The Facemaker: A Visionary Surgeon’s Battle to Mend the Disfigured Soldiers of World War I @drlindseyfitz #allenlane


This was an amazing story about a plastic surgeon, a pioneer to this field, named Harold Gillies. The amazing things he was able to accomplish giving many young men their faces back after the devastating wounds they received to their face on the battlefield during World War 1 was awe inspiring.

This was not an easy book to read as Lindsey Fitzharris brought into the story details of battles and the horrible wounds the men suffered. In her telling, she made the battle scenes, the operations, the novel approaches come alive. It was a story of innovation, a story of venturing into an unknown region, a story of the brave men and a doctor who gave them hope.

Gilles was an amazing man, not only as a doctor, but also as a man who believed in the men he treated and strived to be able to remove them from the “monster” image so many had. It was a horror that Gillies and others were able to remove from these boys so that they were able to lead normal lives and not be shunned in a public forum.

Without men like Dr Gillies, the art of plastic surgery would not have progressed so far and be what it is today. The courage, the belief in one’s fellow man, and the ultimate work of Gillies and his team made life bearable and wonderful for so many boys who gave so much for their country during the war.

Fascinating story and thanks to Lindsey Fitzharris, Allen Lane, and NetGaley for a copy of this story.

The Last Orphan @GreggHurwitz @MinotaurBooks, @absltmom


Orphan lovers gear up for Evan is back with more spine crunching thrills and chills. Evan is once again a man on the government’s list and is to be found and detained as quickly as they can. Of course, the government has a reason for their once again interest in Orphan X.

When he is captured, the president offers him a deal, and that is to eliminate a powerful ultra wealthy man and the action and Even moves to the very rich sands of Southampton, New York. Evan through his wills and of course with a little help from his friends (hi Joey, Dog, and Orphan V), get into the high tech ultra guarded mansion and meets this man who becomes his nemesis. On the way there are a few scuffles with henchmen of course! Orphan X’s mantra of doing no harm, unless a person deserves punishment, is put to the test in this one.

In this installment, Even starts to view himself as growing older and perhaps not the killing machine he once was. We also see his growing attachment for Joey and hers for him. They try to hide it but they are starting to feel hope that a loving relationship is developing. I want to see where Mr Hurwitz takes us next on this perilous journey with Evan Smoek.

Thanks Gregg Hurwitz, always excited to read a new Orphan book, and NetGalley for an advanced copy of this exciting story due out in February of 2023.

The Measure @nikkierlick @WmMorrowBooks @JanBelisle @absltmom

“The measure of your life lies within.”

Jan’s review

” It Is Not The Years In Your Life That Count, It Is The Life In Your Years.”

Would you want to know how many years you had left before you die?

Everyone worldwide over the age of 22 receives a  box with a string that indicates how many years they have left. Who sent them? How? Why? This borders on sci-fi, but the focus is not on the how or why but on a group of people and how this knowledge affects their lives. Maybe it’s the nurse in me but I felt their pain and sympathized with their untenable situation. 

If you knew you had little time left would you make different choices? Would you hire or promote a short stringer? Would you elect a short stringer to office? Imagine if Abraham Lincoln lost the election due to his short string status. What about all the greats of history and the arts whose lives were short but impactful? Would they have left an impact if they were discriminated against for being a short-stringer? 

Would you marry a short stringer? Date one? Have children?  Do you open your box or would you rather not know? If you open your box do you tell your loved ones?

What about discrimination, not just in the workplace or your private lives, but with insurance companies? What if a short stringer is diagnosed with cancer? Arrives in the ER after an accident? Should resources be used to treat them? What about soldiers serving in the military? 

Inevitably, some people deal with their new knowledge honorably, while others go off the deep end. Discrimination rears it’s ugly head. Relationships change.  How do you manage life’s risks if you know your string status? 

How do people react to the  knowledge of their status? Elation at seeing a long string vs despair with a short one? What if you are a long stringer but your spouse is a short stringer? This knowledge has the ability to bring out the worst in people, and the best. 

This sounds as if it could be a depressing read, but it is not. The tone is hopeful. In the end, I found this poignant story touched on all my emotions. I was invested in the lives of these characters as I cheered on their successes and mourned their losses. It made me laugh, and it made me cry. 

