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Murder Mystery Monday: Suspicion by Joseph Finder

Murder Mystery Monday's Book Review:

Suspicion by Joseph Finder

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Dutton Adult; First Edition edition (May 27, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0525954600
  • ISBN-13: 978-0525954606

My Verdict: 5/5 Five out of Five Stars. 

Choices have consequences. Often our impulsive decisions lead to disaster.

I relish books that force me to answer tough moral questions along side the main character. Suspicion poses a complex situation that any of us could find ourselves in.

Would I have accepted the money?
Would I have agreed to inform on my new friend?
Like in the book Gone Baby Gone, would I have returned Amanda to her neglectful, drug abusing mom?

Suspicion, Joseph Finder’s gripping thriller begins with a father making an uncomfortable choice that spirals into a chain reaction of impossible options and deadly repercussions.  I’m a huge fan of Joseph Finder’s work, but this book varies from his usual spy thrillers. I read somewhere that in an interview, Finder said that he changed publishers because he wanted to take his writing in a different direction. I don’t know if that was truth or rumor, but he did go in a different direction. His latest thriller involves an ordinary protagonist who stumbles into a dangerous situation. Suspicion’s plot reminded me a lot of plot lines you might find in Harlan Coben’s stand alone novels. 

     The protagonist, Danny Goodman, is a single father and a writer with an upcoming deadline. He’s not on the N.Y. Times bestseller list, in fact he is quite strapped for cash. His teenage daughter, Abby attends a fancy prep school in Boston, and when the book begins, Danny receives word from the school that if he can’t make tuition by Friday’s deadline, Abby won’t be returning. She is his life and he can’t bring himself to break her heart. She is finally doing well in school, is well adjusted and has formed a bond with her new best friend.
The best friend’s father, Tom Gavin has his own reason for wanting Abby to remain in school. She’s a positive influence on his daughter.  So, Gavin offers to cover Abby’s tuition, no strings attached. 
Well … is there ever a windfall of fifty grand without strings? Danny reluctantly accepts. Bad move. Thomas Gavin is not the sort of man you want to be indebted to. 
Unbeknownst to Danny, Gavin’s wealth is linked to a deadly Mexican Cartel. Within days of the fifty grand being wired to his bank, the DEA track Danny and inform him that they can build a conspiracy case that would land him in federal prison. They throw in that once the cartel catch wind of his conspiracy indictment, he’ll be lucky to live long enough to make it to trial. His only way out — work for the feds and build a case against the nefarious financial wiz of the Mexican cartel, Thomas Gavin.
     Suspicion is chock full of moral dilemmas. The protagonist faces his first serious dilemma when he is forced to choose between his own freedom and spying on his new friend, who generously bailed him out of debt. He truly believes the DEA will indict and convict him unless he agrees to spy on Gavin and report back to the feds. You’ll have to read the book to find out what other moral choices are thrust upon Danny.  
What options does a normal, average person have when the powerful federal government owns you? As a career prosecutor, I was fascinated by this question. I may never have said it to another living sole, but I admit pondering the issue.

 Bravo to Joseph Finder for exploring such a complex and potentially real issue!

How far would you go for your child?
Where do we draw the ethical or moral line?

 Anyone who has children and even those who don’t will quickly resonate with the protagonist in Joseph Finder’s latest thriller, Suspicion.

What I liked:

  • The rich, three dimensional characters. The author has a way of making his characters seem like real live people. Danny, a down on his luck, single dad who only wants to provide the best life possible for his only child. The teenage daughter, caught up in a materialistic word full of shopping, designer clothing, and top of the line technology. Finder does a fabulous job of portraying a true teen. As a mother of teen girls, I clearly resonated with Abby. She is hooked in to her phone and other techno toys twenty four/seven. I loved that Finder shows how the teenage girl is somewhat embarrassed to bring her rich friend into their home. She is caught up in her friend’s elaborate lifestyle, being driven by a chauffeur, parents who give into her every whim, and a glamorous home with servants.  

