Categories
Mysteries Science Fiction

SPSFC2 Quarterfinalist Review: The Diamond Device by M.H. Thaung

The At Boundary’s Edge team has narrowed our original allocation down from 28 books to 7 “Quarterfinalists”, all of which we are now reading in full and scoring out of 10 points. The top three books will move forward as semifinalists.  As always, this is my own review and reflects only my own individual opinion and score, not that of the team


Welcome to my third “quarterfinalist” review here! Let’s take a quick look at the book first, then I’ll share my thoughts!

Bookish Quick Facts:
  • Title: The Diamond Device
  • Series: N/A
  • Author: M.H. Thaung
  • Release: Self published, 2020
  • Length: 270 pages
  • Rating: Scoring 5.5/10 for SPSFC
Here’s the synopsis via Am*zon:

After diamond power promises to replace steam, an unemployed labourer and a thieving noble unite to foil an international plot and avert a war.

Alf Wilson resents the new technology that cost him his factory job, especially as his clockwork leg bars him from army enrolment. He daren’t confess his unemployment to his overbearing mother. Desperate over the rent, he ends up in a detention cell with a hangover.

Impoverished Lord Richard Hayes maintains his expensive parliamentary seat by a mixture of charm and burglary. During a poorly planned break-in, he inadvertently witnesses a kidnapping. To cap it all, the police arrest him for the crime. At least he’s using a fake identity. The real criminals make off with not just the professor who discovered diamond power, but her plans for a diamond-fuelled bomb.

When Rich encounters Alf in the neighbouring cell, he sees an opportunity to keep his noble reputation intact. He persuades Alf he’s a secret agent who needs an assistant. This chance association will take them to the oddest locations. But law-abiding Alf’s first assignment? Break Rich out of jail.

My thoughts:

First and foremost in my mind is that The Diamond Device is a shorter, fast paced read that is exceptionally light on sci-fi for what I was expecting to read here.  It’s a variation on steam punk where diamonds are newly used as a power source, but there’s no indication on how it works including from the character trying to assemble a device or from the scientist who created it.  Anyway, we decided it’s close enough, so genre questions did not affect my score.

Overall I enjoyed the read through. The pacing was steady, with bursts of action tempered by fairly low consequences in most cases. The writing is solid, flowing, and easily digestible. It just all felt more like a cozy British mystery to me than sci-fi, complete with blundering policemen and over the top shenanigans.

The characters are likeable, a lord and a laborer.  Watching them try to mix their worlds and work together was the most entertaining part for me, especially so once a hilariously temperamental cop was thrown into the mix.  That said, the character’s reactions to major events felt so muted that I almost wondered if the author wasn’t targeting a young adult audience, although no indication of this is given.

Science or lack of it aside, I think Thaung managed to cram an amazing amount of world building into the pages too.  We see all about how the classes live, the airships, what they eat, how they comport themselves, and political relations.

Overall, I think it was a fun and inoffensive book full of shenanigans.  If you like light steampunk you might want to check out The Diamond Device!


Thanks for checking out my review of The Diamond Device. A free e-copy was provided for judging purposes and as always, all opinions are my own ♥️

Categories
Fiction Literary Fiction Mysteries

The Kingdoms of Savannah by George Dawes Green (ARC & Book Club thoughts)

Hi all, here’s one of my last reviews of the year coming at you from a frozen, absolutely snowed in Christmas Eve somewhere in Western NY.

Ahhh, so that’s why reading balmy southern Gothic seemed so appealing right now.

My lovely partner Celadon Books sent me an ARC of The Kingdoms of Savannah and included their lovely book club packet for the novel.  Seeing as the ARC came in September (the book was released in July) and was unsolicited, I intended to read it this year but didn’t quite prioritize it.

