SUSPENSE AND SUSPICION: NEW BOOKS BY LESLEY KARA, FIONA BARTON AND RILEY SAGER
My mid-June reading has been dominated by three novels of suspense featuring damaged female characters who suspect that something wrong is going on.
Over the course of her first three books Lesley Kara has established herself as a leading author of twisty suspense novels.
Her latest book, The Apartment Upstairs (Bantam, 23 June 2022), opens with Scarlett Quilter returning to her London home following the brutal murder of her aunt, who lived in the flat above hers. She needs to plan the funeral, but is struggling to manage her daily life as her Chronic Fatigue Syndrome has flared up with the stress of her grief. She seeks help from Dee Boswell who runs a small independent funeral business to help prepare a memorial. Dee knew Scarlett’s aunt from years before, when she briefly taught Dee and other students at a local school, including her friend Gina who went missing ten years ago.
As Dee sets about preparing the memorial for Scarlett’s aunt, she has to struggle with some online trolling of her funeral service website and the upcoming anniversary of Gina’s disappearance. When Scarlett discovers an unknown link between Gina and her aunt, the pair begin to investigate, despite determined efforts to stop them.
The Apartment Upstairs is a leisurely paced thriller, that gradually builds up a good sense of unease and suspense. Lesley is skilled at creating well grounded and credible characters, and the various twists and turns keep the interest at a good level. The plotting is very assured and the short, punchy chapters make it easy to keep on reading well into the night.
An enjoyable three and a half to four stars out of five, The Apartment Upstairs will appeal to those who like trimmed down tales of domestic suspense.
The Apartment Upstairs will be released in United Kingdom on 23 June 2022 and in Australia on 19 July 2022.
Thanks to the publishers for a copy of the book to review
The central character of Fiona Barton’s Local Gone Missing (Bantam, 9 June 2022) is also suffering physically and mentally.
Elise King had been a successful detective until she discovered her breast cancer. Now she’s a detective on extended leave, recovering from surgery and dealing with the after effects of her cancer treatments. She desperately wants to go back to work, but is scared to do so and is struggling with memory losses and vagueness. Her recuperation in the small struggling seaside town of Ebbing in Sussex is interrupted by the disappearance of a local man, which gradually draws Elise back into an official investigation role.
Much of the focus of Local Gone Missing is on the fictional town of Ebbing, which is divided between the wealthy ‘weekenders’ who are renovating old bungalows into luxury homes, and the poorer locals who are resentful of the changes, but dependent on the new money coming into the town. Fiona’s depiction of the inhabitants of Ebbing rings true and there are a host of characters and secrets to keep track of as the story unfolds. The plot moves back and forth between ‘Before’ and ‘Now’, and after starting as a cosy mystery it becomes more of a police procedural at the half way mark.
Local Gone Missing will appeal to those who enjoy murder mysteries with a wide range of characters and suspects, and a host of red herrings and unexpected plot reveals. The ending is clever and unexpected and nicely ties up most of the loose ends.
A must for fans of British murder mysteries, Local Gone Missing is a good three and a half to four stars out of five!
Local Gone Missing was released in Australia, United Kingdom and on Kindle in the United States on 9 June 2022.
Thanks to the publishers for a copy of the book to review.
My favourite of the three books on review is Riley Sager’s The House Across The Lake (Dutton, 21 June 2022).
I have been a fan of Sager ever since buying and reading his earlier book, The Last Time Lied, while I was in Cambodia some years ago. His Final Girls and Lock Every Door were also great. I was less taken with Home Before Dark, but it was still a good read.
The House Across The Lake revolves around Casey Fletcher, the daughter of a famous theatre actress and a successful actor in her own right until her husband’s death about a year ago. His death set off months of binge drinking, which left her fired from her last production and now hiding out at the family’s secluded lake house in Vermont. Unfortunately the drinking has not stopped and Casey is quickly sinking into alcoholism, until she rescues her neighbour from across the lake, Katherine, from drowning. Katherine is a former famous model who is now married to Tom, the owner of a tech company. Curious about her neighbours, Casey takes to watching them through a pair of high powered binoculars, which leads to a startling discovery.
The House Across The Lake is a modern take on Rear Window, which is frequently referenced in the book, but with some very unexpected twists. The story goes down some very surprising paths and after a slowish start Sager ups the ante in the second half, as the twists flow in and the tension quickly mounts. I thought I knew where the book was going, but I was totally off the mark.
Sager writes well, and even though not a lot happens in the first half, he keeps the reader interested and the book moving along at a good pace. Casey is initially an annoying character, and I got tired of her drinking, but as the story progresses she develops and her experience as an actor allows Sager to lighten the mood by seamlessly introducing the interesting movie and television references that are a feature of his books.
I really enjoyed The House Across The Lake, although I suspect that others may not find the conclusion to their liking.
Overall, The House Across The Lake is a very enjoyable thriller with some jaw-dropping twists. Four to four and a half stars out of five!
The House Across The Lake will be released in the United States on 20 June 2022. It will not be released in Australia until 12 July 2022.
Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for an advanced copy of the book.