What She Found (Tracy Crosswhite #9) by Robert Dugoni

EXCERPT: She told him about Anita Childress and about what Tracy had learned about Anita’s missing mother. ‘It was originally considered a missing person case, not a homicide.’

‘And how are you considering it?’

‘Homicide. I don’t have any doubt she’s dead.’

‘Has anyone considered otherwise?’

‘It’s statistics, Dan. Unless a missing woman is found within twenty-four hours, the odds of her being alive are greatly diminished. After twenty-five years . . .’

ABOUT ‘WHAT SHE FOUND’: Detective Tracy Crosswhite has agreed to look into the disappearance of investigative reporter Lisa Childress. Solving the cold case is an obsession for Lisa’s daughter, Anita. So is clearing the name of her father, a prime suspect who became a pariah. After twenty-five years, all Anita wants is the truth—no matter where it leads.

For Tracy, that means reopening the potentially explosive investigations Lisa was following on the dark night she vanished: an exposé of likely mayoral graft; the shocking rumors of a reserved city councilman’s criminal sex life; a drug task force scandal compromising the Seattle PD; and an elusive serial killer who disappeared just as mysteriously as Lisa.

As all the pieces come together, it becomes clear that Tracy is in the midst of a case that will push her loyalties and her resilience to the limit. What she uncovers will come with a greater price than anyone feared.

MY THOUGHTS: I’m always eagerly awaiting Dugoni’s next Tracy Crosswhite book, and What She Found doesn’t disappoint. Dugoni is an excellent storyteller, and I clung to the pages like a drowning woman to a raft.

I like cold case stories, and I have appreciated Tracy’s change of tack so that she is able to spend more time with her husband and small daughter.

The mysteries are more difficult to solve too with the passing of so much time – in this case, twenty-five years. Witnesses have died, people have moved, or forgotten, and DNA wasn’t collected for testing; so pickings can be relatively slim. But Tracy is like a dog with a bone; once she has her teeth in something she doesn’t easily give up. And what she finds . . . well, you’ll have to read the book to find that out, but I bet that when she started this investigation, she had no idea what she was going to uncover.

I like Tracy’s character. She’s not all ‘gung-ho’ and rushing into danger. She’s a thinker; a strategist. I love the relationship she and lawyer husband Dan have. They are very supportive of one another.

Although she is no longer working closely with them, Faz and Del play a large part in this story, just not in roles we would normally associate them with.

This has been an amazing series and I can’t wait to read book #10, a read I will approach with both anticipation and trepidation as this series was contracted for ten books. Let’s wait and see.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.1

#WhatSheFound #NetGalley

I: @robertdugoni @thomasmerceruk

T: @robertdugoni #Thomas&Mercer

#contemporaryfiction #crime #detectivefiction #mystery

THE AUTHOR: A writer turned lawyer turned writer.
Robert Dugoni was born in Idaho and raised in Northern California the middle child of a family of ten siblings. Dugoni jokes that he didn’t get much of a chance to talk, so he wrote. By the seventh grade he knew he wanted to be a writer.

Dugoni wrote his way to Stanford University, receiving writing awards along the way, and majored in communications/journalism and creative writing while working as a reporter for the Stanford Daily. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa and worked briefly as a reporter in the Metro Office and the San Gabriel Valley Office of the Los Angeles Times.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Thomas & Mercer via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of What She Found by Robert Dugoni for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

For an explanation of my rating system please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com

This review and others are also published on Twitter, Amazon, Instagram and Goodreads.com

First Line Friday

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

First Lines Friday is a weekly feature hosted by Wandering Words. What if instead of judging a book by its cover, its author or its prestige, we judged it by its opening lines?

<i>’Deep within me, a sense of dread buzzes and crackles, an electrical wire threatening to short.'</i>

Does this opening sentence inspire you to read on?

The book this belongs to is

And Then There’s Margaret by Carolyn Clarke

EXCERPT: I unzipped my coat and stuffed my hat into my coat pocket, without taking my eyes off her. ‘What happened?’ I asked, certain I didn’t want to know.

