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I found this book to be an excellent standalone listen. It is part of a series, but totally independent (just has some same characters as other books in the series). The narrator did a very good performance. He added a lot of depth and emotion to the various characters. I enjoyed his delivery. I was surprised by some of the humor. I will definitely look for more books by this author and narrator. I was voluntarily provided with this review copy audiobook by the author, publisher, and/or narrator. My review is not a synopsis of the book, but rather my opinion of it.
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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.
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This is a superbly written book, which might initially seem to be a simple horror thriller but emerges to be far more than that. Nothing 'simple' here. The characterisations of the main protagonist, including a couple of dogs, is cleverly insinuated. Conversation is realistic, sometimes trivial and away from the plot itself, just like real life. There is a large cast, both in the small town but also in the family left behind, including the lazy, fat Bassett hound, Newman, and the house security, housekeeper scum research assistant AI Nigel and his inventor, brother Tristan. The whole is a convoluted mystery thriller and very amusing as situations develope, extend and unravel. Not just one mystery here - there are several and each laps against the next. This really is a plot of many parts which keeps the reader guessing, gasping and, often, giggling. Not quite the usual horror thriller but never over the top comedy, either. Great combination.
Narrator C.J.McAllister adds to the fun with a great reading, pace perfect to the story and with good individual and easily recognisable voicings of the characters. His conversations are natural, the people living, real. I especially enjoyed his performance as Nigel.Altogether, a different and very enjoyable book and I will definitely be looking out for others written by Lauren Carr or narrated by C.J.McAllister.
Recommended especially to all who don't mind losing the plot sometimes. My thanks to the rights holder of A Fine Year for Murder, who generously and freely gifted me a copy without any expectations of return, via Audiobook Boom. It surprised me and I loved it.