Review: Death in the Family (Shana Merchant #1) by Tessa Wegert

Death in the FamilyDeath in the Family by Tessa Wegert
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

About a month ago, I received an ARC of the second book in the Shana Merchant series, The Dead Season, from Berkley Books. It is currently set to release on December 8, 2020.

Thank you so much for providing me with a copy, Berkley!

Although, I believe, like many Adult Mystery series, the books can be read as standalones, and do not necessarily need to be read in order, I still wanted to give this one a shot.

Upon completion, I am so happy that I did!

Shana Merchant is a veteran police detective, recently moved from the NYPD to a department in a quiet town in the Thousand Lakes region of Upstate New York.

She needed to get out of the city after a horrific incident involving a serial killer, so when her fiance suggested moving back to his hometown, she readily agreed.

Shana believes that with her move to a smaller community, she’ll be dealing with a lot less violent crime and may have an easier time coping with her return to work. Statistically she is correct.

When Shana and her new partner, Tim Wellington, get called to a private island to investigate a missing person case, however, Shana feels those old anxieties beginning to rise.

The island is owned by the wealthy Sinclair family, who made their fortune in American textiles.

Many members of the family happen to be on the island for the weekend when Jasper Sinclair goes missing in the middle of the night. Not only does he go missing, the bed he was sleeping in is drenched in blood.

It’s clear to Shana and Tim that Jasper has not left the property of his own volition, but how would he leave the property? It’s an island and all boats are accounted for?

When a vicious storm hits, Shana and Tim become stranded as well, and all remaining are now suspects.

This is a classically arranged locked-room mystery, a la Agatha Christie. As many of you may already know, this is my absolute favorite mystery trope.

I was swept up in the story from the very start and was actually surprised by how much I enjoyed this.

The Sinclair family, from the matriarch, all the way down to the youngest among them, felt completely real and each distinct in their own way.

I loved the toxic family dynamics and watching all their dirty little secrets come to light.

The pacing was fantastic to keep me intrigued the entire way through.

Although I felt a little let down by the actual whodunit; I can’t really explain why, I was just hoping it was a bit more devious than it ended up being, I genuinely enjoyed my time with this novel.

I really like Shana as a protagonist. She is quite a complex character and I cannot wait to find out more about her in the next novel.

This one left off at a fantastic spot as far as a lead in to a sequel. I am truly chomping at the bit to get into the next installment.

If you enjoy a taut, locked-room mystery with heavy Christie vibes, you should absolutely check out the Shana Merchant series!!!

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Blog Tour: The Night Swim by Megan Goldin

The Night SwimThe Night Swim by Megan Goldin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Megan Goldin does it again!!!

Rachel Krall is the creator and host of a hugely successful True Crime podcast.

During her first season, evidence she procured through her work was subsequently used to free an innocent man.

Now a household name, with a reputation as a tireless truth seeker, many people reach out to her with cases they think she should investigate next.

A lot of these people feel they have no other options when searching for justice for a friend or loved one; that the system has failed them and Rachel is their last resort.

These letters for help generally come in the form of email or through more traditional post. Therefore, Rachel is surprised when a letter ends up stuck under her windshield wiper at a remote rest stop.

How would someone even have recognized her? People generally know her voice, not her face?

When she receives the first mysterious note, Rachel is on her way to Neapolis, where a high profile rape case is currently dividing the small coastal town.

For the latest season of the podcast, Rachel will be looking into the case and attending the trial.

In the ultimate, her story versus his, the victim is the granddaughter of the police chief, and the accused perpetrator is a golden boy, local-celebrity champion swimmer.

As Rachel throws herself into her investigation, the mysterious letters continue to show up in unexpected places, including her hotel room.

The author of the letters, a young woman named Hannah, pleads with Rachel to look into the death of her sister, Jenny, 25-years earlier in Neapolis.

Rachel admittedly finds Jenny’s case interesting. A reported drowning, Hannah insists that foul play was involved.

Y’all, I loved this book! The format Goldin chose to tell this story was absolutely perfect.

We get multiple perspectives, past and present timelines, and full episodes of Rachel’s podcast!

