‘Fatal’ by John Lescroart

f-jlSTORY: Kate loves her life. At forty-four, she’s happily married to her kind husband, Ron, blessed with two wonderful children, and has a beautiful home in San Francisco. Everything changes, however, when she and Ron attend a dinner party and meet another couple, Peter and Jill. Kate and Peter only exchange a few pleasant words but that night, in bed with her husband, Kate is suddenly overcome with a burning desire for Peter.

What begins as an innocent crush soon develops into a dangerous obsession and Kate’s fixation on Peter results in one intense, passionate encounter between the two. Confident that her life can now go back to normal, Kate never considers that Peter may not be so willing to move on.

Not long after their affair, a masked man barges into the café Kate is sitting in with her best friend, firing an assault weapon indiscriminately into the crowd. This tragedy is the first in a series of horrifying events that will show Kate just how grave the consequences of one mistake can be.

REVIEW: Kate and Ron Jameson have a happy marriage, two children, and live in San Francisco. When their friends invite them to have dinner with them and another couple, new to them, something about the guy, Peter Ash, sparks a passion in Kate and she wants to have sex with him. Knowing this is a crazy idea, she can’t seem to stop before herself actually bringing it to fruition. After an afternoon in a hotel room and agreeing that this is a one time thing, Kate seems to be able to put it behind her, but Peter realizes that if this ever got out, his wife would ruin him.

Kate’s good friend, Beth Tully, is a single mom with one daughter. Kate and Beth have been best friends since college. Beth spent years as a patrol cop and is now an inspector and is quite good at her job.

Kate and Beth have met up at a popular public place for coffee where Kate is about to confide in her about her affair with Peter. Just then, terrorists strike the area killing and injuring many people. Both Kate and Beth are injured.

Months later after lots of healing, Beth is just back at her job just as Peter Ash is murdered. As Beth and her co-worker, Ike, investigate his murder, many things open up and it appears the killer might be among Kate’s friends and family.

This is my first book by John Lescroart and now I realize why my husband is such a fan of his. This mystery is well-written with characters that seem so real, it’s like talking about your next-door neighbor. The book kept my interest all the way through making me wonder who the murderer was. I liked this book very much. My only skepticism is the “terrorist” attack centered on a small place in San Francisco. Had there been other attacks elsewhere, it may have seemed more feasible. But, that did not stop me from giving this book 5 stars.

Complimentary copy provided by the publisher

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‘The Widower’s Wife’ by Cate Holahan

tww-chSTORY: Ana Bacon, a young housewife, tumbles off a cruise ship into the dark and deadly waters, but did she take her secrets with her?

Investigator Ryan Monahan is a numbers man. So when his company sends him the Bacon case, which could net a ten million dollar payout, Monahan doubts that her death is just a tragic accident. But the husband has a substantial alibi and a number of witnesses claim to have seen Ana fall. So the official ruling seems to be substantiated.

Still, the more Monahan uncovers about Ana’s life, the more he realizes how many people would kill to keep her secrets hidden. And the closer he gets to the truth, the greater the odds grow that he, too, will take a fatal fall.

REVIEW: Ryan Monahan is an ex-cop working as an insurance investigator checking on an insurance claim for the death of Ana Bacon, age 31. She reportedly fell off a cruise ship at night in the middle of the ocean and neither she nor her body has been found. The double indemnity policy on her is for $10 million.

Ana was married to Tom, age 34, at the time of her death and the mother of a young daughter, Sophia.

Ryan does not think that Ana’s death was suicide but he also realizes that there is not enough evidence to prove Ana’s death.

Tom Bacon had lost his job as a well-paid stock trader due to a bad call. Something like this means he will probably never be able to work in the business again.

Ana has had to get a job as an administrative assistant. However, the salary she is able to make will not cover the expenses of their lavish home and lifestyle.

As Tom and Ana become more desperate for money, they devise an elaborate plan but not everything works as they had thought.

The characters in this book are well written and the plot is brilliant. Be prepared for a story that will keep the reader turning pages and learning a lot at the same time.

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‘The Couple Next Door’ by Shari Lapena

tcnd-slSTORY: You never know what’s happening on the other side of the wall.

