Book Review: The Deep by Alma Katsu @almakatsu @TransworldBooks @The_FFBC

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Title: The Deep
Author: Alma Katsu
Publisher: Transworld Digital
Publication date: March 10, 2020
Genres: Mystery, Dark Fantasy, Thriller

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Purchase Links:
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The Deep
Alma Katsu
Transworld Digital, March 2020
ISBN 978-0-525-53790-8
Hardcover

From the publisher—

Someone, or something, is haunting the Titanic.

This is the only way to explain the series of misfortunes that have plagued the passengers of the ship from the moment they set sail: mysterious disappearances, sudden deaths. Now suspended in an eerie, unsettling twilight zone during the four days of the liner’s illustrious maiden voyage, a number of the passengers – including millionaires Madeleine Astor and Benjamin Guggenheim, the maid Annie Hebbley and Mark Fletcher – are convinced that something sinister is going on . . . And then, as the world knows, disaster strikes.

Years later and the world is at war. And a survivor of that fateful night, Annie, is working as a nurse on the sixth voyage of the Titanic’s sister ship, the Britannic, now refitted as a hospital ship. Plagued by the demons of her doomed first and near fatal journey across the Atlantic, Annie comes across an unconscious soldier she recognises while doing her rounds. It is the young man Mark. And she is convinced that he did not – could not – have survived the sinking of the Titanic . . .

Not too long ago, I listened to the audiobook of Alma Katsu’s The Hunger and, truthfully, I was mesmerized by the ominous atmosphere she created. That ambience comes largely from my knowing ahead of time what really happened with the Donner Party, the ineffable tragedy of it all, and the promise of The Deep was that it would give me much of the same feeling. I didn’t do audio on this one but visually reading it didn’t lessen the effect.

Was the Titanic imbued with a supernatural touch as the author suggests? Maybe, maybe not, but there is no doubt that the ship’s story is full of ghosts and belief in the occult was popular among the wealthy at the time so Ms. Katsu taking it a bit farther is not really out of line, is it? Even with a sizeable passenger list and crew, there do seem to be an inordinate number of deaths and peculiar events that the people on the voyage can’t truly explain in “normal” terms and then, of course, there is that awful night.

When stewardess Annie finds herself, four years later working as a World War I nurse on board the Titanic’s sister ship, the Britannic, perhaps it’s not surprising that she would come across a wounded soldier who was also on the Titanic’s fateful voyage. Annie carries her own demons with her, though, so possibly her memories are tricking her into thinking that Mark can’t be there because he could not have survived the sinking. Then again…

Ms. Katsu’s real strength lies in her storytelling and on her ability to bring people and historic events to life. The Deep is a compelling tale that could, if you believe just a little, be truth and, might I add, it’s immeasurably enhanced by including a real woman, Violet Jessop, who has to be one of the luckiest seafaring women ever. Well done, Ms. Katsu!

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, March 2020.

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An Excerpt from The Deep

Chapter One

October 1916
Morninggate Asylum,
Liverpool

She is not mad.

Annie Hebbley pokes her needle into the coarse gray linen, a soft color, like the feathers of the doves that entrap themselves in the chimneys here, fluttering and crying out, sometimes battering themselves to death in a vain effort to escape.

She is not mad.

Annie’s eyes follow the needle as it runs the length of the hem, weaving in and out of fabric. In and out. In and out. Sharp and shining and so precise.

But there is something in her that is hospitable to madness.

Annie has come to understand the erratic ways of the insane-the crying fits, incoherent babblings, violent flinging of hands and feet. There is, after days and weeks and years, a kind of comforting rhythm to them. But, no, she is not one of them. Of that she is certain.

Certain as the Lord and the Blessed Virgin, her da’ might once have said.

There are a dozen female patients hunched over their sewing, making the room warm and stuffy despite the meagerness of the fire. Work is thought to be palliative to nervous disorders, so many of the inmates are given jobs, particularly those who are here due more to their own poverty than any ailment of mind or body. While most of the indigent are kept in workhouses, Annie has learned, quite a few find their way to asylums instead, if there are any empty beds to keep them. Not to mention the women of sin.

Whatever their reasons for turning up at Morninggate, most of the women here are meek enough and bend themselves to the nurses’ direction. But there are a few of whom Annie is truly afraid.

She pulls in tight to herself as she works, not wanting to brush up against them, unable to shake the suspicion that madness might pass from person to person like a disease. That it festers the way a fine mold grows inside a milk bottle left too long in the sun-undetectable at first but soon sour and corrupting, until all the milk is spoiled.

Annie sits on a hard little stool in the needle room with her morning’s labor puddled in her lap, but it is the letter tucked inside her pocket that brushes up against her thoughts unwillingly, a glowing ember burning through the linen of her dress. Annie recognized the handwriting before she even saw the name on the envelope. She has reread it now at least a dozen times. In the dark cover of night, when no one is looking, she kisses it like a crucifix.

