A Stranger In the House

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He looks at her, concerned. “How do you feel?” She wants to say, Terrified. Instead, she says, with a faint smile, “Glad to be home.”

Karen and Tom Krupp are happy—they’ve got a lovely home in upstate New York, they’re practically newlyweds, and they have no kids to interrupt their comfortable life together. But one day, Tom returns home to find Karen has vanished—her car’s gone and it seems she left in a rush. She even left her purse—complete with phone and ID—behind.

There’s a knock on the door—the police are there to take Tom to the hospital where his wife has been admitted. She had a car accident, and lost control as she sped through the worst part of town.

The accident has left Karen with a concussion and a few scrapes. Still, she’s mostly okay—except that she can’t remember what she was doing or where she was when she crashed. The cops think her memory loss is highly convenient, and they suspect she was up to no good.

Karen returns home with Tom, determined to heal and move on with her life. Then she realizes something’s been moved. Something’s not quite right. Someone’s been in her house. And the police won’t stop asking questions.

Because in this house, everyone’s a stranger. Everyone has something they’d rather keep hidden. Something they might even kill to keep quiet.

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After finishing The Couple Next Door in record time last week, I decided to jump straight into Shari Lapena’s new book, A Stranger in the House. It is another crime thriller and features the same investigators, Detectives Razback and Jennings, but an entirely new cast of characters otherwise.

The story flows smoothly and I found myself just as engrossed as I was in the previous book. There isn’t the same sense of urgency in my approach because the crime isn’t centred around a missing baby. My maternal instincts weren’t in play this time – fiction or not – and the murder victim isn’t nearly so sympathetic. I still wanted to know who had killed him though and whether Karen would get off.

The thing about twisty authors is that the reader learns their style and it can become easy to predict certain things from that habit. I had theories about the identity of the murderer of course, but as the chapters wound down, it was easier to predict the outcome.

*** Minor Spoiler Ahead ***

I will say that I really appreciate that the author named the murdered man Robert, and the neighbour’s husband Bob. This threw me off for awhile because I thought that Karen was referring to Bob when she was brought into the hospital, semi-conscious and rambling Robert’s name. I kept waiting for him to pop up as sudden suspect, or at least to take on increased significance.

I loved this book as well and will anxiously await the announcement of another coming from this author. On her website, I learned that she is a local author so I am going to try to convince the library I work at to invite her for an author visit event in 2018!

The only other point of note is that the audiobook has a different narrator than the woman who read The Couple Next Door. I like both voices but this narrator pronounced certain things differently, (read: wrong in my opinion!), such as Det. Razback’s name, and this annoyed me.

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xx

 

Broadchurch

Have you heard of Broadchurch? It is a British crime drama set in a small coastal town of 15,000 residents and it is the best thing since sliced bread.

I watched this show when it first aired in North America a couple of years ago, but between moving and whatnot, I entirely missed the second season and now we are on the third. To catch up I decided to re-watch the entire first season. I was curious whether it would hold up now that I know what happens, and boy did it ever!

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Miller (l) and Hardy (r)

The pilot opens with the death of 11yo Danny Latimer. His death is quickly ruled suspicious and the entire first season (8 episodes, about 50 minutes apiece) is spent tracking down his murderer.

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Danny was survived by his Mom (Beth), sister (Chloe) and Dad (Mark).

This is something that I love about British dramas; they don’t feel as if they have to somehow wrap it up and finish the entire mystery in one episode. They have faith that their audience can carry forward interest from week to week. American crime dramas, like Law and Order, Blue Bloods, CSI, Bones … they all seem to have to solve a murder in 40 minutes, which leaves very little time for exploring the intense nuances of emotion behind every situation, and the complicated web of lies and secrets in every person’s life. Throughout the course of Broadchurch season one, we learn (presumably) all the secrets of the Latimer family and many of the other village residents as well as the investigators, DI Hardy and DI Miller (featured in the DVD cover photo above).

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Miller with her family at a memorial for Danny.