The way that Goldin was able to weave these two mysteries together was flawless. I found myself so invested in both the current rape trial and the historical perspective of what actually happened to Jenny.

I was blessed enough to have received both an e-copy, and an audio copy, of this from the publisher to read and review. I started it off switching back and forth between the two, but ultimately stuck with the audiobook.

The audiobook is so well done. The podcast chapters are incredible!

I had to keep reminding myself I wasn’t actually listening to a podcast, that it was fictional. It’s that believable!

I was already a fan of Goldin after the release of The Escape Room last year, but this one, The Night Swim takes it to a whole new level.

Megan Goldin is for sure an autobuy author for me!

In addition to the fabulous presentation of this story, I was also impressed with the commentary regarding rape culture and the treatment of victims of rape and sexual assault.

I love when a Thriller can not only be surprising and immersive, but also when it has something to say on real world issues. I think it opens up so many great discussions that are important and impactful.

In short, if you have not picked up The Night Swim yet, please do so. I particularly recommend the audiobook, although the story is fantastic regardless of the medium.

A heartfelt thank you to the publisher, St. Martin’s Press, for providing me with the opportunity to read this early. It will definitely be making my Favorites List for 2020!!!

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Review: His & Hers by Alice Feeney

His & HersHis & Hers by Alice Feeney
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My first Alice Feeney novel!!!

And, yeah, I can definitely see what all the fuss is about.

This gripping, Adult Thriller, follows three perspectives: his, hers and a mystery individual, that could be him, it could be her or it could be some completely unrelated individual.

Intrigued yet?

Here is what I can tell you, the her of this equation is BBC-television reporter, Anna Andrews.

Anna was such an interesting character. I loved reading from her perspective. She’s far from perfect and she’s pretty honest about all of that with the reader.

The him is none other than Anna’s ex-husband, intrepid-Blackdown DCI, Jack Harper.

Jack also was a great perspective to read from. You can tell he is a man with a lot of wounds just trying to do his best anyway he can. You can also tell he still carries a spark for Anna.

When Anna gets sent to Blackdown to report on a recent homicide, Jack is surprised to spot her on his crime scene.

Until very recently, Anna had been working in-studio, reporting the mid-day news, not trotting around in the field. Unfortunately for Anna, that cushy position was nabbed back by her colleague returning from maternity leave.

Their brief reunion doesn’t go well. Jack is much closer to this case than he’s letting on and the last thing he needs is his ex digging around.

Thinking this is an isolated incident, Jack is hoping Anna will just return to London, but the killer has other plans.

Soon, more bodies are dropping and Anna seems to have a connection with all of the victims. Could she be next?

The alternating perspectives were such a great way to watch this story unfold. My mind was spinning trying to piece together what was happening and who the mystery perspective was.

I thought that was super clever. There were moments when I thought that mystery perspective was every single character I had met thus far.

My earliest inclination of who it was, was incorrect and I was glad. Feeney played me and I love that!

There were a couple of plot points I found to be slightly confusing and one of the red herrings I thought was implausible and unnecessary, but a lot of other readers may disagree with me.

My slight criticisms are totally personal preference and nothing to do with the author, or her skill at weaving an intriguing tale.

As you learn more about the victims, and their connections with Anna, that was my favorite part.

Some truly terrible things had happened in Anna’s village and I definitely think she was in the right to leave it far behind. Regrettably, we all know buried secrets seldom stay buried.

If you are looking for an intense, fast-paced read to pick up this summer, you should definitely give His & Hers a shot! I doubt you’ll be disappointed.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Flatiron Books, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review. I had a blast and really appreciate getting to it early.

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Review: The Shadows by Alex North

The ShadowsThe Shadows by Alex North
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When Paul Adams was a teenager, a classmate of his was quite brutally murdered. Paul was arrested and accused of the murder.

His mother, who knew her son was innocent, fought like a dog to regain his freedom. Paul was innocent, but who were the real culprits?

It turns out that two of Paul’s one-time friends, Billy and Charlie Crabtree, were the killers. Of the two, Charlie was definitely the leader. Billy went to prison and Charlie, subsequently, disappeared into the local woods, known as The Shadows.

