Review: Tear Me Apart by J.T. Ellison

My Rating: 4 / 5 stars

Verdict: Buy Borrow Bypass

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

One moment will change their lives forever…

Competitive skier Mindy Wright is a superstar in the making until a spectacular downhill crash threatens not just her racing career but her life. During surgery, doctors discover she’s suffering from a severe form of leukemia, and a stem cell transplant is her only hope. But when her parents are tested, a frightening truth emerges. Mindy is not their daughter.

Who knows the answers?

The race to save Mindy’s life means unraveling years of lies. Was she accidentally switched at birth or is there something more sinister at play? The search for the truth will tear a family apart…and someone is going to deadly extremes to protect the family’s deepest secrets.

With vivid movement through time, Tear Me Apart examines the impact layer after layer of lies and betrayal has on two families, the secrets they guard, and the desperate fight to hide the darkness within.

My Thoughts:

I love that J.T. Ellison writes layered novels. The plot is never as simple as it might appear, and Tear Me Apart is no exception. The race to save Mindy’s life is difficult on its own but the question of the identity of her biological parents is made even more demanding. Almost everyone in this story lies at least once, making it tricky for the reader to know whom to trust. While I did guess part of the conclusion, I certainly did not have everything figured out. As someone who reads a lot of mysteries and thrillers, I consider a book a success if I don’t see everything coming at the end. I flew through this story in just a couple days, determined to reach the ending. Tear Me Apart is a wild ride.

The characters in Tear Me Apart are well rounded. I had no difficulties picturing each character and empathizing with them. And I’m glad that Ellison allowed these characters to feel all kinds of emotions. There is a considerable amount of shock as lies are finally revealed, but everyone still wants what’s best for Mindy and has to balance their feelings. I especially liked reading about Mindy, who is inspiring, mature, and also still a kid trying to cope with maybe never skiing again, learning she has leukemia, and that her parents aren’t her biological parents.

Ellison knows how to write strong thrillers. Much like Gillian Flynn (read my review of Sharp Objects here!), she plays with stereotypes of how women can act and what women can do. Tear Me Apart features several different women who are likeable, troubling, kindhearted, and dangerous. Ellison also knows how to keep a thriller moving. With short chapters and flashbacks, Ellison keeps the reader on the edge of their seat, making this novel a quick read.

Wrap Up:

Overall, I really enjoyed this book! I’ve read a few of Ellison’s other novels, and always enjoy her work. As a fun surprise, much of this story is set in Colorado, and I loved recognizing locations and descriptions! I would definitely recommend this book, especially for fans of Karin Slaughter.

This book is…

fast paced

a page turner

surprising

unputdownable

well written

Publisher: MIRA

Genre: thriller

Page Count: 368

ISBN: 0778330001

Available here from IndieBound.

Have you read Tear Me Apart? What other J.T. Ellison novels would you recommend?

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Review: Ordeal by Innocence by Agatha Christie

My Rating: 5 / 5 stars

Verdict: Buy Borrow Bypass

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Recovering from amnesia, Dr. Arthur Calgary discovers that he alone could have provided an alibi in a scandalous murder trial. It ended in the conviction of Jacko Argyle. The victim was Jacko’s own mother, and to make matters worse, he died in prison. But the young man’s innocence means that someone else killed the Argyle matriarch, and would certainly kill again to remain in the shadows. Shaded in the moral ambiguity of murder, the provocative psychological puzzler of guilt, vengeance, and blood secrets is among Agatha Christie’s personal favorites.

My Thoughts:

I really enjoyed the premise of this mystery novel. Not only are we dealing with a dead body, but the murder was solved years ago. Dr. Calgary’s mysterious appearance immediately appears suspicious, but readers will quickly discover that Calgary’s surprising entrance is the least suspicious thing in this story. I was unable to guess the real culprit, which always marks a mystery novel as a win in my book!

The characters in this story are flawed. Rather than be grateful that family member Jacko did not kill his mother, the family immediately suspect and turn on one another. Everyone’s true colors are immediately displayed and, to be frank, no one is particularly kind. Agatha Christie plays with the notion of degrees of innocence, and whether thinking of a crime is the same as committing a crime. Additionally, there is the question of suspecting someone you love of murder, and whether that initial suspicion can ever be overcome.

