REVIEW: THE NIGHT SWIM, BY MEGAN GOLDIN

Ever since her true-crime podcast became an overnight sensation and set an innocent man free, Rachel Krall has become a household name—and the last hope for people seeking justice. But she’s used to being recognized for her voice, not her face. Which makes it all the more unsettling when she finds a note on her car windshield, addressed to her, begging for help.

The new season of Rachel’s podcast has brought her to a small town being torn apart by a devastating rape trial. A local golden boy, a swimmer destined for Olympic greatness, has been accused of raping the beloved granddaughter of the police chief. Under pressure to make Season 3 a success, Rachel throws herself into her investigation—but the mysterious letters keep coming.

Someone is following her, and she won’t stop until Rachel finds out what happened to her sister twenty-five years ago. Officially, Jenny Stills tragically drowned, but the letters insist she was murdered—and when Rachel starts asking questions, nobody in town wants to answer. The past and present start to collide as Rachel uncovers startling connections between the two cases—and a revelation that will change the course of the trial and the lives of everyone involved.

A small town in North Carolina is the centerpiece of The Night Swim, focused on a current rape trial and a possible murder twenty-five years before.

As the story sweeps back and forth in time, we are led along by Rachel’s narrative, Hannah’s mysterious letters, and bits of Rachel’s podcast as she documents the current trial.

It doesn’t take long to see that many characters are interwoven into both stories, reminding us that the past can follow us into the present, as the secrets and crimes are untangled and revealed.

With an intensity that is enhanced by the short chapters and the fast pace, I sometimes felt confused by how many similarities existed between the separate events. Were these facts coincidental, or were many of the players repeating their bad behavior in the present?

One thing I’ve learned about small town life is how desperately the people depend on friends, and even enemies over whom they have leverage, and as a result, they sometimes escape justice. 5 stars.

***My e-ARC came from the publisher via NetGalley

***

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: A GOOD MARRIAGE, BY KIMBERLY MCCREIGHT

Lizzie Kitsakis is working late when she gets the call. Grueling hours are standard at elite law firms like Young & Crane, but they’d be easier to swallow if Lizzie was there voluntarily. Until recently, she’d been a happily underpaid federal prosecutor. That job and her brilliant, devoted husband Sam—she had everything she’d ever wanted. And then, suddenly, it all fell apart.

No. That’s a lie. It wasn’t sudden, was it? Long ago the cracks in Lizzie’s marriage had started to show. She was just good at averting her eyes.

The last thing Lizzie needs right now is a call from an inmate at Rikers asking for help—even if Zach Grayson is an old friend. But Zach is desperate: his wife, Amanda, has been found dead at the bottom of the stairs in their Brooklyn brownstone. And Zach’s the primary suspect.

As Lizzie is drawn into the dark heart of idyllic Park Slope, she learns that Zach and Amanda weren’t what they seemed—and that their friends, a close-knit group of fellow parents at the exclusive Brooklyn Country Day school, might be protecting troubling secrets of their own. In the end, she’s left wondering not only whether her own marriage can be saved, but what it means to have a good marriage in the first place.


From the very beginning of A Good Marriage, we know that the characters will be very flawed, with lots of secrets, and that Lizzie will be following a twisted trail to find the answers she seeks. In fact, her own marriage has a bit of darkness, too, and she might have to end up protecting her own.

As Lizzie tries to find alternate suspects for Amanda’s death, she learns a lot more about Amanda, whose journals and their descriptions make finding the truth that much harder. Plus, moving from one possibility to another leads her along some very convoluted pathways. Lizzie is our first person narrator, but the narrative flips between other characters and to testimony given during the grand jury hearing.

As we begin to figure out who might be guilty, we discover that the suburban couples have another threat from an unexpected source. Their secrets might be disclosed, and in order to protect them, they must do a lot more to stop that person. But in the process, will the wrong person be hurt? 4.5 stars.

***

REVIEW: THE OTHER MRS., BY MARY KUBICA

Sadie and Will Foust have only just moved their family from bustling Chicago to small-town Maine when their neighbor Morgan Baines is found dead in her home. The murder rocks their tiny coastal island, but no one is more shaken than Sadie.

But it’s not just Morgan’s death that has Sadie on edge. And as the eyes of suspicion turn toward the new family in town, Sadie is drawn deeper into the mystery of what really happened that dark and deadly night. But Sadie must be careful, for the more she discovers about Mrs. Baines, the more she begins to realize just how much she has to lose if the truth ever comes to light.

Multiple narrators tell the story of The Other Mrs., and I’m immediately drawn in by them, as it takes a while to realize just who they are and how they fit into Sadie’s life.

Will has a history of infidelity, so his every move sets off alarms for me as I read the story. Sadie has issues, but we don’t discover the extent of them until the very end.

Just as I had decided that I knew who might be the perpetrator, the author twists the tale and shows us another view. But then, another turn takes us to the truth.

