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Monday, February 19, 2018

REVIEW: Twist of Faith by Ellen J. Green @amazonpub

Twist of Faith
by Ellen J. Green

Thanks so much to Amazon Publishing / Thomas & Mercer for this copy
in return for my honest review.  


Publisher:  Amazon Publishing / Thomas & Mercer
Published February 1, 2018
332 pages
Paperback
Genre:  Mystery, Suspense, Light Thriller

Goodreads Synopsis:

When family secrets are unearthed, a woman’s past can become a dangerous place to hide…

After the death of her adoptive mother, Ava Saunders comes upon a peculiar photograph, sealed and hidden away in a crawl space. The photo shows a shuttered, ramshackle house on top of a steep hill. On the back, a puzzling inscription: Destiny calls us.

Ava is certain that it’s a clue to her elusive past. Twenty-three years ago, she’d been found wrapped in a yellow blanket in the narthex of the Holy Saviour Catholic Church—and rescued—or so she’d been told. Her mother claimed there was no more to the story, so the questions of her abandonment were left unanswered. For Ava, now is the time to find the roots of her mother’s lies. It begins with the house itself—once the scene of a brutal double murder.

When Ava enlists the help of the two people closest to her, a police detective and her best friend, she fears that investigating her past could be a fatal mistake. Someone is following them there. And what’s been buried in Ava’s nightmares isn’t just a crime. It’s a holy conspiracy.

My Review:


This is a bit hard to review without revealing too much so I'll keep this one short and sweet.  Written in multiple POVs with a short cast of characters, there was a little confusion at times on whose POV we were getting.  I understand the reasoning behind that once we got further in, but mostly it befuddled me at certain points in the narrative.  However, once I figured out what was going on, I was eager to continue and see what was happening.  

I think I was expecting more of a thriller with this one when really it's more of a mystery with a bit of suspense in the build up.  I was intrigued with the characters.  My favorite was Joanne.  Her sassiness and interactions with Russell were my favorite parts... even though Russell was definitely not a favorite of mine.  Typical showing of a man here... struggling with marrying the girl he's "supposed to" while lusting after the hot mess.  Sorry guys, I'm over this... or at least it wasn't working for me in this particular book.  

What I did enjoy was that the mystery did keep me reading.  I was invested and while the past kept getting revealed and things progressed in the present, I was curious to see if I was correct in my assumptions.  The big reveal was definitely a surprise for me.  Somehow I did not see that coming and that is always fun when that happens.  However, I think the epilogue was unnecessary and took away from the feel of the book.  Is this a series? Or are we left a little wanting on purpose?  While I don't mind that in some books, I think the ending without this was perfectly acceptable.

★★☆

GUEST POST: Mike Thorn talks Nemesis, Spontaneous Combustion & The Winding Sheet @MikeThornWrites


Excited to have Mike Thorn as a Guest today!
He's the author of the horror short story collection, Darkest Hours.
(Stay tuned for my review - I'm eager to dig into this!)
Check out his book below and then continue to see his awesome revisits to a favorite book, film and album released in 1990, the year he came into this world .
In the bleak landscape of Darkest Hours, people make decisions that lead them into extreme scenarios – sometimes bizarre, often horrific, always unexpected. Between this book’s covers you will find academics in distress; monsters abused by people; people terrorized by demons; ghostly reminiscences; resurrected trauma; and occult filmmaking. Ranging from satirical to dreadful, these stories share a distinct voice: urgent, sardonic, brutal, but always empathetic.
🕱○🕱○🕱○🕱○🕱○🕱○🕱○🕱○🕱○🕱○🕱○🕱○🕱○🕱○🕱○🕱○🕱○🕱○🕱○🕱○🕱○🕱○🕱
The Year I Was Born:
A Favorite Book, Film and Album Released in 1990
For Where the Reader Grows, I decided to go back and revisit one favorite book, film and album released the year I was born (1990). 
BOOK: Nemesis, by Joyce Carol Oates

