Review: Elevator Pitch by Linwood Barclay

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

“One hell of a suspense novel.” ⁠—Stephen King

The New York Times bestselling author of A Noise Downstairs and No Time for Goodbye returns with an edge-of-your-seat thriller that does for elevators what Psycho did for showers and Jaws did for the beach—a heart-pounding tale in which a series of disasters paralyzes New York City with fear.

It all begins on a Monday, when four people board an elevator in a Manhattan office tower. Each presses a button for their floor, but the elevator proceeds, non-stop, to the top. Once there, it stops for a few seconds, and then plummets.

Right to the bottom of the shaft.

It appears to be a horrific, random tragedy. But then, on Tuesday, it happens again, in a different Manhattan skyscraper. And when Wednesday brings yet another high-rise catastrophe, one of the most vertical cities in the world—and the nation’s capital of media, finance, and entertainment—is plunged into chaos.

Clearly, this is anything but random. This is a cold, calculated bid to terrorize the city. And it’s working. Fearing for their lives, thousands of men in women working in offices across the city refuse leave their homes. Commerce has slowed to a trickle. Emergency calls to the top floors of apartment buildings go unanswered.

Who is behind this? Why are they doing it? What do these deadly acts of sabotage have to do with the fingerless body found on the High Line? Two seasoned New York detectives and a straight-shooting journalist must race against time to find the answers before the city’s newest, and tallest, residential tower has its ribbon-cutting on Thursday.

With each diabolical twist, Linwood Barclay ratchets up the suspense, building to a shattering finale. Pulsating with tension, Elevator Pitch is a riveting tale of psychological suspense that is all too plausible . . . and will chill readers to the bone.

I received a copy of title tile via Edelweiss. It does not impact my review.

Elevator Pitch will be available September 17, 2019. 

Linwood Barclay is one of my favorite authors and I always look forward to his books. I’m happy to say that Elevator Pitch did not disappoint.

I thought the idea of malfunctioning elevators in a city that relies on them so heavily was really interesting and I thought Barclay did a good job of creating a really suspenseful atmosphere. I even avoided using the elevators at work while I was reading this. I thought the mystery aspect was pretty well done, too. There are multiple possible suspects and a few red herrings that had me second guessing myself and I liked that.

Barclay’s books are always pretty character driven and this was no exception. I really liked detectives Bourque and Delgado. I would really love to see more books including them. I also enjoyed Mayor Headley and his aides, Valerie, Chris, and Glover, as well as journalist Barbara and her daughter, Arla. There was also a perspective from a domestic terrorist group leader. While it was intriguing, I recently finished another book that had a similar group and I’m kind of over the whole politics angle becoming more popular in books.

Overall, I really enjoyed Elevator Pitch.  While I didn’t love the inclusion of politics and I felt the story was just a little longer than it needed to be, those were really my only issues with it. I loved the suspenseful atmosphere of the elevators and the characters. I am definitely looking forward to more from Barclay.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

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Review: Trust Me When I Lie by Benjamin Stevenson

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

Eliza Dacey was murdered in cold blood.

Four years later, the world watched it unfold again on screen.

Producer Jack Quick knows how to frame a story. So says Curtis Wade, the subject of Jack’s new true crime docuseries, convicted of a young woman’s murder four years prior. In the eyes of Jack’s viewers, flimsy evidence and police bias influenced the final verdict…even though, off screen, Jack himself has his doubts.

But when the series finale is wildly successful, a retrial sees Curtis walk free. And then another victim turns up dead.

To set things right, Jack goes back to the sleepy vineyard town where it all began, bent on discovering what really happened. Because behind the many stories he tells, the truth is Jack’s last chance. He may have sprung a killer from jail, but he’s also the one that can send him back.

I received a copy of this title via NetGalley. It does not impact my review.

Trust Me When I Lie will be available August 13, 2019. 

Trust Me When I Lie had a really interesting premise, but it never quite lived up to it’s potential for me.

Jack was a popular true crime podcast host that got his big break investigating the trial of Curtis Wade. Curtis was convicted of killing a young woman with very little actual evidence. Jack creates a tv show chronicling the many errors of the case. He doesn’t really seem to understand there are real world implications to what his show produces and is only after telling a good story. When he comes across a piece of evidence that doesn’t fit into his narrative, he doesn’t share it. When Curtis eventually gets released from prison, Jack begins to worry that maybe he really is guilty and sets out to prove it.

I was disappointed that the tv show didn’t really play that big of part in the story. I expected more excerpts and interviews and “making of” moments. However, the story mostly takes place after the show has aired and there is very little shared about it, other than that Jack ruined people’s careers – and made others – and edited statements to his own purposes. The story mostly followed Jack bumbling around trying to figure things out and wasn’t as suspenseful or mysterious as I was hoping for. From very early on in the story I had a theory that ended up being right. There were a couple of red herrings throughout where I thought maybe my original theory was wrong, but it wasn’t. It made the “twist” really anti-climactic for me.

