Big Lies In A Small Town – Diane Chamberlain

It’s 2018, and Morgan Christopher is currently incarcerated in the North Carolina Prison System. She had been a third-year art student when she was involved in a motor vehicle accident that left another young woman paralyzed. A year into her sentence, she is still struggling with the truth of her situation, when a guard summons her to a visitation room.  Upon entering the room, she finds two women waiting for her, one of whom is a lawyer, and they have an amazing proposition for her. 

Morgan has somehow caught the eye of a famous artist who has recently died. While she is well acquainted with his work, she cannot fathom how he could possibly have known her, nor how he would have chosen her for the project she’s being offered – the opportunity to be paroled and to restore an old mural that was originally planned to hang in the Edenton, NC Post Office.  However, the offer comes with a catch. The work on the mural must be completed in two months’ time.  Desperate to be free, Morgan accepts the offer.

In 1939, a young Anna Dale receives a letter from the US Treasury, indicating that she has won a contest; she is the artist selected to create a mural for the Edenton, NC Post Office. Having recently lost her ailing mother, Anna opts to take a short trip to explore the small waterfront town of Edenton, to gain a flavor for the town, and gain ideas for the painting. A young woman living in New Jersey, she’s aware of the divisions that still exist between races south of the Mason Dixon line and hopes to design a mural to honor all of the residents of this small southern town. Embraced by the townspeople, she opts to remain in Edenton until completion of the mural.   

As Morgan gets herself settled in her benefactor’s home in Edenton, she’s appalled by the shape that the mural is in when she finally lays eyes on it – mildew, scratches and abraded areas of paint adorn the canvas, and with no experience in restoring old works, she’s realizing there’s likely no way she’ll be able to complete this project to its specifications. As she slowly works to uncover the images, she becomes very intrigued by the painter Anna Dale, who seemingly disappeared after the mural was painted. And why was the mural hidden away and never installed in its place of honor? 

Told from both Anna’s time and Morgan’s present, this story will immerse you into a past southern culture, where the color of your skin dictated your very freedom, as it very quickly draws you in, captures your heart, and has you frantically flipping pages as you’re cheering Morgan on, and yearning to know what became of young Anna.  I originally chose this book because of its NC setting, and my visits to the town of Edenton, and I’m so glad I did – this story is totally enchanting!!  An absolute gem!! 

I received this book as an Advance Reader Copy from Netgalley, in exchange for an objective review.  Do you love to read?? Visit netgalley.com and start reviewing books today!!

Let Justice Descend – Lisa Black

Detective’s Jack Renner & Thomas Riley are back again along with forensic investigator Maggie Gardiner, as the trio investigates the cruel and calculated death of a sitting US Senator, Ohio Republican Diane Cragin, by electrocution, two days before the national elections. Long accused by her Democrat opponent of accepting kickbacks, the investigating team is quite surprised when they find a hidden safe containing close to a million dollars in cash. Known to be corrupt himself, opponent Joey Green becomes a quick suspect. 

A visit to the Republican Offices, features an unwanted interaction with Cleveland Herald reporter Lori Russo, who has been determined to discover the identity of the killer of a series of vigilante murders – the killings of some of the countries’ most ruthless criminals – that occurred over the last several months. As Jack has recently been named the lead investigator of those killings, and unbeknownst to anyone other than Maggie (or we readers), is the perpetrator of said crimes, he has no desire to be anywhere near her. As she begins to pester him with questions, he is able to re-direct the conversation, but not before learning of her plans to visit some old murder sites in Arizona. Concerned, Jack vows to keep an eye on her. 

As the investigative team dives into the political arena looking for answers, it becomes quickly apparent that everyone has an agenda, as well as potential motives to have killed Senator Cragin, as everyone interviewed points the finger at someone else. A visit to the EPA indicates that Diane may have been involved in obtaining a contract for a less than competent company to renovate the local water intake facility, with potentially deadly consequences. A seeming heart attack in another high-profile individual leads the team in yet another direction as the deaths begin to multiply, and the investigation appears to come full circle, with a completely unexpected ending…or not…

I’m very late in getting this review completed – however it seems quite apropos given the political machinations taking place in our world today. But, for me, this was a great mystery with some unique characters, a Dexter like detective, the woman who is drawn to him, and a deep, yet telling look into the political world that has become so difficult to stomach lately, all of which leaves me wanting more!

I received this book as an Advance Reader Copy from Netgalley, in exchange for an objective review.  Do you love to read?? Visit netgalley.com and start reviewing books today!!

