Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng


, , , , , ,

COVER Ng Little Fires Everywhere

First off, I LOVED Everything I Never Told You, by Celeste Ng, which told the story of a teenage girl from a Chinese-American family who commits suicide (not a spoiler; the first line of the book is “Lydia is dead.”). So I was pleased to receive an advance copy of Ms. Ng’s new book, Little Fires Everywhere, from Penguin Press and NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

This book was SUCH a good read. At the start, we learn that “Everyone in Shaker Heights was talking about it that summer: how Isabelle, the last of the Richardson children, had finally gone around the bend and burned the house down. All spring the gossip had been about little Mirabelle McCullough—or, depending which side you were on, May Ling Chow…”. So we’re introduced right away to the gossipy planned community of Shaker Heights, the Richardson family, and a little girl with some confusion about her name.

A lifelong resident of Shaker Heights, Elena Richardson embodies the spirit of Shaker Heights: following the rules, behaving in acceptable ways, and guiding her family and (as much as possible) the community down the proper path. Her four children include Trip, the high-school golden boy athlete, Lexie, the star student bound for Yale who has a touch of the rebel in her relationship with her African-American boyfriend, Moody, the nerdy but lovable boy, and Izzy, the alleged firestarter. Into the mix come Mia and her daughter Pearl, a couple of vagabonds who who come to town and rent Elena’s inherited duplex. Mia is an artist who marches to her own drummer, and Pearl is a sensitive girl who instantly bonds with Moody (but has a mega crush on Trip).

Elena is so rigidly living her life that she can’t handle Mia and what she represents. “She had…done everything right and she had built a good life, the kind of life she wanted, the kind of life everyone wanted. Now here was this Mia, a completely different kind of woman leading a completly different, life, who seemed to make her own rules with no apologies.” The families become intertwined and involved with a co-worker of Mia’s, who left her infant at a fire station but has turned her life around and now wants her back, although Elena’s close friend and her husband are on the cusp of adopting little Mirabelle (or May Ling). The legal wrangling of the custody battle involves Elena’s husband, an attorney who represents the upper-middle-class couple who want to keep Mirabelle, and Elena makes it her mission in life to get into everyone’s business while she isn’t quite seeing what is going on with her own family. In the legal fight, Mia and Elena are on opposite sides, and there are strong feelings on the part of the adults and the children.

I loved this book. Highly recommended. Great characters, excellent look at cultural appropriation and the issues around mixed-race adoption, as well as a good plot that starts with the Richardson house burning down then goes back and tells the story of what led to that event. I was glued to the book from start to finish. Good for sharp YAs and book clubs. Five stars.

Watch Me Disappear by Janelle Brown


, , , ,

COVER Brown Watch Me Disappear

The three main characters in this terrific puzzle are Jonathan, his wife Billie, and their teenage daughter Billie. In the Prologue, we get a hint about Billie’s adventurous nature as she comments to Jonathan as they are watching Olive at the beach: “She’s going to need to grow a thicker skin or she’s going to spend her whole life being too afraid to try anything.”

In the novel, Billie has gone off hiking solo and has disappeared. As months go by, Jonathan is trying to cope with the mysterious loss when Olive begins having vivid dreams that have her convinced her mom is still alive. While Jonathan doesn’t actually wish her dead, he has an interest in having her declared legally dead in order to collect insurance money. It really isn’t possible to tell much about the story without spoiling it, but it is well crafted and kept me guessing until the end (although, admittedly, I am the worst at figuring things out in terms of mystery plotting). So I’ll just try to convey why the experience of reading this was so enjoyable, with some examples of Ms. Brown’s narrative skill.

Olive is revealed to be quite a sensitive teenager. She attends a pricey prep school in the Bay Area, and as she observes some girls who are a couple of years behind her in school, she “wishes she could tell these girls that things get easier, but in her experience they don’t…you just discover that there are even bigger, more complicated problems that you have to solve.”

I love the way Ms. Brown describes teenaged girls, saying they “…are like skittish forest creatures that dance away at your approach, snarl if you dare to confront them head-on. You need to wait, patiently, for them to come to you.”

Brown also captures the upper-middle-class soccer moms whose daughters attend Claremont Prep with Olive. As Jonathan takes on the after-school pickup duties following Billie’s exit, and is suddenly an available male, the”…Claremont Moms are circling. They flutter around Jonathan, a flock of predatory birds in lululemon and boyfriend jeans.”

