mystery

Review: No Turning Back

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No Turning Back4 out of 5 stars to No Turning Back, a thriller and suspense novel released on June 15, 2017 by Tracy Buchanan. Many thanks to the author and to the publisher, Crooked Lane (thanks, Sarah!) for suggesting this book and sending it to me. I enjoyed the read and am excited to draft this review.



Why This Book


I love thriller and suspense novels. I’ve been very active on Goodreads and NetGalley for the last 4 months. Suddenly, the publisher reached out to me to see if I’d be interested in reading an advanced copy of the book. I read the description, which sounded fantastic, and I quickly said “Yes, please. And keep ’em coming!”



Plot, Characters & Setting


Anna, a young woman in her late 20s, has been a stay-at-home mom for the last six months six giving birth to her daughter Joni. Anna and her husband Guy are in the middle of a divorce and she’s staying at a separate cottage on the beach near their hometown in England. After returning to work as a radio show host where she provides advice and talks about current events, Anna realizes things are starting to change around her more quickly than she can adapt to. Her mother has been quite distant since Anna’s father committed suicide more than a decade earlier. Her brother Leo has grown more arrogant and difficult. Anna really only has some friends and her grandmother to look out for her. As she’s walking on the beach with Joni in a carriage one evening, a 15-year-old boy runs at her with a knife, appearing to want to kill her. Anna defends herself and Joni, accidentally killing the teenager.

Given it’s a small town, news travels fast. She’s quickly revealed as the woman on the beach who killed the young kid. Some people applaud her for protecting herself from a supposed drug addict. Others claim she is a murderess. The victim’s family claim their son was a good boy and Anna was just being vicious. Soon after, the Ophelia Killer, who murdered 5 or 6 boys nearly 20 years earlier, sends Anna an email, claiming (s)he’s back and is upset that Anna killed the boy who escaped from the killer’s clutches. Anna’s father had been investigating the killer before committing suicide, and it brings up difficult memories for her to accept. The killer is now after Anna, who took away his/her latest victim.

Over the course of a month, Anna befriends Jamie, the young boy’s brother. She’s unsure if he wants to harm her because she killed his brother, or protect her from the killer. Tensions escalate. More boys go missing. The cops suspect Anna or the boy’s family of being involved, or even being the Ophelia Killer. As evidence begins to pile up against Anna, her husband takes their daughter away, leaving Anna alone and frightened. But that’s exactly what the killer wants, and as Anna begins to unravel, she starts putting the puzzle together and figures out that someone close to her or her family is behind everything. Anna figures out how to stand up for herself, turning to her mother, grandmother, brother, husband and friends, but realizes in the end, someone has betrayed her. Now where does she turn?



Approach & Style


I read a physical copy of the book over 3 days, and it was 275 pages long. The story is told in the third person and generally follows Anna’s perspective. There are 6 or 7 small chapters, noted in italics, as conversations between the killer and his/her partner, but there are no dates, so readers don’t know if this is from the Ophelia Killer in the past, the same killer in the current time or a new copy-cat.

Chapters are about 10 to 12 pages long, easy to finish a few within an hour. The voice is consistent and straightforward. There is a lot of dialogue to keep the action going. It jumps a few days at a time in order to move the plot along, which sometimes creates a few areas of concern / confusion as to what happened during those periods. Nothing too uncomfortable.



Strengths


Anna is drawn very well. For the most part, you see her as the victim. Every so often, she says or does things where you wonder if perhaps there is a little bit of darkness to her. She’s likable, but she’s done a few things of concerns in the past. Her job plays an important role in the story, and we learn just enough to keep us focused without feeling burdened by too many details.

Other characters are believable. Her grandmother is a strong ally with a little bit of history and drama of her own. Anna’s mother is a recluse and often seems like perhaps she should have been institutionalized after her husband’s suicide, given some of her behavior and treatment of her children. But this works to an advantage in the story, as it provides more suspense and eerie moments throughout the novel.

The story of the Ophelia Killer, when it finally comes together, is quite well-crafted. I believe the events. I understand why the killer wanted to kill. It makes sense why things happened 20 years ago and why they happened again now. And the connection between the young boys and the people involved in the crime is quite complex and intriguing.



