When She Returned

By Lucinda Berry

PUBLICATION DATE: October 15, 2019
PUBLISHER: Thomas & Mercer

Where to Purchase: 
Amazon
/ Barnes and Noble /  Book Depository 

RATING:


3.5 out of 5 Sherlocks

** I received this book in exchange for an honest review from NetGalley and Thomas & Mercer. All opinions contained within are my own and have not been influenced by receiving this book for free. **

Synopsis

(From Goodreads)

One woman’s reappearance throws her family into turmoil, exposing dark secrets and the hidden, often devastating truth of family relationships.

     Kate Bennett vanished from a parking lot eleven years ago, leaving behind her husband and young daughter. When she shows up at a Montana gas station, clutching an infant and screaming for help, investigators believe she may have been abducted by a cult.

      Kate’s return flips her family’s world upside down—her husband is remarried, and her daughter barely remembers her. Kate herself doesn’t look or act like she did before.

     While the family tries to help Kate reintegrate into society, they discover truths they’ve been hiding from each other about their own relationships. But they aren’t the only ones with secrets. As the family unravels what happened to Kate, a series of shocking revelations shows that Kate’s return is more sinister than any of them could have imagined.

Review

     When I read the synopsis for this book on NetGalley I instantly was interested in reading it. As a trauma survivor, I am always interested in stories that involve some type of trauma experience. I was even more intrigued because I read the author’s bio to the book and the author has worked with individuals that have psychological trauma, so I thought she might be able to capture many of the elements that a less experienced author may miss. Berry captures almost too masterfully the experiences of someone returning from a traumatic experience. She holds tight to the realities of these types of experiences that she seems to forget an important element , which is that this is still a work of fiction.

     The book has three points-of-view. Each is a female centered around the main action of the story. One perspective is largely told from the “past” viewpoint, but the other two are squarely in the “now” of the story. The “past” perspective is of the character Kate, who has been missing for over a decade. The other two perspectives are Abbi, Kate’s daughter, and Meredith, Kate’s stepmother. The perspective I felt kept me most captured into the story was Meredith’s viewpoint. Meredith’s viewpoint added a perspective that was needed. The character that you sympathized with in a different way than “my mom has returned. Can we have a relationship” that was largely the perspective of Abbi. Meredith was, to me, by far a more sympathetic character, maybe surprisingly, than the other two. Throughout much of the book she is fairly supportive of her husband and the fact that his first wife is back from what everyone thought was the dead. She continued to be sympathetic throughout the book, in my opinion. Even though a few moments other readers may have thought she wasn’t. The perspective that I felt less engaged with was that of Abbi. This was because the character was predictable, but that can be nice when there were two perspectives that were almost anything but predictable. Abbi provided the necessary grounding to the story that could have been lost without it.  Kate’s perspective I am not going to delve into because touching upon it would unravel plot points that I do not want to do. Yes, telling you almost anything about it would start to give you too much insight to her part of all of this because it heavily focuses on the “past” that I mentioned.

The plot of this book was very on the nose for the story that Berry was writing. Sometimes too on the nose. The beauty of a fiction book is that you can add elements that are not true for everyone facing trauma. You can add in elements that you could not otherwise. Berry holds too tight to the realities of trauma and what happens when someone survives the exact circumstances that Kate has. This clinging to the realities creates an ending that is unsatisfying, but realistic. The ending was probably the biggest issue for me. I saw it coming, but I didn’t want to see that ending coming. I was hoping that Berry would surprise me, but she did not. She kept true to the trauma, which is why I felt that I could not rate the book higher. I will say though, I would read more from Lucinda Berry. I think she is a gifted writer, which will only get better as she finds the balance between reality and fiction to incorporate into a novel. She needs to feel less like a journalist and more of a novelist. When Berry does this, I know she is going to be even stronger than she is here. I am looking forward to this authors future. I think she has a beautiful writing future ahead of her.

Have you read “When She Returned” or have another comment?
Please leave “The Crew” a note below!

The Vicarage Murder

By Faith Martin

PUBLISHED DATE: August 29, 2019
PUBLISHER: Joffe Books
SERIES: Monica Noble Series Book #1

Amazon / Barnes and Noble /  Book Depository 
*Not Currently Available at B&N or B.D.*

RATING:


3 out of 5 Sherlocks

** I received this book in exchange for an honest review from NetGalley and Joffe Books. All opinions contained within are my own and have not been influenced by receiving this book for free. **

(From Goodreads)

IN A QUIET COTSWOLD VILLAGE ALL HELL IS ABOUT TO BREAK LOOSE

Monica Noble is throwing a party to welcome the village’s new residents. The guests include Margaret and her cheating husband Sean. Also on the list are a celebrity chef, an Oxford university professor, a 40-something divorcee, and the owner of a chain of gyms.

