Review: The Last Party (DC Morgan #1) by Clare Mackintosh

The Last Party (DC Morgan, #1)The Last Party by Clare Mackintosh
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars rounded up**

On New Year’s Day, the remote Welsh village of Cwm Coed has an annual tradition of taking a community swim in the pristine waters of Llyn Drych, or Mirror Lake.

A bit of a polar plunge, if you will. It makes sense as the lake is so much a part of life for the village.

It gets the blood flowing, the community spirit popping and overall, is a solid way to start the first day of a new year.

When a dead body is found floating in the lake in the early moments of this tradition however, it’s clear, this will be a very memorable year indeed.

On the opposite side of the lake, a new, luxury living community, The Shores, has been built. The instigator of this travesty, according to the locals, is Rhys Lloyd, an opera singer, who also happens to be a local boy himself. In fact, he inherited the land from his father.

The previous evening, on New Year’s Eve, Rhys, along with the other owners at The Shores had thrown a lavish party, to which all were invited. It appears this body may have floated over from that side, but is he, or she the victim of foul play, or just a terrible accident?

When it’s discovered the body is actually Rhys himself, this draws attention from both sides of the lake. Jurisdiction could get tricky, so a partnership is proposed.

DC Ffion Morgan, from Cwn Coed, will team up with a DC from the English-side of the lake, Leo Brady. A match made in heaven, IMO. The snark and chemistry between these two characters gripped me from the very start, which made for a super fun investigatory aspect.

This story is told through the use of many different perspectives, both from The Shores and from the village. It’s clear the stars are Ffion and Leo, but in order to get the full scope of this mystery, additional insights were required.

The residents of The Shores were all terrible people. It was captivating getting to know them and all of their various dramas. If you’re a fan of the ‘rich people behaving badly’ set-up, you will most likely end up enjoying this one as well.

We also learn a bit about both Ffion and Leo’s personal lives. I liked that. It helped to build them out and I felt like by the end, I was quite attached to the two of them. They were both sympathetic characters, who it was easy to root for.

The mystery of this was very well plotted. There were some huge reveals and twists. One in particular had my literal jaw drop to the floor. I was gobsmacked. I did not see it coming.

Overall, I would say this was fabulously fun, packed with unlikable characters, twists and OMG-moments. I had a blast trying to figure out whodunit. With a victim as despicable as Rhys, it could have been anyone!

I loved Ffion so much. She definitely stole my heart. She’s such a complex, yet likable character. I am really looking forward to more books in this series.

Of course, I am keeping my fingers crossed that the rumors are true and this actually is this first book in a series. I would definitely be down for going on more investigations with Ffion and Leo.

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

I’ve enjoyed Mackintosh books before, but this one is definitely a new fave!

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Review: The Kind to Kill (Shana Merchant #4) by Tessa Wegert

The Kind to Kill (Shana Merchant #4)The Kind to Kill by Tessa Wegert
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Kind to Kill is the 4th-book in Tessa Wegert’s Crime Fiction/Police Procedural series, Shana Merchant.

If you are unfamiliar with these books, they follow Senior Investigator, Shana Merchant, who, at the start of the series, transferred from the NYPD to the Thousand Islands region of upstate New York. She does this after having a horrendous run-in with a serial killer.

Initially, Shana is looking for a slower pace then her NYPD position. Alas, it seems murder and mayhem follow her everywhere she goes.

I definitely recommend starting at the beginning of this series and working your way through. Although, like many Adult Mystery, or Police Procedural series, you can read any of the books as standalones, or start anywhere along the line, I feel like this series has the greatest impact if you begin with book one, Death in the Family.

In this installment, it’s mid-summer and Alexandria Bay is gearing up for their popular Pirate Days event. The town floods with tourists eagerly anticipating the fun-filled annual festival.

Shana is still reeling from the events at the conclusion of book three, but she is hoping things will settle down soon enough. Maybe the Pirate Days are just what the community needs to distract their attention away from her and the high profile Blake Bram case for a bit.

Unfortunately, when a tourist named Rebecca, visiting the area with her husband, mysteriously disappears, Shana and her team realize this isn’t going to be a normal, relaxed community event.

Their resulting investigation could put a dark cloud directly over Pirate Days, a fact members of the local government aren’t too happy about. Shana refuses to back down though. Time is of the essence here and they need to find Rebecca; community reputation be damned.