Concerns


Anna spends a little too much time talking to her infant daughter. It certainly helps create the bond and shows the love Anna has for someone else. But it was a tad repetitive and directionless in parts of the plot. It provided some angst during the custody negotiations with her husband, but some of that time could have been used with other characters to amp up the drama surrounding the mystery identify of the killer(s).

I’m not sure the secondary characters were used as much as they should have been in order to provide a more clear picture of what happened to everyone in the past. I understand it needs to be kept vague to throw suspicion on several different people and across different angles, but at times, it felt like too much was missing in order to feel connected to them. Not enough to worry me, but had this been a little tighter, the book would have felt even stronger.

As I don’t want to give away any spoilers, the relationships between Anna and her family members cannot truly be discussed in detail here. There’s a giant cloud over some events that happened in the past, which is important to the current plot. It adds to the suspense and mystery, but when everything came to light, I sort of felt a little displeased with how many discrepancies there were in people’s view points. After 20 years, I think some of the pieces would have come out much sooner. You’ll know what I mean when you read the book, but if I say much more, it’ll start to cross into the spoiler zone. For this reason, I hesitated between a 3 and 4 rating; however, it did keep me interested and the final outcome changed a few times in the matter of a couple of chapters, not easy to do under most circumstances.



Author & Other Similar Books


It’s a bit like Lisa Jewell’s “I Found You” or Michele Campbell’s “It’s Always the Husband,” in that there are events from 20 years ago which have a direct impact on what is happening today, but it is also different in that this is a serial killer. The title “No Turning Back” is very important to the story for many of the characters.

I haven’t read anything else by the author, but based on this book, I would definitely read another of her books. I’m thinking of giving “My Sister’s Secret” a chance.



Questions & Final Thoughts


I enjoyed the book. It contains a good plot, strong characters and lots of mystery. It’s not crazy earth-shattering with the reveal, but it definitely makes you think about how well you really know someone. People do the strangest things, and this book capitalizes on the “what if” scenario by showing all the challenges, fears and ideas that pain and murder bring out in someone. What would make you kill someone else? What’s the line of defense between an accident and fate? Where does revenge seem appropriate? It’s a good mystery and page-turner without being an intense roller-coaster ride. You can put it down, but you won’t want to let it go for more than a day before you feel drawn back to it… so when you take this one on, plan a 3-day read. You’ll want some time in between to give some consideration to all the suspects. And if you do figure it out, you won’t figure out why on your own… so there’s still a lot to look forward to.



About Me


For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I read A LOT. I write A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll also find TV & Film reviews, the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge and lots of blogging about places I’ve visited all over the world. And you can find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Vote in the poll and ratings. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators.

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Review: The Maltese Falcon

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The Malteses FalconBook Review
4 out of 5 stars to The Maltese Falcon, a classic mystery novel written in 1930 by Dashiell Hammett. If you ask a mystery fan when the genre started, a good chunk of them will say during the Golden Age (1920s & 30s) with authors like Dashiell Hammett, specifically with the creation of the Sam Spade character. Immediately what comes to mind is the old-fashioned black-and-white movies with the coat and hat on the detective, the accents and the chase scenes. While these are all true, few have actually read these novels. I’ve been a fan of mystery since I was a young kid, reading a bunch in my teenage years. I re-read a lot during an independent study course I design while getting my English degree while in college. This book was one of the first the Dean and my professor recommended to me. I had read parts of it and seen the movies made from it, but I wasn’t as familiar with the whole Golden Age. But once you read this book, you thirst for more. It’s so well-written (apart from some of the ideas that have positively changed since then, e.g. racial or gender bias) from a mystery perspective, you are immediately engaged. And one of the sub-plots in these types of books are often “will he get the girl” or “is the girl on his side of the bad guy’s side?” In The Maltese Falcon, you get it all. It’s international. It’s romantic. It’s dangerous. It’s scary. It’s complex. And it ends in a very unexpected kinda way. It’s a game-changer for the genre and that’s why it’s called the Golden Age. For mystery fans, you better have read this one. For non-mystery fans, it’s a good story, and if you like older books, them you should give it a chance.



