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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Review: The Finders (Mace Reid K-9 Mystery #1) by Jeffrey B. Burton

The Finders (Mace Reid K-9 Mystery, #1)The Finders by Jeffrey B. Burton
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars**

The Finders, the first installment of the new Mace Reid K-9 Mystery series, is an Investigatory Thriller following an unlikely hero and his four-legged companions.

Mason, ‘Mace’, Reid, is a dog trainer who specializes in training cadaver dogs which he uses to help out local law enforcement with body searches.

At the beginning of the story, Mace has the opportunity to adopt a Golden Retriever puppy who has had a very traumatic start to life.

Dog lover that he is, and having recently loss one of his pack, he welcomes the puppy with open arms and names her Vira. Not long after her training begins.

Unbeknownst to Mace, Vira is soon to be working her first case, as a deadly killer is lurking very close to home.

When the serial killer sets his sights on Mace, all bets are off. It’s up to Mace, his new friend, CPD Officer Kippy Gim and Vira, to stop the killer and stay alive.

This was a solid start to a series. Dealing with a fictional serial killer can definitely up the ante of a story and this is no exception.

It was intense, it was fast-paced, but there were some elements I wasn’t crazy about.

For example, there was some cringey, insensitive humor, but also some fairly good humor where I laughed out loud. Yeah, so a mixed bag.

The occasions where I actually grimaced at badly worded jokes were fewer than things I liked about the story overall though, hence my 3.5-star rating.

I also had a hard time with some of the scenes involving the dogs. I will say, dogs in stories, is generally something I have a problem with; it’s not specific to this. It causes my anxiety to rise and makes it hard for me to relax and connect.

With this being said, I am aware that this is 100% specific to me as a reader. If you are fine with reading stories with dogs, or even love them, you will most likely really enjoy this.

Mace is a really good dog owner. You can tell he loves his boy and girls and treats them like part of his family; as they are.

Overall, I think this is a solid start to a series. I would definitely consider picking up the next book, praying the whole way that all the dogs remain happy and healthy throughout.

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

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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: 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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Review: The Whisper Man by Alex North

The Whisper ManThe Whisper Man by Alex North
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars rounded up**

This is exactly how I like my police procedural/investigative thrillers. Well done, Alex North!

After the sudden death of his wife, Tom Kennedy thinks a fresh start is just what he and Jake, his young son, need.

They move into a house in the small town of Featherbank. A town with a sordid past.

20-years ago a serial killer abducted and killed 5 residents. He was captured, tried for his crimes and imprisoned.

The killer’s name was Frank Carter, but he was known to the world as The Whisper Man, as he lured children out of their homes by whispering at their windows.

The Whisper Man has become a bit of a legend in the small town and even decades later seems fresh in the minds of many.

When a boy in Jake’s class gets abducted, the similarities to the Whisper Man crimes, cause many to wonder if he had an accomplice all those years ago, or if there is a clever copy cat in town.

This story follows the perspectives of Tom and Jake, two detectives working the case, and even into the mind of the killer.

I loved the atmosphere of this one. It felt gritty and heavy. Any scene with Jake in it, your classic creepy kid, left me entirely unsettled.

The action was high-intensity and I felt the investigatory portions were well done.

I will admit, I was a little nervous going into this one because I had heard mixed reviews. I was pleasantly surprised and will definitely read more books by this author.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Celadon Books, for providing me with a copy to read and review. My apologies for taking so long. It was definitely worth the wait!

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Review: The Long Call (Two Rivers #1) by Ann Cleeves

The Long Call (Two Rivers, #1)The Long Call by Ann Cleeves
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Darkly evocative and smartly written!

My first Ann Cleeves did not disappoint. I consider myself already anxiously anticipating the next installment to this all new, Two Rivers, series.

I was so pleasantly impressed with this. By far the best traditional mystery I have read this year. It is obvious from the first pages that Cleeves is a skilled, veteran mystery writer.

Following Detective Matthew Venn and two of his junior colleagues, Jen and Ross, was an absolute delight. I felt like I was there with them, learning the evidence as they were. Matthew was just a lovely protagonist. Thoughtful and introverted, extremely smart and dedicated to the idea of truth and justice for all.

