My rating: 4 of 5 stars
The Mirror Pond Murders is the second book in the ‘Northwest Murder Mysteries’ and was published by Ted Haynes in 2019. I enjoyed the first book, Suspects, last year and said yes when offered an opportunity to read this follow-up in the series. While there are elements of suspense and thrills, the book falls under the classic mystery genre, offering deep insight into the characters and a grave look at the past. Let’s chat a bit about the story.
A skeleton is dug up in the Mirror Pond in former Native American territory in Oregon. Based on an agreement with the tribe, the state must make every effort to properly address remains that might belong to them. An autopsy is performed, citing potential Cherokee or Asian heritage; not enough is left behind to be sure. However, they do know a few things about the victim, and when Sarah Chatham, an attorney handling the case, hears those facts, she’s stunned. It’s her long-lost sister, and Sarah wants answers.
Haynes has a simple but direct storytelling style. The POV and perspective of this book changes by chapter to cover several key characters, including the local police, the representative of a local tribe, a few involved lawyers, and a couple of others who I will leave out for now (no spoilers). While several of these characters continue from the first book, we find unexpected connections in the stories that provide a fantastic surprise and “ah-ha” moment. I am really fond of the way the author connected the two books, as it’s not obvious at first. I remembered some of the names and the key plot elements, but I’d forgotten a few of the details that were important to this case. Luckily, Haynes does a superb job at covering the past info without it feeling repetitive or unnecessary.
While the book touches on Native American culture, it’s primary focus is on a spiritual religion that was popular in the 1980s in Oregon. See more here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rajnees…. I was unfamiliar with the history of Rajneesh but glad to learn more about it. Haynes takes some of the facts from these events and uses them as a backdrop to his murder mystery. When he connects the death of Sarah’s sister to this cult and to someone else we’ve met before, it becomes quite a spiderweb. One of my favorite things about the book is how methodical Haynes’s characters are; the 2 or 3 primary ones searching for Sarah are lawyers, so they are required to do certain things in order to ensure they can convict someone of the crime. Haynes makes it easy to follow but intriguing.
Another cool aspect of this story is a sub-plot revolving around a main character’s wife, who we met in the prior book, and her disinterest in conversing with the not-so-nice father who abandoned her years ago. He’s got a connection to the main story, which makes everything fit together nicely. Haynes has a clear and consistent writing style. A few times, a new chapter starts off with some time having passed. I wanted to know more about how he got from A to B, but that’s just my reading style and preference. It was certainly an opening shocker when he revealed something out of the blue, but it drew me further into the book too. On a few other occasions, I felt a slight distance between the characters and me as a reader. It might be an effect of the author’s writing style for lawyers processing a case, but I would have liked a bit more emotional connection in those few instances. For example, Sarah is obviously hurt over the loss of her sister and something else that happens, but she handles it too stoically for me. I understand who she was as a character and why Haynes probably took that approach, but at the same time, a bit more would’ve endeared her to me at the right level.
All that said, the mystery is strong. The tone is even and procedural in a good way. There are several surprises I hadn’t expected. I really loved the way the two books were connected. I’m definitely interested to read more from the author in this series or anything else he starts. It’s a different kind of read in some ways, but also a very easy one to digest and understand. Kudos for a solid follow-up that I believe was stronger than his debut in this series.
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For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My stand-alone novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. My new book series, Braxton Campus Mysteries, will fit those who love cozy mysteries and crime investigations but with a twist. There are four books: Academic Curveball, Broken Heart Attack, Flower Power Trip, and Mistaken Identity Crisis. I read, write, and blog A LOT on this site where you can also 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. 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. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
One thing’s for sure, I’m a fan of mystery series. When I find a new one I like, such as the Mersey Murder Mysteries, I have to devour them all. I usually read in order, but I found this one after several books had been published, so now I’m backtracking to catch up before #6 comes out soon. Today, I’m reviewing A Very Mersey Murder by Brian L. Porter.
The series focuses on a core group of British policemen and policewomen who handle special crimes–usually ones with complexity and longevity. In this edition, the first series of crimes happen in 1966 when three women were brutally attacked and killed. We read in the first few chapters what happens to one of the victims after she leaves a pub to walk home in a very quiet town. It’s not so quiet anymore. Then we jump 39 years later to when the murders start happening again in the same exact method and order. If what happened in the past rings true again, the third victim will be a policewoman. Will one of our beloved Mersey heroines say a final goodbye? Add in a few chapters where someone in the current time frame has found the killer’s old journal… and shares a little about the creepy nut’s imagination and emotional state. Is it the killer reading from the journal, or just someone else who found it? You’ll never guess until the very end!
