REVIEW: ALL DRESSED IN WHITE, BY MARY HIGGINS CLARK/ALAFAIR BURKE

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Laurie Moran is pondering several topics for her next TV special on Under Suspicion, when a bereaved mother, Sandra Pierce, pleads her case. Her daughter Amanda disappeared five years ago on the night before her wedding in Palm Beach, Florida, and she still doesn’t know whether she is dead or alive.

When Laurie makes the pitch to her boss, Brett Young, he is reluctant…but then he is caught up in the idea of the wonderful setting and wealthy participants, so he gives the go-ahead.

After finding all the relatives and friends who were at the resort and gaining their participation, Laurie and her co-producer Alex Buckley, start gathering their information.

All Dressed in White was an engaging page-turner with a plethora of suspects, all of whom could have killed or kidnapped Amanda. Jeff Hunter, the fiancé, could be one. Or Amanda’s best friend Meghan White, who married Jeff only eighteen months after her disappearance. Then there is her jealous sister Charlotte…

Or the creepy photography intern who seems to stalk those he wants to capture on film.

While there was no shortage of suspects, it was impossible for me to guess the identity of the perpetrator until the very end. And then it was almost too late. Short chapters and tense prose kept me rapidly reading, satisfied by the denoument, even as I wondered what Laurie’s next case would be…and whether or not she and Alex would find their own happy ending. 4.5 stars.

FROM THE INTERIOR: “THE GUEST ROOM”

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Welcome to another Tuesday celebrating bookish events, from Tuesday/First Chapter/Intros, hosted by Bibliophile by the Sea; and Teaser Tuesdays hosted by A Daily Rhythm.

Today’s feature is an e-ARC that I am eager to dive into.  It will be released on January 5, 2016.

The Guest Room, by Chris Bohjalian, is a spellbinding tale of a party gone horribly wrong: two men lie dead in a suburban living room, two women are on the run from police, and a marriage is ripping apart at the seams.

 

 

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Intro:  Richard Chapman presumed there would be a stripper at his brother Philip’s bachelor party.  Perhaps if he had actually thought about it, he might even have expected two.  Sure, in sitcoms the stripper always arrived alone, but he knew that in real life strippers often came in pairs.  How else could there be a little pretend (or not pretend) girl-on-girl action on the living room carpet?  Besides, he worked in mergers and acquisitions, he understood the exigencies of commerce as well as anyone:  two strippers meant you could have two gentlemen squirming at once.  You could have two girls hovering just above two sets of thighs—or if the girls saw the right combination of neediness and dollar signs in the men’s eyes, not hovering but in fact descending upon each of the men’s laps.  Richard wasn’t especially wild about the idea of an exotic dancer in his family’s living room:  there was a place for everything in his mind, even the acrobatically tensed sinews of a stripper.  But that place wasn’t his home….

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Teaser:  “No one knows what we look like.”

“The men at the party do!”  I told her, and I thought of the faces I could remember.  I thought of the bachelor’s brother.  Richard.  I thought of the bedroom upstairs where we went. (68%).

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Blurb:  When Kristin Chapman agrees to let her husband, Richard, host his brother’s bachelor party, she expects a certain amount of debauchery. She brings their young daughter to Manhattan for the evening, leaving her Westchester home to the men and their hired entertainment. What she does not expect is this: bacchanalian drunkenness, her husband sharing a dangerously intimate moment in the guest room, and two women stabbing and killing their Russian bodyguards before driving off into the night.

In the aftermath, Kristin and Richard’s life rapidly spirals into nightmare. The police throw them out of their home, now a crime scene, Richard’s investment banking firm puts him on indefinite leave, and Kristin is unsure if she can forgive her husband for the moment he shared with a dark-haired girl in the guest room. But the dark-haired girl, Alexandra, faces a much graver danger. In one breathless, violent night, she is free, running to escape the police who will arrest her and the gangsters who will kill her in a heartbeat. A captivating, chilling story about shame and scandal, The Guest Room is a riveting novel from one of our greatest storytellers.

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What do you think?  Do these lines capture your interest?  Would you keep reading?

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FROM THE INTERIOR: INTROS/TEASERS – “MY SUNSHINE AWAY”

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Welcome to another Tuesday celebrating bookish events, from Tuesday/First Chapter/Intros, hosted by Bibliophile by the Sea; and Teaser Tuesdays hosted by A Daily Rhythm.