As if drawn to the sin of Annie’s thoughts, a nurse materializes at her shoulder. Annie wonders how long she has been standing there, studying Annie. This one is new. She doesn’t know Annie yet-not well, anyway. They leave Annie to the late arrivals on staff, who haven’t yet learned to be frightened of her.

“Anne, dear, Dr. Davenport would like to see you. I’m to escort you to his office.”

Annie rises from her stool. None of the other women glance up from their sewing. The nurses never turn their backs to the patients of Morninggate, so Annie shuffles down the corridor, the nurse’s presence like a hot poker at her back. If Annie could get a moment alone, she would get rid of the letter. Stash it behind the drapes, tuck it under the carpet runner. She mustn’t let the doctor find it. Just thinking of it again sends a tingle of shame through her body.

But she is never alone at Morninggate.

In the dusty reflection of the hall windows they appear like two ghosts-Annie in her pale, dove-gray uniform, the nurse in her long cream skirt, apron, and wimple. Past a long series of closed doors, locked rooms, in which the afflicted mutter and wail.

What do they scream about? What torments them so? For some, it was gin. Others were sent here by husbands, fathers, even brothers who don’t like the way their women think, don’t like that they are outspoken. But Annie shies away from learning the stories of the truly mad. There’s undoubtedly tragedy there, and Annie’s life has had enough sadness.

The building itself is large and rambling, constructed in several stages from an old East India Company warehouse that shuttered in the 1840s. In the outdoor courtyard, where the women do their exercises in the mornings, the walls are streaked with sweat and spittle, smeared with dirty handprints and smudges of dried blood. Luckily the gaslights are kept low, for economy’s sake, giving the grime a pleasantly warm hue.

They pass the men’s wing; sometimes, Annie can hear their voices through the wall, but today they’re quiet. The men and women are kept separate because some of the women suffer from a peculiar nervous disorder that makes their blood run hot. These women cannot abide the sight of a man, will break out in tremors, try to tear off their clothes, will chew through their own tongues and fall down convulsing.

Or so they say. Annie has never seen it happen. They like to tell stories about the patients, particularly the female ones.

But Annie is safe here, from the great big world. The world of men. And that is what matters. The small rooms, the narrow confines are not so different from the old cottage in Ballintoy, four tiny rooms, the roiling Irish Sea not twenty paces from her front door. Here, the air in the courtyard is ripe with the smell of ocean, too, though if it is close by, Annie cannot see it, has not seen it in four years.

It is both a comfort and a curse. Some days, she wakes from nightmares of black water rushing into her open mouth, freezing her lungs to stone. The ocean is deep and unforgiving. Families in Ballintoy have lost fathers and brothers, sisters and daughters to the sea for as long as she can remember. She’s seen the water of the Atlantic Ocean choked with hundreds of bodies. More bodies than are buried in all of Ballintoy’s graveyard.

And yet on other days, she wakes to find plaster beneath her fingernails where she has scratched at the walls, desperate to get out, to return to it. Her blood surges through her veins with the motion of the sea. She craves it.

On the far side of the courtyard they enter the small vestibule that leads to the doctors’ private rooms. The nurse indicates that Annie should step aside as she knocks and then, at a command to enter, unlocks the door to Dr. Davenport’s office. He rises from behind his desk and gestures to a chair.

Nigel Davenport is a young man. Annie likes him, has always felt he has the well-being of his patients in mind. She’s overheard the nurses talk about how difficult it is for the parish to get doctors to remain at the asylum. Their job is discouraging when so few patients respond to treatment. Plus, it’s far more lucrative to be a family doctor, setting bones and delivering babies. He is always nice to her, if formal. Whenever he sees her, he thinks about the incident with the dove. They all do. How she was found once cradling a dead bird in her arms, cooing to it like a baby.

She knows it wasn’t a baby. It was just a bird. It had fallen out of the flue, hit the hearth in a puff of loose feathers. Dirty, sooty bird, and yet beautiful in its way. She only wanted to hold it. To have something of her own to hold.

He folds his hands and rests them on the desktop. She stares at his long fingers, the way they fold into one another. She wonders if they are strong hands. It is not the first time she has wondered this. “I heard you received another letter yesterday.”

Her heart trembles inside her chest.

“It is against our policy to intrude too much on our patients’ privacy, Annie. We don’t read patients’ mail, as they do at other homes. We are not like that here.” His smile is kind, but there is a slight furrow between his brows and Annie has the strangest urge to press her finger there, to smooth the soft flesh. But of course she would never. Voluntary touching is not allowed. “Here, you may show us only of your own free will. But you can see how these letters would be a matter of concern for us, don’t you?”

