Book Review: One by One by Ruth Ware

One by One
by
Ruth Ware

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

After reading a few long books, I was in the mood for a good thriller and One by One fit the bill. I’d read Ware’s The Woman in Cabin 10 a few years ago and thought it was a very readable suspenseful story. There’s something about the premise of a group of people stuck and alone in a dangerous situation that I can’t resist.

One by One takes place in the French Alps where ten members of a tech startup gather for a retreat. The company, Snoop, run by extremely hip twenty-somethings, owns latest music app that enables subscribers to listen in on the music other subscribers are playing, real time. The key players are Snoop’s co-founders, Topher and Eva. They come from money and privilege, as do Elliot, their programmer and Rik, their accountant, who both went to boarding school in England with Topher. These four own nearly all the company’s shares. The last two percent belong to Liz, a former employee who has been invited to the retreat. Liz is the opposite of cool. Shabby, frumpy and awkward, she didn’t fit in at Snoop and left the company. Added to the mix are Carl the lawyer, Miranda from PR and Tiger from marketing. As personal assistants, Inigo and Ani try to keep Topher and Eva happy.

Right away, tension is thick because, although the company is hot, it’s out of cash. Eva surprises the group with news of a lucrative buyout offer, but Topher is furious because he doesn’t want to lose control of the company. An early vote shows a 50-50 split between the four shareholders. Liz will need to make the deciding vote.

Warnings of heavy snow and avalanches prompt the group to get in one good day of skiing before they’re snowbound. But Eva, an expert skier, doesn’t return and then, as predicted, the avalanche hits, crushing the area and knocking out power. Then, one by one, members of the group turn up dead. Readers will need to sort out the details of Eva’s disappearance and of the other deaths. Snoop’s remaining members, plus the chalet’s employees, Danny and Erin, must all rely each other, but trust no one. Very loosely based on And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie, Ware provides all the backstories that help you figure out just enough to take you to the finish, which of course, true to a thriller, is full of dangerous action.

I find that with thrillers, you need to be a little forgiving with loose details and accept them as a way of keeping the story flowing. I liked the high-tech aspect of the story and how Ware included details of what music the Snoopers listened to. I recommend One by One to readers who like suspense and intrigue.

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Book Review: Something She’s Not Telling Us by Darcey Bell

Something She’s Not Telling Us
by
Darcey Bell

Here’s a domestic thriller about a woman who kidnaps her boyfriend’s niece and the family’s mad race to rescue the girl before something bad happens.

Charlotte, her husband, Eli and their six-year-old daughter, Daisy have just returned from a trip to Mexico. The family, including Charlotte’s younger brother, Rocco and his new girlfriend, Ruth, had flown from New York to celebrate Charlotte and Rocco’s mother’s sixtieth birthday.

The next morning, Charlotte, Eli and Daisy scramble to get ready for work and school. At the end of the day, Charlotte rushes from an important meeting to pick up Daisy at school. When she arrives, the teachers tell her that Daisy’s Aunt Ruth has already picked her up.

The story then flashes back six months earlier when Ruth first meets the family.

To Ruth and the reader, Charlotte and Eli seem to have it all. A swank co-op in the East Village, great careers, plenty of money and an adorable daughter. They’re the balanced ones, but Rocco, a recovering alcoholic, can’t find the right partner. Now, Charlotte and Eli are hopeful, but cautious when he introduces them to Ruth. She’s young, hip and friendly, but something seems off, especially the way she latches on to Daisy. While Eli is laid-back, Charlotte, a helicopter mom with anxiety, thinks Ruth is just a little too aggressive.

In alternating chapters between past and present, the author provides readers with a closer look at Charlotte, her marriage, her anxiety and a strained relationship with her mother. Other chapters are about Ruth and her point of view. Later chapters include Rocco’s take on the situation.

It’s clear that there’s something up with Ruth, but readers soon learn that Charlotte also has a secret. The question then becomes who is the “she” in Something She’s Not Telling Us? I thought that was a clever twist of the title.

I enjoyed this very fast read which kept me wondering what was up with Ruth and what was Charlotte’s secret. I prefer not to guess too much about what’s happening when I read, and several late big reveals make it the kind of story that allows you to do that.

