Spring Book Preview: May 2014, Part III

Whew! What a month for books! Below please find the last of my most anticipated books for May! Don’t forget to check out Parts I & II!

Hangman by Stephan Talty (May 13): New York Times bestselling author Stephan Talty follows the critically-acclaimed Black Irish with the next installment in an explosive crime series sure to please fans of Jo Nesbo, Karin Slaughter, and Tana French.

When a predatory serial killer known as the Hangman escapes incarceration, throwing his hometown of Buffalo into a fearful panic, homicide detective Absalom “Abbie” Kearney is tasked with finding him before he claims another victim. Abbie, still reeling from her encounter with a twisted killer whose dark past entwined closely with her own, tracks the murderer to within miles of the city limits, where a teen girl suddenly goes missing. The Buffalo P.D. is on high alert, but the Hangman continues to evade capture even as more girls disappear, and Abbie suspects someone may be helping him. Unsure who to trust in a city of shadows and secrets, Abbie turns to the Network, a shady consortium of Buffalo old boys and ex-cops, when a cease and desist order from the police chief seems to confirm her theories. As she draws closer to the truth, the Hangman ratchets up the stakes, kidnapping a girl from a prestigious local school with the clear message that Abbie has only hours left to save her.

Bittersweet by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore (May 13): Ordinary and unassuming, Mabel wins a scholarship at a prestigious East Coast college and is assigned the beautiful, blue-blooded Genevra Winslow as her roommate. Ev soon invites Mabel to spend the summer at her cottage, Bittersweet, on the lakeside Vermont estate where her family has held court for more than a century.

Usually an outsider, Mabel is thrilled to be surrounded by WASPs, yachts, and wealth she’d only imagined-but when everything isn’t exactly as she pictured it, she can’t put her finger on what’s wrong. At first, she is overjoyed to spend her days basking in the Winslows’ pristine privilege; she swims in the lake, flirts with handsome men, and plays house with the roommate she worships. But ever so gradually she discovers that this glittering façade masks ambiguous morals and dark truths, both about personal indiscretions and the sources of the family fortune. Mabel must choose: expose the lies surrounding her and face expulsion from paradise, or immerse herself in their darkness and fulfill her dreams by becoming one of Them.

Motherless Child by Glen Hirshberg (May 13): In his powerful novel, Motherless Child, Bram Stoker Award–nominee Glen Hirshberg, author of the International Horror Guild Award–winning American Morons, exposes the fallacy of the Twilight-style romantic vampire while capturing the heart of every reader.

It’s the thrill of a lifetime when Sophie and Natalie, single mothers living in a trailer park in North Carolina, meet their idol, the mysterious musician known only as “the Whistler.” Morning finds them covered with dried blood, their clothing shredded and their memories hazy. Things soon become horrifyingly clear: the Whistler is a vampire and Natalie and Sophie are his latest victims. The young women leave their babies with Natalie’s mother and hit the road, determined not to give in to their unnatural desires.

Hunger and desire make a powerful couple. So do the Whistler and his Mother, who are searching for Sophie and Natalie with the help of Twitter and the musician’s many fans. The violent, emotionally moving showdown between two who should be victims and two who should be monsters will leave readers gasping in fear and delight.

Originally published in a sold-out, limited edition, Motherless Child is an extraordinary Southern horror novel that Tor Books is proud to bring to a wider audience.

Bone Dust White by Karin Salvalaggio (May 13): When a young woman witnesses the murder of her mother who had abandoned her as a child, Detective Macy Greeley must return to solve the murder and stop a killer in this incredible debut

Someone is knocking at the door to Grace Adams’ house, and he won’t stop. Grace thinks she knows who it is, but when she goes to her second floor window for a look she sees a woman she doesn’t recognize. The woman isn’t alone for long before a man emerges from the dark of the surrounding woods, stabs her, and leaves her for dead. Trying to help, Grace goes to the woman and is shocked to find that it’s her mother Leanne—a woman who abandoned her 11 years before. There’s nothing she can do, and Leanne is already past the point where she can tell Grace what happened all those years ago or why she came back now.

While Grace was only a child when Leanne left her, Detective Macy Greeley has been waiting for Leanne ever since she disappeared from Collier, MT. She’s looking to close a case that has been haunting the town for far too long, but Collier is a hard-bitten place where the people are fierce when it comes to keeping their feuds between themselves and keeping secrets hidden in the past.

Karin Salvalaggio’s outstanding crime fiction debut Bone Dust White is an absolutely stunning work that signals the entrance of a major new talent.

Cutting Teeth by Julia Fierro (May 13):

One late-summer weekend, a group of thirty-something Brooklyn parents and their children gather at a shabby beach house called “Eden,” but their trip is a far cry from paradise

The parents include:
—Nicole: the beach house is her parents’. She’s made sure to be there for the weekend, terrified by internet rumors that something big and bad is going to happen in New York City that week.
—Susanna and Allie: the enviable two-mommy couple with twins, they’ve tied the knot the day they drove out to Long Island; it’s easy to reduce them to a modern urban cliché but nobody sees the reality of their struggles.
—Rip: the sole dad in the playgroup, desperate to have a second child, but his take-no-prisoners wife Grace isn’t on board; after all, they had to use a sperm donor for Hank, so why does Rip even care?
—Tiffany: beyond comfortable with her (amazing) body, she wasn’t born into the upper middle class world all the others were; she propelled herself from a chaotic childhood to land a nice life; will what she brings to this weekend blow it all up?
—Leigh: has hired the magic nanny everyone wants, and has rubbed that in the other parents’ faces by bringing Tenzin along. Tenzin, however, whose own children live thousands of miles away in India, sees the parents from a different perspective.


