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Book Review: For Sissy – Fast as Lightning and Just as Brilliant

For Sissy

By A. H. Gilbert

Emerson is paying for the sins of his father. In hindsight, he made the mistake of his life by leaving his research work on invasive insects and coming to work for his father at the resort he was building. It seemed like the logical choice after his grant ran out and he discovered he is the father of six year old Courtney whom he met recently. Her mother was killed by a hit and run driver so now he has custody. But the worse turn of events was finding out his father used shoddy building materials, might have murdered someone and bilked others without Emerson’s knowledge. Since his father is gone, Emerson is now facing charges that may put him away for a long time even though he had no knowledge of his father’s crimes.

Just when Emerson assumes life cannot get any more complicated, the police have started questioning him in the recent attacks on young women. They seem to be connected to him so he is the logical suspect in their eyes. But there is a serial killer on the loose and he is hunting for Courtney, Emerson’s daughter. Courtney doesn’t fit his profile, but she is the only one that can identify him as the man she has had nightmares about since her mother’s death. Can Emerson stay out of jail long enough to keep her safe? Will the police listen to him when he thinks he has a stalker?

For Sissy is paced as fast as lightning and just as brilliant. The story picks up momentum like and approaching storm rumbling in the distance and doesn’t stop until it unleashes its fury. The page turning tension makes this a must read for all psychological thriller buffs. The story is solid, dropping clues like breadcrumbs for the reader to follow, ending with a shocking surprise at the end that I did not see coming.

I love everything about this book. The characters are multi-dimensional and believable, from the chilling calculations of the killer to the little girl. The bit players such as Emerson’s girlfriend and the police officers add richness and depth to the story. It kept me up late reading one more chapter to see what was going to happen next.

The is the first book I’ve read by A. H. Gilbert, but the second one he has written. I have already put his previous book, The Crandall Haunting at the top of my list of must read books.

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

Copyright © 2019 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: Under a Dark Sky – Everyone Has Secrets – Some of Them are Deadly

Under a Dark Sky

By Lori Rader-Day

When Eden Wallace finds out her late husband had a reservation for their tenth year anniversary at Straits Point International Dark Sky Park, conflicting emotions boil inside her. Leaving Chicago to travel to a place where the night was king was not something she wanted to do. Since Bix died, she could not be in a dark room and venturing outside after dusk was physically impossible for the young widow.

Out of a sense of duty, like the military wife she had been, she decides to spend the week her husband mysteriously planned for them before his death. Upon her road weary arrival, she finds another couple in the house Bix reserved. That is when they all find out that the house has been rented to Eden as well as six strangers, who were college friends, for the next week. With night drawing near, Eden cannot drive back to Chicago, but plans to leave first thing in the morning. Unfortunately, one of the seven occupants in the house is murdered that night, most likely at the hand of one of the remaining six.

As the outsider, Eden is immediately under suspicion. The local police begin questioning her and each of the friends. They are not under arrest but must remain together in the house until things are sorted out. When tragedy strikes again, the tenuous link between all of them begins to crumble and secrets come to light.

Under the Dark Sky has everything a reader needs and more. The characters are engaging and realistic. I loved the way bits of the characters’ back stories are parceled out to the reader. The timing is perfect and just like meeting someone new, you only know what that character wants to share with you until they begin to open up. Everyone has secrets, some of them deadly. And last, but certainly not least, the setting is absolutely perfect. Not only the home that the seven main characters are thrust into sharing, but the Dark Sky Park itself plays a major role in the mystery.

This is the first book I have read by author Lori Rader-Day, but is the fourth one she has written. Under the Dark Sky is deservedly nominated for several awards. I highly recommend this book and would give more than five stars for this page turning mystery if that were possible. As the characters tell us in the book, there are an infinite number of stars in the sky. This author has earned them.

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

Copyright © 2019 Laura Hartman

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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 Ghost Photographer – Cosmic Journey of Self Discovery

The Ghost Photographer A Hollywood Executive Discovers the Real World of Make-Believe

By Julie Riuger

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

The Ghost Photographer takes the reader along on Julie Rieger’s cosmic course of self-discovery. Her journey of is not always an easy choice, but she jumps in with both feet willing to take the ride wherever it takes her. But her newly found psychic powers allow her to be at peace with herself and others. Isn’t that about all anyone can ask for?

Julie is often bawdy, funny and willing to share both the good and bad parts of her life with her readers. She explores the reason for her grief, but realizes grief comes to others in different forms that are just as devastating as the loss of her mother was to her. She knows she needs to dig deeper to figure out the person she will be now that she is really on her own for the first time in her life.

Her journey begins when she discovers pictures of ghosts in photographs she has taken. (The pictures are included at the end of the book for you to decide for yourself). She works to develop her psychic gifts with close friends who have clairvoyant abilities. She also references famous people who were prophetic, second-sighted and/or were precognitive. They include Mark Twain, Abraham Lincoln and Winston Churchill to name a few.

The thing that may surprise readers about Julie is her reliance on religion throughout her journey. She repeats how often she uses the power of prayer to protect herself and others from evil spirits. It should not surprise us that good and evil go hand in hand, and protecting yourself with a higher power is often necessary when delving into the unknown. There are a few things that might give you goose bumps. The chapter about “Old Scratch”, whom the Bible says is a stand in for the devil, is pretty creepy.

