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Reviews of what you should be reading next.

Tag: mystery (page 1 of 3)

One Night Gone by Tara Laskowski

One sultry summer in the 1980s, a teenage girl arrived in the wealthy vacation town of Opal Beach to start her life anew—to achieve her destiny. But before the summer was up, she vanished.
Decades later, when Allison Simpson is offered the opportunity to house-sit in Opal Beach, it seems like the perfect chance to regroup and start fresh after a messy divorce. It’s the off-season, after all, which means peace and quiet, and more importantly for Allison, safety.
But when Allison becomes drawn into the story of a girl who disappeared from town thirty years before, she begins to realize that Opal Beach isn’t as idyllic as it seems. Beyond the walls of the gorgeous homes hide dark secrets. And as Allison digs deeper into the mystery, she uncovers not only the shocking truth, but finds herself caught in the middle of a twisted plot.

Part electric coming-of-age story and part breathtaking mystery, One Night Gone is an atmospheric, suspenseful novel about power, privilege, and ultimately, sisterhood.

Thanks to NetGalley for this ARC!

This dark story takes place in Opal Beach, a Jersey Shore-like town with authentic details such as the Boardwalk, carnivals, and winter residents (who hate the summer with a passion). These residents are insular and secretive with good reason – a girl went missing years ago and no one knows what happened to her.

When Allison, a disgraced meteorologist, scores a house-sitting job in Opal Beach she discovers just how insular the townfolk can be. The story is told from various points of view, with the main story being that of Allison and her demons. Maureen, the vanished girl, has demons of her own but has a youthful optimism that makes her more appealing than Allison. I was instantly on Maureen’s side and was hoping for a good outcome for her. Allison had her moments, but it seemed that she was slow to make a move due to past events. I understand how she was written, but I wanted her to have a little more backbone. Perhaps she was outshone by the brightness and promise of Maureen. I absolutely loved, loved, loved that Maureen considered herself a mermaid, with her tail flapping at times when she was most confident. It’s too bad that some of that confidence didn’t rub off on Allison.

Allison is befriended by a few friendly residents of Opal Beach and shunned by others. As the plotlines converge and we see characters commit actions in their youth, the reader will find out that what happens in the 80’s does not stay there. The author is skilled at creating the carefree attitude of summer down the shore, both in her character description and the environment. Laskowski is adept at setting a mood with weather; I wondered if that was a subtle nod to Allison. Maureen’s weather is mostly warm, sunny, and full of promise, while Allison’s is bleak and cold. There has been quite a lot of books written with converging multiple points of view, and I may be growing weary of that. However, the author managed to keep my interest going until the plot twists captured my attention – then I didn’t put the book down until it was finished.

The themes of sisterhood and betrayal illuminate just how brutal it can be when women turn on each other. Women grab onto their anger and never let go until the death, either literally or figuratively. ONE NIGHT GONE places the reader firmly in the middle of this anger and doesn’t let go.

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

Man of the Year by Caroline Louise Walker

Beware the Man of the Year. You may praise him, resent him, even want to be him: but beneath the elegant trappings that define him, danger looms. Caroline Louise Walker’s stunning debut novel, for fans of Herman Koch’s The Dinner and Shari Lapena’s The Couple Next Door, delves into the increasingly paranoid mind of a man whose life as the most upstanding of citizens hides a relentlessly dark heart.

Dr. Robert Hart, Sag Harbor’s just-named Man of the Year, is the envy of his friends and neighbors. His medical practice is thriving. He has a beautiful old house and a beautiful new wife and a beautiful boat docked in the village marina. Even his wayward son, Jonah, is back on track, doing well at school, finally worthy of his father’s attentions. So when Jonah’s troubled college roommate, Nick, needs a place to stay for the summer, Hart and his wife generously offer him their guest house. A win-win: Jonah will have someone to hang with, and his father can bask in the warm glow of his own generosity.

