Review: THE NIGHT SHE DISAPPEARED by Lisa Jewell

Review:  THE NIGHT SHE DISAPPEARED by Lisa JewellThe Night She Disappeared by Lisa Jewell
Also by this author: Watching You, The Family Upstairs
four-half-stars
Published by Atria Books on September 7, 2021
Genres: Mystery, Thriller
Pages: 416
Source: Netgalley
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FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley. All opinions are my own.

 

 

I’m a big fan of Lisa Jewell’s storytelling so I couldn’t wait to get my hands on her latest mystery, The Night She Disappeared.  I knew I would be in for a wild ride and I was not disappointed.

It’s 2017, and 19 year old Tallulah and her boyfriend have left their baby with Tallulah’s mom, Kim, while they go out for a much-needed night on the town.  When they don’t return home, Kim becomes frantic because it’s just not like Tallulah to be irresponsible.  After calling all her daughter’s friends and learning only that Tallulah had decided to go to a party at Dark Place, a mysterious house in the nearby woods, Kim decides it’s time to call the police.  The police investigate but there’s just no sign of either of them, dead or alive.

Two years later, Sophie moves to the same town. Sophie’s husband has just taken a job as headmaster at a local boarding school and they’ll be living in a house on campus.  One day while wandering in the woods around the school, Sophie comes across a note affixed to a tree that reads “DIG HERE.”  The note looks pretty new so, intrigued, Sophie does as instructed, unaware that she is about to uncover new evidence in Tallulah’s missing persons case.

My favorite part of this story is how Jewell lets the pieces of this mystery come together through dual timelines.  The 2017 timeline shows us both the lead up to what ultimately happens with Tallulah and her boyfriend, as well as the initial police investigation as witnessed through the eyes of Kim, who is determined to find out what happened to her daughter.  I was so heartbroken for Kim because I just can’t even imagine how she could go on from day to day, raising her grandson alone and wondering everyday what had become of his mother. I was also very sympathetic to Tallulah herself because it becomes clear she had some pretty major issues that she was dealing with up until the time of her disappearance.

The second timeline, which Sophie really kicks into motion with her digging, focuses on what the new evidence brings to light as Sophie decides to do a little sleuthing on her own.  Sophie is an author of cozy mysteries who is currently suffering from writer’s block so she goes into this thinking it might help inspire her to write.  She has no idea what she is getting herself into as she slowly starts to put together the pieces and gets closer to the truth than anyone has gotten thus far.

It’s definitely a slow burn when it comes to learning the fate of Tallulah and her boyfriend, but the journey is filled with plenty of twists and turns, riveting drama, ever increasing suspense and tension, and a wonderfully intricate plot that will keep you guessing until the very end.  I’ve read four of Jewell’s thrillers so far and The Night She Disappeared is my favorite. I read it in a single day and just could not put it down until I had answers, which is what I look for in a great mystery. If you’re looking for a read that will keep you turning pages until the wee hours of the morning, The Night She Disappeared is the book for you.

four-half-stars

About Lisa Jewell

Lisa was born in London in 1968. Her mother was a secretary and her father was a textile agent and she was brought up in the northernmost reaches of London with her two younger sisters. She was educated at a Catholic girls’ Grammar school in Finchley. After leaving school at sixteen she spent two years at Barnet College doing an arts foundation course and then two years at Epsom School of Art & Design studying Fashion Illustration and Communication.

She worked for the fashion chain Warehouse for three years as a PR assistant and then for Thomas Pink, the Jermyn Street shirt company for four years as a receptionist and PA. She started her first novel, Ralph’s Party, for a bet in 1996. She finished it in 1997 and it was published by Penguin books in May 1998. It went on to become the best-selling debut novel of that year.

She has since written a further nine novels, as is currently at work on her eleventh.

She now lives in an innermost part of north London with her husband Jascha, an IT consultant, her daughters, Amelie and Evie and her silver tabbies, Jack and Milly.

Thriller Review: RAZORBLADE TEARS by S.A. Cosby

Thriller Review:  RAZORBLADE TEARS by S.A. CosbyRazorblade Tears by S.A. Cosby
Also by this author: Blacktop Wasteland
five-stars
Published by Flatiron Books on July 6, 2021
Genres: Fiction, Thriller
Pages: 336
Source: Netgalley
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository
Goodreads

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley. All opinions are my own.

 

 

S.A. Cosby’s high octane crime thriller Blacktop Wasteland was one of my favorite reads of 2020, and as high as my expectations were for his follow up novel, Razorblade Tears, I was pretty sure there was no way he could top Blacktop Wasteland.  I was dead wrong though because Razorblade Tears is one of the most powerful and provocative books I’ve ever read.  It’s a story about loss and grief, revenge and justice, and it’s also a story about regret and about learning from the mistakes of your past.

