A Midsummer’s Equation by Keigo Higashino

For Professor Yukawa the invitation to speak at a conference concerning underwater mining held at a once popular seaside resort, seemed like an opportunity to get away from his work, enjoy the scenery and relax. But when a body is found on the rocks below the cliffs his time away becomes more unsettling than relaxing.  At first it the police assume that the man must have stumbled to his death walking along an unfamiliar path, but when the man is identified as a former police officer and the cause of death determined to be carbon monoxide poisoning, the investigation becomes much more complicated.  Suddenly Yukawa, also know as “Detective Galileo” because of  his collaboration with the police in other complicated cases, is called in to assist in the investigation. As Yukawa uses his finely tuned observational skills and acute understanding of human nature he begins to unravel the complicated relationships and motivations which resulted in this death.

Higashino is known for his intricate plots, filled with complicated twists and turns that hold the reader in suspense until the very end. Like his previous books, Salvation of a Saint and Malice, Higashino explores the dark side of humanity with empathy, even while bringing those who have done wrong to justice.

Brenda’s Rating: ****(4 Out of 5 Stars)

Recommend this book to: Marian, Sharon, Keith and Ken

Book Study Worthy? Sure!

Read in ebook format

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

The Widow by Fiona Barton

I always wonder what it must be like to be close to someone under suspicion or investigation for a heinous crime. First there must be the shock of it all, the constant news cycle and the glare of publicity. At some point though, questions must arise, and as the investigation continues you must feel completely out of control and at some point there must be a growing fear that you must have missed some signs along the way.

Jean Taylor’s husband has died in a tragic accident. Although she is devastated by his death, in some ways it is a relief as he was suspected of  kidnapping of a little girl. Although he was investigated, in the end because of police misconduct and lack of evidence Glen was released. But it was impossible to get back to normal life as the suspicions raised by the  sensational news coverage of the investigation cast a pall over Glen wherever he went. For Jean, who stood by him and vouched for him, it was a trying time. Now maybe with his death she can regain her anonymity and a normal life again.

But for Kate Waters, a journalist and DI Bob Sparkes the case of the missing little girl is still not over. It always seemed that Glen’s widow, Jean, knew more about what happened then she ever revealed. With Glen gone, they believe they have another chance to find out what happened.

Seemingly ripped from the headlines of today’s news, Barton explores the complicated dynamics when you are married to a person accused of kidnapping and murder. Told from the alternating perspectives of the widow, the journalist and the detective, we slowly see the destructive impact such accusations can have on a marriage, the race to get the interview no matter what the cost and the urgency with which the police conduct such an investigation, even if it means taking short cuts that they may later regret.

Brenda’s Rating: ****(4 Out of 5 Stars)

Recommend this Book to: Sharon, Marian and Keith

Book Study Worthy? Yes

Read in ebook format.




Posted in Detective novel, Fiction, Literary Fiction, Mystery, Mystery/Detective, Psychological Mystery, Suspense | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

In the Midst of Winter by Isabel Allende

As issues around immigration have come to dominate the news cycle this year, this book by Isabel Allende could not be more prescient or timely. A story told by three people who unexpectedly encounter one another under bizarre and terrifying circumstances, their stories of loss, the meaning of  “home,”the will to survive, and the power of love are both heartbreaking and uplifting.

Lucia had been living in the basement apartment of her boss and colleague, Richard Bowmaster for a few months. It has been a difficult transition moving from Chile to Brooklyn, and although Richard has been kind enough to let her use his apartment until she finds a place of her own, he has not been the most attentive landlord. Now after the biggest snowstorm in recent memory, she is still trapped in her apartment with the stairs and walkway still unshoveled.  So when Richard calls and asks her to quickly come upstairs to his apartment she is a bit put out and plans to give him a piece of her mind. When she arrives, however, she is greeted by a panicked Richard and a crying young woman named Evelyn, an undocumented nanny for a family in the neighborhood.  Slowly, Lucia gets Evelyn to calm down and talk and it turns out that earlier in the day Richard, while doing some errands in his car, had inadvertently slipped in the snow and rear ended Evelyn’s car. It was just a small fender bender, but it had damaged the latch on the trunk of Evelyn’s car. Richard had told her he would contact his insurance and have it fixed, and thought the matter was taken care of, but then Evelyn showed up on his door step, crying as if the world had ended. Which in some ways it had, since Evelyn has used the car without the permission of her family, and there was something in the trunk of the car that could completely change her life.

