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review 2019-02-22 01:49
Review: The Secret Child (D. I. Amy Winter #2) by Caroline Mitchell
The Secret Child - Caroline Mitchell

Publisher: Thomas & Mercer (7th March 2019)

 

ISBN: 978-1503905023

 

Source: Netgalley 

 

Rating: 5*

 

Synopsis: 

 

Four-year-old Ellen is snatched by a stranger in the dead of night. Her devastated mother, Nicole, receives four identical phials and a threatening note in a familiar scrawl that chills her to the bone. But she always knew this would happen. She’s been expecting it for years.

 

According to the note, one of the phials is poisoned. Nicole is given a deadly challenge: if she drinks one, the sadistic kidnapper will notify the police of Ellen’s location. The sender claims to be Luka Volkov but Luka is supposed to be dead, killed long ago in a fire that haunts all those involved.

 

DI Amy Winter is still reeling from the discovery that she is the daughter of a serial killer, and her childhood trauma only makes her more determined to bring Ellen home. When another child is taken, Amy finds herself in a race against time. To rescue the children, must she seek help from the one person she wants to forget?

 

Review:

In the first novel in the D.I. Amy Winter series, Amy learns that she has a notorious serial killer for a mother. If you've not yet read Truth and Lies I urge you to pick up a copy. Although The Secret Child reads well as a stand alone, there are references to events that happened in first book, (though they are well explained) plus it's the perfect introduction to the character! 

 

In this second outing for Amy, we are plunged into tension immediately as the kidnapper strikes, spiriting little Ellen away. I was on the edge of my seat straight away, not knowing what was about to happen. Caroline Mitchell is fantastic at conjuring up an air of menace and keeping it palpable throughout, whilst simultaneously juggling several other interwoven storylines.  Her finger never wavering off the pulse for a second as she seamlessly ties all the invisible ends together in one fell swoop that just made me gasp and shout 'Nooooo!' very loudly at my kindle! I will never tire of reading Caroline's books because they are simply unputdownable and I can never forsee what is going to happen. 

 

Special thanks to Caroline Mitchell, Thomas & Mercer for providing a review copy via Netgalley. This is my unbiased review. 

 

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review 2019-02-20 22:56
Murder at the Flamingo (Van Buren & DeLuca Mysteries #1) by Rachel McMillan
Murder at the Flamingo - Rachel McMillan

Hamish DeLuca has spent most of his life trying to hide the anxiety that appears at the most inopportune times -- including during his first real court case as a new lawyer. Determined to rise above his father’s expectations, Hamish runs away to Boston where his cousin, Luca Valari, is opening a fashionable nightclub in Scollay Square.  When he meets his cousin's “right hand man,” Reggie, Hamish wonders if his dreams for a more normal life might be at hand. Regina “Reggie” Van Buren, heir to a New Haven fortune, has fled fine china, small talk, and the man her parents expect her to marry. Determined to make a life as the self-sufficient city girl she’s seen in her favorite Jean Arthur and Katharine Hepburn pictures, Reggie runs away to Boston, where she finds an easy secretarial job with the suave Luca Valari. But as she and Hamish work together in Luca’s glittering world, they discover a darker side to the smashing Flamingo nightclub. When a corpse is discovered at the Flamingo, Reggie and Hamish quickly learn there is a vast chasm between the haves and the have-nots in 1937 Boston—and that there’s an underworld that feeds on them both. As Hamish is forced to choose between his conscience and loyalty to his beloved cousin, the unlikely sleuthing duo work to expose a murder before the darkness destroys everything they’ve worked to build. 

