Stay – Catherine Ryan Hyde

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Lucas Painter is a teenager in the Vietnam era and his older brother Roy is off fighting in the war. His letters come back with many redactions, leaving Lucas very unsettled. His parents are continually fighting, and the loud arguments send Lucas out for solace. His best friend Connor struggles with the quiet in his home, along with the sheer emotional distance that has grown between his parents, spending much of each day alone in his room, resisting most invitations to leave the house.

So, to entertain himself, Lucas explores the undeveloped forest behind his neighborhood, following small trails that deer and other creatures have made to the nearby river. Then on one such day, Lucas stumbles across a cabin deep in the forest, complete with pick up truck parked nearby – and a doghouse. He then finds himself face to face with two large dogs, and he takes off running, with both dogs crashing behind him in pursuit. It’s not until he trips and falls that he realizes the dogs were enjoying the run, not chasing him down – and Lucas discovers a joy for running. It quickly becomes a daily routine. Until one morning he finds the dogs pacing and scratching at the door – and quickly discovers a woman lying in bed who doesn’t respond to his yells and banging…

Shortly thereafter, Lucas meets the woman he saved, Zoe Dinsmore, and learns of the tragedy that surrounds her, discovering that she perhaps didn’t want to be saved. An unlikely companionship ensues, one that they both seemingly need. Meanwhile, a gun has gone missing from Connors household, and no one knows where it’s gone. When Lucas inadvertently discovers the gun, hidden in a vent underneath Connor’s bed, he makes a split-second decision for better or worse, to introduce Connor to Zoe.

Meanwhile, Roy is sent home from Vietnam with a war injury, and an addiction to medications. A brooding version of his former self, he eventually allows Lucas to maneuver him into attending NA meetings, where eventually he shares his story and Lucas learns first-hand of the horrors his brother has been through. And another participant re-joins the group after a long absence, much to Lucas’s surprise.

A heartwarming, triumphant story of friendship, perseverance, wisdom & love. The ending was a bit bittersweet for me, but that just made it STAY with me all the longer. Definitely a must read….

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

Blind Search – Paula Munier

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It’s opening day of hunting season in Vermont. Henry Jenkins, an autistic boy with a fondness for prime numbers and fantasy games, has escaped the housekeeper and her runny eggs, and has run off into the forest in his Batman pajamas, following trails and such in a pattern only he can understand. While covertly following a member of his father’s hunting party, whom he calls a ‘monster slayer’, he trips and falls – and then witnesses something so terrifying that he runs deep into the woods…

Mercy Carr and bomb-sniffing dog Elvis are both retired from the military and attempting to recover from a shared trauma, the loss of Martinez, her fiancé and Elvis’ handler. Mercy, a former MP, is working on her archery skills with her family. Elvis heads out to retrieve a wayward arrow but doesn’t return, prompting Mercy to go looking for him. As she finds him in the forest, he alerts to a female body lying nearby with an arrow sticking out of her chest.

Troy Warner is the local game warden, and he and his K-9, Susie Bear are out chasing poachers when he receives the report of Mercy’s find. Arriving on the scene, they interview members of the hunting party while they await the local law enforcement to arrive. Unfortunately, Detective Kai Harrington has little use for Mercy or Troy, and orders them off of the scene.

Mercy & Tory continue to work the case from the sidelines in a race against time, as they and their dogs try to safeguard Henry, and extract information from the child who doesn’t understand how to communicate what he saw. Then Henry disappears again, with Elvis in tow, and another search is launched, with another body found in the woods…and a kidnapping attempt of Henry is narrowly averted. With a blizzard bearing down on the area, Mercy & Troy look for shelter as they question – were the murders committed by simple poachers? Or is something much more sinister at hand?

Being New England born and bred, I absolutely LOVED this book!! The geography, and the storyline are rich in detail, and the characters are complex, and relatable, as each deal with personal stressors as well. Henry’s character is particularly well written, and gives much insight into autism, from both his perceptions of the world, and how he is perceived. A wonderful read, with fantastic characters, both 2 and 4 legged, and will resonate with you long after the final page is turned. And – it’s a series!!

Just like that, I have a new favorite author!!

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

Rain Will Come – Thomas Holgate

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Detective Paul Czarcik is a member of the Illinois Bureau of Judicial Enforcement and pretty much does what he wants. A gruff, at times difficult individual, lacking many social graces, he dislikes most people, enjoys his alcohol and a line of cocaine every now and then, and he prefers to work alone. He frequently assists the Chicago PD with difficult cases and receives such a call at the start of this novel.

Upon arriving to the scene, he finds a deceased young woman who shows evidence of being beaten by a variety of different items, all which we left at the scene. Strangely enough, there is a dead chicken tied to her neck. Her husband is found dead in the next room, covered in cigarette burns and with his head missing. As Paul studies the scene, he’s certain the scene is staged, but something just doesn’t feel right. A quick input of data into the national crime database yields a link to another gruesome crime scene in Texas, the link being the knot that was used in both cases. In attempts to draw attention to the current case, the Chicago PD disguise one of their own and claim to have a suspect in custody.