But when he begins to notice his new houseguest getting a little too close to his wife, the good doctor’s veneer begins to crack. All the little lies Robert tells—harmless falsehoods meant to protect everything he holds dear—begin to mount. Before long, he’s embroiled in a desperate downward spiral, destroying the lives that stand in his way. It’s only the women in his life—his devoted office manager, his friends, his wife—who can clearly see the truth.

Biting and timely, Man of the Year races along at an electric pace, with a wicked twist that you won’t see coming.

Thanks to NetGalley for this ARC!

Fans of unreliable narrators – get ready to love this book. Each character looks out for himself (some more than others), tells lies, and behaves oddly, and they all desperately want to avoid punishment for the tragedy that happens in the latter half of the book. The author is generous with tropes (narcissism, infidelity, money, desperation) and it mostly works to create this sometimes fast-paced story. I was not sure if I hated or felt sorry for the main character, the eponymous Man of the Year.

The author is skilled at creating circumstances that change with perception. Each chapter is told in the point of view from each character, so the disconnect between perception is magnified. Some characters get to speak only once, which is jarring. I had to think for a moment or two when a minor character took over the narration. Some of these narrators are never heard from again; they tell their story just for the reader to see things from yet another angle.

Dr. Hart is a tragic figure, cuckolded by his son’s friend, who is staying with the family over the summer. The stereotypical “guest staying in the pool house” provides a convenient location for some activities that muddy the plot and/or provide tension. His wife Elizabeth seems self-centered and vacuous – I am not sure if that was what the author intended, or if she was written that way on purpose. I disliked her almost from the start and did not change my feelings when the book was finished.  However, I did end up disliking the rest of the characters towards the end, regardless of how the plot twisted. At that point, I was heartily sick of everyone’s machinations and drama and self-servitude.

I would give the book four and a half stars, for while the plot was engaging there were a few draggy spots and as mentioned above, some characters faded in and out. This fading caused me to disengage a bit when they reappeared since I thought they were on the fringe, not actually moving the story along.

You can get your own copy here.

The Suspect by Fiona Barton

The new must-read standalone crime thriller from the author of Sunday Times bestseller, The Widow, and the Richard & Judy No. 1 bestseller, The Child – featuring unforgettable journalist, Kate Waters.
The police belonged to another world – the world they saw on the television or in the papers. Not theirs.
When two eighteen-year-old girls go missing on their gap year in Thailand, their families are thrust into the international spotlight: desperate, bereft and frantic with worry.
Journalist Kate Waters always does everything she can to be first to the story, first with the exclusive, first to discover the truth – and this time is no exception. But she can’t help but think of her own son, who she hasn’t seen in two years since he left home to go traveling. This time it’s personal.
And as the case of the missing girls unfolds, they will all find that even this far away, danger can lie closer to home than you might think . . .

Thanks to NetGalley for the ARC!

Fiona Barton still has the touch in this latest Kate Waters mystery. We become a little more acquainted in Kate’s personal life while she is investigating a story of how two girls go missing during a trip to Thailand. During a series of plot twists, Kate becomes part of the journalist’s fodder and experiences what it is like from the other side – knocks on your door day and night, having to hide from the press, and looking over your shoulder all the time.

One of Barton’s hallmarks is that some of her characters are unreliable narrators. Sometimes you don’t find out who is unreliable until you have finished half the story, other times it is painfully obvious. THE SUSPECT is a tale that shifts your perspective on the reliability of a character multiple times. Are the good guys really good? Are you supposed to read between the lines of one girl’s email to her best friend, or is she just sharing her innermost thoughts?

Set in the UK with flashbacks of the girls’ trip to Bangkok, the story unfolds as Kate ingratiates herself with the girls’ parents and tries to uncover what happened to them. Once certain details come to light, Kate is removed from the case and becomes a pariah. The author leads you down a path that makes you certain you know the truth…then swiftly changes the course of your journey.

More sensual tension simmers between Kate and Detective Bob Sparkes, despite the fact that his wife is expected to die from cancer within a few months. His character is wonderfully written, full of conflict, regret and fatigue.

