Book Review: Bring Me Back by B. A. Paris @baparisauthor @StMartinsPress

Bring Me Back
B. A. Paris
St. Martin’s Press, June 2018
ISBN 978-1-250-15133-9
Hardcover

A strange and troubling tale of anger, selfishness, disappearance and mystery. Finn McQuaid is a driven slick fund manager. He’s successful and popular with several women. Twelve years earlier, when the story starts, he is driving toward England out of Paris with his current lover, Layla, whom he hopes to marry soon. In the dark middle of the night they stop for fuel and Layla disappears.

Now, still more successful, McQuaid romances Layla’s sister, Ellen, moves her into the house he once shared with Layla and prepares to marry her. Then strange things begin to happen, clues drop, that indicate that Layla may not be dead after all and McQuaid admits he didn’t tell police the whole truth, that fateful dark night.

The novel is highly personal and internal in tone. It reveals the inner amoral mental state of a man who seems committed to almost nothing except his own personal reality and a unique truth that is his own. Readers will be dragged through the weeds of this internal turmoil almost from the very beginning. The use of Russian dolls to provoke and irritate McQuaid and possibly mess with his mind is brilliant but the deliberate pace and development is at times a bit tedious. Nevertheless, carefully structured and presented, the novel eventually satisfies the mystery after a deliberate buildup to a logical ending.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, May 2019.
http://www.carlbrookins.com http://agora2.blogspot.com
Traces, Grand Lac, Reunion, Red Sky.

Book Review: The Ocean in Winter by Elizabeth de Veer—and a Giveaway! @BlackstoneAudio @TLCBookTours

The Ocean in Winter
Elizabeth de Veer
Blackstone Publishing, July 2021
ISBN 978-1-982674649
Hardcover

From the publisher—

The lives of the three Emery sisters were changed forever when Alex, eleven at the time, found their mother drowned in the bathtub of their home. After their mother’s suicide, the girls’ father shut down emotionally, leaving Alex responsible for caring for Colleen, then eight, and little Riley, just four. Now the girls are grown and navigating different directions. Alex, a nurse, has been traveling in India and grieving her struggle to have a child; Colleen is the devoted mother of preteens in denial that her marriage is ending; and Riley has been leading what her sisters imagine to be the dream life of a successful model in New York City. Decades may have passed, but the unresolved trauma of their mother’s death still looms over them creating distance between the sisters.

Then on a March night, a storm rages near the coast of northeastern Massachusetts. Alex sits alone in an old farmhouse she inherited from a stranger. The lights are out because of the storm; then, an unexpected knock at the door. When Alex opens it, her beautiful younger sister stands before her. Riley has long been estranged from their family, prompting Colleen to hire the private investigator from whom they’d been awaiting news. Comforted by her unexpected presence, Alex holds back her nagging questions: How had Riley found her? Wouldn’t the dirt roads have been impassable in the storm? Why did Riley insist on disappearing back into the night?

After her mysterious visitation, Alex and Colleen are determined to reconcile with Riley and to face their painful past, but the closer they come to finding their missing sister, the more they fear they’ll only be left with Riley’s secrets. An unforgettable story about grief, love, and what it means to be haunted, The Ocean in Winter marks the debut of a remarkable new voice in fiction.

Eleven-year-old Alex lost her childhood in an instant the moment she found her mother dead from suicide. Even that extremely traumatic event might have not been so overwhelming if only her father had been strong enough to step up to his duties but, no, he retreated. The three children were pretty much left on their own with Alex taking on the role of mother to Colleen and Riley.

The three girls promised to always be there for each other but life didn’t cooperate and they drifted apart, each on a very different path. Then certain circumstances bring them back into each other’s orbits again and the deep-seated love is still very evident.

This is a character-driven story with limited plot and, as such, the pacing is much slower than I usually like but there is no shortage of feeling. In fact, emotions run high and numerous themes come into play including some that might be considered triggers (suicide, depression, drug addiction, emotional abandonment, etc.). Ms. de Veer handles all of this with grace and compassion beyond her status as a debut author.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, July 2021.

