Review of “The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper” by Phaedra Patrick

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Arthur Pepper misses his wife. It has been a year since she passed away. Miriam and Arthur were married for forty happy, peaceful, uneventful years. It’s not until Arthur steels himself to the task of sorting her things that he discovers a charm bracelet he’d never seen before. A telephone call to a number on one of the charms prompts Arthur to begin a journey in search of the truth of his wife’s past prior to their meeting. Along the way he meets some interesting characters, forges some unlikely friendships, and slowly discovers that it is possible to be happy, or at the very least, content again.

The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper has a lot going for it. Arthur is a very likable guy. If fact, most of the characters are of an equally likable, upbeat sort. The story is pretty relatable in its essence. We’ve probably all learned things about a spouse or lover at one time or another that made us question how well we really knew that person. Arthur’s adventures help him to reconcile three versions of his wife; the wife he thought he knew, the (post-finding-the-bracelet-wife) he then questioned if he ever  knew at all, and finally, the “true” Miriam.

Unfortunately, there was something I found lacking that I’ve not been able to put my finger on after having reflected for a few days. I can only describe it as an inability to be excited or completely engaged. Perhaps it was a bit too predictable. Maybe it was the implausibility of some of Arthur’s adventures. While I appreciate why so many readers are giving such glowing reviews, I find myself unable to do likewise. There was nothing overtly wrong with the book. It just left me feeling a little flat.

3/5 stars

Thanks to MIRA via NetGalley for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Review of “Before the Fall” by Noah Hawley

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Though I probably shouldn’t have started reading Before the Fall during a super-turbulent flight, I will say that it’s certainly a page-turner.

We know how the story ends (begins). The plane crashes. Nine people are dead. There are two survivors; Scott Burroughs, an artist who was offered a free ride to the city from a woman he’s met on the Vineyard, and her four year old son. Beyond that, we are left with nothing but questions. Many, many questions… What is Scott’s relationship with Maggie, the plane’s owner, and why is he really on the plane? Is Scott really the hero he seems to be? Or is there an explanation for his being one of only two survivors? Was it mechanical failure? Or was the pending indictment of one of the passengers (he was a finance guy, of course) a factor? Was there a lover’s quarrel in the cockpit? Did the bodyguard go rogue?

It must be difficult to develop characters for a book when said characters are almost all dead beyond the first few pages but I think Noah Hawley does a fair job here. There are some interesting dynamics in the bond that has formed between Scott and JJ, the little boy he rescued, and Eleanor, the boy’s aunt and legal guardian. These relationships help to give the book more depth and interest than is sometimes found in a more typical whodunnit.

I loved the way this book kept me guessing until the very end. The crashed could have been caused by any number of things and I vacillated back and forth unendingly in my own theories. I do admit to being a little disappointed, however, when the truth was revealed. I felt that there was a lack of creativity in the way it all wrapped up which surprised me as it was in sharp contrast with the rest of the book. Overall, though, I would say it’s a great read and I would definitely read this author’s next book.

4.25/5 stars

Thanks to Grand Central Publishing, via NetGalley for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

 

 

Review of “The Singing Bone” by Beth Hahn

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The Singing Bone is the story of a group of teenagers in NY who become involved with Jack Wyck, a narcissistic pyschopath, in 1979. “Mr. Wyck” as he likes to be called, seems to have the ability to control everyone he comes into contact with his Mansonesque methods including fear, intimidation, and violence. It all falls apart one fateful evening as several horrific acts of murder bring about the end of their mind-controlled, drug-filled life with Jack Wyck. The story toggles back and forth between the events leading up to that night in 1979 and 20 years later when filmaker Hans Loomis decides to make a documentary about the case as new DNA evidence that threatens to clear Wyck is produced.

Our main character, Alice, was the smart one in high school prior to becoming acquainted with Mr. Wyck. I found her character, as well as a few of the others, to be one dimensional and somewhat stereotyped. As her character devolved into someone completely out of touch with reality,  I found the story becoming less and less believable. Her miraculous recovery (though she continued to have some convenient amnesia) and seamless transition into a professor of folklore was a package too neatly delivered for me.

There were also parts of the story I would have liked to hear more about. Where did all those clothes in the closet come from? Who did necklace did Alice found belong to? What was Wyck’s connection to all of the other missing teenagers? It would have been interesting if bodies connecting Wyck to those disappearances could have been found. The ending of the book left me generally unsatisfied and I feel that with a few more twists and turns it could have been quite good.

My rating: 2.75 stars

Thanks to Regan Arts via NetGalley for providing me with a free ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Review of “Summit Lake” by Charlie Donlea

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Thanks to Kensington Books via NetGalley for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

The murder of law student Becca Eckersley is brutal. Clearly a crime of passion committed by someone who either loved or hated her very much. Beautiful and smart, she was not lacking for male attention. But finding out who is responsible will require some creative and boundary-pushing sleuthing. Enter reporter Kelsey Castle, herself the recent victim of a violent crime. She is deployed to Summit Lake in the Blue Ridge Mountain where Becca had been using her parent’s vacation home to study when her life was suddenly cut short. There she enlists the help of a local doctor and Commander Ferguson, a forty-three year veteran of the local police force. (I really liked his character as it reminded me a lot of Joe Kenda from the ID series Homicide Hunter. One of my guilty pleasures when I’m not reading.)

Though this book had all the requisite components of a great mystery including a brutal crime of passion, families of wealth and power, a victim who kept secrets, a potential police cover-up, and multiple suspects, I found that it didn’t really put me in the suspense I’d hoped for until I was about 80% through the book. Then the surprising twists were revealed and I was unable to put it down.

Overall, I thought this book was pretty good though the access Kelsey was given to case information from both Peter, the physician and Detective Ferguson seemed highly unlikely.

My rating: 3.5 stars

Review of “Lost Girls, DI Kim Stone #3)” by Angela Marsons

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Thanks to Bookouture via NetGalley for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Though I hadn’t read the first to novels in this series, I had great hopes for this book based on the description and the positive reviews. Unfortunately, it didn’t live up to my expectations. While the basic plot was intriguing – plotting the parents of two kidnapped girls against each other in order to secure the highest ransom – it lacked any real psychological twist and sense of suspense that could have made it great. The characters were a bit flat and predictable. There was another story about a young man killed trying to escape a gang that also ran throughout the book. Aside from the character of an annoying reporter, I’m not sure that the two stories were relevant enough to benefit from one another. And I thought the ending of the secondary story was very disappointing.

Though this was a very fast read, and I appreciate the chance to read this book, I don’t think this series is one I will return to.

My review: 2 stars