A REVIEW FROM MY COMMUTE: The Dirty Secrets Club — Meg Gardiner | #CrimeFiction

I feel like I’ve been on a bit of a crime fiction kick as of late and I’ve discovered a new favourite author in Meg Gardiner. My first audiobook with her was The Dirty Secrets Club and it’s not going to be my last!

imagesAn ongoing string of high-profile and very public murder-suicides has San Francisco even more rattled than a string of recent earthquakes: A flamboyant fashion designer burns to death, clutching the body of his murdered lover. A superstar 49er jumps off the Golden Gate Bridge. And most shocking of all, a U.S. attorney launches her BMW off a highway overpass, killing herself and three others.

Enter forensic psychiatrist Jo Beckett, hired by the SFPD to cut open not the victim’s body, but the victim’s life. Jo’s job is to complete the psychological autopsy, shedding light on the circumstances of any equivocal death. Soon she makes a shocking discovery: All the suicides belonged to something called the Dirty Secrets Club, a group of A-listers with nothing but money and plenty to hide. As the deaths continue, Jo delves into the disturbing motives behind this shadowy group―until she receives a letter that contains a dark secret Jo thought she’d left deep in her past, a secret that ends with the most chilling words of all: “Welcome to the Dirty Secrets Club.”

This is the first of a series where you’ll meet Jo Beckett, a forensic psychiatrist who conducts psychological autopsies to find out why a person died — Suicide? Murder? Accident? 

The Dirty Secrets Club was a fantastic book. The characters were believable, clever, and completely flawed in their own ways and the plot was orchestrated in such a way to keep you guessing until the last moment. Highly enjoyable listen!

Rating: 5 stars

A REVIEW FROM MY COMMUTE: Riding the Bullet — Stephen King | #Ghosts #UrbanLegends

Every once in a while I like to take a step back from books that come on 10 discs and involve 11 to 13 hours of listening and pick up something that’s a little shorter. Riding the Bullet by Stephen King is one of those listens.

515z098fqel-_sx372_bo1204203200_A Stephen King ghost story in the grand tradition, Riding the Bullet is the ultimate warning about the dangers of hitchhiking.

A college student’s mother is dying in a Maine hospital. When he hitches a ride to see her, the driver is not who he appears to be. Soon the journey veers off into a dark landscape that could only be drawn by Stephen King.

Sometimes when you listen to something, it hits you. You get a small shiver that runs up your spine as the story unfolds and you find yourself really enjoying it. Riding the Bullet was one of those stories for me.

I enjoyed the easy plot and the throwback to many an urban legend within it. Definitely an enjoyable read.

Rating: 4 stars

A REVIEW FROM MY COMMUTE: ZOO 2 — James Patterson and Max DiLallo | #BookShots #ManIsTheMostDangerousAnimal

After checking out ZOO by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge and enjoying it immensely, I wanted to be sure to check out the follow-up ZOO 2 by Patterson and Max DiLallo. But before we get to my thoughts, let’s learn a little more about it…

zoo2James Patterson’s ZOO was just the beginning. The planet is still under violent siege by ferocious animals. Humans are their desperate prey. Except some humans are evolving, mutating into a savage species that could save civilization—or end it.

The story itself really made me think of the possibilities—could the overstimulation of our brains from radio signals and the like really awake something more primitive in our DNA? I would hate to think it’s possible, but until it happens, you never know what’s possible.

In theory, the story was terrifying which made for a delightfully frightful listen. I found myself getting pulled along with the characters and that’s not always an easy thing to do. It was a very enjoyable follow-up to the first book. I would highly recommend it.

Rating: 4.5 stars

A REVIEW FROM MY COMMUTE: The Colorado Kid — Stephen King | #Mystery #Horror

As a fan of the TV show Haven, I wanted to be sure I read The Colorado Kid by Stephen King which the show is said to be based upon. But before we get to that, let’s take a moment to learn a little more about the story…

coloradokid.jpgStephanie McCann is a journalism student at University of Ohio. Her summer internship brings her to Moose-Lookit Island, ME where she tags along after Vince Teague and David Bowie–two salty newsmen who’ve been running The Weekly Islander together for forty years.

Over those decades, the old guys have seen it all. With Stephanie’s help, they review a cold case involving “The Colorado Kid”—an anonymous tourist visiting the island who turned up dead in the Spring of 1980.

The Colorado Kid is classic King. He deftly weaves a charming and funny New England yarn featuring good old fashioned Island storytelling.

When I first started listening, I wasn’t sure how the book would connect to the show. While it wasn’t important for my enjoyment, the curious part of my mind was always listening to the connection. I will say the connection is loose at best, but The Colorado Kid was a great example of the way King crafts a twisted tale around a mystery.

The entire story revolves around the retelling of a mysterious appearance (and yes I mean appearance) and the subsequent investigation undertaken to discover the identity and circumstances surrounding that appearance. It’s a bit of a creepy tale that circles back upon itself in an interesting way. If you’re not a fan of the television series Haven, don’t let that stop you from picking this one up—it’s well worth the read.

Rating: 4 stars

A REVIEW FROM MY COMMUTE: Switching Time: A Doctor’s Harrowing Story of Treating a Woman with 17 Personalities — Richard Baer | #NonFiction

One of my latest listens on my commute was Switching Time: A Doctor’s Harrowing Story of Treating a Woman with 17 Personalities by Richard Baer…

switchingtimeSwitching Time is the first story centering on multiple personality disorder to be told by the treating physician. It is the incredible saga of a young woman stranded in unimaginable darkness who, in order to survive, created seventeen different versions of herself. In 1989, Karen Overhill walked into the office of psychiatrist Richard Baer complaining of depression. She poured out a litany of complaints, but in the disengaged way of someone who has experienced a terrible trauma. Slowly, Baer began to peel back the layers, eventually learning that Karen had been the victim of childhood sexual abuse. As time passed, though, his patient worsened and began to talk continually of suicide. Details of her abuse accumulated until he saw, via hypnosis, the true dimension of what Karen had suffered. Baer was at a loss to explain Karen’s sanity, precarious though it was, until he received a letter from a little girl, Claire. One by one, Karen’s “alters” began showing themselves-men, women, young boys, a toddler, black, white, vicious, nurturing, prim, licentious. And their “stepping out” confronted Baer with the challenge of a lifetime. Somehow, to save Karen, he would have to gain the trust of her alters in order to destroy them.

I’m going to start off by admitting that when I picked this book up, I didn’t realize it was non fiction. I was drawn in by the synopsis and the cover, and I missed the whole title the first time around – Switching Time: A Doctor’s Harrowing Story of Treating a Woman with 17 Personalities. In the end, it was both a riveting story to follow and a hard one to listen to. If you’re interested in this type of non-fiction, I would recommend it.

Rating: 4 stars

A REVIEW FROM MY COMMUTE: The Road Virus Heads North — Stephen King

So what do I have for you today from my commute? One of the short stories from Stephen King’s Everything’s Eventual: 5 Dark Tales

roadvirus.jpgThe story concerns horror author Richard Kinnell, who stops at a yardsale on the way home from a writers conference and buys a disturbing painting titled the Road Virus Heads North. As he heads north himself, he discovers that the painting itself is changing, and something else is headed north in his wake.

This story was fairly freaky… There are times when I notice what I believe are subtle changes in artwork and other things around me. Listening to The Road Virus Heads North made me start to think that maybe the world is not as it seems. Definitely worth the listen.

Rating: 5 stars

A REVIEW FROM MY COMMUTE: Everything’s Eventual — Stephen King

So what do I have for you today from my commute? One of the short stories from Stephen King’s Everything’s Eventual: 5 Dark Tales

everything19-year-old high-school dropout Dinky Earnshaw explains that he’s got a good job now. He used to be a clerk at the Supr Savr, where he worked with morons and was relentlessly bullied by an aggressive dimwit named Skipper. But now Skipper’s dead and Dinky’s got a new job, where the main perks are that he gets his own house and his own car and virtually anything he asks for, including CDs that have not been released yet. He also gets a small wad of cash each week, provided he doesn’t look for the people who drop it through his mail slot, and that he remembers to destroy or throw away any money left over at the end of the week. He gets rid of his excess change by dropping it down the gutter by his house, and he puts his bills in the garbage disposal, each week.

As it turns out, Dinky has a certain gift. He has the ability to mentally influence people by drawing complicated designs or pictures, in a way that he does not completely understand. This is illustrated when he recalls that, as a child, he (semi-unknowingly) used this ability to drive to suicide a dog that tormented him on his way home from school. After Skipper humiliated him every day for years, Dinky makes the decision to use this power to kill Skipper, or more accurately to make Skipper kill himself.

Dinky is discovered by a man named Mr. Sharpton, who claims to work for Trans Corporation, an organization that searches across the world for people with such talents. Dinky is recruited to kill very specific targets by e-mailing them these designs that he creates on an Apple computer. He is, in return, given a life that seems ideal, complete with a house and other benefits. Mr. Sharpton tells Dinky that the people he is ordered to kill are wicked, horrible criminals that the world is better off without.

For a time, Dinky is happy with his new position, living life in a semi-mindless bliss; however, when Dinky finds an article in the newspaper about one of the individuals whom he has killed (a seemingly innocent old newspaper columnist) he begins to feel guilty for what he has done. After researching more into his other victims, Dinky realizes that the Trans Corporation has been using him to assassinate political dissidents and alternative thinkers. As the story ends, he is planning his escape from the Trans Corporation, but not before sending one final email to Mr. Sharpton, his recruiter.

While listening to this story, I was captivated. In part, it could have been the story itself but it also may have been due to the fact it was read by Justin Long. I recommend this one if you’re looking for something with a little supernatural element.