That said, the finish was pretty flat, with many unresolved questions. Without revealing details, I was left wondering how Ruth managed many of the details of her life. In addition, although Charlotte’s secret is a game-changer, it seemed that when she would have to reveal it, that everything would be okay.

This one falls into the category of books that are fast, entertaining and somewhat mindless reads, a nice distraction from everyday life, great for the beach or for traveling, but nothing that will stay with you too long. I picked it as part of the first segment of my Read, React, Decide videos on YouTube in which I read random sentences from books I’ve grabbed at the library and decide which to read. You can watch it here.

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Book review: My Sister’s Grave by Robert Dugoni

My Sister’s Grave
by
Robert Dugoni

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

If you’re looking for a series starter, you might want to check out My Sister’s Grave by Robert Dugoni. Published in 2014, it’s the first in a crime and courtroom series about Tracy Crosswhite, a homicide detective with the Seattle Police Department, sure that the investigation of her sister’s murder twenty years earlier was handled improperly.

Sarah Crosswhite, then eighteen, disappeared after the sisters competed in a sharp shooting contest. She’d headed home by herself to Cedar Grove, Washington in heavy rain and although police located her truck on a back road, Sarah’s body was never recovered. Edmund House, however, recently released from prison for rape, confessed to the murder and was sentenced to the state penitentiary in Walla Walla. After Sarah’s murder, Tracy fell apart. She quit her teaching job and moved to Seattle to become a detective, hoping to use her skills to uncover what she believed was a conspiracy to frame House. Although she finally put the boxes of evidence in a back closet, her drive to solve the crime cost Tracy her marriage.

Like Tracy, the once-thriving community of Cedar Grove has never been the same since Sarah’s murder, suffering emotionally and economically. And when hunters uncover Sarah’s remains, people in the town, including Sheriff Roy Calloway, want to let things be. “What’s done is done,” says Calloway. But, now, after all these years, this is Tracy’s chance to finally set things right and she returns with a lot of questions. Why are items found at the gravesite inconsistent with prior evidence and why did no one follow up on weak testimonies? Tracy’s more complicated motivation, however, stems from overwhelming guilt in letting her younger sister return alone after the shooting competition, an act of selfishness that she feels led to her father’s and later her mother’s death. She’s the only Crosswhite left and must do right by Sarah. She turns to her childhood friend Dan O’Leary for help. Dan, a lawyer and recently divorced, has returned to Cedar Grove. Could something more develop between them?

I enjoyed this story about family loyalty and how small communities deal with violent crime, together and individually. Dugoni creates a nice home town feel in Cedar Grove and shows how things are not always how they seem. He raises the question of media coverage and whether some things are better left alone, when “those answers could do more harm than good.” I recommend My Sister’s Grave to readers who like crime and romance stories that are relatively nonviolent and clean with a good plot and satisfying finish.

If you’d rather hear an audio verison of my review, you can check it out here on SoundCloud:

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Book Review: Razorblade Tears by S.A. Cosby

Razorblade Tears
by
S.A. Cosby

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

I know to be wary about books that get a lot of hype, but I fell for it this time. When I saw the critical acclaim from The New York Times, NPR, The Washington Post and many others, naming Razorblade Tears one of the best books of 2021, I wanted to read it.

In the beginning, I thought I was part of that cheering crowd, but I soon changed my mind. Here’s the premise of the book:

Ike Randolph and Buddy Lee Jenkins are two ex-cons whose gay sons, Isiah and Derek (married to each other) were gunned down outside a wine shop in Richmond, Virginia. When Buddy Lee suggests they combine forces to avenge their sons’ deaths, Ike agrees.

Ike, a successful Black business owner, has kept a clean record in the fifteen years he’s been out of prison for manslaughter. And he’s kept his violent temper at bay. He needs to, especially now that he and his wife have custody of three-year-old, Arianna, Isiah and Derek’s daughter. Buddy Lee, who is white, is a career con man and an alcoholic, living in a dilapidated trailer. On top of their grief, they have many regrets about shunning their sons for their homosexuality. Now they have a chance to make things a little better.

They soon learn that Ike’s son, Isiah, a journalist, was about to expose a scandalous relationship between a woman named Tangerine and an unnamed powerful man she’d met. On the other side, this powerful person has hired a hit man and his violent gang to find Tangerine and kill her before the story gets out.

