About Mae Clair

Hi, I'm Mae Clair, an author who writes tales of mystery and suspense, flavored with folklore. In addition to writing, I'm an avid reader who loves discussing books and anything writing related. I'm also passionate about cryptozoology, legends, and cats!

Book Review Tuesday: The Scorpion’s Tail by Preston & Child, Devolution: A Firsthand Account of the Rainier Sasquatch Massacre by Max Brooks #historicalmysteries #horrorsuspense

Warm and cozy window seat with cushions and a opened book, light through vintage shutters, rustic style home decor. Small cat on window seat, along with coffee cup by pillow, Words Book Review Tuesday superimposed over image

Hello, and welcome to my first Book Review Tuesday of May. I read these novels during the chilly days of winter but didn’t have the blog space to share the reviews until now. One is the second book in a spin-off series and the other was languishing on my TBR much too long. Pile enough books on your Kindle and the titles get buried. Both of these deliver action and suspense. Take a look!


BLURB:
Following the acclaimed debut of Old Bones, this second “happily anticipated” new thriller in Preston & Child’s series features Nora Kelly, archaeologist at the Santa Fe Archeological Institute, and rookie FBI Agent Corrie Swanson, as they team up to solve a mystery that quickly escalates into nightmare (Booklist).

A mummified corpse, over half a century old, is found in the cellar of an abandoned building in a remote New Mexico ghost town. Corrie is assigned what seems to her a throwaway case: to ID the body and determine cause of death. She brings archaeologist Nora Kelly to excavate the body and lend her expertise to the investigation, and together they uncover something unexpected and shocking: the deceased apparently died in agony, in a fetal position, skin coming off in sheets, with a rictus of horror frozen on his face.

Hidden on the corpse lies a 16th century Spanish gold cross of immense value.

When they at last identify the body — and the bizarre cause of death — Corrie and Nora open a door into a terrifying, secret world of ancient treasure and modern obsession: a world centered on arguably the most defining, frightening, and transformative moment in American history.

MY REVIEW:
This is the second Preston and Child outing for archeologist, Dr. Nora Kelly and rookie FBI agent, Corrie Swanson. I’m a fan of both of these ladies having followed their development in the Agent Pendergast series. While this is a good story with an intricately layered plot woven around a ghost town, buried treasure, military testing, and an ancient corpse, I found it dragged a little in certain spots. And as much as I love Pendergast—one of my all-time favorite characters—I wasn’t happy with him stealing Corrie and Nora’s “thunder” at the end. I hope P&C continue to have Pendergast make cameos in this series, but I’d rather see him applauding Corrie for her work rather than being the one to make the case-solving pronouncement.

On the plus side, I loved the character of Homer Watts, a young, marksman sheriff with a penchant for the Old West, and I enjoyed Moorwood’s (Corrie’s boss) development throughout the book. I hope these characters continue as the series progresses. The last quarter moves at a blistering pace which kept me on the edge of my seat and madly flipping pages. While it takes a while to get off the ground, and the plot develops spider legs branching in myriad directions, The Scorpion’s Tail is an entertaining read.

I give The Scorpion’s Tail 4 STARS

BLURB:
As the ash and chaos from Mount Rainier’s eruption swirled and finally settled, the story of the Greenloop massacre has passed unnoticed, unexamined . . . until now. The journals of resident Kate Holland, recovered from the town’s bloody wreckage, capture a tale too harrowing—and too earth-shattering in its implications—to be forgotten. In these pages, Max Brooks brings Kate’s extraordinary account to light for the first time, faithfully reproducing her words alongside his own extensive investigations into the massacre and the legendary beasts behind it. Kate’s is a tale of unexpected strength and resilience, of humanity’s defiance in the face of a terrible predator’s gaze, and, inevitably, of savagery and death.

Yet it is also far more than that.

Because if what Kate Holland saw in those days is real, then we must accept the impossible. We must accept that the creature known as Bigfoot walks among us—and that it is a beast of terrible strength and ferocity.

Part survival narrative, part bloody horror tale, part scientific journey into the boundaries between truth and fiction, this is a Bigfoot story as only Max Brooks could chronicle it—and like none you’ve ever read before.

MY REVIEW:
As someone who loves cryptid fiction, I was instantly drawn to this book. It’s quite different than anything I’ve read before, and was my first-time reading Max Brooks, the author who gave us World War Z. The book unfolds through journal entries with occasional interviews, articles on simian behavior, and book excerpts tossed in. I found the excerpts from Theodore Roosevelt’s The Wilderness Hunter particularly fascinating—was he really writing about Bigfoot? Recall this is the same man who almost cancelled an African safari to participate in the Great Snallygaster Hunt of 1909.

Because the book reads like a docudrama—especially in the beginning—it’s extremely slow to get off the ground. I actually planned to DNF it at the 12% mark on my Kindle. I stopped reading and switched to a different book, but that one didn’t work either, so I gave Devolution another chance and by the 20% mark I was hooked.

The story centers on a handful of people who have taken up residence in a small community tucked deep in the forests of the Pacific Northwest. Greenloop has been designed to combine technical advancements with the isolation of nature—the best of living off the grid while having all the comforts of home. That philosophy goes out the window when a volcanic eruption cuts Greenloop off from civilization and technology stops working.

But that’s not the biggest problem. Its takes a while for the sasquatch of the title to make an appearance, but once they do, events kick into hyper drive. There’s a creep factor when Greenloop’s residents realize they’re not alone in the woods. A sinisterness that quickly explodes into horror. At this point it’s necessary to overlook a bit of incredulity—that the main character (Kate) would still be scribbling in her journal with the events taking place around her. That aside, I found it hard to put the book down when I had to call it a night.

