Book Review—Interference

Interference Cover

Put the words “quantum” and “thriller” together, and in the right hands, you’re bound to get action, science, and danger in a tale that will make your head spin. That’s what Interference is. Author Brad Parks weaves in just enough physics and biology to make the story believable. And to keep you guessing, he tosses in a fascinating gaggle of characters who may or may not be all they appear to be.

Thrillers are fun. What kept me going, though, was the abiding love between Brigid and her husband, Matt. Simply put, they adore each other.

Everyone, it seems, wants in on Matt’s research at Dartmouth—including the government and a sketchy billionaire. Then, he goes missing. Interestingly, Brigid is losing her hearing. But that doesn’t stop her in her pursuit to find her husband. The woman is relentless.

Surprises abound in this story of how we push our limits of understanding to create something new while attracting those who would take it away. If you’re in the mood for a fun ride, check out Interference.

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Book Description

From international bestselling author Brad Parks comes an emotional, heart-pounding thriller that explores the scientific unknown—and one woman’s efforts to save her husband from its consequences.

Quantum physicist Matt Bronik is suffering from strange, violent seizures that medical science seems powerless to explain—much to the consternation of his wife, Brigid.

Matt doesn’t think these fits could be related to his research, which he has always described as benign and esoteric. That, it turns out, is not quite true: Matt has been prodding the mysteries of the quantum universe, with terrible repercussions for his health. And perhaps even for humanity as a whole.

Then, in the midst of another seizure, Matt disappears. When foul play is feared, there is no shortage of suspects. Matt’s research had gained the attention of Chinese competitors, an unscrupulous billionaire, and the Department of Defense, among others.

With Matt’s life in clear danger, Brigid sets out to find him. Will Matt be killed before she reaches him, or could the physics that endangered him actually be used to save his life?

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Book Review—Don’t Tell Teacher

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There’s an unbreakable connection between mothers and their children, a special bond that compels them to protect their offspring at all costs. And when someone threatens the child, Mother provides a powerful response. For Lizzie Riley, the solution is to move her son, Tom, away from London to a sleepy suburb where the two of them can start over.

As in all good psychological thrillers, running away from something—in this case, an abusive husband—introduces an even worse situation. The private school Tom attends is oppressive, and the headmaster oddly secretive. And with each new, disturbing revelation, Lizzie begins to unravel. It seems the bad luck she’s experienced has followed her.

Others try to help. Kate, the social worker assigned to Tom, is young and hopeful. She and her supervisor have seen it all before. Violent husband. Injured wife. Terrified child. But, somehow, the case isn’t textbook. And that’s what drives the reader mad, asking—pleading, really—why? For all that is good and holy, WHY?

For those who enjoy the twists and turns of a disturbing tale told by an unhinged narrator, Don’t Tell Teacher is for you. For those with children, hug them. And thank you stars, it’s only a story.

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Book Description

School should have been the safest place…

For Lizzie Riley, switching her eight-year-old son Tom to the local academy school marks a fresh start, post-divorce. With its excellent reputation and outstanding results, Lizzie knows it’ll be a safe space away from home.

But there’s something strange happening at school. Parents are forbidden from entering the grounds and inside, there are bars across the classroom windows.

Why is Tom coming home exhausted, unable to remember anything about his day? What are the strange marks on his arm? And when Lizzie tries to question the other children, why do they seem afraid to talk?

Tom’s new school might seem picture-perfect. But sometimes appearances can be deceiving…

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Book Review—Mexican Gothic

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If you’re looking for classic gothic horror that doesn’t shy away from the macabre, you can’t do better than Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia. For me, the best ghost stories are those that place the unwitting protagonist in a situation she has no desire to be a part of. In this case, the unlucky girl is Noemí Taboada. She is rich and spoiled, and her chief concern seems to be which party she will attend next. Like the best heroes, though, Noemí is layered. She’s whip-smart, headstrong, and caring. And a little calculating. Her cousin is in trouble somewhere in the countryside, and Noemí’s father wants her to investigate. She agrees, but not before obtaining a quid pro quo. And so, with enough dresses and shoes to weather a trip abroad, she embarks on a lonely journey to High Place.

Sometimes, stories of horror and madness escalate too quickly, subjecting the reader to a dizzying intensity that’s difficult to sustain without resulting in boredom. That’s not the case with this novel. What I loved best about the book is the author’s carefully crafted ascent that, like the town situated below High Place, takes its time. But there’s a dark side to this kind of storytelling; Noemí is on an inexorable path that must deliver her to her final destination. The question, of course, is whether she and her ailing cousin will survive the journey.

