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Posts Tagged ‘secrets’

THE HALF SISTER by Sandie Jones

Picture opening your front door one day and being confronted by a stranger who tells you an incredible story.  She says her name is Jess, she’s arrived to talk to your father, not knowing that he has died, and that she’s his daughter, your sister.  Can you imagine your response?  That’s the premise of Sandi Jones’ mystery, The Half Sister.

Lauren and Kate are sisters, but they have grown apart over the years.  Lauren is married, with three children, and now she is home on maternity leave from her job as a nurse.  Kate, also married, is a journalist who has made her name interviewing celebrities around the world.

What neither woman will outwardly acknowledge is that she is jealous of the other–Lauren, for what she views as Kate’s glamorous lifestyle; Kate, for Lauren’s ability to become pregnant three times while Kate has been unsuccessfully trying for several years.

Even before Jess arrives on the scene, there is tension in the family.  Harry, the father, was the glue that held the family together, and since his death there is no one to smooth things over.  Kate, the younger daughter, feels it most keenly as she and her father had a special bond, and she is furious at the thought that Lauren believes that Jess is their half-sister.  But then Lauren tells Kate and their mother the whole story, that in an effort to bring the family closer together, she went on an ancestry website and submitted her DNA.  It turns out that Jess did the same, and their DNAs are a match.

Of course, having a half-sister is not the only secret that Jess’ arrival has uncovered.  We learn the reason why Lauren’s bond with their late father is not as strong as Kate’s and why she is much more willing to accept Jess as part of their family.  A life-changing event in Lauren’s past led to the rupture, but now when she views what happened to her as a teenager through an adult lens, she emerges with a different perspective.  And Rose, Kate and Lauren’s mother, is distraught that this unknown young woman has seen fit to come into their lives and destroy the memory of her late husband.

An interesting point about the book’s title is that the half part of it can also be seen as referring to the life of this family–that only half of their lives was true, the other half being a tangle of lies and misrepresentations.  Of course, as all mystery readers know, once a lie or secret starts to unravel there’s no stopping it.

Sandie Jones has written a mystery with truly believable characters and a plot that will have you breathless until, literally, the book’s last page.

You can read more about the author at this website.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Mystery Reads at her website.  In addition to book review posts, there are sections featuring Golden Oldies, Past Masters and Mistresses, and an About Marilyn column that features her opinions about everything to do with mystery novels.

THE STRANGER by Harlan Coben: Book Review

Harlan Coben has done it again, writing a mystery that will grab you from the first line and not let you go.  “The stranger didn’t shatter Adam’s world all at once”–how’s that for an attention grabber?

Adam Price is a successful lawyer in a wealthy New Jersey suburb, a place where, to quote Garrison Keillor, “all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average.”  Adam is having a drink with friends when a stranger comes up to him and says, “You don’t have to stay with her,” and with those seven words Adam’s life as he has known it comes to an end.

The stranger tells Adam that his wife, the mother of his two sons, faked a pregnant test two years ago.  When Adam protests, the man tells him to check his Visa bill; there he’ll find the “fake a pregnancy” website that Corinne used.  Corinne is away for the day at a teachers’ conference so, after fighting the urge, Adam goes online to check out the stranger’s information.  And, sure enough, he finds the proof that his wife created a fictitious pregnancy and then “had a miscarriage.”  But why would she do that?

Heidi Dann is getting into her car after a luncheon with friends when she hears a whisper in her ear, another life-changing message to an unsuspecting person.  There’s a website called,” she’s told.  

Dan Molino is at his son’s football game when the stranger says, “You know, don’t you?”  And all the stranger wants is ten thousand dollars not to make public the contents of the manila envelope he hands Dan.

These three strands are all important to this novel, but most of the emphasis is on Adam and what follows the stranger’s whispered remarks to him.  Adam is trying to hold his family together as best he can, but the ties are weakening.  How could anyone could have discovered her deception?  Why won’t Corinne explain the reason she did what she did?  

Harlan Coben is an absolute master of suspense.  The people in his novels are your neighbors, your friends, even you yourself, caught in a maelstrom of terror.  One day you are going about your business, with your life continuing as usual, and the next day everything is turned upside-down.   And whatever steps you take seem useless.

Harlan Coben is the winner of mystery’s trifecta–the Edgar, the Shamus, and the Anthony awards–for his novels, which have sold over sixty million copies.  Let me predict that The Stranger will add many more to that total.

You can read more about Harlan Coben at this web site.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Mystery Reads at her web site.



EVERY HIDDEN FEAR by Linda Rodriguez: Book Review

When two wealthy men come to the small town of Brewster, Missouri, old secrets are revealed and murder follows.  That’s the trouble with secrets; it’s hard to keep them hidden.

Skeet Bannion is chief of police at Chouteau University, having left her job as a detective in Kansas City for what she hoped would be a quieter life.  But even in a small town, there are motives for murder.

Brewster is divided, as are many cities and towns, by the possibility of a mall coming in and changing the face of the city.  Small business owners are afraid that the new mall will decimate the cluster of shops in the center of town, but they are fighting against men with the money to get their way.

Walker Lynch has big pockets, and it’s his money that is behind the mall.  Walker has brought in a man who grew up in Brewster, Ash Mobray, as an ally to convince the citizens to vote in his favor, but that might not have been the best idea.

Ash came from the worst family in town, but somehow he got together the money to go off to college and become a success.  But it seems as if he has returned home not just to back the mall but to get even with a number of Brewster’s citizens.

Ash’s pronouncement at the city council meeting that he’s the biological father of Noah, the high school quarterback, startles nearly everyone there.  But that’s not the only remark he makes that causes trouble.  He throws innuendos at one of the town’s businessmen, Peter Hume, who is in a homosexual relationship with a younger man.  Bea Roberts, owner of an antiques and collectibles store that would be hurt by the coming of the mall, is publicly trading insults with Ash.  And his offensive manner alienates him even from one of his former supportors, Pearl Brewster, the “first lady” of the city who gave him the money to leave town and go to college years ago.

Then, the morning after the meeting, Ash is found dead outside the country club, his head bashed in by a golf club.  Although the murder is outside her jurisdiction, Skeet is brought into the investigation by her foster son Brian, a friend of Noah’s.  It’s Noah’s club that was used repeatedly on Ash, and his fingerprints are the only ones on the club. 

Skeet has personal problems to deal with as well, problems that may be impacting on her investigation of the murder.  Three men are showing that they’re romantically interested in her:  her ex-husband, the town’s sheriff, and one of Walker Lynch’s employees.  However, Skeet has created a wall around herself, and she’s not sure if she wants to tear it down. 

Every Hidden Fear is the third Skeet Bannion novel.  The recurring characters in the series are well-drawn, and readers will care for them because they ring true to life.  Their strengths and vulnerabilities are something we can relate to as they try to get through life and the many problems they face.  Every Hidden Fear will bring readers more deeply into Skeet’s life and make them eager to follow her in the future.

You can read more about Linda Rodriguez at this web site.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Mystery Reads at her web site.