Review: Beneath Cruel Waters by Jon Bassoff

Beneath Cruel WatersBeneath Cruel Waters by Jon Bassoff
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Holt Davidson essentially fled his hometown of Thompsonville, Colorado, as soon as he was old enough.

After he receives news that his estranged mother has committed suicide, he decides it has to be done; he has to go back for the first time in over twenty-years.

The dread he is feeling about returning is substantial, but he’s also hoping to maybe fill in some pieces of his murky childhood memories. He wants to finally be able to make peace with it all and put it behind him.

Until this point, Holt has been haunted by his past, but it’s actually unclear as to why.

Once he returns to Thompsonville, he even stays at his mother’s home in his old bedroom. Alone in the house, he begins exploring, searching for clues from the past.

Instead of your typical nostalgic childhood items, however, Holt discovers a gun, a mysterious love letter and a picture of a dead man lying in his own blood.

These aren’t the type of things you can ignore, so Holt begins an investigation. He’s determined to discover the secrets of his past, whether he’s going to like it or not.

He enlists the help of his mother’s oldest, dearest friend and gains a lot of useful information from her, including insight into his sister who has been institutionalized since she was a teen. It’s not long before Holt’s own traumatic memories begin to resurface.

One of my favorite tropes in a Thriller is when a main character returns to their hometown after an extended absence, so in theory this was the perfect set-up for me.

Luckily, the theory was proven correct in this case. I enjoyed this one a lot. Once I started I didn’t want to put it down.

I found Bassoff’s writing to be highly readable. It was fast-paced and smooth, with just the right amount of details. I love the POVs coming from both past and present to help to piece the truth together.

I thought the reveals were well handled. Although predictable, it still managed to keep me fully captivated so it didn’t really influence my opinion of the overall story.

I was really surprised by this one and definitely recommend it to fans of Crime Thrillers, especially if you enjoy the use of both past and present perspectives together.

Thank you to the publisher, Blackstone Publishing, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I’m looking forward to reading more from Bassoff!

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Review: Hideout (Alice Vega #3) by Louisa Luna

Hideout (Alice Vega #3)Hideout by Louisa Luna
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

Alice Vega, still kicking butt and taking names.

Hideout is the third book in Louisa Luna’s gritty Crime Thriller series, Alice Vega, featuring the badass people-finder of the same name.

In my opinion, the books in this series do not necessarily need to be read in order. In fact, I would argue they can also be read as standalones, however, you will be missing out on the gorgeous build-up of the relationship between Alice and her partner-from-afar, disgraced former cop, Max Caplan.

So, while they can be read any way you like, I would highly recommend starting at the beginning and proceeding from there. They’re all really good, so you should have a fantastic time catching up, at any rate.

After the conclusion of The Janes, which was set on the West Coast of the U.S., Max returns home to the East Coast battered and bruised. That was an extremely dangerous case for him and Vega both.

The two of them begin to settle back into their regular lives, Alice working missing persons cases and Max, most importantly fathering his daughter Nell, as well as performing his private investigative work.

Vega gets bored easy though, so when she is propositioned with an unusual case, finding a missing college football player last seen 30-years ago, she jumps on it.

Normally, Vega’s cases are very current and she’s battling a ticking clock, so this one is quite unusual. She begins her search where the man in question, Zeb Williams, was last seen. A small town in Oregon called Ilona.

As she begins to get to know some of the locals, Vega starts to understand this town may not be as sweet and pristine as it first appears. There’s a lot of dirty secrets and vicious inclinations hiding just under the surface; including an active branch of a white supremacist group.

Vega knows people are not being honest with her. She believes someone, maybe multiple someones, know what happened to Zeb. Additionally, she has a feeling the most powerful players in town may be involved.

Naturally, she calls Cap to bounce some ideas off of him. Well, really she wants his help, but Cap isn’t ready.

He has a lot going on in his own life, particularly struggling with the fact that his baby girl is almost a grown-up. He can’t drop everything and risk his life again just because Vega called.

I was really anticipating this release and while I enjoyed it, I didn’t vibe with this one quite as much as I did with the earlier books.

If you have read this, you may be able to predict what I am going to say, but for me, part of the magic of this series is the partnership between Alice and Max. Their personalities, as well as their strengths and weaknesses, compliment each other very well. It’s a solid investigative duo.

In this book, the vast majority of their interactions are long distance. This one is much more, Alice living her life on the West Coast and Max, living his life on the East.

Max is helping her only in minor ways. The case turns out to be extremely dangerous, and Alice, seemingly uncaring to risks, puts herself in incredibly nerve-wrenching circumstances. This woman seriously has a gut of steel. She’s not afraid of anything.

