“Grief is love made homeless.” – Søren Sveistrup, The Chestnut Man
Readers, could it be that I can finally see the light at the end of the reading slump tunnel? Could it possibly be that I may have found a story that is threatening to jostle me out of my media melancholy?
It could most definitely be true. I have made it halfway through this chiller, The Chestnut Man, by way of audiobook (thanks Audible), and I haven’t given up yet. And getting halfway through this 500+ page monster is no small feat!
I’m actually not too terribly surprised that the same guy responsible for Danish police procedural, The Killing, is killing it right now with getting me back on my reading track. This book is just smart enough, just edgy enough, and more than Scandinavian enough to give me all the feels.
So, while this isn’t a true book review… it’s the hint of possible future book review, which is pretty exciting for me to even consider right now!
Not surprisingly, Netflix started filming a six-part series in September for The Chestnut Man. Thank goodness I will have read the book before the series starts. The release date is still TBD, but that just means they’ll have plenty of time to get it just right!
Publication Date: October 5, 2019, by Blackstone Publishing
352 Pages (Paperback) ; 8 hr 22 min (audio)
Nebulah’s not the sort of place people tend to visit on their own.
Natural Disasters. Those are scary words. Instantly, they conjure images of fires, floods, tornadoes, earthquakes, and hurricanes. Your mental Rolodex (there I go dating myself again) may have just flipped through images of demolished buildings, blackened landscapes, and water-logged roads.
We’ve all seen countless news reports about people evacuating ahead of major storm systems, or being rescued after the worst has already happened. But what if the disaster that struck your home, your neighborhood, your town was anything other than… natural?
Lois Murphy takes us to West Australia in her thrilling novel, Soon. Let’s check out the blurb…
An almost deserted town in the middle of nowhere, Nebulah’s days of mining and farming prosperity – if they ever truly existed – are long gone. These days even the name on the road sign into town has been removed. Yet for Pete, an ex-policeman, Milly, Li and a small band of others, it’s the only place they have ever felt at home. One winter solstice, a strange residual and mysterious mist arrives, that makes even birds disappear. It is a real and potent force, yet also strangely emblematic of the complacency and unease that afflicts so many of our small towns, and the country that Murphy knows so well. Partly inspired by the true story of Wittenoom, the ill-fated West Australia asbestos town, Soon is the story of the death of a haunted town, and the plight of the people who either won’t, or simply can’t, abandon all they have ever had. With finely wrought characters and brilliant plotting, it is a taut and original novel, where the people we come to know, and those who are drawn to the town’s intrigue, must ultimately fight for survival.
At another time, in another place, it could be considered quite pleasant.
I watch a lot of strange TV. A lot. I love the shows about the unexplained – especially if it’s caught on camera in grainy black and white. Wait… what? Rewind! Yes, those shows can easily take up an entire Saturday for me.
On one of those shows – please don’t ask me to remember which one – I saw the story of a town that was evacuated because it was built over Hell. OK… that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but the ground underneath this town really was on fire. In 1962, city council thought it was a good idea to try to burn away the garbage in a landfill in time for the good folks of Centralia, Pennsylvania to celebrate Memorial Day. Well, they made it memorable alright. The landfill was built over an abandoned coal mine and when the garbage burned, so did the coal. And it’s still burning TODAY.
The fires underground created hazardous conditions for Centralia residents, and most either fled or were bought out by the government. That town went from a population of 2,700 to only 7 holdouts. SEVEN.
There is such a flatness to the place, accentuated by the absence of birdsong…
What happened in Centralia sounds like a real-life version of the sci-fi stuff that caused all of the residents of Nebulah to evacuate in this book. Only, instead of walking above the devil’s cauldron every day, Nebulah’s citizens are visited by a deadly mist every night.
Where this mist comes from and why it exists are up for debate – and it’s not like that other mist you may be familiar with from another horror author. Nope, this mist captures the souls of the dead inside it. And then they talk to you. Plus, they know all your secrets. You have my permission to shudder now.
I have to pause here because it is supposed to be a scary book. It’s a mist, it kills people. There are people who have stayed behind and are trying to eke out a life in this town that they loved. But their numbers keep dwindling and the mist shows no sign of abating. It’s supposed to be scary!