Having suffered enough in the public spotlight of his village, Paul moves away as soon as he can, leaving his mother behind. He doesn’t return for 25-years.

He only returns after receiving word that his mother, who is in poor health and suffering from dementia, has taken a fall and is now being kept in a nursing facility.

As you can imagine, returning to the village he fled so many years before, stirs up a lot of memories and emotions. Making matters worse, a copycat crime has been committed, bringing the brutal violence of the past to a whole new generation.

As with, The Whisper Man, I really enjoyed North’s writing and the way he chose to format the story.

We follow a couple different perspectives, as well as past and present timelines. I just feel like he makes such clever choices with his storytelling and I’m down for it.

There were definitely moments I didn’t see coming, as well as some solid red herrings.

I wasn’t crazy about the conclusion to some of the mysteries held within the story, but that is purely personal preference. It is no way a reflection on the skill of the writing or the book itself. There were just a couple of things, I personally wish would have wrapped-up differently.

Overall, this is a fun, creepy read. I love the is it paranormal, is it not paranormal feel that North brings to his work. That’s how I live my life and I love it.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Celadon Books, for providing me with a copy to read and review. It was one of my most anticipated books of the year and it did not disappoint!

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Blog Tour: This is How I Lied by Heather Gudenkauf

This is How I LiedThis is How I Lied by Heather Gudenkauf
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

This is how I lied, and this is my truth.

In 1995, 15-year old, Eve Knox was murdered in a cave walking distance from her house.

When she doesn’t arrive home that night, her Mom panics and sends people out looking for her.

Her best friend, Maggie, teams up with Eve’s little sister, Nola, and they ultimately end up finding her body.

Neither girl will ever forget that night.

Twenty-five years later, Maggie, has followed in her Father’s footsteps and is now a detective in her hometown.

Around eight months pregnant, she is currently working desk duty, when new evidence is found related to Eve’s case.

The boot Eve was wearing on the night of her death has been discovered.

The hope is that with new advancements in forensic science, they will be able to extract some DNA that could finally lead to the killer.

The sudden resurgence of interest in the case begins to take its toll on Maggie.

She becomes slightly obsessed with it all over again and starts doing some digging of her own.

The secrets that come to light, it’s a lot. Secrets involving multiple characters.

I had some serious jaw drop moments while reading this.

This is How I Lied is a quick, compelling read.

If you are looking for something to get your mind off real life for a while, look no further. This is it!

I will be honest, there were definitely some elements in this that made me uncomfortable.

Specifically, Nola, Eve’s sister, is a very disturbing character. There are some aspects of her personality that at times, made me want to close this book and never pick it back up again. But I needed to know the truth!

There were also times when I was uncomfortable with Maggie’s pregnancy and the risks she was taking caused some anxiety for me.

As the story unfolds, however, it becomes clear as to why she feels so compelled.

This is a wild story. It is dynamic and engaging.

Oh, the secrets of a small town. You never know what you are going to dig up!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Park Row Press, for providing me with a copy to read and review.

It was a wicked fun read!

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Review: The Familiar Dark by Amy Engel

The Familiar DarkThe Familiar Dark by Amy Engel
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

After the birth of her first and only child, a girl named Junie, Eve Taggert vows to do a better job than her own mother did.

She spends the next 12-years putting her past far behind her. She never introduces Junie to her Grandmother and tries her best to make sure Junie always feels safe and loved, a luxury she never had.

When Junie is murdered, along with her best friend, Izzy, on a snowy day at an abandoned playground, Eve is shattered with grief.

Her girl was her entire world, her entire purpose, but now she has a new purpose, getting justice for Junie and she may have to go back to her roots in order to get it.

We’re talking some real hillbilly justice.

It’s clear the police, her brother Cal included, are not getting anywhere in their investigation. At least if they are, they aren’t sharing it with her.

So, Eve decides to do a bit of investigating of her own.

One of her first stops is her Mama’s house. A warm reunion it is not, but Eve feels oddly supported for the first time.