As the investigation digs in, Shana begins to realize a lot of the evidence is reminiscent of the serial killer murders in New York she was involved in. Is it mere coincidence, or has someone targeted the area, targeted Shana, on purpose?

Does A-Bay have a full-fledged copy-cat on their hands?

As with the earlier books, I really enjoyed this one. Wegert has done a great job building out Shana’s character and backstory. In fact, it is a central theme throughout all the books in the series.

The beginning of this had a bit of a slow start for me. There was quite a bit of exploration of the community outlook and others opinions of Shana, her connection to Blake Bram and whether or not she had a culpability in his crimes.

For me, we sort of dug into that side of the story a bit too much at the beginning of this, when I would have preferred the focus to be more on the investigation into Rebecca’s disappearance.

With this being said, once the investigation does really get underway, I was hooked. I’m hooked into Shana’s personal story as well, don’t get me wrong, it just felt a little uneven there in the beginning.

The intensity of the case continues to build throughout the book, as more people get involved, including the complicated family of one of Shana’s team members. There were some clever red herrings placed throughout and I enjoyed guessing at what the final outcome would be.

Spoiler Alert: I didn’t guess correctly!

I’m so excited by the ending of this one. Nice set-up, Wegert! I cannot wait for the next book. Already! It’s true, I’m totally invested in this series.

Thank you to the publisher, Severn House, for providing me with a copy to read and review. The Kind to Kill releases in early-December 2022, so you have plenty of time to catch-up with, or start the series, before its release.

Don’t miss out!!

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Review: Shed No Tears (Cat Kinsella #3) by Caz Frear

Shed No Tears (Cat Kinsella, #3)Shed No Tears by Caz Frear
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars rounded up**

I was truly surprised by how much I enjoyed the first two books in this series. I’m not sure why, maybe because I rarely hear anyone talking about it.

I love the detective duo featured in this series, Cat Kinsella and Luigi Parnell. Basically, sign me up for any case they’re ever on. Thus, I knew when I had a long road-trip coming up, this would be the perfect book to listen to as I drove.

And it absolutely was. In fact, this has been my highest rated book in the series thus far!

In this installment, we follow Cat and Luigi as they work a case related to infamous local serial killer, Christopher Masters, who was convicted of kidnapping and murdering several women in 2012.

When human remains are discovered, they are positively identified as Holly Kemp, Masters alleged final victim. Holly was the only one whose body hadn’t been found and the only one that Masters never owned up to killing.

It was only due to solid eye-witness testimony that she was considered as one of his victims. Six-years have now passed and it seems like with Holly’s remains found, they will finally be able to put closure on the case.

As they examine the evidence however, there appears to be some glaring discrepancies with the case. Cat and Luigi can’t put it to bed until they know it’s the truth; not our heroes.

Thus, they begin digging in, turning over rocks that have long been settled. As they inch closer and closer to the truth, the dangers escalate to heights even they couldn’t have guessed.

As mentioned in my reviews for the first two books of this series, Sweet Little Lies and Stone Cold Heart, this is a fantastic Police Procedural series with a lot of depth in addition to the mysteries.

The characters are well-fleshed out and believable. I love how there are storylines in the background that continue on throughout the books, as far as Cat’s personal life goes. I feel like I am getting to know her, like a new friend, and I’m loving every minute of it.

One of my favorite aspects of these books has been the exploration of Cat’s complicated family situation. In this one, I felt like the interactions weren’t quite as in your face as in the earlier books, but we do get to see more of the internal struggle Cat is going through in regards to her family.

There are things she has done to protect the ones she loves that are ethically an issue for her. She plays her cards close to her chest, but I like that she is the type of character who these choices would weigh on.

She’s a good egg, our Cat. Regardless of how she feels about herself sometimes.

This mystery gets quite intense and just as complex as the earlier cases. Some people can really bring the drama. You’ll find it all on display here.

In my opinion, this series just keeps getting better and more twisted. We love to see it; character growth on point!

The conclusion to this…oh my word! I really need a book 4 and I need it ASAP!!

If you have yet to start this series, and you love a solid Police Procedural with strong, intelligent characters, you absolutely need to check it out.

Don’t delay, start today!!!

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Review: Stone Cold Heart (Cat Kinsella #2) by Caz Frear

Stone Cold Heart (Cat Kinsella, #2)Stone Cold Heart by Caz Frear
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars**

After picking up the first book in this series, Sweet Little Lies, in early-September as part of my TBR-Haul Project, I could not stop thinking about DC Cat Kinsella.