Only, I wasn’t that scared. I was intrigued (Hey, who are those weird guys in the cars and what do they have to do with the mist coming to town?) I was startled (Hey, they better hurry and get inside before it gets dark because they obviously are cutting it short by being outside this late in the day). And I was confused (OK, so tell me again why these people can’t just leave this haunted town?).
Honestly, I thought the book was interesting for everything else it contained outside of the mist factor. The characters feel like people you really know. You want them to be safe, you want them to leave Nebulah. You love their pets and you remember their favorite foods and who their relatives are. These are your people. But as the mist keeps visiting, you begin to start taking it personally when it isn’t leaving them alone.
With capable and appropriate narration, Soon is better labeled as a suspenseful thriller woven within the threads of the story of a town and its well-meaning, but damaged, people. It’s an allegory for rowdy progress at the hands of men in suits infiltrating towns where people just want life to be as it is. It’s the tale of things done in the dark influencing the lives of others who only live in the light. It’s a sad story, but a good book, written by a talented author. I would never recommend trying to outlast a natural (or unnatural) disaster, but I’d definitely recommend reading about it!
Lois Murphy has traveled widely, most recently spending 6 years wandering around Australia in a homemade 4WD truck. She has won a handful of awards for her short stories, including the Northern Territory Literary Award and the Sisters in Crime Best New Talent Prize. -bio from loismurphy.wordpress.com
Publication Date: July 7, 2020, by Macmillan Audio
Absence of evidence was not evidence of absence.
Ironically, I started reading this book about a day or two after my coworker and I had a conversation about lucid dreams. She had been suffering from a particularly scary nightmare. Having had my own recurring nightmares when I was much younger, I told her a trick that one of my grandparents had shared with me all those years ago.
It involves practicing taking control of your dream while you’re dreaming, so that you’re no longer just a bystander. It really helped me to end some pretty intense bad dreams and I hope it will eventually help her too. We had a great discussion about some methods that she can try, and then we went on about our day.
Little did I know that the subject of dreams – specifically lucid dreaming – wasn’t quite done with me yet. And when I started reading Alex North’s latest release, The Shadows, it felt eerily familiar. Let’s read the synopsis…
You knew a teenager like Charlie Crabtree. A dark imagination, a sinister smile–always on the outside of the group. Some part of you suspected he might be capable of doing something awful. Twenty-five years ago, Crabtree did just that, committing a murder so shocking that it’s attracted that strange kind of infamy that only exists on the darkest corners of the internet–and inspired more than one copycat. Paul Adams remembers the case all too well: Crabtree–and his victim–were Paul’s friends. Paul has slowly put his life back together. But now his mother, old and senile, has taken a turn for the worse. Though every inch of him resists, it is time to come home. It’s not long before things start to go wrong. Reading the news, Paul learns another copycat has struck. His mother is distressed, insistent that there’s something in the house. And someone is following him. Which reminds him of the most unsettling thing about that awful day twenty-five years ago. It wasn’t just the murder. It was the fact that afterward, Charlie Crabtree was never seen again…
People are there, large as life and taken for granted, and then they aren’t.
Thankfully, my dreams didn’t entice me to murder anyone, and I am able even now, to think my way out of some uncomfortable dream situations. But the subject of lucid dreams was really only one part of this multilayered crime thriller. Of course, the top layer is the crime itself – or, in this case, the crimes. Horrific. If you’re at all squeamish about knives or details about child murder, then tread carefully.
But there are also threads of other stories here. Paul’s past relationship with his first love, Jenny, and his current relationship with his ailing mother offer intriguing story lines as the more treacherous plot plays out around him. DI Amanda Beck (from The Whisper Man) also appears in this novel – chasing down leads on copycat murders.
Was it strange to think of the dead as friends?
Ultimately, I was underwhelmed. Save for one huge plot twist that left me reeling, The Shadows didn’t keep me as engaged and page thirsty as The Whisper Man did. It is a fine thriller, I just feel that this release lacks the supernatural oomph that I was expecting and anticipating. In addition to that, the action plodded along with a few open plot holes at the end that just didn’t come together neatly.
Nevertheless, I will still pick up the next Alex North book without hesitation. I don’t know who he is, but it’s clear that he can certainly catch my attention with his creepy thrillers!
