Review: Careful What You Wish For by Hallie Ephron

 

Title: Careful What You Wish For

Author: Hallie Ephron

Published: August 6th 2019, William Morrow

Status: Read July 2019 courtesy William Morrow/Edelweiss

++++++

My Thoughts:

 

Emily Harlow is a professional organiser whose new business, Freeze-Frame Clutter Kickers, has just taken on two new clients. One is an elderly widow, Mrs. Murphy, who feels incapable of clearing away her late husband’s things, the second is a young woman, Quinn Newell, looking to purge her pre-marital belongings. At first glance, neither job seems complicated…until the body of Quinn’s husband is discovered in the storage locker that once belonged to Mr. Murphy, and Emily’s tidy life begins to unravel.

The irony inherent in Emily being a professional organiser, as her husband, Frank, hoards piles of useless ‘treasures’ in their basement works well as a hook into this well paced, entertaining tale of suspense.

It’s evident from Emily’s first meeting with Quinn which direction the story will take (there really isn’t anything at all subtle about their interaction), however the plot isn’t entirely predictable. Emily finds herself the victim of more than one deception, placing her at the center of a complicated web of greed and betrayal. I thought the plot worked well overall, and it provided enough moments of tension and surprise to keep me interested.

I found the character development to be somewhat lacking though. As the heroine, Emily is rather bland, and the motive for her husband’s behaviour is weak. Additionally, Quinn lacks subtlety as the villainess, and at least one minor character proves to be entirely superfluous.

Careful What You Wish For is a *neat domestic thriller from Hallie Ephron.

*see what I did there 😉

 

Read a Sample

++++++

Available from William Morrow

Or your preferred retailer Indiebound I Book Depository

Weekend Cooking: Cozy Culinary Mysteries

 

One of my guilty reading pleasures has always been cozy mysteries.

Cozy mysteries series are generally themed, and culinary/food themes are some of the most popular. Many of the books in a series include recipes, and whether you favour chocolate or chilli, dinner or dessert, you can find something tasty that will appeal.

Below are the covers of the first book in a variety of series, click to learn more.

 

 

Feel free to share your own favourite cozy mystery in the comments.

 

 

Review: The Chain by Adrian McKinty

Title: The Chain

Author: Adrian McKinty

Published: July 9th 2019, Hachette Australia

Status: July 2019 courtesy BFredricksPR

++++++

My Thoughts:

 

“Number one: you are not the first and you will certainly not be the last. Number two: remember, it’s not about the money—it’s about The Chain.”

Adrian McKinty’s The Chain is a riveting thriller with a terrifying premise.

The Chain works like this: your child is kidnapped, and the only thing that will ensure their safe release is the payment of a ransom, and for you to then kidnap a child, whose parents must in turn pay a ransom, and kidnap a child. If you fail to comply, your child will die, if your victim’s parents fail to comply, you must kill their child and choose another target, or your child will die. Attempt to inform law enforcement, or in anyway interrupt The Chain and you and your entire family will be the first to die.

Rachel Klein is not an obvious target for this macabre network. She is newly divorced, recently in remission after treatment for breast cancer, and has very little money. When her thirteen year old daughter, Kylie, is abducted, and Rachel receives the chilling instructions as the newest link in The Chain, she balks, as most right-minded people would. What Rachel is being asked to do is unthinkable, but with the life of her beloved daughter at stake, Rachel realises she has no choice.

The first half of the book is an absolute page turner, I raced through it wondering just how far Rachel was willing to go. McKinty skilfully communicates the fear and desperation experienced by victims of The Chain. When the lives of our children are threatened there is very little a parent won’t do to protect them, and it is exactly that primal instinct that the sociopathic minds behind The Chain exploit.

“Be thankful for our mercy and remember that once you are on The Chain, you are on it forever. You are not the first and you will not be the last. We are watching, we are listening; we can come for you at any time.”

The pace slowed somewhat during the second half as Rachel, and Kylie, struggle with the aftermath of their experience, but it ramps up again as Rachel realises the only way she and her daughter will ever escape The Chain, is to expose the diabolical masterminds behind the scheme.

The Chain is an impressive thriller that will get your heart racing and keep the pages turning. Don’t miss being part of The Chain.

