The Fifth to Die – J.D. Barker

The Fifth to Die (4MK Thriller, #2)The Fifth to Die
Author: J.D. Barker
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Genre/Themes: Mystery, Thriller
Release Date: July 10th, 2018
Format: ARC

Synopsis

Detective Porter and the team have been pulled from the hunt for the Four Monkey Killer, by the feds. When the body of a young girl is found beneath the frozen waters of Jackson Park Lagoon, she is quickly identified as Ella Reynolds, missing three weeks. But how did she get there? The lagoon froze months earlier. More baffling? She’s found wearing the clothes of another girl, missing less than two days.

While the detectives of Chicago Metro try to make sense of the quickly developing case, Porter secretly continues his pursuit of 4MK, knowing the best way to find Bishop is to track down his mother. When the captain finds out about Porter’s activities, he’s suspended, leaving his partners Clair and Nash to continue the search for the new killer alone.

Obsessed with catching Bishop, Porter follows a single grainy photograph from Chicago to the streets of New Orleans and stumbles into a world darker than he could have possibly imagined, where he quickly realizes that the only place more frightening than the mind of a serial killer is the mind of the mother from which he came.

Review

This is the second book in the 4MK Thriller series, and it’s extremely important that the first book be read before starting this one. The first novel in this series, The Fourth Monkeyis one of the darkest, creepiest, and sharpest serial killer novels I’ve ever read. It gave me nightmares, which rarely ever happens to me. The serial killer was actually scary and all of the police officers were competent and a great match for him. The whole book surpassed my expectations and I knew I’d be reading everything J.D. Barker ever wrote.

I was thrilled to receive the sequel in the mail and I dove into it almost immediately. This book is just as sharply written and exciting as the first one. It’s still really fast-paced and even more complex than The Fourth Monkey. There are far more story lines and they’re all really tightly intertwined. The difference between this book and the first is that while it’s not as disturbing or as twisted as the first, the scope of it is enormous. I’m in awe of the way J.D. Barker is able to create this world and drop all these hints about the greater story. I never guess any of the twists that are coming, but not because they’re implausible but because they’re so unexpected. I’ve been shocked multiple times throughout both books and I think that’s the mark of a fantastic mystery/thriller.

Even though this book has a riveting plot, the characterization doesn’t suffer at all. We find out so much more about all of the characters from the first book, and are introduced to a new investigator who is also smart, talented, and completely competent. There are a lot of questions about the characters, and I’m really intrigued to find out what happens in the final book.

I’m really impressed by the scope of this novel. Even though there were a lot of open threads left at the end of the book and a giant cliffhanger, I’m just in awe of how well this book came together. I can’t wait for the third book to come out.

I received this book is exchange from the publisher for an honest review. This has affected my review in no way.

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The City of Lost Fortunes – Bryan Camp

The City of Lost Fortunes (Crescent City #1)The City of Lost Fortunes
Author: Bryan Camp
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Genre/Themes: Urban Fantasy
Release Date: April 17th, 2018
Format: ARC

Synopsis

The post–Katrina New Orleans of The City of Lost Fortunes is a place haunted by its history and by the hurricane’s destruction, a place that is hoping to survive the rebuilding of its present long enough to ensure that it has a future. Street magician Jude Dubuisson is likewise burdened by his past and by the consequences of the storm, because he has a secret: the magical ability to find lost things, a gift passed down to him by the father he has never known—a father who just happens to be more than human.

Jude has been lying low since the storm, which caused so many things to be lost that it played havoc with his magic, and he is hiding from his own power, his divine former employer, and a debt owed to the Fortune god of New Orleans. But his six-year retirement ends abruptly when the Fortune god is murdered and Jude is drawn back into the world he tried so desperately to leave behind. A world full of magic, monsters, and miracles. A world where he must find out who is responsible for the Fortune god’s death, uncover the plot that threatens the city’s soul, and discover what his talent for lost things has always been trying to show him: what it means to be his father’s son.