The singular flaw I would like to point out here is that this book is sometimes a product of its time. One of the family members, Tina, is continuously described as ‘half-caste’ and ‘dark’ like a sexy cat. Tina’s exact race is unspecified, but these descriptions would not be allowed past an editor today. While these descriptions were not horrifically offensive, they are a bit off putting, especially when used again and again in an under 300 page book. I’m a big fan of Agatha Christie novels, especially her ‘locked room’ mysteries. Ordeal by Innocence is a sort of variation of the locked room mystery, in that you know the murder victim was killed by a member of her own family, but it’s unclear as to who could have done it. Per usual, Christie paces out clues, developments, and red herrings with her own personal flair. This book is absolutely a page turner. I finished it in just one day!

Wrap Up:

Overall, I loved this book! It’s short and moves quickly, which is great for a mystery. Christie is obviously a mystery master, and this book is no exception. I’m eager to watch the new tv adaptation, too! I highly recommend this book, especially for fans of Christie’s And Then There Were None.

This book is…

clever

surprising

quick moving

full of interesting characters

well paced

Publisher: Harper

Genre: mystery

Page Count: 269

ISBN: 0062073524

Available here from IndieBound.

Have you read Ordeal by Innocence? What other Agatha Christie novels would you recommend?

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Review: Pieces of Her by Karin Slaughter

My Rating: 4 / 5 stars

Verdict: Buy Borrow Bypass

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

What if the person you thought you knew best turns out to be someone you never knew at all . . . ?

Andrea knows everything about her mother, Laura. She knows she’s spent her whole life in the small beachside town of Belle Isle; she knows she’s never wanted anything more than to live a quiet life as a pillar of the community; she knows she’s never kept a secret in her life. Because we all know our mothers, don’t we?

But all that changes when a trip to the mall explodes into violence and Andrea suddenly sees a completely different side to Laura. Because it turns out that before Laura was Laura, she was someone completely different. For nearly thirty years she’s been hiding from her previous identity, lying low in the hope that no one would ever find her. But now she’s been exposed, and nothing will ever be the same again.

The police want answers and Laura’s innocence is on the line, but she won’t speak to anyone, including her own daughter. Andrea is on a desperate journey following the breadcrumb trail of her mother’s past. And if she can’t uncover the secrets hidden there, there may be no future for either one of them. . . .

My Thoughts:

First and foremost, whatever you think will happen next in this book, won’t. Any guesses or theories you might develop as you read will inevitably be wrong. Despite being almost 500 pages, Karin Slaughter’s writing kept me on the edge of my seat and hardly wanting to set this book down. Although the premise initially felt over the top, Slaughter took the story in an unexpected direction that somehow grounded the story. It’s always difficult to discuss a mystery novel without giving away the ending, but through the use of well placed flashbacks, the story ultimately comes together nicely.

At the beginning I struggled to like Andrea. At 31, her actions and attitude felt unrealistic. Maybe I’m biased because I don’t know any 31 year olds who are utterly floundering, but Andrea seemed too helpless to be real. Ironically, she really matured quickly and steps up to the plate once certain events unfold. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that I liked her by the end, even though I think you’re supposed to, but she was significantly less annoying by the book’s conclusion. Laura was by far my favorite character, though. At the beginning, she is the kind of mother that everyone wants to be or have, and only becomes more fascinating as her story unfolds. Slaughter grounds Laura’s character in familiar tropes, which keeps her story from becoming a soap opera. The relationship between mother and daughter felt real, which is great as theirs is the central dynamic in this story.

I was really impressed with the pacing of this book. This story got inside my head and I never wanted to put the book down. There are some pop culture references that do date this writing and pulled me out of the story each time. At almost 500 pages, I do think some parts could have been cut, especially in the middle and at the end. But Slaughter obviously knows how to write a thriller, and I’m sure her other books are equally as good.

Wrap Up:

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. Pieces of Her is the first Karin Slaughter book I’ve read but I think I’ll start to work my way through her backlist soon. This book makes a great summer, vacation, or weekend read due to the fast pace. I would definitely recommend this book.

