Letty Carnahan is looking over her shoulder in a panic as she and her niece, Maya, run from New York to Florida. Things have gone terribly wrong and the worst- case scenario is now happening.
Letty’s sister, Tanya, is not exactly a paragon of truth and virtue. Hooking up with the slimiest of men. This time she chose the wrong guy. Oh, he looks good on paper, but is as scummy as they come. Tanya tells Letty that if anything happens to her, look at the husband. And then take this shoe of money and Maya and run.
When Letty turns up for her standard Sunday with Maya, what she finds is a body and a screaming child. What does she do? She runs. With no idea why she is going to some old motel in an old Southern Living article her sister included with the go-bag, she pushes forward until she finally reaches Treasure Island and The Murmuring Surf Motel.
Why is she here? What does this place have to do with Tanya? And why, oh why, does the motel manager’s son have to be a cop?
Ms. Andrews is the queen of the beach reads. This is one that had a bit of everything in it. Much like real life. The characters are so real and the story so compelling you may want to hit the road to find Treasure Island yourself.
“All human beings have three lives. Public, Private, and Secret” Gabriel Garcia Marquez
A very appropriate quote to start off the book. This standalone thriller is the latest from Holahan and it’s a twisty one.
Greg is a recently divorced architect who met Jade, twenty years his junior and fell head over heals for her six months ago. His ex-wife, Leah, got the house and the grown kids so Jade and Greg are living in a rental while their forever home is built and with Jade pregnant they will all be glad when things calm down.
Jade’s public life is pretty good. She’s a media influencer and designer. She is in love with Greg, having a baby and living the good life. Only divorce after 25 years and two kids is not going to be a love fest. The kids hate her and the ex is a nut.
Jade’s private life is complicated. When one evening she and Greg are going out. She is still in the bathroom when she hears the doorbell and then hears screaming. Running out of the bathroom she’s met by an intruder. While Greg survives, the baby does not. Someone deliberately made sure the baby did not live.
As they try to piece together what happened and why, I kept thinking someone was trying to gaslight them. But who? And why? Greg goes into full security mode and installs cameras in every room, alarms, and trackers. He’s also very paranoid.
Jade’s secret life is not as bad as she believes it to be, but when you leave it off of your dating profile, it becomes something that could hurt you.
With the ‘help’ of Violet, Greg’s daughter, he begins to doubt Jade. Is she trying to kill him for money? Was she even pregnant and why is she visiting a prison?
Oh what a tangled web this was. These kids were just vile and their mother a loon.
So what did I think? It was a good idea for a book, but to me there was no sense of urgency and Greg was a pretty limp character.
NetGalley/ April 20th, 2021 Grand Central Publishing
Meet the Bennett family. June, May and their mother. Imagine finding out that everything you believed about your family was a lie.
The book is told from the POV of May and June. One is dead and one is alive. June is all grown up now with her own family. When her sister dies, she finds out that the place they loved the most, Avril Island, which her family owned and where her father disappeared in a mysterious way had not been sold as their mother told them, but is still sitting waiting for her.
Feeling lost and looking for answers, June heads to the island. But not everyone is welcoming and there are as many secrets as trees. Things begin happening that are hard to explain. And the answers she gets are shocking.
The point of view May tells is rather disjointed, but then she is dead. I have to say the ending left me unsatisfied. The writing seemed a bit stiff. This is not anything like The Lovely Bones that it is compared to.
NetGalley Reviews/ April 13th, 2021 by Crooked Lane Books
A detective hiding away from the world. A series of disappearances that reach into her past. Can solving them help her heal?
The beginning of this book had me imagining all kinds of reasons Anna is hiding out from her own past and present. A Detective in San Francisco, it’s obvious that something has happened to make her leave the city and head to Mendocino, where she lived as a kid.
The day she arrives the first thing she hears is about a missing girl in the area. This is bringing up a lot of emotions and flashbacks from her time living here with her foster parents. A girl went missing then as well. And that crime is still unsolved. When another girl goes missing Anna realizes she may be exactly where she is supposed to be at the moment. With all of her experience and knowledge of predators, she can’t help but get involved.
There are some true crimes and names here that you will recognize. There is a lot about trauma and human nature. This one had everything. I’m sure I bit my lip at least twice. What I loved about this book was the rawness of the emotions. There was no attempt to pretty up the facts. They tore at your heart to the very end.
