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CBTB’s Weekend Checklist - 5/19/18

Happy weekend, readers! I thought it might be fun to try something totally different today: a “Weekend Checklist,” aka the crime fiction (and other crime-y things!) that I’m recommending you check out this weekend. In this post you’ll find a weekend binge-read, a podcast recommendation, the crime TV show I’m watching, and more. Without further ado, let's dive right in - happy reading! xx A

Agatha Christie's CROOKED HOUSE

What could be better than spending a weekend cozied up with an Agatha Christie novel? Christie is known as the "Queen of Crime" for a reason, and CROOKED HOUSE is one of my favorites of her books. (For those of you curious, my top favorite is ENDLESS NIGHT - another excellent choice for weekend reading material!) CROOKED HOUSE is also one of Christie's darkest stories, making it the perfect choice if your weather is anything like the rainy, overcast weather we're having in New York today. CROOKED HOUSE draws readers into the eccentric Leonides family as they try to uncover the truth behind the untimely death of the head of the household, Aristide. Bonus: once you've devoured the book, you can watch the fantastic recent film adaptation of the book starring Christina Hendricks, Gillian Anderson, and Glenn Close.

CROOKED HOUSE Trailer #1 NEW (2017) Drama Movie HD - YouTube
Crooked House By Agatha Christie Dirty John / The L.A. Times

Have you listened to Dirty John yet? Reported and hosted by Christopher Goffard from the L.A. Times, this is one of my favorite true crime podcasts I've ever listened to - and that's saying a lot, because I listen to a ton of podcasts. Dirty John made a big splash when it first released in the fall of 2017, and, to be honest, I’m still looking for a new show that can top it! Dirty John tells the true - and very disturbing - story of Debra Newell, who fell in love with and married John Meehan after the two met on a dating site. John seemed to be the perfect man: a chivalrous doctor with picture-perfect good looks. Debra fell for John hard and fast, but her children warned her that something about her new love seemed off… what follows is a genuinely shocking story worthy of the best fictional domestic thriller. 

This is a very dark and disturbing story, so do go into it with caution—but I absolutely loved every episode of it! You can learn more about Dirty John online here.

Harlan Coben's Safe
Safe Season 1 | Trailer [HD] | Netflix - YouTube

I’ve been eagerly awaiting Harlan Coben’s Safe for quite a while - and it’s finally available on Netflix! If you’ve ever read a Harlan Coben thriller, you’ll know they tend to be pure page-turning fun, and I’m hoping this show will be the television equivalent—something that I’ll just get totally swept up in. Safe follows Tom Delaney, a surgeon and the widowed father of two teenage daughters. When one of his daughters goes missing, Tom finds himself drawn into a web of secrets as he desperately searches for her… 

For more information on the TV show, Coben did a great Q&A with Parade that you can read online here

Dot Hutchison's THE SUMMER CHILDRENOn Sale 5/22/18

This coming Tuesday, Dot Hutchison’s THE SUMMER CHILDREN releases! You can catch my full review of the book here, but the short story is that I loved this read. THE SUMMER CHILDREN follows FBI Agent Mercedes Ramirez as she tackles a strange and disturbing case: a killer is targeting parents, and is depositing their children - unharmed, but soaked in their parents' blood - on Ramirez's doorstep in the middle of the night. THE SUMMER CHILDREN is book three in Hutchison’s Collector Trilogy—and in this case, I would recommend that you start with the beginning of the trilogy. But the good news here is that the trilogy as a whole is well worth your time; each book is very distinct in tone, but they’re tied together through their endearing characters and common exploration of the experiences of survivors. 

You can catch my reviews of all three Collector Trilogy books here: 
THE BUTTERFLY GARDEN / THE ROSES OF MAY / THE SUMMER CHILDREN 

Plot Summary - THE SUMMER CHILDREN: 
This FBI agent has come to expect almost anything—just not this…

When Agent Mercedes Ramirez finds an abused young boy on her porch, covered in blood and clutching a teddy bear, she has no idea that this is just the beginning. He tells her a chilling tale: an angel killed his parents and then brought him here so Mercedes could keep him safe.

His parents weren’t just murdered. It was a slaughter—a rage kill like no one on the Crimes Against Children team had seen before. But they’re going to see it again. An avenging angel is meting out savage justice, and she’s far from through.

One by one, more children arrive at Mercedes’s door with the same horror story. Each one a traumatized survivor of an abusive home. Each one chafing at Mercedes’s own scars from the past. And each one taking its toll on her life and career.

Now, as the investigation draws her deeper into the dark, Mercedes is beginning to fear that if this case doesn’t destroy her, her memories might.

The Summer Children (The Collector Series) By Dot Hutchison Murder on the Beach / Delray Beach, FL



Friends in Florida - it's time to make a trip to Murder on the Beach! I recently visited this independent bookstore for the first time on a vacation to Florida, and I loved it. This store is jam-packed with great crime fiction selections, everything from new releases to antiquarian editions and a whole lot more. As a bonus, this bookstore has a robust events calendar! A couple events to take note of: this coming week, Alex Segura will be visiting the store for his new book BLACKOUT, and in July, Lori Roy will visit for her forthcoming release THE DISAPPEARING. My personal favorite discovery at this store? They have a door covered in the handprints and signatures of the many, many authors who have visited the store! 

You can connect with Murder on the Beach on their website and on Twitter @murdronthebeach. 

 

That's a wrap on my first-ever Weekend Checklist! If you'd like to see more posts like this, I'd love to hear from you - feel free to comment below and/or email me at crimebythebook@gmail.com. Thank you for reading, as always! xx A

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THE SUMMER CHILDREN by Dot Hutchison (Collector Trilogy, Book 3)
Thomas & Mercer; 5/22/18
CBTB Rating: 5/5
The Verdict: an addictive, character-driven serial killer thriller

It’s been quite a while since I discovered a new-to-me crime series I love as much as Dot Hutchison’s Collector Trilogy. Comprised of THE BUTTERFLY GARDEN, THE ROSES OF MAY, and THE SUMMER CHILDREN, the Collector Trilogy delivers character-driven, often quite gruesome, totally addictive suspense—and perhaps best of all, each book within the trilogy retains a style and tone unique unto itself. THE SUMMER CHILDREN rounds out this trilogy in top form; readers might remember that I had mixed feelings about the trilogy’s second installment, THE ROSES OF MAY, but never fear—Hutchison more than lived up to my expectations with her slam-dunk of a series finale. This is a far cry from your standard serial killer thriller, but fans of the genre will find much to love in Hutchison’s binge-worthy and emotional THE SUMMER CHILDREN. A disturbing plot, a strong female lead, page-turning writing… THE SUMMER CHILDREN is a knockout. 

Plot Summary: 
This FBI agent has come to expect almost anything—just not this…

When Agent Mercedes Ramirez finds an abused young boy on her porch, covered in blood and clutching a teddy bear, she has no idea that this is just the beginning. He tells her a chilling tale: an angel killed his parents and then brought him here so Mercedes could keep him safe.

His parents weren’t just murdered. It was a slaughter—a rage kill like no one on the Crimes Against Children team had seen before. But they’re going to see it again. An avenging angel is meting out savage justice, and she’s far from through.

One by one, more children arrive at Mercedes’s door with the same horror story. Each one a traumatized survivor of an abusive home. Each one chafing at Mercedes’s own scars from the past. And each one taking its toll on her life and career.

Now, as the investigation draws her deeper into the dark, Mercedes is beginning to fear that if this case doesn’t destroy her, her memories might.

It can feel like a big commitment to start a new series, but if you’re in the market for one to add to your summer reading list, Hutchison’s Collector Trilogy is a must. The trilogy centers around a team of FBI agents who work to solve crimes against children, and, over the course of the trilogy, readers are drawn into both their personal and professional lives. In THE BUTTERFLY GARDEN, arguably the most gruesome of the three books, readers witness the agents uncover the truth about a horrific man known as “The Gardener” through a series of survivor interviews; in THE ROSES OF MAY, the agents help a family whose past has been marked by tragedy, and whose future may be marked by it, too; in THE SUMMER CHILDREN, the agents - and one agent in particular - cross paths with a killer who wreaks havoc in the name of doing good. Each book within the trilogy retains a very distinct identity, both in content and in tone—but the books are woven together by the endearing characters found within them. I loved the way Hutchison has handled the interconnectedness of her books; yes, each book can be read as a standalone, but why would you want to? There is so much to love about the characters found within these pages, and readers will be sorely missing out if they don’t start this trilogy from the beginning. 

CBTB readers might remember that I had mixed feelings about the second book in this trilogy, THE ROSES OF MAY, and I certainly stand by those feelings - though I will also say that, having read the trilogy in its entirety, I am now much better able to appreciate the distinctions between THE ROSES OF MAY and its predecessor. The key here is to go into this trilogy knowing that none of the books will be the same as the others, but they all have a strong human element that makes each of them worth your time. THE ROSES OF MAY is without a doubt the lightest read out of the three, and it can be very hard to accept this difference - especially if you’re reading it immediately following the dark and brutal THE BUTTERFLY GARDEN. Instead of external violence, THE ROSES OF MAY turns its focus inward, examining the internal lives of survivors. In what can only be described as brilliant planning, THE SUMMER CHILDREN strikes a balance between the two, combining shocks and suspense with a poignant and heartfelt personal story as well. To that end, I would encourage readers to read the trilogy in its entirety; I really do feel that I have a much greater appreciation for book two after having read book three. If, however, you’re still unsure about THE ROSES OF MAY (which I don’t blame you for - it’s a very different kind of book!), you can certainly go straight from THE BUTTERFLY GARDEN to THE SUMMER CHILDREN; Hutchison provides ample background information on the characters who carry over from THE ROSES OF MAY into THE SUMMER CHILDREN for you to jump ahead.




