Review: Finlay Donovan Jumps the Gun (Finlay Donovan #3) by Elle Cosimano

Finlay Donovan Jumps the Gun (Finlay Donovan, #3)Finlay Donovan Jumps the Gun by Elle Cosimano
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Another thrilling, fun-filled, action packed, over-the-top adventure with my favorite gal pals, Finlay and Vero!!

In this 3rd-installment of the beloved Finlay Donovan Mystery series, Finlay and Vero pack their bags and head to a recently developed Citizen’s Police Academy.

Nick, Finlay’s potential love interest, is the cop in charge of the program and many of his departmental friends are there acting as instructors. Finlay is under the guise of researching her next book, but we all know how true that is.

She’s actually there to try to find the mysterious character, Easy Clean. But like, yeah, she does actually need to finish that book. Will her protagonist get together with the cop?

As you can imagine, Finlay and Vero’s time living in dorms, attending classes where they get put through police training along with Finlay’s elderly neighbor, some over-enthusiastic podcasters and others, will not be without its hijinks.

There’s so much going on in this one. Finlay’s ex-husband is circling around, trying to make amends, which Finlay wants no part of. Vero’s past gets brought up in a big way and mob boss, Feliks isn’t quite done with the ladies yet.

The Finlay Donovan series is one of my favorite Cozy Mystery series ever. The main reasons for that are the characters and the humor.

Finlay has such a dry sense of humor. I absolutely love the way she describes everything going on around her and her feelings about it. I’m seriously in stitches half the time.

I have listened to the entire series on audio and definitely recommend that medium. At this point, the narrator, Angela Dawe, is Finlay Donovan to me. Her voice-work in that role is top notch!

The relationship between Finlay and Vero is perfect as well. They’re so in deep together at this point. I love how even though, they are pretty different when you think about it, they are fully committed to one another and their friendship benefits them both equally.

The ending of this leads me to believe there will absolutely be a fourth installment. I’m not sure how many books are slated to be in this series, but I will be reading them all. Each and every one. Happily and with excitement.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Minotaur Books and Macmillan Audio, for providing me with copies to read and review. I have been so excited for this release and it definitely didn’t disappoint.

Finlay Donovan Jumps the Gun is available now!!!

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Review: The Twyford Code by Janice Hallett

The Twyford CodeThe Twyford Code by Janice Hallett
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars rounded up**

Damnnn, that was impressive. A literary treasure hunt the likes of which may never be matched. I am so in awe of this!

When I read Janice Hallett’s release, The Appeal, in January of 2022, I gave the book a rating of 3.5-stars.

I noted that I gave the author top marks for thinking outside the box and getting super creative with her format, but that the story itself was just average for me. It was solid, but it wasn’t great.

In spite of not being necessarily blown away by the plot, I found the use of mixed media to tell the entire story impressive. I knew she was an author that I would want to read more from.

I went into The Twyford Code not knowing much. I knew it had the mixed media use I loved, but what was the plot?

I listened to the audiobook for this and was absolutely swept up into the narrative right away.

The majority of the story is made up of quasi-diary entries that our protagonist, Steven Smith, recorded on an old phone gifted to him by his estranged son. There are also conversations, phone and otherwise, with a varied cast.

We find out that 40-years ago, on an unsponsored trip to the coast with their beloved school teacher, Miss Isles, Steven and five of his classmates were stranded after their teacher disappeared.

Maybe stranded is the wrong word, they made it back to the school very late at night, but none of them can really recall how they got there. Miss Isles never returned to school and none of the children present on the trip ever saw her again.

The incident has haunted Steven ever since. He blames himself. Miss Isles only took them to the coast that day because of the Edith Twyford book Steven had found and brought to class. Miss Isles was convinced there were coded messages within the book to some lost treasure.

It’s all a muddled mess in Steven’s hazy memories, but after being released from a stint in prison, he is determined to discover what the truth is about that day. What happened to Miss Isles?

I started this early Saturday morning while out walking my dog. I became so engrossed that I barely remember getting back to the house.

