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: YOU WILL REMEMBER ME, BY HANNAH MARY MCKINNON

Forget the truth.
Remember the lies.

He wakes up on a deserted beach in Maryland with a gash on his head and wearing only swim trunks. He can’t remember who he is. Everything—his identity, his life, his loved ones—has been replaced by a dizzying fog of uncertainty. But returning to his Maine hometown in search of the truth uncovers more questions than answers.

Lily Reid thinks she knows her boyfriend, Jack. Until he goes missing one night, and her frantic search reveals that he’s been lying to her since they met, desperate to escape a dark past he’d purposely left behind.

Maya Scott has been trying to find her estranged stepbrother, Asher, since he disappeared without a trace. Having him back, missing memory and all, feels like a miracle. But with a mutual history full of devastating secrets, how far will Maya go to ensure she alone takes them to the grave?

Shared fates intertwine in a twisty, explosive novel of suspense, where unearthing the past might just mean being buried beneath it.

 

 

an interior journey thoughts

As we begin the story of You Will Remember Me, we are immediately introduced to two men with mysterious and secret pasts. Jack Smith and Ash Bennett have lived very different lives. One disappears, leaving no trace, and the other wakes up with no memory.

It doesn’t take long to realize that there is more to each of their stories. But what has happened to them to cause a loss of their identities and their memories?

I liked Lily, who was in love with Jack, and felt wary of Maya Scott, who had her own agenda, in my opinion.

As the story circled back and forth between the past and the present, and as we watch the characters play out their plans, we begin to see that nothing good will come from at least one of the characters. I was cringing as I watched them but hoping that perhaps right would win after all.

But would it? In the end I was biting my nails, knowing that this story would probably not have a happy ending. Nevertheless, I loved discovering the truth and will definitely remember the characters long afterwards. 5 stars.

***

REVIEW: FINLAY DONOVAN IS KILLING IT, BY ELLE COSIMANO

 

 

Finlay Donovan is killing it . . . except, she’s really not. She’s a stressed-out single-mom of two and struggling novelist, Finlay’s life is in chaos: the new book she promised her literary agent isn’t written, her ex-husband fired the nanny without telling her, and this morning she had to send her four-year-old to school with hair duct-taped to her head after an incident with scissors.

When Finlay is overheard discussing the plot of her new suspense novel with her agent over lunch, she’s mistaken for a contract killer, and inadvertently accepts an offer to dispose of a problem husband in order to make ends meet . . . Soon, Finlay discovers that crime in real life is a lot more difficult than its fictional counterpart, as she becomes tangled in a real-life murder investigation.

 
 
 

From the very first page of Finlay Donovan Is Killing It, I was hooked. On the characters, the fast-paced and intriguing plot, and the intensity I felt as I flipped the pages, racing toward the conclusion.

How could Finlay’s life right itself after she has inadvertently found herself caught up in a nefarious scheme that could land her in prison? How would she keep her ex-husband from winning custody of her children in a fight for them? Would she ever find enough money to have a normal life?

A cast of interesting and colorful characters, like Vero and Julian and Nick, added intrigue and smiles to the tale while my curiosity remained on high alert.

I couldn’t anticipate what would happen next, but I kept guessing. Hoping and wondering where the story would take us and if Finlay really would be “killing it” in the end. I loved this book! 5 stars.

 
***

REVIEW: EVERY WAKING HOUR, BY JOANNA SCHAFFHAUSEN

 

After surviving a serial killer’s abduction as a young teenager, Ellery Hathaway is finally attempting a normal life. She has a new job as a rookie Boston detective and a fledgling relationship with Reed Markham, the FBI agent who rescued her years ago. But when a twelve-year-old girl disappears on Ellery’s watch, the troubling case opens deep wounds that never fully healed.

Chloe Lockhart walked away from a busy street fair and vanished into the crowd. Maybe she was fleeing the suffocating surveillance her parents put on her from the time she was born, or maybe the evil from her parents’ past finally caught up to her. For Chloe, as Ellery learns, is not the first child Teresa Lockhart has lost.

Ellery knows what it’s like to have the past stalk you, to hold your breath around every corner.

Sending one kidnapped girl to find another could be Chloe’s only hope or an unmitigated disaster that dooms them both. Ellery must untangle the labyrinth of secrets inside the Lockhart household — secrets that have already murdered one child. Each second that ticks by reminds her of her own lost hours, how close she came to death, and how near it still remains.

 
 
 

From the first moments of Every Waking Hour, we are thrust into Ellery Hathaway’s past as she tries to cobble together a life in the present.

Reed Markham, the FBI agent who rescued her years before, is now her lover, although they are trying to keep it off the radar.

Chloe’s disappearance awakens old memories for Ellery, but she is determined to use her own experiences to help find the girl.

As a Boston PD detective, Ellery is acutely aware of the pitfalls of using her own experience to work a case, but she could also be uniquely qualified to find the answers.

I haven’t read the previous books in this series, but the author has done a great job of filling in Ellery’s background.

As we follow the clues that lead to answers, we can’t help holding our breath as each moment passes. I couldn’t wait to see what would happen next to Reed and Ellery. 4.5 stars.

