Book Review: The Poison Artist by Jonathan Moore

The Poison Artist
Jonathan Moore
Mariner Books, December 2016
ISBN 978-0-5448-1182-9
Trade Paperback

There are obsessions and there are fantasies.  And usually they don’t coincide.  But they do in this fascinating novel, which encompasses the elements of a serial murder mystery, a thriller and possibly a psychological analysis of a sick mind.  It is the story of Dr. Caleb Maddox, a brilliant San Francisco toxicologist studying the chemical effects of pain in the most advanced laboratory in the country.

After his live-in girlfriend walks out on him following an argument, he goes out drinking.  In a bar, he meets a beautiful woman named Emmeline. He becomes obsessed with her, and has to find her again. Meanwhile, he gets caught up in a serial murder investigation, helping his best friend, the Medical Examiner.  One of the victims turns out to be someone who also was drinking in the same bar as Caleb that night.  The detective  in charge of the case is aware of Caleb’s early history, and suspicion arises implicating him.

The novel is a complicated tale and is rather confusing until the author finally gets around to providing details on earlier history.  Until then, the reader remains in the dark and has to take everything at face value.  And the conclusion is somewhat offbeat as Caleb, perhaps, slips away from reality.

Written well, it is an unusual story well worth reading, and is recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, January 2017.

Book Review: The Drowned Boy by Karin Fossum

the-drowned-boyThe Drowned Boy
An Inspector Sejer Mystery #11
Karin Fossum
Translated from the Norwegian by Kari Dickson
Mariner Books, August 2016
ISBN 978-0-5447-0484-8
Trade Paperback

From the publisher:  Carmen and Nicolai failed to resuscitate their son, Tommy, after finding him drowning in their backyard pond.  When Inspector Skarre arrives on the scene, Carmen reports that Tommy, a healthy toddler with Down’s syndrome, wandered into the garden while Nicolai was working in the basement and she was doing housework.  Skarre senses something is off with Carmen’s story and consults his trusted colleague, the famed Inspector Sejer.  An autopsy reveals Tommy’s lungs to be full of soap.

I will go no further with the material from the back of the book for fear of spoilers.  But the ensuing tale, dark almost by definition as it deals with the death of a 16-month old child, is a wonderful psychological thriller such as we have come to expect from this author.

The child had just learned to walk.  And he had certainly been a challenge to his parents, very young as they are: 19 and 20, respectively.   DI Sejer, of the Sondre Buskerud Police District, has no proof, but his instincts tell him that there is something wrong with Carmen’s version of the events, and soon his younger colleague, Skarre, starts to feel the same way.  What ensues is an intriguing tale, which begins in mid-August, ending in the summer of the following year.

Sejer, now 55 years old, has always been a fascinating protagonist.  His beloved wife had died of liver cancer, and he has for company only his daughter, Ingrid, and his Chinese shar-pei dog, Frank Robert, who is almost as much a presence as the humans around him.  Sejer has of late been troubled by dizzy spells, although he puts off having himself checked out until nearly the end of the book.  The reader does not find out the truth about the child’s death until about the same time, in a not entirely unexpected, but still stunning ending.  Well-written and with wonderful descriptions of the characters, both outwardly and with some insight into their inner selves, the novel is recommended.

Reviewed by Gloria Feit, September 2016.

Book Review: The Kept Woman by Karin Slaughter

the-kept-womanThe Kept Woman
The Will Trent Series #10
(including 2 novellas)

Karin Slaughter
William Morrow, September 2016
ISBN 978-0-06-243021-2
Hardcover

From the publisher—

With the discovery of a murder at an abandoned construction site, Will Trent of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation is brought in on a case that becomes much more dangerous when the dead man is identified as an ex-cop.

Studying the body, Sara Linton—the GBI’s newest medical examiner and Will’s lover—realizes that the extensive blood loss didn’t belong to the corpse. Sure enough, bloody footprints leading away from the scene indicate there is another victim—a woman—who has vanished . . . and who will die soon if she isn’t found.

Will is already compromised, because the site belongs to the city’s most popular citizen: a wealthy, powerful, and politically connected athlete protected by the world’s most expensive lawyers—a man who’s already gotten away with rape, despite Will’s exhaustive efforts to put him away.