Joyce Carol Oates has written prolifically about violence in its many ugly permutations—physical, systemic, emotional and sexual. Her insight, empathy and inimitable prose style come together to form an unmatched force in contemporary American literature. Her 1990 novel Nemesis, published under the pseudonym Rosamond Smith, focuses on the violent exploitation of power within an academic context. Dealing explicitly with rape and brutal psychological abuse, Nemesis addresses the ways in which institutions and systems can let victims down in order to protect celebrated oppressors. The plot might sound draining, and it is, but it’s a profound social and individual examination of toxic masculine power gone unchecked. Twenty-eight years later, it sadly comes across as more relevant and pressing than ever. Oates isn’t always “easy” to read, but she matches the affective power of the best horror writers and approaches her material with sensitivity and grace. This is one of my favorite novels.
FILM: Spontaneous Combustion, directed by Tobe Hooper

Tobe Hooper is most famous for his horror films, especially The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974), ‘Salem’s Lot (1979) and Poltergeist (1982). While Spontaneous Combustion partially meets that genre’s criteria, it plays more like hyper-stylized melodrama than anything else. It’s both a love story and a character study of a man (played by the great Brad Dourif) who discovers he has developed intense and, yes, explosive aberrations because his deceased parents were once used in an experiment involving atomic bombs. Hooper visualizes the protagonist’s emotional experiences through expressive lighting and camerawork, proving once again that he is above all an image-based filmmaker who draws from genre for its excessive possibilities. Tragically, the great Tobe Hooper passed away last year, but he left behind a strange and mysterious and beautiful body of work. If you ask me, Spontaneous Combustion is one of his very best.
ALBUM: The Winding Sheet, by Mark Lanegan

Mark Lanegan was still the frontman of psychedelic grunge outfit Screaming Trees when he released his first solo album, The Winding Sheet. This record is a massive shift from the Trees’ crunchy, guitar-driven sound. Most of The Winding Sheet’s arrangements are sparse, even by Lanegan’s solo standards, pushing the singer’s growling vocal style and melancholic lyrics into the foreground. The album is also noteworthy for the appearance of some famous supporting players—Kurt Cobain provides backing vocals and guitar on two tracks, and Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic plays bass on “Where Did You Sleep Last Night.” 


Bio: Mike Thorn is the author of the short fiction collection Darkest Hours and he co-authors the horror-themed column “Devious Dialogues” with Anya Stanley for Vague Visages. He lives in Calgary.

Darkest Hours universal Amazon link: http://mybook.to/DHMT
Author website - mikethornwrites.com
Twitter - @MikeThornWrites
Goodreads - https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5829518.Mike_Thorn


Sunday, February 18, 2018

REVIEW: Bring Me Back by B.A. Paris @baparisauthor @stmartinspress

Bring Me Back
by B.A. Paris

Thank you to St. Martin's Press for this copy!  B.A. Paris quickly became one of my new favorite authors after reading Behind Closed Doors last year - followed quickly by The Breakdown.  I didn't quite like The Breakdown as much as Behind Closed Doors and Bring Me Back falls somewhere in between.  Continue below to see why!  


Publisher:  St. Martin's Press
Publishing: June 19, 2018
Hardcover
336 pages
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Fiction
Standalone

Goodreads Synopsis:

A young British couple are driving through France on holiday when they stop for gas. He runs in to pay, she stays in the car. When he returns her car door has been left open, but she's not inside. No one ever sees her again.

Ten years later he's engaged to be married; he's happy, and his past is only a tiny part his life now. Until he comes home from work and finds his new wife-to-be is sitting on their sofa. She's turning something over in her fingers, holding it up to the light. Something that would have no worth to anyone else, something only he and she would know about because his wife is the sister of his missing first love.

As more and more questions are raised, their marriage becomes strained. Has his first love somehow come back to him after all this time? Or is the person who took her playing games with his mind?

My Review:


Remember when everyone was screaming about Behind Closed Doors last year?  And then soon after, Paris came out with The Breakdown and that also brought about a lot of discussion?  I know there's a lot of mixed thoughts on both of these books and I have a feeling the same is going to happen with this one.  I absolutely fell in love with Behind Closed Doors, read it in one sitting and the ending gave me literal chills (see my review for this one HERE).  Then The Breakdown fell slightly flat for me and you can find out why HERE.  This one fell right in between these two and let me tell you why.