As three people in a brownstone in Brooklyn try to decide what to do and how to help Evelyn, we learn their difficult stories of love and loss. For each it has been a different path: Evelyn’s difficult and treacherous journey fleeing MS-13 and certain death in Guatemala; Lucia’s complicated life in Chile and the political unrest that changed her life and family, and Richard’s bout of alcoholism and the loss of his wife and daughter. But somehow in that snow bound brownstone something new emerges, and together their lives are forever transformed.

Brenda’s Rating: *****(5 Out of 5 Stars)

Recommend this book to: Keith, Sharon, Lauren and Marian

Book Study Worthy? Yes, and the ebook contains book study questions!

Read in ebook format.


Posted in Fiction, Literary Fiction, Mystery, Suspense | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

The Book of Secrets by Elizabeth Arnold

Nate and Chloe have known each other since they were young children. At that time they bonded over the Narnia series of books by C.S. Lewis which they read together with his sisters and mother-the reclusive Sinclair family.  Now many years later they are married and living the life they have always dreamed by owning a lovely but labor intensive Victorian mansion with a specialty bookstore on the ground floor and living space upstairs. They had suffered a tragedy early in their marriage which caused them to leave the town of Redbridge to get away from anything that might remind them of what had happened. After buying the old mansion they had thrown themselves into renovating it as a way of rebuilding their lives and marriage.

But then one day Chloe returns home after running errands and finds this note on the kitchen table:

Someone, I don’t remember who, said that life is like a beautiful melody with messed up lyrics. I never really understood that until just now. Something’s happened very suddenly, something truly “messed up,” and I need to go back to Redbridge tonight. I tried to call your cell but it must’ve been off. I’m not sure when I’ll be back, I t may be awhile, but I’ll call as soon as I know more.


As the days pass without word from Nate, Chloe retreats into the painful past. The memories are complicated and somehow unstable.  She finds a journal that Nate had been writing hidden in and old copy of The Lion, the Witch and Wardrobe. It is in the code that they had used as children and as she slowly decodes his words the past begins to take shape in terrifying ways.  She had always known that the Nate’s family, were odd and reclusive, but she begins to fear that they may have had something to do with Nate’s disappearance and the tragic incident that has haunted their lives. As Chloe digs deeper, she realizes that in order to find Nate, she must confront the past, so together they can heal.

Brenda’s Rating: ***1/2 (3 1/2 Out of 5 Stars)

Recommend this book to: Lauren, Marian and Sharon

Book Study Worthy? Yes

Read in ebook format.


Posted in Fiction, Mystery, Psychological Mystery, Suspense | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

The classic tales of Greek heros and gods have always intrigued me. What was their purpose in telling these stories? What were they trying to explain? The complicated relationships between the gods and humans and the un-godlike behavior and emotions ascribed to the gods seemed strange and contradictory. But Madeline Miller takes all of these ingredients and re-imagines these stories and their contradictions and creates a context where they come to life in profound ways.

The Iliad tells the story of the Trojan War started by Paris, a prince of Troy stealing Helen, the most beautiful women in the world from a Greek King.  Achilles, greatest warrior of his time, is also called to fight with the Greeks but he does so reluctantly causing distrust and suspicion in the other kings, especially Agamemnon. This distrust comes to a head when Agamemnon claims the slave girl, Bries, who had been given to Achilles as his share of war booty. Achilles feeling that his honor has been violated refuses to fight any further and the  tides of war turn against the Greeks quickly, with the Trojans breaking into the Greek encampment and threatening to rout them. Seeing the danger they are in Patroclus, Achilles’ friend and companion, puts on Achilles armor and gets in his chariot and rallies the Greeks and turns the tide and almost breaches the walls of Troy before he is stopped by Hector of Troy who kills him. Distraught by the death of Patroclus, Achilles ferociously seeks revenge for his death. Challenging Hector in single combat, Achilles kills him and then in defiance to tradition and the gods, desecrates Hector’s corpse by dragging him around the city until Paris kills Achilles by shooting an arrow from the walls of the city of Troy.