At the beginning of our tale, Matthew is attending his estranged Father’s funeral. Standing in the back he observes neighbors, and other locals, he might once have considered friends.

But he has left that part of his life far behind after the strict evangelical community his parents were a part of could not accept that he is gay. Basically excommunicated from the community, he hasn’t spoken with either of his parents in many years.

Upon quietly making his exit from the church, he receives a phone call from one of his colleagues. The body of a murdered man has just been found on a beach not far from his current location. He of course rushes to the scene and thus begins an investigation into the community of which he was once a part.

I loved the tone of this novel. From start to finish the writing was so intelligent and gripping. It gave me strong Broadchurch vibes whilst also reminding me of the Cormoran Strike series by Robert Galbraith. I would say if you enjoy the Cormoran books, you should DEFINITELY pick this one up.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Minotaur Books, for providing me with a copy of this book to read and review. I am in love with it and cannot wait to continue on with the series!!! Well done, Ms. Cleeves!!

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Review: We Were Killers Once (Brigid Quinn #4) by Becky Masterman

We Were Killers Once (Brigid Quinn, #4)We Were Killers Once by Becky Masterman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars**

Like many retired Agents before her, Brigid Quinn, has found it hard to leave life in the FBI behind. Living in Arizona with her husband of 2-years, Carlo, a former Priest and University Professor, she is working as a Private Investigator and acclimating to this new chapter in her life.

Jerry Beaufort is just starting a new chapter as well. He has been behind bars for year as the world around him changed and progressed.

Once free, Jerry sets out on a quest to find a document that ties him to a set of killings, one little known and one made famous by Truman Capote’s masterpiece, In Cold Blood.

That’s right. In 1959, Jerry spent some time with Perry Smith and Dick Hickok, the two men sentenced to death for the Clutter killings. There was another family killed during that time, the Walkers, and Jerry was there.

When he learns Hickok may have left a written confession behind with a Priest, pointing the finger at him, he knows he needs to track it down no matter what the cost. His investigation leads him to the door of Brigid and her unsuspecting husband, Carlo.

Thus begins a game of cat and mouse where you are really unsure of who holds what role. Brigid is on to Jerry and she is not going to let some criminal steamroll her. We read both perspectives so there really isn’t much by way of mystery but it is compelling nonetheless.

Although this is the fourth book in Masterman’s, Brigid Quinn series, like many Adult Mysteries, you can read them out of order or as stand-alone novels. I liked Brigid a lot. She is a bit older than the protagonists I generally read but some of my favorite mystery series do involve older sleuths.

There is something more believable about reading from an experienced detective’s point of view. Brigid was no nonsense and I really enjoyed that about her. I could definitely picture myself picking up more books in this series as some point.

I also really enjoyed the premise behind this. The whole, what if there was a 3rd person involved in the Clutter killings? It was interesting to me to take a true life case and add a twist to it. Obviously, you wouldn’t want to do that with newer cases but I think here it worked quite well.

Overall, this was solid. There were some parts I think could have been edited out or down but it was a smooth read and a good story. It didn’t knock my socks off but I had a fun time reading it nonetheless.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Minotaur Books, who knew of my love for In Cold Blood and offered to send me a copy of this to read and review. I truly appreciate the opportunity and know I will pick up more Brigid Quinn books in the future.

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Review: I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh

I Let You GoI Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

And just like that, Mackintosh is redeemed in my eyes!

Artist, Jenna Gray, arrives in a small town on the Welsh Coast and hastily rents a remote cottage there. Like many unreliable narrators before her, she is clearly running from something, but what?

Chances are it is connected with the hit-and-run death of a child that the book opens with but as a reader, you aren’t sure of the connection.

We then follow Jenna as she settles into her new life and begins to find happiness in her newly discovered independence. We also follow intrepid police detectives continuing to work the hit-and-run case.

Slowly, the two storylines begin to merge and what is revealed projects the narrative into the stratosphere. A new perspective is introduced and things rapidly start to come together.

I had a lot of fun with this one although some of the subject matter was hard to read. Trigger Warnings for: (view spoiler)

Overall, I loved the atmosphere, the mystery was strong, as well as the police procedural aspects of the story. Jenna really grew on me over the course of the book and all in all, I did appreciate her character growth.