Read an Extract

++++++

Available from your preferred retailer or

Hachette Australia

Mulholland Books US

Book Depository

or your preferred retailer

Review: The Roadhouse by Kerry McGinnis

Title: The Roadhouse

Author: Kerry McGinnis

Published: July 2nd 2019, Michael Joseph: Penguin

Status: Read July 2019, courtesy Penguin AU

++++++

My Thoughts:

The Roadhouse is an engaging story of romantic suspense, the eleventh novel set in the Australian Outback region from author Kerry McGinnis.

When Charlie Carver learns of her cousin’s suicide, she decides to leave behind her life in Melbourne, making her way to the remote roadhouse, east of Alice Springs, that she calls home. Little seems to have changed during her five year absence, except her mother appears to be struggling, and within days of Charlie’s return, Molly has a heart attack is is airlifted to Adelaide for life saving surgery.

Charlie willingly steps up to run the roadhouse with the assistance of long time handyman, Bob, and a new cook, Polish backpacker Ute, and is also tasked with taking care of the details related to her cousin’s death. Though she disliked Annabelle, whose beauty barely masked her selfishness, and is beginning to suspect that the suicide could have been faked, Charlie is as shocked and puzzled as everyone else when the body of a murdered woman is found at a nearby abandoned mine site, and is identified as Annabelle.

When Charlie’s family home is ransacked shortly afterwards, she believes the incident is somehow connected to a visit Annabelle made shortly before her death, and danger could be closer to home than anyone expects.

I really enjoyed the mystery element of The Roadhouse, which firstly focuses on the possible motives for Annabelle’s suicide. Charlie is suspicious of the verdict from the outset, believing that even if Annabelle killed herself, she would never choose that particular manner in which to die. After the discovery of Annabelle’s body proves her right, Charlie speculates as to the meaning of a recent visit Annabelle made to the Roadhouse with a strange man in tow, and after the break in at her home, rashly follows a hunch and finds herself in a fight for her life in a tense and thrilling confrontation.

Unfortunately I did feel that the relationship between Charlie and Mike, a stockman she meets from a nearby station, was underdeveloped. The seeds of attraction were sown, but the couple spent very little time together, even less time alone together, and their relationship was unusually chaste for two twenty somethings in this day and age, all of which made Charlie’s ‘proposal’ awkwardly presumptuous, rather than romantic, in my opinion.

The Roadhouse is also a story about family. Molly was not a demonstrative mother, and Charlie’s feckless late father favoured Annabelle, who came to live with Charlie’s family as a young girl after the death of her own parents. Charlie felt overshadowed by her beautiful cousin whose spiteful behaviour towards her often went unnoticed. Charlie hopes to forge a closer relationship with her mother on her return home, and

over the course of the novel comes to understand more about her family’s dynamics.

Ute, with her unique grasp of English, was probably my favourite character in The Roadhouse, I enjoyed the humour she brought to the story and her practical approach to every facet of her life. I also liked the curmudgeonly Bob, whose gruff exterior fails to hide his soft spot for Charlie and Molly.

With a dramatic suspense plot, and likeable characters, in an uniquely Australian setting, I enjoyed The Roadhouse.

Read an Extract

++++++

Available from Penguin Australia

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository

#lovebetweenthepages

Review: Six Minutes by Petronella McGovern

 

Title: Six Minutes

Author: Petronella McGovern

Published: July 1st 2019, Allen & Unwin

Status: Read June 2019, courtesy Allen & Unwin

++++++

My Thoughts:

“Three hundred and seventy-one, three hundred and seventy-two, three hundred and seventy-three…I’ve made it. I can stop counting now. Three hundred and seventy-three seconds. Six minutes.”

Six minutes after leaving her daughter, Bella, playing happily with her friends at playgroup, Lexie Parker returns to discover the three year old is missing, and none of the mothers that were supposed to be watching her can tell Lexie where her daughter went. Lexie clings to the idea that Bella has somehow simply wandered away, and be will found any minute, but as the hours pass and an extensive police search fails to find her, Lexie has to face other frightening possibilities. Someone knows what happened in those six minutes, but who?

McGovern provides us with plenty of suspects in the abduction of Bella, and keeps us guessing as the plot unfolds. The narrative moves between the perspectives of several characters, among them Lexie, her husband and Bella’s father, Marty, the investigating officer, Detective Sergeant Caruso, and Tara, one of the mother’s present at the playgroup when Bella went missing.

Everyone has secrets, some which prove to be relevant to Bella’s disappearance, some not, and the story is told in such a way that it’s almost impossible to guess where guilt or innocence may lie. While the question of what happened to Bella is Intriguing on its own, there is more than the one mystery in Six Minutes that kept me turning the pages.

