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Little Girls Sleeping: an absolutely gripping crime thriller
by Jennifer Chase
My general philosophy is “I don’t read thrillers, especially psychological thrillers.” They just hold too much impact for me. I read an online review, however, that led me to believe that perhaps I should make an exception for Little Girls Sleeping, the first in a new series by Jennifer Chase. As I started reading this thriller, I wondered if I had made a mistake as the story involves the disappearance of young girls and gives some insight into the twisted mind of the perpetrator. Soon, however, the tale expands into the story of returning veteran Katie Scott and Cisco, her K9 military companion.
A former police officer, Katie is taking some time to decide her next career move when she comes across a cold case file on her uncle’s desk. For Katie, the case is personal because it brings up memories of a childhood friend at camp who was murdered. The rest of the book tracks Katie’s pursuit of the truth and is part thriller, part mystery, and part police procedural. If you are drawn to K9 stories you will certainly enjoy this one as Cisco plays a major role.
Katie, who suffers from PTSD, is a strong and determined young woman. Her character is likable, and readers will look forward to watching her develop in future books in this series. She has support from a childhood friend, Chad, and from her uncle, Sheriff Scott. The plot line is engaging. At about 60% through the book, I had figured out who the evil “Toymaker” is—but I was wrong, and at about 80%, the true murderer is revealed. At that point, however, the action just gets more intense. I’m glad I read this page turner, and I am happy to report no nightmares as a result.
I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Bookouture for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Category: Mystery and Thriller
Notes: 1. If you are interested in the review that inspired my choosing this book, visit blogger/reviewer Shalini.
2. #1 in the Detective Katie Scott Series
Publication: May 31, 2019—Bookouture
The detective didn’t scare her. She had encountered some real tyrants in the army, from sergeants to training officers, so Templeton was like a yapping little dog to her—fierce, but only annoying at best.
Anxiety was a stealthy and unpredictable enemy.
She rubbed her hands together and let the happy memories flood her mind—at least for a short period. Sometimes it was difficult for her to let the positive things into her life. Her experiences had skewed her perception so that everything seemed on the verge of catastrophe. It was as if she had blocked out anything good in her life.
Some Choose Darkness
by Charlie Donlea
I am very conflicted as I finish Charlie Donlea’s Some Choose Darkness. The reason? It turned out to be more of a thriller than I had anticipated. This reader’s taste leans towards Agatha Christie and cozy mysteries. I cut my teeth on Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys. I avoid thrillers because they stir me up too much. I chose to read Some Choose Darkness because I had read a book by Donlea previously and enjoyed it. Somehow I did not expect an intense work of fiction about a serial killer. The problem is that although in some ways I didn’t enjoy reading it, I felt compelled to finish the tale, to make all of the pieces fit together. Donlea has masterfully crafted a thriller with so many layers and connections that rapid page turning is a necessity. Add to the plot not one, but two characters with autism and obsessive/compulsive disorder and this retired teacher is all over it.
I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Kensington Books for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Category: Mystery and Thriller
Publication: May 28, 2019—Kensington Books
With Lane’s reputation as a forensic psychologist and criminal profiler for the FBI’s Behavioral Science Unit, and Rory’s credentials as a reconstructionist who pieced together the very findings the algorithm looked for, they made the perfect team. Police departments listened to their conclusions, and many had started using Lane’s software to track homicides on their own.
Like a tuning fork that has been tapped, the vibration from the mystery surrounding the woman was at once barely audible but yet impossible to ignore.
Rory’s greatest gift was her ability to piece together cold cases, to pore over the facts and discover things other investigators missed until a picture of the crime—and sometimes the perpetrator—became clear in her mind. Her understanding of a killer’s thinking and motive came from examining the carnage he left behind.
Thunder of Heaven
by Ted Dekker
In reading Ted Dekker’s Thunder of Heaven, I deviated somewhat from the types of books I usually read. My thirteen year old granddaughter recommended this Christian thriller, and I wanted to gain insight into her reading preferences. Having said that, I should clarify that Thunder of Heaven is not written for the younger reader; it is an adult novel without the inclusion of sex or vulgar language. I do not normally read thrillers; but, although suspenseful, this is not the kind of psychological thriller which will keep me up for nights to come.
Shannon and Tanya have grown up in the jungles of Venezuela where Shannon’s parents are coffee farmers and Tanya’s parents are missionaries. Their blooming romance and happy lives are interrupted by horrific events in this action packed story that focuses on good versus evil, the sacrifices of love, and God’s bigger plan.