I then listened to it for hours will cleaning and doing my standard Saturday errands. It’s all a haze. When I tell you I fell down a rabbit hole with this one, I’m not joking. Yikes, this was enthralling.

By the time Sunday morning rolled around, I had 48-minutes of the audio left. I sat on my couch and just listened.

To even think about the complexity of this story makes my head spin. It is so impressive to consider how one would even tackle a project such as this. How in the actual heck did Hallett pull this off?

I don’t want to say anything else about the plot, or even my thoughts, because I think this one is best experienced if you just sit back, relax, trust Hallett and let it all wash over you like the literary masterpiece that it is.

I do have a couple of unresolved questions, but I am sure that is more to do with my own tiny brain trying to wrap itself around all the details, than an issue with the story. Nevertheless, those small items did make the experience a tiny smidge short of perfect for me.

With this being said, I have never read anything like this and I am really looking forward to seeing what Janice Hallett delivers us next!

Thank you to the publisher, Atria Books, for providing me with a copy to read and review. This was an absolute blast to read and will stick with me for a long time to come.

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Review: Begin Again by Emma Lord

Begin AgainBegin Again by Emma Lord
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Emma Lord and I have a special relationship. It’s like she sees me, she gets me, she channels what interests me into her stories. Every time I pick up one of her books, my heart is filled to the brim with love.

Okay, I’m not delusional. I know we don’t actually have a special relationship, but I definitely connect with her stories in a remarkable way; one that stands out to me amongst the many books I read.

For her latest release, Begin Again, I’ll be honest, I didn’t read the synopsis. I don’t really care what it is about, if her name is on the cover, I’m picking it up.

I went into this blind and was absolutely delighted with how this story began to unfold. Something completely wild happens in our protagonist’s life right off the bat. I was shocked and laughed, is this what this book is about?

This story follows Andie, who is navigating her first year post-high school. After spending her first semester at a local community college, remaining at home with her grandmothers, Andie has recently transferred to the college of her dreams.

Blue Ridge State is 2-hours from Andie’s home and once she is there, she quickly realizes that she is on her own for the very first time. Honestly, the wide-open freedom is jarring and a bit overwhelming.

Andie is a girl who always has a plan and right from the start her plans for her time at Blue Ridge don’t go as she anticipated. Her long-term boyfriend, Connor, who attended Blue Ridge first semester actually transferred to Andie’s old community college to surprise her.

She transferred to Blue Ridge with the hopes of surprising him. Huge whoopsie!

That enormous flub really sets the stage for Andie’s first term. She’s sort of thrown for a loop, but she isn’t someone who gives in easily. She slowly starts to build her own life; establish her independence.

Andie finds a group of friends, passions to pursue and a boy who is super kind and shares her interests. Blue Ridge is beginning to feel like home.

Life isn’t always smooth sailing though, as we all know and before too long the stress-monster is rearing his ugly head.

Connor is trying to maintain his presence in Andie’s life and she has mixed feelings about the status of their relationship. Then some startling secrets are revealed and of course, there’s some family drama happening that Andie can no longer ignore.

It’s a lot for her to try to navigate successfully. She’s sort of torn between the person she was and the person she has the potential to become. I became super invested in Andie’s life and all the issues swirling around her.

This story is set in that pivotal time of life when you are transitioning from high school, living with your family, to adulthood, living on your own. It’s that sweet spot where the building blocks of your future really begin to solidify.

Andie had some trauma in her family. She lost her mother when she was younger and her father skipped out a bit after that. It was a very impactful experience in her life.

As you would expect, Andie brings that into college with her. Her relationship with her father is still strained, even though he is making an effort, she’s not entirely sure she’s ready to forgive him just yet.

I love how Lord’s stories always include the complexity of family life. Families are just that, they’re complicated. Even the ones that appear perfect, there’s always something there; some issue or issues that can be explored.

Andie being on her own for the first time was also so compelling. She was on quite a journey of self-discovery, even if she was the last one to realize it.

Emma Lord brings so much love to her stories. You can tell she writes with care. She cares about her characters and how the issues are presented. While the stories overall have a feel-good tone, there are always deeper meanings and connections to be made.

