Review: THE OTHER ME

The Other Me by Sarah Zachrich Jeng, Publication Date: August 10, 2021


An aspiring artist an alumni of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Kelly never looked back when she left her Michigan hometown. But on her birthday, while attending her best friend’s art opening, she opens the door to the bathroom and walks into her own twenty-ninth birthday party in Michigan with her family and a husband, Eric, who had been a high school acquaintance. She has twelve years of new memories—but has echoes of her Chicago life.

What’s more, she experiences glitches: her tattoos fade in and out, and when she asks Eric about conversations they’ve had, he denies them. She doesn’t doubt he loves her, but he also has a controlling impulse and a covert relationship with a secretive and security-conscious start-up.

Kelly tries to find her real life, but there’s no one she can really trust, not even her own memories.

For me, The Other Me started slowly, and I thought there was too much time and repetition regarding the authenticity of Kelly’s relationship with Eric while I would have been happier for Kelly and Linnea to interact more. Once the situation clarified, Kelly determined a course of action, and more characters entered the narrative, I thought the action was more exciting and that interesting ethical issues were introduced. Trying to keep it vague – best to go into it without too many preconceived ideas!

Thanks to @NetGalley and @Berkleypub for providing a digital reading copy in exchange for an honest review and to @berittalksbooks for organizing the #berkleywritesstrongwomen #berkleybuddyreads!

A Classic Japanese Mystery Now Available in English

Originally published in Japan in 1946, The Honjin Murders was first translated into English last year and is now available in the United States.

Kenzo Ichiyanagi and Katsuko Kubo, despite opposition from Kenzo’s family, become engaged, and though the wedding is a small affair, the small town is excited by the nuptials. By the time the couple serves the members of the community and completes the saki ceremony, it is after 2:00 a.m.

Within three hours, the guests and residents of the Ichiyanagi home hear koto music and screams from the annex, where the couple had retired. The annex is locked, the shutters closed, and no footprints lead away from the building. When the family is finally able to enter, they find two dead bodies awash in blood.

The narrator, a mystery writer, delights in presenting the locked room mystery. The first few chapters are explosion around the characters and property, important details, but not as interesting as the introduction of quirky Kosuke Kindaichi, a young private detective educated in United States with the logical mind of Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot.

Seishi Yokomizo, a prolific writer who loved reading mystery novels, completed seventy-seven Kosuke Kindaichi works along with other books. The Honjin Murders won the first Mystery Writers of Japan Award in 1948.

I love reading mystery novels from other countries, and while The Honjin Murders has similarities in structure to Agatha Christie’s books, I enjoyed it not only because of the dastardly plan devised by the killer but also because of the plethora of Japanese cultural and social norms depicted.

I recommend The Honjin Murders for fans of classic mystery novels as well as those who are interested in reading non-Western mysteries.

Thank you to NetGalley and Pushkin Press for providing an electronic reading copy in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: LONG BRIGHT RIVER, perfection

Mickey Fitzpatrick joined the Philadelphia PD after high school while her younger sister, Kacey, an addict and prostitute, left home for the streets of Kensington, a neighborhood ravaged by the opioid epidemic.

Mickey responds to a what was supposed to be a death by overdose, but she notices signs of foul play. The young woman isn’t the first victim: her murder initiates a string of homicides in Kensington targeting vulnerable, addicted working women. At the same time, she learned that Kacey was missing.

With her partner, Truman, who is on medical leave, Mickey begins an off-the-books investigation to locate Kacey and find the murderer. Her queries take her into an underworld that threatens not just her and Truman but also her son.

Mickey narrates the present-day mystery while revealing how the once inseparable bond she shared with Kacey slowly disintegrated. Long Bright River by Liz Moore isn’t simply a mystery novel, though. It’s a meditation on place and family and how circumstances can limit choices. It’s a revelatory lament for those in the throes of addiction. And, it is a message about the importance of love and forgiveness.

To me, the writing was so beautiful, at times I had to stop to simply savor the language. Mickey was such an interesting narrator—so intelligent, so damaged, so unemotional. This was one of those books I wasn’t ready to finish.

Book Review: NINE ELMS, promising series debut

ultralight_adjustmentsIn 1995, Kate Marshall, just promoted to Detective Constable, was assigned to the Nine Elms Cannibal case. A deraigned murderer abducted young women, strangled them with a cord tied with a distinct monkey’s fist knot, and took bites from their thighs, buttocks, and backs. On the night the fourth victim was discovered, Kate connected the clues and unmasked the killer, but in the process was brutally attacked. In the aftermath, Kate was embroiled in a scandal, was forced to leave the Met Police.

Fifteen years later, Kate, a recovering alcoholic, was finding some peace as a lecturer at a small seaside university where her class was always in demand. Her ordered existence, however, was upended when the local forensic pathologist asked her to consult on a case. The young girl’s body had a cord tied with a monkey’s knot and bites were taken from her backside. A copycat was at work.

With her research assistant Tristan Harper, an insightful ally with a sullied past, Kate becomes caught up in the investigation—but she doesn’t realize that the copycat is determined to succeed where the Nine Elms Cannibal failed and make sure Kate doesn’t survive this time.

An entertaining introduction to a new series, Nine Elms has great and disturbing characters, interesting settings rendered in detail (for example, a psychiatric hospital), and poignant moments. However, some aspects of the plot didn’t quite ring true, and some situations seemed resolved too easily (such as a political conflict at the university), and I though the writing was a bit choppy at times. Still, I was very captivated by Kate and Tristan. Their partnership shows lots of promise for future stories, and I and look forward to the second Kate Marshall book.

Thank you to NetGalley and Thomas & Mercer/Amazon Publishing for providing an advance reading copy in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: HOW THE DEAD SPEAK, the eleventh Tony Hill/Carol Jordan Mystery

Happy Publication Day to How the Dead Speak!

In the eleventh installment of the Tony Hill/Carol Jordan series by Val McDermind, Hill is in prison for manslaughter while Jordan, suffering from PTSD, has been forced out of her job as DCI. Though Hill confessed his love to Jordan, he has refused to have contact with her until she gets treatment—that is, until an unexpected visitor threatens both his and Carol’s futures unless he persuades her to help resolve a dispute. Jordan has also been persuaded to join a group of experts reexamining cases in which miscarriages of justice are suspected. Though she is uncomfortable trying to release criminals, she can’t resist the mystery.

Meanwhile, development at a shuttered Catholic nunnery and orphanage is halted when the construction crew finds an unauthorized cemetery filled with skeletons of what are presumably young girls who were in the nuns’ care. DCI Ian Rutherford, Jordan’s replacement, shows preference for DI Sophie Valente who came to the police via retail management and joined through a special direct entry program while ignoring the skills and talents of the team, particularly DI Paula McIntyre, causing friction among them which only heightened when a second collection of human remains—this time young men—were found on a property near the orphanage. And one of the bodies connects to Jordan’s newest investigation. However, her concentration is derailed when Hill’s prison activities make him the target of angry inmates.

How the Dead Speak weaves several perspectives honing in on two primary mysteries, with significant conflict among the police squad. Because Hill, Jordan, and McIntyre are separated, the book adds new settings, particularly the prison environment. I also liked that it addressed the possibility of false imprisonment and showed the challenges of living with PTSD. The pacing was finely plotted, and the narratives well-resolved, though I would have liked more regarding the bodies found at the orphanage. The denouement, however, was very interesting and makes me intrigued and excited about where the series will go next.

While this is not my first Val McDermid book, it is my first Tony Hill/Carol Jordan novel. I was certainly able to jump in, though I would have had better insight into the characters and their relationships if I’d read the previous books in the series—something I now plan to do!

Thank you to NetGalley and Grove Atlantic/Atlantic Monthly Press for an advance reading copy in exchange for an honest review.