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Believe Me... Nothing is What it Seems (or is it?) --review

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One thing I’ve always loved about mountains is the abundance of twisty, narrow, little roads with all those hairpin curves, winding their way up and around and up… and entirely at their own pace (well, at the pace set by those souls who originally cut, blasted, and paved the treacherous paths, in the first place,,, but you get my meaning, I’m sure).
That predilection for twisty things carries over to tales of suspense. I like to wonder what’s around the next bend… and the next page turn. 
But, if mountain roads were like mazes—with endless wrong turns and wasted energies leading absolutely nowhere—I wouldn’t like them nearly so much. 
The same holds true of mysteries. When an author fashions psychological twists into maddening dead ends over and over (and over) again, at some point I grow weary of following along; there has to be some sort of payoff, here and there, to maintain enough commit to follow all of that incessant winding and meandering to the end.  
And, in Believe Me, author JP…

Look Too Far Into Anything... and You'll Find Something You're Not Supposed to Know

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Those chance encounters. Most of the time, they’re mere blips on the radar of our lives… memorable ones, perhaps, but tiny hiccups in otherwise ordinary days, by and large.
Every once in awhile, though… such encounters turn out to be something more, something with the power to snap us fully out of our norm and change us.
Andrew Diamond’s Gate 76 is the story of one such encounter… and all that follows.  ____________________________________
Freddy Ferguson is a good guy. Oh, he may look a little sketchy—a big man with a would-be ordinary-enough face that’s been pummeled a few too many times in the ring to ever rack up adjectives like “good-looking” or “trustworthy”—but it’s the troubled life he’s had which led first to his boxing career, then made him well-suited for his current gig as a private investigator. That already-seen-the-worst-in-people attitude, the instant suspicion, and a sense of hyper-awareness serve him well when observing others. So, whenever he notices something particul…

Whoever Said the Thing About the Truth Setting You Free... Underestimated What a Mean SOB the Truth Really Is.

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It is, without doubt, a ballsy move to craft any sort of mystery (or psychological thriller) wherein the big question of “whodunit?” is revealed in the first few pages… yet that’s precisely the tack Liz Nugent takes in her wickedly-twisty (and twisted) new page turner, Lying in Wait.

As you may have guessed, though, there’s a brilliant method to her madness, because the pages which follow concern a far-more intriguing question: the “whydunit”, if you will.

To wit, any idea why a respected, middle-aged judge would kill a wrong-side-of-the-tracks young woman—with his to-the-manor-born wife’s assistance, no less—then drive the body to their own home and proceed to bury it in the back garden on their posh estate?
Of course, there’s more to murder than just the act—especially for seemingly “normal” folks, like you or me. There’s the memory of it (and trying to live with same). There’s guilt (for the murderers here are anything but your typical cold, hardened killers). There’s a lifetime of l…

Living with a Jar of Secrets... ("What I'm Reading Wednesday" review)

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I can’t really say that I’ve done many (any?) bad—like, seriously bad—things. Most of us probably can’t, if we’re honest. Plenty of stuff we’re not too proud of, sure. Things we’d take back, not do, or do differently, you bet. But really, truly, awful bad? 
But… what if you had—or, since I don’t know everyone out there who’ll stumble across this, what if you’re the rare beast who has—done something undeniably horrible, that’s been buried deep for however long? What would your life be like, every day, knowing that… whatever… was there, had happened?
It’s a scary thought, and a far-scarier reality, in Jennifer Hillier’s brilliant Jar of Hearts. ____________________________
Teenagers are notoriously stupid… in the sense that they process things differently, often act (or act out) very impulsively, and make some incredibly-poor decisions (of the sort that down the road, as adults, they’d never, ever make).

Fourteen years ago—under the combined (bad) influences of too much booze on an empty st…

Nothing Stays Buried Forever ("Safe" review--"What I'm Streaming")

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Harlan Coben is one of those authors whose books I’ve been reading for a coon’s age (however long that is), because he consistently delivers deliciously-twisty tales peopled with complex characters.

Recently, he’s also gotten into film productions, so as soon as I saw he had a new TV series out on Netflix—Safe, following 2016’s The Five and 2015’s No Second Chance—it was an easy choice as to what I’d be streaming next.
Short verdict? Wow. (No, really. Wow.)

Yeah, okay, I can do better than that. (And totally spoiler-free, natch.)

Set in a suburban area somewhere in England, Safe mostly takes place within the walls of a gated community. (Picturing beautiful large houses on ample lots, with wide, well-manicured lanes gently wending their way through the well-heeled neighborhood? Cool, then you’re in the right ballpark.)
Dr. Tom Delaney (Michael C. Hall, of “Dexter” and “Six Feet Under” fame) has been trying to make a life for himself and his two teenage daughters following the death of h…

An Avalanche Needed to Bury This Book (Jack Frost review)

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Some things make no sense.

Take me, and cold weather. There isn’t much extra “fluff” on my frame, which means I’ll probably shiver if the smallest breeze picks up. My extremities have less-than-robust circulation, so my fingertips and toes have this annoying little habit of going numb and turning a creepy shade of death whenever it’s chilly outside. And don’t get me started on the thought of jumping into any (unheated) body of water unless the day is over 90 degrees F.
By all rights, then, I should have an aversion to all that is snowy or cold… yet that isn’t the case, at all. Maybe I just revel in being perverse (entirely possible), or proving how tough I am (also believable), but I actually really like that stuff, including reading about and watching it. 
So, when Christopher Greyson’s Jack Frost came across my radar, I thought, “A P.I. takes a case on the down-low for a client who produces a popular survivalist reality TV show, and the current season, set high up a treacherous mount…

Mid-Week Wrap-up: Sophomore Seasons, Streaming (part 2)... Sneaky Pete

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Sneaky Pete Okay, so I lovea good con job. There’s just something about being able to outwit, outmaneuver, and outmatch another person (a group, a company, whatever)—by using your brain, rather than relying on manpower, weaponry, or whatever, that really appeals to me.