As the weekend unfolds and conflicts intensify, painful truths surface. Friendships crack. Two days together in Eden will change the group forever. A warm, smart and unpretentious literary novel, CUTTING TEETH is involving and thought-provoking, for readers of Tom Perrotta and Meg Wolitzer.

Black Lake by Johanna Lane (May 20): A debut novel about a family losing grip of its legacy: a majestic house on the cliffs of Ireland.

The Campbells have lived happily at Dulough–an idyllic, rambling estate isolated on the Irish seaside–for generations. But upkeep has drained the family coffers, and so John Campbell must be bold: to keep Dulough, he will open its doors to the public as a museum. He and his wife, daughter, and son will move from the luxury of the big house to a dank, small caretaker’s cottage. The upheaval strains the already tenuous threads that bind the family and, when a tragic accident befalls them, long-simmering resentments and unanswered yearnings surface.

As each character is given a turn to speak, their voices tell a complicated, fascinating story about what happens when the upstairs becomes the downstairs, and what legacy is left when family secrets are revealed.

The Three by Sarah Lotz (May 20):Four simultaneous plane crashes. Three child survivors. A religious fanatic who insists the three are harbingers of the apocalypse. What if he’s right?

The world is stunned when four commuter planes crash within hours of each other on different continents. Facing global panic, officials are under pressure to find the causes. With terrorist attacks and environmental factors ruled out, there doesn’t appear to be a correlation between the crashes, except that in three of the four air disasters a child survivor is found in the wreckage.

Dubbed ‘The Three’ by the international press, the children all exhibit disturbing behavioural problems, presumably caused by the horror they lived through and the unrelenting press attention. This attention becomes more than just intrusive when a rapture cult led by a charismatic evangelical minister insists that the survivors are three of the four harbingers of the apocalypse. The Three are forced to go into hiding, but as the children’s behaviour becomes increasingly disturbing, even their guardians begin to question their miraculous survival…

 
Resistant by Michael Palmer (May 20): From the New York Times bestselling author another heart stopping thriller at the crossroads of politics and medicine and featuring Dr. Lou Welcome.  When Lou has to fill in last minute for his boss at the Physical Wellness Office, giving a speech at a national conference in Atlanta, he takes an exclusive tour of the Center for Disease Control.  He can’t help but wonder about the development of weapons of mass destruction at a bacterial level as he watches scientists talk about antibacterial resistance and biological weapon agents before disappearing into mysterious restricted labs.  Little does Lou know that a scientist working a top secret case will be kidnapped, and he will become enmeshed in a case that could have fatal consequences across the country.    

My Real Children by Jo Walton (May 20): It’s 2015, and Patricia Cowan is very old. “Confused today,” read the notes clipped to the end of her bed. She forgets things she should know—what year it is, major events in the lives of her children. But she remembers things that don’t seem possible. She remembers marrying Mark and having four children. And she remembers not marrying Mark and raising three children with Bee instead. She remembers the bomb that killed President Kennedy in 1963, and she remembers Kennedy in 1964, declining to run again after the nuclear exchange that took out Miami and Kiev.

Her childhood, her years at Oxford during the Second World War—those were solid things. But after that, did she marry Mark or not? Did her friends all call her Trish, or Pat? Had she been a housewife who escaped a terrible marriage after her children were grown, or a successful travel writer with homes in Britain and Italy? And the moon outside her window: does it host a benign research station, or a command post bristling with nuclear missiles?

Two lives, two worlds, two versions of modern history; each with their loves and losses, their sorrows and triumphs. My Real Children is the tale of both of Patricia Cowan’s lives…and of how every life means the entire world.​

Whew! I think that covers them all! So, tell me! What books are you most looking forward to in May? Which ones did I miss?

Spring Book Preview: May 2014, Part II

Yesterday, I shared with you the first half of my “most anticipated books” for May post. Today I’m excited to share with you the second part of this list. Like with yesterday’s list, click on the book image or title to pre-order.

Midnight Crossroad by Charlaine Harris (May 6): FIRST IN A NEW TRILOGY
From Charlaine Harris, the bestselling author who created Sookie Stackhouse and her world of Bon Temps, Louisiana, comes a darker locale—populated by more strangers than friends. But then, that’s how the locals prefer it…

Welcome to Midnight, Texas, a town with many boarded-up windows and few full-time inhabitants, located at the crossing of Witch Light Road and Davy Road. It’s a pretty standard dried-up western town.

There’s a pawnshop (someone lives in the basement and is seen only at night). There’s a diner (people who are just passing through tend not to linger). And there’s new resident Manfred Bernardo, who thinks he’s found the perfect place to work in private (and who has secrets of his own).