Review

Urban fantasy has always been one of my favourite genres, but most of the novels I read are centered around women who are witches/vampires/werewolves. That’s why I was really interested to read this book because not only was it centered around a man, but it was brand new mythology. In fact, this was one of the best things about this book. However, I found myself with extremely mixed feelings toward this novel.

This is an extremely creative story. It’s filled with mythology from many different cultures and religions. Since the story takes place in New Orleans, voodoo and loa play a big part, but it borrows from other cultures to create a really inventive novel. It was so far outside what I normally read in urban fantasy and I loved how unique it was. New Orleans plays a big part in this book as well. The whole book is very atmospheric and due to Bryan Camp’s descriptive and vivid writing style, New Orleans felt like its own character.

My reasons for disliking this book are almost indefinable. My biggest issue with this novel was Jude himself. While I liked the fact he was described as biracial and bisexual, there wasn’t much else I liked about him. It always felt like Bryan Camp was trying too hard to describe him as wounded and broken during the first two thirds of this novel. There was a lot of telling instead of showing while describing Jude’s character. That’s why when he finally understands who he is, there was barely any impact for the reader. In the last third, it felt like Bryan Camp was trying too hard to make him suave and charming and he never quite achieved his goal. I never quite connected to any of the characters, but I did like Sal and Regal. I never found myself liking Jude.

The other issue with this book is that the pacing of the novel is off. It’s really hard to grasp the mythology and world-building at the beginning of the book, so I found it hard to fully immerse myself. When I finally started to understand what was going on, the book started to drag in the middle. While the plot of this novel is entertaining and fun, it feels like a debut novel. The story is creative and unique, but it needs a little less telling. While the writing is descriptive and vivid, it can get bogged down with unnecessary facts and tangents.

This was a decent start to the Crescent City series, but I think Bryan Camp will get better with the future books he writes, and I’ll definitely be following his career and reading his future novels.

 

 

Blog Tour, Review: Song of Blood & Stone – L. Penelope

Song of Blood & Stone_cover imageSong of Blood & Stone
Author: L. Penelope
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Genre/Themes: Fantasy
Release Date: May 1st, 2018
Format: Digital Galley

Synopsis

Orphaned and alone, Jasminda lives in a land where cold whispers of invasion and war linger on the wind. Jasminda herself is an outcast in her homeland of Elsira, where her gift of Earthsong is feared. When ruthless soldiers seek refuge in her isolated cabin, they bring with them a captive–an injured spy who threatens to steal her heart. Jack’s mission behind enemy lines to prove that the Mantle between Elsira and Lagamiri is about to fall nearly cost him his life, but he is saved by the healing Song of a mysterious young woman. Now he must do whatever it takes to save Elsira and it’s people from the True Father and he needs Jasminda’s Earthsong to do it. They escape their ruthless captors and together they embark on a perilous journey to save Elsira and to uncover the secrets of The Queen Who Sleeps. Thrust into a hostile society, Jasminda and Jack must rely on one another even as secrets jeopardize their bond. As an ancient evil gains power, Jasminda races to unlock a mystery that promises salvation. The fates of two nations hang in the balance as Jasminda and Jack must choose between love and duty to fulfill their destinies and end the war.

Amazon | Book Depository | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo | IndieBound

Review

I’m very selective about the fantasy novels I choose to read because I find a lot of them have recycled plots. That’s why I was really excited to read this novel. First, the main character is not white (hallelujah), and second, it seemed to have a really vivid and interesting world. I’m happy to say that I really enjoyed this book and it had a lot of complex topics that I thought were handled very gracefully.

I really loved how Jasminda was developed. She’s a strong, self-sufficient woman who is not talented at everything. There is no special snowflake syndrome in this novel. In fact, her Earthsong is far weaker than others of her kind. Not only that, but she has real problems, and handles them in a realistic way.

In this world, Jasminda is biracial and despised and feared by the people in her town. This book hones in on the problem of systemic racism through the lens of a fantasy novel. It’s something I wasn’t expecting at all, and I was very impressed by L. Penelope’s ability to talk about contemporary issues through an invented world. She handled the issue extremely well and we saw exactly what Jasminda had to face as an outcast.