Alex North was born in Leeds, England, where he now lives with his wife and son. Alex North is a British crime writer who has previously published under another name. -bio from goodreads.com
⇒It may be the falling leaves, or it may be the cooler weather, but October is my favorite reading time of the year! But what if a spooky TBR just isn’t your thing?⇐
Every October (really, I start in September), I line up a stack of books for my #spookyreads list. Usually they’re a good mix of creepy mystery/thrillers with one or two true horror stories thrown in to really give me a good fright. This year, Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill is honestly giving me a good scare and became a “freezer book” for me more than once! (“Freezer book” – on Friends, when a book becomes too scary for Joey, he puts it in the freezer!)
But what if you’re just not that into being scared out of your wits, but still want to add books to your October TBR that will give you a little thrill and add some suspense to your reading without leaving you wimpering in a corner crying for your mommy. What? I totally did not do that – it’s just an example!
So I thought I’d chat about not one specific book today, but several that may help you celebrate the season in a less horrific way.
The most frightening monsters are the ones that exist in our minds.
A good juicy complex mystery can be a nice filler for an October TBR. It’s the element of suspense that will put you on the edge of your seat. And – if the author is good at what he/she does – the effect will be the same as reading a good horror novel: nail-biting, lip-pursing, eye-bulging, and the urge to read “just one more chapter”! Check out these great mysteries (classics and current) that are perfect whodunits for the season.
I don’t know about you, but some of the creepiest books I’ve ever read are psychological thrillers. If an author can pen a tale that messes with my mind, it’s going to be hard to put down and even harder to forget. Like these…
What is it about kids that can end up being so creepy? Think about it, the laughter of children echoing down a dark hallway, a lone little girl in an empty playground swinging on a squeaky swing set. OK, let me stop – I’m spooking myself! But seriously, sometimes just writing about a child with odd behavior can give you all the chills you need.
Everybody is a book of blood; wherever we’re opened, we’re red.
OK, OK, murder is one of horrific things that can happen in life so how am I OK with including this category in the not-so-scary list? Well, it all depends on how it’s written. Shout out to all the murderinos who can handle gore and a high body count better than ghosts and ghoulies!
Sometimes the best Halloween stories are those that are written for kids. No joke, authors often weave the best tales for the younger generations – and they’re not scary enough to send you running to the freezer with the book!
Whatever reads ultimately end up filling your October reading list, I hope you find them perfect for the season and for your bookshelf. If you know of some spooky books that I should be reading, let me know. Happy not-so spooky reading!
⇒A thrilling illustration of the age-old adage, “If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.”⇐
Lock Every Door is my third #Julybrary book this month. I’m celebrating libraries by challenging myself to only read books either checked out or purchased from the library for a full month. I appreciate my local libraries, so I want to show a little library love in July by supporting them and reading some really good books while doing it!
This place is haunted. By its past. So many bad things have happened there. So much dark history. It fills the place.
When you think of scary stories, one classic image usually comes to mind: a haunted house. Dark, solitary, two elongated windows in the front with eerie candles glowing inside. You know the one.
But in Lock Every Door, Riley Sager introduces us to a building not haunted by spectral malevolence, but by bad memories and living nightmares.
Here’s the synopsis: No visitors. No nights spent away from the apartment. No disturbing the other residents, all of whom are rich or famous or both. These are the only rules for Jules Larsen’s new job as an apartment sitter at the Bartholomew, one of Manhattan’s most high-profile and mysterious buildings. Recently heartbroken and just plain broke, Jules is taken in by the splendor of her surroundings and accepts the terms, ready to leave her past life behind.
As she gets to know the residents and staff of the Bartholomew, Jules finds herself drawn to fellow apartment sitter Ingrid, who comfortingly reminds her of the sister she lost eight years ago. When Ingrid confides that the Bartholomew is not what it seems and the dark history hidden beneath its gleaming facade is starting to frighten her, Jules brushes it off as a harmless ghost story . . . until the next day, when Ingrid disappears.
Searching for the truth about Ingrid’s disappearance, Jules digs deeper into the Bartholomew’s sordid past and into the secrets kept within its walls. What she discovers pits Jules against the clock as she races to unmask a killer, expose the building’s hidden past, and escape the Bartholomew before her temporary status becomes permanent.
