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.***

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: EVERY BREATH YOU TAKE, BY MARY HIGGINS CLARK & ALAFAIR BURKE

 

Laurie Moran’s professional life is a success—her television show Under Suspicion is a hit, both in the ratings and its record of solving cold cases. But her romantic break from former host Alex Buckley has left her with on-air talent she can’t stand—Ryan Nichols—and a sense of loneliness, despite her loving family.

Now Ryan has suggested a new case. Three years ago, Virginia Wakeling, a member of the Board of Trustees of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and one of the museum’s most generous donors, was found in the snow, after being thrown from the museum’s roof on the night of its most celebrated fundraiser, the Met Gala. The leading suspect then and now is her much younger boyfriend and personal trainer, Ivan Gray.

Ivan runs a trendy, successful boutique gym called Punch—a business funded in no small part by the late Virginia—which happens to be the gym Ryan frequents. Laurie’s skepticism about the case is upended by a tip from her father’s NYPD connection, and soon Laurie realizes there are a bevy of suspects—including Virginia’s trusted inner circle.

As the Under Suspicion crew pries into the lives of a super wealthy real estate family with secrets to hide, danger mounts for several witnesses—and for Laurie.

My Thoughts: From the very first page of Every Breath You Take, I was drawn into the story of Virginia Wakeling, a wealthy woman who fell (or was pushed) from the roof of the Met during a celebrated fundraiser.

Her much younger boyfriend, Ivan Gray, was a major suspect of the family, but the police did not have enough evidence to charge him, and, in fact, the accusations of the family members were all they really had.

I enjoyed the way Laurie Moran handled the investigation, and even how she found a way to co-exist with Ryan, the egotistical new on-air talent. He so clearly believed in the innocence of his friend and trainer, Ivan, that Laurie feared his ability to remain objective. However, she gradually saw another side of him in his willingness to set those feelings aside in order to find the answers.

Laurie’s talent for following her instincts and the ability to pursue fresh angles made the story a great page-turner that kept me guessing. With each new revelation, the possibilities of finding the truth seemed to increase.

Would Laurie’s search for the truth put her own life in danger? Would an irate killer bring her to the brink of disaster? There were numerous red herrings until we unexpectedly saw who the killer had to be. Meanwhile, some new possibilities for her sidelined relationship with Alex kept me intrigued, just as the case started heating up. 5 stars.

***

REVIEW: SNAP JUDGMENT, BY MARCIA CLARK

When the daughter of prominent civil litigator Graham Hutchins is found with her throat slashed, the woman’s spurned ex-boyfriend seems the likely suspect. But only days later, the young man dies in what appears to be a suicide. Or was it? Now authorities are faced with a possible new crime. And their person of interest is Hutchins. After all, avenging the death of his daughter is the perfect reason to kill. If he’s as innocent as he claims, only one lawyer has what it takes to prove it: his friend and colleague Samantha Brinkman.

It’s Sam’s obligation to trust her new client. Yet the deeper she digs on his behalf, the more entangled she becomes in a thicket of family secrets, past betrayals, and multiple motives for murder. To win her case, she’s prepared to bend any law and cross any boundary that stands in her way. Sam has always played by her own rules, and it’s always worked…so far. But this case cuts so deep and so personal that one false move could cost her everything.

My Thoughts: Samantha Brinkman hits the ground running on a typical day of lawyering in Snap Judgment. A young woman has been found with her throat slashed, and her father, Graham Hutchins, a prominent lawyer, is devastated.

A student at USC, Alicia seems to have no enemies or any dark secrets that would lead to her murder. As Sam and her team, which includes her “hacker” investigator Alex, zero in on the group of students that were part of Alicia’s “tribe,” there are numerous questions raised about each of them, at one point or another. And when Alicia’s ex-boyfriend Roan, whom everyone believes killed her, turned up dead by hanging, it looked like a suicide. But there are doubts about that. There are some indications he might have been murdered. Suddenly Graham Hutchins becomes a person of interest.

The best part about this series is how the reader gets to watch Sam maneuver around and turn the facts to her advantage, preparing for creating a reasonable doubt should a case end up before a jury.

Meanwhile, a horrible mobster from Samantha’s past, who has “something on her,” shows up to collect. What he wants from her goes against everything she believes in, and might involve revealing the whereabouts of a young woman. Can she turn his plans upside down and create her own scenario for his target?

All the red herrings and twisted possibilities led to a very satisfying and surprising denouement, and now I can’t wait to see what Sam will do next. 5 stars.

 ***

REVIEW: Y IS FOR YESTERDAY, BY SUE GRAFTON

 

The darkest and most disturbing case report from the files of Kinsey Millhone, Y is for Yesterday begins in 1979, when four teenage boys from an elite private school sexually assault a fourteen-year-old classmate—and film the attack.  Not long after, the tape goes missing and the suspected thief, a fellow classmate, is murdered. In the investigation that follows, one boy turns state’s evidence and two of his peers are convicted. But the ringleader escapes without a trace.
       
Now, it’s 1989 and one of the perpetrators, Fritz McCabe, has been released from prison. Moody, unrepentant, and angry, he is a virtual prisoner of his ever-watchful parents—until a copy of the missing tape arrives with a ransom demand. That’s when the McCabes call Kinsey Millhone for help. As she is drawn into their family drama, she keeps a watchful eye on Fritz. But he’s not the only one being haunted by the past. A vicious sociopath with a grudge against Millhone may be leaving traces of himself for her to find…

My Thoughts: From the opening pages of Y is for Yesterday, I was pulled into the lives of the teens from 1979…and then into Kinsey Millhone’s efforts a decade later to solve the mystery from the past.

Kinsey is one of my favorite sleuths, especially since, in her first person narrative, she shares the tidbits and the routines of her working and her personal life. We visit the crowd at Rosie’s Diner, where Kinsey often has meals, except when she finds the menu somewhat disgusting. At her cute little garage apartment, we observe how she enjoys her peanut butter and pickle sandwiches, and we follow her efforts to keep her space safe. Intruders have been a problem in the past, and currently she is looking for someone who tried to kill her the year before.

Her love life is sporadic, but she has friendships with people on whom she can depend.

Something happens in the case from the past that Kinsey finds troubling…and before she can finish, she is fired. What are the McCabes and the former teens hiding? What will she do to find the answers? When she is hired again, she begins to follow the threads that lead to an appalling conclusion. Unexpected connections and relationships help fill in the blanks and two more murders bring a sense of poetic justice. I could not stop turning the pages, holding my breath at each new turn. 4.5 stars.

***