Crimson Lake by Candice Fox
Sydney Detective Ted Conkaffey has moved to the marshy shores of Crimson Lake to try and regain some semblance of normalcy, or at least hide out, after being tried, but neither convicted nor acquitted, of raping thirteen-year-old Claire Bingley who disappeared from a bus stop at the same time Ted stopped to adjust his fishing gear. He is recruited to help PI Amanda Pharrell, who served time after being convicted of murdering her friend when the two were teenagers, search for a novelist, Jake Scully who has seemingly vanished without a trace, save his wedding ring that turns up in a crocodile’s stomach. Ted reluctantly agrees to help Amanda, and his police training and instinct kick in as he also begins to look into Amanda’s past and her case, as she does his. Even though Amanda pled guilty, Ted feels there’s more to her story than she is telling. Harassed by two local cops and local vigilantes, Ted, with the help of Amanda, continues to proclaim his innocence while searching for the truth about Jake, and the truth about Amanda. Complex and compelling, Amanda and Ted are an unusual pair, both with a strong sense of right and wrong, both willing to give up their own comforts for the sake of others. The steamy Australian wetlands, complete with crocodiles and pythons, provides a lush setting for this creative, engaging story, with an ending that promises Amanda and Ted are not finished with each other.
Let Me Lie by Clare Mackintosh
Anna Johnson’s parents committed suicide in the same manner---weighing themselves down with rocks and jumping off of a cliff. One year later, on the anniversary of her mother’s death, Anna, living in her family home with her partner Matt and their eight-month-old daughter Ella, still cannot accept her parents’ deaths as suicides. When a card arrives in the post with the simple message “Suicide? Think again.” Anna is even more certain her parents, her mother at least, were murdered and brings her suspicions to the police where she meets retired detective Murray Mackenzie who has dealt with mental illness through his wife and who could never walk away from a case just because the easy solution fit. As Anna digs into her parents’ lives, she realizes there was more to them than she let herself know. The closer she comes to the truth, the more danger she brings to her young family in this taut novel with many twists and turns and one surprising conclusion.
Closer than You Know by Brad Parks
Melanie Barrick managed to survive the foster care system as a child and has a three-month-old son and a devoted husband. Except: she was raped by a probable serial rapist, her tow-headed son is the rapist’s child, yet she adores him as does her husband Ben who treats Alex as his own. Not suspecting that anything can go wrong in her now settle life, Melanie arrives at daycare one night to pick Alex up. She is shocked when the caregiver announces that social services has Alex in their care and then refuses to speak to Melanie. At home and hysterical, Melanie finds her house in shambles and learns that Sheriff’s officers have found close to half a kilo of cocaine hidden in the nursery ceiling. No one will believe Melanie’s protestations of innocence, she finds out Ben may not be as wonderful as he seems when she learns he is keeping a secret that will change everything, and then she is charged with murder. Amy Kaye, deputy commonwealth attorney has been investigating the serial rapist and unwittingly has been interviewing the Coke Mom, Melanie for that case. Pulled off of the rape cases to investigate Melanie, the two case suddenly collide as two women struggle to regain control of their lives, one to save her life, and discover, to everyone’s surprise, who---and more importantly why---is pulling the strings. A bit of acceptance of coincidences is necessary, but take everything at face value and settle in for a fast-paced, twisty ride.
Speak No Evil by Uzodinma Iweala
Niru is living what, on the surface, appears to be a good life for a teenager: he lives in a better section of Washington D.C. with his attentive but conservative parents, attends a prestigious private high school which has prepared him for Harvard; he runs track with his best friend Meredith, the only person who knows Niru’s secret: he is gay. Meredith does not judge and even encourages Niru to explore this part of himself. Niru’s father, finding Niru’s phone one day, learns his son is gay and becomes enraged, certain this is the work of the devil. Niru turns to the one person he feels he can count on---Meredith---only to be turned away, learning she is having a crisis of her own, causing possible irreparable damage to their relationship. Determined to “drive the demons out” Niru’s father brings him to Nigeria where Niru’s eyes are opened, he gains a little more understanding toward his father, but also garners the strength her needs to live his life on his own terms. This beautifully written novel is tender at times, violent at others, and heartbreaking as it explores individuals, families, and friends, how we treat each other, but more importantly, how we treat ourselves.
Alternate Side by Anna Quindlen
Parking spaces are at the forefront of many New Yorkers’ must lists; Charlie Nolan is no exception and has just scored a coveted space in his dead end enclave’s parking lot. His wife Nora doesn’t understand the fuss over parking: they have a vintage townhouse, the value of which far exceeds their purchase price, they are successful, if not entirely happy, in their careers, Nora sought after to run several non-profit; their twin children are in their senior year in college, and for the most part, they like their community, complete with Christmas parties and neighborhood barbeques. Even the SRO on the other side of the parking lot is part of the charm for Nora and Charlie. The morning one of their more bad-tempered neighbors Jack Fiske attacks the neighborhood’s adored handyman Ricky (over a parking space) shatters much more than Ricky’s leg: Nora and Charlie quarrel over their different versions of the events leading them both to realize they have an “acceptably unhappy” marriage; as the neighbors begin to align and discuss the events, their prejudices become more apparent, their issues with other neighbors more apparent. Quindlen writes in a quiet, unassuming way, as she slowly circles around the larger issues until a single event brings them to light. Book groups will find much to discuss in this novel of manners with modern sensibilities.