Maybe her Mama’s lessons are going to pay off after all.

This book is aptly titled, as it got dark real quick and stayed there. The overall feeling is desperate and depressing, but it worked.

I thought Eve’s character was written so well. I could feel what she was feeling, it hurt and kept me engaged the whole way through.

Coming in at under 300-pages, it is a pretty quick read, but definitely packs a punch.

If you like gritty Crime Fiction with the perfect touch of Hillbilly Noir, you should definitely give this one a shot!

I feel like this is Engel’s wheelhouse; it definitely suits her writing style well. Atmospheric and DARK, just how I like ’em.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Dutton Books, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review. I thoroughly enjoyed it!

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Review: A Beautiful Corpse (Harper McClain #2) by Christi Daugherty

A Beautiful Corpse (Harper McClain, #2)A Beautiful Corpse by Christi Daugherty
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

One night as Harper McClain is having a few drinks and visiting with her best friend, Bonnie, a bartender at The Library Bar, she receives a call that there has been a shooting.

As an investigative reporter on Savannah’s crime beat, Harper needs to get to that scene and fast.

She’s had a couple of drinks by this point, however, so Bonnie insists on driving her. It’s closing time anyway and she promises not to get in Harper’s way.

Once on scene, Bonnie recognizes the murdered girl as 24-year old, Naomi Scott, a waitress at The Library Bar. In fact, Naomi had been working that very night, having just left the bar for home around an hour before.

Reflecting back on it, they realize, Naomi had seemed a bit frazzled right before she left, but why?

The police believe the perpetrator to be Naomi’s boyfriend, Wilson Shepherd, but both Bonnie and Harper, who know the young man, don’t like him for the crime.

Harper follows other leads that send her down some dark roads against some very powerful people.

With her signature style, Harper doesn’t give up. She is determined to get to the bottom of the case and see justice for Naomi and her family.

This is the second installment to the Harper McClain mystery series. While I wasn’t as engaged with this story as I was with the first book, this was still really strong and enjoyable to read.

One of the things I enjoyed so much about the first book was learning about Harper’s past and the trauma that really shaped the course of her life. There wasn’t as much of her backstory in this one and I kind of missed that.

I love Harper as a character. I feel like her job as a crime reporter is a great way to frame a mystery story. I like her interactions with the local police and how that dynamic plays out.

Additionally, this one had a really intriguing ending that set it up perfectly for the third book.

I believe in the next book, we are going to be learning a lot more about Harper’s mother and I’m so ready!

Overall, this is a great mystery series with a strong female protagonist who needs no one to save her. It’s the perfect time to jump in on the series as well, with the third book releasing next Tuesday, March 10th!!!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Minotaur Books, for providing me with a copy to read and review. My apologies for taking so long, it was definitely worth the wait for me. Looking forward to continuing on Harper’s journey!

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Review: Watching From the Dark (DCI Jonah Sheens #2) by Gytha Lodge

Watching from the Dark (DCI Jonah Sheens, #2)Watching from the Dark by Gytha Lodge
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars rounded up **

This was everything I wanted it to be. Gytha Lodge, you have made me a happy girl.

Signing on to his standard 11 o’clock Skype date with his girlfriend, Zoe, Aidan Poole can tell right away something is off.

For one, Zoe isn’t in front of the camera. He observes her, but then she goes into the bathroom and starts running a bath.

Anticipating something kinky may be in the works, he sits back and watches.

Things take a disturbing turn however, when he observes a shadowy figure entering her apartment and then the bathroom, closing the door behind him.

Next he hears sounds of a struggle. Zoe is being attacked and there is nothing he can do!

Well, you’re probably thinking, he could call the police. But he doesn’t.

Not right away, anyway. He ultimately does end up calling the next day, but if Zoe were brutally attacked, wouldn’t he want to get her help as soon as possible?

If you think this sounds like an intriguing way to a kick off a story, you’re absolutely right!

When his odd crime report makes its way to the desk of DCI Jonah Sheens, he and his team decide to take on the case.

Soon they discover, Zoe didn’t survive the attack. Now tackling a murder investigation, Sheens and the team dig deep into her life, friend group and mysterious relationship with Aidan.