I read a lot and while I enjoy many, in the end they are forgettable. This is not one of those books. It is a creative and thought-provoking debut that will be on my 2022 favorites. It would make an excellent book club selection. 

Who among us knows how long we have? Would I open my box? No. Shouldn’t we all make the most of every moment of this precious life, regardless of how many years we have? Perhaps we should all contemplate our own mortality and live every day as if our string was short. 

  • The Audiobook was narrated by Julia Whelan who did an excellent job, as always.
  • this was a buddy read with my friend Marialyce.

Marialyce’s Review

“Aren’t there just some things in this world that can’t be explained by facts or science?”

Wow! What a story!

Powerful, moving, reality, and one of the best books I have read this year.

In The Measure by the talented new author, Nikki Erlick, one encounters eight people on life’s journey. Like the rest of the world they have received a box that contains a string that can’t be destroyed, for it is the length that your life will last and these particular people have to live with a destiny they already know.

Of course, we know that not a one of us escapes death, quite a sobering thought indeed, but the when stays hidden, mostly in fear of what’s to come. How these eight handle the knowledge of the end, is the gist of the story told with compassion and empathy. There is a plethora of emotions, feeling, and reality, that one can’t help being drawn into the story as we too, may not have a box with a string but in reality, we do.

One can’t help but reflect on whether they would open the box containing either a long or short future. It’s like that question of would you want to know the day of your death? Would your life change because of that awareness and would, as the author postulates, that we might live a better life, one lacking hatred, being linked into groups that are detested in the news and other social media outlets. Look around us now are we not living what this book puts forth? Are we appreciative of just being alive, of having family and friend, of a beautiful day opening before us, or are we being taught to live in fear, afraid of color, race, creed, of belief in a governing system that right now seems inept and unable to see good?

This author so mimics our lives and our world that the book touches us in a way that others do not. It enjoins us to practice human emotions like empathy, joy, and happiness and eliminate those who try to place us in states of anxiety and fear.

I can’t begin to explain the impact this story had on this reader and am surprised it hasn’t shot up into best seller status. The Measure is our lives, it is where we are, it is how we can change our view of our world while embracing the good within us. Definitely recommend this stellar book from a first time author.

Jan and I were blown away with this powerful insightful look into how we live our lives. This is truly us, creatures who need to enjoy their time on earth and be grateful for that time every day.

“That the beginning and the end may have been chosen for us, the string already spun, but the middle had always been left undetermined, to be woven and shaped by us.”

Upgrade @blakecrouch1 #ballantine books @JanBelisle @absltmom

“What do you call a heart that is simultaneously full and breaking? Maybe there’s no word for it, but for some reason, it makes me think of rain falling through sunlight.”

Jan’s review

The time is in the not-too-distant, somewhat dystopian future where gene technology has been developed to the point where nearly anything is possible. Logan Ramsay, an agent with the Gene Protection Agency (GPA), works diligently to prevent illegal gene technology from being used for nefarious purposes. He’s rather average, working his job, a family man who deeply loves his wife and daughter who attempts to keep his head down low due to a tragedy in his past. During a raid on an illegal lab his genome is hacked, infected with a virus that results in an “upgrade” that results in mental and physical enhancements.  

At first glance this sounds great, right? Who among us couldn’t use a bit of an upgrade? I know my memory could use one. But be careful of what you wish for. What happens to the essence of what it is to be human? 

I won’t give away any more details of the plot, as it’s such fun to discover for yourself. But there are reasons that Logan has been chosen for the upgrade, and the repercussions have far-reaching consequences. Those who think the way to save humanity by upgrading all humans, will be pitted against those who think you can’t save humanity by destroying humanity. Logan is an easy character to root for as you watch him make difficult and personally devastating choices. 

There is a heavy dose of science, which readers will either find fascinating or will gloss over. Whichever you choose to do doesn’t matter as this is as much a crime thriller as it is sci-fi, and is enjoyable either way.  I can’t say if the science is accurate, but it certainly made for a thrilling, suspenseful tale. The author takes familiar themes rooted in reality and gives them his own fresh twist. But the science and philosophical questions never overwhelm good storytelling.

I loved Dark Matter, and with this book, I’m officially a super-fan of the author’s. This was a buddy read with Marialyce, and one we both highly recommended! Do check out her review.

