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barbara fister Locked account

Joined 7 months, 3 weeks ago

I read a lot. Especially mysteries. It's in my genes (thanks, mom!)

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barbara fister's books


Seraphina Nova Glass: Vanishing Hour (2023, Harlequin Enterprises ULC, Graydon House) No rating

Review of 'Vanishing Hour' on 'LibraryThing'

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There's something bad happening on Hemlock Lane, a dismal strip of seedy businesses in Rock Harbor, Maine. It's where you go if you want to buy meth or sex. It might also be where someone is abducting girls, young women like Grace, suffering from trauma after escaping from captivity but without her captor found, or like two other girls who have been found dead.returnreturnNow Grace is guarding her privacy at a country inn, all but closed for the winter, avoiding news and all human connections except for the owner of a local grocery who makes deliveries. She reluctantly lets a room to Aden, whose elderly father has gone missing – possibly just off on an impromptu fishing trip, but Aden's mother is worried. As he begins his search, he crosses the path of Kira, whose daughter, like Grace and the two murdered girls, has gone off the radar. Kira is …

Review of 'Evergreen' on 'LibraryThing'

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In a followup to the wonderful CLARK AND DIVISION, Hirahara builds a mystery around the situation the characters find themselves in after World War II has ended and the Japanese-Americans who had been herded into internment camps were turned loose in a world where the discrimination they had faced still existed and the homes, businesses, and lives that had been torn from them were not restored. This is a less familiar part of the Japanese-American experience than the camps for most Americans, so learning about it through this thoroughly-researched historical fiction is eye-opening. returnreturnReturning from Chicago to Los Angeles has been tough for Aki and her family. Though she has been finally reunited with her husband after his wartime experiences in Europe, marriage is proving to be surprisingly challenging, with her husband suffering from nightmares most nights, and her father is bent on recovering his business in the flower market …

Mary Logue: Big Sugar (2023, University of Minnesota Press, Univ Of Minnesota Press) No rating

Review of 'Big Sugar' on 'LibraryThing'

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I thoroughly enjoyed reading this historical mystery, the second in the Bridgid Reardon series after THE STREEL Inspired by the lives of the author's immigrant ancestors, this engaging story features a very young but highly independent young Irishwoman who has traveled with a male friend to Cheyenne, Wyoming, where the "big sugars" are the wealthy cattlemen who call the shots - and covet the land being parceled out to newly-arrived settlers like Brigid. returnreturnAs the story opens, Brigid finds a terrible sight - her neighbor, a woman, has been hanged from a cottonwood tree. Who is responsible, and why was the woman targeted? Brigid aims to find out, even as she looks for her missing brother and tries to reconcile herself to life in a "soddy" with a man who she might eventually marry. The ending leaves room for another adventure in another part of the West. returnreturnThough it's the …

Review of 'Sunset Years of Agnes Sharp' on 'LibraryThing'

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I have such mixed feelings about this book. I nearly put it down early on - the twee treatment of a tortoise as part of an eccentric chosen family as well as the sheer implausibility of much of the action put me off, but I was intrigued by the challenge of crime solving when old and infirm, and the idea of co-living among elderly folks who don't want to life past their ability to see themselves as fully themselves was rather nicely complicated by characters realizing they weren't sure when that moment might come. In the end, I found myself enjoying it, for the most part, but it was something of an uneven ride. returnreturnAlso - a very minor irritant! The constant uses of exclamation points! It was too much!!

Review of 'Gaslight' on 'LibraryThing'

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Philip Taiwo, a psychologist trained in America who has moved back to Nigeria with his family, is urged by his religious sister to look into a missing persons case - the wife of a megachurch leader has vanished, but nobody seems all that worried about her. Before long, though, it becomes clear there's more going on with the church, which has vast influence, than is on the surface. The case blows up when the police get involved, eager to make a mark whether or not their accusations have merit.returnreturnInterspersed in the story are fairly cryptic messages from ... someone, it's not at all clear at first who. As that threat unravels, the psychologically complex nature of the story becomes clear, though I'm not sure the characters' motivations were ever entirely clear to me. The final scenes seem a little over the top. returnreturnBut the view into fundamentalist Christianity in Nigeria …

Mick Herron: Secret Hours (2023, Soho Press, Incorporated) 4 stars

Review of 'Secret Hours' on 'LibraryThing'

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A government that's hostile to MI5 and plans to sell off bits of it to private interests sets up a review panel to investigate misdeeds of the intelligence service, but the wily First Desk contrives a way to keep all sensitive documents from the committee - until someone slips a file into the shopping basket of one of its members and suddenly the committee has work to do - just as it's being disbanded. returnreturnBut let me back up. The novel open with a man's peaceful rural retreat is invaded by some enthusiastic but ham-handed abductors. He manages to escape (and he has a carefully prepared escape plan ready to go) but we don't really learn who he is and why he's under attack for quite some time. returnreturnAfter that action-packed opening, readers spend a bit of time in the doldrums with the committee that has been set up to …

Lauren Beukes: Bridge (2023, Little Brown & Company, Mulholland Books) 5 stars

Review of 'Bridge' on 'LibraryThing'

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Sometimes Beukes really works for me, and when it does, it's a five-star barnburner. But sometimes it doesn't quite work. This is one of those times. I found the story both confusing and disturbing. Of course it's meant to be disturbing, but I guess she's so good it is more disturbing than I can take. I have a strong allergy to horror, and this bordered on it for me. I'm sure some readers will have the barnburner reading experience, though. I just couldn't stick with it.

Stacey Abrams: Rogue Justice (2023, Diversified Publishing, Random House Large Print) No rating

Review of 'Rogue Justice' on 'LibraryThing'

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Well, that was quite a ride. Once again, Stacey Abrams has concocted a complex plot that hinges on her knowledge of D.C. politics and administration and on her highly-skilled heroine who manages to connect dots and pull random facts together. returnreturnIt opens with a confusing scenario, with a president who has been pushed out but is wheedling his way back into office to face impeachment and, soon enough, a reelection campaign. At the same time, a woman in South Africa is plotting something, with highly-developed technology to use for her ends. Avery is in trouble, too, with her boss, a supreme court justice, still in a coma and only the chief justice keeping her employed while controversy rages around her. It's a lot, and that's before the real plot starts. returnreturnWhile I enjoyed the book, it does require both the patience to keep the threads straight and an ability to …

Amy Suiter Clarke: Noble Wife (Hardcover, 2023, Mariner Books) No rating

Review of 'Noble Wife' on 'LibraryThing'

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A woman who grew up in a small town dominated by a fundamentalist church escapes to the big city (or cities, in this case: it's Minnesota, where the big city has a twin) but returns when a man she once loved dies. She's worried about being drawn back into the cult, but she's convinced the death didn't happen the way the church says, so she stays to solve the mystery. returnreturnThere were things to like about this novel - Del has a realistically hardscrabble life, as do so many people who have school debt and few prospects, a nice change from protagonists who seem magically free of money concerns - but I found it hard to quite fix who Del really was, given she sometimes seemed like the classic small town amateur sleuth but at other times was in a thriller. Nothing wrong with mixing sub-genres, but for me her …

Laura Lippman: Prom Mom (2023, HarperCollins Publishers, Harper Large Print) No rating

Review of 'Prom Mom' on 'LibraryThing'

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What an interesting story - a noir tale but with a contemporary suburban setting. An unpopular high school girl becomes notorious when she falls ill at the prom and goes back to her hotel room where she gives birth alone after her date goes out partying. The baby didn't survive, and after a spate of headlines the two teens go on with their lives. Years later, their paths intersect again, with complicated consequences. returnreturnWhile none of the characters is terribly likeable, they are weirdly compelling even as the ... prom dad? ... in middle age digs himself deeper and deeper into a hole, yet remains certain everything will turn out fine because he's the kind of privileged male who never has to pay for any of his mistakes. In a sense, that's the main driver of the tension in the book. How far can he go out on a limb …

Peter May: Winter Grave (2023, Quercus) No rating

Review of 'Winter Grave' on 'LibraryThing'

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What can you expect from a Peter May novel? A rugged Scottish landscape, a dour detective with a troubled past, a plot that uses tangled family relationships to drive a pacey mystery, and epically bad weather. A WINTER GRAVE ticks all the boxes, and adds one that is unexpected: The story takes place in 2051, after the climate catastrophe, ignored for too long, has altered the landscape, inundating large parts of now-independent Scotland where water taxis ply the streets of Edinburgh and Glasgow and it never seems to stop raining.returnreturnDetective Cameron Brodie is in a very dark mood. Not only has he been humiliated on the stand, when a sophisticated deepfake video contradicted CCTV footage critical to a case, he's just been told by his doctor that he has advanced cancer. He has only six months to live. When a case comes up that requires a trip to a remote …

Robinson, Peter: Standing in the Shadows (2023, HarperCollins Publishers) No rating

Review of 'Standing in the Shadows' on 'LibraryThing'

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It's a bit bittersweet to read this book, knowing it's most likely the last entry. But it's a strong one. The greatest mystery driving much of the story: what is the connection between the first-person entries from 1980 about a university student's murder and the discovery in 2019 of the skeleton of someone who died much more recently, found by archeologists in a farm field where a new highway is going in. The two story lines, one related by the murdered student's former boyfriend during the fraught era when the Yorkshire Ripper was at work and the other a third person account of the current investigation, seem to have nothing in common. But surely they must, and by the end of the novel we know how they are parts of the same story. returnreturnI enjoyed this novel quite a lot. The investigation is satisfyingly and realistically complex (whose skeleton is …

Sujata Massey: Mistress of Bhatia House (2023, Soho Press, Incorporated, Soho Crime) 3 stars

Review of 'Mistress of Bhatia House' on 'LibraryThing'

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In the latest of this strong historical series, Perveen Mistry witnesses a an accident as a child is accidentally burned at a gathering raising funds for a women's hospital. Though his ayah is also injured badly, trying to protect the boy, she is treated poorly by the boy's wealthy family. Worse yet, she is arrested and charged with abortion after taking an herbal potion provided by the housekeeper. Though Perveen, as a rare woman lawyer in 1920s India, doesn't take criminal cases, she can't help but try to aid the woman, who swears she wasn't pregnant and is falsely charged. Meanwhile, things are difficulty at home for Perveen. Her lawyer father isn't happy about the firm taking on a case that isn't in their usual line of work, and her sister-in-law has moved in with her colicky infant and is suffering from post-partum depression. Perveen is perplexed by her sister-in-law's …

Heather Chavez: Before She Finds Me (2023, Little Brown & Company, Mulholland Books) No rating

Review of 'Before She Finds Me' on 'LibraryThing'

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When a divorced Botany professor with a traumatic past attends her daughter's move-in day at college with her ex and his new wife, a sniper interrupts the proceedings and, thanks to her quick thinking, she's able to shield her daughter, who is wounded but not killed - unlike the ex's new wife and another bystander. Clearly the shooting wasn't random - and she can't help but try to find out what happened. In alternate chapters, we meet a principled assassin whose husband was responsible for the shooting, hired by a rich man - and who apparently didn't kill the right person, so is in big trouble. Ren, the assassin, who is a sort of botanist herself, with poison her preferred weapon, is pregnant and becomes suspicious of her husband, who not only was hasty and unprepared when he took the job but isn't adhering to her strict moral code, to …

Jacqueline Winspear: White Lady (2023, HarperCollins Publishers, Harper) No rating

Review of 'White Lady' on 'LibraryThing'

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A hyper-vigilant recluse living in rural England in post-War England gradually gets to know the couple with a small child living nearby and can't help but become protective when the man's criminal family members threaten them to induce him to participate in a job he has refused. It's clear she's highly competent and quite capable of violence if necessary - and as the conflict plays out, we learn about her past. As a child in Belgium she aided the British during World War I and, after moving to England and studying languages, she again joins the war effort, aiding resistance fighters. Now she finds ways to infiltrate the criminal family in London while planning ways to protect her peace-loving neighbors. returnreturnThe historical immersion is brilliantly done in all of the time frames involved, and our protagonist is a fascinating character - prickly, strong, intelligent, aloof, and tortured by something she'd …