Tag Archives: Mystery

Book Buzz: The Child

Book Buzz: The Child

Imagine this scene in modern-day working-class London. An old apartment building is being dismantled to make way for new construction in a gentrified area. The demolition crew is hacking away at the debris, when suddenly, amidst the dust and rubble, a shocking discovery is made: the skeletal remains of a newborn baby, apparently buried years ago.

Thus begins The Child, Fiona Barton’s suspenseful psychodrama, whose protagonist is a woman in mid-life, a dogged investigative journalist who frets that her traditional reporting skills are becoming passé in the sensationalist world of new media.

The Child

The community is stunned and the case quickly becomes front page news. Dubbed the “Building Site Baby,” the infant’s identity becomes an obsession. What lead to the child’s demise? Why would an infant be buried underneath all the rubble, and whose child was it?

Whodunit, and whydunit?

Four women’s differing perspectives tell the story of The Child. At first we don’t see the connection, but as the plot unfolds,  we learn that each one holds a key to solving the mystery.

Book Buzz: The Child

Kate is the persistent but empathetic newspaper reporter used to getting her hands dirty in pursuit of the truth. She comes from the old school of journalism, and is dismayed to see layoffs of the old guard at her newspaper in favor of inexperienced young writers whose specialty is click bait-y headlines. The pressure of 24/7 online news goes against her grain and she stubbornly resists. At the same time, she worries that journalists of her ilk are disappearing like dinosaurs and she may be the next one to be let go.

Intrigued by the mystery of the Building Site Baby and begs her editor for the plum assignment. With support of the police detectives, she pursues the identity of residents of the building from years ago who might be able to help.

Then, there is Emma, a young married woman who works from home as an editor. She suffers from depression and anxiety, haunted by secrets of her childhood under the care of her single mom, Jude.

Narcissistic Jude raised Emma in an environment of instability and fear. When Emma turned 16, Jude abruptly threw her out of the house. Now that Emma is an adult, Jude would like to have a better relationship with her, but there is little trust, and their periodic interactions never go very well.

Finally, Angela, the wife and mother of two grown children whose infant daughter Alice was abducted decades ago from the hospital the day she was born. Her child was never found. Could this dead infant be her daughter? She prays that this is the case and she will finally have closure.

The short chapters keep the action going at a rapid pace, and gradually we come to see exactly how these women are connected and find out the identity of the Building Site Baby.

A lively, page-turning whodunit, The Child satisfied me as a good beach book and I particularly related to the personage of Kate, whose angst about competing with the younger generation in the workplace rang very true.

One of my lucky readers will receive a copy of The Child. Please leave a comment and a winner will be randomly selected. US addresses only, please.

 

I received a copy of The Child from Berkley for an honest review,
which is the only kind of review I write.

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Book Buzz: The Dressmaker’s Dowry

Book Buzz: The Dressmaker's Dowry

As a first-time novelist writing historical fiction, I have a newfound appreciation for writers who excel at that genre. It is no mean feat to capture the time period authentically in every way: with dialogue, clothing, scenery, etc. I can tell you that Meredith Jaeger does that quite successfully in The Dressmaker’s Dowry, her debut novel about two women separated by 140 years.

Book Buzz: The Dressmaker's Dowry

The Dressmaker’s Dowry

Set in San Francisco and alternating in time between the present day and in the mid-1800s, The Dressmaker’s Dowry features modern day Sarah, a writer fascinated with an unsolved mystery and Hannelore, an immigrant dressmaker who disappeared from the gritty San Francisco streets.

The setting for Hannelore’s story is rich with sensory detail: the acrid stench in the gutters, the clatter of horse carriages careening down the rutted streets, the foreboding sense of danger around every corner.

Hannelore and her friend Margaret are seamstresses in an exclusive dress shop that services the wealthy matrons of the city. They both have younger siblings whom they struggle to provide for. Their home lives are dark and perilous, and they lean on each other for comfort.

One day a man from a privileged family enters the shop and strikes up a conversation with Hannelore, and her life takes an unexpected turn. But the very next morning Margaret has gone missing, sparking fear and a frenzied search. And later, Hannelore disappears as well.