Stop at the one traffic light in town, and everything looks normal. Stay awhile, and learn the truth…

Wolf by Mo Hader (May 6): Wolf kicks off when a vagrant-the Walking Man, an enigmatic, recurring character in Hayder’s fiction-finds a dog wandering alone with a scrap of paper with the words “HELP US” attached to its collar. He’s sure it’s a desperate plea from someone in trouble and calls on Detective Inspector Jack Caffery to investigate. Caffery is reluctant to get involved-until the Walking Man promises in exchange new information regarding the childhood disappearance of Caffery’s brother. Caffery has no idea who or what he is searching for, but one thing he is sure of: it’s a race against time.

Meanwhile, the Anchor-Ferrers, a wealthy local family, are fighting for their lives, held hostage in their remote home ten miles away. As their ordeal becomes increasingly bizarre and humiliating, the family begins to wonder: is this really a random crime?

The Bees by Laline Paul (May 6):Born into the lowest class of her rigid, hierarchical society, Flora 717 is a sanitation worker, an Untouchable fit only to clean and remove the bodies of the dead from her orchard hive. As part of the collective, she is taught to Accept, Obey, Serve—work and sacrifice are the highest virtues, and worship of her beloved Queen the only religion. Her society is governed by the priestess class, questions are forbidden, and all thoughts belong to the Hive Mind.

But Flora is not like other bees—a difference that holds profound consequences. With circumstances threatening the hive’s survival, her curiosity is regarded as a dangerous flaw but her courage and strength are an asset. She is allowed to feed the newborns in the royal nursery and then to become a forager, flying alone and free to collect pollen. She also finds her way into the Queen’s inner sanctum, where she discovers mysteries about the hive that are both profound and ominous.

But when Flora breaks the most sacred law of all—daring to challenge the Queen’s fertility—enemies abound, from the fearsome fertility police who enforce the strict social hierarchy; to the high priestesses jealously wedded to power. Her deepest instincts to serve and sacrifice are now overshadowed by an even deeper desire, a fierce maternal love that will bring her into conflict with her conscience, her heart, her society—and lead her to unthinkable deeds.

Part parable, part coming-of-age story, part pure page-turner, Laline Paull’s chilling yet ultimately triumphant novel creates a luminous world that is simultaneously foreign and utterly familiar. Thrilling and imaginative, The Bees is the story of a strong-willed heroine who, in the face of an increasingly desperate struggle for survival, changes her destiny and her world.

The Painter by Peter Heller (May 6): Jim Stegner has seen his share of violence and loss. Years ago he shot a man in a bar. His marriage disintegrated. He grieved the one thing he loved. In the wake of tragedy, Jim, a well-known expressionist painter, abandoned the art scene of Santa Fe to start fresh in the valleys of rural Colorado. Now he spends his days painting and fly-fishing, trying to find a way to live with the dark impulses that sometimes overtake him. He works with a lovely model. His paintings fetch excellent prices. But one afternoon, on a dirt road, Jim comes across a man beating a small horse, and a brutal encounter rips his quiet life wide open. Fleeing Colorado, chased by men set on retribution, Jim returns to New Mexico, tormented by his own relentless conscience.

A stunning, savage novel of art and violence, love and grief, The Painter is the story of a man who longs to transcend the shadows in his heart, a man intent on using the losses he has suffered to create a meaningful life.

Invisible City by Julia Dahl (May 6): Just months after Rebekah Roberts was born, her mother, an Hasidic Jew from Brooklyn, abandoned her Christian boyfriend and newborn baby to return to her religion. Neither Rebekah nor her father have heard from her since. Now a recent college graduate, Rebekah has moved to New York City to follow her dream of becoming a big-city reporter. But she’s also drawn to the idea of being closer to her mother, who might still be living in the Hasidic community in Brooklyn.

Then Rebekah is called to cover the story of a murdered Hasidic woman. Rebekah’s shocked to learn that, because of the NYPD’s habit of kowtowing to the powerful ultra-Orthodox community, not only will the woman be buried without an autopsy, her killer may get away with murder. Rebekah can’t let the story end there. But getting to the truth won’t be easy—even as she immerses herself in the cloistered world where her mother grew up, it’s clear that she’s not welcome, and everyone she meets has a secret to keep from an outsider.

In her riveting debut, journalist Julia Dahl introduces a compelling new character in search of the truth about a murder and an understanding of her own heritage.

Bird Box by Josh Malerman (May 13): Something is out there . . .

Something terrifying that must not be seen. One glimpse and a person is driven to deadly violence. No one knows what it is or where it came from.

Five years after it began, a handful of scattered survivors remain, including Malorie and her two young children. Living in an abandoned house near the river, she has dreamed of fleeing to a place where they might be safe. Now, that the boy and girl are four, it is time to go. But the journey ahead will be terrifying: twenty miles downriver in a rowboat—blindfolded—with nothing to rely on but her wits and the children’s trained ears. One wrong choice and they will die. And something is following them. But is it man, animal, or monster?

Engulfed in darkness, surrounded by sounds both familiar and frightening, Malorie embarks on a harrowing odyssey—a trip that takes her into an unseen world and back into the past, to the companions who once saved her. Under the guidance of the stalwart Tom, a motely group of strangers banded together against the unseen terror, creating order from the chaos. But when supplies ran low, they were forced to venture outside—and confront the ultimate question: in a world gone mad, who can really be trusted?

Interweaving past and present, Josh Malerman’s breathtaking debut is a horrific and gripping snapshot of a world unraveled that will have you racing to the final page.

