Adult Book Reviews by Genre: Mystery

The Paragon Hotel
Faye, Lyndsay
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

1922. Alice James finds herself on a westbound train with two bullets in her stomach and $50,000 worth of counterfeit cash. On the run from the mob, she befriends a black porter who saves her life by taking her to his doctor friend in the only black hotel in Portland, Oregon. When a mixed race child goes missing from the hotel, the residents panic as KKK activity in Portland has been escalating. This excellent novel switches back and forth from the events leading up to Alice’s shooting and then her experiences at the hotel after arriving.

Alice James is one of my favorite characters in recent memory – she’s flawed, but self-aware, whip-smart and most importantly compassionate. Her empathy gets her into the trouble and she knows it, but she’s the sort who is willing to sacrifice herself for the greater cause. The supporting characters, especially Blossom, are equally flawed but lovable, especially as their truths slowly come to light. I’m a sucker for a 20s setting, and we get a lot of the good stuff here, especially linguistically. Our Alice has quite the endearing way of explaining herself in 20s style aphorisms.

In addition to being a charming read, the book covers some really important issues around race, gender and sexuality. The author has a deft enough hand at covering these issues that she manages to make the commentary work for the 20s as well as present day. If you decide to read this book, you’ll laught, cry and rage along with the characters at the injustices handed to them based on their gender, race or sexuality. My one complaint is that the middle sagged a bit – this is book that’s largely focused on character development and the mystery really just served to get Alice to learn things about her new friends.

I don’t read a lot of historical fiction, but the promise of mob-excitement, mystery and racial commentary brought me to this book, and I’m so glad it did. Richly drawn characters and a fascinating setting pretty much guarantee that most fiction (historical or otherwise) readers will enjoy this one, and I’ll be pre-ordering a copy for my mother. 5 stars – I adored it.

Thanks to Netgalley and G.P. Putnam’s Sons for the advance copy, which I received in exchange for an unbiased review. The Paragon Hotel goes on sale on 08 January, but you can put your copy on hold today!

Reviewer's Name: Britt
The Shadow of the Wind
Zafon, Ruiz
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Wonderful mystery reminding me of Umberto Eco. "Anyone who enjoys novels that are scary, erotic, touching, tragic and thrilling should rush right out to the nearest bookstore and pick up The Shadow of the Wind." Really amazing depiction of characters and setting in early 20th century Spain. Captures feeling of fear caused by Spain's political environment and war and aftermath when villainous police. Can't put down type of read.

Reviewer's Name: S Andrews
Awards:
The Astronaut's Son
Seigel, Tom
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

***THIS BOOK WAS RECEIVED FROM A GOODREADS GIVEAWAY***

While the modern landscape for space exploration is expanding in ways that are very exciting, it’s interesting to read a story set in the early 2000’s that actually accomplishes something that hasn’t happened in decades: landing on the moon. And yet, this part of the plot of The Astronaut’s Son takes a minor role when compared with the primary thrust of the story. Sure, I would have thought that there would be plenty of things to occupy an astronaut’s time in the lead-up to a significant accomplishment, but apparently, there’s plenty of free time to explore the validity of a conspiracy theory.

I’ll admit that I never thought that there would be Nazi sympathizers in the space program, but The Astronaut’s Son brings up a few interesting and perhaps semi-plausible ideas. These are explored via the main character’s investigation as to whether his father’s sudden death would was truly due to a health condition that could affect him during his own mission, or if it was due to more sinister circumstances. Despite not ever seeming to deliver straight answers, the journey was still exciting and entertaining. The story may be fictional, but there did seem to be some deep-seated elements that had the possibility of being true, thus helping to suspend my disbelief.

Some of the other subplots, like the birth of a child and numerous characters’ marital infidelities, were interesting for character development, even if I thought they would have affected the main plot more than they did. After all, wouldn’t it be more interesting if there wasn’t even a genetic link between the main character and his father after all? At any rate, I was certainly blown away by this book at first, and it wowed me with its writing and style. However, if you think too much about it, you’ll start to realize there are some holes in it that can’t entirely be covered up, regardless of its entertainment value.

