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The Silent Patient

⇒”But why does she not speak?” -Euripides, Alcestis


Author: Alex Michaelides

(4.06 stars – Goodreads rating)

Genre: Crime Fiction / Mystery / Thriller

Published February 5, 2019by Celadon Books

Format: Hardcover

Pages: 323 (Hardcover)

#TheSilentPatient #SilentPatient


Unexpressed emotions will never die. They are buried alive, and will come forth later, in uglier ways.

-Sigmund Freud

I wanted to read this book from the moment I read the summary online just before it was released. I knew it was going to get great buzz and – if the author did right by it – it would be worth it. I was right on all counts. This is a perfect example of a book that hits all the right subtle notes and then suddenly throws you into a locked room full of crashing cymbals. And you never want to leave.

When you pick up a thriller you want just that – to be thrilled. You want some basic ingredients: Suspense, mystery, and an un-guessable ending. The Silent Patient delivers all that. The scene is set at a mental institution, which only adds to the unstable nature of all the other action. There’s an overlying air of security and structure, with little bursts of chaos here and there that let us know that nothing about this is completely under control.

Here’s the Goodreads summary: Alicia Berenson writes a diary as a release, an outlet – and to prove to her beloved husband that everything is fine. She can’t bear the thought of worrying Gabriel, or causing him pain. Until, late one evening, Alicia shoots Gabriel five times and then never speaks another word. Forensic psychotherapist Theo Faber is convinced he can successfully treat Alicia, where all others have failed. Obsessed with investigating her crime, his discoveries suggest Alicia’s silence goes far deeper than he first thought. And if she speaks, would he want to hear the truth?

I’m only going to write positive, happy, normal thoughts. No crazy thoughts allowed.

Alicia Berenson

What, exactly, is that animalistic draw toward stories involving psychosis and mental institutions? Oh, it’s just me? Maybe it’s just our attempt to understand the whys behind acts we can’t ever fathom doing ourselves. We don’t get it, and we just want to figure it all out. Whatever it is, these stories pull me in and this one was no exception.

I read this book in one day. I am not a fast reader, and I usually have multiple things that pull me away from reading at any given time. But on the day that I read this, I was uninterrupted. Maybe the book gods granted me that time because they knew exactly how this book needed to be digested – in one big gulp. It truly is a page-turner with palpable suspense that grows with each new character introduced, each new bit of the mystery revealed, and each new piece of the puzzle revealed.

But that’s what Alicia did for you. Her silence was like a mirror – reflecting yourself back at you. And it was often an ugly sight.

Theo Faber

Tbh, writing this review is difficult for me. There’s so much I want to just blurt out, but spoilers. So I am keeping it very basic by saying that if you like twisty suspense novels, read The Silent Patient. But don’t just read it in anticipation of a great twist. Read it for the masterful story construction, for the depth of deception, and for the silent accusation on the part of more than just the character of Alicia. It’s a thriller to not be missed.


Alex Michaelides

Born in Cyprus in 1977 to a Greek father and English mother, Alex Michaelides studied English literature at Cambridge University and got his MA in screenwriting at the American Film Institute in Los Angeles. He wrote the film The Devil You Know (2013) and co-wrote The Brits are Coming (2018), THE SILENT PATIENT is his first novel. (-Macmillan)


Sharp Objects

⇒When you shake the family tree and more than a few rotten apples fall out.⇐


Author: Gillian Flynn

(3.95 stars – Goodreads rating)

Genre: Fiction / Mystery / Psychological Thriller

Published 2006by Broadway Paperbacks

Format: Paperback

Pages: 254 (Paperback)

#SharpObjects


I like checking days off a calendar — 151 days crossed and nothing truly horrible has happened. 152 and the world isn’t ruined. 153 and I haven’t destroyed anyone.


About one fourth of the way into this book, I had parts of my review already written. In my head, it was complimentary and mostly lighthearted. Then I kept reading.

While I knew Sharp Objects would be telling a dark story (hellooo, murder), I wasn’t prepared for this next-to-hell level of depravity. Ummm, Gillian, Gone Girl, Dark Places, Sharp Objects? Your therapist is working overtime, sweetie. But I’m glad for it because this book was terribly fantastic.

