him back, missing memory and all, feels like a miracle. But with a mutual history full of devastating secrets, how far will Maya go to ensure she alone takes them to the grave?

Shared fates intertwine in a twisty, explosive novel of suspense, where unearthing the past might just mean being buried beneath it.

 

 

an interior journey thoughts

As we begin the story of You Will Remember Me, we are immediately introduced to two men with mysterious and secret pasts. Jack Smith and Ash Bennett have lived very different lives. One disappears, leaving no trace, and the other wakes up with no memory.

It doesn’t take long to realize that there is more to each of their stories. But what has happened to them to cause a loss of their identities and their memories?

I liked Lily, who was in love with Jack, and felt wary of Maya Scott, who had her own agenda, in my opinion.

As the story circled back and forth between the past and the present, and as we watch the characters play out their plans, we begin to see that nothing good will come from at least one of the characters. I was cringing as I watched them but hoping that perhaps right would win after all.

But would it? In the end I was biting my nails, knowing that this story would probably not have a happy ending. Nevertheless, I loved discovering the truth and will definitely remember the characters long afterwards. 5 stars.

***

REVIEW: THE END OF HER, BY SHARI LAPENA

 

A long-ago accident—and a visitor from out of the blue. . .

Stephanie and Patrick are adjusting to life with their colicky twin girls. The babies are a handful, but even as Stephanie struggles with the disorientation of sleep deprivation, there’s one thing she’s sure of: she has all she ever wanted.

Then Erica, a woman from Patrick’s past, appears and makes a disturbing accusation. Patrick had always said his first wife’s death was an accident, but now Erica claims it was murder.

Patrick insists he’s innocent, that this is nothing but a blackmail attempt. Still, Erica knows things about Patrick—things that make Stephanie begin to question her husband. Stephanie isn’t sure what, or who, to believe. As Stephanie’s trust in Patrick begins to falter, Patrick stands to lose everything. Is Patrick telling the truth—is Erica the persuasive liar Patrick says she is? Or has Stephanie made a terrible mistake?

How will it end?

Who is telling the truth in The End of Her? Or will there be plenty of liars to go around?

Just when I thought I knew who to believe, another twist would come out of nowhere, and I would be stunned again.

One thing for sure, I knew I hated Erica. But is Patrick truly innocent? And what about Stephanie? She seems so sweet, and as if she could do no wrong. But are there unexpected dark depths to her?

The story takes us to the past while also plunging forward into the future to show what lies ahead for these characters.

Enough said. Saying more would spoil the tale, so suffice it to say, your head will be spinning by the time this story concludes. 5 brilliant stars.

***

REVIEW: STRANGER IN THE LAKE, BY KIMBERLY BELLE

When Charlotte married the wealthy widower Paul, it caused a ripple of gossip in their small lakeside town. They have a charmed life together, despite the cruel whispers about her humble past and his first marriage. But everything starts to unravel when she discovers a young woman’s body floating in the exact same spot where Paul’s first wife tragically drowned.

At first, it seems like a horrific coincidence, but the stranger in the lake is no stranger. Charlotte saw Paul talking to her the day before, even though Paul tells the police he’s never met the woman. His lie exposes cracks in their fragile new marriage, cracks Charlotte is determined to keep from breaking them in two.

As Charlotte uncovers dark mysteries about the man she married, she doesn’t know what to trust—her heart, which knows Paul to be a good man, or her growing suspicion that there’s something he’s hiding in the water.

 

Stranger in the Lake opens upon Charlotte’s happy new life, married to wealthy Paul Keller and living in a beautiful home. She loves the sense of security, having grown up in trailer parks without enough food. But there are things she still doesn’t know about her husband, who doesn’t share what happened with his first wife and how she died.

Now, just as Charlotte is hoping to eventually learn more, she finds a dead woman floating in the lake at their dock. Too many coincidences make Charlotte begin to question her husband and the fact that his first wife was also found in the lake. His friendships with others who are very secretive increase her concerns about what happened in the past. And now Paul has mysteriously gone away during the initial investigation, and Charlotte finds herself having to try to fill in the blanks for him.

We see glimpses of the past in alternating narratives. What are Paul and his friends hiding, and what do their secrets have to do with the dead woman? Eventually more is revealed as the tension increases, with unexpected twists unfolding. The ending wrapped up a little too smoothly, but most of the questions were answered. 4 stars.

