Book Review: A Child Is Torn by Dawn Kopman Whidden

A Child Is TornA Child is Torn: Innocence Lost
Dawn Kopman Whidden
Brighton Publishing, December 2012
ISBN 978-1-62183-040-5
Trade Paperback

There is only one right way to begin this review, and that is with a huge “Thank You!” shout out to the Psychological Thrillers Group on Goodreads. You guys rock! You refused to let this author fly under my radar for another second and I could not be more grateful.

Always a fan of that which is puzzling, frightening, and quite incomprehensible, A Child is Torn is the perfect tale for me. First, this book is scary. Not the nail-biting, Stephen King/Dean Koontz; how-I-am-ever-going-to-finish-this-book-with-my-eyes-closed, scary; but more the horrifying, Danny Boyd/Bill Bitner; chilling, creeping, this-will-forever-be-in-my-brain, scary. The kind that, as you read, you think; okay, this is frightening…and creepy…and…haunting; but that angst doesn’t end when you close the book. Rather, the terror settles deeply in your bones only to leak out when you least expect. A seemingly innocuous situation suddenly slams you straight into a scene from the book. Once again, obsesses with young Brad; pondering, wondering “what if…”, “how would I handle….” and the ever-present, “why?”

Quickly immersed in Brad’s own personal and perplexing Hell; it occurred to me: maybe Ms. Whidden didn’t write this book at all. I caught myself reading ridiculously fast, at times, because I felt compelled to keep up with the frantic pace of so many words spilling onto page after page; almost as if the author was more of a channel for a story that demanded to be told than the creator of it.

Filled with rich, vibrant (yet authentic) characters; this reader was promptly invested in the plight, the ebb and flow of relationships and the individual and unique opinions about Brad and the tragedy. Solving the mystery became imperative, not just for the sake of a little boy, but in order to alleviate the pain and suffering of all those quirky people that I’d quickly grown fond of.

The mystery is of epic proportions. Smart, educated people are forced to challenge logic, evidence and cold hard facts if, for no other reason, than keeping hope alive. Accepting would mean reevaluating beliefs and understandings developed over a life-time. No more tidy pigeon-holes, good-bye black and white; wrong and right; hello complicated questions spiraling downward, leading only to more queries.

The ending….well, that’s for you to decide. Right now, I need to clear off some space on my Jonathan Kellerman bookshelf to make room for more Dawn Kopman Whidden. I am so looking forward to reading each and every one her books.

Reviewed by jv poore, June 2014.

Book Reviews: Lost by S. J. Bolton, Murder Is a Piece of Cake by Elaine Viets, and The Boyfriend by Thomas Perry

LostLost
S. J. Bolton
Minotaur Books, June 2013
ISBN:  978-1-250-02856-3
Hardcover

The current obsession of Barney Roberts, a bright young boy with OCD, is something with which many in London are currently preoccupied:  Five boys his age had disappeared in the last five weeks in South London, where Barney himself lives, their bodies turning up soon afterwards with their throats cut.  And as the book opens, the bodies are being found more and more quickly, the killer seemingly escalating.  Barney’s den is covered with posters, maps and photographs about each boy, his kidnapping, and his death.

The police investigation is headed up by D.I. Dana Tulloch, of Lewisham’s Major Investigation Team.  Sure of only one thing, that the killings will continue, they have no clues.  And someone, perhaps the killer, is taunting them online.  On the periphery of the investigation is D.C. Lacey Flint, still recovering from the horrific event of her last case, in the aftermath of which she is still seeing a psychiatrist twice a week, fighting her own demons, unsure of whether or not still wants to remain a policewoman.

Barney is the youngest of a small group of kids (five boys and one girl) who are brave, and foolhardy, enough to do some investigating of their own.  He also happens to live next door to Lacey Flint.  One day he works up the nerve to ask her to help him find his mother, who apparently left several years ago, when he was four years old, and he is determined to track her down, going so far as to use all his meager wages working for a newsagent to run anonymous classified ads in very methodically and geographically plotted newspapers in London and beyond.

The novel is but the newest of several suspenseful books from this author, and characters, plotting and tension seen in her prior work are fully present here.  The reader is never more than guessing at the possible identity of the killer, as are the detectives whose work is detailed here, knowing that if they do not succeed another boy will die.  Obsession is a constant theme.  This is another winner from S. J. Bolton, and is recommended.