There’s not a lot that most of us wouldn’t do for $12,000 – especially if it’s something as seemingly benign as apartment-sitting for a few weeks. Sign me up! I mean, it’s better than eating bugs, or hosting a backyard cockfight, or selling a kidney. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Back to my point, the lure of making easy money would have put me in the same vulnerable position as Jules finds herself within the walls of the luxurious Bartholomew.
This place isn’t kind to gentle souls. It chews them up and shoots then out.
So let’s check off all the things that make this book a great mystery/ thriller: 1. A creepy setting – check. The Bart is old and has a lot of bad juju associated with it. It’s also dark and creaky at night. 2. Creepy characters – check. Everyone at the Bart has secrets, and they aren’t telling. Old or young, all the inhabitants have something to hide and secrets make for a truly seductive mystery. 3. Tragic backstory – check. From Jules to the rest of the apartment-sitters, to the Bart itself, there’s enough tragedy to rival Shakespeare. And 4. Monsters! – check. Not kidding. There are gargoyles in this story. Big, scary, winged ones. Oh, and there are some smaller, more sinister monsters too.
It is indeed a strange, alternate universe I’ve stumbled into.
Sager has a knack for taking you to the brink, flipping everything around, and then yanking you back out to the brink all over again. (What exactly is a brick anyway?) Anyway, he takes you all the way there and you’ll be glad you went.
Riley Sager is the pseudonym of a former journalist, editor and graphic designer. Now a full-time writer, Riley is the author of FINAL GIRLS, an international bestseller that has been published in 25 languages, and the New York Times bestseller THE LAST TIME I LIED.
⇒RELEASE DAY REVIEW! “No one wants the truth. We don’t want to live with it… We long for fabrication, hallucination, false catastrophe. We hunger – all of us – for the distorted mirages…” –The Paper Wasp⇐
**Many thanks to NetGalley, Grove Press, and the author for the opportunity to read a free ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.
We were fortunate to dwell in dreams as long as we did. It’s easier to linger with a partner.
There were a lot of HAGS in my high school yearbook. And just recently, I looked in my daughter’s 5th grade yearbook, and there are a lot of HAGS in there too. And, no, I’m not a mean girl because I’m not talking about anyone’s appearance, LOL. HAGS meant Have A Great Summer back in my day, and the kids are apparently still using it today.
I also saw a lot of KITs (Keep In Touch) with phone numbers scribbled in either box-graphic or bubbly numbers in my yearbook. I only thought fleetingly about what would happen if I called any of those numbers today – some umpteen years after graduation. (What? I am NOT old!!!)
Who would be on the other line? When I graduated, there weren’t any cell phones (do not say a word!), so who would pick up? And those bright-eyed, hopeful kids who artfully crafted their phone numbers onto those yearbook pages beside silk-robed pictures – who are they now?
This is the premise behind The Paper Wasp: Reconnecting. You run into an old classmate at the grocery store while visiting your parents back in your hometown. Their face may be the same but they’ve gained 30 pounds and now have 3 kids and an ex-husband. Or you may see your 10th grade crush suited up on the cover of a business magazine – all glossy and handsome – and you think, what if…
Reconnecting is an iffy prospect. You never know what you’re gonna get. It could be the most fun you’ve ever had, or it could be what happens in The Paper Wasp. Here’s the Goodreads summary:
In small-town Michigan, Abby Graven leads a solitary life. Once a bright student on the cusp of a promising art career, she now languishes in her childhood home, trudging to and from her job as a supermarket cashier. Each day she is taunted from the magazine racks by the success of her former best friend Elise, a rising Hollywood starlet whose life in pictures Abby obsessively scrapbooks. At night Abby escapes through the films of her favorite director, Auguste Perren, a cult figure known for his creative institute the Rhizome. Inspired by Perren, Abby draws fantastical storyboards based on her often premonitory dreams, a visionary gift she keeps hidden. When Abby encounters Elise again at their high school reunion, she is surprised and warmed that Elise still considers her not only a friend but a brilliant storyteller and true artist. Elise’s unexpected faith in Abby reignites in her a dormant hunger, and when Elise offhandedly tells Abby to look her up if she’s ever in LA, Abby soon arrives on her doorstep. There, Abby discovers that although Elise is flourishing professionally, behind her glossy magazine veneer she is lonely and disillusioned. Ever the supportive friend, Abby becomes enmeshed in Elise’s world, even as she guards her own dark secret and burning desire for greatness. As she edges closer to Elise, the Rhizome, and her own artistic ambitions, the dynamic shifts between the two friends–until Abby can see only one way to grasp the future that awaits her.