This book is…

shocking

suspenseful

well written

engaging

full of twists and turns

Publisher: William Morrow

Genre: thriller

Page Count: 480

ISBN: 0062430270

Available here from IndieBound.

Will you read Pieces of Her? What other Karin Slaughter novels would you recommend?

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Review: The Brutal Telling by Louise Penny

My Rating: 5 / 5 stars

Verdict: Buy Borrow Bypass

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Chaos is coming, old son.

With those words the peace of Three Pines is shattered. As families prepare to head back to the city and children say goodbye to summer, a stranger is found murdered in the village bistro and antiques store. Once again, Chief Inspector Gamache and his team are called in to strip back layers of lies, exposing both treasures and rancid secrets buried in the wilderness.

No one admits to knowing the murdered man, but as secrets are revealed, chaos begins to close in on the beloved bistro owner, Olivier. How did he make such a spectacular success of his business? What past did he leave behind and why has he buried himself in this tiny village? And why does every lead in the investigation find its way back to him?

As Olivier grows more frantic, a trail of clues and treasures— from first editions of Charlotte’s Web and Jane Eyre to a spider web with the word “WOE” woven in it—lead the Chief Inspector deep into the woods and across the continent in search of the truth, and finally back to Three Pines as the little village braces for the truth and the final, brutal telling.

My Thoughts:

I love that every time I pick up a Louise Penny book, I feel like I’m returning to my favorite place. Penny eloquently captures the look and feel of such a small town, and highlights its charms and its drawbacks. Three Pines is very much its own character in this series which adds to the warmth and heart of these books. Frankly, every returning character feels like running into an old friend.

The Brutal Telling stands out from the previous stories in that the prime suspect is one we’ve all grown to love! Olivier is a wonderful character, and I especially enjoy reading his interactions with his partner, Gabri, and the descriptions of the wonderful food he makes. I was shocked that Olivier fell under suspicion and that the plot ultimately unfolds the way it does. I trust that Penny has a larger plan for the following novels and that everything will ultimately work out.

I also appreciated that Penny featured Indigenous persons in this book. While I admit to not knowing much about Canadian history, I do know that Canada treated Indigenous tribes and persons horrifically. And the characters in The Brutal Telling do not shy away from these facts. Reading this book has inspired me to learn more about Indigenous communities and how both Canada and the US got so much wrong. I’m specifically looking to read from the Indigenous perspective and from #OwnVoices authors. If you have any recommendations, leave a comment below!

Wrap Up:

Overall, I really enjoyed this book! The Brutal Telling has some shocking plot developments that really shake up Three Pines. It’s no surprise here that I’m a big fan of Louise Penny. If you’re looking for a great mystery series, I’d highly recommend this one. While you can read this mystery series in any order, I do suggest you begin with the first novel, Still Life . You can also read my reviews of the first three Penny novels here.

This book is…

cozy

shocking

beautifully written

full of new and beloved characters

educational

Publisher: Minotaur

Genre: mystery

Page Count: 386

ISBN: 1250161665

Available here from IndieBound.

Have you read The Brutal Telling? What cozy mystery novel would you recommend?

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Review: The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager

My Rating: 5 / 5 stars

Verdict: Buy Borrow Bypass

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

In the new novel from the bestselling author of Final Girls, The Last Time I Lied follows a young woman as she returns to her childhood summer camp to uncover the truth about a tragedy that happened there fifteen years ago.

Two Truths and a Lie. The girls played it all the time in their tiny cabin at Camp Nightingale. Vivian, Natalie, Allison, and first-time camper Emma Davis, the youngest of the group. The games ended when Emma sleepily watched the others sneak out of the cabin in the dead of night. The last she–or anyone–saw of them was Vivian closing the cabin door behind her, hushing Emma with a finger pressed to her lips.

Now a rising star in the New York art scene, Emma turns her past into paintings–massive canvases filled with dark leaves and gnarled branches that cover ghostly shapes in white dresses. The paintings catch the attention of Francesca Harris-White, the socialite and wealthy owner of Camp Nightingale. When Francesca implores her to return to the newly reopened camp as a painting instructor, Emma sees an opportunity to try to find out what really happened to her friends.

