American Predator: The Hunt for the Most Meticulous Serial Killer of the 21st Century #maureencallahan @vikingbooks #serialkiller #investigativejournalism #israelkeyes #alaskapolice #duoreviews @JanBelisle @absltmom

When choosing a book to read, Jan and I share curiosity into the psyche of people, especially those who seem to defy what it means to be human, to be empathetic, to be a functioning member of society. For those who go against everything we think is normal human behavior, the psychopath, we look to find the motivations. Like the author, Maureen Callahan, we want to know they why, the how could this have happened, and most importantly can we ever know people we think we do? We chose American Predator as a book to share.

“Open your trembling flower, or your petals I’ll crush,”

American Predator: The Hunt for the Most Meticulous Serial Killer of the 21st Century

Jan’s review

Billed as the most terrifying serial killer you’ve never heard of, I first heard of Israel Keyes on the podcast Crime Junkie. The why, where, and how he was caught, and the hours of interrogation by investigators make up the bulk of this fascinating book.

Despite multiple blunders by the police, Keyes was arrested for the kidnapping of a teenage girl as the result of a fortuitous traffic stop.  Unfortunately,  she had been murdered and they soon discovered they had a serial murderer on their hands whose victims numbered in the double digits.    

I feel your body tense up, my hand now on your shoulder, your eyes…Forget the lady called luck she does not abide near me for her powers don’t extend to those who are dead.

Details emerged that made him an aberration among serial killers.  Although he’d been killing for decades, he didn’t fit the MO of a typical serial murderer, nor did he have a ‘type”. He avoided detection through meticulous planning and traveling off the grid. Meanwhile, Keyes maintained a ‘normal’ family and work life, which is the most frightening fact of all.  Truly the stuff of nightmares.  His personal life and background were explored for clues to his psychological make-up.

Unfortunately, many of his secrets died with him and some case files are still closed to the public. But the hope is the hours of investigation and interviews will help police and profilers understand and apprehend more of these killers.

This is narrative non-fiction at its best and was another fantastic buddy read with my friend Marialyce, which inspired a great discussion. We both highly recommend this book as one of the better books in the genre.

Israel Keyes FBI mugshot.jpg
I looked in your eyes, they were so dark, warm and trusting, as though you had not a worry or care. The more guiless [sic] the game the better potential to fill up those pools with your fear.

Marialyce’s review

I, for one, had never heard of Israel Keyes and yet reading this true crime book, I came away wondering why? He was able to commit crimes in a manner that was brazen and yet as he traveled seeking victims, no one seemed to connect him to any crimes. He was a long term planner, depositing things such as duct tape, guns, shovels, and rope buried in various parts of the country waiting to be dug up and used when he needed it. Keyes was a patient man and his thrill came not only in the death of his victims but also in the planning of their deaths. His victims seemed to be random, bad time bad place, and he would grab his victims in a cool calculated manner rape and kill the people at times dismembering them and walk away.

Where will you go, you clever little worm, if you bleed your host dry?

His success if you want to call it that was achieved through traveling and it was his trek through state after state that perhaps was the key to his depravity. There was many connections that the FBI was able to make, but unfortunately, they could never prove for Keyes played a cat and mouse game with the authorities pursuing his self worth in that he considered himself smarter than all others.

You may have been free, you loved living your lie, fate had its own scheme crushed like a bug you still die.

He was ultimately caught when it was found that he killed, raped, and dismembered a girl working at a coffee stand in Alaska. He confessed readily but then lead the authorities on a chase to find other victims of this psychopath. Unfortunately, Keyes committed suicide before revealing the location and names of what is believed to be his countless other victims.

Absolutely, this was a bone chilling story that makes one really realize that you really don’t know who it is that stands next to you.

Land of the free, land of the lie, land of the scheme, Americanize.

Thank you to Maureen Callahan, Viking Books and Edelweiss for a copy of this most frightening book.


The House of Silk @AnthonyHorowitz @mulhollandbooks #sherlockholmes #mystery #fictionfriends #duoreviews @JanBelisle @absltmom

Looking for a good book to share, Jan and I thought to pick up another Anthony Horowitz book. Hoping that once again Mr Horowitz could not only thrill us, but also provide a story that was pure story telling, with no gimmicks. We wanted a book that honored the tradition set by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in his famous Sherlock Holmes stories. The House of Silk met all our expectations and then some.

