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Reviews of what you should be reading next.

Category: Thriller (page 1 of 2)

Bloody Genius by John Sandford (Virgil Flowers #12)

Virgil Flowers will have to watch his back–and his mouth–as he investigates a college culture war turned deadly in the latest thriller from #1 New York Times-bestseller John Sandford.

At the local state university, two feuding departments have faced off on the battleground of PC culture. Each carries their views to extremes that may seem absurd, but highly educated people of sound mind and good intentions can reasonably disagree, right?

Then someone winds up dead, and Virgil Flowers is brought in to investigate . . . and he soon comes to realize he’s dealing with people who, on this one particular issue, are functionally crazy. Among this group of wildly impassioned, diametrically opposed zealots lurks a killer, and it will be up to Virgil to sort the murderer from the mere maniacs.

Thanks to NetGalley for this review copy!

No one is getting Virgil’s jokes. This is because he is knee-deep in academia land, investigating the murder of a well-respected but also generally disliked professor. Apparently those who work at the University of Minnesota do not have a well-rounded sense of humor.

Virgil teams up with Detective Trane from the Minnesota police department, a partnership that starts out shaky but solidifies when Virgil proves himself to be an affable companion. Trane is at a dead end until Virgil discovers some evidence that starts the ball rolling, leading to some of the strangest characters ever seen in a Flowers novel.

I felt that the book was slow going until the last third, when the action started to pick up a bit and the loose ends started to come together. There are a lot of characters and subplots, and unless you keep them straight it will end up being confusing.

The plot blurb notes there is an interdepartmental feud going on, but I found that portion of the story a bit underwhelming. There is less going on there than the publisher would have you believe. I feel it would have benefitted the book to have noted there was a murder on campus and Virgil had to deal with a lot of functionally crazy people; after all, the murder does take place in the beginning of the book and the rest is just smoke and mirrors until the end. At times I wanted to skip ahead, looking for more action and less talking, but I was afraid I would miss something.

Flowers novels are like pizza – it may not always be the best tasting, but it’s pizza. Despite the flaws I noted above, it is always good to see what Virgil is doing. Hopefully the next outing will be more suspenseful and action packed.

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

Neon Prey by John Sandford (Davenport #29)

Lucas Davenport pursues a prolific serial killer who has gone undetected for years in the newest nail-biter by #1 NewYork Times bestselling author John Sandford.

It was a relatively minor criminal matter, all things considered, but enough that the US Marshals obtained a warrant to enter the home. They didn’t expect to unearth trophies from a score of killings.

Now Davenport is on the trail of a serial murderer, one who was able to operate for years without notice or suspicion. But there’s even more to this killer than meets the eye…

 

Thanks to NetGalley for this ARC!

It’s hard to believe that this is Davenport’s 29th adventure. He’s gotten shot, stabbed, punched numerous times, and suffered various other indignities. In NEON PREY he and his fellow Marshals Bob and Rae are hot on the heels of a cannibal. Multiple bodies have been found in the yard of Clayton Deese, and the Marshals want to ask him some questions. Deese, however, is not cooperating.

When Lucas and Co. discover that the livers from the bodies are missing, and the barbeque grill from Deese’s house has been used, they realize that they are not looking for a typical run-of-the-mill killer. Bob, Rae, and Lucas share the spotlight equally, which is different from previous books. It almost seems as though Lucas is part of the supporting cast rather than the main character. Even his “cop talk” is secondary to that of Bob and Rae.

Las Vegas is a quirky setting that provides both sparkle and squalor. There is a section of the book where Deese and his crew hang out at a friend’s ramshackle trailer. As I read on, I could hear the banjos from “Deliverance” in the background – it was that eerie!

My thoughts on this one is that it’s a firm middle-of-the-road Prey novel. What stood out for me was that Davenport seems to be feeling his age (both mentally and physically) here. No spoilers; but I was not ready for some of the plot twists. Kudos to the author for keeping his characters human with relevant emotions.