Rating: 5 stars

A REVIEW FROM MY COMMUTE: Lucky Quarter — Stephen King

So what have I been listening to on my commute? One of the short stories from Stephen King’s Everything’s Eventual: 5 Dark Tales

luckyquarterDarlene Pullen, who is a struggling single mother with two children (a rebellious teenage daughter and a sickly young son) and a lousy job as a maid, is left a tip of a single quarter with a note saying that it is a “lucky quarter”. She takes a quick gamble on it and finds that it brings her some small luck. Moving on to a real casino, she keeps trying her luck, and soon she’s winning thousands of dollars. All seems to be going exceedingly well until she suddenly reappears back in the hotel room, left with nothing but her lucky quarter. All of her success was a fantasy. As her two children come to visit her at work, she lets her son have the quarter, and as he uses it in a gamble, it starts to pay off just as it did when Darlene was fantasizing.

I did like this story but it wasn’t the favourite of mine in the collection. Still worth the listen!

Rating: 3.5 stars

A REVIEW FROM MY COMMUTE: Mile 81 — Stephen King

Next up on my ‘to be reviewed’ list is Mile 81 by Stephen King. The audio book also included a bonus track of The Dune by King so I’ll touch on it as well…

mile81At Mile 81 on the Maine Turnpike is a boarded-up rest stop, a place where high school kids drink and get into the kind of trouble high school kids have always gotten into. It’s the place where Pete Simmons, armed only with the magnifying glass he got for his tenth birthday, finds a discarded bottle of vodka in the boarded up burger shack and drinks enough to pass out. Not much later, a mud-covered station wagon (which is strange because there hadn’t been any rain in New England for over a week) veers into the Mile 81 rest area, ignoring the sign that says “closed, no services.” The driver’s door opens but nobody gets out.

By the time Pete Simmons wakes up from his vodka nap, there are half a dozen cars at the Mile 81 rest stop. But two kids and a horse are the only living things left… unless you maybe count the wagon. With the heart of Stand By Me and the genius horror of Christine, Mile 81 is Stephen King unleashing his imagination as he drives past one of those road signs.

In the bonus story The Dune, retired Florida Supreme Court Judge Harvey Beecher tells his lawyer about a mysterious sand dune on an unnamed island a short distance off the Gulf coastline of his family’s property. Harvey first visited the island at the age of ten in 1932, after his grandfather, a scoundrel and land speculator who’d created the family fortune, told him Blackbeard’s treasure might be buried there. Travelling to the island became a daily addiction for Harvey… and now his lawyer is about to discover the shocking reason why.

Mile 81 was a terrific little short – I was entranced with each moment of the unfolding story, so much so that I admit to driving around the block until it was over! The characters were vividly depicted and their demises just as gruesomely vivid. A great story to read if you’re looking for a little punch of classic King horror.

The Dune was a great tale as well though I admit to seeing the twist in the ending before the story was done. That didn’t take away from the story however, only made it more creepy as it came to its conclusion.

Both shorts are well worth the listen, or read if that’s more your style!

Rating: 4 stars

A REVIEW FROM MY COMMUTE: Elizabeth is Missing — Emma Healey

Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey is one of the longer works of fiction I have finished listening to in the past few months. I will say that I picked it up based on the cover, thinking it might be a cosy mystery, but I was surprised to find out it was something altogether different…

ElizabethIn this darkly riveting debut novel—a sophisticated psychological mystery that is also an heartbreakingly honest meditation on memory, identity, and aging—an elderly woman descending into dementia embarks on a desperate quest to find the best friend she believes has disappeared, and her search for the truth will go back decades and have shattering consequences.

Maud, an aging grandmother, is slowly losing her memory—and her grip on everyday life. Yet she refuses to forget her best friend Elizabeth, whom she is convinced is missing and in terrible danger.

But no one will listen to Maud—not her frustrated daughter, Helen, not her caretakers, not the police, and especially not Elizabeth’s mercurial son, Peter. Armed with handwritten notes she leaves for herself and an overwhelming feeling that Elizabeth needs her help, Maud resolves to discover the truth and save her beloved friend.

This singular obsession forms a cornerstone of Maud’s rapidly dissolving present. But the clues she discovers seem only to lead her deeper into her past, to another unsolved disappearance: her sister, Sukey, who vanished shortly after World War II.

As vivid memories of a tragedy that occurred more fifty years ago come flooding back, Maud discovers new momentum in her search for her friend. Could the mystery of Sukey’s disappearance hold the key to finding Elizabeth?

I did enjoy this book but I found myself a little bit lost at times. I’m not sure if it was due to listening to the words as opposed to reading them or a stylistic choice by the author used to put you directly into the shoes of Maud, the main character, who is losing her memory to dementia. Confusion aside, it was worth the listen as the story was engaging and well told.

Rating: 4 stars