Yet it’s immediately clear that all is not right at Camp Nightingale. Already haunted by memories from fifteen years ago, Emma discovers a security camera pointed directly at her cabin, mounting mistrust from Francesca and, most disturbing of all, cryptic clues Vivian left behind about the camp’s twisted origins. As she digs deeper, Emma finds herself sorting through lies from the past while facing threats from both man and nature in the present. And the closer she gets to the truth about Camp Nightingale, the more she realizes it may come at a deadly price.

My Thoughts:

The story in Last Time is exciting. I enjoyed Emma’s return to Camp Nightingale as she simultaneously tries to learn what happened to her cabin mates and also move through that traumatic event. The mystery surrounding the girls’ disappearances was well done, and it took me until the end of the book to put it all together. As someone who reads a lot of mysteries, I’m always pleased when a mystery or thriller catches me off guard and is able to keep me guessing. That being said, if you’re paying enough attention, you might be able to figure out the ending sooner. But, like any good thriller writer, Sager includes the right amount of twists, turns, and red herrings to keep the reader on the edge of their seat.

I really liked the detail of Emma’s artist career. The descriptions of her paintings were so vivid I felt like I could see the paintings right in front of me! Emma’s artwork is eerie, sensual, and shocking, which makes sense given what happened in her past. Riley Sager made a spot on career choice for Emma, though, and it adds considerable depth to her character. I also thought it was interesting that almost every single character in Last Time is unlikeable, which even includes Emma, our protagonist. I’m not bothered by this choice as I do love rooting for unlikeable characters, especially heroines, but it’s also tough when the reader feels at a distance to everyone involved. I think it’s helpful, even in thrillers, for the reader to like at least one main character.

Wrap Up:

Overall, I loved this book! I really enjoyed Sager’s debut novel, Final Girls, and was nervous that Last Time wouldn’t live up to the hype. But I think I enjoyed Last Time even more than Final Girls! This is a fun, engaging, and quick summer read. It would be an excellent choice for a vacation read! I highly recommend this book, especially to fans of A.J. Finn and Ruth Ware.

This book is…

unputdownable

shocking

engaging

entertaining

spooky

Publisher: Dutton Books

Genre: thriller

Page Count: 384

ISBN: 1524743070

Available here from IndieBound.

Will you read The Last Time I Lied? What thriller would you recommend?

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Review: Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

My Rating: 4 / 5 stars

Verdict: Buy Borrow Bypass

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Fresh from a brief stay at a psych hospital, reporter Camille Preaker faces a troubling assignment: she must return to her tiny hometown to cover the murders of two preteen girls. For years, Camille has hardly spoken to her neurotic, hypochondriac mother or to the half-sister she barely knows: a beautiful thirteen-year-old with an eerie grip on the town. Now, installed in her old bedroom in her family’s Victorian mansion, Camille finds herself identifying with the young victims—a bit too strongly. Dogged by her own demons, she must unravel the psychological puzzle of her own past if she wants to get the story—and survive this homecoming.

My Thoughts:

This story is creepy! I loved how much Flynn used Missouri in this story. Missouri is not just the setting of this novel, it is a character in this novel. From luxurious details about the heat and how it gets under your skin to descriptions of the fields and rivers around town, Flynn lets Missouri embody the story. The characters in Sharp Objects are dried up, prickly, and bored. It reminds me of the play Cat On A Hot Tin Roof. In both stories, the unrelenting heat coupled with limited locations drives the characters to make questionable choices. And no one wants to own up to their mistakes.

Camille is a fascinating protagonist. We learn early on that she previously spent time in a psychiatric hospital and that she’s also a heavy drinker. Immediately, Camille’s perceptions are distrusted. Most characters in Sharp Objects act different ways with different people which, especially when coupled with the heat, mean appearances can be deceiving. Camille is also obstinate at times, and her futile interactions with her distant family make the reader question what really happened to drive a wedge between mother and daughter.

