Book Review: The Child by Fiona Barton

The Child
Fiona Barton
Berkley, June 2017
ISBN 978-1-101-99048-3
Hardcover

From the publisher—

As an old house is demolished in a gentrifying section of London, a workman discovers a tiny skeleton, buried for years. For journalist Kate Waters, it’s a story that deserves attention. She cobbles together a piece for her newspaper, but at a loss for answers, she can only pose a question: Who is the Building Site Baby?

As Kate investigates, she unearths connections to a crime that rocked the city decades earlier: A newborn baby was stolen from the maternity ward in a local hospital and was never found. Her heartbroken parents were left devastated by the loss.

But there is more to the story, and Kate is drawn—house by house—into the pasts of the people who once lived in this neighborhood that has given up its greatest mystery. And she soon finds herself the keeper of unexpected secrets that erupt in the lives of three women—and torn between what she can and cannot tell…

Just mention a dead baby and the pathos sets in, doesn’t it? Regardless of what might have happened to that infant, you know it was sad in one way or another and, in this case, it’s really bad because this poor little child had lain in its small grave for so many years.

Many people from the past and present are affected by this discovery, as you might imagine, but there are four women in particular who get our attention. At times, the baby was front and center but, at other times, the story focused much more on the individual women and Kate, the journalist, is the catalyst that brings out more than one truth. What begins as a story that shocks the senses in the beginning soon proves itself to be full of innuendoes and accusations, heartbreak and, eventually, healing.

Ms. Barton has crafted a tale that has been told before in some ways, both fictionally and in real life, but it’s the twists and coincidences that grabbed my attention, even though I was pretty sure of the direction this was taking. At the end, I felt a sense of sorrow at what one human can do to another but also hope for mending and new beginnings.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, July 2017.

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Purchase Links:

         

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About the Author

credit Jenny Lewis

It was the allure of a hidden story that propelled Fiona Barton to her long-time career in news. A journalist and British Press Awards “Reporter of the Year,” she has worked at the Daily Mail and Daily Telegraph, and brings that experience to bear in her novels.

In THE CHILD she details how Kate’s lengthy investigation into Building Site Baby’s death represents a perilous breach of the newsroom’s new culture of 24/7 online news. Says Barton: “The danger for Kate is that she risks becoming one of the dinosaurs—sidelined because she is unable and unwilling to be part of the revolution. And I feel for her.”

Though THE CHILD delivers an evocative look at the changing face of journalism, and a delicious plot twist, it is the characters’ haunting and rich emotional lives that set Barton apart and confirm her stature as a crime novelist of the first order.

              

 

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“Tense, tantalizing, and ultimately very satisfying …
definitely one of the year’s must-reads.”—
Lee Child, #1 New York Times bestselling author

“Fiona Barton has outdone herself with The Child. An engrossing,
irresistible story about the coming to light of a long-buried
secret and an absolutely fabulous read—I loved it!”—Shari Lapena,
New York Times bestselling author of The Couple Next Door

“Startling twists—and a stunning, emotionally satisfying
conclusion.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

Book Review: All Is Not Forgotten by Wendy Walker

all-is-not-forgottenAll Is Not Forgotten
Wendy Walker
St. Martin’s Press, July 2016
ISBN: 978-1-250-09791-0
Hardcover

From the first page, most readers are gripped by the relentless intense narrative voice. The brutal rape of a teen-aged girl is horrifying enough in its matter-of-fact almost toneless style. But it is that very style that almost immediately signals something else at work here. And then, a decision is made to subject the victim to memory regression through drug therapy. And the narrative style suddenly changes.

Author Walker is an excellent writer, fine plotter and she understands the subtleties of constructing a story like this one, which is anything but straight forward. Her in-depth knowledge of psychotherapy was undoubtedly of more than passing help.

