REVIEW: ONE MOMENT, ONE MORNING, BY SARAH RAYNER

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It was an ordinary Monday morning on the 7:44 commuter train to London. Passengers were engaged in a variety of activities. A young woman named Lou, a people watcher, observes the intricate details of one young woman applying her makeup, while she notices that another is leafing through a glossy magazine. One couple, seemingly having a nice conversation, catches Lou’s eye: they seem nice and compatible.

The train has pulled into the station; it is raining hard outside.

And then, suddenly, the man across the aisle has vomited unexpectedly, and after saying “I’m sorry,” he clutches his chest and his head falls to the table.

Pandemonium ensues; and, while some try to call for help, others simply stare.

Within minutes, it is apparent that the man has died…and everything about that morning is no longer ordinary.

One Moment, One Morning: A Novel is the story of how, in a brief spot of time, everything changes. We follow the characters from the train, see how some of their lives intertwine, and before the ending, others will have connected.

Lou, a counsellor for troubled youth (and the people-watcher on the train) has been keeping a secret from her mother. Anna, a well put-together young woman has a troubled home life. And Karen, the wife of the now deceased man, Simon, is stunned by events and will be struggling as she tries to deal with the aftermath. Her two small children, Luke and Molly, will have to learn about the death of their father and deal with that loss.

I liked the characters and how the author showed us what their lives looked like, before and after. Little flashbacks reveal much about each of them, and I felt sad for Karen, as she recalled happier times and realizes that her dreams are now gone.

New friendships develop, however, and a support network surrounds each of the characters. A memorable story from an author I enjoy. 4.5 stars.

BOOK REVIEW: FRIDAY ON MY MIND, BY NICCI FRENCH

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It was a Friday in London, and the scene unfolds to police activity on the Thames River. A body, and it is clearly a murder, has been found; the victim’s throat has been sliced.

DCI Sarah Hussein and DC Glen Bryant are front and center, meeting up with DC O’Neill, and the action begins.

As with all previous books in this series, Friday on My Mind brings together detectives, the Police Commissioner, and some familiar characters from previous books, like Dr. Frieda Klein, a psychologist, someone known to the department for various reasons. She once served as a consultant to the police, but fell into disfavor with some of them, like the Commissioner and the current psychological consultant, Dr. Hal Bradshaw.

Also on hand: DCI Malcolm Karlsson, who has been an advocate of Frieda Klein’s through all of the bad times with the other detectives and the Commissioner. He believes in her when the others don’t.

The victim, in this case, was one Alexander (Sandy) Holland, and he was wearing an identification bracelet labeled “Frieda Klein.” This, of course, makes those who do not care for Frieda suspicious. Plus, he is her ex-lover. Then some personal items of his show up in Frieda’s dresser drawer…and suddenly she is a suspect.

Instead of turning herself in, as requested, Frieda, who likes doing things her own way, goes on the run. And during her weeks of hiding, she is trying to find the truth. It is fun to follow her in her activities, as it is clear that she is persistent in her efforts to find the killer; her methodical approach to seeking answers leads her down some interesting pathways, following clues that only she can find.

Will Frieda find the answers before the killer catches up with her? How does a former patient, Sasha, and her small child Ethan, figure into the mix? What events in their lives make them key to finding answers? As the danger closes in on Frieda, and as we weed through several red herrings, the unexpected truth stuns everyone, even Frieda herself. I didn’t see this one coming, either, and then, after the final reveal, a tidbit about an ongoing character whom everyone but Frieda believes is dead…makes an appearance. 5 stars.

REVIEW: MR. CHURCHILL’S SECRETARY, BY SUSAN ELIA MACNEAL

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It is London in 1940, and while Maggie Hope has gone to London to sell her grandmother’s house, she ends up staying and working as a typist for Mr. Churchill.

She has so much more to offer, she believes, since she has degrees and a background that would be suitable for espionage work. With a war on and invasion seemingly imminent, everyone is on high alert. Maggie is poised to make herself invaluable.

She is living in her grandmother’s house with several roommates, some of whom are old friends or friends of friends.

Maggie was born in England, but grew up in the US with her Aunt Edith because of her parents’ death in an accident when she was three.

Her life sounds ordinary, doesn’t it? Well, it is soon very extraordinary when a series of events take place that pique her interest, and soon she is trying to figure out codes and confiding her findings. But nobody seems to pay attention.