I’ve found that sometimes, it’s actually hardest to write reviews for books I really loved… which seems ironic, but consistently proves to be true. It’s like I just get so swept up in the read, by the time it’s over I’ve lost all constructive feedback aside from being able to say that wow, I really loved that book. That’s exactly the boat I’ve found myself in here. Regardless of the masterful way in which THE SUMMER CHILDREN ties together the Collector Trilogy - and it does so in spades, to be sure - this really is an excellent crime novel unto itself as well. Hutchison has found a fantastic balance of darkness and light within the pages of this book, and perhaps the greatest reason why this book works so well can be attributed to its protagonist, Mercedes Ramirez.

THE SUMMER CHILDREN presents readers with a case tied deeply to the backstory of one of its characters. Agent Mercedes Ramirez takes center stage here, and what a fantastic decision this was on the part of the author. Through Ramirez’s story, Hutchison brings to the forefront the key theme that connects these three books: the experiences of survivors, particularly female survivors of physical and sexual abuse. This is not an easy topic to digest, and readers should go into this book aware that it deals in quite stark detail with abuse of children in particular—Hutchison has proven herself to never be afraid of tackling stomach-turning topics head-on. However, she does so with incredible compassion; readers will find themselves so staunchly in support of Ramirez, they will quite literally be in tears by the book’s end. Through this story’s horrific case (in which a masked killer is murdering abusive parents and depositing their children unharmed, but soaked in their parents’ blood, on Ramirez’s doorstep), Hutchison brings Ramirez face to face with the tragic and horrific realities of her own past. It quickly becomes apparent to Ramirez that this case is incredibly personal to her, and, in hunting for the killer, she must actually revisit both her own personal experiences and investigations she has led over the duration of her career. Ramirez is tough, resilient, damaged, blunt, a bit rough around the edges - she feels so very real, and readers will find themselves rooting for her from the book’s first page to its last. It’s practically impossible to imagine a crime novel that could get more personal than this, and Hutchison has done a masterful job crafting a lead character we can all cheer for. 

The richly-developed character of Agent Ramirez is just one example of the care that Hutchison took in crafting each character in this book. Readers will see familiar faces from the series’ previous two books; they will discover new sides to the agents they though they knew so well; they will find themselves deeply invested in the Crimes Against Children team. And let’s not forget that Hutchison also delivers a compelling, page-turning mystery here—even from the plot summary alone, I was dying to know more about who this masked vigilante was, and I’m confident I won’t be the only one to feel this way. THE SUMMER CHILDREN is top-notch crime fiction, plain and simple, and readers looking for a nontraditional yet wholly engrossing and purely addictive summer thriller should add this book - and the Collector Trilogy as a whole - to their reading list right away. 

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review. All opinions my own. 

Book Details:

Read CBTB’s Review of THE BUTTERFLY GARDEN | Read CBTB’s Review of THE ROSES OF MAY

Series: The Collector Series (Book 3)
Paperback: 302 pages
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer (May 22, 2018)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1542049881
ISBN-13: 978-1542049887

Crime by the Book is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. This in no way affects my opinion of the above book.

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BRING ME BACK by B.A. Paris
St. Martin’s Press; 6/19/18
CBTB Rating: 2/5
The Verdict: Uneven and improbable suspense

There are few things quite as disappointing as reading a highly-anticipated book and… finding that it doesn’t live up to your expectations. I really, truly wish I didn’t have to write this review—but honesty is the name of the game, and in that spirit, it’s time that I share my thoughts on B.A. Paris’ BRING ME BACK. Longtime readers of Crime by the Book will know much I loved Paris’ BEHIND CLOSED DOORS (I’m still recommending that book, and it’s a couple years old now!), so I had high hopes for Paris’ Summer 2018 release. Unfortunately, BRING ME BACK lacks the tension and menace of BEHIND CLOSED DOORS - and, coupled with a totally improbable conclusion, it just falls flat, plain and simple. Readers looking for a breezy beach read in the psychological thriller vein will be better served by checking out Aimee Molloy’s THE PERFECT MOTHER, Michelle Sacks’ YOU WERE MADE FOR THIS, and Ruth Ware’s THE DEATH OF MRS. WESTAWAY. If you’re keen to check out BRING ME BACK for yourself, I totally understand! However, I would encourage you to pick up a copy from your local library before spending your hard-earned money on it; this book is unfortunately not up to par with the crop of strong psychological suspense novels releasing this spring and summer. 

Plot Summary: 
She went missing. He moved on. A whole world of secrets remained―until now.

Finn and Layla are young, in love, and on vacation. They’re driving along the highway when Finn decides to stop at a service station to use the restroom. He hops out of the car, locks the doors behind him, and goes inside. When he returns Layla is gone―never to be seen again. That is the story Finn told to the police. But it is not the whole story.

Ten years later Finn is engaged to Layla’s sister, Ellen. Their shared grief over what happened to Layla drew them close and now they intend to remain together. Still, there’s something about Ellen that Finn has never fully understood. His heart wants to believe that she is the one for him...even though a sixth sense tells him not to trust her.

Then, not long before he and Ellen are to be married, Finn gets a phone call. Someone from his past has seen Layla―hiding in plain sight. There are other odd occurrences: Long-lost items from Layla’s past that keep turning up around Finn and Ellen’s house. Emails from strangers who seem to know too much. Secret messages, clues, warnings. If Layla is alive―and on Finn’s trail―what does she want? And how much does she know?

Perhaps the greatest strength of Paris’ BEHIND CLOSED DOORS is its ability to blend easy-to-devour plotting with genuine menace; I couldn’t stop turning the pages of that book, even as I became increasingly horrified by the dark secrets held within its pages. My hopes were high, then, for Paris to deliver another engaging yet sinister summer beach read—and you can imagine my frustration and disappointment when I discovered BRING ME BACK holds no such thrills in store for its readers. Perhaps the most glaring disappointment of this book for a crime fiction reader will be its utter lack of tension and suspense. At the core of this story is a mystery that, the more I read of it, the less I could figure out exactly why it was a mystery to begin with. Bear with me here while I explain. Yes, we are given the mystery of Layla’s disappearance… and we’re also quickly thrown into the mystery surrounding Layla’s* purported reappearance. (*For the purposes of this review, I’ll be referring to Layla by her name - even though the true identity of the person assuming Layla’s identity won’t be revealed until midway through the story.) But Layla doesn’t just come back - she is dropping little clues for Finn, clues that are meant to be menacing and chilling. This bizarre behavior on Layla's part is meant to be the story's crux, but I simply couldn't figure out what about it was meant to be alarming or tense. Perhaps it’s the lack of backstory development given to these characters - readers are thrust into the central mystery practically from page one - but these “menacing clues” were anything but for me. On the one hand, Paris did succeed in planting the question in my mind: why is Finn afraid of these clues? But on the other hand (and perhaps most importantly of all), I never felt Finn’s purported fear of these clues myself. There was a measure of detachment here that made Layla’s attempts at frightening her former boyfriend cheesy, and made Finn’s apparent desperation to figure out the heart of the mystery inauthentic.  

And then there are the clues themselves. I’m very open-minded when it comes to my crime books; as a reader, I’m really along for the ride, willing to see where the author will take me and willing to give them every chance to sweep me along in their story. Unfortunately, the plot device central to BRING ME BACK became tired for me, and it became tired fast. Layla’s “clues” for Finn primarily take the form of Russian nesting dolls which she leaves in various locations that she knows Finn will stumble upon; the significance of the Russian doll is a private link to Layla’s childhood that only Finn, or someone equally close to Layla, would know. Objectively speaking, I can see how this could be a potentially chilling plot device - after all, there are few things creepier than dolls in horror films! But like so much about this book, this plot device was over-wrought and over-used. I truly reached a point of pure frustration with the sheer number of times I read the word “Russian doll” within the book’s pages—and that’s not even a very eloquent or astute criticism to make, but just a fact of my reading experience. So many of the effects intended to build suspense in BRING ME BACK felt forced and overdone, but none more so than the story’s incessant reliance on the Russian dolls. 

When it comes to writing great crime fiction, it’s no surprise that the story’s finale - the conclusion that ties together all the threads of the book into one cohesive and cogent explanation - is crucial. BRING ME BACK must have one of the most frustrating and unsatisfying conclusions I’ve ever read. While this story had flaws and points of contention from its early pages, what I found most frustrating of all was to make it through the entirety of the book only to discover that the finale was simply preposterous. It’s impossible to discuss this in too much detail without spoiling things for you, the reader, but I’ll leave it at this: I truly cannot remember the last time I read a conclusion that expected readers to disregard logic and set aside common sense as wholly as does the conclusion to BRING ME BACK. If you are a reader who places importance on a crime book's ultimate solution, BRING ME BACK is very likely to frustrate you as much as it did me. 

I hope that each of you reading this will take this review with a grain of salt; as always, these are my views and my views alone. I had such high hopes for this book, but unfortunately found it dissatisfying and thoroughly frustrating. Perhaps one of the strangest pieces of my reading experience was just how quickly it took a turn for the worse; I actually was thoroughly enjoying the book’s first section, until Part Two arrived and totally derailed the reading experience for me. Given what a mixed reading experience I had with BRING ME BACK, I would encourage readers who are keen to check the book out to do so through their local library. However, as you will also know, when I read and review a book that doesn't work for me, I always like to consider what other kind of reader out there might enjoy that book better than I did. I’ll be honest - I’m struggling here, simply because I can imagine so many stronger options than BRING ME BACK, no matter what kind of book you are in the market for. I will say, though, that despite this book’s many points of frustration for me, it did maintain a nice breezy pacing throughout - which certainly could make it suited for a day at the pool. Readers who prefer very light suspense coupled with a story of interpersonal drama may also find BEHIND CLOSED DOORS more up their alley. As always, I’m very happy to answer any questions you may have - and I hope this review, however unpleasant it has been to write, will be of use to you in deciding where to allocate your book budget this spring. 