About Me


For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I read A LOT. I write A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll also find TV & Film reviews, the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge and lots of blogging about places I’ve visited all over the world. And you can find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Vote in the poll and ratings. Thanks for stopping by.

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Review: Watch Me Disappear

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Watch Me Disappear4 out of 5 stars to Watch Me Disappear, a new mystery and suspense thriller, set to be published on July 11, 2017 and written by Janelle Brown. Many thanks to the author, NetGalley, Random House and Spiegel & Grau for this Advanced Reader Copy (ARC) in exchange for a fair an honest review.


Why This Book
I saw this book floating around on Goodreads, which prompted me to read the description. I checked NetGalley to see if it was available and was awarded the request back in April. I had a few other reads to complete before it, but settled in last week to be able to release the review a few weeks before the book’s publication, as part of an effort to promote the novel.

Approach & Style
The book is told mostly in the present tense, which is not something I have experienced very often; however, it worked very well given the suspense and thriller aspects.

I read it via Kindle Reader on my iPad. It is about 5000 lines or 350 pages.

It is mostly told in a third-person point of view and switches focus on a few different characters. There are also 5 chapters which are news articles that one character writes as part of the book he is publishing. These serve to connect different story points and keep the momentum of what’s happening behind the scenes.

Plot, Characters & Setting
Billie and Jonathan have been married for nearly 20 years and they have a 16-year-old daughter named Olive. They live in the East Bay on the outskirts of San Francisco, California. As the story starts, it’s been almost one-year since Billie went missing after she was on a hike, leaving behind her husband and daughter to wonder if she was kidnapped or died somewhere in the forest, as a body was never found.

Billie grew up in a very religious family as an only child. She ran away from home a few times, and after father, a minister, was caught with a teenage girl, Billie left for good. She told her friends that he was an awful father and abused her from time to time. She became a free spirit and helped protect the environment and animals from disasters and corruption. One day, she meets Jonathan and after 6 weeks, they get married and later have a baby. She loves him, but seems to struggle settling down, often needing her free time away from the family life. Jonathan had a sister, but she drowned when they were children, and he’s always felt guilt for not being able to save her. Years later, when he meets Billie, he’s drawn to her and they quickly settle into a life where it’s just the 3 of them. Olive is your typical angsty teenage girl going thru her own coming of age story.

Harmony, Billie’s former best friend shows up at some point, trying to re-build her friendship with Billie. She also later tries to help Olive and Jonathan move on after Billie’s death, offering both friendship and an attraction to Jonathan. Olive’s best friend, Natalie, also tries to help Olive get over her mother’s loss. But one day, Olive has a weird vision where she thinks her mother is trying to be found. Jonathan doesn’t want to deal with it, as he believes Billie is dead, and needs the money from her life insurance to be able to afford to pay for their mortgage and raise Olive. But suddenly, as he begins throwing Billie’s things away one year later, he finds notes and files that indicate she may not have been as honest with him as he thought. Jonathan begins to believe Olive and they search for Billie, learning various bits of information which cast Billie into a darker shadow.

Jonathan keeps coming to the same conclusion… over and over again about his wife:

The book is a quest for Olive and Jonathan to move on from Billie’s death, but also to determine whether she is indeed alive or if something darker has happened to her when she supposedly went for the hike. It’s a psychological thriller, leaving readers to question which information is accurate and which is just a red herring. In the end, Jonathan and Olive find a great deal of answers, learn what Billie had been up to in the last year of her life and figure out how to move on from the entire situation. You also find out exactly what happened to Billie when she went on her hike “to get some space for a few days.”

Strengths
The story is captivating and draws you in around the 15% mark. You really want to know what happened to Billie. Jonathan and Olive are likable characters whom you want to find answers in order to be able to move on with their lives. Both are written as believable father and daughter. There are tons of personal details about their lives, including when Billie was home with them. You see this from both a parent’s and a lover’s perspective. The story engages you and pushes you to decide what kind of a person you want Billie to turn out to be.

