Book Review: A Fatal Grace

EFA28756-F551-4215-A7CC-7E08CED6222ETitle: A Fatal Grace
Author: Louise Penny
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Publication Date: February 15, 2011

From Minotaur: Welcome to winter in Three Pines, a picturesque village in Quebec, where the villagers are preparing for a traditional country Christmas, and someone is preparing for murder.
No one liked CC de Poitiers. Not her quiet husband, not her spineless lover, not her pathetic daughter—and certainly none of the residents of Three Pines. CC de Poitiers managed to alienate everyone, right up until the moment of her death.
When Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, of the Sûreté du Quebec, is called to investigate, he quickly realizes he’s dealing with someone quite extraordinary. CC de Poitiers was electrocuted in the middle of a frozen lake, in front of the entire village, as she watched the annual curling tournament. And yet no one saw anything. Who could have been insane enough to try such a macabre method of murder—or brilliant enough to succeed?
With his trademark compassion and courage, Gamache digs beneath the idyllic surface of village life to find the dangerous secrets long buried there. For a Quebec winter is not only staggeringly beautiful but deadly, and the people of Three Pines know better than to reveal too much of themselves. But other dangers are becoming clear to Gamache. As a bitter wind blows into the village, something even more chilling is coming for Gamache himself.

My Review: I fell in love with the remote village of Three Pines during Still Life, Louise Penny’s first novel in the Inspector Gamache Series and I’m so glad to be back in this second instalment, A Fatal Grace. Three pines is a charming community full of the most eccentric characters you will meet. For all their quirks they are a warm and loyal bunch. And what’s not to love about Inspector Gamache? His stoicism, compassion, and courage command your respect and his endearing wife, Reine-Marie are the perfect pair – a lovely couple you wish you knew in real life.

Inspector Gamache and his team return to Three Pines investigating the peculiar murder of unlikable CC de Poitiers. An impossibly unpleasant woman who intimidated her husband and belittled her obese daughter, CC was electrocuted on a frozen pond in front of the townspeople but no one noticed because they were too busy watching the Christmas curling tournament.

Penny has a penchant for keeping me guessing to the end and coming back for more.  Another superbly written gentle mystery, this series grows by leaps and bounds with every new instalment.

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Book Review: The Power of the Dog

9781400096930Title: The Power of the Dog
Author: Don Winslow
Publisher: Knopf
Publication Date: May 1, 2005

From Knopf: The prequel to The Cartel, and set about 10 years earlier, The Power of the Dog introduces a brilliant cast of characters. Art Keller is an obsessive DEA agent. The Barrera brothers are heirs to a drug empire. Nora Hayden is a jaded teenager who becomes a high-class hooker. Father Parada is a powerful and incorruptible Catholic priest. Callan is an Irish kid from Hell’s kitchen who grows up to be a merciless hit man. And they are all trapped in the world of the Mexican drug Federación. From the streets of New York City to Mexico City and Tijuana to the jungles of Central America, this is the war on drugs like you’ve never seen it.

My Review: The Power of the Dog spans three decades, a handful of government agencies and several borders to give you powerful insight into the Mexican drug Federación and War on Drugs. Although the book is fiction the narrative is fact-based, therefore gripping and all-consuming. Any American who has followed politics and the news the past 30 years will find this book evocative.

The Power of the Dog’s plot is complex and the characters equally elaborate, a testament to Winslow’s years of research enabling him to compose this narcos-charged masterpiece.  This story is not for the faint of heart. It’s appalling, graphic, violent and spares no detail. But that’s how the Federación operates. Pay close attention because the cast is extensive and their betrayal unrestrained.

I listened to the audiobook version narrated by Ray Porter.  His narration is brilliant – the pronunciation, intonation, inflection, and delivery were on the money. I highly recommend giving this one a listen if you can stomach the details and keep the characters straight. Winslow is releasing the third book, currently untitled, in 2018 and I will be reading it!