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review. All opinions my own. 

Book Details: 

Hardcover: 304 pages
Publisher: St. Martin's Press (June 19, 2018)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1250151333
ISBN-13: 978-1250151339

Crime by the Book is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. This in no way affects my opinion of the above book.

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THE BOY AT THE DOOR by Alex Dahl
Berkley; 7/24/18
CBTB Rating: 4.5/5
The Verdict: a compelling balance of light suspense & dark subject matter

It’s hard to imagine a summer read better tailored to Crime by the Book than a Scandinavian psychological suspense novel, aka a combination of my two favorite kinds of crime books—and that’s exactly what readers will get in THE BOY AT THE DOOR by Alex Dahl. As an avid reader of Nordic Noir, I was fascinated by the concept of a psychological suspense story set against a Nordic backdrop; I couldn’t wait to see how Dahl would balance these two often extremely different styles of crime writing. What I discovered in THE BOY AT THE DOOR well exceeded my expectations. A binge-worthy story of suspense with dark and weighty undercurrents, Dahl’s first novel strikes an excellent balance between the melancholy and gloom of Nordic crime and the breezy pacing of your favorite beach read. Despite its well-deserved “binge-read” status, THE BOY AT THE DOOR tackles genuinely difficult themes: most prominently, addiction and the pressures of motherhood take center stage here. It’s a winning combination, and, set against the atmospheric and picturesque backdrop of Scandinavia, Dahl’s tense and menacing story of familial suspense is a summer standout. Add this to your summer reading list and set aside a weekend to tear through its addictive and taut interpersonal mystery.

Plot Summary: 
Cecilia Wilborg has it all--a loving husband, two beautiful daughters and a gorgeous home in the affluent Norwegian town of Sandefjord. And she works hard to keep it all together. Too hard. Because one mistake from her past could bring it all crashing down around her.

Annika Lucasson lives a dark life with her abusive, drug-dealing boyfriend. She's lost everything one too many times and now she's got one last chance to save herself, thanks to Cecilia. Annika knows her secret--and just how much she's willing to do to make it all go away...

When someone forgets to pick up their little boy at the local pool, Cecilia agrees to take him home, only to find an abandoned, empty house. It's the first step in the unraveling of her meticulously crafted life, as her and Annika's worlds collide...

Let’s start at the very beginning: does the distinction between “Nordic Noir” and “psychological suspense” really matter in readers’ understanding of this book? As both a reader and a reviewer, I find categorizing my books very helpful—and, on the off chance that you find those categories helpful, too, I want to be very clear on exactly what kind of read this is. Nordic Noir is a very specific kind of crime novel, and THE BOY AT THE DOOR is not best understood under its umbrella. When you think Nordic Noir, think of authors like Stieg Larsson, Jo Nesbo, Henning Mankell - authors whose crime books typically center around a police investigation, involve the exploration of social issues, and employ a dark, gritty style of storytelling throughout. They tend to be slower-burning, slightly more dense reads - and though there are of course exceptions to all these generalizations, it’s this style of book that is most typical of “Nordic Noir”. If that’s the kind of read you’re in the market for, THE BOY AT THE DOOR won’t be the right choice for you—and that’s why I think this distinction is so important. THE BOY AT THE DOOR is, by definition, Scandinavian crime fiction (it is, after all, a crime novel set in Scandinavia and written by a Scandinavian author!), but readers who prefer psychological suspense over Nordic Noir will actually find themselves best aligned with Dahl’s writing. Perhaps most compelling of all is Dahl’s intentional positioning of her book not as your standard Nordic crime novel; she orients her story more towards an examination of life in Scandinavia, rather than an investigation of a crime committed against the same backdrop. If you don’t prefer to categorize your reads, that’s totally fine, too - but as CBTB readers know, I’m all about setting the right expectations for each book you pick up. In short: this book leans more towards the style of suspense writers like Clare Mackintosh and Fiona Barton than the style of Scandinavian writers like Jo Nesbo and Stieg Larsson.

So now that we’ve established that this book is best understood as psychological suspense - why is it worth your time, when there are so many new suspense novels releasing weekly? Looking at the list of Summer 2018 releases I’m excited about, I’m struck by two developing trends: first, the unlikeable character seems to be having a moment (see: LYING IN WAIT by Liz Nugent and YOU WERE MADE FOR THIS by Michelle Sacks); second, psychological suspense novels exploring the experience of motherhood seem to be having a moment of their own as well (see also: THE PERFECT MOTHER by Aimee Molloy, and Sacks' YOU WERE MADE FOR THIS, too!). These two trends collide to pitch-perfect effect in Dahl’s taut debut. In the character of Cecilia Wilborg, Dahl weaves a story of the pressures of modern womanhood in all their complex, often quietly disturbing realities. Most compelling of all? Yes, this is fiction, but there’s a measure of truth behind what Dahl writes that will get under the skin of her readers. When you read the plot summary for this book, you may find yourself feeling lulled into a sense of familiarity with Cecilia’s character: another wife who “has it all”, including the picture-perfect family and the straight-out-of-a-magazine home -- that is, until her world threatens to be upended. But don’t be fooled by this frequently-employed launching point; Dahl’s story takes a new direction from its peers. On surface level, Cecilia’s story is that of so many other suspense novels’ protagonists, but dig just a bit deeper and you will find a character as complex as the mystery she becomes embroiled in. Cecilia is perfectly polished, friends with all the right people, endlessly devoted to her husband—but she’s also judgmental, manipulative, and willing to do whatever it takes to preserve the facade she’s created. In short: she’s not an instantly-sympathetic character. In fact, I’m pretty sure I spent more of this book not liking Cecilia than I did liking her, but it was that kernel of truth to her character that always kept me coming back for more: her determination to preserve the image she has created for herself and for her family is one that resonated with me on a level I was not fully expecting. Cecilia might not be the most lovable or endearing character, but her sharp edges are fascinating to observe.

And of course, once the author has established just how deep Cecilia’s commitment to establishing and preserving this image really is, we get to witness its unraveling—and what a (disturbingly) fun, voyeuristic experience that is. When Cecilia offers to bring an abandoned little boy back to her house from the local pool, she could never imagine the events she was setting in motion... but thankfully, author Alex Dahl has a vivid imagination and lots of intrigue in store for both Cecilia and her readers. What follows is a twisting and immersive dive into the web of secrets that hide behind that perfect exterior of Cecilia’s—and the revelations about her past are as grim as they are heart-tugging. This isn’t a story of major plot twists - don’t go into it expecting earth-shattering revelations - but the reveals that Dahl does plot out are consistently entertaining and suitably surprising. While I did predict the reveal that comes to be the crux of the story, I didn’t find my reading experience hindered at all by my prediction of it; as I’ve always said, if a crime novel has enough substance to it, I don’t need a big twist to find the book satisfying. THE BOY AT THE DOOR has more than enough of its own strengths in place—it doesn’t need a shocking twist to make the reader happy to have spent time in its world. Come to this book for its story of long-held family secrets, its complex and compelling characters, and the winding, twisting mystery that is ultimately revealed to tie all of these pieces together.

It’s also worth noting just how well Dahl balances the kind of pacing that will please lighter suspense fans with genuinely dark subject matter. Though this book might not rely as heavily as others on social commentary, it certainly provides readers with subject matter to chew on long after you've turned the book's final page. Along with her keen insights into the pressures of womanhood and motherhood, Dahl also uses THE BOY AT THE DOOR to delve into the topic of addiction. Through the character of Annika Lucasson, Dahl challenges readers to step into the life of a woman whose addictions have essentially stolen her own life from her. Annika’s is a tragic story—I found the chapters focusing on her experience genuinely hard to read, and Dahl doesn’t shy away from exploring every painful moment in Annika’s (often fruitless) efforts to escape her life and start anew. But once again, Dahl walks that fine line between these visceral moments and her book’s lighter pacing masterfully; after turning the book’s heartbreaking final few pages, I was struck by just how much I enjoyed reading this book, despite the genuinely difficult topics it explores -- and it’s that balance that, once again, made THE BOY AT THE DOOR such a pleasure to read.

Readers looking for a summer binge-read with a dark side will love Alex Dahl's THE BOY AT THE DOOR. There's nothing typical about this book, and Dahl's debut is all the better for its willingness to blend its Scandinavian roots with a modern, on-trend psychological suspense plot. Pick this book up for its gorgeous cover and stay for its astute insights into modern womanhood and its tense, menacing atmosphere. 

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review. All opinions my own. 

Book Details: 

Read an excerpt of THE BOY AT THE DOOR here!

Paperback: 368 pages
Publisher: Berkley (July 24, 2018)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0451491793
ISBN-13: 978-0451491794

Crime by the Book is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. This in no way affects my opinion of the above book.

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THE DYING DETECTIVE by Leif GW Persson
Vintage Crime/Black Lizard; 4/17/18
CBTB Rating: 4.5/5
The Verdict: a masterful, methodical police procedural

With all the brand-new (and very enticing!) books releasing every week, it can feel really hard to make time to catch up on the slightly older books you may have missed when they first came out—but today’s post is evidence that pressing pause on the new releases can be such a rewarding exercise. THE DYING DETECTIVE by Leif GW Persson released in hardcover in the spring of 2017… and who knows how I missed out on reading it then, but I’m so glad it caught my eye in paperback. This masterful police procedural is a worthy addition to every Nordic Noir reader’s personal library, but don’t just take my word for it: this book has been the recipient of a stunning number of crime writing awards, including the Crime Writers’ Association’s International Dagger Award, The Glass Key Award for Best Scandinavian Crime Novel, The Swedish Academy of Crime Writers’ Award, and a whole lot more—and it’s every bit deserving of this extensive critical acclaim. Persson’s layered, methodical crime novel recalls the best of classic crime fiction. There aren’t any bells or whistles here, just solid, meticulous crime solving at the hands of a brilliant police officer. But lest readers feel lulled into a sense of familiarity with this book’s standard procedural plot, Persson injects his story with an urgent dose of humanity: perhaps even more alarming than the brutal crime central to this book is our protagonist's confrontation with his own mortality. THE DYING DETECTIVE will be an instant-favorite for fans of the slow-burning yet irresistibly immersive crime novel. 