To Rise Again at a Decent Hour by Joshua Ferris (May 13): Paul O’Rourke is a man made of contradictions: he loves the world, but doesn’t know how to live in it. He’s a Luddite addicted to his iPhone, a dentist with a nicotine habit, a rabid Red Sox fan devastated by their victories, and an atheist not quite willing to let go of God.

Then someone begins to impersonate Paul online, and he watches in horror as a website, a Facebook page, and a Twitter account are created in his name. What begins as an outrageous violation of his privacy soon becomes something more soul-frightening: the possibility that the online “Paul” might be a better version of the real thing. As Paul’s quest to learn why his identity has been stolen deepens, he is forced to confront his troubled past and his uncertain future in a life disturbingly split between the real and the virtual.

At once laugh-out-loud funny about the absurdities of the modern world, and indelibly profound about the eternal questions of the meaning of life, love and truth, TO RISE AGAIN AT A DECENT HOUR is a deeply moving and constantly surprising tour de force.

The Transcriptionist by Amy Rowland (May 13): Once, there were many transcriptionists at the Record, a behemoth New York City newspaper, but new technology and the ease of communication has put most of them out of work. So now Lena, the last transcriptionist, sits alone in a room–a human conduit, silently turning reporters’ recorded stories into print–until the day she encounters a story so shocking that it shatters the reverie that has become her life.

This exquisite novel, written by a woman who spent more than a decade as a transcriptionist at the New York Times, asks probing questions about journalism and ethics, about the decline of the newspaper and the failure of language. It is also the story of a woman’s effort to establish her place in an increasingly alien and alienating world.

Remember Me Like This by Bret Anthony (May 13): Since Justin Campbell’s disappearance four years ago, his family have been stuck in the grooves of grief, unable to comfort themselves let alone one another. His mother, his father, his younger brother, each have been living in a dream world for the last 4 years, coping the best they can.

And then the call from the police. Justin has been found and he is okay. It is a miracle.

But instead of righting the imbalances within this struggling family, Justin’s return only lays bare the effects of his trauma, both on himself and his family, threatening to snap the last threads that hold the Campbells together.

Johnston’s brilliant debut begins where others novels end, exploring not the crime of the abduction, but all of the unresolved questions about what really happens when a family’s prayers have finally been answered and togetherness restored.

Didn’t I tell you May was an excellent book month? Stay tuned tomorrow for the final “most anticipated books” of May posts!

Spring Book Preview: May 2014, Part I

Spring is finally here! I don’t know about you, but there is nothing I like more than spending the weekend out on the patio, curled up with a great book.  May is a great month of books, so much so that I’ve broken up my list into three! Following is the first of this “trilogy” of sorts, books releasing in the first week of May!

I’ve included the publisher summary and a link to preorder (click on either the title or the book cover) if you are so inclined!

What Has Become of You by Jan Elizabeth Watson (May 1): What Has Become of You follows Vera Lundy, an aspiring crime writer and master of self-deprecation who, like many adults, has survived adolescence but hasn’t entirely overcome it. When she agrees to fill in for a private school English teacher on maternity leave, teaching The Catcher in the Rye to privileged girls, Vera feels in over her head. The students are on edge, too, due to the recent murder of a local girl close to their age.

Enter Jensen Willard. At fifteen she’s already a gifted writer but also self-destructive and eerily reminiscent of Vera’s younger self. As the two outcasts forge a tentative bond, a sense of menace enfolds their small New England town. When another student, new to the country, is imperiled by her beliefs, Vera finds herself in the vortex of danger—and suspicion.

With the threat of a killer at large, the disappearance of her increasingly worrisome pupil, and her own professional reputation at stake, Vera must thread her way among what is right by the law, by her students, and by herself. In this poignant page-turner, populated with beguiling characters and sharp social insights, coming-of-age can happen no matter how old you are.

The Confabulist The Confabulist by Steven Galloway (May 1):  From the author of The Cellist of Sarajevo, an exciting new novel that uses the life and sudden death of Harry Houdini to weave a tale of magic, intrigue, and illusion.

What is real and what is an illusion? Can you trust your memory to provide an accurate record of what has happened in your life?

The Confabulist is a clever , entertaining, and suspenseful narrative that weaves together the rise and fall of world-famous Harry Houdini with the surprising story  of Martin Strauss, an unknown man whose fate seems forever tied to the magician’s in a way that will ultimately  startle and amaze. It is at once a vivid portrait of an alluring, late-nineteenth/early-twentieth-century world; a front-row seat to a world-class magic show; and an unexpected love story. In the end, the book is a kind of magic trick in itself: there is much more to Martin than meets the eye.

Historically rich and ingeniously told, this is a novel about magic and memory, truth and illusion, and the ways that love, hope, grief, and imagination can—for better or for worse—alter what we perceive and believe.

The Blessings by Elise Juska (May 6): In the tradition of J. Courtney Sullivan’s Maine and Jennifer Close’s Girls in White Dresses comes a wonderful novel about a tight-knit Irish Catholic clan over the course of twenty years.

When John Blessing dies and leaves behind two small children, the loss reverberates across his extended family for years to come. His young widow, Lauren, finds solace in her large clan of in-laws, while his brother’s wife Kate pursues motherhood even at the expense of her marriage. John’s teenage nephew Stephen finds himself involved in an act of petty theft that takes a surprising turn, and nephew Alex, a gifted student, travels to Spain and considers the world beyond his family’s Northeast Philadelphia neighborhood. Through departures and arrivals, weddings and reunions, THE BLESSINGS reveals the interior worlds of the members of a close-knit Irish-Catholic family and the rituals that unite them.