* I received a digital review copy via NetGalley, all opinions are my own.

* I also listened to the audio and Henry Levya did an excellent job narrating

Marialyce’s review

Imagine yourself being better? You are smarter, faster, needing less sleep, a very powerful machine. Is this the way the human race will eventually be, or are we doomed and the homo sapiens species will go out of existence in time.

This is the dilemma presented to us in Blake Crouch’s book, The Upgrade. Our main character, Logan Ramsey, the son of a well-known scientist mother, finds himself a person who has been upgraded. Surely his dead mother, the vile perpetrator of a virus that devastated the earth, can’t be behind this new state of humans and yet?

As is everything, untested well by scientists, anxious to permeate their findings. this new state of humans can also be detrimental to many. His sister becomes involved as she too, is a victim of an upgrade and she sees nothing but benefits coming from this. However, Logan carries a much divergent view and sees this as dangerous, ominous, and threatening. It arrives at a point where upgraded brother versus upgraded sister in the battle for all humanity to survive.

Filled with action, the edge of your seat kind, Logan strives to bring about the destruction of the upgrade genome change. Bereft of his family, because he fears for their survival, Logan takes on many as he finds those he trusted might not be the ones he needs now.

Thoroughly enjoyable with lots of salient points especially about our human’s capacity to feel empathy, I so enjoyed this story and thought its relevance in today’s world spot on.Thank you to Blake Crouch, and NetGalley for bringing this book to me. It published in July.

Jan and I so enjoyed this book and felt we spent our worthwhile reading time spending hours with this story.

A Town Called Solace #marylawson @knopfCA @JanBelisle @absltmom

Jan’s Review

In small town Solace, Ontario, in the 1970’s, eight-year-old Clara keeps a daily vigil at the window as she awaits her missing sister Rose’s return. Her neighbor, Mrs. Orchard (Elizabeth) is in the hospital and Clara’s job is to take care of her cat, Moses. Her suspicions are on high alert when she sees a man move into Elizabeth’s home.

Told through three points of view, I listened to this on audio and was moved by the excellent performances by the three narrators. As Elizabeth lays in her hospital bed, she sifts through her memories, “talking” to her dead husband Charles about their life together and the little neighbor boy, Liam, who had a difficult home life, and was once such an important part of her life. She hints at a devastating event from the past, one she feels she must atone for before she dies.

Clara’s spunk and curiosity was delightful, and even though her worries are more than she should bear at such a young age, she provides much needed lightness and humor to the story. The relationship she strikes up with Liam as she continues to care for Moses, was endearing. In the background, always, is the mystery of Rose’s disappearance.

Liam is now 36, newly divorced, and had just quit his accountant job in the big city. He’s unhappy, unmoored, and at a crossroads in his life when he arrives in Solace to live in the house Elizabeth left him. As he was so very young when he lived across the street from Elizabeth, he has little memory of her and is unsure why she left him her house. I loved watching his transformation as he embeds himself in the life of the town.

I did want a bit more, which I suppose is better than wanting less. I wanted to hear from Liam’s mother, even if it had just been one chapter, and I wanted to know more about Rose. But those are minor complaints. The author beautifully captures small town life and the characters who inhabit the town. This is a quiet, lovely, and poignant look at lives that eventually intertwine in unexpected ways. Beautifully told, this is a deceptively simple story of flawed people (aren’t we all?) who live with regrets, and have known grief, but also joy. Solace is not just a town in Ontario, it’s what we can offer one another if we open our hearts. Highly recommended, this is a story that will touch your heart.

Marialyce’s Review

Offering solace… many places or people offer you solace. Maybe it’s a walk in the woods, a day at the beach, or just sitting in your yard listening to the sounds of life. Perhaps it is a person who makes you feel whole, a person who makes you feel relaxed and make the trials of today leave you for just a bit of time.

There is not much solace in a family living in the town of Solace. Their oldest daughter, Rose has gone missing and everyone is fearful and her younger sister, Clara, keeps a watchful eye for her return. Then in moves Liam Kane into the house next door. Liam is a quiet man, unemployed, sort of shiftless, and Clara’s senses are on high alert. This house belongs to Clara’s great elderly friend, Mrs. Orchard, and Clara has agreed to take care of her cat, Moses. Mrs. Orchard is in the hospital so Clara is very attuned to what is going on next door.

