Sunday, September 28, 2014

The Secret Place

The Secret Place by Tana French

Chris Harper is young and self-assured with mesmerizing hazel eyes that make the girls swoon behind his back.  Such a pity they won't enjoy his beguiling charms much longer. "He has eight months and two weeks left to live".

The investigators at the grizzly crime scene believe the weapon of choice had a long handle with a razor sharp blade. One shattering blow to the skull and a promising life ends. Chris Harper is dead.  Who could be so calculating and ruthless to carry out this deed?

"A kid could have done it, easy, if she got a good swing".

It is now a year later. The girls at the exclusive boarding school, St. Kilda's, have a bulletin board called The Secret Place. Shy and timid students have an opportunity to post notes they otherwise would never have the courage to say out loud. Sixteen-year-old Holly Mackey finds a photo of the deceased Chris Harper on the board with the words, "I know who killed him" plastered across his picture. With a little luck, perhaps Detective Stephen Moran can finally make a name for himself and be a part of the Murder Squad by solving this case. It won't be easy.

Moran and his partner find themselves engulfed in a maze of intricate and disturbing adolescent friendships. There are two factions of girls at St. Kilda's who intensely dislike one another. Yet their loyalty to those in their "gang" is unsurpassed. Clandestine meetings with boys from a neighboring school, secret text messages, and unexplained supernatural sightings of a ghost, challenge these veteran police officers to delve into new territory.  Somehow they must sift through the lies and deceit penetrating this picture-perfect setting to uncover the truth about what happened the night of the murder.

This is the fifth installment of Tana French's Detective Murder Squad Mysteries. It isn't necessary to be familiar with the characters from her previous books, although you will find references to them periodically
It's a superbly written crime novel about the inner workings of teenage relationships. Gritty, perplexing, tantalizing, and somewhat complicated, you'll need to pay close attention to all the details up until the last page. Then, and only then, are the answers revealed.

This is my first time reading Tana French. Author Harlan Coben writes, "she is, without a doubt, my favorite new mystery writer."

I wholeheartedly agree.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

One Plus One

One Plus One by Jojo Moyes

Jess Thomas faces a dilemma; pay the overdue electricity bill staring at her from the piles of statements marked "final notice" on the dirty kitchen counter, or use those precious funds to buy her daughter some trendy designer clothes. It breaks her heart to know her child is ridiculed and teased for her homemade attire. For some people, money is just a detail. Dejected and alone, Jess is reminded that "people who thought money was a detail were the kind who had never really had to worry about it." The electricity bill will just have to wait.

Two quirky children call Jess "Mom".  Daughter Tanzie is a math genius with an amazing opportunity to further her education at a prestigious private school that costs a fortune. Prize money could be hers if they can somehow find their way to Scotland for a lucrative competition. Stepson Nicky is bullied and taunted with vicious remarks by classmates who make fun of his macabre appearance. Husband Marty conveniently vanished two years ago leaving Jess penniless and overwhelmed. Her job as a cleaning lady for the wealthy barely keeps food on the table. She is disappointed in herself., but starts each day with the hope that better days lie ahead.

Geeky Ed Nichols is a self-made tech millionaire who had a momentary lapse in good judgement. He is now facing insider trading charges. While his attorney sorts out the mess he has made of his life, Ed finds the days and nights can be quite lonely until a chance encounter with a feisty woman named Jess Thomas who just happens to be his cleaning lady. Against his better judgement, he agrees to embark on a journey to Scotland to make Tanzie's dream a reality.  Along the way, the road trip becomes a comedy of errors. Bad food, sleepless nights spent in a car, and a huge smelly dog named Norman are all part of the journey.

And Jess can't make herself reveal the secret she has been hiding from Ed.

Jojo Moyes writes a novel filled with humor, romance, and heartache. Two vulnerable characters who at first instantly dislike one another, find that together they just may have the courage and strength needed to overcome obstacles in their way. This is a light, amusing story, easy to read and a welcome break if you are looking for a little levity. However, it also has heart-rending and agonizing themes that are the very essence of the story.

Once again, this British author delivers.  