***

REVIEW: OUR HOUSE, BY LOUISE CANDLISH

 

When Fiona Lawson comes home to find strangers moving into her house, she’s sure there’s been a mistake. She and her estranged husband, Bram, have a modern co-parenting arrangement: bird’s nest custody, where each parent spends a few nights a week with their two sons at the prized family home to maintain stability for their children. But the system built to protect their family ends up putting them in terrible jeopardy. In a domino effect of crimes and misdemeanors, the nest comes tumbling down.

Now Bram has disappeared and so have Fiona’s children. As events spiral well beyond her control, Fiona will discover just how many lies her husband was weaving and how little they truly knew each other. But Bram’s not the only one with things to hide, and some secrets are best kept to oneself, safe as houses.

 

My Thoughts: In the opening lines of Our House, we are stunned by what Fiona Lawson sees, as she comes home after a few days away: moving vans and a strange family unloading them. They are moving into her house!

Flashback to the previous summer when Fiona caught Bram cheating on her. It wasn’t the first time. So the split would change their lives, but they thought their solution for the children was the perfect one. The so-called Birds’ Nest custody arrangement had the children permanently in the house, with the parents taking turns moving in and out. A flat nearby was where the off-duty parent would stay.

Next, our narrators take us back and forth in time: Bram’s Word doc reveals his story, while Fi’s podcast confessions on The Victim offer her perspective. Slowly we come to discover the intricacies of how Fi ended up losing her house, and what happened to Bram to take them there.

It is not a simple story, and there are so many twists and turns, with a final unexpected one at the end. But this story is not divided into villains and victims…unless we label some of the other parties. But someone has gone to a lot of trouble to unravel their lives. And both Bram and Fi have made choices that led them to this place.

Did the Birds’ Nest arrangement set this family up for what happened? Could secrets and lies from the past have added to their vulnerability? And would the final denouement leave questions unanswered, with more heartache ahead? Rapidly turning pages kept me guessing and wondering, and made me feel empathy for both Bram and Fi. They felt like people who might have been our friends and neighbors. 5 stars.***My e-ARC came from the publisher via NetGalley

REVIEW: LET ME LIE, BY CLARE MACKINTOSH

 

The police say it was suicide.
Anna says it was murder.
They’re both wrong.

Last year, Tom and Caroline Johnson chose to end their lives, one seemingly unable to live without the other. Their daughter, Anna, is struggling to come to terms with her parents’ deaths, unwilling to accept the verdict of suicide.

Now with a baby herself, Anna feels her mother’s absence keenly and is determined to find out what really happened to her parents. But as she digs up the past, someone is trying to stop her.

Sometimes it’s safer to let things lie….

 

My Thoughts: Multiple narrators, including an anonymous one, lead us through Let Me Lie.

I liked trying to decipher the clues that came to Anna in the form of scary messages. Odd events that make her question everything she thought she knew.

Would Anna find the answers to the disturbing events? Would her family secrets be unveiled? What if her past was exposed as a twisted lie?

Murray Mackenzie, the retired detective who worked the case, was an interesting character. I liked how his own personal issues with his mentally ill wife added another layer to the story. He seemed to be a compassionate person, which isn’t necessarily how I see the police. But I liked how he worked, and even how he and his wife Sarah talked about possible scenarios. They felt like a team, and those moments were some of their best.

As the pace sped up, and just when I thought I knew what was happening, unexpected truths were revealed.

Even beyond what I thought was “the end,” another surprise stunned me. I had to read the last line again and again, leaving me with more questions. A 4.5 star read.

***

REVIEW: NOT THAT I COULD TELL, BY JESSICA STRAWSER

 

When a group of neighborhood women gathers, wine in hand, around a fire pit where their backyards meet one Saturday night, most of them are just ecstatic to have discovered that their baby monitors reach that far. It’s a rare kid-free night, and they’re giddy with it. They drink too much, and the conversation turns personal.

By Monday morning, one of them is gone.

Everyone knows something about everyone else in the quirky small Ohio town of Yellow Springs, but no one can make sense of the disappearance. Kristin was a sociable twin mom, college administrator, and doctor’s wife who didn’t seem all that bothered by her impending divorce—and the investigation turns up more questions than answers, with her husband, Paul, at the center. For her closest neighbor, Clara, the incident triggers memories she thought she’d put behind her—and when she’s unable to extract herself from the widening circle of scrutiny, her own suspicions quickly grow. But the neighborhood’s newest addition, Izzy, is determined not to jump to any conclusions—especially since she’s dealing with a crisis of her own.

