Her Deadly Game @robertdugoni @thomasandmercer @JanBelisle @absltmom

Jan’s Review

Keera Duggan, a Seattle prosecutor, returns to her family law practice after a failed relationship with a colleague. Her father, a celebrated defense attorney, is also a raging alcoholic with all the fallout that entails, both personally and professionally.

Keera is retained by Vince LaRussa, an investment adviser accused of murdering his disabled wealthy wife. The prosecutor? Miller Ambrose, Keera’s former SO, who is determined to win and take down Keera in the process.

As a former chess prodigy, Keera takes solace in online chess as a way to relax and decompress at the end of a long day. Just who is her anonymous online opponent, The Dark Night? The answer will surprise you! I don’t play chess and the moves went over my head, but I appreciated that the skills and logic needed to be a top chess player are the same skills needed to be a top defense attorney.

I love courtroom dramas and this is among the best. The ending became just a tad bit convoluted and the specifics of the murder were a bit OTT.

But,I loved the character of Keera and her dysfunctional but loving family. Overall, the positives outweigh my reservations about the ending, and I was able to overlook a few sticking points.

The case ends with a conundrum which leaves Keera with a dilemma, and left me furiously turning the pages. I couldn’t see how the author could end this satisfactorily, but he pulled it off. I was left with wanting more from these characters which is a sure sign of a successful read for me. I want more stories featuring the Duggans!

This was a buddy read with Marialyce. This was only my second book by this author, but not my last.

• I received a digital copy of this book via NetGalley. All opinions are my own.

Marialyce’s Review

What is a deadly game? Is it a game played to one’s demise or can it be just a game of cat and mouse that will have one of the participants put away for life?

A handicapped woman is murdered in her wheelchair leaving a number of suspects behind plus a gun, some fibers, water, and a shattered glass. What heinous person could have shot this wealthy woman in the back of the head? Of course, it has to be the husband, one Vincent LaRussa, an investment counselor, who himself has amassed a fortunate. However, LaRussa seems to have an air tight alibi and with two others visiting his wife beforehand, including her best friend who is also her doctor, and the lawyer her wealthy family had retained for a prenup agreement before the marriage things don’t seem to add up.

As the eyes of guilt seem to focus on Vince, he hires Keera Dugan as his defense attorney, whose father, also a well-known lawyer, has both a fine reputation in law as well as that of being an alcoholic. Everyone is hell bent on seeing Vince brought to trial and the prosecuting attorney, a former boyfriend/paramour of Keera’s is on the mission to make her and her client guilty. Interspersed with the courtroom drama, is the online game between Keera and The Dark Knight over a chess game. It mimics the moves so well of the happenings in court as pawns are moved about on the board of life and death. One is certainly aware of the expertise of the author, Robert Dugoni, a former lawyer himself, who so adeptly handled all the courtroom drama and what went on behind the scenes.

The characters, particularly Keera were strong showing a wonderful and sometimes frightening image of courage, determination, and the sly tricks some will play to get back at any adversary. (I do mean you Miller Ambrose, a rat in lawyer’s clothing)

My only qualm is how the deadly deed was done as well as some medical issues, but the rest was so good. I tossed those qualms aside.(and yet I couldn’t stop thinking about them! )

I have read a fair number of Dugoni’s books and have enjoyed them all. He is an accomplished author who never fails to entertain and amaze his readers with a comprehensive story that doesn’t require the reader to make quantum leaps.

Thanks are extended to Robert Dugoni, Thomas and Mercer, and NetGalley for this outstanding book that was ever so hard to put aside as my life’s duties called. Also thanks to my ever-wonderful reading twin, Jan, who always has great questions and ideas about a story. We had quite a discussion about this book!
Grab yourself a copy of this book due out March 28th, 2023 for you won’t be disappointed.


The Girl in the Ice @RobertBryndza @bookouture @absltmom

Marialyce’s Review

An extremely well done thriller that dotted all the i’s and crossed a the t’s, There have been times when reading a thriller that set my eyes in motion or have me thinking “oh really’ because of the contrived situations we are to assume are real. However, in this book, Robert Bryndza has secured a place in my reading library for presenting stories which make sense.

