REVIEW: STILLHOUSE LAKE, BY RACHEL CAINE

 

Gina Royal is the definition of average—a shy Midwestern housewife with a happy marriage and two adorable children. But when a car accident reveals her husband’s secret life as a serial killer, she must remake herself as Gwen Proctor—the ultimate warrior mom.

With her ex now in prison, Gwen has finally found refuge in a new home on remote Stillhouse Lake. Though still the target of stalkers and Internet trolls who think she had something to do with her husband’s crimes, Gwen dares to think her kids can finally grow up in peace.

But just when she’s starting to feel at ease in her new identity, a body turns up in the lake—and threatening letters start arriving from an all-too-familiar address. Gwen Proctor must keep friends close and enemies at bay to avoid being exposed—or watch her kids fall victim to a killer who takes pleasure in tormenting her. One thing is certain: she’s learned how to fight evil. And she’ll never stop.

 

My Thoughts: Escaping from her monster husband, after his crimes are discovered, and even after she is finally acquitted of the crime of accessory, Gina and her children will always be moments away from running and changing their identities…again.

Until they start to put down roots at their home on Stillhouse Lake, when they begin to believe that, despite the Internet trolls, there might be a new life for them all.

Then the nightmare seemingly begins again. Bodies in the lake and police on her doorstep, asking questions, looking at her with suspicion. Behind bars, her ex-husband has found another way to torture her.

How will she finally escape the past? Will she find peace, or will the terror continue? In the final pages, the intensity increases, and as Gina (Gwen) begins to realize the extent of betrayal from unexpected sources, I could not stop trying to guess who, if anyone, she could trust. 4.5 stars.***

REVIEW: BEFORE SHE KNEW HIM, BY PETER SWANSON

 

Hen and her husband Lloyd have settled into a quiet life in a new house outside of Boston, Massachusetts. Hen (short for Henrietta) is an illustrator and works out of a studio nearby, and has found the right meds to control her bipolar disorder. Finally, she’s found some stability and peace.

But when they meet the neighbors next door, that calm begins to erode as she spots a familiar object displayed on the husband’s office shelf. The sports trophy looks exactly like one that went missing from the home of a young man who was killed two years ago. Hen knows because she’s long had a fascination with this unsolved murder—an obsession she doesn’t talk about anymore, but can’t fully shake either.

Could her neighbor, Matthew, be a killer? Or is this the beginning of another psychotic episode like the one she suffered back in college, when she became so consumed with proving a fellow student guilty that she ended up hurting a classmate?

The more Hen observes Matthew, the more she suspects he’s planning something truly terrifying. Yet no one will believe her. Then one night, when she comes face to face with Matthew in a dark parking lot, she realizes that he knows she’s been watching him, that she’s really on to him. And that this is the beginning of a horrifying nightmare she may not live to escape. . .

My Thoughts: Before She Knew Him is a fascinating character study with alternating voices. We first meet Hen after she and her husband Lloyd have moved into their new neighborhood. After meeting next door neighbors Matthew and Mira, the two join them for dinner. Discovering the sports trophy in Matthew’s office sets Hen off on an obsessive journey, one that she has been on before.

Her past, with some psychotic behavior, reminds her that her current behavior is like a red flag warning her not to follow this path. But she is unable to steer clear, even following and stalking Matthew.

When we join Matthew’s perspective, we learn a lot about his own obsessions…and how he is also fascinated by Hen and her art. He senses that she is a kindred spirit, and draws her into his dark mind.

What will happen to the two of them, and will their knowledge of each other take them on an even darker journey? How will the journey into Matthew’s past take Hen into the world of another character? Will that discovery reveal unexpected things? And how will the frightening path lead Hen into a time before she had met Matthew, showing a deeper connection? A gripping 5 star read.

***

REVIEW: MOST WANTED, BY LISA SCOTTOLINE

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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.

FROM THE INTERIOR: WAITING ON “MOST WANTED”

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Welcome to another Waiting on Wednesday event, hosted by Jill, at Breaking the Spine.

Every week, we gather around the blogosphere and search out the upcoming book releases, sharing our thoughts and blurbs.  Today I am eagerly awaiting a book from an author I have loved over the years, Lisa Scottoline.  Her newest upcoming release is Most Wanted, another searing, powerful blockbuster novel that explores hot-button issues within the framework of an intricately plotted thriller. Release Date – 4/12/16.

 

 

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When a woman and her husband, desperate for a baby, find themselves unable to conceive, they decide to take further steps. Since it is the husband who is infertile, the heroine decides to use a donor. And all seems to be well. Three months pass and she is happily pregnant. But a shocking revelation occurs when she discovers that a man arrested for a series of brutal murders is her donor – the biological father of the child she is carrying. Delving deeper to uncover the truth, the heroine must face her worst fears, and confront a terrifying truth.

***

Oh, I love the sound of this one!  This author never fails to engage me with her books, whether they are mysteries, thrillers, or books rife with family issues.  And sometimes she combines all of these elements in one stunning book.

***

REVIEW: BLACK-EYED SUSANS, BY JULIA HEABERLIN

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What would your life be like after a traumatic event, in which you were found in a field with the remains of other girls, covered in Black-Eyed Susans? Would you find it hard to remember what happened?

Tessie (Tessa) Cartwright is that one remaining survivor, and for a while afterwards, she has lost her vision, and not just her memory. But the vision returns, even though the memories are still missing.