An interesting and perhaps plausible exploration of Germans and Jews in the space program, I give The Astronaut’s Son 4.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin W.
The Clockmaker's Daughter
Morton, Kate
2 stars = Meh
Review:

This story centers around an impassioned artist and his dreams, a mysterious murder, an enchanting English manor and all that went on their throughout its many years, a ghost that stands outside of time witness to it all, a vanished girl, an archivist and her discovery of a priceless artifacts, and how what went on there all those years ago effects who she is today.

In the past, the 1860’s to be exact, this story begins with a talented artist Edward Radcliffe and a group of artists that spend a summer at the house of his dreams Birchwood Manor. But shortly after arriving a mysterious murder is committed, a priceless artifact disappears and one of the women vanishes. A hundred years later in the present an archivist, named Elodie, finds a satchel which contains an unrelated photograph and a sketchbook that contains a drawing of Birchwood Manor. As she digs deeper into the mystery she is pulled into a story that has her questioning her past and who she truly is. This beautiful atmospheric mystery spans the length of time, and is told by the many voices and people all living within and around the Manor’s walls.

Before I go any further, first, let me say this. Kate Morton is the master of atmospheric beautiful Gothic mysteries and I am a big fan of hers and have loved every one of her past books. Her intricate and deeply rooted stories her beautiful prose, and her enchanting settings are the reasons why she is simply one of the best in her genre. That being said, this work, was a bit of a disappointment. While all the elements of what I love about Kate Morton’s books were there; an intricate story steeped in history, an old vast English manor with a secret or two to hide within its walls, old families with long pedigrees, a family mystery, an enchanting setting, this book fell short for me mainly because of its intricacy and complexity. I also believe the ending was a bit weak. I really wanted to love it, I just couldn’t.

Morton, I believe, really attempted to tell a challenging story, but simply had to many voices trying to tell it. While I like a good dual timeline novel, this one, with at least four voices and timelines was simply too much. There were times that, because of how she bounced around among the numerous timelines, when I got completely lost in which timeline I was following. This combined with how many characters and voices there were throughout the novel, made the story overall a whole lot less enjoyable. I’ll admit, this story took me a good while to get through and I do recommend, if reading this, keeping a list of who everyone is and which timeline goes where. It’s definitely a book you have to think through. That being said the story itself was beautiful and it makes me wonder, if it wouldn’t be better as an audio book where each of the voices are sounded out. Overall a 2.5-3 star read for me. However, if you are a Kate Morton fan and if you love atmospheric Gothic mysteries, I couldn’t count this one out, I would still give this one a go, just maybe as an audio book. Place your copy on hold today!

Thank you to Netgalley, Atria books, and Simon and Schuster for a DRC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Reviewer's Name: Tawnie
The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle
Turton, Stuart
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Finished this book at 2 a.m. (thanks a lot Mr. Turton!). Freaking amazing! I don't even quite know how to classify it - and I don't want to give anything away so I won't even try. Let's just say that it is like reading a REALLY good murder mystery through a kaleidoscope, shifting perspectives constantly to allow everything to eventually come together. I would suggest just letting the first half of the book just wash over you without trying too much to figure it out - otherwise it would get frustrating. And keep track of the characters - that is very important (and there are a lot of them!). Wow, just wow.

Reviewer's Name: Krista
Genres:
The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle
Turton, Stuart
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Every day at 11pm, Evelyn Hardcastle is murdered at Blackheath, her family’s estate and her childhood home. Aiden Bishop has eight days to solve her murder. Eight of the same days. The day repeats on a loop, but each day for eight days, Aiden occupies a different body. His only escape from the never ending loop is to solve her murder.

Wow. This was a fantastic, kind of trippy thrill ride. The only thing I can really think to compare it to is The Magus by John Fowler, and that’s only in the sense that both you the reader and the main character really have absolutely no clue what is going on. Unlike The Magus, though, (almost) everything is revealed by the end of the book and it comes to a mostly satisfying conclusion.

