Archives for posts with tag: Suspense

bestdayWhile I was reading BEST DAY EVER by KAIRA ROUDA, I made a Facebook post that said “Only 50 pages in and I want to strangle the narrator.” A friend advised that I was “allowed to put it down” and I realized I couldn’t. Just like when I tackled Flynn’s GONE GIRL, I knew I was going to have to finish this book. I needed to know what happens to the characters. I needed to know that Paul Strom was going to be punished for being truly awful.

Everything about Paul is perfect. He has the perfect life: a high-powered job, a beautiful stay-at-home wife, Mia, and two young sons. And he has planned the perfect weekend getaway with Mia at their second home in an exclusive gated community. He even assembled the perfect playlist as the soundtrack the their weekend. (Paul is prone to repetition; maybe it affected me a little.) But if everything is so wonderful, then why does Mia seem so unhappy? Why are Paul’s thoughts so dark? What are they both hiding?

As the day’s events intensify, Mia seems to know more about Paul’s darker half than he realizes. She asks questions about his work life that make him incredibly nervous. Of course, he thinks he’s too smart to be found out. She’s just a silly housewife, no threat to him whatsoever. But Paul’s overconfidence may end up being his downfall.

Written primarily from Paul’s perspective, this book is very character-driven. He is an intense, brooding, and flawed person. In many ways, he reminded me of Patrick Bateman from American Psycho. Is Paul a psychopath or just creepy and controlling? Or both? Or is he just an exaggerated character who is created to tell a story?

I think that Paul, while perhaps a bit embellished, is a very realistic character. He’s overly concerned with status and brand (he mentions a least a dozen times that he drives a Ford Flex). Maintaining a picture-perfect life is what he strives for. And maybe that’s what felt over the top about him. If he’s a psychopath, would he care about creating an illusion? Or would he just try not to get discovered? Regardless of these nitpicks, the story is both disturbing and compelling.

Even though I was angry at the narrator, I think that’s the mark of a successful book. Rouda managed to evoke incredibly strong emotions from me. I was filled with disgust for Paul. I rooted for Mia to confront her controlling husband. I wanted answers to all the questions brought up by Paul’s unsettling internal monologue. For the most part, I got those answers. But can you really trust the answers of someone as suspicious as Paul?

Sometimes, it’s fun to explore the scary things in the world. I think I prefer the more impossible side of scary, though. Give me vampires, werewolves, and Ancient Ones any day. Knowing that there are really people like Paul out there made Rouda’s book more unsettling for me. But, if you don’t mind getting inside the head of someone who is, frankly, unlikeable and unreliable, then BEST DAY EVER might be for you.

matchup  More than 3800 suspense writers are part of an organization known as International Thrill Writers. They don’t pay dues but support the organization by publishing an anthology every few years. In 2014 the Faceoff anthology pitted popular characters from some of the most read male writers against each other.

The sequel published in June, MatchUp, pairs male and female writers together. The Booklist description says “Think Dancing with the Stars, but with mysteries.” The task for each pair of writers was to create a suspenseful short story starring their well-known characters.

Lee Child was the editor and also gives an introduction for each story. This information on the authors/characters and insight into the writing process is an interesting addition to an entertaining collection.

I am not familiar with all the characters depicted but for the most part that didn’t affect my enjoyment of the stories.  I saw the movie but have not read the Rambo series by David Morrell.  I was also unfamiliar with Gayle Lynds’ character Liz Sansborough but I thought their collaboration, “Rambo on Their Minds”, one of the best in the book.

“Midnight Flame” by Lara Adrian and Christopher Rice not only had characters I was unfamiliar with but also a genre I don’t usually read, the paranormal. The authors did an excellent job of taking two characters, Lucan Thorne and Lilliane, from different time periods and creating an entertaining tale. I probably won’t delve any further into the world of vampires and Radiants but I enjoyed this foray.

Child’s partner in prose was Kathy Reich with his character, Jack Reacher, coming to the rescue of Temperance Brennan. Brennan is charged with murdering a reporter who was going to expose her as inept or corrupt in her examination of the death of Army Colonel Calder Massee. As soon as he hears the news report Reacher knows she is being framed and heads her way to help.

In “Deserves to Be Dead” John Sandford’s Virgil Flowers is (to no one’s surprise) on a fishing trip when he becomes involved in a murder. Lisa Jackson’s Regan Pescoli is the investigating officer. In the intro Child’s identifies Sandford as the main author but surprisingly Regan Pescoli is the driving force for this dark tale.

Karin Slaughter and Michael Koryta teamed up for the longest and in my opinion the best tale in the anthology called “Short Story”. The two authors take their characters back in time to younger days hinted about in the series.