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Close To Home

Close To Home by Lisa Jackson

As we say goodbye to summer, a classic ghost story may be just what you are looking for as the days become shorter and the cool, crisp nights become a reality. With autumn approaching, take some time to sit by a crackling fire and read the pages of this new release. Maybe, just maybe, you'll become a believer....

On October 31st, 1924, Angelique struggles with this drunken excuse of a man on the widow's walk of their majestic home, Blue Peacock Manor. As the blinding rain slices through the bitterly cold air, Angelique finds it hard to maintain her balance on the slippery, narrow walk high above the angry churning waters of the
Columbia River in remote Oregon. She is ready to die if it means saving the innocent children inside. The man she once professed to love forever is a crazed lunatic, and she will not succumb to his insanity without a fight. Suddenly they are both plummeting to their deaths, thus ending this tragic, twisted love story. Their bodies are never found.

On October 15th, 2014, Sarah McAdams vows to make a new start with her two reluctant daughters, Jade and Gracie, by returning to Blue Peacock Manor, her childhood home. The memories are not good; her cold, distant mother, a half-sister who mysteriously vanished, and a horrific night years ago when young Sarah was found on the widow's walk, delirious and frightened. A nagging memory of what really happened that fateful evening refuses to surface. She can't forget the rooms she was forbidden to enter or the constant uneasy feeling that permeated her childhood.

But this is home and Sarah needs to bring Blue Manor back to its once stately grandeur and put her fears to rest. Quite a task when Gracie begins to see a shadowy lady in a mist of white, traveling  from room to room. Sarah must face the facts: Blue Manor is haunted, and Gracie does indeed have a gift that enables her to communicate with the spirit world; a spirit that needs to be heard. She herself has seen a fleeting presence. Something evil and sinister happened behind these walls. If only Sarah could remember.

In the meantime, young, innocent teenage girls are disappearing in this small town, and Sarah is deeply worried about her own daughters' safety. There is a sinister, sick mind at work here. Could these troubling occurrences somehow be related to events that happened over ninety years ago?  Perhaps the one man she mistakenly thought she could forget is destined to be her savior. As troubling secrets begin to unravel, Sarah realizes the truth may be more than she can fathom.

There are many characters and plots all intricately woven into one another in this latest novel from Lisa Jackson.  It may take a moment to reread a few passages to solidify the relationship between past to and present. Once you do, it becomes a spooky and absorbing tale.

Just in time for Halloween.....

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Mean Streak

Mean Streak by Sandra Brown

The last thing marathon runner Dr. Emory Charbonneau remembers is forging ahead, praying that the end is near. Step by step, refusing to succumb to the frigid air, she is determined to finish what she started. Ice crystals cover her eyelashes making it hard to see the deserted road ahead. Why wasn't she better prepared ? She reminds herself it's simply mind over matter. Nothing can deter her from accomplishing her goal; nothing except the sudden, seething pain exploding inside her head.

Emory now finds herself in a stark one-room cabin. Nothing looks familiar, especially the imposing man who towers over her. Even as the pain rages in her skull, she feels panic and fear, knowing that her life may be in danger. The argument she had with husband, Jeff, hours earlier before embarking on her journey, means he won't be looking for her anytime soon. They both needed time to cool off, to take a break from the angry, accusatory words that they'd surely regret later. She's alone and afraid as the walls close in on her. It's only a matter of time before she dies.

As days pass, Emory realizes nothing is as it first appeared. This imposing stranger is not going to hurt her. Even though he refuses to reveal his identity, Emory begins to feel trust building with her captor. Her unwavering resolve to escape begins to gradually fade as she realizes her abductor may have a hidden agenda. When he finally releases her, the story doesn't end, it actually begins anew with startling revelations. Everything and everyone she thought she knew becomes a maze of lies and deception. Someone is determined she never knows the truth.

Sondra Brown once again writes a gripping thriller that challenges the reader to ultimately uncover the story within a story. The characters aren't particularly deep; there's the tall rugged  mystery man who Emory can't resist, with Brown's characteristic steamy passages, the shallow selfish husband with a mistress and secrets of his own, and the FBI agent who vows to never stop until he finds what he's been looking for, elusive as that may be.

 Full of surprises, this book is fun and entertaining, a romantic suspense novel that will keep you guessing with a startling conclusion.