Sunday, October 26, 2014

The Killer Next Door

The Killer Next Door by Alex Marwood

If you enjoyed Marwood's debut novel, Wicked Girls, a mystery I reviewed in September 2013, then her second edgy, dark, and chilling novel may A note to add before we begin; this author is using a pen name for her new crime novels. In reality, she's Serena Mackesy, an accomplished British writer and journalist who wanted a pseudonym for her new genre. Much like J.K. Rowling, Mackesy scores a hit with a fresh persona, but familiar writing style. The eeriness of Halloween sets the mood for a most absorbing tale about a serial killer looking for his next victim. A word of warning; this one is not for the faint of heart.

There's a sinister feeling when anyone enters the boarding house located at 23 Beulah Grove in South London. Cash only. Don't ask, don't tell. Your secrets are safe here. The individual apartments and worn hallways reek of stale cigarette smoke. Putrid mystery stains spot the frayed carpeting. The morbidly obese owner fits perfectly into the picture, blatantly taking advantage of his tenants who all have a story to tell.

Lisa, aka Collette, figures this dilapidated home is the best she can do considering the circumstances. Her mother is dying in a nearby nursing home. She needs to be close to her even though it's risky when you're on the run after witnessing a murder. All of her peculiar neighbors blend into oblivion, until one scorching summer night when they are drawn together by a horrible accident. These lost and lonely souls must reach out to one another in order to survive. Strangers form an uncomfortable alliance, initially not knowing that one of them is a cold-blooded murderer, waiting for the opportune time to strike again.

Each and every character in this book is meticulously dissected for the reader. The story builds and builds. Repulsive revelations may turn your stomach, yet you'll find it hard not to continue to turn the pages for answers because you care about the outcome of people you've come to know.  The novel is quite an amazing mystery for an author who has gained acclaim simply by changing her name. It's spooky, scary, and addictive for a particular audience, much darker than her previous work. Some humor is even added to ease the tension of the topic. Get through the many descriptive passages (of which there are many) to enjoy a satisfying psychological thriller that examines the psyche of a demented mind.

You may never trust your neighbors again.

Friday, October 17, 2014

The Silent Sister

The Silent Sister by Diane Chamberlain

Bystanders gawk as rescuers retrieve the yellow kayak from the icy waters of the Potomac. They whisper in hushed tones. It's tragic that a young seventeen-year-old girl like Lisa MacPherson would take her own life by drowning in frigid waters, but then again, she was an accused murderer. Surely the demons and guilt that haunted her each and every day, finally caused her to reach the breaking point. Yes, Lisa MacPherson just couldn't live with herself anymore, they say.

Her body is never found.

Riley never really knew her older sister, Lisa, the musical prodigy. After the tragedy, their parents moved the family to North Carolina to start over and escape abhorrent memories. Now a grown woman, Riley has returned home to settle the affairs of her father, Frank's, estate. Nearby lives her brother, Danny, an Iraq War veteran, who constantly battles depression associated with PTDS. He lives on land near the trailer park his father owned for years, contented to be left alone. He does not welcome his sister's return.

Riley cherishes fond memories of her childhood, and barely remembers the dark days surrounding Lisa's suicide. Danny, on the other hand, lives in a constant state of repressed anger and bitterness. But why? They had the same parents, after all. As Riley begins to sift through her father's belongings and valuable collections, she comes to a startling revelation. Her life has been nothing but a fabrication of lies and deceit, orchestrated by a man she called her father.

As the chapters unfold, you'll meet a litany of complex and riveting characters, all essential to the engrossing plot. Jeannie Lyons, a dear friend of Riley's mother, brazenly takes charge in helping Riley disperse of Frank's possessions. Riley is shocked and mystified to learn that Jeannie and her father were more than just friends. Tom Kyle was supposedly a good friend of Frank's, receiving unexplained monthly pay-offs for years. What is he hiding? And Verniece, Tom's wife, is insistent that Riley is not Frank's biological child. Reeling from her new found discoveries, Riley fears there is no one she can trust. Yet there is one thing of which she is certain.  Lisa is alive.

Veteran writer Diane Chamberlain writes an absorbing novel, guaranteed to keep you guessing. Full of twists and turns, it's equally entertaining in both book and audio formats, and a novel I highly recommend.

There's nothing like a good mystery to fill a relaxing fall evening, and this one delivers.


Sunday, October 12, 2014

The Last Breath

The Last Breath by Kimberly Belle

Playing with fire. Ella Mae Andrews knows it's wrong to succumb to the undeniable attraction she feels for Dean Sullivan, the new next-door neighbor, yet she is powerless when it comes to his irresistible charms. But where there's fire, there's also danger.

As Ella struggles to breathe with the plastic wrap covering her mouth and nostrils, she knows the end is near. In one instant, she recognizes the eyes behind the mask. If only she hadn't played with fire.

Sixteen years later, global humanitarian Gia Andrews reluctantly returns to her birthplace in the remote back- country of Tennessee. It seems she has been given the unwanted role of caregiver for her dying father, Ray, who was convicted of stepmother Ella's murder, years ago. The courts are allowing him to return home to die under house arrest, but Gia's brother and sister want no part of helping a guilty man. Ray always maintained his innocence. Hot shot criminal lawyer, Cal Andrews, Ray's brother, was unable to clear his client, but then how hard did he really try?

The townspeople of this little village tucked into the heart of Appalachia don't welcome a convicted murderer in their midst. Their wild protests and death threats intended to make Gia abandon her father, only make her more determined to make his final days as peaceful as possible whether he's innocent or guilty. When she meets the local bartender who steals her heart, she finds a comrade who is willing to help her uncover hidden secrets and repressed memories. But when this new love admits his own startling secret, Gia realizes the mystery surrounding Ella Mae's murder is complex and twisted. The truth may be too much to fathom.

First time novelist Kimberly Belle writes a page turner that will keep you guessing until the end as to who committed a hideous crime. It's full of small town scandal and plenty of torrid passion that at times seems to be unnecessary for plot development. Nevertheless, it's a story that examines the tenuous and fragile relationship between siblings and parent, and the art of forgiveness, difficult as that may be.