I also really enjoyed the world-building, but I did find it a little hard to understand everything at the beginning. We were thrown into a world we knew very little about and at the start, it was difficult to understand exactly how the world functioned. It takes a few chapters to get completely invested in the story, but once I got through my initial confusion, I was hooked.

While I loved Jasminda, I had a harder time warming up to Jack. I was expecting this book to be about Jasminda and her struggles to save her world, but the book shifts between both characters. While I like the character of Jack, I just didn’t think his points of view were necessary. This book was centered around their “forbidden” romance, and his chapters seemed to only be there to make Jasminda seem more desirable. I didn’t think Jasminda needed to be seen through the perspective of some guy she barely knew. There’s also a ‘twist’ revolving around Jack that I saw coming a mile away. I suppose that I wasn’t expecting so much romance in this novel, and I thought it could have been tamped down quite a bit.

Thankfully, the book also has a strong plot as well as great character development. There is an attempted rape in this book, which I happen to hate in novels, but I also thought that was handled really well and it felt realistic and not gratuitous. It moved quickly and was exciting, though it did drag a little in the middle. I also really liked the resolution of the novel and once the pieces all clicked together, it was really rewarding.

Overall, this book is an excellent start to a series. It has an inventive, unique world that talks about present-day issues through fantasy. Jasminda is an amazing character, and I’d be very interested in continuing on with this series. I recommend this novel to anyone who enjoys both fantasy and romance.

I received a review copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This has affected my review in no way.

ABOUT L. PENELOPE

Penelope, L._CREDIT Valerie Bey

Leslye Penelope has been writing since she could hold a pen and loves getting lost in the worlds in her head. She is an award-winning author of new adult, fantasy, and paranormal romance. She lives in Maryland with her husband and their furry dependents: an eighty-pound lap dog and an aspiring feral cat.

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Tin Men – Mike Knowles

Tin MenTin Men
Author: Mike Knowles
Publisher: ECW Press
Genre/Themes: Mystery, Crime
Release Date: April 10th, 2018
Format: ARC

 

Synopsis

Woody was working on getting high when the phone rang. Dennis was on a date — it was a date he paid for, but a date all the same. Os had blood on his hands from a little extracurricular law enforcement. All three men picked up their phones because they were cops, and cops are never really off-duty — not even when they’re crooked.

Detective Julie Owen was savagely killed in her own bed, and the unborn child she was carrying is nowhere to be found. The grisly crime has the brass breathing down the necks of the three detectives tasked with finding Julie’s killer. Woody, Dennis, and Os each shared a bond with Julie that went deeper than the blue of their uniforms and have their own reasons to want to find the person responsible for her murder. Secrets drive the investigation — secrets that need to stay buried long enough to solve the case.

Review

I’ve read a lot of mystery novels where the main premise is about cops trying to solve a murder. I’ve even read mystery novels where the murder victim is a cop. However, I’ve never read any books where the plot revolves around the cops themselves instead of the murderer. That is the unique factor in this novel, and it’s the reason why I wanted to read it.

Another reason I wanted to read it is because all three of the cops are crooked in different ways. Centering a book around three corrupt cops is a really risky move because they were all so unlikable. I never rooted for any of them, but I was still really hooked by them and they were really well-developed. I understood each of their motivations and while I wish their backstories had been a little more fleshed out, I thought their stories and connection to Julie Owen was very compelling.

The best part about this novel is the writing. It’s witty and sharp, without being cheesy or overdone. There’s an edge and a darkness to this novel, but it’s not too graphic or horrific in its descriptions. It’s a very hard line to balance, and I thought Mike Knowles did it well.

Overall, I thought this was a really great crime novel. It was unique in a lot of aspects, and I loved how it was centered in Canada. It’s written very well, the characters are fascinating and it had a few twists that I didn’t see coming. Mike Knowles is an author to watch.

