CLOSER THAN YOU KNOW by Brad Parks {Review}


Publisher: Dutton
Release Date: March 6, 2018
Source: Review copy from the publisher
Rating: ★★★★¼


Disaster, Melanie Barrick was once told, is always closer than you know.

It was a lesson she learned the hard way growing up in the constant upheaval of foster care. But now that she’s survived into adulthood–with a loving husband, a steady job, and a beautiful baby boy named Alex–she thought that turmoil was behind her.

Until one Tuesday evening when she goes to pick up Alex from childcare only to discover he’s been removed by Social Services. And no one will say why. It’s a terrifying scenario for any parent, but doubly so for Melanie, who knows the unintended horrors of what everyone coldly calls “the system.”

Her nightmare mushrooms when she arrives home to learn her house has been raided by sheriff’s deputies, who have found enough cocaine to send Melanie to prison for years. The evidence against her is overwhelming, and if Melanie can’t prove her innocence, she’ll lose Alex forever.

Meanwhile, assistant commonwealth’s attorney Amy Kaye–who has been assigned Melanie’s case–has her own troubles. She’s been dogged by a cold case no one wants her to pursue: a serial rapist who has avoided detection by wearing a mask and whispering his commands. Over the years, he has victimized dozens of women.

Including Melanie. Yet now her attacker might be the key to her salvation . . . or her undoing.


Folks, this book made me a nervous wreck!! The protagonist Melanie Barrick is faced with a nightmare scenario: She goes pick up her infant son from daycare, only to be told he was taken away by Social Services, and no one will tell her why or where he is. Honestly, I don’t know how I would continue to function. Things get worse when she gets home to find the police have raided her home and found a HUGE dealer’s amount of cocaine hidden in the ceiling. Defending herself seems hopeless, and thoughts of being reunited with her baby are all that keep her going.

CLOSER THAN YOU KNOW was a great read, fast-paced and exciting, and I will forgive the nervous knot it put in my stomach. It wasn’t without some flaws though. There were a few things that just didn’t make sense (like why only Melanie was blamed for the hidden cocaine and not her husband too). I did figure out the culprit about half-way through, but that didn’t detract from my enjoyment. I was still flipping pages as fast as I could to see if/how Melanie got out of her predicament. I could easily sympathize with Melanie, and I liked the prosecuting attorney, Amy Kaye, too. Both were smart, tough, and relatable. I’m looking forward to more from Brad Parks.

First To Read

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book through Penguin’s First to Read Program in exchange for an honest review.

THE LIAR’S GIRL by Catherine Ryan Howard {Audiobook Review}


Publisher: Blackstone Audio
Release Date: February 27, 2018
Source: Review copy from the publisher
Rating: ★★★★¼


Will Hurley was an attractive, charming, and impressive student at Dublin’s elite St. John’s College – and Ireland’s most prolific serial killer. Having stalked his five young victims, he drowned them in the muddy waters of the Grand Canal. Sentenced to life imprisonment when he was just 19, Will is locked away in the city’s Central Psychiatric Hospital.

Freshman Alison Smith moved to the Big Smoke to enroll in St. John’s and soon fell hard for Will Hurley. Her world bloomed…and then imploded when Liz, her best friend, became the latest victim of the Canal Killer – and the Canal Killer turned out to be the boy who’d been sleeping in her bed. Alison fled to the Netherlands and, in 10 years, has never once looked back.

When a young woman’s body is found in the Grand Canal, Garda detectives visit Will to see if he can assist them in solving what looks like a copycat killing. Instead, Will tells them he has something new to confess – but there’s only one person he’s prepared to confess it to.The last thing Alison wants is to be pulled back into the past she’s worked so hard to leave behind. Reluctantly, she returns to the city she hasn’t set foot in for more than a decade to face the man who murdered the woman she was supposed to become.

Only to discover that, until now, Will has left out the worst part of all.


Poor Alison Smith. She couldn’t wait to move to Dublin and attend St. John’s College with her best friend Liz, but her happiness was short-lived. Will, the charming boy Alison fell in love with freshman year, turned out to be a serial killer, and worse yet was that his last victim was Liz. A decade passes with Will locked up and Alison trying to forget that terrible time, when a copycat killer strikes. Will has new information to share that may help police, but the only person he’s willing to talk to is Alison.

THE LIAR’S GIRL is an absorbing slow-burn novel of suspense. I was easily wrapped up in the lives of the characters. The author has an engaging and descriptive writing style that makes the reader feel like part of the story. The mystery was constructed well and kept me guessing. I loved that final disturbing twist which brought everything together.