Catching Air by Sarah Pekkanen (May 6): A chance to run a B&B in snowy, remote Vermont—it’s an offer Kira Danner can’t resist after six soul-crushing years of working as a lawyer in Florida. As Kira and her husband, Peter, step into a brand new life, she quells her fears about living with the B&B’s co-owners: Peter’s sexy, irresponsible brother Rand, and Rand’s wife, Alyssa…who is essentially a stranger.

For her part, Alyssa sees taking over the B&B as the latest in a string of adventures. Plus, a quiet place might help her recover from the news that she can’t bear children. But the idyllic town proves to be anything but serene: Within weeks, the sisters-in-law are scrambling to prepare for their first big booking—a winter wedding—and soon a shy, mysterious woman comes to work for them. Dawn Zukoski is hiding something; that much is clear. But what the sisters-in-law don’t realize is that Dawn is also hiding from someone…

Relatable and dynamic, Catching Air delves deeply into the vital relationships that give shape to women’s lives.

Zombie, Indiana by Scott Kenemore (May 6):In the third book of his Zombie series, Scott Kenemore brings the explosive horror thriller of an undead outbreak in the city of Indianapolis. Zombie, Indiana takes place during the same timeline as the outbreaks in his books Zombie, Ohio and Zombie, Illinois, and has the same punch as the previous two.

Zombie, Indiana explores the impact of an invading zombie horde on a trio of Hoosier protagonists . . . each of whom have some dark secrets to keep. When the governor’s daughter mysteriously disappears on a field trip, IMPD Special Sergeant James Nolan, scholarship student Kesha Washington, and Governor Hank Burleson must all come together not only to find the governor’s daughter, but also to undertake a quest to redeem the very soul of the state itself . . . all while under constant attack from the living dead.

With humorous, memorable characters, tense action sequences, and brutal zombie violence, Zombie, Indiana will put readers in mind of some of the most compelling works of popular fiction. At once a mystery, a thriller, and a horror novel, Kenemore strikes again with this rollicking tour through America’s heartland that is nothing but a tour de force for zombie fiction fans!

The Book of You by Claire Kendal (May 6): Most people dread the prospect of jury duty, but university administrator Clarissa wants nothing more than to be selected for a trial. Every day she serves means a day away from her colleague Rafe, an academic expert on the darker side of folk tales with whom Clarissa spent one drunken night. That encounter only serves to fuel his growing obsession with her, and he is not about to let her slip away.

The Book of You is a riveting portrait of a woman terrorized—emotionally and physically—by a man bent on possessing her. As a disturbingly violent crime unfolds in front of her in court, Clarissa finds herself experiencing an equally harrowing nightmare in real life. Realizing that she bears the burden of proof, she uncovers piece by piece the twisted, macabre fairytale Rafe has spun around them both, discovering that the ending he envisions for them is more awful than she could have ever imagined.

Masterfully constructed, filled with exquisite tension and a pervasive sense of menace, The Book of You explores the darkest corners of the human heart, where the lines between love and compulsion, fantasy and reality, can become dangerously blurred, and offers a moving portrait of a woman’s will to survive. Claire Kendal’s extraordinary debut will haunt readers long after it reaches its terrifying, breathtaking conclusion.

Stay tuned for the next two posts later this week!

Femme Fatale Interview: Kate Rhodes (A Killing of Angels, Crossbones Yard)

FemmeFataleA little over a month ago, I mentioned that I would be rejuvenating a feature I used to host, Femme Fatale. The purpose of this feature is to highlight women in the thriller and mystery genres.

Today I am pleased to welcome the first “guest,” Kate Rhodes.  Kate is the author of A Killing of Angels, a title I reviewed earlier this year. Here’s a little info about Kate:

I was born in South London, the second daughter of two teachers. I went to the University of Essex and completed a doctorate on the playwright Tennessee Williams. As soon as I left university I began work as an English teacher and have taught at universities in Britain and the United States. I am lucky enough to write full-time now, and live in Cambridge with my husband Dave Pescod, also a writer. My office is tiny, but has a great view of cows grazing on Stourbridge Common down to the river Cam, perfect for daydreaming. I am very fond of my three step-sons, Jack, Matt and Frank, and have recently become step-granny to one year old Freddie.

My first books were two collections of poetry, Reversal and The Alice Trap. I was awarded English Speaking Union and Hawthornden Fellowships for poetry, and shortlisted the Bridport and Forward Prizes.. CROSSBONES YARD was my first novel and the first in the Alice Quentin series, followed by A Killing of Angels. Both of these books take place in my birthplace London, and I love going back there to research and get ideas.

 

And now, the interview:

kate by seaGive a five word description of your most recent book.

Atmospheric, tense, contemporary London mystery.

Do you read reviews of your books? How do you react to bad/negative reviews?
I do read them, but I know plenty of writers who choose to avoid the inevitable dents to their ego. A great review is always such a huge boost that I think it’s worth weathering the occasional agony. I try to be philosophical if a negative review hits my inbox, and I believe all reviews are valid. Often after the bruises fades there’s something I can learn from criticism, to help improve my books. So far, I haven’t shed a tear over a poor review, and hope that day never comes!