Amazon.com

 

 

 

 

Hamish DeLuca is a Canadian lawyer struggling with crippling anxiety in the 1930s. After discovering his job at the law firm was only made possible as a favor to his father, Hamish is "humiliated into adventure". He decides to take up his cousin Luca Valari's offer to come work for him in Boston. Entrepreneur Luca is opening up The Flamingo, a nightclub, and says he could use Hamish's legal skills on the business end of things. Newly situated in Boston, Hamish begins to develop an interest in Luca's new secretary, Regina "Reggie" Van Buren. Reggie and Hamish's friendship grows deeper as they try to work out all the mysteries surrounding Luca. Who are all these strangers showing up at odd hours asking about his whereabouts? Where does Luca really make his money? Is The Flamingo meant to be a front for more illicit business? Is his carefree personality a mask for a much darker, more devious man? Hamish and Reggie decide to investigate, (on the DL of course). When a murder does occur at the nightclub, our characters suddenly find themselves getting a crash introduction to Boston's criminal underworld scene.

 

 

The plot has a slow start as the reader is made to wait for all the key players to get in the same scenes to interact with each other ----- just getting Hamish and Reggie in the same room for the first time takes about 70 pages, nearly 200 before the murder happens. Much of the book is also bogged down with uninteresting details. It felt like there was a lot of repetitive material within the text.

 

Regarding the theme of debilitating anxiety: author Rachel McMillan writes at the end that she herself suffers from the condition and wanted to use this series, in part, to normalize rather than stigmatize the topic. While I can appreciate this, I have to say I didn't feel the presence of the subject all that much within Hamish's story. There's a great scene at the very start where the reader is immediately thrust into the reality of his symptoms. But for the bulk of the book, it's hardly given a mention until we get into the final chapters, where it almost feels as if McMillan caught herself while writing and was trying to bring the topic back around last minute. 

 

So why keep reading? For Luca's story, mostly. I mean, the characters in general are fun (it's just their world that fell a bit flat for me). I especially liked the interactions between Hamish & Luca (Luca nicknames him "Cicero")... that brotherly kind of bond that shows up in their banter... though at times, that too gets a tad stale & repetitive. What really drove the story for me was the mystery of Luca's true motives behind his actions. Was he really involved in organized crime or was there a perfectly innocent explanation to all the questions around him? Why are there already so many angry business calls for Reggie to field before the club is even officially open? Whenever questioned, Luca skillfully evades ever giving a straight answer... but why?

 

For Hollywood Silver Screen buffs, there are several classic film references incorporated into the plot. Not surprisingly, most of them being a  nod to the Nick & Nora / Thin Man detective series of films starring William Powell and Myrna Loy. NOTE: There is SPOILER material for the film Platinum Blonde starring Jean Harlow and Loretta Young.

 

Image result for the thin man movies

William Powell and Myrna Loy as Nick & Nora of the Thin Man series

 

 

The Van Buren & DeLuca detective agency is only just getting going by the end of this first book, so I'm curious to see how not only the business but the personal friendship develops between these two down the road. Book 2, Murder in the City of Liberty, is set to be released May 2019. 

 

 

 

 

FTC Disclaimer: TNZ Fiction Guild kindly provided me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. The opinions above are entirely my own. 

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review 2019-02-19 22:52
You Will Not Have My Hate (memoir) by Antoine Leiris
You Will Not Have My Hate - Antoine Leiris

On November 13, 2015, Antoine Leiris’s wife, Hélène Muyal-Leiris, was killed by terrorists while attending a rock concert at the Bataclan Theater in Paris, in the deadliest attack on France since World War II. Three days later, Leiris wrote an open letter addressed directly to his wife’s killers, which he posted on Facebook. He refused to be cowed or to let his seventeen-month-old son’s life be defined by Hélène’s murder. He refused to let the killers have their way: “For as long as he lives, this little boy will insult you with his happiness and freedom.” Instantly, that short Facebook post caught fire, and was reported on by newspapers and television stations all over the world. In his determination to honor the memory of his wife, he became an international hero to everyone searching desperately for a way to deal with the horror of the Paris attacks and the grim shadow cast today by the threat of terrorism. Now Leiris tells the full story of his grief and struggle. You Will Not Have My Hate is a remarkable, heartbreaking, and, indeed, beautiful memoir of how he and his baby son, Melvil, endured in the days and weeks after Hélène’s murder. With absolute emotional courage and openness, he somehow finds a way to answer that impossible question: how can I go on? He visits Hélène’s body at the morgue, has to tell Melvil that Mommy will not be coming home, and buries the woman he had planned to spend the rest of his life with. Leiris’s grief is terrible, but his love for his family is indomitable. This is the rare and unforgettable testimony of a survivor, and a universal message of hope and resilience. Leiris confronts an incomprehensible pain with a humbling generosity and grandeur of spirit. He is a guiding star for us all in these perilous times. His message—hate will be vanquished by love—is eternal.