His voice is gentle, encouraging, almost a physical caress in the stillness. Bait. She remains silent, as if to speak would be to touch him back. Perhaps if she doesn’t respond, he will stop pressing. Perhaps she will vanish into air if she is quiet enough. She used to play this game all the time in the vast fields and cliffsides of Ballintoy-the recollection returns with startling clarity: the Vanishing Game. Generally, it worked. She could go whole days drifting in the meadow behind the house, imagining stories, without ever being seen or spoken to. A living phantom.

The doctor stretches his neck against his high collar. He has a good, solid neck. Hands, too. He could easily overpower her. That is probably the point of such strength. “Perhaps you would like to show it to me, Annie? For your own peace of mind? It’s not good to have secrets-secrets weigh on you, hold you down.”

She shivers. She longs to share it and burns to hide it. “It’s from a friend.”

“The friend who used to work with you aboard the passenger ship?” He pauses. “Violet, wasn’t it?”

She starts to panic. “She’s working on another ship now. She says they are in dire need of help and she wonders if I would return to service.” There. It’s out.

His dark eyes study her. She cannot resist the weight of his expectation. She has never been good at saying no; all she has ever wanted was to please people, her father, her mother. To please all of them. To be good.

Like she once was.

My good Annie, the Lord favors good girls, said her da’.

She reaches into her pocket and hands him the letter. She can hardly stand to watch him read, feeling as though it is not the letter but her own body that has been exposed.

Then he glances up at her, and slowly his mouth forms a smile.

“Don’t you see, Annie?”

She knots her hands together in her lap. “See?” She knows what he’s going to say next.

“You know that you’re not really sick, not like the others, don’t you?” He says these words kindly, as though he is trying to spare her feelings. As though she doesn’t already know it. “We debated the morality of keeping you here, but we were reluctant to discharge you because- Well, frankly, we didn’t know what to do with you.”

Annie had no recollection of her own past when she was admitted to Morninggate Asylum. She woke up in one of the narrow beds, her arms and legs bruised, not to mention the awful, aching wound on her head. A constable had found her unconscious behind a public house. She didn’t appear to be a prostitute-she was neither dressed for it nor stinking of gin.

But no one knew who she was. At the time, Annie scarcely knew herself. She couldn’t even tell them her name. The physician had no choice but to sign the court order to detain her at the asylum.

Her memory has, over time, begun to return. Not all of it, though; when she tries to recall certain things, all she gets is a blur. The night the great ship went down is, of course, cut into her memory with the prismatic perfection of solid ice. It’s what came before that feels unreal. She remembers the two men, each in their turn, though sometimes she feels as though they have braided together in her mind into just one man, or all men. And then, before that: fragments of green fields and endless sermons, intoned prayer and howling northern wind. A world too unfathomably big to comprehend.

A terrible, gaping loneliness that has been her only companion for four years.

Surely it is better to be kept safe inside this place, while the world and its secrets, its wars, its false promises, are kept away, outside the thick brick walls.

Dr. Davenport looks at her with that same wavering smile. “Don’t you think, Annie?” he is saying.

“Think what?”

“It would be wrong to keep you here, with the war on. Taking up a bed that could be used for someone who is truly unwell. There are soldiers suffering from shell shock. Everton Alley teems with poor and broken spirits, tormented by demons from their time on the battlefield.” His eyes are dark and very steady. They linger on hers. “You must write to the White Star office and ask for your old job, as your friend suggests. It’s the right thing to do under the circumstances.”

She is stunned, not by his assertions but that this is all happening so quickly. She is having trouble keeping up with his words. A slow dread creeps into her chest.

“You’re fine, my dear. You’re just scared. It’s understandable-but you’ll be right as rain once you see your friend and start working again. It’s about time, anyway, don’t you think?”

She can’t help but feel stubbornly rejected, spurned, almost. For four years, she’s managed things so that she could stay. Kept her secrets. Was careful not to disrupt anything, not to do anything wrong.

She has been so good.

Now her life, her home, the only security she knows, is being ripped away from her and she is once more being forced out into the unknown.

But there is no turning back. She knows she cannot refuse him this, cannot refuse him anything. Not when he has been so kind.

He folds up the letter and holds it out to her. Her gaze lingers on his strong hands. Her fingers brush against his when she takes it back. Forbidden.

“I should be happy to sign the release papers,” her doctor says. “Congratulations, Miss Hebbley, on your return to the world.”

3 October 1916

My dear Annie,

I hope this letter finds you. Yes, I am writing again even though I have not heard from you since the letter you sent via the White Star Line head office. You can understand why I continue to write. I pray your condition has not worsened. I was sorry to read of your current situation, although, from your letter, you do not sound unwell to me. Can you ever forgive me for losing track of you after that Terrible Night? I didn’t know if you had lived or died. I feared I would never see you again.

Excerpted from The Deep by Alma Katsu. Copyright © 2020 by Alma Katsu. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Original link: https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/586714/the-deep-by-alma-katsu/

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About the Author

Alma Katsu is the author of The Hunger, a reimagining of the story of the Donner Party with a horror twist. The Hunger made NPR’s list of the 100 Best Horror Stories, was named one of the best novels of 2018 by the Observer, Barnes & Noble, Powell’s Books (and more), and was nominated for a Stoker and Locus Award for best horror novel.

The Taker, her debut novel, has been compared to the early works of Anne Rice and Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander for combining historical, the supernatural, and fantasy into one story. The Taker was named a Top Ten Debut Novel of 2011 by Booklist, was nominated for a Goodreads Readers Choice award, and has been published in over 10 languages. It is the first in an award-winning trilogy that includes The Reckoning and The Descent.

Ms. Katsu lives outside of Washington DC with her husband, musician Bruce Katsu. In addition to her novels, she has been a signature reviewer for Publishers Weekly, and a contributor to the Huffington Post. She is a graduate of the Johns Hopkins Writing Program and Brandeis University, where she studied with novelist John Irving. She also is an alumni of the Squaw Valley Community of Writers.

Prior to publication of her first novel, Ms. Katsu had a long career in intelligence, working for several US agencies and a think tank. She currently is a consultant on emerging technologies. Additional information can be found on Wikipedia and in this interview with Ozy.com.

Author Links:

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Book Review: The Reluctant Midwife by Patricia Harman

The Reluctant MidwifeThe Reluctant Midwife
A Hope River Novel #2
Patricia Harman
William Morrow Paperbacks, March 2015
ISBN 978-0-06-235824-0
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

Nurse Becky Myers is a reluctant midwife. She’s far more comfortable with tending the sick than helping women deliver their babies. For these mothers-to-be, she relies on an experienced midwife, her dear friend Patience Murphy. But the Great Depression has hit West Virginia hard. Men are out of work; women struggle to feed hungry children. And sometimes Becky is called upon to bring new life into the world.

Though she is happy to be back in Hope River, time and experience have tempered Becky’s cheerfulness— as tragedy has destroyed the vibrant spirit of her former employer, Dr. Isaac Blum, who has accompanied her. Patience too has changed. Married and expecting a baby herself, she is relying on Becky to keep the mothers of Hope River safe.

Becoming a midwife and ushering new life into the world is not Becky’s only challenge. Her skills and courage will be tested when a calamitous forest fire blazes through a Civilian Conservation Corps camp. And she must find a way to bring Isaac’s spirit back to life and rediscover the hope they both need to go on.

Much has been written and studied about the Great Depression and its devastating effects and West Virginia was certainly one of the states hit hardest. Already lagging behind other states economically, the Depression made things much worse and true poverty became commonplace. Such is the setting for the tale of some wonderful and resilient people told in The Reluctant Midwife.

Technically speaking, this is the second book in a series but it’s really more of a companion novel to the first. The main character from The Midwife of Hope River, Patience Murphy, is present in the second book but the focus is on a different character, Becky Myers. I enjoyed Patience in this story (not having read the first book yet) but Becky is the one who really caught my attention.

Becky is a nurse but is every bit as terrified as any layman would be at the thought of attending childbirth and it’s this facet of her personality that tells us who Becky is, the fortitude and compassion that imbue her personality. Oddly enough, I was reminded of the James Herriot books in the type of person Becky is, doing what needs to be done even when she really doesn’t want to, and also in the style of the story, with vignettes of medical scenarios forming the heart of the tale.

Becky is a woman I’d love to know in reality even while I’d be a little intimidated by her essential goodness. She takes on the burden of caring for her nearly catatonic employer, Dr. Isaac Blum, and does so just because that’s the right thing to do. Her compassion towards him in the face of impending starvation is remarkable and, yet, it fits the mold of those people who live in Appalachia and other economically stressed areas. They are people who recognize that community and caring for one’s neighbors is how they rise above their conditions.

Becky, like them, is full of heart and resilience and I love her story. I’ll be picking up the first book while wiondering where Ms. Harman will take us next.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, March 2015.

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About the Author

Patricia HarmanPatricia Harman, CNM, got her start as a lay midwife on rural communes and went on to become a nurse-midwife on the faculty of Ohio State University, Case Western Reserve University, and West Virginia University. She lives near Morgantown, West Virginia; has three sons; and is the author of two acclaimed memoirs.