The intent of this feature is to give a little more attention to female mystery writers. Why do you think women mystery writers aren’t reviewed as much as men?

That’s a good question, and I’m not quite sure of the answer! I think it may be to do with the fact that publishing and journalism remain male dominated professions. Maybe male reviewers tend to stay in their comfort zone and review male authors, but having said that, I know a lot of guys who love mysteries written by women, so it seems a very subjective thing. It’s certainly a pity, given that there are so many great women mystery writers today, and more women than men buy and read books. I hope the situation changes soon. Your page is helping to turn the tide, Jenn! 

What is the most challenging thing about writing mysteries?

I can give the answer in a single word: plotting! Every mystery reader wants an exciting plot which twists, turns and keeps them fascinated, which is surprisingly hard to achieve. These days I spend weeks plotting my novels, because I’ve realised that although you can write interesting characters and good dialogue, if you lack a strong story, the book will never fly.

 

What is the strangest thing you have ever searched for on “Google?”

How long does it take to drown? If anyone ever investigates me, they are going to think I’m a mass murderer. I have researched just about every method for killing someone: poisoning, strangulation, smothering, bullet wounds… My internet history must be getting the police pretty worried!

 

What are your five top favorite books? How about your protagonist? What are his/her favorite books?
I can only have five? That seems a little cruel to me! If I ever get stuck on a desert island I’ll need a few thousand please. I used to be an English teacher, so reading’s my main addiction. I read a weird mix of classic literature, crime and romance. Here goes: Brighton Rock by Graham Green, The Collected Stories of Raymond Carver, The Vault by Ruth Rendell, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, Sidetracked by Henning Mankell.
My protagonist Alice Quentin is a young forensic psychologist and she likes her crime novels fairly hard-boiled: 61 Hours by Lee Child, Hanging Hill by Mo Hayder, Skink No Surrender by Carl Hiaasen, Tideline by Penny Hancock and Before I Go to Sleep by S.J. Watson.
Kate, thank you so much for taking the time to take part in this feature! Stay tuned for more Femme Fatale featured posts in the near future!

TSS: A Week in Review

The boys were on Spring Break this week so we used it as an excuse to take the week off and head the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. We stayed in a 100 year old cabin for five days and, I must say, the time away from busy city life was grand!  The cabin was about 20 minutes from the closest “town.” so if we had to go anywhere, we really had to plan for it.

We had time to read, play games, but we also did some touristy stuff. We visited the Virginia Cultural Museum where the boys got to watch sheep being sheared and got to walk through depictions of centuries old Irish and German villages. It was here that we discovered the abandoned sanitarium/prison. IMG_2389 IMG_2390

No, we didn’t attempt to go in but I was certainly tempted.

Yesterday, as we’ve done for the past several years we took a day trip to Old Town Alexandria where we visited some cute shops, including our favorite children’s bookstore, Hooray for Books. We then took the water taxi over to National Harbor and visited the Peeps store. Yes, it’s a thing.

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Finally, we wrapped up the day with a visit to One More Page Books, our favorite independent bookstore. Between the two stores, we had a great book haul by the end of the day:

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Today, we’ll spend the day at home with our traditional Easter dinner of ham and scalloped potatoes. I can’t say I’m ready for vacation to end!

 

Although I was out of town, following are the reviews that posted this week:

Happy Easter, everyone!

Review: Everything to Lose by Andrew Gross

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow (April 22, 2014)
  • ISBN-10: 0061656003
  • Source: Publisher

Hilary Blum is a single-monther, struggling to make ends meet after her husband left her and their autistic son.  Losing her job is the last straw and decides to confront her ex-husband. It when she is on her way home from this less-than-productive meeting that she witnesses a horrific accident. Right before her eyes, she watches as an inbound vehicle swerves to miss a deer and goes toppling over the side of the road. Hilary rushes into action and runs to the scene only to find that the man was killed on impact.  Sitting on the seat next to him is a bag stuffed to the rim with money.  The kind of money that would allow Hilary to continue to send her son to the school he needs so desperately.  And so, she makes a decision that will put into motion a series of events that will forever change her life.

With a community still suffering from Hurricane Sandy as a backdrop, Gross has developed a thriller that is intense from the very beginning. Readers won’t help but question what they would do in Hilary’s shoes, in her situation. Three seeming different story lines parallel one another through the novel, coming to a stunning intersection near the end, surprising this reader (who has a talent of tying connections long before a book is over.)

Originally, I thought the backdrop of Hurricane Sandy might be a dud, but was throughly impressed at how well the author blended it all together.  Gross has a talent of creating genuine characters you can’t help but connect and sympathize with, individuals who are so true that you feel as if they are part of your world.  On the completely opposite sides of the spectrum are those characters that are evil to the core. The balancing act Gross plays between the two is wholly captivating.

I’ve been fan of Gross’ from his early thrillers and it excites me that he can continue to churn out thrillers to keep me captivated. I read this one in a matter of hours; I couldn’t bear to tear myself away from it. Perfect for fans of intense thrillers with strong, developed characters. Highly, highly recommended.