I connected particularly well with this story. I’m not entirely sure what it was, but I developed such empathy for Andie. Additionally, the friend group, the found family feel, really touched me and the ending was completely satisfying.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Wednesday Books and Macmillan Audio, for providing me with copies to read and review.

While I figured I would love this story, I had no idea how much I would LOVE this story. I cannot wait to see what Emma Lord gifts us with next!!

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Review: Hell Bent (Alex Stern #2) by Leigh Bardugo

Hell Bent (Alex Stern, #2)Hell Bent by Leigh Bardugo
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Hell Bent is the second release in the Alex Stern series by Leigh Bardugo. I’m told this is a trilogy, but at this point I would certainly accept a lot more.

As this is the second book in the series, I may mention certain things in this review that some may consider spoilers for the first book. I will try not to, but if you are concerned at all, turn back now.

In this book, we find Alex and Dawes desperately trying to find Darlington and bring him back from…well, hell.

It’s so dangerous and many would have chalked it up as a loss, but Alex and Dawes refuse to give up. After a failed attempt, it’s clear the girls cannot achieve their goal alone. Dawes thinks she knows the reason and the type of team they will need to assemble to help them.

They need to find two other people with a very specific qualification. It won’t be easy, but there’s more going on in New Haven than Darlington being missing. It’s imperative they work quickly.

As faculty members begin to mysteriously die off, it’s clear Alex and Dawes will need all the help they can get.

In this installment, both Alex and Darlington’s backstories continue to be built-out, but we also get more info on the side characters. Most importantly, the things that these characters have been through in their lives that make them strong additions to this team. They’ve all had their traumas.

I loved the team ultimately assembled, every one of them. It was giving me light Buffy-vibes in a couple of different ways and I was verrrrrry here for it.

Alex’s past comes back to haunt her when she least expects it, providing us with a very convincing new villain. I was really intrigued with the new occult/supernatural elements explored in this one, the new villain being one of those.

I think my favorite thing about this was watching Alex let down her guard a bit with her peers, or dare I say, friends. She has always been closed off, so watching her accept help from others was really very satisfying.

The closing scenes left me so excited for the next book. There is absolutely zero information on it right now, that I know of. It literally could be years, but you better believe I will be rereading these first two books again prior to it’s release.

Upon completion, I was left with my head spinning, racing and ecstatic. There was so much that happened over the course of this story, I can still hardly wrap my brain around it all. I seriously can’t wait to move forward with this series!

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Review: Tell Me I’m Worthless by Alison Rumfitt

Tell Me I'm WorthlessTell Me I’m Worthless by Alison Rumfitt
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Tell Me I’m Worthless, originally publisher by Cipher Press in 2021, was rereleased on January 17, 2023 by Tor Nightfire and Macmillan Audio.

This story mainly follows Alice and Ila, close friends and part-time lovers, who have been estranged after a hallucinatory night spent in a haunted house. Their friend Hannah was there that night too, but she never made it out.

The Reader gets both Alice and Ila’s perspectives, as well as a third perspective that I will let you discover for yourself.

I went into this story expecting it to be a new take on a haunted house story and it is, but I wouldn’t classify it as a haunted house story per se. Rumfitt does creatively use that beloved Horror trope to bring something completely new to the table within these pages.

As a piece of Transgressive Horror, this story definitely gets high marks. For me, although I can appreciate the creativity and gut-punching social commentary, I can’t say this was a highly enjoyable reading experience for me.

Please note, I am not remarking on the skill or creativity of the author when I say that, I just feel like this story wasn’t particularly suited to my reading tastes.

I could have used a bit more of a linear plot and a stronger atmosphere, as that is one of the main things I look for. There was a lot of great character work here and topical commentary, but there were also a lot of fever dream-type, internal monologue rants that sort of lost me.

Additionally, I found some of it a little hard to track. With this being said, I still appreciate all that Rumfitt poured into this story and the stark, in-your-face, take-no-prisoners feel of it all.

I would definitely pick up more of Rumfitt’s work.

Thank you to the publisher, Tor Nightfire and Macmillan Audio, for providing me copies to read and review. I would recommend the audiobook as a medium for this.

