Review: Ali Land delivers the goods with Good Me, Bad Me

By G. Robert Frazier

Good Me Bad MePart of the fun of reading a book like Ali Land’s Good Me Bad Me is the anticipation of what’s to come. You know from the get-go that you’re going to be in for a few shocks—you just aren’t sure how you’ll get there. Fortunately, Land delivers on all accounts.

The concept provides an instant hook: The 15-year-old daughter of a serial killer turns in her mother and, while waiting to testify, worries if she too is bad and will become a killer. You might think Annie, who is later renamed Milly by her foster family in order to protect her identity, would breathe easier after escaping her mother’s reign of terror. But her nightmare is just beginning.

Read the full review here.

Review: McInerney’s The Glorious Heresies is gloriously twisted read

By G. Robert Frazier

The Glorious Heresies ($16, Tim Duggan Books) by Lisa McInerney is a gloriously twisted novel.

The Glorious HeresiesFollowing the lives of four down and out individuals—and the somewhat delusional mother of one of them—the story paints a bleak and dismal portrayal of crime and addiction in Cork, Ireland. When Maureen Phelan kills an intruder in her home with a Holy Stone, events swiftly spiral in myriad directions for the book’s colorful cast, including:

  • Jimmy Phelan, Maureen’s son, who happens to be a renowned gangster;
  • Tony Cusack, the alcoholic single father of six recruited by Jimmy to help dispose of the body and make some needy home repairs for his mother;
  • Ryan Cusack, Ryan’s 15-year-old drug-dealing son who wants desperately to not end up like his father;
  • and Georgie, a prostitute and one of Ryan’s drug-addicted customers seeking her own redemption.

Despite harsh undertones of lives doomed by poverty, addiction, and greed, McInerney somehow keeps readers hooked as each strives for their own salvation and redemption. Characters who should be entirely unlikable are fascinatingly rich and complex.

McInerney’s first novel, The Glorious Heresies won the 2016 Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction and was a New York Times Book Review “10 Best Crime Novels” of the year.

Note: I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

Review: The Talented Ribkins a bizarre story about an unusually gifted family

By G. Robert Frazier

 

The Talented Ribkins

Melville House 
$25.99 
ISBN 9781612196367 
Published 08/08/2017

Seventy-two-year-old Johnny Ribkins has a unique gift: He can create maps to places he’s never been and remember his way to other locations by simply referring to the “map” in his mind. If the premise sounds a bit unusual, wait until you meet the rest of the family. First-time novelist Ladee Hubbard has created a collection of misfits like no other in The Talented Ribkins.

 

Each member of this black family is imbued with their own special ability, whether it’s being able to climb walls, catch any object hurled at them or spit fire. Not exactly Avengers or X-Men material, mind you, but fascinating nevertheless.

Read my full review at BookPage.

Review: BBA America comedian Graham Norton’s Holding a ‘cozy’ mystery

By G. Robert Frazier

 

Holding

Atria 
$25.00 
ISBN 9781501173264 
Published 08/01/2017

At first blush, a debut novel by comedian and BBC late-night host Graham Norton sounds like it would be rife with wry humor and witty antics in the vein of his TV show. But aside from a somewhat quirky lead character, this novel is surprisingly down to earth. You could say it’s downright cozy, because, essentially, that’s what it is: a modern-day cozy mystery in the tradition of one of Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot or Miss Marple adventures.

 

Not that there’s anything wrong with that. In fact, Holding is a refreshing, albeit nostalgic, change of pace from the grittier, fast-paced domestic thrillers crowding for space on bookshelves this summer.

Read the rest of my review now at BookPage.

Review: Diane Capri’s new hero on the hunt in action-packed Blood Trails

 

By G. Robert Frazier

Diane Capri may be best known for her spinoff thriller series based on another best-selling writer’s character (you’ve heard of Jack Reacher, right?), but she also authors several series featuring her own excellent cast of characters. The latest, and perhaps best of the bunch, is Michael Flint, who holds the unlikely occupation of heir hunter in Capri’s new book, Blood Trails.

 

Blood Trails

Blood Trails
Thomas & Mercer
$15.95
ISBN: 978-1503939950
Published 10/4/16

Heir hunters are basically private eyes who track down and find people who may be in line to collect a substantial windfall from wills, property transfers, or unclaimed mineral rights. (Apparently, heir hunters are a thing.)

 

A forensic genealogist and former covert agent specializing in high-end investigations, Flint is enlisted to track down Laura Oakwood who is in line for a $50 million payout for her mineral rights if she signs on the dotted line before a looming deadline. All Flint has to do is find her and, if he can, keep her alive long enough to collect. Problem is, Laura doesn’t want to be found. Not after she participated in an armed robbery nearly thirty years ago in which an innocent victim was killed. If found, she could still be tried and convicted of the crime.