As the story progresses, we learn more about Liam and Mrs. Orchard and a former loving relationship they once had.(although Liam doesn’t remember) It is a tender story as Mrs. Orchard destined to remain childless forms a parental type relationship with Liam. She is so drawn to him, a little boy who seems to not be able to find his way in a house full of sisters and a mother at the end of her rope. When Mrs. Orchard makes a snap decision about Liam; their lives will change and the solace they found in one another will end.

Clara is the joining thread that keeps the modern-day story going as she tries to form a friendship with Liam and pray for the return of her sister. Clara does find solace in Liam’s company and he is hers, and yet he is a drifter and his footing is always shaky.

How Liam comes to stay in Mrs. Orchard’s house forms a tender link in the tale. The one drawback I found in the telling was that there was so much untold. It’s always hard to determine a point of view from characters (Liam’s mother for example who doesn’t contribute her feelings). All in all, though, the writing in lovely portraying that love comes in various forms and can wrap you in a veil of happiness, of contentment and yes, solace as well. Life can and does go on in a circular manner often leading one to a starting place to a road walked into adulthood.

Jan and I enjoyed this story which we listened to. The audio book was done so well it made the listening journey a pleasure and delight. Definitely recommend this book for a trip down a lane many of us have traveled.

Unmasked: My Life Solving America’s Cold Cases @PaulHoles @CeladonBooks @JanBelisle @absltmom

Jan’s Review

True crime is having a moment, but I’ve been a true crime fan since my teenage years. My interest is not in rubbernecking or a voyeuristic desire to peek into other people’s misery. I don’t think it is for anyone who works in the field, or for those who read about it. It’s driven by empathy for the victims, a desire for justice, and how that justice came about. It’s delving into the psychology of a person who is far removed from what we think of as being human, and the investigative techniques used in solving the mystery. This book delivers all that and more.

Many people live with the pain and horror of not only losing a loved one to murder, but of knowing the killer is still out there. Cases grow cold, and law enforcement agencies are overwhelmed. Luckily, there are people like Paul Holes who never give up.

Many of us know Paul Holes as the investigator who was instrumental in catching the elusive Golden State killer (GSK), AKA ‘Night Stalker’ and ‘East Area Rapist (EAR)’, the monster who raped, terrorized, and murdered throughout the state of California between 1974 and 1986.  Paul also worked with Michelle McNamara, who wrote the book, I’ll Be Gone in the Dark (also excellent). It took more than 20 years, but just days from his retirement, the monster was caught using DNA technology. It was fascinating to read how it all came together. Despite having read McNamara’s book and watching the documentary I learned new things.

Paul’s career and successes reach far beyond the most well-known cases, bringing some measure of peace and resolution to many families. He obtained a college degree in biochemistry and began his career in a crime lab, but ultimately his career path led him to work on the investigative side of things. He blew the dust off of old case files and worked to solve them, often in his free time.  The EAR (GSK) in particular became an obsession. His talent, keen insight, and background in science was invaluable.

This well-written book is part true-crime, and part memoir. Paul details some of the cases he has worked on. No one LIKES to read grisly details of crimes, knowing they were real people who lived and whose lives were cut short, but I did like hearing how he and the other investigators work a case, the methods they use, as well as the science behind it, both behavioral and hard science. Paul details how DNA is a game changer and, from his explanations, it is clearly not as simple as it sounds, or as clear cut as it is depicted on TV. Paul makes a complicated subject easy to understand.

Paul doesn’t shy away from the toll his career has taken on his mental health and his relationships. To cope, he exercises, spends time outdoors, and enjoys an occasional bourbon. Still, he suffers from nightmares and the occasional panic attack. He lifts the veil and tells it like it is. The job is not as romanticized as we see on TV. It is not easy to immerse oneself daily into depravity, but we, as a society, owe him and others in the field a debt of gratitude for their dogged determination to let no case go unsolved, and no murderer go unpunished.

The most touching moment in the book was when a woman who was a victim of the GSK called Paul to ask if the news of his arrest was true. She cried tears of relief after spending 40 years living in terror that he would come back for her. It must be moments like these that make it all worthwhile.

