Saturday, May 18, 2013

Just Jennifer

Resurrectionist by Matthew Guinn (W.W. Norton, July 8, 2013)

Dr. Jacob Thacker is on probation for abusing Xanax and is working in public relations for the dean at South Carolina State Medical College until he is deemed ready to return to practicing medicine.  When renovations begin on campus, a burial ground of bones estimated to be a century old are uncovered taking Jacob and his colleagues on a journey into a darker part of the colleges history and taking Jacob on a journey of self-discovery that will help shape his future.  A founder of the school, Dr. Frederick Augustus Johnston purchased a slave, Nemo, who was especially skilled with a knife.  Nemo was an unofficial member of the faculty and a resurrenctionist, who was responsible for finding bodies on which the students could practice.  The further Jacob delves into Nemo’s story, the more he realizes that he must make decisions that will not be popular with the school, possibly costing the school funding and costing Jacob, perhaps his livelihood.  Told in alternating chapters between Jacob’s present day story and Nemo’s story in nineteenth-century South Carolina, Matthew Guinn depicts two memorable characters with a subtle narrative and strong sense of place.  Readers watch as Jacob is transformed from a self-absorbed young man into someone with a curiosity about his past & that of his school’s and into someone willing to stand up for what he knows is right.  This is a beautifully and subtly written  debut novel.  

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Just Jennifer

Close My Eyes by Sophie McKenzie (St. Martin’s, July 9, 2013)

Geniver Loxley has been unable to get over the death of her daughter Beth at her birth eight years ago.  Once an author with a promising future, Gen has begun teaching writing classes at a local college, though her heart is not in it; her husband Art has been urging Beth to try fertility treatments that will enable them to have another child, but Gen can’t bear the thought of losing another child.  A stranger arrives on her doorstep one day telling Gen that she is the sister of the nurse who was in the delivery room the day Beth was born and that Beth did not die, but was stolen from Gen, is still alive and that Art was in on the crime.  Gen cannot believe that Art would be involved in such a thing, but as she begins to look into the veracity of the woman’s claims, she realizes that her sister, now dead, may have been telling the truth.  Gen tracks down the people who were in the delivery room that day and realizes that Lucy’s sister was telling the truth and that her Beth may in fact still be alive.  Filled with twists and turns and a woman on the edge, Close My Eyes begins with a parent’s worst nightmare and ends with a shocking conclusion few will see coming.  

Just Jennifer

The Wicked Girls by Alex Marwood (Penguin, July 30 2013)

Engrossing and disturbing, The Wicked Girls explores the lives of two women convicted of murder as eleven-year-olds who appear to have gotten away from the events of their childhood until the day the two meet again as a serial-killer stalks young women in a seaside town.  Bel and Jade meet for the first time when they are eleven but become tied together forever when they murder, and attempt to cover it up, the young sister of a friend of one of their older brothers.  Convicted, but separated during their time they served at their sentences, new identities were created for the notorious pre-teens and they have tried to put their pasts behind them: Jade has become Kristy, a newspaper reporter who has a loving husband and two children; Bel is now Amber, a night-shift cleaning supervisor at an amusement park with an abusive common-law husband and little hope for her future.  Bel stumbles upon a dead woman in the house of horrors and Kristy comes to report on the serial murders, putting the two on a collision course that will force them to remember the past and creates circumstances that will make their futures as uncertain as they once were.  The original crime is revealed slowly as flashbacks, leading up to the inevitable meeting of these two women who must resolve their past issues if they hope to move on with the future.  While tracking down a serial killer makes this book part mystery, the moodiness of the narrative and the focus on the two women and how their past and choices since have affected their lives takes the book, a hit in the UK into the realm of psychological suspense.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Just Jennifer

Once Upon a Lie by Maggie Barbieri (Minotaur, December 2013)

Barbieri, known for her cozier novels featuring St. Thomas College professor Alison Bergeron, has written a very different, darker novel, featuring Maeve Conlon, a very tired divorced mother of two who owns a bakery and who keeps secrets from her past close and will stop at nothing to protect those she loves.  Even being from a close Irish family, Maeve can’t shed any tears when her cousin Sean is found murdered.  Her father Jack, who is showing signs of dementia, is also not saddened when he hears of the death of his nephew, and what’s more, he cannot provide an alibi for himself for the night of Sean’s death.  As Maeve slowly confronts the demons of her past, she is relentless in the defense of her father, but as she delves deeper into Sean’s murder she has to face things she is not ready to face, leading to the biggest surprise of all.  While it’s never clear why the police focus on Jack as the murder suspect, it doesn’t detract from the suspense and drama as Maeve works to clear her father’s name and hold what is left of her family together while all the while, keeping her sanity; trying to find peace of mind and a truth she can live with when she learns the truth she has been living with all these years was a lie which set into motion events that can never be undone.

Just Jennifer

Loyalty by Ingrid Thoft (Putnam, June 2013)

Fina Ludlow is the youngest and only daughter, in a family of high-powered Boston attorneys.  After flunking out of law school, Fina got her PIs license and finds she enjoys that part of the law business much more than litigation; she has got the looks to charm men from low level thugs to high level cops but has the nerve, and good shot, to hold her own in any situation.  Fina’s sister-in-law Melanie doesn’t come home one night and Rand asks Fina to find where his wife went, thinking she is sulking at a spa or over some designer shopping.  When Melanie turns up no traces of the woman, and Melanie’s best friend Risa also hasn’t heard from her in days, Fina becomes concerned: first for Melanie’s safety, and secondly that Rand has done something to his wife.  Using some of her less than upstanding contacts, Fina starts asking questions as to the whereabouts of her sister-in-law and quickly finds herself on the receiving end of a beating and accident on the Mass Pike designed to kill.  The closer Fina looks, the more she realizes that every family has secrets, but will her family stop at nothing to keep them hidden? Even hurting Fina?  Edgy with a feminine side, Fina is a welcomed addition to the growing ranks of female PIs.  The complicated plot will keep readers guessing as they untangle the strands that have become the life of Rand Ludlow, and by association, his sister’s life as well.  The narrative is well-paced and doesn’t stop until the last page.