13 ½: A Novel by Nevada Barr – #BookReview – @nevadabarr

Book Blurb:

In 1971, the state of Minnesota was rocked by the “Butcher Boy” incident, as coverage of a family brutally murdered by one of their own swept across newspapers and television screens nationwide.

13 1/2 by Nevada BarrNow, in present-day New Orleans, Polly Deschamps finds herself at yet another lonely crossroads in her life. No stranger to tragedy, Polly was a runaway at the age of fifteen, escaping a nightmarish Mississippi childhood.

Lonely, that is, until she encounters architect Marshall Marchand. Polly is immediately smitten. She finds him attractive, charming, and intelligent. Marshall, a lifelong bachelor, spends most of his time with his brother Danny. When Polly’s two young daughters from her previous marriage are likewise taken with Marshall, she marries him. However, as Polly begins to settle into her new life, she becomes uneasy about her husband’s increasing dark moods, fearing that Danny may be influencing Marshall in ways she cannot understand.

But what of the ominous prediction by a New Orleans tarot card reader, who proclaims that Polly will murder her husband? What, if any, is the Marchands’ connection to the infamous “Butcher Boy” multiple homicide? And could Marshall and his eccentric brother be keeping a dark secret from Polly, one that will shatter the happiness she has forever prayed for?

My Review:

Okay, I’m one of those caught up in the author’s name and just blindly grabbed the book written by Nevada Barr, too late to notice it was NOT part of the Anna Pigeon series. Oh, dear.

And I’m having a seriously difficult time trying to visualize that the same author who writes about Anna Pigeon and her experiences in the park service is the same beautiful lady whose author photo is shown below. I might be more inclined to believe the author might have been Dean Koontz, but come to think of it, I’ve not read a Koontz book quite so viciously, violently graphic (and with children as well?).

13 1/2 by Nevada BarrNot a book to undertake without some trigger warnings—it’s twisted, dark, and suspenseful and (perhaps just a King horror novel) difficult for me not to just DNF. This reader needed to see a meaningful conclusion, although I’d certainly predicted from the beginning the revelation. Not a big surprise at that point.

Then Polly comes along and with her two young daughters discovers a kindred spirit in Marshall, easy going, pleasant, loving, concerned. What more could a young mother need or want?

“Most had made lives they enjoyed and would only compromise for a very shiny white knight with a particularly breathtaking steed. And a very long lance…”

The setting in post-Katrina in New Orleans was interesting and lent an atmospheric touch, until Polly meets a tarot card reader who provides dark warnings that trigger her investigation. Noooo, you say… Don’t go down into the basement—or in this case—to the slum residence of the Woman in Red.

13 1/2 by Nevada BarrOh, and by the way, 13 ½ is a tat described as meaning “One judge, twelve jurors, half a chance.”

Predictable, yes, (see paragraph three above), an unusual read for me, yes, I would classify as horror. But you don’t have to take my word for it, if you are willing to take a chance. Granted, the author does have a rather poetic turn of phrase, descriptive prose, tension-building expertise. But this author also writes, as mentioned now several times, the Anna Pigeon series, including my last couple reviews Destroyer Angel and Track of the Cat, as well as several prior to those. I particularly enjoy the audiobooks narrated by Barbara Rosenblat (she’s awesome). This novel is a standalone—a good thing. However, as you’ve no doubt understood by now, I’d recommend her series.

I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the author and publisher through @NetGalley that in no way influenced this review. These are my honest thoughts.

Rosepoint Rating: Three point Five Stars 3 1/2 stars

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Book Details:

Genre: Legal Thrillers, Murder Thrillers, Suspense
Publisher: Crossroad Press
ASIN: B07L19Y98Z
Print Length: 253 pages
Publication Date: November 30, 2018
Source: Publisher and NetGalley 

Title Link(s):

Amazon   |   Barnes & Noble  |  Kobo

 

Nevada Barr - authorThe Author: Nevada was born in the small western town of Yerington, Nevada and raised on a mountain airport in the Sierras. Both her parents were pilots and mechanics and her sister, Molly, continued the tradition by becoming a pilot for USAir.

