Check It Out!

Staff recommendations and reviews from the Plainfield Public Library

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We Could Be Beautiful by Swan Huntley

Catherine West is forty-two and rich. From her father’s estate Catherine receives a huge monthly allowance, so money is never an issue. But she very much wants to be in love and get married. She meets William at an art show and can’t believe that he actually knows her family from when he was a kid. He had lived in Switzerland for years and is now back in New York. They start seeing each other and Catherine couldn’t be happier. He soon moves in with her and life is perfect. Except for Catherine’s family. Her dad died years ago, her mom has dementia and her sister is too needy.

When they become engaged, Catherine wants her mom to meet him. But every time Catherine mentions William, her mom doesn’t want to talk about him and when she does it is negative. Catherine tries to find out why her mom doesn’t like William, but she just won’t tell. And then Catherine finds out that the money from the estate has run out and she is about to lose it all. William assures her they will be fine but Catherine is still upset. And then she starts noticing things about William that are making her second guess this whole relationship. If only she can get her mom to tell her why she dislikes William. Is he her future or should she let him go?

This was just okay for me. I figured out the twist about halfway through so it was not a shocking ending for me. And I was not a big fan of the characters. I will try her next book, The Goddesses. Hope the characters are more likable and I don’t guess the ending.




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Final Girls by Riley Sager

Quincy Carpenter lives in NYC and works as a food blogger. She believes she has moved on from her past and is content in her relationship with live-in boyfriend, Jeff. You see, Quincy is what the media has dubbed a “final girl,” or a person who is the sole survivor of a mass killing. Pine Cottage was a rental Quincy and her college friends stayed at in Pennsylvania one weekend for a birthday celebration but it turned into a bloody massacre when everyone was slaughtered, except Quincy. Quincy had been saved that night by a cop named Coop, who was searching the woods for a missing person and shot the assailant. Coop has been looking out for Quincy ever since.

Quincy’s life is about to be turned upside down when she learns that Lisa Milner, another final girl who survived a killing at a sorority in Muncie, Indiana, has committed suicide. And then the only other living final girl, Samantha Boyd, who went off the grid after the Nightlight Inn murders, wants to talk with Quincy. Sam doesn’t believe that Quincy has really moved past what has happened to her and wants her to unleash her pent up anger.

The reader, nor Quincy, know much about Sam or her motive for contacting Quincy. And to be honest, the reader can’t really even trust Quincy, who claims to have no recollection of what happened at Pine Cottage. This of course is one of the hallmarks of psychological thrillers; that is, a narrator who you can’t quite trust.

It kept my interest throughout, although I am a bit jaded because I’ve read so many of these psychological thrillers. Authors now seem to be so intent on including a shocking twist that sometimes is stretches believably a bit, and I feel that has what has been done here. However, overall, readers who can handle creepy and dark plots will like this one.

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What She Knew by Gilly Macmillan

Rachel Jenner is talking a walk in the woods with her son, Benedict, and their dog, Skittles, when Ben asks to walk ahead to ride the rope swing. Wanting to give him a little freedom and independence, she lets him go ahead. When she arrives at the rope swing, it is still in motion and Ben is nowhere to be seen. Unable to locate him after calling out and searching the area, she phones the police.

DI Clemo is assigned the case and requests Emma Chang to act as family liaison officer. Rachel is at her wits end and really only has her older sister Nicky for support.  Nicky is dealing with her own familial issues and has a secret she has kept from Rachel.

Despite massive search efforts and following up on leads, the more time passes, the less likely they are to find Ben alive. The media is attacking Rachel, suggesting she is at fault for letting her son run ahead. And social media has been crucifying her to the fullest extent as a terrible mother. But, it might take the only person who really knows her son, Rachel, to find him.

This is the second book I’ve read by Macmillan (see review for The Perfect Girland they are both strong contenders in the trending psychological thriller genre. The story unfolds between Rachel’s point of view and through DI Clemo’s, as he is seeing a therapist as a result of the Benedict Finch case. Although I am getting a bit burnt out of this genre, I would happily recommend Macmillan’s books to anyone who can handle a dark, twisty plot and child abduction.