Set in Virginia, the story follows ex-cons Ike Randolph and Buddy Lee Jenkins.  On the surface it would appear these two men have nothing in common aside from their criminal pasts.  Ike is a Black man who used to run with a gang, while Buddy is, as he refers to himself, redneck, white trash. What these two men do have in common though is their sons, a married gay couple, both of whom were brutally murdered.  What they also have in common is that both men let their homophobia prevent them from having loving relationships with their boys and now they’re filled with regret because they can no longer make things right between them.

Most of the book focuses on Ike and Buddy Lee’s quest to bring their sons’ killers to justice and their road to justice is paved with violence, blood and gore as well as coarse language as Ike and Buddy Lee encounter some pretty rough crowds.  To put it mildly, it’s an intense read that isn’t for the faint of heart. It’s also a fast-paced adrenaline rush that I devoured in a day because I just had to know who was responsible for the murders and whether or not Ike and Buddy Lee would bring them down.

Razorblade Tears, as its name implies, is also a story that is filled with pain, grief and raw emotion and it’s this angle that really took this book to the next level for me. These two fathers know they made terrible mistakes when it came to their sons and how they refused to just love them and accept them for who they were.  Both Ike and Buddy Lee desperately wish they could go back and do things differently.  I enjoyed reading their journey, both as they became unlikely friends bonding over this tragedy and as they both try to learn from their mistakes and become better men. This personal journey of growth made for such an interesting contrast with the gritty violence of their revenge quest.

With Blacktop Wasteland and Razorblade Tears, S.A. Cosby has proven he’s a force to be reckoned with in the crime thriller genre.  I highly recommend both books if you’re looking for a powerful read that will keep you on the edge of your seat.

five-stars

About S.A. Cosby

S. A. Cosby is a writer from Southeastern Virginia. He won the 2019 Anthony Award for Best Short Story for “The Grass Beneath My Feet”, and his previous books include Brotherhood of the Blade and My Darkest Prayer. He resides in Gloucester, Virginia. When not writing, he is an avid hiker and chess player.

Review: THE MAIDENS by Alex Michaelides

Review:  THE MAIDENS by Alex MichaelidesThe Maidens by Alex Michaelides
four-stars
Published by Celadon Books on June 15, 2021
Genres: Fiction, Mystery, Thriller
Pages: 352
Source: Netgalley
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FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley. All opinions are my own.

 

 

I was very impressed with Alex Michaelides’ debut psychological thriller The Silent Patient when I read it last year.  It was a shocking and compelling read that I just couldn’t put down, so I couldn’t wait to get my hands on a copy of his latest offering, The Maidens.  Set primarily at Cambridge University in England, The Maidens is a twisty, atmospheric psychological thriller that follows Mariana Andros, a group therapist who unexpectedly finds herself at the center of a murder investigation and becomes obsessed with catching the killer.

Mariana is a pretty complex character with a lot of layers, so having the story unfold from her perspective made for a very addicting read.  Mariana is a former Cambridge student herself and she also met her husband there, so her ties to the university run deep, especially since her husband has recently died in a tragic accident.  Mariana is still grieving and just going through the motions from day to day, so when her niece Zoe, currently a Cambridge student, calls to tell Mariana that her roommate is missing and a dead body has been found on campus, Mariana heads to the university right away.  She goes on the premise of offering comfort to Zoe, but when it’s determined that Zoe’s roommate is the victim and that she was a member of a secret all female society called The Maidens, whose members are all hand-picked by the handsome and charismatic Greek Tragedy professor, Edward Fosca, Mariana becomes convinced he must be involved in the girl’s death, especially when it becomes clear that his only alibi are the other girls in his secret society and when another one of them turns up dead.  Mariana’s obsession with proving Fosca’s guilt is what drives the action in the story and makes for such an intense, unputdownable read.

It is of course a wild, twisty, and suspenseful ride as we follow Mariana on her quest. I loved how unpredictable the story is. It took me in directions I never expected to go and kept me guessing to the very end. As intoxicating as the murder mystery itself was though, I was also very much drawn to both Mariana and to Fosca. I love it when a thriller has complex characters to complement its complex plot.  Mariana is such a sympathetic character because she has experienced so much loss and is obviously still trying to cope. Being surrounded by university memories of her dead husband has to be so overwhelming and in some ways, I think she tunnel visions on the murders as a distraction from her own pain.  Fosca, on the other hand, is fascinating in his own right because he’s so charismatic.  Students line up for a chance to sit in on his lectures and the young women he chooses for his special society are clearly willing to do anything for him.  The subject matter he is so passionate about also ties quite closely to the manner in which the girls were murdered. Is it a coincidence or is this guy’s charm all an act to cover up something sinister?