Book Review: The Force

y648Title: The Force
Author: Don Winslow
Publisher: William Morrow
Publication Date: June 20, 2017

From William Morrow: All Denny Malone wants is to be a good cop.
He is “the King of Manhattan North,” a highly decorated NYPD detective sergeant and the real leader of “Da Force.” Malone and his crew are the smartest, the toughest, the quickest, the bravest, and the baddest, an elite special unit given unrestricted authority to wage war on gangs, drugs and guns. Every day and every night for the eighteen years he’s spent on the Job, Malone has served on the front lines, witnessing the hurt, the dead, the victims, the perps. He’s done whatever it takes to serve and protect in a city built by ambition and corruption, where no one is clean—including Malone himself.

What only a few know is that Denny Malone is dirty: he and his partners have stolen millions of dollars in drugs and cash in the wake of the biggest heroin bust in the city’s history. Now Malone is caught in a trap and being squeezed by the Feds, and he must walk the thin line between betraying his brothers and partners, the Job, his family, and the woman he loves, trying to survive, body and soul, while the city teeters on the brink of a racial conflagration that could destroy them all.

My Review: The New York Police Department – Corruption. Drugs. Gangs. Riots. Tension. If this sounds like a cliche, it’s not. This book is about the elite Manhattan North Special Task Force also known as ‘Da Force’ and ‘The Kings’ that run it – Malone, Russo, Montague, Levin, and O’Neill. These guys go after the drugs and guns, they keep some of the drugs for themselves and pad their nest eggs with the money. So long as the right people get their kickbacks nobody says anything because corruption breeds corruption.

Sergeant Denny Malone is your stereotypical NYPD detective; descended from an Irish hero cop on the verge of divorcing his Irish wife, he wears tattoo sleeves and drinks Jameson whisky. His girlfriend is a mess, often high and can’t get clean. Denny’s the king of kings – revered by the department and feared on the streets. At his core he’s true to himself, his family, his brother cops, The Job, and his city but years working the drug task force have beat him down and blurred the lines between right and wrong, loyalty and betrayal, morality and immorality.

The story opens with Denny locked up in a federal correctional facility followed by a singular event that will torment him to the last page and serve as his fall from grace. Everything else is about how Denny got to this place. At 400+ pages the first half is a slow burn rich in the essentials and nuances of the force – the drug deals, snitches, mandatory bowling nights, the comped dinners and visits to high end brothels. There’s a certain cache that comes with being on the task force but it comes at a high price.  The guys are on the front line which is risky business and take the emotional brunt often leading to drug use to get thru the days. The second half is mind-blowing as Denny spirals out of control taking the whole system down with him.

Winslow masters two things: he illustrates evocative images, characters, and lingo right down to the New York accent and creates an edgy connection where you normally would never go.  Yes, I sidled up to Malone and had a love / hate relationship with a dirty cop! I plunged into uncharted territory and I liked it. Maybe that’s why The Force reads like a true story even though it’s fiction.

Put this one at the top of your reading list. You won’t be disappointed.

Book Review: Into the Black Nowhere

80D6C469-4943-4E6D-BB40-36DD48309C58Title: Into the Black Nowhere
Author: Meg Gardiner
Publisher: Dutton
Publication Date: January 30, 2018

From Dutton: In southern Texas, on Saturday nights, women are disappearing. One vanishes from a movie theater. Another is ripped from her car at a stoplight. Another vanishes from her home while checking on her baby. Rookie FBI agent Caitlin Hendrix, newly assigned to the FBI’s elite Behavioral Analysis Unit, fears that a serial killer is roaming the dark roads outside Austin.

Caitlin and the FBI’s serial crime unit discover the first victim’s body in the woods. She’s laid out in a bloodstained, white baby-doll nightgown. A second victim in a white nightie lies deeper in the forest’s darkness. Both bodies are surrounded by Polaroid photos, stuck in the earth like headstones. Each photo pictures a woman in a white negligee, wrists slashed, suicide-style–posed like Snow White awaiting her prince’s kiss.