That’s a great sign when it comes to a mystery series. I knew I needed to go on another case with her ASAP. Luckily for me, there are currently 3-novels released in this series.

In this installment, a young Australian woman, Naomi Lockhart, is found dead after attending a party. As the investigation begins, Cat discovers that one of the other attendees was Joseph Madden, a man she tangentially knows.

Joseph, in all honestly, sort of gives Cat the creeps. He runs a coffee shop by the station and she’s had a few run-ins with him. Including a time that he cornered her to ask for advice regarding his allegedly abusive wife.

It really wasn’t that he was accusing his wife of abuse, it was just the whole way he went about it. The way he phrased it. The way his body language was towards Cat while doing so.

The whole interaction, and others before it, have stuck in her mind. That’s why when Joseph’s name comes up during the course of the investigation, she’s intrigued and digs further.

It turns out the party was hosted by Joseph’s sister-in-law, who is also Naomi’s new boss.

Upon questioning, Joseph vows that his wife, Rachel, can attest to his whereabouts for that night at the time in question; he was home with her.

Rachel, however, disagrees, claiming she was home alone. The couple’s behavior doubles Cat’s earlier suspicions. Someone is lying and she’s going to find out who.

As Cat and her partner, Luigi Parnell, get closer to the truth, they uncover layer upon layer of lies and deceit amongst the cast of people who were part of Naomi’s life. With associates like these, this girl didn’t stand a chance.

I really enjoyed my time with this one. In addition to the overriding mystery, we also got more backstory and insight into Cat’s life. She’s a super interesting main character, so I appreciate the content Frear included here in that regard.

Cat has a fairly new relationship with a man named, Aidan. Unbeknownst to him, it’s slightly complicated. I had fun watching that evolve as well and can’t wait to see where it goes in the future.

There’s also Cat’s complicated relationship with her family, particularly her Dad. I have enjoyed how Frear is keeping her family in the midst of these tales as an overarching storyline amongst the books.

Finally, I really enjoy Cat and Luigi’s work life. As a Police Procedural, the team that the main characters are involved with can really change how engaging a story turns out to be. I love the banter between these two, and with their other colleagues. It’s really well done.

I think it’s safe to say at this point that I will pick up any book that is released in this series. I’m hooked!

If you love Police Procedurals and are sleeping on this series like I was, until very recently, stop what you’re doing and pick them up now!!

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Review: Sweet Little Lies (Cat Kinsella #1) by Caz Frear

Sweet Little Lies (Cat Kinsella, #1)Sweet Little Lies by Caz Frear
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

Twenty-six year old Cat Kinsella is a DC with the Metropolitan Police Force, her dream job. After a less than stellar childhood, Cat has made her own way in the world and tries to keep the past just there; in the past.

As we all know though, the past frequently comes back to haunt us and Cat’s about to learn that lesson the hard way.

When Cat gets called to work a murder scene very near the pub that her estranged father still runs, old memories get stirred up, throwing Cat’s brain into overdrive.

Additionally, the victim, a housewife named Alice turns out to be very much linked to Maryanne Doyle, a teenage girl who went missing from Ireland almost two decades ago. Is this a coincidence?

Cat’s family met Maryanne while they were vacationing in Ireland just before she went missing and Cat has never forgotten her. Maryanne could do that; make an impact.

But the biggest takeaway from that time for Cat, was that her father was a liar and perhaps worse. After Maryanne’s disappearance, he was questioned by police and lied to them.

He said he never met the girl and that wasn’t true. In fact, her father may have known Maryanne very well; certainly more than he should have.

Cat has always suspected he knew what happened to her and it definitely drove a wedge between them. Could he also be involved with this current case?

Cat has to solve this mystery now, or risk it continuing to haunt her forever. Thus, Cat and her team dig into the investigation. It goes deep and gets twisted.

Sweet Little Lies is the first book in Caz Frear’s Cat Kinsella Mystery series. Incidentally, this was a debut novel.

This was also the 7th-book that I picked up for my TBR Haul-Project. I hauled this back in August of 2018, when it was my BOTM pick for the month. I was originally so stoked for it and then it sort of fell off my radar.

I’ll admit it took me a little while to really get invested in the mystery, but Frear definitely brought it around in the second half. I think initially I had a hard time keeping track of who was who and what was happening.

Like the whole Alice / Maryanne thing, I’m not sure if I wasn’t paying well enough attention at first, but it took me a minute to get a grasp on that.

