The Death of Bees and Shadowkiller Thursday, Mar 21 2013 

Two new Harper imprints to tell readers about.

First up is the highly unusual debut novel of Lisa O’Donnell, The Death of Bees.images_011 O’Donnell’s screenwriting background gives the novel a visual immediacy of the dramatic action as it unfolds that will draw readers in to this story.

This novel is told in rotating narratives, starting with that of fifteen year-old Marnie and her younger sister, Nelly, with their distinctive voices describing their personalities and actions and reactions.

The book opens on Christmas Eve in Glasgow’s Maryhill housing estate, and the girls’ have just finished burying their parents. “Neither of them were beloved,” Marnie tells us.

In their narrative we learn that Izzy and Gene were far from the best parents, negligent and abusive. Marnie’s goal becomes to secretly take care of Nelly without them entering the foster system. Once she turns sixteen she will be legally be allowed to care for them both. There is a mystery surrounding the death of Gene, although their mother has committed suicide, that hangs over this year’s events.

Then their gay neighbor, Lennie, notices the parents’ absence. Grieving over the loss of his own partner, his voice is added to the mix, and the story of the unlikely trio unfolds. Lennie becomes the lynchpin in their little unit, cooking for the sisters, doing their wash, keeping them safe from the system by showing up at Parents Night pretending to be their grandfather.

An unlikely friend, Vlad, also coping with his own grief, is added to their mix, and adds to the affecting nature of the story.

Marnie’s story is that her parents have left them in Lennie’s care to travel to Turkey. But deals Gene has made before his death soon unravel that lie, and one lie leads to another, until the day the sisters’ real grandfather shows up on their doorstep, demanding to know where his daughter has gone.

The characters are gritty and real, with all the flaws humans possess, and with an added dark humor that will have you rooting for these girls.

This is a most unlikely family story that is oddly compelling, as it addresses just what family means and what lengths those who love us will go to in order to protect us.

 

images_005Next up is the third in Wendy Corsi Staub’s trilogy featuring Allison Taylor, Shadowkiller. 

Allison has had to live through the tragedy of 9/11 while fighting a serial killer in Nightwatcher; but that led to her meeting her future husband, Mac MacKenna. In Sleepwalker, set a decade later, terror entered Allison’s life once again, threatening her family, now expanded to include three young children, in their suburban home.

Just when Allison and Mac should be able to take a deep breath, a predator will again enter their life.

A stranger’s death in the Caribbean leads to the string of events that seem far unrelated to Allison, yet will prove threatening and connected.

Memories of Allison’s troubled childhood bring back that threat as the MacKenna’s travel to the Midwest for a family reunion with Allison’s half-brother and his family.

A madwoman from Allison’s past, with ties to Mac, has bided her time to seek revenge on Allison, at one point staying next door to their Westchester home and watching the family’s every move as they prepare to take off on what should be a relaxing vacation. Tapping into their wireless network, the killer knows every move Allison and Mac have planned, and will stop at nothing to bring off the plan she’s hatched to kidnap and eventually murder Allison.

Several key characters of the series return, and readers who have followed the books will be surprised at the twist that opens the novel when the identity of the killer is revealed.

Fast-paced and filled with suspense, readers have been anticipating this final installment in the trilogy.

Rosamund Lupton: SISTER and AFTERWARDS Sunday, Oct 28 2012 

Having a sister of my own, Auntie M was intrigued when another writer insisted I read this 2010 mystery by Londoner Rosamund Lupton, who wrote original screenplays before turning her hand to this debut novel that will knock your socks off. Sister has at its heart an unusual concept of a way to tell a story, and that story will leave you hooked and reeling from page one.

   Beatrice Hemmings has fled her native England to pursue a career in Manhattan and is engaged to be married in three months to an American. While hosting a dinner party with her fiance’ one Sunday,  a call from her mother interrupts the evening when Bee learns that her only sibling, younger sister Tess, has gone missing. Bee soon finds herself flying across the Atlantic to Tess’s Notting Hill apartment.

She find the flat tiny and cluttered. Not even owning a tea kettle, art student Tess has made her bedroom into her studio for the better light. Her bright paintings reflect her personality, open and nonjudgmental, young and talented, with a joy of live Bee has always envied. That central core of Tess’s life will drive Bee fiercely to protect her sisters’ memory.

The suspense starts with a wallop because this is written as Bee is describing the events and what she finds in a narrative to Tess, explaining her actions and tracing her search for her sister, which ends in tragedy. Then Bee’s real investigation starts, to unravel the truth the police would rather leave alone: what really happened to Tess?

Elegantly written, this poignant novel becomes a tribute to sisters as well as a harrowing detailing of the plundering toll of grief. But it is also a wickedly fine mystery that is at once riveting a it moves the reader. By having the reader in such intimate contact with Bee’s thoughts and actions to Tess, Lupton paints a picture of both sisters, the failings of those around them who are meant to do and be more, and the huge sense of loyalty that Bee brings to the forefront of her actions on her sister’s behalf.

There is an element of subdued suspense that heightens as surely as a Hitchcock movie, and indeed, this novel will soon be adapted for the screen. Grab a copy of this highly original book and read it first before the film version. As good as the movie will be, nothing can replace the psychological intensity of the novel and the twists at the ending.

With the same psychological depth of character found in the works of Kate Atkinson, Tana French, and Ruth Rendell, Lupton’s riveting and chilling tale combines true tragedy with a sense of life-affirmation that moved me to tears in several places for the accuracy and depth of its compellingly told story. It’s a quickly-paced, stylish tale, literate and successful.

BookPage calls Sister “A poignant and perceptive depiction of the emotional bonds between two sisters … A superb thriller, full of twists and turns, false leads, and a surprise ending.”
Lupton follows Sister with the same original storytelling in Afterwards, with another clever premise and solid writing the makes her second novel as compelling as her first.

Grace Covey stands with other parents on a grassy field, attending sports day at her son’s school, which coincides with Adam’s eighth birthday. Her teenaged daughter, Jenny, is inside the school, taking the place of the school nurse for minor injuries. When Grace sees black smoke coming from the school, she realizes it’s on fire and races inside to save Jenny.

What happens next is the stuff that makes this book remarkable, as Grace, in an highly unconventional manner, tries to find the person responsible for setting the fire once it appears Jenny was the deliberate target. Grace desperately races to find the culprit to protect both of her children, and in the process, uncovers more than she ever expected to find about the people in her life.

This is a novel about love in its many forms, from that of a mother and her daughter, to the cushion of secure, married love. Ultimately is it about finding courage in the midst of the depths of a mother’s love for her child.

Jeffrey Deaver says of Afterwards: “Uncompromising emotional impact, a poet’s sonorous style, and a gripping story all come together to make this a transcendent literary experience. I guarantee this novel will touch everyone.”

Lupton’s powerful stories and  and her voice will captivate you; Auntie M defies you to put either of these books down once you’ve started reading.

Lee Lofland

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Welcome to Leeward

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The Wonderful World of Reading

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Reading is a wonderful adventure!

JoHanna Massey

"I tramp the perpetual journey." Walt Whitman

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(mid'-l sis'-tǝr) n. the reader's favorite sister

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Smile! Don't look back in anger.

K.R. Morrison, Author

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The Wickeds

Wicked Good Mysteries

John Bainbridge Writer

Indie Writer and Publisher

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Authors and reviewers of historical crime fiction

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A thrilling Murder-Mystery...

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Past Offences: Classic crime, thrillers and mystery book reviews

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