Not a fast-paced action thriller by any means, but an unraveling story that was a pleasure to read. I appreciate having a copy made available by Random House/Spiegel & Grau and NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. Four enthusiastic stars.


The Child by Fiona Barton


, , ,

COVER Barton The Child

Fiona Barton’s prior book The Widow was a mystery told from the point of view of three characters, including crack reporter Kate Waters. I enjoyed it, and was pleased to receive an advance copy of Ms. Barton’s latest, The Child, from Berkley Publishing Group and NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

Similar in structure to The Widow,, The Child is told from the points of view of three main characters, this time all women:

  • Kate Waters is back as the intrepid journalist, looking for her next big story as she watches the newspaper business changing around her. “The tsunami of online news had washed her and those like her to a distant shore.”
  • Emma Simmonds is a young editor whose extreme anxiety about whether he past might catch up to her seems to be threatening the stability she has found in the married life she has created for herself. “He doesn’t know me really. I’ve made sure.”
  • Angela Irving has a mother’s intuition and her identity as a mother is shaded by the devastating loss she suffered 20+ years ago when her infant was stolen from the hospital right after its birth. “People say what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger…it doesn’t. It breaks your bones, leaving everything splintered and held together with grubby bandages and yellowing sticky tape…Fragile and exhausting to hold together. Sometimes you wish it had killed you.”

The plot centers around the grisly discovery of the skeleton of an infant, unearthed at a construction site. Each of the primary characters has a connection to the unfolding story of the “Building Site Baby,” and this propels the narrative.

The structure of the novel works well and the characters are well drawn. We learn so much about them as their individual searches for the meaning of this event occur. Emma, for example, has a husband who works at a University. Her view of his work environment? “University departments are like prides of lions, really. Lots of males preening and screwing around and hanging on to their superiority by their dewclaws.” (Having worked at a college, I LOVED this line!). Barton’s excellent descriptive skills are clear as Emma reminisces about a house where she lived as a child: “I can still smell that house; years of patchouli oil overlaid by grime, suffocating and musky like a hippie’s old afghan coat.”

 I’m one of those people who NEVER solves the mystery in advance, but even I could see this one coming, so it lost a star there. But that didn’t detract from the enjoyment I experienced as I read this book. I look forward to more from Ms. Barton. Four stars.

A Clockwork Murder by Steve Jackson


, , , , , , ,


COVER Jackson Clockwork Murder

Another dive into true crime…and having read and reviewed Steve Jackson’s Rough Trade, I anticipated a well-written exploration of something creepy In fact, I recall being surprised by the quality of Rough Trade (reviewed at So I was happy to receive an advance copy of Mr. Jackson’s “A Clockwork Murder” from Wild Blue Press and NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

Jackson’s approach differs from that of many TC authors, as he explained in the foreword to Rough Trade: “It’s not the blood and gore, or sexual titillation, I’m looking for…I’m interested in the psychology and “ripple effect” of violent crime, and the back stories of the human beings involved: killers, victims, law enforcement, those involved in the justice system, and the community.”

And wow, does he have a lot of material to work with in this exploration of two of the creepiest murderers ever, George Woldt and Lucas Salmon. These two friends shared a fascination with the movie A Clockwork Orange (hence the title), a movie from the 19070s that explores the theme of violence and ‘ultra-violence’, as it follows the actions of some guys who take joy in terrorizing others. Seen as an extreme example to those who are outcasts and do not feel self-empowered, it often reinforces the idea that people can do whatever they please, without regard to the repercussions. 

These two weirdos met as teenagers. In high school, Woldt didn’t really stand out, being just another somewhat troubled teenager in a rough high school. He possessed the skill to be a charmer, especially face-to-face with females, although behind their backs he was known for saying they were all bitches good for only one thing: sex. Known for the screaming matches he would get into with his Korean mother, he was widely regarded by friends and associates as someone obsessed with very strange ideas fantasies, including the desire to commit rape and assault…which most saw who knew him saw as bluster. At one point he was married to Becky, who “tried to get him to go to counseling to deal with his anger, but he wouldn’t. Instead, she learned to do what he said or suffer the consequences. He was a master manipulator…”

Lucas Salmon was also an odd guy, although from a more traditional family. Lucas was seen by many to be the victim of George’s control, and he “…envied George Woldt and wanted to be like him—have sex with women and not care what other people thought of him. And he especially wanted George to quit teasing him about being a virgin.”