 

Woman At 1000 Degrees – Hallgrimur Helgason

Woman at 1,000 DegreesWoman At 1,000 Degrees
Author: Hallgrimur Helgason
Publisher: Algonquin Books
Genre/Themes: Literary Fiction, Historical Fiction
Release Date: February 7th, 2017
Format: Hardcover

Synopsis

Eighty-year-old Herra Bjornsson, one of the most original narrators in literary history, takes readers along with her on a dazzling ride of a novel that spans the events and locales of the twentieth century. As she lies alone in that garage in the heart of Reykjavik, waiting to die, Herra reflects–in a voice by turns darkly funny, bawdy, poignant, and always, always smart–on the mishaps, tragedies, and turns of luck that took her from Iceland to Nazi Germany, from the United States to Argentina and back to a post-crash, high-tech, modern Iceland.

Born to a prominent political family, Herra’s childhood begins in the idyllic islands of western Iceland. But when her father makes the foolish decision to cast his lot with a Hitler on the rise, she soon finds herself abandoned and alone in war-torn Europe, relying on only her wits and occasional good fortune to survive.

For Herra is, ultimately, a fierce survivor, a modern woman ahead of her time who is utterly without self-pity despite the horrors she has endured. With death approaching, she remembers the husbands and children she has loved and lost, and tries, for the first time, to control her own fate by defying her family’s wishes and setting a date for her cremation–at a toasty temperature of 1,000 degrees. Each chapter of Herra’s story is a piece of a haunting puzzle that comes together beautifully in the book’s final pages.

Review

When I was contacted to read this novel, I was immediately intrigued. I had three reasons for wanting to pick this up. First, this is a book that has been translated from Icelandic. I’ve read very few novels in translation, and the ones I have read have mostly been Japanese. Second, this book takes place in Iceland and the author is Icelandic. I can’t remember ever reading a book that takes place in a Nordic country, so I was really excited to see what I thought. Lastly, the protagonist in this novel, Herra, is 80 years old. I don’t think I’ve ever read a book with a protagonist over 50. Due to all these reasons, I was extremely interested in this book. Unfortunately, while I liked this book, I wasn’t blown away by it.

As Herra looks back on her life, she spends most of her time discussing the 1940’s and World War 2. While I know a lot about this time period in history, I never knew how it affected the Nordic countries. I enjoyed learning about the conflicts between Iceland and how the war affected the country and surrounding regions. A lot of this book revolves around identity. Herra is Icelandic and Danish, and Iceland was under Denmark’s thumb during World War 2. Denmark was occupied by the Germans, while Iceland was taken over by the British. This conflict in political identity affects Herra’s life in drastic ways. It causes an inner turmoil in her which lasts until she’s 80 years old. I found this whole aspect of the book fascinating. Herra has a remarkable dry, dark humor which colors her whole life. I really enjoyed getting to know her.

The reason why this book wasn’t a stand out for me is due to the fact that the plot is long and meandering. Herra has a lot of terrible and exciting things happen to her, but most of the time, the book discusses really trivial aspects of her life. Also, I felt like there was a lot of Nazi sympathizing in this book, especially since Herra’s father joins the SS. It talks frankly about the realities of war, but it definitely doesn’t condemn the Nazis and sometimes even feels sorry for them. I really hate when that happens in a book.

Overall, I’m really glad I read this book and was exposed to a point of view that I know nothing about, but I don’t think I’ll be reading Icelandic contemporary/historical fiction again. I’m very interested in Nordic crime novels though and I’ll definitely be giving those a try.

I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This has affected my review in no way.

 

 

What You Don’t Know – Joann Chaney

What You Don't KnowWhat You Don’t Know
Author: Joann Chaney
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Genre/Themes: Mystery
Release Date: February 7th, 2017
Format: Hardcover

Synopsis

The last victims of an infamous serial killer on death row may be the ones he didn’t kill. Seven years ago, Detective Paul Hoskins and his larger-than-life partner solved one of the biggest serial murder cases of the decade. They dug up 33 bodies in a crawl space belonging to the beloved Jacky Seever, a pillar of the community and a successful businessman. Sammie Peterson was the lead reporter on the case. Her byline was on the front page of the newspaper every day. Seever’s wife, Gloria, claimed to be as surprised as everyone else.