The concept isn't something that is very new to this type of genre:  Guy loves woman.  Woman goes missing and is said to be dead after so many years.  Guy falls in love with said woman's sister.  Past comes back to haunt them.  It's the execution that makes this a fun read.  Paris keeps her chapters short and hanging so you continuously keep turning the pages until you realize you've just finished the whole damn book.  Genius.  For this particular story, I caught on fairly early what the twist was going to be .... well, mostly.  The twist ended up being a little bit of a different variation to what I was thinking but the same concept was there.

I did find myself getting utterly annoyed with the characters but I expect I'm supposed to.  Again, COMMUNICATION people!! But when it comes to matters of the heart, communication is usually nowhere to be found (when things start to go haywire anyways).  I think what got me in this story line is that even though I was certain where the book was going, as the main character kept questioning himself, I found myself doing the same.... I needed to know.  Am I right? Am I wrong? DO I CARE either way?  

There is definitely going to be some divisiveness with this book amongst the thriller readers, I think.  As a shorter novel, there wasn't as much character development as in her other two books and does lull a bit in the middle.  What worked for me, and why I ended up loving this more than I had initially though I would, is an ending that's not so happy.  And that's not ruining anything, folks.  You'll need to read to find out why and decide for yourself.  B.A. Paris, you have a fan in me. AUTO BUY AUTO BUY AUTO BUY

★★★☆


Saturday, February 17, 2018

REVIEW: The Devil's Claw by Lara Dearman @crookedlanebks @laradearman

The Devil's Claw
by Lara Dearman


Thank you so much to Crooked Lane Books for this copy in return for our honest opinions.
A debut, first in a series mystery where we get more from the journalist view point.  See what Jessica and I thought of this below!


Publisher:  Crooked Lane Books
Published January 9, 2018
Hardcover
368 pages
Series:  Jennifer Dorey Mystery #1

Genre:  Mystery, Crime Fiction

Goodreads Synopsis:

Jennifer Dorey thinks she is safe.

Following a traumatic incident in London, Jennifer has returned to her childhood home in Guernsey, taking a job as a reporter at the local newspaper.

After the discovery of a drowned woman on a beach, she uncovers a pattern of similar deaths that have taken place over the past fifty years.

Together with DCI Michael Gilbert, an officer on the verge of retirement, they follow a dark trail of island myths and folklore to 'Fritz', the illegitimate son of a Nazi soldier. His work, painstakingly executed, has so far gone undetected.

But with his identity about to be uncovered, the killer now has Jennifer in his sights.

And home is the last place she should be.

My Review:


Jennifer Dorey returns to her hometown of Guernsey as a reporter for the local newspaper.  A drowned woman on a beach, a new alliance with DCI Michael Gilbert and a pattern that has emerged over years of deaths in this town, the determination to find this killer is fierce.  How does someone who has been killing for this long actually get away with it??  As she gets closer to the truth, her life becomes more and more endangered.

A promising first in a series book that brings in the journalist side to crime solving along with a bit of police procedural.  I found the characters to be compelling.  Jennifer is extremely complex as a traumatized woman who comes home to try and start over.  Michael is also a complex character dealing with alcoholism and religion.  The author does a fantastic job of introducing these two and I did find their interactions probably the most enjoyable throughout the novel.

The unknown narrator was also deliciously creepy and the author allows us to freefall into his relationship with his mother and his past - giving us some empathy for this cold blooded killer.
The author certainly knows how to bring a story to a page.  While the executions and storylines were fantastic, it lacked a certain edge I like in these types of book.  While it kept my attention, it didn't keep me captivated.  I think I will definitely be the minority opinion in this.  I certainly think it will be a hit amongst most crime fiction lovers and am curious where the author will go in this series.

Thank you so much to Crooked Lane Books for this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

★★★

Jessica's Review:


The start of a new crime series, but from the perspective of a journalist. THE DEVIL'S CLAW by Lara Dearman is a page-turning read as Jennifer fights to find the killer before he finds her.