She paused before she replied, her head falling. ‘It was an accident, of course – she was trying her version of resuscitation on George. We couldn’t get her off him.’ Helen managed to keep a straight face. ‘She’s a feisty old girl. Anyway, don’t be alarmed if you see blood on the sheets.’

‘Sorry, Helen,’ I said. ‘I hope she hasn’t caused too much trouble around here.’

She let out a little sigh. ‘It’s okay. I know it hasn’t been easy for her.’

‘Yeah, I know . . . but I’m sure it hasn’t been for the staff either – so thank you.’ I gave her a quick but heartfelt hug before motioning Cameron to follow me down the hall.

‘YOU MAY NEED TO CONSIDER HAVING HER STAY WITH YOU FOR A WHILE,’ Helen called out.

I froze in my tracks, squeezing my eyes tight. What?

ABOUT ‘AND THEN THERE’S MARGARET’: Marriage and midlife can be difficult. But when you add a controlling, manipulative and self- absorbed mother-in-law into the mix, things can get worse-much worse. Toxic, even.

When Allison Montgomery’s beloved father-in-law and long-time confidant passes away, her mother- in-law, Margaret, ‘temporarily’ moves in. From rearranging the furniture and taking over the kitchen, to undermining and embarrassing Allie at every turn, including funding her daughter’s escape, throwing a hissy fit at the mall, and publicly equating Allie’s glass of Chardonnay to full blown alcoholism, Margaret turns Allie’s life upside down causing her to bounce between a sincere desire to support her grieving mother-in-law and an intense urge to simply push her out of the nearest window. Feeling annoyed, trapped and even a little childish, Allie struggles to avoid a complete meltdown with help from her fearless and audacious best friend, a plan for reinventing herself and enjoying a second act, and, yes, a few glasses of Chardonnay. Along the way, Allie discovers the reasons behind Margaret’s attitude toward her all these years. Does it help? Maybe…

MY THOUGHTS: Poor Henry (Hank) is the meat in the sandwich here! I felt so sorry for this man. He’s rather a sweetie. Neither his mother, Margaret, nor his wife, Allie, are particularly nice people.

Margaret is manipulative, critical and, at times, downright nasty. But, to be honest, I think her character was a little over done. Who is going to go into their son’s home and move the furniture? Really? And logistically? I can’t even move my own furniture without help.

Allie is old enough to realise that you never try to come between a man and his mother. Most men are well aware of their mother’s shortcomings but, hey, it’s his mother. She’s the one who loved and raised him, instilled his values, so she must have done something right. Have a laugh with him about her. If she wants to do your housework, tell her to knock herself out! I’d be damned grateful if my mother-in-law wanted to do my housework. I’d happily let her. And wander off to have wine with my friends while she did it. But I would set boundaries for her. Interfering with the raising of Allie and Hank’s children is definitely off-limits. But that’s something to tackle as a couple, and Allie and Hank don’t seem to have great communication. I found Allie to be quite a miserable, whiny character. I didn’t much like her.

No wonder poor Hank has a heart attack!

The ending was unrealistic, and felt forced and rushed, although the book was more than long enough.

I was expecting a humorous ‘mother-in-law from hell’ romp. I was disappointed. I didn’t find this at all funny. In fact, I thought it was rather sad.

⭐⭐. 3

#AndThenTheresMargaret #NetGalley

I: @carolynclarkeauthor @blackrosewriting

T: @CarolynRClarke @brwpublisher

#contemporaryfiction #familydrama

THE AUTHOR: Carolyn Clarke is the founder and curator of Henlit Central, a ‘life and lighting’ blog for women over 40. “And Margaret” is her first novel. She has been teaching English for over sixteen years and has co-authored several articles and resources. She lives in Toronto, Canada, with Toni, her two daughters, and Sophie, a bulldog.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Black Rose Writing via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of And Then There’s Margaret by Carolyn Clarke for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

For an explanation of my rating system please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com

This review is also published on Twitter, Amazon, Instagram and Goodreads.com

Wild Place by Christian White

EXCERPT: Creak.