Several characters experience remarkable growth during the course of this novel. Others start flat, and end flat. But how often do you get to read a Bigfoot book? Even if it’s not perfect, for anyone who holds a fascination with cryptids, this is one to read—just slog through the start.

I give Devolution 4 STARS


I recommend both these books despite a few draggy spots and—in the case of Devolution—a slow beginning. Preston & Child TOP my list of auto-buy authors (August 17th is the next Pendergast novel–WOOHOO!) and I wouldn’t be surprised if Devolution follows in the path of World War Z and makes a splash on the big screen. I’d be in line for a ticket!

Book Spotlight: Secrets of the Galapagos by Sharon Marchisello @SLMarchisello @SunburyPress #mystery #crime

An open book with rays and orbs of light shooting from the pages

Hello, and welcome to a new Sunbury Press Book Spotlight. If you’ve been following my blog, you that Sunbury Press is a traditional publisher located in my area. Twice a month, I’ll be highlighting their authors with book spotlights. Each selection has been chosen to appeal to the reading taste of my followers. You’ll find mostly mysteries, suspense, thrillers, and supernatural stories. Today, I’m welcoming Sharon Marchisello, with her mystery novel, Secrets of the Galapagos. I hope you’ll drop her a line and make her feel welcome!

book cover Secrets of the Galapagos, large tortoise in front on sand beach, cruise liner in background

Book Description:
Shattered by a broken engagement and a business venture derailed by Jerome Haddad, her unscrupulous partner, Giovanna Rogers goes on a luxury Galapagos cruise with her grandmother to decompress.

At least that’s what her grandmother thinks. 

Giovanna is determined to make Jerome pay for what he’s done, and she has a tip he’s headed for the Galapagos.

While snorkeling in Gardner Bay off the coast of Española Island, Giovanna and another cruise passenger, tortoise researcher Laurel Pardo, both become separated from the group and Laurel is left behind. No one on the ship will acknowledge Laurel is missing, and Giovanna suspects a cover-up.

When the police come on board to investigate a death, Giovanna is sure the victim is Laurel. She’s anxious to give her testimony to the attractive local detective assigned to the case. Instead, she learns someone else is dead, and she’s a person of interest.

Resolved to keep searching for Laurel and make sense of her disappearance, Giovanna finds that several people on board the cruise ship have reasons to want Laurel gone. One is a scam involving Tio Armando, the famous Galapagos giant tortoise and a major tourist attraction in the archipelago. And Jerome Haddad has a hand in it. Thinking she’s the cat in this game, Giovanna gets too involved and becomes the mouse, putting her life in jeopardy. But if she doesn’t stop him, Jerome will go on to ruin others.

PURCHASE LINKS:
SUNBURY PRESS | AMAZON

Author, Sharon MarchiselloAUTHOR BIO:
Sharon Marchisello is the author of two mysteries published by Sunbury Press: Going Home (2014) and Secrets of the Galapagos (2019). Her other publications include travel articles, corporate training manuals, short stories, book reviews, a blog, and a nonfiction book about personal finance, Live Well, Grow Wealth. She earned a Masters in Professional Writing from the University of Southern California and is an active member of Sisters in Crime. Retired from a 27-year career with Delta Air Lines, she now lives in Peachtree City and does volunteer work for the Fayette Humane Society. 

AUTHOR WEBSITE | TWITTER


Given Sharon’s background with Delta Airlines, it doesn’t surprise me she’s chosen to write about such an exotic and intriguing locale, not to mention the famed giant Galapagos tortoise. The blend of intrigue and mystery in this one sounds quite compelling. Sharon will be popping in to say hello, so be sure to drop her a comment and share your thoughts about her release. As always, thanks for visiting, and please click the sharing buttons to help spread the news about Secrets of the Galapagos.

Book Review Tuesday: The House Keeper by Natalie Barelli, Possession by Katie Lowe #psychologicalthriller #psychologicalfiction #bookreviews

Warm and cozy window seat with cushions and a opened book, light through vintage shutters, rustic style home decor. Small cat on window seat, along with coffee cup by pillow, Words Book Review Tuesday superimposed over image

Happy Tuesday! Once again, I have two books to share today. One held me riveted the other was…eh.

I have mixed emotions about the second book because it had plenty of good points. I’ll let you judge from today’s reviews. I will mention that Natalie Barelli is an author I discovered last year, and she immediately went on my auto buy list. I’ve scooped up several of her back issues as well. If you enjoy psychological suspense, she always delivers a good tale. Sometimes the circumstances require a suspension of belief, but for sheer entertainment value, they always deliver.

BLURB:
She’s a liar. She’s a stalker. She’s in your house.

When Claire sees Hannah Wilson at an exclusive Manhattan hair salon, it’s like a knife slicing through barely healed scars. It may have been ten years since Claire last saw Hannah, but she has thought of her every day, and not in a good way. So Claire does what anyone would do in her position—she stalks her.

Hannah is now Mrs. Carter, living the charmed life that should have been Claire’s. It’s the life Claire used to have, before Hannah came along and took it all away from her.

Back then, Claire was a happy teenager with porcelain skin and long, wavy blond hair. Now she’s an overweight, lazy drunk with hair the color of compost and skin to match. Which is why when Hannah advertises for a housekeeper, Claire is confident she can apply and not be recognized. And since she has time on her hands, revenge on her mind, and a talent for acting…

Because what better way to seek retribution—and redress—than from within the beautiful Mrs. Hannah Carter’s own home?

