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: 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: The Couple at No. 9 by Claire Douglas

The Couple at No. 9The Couple at No. 9 by Claire Douglas
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

When Saffy and Tom move to 9 Skelton Place, they’re excited about the possibilities. The property once belonged to Saffy’s Grandmother and it will take a little work to get the place just how they want it, but with their first baby on the way, they’re willing to take on the project.

As they prepare for a kitchen extension, a construction crew begins digging up the back garden. That’s how they discover the two bodies buried there.

Early analysis indicates the bodies have been buried there for about 30-years. While their presence isn’t the result of a recent act of violence, it’s quite clear that a crime, or crimes, was once committed there.

9 Skelton Place becomes a crime scene; a very unpleasant occurrence for the young couple just looking to nest.

As part of their investigation, the police ask to speak with the home’s former owner, Saffy’s Grandmother, Rose. Unfortunately, Rose is currently suffering from fairly advanced dementia.

Saffy frequently goes to visit Rose in her Care Home and can attest to the fact that some days are worse than others. It’s unclear if Rose will be able to provide any reliable information to the investigators.

Hearing of her daughter’s troubles, Saffy’s Mom, Lorna, returns from Spain, where she lives abroad with her boyfriend. Lorna has always been a free spirit, with Saffy often feeling the more mature of the two. It’s clear that Lorna loves her daughter though and she’s here to help.

The more Saffy and Lorna dig into the mystery of 9 Skelton Place, the more ominous it all seems. There are entire chunks of Lorna’s very early history that she knows nothing about. What has her mother, Rose, been hiding from her?

I liked this. It was a good time for me. It wasn’t perfect, but I found the mystery, the characters and the family dynamics quite interesting.

Once I started down the rabbit hole of the bodies in the garden, I was compelled to discover the truth. I had to know!

This story is told through both past and present perspectives. You learn about the present by following Saffy, Lorna and a man named, Theo. In the past, you learn about Rose’s time living at 9 Skelton Place.

I found both timelines interesting and like how each present section seemed to build off things discovered from the past.

Theo’s perspective was confounding to me at first. I wasn’t quite sure why it was necessary, but it did ultimately serve a purpose and I like how it all wrapped up in the end.

Overall, I thought this was an entertaining read. Douglas did a great job creating a puzzling little mystery and it was fun watching it all come together.

While this won’t be the most memorable Mystery/Thriller that I read this year, I am still happy that I picked it up. This was my first Claire Douglas and I definitely enjoyed her style.

Thank you to the publisher, Harper Paperbacks, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I’m looking forward to reading more from this author!

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Review: A Mother Would Know by Amber Garza

A Mother Would KnowA Mother Would Know by Amber Garza
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Valerie, a mother of two adult children, widow and former lead vocalist in a band, lives alone in her large Victorian home with her chocolate lab, Bowie. Valerie has led a busy life and is finally settling into a more quiet lifestyle.

Unfortunately, she’s also noticed some disturbing changes recently with her memory. Having lost her own mother to the horrible disease of Alzheimer’s, Valerie is very aware of the signs and symptoms. She is fearful she may be experiencing an early-onset of the disease.

Her daughter, Kendra, expresses concerns as well when Valerie seems to be forgetting plans they had made, like babysitting her grandson. Kendra attempts to help her mom with vitamins and diet suggestions.

She’s still concerned about Valerie living on her own though, with the way things seem to be progressing. Luckily, Valerie’s son, Hudson, a bit down on his luck after a recent break-up, is able to come and stay with her.

Hudson has grown distant since a traumatizing incident in high school, but Valerie loves her son very much and is anxious for a chance to reconnect with him. He’s a grown man now, surely they can finally put the past behind them.

Kendra and Hudson definitely still have a contentious relationship though, so when the entire family is together things can get tense. After a time though, they all start to settle into a bit of a routine. It’s nice.

That is until a young woman up the street is murdered in her home. For some reason, Valerie has images in her mind of Hudson being out on the night of the murder, seeing him come in late. Is she imagining this, or are these memories?

She starts to think Hudson is acting suspiciously. Could he have had something to do with this young woman’s death? How well does she even know her son?

