Book Review: The Jigsaw Man by Nadine Matheson

Book Review: The Jigsaw Man by Nadine Matheson

Synopsis:

On the day she returns to active duty with the Serial Crimes Unit, Detective Inspector Anjelica Henley is called to a crime scene. Dismembered body parts from two victims have been found by the river.

The modus operandi bears a striking resemblance to Peter Olivier, the notorious Jigsaw Killer, who has spent the past two years behind bars. When he learns that someone is co-opting his grisly signature—the arrangement of victims’ limbs in puzzle-piece shapes—he decides to take matters into his own hands.

As the body count rises, DI Anjelica Henley is faced with an unspeakable new threat. Can she apprehend the copycat killer before Olivier finds a way to get to him first? Or will she herself become the next victim?

Drawing on her experience as a criminal attorney, debut novelist Nadine Matheson delivers the page-turning crime novel of the year. Taut, vivid and addictively sinister, The Jigsaw Man will leave you breathless until the very last page.

My Review:

Let me start by saying that The Jigsaw Man is the best book I have read so far in 2021! Yes, that good! Let me follow that up with a trigger warnings: this one is on the violent side. The serial killer being tracked is pretty brutal, and his crimes are described in the book. The descriptions are not over the top gruesome, however Matheson doesn’t hold back, either. If that is hard for you, consider yourself warned.

So what made this my favorite book of the year? Quite a few things! First, the character development is fantastic. In the police procedural style mystery novels, many times the main detectives and characters are described in terms of their jobs. The reader gets to know what history they have as a detective, and often times he or she may have trauma spawning from difficult cases in the past. In The Jigsaw Man, we get all that but so much more. DI Anjelica Henley had such a realness to her that I actually found extremely relatable! She is a married, working mom, just like so many of us, and is also struggling to balance it all. Bring in her trainee Ramouter and the dynamic blossoms even more! When Ramouter joins the case as Henely’s trainee, she is less that enthusiastic, yet as they work together a bond forms and she finds out that Ramouter is not only a good detective but a good person. I loved watching their relationship grow and cannot wait to see where they are heading in the next book!

At just under 500 pages, I was a little wary. Did this mystery really need all those pages to find a killer? The answer is yes! I didn’t get bored once, something was happening on literally every page and I just could not read this book fast enough! The plot is one of the most intricate and well planned out that I have ever read, and I was also able to easily follow along. Some of the more complex detective novels can get a little confusing, but not The Jigsaw Man. Everything fit and made sense and the ending is left as a very unusually cliffhanger. I am anxiously awaiting book 2!

Unfortunately, I feel like I write the worst reviews for the best books, I just want to say I LOVED IT over and over! I hope I did this one justice, it really is so incredibly good!

Book Review: These Women by Ivy Pochoda

Book Review: These Women by Ivy Pochoda

Thank you to Ecco books for sending me a free copy of These Women. All opinions in this review are my own.

Synopsis:

In West Adams, a rapidly changing part of South Los Angeles, they’re referred to as “these women.” These women on the corner … These women in the club … These women who won’t stop asking questions … These women who got what they deserved … 

In her masterful new novel, Ivy Pochoda creates a kaleidoscope of loss, power, and hope featuring five very different women whose lives are steeped in danger and anguish. They’re connected by one man and his deadly obsession, though not all of them know that yet. There’s Dorian, still adrift after her daughter’s murder remains unsolved; Julianna, a young dancer nicknamed Jujubee, who lives hard and fast, resisting anyone trying to slow her down; Essie, a brilliant vice cop who sees a crime pattern emerging where no one else does; Marella, a daring performance artist whose work has long pushed boundaries but now puts her in peril; and Anneke, a quiet woman who has turned a willfully blind eye to those around her for far too long. The careful existence they have built for themselves starts to crumble when two murders rock their neighborhood.