They did some really unique sound work for a few of the intense horror scenes. It’s definitely worth checking out.

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Review: Locust Lane by Stephen Amidon

Locust LaneLocust Lane by Stephen Amidon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars**

The suburban town of Emerson, Massachusetts, seems like the ideal place to live and raise a family, but we all know that a lot drama goes on in such towns. It may hide below the surface, but trust, it’s there.

In Stephen Amidon’s Locust Lane, the death of a young woman, Eden, opens up a crack through which the more unsavory sides of this town can be viewed.

After her body is discovered, it is clear that Eden was a victim of foul play. The police investigation into her death includes three local teens discovered to have been partying with Eden that night, Jack, Hannah and Christopher.

This narrative follows multiple perspectives of the adults in the town tied to Eden’s death. These include Jack’s Mom, Celia, Hannah’s Step-Mom, Alice and Christopher’s Father, Michel, as well as Patrick, a man who inadvertently ended up near the crime scene on the night in question. We also get the perspective of Eden’s Mom, Danielle.

This might sound like a lot, but it wasn’t difficult to follow. I think Amidon did a really great job of presenting all of these different perspectives in a distinct and important way.

Each one added to the building-out of this story. Sometimes I feel like, when there are this many perspectives, some are not as important, or interesting as the others, but that wasn’t the case here at all. In fact, I can’t imagine this story being told any other way.

I found the connections amongst the adults so interesting. Their relationships, whether mere acquaintance, friendship, or something more, had a very tight-web feel. Emerson is a small, wealthy town, and Eden was an unwealthy outsider. She didn’t grow up there like the rest of the kids. This definitely had an impact.

How could the truth ever come to light with the parents involved to the extent that they were?

The kids felt more like pawns in a game the adults were playing, as the parents scrambled trying to make sure their kids came out of this incident okay. Very little thought was given to the dead girl. Honestly, this felt real as heck.

I listened to the audiobook and really enjoyed the narration. It was so well-done, truly bringing the story to life. I definitely recommend it. The story itself is super intriguing, but I felt the quality of the narration really took it to the next level for me.

The tone and feel of this story reminded me of a gorgeous blend of some of my favorite Crime Thrillers and Domestic Dramas. I’m thinking, for example, of books such as Take It Back by Kia Abdullah, A Nearly Normal Family by M.T. Edvardsson and Such a Quiet Place by Megan Miranda, to name a few.

If you enjoyed any of those novels, you should absolutely have this one on your TBR!!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Celadon Books and Macmillan Audio, for providing me with copies to read and review. I was hooked by this story, beginning-to-end. This was my first Amidon novel and I’m looking forward to many more!!

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Review: The Villa by Rachel Hawkins

The VillaThe Villa by Rachel Hawkins
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars**

A fantastic, paranoia-filled romp in Italy following two sets of women over two timelines. I really enjoyed watching the dual-dramas of The Villa unfold.

Villa Rosato, 1974: Step-sisters, Mari and Lara, are on an artist’s holiday along with Mari’s boyfriend, Pierce. The trio are staying at the lavish holiday home at the invitation of rock star, Noel Gordon.

Mari is a writer and both Lara and Pierce are musicians. There’s a lot of creating going on at the home, but also a lot of other things. It’s sex, drugs and rock-n-roll, baby!

It’s during her stay at the villa that Mari pens one of the greatest horror novels of all time, her magnum opus, Lilith Rising, with the opening words, ‘houses remember’.

This creative retreat ends with Pierce’s brutal murder. Will the house remember?

In the present, Villa Rosato is now known as Villa Aestas, a luxurious holiday retreat, in spite of the fact that it’s a murder house. For best friends, writers, Emily and Chess, it’s the perfect spot for them to go and reconnect.

Emily, the author of a Cozy Mystery series is in a bit of a rut after the recent separation from her husband. It hasn’t been easy and with him going after her money, she’s financially strapped and emotionally at wits end.

Chess is a very successful self-help author, who rents the villa in the hopes that her best friend, Emily, will join her there for the summer.

