Tag Archives: reading and reviews

Review: Last Redemption – Rick Cahill #8 (Matt Coyle)

Rick Cahill is back, and the poor guy can’t catch a break.

At least here – at least at the beginning -he’s safely ensconced behind a desk, running employment checks for companies and pulling in a regular income from it. He’s also been diagnosed with CTE (chronic, traumatic encephalopathy, AKA head trauma from football) and is experiencing brain fog and missing time, something he has not told wife Leah, who is carrying their first child. He still feels the itch of being in the field, though, running down a case.

So when Moira, his best friend, wants Rick to tail her son to make sure he isn’t violating a restraining order, he doesn’t think twice. Moira is his friend, after all, and tailing someone without interacting with them seems safe enough.

It never is, though.

Rick trails the son and finds out he’s visiting an apartment not just in the same complex in which his girlfriend lives, but directly across from it. What is going on here? When Rick goes to speak to the girlfriend, he finds her dead – murdered in her apartment. When the son’s boss also ends up dead, Rick has to decide whether to tell law enforcement that he tailed the young man to his place of employment during the time stated as the time of death. Moira’s son? Vanished. And the primary suspect in both murders.

The case takes a giant leap here into the investigation, and it is wild, involving a consulting company that has top programmers in its stable, a secret project, competing firms, corporate espionage, and a new technology for screening DNA in search of various conditions so the problematic genes can be “switched off”. That reminded me of <a href=”https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2502504501″ target=”blank”>this book</a> about Theranos and their “one drop” wonder machine that never worked.

The stakes get higher, and more dangerous, especially for Rick and his unpredictable time losses. Moira finds out by accident that he’s been seeing a neurologist, and insists he tell Leah, or she will. He promises to do so, then promptly breaks that promise when Leah goes out of town for a big design job. He offers excuses to Moira, but knows he must do it, because Moira is a woman of her word.

The last 150 pages are so are terrific: action packed, danger, loose threads pulled together, and an entirely satisfying ending.

Five out of five stars.

Thanks to Oceanview Publishing and NetGalley for the reading copy.

Review: The Younger Wife (Sally Hepworth)

What happens when you dream up some characters, give them what seem to be perfect lives, and then throw them all in a bag called dysfunction? Toss in ambiguous POV storytelling and an ambiguous ending, and you get The Younger Wife.

The books opens with an unnamed POV crashing the wedding of established, respected – revered, even -Dr Stephen Ashford to his much younger second wife. After the vows, there’s a thunk and a scream, and suddenly we are moving back in time to What Happened Before.

Heather, the younger wife of the tile is about the age of Stephen’s grown daughters. Stephen’s wife Pam suffers from dementia and is in a nursing home where she can be tended.

Rachel, the older of the Ashford sisters, is a baker, and hasn’t dated anyone since she was 16. We’re not told why until late in the book (and the end of that intentional dry spell turns out to be Mr Perfect: handsome, witty, understanding. Of course he does.)

Tully, the younger sister, is an obsessive kleptomaniac who engages her compulsion when she is stressed, and she tries to hide the things she takes from her husband by dumping them into charity boxes. Her husband, for his part, has made a disastrous investment and lost a couple of million dollars, so they’ll have to sell their house, sell a bunch of their stuff, and downsize.

Heather grew up in poverty, eventually breaking out of that and eventually becomes a well-regarded an expensive interior designer, which is how she met Stephen.

Stephen and Heather (well, primarily Stephen) spring the wedding news on Rachel and Tully at lunch one day. Not a nice thing to do, and of course they are shocked. The remainder of the book is told from POVs that cycle through the female characters. Secrets and backgrounds are slowly exposed, until we get to the heart of the matter: is Stephen a domestic abuser? The girls seem to think so, sifting through memories, looking at injuries their mother sustained, Heather being involved in a couple of falls, an so on.

Or, is it all in their heads? Are their memories being tainted by their conclusion that he is? This is where the ambiguity comes in.