Over a period of several days, Ike and Buddy Lee chase the killers and the killers chase them. And there are many violent casualties along the way, described in graphic detail. Between the violence, they move towards friendship as they joke around and share their struggles about accepting their sons. Ike also sets Buddy Lee straight on a number of racial assumptions. I thought these were good ways to bring out the subtleties of racism, one of the better parts of the book.

I was interested in the premise, but honestly, the rest of the book just isn’t that good, with all kinds of weird metaphors and choppy sentences. Razorblade Tears is described as noir fiction, and as a reader you have to accept the violence as part of the genre, but I found the characters to be stereotypical and the fight scenes hard to follow. In addition, to say you must suspend all disbelief is a huge understatement.

In the end, I felt manipulated by the hype and in the heavy-handed message about race, gender, sexuality, and a host of other social issues. I felt this could have been a much better book if the author had focused more on the characters and had chosen one or two issues.

Other WordPress bloggers have written mixed reviews. You can check them out here.

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Book Review: Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough

Behind Her Eyes
by
Sarah Pinborough

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Here’s a fast, twisty domestic thriller about David and Adele Martin, a dysfunctional young married couple with a secret. They’ve moved to London for a fresh start where David will begin a new partnership in a psychiatry practice. But this new beginning takes an immediate left turn when David meets Louise Barnsley in a bar. She’s a single mom and things get hot, but before they go too far, David stops her. “I can’t,” he says, “I’m married.” Phew for David, crisis averted, but the next day, Louise discovers that David is her new boss.

At home, tension is thick between David and Adele. They have unlimited money from Adele’s inheritance. But David drinks too much and Adele suffers from a painful past. David seems to want to protect his wife but he’s borderline controlling and Adele seems to love him, but she’s a little too obsessive. Who’s the manipulator?

Things get weird when Adele and Louise become friends and David and Louise begin an affair. Louise is stuck in the middle and she keeps her relationships secret from each. With Adele, she finally has a good female friend who understands her. With David, she’s reignited a long-cold love life. As the back story emerges, told in a then, later and now format, from both women’s point of view and from an additional third-person POV, readers begin to assemble the pieces to what seems like one thing but becomes something entirely different.

Without giving too much away, the past involves a fire at Adele’s family mansion when Adele was seventeen. David, in his twenties and already her boyfriend, was able to rescue Adele, but her parents died. In the aftermath, she suffered psychological trauma and spent time in a psychological hospital where she met another teenager, Rob a heroin addict.

As with all thrillers, characters make reckless decisions and the reader watches, wondering how it will all end. I felt fully engaged in the story, unsure of just what would happen to David, Louise, Adele and Rob. I did not expect the finish, which, if you’ve read it, you can tell me whether you found it exciting or just plain crazy. I guess I’d call it original and satisfying in the sense that all the details were explained. Whether it was realistic, this book requires a lot of suspension of disbelief.

I enjoyed reading Behind Her Eyes. I think of thrillers as entertainment reading. They are often forgettable but a fun way to relax.

Have you read Behind Her Eyes? What did you think? Leave a comment!

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Book Review: The Pocket Wife by Susan Crawford

The Pocket Wife
by
Susan Crawford

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Dana Catrell isn’t sure what happened at Celia Steinhauser’s house that afternoon. The only thing she knows is that her neighbor is dead. As she tries to piece together the events, Dana vaguely remembers an argument after a lot of drinks at Celia’s house. That and a picture on Celia’s phone of Dana’s husband, Peter and another woman. Alcohol isn’t the only reason Dana can’t remember, however. She’s on a manic bipolar disorder climb and headed for a crash.

Detective Jack Moss gives the Steinhauser case his full attention, as always. Now it’s a nice distraction from his ruined life at home. Under pressure from the prosecutor’s office, Jack has to solve the case quickly and everything else will have to wait. Moss interviews neighbors as well as Dana, Peter, Celia’s husband, Ronald. Is Dana’s account reliable? Is Peter having an affair? Does Ronald’s alibi check out? In addition to these questions, when forensic evidence points in a new direction, Moss may have to consider an alarming alternative.