Except that it’s not just Claire who has secrets. Everyone in that house seems to have something to hide.

And now, there’s no way out.

MY REVIEW:
This is a quick read and an easy one, but highly entertaining. Despite how messed up the main character is, you get sucked into her life. Claire had it all when she was young. A happy home life, rich parents, tennis lessons, pony rides. Then Hannah waltzed into her world as a nanny for her younger brother and her life took a nosedive. I’d say more about why, but that’s part of the story, and I don’t want to spoil anything.

Fast forward ten years and Hannah is now married to a wealthy doctor, living the high life in a beautiful house. She’s in need of a housekeeper who will also help care for her infant daughter from time to time. Through a series of pretty “out there” circumstances, Claire changes her appearance, assumes another identity, and lands the job. She’s there to upend Hannah’s life and exact revenge.

This is a juicy read which alternates for the reader between disliking Claire and cheering for her. Written in first person POV, there is plenty of snarky asides sprinkled throughout, as well as a steady build of suspense and tension. There aren’t many characters to keep track of, but all play an integral part in the story, and the ending is well worth the ride. This is my second book by Natalie Barelli, but I like her work so much, I’ve already picked up another two for my Kindle.

5 STARS

BLURB:
Ten years ago, Hannah’s husband was knifed in their bed. Hannah was questioned but was unable to recall anything about the night of Graham’s death. Someone else was charged with his murder and sentenced to life in prison. Now, ten years later, Hannah is living with her boyfriend, Dan, and her teenage daughter, Evie. A true crime podcast with a reputation for overturning wrongful convictions begins to pick Hannah’s story apart, determined to get to the bottom of what really happened ten years ago.

MY REVIEW:
Talk about a compelling plot! The premise of this book immediately intrigued me. Hannah’s life begins to unravel when she’s judged in the court of public opinion, one sensationalized podcast episode at a time. This is a slow-burn suspense read with several elements that play exceptionally well, including Hannah’s spotty memory. Did she or didn’t she? Even she doesn’t know if she’s a killer. That keeps the reader wondering, too—right up until the end.

Another thread involves the ruins of a Gothic insane asylum where Hannah’s grandmother was incarcerated for killing her husband and daughter. Hannah is drawn there when she learns someone is interested in renovating the property. The scenes in the shell of the old building are some of my favorite, played heavily for atmosphere.

There are numerous snaking plot lines that weave together at the end. Kudos to the author for juggling so many intricate puzzle pieces. I thought the ending was brilliant.

What I didn’t like, and found implausible, is that Hannah—a professional psychiatrist—would be such a doormat for her husband and her ex-boss. Her behavior, especially in the past, didn’t ring true. Though most of the book takes place in the present, there are numerous scenes where the reader is treated to Hannah’s married life with Graham. The more I was exposed to her past, the more annoyed I became. In the present, some of the actions of the police left me scratching my head. I had some other issues as well, but it’s hard to say more without giving away spoilers.

The overall tone of the book is dark. I honestly found it depressing. This is one novel that will come down to a matter of personal taste. If you like dark, twisty reads, this is well-written and well-plotted though it does moves slowly. For me, it didn’t quite work.

3 STARS


I can’t believe it’s the last Tuesday of April already, and somehow I’m still not caught up on sharing my book reviews. I’d love to hear your thoughts on The House Keeper and Possession. Intrigued or pass? As always, happy reading!

Guest Author Thursday: Joan Hall with House of Sorrow #newrelease #mystery #psychologicalfiction @JoanHallWrites

red quill pen on a piece of old parchment paper, with an ink well with words Welcome Guest in script

It’s my pleasure to welcome good friend and Story Empire colleague, Joan Hall, to my blog today. Joan is here to share her new release House of Sorrow, the introduction to her Legends of Madeira series. You can find my five star review for this fantastic novella that blends history and suspense HERE.

As someone who has an extensive set of books about Robert F. Kennedy, I’m particularly fond the post she’s sharing today. Take it away, Joan!


House of Sorrow: June 1968 & Bobby Kennedy

Mae, thank you for hosting me today. It’s a pleasure to visit today. I’m excited to tell your readers about my newest release.

House of Sorrow is a short-story prequel to my upcoming novel Cold Dark Night, book one of my Legends of Madeira series. It’s the story of Ruth Hazelton, a reclusive older woman who lives in a two-story Victorian house in the fictional town of Madeira, New Mexico. Ruth reflects on her life, particularly when she and her husband Lee first moved to town.

I included some historical events in the book, as well as some personal memories. Most of the scenes occur in the late 1960s. One event is the assassination of Senator Robert Kennedy.

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“Senator Kennedy has been shot.” 

I still recall waking up to my mother’s words. Mom often had “premonitions” something bad was about to happen. It happened the day of JFK’s assassination and again with Bobby. She’d been unable to sleep that June night, so she turned on the television to hear the sad news. 

In the days following Bobby’s death, I saw his funeral train on television and remember how crowds lined the tracks between New York City and Washington, DC. I was only ten, but it made a profound impact on me.

Robert F. Kennedy at podium, standing in profile, crowd gathered around him
Bobby Kennedy in Los Angeles shortly before his assassination (public domain photo)

Only two months earlier, I had been the one to first learn of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. I hurried into the other room to tell my parents. It’s safe to say 1968 was a volatile year in America.

A few years ago, my husband and I visited DC and Arlington National Cemetery. Seeing the simple marker and single white cross on Bobby’s grave touched me more than the eternal flame at JFK’s.