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Anyway, let’s see the read and then I’ll share some thoughts


Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: The Kingdoms of Savannah
  • Author: George Dawes Green
  • Publisher & Release: Celadon Books, July 2022
  • Length: 304 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐for those who like mysteries and literary fiction steeped in history

Here’s the synopsis from Am*zon:

Savannah may appear to be “some town out of a fable,” with its vine flowers, turreted mansions, and ghost tours that romanticize the city’s history. But look deeper and you’ll uncover secrets, past and present, that tell a more sinister tale. It’s the story at the heart of George Dawes Green’s chilling new novel, The Kingdoms of Savannah.

It begins quietly on a balmy Southern night as some locals gather at Bo Peep’s, one of the town’s favorite watering holes. Within an hour, however, a man will be murdered and his companion will be “disappeared.” An unlikely detective, Morgana Musgrove, doyenne of Savannah society, is called upon to unravel the mystery of these crimes. Morgana is an imperious, demanding, and conniving woman, whose four grown children are weary of her schemes. But one by one she inveigles them into helping with her investigation, and soon the family uncovers some terrifying truths―truths that will rock Savannah’s power structure to its core.

Moving from the homeless encampments that ring the city to the stately homes of Savannah’s elite, Green’s novel brilliantly depicts the underbelly of a city with a dark history and the strangely mesmerizing dysfunction of a complex family


My thoughts:

So I know there is a lot of literature based in and around Savannah, which is a city in Georgia famous for ghost tours and it’s complicated southern history.  I liked reading the author’s historical and personal notes as he drew much of the book from either personal experiences or those of his friends, and from real events.  The result was a strong feeling of authenticity in setting and environment that sucked me into the story.

The balmy days, the rain, the locales, the iced tea and alcohol, the old ladies from old money maneuvering for social position… I kind of likened the reading experience to something that Wilbur Smith would put out, except maybe a little less exciting. I would love to see that author collaboration though *wink wink*

Ok back to Kingdoms – the mystery was exciting enough, except I thought that it went from zero to solved WAY too quickly and easily.  One minute they had a few leads, and the next Morgana had solved it?  I kind of followed her train of thought but I needed something more linking points A to Z.

As far as the characters… I liked them.  I think Green did a good job with their personalities and interactions and showing how the family tended to ebb and flow in their relationships with each other.  Read that as – the book nails southern Gothic. Is it bad that my favorite character was probably Gracie the dog though?  Ha, no for real though I liked the cast of family, friends, and all the homeless people, there were again just soooo many names.  My last and final thought is to mention that huge open ending! I won’t speculate for want of being spoiler free but I definitely wonder. If anyone wants to chat about it, I’m here for you 😅

Overall, this one was super readable. It was 100% a Celadon book: literary and atmospheric.  There were only 5 chapters though, very long, more like parts of the book that were divided into separate mini sections.  It made the read feel slower. The pacing was a little difficult but I was never bored while reading and did enjoy all the history and culture of Savannah.  The book club materials were awesome too – I’m not in a book club but I liked the map, further history, author interview, drink recipes, and all the discussion questions seemed well curated.

Definitely recommend for fans of family drama, southern literary fiction, mysteries.


Thanks for checking out my arc /  book review of The Kingdoms of Savannah by George Dawes Green! I was sent a free early copy in exchange for an honest review, and as always all opinions are my own ♥️

Categories
Mysteries Suspense

Misfire by Tammy Euliano

I’m starting my few remaining ARC posts with an apology to the publishers & authors who trusted me with their books. My turn around time is just unacceptable. I’ve been doing what I can to increase blog and Twitter exposure after the loss of my main platform, and still I can’t even promise the views that you guys deserve.

That said, Misfire by Tammy Euliano is one of those books that was affected the most by my loss of platform and this book deserves all the exposure it can get! I hope my nurse reader friends will check this one out as well as everyone else!

So without further rambling, let’s take a look at this exciting medical mystery


Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Misfire
  • Series: The Kate Downey Medical Mystery Series #2
  • Author: Tammy Euliano
  • Publisher & Release: Oceanview Publishing (January 3rd, 2023)
  • Length: 376 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ for fans of medical mysteries

Here’s the synopsis:

A device that can save a life is also one that can end it

Kadence, a new type of implanted defibrillator, misfires in a patient visiting University Hospital for a routine medical procedure—causing the heart rhythm problem it’s meant to correct. Dr. Kate Downey, an experienced anesthesiologist, resuscitates the patient, but she grows concerned for a loved one who recently received the same device—her beloved Great-Aunt Irm.

