Book Review: Magpie Lane by Lucy Atkins

Book Review: Magpie Lane by Lucy Atkins

Synopsis:

When the eight-year-old daughter of an Oxford College Master vanishes in the middle of the night, police turn to the Scottish nanny, Dee, for answers.

As Dee looks back over her time in the Master’s Lodging – an eerie and ancient house – a picture of a high achieving but dysfunctional family emerges: Nick, the fiercely intelligent and powerful father; his beautiful Danish wife Mariah, pregnant with their child; and the lost little girl, Felicity, almost mute, seeing ghosts, grieving her dead mother.

But is Dee telling the whole story? Is her growing friendship with the eccentric house historian, Linklater, any cause for concern? And most of all, why is Felicity silent?

My Review:

Magpie Lane was such a lush book to get lost in! I wouldn’t necessarily call it atmospheric, but the Oxford setting, the old master’s house and the scholarly college vibes made for a very immersive reading experience. I love when a book gives you the chance to see a behind-closed-doors look at the lives of posh people, and Magpie Lane delivered that. Nick and Mariah are those type of people that seem to have it all together, but only the parts that they let people see. I loved getting to see how much they dropped the ball on while trying to project a much more elevated front.

One thing that was a little hard for me was the timeline and overall format. The novel is almost like a collection of stories about the nanny’s time with the family, all told in response to questions the detectives are asking her, in their efforts to find Felicity. For the most part, the stories go in order but I felt the lines between past and present were a little muddled. Someone like me likes nice headings that tell the when and where, but this is something that might not bother most people.

I really was guessing until the end. I had a lot of theories, and one of them did turn out to be right, but I wasn’t sure until the end. I felt like this was a slow burn of a thriller, but I really did enjoy it overall. There weren’t too many characters, which is good, yet they all had their own shadowy history, so you really don’t know who to root for! A little on the cozy side, this would make a good fall or winter mystery!

Killer Chardonnay by Kate Lansing

Killer Chardonnay by Kate Lansing

2E9AADC3-F612-4F26-9201-4E267E2CBB98Thanks to Edelweiss and Berkley publishing for providing me with a free digital copy of Killer Chardonnay in exchange for me honest review.  All opinions are my own.

Synopsis:

Parker Valentine has always dreamed of opening her own winery in her hometown of Boulder, Colorado. But she gets more than she bargained for when a food and wine critic unexpectedly shows up at Vino Valentine on opening day. A negative review could be fatal for her business, and not only does he seem to hate her chardonnay, he also collapses and dies shortly after drinking it.

Although Parker hoped that the attendees would put a cork in it, soon her winery is at the center of a social media firestorm. With #killerchardonnay trending online, Parker’s business is in danger of closing, and she has no choice but to investigate the murder herself.

To restore her reputation, catch a killer, and keep her struggling business open, Parker needs only one thing: some good proof.

My Review:

What a fun, light, easy mystery!  Perfect for summertime reading!  For a cozy mystery, I found Killer Chardonnay to be rather sophisticated.  All characters and plot lines were plausible, no cheesy romance and honestly, my favorite part was the genuine relationships Lansing was able to give her characters.  I enjoyed Parker’s sibling relationship with her brother, I found it to be very honest and realistic. And Parker’s less than enthusiastic opinion of her best friend Sage’s boyfriend felt true to a strong female friendship.

I loved all the wine and food descriptions and the mystery itself was complex and well built up. I would like to learn a little more about the winemaking process in future books as it was only hinted at here but overall I really enjoyed this one and will definitely keep my eye out for the second book in the series. Pick this one up for your next beach read!

Eight Perfect Murders by Peter Swanson

Eight Perfect Murders by Peter Swanson

FA81249A-555B-446A-826C-AD78FC55685EWhat you could almost call a ‘cozy mystery’, Eight Perfect Murders is a clever whodunit that I greatly enjoyed reading.