My Review:

These Women is one of the most unique stories I have ever read. Even though the synopsis tells you that the book is about “these women” getting murdered in Los Angeles, the focus of the book is on the women themselves. Rather than follow a typical detective style or police procedural hunt for a serial killer, Pochoda instead introduces us to the women one by one. The story is told in a few sections, each section from the point of view of another woman, all interconnected to one another. They are mothers, daughters, neighbors, and friends among other things. But their society has only seen them as “those women”.

So what are “those women”. Simply put: sex workers or prostitutes. But what this novel does is show the reader that they are not simple. They are so much more than their work. They are strong women, fighters, not willing to give up, trying day after day to carve a better life for themselves. But as they are murdered, those left behind see that not much effort is put into finding the killer because society doesn’t see the importance of a mere sex worker or the need to spend the time or money needed for a full investigation.

These Women is a raw look into the lives of those not as fortunate, those that some view as insignificant. It examines the judgement society places on people and how that judgement makes it harder for those women or people to rise up and overcome obstacles. It sheds light onto the need that some people have to simply rid prostitutes of their neighborhoods, without one thought about what exactly would happen to those women. Out of sight, out of mind, right?

Even though this novel is crime fiction, I absolutely loved that the crime was not in the forefront, and that as the reader I got the chance to know the victims more personally. A traditional crime novel focuses on the perpetrator, not the victims, which makes this a standout read! I enjoyed it and know this one will stay with me for a long time. I always love when a book forces me to see another point of view.

Cut To The Bone by Ellison Cooper

Cut To The Bone by Ellison Cooper

C8142161-D74F-4A3A-8B6F-F4D1E94331D2Cut To The Bone is the third book in the Agent Sayer Altair series and it is one heart-pounded thrill ride!

Synopsis:

After grieving the death of her fiancé and almost losing her job, Agent Sayer Altair is finally starting to rebuild her life. Her research into the minds of psychopaths is breaking new ground and her strange little family is thriving. But Sayer’s newfound happiness is threatened when she is called in to investigate a girl’s body left inside a circle of animal figurines below a cryptic message written in blood. When they discover that the dead girl is one of twenty-four missing high school students, Sayer quickly realizes that nothing in this case is what it seems.

As the investigation draws her in to a tangled web of fake identities and false leads, the trail soon begins to point directly to her own life. Now, Sayer must confront her painful past to uncover her connection to the deranged killer if she hopes to save the missing teens and protect everything that she loves.

My Review:

I can’t sing enough praise for this series!  It has lightening fast suspense, it has a completely vulnerable yet tough-as-nails lead character, it has intense, intricately built crimes that are mind boggling puzzles.  Agent Sayer’s background in neuroscience adds such a whip-smart edge to these books that they stand out against all the other crime thrillers out there.

Cut To The Bone is a fantastic addition to the series.  This is one of those book reviews that I just want to say “I loved it, I loved it, I loved it” repeatedly because I just can’t seem to fit my thoughts and feelings into anything else coherent. The suspense was insane, the crime and investigation was so sharp, and the ending!!??  It was intense and sets the stage for a fiery sequel!  I can’t wait!  If I recommend one series to you, let it be this one!

Hard Cash Valley by Brian Panowich

Hard Cash Valley by Brian Panowich

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Thank you to Minotaur books for sending me a free copy of Hard Cash Valley in exchange for my honest review.  All opinions are my own.

Synopsis:

Dane Kirby is a broken man and no stranger to tragedy. As a life-long resident and ex-arson investigator for McFalls County, Dane has lived his life in one of the most chaotic and crime-ridden regions of the south. When he gets called in to consult on a brutal murder in a Jacksonville, Florida, motel room, he and his FBI counterpart, Special Agent Roselita Velasquez, begin an investigation that leads them back to the criminal circles of his own backyard.

Arnie Blackwell’s murder in Jacksonville is only the beginning – and Dane and Roselita seem to be one step behind. For someone is hacking a bloody trail throughout the Southeast looking for Arnie’s younger brother, a boy with Asperger’s Syndrome who possesses an unusual skill with numbers that could make a lot of money and that has already gotten a lot of people killed—and has even more of the deadliest people alive willing to do anything it takes to exploit him.