From these bare bones, Miller weaves a story of love, honor, the burden of enormous expectations and the misery of stubbornness told from the perspective of Achilles friend, companion and lover, Patroclus who reveals Achilles with both a clear eyed reality and a deep abiding love-showing us both his profound strengths and destructive weaknesses. Miller who is both a scholar and teacher of the Classics, has created something uniquely original while giving homage to these classic texts of western civilization.

Brenda’s Rating: *****(5 out of 5 Stars)

Recommend this book to: Sharon, Marian, Lauren and Keith

Book Study Worthy? Yes

Read in ebook format.


Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Two Kinds of the Truth by Michael Connelly

These books by Michael Connelly about Detective Bosch are some of my favorite detective novels. Bosch is both noble and broken.  He is a great detective but terrible at relationships. He has trouble realting to his daughter, his half brother, his former partner, and most of all the powers that be in the police department. He has burned more bridges than there are bridges in California, and yet he is scrupulous, meticulous and unafraid of where the facts will lead as an investigator.

In this installment we find that Bosch is working cold cases for the San Fernando Police Department, in exile from the LAPD for misconduct. There he works in the storage room, trying to bring justice to the victims of cases that have been forgotten. But when there is a double murder at a local drugstore, Bosch is called in to add his expertise and experience to find who killed the owners of the pharmacy-an immigrant father and son who seemed to dispense an unusually large number of opioid perscriptions.

Meanwhile, a man who Bosch put away for murder many years ago suddenly claims that he was wrongfully accused, charged and convicted and purports to have evidence to prove it. With his support in the LAPD weak to none, Busch must defend himself with little outward support from his former colleagues.  What is even more problematic is that if he cannot defend himself and put the doubts to rest, this allegation could call into question all of the other cases that Bosch worked on as well.

With two cases with so much at stake, Bosch is pushed to the limits while he learns that there are two kind of truth: one that sets you free and one that keeps you buried in darkness.

Brenda’s Rating: ****(4 Out of 5 Stars)

Recommend this book to: Sharon and Marian

Book Study Worthy? Just Enjoy!

Read in ebook format

Posted in Detective novel, Fiction, Legal Procedural, Mystery, Psychological Mystery, Series, Suspense | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

Gillian Flynn has a reputation for unexpected plot twists, unreliable narrators and surprising characters as in her runaway best seller Gone Girl.  In Sharp Objects, (now a HBO series) which was written prior to Gone Girl, Flynn shows she was a master in creating complicated and unique characters and thrilling plot twists from the very beginning.

Camille Parker’s editor has assigned her the plum job of reporting on the investigation into the two murders of two young girls. Normally Camille would have jumped at the chance to do some really good investigative reporting. But covering the story also meant returning to her hometown in rural Missouri where her controlling hypochondriac mother and her 13 year old step sister that she barely knows live. Further complicating matters, Camille has just been discharged from a short stay in the psych ward, and is still feeling a bit vulnerable and unsteady. Yet this is a chance most reporters look for all their lives, and Camille is hopeful that the murders might be solved quickly, allowing her to write an award winning story while still limitting her contact with her dysfunctional family.

Once she arrives in her hometown however, Camille realizes that her hopes of a quick resolution are unlikely to come true. The police have no suspects and even the FBI agent who is helping with the investigation seems stymied. As Camille interviews the victims’ families and tries to pump the FBI agent for information, she too becomes frustrated by the lack of any leads or motives for their murders. Instead of making progress on the story, Camille finds that she is sinking into old patterns with her neurotic mother and begins to notice that her sister is deeply affected by her mother’s hypochondria and controlling behavior. Trying to support and bond with this sister that she barely knows, Camille begins to notice that despite her age, her sister exerts a strange hold on many of the kids in her school. As her stay in her hometown grows longer, Camille begins to feel her hold on reality is slipping as she struggles to understand the complicated motives behind the murders and her complicated relationship with her mother and stepsister. As she struggles to hold it together, Camille begins to understand that her past may provide answers to the present, if she just has the strength to face her deepest fears.

In Camille we have both a tragic and courageous character, an unreliable and yet fully truthful narrator. Flynn combines this with a truly harrowing and twisty plot line and the result is a pulse pounding, non stop thriller!

Brenda’s Rating: ****(4 out of 5 Stars)

Recommend this book to: Sharon, Marian, Lauren and Keith

Book Study Worthy? Yes!

Read in ebook format.



Posted in Fiction, Mystery, Psychological Mystery, Suspense, Thriller | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment