The Best Kind of People

The Best Kind of People

The Best Kind of People by Zoe Whittall (Women’s Contemporary Fiction)

The missing husband with a deep, dark secret and a clueless wife has become a familiar trope in women’s contemporary fiction. (See The Art of Hiding by Amanda Prowse.)

Something terrible takes the husband out of the picture — be it death, a trip from which he never returns, or accusation of a heinous crime. The wife, accustomed to an idyllic life of upper class ease and opulence, is suddenly faced with harsh reality: she has been married for decades to a man she doesn’t really know. To make matters worse, their finances — of which she has always remained blissfully ignorant — are a mess. Her high-society friends turn their back. Now, fraught with anger and disillusionment, she must struggle to remake her life, come to terms with his deceptive behavior, and figure out why he did this to her and the kids. At the same time, she mourns his loss and must protect her children from the truth about their father so as not to taint his memory.

The Best Kind of People is just such a book. Joan is a trauma nurse with a long career in emergency medicine. Her husband, George, is a highly respected teacher who, years before, tackled a school shooter and kept tragedy from occurring at the elite private school where he teaches and his daughter is a junior. Now, however, he has been accused by students of inappropriate behavior and attempted rape. He’s arrested and imprisoned without bail, and, in an instant, he goes from town hero to villain. Neighbors and co-workers turn against Joan, her daughter, and her grown son. Her sister, Clara, from whom she has become estranged, comes from New York City to help, even though Clara has never been a fan of George. Joan soon learns that family money she thought she could fall back on in George’s absence is mysteriously missing from his personal account.

The story is told from the points of view of several key characters other than George, and it kept my attention from the get-go. Each character became a real person to me — realistically flawed, likeable, plausible. Their reactions to the charges against their husband/father/brother-in-law are believable and understandable. Their lives drastically change over the year it takes for George to come to trial — their personal relationships suffer, they do questionable things and make mistakes, they experience a range of evolving emotions. Through it all, even as more damning evidence surfaces, George swears he’s been set up, so an element of mystery remains — did he do it or didn’t he? I found my own feelings about the case changing over time. I knew how I wanted the trial to come out, and I kept reading, wanting to know the answer because I wanted to know how each family member would ultimately fare.

The ending, frankly, was a disappointment; it felt like the author took the easy way out.

Grandma gives The Best Kind of People three and a half stars. 3.5 stars

Bella Reads and Reviews Books received a free copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

The Best Kind of People will be released on September 19, 2017, and is available for pre-order.

 

The Child

The Child

The Child by Fiona Barton (Suspense)

The skeleton of an infant is unearthed at a London urban renewal site, and the lives of several women who don’t know each other are about to become intertwined. Each woman has a stake in the outcome of the ensuing investigation, albeit for different reasons, including the reporter who seeks to answer the question of who buried the newborn there and why.

We hear the story from their various points of view, which gives the reader intimate knowledge of each woman’s background and the basis for her concerns about the discovery. The tale has enough twists and unexpected turns to keep the reader involved in figuring out what’s going on, and the ending provides a satisfying conclusion that gives all aspects of the story a reasonable resolution.

My one complaint is that one character’s POV is in first person, while all of the others are in third, and I found that transition jarring at times. To me there was no good reason for singling her out that way. However, that was a minor distraction, for the author writes well and the plot and pacing kept me interested throughout. I cared about how it would all play out, and while some readers may anticipate the big reveal, I did not and was sufficiently surprised to enjoy the final twist.

Grandma gives The Child five stars. 5 stars

Bella Reads and Reveiws received an ARC of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

The Child will be released on June 27, 2017 and is available for pre-order.

The Cutaway

The Cutaway

The Cutaway by Christina Kovac (Thriller)

In the television industry, a cutaway is a shot that interrupts the main action to show someone or something of interest on the periphery. It might cut to the crowd at a well-attended event or pan the surrounding neighborhood when the main story is about a building fire or a police investigation.

For TV news producer Virginia Knightly, the cutaway that sparks her curiosity happens to feature a young female attorney who has been reported as missing. Knightly’s observations about the event being filmed and the people surrounding the young woman send her on a personal quest to learn the truth about the attorney’s fate. As the story progresses, we learn about Knightly’s personal life, her challenges and demons, and become invested in her fate, as well.

One of the best things about this debut novel is the unique profession of its main character. Virginia Knightly is a refreshingly different type of crime investigator who brings us into the world of TV nightly news production. We spend time in the studio, we see the interactions among staff both behind and in front of the cameras, and we watch a news reporter in action as she pulls her story together and gets it ready for prime time. Other than the fact that all of the women are beautiful and the men are distractingly handsome, this book provides a welcome change from the usual protagonist: the jaded former police officer, disillusioned FBI agent, or emeritus military specialist brought out of retirement to solve the mystery.

At first I found The Cutaway to be a bit slow-going, but my interest in Knightly and her profession kept me reading. The action and my investment in the outcome really picked up at the half-way mark, and from that point on I was hooked.

Grandma gives The Cutaway four stars. 4 stars

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

Serenity

serenity

Serenity by Craig A. Hart (Thriller)

This fast-paced crime novel is a short, quick read that I polished off in an afternoon. The first in The Shelby Alexander Thriller Series, it introduces an interesting main character in Alexander, a sixty-year-old ex-boxer who is beginning to feel his age and resents it. He has made some big mistakes in his life and has returned to the northern Michigan town of Serenity to find peace. Of course, in a thriller, peace is not what the main character finds.