I found A Mother Would Know highly-entertaining and addicting, much like Garza’s earlier works. I was actually late to work on the day I finished this because I needed to know the truth. I could not put it down.

Garza’s writing style is very fluid and easy to get into. I found this story to be so compelling and I had a million different theories along the way. It was so much fun trying to figure it out.

The narrative is a nice blend of Valerie’s present-perspective mixed with her remembrances of the past. A lot of the events in her current life make her reminisce on the past, both bad and good.

I think this made a lot of sense considering Valerie’s fears regarding her memory. A lot of the time, I felt like being in her head thinking about the past was kind of like an exercise for her, trying to figure out how much she still recalled and whether or not it was true.

We also get an additional, more mysterious, perspective that helps to build the tension of the story, as well as contributing to the final reveal.

I really enjoyed Valerie as a character. I know that she may not be for everyone, but I found her to be realistic and relatable. I genuinely liked her.

Valerie was in a band, a fairly successful one, and when her kids were young, she spent a lot of her time out of the home, particularly at night performing. Therefore, her husband, was the primary caregiver for the kids.

There’s a lot of unresolved issues within their family because of that and I liked learning about those things and watching them all try to navigate those sensitive waters as adults.

Additionally, I enjoyed the drama of their neighborhood. They live in a fairly high-income neighborhood, where everyone knows everyone’s business and there’s frequently someone watching and talking about what they see.

I am always down for neighborhood drama, so I felt like this was a fun backdrop from the story. Valerie and her family have a lot of history in this neighborhood too and definitely some enemies.

The mystery was compelling and I loved being along for the ride with Valerie. She was willing to do anything to figure out whether her son was innocent or not. The tension got pretty high, with a startling conclusion.

Overall, I had a lot of fun reading this one and will absolutely pick up anything else Garza writes.

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

I have enjoyed all of Garza’s books so far and am super excited to see what she comes up with next!

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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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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 Man Who Died Twice (Thursday Murder Club #2) by Richard Osman

The Man Who Died Twice (Thursday Murder Club, #2)The Man Who Died Twice by Richard Osman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

❤️💙🖤❤️💙🖤❤️💙🖤❤️💙🖤❤️💙🖤❤️💙🖤❤️

After reading The Thursday Murder Club last month, I knew I needed to continue with this series right away.

I fell in love with the characters, the retirement community setting and the compelling mystery that played out.

The Man Who Died Twice is the second book of the series and dare I say, I enjoyed it even more than the first, which I loved. It seems the more time I spend with these characters, the more invested I become.

In this story we are reunited with Elizabeth, Joyce, Ron and Ibrahim, shortly after the events of Book 1. The impetus to this adventure is Elizabeth receiving a letter from an old colleague/flame, who finds himself in a bit of a bind and is hoping for her assistance.

There’s $20,000,000 in diamonds and mobsters involved, of course, because what fun would it be otherwise?

We meet Douglas, the old flame, along with his partner Poppy. Ibrahim has a scary run in outside of Cooper’s Chase that makes him reevaluate everything. Donna and Chris are actively trying to nab a local drug lord.

There’s a lot going on, but all of the varying plot-lines blended together perfectly. Osman made it comfortable to read and engaging throughout.

I never had times were I was in one perspective wishing to get back to another, which can happen with stories that switch perspectives frequently.

Elizabeth, Joyce and their friendship were again the stars of the show for me, although I do really love everyone.

Additionally, I feel like we got to know Donna and Chris, the local detectives who have befriended the Murder Club, a bit more. I really enjoy both of their characters. Donna is struggling a bit with her place in life and Chris’s new relationship with Donna’s mother, Patrice.

I actually felt it was important for us to hear her struggles. I liked to see that vulnerability from her. It made her relationships with the people in the Murder Club seem that much more important now. I get it, Donna. I see you.

It was also so fun having more Bogdan. Bogdan, a Polish man of many useful talents, helps around Cooper’s Chase and in this one, is particularly helpful to Elizabeth. Their relationship is so special.

I guess you can probably spot the theme here. Even though this is a super fun mystery, at it’s heart this is a story of people making their way in the world and the special bonds they’ve formed with one another.

It has filled my heart reading both of these books and I’m so looking forward to picking up the third!

