The Guest List by Lucy Foley
(HarperCollins, 312 pages)
June is the traditional month for weddings, and The Guest List is the wedding thriller of all time. What happens when you put 150 guests in a castle on a private island off the Connemara coast of Ireland and there’s a murder?
The first of several narrators is Aoife, the wedding planner in charge of the million-dollar nuptials. Golden girl Jules Keegan, owner of a highly successful lifestyle media empire, is set to marry rising reality television star Will Slater in a celebration sure to hit every possible social media site. Aoife and her partner, Freddy, need to have every detail perfect for the bride’s eagle eye. As the guests roll in by boat, Aoife is watching the weather, the vintage champagne, the food and, for good measure, the behaviour of the guests.
Other narrators tell different bits of the events as they unfold and each has a tiny clue about what’s going to happen, making this a terrific page turner. Some of the plotlines are a bit too transparent but you can forgive that for the sheer suspense. This is one you should save for the weekend so you don’t get interrupted.
You Can’t Catch Me by Catherine McKenzie
(Simon & Schuster, 374 pages)
You Can’t Catch Me has a saucy female narrator and an intriguing plot. If that’s not enough to lure you in, there’s also intelligent action and great characters.
We begin in the Newark Airport where disgraced former journalist Jessica Williams is busy getting a drink before her flight to Puerto Vallarta. The trip is part of a severance package she received after being fired from her magazine job for plagiarizing a major article. Unlike some mysteries, Jessica is quite guilty and not remorseful. Over her wine, she discovers another Jessica Williams, coincidentally born on the same day. The two Jessicas drink, chat, promise to stay in touch. The pair part and Jessica heads to her plane. A week later, she comes home and discovers that her bank accounts have been cleared.
The hunt for the woman dubbed “Jessica Two” is the beginning of a superb book that moves back into Jessica One’s childhood in a cult. As she digs into the tiny clues of the woman who robbed her, Jessica finds herself threatened by more than nasty people who hate plagiarists.
This is one of Montreal lawyer Catherine McKenzie’s best novels. Jessica Williams isn’t a likable character but she’s solid and her voice stays in my head. If you haven’t already discovered McKenzie, start here and then try I’ll Never Tell and The Good Liar.
Rolling Thunder by A. J. Devlin
(NeWest, 224 pages)
A.J. Devlin took me reluctantly into the world of pro wrestling in his first Hammerhead Jed Ounstead book, Cobra Clutch. Now, Jed returns as a full-fledged private investigator in another funny, smart and readable tale of sport and guile.
Jed’s old pal from wrestling Stormy Daze has summoned him to her new venue, the women’s roller derby. Reborn as Amazombia she’s literally the leader of the pack but the coach has disappeared and she’s worried. She needs an investigator’s help. Jed, still missing his time in the wrestling ring, agrees and that’s the start of a case that takes him through Vancouver’s darker side.
The plot is a bit convoluted but the characters are what make this story shine. Devlin takes his cues from the likes of Carl Hiaasen and builds the suspense along with the craziness. Welcome back, Hammerhead Jed and company.
The Swap by Robyn Harding
(Simon & Schuster, 317 pages)
There are books born for summer reading and The Swap is one of them. Steamy sex, obsession, partner swapping – this one has it all. Vancouver author Robyn Harding keeps the reader engaged with a group of fascinating characters, each with a secret. When they all converge on an isolated island for a weekend of swap-and-sex, the plot explodes.
Swallow (Low) Morrison is tall, lanky, shy and introverted. She’s also the daughter of one of the Northwest coast’s more adventurous polyamorous couples. The object of her undivided attention is potter Freya Light, wife of Max. The couple have been hiding out in rural Hawking since scandal ended Max’s hockey career. Freya is receptive to Low’s advances, soon more than receptive. But there’s more to Freya than Low knows and soon, Low faces Freya’s regard for Jamie, who is married to Brian and who also responds to Freya’s charms. One night Low witnesses them having a foursome and her obsession with Freya balloons. This book is like watching Succession. I don’t like any of the characters and the venality is on the surface but I couldn’t stop reading.
Mission Road by Ron Corbett
(ECW Press, 300 pages)
This third book in Ottawa journalist Rom Corbett’s excellent Frank Yakabuski series is the best so far. It combines Canadian history with great characters and a modern take on an old plot. Remember the Gold Rush? Well, welcome to the 21st-century diamond rush with all the greed, guile and guilt intact.
At the end of Corbett’s second novel, Cape Diamond, millions in diamonds went missing. The rumour mill, abetted by the internet, says that the stones are buried somewhere near the small town of Springfield just above the Northern Divide in Canada. The first fortune hunters arrive in midwinter. RCMP officer Yakabuski knows that trouble will not be far behind. Sure enough, a former student from Syracuse University goes missing and leaves a map of the trail on Facebook naming Mission Road, Springfield, as the site. The Great Springfield Diamond Hunt is on and everyone from housewives to hardened criminals shows up to hunt for the spoils.
As Yakabuski searches for the missing student, he’s confronted with chaos and crime. Readers who dislike violence will be put off by this novel, which has gore in abundance, in keeping with the elevated body count. But this is a return to the bad old days in the Klondike when men killed for a glass of beer. Corbett does his subject and his characters, lots of them, proud.
The Girl From Widow Hills by Megan Miranda
(Simon & Schuster, 336 pages)
The Girl From Widow Hills is a gripping psychological novel that holds readers from the opening paragraph. Miranda, author of the bestselling The Last House Guest, knows how to create characters and build suspense.
Arden Mayor is The Girl. At the age of six, while sleepwalking, she was swept away from home in a storm. Rescuers, volunteers, police joined in a hunt for a child already presumed dead. But Arden was found alive, clinging to a drainpipe. She became the focus of intense media attention. Her mother wrote a bestselling book, earning a fortune. Every year there was an update on little Arden and her progress.
But Arden wanted a life outside her role as a Saved Child. She went to a small town, changed her name to Olivia Meyer, built a new life. Now, the 20th anniversary of her rescue is approaching. Olivia knows that Arden is about to be resurrected once again, and strangely, she resumes sleepwalking. Then she wakes up, outside, with a corpse at her feet. The corpse of a man she knew, back in Widow Hills. This is a terrific thriller, perfect for that weekend at the cottage.
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