I found Alexander’s voice to be authentic and his limitations refreshing. He has aches and pains and all the usual signs of aging. He is annoyed by his thirty-year-old daughter’s concerns about his health and lifestyle, but he’s doing his best to reconcile with her after too many years of estrangement, so he puts up with it. He has come to understand and accept what drove her mother to leave him, but he’s not looking to try again. His sexy thirty-year-old girlfriend may be a bit of a stretch, but Serenity is a small, isolated town in the cold northwoods. As the introduction to a new series, the story contains just enough backstory to help the reader understand who Alexander is, where he’s been, and why he thinks the way he does.

The drug-dealing Ellis family is probably the most depraved set of relatives I’ve encountered, and the part about their mother felt unnecessary and over the top. I also marveled at what lousy shots the criminals were and how many bullets punctured everything except Alexander and his friends. (Since this is a series, I don’t think I’m giving away much here.) But all in all, I enjoyed the book and would read more about Shelby Alexander.

Grandma gives Serenity four stars. 4 stars

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

Sinful Deception

sinful-deception

Sinful Deception by M.A. Comley and Linda Prather (Deception Series Book Two) (Crime/Suspense/Thriller)

Sinful Deception brings back Alexandra Fox, the British police detective we met in Clever Deception and Tragic Deception. She continues to work for the New York City Police Department while she pursues the Escape Artist, a serial killer who tortured and murdered Alex’s sister in England and then fled to the U.S. The Escape Artist has taken a personal interest in Alex and taunts her, telling her he will punish her if she displeases him, thereby putting her friends, co-workers, and even her beloved pets in danger. Meanwhile, a number of badly mutilated dead bodies are turning up, three of them young girls, sending Alex and her partners investigating a complicated web of crime that reaches into a number of unexpected places. Little by little, however, she’s getting closer to the Escape Artist as he becomes bolder and more dangerous.

The story is told from multiple points of view, keeping the reader involved in what’s going on in the minds of all of the major characters and moving things along at a steady pace. Comley and Prather have created believable people we care about, and this book is hard to put down. The plot has many interesting twists and turns and is clever and complex without being confusing or overwhelming.

My one concern is that I believe a reader should be able to pick up any book in a series and understand what’s going on without knowledge of what happened previously. A good example of this is David Morrell’s Ruler of the Night, a book I thoroughly enjoyed without realizing it was number three in a series. With a few months and several other books intervening since I read Tragic Deception, it took me a while to remember who was who and what their relationships were, because explanations were minimal. I was quickly absorbed by the action and moved right into the story, and the characters sorted themselves out over time, but I still don’t know what Blake Morgan did previously that landed him in prison or why he and Alex seem to be mutually interested in each other but are doing nothing about it.

Grandma gives Sinful Deception four and a half stars. 4.5 stars

Bella Reads and Reviews Books received an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Ruler of the Night

ruler-of-the-night

Ruler of the Night by David Morrell (Historical Fiction/Mystery)

Ruler of the Night is a blend of fact and fiction and is the final installment in a trilogy of murder mysteries set in Victorian England during the Crimean War. In 1855 a respected gentleman is brutally murdered on an English passenger train, setting off a frenzy of fear among travelers on this new mode of transportation. In the adjoining compartment are Thomas De Quincey, the brilliant author famous for writing about his on-going addiction to opiates, and his twenty-two-year-old daughter, Emily, who serves as his caregiver. Together with two Scotland Yard detectives, they seek to solve the murder and soon become involved in a much larger plot involving the Prime Minister of England, members of London’s high society, a German doctor accused of murdering Czar Nicholas of Russia, and a water-cure clinic on the outskirts of London that panders to the wealthy.

David Morrell is an acclaimed writer of both fiction and non-fiction, beginning with his debut novel in 1972, First Blood. His extensive research into the life and times of Thomas De Quincey brings this unusual man and his feisty daughter to life. De Quincey uses logic and clues in ways not yet common to police work, and his daughter’s knowledge of medicine gives them additional insights. Morrell vividly portrays the oddities and attitudes of the time period, effectively transporting the reader to smoky Victorian London with all of its grit and smells and discomforts alongside the haughty opulence of its upper class. The fast-paced story, told from multiple points of view, quickly involves us in the action and keeps us guessing while moving toward an exciting and satisfying conclusion.

Lovers of historical fiction, the Victorian era, or simply a good, well-written thriller will enjoy this book.

Grandma gives Ruler of the Night five stars. 5 stars

Bella Reads and Reviews Books was given a free copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Fractured

fractured

Fractured by Catherine McKenzie (Suspense)

This psychological thriller is hard to put down. From the beginning, we know that something tragic has happened in the new neighborhood where best-selling author Julie Apple has moved with her husband and young twins. Julie herself has a painful history. After writing a successful crime novel called The Mystery Game, she has become the victim of a terrifying stalker and has moved to Cincinnati from Tacoma, Washington, in an effort to evade the woman. Soon, however, she finds herself on the outs with her new neighbors, and a familiar sense of peril returns.

The story has two narrators, Julie and John, the married neighbor across the street who shares her jogging habit and becomes her running companion. In alternating chapters, they tell the story of the past year – from the arrival of Julie’s family in the neighborhood to events of the current day, when they must face the outcome of the aforementioned tragedy. Each relates just enough to keep the reader guessing about what happened and to whom. At first, the back and forth bordered on confusing, but once the story began to take shape, it all fell into place.

Catherine McKenzie, author of several bestselling novels including Hidden and Smoke, is an accomplished writer who knows how to spin a good tale. John’s wife, Hanna, is an especially well-written character; her reactions to her husband’s friendship with the controversial new neighbor add realistically sinister possibilities to the story. The neighborhood’s overbearing busybody, Cindy, is irritating enough to rile anyone who has had to deal with someone similarly annoying. The question of who did what to whom had me changing options right up until the end.

As a bonus, McKenzie is publishing The Mystery Game by Julie Apple as a separate novel coming out this November.

Grandma gives Fractured four stars. 4 stars

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