Complicating things are a pair of greedy Texas oil barons hot to scoop up her property, Sebastian Shaw and Felix Crane. Shaw, at least, wants to do the right thing and actually hires Flint for his services. Crane, though, would just as soon as see Laura dead so that he can claim the property as his. To that end, Crane hires an assortment of goons to undermine Flint’s efforts at every turn.

Blood Trails moves at a steady clip, combining old-fashioned gumshoe work and intense action scenes – such as a thrilling helicopter crash-landing and a kill-or-be-killed shootout. A New York Times and USA Today bestselling author, Capri writes crisp, yet detailed prose, creating an air of realism not seen in many thrillers. Flint, who is haunted by his own past, is a highly skilled and likable protagonist you’d want on your side.

Review: Here and Gone thrills from start to finish

by G. Robert Frazier

Imagine escaping from an abusive relationship with your children cross-country only to see them taken from you by someone else. That’s the nerve-racking nightmare confronting Audra Kinney, the lead character in Haylen Beck’s new novel, Here and Gone. Making matters worse, the people who have taken her daughter include a local Arizona sheriff and his deputy. Any parent, or anyone with a heart for that matter, can only begin to sympathize with Audra’s plight and keep turning the pages to see if the family will be reunited in this harrowing thriller.

Here and GoneInitially, Sheriff Whiteside stops Kinney on a supposed traffic violation. A search of her vehicle turns up a bag of marijuana in the trunk – which Audra insists he planted – and he takes her into custody. Meanwhile, Whiteside’s deputy, Collins, takes possession of Audra’s children from the scene of the traffic stop, promising to keep them safe. But when Audra asks about them in jail, Whiteside says, “What children?” And Audra’s nightmare suddenly goes from bad to worse.

Beck, who is better known as prizewinning international crime writer Stuart Neville, swiftly unveils an abhorrent plot in which a powerful cabal sells children on the black market to the highest bidder. We can only imagine the winning bidder’s intent once they have the children, which makes the read even more terrifying.

Audra, along with an unexpected ally who lost his children in a similar situation years ago, desperately attempts to learn the truth so that she can be reunited with her children. But will she get to them in time?

Here and Gone thrills from the first page and doesn’t let up until its satisfyingly explosive end. Beck’s prose is taut, wasting no unnecessary words or actions in favor of keeping the plot moving. Each of his characters is finely crafted, from Audra’s helplessness to growing resolve to Sheriff Whiteside’s devious motivations. You won’t be able to put this one down.

Note: I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for this review.

Janelle Brown’s Watch Me Disappear a riveting tale of secrets, suspense

By G. Robert Frazier

 

Watch Me Disappear

 

Watch Me Disappear
Janelle Brown
Publisher: Spiegel & Grau
ISBN: 978-0-8129-8946-5
Publication date: July 11

 

In this age of instant information — where seemingly everything about everyone is readily available with a few clicks of a mouse – it’s surprising how much we really don’t know about the people closest to us. Billie Flanagan, for instance, the missing woman in New York Times bestselling author  Janelle Brown’s engrossing new novel, Watch Me Disappear, harbors more than her share of secrets from her husband, Jonathan, and daughter, Olive. Secrets that slowly, inevitably, surface as the pair dig further and further into her year-long absence and her mysterious past.

At first blush, Billie’s disappearance while hiking in a remote California wilderness is symptomatic of the way she lived – care-free, adventuresome, and daring. With no body to bring home, however, it takes a year before the courts can begin proceedings to officially rule her dead and move matters through probate. Jonathan and Olive mark the impending anniversary in vastly different ways.

Jonathan wrestles with a growing sense of finality, racked by questions such as how long it had taken his wife to die, if she suffered, hurt and helpless after a fall, and whether he could have done more to find her and bring her home safe. When Jonathan discovers an excess of funds missing from his bank account, he begins to suspect that Billie was having an affair and saving up to leave him.

Olive, meanwhile, nurtures seeds of growing doubt and denial, particularly after suddenly experiencing visions of her mother imploring her to keep searching: “Why aren’t you looking for me? You aren’t trying hard enough.” The visions – which grow in frequency and intensity – raise questions about Olive’s own state of mind. Is she so grief-stricken that her mind is playing tricks? Or is she, in fact, tapping into some weird supernatural connection to her long-lost mother?

Together, the pair embarks on an investigation into Billie’s mysterious past, the people in her life, and the secrets she kept from them. With each new discovery, the suspense – and the very real possibility that Billie is indeed alive and has forsaken them – takes firm root. Throughout it all, Brown poses the question of how well do we really know those we’re closest to?