There aren’t too many shows that can make you cry multiple times in the pilot episode alone! Because you explore the mystery of Danny’s death over so many episodes, and over considerably more time in tv-land, you feel as if this is actually happening. I found it easy to process the evolution of events and emotions with the characters. Just look at the emotion on Mum’s face as she realizes that the body found on the beach is her son.

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Police trying to drag Beth away from her son’s body.

The show covers every aspect of real life for the family. The full emotional range that each person can feel – and how each person grieves differently – is depicted over the following weeks, along with the criminal investigation, the involvement of the press and the emotional toll it takes on the police officers leading the investigation.

I expected DI Miller to be emotional because she is a long-time friend to the family and knew Danny all his life, but Hardy was a newcomer to Broadchurch. He literally arrived the night before the murder. To see the deep emotional connection that develops between himself and Beth and Mark was … inspiring? to see. I don’t think that is the right word, but it surprised me to see this relationship develop and the show would have been missing something without it. While Hardy is never going to be a friend who pops round for dinner, a bond develops over the season that I suspect will always be there. It is a deeply personal thing I suppose, to accept someone into your home in your most vulnerable moments, to bare every secret and skeleton to him while he investigates the murder of your child. You have to trust him to find the right person, and put together a strong enough case to stand up in court.

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The investigators walking with the family and other villagers in a silent vigil.

I also found it surprising to see the humanity of some of the reporters reporting on Danny’s case. The locals who were a part of the village I expected tact and common decency from, but the female reporter from the Herald also show a surprising amount of compassion. Throughout the season I kept willing the family to lock her out, not give her any time, because I didn’t trust her from the start, but she gives them good advice from the heart and is sensitive in her reporting.

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It would have been easy to paint her – or any number of people on the show – as evil but the creators were careful to depict each characters as regular people who are made up of good and bad, each with skeletons in his or her closet.

I love Broadchurch and so do most of my family members. It is my favourite show currently and I can’t wait to binge watch the second and third seasons. If you are remotely interested in crime shows, drama, or British tv, you need to give it a try. I could feel the emotional tugs on my heart with every episode and was often reduced to tears.

Obviously this show deals with difficult subject matter but the violence and subject matter aren’t any worse than your typical American crime drama. Actually, I think there is probably less violence. The emotionalism is partially just me, but mostly a testament to how well done this show is.

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xx

 

Dark Places – book review

Gillian Flynn seems to be the darling of bookclubs and studios all over Canada and the United States. Everyone loved Gone Girl and 2015 is the year of Dark Places.

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Libby Day was just seven years old when her evidence put her fifteen-year-old brother behind bars. Since then, she has been drifting. But when she is contacted by a group who are convinced of Ben’s innocence, Libby starts to ask questions she never dared to before. Was the voice she heard her brother’s? Ben was a misfit in their small town, but was he capable of murder? Are there secrets to uncover at the family farm or is Libby deluding herself because she wants her brother back? She begins to realize that everyone in her family had something to hide that day… especially Ben. Now, twenty-four years later, the truth is going to be even harder to find. Who did massacre the Day family?

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If you are a regular reader of my blog (sidenote: do I have any of those yet???), then you will know that this is a deviation from the normal romance and erotica genres that I usually stick to. I’ve been trying to push my boundaries a little bit this year and I read some other books that have been hanging out on my goodreads TBR list for a long time. It’s good to expand your horizons and since I went back to uni full-time in February, I’ve kept my distance from my usual non-fic reads. I get enough of that with text books!

Hence, Still Alice and now Dark Places.

I listened to Dark Places on my Audible account this month and definitely recommend that you read this book. I will have to pick up some more by Gillian Flynn – she has a natural talent for writing twisted stories with multi-faceted characters, and keeping readers on the edge of their seats.

I hate to read a “mystery” where you know who the murderer is from several chapters out. I kept changing my mind as to who killed the Day family throughout Dark Places, marking it in my mind as an excellent murder mystery.

The performance by voice actors on the audiobook were great as well.

I didn’t realize it when I was reading … err, listening … but the movie that is based on this book will be released in theatres in North America on August 7, 2015.

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Can’t wait to see it. If there are significant deviations from the book, I will probably review it as well and edit this post to leave in a link.

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xx