Suspense with Spice | The Girl Who Was Taken | #KimsKaffeeKlatsch

How has your reading month been? Feel like a suspense mystery with a twist or two in its tale? Buckle up, because Charlie Donlea’s The Girl Who Was Taken is going to take you on a tale full of blind corners, unexpected twists, red herring detours and an ending that you won’t see coming. Make yourself your favourite beverage – I recommend my Perfect Pairing of Moroccan Spiced Coffee *recipe at the bottom of this post* – curl up in your favourite reading corner and start reading The Girl Who Was Taken.


About The Girl Who Was Taken

Two women – one, the sister of a missing girl; the other, a victim who escaped – come together to unmask a killer in this heart-stopping thriller. 

Her truth is only half the story . . . 

Megan McDonald is a high school senior when she disappears from the small town of Emerson Bay. Hope for her safe return is nearly lost until, after two weeks held captive, she escapes from a bunker hidden deep in the woods.

Now, one year later, the bestselling account of her ordeal – Missing – has turned Megan from local hero to national celebrity. It’s an inspiring story, except for one inconvenient detail. A second girl went missing that night. Her classmate, Nicole Cutty.

Dr. Livia Cutty is a fellow in forensic pathology, training at the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in North Carolina. Her sister, Nicole, has been missing a year when the body of a young man – an apparent suicide – shows up in the morgue and offers Livia the first clue to Nicole’s fate. Livia reaches out to Megan for help, hoping to learn more about the night the two were taken. Others girls have gone missing, and Livia is increasingly certain the cases are connected.

But Megan is reluctant. She knows more than she has revealed. As flashes of memory continue to return, she realizes her blockbuster book is filled with lies, and that digging too deeply into the night she escaped from that bunker might reveal something darker and more monstrous than anything her chilling memoir describes.

The truth is only half the story…

Just when you think you have the answers to this suspense mystery, Charlie Donlea leads you down another twisted forest path that veers you off the road. 

This is a story about a girl who was taken and her sister who cannot move on with her life without getting answers to her questions. But this is only the surface of a story that will keep on leading you down dark, twisted pathways never knowing when you’ll finally find your way out of this maze of mystery. This is also a story about how dangerous curiosity can be when taken too far. 

I thoroughly enjoyed The Girl Who Was Taken. I adore mysteries that are true mysteries, the ones that keep you guessing and wondering if the bread crumb the author just dropped is a clue or a red herring. Charlie Donlea successfully keeps up the mystery in this taughtly crafted suspense. The characters in this story are multi-layered and the story told through multiple view points and two parallel timelines keeps you guessing in a well plotted maze of an arc that will surprise you with its sharp curtain-drop ending.

The premise of this story is more than just a missing persons case. This is a story about how well you know, or think you know those around you whether it is your sibling, your child, your parent, your friend or your co-worker. It is a story about secrets. The secrets we keep from ourselves, the secrets we keep from others and the secrets that threaten our very foundations. This is a story that anyone can relate to. How far would you go to find a missing loved one? What questions would you be willing to ask? What answers are you willing to face? 

If you like your mysteries spiced with more than a few red herrings, and you love a good maze then The Girl Who Was Taken will be the book that will lead you down twisted paths deeper and deeper into the heart of a story that will keep you turning the pages wondering if you even have the right map. 

Charlie Donlea surprised me with his strong debut but he has delighted me with The Girl Who Was Taken. I can’t wait to see what he comes up with next.

The Girl Who Was Taken has all the right ingredients and just enough surprising spices in a well crafted mystery suspense to get a solid 5 star Coffee rating from me.

☕️       ☕️       ☕️       ☕️       ☕️

[I would like to thank Netgalley, the Publisher and the Author for this ARC in exchange for a fair and honest review.]

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What is a good book without coffee?? What is a Kaffeeklatsch without the Kaffee…

For “The Girl Who Was Taken” I recommend a carafe of Moroccan Spiced Coffee. This is a story that at first glance seems like a standard mystery but as you turn each page the story twists your original judgement on its head and then twists it again. This coffee appears like a standard coffee, only the exotic aroma tempts you closer to draw in more of that aroma. So make yourself a carafe of this exotic deliciousness and sit down in your favourite reading corner with “The Girl Who Was Taken”.