I don’t want to give anything away with respect to the murders, but if you’re looking for an atmospheric psychological thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat and that has an almost Gothic feel to it at times, be sure to check out The Maidens.

four-stars

About Alex Michaelides

Alex Michaelides was born and raised in Cyprus. He has an M.A. in English literature from Trinity College, Cambridge University, and an M.A. in screenwriting from the American Film Institute in Los Angeles. The Silent Patient was his first novel and was the biggest-selling debut in the world in 2019. It spent more than a year on the New York Times bestseller list and sold in a record-breaking forty-nine countries. Alex lives in London.

Review: THE WIFE UPSTAIRS by Rachel Hawkins

Review:  THE WIFE UPSTAIRS by Rachel HawkinsThe Wife Upstairs by Rachel Hawkins
four-stars
Published by St. Martin's Press on January 5, 2021
Genres: Mystery, Thriller, Retelling
Pages: 304
Source: Netgalley
Goodreads

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley. All opinions are my own.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rachel Hawkins’ latest novel, The Wife Upstairs, is a domestic thriller that is inspired by the popular Gothic classic, Jane Eyre. Thankfully, however, you don’t have to have read Jane Eyre to thoroughly enjoy this dark and suspenseful tale.  Jane Eyre’s Gothic English setting has been updated to a gated community in Birmingham, Alabama, and the Jane in this tale is not a governess, but instead is a professional dog walker.

As in the original tale, Jane is the classic underdog character.  She grew up in foster care and has been struggling to make ends meet.  She shares an apartment with a loser roommate who eats her food, uses her things without asking, and is just all around rude. Jane has some secrets in her past that she is running from and so she is living somewhat off the grid, making money by walking dogs for rich people in the elite Thornfield Estates and stealing trinkets from their homes to pawn for cash at every opportunity.

Life starts to look up for Jane, however, when she has a chance run-in with a handsome, wealthy widower, Eddie Rochester, while she’s out walking dogs.  Because his wife and her best friend drowned in a boating accident and their bodies still haven’t been recovered, Eddie is the talk of the neighborhood amongst the bored housewife set.  Jane sees her run in with Eddie as the doorway to a better life for herself, and lucky for her, Eddie is so enamored with her that he goes out and gets himself a dog so that he can hire Jane as his dog walker, which quickly escalates to Eddie asking Jane to move in with him.  That’s when Jane starts to realize that what seems too good to be true may actually be just that and that Eddie may have just as many dark secrets lurking in his closet as she does in hers.

One thing that surprised me about The Wife Upstairs is that I didn’t particularly care for any of the characters.  That was kind of a bummer since I would normally be rooting for the underdog, but something about Jane and her machinations just didn’t sit well with me and I felt the same way about Eddie.  Even feeling ambivalent about them, however, I still found myself completely invested in the story.  Why? Because, like those bored housewives, I really wanted to know the dirt on everyone. What is Jane running from? What is Eddie hiding?  If those deaths were just an accident, why haven’t the bodies turned up?  There were just so many questions and so many deliciously dark twists and each turn of the page would just ramp up the tension and suspense all the more.

I don’t want to say anything else because you really need to experience the unraveling of all of those deep, dark secrets yourself, but if you’re in the mood for a dark and suspenseful domestic thriller and/or are a fan of the original Jane Eyre, definitely check out The Wife Upstairs.

four-stars

About Rachel Hawkins

Rachel Hawkins is the author of Rebel Belle and the New York Times bestselling series Hex Hall. Born in Virginia and raised in Alabama, Rachel taught high school English for three years before becoming a full-time writer.

Review: HIDDEN by Laura Griffin

Review:  HIDDEN by Laura GriffinHidden by Laura Griffin
four-stars
Series: The Texas Murder Files #1
Published by Berkley Books on August 25, 2020
Genres: Mystery, Thriller, Romance
Pages: 352
Source: Netgalley
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository
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FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley. All opinions are my own.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks so much to Brittanie from Berkley for inviting me to take part in Berkley’s 2020 Romance blog tour.  Today I’m excited to share my thoughts with you on Laura Griffin’s latest novel, Hidden.