The plot in this one, surrounds Detective Erika Foster, newly returned from leave after witnessing the horrific death of her beloved husband, a policeman as well. It’s so sad and of course Erika head of the team he was assigned to blames herself for his death as well as the others killed.

She returns to work with her usual dogged personality and when a young girl is strangled and found under the ice, she and her team go forward constantly overseen by the upper ups who seem to be looking for her to screw up. For the girl who was killed was the daughter of a higher up Lord in the House of Lords who rules the roost as well as calls the shots at the police department.

Coupled with this there is the usual rivalries that occur when one perceives another is getting more recognition than they.

However, Erika and her team are on the trail of this murderer and he is on the trail to make an end of Erika. As suspects go, there are plenty of them and to a one seem to be involved in something quite nefarious. Then Erika finds that other women were also murdered in a similar way and the hunt is on.

Such a good read that I immediately searched for the second book in this series. Definitely recommended for those who enjoy a thriller that has it all.

The Palace Papers: Inside the House of Windsor – the Truth and the Turmoil @TinaBrownLM @CrownPublishing @JanBelisle @absltmom

Jan’s Review

This is a fairly lengthy book, with plenty of juicy and dishy details that I didn’t know about the RF, which made this book enlightening as well as engaging. It seems no matter how much we think we know, there is always something new to learn.

Tina Brown leaves no stone unturned when exposing the intricacies of the House of Windsor, aka The Firm. Every member of the family has a spotlight on them, with some coming off more favorably than others. The author also shines a spotlight on the news media who relentlessly hounds the royals (and other celebrities).

I found the first part of the book interesting, but my interest flagged a bit when the narrative turned towards the Prince Andrew/Epstein scandal and Meghan and Harry. Too much time was spent on Meghan’s rather boring background, career, and history. I was also disappointed that the author didn’t expose the many untruths and exaggerations in the infamous Oprah interview and their many complaints.

This was a buddy read with Marialyce and while we both enjoyed very much enjoyed the book, we were deeply disappointed in the authors kid glove treatment of these two.

I was left with a deeper admiration for Queen Elizabeth. In this age of social media and oversharing, her philosophy of “Never Complain, Never Explain’ is part of the allure and mystique of the Royal family, and likely the secret to the longevity of the monarchy. Her overriding concern, despite personal trials, was her duty as monarch, always putting the people’s needs above her own. All of which makes Harry & Meghan’s behavior even more unseemly and self-serving. I hated wasting a minute of my time reading about these two.

Luckily, the future of the monarchy seems to be in good hands with King Charles and Camilla, and of course Prince William and Princess Catherine, who seem to be following in step with the Queen’s philosophy, but with a modern flair.

Marialyce’s Review

If you are at all interested in how the Royals act and react , this book might be the key to that issue. It follows the very regal Queen Elizabeth who found herself pulled into a more modern world after the death of Princess Diana. It is a story of how the Royals perceive life through hundreds of years of tradition and the way things were and are for them.

It seems like a life of glory, riches, and traditions, that many of us seem to envy, but it is a life that is filled with obligations, of one lacking privacy, and of one that while glamorous, is filled with luxury, and responsibilities. The Royals have been born into this, most adhering into traditions, and desperately trying to be the monarchs they have been trained to be.

The author covers sensitive topics that including Diana, who definitely had her own issues and did everything she could to hurt Charles not considering that what she did to him would also be done to her boys. She speaks of Andrew, the supposed favorite child of Elizabeth’s, who has become a pariah in the family, justifiably so. She speaks of Diana’s much-loved boys who had to coped with their parents’ behavior, their father carrying on many years long affair with Camilla and the most embarrassing taped phone conversation between Camilla and Charles.

Family rivalries, the innuendo, the blood sucking media have made life for the Royals complicated and often difficult. William and Catherine, due to ascend the throne someday, seem to be preparing a path that will allow them being closer to the people they rule. Charles and Camilla also seem to be striving to restore the dignity of Queen Elizabeth’s reign.

I will not say too much about Henry and Meghan, since I am not in their fan club, but for one thing, for a couple who want privacy, their faces seem to be prominent in the media. They both seem to be self-serving and dedicated to besmirching the monarchy for monetary and notoriety reasons. It is a shame that so soon after the death of Queen Elizabeth, they stepped in to assure reputations would be ruined. It was a big sign of both jealousy and searching to be number one, which will not happen being the “spare” as Harry claims he is.