Tell me, What book/s + coffee (Or Preferred Poison) is keeping you up at night?

On the Run… | April | #KimsKaffeeklatsch

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be someone else? Have you ever wanted to switch lives with someone else? Have you ever wished you could just start over? It seems like an innocent enough wish but identity is more than just a name. Identity is a story we tell ourselves. But what happens when that story is more fiction than fact… How do you separate the truth of who you are from the lie of who others think you are? Today’s book The Passenger explores these intriguing questions. So sit back, get comfortable, make yourself a strong beverage (I suggest my recommended Kaffee Pairing), keep your wits about you and let’s go on the run with…

In case you were wondering, I didn’t do it. I didn’t have anything to do with Frank’s death. I don’t have an alibi, so you’ll have to take my word for it . . . .

From the author of the New York Times bestselling Spellman Files series, Lisa Lutz’s latest blistering thriller is about a woman who creates and sheds new identities as she crisscrosses the country to escape her past: you’ll want to buckle up for the ride!

Forty-eight hours after leaving her husband’s body at the base of the stairs, Tanya Dubois cashes in her credit cards, dyes her hair brown, demands a new name from a shadowy voice over the phone, and flees town. It’s not the first time.
She meets Blue, a female bartender who recognizes the hunted look in a fugitive’s eyes and offers her a place to stay. With dwindling choices, Tanya-now-Amelia accepts. An uneasy―and dangerous―alliance is born.

It’s almost impossible to live off the grid today, but Amelia-now-Debra and Blue have the courage, the ingenuity, and the desperation, to try. Hopscotching from city to city, Debra especially is chased by a very dark secret . . . can she outrun her past?

With heart-stopping escapes and devious deceptions, The Passenger is an amazing psychological thriller about defining yourself while you pursue your path to survival. One thing is certain: the ride will leave you breathless.

Let’s Klatsch about this Book

From the first line in this book I was intrigued. As the story developed, I kept on wanting to turn the pages to have my questions answered. Who was this protagonist really? What had she done to make her run? Was she someone I should sympathise with or did her story hold more lie than truth? Was she a reliable narrator of her story or was her story just another smokescreen? 

Haven’t we all, at one point or another, fantasised what it would be like to switch lives with someone else, even if for just a day? But the decision would be a very different one if you were forced to switch identities because you were on the run. 

This is what the protagonist in this story is forced to do. Most of the story will have you guessing, hypothising and constantly asking questions. You’re not told the truth or the reasons until the very end of this story. You won’t necessarily agree with every choice the Protagonist makes but if you put yourself in her shoes, you’ll understand that when you’re truly on the run – not out of desire but out of necessity – sometimes you have to go with the decision that is the quickest and not necessarily the best. 

Lisa Lutz is a new author to me and this is her first book in the “thriller” genre. In The Passenger she has crafted an intriguing premise of a story and she takes you on a journey of twists and turns, both literally as her main character crisscrosses the country and psychologically as the character’s real story is hidden between tricks of mirrors and smoke screens. 

I read this book through in one sitting. I give it a 4 stars/coffees rating because for me this was a mystery suspense and not a thriller. It also rates 4 stars because the story with its intriguing premise will keep you turning the pages. You won’t always like the protagonist and often her choices and decisions will frustrate you but you’ll want to keep turning the pages to see if she will redeem herself and if you’ll finally get to the truth of her story. Intrigued? You’ll have to just read The Passenger for yourself.

☕️ ☕️ ☕️ ☕️

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[I would like to thank Netgalley, the Publisher and the Author for the ARC of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review.]

Time for the Kaffee to our Klatsch

This story calls for a clear head with an extra jolt of keep-alert caffeine as the protagonist goes on the run constantly switching identities in The Passenger. It’s going to take a few red eyes to keep all the stories straight. 

The Red Eye (Also known as “Shot in the Dark” or “Eye Opener”) is the perfect coffee pairing for The Passenger.


Tell me, What book/s and coffee (or other preferred poison) is keeping you up at night?

