Dr. Sam Statler, a newlywed psychologist, is missing. He and his wife, Annie, recently moved from NYC to his small upstate New York hometown. The move serves two purposes-a fresh start for the couple and to be close to Sam’s ailing mother. Sam’s private practice is located in a charming old building with the perfect landlord. He spends his days listening to the problems of his mostly female clientele and his free time celebrating the small milestones in his marriage. This quiet life suits Sam, which is why Annie can’t believe he would have willingly disappeared. However, the search for her husband reveals that Sam may not be everything she believed him to be.
To be honest, it’s best to go into this book knowing as little as possible about it. Know that it is a strange and twisty story; a first rate psychological thriller. Sam has a reputation in his hometown. His sessions are being listened in on. And who is that French woman? Is Sam really missing or did he disappear? Readers will have questions and the author is stingy with the answers until the stunning truth is revealed. I listened to the audiobook version and at first I struggled with the narrator, but by the end I could not believe how perfect the narration was.
Goodnight Beautiful by Aimee Malloy comes out October 13th. Add it to your TBR list and place a hold today
Mexican Gothic by Silvia Morena-Garcia, a terrifying twist on classic gothic horror, follows the experiences of a courageous socialite in 1950s Mexico who is drawn into the treacherous secrets of an isolated mansion. It is also the subject of the December 17th meeting of our horror book discussion group, Novel Scares. Register now to join us, via Zoom.
True Crime Addict: How I Lost Myself in the Mysterious Disappearance of Maura Murray by James Renner
Investigative journalist James Renner was just eleven in 1989 when ten-year-old Amy Mihaljevic disappeared from Bay Village, Ohio. This disappearance marked the beginning of his interest and obsession with true crime. For many suburban Northeast Ohio children and teens this case was their first introduction to crime and the impact on their lives was immediate. How could something like this happen in broad daylight in a small, white, suburb? This desire for answers led Renner to a career in journalism. Fast forward to 2011. James begins investigating the mysterious 2004 disappearance of Maura Murray, a University of Massachusetts student who vanished following a car wreck in rural New Hampshire. Maura was an athlete, a former West Point cadet, and a nursing student at UMass. On February 9 she emailed professors letting them know she would be absent for a week due to a death in the family. Later that night she was involved in a single car accident hundreds of miles away. By the time help arrived Maura was gone. What happened to Maura Murray? The question remains unanswered today. This case fascinated Renner and dragged him down a rabbit hole of research that took a toll on him personally. True Crime Addict is part investigative journalism, part confessions of a true crime addict.
This is Kevin. He thinks he is the library’s mascot. I don’t have the heart to tell him he’s not really, that he’s just a handsome good boy who can rock a bandanna.
Kevin is probably 9 years old. I rescued him from a shelter about 7 years ago. It’s been a weird relationship since day one. Right before Christmas I lost my dog Lexi. It was terrible and devastating and I vowed to never have another dog again. When life after the holidays resumed I realized that I was lying to myself. I had become a dog person. I needed a dog. So I started watching the APL’s website, searching for my next companion. One day I found her-she was an older golden lab. I was looking for an older dog and lab’s are known family dogs. I needed a dog that was good with kids and other dogs since I spent so much time with my sister’s family. Excited, my sister and I and my 6 and 8-year-old nephews headed down to meet her. I found her kennel and approached to meet her. Everything was fine until the six-year-old approached with me. This sweet looking old girl turned in to Cujo at the sight of him. Teeth bared, snarls, lunging at the cage. Yikes! We quickly backed away and found ourselves in front of a fluffy little ginger dog. He was sitting sitting like a champ, staring at us with those golden eyes. He was practically a puppy and as Conor was OPENING HIS KENNEL I was saying no. But it was too late. I was going to meet Rusty.
The boys and I waited in the meet and greet group for Rusty. My sister ran home to get her dogs. This dog was nuts. He ran around the room completely ignoring all the humans and all the toys. His only interest seemed to be peeing on the walls (this has not changed). The boys were desperate to get his attention, but nothing was working on this spazz. Exasperated, Lucas, the 8-year-old, finally turned to me and said “I don’t think his name is Rusty.” Good point kid. He continued, “It must be something else. Maybe it’s Kevin.” You guys, I am not kidding. This dog’s ears perked up and he came over to us and sat! His name was KEVIN. Now, Lucas didn’t really pull the name out of thin air. They had recently seen Home Alone for the first time. My dog is named for Kevin McAllister…
At this point I had no choice. I knew this stupid dog was coming home with me, despite knowing that he had already been adopted and returned TWICE. Yup. I willingly brought him home. I immediately regretted this decision. For days he did nothing but bark in my face and poop all over the house. I discovered under the piles and piles of fluff he had mange. I learned on day one that he was afraid of cars, or walks, or noise, I don’t even know. He refused to take walks, but he let me stick him in the stationary tub for a weekly mange bath. This dog was a neurotic mess and a mystery to me.