At any rate, this book is fascinating and I did learn some new things about the family. Jan and I enjoyed the bulk of the story, but both agreed the author cut Meghan a lot of slack when relating her sob story.

The Twist of a Knife

(Hawthorne and Horowitz Investigate #4) @AnthonyHorowitz @harperbooks @JanBelisle @absltmom

“That’s why life is so different to fiction. Every day is a single page and you have no chance to thumb forward and see what lies ahead.

Jan’s Review

Anthony Horowitz’s new play, Mindgame, opens to great excitement, but receives a scathing review from the powerful critic, Harriet Throsby. The entire cast and crew are devastated.

The next morning Harriet is found dead, stabbed through the heart with a dagger. All signs point to Anthony as the culprit, and he makes an appeal to Hawthorne to investigate and clear his name.

As with the previous books, the author cleverly inserts himself into the narrative, and what makes this series so enjoyable is the relationship between Hawthorne and Horowitz, with their witty dialogue and snark. Every book reveals a bit more about the secretive and elusive Hawthorne, and leaves me wanting more.

In a nod to Agatha Christie, there is no shortage of suspects and motives for the murder, and I was kept guessing to the very end. The final resolution is clever when Hawthorne gathers all the major players together and reveals all.

If you love Agatha Christie and the Golden Age of classic mysteries, you will enjoy this one. The theater world isn’t my favorite setting, but the author managed to make it interesting. The ending will leave fans of the series with hope for more to come.

This was an enjoyable buddy read with my friend Marialyce, one that left us looking forward to the next book in the series. Although not strictly necessary, I highly recommend reading the series in order, as there is further character growth and development with each book and it helps to know the background.

The audiobook was narrated by Rory Kinnear, who does an amazing job.

Marialyce’s Review

Anthony Horowitz has done it again…. and I am so happy to say I loved it. His new book is a wonderfully done mystery that had me believing that every one of the characters had murdered the odious critic, Harriet Throsby. ( I will admit I thought that Horowitz might have been the culprit) However, as it seems that Anthony was knee deep in this murder, the other actors and stage manager all had multiple reasons for doing away with Harriet.

Anthony had written a play, The Mindgame, that is opening in London’s Vaudeville Theater, and Harriet, since it’s the opening night, is in attendance. The play seems to go well, but as things go, Harriet cuts the play to its core in a scathing review. After, at the first night party, her review is read online by one of the actresses and it’s really Anthony who is trashed (motive). The next morning, Harriet is found stabbed and once again all the police fingers point to Anthony. As Anthony is arrested, he knows who he needs and will ask to step in to this nightmare and of course it is Hawthorne. After much cajoling and the usual barbs and verbal jabs between Anthony and Hawthorne, Hawthorne agrees to lend a hand for price of course. So the two men link forces once again trying to solve this mystery.

I do so love these books. They are always super fun as the two main protagonists romp through murder and mystery while developing a semi friendship with Anthony learning a tad more about the illusive Hawthorne. I do so love the insertion of the author into these tales and he’s so good at this, that at times I found myself wondering if parts were true. Hmm, can’t say more than I so enjoyed this escapade into the lives of two who always offer intrigue with a very definite wink to the writers of yesteryear.

Jan and I read this one and both came away with our fingers crossed that H and H will once again team up to solve more mysterious blood and death stories.

Starvation Heights: A True Story of Murder and Malice in the Woods of the Pacific Northwest #gregolsen #broadwayheights @absltmom

“Claire and Dorothea are ill because they can afford to be ill.”


Imagine someone who believed that a starvation diet was the cure to anything that ailed you? That was the motto or philosophy of Dr. Linda Burfield Hazzard, an osteopath who practiced her form of medicine, in the state of Washington. Attracted by Dr Hazzard’s approach, two sisters, Claire and Dora Williamson, decided to follow the good doctor and go for the “cure.” The two wealthy sisters were proponents of natural medicine, and Dr Hazzard seem to offer that to them.

The “good” doctor took the sisters into her home,promising that a sanatorium was being built that would house them as the path to a cure would be followed. Dr Hazzard, her husband, Sam Hazzard, (another evil natured man, a swindler, forger, scandalous bigamist, and more death!)
and staff put these women on a diet that would actually cause people to starve to death which is exactly what happened to Claire and other patients of the doctor.

