UP THE CREEK

A New Jersey mother’s and son’s psychic dreams have ties to a murder case in this supernatural thriller.

Caitlin Walker assures her 4-year-old son, Adam, that his recurring nightmares aren’t real. But his latest one seems all too familiar to Caitlin. She had premonitory dreams when younger, though an over-the-counter sleeping pill has kept her dreamless for nearly a decade. One of her childhood dreams involved a young girl’s murder—similar to the nightmare Adam describes. That unsolved homicide took place in Culver Creek, Pennsylvania, 19 years ago. It’s a cold case that new Culver Creek Police Detective Sage Dorian is currently working. He quickly has potential leads, especially as he suspects one of the original investigating officers is hiding something. Also harboring secrets are Caitlin and her husband, Lance; she’s never told him of her psychic dreams, and he has a particular reason for locking their bedroom door each night. Before Caitlin can determine if Adam’s nightmare is the same as hers or about something more recent, her son mysteriously disappears. This apparent kidnapping ultimately shines a light on the spouses’ hidden pasts and may even unmask a killer. This swift, searing murder mystery never wavers. For example, characters’ backstories, including those of Caitlin’s and Lance’s parents, are filled with surprises that have at least some connections to the homicide. Moreover, these backstories enhance character development; Sage is seemingly driven by his sister’s unsolved murder. Grosso chisels her prose to great effect, particularly the descriptions of Caitlin: Lance “knew nothing about her psychic dreams or the freak she used to be. She had always thought it was for the best, but now the unthinkable had happened, and it was all her fault.” Though the final act relies on coincidence, the killer’s unveiling is an engrossing turn, and characters caught in a torrential rain amp up the suspense. The tale culminates in an unforgettable ending.

A taut, gripping mystery. (author’s note, author bio)

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-949852-20-2

Page Count: 428

Publisher: Glitter Pigeon Press

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2020

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A unique story of transcendent love.

LAYLA

An aimless young musician meets the girl of his dreams only to have his newfound happiness threatened by several inexplicable—and possibly supernatural—events.

The story opens as Leeds Gabriel meets with a detective while his girlfriend, Layla, is restrained in a room one flight above them. Through the interview, readers learn that Leeds was wasting both his time and his musical talent playing backup for a small-town wedding troupe called Garrett’s Band when he spied Layla dancing her heart out to their mediocre music at a wedding. When Leeds approaches Layla, their connection is both instant and intense. A blissful courtship follows, but then Leeds makes the mistake of posting a picture of himself with Layla on social media. A former girlfriend–turned-stalker wastes no time in finding and attacking Layla. Layla spends months recovering in a hospital, and it seems the girl Leeds fell for might be forever changed. Gone is her special spark, her quirkiness, and the connection that had entranced Leeds months before. In a last-ditch effort to save their relationship, he brings Layla back to the bed-and-breakfast where they first met. When they get there, though, Leeds meets Willow, another guest, and finds himself drawn to her in spite of himself. As events unfold, it becomes clear that Willow will either be the key to saving Leeds’ relationship with Layla or the catalyst that finally extinguishes the last shreds of their epic romance. Told entirely from Leeds’ point of view, the author’s first foray into paranormal romance does not disappoint. Peppered with elements of mystery, psychological thriller, and contemporary romance, the novel explores questions about how quickly true love can develop, as well as the conflicts that can imperil even the strongest connections. Despite a limited cast of characters and very few setting changes, the narrative manages to remain both fast-paced and engaging. The conclusion leaves a few too many loose ends, but the chemistry between the characters and unexpected twists throughout make for a satisfying read.

A unique story of transcendent love.

Pub Date: Dec. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5420-0017-8

Page Count: 301

Publisher: Montlake Romance

Review Posted Online: Sept. 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2020

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Slow moving and richly layered.

THE SEARCHER

A retired cop takes one last case in this stand-alone novel from the creator of the Dublin Murder Squad.

Originally from North Carolina, Cal Hooper has spent the last 30 years in Chicago. “A small place. A small town in a small country”: That’s what he’s searching for when he moves to the West of Ireland. His daughter is grown, his wife has left him, so Cal is on his own—until a kid named Trey starts hanging around. Trey’s brother is missing. Everyone believes that Brendan has run off just like his father did, but Trey thinks there’s more to the story than just another young man leaving his family behind in search of money and excitement in the city. Trey wants the police detective who just emigrated from America to find out what’s really happened to Brendan. French is deploying a well-worn trope here—in fact, she’s deploying a few. Cal is a new arrival to an insular community, and he’s about to discover that he didn’t leave crime and violence behind when he left the big city. Cal is a complex enough character, though, and it turns out that the mystery he’s trying to solve is less shocking than what he ultimately discovers. French's latest is neither fast-paced nor action-packed, and it has as much to do with Cal’s inner life as it does with finding Brendan. Much of what mystery readers are looking for in terms of action is squeezed into the last third of the novel, and the morally ambiguous ending may be unsatisfying for some. But French’s fans have surely come to expect imperfect allegiance to genre conventions, and the author does, ultimately, deliver plenty of twists, shocking revelations, and truly chilling moments.

Slow moving and richly layered.

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-73-522465-0

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2020

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