Set in Paterson, New Jersey, outside of New York, this debut thriller/mystery looks inside the mind of a woman who struggles to separate the truth from a confusion of thoughts and images. Her manic self becomes obsessed with finding Celia’s phone and the picture of Peter and another woman. If Dana can find that picture, she’ll still have a grip on her life.

I enjoyed this suspenseful story, told in third person, but from both Dana and Jack’s points of view. The author uses Dana’s unreliable memories to drive the story and I was fascinated by Dana’s ability to grasp at pieces of truth, despite her mental illness. That made me want her to prove herself innocent, despite incriminating facts. Readers will feel the stress of Dana’s confusion and watch her approach the brink.

If you’re from New Jersey, you may wonder why the book is set in Paterson, a dangerously violent city, not really a nice suburban town. I’m not sure why. The story does include a violent murder, but the author’s description of the town and the neighborhood where the Catrells and the Steinhausers live don’t seem to fit the actual town. The author also uses a lot of rain to add mood to the story. I thought it was a little overdone, as if the sun never comes out in New Jersey! These are small comments, however, because I felt the story and the suspense of Dana’s eventual collapse were very engaging. I think the story’s strongest parts were the looks inside Dana’s mind.

I recommend The Pocket Wife to readers who like suspense and mystery and are looking for a quick read.

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Book Review: The Lying Room by Nicci French

The Lying Room
by
Nicci French

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

When Neve Connolly’s phone pings during a family breakfast, she drops everything and goes to Saul Stevenson’s pied-à-terre. At forty-five, she’s deeply embedded in what’s become a drudgery of marriage and children. Her affair with Saul makes her feel young again.

When Neve arrives, she finds Saul dead on the living room floor, brutally murdered. Terrified their affair will be found out, she scours the apartment and removes all evidence that she had ever been there. After hours of careful cleaning, Neve returns home, anxious to resume a normal life. But she can’t shake the feeling that she’s forgotten something and it begins to torment her.

Saul was her boss. His company, Redfern Publishing, has just taken over Sans Serif, a small printing company that Neve and her friends started after college. Now all of Redfern is shocked at Saul’s death. His assistant seems to know all and Detective Chief Inspector Alastair Hitching is on the scene, asking questions and taking DNA samples.

As the story develops, readers learn that Neve and her husband, Fletcher have been struggling. Neve is the main breadwinner and Fletcher, an illustrator, can’t find work and battles depression. Their two young boys need attention and their moody daughter, Mabel may or may not go off to college.

Neve and her Sans Serif friends move in a unit and know each other’s business. Tamsin’s marriage is over. Renata drinks too much and Gary’s bitterness over the merger has changed him. At the center is Neve, the friend everyone thinks has it all together. During the investigation, she continues to play this role, but she’s cracking underneath. Hitching’s relentless questions and shocking revelations at home force Neve into a manic overdrive. A days-long party at their house with awkward overnight guests provides a look at how the characters interact with each other and the secrets they keep.

I enjoyed reading The Lying Room, a standalone book set in London. It’s much different from the other book I read by Nicci French (Blue Monday, the first in the Freida Klein series.). At first, I thought I was reading a thriller but the more I got into it I felt like it was more of a classic mystery. Scenes at the Connolly house remind me of other mysteries in which clues and motives emerge. And while the story begins with the tension of a thriller, it becomes much lighter as we learn about the characters and their lives. In addition, many references to cooking up sophisticated meals during the chaos of Neve’s nightmare give it a cozy feel. Although I enjoyed getting to know all the characters, I didn’t like all of them, but that’s okay.

Themes of marriage, friendship and motherhood play strongly in the story. The authors (yes that’s plural – it’s a husband-wife team) finish up with an exciting confrontation and a satisfying tie-up. I recommend The Lying Room to readers who enjoy lighter suspenseful mysteries.

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Book Review: The Stranger in the Mirror by Liv Constantine

The Stranger in the Mirror
by
Liv Constantine

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Suspenseful psychological thriller about a woman with amnesia, who builds a new life for herself, only to be confronted by her past. Many twists, plus the absolutely required suspension of disbelief, take you on a wild ride of new developments, just when you’re getting comfortable with how things are.

The story begins when a strikingly beautiful and vulnerable young woman finds herself on a highway in New Jersey, injured and with no memory of how she got there. A trucker named Ed picks her up and fortunately, he’s the good kind. Wanting to do the right thing, Ed and his wife, Gigi take the young woman into their home in Philadelphia.