Prepare to be disturbed… |April| #KimsKaffeeKlatsch

It’s been too long since my last KaffeeKlatsch so I thought I would resume my KaffeeKlatsch posts with a book that you won’t forget once you take the risk of reading it. As usual, I will be recommending a perfect coffee pairing to match this book. So, grab your favourite beverage, get comfortable and let’s klatsch this week’s book and what Coffee I’ve chosen for this reading session… Then I dare you to get your own copy of this book. But only if you’re prepared to be disturbed… 

  ABOUT PERFECT DAYS

A twisted young medical student kidnaps the girl of his dreams and embarks on a dark and delirious road trip across Brazil in the English-language debut of Brazil’s most celebrated young crime writer.

Teo Avelar is a loner. He lives with his paraplegic mother and her dog in Rio de Janeiro, he doesn’t have many friends, and the only time he feels honest human emotion is in the presence of his medical school cadaver—that is, until he meets Clarice. She’s almost his exact opposite: exotic, spontaneous, unafraid to speak her mind. An aspiring screenwriter, she’s working on a screenplay called Perfect Days about three friends who go on a road trip across Brazil in search of romance. Teo is obsessed. He begins to stalk her, first following her to her university, then to her home, and when she ultimately rejects him, he kidnaps her and they embark upon their very own twisted odyssey across Brazil, tracing the same route outlined in her screenplay. Through it all, Teo is certain that time is all he needs to prove to Clarice that they are made for each other, that time is all he needs to make her fall in love with him. But as the journey progresses, he digs himself deeper and deeper into a pit that he can’t get out of, stopping at nothing to ensure that no one gets in the way of their life together. Both tense and lurid, and brimming with suspense from the very first page, Perfect Days is a psychological thriller in the vein of Patricia Highsmith’s The Talented Mr. Ripley—a chilling journey in the passenger seat with a psychopath, and the English language debut of one of Brazil’s most deliciously dark young writers.

This story, this main character, this writer will chill you to the bone. This is a book I’ve actually reread twice now. I don’t often do this with books. But if a thriller leaves me with too many questions or disturbs me, I tend to go back for a reread. This is one of those books.

Raphael Montes is a celebrated crime writer in his native country of Brazil but this book is his English-written debut. Wow! What a debut! In each read-through of this book, I read it in one sitting. It is unputdownable, page-turning, disturbing thriller perfection. Yes, this book is about obsession, delusion and rejection. But this book is very different from other books which feature the same themes. Raphael Montes has got a very distinctive Voice. It is this Voice and the style choices he made to tell this story that make this story a stand-out for me. He has chosen to tell the story from a 3rd person POV in a very distinctive unemotional voice. Everything that takes place in this story is deeply twisted, chilling and disturbing. Using this unemotional, almost cold and rational style to tell this story gives it an even more delusional edge. 

This is a story that will stay in your mind for a long time afterwards. Be aware that this is a book that cannot be read lightly. It is a violent story with incredibly psychopathic behaviour. But, it is a story that will haunt you. Just wait until you get to Page 198… Some books have great beginnings, some great endings, some take a while to warm up but the meat is in the middle. But for me the entire horror of the story, the full pay-off is in the first chapter of Perfect Days and the very last paragraph. I knew with the first chapter this would be a page-turner of a story but I knew with the last paragraph that this writer is a master story-teller. Perfect Days has definitely earned a perfect 5 star/coffees review from me.

☕️  ☕️  ☕️  ☕️  ☕️

Read this book if you have ever felt or been the subject of unrequited love. Read this book if you loved Misery by Stephen King or love Gillian Flynn. 

I leave you with the quote that Raphael Montes has chosen to include at the beginning of this story and that perfectly sums up the beating heart of this story.

“There is always some madness in love. But there is also always some reason in madness. | Friedrich Nietzsche”

[I would like to thank Netgalley, the publisher and the Author for giving me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.]

Author|Book 

Author Website (Site is in Portuguese)

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What is a good book without coffee?? What is a Kaffeeklatsch without the Kaffee…

 For “Perfect Days | Raphael Montes” I recommend pairing this unputdownable book with a few cups of the sinfully delicious Toasted Coconut Mocha. As this book takes you on a twisted road trip of Brazilian pieces of Paradise so it’s time to get in a Paradise mood. Just be warned, Paradise always contains illicit danger…


Tell me, What Books and Coffee (or other delicious poison) are keeping you up at night?

