Bites
September 30, 2017

Pub Date: October 10, 2017
Publisher: Berkley Books
Author: Website
Info: Goodreads

Framed for a murder she didn’t commit…

As one of HM Prison Holloway’s most high-profile new inmates, Helen Grace has a target on her back and nowhere to hide. She has made a long list of enemies over the course of her career–some are incarcerated within these very walls. When one of Helen’s fellow prisoners is found mutilated and murdered in her own locked cell, it’s clear that the killer is someone on the inside.

But time is running out for Helen as she races to expose the person who framed her, and the body count in the prison starts to climb. Helen will need to draw on all her investigative skills and instincts to catch the serial killer behind these murders and discover the truth–unless the killer finds her first. (goodreads.com)

I’m really rather cranky that I’ve effectively spoiled books five and six for myself by reading HIDE AND SEEK. I didn’t realize I was so far behind in the series until it was basically too late. Not enough time in the day to catch up and I had a time limit on this book so I did what I could and hoped for the best.

HIDE AND SEEK is the first book in the Helen Grace series where I questioned a plot device as being a little hinky. It involved suspects in the prison murders and once the guards started getting tagged they started getting all up in armsr about it. The thing is, the way this one prisoner died, common sense, especially for those investigating, would be first to the guards. So a tiny little element that seemed a bit too convenient for the sake of some added drama, but by no means was it detracting. And since it was the only element I took even close to an issue with it obviously wasn’t that big of a problem for me.

Again, pissed that I spoiled two books worth of plot reading this. No one’s fault by my own and it certainly doesn’t mean I’m not going to go back and read them. I want to know details! But I know what’s coming and it does take some of the fun out of it.

With this being the fourth book in the series I’m reviewing I’m running out of things to say about it. Arlidge is holding strong in his writing, drawing the reader in immediately and holding them by the collar until the book ends. Even at book six I haven’t seen any deviation from quality of writing or plot. It’s not getting outlandish or anything. Arlidge is holding strong, delivering a gripping story and likable yet incredibly flawed character for whom you can’t help but root (well, maybe not all of them, some are just outright unlikable and that’s okay, they’re still fun). I can’t get enough of this series and I haven’t tired of it yet. Now just to fill in the gaps.

5

I received a copy of this book for review from the publisher through First to Read in exchange for an honest review.

Published: February 2, 2016
Publisher: NAL
Author: Website
Info: Goodreads

Ruby wakes up in a strange room. Her captor calmly explains that no one is looking for her. No one wants her. Except him.

When the body of a woman is found buried on a secluded beach, Detective Helen Grace is called to the scene. She knows right away that the killer is no amateur. The woman has been dead for years, and no one has even reported her missing. But why would they? She’s still sending text messages to her family.

Helen is convinced that a criminal mastermind is at work: someone very smart, very careful, and worst of all, very patient. But as she struggles to piece together the killer’s motive, time is running out for a victim who is still alive… (goodreads.com)

Good lord. These books are like crack. I can’t get enough of them and when I start it’s practically impossible to stop. With the super short chapters and tight, succinct language I just rocket from one cover to another and don’t even realize it.

Arlidge doesn’t disappoint in book three of the Helen Grace series, putting the foremost serial killer stopper against another sicko hellbent on imposing his sick fantasies on women. I love how Arlidge weaves Grace’s personal life into her work life so seamlessly. It doesn’t detract from the story at all and he masterfully handles three plots (minimum) like an expert juggler, never dropping any of the balls as the story carries on.

Despite the way her life is carrying on, Grace is appearing less like a train wreck to me. Doesn’t mean she doesn’t make some eyebrow-raising decisions but I’m finding myself in her corner more and more as she tries to sort out her world. I also like how Arlidge gives us a character that the world has gotten forever with men as the lead. It’s always men living reckless, damaged lives who makes poor decisions and yet still seem sympathetic. Grace is that threefold and I love her all the more for it.