When you are brave enough to face your demons, then maybe you can reclaim your life.
It’s 1929, and 37- year- old Ethel Monroe, watches her husband play with the local children and is desperate to give him a child of his own. She’s tried everything, including superstitious legends about keeping a robin’s egg in your bra. Nothing is working. Until her husband takes her to a fancy hotel in Vermont where there is a spring that seems to be able to cure the sick.
The fancy new resort caters to people coming to take the waters. Well, not the town people. They know all about the springs. When the owner befriends Ethel she also tells her a secret. The spring can grant wishes. But we all know nothing is free, there is always a cost. And the cost Ethel will pay will ensure that her family and their family will always be at the springs.
Cut to now and we meet Jax. Jax is a social worker. She works with trauma victims and children. Maybe she chose that path because her sister was haunted by mental illness. Lexie hasn’t been in touch with reality for a long time so when Jax finds nine missed calls from her sister and a voice mail that is scary and manic, she ignores them. The next day Lexie is found dead. Drowned in the pool full of spring water. Black as the devil’s soul and already quite crowded.
As she cleans up the house and all the paperwork and journals that Lexie had, she realizes that Lexie was researching not only the history of their family but the history of the property and the springs. Measuring them at different times and areas and recording the depth and what she saw. Now she wants Jax to join her.
McMahon is brilliant at ghost stories. Tales we tell around the campfire and scare ourselves silly. I am not ashamed to say I lost a fingernail to this book. Spooky, ghastly, ghostly, this one is twisted and horrific. Just the way I like them.
Florida State Police Agent, Amy Larson, never expected the sight she was about to see on the edge of the Everglades. Just off a remote road, but not far enough away that someone won’t see the horrible crime that has been committed and left for them to find.
This is some gory stuff going on here and it has the look of someone who has killed before. When the FBI jumps in with a similar case, we meet Agent Hunter Forrest. Yes, that is the name. He somehow has a lot of information on local cults and how they work and as we find out he also knows how to escape them.
There are plenty of suspicious characters. And none of them tell the entire truth, which leads one to think there is someone on the inside who they are all afraid of. But we never get enough information on that which could have been good.
This was not my favorite work by Graham. I didn’t feel I knew Amy at all and Hunter Forrest? That was predictable. What should have been a timely and thrilling story fell flat for me.
I do love Scandinavian Noir! And this one is creepy, scary, and oh so gory! Once I started reading it I could not stop. Okay, I could, but I didn’t.
Alice wants to make a documentary. She’s low on money and equipment but she has a good friend who will put up some money if he can come along. An old friend/enemy has also agreed to come and Alice hated asking her but she is good and interested.
Alice has been a bit obsessed with the residents who just vanished from the old mining town. In 1959 the mine closed and that same year her grandmother’s entire family disappeared. Sure people came in and looked around but all they found were empty houses and in the square one dead woman tied to a pole and in the school, a baby crying. They took the baby and the town was just forgotten. But not by Alice.
When her small team arrives the place is deserted. It looks as if people got up from dinner and never came back. From the first night, they all can feel something isn’t right. They are not alone here. As things heat up they don’t even trust each other. Every one of them has secrets and one is a real shocker.
Reading this book was like watching the Blair Witch Project. You wanted to turn away but you wanted to know the who and why of everything. I loved every scary, gory moment of this one!
NetGalley Review/ March 23rd, 2021 by Minotaur Books
A serial killer and his copycat are locked in a violent game of cat and mouse. Can DI Anjelica Henley stop them before it’s too late?
DI Anjelica Henley is back on active duty with the SCU. She has no idea what she will face when called out to a crime scene.
By the river, dismembered body parts are washing up. While the crime has all of the marks of a serial killer she locked up not that long ago, she knows he is still in strict lockdown. Right?
The Jigsaw Killer. A total sociopath. No remorse, no second thoughts, just monstrous acts against people that would send the strongest of cops running.
When Anjelica can’t find answers she goes to the source. Peter Olivier. The Jigsaw Killer. Who also tried to kill her. He isn’t happy someone is copying his crimes. Not at all happy. Which is very scary for some people.
Horror at its finest! Hope to hear more about this!
A Sneak Peek:
‘How long have we got until the tide comes in?’ Henley was facing the river watching the small waves crashing against the derelict pier. She checked her watch. Nearly two hours had passed since the first 999 call.