Today, Hoskins has been banished to cold cases, Sammie is selling make-up at the mall, and Gloria is trying to navigate a world where she can’t escape condemnation. And Seever? He’s watching the show.

But when a series of new murders occur, and the victims are all somehow connected to Seever, Gloria is once again thrust into the spotlight, while Hoskins and Sammie realize this may be their chance to get their lives back, even if it means forfeiting their humanity in the process.

Review

When I first heard about this novel, I expected it to be a typical serial killer mystery novel that alternated between the three main characters. While that fits comfortable in my wheelhouse, I wasn’t expecting a lot from it. My expectations were relatively low, but I was absolutely blown away by this book.

The best part about this novel is the writing. The whole book is so dark and twisted and the writing fits with it perfectly. The writing is grimy and creepy, and really blunt. While there are no extremely graphic descriptions of what happens to the serial killer victims, it tells you enough to make you shudder. All of the sentences are really direct, even for the terrible parts.

I also loved all of the characters. None of them were cliches and all of them were deeply flawed. They were selfish, violent, and could be borderline sociopathic which gave the book a lot of authenticity. I love when novels flip between characters, and this book managed to do it in the best way. The characters were all so different from each other, and so perfectly nuanced. I thought all of them were strongly developed.

The only reason why this book wasn’t a knock out for me was that I guessed who the murderer was pretty quickly. I even guessed how it would end and even though I was able to figure all of this out, it didn’t ruin my enjoyment of the novel at all. Also, usually I can’t stand adultery used as a plot point because I think it’s a lazy way of making conflict in a novel, but in this book, it was done with a lot of thought. I understood why it happened and it actually didn’t bother me at all.

Overall, this is a compelling read. It’s gritty, dark, creepy, and I loved how the entire book came together. Joann Chaney is one of my new favourite writers.

Zero Day – Ezekiel Boone

Zero Day (The Hatching, #3)Zero Day
Author: Ezekiel Boone
Publisher: Random House Canada
Genre/Themes: Horror
Release Date: February 27th, 2017
Format: e-ARC

 

 

Synopsis

After a long-dormant species of carnivorous spiders hatches and overruns the globe, tens of millions of people have been killed and eaten, or worse…and US president Stephanie Pilgrim has had to order nuclear strikes on major American cities, roads and infrastructure to try to give the survivors a fighting chance. She and her close advisers, along with spider expert Melanie Guyer and her team of scientists, have retreated to a US Navy aircraft carrier off the East Coast to plot their next move when a mutiny breaks out that pits military men looking for a final solution against the president and her allies, who don’t think that blowing everything up is the right way to go. Pilgrim and her people escape to the one spider-free zone they’re certain of, setting up a White House in Manhattan. But how can they survive with the odds so stacked against them?
Still, they have no choice but to try… rallying the unlikeliest set of spider fighters on whom the fate of humanity rests.

Review

Zero Day is the third and final book to The Hatching series, which I began to read in 2016. I was immediately hooked to the series and I’ve really enjoyed it. I was extremely excited to read this novel, and was looking forward to the conclusion of this series.

While the first book had some really graphic and terrifying scenes, I found that this book had very little action. There were very few thrilling scenes, which was unfortunate seeing as there were two books leading up to the climax in this novel. While I was happy to be reading about the characters I had been following in the first two novels, I just didn’t feel they were as important to the overall conclusion. Like I mentioned in my review for the second book, Skitter, I don’t think this story needed to be stretched out over three novels. There was nothing new or important that we learned about the spiders in this book. A lot of it was information we already knew from the previous books.

I still really enjoyed the writing, and I love the cinematic quality of it, but there was a lot of jumping around between different people. Sometimes, the scene was so brief that it felt like it had just been added so people would know where the character was and what was happening. It was extremely disjointed.

