Accidents Waiting to Happen
Thomas & Mercer, November 2012
Josh Michaels, a young man with a wife and little girl he adored, while driving back to his home in Sacramento, California, is forced off the highway and into the river in what appears to be an accident born from what he thinks of as reckless stupidity on the part of the other driver. But the actions of that driver, before he gets back into his car and speeds away, convince Josh that it is anything but. Josh survives the ‘accident,’ but starts to doubt his ability to continue to survive the ensuing events, all appearing to be accidents by increasingly obviously [to him] staged attempts to end his life. Josh is staggered as he comes to this unavoidable conclusion and cannot believe that he is the target of a killer, but has no choice but to accept this fact and attempt to figure out who wants him dead, and why, if he is to survive. To make matters worse, if that’s possible, past indiscretions and errors in judgment are now coming back to haunt him.
At Chapter 4 the reader meets “the professional,” the man hired to kill another person, a woman, as well as Josh. Who has hired him? Is there a connection between the two intended victims [something not readily apparent]? And what is the motive? As ‘the professional’ himself muses, “a seemingly motiveless murder was just as hard to solve as a well-planned accident.”
Simon Wood has fashioned an exciting and well-written novel of suspense, with a nail-biting conclusion during which this reader held her breath in anticipation of what new horrors might be in store.
Reviewed by Gloria Feit, November 2012.
Harper, July 2012
Mass Market Paperback
Karin Schaeffer, ex-NYPD and now a private detective, working with her husband at MacLeary Investigations, in the newest book by Katia Lief, becomes embroiled in the hunt for a serial killer dubbed The Working Girl Killer. As you might guess, the victims have all been killed in the same manner, with the same exact type of weapon, and were all prostitutes. Seven young women had been found dead across Manhattan, then two in Brooklyn.
At 38, Karin is now seeking an undergraduate college degree in forensic psychology. She has not had an easy time of it, having survived the murder of her first husband and her daughter six years ago, and just recently had a miscarriage. She dotes on their little boy, Ben, though still grieving for her losses. As the book opens, Ben receives a text from Billy Staples, a detective at their local precinct in Brooklyn and Mac’s closest friend, from a crime scene that Billy believes to be where the serial killer has left his latest victim. Eerily, a little girl is found badly injured several blocks away after what is believed to be a hit-and-run accident. The cops feel the two things could somehow be connected, as the location and timing seem to rule out coincidence.
Billy had been fighting his own demons. He has been hunting this killer for over a year. At the same time, Mac and Karin believe he is having hallucinations, suffering from PTSD after a horrifying incident when the woman he loved had tried to kill him, instead leaving him blinded in one eye; he had been forced to shoot her dead. The current investigation triggers all his symptoms again, and envelops Karin as well to a very personal degree.
It is an interesting plot, telling a very dark tale that stayed with this reader for quite a while after turning the last page. I have to admit, however, that after having read – – and loved! – – the author’s two previous books, You Are Next, and Next Time You See Me, I felt this one did not live up to the expectations I had for it. And though it was an interesting read, in the end I was disappointed.
Reviewed by Gloria Feit, December 2012.
All Mortal Flesh
Minotaur, February 2013
All Mortal Flesh, the fifth in the Clare Ferguson/Russ Van Alstyne series, finds Clare, the parish priest in the small Adirondack, upstate NY town of Millers Kill, and Russ, the local police chief and married man she loves, having just wrenchingly ended their relationship. The following day, an even more devastating event occurs: Russ is told that his wife, from whom he had recently separated when he told her of his love for Clare, has been brutally murdered. Loving Clare, yet still loving his wife, matters are only compounded when both Clare and Russ are considered prime suspects, not only by the police but by the local gossip-loving town residents.
With her usual adroit skill, Ms. Spencer-Fleming has written another wonderful tale of these very human protagonists in this book, available for the very first time in a trade paperback edition. The sense of place is vivid, and the wintry weather graphically evoked. There is a slam-bang ending with a final unexpected and stunning turn as this suspense-filled tale concludes. An excellent and fast-paced read, and one that is highly recommended.
Reviewed by Gloria Feit, February 2013.
Minotaur, October 2012
Raymond Dunne is a very dedicated schoolteacher, working with eighth-graders in a middle school in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and taking the welfare of his students very seriously. In particular, one of the most promising, Frankie Rivas, has obtained a scholarship to a private high school on the basis of his baseball skills and the fact that Ray has called in a favor from their coach. When Frankie fails to show up for school for a couple of weeks, Ray decides to try to find out why. His visit to the home of the boy’s father results in his discovery of the man’s dead body.
Ray’s involvement at that point derives as much from his concern as his teacher as from the fact that Ray is a former cop. His feelings when he walks into his old precinct are made palpable to the reader, his emotions roiling as he remembers back five years, when “you fall thirty feet, and your whole life changes.” Among those changes are the physical ones; Ray has an umbrella with him every day, knowing it has to rain sometime; besides, it means he doesn’t have to carry a cane.
Frankie and his younger sister are nowhere to be found, and Ray follows up every lead he can find in order to locate the two children and ensure their safety. Then the pace, and the suspense, move into higher gear, beyond the “controlled chaos” of Ray’s classroom, and the stakes go up as well.
When one has a terrific protagonist [with a valuable friend, a wannabe cop, nicknamed “Emo”], a well-developed plot, writing that makes the Brooklyn streets come to life and, as the title might imply, a lot of baseball references, what more could one ask? [Well, this reader had to get past the fact that Ray is a Yankee fan, although he does don a Mets cap when the situation requires it.] This is a wonderful debut novel from a writer whose next book I will anxiously await, and it is highly recommended.
Reviewed by Gloria Feit, March 2013.
If You Were Here
Harper, June 2013
In her ninth novel, and second standalone, Alafair Burke introduces McKenna Jordan, a writer for the fictitious NYC Magazine. Before her marriage five years ago, she was McKenna Wright, who had spent four years as an Assistant District Attorney in Manhattan, a job she lost in the aftermath of a police officer’s shooting of a 19-year-old youth, there being a question as to whether or not the boy had been unarmed, the gun found nearby planted. McKenna’s zealous investigation into that incident, accusing the officer of homicide and perjury, ultimately caused her disgrace and ended her prosecutorial career. This was soon followed by another, only slightly less traumatic event, when one of her best friends, beautiful West Point grad [and daughter of a two-star general] Susan Hauptmann, disappeared without a trace.
Now, all these years later, a cell-phone photo comes into McKenna’s hands showing a mysterious Superwoman, a female crime victim who had plucked her attacker’s body from the subway tracks to safety, who McKenna believes is that same friend, who she had become convinced was long dead. Susan, an athletic 32 years old who had been deployed in the Middle East prior to the time of her disappearance, could have easily been capable of the feat in the subway station.
There ensue a series of bizarre and seemingly unrelated incidents that this reader never saw coming, including but not limited to a mysterious private operative [hitman? private detective? something else altogether?], a dead cop, someone hacking into and forging e-mails, and no clue as to who is pulling the strings. The author somehow manages to tie them all up in a relentlessly intriguing plot.
Another well-written book by this author [who gives a tip-of-the-hat, without needing to name his completely recognizable protagonist, to Lee Child, which I loved], and recommended.
Reviewed by Gloria Feit, April 2013.