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Book Review: The Drowned Girl – Thought Provoking Mystery

The Drowned Girl (previously published as Only One Life)

By Sara Blaedel

Officer Louise Rick travels an hour out of Copenhagen to a small town to help the Unit One Mobile Task Force investigate the horrific murder of a young girl. She was found submerged in the bay by a local fisherman. Suicide is out of the question as she was tethered to a concrete block. Was this an act of random violence? Was she killed by someone she knew? Or was this an honor killing?

The dead teen is Muslim. Her parents live by the rules of their religion, which makes the investigation much more difficult due to their lack of cooperation due to fear and tradition. Unfortunately, information comes to light that may point to a private side of the young victim. Her parents may have found out about her secret which could have brought dishonor to their family.

Enter crime reporter Camilla, close friend of Louise. She jumps into the story and latches onto the honor killing theory. Her editor wants more of this angle, but the deeper Camilla dives into the lives of the Muslim families, the more she wants to help them by finding the truth. But her articles are stirring up a hornet’s nest of preconceived notions that will result in a bigger divide between Danish and Muslims. Will this lead to more violence?

Not only is this a solid mystery, but the thread of prejudice that affects the different groups of people is woven throughout the plot. This multilayered story makes the reader pause to think about listening more and learning more about others they may fear or dislike without foundation.

Some books that are translated from a different language are difficult to read. The Drowned Girl is not one of those books. The flow and read was perfect. Even though this is the first novel I’ve read by Blaedel, it is not the first mystery featuring Louise Rick, but I never felt as though I didn’t know enough about the characters to fully understand the story. Actually, it was quite the opposite. Not only were the main characters shown doing their jobs, but personal lives, hopes and dreams are woven throughout to bring them to life and enrich the story.

This intriguing mystery is entertaining and thought provoking. The plot kept me guessing until the last chapters. Just when I thought I knew who the killer was, my theory would be debunked in the next chapter. This is a perfect multilayered book. If you like depth of characters and the tough topics in Jodi Picoult books, you will love Blaedel’s writing style.

Sara Blaedel is a prolific Danish author, who now resides in New York. She is the recipient of several awards including the Golden Laurel, Denmark’s most prestigious literary award.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from the publisher/author in connection with Killer Nashville in return for my review. Copyright © 2018 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: The Thinnest Air – Superb Suspenseful Thriller

The Thinnest Air

By Minka Kent

Meredith knows everyone looks at her like she is an airheaded beauty. She makes the perfect trophy wife for her millionaire husband. By all accounts, looking from outside the marriage, she is nothing but another bauble for Andrew Price to show off to his friends and associates. They have grossly underestimated her.

Even Meredith’s sister Greer, who she has always shared everything with, didn’t think it was good to be married to this man. In the beginning things were great. It wasn’t just the exotic vacations, fancy restaurants and posh parties. Andrew couldn’t get enough of her. Mer felt loved and adored.

Then the boredom set in. There are only so many places to shop in the little ski town they lived in. Most of the neighbors and friends of Andrew had relationships with Andrew’s ex-wife, judging every move Mer makes without even caring to get to know her. When she finds a note on her car by a strange man, she is terrified. More incidents occur, each one a bit more unsettling. Surprisingly, her husband brushes them off. The only one that takes her seriously is a Ronan, a young cop determined to keep her safe.

Then Meredith goes missing. Everyone’s secrets suddenly start surfacing. No one is as they seem to be on the surface and even the closest relationships are not what they seem. Will Meredith be found alive?

This is the perfect psychological thriller. The twists and turns don’t stop as the emotions and terror ramp up. Just when I began to trust a character, they would do something making me think they were not the person I thought they were. I seriously did not know who was good and who was terrifying until the last chapters. The Thinnest Air is one of the best books I have read this year. I read it from the Kindle app on my phone, and literally read it while riding in the car, waiting in line at the grocery store, at McDonald’s playground and during the Cub game.

Kent pulls you into the story making the characters real from the very first pages. She tells volumes with descriptive phases and dialog that stays with the reader long after the page has been turned. For example, when Mer thinks: “We’re powerless when it comes to our men. I’m just lucky I found a good one. The wrong one could easily be my undoing.”  The author perfectly lays out the foreshadowing quickly and quietly.  Once Mer goes missing, her sister Greer says to herself; I’m beginning to realize my sister was drowning in an ocean of secrets, and I was inland the entire time, clueless. These are just a few examples of this easy to read, page turning novel that will keep you breathless with every turn of the page.

This is the first novel I have read by Minka Kent. She has previously published two books, The Memory Watcher and The Perfect Roommate. She is a master of psychological thrillers, and I cannot wait to read her previous books and am looking forward to The Stillwater Girls scheduled for publication April 2019.