I do love Alice as a character for that very reason. She is extremely confident, but it’s because she works hard at it. She trains herself in body and mind and she knows she is prepared for anything. She knows she can perform even with her life on the line.

I also love Max. He has so many incredible qualities. I actually did really enjoy reading about his relationship with his daughter, Nell, in this one. She is a lot like him, which I think makes him really nervous!

My one hope is that in the next book of the series, which I am assuming there will be more, Max and Alice actually physically work the case together.

I feel like I am well and fully attached to these characters now. I definitely want to read more in this series. This one is really interesting. It’s a lot, but it’s intriguing.

I did like the backdrop of having the college football element. As a huge football fan, that was really fun. Something I don’t think I have ever read before in an Adult Mystery/Thriller.

Thank you to the publisher, Doubleday Books, for providing me with a copy to read and review.

I really appreciate it and will be keeping my fingers crossed that we get more of Vega and Cap!!!

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Review: The Night Shift by Alex Finlay

The Night ShiftThe Night Shift by Alex Finlay
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars rounded up**

On December 31, 1999, a mass murder occurred at a Blockbuster Video store in Linden, New Jersey. The vicious closing time attack left three teenage girls and their manager dead; one girl survived.

The alleged perpetrator, after being initially interrogated, is freed on a technicality. It’s at that point that he flees, never to be seen or heard from again.

Fifteen years later, in Linden, girls closing up an ice cream shop are brutally attacked. Again, there is one survivor.

Both final girls recall the attacker whispering something to them before he flees: good night, pretty girl.

Could the Blockbuster attacker be back, or is there a copycat killer on the prowl?

The Night Shift follows multiple perspectives as both the events of the past and present are explored; including possible connections. The evolution of this story was absolutely spellbinding.

Finlay drew me in from the very start of this book and it never let up. I read this entire thing in a day and half, while reading other books. It’s safe to say, I quickly became obsessed with this.

Initially, I felt like there may be too many perspectives followed, but as it progressed, it became obvious why Finlay chose to write it that way. He really pulled it off. It ended up weaving together perfectly.

Reflecting back on my time reading Finlay’s previous work, Every Last Fear, I had the exact same comment on that one.

There were a ton of perspectives there as well, and even though I ended up feeling like they were all necessary, I feel even stronger about the way The Night Shift was done. For me, Finlay’s writing has grown and I’m loving that upward trajectory.

I was also pleasantly surprised to see a recurring character from ELF, FBI Agent Sarah Keller. I enjoyed her perspective a lot before and even more so in this one. I felt like I got to know her better here and I became quite attached.

I love her strength of spirit and she is so darn smart. She’s definitely a character you can get behind.

This story kept me guessing. I think I started to figure it out really at the same time as the people investigating it. I had some inklings, but truth be told, I suspected everyone at one point or another.

It felt like such a natural progression of reveals. I was living for it.

Overall, I had a blast with this. It got wild. It was engaging for me the entire way through. Additionally, it read like a movie. I could picture every scene as it was playing out.

I would definitely recommend it. I pretty much feel on the same level for this one as I did for No Exit by Taylor Adams. Take from that what you will…

Thank you so much to the publisher, Minotaur Books, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I think it is safe to say at this point, I will pick up anything Alex Finlay writes!!

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Review: The Fields (Riley Fisher #1) by Erin Young

The Fields (Riley Fisher, #1)The Fields by Erin Young
My rating: 3 of 5 stars


It all begins with a body in a corn field.

Before we get started, can I just say that I find corn fields to be terrifying. There’s just something about them. I can’t. Who knows what is lurking in there…

Seeing one mentioned in the synopsis for The Fields, I knew that I wanted to read this debut Crime Thriller.

Sergeant Riley Fisher, the head of investigations for Black Hawk County Sheriff’s office is shocked, upon arriving on scene, when she discovers she knows the victim.

Even though Riley and Chloe went their separate ways in their teen years, Riley is still rattled to the core by her estranged friend’s tragic death.

The corn field is owned by a local co-op, Zephyr Farms, one of the very few to survive the crushing presence of Big Agriculture.

Does Chloe have a connection to this place? How did she end up here and who would have wanted to harm her?

Riley dives deep into this investigation. After all, it’s personal and soon finds herself in a dangerous world of politics and very big business. Not a comfortable place to be by any means.

As more bodies start dropping, the pressure increases, with Riley pushing herself to her limits in order to get to the bottom of these cases before more innocent lives are loss.

