REVIEW: THE NIGHT SHE DISAPPEARED, BY LISA JEWELL

On a beautiful summer night in a charming English suburb, a young woman and her boyfriend disappear after partying at the massive country estate of a new college friend.

One year later, a writer moves into a cottage on the edge of the woods that border the same estate. Known locally as the Dark Place, the dense forest is the writer’s favorite area for long walks and it’s on one such walk that she stumbles upon a mysterious note that simply reads, “DIG HERE.”

Could this be a clue towards what has happened to the missing young couple? And what exactly is buried in this haunted ground?

 

an interior journey thoughts

From the very first page of The Night She Disappeared, I was caught up in the mysterious events, narrated from the past and the present, offering bits and pieces of information with each step forward and backward. I especially liked learning how Kim and Sophie teamed up to find clues from social media sites.

What really happened on that summer evening when Talullah and Zach went missing? Did a group of friends who partied that night know more than they were sharing?

As I kept turning the pages, I had some thoughts about what might have happened, but in the end, I found the resolution to be unexpected.

I enjoyed figuring out the characters and their behavior, and definitely had mixed feelings about some of them. I loved the conclusion, which satisfactorily brought good things for some of them. 5 stars.

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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: THE DOWNSTAIRS NEIGHBOR, BY HELEN COOPER

 

One House. Three Families. Countless Secrets.

From her downstairs apartment in suburban London, Emma has often overheard the everyday life of the seemingly perfect family upstairs—Steph, Paul and teenage daughter Freya—but has never got to know them. Until one day, she hears something that seizes her attention: Freya has vanished and the police are questioning Steph and Paul about their life. Do either of you have any enemies? Anyone who might want to harm or threaten you?

The effects of Freya’s disappearance ripple outward, affecting not just her parents, but everyone who lives in the building, including Emma and local driving instructor Chris, who was the last person to see the teenager before she went missing. Each character’s life is thrown into sharp focus as devastating mistakes and long-held secrets are picked apart and other crimes come to light—including a child gone missing twenty-five years earlier, and a shocking murder—that make clear that the past never stays where we leave it, and that homes can be built on foundations of lies.
 
 
 
an interior journey thoughts

From the opening narrative, The Downstairs Neighbor revealed the residents of an old house turned into apartments, and there is a spooky presence there from the beginning.

Emma’s voice is first heard, as she describes eavesdropping on the upstairs neighbors. We gradually learn more about her with each of her alternating narratives.

There is Chris, who teaches driving to high schoolers; then there are Steph and Paul, whose daughter Freya goes missing.

Finally, we are swept back in time twenty-five years to Kate and her mother, their secrets slowly brought to light. What, if anything, connects the past with the present?

Who has taken Freya? Or has she simply run away? As the search continues, we learn more about them all. By the end, we clearly see what has happened…and we realize the truth. But will it be too late? A five star read.
 
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REVIEW: A SLOW FIRE BURNING, BY PAULA HAWKINS

When a young man is found gruesomely murdered in a London houseboat, it triggers questions about three women who knew him. Laura is the troubled one-night-stand last seen in the victim’s home. Carla is his grief-stricken aunt, already mourning the recent death of yet another family member. And Miriam is the nosy neighbor clearly keeping secrets from the police. Three women with separate connections to the victim. Three women who are—for different reasons—simmering with resentment. Who are, whether they know it or not, burning to right the wrongs done to them. When it comes to revenge, even good people might be capable of terrible deeds. How far might any one of them go to find peace? How long can secrets smolder before they explode into flame?

 

an interior journey thoughts

 

As we meet each of the potential perpetrators in A Slow Fire Burning, we can imagine how one of them might have turned to violence. Simmering resentments can boil over.

Instead we find ourselves looking behind the facades of their lives, studying them from various perspectives, and we can almost empathize.

It will take a while, however, before we reach the appropriate conclusions.

In fact, by the end, there were a few convoluted twists and turns that steered me off course a bit. Definitely a five star read, however.

***

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: NOT A HAPPY FAMILY, BY SHARI LAPENA

Brecken Hill in upstate New York is an expensive place to live. You have to be rich to have a house there, and Fred and Sheila Merton certainly are rich. But even all their money can’t protect them when a killer comes to call. The Mertons are brutally murdered after a fraught Easter dinner with their three adult kids. Who, of course, are devastated.

Or are they? They each stand to inherit millions. They were never a happy family, thanks to their vindictive father and neglectful mother, but perhaps one of the siblings is more disturbed than anyone knew. Did someone snap after that dreadful evening? Or did another person appear later that night with the worst of intentions? That must be what happened. After all, if one of the family were capable of something as gruesome as this, you’d know.