I’d love to know what you think of #29 – leave me a comment with your thoughts. You can pick up your copy here.

 

Scared To Death by Rachel Amphlett

Scared

A serial killer murdering for kicks. A detective seeking revenge.
When the body of a snatched schoolgirl is found in an abandoned biosciences building, the case is first treated as a kidnapping gone wrong. But Detective Kay Hunter isn’t convinced, especially when a man is found dead with the ransom money still in his possession. When a second schoolgirl is taken, Kay’s worst fears are realised.
With her career in jeopardy and desperate to conceal a disturbing secret, Kay’s hunt for the killer becomes a race against time before he claims another life. For the killer, the game has only just begun…
Scared to Death is a gripping fast paced crime thriller from author Rachel Amphlett, in a new series introducing Kay Hunter – a detective with a hidden past and an uncertain future…

 

Thanks to the author for gifting me this book in exchange for an honest review!

I loved this book! Chapter one was crazy intense, with plenty of action to set the tone of the story. Kay Hunter is a determined, capable woman with some job conflict in her past. The kidnapper is a sociopath on a mission, full of devious ways to murder his victims.

Amphlett knows how to grab the reader’s attention by using strong character development and by keeping the plot moving. There are never too many people clogging up the pages; I really struggle with books that require a scorecard to keep track of characters. I also love that she believes in a strong female lead. Hunter knows what she wants and she trusts her intuition, no matter how much others may think it incorrect.

Setting the crimes in an abandoned building warmed my heart.  What creepier place could you find to make a victim consider her own death? I’m an urban explorer and could visualize the locations easily. What an excellent idea to use these places as a focus point for drama!

SCARED TO DEATH is a win on so many levels; I truly have nothing bad to say about this book. This is the type of story that you sit down to read and suddenly regret not having cleared your calendar prior to starting. The plots twists keep you guessing; even when the real kidnapper is identified, it’s never a guarantee that he will be captured.

Equal parts of suspense, humor, drama and action make this book one of the best ones I’ve read this year so far. The ending leaves the door wide open for the next book in the series to be awaited eagerly – I, for one, can’t wait to see what happens. I also have a theory about who caused the gun to go missing in her previous case – but I’ll keep that to myself and see what happens.

You definitely need to get your own copy – you can pick it up [easyazon_link identifier=”099443376X” locale=”US” nw=”y” tag=”gimmethatbook-20″]here[/easyazon_link].

 

The Empress of Tempera by Alex Dolan

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The feud began forty years ago. On one side: one of the wealthiest families in America. On the other: an artist known as Qi, heralded as the next Andy Warhol. After an acrimonious falling out, a Cold War began between these two families, and very few people remember the artist at all. Until a piece by Qi appears in New York.
Outside the Fern Gallery, a man stabs himself in the heart while staring at the last Qi, a painting of a young Chinese empress. Paire Anjou, a young art student fresh to the city, stands so close, her dress is freckled with blood. The resurgence of Qi’s art stirs up widespread curiosity and attention. Much like Michelangelo’s David, the portrait evokes powerful reactions from people. Patrons pass out, write love letters, and try to vandalize it. Since the day she saw it, Paire can’t stop ruminating about the painting.
The descendants of both families converge, and Paire, who covets the Empress, is woven into an escalating blood feud. Paire Anjou is herself a descendant of criminal parents with a predilection for theft. And she has decided that she needs to possess the Qi for herself.

Thanks to Diversion Books for gifting me this book for review!

EMPRESS is the kind of book that has a dark undercurrent running through it. The darkness may ebb and flow, but it’s always there. Paire is a character who may be sympathetic at times, and other times she will make you cringe and wonder what you ever saw in her in the first place.

The titular Empress is the sun around which everyone’s world revolves. Dolan’s description of her is so precise, so fawning, that it makes you wish you could see her for yourself and become obsessed. As Paire slowly sinks into lustful infatuation with the Empress, the darkness flows into her and also makes her stronger. Paire gets involved with illegal activities, all the while with the painting at the back of her mind.