Single white cross and headstone on field of green lawn, gravesite of Robert F. Kennedy
Photo by Joan Hall

Some may think this is weird, but when I looked at the surrounding hillside, the last line of the song, “Abraham, Martin, and John” came to mind. I could almost picture the four men strolling together on the hill, and it brought tears to my eyes.

In this passage, Ruth has just moved to Madeira and met her neighbor, Sam. It’s only a few days after RFK died. 

Excerpt:

Sam sat in silence for a few minutes. “Damn shame about Bobby Kennedy.”

“Yes, it was. I watched the funeral on television. So sad for Ethel, especially with her being pregnant. That poor child will never know his or her father.”

“Guess it wasn’t surprising at the number of people who lined the tracks as the train made its way to Washington. Not to mention those at the funeral. President and Mrs. Johnson. Even Nixon was there.”

“Coretta Scott King. You know it had to be hard on her, having lost her husband only two months ago. And Jackie, of course.” Ruth had long been an admirer of the former first lady. She’d watched JFK’s funeral on television and was impressed with Jackie’s poise and elegance in such difficult times. She managed to look classy in her black mourning clothes, her brother-in-law at her side.

“First Jack, now his brother. Not to mention Joe Jr. and their sister. I believe that family is cursed. What do you think?”

“I really don’t believe in curses.”

Sam scoffed. “Curses are real.”

“You think so?”

“I do.” He made a sweeping motion with his hand. “Take some of the people who have lived in this—” Sam shook his head. “Never mind.”

“Lived where? Madeira?”

“It’s not important. Besides, I take it you’re not superstitious.”

“I’m not. This may sound callous, but both President Kennedy and Bobby were politicians and public figures. They were bound to have enemies.”

“That’s true, but what about the other Kennedy children?”

“The oldest brother was killed during World War II. Kathleen’s death was simply a tragic accident.”

“You may be right. On the other hand, Jack’s and Bobby’s assassinations could be part of a conspiracy. They got rid of both brothers. Murdered Martin Luther King. With that war over there, this world is a mess.”

Blurb:

Promo graphic with book cover for House of Sorrow shows porch swing on covered front porch

Dream home or damned home? 

Ruth Hazelton is over the moon when her husband Lee agrees the nineteenth-century Victorian in Madeira, New Mexico, is the perfect home for them. While he starts his new job as police chief, she sets about unpacking and decorating.

But it’s not long before Ruth needs more. She becomes a fixture in the community, making time for everyone, volunteering, hosting events—she’s every bit the social butterfly her husband is not. Through her friendships, she learns several former residents of her home met with untimely deaths. If she were superstitious, she might fear a curse, but such nonsense doesn’t faze her.

Until the unthinkable happens.

Now, as the end of Ruth’s life draws near, she must find a way to convey her message and stop the cycle to prevent anyone else from suffering in the house of sorrow. 

Purchase Link

Connect with Joan:

Website  |  Blog  |  Facebook  |  Twitter  |   Bookbub  |  Goodreads  |  Instagram

Bio box for author, Joan Hall

I was six when Bobby Kennedy died. I only have a grainy memory of a newscast. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I became fascinated with him, devouring books on his life, and collecting DVDs—both documentaries and TV movies. One of the things I loved best about House of Sorrow is how Joan spins back the clock to bring so many events of the 1960s and early 1970s to life in her story. It’s an entertaining novella which acts as lead in for what promises to be a most excellent series. I recommend heading to Amazon to ONE CLICK and snatch up your copy today!

Book Spotlight: Out of Kindness by J.A. Walsh @JAWALSH_BOOKS @SunburyPress #thriller #suspense

An open book with rays and orbs of light shooting from the pages

Thanks for joining me for another Book Spotlight. Today, I’m welcoming Sunbury Press author, J.A. Wash with his suspense/thriller novel, Out of Kindness. J. A. has the perfect background to spin this type of tale, as you’ll see when you check out his bio. First be sure to read the blurb for his very intriguing release, then drop a line to share your thoughts! Doesn’t that cover rock?

Book Description:

A beautiful Irish island reveals its ugly secrets in this thriller of the opioid crisis

Sean Casper retired from the Boston Police to get away from murderers. He left Massachusetts to get away from everything else, especially his broken marriage and the pain of his son’s fentanyl overdose.

Casper retreats to a seaside cottage on a beautiful Irish island, unaware he is surrounded by ugly secrets. When Casper finds a mutilated lamb ritually displayed in an ancient cemetery, he reads up on the island’s only recorded murder and sees a pattern.

One of the island’s 600 residents is a serial killer. Someone else is about to die.

His investigation leads to Aoife Walsh, an island native suffering from the same addiction that killed his son. Her best friend was murdered twenty years ago, and she knows who did it. With no authority, but nothing to lose, Casper goes after the killer. 

Instead of finding an island refuge, Casper discovers much of Europe’s heroin passes through the island’s remote coast. And as he gets closer to the truth, he places himself in the crosshairs of the island’s drug traffickers, who will do anything to protect their secrets.

Out of Kindness is a thriller about grief and isolation, swirling in the backdrop of the opioid epidemic, on one of the most hauntingly beautiful islands on Earth.

PURCHASE LINKS:
SUNBURY PRESS | AMAZON

JA Walsh (Author)AUTHOR BIO:

J.A. Walsh worked in intelligence and counter-terrorism after the 9/11 attacks, before embarking on a career advising the U.S. military on energy security strategy. He has degrees in Russian, English literature, and Environmental Law. He and his family split time between Lake Norman, North Carolina and the Florida Keys. Learn more at JAWalsh.com

WEBSITE | TWITTER


I love the location of this one. The story definitely sounds like one to sink your reading chops into, don’t you think? J.A. will be dropping by to say hello, so be sure to let him know your thoughts in the comments. We’d both be delighted if you’d use the sharing buttons to spread the word about Out of Kindness. Thank you for visiting today!

