Book Review: Summit Lake by Charles Donlea

RATING: 4 out of 5 Stars

(I reviewed this book last year. I am adding this previously posted review since I am currently reading Mr. Donlea’s second mystery novel The Girl Who Was Taken. I wanted both reviews on my website.)

SUMMIT LAKE by Charlie Donlea is a debut mystery that keeps you turning the pages.

The setting is a small town in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. The story is told by two narrators; Kelsey Castle, a true crime journalist, in the present investigating the savage murder and rape of Becca Eckersley and with Becca, a first year law student, telling her own story before her death threaded in between. Both women have secrets that become revealed in bits and pieces throughout the story in tantalizing increments and there are plenty of twists and turns that surprise.

I found all of the characters to be interesting and well fleshed out. The pace of the story is fast and has several twists and surprises. I did have a small problem with the lack of law enforcement involvement and the way Kelsey obtained some of her information just would not realistically happen. The reveal of the killer was truly unexpected and made for a big surprise. Well worth the read and I will be looking for more from this author.

Book Review: Last Breath by Robert Brynzda

RATING: 5 out of 5 Stars

Robert Brynzda and his amazing character, DCI Erika Foster, have given me a gripping and thrilling, British police procedural read once again! This fourth book is even stronger than the first and just as additive.

LAST BREATH (Detective Erika Foster, #4) starts off with a beautiful young girl found dead in a dumpster in London. Erika is with Peterson when he gets the call and decides to ride along to the scene. She wants in on the case, but her nemesis Stark is now Superintendent of the Murder Investigative Team and sends her on her way.

Erika is on desk duty, which she hates, but she just cannot keep her mouth silent when dealing with superiors. As she languishes, she applies to return to the Murder Investigative Team, but it does not look good until there is a medical emergency and she gets her chance to once again lead her previous team of detectives. With all of her experience, Erika connects this case to a previous unsolved case. As a third girl is reported missing, it becomes apparent that the team is chasing a serial killer who seems to disappear leaving no clues.

The killer is unveiled early on in this book by Mr. Brynzda. We get to look into his mind and life as Erika and her team try to stop him. It adds nail-biting tension as we watch him kidnap another victim and he begins to devolve with Erika and her team on his trail.

Erika is so complex, hard on the outside, but vulnerable. Her character has had to deal with loss, guilt, and moving forward emotionally while dealing with her ups and downs on the police force. The secondary characters all have unique personalities that add depth to each book. The fast paced plot keeps you reading and turning the pages. This is a series that I feel needs to be read in order and since it is on book #4, you better get busy!

Thank you very much to Bookouture and Net Galley for allowing me to read this eARC in exchange for an honest review. It was completely my pleasure!

Book Review: The Dry by Jane Harper

RATING: 5 out of 5 Stars

A present day family tragedy, a twenty-year-old unsolved death and an environment that can go up in flames with one spark all ramp up the tension, anger, suspicion, danger and suspense in Jane Harper’s debut novel THE DRY.

Twenty years ago Aaron Falk and his father were run out of their home and off their farm in Kiewarra, a small farming community in Australia. Ellie Deacon was found drowned and even though it was ruled a suicide, Aaron was rumored to be involved in her death. His best friend Luke Hadler gave him an alibi, but his name was found on a note in the dead girl’s room. Aaron never wants to return to the community.

A call from Luke’s father brings Aaron, who is now a Federal Police investigator in Melbourne, back to Kiewarra for the funeral of Luke, his wife and small son. Everyone believes the pressures of the drought made Luke snap and kill his family before killing himself, but Luke’s parents just can’t believe it and ask Aaron to look into it for them. The local policeman, Sergeant Raco is new to the area and he is having some doubts with the ruling of murder-suicide himself. Aaron and Raco start to look more closely at the case and start to uncover buried secrets and lies.

Many in the community still believe Aaron lied about is alibi and the same forces that chased him before are back to pressure him into leaving again. He is harassed constantly again, which leaves him looking at the same foes as before and it could be clouding his judgement and perspective on the current case. Are the two, past and present cases connected or is it just coincidence? Aaron and Raco work together to find the truth before the town ignites.

This book was so well written, I find it extremely hard to believe it is a debut book. Ms. Harper gives the reader not one, but two intriguing mysteries that intertwine throughout the book with well-placed flashbacks that never interrupt the story’s narrative. All of the characters are complex and fully fleshed. The pressures of a farming community on the edge due to an extended drought makes the environment as important as any character. This book is a must read for lovers of mystery/suspense books!

Book Review: The Girl In the Maze by R.K. Jackson

RATING: 4 out of 5 Stars

THE GIRL IN THE MAZE is the debut book by R.K. Jackson featuring Martha Covington. This book was an enjoyable mix of thriller and mystery with a little psychic/seer thrown in on a Georgia coast island.