Copyright © 2018 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: Written Off – Masterful Mystery

Written Off

By Sheila Lowe

When forensic handwriting expert Claudia Rose is asked by her dear friend Zebediah for help she immediately agrees. Due to a medical issue, he cannot travel from California to the east coast to retrieve an unfinished manuscript and, more importantly, interview a female serial killer. As the prisoner was the subject of the manuscript, it was imperative for Claudia to complete both of these tasks so that Zebediah can finish writing the incomplete book a friend of his was writing.

Unfortunately, the woman writing the book was brutally murdered. At first it appears to be a random act of violence. But as Claudia learns more about the now dead professor she realizes the murderer more than likely targeted the victim. Would Claudia stir up the hornet’s nest that caused the death of the professor by doing the requested interview? If so, could she become the next victim?

Lowe’s page turning mystery has twists and turns throughout the plot. Just when I thought I knew who the killer was, an additional piece of evidence would come to light blowing up my theory. It is always delightful for a mystery fan to be guessing to the end of a great story.

The other interesting element in this well-written novel is the handwriting analysis that is done by the main character. I found myself comparing the things she said about handwriting styles to my own. I am a fan of learning new things intertwined with a great story. Written Off has both of these components expertly written to entertain and enlighten readers.

This is the first Shelia Lowe book I have read, and the seventh book in this series. It works very well as a stand-alone novel. If you are like me, you will seek out the other six novels in this series. I also am interested in her non-fiction books on handwriting analysis. Handwriting of the Famous and Infamous as well as The Complete Idiot’s guide to Handwriting Analysis both sound like must reads to me!

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy that I can keep for consideration in preparing to write this content. I was not expected to return this item after my review. Copyright © 2018 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: A Murder For the Books – First in the Cozy Series

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from the publisher/author in connection with Killer Nashville in return for my review. Copyright © 2017 Laura Hartman

Nursing a broken heart and a bruised ego, Amy Webber flees to a small town in Virginia. Leaving a prestigious university job to become the director at the Taylorsville Public Library wasn’t part of her life plan, but it just might be what she needs at this point in her life.  She is enjoying the slower pace of life. Living with Aunt Lydia, whom she has adored since childhood, has been good for both of them.

Amy’s tranquility is upended when the tiny town is shattered by a murder. Not only is the body found in the library, but there may be a connection to one of Lydia and Amy’s long dead relatives. The mystery is too much for Amy to ignore. She begins to dig into the past with the help of her handsome new neighbor, Richard.

There is just enough romance to lighten up the tension of the mystery that must be solved. Richard is not only a partner in the investigation; he is also clearly smitten with Amy.  How long does her heart have to heal before she can trust anyone?

Against her better judgement, Amy impulsively jumps into the investigation. The closer she gets to the truth; she realizes that many of the people she loves may be in danger. Will she find the answers she seeks before the killer strikes again?

Murder for the Books is the first book in Victoria Gilbert’s new series.  It is the perfect cozy mystery.  The characters are interesting and can easily be seen as people you might know. The town sounds delightfully quirky with the beautiful setting of the Blue Ridge Mountains in the background.

I can’t wait to read the next book in the series, Shelved Under Murder, slated for publication July 2018.

https://killernashville.com/murder-books-victoria-gilbert-review-laura-hartman/

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Book Review: River City Dead – Cozy Mystery in a Cool Setting

River City Dead

By Nancy G. West

Aggie is excited but nervous. Her boyfriend Sam has booked a suite in a hotel right on San Antonio’s River Walk during Fiesta Week. This is the first time they are going to actually spend the weekend together. Aggie cares for Sam and wants to be with him, but this is the first time she’ll actually be spending a night with a man since her ex, whom she refers to as Lester the Louse.

Sam is nothing like Lester. He is a San Antonio police detective. The bad news is Aggie keeps sticking her nose in cases that Sam is working on. The good news is he is allowing her to help out a bit on investigations. Both of them were hoping to avoid any kind of crime during their getaway, but it has a way of finding them.

This time it is really too close to home to ignore. A dead body is found in the suite they were supposed to be staying in this weekend and the victim is someone Aggie knows. Sam wants her to leave so she is out of harm’s way. Aggie is determined to stay and help find the killer.

The problem is Aggie may be getting in too deep. She starts hanging out with some of the girls that are there to perform as a group during Fiesta Week. There are several of these groups staying at the hotel and Aggie is sure someone in or connected to them could be responsible for the dead girl in the suite she should be staying in.

Aggie soon finds herself at odds with Sam. Is her relationship going to end before it goes any further? Will the killer target another one of the girls in the group, or possibly Aggie to keep her from finding out the truth?

River City Dead is a great cozy mystery. It has all of the essential elements. Sam, the hot detective is the perfect love interest for guy shy Aggie. The fact that he lets her help solve crimes, albeit grudgingly, makes them a dynamic duo. I loved the setting. I’ve been to San Antonio’s River Walk, but never during Fiesta Week. The bits of history add a nice element to round out the story.