It’s not possible for the reader to accurately make that determination. The girls do – of course, as otherwise, there would be no ending or explanation as to what happened at the beginning – but for the reader, it’s akin to the Choose Your Own Adventure books: do you take the dirt path and change being eaten by a bear? Or do you take the path through the woods, chancing death by tiger?

What you cannot do, in life or in this book, is not choose.

If you’re a reader who likes a definitive ending, this is not the book for you.

The only thing I noted was a little sag in the middle, and Mr Perfect showing up in Rachel’s life.

Four out of five stars.

Thanks to St Martin’s Press and NetGalley for the reading copy.

Review: Protecting the Lady (Amanda Radley)

Spoilers, ho!

Katherine Lovegrove, a distant heir to the English throne – think higher than two dozen steps – and daughter of judge Michael Lovegrove receives threats from an organized crime family because the latter is about to sentence the daughter of the head of the family to a lot of time in prison.

Eve Webb is a former protection agent, resigning from her job because of a double bombing – one immediate, one shortly after in order to catch first responders to the scene -and because she not only thinks she could have done more (how??) but because of the way information is compartmentalized and she thinks the intelligence services should be sharing information about things like threats of bombings so they can all work together to address threats. I don’t have much optimism about this, no matter how this book ends. She’s living in Tokyo, teaching English here and there and basically barely making ends meet. Her former boss now runs his own show, and goes to Tokyo to get her back to protect Katherine. There’s quite a bit of money involved, so Eve says yes and they return to London. Eve knows nothing about the job, the specific threat(s), or the protectee. You can see where this is going when we find out Eve is a staunch anti-monarchist.

And of course it does: Eve threatens her boss that she’ll quit on the spot because she is opposed to protecting a royal, no matter how distant, but he pleads with her to meet with someone: the judge. After hearing him out, Eve reluctantly agrees to do the job.

Katherine, trying to have her own life, objects, of course, and then goes on to have a childlike hissy fit about Eve staying in her apartment with her. The very next day – when her father hands down the sentence – a brick is thrown through her office window. Obviously, she won’t be able to work there in person, as it puts everyone else at risk, so off they go to a very large manor (or very small castle, depending on your viewpoint): her childhood home. Where she promptly locks herself in her room. Like a child, instead of a grown woman almost 40 years old.

Eve’s unhappy as well, and gets more people from her boss to help guard the castle, which, from a protection standpoint, is not a bad place to be: clear lines of sight, thick walls, and easy coverage of access points. It’s a dream!

Except Katherine doesn’t want to be there, doesn’t want Eve and her crew on the site, and generally is petulant. She convinces Eve to allow her to attend a charity ball that she’s been organizing for a year, and where she gets people to open their wallets wide, and Eve agrees after determining not that that’s an easy place to protect Katherine but that it means so damn much to her. This would be a signal that you’re allowing your judgement to be impaired because you’re falling in love with he protectee even though there’s no real chemistry going on.

And on that note, one other item: close protection duties mean close and almost always in contact. Alas, here, Eve and Katherine are not particularly close nor in constant contact with one another, so it’s a bit mystifying how these two start falling for one another when they’re also on different sides of things, attitude and royalty-wise, and Katherine has had a stick up her hind end about the lack of need of Eve’s services in the first place.

In any case, they’re on the way back to the castle afterwards, and someone takes a shot at the car, injuring the driver and causing Eve to jump into action, telling Katherine to get down, and taking over driving duties to get them to safety. Katherine is then at the castle, and Eve is off to a briefing with her boss. One again: not close, not in contact.

There are also no questions/discussions given over to the reader about the potshot at the car. Routes are varied, and they never take the same route twice, so how did anyone know? The obvious answer, of course: there’s a mole. Either this does not occur to Eve or her boss, or the reader is left out until later. The former would be rather silly for experienced protection service people, and the latter is, I think, unfair.

