Thirty five years ago, Viv Delaney vanished during the middle of her shift as the night clerk at the Sun Down Motel in Fell, NY. There were hints that she didn’t leave on her own–her car was left behind in the parking lot, her purse (and her money) were left behind in the office. Oddly, no one reported her missing for 4 days. The police made a half-hearted attempt to find out what happened to her, but young girls had a habit of disappearing from Fell in those days.
Her aunt’s mysterious disappearance has always haunted Carly Kirk so she travels to Fell to see if she can come up with any clues. On visiting the run-down motel where Viv worked, Carly sees a notice that the hotel is looking for a night clerk—the same position that her aunt disappeared from—and on a whim she decides to apply, thinking it might give her some insight into what happened to Viv. The seedy motel doesn’t seem to have changed at all since her aunt worked there, and Carly quickly comes to realize that there’s something very wrong with the Sun Down Motel. Lights flicker for no reason, doors fly open all on their own, and there’s a mysterious scent of cigarette smoke even when Carly is sure she is quite alone. Certain the motel holds the key to Viv’s disappearance, Carly goes back every night until she’s thinks she might have figured out what happened all those years ago. But is the motel ready to give up its secrets?
I normally don’t read books that edge toward the paranormal, but the amazing cover on this one pulled me in and once I started I couldn’t put this down. The motel itself is as much a living, breathing character as any of the people in the story. It’s seen bad things over the years, and can sense when bad people come around. St. James does a masterful job revealing the story in alternating time lines, switching back and forth between Carly’s story and that of her aunt Viv. The Sun Down Motel is a captivating and chilling psychological thriller.
Part-time bookseller and full-time mystery enthusiast Meike reviewed one of 2020’s hottest thrillers, Liz Moore’s Long Bright River for the BookPeople blog. Check out her thoughts on the novel below.
Long Bright River is one of those genre-defying thrillers that straddles literary fiction and crime fiction with a gripping police procedural that illuminates multiple aspects of the opioid crisis.
Michaela “Mickey” Fitzpatrick is a beat cop patrolling the Kensington neighborhood of Philadelphia—the
same streets where she spent a difficult childhood. Her younger sister Kacey lives on those same streets, turning tricks to feed her addiction.
Once inseparable—the sisters even shared a bed as children in their grandmother’s home—they haven’t spoken in years. But Mickey has always felt responsible for Kacey—
she never stops worrying about her, and always keeps an eye out for Kacey during her patrols.
When a series of mysterious murders rocks the neighborhood, Mickey realizes that she hasn’t seen Kacey in the past few months. Her worries escalate into a borderline obsession with finding her sister — and the killer. Her search forces her to come to terms with trauma that both sisters sustained as children, something that each dealt with differently.
The story is narrated by Mickey, and that makes the narrative a particular gift to the reader — Mickey is not one to share her innermost thoughts with anyone. She’s a woman of action, and keeps her thoughts and fears hidden from most. This structure conveys the bleakness of the deteriorating neighborhood in which Mickey and Kacey have spent their lives. Almost every resident has some connection to the drug epidemic, and has lost someone dear to them. Both Mickey and Kacey have lost pieces of themselves to
Kensington as well.
Long Bright River is available for purchase now from BookPeople in-store and online now!
Kathleen Kent’s The Burn is available for purchase from BookPeople in-store and online now!
Justice is a bitch. And so am I.
This is the declaration from an exciting new heroine created by an equally exciting new author. Lily Wong (or Dumpling to her parents) is The Ninja Daughter, a vigilante straight out of the seventies and eighties paperback original era, but with aspects of Raymond Chandler and creator Tori Eldridge’s experiences, she becomes so much more.
Lily trained in the ninja art of kunicchi to avenge her sister and now uses those skills to help other women with bad men. Her latest crusade is to protect Mia Mikkelson from retaliation from J. Tran, a club owner and rapist she testified against. As Lily goes to work on Tran, she discovers a plot involving Ukrainian mobsters and the L.A. transit system. The huntress becomes the hunted, but the hunters have no idea who they are after.
Many moments of the book play on Lily being underestimated as a female victim. Her parents, a Swedish father and Chinese mother, nicknamed her Dumpling due to her diminutive size . However when a man either gropes or attacks her, he finds his ass getting handed to him, if he’s lucky.
Eldridge grounds all of the genre fun she delivers. An actual practitioner of kunicchi, her fights are well executed, never losing the reader in the action. She also puts in missed landings and strikes that half connect to bring down any comic book feel. She also gives Lily the reality of family life. Her relationship with her mother is reminiscent of S.J. Rozan’s Lydia Chin with her mother or even Jim Rockford’s with his dad, other than there is even more nuance.
Much like Lily, herself, The Ninja Daughter is a beautiful amalgam. Her voice fuses the men’s action paperback with a Chandler-esque take on LA and twists it into an entertaining piece of feminist pulp that keeps a deft foot in reality. I look forward to Lily’s further quests for justice.
The Ninja Daughter is available for purchase from BookPeople now.
Part-time bookseller, Meike, joins us on the MysteryPeople Blog for a guest review of a James Ziskin’s latest, Turn to Stone.
It’s late summer 1963 and “girl reporter” Ellie Stone has traveled to Italy to attend an academic symposium honoring her late father. She’s invited to spend the weekend at an elegant villa just outside Florence, and a possible German measles outbreak means no one can leave. Trapped in a luxurious Tuscan villa with plenty of fantastic food and wine, and a group of scholarly friends who entertain themselves with tales drawn from Boccaccio’s Decameron (and no small amount of flirting), Ellie is enjoying her stay immensely—until the man who organized the symposium is found floating in the Arno, and foul plan is suspected.
Thus begins the perfect set-up for a locked room mystery that has Ellie wondering if one of her new friends could be capable of murder. And leave it to the intrepid and insatiably curious Ellie to seek out the truth and make sure someone is brought to justice.
I’m always so excited to get my hands on a new Ellie Stone mystery, she’s one of my favorite sleuths. Ziskin has crafted a delightfully complex and compelling character—Ellie is virtually alone in the world with no close family, but she’s remarkably brave and resilient. At times she can be lonely and frightened but she’s never intimidated–she’s whip-smart and won’t back down from any challenge. She defies the expectations that society places on a young woman of her time (witness the frequent belts of whiskey) while simultaneously embracing her femininity.
Ziskin is a linguist by training and it shows in the lyricism of his prose. Sprinkled throughout the text are Italian phrases that perfectly convey the temperament of a character, the temperature of a lazy afternoon, the tempo of the music that’s playing. His playful use of the Italian language lends a particularly unique and fun aspect to the story.
Setting a series in a specific era, particularly one that many of his readers may not have lived to experience, presents unique challenges and Ziskin proves himself up to the task–from the fashions to the news stories to the music, his extensive research and attention to detail lend an authenticity to his work that create an immersive experience for his readers.
Just be forewarned, after reading this latest Ellie Stone tale, you’ll find yourself searching for Tuscan villa rentals on HomeAway!
Turn to Stone is available for purchase in-store and online today!
The Long-Legged Fly is available for purchase in-store and online now from BookPeople.