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December’s mini-review round up!

The 4th Man by Lisa Gardner
Pub. Date: January 3, 2017
Source: e-ARC via publisher (Thank you, Dutton!)
Summary: A young woman is found strangled in the stairwell of a college library, only her sneakers missing. With no physical evidence, no signs of sexual assault, and no witnesses, all the police have to go on are the three men who were in the library with her: her boyfriend and two campus security guards . . . all of whom have secrets, none of whom can be proven guilty.

Five years later, ex-FBI profiler Pierce Quincy and his wife, former police officer Rainie Conner, agree to consult on the still-unsolved case, delving into deep background to comb for any clue that will lead to the woman’s murderer. But with no leads and the case colder than the body, will they be able to build a case against one of the three suspects, or is there a fourth man out there? And if the killer has eluded the police this long, how far will he go to ensure justice is never served?
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Short Story

After falling hard for Gardner’s Find Me back in October, I have been craving more of her work. When I was pitched The 4th Man a short story in her Quincy & Rainie series, it was a total no-brainer!

Clocking it at under 40 pages, The 4th Man follows an investigation into a cold case: ten years earlier, a college student was strangled in a stairwell. This story focuses on tracking down several witnesses for another round of questioning. It’s quick, entertaining, and made me VERY excited to read more of Lisa’s work! If a total newbie like me (only one book down!) enjoyed it, I’m positive die-hard fans will love this bonus story featuring characters they already know and love.

The Second Mrs. Hockaday by Susan Rivers
Pub. Date: January 10, 2017
Source: e-ARC via netgalley (Thank you, Algonquin Books!)
Summary: When Major Gryffth Hockaday is called to the front lines of the Civil War, his new bride is left to care for her husband’s three-hundred-acre farm and infant son. Placidia, a mere teenager herself living far from her family and completely unprepared to run a farm or raise a child, must endure the darkest days of the war on her own. By the time Major Hockaday returns two years later, Placidia is bound for jail, accused of having borne a child in his absence and murdering it. What really transpired in the two years he was away? To what extremes can war and violence push a woman who is left to fend for herself?
Genre: Epistolary, Historical Fiction

The Second Mrs. Hockaday is a case of a book sounding EXCELLENT in theory, but its execution was anything but. At barely over 250 pages and written entirely in letters, diary entries, and court documents, this should have been a book I easily breezed through in a sitting, yet I struggled for nearly a week to finish. My mind kept wandering and I found it easier and easier to set the book aside and not return for a few hours.

Given the subject matter (the Civil War! a scandal involving a possibly murdered baby and no word as to who fathered it!) The Second Mrs. Hockaday had my name written all over it. Sadly, I never felt a connection to the characters – especially since there’s a 30-year time skip and spoiler the characters involved in the mystery of the baby’s death have all passed away by that point. Though I was genuinely curious about the uber secretive paternity (to the point where that was the only thing that kept me reading ’til the end) once it was finally revealed, I realized just how obvious it was. I should have known all along, particularly since in the beginning of the book, the man mentioned an interest in Placidia! Talk about a letdown.

Two Days Gone by Randall Silvis
Pub. Date: January 10, 2017
Source: ARC via publisher (Thank you, Sourcebooks!)
Summary: Thomas Huston, a beloved professor and bestselling author, is something of a local hero in the small Pennsylvania college town where he lives and teaches. So when Huston’s wife and children are found brutally murdered in their home, the community reacts with shock and anger. Huston has also mysteriously disappeared, and suddenly, the town celebrity is suspect number one.