Plot Summary: 
After suffering a stroke, retired detective Lars Martin Johansson finds himself in the hospital. To save himself from idleness and despair, the legendary investigator turns to an unsolved murder case from years before. The victim: an innocent nine-year-old girl. 

With the help of various associates and assistants, Johansson launches an informal investigation from his hospital bed. Racing against time, he uncovers a web of connections that links sex tourism to a dead opera singer and a self-made millionaire. But as Johansson draws closer to solving the crime, he finds that he will have to confront not just a mystery but his own mortality.

There is so much to be said for a story that can hold its own - and its reader’s attention - without flash or shock value. I love a good jaw-dropping suspense story as much as the next reader, but at the end of the day, I always come back to crime novels like THE DYING DETECTIVE: stories that rely on rich character development and meticulous plotting over in-your-face (and sometimes truly unbelievable) shocks. It’s these stories that get under my skin most of all, and it’s these stories I rely on when I’m looking for a crime novel that will outlast changes in trends and changes in my mood. If you agree with me on this point, you’re bound to love just about every facet of Persson’s masterful mystery. THE DYING DETECTIVE is every bit a police procedural, and a really excellent one at that—the entirety of this story centers around a retired detective puzzling together the solution to a cold case that his colleagues were never able to solve. There are heart-tugging moments of emotion and chilling reveals, to be sure, but where THE DYING DETECTIVE shines perhaps most of all is in the quiet precision with which Persson weaves together its central mystery—and, even more impressive, he does it through the lens of an investigator who is close to bedridden for the duration of the novel. Main character Lars Martin Johansson may have a reputation as a man who is so shrewd and intelligent that he can “see around corners”, but author Persson must come in a close second - the ease with which he crafts this layered and far-reaching mystery is simply a joy to read. 

So who exactly is Lars Martin, and what makes his character such a compelling one? When readers meet Lars Martin, the retired detective is stopping at his favorite hot dog stand when the course of his life is altered forever, and he suffers a stroke. Persson makes a bold choice here: our protagonist is taken out of action in the traditional sense right from the get-go. We never see Lars Martin in his glory days, chasing down criminals in his city—we meet him on the lowest day of his life, a day when he finds himself hospitalized and forced into a totally new (and much more stationary) lifestyle. It’s a bold choice from a practical perspective, too—how can a writer make a 400-plus page book immersive and energetic when its protagonist is largely bedridden? This is exactly where Persson’s strength of storytelling shines. While in the hospital, Lars Martin meets a doctor with a personal connection to a horrific unsolved crime: the rape and murder of a young girl, a crime committed years prior that has stumped police ever since. Knowing of Lars Martin’s legendary reputation as an investigator, the doctor takes her new patient into confidence and asks if he might be willing to look into the case for her. For Lars Martin, this opportunity presents itself as something of a lifeline—a connection to his former self, something to keep him occupied and moving forward as he recovers from his brush with death. What follows from there is a precise and layered unraveling of the story’s central mystery, one that manages to be just as engaging and driving from Lars Martin’s hospital bed as it would have been had he been chasing down killers on the streets of Stockholm. 

Lars Martin’s hospitalization doesn’t simply provide a unique backdrop against which Persson lays out his central mystery—it also gives THE DYING DETECTIVE a uniquely contemplative undercurrent. THE DYING DETECTIVE is as much a masterful crime novel as it is a reckoning with mortality. What is left of us when we find our faculties impaired, leaving us unable to fulfill the roles that have previously defined our identities? For Lars Martin, his stroke is a point of no return: a moment after which he will never be able to regain quite the same the mental clarity (not to mention the dexterity and ease of movement) that he relied on at work, and which defined his status as a legendary police officer. Readers witness Lars Martin’s own grappling with his new self, and we also witness the very poignant moments in which Lars Martin’s loved ones contend with his new identity, too. This undercurrent injects THE DYING DETECTIVE with an urgency that has nothing to do with the solution of its central mystery (though that urgency is very real, too). There is so much humanity in the quiet moments of this book; readers will be hard-pressed not to find themselves deeply invested in Lars Martin's recovery, and in all the little moments that delineate that fault line between his two selves, past and present. 

It’s also worth noting that, despite the very dark crime that Lars Martin sets out to solve, THE DYING DETECTIVE is not gratuitously violent. The book does center around an unsolved crime against a child - something to be aware of, to be sure - but Persson never takes readers into the exact moment that crime was committed. Instead, we learn about the crime and its perpetrator through the lens of the investigation that our protagonist undertakes. That's a big difference, and it means THE DYING DETECTIVE can center around a really stomach-turning crime without seeming exploitative. For a Scandinavian crime novel, THE DYING DETECTIVE is actually quite tame when it comes to its level of violence - a quality that I didn’t mind one bit, given that the crime that is central to the story is disturbing enough as it is, even with the distance Persson grants his readers from it.

THE DYING DETECTIVE is a perfect example of the perennial appeal of a really great police procedural. When you can write a police investigation with the precision and heart that Persson does here, there’s just no need for the bells and whistles - the story can stand on its own two feet, just as it is. Highly recommended for fans of Scandinavian crime fiction and classic police procedurals. 

Book Details: 

Paperback: 432 pages
Publisher: Vintage Crime/Black Lizard; Reprint edition (April 17, 2018)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0307950360
ISBN-13: 978-0307950369

Crime by the Book is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. This in no way affects my opinion of the above book.

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Crime by the Book by Abigail Endler - 2w ago
Q&A: Jon Land
Author of MURDER, SHE WROTE: A DATE WITH MURDER

This past week, I took a much-needed vacation to Florida to spend time with my Grammy - and a conversation we had while sipping coffee on her porch happened to coincide perfectly with the next post slated to run on CBTB. We got to reminiscing about the old days - times when I would come visit her when I was just a little kid, her old house where she raised my dad and his brother… all those little memories that bring up so much nostalgia. Being that she and I are both huge readers, our conversation quickly turned to books: the books that we hold dear to our hearts because of the memories they in turn hold for us. I mentioned to my Grammy that I had the chance to interview Jon Land (best known for the critically-acclaimed Caitlin Strong series) on his new venture: taking over the writing of the Murder, She Wrote books. Little did I know that those books - and the TV show! - hold such fond memories for my Grammy. She told me how she used to always make sure her to-do list was completed in time to watch Jessica Fletcher on TV every Sunday, and she was so excited to learn that Fletcher continues to live on in the Murder, She Wrote books. 

There’s something so special about these timeless stories that connect generations of readers, and I was so excited to have the chance to speak with Jon Land about his newest project, writing his first installment in the Murder, She Wrote series, MURDER, SHE WROTE: A DATE WITH MURDER. The Murder, She Wrote series is about as close to infamous as it comes, and I’m fascinated by the process that resulted in Land taking over these books—I had a lot of questions for him, all of which he answered very thoughtfully for CBTB readers! In today’s post, readers will learn exactly how Land became connected with this project, what challenges he had changing gears from writing thrillers to writing a cozy mystery, what he’s working on next, and a whole lot more. 

But before we dive into the Q&A, let’s take a moment to discuss what I, a reader who typically sticks to dark and gritty crime fiction, enjoyed about this cozy mystery. I said this to Jon and I said this to my Grammy, too: I loved the nostalgia that this book conjured up for me. I’m no expert when it comes to cozy mysteries - this is a subgenre of crime fiction that’s well outside my comfort zone - but if the nostalgia I felt while exploring Jessica Fletcher’s world in this modern take on a classic series is any indication, Land has done a masterful job with a huge task—Fletcher’s legions of fans are sure to love Land’s contribution to a longstanding and beloved series. It will comes as no surprise to readers of Jon Land’s previous books to discover that he takes on this ambitious project with strong plotting and an engaging central mystery—and, in this case, he also balances this intrigue with endearing characters and a lighter, cozy mystery plot. (If you’re a reader who prefers more action-packed thrillers, you might also check out Land’s Caitlin Strong series -- action thrillers featuring a tough and resilient female lead!) Given the massive name recognition that this series holds, I can only imagine what a daunting task and incredibly exciting opportunity this must have felt like for Land all at once, and I’m so appreciative that he and his book gave me the opportunity to relive a bit of nostalgia for Cabot Cove - and gave me another opportunity to bond with my Grammy, too.

Many thanks to Jon for taking the time to answer my questions so thoughtfully - enjoy our Q&A, and a little trip down memory lane with Jessica Fletcher and Murder, She Wrote!

Murder She Wrote Intro - YouTube
MURDER, SHE WROTE: A DATE WITH MURDER

Jessica Fletcher takes up the case of her good friend Barbara "Babs" Wirth after Babs' husband Hal suffers a fatal heart attack that Jessica has reason to believe was actually murder. At the heart of her suspicions lies a sinister dating site Hal had used while he and Babs were having marital issues, a site that may be complicit in somehow swindling him out of millions.
 
Jessica's investigation reveals that Hal was far from the only victim and when his former business partner is also killed, a deadly pattern emerges. Jessica teams up with a brilliant young computer hacker to follow the trail but as she gets closer to the truth, two near misses force her to realize that she may very well be the next victim. 