The story is one of the rape and sadistic torture of a teen-aged young woman at the fringes of a party, the subsequent investigations and a long attempt to identify the perpetrator. Along the way society comes in for some serious cuffs, the drug culture is hung out to dry and family relations are in for an exceedingly rough go. When you see these pieces of the novel here on the screen, you might begin to wonder if it’s worth an effort. Trust me, it is. The novel, for all its darkness, is so beautifully structured and written, it is really, almost impossible to put down. A stunning, deeply introspective thoughtful work.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, January 2017.
http://www.carlbrookins.com http://agora2.blogspot.com
The Case of the Purloined Painting, The Case of the Great Train Robbery, Reunion, Red Sky.

Book Review: The Other Widow by Susan Crawford—and a Giveaway!

the-other-widowThe Other Widow
Susan Crawford
William Morrow Paperbacks, December 2016
ISBN 978-0-06-236289-6
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

Everybody’s luck runs out. This time it could be theirs . . .

It isn’t safe. That’s what Joe tells her when he ends their affair—moments before their car skids off an icy road in a blinding snowstorm and hits a tree. Desperate to keep her life intact—her job, her husband, and her precious daughter, Lily—Dorrie will do everything she can to protect herself, even if it means walking away from the wreckage. Dorrie has always been a good actress, pretending to be someone else: the dutiful daughter, the satisfied wife, the woman who can handle anything. Now she’s going to put on the most challenging performance of her life. But details about the accident leave her feeling uneasy and afraid. Why didn’t Joe’s airbag work? Why was his car door open before the EMTs arrived? And now suddenly someone is calling her from her dead lover’s burner phone. . . .

Joe’s death has left his wife in free fall as well. Karen knew Joe was cheating—she found some suspicious e-mails. Trying to cope with grief is devastating enough without the constant fear that has overtaken her—this feeling she can’t shake that someone is watching her. And with Joe gone and the kids grown, she’s vulnerable . . . and on her own.

Insurance investigator Maggie Brennan is suspicious of the latest claim that’s landed on her desk—a man dying on an icy road shortly after buying a lucrative life insurance policy. Maggie doesn’t believe in coincidences. The former cop knows that things—and people—are never what they seem to be.

As the fates of these three women become more tightly entwined, layers of lies and deception begin to peel away, pushing them dangerously to the edge . . . closer to each other . . . to a terrifying truth . . . to a shocking end.

I think one of the pitfalls of focusing a story on infidelities and their consequences is that it’s difficult to feel much empathy for the adulterers and I did, indeed, have a distinct lack of connection with Dorrie and the dead Joe. Besides the issue of what they’re doing to their families, you have to wonder why people in such a situation would rather follow such an unproductive path than either end their unhappy marriages or try to repair whatever is wrong. Certainly having an affair solves nothing.

Dorrie puzzled me, too, because of her immediate response to the accident. Blind panic sets in, largely because she’s so afraid of being found out and that’s understandable if weak, but she seems to be so unaware of the evidence she left behind. Still, I did sympathize with her to a point, kind of even more than Karen, Joe’s wife who studiously ignored all the signs and has her own secrets. Not knowing about a spouse’s affair is one thing; pretending it doesn’t exist is something else.

The character that really meant something to me is Maggie, the insurance investigator who becomes involved because of the large policy on Joe. This is a woman with a lot of baggage but she’s also intriguing with her background in the military and law enforcement. Her intelligence and sense of something being wrong are what made me want to keep reading, to go along with her as she searched for the truth behind Joe’s death.

Generally speaking, the plot was a bit clunky and had a few too many threads but, on the whole, I wanted to stick with it because I did want to know what really happened and how things would be resolved, plus there were a number of leads to follow to get there. While the ending left a few things hanging and some of the characters were unlikeable, The Other Widow is an interesting read.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, December 2016.

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Goodreads

Purchase Links:

HarperCollins // Barnes & Noble // Kobo

Amazon // Indiebound

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About the Author

susan-crawfordSusan Crawford grew up in Miami, Florida, and graduated from the University of Miami with a BA in English and a minor in psychology. She later moved to New York City and then Boston before settling in Atlanta to raise three daughters and work in the field of adult education. A member of the Atlanta Writers Club and the Village Writers, Susan teaches at Georgia Piedmont Technical College and dabbles in local politics. She lives with her husband and a trio of rescue cats in Atlanta, where she enjoys reading books, writing books, rainy days, and spending time with the people she loves.