Here’s the Goodreads blurb: Fresh from a brief stay at a psych hospital, reporter Camille Preaker faces a troubling assignment: she must return to her tiny hometown to cover the murders of two preteen girls. For years, Camille has hardly spoken to her neurotic, hypochondriac mother or to the half-sister she barely knows: a beautiful thirteen-year-old with an eerie grip on the town. Now, installed in her old bedroom in her family’s Victorian mansion, Camille finds herself identifying with the young victims—a bit too strongly. Dogged by her own demons, she must unravel the psychological puzzle of her own past if she wants to get the story—and survive this homecoming.


I’m almost afraid to write this review because I don’t want to give anything away. This is when I could use a little of Flynn’s skill because she gives NOTHING away. Reading Sharp Objects is like lifting off the top of the first Matryoshka doll and finding a rotten egg in there instead of another doll. And then a cockroach inside the egg. And then Ebola inside of the cockroach. Not exaggerating. This story is all kinds of messed up.

They always call depression the blues… Depression to me is urine yellow. Washed out, exhausted miles of weak piss.

Our first-person perspective comes from Camille Preaker, who pretty much proves she’s unreliable and dangerously flawed before we’ve even made it out of the first chapter. But this is the ticket we paid for, so buckle up ’cause it’s gonna be a bumpy ride. As the layers of Camille’s past are peeled away during her visit home to Wind Gap, Missouri, the murders of two young girls almost take a back seat to Camille’s personal family drama. Who are these weirdly damaged people?! Once you meet her mom, stepdad, and half-sister, you start to understand why Camille did a stint in the psych ward; you really can’t blame her. After reading this book, I’m thinking that checking out the Talkspace app may not be such a bad idea.

How do you keep safe when your whole day is as wide and empty as the sky? Anything could happen.

So the book’s subject and events are dark, but I didn’t find it gloomy or depressing. Flynn wraps up all the impending danger and distress like a little present and then stands back like a sinister villain to watch us unwrap it. It’s like watching Black Mirror on Netflix when you think you know what’s going on, but then all of a sudden you’re like, “Wait, what the heck happened just now?!” Same feeling.

Readers of Gone Girl will love Sharp Objects – if they haven’t already read it (I know I’m behind the crowd on this one). It’s suspenseful, gritty, mysterious, and strange. There are almost too many triggers to list for sensitive readers, and if I did try to list them, some might spoil the cleverly crafted plot development.

There isn’t much pretty or clean about it, but it is, in fact, a masterpiece. From the first few paragraphs, I knew Flynn was going to be a force to be reckoned with, and I love her now for that.

To refuse has so many more consequences than submitting.

Camille’s family portrait should be the top-right-corner graphic on the Wikipedia page for “dysfunctional”. (Is dysfunction-in-denial an entry?) As this book ended, I wanted to go hug my family and tell them thank you for always being good to me even if every single one of them is cuckoo-crazy! Oh, and I also kept touching my teeth with my tongue too. Read it, you’ll get it then.


Gillian Flynn

Gillian Flynn is an American author and television critic for Entertainment Weekly. She has so far written three novels, Sharp Objects, for which she won the 2007 Ian Fleming Steel Dagger for the best thriller; Dark Places; and her best-selling third novel Gone Girl.


Hunting Annabelle

⇒A thriller that tests what you do when you can’t trust your own mind, or heart, or anyone and anything else…⇐

**Many thanks to NetGalley, MIRA Books, and the author for the opportunity to read a free ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.


Author: Wendy Heard

(3.96 stars – Goodreads rating)

Genre: Mystery / Psychological Thriller

Format: Kindle

Published December 18, 2018, by MIRA

Pages: 304 (Kindle)

#HuntingAnnabelle


I know what happened. Whether anyone believes me or not, I know.


This book won me over because of two words: Unreliable Narrator! I have read plenty of books where the narrator is untrustworthy, clinically mad, or is operating under certain delusions that cause readers to question the veracity of their storytelling. Since I’ve read so many, you’d think I wouldn’t get excited about one more. Well, you’d be wrong.

