Review: The Forgotten Girls by Sara Blaedel

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I’m a huge fan of Nordic crime novels and when I saw this one come up on Net Galley, I was excited to get it.

THE FORGOTTEN GIRLS starts with a young woman being found, dead, in a forest in Denmark. She looks unkempt – almost feral – but she has no identification on her. Investigator Louise Rick gets a tip that the girl is a twin that used to live in a nearby institution, only thing is, that girl is officially deceased. Other murders and attacks on local women get Louise to thinking that the crimes may all be related and go back for years. However, until she can figure out who this first girl is, and what she was doing in the woods, the key to whole mystery will remain hidden.

I really enjoyed this fast-paced, well-plotted novel. This is my first Sara Blaedel book, but apparently the Louise Rick series is quite popular and there are several other books. This story does have passages of graphic violence and the overall premise, once it’s all figured out, is fairly disturbing; however, I did like it and look forward to reading more books by Blaedel. Rick is a multi-layered character – far from perfect – and I rooted for her as the protagonist.

Thank you, Net Galley and Grand Central Publishing, for my review copy!

Audiobook Review: THE SNOWMAN by Jo Nesbo

I knew Jo Nesbo from his well-written and hilarious children’s books featuring Doctor Proctor’s Fart Powder. I had heard that he also wrote Scandinavian crime fiction, so I grabbed THE SNOWMAN on audio when I was at the library. All I can say is that this a very different kettle of fish from his children’s books!

THE SNOWMAN starts with a young boy waiting for his mother as she is visiting her lover. It is cold and wintry and there is a snowman. Flash forward and he is now a serial killer. His calling card is a snowman at the scene. The killings are brutal and bloody and not something I could listen to when the kids were in the car! Harry Hole, Nesbo’s detective protagonist from a number of his novels, needs to get to the bottom of the killing spree. Harry has his own issues and demons, though, but along with a new partner works tirelessly to solve the crimes. Several times they think they have the killer, but they are wrong. Soon Harry finds himself in the killer’s sights.

This was a well crafted book (ably executed by reader Robin Sachs) that kept me guessing and guessing. It was much “rougher” than I was expecting and I couldn’t play it around my kids or at school while waiting for them (explicit sexual content, language, violence, gore). At some points I was even a bit “grossed out” (remember – I’m kind of a cozy mystery gal). I would read more by Nesbo, though, as I think he’s a talented writer. (And my apologies to him that my keyboard won’t allow me the Nordic slash that his last name requires).

Review: THIS IS THE WATER by Yannick Murphy

I had heard some chatter about this book while I was at BEA this spring, but I couldn’t find an ARC around, thus I pre-ordered it for my kindle. It downloaded last week when it was published and I started it on the plane ride home from California.

Wow! What a read this was!

THIS IS THE WATER focuses on a New England swim team and the parents of the girls on the team. One of the parents is struggling in her lackluster marriage. Another parent is sure her husband is having an affair. A third parent is an annoying and interfering mother. Along with the daily intricacies of life, a serial killer is stalking one of the girls and when he strikes, their whole swim team world is temporarily turned upside down.

This was the type of book that once I started, I could not put it down. Not only was there a lot of information on the main characters and their trials and tribulations, but the focus on the murder and the killers’ motives and actions served as a subplot. I wanted to see if he would be caught. I wanted to see if Annie’s marriage could be saved. Was Paul having an affair? Would the killer strike again? Would annoying Dinah ever stop being annoying?

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention how this book is written in a unique and innovative style. The entire book is written in the present tense (hence, “this is the water”). The style is almost that of a children’s book: “This is the water” etc. While some may find this different (or even annoying), I found it almost lulling, similar to a gentle lapping of (wait for it!) water. And while we are onlookers throughout,  at times we are Annie, and the story switches to second person:”You go the pool.” etc. I don’t think I’ve ever read a novel written in second person. Somehow, reading it that way made me identify very closely with Annie. It was almost uncomfortably creepy. While I’m sure this style wouldn’t work for some readers, I absolutely loved it and found it quite brilliant.

So – I highly recommend this book (one of fave summer reads so far!) for those who want the suspense and intrigue and the distinct writing style of Ms. Murphy.

YA Review: MARIE ANTOINETTE, SERIAL KILLER by Katie Alender

I saw MARIE ANTOINETTE, SERIAL KILLER at the YA session at BEA but quite frankly, I walked past it. Marie Antoinette – serial killer?? It sounded rather absurd, plus the cover had a costumed girl with blood on her – ick (just a note here: looks like the blood didn’t make it to the final cover). However, when they were doing the session, they mentioned it as a good example of the “mash up” genre: part mystery, part historical fiction, part horror, part supernatural, part contemporary. The speaker recommended it, so I immediately slipped back to the table and grabbed a (free) copy. I have to say – I really enjoyed reading it!

MARIE ANTOINETTE, SERIAL KILLER starts with high schooler Colette Iselin preparing for a class trip to France. She is struggling with her parents recent break up and the family’s new, strained, financial situation. She can’t wait to get away with her (rather mindless and not very nice) friends, to explore the place where her family has its roots. Colette’s school group has barely gotten their feet on terra firma when they hear about a serial killer running loose – beheading victims, all of whom are from long-standing French/Parisian families. Colette sees a costumed young woman and realizes she is seeing Marie Antoinette’s ghost. As you might guess, Colette realizes she may be the next victim and needs to figure out the how and why of the murders in order to stop them. Along the way she is helped by their friendly teen tour guide (insert romance!), and she comes to realize that perhaps she has been spending too much time focusing on the things that don’t matter and less time on the things that do.

