Tuesday, April 23, 2019


Title: The Killer In Me
Author: Olivia Kiernan
Publisher: riverrun
Pages: 352
My GoodReads Rating: ⭐⭐

The Killer in Me by Olivia Kiernan is a solid thriller about a series of murders that rock a small town in Ireland at a critical time when a convict has been released after serving time for the brutal murders of his own parents and the attempted murder of his younger sister.

Detective Chief Superintendent Frankie Sheehan is roped by her sister-in-law Tanya West, a defense lawyer, into a meeting with Sean Hennessy, who has been released after serving a sentence of 17 years in prison. A mere 15-year-old then, Sean was arrested for the murder of his parents, John and Brid, and the attempted murder of his younger sister, Cara. Following the release of a documentary, Tanya wants to create a case for Sean’s innocence on behalf of her charity which reopens cases of miscarriage of justice.

Frankie agrees to review the footage and see if Sean has a case, even if she doesn’t believe him and her sympathies lie firmly with the victims of his crimes, his parents and his sister, who is now living in isolation under an assumed name as part of the witness protection program.

When the bodies of a husband and wife, Alan and Geraldine Shine, are found in the local church, with the words, Murderer and Victim, written on their bodies. Frankie can’t help but wonder if Sean has anything to do with these murders. The case stirs up media frenzy and Frankie faces administrative pressures to find the killer, while staying a step ahead of the Hennessy investigation to learn if the state was wrong in convicting Sean. Things get complicated further when a local journalist, Connor Sheridan, is found dead with the word, Weapon, written next to him.

Frankie feels compelled to drive into the Hennessy case to see if there are any loose ends there that might explain the multiple murders. Her realization that both Brid and Geraldine were victims of domestic violence helps her to see a link between the two cases. She also remembers that her own life has intersected with that of the Hennessys when Brid walked up to Frankie’s parents’ home to seek help from Frankie’s mother, a social worker, on how she and her children could escape the abusive environment of her home.

As she delves deeper into the investigation, it becomes clear that her boss, Clancy, is hiding something and that her own family is being targeted and that there will be consequences to continuing the investigation. Will she be able to tie up the loose ends before her own family is caught in the crossfire?

Set in Ireland, this is the second book in the Frankie Sheehan series and is written in her first person present tense point of view. I enjoyed reading this one. I found the investigation very real and interesting.

There are similarities that strike us about the Hennessys and the Sheehans. Both families face their own troubles, both fathers are dysfunctional, albeit in different ways. The only difference is that one family recovered and gained strength, while the other didn’t.

We come to understand the scourge of domestic violence and how it destroys lives and families. We also learn of the dangers that police personnel encounter everyday as they come face to face with the worst of human evil and depravity. Sometimes when you look into the mouth of that kind of evil, it’s hard to look away. You think, give it another few moments, your eyes will adjust, you’ll see the bottom of that darkness, understand it. It’s alluring. Addictive. And whilst you’re standing there rooted to the spot, you’re not noticing that the…shadow is closing over you and you’re disappearing.

The book also discusses the theme of memories, repressed and tortured, and about the toll that domestic violence takes on victims, especially children, as can be seen in the two quotes below.

The mind is a fragile being, a vulnerable mesh of soft cells. Malleable. The hard shell of the skull unable to shield it from memory or nightmare, loops both together in the brain’s primitive pool for survival making memory unreliable.

I learned about the terror that reigned over our lives, infused by the mundaneness of domesticity, having breakfast together while nursing bruises. Ironing school uniforms, polishing shoes among the mayhem. All the small events that told us that we were normal. But we weren’t.

There’s a mild degree of offensive language in the form of F-bombs, which show up when the team is frustrated about the slow investigation and the dead ends they face.

At 352 pages, the book is a long read, but it doesn’t feel slow or unnecessary at any point. The author builds up the atmosphere so well that I almost felt as if I were walking the streets of the seaside town of Clontarf in spite of never having been to Ireland.

The title refers to the bitter truth about how circumstances might so easily drive a good person to make a bad decision. Could there be a killer in us that can rise, given sufficient provocation?

I hope we never find out.

(I received an ARC from First to Read).

Tuesday, April 02, 2019

Book Review: THANDI'S LOVE

Title: Tomorrow Thandi's Love
Author: Angel Strong
Publisher: CreateSpace Publishing
Pages: 285
My GoodReads Rating: ⭐⭐

Set in Newport, South Carolina, in 1838, Tom Lexington is a benevolent plantation owner who treats his slaves with dignity and respect. After years of dry seasons, he experiences a bountiful harvest and his Aunt Lacy sends him wagonloads of her own slaves to help. 

His own childhood friends, siblings Isaac and Thandi, also come along and Tom arranges for them to stay in his mansion. His wife, Anna, does not approve of kindness towards negroes, setting the stage for a confrontation. It doesn’t help that Thandi is strikingly beautiful.

Tom’s marriage with Anna is in trouble and he and Thandi give in to their impulses. As Anna’s grievances intensify, she calls her father, lawyer Daniel Stafford, to drive Thandi away and restore peace in her marriage. But Daniel is a ruthless man who has played some part in driving Tom’s father to suicide, and now holds a great stake in Tom’s wealth. He has evil designs on Thandi and plans to make her his personal slave.

Victor Richmond, a friend of Daniel’s and a rich landowner, offers to buy Thandi. Will this be a better situation for Thandi or worse?

And then Aunt Lacy makes a terrible revelation about Thandi, a truth that could forever tear Tom and Thandi apart. Will their love survive the obstacles in their path?

The story is written in the third person omniscient past tense point of view.

As a story about a love affair between a married white man and a mulatto slave girl, I thought it had a lot of potential. But somehow that potential wasn’t really fulfilled. I didn’t get a sense of the dangers awaiting Thandi. 

On the whole, she lived rather a charmed life, and the horror stories lived by slaves of that time didn’t seem to touch her. We are told that both Tom and Thandi are risking much to be with each other. But we don’t see them having to pay for the consequences of their actions.

There are a few very detailed and rather graphic descriptions of love making, and one description of a rape scene, which I found gratuitous and unnecessary.

I also found one mistake that seems to have skipped past the author’s eye. Thandi sees a portrait of a mulatto woman who Victor identifies as Elena, his dead wife. A few paragraphs later, Thandi thinks, “In a strange way, he resembled his mother. The two shared the same complexion, large brown eyes.”

Overall, the book was a simple love story. The author has drawn the characters well. We understand the predicament of Tom and Thandi and feel their helplessness. Even the minor characters like Ben, Tom’s overseer, and Esther, his housekeeper, are drawn well, imbued with feeling and kindness.

(I received an ARC from NetGalley).


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