  • The protagonist’s character arc is beautifully written.  At the beginning of the novel, Danny is sort of a wimp, but by the end of the book, his character has evolved from a wussy, indecisive, doormat to a devoted, resourceful and brave friend. He grows a backbone. Finder shows us this development with compelling action scenes, the perfect amount of deep thought internalization where the character struggles with the choices he’s made and poignant dialogue deplete with subtext.

  • The incredible way the author explores a father/daughter relationship

  • The way the author delves into modern day technology. I don’t just mean the everyday use of google, social media or how people have turned to texting as the norm for communication. Finder didn’t completely abandon his elaborate techno spy thriller, he found clever and believable ways of introducing high tech devices that allow the government and even friends or enemies a portal into our private lives. When used by the wrong person these true to life gadgets allow, even encourage unsolicited intrusion into our lives.

  • I enjoyed learning about the various methods of digital spying.

  • The quick paced plot was full of suspense. Finder’s books are like peeling back the layers of an onion — pull back a layer and your eyes flood with tears.

  • This suspenseful novel never disappointed me —  as an avid reader of crime fiction thrillers. The plot was believable (for the most part,) and the author ties in the subtle subplots with perfection.

  • Nothing in the book was too predictable. Plot twist after plot twist that I never saw coming.

  • I love the way the book blurs the line between good and evil and the good guys and bad guys. As for the main characters … no one who is you think they are and nothing turns out as you expect. Certainly we have truly evil bad dudes in the book — duh, the Mexican Cartel … loathsome men who’d  just as easily decapitate you as they would throw back a shot of tequila. But the main characters and their story evolved around truly grey areas. 

  • Nothing is as simple as black and white. There is a line and once we cross it, the line is  irrevocably blurred. This novel forces you to consider those lines and put yourself in the shoes of not only the protagonist, but other characters and ask yourself questions like, Is that really so bad? What would I do in that situation? Now that I’ve made this horribly wrong choice, how do I get myself out of it? How can I protect my family? Is it ever okay to cross the ethical line, just a little bit? Is it okay to cross it to give support your family? If not, then is it okay to cross the line to protect your family." 
  • Find me a parent who wouldn’t cross that imaginary line to protect their loved one. I bet you can’t. I hope you can’t. That’s a bold statement I just made, coming from a former career prosecutor of violent crimes. Nothing is ever black and white and we are alway surroundeds by mitigating and aggravating circumstances. 

  • Suspicion, in my opinion, is Finder’s best novel to date. It’s compelling, impossible to put down. Finder is a master of plot twists, surprise twist endings and visceral emotions. He pulls you into the characters’ world in such a way that you feel every heart thump and chills travel up the base of your neck as you sit on the edge of your seat wondering how in the hell the character will escape his latest predicament.

  • The novel requires us to suspend belief, but then again what great thriller doesn’t? The author sets it up so that I was invested enough in the story and the characters, that I was willing to suspend belief.

  • There were times when I felt like shouting at the protagonist to do something else! He made some idiotic choices.

  • I found one part of the plot completely unbelievable. I can’t imagine anyone not investigating the so called predicament with the DEA. Sure, Danny, made one visit to an old school chum, lawyer, but that was it. He never attempted to call the DEA’S main office. He never spoke to another lawyer. Never demanded to speak to a supervisory agent or the U.S. Attorney.  He never explored any of his legal options and this felt contrived — strained. It felt like a means to justify the plot. Then again, I suppose there was no way around it — no way that would have allowed Finder to deliver this fantastic story to us. So this oversight is forgiven. Like I said, as readers, we have to be willing to suspend belief . If not we might as well read non fiction, exclusively.

As you can see my lengthy list of likes far outweighs my few, minor dislikes. Joseph Finder is a pro when it come to writing a page turning thriller. I recommend this book to anyone who likes thrillers or other crime fiction novels. You will not be disappointed.

Insecure Writers Support Group (IWSG) - 3 Year Anniversary

Holy Bookends! 3 Years. Now I Really Feel Insecure:

As you all know, Alex Cavanaugh, created this group . What you may not know is that the IWSG is celebrating its 3rd Anniversary.  And next month will mark the one year anniversary for the IWSG Website and the creation of the Insecure Writers Support Group Facebook Page.

Thank you Alex. You have always welcomed new writers and you continue to support writers of all genres and in various stages of our writing careers.

This month Alex's cohost are Laura Clipson over at My Baffling Brain, Mark Koopmans, over in Hawaii (where I want to be),Shah Wharton and Sheena - kay Graham. I've known Mark for some time, but since I'e been away from blogging for too long, I haven't had the pleasure of getting to know Alex's other cohost and I will introduce myself to them today and extend a personal thank you.

What am I insecure about now?

And ... Why am I so ashamed to share my insecurities with others? Why do I continue to wear the false brave mask?

That's an easy one. While this three year anniversary is a remarkable milestone and I am honored to have participated (intermittently -- I admit), I can't help but focus on the number. Three long years that I've been writing, rewriting, scratching, starting over, pulling my thrown away novel out of the trash bin and revising again ... and again ... and again. Still, I don't seem to be any further along than I was three years ago,

Now I know that isn't true. I'm feeling sorry for myself and acting melodramatic. If I truly consider how far I've come, then I know that my writing craft has drastically improved. See Alex, this post forced me to focus on what I've learned and I'm already feeling better. 

I've made friends and contacts, attended a writers conference and I've written a complete novel. Is my novel ready for the world to see  , agents to read? I don't know. I do know that when I first started writing my novel I didn't know a thing about point of view or that I was head hopping within my scenes.  I didn't even really know what a scene was, if I'm brutally honest. Not in the sense of a scene and a sequel. I was clueless about the art and science of story structure. Yup, I've learned quite a bit.

So, what is my problem then?

I don't know and therein lies my deep rooted insecurity. I suppose I don't feel like my writing is good enough to make it. There. I've said it.

I struggle daily. I read mostly thrillers, suspense and mysteries and I write crime fiction. I completed my first draft almost a year ago . I've learned so much from so many bloggers, authors, agents and others through their blog post and on Twitter and I try and adapt every new piece of knowledge to my own work and I end up having to restructure or rewrite entire chunks of my novel.

My biggest problem is the opening. We've all heard it a million times -- you only get one page or a half page or one line to hook your reader, agent or publisher, so it better be a winner. So I write my killer opening for my killer thriller and let someone read it and they don' think I've started as strongly as I could have. Someone, usually a person I truly admire, respect and trust will tell me that my opening chapter isn't catchy enough. It's not suspenseful enough for a thriller. The advice I get is along the lines of, "this is a thriller. Start with a bada ... bada ... bada badass bang!"

So, I rewrite my opening chapter. I write the first murder scene. First I try it from the villain's chilling POV, then I write it again from the victim's point of view. Yes. I like this one. It's raw and fresh and readers can feel the the victim's emotions. This is it. I've found my opening. So I show it to another trusted, experienced writer and I hear that I've jumped into the dramatic story much too soon. "You didn't give me a chance to even get to know any of the characters. How can I care about someone I know nothing about?"

Both of the above suggestions are correct. How do I find a balance?

So, back to the writing board I go for another trip on the nauseating merry - go - round. The ride of insecurity. I must learn to trust my own writing and my choices and not get so caught up in the well- meaning comments and suggestions of those kind enough to offer critiques.

Advice to self and others ... Let's see what happens if we don't give up.

What are you feeling insecure about? 

Remembering Tina Downey

Join Us in Remembering Tina Downey
September 8, 2014

In Memory of Tina Downey {Life Is Good} the awesome A to Z Challenge Team is hosting a sunflower tribute on September 8, 2014 - Remembering Tina Downey.

Tina loved sunflowers. I can't think of a more beautiful flower or one that represent the beauty of everlasting life and love. How appropriate that Tina was so drawn to their beauty.