Eve, deciding she’s too close to Katherine, feely-wise, decides to hand over protection to someone else, and scoots. Katherine is promptly kidnapped, courtesy of someone ramming the car – again, how does anyone know the route?

Eve and her boss finally realize there’s a mole, and there’s a showdown in Ops, with Eve taking a guy to the floor and punching staples into his back until he gives up the location.

This leads to a bunch of services working together to retrieve Katherine, and Eve is there, leading Katherine out of the warehouse where she’d been stashed (and beaten), and where the head of the organized crime family has pulled a Stupid Thing, by being there on premises so the law can catch him, because daughter for daughter something something, even though his daughter is both not beaten and is also not dead.

So Eve and Katherine are reunited, and are now totally In Love, despite barely seeing one another through the whole book, and also apparently having worked out that whole royal-anti-monarchist thing in record time. The get the HEA, naturally.

As much as I hate the instalove trope, I recognize that it’s a handy way to cut out many chapters of a book and get to the chase, so to speak. But you have to decide what the book is: is it a romance, with occasional flashes of mystery and danger? Or is it primarily a mystery/action/thriller, with occasional romance and/or sexytimes (note: there are no sexytimes in this book)? It’s also fine if it it is both in equal measures, of course. I don’t think this worked on any of the three. There isn’t enough action except at the end for me to believe Katherine is any real danger that couldn’t be averted. There is no chemistry and no romance. The only balance between the two is a distinct lack of either. I’d have read twice the number of pages to get either or both.

It sounds like I’m just pounding on this, but I’m not – I’m just demanding because I want good stories and I want them to make sense. YMMV on every point I’ve made before now, but I imagine the last one is true for everyone.

Two and a half stars out of five, sadly rounded down to two.

Thanks to Bold Stroke Books and NetGalley for the reading copy.

Review: Nowhere to Hide – Faith McClellan #4 (LynDee Walker)

When your Gran’s dearest friend asks you to investigate something, you don’t ask any questions except where and who.

The who, in this case, is Samson the pig, raised by teenager Kelsey from a runt destined to be culled, a la Charlotte’s Web. Samson, as it turns out, is a YouTube star, and Kelsey’s videos keep the entire family afloat. A note here: Samson the Pig is said to have 40 million subscribers. That would make it a larger channel that The DoDo – one of the largest channels devoted to animal videos – which has somewhere around 16 million the last time I checked. So that part rang a bit false, but pulling down 200K a month did not, based on the (imaginary) size of the channel, and assuming a gigantic number of views per video.

Texas Ranger Faith McClellan, in her fourth appearance, dutifully goes to talk to the family. Mom and the son, Kyle, are not home -she’s told they’ve gone off to a hunting cabin. The housekeeper, with an accent that comes and goes, Kelsey, and her (a tad strange) father are able to answer some questions, but many remain – who would do this, and what possible motive could there be? Kelsey, of course, is brokenhearted.

McClellan walks around the house and the scene of the crime, finding a rather large secret of the son’s rather quickly. She learns that the killing was particularly vicious, with blood everywhere and the killer also decapitated the head (now missing). The carcass she loads up in her truck and takes to the morgue for the coroner to look at. She discovers another hog was also killed, although his head was not taken and the family broke down the body and cooked some of it, the rest going into the freezer.

Meanwhile, McClellen also has to do a bunch of wedding0related stuff: dress, caterers, etc. Her overbearing mother is helping – and by helping, I mean basically taking over all of it. Her fiance Graham is assisting her with the case, which she worries might be the beginnings of a serial killer, and that the killer will move up a bracket to start offing people.

The case seems to have a ton of possible suspects: the brother, a jealous girl from school, the father, the boyfriend/not boyfriend. As McClellen fears, people start dying,even as she and Graham start to get a grip on the case. About halfway through it became obvious to me who the killer was, but it was still an enjoyable ride watching McClellan and Graham make their way through to (livestreaming) denouement.

No terrible slow spots, and in this instance, the bad guy infodump at the end is warranted – it is being livestreamed, after all.