Then as the drinks are flowing, a shotgun blast rings out. One of the guests is found dead.

DCI Dury and Sergeant Jim Greer are soon on the scene and discover that the victim had many enemies. Almost all the guests harbour secrets and motives for murder. Even Monica’s daughter comes under suspicion.

When another villager is strangled to death nearly a week later, the stakes are raised.

Can Monica help the local detectives save her daughter and solve the murders before anyone else pays the ultimate price?

That cover had me drawn into this book from the first moment that I saw it over on NetGalley. I knew that I had to read it, but like the old adage goes “don’t judge a book by its cover” held true here. A story that could have been a favorite was hindered by lack of focus on the main character and too many characters to truly become attached to any.

Martin introduces us quickly to almost every single character that will appear in the book. In the vicarage there are roughly 12 occupants thrust at us in the first several pages or chapters. This does not include other side characters that are also shown to us. Then we are introduced to two more when the murder takes place in the inspector and his fellow officer. This is just a lot of characters to get thrown at you, but it was the fact that most of them were thrown at us, the readers, right at the beginning of the book. It became a challenge to remember who was who exactly for a part of the book. 

The problem with there being so many characters on the page was that it greatly detracted from having any focus on the main character of the series, which was heralded as the vicar’s wife, Monica. There is supposed to be more books coming in the series, so it feels important to create some connection to the character that is in the “series” title. If I was to go off this first book I would not have much interest in continuing as I did not connect with Monica. She was not a sleuth nor did she seem invested in solving the crime. She instead was like other characters in the book finding out things as they were discovered. Numerous other characters give the police important clues to the crime, but Monica is the person that deduces exactly what happens. It was like Martin realized at the end of the book, “Oh yeah! This is supposed to be her series.” 

Yes, there were too many characters, but I can say that I enjoyed the plot of this book. I enjoyed the crumbs along the way that we were given that lead to the reveal. The reveal was probably the best part of the book. I had a good idea who it was and partially why, but there was some information that I thought that did not end up being part of the reveal. I was pleased that she used these as part of a red herring. It allowed me to feel a bit like she got me, but not enough to be upset by it either. I enjoyed also that part of the reveal came from a member of the parish that the vicar gives guidance to because it did not come from the overwhelming number of vicarage occupants. Martin gave all the information sprinkled throughout the book for the reveal, so it is solvable and it doesn’t come out of left field. 

My favorite characters in the book were hardly in it. There was a sweet older couple by the end of the book that I enjoyed and hope if there is more in the series that they become recurring characters that help Monica solve the capers that she comes across. Martin hasn’t hit a home run here, but she has created a mystery book that engages the reader. One that makes me at least consider reading the next book to see if she finds the footing of the characters. It kept me reading until the final page and honestly that is what a good mystery book should do, right? 

 

Have you read “The Vicarage Murder” or have a comment about mysteries with religious aspects in them?
Please leave a comment below!

 

We thought it might be a fun idea for us to take turns interviewing each other, so everyone can get to know us better! It’s my turn to interview Cass, so let’s get to it:

Hey Cass, thanks for taking the time to answer some of my questions, let’s start with something simple-ish:

I love the whole idea for the Mystery Crew, what prompted the idea of creating this?

I had been considering doing a collaborative blog for some time. At one point, I thought about just doing a totally book review site without a theme. I had been friends with fellow mystery crew member, Jackie, for awhile. We both really enjoyed mystery books. We would discuss them or a mystery TV show we both were watching. Heck, we buddy watched “Harlan Corben’s The Five” on Netflix. Finally, I settled that a mystery blog would be a wonderful idea, so the hunt for others to do the blog with me began. Jackie was a natural choice and then Dee & you, Ben, answered the call as well. Here we are!

Out of all the books you’ve read which book would be your favourite, which isn’t a mystery book?

This would be a tie, I feel that the Color Purple and The Joy Luck Club really speak well to the experiences of those particular minority groups and have always spoken to my soul on a very deep level. It shows the struggle of minority populations, which links up to my profession as a social worker.

Going with the theme of the site, surprise surprise, what was your favourite mystery book read in 2019?

Bahaha, so about that. This year, I haven’t had the time to actually read a mystery book! I know blasphemy. I was completing my Masters of Social Work and had to do a practicum placement, while also going to school still. This took up much of my 2019. I am just now being able to return to reading fully as now I am fully graduated from that program. I read a LOT of comic books this year because of this. The only thing with a msytery/detective slant was “Goldie Vance”, which I loved a lot because of the mystery sleuth angle.

