You by Caroline Kepnes




Almost not, but worth the read….     ***

Writing in first person is probably one of the more difficult viewpoints for an author to tackle. Kepnes proves this, at least partially, in You, her debut novel.

The first half of this book is tedious, almost to the point of wanting to stop reading. But the second half picks up and makes this a worthwhile read. The ending was predictable, with a slight twist that made it satisfying.

Since the main character works in a bookstore, there are several references to various well-known novels, as one might expect. This is a bit overdone, in my opinion, and felt more like the author trying to impress with her literary knowledge.

What this novel lacked, was the tension or edge of your seat page turning that makes for a great mystery/suspense novel. The “praises” this book has received made my expectation high, only to find, it does not deliver.

This one gets three stars, as it is an okay read, just not a great one.


The Woman In the Window by A. J. Finn



Over hyped and a weak blend of old movies….  **

With endorsements from Stephen King and Gillian Flynn, I was expecting more from this novel. What I found was a mediocre blend of the Alfred Hitchcock movie Rear Window, the 1984 film Body Double, and a character mirroring  Rachel from The Girl On A Train. The cover is even a ripoff from the poster for Body Double.

Finn must have watched Rear Window and noted the types of people James Stewart observed and copied them into this novel, with only slight modifications. The book description calls this “a smart, sophisticated novel of psychological suspense that recalls the best of Hitchcock.” I would call it more of a ripoff of Hitchcock.

Body Double is one of my favorite movies and Finn takes the basic idea as one of his “twists”. Anna Fox, his main character is Rachel from The Girl On A Train, a woman whose observations are blurred by alcohol. The only difference being location.

The only thing that kept me reading was curiosity. I was curious to see if Finn had anything new to offer. He didn’t. His use of old movie references were the only good parts, because most of the films he refers to I have seen.

This one gets two stars. It should be one but one of my New Year’s resolutions is to not be so harsh.




Origin: A Novel by Dan Brown

OriginMuch ado about nothing……..  *

WARNING: POSSIBLE SPOILER. I say possible because I don’t think it is, but some might.

Dan Brown is known for his detail in describing places and things, giving us the history of both. The details combined with the various codes and symbolism made The Da Vinci Code a great read. Unfortunately, in Origin, Brown does too much of one and not enough of the other.

Each time a location is changed or a building entered, Brown spends way to much time on describing every intricate detail along with the history behind each. Take out all of the elaborate descriptions and this novel becomes a novella, which brings me to the story itself.

The plot is thin and falls apart once the “big reveal” is uncovered. What had been hyped throughout the book as something that will shake the foundations of all religions, turns out to fail in that regard. The questions of where we came from and where are we going are answered with information that is not new nor troubling.

One of the more aggravating aspects to the way Brown wrote this novel was having characters discussing information critical to the story without making the reader privy to the conversation until later in the book. This trick was used too many times. Also, for some reason Brown kept summarizing or repeating facts as if his readers are not that intelligent. Or maybe he knew after wading through long passages of descriptions and history lessons, the reader would forget what the story was about.

The story is very predictable. Brown has fallen into the trap of using what worked in his other novels to produce an unoriginal boring read. I figured out who the “bad guy” was fairly early, which made this an even more tedious read.

This one gets one star.


The Secret Place: A Novel by Tanya French


An excellent read…..   ****

One of my favorite authors is John Connolly. Tanya French reminds me of his style, both are more literary than the likes of Child, Deaver, or Michael Connelly. Thus, this was an excellent read.

The story is intricate and moves back and forth in time in alternating chapters. A student was killed a year ago and as the detectives seek to solve this cold case, every other chapter tells the story of what actually happened as it was unfolding before the murder. Once into the rhythm of the back and forth, I settled into this page turner.

French does an excellent job of writing from the point of view of not only the detectives, but also from the minds of the young girls central to the story. While the reader knows from the beginning who was killed, the revelation of the murderer does come as a bit of a surprise.

My only negative comment is at times French over writes. There is a bit too much description in some parts. This was my first of her novels I have read, and will definitely be reading the rest.

This one gets four stars.

Rather Be The Devil by Ian Rankin

ratherbethedevil  Rebus retired, maybe time for the series also…  ***

Being an Ian Rankin fan, I was excited to be in Australia and purchase this book before it was available in the States.  Unfortunately, it was somewhat of a disappointment.

Following John Rebus as he uncovers a mystery is usually worth the read. His conflict with superiors and his odd relationship with the gangster, Big  Ger Cafferty, normally make Rankin’s novels page turners. This one falls short on both counts.

The lack of conflict made the reading tedious and the unraveling of the story was not gripping. The ending seemed rushed after all the pages used to set it up, and I closed the book unsatisfied.

Maybe Rankin should retire this series and start a fresh one.  This one gets three stars.


The Alienist by Caleb Carr



Classical detection at its best…..   ****

To my chagrin, I have to admit I had never heard of Caleb Carr until I read reviews of his Surrender, New York. Several compared his newest novel to The Alienist, which prompted me to want to read it first.

The Alienest is a very interesting read. Written in 1994, it is set in 1896. This is important because it was easy to forget that I was not reading a book written in the 1890’s. That is how well-written this book is. I was transported back in time, not only from the descriptions, but also by Carr’s writing style.  This book is like reading one of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories, the style and language are similar.

The story revolves around a team formed to discover who is killing young boys. In this sense, this is a classic detective story. The hook is that all the forensic science we are accustomed to in a novel, was just being discovered and was not as accepted as it is today.

The team assembled to solve the “whodunit”, consists of a psychiatrist, a journalist, two police detectives, and a female secretary from the police department. They’re all working off the books, reporting to the police commissioner, who happens to be Theodore Roosevelt.

Combining loosely historical facts, a Sherlock Holmes type of character, a little of Jeffrey Deaver’s Lincoln Rhyme, a bit of Jonathan Kellerman’s Alex Delaware, some of Thomas Harris’ Hannibal Lecter, and shades of Carolyne Keene’s Nancy Drew, Caleb Carr has written a great read.

The book was a page turner, not because of mystery or suspense, but because I wanted to follow the logic and actions of the characters. The climax and discovery of the killer were anti-climatic. The end seemed rushed compared to the depth of detail in the rest of the book.

This one gets four stars, and I now can read Surrender, New York with a more critical eye..



A Time of Torment by John Connolly



A Charlie Parker thriller, almost…..    ****


John Connolly writes novels that make me wish they would never end. His style is mesmerizing and can chill me to the bone. This one is no exception.

As with any good series, if you haven’t read the earlier books, you will not fully appreciate this one. As this is the fourteenth (fifteenth if you count his novella) Charlie Parker novel, Connolly does not spend time recapping, which is a good thing.

While this story includes Parker, and his sidekicks Angel and Louis, they are almost insignificant. The majority of the novel revolves around a group called the Cut, and Sheriff Henkel, who is determined to rid his county of this cult-like group..

This novel, more than some of Connolly’s others, has a significant amount of supernatural elements. The beauty of Connolly’s writing is that he makes these elements not only believable, but made me wish some of it were true.

Parker has two daughters. One who was killed, and one with special talents. So as not to give anything away, I will just say it is the sister’s interactions that make this novel unique.

This one gets four stars. I usually give five for Connolly’s novels but Parker’s small role caused me to drop one.  Hopefully, this is not a trend.