The Night Before (Lisa Jackson) – I stayed up all night, reading this one!

The Night Before by Lisa Jackson

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See it at Amazon 

(4/5)

Pros: Well-developed characters in a very thrilling mystery, with lots of surprises.

Cons: Is there a law that every thriller must contain a romance-even if completely inappropriate?

It held my attention, as I stayed up too late, turning the pages to see how it would all work out.  I’d guessed part of the story early on, but I sure didn’t guess it all!  I’m talking about Lisa Jackson’s The Night Before, a multi-layered thriller that takes “Who Done It” to a new level.

Caitlyn Bandeaux is having an awful morning.  She awakes to discover herself, indeed her entire bedroom, covered in blood.  The problem is, she has no memory of how it happened.  In fact, her memories of the entire previous night are like Swiss cheese.  Perhaps her twin sister, Kelly, can help her piece it all together?  The problem is, Kelly’s not returning any of her calls.  Still, confused, she’s further upset when the police inform her that her estranged husband has been found dead – stabbed multiple times.

Caitlyn keeps quiet about the blood, as well as the recurring nightmares she’s been having – vivid dreams that seem to match her husband’s crime scene.  But before she has the time to really figure out what’s happening, more bodies turn up.  And more evidence points to her, even though she continues to have no real memories of the incidents.

Luckily, there’s a new psychologist in town.  Maybe he can help Caitlyn figure out what’s going on.  Except we, the readers, know that Adam’s not all that he seems to be.  He has lots of secrets of his own.

That’s the plot in a nutshell.  A sympathetic woman who is being tortured by her own subconscious.  By dreams that make no sense, and by multiple people telling her lies.  It gets to the point where she really has no idea whom to trust.

The suspense builds as we are privy to some of what’s going on, but definitely not to all of it.  We’re given glimpses of an evil mind, someone who kills and tortures victims.  But we don’t know why they do it.  And for a very long time, we don’t really know who’s doing it.  Every character becomes a suspect at some point in the book, as the author purposely leads us down several paths, allowing us to pick our favorite.  My own mind changed several times as I was reading, trying to figure out the ultimate conclusion.

I thought the suspense factor was terrific in this book, as well as the thrills.  The murders are unbelievably frightening, as the victims meet their fate one by one.  Terror was definitely rampant in this book!

There are also flashbacks to events in the past that add to the chilling nature of the book.  Caitlyn’s family closet is so full of skeletons, it’s a wonder there’s room for clothes in there!  The quick flashbacks are written perfectly – they add details to the current mystery, but they’re not so long and boring that they bog down the story.

The main characters were very well-defined, as points of view shifted so we got to “know” all of the major players: Caitlyn, her family, Adam, and the detectives working the case.

But the book had its flaws, too.

First there was running gag throughout the book involving one of the detectives. She’s trying to clean up her filthy mouth, by forcing herself to pay a quarter every time she curses.  But she’s not really changing her ways – she’s just spending a fortune.  By the end of the book, she could fund her children’s colleges with the money she’s paid out.  It was a cute side story the first 17 times it was played out, after that it got tiresome.

Then there’s the obligatory romance angle, that seems to be a requirement in every thriller ever written.  In this case, the romance is completely inappropriate.  I can’t believe that any reader would “root” for the two people involved – to me it was a complete waste, and an actual detriment to the story.

Lastly, there’s a scene of animal abuse that really wasn’t necessary.  I hate reading about malicious harm done to animals!

Still, this was a very enjoyable book, one that’s sure to hold your attention, and perhaps keep you up past your bedtime.

Also by Lisa Jackson:

Almost Dead
Malice
Never Die Alone
Wicked Game
Wicked Ways

Malice (Lisa Jackson) – A lame story, with an unlikable protagonist.

Malice by Lisa Jackson

 

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See it at Amazon 

(2.5/5)

Pros: The snippets from the antagonist’s point of view were refreshing.

Cons: But this book dragged, with too many words, and a lame plot.

Lisa Jackson’s Malice is listed as a thriller, but it didn’t really thrill.  In fact, the whole story was kind of lame.

Rick Bentz is seeing his ex-wife everywhere he goes.  But, since she supposedly died twelve years earlier, this is a bit of mystery.  Of course, these sightings happen when no one else is around, and anytime Rick gets close to “Jennifer”, she eludes his grasp.  Is it a ghost?  Is Jennifer somehow still alive, even though Rick identified her body all those years ago?  Or is a Jennifer-look-alike playing with Rick’s head?

