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!!