Book Review—What Has Mother Done

What Has Mother Done Cover

I’m just going to come out and say it. Barbara Petty is a little sneaky. When I began reading What Has Mother Done, the author introduced a story that could easily have been a cozy mystery. Sure, right off the bat, there’s a body. But we’ve got a main character who is wicked-funny with her internal thoughts and asides pitted against the proverbial small town where everyone—and I mean everyone—has a secret.

Petty’s Thea Browne is no ingenue, either. She’s a hard-bitten investigative reporter who has been around the block a few times. When we meet her, she faces the bleak prospect of looking after her recently widowed mother, who suffers from Alzheimer’s. During the investigation, Thea is forced to put up with her best friend, Annie, who has gone a little wonky of late. And she must also deal with her sister, Beryl. Yeah, they don’t get along. As if all that wasn’t enough, let’s throw in some hot flashes.

Yes, the story could have been a perfectly respectable cozy mystery. That is until the body count goes up. What Has Mother Done is a first-rate mystery thriller. The characters are engaging—and often frustrating. As Thea goes about trying to solve the mystery of her stepfather’s untimely death, I found my pulse quickening. If you enjoy smartly written scenes of small-town intrigue, violence, and questionable loyalties, then I suggest you check out this excellent novel.

You can find this review at Goodreads.

Book Description

In a small Midwestern town, on a cold, blustery March day, a man plunges to his death off a high, rocky cliff, setting in motion a string of events that lead to murders and rips open the long-hidden secrets of the town’s most prominent family…

The man is George Prentice, and the woman the police suspect of murdering him is his wife, Daphne. But Daphne has Alzheimer’s and, as she is likely to be incompetent to stand trial, has not been arrested.

Daphne’s daughter, Thea Browne, is a trained investigative reporter, who is furious that the police haven’t bothered to look any further for a culprit other than her mother. She suspects her stepfather made enemies when meddling in local politics and, according to one of his cronies, George wrote a memoir threatening to “blow the lid off this town.”

As Thea follows her own investigation, she discovers a widening circle of suspects, some much closer to home than she expected. Even her best friend from childhood, Annie Biggs, seems to be keeping a deep dark secret that she refuses to share with Thea.

More murders push Thea to the point where protecting her mother forces her to put her own life on the line to track down a diabolical killer.

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June 2020 Highlights and What Happened to May?

Empty Pool
Courtesy of Matt Jiggins

I know, I know. I’ve been trying to get a newsletter out on a monthly basis. And I was doing pretty well there for a while. Then, May hit. Now, a lot of people would defend themselves by offering lame excuses like “I lost track of time” or “Was I supposed to do that?” Not me. I’m guilty, guilty, GUILTY. I messed up. There, I feel better. I hope you do, too. On with the show…

Writing

I have finished writing Book 3 of my Sarah Greene Mysteries series, and the manuscript is off to the editor. Originally, I had planned to publish the novel next year. Well, this one should be out in late 2020. At that time, I also plan to release a box set containing all three books.

For those of you who are Kindle Unlimited subscribers, you can read Books 1 and 2 for free. And speaking of KU, I’ve decided to move all my books to Kindle Unlimited. By the time you read this, everything should be available.

Recommended Reading

Cades Cove Cover

As I said in my review, Cades Cove by Aiden James is one mother of a scary book. If you like ghost stories filled with history and dark magic, check it out. You can read my review here.

The Gun Cover

The Gun by Fuminori Nakamura is a different kind of novel. Reading it, I couldn’t help imagine Holden Caulfield as an angry Japanese man with a weapon. It’s a fascinating story. You can read my review here.

Recommended Viewing

For those of you with a Netflix account, check out Black Spot, a dark thriller set in a French town located near a forest. Maybe it’s the trees, but the inhabitants of this town are seriously messed up.

And for you Amazon Prime members, if you like English dramas, then An Inspector Calls might be your cup of tea. It’s based on the play by the esteemed J. B. Priestley.

Stay well. See you next month, when I try to locate a swimming pool that only allows one person at a time. Peace and love.

Girl Who Reads Review of House of the Shrieking Woman

Hey, check out this Girl Who Reads review of Book 2 in my Sarah Greene Mysteries series, House of the Shrieking Woman. Many thanks to MK French. Oh, and regarding any unanswered questions and clarity regarding the plotline, fear not. Book 3, coming out later this year, wraps up everything nicely and even puts a bow on it.

