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June 5, 2020

Reading Suspense Novels in a Pandemic

by Susan Roberts

My life has been fairly boring the last couple of months while I have self quarantined with only a few trips to the grocery store.  What better time to read something exciting and suspenseful.  Here are two of the books that made life more exciting for me.
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The Perfect Secret by Steena Holmes

The Perfect Secret by  Steena Holmes
April 2020; SH Press Inc; 978-1987877250
audio, ebook, print (302 pages); suspense  
"I made myself a promise thirteen months ago.
I would not find myself back in this situation, back in a room like this, back where I've been detained.  Again. And yet, here I am.
A prisoner of my own making, by my past, but not by my actions."  (p 7)

The first books that I read by Steena Holmes were definitely in the women's fiction genre.  With her current book, she has definitely moved into writing psychological suspense and has perfected it to the point that this was a perfect book to read.  It's full of surprises and hints that make you think that you've figured everything out only to find a few pages later, that you were totally wrong.  You are never really sure who is telling the truth and who to trust until the explosive and surprising ending.

Starla Bishop has bounced from foster care to jail.   Both places helped her learn how to con people and win.  As the book begins, she is just out of jail and hoping for a fresh start.  She accepts a too-good-to-be-true job offer to work as a receptionist for a nursery in a nearby town. Not only was it a great job but it also included an apartment and a car.  Her job as a receptionist soon expands to being a general helper - she orders stock, does inventory, and helps out on some of the projects for the nursery.  And as an extra bonus, she becomes engaged to her boss's ex-husband after a whirlwind romance.  No wonder it looks like her life is turning around.  Until the police show up at her door and take her in for questioning on a murder.  The body had been found in a landscaping project that she helped with.  She has spent enough time in the past answering questions from law enforcement so she doesn't say much but she is sure that her fiancĂ© has nothing to do with the murders and is willing to perjure herself to prove it to the police.  The only person really on Starla's side is her adoptive mother who goes into major mama-bear mode to protect Starla.  As more bodies turn up and her boyfriend looks like he might be guilty, Starla has to decide whether to save her boyfriend or herself.

The Perfect Secret is told in two timelines.  In the first timeline, we learn about Starla's earlier life and how she ended up in jail.  The second timeline is current time where we learn about all of the trouble that Starla may be in.  The dual timeline works perfectly as a way to show us a complete picture of Starla.  Even though she was a complicated person, she had a lot of humanity and caring and I was rooting for her all the way.

This is a fantastic book full of well written but often creepy characters.  It's full of twists and turns and kept me up long into the night to get to the end.  This is Steena Holmes at her best!

Buy The Perfect Secret at Amazon

The Last Flight by Julie Clark

The Last Flight by Julie Clarke
June 2020; Sourcebooks Landmark; 978-1728215723
ebook, print (320 pages); domestic thriller
"We have one thing in common.  Each of us is desperate enough to take the risk. To turn our backs on who the world demands we be  It isn't just what has been done to each of us - it's a system that tells women we are unreliable and then expendable.  That our truths don't matter when set side by side with a man's."
(p 303)

It's almost impossible to totally disappear no matter how much you want to get out of your life.   In this wonderful suspense novel, two woman are able to disappear from their lives and start over but not without fear that they will get caught.

To the outside world, Claire has a perfect life - she is married to a well-loved philanthropist who is making plans to start in politics.  He tells everyone how much he treasures Claire, and in public, he appears to love her very much. Behind closed doors, it's a very different story.  He abuses her physically and emotionally and is very controlling.  He wants to know where she is and  what she is doing every minute of the day.  She has no family and no friends but she knows that she has to escape from the life she is in.  When she meets an old friend at the gym, they start to work together to help her totally disappear from her life.  When their plan fails, she unexpectedly gets help from a stranger at the airport.  Eva is also trying to escape her life but for totally different reasons.  She has been making and selling drugs in California and not only is the drug boss looking for her but so are the police.  She fears that if the drug boss finds her, she'll be killed, and if the police find her, she'll end up in jail.  After a short conversation in the airport, Claire and Eva decide to exchange lives.  As Eva and Claire exchange plane tickets and identities, they are both relieved but have no idea what the future holds for each of them.

Eva and Claire were both strong women who had made a mistake and were desperate to get out of their lives.  Claire was being abused by her husband and Eva was being forced to do something that she knew was wrong but was forced to continue by her dealer.  Will they be able to start their lives over again?

This novel is an emotional roller coaster that keeps you turning pages to see what happens. Even though Claire and Eva have led totally different lives and ended up somewhere that they needed to escape from, I was rooting for both of them to succeed.  I was hooked on this thriller from the first page and was up reading it most of one night because I had to find out what happened to both of them. The chapters alternate between the two  women  with Claire's story in the present and Eve's story in the past.      

My opinion is that this is going to be one of the highly discussed books of the summer.  You don't want to miss it!

Buy The Last Flight at Amazon

Susan Roberts lives in North Carolina when she isn't traveling. She and her husband enjoy traveling, gardening and spending time with their family and friends. She reads almost anything (and the piles of books in her house prove that) but her favorite genres are Southern fiction, women's fiction, and thrillers. Susan is a top 1% Goodreads Reviewer. You can connect with Susan on FacebookGoodreads, or Twitter.

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