Emily is concerned, you know about the murder house part, but it does sound like a nice escape. Chess always seems to be able to make her feel better, so maybe it will good.

Once at the villa, Emily is taken with the house and its history; more specifically the events of 1974. She begins researching and believes that the truth may be more sinister than what is currently believed.

She also feels like the truth may lie within Mari’s writings. It becomes a bit of a project for Emily. She’s fascinated by the topic and begins writing about it.

The murderous events at the villa have already been of interest to True Crime aficionados and podcasters for years, but how many of them have actually had the opportunity to go live in the house.

Emily could have insight nobody else has ever been privy too before. It’s exciting to her and definitely reinvigorates her creative juices.

When Chess begins sniffing around the same story, Emily gets a little miffed. This is her thing. Doesn’t Chess have enough already? Why can’t she leave this alone?

The seclusion of the home and foreboding nature of the house itself seems to be having an effect on the women. They’re snapping at each other, running hot and cold, are they just going stir-crazy, or is there something more eroding their relationship?

More importantly, will they both be able to make it out of the murder house alive?

I was greatly anticipating The Villa and had so much fun listening to the audiobook. The narration was fantastic and absolutely channeled the slow-intensity of the story.

I loved the initial set-up. Getting to know the cast of characters, both past and present, kept me fully engaged and present. I was very quickly invested.

One of my favorite aspects was watching Emily’s character looking into the events of 1974; how those events intrigued her and gave her new focus.

Emily was at a place where she really needed somewhere to focus her energy outside of her failing relationship and bad financial circumstances. The villa helped with that.

The relationship between Emily and Chess was complicated, as many friendships are, but I found it to be 100% believable. Friendships can get messy and this one definitely had its moments.

The 1974-timeline was giving me heavy Daisy Jones & the Six energy and I wasn’t mad about it. It was interesting, with great characters and well-structured reveals.

Personally, I could have gone a bit darker in that time period, but I understand the choices made by the author. It didn’t need to get super dark to be effective and it kept it more evenly-balanced between the two time periods.

I also sort of wish there were more detailed excerpts from Lilith Rising included. I’m so intrigued by Mari’s book. I wish it actually existed in real life so I could read it.

That should giving you an inkling of how interesting it was, the whole concept of the ultimate Feminist Horror novel. This feeling also reminded me of Daisy Jones because I would have sold my soul for a copy of their nonexistent album.

I loved how this wrapped up. The influence of the one on the other; the permission granted in a way for the present to happen the way it did because of the past. It’s really difficult to talk about this without spoilers, so I will just say, I found this to be incredibly clever.

The final twist left me with that evil grin I love so much. It was just so well done.

Rachel Hawkins is crushing this gothic-infused mystery genre. I’m loving it. I cannot wait to see what she comes up with next.

Thank you so much to the publisher, St. Martin’s Press and Macmillan Audio, for providing me with copies to read and review. The Villa was a ton of fun and a great way to start off a new reading year!!

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Review: House of Hunger by Alexis Henderson

House of HungerHouse of Hunger by Alexis Henderson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

House of Hunger follows Marion Shaw. Marion has been raised in the slums of the South and her life is pretty bleak.

She works in domestic service for a grumpy old woman. Her parents are dead and she lives on the edge of poverty with her drug-addicted and abusive brother.

She does have a friend though, so that seems to be a highlight. She and this friend frequently get-together on their allotted break from work and read classified ads.

Basically, in their area, men will sometimes advertise when they are looking for a wife. It’s actually a way for some of these girls to climb out of poverty, if they find a man wealthy enough to take care of them.

So, Marion and her friend will sometimes read these ads and joke around about responding to one of them, and the odds of being selected.

On one occasion though, Marion actually sees something that piques her interest; an advert from the notorious House of Hunger, one of the richest houses in the North. It seems they’re in need of a bloodmaid.

Even though she’s practically clueless about life in the wealthy North, she applies for the position. How bad can it be? It certainly has to be better than the meager existence she currently has.

She applies and meets the Taster. A job interviewer of sorts, who tastes her blood and is blown away.