I would recommend this to the few thriller readers out there who have yet to pick this one up. I feel like I was the last one but there you go.

A quick read with a satisfying ending — what more could you ask for this summer? Pick it up!

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Review: Just One Bite (Timothy Blake #2) by Jack Heath

Just One Bite (Timothy Blake #2)Just One Bite by Jack Heath
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

My favorite cannibal returns to the page in this second installment of the Timothy Blake series!

Timothy Blake is brilliant. He’s also as morally grey as you can get. Working as a civilian consultant for the FBI, Blake contributes a lot to the investigations he works, as it is easy for him to get into the mind of a killer.

In this second book, Blake is moonlighting as a ‘body disposal expert’ for a local crime lord and during the course of that work, stumbles across a naked corpse in the woods, which he promptly brings home. As you do.

Unfortunately, the next case he gets called in on to help the FBI with is to look for that missing man. The man now currently residing in his freezer. How is Blake going to solve the crime and get away with hiding the body?

Guys, I am so into Jack Heath’s writing. It is so good. It draws you in. It is easy to read, never overwrought. It is dark, grisly, disturbingnot for the faint of heartmorbidly humorous…all these things and more!!!

If you are sleeping on this series and you like dark, original stories, you need to make time for this. Hangman, the first book in the series, was one of my favorite police procedural thrillers of 2018. It really stuck with me. I was so psyched to be getting a second book with Timothy Blake. Now, where this one leaves off, there DEFINITELY needs to be a third book!!!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Hanover Square Press, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review. I am so in love with this series and I will never stop recommending it to readers who enjoy darker content. I am highly anticipating the next book!

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Review: Little Darlings by Melanie Golding

Little DarlingsLittle Darlings by Melanie Golding
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A delightfully creepy story!

Lauren Tranter has just become a first-time mother of twin boys, Riley and Morgan. While still in hospital she begins to struggle with new motherhood. A terrible hemorrhage post-birth provides an additional trauma. She now finds herself in pain, alone and questioning her ability to be able to handle all of this.

Making matters worse, one night an intruder in her room, a very scary, ragged woman, tries to take her babies; trys to take them and exchange them with her own evil little monsters. Luckily, Lauren is able to fight her off. Hiding in the bathroom of her hospital room, she calls for help.

Unfortunately, no one believes her. No hospital staff report seeing anyone. How could an intruder have gotten past the surveillance cameras without being seen? Lauren must be hallucinating, suffering from some sort of postpartum psychosis.

Detective Jo Harper isn’t convinced that Lauren was imagining the incident however and she begins to investigate further, contrary to her superiors wishes.

Once back home with the boys, Lauren’s struggles continue. Her asshole husband, Patrick…

…is about as supportive as a dead jellyfish, so without any relief, she really begins to sink toward rock bottom. She never leaves the house, doesn’t socialize and lives in constant fear that the would-be kidnapper from the hospital will return.

In fact, one evening, she sees the woman outside the house, staring in at her. As Patrick begrudgingly goes to investigate, Lauren decides to call the sympathetic officer who spoke to her while she was in the hospital, Detective Harper.

This book has an absolutely wicked, ominous feel throughout. I don’t think I have ever read a thriller that bordered on the supernaturally horrific as much as this one did.

The idea of changelings is closely examined in this work and I loved how many chapters began with little excerpts from various fairy tales focused on that topic. Lauren is truly terrified for the majority of this book and that really got under my skin. The writing was so strong, I was definitely swept up in her thoughts and equally as much into Detective Harper’s investigation.

I loved so much about this book. There is a lot of the plot I am not even going to mention here as it is best to be taken off guard by it.

Immediately after finishing I was thinking I would give it a 4.5-star rating. There were a couple of plot points that I wished had been expanded on or moved around in the context of the story, but upon further reflection, to hell with that. This is a great freaking book. I loved it and would definitely recommend it to any reader who likes dark, slightly scary, content!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Crooked Lane Books, for providing me with an ARC copy to read and review. I will most likely read it again someday as I enjoyed it that much. Until then I will be loaning out my copy to all friends and family who will take it. I genuinely cannot wait to see what is next for this author!

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