The darkness envelops other characters as well, and begets betrayal, or violence. It seems as though the painting is like a Rorschach drawing; people see what they want to see, while the image affects them all differently. I especially enjoyed this aspect of the book – watching everyone decompensate is a delicious, voyeuristic experience.

Another enjoyable facet of this story is the art and artist setting. New York is the perfect backdrop for this beleaguered gallery and its employees. There also was a great deal of authentic art discussion that taught me things and enriched the reading experience.  Any time I can learn something from a book, it’s a plus for me. This shows that the author is not just trying to create a story; he is doing his hardest to immerse the reader in a believable world where things occur because of the setting, not despite it.

THE EMPRESS OF TEMPERA was a compelling and brilliantly conceived story. I loved it! Definitely a must read this year. You can pick up your copy [easyazon_link identifier=”1682302970″ locale=”US” nw=”y” tag=”gimmethatbook-20″]here[/easyazon_link].

The Sea Crystal and Other Weird Tales by Susan Berliner

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Welcome to Susan Berliner’s world. It’s a place where strange things–both good and bad–happen. Meet some of the inhabitants:

* Doreen. It’s time for her wedding but where is everyone? (Doreen’s Wedding)
* Neal. The face he sees in the mirror is no longer his own. (Mirror Image)
* Deb. All she does is recite four Latin words. How bad can that be? (The Rapunzel Effect)
* Ben. Everything he says sounds like gibberish. (Wordless)
* Mary. Her sweet dreams become nightmares and then the nightmares become real. (Dare to Dream)
* Kayla & Dan, Lisette & Omar. Two vacationing couples, one white and one black, form a bizarrely close relationship. (The Sea Crystal)
* Alicia. She waters office plants for a living. It’s a stress-free job, right? (The Plant Whisperer)
* Isabel. The man in a red sports car looks exactly like her long-lost husband. (Nathan’s Return)
In this weird world, you’ll encounter a variety of genres from thriller and horror to fairy tale and humor. Enjoy your visit!

 

Thanks to the author for gifting me this book for review!

Once I started reading these stories, I could not put my Kindle down. Short stories are always good, because you can read one and pick up again with a brand new story. However, once you start reading anything written by Ms Berliner, you had better clear your calendar. Her characters are haunting, memorable, and real. Despite the horror/thriller undertones in some of the stories, each character seems authentic.

As I read, I kept thinking of the Twilight Zone, with offbeat stories that started out normal, but always had some strangely plausible but unsettling ending.  THE SEA CRYSTAL is just like that. Normal people: a bride, an office worker, couples on vacation — what could be so strange about that?

You are in for a real treat. It takes a special talent to be able to create a scene in a few pages, from beginning to end, and this is where the author excels. As soon as the story begins, you are thrust into a little microcosm where things look ordinary…mundane, even.

But then…plants start talking, or someone disappears, or someone who is there turns out that they were never even there in the first place!

Much like a riddle or a brain teaser, these tales will get under your skin and not be shaken off that easily. One of the stories in particular, DOREEN’S WEDDING, left me with a queer little ache in my heart. Entirely plausible, simply done, and utterly gripping. I challenge anyone to read that and not be moved.

Berliner is a talented weaver of stories, and I guarantee you will love this book. Click [easyazon_link identifier=”0983940150″ locale=”US” nw=”y” tag=”gimmethatbook-20″]here[/easyazon_link] and pick up your copy RIGHT NOW.

 

The Widow by Fiona Barton

widow

For fans of Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train, an electrifying thriller that will take you into the dark spaces that exist between a husband and a wife.

When the police started asking questions, Jean Taylor turned into a different woman. One who enabled her and her husband to carry on, when more bad things began to happen…
But that woman’s husband died last week. And Jean doesn’t have to be her anymore.