I really enjoyed the first installment to the Jonah Sheens series, She Lies in Wait, and was highly anticipating this release.

I am happy to report this exceeded my expectations. I feel like Lodge’s writing has matured in such a pleasant way. The investigatory aspects of this were so strong.

I loved being back with Sheens and the other officers. They work so well together as a team and that is nice to see. Often there can be a lot of drama within investigative units, so it is nice to see a group that works together in a supportive way.

I do think this can be read as a standalone, so if you haven’t read the first book, please don’t let that keep you from picking this one up. If the premise sounds good to you, jump on it.

I have a feeling you’ll be adding the first book to your TBR after. As you should, because it is great too!

As for me, I am so excited about the potential for this series. I hope it lasts a long, long time. I know I will be picking up every single one that gets released.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Random House, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review. I truly appreciate it. I am looking forward to reading so much more from Gytha Lodge in the future!

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Review: A Nearly Normal Family by M.T. Edvardsson

A Nearly Normal FamilyA Nearly Normal Family by M.T. Edvardsson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Apparently, legal thrillers are something I am into now because I f*ing loved this!!

I listened to the audiobook and I feel it was brilliantly cast and narrated. I definitely think that had an influence on my reading experience.

I thought the format was so clever. The three perspectives were presented in three separate chunks as opposed to alternating back and forth.

The story started with ‘The Father’s’ perspective. Adam, a family man and pastor, tells his side of the story. His relationship with his 18- y.o. daughter, who is now being held in police custody accused of a brutal murder.

He fills in a large part of the narrative and you think you have a fairly good handle on the overall story.

Then we get ‘The Daughter’s’ perspective. Well, she would know, wouldn’t she? She was there. The events happened to her.

But as I love, Stella, is a deliciously unreliable narrator, who openly admits to her outstanding ability to lie and manipulate others.

Her perspective fills in some blanks and of course, creates some new ones.

At this point, I was thinking a lot about how two different people can experience the same things and interpret those events completely differently.

It’s fascinating to think about. I love this type of psychological examination of characters.

Lastly, we get ‘The Mother’s’ perspective. Just when you think you have a super firm handle on the events in question, you discover there’s so much more going on.

Stella’s mom, a high powered attorney, knows how the system works and she’ll do anything in her power to protect her little girl.

While I can see how some readers may find this slow or choppy, I had absolutely no complaints about the writing or the format.

I was hooked into this story, start to finish, and loved how much it made me think outside of the reading experience itself.

Overall, a huge fan of this, recommend to anyone who enjoys a legal or crime drama. Would absolutely recommend the audiobook as well!

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Review: The Janes (Alice Vega #2) by Louisa Luna

The Janes (Alice Vega #2)The Janes by Louisa Luna
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

After the successful conclusion to the missing Brandt girls case, Alice Vega, reputable ‘people-finder’, returns home to California, leaving Max Caplan behind.

They both return to their regular lives, Alice being Alice, and Cap being lovable father to teenager, Nell.

Soon enough, a new case falls in Alice’s lap and it’s no surprise, she calls on dear old Caplan to help her out.

This time, he joins her on the West Coast to investigate the death of two Jane Does and their possible connection to a human trafficking ring.

With their street smarts and unending energy, Vega and Cap have quickly become one of my favorite investigative pairs. The underlying sexual tension is a bonus that is hard to resist.

Although a slow burn, for crime thriller classicists, this story packs a solid punch.

The steadfastness with which Vega tackles each investigation is oddly inspiring and Cap’s dedication to her is lovely to read.

This case, set in San Diego, tackles real life issue of human trafficking, as well as sexual slavery and abused minors. If these are topics that will be sensitive for you, tread cautiously.

The good news is, Vega and Cap are on the case and they never let up.

I’m not sure how much longer Luna plans to write this dynamic duo together, but I hope it is for a long, long time.

I know I will continue to pick them up. As a matter of fact, I am ready for the next one already!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Doubleday Books, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I appreciate the opportunity and really look forward to solving another case with Vega and Cap!

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