REVIEW: THE LAST NIGHT IN LONDON, BY KAREN WHITE

London, 1939. Beautiful and ambitious Eva Harlow and her American best friend, Precious Dubose, are trying to make their way as fashion models. When Eva falls in love with Graham St. John, an aristocrat and Royal Air Force pilot, she can’t believe her luck—she’s getting everything she ever wanted. Then the Blitz devastates her world, and Eva finds herself slipping into a web of intrigue, spies, and secrets. As Eva struggles to protect her friendship with Precious and everything she holds dear, all it takes is one unwary moment to change their lives forever…

London, 2019. American journalist Maddie Warner, whose life has been marked by the tragic loss of her mother, travels to London to interview Precious about her life in pre-WWII London. Maddie has been careful to close herself off to others, but in Precious she recognizes someone whose grief rivals her own—but unlike Maddie, Precious hasn’t allowed it to crush her. Maddie finds herself drawn to both Precious and to Colin, her enigmatic surrogate nephew. As Maddie gets closer to her, she begins to unravel Precious’s haunting past—a story of friendship, betrayal, and the unremembered acts of kindness and of love.

 

an interior journey thoughts

A story that sweeps between the past and the present, showing the lives of two young women searching for love and careers, The Last Night in London kept me eagerly turning the pages. Along the way, I wondered what had happened during those wartime years to those that seemed to be missing…or dead.

As journalist Maddie Warner delves into the stories told through letters and through the voice of Precious Dubose, she also fills in details discovered in photos and through the clothes the two young women wore during the early 1940s.

What we also learn along the way is how secrets, reinvention, and frightening wartime intrigue kept one young woman hiding the truth of who she was and the various incarnations she created to protect those she loved.

By the end, we learn the whole story and what had become of those who were lost along the way. A five star read.

***

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: 56 DAYS, BY CATHERINE RYAN HOWARD

No one even knew they were together. Now one of them is dead.

56 DAYS AGO
Ciara and Oliver meet in a supermarket queue in Dublin and start dating the same week COVID-19 reaches Irish shores.

35 DAYS AGO
When lockdown threatens to keep them apart, Oliver suggests they move in together. Ciara sees a unique opportunity for a relationship to flourish without the scrutiny of family and friends. Oliver sees a chance to hide who—and what—he really is.

TODAY
Detectives arrive at Oliver’s apartment to discover a decomposing body inside.

Can they determine what really happened, or has lockdown created an opportunity for someone to commit the perfect crime?

an interior journey thoughts

 

A twisty tale that focuses on the first days of COVID 19 lock-down in Dublin, 56 Days brings two characters to light: a man hiding from his past, and a woman seeking answers about hers.

Oliver and Ciara meet by accident, supposedly. As their story unfolds in sweeping past and present moments, we learn tidbits about them, even as they are trying to keep secrets from each other.

The back and forth time frame was a bit confusing to me, and parts of their stories are repetitive, but those variations in their stories change what we come to realize about them.

Despite these issues, I did enjoy trying to figure out their true stories, which we don’t learn until the very end. My favorite parts were walking through the lockdown with them, which resonated with me as I recall my own lockdown experiences. A story that earned 4.5 stars from me.

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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.
 
***

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: 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: 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: 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

***