Watching what I’m reading . . .

Currently I am reading The Life You Left Behind by Debbie Howells which, to be totally honest, I am not enamoured with. It started out well, but then it was like it was trying too hard to be mysterious. I began to feel like I was being lectured to on watching for suicidal tendencies and environmental problems, of which I am perfectly aware and doing my personal best. This is not what I expecting from this author. I applaud her intent, but this is really not working out for me.

I am also reading another book from my backlist, Coast to Coast Murders by James Patterson and J.D. Barker. I am loving this and unsure why it has taken me so long to get to this.

I am listening to Do You Follow by J.C. Bidonde. I’ve only just started this but already it’s interesting and keeping my attention.

This week I have four titles to read for review. They are:

Put Out to Pasture (Farm to Table Mysteries) by Amanda Flowers

There’s fowl play afoot on the farm

Shiloh Bellamy has saved her family’s farm from financial ruin—but now what? She’s barely scraping by on the farm’s new organic business model and the fall festival she organized to drum up business comes to a screeching halt when the body of a prominent townswoman is discovered underneath a scarecrow in a nearby field. Worst of all, the evidence points to Shiloh’s childhood best friend, Kristy, as the prime suspect.

Between cooking up delicious treats made with her farm’s produce, convincing her cantankerous father to let her do things her own way, and dealing with a newcomer in town who could be serious competition for her customers, Shiloh doesn’t have time to wade into a murder investigation. But with a killer on the loose and suspicious activity circling closer and closer to Shiloh and the people she loves, she realizes there’s nothing to do but roll up her sleeves and get down to the dirty work of finding the killer and clearing Kristy’s name once and for all.

Afraid by Alexandra Ivy and Lisa Jackson

Dark secrets and revenge converge as former students from an elite boarding school, which is also a haven for the daughters of the rich and famous, come face to face with the crimes of the past…

LUCY
Lucy Champagne was sent to St. Cecilia’s after her movie-star mother was brutally attacked by her sleazy boyfriend, Ray Watkins. Lucy’s damning testimony landed Ray a twenty-five-year sentence. But now, Ray is free. And he’s going to find Lucy and make her pay, no matter how far and how fast she runs . . .

RAYNE
Rayne Taylor found unexpected happiness at St. Cecilia’s, until her roommate, Natalie, committed suicide. Only when Rayne finds a box of mementoes from that time does she realize how wrong she may have been about Natalie’s death—and how far someone will go to keep the truth hidden . . .

ERIN
Erin MacDonald remembers little about the long-ago night she and her sister, Anna Beth, were kidnapped. While Erin was found safe, Anna Beth vanished forever. Now Erin has reluctantly come back to the family estate, where Detective Rafe Montego hopes to finally crack the case. But as flashes of Erin’s memory reemerge, she learns how deep the danger goes . . .

Blood Tide by Neil Lancaster

You get away with murder.
In a remote sea loch on the west coast of Scotland, a fisherman disappears without trace. His remains are never found.

You make people disappear.
A young man jumps from a bridge in Glasgow and falls to his death in the water below. D. S. Max Craigie uncovers evidence that links both victims. But if he can’t find out what cost them their lives, it won’t be long before more bodies turn up at the morgue…

You come back for revenge.
Soon cracks start to appear in the investigation, and Max’s past hurtles back to haunt him. When his loved ones are threatened, he faces a terrifying choice: let the only man he ever feared walk free, or watch his closest friend die…

Midnight Lies by Chris Collett

Secrets, lies, bodies. Nothing stays buried forever . . .

An abandoned campsite in Norfolk. Developers unearth a human skeleton. The remains of an eighteen-year-old girl.

Robina Scanlon. A blast from the past that shocks Detective Tom Mariner to his core.

She was his holiday romance in the sweltering summer of 1976.

He thought she was the one who got away. Now he realizes she never even left.

All these years, she’s been buried back at their campsite. Who left her there to rot?

Mariner heads to Norfolk, driven by an obsessive need to uncover the truth. But the trail went cold years ago, with just one lead left to cling to.

Robina was last seen out on the campsite, with a mystery man at her side.

Was he her friend? Her killer? Or what?

The closer Mariner gets to the twisted truth, the more he fears the answers lie buried in his own dark past.

Can he face up to his demons before the killer strikes again?

I only read three of the five books I had scheduled for last week, so what do you think I should start with this week?

This week I got five new Netgalley ARCs, and I thought I was cutting back! They are:

My Mother’s Gift by Steffanie Edward

The Girls by Bella Osborne

The Golden Couple by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen

The Tea Ladies of St. Jude’s Hospital by Joanna Nell

and Unmissing by Minka Kent

Well, that’s my lot for the week. I’ve been at work and am tired so it’s sandwich, shower and bed for me. Have a wonderful reading week.

The Best American Mystery and Suspense 2021 edited by Steph Cha and Alafair Burke

EXCERPT: Taken from Let Her Be by Lisa Unger – We move away, the bell ringing as we exit. Emily is far ahead of me, out in the night. She doesn’t hear him say before the door closes: “They say the brother did it. There was always something off about that boy.”

