Sophie Hannah: A Game for All the Family Sunday, May 22 2016 

GameFamily
Auntie M had previously mentioned Sophie Hannah’s standalone, A Game for All the Family, in a thriller post last fall. But it’s available now in the US and worthy of a second look for those of you who are hooked on this writer’s wicked imagination.

A Game For All The Family, shows Hannah’s deft hand at psychological thrillers, as well as her ability to create an intriguing story from the most seemingly innocuous bits of people’s lives that somehow escalate before the reader’s eyes into full-blown terror. This is the genius of her writing.

Justine Merrison is moving with her family to escape London and her high pressure job to the lovely Devon countryside, home to Dame Agatha, by the way. She has huge plans to do nothing at all, at least for a while, but the family is no sooner moved in than teen daughter Ellen withdraws and exhibits a change in her personality.

It seems Ellen has written a story that describes a grisly murder set in the family’s gorgeous new home and just happened to name a character after herself. What starts out as a school assignment morphs into the story of someone else’s family.

Then her good friend is expelled from school for a trifle and when Justine goes to the school to ask the head to reconsider, she’s told the student doesn’t exist–and that he never attended the school. Who is going crazy–Ellen or the school?

And then anonymous calls start, and Justine finds herself accused of sharing a murderous past with a caller whose voice she doesn’t recognize. Being caught up in this strange story will ultimately affect Justine, Ellen and their entire family, especially when Justine realizes it will be up to her to stop their torment.

How this falls out is part of the fun of reading the unique novel where Justine must find out just whom she’s supposed to be in order to stop the threat to her family. Twisted and entertaining.

Maggie Barbieri: Lie in Plain Sight, Maeve Conlon #3 Sunday, Apr 17 2016 

LiePlainSight

Maggie Barbieri’s father was a New York City policeman whose stories have given the author great background for her Maeve Conlon series. She’s back with the third in this darkly humorous mystery series with Lie in Plain Sight.

Maeve’s a single mom to two girls, one in college now and the other, Heather, getting ready to choose a college. Maeve’s relationship with her younger daughter is strained, as it often is with any teen, and more so when that teen’s personality resembles the parent’s.

But Maeve is doing her best, juggling her beau, a local detective, her remarried ex-husband and his new family, and her busy bakery. She’s so busy she hires a local woman, Trish Dvorak, someone she knew in elementary school, to help out.

Things escalate when Trish is out on a delivery and Maeve finds out she’s been named a school contact by Trish for her own teen, Taylor, when the school nurse calls for Maeve’s permission to let an ill Taylor walk the short distance home from school.

But Taylor vanishes before making it home, and suddenly Maeve is not only feeling hellishly responsible, town gossip is adding to her guilt. With her own investigating history and help from a few friends we’ve seen before, Maeve tries to find Taylor on her own, creating tension in several relationships when it becomes obvious there’s more to Taylor’s disappearance than meets the eye.

One of the delights of this series is that the reader knows that Maeve has her own view of what constitutes justice, one that differs significantly from that of her police boyfriend and most of other legal institutions. And when Heather disappears, all bets are off.

Another delightful entry with a likable and different protagonist, with well-crafted characters, and a look into the community where she lives providing a setting and story that will hook and surprise readers from page one.