Sarah’s story takes place in her beautiful Marina apartment overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge. Coming from a modest background and married into a socially prominent San Francisco family, Sara withholds a secret from her past that she feels could destroy her marriage. She is struggling to complete a novel and then discovers a headline from 1876: Missing Dressmakers Believed to Be Murdered. Instantly intrigued, she puts the novel aside and puts on her journalist’s hat, determined to tell the story of these two women from generations ago. She becomes engrossed in the mystery and temporarily puts her insecurities on hold.

In the process of her investigation, she stumbles upon a shocking fact: she and Hannelore may be linked in ways she could have never expected. What is the connection, and will Hannelore’s disappearance ever be solved?

This is a riveting story, full of suspense and drama. As a fan of historical fiction, I love all the research that went into The Dressmaker’s Dowry, especially about the lives of the immigrants who came to San Francisco in search for a better life and endured so much hardship. The photos at the end of the book are a nice touch as well, giving the reader a visual bonus to the satisfying conclusion of the story.

One of my lucky readers will receive a copy of The Dressmaker’s Dowry. Please leave a comment below and a winner will be chosen randomly. USA addresses only, please.

 

I received a copy of The Dressmaker’s Dowry from William Morrow for an honest review,
which is the only kind of review I write.

 

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Book Buzz: My Husband’s Wife

Book Buzz: My Husband's Wife

Book Buzz: My Husband's WifeIn the spirit of dark psychological thrillers like Gone Girl and The Couple Next Door comes the debut novel, My Husband’s Wife, the story of two women and one man caught up in a web of dependence and betrayal.

My Husband’s Wife

Author Jane Corry has written My Husband’s Wife from two perspectives.  One of the narrators is Lily, a young insecure lawyer, newly married to Ed. The other narrator is Carla, a lonely and manipulative nine year-old when the story opens. Lily and Ed live in the same apartment building in London as Carla and her single mother, an Italian immigrant trying to eke out a living.

Lily has doubts about her husband’s fidelity from the get go, convinced he is still seeing an ex-girlfriend. Lily herself is conflicted about her true feelings for Ed, and is emotionally drawn to a client that she is defending in a murder case.

Carla is an outcast at school and yearns for stability in her life, which her distracted other can’t provide. She ends up spending time with Lily and Ed while her mother is at work. Ed, an artist, is captivated by Carla’s Mediterranean beauty and likes to draw sketches of her while she visits. He completes a series of drawings that he calls “The Italian Girl.”

Sound creepy? It is.

A jump of 16 years in the timeline brings us to Carla as a young woman, now studying to be a lawyer herself.  Lily at midlife is at the peak of her career as a criminal attorney. She has achieved success, but ghosts from her past continue to haunt her.

Gradually, we learn about the murky backstories of both major and minor characters. The story is replete with entanglements and betrayals, lies and surprises. All that good stuff that makes a book a page turner.

Readers have responded enthusiastically to these complex, brooding thrillers — recently pegged “grip lit” — that feature flawed and unreliable female narrators. They make for a fun read, and they translate well to the big screen. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see trailers for My Husband’s Wife in the future.

By the way, the intriguing title will make total sense by the end of the book.

 

One of my lucky readers will receive a copy of My Husband’s Wife. Please leave a comment below and a winner will be randomly selected. USA addresses only, please.

 

I received a copy of My Husband’s Wife from Viking for an honest review,
which is the only kind of review I write.

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Book Buzz: The Gates of Evangeline

The murky swamplands of Louisiana set the stage for the deliciously spooky The Gates of Evangeline, a steamy Southern Gothic whodunit that held me a willing captive every gripping step of the way.

The Gates of Evangeline

Part mystery, part romance and part supernatural, The Gates of Evangeline explores themes of affluence and privilege, bereavement, love and salvation, all wrapped up in one satisfying story.

Author Hester Young has created a scrappy, likeable protagonist — Charlotte “Charlie” Cates, an east coast journalist sent on assignment to Chicory, Louisiana to investigate a decades old unsolved case of a three year-old child who disappeared without a trace from his dynastic family’s lavish plantation/estate, Evangeline.

The case has a particular resonance for Charlie, grieving from the untimely death of her four year-old son. Consumed with guilt that she was not with her son when he was stricken, she begins to have vivid and disturbing dreams of children in jeopardy. At first she thinks these are manifestations of her own loss, but soon realizes that the victims in her dreams are not her son, but other children beseeching her to help them.

She is convinced that the missing child from Chicory is trying to communicate with her.