Overall, Trust Me When I Lie had enjoyable moments, but did not live up to my expectations. It didn’t involve the show as much as I wanted it to and the mystery held very few surprises. However, I enjoyed the dark humor and thought the characterization was really well done. I would be interested to see what Stevenson does in the future.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3 Stars

Review: The Arrangement by Robyn Harding

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

Natalie, a young art student in New York City, is struggling to pay her bills when a friend makes a suggestion: Why not go online and find a sugar daddy—a wealthy, older man who will pay her for dates, and even give her a monthly allowance? Lots of girls do it, Nat learns. All that’s required is to look pretty and hang on his every word. Sexual favours are optional.

Though more than thirty years her senior, Gabe, a handsome corporate finance attorney, seems like the perfect candidate, and within a month, they are madly in love. At least, Nat is…Gabe already has a family, whom he has no intention of leaving.

So when he abruptly ends things, Nat can’t let go. She begins drinking heavily and stalking him: watching him at work, spying on his wife, even befriending his daughter, who is not much younger than she is. But Gabe’s not about to let his sugar baby destroy his perfect life. What was supposed to be a mutually beneficial arrangement devolves into a nightmare of deception, obsession, and, when a body is found near Gabe’s posh Upper East Side apartment, murder.

I received a copy of this title via NetGalley. It does not impact my review.

The Arrangement will be available July 30, 3019. 

I found The Arrangement really addicting. I ignored so many real life things so I wouldn’t have to put this book down and I have no regrets.

What I liked

-The author mentions in her acknowledgments that to research the topic, she signed up on an actual sugar daddy/sugar baby website and met with a couple of girls to find out more about them and this world they live in. I think this authenticity came through in the book. Harding does a good job of relaying how these young women justify what they do – or why they shouldn’t have to -, as well as how damaging and dangerous it can be. Before I go on and start to sound judgey, let me say that while I don’t agree with what they’re doing, I don’t think they’re the ones that should be blamed in these circumstances. They are not the ones with families and wives they are cheating on.

-Another thing that Harding did well was get into the psyche of the type of man that acts as a “sugar daddy.” Gabe justifies his actions in a multitude of ways, but all of them are dickish. His wife had cancer and isn’t up to meeting his needs anymore. She used to be attractive, but now has grown older and doesn’t want to get plastic surgery. His daughter doesn’t appreciate him anymore. Blah, blah, blah. He is narcissistic and selfish and, I’ll just say it, gross.

-The writing was pretty addictive. It was pretty well paced and the tension just kept increasing as Nat and Gabe’s relationship became more and more unstable and volatile.

What Didn’t Work for Me

-You know how sometimes people have certain words that just make them cringe when they hear it? That’s how I felt every time a sugar daddy was just referred to as “a daddy.” I also don’t love the term “sugar baby.” Those terms are used a lot throughout the story and I cringed every time. However, I did find some other terms interesting – such as a “splenda daddy”, who is someone who pretends to have the funds to be a sugar daddy. Not so fun fact, that term describes my father (see earlier paragraph about narcissistic, selfish, and gross men…).

-I felt really let down by the ending. There’s a bit of a twist and it was exactly what I predicted it would be. Maybe people that don’t read a lot of this genre will find it really surprising, but it felt cliched and done to me.

Overall

Overall, I enjoyed The Arrangement. The writing was addictive and Harding did a good job of creating a tense atmosphere. Even though I was a little disappointed with how it ended, I’m going to give it 4 stars because I thought everything else was well done.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

Review: Good Girl, Bad Girl by Michael Robotham

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

From the bestselling author of The Secrets She Keeps, the writer Stephen King calls “an absolute master…with heart and soul,” a fiendishly clever suspense novel about a dangerous young woman with a special ability to know when someone is lying—and the criminal psychologist who must outwit her to survive.

A girl is discovered hiding in a secret room in the aftermath of a terrible crime. Half-starved and filthy, she won’t tell anyone her name, or her age, or where she came from. Maybe she is twelve, maybe fifteen. She doesn’t appear in any missing persons file, and her DNA can’t be matched to an identity. Six years later, still unidentified, she is living in a secure children’s home with a new name, Evie Cormac. When she initiates a court case demanding the right to be released as an adult, forensic psychologist Cyrus Haven must determine if Evie is ready to go free. But she is unlike anyone he’s ever met—fascinating and dangerous in equal measure. Evie knows when someone is lying, and no one around her is telling the truth.