‘I checked online, and high tide is at 9.55 a.m.’ Ramouter replied as he stepped around a half-submerged car tire, his eyes glazed with anxiety. ‘Low tide was at 3.15. Sunrise was at 6.32. A three-hour window for someone to dump whoever this is and hope that someone would find it before the tide comes in?’
‘Maybe,’ Henley acknowledged. ‘But for all we know it could have been dumped after sunrise or was dumped earlier upstream before being washed up here.’ She inspected the glass façade of the Borthwick Wharf, empty commercial spaces and work units that opened to the terrace and lacked security cameras. Henley doubted that the local council would have extended their own CCTV cameras to this part of the street. They had been neglecting this part of Deptford for as long as she could remember.
‘Has it been touched?’ Henley asked Anthony who had appeared at her side.
‘As far as I’m aware, it’s in situ. It wasn’t touched by the woman who found it. Matei, your builder, said that he hadn’t touched the legs but unhelpfully, it’s covered in his vomit. I had a quick look at the arms that were found downstream before I came here. From the looks of things, the treasure hunters may have prodded around a bit.’
‘There’s always one.’
The wind dropped and the air softly crackled with the electricity generated from the substation nearby.
‘We’re isolating the recovery of evidence to the direct path from the alleyway to the torso,’ said Anthony. ‘I doubt very much that whoever it was sat here and had a coffee afterwards.’
‘They may not have had a coffee, but if we go with Ramouter’s theory and the body parts have been dumped then whoever it was certainly knows the river,’ Henley replied. ‘We’ll let you get on. Ramouter and I are going to take a walk.’
‘Where are we going?’ asked Ramouter.
‘To meet Eastwood.’
‘And you want to walk it?’
Henley did her best to push aside her frustration when Ramouter pulled out his phone. ‘Google maps says that Greenwich pier is almost a mile away,’ he said.
‘Your body-part dumper isn’t the only one who knows the river,’ Anthony shouted out as Henley began to walk determinedly along the riverbank.
The gold scepters on the twin domed roofs of the Old Royal Naval College pierced the cloudless sky. The bare masts of the restored Cutty Sark completed the historical panoramic view that Greenwich was known for. It was a resplendent, whitewashed version of history that contrasted with the sewage that washed ashore. Henley stopped walking when she realized that she could no longer hear the sounds of Ramouter’s leather soles slipping on wet pebbles.
‘Where are you from?’ Henley asked, waiting for Ramouter to take off his jacket and loosen his tie. She moved closer towards the moss-covered river wall as the tide began to encroach.
‘Born in West Bromwich. Moved to Bradford when I was twelve.’ Ramouter tried to brush off the bits of mud that had stuck to his trousers, but they only smeared more. ‘Lots of moors, no rivers. Surely it would have been quicker in the car.’
‘This is quicker. Unless you fancy sitting in traffic for the next half hour while they raise the Creek Road Bridge.’
‘You know this area well?’
Henley ignored the question. She didn’t see the point in telling him that she could have walked this path with her eyes closed. That this small part of South-East London was ingrained in her. ‘Whoever dumped the torso would have taken this route. It doesn’t make any sense to come down here, go back up to the street level and then drive up to Watergate Street. Out of sight, below street level. Lighting would have been minimal.’
‘Body parts are heavy though,’ Ramouter tried to quicken his step to catch up with Henley. ‘The human head weighs at least eight pounds.’
‘I know.’ Henley pulled out her mobile phone, which had started to ring. She saw who it was and ignored the call.
‘Head, torso, arms, legs. That’s at least six individual body parts.’
‘I know that also. So, tell me, what point are you making?’ Henley waited for Ramouter to reach her before maneuvering him towards the river wall as though she was chaperoning a child.
‘I’m just saying that that’s a lot of dead weight to be carrying around at three in morning.’ Ramouter paused and placed his hand against the wall, trying to catch his breath.
Henley didn’t openly express her agreement. She fished out a black hair band from her jacket pocket and pulled her thick black curls into a ponytail. She had forgotten how much energy it took to walk across the gradient slope of the riverbank. Worse, she felt mentally unprepared for the job ahead, with a trainee struggling behind her who had no idea this was her first time as senior investigator in almost a year.