Synopsis:

Years ago, bookseller and mystery aficionado Malcolm Kershaw compiled a list of the genre’s most unsolvable murders, those that are almost impossible to crack—which he titled “Eight Perfect Murders”—chosen from among the best of the best including Agatha Christie’s A. B. C. Murders, Patricia Highsmith’s Strangers on a Train, Ira Levin’s Death Trap, A. A. Milne’s Red House Mystery, Anthony Berkeley Cox’s Malice Aforethought, James M. Cain’s Double Indemnity, John D. Macdonald’s The Drowner, and Donna Tartt’s A Secret History.

But no one is more surprised than Mal, now the owner of the Old Devils Bookstore in Boston, when an FBI agent comes knocking on his door one snowy day in February. She’s looking for information about a series of unsolved murders that look eerily similar to the killings on Mal’s old list. And the FBI agent isn’t the only one interested in this bookseller who spends almost every night at home reading. The killer is out there, watching his every move—a diabolical threat who knows way too much about Mal’s personal history, especially the secrets he’s never told anyone, even his recently deceased wife.

To protect himself, Mal begins looking into possible suspects . . . and sees a killer in everyone around him. But Mal doesn’t count on the investigation leaving a trail of death in its wake. Suddenly, a series of shocking twists leaves more victims dead—and the noose around Mal’s neck grows so tight he might never escape.

My Review:

What book lover doesn’t love a book about books!!?? No one, right? This mystery that revolves around a bookseller’s list of the best eight murders in mystery novels was such a unique take on all of the suspense novels out there right now and I loved it. This one made you think.  It was a very cerebral experience reading this book because the characters are all playing mind games.  There are no gruesome scenes, no unbelievable plot twists.  Just some very smart thinkers piecing clues together.

This was not what I was expecting, but I was pleasantly surprised!  I have only read one other book by Swanson, last year’s Before She Knew Him, so I can’t attest to his style of writing just yet, but I can say that this book was nothing like the suspenseful Before She Knew Him.  If you are looking for a thriller like that, you won’t find it here.  But Eight Perfect Murders is a fantastic classic mystery with strong Agatha Christie vibes.  I loved it and definitely plan to read more from Swanson in the future!

The Familiar Dark by Amy Engel

The Familiar Dark by Amy Engel

C2464F78-01DA-410E-A137-1DA3DBC1497EThank you to Dutton books for sending me a free copy of The Familiar Dark in exchange for my honest review.  All opinions are my own.

Synopsis:

Set in the poorest part of the Missouri Ozarks, in a small town with big secrets, The Familiar Dark opens with a murder. Eve Taggert, desperate with grief over losing her daughter, takes it upon herself to find out the truth about what happened. Eve is no stranger to the dark side of life, having been raised by a hard-edged mother whose lessons Eve tried not to pass on to her own daughter. But Eve may need her mother’s cruel brand of strength if she’s going to face the reality about her daughter’s death and about her own true nature. Her quest for justice takes her from the seedy underbelly of town to the quiet woods and, most frighteningly, back to her mother’s trailer for a final lesson.

My Review:

This book set it’s hooks in me from the very first page and the reading experience of The Familiar Dark was so visceral that I know I will be thinking about it for a very long time. I found the main character Eve to be so realistic, it was harrowing to see the way she changed after the death of her daughter.  I could so clearly picture Eve, her mother, and the run down town they lived in.  What surprised me was the level of depth into Eve’s relationships that Engel was able to slip into the pages. Even though I am not in a situation like Eve’s, I found I was able to relate with her quite a bit, and I think many readers who are mothers will also.

This is definitely what you call a slow burn but it really smoldered the whole way through. With just enough back story to build to plot, The Familiar Dark is an engrossing read with a very big surprise ending!  This book is dark, gritty, raw and heavy but oh so worth it! I highly recommend this book to just about anyone.  Easily a five star read for me!

The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James

The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James

5915C6B4-7942-48D9-9560-13C99F7C4B5BThank you to Berkley books for providing me with a free copy of The Sun Down Motel in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

Synopsis:

Upstate New York, 1982. Viv Delaney wants to move to New York City, and to help pay for it she takes a job as the night clerk at the Sun Down Motel in Fell, New York. But something isnʼt right at the motel, something haunting and scary.

