I Want You Gone by Miranda Rijks: The Reports of Her Death are Greatly Exaggerated.

I Want You GoneI Want You Gone

by Miranda Rijks


Kindle Edition, 299 pg.
Inkubator Books, 2019

Read: April 10 – 11, 2019


There is just so much about this book that I can’t say here without ruining it. I can talk about premise, but I can’t talk about the plot much beyond that. As for characters? There’s really only one I can talk about. I really can’t talk about the minor issues I had without ruining a lot. Really, Rijks went out of her way to make this book almost impossible to talk about. Let’s see if I can figure out a way to say a little something, shall we?

Estate agent Laura Swallow gets a phone call from her daughter interrupting a first date — Mel’s away for her first term of University and checks her mom’s Facebook and sees that she’s being reported as dead. So instead of the phone calls she’s been making bewailing her loneliness, how hard it is being at school, etc., she calls to make sure Mom’s okay. Obviously, this casts a pall over the date and they call it a night.

The next day, Laura comes into work and discovers that her death is being reported in the newspaper, too. The description of her life in the death notification is unfavorable to say the least. It’s about as far from the laudatory and hagiographic words usually used as you can imagine. Laura starts to expect that this isn’t a misunderstanding, but there’s something malicious to all this. It doesn’t take too long for things to get worse — there’s someone clearly out to ruin whatever’s left of Laura’s life while trying to convince the rest of the world that she’s dead. Before long, it gets dangerous enough to be Laura that no one could help but wonder if the stories about her death were just a little early.

Laura doesn’t know who to suspect — her ex-husband? her ex-husband’s new significant other? the doctor she just started dating? a creepy client? Someone else? Laura doesn’t know what to do to find out. The reader will be a bit more objective and will have a longer suspect list that’ll include some friends that Laura can’t bring herself to suspect. Now at various points I could make a good case for any of the suspects being the person behind it all. But it turns out that my first guess was right — although there were enough red herrings that I had to keep guessing.

The characters are pretty well drawn and developed — obviously Laura more than the rest. Some of the other characters we get to know nearly as well, but not all of them. Laura’s still recovering from her sister’s death and her divorce, the events of this novel both accelerate the recovery and set it back. All in all, half the fun of this book is getting into her mind. I can’t say that I understand every choice she makes (actually there’s a few I can’t begin to understand), but it’s fun watching her make them.

I’m not convinced I buy the reactions her boss had to the whole situation — and I can’t imagine anyone having the take on the vandalism on her car that her boss and others did have (that one in particular chafed). But that’s pretty much the only false notes as far as characters go, and it did propel the plot. As far as the other characters go are concerned, pretty much anything I say would risk giving something away — so I’ll leave it at that. Even if you guess who’s behind everything, getting their motive right will be trickier, and you’re apt to second guess yourself a few times.

Rijks draws you in pretty quickly by Laura’s likeability and the strangeness of her circumstances, and then she keeps drawing you in more and more as things get stranger and more dire. If you’re not leaning forward a little bit during the last couple of chapters, you’re made of sterner stuff than I.

A great, twisty story that’ll keep you guessing as it entertains. It’s just what you want in a psychological thriller — creepy, atmospheric, with a good story with a protagonist and antagonist that you can dig your teeth into. It’s the kind of book that’ll keep you gripped and may make you lose a little sleep right up until the end, well worth your time.

—–

3.5 Stars


My thanks to damppebbles blog tours for the invitation to participate in this tour and the materials they provided.

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BOOK SPOTLIGHT: I Want You Gone by Miranda Rijks

Today I welcome the Book Tour for the creepy psychological thriller I Want You Gone by Miranda Rijks. Along with this spotlight post, I’ll be giving my take on the novel here in a bit.

Book Details:

Book Title: I Want You Gone by Miranda Rijks
Publisher: Inkubator Books
Release date: April 13, 2019
Format: Paperback/Ebook
Length: 299 pages

Book Blurb:

The only obituary you never want to read – is your own.

Laura Swallow is dead.

A life cut tragically short, says the newspaper obituary.

But that’s a lie.

Estate agent Laura did not die in a car accident. She is alive and well.

At first, Laura thinks it’s a sick joke.

But multiple announcements of her death are followed by increasingly sinister real-life events. Already fragile, struggling to recover from a recent divorce, Laura is plunged into a living nightmare.