I definitely recommend this series and highly recommend the audiobooks. The narration is fabulously done and overall, it’s just a super engaging listening experience!!

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Review: Death at the Auction by E.C. Bateman

Death at the AuctionDeath at the Auction by E.C. Bateman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Death at the Auction is the first book in what I am hoping will be a long-running Cozy Mystery series.

This story follows Felicia Grant. Felicia’s family owns a popular Auction House in her home village of Stamford. After a falling out with her father over the direction of the business, Felicia left the auction-life behind and moved to London, along with her son, Algernon.

When Felicia gets an early-morning call from her best friend, Cassie, back in Stamford, she knows it can’t be good news and it’s not.

Her father has had a fall. He’s okay, but pretty banged up and he’ll be unable to auctioneer at the auction set for that very day. Felicia is the only one with the knowledge and expertise to successfully fill in. There’s a lot on the line; a lot of money they can’t afford to lose.

Can she come right away?

Felicia agrees, packs Algie and off they go. She’s full of competing emotions as she heads to Stamford. It’s been a while. There’s estranged relationships to consider.

Additionally, she’s been out of the business for quite some time. Will her auctioneering skills have suffered?

Once the auction begins, Felicia slips into her old role with ease. It’s actually nice to see so many familiar faces and the buzz of the sale is contagious.

All is going swimmingly right up until the final lot. As it is open for bids, Felicia’s exuberant ex-husband Dexter bursts in, interrupting the entire process and then a body falls out of a large antique cupboard set at the back of the room.

The very dead body of one of her Dad’s greatest rivals.

As investigators begin to look into the crime, Felicia, Dexter and a whole-host of locals find themselves as suspects. Felicia, unable to leave well-enough alone, decides to do a little digging of her own. She’s determined to clear her name and lift the cloud from over the auction house.

Death at the Auction was a ton of fun. I loved the setting and the characters. It’s definitely a great start to a new series. I can’t wait to get to know them more.

Felicia was so great as a main. She’s extremely likable and I found her feelings and motivations easy to understand and relate to. The other characters were interesting as well.

Dexter, her ex, is quite the minx, adding a bit of humor to the story. Their son is sweet, precocious and wise beyond his years. There’s also Detective Pettifer, the intrepid investigator trying to get to the bottom of this mess.

One of the highlights for me was the relationship that develops between Felicia and Pettifer. He seems to take a bit of a shine to her and the two interact fairly frequently over the course of the investigation.

There’s definitely a budding friendship and I could totally see him consulting her on future cases. I loved their back-and-forth and the trust that started to build between them.

I also really enjoyed Felicia’s relationships with all of her family members. Her son is such a sweetheart. He’s very quiet, yet inquisitive. He sort of does what he likes, but I feel like it’s because Felicia has the confidence in him to give him a bit of independence.

Dexter and Felicia also have great banter and it was fun watching her interact with her grumpy Dad after such a long time. I want more!

Some of the extraneous variables of the mystery I found a little hard to track, but overall I had so much fun with this. It’s a great foundation to build many more mysteries from. I am certainly looking forward to being reunited with Felicia and friends.

Thank you so much to the publisher, One More Chapter, for providing me with a copy to read and review. If you love a solid Cozy, with a fun group of characters and compelling mystery, you should absolutely give this one a shot!

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Review: The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman

The Thursday Murder ClubThe Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Thursday Murder Club is a bloody brilliant start to a Cozy Mystery series. I’m in, hook, line and sinker.

This one features an interesting mystery, fantastic characters and the audibook narration was perfection.

I feel like one of the last remaining people on Earth to have read this delightful Mystery, but I’m so happy to be joining the party, late or not.

I really wanted to listen to the audio, because I had heard great things about the narration by Marian Keyes and Lesley Manville. They weren’t wrong. It was well worth the over year wait for my library hold to come through.

If you aren’t aware, this book follows a charming group of septuagenarians, mainly Elizabeth, Joyce, Ibrahim and Ron, who live in a retirement village known as Cooper’s Chase.

This fearsome-foursome meet up once a week to discuss and dig into cold cases. They also have a local DS they befriend and consult regarding their cases of interest.