The House of Silk (Sherlock Holmes, #1)
“It was quite elementary,’ returned the detective with a languid gesture of one hand.”

Jan’s review

As an avid fan of the author’s books, The Magpie Murders, The Word is Murder, and The Sentence is Death, I was anxious to read this one. Horowitz received approval from  Arthur Conan Doyle’s estate to write a new Sherlock Holmes novel, and this book was the result. 

AFI Silver Theatre and Cultural Center
“when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.”

I confess that I have not read a Sherlock Homes book, so I have nothing to compare this one to, but in typical Horowitz fashion, it was well-written and I trust the author stayed true to the characters. I found the dynamic between Holmes and Watson delightful. This book is the perfect example of the Golden Age of Mystery where the powers of observation and deduction in solving crimes reigns supreme.

60 Top Sherlock Holmes Stock Illustrations, Clip art ...
You look at me as if I were a conjuror,’ Holmes remarked, with a laugh.”

A buddy read with my friend Marialyce, we both found this book well-written, entertaining, and suspenseful. Highly recommended for fans of the genre.

Marialyce’s review

Batman: 15 Things You Never Knew About The Adam West TV ...

When I think of Sherlock Holmes, I think of London of the late 1800s. For many it was a dark, dismal, and somewhat eerie type of place, a place where the fog rolled in and the crimes rolled out. I think of Basil Rathborne as Sherlock, the old black and white movies that captured so much of the aura of the books that were written by Arthur Conan Doyle. So it was with that image in mind that I picked up The House of Silk and began my trek once again into old time London and the dank underground that inhabited it.

Happily, I was ever so pleased to read this book as I felt that Mr Horowitz kept the tradition of Holmes so alive and made the mystery present in The House of Silk one that kept me guessing. Isn’t that what a great mystery book does?

The 1709 Blog: December 2013

Accompanied by Dr Watson, of course, we travel the road with the characters and we have Sherlock a few steps, (well truthfully many) ahead of both Dr Watson and we, the readers. This was sheer fun and as the indomitable Sherlock figured it all out, we became immersed in a story that was both cunning and dangerous. “The few questions I had asked had been futile and I was suddenly dispirited, for it had occurred to me that had Holmes been present, he would have probably have solved the entire mystery by now.”

To all those who have loved the original Sherlock Holmes stories, and those who love mysteries that are well done, well written and well executed, this is a story for you. Mr Horowitz kept it real and so in the tradition that we Sherlock readers and watchers have loved.

Thanks are extended to the author who has thrilled both Jan and I on many occasions. If you haven’t read a Horowitz book, best get busy. They have all been wonderful.

and here’s the author:

Things You Save In A Fire @katherinecenter @StMartinsPress #strength #heartache #findinglove #womensfiction #fictionfriends #duoreviews @JanBelisle @absltmom

Happiness for Beginners by Katherine Center {Review ...

Both Jan and I were thrilled when we were able to secure an advanced copy of Katherine Center’s book, Things You Save in a Fire. We found much to love about this story, as its narrative, its characters, and writing were truly something special.

Things You Save in a Fire
“I’m at my very best when things are at their very worst.”

Jan’s review

Life has been tough for Cassie. To cope, she has built walls that lets no one in, especially men, and she thrives on routine and order with no drama. Oh, and she’s a  firefighter who can hold her own physically and mentally in a male-dominated profession.

When her ailing, estranged mother asks her to come live with her in Massachusetts for a year, Cassie moves from her modern, progressive fire department in Austin, to a job at a small, ill-equipped firehouse where she’s up against some old-fashioned ideas about women in the profession. Before she moves, her old boss gives her “The Rules” on how to survive in her new job. 

katherine center

“So to succeed in my new job, I basically need to be an asexual, androgynous, human robot that’s dead to all physical and emotional sensation”

 And then life throws her for a loop when she meets The Rookie, a firefighter who starts the job on the same day. The Rookie has Cassie re-thinking The Rules. But the Rookie isn’t the only person who is leading Cassie to question her life choices. She must navigate the complicated mother-daughter relationship and come to terms with a trauma in her past.