Who can she trust? Her new lover? Her clients and work colleagues? What about her ex-husband and his smug fiancée? Can Laura even rely on her best friends? And why is it that Laura’s present troubles are so tied up with her sister’s sudden death all those years ago?

But one thing Laura is sure of – someone out there wants her to suffer. Wants her gone.

Forever.

About Miranda Rijks:

Miranda RijksMiranda Rijks is a writer of suspense novels. I Want You Gone is her first psychological thriller.

Miranda has an eclectic background ranging from law to running a garden centre. She’s been writing all of her life and has a Masters in writing. A couple of years ago she decided to ditch the business plans and press releases and now she’s living the dream, writing suspense novels full time. She lives in Sussex, England with her Dutch husband, musician daughter and black Labrador.

Up next is Fatal Fortune, the first of three books in a mystery romance series that will be published in May 2019. They feature Dr Pippa Durrant, a psychologist and specialist in lie detection, who works alongside Sussex police getting embroiled in some scary stuff!

Miranda loves connecting with her readers, so you can reach out to her at www.mirandarijks.com.

Miranda Rijks’s Social Media:

Twitter ~ Facebook ~ Website ~ Amazon Author Page

Purchase Links for I Want You Gone:

Amazon UK ~ Amazon US


My thanks to damppebbles blog tours for the invitation to participate in this tour and the materials they provided.

Nero Wolfe on Taxes

seems like a good day to post this…

Nero Wolfe Back CoversA man condemning the income tax because of the annoyance it gives him or the expense it puts him to is merely a dog baring its teeth, and he forfeits the privileges of civilized discourse. But it is permissible to criticize it on other and impersonal grounds. A government, like an individual, spends money for any or all of three reasons: because it needs to, because it wants to, or simply because it has it to spend. The last is much the shabbiest. It is arguable, if not manifest, that a substantial proportion of this great spring flood of billions pouring into the Treasury will in effect get spent for that last shabby reason.

–Nero Wolfe
from And Be a Villain

BOOK SPOTLIGHT: Death Before Coffee by Desmond P. Ryan

Today I welcome the Book Tour for the second entry in the Mike O’Shea Crime Fiction Series, Death Before Coffee by Desmond P. Ryan. Along with this spotlight post, I’ll be giving my take on the novel here in a bit.

Book Details:

Book Title: Death Before Coffee by Desmond P. Ryan
Publisher: Copper Press Publishing
Release date: February 8, 2019
Format: Paperback/Ebook
Length: 245 pages

Book Blurb:

By 2:27 on a Thursday afternoon, the one-legged man from Room 8 at 147 Loxitor Avenue has been beaten to death with a lead pipe. Twenty-eight minutes later, Detective Mike O’Shea is testifying in a stuffy courtroom, unaware that, within an hour, he will be standing in an alleyway littered with beer cans and condoms while his new partner—the man who saved his life thirteen years ago—flicks bugs off of a battered corpse with a ballpoint pen. When a rogue undercover copper prematurely hauls in the prime suspect, Mike blows a fuse, resulting in an unlikely rapport developing between him and the lead homicide detective sergeant, a woman known for her stilettos and razor sharp investigative skills. At the end of his seventy-two-hour shift, three men are dead and Mike O’Shea is floating in and out of consciousness in an emergency room hallway, two women by his side.

Death Before Coffee, the second book in the Mike O’Shea Crime Fiction Series, weaves a homicide investigation through the life of an inner-city police detective intent on balancing his responsibilities as a son, brother, and newly single father with his sworn oath of duty. When faced with death, Mike is forced to make decisions that stir up old memories, compelling him to confront his demons while fighting the good fight.

About Desmond P. Ryan:

Desmond P. RyanFor almost thirty years, Desmond P. Ryan worked as a cop in the back alleys, poorly-lit laneways, and forgotten neighbourhoods in Toronto, the city where he grew up. Murder often most unkind, assaults on a level that defied humanity, and sexual violations intended to demean, shame, and haunt the victims were all in a day’s work. Days, evenings, midnights–all the same. Crime knows no time.

Whether as a beat cop or a plainclothes detective, Desmond dealt with good people who did bad things and bad people who followed their instincts. And now, as a retired detective, he writes crime fiction.

Real Detective. Real Crime. Fiction.

Desmond P. Ryan’s Social Media:

Twitter ~ Facebook ~ Website ~ Amazon Author Page

Purchase Links for Death Before Coffee:

Amazon UK ~ Amazon US ~ Kobo


My thanks to damppebbles blog tours for the invitation to participate in this tour and the materials they provided.