I loved this story, unable to stop rapidly turning the pages. A definite 5 star read for me.

***

REVIEW: SOMEONE KNOWS, BY LISA SCOTTOLINE

 

Allie Garvey is heading home to the funeral of a childhood friend. Allie is not only grief-stricken, she’s full of dread. Because going home means seeing the other two people with whom she shares an unbearable secret.

Twenty years earlier, a horrific incident shattered the lives of five teenagers, including Allie. Drinking and partying in the woods, they played a dangerous prank that went tragically wrong, turning deadly. The teenagers kept what happened a secret, believing that getting caught would be the worst thing that could happen. But time has taught Allie otherwise. Not getting caught was far worse.

Allie has been haunted for two decades by what she and the others did, and by the fact that she never told a soul. The dark secret has eaten away at her, distancing her from everyone she loves, including her husband. Because she wasn’t punished by the law, Allie has punished herself, and it’s a life sentence.

Now, Allie stands on the precipice of losing everything. She’s ready for a reckoning, determined to learn how the prank went so horribly wrong. She digs to unearth the truth, but reaches a shocking conclusion that she never saw coming–and neither will the reader.

 

My Thoughts: From multiple perspectives, the reader follows the lives of teens and adults, all connected by the housing development in which they lived.

Someone Knows begins when a young thirty-something woman named Allie Garvey shows up to attend the funeral of a friend from high school, a sad reminder of tragic events from twenty years earlier.

The tragedy had been exacerbated by dark secrets, and the lives of the characters have been broken by the events of that time. Could any of them have known how those events would inform their lives forever? But what none of them would realize, even in the present, was that there were even darker secrets that would be coming back in unexpected ways.

During that long-ago summer, we watched as each teenager handled the events, both before and after. Allie was the girl on the outside looking in, but she felt a connection to David, who seemed to accept her. Sasha was a bully, but her gorgeous exterior kept the boys focused on her, wanting to please her. Would the actions they took have occurred without that component? Did Sasha egg them on? And how did Julian’s feelings about another boy in the group lead to how it all played out?

Now, years later, Allie has come to a decision. But will her plans lead to even more danger? The riveting story intensified with each page I turned, and shocking surprises came from every direction. 5 stars.

***

REVIEW: AFTER NIGHTFALL BY A. J. BANNER

 

Imagine your closest friend utterly betraying you. Years later, when she seeks forgiveness, you invite her to your engagement party as a gesture of reconciliation. But seething hostilities rise to the surface, ruining everyone’s evening. After an awful night, your friend’s battered, lifeless body is found at the bottom of a rocky cliff.

Newly engaged Marissa Parlette is living this nightmare. She should be celebrating her upcoming wedding, but she can’t shake the image of her friend lying dead on the beach. Did she fall? Was she pushed? Or did she take a purposeful step into darkness? Desperate for answers, Marissa digs deep into the events of the party. But what she remembers happening after nightfall now carries sinister implications: the ugly sniping, the clandestine meetings, the drunken flirtations. The more she investigates, the more she questions everything she thought she knew about her friends, the man she once trusted, and even herself.

 

My Thoughts: After Nightfall begins with a scene in which Marissa’s old friend Lauren is flirting with her fiancé at their engagement party. After watching the scene play out, I just knew that there would be so many layers to this story, especially as we learn more about the history between Marissa and Lauren from years before.

But once Lauren is found dead, the answers will never come…or so we believe. But Marissa is determined to probe the events of that evening and the many other questionable happenings from the past forward.

Who can Marissa trust? She begins to feel betrayed by everyone, including her fiancé, and even as we start to guess the answers, we will be completely gobsmacked by the final lines of the book, which will start our questions all over again.

Marissa’s first person narrative kept me following along with great intensity, anxious for answers, sorting through possible scenarios. Even when I thought I finally had them, I suspected that there might be more to the story. I was riveted to the pages, rubbing my eyes with fatigue when I couldn’t stop reading, and in the end, I still wanted more. 5 stars.

***

REVIEW: FEARED, BY LISA SCOTTOLINE

 

When three men announce that they are suing the Rosato & DiNunzio law firm for reverse sex discrimination—claiming that they were not hired because they were men—Mary DiNunzio and Bennie Rosato are outraged. To make matters worse, their one male employee, John Foxman, intends to resign, claiming that there is some truth to this case.

The plaintiffs’ lawyer is Nick Machiavelli, who has already lost to Mary once and is now back with a vengeance —determined to not only win, but destroy the firm. It soon becomes clear that Machiavelli will do anything in his power to achieve his end…even after the case turns deadly. The stakes have never been higher for Mary and her associates as they try to keep Machiavelli at bay, solve a murder, and save the law firm they love…or they could lose everything they’ve worked for. Told with Scottoline’s trademark gift for twists, turns, heart, and humanity, this latest thriller asks the question: Is it better to be loved, or feared…

My Thoughts: I always love revisiting the characters in the Rosato & DiNunzio law firm, but in Feared, the newest outing, I was even more drawn in by Mary DiNunzio in her new role as an expectant mother. Her fierceness masked her vulnerability, and kept her swinging as she worked with her partners to battle their nemesis, Nick Machiavelli.