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

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Follow the tour:

Tuesday, December 6th: No More Grumpy Bookseller

Wednesday, December 7th: Buried Under Books

Thursday, December 8th: Books and Bindings

Friday, December 9th: A Literary Vacation

Monday, December 12th: A Bookworm’s World

Tuesday, December 13th: Kahakai Kitchen

Wednesday, December 14th: Ms. Nose in a Book

Friday, December 16th: Peeking Between the Pages

Monday, December 19th: Tina Says…

Wednesday, December 21st: 5 Minutes For Books

Thursday, December 22nd: FictionZeal

Wednesday, December 28th: Laura’s Reviews

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TLC Book Tours Button

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To enter the drawing for one of two print
copies of The Other Widow, leave a
comment below. The winning names will
be drawn Friday evening, December 9th.
Open to residents of the US and Canada.

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Book Review: Wilde Lake by Laura Lippman—and a Giveaway!

Wilde LakeWilde Lake
Laura Lippman
William Morrow, May 2016
ISBN 978-0-06-208345-6
Hardcover

From the publisher—

Luisa “Lu” Brant is the newly elected—and first female—state’s attorney of Howard County, Maryland, a job in which her widower father famously served. Fiercely intelligent and ambitious, she sees an opportunity to make her name by trying a mentally disturbed drifter accused of beating a woman to death in her home. It’s not the kind of case that makes headlines, but peaceful Howard county doesn’t see many homicides.

As Lu prepares for the trial, the case dredges up painful memories, reminding her small but tight-knit family of the night when her brother, AJ, saved his best friend at the cost of another man’s life. Only eighteen, AJ was cleared by a grand jury. Now, Lu wonders if the events of 1980 happened as she remembers them. What details might have been withheld from her when she was a child?

The more she learns about the case, the more questions arise. What does it mean to be a man or woman of one’s times? Why do we ask our heroes of the past to conform to the present’s standards? Is that fair? Is it right? Propelled into the past, she discovers that the legal system, the bedrock of her entire life, does not have all the answers. Lu realizes that even if she could learn the whole truth, she probably wouldn’t want to.

If I had to name just one crime fiction writer who I think is the best out there, not only at creating stories that grip me from the beginning but who also has a sure hand with words, it would have to be Laura Lippman, hands down. I first met Ms. Lippman years ago when I had my bookstore and would run into her at book conventions but I fell in booklove with her very first novel, Baltimore Blues, a few years earlier and I admire her work today even more than I did back then. That comes as no surprise because each succeeding book has been exponentially better than those that have gone before. Wilde Lake is no exception.

There are secrets in the Brant family but, since the death of Lu’s mother shortly after her birth, Lu and her brother, AJ, and their dad have made a comfortable life for themselves and Lu practically worships their father, a virtual paragon. Over the years, though, these secrets have festered beneath the surface and the day finally comes when truths begin to come out, triggered by Lu’s first case as state’s attorney for Howard County. No one could possibly have guessed that this trial of a homeless man would become so crucial to the Brants and their past.

Lu is the character who really stands out and she’s a lesson in what a Type A personality is all about. Driven all her life to be perfect, to get nothing wrong, to be like her father, she’s more than a bit cold and ambitious but she still wants to do what’s right and she’s compassionate and likeable. Her controlling nature and her focus on the present have allowed those family secrets to remain hidden for years but when some things begin to come to light, the door is wide open and Lu goes through it. Much of what she learns is devastating but getting to the truth and questioning memories is going to change lives forever.

Ms. Lippman is the author of both series and standalones and Wilde Lake is one of the latter. In a way, I’m sorry about that because I’d like to see who Lu becomes now that there have been so many changes in her life but I’ll just have to look forward to whatever this wonderful author will be bringing us next. In the meantime, Wilde Lake will go on my list of favorite books read in 2016.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, May 2016.