The noise came from somewhere behind her. She spun around to look over the armchair. Most of the lights in the house were off – she’d be paying the electricity bills herself soon and wanted to get used to keeping costs down. The TV cast wavering shadows across the walls. There was nobody there. At least nobody she could see.

Nancy stood in the dark and listened. There it was again, a soft, metallic click, a long, slow creak. A window in one of the other rooms was being slid open from the outside. She crept through the kitchen and stood in the mouth of the hallway.

Silence.

Before creeping down to the other end of the house to investigate, she went right past the rack of hefty frying pans and the block of Ginsu kitchen knives, which were sharp enough to slice through a leather shoe – but wait, there’s more! – and armed herself with the Yellow Pages.

A gun would work better. There was one in the house, a rifle Owen used to hunt rabbits when he visited his cousins – they lived up north, directly in the middle of arse-fuck and nowhere – but the gun was at the other end of the house, on the top shelf of her wardrobe, in a locked case. The key was in the pocket of her ex-husband’s jeans, which were now, no doubt, slung over a chair in a room at the motor inn.

Nancy briefly considered calling him, but decided that she would rather be dismembered and left in a shallow grave than give him the satisfaction.

ABOUT ‘WILD PLACE’: In the summer of 1989, a local teen goes missing from the idyllic suburb of Camp Hill in Australia. As rumours of Satanic rituals swirl, schoolteacher Tom Witter becomes convinced he holds the key to the disappearance. When the police won’t listen, he takes matters into his own hands with the help of the missing girl’s father and a local neighbourhood watch group.

But as dark secrets are revealed and consequences to past actions are faced, Tom learns that the only way out of the darkness is to walk deeper into it. Wild Place peels back the layers of suburbia, exposing what s hidden underneath guilt, desperation, violence and attempts to answer the question: Why do good people do bad things?

MY THOUGHTS: It’s the end of 1989 and a new decade is staring the characters of this twisty novel in the face. There are big changes in the air. Marty, the eldest Whitter son is off to university and suddenly moving out from home at the same time. Tom, his father, is unsure how he feels about that. Tracie, the girl next door has gone missing, and it seems that some of the neighbourhood children are dabbling with satanism, led by the strange goth boy Sean, he of the heavy metal music and pentagram tattoo. What is happening to this very traditional upper-middle class neighbourhood with strong family values? It’s just not the sort of neighbourhood that ‘things’ happen in.

What indeed?

Most of the story is told from Tom Whitter’s perspective. He’s a high school teacher, in fact has taught Tracie, so it’s not unreasonable for him to become involved in the search for her. The police think that she’s just another runaway. Her mother is certain that something more sinister has happened to her. Tom is inclined to agree.

Christian White has written another stunningly clever family drama. You probably heard the clunk as my jaw hit the floor at the final reveal. Then, when I thought it was all wrapped up . . .

The author is a master of misdirection and had me guessing (wrongly, I must add) the whole way through. I suspected almost everyone other than the actual killer.

White’s characters are very real, very human, faults, foibles and all…that doesn’t mean that you are necessarily going to like all of them, especially once the neighbourhood becomes rife with suspicion and accusations, and people begin to take matters into their own hands.

Wild Place certainly had me thinking, and wondering . . . This is a disturbing look at human nature, one that creeps up on the reader and ambushes you.

Sam Smith narrated brilliantly.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.1

#WildPlace

I: @crwhite01 @wfhowes

T: #ChristianWhiteAuthor @WFHowes

THE AUTHOR: Christian writes from his home in Melbourne, where he lives with his wife, filmmaker Summer DeRoche, and their adopted greyhound, Issy.

The Ex by S.E. Lynes

EXCERPT: In the silent dimness, he listens to his son breathe. He feels capable. Trusted. When they were together, she was always snatching things from him, low mutters escaping from pursed lips – ‘oh, for God’s sake, or ‘I can’t watch’, or ‘honestly, it’s too painful – before performing whatever task it was correctly. But now he has passed all the tests she set for him, with flying colours.

After a moment, he kneels on the floor and rests his head on the old carpet before lying flat on his stomach. He will pull up this carpet, he thinks. Sand the boards. The mesh sides of the cot allow him to watch his son: the bud of his tiny mouth; his papery, shell-like nails; his whipped downy hair.

