Maestra is L.S. Hilton’s debut novel and you would never guess it is her first book. The writing is great and packed with enough suspense that you just keep reading. Judith is an incredibly ambitious person who has worked hard to overcome her meager beginnings and won’t stop until she has everything she has ever desired. She has transformed herself, including her accent, and is now working for a prestigious London art house. However, the world isn’t fair and she is unjustly fired from her job after she discovers a fraudulent painting and a dark secret. Refusing to give up her lifestyle and feeling reckless, Judith finds someone who will pay her way – until she discovers a murder. As her life keeps spiraling away, Judith keeps finding ways to stay on top and sometimes crime is the best way.
If you are in the mood for a little art history, a little darkness, and just a touch of naughtiness, then this is the perfect book for you. Judith never stopped surprising me. Every time I thought the game was up, she would find a way out (which often was not the moral high ground or necessarily legal, but a girls got to do, what a girls go to do). My favorite part of this novel was the art history and information on art forgeries. I don’t have much knowledge in this area, so the process for determining a forgery and the whole underworld of art was fascinating. I do have to say, Hilton’s novel is not for the pure of heart. Judith is calculating, cold, and likes to have steamy love affairs on the side. That being said, Hilton creates an interesting female character who is strong, determined, and refuses to let anyone else be in control of her life. I am quite curious to see where Judith’s story goes from here, but I am sure it will be suspenseful and a little spicy.
Dance of the Bones is J. A. Jance’s latest novel featuring J.P. Beaumont and Brandon Walker. The Last Chance (TLC) group contacts retired Detective Walker regarding a 30 year old case involving the murder of Amos Warren. All of the evidence had pointed Walker toward Amos’ son who was arrested, tried and jailed. Now the case is being re-opened and there is pressure for them to find the “real” killer. The search leads Walker to reach out to Seattle investigator J.P. Beaumont. However, things only become more complicated when someone close to Walker is targeted. The cases are connected, the two just have to figure out how.
As always, Jance packs her book with action and suspense. This book was captivating and hard to put down. I really enjoyed how she wove in the Tohono O’odham lore in the story. It was interesting learning how some stories can only be shared at a certain time of year. I also enjoyed seeing how Walker and Beaumont interact with each other. If you have only read the Beaumont series or the Walker family books, you will still enjoy this novel. If you haven’t read both series this would be a great time to start.
Hester Young’s debut novel Gates of Evangeline is a gripping tale of missing children and family secrets. After suffering the terrible loss of her son, Charlie is having a hard time readjusting to life. To complicate matters, she has started having visions of children in trouble and is realizing her visions come true. When her old boss contacts her out of the blue for a job opportunity she decides a change is just what she needs (not to mention the little boy in her vision is asking her to come and help him). Leaving New York City behind, Charlie temporarily moves to Louisiana to research and write a book on the thirty year old cold case of the disappearance of a little boy. However, he wasn’t from your typical family but in fact an old southern genteel family with plenty of secrets.
Young’s writing is great. The book is filled with twists and turns and just a hint of the paranormal which make you keep coming back. I am a sucker for southern books these days and Young does a great job of capturing the atmosphere and southern drawl. The characters are interesting and developed and you want to know what everyone is hiding. This is a great book for mystery enthusiasts as well as contemporary fiction readers. There is a mystery that carries the novel, but you become involved with all of the characters and their story as well.
Where They Found Her by Kimberley McCreight is a gripping tale about a suburban town and the death of a newborn. Molly Sanderson retreated to Ridgedale in order to heal from the loss of her child. She never once imagined that she would be the journalist covering the murder of a newborn baby. Yet, now that she has this break she is determined to follow through and find out what this small town is really hiding.
I loved this book (although I should also mention that I also loved Reconstructing Amelia). McCreight does an amazing job of weaving other forms of writing into her novels, for this book she created the newspaper’s website. Adding in the website allowed the reader to get a better understanding of the town and gives the story a unique twist. Additionally, this story is told through three different women, which really gives you a larger picture of the overall plot and also made you want to try to piece everything together. A great psychological thriller with plenty of twists and turns and small town drama.
Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins is a must read for any mystery or psychological thriller fan. Rachel’s mornings are pretty routine. Everyday she gets up and takes the same train, watches the same couple have breakfast, and sees the same suburban homes out her window. But one morning she sees a glimpse of something that looks like criminal activity. Was someone killed? Rachel decides the best thing to do is to report her sighting to the police, but now she is tangled up in the mess and questioning if she has caused more problems.
I really enjoyed this book. The story is told through flashbacks and alternate characters which has you trying to piece together all of the clues while building the suspense of not knowing. The other aspect that adds to the suspense is that the narrators are unreliable. You never really know if you are being told the truth which leaves you questioning everything. Needless to say, the story became quite addictive since I wanted to know what really happened.
After I’m Gone by Laura Lippman is a gripping thriller that will keep you guessing whodunit until the very end. Sandy Sanchez opens the cold case of the murder of Felix Brewster’s mistress. To complicate the case even more, Julie wasn’t murdered until 10 years after Felix’s disappearance and the clues are starting to point towards his family as the murderer.
Lippman tells the story from several different viewpoints and time periods which slowly lets you see the whole picture but just enough to keeping you wanting more. From the broke, proud wife, to one of his three daughters, a few friends and business partners, you have a lot of suspects. Give all of them a motive to kill and you get this wonderful book I could not put down. If you haven’t read Lippman, this stand alone novel is a great place to start.
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Looking for a fun new cozy mystery series? Then be sure to read Leigh Perry’s The Skeleton Takes a Bow. Sid, the family talking skeleton, is finally getting his big moment in the spotlight and is starring in a local high schools production of Hamlet. Okay, so he is really just a prop in the play and it’s only his skull, but it’s a start. Everything is going great, until he is left overnight at the high school and overhears a murder taking place. The next day no one discovers a body. So he and his human friend Georgia decide to do some investigating.
Perry has such a knack with the wit in her dialogue. I find myself chuckling along with the characters. The bone puns are just one of the things I enjoy about this series. The characters are great and I am excited to see how they continue to develop. Everyone has a background that has been hinted at and I find myself craving to know more. Yes this is a cozy mystery, but it still has darkness and depth to the plot. Perry keeps her subject matter light with the aid of a talking skeleton, but some of the story is grittier. The combination of humor and suspense really keeps you hooked from beginning to end. This is a great series with lots of red herrings and crazy things happening.