The Fourth Courier by Timothy Jay Smith: A Great Crime/Espionage Premise is Squandered in a Novel that Doesn’t Know What It Wants to Be.

The Fourth CourierThe Fourth Courier



eARC, 320 pg.
Arcade, 2019

Read: March 27 – 29, 2019

It’s 1992 and the countries (and people) that were behind the Iron Curtain are still trying to adjust to the new world order, which is a mind boggling idea, really. It’s something I haven’t thought much about since the early 90’s — and even then, I doubt I gave it much serious thought. But that’s the every day surreal life of the people in this novel — most are from Poland, some are from Russia, some from Serbia (oh, yeah and a few are from the States — but they’re not my focus at the moment). This alone makes The Fourth Courier different enough to take a glance at.

There’ve been a few unidentified men — with indications that they might be Russian — found murdered and mutilated (not necessarily in that order) in Warsaw. The last one showed traces of radioactivity (there’s a chance the others did, too — but the evidence is gone), and people start to worry about what’s afoot. It’s so worrying that the FBI sends someone (Agent Jay Porter) over to help the police investigate. The change in political realities is affecting the way the police operate, like every other aspect of society, but at least the basics are the same. Porter teams up with a Warsaw detective, but he also teams up with a CIA agent based in the US Embassy.

The CIA agent is focused on what these (possible) Russians are doing in Warsaw before being mutilated. Probably not at all coincidentally, a Serbian general visits the city the day before the bodies are found. There are several possibilities he’s looking into — the most benign involve narcotics trafficking, the worst involves small nuclear explosives.

The book is pitched as being this hybrid murder mystery/espionage novel in post-Cold War Poland — and when it is, it’s an interesting read. But I’m not convinced that’s the book that Smith really wanted to write — I’m sure it’s not the one he wrote.

Jay Porter is in the early stages of divorce back home, and one of the first things he does when he lands is to hit on an attractive woman working for the airline. They go on a few dates, he spends the day with her parents, sister and brother-in-law. She’s recently been divorced, too, but given the housing situation and economy, her ex-husband still lives with her and their adult son in the same apartment they shared while married. To say theirs is a complicated relationship is an understatement — and Porter’s only been in the country for a couple of days.

But that level of complication pales in comparison to the Serbian general. His sexuality/inclinations are beyond complicated — and several layers of which are peeled back for us to examine as we try to figure him out. We also get into the sex life of a ranking police official, a criminal with ties to the police, the general and Porter’s lady friend, the CIA agent, a complete stranger on a train and an ex-Soviet scientist. All of which is far too detailed for my (admittedly reserved) taste (although I’ve endured worse), many of which are gratuitous (one or two are useful for revealing character, but could’ve been dialed down and still achieved the same result).

If you ask me (and I guess, that’s kind of what the point of this blog is — and Smith did ask me, I have the emails to prove it), this is what he wanted to talk about: in the midst of the Cold War ruins to talk about these people — the romances, the sex (there’s a difference), the friendships, the shattered lives and psyches trying to reestablish themselves the way the countries were. It’s just that every now and then he remembered he was supposed to be writing the murder mystery/espionage novel and would go run off and deal with some of that plot before getting back to the stuff he wanted to talk about.

More power to him, by the way — it’s hard to come up with a reason to get all these characters in a book in the first place. But having decided to tell the story about multiple murders and spies and whatnot, he could’ve acted like he cared a bit more about that. The big espionage plot was pretty lazy and was resolved in an equally easy way. The murder mystery was resolved in a pretty unsatisfactory way and the investigation mainly happened “off screen.” At one point someone attempts to frame a suspect for the killings — it’s possibly the worst, most obvious frame job that I’ve read. Inspector Gadget would’ve picked up on it without Penny and the Brain needing to help. When the psychological ground for the mutilation was revealed, I almost quit reading — it was just too easy.

I did not, for one single second, believe any of Porter’s reactions to what was going on in the US regarding his family. I could buy his banter with his secretary. I could accept his emotions in Warsaw (although some of it was a stretch), but not his emotional backstory. I thought the general’s backstory was a bit over-wrought, but I could buy it. And I really had no problems with any of the Polish characters’ emotional lives or backstories — they all worked really well. If the supposed main stories were half- as well-developed as the personal/psychological/sexual stories/motivations/plotlines were, I’d be a lot more enthusiastic in my recommendation.