His breathing stops. For a moment, Sam’s heart clenches. But then Tommy releases the warmest, sweetest, gentlest breath.

‘Miracle,’ Sam whispers, fingertips pressed to the mesh. There are no words for what he feels in his heart. To be a father, to lie on the floor and watch his son sleep, is the most everyday thing and yet so extraordinary it makes his breath catch in wonder. Nothing must be allowed to spoil this, he thinks.

Nothing must be allowed to take this away.

ABOUT ‘THE EX’: The love of your life… or your biggest mistake?

It’s hard, meeting your ex after so much time apart. You remember the hurt, the tears and accusations, but you try not to show it. You smile politely, even while your heart beats faster.

You watch as he looks down into the stroller, at the beautiful blond-haired blue-eyed baby kicking his little legs in the sunshine, whose innocent smile lights up your world.

You see his face change. You know what he’s thinking.

The next day he calls. His voice is shaking. He wants the truth. Is it his child?

You hesitate, your throat dry, good and bad memories swirling in your mind. You’ve missed him so much… but can you ever trust him again?

After a sleepless night, you arrange to meet, agreeing that the most important thing is doing what’s right for baby Tom.

But months later, when the sirens wail in the night, you have to admit: you never thought either of you would go this far…

MY THOUGHTS: Deliciously evil, Ms Lynes. You had my emotions all over the place. And there’s still a wee hitch in my breath when I think of what you put poor Sam through. My heart was pummeled by his anguish and distress. I shredded tissues!

The Ex is a fast and exciting read. It has all the hallmarks of a good psychological drama. It’s twisty. The characters are unpredictable – yes, even Sam! Naomi is . . . Naomi. Definitely two sides to her coin. Nonna Joyce is lovely, but I wouldn’t want to get on the wrong side of her. I could see why Sam left Naomi to move back in with her at the start of lockdown. She reminds me of my own grandmothers. And Miranda – what a wonderful friend she is.

I loved the way Lynes set the story up at the beginning. I was curious. No, more than curious. I was hooked! And I stayed firmly on that hook right the way through. This addictive read had me flipping pages into the early hours of the morning when I finally put it aside with a shocked gasp and a satisfied smile.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.5

#TheEx #NetGalley

I: selynesauthor @bookouture

T: @SELynesAuthor @Bookouture

#contemporaryfiction #domesticdrama #psychologicaldrama

THE AUTHOR: After graduating from Leeds University, S E Lynes lived in London before moving to Aberdeen to be with her husband. In Aberdeen, she worked as a Radio Producer at the BBC before moving with her husband and two young children to Rome, where she lived for five years. There, she began to write while her children attended nursery. After the birth of her third child and upon her return to the UK, she gained an MA in Creative Writing from Kingston University. She combines writing with teaching at Richmond Adult Community College and bringing up her three children in Teddington, Middlesex.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Bookouture via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Ex by S.E. Lynes for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

For an explanation of my rating system please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com

This review and others are also published on Twitter, Amazon, Instagram and Goodreads.com

One Good Turn and Other Stories by Angelo Marcos

EXCERPT: taken from ‘You’ve Got a Friend’

Why could none of them see how easy this all was? Listen to the first bit, reflect it back to them, listen to the next bit, then tell them how difficult it sounds. Reassure them they’re doing the best they can, reflect a bit more and ask them what they think would help. Tell them it sounds like a good approach. The end.

In essence, repeat what they say but in a calmer voice. Chuck in some sympathetic noises here and there, and that’s it, job done. No need to get emotionally involved, no need to care.

‘You’re such a good man,’ Hayley suddenly blurted, ‘I always feel better after talking to you.’

He gave a sheepish smile and lowered his head as if he felt embarrassed by the compliment.

He didn’t.

Most of the time, he didn’t feel anything at all.

ABOUT ‘ONE GOOD TURN: AND OTHER STORIES’:

You’ve Got a Friend

Mark is on nightshift duty on the You’ve Got a Friend Helpline. Unfortunately for the callers, his idea of help is very different to theirs.