Even if it were just a closed door murder mystery, it would still be good. The mystery itself was twisty enough to keep the reader constantly on their feet. I guessed one thing, but most of the elements of the mystery were a total surprise when they were revealed. It’s deliciously complex. The addition of the eight different perspectives along with the fact that everyone is unreliable really added to the story. Add to that the fact that someone is killing off Aiden’s hosts, and the book becomes nearly impossible to put down. I actually had to stop reading it before bed because I was staying up too late (just one more chapter!). There were a few world building things that were left frustratingly vague, but I think that was by intention, so I can’t complain.

This genre bending book will screw with your head in the best way possible. I’ve never read anything quite like it, and I really loved the reading experience. I think a lot of people will enjoy it – mystery lovers, those that enjoy high concepts and general fiction readers are going to love this one. I certainly did! 5 stars.

Thanks to Sourcebooks Landmark and Netgalley for the eARC, which I received for review consideration. The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle will be available for purchase in the US on 18 September 2018. You can put your copy on hold today!

Reviewer's Name: Britt
Awards:
Bring Me Back
Paris, B.A.
2 stars = Meh
Review:

I slogged through 200+ pages of tedium to reach an absolutely ridiculous conclusion. This will be the last time I see Paris.

Her books have gotten progressively worse. I would lump her in with Ruth Ware. Modern day "thriller" writers who are popular. Why, I do not know.

Reviewer's Name: Alfred Weber
Awards:
The Death of Mrs. Westaway
Ware, Ruth
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

2 1/2 stars. It was a fun Gothic-type novel, but nothing really memorable. If you just need something light to read with not too much substance (I call them "chewing gum" books), you may enjoy this title. This is my 3rd Ruth Ware novel to which I've given 2 1/2-3 stars so I think I'm done with her books.

Reviewer's Name: Krista M.
Awards:
The Tuscan Child
Bowen, Rhys
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Loved this dual-timeline novel. Both stories were strong enough that they could have stood on their own, but together they were wonderful. The descriptions of a small town in Tuscany were so vivid that I felt like I was there, and the food in particular made me hungry! I've only ever read the Royal Spyness mysteries by Rhys Bowen, but they are among my favorite lighthearted mystery series. Now, I'm definitely going to have to pick up In Farleigh Field and her other mysteries!!!

Reviewer's Name: Krista M.
The Art of Inheriting Secrets
O'Neal, Barbara
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

My favorite so far of Barbara O'Neal's books, and my favorite of the year! This book was just beautiful in every way and just what I needed. Beautiful setting, family secrets, descriptions of food that made my mouth water, and one of the most beautiful love stories I've read in a long time. I honestly felt sad when this book ended. I will be recommending it to anyone looking for a mystery, a Gothic novel, a healing story, a foodie book, or a gorgeous love story. Just wonderful.

Reviewer's Name: Krista M.
Code of Honor
Gratz, Alan
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Kamran and Darius Smith made a code of honor when they were kids; be the bravest of, the brave strongest of the strong ,help the helpless, kill all monsters. But when Darius graduates at west point, and then joins the army, he is captured by the al qaeda and forced to make public broadcasts about threats from the terrorist group. After that happened Kamran is taken to a government facility and decides to prove that Darius is innocent. He gets the help he needs from Ex-special forces officer Dane Redmond, Aaliya sayid, Jimmy Doran ,and Mickey Hagan. Together they help Kamran rescue Darius, but wait, one of someone might be a traitor to the team.

Reviewer's Name: Brendan M.
Mildred Pierce
Cain, James M.
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

It’s almost uncanny how timeless the story of Mildred Pierce remains to this day. I could easily see a similar story set in 2009, immediately following the housing crash—instead of following the Great Depression. Of course, this also is an unsettling reminder that many societal structures haven’t changed much since the 1940’s. The patriarchal society that existed then still exists to an extent today, which is troubling because of the increased difficulty women have in trying to get ahead in life, especially after something like a divorce or bankruptcy. The fact that the titular character was able to overcome these limitations speaks to her talent as much as to her luck.

The most noticeable differences between the Hollywood version with Joan Crawford and the source material of this book mainly come down to the amount of suggestive/objectionable material within it. This is likely due to the book’s slightly more pulpy origins, combined with the Hays Code that was prevalent in Hollywood at the time. In fact, the plot almost seems modern, despite its 1940’s roots. The women in Mildred Pierce were certainly more in control of their destinies than we’d like to think, given the era in which they lived.

