Darkness Falls – Robert Bryndza

PI Kate Marshall, with the help of assistant Tristan, is just settling in to run her new inheritance – a caravan park – complete with a small office area to run their new detective agency, when she receives a call from a woman named Bev Ellis. Bev desperately wants to learn what ultimately happened to her daughter, and up and coming journalist named Joanna Duncan, who seemingly vanished 12 years ago. No trace of her was ever found, and Bev is hoping that a new look might unearth some information. 

Eager for some work, Kate and Tristan meet with Bev, where they are surprised with the whole case file from her original disappearance. As the case was declared inactive, Bev’s significant other was able to procure the files for a short-term review, as he too seems desperate to help Bev find peace. Kate and Tristan begin their investigation by reviewing the stories that Jo was working on at the time of her disappearance, one of which involved a high-level official who was soliciting young men for sex. A box of Jo’s belongings inadvertently yields a clue – two men’s names are discernible in the lid of the box, along with a phone number. 

As Kate and Ethan start to dig, they learn that both men, also known to frequent gay bars and the like, are also missing, and have been for quite some time. As the duo continue to investigate, they find a common theme of events, as well as some familiar names, including one who left the scene years ago. When a new victim is found, it appears a serial killer may still be at play… Can Kate and Ethan find Joanna’s killer before he finds them? 

Set in Western England, and to my absolute delight, it is the third of a series written by Robert Bryndza, so I have some catching up to do! A great who-dun-it, with a down-to-earth, imperfect protagonist, and an intriguing mystery that will capture your interest on the first page, and keep you flipping those pages until the last is turned. I thoroughly enjoyed this book!

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

Count To Three – TJ Ragan

Dani Callahan is a local Private Investigator who is haunted by her own unsolved case – the disappearance of her young daughter, Tinsley, who was abducted from her school five years ago. Although the police were never able to identify any leads in Tinsley’s disappearance, Dani has never stopped looking for her daughter.  Her assistant, Quinn Sullivan, a young woman who’s devoted to Dani after suffering her own losses, has also spent the last few years helping Dani with her search, as well as her own. Quinn’s mother similarly disappeared several years ago, never to be seen or heard from again. As part of their search for answers, they’ve tracked every missing person in their area – including a new presumed runaway, named Ali Cross. 

A young boy soon shows up at Dani’s office asking for help. He relates that while riding his bike one afternoon, he saw a man force a young girl into a van, and that she appeared terrified when she met his eyes. When the police could find no evidence of the abduction, he turned to Dani & Quinn for help. In discussing this development with her contact in the PD, Dani learns that Ethan has a tendency to lie and steal, and that no evidence was found to support his statement. But Dani & Quinn believe him and continue to investigate on their own.

The reader also is given glimpses into Ali’s ordeal, which provides a strong sense of urgency as you delve deeper into the story. A chance attack at Dani’s office, also serves to convince Dani & Quinn that they are on the right track.  As Dani cleans up the mess that the intruder made of things, she finds some pictures from the past, that prompt some new questions. 

Meanwhile Ali’s attacker, now aware that he was seen, sets out to do damage control and eliminate the 12-year-old witness, as he prepares Ali for his mother’s visit, and assures Ali he will never let her go…

This was a thrilling, suspenseful read, as I’ve come to expect from Theresa Ragan! I was sucked in from the first page and couldn’t put it down. I love these empowered new female characters, and although I saw nothing to indicate this may be a new series start, I would surely love to see more of Dani & Quinn! 

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

Can’t Go Back – Debra Webb   

This is the third and reportedly final installment of a trio of novels featuring Birmingham Detectives Kerri Devlin & Luke Falco – however I for one, certainly hope the author reconsiders and extends this series – I think they could easily become as popular as Catherine Coulter’s Savich & Sherlock!

Kerri & Luke have made their close working relationship more personal and are together when they receive a call from The Chief of Police asking them to stop whatever case they’re working on and meet him at a scene.  Upon arriving, they learn that the Chief’s god-daughter Allison, and her child have died in a house fire, that appears to have been deliberately set. Allison’s husband Logan, a deep undercover officer, was found injured at the scene and has been hospitalized.  Much to Kerri & Luke’s surprise, he immediately takes full responsibility for his family’s deaths, and insists on being charged with the murders, despite evidence to the contrary…but why? And why are surviving family members refusing to provide insight into the struggles that Logan and Allison were having?

Luke, a former undercover officer himself who’s struggled to put those days behind him, now finds himself unwillingly reliving past events, as he and Kerri look to Logan’s work as a possible motive in these deaths.  As more and more information comes to light, Luke’s nightmares begin to make him question his recollection of past events. 

As the duo dig deeper to clear one of their own, the past and present collide in very unexpected ways – leaving the reader with a very surprising, if not a bit farfetched, and satisfying ending! A good, suspenseful read, a great series, and again, characters that I would LOVE to see more of! 

I received this book as an Advance Reader Copy from #Netgalley & Thomas & Mercer in exchange for an objective review. 

Boy Underground – Catherine Ryan Hyde

The year is 1941 and Steven Katz is awaiting his turn at baseball tryouts. He’s particularly enamored with a Japanese schoolmate who is also trying out for the team and is starting to understand he has an attraction for the same sex in a time when such behavior is abhorred. When Suki strikes out, and leaves the field, Steven follows him, and strikes up a hesitant conversation, and soon he, Suki and two other teens, Ollie & Nick become fast friends. 

Soon, Steven is invited by his newfound friends to join them on a camping trip to the mountains. While his uptight mother is reluctant to let him out of her sight, his father surprisingly agrees, telling her it’ll make him a man. They leave for the weekend in early December, enduring a grueling climb into the mountains, and set up camp near a beautiful, isolated lake. In a daring feat, one of the boys shucks his clothes and jumps into the frigid water, daring Steven to do the same. He does, and nearly drowns, but it pulled to safety by the other boys and they all pile into the tent they’ve brought, in an effort to warm Steven up. 

By the time they return Sunday, everything has changed, but they don’t yet know or understand why. The Japanese have bombed Pearl Harbor and suddenly, Japanese Americans, like Suki, are the enemy. Additionally, Nick’s father has been arrested after severely injuring a man in a bar fight, and he in turn, implicates his own son. Despite the boys’ alibi for Nick, they learn that the authorities are coming to arrest him, and Nick knows he needs to run. Steven, desperate to save his friend, hides him in an old, unused root cellar on his family’s farm, and keeps his a a secret, even from the other two boys. Shortly thereafter, Ollie decides to enlist in the military. 

As the winter progresses, internment camps are being built and soon Suki’s family will be rounded up. One night, he comes and taps on Steven’s window, bringing the family dog, asking Steven to keep the dog safe. Steven takes the dog to Nick, knowing his mother will not allow the pet, and the next day Suki and his family are gone.  With the war raging on, Steven and Nick nurture their friendship and their emotional bond, as both come to terms with their situations and their feelings for one another. When Nick is able, he moves on in search of his long-lost mother, leaving the safety of Steven’s farm and their burgeoning relationship, but promising to keep in touch…

This is a poignant, wonderful novel about a young man’s coming of age in a warn torn world, as he struggles to come to terms with who he is and who he is meant to be. There are deep themes nestled within its pages, that will have you both chuckling and weeping as you re-live Stevens story through his aging eyes, his long cherished friendships – and the memories he carries.  A beautiful read that will linger in your heart long after the last page is turned. 

Available 12/7/2021

I received this book as an Advance Reader Copy from #Netgalley & Lake Union Publishing, in exchange for an objective review.