The book goes into gruesome detail about the night these two finally made their long-discussed fantasy come true, as they randomly chose a woman (a beautiful young athlete named Jacine), abducted her (in view of numerous witnesses), raped and tortured her, and murdered her, leaving her corpse under a van in a school parking lot. Being complete lunatics, they kept the bloody knife and the victim’s bloody sweatshirt in the car they used for the crime, parking it in front of their apartment (which they shared with George’s wife Bonnie) until the police showed up shortly after the witnesses had called in the license plate number of the car.

I kept shaking my head at the crazy that leapt off every page. These two were bad enough, but Bonnie was also wacko: “Bonnie said she couldn’t understand why her husband didn’t come to her if he wanted to rape someone. She would have been more than willing to act out the fantasy…Bonnie had pouted that she thought she was prettier than Jacine and complained, “Why her and not me?”” Holy hell.

There is a boatload of detail about the trials and the effect of the crime on the victim’s families, particularly Jacine’s mother and stepfather. There was so much that completely reinforced my already negative view of our system of “justice,” in this case emphasizing the way the system focuses on the plight of those on trial and ignores the victim(s). The reliance on “expert witnesses” was another source for my disgust, as various psychologists and psychiatrists trotted out theories and justifications, including “dependent personality disorder” for Lucas and the truly mind-boggling idea that as he was raping Jacine, George actually had the mindset that HE was the victim of sexual assault! (yeah, I told you – crazy).

It is possibly the most horrific crime book I’ve read, partly due to the fact that the two perpetrators were totally matter-of-fact about the way they picked their victim completely at random (so perhaps it COULD happen to anyone), and how they confessed in great detail, down to the fact of their high-fiving one another after Jacine was finally dead. Ugh.

Lots to ponder here, about the judicial system, death penalty, whether it is right for defense attorneys to do ANYTHING to avoid conviction, the rights of victims, etc.


As I said about Rough Trade, this isn’t literature, nor is it meant to be. What it IS is quality True Crime, well written and researched. It’s definitely five star true crime, but be warned — it is HORRIFIC.

Persons Unknown by Susie Steiner


, , , , , , ,

cover Steiner Persons Unknown

Last year, I read and reviewed Steiner’s Missing, Presumed, her previous detective story featuring Manon Bradshaw (four stars). In that review I expressed my fondness for novels by Tana French and Kate Atkinson, and noted “I have to say that Steiner’s protagonist, Manon Bradshaw, reminded me a bit of Elizabeth George’s Barbara Havers of the Lynley series. Like Barbara, she is a no-longer young woman who has an interesting and successful career – but she is dissatisfied with her situation, and she REALLY wants to be in a relationship. She is 39, and trying to get her life in order, “ Well, here we are again!

As Persons Unknown opens, Detective Manon Bradshaw has sort of given up on that whole finding a relationship thing, and has transferred back to Cambridgeshire where she is living with her sister Ellie, Ellie’s toddler son Solly, and Fly Dent, the twelve-year-old boy Manon has adopted. She hopes that moving away from London will provide Fly with a fresh start, where he won’t be routinely stopped and frisked by police who see only his skin color. Fly is a “…tall black youth with his hood up? He might as well wear a sign saying “Arrest me now,”” Oh, and she is five months pregnant (spoiler alert) via donor and has abandoned the search for a life partner!

What she really wants is the elusive dream of work-life balance, so she transfers to the routine, stable (and boring?) cold case group, and is determined to be a good mom to Fly and the new baby. Manon feared that the move would beneficial for Fly and she tells herself this is just what they all need.

A stabbing victim is found, and he turns out to be someone well known to Manon’s sister Ellie: he is Solly’s birth father who is a banker from London, who just happens to be worth millions. Manon finds herself trying to work on the case, although she is prohibited from doing so officially when it begins to move ever closer to her home and family.

The writing is terrific. As was the case with Missing, Presumed, I love some of the minor characters, and their wry humor. This trait is revealed in Birdie, who becomes important to the investigation: “When you’re young you think happiness might be some kind of perpetual state of orgasm, but later, once the joints go, you realize it can be simulated with some cheese and a cracker.”

But I especially love Manon. As she looks at her middle-aged self, she realizes she “…is becoming invisible, pushing her trolley up and down the aisles of Waitrose toward oblivion, picking up some grapefruit-scented all-purpose spray on her way there.”