While parts of this intrigued me, mostly the murdery bits, I felt like the structure of the story lost me at times. There were certain aspects, or sections, ((I’m not quite sure how to best explain what I mean)) that felt out of place and it would kick me out of the story.

Along a similar vein, for me the pace was off, with my interest coming and going in waves.

There was a solid mystery here, but at times it felt overshadowed by other things; namely politics, which personally, I could have done without.

With all of this being said, please don’t take this the wrong way. I did enjoy this book. I see a lot of promise in Young’s writing and would pick up the next book in the Riley Fisher series.

This is a good start to series. I liked Riley a lot and look forward to learning more about her in the next installment.

She has a dark cloud hanging over her, a bit of a secret history, and I really want to know what that’s all about. I’m hoping in the next book she’ll spill it.

So yeah, this wasn’t a perfect read for me, or the most memorable, but I did enjoy it enough to continue on with the series. I’m actually looking forward to it.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Flatiron Books, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I appreciate it!!

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Review: The Accomplice by Lisa Lutz

The AccompliceThe Accomplice by Lisa Lutz
My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Luna and Owen are best friends and have been for well over a decade. Their bond runs incredibly deep, sometimes to the detriment of others in their lives.

From the outside looking in, people are often curious about how close the two are. Maybe it’s because people have a hard time gauging platonic relationships between a man and woman. It makes them suspicious.

Luna’s husband, Sam, and Owen’s wife, Irene, have learned to live with their bestie status. As neighbors, Luna and Owen are frequently getting together and sharing secrets, while their spouses are left behind.

They tell themselves they have an understanding; it’s just how their relationships are, but still, it doesn’t necessarily feel good.

Luna and Irene have established a friendship of their own, however, frequently visiting and even going for runs together.

One morning, Luna heads out to meet Irene for a run at their regular spot, she gets there only to find Irene dead. She’s been murdered!

Luna is shocked. Who would kill Irene? She immediately calls Owen. Yeah, before she calls the police, she calls Owen and he rushes to the scene.

As it turns out, Irene’s isn’t the first mysterious death Luna and Owen have been close to. A girl they knew in college once died under mysterious circumstances. They stood firmly together then as well.

Alternating between 2004/2005 and 2019, the Reader is introduced to the complexity of Luna and Owen’s relationship. The amount of drama they have been through together, as well as the depths they would go to in order to protect one another.

I found this book to be extremely interesting. Luna and Owen were both complex characters. While they seemed a bit aloof with most people, with one another, they were completely different.

They were so attached and enmeshed in each other’s lives. It was fascinating. They came from completely different worlds, but somehow it worked. They found something in each other that they both needed to come out of their shells; drop their walls.

Additionally, the narrative was such a twisted web. My word! Every single person was keeping secrets on some level.

I really enjoyed getting the investigator’s perspectives as well, who were looking into Irene’s death. That gave an extra look into Luna and Owen’s relationship from the outside. I thought that was a nice addition.

I was so happy with how this concluded. It left me with an evil little grin on my face and we all know, I love that!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Ballantine Books, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I had a lot of fun with this one. It will stick with me for a long time to come!

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Review: A Flicker in the Dark by Stacy Willingham

A Flicker in the DarkA Flicker in the Dark by Stacy Willingham
My rating: 4 of 5 stars


When Chloe Davis was 12-years old, her father was arrested for the kidnapping and murder of six teenage girls, based on evidence that Chloe herself had uncovered.

After her father was taken away, Chloe, her mother and her older brother, were left trying to put back together the pieces of their shattered lives.

It was rough. In their small Louisiana town the shroud of guilt was always upon them. They ended up moving to try to hide from the scandal.

People were suspicious of her Mom, that she possibly knew something she didn’t reveal. It wasn’t a good situation. Traumatic to say the least.

Twenty years later, Chloe is a psychologist working with young girls suffering through varying levels of trauma, like she did herself.

Chloe is also preparing for her wedding to Daniel, a man she has known for just a year.

Her brother, Cooper, thinks the marriage is too quick. He and Daniel have never been warm and fuzzy with one another.

That alone is stressful enough, but when local teen girls begin to go missing, one of them a patient of Chloe’s, she’s triggered into a really dark place; her past.

Chloe’s worked so hard to forget her childhood trauma; to move on and find a bit of happiness for herself in spite of all she’s been through. Now it seems the past has come back to haunt her.

The pattern of the current crimes isn’t just similar to that of her father’s. It’s identical. Is there a copycat working in Baton Rouge?

Before she knows it, Chloe finds herself steeped in the investigation. She needs to get to the bottom of it. It seems too close to home, like it’s intentional. Like this new killer is trying to draw her in.

