2017 Book #68 – Seeing Red by Sandra Brown

41WS6IgGCGLTitle: Seeing Red
Author: Sandra Brown
Date finished: 8/14/17
Genre: Fiction, romantic suspense
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Publication Date: August 15, 2017
Pages in book: 432
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: NetGalley
NOTE: I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

Kerra Bailey is a TV journalist hot on the trail of a story guaranteed to skyrocket her career to new heights. Twenty-five years ago, Major Franklin Trapper became a national icon when he was photographed leading a handful of survivors to safety after the bombing of a Dallas hotel. For years, he gave frequent speeches and interviews but then suddenly dropped out of the public eye, shunning all media. Now Kerra is willing to use any means necessary to get an exclusive with the Major–even if she has to secure an introduction from his estranged son, former ATF agent John Trapper.

Still seething over his break with both the ATF and his father, Trapper wants no association with the bombing or the Major. Yet Kerra’s hints that there’s more to the story rouse Trapper’s interest despite himself. And when the interview goes catastrophically awry–with unknown assailants targeting not only the Major, but also Kerra–Trapper realizes he needs her under wraps if he’s going to track down the gunmen . . . and finally discover who was responsible for the Dallas bombing.

Kerra is wary of a man so charming one moment and dangerous the next, and she knows Trapper is withholding evidence from his ATF investigation into the bombing. But having no one else to trust and enemies lurking closer than they know, Kerra and Trapper join forces to expose a sinuous network of lies and conspiracy–and uncover who would want a national hero dead.

My rating:  4.25 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review. This book tells the story of Kerra Bailey, a local TV reporter in Dallas, Texas, and John Trapper, a surly private investigator who used to work for the ATF. John came up with what seemed like a conspiracy theory about the Pegasus Hotel bombing from years ago, and got fired because of it. But now that Kerra has interviewed John’s father (the hero of the Pegasus bombing) John’s theories don’t seem all that crazy now that Kerra and his father’s lives are threatened. Kerra and John team up to try and get to the bottom of it, but along the way John begins to develop feelings for her.
Overall I did really like this book. One of my favorite parts about it was that the first plot twist/surprise happened pretty early on in the book, which is why I can’t write too much about what happened without giving it away. The character development in this was good but not what I would call on par with some of Brown’s previous books. That being said, there were some great twists and turns in the plot of this novel, I definitely didn’t expect the ending to work out the way it did. Once we got to the big standoff scene, things happened kind of quickly and the ending (which was a little sad) wrapped up fast. There were some pieces of the plot that didn’t exactly fit for me, it seemed like it was a bit of a reach for the reasoning behind the twist to fit into the story. I still really liked the plot overall though and the book. I always love Sandra Brown’s books and while this book wasn’t my all-time favorite of hers (for the record that would be Deadline) it was still a great read!

The bottom line: I liked this book a lot, there were some great twists and turns in the story line, some of which I didn’t see coming. And the relationship between the two main characters had great tension and good development. There were some pieces of the story that didn’t fit quite right for me but overall I still really liked it. I would recommend it!

Link to author website

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

2017 Book #64 – The Marriage Pact by Michelle Richmond

51TG3KmYm6LTitle: The Marriage Pact
Author: Michelle Richmond
Date finished: 7/30/17
Genre: Fiction, thriller
Publisher: Bantam
Publication Date: July 25, 2017
Pages in book: 433
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: NetGalley
NOTE: I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

Newlyweds Alice and Jake are a picture-perfect couple. Alice, once a singer in a well-known rock band, is now a successful lawyer. Jake is a partner in an up-and-coming psychology practice. Their life together holds endless possibilities. After receiving an enticing wedding gift from one of Alice’s prominent clients, they decide to join an exclusive and mysterious group known only as The Pact.
The goal of The Pact seems simple: to keep marriages happy and intact. And most of its rules make sense. Always answer the phone when your spouse calls. Exchange thoughtful gifts monthly. Plan a trip together once per quarter. . . . 
Never mention The Pact to anyone.
Alice and Jake are initially seduced by the glamorous parties, the sense of community, their widening social circle of like-minded couples.
And then one of them breaks the rules.
The young lovers are about to discover that for adherents to The Pact, membership, like marriage, is for life. And The Pact will go to any lengths to enforce that rule.
For Jake and Alice, the marriage of their dreams is about to become their worst nightmare.