If you could only repeat one word over for the whole day, which would would it be?

Fluffy! That is my go to word for things that I love, so I would be fine repeating it over the course of a whole day, but it would be awkward in any jobs that I am currently looking at. Imagine THAT job interview bahaha.

When you aren’t busy reading or blogging, what would you be most likely to do in your spare time?

I spend a lot of time on the DC Universe forums, talking with DC comic book fans. I was invited earlier this year to a fan event that was an all paid for expense trip to Burbank, California. I got to see all the Bat Suits from the movies, Bat-mobiles, costumes from other films, met other forum members, be on DC Daily, and just so many wonderful things happen that day that I can’t even speak about. As a result though, I spend my extra time there often.

How did you get into reading?

My father was an avid reader and would tell me that I should read everything, so that probably was a great contributor. I had preferences though for series like Sweet Valley High and Fear Street. There was a moment that changed me and made me an actual reader though. I was going through a vampire phase and I read a book entitled “Uncle Vampire” by Cynthia D. Grant. It was the first book that made me understand that a book could go to places that we could never predict and could move you on a deeper level. The book cemented me as a reader for the rest of my life.

What do you like most about the mystery genre?

I like trying to guess what is going happen. I love thinking it is one person and then going, “Hmm, could it actually be this other person?” Going back and forth during a book trying to figure it out before you get to that final page is a wonderful feeling. I also like that often in the cozy mystery genre the town and the characters are more important than the murder that takes place in the book. The relationships that are highlighted have always been something that I found intriguing. Seeing how these people in this world connect together and what could drive one to killing someone else in it is a fascinating study in the human experience through a totally unreal experience.

When it comes to Mystery TV Shows & Movies, what would be your favourite?

I grew up on “Murder, She Wrote” so that one holds a special part of my heart. I love seeing this little old lady in Angela Lansbury trying to figure out who in her world for that episode killed the victim. I love that it has that cozy mystery feel about it as well, so characters are always important to each episode. It is due to the love of this show that I eventually got into loving “Diagnosis Murder” as well. Seeing Dick Van Dyke solving mysteries is always a wonderful way to spend 45 minutes. I also really enjoyed the buddy watch of “Harlan Corben’s The Five” with fellow crew member, Jackie. That was a shocker of a show. I highly recommend it.

Last but not least – sum yourself up in one word!

DIVA!




Hey! Cass here and today starts our next four days looking at the members of “THE MYSTERY CREW”. Today we are going to learn about crew member DEE! I am looking forward to interviewing her and learning more about her.


Hey Dee, first question is what made you interested in joining “The Mystery Crew” site?

 

I love reading mystery books to the point where they are pretty much my staple reading diet. The opportunity to be part of a group that celebrates the thrill and intrigue of mystery fiction that incorporates an air os suspense was too good of an opportunity to miss!

 

Your next question is the question we all get asked as people that enjoy reading, what is your favorite book?

 

I know it’s cliché and overused by now, but I really do not have an absolute favourite book. Every time I read something new, I’m gripped by that book. However, a book that has kept me absolutely hooked since I began reading Young Adult fiction was With Malice by Eileen Cook.

 

Since this is a mystery site, what is your favorite mystery book or mystery author?

 

Again, there are just so many to choose from! At the moment, I’m absolutely lovely Karen McManus, Hannah Jayne and Courtney Summers.

 

Besides reading, what are some of your other favorite things to do in your spare time?

 

If I’m not reading, I’m sleeping 90 percent of the time. I love to be asleep. I do however, spend an increasing amount at the pub with my friends drinking fancy new gins. Oh, and I absolutely love taking my partner’s dog Spartacus for a walk up the River Skell!

 

If you could have any superpower, what would it be and why?

The ability to stop time because I spend way too long reading books that I always neglect the housework or my friends! It would be so useful to be able to pause time for a little bit, finish a book and pick up where I left off.

 

Last formal question that I have for you, if you could visit anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?

 

Iceland. I’ve always wanted to go and sleep out under the stars with the Northern Lights dancing above me. Of course, the only cons of that is hypothermia and the fact that things cost a lot more in Iceland in the UK.

 

Is there anything else you think the readers of “The Mystery Crew” site should know about you?

 

There’s nothing I can really think of off the top of my head. Just know that I am basically addicted to mystery novels.

 

It has been fun to interview you, Dee! I am glad you could share with the readers, so they could learn a bit more about you. Tomorrow, we get to learn more about crew member BEN!

 


Want to know more about Dee? Leave your questions for Dee in the COMMENTS!