Find out more about Patricia at her website, and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

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Tuesday, March 3rd: West Metro Mommy

Wednesday, March 4th: Bibliotica

Thursday, March 5th: Broken Teepee

Friday, March 6th: Kritter Ramblings

Monday, March 9th: Peeking Between the Pages

Tuesday, March 10th: A Novel Review

Thursday, March 12th: Life Between Reads

Monday, March 16th: Unshelfish

Tuesday, March 17th: A Patchwork of Books

Wednesday, March 18th: Buried Under Books

Thursday, March 19th: FictionZeal

Friday, March 20th: A Chick Who Reads

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Book Reviews: I’d Know You Anywhere by Laura Lippman, The Two Deaths of Daniel Hayes by Marcus Sakey, A Bitter Truth by Charles Todd, The Boy in the Suitcase by Lene Kaaberbol and Agnette Friis, and Dark Mind by Jennifer Chase

I’d Know You Anywhere
Laura Lippman
William Morrow Paperbacks,
ISBN 978-0062070753
Trade Paperback

Eliza Benedict and her family have recently moved back to the United States after living several years in England.  The move was brought about by Eliza’s husband’s employment.  The children are just adjusting to the move. Eliza’s daughter Isobel (Iso) and her son Albie are in new schools and attempting to get used to life in the states after being gone so long.

Eliza’s ordinary life is suddenly interrupted when she receives a letter from Walter Bowman, a death row inmate.  Walter had spotted Eliza’s picture in a magazine and his letter states “I’d know you anywhere”.  Walter had kidnapped Eliza when she was only 15 years old.  Walter held Eliza hostage for40 days before she was finally released.  This is a part of Eliza’s life that she hasn’t shared with her children.

Eliza’s full name was Elizabeth Hortense Lerner prior to her marriage.  After her abduction, her parents moved and she entered a new school under the name of Eliza.  Only her parents, her sister Vonnie and Eliza’s husband are aware of the past circumstances until a woman who has taken up Walter’s cause finds Eliza and encourages her to talk to Walter.  Eliza finally decides after discussing the matter with her husband that she will speak with Walter. She installs a new telephone line and instructs Walter that the only hours she will be willing to answer the phone is during the time her children are away at school.  Walter wants Eliza to visit him on death row.  Eliza isn’t the only girl he kidnapped but she is the one who lived.  He indicates if she will only visit him, he will reveal information to her about the other that he has previously refused to discuss.

The story of the kidnapping is told in flashbacks.  It seems there were many times Eliza had the opportunity to escape but fear that Walter would carry out his threats to harm Eliza’s family held her back.  Eliza remembers the many days she was held by Walter and her methods of coping with a horrible situation.

This is a book that I very much enjoyed and would highly recommend.

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid, June 2011.

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The Two Deaths of Daniel Hayes
Marcus Sakey
Dutton, June 2011
ISBN 978-0525952114
Hardcover

The story begins with Daniel Hayes washed up on the beach, half dead and thousands of miles away from home.  Daniel is alone except for a car parked on the beach and abandoned.  Of course, Daniel has no idea that he is Daniel Hayes.  He has amnesia and no idea of how he arrived in the water off the coast of Maine.  The car is a BMW.  The registration says Daniel Hayes.  The clothes in the trunk happen to fit.  The gun in the glove compartment is a big surprise.  With no other options, he starts driving the BMW headed across the country. The registration says California so that is his destination.  Is he Daniel Hayes or someone that just washed up on the beach and lucked into a good car with clothes, cash, maps and even a nice Rolex watch.  He wonders how he knew the watch was a Rolex and was surprised he liked the taste of the whiskey left in the car.  With no other options available at the moment, he decides he will be Daniel Hayes – at least until he finds out something different.

As he tries to retrace his life, he finds many surprises.    He has a wife but she is dead.   Or is she dead?  That is just another story he needs to unravel.  As Daniel struggles to make sense of his life, he finds himself right in the middle of a situation that is extremely dangerous but not one that he fully understands.

The struggles Daniel goes through to regain his memory and understand his life that went before he wound up half dead on a beach in Maine is a thriller that keeps the reader on edge up to the very last page.

Marcus Sakey’s previous novels have been very successful and this one is sure to be a winner.

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid, June 2011.

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A Bitter Truth
A Bess Crawford Mystery
Charles Todd
William  Morrow and Company, August 2011
ISBN No. 978-0062015709
Hardcover

Bess Crawford is a nurse currently stationed in France.  When she is granted leave to return to England for the Christmas holidays she welcomes the break from the war zone and looks forward to visiting her family.  Bess shares an apartment with some other nurses and it is not uncommon for her to have the place to herself since her roommates all have assignments.  Upon arriving at her apartment building, Bess finds a young woman huddled in the doorway.  The woman is well dressed and appears to be bruised as well as suffering from the cold.    Her clothing is not designed to keep her warm.  Bess convinces the woman to take refuge in her apartment.

The young woman finally confides in Bess that her name is Lydia Ellis and she resides in Sussex.  She had quarreled with her husband, Captain Roger Ellis, and Captain Ellis had struck her.    Eventually after hearing bits and pieces of Lydia’s story Bess convinced her to return to her home in Sussex and attempt to work out her problems.  Lydia’s husband was home on compassionate leave due to the illness of his brother Alan.  Alan had recently passed away.