Pushed out of the nest, Nevada fell into the theatre, receiving her BA in speech and drama and her MFA in Acting before making the pilgrimage to New York City, then Minneapolis, MN. For eighteen years she worked on stage, in commercials, industrial training films and did voice-overs for radio. During this time she became interested in the environmental movement and began working in the National Parks during the summers — Isle Royale in Michigan, Guadalupe Mountains in Texas, Mesa Verde in Colorado, and then on the Natchez Trace Parkway in Mississippi.

Woven throughout these seemingly disparate careers was the written word. Nevada wrote and presented campfire stories, taught storytelling and was a travel writer and restaurant critic. Her first novel, Bittersweet was published in 1983. The Anna Pigeon series, featuring a female park ranger as the protagonist, started when she married her love of writing with her love of the wilderness, the summer she worked in west Texas. The first book, Track of the Cat, was brought to light in 1993 and won both the Agatha and Anthony awards for best first mystery. The series was well received and A Superior Death, loosely based on Nevada’s experiences as a boat patrol ranger on Isle Royale in Lake Superior, was published in 1994. In 1995 Ill Wind came out. It was set in Mesa Verde, Colorado where Nevada worked as a law enforcement ranger for two seasons.

The rest is, shall we say, HISTORY! Nevada’s books and accomplishments have become numerous and the presses continue to roll, so in the interest of NOT having to update this page, books, awards, status on the New York Times Best Seller List — and more — will be enumerated with the relevant books else where on this website.

©V Williams V Williams

Have a great week!

The Darkest Evening of the Year by Dean Koontz and Kirsten Kairos (Narrator) – #Audiobook Review – #TBT

The Darkest Evening of the Year by Dean Koontz

Book Blurb:

With each of his number-one New York Times best-sellers, Dean Koontz has displayed an unparalleled ability to entertain and enlighten listeners with novels that capture the essence of our times, even as they bring us to the edge of our seats. Now he delivers a heart-gripping tour de force he’s been waiting years to write – at once a love story, a thrilling adventure, and a masterwork of suspense that redefines the boundaries of primal fear and of enduring devotion.

Amy Redwing has dedicated her life to the Southern California organization she founded to rescue abandoned and endangered golden retrievers. Among dog lovers, she’s a legend for the risks she’ll take to save an animal from abuse. Among her friends, Amy’s heedless devotion is often cause for concern. To widower Brian McCarthy, whose commitment she can’t allow herself to return, Amy’s behavior is far more puzzling and hides a shattering secret.

No one is surprised when Amy risks her life to save Nickie, nor when she takes the female golden into her home. The bond between Amy and Nickie is immediate and uncanny. Even her two other goldens, Fred and Ethel, recognize Nickie as special, a natural alpha. But the instant joy Nickie brings is shadowed by a series of eerie incidents: An ominous stranger. A mysterious home invasion. And the unmistakable sense that someone is watching Amy’s every move, and that, whoever it is, he’s not alone.

Someone has come back to turn Amy into the desperate, hunted creature she’s always been there to save. But now there’s no one to save Amy and those she loves.

From its breathtaking opening scene to its shocking climax, The Darkest Evening of the Year is Dean Koontz at his finest. 

My Review:

When I first told my son I was reading a book by Dean Koontz, he said, “but Koontz is a horror writer, mom.” I explained to him that I was reading his new Jane Hawk series (including The Night Window, the fifth and final in the series) and that it was more action thriller, techno thriller. Indeed, I read the whole series, and another suspense standalone, The Good Guy. To be honest, I hadn’t read a horror book by him as I don’t read horror books.

The Darkest Evening of the YearThe one filament common to most of his books is that little edge of the supernatural and this one is no exception. That said, this one is a surprise for me but of course I was drawn to the dog on the cover with promise that it might include a canine in the storyline. It does.

