MysteryPeople Review: BEHIND HER EYES by Sarah Pinborough

  • Review by Director of Suspense Molly Odintz

Sarah Pinborough comes to BookPeople this Saturday, February 18th, at 3 PM to speak and sign her new genre-bending psychological thriller of suspense, Behind Her Eyesreviewed below. 

9781250111173When given an opportunity to read master-of-all-genre-fiction Sarah Pinborough’s shocking new thriller, Behind Her EyesI had no idea what to expect – aside from the cover’s promise of a twist at the end. After finishing the book, staring at nothing for a good half hour thinking “wtf just happened?!?!!!,” and rereading various parts of the book to reinterpret the meaning of significant passages in the light of new information, I felt grateful that I came into the book with no expectations. The reader who thinks they know what to expect should just toss that idea out the window right now. You cannot possibly predict that wonderful horrorshow of an ending.

Pinborough’s latest appears, at first, to tell the story of a love triangle. As the tale continues, sinister agendas arise and reshape our perceptions of characters, plotlines, and reality itself. In the elaborate, many layered nature of its twist, Behind Her Eyes conjures the specter of the films The Sixth SenseThe Spanish Prisoner, or any other tale that can be finished and reconsidered in an entirely new light based on the end.

Behind Her Eyes begins with a moral dilemma. A divorcee wakes up with a hangover and a memory of nearly going home with a married man. She heads to work only to discover that her new boss is her almost-lover from the night before, and their desire for each other stretches into the harsh light of sobriety, although their shared workplace gives them an additional reason to deny their baser urges.

Meanwhile, the boss’s wife waits at home, rethinking their arguments and plotting her own escape (or revenge) from what appears to be a loveless marriage.She befriends her husband’s new coworker (and potential love interest), and turns the other woman into a project, ostensibly hoping to restore the young divorcee’s self-confidence, oblivious that there might be any attraction between her husband and his colleague. The two women work out together, shop together, and talk endlessly about the degenerating marriage of the boss and his wife. They begin to mirror each other in their looks and their desires, but to what end?

The imagery of merging and competing with other women in Behind Her Eyes harkens back to the instability of identity in the desired woman. In crime fiction, and film noir, a woman is desired frequently because of her resemblance to or difference from another woman. In order to earn her place in a relationship, she must distinguish herself from the Woman Before by destroying that woman’s reputation, or the woman herself. The Woman Before must meanwhile fight her usurper and keep her man by denigrating her replacement or reestablishing her own primacy as desirable.

Variations on this theme include some classic works of suspense and psychological thrills. The tension between a first wife’s memory and a second wife’s living power in Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca, the uncertainty of identity in the face of odd behavior in Pierre Boileau’s Vertigothe substitution of a murder victim for her lookalike in the homicide squad in Tana French’s The Likeness, and a woman’s search for another, nearly identical woman’s murderer in Megan Miranda’s The Perfect Stranger (coming out April 11th 2017)…All these works, and more, established the tropes honored and exploded by Pinborough’s Behind Her Eyes. Of particular interest to the fan of Behind Her Eyes may be Pierre Boileau’s She Who Was No Moreadapted to film under the title Diaboliques, in which a love triangle between a teacher, his wife, and his mistress devolves into an adulterous murder plot with several twists.

After allowing myself to indulge in this brief moment of analysis, I must take a step back and allow you, dear reader, to find out this novel’s twists and turns for yourself. Use the examples above as a guide to further your reading, if you so choose – and as for the rest of the plot, I’m keeping mum. Suffice to say that Behind Her Eyes is beyond entertaining – and into the far beyond of disturbing.

You can find copies of Behind Her Eyes on our shelves and via bookpeople.comSarah Pinborough comes to BookPeople this Saturday, February 18th, at 3 PM to speak and sign her latest. 

 

MysteryPeople Review: WHAT YOU BREAK by Reed Farrel Coleman

  • Post by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery

9780399173042With Gus Murphy, Reed Farrel Coleman has created one the the most complex and dangerous series heroes of the 21st century. Gus, the divorced ex-Suffolk cop, seeking anonymity as courtesy van driver, bouncer, and house dick for a second rate hotel after the early death of his son, first appeared in the Edgar-nominated Where It Hurts. He chooses to walk on the least solid of ground. We fear for him. He believes that to find his new self, he must destroy his former or current self. This puts his friendships, love life, psyche, and life in jeopardy. In the second book to feature the character, What You Break, we dive further into Gus’ mindset.