The stakes have never been this high as Jessica finds herself being stalked by the killer she is trying to catch. She must now set the perfect trap to avoid her very own date with murder.

Murder, She Wrote: A Date with Murder By Jessica Fletcher, Donald Bain, Jon Land




Author Q&A: Jon Land

Crime by the Book: First things first - thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions about your newest venture! In your own words, can you tell us a bit about MURDER, SHE WROTE: A Date with Murder? 

Jon Land: Well, let’s start with the fact that it’s my first effort writing as Jessica Fletcher, replacing the late, great Don Bain. My familiarity is far more with the television series than the books, so I instinctively set out to capture the tone, rhythm and pacing of my favorite episodes. That said, the book features a sinister Internet dating service, so I’m also lending a more contemporary take on things. I think the book is still a cozy thanks to the presence of so many familiar faces/characters within America’s favorite town, Cabot Cove. But it has more thriller elements in terms of pacing and the fact that Jessica finds her own life in danger thanks to her efforts at solving the crime.

CBTB: Readers will know you best for your acclaimed Caitlin Strong series (the most recent installment, STRONG TO THE BONE, released in December!). Taking on the MURDER, SHE WROTE franchise is a totally new direction for you! What is most exciting to you about this new direction? And can we still expect to see more Caitlin in the future?

JL: Great questions! It’s a new direction for me indeed, but one I took to with surprising ease. What was most exciting, frankly, was the opportunity itself. I don’t have to tell you what a tough business writing is and to have the opportunity to take over an established brand that means steady income is a godsend for any writer of popular fiction, particularly in the face of such a changing publishing landscape. But fans of Caitlin Strong should have no fear—she’s not going anywhere, starting next April with STRONG AS STEEL! I enjoy writing Caitlin as much now, if not more, than I ever have and one of my greatest hopes in taking over MURDER SHE WROTE is that Jessica Fletcher’s audience will migrate to my Caitlin Strong books.

CBTB: MURDER, SHE WROTE is such an iconic series, it has to be a thrilling one to get involved with! What kind of background research and preparation went into undertaking this new role?

JL: I was very fortunate in that Don Bain, after he realized he wasn’t going to be able to write the book alone, initially penned the first 60 or so pages with his grandson Zach. Those pages not only gave me a running start and a direct pipeline to Jessica’s voice, it also gave me a great adviser in Zach and his institutional memory of many of the books. I’d never read any of the books in the series, so I did read several of those. But because I remain far more familiar with the television series, A DATE WITH MURDER resembles that more than the books in many ways, as I mentioned above. One thing I kept having trouble with was keeping two characters with very similar names, Evelyn Phillips and Eve Simpson, straight. In the first draft, they became interchangeable and I kept having to go back and remind myself which was which. 

CBTB: Speaking of iconic - you’re now writing as Jessica Fletcher, a crime fiction character who has a longstanding and quite devoted following. How did you get inside the head of this amateur detective? What was the biggest challenge of this process? 

JL: Let me start with your final question there. The biggest challenge was actually writing in 1st person, because that was something I’d never done before, never had a character who appears in every single scene and we see the entire book unfold from their POV. How I pulled that off starts with great support, again, from Don Bain’s grandson Zach and my terrific editor at Berkley Michelle Vega. Interestingly, this was her first effort editing a MURDER SHE WROTE entry just like it was mine writing one. Since we were both starting from scratch, I had license not to cling to any preconceived notions about Jessica’s character for the formula of her adventures. The most important thing about the process was not trying to imitate what had been done before. I needed to lend my own take to the way the plot unfolds.  I needed to make sure it felt organic and natural, because that’s the way the writing unfolded.

"The show and the book series … were able to create a cozy, friendly sense of familiarity with the format and cast of characters. We welcomed them, especially Jessica herself, into our homes every Sunday night like family."

CBTB: What do you think has given MURDER, SHE WROTE its lasting appeal with readers and viewers alike? 

JL: Wow, that’s a great question. I’m going to start with the writing. The series was created by, I think, the same team behind the great Columbo detective show, so the show was able to maintain a measure of quality that lasted through a dozen seasons. The other thing about the show and the book series was that the creators, and then Don Bain, were able to create a cozy, friendly sense of familiarity with the format and cast of characters. We welcomed them, especially Jessica herself, into our homes every Sunday night like family. Didn’t Bonanza own Sunday nights for nearly a generation, welcoming viewers on a weekly basis to the Ponderosa? Well, here we had Cabot Cove instead and, more than anything else, capturing that same sense of familiarity is what made the book series endure as well.

CBTB: For readers who are curious how writers become attached to projects like these - continuations of longstanding series - can you share a bit with us about the process that resulted in you co-writing the newest MURDER, SHE WROTE book? 

JL: Well, Don Bain had gotten to a stage in his life where writing had become very difficult for him. People don’t realize how exhausting and demanding the process itself is. When the original plan to have Don with his grandson Zach on continuing the series didn’t work out as planned, the idea was for me to step in and work alongside Don. But he passed away before that happened. So here I was, having been given this wonderful opportunity to now succeed him as Jessica Fletcher’s co-author. And I say that in all humility because the only thing rarer than getting the opportunity to earn steady income in this crazy business, is the gift of taking over a branded series with such an incredible track record as MURDER, SHE WROTE. Don Bain wrote 46 books—think about that for a moment and consider the fact that number beats both Hercule Poirot books by Agatha Christie and the Sherlock Holmes classics by Arthur Conan Doyle. And beyond that I’d say Jessica Fletcher and MURDER, SHE WROTE is one of those rare pop culture brands that enjoys nearly 100% name recognition 

CBTB: What comes next for Jessica? Will we see more Jessica Fletcher books from you in the future? 

JL: Oh, for sure! My second effort, MANUSCRIPT FOR MURDER, is finished and scheduled for publication on November 5. And I’ll soon be starting MURDER IN RED which will be published in May of 2019. I’m especially anxious about the response to MANUSCRIPT FOR MURDER, because it marks my first truly solo effort. I think the biggest challenge I face in that regard is to discipline myself to stick to the trademarks that made this series iconic. As a thriller writer, my instinct is to fall back on pacing, suspense and action above all else. But I need to continue tempering that with the tried and true format that’s worked for a very long time.

CBTB: Readers will also be interested to know that you’re a crime fiction reviewer, too! Do you think that your background in crime fiction reviewing has given you an edge when it comes to writing crime novels? Have you learned lessons from the books you’ve reviewed, or do you find that writing crime fiction and reviewing crime fiction are totally separate processes? 

JL: Whoa, another great question! I consider myself an amateur reviewer in that I only review books I can genuinely, and enthusiastically, recommend. So the answer is a definitive yes. Victor Hugo wrote that good writers borrow, but great writers steal. I started my career because I so loved reading David Morrell, Stephen King, Robert Ludlum, Clive Cussler. They inspired me to do what they were doing. Now the likes of those and far more inspire me to continue striving to do it better.

CBTB: What books are on your nightstand right now? 

JL: Speaking of influences and writers I love to read, THE MIDNIGHT MILE by the great Lee Child is waiting for me to get back to right now. There’s simply no better, or bigger, hero than Jack Reacher. He’s this generation’s James Bond, truly iconic. I’m just glad he’s a guy so Jessica Fletcher can hold on to her title as America’s premier female sleuth!

Many thanks to Jon Land for answering my questions! MURDER, SHE WROTE: A DATE WITH MURDER is on sale now. 

Book Details: 

Series: Murder She Wrote (Book 47)
Hardcover: 304 pages
Publisher: Berkley (May 1, 2018)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0451489276
ISBN-13: 978-0451489272

Crime by the Book is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. This in no way affects my opinion of the above book.

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Q&A: Aimee Molloy, Author of THE PERFECT MOTHER
Harper; May 1, 2018

Summer’s first buzzy psychological thriller is officially here! THE PERFECT MOTHER by Aimee Molloy is on sale today, and it's everything your summer reading list needs: smart, addictive, binge-worthy entertainment. Bonus: Kerry Washington is slated to star in its film adaptation! I loved every page of THE PERFECT MOTHER, and am confident you’ll find it just the kind of read you’re looking for to usher in the summer months. I’m thrilled to welcome Aimee to CBTB today to talk all things THE PERFECT MOTHER, from her emotional connections to the women who take center stage in the book to a little glimpse into movie adaptation process and a whole lot more. 

I absolutely loved THE PERFECT MOTHER when I read it earlier this spring. You can catch my full review of the book here, in which I write: 

“THE PERFECT MOTHER is that perfect blend of breezy plotting, chilling subject matter, and addictive interpersonal drama that makes for what I like to call “popcorn reading”: an utterly addictive, can’t-get-enough kind of read. Following a group of trendy Brooklyn moms whose lives are rocked by a terrible tragedy, Molloy’s stellar suspense novel will perfectly suit readers looking to add another binge-read to their spring reading list. Fans of BEHIND CLOSED DOORS by B.A. Paris, LIE TO ME by J.T. Ellison, and BIG LITTLE LIES by Liane Moriarty will feel right at home in Molloy’s story of the pressures of motherhood and the lies friends hide from one another. There’s nothing like getting swept up in a page-turning domestic thriller, and if that’s what you’re in the market for, THE PERFECT MOTHER will be a surefire hit. ”
— crimebythebook.com

Before we dive into this Q&A, I also want to give a special shout-out to Aimee’s dad. In what will probably go down as the coolest coincidence to happen to me through this blog, I was totally honored to learn that he is a long-time reader of CBTB. What a wonderfully small world it is, that the father of the author of a book I loved happens to read my blog! I’m so appreciative of his support of Crime by the Book. Thank you for reading CBTB, Aimee’s dad (and I’m sorry I don’t know your first name!). Cheers to crime fiction bringing us all together. And many thanks to Aimee for taking the time to answer my questions about THE PERFECT MOTHER! Without further ado, let's dive in to today's featured post... 