Hunting Annabelle is different. It grabbed my interest immediately. Yes, Sean Suh is a shady lead character with a dark and dangerous past (that is craftily revealed over time throughout the book), but he’s still an intriguing young man whose magnetic personality pulls in close to everything he does. He’s unique in his appearance (partially shaved head, goth-dark clothing, and black jelly bracelets crawling up his arms), but he’s also still vulnerable in so many ways. It’s easy for readers to care for him and stand in his corner even though – with every added chapter – Sean shows us all the reasons why we shouldn’t put any faith in him. At all. But before I get too far ahead of myself, here’s the Goodreads blurb…

Sean Suh is done with killing. After serving three years in a psychiatric prison, he’s determined to stay away from temptation. But he can’t resist Annabelle—beautiful, confident, incandescent Annabelle—who alone can see past the monster to the man inside. The man he’s desperately trying to be.  
Then Annabelle disappears.
Sean is sure she’s been kidnapped—he witnessed her being taken firsthand—but the police are convinced that Sean himself is at the center of this crime. And he must admit, his illness has caused him to “lose time” before. What if there’s more to what happened than he’s able to remember?
Though haunted by the fear that it might be better for Annabelle if he never finds her, Sean can’t bring himself to let go of her without a fight. To save her, he’ll have to do more than confront his own demons… He’ll have to let them loose.


What I have can’t be treated. It’s just what I am. I am a predator.

On the surface, Sean is just a man in love trying to solve a mystery about an enigmatic, beautiful young woman he meets. But the story’s undercurrent involves so much more.

There’s the overbearing mother who resents Sean and his sketchy past and seems to think that the perfect combination of medication will cure a multitude of sins. And then there are the skeptical police officers who have made Sean their number one suspect in Annabelle’s disappearance, even though he’s the one that reported it. Finally, Annabelle’s own eccentric grab-bag of acquaintances and relatives lead Sean through some of the most harrowing experiences along his covert amateur investigation, only adding more layers of unpredictability to this already dubious tale. Could Sean, the corrupt ex-con end up being the only true hero in this book?

I have no plan. I’m no hero. I suppose every villain is the hero of his own story.

Wendy Heard tells Sean’s story at a steady pace. There are very few slow sections, which I greatly appreciate. Sean’s prescription drug-addled personality and his sketchy past are revealed in bits and pieces, not just regurgitated in one anticlimactic fact-finding paragraph, which readers have been made the victims of far too many times in the past in mysteries and thrillers.

And now we come full circle back to the number one reason why I enjoyed this book so much – Sean is a perfect unreliable narrator. Any time you read a book written in the first person, you have to ask yourself – even subconsciously – how much do I trust the person who is telling me this story? Well, in this case, you know you’re not supposed to trust Sean. He’s a predator, a bad dude struggling to be good, but not really making it 100% of the time. You know that you should keep him and his “truth”at arm’s length, but he just keeps pulling you back in until, eventually, you just end up buying what he’s selling. Lock, stock, and barrel.

Maybe I was confused about more things than I’d been willing to admit. Maybe I’m crazier than I want to believe.

Read this book for the magnetism of Sean’s mercurial personality and for his unique way of seeing people through synesthesia (a psychological condition through which you can see other people’s auras). Read it for the twisty parts, that don’t all bunch up at the end of the book. And read it to find out who the monsters really are.

Listen to an excerpt of Hunting Annabelle HERE  (Courtesy of Soundcloud)

And if you end up reading and enjoying Hunting Annabelle, look forward to Heard’s next release – as yet untitled – in December 2019 that will feature a female protagonist who is “scrappy, a hopeless smartass, and is covered in tattoos. More importantly, she’s kind, strong, and warm.” – Wendy Heard.


Wendy Heard

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Wendy Heard was born in San Francisco and has lived most of her life in Los Angeles. When not writing, she can be found hiking the Griffith Park trails, taking the Metro and then questioning this decision, and haunting local bookstores.


The Dinner

⇒SHELF-DISCIPLINE SEPTEMBER starts off for me with this dark dinner party of unlikely antiheroes.⇐

by Herman Koch
Translated by Sam Garrett
SmellRating4
(3.22 stars – Goodreads rating)

Published February 12, 2013, by Hogarth

Genre: Fiction / Adult Contemporary

Format: Hardcover

Pages: 292

#TheDinner #ShelfDiscipline #CleartheShelves #ReadWhatYouOwn

This month I’ll be finally committing to reading some of the books that I swear are more than colorful decorations on my bookshelves. I need to do this for my own sanity, and maybe one day I will be able to say that yes, I have in fact read most – if not all – of the books I own. What? A girl can dream!