Is Chloe paranoid and seeing connections where there aren’t any, or is she dangerously close to the truth?

A Flicker in the Dark is a hugely promising and intense debut. Willingham’s writing style is extremely fluid and fast-paced, sucking me in from the very first chapter.

I loved Chloe as a main character. Her flaws made her not just believable, but relatable. Her struggles were real. I felt them; the (view spoiler) being particularly impactful.

While I found certain aspects of the story toed the line of predictability, I nonetheless had a fun time reading it.

If this is her debut, I predict a long and successful career in Willingham’s future. I definitely plan to be following along.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Macmillan Audio, for providing me with a copy to read and review.

This is a great book. One that every Mystery/Thriller Fan should pick up!

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Review: Razorblade Tears by S.A. Cosby

Razorblade TearsRazorblade Tears by S.A. Cosby
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When Ike Randolph’s son, Isiah, is brutally murdered, Ike isn’t just heart-broken. He’s also filled with regrets.

When Isiah came out to him, Ike handled it poorly and never ended up fully accepting Isiah’s relationship with his husband, Derek.

Derek’s father, Buddy Lee, struggled with his son’s sexuality also and knows all too well the regrets Ike is experiencing.

Although Ike and Buddy Lee have never really associated, Buddy Lee seeks Ike out after their son’s murders. He wants to get to the bottom of it and thinks that Ike will be able to help him.

Besides their son’s relationship and subsequent deaths, Ike and Buddy Lee have something else in common. They’re both ex-cons. A fact that put additional strain on their relationships with their boys.

Initially, Ike is offended that Buddy Lee has come to him in such a way. He feels like Buddy Lee wants to use him on his mission of revenge, but then something happens that Ike can’t ignore. He won’t see his son’s memory scandalized in such a way.

After that, the two men pair up and an investigation of epic proportions ensues.

Ike and Buddy Lee are like the lovable odd couple in every buddy cop movie, except that they’re ex-cons. Which personally, I just think added to their depth of character and likability.

Neither one of them is perfect. They’ve both made a lot of mistakes and done many things they aren’t proud of. They’re open about that though and I appreciated that about them.

The conversations between the two men, as they got to know one another, were quite moving to read. They had frank discussions involving race and sexuality that really packed a punch, but in a natural way. It never felt overdone, or in your face.

I feel like Cosby did an incredible job of incorporating such social commentary seamlessly into the narrative.

I grew so attached to these characters over the course of the story; not just Ike and Buddy Lee, but side characters such as Ike’s wife and a woman named, Tangerine.

As I raced towards the conclusion, I knew this one would break my heart and it did, but in a good way. That doesn’t really make sense, does it?

I think if you read this, it will become clear. At it’s heart a story of revenge, this is also a story of hope, personal growth, change and possibly even redemption.

I grew to love these two men, flawed though they were. Cosby’s writing is captivating from the very start. This was expertly-crafted for maximum impact. If you don’t have this on your TBR yet…

I had the pleasure of Buddy Reading this one with my fabulous niece, Alyssa. We had some great discussions throughout.

I would definitely recommend this one for Book Club, Buddy Reads, or even a solo venture. In summation:

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Review: Where the Truth Lies by Anna Bailey

Where the Truth LiesWhere the Truth Lies by Anna Bailey
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

In Anna Bailey’s debut, we get a deep dive into the small town of Whistling Ridge, Colorado, where a 17-year old girl, Abigail, has gone missing.

Abi’s friend, Emma, is wracked with guilt because she left Abi behind at a party on the night she disappeared. Abi was supposed to be meeting up with a boy in the woods and insisted Emma leave her, but she never should have.

Not only does Emma feel bad about leaving Abi there, others in town blame her as well.

The police believe Abi ran away, but Emma knows that’s not true. Abi would never have left without her. Emma decides to take the investigation into her own hands. She needs to find out what happened to her friend.

Abi’s family is a mess, but truth be told, they were a mess before she disappeared. Her two brothers live in constant fear of their father’s unpredictable temperment, while their mother frequently appears checked-out.

Over the course of the story, multiple town secrets are brought to light. There’s all sorts of racism, prejudice, bigotry and religious fervor. There’s a lot of unlikable characters and unsavory circumstances.

Personally, I never felt connected with this story. None of the characters were distinct to me and I had a difficult time tracking it all through the multiple perspectives and then/now timelines.

I decided to give this 3-stars because I know there is a good story hidden in here somewhere. It tackles a lot of important, sensitive issues and I would never want to take away from that. However, for me, this reading experience was more of a 2-star.

