It’s Sharon and it’s Thursday, so you know what that means! Thriller Thursday reviews. This week I am very excited to share my thoughts on Charlie Donlea’s, Empty Eyes and Margot Hunt’s, Lovely Girls. I loved both of these books and was glued to them from the very first page.
Those Empty Eyes Goodreads
Author: Charlie Donlea
Publication Date: March 28, 2023
My first book by Charlie Donlea was Twenty Years Later and I loved it, so I was very excited to read his latest book, Those Empty Eyes and I am happy to report I loved this book as well. Donlea is now a must-read author for me. Those Empty Eyes follows Alex Armstrong as she tries to find the person responsible for killing her parents and younger brother ten years ago and bring herself some closure.
When Alex was seventeen, she was woken in the middle of the night to the sounds of gunshots. When she peeked out her bedroom door, she saw her brother lying in the hall shot in the chest. Alex was able to hide from the killer, but when the police arrived they found Alex sitting in her parents’ bedroom holding a shotgun. Alex was accused of killing her family and the media named her “Empty Eyes” from the dazed look on her face when she was escorted from the house. With the help of attorney Garrett Lancaster, Alex was exonerated and also won a defamation lawsuit against the police. Ten years later Alex is working as an investigator for Garrett, and she has not given up on searching for the answers about who killed her family. Alex’s current case is the disappearance of college journalist, Laura McAllister. As Alex digs in Laura’s disappearance, she uncovers connections to the murder of her family. The closer Alex gets to the truth, the more her life is in danger. The killer left her as a loose end once; they won’t make that mistake again.
Right from the start my heart broke for Alex. She was a flawed character and did make some bad decisions, but hey who wouldn’t given what she had been through? But I loved how she was determined to find justice for her family. She was not giving up no matter what. She was also a smart character. Every piece of evidence she uncovers about her family’s murder she adds to the evidence board she keeps in her apartment. There comes a time in the story when her path crosses with the FBI, they need information from her on a case they are working, but Alex does not give it for free. She makes a deal that they can have the information, but in exchange she wants help with clues she has uncovered in her family’s murder. You go Alex!
This book is also filled with a great cast of secondary characters. I loved the found family relationship that Alex had with Garrett and his wife, as well as a few other characters. This book also has a few plots that seem unconnected to the main story, but Donlea does a great job of connecting the dots without giving away the mystery.
All I can say about this book is WOW! Those Empty Eyes had me hooked from the very first page. As well as putting a few tears in my eyes, Donlea kept me in the dark as to who killed Alex’s family until the very end. And what an end it was! 4 ½ stars
Lovely Girls Goodreads
Author: Margot Hunt
Publication Date: March 1, 2023
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Margot Hunt’s newest book, Lovely Girls, is Mean Girls on steroids LOL! The story follows Kate Turner and her teenage daughter, Alex, who have recently moved from New York to Shoreham Florida. After the sudden death of her husband, Kate wanted a fresh start for both her and Alex, but unfortunately, they get anything but.
The story is told mainly from the POV of Kate, but we also get chapters from a video diary that Alex kept. The book is also broken up into two parts, “Before She Died” and “After She Died.” I loved having it broken up this way. While I was reading the “Before She Died” part, my mind kept trying to figure out who died. Was it Alex or one of the girls that was bullying her? There is not much I can say about the “After She Died” part, because that would just give away who died. Duh. LOL!
Right off the bat Alex makes enemies of three girls on the tennis team and she soon realizes that these were the wrong girls to be on the wrong side of. These girls make it their mission to make Alex’s life miserable. After they learn that Alex’s father died in a car crash, they stuff her locker full of newspaper clippings from the accident and they even leave a doll hanging in her locker that is dressed up to look like her father. See told you, Mean Girls on steroids. But Alex is not one to back down. Along with making video diaries on her Ipad, she also likes to take random videos and she has taken a video of one of the girls that will bring all of their worlds crashing down and get one of them killed. I liked how Hunt created such a realistic teenager in Alex. I remember being a teenager (well kind of lol) and I could sympathize with the feelings Alex was having.
While Alex was having a hard time, Kate had it much easier to start with. She quickly made friends with the mothers of the three girls that were tormenting Alex, though she did not know at the time what the girls were doing to Alex. Though other moms tried to tell Kate to watch out for these women, she didn’t listen. She was just happy to have made friends in her new town. But as soon as the murder happened, these women turned on Kate so fast. They were just as conniving and evil as their daughters. But when their claws came out, so did Kate’s. She will do anything to protect her daughter.
Once we find out who died, it was pretty easy to figure out who killed them. But in no way did that make the second half of the book worse. This book was so addictive that I finished it in a couple days.
If you like books full of small-town gossip, jealousy, and betrayal then look no further than Margot Hunt’s Lovely Girls. But be forewarned, this book does deal with bullying. 4 stars