When a second device misfires, Kate turns to Nikki Yarborough, her friend and Aunt Irm’s cardiologist. Though Nikki helps protect Kate’s aunt, she is prevented from alerting other patients by the corporate greed of her department chairman. As the inventor of the device and part owner of MDI, the company he formed to commercialize it, he claims that the device misfires are due to a soon-to-be-corrected software bug. Kate learns his claim is false.

The misfires continue as Christian O’Donnell, a friend and lawyer, comes to town to facilitate the sale of MDI. Kate and Nikki are drawn into a race to find the source of the malfunctions, but threats to Nikki and a mysterious murder complicate their progress. Are the seemingly random shocks misfires, or are they attacks?

A jaw-dropping twist causes her to rethink everything she once thought she knew, but Kate will stop at nothing to protect her aunt and the other patients whose life-saving devices could turn on them at any moment

Categories
audiobooks Mysteries Paranormal Suspense

The Outsider by Stephen King (Audiobook Review)

I think it’s a fair goal to continue to read one Steven King book every month until I’m sick of it. The good news here is that every book I read just causes me to crave more 😅

Additionally helpful towards this goal is the fact that Will Patton narrates a considerable number of Stephen King’s books and he is by far my favorite audiobook narrator of all time.

I think the first question that readers looking at The Outsider should consider is: Do I have to read the Bill Hodges trilogy first? Do I want to? It’s a bit of a commitment but I do believe that meeting Holly Gibney prior and having some familiarity with that series will greatly enhance enjoyment of The Outsider, as it did for me. That said though, you could absolutely read this one alone and only miss a few references. (Plus Will Patton also narrates those books so you could take that route 😅)


Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: The Outsider
  • Series: Holly Gibney #1
  • Author: Stephen King
  • Publisher & Release: Scribner, 2018
  • Length: 576 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ not for the fainthearted

Here’s the synopsis:

An eleven-year-old boy’s violated corpse is discovered in a town park. Eyewitnesses and fingerprints point unmistakably to one of Flint City’s most popular citizens—Terry Maitland, Little League coach, English teacher, husband, and father of two girls. Detective Ralph Anderson, whose son Maitland once coached, orders a quick and very public arrest. Maitland has an alibi, but Anderson and the district attorney soon have DNA evidence to go with the fingerprints and witnesses. Their case seems ironclad.

As the investigation expands and horrifying details begin to emerge, King’s story kicks into high gear, generating strong tension and almost unbearable suspense. Terry Maitland seems like a nice guy, but is he wearing another face? When the answer comes, it will shock you as only Stephen King can.

As a quick note on the audiobook: offered by Simon & Shuster Audio, narrated by Will Patton at almost 19 hours and worth every second. 


Alright this one starts out as a straightforward enough crime novel, and then takes a rather jarring turn for the supernatural once Holly gets involved.  I think though that since this is something I’ve come to expect from Stephen King, the supernatural transition worked for me and was neither a shock nor a jar as I’ve seen some people writing in their reviews.

As you can tell from the first sentence of the synopsis, if any kind of child brutality bothers you definitely do not read this one. I don’t think I would recommend it as someone’s first Stephen King book either, but I have no problem saying you could start with the Bill Hodges Trilogy and then work into it.

I almost always love the majority of King’s characters.  Ralph is enjoyable both as a detective and a person, especially towards the end when he is willing to suspend disbelief to help Holly the most.  He’s a real hero! My other favorite character was Yune Sablo, although I’m not sure if I would have liked him as much without Will Patton lending his voice.  Yune served as a bridge between all of the other factions and was one of the first to throw some legitimacy into the supernatural line of thought. That and he was just funny.

After the events of End of Watch I wondered how Holly was going to hold up, and thankfully she seems to be doing well. Quirky and whip smart as ever.  I like watching her manage her issues and relate to others in her own way, and it’s undeniable that she’s as brave and prepared for action as anyone on the force.