Sergeant Ryan DeMarco has secrets of his own, but he can’t believe that a man he admired, a man he had considered a friend, could be capable of such a crime. Hoping to glean clues about Huston’s mind-set, DeMarco delves into the professor’s notes on his novel-in-progress. Soon, DeMarco doesn’t know who to trust—and the more he uncovers about Huston’s secret life, the more treacherous his search becomes.
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery

Yet another book that sounded like a checklist of everything I love: a setting so close to me I could easily picture the streets, lakes, and landmarks; a beloved professor/author now on the run after his wife and children are discovered brutally murdered; and a plot heavily inspired by Edgar Allan Poe (Silvis actually has another series that features Poe as a main character). It should have been a no-brainer. I should have been all over this book.

After the first few chapters, however, things quickly spiraled out of control. At one point I was wondering if Huston was slowly sinking into madness (there were scenes that seemed to be from his characters’ perspectives, as though that’s how far he sank into his writing) and I actually would have really enjoyed that exploration. Unfortunately, Sergeant DeMarco’s absolutely bewildering behavior completely took me out of the story. His interactions with his boss were clearly meant to be humorous, but came across as downright mean (not to mention that if I talked to my boss like that I would have IMMEDIATELY been shown the door). He also spends his free time practically stalking his estranged wife. They lost their young son in a car accident and their marriage suffered greatly. While DeMarco was able to move on with his life, his wife wasn’t able to get over her loss and instead resorts to sex as a coping mechanism. DeMarco parks outside her house night after night and watches as each new man enters. There were even scenes where he himself goes inside, sleeps with his wife, then promptly leaves.

I’m not a prude by any means, but it was extremely jarring how sex seemed to overtake any plot in Two Days Gone. DeMarco’s stalking of his wife, an entire plot that takes place at a strip club, even Huston himself couldn’t stop thinking about how he wished he could sleep with his wife – and this was immediately after discovering his family in pools of blood!

Sadly I never became invested in the story and ended up doing an awful lot of skimming – and even then I still found my mind wandering.

Mad Miss Mimic by Sarah Henstra
Pub. Date: January 3, 2017
Source: e-ARC via netgalley (Thank you, Razorbill!)
Summary: Born into an affluent family, Leo outwardly seems like a typical daughter of English privilege in the 1870s: she lives with her wealthy married sister Christabel, and lacks for neither dresses nor trinkets. But Leo has a crippling speech impediment that makes it difficult for her to speak but curiously allows her to mimic other people’s voices flawlessly. Servants and ladies alike call her “Mad Miss Mimic” behind her back… and watch as she unintentionally scares off every potential suitor. Only the impossibly handsome Mr. Thornfax seems interested in Leo…but why? And does he have a connection to the mysterious Black Glove group that has London in its terrifying grasp? Trapped in a city under siege by terror attacks and gripped by opium fever, where doctors (including her brother-in-law) race to patent an injectable formula, Leo must search for truth in increasingly dangerous situations – but to do so, she must first find her voice.

It seems as though I’m ending my 2016 reading on a sour note based on these last few reviews (that actually isn’t the case at all – I’ve read wonderful books both this week and last though, bizarrely enough, I haven’t reviewed them!) Sadly, Mad Miss Mimic is yet another that will be getting filed in the dud bin. The book is pitched as Jane Austen meets Arthur Conan Doyle and while I can’t speak on the Austen comparison (the time period??) I can certainly say that I can’t ever see Sherlock running about solving (and I use that term VERY loosely here) a mystery quite like Leo. Naturally this one ultimately leans more toward romance than mystery and, sadly, the book suffers for it.

Though Leo was born into a wealthy family, she sees virtually no chance at securing a husband/future. See, she has a debilitating, lifelong stutter that has, so far, frightened off potential suitors. She does, however, have a neat little trick of mimicry: when she mimics another’s voice (which she can, of course, do perfectly – even men’s deep baritones!) her stammer completely disappears. The mystery presented in this one involves medicine and experiments with the lower class and was ultimately forgettable – in fact that entire book was bland and would have been simply deemed a novel to help pass the time were it not for the ending. That horrible, crippling stutter that has caused Leo total and utter embarrassment and has ruined each and every potential relationship? True love cured it. No thank you.

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