The A to Z team is asking each of us to purchase or plant a sunflower, prior to September 8th, and to share a photo in a post on September 8th, in Tina's memory. The goal is to splash the blogging world with sunflowers that day and honor such an awesome woman who meant a great deal to so many of us. Let's honor Tina and share with the world how much she brightened our lives and spread the warmth of sunshine and friendship to all whom came in contact with her.

If you knew Tina, then you know that that she is looking down on the rest of us and hoping we remember her motto, #lifeisgood. Life is good and this is a time for all us to reflect on how good our lives are and honor a remarkable woman who continued to share her goodwill & spirit no matter how she felt. She saw the beauty in life and we can pay tribute to her by carrying on in her memory. 

Losing a friend or acquaintance is always difficult. I never knew how hard it would be to lose a friend I'd only met on-line. 

Please take a photo of your sunflower and share it on your blog on September 8, 2014, along with any special memory or story about Tina. My heart goes out to her family. God bless you!

To join this bloghop, please sign up on the A to Z Page

Tina struggled with Pulmonary Hypertension and passed away on August 23, 2014. She will be missed.

A special thanks to the folks over on the A to Z challenge, for hosting this wonderful memorial for Tina.

Thank you Alex Cavanaugh for your "Goodbye Dear Friend," tribute to Tina.

I'm certain that many more of you have equally wonderful and touching stories and tributes on your blogs and I hope I have the opportunity to read all of them.

God bless you Tina Downey and may you forever have the beauty of sunflowers within your reach.

Have any of you experienced the death of a blogger friend?

Have you given much thought to what will become of your blog if you were to pass away, unexpectedly? I know it sounds morbid, but this is probably a topic that bloggers should discuss with their next of kin or significant other.

I hope you all had a Happy Labor Day and  I look forward to seeing your sunflower photos and reading your parting words to a blogger who was a huge part of so many of your lives.

Take care, all.

A Heart Pounding Thriller - How Far Will a Desperate Woman Go to Have a Child?

Until You're Mind by Samantha Hayes

Until You're Mine: Mind - boggling twist and turns right up until the very end -- when this reader (and I'm betting others as well), was certain I had it all figured out ... until ... I didn't. I was wrong. I love when I've been outplayed by an author.

Until You’re Mine:
Author: Samantha Hayes
ISBN 978084136891
Release Date: 4/15/14
Publisher: Crown
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Verdict: 5 out of 5

******WARNING****** MAJOR SPOILER ALERT {I truly hate to spoil the ending in a book review and don’t worry, I don’t give it away. Not completely. I feel compelled to give you this warning. This is one of those rare books that is too hard for me to review without giving something away.

If you’ve read Until You’re Mine, please scroll down for my review. If you haven’t read the book, I don’t want to ruin it for you. Go read the book — now. You won’t regret it. Then come back and read my review and tell me what you though of it.


Claudia, an eight and a half month pregnant social worker appears to have the perfect life — everything she ever wanted. She’s a wonderful step-mother to her four-year-old twin sons that she’s raised since their mom died, when they were two months old. She’s happily married to James, a Naval officer who is away at sea for months at a time. They decide to hire a live in nanny to help Claudia with the twins and upcoming birth.
Enter Zoe. The nanny is perfect on paper and instantly bonds with the twin boys, but readers know right off the bat that something just ain’t quite right with nanny Zoe. But … is it what we think? 
She has an unhealthy obsession with pregnancy and a pregnancy test even falls from her bag on her first day. As the days press on, Claudia becomes more uneasy about Zoe and rightfully so. Zoe sneaks into James’ private office, but the kicker is the day Zoe comes home in blood soaked clothing.

My Opinion:

Until You’re Mine is told from the point of view of three women. The author brilliantly alternates between the first person point of view of Claudia and Zoe and third person point of view of D.I. Lorraine Fisher. Fisher and her husband, Adam Scott are investigating a string of viscous attacks on pregnant women. Two women about to give birth, are murdered and the babies cut from the womb. Don’t worry there are no gruesome murder scenes.