Thrust into an unfamiliar culture at Evangeline, she gets an instant education about the class system as she is regarded as one of “the help” and given strict instructions not to talk to the matriarch of the mansion, who surely must have key information about the case. In the course of Charlie’s investigation she meets a passel of eccentric family members and townies, with stories as muddied as the nearby swamp . Can she trust any of them to tell her the truth?

OMG. I thought I had nailed the culprit three different times. Aha, I murmured triumphantly, I’ve got it. Alas, each time I was wrong, with the plot spinning out of my reach. Such is the superior writing of the gifted Young, whose storytelling ability is par excellence, with twists and turns that will probably keep you guessing just as I did.

I often go into a book coma after finishing a fantastic book as the realization sinks in that there is no more of it to read. Such was the case with The Gates of Evangeline. But, great news! I am so delighted to learn that this book is the first in a series featuring Charlie Cates.

Hester Young, I am virtually high fiving you and I can’t wait to read about Charlie’s exploits next time.

Mark my words, The Gates of Evangeline is the book people will be talking about this fall. It is on sale Sept. 1.

Take it from me. This is one helluva book.

One of my lucky readers will receive a copy of The Gates of Evangeline. Please leave a comment and a winner will be randomly selected. US addresses only, please.

I received a copy of The Gates of Evangeline from Putnam for an honest review, which is the only kind of review I write.

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Book Buzz: Murder on the Ile Sordou

Take a secluded island off the coast of Marseille, add in a cast of quirky characters, mix in a gorgeous lush setting and a shocking, unsolved murder, and voilà, you’ve got the ingredients for a tasty mystery.

Such is the whodunit, “Murder on the Ile Sordou,” by M. L. Longworth.

Imagine departing from this port to the island …

And if this looks breathtaking, imagine the stunning landscape and vista of an island just a short boat ride away.

Murder on the Ile Sordou

Gathered at the luxurious and recently renovated hotel on the island of Sordou, a group of vacationers settles in for a week of pampering and solitude. The protagonist, Antoine Verlaque, is a wealthy magistrate from Aix-en-Provence who wants to get away from it all with his paramour, law professor Marine Bonnet. To that end, he keeps his profession a secret from the other guests.

Murder on the Ile Sordou

The cast of characters includes a retired poet/schoolteacher, a middle-aged American tourist couple, a secretive housekeeper, an odd and reclusive former lighthouse watchman and skittish but anxious to please young waitress. Somewhat scandalous is the presence of an aging movie star who comes across as aloof and unpleasant, especially to his wife and her teenage son.

As the guests begin to interact we learn their back stories, and just as the group is beginning to bond there is an incident. A shot rings out and the next morning the body of one of the guests is discovered. Bad news for the guests, and bad news for hoteliers hoteliers Maxime and Cat-Cat Le Bon who have invested their life savings in this hotel.

So you’ve got all the ingredients of a thriller: a murder by an unknown assailant, a storm that picks up and knocks out the electricity, guests who are prohibited from leaving the island. Oh, by the way, there is no cell service on the Ile Sordou.

No spoilers here. You’ll have to read the book to find out what happens next.

What I loved most about this book is the island of Sordou itself. The descriptions of the glorious scenery, the rocky cliffs, the surging tides of the ocean, the view for miles put me in a definite south of France frame of mind. Also, mon dieu, the gourmet meals sounded amazing! Because the island did not rely on imported provisions, the talented chef concocted mouth-watering meals from locally caught fish and island grown fruits and vegetables, described in a way to tantalize any palette.

I wouldn’t call this a sitting-on-the-edge-of-your-seat kind of novel; the tone is too languid for that. The ending isn’t so much “oh my God!’ as it is “ah, I see.” That said, the loose ends were wrapped up tidily and made for a satisfying conclusion. And I couldn’t have predicted it.

“Murder on the Ile Sordou” is the fourth in the Verlaque and Bonnet Provencal mystery series and now my appetite is whetted.

The author, M.L. Longworth, was recently profiled on NPR’s Crime in the City series (“Mystery Writer Weaves Intricate Puzzles in Sleepy French Town”). This gives a nice introduction to the author, the Verlaque and Bonnet series, and the lovely area of Aix-en-Provence.

I am delighted to offer a copy of Murder on the Ile Sordou to one of my readers. Please leave a comment below. Only U.S. addresses are eligible.

I received a copy of Murder on the Ile Sordou from Penguin for an honest review. No other compensation was received. All opinions are my own.

 

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