Hidden is the first installment in Laura Griffin’s new crime thriller series, The Texas Murder Files.  Hidden draws the reader in from the very first page as we follow a jogger on a popular hike-and-bike trail.  As she is jogging, the woman seems nervous and fearful, to the point of paranoia.  When a man with a large knife accosts her, it becomes all too painfully clear that she had a reason to be so nervous.  Investigative journalist Bailey Rhoads is sent to investigate the murder, as is police detective Jacob Merritt.  Bailey approaches Jacob to see if he can give her some details on the case, but instead of being helpful, Jacob is gruff and close-lipped about the case.  When she doesn’t get any assistance from Jacob, Bailey decides to do some digging on her own.

Two things become clear as both Jacob and Bailey begin to investigate:  1) There is frustratingly little evidence to go on with respect to the murder. Even getting an ID on the victim is proving to be nearly impossible, and 2) Whether they want to admit it or not or even act on it, Bailey and Jacob are attracted to one another.

Hidden was a winner for me for several reasons, the main one being that the murder case itself is very compelling.  From that opening scene, I was hooked on finding out who this woman was and why she was killed in such an awful way.  I became all the more invested in the case when both Jacob and Bailey couldn’t find out anything about the victim. It was like she had gone completely off the grid.  As Jacob and Bailey slowly began to unravel the details of the case and the suspense began to build, I flew through the pages eager to get to the truth about what had happened, especially as it became clear the woman’s murder was a hit job and that the killer wasn’t finished.

I also really loved both of the main characters.  Bailey is a talented and tenacious journalist.  She’s determined to get her story and won’t let anyone, not even a sexy police detective, stand in her way.  Jacob is equally likeable, even though he initially comes off as somewhat gruff and standoffish.  He’s actually just very protective when it comes to his cases. He truly cares about finding justice for his victims and in the case of this victim, is downright ticked off when the FBI comes to take jurisdiction over the case.  I loved his passion and I also thought it was cute how hard he tried to fight his growing attraction to Bailey even though her stubbornness made him crazy. His head keeps telling him it’s a bad idea for a cop to get involved with the media, but his heart has other ideas.  The chemistry between Jacob and Bailey was great too. The way their relationship progressed felt very organic, not to mention both cute and sexy.

Hidden is a very satisfying and entertaining read.  If you enjoy romantic suspense and a riveting murder mystery, be sure to add this gem to your reading list.

four-stars

About Laura Griffin

Laura Griffin is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of more than twenty-five books and novellas. Her books have been translated into fourteen languages. Laura is a two-time RITA® Award winner (for Scorched and Whisper of Warning) as well as the recipient of the Daphne du Maurier Award (for Untraceable). Her book Desperate Girls was named one of the Best Books of 2018 by Publishers Weekly. Laura lives in Austin, Texas, where she is working on her next novel.

Review: BLACKTOP WASTELAND by S.A. Cosby

Review:  BLACKTOP WASTELAND by S.A. CosbyBlacktop Wasteland by S.A. Cosby
Also by this author: Razorblade Tears
four-half-stars
Published by Flatiron Books on July 14, 2020
Genres: Fiction, Thriller, Mystery
Pages: 320
Source: Netgalley
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository
Goodreads

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley. All opinions are my own.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I don’t normally read a lot of crime novels but I was drawn to S.A. Cosby’s Blacktop Wasteland because it’s set in my home state of Virginia.  Whatever my reasons for initially picking it up though, I’m so glad I did because Blacktop Wasteland really blew me away.  It is both an action-packed thrill ride that features a high stakes heist and an emotional journey about a man who is caught between the sins of his past and what he desperately wants for his future.

Blacktop Wasteland hooked me from the very first chapter when we meet the protagonist, Beauregard “Bug” Montage.  If you like complicated characters, you’re going to love Bug.  When we first meet him, Bug is drag racing for cash and it becomes immediately clear that Bug’s driving skills are unmatched.  Think “The Fast and the Furious” and you’re on the right track.   For years, Bug was the go-to wheelman for anyone out there who was trying to pull off a heist.  He’s now trying to leave that life of crime behind though.  Bug has a wonderful wife, great kids, and he owns his own auto body shop.  He loves his life as a family man and business owner, living on the up and up, and wants to do right by his family no matter what.  Bug is also haunted by memories of his father, who led a similar criminal lifestyle but ultimately abandoned his family rather than stick around and take care of them.  Bug is determined not to be like his father.

Life gets complicated for Bug, however, when for reasons beyond his control (unexpected expenses, new competition from a rival shop, etc.), he starts struggling to make ends meet and fears he won’t be able to provide for his family.  As he exhausts all of his non-criminal options, his old way of life starts calling to him and when a former associate approaches him about a can’t miss heist, Bug agrees to take part, rationalizing in his mind that he’s doing this one last time and that it’s all for his family.  Things unfortunately don’t go according to plan as Bug and his associates realize they’ve stolen from the wrong person and that things are about to go from bad to worse for them.