Lydia begged Bess to return to Sussex with her to Vixen Hill the Ellis family home.  Bess agrees although Simon Brandon was not thrilled with the idea. Simon is a long time family friend who had served with Bess’ father and is very protective of Bess.  On arrival at Vixen Hill, Bess finds that plans are underway for a memorial service for Alan and family members are gathering.  Bess learns of the tragic death of Roger’s young sister years ago, a death from which none of the family seems to have completely recovered.

Soon there is another death to be investigated when a friend of the family who was staying at Vixen Hill is found murdered.  Bess is drawn into the investigation and soon learns more about the family than she ever wanted to know. Lydia has heard rumors that her husband had a child with a woman in France and that the child is the image of his dead sister.  Lydia begs Bess to look for the child when she returns to France.

Bess makes no promises but when she returns to France, she does make inquiries.  Bess confides in a soldier from Australia who takes up the search for the child.  In war torn France there are hundreds of orphans and many of the Sisters carrying for them have to move from place to place due to the war.

The story jumps back and forth between the war front and England and there is no lack of excitement on either front.  This is a good addition to the Bess Crawford mysteries and there is more than one puzzle to solve.

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid, September 2011.

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The Boy In the Suitcase
Lene Kaaberbol and Agnette Friis
Soho Crime, November 2011
ISBN 978-1569479810
Hardcover

When Nina Borg, a nurse, agrees to do her friend Karin a favor and pick up a suitcase from a locker in the Copenhagen train station, she thought it would be a simple errand. The errand turned out to be far from simple and extremely dangerous.  When Nina opened the suitcase, she found a small boy, naked and drugged.  Should she call the police and turn the child over to the authorities?  This is the question she kept asking herself but finally determined that the authorities might not do what was in the boy’s best interest.

Meanwhile, the boy’s mother, Sigita was frantic.  Sigita woke up in a hospital with no idea how she got there but is told that she was found in a drunken state after falling down the steps from her apartment.  All Sigita knew was that she did not drink to excess, she has no memory of drinking or falling and her child, Mikas, is gone.  A neighbor tells Sigita that the boy’s father had picked him up but when Sigita is finally able to reach Mikas’ father she finds that he knows nothing about where his son might be.

Nina finally finds out where Karin is and goes to meet her.  When Nina gets to the cabin where Karin is staying, she finds that Karin has been murdered.  There is no clue as to the boy’s identity or why Karin asked Nina to pick up the suitcase.   Nina is quick to realize that agreeing to do a favor for a friend has placed both her and the boy in danger.

The story turns into a race against time with Nina trying to find any clue to help her identify the boy and return him to his family while ignoring her own husband and children who are concerned for Nina’s whereabouts.

Sigita who has reported her child’s loss to the authorities goes about her own investigation into his disappearance and is doing everything she can think of to find her son even though she senses that time is running out.  Sigita was forced to give up her first baby and now to think of losing her son is too horrible to imagine.

The puzzle of why Mikas was abducted and the purpose behind the abduction is one that remains a secret until the surprise ending of this novel.  Finally, it all comes together and makes for a very exciting book.

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid, November 2011.

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Dark Mind
An Emily Stone Novel
Jennifer Chase
JEC Press, November 2011
ISBN No.978-0982953648
Trade Paperback

This third addition to the Emily Stone series finds Emily and Rick Lopez on the beautiful island of Kauai in the Hawaiian Islands.  Rick has given up his position as a police officer to join Emily in her undercover operation tracking serial killers with the emphasis on child abductors.  Emily was a former police officer.

Rick and Emily are able to rescue a child that was kidnapped by slave brokers.  When the police arrive at the scene, the couple meets Sergeant Lani Candena of the local police department.

The couple feel their trip has been successful and decide to stay on the island and enjoy a little vacation time.  It isn’t long before they hear rumors of a vicious murder.  Rick and Emily go to the scene of the crime and wait for the police to leave. Rick and Emily take a look at the scene.  Once again they run up against Sergeant Lani Candena of the of the local police department.

Lani is an ambitious officer and when there is a second murder, he feels sure that he has a serial killer on his hands.  The killings are staged in a horrible manner and Emily and Rick are convinced the killer must be a local resident.  Lani’s superior officers in the department are more interested in making a profit for themselves in the shady deals they are involved in than finding the killer.

Derek McGraw, an old friend of Rick and Emily, joins the couple on the island.  The three of them work on putting the few clues they have been able to put together in an attempt to locate the killer.  Sgt. Candena is aware that the trio is very interested in the murders.  He eventually convinces the group to work with him in an attempt to hunt down the killer.

The action in Dark Mind is non-stop.   Emily is lucky to survive the hunt.  This novel can be read as a stand-alone but I would also recommend Compulsion and Dead Game, the two previous Emily Stone novels.