I pretend I didn’t hear it, don’t let it upset me the way it used to. There were endless rumours then – a beautiful young girl dies by accident, and no one wants to accept that. No one wants to accept the randomness of it all.

Believe me, I get it.

ABOUT ‘THE BEST AMERICAN MYSTERY AND SUSPENSE 2021’: Steph Cha, a rising star who brings a fresh perspective as series editor, takes the helm of the new TheBest American Mystery and Suspense, with best-selling crime novelist Alafair Burke joining her as the first guest editor.

Beginning with the 2021 volume, the annual short story anthology The Best American Mystery Stories will become The Best American Mystery and Suspense. New series editor Steph Cha and best-selling guest editor Alafair Burke select the best short mystery and suspense fiction of the year.

“Crime writers, forgive the pun, are killing it right now creatively,” writes guest editor Alafair Burke in her introduction. “It was difficult—painful even—to narrow this year’s Best American Mystery and Suspense to only twenty stories.” Spanning from a mediocre spa in Florida, to New York’s gritty East Village, to death row in Alabama, this collection reveals boundless suspense in small, quiet moments, offering startling twists in the least likely of places. From a powerful response to hateful bullying, to a fight for health care, to a gripping desperation to vote, these stories are equal parts shocking, devastating, and enthralling, revealing the tension pulsing through our everyday lives and affirming that mystery and suspense writing is better than ever before.

MY THOUGHTS: There’s a very mixed bag of stories in this year’s collection. There is a small handful of excellent stories: Neighbours by Nikki Dolsan; Green Eyed Monster by Charis Jones; Slow Burner by Laura Lippman; and Let Her Be by Lisa Unger. But the majority of the stories sat in the 2.5 – 3.5 range for me.

My biggest gripe about most of the stories were that they weren’t suspenseful, nor were they a mystery. The ones I have rated highly were either intriguing, or had my heart pounding as I frantically flipped virtual pages.

There were a couple of stories that I thought were totally pointless, and one that seemed to me like a chapter extracted from a book. It seemed that there ought to have been something before it, and definitely something after it. But most were simply average.

Here’s a list of the contents and my ratings:
1. Return to India by Jenny Bhatt ⭐⭐
2. Swaj by Christopher Bolton ⭐⭐⭐.5
3. Neighbours by Nikki Dolson ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
4. Mala Suerte by E. Gabriel Flores ⭐⭐⭐
5. Where I Belong by Alison Gaylin ⭐⭐⭐.5
6. With Footnotes and References by Gar Anthony Haywood ⭐⭐⭐.5
7. The Good Thief by Ravi Howard ⭐⭐⭐
8. Everything is Going to be Okay by Gabino Iglesias ⭐⭐⭐
9. Green Eyed Monster by Charis Jones ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
10. Potato Sandwich Days by Preston Lang ⭐⭐
11. Frederick Douglass Elementary by Aya de León ⭐⭐.5
12. Infinity Sky by Kristen Lepionka ⭐⭐.5
13. Slow Burner Laura Lippman ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
14. Mr Forble by Joanna Pearson ⭐⭐
15. The Killer by Delia Pitts ⭐⭐.5
16. Wings Beating by Eliot Schrefer ⭐⭐⭐⭐
17. 90 Miles by Alex Segura ⭐⭐
18. Land of Promise by Brian Silverman ⭐⭐.5
19. One Bullet, One Vote by Faye Snowden ⭐⭐⭐.5
20. Let Her Be by Lisa Unger ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Overall rating – ⭐⭐⭐.25

#TheBestAmericanMysteryandSuspense2021 #NetGalley

#contemporaryfiction #crime #detectivefiction #domesticdrama #familydrama #mystery #historicalfiction #murdermystery #privateinvestigator #shortstories #psychologicalthriller #romanticsuspense

THE AUTHORS: STEPH CHA is the author of the Juniper Song mystery series and Your House Will Pay, which won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Best Mystery/Thriller and has been nominated for a Young Lions Fiction Award, a Macavity Award, a Lefty Award, a Barry Award, and a Dagger Award, as well as long-listed for the Aspen Prize. She’s an editor and critic whose work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, USA Today, and the Los Angeles Review of Books, where she edited the noir section for almost five years. A native of the San Fernando Valley, she lives in Los Angeles with her family.

Alafair Burke is the New York Times, Edgar-nominated author of fourteen crime novels, including The Ex, The Wife, The Better Sister, and the forthcoming Find Me. She is also the co-author of several novels with Mary Higgins Clark. A graduate of Stanford Law School and a former Deputy District Attorney in Portland, Oregon, Alafair is now a Professor of Law at Hofstra Law School, where she teaches criminal law and procedure.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Best American Mystery and Suspense 2021 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

Last Girl Ghosted by Lisa Unger

EXCERPT: You shift, close your arms around me, and whisper, ‘Tell me something you’ve never told anyone else.’

Up to this moment, I’ve measured everything I’ve shared with you. I’ve given myself over in pieces, slivers of truth, layers of self, curated memories, only the most banal likes and dislikes. But there are things I’ve hidden. It hasn’t been necessary to bare all; relationships these days rarely last. I can’t afford to give all of myself away to someone who may ghost me without a moment’s notice.

Does he know? Jax asked when I confessed how much I liked you.