Book Review Tuesday: The Bad Sister by Kevin O’Brien, The Dinner Guest by B.P. Walter #domesticsuspense #psychologicalsuspense #bookreviews

Warm and cozy window seat with cushions and a opened book, light through vintage shutters, rustic style home decor. Small cat on window seat, along with coffee cup by pillow, Words Book Review Tuesday superimposed over image

I seem to be devouring a lot of psychological suspense and domestic thrillers these days. There is so much to choose from and so many good titles out there. Today’s reviews are a mix of an auto-buy author and a new-to-me author. Both earn five glowing stars!

BOOK BLURB:
TOO CLOSE
The site of the old campus bungalow where two girls were brutally slain is now a flower patch covered with chrysanthemums. It’s been fifty years since the Immaculate Conception Murders. Three more students and a teacher were killed in a sickening spree that many have forgotten. But there is one person who knows every twisted detail. . . .
 
TO SEE
Hannah O’Rourke and her volatile half-sister, Eden, have little in common except a parent. Yet they’ve ended up at the same small college outside Chicago, sharing a bungalow with another girl. Hannah isn’t thrilled—nor can she shake the feeling that she’s being watched. And her journalism professor, Ellie Goodwin, keeps delving into Hannah and Eden’s newsworthy past. . . .
 
THE DANGER
When Hannah and Eden’s arrival coincides with a spate of mysterious deaths, Ellie knows it’s more than a fluke. A copycat is recreating those long-ago murders. Neither the police nor the school will accept the horrific truth. And the more Ellie discovers, the more she’s convinced that she won’t live to be believed. . . .

MY REVIEW:
Kevin O’Brien is one of my auto-buy authors. I can always count on him to deliver a complex mystery with characters who are easy to relate to.

Hannah and Eden are sisters who only recently learned they’re related. Their relationship is rocky, but when they go away to Our Lady of the Cove college, they both end up sharing the same bungalow with a third girl. Rachel tells them about the Immaculate Conception Murders which occurred fifty years ago. It’s not long after Hannah and Eden arrive that a copycat killer strikes, staging his victims in the same manner as the original murderer.

The problem with mysteries is it’s hard to say a lot about them without giving away the plot, but O’Brien has a solid winner with The Bad Sister. He builds tension throughout, the clock ticking with each successive murder. Several characters sent up potential suspect flags for me, but in the end, I was completely off base.

In addition to the sisters and Rachel, other key players include a journalism teacher and one of her students—a thirtyish man who doesn’t fit with the rest of the student body. Each has a background that plays into the overall plot, subtle layers about their pasts revealed a bit at time. When everything comes together at the end, each twisty plot thread is wrapped with a satisfying conclusion. I always think of O’Brien’s mysteries as fat, juicy reads, and for that reason I buy his novels in paperback form—perfect beach reads no matter the time of year or place.

If you like a good whodunit with strong, relatable characters, I highly recommend The Bad Sister. And if you haven’t read O’Brien before, you’re missing out. My bookcase is filled with his novels!

5 STARS

BOOK BLURB:
Four people walked into the dining room that night. One would never leave.

Matthew: the perfect husband.

Titus: the perfect son.

Charlie: the perfect illusion.

Rachel: the perfect stranger.

Charlie didn’t want her at the book club. Matthew wouldn’t listen.

And that’s how Charlie finds himself slumped beside his husband’s body, their son sitting silently at the dinner table, while Rachel calls 999, the bloody knife still gripped in her hand.

Classic crime meets Donna Tartt in this nerve-shredding domestic noir thriller that weaves a sprawling web of secrets around an opulent West London world and the dinner that ends in death.

MY REVIEW:
This is a quick read that immediately sucks you into the story with subtlety. Matthew and Charlie are married, with an adopted teenage son, Titus. One day while shopping, they encounter Rachel, a newcomer who has moved nearby. After some chit-chat, Matthew invites her to his book club. Charlie is puzzled by the swiftness of Mathew’s actions and feels there is something off with Rachel, though he can’t put his finger on why. This is just the beginning of Rachel winding her way into their lives, the lives of their family, and friends. With each successive chapter, Rachels actions grow more and more questionable, but she is far from the only character keeping secrets.

The book shifts in time with scenes in the present—Matthew has been murdered—to scenes in the past leading up to the moment of his death. Gradually, the backstories of the four main characters—Matthew, Charlie, Titus and Rachel—unfold as past rushes to join present and we learn the identity of Matthew’s killer. There are multiple twists and turns along the way. Some I figured out beforehand, others caught me blindsided. The ending is different than most books of this type but altogether satisfying in its cleverness. 

This is slow build psychological/domestic suspense, but at the same time, a riveting page-turner. I finished it in two-sittings, and have no problem awarding it a well-earned five stars. I’ll look for more from this author. 

5 STARS


I had an entertaining week of reading, as you can see. I’m also excited that another of my auto-buy authors (Jennifer McMahon) has a new novel out. I pre-ordered The Drowning Kind, it’s now on my Kindle, and I can’t wait to get to it. But…TBR, you know? Hopefully, soon.

Happy Reading!