I had some confusion with the identity of the characters, but it eventually surfaces that the confusion is intentional and is resolved in the end. The plot is strong and intricate. The Venezuela jungle setting is interesting, well depicted, and perfect for the tale Dekker weaves.
Thunder of Heaven deals with some of the bigger spiritual questions. Can God use evil for good? Can a person become possessed by satanic powers? Can a Christian have a vision from God? What is the ultimate sacrifice? The exploration of these topics is not simplistic and is woven throughout the book coming to a head in the resolution of the conflict.
I am new to Dekker’s work, but Dekker is not new to suspense aficionados. A best-selling author, he has written over thirty books which have been translated into multiple languages. Two of his works have been made into films. His chosen genres for his storytelling are thriller and suspense, fantasy and speculative, and historical fiction. I’m looking forward to reading more novels by this author.
Category: Thriller, Christian Fiction
Notes: Thunder of Heaven is book 3 of the Heaven Trilogy, but as the publisher says, “Each is a stand alone story that in no way depends on the other.”
Publication: August 28, 2005—Thomas Nelson
“If your life made too much sense to you, you might forget about God altogether. It is man’s most prolific sin—to be full of himself. But your tormenting has left you soft, like a sponge for his words. It’s your greatest blessing.”
“We see only the terrible tragedy; he sees more. He sees the ultimate glory.”
Abdullah was no one to play with. His heart was the color of his eyes, Yuri thought. Black.
Father…dear God, I’m lost down here. Forgive me. I’m lost and lonely and confused. I hate this man and I hate that I hate him. And I don’t even know if that’s possible! What are you doing? What is your purpose here?
by Margaret Mizushima
The action starts in Burning Ridge in the first chapter where readers also get filled in on the series background and meet some of the characters. From a rough and tumble bar fight, this novel moves on to a bright and sunny horseback ride for Cole, the local veterinarian, and his daughters in the Colorado mountains. The family ride turns dark and the mystery begins.
Margaret Mizushima has written a K-9 police procedural. No cozy mystery, this work of fiction looks at an evil-plotting mind plagued by excesses of greed. Main characters Deputy Mattie Cobb and her K-9 partner Robo find themselves in danger as she tries to solve a horrific crime that turns personal. Many are involved in finding the murderer, and there are a variety of suspects. Get ready for a surprise ending. In the process of the investigation, Mattie discovers parts of her past that she never knew as well as secrets buried deep in her psyche. She learns to accept help and to expand her ideas of what constitutes a family.
Burning Ridge is a page turner as are the other books in this fast moving series. It contains lots of information about K-9 officers shared in a non-didactic fashion.
I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Crooked Lane Books for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Category: Mystery, Thriller
Notes: 1. This is #4 in the Timber Creek K-9 Mystery Series. It is good as a standalone, but be aware that each book reveals a little more about Mattie’s past as she comes to grips with it.
2. This contains more upsetting violence than I usually read, but it is within the acceptable boundary for me. Everyone is different so be aware that it contains some torture.
Publication: September 11, 2018—Crooked Lane Books
An occasional clump of young aspen shot up toward the cloudless blue sky. Spring leaves, bright green and as yet unblemished by summer dryness, quivered at the ends of branches, their spade-like shape seeming to catch even the slightest of breezes. “Look at the aspen leaves, girls. They’re dancing.”
Robo lay on his cushion, his eyes pinned on her every move. She’d learned from experience that her emotions went straight to her dog.
“Life can be full of regrets if you focus on them. We make decisions for whatever reasons we have in the moment, not because we have some superhuman vision of what will happen in the future.”
Field of Bones: A Brady Novel of Suspense
by J.A. Jance
It was all I could do to get through the first half of the book. Don’t get me wrong. Field of Bones, set in Arizona, fulfills its promise of being a suspenseful novel, and it is very well written. The characters are appropriately developed, and I certainly understand the appeal of Sheriff Joanna Brady, mother of three, as the main character of the series. She is a strong woman, but portrayed realistically, not as a superwoman. Part mystery, part thriller, part police procedural, and all suspense fiction, Field of Bones runs the full gamut.
The “but” you can hear coming is because of the topic: violent, horrible, sex slavery. It makes for a combo of “I can’t stop reading, leaving characters in this torturous situation” and “I can’t read anymore; it is just too painful.” Kudos to the author J.A. Dance for the skills to put me in this situation. At the same time, I have to say Jance does not include details of the violence, but offers enough information that anyone with an imagination will get the picture. Given the number of books she has published, I think a lot of people admire her storytelling talent. This book is just too terrifying for me, and I doubt I will read any more of her books.