Jennifer Dorey moves back home to Guernsey after a traumatic event in London. She takes a job as a reporter for their local newspaper. When a woman is found on the beach - death by drowning - Jennifer begins her research and discovers that this is similar to deaths that have been occurring over the last half century. With DCI Michael Gilbert, they venture through folklore, island myths, and the dark history from when Nazi occupation took hold. Will they be able to stop this killer that has been running loose for 50 years?

I loved the snippets of history mixed into this psychological thriller. You get a peek into the Nazi occupation and what happened in Guernsey. How this played a role in the investigation was woven expertly by Dearman. Jennifer is a great lead character - a journalist trying to recover from a traumatizing event. I am very curious to see where she is taken as the series progresses. The dynamic between Jennifer and Michael was great. They played off each other well and you got to see each of them develop as the story progressed.

To some, this might start out a little slower than you're wanting for a psychological thriller, but it picks up and doesn't stop. The unknown narrator was eerie and when the final reveal came the tension was at an all time high. How can a serial killer go unpunished for FIFTY years? The added folklore element made this a more unique read and helped bring us into the mind of this killer.

Overall, if you want a great psychological thriller that isn't from the perspective of a police officer, then you'll love the start of the Jennifer Dorey series. I liked the uniqueness of this thriller and can't wait for more from Dearman!

I give this 4.5/5 stars!



Friday, February 16, 2018

GIVEAWAY: Blue Night by Simone Buchholz @orendabooks @ohneklippo

Blue Night
by Simone Buchholz

GIVEAWAY!!!

Honored to be partnering with Orenda Books to giveaway ONE paperback copy.  Enter via my Instagram page: @WhereTheReaderGrows OR leave a comment on this post!

Giveaway ends 2/19/18


Publisher:  Orenda Books
Published:  December 24, 2017
276 pages
Kindle Edition

After convicting a superior for corruption and shooting off a gangster's crown jewels, the career of Hamburg's most hard-bitten state prosecutor, Chastity Riley, has taken a nose dive:  she has been transferred to the tedium of witness protection to prevent her making any more trouble.  However, when she is assigned to the case of an anonymous man lying under police guard in hospital, Chastity's instinct for the big, exciting case kicks in.  Using all her powers of persuasion, she soon gains her charge's confidence, and finds herself on the trail to Leipzig, a new ally, and a whole heap of lethal synthetic drugs.  When she discovers that a friend and former colleague is trying to bring down Hamburg's Albanian mafia kingpin single-handedly, it looks like Chas Riley's dull life on witness protection really has been short-lived....



Simone Buccholz was born in Hanau in 1972.  At university, she studied Philosophy and Literature, worked as a waitress and a columnist, and trained to be a journalist at the prestigious Henri-Nannen-School in Hamburg.  In 2016, Simone Buchholz was awarded the Crime Cologne Award as well as runner-up for the German Crime Fiction Prize for Blue Night, which was number one on the KirmiZEIT Best of Crime List for months.  She lives in Sankt Pauli, in the heart of Hamburg, with her husband and son.


Wednesday, February 14, 2018

REVIEW: Mister Tender's Girl by Carter Wilson @iamcarterwilson @sbkslandmark #allthebookreviews

Mister Tender's Girl
by Carter Wilson


Thank you to Sourcebooks Landmark for this copy! What a creepy and fantastic story straight from the headlines as it's reminiscent of The Slender Man - supernatural? No, but if you know the incidents that happened, this will definitely pique your interest and keep you glued to the pages.

Jessica and I both LOVED this book - see our thoughts below!


Publisher:  Sourcebooks Landmark
Published: February 13, 2018
Paperback
400 pages
Genre:  Inspired by True Events, Thriller

Goodreads Synopsis:

How far are you willing to go for Mister Tender?

At fourteen, Alice Hill was viciously attacked by two of her classmates and left to die. The teens claim she was a sacrifice for a man called Mister Tender, but that could never be true: Mister Tender doesn’t exist. His sinister character is pop-culture fiction, created by Alice’s own father in a series of popular graphic novels.