 

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To enter the drawing for a hardcover
copy of Wilde Lake, leave a comment
below. Three winning
names will
be drawn Saturday evening,
May 28
th. This drawing is open
to residents of the US and Canada.

“Ultimately, Wilde Lake is not so much a crime novel that
rises to the level of serious literature as serious
literature that rises to the level of great crime fiction.
(Chicago Tribune)

“A heady brew of twisting tale and accelerating
introspection, Wilde Lake at once disturbs and delights, as
Lippman impels not only her characters but also her readers
to question the depth of their understanding of the past…”
(Richmond Times-Dispatch)

Book Review: Depraved Heart by Patricia Cornwell

Depraved HeartDepraved Heart
A Scarpetta Novel #23
Patricia Cornwell
William Morrow, October 2015
ISBN: 978-0-06-232540-2
Hardcover

Dr. Kay Scarpetta works out of Cambridge, Massachusetts these days. In Depraved Heart, she’s been called to a historic home where a woman has been found dead in rather gruesome circumstances. The death is supposed to be a straight forward accident, but of course, Kay finds much to rouse her suspicions. In the midst of this, a message arrives on her cell phone, consisting of video clips of her niece Lucy which would seem to make Lucy into an enemy of the state. No sooner has Kay watched the whole video (and it seems to take forever) than the whole thing disappears.

Kay is recovering from a near death harpooning and is still not at her best. She almost doubts herself, but surely Lucy is in danger. So Kay, aided by her raucous partner, Pete Marino, is out to save those she loves from a dangerous woman from the past. One who is supposed to be dead. As for the FBI, they appear to be as big an enemy as Carrie Grethen.

The plot is good, convoluted and devious, with surprises around every corner. Still, I’m sorry to say I don’t enjoy Scarpetta like I used to. The characters by whom she’s surrounded never seem like anyone I’d care to meet, let alone spend time with. Especially Lucy, who always plays such a large part in the stories. Kay herself spends a lot of time whining, always distrustful, even of those she should be able to count on. I thought this novel overwritten, rather slow moving, and with a lot of people saying the same things over and over.

Reviewed by Carol Crigger, January 2016.
Author of Three Seconds to Thunder.

Book Review: Try Not to Breathe by Holly Seddon

Try Not to BreatheTry Not to Breathe
Holly Seddon
Ballantine Books, February 2016
ISBN No. 978-1-101-88586-4
Hardcover

Alex Dale and Amy Stevenson might be referred to as two lost souls. Alex Dale’s problem is alcohol. Alcohol is the main factor that destroyed Alex’s marriage and destroyed Alex’s career as a journalist. Alex fights her addiction but so far, it is a losing battle. Alex’s ex-husband is remarried and has a child. Alex is surviving as a freelance writer but just barely getting by.

Amy Stevenson was attacked 15 years ago. She is in a coma and has been silent the entire 15 years. Her only visitor is Jacob, her boy friend from 15 years ago. Jacob is married and his wife is pregnant but she is unaware of Jacob’s visits to Amy.

Alex is writing a freelance article about patients that are in a coma and the doctor who is trying to communicate with patients that he feels are functioning on some level. She visits the hospital and recognizes Amy from the story of her abduction fifteen years ago. Alex makes a decision to try to find out the true story behind what happened to Amy. Part of that decision is to make a stronger attempt to curb her desire for alcohol.

Amy as well as Jacob and Alex speak to the reader from the various chapters of Try Not to Breathe. Alex feels that she is reaching Amy and notices little changes in her.

The book is well written and an exciting read. I look forward to more books by Holly Seddon.

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid, February 2016.