All in all, this was an enjoyable read and cleverly plotted. I’m a big fan of all things French, so I love reading about people strolling through Paris and seeing the places I love.

Highly entertaining!

Review: She Can Run by Melinda Leigh

         For my beach reading, I downloaded (on Amazon Prime’s read-for-free) “She Can Run”. (Just a note- it looks like this book is currently $1.99 on Kindle). This novel is a thriller of romantic suspense, telling the story of Beth Baker and her two young children as she is running and hiding from her pretty much insane congressman husband (another note- she is formerly widowed and the children are from her first happy marriage). Beth comes to work on a friend of her uncle’s horse farm; however, the friend has died unexpectedly and the farm is now the property of his attractive, young nephew, Jack (who is on leave from the police force after an injury). What follows is a lot of suspense and romance as Beth tries to get her life together and stay alive while her estranged husband seeks her out and a serial killer takes an interest in her.

     I enjoyed this light read and found it perfect beach reading in Hawaii! I always like a character that shares my name, though the book’s Beth was far more svelte/attractive/in danger than I am! 🙂

    

Review: The Pumpkin Man by John Everson

Looking for something scary/gory/thrilling to read this Halloween? Well, thanks to the folks at Net Galley, I received a free ARC of “The Pumpkin Man” by John Everson. In this 300+ page thriller, Jennica Murphy seeks to solve the mystery of her father’s gruesome death, while coming to know her aunt’s family by marriage and the strange and horrific legacy they left behind. Stories of the “pumpkin man” have left the small, Northern California town where Jennica is staying (at her aunt’s house which she inherited) on edge. Twenty years ago a man known for his incredible pumpkin carvings was accused of killing children and summarily lynched by the townsfolk. He was Jennica’s aunt’s husband. Now the murders are occurring again, each victim horribly dismembered and with pieces of pumpkin left at the scene of each crime. Using her aunt’s substantial library on the occult and magic, will Jenn solve the mystery of who is the killer before the pumpkin man gets her?

Well, I had my highs and lows on this book. For one thing, I kept reading because I wanted to know who was the murderer and why (though I had pretty much figured it out correctly). Also, so many people got whacked in this book that I kept wondering if the heroine was going to make it to the end! Also I of course love books that occur in Northern Cal as that’s where I’m from. And I like a strong female protagonist. It was creepy and scary and I can imagine it making a great made-for-tv movie around Halloween time. Those are all the good points.

That said, I had some things in this book that didn’t work for me. For instance, near the beginning, after her father’s murder (where pumpkin pieces had been found at the scene of the crime), Jennica finds pumpkin pieces in her bedroom left by an intruder. She doesn’t bother to tell not only the police, but her roommate (!) until much later. Also, as people start disappearing or turning up dead (beheaded, gutted, etc.) or bones/skeletons/skulls/jars of eyeballs are found in the basement, Jenn and her roommate and the two new boyfriends they picked up in a bar in San Francisco discuss several times how they shouldn’t call the police because, after all, who would believe them?? Finally, they involve the police, and figure out that the murders all tie into the family’s weird past and a whole series of subterranean passages, tombs, rooms, shrines, etc. located under the aunt’s house, that may just rival the catacombs of Paris. 

Everson’s writing was inconsistent at times in my opinion. At times it was solid. At other times word choice or sentence construction pulled me out of reading or even made me laugh. The murder scenes were graphic and gory, which I personally never enjoy reading. I have to say, though, I kept reading to the end!

Thanks to Net Galley and the publishers at DP for my free kindle galley copy!

Audiobook Review: “The Dante Club: A Novel” by Matthew Pearl

My brother-in-law (who reads more than anyone I know) recommended this book to me as he thought I would like it. And I have to confess – I listened to it last month and am only just now getting around to reviewing it. Why? Well, first we went on vacation; but that’s really not an excuse. If truth be told, I couldn’t think of much to say.

Here’s the scoop: it’s 1865 and several notable Bostonians gather to discuss literature and Dante in particular, forming “the Dante Club”. I loved this part – I always like books where historical characters come to life (as long as they are done appropriately). A serial killer starts terrorizing the city and the clues are linked to Dante’s Inferno, so the club must put their heads together to solve the mystery and stop the killer.

Here’s where I started to have problems. I love mysteries, but I do not like really graphic stories. Some of the descriptions of the murders were so vivid and graphic (the word ‘disgusting’ comes to mind) that I had to turn off the CD player. I also couldn’t have it playing while I drove the kids places as I felt it was too graphic. It reminded me of “Angels and Demons” which I found vividly repulsive.

Here’s my other problem with the story: I kept zoning out. Now perhaps we can blame the suburban Boston traffic, or my general fatigue, or the fact that I was mentally composing what I needed to get at the grocery store, but bottom line: I missed a lot of this story as I wasn’t riveted.

At first I loved the narrator, John Siedman, and was impressed in how he could change his voice to make each main character unique (Oliver Wendall Holmes, Lowell, H.W. Longfellow, J. T. Fields, etc.). However, as with every book I listen to that takes place in Boston, I always cringe when they do the accent. Here’s the scoop people: the Boston Brahmins did not – nor will they ever – pronounce “Harvard” as “Hah – vid” . “Haw – vud” is much closer. That’s all I’ll say, but just trust me on it.

I’d be curious as to whether any of my readers have read Pearl’s books and if you liked/disliked them. I am wondering whether I should try another.

(I got mine from the library!)