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Reviews of what you should be reading next.

CATCHING BREATH by Kathryn Lougheed

With more than a million victims every year–more than any other disease, including malaria–and antibiotic resistance now found in every country worldwide, tuberculosis is once again proving itself to be one of the smartest killers that humanity has ever faced. But it’s hardly surprising considering how long it’s had to hone its skills. Forty-thousand years ago, our ancestors set off from the cradle of civilization on their journey towards populating the planet. Tuberculosis hitched a lift and came with us, and it’s been there ever since; waiting, watching, and learning.
The organism responsible, Mycobacterium tuberculosis, has had plenty of time to adapt to its chosen habitat–human lungs–and has learned through natural selection to be an almost perfect pathogen. Using our own immune cells as a Trojan Horse to aid its spread, it’s come up with clever ways to avoid being killed by antibiotics. But patience has been its biggest lesson–it can enter into a latent state when times are tough, only to come back to life when a host’s immune system is compromised. Today, more than one million people die of the disease every year and around one-third of the world’s population are believed to be infected. That’s more than two billion people. Throw in the compounding problems of drug resistance, the HIV epidemic, and poverty, and it’s clear that tuberculosis remains one of the most serious problems in world medicine.
Catching Breath follows the history of TB through the ages, from its time as an infection of hunter-gatherers to the first human villages, which set it up with everything it needed to become the monstrous disease it is today, through to the perils of industrialization and urbanization. It goes on to look at the latest research in fighting the disease, with stories of modern scientific research, interviews with doctors on the TB frontline, and the personal experiences of those affected by the disease.

Thanks to NetGalley for this ARC!

I have mixed feelings about this book. On one hand, the research and science are excellent and multilayered. You can easily discern the love the author has for tuberculosis and how to contain it. On the other hand, some of her attempts at humor and lightening the mood seemed out of place to me. A reader who is not familiar with pop culture may find some of her sentences confusing – such as:

“Basically, in some settings, the machines are just sitting there like big ugly espresso machines that no one really knows how to use. Even if someone does get the urge to brew some coffee, George Clooney has used the last cassette and not put in a new order”.

I would be totally immersed in the science aspect and she would throw something like that in there from time to time. It seemed as if she was attempting to lighten the serious subject up with these humorous asides, but it just didn’t work for me.

There are a lot of facts and statistics about TB, which are staggering when you stop to consider how many people have been, and are, suffering from this disease. Certainly TB doesn’t get the airtime of, let’s say, AIDS or cancer – but its presence is still felt daily in places like Africa or India. I hadn’t realized how prevalent it still is, or how stricken these countries are.

The writer goes deep into the origin of TB and the different ways scientists are trying to defeat it. It’s a canny bacteria, though, and has the ability to mutate or take advantage of other sicknesses in the body. After reading CATCHING BREATH, I know more about TB than I ever have; from the obvious to the minutiae, the author gives us everything she’s got. I definitely appreciate her effort but the writing style was at times too dry, too broadly humorous or too rambling. Maybe a bit of editing would do the trick? In any case, don’t avoid this book if you are a fan of diseases – just be prepared for a little strangeness. You will be educated, amazed, and humbled by this tenacious germ.

Want your own copy? You can pick it up here.

 

 

A PIECE OF THE WORLD by Christina Baker Kline

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the smash bestseller Orphan Train, a stunning and atmospheric novel of friendship, passion, and art, inspired by Andrew Wyeth’s mysterious and iconic painting Christina’s World.

“Later he told me that he’d been afraid to show me the painting. He thought I wouldn’t like the way he portrayed me: dragging myself across the field, fingers clutching dirt, my legs twisted behind. The arid moonscape of wheatgrass and timothy. That dilapidated house in the distance, looming up like a secret that won’t stay hidden.”