 

Rusting Leaves, Falling Rain Drops, Coffee & Books #amreading | April 2017

It’s April already. April in my corner of the world means rusting Autumn leaves, soft rain on my window panes, still warm days but cooler nights and lots of hot drinks…especially my favourite hot drink of coffee. I love Autumn. Autumn is my favourite time to curl up on my favourite couch and get lost in a story. I’ve got quite a few netgalley reads outstanding and two lovely new netgalley reads to get lost in this month. So this April it’s time to dust off my digital bookshelves.

What I’m reading in April

Tell me, What are you reading this April?

What I read in April| #KimsKaffeeKlatsch #amreading

I would like to thank Netgalley, the respective publishers and the respective authors for the copies of the following books in exchange for my honest review. 


As always on #KimsKaffeeKlatsch, I have paired up my reads with my recommended coffee recipe. After all what is a good book without the decadently delicious aroma of strong coffee. So curl up on your favourite couch, light the fire, brew your favourite coffee and lets klatsch delicious books and thrilling coffee. 

   

Summit Lake | Charlie Donlea

[Kensington Books | ISBN: 9781496700988]

Set in a small, picturesque North Carolina town, Charlie Donlea’s suspenseful debut novel tells the haunting story of a murdered law school student, the reporter assigned to her story—and the intimate connection that comes when the living walk in the footsteps of the dead.

“No suspects. No persons of interest. Just a girl who was alive one day and dead the next.”

Some places seem too beautiful to be touched by horror. Summit Lake, nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains, is that kind of place, with charming stilt houses dotted along the pristine water. But two weeks ago, Becca Eckersley, a first-year law student, was brutally murdered in one of those houses. The daughter of a powerful attorney, Becca was hard-working, accomplished, and ambitious. Now, while the town reels with grief and shocked residents gather to share their theories, the police are baffled. 

At first, investigative reporter Kelsey Castle thinks of the assignment as a fluff piece. But the savagery of the crime, and the determined efforts to keep the case quiet, all hint at something far more than a random attack by a stranger. As Kelsey digs deeper into the mystery, pushing on despite danger and warnings, she feels a growing connection to the dead girl. And the more she learns about Becca’s friendships, her love life—and the secrets she was keeping—the more convinced she becomes that learning the truth about Becca could be the key to overcoming her own dark past…

This book surprised me in more ways than one. Initially the blurb and the cover had me interested but not completely intrigued. But the moment I opened up the book and began to read, the author had me intrigued. I loved the main character Kelsey Castle. Kelsey Castle is the type of female fiction lead that I love reading about. She is smart, witty, resourceful and has a wonderful depth to her that this story has only begun to peel back. I also loved that she is a flawed character with her own demons to fight. She is not a cookie-cutter protagonist but then again Summit Lake is not a cookie-cutter mystery. She is an interesting and original fully-layered character that I doubt, at least I hope, we have seen the last of. I like smart writing and layered characters especially in my mysteries and thrillers. Charlie Donlea has both of these elements in this story. 

The premise of the story seems fairly simply and straightforward but with the turn of each page, more layers are pulled back to reveal a story that is plotted well and a cast of characters that keep surprising the reader. The story is told smoothly and seamlessly in two alternating viewpoints: Kelsey, main protagonist, and Becca, the victim. There is never a clear antagonist and each time I thought I knew who the killer was, another layer was peeled back for me and I was in the dark guessing again. I love a good twist or two in my tales but I especially love it when the twist comes when you least expect it. This story has more than a few twists to the tale yet the clues the author gives us are so well-drawn and so subtle that you don’t feel like you could know the ending until you get there. I love it when a climax surprises me and this story’s climax definitely did that. 

☕️☕️☕️☕️

This is a book about secrets. Secrets the characters keep from each other, secrets they don’t want to face, secrets at the heart of a small town. Summit Lake earned a solid 4 stars from me. This was a a very strong debut and I can’t wait to see what Charlie Donlea writes next. I know I’ll be first in line to read his next book. 