Meanwhile, Cyrus is called in to investigate the shocking murder of a high school figure-skating champion, Jodie Sheehan, who dies on a lonely footpath close to her home. Pretty and popular, Jodie is portrayed by everyone as the ultimate girl-next-door, but as Cyrus peels back the layers, a secret life emerges—one that Evie Cormac, the girl with no past, knows something about. A man haunted by his own tragic history, Cyrus is caught between the two cases—one girl who needs saving and another who needs justice. What price will he pay for the truth? Fiendishly clever, swiftly paced, and emotionally explosive, Good Girl, Bad Girl is the perfect thrilling summer read from internationally bestselling author Michael Robotham.

I received a copy of this title via NetGalley. It does not impact my review.

Good Girl, Bad Girl will be available July 23, 2019.

It took me quite a long time to get into Good Girl, Bad Girl. I debated giving up on it several times, but eventually the story really started to grab my attention and while I did have some issues with it, I overall enjoyed it.

First of all, don’t pay too much attention to the synopsis. I found it a little misleading, especially the part where it says Cyrus has to outwit Evie to survive. Um, no. While Evie makes him a little uncomfortable at times, he is never in danger of her. I also didn’t really see the point in involving Evie’s character in this story at all. She crosses into what I considered the main mystery of Jodie’s murder a couple of times, but not really in any impactful way (which is another misleading statement from the synopsis). I have tried to find out if this book is the beginning of a series and I can’t find it confirmed anywhere. If it truly is a standalone, then I am even more annoyed over the inclusion of Evie because all these questions are brought up and not answered! I like my loose ends all tied up in a neat little bow, thank you very much.

What I did like was the main murder mystery. I thought Robotham did an excellent job crafting a well-plotted, intriguing mystery with multiple believable suspects. Not everything that was revealed surprised me, but I didn’t guess everything from a mile away either. I liked Cyrus and Lenny, his longtime friend and the lead detective on Jodie’s investigation, and definitely wouldn’t mind reading more of them if this does end up being a series.

Overall, I enjoyed Good Girl, Bad Girl, but not quite as much as I was hoping to. I liked Cyrus and the murder mystery plotline. However, everything involving Evie just ended up annoying me because nothing was really resolved with her, nor did her plotline seem to contribute to the main one. I was also frustrated with the synopsis, but since that is not the book’s fault, I tried not to let it influence my rating. Though it took me awhile to get into the story, the writing ended up really drawing me in and I want to check out more from this author.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3 Stars

Review: My Lovely Wife by Samantha Downing

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

Dexter meets Mr. and Mrs. Smith in this wildly compulsive debut thriller about a couple whose fifteen-year marriage has finally gotten too interesting…
 
Our love story is simple. I met a gorgeous woman. We fell in love. We had kids. We moved to the suburbs. We told each other our biggest dreams, and our darkest secrets. And then we got bored.

We look like a normal couple. We’re your neighbors, the parents of your kid’s friend, the acquaintances you keep meaning to get dinner with.

We all have secrets to keeping a marriage alive.

Ours just happens to be getting away with murder.

I received a copy of this title via NetGalley. It does not impact my review.

My Lovely Wife will be available March 26, 2019.

Well, this story was delightfully messed up. My Lovely Wife is compulsively readable with an anti-hero you know you shouldn’t root for, but still do.

This was definitely a fun variation on the serial killer novel. Here the killers are a husband and wife team, though they’re a little lacking on the team aspect. They both have secrets from each other and at various times throughout the story you will be trying to figure out just which one is more sinister. While I did think a lot of things were pretty obvious and was not really surprised with how it all ended up, it did have a couple of nice little reveals throughout that kept me on my toes.

One thing I thought was kind of odd is that we are never told the husband’s name. The story is told through his first person POV and I honestly didn’t even notice his real name was never mentioned until I sat down to write this review and couldn’t remember it. This is not the first book I’ve come across that doesn’t share the main character’s name and I have to admit that I just don’t understand what the impact is supposed to be? Maybe it’s supposed to make me identify more with the character?

Overall, I enjoyed My Lovely Wife. This is one of those books where I don’t feel like I can share too much more than I already have without really starting to give things away. I liked the main character, even though he was very messed up and I knew I shouldn’t. He still managed to be just empathetic enough that I could almost overlook the bad things he’s done. I liked the focus on the family and how the parents’ actions were impacting their children. While the mystery may not shock seasoned readers of the genre, I think the compulsive writing and interesting characters will still make this an enjoyable read.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

Review: Dead Drift (Chesapeake Valor #4) by Dani Pettrey

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Synopsis from GoodReads:

Private Investigator Kate Maxwell never stopped loving Luke Gallagher after he disappeared. Now he’s back, and together they must unravel a twisting thread of secrets, lies, and betrayal while on the brink of a biological disaster that will shake America to its core. Will they and their love survive, or will Luke and Kate become the terrorist’s next target?

