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!

Feature Blog: Lola Wicks Mysteries, #1-#3 by Gwen Florio

  

RATINGS: 4 out of 5 Stars for All Books

I am featuring this series because I am currently reading Reservations, Book #4 in this series from Net Galley. This is a very solid series that has a strong female protagonist, Lola Wicks, who was a foreign correspondent and now writes for her small town paper. The plots are all interesting, entertaining and well written. The secondary characters are developed and realistic. Ms. Florio’s very special talent is in her description of the scenery in Montana and Dakota and the type of people that populate it. Below are my reviews for these three books and I will be adding the fourth soon. This is a series that is worth getting hooked on!

BOOK #1 – MONTANA

Lola Wicks has been pulled from her foreign correspondent post in Afghanistan because her paper has downsized. She is told to use her vacation time and decide if she wants to continue stateside with the paper on a suburban beat. Extremely upset, she decides to visit her best friend, Mary Ellen, who quit her job as a fellow reporter to relocate to Montana.

Lola discovers her friend shot dead on the hill by her cabin. When Lola is told to stay in town, upsetting her plans to return to Kabul, she decides the inexperienced sheriff is not moving fast enough and sets her reporter skills to the case. What she finds is that the techniques she has been using overseas do not translate to small town Montana or the Blackfeet reservation. She has to ingratiate herself to the locals, Blackfeet and sheriff for information to follow the trail to who killed Mary Alice and why. Racial discrimination between the towns people and the Blackfeet, drug smuggling and politics are all twisted into this mystery.

Lola is a developed, three dimensional character. She is tenacious, intelligent and everything a reporter should be and she also steals a trinket from everyone she deals with. She did come back from overseas with what appears to be PTSD and this makes her interactions with people more difficult and abrupt. I really like this protagonist. As she solves this case, she becomes more attached to the people and animals around her. My only problem was the ending of the case seemed to come very abruptly and Lola’s personal life also shifted quickly, But I will definitely be back for more.

BOOK #2- DAKOTA

This book starts three months after the death of her friend in Book #1 and it can be read as a standalone.

Lola is living in Magpie, Montana with Sheriff Charlie Larendeau on his small ranch. She is a reporter for the small town’s paper and living with the sheriff leaves her with two problems: 1. she is supposed to report on the Blackfeet, but Charlie is half Blackfeet and 2. it keeps her off the crime beat since he is the sheriff, but you know that won’t stop her.

Several Blackfeet girls have gone missing over the past year, but they were just written off as runaways until one of the girls is found dead in a snowbank. Lola is hearing rumors that the girls are all known drug users and were working as prostitutes in the oil boom shanty town outside of Burnt Creek. Lola sets off with her dog, Bub, to the North Dakota oil patch. Fracking, big oil money, prostitution and drugs all come together in this boom town with its influx of male population and law enforcement that looks the other way. Lola just wants to uncover the truth, but she ends up in a fight for her own life.

A gritty mystery with people who just want to take advantage of a money boom, but the consequences are harsh, if not deadly. Lola’s story just keeps getting more intriguing. Ms. Florio brings the oil patch and the people it attracts to life. She also once again realistically depicts the Blackfeet and their problems. I can’t wait to get the next Lola book!

BOOK #3 – DISGRACED

Lola is forced to take a furlough from the paper and so she leaves for a vacation with her young daughter, Maggie and dog, Bub on their way to Yellowstone.

Her friend asks her to stop and check on her cousin, Pal, who is a returned vet from Afghanistan who lives on the way in Wyoming. What Lola finds when she arrives at Pal’s are small town friends who served together, but when they returned, one was dead and disgraced, one gets a hero’s welcome, one commits suicide, two nearly beat a man to death and Pal, the only female of the group is traumatized. Lola smells a story and the vacation is postponed while she gets to know the vets. Secrets, truths and lies all need to be sorted and the truth can get Pal, Lola and her daughter all killed.

I liked this Lola book the best so far. It can be read as a standalone in regards to the main plot, but Lola’s personal life does carry over. It focuses on the returned troops and the many problems they face at home. There are violent scenes in this book. The author depicts prejudice, rape and a conspiracy of lies.

This is a series that makes you think was well as entertains and this is another great addition.

Check out this series and author!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Book Review: Smugglers & Scones by Morgan C. Talbot

RATING: 5 out of 5 Stars

SMUGGLERS & SCONES (Moorehaven Mysteries, #1) by Morgan C. Talbot is a wonderful new cozy mystery that introduces us to a special B&B in Seacrest on the Oregon coast and a cast of intelligent and quirky characters.

World famous mystery writer, A. Raymond Moore left his huge home, Moorehaven, on the Oregon coast in trust to his friend Hilt, the town’s former chief of police with the stipulation that it become a B&B for mystery writers only. Now that Hilt is older, he has hired his niece, Pippa Winterbourne to run the B&B. Pippa has modernized the advertising and recipes in her six years at Moorehaven and now has a large group of famous, new and want-to-be mystery authors rotating through Moorhaven’s doors.

When a small tourist fishing boat crashes in the middle of the night, Pippa rushes to help and saves the handsome Lakyn “Lake” Ivens. They both find out the next day that there was also a dead man on the boat. Lake has no memories of the accident or what happened to the dead owner of the boat. Pippa, with the help of Lake, the visiting authors and a cast of fun characters from Seacrest become tangled in a deadly plot that incorporates the town’s Prohibition history with the present.

Pippa is a strong and intelligent lead character. She loves Moorehaven, her job, the writers who stay at the B&B and all the characters that populate Seacrest. Her Uncle Hilt keeps the old mansion in working order, while also taking care of his old friend’s journals, papers and books for future writers and scholars to study. At a few places in the book, it does slow down a bit, but I feel this is because there is so much to set up and characters to introduce for the series. Overall though, the world-building was entertaining and interesting.

Characters make a cozy for me and this book is full of many that I can’t wait to revisit. Pippa is a great choice as a lead. The “Glaze and Gossip” group she is invited to join had me laughing out loud. Tyleen with her binoculars and Wallis the gloomy florist all add to the town’s cast of unique characters. This is a wonderful story and I love that there will always be mystery writers and their books involved in each story.

I am anxiously waiting for the next book in this series!