My rating:  3.0 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review. This book tells the story of Jake and Alice, a newlywed couple who are new members of The Pact. The Pact is a secret organization whose goal is to help its members have strong and lasting marriages. Founded by a woman in Ireland whose first marriage failed but was determined for her second marriage to succeed, The Pact is a complex series of rules and punishments which seem outrageous but each member of the group seems to be happy in a hypnotized / cult kind of way. And once Alice and Jacob start getting into trouble they realize that there is a lot more danger with being a part of this group than they first realized.
Overall this book was ok. There was some interesting pieces to the book and it was a creative idea. And there were definitely some good plot twists included. I wasn’t super thrilled with the ending though. I just felt like there was a lot of build up for a weird and kind of anti-climactic ending. It was still good so I would recommend but it wasn’t my favorite.

The bottom line: Eh, this book wasn’t my favorite. There were some interesting pieces and some good twists and turns but overall it was weird and slightly confusing. And I felt like it could’ve been a better twist ending.

Link to author website

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

2017 Book #26 – If We Were Villains by M.L. Rio

51jEpw+Dl0L._SX334_BO1,204,203,200_Title: If We Were Villains
Author: M.L. Rio
Date finished: 3/26/17
Genre: Fiction, suspense
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Publication Date: April 11, 2017
Pages in book: 354
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: BookBrowse NOTE:I received this book for free from BookBrowse in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

Oliver Marks has just served ten years in jail – for a murder he may or may not have committed. On the day he’s released, he’s greeted by the man who put him in prison. Detective Colborne is retiring, but before he does, he wants to know what really happened a decade ago.
As one of seven young actors studying Shakespeare at an elite arts college, Oliver and his friends play the same roles onstage and off: hero, villain, tyrant, temptress, ingénue, extra. But when the casting changes, and the secondary characters usurp the stars, the plays spill dangerously over into life, and one of them is found dead. The rest face their greatest acting challenge yet: convincing the police, and themselves, that they are blameless.
Intelligent, thrilling, and richly detailed, If We Were Villains is a captivating story of the enduring power and passion of words.

My rating:  4.5 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review. This book tells the story of a group of fourth year theater students attending Dellecher Classical Conservatory, an elite college for the arts that has a slightly unorthodox approach to advancement. Each year only certain students are allowed to advance to the next year’s level, which for this particular story resulted in a group of 7 unusually close senior year theater students. In this particular group, the line between friend and enemy is continually blurred and tensions reach new heights. The story is narrated by one of these seven students, Oliver Marks, who when we first meet him is at the end of his 10 year prison sentence. We meet him as he begins to tell the story of what actually happened a decade ago to Detective Colborne, his arresting officer. Colborne has been haunted by this case the past ten years because he never believed that Oliver was actually the killer. And as the story of that year unfolds, there are many layers to be peeled back before the truth can be uncovered. There are heroes and damsels, tragedy and comedy, lovers and friends. And in the end, there is more than one villain.
Overall I really liked this book a lot. I thought it was so different and so interesting. As the theater student’s curriculum centers mostly around Shakespeare, there were many different passages from his various works woven into the story line and the conversations, and I just loved it. You could feel how young the group of them were, even though they were dealing with such intense adult problems. And Oliver was perhaps the most innocent of them all, and seeing the story through his eyes added that extra layer of naivete. After the murder Oliver and his remaining friends fall to pieces, each of them dealing with their own feelings of guilt and responsibility in different ways. Centered within Oliver’s story is his best friend, James, and his love interest, Meredith. The roles here even are oftentimes blurred, as Oliver’s feelings for James are not so easily categorized into the label of “friends.” That was one of the things I loved most about this book was how well it portrayed that love and hate are on the same spectrum of emotion, and if you feel one it is very easily turned to the other side of the spectrum when a person is pushed to their limit. I also thought the character development in this novel was really well done, I could feel everything that Oliver felt with such strength that I felt sucked into the story itself. The story was heart-warming and heart-breaking all in one and while I was a little surprised at the ending I really just enjoyed this book so much. I would most definitely recommend and I can’t wait to see more from this author in the future!