And then when she takes a trip to Cambridge on a quest, her discoveries are both confusing and astounding. Was her whole past life a lie? Suddenly she finds herself on a frightening mission that could only lead to disaster.

Meanwhile, back in London, a group of IRA dissidents have unleashed a chain of events, and the participants will turn out to be closer to Maggie than she could have realized.

At this point in Mr. Churchill’s Secretary: A Maggie Hope Mystery, I could not stop turning the pages, wondering about the connections between everyone on the canvas, and trying to sort out the good guys from the bad guys. The author did a great job of revealing only bits and pieces until the very end. The story is a mix of fact and fiction that captures the spirit of the times. A five star read…and the first book in a series.

REVIEW: THE LAST WINTER OF DANI LANCING, BY P. D. VINER

17262454Twenty years have passed since that last hard winter of Dani Lancing’s life. The life that had been cut short by her brutal murder. The case is long cold, but the mourners are still haunted by not knowing what had happened to her, trying to piece together the few clues to discover the answers.

The parents, Jim and Patty, are each obsessed: Jim, haunted by fleeting images of Dani at various ages in her life, and seemingly, now, after her death; Patty is on a quest to find the murderer(s), even going to such extremes that now, twenty years later, when the police are reopening the case, she is determined to find her own answers. She doesn’t quite trust the police to find them. Patty and Jim have long since lost their connection to one another, their marriage destroyed.

DS Tom Bevan is the police detective assigned to the cold case. He was also Dani’s friend for years…and suffered from unrequited love.

Set in London and Durham, from the 1980s to 2010, the story jags back and forth through time, in a fractured fashion, revealing the The Last Winter of Dani Lancing: A Novel through the various voices of the characters, past and present. The answers do not come all at once, but in bits and pieces, and the stunning surprises at the end reveal a quagmire of corruption, vengeance, cover-ups, and flawed humanity. This is not a story for the faint of heart, as the human condition is exposed in its greatest darkness and frailty. It is definitely a twisted tale with much to ponder about the lengths to which people will go for those they love. It is also difficult to follow at times, with the peripatetic narrative, and some of the conclusions seem a bit incredible. But the reader will want answers, so the book is impossible to put down. 4.0 stars.

NERVE-TINGLING & ADDICTIVE: A JOURNEY TO THE DARK SIDE — A REVIEW

Dr. Frieda Klein is a London psychotherapist introduced in Blue Monday: A Novel, a story that brought other characters to the canvas, like police detective Karlsson. The back story from the first novel reverberates periodically in Tuesday’s Gone, another thriller that opens with a murder. But not just any murder. The victim himself is an unknown entity, which makes finding the killer even more challenging. And when his body is discovered in the flat of a mentally ill woman, there is very little remaining evidence to go on. For poor Michelle Doyce has been sitting with the body for some time, in a state of confusion.

Who is the victim known to them initially as Robert Poole, a con man? He has stolen someone else’s identity, and as the police zero in on who some of his victims were, they learn a lot more about him–except who he really is and who killed him. They learn how he listens to those he victimizes; he gives them his full attention, something each of them needs desperately.

As in the previous book, Dr. Klein is acting as a consultant to the police, but in these cost-cutting times, it looks like her days of assisting may be numbered. And the attitude of the other detectives (other than Karlsson) are resentful. Sometimes her job is made more difficult by these attitudes.

In the process of untangling the very elusive strands that might knit the case together into a useful shape, we meet some intriguing characters. Those who show us bits and pieces of how they fit into Robert Poole’s world.

But who is the nameless woman huddled on a barge, waiting for someone’s return? Why is she still there, when she could go? What is she waiting for? And how does she play a role in the mystery?

Like a giant jigsaw puzzle with intricate pieces that must go together in just the right way, we gradually come to understand what at first seemed unknowable. But the danger will mount, putting everyone in peril before we find the answers.

I like Frieda Klein. She is elusive, mysterious, and clever. She is also hiding her own past secrets. Will her history keep her from finding that true feeling of home, or will she continually walk the streets of London at night until she works out her own puzzle?

I could not put this book down. And just when I realized that not all the answers would be forthcoming, I knew that there will have to be another book in this series. And I can’t wait! Five stars.