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid, January 2012.

Book Reviews: I'd Know You Anywhere by Laura Lippman, The Two Deaths of Daniel Hayes by Marcus Sakey, A Bitter Truth by Charles Todd, The Boy in the Suitcase by Lene Kaaberbol and Agnette Friis, and Dark Mind by Jennifer Chase

I’d Know You Anywhere
Laura Lippman
William Morrow Paperbacks,
ISBN 978-0062070753
Trade Paperback

Eliza Benedict and her family have recently moved back to the United States after living several years in England.  The move was brought about by Eliza’s husband’s employment.  The children are just adjusting to the move. Eliza’s daughter Isobel (Iso) and her son Albie are in new schools and attempting to get used to life in the states after being gone so long.

Eliza’s ordinary life is suddenly interrupted when she receives a letter from Walter Bowman, a death row inmate.  Walter had spotted Eliza’s picture in a magazine and his letter states “I’d know you anywhere”.  Walter had kidnapped Eliza when she was only 15 years old.  Walter held Eliza hostage for40 days before she was finally released.  This is a part of Eliza’s life that she hasn’t shared with her children.

Eliza’s full name was Elizabeth Hortense Lerner prior to her marriage.  After her abduction, her parents moved and she entered a new school under the name of Eliza.  Only her parents, her sister Vonnie and Eliza’s husband are aware of the past circumstances until a woman who has taken up Walter’s cause finds Eliza and encourages her to talk to Walter.  Eliza finally decides after discussing the matter with her husband that she will speak with Walter. She installs a new telephone line and instructs Walter that the only hours she will be willing to answer the phone is during the time her children are away at school.  Walter wants Eliza to visit him on death row.  Eliza isn’t the only girl he kidnapped but she is the one who lived.  He indicates if she will only visit him, he will reveal information to her about the other that he has previously refused to discuss.

The story of the kidnapping is told in flashbacks.  It seems there were many times Eliza had the opportunity to escape but fear that Walter would carry out his threats to harm Eliza’s family held her back.  Eliza remembers the many days she was held by Walter and her methods of coping with a horrible situation.

This is a book that I very much enjoyed and would highly recommend.

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid, June 2011.

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The Two Deaths of Daniel Hayes
Marcus Sakey
Dutton, June 2011
ISBN 978-0525952114
Hardcover

The story begins with Daniel Hayes washed up on the beach, half dead and thousands of miles away from home.  Daniel is alone except for a car parked on the beach and abandoned.  Of course, Daniel has no idea that he is Daniel Hayes.  He has amnesia and no idea of how he arrived in the water off the coast of Maine.  The car is a BMW.  The registration says Daniel Hayes.  The clothes in the trunk happen to fit.  The gun in the glove compartment is a big surprise.  With no other options, he starts driving the BMW headed across the country. The registration says California so that is his destination.  Is he Daniel Hayes or someone that just washed up on the beach and lucked into a good car with clothes, cash, maps and even a nice Rolex watch.  He wonders how he knew the watch was a Rolex and was surprised he liked the taste of the whiskey left in the car.  With no other options available at the moment, he decides he will be Daniel Hayes – at least until he finds out something different.

As he tries to retrace his life, he finds many surprises.    He has a wife but she is dead.   Or is she dead?  That is just another story he needs to unravel.  As Daniel struggles to make sense of his life, he finds himself right in the middle of a situation that is extremely dangerous but not one that he fully understands.

The struggles Daniel goes through to regain his memory and understand his life that went before he wound up half dead on a beach in Maine is a thriller that keeps the reader on edge up to the very last page.

Marcus Sakey’s previous novels have been very successful and this one is sure to be a winner.

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid, June 2011.

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A Bitter Truth
A Bess Crawford Mystery
Charles Todd
William  Morrow and Company, August 2011
ISBN No. 978-0062015709
Hardcover

Bess Crawford is a nurse currently stationed in France.  When she is granted leave to return to England for the Christmas holidays she welcomes the break from the war zone and looks forward to visiting her family.  Bess shares an apartment with some other nurses and it is not uncommon for her to have the place to herself since her roommates all have assignments.  Upon arriving at her apartment building, Bess finds a young woman huddled in the doorway.  The woman is well dressed and appears to be bruised as well as suffering from the cold.    Her clothing is not designed to keep her warm.  Bess convinces the woman to take refuge in her apartment.

The young woman finally confides in Bess that her name is Lydia Ellis and she resides in Sussex.  She had quarreled with her husband, Captain Roger Ellis, and Captain Ellis had struck her.    Eventually after hearing bits and pieces of Lydia’s story Bess convinced her to return to her home in Sussex and attempt to work out her problems.  Lydia’s husband was home on compassionate leave due to the illness of his brother Alan.  Alan had recently passed away.