‘It’s a bit grim, isn’t it?’ DC Roxanne Eastwood shouted out as Henley finally reached the first crime scene. ‘Morning, Ramouter. Not a bad gig for your first day.’
Henley had always thought that Eastwood actually looked and carried herself like a detective. Now, Eastwood was poised on the riverbank, the sleeves of her jacket rolled up with her notebook in her hand. She had come prepared for the river and was wearing a pair of jeans and trainers that had seen better days.
‘Morning, Eastie. How does it feel to be out of the office?’ Henley asked, her eyes drifting to a crime scene investigator who was putting an arm into a black bag.
‘I should be asking you that,’ said Eastwood, with a look of concern.
Henley silently appreciated the empathy and placed her hand on Eastwood’s shoulder.
‘But since you asked, it’s bloody terrible. I think I’ve got sunburn.’ Eastwood rubbed a hand over her reddening forehead. ‘Forensics are going to be wrapping up in a bit. Not that there’s much for them to do. Bag it and tag it.’
‘Where’s Mr Thomas?’
‘Ah, our illustrious treasure hunter. Last time I saw him he was heading towards the shops. Said that he needed to get some water for his dog.’ Eastwood shook her head, obviously not believing a word of it. ‘I’ve got an officer keeping an eye on him. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’d already uploaded pictures of his find onto Instagram.’
‘I want him taken back to the station. Ramouter can take another statement from him.’ Henley said it purposely so that Ramouter would sense she was in control. ‘If he’s like most mudlarkers, he would have been out here first thing this morning waiting for the tide to go out. Where exactly were the arms found?’
‘Just over there.’ Eastwood pulled down her sunglasses and pointed towards the foamed waves created by a passing river bus. The tide had already come in where X had once marked the spot. A sense of urgency filled the air as the river regained its territory.
‘Did he say anything else?’
‘Only that he found the second arm about three feet away from the first.’
‘It’s a sick trail of breadcrumbs,’ said Henley.
‘You’re telling me and before you ask about CCTV, there’re loads of cameras—’
‘But none aimed at this part of the river.’
Henley’s mobile phone began to ring. She pulled it out and answered. After a quick chat, she ended the call.
‘That was Dr Linh Choi. You wouldn’t have met her yet but she’s our go-to forensic pathologist. She’s just arrived,’ Henley explained to Ramouter. She wiped away the sweat from the back of her neck.
‘So, we’ve got two arms, both legs and a torso,’ said Ramouter. ‘Where’s the head?’
Good question. Henley thought of the places between the two locations. A primary school, two nurseries and an adventure playground among the flats and houses. The last thing she needed was to find a head in the kids’ sandpit.
‘Can I have a quick look?’ Henley asked the assistant from Anthony’s CSI team, who had just bagged up the arm and was scribbling in her notebook.
‘Sure.’ The assistant unzipped the bag and pushed the plastic apart.
‘Fuck,’ Henley said under her breath. Her heartbeat quickened, her stomach flipped.
‘Oh,’ said Ramouter as he peered over Henley’s shoulder. One arm was covered with gravel. Slivers of seaweed criss-crossed old scars. The second arm. Slender wrist, the ring finger slightly longer than the index, broken fingernails. Black skin. Henley could hear Pellacia’s words from earlier ringing in her ears.
‘Too early to say if it belongs to the same victim or if it’s more than just one.’
‘Call DSI Pellacia,’ Henley told Ramouter. ‘Tell him that we’ve got two possible murder victims.’
NetGalley/ March 16th, 2021 by Hanover Square Press
At the wedding of the year, a killer needs no invitation
What could be more romantic than a wedding on the Isle Isola? Surrounded by cliffs and water with an over the top villa where you can get lost if you aren’t careful.
Claire Hunter is an artist. On the rise and to top it off, she is marrying Jack Compton of the uber wealthy Compton family. The Comptons have secrets. A lot of secrets.
When Claire and Jack arrive at the villa, things begin to go wrong. A skeleton has been found and it has everyone on edge. Brothers are fighting, the help is sketchy at best. When her wedding dress is ruined and people start dying, she has to find out who is trying to get rid of her. And what happened to Jack’s first wife?
And then the power goes out, and things get even scarier.
J.T. Ellison is always on point with her books. No one does menacing characters and twisty plots like Ellison.
Will this one have a happy ending or will the wedding of the year become something more sinister?