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This is the coat of arms for Dellecher Classical Conservatory mentioned in the novel. I found this picture on the author’s website and thought it was a neat addition!!

The bottom line: I really liked this book a lot. I loved that quotes from Shakespeare’s plays were interwoven so skillfully throughout the text and I loved the strength of emotions portrayed by all the characters in the book.

Link to author website

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

2017 Book #13 – Beautiful Broken Girls by Kim Savage

410vmxoeeqlTitle: Beautiful Broken Girls
Author: Kim Savage
Date finished: 2/25/17
Genre: Fiction, suspense
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication Date: February 21, 2017
Pages in book: 336
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: NetGalley NOTE: I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

Remember the places you touched me.
Mira and Francesca Cillo were beautiful, overprotected by their father, and, frankly, odd. To the neighborhood boys they seemed untouchable. But one boy, Ben, touched seven parts of Mira: her palm, hair, chest, cheek, lips, throat, and heart. After the sisters drown themselves in the quarry lake, a post-mortem letter from Mira arrives in Ben’s mailbox. The letter sends Ben on a quest to find notes in the places where they touched. Note by note, Ben discovers the mystical secret at the heart of Mira and Francesca’s strange world, and he discovers that some things are better left untouched.

My rating:  2.75 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review. This book tells the story of Ben Lattanzi, who gets a letter from his neighbor Mira a week after she dies. Ben was in love with Mira but she and her sister Francesca had died in what seemed very much to be a suicide (they had rocks in their pockets) at the quarry. Mira tells Ben to go find her notes to him in the 7 places that they had touched each other, to learn her story now after her death. And so Ben travels to the different places in town where they had touched, but each note he finds only confuses him more and more. Will he ever find out why Mira killed herself?
Overall this was not my favorite book. The story itself had a lot of potential and I especially liked the way the book was set up. Each chapter told Ben’s story of remembering where he and Mira had touched and him finding a new note and trying to figure out what the note means. Then the second part of each chapter is Mira telling her piece of the story from her life over the last year. I liked that format, it was just that for me the story had so many holes and so many extra parts that didn’t have anything to do with the story line. I didn’t feel like there was a lot of flow to the story line, it felt choppy and to be honest it was just overwhelmingly sad. And it felt like there was just a whole lot of extra crazy in the book and the characters. It wasn’t my favorite read lately, it wasn’t a bad story just didn’t appeal to me.

The bottom line: While this book didn’t work for me personally, I can see how it would appeal to other readers. Suspense novels are really popular right now and there is just enough mystery, crazy, and sexy in this book to make it worth the read. So I would recommend trying it, just be warned you may end up a little frustrated.

Link to author website

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

2017 Book #8 – Everything You Want Me To Be by Mindy Mejia

514djmp1kl-_sx329_bo1204203200_Title: Everything You Want Me to Be
Author: Mindy Mejia
Date finished: 1/29/17
Genre: Fiction, suspense/thriller
Publisher: Atria/Emily Bestler Books
Publication Date: January 3, 2017
Pages in book: 352
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: NetGalley NOTE: I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

Full of twists and turns, Everything You Want Me to Be reconstructs a year in the life of a dangerously mesmerizing young woman, during which a small town’s darkest secrets come to the forefront…and she inches closer and closer to her death.
High school senior Hattie Hoffman has spent her whole life playing many parts: the good student, the good daughter, the good citizen. When she’s found brutally stabbed to death on the opening night of her high school play, the tragedy rips through the fabric of her small town community. Local sheriff Del Goodman, a family friend of the Hoffmans, vows to find her killer, but trying to solve her murder yields more questions than answers. It seems that Hattie’s acting talents ran far beyond the stage. Told from three points of view—Del, Hattie, and the new English teacher whose marriage is crumbling—Everything You Want Me to Be weaves the story of Hattie’s last school year and the events that drew her ever closer to her death.
Evocative and razor-sharp, Everything You Want Me to Be challenges you to test the lines between innocence and culpability, identity and deception. Does love lead to self-discovery—or destruction?