When the lawsuit began to look like an uphill battle, everything got much worse when someone was murdered. Bereft and still swinging, the women did everything in their power to solve that case and follow the clues that would bring the lawsuit to an end.

I’ve always enjoyed Mary’s thought processes, and watching her figure out the connections that would tie the case up for them was as enticing as always. I especially enjoyed the camaraderie between the law partners, Mary, Benny Rosato and Judy Carrier. The family and friends from the neighborhood added just the loving network that Mary needed during difficult times.

As solving the murder seemed to elude the partners, the suspense increased dramatically; and then an unexpected clue brought the answers, but would it be too late? I kept rapidly turning pages until the very end of this 5 star read.


***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: AFTER ANNA, BY LISA SCOTTOLINE


 

Dr. Noah Alderman, a widower and single father, has remarried a wonderful woman, Maggie Ippolitti, and for the first time in a long time, he and his young son are happy. Despite her longing for the daughter she hasn’t seen since she was a baby, Maggie is happy too, and she’s even more overjoyed when she unexpectedly gets another chance to be a mother to the child she thought she’d lost forever, her only daughter Anna. 

Maggie and Noah know that having Anna around will change their lives, but they would never have guessed that everything would go wrong, and so quickly. Anna turns out to be a gorgeous 17-year-old who balks at living under their rules, though Maggie, ecstatic to have her daughter back, ignores the red flags that hint at the trouble brewing in a once-perfect marriage and home. 

Events take a heartbreaking turn when Anna is murdered and Noah is accused and tried for the heinous crime. Maggie must face not only the devastation of losing her daughter, but the realization that Anna’s murder may have been at the hands of a husband she loves. In the wake of this tragedy, new information drives Maggie to search for the truth, leading her to discover something darker than she could have ever imagined. 


My Thoughts: Alternating narratives take the reader back and forth in time through the riveting pages of After Anna.

How could their lives have turned upside down so quickly? And how could they have seen any of it coming? Is Maggie in denial about her husband…or about her daughter? Has Noah made some foolish choices that have come back to haunt him?

As I rapidly turned the pages, I came to my own interpretation of events, some of which I took away from years of working with dysfunctional families and with people who have completely opposing versions of the truth. In this case, there are at least two sides to the truth…but then there can also be an unexpected player in this family tragedy.

From the beginning, I did not like Anna, but understood how Maggie could be fooled by her. After all, she was suffering from the guilt of having lost her child in infancy. Now she has to make up for their losses, which means that she has blinders on and misses all the red flags.

Noah did not do himself any favors when he failed to share his own qualms…but then again, a man in this scenario is often unaware of the manipulations going on around him.

Just when we thought all was settled, albeit not very happily, we are thrown off course by some startling revelations that changed everything we thought we knew. As a result, we enjoyed a very satisfactory conclusion. 5 stars.


***My e-ARC came from the publisher via NetGalley.

REVIEW: LOOK FOR ME, BY LISA GARDNER

 

The home of a family of five is now a crime scene: four of them savagely murdered, one—a sixteen-year-old girl—missing. Was she lucky to have escaped? Or is her absence evidence of something sinister? Detective D. D. Warren is on the case—but so is survivor-turned-avenger Flora Dane. Seeking different types of justice, they must make sense of the clues left behind by a young woman who, whether as victim or suspect, is silently pleading, Look for me.

My Thoughts: A multi-layered story, Look for Me takes the reader along on a journey to find a killer and a missing girl.

Our narrators are D. D. Warren, a detective with the Boston P.D., and Flora Dane, the famously abducted woman held captive for 472 days…and who now has taken on a vigilante role. But she also helps other young women to protect themselves and move on.

The three children in the Baez family spent time in foster care, during which they were abused by other teens in the home. By the time their mother got them back again, they were broken and damaged, but hoping for a better life. Nothing worked out the way they had planned, for they were thrust, once again, into the school where their enemies from care could keep torturing them.

Who had killed the four members of a family? Why did the oldest girl, Roxanna, run? Did she have anything to do with the killings? Or had she somehow escaped, but would become the next target? Did the time in foster care have something to do with the killings? Was someone worried about possible charges being brought against the abusers in the home?

I enjoyed trying to figure out who could have killed the family, and I liked how D. D.’s mind worked in trying to eliminate suspects and zero in on the perpetrator(s).

Flora, whose first person narrative brought the reader into her mind and her thoughts, was interesting and likable, except to D. D., who mostly wished she didn’t have to keep her in line while she “helped.”

Alternating with the other POVs was a journal kept by Roxanna, which helped the reader piece together her experiences while in foster care. And at the very heart of the story, was the unexpected perpetrator who seemed the least likely one. A riveting story that earned 5 stars for me.***