No, I told her.

When will you tell him?

Now, I think. This is the moment. Tell now or it becomes a lie, something I’ve hidden. So, in the warmth of your embrace, in the dark of the hours after midnight, I tell you something I’ve never told anyone else.

ABOUT ‘LAST GIRL GHOSTED’: Think twice before you swipe.

She met him through a dating app. An intriguing picture on a screen, a date at a downtown bar. What she thought might be just a quick hookup quickly became much more. She fell for him—hard. It happens sometimes, a powerful connection with a perfect stranger takes you by surprise. Could it be love?

But then, just as things were getting real, he stood her up. Then he disappeared—profiles deleted, phone disconnected. She was ghosted.

Maybe it was her fault. She shared too much, too fast. But isn’t that always what women think—that they’re the ones to blame? Soon she learns there were others. Girls who thought they were in love. Girls who later went missing. She had been looking for a connection, but now she’s looking for answers. Chasing a digital trail into his dark past—and hers—she finds herself on a dangerous hunt. And she’s not sure whether she’s the predator—or the prey.

MY THOUGHTS: Last Girl Ghosted is disturbing on many levels. It is dark and gritty and so very plausible. Set in the world of online dating and at the time where there are media rumblings of a pandemic virus emerging in China, Unger takes the reader on a journey involving PTSD, familial abuse, missing women, and so much more.

I am usually the first person to criticise an author for trying to cram multiple ‘themes’ into one novel, but Unger makes it work and work brilliantly. The threads are tightly woven together to form a richly coloured tapestry, a compelling read that kept me enthralled from beginning to end.

I loved Wren’s character – strong yet vulnerable. She wasn’t always Wren. She was once Robin, a child who suffered an unimaginable trauma, who has emerged intent on helping others, albeit anonymously through her advice column Dear Birdie. She worries about these people and their problems. Sometimes she dreams about them. But ultimately she believes that by helping them, she is helping herself to become stronger.

And Adam. Hell, I fell for Adam. He’s very good at what he does. And I loved that he’s not smooth and handsome.

Bailey Kirk is a PI, hired by one of the missing women’s fathers to find his daughter. But it has become something of a personal crusade for him. It’s a case that has gotten under his skin. All the missing women have a similar background: they have suffered a great tragedy and are wealthy. All have dated Adam through dating apps. Wren is the latest. But Wren is still here. She is not missing, but Adam is. Bailey believes that Wren is his best chance of catching Adam. He doesn’t believe that Adam will walk away from Wren. But if Adam contacts her again, will Wren tell him? It’s a cat and mouse situation.

The story is told mainly from Wren’s perspective over two timelines; the current day and her traumatic childhood. We occasionally get the story told from Bailey’s perspective.

There is nothing banal or mundane in Last Girl Ghosted. I loved it from beginning to end. I was rooting for Wren the whole way through. And yes, for Adam too. I wanted him to be redeemed. Was he? Not telling. You’ll have to read Last Girl Ghosted to find out.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.5

#LastGirlGhosted #NetGalley

I: @launger @hqstories

T: @lisaunger @HQstories

#contemporaryfiction #crime #mystery #privateinvestigator #psychologicalthriller #suspense

THE AUTHOR: Lisa Unger is a New York Times and internationally bestselling author. With books published in thirty languages and millions of copies sold worldwide, she is widely regarded as a master of suspense. She lives on the west coast of Florida with her family.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to HQ Digital for providing a digital ARC of Last Girl Ghosted by Lisa Unger 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

Watching What I’m Reading . . .

I hope to get my home office finished this week so that the carpet can be laid. The new double glazed joinery arrives tomorrow and will begin to be installed. Yes, we are under lockdown but things like this can still go ahead. Which is good. But there are other things that cannot be done, which I simply don’t understand. Why can’t those of us who are double vaccinated move about freely? Instead a large number of unvaccinated met publicly in Auckland yesterday to protest . . . I guess it is what it is and in the meantime I am just going to enjoy my time off. I do miss being able to see my son and grandson though. I have been trying to do some Christmas shopping for Luke online. It’s difficult, especially when it comes to books, so as a result it hasn’t got past Lego and a couple of small toys. There’s nothing quite like being able to riffle through a child’s book.

Currently I am reading Many Deadly Returns, a short story collection by members and past members of the Murder Squad, a group of award-winning crime and mystery writers, compiled to celebrate their twenty-first birthday. There are some cracking good stories in here, and Vera Stanhope makes an appearance in the very first story in the book written, of course, by Ann Cleeves.

I am currently listening to Down the Hatch (Agatha Raisin #32) by M.C. Beaton. I have only read or listened to a handful of this series, and not in order, but it really doesn’t seem to matter. I am enjoying this, especially since it is narrated by Penelope Keith, whom I could listen to all day.

This week I am planning on reading The Way it is Now by Garry Disher, which I received during the week.

Set in a beach-shack town an hour from Melbourne, The Way It Is Now tells the story of a burnt-out cop named Charlie Deravin.

Charlie is living in his family’s holiday house, on forced leave since he made a mess of things at work.

Things have never been easy for Charlie. Twenty years earlier his mother went missing in the area, believed murdered. His father has always been the main suspect, though her body was never found.

