Saturday, June 16, 2018

New for June...

The Word is Murder by Anthony Horowitz
Diana Cowper walks into a funeral home one morning to arrange her funeral.  Six hours later she is dead: murdered.  It’s almost as if she saw it coming…or did she? An aborted text to her son, renowned actor Damien Cowper, suggests she might have known.  Enter disgraced, disgruntled, retired detective Daniel Hawthorne who is “consulting” on the murder, connecting it to the hit and run accident Ms. Cowper was acquitted of ten years ago, resulting in the death of one eight-year-old, and the permanent disability of his twin brother.  He approaches acclaimed mystery author Anthony Horowitz (no relation) to follow along the investigation and write a true crime novel once the case is solved.  Horowitz is intrigued by both the idea and the enigmatic Hawthorne and agrees to follow along.  The pair begins by following the obvious trail: the Godwin accident, but along the way, the pair comes across seemingly unimportant things, but put together, add up to a much different picture than the original solution.  There is so much more going on in these storylines than meets the eye; with his keen senses, Hawthorne goes places and arrives at conclusions the police missed.  This cleverly plotted roman a clef has the feel of a classic mystery novel from the Golden Age, yet it goes so much beyond that as it teases the reader, drawing them into the story, and then leaving them dangling as the duo dashes off to explore another angle.  Horowitz has outdone himself in this deftly plotted sleight of hand with characters who charm, frustrate, and slowly lure readers in, and a character, the author, who feels he will never fully be in control of these characters, even if he is one himself.

The Bookshop of Yesterdays by Amy Meyerson
Any reader who has sought and found solace and comfort in books will adore this debut novel.  Miranda has a job as a history teacher in Philadelphia and has recently moved in with her boyfriend when she receives a mysterious package followed by a phone call that her estranged but beloved uncle Billy has died in California.  Miranda thought Billy hung the moon, but never saw or heard from him after he and her mother had a falling out on Miranda’s twelfth birthday.  Now Miranda learns she is the heir to Billy’s estate which includes the LA based store Prospero books. Miranda, having been named after Prospero’s daughter in The Tempest, has always had a special affinity for the bookstore, but owning the floundering shop when her life is on the other coast is something altogether different.  Miranda’s mother delight at having her daughter home quickly turns to anger and distance when she learns Billy has left a quest for Miranda to unravel, using books as clues, leading to answers about Billy’s life.  While Miranda feels a kinship to the store, she isn’t ready to throw away her life for something so unknown, but the more she learns about Billy, the more she realizes he was not the carefree, fun-loving person she saw him as, and the more she realizes that her place may indeed with Billy’s bookstore on the west coast.

Jar of Hearts by Jennifer Hillier

Geo Shaw is about to be released from prison after serving five years for her part in her best friend’s murder fourteen years ago when they were sixteen.  Geo’s at the time boyfriend, Calvin James, took the brunt of the blame and was sentenced to life in prison, for Angela’s murder and two others, earning him the label “the Sweetbay Strangler”, but escaped before Geo’s five year sentence is up.  Geo, who lost her power job, her high-profile fianc√©, and her safe, secure life, returns to her childhood home where she tries to rebuild, finding that very few people in the town have forgiven her, and most don’t want her living near them.  She oddly enough, finds comfort and solace in the man who arrested her, Kaiser Brody, the man who was Geo and Angela’s best friend in high school.  Two pairs of murders occur shortly after Geo’s release, and are eerily reminiscent of Angela’s, and what’s more, there is a new twist that points directly at Geo.  Certain that Calvin is taunting her, coming for her, Kaiser ramps up Geo’s protection, not realizing it isn’t Calvin Geo has to fear.  This original thriller has chilling twists and turns that don’t stop, characters so damaged yet so compelling, that you can’t tear your eyes away from them for a moment.  This book is one to be read slowly so not one detail is missed, yet one to be rushed through to the final, stunning conclusion.  

How Hard Can it Be? By Allison Pearson
Kate Redding (I Don’t Know How She Does It) is back and facing down fifty: re-entering the workforce, juggling her husband, children, mothers, and menopause all with grace, panache, wisdom, and a whole lot of humor. Kate’s husband Richard has decided to live a more mindful life (take a job at a meditation center), which means Kate needs to go back to work if she’s hoping to hang onto the house with great bones they bought, get her son Ben the latest Play Station, and have money left over to let her teenage daughter keep up with her friend Lizzie and the crowd.  Kate shaves seven years off of her age to even get an interview and finds herself working an entry level marketing job at the wealth management firm she left to be a full-time mom seven years ago, now run by people who can’t correctly place Madonna at 56 years of age.  With menopause hot on her heels (literally), Kate relies on “Roy” in her brain to recall the salient facts of life. She doesn’t need Roy to remind her about how crazy she was about Jack, though, when an unexpected e-mail from him hits her in box, turning the rest of Kate’s world upside down.  Funny, unless you’re living through it, in which case the book is uproariously funny.  Anyone who has been fifty needs to read this book, anyone who hopes to someday be 50 should read this, and then treat the rest of us a little more kindly. 

Bearskin by James A. McLaughlin

Rice, the hero of this debut novel, has gone as anonymous as possible, taking a job as the warden at a Virginia mountain preserve after being involved out west with a Mexican drug cartel.  When Rice finds dead bears on the preserve, their paws and gall bladders removed, he takes matters into his own hands as he tries to track down the poachers without going to the local sheriff.  Soon, Rice is in over his head, in a new environment, mixed up with locals who don’t necessarily see things the way he does.  Before long, his past slams into his present and it is not only his new way of life that is endangered, but his life.  The beauty of Rice’s new world is visceral, but so is the savagery he finds.  McLaughlin’s descriptions of the flora and fauna in the preserve are on par with Barbara Kingsolver, his Southern feel reminiscent of Ron Rash.  Book groups will find much to discuss in this multi-layered novel.

