Review: The Heron’s Cry (Two Rivers #2) by Ann Cleeves

The Heron's Cry (Two Rivers #2)The Heron’s Cry by Ann Cleeves
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Heron’s Cry is the second release in Ann Cleeves’ Two Rivers series, following DI Matthew Venn and his team.

The first book in the series, The Long Call, was a standout Mystery for me in 2019, so I was highly anticipating this next installment.

Unsurprisingly, Cleeves did not disappoint. This woman could teach a master class on writing an engaging Police Procedural.

This particular Mystery kicks off when Venn is called to a crime scene at a rural home occupied by a group of artists. A man has been killed, stabbed in the neck with a shard from one of his glassblower daughter’s vases.

Dr. Nigel Yeo, the victim, is a dedicated public servent, a loving father and valued member of his community. It’s perplexing as to why anyone would want him dead.

His daughter, Eve, the glassblower, is particularly distraught, as is Venn when he discovers Eve is actually a good friend of his husband, Jonathan. Of course, sometimes it seems everybody knows everybody in a small community.

The detectives discover a line of inquiry Yeo was following with regards to his work for the health ministry. It involved the suicides of two young men and the possible failure of the health system in providing them appropriate care.

Could someone have been meaning to silence him?

When another body is discovered, killed in the same fashion, Venn and team fear they may have stumbled across something larger than they initially anticipated.

I really enjoyed my time with this novel. Being back with DI Venn and learning more about him and his team, it felt comfortable. Cleeves has created a great cast of main characters for this series. I enjoy how she includes a few different perspectives.

The coastal community in North Devon provided an insular, small town atmosphere, which I tend to enjoy in my Mysteries. I loved learning all about the town’s secrets; the underbelly of an otherwise picturesque place. Every community has things they would prefer to keep from the outside world.

I also enjoyed how this story incorporated a group of artists, randomly thrown together into a sort of communal living situation. That whole subculture feel was quite interesting.

I’m not sure if there are going to be more books in this series, but I truly hope there will be. I could picture this one running for a long time. If that’s the case, I will be so happy that I got in on it early.

If you haven’t had a chance to check out this series yet, and you love Police Procedural Mysteries, you really should. Now is the time!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Minotaur Books and Macmillan Audio, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I highly recommend the audiobook. It’s completely absorbing.

I am definitely looking forward to more Ann Cleeves!

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Review: Arsenic and Adobo (Tita Rosie’s Kitchen Mysteries #1) by Mia P. Manansala

Arsenic and Adobo (Tita Rosie's Kitchen Mystery, #1)Arsenic and Adobo by Mia P. Manansala
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Arsenic and Adobo is a great start to a new Cozy Mystery series. After reading this, I can confidently say, I’m here for the long haul.

Keep ’em coming, please, Mia P. Manansala!!!

Following a bad breakup, Lila Macapagal moves back home to lick her wounds and try to put the pieces of her life back together.

Additionally, her family needs some help. Her Aunt’s restaurant is floundering. Even though the food is incredible, the business-side is tanking. Her Auntie never focuses on those details. Lila knows she can turn it around.

When Lila’s ex-boyfriend, Derek, a local food critic with a terrible reputation, shows up for dinner with their landlord, who also happens to be Derek’s step-father, Lila knows stuff is about to hit the fan.

However, she would never expect Derek to fall face first into his dessert. Dead, apparently poisoned. Now the police consider Lila to be their number one suspect.

As it seems all local law enforcement are wasting their time investigating Lila and her family, Lila knows she needs to get to the bottom of what happened to Derek herself. Her family had nothing to do with it, which means a killer is still out there.

Thus begins a super fun and witty amateur sleuthing trope. It’s no secret that I love Cozy Mysteries. I’ve read a few Culinary Cozy books in the past and this one definitely fits right in!

It’s silly, it’s over the top, fast-paced, funny and there’s a lot of delicious food on page.

