#BookReview: Iris In The Dark by Elissa Grossell Dickey

Solid Sophomore Effort That Doesn’t Live Up To The Author’s Debut. With this book, Dickey gives a solid story that has elements across several genres – and thus may not work for readers who are exclusive to any given genre. For readers who are more open though, this one actually works quite well. There is a mystery/ creepiness factor (combined with a tragic/ dark backstory) that almost gives mystery/ suspense vibes, but when combined with the more romance side of the tale switches to almost a romantic suspense vibe. Then there are the women’s fiction elements of a woman trying to find herself yet again when her world begins to collapse – or is it simply her mind collapsing? In the end, I would suggest that the book ultimately follows all rules I know of for the romance genre, and thus likely best fits there – though I’m not sure that this is what Dickey or her publisher (not known for romances) intended. I appreciate that Dickey tells a dramatically different story here than her debut (The Speed of Light), and I encourage all readers to go check out that book as well, no matter your own thoughts on this one. This book is ultimately the well-travelled tale of a phenomenal debut making the next work so much harder, as it has so much to live up to. Judged on its own, this story is truly a solid and intriguing one. Recommended.

This review of Iris In The Dark by Elissa Grossell Dickey was originally written on June 10, 2022.

#BookReview: My Wife Is Missing by DJ Palmer

Strong Cat And Mouse Tale Actually Harmed By Final Reveals. There is no escaping writing about my feelings about this book without up front stating that while the first of two final reveals was a decent twist – not great, given the story to that point, but serviceable enough – the second one in particular was just lackluster, lazy, and didn’t fit with the rest of the book at all. And for it to be the epilogue of the book only leaves the reader disappointed.

Which is sad, because the book before that point, and even during the course of the first reveal, is a nail biting cat and mouse game that had me invested from the very beginning. A man comes back to his hotel room in NYC from getting his family pizza… only to find barely a shred of evidence that they were ever there to begin with. From here we get a dual-timeline-ish tale where we see both husband and wife and the one’s efforts to find the other while the other tries desperately to hide from the one seeking them, and this part of the tale is deftly told showing Palmer’s usual skill at maintaining a solid level of tension throughout the tale. With a better ending, this tale could actually have been one of Palmer’s stronger ones. As it is, it is simply middling. Which is still a great tale from a great storyteller, simply not this particular storyteller at the top of his game. Still very much recommended.

This review of My Wife Is Missing by DJ Palmer was originally written on May 4, 2022.

Featured New Release Of The Week: Disappeared by Bonnar Spring

This week we’re looking at an atmospheric and visceral mystery that turns into an edge-of-your-seat survival thriller. This week we’re looking at Disappeared by Bonnar Spring.

Atmospheric Mystery Turns Nail Biting Thriller. This is one of those visceral, atmospheric type tales where you truly feel immersed in the (for most readers) exotic locale. Spring does a tremendous job of showing the breadth of Morocco, from its urban and more modern (ish) areas to its much more remote and tribal areas, from its dazzling seascapes to the bleak Saharan Desert. Much of the tale is a mystery of a woman trying to find her sister, who she arrived in-country with but has now disappeared. Later revelations turn the tale into a desperate attempt to survive and to flee the country, and this is where the book begins to take on much more of its thriller vibe (though there was at least some tinge of foreshadowing of this during the more mystery-oriented section of the tale). Truly a remarkable work, and very much recommended.

Featured New Release Of The Week: The Lying Club by Annie Ward

This week we’re looking at a book that has a slow start and a LOT of moving parts that ultimately all ties together into a satisfyingly suspenseful tale. This week we’re looking at The Lying Club by Annie Ward.

Here’s what I had to say on Goodreads:

Slow Start Yet Overall Satisfying. This is one of those books that starts a bit slow and has a LOT of moving parts and thus can be a touch difficult to keep track of at times, even for those of us who like this type of setup. One where there is little action and it seems a touch pointless at times… until the back parts of the book where the action truly finally picks up steam and gets fairly suspenseful. And yet, by the end all is tied up neatly – perhaps a bit too neatly, and the epilogue is perhaps unneeded as well. Ultimately a strong book that arguably tries to do a bit too much – but still largely succeeds in telling its tale its way. Very much recommended.