As the police investigation goes from a media circus to a cold case, the neighbors are forced to reexamine what’s going on behind their own closed doors—and to ask how well anyone really knows anyone else.

 

My Thoughts: A story that could have been ripped from the headlines, Not That I Could Tell was a reminder that secrets, lies, and possible violence could be hiding behind any of the doors in a friendly neighborhood.

From the police and the media presence to the suspicious behavior of several normally sociable neighbors, there is a sense hovering in the neighborhood that nothing will ever be the same in the quiet small town of Yellow Springs, Ohio.

Izzy is new to the neighborhood, and smarting from her own feelings of betrayal when her best friend and potential love interest marries her younger sister. Clara, who hosted the party and who has her own past connections to domestic violence, is suddenly hypervigilant. Then there is Paul, the almost ex-husband of Kristin, moving back into the house after his wife has gone missing…and acting sad and victimized by it all. But what is really behind his behavior? What had happened between them? How would the neighbors learn to cope with events?

As the story winds down and with the police unable to close the case, a few things happen unexpectedly that bring out the final secrets and reveal everything that was unknown. The story was interesting, with some characters I enjoyed…but I figured out much of what was happening long before the end. However, there were some missing pieces that I enjoyed watching unfold. 4.5 stars.***My e-ARC came from the publisher via NetGalley.

REVIEW: THE PERFECT ROOMMATE, BY MINKA KENT

 

She’s my roommate.

I know how she takes her tea, how she organizes her closet.

I know when she goes to bed each night, what she eats for breakfast, the passcode on her phone.

I know she calls her mother on Mondays, takes barre on Thursdays, and meets her friends for drinks on Fridays.

But more important than any of that … I know what she did.

 

My Thoughts: The Perfect Roommate is the kind of story that hints at perfection and total compatibility between the two roommates, Lauren and Meadow, but with every page, you sense that drama and darkness are just around the corner.

When Lauren starts giving Meadow some of her clothes and talks her into a hairstyle that mimics her own, I could almost hear the music from “Single White Female,” and I knew we were in for some intense moments ahead.

I wasn’t sure how it would all unfold, but I thought I had it figured out several times over before it started to come together in a way I hadn’t anticipated.

The author’s style kept me rapidly turning pages, and then, just when I thought every last lie and dramatic point had finally revealed themselves, there were teasers ahead for another tempting situation. The story ends with an epilogue that could be a happy ending…or a set-up for more drama. I thoroughly enjoyed this tale, although the ending did feel a bit anti-climactic. 4.5 stars.***

REVIEW: THE LAST MRS. PARRISH, BY LIV CONSTANTINE

 

Amber Patterson is fed up. She’s tired of being a nobody: a plain, invisible woman who blends into the background. She deserves more—a life of money and power like the one blond-haired, blue-eyed goddess Daphne Parrish takes for granted.

To everyone in the exclusive town of Bishops Harbor, Connecticut, Daphne—a socialite and philanthropist—and her real-estate mogul husband, Jackson, are a couple straight out of a fairy tale.

Amber’s envy could eat her alive . . . if she didn’t have a plan. Amber uses Daphne’s compassion and caring to insinuate herself into the family’s life—the first step in a meticulous scheme to undermine her. Before long, Amber is Daphne’s closest confidante, traveling to Europe with the Parrishes and their lovely young daughters, and growing closer to Jackson. But a skeleton from her past may undermine everything that Amber has worked towards, and if it is discovered, her well-laid plan may fall to pieces.

My Thoughts: The first half of The Last Mrs. Parrish is told from Amber’s perspective, and while we know that she is manipulative and has a big plan, one that will take her to the life she wants, there are also hints of a life she left behind. A life full of secrets.

Just when it looks like she is right where she wants to be, the story turns around and we see life from the perspective of Daphne, who is not quite the happy woman she appears to be. Her secrets and what she has done to keep them hidden make everything about this story surreal.

Who is the unreliable narrator? What are Amber’s secrets? And how will the two so-called best friends resolve these issues? I couldn’t stop turning the pages, waiting for the final twist that would bring the future that they each deserved. Would justice finally prevail? A tale that had me smiling at the end. 4.5 stars.***