The Poison Garden by A.J. Banner

A BarksBeachesBooks Review

Who is really the crazy one in the latest psychological thriller from A.J. Banner, The Poison Garden? Because I’ll be honest, it could have been any of them from the first page. The opening page brings us to Elise Watters running for her life with a quick, pulse raising one-and-a-half-page prologue. And then we are purposely disoriented, being thrown back to the “before” of the chase with a calm ferry ride back to her island home after attending business on the mainland.

Elise has an interesting life though it seems she tried to make it as dull and peaceful as possible. No drama, just simple things that make her happy – a beautiful home surrounded by beautiful gardens, running an herbal boutique. But she did just lose her mother. She just got married. She just started working full time in the herbal shop inherited from her late mother. She also just came home early to catch her husband in the middle of an affair…among other things.

On top of that, she’s unearthing secrets as quickly as you’ll flip the pages of this book. And, she’s sleep-walking?! Not entirely strange in and of itself, but the activities she’s enjoying while doing so are a little suspect.

The duality of all these characters is incredible. There is the crazy woman that her husband was caught with (what exactly is she involved in?). Her neighbor is one of her good friends, but also a grieving schemer. Her ex-husband is around every corner because he’s the island’s go-to Mr. Fix IT…or he’s stalking her. Small island; hard to tell. And then there is Elise’s husband himself, good looking, patient favorite Dr. Kieran Lund. He seems like a good guy who made a mistake. He does everything to make it up to Elise-and I mean everything. They go through a lot in such a short time and he really is holding Elise upright. But it’s either him who’s crazy or Elise. It can’t be both…right?

A.J. Banner does such a great job of misdirection in The Poison Garden that you really won’t know what’s what and who’s after who until the very end. I LOVED the ending. Oh my gosh, just such a good twist! (Let’s be honest, twistS.) I highly recommend this fast paced, psychological thriller with a poisonous touch-it’s just up my alley!

And now, a comprehensive list of people I suspected throughout the book: Everyone.

Enjoy!

TH1RT3EN by Steve Cavanaugh

A BarksBeachesBooks Review

This book was incredible. It was so good in fact that I was sneaking reading in during any possible breaks in work that I could. Shhh, don’t tell on me.

A couple of things about this book:

1) I was about 75% done with the book when I found out that it was the fourth book in the Eddie Flynn series by Steve Cavanaugh.

2) You do not need to read the others to pick this up and know what’s going on. I was immediately sucked in and had a very hard time putting this book down until I was finished reading it.

3) TH1Rt3EN was so good that I immediately called a local book store and had them hold all the other books in the series they had available and am having my sister pick them up as I type this.

4) Mr. Cavanaugh’s writing style reminds me a lot of The Collector Series by Dot Hutchison. They should collaborate and/or create a serial killer writing prodigy child together.

TH1RT3EN alternates between the point of view of the serial killer Joshua Kane and the up-and-coming lawyer and ex-con man Eddie Flynn. Both characters have very different and very entrancing styles of narrative which was a huge plus for me. Kane’s narrative is that of the highly intelligent, narcissistic, and even entitled and cocky serial killer that he is. On the other hand, Flynn is not your typical lawyer. While he is educated and has a law degree, he speaks like a New Yorker. You know the type – that Brooklyn accent? That was how I automatically read Eddie. The dialogue is even written that way. He is a gritty ex-con, now on the good side of the law and using his old tricks to his advantage.

While reading this book I kept thinking it would be so easy to tell who Kane was on the jury since that part is explicitly on the cover. However, Cavanaugh did an excellent job directing you toward the “culprit” and the doing a complete 180. I did not see that reveal coming, and then on top of that there is another twist that I really enjoyed. Without giving away too much, it had to do with the identity of one of the officers. This may or may not be me intentionally leading you in one direction so as not to give it away much in the same way Cavanaugh did to me. (I am.)

This was easily one of my favorite books of the year, and I cannot wait to get the others in the series and race through those as well. That’s another thing about Cavanaugh’s style: the writing is so well done that I flew through the pages trying to figure out Kane’s game and how it would end. Now that it’s over I wish I wish it hadn’t ended. Isn’t that how it always goes?

On A Quiet Street by J.L. Doucette

Synopsis

Stacy Hart has the perfect life: a great job, a perfect fiancé, a beautiful house. Then, Stacy is murdered. But if her life was so perfect then why was she murdered? Detective Beau Antelope is teaming up with Dr. Pepper Hunt to find out why.

Review

Let me just say first, I loved Detective Antelope’s character. He is a Native American officer who left the reserve to pursue the thing he is best at: solving murders. In this book, he teams up with Dr. Pepper Hunt (from the first book, Last Seen) but he does most of the talking. The narrative of this book is different from the first. In Last Seen, Dr Hunt is the lead character. In this sequel, there are a lot of alternating points of view, but Detective Antelope is the main character. He refers often but also superficially to his ancestry as a reason for his moods and behavior. He is a serious but respectful cop with a dry sense of humor. He also seems real – not an over the top action-movie cop, but one who is instead uses his brain. (and when he hits a dead end he does what any smart person would do-he asks a woman!)

Detective Antelope is the leading character in On A Quiet Street. He is pursuing several people of interest in the murder of Stacy Hart. First, Jack Swailes. He was Stacy’s contractor for home improvement, and per her fiancé he was also interested in Stacy as a love interest. That brings us to Connor Collins, Stacy’s hot shot Assistant District Attorney fiancé. As we all know from every true crime documentary ever, the significant other is usually the killer. Of course, Dr. Hunt is also helping – she is brought on a psychological expert with the police department. She is also the therapist for the third person of interest, Max Hunt, Stacy’s brother.

These are just a few of the POVs we see throughout the book, which seems overwhelming until you start reading and realize that they are perfect for this slow burn of a murder mystery. On A Quiet Street builds very slowly, bringing more and more people into the case, some from over 15 years before. The alternating POVs are short spurts of chapters which make for a relatively quick read.

There a few loose ends which I believe are Easter eggs for the third book. For example (not a spoiler but interesting), we are told that Val Campion (Jack Swailes’ uncle) has a rather sordid history that he doesn’t want anyone looking into but at the same time he owns all the seedy joints in town. As you can see there is a lot going on in this book.

Then ending is wrapped up both satisfactorily and unsatisfactorily in my opinion. Of course, we get our final showdown with the killer, but it seemed a little unrealistic to me in how the killer revealed his/herself. BUT, a major theme in this book is sociopathic and narcissistic behavior so it could be completely accurate. (Maybe I just like a lot more drama?) On the other hand, a lot of the loose ends are tied up very nicely which I like. Then there are the ones that were not, which is characteristic of a series. So, I do believe there will be more books…thus more murder and blood for us thriller lovers!

Huge thank you to BookSparks and J.L. Doucette for my free copy to review and share!