To Christina Olson, the entire world was her family’s remote farm in the small coastal town of Cushing, Maine. Born in the home her family had lived in for generations, and increasingly incapacitated by illness, Christina seemed destined for a small life. Instead, for more than twenty years, she was host and inspiration for the artist Andrew Wyeth, and became the subject of one of the best known American paintings of the twentieth century.
As she did in her beloved smash bestseller Orphan Train, Christina Baker Kline interweaves fact and fiction in a powerful novel that illuminates a little-known part of America’s history. Bringing into focus the flesh-and-blood woman behind the portrait, she vividly imagines the life of a woman with a complicated relationship to her family and her past, and a special bond with one of our greatest modern artists.
Told in evocative and lucid prose, A Piece of the World is a story about the burdens and blessings of family history, and how artist and muse can come together to forge a new and timeless legacy.

I purchased this book on my own and so have no one to thank but myself 🙂

Who doesn’t love this iconic Wyeth painting? When I was growing up I had a print on my bedroom wall. There was a terrible beauty in the stark juxtaposition of the girl and the house; even without knowing that she had an affliction, I just knew that there was something wrong with her. Regardless, I wanted Christina in my life. I wanted to be her friend.

After reading A PIECE OF THE WORLD, I have changed my mind. I would not want to have the author’s Christina in my life. Despite the designation of “historical fiction”, my soul has been crushed by the portrayal of Christina as a mean spirited, stubborn, cold individual. Many times I wanted to grab her fictional neck and wring it! There is a lot to be said for staying the course and holding true to yourself, but there is also holding yourself back and making bad decisions. I’d love to know what impelled Kline to create this version of Christina. I have to hand it to her – she took an icon and tarnished it well, without fear of repercussion.

Kline brings us into Christina’s world bit by bit, making the years sadder and sadder, until we are numb. There are so many chances to make a change, and yet our heroine digs herself in stubbornly. In a way she is the sun around which various planets (Wyeth, her brother) revolve, and in other ways she is just a distant, minor, and fading star. Kline’s writing style is illuminative and evocative. She can make us cringe, gasp, or cheer appropriately. The Maine farming mentality is well illustrated (no electricity!) and helps us understand Christina’s reasons for living the way she does. The best thing about this book is that you will continue to wrestle with the characters for a while after you are done reading. What motivated Christina? Why did Al make the choice to stay with her? I wondered if I truly hated Christina or if I felt sorry for her after all she had been through. I also wished she had been written differently – but then the book wouldn’t have made the impact that it did. This is the crowning moment of what it means to be a writer…having readers continue to discuss the plot and characters long after the book is done. Regardless of whether I liked the fictional Christina, I was impressed with the author’s ability to stoke my emotions.

Whether you are a fan of Wyeth or just want to read some provoking historical fiction, grab this. You won’t be sorry. You can pick up your copy here.

 

 

 

FINAL GIRLS by Riley Sager

Ten years ago, college student Quincy Carpenter went on vacation with five friends and came back alone, the only survivor of a horror movie–scale massacre. In an instant, she became a member of a club no one wants to belong to—a group of similar survivors known in the press as the Final Girls. Lisa, who lost nine sorority sisters to a college dropout’s knife; Sam, who went up against the Sack Man during her shift at the Nightlight Inn; and now Quincy, who ran bleeding through the woods to escape Pine Cottage and the man she refers to only as Him. The three girls are all attempting to put their nightmares behind them, and, with that, one another. Despite the media’s attempts, they never meet.
Now, Quincy is doing well—maybe even great, thanks to her Xanax prescription. She has a caring almost-fiancé, Jeff; a popular baking blog; a beautiful apartment; and a therapeutic presence in Coop, the police officer who saved her life all those years ago. Her memory won’t even allow her to recall the events of that night; the past is in the past.
That is, until Lisa, the first Final Girl, is found dead in her bathtub, wrists slit, and Sam, the second, appears on Quincy’s doorstep. Blowing through Quincy’s life like a whirlwind, Sam seems intent on making Quincy relive the past, with increasingly dire consequences, all of which makes Quincy question why Sam is really seeking her out. And when new details about Lisa’s death come to light, Quincy’s life becomes a race against time as she tries to unravel Sam’s truths from her lies, evade the police and hungry reporters, and, most crucially, remember what really happened at Pine Cottage, before what was started ten years ago is finished

 

Thanks to NetGalley for this ARC!