As Dane joins in the hunt to find the boy, it swiftly becomes a race against the clock that has Dane entangled in a web of secrets involving everyone from the Filipino Mafia to distrusting federal agents to some of hardest southern outlaws he’s ever known.

My Review:

This book is rather hard for me to review for personal preference reasons and I am going to have to bring in Panowich’s previous two books as comparison points. (Note: Panowich does have some other sci-fi and satirical titles out there but I am referring to his two most recent books in this review and books that, in my opinion put him on the map) Let’s start with Bull Mountain.  A slow burn for sure, this gritty novel was like nothing I had ever read before with it’s raw and unabashed characters and southern gothic setting. I read that book five years ago and still think about it!  Last year, Panowich released Like Lions, the sequel to Bull Mountain and it blew me away.  It was much faster paced than it’s predecessor and is one of those kind of books that have you ignoring all adult responsibilities so that you can continue devouring the pages. I highly recommend both books.

Now onto Hard Cash Valley.  While this book is still set in northern Georgia and a few characters from the first two books are very briefly mentioned, this book is not a sequel.  It’s more of a crime fiction story involving a gambling ring, Filipino mobsters, FBI agents and a dirty investigation. The main character Dane was my favorite part of the novel, Panowich has a talent for writing vulnerable yet tough-as-nails characters that really get under your skin. And this novel was well planned out and was a very entertaining read.

As I mentioned, I have some personal preferences to mention in regard to Hard Cash Valley.  I have come to know Panowich as a southern gothic author, and going into this book, that is what I was expecting.  Unfortunately I don’t feel like I got what I was looking for.  This novel is crime fiction, very good crime fiction at that, but I can’t help but feel slightly disappointed that Hard Cash Valley took a turn away from Panowich’s previous work.

So overall, this is another solid novel from a very good author.  Rating it by itself, I would have to say 4/5 stars. But in comparing it to his previous novels, my personal opinion is 3/5 stars.  It feels like maybe this novel was a little rushed, and considering there was a four year gap between Bull Mountain and Like Lions, yet only one year between Like Lions and Hard Cash Valley, this may be the case.

 

The Shadows We Hide by Allen Eskens

The Shadows We Hide by Allen Eskens

3CE55903-EB40-47F1-B873-4EE7AF27B844Thank you to Mullholland Books for sending me a free copy of The Shadows We Hide in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

Synopsis from Amazon:

Joe Talbert, Jr. has never once met his namesake. Now out of college, a cub reporter for the Associated Press in Minneapolis, he stumbles across a story describing the murder of a man named Joseph Talbert in a small town in southern Minnesota.

Full of curiosity about whether this man might be his father, Joe is shocked to find that none of the town’s residents have much to say about the dead man-other than that his death was long overdue. Joe discovers that the dead man was a loathsome lowlife who cheated his neighbors, threatened his daughter, and squandered his wife’s inheritance after she, too, passed away–an inheritance that may now be Joe’s.

Mired in uncertainty and plagued by his own devastated relationship with his mother, who is seeking to get back into her son’s life, Joe must put together the missing pieces of his family history– before his quest for discovery threatens to put him in a grave of his own.

My Review:

If you follow my reviews at all, then you know that Allen Eskens is one of my favorite authors.  He writes crime fiction/suspense novels but he creates some of the most believable characters in theses genres. The pacing in all of Eskens’ novels is also very well done and last, Eskens is just a natural story teller:  Each of his novels has such great readability that the pages turn effortlessly and the reader is immersed in the story from page one.

In The Shadows We Hide, Eskens is back with his unique story telling, picking up a few years after where The Life We Bury ended.  It has been several years since I read The Life We Bury, so I was a little concerned that maybe I would have forgotten some of the story, but there was plenty of little reminder paragraphs here and there, especially in the beginning, to jog my memory which I really appreciated.