There’s so much tension and suspense building as Bug finds himself in an increasingly impossible situation. When the heist goes wrong, Bug’s life spirals down a dark and dangerous path that leaves him and his family more vulnerable than ever before and he has to figure out a way to fix it once and for all. And what made Bug such an especially compelling character for me is that no matter how deep he found himself in trouble, he never loses sight of his family.  He truly is willing to do absolutely anything to protect them and secure their future, even if it means possibly sacrificing himself.   S. A. Cosby does such an incredible job with painting Bug as both morally gray and completely sympathetic that I actually found myself rooting for Bug to do whatever he had to do to take out all threats to his family, even if it involved violence.  I was just that invested in Bug and his family.

S. A. Cosby’s writing in Blacktop Wasteland is phenomenal as well.  Whether he’s describing the back roads of rural Virginia, muscle cars and action-packed driving scenes that would easily fit into a Fast and Furious script, exploring the landscape of poverty and racism that is ever-present in our society, or laying out an emotional discussion between a husband and wife about the challenges that are facing their family, Cosby’s characters are both authentic and unforgettable, and his imagery is vibrant, powerful, and sure to resonate.  This is my first time reading one of S. A. Cosby’s novels and I very much look forward to reading more from him. If you’re in the mood for a fast-paced crime thriller that is raw, gritty and will leave you on the edge of your seat, Blacktop Wasteland is a must-read.

four-half-stars

About S.A. Cosby

S. A. Cosby is a writer from Southeastern Virginia. He won the 2019 Anthony Award for Best Short Story for “The Grass Beneath My Feet”, and his previous books include Brotherhood of the Blade and My Darkest Prayer. He resides in Gloucester, Virginia. When not writing, he is an avid hiker and chess player.

Review: I KILLED ZOE SPANOS by Kit Frick

Review:  I KILLED ZOE SPANOS by Kit FrickI Killed Zoe Spanos by Kit Frick
Also by this author: All Eyes on Us
four-stars
Published by Margaret K. McElderry Books on June 30, 2020
Genres: Young Adult Fiction, Mystery, Thriller
Pages: 384
Source: Netgalley
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository
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FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley. All opinions are my own.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kit Frick’s new novel, I Killed Zoe Spanos, has all of the ingredients that make for a great summer read.  It has a compelling mystery regarding what has happened to Zoe Spanos and who is responsible, and it also features a fantastic podcast run by a teenager who doesn’t think the police are doing enough to solve the mystery.  Top that off with an unreliable narrator and a small town setting in the ultra-elite Hamptons and you’ve got yourself a must-read book for the beach or your next vacation.

The protagonist of I Killed Zoe Spanos is Anna Cicconi.  Anna has come to Herron Mills, a village in the Hamptons, to work as a nanny for a family there.  She is hoping this job will be a fresh start for her.  Anna has gone through a rough patch lately and spent entirely too much time partying and drinking, to the point where she has started experiencing blackouts and memory loss.  Anna’s journey takes an unexpected turn when she arrives in Herron Mills and is immediately told by everyone she meets that she looks just like Zoe Spanos, a young woman who went missing in the village months earlier.  Anna becomes interested in Zoe’s disappearance and starts having little flashes of memories that convince her that she knows Zoe and that she has been to Herron Mills before.  When the story opens and we are faced with a scene in which Anna is confessing to Zoe’s murder, it becomes clear that Anna’s summer in the Hamptons is life changing in all the wrong ways.

We get most of the story from Anna’s perspective, and Anna is a classic unreliable narrator.  From the moment we meet her as she is confessing to Zoe’s murder, it’s clear that we can’t necessarily trust what she’s saying.  The confession is oddly specific yet filled with comments like “I guess,” “I think,” etc. It doesn’t sound at all like a statement made by someone who is sure she committed the crime.  An even bigger cloud of doubt is cast over Anna’s story when we learn from her best friend Kaylee that she was with Anna and they weren’t even at the house where Anna is saying Zoe died.  Even though the story opens with a confession, the mystery of what happened to Zoe and what, if any, role Anna had in it, is truly about as muddled as it gets and I was hooked on wanting to get to the bottom of it.  I also really liked Anna and that she was trying to get her life under control, so I wanted her account to be wrong. I didn’t want her to be a killer.  Sometimes unreliable narrators don’t work well for me, but I loved its use here.