FINAL GIRLS is a book that reads a little differently from its description. It wasn’t much off – but off enough that I wished the blurb was more accurate.

Quincy starts out as a sort-of-sympathetic character, then becomes annoying and confusing. Understandably she is happy with her food blog and her ineffectual boyfriend, but somehow changes persona 180 degrees when fellow survivor Sam comes into the picture. Together they become a two person mini-mob, stealing things and causing trouble.

Sam is a character that is not only unreliable, but unhinged. Her motives seem to be clear one minute, then murky the next. I wasn’t very fond of her at all and wondered how mealy little Quincy could enjoy her company. I also wondered how some of the things they did escaped unnoticed. In any case, the plot advances until the house of lies they built comes crashing down. Then follows a plot twist that I hadn’t seen coming (always a good thing) and the story abruptly ends.

Despite all the activity and violence, I wasn’t truly engaged in the story or the characters. I read through it halfheartedly hoping it would get better. I felt that I had to suspend my belief a few times and I struggled to care about the outcome. Perhaps if the story was a bit shorter, or there was less instances of Quincy’s monologues, and baking, and flashbacks (which had no detail, really), and love-hate interactions between Quincy and Sam ……. I’m not sure. Is it possible to call a thriller “dull”? It was certainly true in this case. I’d say without a doubt FINAL GIRLS is an instance where the plot holds great promise but the writer doesn’t deliver. Maybe this would have been better as a movie, given that the backdrop was similar to those silly-but-not-really 80’s horror flicks. Some things just don’t transition well from screen to page.

Want your own copy? You can pick it up here.

pH – A NOVEL by Nancy Lord

When marine biologist Ray Berringer and his student crew embark on an oceanographic cruise in the Gulf of Alaska, the waters are troubled in more ways than one. Ray’s co-leader, a famed chemist, is abandoning ship just as the ocean’s pH is becoming a major concern. Something at their university is corrosive, and it’s going to take more than science to correct. Powerful bonds are forged among offbeat characters studying the effects of ocean acidification on pteropods, a tiny, keystone species, in this cutting-edge CliFi novel.

 

 

PH –  A NOVEL is a fun and informative read about marine biologists and their passion. It starts out as we watch the cast of quirky characters navigate their yearly boat trip, collecting specimens and bonding along the way. The requisite “bad guy” is a two-faced arrogant chemist; and there are the dual specters of global warming and ocean acidification to add some drama.

Ray Berringer is a quiet man who just wants to photograph and catalog pteropods, but he finds a target on his head when he tries to uncover corruption at his university. His students (and one very unusual artist) come together to support him, utilizing unconventional methods – performance art, sit ins, a little sabotage – that are in turns endearing and hilarious.

Author Nancy Lord’s talent for dialogue makes this novel stand out. The ocean’s pH, a potentially dull and complex subject, is easy to understand here. The Alaskan natives and political actors who make it their concern reveal the poignancy in the otherwise clinical science. This sleeper of a novel surrounds you with the realization that we are slowly killing the ocean that nourishes us. It seeps into your subconscious in between the brilliant dialogue and backstabbing drama. With just the right touch of pathos and humor, Lord shouts her agenda quietly.

Pitting environmental defenders against unethical university officials makes it easy to choose sides, regardless of what you believe. The tiny pteropods are portrayed as cute, harmless creatures who become the unofficial mascot of the group. Ray Berringer is appropriately reticent and passive, while the artist Annabel takes up the cause with aplomb. Using all the weapons in her armory, such as performance art and lighting origami on fire and setting it adrift on the beleaguered ocean, Annabel is a character that could easily be written off as a crackpot, but isn’t. Prepare to be delighted.