Amy is apparently wealthy. She spends her time in the rescue of golden retrievers and she’s developed quite the rep—and certainly the mastery in rescue of the animals in some of the most dire situations. This time Amy rescues Nickie. Her boyfriend is horrified by the circumstances, but she successfully manages the retrieval of the dog. She has no idea she is part of a dark plan, but she does share some of her feelings regarding Nickie to her boyfriend, Brian. (Is it possible Nickie has been here before?)

What starts as eerie incidents escalate into a darker and darker chain of events that introduces Hope. POV’s switch to the head of Hope as she coyly manages her mother, something the ten year old Down’s syndrome daughter has learned to deal with. 

The antagonist charges head long into some of the cruelest, most despicable scenes of a mother imagined. The worst kind of depraved person a human can be posed against the most innocent, decent. Good versus evil personified.

While Amy separately deals with demons, they plan their perverse scheme, and it’s revealed there is more to Hope than conceived of. Indeed, if at first your heart broke for her, it just as quickly rose in pride for her astute management of the situation.

Nickie, the golden, did indeed prove herself a stout-hearted canine, more than just a beautiful companion.

Scratching my head. This is one devil of a narrative. Stomach-churning scenes at odds with triumph. My problem is the conclusion. Both the main characters as well as support barrel into the climax in one swooping, crashing plot crunch. And then it ends just as quickly. You can turn another page if you want, but the story ended. Just like that.

I’m a Koontz fan. Not a horror story fan. Most of my positive experience with this writer is the subtle, descriptive way he delivers the prose, so beautiful you can almost (almost!) forget the horrific circumstances. It’s hypnotic. And I’m compelled to look for the next Dean Koontz book.

Book Details:

Genre: Suspense, Suspense Thrillers
Publisher:  Random House Audio
ASIN: B0010BA81O
Listening Length: 9 hrs 9 mins
Narrator: Kirsten Kairos
Publication Date: November 27, 2007
Source: Local Library (Audiobook Selections)
Title Link: The Darkest Evening of the Year [Amazon]

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Rosepoint Publishing:  Four point Five Stars 4 1/2 stars

Dean Koontz - authorThe Author: Dean Koontz, the author of many #1 New York Times bestsellers, lives in Southern California with his wife, Gerda, their golden retriever, Elsa, and the enduring spirits of their goldens, Trixie and Anna.

The Narrator: Kristen Kairos is a New York/LA-based voice-over technician, singer, songwriter, and percussionist who has toured worldwide and recorded with a variety of artists including Julio Iglesias, INXS, and David Lee Roth. While her speaking voice can be heard on numerous radio and television commercials, as well as character voices for animation and narration for audio books, she is currently singing, writing, arranging, and playing percussion with individual musicians and bands in the New York area.

©2021 V Williams V Williams

The Good Guy by Dean Koontz – #Audiobook Review – #suspense #TBT

The Good Guy by Dean Koontz

Book Blurb:

Timothy Carrier is an ordinary guy who enjoys a beer after work. But tonight is no ordinary night. Instead, Tim will face a terrifying decision: Help or run. For the jittery stranger sitting beside him at the bar has mistaken Tim for someone else—and passes him a manila envelope stuffed with cash and the photo of a pretty woman. “Ten thousand. The rest when she’s gone.”

Now everything Tim thinks he knows—even about himself—will be challenged. For Tim Carrier is the one man who can save an innocent life and stop a killer as relentless as evil incarnate. But first he must discover resources within himself that will transform his idea of who he is and what it takes to be the good guy.

My Review:

From the prolific pen of Dean Koontz came The Good Guy, published in 2007. I’ve read a number of his books, mostly of the Jane Hawk series, which I enjoyed. So, it was time I sampled some of his other books while trying to avoid the hardcore horror that my son attributed to him. This one is billed as suspense.

The Good Guy by Dean KoontzIn this standalone, Timothy Carrier (our good guy) is approached by a man who mistakes him for the hired killer he was to meet, handing him an envelope with $10k and leaves. When the real killer arrives and mistakes Tim for the client, Tim tries to cancel the contract, offering half the money back to drop it.

