Tag: Suspense/thriller

Forgotten Secrets by Robin Perini

Forgotten Secrets by Robin PeriniForgotten Secrets by Robin Perini
Published by Montlake Romance on July 19th 2016
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four-stars

At age ten, Riley Lambert watched helplessly as her sister was abducted from her bedroom. Fifteen years later, she’s channeled the pain of her past into a career as an FBI profiler. Riley devotes her life to bringing violent criminals to justice…and secretly uses government resources to search for her sister, who was never found.
When Riley gets a call from the only man who’s ever swept her off her feet with a killer two-step and dangerous smile—ex-Navy SEAL Thayne Blackwood of Singing River, Wyoming—it stirs up dark memories. Thayne’s sister, Cheyenne, has been kidnapped. There are no leads, and the only witness is the victim’s Alzheimer’s-afflicted grandmother.
Desperate to find Cheyenne, Thayne needs Riley’s expertise. With time running short, they delve into dangerous small-town secrets while fighting against an increasingly ruthless adversary. But when her past and his present collide in a shocking revelation, can they overcome the secrets that have kept them apart?

A growing number of missing women – disparate, done years apart and seemingly unconnected – is the only certainty that ties a very complicated mystery together. Caught up in it all is the very unusual pairing of a SEAL on leave and an FBI Agent whose brief affair a year ago had turned into something deeper after an accidental string of phone calls that have solidified a relationship of close friendship apart from physical intimacy.

Riley Lambert’s drug of choice is throwing herself wholeheartedly into her work, driven only by a 15-year long search for her missing sister and the belief that no one can truly understand that obsession. Not even Thayne Blackwood, the hookup who has become so much more. But the game changes when Thayne calls her about his sister’s sudden disappearance and together, they unravel a town’s menacing secrets just as the unfolding events force them both to evaluate their preconceived ideas of family, love and commitment.

The story is far heavier going than I expected, the plot twisty and windy enough to lead you into shadowy woods, the darkened corners of an isolated town and places so off the grid that bodies – decomposed or freshly dumped – merely give incomplete clues to solving it all. As enthralled as I was, I needed constant breaks to review the information in my own head before going on. Yet taking up where I left off again was no hardship when the characters were engaging and multidimensional to the extent where I found myself hoping for their stories to be told – apart from Riley’s and Thayne’s. Even at the halfway mark, every additional scene served to complicate rather than clarify, each revelation as mind-boggling as the next, which, I have to admit, started to frustrate me sooner rather than later.

There’s nonetheless plenty of intelligence and style in the plot, quite a bit of which is carried by Robin Perini’s sharp writing. But for all the dropping bodies, the pessimist in me was surprised – and perhaps even disappointed – to see the core group of characters coming out of the ordeal relatively unscathed, even when the jigsaw finally assembled itself by the end, dangling subplots, hooks and all.

four-stars

Deep Dark by Laura Griffin

Deep Dark by Laura GriffinDeep Dark (Tracers, #10) by Laura Griffin
Series: Tracers #10
Published by Pocket Books on May 24th 2016
Pages: 368
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two-stars

The moment detective Reed Novak steps onto the crime scene, he knows the case is going to rock his world. A beautiful young woman murdered at home. No sign of forced entry. No motive. She’s obviously not the killer’s first victim, and Reed’s instincts tell him she won’t be his last. Reed’s first clue comes via a mysterious text that links to a dating profile, but even more intriguing than the clue is the person who sent it.
As a white-hat hacker in the Delphi Center’s cyber investigation unit, Laney Knox sneaks into some of the deepest, darkest corners of the Internet looking for predators. Laney would prefer to stay away from Austin PD’s most recent murder case, but she can’t ignore the chilling similarities between that crime and her own brutal attack years ago. Laney offers to help the sexy lead detective, but he wants more from her than just a promising tip—Reed wants her trust. Laney resists, but as their relationship deepens she’s tempted to reveal the closely guarded secrets that could make her a key witness…or the killer’s next victim.

I’m frankly at a loss when it comes to rating this book.

Laura Griffin writes fantastically detailed police procedurals and much of the developing drama in ’Deep Dark’ reads like a gorgeous and thrilling novelisation of a ‘Bones’ and/or a ‘Castle’ episode. But if I appreciated the complexity of the crime and the unfolding mystery of the whodunnit, I was less than impressed with the female protagonist, who’d slipped from tenacious and dedicated into the stupid and petulant categories too quickly for my liking.

The pairing in question here is a much older divorced detective and a young, headstrong upstart, the former of whom I simply felt sorry for because of the frustration and the road blocks he encounters by way of the latter. The problem was that for most of the book, their relationship was on unequal footing, built on deception – mostly on Laney’s part – and resolved in a way that makes a mockery of trust and moral integrity in it.

In fact, I’d be the first to admit that ‘Deep Dark’ hits several hard limits for me, which clearly, is just my personal beef with the sort of flaws written into protagonists that I cannot tolerate, curtailing as a consequence, my overall enjoyment of the whole mystery.