The Vanished Boy by Harmony Kent @harmony_kent #mystery #suspense #bookreview

Yes, I know it’s a Monday and not my normal day for posting reviews, but I already had my Tuesday Book review post formatted and ready to go (I hope you’ll come back tomorrow to check out the selections), when I devoured The Vanished Boy in two days. Rather than waiting another week to share my review, I thought I’d post it today. This one gets an easy five stars. Congrats to my Story Empire colleague, Harmony, on delivering such an excellent novel!

BLURB:
It’s so remote out here. Anything could happen …

A missed phone call in the night is all it takes.

When Carole’s 18-year-old son goes missing, she breaks into Jayden’s laptop to try to understand his life.

All too soon, Carole discovers just how little she knew her boy.

And when one lead after another dead-ends, the distraught mother has to face the unthinkable.

Sucked into a sticky web of deceit and lies, nothing is as it seems.

When your life turns inside out and upside down, who would you trust?


MY REVIEW:
Harmony Kent delivers a powerhouse novel about a teen’s disappearance. Carole is a widow with an eighteen-year-old son. When Jayden fails to return home one evening, she discovers she missed a cryptic text he sent. Two words only: “I’m stuck.”  Those words propel her into a frantic search that begins with her delving into his life online. The police insist Jayden is an adult, and there’s not much they can do—at least not until time has passed. But Carole reacts with the anguish of a mother for her only child.  

As she begins to piece together Jayden’s life through online activity, she learns there is a side to her son she didn’t know about. A side that has led him into a dangerous situation. The more she delves, the more the tension mounts, clues unravelling a bit at a time, for a staggering revelation at the end. 

I had read this book in two days, flipping pages well into the night. The story is well-plotted with a thoroughly satisfying wrap. If you enjoy psychological fiction and domestic suspense, this is engrossing story with a plot highly relevant to current times. 

5 STARS

I’ve read several of Harmony’s books. She always delivers an exceptional tale, but she really scored a home run with this one. If you’re a non U.S. reader, you can find The Vanished Boy at this LINK.

That’s it for me today, but please come back tomorrow when I’ve got two more excellent novels to share. I’ve also got a Book Spotlight coming up on Wednesday, and a guest author on Thursday, so it is going to be a busy week on The Pen of Mae Clair. 🙂

New Release: The Vanished Boy by Harmony Kent @harmony_kent #mystery #suspense

red quill pen on a piece of old parchment paper, with an ink well with words Welcome Guest in script

It’s my pleasure to welcome friend and Story Empire colleague, Harmony Kent, today with her new release The Vanished Boy. If you enjoy mystery / suspense novels, I know this is one you’re going to want to gobble up. I already have my copy waiting on my Kindle, and it’s next on my read list. Now, here’s Harmony to chat more about her book…


Hi everyone. Harmony here. Thanks so much, Mae, for letting me visit with you today. I’m so thrilled to share the launch of my latest book with you all. 

The Vanished Boy is a mystery suspense novel based around a teenaged boy, who’s gone missing. The book follows the mother as she trawls through her missing son’s online life and realises, to her horror, how out of the loop she’s become. 

The inspiration for this novel came from watching a number of movies based on how our lives both revolve around and are influenced by the Internet and mobile devices. Although these movies covered many genres such as murder/mystery, thriller, and the supernatural, they all centred around the same theme: Apps and living life online. This led me to ponder how many of us spend our lives in digital pursuits rather than physical—both the old and the young? For many people, their actual physical lives become but a shadow compared to their online existence.

Mostly, the shift to a digital world happens slowly. It’s incremental and, too often, insidious. All of which led me to ask how well do we actually know our children? Our loved ones? Those around us? What might be going on in the shadows? From that inspiration and questioning, this story was born. Much of life and our actions originate from the same needs and wants: to be loved and accepted, the ability to differentiate between truth and lies, and the things we do to cover our mistakes and make ourselves look better than the reality instead of owning who we are. The good, the bad, and the ugly.

new release TVB animated flyer

Below is an excerpt from the book:
Her heart stalls, and she forgets to breathe. Then her chest squeezes, her heart hammers, and she sucks in a lungful of air. She’d know this fob anywhere. It’s a Cornish Pirates keyring. The chain is snapped. At some point, this fell off Jayden’s car keys. Her son did come here. Frantic, she runs back to the car and throws herself into the driver’s seat.

She fumbles her mobile from the passenger seat, where she’d tossed it before tearing away from her house, and tries to unlock the screen. Her hand is too wet. Irritable, she wipes her fingers on her trousers and tries again. She’s in. Mike’s number is the last one called, so she hits the redial on it, but the line goes straight to voicemail. Carole checks the signal bars on her phone: four, which is good enough. The problem must be on the detective’s end.

Full of thrumming, frantic energy, she begins to type in the triple-nine for emergency services, but at the last moment realises this won’t count as a life-or-death situation. She deletes the two nines she’s typed and, instead, taps in 101. After three rings, an operator responds. Thank all that exists the police line isn’t as oversubscribed as usual. Sometimes, it gets so jammed that you have to log a request online instead of over the phone.

Hurriedly, Carole garbles out that her son has been missing for three days and she’s found his key fob and it must have broken from his keys.

Calm and collected, the operator asks, ‘Do you have a case log number, ma’am?’

BLURB:

It’s so remote out here. Anything could happen …

A missed phone call in the night is all it takes.

When Carole’s 18-year-old son goes missing, she breaks into Jayden’s laptop to try to understand his life.

All too soon, Carole discovers just how little she knew her boy.

And when one lead after another dead-ends, the distraught mother has to face the unthinkable.

Sucked into a sticky web of deceit and lies, nothing is as it seems.