After the jump, an excerpt from the book followed by the “publisher details” – book description, author bio, social and buy links.
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Featured New Release Of The Week: The Overnight Guest by Heather Gudenkauf

For this week’s Featured New Release we’re looking at a tale of suspense set in three different timelines – present, years ago, and unknown – that all merge into a masterclass of suspense of a finale. This week we’re looking at The Overnight Guest by Heather Gudenkauf.

Here’s what I had to say on Goodreads:

Master Class In Suspense. Up front, this tale is told in three different timelines from three different perspectives – so if you’re a reader that struggles with that… well, this is an excellent read and you should still try it, but I get it. ๐Ÿ™‚ That noted, what makes this tale so strong is that each of the three threads – present day, years ago, and unknown – could be separate books and still be equally compelling, and yet here Gudenkauf weaves them together so masterfully that they play off each other even better and produce an overall much tighter grip on the reader’s mind. Yes, they all ultimately come together – and when they do, the finale is ultimately some of the best suspense of the entire book. Which is saying quite a bit, given just how good the parts before that are. This is another one that uses its setting in winter well, as well as its setting in the US central plains arguably even better than its winter placement of the present day timeline. Truly a remarkable work, and very much recommended.

After the jump, an excerpt from the book followed by the “publisher details” – book description, author bio, and social and buy links.
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Featured New Release Of The Week: The Ex-Husband by Karen Hamilton

This week we’re looking at a tale of karmic suspense that takes place at least in part at sea and shows the commonalities and differences between cruising and yachting quite well. This week we’re looking at The Ex-Husband by Karen Hamilton.

Karmic Suspense At Sea. This book is a mystery/ suspense set partly in the UK and partly (or pretty well fully, in its back half) at sea mostly in the Caribbean and even one Alaska season. The dual timeline approach is used here to show the suspense of someone stalking our narrator with information she doesn’t want known and which they shouldn’t have in the present timeline, with the second timeline being “18 months ago” when her world came crashing down. Except that the 18 months ago timeline is filled at least as much with the entire backstory of how she got to that point as well. This tale is an interesting blend of both cruising and yachting, which are very different experiences. Even though the largest megayachts (such as the Azzam) and the smaller cruise ships (such as Windstar Cruise Lines’ Wind Surf) are roughly the same size, with cruising you’re usually with a few hundred (at least, it can be closer to 5,000+) strangers + up to 2,000 or so crew members whereas with yachting you’re usually with no more than a few dozen people you’re at least tangentially associated with – even if only through a common acquaintance – and no more than a hundred or so staff. Also, the onboard experience of a cruise tends to be more akin to a perma-mall/ theme park on a cruise vs a much more exclusive, bespoke experience on a yacht. (Think of the difference of going to say Disney World vs what happens on Bravo’s Below Deck shows, for example.) Still, Hamilton actually does a good job showing how similar yet different each of these are, even as she weaves a tale of con artistry and karmic suspense through both facets of sea-travel experience. Very much recommended.

After the jump, an excerpt from the book followed by the “publisher details” – book description, author bio, and social and buy links.
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#BlogTour: The Good Son by Jacquelyn Mitchard

For this blog tour we’re looking at an interesting story of love, forgiveness, repentance, restorative justice, prison reform, and penance that could perhaps have used a better storytelling approach. For this blog tour, we’re looking at The Good Son by Jacquelyn Mitchard.

Interesting Story, Perhaps Better Served By A Different Storytelling Technique. This is an interesting story of what happens after a person who has been accused of a heinous crime is released from prison and the toll wrought on the person and their family and friends – particularly in the face of continued harassment from the community. Readers who hate multi-perspective stories will enjoy the fact that we only really get one perspective here, but this is actually the weakest thing about the book to my own mind. For me, having a multi-perspective book with the prisoner’s mother (the perspective we get here), the prisoner, and maybe even the stranger and the victim’s mother, would have made this story quite a bit tighter and potentially, assuming it was done right, that much more interesting. The issues that the book does explore well – restorative justice, repentance, forgiveness, mother’s love, etc – could have been further strengthened by this other technique as well. Still, for what we do get here, it is fairly solid but not “edge of your seat” reading. If you go into this expecting a thrill-a-minute… you’re reading the wrong dang book. But if you look at this more as a character study / family drama with elements of suspense and thriller, you’re likely going to leave this book more satisfied. Very much recommended.

After the jump, an excerpt followed by the “publisher details” – book description, author bio, social media and buy links.
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#TwelveDaysOfRomance #BlogTour: Buried Cold Case Secrets by Sami A Abrams

For this entry in the Twelve Days of Romance blog tour series we’re looking at a solid Christian Fiction romantic suspense novel ala Dee Henderson. For this entry, we’re looking at Buried Cold Case Secrets by debut author Sami A Abrams.