Solid four out of five stars. Plus a desire to go back and read the first three in the series, to see how McClellan came to this version of herself.

Thanks to Severn River and NetGalley for the reading copy.

Review: The Girl in the Ground – Nikki Hunt #4 (Stacey Green)

After three months away from the job, FBI agent Nikki Hunt is back in the office, and expected to gradually ease her way back into full duty. That plan takes a detour when she’s tapped to lead the investigation into a heavily pregnant, due any day now surrogate for a rich couple.

Her boyfriend Rory is also having issues after finding skeletal remains on a job site. After they find a locket with the body (as well as fetal remains), Rory becomes suspect number one after it’s clear he knows who the young woman is: a girl he date briefly and then broke up with at graduation. But is the child his? Did he kill her? He doesn’t do himself any favors by being antagonistic to the police.

The FBI and local police continue their search for the mussing surrogate, but there are few clues and fewer leads. Eventually, they make a plea to the public for any information.

I read the first book in this series, but now the two between that one and this. At some point, Nikki’s ex-husband was murdered. After another agent comes to town, claiming to be working on a tax fraud case and Nikki learns that the missing surrogate is also that agent’s confidential informant, Nikki starts going through her ex’s papers, looking for clues as to why he was investigating the owner of a limo service – who has conveniently flown to NY and disappeared.

Nikki gets the scoop on the missing surrogate, who once was held by a sex trafficker for a period of time before she escaped. Is he back now, and reclaiming her?

Nikki and company find more skeletal remains, and more fetal remains with them, and eventually determine how the girls were likely chosen, and based on descriptions given by the missing surrogate, zero in on the likely suspects.

The story is good, and there aren’t any dragging parts, even when the characters are moving between locations. My only dislike is Rory – I get it, his brother was wrongfully accused and imprisoned for something he didn’t do, but Rory should have just lawyered up at the first second the police started sniffing around, so as to relieve some of hi anxiety about being questioned over and over. For their par, the police should have understood why he didn’t want to constantly hear their questions, fearing they would railroad him as they did his brother.

The mystery tied together nicely, and there were some pretty gruesome deaths in this one, so if you don’t have a strong stomach, you might want to skip this one, or at least skim or skip the fire scene.

Overall: a solid four out of five stars.

Thanks to Bookouture and NetGalley for the reading copy.

 

Review: The Perfect Neighborhood (Liz Alterman)

Allison Langley ditches her husband and their supposed perfect life in their perfect house in Oak Hills in the middle of the night. In suburbia, everyone thinks they know your business, so the the tongues start flapping with gossip, true or not.

But then five year old Billy Barnes goes missing while walking home alone one day. Suddenly, everyone is a detective, or a pretender that their own lives are perfect while dumping on Billy’s mom Rachel, whose marriage is rocky and who has a stepson who is as much a jackass as his father Ted, Rachel’s husband, although for different reasons. They also lay blame on 18 year old Cassidy, the babysitter, who was late getting to the house. It’s hard to say if Billy went missing as he was walking home, or if he made it home, and was taken from there. The police can’t find anything, and when they drag the pond, it turns into a neighborhood event, with everyone watching.

Another child goes missing – also under Cassidy’s care, and you can imagine how well that goes over with the neighborhood, which had started to feel sorry for her.

The story is told from various members of the neighborhood, but only the women. That includes Rachel, who is absolutely torn up about her missing boy, Cassidy, who can’t bring herself to tell the truth about why she was late, and Allison, who has escaped the neighborhood for reasons she details in her pieces of the narrative, and who is obsessed by Billy’s disappearance.

The story is interesting – what white bread shark’s nest suburbia isn’t, when they’re ready to chop one another into pieces? – but there was at least one POV chapter I’d have stricken as not adding much to things other than trying to be Cassidy’s conscience. The villain is not entirely out of the blue, and the ending hints at a possible not-sequel-but-next-book sort of thing.