Paul retired in 2018, but as he is still a relatively young man, he continues to use his investigative skills throughout the country, and he co-hosts the excellent podcast, The Murder Squad, with Billy Jensen, an investigative reporter.  His goal continues to be solving cold cases, not exploiting victims. One of the things I admire the most about Paul Holes, is the utmost respect and empathy he has for victims and their loved ones.

* Published 4/26/2022 by Celedon books
* this was buddy read with Marialyce and Dorie. Do check out their reviews!
* I received a digital copy for review vis NetGalley. All opinions are my own.

Marialyce’s Review

Many thanks to Celadon Books for sending me an advanced copy of this story.

Obsession is considered a word that has many bad connotations, and yet many people carry out behavior that is obsessive. For Paul Holes finding cold case murderers is his obsession. It takes over everything in his life, his marriage, his children, his very soul. And yet, he can’t stop searching, researching and giving families some closure and perhaps peace. It is through this obsession that Paul Holes exists and determines the fate of his life.

He is haunted by the images he has seen and yet he is able to place them into compartments in his mind and ever endeavors to find the Golden Gate Killer, a vile man who proceeds from raping, terrorizing and tying up his victims to murder. Paul spent twenty years of his life searching for this predator. He became well known not only for finding GGK, but also for solving the case of Laci Petersen Jaycee Dugard, and the Pittsburgh killers. He has spent a lifetime chasing evil and because of his utter commitment has lost many of the delights of family and friends. However, Paul is a man on a mission to right the wrongs of men who take a sadistic, psychopathic road to destruction. Paul is often sought out for his expertise in this field and has become a person to go to when many are stumped by the rigors of a case. Using the more modern techniques of DNA, he is dogged in his pursuit leaving no stone unturned, no clue unnoticed.

This is a terrifying book, one that some will find hard to read, but without the determination and the strength of Paul Holes, these killers would have lived free in a world they had taken from their victims. It certainly was not a pleasant life, but as Paul’s obsession grew, he lost what is part of being happy, a home, a family, and perhaps pieces of his own life. This story is often gruesome, but then again, the manner in which lives were taken as they were, fills the reader with shock and horror. If not for Paul staying on target and getting the job done, the peace he gave the families was something they might never have had without him.

The book moves at an incredible pace, not a moment do you feel bored or anxious for the book to end. It is an incredible tribute not only to Paul but also to the men and women of law enforcement who endeavored to keep us safe from the predators that walk among us. I know that Paul is courageous with a tenacity that few have experienced, and I am grateful to him and others that endanger themselves in order to ferret out the truth.

Throughout my reading, I often wondered what about the victims who survived, the families confronted with the heinous way in which their loved ones perished? Would they ever be able to move ahead, putting one foot in front of another, feel happiness? My hope is that with Paul’s work, these folks were able to grab at a slice of peace and contented that these monsters had been caught and will never see beyond the bars of prison.

Definitely recommend this book to those who like an excellent nonfiction that will keep you wondering the why and how of human deviant psyche. The writing was tight, full of empathy, and kept me interested from page one to the end.

This was a book read by Dorie, Jan, and I and we had our reactions to the catastrophe and harm, misery and suffering that was inflicted by these monsters.
This book will be published on April 26, 2022. Don’t miss it if you love true crime stories.
Joseph James DeAngelo
Laci and Scott Peterson
Jacycee Dugard held for 18 years

Laptop from Hell: Hunter Biden, Big Tech, and the Dirty Secrets the President Tried to Hide @mirandadevine @PostHillPress @absltmom

exaggerations, and outright lies about his accomplishments. He lied about nonexistent academic awards and scholarships. He plagiarized speeches willy-nilly, and in one infamous case, appropriated the personal life story of British Labour Party leader Neil Kinnock, pretending that he, too, was descended from coal miners and was the first in his family to get a college degree “in a thousand generations.”

My review

****Caution​​​ This book contains much sexual content, drug use, smoking, and​ language that will offend many.

I am so many emotions rolling through me after reading The Laptop From Hell. It is truly a revelation as to how dirty, devious, callous, and pernicious politics and politicians are. There is no doubt and believe me there has been for some time no doubt that we are on our own in this country. If we are looking for politicians or the government to save us, we are walking along with this laptop’s revelation to hell.