One Good Turn

Two young tourists in London find themselves on the last train out of the city, and begin to wonder if they’ll ever get to their hotel…

Fare Game

An illegal cab driver picks up an old, confused man and offers him a lift home. It’ll be a journey they both may regret.

MY THOUGHTS: You can always rely on Angelo Marcos for chilling. Here’s a very quick Q & A with the author.

What inspired you to write this story?

I’ve always loved reading psychological thriller novels, as well as behavioural science and criminal psychology books.

(You might be able to guess that I’ve always had an interest in the darker side of human nature…)

After writing my second novel I had loads of ideas that weren’t quite right for full-length novels, but which I thought would work well together as a short story mystery collection. I decided it would be interesting to write three linked short stories all set in the city of London and featuring people with malicious intentions.

Who will enjoy this book?

Anybody that likes forensic psychology fiction, suspenseful books, and sinister tales.

Oh, and anybody with psychotic tendencies who has ever worked on a helpline…

They say that one good turn deserves another, but what about the opposite kind? After all they say that no good deed goes unpunished so, is the opposite also true?

Give this collection an hour of your time . . . it’s worth it. And as a bonus, the author has included the first two chapters of his novel ‘The Artist’.

And see if you can spot the clever little links between the stories – it’s not only that they are all set in London. 😉

⭐⭐⭐⭐

THE AUTHOR: Angelo Marcos is a writer, actor and stand-up comedian, who for some reason refers to himself in the third person.

He writes psychological thrillers and crime fiction, often with a dash of humour thrown in for good measure.

Drawing on his background in law and psychology, he crafts memorable characters and suspenseful mysteries which shine a light on human behaviour and why people do what they do.

See? I told you he refers to himself in the third person…

Website – http://www.angelomarcos.com

Twitter – @theangelomarcos

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/theangelomarcos

YouTube – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CyDHu..

Watching what I’m reading . . .

Happy Sunday afternoon, and to all the Dads out there, happy Father’s Day.

Currently I am reading Skeleton Key by Erin Kelly, and finding it enthralling.

THIS REUNION WILL TEAR A FAMILY APART…

Summer, 2021.
 Nell has come home at her family’s insistence to celebrate an anniversary. Fifty years ago, her father wrote The Golden Bones. Part picture book, part treasure hunt, Sir Frank Churcher created a fairy story about Elinore, a murdered woman whose skeleton was scattered all over England. Clues and puzzles in the pages of The Golden Bones led readers to seven sites where jewels were buried – gold and precious stones, each a different part of a skeleton. One by one, the tiny golden bones were dug up until only Elinore’s pelvis remained hidden.

The book was a sensation. A community of treasure hunters called the Bonehunters formed, in frenzied competition, obsessed to a dangerous degree. People sold their homes to travel to England and search for Elinore. Marriages broke down as the quest consumed people. A man died. The book made Frank a rich man. Stalked by fans who could not tell fantasy from reality, his daughter, Nell, became a recluse.

But now the Churchers must be reunited. The book is being reissued along with a new treasure hunt and a documentary crew are charting everything that follows. Nell is appalled, and terrified. During the filming, Frank finally reveals the whereabouts of the missing golden bone. And then all hell breaks loose.

And listening to Rock, Paper, Scissors by Alice Feeney

Think you know the person you married? Think again…

Things have been wrong with Mr and Mrs Wright for a long time. When Adam and Amelia win a weekend away to Scotland, it might be just what their marriage needs. Self-confessed workaholic and screenwriter Adam Wright has lived with face blindness his whole life. He can’t recognize friends or family, or even his own wife.
Every anniversary the couple exchange traditional gifts – paper, cotton, pottery, tin – and each year Adam’s wife writes him a letter that she never lets him read. Until now. They both know this weekend will make or break their marriage, but they didn’t randomly win this trip. One of them is lying, and someone doesn’t want them to live happily ever after.

Ten years of marriage. Ten years of secrets. And an anniversary they will never forget.