Upstate New York, 2017. Carly Kirk has never been able to let go of the story of her aunt Viv, who mysteriously disappeared from the Sun Down before she was born. She decides to move to Fell and visit the motel, where she quickly learns that nothing has changed since 1982. And she soon finds herself ensnared in the same mysteries that claimed her aunt.

My Review:

This book has been getting a lot of hype, early readers are loving it!  I can tell you that I am right there with them, The Sun Down Motel is a very fun read and definitely deserving of all the attention it’s getting!

My favorite part of this novel is the setting, so much revolves around the motel and I felt like it was a character in it’s own rite. St. James included The Sun Down Motel in so much of the story that it took on it’s own ominous personality. That alone makes this a very unique book and one that I think will stick with me for a long time.

The only critique I have is about a little redundancy in the dual story lines.  Viv in 1982 is chasing the path of a serial killer, then Carly in 2017 followed a lot of the same leads trying to find her aunt so at times it felt like reading some parts twice.

However, this was a very enjoyable read for me overall. I was pulled in right from the start with the chapters alternating between past and present. The ghosts were creepy (though I was not scared by them) and everything came full circle very nicely. I recommend this to anyone who likes a mystery or ghost story,.  Very well done!

When You See Me by Lisa Gardner

When You See Me by Lisa Gardner

12D064F3-0208-43C6-8FFF-0E7A227C1414Thank you to Dutton books for providing me with a free digital copy of When You See Me in exchange for my honest review.  All opinions are my own.

Synopsis:

FBI Special Agent Kimberly Quincy and Sergeant Detective D. D. Warren have built a task force to follow the digital bread crumbs left behind by deceased serial kidnapper Jacob Ness. When a disturbing piece of evidence is discovered in the hills of Georgia, they bring Flora Dane and true-crime savant Keith Edgar to a small town where something seems to be deeply wrong. What at first looks like a Gothic eeriness soon hardens into something much more sinister…and they discover that for all the evil Jacob committed while alive, his worst secret is still to be revealed. Quincy and DD must summon their considerable skills and experience to crack the most disturbing case of their careers—and Flora must face her own past directly in the hope of saving others.

My Review:

This is the first book by Lisa Gardner that I have read and I was a little nervous jumping into the middle of a series but I was pleasantly surprised that I had no problem enjoying the story and it’s characters.  Enough backstory is given to provide some depth and history to the characters and help make sense with the plot.

As for the story itself, I was surprised again.  What starts off as a basic detective mystery quickly spirals into something much more personal and emotional.  Gardner gives glimpses into the mind of a victim in the story, helping the reader to strongly connect to the book and keep turning pages to find out how the horrific perpetrator gets caught. What started off a little on the slow side for me, When You See Me quickly became a book I could not put down and I read about 70% in one day because I just had to get to the ending. I had to know what would happen!

I would recommend this to anyone who likes mysteries and thrillers, especially detective crime novels. A very enjoyable read and I will definitely be reading more Lisa Gardner books in the future!

 

The Suspect by Fiona Barton

The Suspect by Fiona Barton

c0e4c88a-6dfe-403c-b28e-0391e422a8aeThanks to Berkley books for sending me a free copy of The Suspect in exchange for my honest review.  All opinions are my own.

I read The Child by Fiona Barton a couple years ago and really enjoyed it so I was excited to see The Suspect publishing this year. I like Barton’s writing and the short chapters in her books. 

The story of two missing girls backpacking in Thailand sounded intriguing but fell a little flat for me. The glimpses that the reader gets into what went on at the hostel where the girls stay were a little naive and immature. I guess that would be typical behavior for teenage girls but it didn’t make for the most mysterious of thrillers. 

As the investigation got rolling, there were parts that got redundant as the reporter, Kate, looked into and found out the same information that the detective Sparkes also received. But at about the halfway point, things picked and and I was very eager to reach the end and find out what happened.

The reporter, Kate, had some of her own personal interests tied up in the investigation which I liked: it added a little more emotion and substance to what would otherwise be a basic police procedural. Overall I liked this one but didn’t love it. Barton’s writing is great, like I said, but the plot within this one wasn’t as strong as in The Child, in my opinion. If you like slow burn mysteries you might like The Suspect.