I did feel sorrow for Hunter Biden, as he always seemed to be striving for his father’s attention. There is no doubt that Hunter, a man gifted with good looks and a last name that opened doors to various and nefarious operations (with a nod from his famous father and uncle) used it to the full extent. For money making, with not a thought to its legality was the name of the game, and Hunter salivated with greed. Hunter was a drug addict and a sex addict. His behavior was governed by the need to control and he sold himself and his father to the highest bidder. Referred to as “The Big Guy” in many instances, there certainly leaves little doubt as to the big guy’s identity. The drugs, the call girls, the thousands of dollars spent in the best and fanciest hotels around the world where he partied, smoked crack, and videotaped himself having sex. He had a revolving door policy with rehabilitation facilities that cost a small fortune each time.

His name is associated with debauchery, and when he left his wife for the arms of his sister-in-law, who he also videoed having sex with him, he had fallen through the gates of hell. Hunter lacked any kind of code but he was smart and could sniff a deal that would benefit himself and his family. (If one remembers his sister-in-law had lost Biden’s son Beau to cancer.) Avarice ran through this family and no amount of money seemed to be ample for them.

It’s a lifestyle few of us would aspire to, one where supposedly family is important especially when it can garner more and more. Take and take and take some more was the motto.

Of course, all of this, the finding of the things on this laptop was pretty much concealed from the American people. Hunter had left the laptop to be repaired and after numerous phone calls that were unanswered and an unpaid bill, the laptop belonged to the owner of the repair shop. When he found the contents, after thinking about it, he alerted the FBI. The poor man after it was revealed he was in possession of this incriminating device was threatened with death, and had to close up shop and leave town.

So why weren’t the American people made aware of this? Well, it was election time and the excuses rolled out as to what it was with a Russian conspiracy plot leading the pact. Both Facebook and Twitter shut down any discussion of its contents and the only news medium that seemed to be on it was the Post. So, in essence, once again, we were kept in the dark and not allowed to know about what it contained. Some maintained this was an act of election interference.

Would it have changed the face of the election? Perhaps, but ultimately, the lies told to us by the man we chose to lead us, certainly brought on many feelings of anger, disappointment, and sadness in this reader. Power, money, prestige, and privilege led to avarice and greed on a scale one could hardly believe.

The ultimate saddest thing is we have been let down by a man we put our faith and trust in. It is often said that politics is a dirty business. This was beyond dirty this was filthy politics.

Ocean State #stewartonan @dreamscapemedia@absltmom

When I was in eight grade my sister helped kill another girl. She was in love, my mother said, like it was an excuse. She didn’t know what she was doing… I didn’t know what my mother meant, but I do now.

My review

One has to know the mind of a teen in order to have written this story. The people within the pages are those that explore relationships, those of mothers and daughters, those of sisters, those of friends, and tragically those that involve love and its lack of relationships that provides the continuum of this tale.

At the beginning, we learn of a young teenager being murdered, and as the story progresses, we learn of the circumstances, the background of the families, and the area in which they live. It is a story of rich versus poor, the have versus the have nots, jealousy and the repercussions of what can and does happen when that tug between the emotions boils up under the surface and comes to fruition.

The story is mainly about four girls. We learn early that Angel is the murderer, Carol is Angel’s mother, and Birdy the murdered victim. Marie is the youngest of Angel’s sister and from her we get a retrospective on the before and after effects of this murder. Carol is divorced and we don’t hear much of her former husband although he is present after the homicide.

Both Birdy and Angel love the same boy, Myles and while Myles encourages both girls, the intensity of their jealousy and eventually hatred of one another build up to the point of the murder of Birdy and Angel being arrested. If you know the psyche of teenage girls, you recognize the seizing desire and turmoil rolling over the girls.

This is also a story about the search for love, for acceptance, for the ability of knowing when someone is being used. Will the young Birdy be held responsible, and the social communications that may be the final stone in Angel’s grave be the key to Birdy’s obsession? We all remember those emotions that as teens we were ill equipped to control. The lack of parental oversight often lends to problems and exacerbates it.

This was certainly an intense story that flows together to a momentous conclusion in which it seems as if no one wins.