************

Purchase Links:
Barnes & Noble // Kobo // Amazon 
Blackstone Publishing // Indiebound

”Do we choose our memories, or do our memories choose us?
That’s the central question for the three sisters in Elizabeth de Veer’s
emotionally rich, incandescent debut novel. Ocean in Winter is
a page-turner of a book with a family mystery at its core, and profoundly
explores the ways in which women struggle to rebuild their lives
after grief and trauma. You won’t want to put it down once you start.”
—Holly Robinson, author of Beach Plum Island and Chance Harbor

************

An Excerpt from
The Ocean in Winter

I am hurtling through Massachusetts at a rate of speed I cannot understand; the wind blows my cheeks, but it does not feel cold. I know only generally where I am going: deep into the state’s north- east corner where small towns cluster at the coast like grapes, nestled by a fragile barrier island at the mouth of the Merrimack River. The towns, blanketed now in briny mist, go by these names: Rowley; Newbury; Newburyport; Salisbury; and, inland, the city of Amesbury, the rough-edged river-fed mill town where my sisters and I grew up, a place I left when I was eighteen and never returned to. The town was too small for me, I suppose, and too much had happened for me and Amesbury to pretend that we had ever been all that close.

A storm has been raging here all day, but now the rain has stopped. In this strange moment, I come to stand on the doorstep of a house in the town of Newbury that I have never seen before, an old farmhouse whose white paint and green trim are cracked and peeling, wooden beams rotted. Behind me, I leave no foot- prints in the cold mud.

What year is this? I think for a moment. Wait, how do I not know the answer immediately?

It’s 2014. The answer comes to mind like a vague memory, as though the question itself does not matter. The house belongs to my oldest sister, Alex. Time is confusing to me right now—how long has it been since I saw her? Years, I think. But how many? Four, five, six? More? Maybe seven. I pushed her away. I pushed everyone away, far away, all to protect my ugly little secrets. Regret lingers in my throat like bile; I’ve made so many mistakes.

I glance through the front window; the room beyond is pitch black. The electricity in this area is out and has been out for a couple of hours. How do I know this? I’m not sure. In the woods beyond this clearing, trees creak high and long like old rocking chairs, swaying slowly in one direction and then the other. The effect is eerie, ghostly.

Many secrets stand between me and my sisters, Alex and Colleen, but not all will be revealed tonight. Tomorrow, after dawn breaks, one of these secrets shall become known. Others will unfold in the days to follow. Far from here a little boy sleeps soundly in his bed in the city. My awareness of him is so intense, I can almost hear his soft steady breath. Goodbye, sweet Caleb. Mama loves you, though she never did a good job of showing it.

I stand for a moment at the threshold of this house and take a deep breath of damp, mossy air, while a chill wind presses against my neck and blows my hair in my face. Alex is inside alone. She is not waiting for me, in fact, she is not expecting my visit. I raise my fist to the door and rap my knuckles against it. One moment passes, and then another. Nothing happens, so I knock again. Finally, Alex opens the door a crack.

“Hello?” she whispers. “Is someone there? Colleen?”

“Alex, it’s me,” I say, pushing my hair away from my face. “Riley.”

“Riley?” she says, incredulous. Then she opens the door the rest of the way. She points her flashlight toward me; I squint in the light and raise my hand to shield my eyes. From the shadows Alex stares, her pale face wide-eyed with fear and surprise. Slowly her expression registers recognition and then she gasps.

“Riley!” She pulls me inside and slams the door to leave the wind and wildness behind us. She throws her arms around me and hugs me hard and long; I do the same. There is a damp towel over her shoulder. Her wool sweater smells dusty, and the air reeks of plaster and paint.

“Hi, Alex,” I say.

“Where have you been?” she says, touching my arm as though she does not believe that I am real. “We’ve been searching for you. Are you okay? Wait, how did you find me?”

“That’s a lot of questions,” I say.

“Let me look at you,” she says, and she holds my face in her hands. She’s shorter than I am, which is surprising because she is eight years older, and I remember her as tall, although I suppose the last time I saw her I was already over a head taller. In my childhood memories, she’s a grown-up, which I guess she has been since she was eleven, since the day she saw what she saw. In the pale shimmer from two utility candles in paper cups, her skin looks tired, her eyes sunken as though she has not been sleeping. Her eyes bear the beginnings of fine lines at the corners; she, too, has aged in these past years. The dark, curly waves of her hair are streaked with a few gray strands, tied back in a sloppy ponytail. She looks strong, like she’s someone who knows what she’s doing. The kind of person I always wished I were or would someday become.

************

About the Author

Elizabeth de Veer has a Master of Theological Studies from Harvard Divinity School and has been admitted to writing residencies at the Jentel Artist Residency, the Hambidge Center for Creative Arts and Sciences, and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. She is a member of several writing groups, including Grub Street Writers’ Collective of Boston, the Newburyport Writers’ Group, Sisters in Crime New England, and the New Hampshire Writers’ Project. She lives in a small town in Northeast Massachusetts with her husband, daughter, and labradoodle.