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A Stranger in the House by Shari Lapena

Shortly after his wife goes missing leaving her purse at home, Tom learns that Karen was in a bad car accident where she drove into a pole. Although she wasn’t seriously injured, she has no recollection of the accident or what prompted her to drive into that pole.

A dead body of a man is found in an abandoned restaurant with gloves left at the scene. The police believe those gloves belong to Karen, but she lies in front of the police and Tom. Tom loves Karen and wants to trust her, but he also has secrets of his own she has yet to learn. And likewise, Karen has a history of a former life that she rather stay in the past.

Karen’s best friend and neighbor Bridget is watching all this activity going on from her big window across the street. She seems unusually interested in their lives. And she might know more than she is letting on about what happened to the dead man and why Karen ran into that pole. As the police launch their investigation, Karen swears that someone has been in their house, as things aren’t as she has left them. But, who would terrorize her and why? And has her past come back to haunt her?

I don’t know if I am just getting burnt out of the psychological suspense genre or the last few books I have read haven’t been that good. While this does have a decent twist at the end that readers won’t see coming, Lapena’s book is not nearly as good as her debut, The Couple Next Door.

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The Good Neighbor by A.J. Banner

Sarah hasn’t been married that long and is very much in love with her husband, Johnny. They have a beautiful home and live in a great neighborhood.  While Johnny is away at a conference, a fire starts at the house next door. Her house ends up catching on fire too. While watching all this happen, the neighbors soon realize that the baby next door is still in the house. Sarah is able to save her but nothing can be done about the two houses.

Now Johnny and Sarah are homeless and end up living in a rental. They stay in touch with the neighbors but Sarah soon realizes maybe the fire wasn’t an accident. She starts to question how well does she really know her neighbors. She even starts to grow suspicious of Johnny. Now Sarah doesn’t know who to believe or who to trust. Will she be able to trust the right person or will it cost Sarah her life?

This book was just okay for me.  I have been reading a lot of psychological thrillers lately and this one just wasn’t as good as some of the other ones. The story was good and I didn’t mind the characters but something was just missing. I will try reading her next book, The Twilight Wifeand hope for the best.

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The Breakdown by B.A. Paris

Even though it is a dangerous route, teacher Cass Anderson cuts through the woods during a storm on her way home. She sees a woman pulled over and wonders if she needs help. Cass pulls over, but when the woman makes no attempt to get out of the car or signal for help, she drives away. The next day, Cass learns that the woman who she saw pulled over was murdered.

Feeling guilty for not trying more to help, Cass doesn’t tell her husband Matthew or best friend Rachel that she had seen the woman before she was murdered, and now she is starting to get crank phone calls, who she believes is the murderer trying to spook her. What’s more is she seems to be forgetting all kinds of things, and her husband believes that she is paranoid and may be suffering from early onset dementia, which is what killed her mother.

Cass also learns that the murdered woman was actually an acquaintance named Jane, and she is swears the killer is still out there and after her next. And who can she trust if she can’t even trust her own mind?

Paris set the bar high with last year’s Behind Closed Doorsand her second novel disappoints as readers will be frustrated with the protagonist’s behavior. Hopefully her next book will be back to form.

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I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh

In Bristol, England, five-year old Jacob is struck by a car and killed. The driver takes off without stopping to help. With very few witnesses or leads, DI Ray and his assistant Kate have very little to go on and the case eventually goes cold.

Jenna Gray has moved away to an isolated coastal Welsh village in hopes of a clean start. She has few material possessions and arrives by bus. She rents an old cottage from a farmer and tries to keep to herself but is befriended by the owner of the caravan park and the local vet, Patrick, who treats an abandoned dog she discovers on the side of the road. Jenna, a former sculptor, finds work by selling photographs of sand messages. Even though she harbors deep secrets, it seems as though her new life is finally coming together, that is, until the cops show up at her door.

Meanwhile, something is nagging at Kate and she can’t let the case go. Kate and Ray reopen the case, hoping for new leads or a stone left unturned to find justice for little Jacob.

My synopsis is intentionally vague because I don’t want to ruin any spoilers. The story goes back and forth in time and slowly unravels why Jenna is on the run. There is even a shocking revelation near that end that keep the pages moving. Mackintosh’s debut runs a close second to Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris and will appeal to readers of dark psychological thrillers who can stomach domestic violence stories.