Review: Every Last Fear by Alex Finlay

Every Last FearEvery Last Fear by Alex Finlay
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Matt Pine’s older brother, Danny, is serving a life sentence for allegedly killing his high school sweetheart, Charlotte.

After his trial, a True Crime Documentary was released claiming Danny was wrongfully convicted. Many viewers seemed to agree; think Making a Murderer.

Matt remembers something about the night of Charlotte’s death that no one else knows. Because of this, he thinks Danny may actually have done it, or at least been involved.

Their parents, unsurprisingly, fully believe in Danny’s innocence. In fact, their father, has never quite given up the search for information that will free his oldest son. The whole situation with Danny had caused quite a bit of strife within the family.

When the Pine family decides a getaway to Mexico is just what they need to reconnect, Matt, currently at school in NYC, is the only one who doesn’t get to go.

Arriving home after a late night partying, Matt receives the terrible news that his family, Mom, Dad, younger sister and brother, are all dead.

He can’t believe the news. Apparently, the authorities in Mexico seem to think their deaths were accidental; due to a gas leak.

The individuals Matt speaks to in the FBI don’t seem to be so sure however. Matt is sent to Mexico to recover the bodies and it is there that he starts to suspect something much more sinister may be at play.

That feeling doesn’t disappear when he returns to his hometown for the family funeral.

Matt, along with an intrepid FBI agent, begin an investigation into what actually happened to the Pine family; discovering past crimes may be linked to their deaths.

This was interesting. A fast-paced and solid story.

Initially, I was feeling like we were getting too many perspectives, as we followed, Matt, his Dad, Mom, younger sister and the FBI agent, Sarah.

But as the story started to weave together, I began to see why all of those perspectives were actually necessary. Each contributed to puzzle and what a puzzle it was!

This was smart, twisted and tense. Some aspects were more predictable than others, but overall, I really enjoyed how it played out.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Minotaur Books, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I’m happy that I finally gave this one a shot!

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Review: When the Stars Go Dark by Paula McLain

When the Stars Go DarkWhen the Stars Go Dark by Paula McLain
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Wracked with grief after a personal tragedy, Missing Persons Detective, Anna Hart, flees from her regular life in San Francisco, in order to give herself time to heal.

She heads back to the town she grew up in with her loving foster parents, Mendocino, in Northern California.

Once there, she rents a modest cabin in the woods and actually ends up taking in a new canine companion, who she names, Cricket.

Obviously. this enhanced my enjoyment of the story.
((Just kidding. Kind of, not really.))

Anna also reunites with her childhood friend, Will, who happens to now be the local Sheriff.

Knowing how successful Anna has been in her career, Will enlists her help with assisting him finding a teenage girl, Cameron, who has recently gone missing.

This new investigation is a good distraction from Anna’s own tragedy, but her involvement means more to her than that. She quickly becomes engrossed in the case.

Having survived very significant childhood trauma herself, Anna has dedicated her life to helping other children and survivors. As stressful as it can often be, it’s her calling.

We watch the investigation unfold, as Will and Anna work together to try to find out what happened to Cameron. Maybe they can get to her before it’s too late.

They end up tying her case to that of other missing girls in the area and the intensity definitely begins to build from there.

This is a great story. It’s subtle, dark and heart-wrenching.

It really reminded me a lot of Rene Denfeld’s, The Child Finder and I mean that as a heavy compliment.

It’s quite nuanced, more than your average book in this genre, which I appreciated so much. McLain packed a lot in.

I loved the investigatory elements and learning more about Anna’s background as a character; how her early life lead her to the point where she is at.

Overall, this story has good action, a compelling mystery, layered, well-established characters and a satisfying conclusion.

There were some areas that felt a little slow for me, but that didn’t overshadow any of the other fantastically done elements.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Ballantine Books, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review.

I appreciate the opportunity and hope this author writes more in this genre!

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Review: The Chestnut Man by Soren Sveistrup

The Chestnut ManThe Chestnut Man by Søren Sveistrup
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars rounded up**

If you find one, he’s already found you.

A psychopath, with a distinctive calling card, is terrorizing Copenhagen in this tense, debut Crime Thriller from Soren Sveistrup.

The Chestnut Man is a brutally fast-paced read. I needed a nap after I finished!!

Women are disappearing. When their battered and mutilated bodies are discovered, a chestnut man doll is always located at the grisly crime scenes.

Made of matchsticks and two chestnuts, the little doll comes to be thought of as the killer’s signature, but what could it mean?

When forensic evidence connects the chestnut men, via a fingerprint, to the missing daughter of a government minister, things really begin to heat up.

How could these crimes possibly be related?

Detectives, Thulin and Hess, team up to try to solve the mystery and prevent another woman from falling victim to the vicious Chestnut Man.

For a 500+ page novel, this book reads extremely quickly. The chapters are super short, keeping the narrative flowing at a feverish pace.

I found Sveistrup’s writing to be extremely engaging. It was smart, with twist, turns and red herrings around every corner. As I raced towards the conclusion, I loved how the case pieced itself together.

Thulin and Hess were both believable and compelling. I would love to read further mysteries with them at the helm.

From the very first pages, Sveistrup sets a grisly tone, which I love. Additionally, the intensity of the story never lets up. There was not one moment where it felt like the story wasn’t accelerating.

I was so impressed with his ability to do that. The execution of the plot is brilliant. I could use a little bit more development of Hess and Thulin’s characters, which is why I am really hoping for a second book featuring the two detectives.

I highly recommend this impressive piece of Nordic Noir!! You better clear your schedule though if you plan to pick it up, because once you start, you won’t want to put it down!