Until now: the foundations are being dug for a new house on a vacant block. The skeletal remains of a child and an adult are found—and Charlie’s past comes crashing in on him.

And The Best American Mystery and Suspense, an annual short story anthology.

Crime writers, forgive the pun, are killing it right now creatively,” writes guest editor Alafair Burke in her introduction. “It was difficult—painful even—to narrow this year’s Best American Mystery and Suspense to only twenty stories.” Spanning from a mediocre spa in Florida, to New York’s gritty East Village, to death row in Alabama, this collection reveals boundless suspense in small, quiet moments, offering startling twists in the least likely of places. From a powerful response to hateful bullying, to a fight for health care, to a gripping desperation to vote, these stories are equal parts shocking, devastating, and enthralling, revealing the tension pulsing through our everyday lives and affirming that mystery and suspense writing is better than ever before.

I received 4 new ARCs this week, one of which was the M.C. Beaton audiobook, and another the Garry Disher Australian crime novel which is my next read. The other two I received are:

The Dinner Lady Detectives by Hannah Hendy

And A Thousand Steps by Jefferson T. Parker

I managed to read one back title this week on top of my planned reads, which was Last Girl Ghosted by Lisa Unger. Watch for my review.

I still have twenty-seven requests pending.

In the past week I have been to Dune Island, Massachusetts; Netherton and Sheffield, both in Yorkshire, England; the Cotswolds, also in England; Kirkby Abbey, Cumbria; Ludlow, Shropshire; and London, England. Have we crossed paths anywhere? Where have you been?

The sun has gone behind the clouds now and the wind is picking up so I think that I will abandon my gardening plans and instead settle down with my book.

Have a wonderful week. ❤📚

The Man I Married by Elena Wilkes

EXCERPT: Blood has a smell.

I look around me. I’m sitting on a bench.

It comes again.

It’s visceral, like meat.

I gaze down at my hands. I don’t recognize them; they lie upturned and curled in my scarlet-stained lap. Every crease is dark with what looks like rust. My palms open like flowers and I feel the skin stretch and tighten. A cold breeze skims the wet patches on my dress. The wool sticks unpleasantly to my skin and a chill slides down my spine.

I close my eyes.

Behind the lids the dying winter sunlight zigzags in orange and purple flashes. Somewhere behind the bushes I can hear the girls, giggling. I squint; I can’t see them now, but I know they’re there.

‘You can’t hide in here forever you know!’

There’s a woman’s voice. She’s getting closer.

‘I think it’s time we should be going though, don’t you? Come on.’

I squint. The viburnum bush trembles; its propeller-headed flowers nod and bounce in bright pink bells against the thicket of black. I imagine her reaction as she walks past. She’ll see the state of me and I’ll see her face: the shock at my matted hair and disheveled clothes. She doesn’t know who I am and I don’t want to scare her. ‘You don’t know me -‘ I’ll say. She’ll look at me, wary and unsure.

‘-But can I tell you what happened? I think you’ll understand when I explain.’ I’ll hold out my hands and she’ll see the state of them.

I know my story is also her story.

I’ve done this for her, for the children, for all of us… that’s why he’s dead.

ABOUT ‘THE MAN I MARRIED’: This is the story of Lucy and Paul.

They met. They fell deeply in love. They got married.

Lucy thought that she had everything she wanted.

Until she found the photograph from Paul’s past life, read the text messages he’s so desperately trying to hide. Until she uncovered Paul’s darkest secrets.

Now Lucy realizes she doesn’t really know her husband. She doesn’t know if she can trust her own mind. She doesn’t know the lengths Paul would go to keep his perfect life.

And worst of all, she doesn’t know that she’s in danger…

MY THOUGHTS: The character of Lucy both irritated me and intrigued me. I couldn’t understand why she married this man. I couldn’t understand why she continued to stay married to this man. I wanted to slap some sense into her. I wanted to watch the train wreck that I knew was coming.

Paul is a master manipulator. He plays Lucy like a virtuoso. He has a past that he continually lies about. Lucy is afraid that his past is colliding with her present. But how can she tell what is true and what isn’t?

Although there were things in The Man I Married that didn’t quite gel for me, and Lucy comes across as desperate and unhinged, I enjoyed it. This was due in part to the relentless pace of the plot, but also to the sterling narration by Colleen Prendergast.

My jury is still out on the ending. It’s quite a strange ending, and I am not totally convinced that this was the best possible outcome.

The Man I Married is Elena Wilkes debut novel, and I am excited to see what she writes next.

⭐⭐⭐.7

#TheManIMarried #NetGalley

I: #elenawilkes #sagaegmont

T:

#audiobook #contemporaryfiction #domesticdrama #mystery #psychologicalthriller #romanticsuspense

THE AUTHOR: Elena Wilkes grew up in Walsall in the West Midlands and then worked for eighteen years in H.M Prison Service. The people she met there provided the basis for all her novels.

Many of the prisoners there came across as very ordinary people who had committed the most appalling crimes but would, one day, walk straight back on the streets.