I haven’t read many books set in Canberra (in the Australian Capital Territory), but the small community on the fringe of the city felt authentic and familiar. Residents turn out in force to help search for Bella, the media descends and causes chaos, and outsiders, and insiders, speculate wildly on social media, eager to be heard.

With a compelling cast of characters and a riveting plot, Six Minutes is an engrossing thriller from debut author Petronella McGovern.

++++++

Available from Allen & Unwin

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository

Review: Under the Cold Bright Lights by Garry Disher

 

Title: Under the Cold Bright Lights

Author: Garry Disher

Published: July 2nd 2019, Soho Crime

Status: Read June 2019, courtesy Soho Crime/Edelweiss

++++++

My Thoughts:

Under the Bright Cold Lights is a stand-alone novel from Australian author Garry Disher, who is best known for his three crime fiction series’, Inspector Challis; Wyatt; and Paul Hirschhausen.

Five years after retirement, Acting Sergeant Alan Auhl has returned to the Victorian police force to work in the Cold Case and Missing Person Unit, where his experience, which includes a decade in homicide, fails to impress his younger colleagues who refer to him as ‘Retread’.

The latest case to cross Aulh’s desk concerns the discovery of a skeleton underneath a concrete pad on a rural property. The bones are that of a young man, who was shot in the chest, and buried under the concrete around five years previously. As Aulh, teamed with Detective Constable Claire Pascal, works to identify the ‘The Slab Man’ and whomever is responsible for his murder, he continues to reinvestigate the death of John Elphick at the behest of his daughters who believe he was murdered, is drawn into developments regarding a case he handled during his time in homicide, all while supporting a tenant/friend who is engaged in a contentious custody battle with her abusive husband.

Under the Cold Bright Lights is largely a police procedural, providing some insight into the way in which the police investigate cold cases. Auhl and his colleagues follow the slimmest of leads- a numberplate scrawled in a notebook, old rental agreements, and hotline tips, among others. There isn’t a lot of action in the novel, but the investigations are interesting, and cover a fair bit of ground.

I liked Auhl, who is an old-school type of cop, willing to put in the work to solve his cases. He isn’t bothered by the ribbing he receives from his younger colleagues, and he isn’t interested in office politics. It’s clear Alan has a big heart, evidenced by the ‘waif and strays’ he takes in at ‘Chateau Auhl’. It’s also evident early on that he is somewhat disillusioned with the justice system, and is prepared to exact his own when the system fails.

The writing is understated yet engaging, and I enjoyed Disher’s dry wit. I thought the story was well paced, and found it to be an easy read. The settings are evocative of the city, suburbs, and regional areas of Victoria, as are the minor characters.

Under the Cold Bright Lights is a well-crafted, absorbing mystery with strong characterisation, and a distinct Australian setting.

++++++

Available from Soho Press

Or from your preferred retailer via Indiebound I Book Depository I Booko

Australian/UK Cover

 

Review: Boxed by Richard Anderson

 

Title: Boxed

Author: Robert Anderson

Published: May 7th 2019, Scribe Publications

Status: Read June 2019

++++++

My Thoughts:

“I check the name and address: Dave Martin, Five Trees. It is mine. It has been sent to me. This makes no sense.”

Dave Martin is baffled when he finds a box, addressed to him, stuffed with hundred dollar bills by his farm’s mailbox. Even more so when first, nearby property owners Elaine Slade, an attractive widow, and then “self-serving, hard as nails” Ben Ruder drop by, looking for a misdelivered parcel they claim is theirs. Turning the box over would be the right thing to do, but In the wake of a soul crushing tragedy, and a lot of booze, Dave isn’t thinking clearly. The mystery deepens as more boxes with odd contents arrive, yet even as Elaine is assaulted, his own home is ransacked by thugs, and the police start asking questions, and Dave finds himself well out of his depth, he is determined to find answers.

“All my life I have been anchored here. I have known where I fitted. Wherever I went, people who didn’t know me could always place me: because of where I lived, because I was someone’s son, grandson, friend, then husband, and then father. Now it is all gone, and I am untethered, unplaceable. If I met myself in the supermarket, I wouldn’t know who I was. I never imagined I could be so totally isolated. The farm is the only thing that defines me.”