When you read Mexican Gothic, fix yourself a nice cup of hot chocolate. Wrap yourself in your favorite blanket and prepare to experience a deliciously original tale—a deathless dream of family gloom.

You can find this review at Goodreads.

Book Description

After receiving a frantic letter from her newly-wed cousin begging for someone to save her from a mysterious doom, Noemí Taboada heads to High Place, a distant house in the Mexican countryside. She’s not sure what she will find—her cousin’s husband, a handsome Englishman, is a stranger, and Noemí knows little about the region.  
 
Noemí is also an unlikely rescuer: She’s a glamorous debutante, and her chic gowns and perfect red lipstick are more suited for cocktail parties than amateur sleuthing. But she’s also tough and smart, with an indomitable will, and she is not afraid: Not of her cousin’s new husband, who is both menacing and alluring; not of his father, the ancient patriarch who seems to be fascinated by Noemí; and not even of the house itself, which begins to invade Noemi’s dreams with visions of blood and doom.
 
Her only ally in this inhospitable abode is the family’s youngest son. Shy and gentle, he seems to want to help Noemí, but might also be hiding dark knowledge of his family’s past. For there are many secrets behind the walls of High Place. The family’s once colossal wealth and faded mining empire kept them from prying eyes, but as Noemí digs deeper she unearths stories of violence and madness. 
 
And Noemí, mesmerized by the terrifying yet seductive world of High Place, may soon find it impossible to ever leave this enigmatic house behind.

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Book Review—What Has Mother Done

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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.

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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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Book Review—Cades Cove: The Curse of Allie Mae

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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.

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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

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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.

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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

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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.

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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—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.

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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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Book Review—Unspeakable Things

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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.

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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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Book Review—Lost Hills

I don’t read a lot of crime fiction. I’m more of a horror and supernatural aficionado. But recently, I had the pleasure of picking up Lost Hills, a new novel by Lee Goldberg. This book is the first in a series featuring a young—and already hard-boiled—homicide detective named Eve Ronin. Now, if you’re up on Japanese history, you’ll know that ronin refers to a samurai warrior without a master or lord, In other words, a drifter. I wouldn’t say Eve wanders, but she positively does not react well to being bossed around by her superiors. This quality both serves and hurts her—a classic trait in a protagonist.

My favorite aspect of this novel is that it takes place in Los Angeles, my hometown. It’s clear the author knows this place intimately, and it was easy for me to picture where something took place whenever he called out street names and neighborhoods. It was almost like being on a ride-along with Eve and her sardonic, donut-eating partner Duncan.

I’ll warn you that things get bloody pretty fast. But the interactions between the cops in the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and their counterparts in LAPD are sometimes hilarious, not to mention contentious. That, and the constant crap Eve has to take from men who consider her a skirt that didn’t deserve to get promoted to detective makes for some fun reading.

If you like crime stories with unpredictable characters and plenty of twists and turns, then do yourself a favor and get this book. And while you’re at it, treat yourself to a nice glazed donut.

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Book Description

Lost Hills is Lee Goldberg at his best. Inspired by the real-world grit and glitz of LA County crime, this book takes no prisoners. And neither does Eve Ronin. Take a ride with her and you’ll find yourself with a heroine for the ages. And you’ll be left hoping for more.” —Michael Connelly, #1 New York Times bestselling author

“Thrills and chills! Lost Hills is the perfect combination of action and suspense, not to mention Eve Ronin is one of the best new female characters in ages. You will race through the pages!” —Lisa Gardner, #1 New York Times bestselling author

A video of Deputy Eve Ronin’s off-duty arrest of an abusive movie star goes viral, turning her into a popular hero at a time when the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department is plagued by scandal. The sheriff, desperate for more positive press, makes Eve the youngest female homicide detective in the department’s history.

Now Eve, with a lot to learn and resented by her colleagues, has to justify her new badge. Her chance comes when she and her burned-out, soon-to-retire partner are called to the blood-splattered home of a missing single mother and her two kids. The horrific carnage screams multiple murder—but there are no corpses.

Eve has to rely on her instincts and tenacity to find the bodies and capture the vicious killer, all while battling her own insecurities and mounting pressure from the media, her bosses, and the bereaved family. It’s a deadly ordeal that will either prove her skills…or totally destroy her.

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