The DinnerWhen people get a chance to come close to death without having it touch them personally, they never miss the opportunity.

Every month or so, my friends and I get together for a fun little dinner party. We prepare our own food and share it around a table that is overflowing with laughter, life stories, and goodwill. And, oh yes, wine. There’s always wine!

After reading this book, I am so thankful for those cheerful parties and each one of my affable friends.

Only one time did something run amiss at one of my parties – an uninvited person crashed the party and uneasiness threatened to suck all of the air out of my normally welcoming home. It was uncomfortable for a time, but my wonderful friends managed to salvage the night and we laughed about it later.

Unfortunately for the characters in The Dinner, the only laughing being done is somewhat sinister and there is absolutely no salvaging of this strange summer night in Amsterdam.

Unhappiness can’t stand silence – especially not the uneasy silence that settles in when it is all alone.

The story starts off harmlessly enough. Paul Lohman and his wife Claire meet his brother Serge and Serge’s wife, Babette, for dinner at a swanky restaurant. It’s not just a casual night out, there’s something they all need to talk about. A discussion about both of the couples’ sons needs to be had. But that’s not why Paul is annoyed. He seems to be bothered by… everything: The choice of restaurant, the waiter describing the food, even the guy who comes into the bathroom next to him. Claire is cautious too because Babette had been crying before they even reached the restaurant, and for other secret reasons as well. Serge, who is on the political trail to become the next prime minister is his usual confident and demanding self, with something else lying just under the surface. Uncertainty? Anger? Fear? Yes.

By the time dessert is served, the gloves have come off and their lavishly prepared dinner has become only a bothersome backdrop to a frightful new reality. One in which everything they each know is threatened by the actions of people that aren’t even present at the table.

Happiness needs nothing but itself; it doesn’t have to be validated.

The Dinner was not at all what I was expecting. Reading a book like this – one that defies your assumptions and charges down the road less traveled – is what most of us look for from this form of entertainment, right? But as the old saying goes, be careful what you wish for.

This was definitely a dark path and the people I met upon it are not the sort you want to run into after the sun goes down.

I can say, thankfully, that I could not relate to any of these characters. They each had something dark and foreboding about them that made them monstrous in their own right – our unreliable narrator, Paul, the chiefest among villains. His unrelenting negativity and criticisms left a figurative bad taste in my mouth before their dinner had even begun. And Serge, his charismatic brother is the kind of smarmy politician that sours any event. Babette the weepy sister-in-law who constantly interrupts the meal with emotional outbursts may be the most normal out of them all because Claire, Paul’s wife, eventually reveals that her moral compass is dangerously off-kilter.

Koch tells a cheerless but magnetic story where something obviously ominous is hovering over the dinner table at all times. As we start to learn what that “something” is, it’s clear that the darkness isn’t only present at the table, but within these characters and their relatives as well. I was left searching for even one redeeming character among them all – maybe Valerie, the daughter/niece that is hardly mentioned? Maybe her autism gives her position that is apart from and above all the rest of them, so that’s why she has no place in the story (or at the table).

The Dinner is not humorous or endearing in any way. It was a very good read, but maybe not an enjoyable one, if that makes any sense. However, it did make me consider mental health issues much more seriously. By the end, I felt grateful for all the dinner parties I’ve been to that ended only with hugs, more laughter, and takeaway boxes.

Read an excerpt of The Dinner (courtesy Goodreads): HERE


About the Author

Herman KochHERMAN KOCH

Website

Herman Koch (born 1953) is an internationally bestselling author. The translation rights of The Dinner (2009) have been sold to over 55 countries, which is unprecedented for a modern Dutch novel. The Dinner has been adapted into several international stage plays and into a Dutch and Italian movie. The US movie adaptation of The Dinner released in 2017, starring Richard Gere and Laura Linney. Summer House with Swimming Pool (2011) and Dear Mr M. (2014) are international bestsellers as well.

His latest novel The Ditch is enthusiastically received upon publication, and already declared a ‘vintage Koch’.