Slaughter’s Jeffrey Tolliver has just received his shield and is in the north Georgia mountains for a romantic getaway. He is stood up but that doesn’t mean he goes without female company. His companion for the night tries to steal his car and winds up dead. Tolliver, who had given chase wearing his t-shirt, Auburn underwear and one shoe, is arrested.

At the same time Koryta’s Joe Pritchard and Lincoln Perry are sent to the same place to find a Detroit drug dealer who is in Georgia to meet his supplier. It doesn’t take long for Joe and Lincoln to get involved and determine Tolliver’s innocence. The three team-up to find the killer and the drug dealer during an all-time record snowstorm.

There are 11 total entries with something for everyone in this engaging collection of short stories. You may even find some characters and authors to add to your reading list. The library has both regular and large print editions of it as well as the eaudiobook for download.

gravesThe Girls She Left Behind by Sarah Graves is suspenseful and intense. This is the second in the Lizzie Snow series. Lizzie was a Boston homicide detective. She currently lives in Bearkill, Maine and is a deputy in the Aroostook County Sheriff’s Department. She took the position so she can search for her niece. Lizzie’s sister was murdered and her baby was never found.

When not following leads Lizzie is kept busy with the residents of Bearkill and the surrounding area. One of those resident is Jane Crimmins. Jane was kidnapped when she was 15 by Henry Gemerle but managed to escape. She left behind at least 2 other victims but never told anyone about the crime or the other victims. Her kidnapper was finally arrested and 3 victims rescued alive. Now Henry has escaped. Can he be headed to Bearkill and Jane?

Lizzie knows of the case but not Jane’s involvement. Currently she is looking for a missing 14-year-old, Tara. The teen has a history of running away so no one is too concerned. But Lizzie’s instincts tell her something is not right then Tara’s mother receives a text with 2 words “help me”.

Lizzie soon believes that if she can find Henry Gemerle she’ll find her missing teen. But there is a more to this than another kidnapped girl. Can Lizzie unravel the secrets and lies in time to save not only Tara but herself?

“The Reckoning,” a mystery by Rennie Airth, begins just a couple of years after World War II with the execution-style murder of retired bank manager, Oswald Gibson, an unassuming businessman with no known enemies. Gibson was fishing off a beach near the usually quiet countryside of Sussex, England. His wife had died several months earlier and he was enjoying his freedom. Gibson had had a visitor a few days earlier–a stranger, who questioned him about his past.

In Scotland, a respectable family doctor is killed in the same manner with a single bullet at the base of the neck. Forensic tests reveal that the same gun was used in the murder. The only thing in common between the two murders is that both men were elderly and there is no obvious motive for the killings.

Billy Styles, Detective Inspector of Scotland Yard, requests help from colleagues Detective Constable Lilly Poole, a highly intelligent and capable female officer, local detective Vic Chivers and the assistance of his retired boss, John Madden in helping solve the murders. One of the victims mentioned Madden’s name in an unfinished letter, consequently Madden apparently has a connection to the case, but he has no idea what it might be. He doesn’t remember any of the victims.

Styles and Madden realize that a serial killer is on the loose as other elderly men are murdered in the same manner and with the same gun. What is the connection? What is the motive? As the investigation continues, it does reveal one link—all victims served in World War 1.

John Madden also served in the war. Does that mean that he will meet the same fate as the other men? He sadly remembers serving on the panel for the court-martial of a soldier and the subsequent execution of the soldier. He was powerless to stop the man’s execution. Is the court-martial the one thing that connects all of the victims?

The events in the novel occur in post World War II Britain. Rationing is still in place and times are hard. Great Britain has yet to be rebuilt from the war’s extensive bomb damage. Rennie Airth, a brilliant storyteller, skillfully provides excellent descriptions of the atmosphere of the times– of both history and place. His character development is terrific and the plot lines intricately drawn.

This novel is a suspenseful British police procedural, meticulous in detail. It isn’t like the action-packed thriller that I normally read, but I definitely enjoyed it. It is definitely not a British “cozy” mystery either.

“The Reckoning” is fourth in the John Madden series but can be read as a standalone novel. Prior knowledge of the characters’ background would provide a better sense of their relationships, so it might be helpful to read the previous three novels in the John Madden series.

I listened to the MP3 audiobook with veteran narrator, Robert Ian Mackenzie, who gives each character his own voice and convincingly conveys the bleak atmosphere of post-war Britain.

“The Reckoning” is available in print and MP3 audiobook formats, and the first three novels in the series are available in print from the Joplin Public Library.