About THE PERFECT MOTHER: 

A night out. A few hours of fun. That’s all it was meant to be.

They call themselves the May Mothers—a group of new moms whose babies were born in the same month. Twice a week, they get together in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park for some much-needed adult time.

When the women go out for drinks at the hip neighborhood bar,they are looking for a fun break from their daily routine. But on this hot Fourth of July night, something goes terrifyingly wrong: one of the babies is taken from his crib. Winnie, a single mom, was reluctant to leave six-week-old Midas with a babysitter, but her fellow May Mothers insisted everything would be fine. Now he is missing. What follows is a heart-pounding race to find Midas, during which secrets are exposed, marriages are tested, and friendships are destroyed. 

Thirteen days. An unexpected twist. The Perfect Mother is a "true page turner." —B.A. Paris, author of Behind Closed Doors  

The Perfect Mother: A Novel By Aimee Molloy


Author Q&A: Aimee Molloy

Crime by the Book: First things first - thank you so much for taking the time to share a behind-the-scenes glimpse into THE PERFECT MOTHER with CBTB readers! I’m such a fan of this book. Let’s start at the very beginning: can you tell us, in your own words, a bit about THE PERFECT MOTHER?

Aimee Molloy: Thank you for hosting me! I first have to say that my father—an avid reader of crime fiction—is a long-time fan of your blog. CBTB is the first place he goes for recommendations, and I’m sure that seeing an interview with his daughter is going to make him fall out of his chair (get up, dad!). 

Now, the Perfect Mother is a psychological thriller set in the early days of new motherhood. A group of new moms who become friends decide when the babies are six weeks old to go out for a drink. That night, baby Midas is taken from his crib after his babysitter falls asleep on the couch. The book takes place over the next thirteen days and it follows three women—Francie, Colette, and Nell—who become increasingly determined the police are screwing up the investigation, and increasingly determined to do whatever it takes to find Midas before it’s too late. While the book is very much a quick-paced mystery, it is also—I hope!—an insightful look at the pressures of modern motherhood. 

CBTB: If you had to describe your book in three adjectives, which would you choose? 

AM: Fast-paced, skewering, suspenseful.

CBTB: THE PERFECT MOTHER introduces readers to a group of mothers known as the “May Mothers”. There are four “May Mothers” who come to be central to this story: Francie, Colette, Nell, and Winnie. How would you describe these women to someone meeting them for the first time? 

AM: Sweet, stay-at-home mom Francie is the glue that holds our group together, mostly because of how much she needs the other members of May Mothers. With a husband who works all the time, no real friends in New York, and no idea what she’s doing, she struggles with the isolation of new motherhood. 

Colette is the breezy, home-birthing mom with the cute, adoring partner, the nice apartment, and a successful career as a writer. At least on the outside. On the inside, she struggles with the impossible task of balancing her job, relationship, and work; and her worries about her daughter’s development.

Nell—our tall, sassy Brit—is the one we’d all want to go out for drinks with. She thinks this “advice stuff” is a bunch of malarkey and her approach to motherhood is to take things in stride, have a cocktail or two, and follow your instincts. (Oh, and she’s harboring a really big secret.)

And then there’s Winnie. It’s her son who goes missing, and her that we know the least. She keeps everyone—the other women, the reader—at arm’s length. A central part of the mystery of the book is trying to figure out why, exactly, she’s so distant. 

"Not only is the novel a fast-paced thriller but it’s also a feminist look at what it means to be a woman today."

CBTB: While writing these characters, was there one woman you found most compelling or most interesting to write about? Do you identify most (or least!) with one of the May Mothers? 

AM: It sounds utterly insane but I love these women like they’re my friends. I’m almost loathe to admit this but right before I turned the book in, I went away to a cabin to take one last look at it. I’ll never forget being in the car on the way there and feeling really emotional, like this was my last get-away with these women who I’ve come to known so intimately—that soon enough, I’d have to share them with others. 

Because I was a ghostwriter for many years, early readers have guessed that I’m most like Colette, but I’m not nearly as cool as she is. In reality, there’s a little bit of me in each of these characters. My youngest was just one years old when I wrote most of this, so I was very much still “in it” as they say and I think in writing these women I tapped into a lot of the anxieties I was feeling at the time—Francie’s concerns about the “rules” (breastfeeding, nap schedules, etc, etc); Colette’s concerns about losing her creative spark; Nell’s struggle with going back to work; Winnie’s constant wondering about who had abducted her baby (JUST KIDDING!). 

CBTB: THE PERFECT MOTHER injects its story of interpersonal drama with a unique and compelling outside force: a TV personality who becomes invested in providing coverage of the story’s central mystery. I absolutely loved this addition - and I’m so curious, why did you choose to add this very public-facing element to a crime that’s so personal and private? 

AM: You’re speaking of Patricia Faith, the host of the Faith Hour, and one of my favorite characters. I’ve become a little bit obsessed with cable news and its impact on our culture, and I had a lot of fun writing her as it allowed me to explore all of that. She becomes consumed with the case of missing Midas, and spends a lot of time casting a light on the behavior of the May Mothers. Why were they at a bar with newborns at home? How much did they have to drink? Is this really what mothers do nowadays? In many ways, she encapsulates the judgment that new moms get from a lot of different places—the internet, baby books, other parents, etc. She just does it in stilettos and tight, lavender dresses.

CBTB: Given the book’s title, it will come as no surprise to readers that this book delves into the pressures of motherhood - new motherhood in particular. What do you most hope readers take away from the exploration of these themes found in your book? 

AM: One of the many reasons I’m so happy to have landed this book with Jennifer Barth, my editor at Harper, is that right away, she got it. Not only is the novel a fast-paced thriller but it’s also a feminist look at what it means to be a woman today. My hope is that women will see themselves in these characters, and identify with all the things they’re trying to juggle, and how ridiculous it is what women are expected to do. However, I also think the book will appeal to women who don’t have children, as I also deal with issues all women face, moms or not. For example, nearly every character has been the victim of some sort of harassment, at home or at work, and that harassment has had a life-long impact on them. 

CBTB: Readers will be so excited to learn that THE PERFECT MOTHER is going to be adapted for the big screen - and that Kerry Washington is slated to star in the film adaptation! Are you able to share anything with us about the upcoming film? 

AM: Yes! For one, despite many requests, they continue to STILL refuse to let me play Kerry’s awkward but charming sidekick. Beyond that, the book is currently in the hands of an incredibly talented screenwriter who is working on the adaptation and I am waiting with bated breath to see what magic she’ll make of it. 

CBTB: What are you working on next? 

AM: I am about half-way through my next novel, which turns the focus from motherhood to marriage. It’s about a newlywed couple who move to a small town. They buy a Victorian mansion with a checkered past that needs a lot of work. The husband, a therapist, opens an office in the ground floor. The wife stays home, managing the renovation. And then one day, she hears a voice…

Okay, how fantastic does Aimee’s next project sound?! I’ll be (not so patiently) waiting to get my hands on a copy of her next release - and in the meantime, make sure you grab a copy of THE PERFECT MOTHER - on sale today, 5/1/18! 

Book Details: 

Catch CBTB's Review of THE PERFECT MOTHER here!

Hardcover: 336 pages
Publisher: Harper (May 1, 2018)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0062696793
ISBN-13: 978-0062696793

Crime by the Book is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. This in no way affects my opinion of the above book.

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THE GOOD SON by You-jeong Jeong
Penguin Books; 6/15/18
CBTB Rating: 5/5
The Verdict: an insidious dive into psychopathy

There’s nothing more exciting to me as a reader than exploring books from countries other than my own. CBTB readers will know how much I love translated crime fiction, from Nordic Noir (Jo Nesbo, Lars Kepler, Yrsa Sigurdardottir, Ragnar Jonasson… I could go on and on!) to French crime fiction (Pierre Lemaitre being my personal favorite) and many more. Imagine my excitement, then, when I discovered that South Korea’s foremost writer of psychological thrillers, You-jeong Jeong, was finally being translated into English. THE GOOD SON is the first of Jeong’s books to be made available to English-speaking audiences—and it’s a must-read, plain and simple. With harrowing precision and unflinching bluntness, Jeong draws readers into the mind of her tormented main character, Yu-jin - a young man with a faulty memory and some very dark secrets. THE GOOD SON will shock with blood and guts as much as it will delight with originality and unpredictability. In Jeong’s masterful hands, this story of memory loss and familial secrets is nothing short of spectacular. All I can hope for (beyond my hope that you pick up a copy of this book upon its release) is that more of Jeong’s work will be translated into English as soon as possible -- I, for one, will be waiting! 

Plot Summary:
Who can you trust if you can't trust yourself?
 
Early one morning, twenty-six-year-old Yu-jin wakes up to a strange metallic smell, and a phone call from his brother asking if everything's all right at home – he missed a call from their mother in the middle of the night. Yu-jin soon discovers her murdered body, lying in a pool of blood at the bottom of the stairs of their stylish Seoul duplex. He can't remember much about the night before; having suffered from seizures for most of his life, Yu-jin often has trouble with his memory. All he has is a faint impression of his mother calling his name. But was she calling for help? Or begging for her life? 
 
Thus begins Yu-jin's frantic three-day search to uncover what happened that night, and to finally learn the truth about himself and his family. A shocking and addictive psychological thriller, The Good Son explores the mysteries of mind and memory, and the twisted relationship between a mother and son, with incredible urgency.