This begged the question: how much do we know about anyone, really? The people who live amongst us may seem no different from us at all, but when you scratch a little deeper, you realise they hold some very dark secrets.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Saga Egmont Audio via Netgalley for providing an audio ARC of The Man I Married written by Elena Wilkes and narrated by Colleen Prendergast 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, and Goodreads.com

Watching What I’m Reading . . .

We have had a beautiful week of weather: cool but not actually cold nights, and gloriously sunny days with temperatures not quite reaching those of summer, but very close. But it seems that is coming to an end. We had thick fog this morning and now it is mizzling. The forecast for the week to come is rain, all week. I am glad my new dryer arrived and was installed on Friday.

We were planning on going out for lunch today at a new bar about 3/4 hour away. It has Heineken on tap and I have heard only good things about the food. But I was much longer at work this morning than I thought I was going to be, and then I got home to find friend had called in, so lunch out has been postponed for a couple of weeks. I made us all toasted sandwiches instead, and we caught up on each other’s news before he had to head off again. If he hadn’t been travelling in the opposite direction, we would have suggested he join us.

I have had a wonderful week’s reading based mainly in England, with a little time in Wales. Have you been anywhere interesting?

Currently I am reading The Maidens by Alex Michaelides. Intriguing!

I am also reading Don’t Let Go by Harlan Coben. I only started this yesterday, and am almost finished.

And I am about to begin listening to If I Had Two Lives by A.B. Whelan and narrated by Kristen James

This week I am planning to read Dead Sorry by Helen H. Durrant

Twenty-five years ago a schoolgirl was attacked by three bullies in her home where she lived with her grandmother.

Now, the mother of one of those bullies is found murdered on the Hobfield housing estate. Written on the wall in the victim’s blood is the word, “sorry.”

There is a link to the discovery of bones at an old house up in the hills — the home of the teenage girl who was attacked.

Detective Tom Calladine and his partner DS Ruth Bayliss have more than this puzzling case on their hands. Arch-villain Lazarov is threatening Calladine’s granddaughter and a valuable hoard of Celtic gold is coming to a local museum.

The pressure is on, and this time Calladine is cracking . . .

Discover an absolutely unputdownable crime thriller from a best-selling author.

If you like Angela Marsons, Rachel Abbott, Mel Sherratt, Ruth Rendell, or Mark Billingham you will enjoy this exciting new crime fiction writer.

DEAD SORRY is book eleven of a new series of detective thrillers featuring DS Ruth Bayliss and DI Tom Calladine.

What readers are saying about the series
“I read it in one sitting.” Aileen

“This books has lots of twists and turns throughout and with a cracking ending to this brilliant book.” Nessa

“Really enjoyed this book.” Nerys

“Kept me guessing till the end.” Anna Maria

“I finished it in twenty-four hours and enjoyed every page.” Joan

THE DETECTIVES
Tom Calladine is a detective inspector who is devoted to his job. His personal life, however, is not so successful. Having been married and divorced before the age of twenty-one has set a pattern that he finds difficult to escape.

Ruth Bayliss is in her mid-thirties, plain-speaking but loyal. She is balancing her professional life with looking after a small child.

THE SETTINGThe fictional village of Leesdon is on the outskirts of an industrial northern English city. There is little work and a lot of crime. The bane of Calladine’s life is the Hobfield housing estate, breeding ground to all that is wrong with the area that he calls home.

The Vacation by John Marrs

Venice Beach, Los Angeles. A paradise on earth.

Tourists flock to the golden coast and the promise of Hollywood.

But for eight strangers at a beach front hostel, there is far more on their mind than an extended vacation.

All of them are running from something. And they all have secrets they’d kill to keep…

I went to my local library last week to return a book. Honest. I had no intention of picking up anything new to read. You will understand why when you see the number of ARCs I received this week. And sitting there, right beside the return slot, is a shelf of recent releases – and if that’s not fighting dirty, I don’t know what is! – and New Zealand author Paul Cleave’s latest, The Quiet People. But it wasn’t just sitting there, quietly. Oh no. It was fluttering it’s pages alluringly at me, whispering seductively, ‘How about I come home with you. I can show you a really good time’ . . . Then it literally (no pun intended) threw itself at me and manoeuvred me to checkouts. I know when I’m beaten and gave in quietly. So this week I will also be reading

Cameron and Lisa Murdoch are successful crime-writers. They have been on the promotional circuit, joking that no-one knows how to get away with crime like they do. After all, they write about it for a living.So when their 7 year old son Zach goes missing, naturally the police and the public wonder if they have finally decided to prove what they have been saying all this time – are they trying to show how they can commit the perfect crime? 

I had a day during the week when I was feeling quite overwhelmed by an accumulation of different things. So that night when I couldn’t sleep and couldn’t concentrate on my reading, I took refuge in Netgalley with result that I received twenty-seven (yes, Susan. 27.) ARCs this week 🤦‍♀️🤸‍♀️🤸‍♀️🤦‍♀️🤸‍♀️🤸‍♀️🤦‍♀️ I don’t know whether to be appalled or excited.