When your life turns 
inside out and upside down, 
who would you trust?


Author BioAuthor, Harmony Kent
After spending around thirteen years as an ordained Buddhist monk, living in a Zen Buddhist temple, and six years after a life-changing injury following a surgical error, Harmony Kent returned to the world at the tender age of forty.

Now, she is famous for her laughter, and has made quite the name for herself … she’s also, um, a writer … and fairly well known for that too. She’s even won a few awards. Harmony lives in rural Cornwall with her adorable husband, ever-present sense of humour, and quirky neighbours.

Harmony is passionate about supporting her fellow authors.

Connect with Harmony at the following haunts:
Website | Story Empire (co-authored)Amazon Author Page | Twitter 
Goodreads | Bookbub

PURCHASE THE VANISHED BOY FROM AMAZON
(U.S. READERS)
OR
UNIVERSAL LINK FOR NON U.S READERS

It’s so true (and sad) what Harmony said in her post about people vanishing into a life online. I love the sound of this book, and can’t wait to dive in. I recommend hopping over to Amazon to one-click. Help Harmony celebrate her release by dropping her a comment then using the sharing buttons to spread the news about The Vanished Boy! Thanks for visiting with us today!

Book Spotlight: I Am Mayhem by Sue Coletta #preorder #womensleuths #crimefiction #bookreview

An open book with rays and orbs of light shooting from the pages

Today I’m shining the spotlight on the very talented, Sue Coletta, who is releasing the long-anticipated fourth novel in her Mayhem series. Shawnee Daniels makes a great MC, and “Mayhem” is one of my favorite book villains. Mayhem’s crows—yes, crows—Edgar, Allan, and Poe, also deserve a mention because they are every bit characters in their own right. Especially Poe.

I was lucky enough to score an ARC of this novel, and am sharing my 5 STAR review at the end of this post. Be sure to take a look and be ready to ONE-CLICK!

Book Description:

As bloody, severed body parts show up on her doorstep, Shawnee Daniels must stop the serial killer who wants her dead before she becomes the next victim.

But can she solve his cryptic clues before it’s too late? Or will she be the next to die a slow, agonizing death?


With crows stalking her every move, Shawnee can barely function. Things worsen when body parts show up on her doorstep. An unstoppable serial killer wants her dead. Mr. Mayhem threatens to murder everyone she loves, sending Shawnee a piece at a time.

As Mr. Mayhem sits in judgement, his cryptic clues must be solved before the final gavel drops. The game rules are simple—win the unwinnable or submit to a slow, agonizing death.

When Shawnee tries to fight back, she discovers her very existence is based on lies. But the full impact of the truth might become the headstone on Shawnee’s grave.

Preorder on Amazon for 99c.

Book will be delivered to your device on April 20, 2021 (release day).

Tirgearr Publishing

Sue Coletta

Author Bio:
Sue Coletta is an award-winning crime writer and an active member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and International Thriller Writers. Feedspot and Expertido.org named her Murder Blog as one of the “Best 100 Crime Blogs on the Net” (Murder Blog sits at #5). Sue also blogs at the Kill Zone, a multi-award-winning writing blog.

Sue lives in the Lakes Region of New Hampshire and writes two serial killer thriller series (Tirgearr Publishing) and true crime (Rowman & Littlefield Group, Inc.). And recently, she appeared on an Emmy award-winning true crime show. Learn more about Sue and her books at: https://suecoletta.com


MY REVIEW:
Wow! I’ve followed this series from book one, and it just keeps getting better. Coletta has penned a wonderfully unique and memorable set of characters—Shawnee Daniels, a (reformed?) cat burglar/computer hacker currently working for the police, her detective boyfriend, and Mr. Mayhem—serial killer, and chameleon-like adversary. Oh, and there are crows. Not just ordinary crows, but birds who are characters in their own right. Mayhem has three crows who do his bidding—Edgar, Allan, and Poe. 

Poe, in particular, is a scene stealer. A charmer with Mayhem, Poe is oil to Shawnee’s water. Nails on a blackboard which makes for intriguing interaction.

In this the fourth book of the series, Coletta builds on the cat-mouse relationship between Mayhem and Shawnee. There is history between these characters, deeply-rooted, so it does help to have an understanding of that going into the novel, especially as this story picks up where book three left off. Stakes are high right off the bat with murder on the menu. As the story progresses, cold-blooded killings mingle with mysticism and Native American beliefs, customs, and folklore. For those who have followed the series, Shawnee’s family background is fleshed out, along with that of Mr. Mayhem, bringing surprising results.  

Shawnee and Mayhem are polar opposites—one street-tough, and gritty, the other cultured but deadly. Parts of this story left me biting my fingernails to see how everything would play out, while other sections had me misty eyed. The suspense is great, but the character development is what makes this one so exceptional. The story wraps with a solid ending but does leave wiggle room should the author choose to continue. As a fan of the series, I can only hope she does. If you enjoy strong characters in a fast-paced tale layered with folklore and Native American themes (think skinwalkers and Tony Hillerman), you won’t want to miss this novel.

*I received a complimentary ARC for an honest review


Intrigued? I hope my FIVE STAR review enticed you. You can grab your own copy of I Am Mayhem from Amazon. Release date is April 20, but you can pre-order through the link below. An excellent read for a mere .99c.

Thanks for visiting today. Please drop Sue a line or two in the comments to help her celebrate her upcoming release.


Preorder on Amazon for 99c.