Shatter The Night – Emily Littlejohn

Monsters…witches…it’s Halloween night in Cedar Valley, Colorado, and since becoming a cop, Detective Gemma Monroe has always dreaded the season.  But this year is different, as she and her fiancé Brody are trick or treating with their toddler Grace for the first time. With the evening winding down, Gemma wants to make one more stop – a quick visit to retired Judge Caleb Montgomery. A close friend of her grandfathers, Caleb has long been a friend of Gemma’s family, and has asked to see her. 

When Gemma arrives, Caleb hands her a package of letters – death threats that he has received every few weeks, beginning after he stepped down from the bench six months ago. He describes a familiarity to the writing, but he is unable to place why. So, he has turned to Gemma for assistance. His fear, although he hides it well, makes Gemma uneasy.  Shortly after Gemma and Brody leave for home, an explosion lights up the night, coming from the direction of Caleb’s office. 

Gemma immediately returns to the scene to investigate the incident, her worst fears realized. Now more determined than ever to avenge Caleb, the investigation flies into high gear and Gemma, her partner Finn and the rest of the team begin to research individuals that might have wanted Caleb dead. But after a long and illustrious career on the bench, the list is long…too long.

As Gemma & Finn dig deeper into the past, a local bank is robbed. Inexplicably, an unarmed guard is shot to death by the thief as he is leaving the scene. Watching the camera replays of the incident, Gemma sees the shooter lean down and whisper something to the wounded guard, but he dies before ever regaining consciousness. Even more puzzling, the gun recovered from the scene is a Japanese, and a collector’s item. A visit to a military historical expert yields an unexpected clue – and a sad story of a soldier who returned from war a changed man.  Gemma realizes she has a copycat killer on her hands, and that the killing has just started….

This novel was another delightful & unexpected find via the Netgalley site.  I was sure I had the killer pegged early on (I was wrong) and I thought the book was following a rather predictable course (it wasn’t) and still I culdn’t put it down. I love the characters of Gemma & Finn, and there are some great peripheral characters as well that I hope continue to make appearances in future novels. Best part of all – this is too part of a series! If you’ve read any of my reviews, you know how much I LOVE to see my favorite characters return in future books! Easily read as a stand-alone, but I have some back reading to catch up on now!  A fabulous read! 

I received this book as an Advance Reader Copy from Netgalley, in exchange for an objective review.  Do you love to read?? Visit netgalley.com and start reviewing books today!!

Leave No Trace – Sara Driscoll

FBI Meg Jennings and her partner Brian Foster, along with their dogs Hawk & Lacey, return once more as the FBI is called to assist with some murders in northwestern Georgia. Members of the elite ‘Human Scent Evidence Team’, their services are often requested for tracking in extreme circumstances, such as the Georgia Blue Ridge area. Arriving on the scene of the crime, the team learns that a Georgia State Trooper is the latest victim in a bizarre set of murders – each man killed with the single shot of an arrow from a bowhunter. In each case, there’s been no witness, and other than the arrow, no evidence. 

From the arrow, Hawk & Lacey pick up a scent and head into the woods with their handlers only to lose it after a while, as too much time has elapsed between the killing and their arrival at the scene, but not without a chance encounter with the local wildlife.  Back at the Blue Ridge PD, the team learns of a connection between the two men killed – both had links to a planned project in Blue Ridge – the building of the Copperhill Dam, which hopes to generate power and manage flooding that comes with climate change  The towns involved are in conflict regarding the construction, with some at risk of losing their homes and land as a result. 

When a third victim is killed the same way, the team re-deploys to the area, with the intent of remaining on scene to catch a killer But very quickly, the hunters become hunted with the team becoming separated after an arrow meant for Meg nearly finds it’s mark, leaving her lost and injured in the wilderness with only Hawk for protection. Meanwhile, Brian and Lacey encounter dangers of their own as they try to call for help and mobilize a search. 

Meanwhile, a killer is free to hunt again…and it will take the combined efforts of the local PD, the FBI and a profile from Quantico’s infamous BAU to find and bring this killer to justice…

This was a GREAT read, and one I couldn’t put down. Though fiction, this novel is set in real places, with geography and bodies of water as described. Additionally, each chapter header involves a snippet of Cherokee history, and how the Indians were forced from their land by the US Government via the now infamous Trail of Tears.  As a fairly new transplant to the deep southeast, I was equally fascinated and troubled by this sad piece of history. 

I give deep thanks to Netgalley & Kensington books for the opportunity to read and review this book and for the addition of another author to my ‘MUST READ’ list!!  Give it a try – you will NOT be disappointed! 

(I received this book as an Advance Reader Copy from Netgalley, in exchange for an objective review.)