Girl Who Reads Thrillers Post

House of the Shrieking Woman takes place three months after the first novel, so Sarah is traumatized and dealing with the physical and psychological effects of what had happened. If you haven’t read the first novel, it’s alluded to in the sense that Sarah can see spirits, almost died, and was seriously injured. Others were involved, as well as a hidden room and a cursed object, and all of them are dealing with the trauma in their own way. Some of it is outlined, enough that you can hit the ground running with this one. I like that the trauma is realistically dealt with, that Sarah is in therapy, and is dealing with the fallout. A lot of series have the main character bounce from one event to the other as if nothing happened, and charge right in when something weird and creepy happens. Here, Sarah is cautious and knows that there is danger. It makes her more realistic to me.

Much like in the first book, we have an investigation into the past to explain what might be happening in the present. Charlie and a nun explore Guatemala to figure out what happened to Ana before she emigrated to the United States, and Sarah tries to explore the possible explanations for the dark spirits and self-mutilation in the shelter. As the novel progresses, the mystery deepens and we find out more details that point to demonic possession and malevolent spirits. There is a quiet menace, which becomes more and more creepy over time. It reminds me of movies that involve demonic possession and exorcisms, with the rising tension as everyone gets drawn into it and you fear for who is going to be next. This is especially true in the final third of the book, when things progress rapidly.

To read the rest of the review, as well as see more thrillers, click here.

Book Review—Cades Cove: The Curse of Allie Mae

Cades Cove Cover

Okay, I’ll just say it. Cades Cove: The Curse of Allie Mae, by Aiden James, is one mother of a scary book. Immediately, I became caught up in the story of a man with questionable judgment who, through a seemingly innocuous act, stumbles into a world of sheer mayhem. As a result, he puts not only himself but his family in danger. What starts out as the innocent taking of a souvenir from a magical vacation spot soon turns into an unrelenting reign of terror conducted by the vengeful ghost of a dead girl.

This kind of story has been told countless times. In lesser hands, it might have been trite. But the author has taken great pains to create a rich world of Appalachian and Native American folklore that lends an incredible depth to the haunting tale of a young Tennessee girl wronged in another century. I particularly enjoyed James’s meticulous description of a Sioux ritual meant to protect the protagonist, David Hobbs, and his family.

If you enjoy novels that harken back to an earlier, less civilized time in America and feature nail-biting scenes of supernatural horror, then I suggest you read Cades Cove: The Curse of Allie Mae. It will be well worth the nightmares.

You can find this review at Goodreads.

Book Description

Buried deep in a ravine in the picturesque Smoky Mountains is a very dark secret.

David Hobbs, vacationing with his wife Miriam, inadvertently stumbles upon a small cloth ‘keepsake’ bag and a broken tooth. A human tooth. Miriam begs David to hand the bag and tooth over to park officials, but he ignores his wife’s pleas and secretly keeps the ‘harmless’ items. The action opens a doorway that had been closed for nearly a hundred years and unleashes hell on earth, or at least hell in the lives of David and Miriam.

Following the brutal murder of his best friend in Denver, and unprovoked attack on his oldest son, David desperately seeks to understand why a mysterious teenage girl has chosen to terrorize him and the males closest to him. To prevent further devastation to his family and end the wanton bloodshed, he returns to the enchanted hills of eastern Tennessee, where a terrible truth awaits discovery… one that forces him to face the consequences for the unpaid sins of his ancestors.

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Book Review—The Gun

The Gun Cover

As I read The Gun by Fuminori Nakamura, Holden Caulfield immediately came to mind. Both novels are told in the first person. And both characters are alienated, though Nishikawa gets the prize. He hangs out with friends he is not close to, has sex with girls he cares little for, and attends school because he has nothing better to do. Wandering the Tokyo streets seems to calm him. One night, when he discovers a dead body, his life changes. But it’s the gun lying next to the corpse that intrigues him, and he becomes obsessed.

Chekhov wrote that story elements should not make false promises. If we see a gun at the beginning, then someone must use it. Nakamura takes this principle to heart as he weaves his tale of ever-growing madness. He builds an almost unbearable tension as Nishikawa tries to decide when and where to fire the weapon. In the meantime, the character’s personal relationships continue to suffer. Feelings of hatred emerge, making the threat of violence more palpable.

The Gun is a taut thriller that begs the question, “Was Nishikawa already crazy, or was it the gun that made him so?” If you enjoy nail-biting crime fiction, then I highly recommend this book.

You can find this review at Goodreads.

Book Description

A Tokyo college student’s discovery and eventual obsession with a stolen handgun awakens something dark inside him.