Also, the climax was over so fast! There was a random nuclear coup that took up the majority of the book, but the fight against the spiders occurred so quickly that it felt like the story wasn’t about the spiders at all. I didn’t even realize the climax had happened until I reached the end of the book. The whole ending was extremely rushed.

Overall, I was really disappointed by this concluding novel. I’d be interested in reading Ezekiel Boone’s future books, but I’d be hesitant to commit to another series written by him.

Yesterday – Felicia Yap

YesterdayYesterday
Author: Felicia Yap
Publisher: Little, Brown, and Company
Genre/Themes: Mystery, Psychological Thriller
Release Date: August 1st, 2017
Format: Book

 

Synopsis

Imagine a world in which classes are divided not by wealth or religion but by how much each group can remember. Monos, the majority, have only one day’s worth of memory; elite Duos have two. In this stratified society, where Monos are excluded from holding high office and demanding jobs, Claire and Mark are a rare mixed marriage. Clare is a conscientious Mono housewife, Mark a novelist-turned-politician Duo on the rise. They are a shining example of a new vision of tolerance and equality—until…

…a beautiful woman is found dead, her body dumped in England’s River Cam. The woman is Mark’s mistress, and he is the prime suspect in her murder. The detective investigating the case has secrets of his own. So did the victim. And when both the investigator’s and the suspect’s memories are constantly erased—how can anyone learn the truth?

Review

I’ve read a LOT of mysteries and thrillers, but this one grabbed my attention immediately. It sounded a bit like Memento mixed with a domestic thriller and a murder mystery. That is firmly in my wheelhouse and I was really eager to read this. The ratings for this book on Goodreads aren’t very good, but I really enjoyed this novel.

This book alternates between the four main characters in this book, who are the couple, Claire and Mark, the detective in charge of solving the crime, and the murder victim (through her diary). I loved how strong the characterization was. We got to spend so much time with each character that we understood them completely and I liked them all, even at their worst moments. They felt like real people with real problems. They didn’t feel like caricatures or cliches.

Additionally, there were some surprises in this novel that I didn’t see coming. I’ve read so many mysteries that it’s hard to surprise or shock me, but while I did guess part of the ending, I didn’t guess all of it. It was far more unexpected than I thought it would be. However, I did wish there was more world building and I wish I’d understood the science between Monos and Duos a little more. While there were snippets of newspaper clippings/scientific articles strewn throughout the novel, it wasn’t enough to really understand why or how this had happened.

Overall, this is a solid mystery/thriller with a lot of great characters that aren’t what you think they will be. I really enjoyed this book, and will be reading Felicia Yap’s future novels.

The Dinner – Herman Koch

The DinnerThe Dinner
Author: Herman Koch
Publisher: Hogarth
Genre/Themes: Literary Fiction, Psychological Thriller
Release Date: January 2009
Format: Book

 

 

Summary

It’s a summer’s evening in Amsterdam, and two couples meet at a fashionable restaurant for dinner. Between mouthfuls of food and over the polite scrapings of cutlery, the conversation remains a gentle hum of polite discourse – the banality of work, the triviality of the holidays. But behind the empty words, terrible things need to be said, and with every forced smile and every new course, the knives are being sharpened.

Each couple has a fifteen-year-old son. The two boys are united by their accountability for a single horrific act; an act that has triggered a police investigation and shattered the comfortable, insulated worlds of their families. As the dinner reaches its culinary climax, the conversation finally touches on their children. As civility and friendship disintegrate, each couple show just how far they are prepared to go to protect those they love.

Review

I’ve heard so much about this novel, especially after it was turned into a movie. Almost everyone I know that has read this book raves about it. I’ve read a Herman Koch novel, Dear Mr. M, previously, so I know what Koch’s writing style is about, but I wasn’t always sure what was happening while I read that book. I felt the same way during this novel.

