How do you finally let go when you lose what matters most? This is the question asked by Barbara Taylor Sissel in her new novel Evidence of Life. When Abby’s husband Nick decides to take their daughter on a camping trip, Abby is thrilled that he wants to spend more time with his daughter. After they leave, the skies darken and the weather takes a turn for the worse. Roads are blocked with debris, major flooding ensues and emergency services warn travelers to stay off the roads. Abby receives a disturbing phone call from her daughter Lindsey, who tells her in a scared and distressed voice that they have traveled through San Antonio, Texas, a city far from their intended route. This is the last that Abby would hear from Nick or Lindsey.
Everyone is quickly presuming that Nick and Lindsey are dead, even though their bodies have not been recovered. Abby wants to give up the search and begin the grieving process, but there are too many unanswered questions. Her son Jake becomes distant, making fewer trips home from his college. Abby’s best friend Kate, though sympathetic, also seems to know more than she is telling. Nick was a lawyer on a high profile case and some suspect him of absconding with a great deal of money. Could Nick and Lindsey still be alive? Abby’s friends and family are skeptical and urge her to declare them dead and plan a memorial service, but Abby chooses a different path. She will keep searching until she uncovers the truth.
Evidence of Life is a suspenseful mystery with many twists and turns. Barbara Taylor Sissel creates an engaging main character in Abby, whose inquisitive nature pulls the reader through the story as we discover the truth along with her. Fans of Mary Higgins Clark will definitely find something to like in this novel.
In Last Days by Adam Nevill, we are introduced to the Temple of the Last Days, a severe apocalyptic cult started in England and led by the enigmatic Sister Katherine. She began as a visionary, but soon detached herself to the life as a recluse, surrounding herself with her favorite acolytes and treating the remaining cult members with reproach and disgust. The cult traveled from England to a farmhouse in France, and eventually ended up in Arizona where Sister Katherine wound up beheaded and several members committed suicide.
Years have passed but interest and speculation about the cult never ended. Enter Max Solomon, CEO of Revelation Productions and general new age guru, who wants to make a documentary on the Temple of the Last Days. He enlists a young filmmaker named Kyle who is well known in the indie film business for making gritty, realistic films on paranormal topics. Kyle, heavy in debt, agrees. Max sets up filming locations and connects him with members of the cult who were lucky enough to escape its clutches before it landed in Arizona. Kyle soon realizes that these living remains of the cult are broken souls, and reliving past days will not be easy for them. During filming, strange things begin to happen, from unexplained footsteps on the floor above to unexplained noises coming from basements below. There is talk of presences, but no one can explain what or who these presences might be. Kyle is skeptical until he begins to see shapes in the darkness, shapes carved into the very walls themselves. And then the former members begin to die.
Last Days is a gripping read, well detailed and full of interesting characters. The book creates an eerie atmosphere that will have the reader looking over their shoulder while making sure the lights are on. Fans of Stephen King and Dean Koontz will enjoy this new voice in contemporary horror.
In his first novel, Ghostman, Roger Hobbs creates an exciting world of double dealing, casino heists, crime bosses and an intriguing main character caught in the middle. The Ghostman goes by many aliases and stays separate from the rest of the world. He is careful not to live in one location for very long, has no close associates, and doesn’t maintain a phone line or a personal email. He refuses to use his real name, but when a message comes to him for the persona Jack Delton, he knows that someone is contacting him to collect a debt. Years ago, the Ghostman made a fatal error during a heist in Kuala Lumpur, and Marcus, the mastermind of the heist, was sent to prison. Now Marcus has discovered a way to contact the Ghostman and he demands to be repaid with a very dangerous proposition involving stolen money from an Atlantic City casino. The money was newly printed by the Federal Reserve and contained a dye pack that will explode within the next two days. Marcus needs to find the thief and the cash, and contacts Ghostman with the general schematics of the plan. But plans with criminals can easily go awry, and soon our hapless anti-hero attracts the attention of a crime boss known at the Wolf as well as a rather tenacious FBI agent. It will take a great deal of nerve and every trick at his disposal in order to come out alive.
The story is fast-paced and exciting. It unfolds in present day Atlantic City with the current plan of action, but interspersed are chapters told in flashback and the reader learns the history behind Ghostman’s debt to Marcus. Ghostman is a fantastic thriller that looks into the heart of the criminal world and examines what it takes to survive in such a hostile environment. Roger Hobbs is a new writer to watch, and is sure to please fans of nail-biting suspense.