Bring Me Back by B.A. Paris
Finn and Layla were driving through France on holiday when Finn stopped at a rest area to use the bathroom. When he returned to the car, Layla was missing; ten years later she has never been found.  Grieving from his loss, Finn recovers with the help of his friend Harry and Layla’s sister Ellen, to whom he is now engaged.  Their life seems to be idyllic, though it is clear Finn did not tell the police the entire truth about what occurred that night, nor has he been completely honest with Ellen.  Layla’s disappearance returns to the forefront when small trinkets that only have meaning to Finn and Ellen begin turning up and each believes their prefect life is about to unravel, but who has more to fear and just who has more to lose in this twisty turny novel that provides one surprise after another and will have readers flipping back at the end to see if they can figure out just what it was they missed.

Mine by J.L. Butler
Divorce lawyer Fran Dey has been working her way up the ladder when she risks is all as she begins an affair with a client and then watches in horror as he becomes the primary suspect in his wife’s disappearance.  Fran feels an immediate attraction and pull toward Martin Joy who has retained her as counsel in his divorce from wife Donna.  Fran knows she shouldn’t become involved, but can’t stay away; she becomes unsure that Martin and Donna are actually separating after seeing them at a restaurant together.  The next morning she wakes up with blood on her and no memory of the night before.  As Fran tries to sort through her feelings and concerns about Martin, she is drawn deeper into a web of lies and secrets that threaten everything Fran has worked for and even puts her mental health in jeopardy.  A second story line adds to the obsessive, dark feel of the novel.

Broken Ice by Matt Goldman
Nils “Shap” Sharpiro and his business partner Ellegaard, both retired cops, are hired by Linnea Engstrom when she disappears from a state hockey tournament game in the small town of Warroad, MN where hockey is king.  The next day, the body of Linnea’s friend Haley Housh is found dead in a cave, and though the girls weren’t together that evening, Nils doesn’t believe it’s a coincidence.  While examining the cave, Nils is shot through the shoulder with an arrow.  Instead of staying home and recuperating, Nils ramps up his investigation to try and find Linnea before she meets Haley’s fate.  Nils is a very likable, if very flawed, character, and his plain talking, pull no punches manner, along with his ex-wife and other characters, will win many fans to this fledgling series. 

Lying in Wait by Liz Nugent
In the opening scene of this domestic psychological thriller, Dublin judge Andrew Fitzsimons strangles Annie, a prostitute.  Fearing Annie is not dead, his wife Lydia finishes the job and instructs Andrew to bury Annie in their backyard.  Lydia and Andrew’s overweight teenage son Lawrence, bullied at school and tacitly at home, knows something is up with his parents but is able to hide in the shadows and bide his time, or so he thinks, until he is able to use his knowledge to his advantage.  Annie’s sister Karen demands that the police search for Annie, no matter what her lifestyle was.  Being told from three points of view,  creates a narrative with strong characters, keeps the tension high, and keeps readers wondering how everything…especially Andrew’s connection to Annie…fits together, until one final twist reveals just how evil a person can be.  

Splinter in the Blood by Ashley Dyer
DS Ruth Lake is standing over her partner, DCI Greg Carver, in his living room, the gun that almost killed him in hand: she didn’t do it, though.  So why, before the emergency team arrives, does Ruth wipe down Greg’s home and remove all the evidence from their current case, The Thorn Killer, that Greg had been working on at home?  The Thorn Killer has murdered five people and tattooed them with ancient symbols: was Greg getting too close?  When Greg wakes up in the hospital, he has no memory of the shooting, nor of what he thinks he may have figured out about the Thorn Killer.  Lake continues Greg’s investigation, focusing on the last victim who not only looked eerily like Greg’s estranged wife, but who also had a pair of her earrings on when she was found.  Lake is still hiding something and easily justifies her actions---to herself---but will these secrets jeopardize and investigation and put more lives, including Lake’s, in danger as well?  

The Lost for Words Bookshop by Stephanie Butland

Loveday Cardew has found refuge in books and in Archie’s bookstore, Lost for Words Bookshop in York for the past ten years.  A poetry book found on the street brings performance poet and magician Nathan into the store and Loveday’s life.  Having spent all of her teenage years in foster care, Loveday has a difficult time with relationships, and the burgeoning one with Nathan is no acceptation.  Told in three parts: Loveday’s life before foster care, her first attempts at a relationship, and present day, her story is slowly revealed, her heart laid bare as she struggles to have a “normal” life even as the past, in the form of books from her childhood, comes back to her dredging up memories so visceral she knows it’s time to face her past, heal from it, and move on to her future.

The Bar Harbor Retirement Home for Famous Writers (And Their Muses) by Terri-Lynne DeFinoCecibel Bringer was in a terrible accident that left not only physical scars, but left her unable to forgive and love.  Working in the Bar Harbor Retirement Home, established as a home for writers, Cecibel can move, sometimes unseen, among the residents such as once luminary Olivia Peppernell whose former lover Alfonse Carducci is the home’s newest resident. Something about Cecibel strikes a chord with Alfonso and he begins to write again, soon joined by Olivia, the two writing alternating chapters.  As the two former literary stars reemerge, so does Cecibel as she learns to love and live in this delightful homage to the power of the written word, not only in the reading of it, but in the writing as well.

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