And especially this: “What would she think of herself, what would the world think, if she were to hurl her haggard self at Mark Talbot…or pinch the bottom of a younger man next to the photocopier in the office; to deny, as men do, the aging of her flesh? Why can’t she, as men do, say” Yes, I am potbellied, wrinkly-bottomed, shortsighted, but I will make a play for that twenty-eight-year-old nevertheless? Why should she hide her desires inside the acceptable consumption of table lamps and Boden cardigans and heritage tomatoes as if this is compensation, when what she wants is callous and vivid?”

Wow!  THIS is a character we know, with real emotions and life situations. Steiner does a great job with the people and the plot, although it did fall apart a tiny bit for me at the end. It was five stars right up until the last part, although when thinking how it might have otherwise ended that would have been preferable, I can’t come up with anything. But, four stars and thanks to Random House and NetGalley!


Every Last Lie by Mary Kubica


, , , , ,

Cover Kubica Every Last Lie

Mary, Mary, Mary. Were you cruising toward summer? Basking in the glory of the good reviews of The Good Girl or Pretty Baby?? Whatever the reason, I could hardly WAIT to settle in with the advance copy of your latest, Every Last Lie (which I was happy to receive from Harlequin/Park Row Books & NetGalley in exchange for my honest review), and I emerged disappointed..

This is a standalone suspense/mystery thriller, and like many recent domestic psychological thrillers, it is told from alternating perspectives of main characters: in this case a young married couple, Nick and Clara Solberg. Their tragedy is flat out smack in our faces (actually jarring) right at the beginning to the novel.

A few days after Clara has given birth to their son, Nick takes their precocious 4-year-old daughter Maisie to her ballet lessons, phoning Clara on the way to ask what kind of takeout food she’d like him to pick up. Nick never makes it home as he and Maisie are in a terrible car crash that leaves him dead while Maisie escapes with just a scratch.

As if the overwhelming grief of losing her husband isn’t enough, Clara begins to believe that it wasn’t an accident as the police have determined, but that he was murdered. Clara goes through various suspects trying to determine who it was that ran them off the road causing Nick’s death. She basically covers all the bases including friends, family, co-workers – you name it, Clara is at one time or another sure that several people must be the criminal.

So, the story is a fast read and as usual Kubica does a great job developing the characters into people we KNOW and care about, and moving the action along with events as well as dialogue. The problem for me was there were several red herrings, and the story was building and building toward the big reveal, than it just didn’t work for me.

The way the story is told, with Clara’s post-crash chapters alternating with Nick’s pre-crash chapters works well, and the reader cycles through pity, sympathy, etc. along with the characters.

I think Kubica’s fans will love this, and I would recommend it selectively to a certain type of reader. I can only give it three stars, and I have thought for hours about whether it was just that my expectations were too high. I concluded that wasn’t the case, and while I am still a Kubica fan, I hope that in her next book she returns to the terrific level of thriller writing her fans expect.

Three stars.

The Cuban Affair by Nelson DeMille


, , , , , , , , ,

CoverDeMille Cuban Affair

Seventeen years ago, someone whose opinions on books NEVER matched mine recommended Lion’s Game by Nelson DeMille, and I LOVED it. Since then, I’ve grabbed every new DeMille book and been puzzled by the inconsistency: for example, Night Fall was terrific. The Panther? Not so much. And don’t even get me started on Radiant Angel. I kept thinking, “what happened?”

But I can’t quite give up on any author who has provided me with so many hours of entertainment, so I had a positive attitude when I received an advance copy of DeMille’s latest, The Cuban Affair, in return for my honest review (thanks, Simon & Schuster and NetGalley!)

Having thought quite a bit about why I had been so disappointed reading some of his recent books (was it him? Was it me?), I had concluded that the John Corey character was the problem. In the earlier books, he was witty and could be charming. In the more recent books, his wisecracking had become constant, and was more annoying than entertaining, and it seemed to have become his dominant characteristic, to the point where it came across as somewhat cartoonish. So, I was pleased to read that the latest book was introducing a new protagonist, Daniel Graham MacCormick (aka “Mac”). A native of Maine, Mac has seen two tours of Afghanistan and left a career on Wall Street out of boredom and moved to Key West, Florida where he owns a boat that is chartered for fishing, romantic cruises, parties, etc. Mac doesn’t accept every charter request of his boat, so when he is approached by a smooth attorney from Miami who wants to charter his boat for a ten-day fishing derby to Cuba, he initially turns it down.