Regardless of your opinion on climate change, PH – A NOVEL is a pleasant and thought provoking read. I highly recommend it. Want your own copy? You can pick it up here.

MED SCHOOL UNCENSORED by Richard Beddingfield

Med School Uncensored: The Insider’s Guide to Surviving Admissions, Exams, Residency, and Sleepless Nights in the Call Room

An entertaining insider’s guide to the good, the bad, and the ugly of med school–with everything pre-med and med students need to know, from day one, to maximize opportunities and avoid mistakes.
Cardiothoracic anesthesiologist and recent med school grad Dr. Richard Beddingfield serves as an unofficial older brother for pre-med and incoming med students–dishing on all the stuff he would’ve wanted to know from the beginning in order to make the most of med school’s opportunities, while staying sane through the gauntlets of applying to and succeeding at med school, residency, fellowship, and starting work as a new physician. With advice from additional recent Ivy League med school grads and top-tier hospital residents, this all-in-one guide is a must-have for everyone who dreams of becoming a doctor.

 

Many thanks to NetGalley for this ARC!

Richard Beddingfield is a kind and thoughtful man. Why do I say that? Because he spent a lot of time on creating a book to help pre-med students decide if that was the right career path for them. I can imagine graduates learning about this and saying “Why didn’t I have this to guide me??”.

MED SCHOOL UNCENSORED takes you from start to finish, explaining the tests, interviews, reasoning, and opportunities you will experience on the path to become a licensed doctor. He plays devil’s advocate; which I found refreshing – if your grades here are lower than peer X, then you need to do better on this; if your grades still don’t improve by this date, consider another career; no, there is no way to do this if you don’t do that; etc.

Each chapter represents a different step on the journey, with examples, personal stories, and the “why” behind it all. There is even some history thrown in comparing how things were done in the past and how they have changed. This is the kind of book that every type of career needs, to help someone make a decision on what learning path they want to take. The author notes everything important with great detail, using easy to understand examples. Nothing is sugar coated here – there is honest discussion of the ups and downs, pitfalls and joys of becoming a doctor. Bedingfield’s writing is clean and smooth, easy to digest, and generally benign.

There is not much of a plot to comment on in this review; but I will say I enjoyed the progression of the chapters. Things went from simple to complicated  in the order that they needed to; and it will be easy for the reader to grasp what comes next on the journey.

Anyone that is considering going to med school should pick this up before they finish high school, so as to obtain the proper education and extracurriculars needed to create an outstanding CV. This is exactly the book that should be in a parent’s or guidance counselor’s arsenal.

 

Want your own copy? You can pick it up here.

THE PARTY by Robyn Harding

In this stunning and provocative domestic drama about a sweet sixteen birthday party that goes horribly awry, a wealthy family in San Francisco finds their picture-perfect life unraveling, their darkest secrets revealed, and their friends turned to enemies.
One invitation. A lifetime of regrets.
Sweet sixteen. It’s an exciting coming of age, a milestone, and a rite of passage. Jeff and Kim Sanders plan on throwing a party for their daughter, Hannah—a sweet girl with good grades and nice friends. Rather than an extravagant, indulgent affair, they invite four girls over for pizza, cake, movies, and a sleepover. What could possibly go wrong?
But things do go wrong, horrifically so. After a tragic accident occurs, Jeff and Kim’s flawless life in a wealthy San Francisco suburb suddenly begins to come apart. In the ugly aftermath, friends become enemies, dark secrets are revealed in the Sanders’ marriage, and the truth about their perfect daughter, Hannah, is exposed.
Harkening to Herman Koch’s The Dinner, Christos Tsiolkas’s The Slap, and Liane Moriarty’s Big Little Lies, The Party takes us behind the façade of the picture-perfect family, exposing the lies, betrayals, and moral lapses that neighbors don’t see—and the secrets that children and parents keep from themselves and each other.

