I don’t know whether I didn’t enjoy The House of Fame, the third installment of the Nick Belsey series by Oliver Harris. It might have been because I read it in fits and starts (until I sped read — skimmed the last 100 pages) so I never got into the flow. It could be because it actually was disjointed and reading it in longer segments wouldn’t have helped. But, to me, it wasn’t a great book.
Quick summary (which I don’t think is a spoiler): Nick Belsey is a disgraced cop who is under investigation. Trying to keep a low profile, he is living in a disused police precinct/court house. While no one is supposed to know he’s there, someone does because a woman knocks on the door looking for him. Her son, Mark, has disappeared and she would like Nick’s help in trying to find him. Of course, he accepts, low profile be damned.
In searching Mark’s room, Belsey finds he has an obsession with a young star, Amber Knight. So, Belsey goes to her mansion, gets in under false pretenses and poses as a private security guard.
Let’s stop here and say that one thing leads to another which leads to another and bodies start piling up. The House of Fame then veers off course and instead of exploring the life, stalkers and murders of the rich and entitled, goes down a totally different, relatively unbelievable road.
Belsey gets into and out of jams with ease. He outsmarts everyone. He poses as a cop, a private investigator, etc. He’s always one step ahead of everyone else.
The House of Fame was a Publisher’s Weekly Star book which always leads me to wonder what they see that I don’t but whatever it is, I’m blind to it. So, I say to you, there are some great mysteries out there. If you try The House of Fame and love it, I’m glad. But if you don’t love it, don’t say I didn’t warn you.
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Two things I’m not a big fan of—religious, evangelistic, cult mysteries and very tense drama, and yet Freedom’s Child a debut novel by Jax Miller, which contains both of the above, had me riveted. It is tense from beginning to end.
The prologue, which you should go back and read again after you finish the book, begins “My name is Freedom Oliver and I killed my daughter. It’s surreal, honestly, and I’m not sure what feels more like a dream, her death or her existence. I’m guilty of both.” From there you learn that Freedom is accused of murdering her NYPD husband, served two years in jail before investigators found and convicted someone else for the crime and Freedom was released, is under the Witness Protection Program and is living in Oregon.
Freedom describes giving up her son, Mason, and daughter, Rebekah, for adoption when it was thought she’d spend the rest of her life in prison, how she’s managed to locate them in Kentucky and follow them on Facebook. When there is a lapse in Rebekah’s status updates, Freedom begins to worry. It is her mother’s instinct that says something is wrong and she needs to find her daughter.
Freedom’s Child is told from Freedom’s perspective and many chapters open with “My name is Freedom and……” The story is interspersed with letters written (but never mailed) to her children, flash backs to her life before the murder and her incarceration, descriptions of her husband, her derelict brothers-in-law and mother-in-law. Miller keeps the suspense flowing from the beginning through to the end. While the book is not over graphic, you know how wicked the bad guys are.
Readers experience a mother’s heartbreak at giving up her children, even if she knows it’s for the best. Readers experience the heartbreak of knowing your child is in trouble and needs your help while you are thousands of miles away. Readers understand the lengths a mother would go to help a child.
Freedom’s Child is definitely one of the best books of the year.
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