To learn more, check out her web site at elizabethdeveer.com.

Connect with Elizabeth
Website // Facebook // Instagram

************

Follow the tour here.

************

Giveaway

To enter the drawing for a print copy of
The Ocean in Winter, leave a comment
below. The winning name will be drawn
on the evening of Thursday, July 29th.
US entrants only.

************

Book Review: Denied by Mary Keliikoa @mary_keliikoa @CamelPressBooks @tlcbooktours

Denied
A Kelly Pruett Mystery #2
Mary Keliikoa
Camel Press, May 2021
ISBN 978-1-60381-783-7
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

A high-risk pregnancy. A dangerous secret. When her case turns deadly, can this investigator avoid racking up a fatal debt?

PI Kelly Pruett’s search to locate a former classmate’s missing father ends in what appears to be a tragic accident. But putting the pieces together that led to that fateful night will require Kelly to play a high risk game of chance with a killer willing to gamble everything to win.

As private investigators go, Kelly Pruett has one quality that sets her apart to my way of thinking. Like Goldilocks and her bears, Kelly is not overwhelmingly good at her job nor is she TSTL. No, this lady falls right in the middle, meaning she has the smarts she needs most of the time but occasionally goes haywire. In other words, she’s normal and I really appreciate that.

Kelly was injured on the job in her first book and is still recovering but, let’s face it, an overload of cheating significant others can be a tad boring. Hearing from an old friend whose estranged dad is missing gives Kelly the chance to work on something a little more interesting. Little does she know this case is going to turn ugly all too soon and she’ll find herself up against the mob.

In this second adventure, Mary Keliikoa continues establishing Kelly as a woman of thought and determination, one who does her best to balance work with her personal life, especially her deaf daughter. I like Kelly and I’m already anticipating book # 3.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, July 2021.

************

Purchase Links:
Barnes & Noble // Kobo // Amazon // Indiebound

************

About the Author

Mary Keliikoa is the author of the Lefty and Agatha award nominated PI Kelly Pruett mystery series and the upcoming Misty Pines mystery series featuring Sheriff Jax Turner slated for release in September 2022. Her short stories have appeared in Woman’s World and in the anthology Peace, Love and Crime: Crime Fiction Inspired by Music of the ‘60s. A Pacific NW native, she spent a part of her life working around lawyers. Combining her love of legal and books, she creates a twisting mystery where justice prevails.

When not in Washington, you can find Mary on the beach in Hawaii where she and her husband recharge. But even under the palm trees and blazing sun, she’s plotting her next murder—novel that is.

Find out more about Mary on her websiteInstagramTwitter, and Facebook.

************

Follow the tour here.

************

Book Review: Murder at Pelican Lake by Marjorie Mathison Hance @BPPress

Murder at Pelican Lake
Marjorie Mathison Hance
Beaver’s Pond Press, January 2018
ISBN 978-1-59298-610-1
Trade Paperback

Here we have a sort of semi-traditional story, not quite a cozy, set in a small lake-side community with some terrorizing incidents, a little non-explicit sex, and a variety of meaningful, warm and logical relationships.

We also have a carefully crafted mystery surrounding a sometimes lonely career woman, Carley Norgren. The setting is one of Minnesota’s prettiest lakes, surrounded by sand beaches, pines and small cabins, many owned for generations by the same families. It is here, to the cabin built by Carley’s grand-parents, that she retreats after her job in Minneapolis is abolished. At almost the same time, her lover and she have separated and her life seems to be in ruins. So Carley retreats, amid languid summer days, to recoup and recover at the lake. She has no plans, so life has a way of filling the empty spaces, but she is a strong woman and we sense early on that she will recover. Carley lands in the middle of strange and unusual goings on.

A local teen goes missing, a stranger out of the blue asks to copy certain pages from her deceased father’s research and her pet dog and bird seem at times to experience mysterious or unsettling vibrations. Then, late one night while she kayaks alone on the quiet lake, she encounters men dumping something in deep water.

All these events, strategically woven into the narrative, lead readers along step by step to surprising revelations and a satisfying conclusion. All in all a good, nicely designed and written mystery for warm summer days relaxing on the beach and carrying good binoculars for observation of life along Pelican Lake.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, May 2019.
http://www.carlbrookins.com http://agora2.blogspot.com
Traces, Grand Lac, Reunion, Red Sky.