My preference of heroines who put themselves out there both physically and emotionally is clearly showing up here and I found myself unable to put any faith in a relationship that, most of the time, was characterised by lies, use of leverage and sex as distraction, even if we are told the reasons for Laney’s closed-off, untrusting, TSTL behaviour. That she behaved in a manner, time and again, that emphasised her age instead of showing she was beyond it – and the constant, intolerable lying when it was unnecessary – didn’t do her any favours at all, except to highlight her immaturity and deliberate evasiveness even when it was to her detriment, which made this pairing and the glaring age-gap even more disappointing and questionable than I hoped it’d be.

Characterisation-rant aside however, I’m never ready to give up on Laura Griffin’s writing and can only hope that she might return to the bigger military-political conspiracies (such as ‘Scorched and ‘Beyond Limits’) that had me at the word ‘go’.

two-stars

Vulnerable by Mary Burton

Vulnerable by Mary BurtonVulnerable (Morgans of Nashville, #4) by Mary Burton
Series: Morgans of Nashville #4
Published by Pinnacle on March 29th 2016
Pages: 384
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two-stars

The Smallest Mistake
Three went in; one came out. For five years, no trace has been found of two high-school friends who went hiking in the woods near Nashville. The third teen, Amber Ryder, was discovered at the bottom of a ravine with a broken arm, head trauma--and zero memory of the horror that put her there.
Will Put You
What started as a cold case has become a fresh hell for forensic technician Georgia Morgan. Another woman's body is found in the woods, and it leads to the missing teens' remains. But while Georgia works with Amber to try and reawaken her memories, her gut tells her the worst is yet to come.
At A Killer's Mercy
Homicide Detective Jake Bishop can't be sure whether Amber is an expert manipulator or the killer's next target. Either way, he's determined to protect Georgia. Because the deeper she digs into the past, the deadlier the secrets that emerge, and a nightmare years in the making is about to come to a bloody, terrifying end…

A puzzling cold case is reopened when a woman’s body is found in the woods along with the remains of two teenagers who disappeared five years ago, forcing forensic technician Georgia Morgan to work with homicide detective Jake Bishop.

For everything plot related, Mary Burton runs a tight ship and plays the details of the case with ease. But while ‘Vulnerable’ is an excellent example of a police procedural, I would be cautious in labelling this book as romantic suspense when it’s more a crime novel with some (not entirely believable) romantic elements.

I wasn’t entirely convinced that Jake and Georgia was a credible pairing; there is a goodly amount of UST and banter, but given Jake’s unapologetic man-whore reputation and Georgia’s caution when it comes to men like him, their sudden fall into bed together (and apparently straight into a committed relationship from there) towards the 75% mark of the book seems like an obligatory scene rather than an inspired one. Much less the declaration of love by the end of the book which I absolutely couldn’t buy, especially when the leading couple in question spent as much time together as the other criminal suspect-couples did.

My personal dissatisfaction simply stems from what might be called mislabelling of this particular genre; the lack of development and depth for Jake and Georgia tanked my rating of the book only because I was on the lookout for a more solid gasp of a pairing that didn’t quite materialise convincingly. This story would however, be right on point for those who prefer a ‘purer form’ of the crime novel – where pairings and relationships take a backseat to plot-development.

two-stars

Dead by Midnight: An I-Team Christmas by Pamela Clare

Dead by Midnight: An I-Team Christmas by Pamela ClareDead by Midnight by Pamela Clare
Series: I-Team #7.5
Published by Pamela Clare on November 16th 2015
Pages: 238
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four-stars

Marc and Sophie Hunter, Gabe and Kat Rossiter, Holly Andris and the rest of the I-Team gang find themselves in the same historic Denver hotel celebrating the approach of Christmas at different holiday parties. What starts out as a fun winter evening with friends soon becomes a brutal fight to survive when the hotel is taken over by a group of ruthless narco-terrorists who will stop at nothing to get what they want. On the outside, Julian Darcangelo, Zach McBride, Nick Andris, and others join together with the FBI's Hostage Rescue Team in a desperate bid to free their friends, knowing that if they fail, the people they love will be... Dead by Midnight. Featuring cameo appearances by the men of the FBI Hostage Rescue Team, a series by New York Times bestselling author Kaylea Cross.

Very well-written with a great little insertion of Kaylea Cross’s FBI HRT guys, although right now it hits all too close to home in the wake of the tragic Paris attacks at the end of 2015. Reading Pamela Clare’s blow-by-blow account of the shootout and hostage-taking is almost akin to walking the doomed footsteps of the anonymous thousands who took themselves out in the mild autumn Parisian evening and came back forever changed. But insoasfar as fiction mirrors reality, Ms. Clare gives her readers at least, a reprieve from the brutal violence, and ends her I-team series on a high.

four-stars

Kill Without Mercy by Alexandra Ivy

Kill Without Mercy by Alexandra IvyKill Without Mercy by Alexandra Ivy
Series: ARES Security #1
Published by Zebra on December 29th 2015
Pages: 340
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three-stars

From the hellhole of a Taliban prison to sweet freedom, five brave military heroes have made it home—and they’re ready to take on the civilian missions no one else can. Individually they’re intimidating. Together they’re invincible. They’re the men of ARES Security.
Rafe Vargas is only in Newton, Iowa, to clear out his late grandfather’s small house. As the covert ops specialist for ARES Security, he's eager to get back to his new life in Texas. But when he crosses paths with Annie White, a haunted beauty with skeletons in her closet, he can't just walk away—not when she’s clearly in danger…
There’s a mysterious serial killer on the loose with a link to Annie’s dark past. And the closer he gets, the deeper Rafe’s instinct to protect kicks in. But even with his considerable skill, Annie’s courage, and his ARES buddies behind him, the slaying won’t stop. Now it’s only a matter of time before Annie’s next—unless they can unravel a history of deadly lies that won’t be buried.