Marialyce and I had fun reading this one! There’s so much to love about this well-written book. It’s light and fun but with substance and depth. The protagonist is a strong, independent, capable woman but not without flaws, which makes her relatable. The theme of forgiveness, of yourself and others, is strong and well-done with many thoughtful, quotable passages. The side characters were delightful.

Is it a bit sappy and predictable? Yes, but this kind of book demands it and I went from laughing to tears more than once. These are characters to root for and I closed the last page with a smile on my face. 

Katherine Center is a go-to author and a must read. Publication date is August 13, 2019. Do yourself a favor and read it!  I rate according to genre, and this gets 5 enthusiastic stars.

The Lost Husband | Katherine Center

*many thanks to St. Martin’s Press and Netgalley for a copy of this book for review

* this was a fantastic buddy read with my friend Marialyce, and a book we both highly recommend.

Marialyce’s review

Life is sometimes so very hard. We find we bump up against adversity, and though we try to tough it through the bad times, we often find ourselves injured in ways not visible to others, yet surely visible to ourselves.

Katherine Center Quotes. QuotesGram

“That’s the thing I always love best about the human race: How we pick ourselves back up over and over and just keep on going.”

True to this quote, Cassie has had to pick herself up and move on. She has had much in her young life that has made her hard on the outside, a tough as nails exterior which hides the hurt that she feels deep within her heart.

Cassie was left by her mother on of all things her sixteenth birthday. She doesn’t understand and as she matures the rift with her mother becomes further entrenched. That is until her mother asks her to come and be with her for a year. Cassie, as a result of some well deserved punches, kicks, and assorted other blows to a former “high school “friend” who is now a high profile councilman, is about to lose the job she loves, that of being a firefighter. But as fate often does, her mother’s plea coupled with the ability to work in another fire department allows Cassie to still be exactly what she loves and she reluctantly moves in with her mother.

Ten years I’d simmered in my own self-righteousness, holding my grudge against her as if the only way to win was to stay mad the longest.”

That is the catalyst that changes Cassie’s life bringing her into her mother’s world, the world of the new firehouse and the men who work there and most importantly meeting the Rookie, a young man starting out in the job.

Thanks to wonderful writing that was touching and poignant, a great story line that didn’t get lost in the shuffle, and characters that were portrayed with all their quirks and foibles, this story turned out to be beautiful. It taught the reader along the way that love and forgiveness is really the most important aspects of a human life.

Quotes Love Relationships And Forgiveness. QuotesGram

“Choosing to love—despite all the ways that people let you down, and disappear, and break your heart. Knowing everything we know about how hard life is and choosing to love, anyway.. That’s not weakness, that’s courage.”

I definitely recommend this book to everyone, especially those like Jan and I who so love a wonderful women’s fiction story that will hit you in all the right places. Look for it on August 13th, 2019, read it and enjoy!

Thanks you to Katherine Center, St Martin’s Press and NetGalley for a copy of this lovely book.

and here’s the author:

Katherine Center
In the end, you can only write a book that you yourself would like to read.

Katherine Center is the New York Times and USA Today Bestselling Author of How to Walk Away, as well as the upcoming novel, Things You Save in a Fire (August 13, 2019). She’s also written five other bittersweet comic novels about love and family, including The Bright Side of Disaster,The Lost Husband,and Happiness for Beginners.  The Lost Husband is currently in production as a feature film starring Josh Duhamel and Leslie BibbKatherine’s work has appeared in Redbook, InStylePeopleUSA Today, Vanity Fair, The Atlantic, Real Simple, Southern Living, InTouch, the Dallas Morning News, and the Houston Chronicle, and many others

Lock Every Door @riley_sager @DuttonBooks #mystery #occult #fictionfriends #duoreviews @JanBelisle @absltmom

It takes a lot to get Jan and I excited about a thriller these days after having read so many. However, truth be told Lock Every Door had the both of us going from the very first page. Good job, Mr Sager, keeping us guessing and getting that truly wonderful wow factor into this book.

Lock Every Door

Jan’s review

Just when I’d given up hope on finding a fun summer thriller, along comes this book!   

