Category Archives: Suspense/Mystery

Review: The Weight of Silence by Heather Gudenkauf

silenceTitle: The Weight of Silence

Author: Heather Gudenkauf

Genre/Pages: Fiction/373

Publication: Mira; July 28, 2009

Rating: 3.5 BOOKMARKS

Employing multiple narrators, Heather Gudenkauf weaves a suspenseful novel about two young girls who go missing from their beds early one summer morning.

In the pre-dawn hours of an August morning in Iowa, seven-year-old Calli Clark is violently dragged into the woods against her will.  Her fear is palpable, but Calli can’t call out for help because she suffers from selective mutism.  Nearby, Petra Gregory, Calli’s best friend and voice, is lured from her own bedroom after spying something from her window.  Does she see her friend or is it someone more sinister?

As the novel progresses, the narrators shift with each new chapter.  We take in the story through the eyes of Calli, her mother Antonia, her older brother Ben, Petra’s dad, and Deputy Sheriff Louis.  Through each of their narratives, we get the backstory about Calli’s mutism, the family dynamics of the Clark household, life in the Gregory house, and Antonia’s relationship with Louis.

Gudenkauf gives Calli a voice as a narrator despite the fact that she doesn’t speak, while Petra, Calli’s mouthpiece in life, remains silent–her perspective of the story untold.  Anxiety builds as the novel progresses and suspicion is cast on several characters.  Compounding the fear is the  local unsolved murder of another little girl who went missing from her bedroom.  Will Calli and Petra meet the same end?

The Weight of Silence is such a page-turner–I read it in one night, staying up until the wee hours to finish it!  The novel is rife with symbols–the woods, the yellow house, the music note chain–and themes of family, friendship, substance abuse, and loss.   This book would be ideal for a book club selection and comes with discussion questions at the end of the novel. 

Thanks to TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to review this book!


Review: Best Intentions by Emily Listfield

intentions1Title: Best Intentions

Author: Emily Listfield

Genre/Pages:Fiction, Suspense/352 pages

Publication: Atria; May 5, 2009

Rating: 3.5 BOOKMARKS


Blending a well-written novel with a suspenseful mystery, Emily Listfield finds success with Best Intentions.

Could this be the dawning of a new subgenre–quality women’s lit meets suspense novel?  All I can say is Listfield writes some terrific prose while spinning a suspenseful, red-herring laden story that kept me guessing until the end!

The novel focuses on four adults with an intertwined and long history–Sam and Lisa, college sweethearts who are now married with two children, and Deirdre and Jack who had a passionate and thrilling relationship in college but went their separate ways soon after–but did they miss their one chance at true love?  Jack later marries another woman, but as the story starts, he’s coming to New York City for a reunion with his two friends and old flame.

Sam’s fidelity is immediately called into question with late-night phone calls and white lies.  Deirdre pulls away from Lisa, avoiding calls and skipping their weekly breakfasts.  Jack makes several return trips to New York City (from Boston) to interview with a mysterious company.  Who can we trust?

Simultaneously, several subplots develop.  Lisa’s involvement on a fund raising committee at her daughters’ tony private school exposes her anxiety and feelings of insecurity; Sam’s frustration and desperation ratchet up as he doggedly pursues leads in an attempt to write  another successful exposé on a Corporate America scion; Deirdre’s on-again, off-again relationship with the brooding and artistic Ben, a famous photographer who pushes their physical relationship to the borderline  of violence.  When Lisa’s job is threatened during a merger, things take an even dicier turn as she begins to take help from a dark and mysterious stranger who makes Lisa feel beautiful and protected, something Sam hasn’t done for years.   

Add to all this a murder and a race to find the killer.  No character is safe from the suspicious eyes two NYC detectives.  A riveting read with excellent use of foreshadowing and suspense, I was anxious to find out whodunit–and fast!  

Despite the fact that Listfield created some terrific imagery in respect to New York City and the other characters, I had difficulty cobbling together a physical description of Lisa.  Listfield’s spare usage of physical characterization for her–p. 9 we learn she has an olive complexion, p. 15 describes her ‘shoulder-length hair…thick, dark waves…’, p. 33 tells of her ‘hourglass…figure’–left me with a hazy image of a brunette protagonist.  As the story goes on, we get a few more nuggets, but I felt like a detective trying to glean clues. 

That minor quibble aside, this book was a great read and I enjoyed it thoroughly!  Quality writing, credible characters, and a solid story make Best Intentions a novel to add to your TBR pile! 

Thanks to Lauren for the review copy!

Review: Bone by Bone by Carol O’Connell

bone2Title: Bone by Bone

Author: Carol O’Connell

Genre/Pages: Suspense/Mystery; 352 pages

Publication: Putnam; 12/30/2008



I’ve never read any of Carol O’Connell’s other novels, but do enjoy suspense stories.  Bone by Bone is a quirky mystery in which no character is safe from suspicion!

Set in California, Bone by Bone recounts a 17 year old missing person case.  One by one, human bones are being left on the Hobbs family’s front porch.  The patriarch, a retired judge, suspects the bones are those of his son, Josh, who has been missing for almost 20 years.  The prodigal son,  Oren, returns home after an almost 20-year exile to help solve his brother’s case.  Despite an eccentric cast of characters and terrific premise, the execution of this novel wasn’t what I thought it would be.

Bone by Bone contains so many red herrings that I began to crave Swedish fish candy.  The plot moved along and there was a good deal of characterization, but it was all lost on me–I was drowning in a sea of suspicion. 

Another reviewer compared Bone by Bone to a Seurat painting–what appears, from close up to be only a jumble of colors, transforms into a stunning painting as you pull back.  I thought this was a brilliant analogy.  As I was reading, I couldn’t see the big picture; after I finished this novel, I was able to appreciate it.

O’Connell has a huge following and her Kathleen Mallory novels are really popular.  I may try one of those because I do love the genre and don’t want to miss out just because one book left me a bit underwhelmed.