Many thanks to NetGalley for this ARC!

 

THE PARTY is a roller coaster, unputdownable book where all the characters are despicable. It’s the story of a sweet 16 birthday party gone horribly wrong, with consequences that will last a lifetime. Hannah, the daughter, is just trying to be more popular. Kim and Jeff are her parents, with the trope of “strict goody two shoes mom” plus “emasculated father trying to be cool”. The events of the fateful night are told over flashbacks, over the course of the story; which kept me interested and hungry for more detail.

The complex and turbulent relationships between the characters are drawn well and evoke a great deal of emotion. Everyone is manipulating – or manipulated by- someone else. There are multi layered agendas. There are mean girls. There is isolation, greed, and shallowness.

I literally could not wait to get back to the book, and thought about it while I wasn’t able to read; I just had to see what was happening next. It’s the kind of book you read with incredulity, wondering if there is going to be a happily ever after despite knowing another crash is coming.

The author exposes the ugly side of relationships with adeptness, even glee (if you read between the lines). Just when you almost start feeling sorry for someone, they expose their seamy side and you go right back to sneering at them. Delicious!

Do people really behave this way now, or is it just something that takes place in fiction? I am glad I don’t have to navigate the treachery of high school, where Facebook posts are created to hurt, and cliques do a lot more than name calling.

No one escapes unscathed from THE PARTY – it’s the kind of story that you will think about for days after you finish the book, considering all the wrong choices every character made and how it affected their lives.

Want our own copy? You can pick it up here.

GIDEON: THE BOER BLOOD by Malcolm Colley

By 1902 the war was over. It has taken three years and 330,000 soldiers to hammer 30,000 Boer men and boys into submission. The British employed a scorched earth policy and removed the women and children on the farms to stop the Boer Commandoes from obtaining supplies. Also with ammunition in short supply the Boers signed the Treaty of Peace of Vereeninging on May 31 1902. The Boers were forced to surrender their arms and sign a declaration of allegiance to the Queen.
Paul Kruger, the Boer leader, left the country but prior to him leaving he attempted to negotiate a deal with Holland and Germany for arms and ammunition in exchange for gold. The arms and ammunition reached the port of Lorenco Marques but the gold, sent by Kruger, went missing. It never reached the port so the ships sailed for home.
Into this chaos of the aftermath of the war with men, woman and children trying to make it back to the farms, Gideon Barron, an Irishman born in South Africa is accused of helping to steal the gold and hunted by his fellow Boers for treason. With the help of what becomes his friends, he attempts to prove his innocence. Travelling across, what was then, the Transvaal Republic they follow the path of the robbers
Meanwhile the true robbers manage to get away with most of the gold, some travelling into the Portuguese Protectorate of Mozambique and some beyond but some gold is left behind due to a misunderstanding.
This is just one of the many stories about the disappearance of the gold. According to many stories the gold never left South Africa. Some say the gold was worth £500,000 in the value of that time. Some say that there was no gold, that the boxes were filled with ammunition destined for the Boer Commandoes fighting on the front.

THE AUTHOR:

The author was born in South Africa in1942 and spent his teens of the 1950’s on a small farm just outside Naboomspruit in the Northern Province of South Africa, during which time he came to love the sounds, smells and sights of the bush. He did his basic training with 1st Special Service Battalion in Bloemfontein and has happy memories of army life in the bush. He also spent twenty-five years training in the martial arts.

During his work in a steel mill and underground in a diamond mine, he yearned to be back in the bush.

THE BOOK:

By 1902 the British war against South Africa, the so called “Boer War” was over. Paul Kruger, attempted to negotiate a deal with Holland and Germany for arms and ammunition in exchange for gold. The arms and ammunition reached the port of Lorenco Marques but the gold, sent by Kruger, went missing.

Into this chaos of the aftermath of the war, with men, woman and children trying to make it back to the farms, Gideon Barron, an Irishman born in South Africa is accused of helping to steal the gold. Wounded, he escapes but is followed and hunted by his fellow Boers for treason.