He offers her the position with confidence. The Lady of the House will go batshit-crazy over the delictableness of her blood. It’s a fine vintage, indeed.

The trip North and subsequent introduction to the House of Hunger and their ways is completely off the charts for Marion. It’s all new. She’s like a newborn baby, learning everything from scratch.

The castle is full of debauchery. The Lords and Ladies milling about live hedonistic lives. It’s an odd environment, with Marion and the other bloodmaids simply bearing witness to it all.

One scene, featuring a game called Fox and the Hounds literally gave me chills. These people are nuts. They have no repercussions for the things they do. They can get away with anything. It’s a real precarious position for Marion to be in, but honestly, what are her other options?

Marion discovers the bloodmaids have a bit of a competitive side to them. Apparently, Countess Lisavet, the enthralling Lady of the House, always has a favorite. Her go-to girl, who she’ll spoil with things the other girls don’t get.

As Lisavet begins to show a particular liking for Marion, the old favorite gets ticked. Marion definitely didn’t make a friend there. Additionally, as Marion gets drawn more and more into Lisavet’s inner sanctum, she begins to see that not all is as it appears in the House of Hunger.

This book was absolutely everything I wanted. I fell in love with Henderson’s writing and the vivid Horror imagery, including top-notch Body Horror, she was able to conjure up on the page.

There were some toe-curling scenes, anything involving teeth is gonna get me, soooo, I’m not okay. I was living for this atmosphere.

In fact, I was having so much fun that I gave daily status updates on the plot to my coworkers, and their eyes didn’t even glaze over. That’s how passionate I was about it.

I liked that Marion didn’t know anything about the North, or their customs. It offered up the perfect chance for the Reader to learn about the world through her eyes, without it seeming info dumpy.

I also enjoyed the mystery surrounding the House. As Marion begins to figure out that something is off and then the build-up to the final reveal of what was happening. I thought that was so well done.

Henderson built out the tension perfectly and kept me fully-engaged the entire way through. This narrative is vividly-described and I felt like I could picture everything perfectly. It was dark, gothic, gory and stunning. I loved it!!!

I cannot wait to read more from Henderson. Well done!

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Review: The Box in the Woods (Truly Devious #4) by Maureen Johnson

The Box in the Woods (Truly Devious #4)The Box in the Woods by Maureen Johnson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It’s finally Summer and for True Crime enthusiast, Stevie Bell, that means returning home from Ellingham Academy. After solving a real-life murder case at school, working at the deli counter of a local grocery store is going to be a real Snooze Fest. Yawn, indeed.

Stevie has just about come to grips with her new Summer status when she receives some correspondence that grabs her attention. Maybe the next couple of months won’t be so boring after all.

The message is from the new owner of a kid’s summer camp, Shady Pines, formerly known as Camp Wonder Falls. Stevie is intrigued because she knows this camp.

In 1978, Camp Wonder Falls, and the neighboring town of Barlow Corners, suffered a terrible tragedy. Four local teens, all counselors at the camp, were killed in the woods one night, having snuck away for some private fun.

The case was never solved. Carson, the new owner, invites Stevie to become a counselor, while also working with him developing a podcast focusing on the murders.

You may be wondering why an adult would seek Stevie out and offer her this position, but keep in mind, at this point, Stevie and her crime solving antics have gained her some notoriety. Particularly in True Crime circuits. Carson believes Stevie may be able to crack the decades old case.

The kicker is, Stevie gets to bring some friends along. That sweetens the deal and she’s in, along with Nate and Janelle.

But this town is as enmeshed in these murders as the camp itself, and someone doesn’t want the case to be solved, putting Stevie and her friends in danger. Will they be able to figure it, or become victims themselves?

The Box in the Woods was nostalgic and fun. I enjoyed the shake-up, as far as the setting goes, in this one. I love Ellingham Academy, don’t get me wrong, but this made for a nice change of pace.

I always enjoy a scary summer camp vibe and this definitely had that. It was campy, mysterious and cleverly-plotted. A fantastic set-up.

As with the earlier books in this series, you do get the past perspective played out for you as well. I enjoyed the sections from the past a lot.