Ann Leary introduces us to a delightful, if not slightly tragic, character in her novel The Good House. Hildy Good lives in a historic community on Boston’s North Shore, where she works as a rather successful independent real estate broker. She is the descendant of famed Massachusetts witch Sarah Good, and is often reputed to having psychic abilities. Hildy vehemently denies this, however. The abilities she possesses lie only in her ability to read body language and facial cues, and she can often get her friends and relatives to reveal secrets best kept hidden.
But Hildy harbors her own secret. Recently, her daughters staged an intervention and forced her to confront her drinking. Hildy agrees to spend a month in Hazelden, if only to appease her children. But Hildy believes that drinking is hard liquor, and not the occasional bottle of wine. Hildy soon becomes adept at abstaining at social occasions, opting to secretly sip from the nectar while at home. All the while, Hildy is still working hard to sell properties and attract new clients. She becomes involved in the lives of some of the quirky residents of the town and soon secrets are revealed to her about their complicated lives. But it could be very worrisome to reveal your secrets to the town alcoholic. The Good House is an incredible novel told from Hildy’s point of view. She narrates her tale, and is a somewhat unreliable narrator because her perspective is often skewed by drink. The audio version of the book is read by the talented actress Mary Beth Hurt, and she provides a striking voice for Hildy that makes the audio a joy to listen to. The Good House is a wonderful character study and will be enjoyed by individual readers and book groups alike.
In the novel The Child’s Child, Ruth Rendell (writing as Barbara Vine) creates a novel within a novel that looks at two very different issues. In the present day we meet Andrew and Grace Easton, brother and sister, who are sharing a London home they call Dinmont house. Grace is working on her doctoral thesis, writing about the plight of single mothers throughout history. She has recently acquired the manuscript of a lost novel written in 1951, The Child’s Child, chronicling the story of a brother and sister in the 1920’s. In this manuscript, John is a closeted homosexual hiding an illegal relationship with a man and living in constant fear of the law. His sister Maud is fifteen and finds herself with child, only to be cast out of her home when the truth is revealed. These details coincide with many in Grace’s own life. Her brother Andrew is also homosexual and has found love with a rather handsome young man. When one of Andrew’s friends is murdered outside a London nightclub, his boyfriend begins to fall apart. What follows is an event that will change Grace’s life forever.
Most of The Child’s Child consists of this novel within a novel and really encapsulates life in the 1920’s for two types of minorities. A three-time Edgar Award winner, Barbara Vine is known for psychological thrillers, and her latest falls into this category. It is not an easy read, as John and Maud had a difficult life and the novel highlights some of the difficulties that people in their situations may have faced. The addition of Grace and Andrew in the present day adds a nice comparison, and there are some thrilling moments housed within their story as well. Barbara Vine continues to create memorable characters in this readable and suspenseful story.
Some reading experiences are meant to be savored. Jess Walter creates one in Beautiful Ruins, which begins in 1962 at Hotel Adequate View on the Italian coastline. Pasquale Tursi, who runs the hotel, is captivated by the blond woman who arrives at his hotel. She turns out to be a dying American actress, and thus begins a novel that sweeps over decades and contains a cast of captivating characters, all “beautiful ruins” in their own right. In the present day we meet Michael Dean, a film producer who has recently returned to favor with the popularity of a reality television show, and his long suffering assistant Claire Silver, who is in the process of discovering another line of work. Next comes Shane Wheeler who wants to make a pitch to Michael Dean with a screenplay about the Donner party. Other characters include a would-be novelist, a failed musician and a famous film actor. These lives are woven together in an unusual style that includes chapters of novels, film treatments and even a play.
The characters Jess Walter creates are completely realized and finely detailed. The story captures the imagination and you can’t help but care for this motley crew as they try to create something that matters, only to find themselves failing and falling and further affecting all the other lives around them. Although the characters seem separated at the beginning of the novel, the stories begin to intertwine and blend, leading to an incredible crescendo. Thoroughly discussable, this novel is perfect for book groups. Beautiful Ruins will pull you in, capture your heart and will make you reflect on your own life choices.
Readers who have an unreasonable fear of insects should steer clear of the science thriller The Colony by A.J. Colucci. Others who might enjoy a tale of science gone mad, featuring man-eating ants who rise up and take over Manhattan, are in for the thrill ride of the year. A disgruntled scientist heads to Central Park with an ant queen, determined to make the world pay for past wrongs. But Cleopatra is no ordinary queen. She is a Siafu Moto. Nearly an inch longer than ordinary ants, the Siafu Moto has an exoskeleton that is highly resistant to all known pesticides. They also have poison sacs filled with neurotoxins that are meant to paralyze their prey. One bite from one ant could hardly knock down a mammal the size of a human, but human rarely encounter just one ant. They crawl up walls and drop from ceilings, surrounding their prey, stripping their flesh, and leaving an empty husk. Something needs to be done, so a well-known entomologist with a specialty in ants is called in. But even Paul O’Keefe is baffled on how to stop this growing colony, so he sends a military helicopter to pick up some back up--his ex-wife Kendra, who is currently studying fire ants in the desert.