This week I have seven books to read for review, all due ffor publication this week. They are:

The Ways We Hide by Kristina McMorris

As a little girl raised amid the hardships of Michigan’s Copper Country, Fenna Vos learned to focus on her own survival. That ability sustains her even now as the Second World War rages in faraway countries. Though she performs onstage as the assistant to an unruly escape artist, behind the curtain she’s the mastermind of their act. Ultimately, controlling her surroundings and eluding traps of every kind helps her keep a lingering trauma at bay.

Yet for all her planning, Fenna doesn’t foresee being called upon by British military intelligence. Tasked with designing escape aids to thwart the Germans, MI9 seeks those with specialized skills for a war nearing its breaking point. Fenna reluctantly joins the unconventional team as an inventor. But when a test of her loyalty draws her deep into the fray, she discovers no mission is more treacherous than escaping one’s past.

Women Like Us: A Memoir by Amanda Prowse

Amanda Prowse has built a bestselling career on the lives of fictional women. Now she turns the pen on her own life.

I guess the first question to ask is, what kind of woman am I? Well, you know those women who saunter into a room, immaculately coiffed and primped from head to toe?

If you look behind her, you’ll see me.

From her childhood, where there was no blueprint for success, to building a career as a bestselling novelist against all odds, Amanda Prowse explores what it means to be a woman in a world where popularity, slimness, beauty and youth are currency—and how she overcame all of that to forge her own path to happiness.

Sometimes heartbreaking, often hilarious and always entirely relatable, Prowse details her early struggles with self-esteem and how she coped with the frustrating expectations others had of how she should live. Most poignantly, she delves into her toxic relationship with food, the hardest addiction she has ever known, and how she journeyed out the other side.

One of the most candid memoirs you’re ever likely to read, Women Like Us provides welcome insight into how it is possible—against the odds—to overcome insecurity, body consciousness and the ubiquitous imposter syndrome to find happiness and success, from a woman who’s done it all, and then some.

In Little Stars by Linda Green

In a divided northern England, love and hate are about to collide . . .

Sylvie and Donna travel on the same train to work each day but have never spoken. Their families are on different sides of the bitter Brexit divide, although the tensions and arguments at home give them much in common.

What they don’t know is that their eldest children, Rachid and Jodie, are about to meet for the first time and fall in love. Aware that neither family will approve, the teenagers vow to keep their romance a secret.

But as Sylvie’s family feel increasingly unwelcome in England, a desire for a better life threatens Rachid and Jodie’s relationship. Can their love unite their families – or will it end in tragedy? 

Becoming Beth by Meredith Appleyard

Since adolescence, 58-year-old Beth has lived her life with blinkers on, repressing the memory of a teenage trauma. Her mother, Marian, took control of that situation, and of all else in their family life – and as much as she could in the small town of Miner’s Ridge as well.

Now Marian is dead, and Beth, unemployed and in the middle of a humiliating divorce, is living with her gentle-hearted father in the family home. Beth feels obliged to take over her mother’s involvement in the local town hall committee, which becomes a source of new friendships, old friendships renewed, and a considerable amount of aggravation.

Researching town hall history, Beth finds photographs that show Marian in a surprising light; sorting through Marian’s belongings, she realises that her mother has left a trail of landmines, cruel revelations that knock the feet out from under her supposed nearest and dearest. Beth struggles to emerge from the ensuing emotional chaos … in middle age, can she really start anew?

The Night Watch by Neil Lancaster

A lawyer is found dead at sunrise on a lonely clifftop at Dunnet Head on the northernmost tip of Scotland. It was supposed to be his honeymoon, but now his wife will never see him again.

He’ll hunt you.
The case is linked to several mysterious deaths, including the murder of the lawyer’s last client – Scotland’s most notorious criminal… who had just walked free. DS Max Craigie knows this can only mean one thing: they have a vigilante serial killer on their hands.

He’ll leave you to die.
But this time the killer isn’t on the run; he’s on the investigation team. And the rules are different when the murderer is this close to home.

He knows their weaknesses, knows how to stay hidden, and he thinks he’s above the law… 

The Lost Notebook by Louise Douglas

A notebook full of secrets, two untimely deaths – something sinister is stirring in the perfect seaside town of Morranez…

It’s summer and holidaymakers are flocking to the idyllic Brittany coast. But when first an old traveller woman dies in suspicious circumstances, and then a campaign of hate seemingly drives another victim to take his own life, events take a very dark turn.