Book Review Tuesday: House of Sorrow by Joan Hall @JoanHallWrites, The Street Party by Claire Seeber @claireseeber @bookouture #psychologicalfiction

Warm and cozy window seat with cushions and a opened book, light through vintage shutters, rustic style home decor. Small cat on window seat, along with coffee cup by pillow, Words Book Review Tuesday superimposed over image

Thank you for joining me for another Book Review Tuesday. Today, I have a short story from friend and Story Empire colleague, Joan Hall. House of Sorrows serves as an introduction to Joan’s upcoming release Cold Dark Night, the first in her Legends of Madiera series. The second novel, The Street Party by Claire Seeber is the first of many NetGalley ARCs I hope to review in the weeks and months ahead. Both of these excellent novels fall into the category of psychological suspense.


BOOK BLURB:
Dream home or damned home?

Ruth Hazelton is over the moon when her husband Lee agrees the nineteenth-century Victorian in Madeira, New Mexico, is the perfect home for them. While he starts his new job as police chief, she sets about unpacking and decorating.

But it’s not long before Ruth needs more. She becomes a fixture in the community, making time for everyone, volunteering, hosting events—she’s every bit the social butterfly her husband is not. Through her friendships, she learns several former residents of her home met with untimely deaths. If she were superstitious, she might fear a curse, but such nonsense doesn’t faze her.

Until the unthinkable happens.

Now, as the end of Ruth’s life draws near, she must find a way to convey her message and stop the cycle to prevent anyone else from suffering in the house of sorrow.

MY REVIEW:

This short read is set mostly in the 1960s and serves as an introduction to the author’s upcoming Madeira series. Ruth Hazelton and her husband, Lee, have just moved into a beautiful old Victorian home. Lee has accepted a job as Madeira’s new police chief and the world is looking up for them.

Ruth is a wonderful character. Social and outgoing, someone who quickly establishes herself as a friendly face in her neighborhood and community. I particularly liked her friendship with her neighbor Sam. He’s a bit of a curmudgeon, opinionated, but highly likeable at the same time. He also believes in curses. It’s through Sam that Ruth learns several of her new home’s former residents died unexpectedly. The history of the house is a mystery that serves to open the door for Hall’s series.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the way the author wove events from the 1960s into the story. Some are delivered via journal entries from Ruth, others through narrative and dialogue. As someone who has long been fascinated by that time period, those references were highlights for me.

I’m eagerly looking forward to seeing how this series unfolds, and can’t wait for the release of the first full-length novel which will be set in present day. I have a passion for books that combine historical elements, old legends, and contemporary settings. Legends of Madeira promises to deliver all three!

5 STARS


BOOK BLURB:

The party was supposed to be the highlight of the summer. If only I’d known that night would destroy our lives…

All the neighbours were laughing, drinking out of plastic glasses and getting along. I almost felt happy. Almost forgot about the terrible argument earlier and the sinister messages I’d been receiving from a strange address all week, threatening to expose the lies behind my perfect life.

As we finished with the red and gold fireworks and welcomed everyone back to our house, I believed that everything would be okay.

But I didn’t know who I was inviting in.

I never could have imagined what would happen here, in our home, after I’d gone up to bed.

Everyone saw something different.

It’s my daughter’s word against the story the boy from down the road is telling. But how can I find out what really happened that night without everyone finding out the truth about me?

An absolutely gripping story of the secrets you would do anything to keep hidden, with a twist you just won’t see coming. Perfect for fans of Gone Girl, Big Little Lies and The Girl on the Train.

MY REVIEW:
Thank you NetGalley and Bookouture for the ARC!

I was initially drawn to this story by the cover of the book, then I read the blurb which sounded delicious. The Street Party is told from the first person POVs of three different women—Ruby, Melissa, and Nella. Ruby and Melissa are good friends, while uber-rich Nella is a client of Melissa’s (who teaches yoga). When a street party is planned as a community fund-raiser, all three become involved, along with their teenage children.

The novel is written by a British author, so there was a slight adjustment for me with various references and slang. After a while I settled right in, especially as it became clear not everyone was as they appeared. There are enough crackling undercurrents and hidden motives to start a fire. As the lives of the three women and their families unfolded, I had specific opinions about each, but several of those changed over the course of the story.   

The first half of the book is pre-party, with the last half post-party. There is plenty of set-up and several seemingly random events which later come into play. When Nella’s daughter accuses Ruby’s son of inappropriate behavior toward Melissa’s stepdaughter (got that?) it sets off a chain of events that will alter the lives of all three women. The book takes a while to get off the ground, but keeps you flipping pages to discover how it all plays out.

This is a story that looks at what some people are willing to do to fit in, the sacrifices others make without even realizing the hole they’ve fallen into, and the fragility—and strengths—of family and friendships. Several of the plot threads surprised me. There is a large cast of characters but they’re easy to keep track of. By the end of the novel the various threads (and there are many) have all been woven into a neat bow. I wouldn’t term this a thriller as much as slow-build suspense with layers of mystery. Ruby is a strong, likable character. I was really cheering for her and Melissa throughout, but even the less than savory characters are presented in a way to make you understand their actions. Some of the men (and women) are positively wretched but their story arcs are well done. The writing is casual, which makes it easy to say “just one more chapter” which I did on several nights. I would read this author again.

4 STARS


And that’s another wrap for this week on reviews. I hope you’ll come back tomorrow for a Book Spotlight, and on Thursday for a Guest Author post. Both feature new releases from authors I admire and have read before. I can’t wait to share their latest with you! In the meantime, I hope one of the above novels have snagged your attention, or you’re currently immersed in a book that won’t let you rest until you finish it. Aren’t they the best kind?

Happy reading!