INSPIRATION FOR THE BOOK:

The disappearance of Kruger’s gold has always intrigued me. There are many stories, myths and legends about the whereabouts of this treasure. In this work of fiction adventure, I have put forward one possibility. I grew up in this area amongst these people whose stories to their grandchildren in the lamplight around the kitchen table, tell of the gold that may have changed the course of the war, told with the bitterness against the English.

WANT YOUR OWN COPY:

You can pick it up here.

Will To Live by Rachel Amphlett

will to live

Reputation is everything.
When a packed commuter train runs over a body on a stretch of track known to locals as ‘Suicide Mile’, it soon transpires that the man was a victim of a calculated murder.
As the investigation evolves and a pattern of murders is uncovered, Detective Sergeant Kay Hunter realises the railway’s recent reputation may be the work of a brutal serial killer.
With a backlog of cold cases to investigate and attempting to uncover who is behind a professional vendetta against her, Kay must keep one step ahead of both the killer and her own adversaries.
When a second murder takes place within a week of the first, she realises the killer’s timetable has changed, and she’s running out of time to stop him…

 

Many thanks to the author for giving me this book in exchange for an honest review!

Rachel Amphlett is a master at starting a story off by grabbing your attention, and this one is no exception. A horrific murder takes place on the railroad tracks and intrepid detective Kay Hunter is tasked with finding the killer.

WILL TO LIVE has two strong female characters: Kay and her coworker/sidekick Carys. Together they support each other and race against the clock to find the murderer before he kills again. I’m happy to report that the killer’s identity was not evident until nearly the end; and there were some delightful red herrings and twists along the way.

I can’t recall many murder mysteries taking place in railway yards, so I’m giving kudos to Amphlett for creating suspense in a creative location There is always a great opportunity to make death by train gory, and those who like a bit of gore will not be disappointed.

This installment delves a little deeper into the secondary plot of Kay’s personal mission – she is trying to find out who removed evidence from a previous investigation, causing friction between her and DCI Larch,a superior officer. Some hints are dropped but that part of the plot doesn’t have a lot of forward motion, much to my chagrin. I really want to find out who the guilty party is!

Kay Hunter’s character is completely human, which makes the book a good read. One reason is that she is not one of those perfect cops that never make a mistake; plus she has stress and self-doubt and guilt. She also has people on her side, which tempers Larch’s dismissive and possibly abusive attitude towards her. I so cannot wait for him to get his comeuppance in a future book!

The only thing that I would question is the mention of “antidepressants” used to drug the victims. Without any drugs being named, I was hard pressed to figure out what drugs were being used that could cause a reaction like that. I’m certainly not an expert, but that was a small detail that seemed out of place to me. This could be entirely my ignorance and not the fault of the author. Otherwise, the story moved along at a rapid pace. The ending wrapped things up neatly, leaving me both satisfied and ready for another round with Kay.

Amphlett is a writer that I would always say yes to. Her style is polished and realistic without being overly heavy on either dialogue or description – it’s a perfect blend of both along with plenty of suspense.  If you haven’t read any of her work I absolutely recommend it!

Want your own copy? You can pick it up here.

The Marriage Pact by Michelle Richmond

the marriage pact

In this relentlessly paced novel of psychological suspense, New York Times bestselling author Michelle Richmond crafts an intense and shocking tale that asks: How far would you go to protect your marriage?
Newlyweds Alice and Jake are a picture-perfect couple. Alice, once a singer in a well-known rock band, is now a successful lawyer. Jake is a partner in an up-and-coming psychology practice. Their life together holds endless possibilities. After receiving an enticing wedding gift from one of Alice’s prominent clients, they decide to join an exclusive and mysterious group known only as The Pact.
The goal of The Pact seems simple: to keep marriages happy and intact. And most of its rules make sense. Always answer the phone when your spouse calls. Exchange thoughtful gifts monthly. Plan a trip together once per quarter. . . .           
Never mention The Pact to anyone.
           