I really don’t have much else to say about THE DOLL’S HOUSE. It’s fantastic. An excellent, gripping, face-paced thriller that sinks its claws in and doesn’t let you go. Just shows how out of it I am, though. I received an advanced copy of HIDE AND SEEK from Penguin and I’m all here like okay. I need to read THE DOLL’S HOUSE because I don’t want to read book 4 without reading book 3 . . . Yeah . . . HIDE AND SEEK is book 6. I got some catching up to do. Oh dear me. Whatever will I do . . .?

5

September 5, 2017

Published: August 1, 2017
Publisher: Traversing Z Press (self)
Author: Website
Info: Goodreads

Caroline Daniels must marry, and marry well. But in her remote corner of England eligible suitors are few and far between, and none hold a candle to her closest friend, Diana Fitzroy.

When Sir Edward Masterson arrives, he seems the answer to Caroline’s financial worries, though she instinctively dislikes the reticent, older merchant. Soon Sir Edward has set his sights on acquiring both Caroline and the decaying Harkworth Hall.

Caroline’s future seems secure, save that his enigmatic secretary hints at a dark secret, and Sir Edward shows an unusual interest in tales of monsters … and the blood in Caroline’s veins. (goodreads.com)

What a delightfully creepy book! I was a little nonplussed about the voice at the beginning, kind of a “oh not another one of these” moments, but the plot unfolded nicely and I got sucked right into it to the point where I didn’t even notice the voice. In fact the voice ended up adding to everything that was going on so it all worked out in the end.

Caroline is a character that’s been shoved into a particular role that she doesn’t really want to be in but society tells her it’s a must so she does it despite her heart screaming otherwise. But soon circumstances change and even though Caroline is desperate for a change, what society wants is so ingrained in her that it’s hard for her to do what’s right by her and by her family. It creates excellent tension among her, Mr Chase and Edward Masterson.

On top of that there’s this sinister, underlying scheme going on and you’re not sure whether there’s a supernatural element to it or if the men involved are just all sorts of shady and Johnson does an excellent job of toeing that line without dragging out the story in any unnecessary way.

And it’s a shorter story, my digital copy coming in as just over 100 pages. Johnson doesn’t waste words and she doesn’t waste time getting to the point but she doesn’t sacrifice setting or character development to get there. Another excellent balance.

I really hope there’s more to this story, at least one more book, because after what happens at the end it can’t just end there!

4.5

I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

August 22, 2017

Published: July 25, 2017
Publisher: Dutton
Author: Website
Info: Goodreads

A wild heart beats within New York City. Amid concrete and skyscrapers, the Wildlife Conservation Society works to preserve and protect the animal kingdom both within and beyond the borders of the five boroughs. But dangerous creatures don’t always have claws and fangs, as Assistant DA Alexandra Cooper and NYPD detectives Mike Chapman and Mercer Wallace know all too well. Predators lurk close to home, and in the aftermath of the shocking drive-by murder of an important city employee someone Alex has worked with for years the trio must discover who the bigger snake is: the killer or the victim.

Investigations into the death provide more questions than answers, as a tangled mess of secrets slowly comes to light. From bribes to secret societies, from big-game hunting to the illegal animal trade, from New York City zoos to behind closed doors in government buildings, Alex will have her work cut out for her if she wants to uncover the truth and uphold the integrity of the office she has so proudly served. (goodreads.com)

Like my review for DEVIL’S BRIDGE I had the same issues with name usage in DEADFALL. It must just be a writing quirk of Fairstein’s but holy crap, is it annoying. People literally do not use each others’ names that much when they talk to each other. Ever. Emphasis or not, can the editor get in on that and start striking some of them? Sheesh. Luckily I didn’t get yanked out as much by it in this book. I just reduced myself to rolling my eyes every times it happened. And it happened a lot.