The parents of the missing girls are all rage and accusation, blaming each other even as they cling to the small hope that their daughters are still alive. They turn on each other like vipers, then close ranks against the journalists who seek to create a story out of their pain.

The seedy atmosphere of Bangkok’s underworld is a perfect setting. If I were a parent, I would never want my daughter taking a trip there, regardless of how many friends she had with her. Some other reviews note that there is really nothing good mentioned about Thailand; I feel that is to make the story a bit darker and have the actions of the characters appear insidious.

I’d be interested to see if Barton includes some of the characters from this book in a future one. This was definitely an enjoyable read.

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

Past Tense by Lee Child (Jack Reacher #23)

 

 

Family secrets come back to haunt Jack Reacher in this electrifying thriller from #1 New York Times bestselling author Lee Child, “a superb craftsman of suspense” (Entertainment Weekly). Reacher, the eternal drifter, happens by chance on the small New Hampshire town he remembers his father was supposed to have come from. But when he starts looking for his dad’s old home, he finds there’s no record of anyone named Reacher ever having lived there.

 

 

Thanks to Goodreads for the ARC! This latest outing for Reacher is unputdownable.

This is the first Jack Reacher book in a while that I literally could not stop reading. Our hero is caught up in a small town in New Hampshire attempting to find out information about his father and family tree, and as usual, trouble follows him. There is also a converging plotline about two travelers with a mysterious suitcase. Their car dies and they check into a motel of dubious origin. The author doles out tidbits of information on these people in a way that kept me hooked. Consider eating a single M&M or potato chip….then having to wait for another one. This is exactly how I felt – I was so eager to find out what happened to the couple, what was really going on in that motel, and WHAT THE HELL was in that suitcase!!

In the meantime, Reacher is doing his thing, making friends and enemies along the way. There are some wonderful punch-ups and delicious retribution that will gladden the heart of every Reacher fan. We learn more about Reacher’s family (his father in particular) and the town he grew up in. The description of the town was amazing, as I enjoy urban exploring and wanted to go there right away to walk around this abandoned place. However, the information about Reacher’s dad was probably the weakest part of the plot for me. I may have been expecting more detail or a plot twist, but was satisfied enough with what I got. Minor complaints about a nearly perfect book. It was also refreshing to not have Jack caught up in a passionate but short hookup with one of the available women in town. Sometimes that detracts from the action.

As I said before, this is a nearly perfect book and would work well as a stand-alone for those who have not read this series before. I’m very grateful to the publisher for offering this as a giveaway.

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

After The Bubbles by Susan Berliner

One touch and you’re dead…

One minute, Erin Fredericks is daydreaming in geometry class. The next minute, she’s running for her life. Oddly shaped bubbles are falling from the sky all over the world, transforming everyone who comes into contact with them into extraordinary beings that are no longer human. And these monsters want to kill people, which they can do just by touching them.
Phone systems in the United States immediately fail, followed soon after by the collapse of the power grid. With communication impossible, society disintegrates into chaos as bubble-generated monsters prowl the streets, searching for human prey.
Erin, her family, and her neighbors are trapped in their houses by Cyndy Louise, one of the evolving creatures Erin calls “touchers.” As the situation worsens, Erin and the remaining residents of Walnut Lane—along with a handsome young stranger—must fight for their food, their homes, and their very lives. Facing a seemingly invincible foe, how will they manage to survive?

Many thanks to the author for this ARC!

AFTER THE BUBBLES has a unique science fiction flair to it. A quiet town is disrupted by floating bubbles that transform people into zombie-like creatures with a deadly secret – they can kill merely by touch. This twist provided a spine-chilling effect, sort of like a game of tag where you are no longer “it”, but “dead”. Think about all the close calls the characters have, doing their best to avoid the slightest pressure of the fingertips of these creatures.

Erin Fredericks and her family become trapped inside their house by a neighbor girl that was transformed into a zombie (or Toucher, as Erin names them). She marches up and down the block, effectively jailing people inside their homes. The only thing that affects Touchers is water – so when it rains the prisoners are happy to leave their house and seek food and other human interaction.