 

Not a Happy Family drew me in immediately, with the vicious murder and the motives that could point to several different people, but the target seems to stay on the backs of the three adult children.

Between them, there are alibis that may or may not be valid, but an absence of real evidence to point to any one of them keeps the detectives circling the potential perpetrators. Soon the target shifts to others, as more and more people who had reason to want the Mertons dead show up, several of whom are about to inherit some amount of money from them.

In the end, I was stunned as the details of what actually happened fell into place, and I then realized that the answer was no big surprise. Definitely a five star read.

***

REVIEW: THE FIANCEE, BY KATE WHITE

They had everything they needed for a perfect family vacation: close-knit relatives, a bucolic setting . . . and a murderer in their midst?

Summer’s looking forward to a break from hustling for acting work in Manhattan when she, her husband Gabe, and Gabe’s nine-year-old son arrive at the annual family get-together at her in-laws’ sprawling estate. On the agenda are leisurely gourmet meals, tennis matches, and plenty of relaxation by the pool.

But this year, Gabe’s brother Nick has invited his new flame Hannah, whom Summer immediately recognizes from a few years before. Oddly, her brother-in-law’s girlfriend claims not to know her. Yet she charms the other family members, and after Nick announces that he’s proposed to Hannah, Summer doesn’t have much choice but to grin and bear it.

Then the reunion is rocked by tragedy when a family member is found dead. Though the doctors attribute the loss to natural causes, a grieving Summer fears that the too-good-to-be-true Hannah is involved, even as Gabe dismisses her suspicions.

How far will Summer go to expose the truth? As she investigates just what Nick’s fiancée might have done to keep her perfect image intact, she begins to fear that the first death might only be the beginning . . .
 
 
 
an interior journey thoughts

The Fiancee opens with a family celebration and some strange events that lead Summer to begin following clues suggesting that her brother-in-law’s new fiancée might be a murderer. But she finds no support for her beliefs from her husband or any others.

Then another person is murdered, and the similar clues support Summer’s theory, while a few additional details make another family member appear to agree.

When Summer is assaulted by one of the least likely family members, her beliefs are turned upside down.

Will the truth finally emerge before someone else dies? A twisted tale that had me guessing all the way through, leading to a 5 star award.
 
***

REVIEW: THE NEWCOMER, BY MARY KAY ANDREWS

In trouble and on the run…

After she discovers her sister Tanya dead on the floor of her fashionable New York City townhouse, Letty Carnahan is certain she knows who did it: Tanya’s ex; sleazy real estate entrepreneur Evan Wingfield. Even in the grip of grief and panic Letty heeds her late sister’s warnings: “If anything bad happens to me—it’s Evan. Promise me you’ll take Maya and run. Promise me.”

With a trunkful of emotional baggage…

So Letty grabs her sister’s Mercedes and hits the road with her wailing four-year-old niece Maya. Letty is determined to out-run Evan and the law, but run to where? Tanya, a woman with a past shrouded in secrets, left behind a “go-bag” of cash and a big honking diamond ring—but only one clue: a faded magazine story about a sleepy mom-and-pop motel in a Florida beach town with the improbable name of Treasure Island. She sheds her old life and checks into an uncertain future at The Murmuring Surf Motel.

The No Vacancy sign is flashing & the sharks are circling…

And that’s the good news. Because The Surf, as the regulars call it, is the winter home of a close-knit flock of retirees and snowbirds who regard this odd-duck newcomer with suspicion and down-right hostility. As Letty settles into the motel’s former storage room, she tries to heal Maya’s heartache and unravel the key to her sister’s shady past, all while dodging the attention of the owner’s dangerously attractive son Joe, who just happens to be a local police detective. Can Letty find romance as well as a room at the inn—or will Joe betray her secrets and put her behind bars?
With danger closing in, it’s a race to find the truth and right the wrongs of the past.

 

an interior journey thoughts

The Newcomer gripped me emotionally from the very beginning. I loved getting to know all the intriguing characters that Letty met at the little Florida motel where she landed with her niece Maya. I couldn’t stop following her attempt to bring justice for her murdered sister Tanya, and I adored little Maya, who was cute and precocious.

The senior citizens who resided in the motel, some of them long term, added a special twist to a story that felt so real. I loved connecting with them, even the annoying ones.

Of course I kept rooting for the developing relationship between Joe and Letty, who didn’t appear to be a perfect match in the beginning, but who clicked before much time had gone by.

I also enjoyed watching Letty find her niche as she helped Ava run the motel, and I liked how she connected with Ava’s teenage daughter.

As I turned the final page, I wanted to keep going with these characters who had all found a place in Letty’s heart and in mine. 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: 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

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