I couldn’t wait for it to be over. With this being said, just because this wasn’t my cup of tea, doesn’t mean it is not a good book. If you read the synopsis and it sounds interesting to you, please give it a shot. It could very well be a new favorite for you.

Maybe I was just in a mood or something. Who knows? Crazier things have happened, but yeah, as of today, not a great experience for me. Extremely forgettable and bland. Solid, mehhh.

Thank you to the publisher, Atria, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I appreciate it. On to the next!

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Review: Velvet Was the Night by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Velvet Was the NightVelvet Was the Night by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

In 1970s, Mexico City, Maite works as a legal secretary by day, and reads romantic comics by night; dreaming of a different life for herself.

Elvis is an enforcer in a group called the Hawks, whose main objective is to suppress political activists within the city. His life is surrounded by violence. He’s also hoping for more; maybe to be more like the King himself, Elvis Presley.

Elvis and Maite are about to have their lives intertwined, all because of a girl named, Leonora.

Leonora is a beauty, a free-spirit, a student, an artist. She lives across the hall from Maite. Although the two have never really socialized, Leonora comes to Maite one day for a favor and then disappears.

Intrigued by the young woman’s disappearance, Maite begins looking into Leonora’s life. The mystery infuses Maite’s life with an excitment she’s never really had before.

Elvis is looking for Leonora as well, but for completely different reasons. His employer is desperate to find Leonora in order to gain access to something he believes she is in possession of.

During the course of his hunt, Elvis begins to notice the quiet, mousey woman living in Leonora’s building. There’s something about her that he is drawn to.

As the narrative evolves the two strangers begin to orbit closer and closer together, but will they collide?

Velvet Was the Night wasn’t what I expected, although that’s my own fault. This is true noir, take that seriously. It’s a slow burn, with relatively low-stakes.

The tone is lush, the narrative richly-atmospheric. Initially, I wasn’t sold. It starts slow. I was wondering where it was going, when it was going to pick up and while I was wondering that, Moreno-Garcia was subtly sucking me in.

The next thing I knew, I was being transported to Mexico City. I was fully immersed within this story, with the characters, with their inner musings. I couldn’t put it down.

It was a unique reading experience for me. I don’t read a lot of books like this and while I really enjoyed it, it still won’t be a genre I will seek out.

I feel like the magic of this for me was in Moreno-Garcia’s writing; it was the way it unfolded, the beauty behind the slow drama of it all. It’s a special book, although admittedly, not for everyone.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Del Rey, for providing me with a copy to read and review. While not necessarily in my comfort zone, I did really enjoy my time reading this one and will continue to pick up anything Silvia Moreno-Garcia writes!!

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Review: A Dark and Secret Place by Jen Williams

A Dark and Secret PlaceA Dark and Secret Place by Jen Williams
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Following an extended absence, Heather Evans returns to her family home after her mother commits suicide.

Not only is Heather plagued by the regular grief you experience after the death of a loved one, but she’s genuinely dumbfounded as to why her mother would have chosen to end her own life.

Reading the note her mother left, Heather is even more confused. It seemed her mother felt extremely guilty over something, but what?

Also, the note is written in a way that leads Heather to believe it wasn’t intended just for her. The context makes it seem like she is apologizing to someone else as well, but who?

It’s apparent her mother had secrets and Heather feels like she needs to discover them if she is ever going to make sense of her death and put it behind her.

Then she finds the letters. Her mother had been corresponding for years with the Red Wold, a infamous serial killer, Michael Reave, who has been in prison for 20-years for his crimes.

Heather teams up with an old friend and the two begin to look into her mother’s past.

Meanwhile, a copy cat killer has begun kidnapping and murdering women in their area, reopening the case of the Red Wolf for police and citizens alike.

This was interesting. There was a lot going on, a lot of threads to follow.

Various perspectives were given and occassionally I would forget where I was in the timeline and with who. We get Michael’s past perspective, which was interesting and his past with Heather’s mother is unveiled over the course of the story.

I will admit to feeling my mind wander at times and I never felt super compelled to pick it up once I stopped reading. Always a sign to me that I’m just not that invested in the characters, or their outcome.

With this being said, this is a good book. It’s a solid story that I think a lot of people will enjoy. While I won’t be including it on any of my favorites lists, there wasn’t anything inherently wrong with it.

It appears that this author has written a lot of Fantasy novels, so this may be her Thriller debut. If that is the case, it definitely shows her skill and I would pick up future novels from her in this genre.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Crooked Lane Books, for providing me with a copy to read and review.

I always appreciate the opportunity to provide my feedback!

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