Reviewed by Gloria Feit, June 2013.

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Murder Is a Piece of CakeMurder is a Piece of Cake
Josie Marcus, Mystery Shopper Series
Elaine Viets
Obsidian, November 2012
ISBN: 978-0-451-23851-1
Mass Market Paperback

The newest book in the Josie Marcus, Mystery Shopper extraordinaire, has Josie tasked by her boss, “Harry the Horrible,” to mystery shop wedding flowers and wedding cakes for a St. Louis wedding website.  The timing couldn’t be better for Josie, who is in the throes of planning her own wedding.  The first of her mystery-shopper sites is Denise’s Dreams, where the sales associate who assists her is a young woman named Molly, who in the ensuing exchange divulges – – well, gushes – – that she is also about to get married.

Josie is a thirty-one-year-old single mom to Amelia, a ‘tween’ with the usual fast-changing sulky-to-“flawless!” mood changes.  Her life is about to undergo major changes, with her upcoming wedding to local veterinarian Dr. Ted, scheduled for the day after Thanksgiving, five weeks away as the story opens.  Their combined pets include Stuart Little, Josie’s shih tzu, her cat Harry, Ted’s cat Marmalade and his black Labrador, Festus.

One week later, shortly after Josie arrives at Ted’s veterinary clinic one morning, a surreal scene unfolds:  the self-same Molly, dressed in all her bridal finery, exits a Bentley and pushes her way into the clinic, claiming she’s there to pick up Ted en route to their wedding.  Clearly delusional, the scene ends with Molly picking up a scalpel and attacking Ted when he insists that he is indeed shortly to be married, but to Josie.  Ted’s mother, also present, disarms her, brandishing the pistol she always carried in her purse.  To cut to the chase, “mad Molly” is arrested and charged with assault.  She is soon released from jail by a sympathetic judge, but the melodrama continues when, continuing to stalk Ted, she is shot to death in her car in the clinic parking lot.  Things only get worse when Ted’s “Boca diva” mother is arrested, as her gun proves to be the murder weapon.

The book was a delightful change of pace for this reader, contrasted with other fare of thrillers and serial killers.  Besides an intriguing murder mystery with several possible culprits, it offers a few mouthwatering culinary tidbits, and culminates in several pages of shopping tips for wedding-related purchases, from flowers for various segments of the Big Day, bling, cakes, etc.  Following which is a peek at the next offering in Ms. Viets’ Dead-End Job Mystery series, Board Stiff, published by Obsidian in May 2013, which I have the good fortune to have in my towering TBR/R pile – – more to come on that soon!

Reviewed by Gloria Feit, May 2013.

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The BoyfriendThe Boyfriend
Thomas Perry
The Mysterious Press, March 2013
ISBN 978-0-8021-2606-1
Hardcover

The protagonist and his adversary in this newest terrific, suspenseful read from Thomas Perry have many similarities:  Both Jack Till, retired LAPD homicide detective now working as a private investigator, and the man he nicknames The Boyfriend are both highly intelligent, patient, meticulous, proficient with various kinds of weaponry, and very lethal.  Mostly they are both loners.  Till, however, has a daughter with Down Syndrome of whom he is very protective.  His wife had left them and divorced him shortly after she was diagnosed, unable to cope.  Holly is now 28 years old, employed at a florist shop and living in a group home where she is well looked after.  Till had retired after 23 years as a cop, and now embarks upon a relentless search for a killer.

The man Till is seeking is completely cold-blooded.  He preys upon young, beautiful women, all of a very similar physical type, and all ‘working girls,’ albeit highly-paid escorts earning several thousand dollars a day, as opposed to streetwalkers.  And all very vulnerable to the young, good-looking charmer, to their peril.  He has apparently killed several of them in all different parts of the country.  He has come to Till’s attention when the parents of the latest victim seek his help, when the police have, literally, no clues as to his identity.  He agrees to take the case and undertakes the investigation, and soon uncovers the connection to the other murders.  After 23 years as a cop, he “had an instinctive sense that this man was something he hadn’t seen before.”

Thomas Perry is the author, among his 21 previous books, of the wonderful Jane Whitefield series, and his newest is as much a page-turner as were those novels.  He manages an ending that is wonderfully elegant.  This was a terrific read, and is highly recommended.

Reviewed by Gloria Feit, July 2013.