Almost totally in Alex’s head in DEADFALL so the issues I had with Mike in the last book I read weren’t even an issue here. He’s present quite a bit but as the reader I’m never in his head. Just Alex’s. Luckily it’s not a bad place to be. Not the greatest, but not bad. I actually don’t really feel all that much for her. Reading back over my review for DEVIL’S BRIDGE I commented that it would probably behoove me to go back to the beginning so I can get some substance on these characters. I’d say that’s still true for book 19 as it was for book 17. It’s not that I wasn’t engaged with the story. I just didn’t care all that much about the characters. I wasn’t invested. And at least for Alex it didn’t have a whole lot to do with her as a character. Just more about the writing. It didn’t do a whole lot to endear me to her. I just felt like I was following her around as she traipsed through the pages.

The story itself was interesting. Not a whole lot by way of action until closer to the end and by the time the story starts the DA is already dead so as the reader you miss that too. So it’s a lot of cops trying to find out what’s going on and people talking, going behind each others’ backs, that kind of thing. It was different, what with the animal trafficking angle they went. That helped to make it interesting. But overall I was rather meh about it all.

Again, not a bad book but I’m not going to run out and buy more, certainly. At this point I’m not even sure I’ll accept more for review until I can go back and read from the beginning to see if I have the same feelings about the first books as I do this far into the series. Because now it’s two books that I don’t care all that much about and it doesn’t make me inclined to read more.

3

I received a copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Pub Date: August 1, 2017
Publisher: Carolrhoda Lab
Author: Website
Info: Goodreads

Katie Wallace has never given much thought to 9/11. She was only a year old when terrorists struck American soil. But now her dad has landed in a mental institution after claiming to know what really happened. He insists the attacks were part of a government conspiracy. And he claims that Katie is living proof: the lone survivor of a massive cover-up.

Hoping to free her dad, Katie sets out to investigate his bizarre claims. Soon she’s drawn into the strange and secretive world of 9/11 conspiracy theorists known as the “Truthers”.

Wading through a dangerous web of fact and fiction, questions and distortion, Katie no longer knows what to believe. But she does know that she’s being followed — and that someone is determined to stop her search for the truth.

A novel for teens, exploring 9/11 & our conspiracy culture… (goodreads.com)

My interest was piqued with TRUTHERS, however, when I started reading I was very afraid of where the book was going to go. I have huge problems with people capitalizing on 9/11 in the form of entertainment, like fictionalized books or movies. Same goes for other big tragedies, like the BP rig explosion and that movie with Mark Wahlberg. Gross. No. You’re making money on the backs of dead people with survivors still alive to tell you exactly what happened. No.

So I was afraid because 9/11 is very close to me. I don’t like to call myself a survivor because I wasn’t downtown when it happened. I was in my dorm at 55th between 2nd and 3rd, having been dropped off eight days prior for my freshman year of college. I don’t feel like I actually survived anything being that far uptown, yet it’s such a monumental moment in my life that I’m still to this day grossly affected by it. I didn’t witness the planes crashing into the buildings or see the towers collapsing, but I can tell you how yellow the air was the next day when the wind shifted and what thousands of burning bodies and cement and steel and asbestos and office equipment smells like. How long it stuck to our hair and our clothes, how news anchors advised people to stay indoors. I can tell you it took between 7 and 8 hours to get a hold of my parents that day because cell services were jammed, pay phones were for emergency only, and no one had long distance on their dorm phones. So my parents had no idea whether I was alive or dead. I can tell you what a silent New York City feels like, what hordes of people walking across the Queensboro looked like because the island was locked down. What’s it like to walk in streets that were previously flat but were now rippled and bulging because of the underground force created by the falling towers. I can tell you what it’s like to have a fundraiser variety show for one of our friends whose dad, who didn’t work in the towers but were nearby, ran in to help people and never came out. They buried an empty coffin that November and in March his body was finally extracted from the wreckage, intact.

I know our government’s down some really shitty things, but I can’t accept that they would allow something like this to happen let alone actually orchestrated it. So I had a hard time going into this book, and I had a hard time writing what I did above, and I was afraid of what Girard was going to do. My 18-year-old self was very directly affected by 9/11 and my 34-year-old-self now is very protective of that piece of me. But I gave it a chance.