Book Review: A Song for the Dark Times by Ian Rankin @Beathhigh @orionbooks @littlebrown

A Song for the Dark Times
An Inspector Rebus Novel #23
Ian Rankin
Orion Books, October 2020 (UK)
ISBN 978-1-4091-7697-8
Little, Brown and Company, October 2020 (US)
Hardcover

Retired Detective John Rebus has just moved one floor down into the ground floor flat in Edinburgh where he’s lived for a number of years.  He has COPD and stairs had become a problem. Detective Inspector Siobhan Clarke, his friend and once his partner in solving crimes, has been helping him move.

Leaving Rebus to unpack,  Siobhan returns to the Leith Police Station to rejoin the Major Incident Team currently working on the murder of a young, rich, Saudi named Salman bin Mahmoud, who was stabbed to death in what might be a hate crime.

Meantime Rebus gets a call from his daughter Samantha, now living in Tongue, 250miles to the north, with her partner Keith and daughter Carrie. Keith has gone missing and Samantha is at her wit’s end. Rebus immediately abandons his unpacking and hops in his car, heading to Tongue.  Sam and Rebus aren’t exactly close due to the fact that during her early years Rebus spent more time cracking cases and catching killers than spending time with his wife and daughter.  Now he sees this as an opportunity to get closer to his daughter and granddaughter.

On his arrival Rebus is met by Detective Sergeant Creasey who is in charge of the missing person case, and who is quick to let Rebus know he won’t tolerate interference.  When Samantha tells her father she’d had a fight with Keith before he disappeared adding that they’d recently been going through a rough patch, Rebus is prepared to do everything he can to track down Keith.  But Sam is fearful her father will only make matters worse.  And when Keith’s body is found, Samantha becomes the prime suspect.

Determined to prove his daughter’s innocence Rebus talks to a group of the locals Keith had become involved with on discovering that a POW camp was once located in the area. Keith had been interviewing several members who had been prisoners at the time and who had opted to stay around once the war was over.

When Rebus gets a call from Siobhan he asks how her murder case is proceeding and learns there might be a connection between the death of the Saudi man and Lord Strathy aka Ramsey Meiklejohn a landowner in Tongue.  Intrigued, Rebus turns his attention to the landowner paying a visit to his stately home.  Lord Strathy isn’t in residence, but when Rebus tries to question the housekeeper,  he’s quickly shown the door, leaving him to wonder if he’s found a fresh trail to follow in search of Keith’s killer.

All is not what it seems in the town of Tongue, and Rebus has his hands full as he pokes into the past to uncover the truth.

I very much enjoyed following Rebus on his latest outing…

Check this one out.… You won’t be disappointed.

Respectfully submitted.

Reviewed by guest reviewer Moyra Tarling, November 2020.

Book Review: Troubled Blood by Robert Galbraith @RGalbraith @mulhollandbooks

Troubled Blood
A Cormoran Strike Novel #5
Robert Galbraith
Mulholland Books, September 2020
ISBN 978-0-316-49898-2
Hardcover

For those familiar with this series by Robert Galbraith, aka J.K.Rowling, this is Book #5. While I would suggest reading them in order I believe that this 944 page hardcover book can be read on its own.

Cormoran Strike is a Private Detective and his Partner in the Detective Agency is Robin Ellacott. Due to their success in solving previous cases, Strike and Robin have gained something of a reputation. They now have a receptionist Pat, and two investigators, Morris and Hutchins. At the outset of the series Robin had been the sole employee, but having helped Strike in all the previous cases he offered her a partnership in the business.

They are asked to take on a Cold Case, the disappearance forty years ago of a young mother and doctor. Margot Bamborough disappeared without a trace one evening on her way to meet a friend for a drink. At the time Margot’s daughter Anna was a toddler, but she has always wondered if the speculation that her mother was just another victim of a serial killer named Dennis Creed was true. Creed is in jail for the kidnapping and murder of a number of young women, and has neither acknowledged nor denied any connection with Margot’s disappearance.

Intrigued, they decide to accept the challenge, but tracking down the people in Margot’s life from 40 years ago, two doctors, a nurse and a receptionist, a gardener and an office cleaner, not to mention friends and a few patients she had seen on that fateful day, is a daunting task.

Troubling, however, is the fact that Strike is dealing with some personal issues. His Aunt Joan, who lives in Cornwall and was like a mother to him when he was a child, is fighting a battle with cancer. She means a great deal to him and he is torn between his work in London and spending as much time as he can with her. And Strike’s father, a famous Rock Musician who has barely acknowledged Strike’s existence wants to meet and talk to him.