Over a decade later, Alice has changed her name and is trying to heal. But someone is watching her. They know more about Alice than any stranger could: her scars, her fears, and the secrets she keeps locked away. She can try to escape her past, but Mister Tender is never far behind. He will come with a smile that seduces, and a dark whisper in her ear…

Inspired by a true story, this gripping thriller plunges you into a world of haunting memories and unseen threats, leaving you guessing until the harrowing end.

My Review:



"Alice, what did the penguin always tell you?"

Alice, at the age of 14, was stabbed repeatedly and left for dead by two of her classmates as a tribute to Mister Tender, who promised to make them famous if they carried out this deed.  How far would you go to get the one thing you have always wanted?  That's the million dollar question, isn't it?  And if someone digs into your mind, finds your hearts desire and promises it to you on a plate for the act of one deed... would you take it?  After all, you did say you would do ANYTHING.

I don't know if you all remember Slender Man, but I surely do.  I was fascinated with the case in which two girls were arrested for stabbing another girl 19 times as a tribute to him.  Mister Tender's Girl is based around this true story.  Like the Slender Man victim, Mister Tender's victim, Alice, survives.  Decades later, she's trying to live as normal life as she can even though this act broke apart her family... and her mind.  Under severe panic attacks and using boxing as a form of therapy, Alice is about as good as she can get.  Then a mysterious package arrives and she finds out that her life is being chronicled and watched by victim fetishists.  Can't this poor girl ever get a break?

I tell you, true crime is always been more fascinating than anything an author can make up.  Tie a true story into your own take and color me intrigued and glued to each and every word.  Carter Wilson has a way of drawing you right into this fascinating story.  With each word, he stabs you in the heart while you end up breathing Alice's paranoia and panic.  I was enthralled by her plight, her survival and how an act that was completely out of her control threatened to destroy everything around her. 

I highly recommend this book.  Put this on your TBR as it comes out in February and you really don't want to miss out.  Especially if you're familiar with the Slender Man story and/or like stories taken from the headlines.

★★★★★

Jessica's Review:


Who here is fascinated with the Slender Man case? I definitely am and the whole idea of Slender Man sends a shiver down my spine. A faceless man/demon that gets you to commit violence - no thank you! Well, MISTER TENDER'S GIRL by Carter Wilson is inspired by these true events and he does a fantastic job sufficiently making you uneasy as you read. 


Alice is trying to run from her past. She was the victim of a brutal attack at the age of 14. Two "friends" of hers took her into the woods of Gladstone Park and attempted to kill her in the name of Mister Tender. The worst part? Mister Tender is a character from a series of graphic novels that her father created. He is part man and part demon that gets you to commit horrific acts of violence and in return you will be rewarded what it is you want most. 


She changed her name and moved cities trying to put the past behind her. One day she is sent something that shouldn't exist - the cover art of the final book in the Mister Tender series. Her father vowed to never draw him again after her stabbing. It is soon revealed that she has a stalker, someone that has been following her for years and knows her deepest secrets. A man known only by his username: Mr. Interested. 


Will she be able to rid her life of Mister Tender forever? She is on a mission to get to the bottom of who her stalker is and what he wants with her. With lots of twists and turns this story will keep you on the edge of your seat!


I read this book in one sitting and I definitely read well into the 2am hour. I love horror and suspense, and it takes a lot to creep me out. Well done Carter Wilson, as I was turning off the lights in my house I had that eerie "something is behind me" feeling. You know that speed walk you do when that happens, where you're trying to not make it obvious? That was me! 


You will not regret picking up this book! I want more about Mister Tender - it would be so interesting to see more about him and how he was created/other stories about him. 

I give this a solid 5/5 stars!

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

REVIEW: The Queen of Hearts by Kimmery Martin @berkleypub @kimmerym #allthebookreviews #prhpartner

The Queen of Hearts
by Kimmery Martin

A debut novel that reads like Martin's been writing for decades.

Thank you so much to Berkley Pub for these copies in return for our honest reviews.  Jessica and I loved having this book outside our normal genre in the mix!

💖 HAPPY PUBLISHING DAY 💖


Publisher:  Berkley
Published:  February 13, 2018
Hardcover
352 Pages
Genre:  Contemporary

Goodreads Synopsis:


A debut novel that pulses with humor and empathy and explores the heart's capacity for forgiveness...