This is a very interesting, funny and thought provoking book. It is fast to read and full of things that you may or may not believe could ever happen. If so, take it at face value for your entertainment. That is okay, it is Julie’s journey to document and share. If you are a fan of Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert or Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Sheryl Strayed you need to read this book. Journey and self-discovery comes to different people in different ways, each of them unique and interesting to read about.

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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: Little Broken Things – Memorable Characters, Compelling Plot

Little Broken Things

By Nicole Baart

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from Netgalley, Killer Nashville and Atria Books in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Little Broken Things begins with Nora Sanford cutting and dying the hair of a child she obviously loves, but is not hers. There is a sense of danger and impending disaster if she doesn’t change the little girl’s appearance and move her to a safe place before the unknown disaster befalls both of them.

Nora whisks her off and dumps her unceremoniously at her sister Quinn’s home. Without a clue as to who the child is, or why Nora drops her off without any explanation, Quinn is angry at her sister but fearful because Nora begged her not to let the child out of her sight. And more importantly, she was not to let anyone know the child was there. That is more than difficult because Quinn’s artist husband is living in the house with her. Her domineering mother, Liz, owns the house and lives right across the lake from them in the home that Nora, Quinn and their brother JJ grew up in. How can she keep a five year old secret in this little town of gossips? As the plot swirls around the little girl, with eminent danger closing in, there are no straight answers about her or her parents available to those who were given the impossible task of keeping her safe.

Nora has brought this to her family’s doorstep, but this is not the only secret her family has been pretending isn’t there. On the outside they were a solid, happy family but even as young children, the three Sandford kids knew how to keep secrets. Such as the happy family life they portrayed was often far from it. Even after the recent death of her husband, Liz followed the Sandford “rules” put in place by her domineering husband that often affected her children even though they are grown. They must find a way to work together to save this child no matter who she really is, even if it goes against everything they have been taught to do.

Baart brings so many elements in to bring her characters to life I felt as though I knew each of them. There were several things that brought them together. Art plays a huge but subtle part in the storyline. Motherhood also plays a huge role in Little Broken Things.

I really enjoyed Little Broken Things. It is smart, suspenseful, heartbreaking and written so well I was holding my breath praying for the safety of the little girl at the heart of the mystery. When an author can make me care that much for the characters she has created I know she will deeply touch the hearts of all of her readers. This is the first book I have read by Nicole Baart, but it will not be the last.

Copyright © 2017 Laura Hartman

 

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Book Review: Blood Wedding – Superb Psychological Thriller

Blood Wedding

By Pierre LeMaitre (translated from French by Frank Wynne)

Sophie is a woman in conflict. At the very least she is mentally unstable, but she is quite possibly a murderer. Somehow she goes from being a happily married career woman to a fugitive in the blink of an eye and she cannot understand how the whole thing happened to her.

It starts with little things. Missing items, forgetting to do small errands, lost birthday gifts that turn up months later. These lead up to horrible mistakes at work. Soon Sophie begins to lose more than everyday items; she is also missing parts of her day. She finds herself in places and situations and doesn’t have a clue as to how or why she is there. Her husband is losing his patience and she is sure she has lost her mind.

Each slip of memory chips a sliver of her psyche away until she doesn’t know who she is anymore. It isn’t hard to disappear and reinvent herself when it became necessary, she does what she has to do.  What is hard is finding a new husband whose name she can take to solidify her new persona. But she has always known somewhere inside herself there is a strong, smart woman behind the façade she has built to hide behind. But is there enough of that woman left to save her?

Enter Frantz, the shy military man Sophie meets through a dating service. Frantz wants to help Sophie and she is so exhausted all of the time she is relieved to find someone she can trust to take care of her. Even if she doesn’t really love him, she needs him. He just might be her ticket out of the crazy life hers has become – or is she jumping from the frying pan into the fire by making a pact with the devil himself?

A catalyst, unbeknown and barely associated to Sophie, sets off a series of life changing events. The scariest thing is that any or all of the things that happen to her could happen to anyone if they are in the wrong place at the right time. It is terrifying to realize how easily Sophie’s life turned upside down and out of control.

If you look up Suspenseful Thriller Blood Wedding should be at the top of the list. I could not turn the pages fast enough to see what happened next. The plot is so solid I could not find an unanswered question.

The supporting characters have depth and are memorable without overshadowing but always important to the story.  Their interaction with the main characters enhanced and advanced the plot. The main characters are fully developed, multi-dimensional and seem to jump off the page to grab the reader’s attention. Sophie pulls you into her descent into madness, from which I fervently hoped she would be able to claw her way back to the person she used to be.

Nothing or no one is what or who they seem to be as the plot swirls around Sophie and Frantz. LeMaitre expertly grabs the reader, dragging you into the depth of Sophie’s despair and into the plotting mind of Frantz. Then he takes you on a roller coaster ride through a house of mirrors at breakneck speed, making you question the ideas you had when you met Sophie and Frantz. This adventure is one that readers live for. You will not be disappointed.

From the first page to the last the suspense never stops. I love this book. The lightning fast pace, perfect plot and characters that are unerringly realistic are reminiscent of a Hitchcock movie. Each page helps build the tension until the momentum explodes in the final chapters. The ending is satisfying, with no loose ends begging for explanation, which is perfection.

Pierre LeMaitre is an acclaimed, award winning author and screenwriter. His books are written in French, but many have been translated to English. Blood Wedding is the first novel I’ve read by LeMaitre, but it will not be the last.

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

 

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