Once I started really focusing in on it, the investigation became gripping and intense. Cat’s personality, although dry to me initially, really began to grow on me. I’m sure she’ll continue to grow as a character in future installments.

I am definitely interested in moving on with this series. Overall, a I found this to be a compelling Police Procedural!

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Review: Little Sister (DCI Jonah Sheens #4) by Gytha Lodge

Little Sister (Jonah Sheens #4)Little Sister by Gytha Lodge
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

Little Sister is the 4th-book in Gytha Lodge’s DCI Jonah Sheens series, which is a Crime Thriller series with strong police procedural aspects.

This installment kicks off with a bang. While Jonah is relaxing, having a rare moment of free time at a local pub, a disheveled teenage girl wanders out of the woods.

She is a vision, with striking red hair and fair skin. She also happens to be covered in blood. Jonah approaches the young lady in order to help and that’s when the games begin.

The girl, Keely, assures him she is fine. It’s not her blood. It’s her younger sister Nina he needs to be concerned about.

After bringing Keely to the station house, Jonah begins the tedious work of unraveling her twisted story. He learns quickly that they do in fact need to be worried about Nina.

Their story is horribly sad. The two girls became wards of the state after the tragic death of their mother. Since that time, they’ve been bouncing around within the system. Recently the two girls went missing from their care home.

The story is built out in a very compelling way. As the Reader you get entire chapters of Keely telling their story from the beginning.

Jonah and team try to push her for answers more quickly, they have a missing and possibly injured girl to find, but Keely has a plan and she is going to tell this story her way. As frustrating as that is, it could be their only chance of finding Nina in time.

We get Keely’s recollections, we get the present perspective investigation, as well as a bit into Jonah and his team’s personal lives.

One thing I have always loved about this series is the detective team. They work so well together and each of them is interesting, bringing something unique to the table. I love the dynamic among them. It works so well.

In all honesty though, out of the four books in the series, I actually enjoyed this one the least. Initially, I was not going to round up to 4-stars, but after having time to reflect on it, this book really made me think and I appreciate that.

From the start I was loving this, but then there was one big twist that completely turned me off from it. I was so unhappy it went the way it did. It was like someone I really liked and enjoyed and was meshing with was stripped of their identity; was stripped of what drew me to them.

I know this won’t make much sense if you haven’t read this, but it is the best way I can think to explain why the narrative took such a nose dive for me.

With this being said, it’s clear I still really enjoyed this story. The aspects that disappointed me were more to do with my personal taste than with anything else.

I did enjoy getting more background progression on our regular characters, Jonah and Hanson in particular. I’m really looking forward to seeing where their personal stories go from here.

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

This was certainly one of my most anticipated series continuations and it was a lot of fun. I am looking forward to many more investigations with Jonah and the team!

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Review: When the Corn is Waist High by Jeremy Scott

When the Corn is Waist HighWhen the Corn is Waist High by Jeremy Scott
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

When the Corn is Waist High is confounding to me. I have had the most difficult time trying to determine what my final rating will be. Jeremy Scott, you have left me confused, surprised and at a loss for words.

This story follows our narrator, Solomon Lancaster, who is a Catholic Priest, as well as the Sheriff for his Indiana County.

Although Lancaster seems slightly unprepared to run a murder investigation, he’ll be the first to remind you that the Sheriff is in fact an elected position.

He’s not actually a trained criminal justice professional. He’s definitely more comfortable in his role listening to the confessions of his congregation.

So when bodies start dropping in his community of Crooked Creek, he begins bumbling around like a cowboy at his first rodeo. While the initial body was surprising enough, after the second and then the third, it’s clear the community has an active serial killer on their hands.

The FBI gets called in and they aren’t impressed by Lancaster’s skill set. Nevertheless, he manages to keep himself involved in the investigation.

This book was interesting. I listened to the audiobook and appreciated the narrator’s classic storytelling voice, as well as Scott’s no-nonsense writing style.

I made it through the story in a day and had some highs and lows, but I was never bored. I was definitely intrigued, with one major twist dropping my jaw and having me question everything I thought I knew.

After that point, the intensity continued to climb for me as I began to see things in a whole new light. In my opinion, that was really well played by Scott.

I loved how I was sort of lulled into a sense of complacency, feeling like this was just a normal Police Procedural, but it’s sure as heck not!

Additionally, I did love the ending of this. It left me with that devious little smile on my face I love so much; more than satisfactory. I am wondering if this will be the start to a series, or if this is where Scott is going to leave it?