Suddenly, amazingly, I was your closest confidante. I’d slipped back into your life as if I’d never left, as if we’d somehow awoken from a slumber party as grown women.
I went into this book thinking it would only be about an uncomfortable obsession between old friends. And it was that, at first. But then Acampora takes a swift left turn with the plot and we entered the black hole of platonic relationships – everything gets sucked inside. With an undercurrent of Single White Female vibes, The Paper Wasp creeps slowly, but relentlessly toward a wildly obsessive and threatening middle, denouement, and epilogue.
Written in first person, there is no escaping the immersion into Abby’s steady “enlightened” decline concerning her recovered friendship and all that it means for her imagined future. These are murky waters and fans of good psych thrillers will enjoy treading them.
Who can tell what breath entered into me, after that, and told me what movements to make? I have as much a grasp of it as you do, Elise.
This book is socially awkward and satisfyingly creepy. Plus, it is a logophile’s absolute wet dream. So why only 3.5 stars? Because the story noticeably sags a bit in the middle. We leave sunny California (and most of our characters) for the relative obscurity of small-town Michigan to pick up some necessary plot points and it feels off-kilter, as if specific issues and connections are ultimately left unresolved. This action happens at a pivotal point in the story and it disrupts the forward momentum. Plus, I was looking forward to more of a tie-in with Abby’s prophetic dreams. They are often discussed, but never “explained” or explored deeply. That seems a waste.
Still, Acampora is a gifted writer and The Paper Wasp will keep you on your toes the next time you run into an old friend, classmate, or colleague. No, I’m not a famous actress, but from now on I am going to be very careful while responding to Facebook friend requests!
The Paper Wasp is available today at the following links:
Lauren graduated from Brown University, earned an MFA at Brooklyn College, and has received fellowships from the MacDowell Colony, the Ucross Foundation, Writers OMI International Residency, and the Ragdale Foundation. Raised in Connecticut, she now lives in Westchester County, New York, with her husband, artist Thomas Doyle, and their daughter.
Let me say first that if you are looking for a series to get invested in, Dean Koontz has some wonderful, easy reads that will keep you on a series train for a nice, pleasant (tense, suspenseful, thrilling, sometimes scary) ride. The Bone Farm is book #0.5 (a case file that precedes the events of the Jane Hawk series), and is every bit as engaging as its older, bigger siblings. But if death-defying females aren’t your thing (hmm, who are you?), then you could try any of Koontz’s other appealing series: Odd Thomas, 9 books that will have you seeing death in a whole new light; Frankenstein, a new look at an old monster in 6 books; or Moonlight Bay, 3 books (2 pub & 1 on the way) that will test if you can survive the darkness of night. I’ve read all of Odd Thomas (love, love, love) and Moonlight Bay (well, not book 3 because it isn’t out yet (and may actually never happen). And I read Prodigal Son of his Frankenstein series last year (sooooo good). Dean Koontz has yet to disappoint me.
But let me back up a little and give you the Goodreads blurb on The Bone Farm:
Katherine Haskell, a young college co-ed is on her way back to school, but she never makes it there. Instead, she becomes the latest prey of the rapist and murderer dubbed by the tabloids the “Mother Hater.” He is a twisted soul who kidnaps young girls for pleasure then discards them.Katherine is missing, but she’s not yet dead. FBI agents Jane Hawk and her partner Gary Burkett must descend into the hell of this killer’s mind to solve the case before it is too late. The question is – will they both get out alive?
This novella is presented as a case file which only hypes me up that there will be more of these – oh book gods, please don’t fail us on this one. The bad guy is bat$&!# cuckoo, Jane is smart and ruthless, there’s a controlling mother, and an old creepy farm house – I’m here for ALL of it!!!! I almost wrote a spoiler right there because I got excited, but stopped myself right in time. Y’all lucked out. But just know, it gets twisty and good!
The Bone Farm is part of the Jane Hawk series, which includes 6 other books to date. The series features a strong heroine in an all-out battle against a new world order. The books are suspenseful, thrilling, and addictive. In a word, readthem. (I know, I know. Just do it.)