As well as the audiobook If I Had Two Lives by A.B. Whelan, Dead Sorry by Helen H. Durrant, and The Vacation by John Marrs, I received:

What’s Not True by Valerie Taylor

My Mother’s Children by Annette Sills

In Another Light by A.J. Banner

The Darkest Flower by Kristin Wright (thank you Michael David https://bonkersforthebooks.wordpress.com/)

The Beauty of Fragile Things by Emma Hartley

Summer Island Book Club by Ciara Knight

Death and Croissants by Ian Moore

I Don’t Forgive You by Aggie Blum Thompson

The Best American Mystery and Suspense 2021

Snow Country by Sebastian Faulks

The Crooked Shore by Martin Edwards

The Murder Box by Olivia Kiernan

One Left Behind by Carla Kovach

The Shut Away Sisters by Suzanne Goldring

The Grandmother Plot by Caroline B. Cooney

The Perfect Guests by Emma Rous

Oh William! by Elizabeth Strout

The Plot by Jean Hanff Korelitz

Slough House by Mick Herron

Her Perfect Life by Hank Phillipi Ryan

A Hand to Hold in Deep Water (audiobook) by Shawn Nocher, narrated by Elizabeth Evans

The Third Grave by Lisa Jackson

And two more audiobooks, Know No Evil by Graeme Hampton, narrated by Julie Maisey

And, The Man I Married by Elena Wilkes, narrated by Colleen Prendergast

I have never had that many ARCs in one week before. I bet that does a bit of damage to my review ratio! What is the most ARCs you have received in any one week?

Now I have two reviews to write so I had better get writing and get them done before dinner. Nice fresh snapper tonight with an avocado salsa and salad.

Happy reading my friends. ❤📚

Suspicious Minds by David Mark

EXCERPT: It didn’t matter that this was where his last real lover had died.

It was their place now.

Theirs

She saw a tartan blanket, a thermos of tea; triangular sandwiches packed in opaque Tupperware, all plucked from a wicker hamper. She’d visualized him, leaning against the old beech tree, both arms around her like lengths of tarred rope, telling her the names of the plants and plucking stray twigs and silvery catkins from her hair. She saw herself barefoot; dirty-kneed in a ragamuffin dress, a tartan shawl pinned with a sprig of holly. Fantasy, of course, but one of her best…

‘Sweet chestnut,’ he’d said, slapping a random tree trunk. ‘This one’s ash. The brambles have bound their branches. They’re holding hands, look. And up there; that bracket of mushrooms – they can cure sore throats. Taste OK too. Nice in a stir-fry. They tend to explode if you let the fat get too hot, but I like a meal that offers an element of danger . . . ‘

Come back, Liz. Liz! Oh for God’s sake . . . Betsy!’

The words come from within her: a chorus of voices, each gasping as if running out of air. She registers pain, suddenly. Pain and loss and fear.

ABOUT ‘SUSPICIOUS MINDS’: Liz Zahavi is desperate. Desperate for her controlling partner, Jay, to stay with her, to actually love her. Desperate to be well again, after a recent diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder. Desperate to be understood.

Private therapy seems like the answer to her prayers, but Liz doesn’t even make it to her first appointment. Lost in a maze of country roads, she crashes her car, only to be rescued by a brooding local farmer . . . who just keeps on rescuing her. Attractive and intense, Jude is a dream, and Liz doesn’t want to wake up.

But four years ago, Jude’s perfect, pretty wife died alone in the woods near their house. And as Jude’s past boils into the present, threatening to destroy their new happiness, Liz begins to wonder what exactly her new man is capable of . . . and how far he’s willing to go.

MY THOUGHTS: David Mark’s writing style is both raw and brutal, and almost poetic. He certainly has a way with words and an innate ability to draw the reader into the scene he has created. His characters are larger than life – they seem to explode from the page and wedge themselves firmly into the reader’s mind.

Liz Zahavi, legally Elizabeth, but Betsy in her heart, has been diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder. This is a disorder of mood and how a person interacts with others. It is characterized by emotional instability, disturbed patterns of thinking, impulsive behaviour and the tendency to form intense but unstable relationships. Her partner, Jay, is controlling, domineering, almost OCD. Liz, not Betsy, thinks that if she ran past him in flames, his major concern would be that the curtains didn’t catch alight. He threatens her, often, telling her that no one else would put up with her,that she cannot survive without him. He erodes her confidence, stamps out any small spark of independence. But she has a good relationship with his young daughter Anya, who sees her as a free spirit, a welcome antidote to her rigid, work obsessed parents. Her family is a nightmare. Her mother was abusive. Her sister thinks she is lucky to have Jay to look after her.

Lost and alone she meets Jude, who rescues her from an encounter with Campion, local landowner, bully and worse. I thought of Hitler. And then he just keeps on rescuing her, dismissing her concerns about her BPD, saying that he loves the fire in her, that it should never be dampened or extinguished. And Betsy (not Liz, though Liz will come to visit from time to time) senses something timeless in Jude. He is nurturing and gentle, but there is a sense of darkness and violence lurking beneath.

Suspicious Minds is a book that crosses a lot of boundaries. There is a fair bit of darkness and violence in this story. But it is not gratuitous. It fits. It is a story of greed and dominance, of people who use violence and threats as a means to an end, interwoven with a beautiful story of two lost people finding themselves and each other. It is also tempered with a dry wit that had me snorting with laughter at times. I was impressed and will be seeking out other books this author has written.

