review: Hanover House (Hanover House Chronicles 0.5) by Brenda Novak

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{Source: GoodReads.com}

Thank you to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for the ARC in exchange for an honest review. Greatly appreciated, as always!

Official Synopsis
Welcome to Hanover House….

Psychiatrist Evelyn Talbot has dedicated her life to solving the mysteries of the psychopathic mind. Why do psychopaths act as they do? How do they come to be? Why don’t they feel any remorse for the suffering they cause? And are there better ways of spotting and stopping them?

After having been kidnapped, tortured and left for dead when she was just a teenager—by her high school boyfriend—she’s determined to understand how someone she trusted so much could turn on her. So she’s established a revolutionary new medical health center in the remote town of Hilltop, Alaska, where she studies the worst of the worst.

But not everyone in Hilltop is excited to have Hanover House and its many serial killers in the area. Alaskan State Trooper, Sergeant Amarok, is one of them. And yet he can’t help feeling bad about what Evelyn has been through. He’s even attracted to her. Which is partly why he worries.

He knows what could happen if only one little thing goes wrong…

Review
So, you’re Evelyn, right?

And when you were a teenager, your lovely boyfriend viciously murdered your friends and then for kicks, kept you in a shack in the woods, tortured and raped you and then sliced open your throat… because he’s just that kind of guy.

You escaped, natch (or there wouldn’t be a book) and you’ve decided the best thing to do with your remaining days is set up camp in the Alaskan wilderness and study serial killers and psychopaths, right.up.close.

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Evelyn…

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Seriously though, this was really entertaining! Especially for a prequel AND a novella, two things I normally don’t enjoy in the slightest.

I understand that a prequel is simply meant to set the stage, rather than delve too deeply, so I won’t dock this one too many points for what I see as missed opportunities – greater depth for Evelyn’s character, more of a sense of ‘place’ (the Alaskan wilderness has to be one of the most scenic and interesting places in terms of ambiance in the United States) and perhaps a touch more development as to the idea of Hanover House and its purpose in the world.

However, I expect to see all those things and more in Whiteout, the first book in the series, which comes out in September of 2016. I can’t waiiiiiit. The premise is just so fascinating.

While I think Evelyn’s plans have a whiff of whackadoodle, I can still understand and sympathize with her. Raped and within a breath of being murdered by the guy you trust the most? That has to mess with a girl’s head. And Evelyn seeks some semblance of control by attempting to talk to, reason with and understand these men who commit these hideous crimes. She wants to find out why she didn’t see Jasper’s madness, why she didn’t even have the faintest hint that he was as black as night inside, as black as the deepest holes in space.

The book largely concentrates on Evelyn’s past, and her uncertain future. Her romance with the dashing Sergeant Amarok is a non-starter, given Evelyn can’t bear to be touched, but she’s still drawn toward the state trooper because let’s face it, he’s a total babe, and she wants him baaaad.

When Evelyn’s past becomes present in one sickening rush, she’s forced to confront her own scars in a way she hasn’t had to for decades. Taut and electrifying (if a tad too quick for my tastes), the end of this novella is a definite page-turner. I’m looking forward to reaping the benefits of Novak’s extensive research into psychopathy. Recommended…. and can’t wait for the series.

review: The Forgotten Girls by Sara Blaedel

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{Source: GoodReads.com}

Thank you to NetGalley and Grand Central Publishing for the ARC in exchange for an honest review. I greatly appreciated the chance to read this book!

Official Synopsis
In a forest in Denmark, a ranger discovers the fresh corpse of an unidentified woman. A large scar on one side of her face should make the identification easy, but nobody has reported her missing. After four days, Louise Rick—the new commander of the Missing Persons Department—is still without answers. But when she releases a photo to the media, an older woman phones to say that she recognizes the woman as Lisemette, a child she once cared for in the state mental institution many years ago.

Lisemette, like the other children in the institution, was abandoned by her family and branded a “forgotten girl.” But Louise soon discovers something more disturbing: Lisemette had a twin, and both girls were issued death certificates over 30 years ago.

As the investigation brings Louise closer to her childhood home, she uncovers more crimes that were committed—and hidden—n the forest, and finds a terrible link to her own past that has been carefully concealed.

Review
From the very first words —

Gone is coming. Gone is coming! The words pounded in her ears as the rocks and branches of the forest floor tore her feet and shins. Her head was whirling and fear made her heart constrict.

