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January 10, 2022

3 Books for Fans of Thrillers

by MK French

Thrillers are fun any time of the year, but they seem particularly great for cold winter nights. Perhaps it is the early darkness, the chill in the air, or the cozy blanket you grip tightly during the particular tense moments. If you are looking for an awesome thriller for your winter night, I have a crime thriller, a historical thriller, and a young adult thriller to recommend today.

Amazon affiliate links are used on this site. Free books were provided for an honest review.

Treachery Times Two by Robert McCaw

Treachery Times Two
January 2022; Oceanview Publishing; 978-1608094646
ebook, print (352 pages); crime thriller

An earthquake on Hawaii Island disrupts a cemetery, unearthing the body of a woman mutilated by her killer to conceal her identity. Chief Detective Koa Kane Investigates, finding ties to powerful people and getting entangled in an FBI espionage investigation. While he doesn't know their agenda, his own past rears its ugly head. Koa is forced to investigate his own homicide, and step by step, his cover-up unravels until another man is falsely accused. Can Koa stand by and let an innocent man pay for his crime?

This is the fourth Koa Kane mystery novel. The same murder he continually felt guilty about in prior books now takes precedence. The dual investigations leave Koa at odds with himself and his career. It doesn't figure right away; the dead body is found first, and he and his team work to identify her and why she was killed. Eventually, the grandson of the man Koa killed arrives, opening up the old case and investigation. His guilt rears up, adding to his stress, as the dead woman was more highly placed than others at her workplace said she was. Bringing in FBI agents and the Department of Defense as well as the political pressures in his department are difficult to manage. Koa snaps at others, can't discuss it with his girlfriend, and is continually anxious.

Koa had taken his past shame and transformed his life to make up for it. He takes this seriously, and even with all the lives he could save and the truths he unearthed in that journey, still feels that he can never make up for the murder he committed as a teen. This is at odds with the politicians and the men of power who will harm others without a shred of guilt. He tries to honor his heritage as a Hawaiian as well, which I appreciate; we get glimpses into the culture of the past and the history of the islands as well as its ramifications in the present day. We do find out exactly what happened by the end of this book, and it will bring further ramifications in future novels of the series.

Buy Treachery Times Two at Amazon

Luckenbooth by Jenni Fagan

January 2022; Pegasus Books; 9781643138879
audio, ebook, print (352 pages); historical thriller

There are stories on every floor of Luckenbooth Close in Edinburgh, beginning with that of Jessie MacRae in 1910. She was sent to a recluse and his fiancee to bear them a child, and the events of that night reverberate through the decades as an angry spirit tries to get its story told.

We open with Jessie floating in a coffin after her father's death, heading to Edinburgh hoping to secure the money for bearing the child so she could eventually have a home of her own. She talks about being the devil's daughter, hiding her horns as they grow. From there, we skip through the decades and ten floors of the tenement building, hearing stories of the residents. Some of them reflect their times: a beatnik poet, a madam, a medium, spy, a man afraid for his Black family in New Orleans. At first, we don't see any connections between the residents in the house, and it seems like an eclectic collection. As the novel progresses, we see how some of the residents know each other and interact, and the reader often knows more about the truth than the residents do.

People often think there were no queer people in the past, but they often were hidden. Elise would have married a man for financial reasons, Jessie bearing "her" daughter; the two women develop a greater bond that's more than just being terrorized by the same man. Drag balls, drugs, threesomes and more were present; the illicit relationships sometimes mirrored the one Elise and Jessie had. Agnes as the medium had more access to the truth, but couldn't reveal it. When we finally discovered the source of the curse on the house, it made a horrible kind of sense. Peace can only be had when the truth is revealed to the public as well.

The story here is told in a nonlinear fashion, different decades and points of view. Pay attention to the chapter headings to keep track, and don't expect to see the ties right away. Just fall into the history of it, the little slices of life in each decade. I was fascinated by the glimpses into the lives of people who normally aren't remembered, yet can still make a contribution to their communities. Ivy's fury at being "only" a woman without any seen value drives her to work against Nazis, and it's a feeling certainly echoed to an extent in other characters as well. Those who don't matter due to class, race, or sexuality still exit, still contribute, and still have stories that should be told.

Buy Luckenbooth at Amazon

It Will End Like This by Kyra Leigh

It Will End Like This
January 2022; Delacorte Press; 978-0593375525
audio, ebook, print (352 pages); YA thriller

No one will tell Charlotte exactly how her mother died six months ago except to say that her heart stopped. Charlotte's sister Maddi agrees that it's odd, especially when their father moves on with their mother's assistant. It seems like the woman is going to steal everything their mother once had. Will they be the good girls their father wants, or give in to rage?

Maddi is the older sister, but the story is told primarily from Charlotte's point of view. Both sisters grieve, and the short, choppy chapters in the beginning reflects Charlotte's state of mind. It doesn't help that in the small town, there are whispers about their father taking up with Amber so soon after their mother's death, especially with how much their mother had contributed to the community. Both sisters felt rage toward that community for not truly being there for them, and then for Amber wearing their mother's wedding ring as her engagement ring and wearing their mother's jewelry. Their father is rather callous about their feelings, and no one talks about emotions except out of anger or attempts to suppress that anger.

This novel is inspired by the Lizzie Borden story, but it has more to do with grief and how much it alienates the one left behind. People don't know what to do about that grief, and when it turns to anger that alienates them further from others. It's sad that so few of the characters actively try talking to the sisters, instead blaming them for their behavior. Charlotte especially bears the brunt of that, which only serves to escalate how angry and isolated she feels. Everyone is against her, everyone is a liar, and even the sisters don't know if they can trust each other with the truth of their mother's death. This is an emotionally harrowing story, intense to the very end.

Buy It Will End Like This at Amazon

Born and raised in New York City, M.K. French started writing stories when very young, dreaming of different worlds and places to visit. She always had an interest in folklore, fairy tales, and the macabre, which has definitely influenced her work. She currently lives in the Midwest with her husband, three young children, and a golden retriever.

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