Amazon.com

 

 

 

 

On November 13, 2015, French journalist Antoine Leiris stayed at home with his 17 month old son, Melvil, while wife Hélène attended a concert at the Bataclan Theater in Paris. Terrorists attacked the concert venue that night, making it the deadliest terrorist attack on France since WWII. Almost immediately after the attack, Leiris gets a text from a friend asking "Are you okay?". Confused by the message, something tells him to check the news. It is then he gets the first news of the attack. Leiris quickly calls his siblings who come over to help watch Melvil while Leiris heads out to try to find out what happened to his wife. Hours later, he gets the news. She's been identified among the casualties. 

 

Of course, having a culprit, someone to take the brunt of your anger, is an open door, an chance to temporarily escape your suffering. And the more odious the crime, the more ideal the culprit, the more legitimate your hatred. You think about him in order not to think about yourself. You hate him in order to not hate what's left of your life. You rejoice at his death in order not to have to smile at those who remain.

 

Three days later, Leiris in his grief pens an open letter to his wife's murderers and posts it to FB, where he tells them point blank that while they might have stolen his wife from him, he will not give them the satisfaction of his hate or fear. He promises to live for his son, dedicating himself to focusing on the joy, beauty and decency he still believes exists in the world. He will strive to live in a space of love, terrorism has not claimed his soul. 

 

There are only two of us -- my son and myself -- but we are stronger than all the armies of the world. Anyway, I don't have any more time to waste on you, as I must go see Melvil, who is just waking up from his nap. He is only seventeen months old. He will eat his snack as he does every day, then we will play as we do every day, and all his life this little boy will defy you by being happy and free. Because you will not have his hate either.


~ from the open letter posted on FB

 

That open letter (included in the book) soon becomes the inspiration for this brief memoir, which focuses on the first few days of Leiris's life after receiving the news of his wife's death. In fact, he mentions starting on the first few pages of this book just a day or two after posting the letter online.

 

Translated from the original French by Sam Taylor, You Will Not Have My Hate, is a quick read of a memoir that packs a wallop of an emotional cocktail! Grief, reluctant acceptance, determination, a slow peace... it's all here. It's horrible that such a memoir has to exist, but somehow... French journalist Leiris brings a painful beauty to each page. Not only does he adamantly deny victory to the terrorists, he gives an achingly lovely tribute to the lost piece of his heart. 

 

In search of another lover to torment, it goes on its way, abandoning me to its sad traveling companion. Mourning. 

 

I spot its mark, a gray stain that appears on my side. I have already seen it grow, in the same place, a few years ago, when I lost my mother. This one is darker. It spreads faster too. It is only a question of days, weeks now; I am besieged. It covers almost the whole of my stomach. I no longer feel like doing anything. Eating is torture....

 

Watching from a distance, you always have the impression that the person who survives a disaster is a hero. I know I am not. I was struck by the hand of fate, that's all. It did not ask me what I thought first. It didn't try to find out if I was ready. It came to take Hélène, and it forced me to wake up without her. Since then, I have been lost: I don't know where I am going, I don't know how to get there. You can't really count on me....from one day to the next, I might drown.

 

And suddenly, I am afraid. Afraid that I won't be able to meet people's expectations. Will I no longer have the right to lack courage? The right to feel angry. The right to feel overwhelmed. The right to be tired. The right to drink too much and start smoking again. The right to see another woman, or not see other women. The right not to love again, ever. Not to rebuild my life and not to want a new life. The right not to feel like playing, going to the park, telling a story. The right to make mistakes. The right to make bad decisions. The right to not have time. The right not to be present. The right not to be funny. The right to be cynical. The right to have bad days. The right to wake up late... The right to not talk about it anymore. The right to be ordinary. The right to be afraid. The right not to know. The right not to want. The right not to be capable.