Review: The Girl Who Came Home: A Novel of the Titanic by Hazel Gaynor

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks; First Edition edition (April 1, 2014)
  • ISBN-10: 0062316869
  • Source: Publisher

Fourteen individuals from a small Irish village left their loved ones behind as they embarked on a journey to New York City via the RMS Titanic. A new, better life was awaiting each of them upon their arrival.  One of these individuals is Maggie Murphy, a seventeen year old woman who is bittersweet about leaving her home and her beau, Seamus.  When disaster hits, Maggie is one of the two survivors from this small Irish village.

When she awakens in New York City, without any knowledge of how she gets there. Maggie attempts to banish all thoughts and memories of what happened that horrible night  the Titanic  struck an iceberg. Her friends and loved ones were separated from her in the rush to evacuate. She is haunted screams of victims, the vision of those less fortunate than her, frozen in the frigid ocean waters.

Seventy years later: Chicago. Grace Butler has returned home to help care for her mother after her father’s sudden death. In doing so, she’s given up her hopes of a future in journalism, at least temporarily. When she’s given a once in a lifetime opportunity to write for a major paper, Grace must come up with a unique feature story that will impress the editors. Thanks to her great grandmother, Maggie, she gets that story.

Reluctant to discuss her past all these years, Maggie opens up to her niece and shares with her stories and journal articles of what transpired upon the Titanic, both before and after the disaster.  In doing so, both women, reflect upon how few chances we each get in life, and how important to savor each day as if it is your last.

Novels surrounding the horrific events that transpired around the sinking of the Titanic are certainly not unique, especially after the centennial anniversary just a few years ago. Yet with The Girl Who Came Home, Gaynor gives us a unique perspective, a fictionalized account based on actual individuals.

While this title didn’t grab my attention immediately, after a few patient moments of reading I became captivated, unable to tear my attention away from the story of Maggie and others who thought they were embarking upon journey leading to a happy and successful life.

That’s not to say this is a dark and dreary story; it is actually quite the opposite. While the story of what transpired on the Titanic  is devastating, what comes next for the survivors (even decades down the road), is wholly hopeful and heartwarming.

The Girl Who Came Home is a must-read for fans interested in the story of the Titanic, as well as readers seeking a unique spin an event forever etched in history. Highly, highly recommended.

 

Thank you to TLC Book Tours for providing me opportunity to participate in this tour. Please be sure to check out the other stops in the tour!

 

Review: The Island of Doves by Kelly O’Connor McNees

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Berkley Trade (April 1, 2014)
  • ISBN-10: 0425264580
  • Source: Publisher

Susannah Fraser was promised a happy life with her husband, living in one of Buffalo’s finest homes. Instead, her home is a prison filled with physical and mental abuse. While all of her material needs are met, the life she is leading is a mere shadow of the life she’d hoped for. Susannah assumed that the abuse went on unnoticed. but when she is approached by a woman with promises of help and escape, Susannah can’t say no.

The journey to safety isn’t an easy one. She must leave everything she owns behind and travel by steamboat to the remote Mackinac Island. There, she meets Magdelaine Fonteneau, a woman who has made quite a life for herself as a fur trader. Magdelaine has offered her services to help women like Susannah escape abusive marriages. She calls each of these women doves; Susannah is the first of three to successfully make the journey. Magdelaine’s past is riddled with pain and loss and the unexpected friendship that forms between the two women allows them both to see the hope that life has to offer.

While the storyline in The Island of Doves is not a unique one, the strong and engaging characters are what make this novel an engaging one. Both Susannah and Magdelaine come from vastly different backgrounds but that doesn’t stop the two women from connecting and forging a strong friendship. Susannah thought herself to be helpless, so used to having others do things for her that she feared she was unable to forge a life alone. In turn, while Magdelaine has formed a strong and caring relationship for the young girls she teaches on the island, she has yet to be able to form such a close bond with her own son. So used to having those she loves taken from her, she pushes him away, afraid to lose yet another loved one. This isn’t intentional; it isn’t until Susannah points out her behavior that Magdelaine reflects upon the choices she’s made in life.

All in all, McNees has created a wonderfully addictive and heartfelt read in The Island of Doves. Her books are of a genre I typically do not read, yet I find myself looking forward to each and every book she publishes. Highly rewarding, highly recommended.

Frightful Friday: Code Zero: A Joe Ledger Novel by Jonathan Maberry (Audiobook)

Frightful Friday is a weekly meme in which I feature a particularly scary or chilling book that I’ve read that week.

This week’s featured title is the audiobook production of Code Zero: A Joe Ledger Novel by Jonathan Maberry:

  • Listening Length: 16 hours and 3 minutes
  • Program Type: Audiobook
  • Version: Unabridged
  • Publisher: Macmillan Audio (March 25, 2014)
  • Source: Personal copy

*Note: This is a review of the sixth book in a series. Please proceed with caution if you have not read/listened to the previous books in this series*

 

Joe Ledger and the other members of the Echo Unit of the Department of Military Science (DMS) have had their share of interesting experiences. From battling the zombie plague to designer viruses, they’ve seen it all. Any remnants of these weapons have been stored in a remote and isolated location known as the Locker. Until now…

After other units of the DMS are decimated in attacks, the DMS is spread thin. Weapons they thought destroyed or locked up are appearing in public locations. Their new nemesis, Mother Night, has managed to break into the DMS’ impenetrable super computer system, Mindreader, gaining access to knowledge that shouldn’t be made available to the public. Even worse, she broadcasts a video of a rescue mission in which a team went in to put an end to a plague of zombies. The same plague the DMS thought they conquered and destroyed. Before doing so,  she dubbed over the sound to make it appear as though the individuals being shot upon are citizens begging for their lives.

