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Review: Emma in the Night by Wendy Walker

Emma in the NightEmma in the Night by Wendy Walker

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Some books are full of action, thrills and big explosions – others are subtle as they twist your mind and make you question everything. “Emma in the Night,” is definitely the latter. And it’s amazingly good.

The story begins when Cass Tanner returns home. Her and her older sister Emma went missing three years ago. With no clues and no bodies, the case went cold. When only Cass returns, she begs for help finding Emma and she weaves an elaborate tale about being forcibly kept on an island with Emma, an older couple and a baby Emma gave birth to. All the evidence points to her telling the truth. But FBI investigator Dr. Abby Winters senses something is off – and that hunch three years earlier about there being trouble in the Tanner home is correct. Where is Emma and what really happened three years ago. It’s all going to come to a head.

This book involves a lot of psychology and exit stench of questions about the truth and importance – it’s really interesting because it creates a possible where you’re constantly questioning what you think you know. You don’t know which characters you can trust and which you can’t. And since the ultimate truth is not revealed until the very end of the book you are kept guessing.

I love trying to piece together what all was happening. I didn’t guess the ending, and I think it was done really well and in a way that was very satisfying.

I’d really like to see more of Abby in future novels. Her personal story is very interesting and her job as an FBI psychological analyst has a lot of possibilities for future stories. I hope we see her again soon.

I’d recommend this novel for anyone looking for a good psychological thriller that will keep me reading into the night.

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Review: Ominous by Lisa Jackson

Ominous (Wyoming, #2)Ominous by Lisa Jackson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’ve seen these multi-author collaborations before, but never tried one. However, this latest venture between Lisa Jackson, Nancy Bush, and Rosalind Noonan looked good, so I decided to branch out. I have to say, I’m pretty glad I did.

“Ominous” provides the suspense, romance and mystery we’ve come to love from these authors, all in one volume. I greatly enjoyed it.

FYI: this novel contains multiple, graphic sexual assaults. If this is a triggering topic for you, you probably want to choose another book.

The novel centers around three girls, who, one summer night 15 years ago, decided to sneak out of their homes and go skinny-dipping at a local lake. However, things go terribly wrong when they are attacked – and through mutual agreement they decide never to talk about that night again. However, in the present day, all three have returned to the small Wyoming town where they grew up. And it shortly becomes apparent that their attacker is back as well, and ready to start up again.

I really enjoyed this book. It had all of the elements of a romantic suspense novel from Jackson or Bush that I’ve come to love. Plenty of suspects kept me guessing throughout the book as well. I didn’t guess the ending. And let me tell you – the villain in this book is bad. Like, really, really creepy/scary/awful. I was really creeped out during his “scenes.”

The romances were also on point as well. I was routing for each of the couples, and was happy with their scenes. They felt real and genuine, which is the key in this genre.

My only complaint would be that it with three main characters and three romances, there were a lot of characters squeezed into the book. I wish we had more time with each of them! But that’s the nature of anthologies.

Overall, I really liked this book and would try another multi-author effort involving these authors. Any fan of these authors will enjoy it.

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The Child by Fiona Barton

The ChildThe Child by Fiona Barton

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

There have been several really good “shifting perspective” books published recently, and “The Child” continues this trend. And it’s also good. So, so good.

The main characters are three women: Kate, a journalist who becomes intrigued when the body of a baby is found buried on a building site; Angela, whose baby disappeared from the hospital 40 years ago; and Emma, a fragile woman who lived in the apartment block the baby was found behind and, by her own admission, is hiding secrets. The three of them are all drawn into this tragic story. It’s up to Kate to find out how.

The central mystery of the book is, of course, the child. Who is it? How did they get there? As the reader is taken on this journey, we find people who are hiding their pasts, who are insecure, and it makes for great dramatic reading. I was immediately drawn into the story. There so many possible answers to this mystery in these characters in their lives that you become completely obsessed.

I didn’t get the ending at first, but at about 85 percent of the way in, there was a reveal that laid it out for me. It was a great ending that satisfied me fully and wrapped up most of the major storylines. Which is a credit to the author because there’s a lot going on in the book, so to have it wrapped up nicely is quite a feat.

Overall this book continued a great summer of reading for me and I would recommend it to anyone who loves mysteries and thrillers.

I look forward to reading more from this author.

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Review: Among the Dead by J.R. Backlund

Among the Dead (A Rachel Carver Mystery #1)Among the Dead by J.R. Backlund

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I liked this book; it was an easy, quick read that will satisfy your mystery/thriller craving. The setting was great – a small town in the mountains of Western North Carolina – and the mystery was intriguing.

But I did have some issues with it, which took it from a 5-star to a 4-star read.

Rachel Carver quit her job at the NC State Bureau of Investigations after a tragic incident on her last case. She gets a call from her former partner to consult on a case in the sleepy mountain time where he works. A man was killed and the department wants to make sure they solve the case without errors – and fast. But soon things spiral out of control as it becomes clear they’re dealing with more than just a random kill.