The writing itself is fine, and while there are a couple of draggy bits here and there, I chalk that up to typical going about life things: most peoples’ lives are boring and routine, and sometimes the narrative has to show that.

Three and half out of five stars, rounded up to four, because the book works.

Thanks to Crooked Lane Books and NetGalley for the reading copy.

Review: The Edge of Yesterday (C.J. Birch)

As a rule, I try to avoid science fiction that involves time travel. Time travel gets very messy, and most authors don’t think enough about the implications on a character’s own timeline when moving those characters back and forth through time. Case in point: a recent movie on one of the streaming services that sent soldiers back in time to gather a group of people to come fight in the future (of those soldiers) against something. I didn’t watch it because my immediate thought was: why not just bring technology backwards or give it to the people in that time, a la Star Trek IV’s transparent aluminum?

In any case, I’m glad I took a chance on this book, because it is fantastic.

Hundreds of years into the future, people 0n Earth are living far underground to avoid detection by drones. Most live a hand to mouth existence, there is no sun, no plants, and no fun. It seems nanobot technology ran amok (Terminator-style) and humans went into hiding.

Using AI as a helper, they’ve figured out how to use time travel, and they send people back to the past with specific tasks to perform to try to avoid having this particular occur, based on percentages determined by the AI. I could see a problem with this.

Easton Gray is selected to be a level five in her department: the level fives are the people who slip into the past, perform their task, and then hit the recall option on the computer implanted in their forearm. Her sister Calla is the only family she has left: her mother died when she was 12, and her father died at some undetermined date along the way. Calla has been promoted to the survey crew – a very dangerous job in itself – but Easton doesn’t want her to take it because of the danger. They argue a bit about it, and Easton tries to deal with Calla’s boss to move her to something else, only to find someone higher on the food chain has already done this. As it turns out -and as to be expected -it isn’t just actions in the past that have consequences.

Easton makes the jump. Her task: find and kill Zach Nolan, who is deemed responsible for the nanobots raging out of control. She finds herself in a field, naked, near a farmhouse. When the residents leave, she pops in, steals some clothes, and she’s on her way. Eventually, she finds and presumably breaks into the veterinary office of Dr Tess Nolan.

It turns out Tess has come to live in this rural town after leaving Vancouver and a rather crazy woman she was dating. The local vet was retiring, so she bought the practice. Tess happens to come into the office, and patches up Easton, who refuses to go to the hospital.

They meet again around town. Easton continues gathering information, as the people coming from the future are dropped in near when their target(s) can be acquired, never an exact date. Tess and Easton get to know one another, and they’re quite taken with one another. But Easton knows that not Zach alone needs to die: his discoveries go to Tess when he dies, and she is then responsible for the dystopian nightmare in the future. Easton arranges it, then sits back.

Only to find herself dropped into the field again. Something has gone wrong, and when that happens, they’re just dropped right back into the same place to try again.

Easton goes through a few of these iterations, increasingly having issues with not wanting to kill Tess, even though she knows one death could save billions.

But then a mystery visitor shows up, and the entire mission is turned on its head. I won’t go further than that except to say: the explanation makes complete sense, and confirmed one of my suspicions. The action picks up as hunters arrive to chase them, and the outcome is…well, you’ll have to read it.

It’s a great read, even if you’re not particularly into science fiction. If you do like science fiction, like me, I think you’ll find both the technological and philosophical issues around time travel adequately explained, and better, to make sense.

Five out of five stars. Highly recommended.

Thanks to Bold Stroke Books and NetGalley for the reading copy.

Reviwe: Pay or Play – Charlie Waldo #3 (Howard Michael Gould)

If I had to sum up this book in one word, that word would be: annoying.

Charlie Waldo is a former cop who helped send an innocent man to prison, only to turn around, do a ton of work to help get him released, only to see that man murdered before he got out (I think, on that last part – pretty sure he was still in when he was murdered). Waldo resigns from the LAPD, buys a small house up in the hills, and rarely comes off the mountain.