In Dave, Anderson has skilfully crafted an unlikely hero. A farmer in rural Australia, who is weighed down by grief after experiencing a series of personal losses, Dave feels hopeless, seeking nightly oblivion in a bottle, neglecting the farm, and rebuffing the efforts of friends who reach out with offers of support. The mystery of the box full of cash pierces his shroud of self-pity, and, with nothing much to lose, Dave welcomes the subsequent drama, despite the dangers.

“I had been lying to myself about taking the box back to the mailbox. I want to see this to the end. I want to solve the mystery. I want the money — all of it.”

Boxed unfolds at a measured pace, driven by Dave’s artless, if well-intentioned, efforts. Elaine is evasive, Ben is vaguely menacing, stalking the mailman proves unhelpful, and the thug’s taking regular potshots at him aren’t interested in talking. As Dave tries to determine who is the rightful owner of the boxes he has hidden in his laundry, the situations in which he finds himself escalate into an almost farcical escapade. The plot is well constructed with red herrings, surprise twists and a dramatic climax.

“If I knew then … maybe none of this would have happened. When those boxes… arrived, I would have taken them straight to the police. There’d be no story to tell. No one would have been shot at, threatened, bashed, knocked out, or hurt…”

An engaging character driven mystery, with a sardonic wit that enlivens the plot, and a compelling sense of place, and community, I really enjoyed Boxed. I hope to read more by Robert Anderson soon.

++++++

Available from Scribe Publications

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository

Review: Big Sky {Jackson Brodie #5} by Kate Atkinson

 

Title: Big Sky {Jackson Brodie #5}

Author: Kate Atkinson

Published: June 18th 2019, Doubleday

Status: Read June 2019, courtesy Penguin AU

++++++

My Thoughts:

Big Sky is Kate Atkinson’s fifth book featuring ex soldier, ex policeman, turned private investigator, Jackson Brodie, and though it follows Case Studies, One Good Turn, When Will There Be Good News?, and Started Early, Took My Dog, Big Sky can be read as a stand-alone.

Having temporarily relocated to a seaside village in Yorkshire to spend time with his teenage son, Brodie’s current investigations, involving background checks, employment theft, cheating spouses and missing pets, don’t pose much of a challenge. When he is hired by a trophy wife who believes she is being followed, he expects the answer will be simple, but instead Brodie stumbles into a tangled web of exploitation, greed, and death.

Big Sky unfolds through multiple perspectives. The cast is large, though I wouldn’t say unwieldy, but it does take a surprising amount of time before the connections between the characters become apparent. Persevere, it’s well worth the reward.

Brodie’s role through most of the actual mystery is surprisingly low key, though he inadvertently becomes enmeshed on several fronts – through a missing teenager, his client – Crystal Holroyd, a suicidal Vincent Ives, an occasional employer, Stephen Mellors, and an old friend, DC Reggie Chase.

“Finding Jackson Brodie at the heart of this melee seemed par for the course somehow. He was a friend to anarchy.”

The ‘melee’, which takes time to coalesce, refers to a human trafficking and sex slavery ring that has been operating with impunity for decades and such a ‘business’ necessarily involves other crimes, notably money laundering, drugs, and violence. Atkinson skilfully weaves the threads together that unravel not only the cabal, but also a historic case involving a pedophile ring.

I admire Atkinson’s style of writing which is so well grounded and flows with such ease. I enjoyed the dry, sardonic humour (particularly those witty inner thoughts shared in parentheses) which contributes to the humanity that Atkinson infuses in her characters thoughts and behaviour.

A smart, entertaining, and absorbing novel, Big Sky is a terrific read, sure to satisfy fans who have been waiting eight years for this latest instalment, and hook new readers.

++++++

Available from Penguin AU

or from your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository 

Also by Kate Atkinson reviewed on Book’d Out

Review: Hunting Evil {Robert Hunter #10} by Chris Carter

 

Title: Hunting Evil {Robert Hunter #10}

Author: Chris Carter

Published: June 2nd 2019, Simon & Schuster UK

Status: Read May 2019 courtesy Simon & Schuster AU

++++++

My Thoughts:

In Chris Carter’s tenth instalment of his series featuring Robert Hunter, the head of LAPD’s Ultra Violent Crimes Unit, is once again pitted against his psychopathic nemesis, Lucien Folter. In An Evil Mind (Robert Hunter #6) Robert Hunter found himself in a battle of wits with his former college roommate, and the nation’s most prolific serial killer. Now, in Hunting Evil, after having spent three and a half years locked in solitary confinement, Lucien has escaped, and the only thing on his mind is vengeance.