So since we’re talking about series, I thought I’d spotlight just a few of the other series that I have followed unfailingly over the years. Most of them are in my preferred genre of mystery/thrillers, but there are a few deviants in the bunch. And you might be surprised by what you won’t find on my list: namely, Harry Potter. (No shade! I just haven’t read them!)
One of my longest-standing series, I got hooked on Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child’s series featuring the enigmatic Aloysius X.L. Pendergast from the very first book, Relic (read the book, skip the movie) – even though he was only a supporting character way back then. The authors obviously saw something in him and took off running with his story, and it has been a favorite ever since.
Many readers will own up to the fact that they have at least one numbered (or alphabetical) series on their reading list. Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series is mine. She just released book #25 last year and Twisted Twenty-Six is expected in November 2019. These books are cozy crime fiction with hilarious characters that become as familiar as your own family members. I don’t care if this series goes to 200, I am never not going to read a Stephanie Plum book. And oh, by the way, #teamRanger.
Please, please, please do me a favor and tell me that you did not watch the movies that were supposed to depict this character. And if you did, just forget all that you saw. This Jack Reacher – The REAL Jack Reacher (yes, he’s real to me) – is bigger than life and yet can disappear at a moment’s notice (just thought about that – Sasquatch tendencies? Hmmm…). He is such a fascinating personality with such an amazing skill set (think Taken, but with a brilliant, powerful, Matrix-like Army drifter). Reacher is BIG and BRAWNY, but he is not beautiful. He’s a brawler that doesn’t want to fight unless he has to. And then he’s deadly.
Crazy Rich Asiansis a new series for me. I only started reading it because I saw that the movie was releasing soon and I happened to find the first book on the shelf at my neighborhood Goodwill store (where I buy most of my books). After I read it, I went back and found the other two there as well (I have some very generous, good-taste readers in my area, apparently)! I love the humor of this series, as well as the way they sneak social commentary into the text without being preachy or judgy. (It’s a word!)
(Seriously, these are as good as – or even better than – the HBO show)
So if you’re a dedicated series reader, stick with it because series = goals! And if you haven’t found a series you love yet, keep looking – there’s a perfect succession of books out there just waiting to be discovered. Happy Reading!
Published September 11, 2018, by Bantam (Brilliance Audio)
Pages: 480 (Hardcover) ; Audible Audio (14:57)
This is a world of lies and always has been. We live in a time of even greater deceptions than in centuries past.
You’ve read the books where the hero – and even the bad guy – is highly motivated to do what they do because of their love for their kids. This is that, but on steroids.
This is a gritty story with some really brutal and insane bad guys, some intensely damaged victims, and a “she-ro” who has to be really tired by now.
Not familiar with this series? Here’s a blurb of this book: She was one of the FBI’s top agents until she became the nation’s most-wanted fugitive. Now Jane Hawk may be all that stands between a free nation and its enslavement by a powerful secret society’s terrifying mind-control technology. She couldn’t save her husband, or the others whose lives have been destroyed, but equipped with superior tactical and survival skills- and the fury born of a broken heart and a hunger for justice- Jane has struck major blows against the insidious cabal. But Jane’s enemies are about to hit back hard. If their best operatives can’t outrun her, they mean to bring her running to them, using her five-year-old son as bait. Jane knows there’s no underestimating their capabilities, but she must battle her way back across the country to the remote shelter where her boy is safely hidden… for now.
We’re rewriting the play, and the play is this country, the world, the future. We break Jane’s heart, we’ll also break her will.
OK, in this one, lots of people are crazy. And I don’t say that word lightly. I mean, certifiable. Book #4 has a lot going on: chases, subterfuge, tech-talk, nano bites, hand-to-hand battles, and… oh yeah, zombies. Yes, you read that correctly. Zombies.
The bad guys are worse and they seem to have even more resources. However, Jane isn’t lacking in that department either, and when the battle comes to a head with Jane’s son in the cross hairs, all her friends and supporters (those who are still alive, that is) come together to help her save yet another day.
Beware actors who can be anyone they wish to be; they are in fact no one at all, cold and empty, though they can be pied pipers to the masses.
This series feels a little different from your standard Dean Koontz fare, even though it is still action-centered, has that other-worldly element, and – oh yes – it has dogs. So if you’re a Koontz purist, this isn’t a departure by any means. And with a more satisfying “ending” than book #3, The Forbidden Door still leaves readers waiting with baited breath for Book #5, The Night Window (releasing May 14, 2019).