To track the UNSUB, Caitlin must get inside his mind. How is he selecting these women? Working with a legendary FBI profiler, Caitlin searches for a homology–that elusive point where character and action come together. She profiles a confident, meticulous killer who convinces his victims to lower their guard until he can overpower and take them in plain sight. He then reduces them to objects in a twisted fantasy–dolls for him to possess, control, and ultimately destroy. Caitlin’s profile leads the FBI to focus on one man: a charismatic, successful professional who easily gains people’s trust. But with only circumstantial evidence linking him to the murders, the police allow him to escape. As Saturday night approaches, Caitlin and the FBI enter a desperate game of cat and mouse, racing to capture the cunning predator before he claims more victims.

Netgalley and the publisher provided me an advanced readers copy in exchange for my honest review.

My Review: I am a true crime buff. My high school psychology teacher was an eccentric woman with a lending library and some books were about high profile serial killers. I was terrified and consumed at the same time and I could not stop reading about high profile cases. And now more than twenty years later I’ve been reconnected with the likes of high profile deviant masterminds, The Zodiac Killer and Ted Bundy thanks to Meg Gardiner’s Unsub Series.

INTO THE BLACK NOWHERE is a fictional tie-in to serial killer, Ted Bundy, who went on a murderous rampage killing upwards of 30 women during the 1970’s. He was educated, intelligent, good looking, and charming making it easy for women to fall prey. Set in modern day Texas and spanning across the desert Southwest up to the Pacific Northwest, Kyle Detrick is calm, cool, confident and leaves a trail of bodies in his wake. His weakness is blondes with a cheerleaders physique – he can’t help himself so he stalks them and they disappear into the black nowhere.

This book has incredible plot twists that left me spooked to the core! Gardiner injects you into the mind of a serial killer so you know his thought process, how he preys on his victims and how he plans his next kill. She knows her stuff when writing about the criminal investigative side of things and expertly ties up the critical details into a nice, neat package that packs a powerful punch.

Few things scare me but the Unsub Series are so well crafted you will need to keep the lights on and maybe even someone in the room with you while reading these books – they are thrilling and all consuming.

Book Review: Still Life

IMG_0179Title: Still Life
Author: Louise Penny
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Publication Date: July 17, 2006
Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ / 5

From Minotaur: Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Surêté du Québec and his team of investigators are called in to the scene of a suspicious death in a rural village south of Montreal. Jane Neal, a local fixture in the tiny hamlet of Three Pines, just north of the U.S. border, has been found dead in the woods. The locals are certain it’s a tragic hunting accident and nothing more, but Gamache smells something foul in these remote woods, and is soon certain that Jane Neal died at the hands of someone much more sinister than a careless bowhunter.

My Review: I fell in love with the quaint and charming Québécois village of Three Pines, the picturesque setting of STILL LIFE. Three Pines is the kind of place you stumble upon accidentally and never want to leave. It’s an artistic community filled with eccentric folks who have known each other their whole lives and no one locks their doors at night and everyone counts on one another.

This tiny community is rocked to its core when longtime resident Jane Neal turns up dead Thanksgiving morning murdered. The townspeople want to believe Jane’s death is a hunting accident but according to Gamache this is no accident and he must confront the killer before another resident of Three Pines suffers a similar fate.

What you won’t get from STILL LIFE is a mystery leaving you on the edge of your seat. Penny pens a literary and sophisticated mystery with a narrative that sucks you into Three Pines quirkiness. And Inspector Gamache is every bit gallant, a highly respected member of the Surete du Quebec, a noble man who is amorous of his wife Reine-Marie.

STILL LIFE is the beautiful start to a series that I look forward to continuing and further getting to know the idiosyncracies of Three Pines!

 

August Book Wrap-Up

IMG_0843Hi, Book Friends! It’s the end of August and the end of summer. I read 10 books the month of August and don’t know if it’s because I had that much more free time or neglected some responsibilities, or both! And, all of these books with the exception of one were 4 or 5-star reviews – woohoo!