Before anyone goes off on me, saying that I just want the police procedural, or a crime novel that’s not about anything beyond the murder, a glance around this site should disabuse you of that idea. I enjoy Crime/Thriller novels that have something to say about things that aren’t the crimes in question — but before I’ll listen to anything else you have to say, you need to give me a Crime/Thriller that’s worth paying attention to.

Smith can do subtle, he can do nuance, he can show rather than tell. But most of the time when given the opportunity to do any of that, he seemed to choose the opposite. There’s enough skill in Smith’s work that I’m going to give it 3 pretty unenthusiastic stars, but this book could’ve been so much better. It just didn’t live up to the promise of it’s very strong premise. If he’d stuck with the premise, he probably could’ve pulled off something clever and compelling. If he’d told the story he seemed to really want to — it wouldn’t have been my cup of tea, but it would’ve been good read. Instead, we’re left with this pile of unfulfilled potential.

Disclaimer: I received this eARC from the author and Skyhorse Publishing via NetGalley in exchange for this post — thanks to all for this opportunity.

—–

3 Stars

Pub Day Repost: My Lovely Wife by Samantha Downing: I don’t think John Gray’s books cover marriages like this one

My Lovely WifeMy Lovely Wife

by Samantha Downing

eARC, 359 pg.
Berkley Books, 2019

Read: February 28 – March 2, 2019

You’ve been married for a decade and a half, the kids are in high school, you’re pretty established in your careers, middle age is around the corner — how do you keep the spark in your marriage alive (or reignite it)? There are dozens — probably hundreds — of suggestions out there, but probably none quite so . . . homicidal? The couple at the center of My Lovely Wife murders women — an idea so out there, I can’t imagine there’s enough wine in the world to get Kathy Lee and Hoda to promote.

They pick the victims together, he goes out and gets the women into a vulnerable situation and then she takes over while he spends time with the kids. This is an over-simplification, but not by much. This joint-project does seem to bring them together, giving them a common goal, something to talk about — it even seems to rekindle the romance. Sometimes their interaction is pretty sweet — sometimes, it’s a little sad. But at the core, you can see these two featuring in a very different kind of novel if only they had a different . . . activity to bond over.

Meanwhile, their son is acting defiant toward his father’s authority and is sneaking around with a girl. Their daughter is becoming more and more anxious — a media-induced anxiety disorder of some sort. While they’re dealing with the difficulties of parenting adolescents, they’re focused on their next target and evading the police. You have to feel for them as parents, really. They’re doing everything they should and you just can’t tell if the children will respond the way they hope. It’s a clear sign of their dedication to each other that they keep going.

It’s a great premise, really — and that alone is going to earn it some accolades. Downing does a pretty good job delivering on the promise of it, too. But after the original “What??” moment (which wasn’t that much of a surprise if you’ve read the blurb, but was still skillfully executed), I waited a long time to truly get hooked by this story. I kept feeling like I was alllllllllmost hooked, but I never got past the mildly curious level. I kept waiting for the hook, expecting it, wanting it — but it just didn’t come. Until some time in the last fifth of the book — and then even though I’d seen two of the big reveals coming, I hadn’t seen the reasoning behind the most important one. Also, Downing absolutely nailed the climactic portions of this book — all the dominoes she’d spent the whole novel setting up came down just as designed and were absolutely riveting to watch.

I want to complain about how long it took for me to really get hooked, to get invested in the outcome of the book — and I guess I am — but it was all worth it. I do think it’s dangerous to hope that an audience will stick without you that long — but seeing the design and how she set it all up, I just don’t know how to quibble that much. Because the pay off was just that well done.

This isn’t your typical story about killers — it’s not over the top and funny, it’s not dark and moody, it feels like a book about a fairly stable couple living in the nice part of Atlanta. Which is what the book is, but this couple has some pretty horrible secrets to explore. While it didn’t click for me until the very end, I can easily see where many people are going to love this book. Downing is a writer to watch, and I know I’ll be eagerly waiting for whatever comes next.

Disclaimer: I received this eARC from Berkley Publishing Group via NetGalley in exchange for this post — thanks to both for this, but it did not affect the substance of this post beyond giving me something upon which to opine.