I liked the way the author told the story. I was clearly invested in Claudia and Zoe as I read from their respective POV’S. At times I was rooting for Zoe, despite knowing she was not who she claimed to be and was harboring a dark secret. Other times I was rooting for Claudia and desperate for her to get to the bottom of Zoe’s secret. At first, the troubled marriage plot told through D.I. Lorraine Fisher’s point of view stumped me and I wasn’t sure why the author included it. But it all ties in beautifully.

I found myself being pulled in by Claudia’s point of view more than Zoe’s and then WHAM — I switched my connection to Zoe. The author had me flip-flopping back and forth. The novel is written with just enough mystery  surrounding all of the characters and enough lies or omissions by both Claudia and Zoe, that it is up to the reader’s intuition to figure out who is hiding what. What is their motivation for the lies? The reader gets to determine who they believe because it is clear that no one in this story is telling the whole truth.

I don’t know why this is my first book by Elizabeth Hayes. It definitely won’t be my last. I fell hard for the author’s voice and writing style. Each of the three point of view characters have their own unique and distinctive voice. I could always tell which woman’s head I was inside of — or so I thought. The writing style and individual voice of each character is what propelled the book into an unforgettable and shocking finale. A tantalizing twist ending that wowed me.

I read a lot of novels and I mainly read mystery, suspense and thrillers — every sub genre of crime fiction, so I am seldom thrown completely off guard. Oh, but I love it when I am. I love when an author stays one step ahead of me and the writer has hit a home run when I can’t guess the ending or I guess it wrong. Hayes has a devoted new fan.

I’m not going to go into the subplots — which all tie into the main plot. I will just reference a couple of them. Claudia and her husband are filthy rich, but the money came from his dead wife’s family and he refuses to touch any of it. This is one of the reasons he continues to work and spend so much time away from his family and why Claudia insists on continuing her job as a social worker until she is ready to pop.

I read some of the reviews on Amazon, which for the most part are glowing recommendations for Until You’re Mine. However, I want to comment on an issue that came up more than once. I stumbled across a few reviews offered by readers who were not satisfied with the books ending.

 Some were outright pissed off with the final plot twist. Some felt cheated. They wrote that the ending was such a surprise because it came out of nowhere and was not supported by the novel they read. Their argument was that the twist is so out of nowhere that the logic of the book and motivations of the characters we’d grown to know, must be thrown out the window. I wholeheartedly and respectively disagree. 

It’s all there if you pay attention and as with many of the best twist endings, you may not recognize many of the subtle clues unless and until your second or even third read (same with movies with the best twist endings). I challenge any of you with this belief to reread, Until You’re Mine, from beginning to end, paying close attention to detail this time. Pay close attention to what is said and more importantly what isn’t said from each women’s POV. I bet, like me, you were so engrossed in this gripping tale during your first time reading it that you didn’t notice many of the clues. Perhaps the clues didn’t seem significant at the time. 

But, that my friends, is the signature of a great suspense/thriller author. Hayes didn’t cheat us. If you think she did, read the book again and see how quickly you are able to connect the dots. You will notice the ever so slight change in one of the POV character’s demeanor and voice in certain areas.

*********** CAVEAT: Here is That Spoiler I Warned Of *************

Just a few areas that caused me to suspect Claudia was not as honest and innocent as she portrayed herself to be:

  • Unwilling to have sex with her husband James and refuses to even sleep in the same room with him. Does she do this because she is honestly worried about the baby girl’s health? Or does she have a more treacherous reason?
  • She tells James that the doctor will not permit them to engage in any sexually activity. Okay, nothing too weird about that … until … in Claudia’s own point of view we learn that this is a lie and she was compelled to forge a letter from the doctor attesting to the “No Sex Rule.”
  • Why does she have a work file at home?  A file that had been assigned to another caseworker, not her? The file that contained all of the pertinent information concerning one of the recently murdered girls?
  • Why has she lied to her husband, James about her previous miscarriages?