I spent months cursing my nephews, crying, and walking around with hot dogs in my pockets desperately trying to get the hundreds of dollars I had spent on personal training to finally stick. And by training, I mean, going for a walk. I learned a lot about Kevin. Mainly, he does not care about your hot dogs if he doesn’t want to do something. It took what felt like forever, but eventually the baths ended and walks became a daily activity. Now, 7 years on, he still does not care what I think or say to him. His only trick is to sit like a champ. He would live in the car if I let him. He LOVES the vet, even when she is shoving charcoal down his gullet because he ate 3 lbs of Christmas melting chocolate (he was not sorry then, he is not sorry now, and he would totally do it again, vet visit and all). He is the master of the side-eye, loves sleeping in the fireplace, and he actually WANTS me to pet him sometimes. He is still weird and neurotic and frustrating, but I love him to death and can’t image life without this weirdo.
Eve Black was twelve years old when her family-mother, father, and little sister-were murdered in their home. It was only chance that spared Eve. She spent the rest of her childhood with her grandmother never speaking of the events that destroyed their lives. As an adult, Eve became determined to find the serial killer known as the Nothing Man. A college assignment turned into her true-crime memoir, the first step on her journey. Now, she’s on a book tour that takes her back to the scene of the crime and seemingly everyone is reading about her trauma, everyone including the Nothing Man himself. With every page he reads his rage and panic grows. His only loose end has come back to haunt him.
This book ticks all my boxes!
A book within a book
A true crime “memoir”
Pursuit of justice
A potentially unreliable narrator
An Irish setting and Irish audiobook narrators
The story of the Nothing Man is told from two perspectives. Readers experience Eve’s memoir along side Jim Doyle, the sixty-something store security guard who killed the Black family nearly two decades ago. The memoir portion reads as an homage to Michelle McNamara and her quest for the Golden State Killer, while Jim’s unraveling ratchets up the tension. This is a must read for fans of true crime and psychological thrillers.
Thanks to Netgalley and Blackstone Publishing for an advanced audio copy of this book.
It’s been a while since I wrote a pandemic post and since I am tried of writing book reviews I thought I’d muse on the strangeness of the times again. I don’t need to tell any of you that things have changed. Our lives are so different today and I have to say, it’s not all bad. Social distancing has forced us at the library to reimagine how we offer programs to our patrons. It’s been challenging and at times uncomfortable, but reframe that discomfort as part of the growth process, you are now talking about professional development! I have picked up some new skills and gotten to think outside the box a lot over these past months. Here are a few things I am especially proud of:
Pre-Covid we had an in person cooking club, but I figured out how to make that a no-contact program. Cooking kits! Each kit included all the ingredients, a recipe, and instructions on how to properly use a knife to cut the onion and pepper. I am currently brainstorming a fall cooking kit. Any suggestions?
Pre-Covid my colleague and I had a True Crime Book Discussion Group. Early on offered to have a Zoom meeting with our regular attendees. They were not keen on the idea, but we were so excited about our book that we decided to talk about it ourselves! Interested in our discussion of Israel Keyes? Here’s the video! https://youtu.be/rXxloWLfKHA
Finally, the project that took the most time to complete and required me to learn new skills is my virtual escape room. I had planned to offer an in-person, after-hours escape room for our teens this summer. Instead, I had to make it all online. If you are up for a challenge, please give it a try. You can find it on the teen page of our website.
What new skills have you acquired during this pandemic?
Regular readers will remember that I have already shared all of my 5-star YA reads of 2020. It’s now time to start sharing some of my 4-star recommendations.
American Panda by Gloria Chao. Seventeen year old Mei is a pre-med at MIT. Her whole life is already mapped out-become a doctor, marry a parents-approved, successful, Taiwanese guy with an Ivy League degree, and have babies. It’s the least she can do for her parents who have sacrificed everything for her and who have already been betrayed by her older brother. There are a couple of problems with this plan. She is a germaphobe. She loves to dance. Darren is not Taiwanese. This is a funny and heartfelt coming of age story about a young woman stuck between two cultures. It’s also about first love and family secrets and following your passions, all things teens of any ethnicity can relate to. A solid 4-star read.