5 captives who became blood brothers now start a security business together and their first unofficial assignment is an unusual small-town serial killer crime case that seems to revolve around one woman.

I hadn’t quite known what to expect from the Ares security team – the cover itself made me wonder if this was syfy or some paranormal romance – but Alexandra Ivy lays it all out very clearly in the prologue and at no time was I ever confused about the plot or the characters. There is a touch of the paranormal but in most part, ‘Kill Without Mercy’ has less to do with national security and everything to do with the claustrophobic feel of a small town that harbours its own brand of secrets and gossip. I didn’t like nor dislike Rafe and Annie, but was kept sufficiently engrossed by the developing case and the camaraderie of the alpha males who would slowly but surely find themselves on their knees in front of suitable heroines one day. It’s a good start to a series nonetheless; I guess I was just hoping for a bigger, more conspiracy-laden plot that involved more explosions and action but this is clearly my own personal bias and preferences showing up.

three-stars

In the Waning Light by Loreth Anne White

In the Waning Light by Loreth Anne WhiteIn the Waning Light by Loreth Anne White
Published by Amazon Publishing on November 3rd 2015
Pages: 420
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four-stars

Two decades after her sister's brutal attack and murder, Meg Brogan has finally found happiness...or so it appears. A bestselling true-crime writer, Meg has money, fame, and a wealthy fiancé. But when a television-show host presses her to tackle the one story everyone claims she cannot write--the story of her own family's destruction--her perfect life shatters.
Determined to finally face her past, Meg returns to her hometown of Shelter Bay. Shrouded in cold, brooding fog, the close-knit coastal town harbors dark secrets and suspicious residents. One of the few people to welcome Meg back is Blake Sutton, her high-school sweetheart and the marina's new owner. Desperate for clues, Meg digs through her family's files. As Pacific storms brew outside, her passion for Blake reignites.
But someone doesn't want Meg digging up the past. And that person will go to deadly lengths to prevent the writer from revealing a terrible truth.

The idyllic small town carries dark secrets that Meg Brogan is about to unleash and no one but her old friend and flame Blake Sutton is supportive of her decision to do that. As Meg and Blake struggle with their attraction and commitment to each other, the can of worms she has forced open has also set in motion a juggernaut of events that eventually puts their lives at stake.

Loreth Anne White’s standalone novels have been impressive so far and this is no different, even if it’s truly hard to like the recounting of brutality and the fight to stop evil in its wake. The complicated past is reconstructed through dialogues, book excerpts and memories – and all are unreliable with the secrets that every character wants to protect. Darkly atmospheric and extremely unsettling, we’re taken through these floating pieces of the puzzle just as we’re always forced to consider whether really knowing a person is in fact, an utter impossibility.

four-stars

Desperate Deception by D.B. Tait

Desperate Deception by D.B. TaitDesperate Deception: Dark Mountain 2 by D.B. Tait
Series: Dark Mountain #2
Published by Momentum on October 8th 2015
Pages: 264
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When history repeats itself, it doesn't pay to have a murder in your past ...
Julia Taylor did ten years in prison for a murder she didn't commit. Finally released and proved innocent, all she wants is to build up her design business and figure out where her romance with local cop Dylan Andrews is going. She's ready for a quiet life, but murder and mayhem won't let Julia Taylor alone.
First she finds her neighbors dead in an apparent murder-suicide. Then an erratic friend from Julia's time in prison asks her to help find a sex worker who went missing in suspicious circumstances.
As the body count continues to rise, members of the Russian mafia and an unnerving evangelical church begin to cross Julia's path. Soon, Julia and Dylan are caught up in a maelstrom that threatens both their love and their lives.
Can they find justice before injustice finds them? Or is the pull of a haunted past too strong?
A tense crime novel with romantic elements in the style of JD Robb, Nora Roberts and Martina Cole.

Desperate Deception takes us beyond the gritty happy ever after and I confess I was intrigued enough by ex-convict Julia Taylor and D.I. Dylan Andrews to want to know how they navigate the treacherous waters of Julia’s life beyond prison together to read this sequel.

D.B. Tait doesn’t disappoint in this engrossing read; there is a spate of killings and an unsolved mystery that seems to grow beyond the small boundaries of the mountain town Julia and Dylan live in and this case increasingly tests this new life that they’ve found together. Light on the romance and heavy on the suspense but with realistic and no TSTL characters, Desperate Deception is strangely enough, one of those books that colours outside the lines of the romantic suspense genre and does it well.