While the book was brutal and a little bit hard to read at times, I appreciated The Outsider because the action never let up and there was always something to be interested in.  At least in the first half of the book too it was fun to play detective and try to figure out how the heck the crime had occurred. I like the themes of the supernatural versus the terrible things that criminals do in everyday life, and how different really is our understanding of these things? Holly had some excellent insights too into the nature of the paranormal and humanity’s potential reaction to the possibility.

Overall, I would definitely recommend this one if you are a fan of Kings writing or a fan of crime/paranormal detective thrillers.  I’ll certainly continue to seek out other books along this line that he’s written.

(P.s. no, I have not seen the TV series yet but I am 100% interested in it, especially since Stephen King liked it, so maybe I’ll try to track that down this winter!)


Thanks for checking out my book review & audiobook review of The Outsider by Stephen King! 

Categories
Fiction Horror Mysteries Science Fiction

Struggling Through Another Classic: Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson

You voted and I am delivering! One of my final GrimDarkTober reads is also my last 2022 edition of “Struggling Through the Classics”

Every season, I let you all vote on which classic I will read and then drop some thoughts on it! Earlier in the year I suffered through Notre Dame de Paris (The Hunchback of Notre Dame), then it was The Scarlet Letter, and now you all let me off the  hook fairly easily with Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde!

Let me ask you all a question first – tell me in the comments, phonetically, how you pronounce Jekyll? Don’t look it up, just tell me how you read it in your head.  I never would have guessed JEE-kill, I was a JECK-ull person, but now I know that everyone says it differently. So, go tell me yours!

I guess what I didn’t remember or realize about this book is that it’s essentially a long short story.  I’d say novella but it’s really, really short.  For a “book” that has multiple full length movies and book retellings, how was it so short!

One thing that you all should never do, is quote me on anything, but since this was written in 1886 I’m pretty sure it came out prior to (or at the same time) that Freud was doing the whole three-parts-of-the-human-psyche thing, which to me makes the *idea* of Jekyll & Hyde pretty interesting.

In reality though, Stevenson managed to make Gothic London boring as hell because the book read like a legal brief.  I enjoyed the first chapter because I liked how he described the characters, and the last chapter because we got all the answers, and in between it just was a bunch of confusing stuffy old doctors and lawyers trying to piece a rather odd mystery together.

Don’t get me wrong, it was blessedly short and not a bad read at all but it seemed like a lot of leadup to a biiiig reveal/info dump that was presented in more or less the form of a legal brief.

Ahem.  Well. Onto the next one after the new year, I’ll put the next poll up sometime in December 🤣

A GoodReads Synopsis:

‘All human beings, as we meet them, are commingled out of good and evil: and Edward Hyde, alone in the ranks of mankind, was pure evil’

Published as a shilling shocker, Robert Louis Stevenson’s dark psychological fantasy gave birth to the idea of the split personality. The story of respectable Dr Jekyll’s strange association with damnable young man Edward Hyde; the hunt through fog-bound London for a killer; and the final revelation of Hyde’s true identity is a chilling exploration of humanity’s basest capacity for evil.

Categories
Fiction Mysteries

Book Tour & Review ~ Who Me? Fog Bows, Fraud and Aphrodite by Charlotte Stuart

From grimdark to cozy mystery, what the heck will I post next 🤣

Thanks so much to Kate Rock Book Tours for having me on the tour for this surprisingly fun cozy mystery! I chose to read it because I love CATS! and Macavity sounded like quite a character. How can I not read something with a snarky orange cat in it?

Note: it is #2 in a series but reads as a standalone

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Who, Me? Fog Bows, Fraud and Aphrodite
  • Series: Macavity and Me #2
  • Author: Charlotte Stuart
  • Publisher & Release: Seale Publishing, June 2021
  • Length: 236 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐✨ Yes for fans of cozy mysteries and cats

Here’s the synopsis:

From the open porthole on her sailboat, Bryn Baczek overhears a heated argument on a nearby boat followed by a loud splash . . .then silence. 