Book Reviews: Perfect Sins by Jo Bannister and A Song of Shadows by John Connolly

Perfect SinsPerfect Sins
Gabriel Ash and Hazel Best #2
Jo Bannister
Minotaur Books, December 2014
ISBN 978-1-250-05420-3
Hardcover

In the first book of this new series by Jo Bannister, the highly recommended Deadly Virtues, the reader met Gabriel Ash, in his mid-20’s, “an intelligent, astute man who had once been highly regarded in national security circles,” a well-educated insurance investigator and later a Government analyst before the traumatic events of 4 years ago when his wife and two young boys had been taken by persons unknown, their present whereabouts a complete mystery.

The follow-up book takes place two months later, and reunites Gabriel with Hazel Best, a 26-year-old rookie cop, now on probation after the events which took place in that earlier novel, during which she had saved his life more than once.  As the book opens, Gabriel is accompanying Hazel to visit her father, the gatekeeper at Byrfield estate, the lord of the manor being Lord Pete (“Peregrine”) Byrfield.   Also present is David Sperrin, Hazel’s old friend and an archaeologist who lives with his mother on neighboring property, who shortly embarks on an excavation on Byrfield land resulting in the discovery of what is determined to be the body of a ten-year-old child in a makeshift grave, apparently dead for over 30 years.  DI Edwin Norris is the cop assigned to the ensuing investigation into the child’s murder, and the identity of the murderer.  In the process we learn a lot about British aristocracy, much of it fascinating.

Of course Gabriel’s family’s whereabouts, and the question of whether they are even alive, is always in the forefront of his mind.  Their disappearance during Gabriel’s investigation into African pirates’ hijacking of British arms shipments has him still continuing that investigation.

The writing is wonderful throughout, in particular the author’s descriptions:  “I don’t know what Guy would have grown up to be.  An entertainer, possibly.  Or a politician.  Something where the ability to tell barefaced lies is a major advantage.”  And a shopkeeper:  “an elderly woman with a froth of white hair and the apple cheeks of the terminally jovial.”  As in the earlier novel, all the characters are very well-drawn, especially Gabriel, Hazel, and DI Norris, and the relationship between Hazel and Gabriel seems to be evolving into something more intimate.  The suspense keeps building, right up until the very last page, which ends in a cliffhanger which makes me all the more anxious to read the next book in the series, Desperate Measures, due out in December, 2015 – can’t wait!

Highly recommended.

Reviewed by Gloria Feit, August 2015.

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A Song of ShadowsA Song of Shadows
A Charlie Parker Thriller #14
John Connolly
Emily Bestler Books/Atria, September 2015
ISBN: 978-1-5011-1828-9
Hardcover

This latest Charlie Parker novel has a more intriguing plot while combining many of the elements of earlier books in the series.  It begins with Charlie having survived a near fatal gunshot attack, leaving him extremely weak, renting a house on a small bay in Boreas, ME, in which to recuperate.  There is only one other home on the bay, occupied by a woman, Ruth Winter, and her daughter, Amanda.  In earlier decades, a large German population settled in the area, and after World War II an influx of supposed displaced persons arrived nearby.

When the body of a man washes ashore on the beach, questions are raised as to whether he is a suicide or the victim of foul play since he had traveled from Florida.  Then another fact emerges:  His friend and partner is found murdered in the Sunshine State, raising additional suspicion.  When Ruth Winter is murdered, there can be no question there is evil in the air, and Charlie, despite his debilitation, begins to act like a detective.

So much for the background.  The central theme is the post-war arrivals and their link to a Nazi concentration camp.  The description of the government’s investigations to identify and deport Nazi war criminals is affecting.  And Charlie’s efforts to unravel the mystery of the deaths, whether they are related, and if so to what, are, of course, aided by his usual cohorts, Louis and Angel and FBI agent Ross, along with Rabbi Epstein.  Naturally a Charlie Parker novel without the presence of the Collector or introduction of the occult would not be in keeping with the series, so, naturally, both are present and play a major role in the unraveling of the plot, along with the presence of Charlie’s daughters, the living Sam and the deceased Jennifer.  All in all, this is John Connolly at his best, with a most serious story, and it is highly recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, September 2015.