 
***

REVIEW: PIECE OF MY HEART, BY MARY HIGGINS CLARK/ALAFAIR BURKE

Television producer Laurie Moran and her fiancée, Alex Buckley, the former host of her investigative television show, are just days away from their mid-summer wedding, when things take a dark turn. Alex’s seven-year-old nephew, Johnny, vanishes from the beach. A search party begins and witnesses recall Johnny playing in the water and collecting shells behind the beach shack, but no one remembers seeing him after the morning. As the sun sets, Johnny’s skim board washes up to shore, and everyone realizes that he could be anywhere, even under water.

A ticking clock, a sinister stalker, and fresh romance combine in this exhilarating follow up to the bestselling You Don’t Own Me—another riveting page-turner from the “Queen of Suspense” Mary Higgins Clark and her dazzling partner-in-crime Alafair Burke.

 
 
 
 

Piece of My Heart is an intense thriller with red herrings and convoluted twists and turns that takes us on an enjoyable journey, loving the familiar characters and gasping at the unexpected events. Through this final tale in the series, we are offered a final glimpse of the characters and their history.

As my First Book of 2021, I was thrilled with the engaging tale, and couldn’t wait to see what would happen next.

Laurie Moran and Alex Buckley are favorite characters, and I have followed every book in the Under Suspicion series, so I was especially eager to find out what we would discover along the way.

A missing boy, one with a complicated history, keeps the tale going and makes for an intense story, one that could ultimately be the centerpiece of one of Laurie’s TV productions.

A crime from the past woven into the story kept the reader drawn into the history of the television series. I was captivated to the very end, and award 5 stars to this book.

 
***
FIRST BOOK OF 2021
 
***

REVIEW: GOODNIGHT BEAUTIFUL, BY AIMEE MOLLOY

A handsome psychotherapist. His lonely wife. And in his home office ceiling, a vent …
You’d listen too, wouldn’t you? (You know you would.)Newlyweds Sam Statler and Annie Potter are head over heels, and excited to say good-bye to New York City and start a life together in Sam’s sleepy hometown upstate. Or, it turns out, a life where Annie spends most of her time alone while Sam, her therapist husband, works long hours in his downstairs office, tending to the egos of his (mostly female) clientele. Little does Sam know that through a vent in his ceiling, every word of his sessions can be heard from the room upstairs. The pharmacist’s wife, contemplating a divorce. The well-known painter whose boyfriend doesn’t satisfy her in bed. Who could resist listening? Everything is fine until the French girl in the green mini Cooper shows up, and Sam decides to go to work and not come home, throwing a wrench into Sam and Annie’s happily ever after.

Showcasing Molloy’s deft ability to subvert norms and culminating in the kind of stunning twist that is becoming her trademark, Goodnight Beautiful is a thrilling tale of domestic suspense that not only questions assumptions but defies expectations.

Alternating narrators take us through the pages of Goodnight Beautiful, and in the very beginning, I thought I had the identities of the narrators sorted. But I was wrong.

And then, when our protagonist Sam Statler disappears suddenly, I had my theories about that incident, too. I was wrong again.

Not wanting to introduce spoilers, I will admit that I was stunned about the identity of the first-person narrator, the landlord of the house where Sam has his office space. I did not learn this fact until more than halfway through the story.

What is going on? I was puzzled and intrigued…and the story gripped me at this point as I tried to guess what might happen next.

Twists and turns take us through some harrowing times for both Sam and Annie, and as we learn more about the darkest character, we can almost see the writing on the wall. But then, suddenly, things change and the characters we are rooting for have their happy ending. 5 stars.

***

REVIEW: CONFESSIONS ON THE 7:45, BY LISA UNGER

Be careful to whom you tell your darkest secrets…

Selena Murphy is commuting home from her job in the city when the train stalls out on the tracks. She strikes up a conversation with a beautiful stranger in the next seat, and their connection is fast and easy. The woman introduces herself as Martha and confesses that she’s been stuck in an affair with her boss. Selena, in turn, confesses that she suspects her husband is sleeping with the nanny. When the train arrives at Selena’s station, the two women part ways, presumably never to meet again.

But days later, Selena’s nanny disappears.

Soon Selena finds her once-perfect life upended. As she is pulled into the mystery of the missing nanny, and as the fractures in her marriage grow deeper, Selena begins to wonder, who was Martha really? But she is hardly prepared for what she’ll discover.
 
 
 
 


Our story begins after Selena discovers her husband’s latest infidelity via nanny cam. In an unexpected action, she shares her feelings with a woman she meets on her homeward commute in a situation that has a “stranger on the train” vibe. Afterwards, she asks herself why she would do that, but admits that she felt a unique connection to the woman. A good listener, perhaps?

As Confessions on the 7:45 unfolds, we learn, via alternating narrators, the secrets of several assorted characters, all of whom seem completely unrelated to one another. Along the way, we begin to suspect that these lives will eventually intersect, and as we start to piece the puzzle together, the odd connections begin to make sense.

I loved another surprising reveal at the end as the characters walked off into the “sunset” to a place familiar to Unger fans. A delightful and intense book that held me hostage throughout. 5 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: 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.

***