(Bio adapted from Goodreads)


 

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The Cha-Cha Babes of Pelican Way

⇒What do you do when your neighbors are dropping dead and the police are closing in on you? Well, you Cha-Cha, of course! ⇐

**Many thanks to Andrea at Smith Publicity and the author for the opportunity to read a free ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.

by Frances Metzman

SmellRating3

(3.25 stars – Goodreads rating)

Publish Date: June 21, 2018, by Wild River Consulting & Publishing LLC

Genre: Fiction / Cozy Mystery

Format: Kindle Edition

Pages: 451 pages

#TheChaChaBabesofPelicanWay

The Cha-Cha Babes of Pelican WayWe’re the amazing cha-cha babes who live on Pelican Way. We dance till we drop or they haul us off to jail. Do they dance in prison?

Celia found new life with her retirement community in Florida, and in particular with her two friends Marcy and Deb. They all Cha-Cha together and Celia has found the greatest freedom just from dancing and being with her new best friends. But when other residents start dying inexplicably, suddenly Celia and her friends find themselves in danger and the targets of a police investigation.

The Cha-Cha Babes of Pelican Way was initially engaging and seemed to be a kooky, off-beat mystery with characters that aren’t the usual mystery book personalities. But as the book went on, I found it a little repetitive and slow. Plus, I couldn’t shake the Golden Girl references that kept popping into my head. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I felt like these characters deserved to have their own personalities and didn’t deserve my constant comparisons to Dorothy, Blanche, and Sophia (Rose was kind of mixed up in there too).

Another negative for me was that these women were only in their sixties, but the impression from the story is that their age group is slow, decrepit, and basically at death’s doorstep (until they randomly broke out into the Cha-Cha or playing doubles tennis). That bothered me. I have plenty of relatives and friends in that age group who are very active and healthy and who aren’t on 1000 different medications for all kinds of ailments.

The ultimate mystery, however, was well thought out and clever, but by the end, I think my interest in the story had waned too much for me to get excited over the ultimate resolution. (Plus the daughter in the story, Allison, totally put me off and I couldn’t stand reading her chapters!) Errrggghhhh even now her disrespectful attitude makes me want to spit!

Three stars because, although it wasn’t the book for me, a certain audience might identify more with these characters and find it an enjoyable read; however, there are things about it that might keep me from recommending it to everyone.


About the Author

Frances MetzmanFrances Metzman

Website

Twitter

Award-winning author Fran Metzman is a graduate of the Moore College of Art and the University of Pennsylvania. In addition to publishing numerous short stories and co-authoring her first novel Ugly Cookies with Joy E. Stocke, she also teaches writing at various local colleges and universities. Her blog “The Age of Reasonable Doubt” can be found at Wild River Review, and deals with the mature (and sometimes immature) dating/ relationships and aspects of society that influence all relationships. Her short story “My Inheritance” was nominated for a Dzanc Books Award for Best of the Web. On February 1st 2012, a short story collection, The Hungry Heart Stories, was published. The stories feature tales of people in crisis, yearning for emotional sustenance, and where food occasionally intersects the empty spaces in their hearts.

(Bio taken from her website)



 

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The English Wife

by Lauren Willig
SmellRating3
(3.77 stars – Goodreads rating)

Published January 9, 2018, by St. Martin’s Press

Genre: Historical Fiction / Mystery

Format: Audiobook (Audio CDs)

Narrator:  Barrie Kreinik

Pages: 384 (Hardcover)

#TheEnglishWife

The English WifeIt was very hard to rant while accepting a cup of tea.

So, after typing that quote I will pour my tea and decide not to rant. But I can’t rave either. The English Wife was nothing that I expected it to be, to my great dissatisfaction.

Since I listened to this via audio CDs (from my local library), I popped in the first CD and prepared myself for a perfect historical fiction about a mysterious murder and a well-to-do family in New York in the late 1800s. After the third CD, I was still waiting for the story to take off. After the fifth, I was wondering whether I had picked up the wrong case – surely this is not the book by Lauren Willig that I was so looking forward to!

It hurt to kill a dream, like tearing petals off a rose in full bloom.