I received a copy of this title via NetGalley. It does not impact my review. 

I’ve really enjoyed Dani Pettrey’s Chesapeake Valor series and I thought Dead Drift was a great conclusion.

While I initially didn’t really love the terrorism plot line that first appeared in book two of the series, I thought it worked really well here. It really takes center stage and I was invested it. The secondary mystery circled back to an on-going investigation from the first book and the killer of Griffin’s little sister was finally revealed. I thought the mixture of the urgency and the emotional were balanced much better here than in the previous book, which was probably my least favorite of the series.

I really liked Luke. I was excited for him to finally take a central role and he didn’t disappoint. I would’ve loved to hear a little more of his time away, but I thought the reasons for his disappearance and silence for seven years was well explained, as well as how he felt about it. I liked Kate more than I thought I would, but she’s definitely not my favorite female lead of the series. I loved seeing the whole gang all together. They are a very likable group and I will miss reading about them.

I only have two real complaints. I didn’t like that we didn’t get very much time with Parker and Avery at all. All the other characters got a good amount of page time, but I didn’t feel like they were very present which disappointed me because they’re my favorite couple of the series. I also didn’t like that there’s a really big moment in the conclusion of the terrorism plot line that was just mentioned after the fact instead of being able to experience it with the characters. I thought Pettrey did a really good job with the all the action scenes up to that point and would have liked to have seen that important moment.

Overall, I really enjoyed Dead Drift. I thought the mysteries were intriguing and I really liked getting Luke’s POV. As always, I thought Pettrey did a good job with the Christian elements of the story. It’s never preachy, but just an organic part of the characters’ lives. I’m really going to miss these characters and look forward to the author’s next series.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

Review: Hangman (Detective William Fawkes #2) by Daniel Cole

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

How do you catch a killer who’s already dead?

Eighteen months have passed, but the scars the Ragdoll murders left behind remain.

DCI Emily Baxter is summoned to a meeting with US Special Agents Elliot Curtis of the FBI and Damien Rouche of the CIA. There, she is presented with photographs of the latest copycat murder: a body contorted into a familiar pose, strung up impossibly on the other side of the world, the word BAIT carved deep into its chest.

As the media pressure intensifies, Baxter is ordered to assist with the investigation and attend the scene of another murder to discover the same word scrawled across the victim, carved across the corpse of the killer – PUPPET.

As the murders continue to grow in both spectacle and depravity on both sides of the Atlantic, the team helplessly play catch up. Their only hope: to work out who the ‘BAIT’ is intended for, how the ‘PUPPETS’ are chosen but, most importantly of all, who is holding the strings.

Ragdoll was my favorite book of 2017 and I have been anxiously waiting for the follow-up ever since. Though the American release date is not for a couple more months, I won a giveaway for a book of my choice and was very excited to see I could get a UK edition of Hangman. While it didn’t quite live up to all my expectations, it was a well-written, engrossing mystery.

I’m going to get what I didn’t like about it out of the way first. You know how some people say “religion in a book ruins it for me”? Well, I am kind of the opposite. A strong Anti-God theme and mocking religion can ruin it for me. The book basically starts out with a character saying there is no God and it really just started me off on the wrong foot with the story. Any mention of God or religion throughout the book was condemning and I found it kind of offensive. While I wouldn’t say the atheism was a strong theme throughout the plot or anything, it was kind of brought up several times and I have to say it diminished my enjoyment a bit.

I thought the overall mystery was well-done. It was methodical and intriguing and suspenseful. Cole did a good job of making the atmosphere very tense and – at times – creepy. There was still some of the dark humor I appreciated from Ragdoll, but I didn’t think it was as funny as the first book.

After the events of Ragdoll unfolded, I really didn’t know how this William Fawkes series could continue. Hangman shifts focus to really shine the light on Baxter. I kind of hated Baxter in the first book and I have to say I don’t really like her any better here. She is smart and determined, but she’s deeply paranoid, self-centered, and abrasive. She is an interesting character, but it was kind of hard to care about her. Thankfully, my dear, sweet Edmunds was back, too. I absolutely adored him in the first book and continued to in this one. I also really enjoyed the introduction of CIA Agent Rouche. He was quirky and sad and I kind of loved him.

Overall, I did enjoy Hangman. I really like Cole’s writing and how he can mix humor in with such dark subjects. I liked the mystery and most of the characters. While I was offended by the mocking of religious beliefs and it did lessen my enjoyment a bit, it didn’t all out ruin the book for me. The very ending really has me looking forward to what will happen next.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars