Something in the Water

Something in the Water

Something in the Water by Catherine Steadman (Suspense)

“Something in the water” refers to an object, but by the end of this book I was beginning to think it was a contaminant in what the main characters were drinking. Two basically normal people who loved each other turned into greedy, conniving, and often unbelievably stupid individuals making very poor choices, and it all happened practically overnight.

The book starts off with a bang. The narrator is digging a shallow grave into which she rolls her husband’s corpse. Wow. How did that happen and why?

Wanting to know the answer to that question was the only thing that kept me reading to the end. Most of what came in between was either painfully slow, highly unlikely, or an attempt at suspense where there wasn’t any. Are those sharks in the water where they’re scuba diving in Bora Bora? Oh, no! How did that mobster she’s been interviewing know where to send honeymoon flowers and champagne, and why did he send them? Better tell new hubby they came from somebody else!

What was meant to be a surprise twist at the end was just another in a long series of improbabilities. And why was hubby dead? Darwinism at its most pure.

Yes, Catherine Steadman is the actress in Downton Abbey. And yes, this book is slated to become a movie. Don’t let either of those keep you from passing by this one.

Two stars.

This reviewer received a free copy from the publisher via NetGalley.

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Not Her Daughter

Not Her Daughter

Not Her Daughter by Rea Frey (Thriller)

Is kidnapping a child okay if you feel you will give her a better life?

Emma is a five-year-old whose mother mistreats her, both verbally and physically. This breaks the heart of single, childless Sarah who has never fully recovered from being abandoned by her own mother. So, she does the unthinkable: she kidnaps the kid and heads out of town with her. Once they’re on the road, it’s too late to turn back. What now?

The story is told from the points of view of both Sarah and Amy, Emma’s mother. Amy is a thoroughly unlikable person drawn with a heavy hand. She is grossly overweight, has pock-marked skin, and possesses no self-control. Deep anger toward everything and everyone in her life consumes her. She’s a lousy wife to Richard, who is small, scrawny, and prone to tears. He’s also oblivious to the bruises on his daughter. These two certainly don’t deserve to have a child, especially Emma, who is an exceptionally beautiful little girl with huge gray eyes and a sweet smile.

Sarah, meanwhile, is attractive, successful, and rich — a self-made businesswoman. Her father is pretty much of a weakling, still waiting for his incommunicado wife to come back after twenty-five years, but the other men in Sarah’s life — Ethan and Ryan — are hunks. However, she longs for her own mother, and so she needs to save Emma the way she wishes someone had saved her.

Besides creating unappealing — and thereby undeserving — characters via significant reference to their physical appearance, this book is rife with crummy mothers. Sarah, on the other hand, in spite of the fact that she takes a five-year-old from her home and family, is meant to be a better bet than any of the parents we’ve seen so far. So, how could Emma not be better off?

More than once — three times to be exact — the author had one of the narrators tell herself that what was happening was real, not something in a movie or a book. Besides jolting me out of the story to think, “except this is a book,” the line served as a reminder of how unrealistic this was. The happy-go-lucky conclusion made it even worse.

Rather than a thriller, this was a fantasy.

Three stars for writing style but not storyline.

The reviewer received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley.

 

 

 

 

 

Lies

Lies

Lies by T.M. Logan (Suspense)

Lies starts out strong. Joe Lynch suspects his wife is having an affair with Ben, a married friend with whom they socialize as couples. He confronts Ben in a hotel parking lot, they get into a fight, and he knocks Ben unconscious, possibly worse. Meanwhile, his own little boy is having an asthma attack in Joe’s car, and Joe must leave the scene if he’s going to save his son’s life. When he returns, Ben is gone and so is Joe’s phone, which he dropped during the scuffle. Things go downhill from there.

Unfortunately, the strong beginning and initial tension were not sustained. Plenty of unexplained things happen, the plot moves right along, but I still found myself putting the book down, sometimes for days at a time, without any longing to get back to the story. Although I was curious as to what was going on, I was never gripped with a need to keep reading in order to find out. Perhaps it was because I had no sympathy for any of the characters except Joe’s little boy.

If there were clues to what was going on, I missed them. Instead, I felt totally sideswiped by the ending. It seemed contrived to me, highly unlikely. On the other hand, I couldn’t really identify with any of the adults, and so it’s possible that their behaviors in this case were plausible; I just don’t think I know anyone who would go so over the top for the reasons given.

Grandma gives Lies three stars. 3 stars

Bella Reads and Reviews received a free copy from the publisher via NetGalley with a request for an honest review.

 

Jar of Hearts

Jar of Hearts

Jar of Hearts by Jennifer Hillier (Thriller)

Thirty-year-old corporate executive Georgina Shaw is going to prison. Fourteen years ago, her best friend, Angela Wong, disappeared. But Angela’s remains have been found in a shallow grave, and while Georgina didn’t kill Angela, she knew what happened to her high school friend and never told anyone. Now she has plea-bargained a five year sentence in return for testifying against the killer.

But there are additional, gruesome details that Georgina continues to hide, and when she’s about to be released from prison, copy-cat murders — albeit with a twist — begin to occur. Somebody knows Georgina’s secrets, and that person is coming for her.

I read this book in a single day. Everything about it held my interest — the characters, the fast-paced storytelling, the suspense, the writing style. The arresting officer’s unrequited high school crush on Georgina and his current involvement in investigating the new homicides add depth and intrigue to the story, while the author deftly reveals just enough clues to let the reader have the satisfaction of starting to figure it all out.

Grandma gives Jar of Hearts five stars. 5 stars

Bella Reads and Reviews received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley with a request for an honest review.

 

 

Brewing Up Murder

Brewing Up Murder

Brewing Up Murder by Neila Young (Cozy Mystery)

If you like cozy mysteries that are fast-paced with twists and turns and red herrings, this is not the book for you. Although it has the requisite murder or two, a heroine who owns a cute little business in a small town, and the family cop who talks too much, the story is short on real excitement.

Instead of getting down to her amateur sleuthing, the heroine spends an awful lot of time panting after two men she has just met— one who is “gorgeous” with “sculpted cheekbones” and the other a “Norse god” with “a sculpted physique.” She claims looks aren’t everything, then refers to a previous blind date as Dr. Pillsbury Doughboy, making it hard not to consider her rather shallow for a thirty-two-year-old. Of course, when two men with smoldering/velvety voices, flaring nostrils, full lips, and stormy eyes enter one’s life, who wouldn’t be distracted from the deaths of her friends?

I enjoy cozies (see Smugglers and Scones, The Book Club Murders, The Antique House Murders). I can overlook the unlikelihood of a police officer consistently disclosing crime investigation details to her sister, and I can even tolerate superfluous characters who do nothing to move the story along, including a gaggle of nosy book club women and the token gay guy. But the story details need to make sense. (**SPOILER ALERT**) As one whose family owns a small restaurant, I can say that the author and her editors need to know more about the likely distribution pattern of packaged goods like roasted coffee beans and what the actual possibility is of a half-strangled woman raising a commercial mixer’s stainless steel bowl high enough to hit someone in the head. They also need to watch for mistakes like giving the heroine two different middle names.

Bella gives Brewing Up Murder three stars. Although it’s not her cup of coffee, she believes some readers may want to fantasize about kissing away the lingering caramel macchiato foam on a handsome stranger’s full lower lip. 3 stars

Bella Reads and Reviews received a free copy from the author with a request for an honest review.

 

The Last Train

The Last Train

The Last Train by Michael Pronko (Thriller/Mystery)

Michael Pronko writes mysteries set in Tokyo, making this book not only a fast-paced thriller but a close look at a city where holy temples rub shoulders with hostess clubs and high-speed trains provide a means for homicide.

Hiroshi Shimitzu is a Tokyo police detective who normally deals with white collar crime, but because he speaks English well, he is pulled into the investigation of an American businessman’s death by train. Insider trading, high-stakes real estate deals, and a mysterious ex-hostess give Hiroshi and his fellow detectives plenty to contemplate as they race against time to capture the murderer. In a unique twist for the average mystery, we already know who the killer is. What remains to be learned is why she did it and will she get away with it?

Novels with a strong, well-drawn sense of place rate highly with me, especially when they provide insights into an unfamiliar culture (Dew Angels, Hillstation, The Brazilian Husband, Savaged Lands). This book is no exception. Pronko takes us deep into Tokyo nightlife as well as giving us glimpses of the holy shrines, religious practices, and food traditions that are an integral part of daily life. We meet everyday people, teen-aged call girls, hard-boiled corporate executives, and ex-sumo wrestlers. At the same time, he creates well-developed characters who keep the reader’s interest.

Grandma gives The Last Train four and a half stars. 4.5 stars

Bella Reads and Reviews Books received a free copy from the author with a request for an honest review.

Abuse of Discretion

Abuse of Discretion

Abuse of Discretion by Pamela Samuels Young (Suspense)

Sexting is the topic of this excellent courtroom drama. Fourteen-year-old Graylin has a nude photo of a classmate on his cell phone, and someone has tipped off the police. Graylin didn’t take the photo; someone Snapchatted him anonymously, but he took a screenshot and now faces charges of possession of child pornography. He hasn’t distributed it or even shown it to his best friend, but if he is found guilty as charged, this straight-A student and all-around good kid will go on record as a sex offender for the rest of his life.

Compounding the odds against him is the fact that he is a black kid with an ex-con for a dad and a drug-addicted mother who has disappeared from his life. His school friends and family and his attorney, Angela Evans, are all black, as is the author, which gives this novel a welcome freshness in point of view and experience. And, it is a fast-paced, all-absorbing story that was hard to put down.

The story is told through the eyes of several individuals, including Graylin, his friends and family, Angela, and also The Shepherd, a sex trafficker who specializes in kidnapping children. As book three in the Dre Thomas Series, it continues the story of Angela’s boyfriend, Dre Thomas, whose niece was taken by The Shepherd. His testimony has put The Shepherd in prison, and The Shepherd is out for revenge.

Author Pamela Samuels Young is an attorney with experience in the juvenile justice system, and online safety is one of her areas of interest. Sex trafficking in the United States is another topic she covers in an effort to raise awareness about dangers facing young people today. Abuse of Discretion makes a thought-provoking statement about current-day sexual permissiveness in advertising, movies, and television: How can we blame today’s children for accepting as normal what we have allowed to become ubiquitous in their environment?

Grandma gives Abuse of Discretion five stars. 5 stars

Bella Reads and Reviews received a free copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.