The grown-up Tessa has a teenaged daughter, Charlie, aged fourteen, and she is determined to protect the life she has. But will the newest efforts by the attorneys allow her to do this? The convicted killer, Terrell Darcy Goodman, may not actually be the killer. Efforts abound to find evidence to free him. Tessa herself is beginning to wonder, since someone is planting Black-Eyed Susans beneath her window…and leaving strange notes.

Narrated in the POV of young Tessie, from 1995, and present day Tessa, the story carries us along, feeding us bits and pieces of moments that will surely keep us guessing.

Why has her best friend Lydia, from her teenaged years, gone missing? Has something happened to her? More and more red herrings crop up, making us wonder about everything we thought we knew. Toward the end, the story switches into Lydia’s POV, creating more doubt in the reader’s mind.

Set in Texas, with Tessa living in a bungalow in Fort Worth, we can see and feel the world around her as she struggles to move on, while trying to recapture the past. And all the while, what we believed about friends and trusted ones is lying in wait, ready to strike at just the right and convenient time. A riveting tale that I could not stop reading, “Black-Eyed Susans” earned five stars…and was unforgettable.

REVIEW: THE FIRST WIFE, BY ERICA SPINDLER

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Bailey Browne and Logan Abbott met in the Grand Cayman Islands, and after a whirlwind romance, returned to Wholesome, Louisiana, to the Abbott Farms, the family compound, with staff and family residents living in cabins and cottages on the property.

Three months later, Bailey is lying in a hospital bed after some kind of accident she cannot recall, and a diagnosis of Traumatic Brain Injury, with retrograde amnesia.

What happened to her, and why is she so afraid? Why does everything about her life and her new family make her feel vulnerable? And why is Logan’s sister Raine so hostile?

It doesn’t help that the Police Chief, Billy Ray Williams, has been hammering away at her, as if her husband has done something to her. He has an obsessive theory that Logan is a serial killer, and alludes to a host of missing women, including Logan’s first wife True.

What, if anything, does the death of Henry Rodriguez have to do with what has happened? And why does Bailey see herself covered in blood?

The First Wife reveals multi-layered subplots and possible perpetrators, and while Bailey is even suspicious of Logan for a while, too many other possibilities occur to her…and then, just as I thought I had it figured out, there was a final surprise reveal. Definitely a page turner and full of characters with secrets, making most of them suspect. 4.5 stars.

A PROBING JOURNEY INTO A DISEASE-ADDLED BRAIN: A REVIEW

17171915A spine-chilling thriller, A Dark Mind (The Lizzy Gardner Series #3), opens with a scenario in which a Sacramento couple is attacked by unknown persons. It is 2007, and John and Rochelle are the victims in this case.

Fast forward to other scenarios involving couples over the years, including Maureen and Charles Baker, gone missing in 2012.

The author leads us back to snippets from the 2007 case periodically, hinting to the reader that there is something especially significant about this particular case. Nothing is quite what it seems.

Next we are introduced to Lizzy Gardner, a Private Investigator, who has just moved in with her boyfriend Jared Shayne, an FBI agent. He is working to catch a serial killer dubbed by the media as the Lovebird Killer: he lures in couples, then kidnaps and kills the woman, followed soon by the man. But his methods change. He appears to be a master of disguise, and as the agents learn more about him, they realize how much there is to learn. He has eluded them successfully for years.

How does Lizzy get involved in his pursuit? Coincidence, or the master plan of the killer? What begins as a routine case takes her right onto his path, and she and her two young assistants, Jessica and Hayley, stumble onto one clue after another.

But it will be many weeks before they put together all the pieces. Meanwhile, in an alternating perspective, we are privy to the killer’s disease-addled brain as he shares his delight in his games.

A fascinating foray into the creepy world of a serial killer, the story also reveals the personal tragedies of each of the characters, from Lizzy, who was herself a victim in a previous book; to Hayley, whose abuse at the hands of her mother’s boyfriend, led her to take dangerous actions. Hayley and Jessica, the young sleuths, are a character study all on their own. I enjoyed glimpsing behind the daily lives of each of them, understanding their many layers, and wanting to know more. I am sure there is another book in this series coming some day. I hope. Five stars.

MURDER & MAYHEM AT AN ISLAND RETREAT — A REVIEW

51XVz8Su2yL._SY346_Halloween is approaching, along with Archie Sheridan’s birthday. Everyone is on alert for the strange happenings that come with the holiday. Costumes, parties, and masks.

Then a murder of a DEA agent sets in motion a whole series of events that will lead many of the characters of Let Me Go (Archie Sheridan & Gretchen Lowell) to an island and a web of intrigue that will keep the reader rapidly turning pages.

For interspersed within this whole network is the elusive, yet ongoing, presence of Gretchen Lowell. And an undercurrent that exists between Gretchen and Archie, like a symbiotic tie.

For those who have not read any of the other books in this series, Gretchen Lowell is a renowned serial killer who has been captured numerous times, but always has escaped. And Archie Sheridan is the detective determined to catch her, while also maintaining a kind of push-pull relationship with her.

With all of its twists and turns, this story brings additional peeks into Gretchen’s world and the strange way that she has of being evil, while also with a bit of humanity mixed in. In a way, I wish that this game of cat and mouse could finally end…but in another way, I do like to see what will happen next. And as the game continues, so do the stories that involve the recurring characters, like Susan, the journalist, and Henry, another detective and cohort. Four stars.