But the worst is yet to come. Evidence soon links Will’s troubled past to the case . . . and the consequences will tear through his life with the force of a tornado, wreaking havoc for Will and everyone around him, including his colleagues, family, friends—and even the suspects he pursues.

If you ask me—and you know you want to ;-)—there is no better thriller author writing today than Karin Slaughter. When I first encountered her work years ago, I was completely blown away and she has never once let me down. The first few pages of The Kept Woman assured me that Ms. Slaughter is in fine form once again.

Those first paragraphs (a prologue of only three pages) set the tone with two women clearly in danger, not only of dying but of further attack, and I was riveted within seconds. That’s one of the author’s real strengths, that she can pull the reader in with a vengeance almost immediately and, for me, I know I’m about to get a great story full of suspense. It doesn’t hurt that I also adore the two protagonists, Will Trent and Sara Linton, and I appreciate that their personal story always gets advanced in some way without the author focusing too much on their relationship.

When Will is called in to investigate the death of a former cop, he’s already a bit hampered by an adversarial connection with the owner of the property, one who enjoys a certain amount of political protection, but that’s just the tip of a very nasty iceberg and Will himself will be caught up beyond his control. More than ever before, his past and present will collide and leave his life and emotional stability in turmoil.

I have to restrain myself from saying much about the plot because there’s so much going on that it would be all too easy to fall into the spoiler trap. Suffice it to say the police work aided by forensics drive the reader inexorably through one twist after another on the way to getting to the truth. A word of warning, though….if violence and gruesome crime scenes are really not your cup of tea, you probably won’t want to read this (but you’ll be missing out on a stellar crime fiction series).

And, so, she’s done it again, much to my delight. Ms. Slaughter’s ability to weave a story full of tension and surprise with characters who show both strength and vulnerability (especially female characters) never seems to fade, even a little, and I’m a happy fan once again.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, September 2016.

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

Goodreads

Purchase Links:

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound

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

About the Author

karin-slaughter-2Karin Slaughter is the #1 internationally bestselling author of more than a dozen novels, including the Will Trent and Grant County series and the instant New York Times bestselling standalones, Cop Town and Pretty Girls. There are more than 35 million copies of her books in print around the world.

Find out more about Karin at her website and connect with her on Facebook.

 

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

Follow the tour:

Tuesday, September 20th: Kahakai Kitchen

Wednesday, September 21st: The Book Bag

Thursday, September 22nd: Buried Under Books

Friday, September 23rd: Books and Bindings

Monday, September 26th: Read-Love-Blog

Tuesday, September 27th: No More Grumpy Bookseller

Wednesday, September 28th: A Chick Who Reads

Thursday, September 29th: Kritters Ramblings

Monday, October 3rd: A Bookworm’s World

Wednesday, October 5th: Vox Libris

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

TLC Book Tours Button

Book Review: Blue Moon by Wendy Corsi Staub

Blue MoonBlue Moon
Mundy’s Landing Book 2
Wendy Corsi Staub
William Morrow, August 2016
ISBN 978-0-06234975-0
Mass Market Paperback

Mundy’s Landing is famous for the murders that occurred years ago.  Three girls were found dead in three different houses and the murderer was never found.  The houses came to be known as the Murder Houses.

Even though they had second thoughts about purchasing a “Murder House”  they went ahead and bought the house.   Annabelle Bingham and her husband Trib were thrilled with all the room the house provided for the couple and their son Oliver.  The couple felt they could put the bad memories of the house behind them.

That is hard to do in Mundy’s Landing particularly at the time of Mundy’s Landing Sestercentennial Vault to be opened in 2016.  People are gathering to see the town and stare at the Murder Houses which isn’t making Annabelle Bingham very comfortable but living where she does she is bound to have tourists coming around.

But girls are disappearing again in Mundy’s Landing.  No way could the killer of years ago return but it seems there is a pattern being followed and there will be murder before the festivities are over.

I am anxiously awaiting Book 3 Bone White.

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid, July 2016.

Book Reviews: Blood Symmetry by Kate Rhodes and The Girl in the River by Kate Rhodes

Blood SymmetryBlood Symmetry
Alice Quentin #5
Kate Rhodes
Witness Impulse, July 2016
ISBN 978-0-06-244407-3
Ebook
Also available in trade paperback

From the publisher—

Clare Riordan and her son, Mikey, are abducted from Clapham Common early one morning. Hours later, the boy is found wandering disorientated. Soon after, a container of Clare’s blood is left on a doorstep in the heart of London.

Psychologist Alice Quentin is brought in to help the traumatized child uncover his memories, with the hope that it might lead the authorities to his mother’s captors. But Alice swiftly realizes Clare is not the first victim… nor will she be the last.

The killers are desperate for revenge… and in the end, it will all come down to blood.

Police procedurals are high on my list of things I want to read and it’s even better if the police in question are British. While Blood Symmetry is, strictly speaking, not a police procedural, that’s just semantics. Alice is a psychologist who, beginning with the first book in the series , works closely with the police to solve crimes, especially those that don’t seem to be so cut-and-dried and she is now part of the Metropolitan’s forensic psychology unit.

Any crime involving harm to a child is certainly worse than the norm—even hardened criminals are disgusted by it—and it’s easy to see why Alice would be brought in to work with this eleven-year-old in the effort to find his still-missing mother and the individual(s) behind the kidnapping. Clearly, Clare was the target, not Mikey, so what is it about her that drew the attention of the abductors? She’s a blood specialist and others in her profession have been victimized but why?

As detectives begin to learn that it all revolves around tainted blood, Alice slowly progresses toward a breakthrough with Mikey and it’s this part of the story that especially appealed to me. I’ve always been interested in the workings of the human mind and children are a different kettle of fish, so to speak, because their minds don’t work the same as adults. In this case, Mikey’s near-muteness is an additional barrier to finding out what he knows.

On a more personal note, Alice and her significant other, DCI Don Burns, are working this case together and that lets the reader who’s new to the series get a good feel for the relationship between these two. It took me about two seconds to decide I really like Alice and Don as a couple as well as individually; they have their differences and neither thinks it’s a good idea to work together but this young boy and his mother trump their reluctance.

Kate Rhodes has reached into the past in writing this story, basing it on the scandal surrounding distribution of tainted blood in the 1970’s and 80’s, and it’s a much-needed reminder that things can go very wrong in medical developments. Besides constructing a truly engaging criminal investigation with nicely developed characters, she has made her story very relevant and I am thoroughly happy to have made the acquaintance of this fine series.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, August 2016.

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

Goodreads

Purchase Links:

Barnes & Noble Buy Button     Kobo Buy Button     Amazon Buy Button     Indiebound Button 2

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

The Girl in the RiverThe Girl in the River
(published as River of Souls in the UK)
Alice Quentin #4
Kate Rhodes
Witness Impulse, October 2015
ISBN 978-0-06-244404-2
Ebook
Also available in trade paperback

From the publisher—

Jude Shelley, daughter of a prominent cabinet minister, had her whole life ahead of her until she was attacked and left to drown in the Thames. Miraculously, she survived. A year later, her family is now asking psychologist Alice Quentin to re-examine the case.

But then a body is found: an elderly priest, attacked in Battersea, washed up at Westminster Pier. An ancient glass bead is tied to his wrist.

Alice is certain that Jude and her family are hiding something, but unless she can persuade them to share what they know, more victims will come.

Because the Thames has always been a site of sacrifice and death.

And Alice is about to learn that some people still believe in it…

When psychologist Alice Quentin is asked to look into a year-old assault and attempted murder, a cold case, she’s reluctant to get involved with this politically-charged situation but her realization that the earlier police work was shoddy at best changes her feeling about it. Before all is resolved, Alice will have to confront a lot of issues, not least of which is the murky mind of a serial killer who sees things very differently from “normal” people.

Soon, the murder of a priest which may or may not be connected and Alice’s sense that the first victim, Jude, and her family are withholding information causes her to understand that this is much more than a simple attack…although the word simple is a misnomer considering the terrible facial disfigurement Jude suffered.

Since I read this book, fourth in the series, after the fifth book, Blood Symmetry, a few things are a little out of kilter but not beyond redemption. The chief difference is that Alice and Don are not yet in a relationship although clearly they have a past. Watching them work together (because Don was initially involved in the case) is interesting for the investigative aspect but perhaps more so for the development of their relationship. I was already a fan of these two and I still am for a lot of reasons, not least of which is their ability to separate work from their personal lives.

The investigation into the attacks on Jude and Father Kelvin leads down some dark and twisty paths and I was completely immersed in it. I know a lot of readers don’t care for crime fiction involving serial killers but I’m endlessly fascinated by the workings of the damaged mind and this one is particularly interesting. In the end, horror is tempered with sadness and I closed the book knowing I’m going to look for Ms. Rhodes’ earlier Alice Quentin books.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, August 2016.

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

Goodreads

Purchase Links:

Barnes & Noble Buy Button     Kobo Buy Button     Amazon Buy Button     Indiebound Button 2

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

About the Author

Kate RhodesKate Rhodes is the author of four previous Alice Quentin novels, Crossbones Yard, A Killing of Angels, The Winter Foundlings and The Girl in the River. She is also the author of two collections of poetry, Reversal and The Alice Trap. She writes full-time now, and lives in Cambridge with her husband, a writer and film-maker.


Catch Up:

Website Button     Twitter Button     Facebook Button     Goodreads Button 2

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

Follow the tour:

7/11 Showcase @ CMash Reads
7/12 Showcase @ 3 Partners in Shopping, Nana, Mommy, & Sissy, Too!
7/13 Review @ Book Reviews from an Avid Reader
7/15 Review @ The Book Divas Reads
7/18 Showcase @ Socrates Book Reviews
7/20 Interview @ BooksChatter
7/28 Review @ Booksies Blog
8/01 Showcase @ Writers and Authors
8/03 Showcase @ just reviews
8/04 Review @ Book Babble
8/05 Review @ Wall-to-wall books
8/09 Showcase @ Brooke Blogs
8/18 Review @ Buried Under Books
8/19 Review @ Bookishly me

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

Partners in Crime Book Tours

Book Review: The American Girl by Kate Horsley

The American GirlThe American Girl
Kate Horsley
William Morrow Paperbacks, August 2016
ISBN 978-0-06-243851-5
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

From a bright new talent comes a riveting psychological thriller about an American exchange student in France involved in a suspicious accident, and the journalist determined to break the story and uncover the dark secrets a small town is hiding.

On a quiet summer morning, seventeen-year-old American exchange student Quinn Perkins stumbles out of the woods near the small French town of St. Roch. Barefoot, bloodied, and unable to say what has happened to her, Quinn’s appearance creates quite a stir, especially since the Blavettes–the French family with whom she’s been staying–have mysteriously disappeared. Now the media, and everyone in the idyllic village, are wondering if the American girl had anything to do with her host family’s disappearance.

Though she is cynical about the media circus that suddenly forms around the girl, Boston journalist Molly Swift cannot deny she is also drawn to the mystery and travels to St. Roch. She is prepared to do anything to learn the truth, including lying so she can get close to Quinn. But when a shocking discovery turns the town against Quinn and she is arrested for the murders of the Blavette family, she finds an unlikely ally in Molly.

As a trial by media ensues, Molly must unravel the disturbing secrets of the town’s past in an effort to clear Quinn’s name, but even she is forced to admit that the American Girl makes a very compelling murder suspect. Is Quinn truly innocent and as much a victim as the Blavettes–or is she a cunning, diabolical killer intent on getting away with murder…?

Told from the alternating perspectives of Molly, as she’s drawn inexorably closer to the truth, and Quinn’s blog entries tracing the events that led to her accident, The American Girl is a deliciously creepy, contemporary, twisting mystery leading to a shocking conclusion.

My early reaction to The American Girl was that it reminded me of Amanda Knox, the American who was convicted (later overturned) of murdering her roommate in France, but I don’t mean that it was a rehash. There were just familiar elements—American girl in France accused of killing the French family she was staying with and the ensuing sensational trial—and, in fact, the author has said that this book was partially inspired by that true crime that took up an awful lot of news space.

Moving on from those similarities, I found the opening chapters filled with tension and a lot of questions and speculation on my part. Quinn doesn’t know what happened to her or to the family and her amnesia adds to the suspense.Then, once suspicion is focused on her, we begin to learn, in small doses, some very creepy goings-on and the dark tone and moodiness of the story drew me in.

I had some niggling doubts, though, particularly about the nearly incompetent police work that can only be explained somewhat by the small town locale but what really bothered me was that I just didn’t care for any of these people, including the missing family. Even the journalist, Molly, who ostensibly wants to get to the truth and help Quinn, clearly has her own agenda….but, then, so does Quinn and, as a result, neither are people I’d like to hang out with.

Bottomline, while I have reservations about the characters and some other aspects of the story, there’s no doubt it’s an intriguing if predictable tale and what really happened is very dark, creepy indeed. I never had the urge to quit reading so Ms. Horsley obviously did something right and that makes me think I’m going to want to see more from her.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, August 2016.

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

Goodreads

Purchase Links:

Barnes & Noble // Kobo // Amazon
Indiebound // HarperCollins

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

About the Author

Kate HorsleyKate Horsley’s first novel, The Monster’s Wife, was shortlisted for the Scottish First Book of the Year Award. Her poems and short fiction have appeared in a number of magazines and anthologies, including Best British Crime Stories. She coedits Crimeculture, a site dedicated to crime fiction and film offering articles, reviews, and interviews with writers.

Find out more about Kate at her website, and follow her on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, and Google+.

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

Follow the tour here.

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

TLC Book Tours Button

Book Review: Remember Me This Way by Sabine Durant

Remember Me This WayRemember Me This Way
Sabine Durant
Emily Bestler Books/Atria Books, May 2015
ISBN 978-1-476-71632-9
Hardcover

From the publisher:  One year after her husband Zach’s death, Lizzie Carter, 41 years old, goes to lay flowers on the site of his fatal accident.  Since the tragedy, she just hasn’t been the same, racked with grief and guilt and regret and . . . relief.  Even though her friends tell her she’s grieved enough for her ‘prince charming,’ her memories of a darker side of Zach that no one else knew are burned into her brain and won’t let her forget him.   But as she puts her flowers down at the roadside, she sees a bouquet of lilies at the foot of the tree.  Addressed to her husband.  She isn’t the first to pay her respects . . . but who is Xenia?  As Lizzie learns more about her husband’s past, she begins to realize that maybe she didn’t know Zach at all.  But she’s still tormented by her guilt and the memories that just won’t fade . . . because Zach doesn’t seem to be as gone as everyone thinks.  And she just can’t shake the feeling that he’s still out there, watching her, waiting to claim her as his own once again.  After all, just because we love someone doesn’t mean we can trust them . . . .

Lizzie does psychometric testing for a living; Zach is an artist, although a not-yet-successful one.  The p.o.v. alternates between that of Zach (the first page is his, and though only one page long [before the narration switches to Lizzie’s], it is quite startling, letting the reader know at once what he/she is in for.  Lizzie’s p.o.v. sections take place initially in February 14, 2013, a year to the day of Zach’s car crash, on a Cornish roadside in the middle of Cornwall and 200 miles from her home in London.  She thinks to herself “His death feels real for the first time.  I must let him go, hard as it is, because, despite everything, he was the love of my life.”  The next section, Zach’s, takes place in July, 2009.  As opposed to Lizzie’s thoughts as described above, he is thinking “She doesn’t appreciate me, that’s the problem.”

All the following alternating p.o.v. sections follow those same timelines [Zach’s last ending on the day of his car crash], wherein initially Zach has a significant other named Charlotte, overlapping with his meeting and becoming involved with Lizzie.  All who meet Zach, who is pretty much addicted to Xanax and tramadol, see him as a very handsome and charming man, although he is self-described as being “not very nice” [with which the reader wholeheartedly agrees], and “. . . People like me can’t relax.  We may roam outside the boundaries that restrict the behavior of other people, but we’re never free.”

The characters all come alive in these pages, but Zach is one of a kind, displaying love, jealousy, and vengeance, among other traits.    The ending is shocking, but thoroughly believable.  This is a book, and characters, who will stay with the reader after the last page is read, and it is highly recommended.

Reviewed by Gloria Feit, March 2016.