That’s what Rick is determined to find out.  So he leaves his current wife, and chases after his late wife.  From one side of the country to the other, Rick follows “Jennifer’s” trail, trying to figure out exactly what is going on.  Along the way, people close to him will start dying.  And, eventually, even his own family will end up in harm’s way.  But why?  That’s the question.

The main problem with this book is that I never felt much sympathy for Rick.  I didn’t understand his decision to trek across the country.  I didn’t understand the way he just up and left his wife.  The whole time, he’s pretty well convinced that someone is just playing a nasty trick on him.  So, if that’s the case, why take the bait and follow the person all over the place?  Why not just let the person have their little fun, until they get bored?  Everyone knows you should leave trouble-makers alone.  By playing right into the person’s hands, he risked his marriage, and brought danger to many people.  It just never rang true to me, that he would traipse all over the country to pursue this story.

Then we meet a bunch of people from Jennifer’s past life.  And none of them has one iota of respect or kindness for Rick.  They all seem to hate him.  Even Rick’s ex-co-workers seem to hold grudges against him.  Since none of these people can stand Rick, it further made me question his motives.  It was just very hard to feel any kind of sympathy for a “protagonist” whom no one else can stand.

Further, the writing style was very annoying.  This book is over 500 pages, and could have easily been 100 pages shorter.  All Ms. Jackson had to do, was stop repeating herself over and over.  For instance, Rick had an accident recently, and as a result, has some trouble with his legs.  This fact is mentioned each and every time he walks somewhere.  Every time Rick walks across the street, or gets into a car, or even if he’s just sitting around, we have to hear just how much his leg is bothering him that day.  There was just no reason to mention it time and time again.  Similarly, overly long descriptions of scenery and driving routes really bogged down the middle portion of the book.

Was it all bad?  No.  In fact, I liked the chapters written from the point of view of the “bad guy”.  Without revealing exactly who he/she is, we get a glimpse into the mindset of a very twisted personality.  These chapters were quite eerie, and added a very unique and fascinating perspective to what was otherwise a fairly dry story.

However, finally, when all is revealed at the end, I felt disappointed.  When we finally discover who did what, and why, I was left with a “That’s it???” feeling.  The motivations were simply not strong enough, or believable enough to be considered a satisfying ending.

So, I don’t recommend this book.  The protagonist is not sympathetic, and the entire story makes little sense.  Skip it.

Also by Lisa Jackson:

Almost Dead
Never Die Alone
The Night Before
Wicked Game
Wicked Ways

Almost Dead – Lisa Jackson – Almost worthy of 4 stars.

Almost Dead – Lisa Jackson

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See it at Amazon 

(3.5/5)

Pros: Very exciting story, lots of little mysteries.

Cons: Some very annoying characters.

Almost Dead by Lisa Jackson was a very captivating thriller.  It held my interest throughout and I turned pages very quickly to try to figure out what was really happening, and why.  But that’s not to say the book was perfect; far from it.  Some of the characters were just too annoying. Still, it’s a fairly solid thriller.

Cissy’s life is really spinning out of control!  While in the midst of divorcing her husband, her wacko mother escapes from jail.  What else could go wrong?  How about her grandmother dying, followed by the death of her uncle.  In fact, Cissy’s family members all start dying one by one, and it looks like Cissy and her young child might be next on the hit list.  But who is eliminating these family members?  Is it Cissy’s mother, on some vengeful rampage?  Or is something far more sinister going on?

That’s the basic premise of Almost Dead.  Cissy and her estranged husband Jack collaborate to try to piece the puzzle together, and to try to keep themselves and their child safe.  It was nice to see a husband and wife stop bickering and work together for an important goal such as a child’s safety.

Along the way, we are treated to many little mysteries.  Like just who is lying in the hospital bed, paralyzed?  We are privy to that person’s thoughts, and we know that he or she must be tied the rest of the story in some fashion, but it’s a long time until we find out all of the details.

Another mystery is figuring out exactly who “Elyse” is.  We know “Elyse” is causing some of the mayhem in Cissy’s life.  But we also know that this is a false identity.  We are given little clues that tell us that “Elyse” is really one of the other characters in the story, but, again, the details are slow to come.