Oh, and just for the record, the cover doesn’t do this book justice.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.3

#SuspiciousMinds #NetGalley

‘She finds herself furious that she smell of freshly baked scones cannot be trapped in an aerosol and sold as a room deodoriser.’

‘Don’t overthink it. Don’t analyse it to death. Don’t deconstruct it, because it might not fit back together again.’

‘Long before social media, the world was full of wankers.’

THE AUTHOR: David Mark spent more than 15 years as a journalist, including seven years as a crime reporter with The Yorkshire Post—walking the Hull streets that would later become the setting for the Detective Sergeant Aector McAvoy novels. He lives in Yorkshire, England.

DISCLOSURE Thank you to Severn House via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of Suspicious Minds 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 my webpage

Watching what I’m reading . . .

Apologies for disappearing on you so suddenly last week. I was rushed off to ED in the early hours of last Sunday morning with breathing difficulties, which resulted in a five day stay in hospital. I am not yet allowed back to work, and will be going for more tests and follow up during the week ahead.

Currently I am not reading anything. I have finished two books this morning, the delightful Three Women and a Boat by Anne Youngson

And Lady in the Lake by Laura Lippman

Which as well as being a Netgalley ARC, was a group read for my Goodreads.com Mystery, Crime and Thriller group.

I started listening to Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout this morning.

This week I only have one ARC that I need to read for review which is Nothing Good Happens After Midnight: A suspense magazine anthology, with contributions by Jeffrey Deaver, Linwood Barclay and John Lescroart, amongst others.

I will use any other reading time I get to catch up on back titles.

I have received ten new ARCs over the past two weeks:

The Haunting of Beatrix Greene by Rachel Hawkins, Ash Parsons, and Vicky Alvear Shecter

Murder Most Festive by Ada Moncrieff

Ask No Questions by Claire Allen

The Perfect Life by Nuala Elwood

Her Sister’s Child by Alison James

Suspicious Minds by David Mark

Without Blood by Martin Michaud

Limelight by Graham Hurley

Our Little Secret by Lesley Sanderson

And finally I’m So Effing Tired by Amy Shah

And on that note, I am off for a nap.

Happy reading ❤📚

Deadman’s Track by Sarah Barrie

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EXCERPT: ‘I’m sorry I got you into this!’ Charlie Reynolds shouted over the gusts of wind blasting them with icy sleet. ‘It’s the stupid weather! I don’t know where it came from. I can’t see how to get down.’

Neither could Tess. She held on to a shelf of slippery rock on a narrow ledge high on a cliff face with frozen, aching fingers. Beneath them was absolutely nothing. She tried for a smile, for encouragement, because the cute but stupid twenty-three year old was close to panic, but in her head she was swearing: at him, the mountain, the weather, the whole messed-up situation. He had no right to be here. He’d been warned. No – he’d been told. Repeatedly. The Federation Peak climb belonged only to those with the experience to tackle it and enough respect for the extreme Tasmanian conditions to know when not to. And he’d climbed up anyway.

And now this.

ABOUT THIS BOOK: tragic accident, a terrible crime, an unknown threat …

Scarred by a recent tragedy on Federation Peak, Tess Atherton is reluctant to guide a group of young hikers in the wild Tasmanian winter, but it seems safer than remaining amid the violence that threatens them in Hobart. Little does she know that she has brought the danger with her …

Detective Senior Sergeant Jared Denham is closing in on a serial killer, but someone doesn’t want him getting to the truth and the case is becoming personal. He already owes Tess his life, and wants to return the favour – but when it comes to enemies, Jared may be looking in the wrong direction.

Time is running out, and death is stalking them both …

MY THOUGHTS: Straight up, I’m going to say that I hate both heights and cold. Deadman’s Track has both and I felt the fear as Tess hung suspended over cliff edges, and felt every chilling sting of the icy sleet. I swear that my next read has to be set on a tropical island so that I can thaw out!

I have recently read some absolutely brilliant and gripping Australian fiction, and I was looking forward to more of the same. But I am leaving this book feeling a little disappointed. Despite Sarah Barrie’s great descriptive writing, I found the plot lacking. I was dragging my heels by the halfway point and found myself slogging through the remainder of the read. And despite the ending being quite suspenseful and exciting, it wasn’t enough to earn Deadman’s Track more than an extra half a star.

I really wanted to like Tess, the main character, but for someone who leads trail hikes and volunteers for Search and Rescue, she is easily led into dangerous situations. Twice she counsels against doing hikes because of the time of the year and the unpredictable winter weather conditions, and twice she goes ahead with them. I just didn’t find her particularly credible.

Aaron, the controlling ex-boyfriend who won’t accept that Tess no longer wants to be with him, is really well depicted and more development of this storyline would have kept me more interested. I am not so keen on the criminal elements in this book, but that is purely my personal preference.

Deadman’s Track was only an okay read for me, and I am sorry that I didn’t like it more. Many other people have absolutely loved this book, so if you are looking at reading Deadman’s Track, check out some of the more positive reviews.

I loved that Sarah Barrie dedicated Deadman’s Track ‘to the extraordinary men and women who risk their lives every day to save others.’