Meanwhile, Daniel Langdon is sitting in a hotel room trying to determine the best way to dispose of the head that he has sitting behind him on the bed. Recently diagnosed with a glioblastoma – a brain tumor – he is trying to ward off a blinding headache and is ruminating about the changes that the tumor has wrought on his body, along with the to-be-expected behavioral changes. He has decided that he is not going to give in to his disease easily, and instead, he has some work to do while he still is able – seemingly avenging those who have suffered at the hands of others. As he’s watching the news, he learns of the lead Detective’s identity – and feels compelled to pay him a visit…thus beginning a game of hunter and hunted, good versus evil, etc. But is it really as simple as that???

This book was a great read! It’s not often that I find a book where I don’t particularly care for the ‘good guy’, but the dive into the psyches of the protagonist and antagonist made for a fast -paced story as Paul tries to get his man. Increasing the complexity even more was the unlikely character that randomly (or was it?) enters the picture with just the perfect evidence to assist Paul in his hunt. A fabulous mystery/police procedural full of gritty crime scenes, a nerve-wracking chase, and an ending that’ll have you scratching your head, and wondering what exactly the next scene would have been had the book not ended there…

I look forward to more – much more – from Mr. Holgate!!

Available March 10th!

Vanishing Girls – Lisa Regan

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Josie Quinn is a Detective with the Denton, PA police department, who is presently on leave from the department as she is investigated for an “excessive use of force” complaint. She is frustrated with her suspension, until she watches the news and learns that a Denton teenager has gone missing 5 days ago. Frantic to get into the investigation, she calls her estranged husband Ray, a lieutenant with the force, who promptly shuts her down. At that moment, she hears gunshots, and an SUV comes hurtling into the gas station when she’s parked, striking the gas pump, hurtling Jo across the lot. As she races to assist, a victim of the accident utters one word, “Ramona”.

As Ray refuses to share information, Josie, aided by her boyfriend Luke, does her best to gain insider information as she starts her own investigation. She quickly learns of another young girl, who went missing a year ago, also from Denton. As she digs deeper, she finds more questions than answers, and with that, doubts about the integrity of her entire police department and all that she holds dear…

This is the first of several novels featuring Detective Josie Quinn, and I am now determined to read them all. This is a fast paced, edge of your seat thriller, and will keep you up well into the night, frantically turning pages in an effort to learn the truth! Great read!!

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

Please See Us – Caitlyn Mullen

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

This novel opens as we meet a young Clara, who struggles to make enough money to live by giving Tarot readings in a seedy storefront in a downtrodden area of Atlantic City. Abandoned by her mother and cared for (the term is used loosely) by a drug addicted aunt, Clara’s life is anything but idyllic. She has just received a customer who is despondent over his niece, who has been missing without a trace for three months. He hands Clara a handkerchief that his niece used to wear for luck, in hopes of finding any kind of clue as to her whereabouts. Shortly thereafter, Clara begins to have visions of bodies in the marsh.

We then meet Lily, who, after being humiliated by a man she loved, runs home to Atlantic City, and secures a job in a spa, with the hopes of making enough money to return to NY City on her own terms. The two girls become unlikely friends and Clara eventually shares her visions of the girls with Lily.

We meet the Jane Doe’s, all 6 of them, who have left their real lives to end up in the brackish marshes of the Atlantic City shoreline, victims of an unknown killer. As they tell us their stories of pain and loss from beyond the grave, their disappearances are noticed by Lily & Clara who look for answers, , but also by Luis, a young deaf mute who parlays the information he is unable to speak of into other medium, unbeknownst to anyone.

This novel is a painful, but sadly realistic view into the lives of those individuals that we don’t see in our own lives, and rarely think about – the kids that leave home only to fall victim to drug use, sexual abuse, prostitution, hopelessness, and worse. Told in meticulous detail, you’ll think about this novel and its characters for a long time after the final page is turned, all while realizing that often, stories do not have a happy ending, even when the last page is turned. A haunting, gritty, exceptionally well written read. I cannot wait to read more from this new author!

Behind Every Lie – Christine McDonald

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

Eva Hansen is a young woman living in Seattle, WA with her fiancé Liam, a property developer. While her mother lives nearby, they seem to have a formal, sometimes strained relationship for reasons that are initially unclear to the reader. The book opens with an apparent murder – Eve, presumably covered in blood, flees the scene and is struck by lightning, later waking in the hospital with no clear memory of the incident – only vague images and sensations that waft through her subconscious, leading her and you, the reader, believing she may be responsible for her mother, Kat’s, death. The police too, find Eva to be their main suspect. But what really happened?

The story then shifts into the days/years prefacing the event, telling the tale from both Eva’s & Kat’s perspective. You see what appears to be a loving relationship between Eva and fiancé Liam, and you learn of some strife in the past lives of both Kat and Eva’s aunt Lily in their younger years, including Kat’s escape from a dangerous ex-husband. As the story progresses and more is revealed, even as Eva questions her sanity, with vague memories resurfacing in her head. The story picks up speed in a hurry rushing to a wild conclusion, even as you struggle to figure out how all of the pieces are going to fall…

Told in past and present glimpses into the lives of three women, their story gradually comes to light and just when you think you understand the events of that long ago night….another curveball or three are tossed in that have you frantically turning the pages to get to the very last page. Impossible to put down until the last page is turned!!