This isn’t the first time the DMS has been under fire. The timing, however, couldn’t be worse. The must put an end to Mother Night and her league of rogue “soldiers” before she can unleash something more dark and devastating than before. In doing so, they realize that the individual responsible for their actions isn’t a stranger to the DMS. Her identity shatters the tough exterior of the DMS. Rather than weakening them, however, it makes them stronger, more dedicated and determined to put a stop to Mother Night.

Told in a series of flashbacks to the time Joe Ledger originally joined DMS, Maberry takes readers (or in my case, listeners) on a path through the history of the DMS and Ledger’s existing unit.

Maberry’s Joe Ledger series is one I rush to listen to as soon as it is released. Not only are they truly outstanding novels filled to the brim with action and less than natural enemies, but they contain truly outstanding characters that have grown tremendously since the culmination of the series. Joe Ledger, on the surface, is a mean, brusque, no-nonsense kind of guy.  Yet in the past several novels, Maberry has slowly unveiled a softer, more vulnerable side of Joe.  To me, this has created a more dynamic, more genuine character in Joe Ledger.

Fans of Maberry’s writing will appreciate the return of characters from the past (as well as one from another series). I’ve been a fan of this series from the beginning and have to say, without a doubt, this is the best one yet.

As with the other titles in this series, I listened to the audiobook production of this title. I don’t see myself ever “reading” them.  That’s not to say that the writing doesn’t stand on its own, it genuinely does. Yet Ray Porter’s narration has captivated me. To me, he is the voice of Joe Ledger and the other cast of characters. He completes the package for me, his narration capturing the essence of Joe and the rest of the cast of characters.  I won’t say I wouldn’t enjoy reading the titles, it would just feel different, not complete. If you are new to this series, I highly recommend going with the audio.  Some of the best out there!

I know this goes without saying, but this, and other Ledger novels, come highly, highly recommended.

Other titles in the Joe Ledger series (in order):

Patient Zero
The Dragon Factory
The King of Plagues
Assassin’s Code
Extinction Machine

 

Review: Blood Always Tells by Hilary Davidson

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Forge Books (April 15, 2014)
  • ISBN-10: 0765333546
  • Source: Publisher

Dominique Monaghan is involved with a married man. Gary Cowan is a former boxer with a history of sketchy behavior. She knows his marriage to socialite Trin Lytton-Jones is a farce and comes up with an elaborate plan to drug him so she can get him to admit it on tape. Instead she gets mixed up in a kidnapping scheme, trapped in an isolated home with no means of escaping. Out of desperation, she calls upon the only person upon which she can truly depend: her brother Desmond.

Desmond has played the role of father to Dominique since their mother was convicted of killing their father many years ago. Desmond is used to Dominique’s out of control behavior,  yet this time something in her voices raises a red flag and he rushes to her rescue.

Upon arriving, Desmond is met with a completely unexpected scene. In order to find out what happened to his sister, he must wade through the deception surrounding Cowan and his marriage. In doing so, he uncovers a slew of lies and attempted murders, all in the name of family fortune.  This situation also forces Desmond to reflect upon his past and sacrifices made to protect  him and his sister.

Blood Always Tells is Davidson’s first standalone novel. As a fan of her previous novels (The Damage Done, The Next One To Fall, and Evil in all its Disguises) and her short story collection, The Black Widow Club, I can honestly say that this novel is her best ever. It is quite a feat to state this because her work is so tremendous; she excels at taking her readers through a labyrinth of plot twists and turns, all ending in a completely surprising conclusion. 

This is replicated in Blood Always Tells.  At the onset of the novel, the reader assumes Dominique will be the main protagonist. Instead, out of the blue, comes her brother Desmond to take over in this role. I was taken aback initially but was genuinely enraptured by Desmond’s character.

A former army chopper pilot, Desmond has carried the weight of family secrets for many years. He has great feelings of guilt and remorse for what transpired. Instead of allowing it to get him down, he does his best to be the most supportive big brother Dominique can have. Unfortunately, the passage of time does nothing to alleviate these feelings of guilt and they weigh heavily on him, even now, decades later.

Davidson used Desmond’s character as a counter-weight against another family with a less than typically family life. Desmond shines through as a bright light what could have potentially been a dark and chilling storyline.  That’s not to say he doesn’t have his faults; he has plenty. It is the integrity of his character that allows him to rise up and overcome his difficult past. Characters like this are a characteristic of Davidson’s writing; in each she takes you on a wild journey, introducing you to the worst members of society with that one character that serves as a ray of hope amidst all the chaos and depravity.

Honestly, my raves about this novel could go on and on.  There are so many facets of  it that I found outstanding, from the character development to the webs of deceit.  I intentionally strung out my read of this novel for I simply didn’t want it to end.  This is a must read of fans of mystery/thrillers with strongly developed characters, prepared to embark upon a thrill ride of a read. Highly, highly recommended!

Note: I do consider the author to be a good friend of mine. I, among many, many others, are thanked in her acknowledgements. That said, this in no way influenced my review of this book.

FemmeFatale