A.J. Colucci writes a tight story for readers who enjoy a creature feature. The Colony is reminiscent of a B-movie, and although the ants in this novel don’t tower over your head, they are no less deadly. The novel is fast paced, has great action sequences and is a lot of fun to read. Be forewarned: read The Colony and you’ll be scrambling away the next time you see an ant on your picnic blanket!
In his novel Outrage, Arnaldur Indridason deals with the serious subject of rape and its deadly consequences. With Inspector Erlunder on a leave of absence, his colleague Inspector Elinborg is able to take center stage as she is called upon to solve a rather unpleasant crime. A man is found in a Reykjavik apartment with his throat cut and his mouth stuffed full of the date rape drug Rohypnol. There were signs of sexual activity in the apartment that leave Elinborg to wonder if this man was a rapist and perhaps his victim regained consciousness and attacked the attacker. There are few clues to go on, but Elinborg finds a discarded shawl under the bed with a rather familiar scent. Elinborg is an accomplished cook and cookbook writer. She realized the scents are Indian cooking spices, and is able to discern that the victim may also be a lover of this type of cuisine. Following lead after lead, Elinborg tries to discover more about the man in the apartment as well as his possible victim. Delving into the past, she must come to terms with some unpleasant truths about the man whose murder she is trying to solve.
Outrage reads like a standard police procedural and fans of Icelandic mysteries will thoroughly enjoy it. It is nice for Indridason to let Elinborg take lead. She is an interesting character and much is revealed about her home life and her work style. The case is complex and there are many leads to follow, keeping the reader interested and involved. This is the seventh Indridason mystery set in Reykjavik. Readers interesting in knowing what had happened to Erlunder while on leave need only to pick up his previous novel, Hypothermia.
Empress of Fashion: A Life of Diana Vreeland, by Amanda Mackenzie Stuart, chronicles the life of one of the world’s most important stylemakers. Born into a wealthy family, Diana was designed for greater things. Her younger sister Alexandra was the beauty of the family, a fact that was revealed to Diana constantly by their mother, Emily. Often Diana felt unloved and unappreciated at home, and used creativity and imagination to escape her dull, drab world. She discovered an ability to surround herself with beautiful things, wonderful clothes and interesting people. In 1936, Vreeland joined the staff at Harper’s Bazaar as a fashion editor. While the editor-in-chief was concentrating on Paris couture, Vreeland concentrated on American fashion and design, often spotting new and fresh designers and photographers and pairing them together to create magic. She was able to keep the pages fresh and inviting throughout the WWII era and well into the Fifties. Times changed drastically again with the arrival of the Sixties, and Diana soon found herself at editor-in-chief of the American edition of Vogue. Here she was able to deal with rising hemlines and a youth movement that would change the world of fashion. By 1971 she was fired from Vogue, but Vreeland never stopped. She joined the staff of the Metropolitan Museum of Art as a Special Consultant to the Costume Institute, and was able to create exhibits featuring the fashion that she loved.
Vreeland is a fascinating character with an unusual yet powerful voice. Readers who would love to learn about fashion will find much to like in this book. Vreeland's life is captivating, as are the many stories of the designers, photographers and models of that period. It is fascinating to read how world events and the economy shape the ways people look at fashion and determine what is worn. Empress of Fashion is sure to please readers, even with the most discerning tastes.
Home by Matthew Costello follows a mother and her two children as they make their way back to New York City in a hostile post-apocalyptic environment. Tragic events preceding this novel have forced Christie Murphy and her two children to flee a family vacation camp and head out into the unknown. Creatures known as Can Heads are roaming in mobs, killing and eating anything or anyone that gets in their way. Christie needs to usher her children past several small towns that could possibly have a mob mentality and try to make it to the safety of a fenced and protected highway. They must face check points for entry, and their lack of any identification could hinder their progress. Without any active radio broadcasts, they cannot be sure that things are still the same in New York. Their home and neighborhood could have been overrun with horrible, hungry, feral cannibals. Will their home still be safe and protected or will they need to formulate a plan that could take them to another destination?
Readers who love a chilling, horror tale will really enjoy Costello’s writing style. He is good at terse suspense, and his use of shorter chapters and many action sequences keep the novel fresh and exciting. He creates an interesting zombie-like villain without trying to recreate actual zombie lore, and this makes Home a thrilling read. The novel Home picks up after the events in his earlier novel, Vacation. Fans of The Walking Dead will really devour this novel.