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.

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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?
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