Bryn lives on a sailboat in a small marina with her cantankerous cat, Macavity, and a series of short-lived goldfish. While seeking evidence to prove a neighbor innocent of murder, she ends up being threatened by the victim’s abusive boyfriend, betrayed by a close friend, and almost bored to death by an uncooperative accountant.

Although Bryn shares what she learns with a charming detective whose manicured mustache she finds off-putting, she is one step ahead of the police in identifying the murderer . . . a step that puts her in a dangerous face-to-face confrontation.

Who, Me? Fog Bows, Fraud and Aphrodite is currently a finalist in the Chanticleer Mystery and Mayhem contest. It also won a Firebird Book Award for humor and is an Author Shout Recommended Read and a 5 Star Readers Favorite.

I laugh every time I read the synopsis. Short lived goldfish and a cantankerous cat just about sums it up, plus a disappearing woman and all of Bryn’s shenanigans.

I don’t usually enjoy cozy mysteries but Bryn was not a complete idiot like most main characters in these books.  She worked along with the police without obstructing the detective, used her resources well, and actually managed to solve the case without bringing too much harm to herself or anyone else!

The mystery itself got a bit convoluted for me at the end although it was fun watching the characters follow the paper trail.  I missed how the perpetrator knew … Uhhmmm…. Things.  I think a seasoned mystery reader may have guessed the murderer but I had Nooooo idea who it was.

Despite the fact that I can’t follow the details of a murder plot, the characters totally carried the book.  It took some time to learn about Bryn and her friends/family and it was a good crew.  I loved Logan and Judd who were hilarious and may or may not love cats.  My favorite part besides Macavity and the string of goldfish is how Bryn is portrayed as a single, happy, self sufficient 30 something who is alone but not lonely.  Parents don’t get it! I can relate!

Overall: I would read Stuart’s other books for sure, I can’t wait to see more of Bryn’s adventures when I need a break from heavier reading. Definitely recommend this for cozy mystery fans who like strong main characters and need a few good laughs!

Categories
Fiction Mysteries Suspense

The Comfort of Distance by Ryburn Dobbs (Book Thoughts)

I was invited to read The Comfort of Distance by Ryburn Dobbs and am leaving a voluntary review. My devices struggle with the PDF format so I ended up finding the book on Kindle Unlimited and read the edition provided there. **See disclaimer at the end**

This book spans a few genres. It is more about forensic anthropology and detective work than it is a police procedural, with some mystery and suspense elements too.  The characters alluded to but didn’t say “Bones”. Check this one out if you like Bones, with a socially awkward and overly introspective anthropologist that reminded me a lot of Detective Monk in many ways.

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: The Comfort of Distance
  • Series: The Sebastien Grey Novels – #1
  • Author: Ryburn Dobbs
  • Publisher & Release: Dandiprat Press, October, 2020
  • Length: 276 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐✨ for fans of the genre

Here’s the summary from Am*zon:

Someone, or some thing, is leaving bodies in the Black Hills.

Forensic science meets literary fiction in this captivating police procedural. Deep in the forests of the Black Hills, human remains are being discovered – one bit at a time. Rumors of a rogue man-eating mountain lion are spreading through the county and panic is starting to swell. Sgt. Hank LeGris of the Custer County Sheriff’s Office is feeling the pressure; he needs to find out who the dead are, and how they got that way. Hank suspects that the bodies are the result of a more sinister predator. But in order to solve the mystery, he will have to reach back into his own dysfunctional family history and pull in the only person who can get to the bottom of these strange cases – his estranged and disordered brother, the brilliant forensic anthropologist Dr. Sebastien Grey.

When Sebastien arrives in the Black Hills, he takes his brother, and Detective Tiffany Reese, on a whirlwind tour of forensic thinking and deductive reasoning, not only solving the mystery of the human remains, but the murder of a local thug as well. In the process, Sebastien himself is forever transformed by his own success and by the charm and kindness of the lovely Detective Reese: “One day I hope you give yourself permission to be different, Sebastien. You’ll be happier.”

