Tag Archives: mystery

The Girl Who Was Taken, by Charlie Donlea

25 May
the girl who was taken charlie donlea

FIVE of Five Stars

Charlie Donlea has done it again, and now deserves to have his name out as one of the top thriller/suspense/mystery writers out there.

In only his second thriller, Donlea again drops us immediately into the middle of the action, and takes us through a roller coaster ride of likely suspects and red herrings. We go back and forth in time from before the “taking” and then to the present as Megan struggles to understand what happened to her, and Livia searches for her sister… or her sister’s body.

I loved Donlea’s first book, Summit Lake, because it gave a plethora of suspects but I was never able to clearly know Who-Done-It. In that book there were several people who had a clear motive to kill, and though I had guessed the correct person, I also guessed several other people, and we are never sure until the last moment who the real killer is.

That’s the fun of mystery/thrillers, right? You get a good scare, and then you see if you’re smarter than everyone else in the book. It’s always a letdown if you guess the killer right off, or (worse) if the killer is someone it would have been impossible to figure out at all. In Summit Lake Donlea presented person after person who could have done it, and he was masterful at drawing us in and giving red herrings that made sense. The mystery was intricate and it was enjoyable trying to solve.

In this book Donlea does it again. But now we have an even creepier story because we’re not necessarily looking for people with motives, but possibly a madman who could be anyone at all. Once again I did guess the real bad guy (along with many others), and even though this time the person was actually in my top 3 suspects, there was no way in the world to be sure until the very end. We are also treated to several strong female characters, and for the few who are unlikable we are given a psychological basis and history for the actions, along with some redemption. I did not see any simple stereotypes in this book.

At the end we do have some wrap up, and we do get answers, but do we get a happy ending? This may be one of the most realistic thrillers I’ve read, as finding a killer doesn’t really end the suffering of the victims and their friends and families. Donlea is starkly realistic and DARK about the survivors and the likelihood of being a survivor. There may be some closure for a few people, but there will still be a lot of difficult darkness ahead for most.

Many thanks to Kensington Publishing for asking me to be a part of their book blog tour, and thanks to Charlie Donlea for the wonderful book. He is an amazing author and has upped his game with this second book. I cannot wait for the third to arrive.

Buy The Girl Who was Taken.

Buy Summit Lake

Visit Kensington Publishing.


The Woman in Cabin 10, by Ruth Ware

2 Mar

3 of 5 stars

I’m not going to gush over this book, but I’m not going to hate on it either. It was fine. I listened to the audio version, and that made it a little difficult to follow all the characters, but overall it was narrated well and I don’t think it had an impact on my review.

But I didn’t love it. I don’t think it really falls into the “Mystery” genre, it was more in the Thriller category. “Gaslit woman terrorized on tiny cruiseship” is basically the plot. I did not like the intermittent sections of news that told what was happening on land at all. It was so bizarrely off from what was happening on board that I thought maybe this was supposed to be a sci-fi book and the ship had cruised into an alternate dimension. But no, it was just a bunch of stuff thrown in to throw you off, way way way off, so off that you don’t have the slightest clue what’s going on, much less understand the mystery.

Well, I guess that veered into “hate on it” territory. I didn’t hate the book. I enjoyed it while I was waiting for it to start making sense. But the problem is that the last third, once you’ve finally figured out what has actually been happening, really doesn’t make any sense – not any logical, realistic sense. And I just didn’t buy anything that was happening in the last few days of Lo’s time on board.

On the plus side…. I understand what the author was going for, which is a great murder mystery surrounded by the extra-legal situation of international waters. I think she had a great idea, and she does come close to a very Agatha Christie type story. She just doesn’t quite get there.

Well if you want a fairly easy read, with a lot of mystery and excitement, or want a modern-day Agatha Christie but don’t care a whole lot about logic and sense, then you might enjoy this. That sounds sort of sarcastic, but it’s not. Sometimes you need a Mission Impossible or a Bourne Identity, and sometimes you need a Woman in Cabin 10.

Let me give it a GIANT thumbs up for one thing: Titling it The WOMAN in Cabin 10, and not The Girl. Thank you Thank you Thank you for that.

The Perfect Stranger, by Megan Miranda

24 Feb

FIVE stars of Five

Five stars all around.
This book had me completely on edge the entire ride.

The narrator is borderline unreliable; you are never quite sure if she’s telling us the truth, lying to herself, or outright crazy. She does have some boundary issues, some of which I related to, but the reader can’t be sure if they cross a line or exactly which line they cross. Megan Miranda does an excellent job of throwing in clues here and there to keep us off kilter.

But reliable or not (I’m not spoiling the answer!), the narrator is a very intelligent woman. I loved her. To the outside world she may have had some issues, and she’s disappointed herself, but that does nothing to take away the very quick way her mind works.

I’ve seen some reviews state that the narrative isn’t perfect, and while that may technically be true, Miranda accomplishes so much more than your average author does in a mystery book like this. This story is intricate, in the very best way, and I felt Miranda did a genius job putting it all together, just as she did in her previous book All the Missing Girls.

I don’t believe it’s a spoiler to state that nothing much is what it seems here, and that Miranda really shows how any narrator can be unreliable because you are seeing the story solely through their interpretation of events. But what if a reliable narrator tells you a story based on misinterpreted events?

All the Missing Girls was incredible and made me a huge fan of Megan Miranda, now The Perfect Stranger has sealed that deal. I cannot wait for her next book.