Once the offer is explained further by the attorney and the plan includes a beautiful Cuban-American woman, AND the fee becomes multiple millions, Mac decides to accept and the adventure begins. Along the way, there are shady characters, guns, booze, sex, crooked police, jealous boyfriends, a chase through swamp and jungle, and a tour group comprised mainly of academics and pseudo-academics (sort of a classic “educational” travel group). Without giving anything away, I suspect we will encounter Mac again for more adventures.

The story is pure entertainment, and DeMille has clearly done his research into Cuban-American relations and politics in the South Florida area. This allows him to explore the passionate feelings of Cuban-Americans and the conditions in contemporary Cuba just as relations between the US and Cuba were being re-established.

The pace is good, and the writing is crisp and entertaining, re-establishing DeMille as one of my favorite thriller writers. A friend who is unable to participate in his usual level of physical activity due to recent open-heart surgery BEGGED me for a book he could get lost in – one that would totally hold his interest. This one met the criteria, so I give The Cuban Affair a solid four stars.

The Party by Robyn Harding


, , , , , ,

COVER Harding The Party

Hannah Sanders is turning sixteen. She’s a good student, she gets good grades and has nice friends, and so her parents trust her. Rather than a big flashy party, they decide to have a sweet sixteen party at their multimillion-dollar home in a wealthy Bay Area suburb (I’m picturing Lafayette or Orinda). She invites four girlfriends over for a slumber party with pizza, cake, and movies. What could possibly go wrong?

Hannah’s parents, Jeff and Kim, have a tension-filled marriage, revealed by Kim’s regular use of Ambien to get to sleep: “…there was far too much tension in her marriage to handle without a good night’s sleep.” Jeff seems to wonder how their marriage got to where it is: “Once, they’d gone to Mexico and Kim had downed tequila shots and danced on the bar in her bra. And then Kim became a mother and it was like flicking a switch. Overnight, Kim became responsible, earnest, doting…boring.”

Kim sets the ground rules for the night, giving a little speech that clearly spells them out: no boys, no booze, and no drugs. Then they pretty much leave the girls to have fun in the rec room. But Jeff wants to be the “cool Dad” so he picks up a bottle of champagne and sneaks it to them, figuring one bottle will give each girl a small glass – again, what could possibly go wrong?

Of course, things DO go wrong, with a tragic accident in the middle of the night that starts the unraveling of the façade of their picture-perfect life. Much like Liane Moriarty’s Big Little Lies, my guess is that for many readers there is a bit of schadenfreude as they watch things fall apart. Life in the perfect suburbs – it really can’t be THAT perfect, can it? Doesn’t this family have some of the same issues, flaws and problems as the rest of us? As things spiral downward in the story, we learn of the deception, lies, and betrayal that lie under that façade, for the girls as well as the adults. When the victim’s mother reminds her “You’re the victim here,” her daughter asks her “Don’t you remember high school at all?…No one likes a fucking victim!”

After the party, “Hannah had experienced a perspective shift. Despite the values her mother had tried to instill in her, getting straight A’s wasn’t actually the most important thing in the world. Survival, that’s what mattered. Getting through the gauntlet of tenth grade with your self-esteem intact was what counted.” When she is encouraged by her counselor to do the right thing socially following the party, she’s torn: “Hannah didn’t want to be the girl with strength of character. She wanted to be the cool girl, the popular girl, the girl with the hot boyfriend.” At the same time, Kim (Hannah’s mom) finds her self dealing with both the teenagers and the adults and realizes “There is only one thing as mean as teenagers: soccer moms.”

Told from the alternating perspectives of Hannah, each of her parents, and the victim’s mother, the pacing of the story is just right. We lean of the horrific accident early on, and we know exactly what caused it. And details about both current and past behaviors of individual adults are revealed subtly, and only later do we learn how these will impact the unfolding drama.

I was in the mood for some escapist fiction, something that was not overly challenging but was completely entertaining. This fit the bill on all counts, and I appreciate having an opportunity to read an advance copy of The Party, thanks to Gallery/Scout Press and NetGalley. Five stars for the combination of domestic suburban drama, moral dilemma, suburban skewering, and all-around good story.