Many prominent people flocked to her, however, between 1907 to 1913, fourteen patients perished. These patients withered away, and perhaps quite interestingly were people who had money and possessions, which supposedly they had turned over to the doctor. Hazzard labeled herself the “Fasting Specialist”, but many of these patients died alone under her care.

Suits were brought against Hazzard through Dora Williamson, who herself nearly died until her trusted nurse arrived. However, Hazzard had her followers and it was as if the believers formed a type of cult. Hazzard maintained her innocence with both a sense of entitlement, filled with a sense of inflated self and denial, that was repugnant to many.

She was convicted of the murder of Claire, but only served two years, was released, went to another country where she and her husband amassed money enough to build her dream sanitarium back home. In a twist of righteous fate of greed once again, the place burned down and years later Hazzard died while supposedly practicing her cure. Her husband had already become and alcoholic and a womanizer.

These two despicable people seemed to be able to escape the full hammer of justice they deserved and I found it hard to believe that Hazzard convinced many of the benefit of fasting for forty days and beyond with just a bit a broth and perhaps sips of orange juice, and of course the daily enemas.

This was a well researched story that was fascinating in its detail (although a bit long) It was truly amazing that there were a bevy of people who defended Hazzard’s behavior. Greed, avarice, and a god like temperament followed Hazzard all of her days.
The deceased under Hazzard’s care
1907 Lenora J. Wilcox
1908 Daisy Maud Haglund (The mother of Ivar’s Restaurants founder, Ivar Haglund. Ivar was taken to Hazzard for treatments, even after Daisy’s death.)
1909 Blanche B. Tindall
1909 Viola Heaton
1909 Eugene Stanley Wakelin (Did not die of starvation, but was found dead of a bullet wound on Hazzard’s property. Linda Hazzard had power of attorney over his estate.)
1910 Lydia Maude Whitney
1910 Earl Edward Erdman
1911 Frank Stuart Southard (Prominent attorney with the firm of Morris, Southard and Shipley. His law partner publically defended Linda Hazzard.)
1911 Edward S. Harrison (Publisher of Alaska-Yukon Magazine and Hazzard’s book, Fasting for the Cure of Disease.)
1911 John Ivan Flux
1911 Lewis Ellsworth Rader (Washington Legislator, 1895. Rader granted Wilderness Heights to Linda Hazzard.)
1911 Claire Williamson
1913 Ida Julia Anderson
1913 Mary T. Bailey
1925 Leonard Ritter

Thank you to Gregg Olsen, Thread Books, and NetGalley for a copy of this amazing story.

The Drift @cjtudor #ballantinebooks (@randomhouse)@JanBelisle @absltmom #favoriteauthor #thetwinsareback

Jan’s review

A survival thriller set during a snowstorm? Yes, please! Never mind that it’s a dystopian future during a pandemic, because the virus is not the focus of the story. We are talking about survival.

Three POV/ storylines that will eventually merge:
1. Hannah, a med student and daughter of the world’s leading virologist, is trapped with her fellow passengers when their bus crashes during a heavy snow storm.
2. Meg, a former policewoman, and her group are stranded in a cable car when the power fails, which leaves them dangling 1000 ft in the air during a raging snowstorm.
3. Carter and his group are living the good life in a ski chalet with all the amenities. But the snowstorm rages outside, supplies are dwindling, and the generator dies.

All 3 groups are fighting for their lives from the elements and the virus, but perhaps the greatest threat to their lives comes from within. How long did it take for society to break down? TEN YEARS. Who is a good guy and who is a bad guy? Is everyone who they say they are? I was kept on my toes, never knowing who to trust. There are evil forces at play, of the human variety. After all, The devil was an angel once

CJ Tudor excels at creating stories that ooze atmosphere. Thrillers set during snowstorms is one of my favorite tropes, and this one delivered. I felt the cold and the terror of being trapped and in danger on all sides (especially in that cable car *shudder*).

There are a lot of characters to keep straight, which is perhaps the book’s greatest weakness. But I just kept reading, trusting that it would all come together. And it did.

Everyone here has secrets that are eventually revealed, and there are surprises in store that I didn’t see coming. I was on the edge of my seat the entire time and I flew through the majority of the book in one day. I enjoyed all three storylines and appreciated how they came together in the well-executed ending, which offered a glimmer of hope for the future.