It’s a real-life situation for the most part. How do you move on when someone you love is missing and you don’t know if they are dead or alive? All the right questions and emotions come up. It’s fantastic that the story starts nearly one year after she’s missing, so we don’t have to live through the initial phases of misery and loss. We see and feel the pain, but it’s the kind you’ve already nursed, and then it’s ripped open when evidence shows that she may still be alive.

I did like the character of Billie, but it was because of solid writing. And I’m not saying she’s done anything wrong related to the disappearance (no spoilers!). I didn’t like her because she seemed selfish to need so much time alone, to seem callous about showing her feelings to Jonathan at times, for treating everything as “that’s life, we’ll figure it out.” I wanted to see the motherly side of her where she cries and yells and wants to help her child. Instead, she seemed too much of a free-spirit who just went with the flow. Sometimes it’s good, but Billie took it too far in my opinion. But that means the writer did an awesome job pushing me to feel this way.

This book is a definite commentary on marriage or relationships: how well do you really know the other person? Is it OK to keep secrets? Is your life together a surface existence or so deep that you have trust in all areas? When do you decide it’s OK to just do what you want and be selfish, but tell yourself it’s for the benefit of the other person? Huh???? That doesn’t fit my definition of a relationship, but it certainly gave me something to think about. I’ll think I’ll tell my significant other tonight that I need 2 weeks alone just to be away from him as I have to think. LOL If someone told me that, I’d say… “Seriously? OK, sure. Be sure to leave the key when you go as your a$$ aint’ coming back. I’m all for space, but let’s work thru it together.” Thank you. Off my soap box.

Concerns
I don’t think the character of Harmony was flushed out as much as necessary. As you learn more, she feels a bit deeper, but overall, it was a bit of a missing component.

I know we needed Olive, Jonathan and Billie to seem like the only people around in the family, but where were Jonathan’s family and his friends. They seemed AWOL at a time they were likely needed.

When the book ends, there are a few parts left too open for me. I want to know specifically what was true and what was false in regard to Billie’s early days of running away from situations and people. She told one story. Another character told a different story. Seeing the whole picture, I struggled a little in deciding who to believe. Even in the end. But it was just a little bit, nothing to throw the story off.

I wasn’t too big a fan of the newspaper articles interspersed throughout the chapters. They didn’t seem to serve as strong a plot device as I thought they could or should. It helped me learn more about how Jonathan felt about Billie, but at the same time, I think I’d have preferred a journal entry, a conversation with a psychiatrist or even him just saying things aloud. It wasn’t distracting, but I didn’t get a lot from it.

Author & Other Similar Books
It’s the first book I’ve read by the author, but she’s written two other books before this one. I would be interested in reading them as I liked her style. I plan to look them up and read if the plot sounds strong.

This book is not a thriller in that you are scared or afraid of someone being hurt. It’s more suspenseful, trying to figure out what is really going on. In that vain, it’s like The Girl on the Train or Gone Girl. You wonder for a while if you can trust the narrator. Maybe you can, maybe you can’t. I won’t say. But you get that feel from the book.

Questions & Final Thoughts
The title is super-important, as you’d expect. She disappears. You question the entire time you’re reading the book… “Who is saying those words?” Is is the mother, the daughter or the father? It could be any one of them. I liked that aspect. It’s the perfect title, also because the word “disappear” can mean so many things: physically, emotionally, due to fear, due to memory loss… really engaging for those reasons. It got a 4 of 5 stars from me as there were some concerns and I struggled to stay focused in the first 15%. But once it got into the swing of things, I only put it down one other time, as I was very sleepy. But I read the last 50% all in one sitting, so it’s definitely got game! And I sorta suspect, this might be a case of:

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I read A LOT. I write A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll also find TV & Film reviews, the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge and lots of blogging about places I’ve visited all over the world. And you can find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Vote in the poll and ratings. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators.

