The Last Winter of Dani Lancing

The Last Winter of Dani Lancing by P. D. VinerTitle: The Last Winter of Dani Lancing

Author: P. D. Viner. This is his first novel.

Genre: Mystery, Thriller

Readers: Professor Michal, at-home parent Katie, teachers Ninian and Shannon.

Summary: Twenty years ago, college student Dani Lancing was kidnapped and brutally murdered. The killer was never found, and the case has long gone cold. Her parents, Patty and Jim, were utterly devastated, their marriage destroyed. While Jim fell apart, Patty was consumed by the unsolved case. She abandoned her journalism career and her marriage to spend every waking hour searching and plotting. She keeps contact with Tom, Dani’s childhood sweetheart, who has become a detective intent on solving murders like Dani’s. When he finds a lead that seems ironclad, he brings Patty in on it. After years of dead ends, her obsession is rekindled, and she will do anything for revenge, even become a killer herself-dragging her whole family into the nightmare once again, as lies and secrets are uncovered.

Our Take: A split decision on this tangled mystery. Most of our readers enjoyed it, though some were dissatisfied with the ending. This is a complex story that moves around in time and among characters.

Continue reading

City of Mirrors

Title: City of Mirrors

Author: Melodie Johnson Howe. She is the author of several previous books. This is her second book following character Diana Poole.

Genre: Thriller, Mystery

Readers: Copy editor Lori, metrics analyst Mary, developmental editor Aryooki, victim advocate MJ and nonprofit manager KimJ.

Summary: Running out of money, Diana Poole is forced to go back to the only work she knows: acting. Her much-loved husband and movie-star mother have died, and now Diana is over thirty-five. In Hollywood that means she might as well be dead. Still, a few key people remember her talent, and she lands a role in a new movie. But an actress should never get her hopes up, especially when she discovers the female lead’s murdered body. Raised in her mother’s shadow, Diana knows people in “the business”will go to dangerous lengths to protect their images. When her own life and career are threatened, Diana decides to fight back and find the killer. But unmasking the surprising murderer isn’t that easy, especially when she uncovers what’s real–and unreal–in her own life.

Our Take: An enjoyable and easy read. We enjoyed the Hollywood flair with a mix of modern and old-fashioned.

Continue reading

Help for the Haunted

Help for the Haunted by John SearlesTitle: Help for the Haunted

Author: John Searles. He’s the author of two previous suspense novels, including Strange But True.

Genre: Horror, Mystery

Readers: Production coordinator Joanna, event planner Kathy, freelance writer Piper,  small-business owner Samantha and librarian Mary Liz.

Summary: It begins with a call in the middle of snowy February evening. Lying in her bed, young Sylvie Mason overhears her parents on the phone across the hall. This is not the first late-night call they have received, since her mother and father have an uncommon occupation, helping “haunted souls” find peace. And yet, something in Sylvie senses that this call is different than the rest, especially when they are lured to the old church on the outskirts of town. Once there, her parents disappear, one after the other, behind the church’s red door, leaving Sylvie alone in the car. Not long after, she drifts off to sleep only to wake to the sound of gunfire.

Nearly a year later, we meet Sylvie again struggling with the loss of her parents, and living in the care of her older sister, who may be to blame for what happened the previous winter.

As the story moves back and forth in time, through the years leading up to the crime and the months following, the ever inquisitive and tender-hearted Sylvie pursues the mystery, moving closer to the knowledge of what occurred that night, as she comes to terms with her family’s past and uncovers secrets that have haunted them for years.

Our Take: A ghost story light on the ghost and heavy on the character development. A teenage protagonist we loved. A family story about a very strange family that anyone can relate to.

Continue reading

The Light in the Ruins

Title: The Light in the Ruins

Author: Chris Bohjalian. He is the author of several books, including Midwives and The Sandcastle Girls.

Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery

Readers: Editor Kristina, retiree Nancy, attorney Elizabeth H. and professor Michal.

Summary: 1943: Tucked away in the idyllic hills south of Florence, the Rosatis, an Italian family of noble lineage, believe that the walls of their ancient villa will keep them safe from the war raging across Europe. Eighteen-year-old Cristina spends her days swimming in the pool, playing with her young niece and nephew, and wandering aimlessly amid the estate’s gardens and olive groves. But when two soldiers, a German and an Italian, arrive at the villa asking to see an ancient Etruscan burial site, the Rosatis’ bucolic tranquility is shattered. A young German lieutenant begins to court Cristina, the Nazis descend upon the estate demanding hospitality, and what was once their sanctuary becomes their prison.

1955: Serafina Bettini, an investigator with the Florence police department, has her own demons. A beautiful woman, Serafina carefully hides her scars along with her haunting memories of the war. But when she is assigned to a gruesome new case—a serial killer targeting the Rosatis, murdering the remnants of the family one-by-one in cold blood—Serafina finds herself digging into a past that involves both the victims and her own tragic history.

Continue reading

Cover of Snow

Title: Cover of Snow

Author: Jenny Milchman. This is her first novel.

Genre: Mystery

Readers: Consultant Alila and retiree Sulyn.

Summary: Waking up one wintry morning in her old farmhouse nestled in the Adirondack Mountains of New York, Nora Hamilton instantly knows that something is wrong. When her fog of sleep clears, she finds her world is suddenly, irretrievably shattered: Her husband, Brendan, has committed suicide.

The first few hours following Nora’s devastating discovery pass for her in a blur of numbness and disbelief. Then, a disturbing awareness slowly settles in: Brendan left no note and gave no indication that he was contemplating taking his own life. Why would a rock-solid police officer with unwavering affection for his wife, job, and quaint hometown suddenly choose to end it all? Having spent a lifetime avoiding hard truths, Nora must now start facing them.

Continue reading