Behind Closed Doors by B.A Paris
I was hooked from the beginning by the tone of foreboding. It kept me captivated and quickly turning pages for the first quarter of the book, which is about a woman named Grace, who thought she was marrying the man of her dreams. Part of the reason Jack Angel seemed so great was because Grace has a special needs sister, Millie, who Grace plans to take care of full time once she graduates high school at the age of 18. Jack seems not only fine with Grace becoming a full-part part of their lives (unlike Grace and Millie’s parents, who sent money but otherwise want nothing to do with her). Unfortunately, it’s not for the reasons Grace thinks. Grace is so excited about marrying a man she’s only known six months that she doesn’t worry too much about the fact he wants to buy a house without her seeing it first, and, after the proposal, he tells her he wants her to quit her job because it involves traveling too much and he doesn’t want to be apart from her. She’s reluctant to give up a job she loves, but acquiesces because she’ll have Millie to take care of and wants to start having babies right away.
Grace unfortunately married into a nightmare she can’t escape because he threatens Millie. In the middle of the book, her prison made me feel trapped, too. In that way, the book is not a fun read, but it is compelling because I did want to find out how she got out of this horrible situation. I will say that the last few pages of the book were definitely satisfying.
The Life We Bury by Allen Eskens
Joe is struggling to pay his way through college. He has a bipolar mother who self-medicates with copious amounts of vodka and can’t be depended on to take care of his autistic brother, who is 18 years old but in many ways needs help that’s more like a much younger person.
For one of Joe’s classes, he has to write an biography of someone, and that someone he finds is Carl, a man who spent thirty years in prison for the rape and murder of a 14-year-old girl. Carl is now dying and living out his last days in a hospice and not prison. Carl is a Viet Nam vet who risked his own life to save a friend from certain death during the war. How does Joe reconcile a war hero with the fact that Carl is also a murderer? Quickly, it become obvious that all indications are that Carl wasn’t the murderer, so why did Carl not protest his innocence? Who is the real killer?
Joe, along with his neighbor Lila, team up to solve the mystery. In addition to his job and other classes, Joe has to take care of his brother Jeremy several times when his mother isn’t up to the job. Fortunately, Jeremy’s quirks don’t bother Lila. Joe is conflicted about his desire to get through school, which means keeping his job as a bouncer (which teaches him self-defense techniques that come in handy more than once in the story) and finishing his assignments and also how to care for his brother.
Joe isn’t perfect but he tries hard. The problem with this book is that nothing came as a real twist or surprise. It felt a little too obvious that this was Allen Eskins’ first book and the author was following a this-is-how-to-write-a-mystery formula. In some cases, Joe’s motivations for continuing his search weren’t necessarily believable. It was a fun, quick book, but not the best written mystery I’ve read recently.
All The Missing Girls by Miranda
Nicolette Farrell returns home to the small town where she grew up to help her brother get their father’s house ready to sell—once they can get him to sign the papers over to them. He’s suffering from dementia, sliding back and forth in time, only occasionally recognizing them. Another thing that triggers her to come home is that she receives a letter from her father that says “I need to talk to you. That girl. I saw that girl.”
Ten years ago, Nic’s best friend Corinne went missing. Soon afterward, Nic moved away from her small town, which meant leaving a brother she wasn’t close to, a father who was drunk more often than not, and a boyfriend she once thought she would marry. When she comes back, she’s engaged to a successful lawyer and is happy with the life she carved out for herself in Philadelphia.
Unfortunately, another girl goes missing. Nic knew Annaleise, of course—everyone knows everyone in a small town—but Annaleise is five years younger than Nic, meaning she was just thirteen when Nic left town.
After the opening chapter, the book jumps fifteen days ahead and then starts counting down backwards from there. Because so much of this is told in flashback (meaning remembering ten years ago right before Corinne mysteriously disappeared), you really have to pay attention to where you are in time and who is who. What made me not love the book is that the big twist at the end didn’t seem like all that big a twist to me. I was able to keep reading the book so I could figure out if there was a good reason the author decided to tell the story the way she told it, and also to learn who killed Corinne and, ten years later, Annaleise. To me, the ending was more muddled than satisfying.
I received a copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.