Ciao, amici. Sleepless nights lend themselves to reading. I’ve got a list of books for you today.
True Crime Book:
Fatal Charm: The Shocking True Story of Serial Wife Killer Randy Roth
★★★★☆ A No-Frills Account of A Killer
This was a fascinating look at the life of Randy Roth and the unfortunate people who crossed his path. With all the information presented (from childhood through incarceration), you can see the way his personality was shaped. It was chilling to see how duplicitous he became and even more disturbing was his fervent belief that he had the right to do what he did.
I couldn’t give this five stars because I found the organization a little hazy and the writing “telling” and not very immersive. Even so, this was a compelling portrait of a tragic tale.
★★★★☆ 3.5 If I Could. Promising Premise; Ultimately Predictable
I’d really been looking forward to this one. I was intrigued by one of the lead characters having schizophrenia. I was excited to read a story in a genre I love where the person with a mental illness wasn’t the antagonist.
He (Eric) ended up being my favorite character. In fact, the most interesting thing about this book was his relationship with Jake, another character who was a “freak” (that’s the term he used). Their interactions were warm and genuine and were the best of the novel.
I thought the clues were obvious and couldn’t believe it took Susan (the female lead and a cop) so long to piece the puzzle together. And her actions at the end were completely illogical.
Like my title suggests, I found the premise intriguing. And Eric and Jake save the story. It’s worth reading for their interactions, but not for the mystery itself.
The Stranger Inside
★★★★☆ Red Herrings Abound
I love psychological thrillers—the chilling atmosphere, the frightening anticipation, the pulse-pounding desperation. My favorite part is figuring out who did it and why.
This book had its fair share of the first, but it fell short of the second.
The author crafted strong main characters. Visceral. Relatable. Even if you didn’t like what they were doing, you understood what prompted the words and actions. As far as character development, this book is almost a clinic. The author nailed the dialogue and internalization. At least, until the end, when some decisions were made that were pretty hard to swallow, especially given one character’s complete turnaround.
It’s the killer that I had a problem with. I don’t want to give anything away, so I’m choosing my words carefully here and being intentionally vague. I think the author was trying so hard for a surprise reveal that she didn’t leave enough clues. (Even that might be saying too much.) When I figured out what was going on, I went back to see if I missed the breadcrumbs that would lead me to the right destination. I didn’t. There weren’t enough. There were some, but too few. Given how this character is perceived by so many and by sheer logistics, the reveal seems more like a gimmick than a horrific truth.
This is a fast read. The characters are compelling even though the ending is unbelievable. And I wish there was a bit more forecasting. Keep it subtle, but get it in there. This one fell just short of a four-star for me, but not low enough to give it a three.
Hey You, Pretty Face
★★★★★ Multiple Plots Woven into One Wonderful Story
This is my first Jack Rutherford novel, and I enjoyed every word. The characters are so much better than trite, cliche placeholders easily exchanged with any number of others in this genre. This is a well developed, three-dimensional cast with fully developed personalities. Some are lazy and annoying, some are sweet and pitiable. A few are reprehensible. And the lead is stalwart and true. His relationship with his wife warmed my heart, and his interactions with Billy, Chloe, and Mary warmed my soul.
The author did a remarkable job of tying up all the threads into one tidy bow. While I saw how it was all going to come together very early in the story, it didn’t diminish my pleasure at all. It was the character progression that carried the novel.
Like I said, this is my first jack Rutherford novel. But it won’t be my last.