I thought this was an excellent start to a new series. Manansala made me care for Lila and her loved ones. Cozy Mystery series tend to get better and better with time, as each one builds out the characters you come to adore. Trust me when I say, you can become quite attached.

I’m invested and already anticipating the next release in this series. That makes me a happy girl!

If you are Cozy fan, especially Culinary Cozies, you should absolutely give this one a shot. I’m so interested to see what crazy hijinks the Macapagal family gets up to next!!

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Review: Lie Beside Me (DCI Jonah Sheens #3) by Gytha Lodge

Lie Beside Me (DCI Jonah Sheens #3)Lie Beside Me by Gytha Lodge
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars**

Lie Beside Me is the third book in the DCI Jonah Sheens series. While like many Adult Mysteries this series doesn’t necessarily need to be read in order, I would recommend it, due to background information for the detectives.

However, any of these books would also make great standalone mysteries. I feel like once you read one, though, you’ll want to read them all!

With her husband away on business, Louise Reakes gets together with her best friend, April. The women tend to hit the sauce hard when they’re together, something Louise has been trying to break away from.

Upon groggily opening her eyes in the morning, Louise knows she failed in that regard. She’s hungover as heck and is surprised to find a male body in the bed with her. It’s not her husband.

Further inspection reveals the bed is soaked with blood. The man is dead!

Thus begins the confusing and complicated mystery as to who this man is and more importantly, how he ended up dead in Louise’s bed.

By the time DCI Jonah Sheens and his team are called to the murder scene, the body is out in the front garden. Louise tells them she stumbled upon the body as she went outside to grab milk from the stoop.

This deception immediately starts the investigation off on the wrong foot.

Told through multiple perspectives, including Louise’s epistolary-style recounting of her life with her husband, Niall, up through the night of the horrific crime, was incredibly interesting.

I loved the way Lodge pieced this all together. It felt slow-burn, but in the best way.

It kept me guessing until the very end. I thought it was one thing, then, nope, not that.

Then I really thought it was the other thing and I was sort of mad it was that thing, but nope, not that thing either. Then this other thing and I’m like, okay, okay, okay, this is it. Then it sort of was, sort of wasn’t.

It was a ride!

As always, the police procedural aspects were great. I love this team and how well they all work together. Their personalities are so complimentary to one another.

From the conclusion of this one, I am going to guess there will be more to come in this series and I’m so excited for it!

This is my favorite current Police Procedural Mystery series. I love how layered Lodge makes her stories; not to mention nail-bitingly disturbing. If you are looking for a new Mystery series to get into, I highly recommend this one.

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

I really appreciate it and cannot wait for the next book!!

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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: Finlay Donovan Is Killing It by Elle Cosimano

Finlay Donovan Is Killing ItFinlay Donovan Is Killing It by Elle Cosimano
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Finlay Donovan Is Killing It is a hilarious, modern-day Cozy Mystery, that will leave you simultaneously at the edge-of-your-seat and clutching your sides with laughter.

As a start to a series, this story succeeded in making me fall in love with these characters. I cannot wait for more!

Finlay Donovan is a struggling novelist. She is also currently single-moming two small children, as her jerk ex-husband left her for the hot, blonde, real estate agent he had been having an affair with.

Making matters worse, on the morning of a very important meeting with her agent, to discuss her barely existent new novel, Finlay discovers her ex-hubby has also fired their nanny. Without giving her any advanced notice!

Not a great start to the day. As single-moms are known to do, however, Finlay figures it out, all whilst barely holding herself together on the inside.

She makes her meeting with her agent, at a Panera, of all places, and they have a great, albeit slightly stressful discussion about Finlay’s career.

Unbeknownst to Finlay, another patron was listening in on the conversation.

Not understanding they were discussing the plot of Finlay’s floundering novel, this woman now mistakenly believes Finlay to be a successful contract killer.

She then proceeds to try to hire Finlay to kill her husband. He’s a scoundrel, she says; he won’t be missed and she is willing to pay a hefty sum. While Finlay is intrigued, she obviously sees the problems with this plan.