 

~ Leiris describing his grief

 

Each chapter starts with a timestamp of how much time has passed since the attack. Even without the horrific backdrop of the Paris attacks, this is still one of the most honest grief memoirs I think I've ever picked up. Leiris writes of the brutal moment of having to officially identify his wife at the morgue, having to not only sort out and let go of her things but also find the strength to decide on a burial outfit. He describes meeting with a friend, only identified as N., who had attended the concert with his wife. N struggles with deep survivor's guilt, which Leiris tries his best to help his friend through.

 

Some of the most difficult passages to read, the ones that really made me feel for him, were the ones describing the moments of weakness when he would feel like he was failing as a father, desperately wishing for his wife to come in and save the day with some task he remembered her being more skilled in, or the painful reality of the actual window of time society expects grief to pass in, that the quickly offered "take all the time you need" is actually just a nicety used to get over the awkward, more often than not. But in reality, you hardly  have time to process the loss before the logistics come rushing in --- last wishes, insurance money, final expenses, etc. Though people feel for you, everyone seems to want an answer NOW. 

 

Leiris' straightforward approach gets right to the reader's heart and is bound to be appreciated by anyone feeling the need for a moving but not overly sentimental grief memoir.

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review 2019-02-19 18:45
THE PLAYING CARD KILLER by Russell James
The Playing Card Killer (Fiction Without Frontiers) - Russell James

 

THE PLAYING CARD KILLER was one twisty-turny thriller of a ride!

 

Brian is tired of taking anxiety meds as he's been taking them his entire life. He decides to quit them cold turkey and see what life is really like. Unfortunately, his panic and anxiety attacks return and they seem worse than ever. Also, he can't sleep without having terrible nightmares wherein he's strangling people. When Brian learns that the victims he's seeing in his dreams are actually being killed, his anxiety ramps up to a previously unknown level. Is he murdering people while he's asleep in some kind of sleepwalking trance? How could he do such a thing? You'll have to read this book to find out!

 

It's hard to talk about this story without spoilers, but I'll give it my best shot. While I don't think this tale added anything new to the thriller genre, I do think it gave an unflinching look at anxiety and panic attacks. In fact, it personified them in the form of Mr. Jitters and that WAS new. To be honest, Mr. Jitters freaked me out. I've had personal, close up experience of what panic and anxiety attacks can do to a person and I've seen what the meds can do as well. There's nothing good about any of it and this book addresses those facts head on.

 

I loved the characterization in this book, especially that of Brian and Detective Weissbard. They came across as real to me, with real life concerns and problems. I could understand why Brian wanted to be off of his meds and why it was so important to him.

 

The only problems I really had with this story was that Weissbard's boss was a caricature of a "bad cop" and I thought that came across as a bit silly, even though I did hate the guy. Also, the real antagonist of this story didn't seem quite real to me at first, but as the tale progressed, I warmed up to him and I could see where he was coming from.

 

Overall, this fast paced story flew by and I enjoyed it. I think fans of psychological horror, serial killer stories and police procedurals would enjoy THE PLAYING CARD KILLER as well!

 

Recommended!

 

 

You can buy your copy here: THE PLAYING CARD KILLER 

 

*Thank you to Flame Tree Press for the paperback copy in exchange for my honest feedback. This is it.*

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review 2019-02-19 12:07
Captive Prince Volume One - C.S. Pacat

     

At last I delve into the world of Damen and Laurent, I bought these books as soon as they came out and has been setting in my e-reader for a while now but O never got around to reading them.

 

According to the summary of this book and everyone's review I thought I am going to love this but sadly I was mistaken.

 

This book was a disappointment to me, there was absolutely no connection between the Mcs, and there was too many secondary characters that added an annoying mystery to the book, the writing wasn't bad but I didn't like it either at times I felt lost.

 

However I kinda liked Damen a little which made me continue with the book and curious to know what is going to happen next.

 

I will read the rest of the series and hopefully the other books will be better and I will find what everybody is talking about.

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