Readers should be aware, though, that there is gratuitous violence of several types, discussion of rape, murder, etc. Sensitive readers won’t get a reprieve until the last page. Fair warning.
Acknowledged as “America’s most popular suspense novelist” (Rolling Stone) and as one of today’s most celebrated and successful writers, Dean Ray Koontz has earned the devotion of millions of readers around the world and the praise of critics everywhere for tales of character, mystery, and adventure that strike to the core of what it means to be human. -Bio from Goodreads
Publish Date: August 21, 2018, by St. Martin’s Press
Genre: Women’s Fiction / Thriller
Format: Kindle Edition
Pages: 352 pages (Paperback)
I had a choice to make, a bluff to call, and a girl to protect. I had no idea what to do next.
I don’t know if you believe in astrology at all. Usually, I only give it the faintest corner of my attention. But, as a designated Libra (October 13th), I found my scales woefully unbalanced and wobbling all over the place as I read this book about a kidnapper, a mother, and the grey-eyed girl that comes between them.
As a mother myself, I automatically know which side of that battle I’m supporting, right? Not necessarily. And that’s only one reason why this book had me on the edge of my seat and at the border of my morals with every chapter.
That’s what I’m going with: my intention to keep her safe. In spite of the facts, in spite of what I’ve done. Because it feels right. Being with Emma feels right.
Here’s the gist: Sarah Walker is really minding her own business, waiting for a flight, when she witnesses something that she hasn’t been able to shake: a mother being physically and verbally abusive to her young daughter. Sarah, young and successful, but childless and just recently single again, can’t seem to forget about the beautiful grey-eyed girl with the red dress and red hairbow that seemed to desperately need someone’s help. Days later, when their paths randomly cross again, Sarah knows what she has to do, but that one decision will change everything about her life forever.
Amy Townsend is tired. She has two kids, a job, and a husband who is more like a milquetoast roommate. She’s overweight, overloaded, and just over all of it. Sure she loses her temper sometimes, what tired mother with the strain of kids and career doesn’t? Sure she lashes out at life – and her obnoxious daughter – sometimes. Does that make her a bad parent? There’s just something about Emma that just pulls the anger out of her. It’s like she’s asking for it. So Amy gives it to her.
Emma just wants to play and have fun. Hey, she’s five!
Emma was the chaos, and now, in her absence, there was even more. She was like a tiny wrecking ball, knocking down everything in her path just to see how much damage she could get away with.
Not Her Daughter had me in my emotions from the very first chapter. I am constantly concerned with where my daughter is and making sure she’s safe and happy. So, it was hard for me to (1) initially connect with what Sarah wanted to do, and (2) feel any sympathy whatsoever for Emma’s parents and their collective lack of care for their daughter. While reading, I battled with questions like: As a reader how am I supposed to feel about Sarah’s intentions? What about as a parent? Or as a moral, ethical human being? And once you read this book, you may find that, like me, those questions came with three totally different answers.
As the book progressed, I found myself flip-flopping over whether or not Sarah was a hero or a villain. I settled on Antihero. There’s no way in the world her actions could be justified, and yet…
Just for the record, I never sided with Amy, Emma’s mom. She’s a nasty piece of work and I wanted to smack her with a jelly roll every time she spoke. Mean old bat.
Written in multiple POVs, across four different timelines (“before”, “during”, “after”, and “now” – all in relation to the kidnapping), and in both first and third person, Not Her Daughter could have been quite confusing if not for Frey’s careful and patient story and character development. There’s a lot of jumping around from past to near past to present to an even more present present, but trust me, you’ll get it. It flows.
I initially liked the same characters that I ended up criticizing later, and vice versa. There are no guarantees in this book, and that makes for great storytelling. If I had any reservations, it would be that a couple of strings were left hanging for me: What happens with the relationship between Sarah and her mom? In this day and age, where was any mention of video surveillance of Sarah and Emma as they shopped or stopped for gas or ate in restaurants? Isn’t that how many kidnappers get caught? And another string that I can’t really mention because it would be a spoiler, but it left me with some questions.
4.5 well-earned stars for this wonderful read that left me battling both my ethics and my morals and still coming up with question marks. What would I have done? Would I have been as brave? As stupid? I love the books that make you question life choices this way!