The island and its inhabitants are descendants of plantation slaves who are self-sustaining and still follow their old religion and belief system. Martha is out of inhouse treatment for schizophrenia suffered during college and is working an internship for the historical society to interview and write a book on the GeeChee people of Shell Heap Island as a test to see if she can maintain a normal life and return to college for journalism.

There is a battle between the town council and the GeeChee for control of development on their island which leads to dirty money, corruption and murder. Martha is caught in the middle and doesn’t know if her disease is taking over again or if voices and visions she begins to hear and see are due to being more, like Lady Albertha, an old seer in the GeeChee community.

Martha is a wonderful character. She is brilliant, driven, and at the same time doubts herself due to her illness. The plot flows with many rich characters and twists. The writing is very descriptive and you feel immersed in the small Georgia town, the island and traveling in the marshes. I am looking forward to reading more about Martha and where the author takes her.

Book Review: The Girl At the Bar by Nicholas Nash

RATING: 5 out of 5 Stars

I absolutely love when I try a new author with no expectations and am completely absorbed into the story. THE GIRL AT THE BAR by Nicolas Nash is one of those mystery/thrillers that are rich in backgrounds, technical information and clues without bogging down the pace and keeps you guessing until the end.

Dr. Rebecca Chase is a brilliant cancer researcher in New York City for a medical conference. The night before she is to present, she meets Ragnar Johnson at her hotel bar. She leaves to go to his place for a one night stand. When Ragnar wakes up the next morning, she is gone, not just from his apartment, but she has completely disappeared.

No one knows why she would disappear. Her research has placed her in the middle of a high-stakes battle between two mega pharma companies. Her personal life is a mess, but she is not the type of person to just walk away from her life’s work and career. After her disappearance, others associated with her start to be killed and there are so many different motives and agendas, you don’t know who to trust.

Ragnar is a brilliant out of work trader with social and psychiatric problems. Even though he knows he looks to be the prime suspect in Rebecca’s disappearance, he can’t stay uninvolved. He and his tech expert/hacker friend, Eddie chase clues. As he works the case, he is being followed by Raoul Perez who heads up security for Atticus Biopharma and was a NYC detective previously. You also have a competent team of detectives, Timothy and Roberta, who we follow as they work the case.

During the story, you are introduced to an entity that just calls itself “the void”. It is never completely satisfied or filled for long. You realize this is the mind of the kidnapper/killer and the way it describes itself is extremely chilling.

There are so many characters that have a variety of motives that I was continually changing my mind on who was the guilty party and why. Even with all the moving parts, I was never confused on who was who. All of the characters were so interesting and realistic that I just had to keep turning the pages. I love this type of mystery as it takes you step by step and lets you think and discover along with the detectives and Ragnar. Please note: There is a moment of graphic violence in the climax of the story. I thoroughly enjoyed this first novel and will be looking for more from this author.

Thanks very much to Fireflies Publishing LLC and Net Galley for allowing me to read an eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. It was my pleasure.

 

Book Review: Reservations by Gwen Florio

RATING: 5 out of 5 Stars

I love the descriptive writing, plotting and characters of the Lola Wicks mystery series, but this fourth book emotionally wrecked me and yet I had to keep turning the pages and reading late into the night to the end. RESERVATIONS (Lola Wick, #4) by Gwen Florio deserves 5 BIG stars!

Lola hasn’t been the same since her last adventure. Charlie decides it is time to take a honeymoon and visit his brother, wife and niece on the Navaho reservation in Arizona. Charlie has a strained relationship with Edgar, but when they arrive there is an underlying tension in the entire family.

There is an eco-terrorist setting off bombs to try to get rid of the main employer, the coal mine on the reservation. The water and air on the mesa has become so polluted, people can no longer live there. Edgar is an executive for the mining company and his wife Naomi is an attorney for the Navaho and hates the mine, but wanted Edgar to work there so that they have inside information on the company. Naomi and Edgar are both Ivy League educated, but returned to help the People and they use this as a way to demean Charlie and Lola.

Lola begins to return to her hard-driving reporter mode as there is another bombing and death. The tension builds and as Charlie seems to side more with his brother and family than Lola, she does everything she can to figure out what is really happening on the reservation, even as the danger escalates for herself and family.

I was so wrapped up in this plot. It is intricate, fast paced and I did not figure out the whole picture on my own. The descriptions in the writing of the Arizona land, with its natural and deadly beauty take you there and make you feel every bit of the heat.

Lola is taken through extreme physical conditions in this story as well as emotional. If you are like me and have a personal stake in your favorite characters, get the tissues ready! This book is a great read on a mystery/thriller level and an emotional roller-coaster for one of my favorite characters. Excellent!

Thank you very much to Midnight Ink and Net Galley for allowing me to read a free eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. It was my pleasure!