Author’s Website

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For Summit Lake I recommend 4 sweet mugs of Chocolate Coffee Kisses



Recipe | Chocolate Coffee Kiss

Ingredients

3/4 fluid ounce coffee liqueur

3/4 fluid ounce Irish cream liqueur

1/2 fluid ounce creme de cacao liqueur

1 teaspoon brandy-based orange liqueur (such as Grand Marnier(R))

1 cup hot brewed coffee

2 tablespoons whipped cream

1 1/2 fluid ounces chocolate syrup

1 maraschino cherry

Directions

In a coffee mug, combine coffee liqueur, Irish cream, creme de cacao and Grand Marnier. Fill mug with hot coffee. Top with a dollop of whipped cream, drizzle with chocolate syrup and garnish with a maraschino cherry.

☕️☕️☕️☕️☕️☕️☕️☕️☕️☕️☕️☕️☕️☕️☕️☕️☕️☕️☕️☕️☕️☕️☕️☕️☕️☕️☕️



The Lion’s Mouth|Anne Holt

[Scribner | ISBN: 9781501123238]

From the internationally bestselling author of 1222, called the “godmother of modern Norwegian crime” by Jo Nesbø, the next book in the Edgar Award–nominated mystery series: Hanne Wilhelmsen is on the case when someone murders the prime minister of Norway.

Less than six months after taking office, the Norwegian Prime Minister is found dead. She has been shot in the head. But was it a politically motivated assassination or personal revenge?

Hanne Wilhelmsen, Chief Inspector of the Norwegian Police, is on leave in California but when the death shakes the country to its core, she knows she can’t remain on the sidelines of such a crucial investigation. The hunt for the Prime Minister’s killer is complicated, intense, and grueling. When secrets begin to unravel from the Prime Minister’s past, Hanne and her partner, Billy T., must piece together the crime before a private tragedy becomes a public outcry, in what will become the most sensitive case of their career.

Filled with lies, deception, and the truth about government, The Lion’s Mouth questions who truly holds the power in Norway, and how far they will go to keep it…

This is my first Anne Holt novel. For the last three years or so, I have been introduced to Scandinavian noir and I have quickly fallen in love with these cool thrillers and mysteries. I had not heard of Anne Holt but the moment I saw this book on Netgalley I knew I wanted to read it.

From the opening of this book, I was intrigued. I love locked room mysteries and I do like political intrigue and this book opens with both. For all intents, it looked like I was in for another enjoyable read. But as I read on, I was disappointed. The premise of this book was brilliant and the characterisations of each character was done very well. But this story quickly became clunky and confusing to me. There seemed to be too many characters for me to keep interested. I didn’t particularly like the main investigator, Billy T, either. I have never taken more than a day or two to finish a Scandinavian mystery/thriller but I took weeks to finish this story. As for the political intrigue, the politics of this books seemed a little too dry for my own tastes.


☕️☕️☕️

I’m in two minds on this review. The characterisations were well-written and there were definite moments that grabbed me but ultimately there were fewer page-turner moments for me. This left the plot feeling clunky with too many dry political details and too many characters, and muddied what should have been a really good read. I give this book a sober 3 stars. 

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For The Lion’s Mouth I recommend three strong, rich shots of espresso-ristretto.


Recipe | Espresso Ristretto

INGREDIENTS

1/4 oz (7 g) ground espresso coffee, pod or capsule

INSTRUCTIONS

It is the smallest of them all, but it commands respect. Dedicated to those who don’t like half measures, Espresso ristretto has a strong character where everything is focused on a single goal: pure, decisive pleasure. Served without sugar, it is the passion of those who prefer coffee without distractions.

To prepare the smallest coffee of them all, follow the classic method, using your Espresso machine as usual with a capsule, pod or ground coffee. Only one thing changes: the extraction time is shorter.

Start the machine and stop it when you have 20 ml (1 tbsp plus 1 tsp) of Espresso and in any case not before 25 seconds have passed: this is the minimum time necessary for obtaining a cup rich in aroma.

 So tell me what books have you been curling up with, and what’s your caffeine indulgence of choice?

Thrilling Secrets and Tantalising Lies | #amreading #KimsKaffeeKlatsch

I would like to thank Netgalley, the respective publishers and the respective authors for the copies of the following books in exchange for my honest review.