Generally, I am not a huge fan of religious elements being involved in my stories, and I know others may be turned off by that, but I really don’t see how this story could have worked otherwise.

Thank you to the publisher, Turner Publishing and Dreamscape Media, for providing me with copies to read and review. This was my first novel by Scott and I look forward to picking up more in the future!

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Review: Dead Wind (Shana Merchant #3) by Tessa Wegert

Dead Wind (Shana Merchant, #3)Dead Wind by Tessa Wegert
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars rounded up**

Dead Wind is the third book in Tessa Wegert’s Shana Merchant series. I really enjoyed the first two books of the series and am happy to report this installment is my favorite yet!

Following Senior Investigator, Shana Merchant, and her partner, Tim Wellington, this series delivers solid Police Procedural action and intrigue.

The setting is the Thousand Lakes region of upstate New York, which sits on the border to Canada. In fact, in Dead Wind, the body that kicks off our mystery is actually found on Wolfe Island in Canada, at the base of a wind turbine.

Shana has an uneasy feeling about the case from the start. When it turns out that the victim is actually from their own community, it starts to hit real close to home. They need to solve this one.

Both Shana and Tim are concerned that the monster from Shana’s past, serial killer, Blake Bram, may be back to playing his old games. It’s far from cut and dry though, there’s a lot of other possibilities.

I was so happy to be returning to this series. Wegert always does a great job of pacing her mysteries and this one is no exception. I was interested and engaged from start-to-finish.

These books are layered as well, which I appreciate. There’s always the main crime that is being investigated, but additionally, Shana has a super intriguing past and that has been incrementally revealed over the course of these first three books.

This one had some local politics involved, hidden secrets and family drama. What elevates it for me though, is the shadow of Blake Bram lurking around every corner. That element ups the stakes and makes it all feel a bit more dangerous.

While I would normally say that most Adult Mystery series can be read in any order, or even as standalone novels, I would highly recommend reading this series in order. I feel that’s the most impactful way to take these stories in.

Shana and Tim are both fantastic main characters to follow. I am hoping this series lasts for a long time, but I’m not sure how many books are actually slated for the series.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Severn House, for providing me a copy to read and review. I appreciate the opportunity!

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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

**3.5-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 Hidden by Melanie Golding

The HiddenThe Hidden by Melanie Golding
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars rounded up**

The Hidden was one of my most anticipated Mysteries of the year. As you can see, it did not disappoint.

I absolutely loved Little Darlings by Melanie Golding when I read it back in 2019.

At the time, I thought that was a stand-alone novel. Because of that, I was absolutely elated when I discovered Golding was writing this new book also featuring DS Joanna Harper.

Harper’s character really drew me in during the investigation in Little Darlings, so I was psyched to get the opportunity to crack another case with her.

Called to the home of a seemingly-single man, Joanna initially believes it will be a homicide investigation, as the man was found bludgeoned to a pulp, unconscious in his bathtub, but it turns into much more than that.

Observing children’s toys and other evidence of a family, Joanna wonders where they could be.

Just prior to the man in the bathtub, in a small seaside town, the police are called after a little girl is found wandering alone down a beachside street.

After the stricken mother suddenly appears, she is briefly questioned and the officers involved believe it was an accident; the child slipped away, nothing more. The two are released.

Watching video footage of the abandoned toddler incident, Joanna is shocked to discovered she knows the alleged mother. It’s her estranged daughter, Ruby.

Are these two cases related? That’s what Joanna needs to find out, and if they are, what is Ruby doing with this little girl? It’s certainly not her child, is it?

I love Golding’s writing style. The way she sets up her stories with that captivating is it supernatural, is it not supernatural feel. I absolutely adore it.

In this story, there is a character who purports to be descended from the mythological selkies. I loved how that lore was woven into this story.

There were many different layers to the mystery and I was completely engaged the entire way through. As it all started to come together, my mind was spinning, how was it going to end!?

Golding did a great job of pulling it together, while also continuing to build intensity. Additionally, I loved having the opportunity to learn more about Joanna and her family. I hope this means this won’t be the last we see of her.

I did listen to the audiobook and I would highly recommend that. There is an element related to the selkie lore that required a bit of singing on the narrator’s part, and wow, what a great job she did!

It was haunting. I felt the narration style truly added to the story. I was hooked once I started listening.

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

I had such a great time reading this novel and will be keeping my fingers crossed that Golding delivers more DS Joanna Harper in the future!!!

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