Today’s feature is a book I just started reading, from Pippa, my Kindle.  My Sunshine Away, by M. O. Walsh, is a story about the summer that everything changed.

 

 

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Intro:  There were four suspects in the rape of Lindy Simpson, a crime that occurred directly on top of the sidewalk of Piney Creek Road, the same sidewalk our parents had once hopefully carved their initials into, years before, as residents of the first street in the Woodland Hills subdivision to have houses on each lot.  It was a crime impossible during the daylight, when we neighborhood kids would have been tearing around in go-karts, coloring chalk figures on our driveways, or chasing snakes down into storm gutters.  But, at night, the streets of Woodland Hills sat empty and quiet, except for the pleasure of frogs greeting the mosquitoes that rose in squadrons from the swamps behind our properties.

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Teaser:  So the act took place in darkness, in near silence, in heat, and Lindy Simpson remembered little other than the sudden appearance of a rope in front of her bicycle, the sharp pull of its braid across her chest.  Months later, and after much therapy, she would also recall how the bicycle rode on without her after she fell.  (p. 2).

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Blurb:  It was the summer everything changed.…

My Sunshine Away unfolds in a Baton Rouge neighborhood best known for cookouts on sweltering summer afternoons, cauldrons of spicy crawfish, and passionate football fandom. But in the summer of 1989, when fifteen-year-old Lindy Simpson—free spirit, track star, and belle of the block—experiences a horrible crime late one evening near her home, it becomes apparent that this idyllic stretch of Southern suburbia has a dark side, too.

In My Sunshine Away, M.O. Walsh brilliantly juxtaposes the enchantment of a charmed childhood with the gripping story of a violent crime, unraveling families, and consuming adolescent love. Acutely wise and deeply honest, it is an astonishing and page-turning debut about the meaning of family, the power of memory, and our ability to forgive.

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What do you think?  Do the excerpts grab you?  Would you keep reading?

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REVIEW: LITTLE BLACK LIES, BY SANDRA BLOCK

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After finishing medical school at Yale, along with her internship, Zoe Goldman has returned to her hometown of Buffalo for her psychiatry residency. But coming home has brought some baggage with it.

Years ago, Zoe lost her birth mother in a fire, and has some physical and emotional scarring from the traumatic episode. In addition, Zoe has ADHD and some issues with compulsivity. She struggles with these issues, along with how coming home has caused old feelings to resurface. And now the nightmares have begun again.

How will Zoe manage her patient load while dealing with her own issues? Why is her adoptive mother, now suffering from dementia, hiding things from her? Was everything she was told a lie, or has her mother “forgotten” the facts due to her memory issues?

Little Black Lies is a page-turner that I couldn’t put down. I loved the mix of Zoe’s personal life with the issues of her patients. Why has one particular patient, Sofia Vallano, who incidentally killed her own mother when she was fourteen, started showing up in Zoe’s nightmares? Can Zoe find the answers to her own nebulous past? Will she discover the truth behind the lies? And when, in one horrifying moment, she does learn it all, will she survive it?

Finding the answers can be life-changing. There are still too many unanswered questions, Zoe realizes, and what is the truth? What are the lies? I liked this summation Zoe made: “Maybe the truth is this: There is no truth.”

A great story for those who enjoy suspense, mixed in with family issues. 5.0 stars.

REVIEW: NEVER TELL A LIE, BY HALLIE EPHRON

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At long last, David and Ivy Rose are about to have their first child, after previous miscarriages. With the baby’s due date only weeks away, they are clearing out the attic of a previous owner’s belongings and having a yard sale.  They are eager to finish renovating their old Victorian in Brush Hills, MA.

In the furor of the sale, with all the comings and goings, Ivy is stunned to see a woman, also pregnant, approach and identify herself as Melinda White, an old high school friend.

Ivy knows that they were barely acquaintances, that Melinda was always on the fringes…and that she had probably longed to be part of the crowd.

Suddenly Melinda is going inside the house with David, having asked for a tour, and Ivy is consumed with other yard sale details.

What happens next will be like a nightmare that unfurls and changes everything about the life they thought they had….and with each day that passes, their lives will be reshaped by the events of that day. For Melinda White has been reported missing, and nobody can fill in what happened after she went into the house with David. Not even David.