Solid Tale Of Its Type. So apparently “Inspired” / “Inspirational” is code for “Christian” in American marketing parlance (I guess similar to how “family friendly” is code for “kids”?). Did not know this going in (or, more likely, had known it long ago and forgotten over the years since I left that world behind). Thus, I was quite surprised to see a Christian Fiction book on the same blog tour schedule (well, emails sent within a few minutes of each other anyway, though in fairness there were a few different sets and I’ve picked up books from all of them) as some other… steamier… books, one of which I had just read earlier in the same day as this one. ๐Ÿ™‚

My semi-shock at stumbling into a Christian Fiction tale published by Harlequin aside (and kudos to them for reaching out to *all* segments of their market), this tale was actually quite solid. Reminded me a bit of Dee Henderson’s O’Malley Family series many years ago in that the suspense was high wire level tight, the leads worked well together personally and professionally, and the religious aspects were at least worked in as every day parts of the characters’ lives and thus never truly preachy. And hell, the actual mystery at hand was actually sufficiently creepy that fans of the general romantic suspense genre will find quite a bit to enjoy here – so long as you don’t mind praying. (I know of at least some readers who absolutely will not touch a book that mentions God or prayer *at all*, *no matter what*. If you’re that level… yeah, this book isn’t for you. If you’re at least ambivalent about that particular feature and just looking for a great suspense tale… you’re gonna like this one.) As I said in the title here, this is truly a solid tale of its type, and thus it is very much recommended.

After the jump, an excerpt followed by the “publisher details” – book description, author bio, social media and buy links.
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Featured New Release Of The Week: My Darling Husband by Kimberly Belle

This week we’re looking at the perfect book to end your 2021 with a bang reading. This week we’re looking at My Darling Husband by Kimberly Belle.

Hole E Sheet! Belle tosses us into the fire from the get-go… and only turns up the gas. All the way until the closing moments. If you’re a fan of Panic Room / The Purge type thrillers, you’re going to *love* this one, where roughly half of the action takes place as a stranger holds a family inside their house – with the other half being the husband/ father of the family racing to try to save them. An interesting story mechanic is also thrown in for good measure, and between the heavy foreshadowing with this and the frequent (usually chapter heading) timestamps driving just how quickly the clock is turning to the pivotal moment… you really are in for a wild ride with this one. There *is* some minor commentary late that is more YMMV, and while it does speak to motivations (as close as I’ll get to mentioning anything remotely specific), it isn’t actually truly essential to anything. Which is why its inclusion is a bit of an irritating note in the aftertaste of the book but isn’t any real reason to like the book any less. If you want to end your year on a bang… you might consider making sure you have this book when it releases in the week between Christmas and New Year’s 2021. ๐Ÿ™‚ Very much recommended.

After the jump, an excerpt followed by the various “publisher details”, including the official description of the book, an author bio, social media links, and buy links.
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#BlogTour: The Sorority Murder by Allison Brennan

For this blog tour we’re looking at a solid mystery that utilizes the new podcast fad quite well but which could have used better pacing overall. For this blog tour, we’re looking at The Sorority Murder by Allison Brennan.

Solid Mystery That Could Have Used Better Pacing. Reading through the other Goodreads reviews on this one, a common complaint is the pacing and bloat of this book – and I tend to agree, to a point. There was in fact a lot of going over the same facts of the case, and that probably added a solid 20 pages to the length of this book just in that fact alone. But it wasn’t something that I particularly noticed while reading, and indeed while reading I thought this was a truly solid use of an emerging technique to solve cold cases. And while the body count may seem a bit high for a town with less than 80K (real-world) people, a quick Google shows that it actually isn’t outside the realm of reality, even this Millenium (when until recently, violent crime was plummeting across the nation). It does in fact read a bit as a setup for a potential series with our former US Marshal investigator here, and it could actually be an interesting series if that is the case. Overall an interesting and compelling mystery that will keep you guessing until it wants to reveal it secrets – and then transitions into a bit more of an action/ suspense tale to finish up the case. Very much recommended.

After the jump, an excerpt followed by the “publisher details” – book description, author bio, and social media and buy links.
Continue reading “#BlogTour: The Sorority Murder by Allison Brennan”