Mila Shepherd has come to France to look after her niece, Ani, following the accident in which both Ani’s parents were lost at sea. Mila has moved into their family holiday home – The Sea House – as well as taken her sister Sophie’s place in an agency which specialises in tracking down missing people, until new recruit Carter Jackson starts.

It’s clear that malevolent forces are at work in Morranez, but the local police are choosing to look the other way. Only Mila and Carter can uncover the truth about what’s really going on in this beautiful, but mysterious place before anyone else suffers. But someone is desperate to protect a terrible truth, at any cost… 

The Santa Killer by Ross Greenwood

The Santa Killer is coming to town…
One night less than two weeks before Christmas, a single mother is violently assaulted. It’s a brutal crime at the time of year when there should be goodwill to all. When DI Barton begins his investigation, he’s surprised to find the victim is a woman with nothing to hide and no reason for anyone to hurt her.

A few days later, the mother of the woman attacked rings the police station. Her granddaughter has drawn a shocking picture. It seems she was looking out of the window when her mother was attacked. And when her grandmother asks the young girl who the person with the weapon is, she whispers two words.

Bad Santa.

The rumours start spreading, and none of the city’s women feel safe – which one of them will be next?

He’s got a list. It’s quite precise. It won’t matter even if you’re nice. 

I received seven new ARCs this week, three of them publishers’ widgets.

In addition to The Skeleton Key, which I have already started, and Becoming Beth, which is on this week’s reading list, I received:

Just Like Family by Barbara Casey (thank you Susan)

Wolf Pack by Will Dean (Publisher’s widget)

The Second Chance Holiday Club by Kate Galley

The Village Vicar by Julie Houston (Publisher’s widget)

And Silent Victim (DCI Matilda Darke #10) by Michael Wood also a publisher’s widget

That’s me for the weekend. Now that the wind has dropped I want to do a few jobs in the garden before it starts cooling off out there.

Have a great week and happy reading my friends. ❤📚


	

Mad, Bad and Dead by Sherryl Clarke

EXCERPT: …. it was the phone. The landline phone which hardly ever rang these days. Nobody had the number other than Connor. Something must be wrong. I leapt out of bed, caught my foot in the sheet and half-staggered across the bedroom, making a grab for the chest of drawers at the last moment. Shit. One more centimetre and I would have brained myself on it.

The phone was still ringing. I lurched out into the lounge room, heading for the noisy damn thing, praying it wouldn’t wake Mia.

‘Waahhhh! Juddy.’

Too late. I snatched up the receiver. ‘Yes!’ Poor Connor. As the local cop, he’d probably get more polite answers to his calls. Still, he was used to me. We’d been mates long enough.
Silence for a couple of long seconds.

I took a breath. ‘Connor? Hello?’

‘Fuck you, bitch. You’re going to be sorry.’

Click. The receiver was a dead thing in my hand, so dead I flung it away from me like a smelly fish. Then I stared at it lying on the floor, looking all innocent and cream-coloured.

‘Judd-eeeeee.’ Mia sounded very cranky. What a great way to start the bloody day. A vicious, anonymous phone call and a grumpy three-year-old.

ABOUT ‘MAD, BAD AND DEAD’: Already struggling to juggle co-running Candlebark’s pub/bistro along with her new childcare responsibilities, what Judi doesn’t need right now is more stress. Yet, as usual, it arrives in spades: she starts receiving threatening, late night phone calls before discovering one of her best employees, Kate, shot dead in her bed.

Once again, Judi finds herself at the center of a murder investigation, as well as the hunt for Kate’s fourteen year-old daughter who has been missing since the murder. Add in the uncertainty of her relationship with D.S. Heath and the fact that her estranged mother’s nursing home keeps calling to urge her to visit, and Judi might finally be at breaking point.

MY THOUGHTS: Thanks Sherryl Clarke. I needed this. After a week of picking books up and putting them down, I picked up Mad, Bad and Dead and read it from start to finish in one sitting. Obviously what I needed was a good dose of Aussie ‘tell it like it is’.