Zadie Anson and Emma Colley have been best friends since their early twenties, when they first began navigating serious romantic relationships amid the intensity of medical school. Now they're happily married wives and mothers with successful careers--Zadie as a pediatric cardiologist and Emma as a trauma surgeon. Their lives in Charlotte, North Carolina are chaotic but fulfilling, until the return of a former colleague unearths a secret one of them has been harboring for years. 

As chief resident, Nick Xenokostas was the center of Zadie's life--both professionally and personally--throughout a tragic chain of events in her third year of medical school that she has long since put behind her. Nick's unexpected reappearance during a time of new professional crisis shocks both women into a deeper look at the difficult choices they made at the beginning of their careers. As it becomes evident that Emma must have known more than she revealed about circumstances that nearly derailed both their lives, Zadie starts to question everything she thought she knew about her closest friend.


My Review:



Told through Zadie and Emma's perspectives, the author takes us on a journey of their friendship...  From when they hit it off the first day in their dorms as new roommates to decades later as lifelong friends, their "persons" and the only one who truly accepted each others' nuances.  Both lead busy lives with their husbands, children and as doctors.  Then one day their lives become disrupted with the arrival of Nick Xenokastos, Dr. X, a blast from their past.  This drudges up old secrets and betrayals.

I'm honestly surprised that this is a debut novel.  Extremely well written, this felt like a cross between Grey's Anatomy and Big Little Lies (as she describes it and it fits PERFECTLY).  The humor that is riddled throughout had me tittering quite frequently.  I swear I think Lainie might be my favorite character!  And also ACE WRAP! 🤣

What this book exemplifies is the ups and downs of a friendship that stems from the growing pains of  medical school, career and family.  And how while sometimes the unforgivable can happen, there's always a way to find forgiveness if you really want to.  Martin takes us from past to present in Zadie and Emma's lives and does it effortlessly.  I'm truly impressed with how immersed I became with this story.  

I highly recommend this read.  A contemporary medical and life drama that reads quickly and will suck you right in... get on it people.

★★★★★

Jessica's Review:


Going into THE QUEEN OF HEARTS by Kimmery Martin, I wasn't quite sure what to expect. To be honest, I thought it was going to be a retelling of sorts and so did my partner reader (clearly we went based off the title and not the synopsis!) I was pleasantly surprised by this incredible and beautifully written debut novel about navigating the medical world and trying to maintain friendships while harboring secrets. 

Zadie and Emma are best friends and have been since medical school. Both have been through a lot with each other - surviving the intensity of med school and trying to make it through different relationships together. Now both are married with children and have thriving careers. Zadie is in pediatric cardiology and Emma is a trauma surgeon, despite how chaotic their lives can be, they're both content where they are. 

One day all of that is threatened when a former colleague of theirs, Nick Xenokostas, reenters their lives. Nick had an important role in Zadie's life at one time - as the chief resident during medical school he became the center of her world both professionally and personally. His reappearance makes them both reflect back on some of the hardest decisions they've had to make and begin to wonder if they really know each other like they think they do.

Told in alternating perspectives, Emma and Zadie in the present, and then Zadie back in her third year of medical school (when Nick was so prevalent in her life). The way that Martin writes and presents both characters was so well done - there was no confusion as to which perspective we were in and both Emma and Zadie had their own unique voice. This was an engrossing and compelling read and it was a peek into a world that I know very little about. The struggles that those in the medical field experience in trying to juggle their home lives and professional lives while trying to live up to that high standard that is expected of them. 

Kimmery Martin will be an insta-buy author for me and I can't wait to see what she comes up with next! If you like a good medical drama/fiction novel, then you need to pick up THE QUEEN OF HEARTS. The beautiful and fluid writing will have you hooked from the beginning. 

A solid 5/5 stars!


Monday, February 12, 2018

REVIEW: The Undertaker's Daughter by Sara Blaedel @sarablaedel @grandcentralpub #allthebookreviews

The Undertaker's Daughter
(Ilka #1)
by Sara Blaedel

Thanks so much to Grand Central Publishing for these copies in return for our honest reviews.