Before I detail all the ways THE GOOD SON is exceptional, I’d like to take a moment to address something a few CBTB readers have already asked me about. A.J. Finn, author of THE WOMAN IN THE WINDOW, has provided a blurb for THE GOOD SON that reads: "A cool, crafty did-he-do-it thriller...The Good Son will rivet readers of Jo Nesbo and Patricia Highsmith.” I’d be curious to know exactly what prompted Finn to make the Nesbo comparison here—as an avid reader (and massive fan) of Nesbo, I’m frankly not convinced that this is at all the right comparison to make. Nesbo’s books are brilliant, THE GOOD SON is brilliant; Nesbo’s books are translated into English, as is THE GOOD SON… that’s truly where the similarities between these books end, and those are very vague comparisons indeed. I’m sure there will be crossover in readership, but I wouldn’t recommend this book to a Nesbo reader solely because that reader is a Nesbo fan. Don’t misunderstand: I highly recommend Nesbo’s work (it goes without saying!), and I highly recommend THE GOOD SON, too - I just want CBTB readers to have the right expectations going into this book, as always. Where Nesbo’s books are typically procedural-oriented, THE GOOD SON is not; where Nesbo’s books typically follow the linear solving of a crime (from the crime’s commission through its investigation to its solution), THE GOOD SON takes readers on an unpredictable and unconventional crime fiction narrative. Both Nesbo and Jeong are skilled at portraying the mentalities and psychologies of their characters, and both employ brutal violence in their crime fiction storytelling, but the tones and style of the two authors are markedly different. I’m at a loss to figure out exactly how this comparison came about. I certainly stand behind both authors individually, but would encourage you to pick up this book for its own merits—and if you are looking for recommendations in the vein of Jo Nesbo, please don’t hesitate to ask - I have lots of those to provide! 

So what makes THE GOOD SON stand out on its own, apart from any comparisons? Let’s start at the biggest-picture level and work our way in. You-jeong Jeong takes a familiar premise - a protagonist whose memory loss coincides with the subsequent discovery of a murder - and makes it something entirely her own. THE GOOD SON begins with our protagonist Yu-jin waking up to discover a gruesome scene in his home: his room is drenched in blood, and, at the bottom of his staircase lies the brutalized body of his mother. It’s a relatively common concept—a character is faced with lost time, and with the question of whether or not they could have perpetrated the heinous crime they find themselves confronted with upon their awakening. But Jeong quickly diverges from the familiar, drawing the reader into a mind-bending and genuinely shocking story of suspense. The answer to the crime that launches the book is provided relatively early on in THE GOOD SON, but Jeong doesn’t let the tension drop there. The solution to the story’s first question only launches even more questions—these even more gripping and twisted than the first. Prepare to be surprised by the directions this story takes, and trust that Jeong will lead you somewhere you never expected to go. 

Within this tense and taut journey, readers will discover a razor-sharp dive into familial relationships and the bonds that tie mother to child and sibling to sibling. Almost as riveting as Jeong’s portrayal of the psychology of her protagonist is her exploration of the tensions that exist in his family as a whole. The relationship between Yu-jin and his mother becomes the driving force behind this blood-soaked mystery; its dark corners are as chilling as the most violent scenes this story delivers. It’s rare to find a crime book that portrays the complexities of family as well as THE GOOD SON does, the authenticity of Jeong’s writing on the subject elevating her book from a purely entertaining read to a genuinely thought-provoking one. There are subtleties and intricacies to this relationship that will keep readers turning pages furiously, desperate to understand the true motivations behind each player’s often quite inexplicable treatment of the others. And the ultimate explanation(s) provided? They're jaw-dropping, stunning revelations that tie together the complexities of Yu-jin's family life to brilliant end. 

But lest we forget, THE GOOD SON isn’t simply a story of interpersonal suspense—no, it’s a downright bloody one, too. Jeong writes with clinical precision some of the bloodiest scenes I’ve encountered in my reading so far this year, and she does it with the kind of head-on, no-holds-barred candor that will send chills down the spine of even the most seasoned crime reader. There are no frills or tricks here, just blunt, brutal crime writing—but there’s also no violence simply for the sake of violence. Jeong's writing is elegant even in its brutality; each piece of this terrifying puzzle is carefully placed, each moment of violence intentionally crafted to enhance our understanding of the story’s perpetrator. THE GOOD SON is all the more frightening for the astute awareness the author brings to the character who is ultimately revealed to be the psychopath central the book. Jeong seems to pull back the curtain and allow, with alarming clarity, a glimpse into the psychology of someone who is truly unhinged. The term “psychopath” is thrown around quite liberally when we discuss crime fiction, but it’s an apt descriptor for the perpetrator behind the brutal crimes depicted here, and Jeong delivers one of the most convincing constructions of such a character I may ever read. 

Smart, razor-sharp, downright terrifying—THE GOOD SON is everything a crime reader could hope for. With measured and intelligent reveals, sharp insights into the bonds of family, and a wholly addictive and entertaining pacing, this truly is the work of a superb crime writer. I highly recommend THE GOOD SON, and will be eagerly awaiting any future translations of Jeong’s work that may come to fruition. 

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review. All opinions my own. 

Book Details: 

Publisher: Penguin Books (June 5, 2018)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0143131958
ISBN-13: 978-0143131953

Crime by the Book is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. This in no way affects my opinion of the above book.

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CBTB’s Recommended April 2018 Releases

2018 has been a great year for crime fiction so far, but April 2018 is notably slower than its predecessors. Try as I might to find another book or two to add to this list, my April new release recommendations are few and far between - though that shouldn’t at all detract from your enthusiasm from the books that are included in this post. This month saw the release of my most-anticipated read of 2018, and the US paperback launch of a book that has already sold over a million copies worldwide - both books deserving of a trip to your local bookstore or library! For those readers eager for more new releases, never fear - May 2018 promises to more than make up for what April may have been lacking. I’ll include a sneak peek at a few releases to keep your eye on in May at the end of this post, too! 

I’ve been trying to think up an explanation for why April was so light on the new release front, and the best I can come up with is that we’ve entered that no-man’s land between winter crime novels and summer reading. It’s a transitional season, to be sure - but we’ve got fantastic crime fiction beach reads ahead of us, and a strong list of early 2018 releases to pass the time until then! You can catch up on my 2018 Recommended Releases posts here: 

Without further ado, let’s dive in! 




CBTB’S RECOMMENDED APRIL 2018 RELEASES


★ Top Release Recommendation: MACBETH by Jo Nesbø ★
Hogarth; April 10, 2018

For Readers Who Love: Shakespeare + gritty, melancholy crime fiction
Read CBTB’s Buzzworthy Books Post // Read CBTB’s Review

My Quick Thoughts: My favorite author re-writing my favorite of Shakespeare’s plays for the Hogarth Shakespeare collection - what’s not to love? Nordic Noir’s reigning king delivers a gripping rendition of Shakespeare’s Macbeth in this sharp and engrossing novel. Known for his vivid, raw character development and masterful plotting, Nesbø brings to his Shakespeare retelling all the strengths that have earned him legions of dedicated fans around the world - now paired with one of the most infamous stories in literature. Readers will be struck by just what a perfect pairing this is; thematically, Nesbø’s backlist and Macbeth couldn’t be more well-aligned. Revenge, love, power, corruption—themes that Nesbø explores in his Harry Hole books (and his standalones, for that matter) are mirrored perfectly in Shakespeare’s Macbeth, and it’s these commonalities that make Nesbø’s take on the classic feel both authentic and original all at once. Beyond just being a great adaptation, Nesbø’s MACBETH is a great crime novel, too: shootouts, political machinations, and interpersonal tensions all combine to deliver a page-turning, gut-wrenching new standalone from one of the greatest crime writers working today. In Nesbø’s hands, this ambitious project is nothing but a success. 

Plot Details: Set in the 1970s in a run-down, rainy industrial town, Jo Nesbo's Macbeth centers around a police force struggling to shed an incessant drug problem. Duncan, chief of police, is idealistic and visionary, a dream to the townspeople but a nightmare for criminals. The drug trade is ruled by two drug lords, one of whom—a master of manipulation named Hecate—has connections with the highest in power, and plans to use them to get his way. 
 
Hecate’s plot hinges on steadily, insidiously manipulating Inspector Macbeth: the head of SWAT and a man already susceptible to violent and paranoid tendencies. What follows is an unputdownable story of love and guilt, political ambition, and greed for more, exploring the darkest corners of human nature, and the aspirations of the criminal mind.

Macbeth By Jo Nesbo


THE GIRL IN THE ICE by Robert Bryndza
Grand Central; April 24, 2018

For Readers Who Love: M.J. Arlidge books + crime fiction “comfort reads” 
Read CBTB’s Review // Read a Q&A with Robert

My Quick Thoughts: There’s something instantly comforting about picking up a book like THE GIRL IN THE ICE. It’s like a trusty old friend - a crime book that you can curl up with and devour, counting on it to provide you with an easy escape from everyday life. Bryndza does “comfort reading” so well in THE GIRL IN THE ICE, a pacey series launch that has already sold over 1 million copies around the world, and is now available in paperback for US readers. Don’t get me wrong: there’s nothing “cozy” about this read; it’s got a chilling serial killer, gruesome discoveries, creepy, anonymous figures lurking in the night… and, at the heart of it all, a resilient female lead who readers will instantly fall in step with, despite the (many) setbacks she faces. This book will work for crime readers who want that familiar, easy-to-binge police procedural—pick this book up if you’re looking for a crime read to tide you over until M.J. Arlidge releases his next thriller. (Just be prepared to get hooked on a new series in the process!) Fans of Arlidge will appreciate Bryndza’s breezy pacing, compact chapters, and the easygoing entertainment value of his work. 

Plot Details: Her eyes are wide open. Her lips parted as if to speak. Her dead body frozen in the ice...She is not the only one.

When a young boy discovers the body of a woman beneath a thick sheet of ice in a South London park, Detective Erika Foster is called in to lead the murder investigation.