We all have bad days, but Judi seems to get more than her fair share. She’s had a lot of changes in her life in the past year, most of them uninvited and unwanted. She’s estranged from her mother, her brother’s been killed and she has inherited custody of her niece, the publican she worked for was murdered, and she and three other employees inherited the pub. You could say Judi attracts trouble like an outdoor dunny attracts blowflies. And now this . . .

You may have gathered that there’s a lot happened in the previous two books in the series, yet this still works well as a stand-alone. I haven’t read either of the two previous books, but had no trouble picking up the story in this one.

Mad, Bad and Dead is a fast-paced story with plenty of action including a murdered employee, a missing fourteen year old girl, threatening phone calls, break-ins, arson, and – oh, yes – Judi’s mother is on her death bed.

I liked Judi’s character immensely. She’s strong, resilient and resourceful, but she’s not beyond unleashing her temper every now and then when things are getting on top of her, or drowning her sorrows in a bottle of wine. She does have a romantic interest in Heath, but long distance relationships are tricky to start with, and this one is made even trickier by the circumstances of this case.

I loved Sherryl Clarke’s down to earth writing and humour. I’m going in search of the previous two books, and I’ll be first in line for the next in this series.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.2

#MadBadandDead #NetGalley

I: @sherrylwriter @verve_books

T: #SherrylClarkeAuthor @VERVE_Books

#australianfiction #crime #murdermystery #mystery #smalltownfiction #thriller

THE AUTHOR: Some of my first short stories were crime fiction, and although in the last 20 years I have focused a lot more on writing children’s and YA books, I’ve kept going with my crime writing. The first two novels are now stowed somewhere in the back of my filing cabinet!
I’m a teacher of creative writing at Victoria University TAFE. I have been writing poems and stories for over twenty-five years, and have two collections of poetry published. Perseverance really does count, I think, for all kinds of writing.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to VERVE Books via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of Mad, Bad and Dead by Sherryl Clarke for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

For an explanation of my rating system please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com

This review is also published on Twitter, Amazon, Instagram and Goodreads.com

First Line Friday

First Lines Friday is a weekly feature hosted by Wandering Words. What if instead of judging a book by its cover, its author or its prestige, we judged it by its opening lines?

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

Because the first sentence of the book I am starting tonight is so short, I’m going to give you a bonus sentence.

<i>We all have a before and after. A watershed moment that changes direction of our lives, and forms who we are.

The book?

Sandy’s August 2022 Reading Roundup

Wow! Where did August go? It’s the meteorological first day of spring here in New Zealand, and it has been a beautiful spring day, but now – late afternoon – it’s clouded over and is cooling off. The daffodils and daphne are almost finished flowering, but the freesias look and smell beautiful; the hyacinths are about to flower, closely followed by the tulips. The kowhai trees are flowering – I planted two more over winter – and so the tui are back. I love listening to them; they are such clever mimics.

I started August with seventeen books to read for review, and managed not to add any during the month. That’s a first! I managed to complete twelve and am currently reading and almost finished three more. I will probably finish all three tonight. That’s an 88% completion rate. I read two more books purely for pleasure, but didn’t get to any of the titles on my backlist. So that was a total of seventeen books read during August.

One of the titles I am currently reading is a debut author – And Then There’s Margaret by Carolyn Clarke.

Two of the books I read in August were by new to me authors. They were: The Hidden Truth by Hilary Boyd ⭐⭐⭐.8





And one of my reads for pleasure, The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James. ⭐⭐⭐⭐.5

The two books I didn’t get read during August were Solace and Other Stories by M. Syaipul Nasrullah

and Carrie Soto is Back by Taylor Jenkins Reid, which I intend to start tonight.

I only had one five star read in August – The New House by Tess Stimson. I loved this so much I had a huge book hangover afterwards which lasted until almost the end of the month.

I have somehow managed to collect twenty-five books for review in September 🤦‍♀️ – I’m sure that request button operates on its own volition while I’m asleep!🤷‍♀️

So, I’m off to finish my three almost finished titles. Happy September reading!❤📚