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Review: Safecracker by Ryan Wick

SafecrackerSafecracker by Ryan Wick
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Professional safecracker, Michael Maven, has pulled off a number of dangerous heists over the course of his career.

His latest job, obtaining a rare coin from a New York City apartment, is fairly simple in the scheme of things.

What he doesn’t plan for however, is that another individual will try to steal the coin on the very same night.

In fact, the thief, a beautiful woman, enters the apartment while Michael is there, with the coin’s owner. She proceeds to kill the innocent man, while Michael watches from his hiding place.

When she takes the coin from the safe and attempts to leave the apartment, Michael can’t just sit by. He has put a lot of effort into this night and will not let her ruin it!

A struggle ensues.

Michael, though shaken, believes the night to be a wash, until she finds him again. Maven barely makes it out of their next encounter with his life.

Now he is on the radar of her employer, a sadistic drug lord known as El Cerdo, who needs Michael to perform a job for him.

Unfortunately, Michael doesn’t really have a say in the matter. He needs to do what the man asks, or else risk not just his life, but the lives of those he cares about most.

Michael’s new mission finds him in Miami, pairing up with the woman who tried to kill him, as well as other employees of El Cerdo. He has under a week to steal back a valuable notebook from the home of the head of a rival cartel.

Safecracker is action-packed from page one. It truly reads like a movie and I found it to be quite addicting.

I enjoyed Michael, as a character, a lot. He was rugged, charming and skillful; three great attributes for a leading man.

While this isn’t the type of book I would generally gravitate towards, I did have a lot of fun reading it and would recommend it to others.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Thomas Dunne, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review.

From the fantastic Epilogue, I am assuming this will not be the last we see of Michael Maven. I would absolutely pick up more books following his character if they are published.

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Review: Take It Back by Kia Abdullah

Take It BackTake It Back by Kia Abdullah
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars rounded up**

((me: reads final scene))

Blushing and looking around, I think to myself, she got me. Kia Abdullah got me good!

This provocative legal thriller was a non-stop guessing game. My head was reeling the entire way through trying to decipher who to believe.

I hate to say that, but I have to be honest. The reason I don’t like to say that is because the case central to this story is that of a sexual assault.

This would be an enticing book club read. I can see a lot of great discussions stemming from the deep content of this book that was expertly crafted for maximum impact by Abdullah.

Zara Kaleel, a former lawyer, is now a sexual assault counselor. When 16-year old, Jodie Wolfe, arrives in her office, Zara is stunned to hear her tale of assault by four male classmates.

Jodie has a genetic abnormality that has given her severe facial deformities, which makes her difficult to understand at times. In spite of any slight communication issues, Jodie’s pain is pouring off of her. She is traumatized and Zara vows to help.

We follow the investigation into the case through multiple perspectives and then get front row seats to the subsequent trial.

The four young men accused are Muslims, from immigrant families, while Jodie is a white girl. As you can imagine, this adds an incredible amount of tension to public reception of the case.

It all becomes a bit of a circus, with even Zara beginning to fear for her safety.

As a Muslim woman herself, also from an immigrant family, she is branded a traitor and must push really hard, both personally and professionally, to continue with Jodie’s case.

I really loved how Abdullah chose to tell this story. The pace was spot on and the little reveals and clues along the way left me constantly guessing at the truth. I had no idea what the final outcome would be until it was on page.

Additionally, I loved the cultural elements that were included through Zara’s perspective, and a few of the accused boys. I thought those aspects made this one stand out in comparison with other books in the genre and will make this story, overall, more memorable for me.

I loved this. Very compelling, suspenseful and thoughtful. I will definitely be picking up more books from Kia Abdullah in the future.

Thank you so much to the publisher, St. Martin’s Press, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review. I love discovering new authors to enjoy, so thanks for adding another to my auto-buy list!

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Review: The Dead Season (Shana Merchant #2) by Tessa Wegert

The Dead Season (Shana Merchant, #2)The Dead Season by Tessa Wegert
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Following the horrific events of Death in the Family, Senior Investigator Shana Merchant finds herself on administrative leave.

Her PTSD was triggered by the events on the Sinclair family’s private island and it caused her to display poor judgement. Now she is left spinning her wheels as her department urges her to take time to heal.

Pending a psychological evaluation she may be reinstated to her position. In the meantime however, she is suppose to focus on anything but work.

Shana has a hard time with that. When the remains of her long missing Uncle are found in the woods of her hometown, she heads home to solve the mystery.

At the same time, a young boy, Trey, goes missing on a school field trip in Alexandria Bay. Shana’s partner, Tim, is on the case and Shana feels like it is connected to Blake Bram, the serial killer continuing to hound her.

What’s even more intriguing is that Shana feels like the cases are linked in other ways; like Bram is holding Trey hostage, forcing Shana to solve the case of her long-dead Uncle. If she can solve it, perhaps Trey will live, but why?

I really enjoyed getting to know Shana Merchant, as a character, in the first novel. This second book fills in more of her past and the events that haunt her, which is exactly what I was hoping for.

We learn more about Blake Bram and Shana’s original connection to him.

Wegert won me over in the first novel by utilizing my favorite mystery trope, the locked room mystery. In this second installment, again, she gave me another one of my favorites: when a protagonist returns to their hometown to solve an old mystery.

Shana feels like she has forgotten a lot of her childhood. As she interviews friends, relatives and other community members, it begins to jog her memory and what she finds there isn’t pretty.

I really enjoyed the pacing of this and the reveals.

Shana is a great character, as is Tim, her partner. I have no idea how many mysteries this series will ultimately be, but you better believe, I will be reading them all.

If you are looking for a new mystery series with a classic mystery feel, you should definitely give the Shana Merchant series a try. The Dead Season is releasing on Tuesday, December 8th!!!

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

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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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