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: 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.

***

REVIEW: THE SLEEPING BEAUTY KILLER, BY MARY HIGGINS CLARK/ALAFAIR BURKE

29984659

 

 

 

 

Katherine Carter (Casey) has just spent fifteen years in prison for killing her fiancé, Hunter Raleigh, III, and even though she was convicted of manslaughter instead of murder, there is nothing that will take away the sting of being found guilty. For Casey has maintained her innocence all along.

Now that she is out of prison, Casey’s first goal is to find a way to be on Laurie Moran’s show, Under Suspicion. With the help of her cousin Angela, who has always felt like a sister, she arranges for an interview.

Laurie listens, looks at the files, and then pitches the story to her boss, Brett. But both he and the new host of the show, Ryan Nichols, don’t think much of the idea, since Casey was convicted. Their show is usually about cold cases…unsolved cases.

But Laurie finally persuades them both, and the search begins for people to interview, including alternative individuals who might have killed Hunter.

The Sleeping Beauty Killer was a fast-paced book with short chapters; the moniker of “sleeping beauty killer” was one the press had hung on Casey. She had claimed to be sleeping deeply that night, having been drugged, and could not have killed him. Rohypnol was found in her blood, but a bottle of the pills was found in her handbag. Therefore, she could have drugged herself. But why would she hang onto the bottle?

More questions arise throughout Laurie’s investigation, as she considers other possible killers, such as Hunter’s brother, Andrew; the CFO, Mark Templeton; James Raleigh’s assistant, Mary Jane Finder; an ex-boyfriend of Casey’s who had written a book after her conviction, calling her “crazy”; and any number of other possible individuals, as yet unknown. The media frenzy continues. Who is the informant that seems to be providing insider information to one malicious blogger determined to “try Casey” all over again? Could the same individual have been feeding the media frenzy during the trial as well? What is the meaning of that individual’s screen name, RIP_Hunter?

All through the book I began to feel a niggling doubt about one individual, possibly the least likely suspect, whom I will not name due to spoilers. I never trusted that person. So I was pleased when finally the pieces of the puzzle fell into place…and I was right! I love when that happens.

I couldn’t stop reading this book, and even though I figured out who killed Hunter, I still wanted to keep going to discover how the answers would come to the characters who needed to know. 4 stars.

ratings-worms-4-cropped***

FIRST BOOK OF 2017: WE’RE “UNDER SUSPICION” HERE….

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA29984659

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Welcome to First Book of 2017!

 

first-book-of-2017

***

I have participated in this event since it began.  I have a page on this site where I showcase my previous Books of the Year, and as you can tell, there is a theme going in my recent features:  Mary Higgins Clark/Alafair Burke, and the Under Suspicion novels, have been spotlighted for the past two years.

***

In The Sleeping Beauty Killer, Book 3, we continue the story.

 

The third thrilling installment in the bestselling Under Suspicion series from #1 New York Times bestselling author and “Queen of Suspense” Mary Higgins Clark and Alafair Burke—television producer Laurie Moran puts everything on the line to help a woman she thinks was wrongfully convicted of murder.

Casey Carter was convicted of murdering her fiancé—famed philanthropist Hunter Raleigh III—fifteen years ago. And Casey claims—has always claimed—she’s innocent. Although she was charged and served out her sentence in prison, she is still living “under suspicion.” She hears whispers at the grocery store. She can’t get a job. Even her own mother treats her like she’s guilty. Her story attracts the attention of Laurie Moran and the Under Suspicion news team—it’s Casey’s last chance to finally clear her name, and Laurie pledges to exonerate her.

With Alex Buckley taking a break from the show—cooling his potential romance with Laurie—Under Suspicion introduces a new on-air host named Ryan Nichols, a young legal whiz with a Harvard Law degree, Supreme Court clerkship, experience as a federal prosecutor, and regular stints on the cable news circuit. He’s got a big reputation and the attitude to match it. Ryan has no problems with steering—and stealing—the show, and even tries to stop Laurie from taking on Casey’s case because he’s so certain she’s guilty.

An egomaniacal new co-host, a relentless gossip columnist who seems to have all the dirt (and a surprising informant), and Casey’s longstanding bad reputation: Laurie must face this and more to do what she believes is right, to once and for all prove Casey’s innocence—that is, if she’s innocent… The Sleeping Beauty Killer will keep you guessing until the very end.

***

What is your feature/First Book of 2017?

***

REVIEW: JUNE, BY MIRANDA BEVERLY-WHITTEMORE

511KHO-HqyL._SX336_BO1,204,203,200_

 

 

When Cassie Danvers’ grandmother June died, she left her the huge old house, Two Oaks, in St. Jude, Ohio, built in 1895.