I prefer strong female characters, and I especially appreciated that the author made her two female heroines whip-smart, determined, and accomplished. The author’s sly humor is also on display, bringing much needed relief from the tension.

This is another winner from CJ Tudor! She has a talent for writing distinct and unique books. No two are remotely similar to one another and all are memorable. When many books I read are forgotten the moment the last page is turned, her plots are ones I never forget.

Marialyce’s review

This lady can sure write scare. In fact, it might be her middle name!

This lady can sure write scare. In fact, it might be her middle name!

This book provided more than a scary story, it also provided so many ways in which to discuss the events and the outcome of the story. Definitely a wonderful story of survival and the ways in which we challenge Mother Nature who will “always find a way.”

What better topic to write about if you are in the scare business than a deadly pandemic? However, it should be noted that the virus is not the “star” of this tale. C.J. Tudor took the background of a deadly virus, and wrote a story that started out with a bus crash that had Hannah, and others escaping from a boarding school. While some died, the ones remaining had their assorted secrets and needed a way out of the overturned bus. Of course, with a huge snowstorm raging outside and a deadly virus raging inside the bus, death seemed to be their certain fate.

The book switches to other characters teetering in a broken cable car including Meg, a former police person. Hanging high up in the air while the storm ragged, (for this reader, that would have been the end of me!), they didn’t a clue as to how or the why they arrived there. They know they are headed to a place called “The Retreat” but the “why” is everything. It’s murky and then a dead body is found which is a precursor to many more bodies piling up.

In a ski chalet others survive and are perhaps the hope for humanity. They too, are headed for a rude awakening as the vaccine they make is running short and the doctor in charge has supposedly hidden himself in one of the containment pods. Dr Carter has been the head of the virus fighting team and as in current times, we eventually find him to be full of himself, conceited, and only concerned about his hero self, and of course conquering the virus. (as if)

While this story mimics some of what we have all gone through, it is the author’s way of showing us that no one is infallible, that we often are a kill or be killed species, and that perhaps we have lost our way in fear and grab onto hope even if it is a false one.

This was a hard hitting, gritty story that held fine elements of frightening tactics that this author delivers in each of her books. As you read, you will feel many similarities between the now and the maybe the future. I so enjoyed the references, shaded of course, that C.J. gave to the current “savior” (or at least in his mind) doctor in charge of it all.

Suffice to say, I continue to greatly enjoy C.J.’s books. They definitely put the fright in all who read her stories.
Thanks, once again, to C.J. Tudor, Ballantine Books, and NetGalley for a copy of this harrowing story. Keep ’em coming, C.J.

Her First Child @sherylbrowne @bookouture

It’s my turn on the blog tour for this well done story by Sheryl Browne

Two women separated by a generation, mother and daughter, come together in a clash over a young child. There’s Eve, a battered daughter both emotionally and psychologically by living in a household full of anger and trauma. Eve’s father is a beast and yet her mother never seems to protect her, to care for her, to even speak to her. She feels like she is speck of dirt in a world that has turned away from her both at school and home. There’s also Eve’s sickly baby brother, Jacob, who seems to have to tackle every illness with dire consequences.

She does have eventually one friend, Chloe, who doesn’t mind how dirty Eve is, how her clothes are in tatters, how no one else befriends her. Eve, though embarrassed, shares secrets with Chloe and this friend becomes integral to Eve’s life as they grow.

Staying together, Eve, goes on to becoming a MD, meets a marvelous man, Dominic, and marries him. They have one son, Kai, and even live next door to Chloe and her husband, Steve. It seems idealistic, with Eve being an overly solicitous mother, trying to provide everything she never had to her son.

Then her mother shows up and all “hell” breaks loose as Eve is convinced her mother is about to do to her son, what she did to Eve’s brother all those years ago.

There’s more than meets the eye in this thriller which had many wonderfully done hidden clues to the fates of the characters in this story. I went from blaming one character to another in this round about tale that was cleverly done. It’s a story about illness the real, imagined, and mental which propels the reader forward into lives woven with lies, trauma, and hate.