I was also a big fan of the author’s use of a dual timeline.  One timeline follows the events that lead up to the discovery of Zoe’s body, while the other timeline deals with the fallout after the body is discovered.  I always love watching the pieces of a puzzle come together this way, as it allows me lots of opportunities to try to fit those pieces together and come up with my own theories about what has happened, as I did with this story.  In this case, the chapters alternate between the two timelines so that the reader is fed a few crumbs at a time from each end of the mystery, both from Anna’s perspective and from the perspective of Martina Jenkins, who is conducting her own investigation into what happened to Zoe, and broadcasting her findings on a podcast called Missing Zoe.

I don’t want to give away any details about what actually happened to Zoe, but I will say that it’s a wild ride to the final reveal.  I came up with lots of theories along the way and was wrong every time.  In addition to the mystery about Zoe, there are also plenty of little side plots filled with secrets and drama that add extra layers of intrigue and suspense to the overall story.  I devoured I Killed Zoe Spanos in just a couple of sittings and definitely recommend it if you’re in the mood for a good mystery.

four-stars

About Kit Frick

Kit Frick is a novelist, poet, and MacDowell Colony fellow. Originally from Pittsburgh, PA, she studied creative writing at Sarah Lawrence College and received her MFA from Syracuse University. When she isn’t putting complicated characters in impossible situations, Kit edits poetry and literary fiction for a small press, edits for private clients, and mentors emerging writers through Pitch Wars. She is the author of the young adult novels See All the Stars, All Eyes on Us (2019), and Windermere (2020), all from Simon & Schuster / Margaret K. McElderry Books, and the poetry collection A Small Rising Up in the Lungs (New American Press). Her fiction is represented by Erin Harris at Folio Literary Management / Folio Jr.

Review: THE GUEST LIST by Lucy Foley

Review:  THE GUEST LIST by Lucy FoleyThe Guest List by Lucy Foley
four-stars
Published by William Morrow on June 2, 2020
Genres: Mystery, Thriller
Pages: 320
Source: Netgalley
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository
Goodreads

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley. All opinions are my own.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lucy Foley’s The Guest List is an atmospheric thriller that centers on a high society wedding event gone wrong.  The wedding in question is that of Jules and Will.  Jules is a successful magazine publisher, while Will is an up and coming reality TV star.  With an exotic location, designer gowns, and boutique whiskey, Will and Jules’ wedding is shaping up to be the stuff dreams are made of.  That is, until it turns into a nightmare, complete with a dead body.

I was very intrigued by all the different points of view the author chose to use in this story.  We get alternating chapters from Jules, the bride; Olivia, Jules’ sister and only bridesmaid; Hannah, the wife of Jules’ best friend; Johnno, the best man; and Aoife, the wedding planner.  When I first started reading, I thought this was such an odd assortment of characters to choose and was eager to find out why in the world they had been selected.  As the story started to come together, it became obvious why these characters had been selected and I was eager to learn more about them, particularly what each of them was hiding since it was clear they all had secrets they were holding close to their chests.

In addition to the seemingly random points of view that weren’t so random after all, the author also uses a very effective timeline to pull together all of the threads of this mystery.  The Guest List begins the night of Jules and Will’s wedding. A fierce storm has blown in just after the ceremony and the guests are riding out the storm inside.  The environment quickly turns chaotic as the power starts flickering on and off and then the guests start to hear screams. It’s clear that something has gone terribly wrong and the ushers decide it’s up to them to go out and investigate the source of the screams.  The story then alternates between following the aftermath of discovering the dead body, and following the events that led up to the discovery of the body, with special attention to certain members of the wedding party and guests to see what, if any, role they played in the tragedy.

While I loved watching the different points of view and the two timelines come together, it was the atmospheric remote setting of The Guest List that really took this story to the next level for me.  It’s set on a small island off the coast of Ireland.  The island is practically deserted and is rumored to be haunted, and is composed of a landscape that is rocky, wild, and particularly dangerous if you stray from the designated paths.  All I kept thinking as I was reading was “Who in their right mind would want to have a wedding in such a dangerous and creepy place?”

I don’t want to give away any details since this is a thriller, so I’m going to close now before I say too much.  If you’re a fan of creepy atmospheric, slow burn thrillers reminiscent of Agatha Christie and Ruth Ware, you’re going to love The Guest List.

four-stars

About Lucy Foley

Lucy Foley studied English literature at Durham University and University College London and worked for several years as a fiction editor in the publishing industry. She is the author of The Book of Lost and Found and The Invitation. She lives in London.

