Reese Witherspoon’s book club pick – Something in the Water – has me wondering when she will produce it for viewing. Catherine Steadman’s book has all the elements of a great series – exotic settings, unreliable characters, and plot twists favoring the female leads.
I listened to Steadman’s British tones reading the book for Audible and it was hard to not keep going into the night. The “something in the water” was not what I had expected and the hints of espionage and financial fraud added to the suspense.
Erin, a documentary producer, and Mark, an out of work hedge fund expert, go off on their honeymoon to Bora Bora. Mark, an expert diver, convinces Erin to overcome her fears to experience the beautiful underwater world. His cavalier comments about the sharks in the water had me suspicious, but what they find leads the adventure into murky waters as each plot twist combines danger and a new life for both.
A fortune for a fortune teller? Ruth Ware returns with another mystery thriller to keep you reading through the night in The Death of Mrs. Westaway.
Hal’s life has been most unfortunate with the hit and run death of her mother and the loan sharks threatening to knock out her teeth if she cannot make more money reading tarot cards on the pier. Suddenly, her luck changes when she becomes heir to her grandmother’s fortune. But wait; it’s not really her grandmother – or is it?
Ware weaves a page turning adventure within a Gothic setting. As the interloper in a family of brothers who had expected to inherit the estate, Hal finds herself in the middle of family drama and resentments, and the deceased Mrs. Westaway seems to be stirring the pot beyond the grave. The housekeeper, Mrs. Warren, is the Mrs. Danvers character right out of du Maurier’s Rebecca – cold, creepy, and tyrranical, and the perfect foil to Hal’s timid second Mrs. de Winter who finally finds her courage.
Although the resolution is obvious long before the ending, and the villain is not a total surprise, The Death of Mrs. Westaway is great fun for fans of Ruth Ware. I enjoyed the distraction.
Chris Bohjalian’s The Flight Attendant is a book everyone who travels needs to read – maybe just not while you are on a plane. If you’ve read any of Bohjalian’s books, you know his stories are compelling page turners, full of intrigue and twisting plot lines – this one is no exception.
Cassie is the well-preseved middle-aged flight attendant for first class international flights with a trailer park background morphed into a sleek attractive boozy lifestyle. She meets Alex in seat 2C and the ride begins. I won’t tell you much about the story – you need to read it yourself and enjoy the many twists and anticipate who will do what and where, but to tempt you – this is a thrilling chase with murder and espionage and those fearful Russians. You will constantly question who is the unreliable narrator and probably be surprised at the ending. Maureen Corrigan has an excellent review for the Washington Post, if you want more details – Book Review.
As an added treat, Bohjalian referenced a number of authors I wanted to find. I actually stopped mid-chapter to find the Italian philosopher Carlo Levi’s essay on “Humanism,” and then found myself googling other philosophers.
Others mentioned in his acknowledgments – his research for the story – are now on my list to read:
Sarah Heploa’s Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget (page 214)
Although I had sworn off all books with a girl or woman in the title and anything recommended by Gillian Flynn, I read The Woman in the Window in one sitting after a fellow reader insisted, giving me the real name for the A.J. Finn pseudonym. If you are a Hitchcock fan, you will see traces of favorites like Gaslight and Vertigo in the plot, with Rear Window playing a leading role. If you are an astute problem solver, you might figure out who the real villain is – I didn’t. If you want a thrilling psychological drama, with an unbalanced Ph.D. (psychologist) as the lead character, The Woman in the Window will keep you turning pages to the finish.
Anna is an agoraphobic psychologist, who drinks her day away with red wine while keeping tabs on her neighbors in her stylish and expensive neighborhood, through the lens of her camera. Although Finn offers hints for the cause of her disability, the reason is revealed much later, after Anna has befriended the new neighbor, psychoanalyzed the frail son, and thinks she has witnessed a murder. The author maintains the suspense by exaggerating Anna’s helplessness while, at the same time, teasing with references to the old black and white horror/mystery movies she continually watches during the day – when she is not watching her neighbors. The actor James Stewart plays in the background while Anna tries to decipher what has happened – has she tipped over into insanity or witnessed a crime. No spoilers here – have your own good time reading it, maybe with a glass of red wine – and all the lights on.
When the sun is hot, I like fast and furious stories I can read in a sitting. Here are a few:
The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena
If you are a fan of Paula Hawkins, Ruth Ware, or Gillian Flynn, Lapena’s thriller has the same riveting flair. The drama centers around the kidnapping of a baby left alone while the parents attend a dinner party next door. Lapena switches tracks often, teasing the reader with possible motives and perpetrators. I read the book in one sitting to confirm my suspicions, but the villain was a surprise.
The Dollhouse by Fiona Davis
With the famous New York Barbizon Hotel as the setting, Fiona Davis connects women pursuing careers as secretaries and models in the 1950’s to a twenty-first century journalist looking for a good story. When modern day Rose Lewin discovers the past of an elderly woman who has remained living in the hotel now converted into condominiums, she uncovers a possible murder and switched identities within the historic context of the hotel’s glamour. The story seems too long, but Davis offers historically correct content about the era and enough drama to sustain the reader’s curiosity.