As Erin and her other neighbors explore their town, there is a great post-apocalyptic feel to the surroundings – there are dead bodies strewn about in the supermarket, starving dogs roam the streets, and houses are eerily devoid of occupants. Multiple Touchers attempt to stop Erin and the others from finding food or seeking other human contact. As the book progresses, the Touchers get smarter and stronger. The author does an excellent job of conveying the characters’ frustration of being cooped up inside the house, waiting for a rainy day so they can move about freely.

AFTER THE BUBBLES is written in a slightly different style than the author’s other books. It has a slightly YA flair to it, yet it will appeal to readers of all ages. Teen readers will especially identify with Erin’s melancholy, as she wonders if she will ever have a boyfriend or be able to hang out with girls her own age again. Her brother is too young to worry about anything other than video games, while Erin is of an age where she is thinking about more adult things.

The book’s story line alternates between suspense, as Touchers are dealt with, and waiting for rain. I felt that the book could have been trimmed down a bit by eliminating some of those scenes, since there were more than enough passages that conveyed that illustrated the plight of Erin and her family. That is the only issue I had while reading. Otherwise, I was engaged with the characters and hoped they would escape unscathed. The cover states that this story is “Book One” so I know there is more action to come in the future. I will definitely be looking for the second book in the series to find out what happened!

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

 

Guest Post – Liquid Cool by Austin Dragon PLUS GIVEAWAY

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Liquid Cool: The Cyberpunk Detective Series

Science fiction is a popular genre and it has dozens of sub-genres. Cyberpunk is one of them—dystopian fiction succinctly described as “low life meets high tech.” Often, it’s a bleak future involving computers, virtual reality, hackers, and computer-human hybrids. Ironically, the genre came and went back in the 80s, launched by authors such as William Gibson and Bruce Sterling, but books in the sub-genre still sell today. From a literary standpoint, most books that claim to be cyberpunk—are not, and my cyberpunk detective series, Liquid Cool, is no different. For the general public, you say “cyberpunk” and they think of the classic Ridley Scott film Blade Runner or The Matrix.

My reason for creating my Liquid Cool series was quite simple: I wanted to write a fun science fiction series that is ongoing—each novel is a new case for our hero detective. Through it, I can explore a different issue or issues without having to create a whole series. It is the mirror opposite of my After Eden science fiction series, which is not devoid of humor, but it is very much not fun—it is after all the events leading up to, and including, World War III.

Liquid Cool is a wild and crazy detective series with hovercars, cyborgs, two-hundred-plus monolith skyscrapers, and people have not only colonized the moon, but Mars. It is my version of cyberpunk. The original cyberpunk of the 1980s envisioned a future (now) where corporations subplanted governments and ran society—well, we know better now. Despite, the propaganda of some, the exact opposite is true—government is bigger and more intrusive than any could have predicted. However, this science fiction series is set centuries in the future. In the Liquid Cool world, I replace the détente of the U.S. versus the Old Soviet Union, with a détente of governments and megacorporations, with we, the people, caught in between—and then we have the crime world. This is the serious setting of the world of Liquid Cool, but again we have the fun —action, laughs, more action, and more craziness.

Here are some early 5-star reviews:

  • “Lots of shooting, lots of crazy maniacs, lots of action and fun!”
  • “I loved this book. It takes place in the future, and what a weird future.”
  • “A funny, intelligent (and sometimes crazy) main character…playing detective.”
  • “Cool and Smooth.”
  • “I had a hard time putting this book down to do things like sleeping and eating.”

Want a free copy of the prequel? You can get it here. Liquid Cool, Blade Gunner, and NeuroDancer are all out now, too, so prepare to be thrilled with mystery, action, and laughs! But, don’t get shot by a laser-pistol-packing cyber-punk on your way to the digital store. Enjoy!

Let’s not forget this awesome GIVEAWAY! Click here to enter – you can win a Kindle Paperwhite, a Kindle Fire, or a 10-book bundle! Be cool – enter the giveaway!

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Author Bio

Austin Dragon is the author of the epic After Eden Series, the classic Sleepy Hollow Horrors, and the new cyberpunk detective series, Liquid Cool. He is a native New Yorker but has called Los Angeles, California home for more than twenty years. Words to describe him, in no particular order: U.S. Army, English teacher, one-time resident of Paris, political junkie, movie buff, campaign manager and staffer of presidential and gubernatorial campaigns, Fortune 500 corporate recruiter, renaissance man, and dreamer.

 

He is currently working on new books and series in science fiction, fantasy, and classic horror!

 

The Crimson Shamrock by Michael Hughes

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A scotch-swilling DUI attorney, a cynical congressional staffer, and a retired bomb- sniffing German Shepherd are just some of the characters Chuck Wesson meets after he takes a travel assignment from his new boss, mysterious Silicon Valley entrepreneur Axel DeWilde. Chuck has been sent on a flight from San Francisco to Boston in order to demonstrate the Crimson Shamrock, a breakthrough portable communication device code-named the RedClove.
However, Chuck begins to suspect that all is not as it seems after a robber tries to steal the device at the airport, and his flight later has to be diverted to the Twin Cities after a threat is made. After his meeting is relocated to the D.C. suburbs and does not go according to plan, Chuck flies back to California to discover who and what are behind his travails.

Many thanks to the author for this review copy!

THE CRIMSON SHAMROCK is a fast paced novella that contains a lot of action. Chuck Wesson gets a job offer that seems too good to be true – all he has to do is carry a protoype to a meeting. Once he decides to complete this simple task, the fun starts. There are plane trips, motels, attempted robbery and mixed messages aplenty. Chuck seems to be ok with most of the confusion, even managing to score a one night stand along the way.

As the amount left to read in the book got less and less, I started wondering how the author was going to wrap things up. I’m not sure if that is a good or a bad thing – when your mind leaves the story and is allowed to wander to the amount of pages left. I’d prefer to be enveloped in the plot and not concern myself with how much is left.

The pace of the story ramped up even more towards the end, when Chuck finally has enough deception and takes control of his destiny. At this point I was super curious to see what the heck was going on!

The novella is an easy enough read, with some freewheeling characters that represent the excess of the wealthy entrepreneur. Chuck seems like a mellow guy who lets thing happen to him, rather than be in control of his life. There were a few scenes of him hanging out with his buddies that perfectly captured the bro-speak and hijinks that take place during a weekend out. Hughes’ gift for creating dialogue is  wonderful, and is often the funniest part of his stories.

I would have liked more background on Chuck; it was hard to become invested in the things happening to him. The action kept me reading, but he was a bit too passive and one dimensional for me. It was also hard for me to picture the mysterious device at the center of the plot; but perhaps that was done on purpose, given how it all turned out. The ending was satisfying, with a resolution I didn’t see coming. All in all, not a bad way to spend a few hours reading.

Want your own copy? You can pick it up [easyazon_link identifier=”1612967116″ locale=”US” nw=”y” tag=”gimmethatbook-20″]here[/easyazon_link].

The Wrong Treatment by Chris Malone

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A fast paced medical thriller with a serial killer on the loose. Adam Hooker was delighted to be working with advanced technologies such as MRI to help doctors perform surgery and treat patients, but his world is overturned when his brilliant mentor Gary dies in a horrific accident. But it seems Gary may have had dark secrets and everything points to his involvement in a series of recent murders and attacks on women. Adam is determined to find the truth and clear Gary’s name, and is finally able to connect the dots between Gary’s death and the real killer. All this is set against a background of hi-tech medicine and political intrigue within a top-ranked research institution.

Thanks to Word Slinger for gifting me this book for review!

Once you get past the first 30 pages, and get used to the formatting of dialogue and occasionally awkward phrasing, this story grabs you and keeps you interested. The plot has a few tendrils: the horrific (majorly gory details) murder of a scientist via overactive radiotherapy machine; other members of the scientific community with secrets they wish to keep hidden; a grasping and pompous hospital Vice President with a licentious mind; and a man with a brain tumor.

THE WRONG TREATMENT takes place in the United States, but the writing is quite British, which may seem confusing to some readers. I did find it endearing that so many American things were being written about with a British slant, and I will say that the author is very familiar with his subjects. Neurosurgery is a complicated science but there was nothing in here that was overwhelming. The author takes pains to describe computer programs and certain treatments in plain language.

Each chapter takes place in a day, with the entire book encompassing 14 days of action. A scientist is murdered and his best friend and co worker tries to figure out who did it and why. As always, I loved that the criminal was not obvious in the beginning. I pegged different characters over the course of the book a few times but was always wrong, as the murderer is not made clear til the final pages.

A research lab must be written about in such a way that the details are correct and not too dull. Malone fulfills this beautifully! The science makes sense, the details are grasped easily, and nothing is too over the top. I can imagine Michael Crichton nodding his head at the finished product. I especially liked the boardroom intrigue and back stabbing as well – the machinations of science and politics are done quite well.

The main character, Adam Hooker, grows as a person over the course of the two weeks, becoming more confident in himself and his decision making ability. Dr Cummings, Chief of Neurosurgery, is a very sympathetic character with a brain damaged son and conflicting inner thoughts regarding that son.

Overall, the writing style is not as polished as I’ve seen, but the plot and character development is solid, the suspense builds properly, and things are brought to a close in a believable manner. I have a second book of Chris Malone‘s to review and I’m looking forward to it!

Want y our own copy? You can pick it up [easyazon_link identifier=”1517595096″ locale=”US” nw=”y” tag=”gimmethatbook-20″]here[/easyazon_link].

 

33 Cecils by Everett De Morier

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In 1992 — when Amy Fisher dominated every news channel — there lived two men. The first was a once prominent cartoonist who had a very public fall from grace. The other was an alcoholic who worked in a landfill. Both lived in in different parts of the country and led completely separate lives — until their paths crossed.
You know their names. And for over twenty years, you thought you knew their story — until their journals were found and authenticated in 2014.
And what we thought we knew — what the old news clips and the old stories wanted us to think — were all wrong.

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

It’s always curious to hear a story told from different points of view, and this is the underlying tone of 33 CECILS. The voices of the main characters are very different in tone and in action, but together they blend and form a perfect harmony that moves the plot along well.

The background is Binghamton NY and Erie, PA, to the delight of those that can confirm the authentic details of those cities. One man is a recovering alcoholic and turns out to be a loyal and fierce uncoverer of information; the other is a man-child that bears scars from previous events in his life and is always looking over his shoulder. Their lives converge in a wild, this-can’t-be-fiction tale taken from their own personal journals that will have you looking to Google to confirm their existence.

It took me a little bit of reading before the writing style settled into my brain, but once it did, I found myself looking forward to the time I spent with Walker and Dutch. DeMorier constructs these men with foibles, faults and fears, making them relevant and sympathetic. I found myself silently cheering for Dutch as he experiments with sobriety, keeping himself busy living the “real” life that non-drinkers live, doing normal things like shopping and waking up early, all the while documenting his inner thoughts in his journals.

Walker’s character took a little while longer before he endeared himself to me, what with the tents in the living room and the imaginary tales he told to his daughters. But once the action really started, I could appreciate the man he started to become and what his vision of the future meant.

DeMorier is well versed in the finer aspects of dialogue, and this helped make the characters come to life. Things go along quietly from day to day until the lives of the two men intersect in a turbulent way. This action sets the book off in a new direction and we see how the same event can be explained differently through two points of view. The layers come together and then move apart again, forming a tapestry that becomes comforting the more you get into it.

33 CECILS was a pleasant surprise. It’s not your typical murder mystery; it’s more like an anti-mystery that celebrates the life of two everyday men. It’s a tale of hope, self realization,  whimsy and love. It’s a real sleeper of a novel that will leave your heart full once you reach the end.

Want your own copy? You can pick it up [easyazon_link identifier=”0985705574″ 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!

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