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Staff recommendations and reviews from the Plainfield Public Library

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The Sleeping Beauty Killer by Mary Higgins Clark & Alafair Burke

In this third entry from the dynamic duo Clark and Burke, “Crazy Casey” has just got out of prison for serving a fifteen year manslaughter sentence for shooting her husband, Hunter Raleigh. Despite the disapproval of her mother and cousin Angela, Casey is determined to clear her name and approaches Lorie Moran, producer of TV’s Under Suspicion, Datelinetype show that investigates cold cases, to help.

Lorie is not sure she wants to take on Casey Carter but finally relents, hoping that some of the new potential suspects she has identified might take the case in a new direction. Professing her innocence, Casey claims she had been drugged the night of the gala when Hunter died and that someone had planted the evidence in her purse. Other suspects that Lorie plans to interview include Hunter’s best friend who might have been embezzling money from his nonprofit foundation, Casey’s jealous ex-boyfriend, and Hunter’s father’s assistant, who he had despised for years.

The new episode isn’t the only challenge on Lorie’s plate at the moment. Now that Alex Buckley is no longer on the show, her supervisor has hired a new host and they have gotten off to a rocky start. At home, her romantic relationship with Alex is on hiatus as she figures out what she wants.

The Sleeping Beauty Killer is another solid, reliable entry in the Under Suspicion series. There is nothing really new to comment on here, but readers looking for a nonviolent suspense novel with enough intrigue to keep you engaged would find this series to their liking. These can be read in any order, as each book features the TV show investigating a different case.

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In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth

Leonora “Nora” Shaw is surprised to be invited to  Claire’s hen weekend (British slang for bachelorette party) and reluctantly agrees to go since her friend Nina will also be attending. Nina, Claire and Nora are childhood friends, but Nora hasn’t seen Claire since she was sixteen, which was over ten years ago, when Nora left school abruptly and never turned back. The Hen party is hosted by Flo, Claire’s maid of honor, at her aunt’s remote house in a wooded area in the middle of nowhere where there is no cell reception.

The weekend gets off to an odd start with Flo’s insistence that the guests play along with her plans so it’s the perfect weekend. To make matters worse, Nora learns that the only reason she was invited to the hen, as Nora didn’t even get a wedding invite, was so Claire could tell her in person that her husband-to-be is their fellow schoolmate and Nora’s ex, James. Devastated, although the reader doesn’t quite know what secrets she is holding yet, Nora’s goal is just to get through this weekend and get home.

But, things turn even weirder when on Saturday night, an innocent game turns into a scary premonition of future events and footprints in the snow suggest that someone is watching them. Nora ends up in the hospital covered in blood and the author unfolds the story by going back and forth between what happened leading up to Nora’s hospitalization and a murder at the house.

Murder, twists and lots of suspicion make for an engrossing page-turner in Ware’s debut psychological thriller. To be honest, I liked this one even better than her new novel The Woman in Cabin 10Be on the lookout for Ware’s next thriller, The Lying Game, out later this year.

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I watch quite a bit of horror and thriller flicks and most disappoint, but Split is a standout guaranteed to give you the creeps. This comes as no surprise since it was written by The Sixth Sense’s acclaimed director and creator, M. Night Shyamalan.

James McAvoy plays Kevin, a man with dissociative identity disorder (aka split/multiple personality disorder) who sees psychiatrist Dr. Fletcher.  She believes that her patients are extraordinary in that the different personalities can change the body’s chemistry, where one personality might have diabetes and the others don’t.

Unbeknownst to Fletcher, the controlling personality of Dennis, who possesses dark and immoral tendencies, has abducted three young women in a parking lot and are holding them captive down in the maintenance area where he works.

As the girls try to escape, they are confronted with Kevin’s other personas: Hedwig, a nine-year old boy, Miss Patricia and others. Unlike the other girls, Casey comes from an abusive past and tries to befriend Hedwig in hopes he will help convince the “others” to let them free. Unfortunately, the stronger personalities seem to be in control and have other plans for the girls.

I don’t want to give away any spoilers, so just watch Shyamalan’s latest, which will keep you on the edge of your seat. You’ll realize that the darkness of the mind is far scarier than any kind of supernatural element. Rated PG-13

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Crazy For You by Rina Gray

Overworking her body, Charlotte Jones passes out at the nonprofit where she teaches dance. Yankees playboy pitcher Jake Ross happened to be nearby admiring her moves and rushes to her side. At the hospital, Jake poses as her boyfriend so the staff will let him in.