Gus finds himself with two cases. He is introduced by his friend, ex-priest Bill Kilkenny, to energy czar, Micah Spears. Spears is willing to to set up a youth sports center in Gus’ sons name, if he can find out why a gang member killed his adopted daughter. The why also plays into the second mystery when a trained killer goes after Gus’s Eastern European friend and co-,worker Slava. Both investigations take Gus to ghosts of past wars and acts of evil no amount of redemption can erase.

Both of these cases are perfect for Gus to explore. While driven by friendship and a need to mark a place for his son in this world, Gus takes on these tasks. What keeps him involved is a need to test himself, challenge his will, and press his luck, thinking he has to die before he is reborn. What he learns about both Slava and Spears give him a glimpse of possible roads he could go down.

The romantic subplot with his girlfriend Magdela, an actress struggling to turn her sex appeal into a career, becomes even more integral in this second outing. It begins as a passionate, heated affair that can consume him and who he was. Magdalena seems chosen for his reinvention. As they begin to feel something deeper, Gus realizes he has something to lose again.

What You Break looks at the aftermath of chaos and dark deeds. Its mysteries delve into question of how do we go on when we can’t completely be put back together. Coleman looks at people who struggle to go on after they can no longer be fully human, making an argument that that is where their humanity lies.

What You Break comes out today! You can find copies of What You Break on our shelves and via bookpeople.comReed Farrel Coleman comes to BookPeople to speak and sign his latest, What You Break on Friday, February 10th, at 7 PM. He’ll be joined by actor, writer and producer Robert Knott, here with his latest continuation of Robert B. Parker’s Hitch and Cole series, Revelation

MysteryPeople Pick of the Month: THE GOOD DAUGHTER by Alexandra Burt

  • Post by MysteryPeople Contributor Meike Alana

9780451488114Central Texas author Alexandra Burt thrilled us in 2015 with her debut, Remember Mia.  Her latest, The Good Daughter, is every bit as suspenseful and atmospheric and is not to be missed.

Dahlia Waller’s childhood memories are murky at best.  As a young girl she led a vagabond existence with her eccentric mother Memphis, living in seedy motel rooms which they often fled in the middle of the night.  As an adult, she wants nothing more than to distance herself from those memories, but she finds she can’t move forward until she gets some answers about her early years.  

Dahlia moves back to the small town of Aurora, Texas to push Memphis for information, but her life is turned upside down when she discovers the comatose body of a young woman while jogging through the woods.  She feels a strange connection with the unidentified young woman and begins having visions while being overcome by unusual scents and sensations.  At the same time her mother begins to unravel, acting more and more strangely until the night she disappears from home.  Upon her return, she causes a fire that displaces the two women.  With nowhere to go, Memphis reveals that she is the owner of a farm that was deeded to her years ago by a woman named Quinn Creel and the two women move into the crumbling farmhouse.

In The Good Daughter, Burt artfully interweaves the story of Dahlia and Memphis with the history of Quinn Creel.  Brutally raped and left for dead by a gang of hunters, the teenage Quinn overcomes her deep shame to marry Nolan Creel, owner of his family’s farm, and believes happiness may be possible.  But the promise of a full life soon fades when Quinn realizes the rape left her infertile; with no children forthcoming, Nolan begins to distance himself from Quinn and she fears she will lose her sole chance at a normal life.  The fiber which binds the two stories becomes tighter as the novel progresses to its deeply disturbing conclusion.

Burt is a master at creepy domestic suspense.  As the parallel story lines progress, the reader becomes increasingly aware of an underlying evil that is brilliantly foreshadowed.  Aurora typifies the dying small Texas town, filled with decaying buildings and struggling small businesses, and lends itself perfectly to the eerie tale.  Pick up a copy of The Good Daughter—you’ll never look at a cricket quite the same way again.

Alexandra Burt joins us Tuesday, February 21st, at 7 PM, to speak and sign her latest. The Good Daughter comes out February 7th – pre-order signed copies!

MysteryPeople Review: AN UNSETTLING CRIME FOR SAMUEL CRADDOCK by Terry Shames

  • Post by MysteryPeople Contributor Meike Alana

97816338820961Terry Shames introduced us to aging lawman Samuel Craddock just over 3 years ago in A Killing at Cotton Hill, the first in a Texas-based mystery series that has quickly become one of our favorites at MysteryPeople. Set in the fictional small town of Jarrett Creek, the series features the former Chief of Police; at loose ends in retirement and mourning the death of his beloved wife Jeanne, Samuel steps in as acting police chief until the bankrupt town can afford to hire a replacement.

