review: The Forgotten Girls by Sara Blaedel

20455343.jpg

{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: In the Waning Light by Loreth Anne White

inthewaninglight {Source: GoodReads.com}

Thank you to NetGalley and Montlake Romance for the ARC in exchange for an honest review. I appreciate it, as always!

I moved this week. The house is a shambles. My husband and I have been turning corners in the kitchen, unaware of where we put the knives, or the ground cinnamon, or the plates.

But still, I read. I had to. Loreth Anne White is quickly becoming one of my favourite mystery authors, and after A Dark Lure, I knew that In the Waning Light was at the top of my must-reads list.

This tale is captivating. It has one of my book kinks – a tragic past following the heroine into the future – immediately I was hooked. This book is unputdownable. It’s the story of Meg Brogan, a true-crimes author who returns to her childhood home to write about her own sister’s brutal murder. As a teen, Sherry Brogan was viciously raped and strangled. On that night, Meg was also hurt and almost died – but her memories have been washed away, like a footprint at high tide.

Upon her return, it becomes evident that the residents of Shelter Bay are unimpressed with Meg digging around in the past. Some violently so. As Meg peels the onion of her sister’s murder, she also finds herself again – in love and life, reconnecting with her first boyfriend, Blake Sutton. Although the romance is lovely AND sexy (a rare thing), it’s her relationship with Blake’s son Noah that I found most touching. This young boy, so desperate for affection and grieving so intensely for his mother – he’s heartrending, and Meg engages with him in such a way that tells the reader she is truly a good person. Brave, strong, compassionate and pretty badass.

I guessed who murdered Sherry mid-way through, but I did NOT guess the reasons behind it, nor the circumstances. It’s a shocker, and it’s brutal and upsetting and horrifying. Loreth Anne White is not afraid to go into the darkness, nor is she afraid to take you there with her. Her sense of place is astounding. It’s one of her biggest talents as an author.

I would be remiss if I didn’t point out some repetition in the phrasing and prose. When I was in creative writing class, my teacher told me that although she loved my poetry, she found I had a few favourite words and phrases, and fell back onto them time and time again. White does this often – with things like “bowels”, “black and inky”, “black and oily” and “chinkled”. It’s a little distracting – because the phrases are so raw and distinctive.

Overall, highly recommended. I cannot wait for the next mystery from White. She’s truly talented and creates worlds that you can reach out and touch, taste, feel and experience.

review: A Dark Lure by Loreth Anne White

adarklure {Source: GoodReads.com}

READ THIS BOOK READ THIS BOOK READ THIS BOOK

Now that that’s out of the way. Ahem. I LOVED this book. It’s not often that I can say that. Especially in this genre, which so often misses the mark. Either I loathe the main character, or the symptoms of PTSD are glossed over, or the mystery isn’t compelling. A Dark Lure has it all: a complicated and intelligent heroine, a complex and layered portrayal of trauma, a sexy and compassionate hero, beautiful and elegant writing AND it scared the you-know-what right out of me.

I couldn’t read it alone. That’s how frightening I found the subject matter.

A Dark Lure tells the story of Olivia West (nee Sarah Baker), who lives with the memories of a nightmare that happened over a decade past, but feels as fresh as a raw wound. Twelve years before, Olivia was kidnapped, held captive, raped and almost gutted by the Watt Lake Killer. After escaping, Olivia loses everything – her husband, her family, her child and almost her mind. She finds some solace in the wilds of Broken Bar Ranch, rebuilding her life one piece at a time with the help of her rescue dog Ace, and the cantankerous owner of the ranch, Myron McDonough.

When Myron’s health begins to fail and his son arrives, Olivia’s carefully constructed existence begins to crumble. Cole McDonough is sexy, rugged and smart – he begins to awaken desires in Olivia that she believed to be long dead. When a brutal murder occurs nearby, capturing nationwide attention for its similarities to the Watt Lake killings, and a storm threatens to enrobe the ranch in chilling white, Olivia begins to wonder if the nightmare is closer than she thinks…

Genuinely terrifying, with a thrumming romance at its centre, and a well-sketched cast of characters (plus a few twists along the way), A Dark Lure was the perfect read. Rich, weighty, satisfying and with a gasp-inducing climax.

I loved it. 5 well-deserved stars.

review: Playing With Fire by Tess Gerritsen

playingwithfire{Source: GoodReads.com}

Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

4.5 stars

Honestly? You had me at Tess Gerritsen.

I love Gerritsen’s writing. Her talent for crafting strong, relatable, complex female characters is outstanding for the genre, and she writes a lovely, layered mystery too.

Playing with Fire is a departure for Gerritsen, and I could really feel that she took so much pleasure in writing the tale. In the book, we meet Julia Ansdell, a professional violinist, who stumbles upon a dusty piece of music in a lonely shop in Rome. Back home, Ansdell plays the piece – the Incendio waltz, and it is shatteringly beautiful. It also appears to trigger her three-year-old daughter Lily into brutal violence.

Frightened and disassembled by the escalating madness encroaching on her life, Julia travels to Venice, Italy, in an attempt to discover the truth about the waltz and its origins.

The novel flips back and forth between Julia’s story and that of Lorenzo Todesco, a young man growing up in the horrors of the Second World War. At the beginning, I thought these transitions would annoy me, but they were extremely well done, and the differences in tone / perspective / voice were so vivid and well captured. Bravo to Gerritsen for pulling that off so well.

Another note that I feel I should mention is how well Gerritsen portrays Julia. In the beginning, I was annoyed on her behalf. Like, her daughter does these absolutely psychotic things and no one seems to bat an eyelid? But as the novel progressed, I became unraveled, wondering… what was true? Was Julia reliable? Really wonderfully done.

In the crescendo of the novel, all is revealed, and I just couldn’t put it down. It’s at times so sad that it feels heartbreaking, but there is a sweet element of hope that rivers through the piece – and that is heartbreaking too.

Loved it. Would recommend to anyone who loves a good thriller (the bits with Lily and Julia are genuinely horrifying) and anyone who enjoys their mystery with a side of history. You’ll be enthralled.