With a multi-million dollar endorsement on the line from a family-oriented company, Threx isn’t sure they want a notorious ladies man to represent their brand. His publicist Gina suggests Jake and Charlotte continue the “relationship” ruse so Jake can secure the contract. In return, Jake offers to be Charlotte’s personal trainer so that she loses the weight the right way. Although she is protective of her heart, Charlotte is falling hard for Jake even though she knows it is not forever.

When a stalker, who may be one of Jake’s former lovers, threatens Charlotte, Jake finally realizes he will do whatever it takes to protect the woman he loves.

In this series finale, Gray’s (It’s Been You) romantic set up starts strong but falls flat with a predictable and cliched subplot (the stalker uses cut-up magazine letters to draft the threats), and the readers will figure out the culprit early on. This is standard fare that most readers have seen before.

Originally published in Xpress Reviews: E-Originals | May 19, 2017

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The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapeña

28815474New York suburbanites Ann and Marco leave their six-month old baby alone in her crib to attend a dinner party next door. The sitter cancelled at the last minute, and Marco convinces Ann to go, and they will check in on baby Cora every half hour.

At the end of the night, after much wine and Cynthia openly flirting with Marco, Ann comes home to find that Cora is missing.

The detective assigned to their case is suspicious of Marco, and for good reason, as the reader soon realizes he has something to hide. And much to Marco’s chagrin, they are forced to go to Ann’s wealthy parents to pay up the ransom demand. Carefully laid plans begin to unravel as time passes with no one able to locate Cora, that is, if she is even alive.

This excellent psychological thriller will appeal to readers looking for a dark novel that reads fast and will keep you guessing.

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Typically horror sequels and the subsequent movies aren’t very good, and Rings proves my point.

When Julia’s texts and phones from her boyfriend Holt, who has just started college, go unanswered, she drives to his school to find out whats going on. Holt is part of an experiment headed up by one of his professors (played by The Big Bang Theory’s Johnny Galecki), who had found an old VCR with the “ring” video at a flea market.

If you watch the video, which features a creepy girl crawling out of a well, you receive a phone call that you will die in 7 days. The only way to escape death is to copy the video and have someone else watch it. Only then you are safe, but then the person who watched it is confronted with the same problem. To save Holt, Julia watches the video. Not wanting to give a death sentence to the next guy, Julia and Holt begin researching the origins of the video.

This movie was the worst! It was not scary at all, and it was so boring that midway through, I had to fast forward to the end.  Also, if you didn’t enjoy watching Naomi Watts’ character from the first The Ring (2002) coughing up hair, you won’t want to see it again in this one either. Rated PG-13

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The Woman In Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware

British travel journalist for Velocity magazine, Laura “Lo” Blacklock, is asked to write up a piece about the Scandinavian boutique cruiseliner, the Aurora Borealis.  Although she is skiddish from an assault by a burglar in her flat, she isn’t going to say no to this important career opportunity. There are only 10 cabins on the ship, and the passengers are wealthy acquaintances of owner Richard Bullmer as well as Lo’s ex and coworker, Ben, who now works for another travel mag.

When getting ready for dinner, she realizes she forgot her mascara and knocks on cabin 10. The beautiful, young woman who answers gives her a mascara and tells her to keep it. Later that night back in her cabin, Lo hears a scream and a splash, which she believes was a body being thrown out of the ship. She reports it to hotel security but the room is now clear and the blood she saw on the privacy screen between their verandas has been wiped clean. To make matter’s worst, she is informed that Cabin was never occupied and the woman she describes has never been seen on the ship. No one is taking her seriously, especially when it leaks out that Lo takes anti-depressants and was drinking a little too much that evening.

Lo believes what she heard and begins to investigate on her own, not knowing who of the ship’s passengers and crew she can trust.  Even the threats she receives threats to “stop digging” won’t halt her determination to fight for the woman she knows she saw. But going too far might cost Lo her very own life.

An over-the-top cruise ship sailing on Norwegian waters is the perfect environment for Ware’s dark novel of psychological suspense.  Although I felt the ending was a bit unbelievable, readers of The Girl on the Train will find The Woman In Cabin 10 to be very much to their taste and should also try The Girl Before by JP Delaney.