All Your Twisted Secrets by Diana Urban. What happens when the scholarship dinner you’ve been invited to turns out to be a trap? This debut thriller reads like an Agatha Christie novel. The class valedictorian, the popular girl, the music geek, the stoner, the loner, and the star athlete all think they are being honored with a scholarship. Instead, they are locked in a room with a bomb, a syringe of poison, and a note that tells them to pick a person to die or they all die. The clock is ticking. This is an edge of your seat read that literally takes place over the course of an hour. Will they panic? Escape? Kill someone? This is a wild ride from a new voice in YA thrillers.
One of Us is Nextby Karen McManus. Speaking of thrillers…If you aren’t reading Karen McManus, go do it now. This is the sequel to her hit One of Us is Lying. It’s been a year since the incidents at Bayview High and there is a new game circulating- Truth or Dare and this version is dark and dangerous. This is another strong addition to the YA thriller genre. I am definitely a fan of the author and look forward to more great reads by her.
Deadly Little Secrets by Jennifer Lynn Barnes. Here’s another thriller and a sequel. I am a huge fan of Jennifer Lynn Barnes and will read anything she writes. This one picks up whereLittle White Lies leaves off. If you like southern charm and wicked family secrets and secret societies, you really need to read the Debutantes series. What I love about all of Barnes’ books is that there is plenty of humor to cut through the tension of her rather dark tales.
The Queen of Nothing by Holly Black. This one is actually the final book in the Folk of the Air trilogy. You’ll want to start with The Cruel Prince, followed by The Wicked King. I always think I do not enjoy stories about the fae, and yet, any time I decide to read one, I like it, so I guess I am wrong about myself! Holly Black knows her stuff. She is the queen of the fairy tale and she returns to her fairy roots with this brutal and twisty trilogy. It’s full of magic and betrayal and the ending is fantastic. Highly recommend.
Paul Adams hasn’t been back to his childhood village in twenty-five years. He left everything, including the horrible crime committed by his classmate Charlie Crabtree, behind. It’s his mother’s failing health that has brought him reluctantly back home. There is no joyful homecoming for Paul. His mother is distraught, something horrible is in his childhood home, someone is following him, and he has caught the attention of Detective Amanda Beck. Detective Beck is investigating a crime that is eerily similar to one that happened twenty-five years ago. Is it a strange coincidence that Paul is suddenly back in town? Is Charlie Crabtree back? What did happen to Charlie?
This new offering from the author of The Whisper Man, is a haunting psychological thriller with strong Stand By Me vibes. The story alternates between the past and Paul’s recollection of the crime and the present as Paul struggles to reconcile his memories with what is happening in this new case. The tension builds slowly as the the strange truth behind both cases is slowly and deliberately revealed. The skillful narration of Hannah Arterton (Safe, The Five on Netflix) and John Heffernan (Johnathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, Collateral) bring the story to life and draw the listener in.
The Shadows is a great pick for readers and listeners who enjoyed The Chalk Man and other titles by C.J. Tudor and the Family Upstairs and other titles by Lisa Jewell.
Thanks to Netgalley and Macmillan audio for an advance reader/listener copy for review.
I have been spending a lot of time lately adding content to the library’s new true crime book discussion Facebook group page. We are the Riverinos and we’d love to have you in the group. If you are looking for more book, podcast, and tv reviews please join us.
Here’s a little taste of what you’ll find in the group:
Good Kids, Bad City: A Story of Race and Wrongful Conviction in Americaby Kyle SwensonOn May 19, 1975, Harry Franks, a white salesman, was robbed, assaulted, and murdered in broad daylight in Cleveland’s University Circle neighborhood. Three black youth were sentenced and spent a combined 106 years in prison for the crime. The murderer was never caught. The entirety of the prosecution’s case against Wiley Bridgeman, Kwame Ajamu, and Ricky Jackson was based on the eye-witness testimony of 12-year old Ed Vernon. Nearly 40 years later Vernon recanted his story, revealing that the police used fear and coercion to convince him to tell the story they wanted him to tell.In Good Kids, Bad City, journalist Kyle Swenson weaves the personal stories of the young men who were sentenced to grow up in prison with the corruption and injustice that plagued the city of Cleveland and the Cleveland police department. Swenson’s narrative is a scathing indictment of systematic discrimination that continues to this day.