Book Review: Lying in Wait by Liz Nugent

Lying in Wait
Liz Nugent
Gallery/Scout Press, June 2018
ISBN 978-1-5011-6777-5
Hardcover

A fast-paced, unsettling story of murder and psychosis in Dublin, Ireland. From the first sentence we know that the distinguished jurist Andrew Fitzsimmons killed Annie Doyle. Why we don’t find out for much of the book but we begin to see how the event affected the respective families right away. Andrew Fitzsimmons is overwhelmed with guilt and remorse, his wife Lydia around whom everyone else revolves blames Annie for the entire situation, and their coddled son Laurence just knows something is badly wrong with his parents. The Doyles are distraught with the disappearance of their problematic daughter and even more so when the police investigation uncovers drug use and prostitution in Annie’s recent past. Annie had already disappointed them by becoming pregnant out of wedlock a few years earlier, and her strict father committed her to one of the famous Irish baby homes. When Annie came home after two years, she was indelibly changed.

The book begins in 1980 with the murder and ends in 2016 with a stunning resolution. Each chapter is told from the perspective of Lydia, Laurence, or Karen, Annie’s sister. Karen in particular is a sympathetic character whose life is devastated by the disappearance of her sister. Lydia seems to be self-centered and possessive at the start, perhaps to be expected of an only child from a wealthy family, and then the gaps in her empathy with anyone she encounters including her husband begin to point to something much more serious. The person most affected is her son Laurence, upon whom she focuses all of attention.

The other characters – Judge Fitzsimmons, his mother and brother, the Doyle parents, the police, Laurence’s coworkers and girlfriends – are all filtered through the lens of Karen, Lydia, and Laurence but because the narrator is so clearly defined it is easy to sort through the narrator’s perceptions to understand what these other people are thinking and feeling. The girls attracted to Laurence, a sheltered, obese teen when the book opens, are an interesting reflection of his own internal state and his maturation process.

A fascinating and troubling book. Starred reviews from Library Journal, Publishers Weekly, and Booklist.

Reviewed by Aubrey Hamilton, May 2018.

Book Review: And Then He Was Gone by Joan Hall Hovey

and-then-he-was-goneAnd Then He Was Gone
Joan Hall Hovey
Books We Love, December 2016
ISBN 978-1-77299-304-2
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

Where is Adam? Julie Raynes’ husband has been missing for six months. Devastated and confused, she refuses to believe that he would leave her voluntarily, though her best friend thinks differently. However, her Aunt Alice, a psychic, tells her Adam has been murdered, and when she reveals how she knows this, any hope that Adam is still alive, dissipates.

The police are also beginning to believe that Adam Raynes was murdered. And Julie is their prime suspect. Her life in ruins, Julie vows to hunt down whoever is responsible for Adam’s murder and make them pay for their crime.

In the meantime, David Gray, a young man who was pulled from a lake by a fisherman when he was 9 years old, wakens from a coma after nearly two decades. Unknown to Julie, Adam and David share a dark connection, a darkness that threatens to devour both of them, in a terrifying race with death.

There are very few authors who do suspense as well as Joan Hall Hovey and, oh boy, she’s right on target with And Then He Was Gone. The title gives you a pretty good idea of what this book is about but that person who’s missing is only the core of the story.

The very first pages were enough to make chills go down my spine and, although it’s clear in that early scene what kind of person we might be dealing with later in the tale, Ms. Hovey weaves a tangle of story lines that, on the surface, have nothing to do with each other…and, yet, perhaps they do. The two characters who have lost the most, Julie and David, know nothing of each other beyond what they see and hear on the news and to tie a missing, probably dead, man with a young man awakening from a 19-year coma seems the height of speculation.

Julie and David each have their own crosses to bear and accompanying them on their respective journeys cemented my interest in this book. Julie, of course, is trying to cope with the disappearance of her husband and the knowledge that some are sure she had something to do with it. David, on the other hand, is slowly learning to live again as well as trying to remember things that matter a great deal.

Then there’s that darkness that connects the two and watching a man’s psychosis descend into even deeper evil is what drives the tension and it’s what kept me reading long past bedtime. What that man is capable of is not beyond belief—we’ve seen and heard of it in real life much too often—but observing how a person’s mind can begin to crumble at a very early age and then he can maintain an aura of respectability for years before the evil begins to control him is creepy at its darkest level. And this is why I love Joan Hall Hovey‘s books—she makes me love her characters while I shiver in the night 😉

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, February 2017.

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.

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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.

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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.


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