The victim, a beautiful young socialite, appeared to have the perfect life. Yet when Erika begins to dig deeper, she starts to connect the dots between the murder and the killings of three prostitutes, all found strangled, hands bound and dumped in water around London.

What dark secrets is the girl in the ice hiding?

As Erika inches closer to uncovering the truth, the killer is closing in on Erika.

The last investigation Erika led went badly wrong... resulting in the death of her husband. With her career hanging by a thread, Erika must now battle her own personal demons as well as a killer more deadly than any she's faced before. But will she get to him before he strikes again?

The Girl in the Ice: A gripping serial killer thriller (Detective Erika Foster crime thriller novel) (Volume 1) By Robert Bryndza Plus: May 2018 Releases to Look Forward To! 

April was a slower month for new releases, so let’s take a quick look at two of the May 2018 releases I’m most excited about! My full list of May recommendations will be up on CBTB in the new month, but for now, make sure to mark your calendars for: 

THE DEATH OF MRS. WESTAWAY by Ruth Ware
Gallery Books; May 29, 2018

Read CBTB’s Review

Why You Should Pay Attention: I am such a fan of Ruth Ware, and I’m beyond excited for you all to read her next release! THE DEATH OF MRS. WESTAWAY is without a doubt my favorite Ruth Ware book yet. In this atmospheric and chilling story, Ware returns to the strengths of her first two books, crafting a plot that reads like a modern-day Agatha Christie novel. Family secrets, a remote mansion, a mistaken identity… there’s so much to love here, and Ware delivers on all of it. 

The Death of Mrs. Westaway By Ruth Ware THE PERFECT MOTHER by Aimee Molloy
Harper; May 1, 2018

Read CBTB’s Review

Why You Should Pay Attention: Molloy’s addictive and entertaining suspense novel has already been optioned for film, and Kerry Washington is slated to star in the movie adaptation! THE PERFECT MOTHER is a “popcorn read” with a keen eye. In Molloy’s page-turning novel of suspense, a group of Brooklyn mothers are put to the test when the infant of one of their own goes missing. Smart and engrossing, THE PERFECT MOTHER is bound to be a favorite 2018 beach read - plus, its cover has to be one of the best of the year. 

The Perfect Mother: A Novel By Aimee Molloy

That's a wrap on my April 2018 recommendations! Have you read any of these books yet? Are any of them on your TBR? I'd love to hear from you! xx A

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Q&A: Robert Bryndza, Author of THE GIRL IN THE ICE
Grand Central; April 24, 2018 

I’m delighted to welcome internationally-bestselling author Robert Bryndza to Crime by the Book today to discuss THE GIRL IN THE ICE, the first book in his Erika Foster series - which releases in the US tomorrow! Fans of serial killer thrillers and police procedurals will find much to love in Bryndza’s page-turning series launch—this is one of those crime novels that feels like perfect comfort reading. From its compelling female lead to its breezy pacing and addictive tension, Bryndza’s police procedural struck exactly the right chord for me. Fans of M.J. Arlidge will find Bryndza’s work right up their alley - THE GIRL IN THE ICE has a similar tone to Arlidge’s DI Helen Grace books, which, if you know me, you’ll know I mean as a very high compliment indeed. Pick this one up for a weekend binge-read - you'll find Bryndza's world instantly-accessible, his characters compelling and endearing, and his story's central mystery wholly engrossing. You can catch my full review of THE GIRL IN THE ICE here!

In today’s Q&A, Robert and I discuss his writing process, the incredible success his series has seen around the world, and a whole lot more! Many thanks to Robert for taking the time to answer my questions, and to the team at Grand Central for facilitating this interview. THE GIRL IN THE ICE is available in paperback tomorrow, April 24, 2018. 

About THE GIRL IN THE ICE:

Her eyes are wide open. Her lips parted as if to speak. Her dead body frozen in the ice...She is not the only one.

When a young boy discovers the body of a woman beneath a thick sheet of ice in a South London park, Detective Erika Foster is called in to lead the murder investigation.

The victim, a beautiful young socialite, appeared to have the perfect life. Yet when Erika begins to dig deeper, she starts to connect the dots between the murder and the killings of three prostitutes, all found strangled, hands bound and dumped in water around London.

What dark secrets is the girl in the ice hiding?

As Erika inches closer to uncovering the truth, the killer is closing in on Erika.

The last investigation Erika led went badly wrong... resulting in the death of her husband. With her career hanging by a thread, Erika must now battle her own personal demons as well as a killer more deadly than any she's faced before. But will she get to him before he strikes again?

The Girl in the Ice (Erika Foster series) By Robert Bryndza


Author Q&A: Robert Bryndza

Crime by the Book: First things first - thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions about THE GIRL IN THE ICE! Can you tell us a bit about your book?

Robert Bryndza: Hello, and thank so much for inviting me onto your blog. THE GIRL IN THE ICE is a gripping serial killer thriller set in London, England. Detective Chief Inspector Erika Foster is recovering from the murder of her husband, Mark, when she is posted to London to investigate the death of a young woman from a rich and influential family. As the investigation progresses, Erika uncovers the dead woman’s dark past, and finds herself fighting against sinister dark forces in the British establishment who attempt to cover it up.

CBTB: THE GIRL IN THE ICE has become an e-book sensation in the UK, where it’s sold over 1 million copies. What is it like to see your book (and the Detective Erika Foster series as a whole) taking off in the way it has? 

RB: I always hoped the book would be a success, but I never dreamed it would sell a million copies, and sold to 27 countries around the world. It has changed my life in so many ways, and made my dream come true to be a full time writer. The Erika Foster series now has a huge fan base, and I find this both hugely satisfying and a great responsibility. 

CBTB: If you had to describe your book in three adjectives, which would you choose?

RB: A gripping, page turning, murder mystery (I think I’m cheating a little there on my answer!)

CBTB: THE GIRL IN THE ICE introduces readers to Detective Erika Foster, a tough-but-troubled woman who, at the start of this book, is trying to recover from a badly mishandled case that led to the death of her husband. How would you describe Erika to readers who are meeting her for the first time? 

RB: Erika was born in Slovakia, in eastern Europe, and moved to Manchester the UK when she was 18, to work as an au pair, and learn English. She met her future husband, Mark, and they both trained as police officers. Even though she has lived in the U.K for 25 years, Erika is an immigrant and an outsider, and this gives her an interesting take on British life. At the beginning of The Girl in the Ice, Erika is still reeling from the murder of Mark and four of her colleagues, who were killed during a drug raid where she was the commanding officer. The guilt and the horror is still raw, so when she is offered the opportunity to transfer to London, she takes it and throws herself into a murder investigation. The death of Mark and her colleagues casts a long shadow over Erika’s life and work, and it makes her even more determined to put the world to rights and fight for justice. 

CBTB: There’s something perennially appealing about police procedurals - so many of us crime fiction readers come back to these “cops vs. bad guys” stories over and over, never tiring of them. What do you think makes reading about police officers and law enforcement so appealing?

RB: I think there is so much uncertainty and injustice in the world, so what readers love about police procedurals is that the bad guy (or gal) never gets away with it! They are always caught and brought to justice. Readers also love coming along for the ride, and they love to try and guess who the killer is.

CBTB: Did you do any research into police work or consult with any experts in the field during your writing process? Or was this entirely drawn from your imagination? 

RB: I work with a retired police officer to make sure that I am portraying police work and procedure in a realistic light. That said, I write fiction, and fiction needs to be propulsive and page turning. Very often I will say, I want to do this, would this happen in real life? And a good police advisor always understands that fiction and real life are very different, and will often make suggestions to how the outcome can be achieved, without the story becoming ridiculous.

CBTB: As with any great crime novel, THE GIRL IN THE ICE features a villain whose motives and identity will thoroughly surprise readers. How did you get into the mindset of your story’s culprit? Did you know his or her identity from the outset, or did your idea of how this story would conclude change during the writing process?

RB: I didn’t know the identity of the killer until I reached the end of the first draft, which was both exhilarating and nerve wracking. My husband always reads my first draft as I go along, and I email pages to his Kindle every few days, so it was exciting and helpful to the process to see him trying to work out who it was! In subsequent drafts the story was re-shaped, but the killer remained the same. The ending changed the most throughout the writing process, and I experimented with several scenarios as to how the killer would be unmasked. Getting into the mindset of a murderer, or any character, involves a lot of thinking. I spend a great deal of time mulling things over before I put pen to paper. I also enjoy people watching. Writing can be a solitary pursuit, but I always make sure that I still get out of the house and visit places. It’s incredible how people watching and listening to snippets of conversation can help form characters and story ideas.

CBTB: When you wrote THE GIRL IN THE ICE, did you write it knowing that it would be Book 1 in a series? 

RB: During the first draft I didn’t know it would be book one in a series. When I submitted it to my publisher, they asked me if I would like to develop it into a series.

CBTB: Speaking of the series - for US readers just being introduced to it now, how many books in the Erika Foster series can we look forward to? 

RB: Book six in the series, Deadly Secrets, has just been published! I hope series will continue in the future, as long as readers want more.

CBTB: When you’re not reading crime fiction, do you also enjoy reading crime fiction? If so, could you share with us a few recent crime novels you’ve read and loved? 

RB: I enjoy crime fiction, but over the past couple of years my writing schedule has been very busy, and I’ve not been able to read crime fiction without feeling like it’s work. That said, I love Minette Walters and Thomas Harris. I recently read The Last Hours which is Minette Walters’ first book in the historical genre, and I thought it was brilliant.

Thank you so much to Robert for taking the time to answer my questions, and to his publisher for facilitating this interview! 

Book Details: 

Read CBTB’s Review Here

Series: Erika Foster series (Book 1)
Paperback: 416 pages
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing (April 24, 2018)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 153871342X
ISBN-13: 978-1538713426

Crime by the Book is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. This in no way affects my opinion of the above book.

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