All of this sounds very exciting, right?  So why do I say Almost Dead is far from perfect?  Because some of the characters were just horribly annoying, and too stupid for words.  First, there’s Cissy.  We’re supposed to like her and sympathize with her.  But she is so whiny, it’s hard to care about her.  At the beginning of the story, she’s furious with her soon-to-be-ex husband, but any time he tries to discuss the situation with her, she cuts him off and doesn’t let him speak.  It’s like she enjoys being angry, and letting him continually grovel, rather than have a real conversation with him and try to work things out.

Then there was her insensitivity to her housekeeper.  I couldn’t believe how rude Cissy was to her.  The poor woman is allergic to dogs so what does Cissy do?  Brings home a dog, and basically tells the housekeeper to ‘get over it’ when she complains.  I’m not saying Cissy shouldn’t get a dog, but how about showing just a little compassion, and seeing if there’s a compromise that would make the situation livable for all… and if not, at least give the housekeeper some severance!

Then there’s Cissy’s husband, Jack.  He’s another one that we’re supposed to like.  But his immaturity and lack of ability to stand up to his father causes him to make an extremely careless move, one that could have hurt his own child.  All because Jack couldn’t tell his father “No”.

So, in the end, the story was interesting, and I enjoyed following the clues trying to figure out exactly what was going on.  But the characters were a bit difficult to care about.  Thus Almost Dead gets only 3 stars from me.  Too bad, as it had potential.

Also by Lisa Jackson:

Malice
Never Die Alone
The Night Before
Wicked Game
Wicked Ways

Wicked Game – Lisa Jackson and Nancy Bush – Wickedly awful

Wicked Game – Lisa Jackson and Nancy Bush

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See it at Amazon 

(1/5)

Pros: There’s a dog named Ringo who seemed pretty cool.

Cons: Everything else.

Wicked Game by Lisa Jackson and Nancy Bush is listed in the “thriller” genre.  And I suppose, technically, it is a thriller.  But it flunks a lot of my personal tests for being “thrilling”.

The basic plot revolves around the case of a teenager who went missing nearly twenty years ago.  A bit on the wild side, Jessie’s friends all assumed she simply ran away.  But now a pile of bones has been discovered, and rumors are speculating that Jessie’s been found, at last.

Becca and Hudson, two of Jessie’s old friends, haven’t seen each other in nearly two decades.  But they decide to pull the old gang together, to talk about the old days.  And now suddenly the group finds themselves in danger as the bodies start piling up.

Do those bones belong to Jessie?  And if so, what truth will they reveal?  And who’s going through an awful lot of trouble to keep the secret buried?

So the premise is reasonable enough.  But the book fails on a lot of levels.  The worst problem is that I didn’t have a single person to really care about.

Becca is the main character, and I suppose I’m supposed to care if she’s in danger, or not.  But I really didn’t.  Why?  Because she is one of the worst main characters I’ve ever read about.  Stupid doesn’t begin to describe some of the things she does.  Not the least of which involve Hudson.  She’s already keeping a huge secret from him that dates back twenty years.  But, OK, I can forgive that.  After all, kids will be kids.  But now, she’s all grown up.  And she’s STILL keeping him in the dark about something vitally important, something that could have a huge impact on his life.  You’d think she might have matured just a bit since her teenage years, but apparently not.

Then there is the rest of “the gang”.  A group of people who were all buddies twenty years ago.  Interesting how they all still live in the same place.  And none of them acts like they’re any older than twenty despite being actual adults by this time.  But they all just act like the same really stupid kids they were when they back in high school.  Old jealousies are still there, petty arguments, etc.  I had to keep reminding myself that these were grown ups – men and women in their thirties, not high school kids!

And, there’s an element of “paranormal activity” that comes into play in this book.  Now this type of thing flies just fine in a certain genre of book.  Books about vampires, wizards, witches, etc.  But this book is supposed to be a thriller – it’s supposed to be about a group of normal, innocent people, who find themselves in danger for one reason or another.  So why must there be “special powers” that come into play?  Some might enjoy that element, but I don’t feel it had any place in a book like this.

And if all that weren’t enough, the ending was awful – just awful.  There are plenty of issues left unresolved, and few answers. Why?  Because there’s a sequel, of course!  So just be forewarned going in, that if you choose to read this book, there’s not much of a conclusion.  Certainly nothing that can be called “satisfactory”.

Basically, skip this book.

Also by Lisa Jackson:

Almost Dead
Malice
Never Die Alone
The Night Before
Wicked Ways