 As always on #KimsKaffeeKlatsch, I have paired up my reads with my recommended coffee recipe. After all what is a good book without the  decadently delicious aroma of strong coffee. So curl up on your favourite couch, light the fire, brew your favourite coffee and lets klatsch delicious books and thrilling coffee. 

  

  

The Forgotten Girls | Sara Blaedel

[Grand Central Publishing, ISBN:  9781455581511]
“In a forest in Denmark, a ranger discovers the fresh corpse of an unidentified woman. A large scar on one side of her face should make the identification easy, but nobody has reported her missing. After four days, Louise Rick—the new commander of the Missing Persons Department—is still without answers. But when she releases a photo to the media, an older woman phones to say that she recognizes the woman as Lisemette, a child she once cared for in the state mental institution many years ago. Lisemette, like the other children in the institution, was abandoned by her family and branded a “forgotten girl.” But Louise soon discovers something more disturbing: Lisemette had a twin, and both girls were issued death certificates over 30 years ago. As the investigation brings Louise closer to her childhood home, she uncovers more crimes that were committed—and hidden—in the forest, and finds a terrible link to her own past that has been carefully concealed…”

I am obsessed with the Scandinavian Noir genre so I am always pleased to be introduced to another brilliant author in this genre. Sara Blaedel is a new author to me but after reading The Forgotten Girls, I am adding her as a new favourite. 

The Forgotten Girls is the seventh book in the Louise Rick Series. But don’t let this deter you. Although I had not read any of the other books in her series, this did not leave me lost. Louise Rick is a woman haunted by the past and haunted by secrets, both her own and the cases she investigates as head of a new Missing Persons branch. These secrets kept me turning the pages, searching for answers that tantalised me just on the edge of my vision. 

The story is set in the very atmospheric forests of Denmark. Sara Blaedel’s mastery of this atmospheric setting lends a haunting and mysterious tone that sets the theme beautifully for this disturbing story about past secrets and the unspoken guilt that lies at the heart of these secrets. The plot reminds me of a puzzle box. The further you go into the story, the more layers of secrets you uncover, the more puzzling the mystery becomes. Just when you think you have the answers, another hidden box is revealed. 

This is not a thriller that will have you looking behind the curtains or jumping at the strangest noises. But it is definitely a slow-burning, haunting and disturbing mystery. 

* * * *

I give it 4/5 stars simply because from the blurb I thought it would have more of a thriller vibe. This is a fantastic book to read around a camp fire in a dark forest or curled up on your favourite couch with just the light of a crackling fireplace and haunting soft candle-light.

Author’s Website

About the book, In the Author’s Own Words

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For The Forgotten Girls (Sara Blaedel) I recommend at least 4 large mugs of strong Cowboy coffee.
   

The Recipe | Campfire/Cowboy Coffee

  • Use two tablespoons of fine grind coffee, (or auto-drip grind), per 8oz of water
  • *The finer grind will allow more flavor extraction in less time, and the finer coffee grinds will sink to the bottom easier than more coarse grinds that float more.
  • Pour your measured amount of water into the coffee pot, (just the water – no coffee yet), put the pot on the fire and bring the water to a boil
  • Remove from the fire, let sit 30 or 40 seconds to come off full-boil temperature
  • Add the measured coffee amount into the coffee pot – it will float on top so you will have to carefully stir the water to get the coffee to mix in
  • Let the pot sit for two minutes – really, the two minute part is important. In the end you want to have a total of only four to five minutes brewing time
  • After two minutes, stir the mixture again, re-cover and let sit two more minutes
  • Now you are ready, the coffee has had enough time for the flavor to brew, and the grounds have began settling. Now take a palm-full of cool water and sprinkle it into the coffee pot. ** this small amount of cool water will not make your coffee cold, but it will help the grounds settle quicker
  • It’s as easy as that. Now pour each cup slowly, trying to leave the coffee grounds in the pot.
  • Typical results; A much more flavorful and less bitter cup of coffee. The reason; You didn’t scald the coffee with too-hot water, and by simmering the coffee instead of re-boiling it you didn’t bringing out all the bitterness.
  • *Tip: A small pinch of salt in the pot, or a single quick shake of the salt shaker in a cup will reduce the bitterness of coffee. The keywords were small pinch and quick shake, you don’t want too much or it will taste salty.