Your neighbour told you that she didn’t want your six-month-old daughter at the dinner party. Nothing personal, she just couldn’t stand her crying.

Your husband said it would be fine. After all, you only live next door. You’ll have the baby monitor and you’ll take it in turns to go back every half hour.

Your daughter was sleeping when you checked on her last. But now, as you race up the stairs in your deathly quiet house, your worst fears are realized. She’s gone.

You’ve never had to call the police before. But now they’re in your home, and who knows what they’ll find there.

What would you be capable of, when pushed past your limit?  

REVIEW: Anne and Marco Conti live next to Cynthia and Graham. Cynthia is flirting heavily with Marco at a dinner party. Anne has drunk more than she should – as all of them have. But Anne can’t help but wonder if Marco and Cynthia are having an affair. Mother of a 6-month-old baby girl, Cora, Anne is fighting postpartum depression. Since their neighbors have no children, they asked Anne and Marco to leave the baby at home. Since the baby sitter cancelled at the last minute, they reluctantly leave the baby in her crib and take the monitor returning to check on her every half hour. But when they return home at the end of the night, they find the front door unlocked and the crib empty.

Detective Rasback is working the case and knows that in many instances like this, the parents are guilty. Anne’s parents are wealthy and she wonders if someone took the baby for a ransom.

As we delve further into the story, facts slowly emerge – each one bringing a new shock. What really happened to baby Cora? Where is she and who is guilty?

This is a wonderful mystery that keeps the reader glued to the book turning pages. I loved how the author created this story and cannot wait to read more books by her.

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‘Arrowood’ by Laura McHugh

a lmchSTORY: A haunting novel from the author of The Weight of Blood about a young woman’s return to her childhood home—and her encounter with the memories and family secrets it holds

Arrowood is the most ornate and grand of the historical houses that line the Mississippi River in southern Iowa. But the house has a mystery it has never revealed: It’s where Arden Arrowood’s younger twin sisters vanished on her watch twenty years ago—never to be seen again. After the twins’ disappearance, Arden’s parents divorced and the Arrowoods left the big house that had been in their family for generations. And Arden’s own life has fallen apart: She can’t finish her master’s thesis, and a misguided love affair has ended badly. She has held on to the hope that her sisters are still alive, and it seems she can’t move forward until she finds them. When her father dies and she inherits Arrowood, Arden returns to her childhood home determined to discover what really happened to her sisters that traumatic summer.

Arden’s return to the town of Keokuk—and the now infamous house that bears her name—is greeted with curiosity. But she is welcomed back by her old neighbor and first love, Ben Ferris, whose family, she slowly learns, knows more about the Arrowoods’ secrets and their small, closed community than she ever realized. With the help of a young amateur investigator, Arden tracks down the man who was the prime suspect in the kidnapping. But the house and the surrounding town hold their secrets close—and the truth, when Arden finds it, is more devastating than she ever could have imagined.

Arrowood is a powerful and resonant novel that examines the ways in which our lives are shaped by memory. As with her award-winning debut novel, The Weight of Blood, Laura McHugh has written a thrilling novel in which nothing is as it seems, and in which our longing for the past can take hold of the present in insidious and haunting ways.

REVIEW: At age 8, Arden Arrowood was there the day her twin sisters, Violet and Tabitha, just under 2 years of age, vanished. Arden said they were kidnapped by a man in a gold car. At the time, her family was living at Arrowood. Now at age 25, after the death of her father, Arden finds that she has inherited Arrowood, the huge family home built many years ago and located on a bluff on the Mississippi River in the town of Keokuk. Once a very prosperous town with large mansions, it has lost many businesses and become rather rundown. No one has lived in Arrowood since the family moved away not long after the disappearance of the twins. After an exhaustive search, the authorities were never able to find the girls.

Moving back to the home reopens many memories of Arden’s childhood there and makes her even more determined to find out what happened to her sisters. She meets Josh whose goal in life is to solve cold cases. The information he shares reopens old wounds but also makes her question more things. Her childhood friend and next door neighbor, Ben, still lives in town as does his mother. As the Arrowood family has been a part of the town for well over 100 years, they are well known and there is a lot of history here.

We meet people from the past and wonder if they know anything about the disappearance of the girls. The house itself is rather spooky but Arden is not afraid to live there. As more clues come to light, we think we know who was responsible.