NetGalley/ March 9th, 2021 by MIRA
A Sneak Peek
Beginnings and Endings
She is going to die tonight.
The white dress, long and filmy, hampers her effort to run. The hem catches on a branch; a large rend in the fabric slashes open, exposing her leg. A deep cut blooms red along her thigh, and the blood runs down her calf. Her hair has come loose from its braid, flies unbound behind her like gossamer wings.
In her panic, she barely notices the pain.
The path ahead is marked by towering cypress and laurel, verdant and lush. A gray stone waist-high wall is all that stands between her and the cliffside. It is cool inside this miniature forest; the sky is blotted out by the purple-throated wisteria that drapes across and between the trees. Someone, years ago, built an archway along the arbor. The arch’s skeleton has long since rotted away and the flowers droop into the path, clinging trails and vines that brush against her head and shoulders. It should be beautiful; instead it feels oppressive, as if the vines might animate, twist and curl around her neck and strangle her to death.
She tries not to look down to the frothing water roiling against the rocks at the cliff’s base. She thinks the ruins are to her right. From what she remembers, they are between the church and the artists’ colony, the four cottages cowering on the hillside, empty and waiting.
A horn shrieks, and she realizes the ferry is pulling away. A crack of lightning, and she sees the silhouette of the captain in the pilothouse, looking out to the turbulent seas ahead. A gamble that he makes it before the storm is upon them.
Don’t panic. Don’t panic.
Where is the church?
There it is, a flash of white through the trees. The stuccoed walls loom, the bell tower hidden behind the overgrown foliage. Now the path is moving upward, the grade increasing. She feels it in her calves and hopes again she is going the right way. The Villa is on the hill, on the northwest promontory of the island. If she can reach its doors, she will be safe.
It is too quiet. There are no birds, no creatures, no buzzing or cries, just her ragged, heavy breath and the scree shuffling underfoot as she climbs. The furious roar of the water smashing its frustration against the rocks rises from her left, echoing against the cliffside.
The dogs begin to howl.
Climb. Climb. Keep going.
She must get to the Villa. There she can call for help. Lock herself inside. Maybe find a weapon.
A branch snaps and she halts, breathless.
Someone is coming.
She startles like a deer, now heedless of the noise she’s making. Fighting back a whimper of fear, she breaks free of the cloistered path to see an old decrepit staircase cut into the stone. Careful, she must be cautious, there are gaps where some steps are missing, and the rest are mossy with disuse, but hurry, hurry. Get away.
She winds up the steps, clinging to the rock face, until she bursts free into a sea of scrubby pines. Two sculptures, Janus twins, flank a slate-dark path into a labyrinth of rhododendron and azalea.
This isn’t right. Where is she?
A hard breeze disrupts the trees around her, and a rumble of thunder like a thousand drums rolls across her body. Lightning flashes and she sees the Villa in the distance. So far away. On the other side of the labyrinth. The other side of the hill.
She’s gone the wrong way.
A droplet of water hits her arm, then her forehead. Dread bubbles through her.
She is too late. The storm is upon her.
The howls of the dogs draw closer. The wind whistles hard and sharp, buffeting her against the stone wall. She can’t move, deep fear cementing her feet. Rain makes the gauzy dress cling to the curves of her body, and the blood on her thigh washes to the ground. None of it matters. She cannot escape.
When he comes, at last, sauntering through the storm, the barking beasts leaping and growling beside him, she is crying, clinging to the wall, the lightning illuminating the ruins; the ancient stones and stark, headless statues the only witness to her death.
She goes over the wall with a thunder-drowned scream, the jagged rocks below her final companions.
From the author of Tell Me Lies, comes a new and twisty story of lies, revenge and love.
Three points of view here, Heather, Burke and Skye. Three people who could not be more different and yet are joined by a bond that only two of them know about.
Heather had a hard life and blames Skye’s mother for that and the death of her little brother years ago. But Heather can hold a grudge! Even her husband, Burke, isn’t sure about her. But she has a plan and for better or worse she drags Burke in.
Skye is trying to live her life on her own terms. With unlimited funds, you would think that would be a piece of cake. It is not. And when she meets Burke, well sparks fly.
But is any of it real? And how far is Heather willing to go in order to exact revenge on a dead woman?
Twisty and full of flawed characters just trying to get by in life. The ending was very satisfying.