First off, I love book premises like The Dinner. I love novels that have an underlying sense of tension and dread and Herman Koch is a master of creating books with these kinds of atmospheres. The problem is that he does it too well. A lot of the time, I just wasn’t sure what I was reading. Koch’s books don’t fit neatly into a genre, and there are always things that aren’t fully explained. Most of the time, this doesn’t bother me, but once in a while, I wish his writing was clearer. I also feel a lot of Koch’s expressions and writing is lost in translation.

He is also is masterful at creating unlikable characters. These aren’t the unlikable characters that I found in Gone Girl, they’re even worse. In fact, this book is full of total sociopaths and the things they do are astonishing. There are so many shockers in this novel even though it takes place over the course of a night, and is quite slow paced. It’s unreal how many terrible things occur out of the blue.

I thought the characterization was very strong. I understood all of the characters and their motivations, but I hated them all. I’ve never hated all the characters in a novel before, but there was nobody redeeming in this book. I was still willing to learn about the characters, but I just didn’t care what happened to them.

Overall, this is a really unsettling book. I’ve still got one more of Herman Koch’s books to read and I think I’m going to find that just as creepy as I did The Dinner and Dear Mr. M.

A Stranger in the House – Shari Lapena

A Stranger in the HouseA Stranger in the House
Author: Shari Lapena
Publisher: Doubleday Canada
Genre/Themes: Mystery, Psychological Thriller
Release Date: July 27th, 2017
Format: Book

 Summary

Karen and Tom Krupp are happy—they’ve got a lovely home in upstate New York, they’re practically newlyweds, and they have no kids to interrupt their comfortable life together. But one day, Tom returns home to find Karen has vanished—her car’s gone and it seems she left in a rush. She even left her purse—complete with phone and ID—behind.

There’s a knock on the door—the police are there to take Tom to the hospital where his wife has been admitted. She had a car accident, and lost control as she sped through the worst part of town.

The accident has left Karen with a concussion and a few scrapes. Still, she’s mostly okay—except that she can’t remember what she was doing or where she was when she crashed. The cops think her memory loss is highly convenient, and they suspect she was up to no good.

Karen returns home with Tom, determined to heal and move on with her life. Then she realizes something’s been moved. Something’s not quite right. Someone’s been in her house. And the police won’t stop asking questions.

Because in this house, everyone’s a stranger. Everyone has something they’d rather keep hidden. Something they might even kill to keep quiet.

Review

I devoured Shari Lapena’s first novel, The Couple Next DoorWhile I had issues with the book, I still raced to read it and there were a lot of twists that I found shocking, which is why I was extremely intrigued to read her second novel.

Just like The Couple Next Door, this book had a premise that I was very interested in. I don’t know why, but for me, reading domestic thrillers is like eating popcorn. Once I start, I just can’t stop. Since this is a genre that has become very popular recently, it’s hard to find a book that can completely surprise me or do something that hasn’t been done before. Unfortunately, this book didn’t have any twists or unexpected events that I didn’t see coming. Every reveal was so run of the mill and expected.

The characters weren’t especially well developed either. Once again, since we switch between different characters, it’s hard to get a sense for a person and know what they’re really all about. The characterization was a little bit lazy, and a lot cliche’d. I hated every single one of the characters, but especially Tom. He was just such a weak, selfish child. I couldn’t stand how everything he thought revolved around him and how sorry he was for himself.

Once again, I wasn’t fond of the writing or the dialogue of the book. Shari Lapena is not a bad writer at all, but there’s nothing very gripping about her writing style. It’s just very mediocre and bland. Sometimes the dialogue is a little stilted. I think a lot of people enjoy it because it’s direct and succinct, but after reading psychological thrillers by Gillian Flynn and Tana French, I’m expecting more in both characterization and writing.

Shari Lapena novels are fast-paced and enjoyable to read, but they’re pretty typical in terms of plot and writing for psychological thrillers. I don’t think I’m ever going to find another Gillian Flynn or Tana French in the genre again, but I’ll still be reading Shari Lapena’s future works.