Jules is having a string of bad luck and finds herself without a home and job, little money in her bank account, and no family to lean on for support. She answers an ad for an apartment sitter at The Bartholomew, an exclusive luxurious apartment building in NYC. The pay to stay in this fancy apartment? $1K a week. She can’t believe her stroke of good luck when she is hired. Apparently Jules forgot the adage that if it sounds too good to be true, it is too good to be true.

There are a few rules: no visitors, no nights away from the apartment, no talking to or otherwise bothering the wealthy residents, and no posts on social media. Desperate for money, Jules agrees.

Looks perfect but looks can be ever so deceiving!

Soon, she begins hearing strange noises and tales of mysterious deaths and hauntings. When an apartment sitter Jules befriends goes missing, she discovers this wasn’t the first sitter to mysteriously disappear, and she goes in search for answers. Answers that turn out to be far more sinister than she could have imagined.

This is a Riley Sager book, so It’s not a spoiler to say there are twists and turns in this creepy, Gothic suspense tale where the Bartholomew becomes a character itself.  The palpable sense of eeriness with Jules all alone in the world up against some creepy neighbors in a Gothic apartment building gave me a Rosemary’s Baby vibe.

Gothic Gargoyles, Gargoyles Grotesque, Dragons Gargoyles ...

Jules is a strong, relatable, and engaging character. The toggling between past and present builds the tension to a fever pitch. I listened to the audiobook and the narrator was excellent. It was so engaging that I listened to the entire book in 2 days. Love it or hate it, I didn’t see the end coming, and it blew me away 

I wasn’t a huge fan of the author’s first two books but after seeing glowing reviews from readers who felt the same way, I took a chance and I’m so glad I did. This was a buddy read with Marialyce and one we both loved. Highly recommended for fans of Gothic suspense.

Marialyce’s review

Are you looking to find a place to live and make a few extra dollars along the way? There just might be a beautiful spot waiting for you at the Bartholomew Apartments. Don’t let its creepy exterior with its Gargoyles poised seeming to be watching you scare you away. Don’t let the fact that there are strange rules as you apartment sit. Don’t be turned off by the no visitor’s rule, or the no nights spent away from the apartment., or even the no social media rule for it is just inconsequential when you see where you will be living. Are you interested? Does this sounds like a dream come true?

Our heroine, Jules, certainly is ready to take on apartment sitting for she needs the money badly. Down on her luck, with no place to rest her head, this seems to be the answer to the nightmare that she is facing. The twelve thousand dollars she will be paid to apartment sit is the key that unlocks lots of doors. They are not the doors however, that she will eventually come to realize that she wants to open. Little does Jules know what lies behind the doors of the apartments at the Bartholomew.

【ニューヨーク】ジョン・レノンを偲ぶ旅ダコタハウス見どころガイド - おすすめ旅行を探すならトラベルブック ...
the Dakota where Rosemary’s Baby was filmed

As Jules digs deeper into this mysterious one hundred year old building she finds a world that borders on the sinister. as she thinks about missing girls, bodies that had previously died from the Spanish influenza, and things the definitely go bump in the night, she finds both her fear and her curiosity piqued. Can she ignore a scream, strange noises, or is it her imagination working overtime? As she investigates further, Jules travels into a world of the macabre, a world she wants no part of.

Riley Sager has created the true creep you out, chills up your spine story. It has all the elements one usually needs to decide if a book is just scarily sinister, and boy this one truly fits the bill! I kept turning pages into the wee hours of the morning, happy that all the doors around me were firmly locked, as I compulsively read this book. A word to the wise, however that Jules should have followed….. if something looks to good to be true it probably is just that.

I definitely recommend this book to all of those who enjoy the disturbing, eerie, and ominous in their books. Paramount Television is in development of this story and it will soon be ready to delightfully scare you!

Would you stay here for 12K?

and here’s the author:

Riley Sager

Riley Sager is the pseudonym of a former journalist, editor and graphic designer. Now a full-time writer, Riley is the author of Final Girls, an international bestseller that has been published in 25 languages, and the New York Times bestseller The Last Time I Lied. His latest book, Lock Every Door, will be published in July. A native of Pennsylvania, Riley now lives in Princeton, New Jersey.