Missing Pieces | Heather Gudenkauf

[Harlequin Australia, ISBN: 9781760374297]
“A woman uncovers earth-shattering secrets about her husband’s family in this chilling page-turner from New York Times bestselling author Heather Gudenkauf.

Sarah Quinlan’s husband, Jack, has been haunted for decades by the untimely death of his mother when he was just a teenager, her body found in the cellar of their family farm, the circumstances a mystery. The case rocked the small farm town of Penny Gate, Iowa, where Jack was raised, and for years Jack avoided returning home. But when his beloved aunt Julia is in an accident, hospitalized in a coma, Jack and Sarah are forced to confront the past that they have long evaded.Upon arriving in Penny Gate, Sarah and Jack are welcomed by the family Jack left behind all those years ago—barely a trace of the wounds that had once devastated them all. But as facts about Julia’s accident begin to surface, Sarah realizes that nothing about the Quinlans is what it seems. Caught in a flurry of unanswered questions, Sarah dives deep into the puzzling rabbit hole of Jack’s past. But the farther in she climbs, the harder it is for her to get out. And soon she is faced with a deadly truth she may not be prepared for…”

Missing Pieces is a book that will have you questioning how well you truly know the people you love. Can you truly know someone, including their dark edges, and still love them completely?

This is the first book I have read by Heather Gudenkauf but it will definitely not be the last. From the first page I was transfixed by these characters. However, as brilliantly written as these characters are, the unspoken main character is really the small town of Penny Gate. On the surface Penny Gate seems just like another small town, but as the story unfolds we see a darker place being unmasked. A place of secrets that breeds a mysterious cast of characters. Sarah Quinlan, the protagonist, has no clue what to expect from her secretive husband’s hometown. From her very first impressions, Penny Gate and the Quinlin family and friends seem forbidding and darkly mysterious to Sarah. Within the first few pages of this story, Sarah is questioning everything she had ever known about her husband even so far as questioning the very foundation of their relationship. What is the truth and what is the lie and is there only a fine line between them?

This story kept me transfixed through one complete reading. I literally could not put this book down. Sarah could be me, she could be you, she is any of us. I grew up in and around small towns like Penny Gate and Heather Gudenkauf has captured this small town atmosphere and the quirky, strangely dark characters perfectly. In this story, the reader is asked to question whether you really know the people you love, and do you really want to know all their secrets. 

The secrets in this book are at the heart of this story but it is the evocative mysterious small town of Penny Gate and the people who grew up here that truly are the haunted soul of this story. As Sarah unfolds the past and unearths her husband’s dark secrets, she is pulled into the heart of an emotional storm that threatens everything and everyone. Is she really willing to risk everything to unmask the truth?

* * * * *

This is a solid 5/5 stars. If you like your thrillers with a dose of a dark realism and taut with emotion, then Missing Pieces is it.

Author’s Website

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For Missing Pieces (Heather Gudenkauf) I recommend at least 5 decadent mugs of Bicerin.

  

The Recipe | Bicerin

  • It’s important to use a clear glass; you need to be able to see all three layers.
  • To make a bicerin, warm one cup (250 ml) whole milk in a medium-sized saucepan with 3 ounces (90 gr) of chopped bittersweet or semisweet chocolate. Whisk the mixture until it begins to boil, then let it boil for 1 minute, whisking constantly (the chocolate mixture will foam up a bit.)
  • Afterward, remove it from the heat and set aside. 
  • Make a small pot of very strong coffee, or good Italian espresso.
  • Fill the bottom third of a clear, heat-proof glass with the warm chocolate mixture. 
  • Pour in some coffee or espresso. (If you want to help it create a definite layer, pour it over the back of a spoon, into the glass.)
  • Top with a nice swirl of sweetened, freshly-whipped cream.

