Category Archives: Historical (80s)

Review: When Ghosts Come Home by Wiley Cash

Title: When Ghosts Come Home by Wiley Cash
Publisher: William Morrow
Genre: Historical (80s), Mystery, Suspense
Length: 304 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Edelweiss


The eagerly awaited novel from the New York Times bestselling author of A Land More Kind Than Home, a tender and haunting story of a father and daughter, crime and forgiveness, race and memory

When the roar of a low-flying plane awakens him in the middle of the night, Sheriff Winston Barnes knows something strange is happening at the nearby airfield on the coast of North Carolina. But nothing can prepare him for what he finds: a large airplane has crash-landed and is now sitting sideways on the runway, and there are no signs of a pilot or cargo. When the body of a local man is discovered—shot dead and lying on the grass near the crash site—Winston begins a murder investigation that will change the course of his life and the fate of the community that he has sworn to protect.

Everyone is a suspect, including the dead man. As rumors and accusations fly, long-simmering racial tensions explode overnight, and Winston, whose own tragic past has followed him like a ghost, must do his duty while facing the painful repercussions of old decisions. Winston also knows that his days as sheriff may be numbered. He’s up for re-election against a corrupt and well-connected challenger, and his deputies are choosing sides. As if these events weren’t troubling enough, he must finally confront his daughter Colleen, who has come home grieving a shattering loss she cannot fully articulate.

As the suspense builds and this compelling mystery unfolds, Wiley Cash delves deep into the hearts of these richly drawn, achingly sympathetic characters to reveal the nobility of an ordinary man struggling amidst terrifying, extraordinary circumstances.


Taking place in North Carolina in 1984, When Ghosts Come Home by Wiley Cash is a richly developed, character-driven mystery.

Sheriff Winston Barnes and his wife Marie wake up in the middle of the night after hearing a low flying airplane. The small municipal airport is not open at night so Winston’s curiosity is certainly piqued and he heads off to investigate. What he finds is more than just a little perplexing. Barnes immediately discovers a murder victim and an empty plane. He and sheriff department Captain Glenn Haste begin a preliminary investigation but they are interrupted by his opponent in the upcoming election and FBI agents. Winston is frustrated by the quick arrival of Agents Avery Rollins and Josh Rountree since he was hoping his management of the case would be an asset in the election. With his reputation on the line, Barnes deftly balances rising racial tensions and the murder investigation.

Winston’s tenure as Sheriff has lasted for years and he is facing his first challenge at the ballot box. His opponent is wealthy property developer Bradley Frye with a reputation as a bully. Winston’s experience and calm demeanor serve him well as he investigates the murder of Rodney Bellamy who is Black. The victim’s father Ed is a Vietnam Veteran, high school teacher and civil rights leader whom the sheriff highly regards and respects. What Barnes does not expect is the rush to judgment about the airplane’s missing contents and suspicions about Rodney that are enflamed by Frye’s unsubstantiated claims.

In the midst of the investigation, Winston is also balancing issues from home. Marie is suffering from serious health problems and he has concerns about losing the election. Their daughter, Colleen, lives in Dallas with her husband, Scott, and she is struggling in the aftermath of a heartbreaking loss. She is at loose ends with Scott working long hours and she makes an impulsive decision that takes her parents and husband off guard.

When Ghosts Come Home is a captivating mystery with a socially relevant storyline and memorable characters. Winston is highly principled with a strong moral compass but he is also extraordinarily compassionate. The storyline is engrossing and fully captures racial tensions in the south during the early 1980s.  Colleen’s story arc is compelling and heartrending as she comes to terms with what she has lost and what she wants for her future. The mystery surrounding the plane crash and Rodney’s murder is intriguing and suspense-laden. Wiley Cash brings this extraordinary story to an unpredictable conclusion that is deeply affecting.