The Castle on Sunset: Life, Death, Love, Art, and Scandal at Hollywood’s Chateau Marmont @shawnlevy @doubledaybooks #hollywood #chateaumarmont #glamour #glitz #secrets #moviestars #duoreviews @JanBelisle @absltmom

If you are at all curious about the lives of the rich, the famous, the stars, and the denizens of Hollywood past and present, Jan and I suggest you take a walk down the lane to the Chateau Marmount, courtesy of the book The Castle on Sunset.

The Castle on Sunset: Life, Death, Love, Art, and Scandal at Hollywood's Chateau Marmont

Jan’s review

We’ve all heard of Sunset Strip. But how much do you know about the Chateau Marmont, the iconic hotel overlooking the strip?  I knew very little but the subtitle of Love, Art, and Scandal piqued my interest and I was not disappointed.

The book details how the Chateau was built in 1929 to replicate  the Chateau d’Amboise, a royal retreat in France’s Loire Valley.

Chateau Marmont Hotel Expert Review | Fodor’s Travel

The hotel somehow survived through the Depression and the ups and downs of the economy, and because of the unparalleled

privacy  provided to its guests, it became the home and playground of the most famous Hollywood personalities. The history these walls contain boggles the mind. 

From the 1930’s to the present, the list of celebrities and the scandalous stories that took place at Chateau Marmont are titillating and addictively readable. From the glamorous Golden Days of  Hollywood (my favorite!) to the present, the book is filled with juicy details of the stars of film, music, and other artists. There are far too many personalities to list here, but even a partial list reads as a Who’s Who: Greta Garbo, Clark Gable, Judy Garland, Coco Chanel, Marilyn Monroe, Anthony Perkins, James Dean, Paul Newman, Robert DeNiro, and rock stars, Jim Morrison, Led Zeppelin, and many, many more. The short, sad life of Jean Harlow, the night leading up to John Belushi’s death, and the fateful decision of Sharon Tate, who was 8 months pregnant,  to move out and rent a home, are among the many stories I won’t soon forget. 

I am as far from a fan of celebrity gossip as you can get but I could not put this book down and finished it in two days with my phone and laptop by my side to google the pictures and  the stories. Kudos to the author for compiling an incredible amount of research into  such a fascinating narrative.

* this was a buddy read with Marialyce, one we both enjoyed and highly recommend

*many thanks to Doubleday and Edelweiss for a copy of the book for review

Marialyce’s review

Hollywood….can we ever really get enough of the lives of the stars and the ways in which they came to stardom, fame, and fortune? We find them alluring, their stories, their climb up the ladder of success, fraught with some failures, along the way, with some losing the battle to win what others seems to always aspire to.

This was a fascinating book, that kept me riveted to its content. The names of the past stars were there along with their stories, sometimes tragic in their telling, oftentimes scandalous, as they all embarked on a career that would make them famous. The stars of today also make their way to the Chateau and so many of the names we come to know have made their stay at the Chateau memorable and often scandalous. (think Lindsay Lohan, John Belushi)

Chateau Marmont LA ... Bungalow 4 | Voyage | Pinterest ...

and yet the Chateau really is the star of the story for it houses many of the secrets, many of the goings on, many of the intimate details of the eras of Hollywood. Imagine the stories these walls could tell. The stories of hidden assignations, of drugs, of alcohol, of sex, of homosexuality, of the stars being what they were and not an image of what Hollywood wanted them to be.

It was the dream of the Fred Horowitz, a prominent Los Angeles attorney, to construct the chateau. On February 1, 1929, Chateau Marmont opened its doors to the public as the newest residence of Hollywood. Through the vision of Mr Horowitz, the chateau became something special, a hideaway from the rigors of stardom, a place where anything goes was a motto, and where discretion was the key. Down through it existence and it owners, the chateau saw times of depression and though it suffered the ravages of neglect for a time, today it stands as a Historical-Cultural Landmark.

I so enjoyed this story and do recommend it to those who love a story about a building, its creators, and it impact of the lives of others. Take a walk through the chateau and you will not be disappointed. Now if only walls could talk!

Thank you to Shawn Levy, Doubleday Books, and Edelweiss for a copy of this alluring story.

