REVIEW: THE LONG CALL, BY ANN CLEEVES

 

In North Devon, where two rivers converge and run into the sea, Detective Matthew Venn stands outside the church as his estranged father’s funeral takes place. On the day Matthew left the strict evangelical community he grew up in, he lost his family too.

Now, as he turns and walks away again, he receives a call from one of his team. A body has been found on the beach nearby: a man with a tattoo of an albatross on his neck, stabbed to death.

The case calls Matthew back to the people and places of his past, as deadly secrets hidden at their hearts are revealed, and his new life is forced into a collision course with the world he thought he’d left behind.

 

My Thoughts: The Long Call reeled me in from the first page, showing the characters, the settings, and the intensity of the interactions between them all. The sea, the village, and the inhabitants felt like additional players in the story.

A murder brings Matthew Venn into his own past and the people who cast him away due to his rejection of their beliefs. Would he be able to stay objective when their paths collided?

His investigation takes him more deeply into the Woodyard, a day care facility where his partner Jonathan works, and where the victim also spent time as a chef.

As he probes the activities of the various administrators, volunteers, and employees, we start to see how so many things are connected. It is a challenge to sort through the clues and the people involved, and for a while, I was suspicious of almost everyone. In the end, I was stunned…and then not so much. The conspiracy ran deep, its tentacles reaching out to engulf so many. A five star read for me.***My e-ARC came from the publisher via NetGalley

REVIEW: EXPOSED, BY LISA SCOTTOLINE

 

Mary DiNunzio wants to represent her old friend Simon Pensiera, a sales rep who was wrongly fired by his company, but her partner Bennie Rosato represents the parent company. When she confronts Mary, explaining this is a conflict of interest, an epic battle of wills and legal strategy between the two ensues—ripping the law firm apart, forcing everyone to take sides and turning friend against friend.

SOMETIMES LOYALTY CAN BE LETHAL.

My Thoughts: From the very first page of Exposed, I was drawn into Mary’s big South Philly family, as she met with several of them to talk about Simon, another friend from the neighborhood. His case ignites Mary’s passion and she is all in, fighting not only for their friend, but for family and neighborhood.

As Mary gets prepared to take over Simon’s case, her partner Bennie argues with her about the potential conflict of interest. Both Mary and their associate Judy show aspects of the rules that suggest they are not in conflict.

But before anything can be settled, several things happen to make it all seemingly moot, and suddenly both Mary and Bennie are in danger.

Who has taken steps to frame Simon for a crime? What will bring the partners together again in a fight for their case, their friendship, and their lives?

I enjoyed the story, the characters, and the alternating narrative of Mary and Bennie. As different as the two are, they definitely complement each other…and their fight could prove the strength of their bond. 5 stars.

***

REVIEW: KEEP HER SAFE, BY SOPHIE HANNAH

 

Pushed to the breaking point, Cara Burrows flees her home and family and escapes to a five-star spa resort she can’t afford. Late at night, exhausted and desperate, she lets herself into her hotel room and is shocked to find it already occupied — by a man and a teenage girl.

A simple mistake at the front desk… but soon Cara realizes that the girl she saw alive and well in the hotel room is someone she can’t possibly have seen: the most famous murder victim in the country, Melody Chapa, whose parents are serving natural life sentences for her murder.

Cara doesn’t know what to trust — everything she’s read and heard about the case, or the evidence of her own eyes. Did she really see Melody? And is she prepared to ask herself that question and answer it honestly if it means risking her own life?

My Thoughts: The opening lines of Keep Her Safe reveal another narrator, someone who seems to be Melody Chapa…and then we are thrust into the perspective of Cara Burrows, a British woman who fled her home for some unknown reason, and who is looking forward to her time at the Swallowtail Resort and Spa in Arizona. The place is huge and guests push a white button to get a car to take them around. But on the first night, Cara is given a room number and a key and insists on walking to her destination.

What does she find on the third floor when she unlocks the door? Evidence of occupancy, and then the crying voice of a girl, followed by a man’s voice. The girl is upset over spilling something on her stuffed toy Poggy. Embarrassed and apologetic, Cara scurries from the room, and the management upgrades her to a casita with a private pool and wonderful amenities. She is also given an iPad to guide her through her days.

What is going on in this strange spa? The receptionist, a woman named Riyonna Briggs, is trying to calm down an elderly woman who insists she saw “Melody.” Later, that same staff member assures Cara that the woman always sees Melody, wherever she goes, and is confused.

As the pages turn, we watch Cara studying the guests and listening to a woman named Tarin Fry and her daughter Zellie, who annoy her, but also pique her curiosity. Soon she is reading a blog that Tarin mentioned, written by a woman named Bonnie…and learns about Melody’s case and how her parents are in prison for killing her. She also begins to connect the dots, and realizes that there was something odd about the man and girl in that first room.