There’s a lot Jean hasn’t said over the years about the crime her husband was suspected of committing. She was too busy being the perfect wife, standing by her man while living with the accusing glares and the anonymous harassment.
Now there’s no reason to stay quiet. There are people who want to hear her story. They want to know what it was like living with that man. She can tell them that there were secrets. There always are in a marriage.
The truth—that’s all anyone wants. But the one lesson Jean has learned in the last few years is that she can make people believe anything…

Many thanks to NetGalley for offering this ARC to me!

One of the best things about THE WIDOW is that you don’t really know what is happening until the very end. The unreliable narrators seem sympathetic, then horrid, then sympathetic again, until your emotions are all twisted this way and that. It’s wonderful.

Both Jean and her husband Glen live a quiet life, despite Glen’s “nonsense” (Jean’s term for the Bad Thing that is the crux of the book). She is a quiet woman that can be manipulated; first Glen wraps her up in his little world, then the press cajoles her into giving a coveted interview. Jean’s inner monologue shows a strong but conflicted personality, with a critical weakness that holds sway over her emotions until the last page.

Barton’s writing style is smooth and her dialogue is easy to follow. There isn’t an overload of characters to remember; the ones that are there are well developed. We learn about Jean and Glen’s life together as each chapter goes by in the form of flashbacks, each one building upon the next until you are almost sure you know what is going to happen–then Barton leads you down a different path.

I completely, thoroughly, loved THE WIDOW.  Exploring the theme of “suburban life conceals dark secrets” (some a deeper hue than others) was glorious and satisfying.  We have all been that neighbor curious about the goings on next door, and perhaps some of us have been that friendly neighbor that slowly pulls away once misdeeds beget misgivings.

The sub plot of the manipulative reporter, worming her way into Jean’s life and maybe even her heart, along with the beleaguered detective who brings the case home every night (to the constant disappointment of his wife) round out the story perfectly, and give the reader a respite from the subtle creepiness of Glen’s “nonsense”.

This is a story that you can (and will) devour in one or two sittings.  Fiona Barton is an author to be celebrated, discussed, and most importantly, supported. I loved her freshman effort and look forward to her next work.

Want your own copy? You can pick it up [easyazon_link identifier=”1101990260″ locale=”US” nw=”y” tag=”gimmethatbook-20″]here[/easyazon_link].

 

Crimson Shore (Pendergast #15) by Preston & Child

crimson shore

A secret chamber.

A mysterious shipwreck. A murder in the desolate salt marshes.

A seemingly straightforward private case turns out to be much more complicated-and sinister-than Special Agent A.X.L. Pendergast ever could have anticipated.

Pendergast, together with his ward Constance Greene, travels to the quaint seaside village of Exmouth, Massachusetts, to investigate the theft of a priceless wine collection. But inside the wine cellar, they find something considerably more disturbing: a bricked-up niche that once held a crumbling skeleton.

 

Many thanks to NetGalley for providing this ARC copy for review.

Pendergast almost turns this case down because he feels it’s too pedestrian for him. But once he hears about the priceless wine being offered as payment, he decides to travel to Massachusetts after all.

He and Constance stick out like sore thumbs, skulking about and dressed in black, manipulating everyone in sight.   His sarcastic comments and glittering eyes will make every Penderpeep sigh with joy, and we see Constance’s emotions stirred as well. There is an episode where the two of them share wine together, and I read it holding my breath. No spoilers here, though! (I’m actually not sure I want to see the two of them together, as I fear it may change my perception of both of the characters.)

One of Preston and Child’s trademarks is the extensive research done to ensure the environment is described well, and CRIMSON SHORE is no exception. It was easy to hear the pounding surf and feel the sullen stares of the townspeople due to the stellar depiction of the desolate surroundings. There is a perfect balance of action, conversation, and description, just enough of everything to keep the plot moving forward and place the reader firmly in the salt marshes.