Cassie left New York and the loft she’d shared with her ex-boyfriend, but once she took possession of the house, she seemed to be sleeping her life away. There was much that needed to be done to the home and the surrounding gardens, but she couldn’t seem to manage it all. Nor could she find the energy to pursue her photography.

At night, Cassie dreamed of colorful people and events occurring in the house, but her days were troubled by the encroaching weeds in the garden and the mail piling up in the foyer.

Until one day when there was a knock on the door, and a young man named Nick Emmons had come to share some news. Cassie had inherited $37 million from Jack Montgomery, a Hollywood star who had just died. Apparently in the summer of 1955, he and an entourage of actors had taken up residence in St. Jude to film a movie called Erie Canal. And during that time, June and Jack might have had a romantic liaison. Cassie’s father Adelbert could have been Jack’s son.

But…in order to inherit, Cassie has to fulfill a request made by one of Jack’s daughters, Tate Montgomery, also a Hollywood celebrity, and a suspicious one at that. They must take a DNA test. Soon Tate and her assistant, along with Nick, are living with Cassie while she decides how it is going to play out. She wants more information before agreeing, so they start going through letters and interviewing townspeople who might have known something.

How might June and Jack have connected? What was the significance of the friendship between June and her next-door neighbor Lindie in 1950s Ohio? How would several betrayals and secrets thwart the lives of the characters back then? And what tragic event would change the trajectory of all their lives? In the present, does Cassie finally find answers and a kind of peace?

June was a richly layered family saga that swept back and forth through time, showing us the characters who populated the town and Two Oaks back in 1955…and then fast forwarded to the present. As the story finally unfolded, and as more and more secrets were revealed, I could not stop wondering what would happen next. The story had many beautiful as well as some sad moments, but in the end, a rich tapestry of characters, from the present and from the past, encircled Cassie and wrapped themselves around her and kept her company in her beautiful old mansion. 5 stars.

REVIEW: MOST WANTED, BY LISA SCOTTOLINE

41M4xZTcXlL._SX327_BO1,204,203,200_

 

 

Christine Nilsson had been wanting a baby for a long while, and finally, after she and her husband Marcus had arranged to use donor sperm, here she was, pregnant and saying goodbye to her teaching job. For now.

But on that wonderful day, just as she was enjoying her farewell party with her colleagues, a video shows up on CNN. A man is being arrested as a suspected serial killer, and he bears a striking resemblance to their donor: Donor 3319.

How could this be? And why are the doctor and the sperm bank refusing to tell them whether or not Zachary Jeffcoat is the donor? Of course, Marcus stubbornly persists, pushing away any obstacle he sees, and threatens to sue Homestead, the donor bank.

Christine is frustrated with her husband’s behavior, and decides to take matters into her own hands. Which is how she ends up visiting Zachary in prison, pretending to be a reporter, and after a couple of interviews, she gets the information she needs. But then she has to find out if he is truly guilty, or wrongly accused.

From there, Most Wanted got really intense, and I rapidly followed along as Christine took us on a frightening rollercoaster ride while she utilized detective skills she didn’t know that she had. She aligned herself with Griff, the attorney she helped secure for Zachary, and plowed on through, in spite of Marcus’s objections.

Can their marriage survive? Will Christine find the answers she needs? Will Marcus set aside his ego and his pride for her sake? And in the end, what unexpected plot twist will change everything?

I loved this book, and the characters were so likeable, even those who were not, at times, like Marcus. Definitely a 5 star read for me.

*** My e-ARC was received from the publisher via NetGalley.

REVIEW: SHE’S NOT THERE, BY JOY FIELDING

51-obbUwShL._SX327_BO1,204,203,200_

 

 

It was a glamorous ten-year anniversary celebration in a Mexican resort, and Hunter and Caroline Shipley, along with friends and relatives, planned a number of activities for that week. But on the last night, the babysitter did not show up, and a decision was made to leave the sleeping girls, Michelle and Samantha, ages five and two, in the room, just above their table outside…and they would check them every half hour. Hunter insisted, and Caroline went along with it.

But as all the best laid plans often go awry, that one certainly did, and a confluence of wrong things happened, leading to the kidnapping of two-year-old Samantha.

Now, fifteen years later, the trauma still follows them, with reporters showing up every time another year goes by. From the very beginning, Hunter presented well for the cameras, while Caroline’s stiff exterior made the press characterize her as cold and remote. She was vilified more than her husband, unfairly, in my opinion.

Caroline and Hunter divorce, and some of Hunter’s secrets surface, adding to the pain coursing through their lives.