Of the three I’ve read, this is by far my favorite in the series. Porter adeptly creates a believable and charismatic set of characters who work together to solve major crimes. Sometimes they fight, sometimes they bond. But they always try to find the killer in as little time as possible. When we meet some of the victims and her friends, colleagues and acquaintances, we feel a connection to the story and the lives being impacted by the crime. Add in some side stories with adoption, illegitimate children, gender identity issues, unrequited love, and friendship, the entire book is so well-rounded, I found it hard to put down.
At times, Porter’s story is visceral and graphic, but also tasteful. Some readers may shy away from the gory details and delicate topics being covered, but if you can handle them, you’ll be thrilled with how this comes together. Just when you think you’ve figured out who the culprit could be 39 years ago and who it is today, you’re thrown another curveball. Up until the very end, you’re not sure if it’s the same person, two different relatives, a copycat, or just a random series of events. That’s good writing, plot development, and suspense!
I encourage everyone to read Porter’s books, but I must say… I’m old-school and traditional — read them in order so you can cherish and enjoy all the little nuggets along the way. It’s not necessary, as each is a standalone mystery novel, but you’ll get to know the characters even better if you see them age and understand their relationships. Regardless, they’re well-drawn, complicated, and full of life. You know their likes and dislikes, strengths and weaknesses. Kudos to Porter for continuing to push his readers and deliver quality story with powerful messages and imagery. And if you just want a standalone murder mystery, this will still be a fantastic one to enjoy.
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My stand-alone novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. The debut book, Academic Curveball, in my new mystery series, Braxton Campus Mysteries will fit those who love cozy mysteries and crime investigations. I read, write, and 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 find the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge –and multiple Readathons. You can also 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. 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. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.
It’s been a while since I read a gory thriller, but when I picked up Aggravated Momentum by Didi Oviatt, I knew I would be thrust in the middle of something deliciously vicious. Did you see that cover? Blood, death and pain. And does this book deliver! Earlier this year I read another one of her thrillers, and while it was definitely an intense ride, this one was even more of a suspenseful punch… probably because we actually hear thoughts occurring in the serial killer’s head a few times. But perhaps my favorite part of this book was sharing it as a buddy read with my friend, Dani, an amazing book reviewer and blogger I love chatting with!
The book starts out a little scary… Markie, a young woman, is hurting over the vicious murder of her best friend from ~18 months earlier, trying to bond with her sister and find her new place in the world. She even goes on a blind date with a setup assembled by her late best friend’s parents who’ve come to think of her as their own daughter now. And it helps, given Markie’s own mother is a bit eccentric. Markie and her sister, Kam, setup a signal code so if the date is going poorly, Markie has an easy out. During the date, the signal goes off and Markie is disappointed, as she liked the guy. But when her sister calls with a fake emergency, it’s not actually fake. Thus, the chase kicks off in the books and we’re treated to a rotation of narrators from the killer, Markie, her family and a few other critical players.
Oviatt is fantastic at delivering the creepy, page-turning horror that pulls you in and kicks you out (from fear!) many times over. Whether it’s a description of the violence, the freakishly lucid yet nonsensical mind of a serial killer, or the palpitating fear readers witness when the main character is being stalked, it’s an intense journey. Casually dropping in the fear factor is a specialty of Oviatt, i.e. her reveal about how the killer is picking off his or her victims somewhere around 20% into the book. And you’re left thinking… yikes, how will anyone survive! But it’s when we learn the final twist that my eyes popped out of their sockets. Are you serious, Oviatt? I will NEVER be alone with you at this point… and I mean that in a you’re awesome, but you’ve got such bubbling creativity in that masterful mind of yours kinda way.
Characters are well drawn. I loved seeing the relationships between all the key players, but that ending! You’ve closed the loops on all the big things, but you’ve left quite a few open in the mid to small range that have us still wondering and thinking about this book. There’s gotta be a sequel in the works… it could still go so many ways. I hope you’ve got some sort of trickery up your sleeve as I want more on this wild adventure. One thing I’ve come to count on with Oviatt’s books is a strong story, crazy and deceitful characters, a massive twisty-turny road, and a realistic setting. It’s a methodical build where she ramps up at just the right pace, then the shock hits when you don’t expect it. But it makes you all the more focused and alert as you can’t help but squint and mistrust everyone at that point. So… how long do we have to wait for the next one?
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. I write A LOT. I read 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 find the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge – words and humor. You can also 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. 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. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.