There was evidence, including a blood-stained outfit Melinda had been wearing, stashed at their curb in a trunk they had placed out there for garbage collection. Why did the neighbor, Mrs. Bindell, report that she had seen Ivy at the trunk? How did fetal tissue get on the clothing? And why is David’s old friend Theo, who is also their attorney, acting suspicious?

Obsession, mental instability, and a very devious plan would all unfold, and as the suspense ratchets up another few notches, I was glued to the pages as it all started to make sense. Never Tell a Lie: A Novel of Suspense is a psychological thriller with characters I cared about…and an ending that I was eager to see. 5 stars.

REVIEW: SOMEONE IS WATCHING, BY JOY FIELDING

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Bailey Carpenter believes that she is happy in her job as an investigator for a law firm in Miami. Surveillance is something she does well, and she especially loves testifying in court on the cases she has worked.

But one night, while watching an apartment for her target, she is attacked and raped. Her attacker was wearing a mask, and she has been unable to identify him.

Used to feeling in control, Bailey is ill equipped to deal with the aftermath, unable to leave her apartment, and most days, unable to leave her bed.

Meanwhile, after their father’s death four months before, a battle ensues between the half-siblings, as the older five, who were disinherited, file a lawsuit against Bailey and Heath.

So when her oldest half-sister, Claire, starts stopping by to lend moral support, Bailey has to wonder. Is Claire hoping to develop a sisterhood bond, or is there a hidden agenda?

Heath sinks lower and lower into a lifestyle of drugs, being no support to Bailey at all, as she deteriorates. She develops more signs of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, feeling as if someone is stalking her, calling in the night and hanging up, and everywhere she looks, she sees men who might be her rapist.

Is Bailey really seeing and hearing the things she believes she sees and hears, or is she hallucinating? Is she imagining the phone calls in the night, or is she dreaming? A surreal sense of unreality surrounds her days and nights, as she wanders sleeplessly through her world.

Bailey and Jade, Claire’s daughter, were the most interesting characters, while Heath was annoying and entitled. And the oldest half-brother, Gene, was pompous and bitter. As Someone Is Watching: A Novel unfolded, I was surprised by the inevitable reveals, even as I knew that something more nefarious than just the rape was going on. Definitely a 4 star read.

REVIEW: WHAT THE DEAD KNOW, BY LAURA LIPPMAN

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In 1976, two young girls, Sunny and Heather Bethany, went missing from Baltimore.

Now, thirty years later, a young woman with no identification, dubbed Jane Doe, has an auto accident that leads to a series of statements on her part, and a joint effort by police, a social worker, and an attorney to discern the truth in what she has to say.

Could she, as she claims, be Heather Bethany? If not, why does she know so many details of the events, as well as private information that only an “insider” could have?

What the Dead Know was narrated by various players in the story, from Miriam and Dave Bethany, the parents, to the present day investigators. We also read the narrative of the Jane Doe character, and try to ascertain her credibility.

Flashbacks convey much of the story through these narrators, and as the story unfolds, we are soon trying to decide if we believe Jane Doe’s statements, or if she has conned us.

I found the details about how the character achieved her numerous identities to be fascinating, and much in line with what we know about how such new identities are obtained. I liked this quote: “Like a bird who moved into abandoned nests, she had inhabited the lives of long-dead girls…”

In the final twist, which I did not see coming, the facts and details came together to give us a most satisfying conclusion. While not my favorite book by this author, I still will not forget it, and enjoyed the numerous ins and outs and twists and turns. 4 stars.

MY FIRST BOOK OF THE YEAR: 2015

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It is that time again, folks!  Our First Book of the Year, 2015, will go live tomorrow, so I’m posting this, and getting ready, set, go!

Drum roll, please!

My first book….is from the Queen of Suspense, Mary Higgins Clark, & Alafair Burke:

The Cinderella Murder.

 

 

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I have been priming the pump for this one by reading a couple of MHC’s other books in the past few weeks, including the prequel to this one:

I’ve Got You Under My Skin, the first book in the Under Suspicion series. (Click for my review).

 

Blurb for The Cinderella Murder:

In a first-time collaboration, “Queen of Suspense” Mary Higgins Clark partners with bestselling author Alafair Burke to deliver a brand new suspense series about a television program featuring cold case murders.