Thank you to Stewart O’Nan, Dreamscape Media, and NetGalley for the audio book of this story due out on March 15, 2022

The Night Shift #alexfinlay @MinotarBooks@JanBelisle @absltmom #dorieschultz

“The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places.”

Jan’s review

Two crimes, fifteen years apart. 

NYE, 1999, with fears of Y2K looming, there’s a gruesome murder of  4 teenage employees  at a Blockbuster Video store, along with the manager. There is one lone survivor. A suspect is identified, but he is released and never seen again.

15 years later, another mass killing, this time at an ice cream parlor. Four teens are dead, and once again there is a lone survivor.

In both murders, the killer whispers: “Goodnight, pretty girl.” Hardly a coincidence. 

The story is told from 3 POV: Public defender Chris, the brother of the original suspect, Ella, the survivor of the Blockbuster tragedy who is now a therapist, and Sarah Keller, the FBI agent who is investigating the cases.

How these characters intersect with one another makes for a fast-paced story, one where the pages practically turned themselves. The short chapters helped build momentum and the story line hooked me immediately.  The murders happen off the page, so sensitive readers need not worry.

Be aware this is one where it’s best  to not question things too deeply and just go along for the wild ride. I got a little lost a few times, but the author expertly wove the different threads together in a compelling way. Even if you guess the culprit, as my reading buddy Marialyce did, there are still surprises in store. There were coincidences to accept, a few threads left unanswered and the ending was OTT. Yet, we both thoroughly enjoyed it!

I’m not sure why the author chose to make agent Keller 8 ½ months pregnant – with twins. Nurse Jan turned a skeptical eye, not buying it. While it’s possible to carry twins to 40 weeks, it’s rare, and the mother-to-be can barely walk across the room, let alone perform the badass feats Sarah Keller did.  But she’s such a likable character, along with her Husband of the Year, Bob, that I overlooked it

Anyone who follows my reviews knows I have a low tolerance for implausibility, so the fact that I enjoyed this one is a compliment to the author.  It was a fun ride and I was entertained from the first page to the last.  I had both the e-book and the audio, and ended up preferring the audio. The narration was perfect and I raced through it in 24 hrs. I can’t wait to see what this author does next.

Marialyce’s review

Totally worth the read!

“All these years, he was a monster in plain sight”

This was at totally enjoyable thriller and one that had me turning the pages quickly seeing if I could figure out who was the killer. It was propulsive and the short chapters made it more so.

A terrible occurrence in Linden New Jersey, in 1999, begins our story and the author takes us into the killings of young girls working in a Blockbuster store. There was one survivor and with the suspect on the run, we have no conclusion to this heinous killing of three young girls.

We jump to the present, fifteen years from the original killings. This time the murders take place in an ice cream store, with once again a lone survivor. The parallels are undeniable and the non-apprehended suspect of the first murders is once again a suspect as a repeat killer.

The author introduces the characters of the past as well as the intermingling of the characters of an FBI agent, the brother of the suspect, and the girl who survived the current murders. This was a very clever technique of joining the old with the new and created a wonderful game of clue that kept on changing the players.

There is a lot going on as the reader’s eyes are focused on one person after another. Along with that, there is the meetings of the families, the people who lost children, the father of the suspect, and the lives that were tragically upended because of the craze of the killer.

I enjoyed this story read with my friend, Jan. We were looking for a well-done thriller and in this story our hopes were recognized. Definitely one I recommend and am glad Alex Finlay has written another book that maintained my interest from start to finish.

Thank you to Alex Findlay, Minotaur Books and NetGalley for this riveting story, published on March 1, 2022

And as a guest reviewer, here is Dorie’s review:

Dorie’s review

I think I feel a bit differently about this book than some other reviews that I’ve read. For me I felt as though the first half of the book was much more slowly paced than his last novel. In Every Last Fear, the beginning started with a bang and just kept building. For me, this one was a bit of a slower start.

Mr. Finlay’s strengths are many; I love the time and place where this novel was set. The beginning brings a sense of deja vu for anyone old enough to remember the fear of Y2K and how the world was going to literally shut down, computers wouldn’t know how to update, etc etc. It really was quite a fierce buildup TO AN ABSOLUTELY NON-EVENT!!!!