Oh, wait…I think I’ve heard this one!

Tim, being stuck and checking out the target, decides he’ll warn the unsuspecting woman and together try to figure out why the impending hit. (Cue the violins.) She’s clueless why someone would want to kill her. She’s a simple woman, albeit a bit unusual in her tastes, and they’re both single with baggage and unhappy histories. (I think I can see where this is going.)

Koontz is nothing if not adept at developing his characters carefully, a nuance at a time, right down to nervous tics and tells. Tim is a simple mason—but good at his job. Linda harbors secrets and I’m thinking, “run, Forest, run!.” But no, they are ducking and outwitting the antagonist who is one very nasty guy, free of any moral compass, and so far hasn’t hesitated to knock off those who block his way or just generally piss him off. Krait also has a history,

But you don’t want to know…

Krait anticipates their moves and positions himself very well. He really hates the thought he may be losing cred with his employers and the tension ramps up.

As usual, Koontz kicks in his own macabre sense of humor bestowing it mostly on Krait and the sense of the man rises the hair on the back of the reader’s neck. Some tender scenes with Tim and Linda, natural dialogue, Tim rising to his white knight position, Linda to distressed damsel.

The narrator used a soft sell voice on the antagonist adding to the creepy factor. He is truly going over the deep end trying to save his face on this one and his handlers are cueing in.

The conclusion actually arrives with more of a whimper not a bang but Koontz has one more little surprise for you. If you like suspense thrillers, you’d probably like this, and I’d recommend the audiobook. Do you read Dean Koontz? Did you enjoy his Jane Hawk series? What is your favorite Koontz book? Strangely, I don’t see that many five stars on his books in Goodreads. Well, anyway, I like the pictures of his dogs.

Book Details:

Genre: Suspense, Suspense Thrilllers
Publisher:  Random House Audio
ASIN: B000R34YQ6
Listening Length: 9 hrs 18 mins
Narrator: Richard Ferrone
Publication Date: May 1, 2007
Source: Local Library (Audiobook Selections)
Title Link: The Good Guy [Amazon]
 

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Rosepoint Publishing:  Four of Five Stars 4 stars

Dean Koontz - authorThe Author: Dean Koontz, the author of many #1 New York Times bestsellers, lives in Southern California with his wife, Gerda, their golden retriever, Elsa, and the enduring spirits of their goldens, Trixie and Anna.

Richard Ferrone - narratorThe Narrator:  Richard Ferrone is a former lawyer who became an actor in the 1970s. He has appeared on Broadway and in theaters across the country. His television appearances include ”Law & Order,” “Against the Law,” “Guiding Light,” and “One Life to Live.“ He became an immediate favorite of audiobook fans more than 20 years ago with his first audiobook, “The Stranglers” by Loren D. Estleman, and since then he has recorded the works of many bestselling authors including Dean Koontz, Dashiell Hammett, and myself! Although he has recorded books in nearly every genre, from romances to children’s stories to self-help books, he is best known for his mystery and thriller recordings, especially those of John Sandford’s “Prey” novels and the Tim LaHaye/Jerry Jenkins “Left Behind” series. He is an Audie Award winner and is married to actor Cynthia Darlow.

©2021 V Williams V Williams

Lying in Wait by Liz Nugent – An #Audiobook Review – #psychologicalthriller – #readingirelandmonth21 – #TBT

Rosepoint Publishing:  Five Stars 5 stars

Reading Ireland Month 2021 (Amazon) Editors Pick – Best Mystery, Thriller & Suspense

Book Blurb:

From the international best-selling author of Unraveling Oliver, an “unputdownable psychological thriller with an ending that lingers long after turning the final page” (The Irish Times) about a Dublin family whose dark secrets and twisted relationships are suddenly revealed.

My husband did not mean to kill Annie Doyle, but the lying tramp deserved it*. 