Haunted Journeys - Haunted Locations - Chateau Marmont

and here is the author and the Chateau

Shawn Levy

Shawn Levy is the author of nine books of biography and pop culture history. The former film critic of The Oregonian and KGW-TV and a former editor of American Film, he has been published in Sight and Sound, Film Comment, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Guardian, The Hollywood Reporter, and The Black Rock Beacon, among many other outlets. He jumps and claps and sings for victory in Portland, Oregon, where he serves on the board of directors of Operation Pitch Invasion.

The Sentence is Death @AnthonyHorowitz @HarperCollins #mystery #hawthorne2 #fictionfriends #duoreviews @JanBelisle @absltmom

Looking for a great book to get us out of a bit of a rut, Jan and I decided to give The Sentence is Death a go. Happily we were very surprised and elated that the second book in the Hawthorne series became a favorite and brought us back to the days of a true and wonderful mystery story. Keep them coming Mr Horowitz, for we are anxious to see where you take yourself and Hawthorne next, for we are sure to follow.

The Sentence is Death (Hawthorne, #2)
I’ve met police dogs with more intelligence than those two. You could tell them everything we’ve done, down to the last word, and they’d still end up running around
in a circle, sniffing each other’s arses.”

Jan’s review

What a terrific whodunit! This series is a homage to the Golden Age of mystery writers, although with a modern bent, and I loved every minute of it. It’s very clever how the author inserts himself into the story as the narrator, adds in tidbits from his real life, and pokes a little fun at himself. Which makes this a fun, unique read that I flew through. 5 stars for the pure enjoyment I got while reading!

Tony is an author hired to write a series of books about Daniel Hawthorne, a disgraced former police detective turned PI, and accompanies him as he works his cases.  Hawthorne is short on charm, but is a brilliant observer of things most people miss, a Columbo-type character. He’s an enigma with an air of mystery surrounding him and is as determined to keep his private life a secret as much as Tony is determined to unearth those secrets.

The mystery in this story follows the formula of a victim with a full cast of suspects, all of whom have secrets and powerful motives for murder. Tony plays Watson to Hawthorne’s Sherlock and bumbles along  determined to outwit Hawthorne and solve the case himself. There’s plenty of amusing dialogue and wry observations to keep things light. 

This is pure fun and I can’t wait for book #3! This book can stand on its own but I highly recommend the first book of the series, The Word is Murder.

* Many thanks to Edelweiss for a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review * This was a buddy read with Marialyce and a series we both wholeheartedly recommend.

Marialyce’s review:

Mr Horowitz with his usual flair for cleverness has once again teemed up with his erstwhile nemesis, Hawthorne, and is on the trail of finding a killer. These two seem to model themselves after the team of Holmes and Watson, as one seems to bumble his way through the investigation, while the other is miles ahead and seems to have puzzled out the perpetrator long before the last chapter is read.

I was so ready for a down home, real good, wonderfully written mystery book that told a straight story with just the right amount of dropped clues, a bit of whimsy, and a touch of the camaraderie we came to love in the previous book, The Word is Murder, where both Anthony and Hawthorne made their grand entrance into the world of crime solving. Having read and loved The Word Is Murder, I was fully expecting another wonderful turn out for this book and happily I was not disappointed.

Loving mysteries the way I do, this book was perfect in all the ways a mystery can be. There were the usual suspects each one shrouded in secrets and looking more guilty than the next. You can match wits with Hawthorne once again and see if you too, can beat Anthony to the final conclusion. Murder is again afoot and our team is hot on the trail of a killer.

Thank you to Anthony Horowitz, Harper Books, and Edelweiss for a copy of this most enjoyable book.

and here’s the author:

James Bond - Idris Elba reacts to apology for 'too street ...
His three tips for writing fiction are: (1) Read more. (2) Write more. (3) Believe in yourself.
One of his favourite books is Great Exectations by Charles Dickens.
He listens to a lot of classical music, such as: Chopin, Benjamin Britten and Mozart.

The Body In Question #jillciment @PantheonBooks #morality #ethics #courtroomdrama #fictionfriends #duoreviews @JanBelisle @absltmom

There are times when a short little book can pack in a lot of very strong feelings, excellent writing, and encourage a taste for information, discussion, and awareness. Jan and I found this little book packed with a plethora of questions, ones we often struggled to comprehend, and yet this story is powerful and timely.