Review: You Are Not Alone by Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen

Review:  You Are Not Alone by Greer Hendricks & Sarah PekkanenYou Are Not Alone by Greer Hendricks, Sarah Pekkanen
Also by this author: The Wife Between Us, An Anonymous Girl
three-half-stars
Published by St. Martin's Press on March 3, 2020
Genres: Fiction, Mystery, Thriller
Pages: 343
Source: Netgalley
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository
Goodreads

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley. All opinions are my own.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Authors Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen are a dynamic duo when it comes to writing dark and twisty psychological thrillers that keep readers on the edge of their seats, and their latest offering, You Are Not Alone, continues the trend.  You Are Not Alone is a dark and disturbing read that explores what happens when an emotionally vulnerable young woman finds herself in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The story follows Shay Miller, whose life is just overall in a disappointing place for her.  She is working a temp job with no prospects of a permanent position on the horizon, she has no real friends to speak of, and she is in love with her roommate Sean, who already has a long-time girlfriend.  Shay finds herself mostly isolated and therefore vulnerable. When Shay happens to be in a subway station and witnesses a young woman commit suicide, she becomes obsessed with learning more about the victim.  She knows her obsession is unhealthy, but she feels compelled nonetheless to find out what led her to take her own life.

I found myself incredibly sympathetic to Shay and the position she has found herself in.  She feels a connection to the suicide victim in part because she can so easily put herself in that woman’s place and can imagine feeling like there’s nothing worth living for. I can understand why she feels it’s so important to find out what exactly drove this woman to do what she did.  She’s thinking of herself and what could drive her to that same point.

The story, and Shay’s life, takes a drastically different turn when she decides to attend the memorial service for the suicide victim and meets Cassandra and Jane Moore, who are sisters and who were also both close to the deceased.  Shay is fascinated by the ultra-charismatic sisters and her obsession with the victim soon expands to include them as well, especially since they seem very eager to befriend her.  Shay is desperate for friends and begins to imagine herself taking the victim’s place in the sisters’ circle of friends. Seems to easy and too good to be true, right?

Good things start happening for Shay as she deepens her connection to the sisters…until suddenly, they don’t. Out of nowhere, Shay finds herself inexplicably caught up in the investigation into the death of the suicide victim as well as another crime.  The authors ratchet up the tension and suspense as Shay desperately tries to figure out what is going on and how she’s going to get herself out of the mess she has found herself in.  I had a few minor issues with pacing early on in the story, but once I got to this part of the book, I flew through the rest of the pages trying put together the pieces of this wild and crazy puzzle.

You Are Not Alone is a disturbing and complex tale of manipulation, danger, and revenge.  If you’re into dark, twisty, and suspenseful reads, this is one that needs to go on your must-read list.

three-half-stars

About Greer Hendricks

GREER HENDRICKS spent over two decades as an editor at Simon & Schuster. Prior to her tenure in publishing, she worked at Allure Magazine and obtained her Master’s in Journalism from Columbia University. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times and Publishers Weekly. She lives in Manhattan with her husband and two children, The Wife Between Us is her first novel.

Follow Greer Hendricks on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

About Sarah Pekkanen

Internationally bestselling author Sarah Pekkanen’s newest book is THE PERFECT NEIGHBORS. She is also the co-author of the upcoming THE WIFE BETWEEN US (out in January 2018).

Her prior novels are: THINGS YOU WON’T SAY, CATCHING AIR, THE BEST OF US, THE OPPOSITE OF ME, SKIPPING A BEAT, and THESE GIRLS.

Sarah’s linked free short estories, published by Simon&Schuster exclusively for ereaders, are titled “All is Bright,” and “Love, Accidentally.”

Sarah is the mother of three young boys, which explains why she writes part of her novels at Chuck E. Cheese. Sarah penned her first book, Miscellaneous Tales and Poems, at the age of 10. When publishers failed to jump upon this literary masterpiece (hey, all the poems rhymed!) Sarah followed up by sending them a sternly-worded letter on Raggedy Ann stationery. Sarah still has that letter, and carries it to New York every time she has meetings with her publisher, as a reminder that dreams do come true.

Her website is www.sarahpekkanen.com and please find her on Facebook Instagram and Twitter @sarahpekkanen!

Review: THE GOD GAME by Danny Tobey

Review:  THE GOD GAME by Danny TobeyThe God Game by Danny Tobey
four-stars
Published by St. Martin's Press on January 7, 2020
Genres: Science Fiction, Thriller
Pages: 496
Source: Netgalley
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository
Goodreads

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley. All opinions are my own.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The God Game by Danny Tobey is a sci-fi thriller that focuses on what happens when a video game that starts off as a welcome escape from reality goes off the rails and takes a horribly wrong and dangerous turn.