Hunting Evil is action packed as Lucien initiates the most sadistic of games with Hunter in a bid to destroy him. With an intelligence that rivals Hunters’s, an ability to disguise every facet of himself, and having had years to plan, Lucien seemingly has the upper hand.

Sharp short chapters contribute to the quick pacing as Carter switches between the perspectives of Robert and Lucien. Hunter is struggling with this cat and mouse game, and Carter shows his increasing feelings of frustration and guilt. Lucien’s mind is an uncomfortable place to be in, a psychopath whose goal is to commit and document every variation of murder his inhumanity is chillingly portrayed by Carter.

Hunting Evil is a gripping psychological thriller, and though I thought there were some small flaws in the story, (for example, Hunter failing to provide protection to his love interest despite her obviously being at risk), I enjoyed it, much as I have others in the Robert Hunter series.

++++++

Available from Simon & Schuster AU I Simon & Schuster UK

Or purchase from your preferred retailer via Booko

 

Review: Hush Hush {Harriet Blue #4} by Candice Fox and James Patterson

 

Title: Hush Hush {Harriet Blue #4}

Author: Candice Fox and James Patterson

Published: May 7th 2019, Century

Status: Read May 2019 courtesy Penguin

++++++

 

My Thoughts:

The release of Hush Hush gave me the perfect excuse to get acquainted with Detective Harriet Blue. I raced through Never Never, Fifty Fifty and Liar Liar over a day or two and was all caught up. This is a series which requires you to read the books in order.

Hush Hush picks up a few weeks after the events of Liar Liar. Making good on his promise, Deputy Police Commissioner Joe Woods has had Harriet charged with a litany of crimes, including the murder of serial killer Regan Banks. Denied bail and imprisoned, Harriet is targeted daily by inmates and guards alike, only the prison doctor shows her any kindness.

When Woods demands a private interview, Harry is braced for more threats and violence, but instead the Deputy Commissioner offers Harriet a deal. He will have Harriet released, and the charges against her dropped, if she can find his missing daughter and granddaughter, alive.

Harriet’s first instinct is to refuse, she has no desire to do Woods any favours, but when the prison doctor is stabbed to death shortly after their conversation, Harry agrees, determined to not only find Tonya Woods, and two year old Rebel, but also whomever is responsible for the murder of Doctor Goldman.

Reunited with Chief ‘Pops’ Morris, who is on leave after his heart attack, Detective ‘Tox’ Barnes and Detective Edward ‘Whitt’ Whittaker, both of whom are on suspension for their role in the takedown of Banks, Harry and her fellow outsiders begin to chase down leads.

As with the previous instalments of this series the pace is breakneck, perhaps more so here with two quite different cases under investigation. The team must divide to conquer, and short chapters follow their activities as they variously confront uncooperative suspects, hired thugs, angry bikies and hostile ex colleagues. Both cases require hard work, and with limited legal resources available, the team, particularly Tox, have to get quite creative. Honestly, Hush Hush, as with Never Never, Fifty Fifty and Liar Liar, requires some suspension of belief, but you’ll enjoy the experience more if you don’t overthink things.

Fox’s influence on the creation of Harriet Blue is obvious, the character shares many traits with Eden, the main character of the author’s Archer and Bennett series. Harriet though is impulsive and reckless, emotion often overriding rational thought. To be fair, Harry has been under enormous stress for the last few months, she’s been targeted by two different serial killers, lost her brother, been shot, been declared a rogue officer, and unjustly imprisoned. In Hush Hush, unless she can find Tonya and Rebel she will spend at least a decade in prison, if she can survive that long, yet she also insists on hunting for the Doctors killer, even though her priority should be appeasing Woods.

Despite the frantic pace of Hush Hush there are some unexpected developments for Tox. His past transgressions, hinted at in previous instalments, are finally revealed as he forms a relationship with a doctor who treated him for the injuries he sustained in Fifty Fifty. Whitt, still fighting to remain sober, also has an admission to make, and is unsure about how it will be received.

Hush Hush feels like it could be the end of the Harriet Blue series, though there is potential for it to continue, and I hope it will. I’ve enjoyed getting to know the characters, and I find the plots entertaining.

Regardless, it seems the partnership between James Patterson and Candice Fox is far from over with an excerpt for a new stand alone book, named The Inn, by the duo at the end of the book.

Read an Excerpt

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Purchase from Penguin AU or your preferred retailer via Booko

The Harriet Blue Series

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