Random Reading – Genre-bending suspense

I have a problem. I know too many authors, which means it’s hard for me to keep up with their books. So, apologies to Sally Kilpatrick and Susan Crawford for the delay in my reading and/or reviewing your new releases.

Besides being written by authors I admire both personally and professionally, these two books have a commonality in they both combine the thriller genre with something else. In Kilpatrick’s case, Better Get to Livin’ is mostly Southern fiction with a thriller thread throughout that really emerges at the end. Meanwhile, Crawford’s The Other Widow is a literary thriller that starts with a fatal car accident and relies on the mystery to keep the story going.

My reviews: Click on the book cover to be taken to each author’s website.

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Better Get to Livin’, Sally Kilpatrick, Kensington Fiction, release date May 31, 2016 (gifted a copy in exchange for an honest review)

I admit to being predisposed to Sally Kilpatrick’s Better Get to Livin’ since I helped her with her hero, Declan, in a Characters on the Couch feature a few years ago. I’d been eagerly awaiting his story, and I was not disappointed. Declan is reluctantly helping his stepmother run his family’s funeral home, but he has a few problems. First, he is overly responsible and can’t seem to say no to others’ expectations. Second, although he is of course handsome and charming, he hasn’t been able to date since adolescence, when he started to be known by the unfortunate nickname Cold Fingers due to his family’s business. Third, one of the town’s wives, who becomes a widow during the story, just won’t leave him alone. Fourth, aspiring Hollywood actress Presley Cole returns to town to wait for a scandal to blow over, and of course they’re attracted to each other, but she comes with a lot of baggage including an overbearing mother and some weird history.

As for Presley, Kilpatrick does a great job of balancing woundedness and strength. This character could have easily gone over the edge into pitiful territory but doesn’t. There’s a fun paranormal twist in that Presley can see ghosts, so of course shenanigans ensue when she starts to work at the funeral home.

My only complaint is that this town has the worst coroner ever. Or maybe it’s a sad comment on the state of politics in a lot of places, where coroners are elected, and sometimes they don’t have to be M.D.’s. Still, that’s just a side note to a humorous, heart-warming, and all around fun story.

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The Other Widow, Susan Crawford, William Morrow, release date April 26, 2016

Susan is in my critique group, so I got to read the first third of this novel about five times, and I was really happy to be able to finish it and finally see whodunnit. Definitely darker than Kilpatrick’s humorous romp, The Other Widow has Crawford’s signature style markers – lush prose and thoroughly flawed, conflicted, and likeable characters – along with a sense of threat that doesn’t let up. As the three main characters close in on the truth of what happened to Joe Lindsay and the company he co-owned, the author does a great job of weaving their stories into a cohesive whole and bringing them together at key points. I really liked that each has her own moment of redemption and realization. The wrapping up of the mystery feels a bit rushed at the end, but the pacing at the end also makes sense since the clues were there all along. The Boston setting is very well-drawn, and I appreciated the coldness of it as a break from our current 90-something and way too humid weather.

I would recommend both of these books as fun beach reads or for an afternoon when you would prefer to pour a cold glass of something and spend time with really entertaining fictional people.

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