Why This Book
About 6 months ago, I won a Goodreads giveaway from the publisher, Crooked Lane. They accidentally shipped this book instead of the one I had won. Rather than pull it back, they let me keep the book, but I hadn’t gotten to read it. On my quest to close out all ARCs, giveaways and books on my shelves before I download or buy anything new, Prayer for the Dead, the fifth book in the Inspector McLean thriller and mystery series, published in 2015, and written by James Oswald, was the oldest in my queue, as I work why way through the TBR I actually have copies of. I rarely read in the middle of a book series, but with 4 books prior to this one, it was too much to go back to the beginning, so I’ll start here…
Plot, Characters & Setting
Set in current times in Edinburgh, UK, Inspector Tony McLean battles politics within his local police precinct and journalists with whom he has a very unsteady relationship. He’s also protecting a few local neighbors who are being vandalized and trying to re-build his former tenement after some accident that occurred in the previous novels. One of the journalists approaches McLean to ask for help with a missing colleague. Readers already know the colleague was sadistically killed in the opening chapter by someone with pseudo-religious or Masonic beliefs. A few bodies build up, and the cases all begin to collide. McLean learns he may actually be connected with the killer from many years earlier, and sets off to stop the serial murders with very little information. Includes some graphic violence, medical lingo, and police procedural language. No romance or side-stories, other than what he’s doing with his old tenement. A few minor things that might be good to know from prior books, but it can be read stand-alone.
Approach & Style
I read the 340-page hardcover over 2 days in about 5 hours. Through ~75 chapters, the novel includes both 1st person and 3rd person POV. The killer appears in several chapters, disguised and talking to readers in 1st person POV, but the rest is mostly from McLean’s 3rd person POV. Perspective follows both around as crimes are committed and investigated.
Given it’s a police procedural, about some very religious and historical beliefs, and set partially in a medical environment, it’s not a run-of-the-mill thriller — there are many levels of technical details to weed through, particularly when it comes to UK police departments. I had no idea which type of investigator was more senior than the others, and they often refer to each other as Sir or Ma’am, so I was a tad lost. Not enough to stop me from reading, but enough that I wouldn’t say it was totally easy to adapt to for an American. Put a little chart in the back, please!
It’s complex, full of mystery and has lots of page-turning moments. There are enough characters to keep you guessing. The interweaving POV and perspective is handled adeptly. I liked the story and the way in which the murders occurred and how the investigations took place. Very detailed-oriented, and this makes me a happy reader! I also like the author’s writing style and feel connected to the development of the chapters and overall way things were described.
For one, the ending was way too quick. You don’t discover who the killer is or what his/her connection is to McLean until the last 15 pages. If that were the only concern, I’d probably have given this 4-stars; however, it was confusing and didn’t wrap up all the plot lines. I still don’t truly understand who was murdered years ago, whether the killer came back from the dead, or why one of the victims even died. Or even how the religious components truly fit in with all the other characters. I unfortunately must say this did not get fleshed out as well as it needed to be. Even if it’s a mystery thriller series, and more will be revealed later, as a whole book, it lacked a cohesive story that clearly set out the who/what/when/where/why of the crime.
If this were the first book in the series, I’d have definitely passed on any future reads. Knowing it’s made it’s way to 5 books, through a traditional publisher, I’m certain I must be missing something, or that perhaps the earlier books were better. I probably won’t pick up another one, given my long TBR list, but I’d be curious to hear from anyone who has read the author before… what did I miss?
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My debut novel, Watching Glass Shatter, can be purchased on Amazon. I write A LOT. I read 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 find the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge – words and humor. You can also 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. 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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4 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.
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.
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.
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.
4 out of 5 stars to The Last Precinct, the 11th book in the “Kay Scarpetta” mystery thriller series, written in 2000 by Patricia Cornwell. I really enjoyed this book as the complexity and the psychology of the killer was top-notch. Each chapter builds on the last, and in some ways, these books keep revisiting decisions and clues from previous book… so it gets quite explosive and intense. In this one, Scarpetta needs a break from the last case where she was battered and bruised. But when she relies on a friend to help, she learns the friend is part of a trial against Scarpetta, forced into it due to circumstances pointing to Scarpetta possibly going rogue. Jamie Berger, the DA gets more involved, and we start this love/hate relationship with all the characters. This is definitely not a stand-alone book to read, you need to have read the rest of the series. It has a lot of great plot twists and characters, but it also takes a lot of energy out of you to pay attention and believe what’s happening. I still liked it and was glad to see the growth in this one… tho it started to go down hill again afterwards in future books. If you enjoy the series, you will love this book. If not, don’t pick it up here!
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.