And speaking of mothers and daughters, Camille and her mother, Adora, are destructive to themselves, each other, and everyone around them. One of the things I loved about Gone Girl was how much Flynn pushed back against traditional gender roles and challenged some stereotypes. She takes a similar approach in Sharp Objects by questioning the notion that all women should be mothers and that they are, inherently, good mothers. To say that Adora is not a good mother is a massive understatement. Camille seems reluctant to take that path herself which is understandable once we get to know Adora.

Wrap Up:

Overall, I really enjoyed this book! Sharp Objects is definitely more gruesome than Gone Girl, so please keep that in mind if you’re expecting many similarities in tone. I’m eagerly awaiting the HBO miniseries and can’t wait to see how it compares to the book. I would also love to see this turned into a play. It would work quite well! I highly recommend this book, especially for fans of Tana French.

This book is…

sensuous

unputdownable

eerie

unsettling

shocking

This book contains content warnings for…

self-harm

child abuse

animal abuse

Publisher: Broadway Books

Genre: mystery

Page Count: 254

ISBN: 0307341550

Available here from IndieBound.

Have you read Sharp Objects? What mystery book would you recommend?

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Review: The Cruelest Month by Louise Penny

My Rating: 4 / 5 stars

Verdict: Buy Borrow Bypass

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Welcome to Three Pines, where the cruelest month is about to deliver on its threat. It’s spring in the tiny, forgotten village; buds are on the trees and the first flowers are struggling through the newly thawed earth. But not everything is meant to return to life. . .

When some villagers decide to celebrate Easter with a séance at the Old Hadley House, they are hoping to rid the town of its evil—until one of their party dies of fright. Was this a natural death, or was the victim somehow helped along? Brilliant, compassionate Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Sûreté du Québec is called to investigate, in a case that will force him to face his own ghosts as well as those of a seemingly idyllic town where relationships are far more dangerous than they seem.

My Thoughts:

The murder mystery in this book was really intriguing. This story kicks off with all things haunted and spooky as the central characters attempt a séance in an old house. I thought this was a fun twist on the ‘scared to death’ saying. Penny writes mysteries similarly to Agatha Christie. While reading the story, it’s impossible to predict the murderer. But once everything is revealed, it feels like the answer was right in front of you the whole time! I can assure you that this murder’s solution is quite surprising. There are lots of great plot twists in this story which keeps this book moving along nicely.

The Cruelest Month introduced us to a few new Three Pines residents, which was nicely timed to shake up the cast a bit. While I always enjoy Penny’s writing style, this book struck me as even more lyrical than the previous ones. I enjoyed her musings on the themes of spring, rebirth, and resurrection. Penny did a great job of tying these themes in with the mystery solution and resolution of some other plot points. The ending of this story is difficult to discuss without spoiling everything, but rest assured that The Cruelest Month wraps up this trilogy quite nicely, while still providing room for this series to grow.

Wrap Up:

Overall, I really enjoyed this book! I loved that this mystery resolved some of the broader plot points that occurred in the previous two books in the series. I still enjoy this series and would highly recommend this book. Is there a mystery series you’d recommend?

This book is…

lyrical

memorable

thought provoking

surprising

charming

Publisher: Minotaur Books

Genre: mystery

Page Count: 311

ISBN: 0312573502

Available here from IndieBound.

Have you read any of Louise Penny’s books? What were you reading this weekend?

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Review: The English Wife by Lauren Willig

My Rating: 4 / 5 stars

Verdict: Buy Borrow Bypass

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Annabelle and Bayard Van Duyvil live a charmed life: he’s the scion of an old Knickerbocker family, she grew up in a Tudor manor in England, they had a whirlwind romance in London, they have three year old twins on whom they dote, and he’s recreated her family home on the banks of the Hudson and renamed it Illyria. Yes, there are rumors that she’s having an affair with the architect, but rumors are rumors and people will gossip. But then Bayard is found dead with a knife in his chest on the night of their Twelfth Night Ball, Annabelle goes missing, presumed drowned, and the papers go mad. Bay’s sister, Janie, forms an unlikely alliance with a reporter to uncover the truth, convinced that Bay would never have killed his wife, that it must be a third party, but the more she learns about her brother and his wife, the more everything she thought she knew about them starts to unravel. Who were her brother and his wife, really? And why did her brother die with the name George on his lips?