Thank you to Sheryl Browne, Bookouture, and NetGalley for a copy of this book due out on December 8, 2022

and here’s the author

Bestselling Author, Sheryl Browne, writes taut, twisty psychological thriller. A member of the Crime Writers’ Association, Sheryl has several books published and two short stories in Birmingham City University anthologies where she completed her MA in Creative Writing. Sheryl has also obtained a Certificate of Achievement in Forensic Science and – according to readers – she makes an excellent psychopath. Sheryl’s latest psychological thriller HER FIRST CHILD comes to you from BOOKOUTURE. Her previous works include the DI Matthew Adams Crime Thriller series, along with contemporary fiction novels, The Rest of My Life and Learning to Love.To find out more about Sheryl, go to www.sherylbrowne.com

The Soulmate @sallyhepworth @StMartinsPress @JanBelisle @absltmom

Jan’s Review

Gabe and Pippa, hoping for a fresh start to their marriage, buy a cliffside home in an idyllic seaside location. The problem? The location is known as “The Drop” a place where people commit suicide by jumping to their deaths.  

Gabe makes a name for himself as someone who can talk people down from the edge, preventing many suicides. Until one day he fails. Despite his best efforts, he is unable to save Amanda.  What Gabe doesn’t mention to the police is he knows the woman, while Pippa doesn’t mention that she is unsure of what she saw unfold before her eyes from the kitchen window.

The story is told through the alternating points of view of Pippa and Amanda, both before and after Amanda’s death. This worked quite well, as it allows a slow reveal of the facts to the reader. Secrets and lies come home to roost with devastating consequences. This is nothing new in domestic thrillers, but the author has a fresh spin on the genre. 

I also felt the author dealt with a particular condition (no spoilers!) extremely well. Through my experiences as a nurse, as well as knowing someone who suffers from it, I can say with confidence the author nailed it.

Sally Hepworth is masterful at writing books that deal with serious issues, but doing so with a light touch. I literally flew through the last 70% while on a long-haul flight and the pages nearly turned themselves.

*This was a buddy read with my friend Marialyce and one we both highly recommend.

* I received a digital copy for review from NetGalley. All opinions are my own

Marialyce’s Review

This was a super buddy read with my bestie, Jan! We both agreed there was much to like in this story.

Do we all have a soulmate, a person you are destined to love, to be with, a ying for your yang, or is this a lovely myth that romantics love to aspire to?  

Pippa has us believe that she has found her soulmate in Gabe. The couple with the two children have just moved into a dream house, but there is one huge setback and that is that is lies in close proximity to the cliffs which border the sea. The cliffs, (The Spot) also have the distinct reputation to being the perfect spot for people who wish to end their lives.

Gabe seemed to have a special ability to talk people who wished to end their days. He had become a “hero” for that special skill, but as one young woman is spied looking as if she was about to jump, Gabe is less than successful and as Pippa witnessed the supposed save she has the haunted feeling that this might not have been a save or perhaps a push.

The story emerges as we question Gabe’s soulmate status as his personality becomes clear in the telling. We meet the dead women’s husband convinced his wife would never take her own life, and shockingly revealed that Gabe knew both the husband and his now dead wife. The plot thickens indeed!

Totally engaging and intriguing as we delve into Gabe, the perfect husband, and Pippa awakens to the possibility that Gabe perhaps is not soulmate she convinced herself he was.. I very much enjoyed this story that kept me reading deep into the night.

Is there any such thing as a soulmate? You might have to decide that very question in the story.

Thanks go to Sally Hepworth, St Martin’s Press, and Netgalley for sending me this engaging story.

The Matchmaker’s Gift @lyndacloigman @StMartinsPress @absltmom


What a truly lovely story that connected two women, a grandmother, Sara, and her granddaughter, Abby. It is not only a relationship that is loving and sweet, but these two ladies share a special git, that of being matchmaker’s.

Sara, herself suffers because in her era, only devout older men were given the job of matchmaking, and while Sara hid her talent, she eventually decides because of family needs, to become a matchmaker. Sara is so very successful and writes of her matches in journals that after her death, Abby finds.

Abby herself, is a divorce attorney with a boss who is full of herself and overbearing. Abby has the gift, the same as Sara, but she keeps on pushing it back, until she starts to recognize that this gift was special, one that could and does help the clients she sees, enraging her boss. Can she fight the feeling that her career can be managed with her knowledge of the couples who come before her.