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Filed under Historical, Historical (80s), Mystery, Rated B+, Review, When Ghosts Come Home, Wiley Cash, William Morrow

Review: The Girl Who Died by Ragnar Jónasson

Title: The Girl Who Died by Ragnar Jónasson
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Genre: Historical (80s), Supernatural Elements, Mystery, Suspense
Length: 320 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley


From Ragnar Jónasson, the award-winning author of the international bestselling Ari Thór series, The Girl Who Died is a standalone thriller about a young woman seeking a new start in a secluded village where a small community is desperate to protect its secrets.

Teacher Wanted At the Edge of the World

Una wants nothing more than to teach, but she has been unable to secure steady employment in Reykjavík. Her savings are depleted, her love life is nonexistent, and she cannot face another winter staring at the four walls of her shabby apartment. Celebrating Christmas and ringing in 1986 in the remote fishing hamlet of Skálar seems like a small price to pay for a chance to earn some teaching credentials and get her life back on track.

But Skálar isn’t just one of Iceland’s most isolated villages, it is home to just ten people. Una’s only students are two girls aged seven and nine. Teaching them only occupies so many hours in a day and the few adults she interacts with are civil but distant. She only seems to connect with Thór, a man she shares an attraction with but who is determined to keep her at arm’s length.

As darkness descends throughout the bleak winter, Una finds herself more often than not in her rented attic space—the site of a local legendary haunting—drinking her loneliness away. She is plagued by nightmares of a little girl in a white dress singing a lullaby. And when a sudden tragedy echoes an event long buried in Skálar’s past, the villagers become even more guarded, leaving a suspicious Una seeking to uncover a shocking truth that’s been kept secret for generations.


The Girl Who Died by Ragnar Jónasson is an atmospheric mystery set in a remote Icelandic village during the mid-1980s.

Una is a teacher in Reykjavík who is barely scraping by. With one exception, most of her friends have drifted away. Nor is Una close to her mother or stepfather. When her best friend shows her an ad for a teacher in the remote fishing village of Skálar, Una is at first not overly interested in the job. Since the position includes room and board along with a salary, Una decides to apply for the position.  After she is hired,  Una has plenty of time for doubts to set in during the long drive to the Langanes Peninsula. She is greeted warmly by Salka, the woman whose attic will be her temporary home for the next several months. Despite Salka’s welcome, Una realizes the remainder of the town’s resident are not happy she will be living among them.

Una uneasily settles into her new life and begins teaching her two young pupils. She and Salka get along but Una spends a lot of time by herself. In spite of the frigid temperatures, brisk winds and darkness, she takes walks on the beach in hopes of escaping her claustrophobic attic room.  Una soon learns Skálar is quite insular and not at all eager to bring her into their midst. She is intrigued by the man she meets soon after her arrival but she is confused by the mixed signals he gives her.

Una also quickly discovers Salka has failed to mention the history of her house. But after an unsettling dream that feels all too real, Una finds out about the young girl who died there sixty years earlier. She cannot get many answers about what exactly happened to her, but Una’s discomfort continues to grow over the months.

With a very spooky setting, a ghostly presence and a shocking death, The Girl Who Died is an engrossing mystery with supernatural elements. The characters are three-dimensional and quite interesting.  The chapters alternate between the events occurring the present and another unknown narrator who is facing an uncertain fate. Skálar, the winter weather and the oppressive darkness provide an unnerving backdrop for this suspenseful mystery to unfold. Ragnar Jónasson brings this mesmerizing mystery to a very unanticipated but satisfying conclusion.  I greatly enjoyed and highly recommend to readers of Icelandic mysteries.

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Filed under Historical, Historical (80s), Minotaur Books, Mystery, Ragnar Jónasson, Rated B+, Review, Supernatural Elements, Suspense, The Girl Who Died

Review: The Perfect Guests by Emma Rous

Title: The Perfects Guest by Emma Rous
Publisher: Berkley
Genre: Contemporary, Historical (’80s), Domestic Mystery, Suspense
Length: 302 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley


The USA Today bestselling author of The Au Pair returns with another delicious, twisty novel—about a grand estate with many secrets, an orphan caught in a web of lies, and a young woman playing a sinister game.

1988. Beth Soames is fourteen years old when her aunt takes her to stay at Raven Hall, a rambling manor in the isolated East Anglian fens. The Averells, the family who lives there, are warm and welcoming, and Beth becomes fast friends with their daughter, Nina. At times, Beth even feels like she’s truly part of the family…until they ask her to help them with a harmless game—and nothing is ever the same.

2019. Sadie Langton is an actress struggling to make ends meet when she lands a well-paying gig to pretend to be a guest at a weekend party. She is sent a suitcase of clothing, a dossier outlining the role she is to play, and instructions. It’s strange, but she needs the money, and when she sees the stunning manor she’ll be staying at, she figures she’s got nothing to lose.

In person, Raven Hall is even grander than she’d imagined—even with damage from a fire decades before—but the walls seem to have eyes. As day turns to night, Sadie starts to feel that there’s something off about the glamorous guests who arrive, and as the party begins, it becomes chillingly apparent their unseen host is playing games with everyone…including her.


The Perfect Guest by Emma Rous is a devilishly suspenseful domestic mystery.

In 1988,  fourteen year old orphan Beth Soames is invited to live with the Averell/Langdon family at their country estate, Raven Hall. While Marcus travels for work, Leonora Averell and their daughter fourteen year old daughter Nina rarely venture into town. Over the course of several months, Beth and Nina become close friends and Beth’s temporary stay is extended. The pair have the run of the estate grounds and they are occasionally joined by Jonas Blake, the son of a local B&B owner. Although Beth is delighted by her current living arrangements, she is a little unnerved by a game that Leonora requests she play on different occasions. After tragedy strikes nothing for the family and Beth is ever the same.

In the present, aspiring actress Sadie Langdon is thrilled to accept a high-paying role in a murder mystery game. She delights in the lavish costumes and  luxurious limousine ride to the isolated estate in the country. But Sadie soon wonders what she has gotten herself into as the evening progresses. She grows anxious after reading the information on her character card. Pushing her uneasiness aside, Sadie joins the others for their evening meal.  Most of the other guests are eager participants but she grows concerned when one of their companions vanishes.  It is not until Sadie and others start to feel a little off that she grows even more suspicious about the roles they have been hired to play. Is it possible there is another reason they have all been selected for their weekend gathering?

The Perfect Guest is a delightfully riveting mystery with a clever plot and an isolated setting. The various characters are interesting and easy to like. The various chapters unfold from different perspectives and one of the narrators’ identities remains tantalizingly unknown for a good part of the novel. With shocking twists and turns, Emma Rous brings this marvelous mystery to a jaw-dropping conclusion. I thoroughly enjoyed and highly recommend this engrossing domestic mystery to fans of the genre.

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Filed under Berkley, Contemporary, Domestic Mystery, Emma Rous, Historical (80s), Mystery, Rated B+, Review, Suspense, The Perfect Guests

Review: This Is Not a Lie by S.C. Farrow

Title: This Is Not a Lie by S.C. Farrow
Publisher: Dixi Books Limited
Genre: Historical (80s), Gay, Literary
Length: 336 pages
Book Rating: A

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley


In 1984, St Kilda is the heart and soul of Melbourne’s thriving music scene. Joel Reed, a brilliant young guitarist and songwriter, followed his sister Karen to the bohemian beachside suburb to chase his dream of becoming a rock star. On the surface, it seems like Joel has got it all together. He’s in an up-and-coming rock ‘n’ roll band and is surrounded by people who want to see him succeed. However, Joel is also a high-functioning heroin addict and closet homosexual. Desperately lonely and dangerously self-destructive, he hides his true self, lives a carefully constructed lie, lest he be discovered, outed, and shunned by the city’s legion of hard rock fans. When the band is forced to audition for a new frontman, Joel’s world is turned upside down. Harry Engel, offbeat, charming, and disarmingly charismatic, walks into the rehearsal room to audition and rocks Joel’s carefully constructed world. Joel’s never met anyone like him before – and it’s not long before he falls in love. However, there’s no way he can tell Harry how he feels. There’s no way he can’t tell anyone how he feels. He can’t do anything to jeopardise the band’s success. And so, he lives the carefully constructed lie – until tragedy strikes and threatens end Joel once and for all.


Taking place in Australia in 1984, This Is Not a Lie by S.C. Farrow is a captivating novel that is quite poignant.

In his early twenties, Joel Reed is the founder and lead guitarist of  hard rock band The Blackhearts. After losing their lead singer, Harry Engel joins the band over the objections of Joel’s sister and band manager, Karen. With the opportunity to finally score a record deal, turmoil roils within the band as Joel wrestles with his feelings for Harry and his addiction to heroin. Karen is worried about the band’s future so she makes a decision she believes is in The Blackhearts’ best interest. The other band members are supportive of one another, but they have financial concerns as they practice long hours in hopes of finally reaching their goal of stardom.

Joel is willing to put in the hard work to make The Blackhearts a success. He is a little quick to anger and he can be stubborn.  Although Joel knows he has to stay in the closet in order to achieve success, he uses heroin and alcohol to dull his pain.  He has successfully managed to keep his desires under wraps, but his strong attraction to Harry is almost impossible to hide.  And resist.

Harry is a charming, charismatic and gifted singer. He is also a very talented songwriter whose suggestions take the band’s songs to a whole new level. Harry is also drawn to Joel but he is haunted by the events that precipitated his move to Melbourne.  His demons threaten to derail The Blackhearts shot at finally finding success.

Joel is deeply flawed with realistic issues that he refuses to talk about or deal with. His addiction to heroin is not glamorized but rather serves a reminder that many addicts are functional with families and careers.  Joel’s pain is palpable as he struggles with hiding who he is in order to achieve success.

Full of heartbreak and hope, This Is Not a Lie is an emotional novel that is well-written with vibrantly developed characters. The subject matter is true to the time period and difficult topics are realistically handled with sensitivity. S.C. Farrow brings this compelling novel to a surprisingly upbeat conclusion. I absolutely loved and HIGHLY recommend this outstanding novel.

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Filed under Dixi Publishing Limited, Gay, Historical, Historical (80s), Literary, Rated A, Review, SC Farrow, This Is Not a Lie

Review: The Heatwave by Kate Riordan

Title: The Heatwave by Kate Riordan
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Historical ’90s, 70s, 80s Mystery, Suspense
Length: 330 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley


Under the scorching French sun, a tense homecoming unearths a long-buried family secret in this deliciously propulsive beach read of a mother’s greatest fear brought to life.

Elodie was beautiful. Elodie was smart. Elodie was manipulative. Elodie is dead.

When Sylvie Durand receives a letter calling her back to her crumbling family home in the South of France, she knows she has to go. In the middle of a sweltering 1990’s summer marked by unusual fires across the countryside, she returns to La Reverie with her youngest daughter Emma in tow, ignoring the deep sense of dread she feels for this place she’s long tried to forget.

As memories of the events that shattered their family a decade earlier threaten to come to the surface, Sylvie struggles to shield Emma from the truth of what really happened all those years ago. In every corner of the house, Sylvie can’t escape the specter of Elodie, her first child. Elodie, born amid the ’68 Paris riots with one blue eye and one brown, and mysteriously dead by fourteen. Elodie, who reminded the small village of one those Manson girls. Elodie who knew exactly how to get what she wanted. As the fires creep towards the villa, it’s clear to Sylvie that something isn’t quite right at La Reverie . . . And there is a much greater threat closer to home.

Rich in unforgettable characters, The Heatwave alternates between the past and present, grappling with what it means to love and fear a child in equal measure. With the lush landscape and nostalgia of a heady vacation read, Kate Riordan has woven a gripping page-turner with gorgeous prose that turns the idea of a summer novel on its head.


The Heatwave by Kate Riordan is an atmospheric domestic mystery set in the French countryside.

In 1993, Sylvie Durand and her thirteen year old daughter Emma return to the family estate in France. Sylvie has not been back since fleeing from the home ten years earlier.  She and her now ex-husband Greg were at one time blissfully happy but their marriage eroded due their oldest daughter Elodie’s disturbing behavior.  Emma has no memories of the older sister she idolizes and Sylvie fears her youngest daughter’s forgotten few  years in France will rise to the surface.  What is Sylvie keeping from Emma?

Chapters flashback to various times spanning from the late sixties to the early eighties.  After their marriage, Sylvie and Greg are excited about the impending birth of their first child. But over the years, Sylvie becomes more and more troubled by Elodie’s actions but Greg does believe there is anything to worry about. But Greg is gone more often than he is home and Sylvie is exhausted by Elodie’s exploits. And she is very careful to keep a close eye on Emma.

Narrated by Sylvie, The Heatwave is a slow burning (in more ways than one) mystery. Sylvie’s account of their years in France are harrowing and a heavy pall hangs over her return with Emma. With unexpected plot twists and plenty of tension,  Kate Riordan brings this mystery to an intriguing conclusion. I enjoyed and recommend this suspenseful mystery to readers of genre.

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Filed under Grand Central Publishing, Historical, Historical (60s), Historical (70s), Historical (80s), Historical (90s), Kate Riordan, Mystery, Rated B, Review, Suspense, The Heatwave

Review: The Monsters We Make by Kali White

Title: The Monsters We Make by Kali White
Publisher: Crooked Lane Books
Genre: Historical (’80’s), Mystery, Suspense
Length: 264 pages
Book Rating: C+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley


For fans of Rene Denfeld and Shari Lapena comes a rich, atmospheric family drama set in the 1980’s following the disappearances of two paperboys from a small midwestern town.

It’s August 1984, and paperboy Christopher Stewart has gone missing.

Hours later, twelve-year-old Sammy Cox hurries home from his own paper route, red-faced and out of breath, hiding a terrible secret.

Crystal, Sammy’s seventeen-year-old sister, is worried by the disappearance but she also sees opportunity: the Stewart case has echoes of an earlier unsolved disappearance of another boy, one town over. Crystal senses the makings of an award winning essay, one that could win her a scholarship – and a ticket out of their small Iowa town.

Officer Dale Goodkind can’t believe his bad luck: another town and another paperboy kidnapping. But this time he vows that it won’t go unsolved. As the abductions set in motion an unpredictable chain of violent, devastating events touching each life in unexpected ways, Dale is forced to face his own demons.

Told through interwoven perspectives–and based on the real-life Des Moines Register paperboy kidnappings in the early 1980’s–The Monsters We Make deftly explores the effects of one crime exposing another and the secrets people keep hidden from friends, families, and sometimes, even themselves.


Based on a true story, The Monsters We Make by Kali White is an intriguing mystery.

In 1984, eighteen year old Crystal Cox wants nothing more than to win an essay in order to secure a college scholarship. She is struggling to come up with a topic when tragedy strikes in her hometown.  Young paperboy Christopher Stewart, vanishes while delivering his papers one early morning.

His disappearance hits close to home since Crystal’s brother, twelve year old Sammy, is also a paperboy. While the police search for Christopher, Crystal finds the topic for her essay. But will the police find Christopher or catch the person responsible for taking him?

Sammy is dealing with his own crisis as he realizes he has made a terrible mistake. Although he tried to tell his harried single mother, Tina, she did not grasp what he was saying. In addition to his fears, Sammy is failing his classes and trying to figure out a way to escape from a horrifying situation on his own.

Sergeant Dale Goodkind is deeply troubled by Christopher’s disappearance. He is haunted by the two years’ earlier case where another paperboy vanished and has never been found.  Dale is desperate to find Christopher but he has few secrets that are clouding his judgment.  Certain he knows what happened to the missing boy, Dale will go to any lengths to catch the person he believes is responsible.

The Monsters We Make is an interesting mystery with a disturbing storyline.  The characters are well-developed and  sympathetic. The investigation does not gain much traction due to a lack of evidence and witnesses. With a few clever red herrings and misdirects, Kali White brings this heartbreaking mystery to a bit of an ambiguous conclusion.

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Filed under Crooked Lane Books, Historical, Historical (80s), Kali White, Mystery, Rated C+, Review, Suspense, The Monsters We Make