The Body in Question
“One of them is going to tell the judge for the same reason children always tattle to the teacher.

Jan’s review

Far more than a simple courtroom drama, this book puts the sequestered jury as the focus.  We learn details of the trial of a wealthy teenager accused of murdering her toddler brother only through their eyes, or, more specifically, through juror C-2’s eyes (we learn her name only in the last half). Her observations, her thoughts, her notes, and her relationship with juror F-17 are what drives this story and makes it so fascinating. The first half of this book deals with the time of the trial and the last half deals with the juror’s private lives and the aftermath once they return home.

I went in blind after hearing it recommended on a podcast and I am so glad I did. I recommend not reading blurbs and summaries. Intelligent and well-written, I was immediately sucked in and glued to the page. The writing is spare and unemotional which could keep a reader from connecting to the characters but in this case it worked for me. At less than 200 pages I read it in one day. Powerful and profound, this is a book that reminds me of why I love to read. The themes are intricately woven and takes the reader in some surprising directions. It’s a book I won’t soon forget.

Having served on a jury three times, one being a murder case, some of the juror types were very familiar to me, which made the story even more interesting to me. Reading this book as an exploration of our jury system alone would make this a worthwhile read, but it is so much more.

This book won’t appeal to those looking for answers but read it if you enjoy a book that makes you think long after you have closed the last page. It would make a terrific book club choice. This was my first book by this author, but it won’t be my last.

·     Many thanks to Edelweiss for a copy of the book for review

·     This was a buddy read with Marialyce, one that inspired one of our best discussions.

Marialyce’s review

For what seems to be a very long time, courtroom drama has become a voyeuristic look into the workings of our legal system. Spurred on by the now famous OJ Simpson trial followed by many other lurid trials, we have become a culture where through social media, a frenzied press, and our own human need, we find ourselves drawn into the lives of others. Such was the case with this story of a sensational trial involving the heinous murder of an eighteen month child by an adopted teenage handicapped sister.

Jurors are called in and those who are selected, are to be sequestered during the trial proceedings. It is during this time that two of the jurors, C-2 and F-17 carry on an affair. As the horrendous proceedings occur at the trial, the jury called to deliberate find themselves conflicted and some suspect that part of that conflict is because the two lovers are on opposite sides of a guilty verdict. How could these two lovers, so caught up in one another, be fair judges of what has gone on in the trial proceedings?

There are so many themes running through this book. Explored is the concept of May December marriages, which is what Hannah, Juror number C-2 is experiencing with her much older husband. Hannah is looking for that one last fling, the one last time to prove that she is desirable and wanted, needing to affirm the fact that she has life left within her. Is the fairness of our trial system, where often details are left out compromising the decisions made, as fair as we all think it is? Is the sensationalism we often see in today’s press, that strives to publish all the gruesome details available and make headlines, so often compromising the people involved as well as often pushing the veracity of their reporting right and fair to all involved?

This short book leaves the reader with many questions. There are no solutions and as Ms Ciment writes brief and poignant prose, we are left to ponder the many complicated experiences we have after and during the reading of this story. The author lets us be our own jury scrutinizing ourselves, our feelings, and looking for the knowledge that our mind does often query many things without getting any real answers. Perhaps in the end, there are no solutions.

Recommended to those who enjoy stories that raise much awareness in your thought process, disturb your preconceptions, and leaves you feeling unsettled and rattled.

and here’s the author:

Jill Ciment was born in Montreal, Canada. She is the author of Small Claims, a collection of short stories and novellas; The Law of Falling Bodies, Teeth of the Dog, The Tattoo Artist, and Heroic Measures, novels; and Half a Life, a memoir. She has been awarded a National Endowment for the Arts, a NEA Japan Fellowship Prize, two New York State Fellowships for the Arts, the Janet Heidinger Kafka Prize, and a Guggenheim Fellowship. Ciment is a professor at the University of Florida. She lives with her husband, Arnold Mesches, in Gainesville, Florida and Brooklyn, New York.

“I wanted to enter a long tradition that I could fight against.”