Nothing is the way it seems, as we soon find out. Numerous oddities keep us wondering, even as we realize that danger lurks around every corner. How does Cara find herself right in the middle of what looks like a conspiracy, wondering if she will ever see her family again? Will she put together the clues and find her way home again? A captivating 5 star read with so many twists that I could not stop reading.***

REVIEW: SWEET LAMB OF HEAVEN, BY LYDIA MILLET

28443666

 

 

 

From the opening pages, we enter the strange, yet curious world of Anna, a young mother who hears voices that nobody else hears…but that stop once her infant daughter Lena starts speaking.

Her cold and sociopathic husband Ned is frightening, and I was so happy that she ran away with Lena, from Alaska to an out-of-the-way motel in Maine.

The motel is fascinating, in that the more or less fulltime residents seem to have been drawn there. By something they all have in common. The motel owner, Don, is like a guru. Or could he be a protector?

When Ned tracks Anna down, he has a very specific purpose in mind: he is running for political office, and wants Anna and Lena to show up for photo ops, etc. But there is something even more sinister going on with Ned, as Anna soon finds out.

Can Anna escape Ned’s grasp? How can she create a new life, free of him, when everything seems to suggest that he and his backers are conspiring to keep her in her place? Is she truly in danger, or is she paranoid?

Sweet Lamb of Heaven was a beautifully written story that kept drawing me in, and then turning me around. Every time I thought I had it all figured out, something new would blindside me. It could be a tale of spiritual mysticism, the abuse of power, and mind control. Or there might be more beneath the surface. What final act must Anna take to free herself from Ned? A five star read.

cropped again 5***

REVIEW: THREE DAYS TO FOREVER, BY LAUREN CARR

24019097

From the terrorist camps in Iraq to Deep Creek, Maryland, Three Days to Forever (A Mac Faraday Mystery Book 9) takes the reader along on a thrill ride that will keep us glued to the pages.

The first part of the story began eighteen months before, when Major David O’Callaghan and his crew took out a group of terrorists who were poised to blow them away.

Then the story takes us to Deep Creek and days before the social event of the season, and the wedding between Mac Faraday and Archie Monday. As guests and participants begin to arrive, a hit squad descends on Spencer Manor, endangering Mac, his friend Joshua Thornton, and Archie’s mother, Agnes Douglas.

In the remaining days leading up to the New Year’s Eve nuptials, numerous plots unfold, including one in which an old enemy of Mac’s vows to make him pay…and then ends up dead.

Why is Mac’s DNA all over the crime scene? How can he prove his innocence?

Just when everyone is focused on staying alive and proving Mac’s innocence, a series of strange occurrences remind them all that dark and evil forces are bringing the full brunt of their malevolence upon them all. Will David’s kidnapping stall the celebrations? Who can penetrate the hangout where the terrorists are keeping him, and save him before it is too late?

The most fun in this novel was how many new characters joined the familiar ones, like Joshua Thornton’s sons, Murphy, J. J., and Donny; and Mac’s son and daughter, Jessica and Tristan.

I also enjoyed seeing Cameron again, Joshua’s wife and a detective from a jurisdiction in Pennsylvania. She has less to do in this story, but her presence is felt.

And another animal joined the pair we are already familiar with (Gnarly and Molly): Jessica’s dog Spencer.

While I enjoyed the twists and turns of this latest thriller, I had some issues with how the political aspects made it seem as if the President and almost everyone in official positions were corrupt. Perhaps that was just my take, and since it did not impact the other parts of the story, which I enjoyed, I am awarding 4.0 stars. I always enjoy the characters in these books.

WHO DO YOU LOVE? — A REVIEW

8701129

 

 

 

Who do you love? This theme introduces a brave, sometimes tough character named Tessa Leoni, whose husband Brian Darby has just been murdered, and whose six-year-old daughter Sophie is now missing.

D. D. Warren, Boston PD, and State Trooper Bobby Dodge, her former lover, are on the case—Because Tessa Leoni is also a State Trooper, and there’s a lot about her story that seems questionable.

She says that she killed her husband in self-defense. And she does have the horrific bruises that seem to substantiate this claim, but so much about the time line and other issues don’t quite add up.

Alternating chapters bring the story to us, with first person narrator Tessa revealing snippets of her life with Sophie and the marriage to Brian. We get to see moments of pure happiness, followed by problems. Much about these problems will only come to light as we quickly turn the pages, wondering what will happen next.

Because Tessa is charged with first degree murder anyhow, everything rapidly becomes more intense. What will Tessa do now? Is she really guilty of something terrible? Maybe she killed her husband and her daughter. How does a teenage incident involving a suspicious death tie in to what is happening now? And what do these events reveal about the kind of person Tessa really is?

Just when I thought that I had the answers, everything would turn upside down, and new clues would lead in other directions. Toward the end, the conspiratorial aspects had me going “a-ha,” but I didn’t guess the final answers until the very end.

Colorful, dramatic plots and subplots, and real, very human and flawed characters populated Love You More: A Novel, giving me the satisfying read that I’ve come to expect from Gardner. Five stars.