On a nighttime walk along a Tokyo riverbank, a young man named Nishikawa stumbles on a dead body, beside which lies a gun. From the moment Nishikawa decides to take the gun, the world around him blurs. Knowing he possesses the weapon brings an intoxicating sense of purpose to his dull university life. But soon Nishikawa’s personal entanglements become unexpectedly complicated: he finds himself romantically involved with two women while his biological father, whom he’s never met, lies dying in a hospital. Through it all, he can’t stop thinking about the gun—and the four bullets loaded in its chamber. As he spirals into obsession, his focus is consumed by one idea: that possessing the gun is no longer enough—he must fire it.

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Book Review—One For Sorrow

One For Sorrow Cover

Reading One For Sorrow by Sarah A. Denzil is like getting into the mind of a deeply conflicted, mental patient who must still function in society. Leah Smith is a tragic character whose need to help others while fighting her demons is heartbreaking. When she starts a new job at Crowmont Hospital and is put in charge of a troubled girl named Isabel, who may or may not be a murderer, the road to sorrow is perfectly paved.

Immediately, Leah falls under the girl’s spell, believing her innocent of the brutal murder of a small child. And we fall with the good-hearted nurse. Isabel is an incredible artist and always cheerful. She especially loves drawing birds—magpies in particular. She doesn’t remember what happened all those years ago, and she is grateful when Leah takes an interest in her. Will Leah’s kindness be rewarded in the end?

If you enjoy psychological thrillers with characters who ring true like notes on a piano, I suggest you grab this book. Oh, and one other thing. Beware of magpies.

You can find this review at Goodreads.

Book Description

A chilling psychological thriller by the million-copy bestselling author of Silent Child.

Who really killed Maisie Earnshaw?

Within the walls of the high-security psychiatric facility, Crowmont Hospital, reside many violent offenders. To nurse Leah Smith, no matter what, all offenders are patients first and foremost. When Leah is appointed as nurse to Isabel Fielding, she is determined to remain professional despite the shocking crime Isabel allegedly committed in her past.

Years ago, six-year-old Maisie Earnshaw was found face down in a duck pond, her body mutilated. Isabel—at age fourteen, found covered in Maisie’s blood—was convicted of murder.

As Leah spends time with Isabel, she comes to know her as a young woman with a sweet, gentle nature, someone she could never see as a murderer. Leah begins to suspect members of the Fielding family of framing Isabel as a young girl, and she’s not the only one. True crime blogger James Gorden thinks Isabel is innocent too.

Is Leah allowing her own dark past to taint her judgement as she grows closer to her patient? Or has a young woman been unjustly robbed of her childhood?

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Book Review—The Curse She Wore

The Curse She Wore Cover

What do you get when you combine a homeless girl from New Orleans looking to avenge her best friend’s murder, a time-traveling psychic grieving the loss of his family, and Jack the Ripper? Why, you get a Jordan Dane supernatural thriller, of course. The Curse She Wore is a wild, unpredictable ride filled with twists and turns that would make a Disney Imagineer jealous. And it has heart—a lot of heart.

I’ve visited New Orleans several times in my life, and I have to say, the author brings the famed city to life in glorious Technicolor. And if that weren’t enough, she does a masterful job of recreating the Whitechapel district in East London at a time when Jack the Ripper was terrorizing its impoverished citizens with grisly murders that began in 1888 and ended in 1891.

What I love best about this novel is how adept the author is at combining the traditional elements of a serial killer story with those of supernatural tales such as Peter Straub’s terrifying Ghost Story. And trust me, the combination works. If you’re in the mood to be scared, then touched by the tortured yet loyal and loving Trinity LeDoux, I suggest you stop what you’re doing and acquire The Curse She Wore. Oh, and did I mention there’s humor? I’ll leave you with my favorite quote:

Tell me something while you’re here. Why do men go to bars to find women? It makes much more sense for them to go to a garage sale. Women are already looking for things they don’t need.

You can find this review at Goodreads.

Book Description

Trinity LeDoux, homeless on the streets of New Orleans, has nothing to lose when she hands a wealthy, yet reclusive clairvoyant a cursed vintage necklace.

During one of Hayden Quinn’s rare public appearances, he is unexpectedly recruited into Trinity’s perilous mission–a journey back through time to the exact moment of death for two very different victims.

Hayden and Trinity, two broken people with nothing but death in common, pursue the dangerous quest to stop the murderer emulating the grisly works of a notorious serial killer. Trespassing on Fate’s turf comes with a price–one they will never see coming.