This delightful story tells the readers about the age old custom practiced by devout Jews and some other cultures of matching a man and a woman. The story switches back and forth between Sara and Abby’s struggles to be recognized as women who can and do achieve what life has given them.

It gave me a look into the practice of match making and with the stories that involved such skill made for an enjoyable read and one that provided the concept that for everyone there is a soulmate.

Thank you to Lynda Cohen Loigman, St Martin’s Press, and Netgalley for a copy of this charming story.

Daisy Darker @alicewriterland @Flatironbooks @JanBelisle @alsltmom

“Families are like fingerprints; no two are the same, and they tend to leave their mark.”

Jan’s Review

It’s Halloween night, Nana’s 80th birthday, and she summons her children and grandchildren to her house, a crumbling Victorian on a tiny remote Cornish island. Based on a fortune teller’s prediction some years ago, it may be her last.

To say Nana is eccentric would be an understatement. And the rest of the family? Let‘s just say they put the fun in dysFUNctional, if you love dysfunctional families as much as I do. Their dialogue is often hilarious and they do not hesitate to go after each other with their claws out. 

Nana reads them her will at dinner, and predictably, not everyone is happy, and the evening ends on a sour note. When the clocks (all 80 of them) strike midnight, everyone is awakened by a scream and someone is found dead. There is a poem on the chalkboard in the kitchen that predicts each guest’s demise and explains why they deserve to die.

Each hour on the hour, someone else is found dead. There are other strange elements at play but I won’t ruin the fun. With a nod to Agatha Christie’s AND THEN THERE WERE NONE, this was a fresh new take on a locked door mystery, one that is oozing with atmosphere and menace.

This was truly unputdownable. It;’s often difficult to pinpoint why you fall in love with some books and not others, but this one had everything…Daisy, the narrator, who literally has a “broken heart”, the family secrets, the writing, the creepy old house, eccentric characters, the menace of the tide coming in to trap the occupants in the house for hours, the deaths every hour, the alternating timeline between the past and present….and all on Halloween night.

And that ending! The potential suspects are naturally limited and it was fun for Marialyce, my reading buddy, and I to speculate. But there were still a couple of surprises that blew us away. In the hands of a lesser author, I might have rolled my eyes but I found it clever and brilliant! The bread crumbs were there, but I missed them.

Stephanie Racine narrated the audiobook and her narration was phenomenal. I had both the print and audio versions, and I found I preferred the audio.   I highly recommend listening to this one as she delivered a top-notch performance which made the book even more eerie.

Marialyce’s Review

Loved it!

Clever, innovative, and a definite page turner!

I love a story that keeps me guessing right up to the very end and then turns the tables on a very unexpected ending.

The story of Daisy Darker and her family is one of unhappiness, rivalry, and a method for making all of its members miserable and filled with jealousy and possible revenge. The one shining time in their lives, seems to be their summer stays with Nana, a successful author of the notoriously famous The Secret of Daisy Darker, a children’s book. Nana is wealthy due mostly to its success, and invites her family once again to her home on an island in her falling down home, filled with memories.

Daisy has two older sisters, divorced parents, and she, poor thing, had been diagnosed with a heart problem that seemed to condemn her to a shortened life. Daisy seemed to be always sheltered and pushed into the background of an active life as she watched her sisters grow and have the fun of life. (although it often seemed an awkward life). Of course there was a young man who added that component that made the girls somewhat competitive and of course jealous of who delivered attention to him and he to them.

When they all meet for Nana’s eightieth birthday, things are tense as they come together somewhat unwillingly, and then the fireworks start, eventually finishing up with a death. (boom!) Then following in the tradition of Agatha’s Christie’s, And Then There Were none, one by one the family begins to get smaller and smaller.

For Jan and I this made for an exciting game of “Who dunnit”, guessing the who of the dunnit. Alice Freely managed to surprise us and offer up a wonderfully satisfying solution to the who and Jan and I had no idea were blown away. It was a thoroughly enjoyable time spent in the company of Daisy and her family. Kudos to Ms Freely for making our duo anxiously awaiting her idea of the murderer, and eliciting shock and awe from this eager team.

“This is where the story ends,
Of fractured families and forgotten friends,
And people too blind to make amends.”