Robin does her best to pick up the slack, but she is caught emotionally drained trying to finalize her divorce, as well as some tension in the office.

As you may have gathered there is a lot going on in this 944 page novel, nonetheless the reader is in good hands, and quickly gets caught up in the various cases as they unfold.

With slow and painstaking work Strike and Robin make a little headway with the Cold Case, locating and meeting with some of the staff who worked at the Medical Practice all those years ago. But with each interview they hear conflicting stories about Dr, Margot Bamborough, and the events leading up to her disappearance, which frustratingly results in more questions. But nothing deters these investigators in their pursuit of the truth.

A remarkable story, hard to put down. Check it out… You won’t regret it.

RespectfulIy submitted.

Reviewed by guest reviewer Moyra Tarling, October 2020.

Book Review: Turn to Dust by Rachel Amphlett @RachelAmphlett @AnAudiobookworm

************

Author: Rachel Amphlett

Narrator: Alison Campbell

Length: 7 hours 56 minutes

Series: Detective Kay Hunter, Book 9

Publisher: Saxon Publishing

Genre: Mystery, Police Procedural

Released: May 14, 2020

************

When the body of a naked man is found in the middle of a barren field, a rural community is left in shock – and fear.

Discovering that someone is offering money in return for information about the dead man and anyone connected to him, Detective Kay Hunter realises there is a dark side to the victim’s past.

When a key witness disappears and a web of deceit and lies threatens to derail the investigation, she fears the worst.

Can Kay and her team of detectives find out who is behind the man’s murder before another victim is targeted?

Buy Links

RachelAmphlett.com

************

Before turning to writing, Rachel Amphlett played guitar in bands, worked as a TV and film extra, dabbled in radio as a presenter and freelance producer for the BBC, and worked in publishing as a sub-editor and editorial assistant.

She now wields a pen instead of a plectrum and writes crime fiction and spy novels, including the Dan Taylor espionage novels and the Detective Kay Hunter series.

Originally from the UK and currently based in Brisbane, Australia, Rachel cites her writing influences as Michael Connelly, Lee Child, and Robert Ludlum. She’s also a huge fan of Peter James, Val McDermid, Robert Crais, Stuart MacBride, and many more.

She’s a member of International Thriller Writers and the Crime Writers Association, with the Italian foreign rights for her debut novel, White Gold sold to Fanucci Editore’s TIMECrime imprint, and the first four books in the Dan Taylor espionage series contracted to Germany’s Luzifer Verlag.

WebsiteTwitterFacebookGoodreadsInstagram

************

Narrator Bio

Alison Campbell is an actress based in Bristol, U.K. She has lent her voice to 50+ audiobooks, cartoons, documentaries and dramas. She can be found treading the boards across the country, in everything from Shakespeare to hip hop kids adventures. On screen she has appeared in dramas and science documentaries, her most recent co star was a CGI elephant. She can also be found performing the Natural Theatre Company’s award-winning surreal brand of interactive comedy around the globe.

Instagram

************

I’m so happy to have another entry in this series and Turn to Dust is every bit as good as the earlier books.

When Detective Kay Hunter is called to the scene where a man’s body was found, it doesn’t take long before she and her team begin to find hints that this is no ordinary crime but they have no idea how dark this one is going to get. The man’s injuries are exceedingly bad, much worse than they’re used to seeing but, before much time goes by, they learn just why the body is in this condition.

Not long after, the team hears that someone is offering payment for information about the victim and a critical witness goes missing. All efforts go towards finding this girl and the trail leads them in some truly horrifying directions, ultimately towards the answers that show just how depraved and vicious some people can be.

As always in Ms. Amphlett’s books, a good deal of attention is paid to the individual team members — Barnes, Carys and all the others — and their interactions with each other, based on a camaraderie that has grown over time. I especially enjoy the time spent with Kay and her veterinarian husband, Adam, always wanting to see what adorable animals he’s going to bring home.

Alison Campbell continues doing an excellent job with the audiobook narration and, in fact, she gets better with each book. One thing in particular that struck me this time is that her tone is really mellow and soothing which you would think wouldn’t be quite right for a police procedural but somehow it works very well. Between her narration and Ms. Amphlett’s terrific storytelling, I’m already anticipating the next book 🙂

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, July 2020.

I received this audiobook as part of my participation in a blog tour with Audiobookworm Promotions. The tour is being sponsored by Rachel Amphlett. The gifting of this audiobook did not affect my opinion of it.

************

Click here to view the full tour schedule!

************

Plugging you into the audio community since 2016.

Sign up as a tour host here.