Here’s why my expectations were so high: Annabelle and Bayard Van Duyvil are throwing the gathering of the season. Their Twelfth Night Ball is very well-attended and everyone who is anyone is dressed to the nines (in costume, of course). So when Janie Van Duyvil (pronounced “van DIE-vuhl”) finds her brother, Bay, dead and her sister-in-law missing during the ball, she knows it was not a murder-suicide as the newspapers later claim. Janie is sure that there is more to Bay’s death than anyone could ever imagine.

Doesn’t that sound totally captivating?

The mystery of Bay’s death and Annabelle’s disappearance is only one of the plot points: Annabelle’s past in England – complete with a shadowy bad-guy, Janie’s headstrong and worldly cousin Ann who seems to have it out for her for some reason, and Janie’s oppressive mother who clipped Janie’s wings long ago and who constantly reminds her how much she resents her.

An untimely death (or two), an internal family war, shadowy enemies, and newspaper reporters sniffing for blood in the water at every turn. How can you go wrong with all that???

Unfortunately, it did.

What a very odd thing,’ said Janie, ‘to live and leave no mark.

Told across two (very close) timelines – which was often very confusing – and also told from different perspectives, the book’s storyline felt labored and the writing over-explanatory. I felt like I was trudging through the book instead of enjoying it.

I usually really enjoy historical fiction, but this one never took off for me. It had a really s-l-o-w start and despite a compelling mystery at the heart of it, it never seemed to pick up any speed or make me any more interested.

So why three stars instead of two? Two-star books usually aren’t enjoyable AND they make me mad at some point. This one got three because I wanted it to be good so badly, there were exactly two characters that I was rooting for, and the underlying mystery was rich enough that I wanted to know what really happened. So my initial and forced interest ultimately kicked it up a star.

Buy it: AmazonBarnes & NobleIndieboundBooks-A-Million


About the Author

Lauren WilligWebsite

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LAUREN WILLIG is also the author of the New York Times bestselling Pink Carnation series and a RITA Award-winner for Best Regency Historical for The Mischief of the Mistletoe. A graduate of Yale University, she has a graduate degree in English history from Harvard and a J.D. from Harvard Law School. She lives in New York City, where she now writes full time.

(Bio from MacMillan.com)



 

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The Broken Girls

by Simone St. James
SmellRating4
(4.11 stars – Goodreads rating)

Published March 20, 2018, by Berkley Books

Genre: Fiction / Mystery / Thriller

Format: Hardcover

Page Count: 326 pages

#TheBrokenGirls

The Broken GirlsIdlewild was an old place, and the fear here was old fear.

What makes you pick up a book and say, “Oooh, this looks good!”? Is it all about the cover? Or are you pulled in by specific story tropes: courtroom drama, rags to riches romances, etc.? Maybe certain characters always pique your interest, like witches or faeries, or sexy mechanics.

There are certain things that always pull me into a book; a masterfully crafted cover will pull me in, and something like what Simone St. James does with the blurb for The Broken Girls will usually seal the deal.

Blurb:
Vermont, 1950. There’s a place for the girls whom no one wants – the troublemakers, the illegitimate, the too smart for their own good. It’s called Idlewild Hall. And in the small town where it’s located, there are rumors that the boarding school is haunted. Four roommates bond over their whispered fears, their budding friendship blossoming – until one of them mysteriously disappears…

Vermont, 2014. As much as she’s tried, journalist Fiona Sheridan cannot stop revisiting the events surrounding her elder sister’s death. Twenty years ago, her body was found dumped in the overgrown fields near the ruins of Idlewild Hall. And though her sister’s boyfriend was tried and convicted of murder, Fiona can’t shake the suspicion that something was never right about the case. 

When Fiona discovers that Idlewild Hall is being restored by an anonymous benefactor, she decides to write a story about it. But a shocking discovery during the renovations will link the loss of her sister to secrets that were meant to stay hidden in the past – and a voice that won’t be silenced.

Thrillers are definitely my go-to reading genre, but add in dual timelines, a real-life bad guy, and a questionably “real” bad-girl ghost along with a group of headstrong girls at a boarding school and there’s no way I wasn’t plucking this one off the shelf!

We were all so horribly afraid.

The Broken Girls is a Vermont-based thriller with side orders of murder mystery and ghost story. Fiona (“Fee”) Sheridan lost her sister to a senseless murder and nothing has been the same in her life since that day 20 years ago. When she learns that mysterious investors plan on restoring the boarding school that sits on the land where her sister’s body was found, Fee decides to write a story about it for the local newspaper (read: invent an excuse so she can investigate it on her own).

