Caged by Ellison Cooper
FBI Special Agent Sayer Altair is a neuroscientist studying the brains of psychopaths and serial killers, working with a man who proclaims his innocence, when she is drawn into a twisted investigation that leads her a little too close to home. The daughter of a U.S. Senator is found dead, held captive in a cage in the basement of a Washington, D.C. house; the path to the basement has been bobby trapped and more than one investigator is injured during the attempted rescue and subsequent investigation. The search for the killer is ramped up after Sayer realizes there is another girl being held captive similarly in a cage, possibly still alive, an investigation that immediately is compromised by the Senator who leaks crucial evidence to the media as he uses his daughter’s death as a springboard for his presidential bid. Sayer, working with her colleagues, comes up with a profile of a very sadistic killer, but one who may be closer to the investigation than she can ever imagine. Sayer is a very human, interesting character, though does come with the ubiquitous dead fiancé, an FBI agent killed in the line of duty. Interesting science, high tension, and a bit of a cliffhanger make this a promising debut.
The Late Bloomers’ Club by Louise Miller
Nora Huckleberry is quite content running her family’s diner, The Miss Guthrie in Guthrie, Vermont. When Nora and her sister Kit inherit a 200-acre farm left to them for unknown reasons by the town’s cake lady Peggy Johnson, free spirit filmmaker Kit storms into town with her partner Max, ready to sell the farm. Nora isn’t quite so sure that’s the best thing for the town, or for her. Before her death, Peggy was in the process of selling the farm to a box store, HG, something that divided the town. Nora feels the responsibility of her decision regarding the land keenly, but what’s more, she is drawn to HG’s representative Elliot who seems to share Nora’s passion or the land in spite of what his job is. While the solutions to all of Nora and Kit’s problems, including the mysterious Elsie whose care Peggy cared for, seem too pat, there is a charming, warming element to Miller’s second story that will delight readers.
A Double Life by Berry Flynn
Claire’s father, Colin, an English Lord, disappeared 26 years ago under suspicion of murdering their nanny and attempting to murder Claire’s mother. Living under aliases, Claire, her young brother Robbie, and their mother tried to rebuild their lives with the specter of her father and the likelihood that he escaped and is being protected by his many wealthy prominent friends, looming over them. Now a GP, Claire is called from time to time by a Detective Inspector when there is a sighting of someone who might be her father. Claire has been vigilant for many years and has kept track of Colin’s friends throughout the years hoping they will lead her to her father. When the opportunity to insinuate herself in the life of the daughter of one of Colin’s friends presents itself, Claire seizes it in an attempt to find her father and closure once and for all, as she stands by helplessly watching her brother’s addiction to painkillers ruin his life. This tautly written thriller is deftly plotted and told through Claire’s eyes as an adult, as a child prior to the murder, and as a teenager trying to regroup and even escape her life. Claire’s determination to find her father sometimes clouds her judgement, but ultimately her gut feelings win out and she finds what she has been searching for, though with a much different outcome than she anticipated.
Believe Me by J.P. Delaney
In this unreliable narrator thriller, rewritten and reworked from an earlier published novel by the author, British actress named Claire Wright is in the United States without her green card making it difficult for her to get work, so when she is offered a job working for a divorce lawyer trying to entrap unfaithful husbands, she jumps at the chance. Claire easily comes up with new personas for each job, but meets her match in Columbia University professor Patrick, a Baudelaire expert. His wife Stella is very upset when Claire tells her she couldn’t trap Patrick, and the next day Stella is dead. The police suspect Patrick, and what’s more, they suspect he’s a serial killer so, in a very unusual move, the police approach Claire to go undercover to try and get Patrick to tip his hand and admit to the murders. Claire finds herself falling in love with Patrick, uncertain if he’s the target or if she is, and then lands in a mental institution where she must rely on Patrick to get her out. There are so many people in this novel who can’t be trusted, just about everyone, in fact, and while it is unlikely that a civilian, who is in the country illegally would be used in a sting operation, it still makes for a very unusual premise and will keep readers on their toes as they try to sort things out.
Baby Teeth by Zoje Stage
Seven-year-old Hanna has is verbally non-communicative and has a mean-streak: specifically, she plans to kill her mother Suzette so Hanna can have her father, Alex, all to herself. Suzette, who had a difficult childhood and adolescence was thrilled to have a daughter but can’t imagine where she went wrong or why Hanna seems so morally deficient. Hanna CAN speak, and does, but only to Suzette, using the persona of a 17th century witch who was burned at the stake along with her mother under the suspicion of being a witch. Suzette has home-schooled Hanna so far, but thinks it’s time to enroll Hanna in a school, though she and Alex have a very hard time placing her; just when they think they’ve found a good fit, Hanna ups the ante. Suzette is wracked with guilt, fear, and anxiety, all of which exacerbate her symptoms of Crohn’s disease which she thought was under control. This twisty novel is told alternatingly from Hanna’s point of view and Suzette’s creating a creepy narrative and insight into the mind of a frightfully manipulative child.