‘The Escape Room’ by Megan Goldin: nonstop action from the first page to the last

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Greed and arrogance are qualities that permeate the personalities of the characters in Megan Goldin’s “The Escape Room.” The first chapter offers the reader clues that the story will not end well for some of those characters, but just how that comes about is part of the mystery and the thrill. Four hedge fund traders at the competitive firm of Stanhope and Sons are commanded to appear for a team-building exercise. Vincent, Jules, Sylvie, and Sam all have better things to be doing, but they are all extremely competitive, and they all want to get the best bonus possible, so they all show up to the not-quite-completed office building and enter the elevator.

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‘The Two Lila Bennetts’ by Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke is clever and frightening

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As someone who went through law school and gave criminal law a thought, my feelings after reading “The Two Lila Bennetts” is that authors Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke got it all right. I’ll never forget working for a criminal law firm while going to law school at night. A lawyer once said to me, “When you practice criminal law, you become as bad as the criminals.”

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‘The Last Time I Saw You’ by Liv Constantine keeps readers guessing until the end

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“The Last Time I Saw You” by Liv Constantine is a fabulous mystery. Like their first novel (Liv Constantine is actually two sisters),  “The Last Mrs. Parrish,” which was a bestseller, this one has twists aplenty and keeps the reader glued to the story until the wonderful ending.

While some mysteries keep the reader guessing and then spring a surprise at the end, the Constantine sisters present many, many suspects, yet the ending isn’t really a total surprise. They’ve cleverly and carefully planted clues all along the way — clues that don’t seem to be clues unless viewed in retrospect — and the reader might begin to suspect toward the end, but won’t truly understand what has happened until the final reveal.

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‘Pieces of Her’ by Karin Slaughter: Fascinating Study of Human Strength and Fragility

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Karin Slaughter writes thrillers with compelling characters and engrossing plots, and with “Pieces of Her,” she continues that tradition. In this book, Slaughter introduces two women main characters who are both deeply flawed, yet both discover incredible inner strength and the story plots that growth through flashbacks and the nonstop action.

The story begins with Andrea, out to lunch with her mother Laura. Andrea lives over her mother’s garage in their small, quiet town on the coast. She has little ambition, no ascertainable skills, and has pretty much made a mess of her life to this point.

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‘The Other Woman’ by Sandie Jones: A Psychological Thriller that Will Keep You Wondering

the other woman

“The Other Woman” by Sandie Jones is the story of Emily Havistock and her new boyfriend, Adam Banks. Emily has had one devastating past relationship, and now has a small group of steadfast friends, but she wants more, and she thinks Adam might be “the one.” When he finally suggests introducing her to his mother, she’s thrilled.

But things don’t go as planned, and while his mother, Pammie, seems like a wonderful woman to the rest of the world, Emily gets the feeling that Pammie wants her gone. The clues are subtle and only noticed by Emily, but she’s positive that they are real. As her relationship with Adam grows deeper, the warning signs get stronger — Pammie does not want her in the family.

In the meantime, things are not all rosy with Adam. He doesn’t care for Emily’s close friend Seb, who happens to be gay. He likes to go out on his regular Thursday night with his chums and often comes back drunk. In fact, he drinks a lot. While the reader may notice these things, Emily does not seem to care much or be bothered by the questionable things Adam does. All of Emily’s wrath and emotion is centered on Pammie.

When Pammie reveals (thanks to Emily’s clumsy questions) that she has cancer just days before Emily and Adam are to be married, Adam calls the wedding off. Emily has her doubts about whether or not Pammie even really has cancer. Is this merely another ploy in her efforts to keep Emily out of the family?

Another complication is Adam’s brother, James, who seems to be everything Adam is, but kinder, calmer, and more sincere. Yet Emily is torn because while she is attracted to James, she also is suspicious of his attentions.

Jones keeps the focus on Emily and Pammie, and the pages keep turning as the reader endeavors to find out who will win — the evil Pammie, soon-to-be-evil-mother-in-law, or Emily. Perhaps, like this reviewer, readers will be expecting a surprise reveal about Emily. The actual ending is not easy to predict and will probably surprise most readers.

This is perfect for a quick vacation or weekend read. It’s a carefully crafted psychological thriller with a suspenseful plot and realistic characters. Enjoy.

Please note: This review is based on the final, hardcover book provided by Minotaur, the publisher, for review purposes.

‘Then She Was Gone’ by Lisa Jewell Is a Dark and Emotional Suspense

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In “Then She Was Gone,” author Lisa Jewell takes readers on a dark ride into the minds of some pretty crazy people. Laurel Mack is the mother of three children, one of whom disappeared — into thin air — one afternoon on the way to the library. That was ten years ago. Now Laurel’s life has changed. She’s alienated the two children she has left as well as her husband. They divorced, and she has just met a man who seems to be too good to be true.

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‘A List of Cages’ by Robin Roe Is a Beautiful Tale of Friendship Overcoming Evil

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“A List of Cages” by Robin Roe is a young adult book that is extremely powerful and heartrending, yet also uplifting. It’s a testament to the power of friendship, and it’s a cautionary tale to those who foster or work with children. It’s the story of two boys, Adam and Julian, and the bond that saves the life of Julian.

Julian’s life was difficult when he was bullied as a young child. His mother told him that those who are mean act that way because they are unhappy. He is dyslexic, and his inability to read well makes him self-conscious. Julian’s parents are killed when he is nine years old, and he goes to live with Adam. Julian and Adam had been partners when Adam was in 5th grade and Julian was in kindergarten, so they knew each other a bit.

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‘The Wife’ by Alafair Burke Is a Suspense-Filled #MeToo Novel

the wife

In “The Wife,” Alafair Burke manages to combine several characters who bring plenty of backstory to the novel. The titular wife, Angela, is the survivor of a kidnapping she had suffered as a teenager. She and another teen were kept by a sadistic rapist and tortured for years. She finally escaped with a baby, but the other girl was killed.

When Angela met Jason Powell, a successful professor, the fact that he wanted to marry her overwhelmed her. But she was thrilled at the chance to leave East Hampton, where her parents and those around her struggled to make a living. Angela had had her life disrupted when she was kidnapped, so she never finished high school. That left her feeling insecure around Jason’s highly educated friends, so she became a homebody, happy to be left to raise the son whom Jason considers his as well.

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‘The Wife Between Us’ by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen Is a Solid Psychological Thriller

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With “The Wife Between Us,” authors Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen create a psychological thriller that includes twists and turns that will keep readers turning the pages until the final ending twist.

There is Nellie, the young girl falling in love with successful, adoring Richard. There is Vanessa, bitter and divorced from Richard, and remembering their life together. The story is told in alternative voices, one in first person narrative and the other in third person.

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