Lydia begged Bess to return to Sussex with her to Vixen Hill the Ellis family home.  Bess agrees although Simon Brandon was not thrilled with the idea. Simon is a long time family friend who had served with Bess’ father and is very protective of Bess.  On arrival at Vixen Hill, Bess finds that plans are underway for a memorial service for Alan and family members are gathering.  Bess learns of the tragic death of Roger’s young sister years ago, a death from which none of the family seems to have completely recovered.

Soon there is another death to be investigated when a friend of the family who was staying at Vixen Hill is found murdered.  Bess is drawn into the investigation and soon learns more about the family than she ever wanted to know. Lydia has heard rumors that her husband had a child with a woman in France and that the child is the image of his dead sister.  Lydia begs Bess to look for the child when she returns to France.

Bess makes no promises but when she returns to France, she does make inquiries.  Bess confides in a soldier from Australia who takes up the search for the child.  In war torn France there are hundreds of orphans and many of the Sisters carrying for them have to move from place to place due to the war.

The story jumps back and forth between the war front and England and there is no lack of excitement on either front.  This is a good addition to the Bess Crawford mysteries and there is more than one puzzle to solve.

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid, September 2011.

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The Boy In the Suitcase
Lene Kaaberbol and Agnette Friis
Soho Crime, November 2011
ISBN 978-1569479810
Hardcover

When Nina Borg, a nurse, agrees to do her friend Karin a favor and pick up a suitcase from a locker in the Copenhagen train station, she thought it would be a simple errand. The errand turned out to be far from simple and extremely dangerous.  When Nina opened the suitcase, she found a small boy, naked and drugged.  Should she call the police and turn the child over to the authorities?  This is the question she kept asking herself but finally determined that the authorities might not do what was in the boy’s best interest.

Meanwhile, the boy’s mother, Sigita was frantic.  Sigita woke up in a hospital with no idea how she got there but is told that she was found in a drunken state after falling down the steps from her apartment.  All Sigita knew was that she did not drink to excess, she has no memory of drinking or falling and her child, Mikas, is gone.  A neighbor tells Sigita that the boy’s father had picked him up but when Sigita is finally able to reach Mikas’ father she finds that he knows nothing about where his son might be.

Nina finally finds out where Karin is and goes to meet her.  When Nina gets to the cabin where Karin is staying, she finds that Karin has been murdered.  There is no clue as to the boy’s identity or why Karin asked Nina to pick up the suitcase.   Nina is quick to realize that agreeing to do a favor for a friend has placed both her and the boy in danger.

The story turns into a race against time with Nina trying to find any clue to help her identify the boy and return him to his family while ignoring her own husband and children who are concerned for Nina’s whereabouts.

Sigita who has reported her child’s loss to the authorities goes about her own investigation into his disappearance and is doing everything she can think of to find her son even though she senses that time is running out.  Sigita was forced to give up her first baby and now to think of losing her son is too horrible to imagine.

The puzzle of why Mikas was abducted and the purpose behind the abduction is one that remains a secret until the surprise ending of this novel.  Finally, it all comes together and makes for a very exciting book.

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid, November 2011.

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Dark Mind
An Emily Stone Novel
Jennifer Chase
JEC Press, November 2011
ISBN No.978-0982953648
Trade Paperback

This third addition to the Emily Stone series finds Emily and Rick Lopez on the beautiful island of Kauai in the Hawaiian Islands.  Rick has given up his position as a police officer to join Emily in her undercover operation tracking serial killers with the emphasis on child abductors.  Emily was a former police officer.

Rick and Emily are able to rescue a child that was kidnapped by slave brokers.  When the police arrive at the scene, the couple meets Sergeant Lani Candena of the local police department.

The couple feel their trip has been successful and decide to stay on the island and enjoy a little vacation time.  It isn’t long before they hear rumors of a vicious murder.  Rick and Emily go to the scene of the crime and wait for the police to leave. Rick and Emily take a look at the scene.  Once again they run up against Sergeant Lani Candena of the of the local police department.

Lani is an ambitious officer and when there is a second murder, he feels sure that he has a serial killer on his hands.  The killings are staged in a horrible manner and Emily and Rick are convinced the killer must be a local resident.  Lani’s superior officers in the department are more interested in making a profit for themselves in the shady deals they are involved in than finding the killer.

Derek McGraw, an old friend of Rick and Emily, joins the couple on the island.  The three of them work on putting the few clues they have been able to put together in an attempt to locate the killer.  Sgt. Candena is aware that the trio is very interested in the murders.  He eventually convinces the group to work with him in an attempt to hunt down the killer.

The action in Dark Mind is non-stop.   Emily is lucky to survive the hunt.  This novel can be read as a stand-alone but I would also recommend Compulsion and Dead Game, the two previous Emily Stone novels.

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid, January 2012.