In this book specifically, a property developer involved in the creation of Cooper’s Chase is found murdered. A case of utmost interest to our friends.

The mystery was cleverly-plotted. I enjoyed the many people of interest we came across along the way. There’s a lot of drama going on surrounding this little community.

The members of the Murder Club all got on so well. I loved their moments together and witty dialogue. The narration had me giggling many times, picturing everything perfectly.

There were some great suspects and lots of motives for potentially killing our victim. Not much got past the Murder Club though. They were on it.

In addition to the great mystery, there was also some thoughtful and emotional moments reflecting on aging and issues that may arise later in life.

In fact, there was one scene that had me in tears. It took me by surprise how much I was moved by many of these characters personal journeys.

I’m really looking forward to continuing on with this series. I’ve heard it just keeps getting better and better.

I’m already attached to these characters and am so excited to join in the investigations and solve some more cases!

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Review: Jackal by Erin E. Adams

JackalJackal by Erin E. Adams
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars**

Even though she is returning to her hometown of Johnstown, Pennsylvania, as a successful adult, Liz Rocher is still filled with trepidation. Her memories of her time there fill her with anxiety.

Growing up a bit of an outcast, the one person she could always rely on was her best friend, Mel. Now Mel is getting married and has asked Liz to be part of her special day.

Mel and Liz have remained close over the years and Liz is even the godmother to Mel’s daughter, Caroline. When it comes to visits though, it’s always them going to see Liz in the city; same with Liz’s Mom.

It’s her turn to show up this time, so she does. It feels strange to be back; doesn’t seem like a lot has changed. Her Mom is certainly full of the critiques straight away.

At the wedding, Liz is discomforted by the woodsy venue. The local woods, the subject of dark legends and a frequent player in Liz’s nightmares, are part of her worst memories from Johnstown.

In spite of the location, Liz is enjoying spending quality time with Caroline. It’s sort of on her to keep an eye on the girl while Mel and her new husband entertain at the reception.

Sometime between dessert, dancing and dodging awkward conversations, Liz loses site of Caroline. She begins searching, asking everyone if they have seen the little girl, but no one has. Starting to panic, Liz enters the edge of the woods. She’s scared.

After finding a frightening bit of evidence, Liz comes to the conclusion that Caroline is gone. She needs help. A full search party is assembled.

Liz is devastated. How could this happen? The incident is reminiscent of another horrible night back when Liz was in high school. A night when another girl went missing in the woods from a party; Keisha Woodson.

Even though she had only planned to stay in town for a couple of days, Liz can’t leave now. She has to stay until Caroline is found. Whatever the outcome, she needs to help. She needs to be here.

In an effort to help find the girl, Liz begins asking around regarding Keisha’s disappearance. Perhaps the two cases are related. What she finds is that Keisha wasn’t the first. She also finds a very distinct pattern, all black girls, missing from the woods, directly around the summer solstice.

Will Liz be able to figure out who, or what, is taking the girls, and find Caroline before it’s too late?

Jackal impressed me. It’s hard to define, it’s quite unique. I would describe it as a thoughtful work of Dark Fiction with heavy Social Horror components. The writing style has a stream of consciousness quality to it, that honestly, I’m not normally crazy about, but it really fit here.

It’s not a super straight-forward story, it does require some effort on the part of the Reader, but I feel like for those who are willing to put in some energy, it will leave a mark.

Liz was a well-developed character. It took time to get to know her, but it would be hard not to feel for her and her experiences. I also felt like her character growth was paced well throughout.

The overall tone reminded me of The Other Black Girl, in that the entire build-up of the story is laced with a certain uneasiness; like you know something sinister is going on just beyond your line of sight.

I love that feeling. The ominous feeling of the developing mystery and the building of tension as the conclusion approaches.

It did sort of lose me a bit towards the end. I’m still a little confused on a couple of things and maybe in those instances would have preferred a more definitive outcome. However, this is 100% personal preference.

I would absolutely recommend this to anyone who enjoys Social Horror, or Dark Fiction in general. The topics explored, the over-arching mystery and compelling main character, all combine to make Jackal a stirring debut.

Thank you to the publisher, Bantam, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I’m really looking forward to reading more from Erin E. Adams!

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