Television producer Laurie Moran is delighted when the pilot for her reality drama, Under Suspicion, is a success. Even more, the program—a cold case series that revisits unsolved crimes by recreating them with those affected—is off to a fantastic start when it helps solve an infamous murder in the very first episode.

Now Laurie has the ideal case to feature in the next episode of Under Suspicion: the Cinderella Murder. When Susan Dempsey, a beautiful and multi-talented UCLA student, was found dead, her murder raised numerous questions. Why was her car parked miles from her body? Had she ever shown up for the acting audition she was due to attend at the home of an up-and-coming director? Why does Susan’s boyfriend want to avoid questions about their relationship? Was her disappearance connected to a controversial church that was active on campus? Was she close to her computer science professor because of her technological brilliance, or something more? And why was Susan missing one of her shoes when her body was discovered?

With the help of lawyer and Under Suspicion host Alex Buckley, Laurie knows the case will attract great ratings, especially when the former suspects include Hollywood’s elite and tech billionaires. The suspense and drama are perfect for the silver screen—but is Cinderella’s murderer ready for a close-up?

Together Mary Higgins Clark and Alafair Burke deliver an exciting publishing event: the start of a thrilling new series guaranteed to keep you guessing until the last suspenseful page.

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I am very excited to start reading this book.  And I am very eager to see what the rest of you have chosen to launch your New Year.

Come on by and share your thoughts and your offerings!  And Happy New Year!

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REVIEW: CROOKED RIVER, BY VALERIE GEARY

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Sam and Ollie McAlister look forward every year to their time in the meadow near Terrebonne, a rural village in Oregon, the home they have with their father, Frank (Bear). A beekeeper and an eccentric loner, he is an important part of their world.

And then their mother dies unexpectedly, and they are now living fulltime with their father.

Exploring the river one day shortly after their arrival, they discover a woman’s body in the river, but it floats away before they can reach it. And then, for unknown reasons, they decide to keep their find a secret.

Their father’s mysterious face scratches, some missing hours that he was not at home, and his unwillingness to share what is going on with him are the unfortunate secrets that add to the “circumstantial evidence” leading to Bear’s arrest.

But Sam and Ollie feel sure that he is innocent. However, Ollie, damaged by events, has stopped speaking, ever since their mother’s death, and she “sees” visions. She is guided by Shimmering…from the spirit world. Through body language and gestures, she tries to communicate to Sam, without much luck. So Sam is on her own, playing detective, and bumbling along in her efforts to prove someone else killed their father.

Narrated in fifteen-year-old Sam’s voice, with ten-year-old Ollie’s thoughts shared in alternating chapters, Crooked River: A Novel is a suspenseful coming-of-age tale that reveals much about the bonds of family, the secrets that can tear those bonds apart, and how determination can lead to redemption. But first, Sam and Ollie have to survive those who are trying to undermine them and even harm them.

I could not put this book down, and even though the outcome was fairly predictable, and I had figured out who the killer was early on, I rooted for Sam and Ollie, and it was fun watching them sort it all out. 4.5 stars.

REVIEW: UNTIL YOU’RE MINE, BY SAMANTHA HAYES

18240246Baby love could be the defining theme of Until You’re Mine: A Novel, as we enter the world of women questing after babies, despite difficulties and challenges. And then there are those who do not really want the babies, but see them as a means to an end.

Our story is alternately narrated in the first person voices of Claudia Morgan-Brown, a social worker, a wife, a stepmother, and now a pregnant want-to-be mother, and the woman she hires as a nanny, Zoe Harper.

A third-person narration follows the investigations of DI Lorraine Fisher and DI Adam Scott, partners, as well as husband and wife. They are hoping to solve the strange murders of pregnant women whose babies are seemingly cut out of them. In the background are the intense dynamics of their family issues, with two teenaged daughters chomping at the bit.

As we sift through these stories, it is possible to think you have everything figured out, with the good and the bad sorted, but just when you think you know what is happening, you will be stunned.

Other characters added an interesting twist to the tale, like Cecelia Paige, who has some connection to Zoe Harper…who may not really be Zoe Harper.

Set in England, near Birmingham, we are caught up in the twisted lives of these characters, and not until the very end does it all come together. A unique psychological suspense tale that kept me turning those pages and staying up late to keep reading. 5.0 stars.