I was riveted by this compelling mystery.

The Forgotten Girls is Sara Blaedel’s seventh in her Louise Rick mystery series, translated from her native tongue to English – much to my delight! I haven’t read any of the others (I will be rectifying that quite quickly) but had no issues in picking up the book and diving right in. There are minimal references to other cases / characters, but this novel is the beginning of a new career for Louise, so it’s in some ways a natural starting point.

Louise is heading up a new agency, searching for missing persons. Her new partner, Eik Nordstrom (who I kept picturing as Eric Northman from True Blood… delicious!) has to be picked up from a bar the first day, and she quickly realizes that her boss wants her to close cases quickly, without doing the necessary and crucial police work that Louise so loves.

When the case of Lisemette crosses her desk, Louise expects that she will be able to solve it before dinnertime. After all, the dead girl has a large and grotesque scar down one side of her face. Surely someone will recognize her and come forward?

But no one does, and Louise begins to learn of the forgotten girls… and all that has befallen them since they were institutionalized many, many years ago. In between searching for Lisemette’s twin sister, Louise and Eik also deal with the very real and very present-day threat of a vicious rapist and murderer, attacking women as they walk through a nearby wood.

Are the cases related? Will Louise be forced to confront the very painful realities of her past?

I could not put this book down, and read it in one evening. Sara Blaedel has the refreshing style of many Scandinavian writers – succinct, raw and often disturbing. What happened to the girls is so revolting as to be almost unfathomable. It presents uncomfortable questions of morality and cruelty – and surely echoes what must have gone on in many of these institutions in the past.

These girls were for all intents and purposes, dead to their families, and suffered because of it and beyond it. Truly forgotten in the darkness, as if they slipped into an oubliette, out of reach, out of sight, but trapped in their own terrorized bodies.

review: Beneath the Skin by Nicci French

beneaththeskin {Source: GoodReads.com}

This review contains mild spoilers, though I tried to allude rather than reveal.

What made (makes) this book so beautiful to me is twofold.

1. The casual elegance of the writing. Nicci French (for the purpose of just plain not feeling like typing out two names, I will ignore that this is a pseudonym and just pretend it’s one author) is brilliant at sketching characters that feel like real people and for using spare, simple and yet beautiful prose. I really love her style and always have. It’s especially evident in her earlier works and now in the Frieda Klein series.

2. The relationship between the three women, invisible, like a thread – but so strong that not even death shakes it. I thought this was a haunting river through the novel.

Beneath the Skin is not my favourite of French’s novels (that award goes to Land of the Living, but it is one of her best, in my opinion.

Zoe, Jenny and Nadia are three women with a horrible connection. but wait, there’s more…

review: Try Not to Breathe by Holly Seddon

trynototbreathe {Source: GoodReads.com}

Thank you to NetGalley and Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine – for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

I can’t BELIEVE this is Holly Seddon’s first novel! It’s engrossing, raw, mesmerizing and utterly unputdownable. I was so entranced with this mystery that I actually snapped at my husband when he interrupted my reading. I put off chores so I could finish it. It’s THAT good.

Try Not to Breathe is the story of Alex Dale, a journalist teetering on the brink of disaster. Every morning, Alex writes freelance stories. Every afternoon, Alex gets blind drunk and often wakes up with urine-soaked sheets. It’s a devastatingly accurate depiction of severe alcoholism, and Seddon doesn’t sugar coat it. Alex is truly without a friend in the world – her only friend, her only love, is drinking.

But then – one day, while researching the work of a doctor who specializes in comatose patients, Alex stumbles upon a patient she recognizes. Amy Stevenson, a young girl who was attacked and left for dead over fifteen years before – now in her thirties, frozen somewhere in the quagmire of her own mind. Alex sets out to unravel the mystery of Amy’s attack – hoping to track down the person(s) responsible and in doing so, find some kind of redemption – personal and professional.

I absolutely adored spending time with Alex. After all, perfect characters are boring. Alex is a messy disaster of a person, and yet. You just can’t help rooting for her to get herself together and find the truth. The mystery is riveting, the peeks into Amy’s drifting, vanishing life are heartbreaking, and the surprise twist at the end actually *surprised* me. Excellent, excellent work.

5 enthusiastic stars. I can’t wait to read much, much more from this author. She’s off to a fantastic start in her professional writing career.