—–

3.5 Stars

Mama’s Gone by Leopold Borstinski: The Once and Future Lagotti Family

Mama's GoneMama’s Gone

by Leopold Borstinski
Series: The Lagotti Family, #4

Kindle Edition, 301 pg.
Sobriety Press, 2019

Read: March 13 – 14, 2019

This is the fourth installment in a series whose timeline goes back to the 60’s. Which seems intimidating and not that approachable — but Borstinski places plenty of context for the reader and ensures that you don’t get lost in chronology.

Since the days of Mario Puzo (with some help from Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese, and David Chase), there’s been a cultural expectation for mob families — how much of that expectation matches reality is doubtful, but when it comes to fictional depictions we know what we should expect. A strong sense of family, of propriety, of the leadership mantle being passed from father to son in some sort of warped echo of landed nobility. But what happens as the strong leadership ages? Puzo himself gave a taste of this, but Vito Corleone had an heir in place. Of course, Junior Soprano did, too — but that didn’t mean he turned things over to him. Don Winslow’s The Power of the Dog showed the aging leader pass things off to the younger generation, and Robert B. Parker’s Broz family showed what it was like for a crime boss to hand things off to an heir who wasn’t capable of carrying the mantle.

But none of them approached the idea quite like Borstinski did – the first three books seem to chronicle the establishment of Mary Lou Lagotti in the American Crime scene — from robberies to hits on mob figures — Mary Lou showed herself to be brave, decisive and gutsy. With her second husband, Bobby, Mary Lou earned her territory in Los Angeles and the drug, prostitution and gambling money she and her people earned was well deserved and defended. We see a little bit of the establishment of Mary Lou’s empire in the 70’s as the novel opens, but really, things kick off in the mid-90s.

Mary Lou’s children — the driven, smart and careful Alice, and the impulsive, reckless, and rash Frank, Jr.; — are done with college when the book’s action really kicks off. Both are ready and eager to take their place in the family business. Alice is given an assignment or two, meets with success and is given more. Frank, is largely put in positions where he can’t hurt the family. He eventually grows up enough to establish something lasting (with a little help from his mother) on the East Coast, while Alice is living on her own, but near her parents helping expand and solidify the family’s business.

Then (and I don’t feel too bad talking about this, it’s in the blurb) Alice and Bobby start noticing little things that aren’t quite right with Mary Lou — she’s missing signs, she’s making decisions that seem out of character, she loses track of conversations. And the two of them make simple moves to cover for her and start to plan for the future — and try to get Frank involved, too.

Then with the breakup of the Soviet Union and the changes in Russia — Russian crime figures come to the U.S. and start taking territory and business. Mary Lou’s reactions to the challenge on her borders, and she tries to expand (and while she’s dealing with her memory problems) will determine not only her future, but the future of her family.

Watching Alice and Bobby trying to deal with this changing reality is fascinating, trying to keep the appearances of normality while protecting the family and their employees. This kind of story has been told before — with politicians or business leaders — but rarely with the kind of stakes that the Lagotti’s are dealing with.

Technically, this novel a mess — spelling errors, punctuation problems (both missing punctuation ad unnecessary), there are entire conversations without dialogue tags (sometimes you can tell who’s saying what, but not all of the time), word choices that bring out your inner-Inigo (“I do not think it means what you think it means”), etc. I’m not sure that criminals in the 1940’s actually used the phrase “stool pigeon,” I’m even less convinces that hardened killers and drug dealers in the 1990’s did. While the dialogue is full of slang (archaic and otherwise), the narrative avoids it — with one exception, “fellas.” “Fellas” is used repeatedly by characters (including a Russian mobster) and the narrative several times. It’s just jarring. All of the technical issues are repeated — I’ll cut off my list there, it’s fairly representative. It’s possible — I wouldn’t say it’s easy — to ignore the problems with the writing to focus on the characters and story.

For a crime novel, a lot more of the text is devoted to sex than to criminal activity or violence. Call me a prude ,but most of it is unnecessary to the plot and far too detailed — occasionally, it’s used to reveal character and in a way that advances the plot. But largely, it’s about crude titillation and I have no patience for that (especially in the volume this book gives us).

This is a flawed book, but a fascinating premise that’s thoughtfully executed. I’ve read (and watched) plenty of mob/organized crime stories, but the number of creators that have approached these topics is practically nil — making this something out of the ordinary and worthy of a ruminative read.


My thanks to damppebbles blog tours for the invitation to participate in this tour and the materials they provided.