And once things started working out and cracks started to form, I stopped reading the book as if I were anticipating a hit. I waited until the very end to see how he would tie everything together just so I didn’t jump the gun and was like WHEW. TRUTHERS ended in a very satisfying place. Not one where I anticipated it ending, but a respectful place.

The basic premise is Katie’s dad has been not well for a long time and at his last breakdown before being hospitalized he drops a bomb: that we was involved in a secret conspiracy to orchestrate 9/11 and Katie is really the daughter of a woman off of Flight 93 who handed her over to him to save before the woman was carted off and murdered by the government. This is at the front of the book, and it’s a very insulting conspiracy which was why I was so apprehensive going into it. I was really hoping the book would ultimately be a comment on mental illness, which is kind of ends up being. It just takes a while for that point to develop.

So here’s the thing: conspiracies are not mathematically viable. Effectively the more people who know a secret the less amount of time that secret is going to stay a secret. That article effectively proves that based on prior real conspiracies that did come to light. The thing about covert operations is that very few people know about them. Exceedingly few. That’s to mitigate leaks. There is stuff that’s buried very deeply within the government that not even Julian Assange can get his hands on. The shit the government really doesn’t want people to know, they hide it well. Everything else . . . well, the government at large is terrible at keeping secrets, if you couldn’t already tell.

One of Katie’s contacts, a guy with the handle Benevolus522, states that people who know too much and who are deemed a threat by the government get eliminated. That’s not untrue. However the government actually needs to think you’re a threat with the information you know. Ben here’s been working on his truther crap for more than a decade and he considers himself hunkered down under hacker protection from the government and in hiding. 1) Hubris to think his tech skills are better than the government’s when it comes to spycraft. Ha. 2) By that same logic if he was actually on to anything he’d already be dead. Since he’s not, by that logic, he knows jack shit. But, you know. Truthers aren’t logical so that concept flies right out the window.

Max is a leveling factor throughout the story, poking holes in Katie’s logic the entire time and he really grounds it all out. He waters down every truther concept, picks it up and turns it around so it can be seen from the other side of the coin. He’s really the voice of reason as Katie devolves into this whole mess.

As for Katie herself, she gets points for the research she does and the time spent. The crux of this whole thing, as outlined by one of the cases she found, it to prove that the truther conspiracies are believable by people of sound judgment and mind, not just by “crazies.” And this is brought up very early on in the story so if you hang on to this notion, keep it in the back of your mind, it’ll help you carry through everything, from the cut-aways to the “men in black” talking about spying on her to the questionable scare tactic moments that arise. She’s also a vaguely inconsistent character, but that’s just one mention that really stood out: considering 9/11 ancient history, however, she quotes the movie Se7en, which is even older than that event. Literally before her time. But whatever. Small hiccup, ultimately.

There are a lot of hidden pieces in TRUTHERS that if I start talking about them they’ll just be outright spoilers. So I’ll just end it with this: it’s a book that ultimately keeps its distance. 9/11 is THE BIG THING in the book, but that’s not how it ends. Girard is respectful and ends up making various comments about the mentality around conspiracies, PTSD, mental illness, and persistence toward truth. It started off rough and ended quite well. I would recommend giving it a chance.

He puts a note at the end, before the bibliography, just commenting on the sites and books he referenced when researching the book and how it’s not an endorsement, just a research list. InfoWars is on there and it made me twitch. Ugh. Talk about conspiratorial drivel. I’m sorry he had to go there, but I think it shows the lengths to which he went in order to understand the mentality of that side of thinking and even that isn’t presented in a mocking way in the book, but just as another way of thinking without being disrespectful to those directly affected by 9/11.

So if you’re looking at the blurb and you’re skeptical in a way that I was, give TRUTHERS a chance. You might be surprised.

4.5

I received a copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.