Pirio Kasparov is a miracle, remarkable, or an anomaly depending on who is describing her – fishermen, her rescuers, or the U.S. Navy. Pirio was on a lobster boat that sank in the foggy North Atlantic after being rammed by a tanker. She spent 4 hours in 48 degree water before being rescued by the Coast Guard. Boat owner and friend, Ned Rizzo, did not survive.

As you read Pirio’s story in  Elisabeth Elo’s novel North of Boston you find a character more complex than a one word description. The only child of Russian immigrants she is a little damaged, smart, tough, courageous, and proud she is American.

As she tells her doubting father, in America the authorities will find the tanker that destroyed the lobster boat and killed her friend. But finding the tanker proves problematic for the Coast Guard. Pirio can only provide the color and according to the logs no boats of that color were out of the harbor that day.

Pirio wants answers, not only for herself but for Ned’s son, Noah. Noah’s mother, Thomasina, and Pirio have been friends since they were both banished to boarding school. They were rule breakers and drinking buddies. Pirio changed her lifestyle but Thomasina can’t and counts her sobriety in days.

Noah and Pirio share a special bond. Noah is a pal and because of circumstances sometimes Pirio’s responsibility. So for him as well as herself she wants to find who is responsible for Ned’s death.

Also the Navy is eager to study her. They want to know how she could survive for 4 hours in water that would kill most people in minutes. She feels a duty to help but the base in Florida is a long way from Boston and the answers she seeks.

She begins by questioning Ned’s former co-workers. He worked for years at a commercial fishing company, Ocean Catch. His acquisition of the lobster boat was recent. In fact its last voyage was also its first.

Someone else is raising questions about Ned. “Larry” says he is Ned’s friend but no one knows him. Pirio then suspects he is an insurance investigator but his real identity is reporter Russ Parnell. Russ’s prime interest is not the accident but in Ocean Catch and the voyages the fishing trawler Sea Wolf takes.

At first Pirio’s sleuthing is done around her hours at Inessa Mark, the perfume company her parents founded. But as she uncovers more evidence her search to find out what happened consumes her.

She soon begins to believe that there was nothing accidental about the tanker ramming the lobster boat. When clues point to Ocean Catch and the Sea Wolf she joins forces with Russ Parnell to find Ned’s killer and uncover the truth.

Following clues, and sometimes ignoring her instincts, Pirio finds herself in the far north and running for her life. Can she and Russ uncover the truth while evading ruthless killers who will go to any length to keep their secret?

This is Elo’s first novel. It took me a few pages to get accustomed to the author’s style but once into the story it was easy to get lost in the telling. Cold water survival, the perfume industry, Russian immigrants, commercial fishing, and whales are woven into a compelling story of suspense.

Pirio is an interesting character and indications are she will reappear in future novels. She has a difficult relationship with her father and she still misses her mother who died when Pirio was 10 years old. You get glimpses of their story throughout the novel. If there are additional Pirio novels, it will be interesting to see if we learn more.

If you are a Tess Gerritsen, Dennis Lehane, and/or Lisa Gardner fan this will be right up your reading alley. However, I recommend it to anyone who likes suspense.

If you are a Tess Gerritsen, Dennis Lehane, and/or Lisa Gardner fan this will be right up your reading alley. However, I recommend it to anyone who likes suspense.

For mystery and suspense fans, here are some titles you may want to add to your summer reading lists.

Julia Spencer-Fleming is one of my favorite authors and her latest, Through the Evil Days, reminded me why. She is a master at building suspense with almost non-stop action while still having the characters drive the story.

Number eight in the Clare Fergusson/Russ van Alstyne series has Clare and Russ leaving for a delayed honeymoon. A week on a frozen lake is an odd destination but Russ needs time to adjust to impending fatherhood and Clare has a decision to make that could end her future with the church. A double homicide and a kidnapped child who needs anti-rejection meds have the rest of Russ’s police force racing against time. Then the ice storm of the century hits. Russ and Clare are stranded and soon find themselves fighting for their lives against the elements and desperate killers who have a kidnapped and now very sick little girl.


Irene Hannon’s Heroes of Quantico series has strong characters and plenty of action. It is labeled Christian Romantic Suspense but the religious aspects are subtle with the action and relationships driving the narratives.

The first in the series, Against All Odds, features Evan Cooper, a member of the FBI’s Hostage Rescue Team (HRT). He is normally called in after a kidnapping but his current assignment is to prevent one. A Middle Eastern terrorist is holding hostages and Monica Callahan’s father is the negotiator. Besides money and the release of prisoners this terrorist wants revenge. Half a world away Monica is the leverage he needs to get what he wants and he proves, even with protection, she is vulnerable. Can Evan control his growing attraction to Monica and, with his team, protect her?

An Eye for Eye is next and involves another HRT member, Mark Sanders. Mark is temporarily assigned to the St. Louis office while recovering mentally and physically from a shooting incident. Jogging on a hot August morning he runs into his high school sweetheart, Emily Lawson. Mark only has time to learn that Emily is a clinical psychologist and widow when their reunion is interrupted by a sniper’s bullet. His quick action saves them but the danger isn’t over. The sniper is still out there and to find him they have to figure out who is the target, Mark or Emily?

The third book, In Harm’s Way, involves Nick Bradley and Rachel Sutton. Nick, an FBI agent working in St. Louis, meets Rachel when she brings a tattered doll into his office. She found the snow encrusted doll in a parking lot and is unsettled by the bad vibes she feels when holding it. Nick keeps the doll but dismisses Rachel’s feeling that something bad occurred involving the doll. Then he stumbles onto a link between the doll and a kidnapped infant. Rachel becomes the target of unwanted media attention and as the FBI races to find the missing baby, also the target of a woman who’ll do anything to keep the child she stole.


For a lighter mystery try Vicki Doudera’s series about amateur sleuth Darby Farr. Darby is a real estate agent in Southern California but she solves mysteries on both coasts. The first in the series, A House to Die For, takes place in her hometown, Hurricane Harbor, Maine. Summoned home to finish a sale for her dying aunt, Darby must find who killed the potential buyer and why before she can complete the deal.

After mysteries in Florida, California, and back to Maine Darby is in the Big Apple for Deal Killer. In the city to visit boyfriend Miles they are soon involved with million dollar real estate deals, Russian politics, and murder. With a multitude of suspects, can Darby figure it out before someone else dies?

Doudera always has plenty of suspects and subplots in each book but can sometimes leave things unresolved. That said, I was entertained reading the series and I like the characters; I hope you do too.

The Midnight Sun Extreme Freeride Competition is being held in Yancy, Alaska. Snowboarders and skiers are everywhere and for the McKenna siblings it means their brother Reef is back. It is a rare chance to see the young brother who left home at 18 to ski the circuit.

The uneasy reunion is shattered when one of the competitors, Karli Davis, is murdered.  Reef McKenna, her sometimes boyfriend, is covered in her blood. In fact the first witnesses on the scene see him holding her dead body, the knife used to kill her in his hand.

So begins Shattered, Dani Pettrey’s second book in the Alaskan Courage series. The Christian romantic suspense series tells the stories of the McKenna siblings: Cole, Gage, Kayden, Piper, and Reef.

Even though Reef is the one booked on murder charges, this is not his story. It is the story of Piper who will stop at nothing to prove her brother innocent and Deputy Landon Grainger who wants the truth.

Landon considers the McKennas family and would like to assure them that he will prove Reef is innocent. However, he knows that sometimes those closest to you lie. He vows to continue the investigation even if it proves Reef guilty.

As Landon questions the other competitors and those closest to the victim, it becomes clear that Karli Davis had secrets and more enemies than friends. Against Landon’s wishes Piper is conducting her own investigation. But someone wants her to stop asking questions and she is run off the road by a mysterious dark SUV.

Who wants Piper stopped – someone with secrets to protect or the real killer? Even though she is not seriously hurt, Landon, whose feelings for Piper are far from brotherly, knows that to protect Piper and the McKenna family he needs to solve the case sooner rather than later.

To find the truth he needs to know more about the victim. Taking a leave of absence from the sheriff’s department Landon heads to Canada to see if he can uncover some of Karli’s secrets. At the airport he finds Piper packed and determined to go. They decide to join forces and head north into the rugged wild of British Columbia.

They soon discover that finding out anything about Karli Davis including her real name is not an easy task.  They travel deeper into the frigid north then to California and Oregon searching for clues. Along the way they find that they are not making the journey alone. A man has been shadowing their every move.

As they work closely together Piper begins to question what she feels for Landon. Does Landon dare hope that she is beginning to see him as a man and not a big brother? Can he keep her safe and move them toward the future he wants with her? Or will the mystery man who is following them keep them from the truth and their future?

This book is action packed with well-developed likeable characters.  Romance and faith are central themes but the characters and the action are what drive the story. Even though Landon and Piper get the most page time, the rest of the McKenna family is very much a part of the story.

I have not read the first in the series, Submerged, which the library has in the e-book format. I enjoyed this title but at times I felt there was some back-story missing. So if you want the whole McKenna experience, start with Submerged. After Shattered you can round out the experience with Stranded which is available on audio at the library.