Constance is not happy to sit and wait for Pendergast to do all the work, as she takes on responsibilities of her own and helps things along by doing extensive research on the history of witchcraft that’s endemic to the area.

That’s when the plot veers off to the supernatural and violent. Almost all the loose ends are tied up when, suddenly new things appear and Pendergast must brave the marshlands to rescue Constance. This is where the suspense ratchets up quite a bit and things start happening quickly.

Earlier books had Pendergast sporting almost superhuman strength, and these last few show him in a different light. This one is no exception, as I was prepared to see him put up a good fight but suffer in the process.  There is the almost mandatory cliffhanger ending that draws in elements from other books, written deliberately cryptic to keep us all guessing.

I enjoyed this latest outing even though it got sidetracked to the supernatural. The spotlight is centered firmly on Pendergast and Constance here – with humor, suspense, witchcraft and even a cooking lesson, there is a great deal to get your mind around. Preston & Child are continuing to create quality work with consistency and no lack of interesting plotlines. Exactly what the doctor ordered.

Want your own copy? You can pick it up [easyazon_link identifier=”1455525928″ locale=”US” nw=”y” tag=”gimmethatbook-20″]here[/easyazon_link].

Holiday GIVEAWAY! A present from GTB and author Ellie DeFarr!

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What better gift than a book? And what better book than THEY CALLED HER PAPERBACK ROSE by Ellie DeFarr? She’s becoming one of my favorite authors, so my gift to you is a chance to win one of THREE e-copies of her latest mystery. Enter the giveaway below.

Here’s my review of PAPERBACK ROSE. I loved it, and so will you! See below to enter.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
PaperbackRoseCover_300wGood luck and happy holidays from all of us here at gimmethatbook. Endless thanks to author Ellie DeFarr for thoughtfully providing these gift copies for our giveaway– we love you, Ellie!

e-Murderer by Joan C. Curtis

e-Murderer

 

 e-MURDERER is a race to find a psychotic killer before he kills again.
On this anything but typical Monday morning Jenna Scali, who works part-time for a shrink, opens an email that depicts the brutal death of a young girl. On that same day the police uncover a dead coed two blocks from Jenna’s house. The e-murderer’s description creepily echos the death described in the newspapers.

 

Thanks once again to author Joan C. Curtis, who also wrote THE CLOCK STRIKES MIDNIGHT, for gifting me this book for review.

 

Jenna Scali is a reluctant participant in the events taking place around her. She gets an email out of the blue that describes a murder, and thinks nothing of it. But when the emails keep coming, and the body count around her starts rising, she realizes that the common thread is her and she’s got to do something before she’s the next victim.

The tone of E-MURDERER is different from CLOCK in that it’s a bit lighter –  the main character hasn’t got a time limit of three months left to live – and so that sense of urgency isn’t in the forefront. However, Curtis does a great job of creating drama with a light hearted touch by including her wonderful Southern humor.  For example: Jenna’s friend and co-worker Starr says  (about digging through patient files on the down low) “We can go through these files like my mama used to go through my diary”. Curtis is also a master of describing odious characters clearly, with descriptions that will have you cringing (oniony breath, yellow teeth–ugh!). It’s always easy to develop a picture in your mind when you read her books, which is a quality I value in an author.

Jenna’s pal Starr is a true outspoken Southern girl and tells Jenna the truth with no holds barred. I just loved all her pithy sayings and sassy attitude. Compared to Starr, I found Jenna a bit wishy washy, when she kept hesitating to go to the police because she didn’t want to cause trouble at her job by possibly violating patient’s privacy. I also wondered at her boss’s seeming lack of concern for Jenna. He seemed mildly interested for a few moments whenever Jenna would try to explain things and talk about murder, then he would brush her off and resume work. I began to get frustrated with both him and Jenna for being so passive. Eventually the danger becomes too much to handle for Jenna and she is off and running, taking matters into her own hands despite her fears.