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Book Review—Suitcase Girl

 

Suitcase Girl Cover

This is my first time reading a Ty Hutchinson novel, and wow. With Abby Kane, he’s created a character who is tough but with a huge heart. A skilled FBI agent, she can hold her own with anyone, yet the tenderness she expresses toward her dead husband’s mother and his two kids is almost heartbreaking.

Suitcase Girl is set in modern-day San Francisco, a town with many dark secrets. Abby is Chinese—originally from Hong Kong—and much of the story centers around Asians. Many are good, but some are bad—really bad. Combine that with sex trafficking, rogue science, and violence, and you’ve got a story that doesn’t let you breathe. It’s as if the author wants you to be as tense and focused as Abby.

If you enjoy crime thrillers that feel like the bass line in a Nirvana song, then grab this book. Trust me—it’s fun.

You can find this review at Goodreads.

Book Description

She’s your average twelve-year old, except there’s something about her that’s unthinkable, and quite frankly, unexplainable.

When a lone little girl is abandoned outside FBI headquarters, agent Abby Kane’s investigation points to a human trafficking ring—and something even worse.

For a tense, disturbing thrill-ride, pick up this USA Today Bestseller. Book one in the Suitcase Girl Trilogy.

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February 2020 Highlights and “I Must Be Nuts” Book Pricing

Essence of Love
Courtesy of Kumar’s Edit

Hard to believe it’s the middle of February already. Before I get any further, Happy Valentine’s Day! Here’s what’s happening.

Writing

Book 2 in my new supernatural suspense series, House of the Shrieking Woman, is available in electronic format, and the paperback edition will be out soon. For more information, check out my Sarah Greene Mysteries page. I’ve already begun writing Book 3, so stay tuned. As if things in Dos Santos weren’t bad, they are about to get worse.

Announcing “I Must Be Nuts” Book Pricing

That’s right. I’ve finally lost my grip on reality. I reduced the prices of all my ebooks, and you know what? I’m not sure I’m ever going back. You can check out my Amazon page—and also this page—for details.

Recommended Reading

Unspeakable Things Cover

If you enjoy stories of mystery, suspense, and dark souls, then Unspeakable Things by Jess Lourey is for you. You can read my review here.

Recommended Viewing

For those of you with Netflix accounts, check out The Stranger, a new series based on the novel by Harlan Coben. If you like police procedurals with lots of interesting twists, then check it out.

Okay, that wraps it up. See you next month, when I’ll be selling my house to raise cash for March Madness. Peace and love.

Book Review—Unspeakable Things

Unspeakable Things Cover

Lilydale is the polar opposite of the idyllic paradise people usually think of when you mention a small town. In this place, there are secrets—lots of secrets. And they begin with the parents of a middle-school girl named Cassie. Though she and her sister appear to be fine, they know they need to keep silent about the goings-on in their own home, mostly centered around their father. A dark threat hangs over them like a poisonous cloud. And, to survive, they must hold their breath.

But then, things become worse. Inexplicably, young boys go missing for a time, then reappear, damaged and sullen. There’s a sexual predator loose in the town, and, although the police establish a curfew, they don’t seem to be doing enough to find the villain. Meanwhile, Cassie conducts an unofficial investigation, putting herself in danger and opening doors that are better left closed.

I enjoyed this novel, but I warn you, it is disturbing. Based on a real case, the author Jess Lourey has painted a picture of a slow-burning hell where children are at risk, and most of the adults are corrupt in one way or another. If you enjoy stories of mystery, suspense, and dark souls, then Unspeakable Things is for you. But don’t be surprised if, after reading it, you crave something—anything—to make you laugh.

You can find this review at Goodreads.

Book Description

Inspired by a terrifying true story from the author’s hometown, a heart-pounding novel of suspense about a small Minnesota community where nothing is as quiet—or as safe—as it seems.

Cassie McDowell’s life in 1980s Minnesota seems perfectly wholesome. She lives on a farm, loves school, and has a crush on the nicest boy in class. Yes, there are her parents’ strange parties and their parade of deviant guests, but she’s grown accustomed to them.

All that changes when someone comes hunting in Lilydale.

One by one, local boys go missing. One by one, they return changed—violent, moody, and withdrawn. What happened to them becomes the stuff of shocking rumors. The accusations of who’s responsible grow just as wild, and dangerous town secrets start to surface. Then Cassie’s own sister undergoes the dark change. If she is to survive, Cassie must find her way in an adult world where every sin is justified, and only the truth is unforgivable.

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