I quickly remembered how much I like Joe from the first book,  his character is vulnerable and very realistic. He’s a man who has not been handed anything in life but has chosen to do his best with what he has. He shows a little arrogance when things go his way, but turns around to show humility when he messes up. I love that this book continues with Joe’s story but adds a little more mystery to it.  I feel like Eskens could continue with Joe’s character and make theses books into a series if he wanted to.

The Shadows We Hide was another great novel from Allen Eskens, there were a ton of twists and turns at the end that I did not see coming which made for some great suspense.  And I enjoyed seeing more of Joe’s relationships with his autistic brother Jeremey, his girlfriend Lila and his mom. If you loved The Life We Bury, then you need to read this one.  And if you’ve never read anything by this author, you need to start! I give this one an easy 5 stars, and will be patiently awaiting another Max Rupert novel (at least I’m hoping to get one!).

Too Close To Breathe by Olivia Kiernan

Too Close To Breathe by Olivia Kiernan

5A7829F9-F150-41DF-95A3-F18845B41912Thank you to Dutton Books for sending me a free copy of Too Close To Breathe in exchange for my honest review.  All opinions are my own. 

In Too Close To Breather, Detective Frankie Sheehan is investigating the murder of Eleanor Costello, a woman who seemed to have lived a near perfect life. The victim had a successful career, was married and lived in a beautiful home. However, police cannot locate Eleanor’s husband for questioning.  Upon autopsy of the victim, old wounds and broken bones are discovered, too many to seem reasonable. When another body is found that seems to have a connection to the previous victim, Detective Sheehan struggles to solve the case.

I enjoyed Too Close Too Breathe, it is quite an onion of a crime novel: layer after layer of clues, psychological connections and dark twists. The plot is very well developed and had a strong and believable ending. Aa far as police procedurals go, this one checked off all the necessary boxes.

However, I was not able to connect with any of the characters.  A lot of development is put into Frankie’s character and a past case that still haunt’s her but I still just didn’t “get her”, but I feel like the fault may have been in my perception rather than the in book itself. This novel definitely had a darker tone to it, which I did really like, it was sinister at times. Overall, I think it is a solid debut novel and Kiernan has a unique writing style all her own.  I rate this on 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Dominic by Mark Prior

Dominic by Mark Prior

6778FA0C-6573-4100-A25B-109CA3414A9DThank you to Seventh Street/Prometheus books for sending me a free copy of Dominic in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own. 

Synopsis from Goodreads:

Only two other people know that Dominic, a charming Englishman, prosecutor, and musician in Austin, Texas, is also a psychopath. They also know that a year ago he got away with murder.

One of those people is his “special lady,” and the other is her brother, a teenager and fellow psychopath called Bobby. When a wily homicide detective starts digging up that past murder, little Bobby offers to take care of the problem–permanently. Dominic tries to dissuade him, but as he himself knows, psychopaths aren’t good with following instructions. Or impulse control.

As Detective Megan Ledsome circles closer, Dominic knows his life depends on keeping his secrets hidden, from her and the rest of the world. And when his annoying office-mate declares his interest in a judicial position, one he himself would like, Dominic realizes that one of his carefully-orchestrated plans could kill two birds with one stone.

Of course, that means some sleight of hand and a sacrifice or two. But if there’s one thing a psychopath doesn’t mind, it’s sacrificing other people.

My Review:

This book definitely picked up where Hollow Man left off, which I liked, but I still felt a disconnect from all of the characters.  Hollow Man was told completely from Dominic’s point of view, but in this sequel, the story is told from other characters’ points of view as well. This got a little confusing because the chapters were only numbered, so it took a few sentences for me to figure out who was talking every time it switched.

I felt like Hollow Man was a little more fun to read with the heist and some dark humor.  Dominic was a little more serious and I just didn’t love it. However, my husband read both of these and liked them a lot more than I did, so maybe I was just not the right reader. While the writing is very good, I liked this book but did not love it.  I give it 2.5 out of 5 stars.