This is the fourth book in the Aggie Mundeen Mystery Series. It is the first one I’ve read, which worked fine as a standalone mystery. I learned bits and pieces of Aggie and Sam’s history. It was enough to know what was going on, but my curiosity wants a bit more info. That is encouraging me to read the other books in Ms. West’s series to get the scoop.

Copyright © 2017 Laura Hartman

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy that I can keep for consideration in preparing to write this content. I was not expected to return this item after my review.

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Book Review: Bookshop at Water’s End – Great Summer Read

The Bookshop at Water’s End

By Patti Callahan Henry

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from  Net Galley and the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Lainey and Bonnie have been best friends since they were children. Bonnie’s parents owned a summer vacation home on a tidal river that surrounds a small town. Lainey’s family spent vacations with Bonnie’s family at the River House . As youngsters, they fancied themselves as a pair of modern day Nancy Drews. During their explorations around the tiny town they made notes in a notebook of unsolved mysteries and clues as to what and why things happened. The thing they never could fully explain was why Lainey’s mother had disappeared one night at the River House, never to return.

Fast forward to adulthood – Bonnie has become a renowned doctor and Lainey is a celebrated artist. They live on opposite sides of the country, but keep in touch. They rarely see one another. When Bonnie’s world comes crashing down around her ears, threatening everything she values, she calls Lainey to join her at the River House.

Lainey, fighting the demons from her past, agrees to come. She is bringing her small children with her. Bonnie is bringing her reluctant daughter Piper along to help her restore the River House for sale. Home from her first year of college Piper does not want to go, or babysit Lainey’s kids, but Bonnie has promised her services.

Ghosts from the past are stirring. They seem to arrive with the tides. When the past collides with the present, will Lainey and Bonnie survive? Will the answers they have searched for since childhood finally become clear?

The bookshop owner Mimi has an integral role in The Bookshop at Water’s End. She supplies the background narrative in many places to add depth and important facts about the past. Expertly spun together, the past and present emerge as one like the tributaries of the tidal river that flows around the town.

The realistic characters had flaws. Not just a little added issue, but real, glaring flaws. That brought them to life. Just like real people that have secrets, bad relationships and make mistakes – big mistakes that could be life changing. I loved that about them, all humans make bad decisions that seemed like a good idea at the time.

The story is deep and rich, without being heavy. It is a perfect summer (or anytime) read. The mystery isn’t the focus of the plot, but is always popping up as it colors the thoughts and actions of the main characters. This is not a cozy, but more of a women’s fiction with a vein of mystery running throughout.

Patti Callahan Henry is a New York Times bestselling author. This is the first book I’ve read of Ms. Henry’s but it will not be the last.

Copyright © 2017 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: The Garden of Small Beginnings – Like Gardens, Relationships Must Be Tended

The Garden of Small Beginnings

By Abbi Waxman

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from  Net Galley and the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Lili is many things, just like most women. She is a mother, sister, friend and an illustrator. But the identifying feature that overshadows everything is the quiet grief she carries with her due to the unexpected loss of her husband. Three years after the accident she is still grieving and little bit mad that he left her, even though she is a logical person and knows it isn’t his fault. She feels alone even when surrounded by people.

Her young daughters, Annabel and Clare, keep her going. She has to get up to get them ready for school and drag herself to work to pay the bills. Unfortunately, even though she loves being an illustrator, her job may be changing drastically or gone altogether very soon.  Like a lot of places in corporate America today, she may be the victim of downsizing and reorganization of the company no matter how talented she is.

Amid all the turmoil, she is called to her boss’ office who makes her an offer she can’t (or really dare not) refuse. She is given the task of illustrating a botanical book. Additionally, she has to attend a gardening class run by the head of the company that commissioned the book.

For moral support she makes her sister Rachel as well as both of her children to the class. The instructor is handsome, but not her type. No one is her type. The rest of the class members are quirky and lovable. The group would never have chosen to be together, but their friendships grew along with the gardens they were planting and tending.

I loved the way Abbi Waxman set up the chapters in this book. Each one starts with a gardening tip that very easily parallels Lili’s life. You must tend your garden as well as your relationships.  If you ignore either one, they may wither and die. And sometimes, no matter how well you tend either of them, something may happen to them, but eventually you need to move on.

It was interesting to see how Lili grew with each class, it wasn’t giant leaps of change in her personality, but subtle, gradual moments that allowed me to believe she was going to be okay after spending three years on autopilot drowning in her grief and guilt.

The Garden of Small Beginnings is Abbi Waxman’s debut novel. It is my hope that she is working right now on another fabulous work of women’s fiction right now. She has a voice that needs to be read.

Copyright © 2017 Laura Hartman

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