However, somehow, as turns out to be common in Finlay’s life, she ends up in over her head. Before she knows it, she is embroiled in the dark underbelly of her community, where murder abounds.

This novel is fun from the first chapter. You are immediately thrown into the chaos of Finlay’s life and into her hilarious inner musings.

Not long after the Panera incident, Finlay is able to rekindle her relationship with their fabulous nanny, Vero and the two become, quite literally, partners in crime.

The relationship between Finlay and Vero gave me life. They played off each others personalities so well. I loved how they worked together and became like family.

There were great side characters, red herrings, action and drama. It is just pure fun to read; light, funny and full of over-the-top hijinks.

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

I cannot wait to see what Finlay and Vero get up to next!

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Review: The Lost Village by Camilla Sten

The Lost VillageThe Lost Village by Camilla Sten
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars**

In 1959, it was discovered that all the residents of the defunct mining town of, Silvertjarn, Sweden, had mysteriously disappeared.

Well, all but the woman found hanging, stoned to death in the town square, and an infant located in the local school.

For decades, the mystery has gone unsolved.

Aspiring documentary filmmaker, Alice Lindstedt, has become obsessed with The Lost Village, as her Grandmother’s entire family were among the disappeared. She decides to tackle the mystery as her first solo documentary project.

She plans to travel to the remote village, along with a small crew, to search for the truth of what happened to the residents. She does have some information on the town based on letters from her Grandmother’s little sister, Aina.

Together with her friend, Tone, who also has a connection to the village, her ex-best friend, Emmy, an experienced production manager, Emmy’s technician and significant other, Robert, and the financial backer of the film, Max, Alice is finally able to reach her destination: Silvertjarn.

The plan is to shoot on location for six days. That’s all the time they have with their rented equipment. The project is low budget to say the least, but could be life-changing for Alice if the documentary is received well.

They travel to the town with just enough supplies to last through the six days. The location is quite remote; they won’t be bothered by anyone and should be able to focus and hopefully get enough good footage to kick the project off.

From the very start, the town has an ominous feel. It’s creepy being in an abandoned town. The houses and buildings still hold all of the belongings in place like time capsules. It seems the residents got up one day, walked out and never returned.

What could have happened here? All of the crew feel uneasy about the location, but decide to put their heads down and just work through it.

Tension is running high and some bickering ensues. The team seems to be coming apart before they’ve even started, but Alice is willing to do anything to salvage what time they have left.

Everything begins to spiral though and soon some on the crew suspect they are not alone in the village after all.

Together with the present day timeline, we get a past timeline as well, told from the perspective of Alice’s Great-Grandmother, Elsa, in the days leading up to the mass disappearance.

This past timeline ultimately concludes with the truth about the town and its dark secrets being revealed.

The Lost Village is an interesting story. While it started out slow for me, it did pick up quite a bit after the halfway point.

I enjoyed the overall mystery of the village and the alternating timelines; although I actually enjoyed the past timeline more.

In the present timeline, the characters and some of their choices were aggravating to me. I found the petty bickering annoying and some of the relationships didn’t make sense to me.

With this being said, it didn’t overshadow the other content too much. I was still able to enjoy the journey to the conclusion.

The ending definitely toed the line of eyeroll territory for me. I was shaking my head a bit, if I’m being honest.

Overall, though, this story has a lot of strong points. The atmosphere and overarching mystery were both very good; as well as the idea of a documentary film crew trying to unravel the mystery on location. I loved that.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Minotaur Books, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review. I appreciate the opportunity to provide my opinions!

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Blog Tour: Her Dark Lies by J.T. Ellison

Her Dark LiesHer Dark Lies by J.T. Ellison
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars**

From the start of their relationship, Claire Hunter, knows that by marrying Jack Compton, her life will change dramatically.

The Compton family is extremely rich and powerful; we’re talking the top 1%. Claire is an up-and-coming artist with a studio in Nashville and not much else. She’s new to their world and the circle of predators that comes with it.