Alice and Jake are initially seduced by the glamorous parties, the sense of community, their widening social circle of like-minded couples.
And then one of them breaks the rules.
The young lovers are about to discover that for adherents to The Pact, membership, like marriage, is for life. And The Pact will go to any lengths to enforce that rule.
For Jake and Alice, the marriage of their dreams is about to become their worst nightmare.

Many thanks to NetGalley for this ARC given in exchange for an honest review!

Unfortunately, this book was a DNF for me. I was not interested in the characters at all, and the pace was very slow. Great idea, poorly conceived. That’s pretty much all I have to say about the book; I gave it two separate tries before I finally gave up about 25% of the way through.

You can pick up your copy here, in case you want to try it for yourself.

Hunting Hour by Margaret Mizushima

Deputy Mattie Cobb is working through issues from her past and has withdrawn from Cole Walker and his family to focus on herself, when she and her K-9 partner Robo get called to track a missing junior high student. Until they find the girl on Smoker’s Hill behind the high school, dead. But that’s only the start of trouble in Timber Creek, because soon another girl goes missing–and this time it’s Sophie Walker. Hard as they search, Cole, Mattie, and Robo can’t find her anywhere. Mattie’s primary suspect, a strange man who lives near the wilderness area, calls to report he hears deer “screaming” in the woods. Suspecting the man might have lost touch with reality and is referring to something he’s done to Sophie, Mattie takes Robo into the dense pine forest, hoping to pick up a trace of her scent. But when Robo does catch Sophie’s trail, it leads them to another clue that challenges everything they thought they knew about the case. Now Mattie and Robo must rush to hunt down Sophie’s kidnapper before they’re too late in Hunting Hour, the third installment in critically acclaimed author Margaret Mizushima’s exhilarating mystery series.

Many thanks to NetGalley for providing me with this ARC in exchange for a review!

Hunting Hour has the best of both worlds for me; a murder mystery plus a lot of canine activity. Not sure how I managed to miss this series, but I’m glad NetGalley decided to recommend it to me.

This book is number three in a series, which means that there are things alluded to from the first two books in order to flesh out the backstory. These flashbacks piqued my interest and I am going back to read the other books in the series, if only to see how Mattie was doing mentally before the history with her father came to light.

The author is brilliant, painting Mattie’s K9 partner as the only trustworthy companion she has. Despite her emotional issues, Mattie is a great cop. Some of her demons move to the forefront during this investigation, and she struggles to stay neutral and weigh all the evidence equally. Letting your personal history color your opinions is something that many people experience, and I found it refreshing that the story took this turn. Mattie truly wants to do the best she can for the victims, yet she can be blinded by personal issues. The other members of the police department understand what she is going through and are appropriately sympathetic.

There isn’t a lot of rollicking “cop talk” as you would find in a John Sandford book, but the action and suspense held my interest. The author threw in the required red herrings, but to my surprise, I managed to guess who the perpetrator was fairly early in the book. I had a strong suspicion, and was satisfied when it turned out to be who I suspected.

I absolutely loved that one of the main characters was a veterinarian! The animal medicine was true to life, not too gory, and added another dimension to the plot that was refreshing. The romance was part of the backstory, but kept at an acceptable level. (I’m not a fan of mixing mysteries and relationships.)

The inclusion of the animals makes this series stand out. Dogs are the best companions ever, and the human – animal bond shines through on nearly every page. Mizushima’s description of Robo’s facial expressions are perfect! I didn’t know what to expect, as some animal mysteries are written awkwardly; but there was nothing awkward about this one. I felt fully invested in the characters, the dialogue was smooth, and there were no gaping holes in the plot to make me cringe.

Hunting Hour was a great way to spend a few hours, and I look forward to the next adventure of Mattie and Robo.

Want your own copy? You can pick it up here.

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