My Thoughts:

I loved the initial premise of this book. I’m a big fan of mystery novels, and really enjoyed the beginning of The English Wife, in which one half of a married couple is found dead and the other half is missing. This plot is difficult to discuss without giving anything away, but I found the story to be extremely compelling and creative. There were quite a few plot twists and I can honestly say I never saw them coming. Lauren Willig uses flashbacks brilliantly in this story. Through these flashbacks we learn just enough at a time to keep the plot moving forward without answering every single question.

The characters in this story were incredibly diverse in terms of temperament, but certainly not in terms of race. Bayard and Annabelle make a great pair and play off each other nicely. My favorite character, though, was Bayard’s sister, Janie. I loved her tenacity, her intelligence, and took great pleasure in reading her character development. Per any mystery novel this one has lots of murder suspects, which always makes for fun reading. This book definitely has plenty of characters to love, hate, and to love to hate.

A few notes follow here about the ending, and I promise I won’t spoil it!

This story does not completely wrap up in the end. While some plot points are resolved, one or two are left up in the air. I’m not sure if Willig intended this solely so the reader can make up their own mind, or if a sequel is expected. Usually, I’m not a fan of ambiguous endings. I prefer to know what happened. But Willig did a nice job of tying enough loose ends and leaving a little bit unsaid in case there is a sequel.

Wrap Up:

Overall, I really enjoyed this book! I read much of Willig’s series, The Pink Carnation, but this was the first non-Carnation book of hers that I’ve read. I love that Willig writes complex characters, complicated plots, and romance on the side. I thought this book was a very fun read and I would definitely recommend this book, especially for historical fiction fans.

This book is…

surprising

engaging

full of twists and turns

unputdownable

satisfying

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Genre: mystery

Page Count: 376

ISBN: 1250056276

Available here from IndieBound.

Have you read any of Lauren Willig’s books? What other mystery would you recommend?

I am an affiliate with IndieBound and as such, receive a tiny commission should you choose to click through any of the above links and purchase the book(s). Thank you for supporting A Word is Power!

Review: The Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware

My Rating: 5 / 5 stars

Verdict: Buy Borrow Bypass

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

On a day that begins like any other, Hal receives a mysterious letter bequeathing her a substantial inheritance. She realizes very quickly that the letter was sent to the wrong person—but also that the cold-reading skills she’s honed as a tarot card reader might help her claim the money.

Soon, Hal finds herself at the funeral of the deceased…where it dawns on her that there is something very, very wrong about this strange situation and the inheritance at the center of it.

Full of spellbinding menace and told in Ruth Ware’s signature suspenseful style, this is an unputdownable thriller from the Agatha Christie of our time.

My Thoughts:

I really enjoyed the plot of The Death of Mrs. Westaway. While there were some elements that I didn’t fully understand as they were revealed, Ware did a great job of tying everything together in the end and explaining all. I also loved that the reader was piecing the story together along with Hal, who makes for a great protagonist. Hal is determined, realistic, and likeable. I liked Ware’s take on the unlikeable hero as the reader knows what Hal is doing is wrong, but still wants her to succeed anyway.

The pacing in this book is interesting. At first, the story moves along slowly. The pace does pick up a bit and become more engrossing towards the middle and definitely keeps the reader engaged in the end. But for me the beginning lagged a bit. Additionally, this is one of the few stories I’ve read in which I wished for an epilogue. I wanted to know more about Hal’s next steps and what would happen with the Westaway family. This is left up to the reader’s imagination. Usually I prefer when an author doesn’t spell everything out for the reader but I do think this book needed it.

I loved that this mystery really revolves around the women in the Westaway family. Ultimately, this story is about choices. Sometimes we make good choices and sometimes they’re bad. But The Death of Mrs. Westaway is about making choices and living with the consequences. I believe that every character in this story is suffering under the weight of the consequences of their actions. I found it fascinating to read how decisions can play out within one family and several generations.