The couple are set to wed at the Compton family’s luxury villa on Isle Isolde on the coast of Italy. It is planned to be an intimate occasion, with just family and a few very close friends.

The night prior to departing for Italy, the couple surprises an intruder in their home. It doesn’t end well and Claire is rattled by the whole incident. It’s not setting a good tone for her wedding weekend.

Even after arriving in Italy, her nerves are still rattled. The property is intimidating and Claire feels unsettled from the start.

As she begins to meet Jack’s family and the property’s many servants, she slowly starts to let her guard down. It’s clear they all love Jack very much and want him to be happy. That’s how it appears anyway.

It doesn’t take long before odd things begin happening; scary things. To Claire it seems that someone is trying to sabotage her and their nuptials, but who?

Terribly inclement weather sweeps in, adding more fuel to the fire. Everything has to be rearranged; the villa is in chaos. Then the bodies start dropping.

Her Dark Lies is an over-the-top, locked room Mystery, with more twists and turns than a roller coaster. You better grab your Dramamine before you go on this ride!

The author made some interesting choices in deciding what perspectives to follow; you actually get the perspective of the antagonist. I wasn’t crazy about this, as to me, it felt like it took all of the suspense out of it.

I liked the setting, but could have done with even more of the lore and history of Isle Isolde. We did get a few glimpses into the past of the Villa and there were a lot of skeletons in those closets.

While this is a good story, I was hoping for just a little more atmosphere and suspense. Technically, it has everything that makes up a good Thriller, but somehow it still felt a little anticlimactic for me.

With all of this being said, I know a ton of Readers are going to love the fast-paced drama of this novel. Just because it wasn’t the perfect book for me, doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy it. I did and most likely, you will too!

Thank you so much to the publisher, MIRA, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I appreciate the opportunity to provide my opinion.

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Review: Dear Child by Romy Hausmann

Dear ChildDear Child by Romy Hausmann
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars**

Dear Child is a taut Psychological Thriller that will leave you scratching your head until the very end.

It immediately drops you into this puzzle. It can take some time to get your bearings, but once the narrative begins to unfold, it’s completely intriguing.

The story is told from three main perspectives: a kidnapped woman, known as Lena, who has just escaped her captor; her daughter, Hannah; and Lena’s father, Matthias, who has been searching for his daughter for thirteen years.

From Lena and Hannah’s perspectives, the scope of the hell they, along with Hannah’s brother, Jonathan, have lived through begins to take shape. A cabin in the woods, the ‘father’ who controlled their every move and their utter isolation.

After her dramatic escape, Lena is hit by a car and immediately transported to the hospital, with Hannah in tow. It is there that the true depth of the mystery is exposed.

Is this woman really Lena? And if she’s not, then who is she?

This story is dark, twisted, sick, and intricate. Progressing through this story is like peeling back the layers of an onion; something stinks and at times you want to cry.

I thought this was so cleverly plotted. I had so many theories, my head was spinning. It did not end how I expected and I really enjoyed the journey.

There were moments in the beginning where I was almost too confused, but once the puzzle started to come together, wow. It was chef’s kiss.

The Epilogue was the delicious icing on the cake. It gave me that evil grin I love to have at the end of a story.

The most disturbing part of this was that it could really happen. There is nothing far-fetched about it. A cabin in the woods isn’t suspicious in and of itself. You can really do anything you want behind those doors.

I highly recommend this for people who love tense and twisted stories. I believe this is the first Thriller this author has written and obviously it shows incredible promise.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Flatiron Books, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I am definitely anxious to pick up more from Hausmann!

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Review: Whisper Island by Carissa Ann Lynch

Whisper IslandWhisper Island by Carissa Ann Lynch
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars **

Riley doesn’t have any close friends until she meets Scarlett. The fellow art student is vibrant and sweeps Riley under her wing almost immediately upon meeting her.