🤷‍♀️🤷‍♀️🤷‍♀️

#DeadmansTrack #NetGalley

‘So many big strong heroes, so little time…’

‘I want to twist his balls until they snap off and shove them so far up his butt they work as breast enhancements!’

THE AUTHOR: Sarah Barrie lives with her husband and children in a rural area on the Central Coast of NSW. She divides her time between writing, being a mum and her position as editor of two equestrian magazines. When she finds a spare moment or two, she enjoys spending time with her Arabian horses and the various other animals that call the farm home. Though her writing career has traditionally revolved around producing articles for various publications, her true passion lies in fiction and she enjoys writing contemporary romance, romantic suspense and paranormal romance.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Harlequin Australia via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of Deadman’s Track by Sarah Barrie 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

Watching What I’m Reading . . .

It’s late Sunday evening here in New Zealand. I have, rather reluctantly, been at work this afternoon working with our management committee setting up the practical aspects of reopening the business after the easing of our Covid restrictions. Although I have been back at work for the past week, I haven’t been doing full days, so this coming week is going to be a bit of a shock to my system. But I am lucky, and still have a job to go back to.

I got more reading done this week than I expected and accomplished all my goals set in last weeks Watching What I’m Reading post, but no more. I have a fairly big week at work ahead so am keeping my reading goals for the week very realistic.

Currently I am reading, and am totally consumed by, Dear Child by Remy Hausmann. If I hadn’t had to go to work today I would have finished it. I read over half of it in one sitting! And this is the debut novel by this author. Amazing!

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I haven’t yet selected a new audiobook to listen to after finishing The Flight Attendant by Chris Bohjalian and am almost finished The Chestnut Man by Soren Sveistrup.

My next read is going to be Brave Girl, Quiet Girl by Catherine Ryan-Hyde.

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Brooke is a divorced single mom, financially strapped, living with her mother, and holding tight to the one thing that matters most: her two-year-old daughter, Etta. Then, in a matter of seconds, Brooke’s life is shattered when she’s carjacked. Helpless and terrified, all Brooke can do is watch as Etta, still strapped in her seat, disappears into the Los Angeles night.

Miles away, Etta is found by Molly, a homeless teen who is all too used to darkness. Thrown away by her parents, and with a future as stable as the wooden crate she calls home, Molly survives day to day by her wits. As unpredictable as her life is, she’s stunned to find Etta, abandoned and alone. Shielding the little girl from more than the elements, Molly must put herself in harm’s way to protect a child as lost as she is.

Out of one terrible moment, Brooke’s and Molly’s desperate paths converge and an unlikely friendship across generations and circumstances is formed. With it, Brooke and Molly will come to discover that what’s lost—and what’s found—can change in a heartbeat.

The second book I am planning on reading this week is Little Whispers by K.L. Slater

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Janey Markham is thrilled to be moving with her family to Buckingham Crescent, the smartest address in a desirable suburban town.

Worried she’ll be excluded by the glossy local mothers, Janey is thrilled when she meets Tanya, the kind of woman she has always looked up to. Tanya takes Janey under her wing, and her teenage daughter Angel is amazing with Janey’s little boy. As Janey and Tanya grow closer, Janey feels she can finally leave her troubled past behind.

But then everything changes…

In a weak moment over a bottle of wine, Janey finds herself telling Tanya her most shocking secret. Why wouldn’t she trust her new friend?

The following day, Janey sees Angel, with a man old enough to be her father, pushing someone into a car. The next day a body is found and police appeal for witnesses – and share a picture of the same car…

When Janey tells Tanya she is going to the police, Tanya turns threatening. She’ll stop at nothing to defend Angel, even if her daughter is guilty. If Janey says anything, Tanya will make sure that her dark secret gets out.

Janey faces an impossible choice. Stay quiet about what she saw that terrible day. Or speak up, and destroy the family she has worked so hard to protect.

If I finish these two reads with time to spare before starting next weeks schedule I will pick something at random from my backlist. I thought I might have made a dent in my backlist over lockdown, but it just never happened.

And OMG! I have 14, yes 14 ARCs landed in my inbox this week. Susan and Carla, just stop laughing right this moment! A good number of these are down to my browsing your reading lists. And Tina, you are just as big a (good) bad influence. It didn’t help that I am stressed about going back to work, so instead of resorting to drugs or alcohol, I buy and request books!

The Book of CarolSue by Lynne Hugo

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The Sunset Sisters by Cecelia Lyre

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My Darling by Amanda Robson

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To Tell You the Truth by Gilly Macmillan

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The Day She Came Back by Amanda Prowse

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Murder, Forgotten by Deb Richardson-Moore

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The Bad Sister by Kevin O’Brien

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Stories We Never Told by Sonja Yoerg

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Secrets of a Serial Killer by Rosie Walker

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When Grace Went Away by Meredith Appleyard

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Shadow Sands by Robert Bryndza

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Bloodline by Jess Lourey

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The Baby Group by Caroline Corcoran

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And finally, Gone in Seconds by Ed James

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What was I thinking????

Happy reading. Stay safe. Stay healthy. Be kind.

Cheers
Sandy
😷❤😍📚