Wrap Up:

Overall, I loved this book! The Death of Mrs. Westaway felt different than Ware’s previous novels. There’s no active murder investigation and much of the action revolves around conversations. In a lot of ways, this book actually reminds me of an Agatha Christie novel. I love Agatha Christie, so the slower pace was not a problem for me. But it might be something to keep in mind if you need more of an action driven plot. I would highly recommend this book, especially for fans of more traditional mysteries and Old Hollywood Movies.

This book is…

surprising

clever

well-written

engaging

old-school

Publisher: Scout Press

Genre: mystery

Page Count: 384

ISBN: 1501156217

Available here from IndieBound.

Have you read any of Ruth Ware’s books? Are you excited to read The Death of Mrs. Westaway?

I am an affiliate with IndieBound and as such, receive a tiny commission should you choose to click through any of the above links and purchase the book(s). Thank you for supporting A Word is Power!

Review: A Fatal Grace by Louise Penny

My Rating: 4 / 5 stars

Verdict: Buy Borrow Bypass

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Welcome to winter in Three Pines, a picturesque village in Quebec, where the villagers are preparing for a traditional country Christmas, and someone is preparing for murder.

No one liked CC de Poitiers. Not her quiet husband, not her spineless lover, not her pathetic daughter—and certainly none of the residents of Three Pines. CC de Poitiers managed to alienate everyone, right up until the moment of her death.

When Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, of the Sûreté du Québec, is called to investigate, he quickly realizes he’s dealing with someone quite extraordinary. CC de Poitiers was electrocuted in the middle of a frozen lake, in front of the entire village, as she watched the annual curling tournament. And yet no one saw anything. Who could have been insane enough to try such a macabre method of murder—or brilliant enough to succeed?

With his trademark compassion and courage, Gamache digs beneath the idyllic surface of village life to find the dangerous secrets long buried there. For a Quebec winter is not only staggeringly beautiful but deadly, and the people of Three Pines know better than to reveal too much of themselves. But other dangers are becoming clear to Gamache. As a bitter wind blows into the village, something even more chilling is coming for Gamache himself.

My Thoughts:

The mystery in this book is incredible. Penny does a fantastic job of blending two seemingly disparate cases, keeping the reader guessing for a long time. CC’s death is all at once shocking and fascinating. With a cunning plot to rival Agatha Christie, you’ll never guess just how CC was electrocuted during an outdoor curling match! I also really enjoyed the clues that Penny slowly and methodically presents to Gamache and the reader. What I love about Penny’s writing is that she provides enough clues to the reader that they could put two and two together on their own, but the solution is always just out of reach until the conclusion.

Penny paints small town life with such a loving and yet also critical brush. This town and the detective force each have so much to offer, but neither world is perfect. Secrets abound everywhere. Penny hinted at secrets that Gamache and a few other characters hide in her first book, but secrecy really kicked into gear in this second book. We learn more about Gamache’s backstory in this book, which really speaks volumes as to who he is as a person. I’m also curious to learn more about a few of the other detectives, as it seems that some people are not quite what they seem.

One of my favorite things in Penny’s writing is her characters. Every single character we meet, both on the detective force and those residing in Three Pines, is memorable, quirky, and human. Many of these characters are extremely set in their ways, which makes for contrasting personalities all over the place. I especially love that Gamache prioritizes listening in his investigations. This choice leads to interesting conversations with his fellow detectives and the townspeople. There is so much to be said for listening and understanding, particularly during a murder investigation. This component reminds me of an Agatha Christie novel, in which the investigators had to rely on intuition and conversations to solve a case.

Wrap Up:

Overall, I really enjoyed this novel. I’ve quickly become a huge fan of Louise Penny and you can expect to see me reading the rest of this mystery series. I thought this second part was very well done and it was refreshing to be reunited with so many characters from the first book, Still Life. I’m definitely excited to see where this story goes from here! I would highly recommend this book, and if you haven’t read any Louise Penny, be sure to read my review of Still Life here.

This book is…

shocking

slow-burning

enticing

insightful

charming

Publisher: Minotaur Books

Genre: mystery

Page Count: 313

ISBN: 0312541163

Available here from IndieBound.

Have you read A Fatal Grace? What mystery series would you recommend?

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