The Comfort of Distance is equal parts forensic mystery, police procedure and character study, with dashes of comedy and romance thrown in. Readers will be cheering at the end and ready for more

The prologue and initial scenes definitely had me interested in The Comfort of Distance.  Someone is brutalized and left for dead, and shortly after we meet the main cast of characters.

When the book introduced Sebastien Grey as a disordered person in therapy, I honestly rolled my eyes because so many detective novels take that route to show them getting their career back on track. Thankfully Dobbs took a different route and simply used that introduction to, well, introduce the character and his quirks.

The book quickly redeemed itself with interesting detective work, good characters, and multiple plotlines to keep things fresh and moving forward.

Grey turned into an interesting character that it is easy to root for.  I feel like he snapped right out of a lot of his problems (taking prescriptions inappropriately, etc) pretty quickly while on the case, which showed that his brain maybe just needed a little occupation than it was getting in California? I’m not sure what to make of Dr Grey’s character arc but he definitely ended up in a good place and I was happy for him.

I’m kind of wondering if Sebastien wasn’t slightly based off the fashion designer by the same name.

The other characters are likeable too, with good dialogue and banter and teamwork.  There is some family drama between the brothers which I hope gets more exposure in future novels.  One character had a lot of antipathy towards Sebastien at first that seemed to magically resolve, and I needed more background into the whole family conflict.

Also there were a ton of names and different storylines thrown out in the first few chapters.  Most of them came together well by the end but I thought there were a few loose ends too.  My last gripe is that the KU version did have a few – as in probably fewer than one per chapter – editorial issues, which did not detract too much.

The setting was well described in terms of weather, terrain, local mood and atmosphere, but I had a hard time pinning down the mood of the entire book.  I had Monk in my mind and read the book through a lighter, slightly more humorous lens than a serious detective novel or police procedural. That said, I think the book shined the most when Sebastien was doing his forensic magic.  It was interesting and showed that he really does have a great mind in there.

I haven’t gotten to do a OneReadingNurse medical disclaimer© in a while, but I would like to point out that Buspar \ buspirone and similarly Wellbutrin \ buproprion are long acting medications and have absolutely no indication or supportive data for as needed use. Please use these medications as prescribed by a physician.

Anyway, overall, I didn’t LOVE this book but definitely want to read the next one to see how Sebastien fares moving forward! I would recommend this for fans of forensic and detective novels like the Temperance Brennan and Eve Duncan series!


**Disclaimer: I do not normally take review requests for books that are available on KU. My normal policy for KU available books is, if interested, to mark them as want-to-read and then check it out IF/WHEN time allows. I missed this and it happens

Categories
Fiction Mysteries

The Lost by Jeffrey B. Burton (Book Review)

Thank you endlessly to Minotaur Books for sending over another great read this spring!  I feel terrible because it came out back at the end of June. The book was received in exchange for an honest review and as always, all opinions are my own!

When I finally got into my lovely finished copy of The Lost, I found it to be a quick, engaging K9 mystery with some thrilling aspects as well. This is #3 in the series but totally reads as a standalone. 

The K9 mystery genre is one that I’ve really been getting into with the Search and Rescue books, Rookie K9 unit, and anything by David Rosenfelt, so if you like lighter, funnier mysteries and K9 detectives definitely check this one out!

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: The Lost
  • Series: Mace Reid K9 Mystery, #3
  • Author: Jeffrey B Burton
  • Publisher & Release: Minotaur Books, June 2922
  • Length: 288 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ for a quick and fun mystery read

Synopsis:

The Lost is the next mystery from author Jeffrey B. Burton starring an extraordinary cadaver dog and her handler.

Glencoe, Illinois: A home invasion turned kidnapping at the mansion of billionaire financier Kenneth J. Druckman brings Mason “Mace” Reid and his cadaver dog, Vira, to this wealthy northern suburb of Chicago. Druckman was assaulted, left behind while his wife and young daughter were taken for ransom.