Thank you to NetGalley and Simon & Schuster for allowing me an advance copy for review.

The Dispatcher, by John Scalzi

14 Jan


I would have loved this if there were any sort of explanation for the entire premise of the book. I will even go along with an explanation that uses big scientific words I don’t understand. Or simply claim “Magic!”

But there was no explanation for what was happening, unless I missed it (it is on Audible, so it’s *possible* I missed something), and so there’s no way I can give this more than 2 stars.

Narrated quite well by Zachary Quinto.

Safe With Me, by K.L. Slater

3 Nov

FOUR of Five stars

I loved this book, but let’s get one thing out of the way. I don’t really like the cover. It’s really not your average female-victim thriller, and it’s even a bit humorous at times (or maybe that’s just me). But this cover doesn’t make the book stand out in the way that it should.

The story is told mostly through Anna’s voice, after she views a road accident caused by a woman she believes is also responsible for the death of her brother. But it quickly becomes apparent that Anna is a very unreliable narrator, much in the realm of You‘s Joe Goldberg, and possibly just as bonkers. And just like Joe, Anna is often charming in her delusions of love.

But further into the book you realize Anna isn’t the only one with issues of psychology and/or outright deceit. Every single character in this book is hiding who they are in one way or another. And as all the layers are peeled away and we realize who is really who and what is exactly happening, the book becomes more and more difficult to put down.

The last ten percent however, falls a bit apart. It pains me to say that because I absolutely loved the other 90%, and it’s possible that others don’t have a problem with the ending. But for me the end was a little rushed, some logic was dropped, and some corners and character details were cut. It was not an unsatisfactory ending at all though, I just think the intense web of lies that the author created might have required a bit more time for her to arrange in a neater manner.

This is K.L. Slater’s first book, and while I felt the end lacked just a bit of organization, I 100% LOVED the rest, and absolutely look forward to what she puts out in the future. I am definitely a new fan!

Thanks to NetGalley for providing an early copy in exchange for a fair review.

Siracusa, by Delia Ephron

26 Aug
siracusa delia ephron

Five of Five stars

I pretty much loved this book, though I’m not going to lie, I wasn’t happy with the ending. In fact, I almost took off a star for it. However, I need to also admit that I’ve operated on very little sleep while reading this book, and finished it very late last night, so it’s entirely possible I just missed appreciating something in my haze. Regardless, not enjoying the last couple of pages doesn’t take away from the hundreds of pages that I absolutely loved.

I’ve been reading a lot of thrillers recently, and I like thrillers, but most are not great literature. Neither is this book, but the writing is still on a much higher level. I fell in love right away, it was a relief reading the stories of these four main characters and getting to know them in a way you don’t in an average thriller. However, though there is a sort of mystery/thriller aspect to the story, it’s much more like just a great piece of fiction.

The book reminds me of The Dinner, where you have two couples getting together (on vacation here) telling a story, and you know something has already happened, and it was a bad something, but you don’t know what. You have to just sit along for the story until you find out. Like The Dinner, these four characters are somewhat unlikable and very self-absorbed. Unlike The Dinner, this story is told alternately from all four points of view, and it is really fun reading the different view points, and noting the slight differences in stories, and wondering who was lying, who was exaggerating, and at what point the truth merged.

There are four very different people here, and though they may be unlikable, I found them fascinating – and not entirely bad. I especially loved the woman who was so obsessed with her young daughter that she did not really know a thing about her. I thought the growth, changes and disintegration of the marriages was told well and accurately. Sadly, it was the young daughter who has the most interesting side of the story, but we don’t get to hear her version. But that’s what brings the spookiness and utter creepiness to the story.

I highly recommend this book. I usually like to clear my brain of intense literature with a bit of fluff now and then. In this case I was clearing all the fluff out of my brain with the great story telling in this book.

So much thanks to NetGalley for the advance copy in exchange for a review.

The Couple Next Door, by Shari Lapena

16 Aug
the couple next door shari lapeno

FIVE of Five Stars

So excellent!!

This book is like an amazing onion. Every page pulls back another layer and you don’t get to the core until the very end. Some layers expose mental illness, some show characters with their backs up against the wall, some layers have really bad decisions that spiral out of control, and you’re never quite sure who the real sociopath is.

Early on there is a kidnapping, and it’s not hard to figure out who the kidnapper is. That person is revealed early on, so the non-surprise is not a big deal. However the problems in the lives of these characters go far beyond the missing child, and every page turned, every layer peeled away, exposes another motive, another question, and another clue.

The narration jumps from character to character, and like an Agatha Christie novel, each character seems to be guilty of something. But WHAT? Is it possible that everyone is involved somehow in this kidnapping? No, it is not, but there are very few innocent people here.

I read this in 2 sittings. The drama never stops and the story is a constant flow, so it’s almost impossible to not read Just One More Paragraph.

I could take off half a star for a somewhat abrupt ending. Once we figure out the final evil character the book is pretty much over (except for one last, final event) and that evil character is dealt with without much excitement. But the other 99% was so great, I really can’t take off anything. It was a really enjoyable ride and I’m so happy that Netgalley gave me the chance to review an early copy.

One more really minor issue I had: What the hell ever happened to [Graham]??? We go deep into every other character, but this one disappears quickly and we never hear another word. This really is a flaw, as EVERY other character is dealt with thoroughly. But again – this fun ride is good enough that I’m just going to forget it.