A Stone’s Throw by James W. Ziskin

A Stone’s Throw by James W. Ziskin

02043DC6-5C3E-409F-B06B-882DFBA551C3Thank you to Prometheus books for the free copy of A Stone’s Throw in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own .

Synopsis from Amazon:

August 1962. A suspicious fire claims a tumbledown foaling barn on the grounds of the once-proud Tempesta Stud Farm, halfway between New Holland and Saratoga Springs, NY. The blaze, one of several in recent years at the abandoned farm, barely prompts a shrug from the local sheriff. That is until “girl reporter” Ellie Stone, first on the scene, uncovers a singed length of racing silk in the rubble of the barn. And it’s wrapped around the neck of one of two charred bodies buried in the ashes. A bullet between the eyes of one of the victims confirms it’s murder, and the police suspect gamblers. Ellie digs deeper.

The double murder, committed on a ghostly stud farm in the dead of night, leads Ellie down a haunted path, just a stone’s throw from the glamour of Saratoga Springs, to a place where dangerous men don’t like to lose. Unraveling secrets from the past–crushing failure and heartless betrayal–she’s learning that arson can be cold revenge.

My Review:

A Stone’s Throw is another highly enjoyable installment in the Ellie stone mystery series!  Ellie is becoming one of my favorite literary characters and this is becoming one of my favorite mystery series.  Ellie continues to instill quips of sarcasm into all of her conversations and is able to do her job better than her male counterparts.

I love the 1960’s setting of these novels, they give off strong Mad Men vibes. A Stone’s Throw adds the horse track and racing as an added bonus to the alrea.  On top of all the humor, sarcasm, and well-developed setting, each novel in this series has a very well done, detailed, clever, and intricate mystery.  In my own opinion, these novels have it all. If you haven’t read one yet, pleae do you won’t be disappointed. I gave this one ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️/5 stars.

 

The Weight of Lies by Emily Carpenter

The Weight of Lies by Emily Carpenter

31F99F77-414E-4220-B3B3-5DE73555A665Wow this book was a wild ride and extremely well written.  In a nutshell, this novel is about Megan Ashley, a young woman investigating the setting that inspired her mother’s cult classic novel Kitten, a creepy murder mystery. The book was inspired by and takes place at Bonny Island, off the coast of Georgia. While there, Megan uncovers so many truths and untruths she doesn’t know what to believe and the further she digs for information, the more Kitten seems to contain more fact that fiction.

Ok, I think I really loved this one.  I kept getting Flowers in the Attic vibes with the mommy issues and creepy old mansion hiding secrets. A full cast of unreliable characters made this one twisty ride of a novel. I thought the pacing was perfection, I almost want to call this a slow burn, because there is so much build up but I think the pace was very steady and it made this book hard to put down. A great thriller/mystery that I think just about anyone could enjoy, I give this one five out of five stars!

The Guise of Another by Allen Eskens

The Guise of Another by Allen Eskens

44019490-D11E-4031-873F-333216364679I read Allen Eskens first book, The Life We Bury, about a year ago and really liked it. I told myself “Hmm, I’m going to have to watch for this author”. Well, his latest came out in October and while I was looking into it, I saw that he has two other books that I totally missed. So much for looking out. Anyway, I asked around and the consensus was to read his books in order. So I bought the other books and got started on his second novel The Guise of Another and I’m so glad I did!

A Minnesota detective has fallen from grace after a scandal erupted in the last task force he organized. Now working in the fraud department, Alexander Rupert begins looking into a reported case of identity fraud with unusual circumstances. A man named James Putnam has died in a car accident. When Putnam’s only living relative is contacted, a brother in jail, it is confirmed that the man who died is not actually James Putnam. So who is the man who died, and where is the real James Putnam?

This novel was very well done crime fiction. With short chapters and suspense around every corner, it was hard to put down. Eskens develops his characters very smoothly so that you can really become vested in them but not too much time is spent rambling on back stories. This novel is definitely plot driven but with the feel of being character driven. In my opinion, that’s the best of both worlds. Well written and orgazinef, I thoroughly enjoyed this ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ star mystery!