Riley really isn’t sure why, but she’s not going to protest. Riley is now part of a group. The rest of Scarlett’s inner circle includes the most talented girl at school, Mia, and her long-time best friend, Sammy.

With the school year coming to a close, the girls discuss possibly traveling together. They want to get out of Tennessee and focus on their art; a real adventure.

When Sammy presents them with the opportunity to go stay on a private island off the coast of Alaska, how can they say no?

They would get to stay for three months and it won’t cost them a thing. The island belongs to the family of one of Sammy’s brother’s close friends. His family isn’t using it, so it is open for the taking.

Some of the girls require more convincing than others, but ultimately they decide to do it. To live in the moment and go on the ultimate adventure.

Upon arrival on Whisper Island, the girls are in for a surprise. Sammy’s unreliable brother, Rob, and his new girlfriend, Opal, are already there, when they weren’t suppose to arrive for another day.

Let the uncomfortable fun begin. Rob and Mia are ex’s and it did not end well. Mia was beyond miffed when she learned, at the airport, that Sammy had invited her brother along.

But none of them had any clue Opal would be there. Who even is she?

As they start to explore the island and settle in, they make a haunting discovery. After that a lot of disturbing events take place, leaving the group wondering if they are actually alone on the island.

Once the bodies start dropping, they know they need to get to the bottom of the mystery of Whisper Island, or risk never leaving again.

This was a fun little book. It reads just like a campy Slasher film; something I personally really enjoy.

It’s not perfect. Some of the interactions are cheesy and I definitely had some eye roll moments, but overall it’s a fun escape from the world.

It kept me entertained. I had some theories and one of them definitely panned out, but that didn’t deplete my enjoyment level at all.

I would recommend this to anyone who likes Teen Slashers, remote locations, locked-room mysteries and/or toxic friend groups.

Thank you so much to the publisher, One More Chapter, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review. I definitely had fun with it!

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Review: Dead Mountain: The Untold True Story of the Dyatlov Pass Incident by Donnie Eichar

Dead Mountain: The Untold True Story of the Dyatlov Pass IncidentDead Mountain: The Untold True Story of the Dyatlov Pass Incident by Donnie Eichar
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Dead Mountain is an eerie recounting of the Dyatlov Pass Incident exceptionally well-told by Donnie Eichar.

I find this to be one of the most haunting unsolved mysteries of all-time.

In February of 1959, nine experienced hikers set out on a challenging back-packing expedition in the Russian Ural Mountains. One hiker survived and only because he departed early due to medical complications.

The young people involved were all college age, with the exception of one, and were members of a hiking club at their university.

Led by Igor Dyatlov, their goal for this particular hike was to receive a Grade III hiking certification, because of this the mountaineers kept copious notes and took photo documentation of their journey.

When they didn’t return home on the date expected, people naturally assumed they must have run into complications that delayed them, but they would arrive any day.

That day never came. A search party is sent out and what they find is extremely shocking and mysterious, spurring numerous theories as to what caused the hiker’s demise.

I won’t go into the horrific details of the discovery of the bodies, just know everything from government conspiracies, armed men, chemical attacks to aliens, were considered.

Donnie Eichar became interested in the case, like many of us, after hearing of the mystery by chance. As a documentary filmmaker, his natural instincts are to do whatever it takes to learn more.

Eichar connects with individuals inside Russia still interested in the case, travels there, pours over the old travel diaries and photos, interviews people involved, including the sole survivor and even hikes the same path the group took.

With the book, we alternate between Eichar’s historical retelling of the incident as he understands it, and his journey over the course of his investigation.

Even though I had read and watched quite a few videos on this incident, I found Eichar’s theory behind the mystery to be wholly unique, interesting and quite possible. While there is no way to say this is definitely what lead to their deaths, it is a very strong theory.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys learning about unsolved mysteries; bonus if you are a hiker, mountaineer or rock climber. Eichar’s writing is engaging and he truly presents this tale with respect and grace.

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