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Review: To the Nines

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To the NinesBook Review
3 out of 5 stars for To the Nines, the 9th book in the “Stephanie Plum” cozy mystery series, written in 2002 by Janet Evanovich. And with this review, I am officially caught up on older reads for this series… and I can now pickup where I left off by reading book 19 this summer… and it will be a much more detailed and thorough review. In this one, #9, Stephanie is chasing an illegal immigrant as her bail jumper. While hilarious and funny, this one didn’t feel as strong as the rest. Hard to keep up in such a prolific series, right? Still funny. Takes her all over the place. Even to the strip clubs. And you probably think she had to perform this time… you won’t know unless you check it out. Rest assured, she’s still working for her cousin’s agency. And she still has her colleagues to keep her in check. Hopefully Joe and Ranger don’t see the extents she has to go on this case. But when it turns out to be one of her scariest and biggest, she has to turn to them for help. She’s still getting the hang of this job, but with each culprit, she’s one step closer to perfection.



About Me


For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I read A LOT. I write A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll also find TV & Film reviews, the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge and lots of blogging about places I’ve visited all over the world. And you can find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Vote in the poll and ratings. Thanks for stopping by.

View all my reviews

Review: Hard Eight

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Hard EightBook Review
4 out of 5 stars to Hard Eight, the 8th book in the “Stephanie Plum” cozy mystery series, written in 2002 by Janet Evanovich. OK… so I cannot figure out for the life of me how Ms. Evanovich comes up with the hilarity in these characters. It’s absolutely amazing to see the varying degrees of lunatics Stephanie has to deal with. In this book, it’s less about one particular mystery, although there is a driving case she is working on. There are about 10 skips (bail jumpers) she’s trying to chase, all the while solve little crimes and issues throughout the lives of her friends, family, and the people she’s trying to capture whom she takes a liking to. She’s in the wrong profession, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. It gives me a regular dose of humor to enjoy. The main story, about a kidnapped child, though not funny, is handled quite well. You never know who to root for in these books. Sometimes I wanna see Stephanie put in these bad situations… I mean who wouldn’t want to watch Lula trying to take control and become her own bail bonds woman.



About Me


For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I read A LOT. I write A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll also find TV & Film reviews, the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge and lots of blogging about places I’ve visited all over the world. And you can find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Vote in the poll and ratings. Thanks for stopping by.

View all my reviews

Review: Seven Up

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Seven UpBook Review
4 out of 5 stars to Seven Up, the 7th book in the “Stephanie Plum” cozy mystery series, written in 2001 by Janet Evanovich. They just keep getting funnier. And in this one, Stephanie gets a marriage proposal from Joe. But Ranger will only help her with the crazy old bail jumper on the loose if she will do anything he tells her to do. She kinda likes that. So do I. But not if she’s gonna marry Joe. Come on! The antics and shenanigans are on high alert. Her family is way over the top and need to be stopped. And if I don’t get to meet that Grandma some day, there will be hell to pay. It’s a great book in the series, can be read in under 4 hours and will leave you red from embarrassment and laughter. But it’s worth it. So dig in, my friends… it’s a wild ride with this series.



About Me


For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I read A LOT. I write A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll also find TV & Film reviews, the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge and lots of blogging about places I’ve visited all over the world. And you can find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Vote in the poll and ratings. Thanks for stopping by.

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Review: Hot Six

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Hot SixBook Review
3+ out of 5 stars for Hot Six, the sixth book in the “Stephanie Plum” cozy mystery series, written in 2000 by Janet Evanovich. I’ve had some bad days before. I’ve even done some things I am not exactly proud of. But one thing I’ve never done… set someone on fire. Who does that? And what do you do to get revenge on the fire-starter? Maybe Drew Barrymore has some ideas. I’m a gonna call her today. On a more serious note, yes, that’s poor Stephanie’s life in this book. Bail jumpers are pushing her to the limit, but this one seems to want to kill her. While this book was funny and followed the same formulas, it was a little less remarkable than most of the others. I love all the kooky characters and the relationship issues between Ranger and Morelli, but I’m getting to the point where she either needs to kick one the curb, kick them both to the curb, decide Lula is the girl for her, or move to a new city and start fresh. I mean come on… something’s gotta give here, right?



About Me


For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I read A LOT. I write A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll also find TV & Film reviews, the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge and lots of blogging about places I’ve visited all over the world. And you can find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Vote in the poll and ratings. Thanks for stopping by.

View all my reviews