My rating:  4.75 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review. This book is about the murder of Hattie Hoffman, a high school senior less than two months from graduation who is found murdered in an abandoned barn near a lake in her very small town. The whole town is rocked by this grisly murder, and fearing that there is now a psychotic murder somewhere in their midst the town is demanding answers. Del is the sheriff, and although the mayor is putting a lot of pressure on him to find out what happened Del’s real motivation is his best friend Bud, Hattie’s father. Del is desperate to find out what happened to his friend’s sweet daughter, who he thought he knew well. But it turns out everyone can hide secrets if they’re dark enough, and Hattie’s secret is a doozy. The reader knows that it somehow involves Peter Lund, a teacher from Hattie’s school, before the book even gets going since he has such an important role in the book. And Peter is in fact somehow involved, but the ending, and the murderer, is something that the reader won’t see coming.
Overall this book rocked. I loved the way that the story was presented, with the three separate points of view. The story line itself was riveting and I loved the way the author wrote this book, there were so many passages that stood out to me and really just made me stop and think about how wonderfully this book was written. Hattie as a character jumps off the page and really just comes so alive for the reader. And the murderer really is just not someone that I would have expected at all, I loved the way the ending was done because it keeps the reader guessing until the last minute. The whole thing was just overwhelmingly sad but I loved that the author didn’t shy away from this either. The book includes not only the suspense of what happened and trying to resolve the mystery but also deals with the raw grief that comes from losing a child and of the community that is left to deal with the aftermath of the murder. I loved this book and I would highly recommend it!

Favorite quotes: 
“I took a step closer, compelled beyond reason toward this girl who kept shedding masks like a matryoshka doll, each one more audacious that the last, a psychological striptease that rached me with the need to tear her apart until I found out who or what was inside.” (Peter)

“It wouldn’t matter if I never saw her again, never hugged her. I would cut off my hands and feet just to know her heart was beating.” (Mona, Hattie’s Mom)

The bottom line: This book was awesome, I loved the plot and the way the story was presented with the three points of view. Though jumping back and forth between past and present can be hard to follow at times, I think it was absolutely the best way to present the story. This was a great thriller and I would highly recommend!

Link to author website

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

2017 Book #7 – The Girl Before by JP Delaney

51nt2d3zgwl-_sx327_bo1204203200_Title: The Girl Before
Author: JP Delaney
Date finished: 1/24/17
Genre: Fiction, suspense/thriller
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Publication Date: January 24, 2017
Pages in book: 352
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: NetGalley NOTE: I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

SOON TO BE A MAJOR MOTION PICTURE DIRECTED BY RON HOWARD
Please make a list of every possession you consider essential to your life.
The request seems odd, even intrusive—and for the two women who answer, the consequences are devastating.
EMMA
Reeling from a traumatic break-in, Emma wants a new place to live. But none of the apartments she sees are affordable or feel safe. Until One Folgate Street. The house is an architectural masterpiece: a minimalist design of pale stone, plate glass, and soaring ceilings. But there are rules. The enigmatic architect who designed the house retains full control: no books, no throw pillows, no photos or clutter or personal effects of any kind. The space is intended to transform its occupant—and it does.
JANE
After a personal tragedy, Jane needs a fresh start. When she finds One Folgate Street she is instantly drawn to the space—and to its aloof but seductive creator. Moving in, Jane soon learns about the untimely death of the home’s previous tenant, a woman similar to Jane in age and appearance. As Jane tries to untangle truth from lies, she unwittingly follows the same patterns, makes the same choices, crosses paths with the same people, and experiences the same terror, as the girl before.

My rating:  4.0 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review. This book tells the story of Jane Cavendish and also of Emma Matthews. The book outlines the lives of both these very different women, Jane in the “Now” and Emma from “Then”. Both women at their different times are looking for a new place to live. Both have recently suffered a trauma and end up applying to live at the same apartment in London. This house comes at a very discounted rent price but in exchange they have to agree to the “Rules.” These rules include not being able to bring much with them, participating in a sort of experimental data gathering, and no pets, children or any kind of mess.  The house is very high-tech and can read your personal preferences from the data that’s been collected and stored, such as what temperature you prefer your shower temperature. In fact you can’t even get in the front door unless the house knows you or you have a code on your phone to get in. And as both women fall under the spell of the building’s architect, their lives parallel each other very closely before veering off in other directions. As both women find themselves being threatened though, they will each have to fight for their lives.
Overall I really liked this book. I didn’t want to put it down and I thought that the alternating points of view made the story line really build with tension. I loved how closely the two women’s stories coincided at certain points. THere were a lot of plot twists in this book, almost too many at some points. I thought this was a good thriller though, with some great options for villains. I loved the technology aspect to this story as well. The house is constantly evolving and growing smarter and learning. It almost seems as if the house brain-washes the individual living in it. It definitely added an additional piece of the story that keeps the reader interested. I have to admit the villain definitely wasn’t who I expected it to be, and I thought the author did a great job with the surprise ending. I liked this book a lot and I would definitely recommend.

The bottom line: This was a really good book, I was on the edge of my seat the whole time waiting to find out what had happened to Emma. And I didn’t see a lot of the twists coming, which always makes for a good thriller.

Link to author website

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

Two Days Gone BLOG TOUR!!

Two Days Gone was released this past Tuesday (January 10th) and to celebrate I am participating in a Blog Tour for the book! If you haven’t already seen it, you can find my review of the book here. See below for more information about the book, an excerpt, a short author bio, and a GIVEAWAY! This was a very good read, I would definitely recommend checking it out! It was thrilling and interesting and I enjoyed it a lot. 

SUMMARY

The perfect family. The perfect house. The perfect life. All gone now.
Thomas Huston, a beloved professor and bestselling author, is something of a local hero in the small Pennsylvania college town where he lives and teaches. So when Huston’s wife and children are found brutally murdered in their home, the community reacts with shock and anger. Huston has also mysteriously disappeared, and suddenly, the town celebrity is suspect number one.
Sergeant Ryan DeMarco has secrets of his own, but he can’t believe that a man he admired, a man he had considered a friend, could be capable of such a crime. Hoping to glean clues about Huston’s mind-set, DeMarco delves into the professor’s notes on his novel-in-progress. Soon, DeMarco doesn’t know who to trust—and the more he uncovers about Huston’s secret life, the more treacherous his search becomes.

BUY THE BOOK HERE

Amazon:  http://ow.ly/dr1j306TTQ3
Barnes & Noble  :http://ow.ly/eveI306TU15
IndieBound:  http://ow.ly/hupQ306TU93

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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Randall Silvis is the internationally acclaimed author of more than a dozen novels, one story collection, and one book of narrative nonfiction. His essays, articles, poems, and short stories have appeared in various online and print magazines. His work has been translated into ten languages. He lives in Pennsylvania.

GIVEAWAY

The publisher is holding a giveaway for two copies of the book, enter to win!!

Rafflecopter Giveaway Link for 2 Copies of Two Days Gone.   Runs January 10-31 (US & Canada only)

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EXCERPT

51fpei4tytl-_sx331_bo1204203200_First Chapter Excerpt

The waters of Lake Wilhelm are dark and chilled. In some places, the lake is deep enough to swallow a house. In others, a body could lie just beneath the surface, tangled in the morass of weeds and water plants, and remain unseen, just another shadowy form, a captive feast for the catfish and crappie and the monster bass that will nibble away at it until the bones fall asunder and bury themselves in the silty floor.

In late October, the Arctic Express begins to whisper south- eastward across the Canadian plains, driving the surface of Lake Erie into white-tipped breakers that pound the first cold breaths of winter into northwestern Pennsylvania. From now until April, sunny days are few and the spume-strewn beaches of Presque Isle empty but for misanthropic stragglers, summer shops boarded shut, golf courses as still as cemeteries, marinas stripped to their bone work of bare,splintered boards. For the next six months, the air will be gray and pricked with rain or blasted with wind-driven snow. A season of surliness prevails.

Sergeant Ryan DeMarco of the Pennsylvania State Police, Troop D, Mercer County headquarters, has seen this season come and go too many times. He has seen the surliness descend into despair, the despair to acts of desperation, or, worse yet, to deliberately malicious acts, to behavior that shows no regard for the fragility of flesh, a contempt for all consequences. 

He knows that on the dozen or so campuses between Erie and Pittsburgh, college students still young enough to envision a happy future will bundle up against the biting chill, but even their youthful souls will suffer the effects of this season of gray. By November, they will have grown annoyed with their roommates, exasperated with professors, and will miss home for the first time since September. Home is warm and bright and where the holidays are waiting. But here in Pennsylvania’s farthest northern reach, Lake Wilhelm stretches like a bony finger down a glacier-scoured valley, its waters dark with pine resin, its shores thick on all sides with two thousand acres of trees and brush and hanging vines, dense with damp shadows and nocturnal things, with bear and wildcat and coyote, with hawks that scream in the night.

In these woods too, or near them, a murderer now hides, a man gone mad in the blink of an eye.

The college students are anxious to go home now, home to Thanksgiving and Christmas and Hanukah, to warmth and love and light.Home to where men so respected and adored do not suddenly butcher their families and escape into the woods.

The knowledge that there is a murderer in one’s midst will stagger any community, large or small. But when that murderer is one of your own, when you have trusted the education of your sons and daughters to him, when you have seen his smiling face in every bookstore in town, watched him chatting with Robin Roberts on Good Morning America, felt both pride and envy in his sudden acclaim, now your chest is always heavy and you cannot seem to catch your breath. Maybe you claimed, last spring, that you played high school football with Tom Huston. Maybe you dated him half a lifetime ago, tasted his kiss, felt the heave and tremor of your bodies as you lay in the lush green of the end zone one steamy August night when love was raw and new. Last spring, you were quick to claim an old intimacy with him,so eager to catch some of his sudden, shimmering light. Now you want only to huddle indoors. You sit and stare at the window, confused by your own pale reflection.

Now Claire O’Patchen Huston, one of the prettiest women in town, quietly elegant in a way no local woman could ever hope to be, lies on a table in a room at the Pennsylvania State Police forensics lab in Erie. There is the wide gape of a slash across her throat, an obscene slit that runs from the edge of her jawline to the opposite clavicle.

Thomas Jr., twelve years old, he with the quickest smile and the fastest feet in sixth grade, the boy who made all the high school coaches wet their lips in anticipation, shares the chilly room with his mother. The knife that took him in his sleep laid its path low across his throat, a quick, silencing sweep with an upward turn.

As for his sister, Alyssa, there are a few fourth grade girls who, a week ago, would have described her as a snob, but her best friends knew her as shy, uncertain yet of how to wear and carry and contain her burgeoning beauty. She appears to have sat up at the last instant, for the blood that spurted from her throat sprayed not only across the pillow, but also well below it, spilled down over her chest before she fell back onto her side. Did she understand the message of that gurgling gush of breath in her final moments of consciousness? Did she, as blood soaked into the faded pink flannel of her pajama shirt, lift her gaze to her father’s eyes as he leaned away from her bed?

And little David Ryan Huston, asleep on his back in his crib— what dreams danced through his toddler’s brain in its last quivers of sentience? Did his father first pause to listen to the susurrus breath? Did he calm himself with its sibilance? The blade on its initial thrust missed the toddler’s heart and slid along the still-soft sternum. The second thrust found the pulsing muscle and nearly sliced it in half.

The perfect family. The perfect house. The perfect life. All gone now. Snap your fingers five times, that’s how long it took. Five soft taps on the door. Five steel-edged scrapes across the tender flesh of night.