Astrophysics for People In a Hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson


, , , , ,

Cover Tyson Astrophysics

Neil, you don’t know me at ALL, do you? I love you – except for that thing where you did a TV remake of Carl Sagan’s Cosmos, which ended up being disappointingly cartoonish…but after reading this new book, maybe that really IS my level! I had such high hopes going in.…

The marketing is superb: “So Tyson brings the universe down to Earth succinctly and clearly, with sparkling wit, in tasty chapters consumable anytime and anywhere in your busy day. While you wait for your morning coffee to brew, for the bus, the train, or a plane to arrive, Astrophysics for People in a Hurry will reveal just what you need to be fluent and ready for the next cosmic headlines: from the Big Bang to black holes, from quarks to quantum mechanics, and from the search for planets to the search for life in the universe.” (BTW, thanks to W.W. Norton and NetGalley for the copy of this title in exchange for my honest review.)

As I began, the preface sounded like it was meant for me: “…every one of us has looked up at the night shy and wondered: What does it all mean?…And, what is my place in the universe?” And I was thinking, OMG! Neil! Thank you! Then, you continue: “If you’re too busy to absorb the cosmos via classes, textbooks, or documentaries …seek a brief but meaningful introduction to the field…” and I was HOOKED! This sounded perfect!!!

Then I began reading. In just a couple of pages, I was looking at “The ordinary photon is a member of the boson family. The leptons most familiar to the physicist are the electron and perhaps the neutrinos; and the most famous quarks are…well, there are no familiar quarks.” HUH? You lost me at photon (and boson and lepton).

I DID appreciate the places where he brought the abstract down to touching on real life (for some of us): “In America, local school boards vote on subjects to be taught in the classroom. In some cases, votes are cast according to the whims of curtural, political tides.” And this: “When I pore over the data that establish the mysterious presence of dark matter and dark energy throughout the universe, sometimes I forget that every day—every twenty-four-hour rotation of Earth—people kill and get killed in the name of someone else’s conception of God, and that some people who do not kill in the name of God, kill in the name of needs or wants of political dogma.”

So, what happened for me reading this was I was reminded that I am totally ignorant when it comes to science!!! Maybe Dr. Tyson will write some version of Astrophysics for Dummies. I would try it! And I really am glad I read this, because I love when he talks about our place in the universe and how the diminishing of science education can be a real disaster. It’s just that the beginning, when he got into the actual scientific lingo, it seemed there was a presumption of a certain level of scientific literacy – which I CLEARLY DO NOT HAVE.

So, I am giving this three stars. Five for the man and his approach to making science accessible to everyone – but a loss of two for the headache I got trying to follow the science.

The Marsh King’s Daughter by Karen Dionne


, , , , ,

COVER Dionne Marsh Kings Dtr

I had read so much hype about The Marsh King’s Daughter, I was eager to read the advance copy I received from Penguin Group/Putnam & NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. I was expecting a riveting psychological thriller, filled with suspense. What I got was a bit different…

I suppose I have to give it more than three stars, because it was REALLY unsettling. The protagonist, Helena, is a young wife and mother living in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula with her husband and two daughters. She earns money selling homemade jam and jelly, and is making deliveries of her products when she hears on the radio that a prisoner has escaped from the local prison…a man who abducted a girl and and kept her prisoner for years (in “the marsh,” where they were apparently able to live for years without electricity, running water, heat, medical care, etc.). The prisoner, called “The Marsh King,” fathered a child with the girl, and the three of them lived in the marsh for years.

We learn early on that Helena was the baby, that her father is using all his Native American skills to elude the authorities, and that Helena is the only one who can track him and bring him to justice. We know this because it is beaten into our heads relentlessly. And we know that Helena’s childhood was an ugly one, when she tells us “…my childhood came to and end the day my father tried to drown my mother.” She “…was the daughter of a kidnapped girl and her captor. For twelve years, I lived without seeing or speaking another human being other than my parents.”

So yes, I was totally creeped out by the plot…by even more by the character whose horrific deeds form the frame for the plot. I know it was effective because I kept making noises when things happened in the story – noises that made my husband keep asking things like “Are you all right?”

So, we kind of know how the plot is going to unfold, although there are some twists and turns along the way. It is more a tracking story than a mystery, and it is somewhat might mare-inducing…but again, this sort of tells me that Dionne accomplished what she set out to do: write a memorable thriller. Did I LIKE it? No. Creeped me out a bit too much for comfort. Do I recommend it? Yes. It isn’t my kind of thing, but I know many people who will love it. Four stars.