Over the last few week, I have mixed in some stories of suspense/mystery/thrills to balance out my festive Christmas reads. All four of these books were different from one another. There is a medical thriller, a domestic drama/suspense story, a crime thriller/mystery and a stalkerish thriller/mystery. I enjoyed them all in different ways and to different degrees.
Not a Happy Family by Shari Lapena, Ellen Archer (Narrator)
Published July 27th 2021 by Penguin Audio, Pamela Dorman Books
5 Stars: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Everytime I pick up a Shari Lapena book, I know I am going to be in for an enjoyable time. This is one excellent thriller that had me on the edge of my seat the whole time. We meet the Merton family at Easter dinner. What a dysfunctional bunch. The next morning Fred and Sheila Merton are found dead. At first the police think it was a robbery gone wrong, but soon evidence points away from that and towards the kids. Did one of their three children kill them?
That is all I will say about the plot of this story, because I do not want to give anything away. I will say that I did not like any of the characters. From Fred and Sheila, to his sister, his children and some acquaintances, everyone has a reason to dislike Fred. They all seem rather selfish and don’t really care about anyone but themselves. Everyone distrusts the others, and are ready to throw them under the bus to save themselves. Usually, I don’t enjoy a book when I can’t connect to the characters, but this was an exception. Shari Lapena’s excellent writing, plot and clues had me hooked to the story and I spent every available minute listening to this one. The audiobook was narrated by Ellen Archer, a performer I have never listened to before. I enjoyed her narration very much with her strong voice demonstrating emotion and her use of expression to bring this story to life. If you enjoy a good thriller/suspense/mystery, then I recommend Not a Happy Family.
Why She Left by Leah Mercer, Mira Dovreni (Narrator)
Published December 13th 2021 by Bookouture, Bookouture Audio
4 Stars: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Ruth’s estranged daughter, Isobel, turns up on her doorstep with a son Ruth never knew about. Isobel left school and her home as a teenager and Ruth never knew why or where she was. She had always thought Isobel would take over the private school her family started and ran, but when this didn’t happen, her other daughter returned home to help. Ruth now sees this as her second chance with Isobel as well as grooming her grandson, Isaac, she never knew about. As well, Ruth will always do what she thinks is best for the prestigious Burlington Square School she has spent her life building.
Why She Left is a domestic drama with some suspense thrown in. There is a lot of family drama in this one. I have to say that I disliked Ruth, a lot. This was a woman who put the family’s school above everything else. She was a bit high and mighty and when the mighty fall, they fall hard. The school is it’s own character in this story. It’s the center of everything as it looms over the square and their lives. Both Isobel and her older sister Cecily have been shaped by the school, it explains their personalities and actions just as it does with Ruth. The interactions between the three women can be harsh, but Isaac seems to be a buffer between them. There are flashbacks in the story so we can see how the past has effected the present, but I quickly figured out why Isobel left home. There is a lot of emotion in this one, especially pain and anger that must be dealt with for them to move forward. There is a huge twist near the end that had me shaking my head. I enjoyed this story of a damaged family, characters who needed to heal, some revenge, and feelings of pain that will lead characters to act in certain ways. Not a thriller, which was what I had been expecting, but a good story nonetheless. Mira Dovreni narrates the audiobook and did a good job with this story. Her voices, expression and emotion made this a pleasant listening experience.
The Couple on Maple Drive by Sam Carrington, Narrated by Georgia Maguire, John Hopkins, Elliot Fitzpatrick, Beth Chalmers, & Russell Bentley
Published December 9th 2021 by Avon
4 Stars: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Isla is attacked on her way home from a work party. She becomes a recluse and her boyfriend Zach moves in to take care of her. She does not remember the attack, and this really bothers and scares her. As the story progresses, she reaches out to members of a true crime team who do podcasts. With their help, she slowly begins to remember what happened as well as to suspect who the attacker was and perhaps the reason behind it.
This is my first Sam Carrington book and although I enjoyed it, I didn’t love it. The main reason I knocked this down a bit was Isla, the main character. As she began to figure things out, she made some pretty bad decisions. For an independent woman, she was treated pretty badly by her boyfriend and I just wanted to give her a good shake. Neither Zach or Nicki (Isla’s BFF) were very likable and I definitely did not like them at all. I enjoyed the addition of the podcasts, it gave the audiobook a different feel. The plot was interesting and although it is pretty obvious who attacked Isla, the reason behind it and the character flaws and issues were doled out in a satisfactory way. Overall, this was an enjoyable story with a good ending. The audiobook was narrated with a cast consisting of Georgia Maguire, John Hopkins, Elliot Fitzpatrick, Beth Chalmers, and Russell Bentley. It definitely made the audiobook bring this story to life with individual voices, lots of expression and great pacing. I definitely believe the narration added to my enjoyment of this story.
The First Family (First #2) by Daniel Palmer, Fred Berman (Narrator)
Published April 16th 2018 by Macmillan, St. Martin’s Press
3 Stars: ⭐⭐⭐
The First Family is set in Washington DC, centering on the Presidents’ family, specifically, his son. When Cam starts showing vague signs of illness, the White House physician doesn’t seem to be concerned. The First Lady wants a second opinion and her secret service person, Karen, suggests her ex-husband, Dr. Lee Blackwood. She convinces her husband to allow him to come and do an exam and he finally agrees, but still wants the White House doctor to have final say. Lee is concerned about the symptoms the presidents’ son is presenting, and after referring him to the hospital he learns about another patient who might have the same symptoms. Is there more to this illness? Is there a reason Cam was targeted? Can they save Cam and the other young victim.
This book started off strong, but then slowed down midway through. I enjoyed the medical part and how they investigated the issue, I think it was the White House doctor and the president’s blind faith that troubled me. There is also another storyline that added a red herring, but the resolution was a bit of a let down. I figured out what was going in about 3/4 of the way in and just wanted my guess to be proved right. Fred Berman’s narration was well done and I enjoyed listening to this audiobook. I think this book had a lot of promise and while I enjoyed it, it did not measure up to my expectations. If you enjoy medical thrillers, or political thrillers, give this one a try, as this one has mixed reviews and ratings.