But, while there’ve been plenty of good movies about con men (and women, obviously, but no one ever says “con women”)—“The Sting” or “Oceans Eleven” (et al), for instance—televised examples of the genre have been pretty sparse.
With the arrival of “Sneaky Pete” last year—and the follow-up second season, which debuted earlier this spring—that’s all changed, though, because “Pete” is, most assuredly, the real deal.

So, a little background from the first season (non-spoilery, as per my usual, so no worries). A con man (one Marius Josipovic) gets out of prison and, after learning that a lot of really bad dudes from New York are hot on his tail, decides to borrow the identity of his former cellmate (still imprisoned, natch)—a …

Mid-Week Wrap-up: Sophomore Seasons, Streaming (part 1)... Bosch

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Whenever I’m rehabbing an injury or working on my daily step total, I tend to spend a fair amount of time using cardio equipment. The downside—as anyone who’s ever stepped foot on a treadmill, exercise bike, or elliptical machine will probably agree—is that working out on them can be deadly dull. 
My life-hack to curing the monotony? I multi-task, distracting myself from the repetitive boringness by streaming things I want to see.
Coming up over the next few days, then, a little look at some things I streamed (all while on gym equipment!) over the past month… all in their second (or fourth, in one case) seasons.

Bosch
I’ve been a Michael Connelly fan—including his long-running Harry Bosch police detective series (now twenty books in)—forever. So, the Amazon show which he exec-produces—based on those same characters, and simply called, “Bosch”—has been a welcome addition to Connelly’s oeuvre, and the recently-released Season 4 is, for me, the best one, yet. 
In the fourth season, the L.A. …

A "Sure-Fire" Tale that Fizzles Out Like a Match Tossed into the Ocean (review)

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The basic plot has promise: young(ish) married couple goes on vacay on a remote Malaysian island, in hopes of repairing and rekindling their floundering relationship… only to find themselves kidnapped and carted off to the jungle by a band of pirates. Not inherently original, but surely the sort of action/psychological-terror vehicle to provide ample—and satisfactory—escapim, right? 
Unfortunately, not so much; despite having the makings for a suspenseful low-budget movie, the premise of Kirk Kjeldsen’s The Depths is far better than its execution. 
How does it all go so wrong, then? Believe it or not, even at a miniscule print length of 143 pages (listed as a “novel”, by the way, though to me it would be more-aptly described as a “novelette”)—the very definition of “tight” writing and editing(!!)—The Depths still feels a good (or bad, yeesh) 90 pages longer than it needs to be. (Yes, really.)
The problem, in all those excess pages, is that very little ever actually happens… and the space…

Blood Makes for Bad Decisions... (Scandinavian Noir review)

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TV Tuesday...
On the heels of a major bust—one which resulted in his naming a fellow, decorated, senior cop as a young woman’s murderer—detective Nikolai Andreassen (played by Tobias Santelmann) is given some time off… to decompress, and to let things settle around the police station and in the media. 
Before leaving town, though, he’s roped into attending a party thrown by the victim’s family—jubilant at receiving some closure—in his honor. And there, amidst all the merry-making, Nikolai shares a tender, passionate kiss with… the victim’s brother.
Thus begins the never-predictable Borderliner (or Grenseland, in its native Norwegian), one of the latest in a recent crop of totally-immersive Scandi-Noir crime dramas, streaming on Netflix.  ___________________________________
So, where does a suddenly-in-the-spotlight detective go after being commanded to hole up for awhile? The same place a lot of people would: back home, which in Niko’s case is a small town in the beautiful fjords of Norway…

The Ultimate Battle of Man v. Machine... Played out on a Game Board ("Movie Monday")

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"Movie Monday"... Sometimes we all need a little shock to the system—something unexpected, that we know nothing about—to grab our attention, making us sit up and take note. And sure, sometimes the reason we know nothing about whatever is because it really doesn’t hold any relevance for us…but I suspect that’s the case far less often than we might think; if presented in the right way, almost anything can be fascinating.
Take “Go”. (I know. If you’re like me, you’re all, “Ummm… that’s some sort of… uh, boardgame, right?”—and thus ends the sum total of your knowledge on that.)
But wait… it can actually be pretty darn interesting… especially when made sort of futuristic-sci-fi-happenin’-right-the-hell-NOW, as in the surprisingly-engrossing 2017 documentary, AlphaGo (currently available to stream on Netflix).

Take a little tech company, whose founders have been working on Artificial Intelligence applications—namely, one known as AlphaGo, which is focused (no surprise here) on the com…

On the Nature of Being, Creation, & Beauty: Annihilation ("Movie Monday")

"Movie Monday"... A biology professor delivers her beginning-of-term lecture on the amazing replicative ability of a single cell… the building block of the entire universe 
A soldier—MIA and presumed dead—suddenly reappears… somehow altered by whatever experience he’s been through over the past year.
And, a mysterious phenomenon—referred to as “the Shimmer”, due to its glimmering appearance—threatens to consume anything—and everyone—in its path… creating seemingly-impossible hybrids from that which it absorbs.
So begins Alex Garland’s 2018 film, Annihilation. ______________
When biologist Lena’s (played by Natalie Portman) husband Kane (Oscar Isaacs) returns, she quickly goes straight from that shock to another, as he starts convulsing and spewing blood within minutes of his surprise appearance.

It’s only after he’s been spirited away to a military hospital that she—and we—begin to find out what’s really going on: Kane—along with many others before him—was sent on a reconnaissance…