Granted, none of these things, individually, mean anything malignant, but taken in totality of one another ( plenty more where those came from) they add up to a woman who is not being honest with her husband. A woman who had access to the murdered girls. A woman who has more secrets than she lets on.

So back to my spin on the ending:

Up until the very end I was mesmerized with this book. I’d guessed the somewhat predictable ending, but hey, nothing unusual about that. Not when reading a thriller. In this genre, we often know early in the book who the villain is. Thrillers differ from the typical mystery that way. It’s not a “who dun it?”  In thrillers, even when we know the killer’s identity, a good author never lets up on the suspense. We flip the page, filled with apprehension and dread, biting our nails as tendrils of terror dare us to turn another page and race to the end. We want to find out whether or not the protagonist can stop the bad guy. 

Clever but predictable, that’s where I was headed — until the author wrenched my world upside down. She’d been baiting me all along. None of the women were who they appeared to be. 
The author easily leads and wills the reader into believing that Zoe could be the monster who is killing pregnant women and trying to cut their babies right out of their wombs. 

Who is the stranger — the other woman that Zoe visits and shares some sort of loving relationship with? This other woman appears deranged and won’t be happy until Zoe delivers her a child for them to raise together. At times Zoe feels this other woman’s love slipping away and knows the only way to hold onto her is to give her what she wants — a baby. 

Of course, just like every other character in the book, this woman is not who we think she is and the author is a master at disguising the truth and hiding the truth in plain sight. A remarkable talent for a writer
This is one of the best books that I’ve read in quite a while. Everyone, and I do mean everyone has a secret. You have to read to the end to discover whose secret is bad, whose secret is reprehensible, but not beyond redemption and whose secret is brutal … evil.

Not until the second to last chapter when we ride along with the killer on the bicycle, in her point of view, inside her mind, as she rushes to a pregnant woman’s home — a friend of Claudia’s who is in distress and needs immediate help … seemingly to help, do we learn her true intent is to kill the woman and steal her unborn baby.

But wait. Whose head are we inside? Zoe’s or Claudia’s? Looking back I spotted a few clues foreshadowing this mind altering twist. So in my humble opinion, author Samantha Hayes played fair with the readers and did a splendid job with not just one, but two unreliable narrators. How hard is that to pull off? She pulled it off. Unreliable narrators, misdirection and we allowed ourselves to form certain disturbing thoughts about Zoe. Or did we?

Written with similarities to Gone Girl, Until You’re Mine is one of those books that will have you questioning yourself. I caught myself saying things like, “I knew it. Well, no I didn’t know it.”

 Toward the end I knew Zoe wasn’t a killer (or so I thought ). Admittedly, I toyed with the idea that I’d solved the master plot twist, but shot the idea right down as I considered it couldn’t be Claudia riding that bike. No way, not in her fragile condition at nine months pregnant. 

But …

Until You’re Mind, is a complex thriller with multiple plot twists and a final twist that will blow you away. I highly recommend this book for anyone who enjoys thrillers, especially dark, psychological thrillers.

The final line in the book still haunts me.

Have you read Samantha Hayes' Until You're Mine? What did you think of the book? Did you love the surprise twist ending as much as I did or did you feel cheated? Have you read her other book? Can you recommend any mind-blowing psychological thrillers.

BTW - I know you thought I disappeared off the planet and I admit I have been MIA for a really long time. My apologies and I can't tell you how much I have missed all of you. I wish I could go into the details of why I couldn't blog. Perhaps I will be able to tell you all about it very soon. Suffice it to say, someone took offense at my blogging on certain issues of public interest. I will fill you all in just as soon as I possibly can. It has been a nightmare.

But I am so damn happy to be back. I am doing the happy dance right now. On my way to jump in the pool and do the happy stroke.

Read more about Samantha Hayes here and her next psychological thriller Before You Die

Or Check her out on Goodreads
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