While the basic rags-to-riches story is inspiring and does lead to some interesting character growth, the constant conflict between the main character and her daughter or husband or lover is what really drives the plot along. The only difference between how Mildred acts at the beginning of the book and how she acts at the end comes down to the simple accumulation of life experience. If she had encountered the kinds of problems when she was barely scraping by, she wouldn’t have reacted in the same way as when she had built a restaurant empire on the one skill she had: hospitality.

A story about a strangely modern woman who overcame patriarchal limitations, I give Mildred Pierce 4.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin
Metro Girl
Evanovich, Janet
1 star = Yuck!
Review:

I can honestly say, this is the worst book I have read in 2018. I couldn't believe it was written by Janet Evanovich. It lacked her usual wit and laugh out loud moments. I actually thought I would love it since I enjoyed the graphic novel. But no. I didn't care about any of the characters.
I thought the story line plodded along and at the end, I just didn't care. I was hoping a canister of nerve gas would just destroy every copy of this book so no one else who's thinking of reading will suffer.

Reviewer's Name: Melissa M.
Double Indemnity
Cain, James M.
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

This classic piece of noir does what some might consider impossible: making an insurance salesman interesting. Of course, planning to commit insurance fraud makes the scenario much more interesting, even if it follows some of the basic tropes of the genre. Because the story is so short, only lasting just over three hours of audiobook reading, I feel the movie adaptation was able to include everything that made this story so engaging. I do think the ending was improved in the film, though, as the story’s ending felt a little disjointed from the narrative.

What made Double Indemnity so enjoyable was how the main characters were so sure they’d get away with the crime they were about to commit. The details of the fraud were so thorough that the reader is almost convinced that nothing could go wrong. When the aftermath starts to unravel, that’s when the story began to get interesting. Suddenly, all the little things you’d never think of started to rear their ugly heads and tear the crime apart. If anything, Double Indemnity proves that, no matter how well you plan a crime, there is always something that is bound to go wrong. There are no perfect crimes.

While I enjoyed the revelation of the family’s backstory after the crime was committed, the one element that was a little uncomfortable was how the main character altered his amorous intentions from the mother to the daughter. It felt kind of creepy how he was justifying a 15-year age difference, even if she was a year past the age of consent. Maybe that was part of the point, though: prove that none of the characters were above reproach. They each had flaws that made them unlikeable in some fashion.

A short and tightly-written noir classic, I give Double Indemnity 4.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin M. Weilert
'Book Review: The Snowman'
Nesbo, Jo
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Have you ever heard of Leatherface? Hannibal Lecter? Freddy Krueger? Good. Because if you like those kinds of killers and movies, then you will absolutely love this novel, The Snowman. The book follows the path of a detective with a dark past who is forced to hunt down one of the most deadly and disturbing killers he has ever faced, as he simultaneously struggles with the battle within himself. Overall I thoroughly enjoyed the book. I would recommend this novel to people who enjoy thrillers, horror novels, or anyone who enjoys getting a little disturbed sometimes.

Reviewer's Name: Peter C.
Awards:
The Bookseller's Tale
Swinfen, Ann
2 stars = Meh
Review:

It is a truth universally acknowledged (at least by my friends) that a person such as myself, in possession of historical studies, must be in want of a good medieval mystery. Sadly, I found Ann Swinfen's first book in her Oxford Mystery Series to be only so-so, not even qualifying as good. I admit, too, that I am rather spoiled by having read many of Ellis Peters' Brother Cadfael Mysteries and all of Mel Starr's Chronicles of Hugh de Singleton. Perhaps if I had not done so I would like this series better, but I cannot assess it any other way than having encountered medieval mystery before. The Bookseller's Tale opens with bookseller Nicholas Elyot of Oxford living a quiet yet sad life, his wife taken by the Plague, his widowed sister living with him (for the same reason, the Plague took her family) to care for not only him but his surviving children. All is going along fairly well until a young student who frequents is found murdered by Master Elyot, dumped unceremoniously in the river Cherwell. What ensues is a long trail of details to catch his killer by himself and the murdered student's academic teacher (why not the local Sheriff or Bailiff, I'll never know). The book is excellent at descriptions of how a bookseller's life in the mid-1300s would look. Who they might employ, who would be their friends (academics, it seems), and the layout of hearth and home and Oxford. In truth, it was more like The Time-Traveler's Guide to Navigating the Streets of 1350 Oxford than a mystery at times, Ms. Swinfen takes you on a twisty-turny journey through streets that I assume are mostly non-existent today. I would have preferred less detail of streets and business and more interesting plot, I found myself missing the intrigue of Ellis Peters and the straightforward style of Mel Starr. Not even illuminated books and stolen property were enough to spice it up, as I found myself plodding along on rabbit trails with Master Elyot. As a result I was rather bored about 2/3 through and didn't particularly care why the young man was murdered, though I did finish the book and went "Oh." at the end. But again, this could be just me. Maybe to others it will be exciting and the perfect accompaniment to a rainy afternoon and cuppa by the hearth.

Reviewer's Name: C. Marie
The Widow
Barton, Fiona
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

This book is dark, and it addresses most of the situations of what is happening in the present. However it gives the reader another view besides the victims, but everybody that is affected by the circumstances. It is really good, I could not put it down.

Reviewer's Name: Lourdes C.
Thr3e
Dekker, Ted
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Thr3e by Ted Dekker (great title after reading the book) is one of the greatest murder mystery novels out there. The book begins with the main protagonist, or so it seems, Kevin Parson. He receives a phone call from a psychopath in Killer named Slater saying that he has three minutes to confess his sin to the world or else his car will blow up. This is just one of the many events that take Kevin, Samantha, his greatest friend, and Jennifer, an FBI agent, through a world of mystery and motives. The twists and turns are the main attraction of this novel, as the reader won't expect what comes next. Character backstories also play a gigantic role in this novel, and all of them are well crafted to fit the plot. Anyways, I would recommend it to anyone willing to take the time to read a book.

Grade: 8

Reviewer's Name: Steven L.
Awards:
Inferno
Brown, Dan
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

In this, the fourth installment of the Robert Langdon series, Dan Brown has continued to successfully marry science to art, albeit with the same tropes and trappings that occur in the book’s predecessors. With Inferno, we get the same race across Europe explored in Angels & Demons and The Da Vinci Code, with the ambiguity of the antagonist’s motives that fueled The Lost Symbol . All throughout this adventure, the now-standard “female who is an expert in her field” accompanies Langdon as he tries to unravel the mystery and save the world. Langdon continues to be part Indiana Jones and part James Bond, that’s for sure.

Utilizing the standard “temporary amnesia” plot device, Brown refines his style while also increasing the stakes. While previous books in the series had potential impacts on the local and national levels, Inferno takes the antagonist’s plan to a global scale. With the main character as talented with memory as Robert Langdon is, taking away his recent memories was a good way to have him re-learn the situation at the same time the audience does. This also allows for some entertaining twists and turns as characters’ motives are revealed, often taking the plot in a quick 180° turn.

While much of the historical plot of Inferno focuses on the titular work by Dante, the scientific side of the story is incredibly relevant. Previous Brown books like Angels & Demons or The Lost Symbol certainly had some interesting scientific intertwining, but Inferno examines one of the most pressing issues within the scientific community right now. This issue, much like global climate change, has no easy answer, and Brown’s solution through the book’s antagonist is certainly a terrifying answer, even if it is probably the most humane way to go about implementing it.

The best book in the Robert Langdon series to date, I give Inferno 4.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin
The Girl on the Train
Hawkins, Paula
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

I haven't always been a big fan of mystery, but this book changed that. The Girl on the Train is about a woman with some difficult events in her past who becomes a crucial part in solving a missing person case. This book resembles a psychological thriller, which keeps the level of suspense high. It shows multiple people's perspectives, which makes following the mystery so much more intriguing. I absolutely recommend this book, whether you like mystery or not. Chances are you won't be able to put it down.

Reviewer's Name: Sabrina J.

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