On the surface, Lydia Fitzsimons has the perfect life – wife of a respected, successful judge, mother to a beloved son, mistress of a beautiful house in Dublin. That beautiful house, however, holds a secret. And when Lydia’s son, Laurence, discovers its secret, wheels are set in motion that lead to an increasingly claustrophobic and devastatingly dark climax. 

My Review:

OMG! This book is crazy twisted. The narrative is a psychological thriller-suspense but that doesn’t really classify a novel that reaches for and secures the devastingly dark, gasp-inducing hyperventilating novel this produces.

Doesn’t that line hook you in the blurb?* It did me and like a horror film you carefully sneak peaks through your fingers, you must…need to…finish. This is a family drama. No, not drama, noir, so dark it’s causing disbelieving, disturbing waves as you read it.

Lying in Wait by Liz NugentThe storyline is set in Dublin. A woman so narcissistic that no loved one is beyond sacrificing and it would appear that’s essentially what she does either directly or indirectly.

It’s beyond this normal reader’s fathom to wrap my head around the plot line—a woman who feels justified in pushing her husband to find a surrogate. She MUST have another baby. Her son, poor innocent Laurence, is growing up, getting older. She is a smother mother and there is a cruelly unhealthy connection between mother and son. But really, her husband Andrew, the judge, isn’t the first casualty. The surrogate, Annie Doyle (a prostitute and junkie now buried in their backyard) is not either. What extended family can look at this perverse situation and continue to make excuses?

There are few characters in the book and several have their own POV’s. My heart wept for Karen (sister of Annie), ached for Laurence, raged at Lydia Fitzsimmons. So easy to go from one POV to the other, filling in little voids, little thoughts or questions, mini-contradictions. The author smoothly develops her characters, adds the tension, gravitas, that the reader doesn’t realize how darkly and deeply ugly the plot has become. It’s sick. My heart was sinking and I kept waiting for that tiny spark, the pinpoint of light. Surely it was coming.

The well-plotted pace was full of twists and turns. The conclusion hurts—does nothing go the way you hoped or predicted? And then the final blow—the fatal punch to the gut. I woke my husband sleeping peacefully beside me with a plaintive cry—NOOOO! What did I just read?! I couldn’t believe it—it CAN’T end this way—but it did? No no no

I look at the author’s picture and think she looks so normal but from where in her mind did this come? And the narrator? Nailed it!

Book Details:

Genre: Psychological Fiction, Psychological Thrillers, Crime Thrillers
Publisher:  Simon & Schuster Audio
ASIN: B07BHTQPXW
 Print Length:
Listening Length: 8 hrs 33 min
Narrator: Caoilfhionn DunneDavid McFetridgeLesley McGuire
Publication Date: June 12, 2018
Source: Local Library (Audiobook Selections)
Title Link: Lying in Wait [Amazon]

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Liz Nugent - authorThe Author: [Goodreads] Liz Nugent worked as a stage manager in theatres in Ireland and toured internationally before writing extensively for radio and television drama.

Unravelling Oliver was published in 2014, hit the number 1 spot for several weeks and won Crime Novel of the Year at the Irish Book Awards.

Liz Nugent - author witth awardLying in Wait, published in 2016, went straight to number 1 and was chosen for the Richard & Judy Book Club. It won the Radio 1 Ryan Tubridy Listeners Choice Award at the Irish Book Awards.

In October 2017, Liz won the Irish Tatler Woman of the Year Award in Literature.

Skin Deep was published in 2018. It also went straight to number 1 in the bestsellers charts and scooped two awards at the An Post Irish Book Awards in Nov ’18: Crime Novel of the Year AND the Radio 1 Ryan Tubridy Listener’s Choice Award. Catch her at her website or her Twitter account @lizzienugent.

The Narrator: Caoilfhionn Dunne is an actress, known for Love/Hate (2010), In View (2016) and Wrath of the Titans (2012). Born in Dublin, Ireland.

©2021 V Williams

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