Brought to the scene by the FBI, Reid specializes in human remains detection, and Vira is the star of his pack of cadaver dogs he’s dubbed The Finders. After Vira finds the dead body of the mother, former supermodel Calley Kurtz, everyone is on high alert to find Druckman’s missing daughter before the five-year-old disappears forever. But the trail Vira finds on the property’s dense woodlands leads right back to Druckman himself.

With the help of Detective Kippy Gimm, Reid and Vira must race against the clock. Nothing is as it appears to be . . . and the red herrings could be lethal.

First off, I definitely liked this one as a standalone.  I had no trouble meeting the characters and understanding what was happening, although I am definitely 100% adding the first two books to my TBR to meet the dogs more in depth.

This is a relatively short mystery with shorter chapters too so it’s a very quick read, perfect for the summer!

The characters are funny and kind but also talented as heck.  I liked seeing a lot of Vira the golden retriever’s tricks and abilities, especially her capacity to recognize feelings and stand in as a therapy dog.  Then she can turn around, find a body, nail a bad guy – Vira is an all around pro.  I would have liked to see more of the actual dog training though I imagine it featured in prior books.

There’s plenty of action too. The plot is decent, it’s a little heavier than the average mystery and while it is labelled as a “cozy animal mystery” on Amazon, I didn’t recognize the cozy element as much.  Mace is an amateur sleuth but his dogs know their business, and he was extremely observant.  His cop girlfriend/partner did good work too and seems kind & intelligent as well as bad ass.

Where the book lost a star with me was the format of the reveal – like the book started with an unknown bad guy, then the plot and mystery developed – right in the middle, the answer was revealed – then the last half dropped the mystery and turned into a thriller, featuring the characters trying to locate a kidnapping victim and dodge various curve balls including the Russian Mafia and a crazy rich person.

My only gripe is that giving the answer away in the middle took a bit out of the second half for me since I was expecting red herrings and mystery and had to adjust my expectations. I also wish the events at the start of the book tied into the rest a little more, finding some resolution for that crime. Maybe the next book?

Overall – I liked this one. It was thrilling, interesting, funny at times, and the dogs were great. Everything that a K9 detective mystery should be!

 

Categories
Mysteries Suspense Thrillers

Locust Lane by Stephen Amidon (ARC Review)

Thank you so much to Celadon Books for my super early copy of Locust Lane by Stephen Amidon!  This is the first time I’ve been sent a first round survey ARC so that’s super exciting.  Book received for free in exchange for an honest review and early feedback.

I’m not sure about the etiquette for extremely early reviews but I think it’s better to just post it now while I’m still thinking about the book and help to put it on people’s winter radar.

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Locust Lane
  • Author: Stephen Amidon
  • Publisher & Release: Celadon Books, 01/17/23
  • Length: 320 pages
  • Rate & Recommend:  ⭐⭐⭐⭐ for fans of domestic suspense, mystery

Here’s the synopsis from GoodReads:

For fans of Mystic River by Dennis Lehane and Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng, Stephen Amidon’s Locust Lane is a taut and utterly propulsive story about the search for justice and the fault lines of power and influence in a seemingly idyllic town. Can anyone be trusted?

On the surface, Emerson, Massachusetts, is just like any other affluent New England suburb. But when a young woman is found dead in the nicest part of town, the powerful neighbors close ranks to keep their families safe. In this searing novel, Eden Perry’s death kicks off an investigation into the three teenagers who were partying with her that night, each a suspect. Hannah, a sweet girl with an unstable history. Jack, the popular kid with a mean streak. Christopher, an outsider desperate to fit in. Their parents, each with motivations of their own, only complicate the picture: they will do anything to protect their children, even at the others’ expense.

With a brilliantly woven, intricately crafted plot that gathers momentum on every page, this is superb storytelling told in terse prose—a dynamic read that is both intensely gripping and deeply affecting.

I am constantly impressed with the books coming out of Celadon.  Regardless of the genre they tend to be on the literary side and very well around. It’s a bit difficult to classify this novel but it’s a mystery and it’s suspenseful and there’s a lot of small community he-said-she-said in the process of finding justice for the murder victim.