The author is very clever at bringing in twists at a consistent pace while saving the most surprises for later in the book. His writing is excellent and there was no problem with the two timelines, I thought they were clearly defined and easy to separate.

I loved that he chose some really intelligent, hard working and industrious women to advance the plot and be involved in the investigation. HIS CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT IS VERY GOOD!!

BRIEF HIGHLIGHT OF THE PLOT: In 1999, New Year’s Eve, there is a murder in Linden, New Jersey, a town not used to a lot of violence. Four teenagers were brutally attacked at the local Blockbuster Video, only one survived.

Now about 15 years later, there is another tragic murder. Same town, this time at the Dairy Creamery. Teenagers are brutally murdered with again a lone survivor. This one also took place during THE NIGHT SHIFT!!

Because the crimes are very similar, both involved teenagers in the same town, there seems there must be a connection right? Why this town? Why always teenagers? Why now, 15 years later??

The novel is told from two perspectives. FBI agent Keller and public defender Chris. They will investigate the possible connection and of course, try to find out WHO THE KILLER, OR KILLERS ARE!!!!!!

Vince Whittaker was arrested for the Blockbuster murder but set free on bail, never to be seen again!!

In the present Jesse Duvall is the survivor of the ice cream parlor massacre. She won’t talk to the police. She requests someone that has gone through a similar experience. She wants to speak to Ella, a therapist now, who was the survivor of the Blockbuster attack.

The second half of the book was more enjoyable and exciting for me. I felt that the pace picked up, I got to know the characters better and things started to come together.

In this novel there are some unanswered questions and coincidences that were a little hard to believe. I also had a hard time picturing Agent Keller, 8 ½ months pregnant with twins doing some of the things that she did!!

All in all this was a great thriller, well written that I can definitely recommend and I look forward to Mr. Finlay’s next novel!!

I received an ARC of this novel from the publisher through Edelweiss. It was a pleasure to read and review this title.

Mala’s Cat: A Memoir of Survival in World War II #malakacenberg @pegasusbooks @absltmom

My review

Mala Szorer had a wonderful family whom she loved and cherished. However, the dark clouds of war were coming to Tarnogrod, a small village in Poland. Mala and her family were Jewish and as the Nazis began to infiltrate the area, her town was turned into a ghetto. Brave Mala would slip out of the ghetto to find food for the people, removing her yellow star, knowing full well what this meant should she be questioned. One day while outside the ghetto, she sees the Nazi rounding up the ghetto, and also receives a letter from her sister warning her not to return to the village. As poor Mala witnesses this horrific event, this longs to be with her beloved family, but holds back. Is it possible that Elohim had other divine plans for her?

Mala escapes to the forest where she hides and is accompanied by a stray cat, named Malah, who stays with Mala on her perilous journey through the Nazis and townspeople who were also against the Jews. Malah becomes a wonderful companion to Mala and provides moments of solace when she most needs it. Many times, it seems like Malah would appear when danger was near almost as if she was a talisman for Mala. Knowing her family had all been exterminated, Mala goes forward aided by an amazing amount of courage, much intelligence and sense, and the ability to pass as a Christian. She was constantly on the run, constantly on guard to what she said, who she might befriend her, and the daily dangers of finding food and places where she might attain a night’s rest.

For six years, Mala kept on against all the evil and adversity one could possibly think. This is a true memoir that reflects what a spirit and a true belief in the almighty makes one capable of survival of a hellish nature. It’s amazing that this young girl only about thirteen when this started managed to be alive. Mala learned to rely on herself and of course the instinctual Malah. She is an example to all that although times may be horrendous, the human spirit is strong and life can and does go on.

At the end of these travails, Mala does connect with some relatives, but of course they never made up for the loss of her parents and siblings. Mala eventually winds up in London and does meets a young man who she eventually marries. She and her husband had five children. Strangely, at the time of her marriage, Malah mysteriously disappears and Mala would never see her again. Malah was indeed a guardian angel who was her guide and her divine shield.

O Lord, God, Master of the Universe, Thou by whose will and intelligence this universe was created, heed Thou my earnest prayer. It seemed that the Lord God did indeed hear Mala’s prayer.

My first audiobook was a winner. It was narrated by Kristin Atherton who did a wonderful job.