Plot twists begin to pop up towards the middle of the book, and the action picks up. Jenna begins sleuthing in earnest, and starts to develop feelings for the handsome policeman handling the case. She is also trying to convince her boyfriend that she needs more space, a concept he is having trouble grasping. Once again, Curtis’ character development is dead on, as the clingy boyfriend becomes more and more irritating.

Some of the supporting characters start to appear guilty, but it will not be obvious who the e-murderer is until you get near the end. Curtis gives you just enough information to tantalize you with a hint of suspicious behavior, and then another character seems like a better candidate!

Always enthralling and often amusing, E-MURDERER is another fun and fast read. Want your own copy? You can pick it up [easyazon_link identifier=”B013GR330M” locale=”US” nw=”y” tag=”gimmethatbook-20″]here[/easyazon_link].

Need by Joelle Charbonneau (plus book GIVEAWAY!)

NEED

 

“No one gets something for nothing. We all should know better.”

Teenagers at Wisconsin’s Nottawa High School are drawn deeper into a social networking site that promises to grant their every need . . . regardless of the consequences. Soon the site turns sinister, with simple pranks escalating to malicious crimes. The body count rises. In this chilling YA thriller, the author of the best-selling Testing trilogy examines not only the dark side of social media, but the dark side of human nature.

 

Thanks to Rachel at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt  and the author for sending me this ARC! It will be offered as a giveaway to one lucky winner in the USA–link to the Rafflecopter is at the end of this post. 

 

As pervasive as social media is among today’s students, NEED illustrates what can happen when teens are faced with having every wish fulfulled so they can appear superior to their peers. Angst and stress rule in this small town in Wisconsin, where all troubled and misunderstood Kaylee wants (or NEEDs) is a kidney for her younger brother. She is doubtful of the site’s ability to grant wishes, yet she posts her request up anyway.

Getting deep into the story may take a while: there are many characters and each chapter is told in their own point of view. We see the social media site becoming larger and more greedy, in how it changes its requirements to submit a “need”. These “needs” morph rapidly into “wants”, and grow rapidly from a new pair of skis into setting up an entire VIP package – including car service and front row seats – for a concert. Greed and deceit go hand in hand, while Kaylee (who may or may not be completely innocent) tries to figure it all out. Authority figures see her as an unreliable narrator and thwart her efforts.

Soon, very bad things are happening, and deaths start occurring. As the plot unfolded, it went from believeable to almost over the top; how was it that the police and other school figures weren’t able to stop the killing? However, when you consider the teen hormones and lack of good judgement, it did kind of make sense. Towards the last third of the book, the dark twists suddenly started making sense, and I was on the edge of my seat, hoping Kaylee would be able to figure things out in time to save others from certain death.

There are plenty of lessons to be learned from reading NEED, the most important being if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Plus, reading this from an adult aspect made me truly see how 17-somethings treat everything like life and death, whereas a jaded (read: older) person would see through all the convolutions and machinations and not become sucked in. Kaylee annoyed me sometimes when she was so hesitant to make a move, but given her past (which the author slowly reveals) she has reasons to be that way.

I enjoyed the descriptions of the cold weather and the bare emotions of the teenagers, just trying to get through the drama. The plot twists will keep you interested, and once details are shared, bit by bit you see the big picture and how all the narrators/characters tie in to each other.

NEED should be a big hit in today’s social media obsessed world. YA readers will enjoy the escalating greed of the members of NEED, as well as the ever fluid high school world of who-is-cool-this-moment dynamic. Charbonneau’s premise is brilliant without being too dystopian. Definitely one to check out.

 

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Here’s the link to our giveaway—-good luck!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Don’t want to enter the contest? Want to buy your own copy? Click [easyazon_link identifier=”0544416694″ locale=”US” nw=”y” tag=”gimmethatbook-20″]here[/easyazon_link]. NEED will be published on November 3, 2015.

 

 

 

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