Although some of the tension is relieved in the last half of the book, the story is far from over. At that point, I did enjoy watching how the professionals from various fields perform their duties and work to put the pieces of the puzzle together.
I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to HarperCollins Publishers for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Category: Fiction, Thriller, Suspense, Mystery
Notes: #18 in the Joanna Brady Mystery Series, but despite the number of books that preceded this one, I had no trouble following the personal interactions because they were limited compared to the suspenseful storyline.
Publication: September 4, 2018—HarperCollins Publishers
At the end of this long, difficult day, he was in over his head. She needed a kind way to encourage him without undermining his confidence.
The pressure Latisha applied during the required three-minute wait hurt like crazy, but Garth was grateful for that. You had to be alive to know that it hurt.
“…did you ever get around to having that baby? The last time I saw you, you were big as a barn.” Randy Trotter was a lot of things, but politically correct wasn’t one of them. He was known for putting his lizard-skin Tony Lamas in his mouth, sometimes both of them at once.
The Spy Who Never Was
by Tom Savage
The Spy Who Never Was poses a mystery within a thriller as Nora Baron, drama teacher and part time CIA operative, is recruited to play the role of a spy who has disappeared, but never actually existed—according to Cole, head of the investigation. The mission is never quite clear to Nora, even as it suddenly reaches its conclusion and she is congratulated and sent back home. At this point the thriller is far from over for any of its characters.
Nora finds herself in the ultimate danger and discovers she is both naive and talented. She is aided by friends from previous missions along with new friends she learns to trust along the way. With interesting characters, settings in Paris and Switzerland, a complex plot, and some believable action, this is a book you will not want to put down.
I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Random House (Alibi) for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Category: General Fiction (Adult), Mystery and Thriller
Notes: #3 in the Nora Baron series; works well as a standalone
Publication: January 9, 2018—Alibi (Random House)
Professional agents knew their jobs, and they thought that no one outside their charmed circle possessed the imagination to do what they did. Now Nora could use their arrogant blind spot to her advantage.
Nora was working for phantoms, agents who were every bit as insubstantial as the paper woman they represented: the spies who never were.
…the words she shouted weren’t in the débutante handbook.
by Joanne Fluke
If you are a fan of Joanne Fluke’s Hannah Swensen cooking mysteries, you will be surprised and possibly disappointed by The Stepchild. I know Fluke has a huge following for the Hannah Swensen Mystery Series. I found the one I read too syrupy sweet with the emphasis on the personal lives of flat characters and their recipes.
The Stepchild is a completely different type of book. I would classify it as a psychological thriller. It begins with a prologue that focuses on two dramatic events. Then the scene fast forwards to describe the sudden problems of Kathi Ellison whose father is only a few weeks away from becoming a senator. There is a life changing secret in Kathi’s past that even Kathi does not know about.
Three quarters of the way through the book I almost stopped reading it because of what appears to be a strong paranormal aspect. I am glad I continued on to the end as the story progresses in a different and unexpected direction with surprising implications. The Stepchild is an unsettling read, but a good one.
I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Kensington Books for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Category: General Fiction (Adult), Mystery & Thriller
Publication: July 25,2017—Kensington Books
To succeed in political circles he had to give up something, the same as in everything else. In the city you had to give up nature, in a marriage you had to give up privacy, and in politics you had to give up little pieces of yourself, carefully doled out in meetings and speeches, making your life smaller with each passing encounter. It was almost like bleeding, and Doug sometimes wondered what would happen when he was bled dry.
Now that she was awake, sleep eluded her like a fickle lover, tempting her by making her body warm and drowsy, but forcing her eyes to open.
And now, in the late fall, the leaves were swirling in the wind, blowing up against the wooden snow fences, gathering in piles. She could see the woods by the side of the narrow road, the carpet of fallen leaves and the lovely, deep darkness behind the bordering trees.
No Way Home
by Annette Dashofy
No Way Home combines elements of a cozy mystery with elements of a thriller, and the result is an excellent read. As a cozy, No Way Home’s main character is Zoe Chambers, a county EMS paramedic and Deputy Coroner, who gets involved in trying to solve a murder when a riderless horse returns to the stable she manages. She is also trying to help her friend Rose find her missing son Logan. Meanwhile, several young people have overdosed in her county, and Zoe’s boyfriend Pete, Chief of Police, is driven to find the dealer. In this book, there are all the components of a good cozy: a likable heroine, a love interest, and a fascinating mystery with lots of threads. In addition, we are exposed to Native American culture as found in the Four Corners area.
