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Narrator: C. J. McAllister
Publisher: Acorn Book Services (2017)
Length: 10 hours 17 minutes
Series: Book 2 Thorny Rose Mysteries
Note: While this is Book 2 in the series, it works just fine as a stand alone.
Jessica Faraday is still having nightmares and unfortunately she’s acting out in her sleep and striking her new husband, Murphy Thornton. She needs answers as to why she does this. When their journalist friend Dallas Walker calls with some interesting news about the Pine Bridge Massacre, which occurred over a decade ago, Jessica starts to wonder if maybe she’s suppressed a memory from that night when her family was visiting the area. Now Murphy and Jessica return to Jessica’s family winery to hunt for clues. What they find stirs up Jessica’s memories.
I liked this book more than I did Book 1, Kill and Run. There were fewer family members to get mixed up and not much jurisdictional squabbling to keep straight. I was able to focus on getting to know Murphy and Jessica. In Book 1, Murphy had a definite role while Jessica was a minor character. Here, we get to meet her family and learn some history of the area as well. While I did feel that Jessica spent an inordinate amount of time frozen, crying, or freaking out, she eventually is able to struggle free of that and actually do something. She ends on a strong, healthy note by the end of this book.
The mystery is layered, which I loved. There are layers of motive from back then when a family was murdered. Then a few more layers have been added on over the years as blackmail and cover-ups come into play. I also liked this little side mystery involving some minor characters in the story.
Now about Murphy. He’s a Phantom, which is some sort of military special ops super secret silliness. This was brought up in Book 1 but didn’t really factor in, so I could ignore it. Now it gets more play here and I’m on the fence about it. He’s a trained, killing weapon, so you better not startle him… or drop hot tea on his pants. That seemed a little overdone to me. On the other hand, he’s a really great guy to have around in a pinch. I did like the straw trick.
Jessica’s recovered memories are sprinkled throughout the tale and sometimes they act as a deus ex machina to move the plot along. Not all the time, since the duo (and eventually Dallas as well) continue to find other clues. Jessica’s recovered memories were sometimes used well and sometimes I felt they were a little too convenient for the plot. Still, I was kept entertained by the uncovering of not only the previous crime but also of subsequent crimes.
What I really liked about this book is that it brought up some things about spousal abuse, like assumptions other people make. Jessica is having these horrible nightmares and she unknowingly acts out in her sleep, injuring Murphy more than once. In turn, he occasionally acts back without wanting to hurt her but just to stop her from seriously damaging him. In short, they both have marks but people only react to Jessica’s injuries (which I think is very realistic) without asking for details or checking Murphy for injuries. I liked how the story incorporated this nuance of culture.
I received a free copy of this book via iRead Book Tours.
The Narration: C. J. McAllister did a better job with this book. I was luke warm on his performance for Book 1 but I feel he really improved for this book. He definitely sounded engaged and his female voices were better. Though his voice for Jessica often sounded like he was talking with tight pursed lips, especially during the romantic scenes – and that put an odd image in my head. That could just be me. I liked his big Texan accent for Dallas.
What I Liked: A layered mystery; we definitely get more of Jessica in this one making her a real character; Murphy is a good fighter to have on your side; crimes then and crimes since then – they all need solving; Jessica gets to reconnect with her family, for good or bad; Jessica’s violent dreams and all that they lead to.
What I Disliked: Jessica does spend a chunk of book being nearly useless; Murphy’s ‘I’m a deadly Phantom weapon’ part seemed a bit silly.
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Synopsis of A Fine Year for Murder:
After 10 months of marital bliss, Jessica Faraday and Murphy Thornton are still discovering and adjusting to their life together. Settled in their new home, everything appears to be perfect…except in the middle of the night when, in the darkest shadows of her subconscious, a deep secret from Jessica’s past creeps to the surface to make her strike out at Murphy.
When investigative journalist Dallas Walker tells the couple about her latest case, known as the Pine Bridge Massacre, they realize Jessica may have witnessed the murder of a family while visiting family at the winery near-by, and suppressed the memory.
Determined to uncover the truth and find justice for the murder victims, Jessica and Murphy return to the scene of the crime with Dallas Walker, a spunky bull-headed Texan. Can this family reunion bring closure for a community touched by tragedy or will this prickly get-together bring an end to the Thorny Rose couple?
About the Author Lauren Carr:
Lauren Carr is the international best-selling author of the Mac Faraday, Lovers in Crime, and Thorny Rose Mysteries—over twenty titles across three fast-paced mystery series filled with twists and turns!
Book reviewers and readers alike rave about how Lauren Carr’s seamlessly crosses genres to include mystery, suspense, romance, and humor.
Lauren is a popular speaker who has made appearances at schools, youth groups, and on author panels at conventions. She lives with her husband, son, and four dogs (including the real Gnarly) on a mountain in Harpers Ferry, WV.
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