The Poison Artist | Jonathan Moore

[Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, ISBN 9780544520561]
A gripping tale of obsession and deadly mystery, where the secrets of salvation and the most devastating desires are all written in blood

Dr. Caleb Maddox is a San Francisco toxicologist studying the chemical effects of pain. After a bruising breakup with his girlfriend, he’s out drinking whiskey when a hauntingly seductive woman appears by his side. Emmeline whispers to Caleb over absinthe, gets his blood on her fingers and then brushes his ear with her lips as she says goodbye. He must find her.

As his search begins, Caleb becomes entangled in a serial-murder investigation. The police have been fishing men from the bay, and the postmortems are inconclusive. One of the victims vanished from the bar the night Caleb met Emmeline. When questioned, Caleb can’t offer any information, nor does he tell them he’s been secretly helping the city’s medical examiner, an old friend, study the chemical evidence on the victims’ remains. The search for the killer soon entwines with Caleb’s hunt for Emmeline, and the closer he gets to each, the more dangerous his world becomes.

From the first pages up to the haunting, unforgettable denouement, The Poison Artist is a gripping thriller about obsession and damage, about a man unmoored by an unspeakable past and an irresistible woman who offers the ultimate escape…”

          “An electrifying read… I haven’t read anything so terrifying since Red Dragon.” —Stephen King

          “Patient, stylish and incredibly suspenseful”—Lee Child

          “Magnificent, thoroughly unnerving…I dare you to look away.” —Justin Cronin

This is a story that will grab your imagination, twist it into something unrecognisable and spit you out wondering whether Wonderland exists and are you Alice or the Mad Hatter.

Jonathan Moore has crafted a tale that is wholly original, spine-tingling and deeply unnerving. On the surface it is a serial murder investigation but in this story, everything that is up is upside down and everything that is on the surface is just a mask. 

Dr. Caleb Maddox is the protagonist of The Poison Artist. We meet him at one of his lowest points and as the tale takes him and you, the reader, further into this mad wonderland as he sinks lower and lower. The only light at the end of his downward spiral is the mysterious, ethereal and darkly seductive Emmeline. As he falls under her spell in one brief meeting, she disappears and he is obsessed with finding her again. This obsession drives the story and drives Caleb towards the destruction of his truths even as it brings him into the cross hairs of a serial murder investigation.

This is a story that would not let me go. I finished it in one breathless sitting and simultaneously wanted to immediately both push this book away and dive back into the strange world of Dr. Caleb Maddox and the seductive Emmeline. This is one of the most perfectly executed psychological thrillers I have ever read. The characters are exceptionally compelling, so compelling you cannot look away from them even if you truly want to. The setting of San Francisco, mysterious fog- covered San Franscisco, is the perfect setting for this twisted tale of murder and destruction. This is a strange and twisted tale whose surface keeps on changing, always keeping you guessing, never knowing what is the truth and what is the lie. 

* * * * *

I give The Poison Artist a perfect 5/5 stars. If you want a psychological thriller that will, in equal parts, both disturb you and seduce you, then read The Poison Artist.

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For The Poison Artist (Jonathan Moore) I recommend at least 5 shots of the illicit and decadent Bronx Bomber.

  

The Recipe | Bronx Bomber

  • Fill a cocktail shaker with cracked ice.
  • Add 1/8 ounce of absinthe.
  • Add 1 ½ ounces of gin.
  • Make a double shot of espresso, preferably a Columbian roast, pour over the ice and shake briefly.
  • Pour liquid, straining out the ice, into an eight ounce glass
  • Drink and repeat process as desired.

Tell me, what books can’t you put down this month? And what’s your caffeine poison of choice?

What’s on your bookshelf this month? | #KaffeeKlatsch #amreading

February’s #CurrentlyReading Bookshelf

  1. The Forgotten Girls – Sara Blaedel
  2. Summit Lake – Charlie Donlea
  3. Burning the Days – James Salter
  4. The Poison Artist – Jonathan Moore
  5. Blood on Snow – Jo Nesbo
  6. The Lion’s Mouth – Anne Holt
  7. Missing Pieces – Heather Gudenkauf
  8. Dust – Arthur Slade

   

 
Coming up on the next Kaffeeklatsch…Watch this space next week.

I’ll be chatting about The Forgotten Girls , The Poison Artist and Missing Pieces.

So tell me…

What’s on your bookshelf this month?