This book has a great mystery at its core. The story doesn’t give too much away until it wants to, which gives the reveals a nice punch. And I liked that the author really ties everything together. Nothing is insignificant in the grand scheme of things, which is really cool.

Plus, I really liked Rachel as a character: she was smart, but not cocky, and she had an interesting personality. You could tell there was a good backstory there.

I just wish we had gotten to see more of that backstory. We were just kind of thrown into the middle of her life with no context, despite really wanting some more information. There were also some other things that I had questions about that didn’t really get addressed. It would have been nice for some more explanation.

But overall, I really enjoyed this book. It looks like the author is planning a series starring Rachel, and I would definitely read more.

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Review: Our Little Secret by Darren O’Sullivan

Our Little SecretOur Little Secret by Darren O’Sullivan

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I. Devoured. This. Book.

The premise is one that draws you in almost immediately, and I just had to keep reading until I found out what happened, and once that picture became clear, I had to know how it turned out.

The book follows two people: Chris, who goes to a train station to kill himself while in a deep depression about his wife, who was killed 10 months before; and Sarah, who happens to run into Chris at the platform and interrupts his plans. Both are then forced to deal with the aftermath and face their personal demons.

The pacing is very quick in this novel – you’re thrown right into the situation at the train platform. When I began reading the novel, before I knew it, I had read 10 percent of it! The rest of the novel goes equally as fast as you see both people struggle in the aftermath of their initial meeting.

I liked that it’s easy to put yourself in the middle of the story and wonder what would happen if you were there. It’s such an average thing – sitting, waiting for a train – that you can’t help but think after you read this: what are the others on this platform thinking? You never know, apparently.

The ending is a doozy, and as it becomes clear, it’s great. It just grips you.

Highly recommended.

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Review: Down a Dark Road by Linda Castillo

Down a Dark Road (Kate Burkholder, #9)Down a Dark Road by Linda Castillo

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I grew up near several Amish communities and know as well as anyone that they’re generally about as normal and boring as anyone; they simply belong to a different, more intense religious practice. But there’s something about any secretive religious sect that is just fascinating and, when written about in the right way can add a creepy feeling to a good story.

Linda Castillo strikes that balance yet again in the latest Kate Burkholder novel. This book was a great ride, from beginning to end.

Kate – an ex-Amish police chief – becomes embroiled in what was thought to be a closed case when her former childhood friend, convicted of the murder of his wife, escapes from prison and takes his four children and Kate hostage. He insists that he didn’t kill his wife and begs Late to look into it. Then he lets her go. As Kate begins to investigate, she realizes that maybe Joseph wasn’t as guilty as everyone thinks he was. If that’s the case, who really killed his wife? Or is Late blinded by her childhood memories and unable to see the truth?

This novel starts at a running pace and doesn’t let up. It was just a thrill from start to finish and Castillo pulls no punches, adding details that really pull you in and make you gasp. I loved it.

I guessed the gist of the ending, but I didn’t mind it, since there’s so many questions about how the bigger picture will turn out. (I’m really trying not to spoil things so I hope all that makes sense.) There’s a lot questions involved so there’s more than enough to keep you interested.

However, at least one of my questions didn’t get answered, which is why it’s a four-star read instead of a five-star.

Overall, I loved it and am completely hooked on the Kate Butkholder series. Highly recommended

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Review: Buried on the Fens by Joy Ellis

4Buried on the Fens (Nikki Galena Series #7)Buried on the Fens by Joy Ellis

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Ever since I read “Their Lost Daughters” earlier this year, I’ve been a big fan of Joy Ellis. “Buried on the Fens” is the latest in the DI Nikki Galena series, and I loved it just as much. I really enjoy how Ellis can take what seems like a straightforward mystery and creates a twisty, explosive haters that will shock you to your very core.

While the novel is in a series, it can be read as a standalone, no problem.

Nikki Galena is called to a country church, where an old skeleton has been found, obviously the victim of a brutal murder years ago. As Nikki and her team investigate, they’re pulled into a 30-year-old mystery which seems to still be affecting people in the modern day. At the same time, another murder is confounding Nikki’s team. A woman was murdered and the people that knew her best – all members of a secret drinking society – aren’t talking. Everything collides in spectacular fashion as the investigations continue.

The atmosphere of this book is amazing. It’s all about secrets and trying to crack through layers of silence and misdirection. Plus, it opens with scenes in a creepy church graveyard on a quiet English marsh. Awesome.

There’s no way I saw the ending coming, and I really enjoyed it. It was extremely satisfying. I like how Ellis really blends together good and bad, really making you question who’s doing “right” and what exactly constitutes “wrong.” The characters aren’t all good or all bad. Except the villain in this one – they are uh…..really bad.

I would absolutely read more in this series. It was absolutely great.

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