Roger Johns: River of Secrets Tuesday, Aug 28 2018 


Roger Johns’ returns with a sequel to last year’s stunning debut, Dark River Rising, which introduced intriguing Baton Rouge homicide detective Wallace Hartman. River of Secrets is a compelling read that will have readers placing Johns on their favorites list and waiting anxiously for the next installment.

The case Wallace is handed hits close to home when the half brother of her best friend from childhood is the main suspect in a murder investigation.

Controversial state senator Herbert Marioneaux has been murdered in a disturbing way, and his past and present behavior leads to a long list of suspects. But Eddie Pitkin heads that list when his DNA is found on Marioneaux’s body.

As Wallace investigates, she learns the chameleon-like senator changed his views as often as some people change their clothes, leading to factions on many sides of hot-button issues who had reason to distrust the man. Is Eddie being set up?

Protests from many factions clog Wallace’s investigation, and she receives political pushback from higher ups, while dealing with a snarky new partner. Then it becomes obvious there’s a leak, and suddenly she doesn’t know whom she can trust. A touch of romance hits just the right note as Wallace tries to cram a personal life into a detective’s hours.

This is a well-plotted and crafted procedural readers will gobble up with its quick pacing and engaging characters. Johns balances literate prose with a strong sense of his setting and natural dialogue. A series to follow. Highly recommended.

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Emily Winslow: Look for Her Tuesday, Feb 13 2018 

Names are important in Emily Winslow’s newest, Look for Her. The author’s Cambridge mysteries are so much more than standard police procedurals, plumbing the depths of a complex psychological thriller.

With each chapter in first person point of view, suspects and detectives alike spring off the page as we enter their thoughts and see how they act and react. Detective Chloe Frohmann in particular has a wry humor that freshens up her scenes and keep readers hooked in seeing how she and her old boss, Morris, now on Cold Case reviews, will handle things when he asks her to for help on his first case, even though she’s technically still on maternity leave and trying to decide what to name her newborn daughter.

The small town of Lilling had never gotten over the disappearance and presumed death of a young teen in 1976, and when a decomposed body wearing her clothes is found in 1992, wearing the missing girl’s clothing, as least her end result is known. Or is it? New DNA evidence complicates more than it solves.

What’s still unknown is who took Annalise Wood and killed her. It’s a name that becomes important as the celebrity of the missing girl lingers. For one young woman, Annalise becomes the object of her jealous obsession, leading to catastrophic events as secrets long buried rise to the surface, just like the body found by a dog walker after the roots of a tree gave up their secret bounty.

An accomplished addition to the series, Winslow’s ability to shade people and show their many sides adds texture and believeability to the story, even as both obfuscate the complicated truth.

Cambridge and its environs are also meticulously woven into the fabric of the story, so that even if a reader hasn’t visited that storied city, they will come away feeling the presence of the ancient colleges residing alongside more modern buildings as yet another character, almost essential to the story.

A compelling and intricate plot makes this an evocative read. Highly recommended.

Clare MacKintosh: I See You Sunday, Feb 26 2017 

i-see-you

After Clare MacKintosh’s I Let You Go comes the chilling tale of an average woman in an average town, where nothing about her life becomes average at all, in I See You.

Zoe Walker has two children still living at home and a partner who adores her. She’s even civil with her ex, after a failed marriage. Working means a long commute into London, which she uses to people-watch and she passes the time reading magazines and newspapers.

Then an ad catches her eye: is that her own picture staring back at her from the site FindTheOne.com? What starts out as a possible mistake soon turns into something much more, when Zoe’s nervousness at the ad has her scouring back issues and she uncovers sees a pattern. Other women whose photos were in these ads were raped, had their houses broken into, or worse–were murdered.

Kelly Swift it a policewoman on a mission, determined to show her superiors she’s learned from an early mistake when she let her rage get the best of her when dealing with a rapist. After time spent paying her dues on different details, she begs for a chance to prove herself once she and Zoe convince the powers-that-be that these cases are connected.

They soon uncover that these women were stalked by people who pay into a website to gain their daily routine. It’s a nightmarish concept that has Zoe and everyone around her looking over their shoulders.

This is a multi-layered story, with Kelly’s as strong as Zoe’s, and interlaced with snippets of the voice of the person behind the scheme. Soon Zoe doesn’t trust anyone, and the spectacular twist at the end evolves into a double twist.

MacIntosh’s twelve years on the police force give her police scenes authenticity, whether Kelly is dealing with police politics or interviewing a suspect in the custody suite.

Readers won’t be able to put down this accomplished psychological thriller.

As a special treat, here’s a short video of Clare MacKintosh talking about her first piece of writing and the surprises of a writer’s life:

https://youtu.be/bY0ku9BwfcU