Except in fire season, because he’s living in Idyllwild (which was almost burned right off the map in real life during that rather heinous fire season of 2018). Before he leaves, though, a trafficker by the name of Don Q wants something. These two apparently have some history, which I found I didn’t care about. Don Q wants Waldo to find out the identity of a homeless man who seemed to have drowned in a fountain. Waldo doesn’t want to do it, but I’m guessing when a well connected and sort of powerful drug dealer tells you to do something, you just do it.

Here’s some of the annoying: Don Q tries to give him an envelope of cash – take it, dummy, you don’t have a job – but Waldo is wedded to this minimalism thing he started after resigning from the LAPD, and he already has 100 Things (yes, it’s capitalized). Don Q takes care of that for him by taking his laptop and leaving the money. Other annoyance: Waldo donating big pieces of his money to charities. There’s nothing wrong with this, of course, if you don’t have giant signs screaming that you need therapy. Waldo does need some serious therapy.

Meanwhile, the girlfriend he ghosted to go worship at the altar of minimalism in the hills needs him to come sit in on a meeting with a prospective client. He agrees, but not until we get another dose of the 100 Things stuff, this time bitching about the things the girlfriend has in the house.

But they go, and it’s a scripted reality show judge who wants to get another lawyer off her back and break her contract with (disguised Netflix) in favor of syndicating herself, which would yield many more zeroes on her paycheck. Lorena, Waldo’s girlfriend, and the rest of her crew work on that.

Someone is also trying to blackmail the judge, and she talks privately with Waldo about that, telling him to go figure it out. That sets Waldo off on a quest to solve a 35 year old crime that was ruled an accident: a pledge to a frat who wandered off and fell off a small cliff. I think the mystery was two levels too complex, really, and it didn’t have to be.

Throughout all this, we get ample helping of Waldo fetishizing minimalism and his 100 Things rule, and I have to say that crap got old, really fast. He also has a hangup about carbon emissions and is constantly on Lorena’s case about it and worrying about his own footprint as he flies around, since the case takes him out of LA. I get it, we should be more concerned about the environment, but there’s a patience level for everything, and Waldo blew that up for me by the end of the fifth chapter.

Meanwhile, Don Q is on Waldo’s case about the homeless dude, who Waldo finds out was a man the others in the same homeless “camp” called The Professor. The solving of this mystery involves two brothers, an almost abandoned property, a grave, and a dog.

By the end, I decided the only people who were not entirely vile or overly annoying were the homeless people The Professor knew, and Don Q.

It’s written well enough – although in my head, I assigned a very whiny voice to Waldo when he started in on the 100 Things or carbon emissions stuff – and the mystery is okay, even if a bit too complex for its own good.

Three out of five stars.

Thanks to Severn House and NetGalley for the reading copy.

Review: The Cold Killer – DI Barton #4 (Ross Greenwood)

Nothing starts a book off right like having someone getting their arm chainsawed off by a career criminal. Amazingly enough, it turns out to be self-defense.

That pulls us into the story. But it is not quick to action, at least for DI Barton. Instead, we pop into the POV of a prisoner, and how he has always been top dog in prison, but he’s older now, slower, and can’t take down the prisoners who attack him in his cell (which he shares with the career criminal’s son). This takes up a good part of the beginning, since this is where the prisoner is getting to the area of the prison where the child molesters are. There, he discovers that the father of his best friend is in the same block. His best friend committed suicide in front of this prisoner and the career criminal above, as his father had moved on from abusing him to abusing his younger brother. He figures justice needs a little help, since the man was going to be released soon (as were a few others on the block, including the POV prisoner) so he smothers the old man in his cell.

Now Barton makes an appearance, as any unexplained death in the prison has to be investigated. From the looks of it, it’s just old age. Barton and one of his team members, Strange, interview the 60 or so inmates on the block, looking for a possible killer. They’re all creepy in their own way, but none seem like killers. The autopsy reveals some things that may be consistent with suffocation, but then again, may not be. Result: inconclusive, leaving Barton to figure it out.