I listened to the audiobook which was narrated by Alana Kerr Collins, with smaller parts by Alan Smyth and Gary Furlong. Ms. Collins’ performance of Alison was fitting with her character – not overly dramatic, yet emotional and expressive when the situation called for it. Alan Smyth narrated Catherine Ryan Howard’s previous book DISTRESS SIGNALS, and I loved, loved, loved his performance. Though his part was smaller in this book, he was just as wonderful. I’d listen to anything he narrates.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this audiobook from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.


★ Happy Blogoversary to me! Book of Secrets was launched on St. Patrick’s Day 2010. ★

Book Review: WHAT STRANGE CREATURES by Emily Arsenault

StrangeCreatures
Publisher: William Morrow
Released: July 22, 2014
Source: Review copy via Edelweiss
Rating: ★★★★


Scandal, love, family, and murder combine in this gripping mystery by critically acclaimed author Emily Arsenault, in which a young woman’s life is turned upside down when her brother is arrested for murder and she must prove his innocence.

The Battle siblings are used to disappointment. Seven years after starting her PhD program—one marriage, one divorce, three cats and a dog later—Theresa Battle still hasn’t finished her dissertation. Instead of a degree, she’s got a houseful of adoring pets and a dead-end copywriting job for a local candle company.

Jeff, her so-called genius older brother, doesn’t have it together, either. Creative and loyal, he’s also aimless, in both work and love. But his new girlfriend, Kim, a pretty waitress in her twenties, appears smitten. When Theresa agrees to dog-sit Kim’s puggle for a weekend, she has no idea it will be the beginning of a terrifying nightmare that will shatter her quiet academic world.

Soon Kim’s body is found in the woods, and Jeff becomes the prime suspect.
Though the evidence is overwhelming, Theresa knows that her brother is not a murderer. As she investigates Kim’s past, she uncovers a treacherous secret involving politics, murder, and scandal—and becomes entangled in a potentially dangerous romance. But the deeper she falls into this troubling case, the more it becomes clear that, in trying to save her brother’s life, she may be sacrificing her own.


WHAT STRANGE CREATURES is an entertaining, well-crafted mystery that had me hooked from the beginning. Theresa is a divorced 35-year old who adopts a pet after every failed relationship – she’s up to four now. She works an unfulfilling job writing descriptions of scented candles, and in her spare time she struggles with her never ending dissertation on Margery Kempe, a medieval Christian mystic.

Theresa’s ordinary life is shaken up when her brother Jeff is arrested for murdering his girlfriend, a young waitress named Kim. Desperately wanting to believe that Jeff is innocent despite the incriminating evidence against him, Theresa starts investigating Kim’s recent activities and is surprised by what she discovers. Theresa finds herself in a multi-layered mystery involving political scandals and older murder cases dating back to the early 90s. I enjoyed trying to fit the pieces of the puzzle together, and there were some nice twists along the way. I did have an inkling about who the culprit was, but what stumped me most was the “why.”

This is the first book by Emily Arsenault I’ve read, and I enjoyed her engaging writing-style and quirky, yet realistic, characters. Theresa is witty, snarky, and easily relatable, and many of her observations had me snickering. I especially loved how she threw in anecdotes from Margery Kempe’s eccentric life – both strange and funny. The animals in this book were a hoot too, especially the “puggle” called Wayne.

WHAT STRANGE CREATURES was an exciting murder mystery with plenty of humor mixed in.

“What strange creatures brothers are!”
― Jane Austen

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher through Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. I am participating in the author’s blog tour, organized by TLC Book Tours.

ABOUT EMILY ARSENAULT

Emily Arsenault is the critically acclaimed author of The Broken Teaglass, a New York Times Notable Mystery, and In Search of the Rose Notes. She lives in Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts, with her husband and daughter.

Find out more about Emily at her website and connect with her on Facebook.

EMILY’S BLOG TOUR STOPS

Tuesday, July 22nd: No More Grumpy Bookseller

Wednesday, July 23rd: Booksie’s Blog

Thursday, July 24th: Kritters Ramblings

Monday, July 28th: From the TBR Pile

Tuesday, July 29th: BoundbyWords

Wednesday, July 30th: Book-alicious Mama

Thursday, July 31st: Vox Libris

Monday, August 4th: bookchickdi

Wednesday, August 6th: Sara’s Organized Chaos

Thursday, August 7th: Book of Secrets