I suspected the truth at one time but other clues seemed to knock that out. Do come and read this enthralling story and see if you can solve the mystery. It will truly keep you guessing right up to the end.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and hope other readers will as well.

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‘The Widow’ by Fiona Barton

tw fbSTORY: When the police started asking questions, Jean Taylor turned into a different woman. One who enabled her and her husband to carry on, when more bad things began to happen…

But that woman’s husband died last week. And Jean doesn’t have to be her anymore.

There’s a lot Jean hasn’t said over the years about the crime her husband was suspected of committing. She was too busy being the perfect wife, standing by her man while living with the accusing glares and the anonymous harassment.

Now there’s no reason to stay quiet. There are people who want to hear her story. They want to know what it was like living with that man. She can tell them that there were secrets. There always are in a marriage.

The truth—that’s all anyone wants. But the one lesson Jean has learned in the last few years is that she can make people believe anything…

REVIEW: Glen and Jean Taylor have been married for a number of years and are childless. After trying for some time, Jean decided to be tested and Glen finally agreed as well. It turns out that Glen has a near-zero sperm count. Jean would love to adopt a child, but Glen is totally against it.

Glen works at a bank and always complains that his boss has it out for him. Jean works as a hairdresser. Glen has always been protective of Jean and insists that everything be neat and tidy. When Glen is fired from his job, he blames his boss but it appears that his anger has been increasing for some time now. Jean does all she can to keep him happy. He soon gets another job driving a delivery truck. However, Jean finds that Glen has been spending a lot of time on the computer downloading terrible porn.

When little 2-year-old, Bella goes missing from her front garden, the police and the press are all over it. People are interviewed, CCTV is checked and DI Bob Sparkes cannot let this go. Kate Waters is a reporter for the Daily Post and is good at getting people to open up.

When the finger of suspicion points to Glen, their lives become hell being hounded by the police and the press.

This story follows the investigation of Bella’s disappearance and the relentless work spanning several years that the police put into trying to find the little girl. We learn about the lives of Glen and Jean, DI Sparkes and reporter Kate Worth.

This is a fascinating story that kept me turning pages and not wanting to put the book down. The author has perfectly portrayed the life of someone who is addicted to porn. But, we don’t really know until the very end of the book if, indeed, Glen is guilty of kidnapping Bells. I have no intention of telling you either. You must read the book!

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‘The Bourbon Thief’ by Tiffany Reisz

tbt trSTORY: When Cooper McQueen wakes up from a night with a beautiful stranger, it’s to discover he’s been robbed. The only item stolen—a million-dollar bottle of bourbon. The thief, a mysterious woman named Paris, claims the bottle is rightfully hers. After all, the label itself says it’s property of the Maddox family who owned and operated Red Thread Bourbon distillery since the last days of the Civil War until the company went out of business for reasons no one knows… No one except Paris.

In the small hours of a Louisville morning, Paris unspools the lurid tale of Tamara Maddox, heiress to the distillery that became an empire. But the family tree is rooted in tainted soil and has borne rotten fruit. Theirs is a legacy of wealth and power, but also of lies, secrets and sins of omission. The Maddoxes have bourbon in their blood—and blood in their bourbon. Why Paris wants the bottle of Red Thread remains a secret until the truth of her identity is at last revealed, and the century-old vengeance Tamara vowed against her family can finally be completed.

REVIEW: Cooper McQueen is a very wealthy man who loves a good bourbon. While sitting in his bar, he sees a lovely dark-skinned woman walk in. When she asks for a shot of Red Thread bourbon, she is told that it has not been made in many years. Cooper introduces himself to the woman, who calls herself Paris, and after some conversation, she agrees to meet him at his vast estate, Lockwood. She tells him she is a rich widow from Kentucky. When he teasingly asks her if she is after his money, she responds that he is after his bourbon – most specifically his prized possession of a one-million-dollar bottle of Red Thread Bourbon. It is the first bottle ever made. She claims to be part of the Maddox family who were the makers of Red Thread bourbon. She has inherited the business and begins to tells Cooper the story about the beginning of the Maddox family as follows:

Tamara Maddox, has just turned 16. Tamara and her mother, Virginia, have lived with her grandfather ever since her father passed away. Her mother and grandfather are always arguing. Tamara is spoiled and bothers Levi Shelby all the time demanding to ride her horse. Levi is much older than Tamara and works in the stables of her vast estate. When Tamara asks Levi for a birthday kiss, her mother catches them and is furious. She is given a choice of sending Levi away or she will shoot her beloved horse. Her mother explains to her that when her grandfather passes away, she will be the only Maddox left and it will be up to her to keep Red Thread going. But her grandfather has a even better plan to ensure the Maddox blood survives. When the truth comes out about the different family members, the shock is enormous.

After a night of violence at her home, Tamara runs away with Levi and thus begins her life of healing from the many disturbed members of the Maddox family.

This book is one that is quite mesmerizing. Starting from slave days to the present, we see the extent that men and women will go to to get what they want in life. The story is brutal at times, but expresses love as well. This historical novel is very good. I had some qualms about the character of Paris because I felt her actions conjured up racism where I don’t think it belonged in the story.

Complimentary copy provided by the publisher

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‘Deliver Her: A Novel’ by Patricia Perry Donovan

dh ppdSTORY: On the night of Alex Carmody’s sixteenth birthday, she and her best friend, Cass, are victims of a terrible car accident. Alex survives; Cass doesn’t. Consumed by grief, Alex starts cutting school and partying, growing increasingly detached. The future she’d planned with her friend is now meaningless to her.

Meg Carmody is heartbroken for her daughter, even as she’s desperate to get Alex’s life back on track. The Birches, a boarding school in New Hampshire, promises to do just that, yet Alex refuses to go. But when Meg finds a bag of pills hidden in the house, she makes a fateful call to a transporter whose company specializes in shuttling troubled teens to places like The Birches, under strict supervision. Meg knows Alex will feel betrayed—as will her estranged husband, who knows nothing of Meg’s plans for their daughter.

When the transport goes wrong—and Alex goes missing—Meg must face the consequences of her decision and her deception. But the hunt for Alex reveals that Meg is not the only one keeping secrets.

REVIEW: Alex Carmody is a very unhappy and depressed teenage girl. The Sweet Sixteen party that was given for her ended up in tragedy. She and her best friend, Cass, and other friends, Shana, and her brother went out for Slurpies after the party. Shana and Alex had been drinking but Cass and the boy driving had not. An accident occurred. Cass was without a seat belt and was thrown from the car. She died from her injuries. Alex had a cut on her forehead. Since then, Alex cannot stop blaming herself for Cass’s death. She is devastated and is unable to surface from it.

Meg and Jacob are Alex’s parents. Meg is a nurse and Jacob is in construction. For some time now, their marriage has been failing. Currently, Jacob sleeps in the basement. They are still in the same house only because Jacob’s dwindling jobs have left him unable to afford his own place.

Meg has done everything she can to help Alex and try to get her to open up to counselors, all to no avail. She skips school, smokes, drinks when she can and literally hangs out at the cemetery lying on Cass’s grave. Meg is very worried and is at her wit’s end. The last straw is when she finds a bag of pills hidden in the sofa in the basement and figures it belongs to Alex. So, when she sees a place called The Birches, located in New Hampshire, which is a school for emotionally disturbed teens, she seriously considers it. Jacob is totally against it, but trying to discuss anything with him is always a battle. Meg also finds a transporting service that has lots of experience in picking up people to be delivered to The Birches. After talking with the owner, Carl, she realizes that using this method of having two unknown people take Alex to the school is better than trying to do it herself. So, she arranges for it.

When Carl and another woman come to take Alex, she is surprised that her mother would do this to her but finally relents and gets into the car for the several hour trip. As the hours pass, the weather deteriorates. Suddenly, a moose is in the middle of the road and the car hits it. Carl has a cut on his head, the woman is critically injured, and Alex has escaped.

Where could she be? How can they find her in the middle of this ice storm?

This is a good story. I gave it five stars because it is a well-written plot, although I think it was much too long. However, this is a problem that faces many parents today who are looking for answers as to how to help their troubled children. I think that parents might benefit from reading this. It truly is an eye-opener.

Complimentary copy provided by the publisher

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