Then one of the released pedophiles is found dead, and Barton believes it’s all connected, so his team starts digging. Are they being targeted? If so, by whom,and why, other than they’re all scumbag deviants?

It’s a good investigation, and flows along smoothly, with occasional scenes from Barton’s home. His mother has dementia, with moments of clarity, but he and his wife and kids are happy to be able to spend whatever time she has left with her.

As the story moves toward its end, the bodies are piling up, and strangely, the prisoner who killed the old man in prison turns out to be a bit of a sympathetic character. the pedophiles, not so much.

There aren’t any real draggy parts in the middle/guts of the investigation. I’ve not read any other books in the series, and that made keeping track of all the people on Barton’s team a little difficult. Additionally, they have a shared history that would have been helpful to know about before going into this book, but it can be read as a standalone.

Generally, I’m not a fan of mysteries where there aren’t enough clues for the reader to determine who the murderer is, but the mystery is so complex here, and the story well told, so that issue is offset for me.

Four and a half stars out of five, rounded up to five.

Thanks to Boldwood Books and NetGalley for the reading copy.

Review: Her Dying Day (Mindy Carlson)

Pear Blossom Jubilee Masterson – yes, raised on a commune, isolated from the world – is an aspiring filmmaker who is sleeping with her (married) advisor. We’re off to a great start!

As it turns out, only her advisor calls her Pear Blossom, so we’re not stuck with unending litanies of that name. Everyone else calls her June. June has – for the last time – change the subject of her film. It’s going to be a film about a 20 year old cold case: the disappearance of Greer Larkin, a mystery novelist. Larkin was a hit at age 14 with her first murder mystery, and after that, was withdrawn from school, and isolated from the rest of the world. Larkin is June’s favorite writer, as they share the same general upbrringing, on their own tiny island in the sea of humanity, and because June loves the stories. June has read and reread all the books, and she participates in a forum at greersgone.com where she and other fans of Larkin’s endlessly speculate about what could have happened and post whatever clues they believe they have about the disappearance.

June sends out emails to Larkin’s mother Blanche (high and mighty, with money and lawyers out the wazoo), Jonathan (fiance and general scumbag), Rachel (devoted friend who wanted more than friendship) and Bethany (Larkin’s agent). When she gets replies, it’s an opportunity to see how each one thinks, and their guesses as to what happened. The women all blame Jonathan, of course, and that’s only natural. The partner is always the first and primary suspect. His motive? Money- there’s an account in the Caymans under his name with a whopping $18 million in it. But the account is frozen and Blanche doesn’t want another nickel of Larkin’s money going to him.

Rachel blames Jonathan as well, claiming he was abusive to Larkin, something he denies. Bethany blames Jonathan too, not just for Larkin’s disappearance but for the quality of her writing deteriorating, something Rachel also throws at Jonathan’s feet, claiming he controlled Larkin with booze and drugs.

June interviews them all, and casts general questions to the forum so as not to tip them off there’s a film being made about Larkin’s vanishing. June seems to be able to do better than the police did – of course, that was before the internet is what it is today – and as she gets further and further toward the answer, someone dies, and she is threatened as well unless she stops her investigation.

It’s a fun book- not for the death and disappearance and threats, of course, but for the way in which June goes about putting the pieces together, and her (sometimes) inventive ways of getting information.

Side note to publishers and/or writers who use domains in their books: go register the thing and put content on it.

The ending is a bit tropey, with the villains giving up an infodump about their why, but it is coherent, consistent reasoning, even if a little weird. There are a few instances, and one in particular where something is presented to June that could have been presented to the police back in the day to help them, and it’s odd that the character didn’t do that. Other than these things, it’s a solid, fun read.

Four out of five stars.

Thanks to Crooked Lane Books and NetGalley for the reading copy.