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: 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: The Silent Corner

BBCFD661-661A-40FD-BA56-4740AAB4D2BBTitle: The Silent Corner
Author: Dean Koontz
Publisher: Bantam
Publication Date: June 20, 2017
Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

From Bantam: “I very much need to be dead.” These are the chilling words left behind by a man who had everything to live for—but took his own life. In the aftermath, his widow, Jane Hawk, does what all her grief, fear, and fury demand: find the truth, no matter what.

People of talent and accomplishment, people admired and happy and sound of mind, have been committing suicide in surprising numbers. When Jane seeks to learn why, she becomes the most-wanted fugitive in America. Her powerful enemies are protecting a secret so important—so terrifying—that they will exterminate anyone in their way.

But all their power and viciousness may not be enough to stop a woman as clever as they are cold-blooded, as relentless as they are ruthless—and who is driven by a righteous rage they can never comprehend. Because it is born of love.

My Review: The first installment of Koontz’s brand new series, Jane Hawk, THE SILENT CORNER is a brilliant cross-genre book, labeled as fiction but ever so gently traverses soft science fiction. This book explores nanotech brain implants and living off the grid. If Dark Matter and The Manchurian Candidate gripped you then this book will consume you – The the storyline is that good!

At 434 pages this book is no small undertaking. It took me a week to read but it never felt arduous with short, insanely intense chapters. This book is a page-turner!

Jane Hawk is an intelligent, bad-ass heroine that dispels any narrowness in thinking women can’t be everything. THE SILENT CORNER is addictive, empowering and belongs on everyone’s reading list!

Book Review: Everywhere That Mary Went

B663143D-86FE-475A-A284-94067AA5A2FETitle: Everywhere That Mary Went
Author: Lisa Scottoline
Publisher: Harper Collins
Publication Date: November 1, 1993
Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️💫

EVERYWHERE THAT MARY WENT is Book 1 of the Rosato & Associates series. Mary DiNunzio is a lawyer at prestigious Stalling & Webb in Philadelphia. Her husband is killed in a freak accident and Mary copes by immersing herself in work and focusing on making partner. Then her secretary winds up dead. Coincidence? And someone is crank calling her every day when she gets to work and again when she gets home. These disturbing events the past year start to unhinge Mary and when she comes face to face with her stalker and how far he will go to have Mary she puts up the fight of her life.

What I liked:

  • Strong central female character
  • Legal thriller
  • Series
  • Murderous plot

What I didn’t like:

  • Slow plot in some spots, felt a bit dragged out
  • A little far fetched that Mary didn’t put the pieces together sooner

Overall: A good beginning to a new to me series. Scottoline’s plots are not edge of your seat type but what I call ‘gentle suspense’. Her writing is engaging and intelligent.

Book Review: Genuine Fraud

4D5A81DF-071A-4C42-9B9E-AAEC2533CAACTitle: Genuine Fraud
Author: E. Lockhart
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Publication Date: September 5, 2017
Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

From Delacorte: Imogen is a runaway heiress, an orphan, a cook, and a cheat.
Jule is a fighter, a social chameleon, and an athlete.
An intense friendship. A disappearance. A murder, or maybe two.
A bad romance, or maybe three.
Blunt objects, disguises, blood, and chocolate. The American dream, superheroes, spies, and villains.
A girl who refuses to give people what they want from her.
A girl who refuses to be the person she once was.

Thank you to PRHC for sending me this finished copy in exchange for my own review.

My Review: GENUINE FRAUD is an engrossing story told in reverse chronological order about a bizarre friendship of two orphans gone wrong. Immie was adopted by a wealthy couple, a globetrotter worth millions she cycles thru relationships. Jule, raised by her aunt, barely scrapes by and is a mastermind proud of her physical strength and street smarts.

Opening up at Chapter 18 Jule West Williams is living a first class lifestyle in a posh Cabo San Lucas hotel pretending to be her best friend Imogen Sokoloff.  A cop catches up with her and Jule pays the bartender to help her leave town. Outside of the confines of the hotel the bartender extorts more money from her and Jule physically assaults him and runs. From here the story is told in flashbacks spanning the past year of Jule and Immie’s friendship jetsetting across Martha’s Vineyard, Puerto Rico, New York, London, California and Mexico.

I can’t tell you anymore without spoiling the plot but I can tell you this book is twisty, gripping and a total thriller! I was left wide-eyed wondering ‘wtf’ just happened?!

What I Liked:

  • Twisted plot
  • Murder. And more murder.
  • Strong women.
  • World travel.
  • Living the high life and not having to work!

What I Didn’t Like:

  • The reverse chronological order was confusing at times.
  • This read more like new adult rather than YA.
  • Unlikeable characters – all of them.
  • Dim-witted cops – if I ever go missing I hope the intelligent ones are assigned my case!

Overall: GENUINE FRAUD is unique and really well written. Lockhart spares no detail in her richly developed characters and plot that packs a punch!

Book Review: Bellevue Square

A1090981-435B-41DD-8120-DBE40BCD0A75Title: Bellevue Square
Author: Michael Redhill
Publisher: Doubleday Canada
Publication Date: September 19, 2017
Rating: ⭐️⭐️💫

From Doubleday: Jean Mason has a doppelganger. She’s never seen her, but others swear they have. Apparently, her identical twin hangs out in Kensington Market, where she sometimes buys churros and drags an empty shopping cart down the streets, like she’s looking for something to put in it. Jean’s a grown woman with a husband and two kids, as well as a thriving bookstore in downtown Toronto, and she doesn’t rattle easily—not like she used to. But after two customers insist they’ve seen her double, Jean decides to investigate.

She begins at the crossroads of Kensington Market: a city park called Bellevue Square. Although she sees no one who looks like her, it only takes a few visits to the park for her to become obsessed with the possibility of encountering her twin in the flesh. With the aid of a small army of locals who hang around in the park, she expands her surveillance, making it known she’ll pay for information or sightings. A peculiar collection of drug addicts, scam artists, philanthropists, philosophers and vagrants—the regulars of Bellevue Square—are eager to contribute to Jean’s investigation. But when some of them start disappearing, she fears her alleged double has a sinister agenda. Unless Jean stops her, she and everyone she cares about will face a fate much stranger than death.

Thank you to PRH Canada for this free arc in exchange for my honest review.

My Review: What would you do if you learned you had a doppelgänger, everyone has seen her but you and she may be on a murderous rampage? In BELLEVUE SQUARE Jean Mason has just seen her twin, Ingrid Fox at a possible murder scene of her friend, Katerina. Katerina was tasked with getting Ingrid to meet Jean at the Bellevue Square park. Jean’s husband is sceptical of all her time spent chasing down Ingrid and thinks she is reverting back to needing mental intervention and medicating again.

A bizarre plot twist leaves Jean hospitalized under the care of a psychiatrist. She is diagnosed with autoscopy and undergoes surgery, medicating and observation. The story sort of lost me from this point on and the ending felt strangely unfinished.

Bellevue Square is short listed for the Giller Prize. This is my first Redhill book and while I enjoyed his writing – he has a penchant for literary fiction, unfortunately this book is not for me. I never connected with the plot and characters and struggled to get through it.