MRS. FLETCHER – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
I adored Mrs. Fletcher. It’s a literary, coming-of-age story journeying thru personal growth, respect and acceptance.
P.S. I STILL LOVE YOU – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Han’s narrative is adorable and upbeat making this an engaging and enjoyable story.
THE GODDESSES – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
I was sucked in from the get go because I can relate to Nancy’s need to find her purpose in a new place as a stay at home mom, which isn’t always easy.
YOUNG JANE YOUNG – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
My connection to Rachel, Aviva and Ruby was palpable and I felt it in my heart and my gut. This is a story about three generations of Jewish women you will fall in love with.
MIDNIGHT AT THE BRIGHT IDEAS BOOKSTORE – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
A bookstore mystery flanked by eccentric characters and a twisty plot – readers rejoice!
DEAD WOMAN WALKING – ⭐️⭐️⭐️
A story about a hot air balloon ride gone dangerously wrong when the passengers witness a cold blooded murder in the act on the ground below them.
LAB GIRL – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
A scientific, biographical memoir depicting the author’s personal journey becoming a woman in science filled to the brim with passion, drive, emotion and rawness.
MY ABSOLUTE DARLING – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
My first reaction to Turtle is to hug her and tell her everything will be okay and to let her be a kid.
THE FUTURES – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Brilliantly weaves together a story about first careers, young love and the financial crisis of 2008.
THINGS THAT HAPPENED BEFORE THE EARTHQUAKE – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
A story about an Italian immigrant family moving to LA to strike it rich in commercials in the early 1990’s. The themes are funny, disturbing, moving but most of all spot on. (Book Review coming soon)

Book Review: Throw Away Girls

Adobe Photoshop PDFTitle: Throw Away Girls (The Jaycee Wilder Series #1)
Author: Jennifer Vaughn
Publisher: Waldorf Publishing
Format: Digital ARC
Verdict: Read it!
Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️💫 / 5

From Waldorf: Hard-charging, insightful, and ambitious, Jaycee Wilder wants to take her TV news career to the next level. The Los Angeles reporter is hungry for the big story. When dead girls begin to pile up at seedy nightclubs that cater to whimsical, fetish-seeking strangers, Jaycee suspects a serial killer is at work. She aligns herself with an east coast cop trying to resurrect himself- and his once stellar career- from a drunken skid.

The killer lives a normal life during the day, while hunting the Throw Away Girls at night, punishing them for their dark urges. He leaves messages behind in his victims’ blood, his explanation for enacting such brutal, twisted justice upon the unworthy. He watches the media coverage. He knows the wily reporter is chasing him. As Jaycee follows her gut, and the evidence, she forces him to act. But when a killer is clever and cunning, he can infiltrate anywhere. Jaycee must utilize all her skills to expose him before he gets to her first.

My Review: THROW AWAY GIRLS is highly addictive, suspenseful and frightening! If you love serial killer thrillers then this book is for you. This is the first book in the new Jaycee Wilder Series and Jennifer Vaughn draws from her first hand experience as a television news anchor to brilliantly craft Jaycee’s character as a tenacious and sharp newscaster in LA. Jaycee is such a likeable character adored by her hot, actor boyfriend Van and news team colleagues. She forges a trusting relationship with Detective Barton who feeds her inside information about the killings. Jaycee’s compassion and empathy for the throw away girls and their families really make her shine as a human being.

The book is told mostly from Jaycee’s point of view but I so appreciated hearing from the victim’s perspective. I also love a strong, competent female lead. Vaughn’s writing is easy to digest, engaging and page turning.

Vaughn nailed the plot – it’s dark, cringe-worthy and gory and stands up every bit to well read authors of this genre. I was sucked into the story from the get-go with a brutal murder scene in process – so creepy but so good! I wish the killer reveal came later in the story but Vaughn kept the suspense tight right up to the end. I can’t wait to pick up the newest installment, Legacy Girls.

Thank you to Waldorf Publishing and Netgalley for providing me this ARC in exchange for my own review.