But something unexpected happens in that fifteenth year. Caroline gets a call from a young girl who thinks she might be Samantha.

She’s Not There was a page-turning tale that swept back and forth in time, over the years, showing the lives of the characters, and reminding us of the pain that haunts them. Caroline blames herself for agreeing to leave the girls alone in the room when Hunter insisted on it; Michelle is belligerent and hateful most of the time, a sure sign of how events impacted her life, too. Could she be feeling overlooked? Invisible? Her behavior was annoying, but in the end, I came to feel more empathy for her.

Ultimately, I became suspicious of a number of people, and not totally stunned by the final revelations. How we learned of what happened that night did surprise me, however. I loved this story and could not stop reading it. 5 stars.

***My copy of the e-ARC came to me from the publishers via NetGalley.

REVIEW: THE LAKE HOUSE, BY KATE MORTON

51xugkz4cXL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_

 

 

In beautiful Cornwall, Eleanor and Anthony Edevane live an idyllic life in a home they call Loenneth (Lake House). They met, fell in love, had one daughter, Deborah, and then Anthony went off to war. Eleanor got pregnant with Alice when he came home on leave. And after his return, two more children were born: Clementine and Theo.

All seemed lovely, and then came the Midsummer’s Eve party…a gorgeous event that seemed to signify all that was good. Until it wasn’t. That night, little Theo went missing.

The case went cold with no results. Seventy years later, Alice, in her eighties, is a best-selling mystery writer and living alone. She has held secrets close to her heart. But then she discovers that Deborah also has some secrets. Everything changes then.

Meanwhile, a young detective, Sadie Sparrow, is on leave from the police force after bad publicity from one of her cases, visiting her grandfather Bertie in Cornwall…and she stumbles upon the crumbling estate. Of course she has to investigate, and what she finds will change everything for her.

The Lake House is one of those rambling tales that moves back and forth, slowly filling in the blanks and giving us the intriguing details of the characters’ lives. The characters were each fascinating, and even those who seemed unlikeable at first glance became sympathetic, the more we know. As each character was introduced, from Constance to her daughter Eleanor and son-in-law Anthony, and then to Ben Munro, the gardener at Loenneth, we start to put the pieces together that form a cohesive story rich in details.

The house itself is like a character, with its own stories to tell. From the lush rooms to the secret tunnel, with the verdant gardens spreading around it, one can imagine only happiness within its walls. But sadness comes…and the house falls into disrepair. It would take decades before happiness returns. A lovely story that was impossible to put down, this one earned five stars!

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

REVIEW: PRETTY GIRLS, BY KARIN SLAUGHTER

25574782

 

 

When nineteen-year-old Julia Carroll went missing one night in March 1991, the Carroll family would be forever fractured by the loss. Sam, the father and a veterinarian, spent his remaining years writing in his journal and constantly trying to spur the detectives on in their quest. But the detectives seemed to have decided early on that Julia had simply walked away from her life. Meanwhile, Helen, the mother and a librarian, buried her troubles under alcohol, and soon she and Sam were divorced.

Now, years later, the youngest daughter, Claire, is married and living a posh life with her architect husband, Paul Scott, in suburban Atlanta.

Lydia Delgado, the older sister and single mother to teenaged Dee, is a recovering addict, but her relationship with Claire ended years before when Claire did not believe an allegation Lydia had made against Paul.

One dark night in an alley, Paul and Claire are walking back toward their car, but take a detour for some lovemaking. Paul loves taking risks.

Paul is murdered, and in the aftermath, Claire begins to uncover her husband’s dark secrets, some of which are so horrific that she doesn’t know what to believe. Multiple narrators tell the story, and interspersed between them are excerpts from Sam Carroll’s journals, a homage to his daughter Julia.

But finding the secrets opens up the door between Claire and Lydia…so they, together, try to find answers.

Who can they trust? Are the cops and FBI agents, as well as powerful politicians, also part of what Paul has been hiding? Will the secrets continue to unfold to reveal greater depths of evil until neither of them will live to tell about them?

Twists and turns kept me guessing, even as around every corner, more stunning revelations would come. The more I thought I knew about the intricacies of the plot, the more I was startled to find additional layers. What had really happened to Julia? Who was the mastermind behind the brutal slayings of pretty young girls? And why did it seem as though Paul was still pulling the strings?

Pretty Girls: A Novel was an intense plot-driven novel with graphic violence, its dark underbelly hidden behind the façade of wealth and privilege. Not a book for the faint of heart, but definitely a compelling and twisted mystery. 4.5 stars.

BOOK REVIEW: FRIDAY ON MY MIND, BY NICCI FRENCH

25291687

 

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.