Ed and Gigi provide loving support while the young woman recovers and struggles with questions about her injuries and disturbing flashbacks. After the woman recovers from her physical injuries, the new “Addison Hope” begins a job at a photography store. While working, she meets Gabriel Oliver, a gallery owner from a wealthy family. It’s instant attraction. Gabriel and Addison fall in love and Gabriel proposes. Gabriel may be smitten, but his mother, Blythe is suspicious. She wants to love Addison, but Blythe’s protective instincts tell her that they must know more about this woman before she joins the family.

Meanwhile, Julian Hunter, a prominent doctor from Boston, has not given up hope that he will find his missing wife, Cassandra, mother to their seven-year-old daughter, Valentina. A chance discovery reveals, as the reader has already figured out, that Addison has another life in Boston. Readers see how the two families react to this news, especially Addison/Cassandra. The interesting part is how Gabriel, Blythe, Julian and Valentina adjust, as a lurking evil overshadows them all.

Constantine’s characters represent the good, the evil and the manipulated, and a few who do the right thing but for selfish reasons. And the story’s villain, while somewhat obvious, acts unpredictably with a twisted set of ideas. The author includes themes of marriage, family and parenthood, especially what it means to be a good mother. Problems of mental health and domestic violence show the repetitive nature of these family struggles.

The Stranger in the Mirror is a fast read, with an interesting premise. In the first half, the author lulls the reader into a false sense of security, only to pull out the rug and disrupt the characters’ lives. The second half of the book is filled with twists and reveals, many too outrageous to believe. But the story moves along to a satisfying conclusion.

Liv Constantine is the pen name of sisters Lynne Constantine and Valerie Constantine. They are also the author of The Last Mrs. Parrish, The Last Time I Saw You, and The Wife Stalker.

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Book Review: Sometimes I Lie by Alice Feeney

Sometimes I Lie
by
Alice Feeney

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Amber Reynolds lies in a hospital bed in London, in a coma. She doesn’t remember what put her there and she might not be able to open her eyes, but she can hear everything her visitors say. As she tries to piece together what happened that Christmas night, she listens for clues from her husband, Paul and her sister, Claire. Thinking Amber can’t hear them, Paul and Claire speak freely, but many questions remain. As Amber slowly remembers the events that led up to her accident, readers learn a complicated back story about Amber, her job as a radio presenter, her family and childhood and a best friend named Taylor.

Feeney presents this thriller in a then, now and before format, including a girlhood diary, depicting a lonely and forgotten child whose parents drink and argue. The story inevitably leads to Amber’s return to consciousness, to a world where lies abound. A series of multi-leveled twists present the reader with a surprising, shake-your-head finish.

I enjoyed reading Sometimes I Lie because it fits right into the entertaining thriller genre in which readers don’t want to figure everything out ahead of time. There’s also the typical requirement of the reader’s suspension of disbelief. If you’re a medical person, don’t question the diagnosis or hospital rules and procedures. If you’re a logical person, don’t question why someone would do things or how they could get away with them. Just go along for the ride.

While I enjoyed the story, I felt that the last few chapters were not just surprising and over-the-top, but too confusing and manipulative. I’m all for leaving out crucial details because they’d spoil the ending, but the author dumps a lot of these at the end and that’s what led to me shaking my head.

All in all, however, Sometimes I Lie is an entertaining read, good for summer because it’s fast and doesn’t require deep reading.

Here’s what some other bloggers are saying about Sometimes I Lie:

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Books set in Australia

Wow, I hadn’t realized until recently just how many books I’ve read that are set in Australia! Here’s what I’ve read. Can you add to this list?

Alone – Lost Overboard in the Indian Ocean – Brett Archibald

The Dry by Jane Harper

Force of Nature by Jane Harper

The Light Between Oceans by M. L. Stedman

The Lost Man by Jane Harper

The Mother-in-Law by Sally Hepworth

The Murder of Mary Russell by Laurie R. King

Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough

Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty

What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty


Check out these lists for additional books set in Australia:

Goodreads – Best Books Set in Australia

Tale_Away – Books Set In Australia: Australian Novels

Crime Reads – 10 Essential Australian Novels


For even more, visit my post More books set in Australia here.

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