Locust Lane is told from the alternating viewpoints of I believe five different people in the community. It was a bit difficult to keep the storyline and voices straight at first which is the main reason why I docked a star.  The characters are explored more deeply than I usually find in thrillers, which serves to show how the people from different backgrounds fit into the wealthy and privileged area.

When the girl is found murdered, the detectives immediately zero in on the teen who is a foreigner. We watch the wealthy and powerful members of the community band together to cover up the indiscretions of the other teens while the mother of the victim and a less than credible witness go about trying to expose the actual murderer.

It was interesting to watch the details come out.  Woven throughout the murder mystery are themes of disturbed youth, alcoholism, grief, coping with various upbringings, tough parenting challenges, wealth and power. A big part of it is seeing how different characters handle similar challenges such as the loss of a child or being reliant on someone else’s money.

And of course the mystery itself – this is a compulsive read and I was definitely never bored reading it. I picked the wrong suspect for the crime but that’s nothing new. I would definitely recommend this one for people who like mystery and suspense and exploring different character backgrounds.

Locust Lane is out in January, keep it on your radar!

Categories
audiobooks Mysteries Suspense Thrillers

Before I Go To Sleep (Book Thoughts) by S.J. Watson

Before I Go to Sleep by SJ Watson is a slightly older (2011) psychological thriller & suspense novel.  It is probably the book that kicked off the more recent popularity of the ‘amnesia trope’ as I have seen many books peg themselves as ‘for fans of…’ this one.

Between that and the fact that I wanted to watch the movie, I bumped this one up on my backlist!

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Before I Go To Sleep
  • Author: SJ Watson
  • Publisher & Release: HarperCollins, June 2011
  • Length: 368 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ by nature slightly repetitive, but still a good domestic psychological suspense

Here is the synopsis via GoodReads:.

Christine wakes up every morning in an unfamiliar bed with an unfamiliar man. She looks in the mirror and sees an unfamiliar, middle-aged face. And every morning, the man she has woken up with must explain that he is Ben, he is her husband, she is forty-seven years old, and a terrible accident two decades earlier decimated her ability to form new memories.

Every day, Christine must begin again the reconstruction of her past. And the closer she gets to the truth, the more unbelievable it seems.

Christine wakes up every day and has no idea about … Anything. Where is she? Who is this stranger in het bed? Why is she 47 now?

Every day, her husband reorients her and then heads odd to work.  She is contacted by, and then begins to work with a new doctor, in secret, and starts writing down daily events and what her husband tells her.  Things get even weirder when she realizes the strange man – her husband apparently – lies to her.

The game for the reader becomes trying to decide if Ben is lying because he is sick of living day in day out with an amnesiac?  Are the memories of losing a son too painful for him? Is Christine just paranoid? Or… Is it something more sinister.  Also, where does this new Dr – Dr. Nash – fit into everything?

While the book is by nature very repetitive at first, it got definitively creepy and more thrilling towards the end. I guessed the ‘who’ but not the ‘why’ at all, and the WHY is definitely the grabbing point.  The last 25% was very exciting and for me that made up for the slower start.

The psychology was pretty cool too, I enjoyed reading about different types of amnesia and the therapy, and then seeing the figurative walls coming down.

That ending though, that ending 😂

I would recommend this one for fans of domestic thrillers and a man writing hilarious descriptions of a weiner. Oh yes – after the third time a penis was described as “comical”, I had to butt out and see if the author was a man or woman.  Not to say that as a woman, I don’t tend to find penises comical – but this was definitely a man writing the sexy scenes 😂

A note on the audio: If anyone is an audio fan, I think Orlagh Cassidy was a properly confused and then horrified sounding narrator.  Christine spent most of her time either confused, scared, hopeful or hopeless, and Cassidy conveyed that all very well.  I loved her accent and also think that the audio would make this book more enjoyable for those who (like me) tend to lose focus with repetitive text.  It runs 11hours 32 minutes from HarperAudio and I obtained my copy through Libby!