No Way Home is also a thriller, however. A crucial characteristic of a thriller is suspense. This book kept me interested and wanting more from start to finish and fearful of what might happen next. The book has two contrasting settings as it bounces back and forth from Pennsylvania to New Mexico in such a way that the reader wants to keep going with each plot thread in turn, a thread which is dangling just out of reach. It is a book you won’t put aside easily or for long.
I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Henery Press for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Category: Mystery, General Fiction (Adult)
Notes: #5 in the Zoe Chambers Mystery Series, reads well as a standalone
Publication: March 14, 2017–Henery Press
He had an easy smile, a hearty laugh, and a talent for putting everyone at ease, whether they agreed with his politics or not. In addition, Dale was always happy to help with chores even if it meant getting dirty. Not what Zoe had expected from a well-to-do politician.
He held the phone away from his ear. At Rose’s current decibel level, Pete could almost hear her from New Mexico without the device.
by Betty Webb
The first chapter of Desert Vengeance is a half page long without a wasted word. It grabs you and twists you with a hold so tight that you know you will keep reading. This book is the latest in a series of mysteries by Betty Webb about PI Lena Jones. It could easily be a successful standalone. Nuances of relationships are effortlessly grasped even without the backstory. Lena’s professional status is clear. In the process of the mystery unfolding, the reader learns what happened to Lena as she made her way through a series of foster homes and emerged with emotional scars, but a strong character.
The subject matter, child molestation, is a very difficult one, but is handled in such a way that the reader understands the trauma the children went through without an account of the details of the abuse. The mystery centers around two murders and there are multiple suspects with strong motives. Lena finds through expert interviewing skills that not everyone is telling the truth. Some people have things to hide, even if it is not involvement in the murder. Others don’t really want the murderer caught.
The setting is a very hot Scottsdale, Arizona, with some reprieve in Black Canyon Creek. Both are accurately depicted without lengthy passages, leaving the reader sweaty, dusty, and thirsty. The other characters are interesting and developed appropriately according to their contribution to the plot.
I highly recommend this book either as a standalone or as part of the series. I am looking forward to reading more books by Betty Webb who has eight more books in her Lena Jones Mystery Series and three books in a humorous series about a California zoo-keeping sleuth. A former journalist, Webb deals with controversial topics in many of her books, but she approaches these difficult subjects through the lens of a consummate storyteller.
I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Poisoned Pen Press for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Category: Mystery, Thriller
Notes: Difficult subject matter, but handled respectfully
Publication: Poisoned Pen Press–February 7, 2017
The world looks so hopeful at sunrise. The air is clean, birds sing, frogs hush their complaints, and coyotes stop their slaughter of innocent bunnies and head home to bed. It’s all a lie, of course. The world is as vicious in daylight as it is at night.
Admission of Guilt
by T. V. LoCicero
Admission of Guilt by T.V. LoCicero is a page turning thriller set in a rapidly declining Detroit. There is no easing into this story. The author immediately sets up his reader with sympathetic characters and then hits those characters and the reader with the reality of inner city life–poverty, children selling drugs, devastating budget cuts to education, gang warfare, and mafia control of the drug trade. Characters include an out of work teacher, a social worker, a P.I. and members of the country club set.
The characters find themselves making life and death decisions with moral, economic, and personal ramifications, and the reader is confronted with the age-old question of “does the end justify the means?” I guarantee lots of twists and turns to the plot that you just won’t expect and a book you won’t want to put down.
Admission of Guilt is Book 2 in The detroit I’m dying Trilogy but can be read as a standalone.
I would like to extend my thanks to the author, T. V. LoCicero, for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Category: Mystery & Thriller
Notes: Warning–the language is not anywhere close to squeaky clean; it is appropriate for the characters in their culture and to change it would produce a dissonance between the characters and their reality.
Spring leaves, already withering, scratched and whispered in the few Dutch Elms still standing on this dark, working-class street. Birds chirped and chattered on the pre-dawn breeze, and a worn-out Plymouth whined slowly to a stop in front of one of these decrepit wood-framed flats. A smallish figure slipped out, ran to a big front porch, then darted back to the street.