Macavity Award winner Shames’ latest, An Unsettling Crime for Samuel Craddock, is a prequel that takes us back to Samuel’s early days in the 1960’s as a woefully inexperienced 20-something police chief confronted by his first serious crime. The Jarrett Creek Fire Department is called to extinguish a fire in the outskirts of town (a section the residents refer to as “Darktown”) and makes a horrific discovery—the blaze seems to have been set to obscure the grisly murder of 5 black youths.

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MysteryPeople Review: WHERE I CAN SEE YOU by Larry D. Sweazy

  • Post by MysteryPeople Contributor Meike Alana

9781633882119In Larry D. Sweazy’s latest foray into the darker side of human nature, Where I Can See You, disgraced Detroit detective Hud Matthews returns to his hometown, the once-thriving lakeside community of Demmie Lake, which has fallen on hard times. Haunted by the disappearance of his mother when he was only 8 years old, Hud is determined to find out exactly what happened to her all those decades ago. But almost immediately after his arrival, the town is rocked by a seemingly senseless murder. While Hud races to find the killer, the body count begins to rise—and it seems that Hud may be the pursued as well as the pursuer as he uncovers long-held secrets that threaten to expose truths that have been hidden for far too long.

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MysteryPeople Pick of the Month: FOR TIME AND ALL ETERNITIES by Mette Ivie Harrison

Mette Ivie Harrison, with her Linda Walheim series, has made it into our top lists and our hearts. Each installment of the series so far has been an MysteryPeople Pick of the Month, and Harrison’s third, For Time and All Eternitiesis no exception. Mette Ivie Harrison joins us Monday, January 23rd, at 7 PM, to speak and sign her latest. 

  • Post by MysteryPeople Blogger Meike Alana

9781616956660At the start of For Time and All EternitiesMette Ivie Harrison’s third installment of her Linda Walheim series, the Mormon bishop’s wife is stunned when her son Kenneth announces his engagement to Naomi, a girl he met only a few months ago.  The surprise gives way to dismay when she learns that Naomi’s family practices polygamy—a practice the Mormon Church has officially disavowed, but which Linda is aware still thrives among certain fringe groups of fundamentalists.  Despite their reluctance, she and her husband Kurt accept an invitation to visit their future in-laws at their remote family compound.  

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MysteryPeople Review: SHOT IN DETROIT by Patricia Abbott

  • Post by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery

9781940610825Patricia Abbott’s Shot In Detroit is a book that challenges the reader. Abbott takes on several uncomfortable topics, more interested in their human truth than couching them in a gentle tone. Set in 2011 in a Detroit still reeling from the financial crisis, Shot In Detroit is half murder mystery, half extremely dark comedy. She even comes close to confronting the reader with the very book in their hand.

Even the protagonist can be initially hard to accept for some. Violet Hart struggles from a few bar mitvahs and weddings as a freelance photographer. At 39, she feels the doors closing on her opportunity to be considered an artist. When her lover, Bill Fontanel, a black mortician, asks her to snap some photos of one of his deceased, she becomes obsessed with a gallery idea, pictures of young dead black men. She gets a gallery interested, working Bill to supply the subjects. When she hasn’t filled the number of subjects she needs, a story that was dark to begin with goes pitch black.

Abbott is less interested in making Valentine relate-able than in nailing her complexity. She realizes you need to know her toughness and self involvement as well as the artistic desperation that she captures spot on, that moves her into her colder actions. She creates an interesting reader-heroine relationship, tightening the reader’s bond with Valentine as she spirals deeper and deeper into an abyss of her own creation.

The story covers many hard issues race, class, death and how we deal with it, and art all tangle upon one another, leading toward the issue of appropriation. Valentine’s photo collection mirrors that of many crime fiction writers, often white, who use the lives and deaths of the disenfranchised, often of color, for their work. Abbott looks deeply into this matter, yet turns any true judgment to the reader.

Fans of the fifth season of The Wire or the cult classic Man Bites Dog should enjoy this modern take on the classic quandary of shooting violence on camera. Abbott judges the reader and her protagonist equally for their shared obsession with observing death, and carefully explores the easily-crossed border between documenting suffering and causing it. Shot In Detroit is a book worthy to read and discussed. Patricia Abbott is honest in both subject and emotion. It may be heavy lifting for some, but it is well worth the weight.

You can find copies of Shot in Detroit on our shelves and via bookpeople.com