As a primarily thriller reader these days, I have been looking forward to reading some Sara Blaedel for quite some time.  I can't BELIEVE it's taken me this long!  

See what Jessica and I thought of this crime fiction.


Published:  February 6, 2018
Publisher:  Grand Central Publishing
326 Pages
Hardcover
Series:  Ilka #1
Genre:  Mystery, Thriller, Crime Fiction

Goodreads Synopsis:

Already widowed by the age of forty, Ilka Nichols Jensen, a school portrait photographer, leads a modest, regimented, and uneventful life in Copenhagen. Until unexpected news rocks her quiet existence: Her father–who walked out suddenly and inexplicably on the family more than three decades ago–has died. And he’s left her something in his will: his funeral home. In Racine, Wisconsin.

Clinging to this last shred of communication from the father she hasn’t heard from since childhood, Ilka makes an uncharacteristically rash decision and jumps on a plane to Wisconsin. Desperate for a connection to the parent she never really knew, she plans to visit the funeral home and go through her father’s things–hoping for some insight into his new life in America–before preparing the business for a quick sale.

But when she stumbles on an unsolved murder, and a killer who seems to still be very much alive, the undertaker’s daughter realizes she might be in over her head . .

My Review:

Ilka leaves her home country of Denmark and heads to Wisconsin, where the father she never really knew bequeathed her his funeral home. She's dumbfounded and overwhelmed as all this new responsibility is laid upon her.  While trying to make her way through learning more about her father, trying to run a business she stupidly takes control over by not reading paperwork she signs arbitrarily and dealing with dead bodies left and right, she could very well lose her sanity in the process.


I've heard SO much about Sara Blaedel and her ability to draw readers into her dark thrillers so I was beyond excited to receive a copy of the first in her new series.  She writes in a way that makes it easy for the reader to fly through the pages.  I think for this particular book I was expecting something darker and more thrillery.  What I got, however, was a small town mystery that seemed more a secondary story line to Ilka's character study and background.  Blaedel takes us on Ilka's journey with a kind of Murphy's law humorous appeal which was the highlight for me.  Although I never thought I'd be interested in the funeral business, it was quite interesting to read about the difference between US and Danish funerals and the processes laid within.  

Although the book didn't put the murder mystery as the front runner of the book and there was a lack of suspense, it was such an easy read that I flew through the pages.  Once I reconciled the fact that this was more about Ilka and setting up for the rest of the books in the series, I found myself enjoying her journey.  Now that the groundwork has been laid, I look forward to seeing how Ilka transverses her way through future "cases" and the legacy she has been bestowed.  The somewhat cliffhanger of an ending.... to be continued indeed.

★★★

Jessica's Review:


This was my introduction to Sara Blaedel and I was no disappointed! THE UNDERTAKER'S DAUGHTER is the start of a new series, and from what I've heard is a little slower paced than her other books. So if you're a Blaedel fan, then keep that in mind going into this one! 

Ilka Nicholas Jensen is a widowed school portrait photographer in her forties. She lives a quiet life in Copenhagen, but everything gets disrupted when she finds out her father passed away and left her his funeral home - in Racine, Wisconsin. She has not heard from her father since he unexpectedly left the family over three decades ago, but now she is determined to hold onto this last gesture from him. She decides to fly to Wisconsin to see the funeral home he left her.
Upon arriving to Wisconsin she wants to go through his belongings and the business before turning it over for a quick sale. However, while there, she stumbles upon an unsolved murder case and it appears that the killer is still alive. Has Ilka put herself in a situation that is over her head?

This mystery is definitely more focused on the characters with a slow build to them. I can see people going into this expecting a fast paced thriller being disappointed. I really liked Ilka, she was a very complex character and I found it compelling that she decided to leave instantly for a different country to learn more about her estranged father. I can't wait to see where Blaedel takes her in future books. I loved that it was set in Wisconsin - being in Minnesota it was fun seeing a somewhat familiar surrounding.
Overall, this was a very character driven and lighter suspense novel that I found incredibly engrossing. I can't believe it's taken me so long to finally read a book by Sara Blaedel, but it definitely won't be my last!
I give this one 4/5 stars!