You’re there as the vicious crime is discovered and then taken back to learn of events leading up to it. The murders themselves were chilling, the descriptions and discovery, just imagining being in the camp when something like that happened. It was creepy.

Amateur sleuths are one of my absolute favorite tropes in a mystery and Stevie is one of the best. I love how her mind works and watching her go about her research and putting the pieces together is just so satisfying.

I also was impressed with how Johnson wrote this one so that it could actually be read as a standalone. I have read every book in this series and would definitely recommend that, but I can see how someone could actually read this on its own.

Then, once they fall in the love with the characters, they could actually go back and read the previous books.

Oh, also, before I forget, for David fans, he is in this one too and I gotta say, I enjoyed him here. I’ve never been a huge David-stan, but for some reason in this one, he really grew on me.

I’m not sure if it is because of everything he has been through over the course of the last two books, but he is really maturing and nicely. I’m super stoked for the next book, because I’m interested to see where their relationship goes.

For those interested, the fifth book, Nine Liars, is releasing at the end of this month, on Tuesday, December 27th.

I love these characters and the compelling mysteries Johnson brings to the page. The alternating timelines and steady progressions of the plots have never failed to keep me fully engaged.

I will continue to read this series for as long as they continue to release books. Stevie fan for life!!

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Review: All the Dangerous Things by Stacy Willingham

All the Dangerous ThingsAll the Dangerous Things by Stacy Willingham
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars rounded up**

Isabelle Drake has barely slept in a year. Not since the night her toddler, Mason, disappeared from their home. Her and her husband were asleep in the next room, but they heard nothing, saw nothing.

The only sign of an intruder was an open window in Mason’s room. With zero other leads, or evidence though, the police had nothing to go on. The case goes cold.

Since that time, Isabelle and her husband, Ben, have split. Isabelle knows the stats, it’s not unusual for people who have lost a child to split up.

For her though, she just couldn’t understand how Ben seemed to move on after Mason. He gave up on him. Isabelle can’t do that. She’s not going to chalk it up as a loss and move on. Her son could still be out there. She refuses to see him as gone forever.

Isabelle talks about the case, literally gives talks about the case any time she can. She figures talking about it, keeps the case alive. It keeps Mason’s missing status in the forefront of people’s minds.

It’s after speaking at an event dedicated to True crime that she meets True Crime Podcaster, Waylon Spencer. Waylon takes an interest in Mason’s case and proposes to Isabelle that they work together. If he can interview her for his series, it will bring even more exposure to her case.

After some thought, Isabelle agrees and Waylon comes to stay in Savannah, to be near her and make the interview process easier on them both. Thus, it begins.

In addition to Isabelle’s present perspective, we also get her past perspective. In her childhood she lived with her Mom, Dad and little sister, Margaret.

After tragedy struck the family, Isabelle was haunted by the event. She’s never truly recovered from the trauma and a lot of recollections are more her trying to parse out the truth of what happened as opposed to a strict retelling of the event.

I really enjoyed the inclusion of this past perspective. I felt it gave a lot of insight into who Isabelle was as a character and helped to give substance to her motivations in her present.

I found this entire story so compelling. From the first moments I met Isabelle, I was sucked into her story. I wanted to know everything there was to know about her life, both past and present.

It was interesting to be inside her head as she grappled with the loss of Mason and tried to make sense of it. The lack of sleep has had an effect on her, so it’s unclear whether or not she’s entirely reliable.

I am a sucker for an unreliable narrator. I know some Readers are over it, but I’m so not one of those Readers.

I wouldn’t describe this as being fast-paced, it was more of a steady pace with great tension throughout. Each chapter fills in more and more of the puzzle and it was really hard to put it down.

There were some super fun twists and reveals. I just had an absolute blast with this one. I really enjoyed Willingham’s earlier release, A Flicker in the Dark, and personally, I think this one is even better. Highly recommend the audio format as the narration is fantastic!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Minotaur Books and Macmillan Audio, for providing me with copies to read and review.

After loving her first two novels, it’s safe to say that I will continue to pick up anything else Stacy Willingham writes. Looking forward to more!!

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