Brown, who won wide acclaim for her previous books, All We Ever Wanted Was Everything and This is Where We Live, expertly captures the voice and anxiety of father and daughter, creating a compelling page-turner of a book. The final reveals are emotional and, while not totally unexpected, linger well after “The End.”

Update: The Gotham Group options Watch Me Disappear

Sibling rivalry explodes into violence in The Last Cowboys of San Geronimo

by G. Robert Frazier

The Last CowboysA long-simmering feud between brothers boils over with the death of one brother at the other’s hand, prompting the wife of the deceased to hunt his killer and seek revenge. If it sounds like the plot of an Old West showdown, you wouldn’t be far off—except this adventure takes place in modern-day California.

So begins a contemporary Western tale of sibling rivalry, vengeance and family loyalty by debut novelist Ian Stansel in The Last Cowboys of San Geronimo. A finalist for the PEN/Bingham Prize for his short fiction collection, Everybody’s Irish, Stansel updates the age-old family feud in a surprisingly poignant way.

Read my full review now at BookPage.

Review: Wiseguys run rampant in Murder at Venegoni’s

Murder-at-Venegonis-coverAlright, youse guys, listen up. There’s this book about mobsters, see… Murder at Venegoni’s. Written by some wiseguy screenwriter by the name of Christopher M. Rutledge. It’s like The Godfather–only without all that ruminatin’ that characters do. If that’s the kind of read you’re looking for, fuhgeddaboutit! Rutledge ain’t got time for that. There’s too many shootouts to get through to be wasting on a bunch of mushy character stuff.

Read my review at Killer Nashville.

Heart-pounding suspense for summer

by G. Robert Frazier

If you’re seeking edge-of-your seat thrills and psychological suspense to keep you turning pages long into the humid summer nights, then look no further. From exotic locales like the Greek islands to the seamy underbelly of New York City, these books have the right ingredients for an entertaining escape.

The Destroyers

The Destroyers

Years and miles apart will change people. So will wealth—or a lack of it. Ian Bledsoe discovers this the hard way in Christopher Bollen’s engrossing new novel, THE DESTROYERS ($27.99, Harper).  Set on the Greek island paradise of Patmos, the novel reunites Ian with his childhood friend and college pal, Charlie Konstantinou, who may be Ian’s best chance of getting out of a precarious situation. But before Ian gets a chance to repay Charlie for his generosity, Charlie vanishes after a business trip, leaving his friends and family to fend for themselves.

You Belong to MeYou Belong to Me

Obsession takes many forms. In Colin Harrison’s new novel, YOU BELONG TO ME ($27, Sarah Crichton Books), the consequences of various obsessions are often messy and deadly. Successful immigration lawyer Paul Reeves is obsessed with his hobby of collecting rare archival maps. His neighbor, Jennifer Mehraz, is obsessed with her long-lost lover, former Army Ranger Bill Wilkerson. Jennifer’s husband, Iranian-American entrepreneur Ahmed Mehraz, is obsessed with her.  Harrison explores how far each of these characters will go to conquer their obsession and attain the unattainable. 

She Rides Shotgun

She Rides Shotgun

You’ll want to buckle up and hold on tight for Jordan Harper’s debut novel, SHE RIDES SHOTGUN ($26.99, Ecco), a fast-paced, energetic noir about an ex-convict and his 11-year-old daughter. Nate McClusky isn’t your typical protagonist—he’s done a lot of bad things in his lifetime, both beyond and behind bars. But his compassion for his daughter, Polly, drives everything, making their quest for survival one readers can embrace.

By turns heartwarming and shocking, this book entertains on numerous levels.

 

Fierce Kingdom

Fierce Kingdom

Author Gin Phillips thrusts Joan and her 4-year-old son, Lincoln, into the middle of a life-and-death scenario in one of the summer’s most action-packed and emotionally harrowing thrillers, FIERCE KINGDOM ($25, Viking). The pair are just about to wrap up a visit to their local zoo when the sounds of gunshots shatter the otherwise tranquil environment. Joan’s motherly, protective instinct immediately kicks in as the pair hide from the shooters amid the zoo’s exhibition spaces. Fierce Kingdom unfolds at a rapid-fire pace with each chapter upping the tension and danger.

Final GirlsFinal Girls

Stephen King recently praised FINAL GIRLS ($26, Dutton) by Riley Sager as “the first great thriller of 2017,” an assessment I’ll second. This suspense-packed novel—written by an established author under the Sager pseudonym—follows the life of Quincy Carpenter, the lone survivor of a horror movie-like massacre of five college friends that happened 10 years ago during their vacation at Pine Cottage. When the lone female survivor of a similar ordeal dies and a third “Final Girl” winds up on her doorstep, Quincy is immediately thrust into yet another do-or-die scenario.

Read my complete review of these books now at BookPage.