The story follows Charlie, a high school senior, and his best friends, a group of computer whizzes who call themselves The Vindicators.  The Vindicators are invited to play a secret underground virtual reality video game called The God Game.  The game is designed by hackers and it’s controlled by an AI (Artificial Intelligence) that really believes it’s God, thus it knows everything and its presence is everywhere.  The whole concept fascinates the Vindicators and they get caught up in the excitement of the game right away.

The game really appeals to the teens for several reasons:  1) it’s challenging because it doesn’t come with instructions and you have to figure things out as you go, 2) it makes them feel special to be ‘in the know’ about something no one else knows about, and 3) they can actually perform tasks and get rewarded with actual prizes like expensive electronics and even cash.

It’s all fun and games at first, but then things take a decidedly darker and more sinister turn. The game starts to threaten them if they don’t perform certain tasks, shadowy figures start following them in real life and actually attack them.  Suddenly it’s not so fun anymore, but what happens when “God” won’t let them leave the game?

****

Wow, what a wild ride this book was!  The whole premise of the video game fascinated me and so I got sucked in just as quickly as the characters in the book did.  I’ve seen The God Game compared to both Black Mirror and Stranger Things, but I’ve not watched either show so I can’t attest to that.  What I will say though is that it gave me a definite Ready Player One vibe because of the virtual reality environment that would superimpose itself right over the real world every time Charlie and his friends played.  I loved this aspect of the author’s worldbuilding, especially when the teens go into the boiler room at school and it magically shifts into something that looks way more like Middle Earth than it does a room in a school.

Aside from the brilliant virtual reality worldbuilding, I also loved the suspense and tension created each time the game raises the stakes.  I found myself just flying through the pages because I wanted to know just how far “God” would go with its threats.

As exciting as the game itself was, what also really drew me into the story was its focus on the personal lives of this group of teens and why they were so eager to escape reality and practically live within the virtual reality walls of this game.  There’s a big focus on how hard it is to be a teen – the peer pressure, the pressure from parents, and even the pressure we put on ourselves.  I think that’s a theme that many will find all too relatable, and it also makes it all the more tragic that this game, which should have been an escape from their troubles, just ends up piling on to their troubles even more.

I don’t want to say anything else because it’s really a story you just have to experience for yourself, so I’ll just say if you’re looking for an exciting sci-fi thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat, and especially if you have an interest in AI, VR, and/or video games, you should definitely add Danny Tobey’s The God Game to your reading list.

GOODREADS SYNOPSIS:

You are invited!
Come inside and play with G.O.D.
Bring your friends!
It’s fun!
But remember the rules. Win and ALL YOUR DREAMS COME TRUE.

Lose, you die!

With those words, Charlie and his friends enter the G.O.D. Game, a video game run by underground hackers and controlled by a mysterious AI that believes it’s God. Through their phone-screens and high-tech glasses, the teens’ realities blur with a virtual world of creeping vines, smoldering torches, runes, glyphs, gods, and mythical creatures. When they accomplish a mission, the game rewards them with expensive tech, revenge on high-school tormentors, and cash flowing from ATMs. Slaying a hydra and drawing a bloody pentagram as payment to a Greek god seem harmless at first. Fun even.

But then the threatening messages start. Worship me. Obey me. Complete a mission, however cruel, or the game reveals their secrets and crushes their dreams. Tasks that seemed harmless at first take on deadly consequences. Mysterious packages show up at their homes. Shadowy figures start following them, appearing around corners, attacking them in parking garages. Who else is playing this game, and how far will they go to win?

And what of the game’s first promise: win, win big, lose, you die? Dying in a virtual world doesn’t really mean death in real life—does it?

As Charlie and his friends try to find a way out of the game, they realize they’ve been manipulated into a bigger web they can’t escape: an AI that learned its cruelty from watching us.

God is always watching, and He says when the game is done.

four-stars

About Danny Tobey

Danny Tobey is the author of THE GOD GAME, arriving January 7, 2020 from St. Martin’s press. He is a fifth-generation Texan and a graduate of Harvard College, Yale Law School, and UT Southwestern medical school. Harvard gave Danny the Edward Eager prize “for the best creative writing.” He wrote and edited the Harvard Lampoon and was anthologized in The Best of the Harvard Lampoon: 140 Years of American Humor. Danny’s first novel, the sci-fi fantasy thriller The Faculty Club, came out from Simon & Schuster. Danny is a noted expert on Artificial Intelligence. In 2019, the Library of Congress gave Danny the Burton Award for his work on AI and the law.