Sounds normal enough start for a mystery novel, right? sure. But the book also flashes back to a 1950’s storyline when the boarding school, Idlewild, was open and the ne’er-do-well girls who lived there were being haunted by a ghost named Mary Hand. Yeah, it gets creepy. I’m glad I read this in the daylight hours because let me tell you, Mary Hand was NOT a Casper-type ghost. This chick is angry!

Mary Hand, Mary Hand, Dead and buried underland. She’ll say she wants to be your friend. Do not let her in again.

There is a lot going on in this book. There is plenty of action going on in 1950 all by itself, then you jump back to Fiona’s storyline in 2014 which includes her freelance journalism (and not-so-private investigating), her unorthodox relationship with her policeman boyfriend, and the constant reminder of her sister’s violent death nagging at her. She just can’t let it go.

That’s a lot to juggle. (Not to mention a couple of really intense chase scenes!) And while St. James didn’t keep it balanced successfully throughout the entire book, the story is still engaging, the characters intriguing, and the ending was hauntingly thrilling.

The best thing about this book is that it’s equally appealing to fans of so many different genres (way to stack the deck Simone!). It’s like a mystery, thriller, horror smorgasbord where nobody leaves the book buffet hungry!

I snagged this book on the cheap at Half-Price Books (and I plan on selling it back to them on my next visit. Perks!), and it was a like-new Book of the Month edition. I love finding great deals on fairly new releases. This was surprisingly my first Simone St. James book, but I would gladly read her again. Her writing style is captivating and her characters come alive with each chapter.

And before I end this review, I have to acknowledge the Book Smell Quote that snuck in between all the drama and screaming! One of the boarding school girls, Sonia, gets a notebook as a gift and she does the first thing you’re OBLIGATED to do when you get a new book of any type…

So Sonia picked it up and opened the notebook. She dipped her head down into the book’s spine, inhaling deeply of the thick papery scent, feeling something strange and calm move down the back of her neck, into her shoulders, her spine. She felt small, prickling sparks in the top of her brain.

THAT’S THAT NEW BOOK SMELL, BABY!


About the Author

Simone St. JamesWebsite

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Instagram

Simone St. James is the award-winning author of Lost Among the Living; The Other Side of Midnight; Silence for the Dead; An Inquiry into Love and Death, which was shortlisted for the Arthur Ellis Award for Best Novel from Crime Writers of Canada; and the The Haunting of Maddy Clare, which won two RITA Awards from Romance Writers of America and an Arthur Ellis Award from Crime Writers of Canada. She wrote her first ghost story, about a haunted library, when she was in high school, and spent twenty years behind the scenes in the television business before leaving to write full-time.

(Bio courtesy of book cover)


 

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The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle

by Stuart Turton

SmellRating4
(4.16 stars – Goodreads rating)

To Be Republished September 4, 2018, by Sourcebooks Landmark

Genre: Fiction / Mystery

Format: Kindle Edition

Page Count: 432 pages

I’d like to believe I’m a good man who came to help, but if that’s the case, I’m making a damn mess of things.

Every night, Evelyn Hardcastle will be murdered at 11:00 p.m. Every night. That is unless Aidan Bishop can solve the mystery of her murder and give her killer’s name to the one pulling all the strings – the Plague Doctor, therefore ending the loop.

I have to admit that this book didn’t grab me at first – there were so many characters, so many events to keep track of, and a lot of incongruous action that happens in and out of time. It was not easy to follow. However, as the truth of Aidan’s involvement becomes apparent, the intricacies of this clever mystery become fully appreciable.

I suddenly have the sense of taking part in a play in which everybody knows their lines but me.

Stuart Turton has written a suspenseful novel with charismatic characters that will at once charm you deeper into the story and baffle your tenuous understanding of it even more.

I recommend this book to lovers of Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot, as well as fans of suspenseful mysteries and whodunits. It’s Groundhog Day with a murder mystery twist.

I can see the breadcrumbs laid out ahead of me, but for all I know, they’re leading me toward a cliff edge.

Many thanks to NetGalley, Sourcebooks Landmark, and the author for the opportunity to read and review this book.


 

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