Check It Out!

Staff recommendations and reviews from the Plainfield Public Library

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Bonfire by Krysten Ritter

In this debut novel from actress Krysten Ritter, Chicago environmental lawyer Abby Williams is brought back to her home town of Barrens, a rural community in southern Indiana, to investigate complaints of water pollution. Residents have been getting sick for years, which may be due to the practices of a plastics/polymer company called Optimal, who could be dumping their waste into the reservoir.

Abby and her team are having trouble getting anyone to talk since Optimal pretty much owns Barrens, having built the new community center and employing a large quantity of the residents. Even though she has tried to forget her past, Abby is brought back to her high school years when she runs into some of her classmates, including the best friend of Casey Mitchell. Casey and Abby used to be close until high school when Casey and a group of three other girls became popular and bullied Abby.

Back then, Casey would get sick with unexplained fainting and vomiting, but it turned out the whole thing was a hoax. Casey admitted to faking it for attention, and then split shortly after graduation. No one has heard from her since. Abby’s assignment becomes derailed when she makes it her mission to find Casey. Perhaps she wasn’t really faking it after all. And is Optimal paying people to keep quiet?

For a debut novel by an actress, I was pretty impressed with BonfireMultiple plot strings keep readers hooked and make for a fast and entertaining read.


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Fierce Kingdom by Gin Phillips

Joan is at the zoo with her four-year-old son, Lincoln, like she is on many afternoons with him. Lincoln likes to play in the dinosaur dig area with his action figures while making up his “stories.” In the distance, she hears a few loud bangs, but doesn’t think any thing of it. It’s almost closing time, and she has to get Lincoln to start walking towards the exit so they don’t get locked in.

As they make their way towards the exit, something is off.  And then she is it: bloody bodies on the ground, and in the distance, gun fire rings out. She sees at least one man making the shots. Instinct kicks in and immediately she scoops up Lincoln and runs back into the depths of the zoo to find a place to hide. But how do you keep a toddler from making any noise, even if their lives are a stake?

The rest of the novel takes place over the course of a few hours as Joan’s maternal instinct is put to the test at a place where the predators are young, disturbed gun men and Joan, her son, and any remaining zoo visitors are the prey.

Overall, this was an intense read that kept you engaged throughout, and an ending that leaves you with more questions than answers.

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Lies She Told by Cate Holahan

Liza is a successful author whose books haven’t been selling as well as they used to. Now, she has just one month to finish the thriller that will put her back on the best seller lists. Liza’s been distracted though – she’s been trying to have a baby with her husband, but he’s been very distant. And he becomes even more so when his best friend Nick goes missing. So Liza escapes into her writing. Her new character, Beth suspects her husband of cheating, while she’s at home caring for their new baby. Feeling very angry and betrayed, Beth tries to catch her husband in the act, and almost before she knows what’s happened, she’s throwing his lover into the river. Soon, events in Liza’s life take an eerie twist, as they begin to mirror events in the book she’s writing, and it becomes difficult to distinguish reality from fiction.

As far a psychological thrillers go, this one was just ok. The author does a great job capturing Liza’s emotional state, but it was difficult – for me anyway – to connect with her at all. There were twists in the story to be sure, but don’t expect any big gotcha moments. I just couldn’t help but feeling like I’ve read this story before.


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Final Girls by Riley Sager

For Quincy and her college friends, a weekend away in a Poconos cabin is the perfect way to celebrate a birthday. Out of the six though, Quincy is the only one to survive the horrific events that unfold. Now, ten years later, Quincy is known as one of three “Final Girls” – young women who are the lone survivors of mass killings. Quincy insists that she’s doing just fine – she’s in a solid relationship, a great apartment, and her baking blog is really taking off. She’s moving ahead with her life, not letting herself fall into the role of perpetual victim. But when Lisa, the original Final Girl is found dead, and Sam Boyd, the other Girl shows up on Quincy’s doorstep, the foundation that she has so carefully laid for herself begins to crumble.

As far as thrillers go, this one is pretty intense. Unreliable characters and pulse pounding action ensure that this is one book that you won’t want to put down until the end.

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The Perfect Girl by Gilly Macmillan

Teenage Zoe is a child prodigy and a gifted pianist, as is her stepbrother Lucas. In the middle of their recital, a man storms in screaming in anger. You see, Zoe was the driver in a car accident that killed three people, and now her secret is no longer safe. The enraged man is the father of one of the people killed in the accident who has just learned of the concert and where Zoe now lives.

After serving her sentence in a juvenile detention center, Zoe and her mom, Maria, moved to Bristol to start their “second chance life.” This is where Maria met Chris, her new husband and Zoe’s stepfather, and had baby Grace. Maria never told Chris about Zoe and her past. The outburst at the concert puts into place a chain of events that begins with murder.

The story is told from the perspectives of Zoe, Tess (Zoe’s aunt and Maria’s sister), and Sam (Zoe’s solicitor from the car accident trial). Sam and Tess are having an affair, which only complicates matters when Zoe reaches out to Sam after the murder. Tensions build as the perfect family is torn apart, and both Zoe and Maria learn that they aren’t the only ones keeping dark secrets.

Another winner in the psychological suspense genre to add to your bookshelf that is not for the faint of heart, especially in regards to domestic violence.

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Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris

For appearance sake, Grace and Jack Angel seem to be the perfect couple. They live in the perfect house and Grace is the perfect host at their dinner party with neighbors and friends.

Grace first met her husband Jack at a local park when her sister Millie, who has downs syndrome, was dancing away. He offered Millie a dance and to take them both for tea. Handsome and successful, Jack is an attorney representing victims of domestic violence.  Not only does he seem to have fallen for Grace, he adores Millie, which means more to Grace than anything in the whole word.  You see, Grace will become Millie’s full time guardian once she turns eighteen and is not eligible to stay at her school any longer. Grace’s plan is to have Millie in her home, but now that she is with Jack, the two will welcome Millie and live as a happy family.

After six months of courtship, they marry and honeymoon in Thailand.  The night of their wedding, Jack leaves while she is napping and doesn’t return for several days. When he returns to pick her up, he has news for Grace. He is anything but the doting, loving husband he has pretended to be. He has carefully orchestrated a plan to make Grace a prisoner and he even has more sinister plans for Millie once she turns eighteen.

Readers will be hoping that Grace can prevail and find her way out of this unthinkable ordeal she has found herself in. This twisty, dark novel isn’t for the faint of heart, but is another recommended addition to the popular psychological suspense books as of late. If you liked Fiona Barton’s The Widow and Ruth Ware’s The Woman in Cabin 10then Behind Closed Doors is guaranteed to be right up your alley.

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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.