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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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.

 

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.

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.

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.

Bonfire – Krysten Ritter

BonfireBonfire
Author: Krysten Ritter
Publisher: Crown Archetype
Genre/Themes: Mystery
Release Date: November 7th, 2017
Format: Book

Summary

It has been ten years since Abby Williams left home and scrubbed away all visible evidence of her small town roots. Now working as an environmental lawyer in Chicago, she has a thriving career, a modern apartment, and her pick of meaningless one-night stands.

But when a new case takes her back home to Barrens, Indiana, the life Abby painstakingly created begins to crack. Tasked with investigating Optimal Plastics, the town’s most high-profile company and economic heart, Abby begins to find strange connections to Barrens’ biggest scandal from more than a decade ago involving the popular Kaycee Mitchell and her closest friends—just before Kaycee disappeared for good.

Abby knows the key to solving any case lies in the weak spots, the unanswered questions. But as Abby tries to find out what really happened to Kaycee, she unearths an even more disturbing secret—a ritual called “The Game,” which will threaten the reputations, and lives, of the community and risk exposing a darkness that may consume her.

Review

I’m a huge fan of Krysten Ritter. I think she’s an incredible actress and watching her play Jessica Jones gives me great joy. I was really excited when I heard she was writing a book because I was hoping it would be full of Jessica Jones snark, which it unfortunately wasn’t.

However, the premise is extremely intriguing, even though it’s by no means a unique idea. I really liked the characterization of Abby Williams, but due to the fact that Krysten Ritter wrote the character as a TV pilot with herself in mind to play Abby, I could never differentiate the character from the author. That really bothers me while reading.

Overall, the story is fast paced and entertaining, but the writing was a little lacking. It had some common debut author issues (releasing breath she didn’t know she was holding, describing her clothes etc.). I still really enjoyed the book, and I think Ritter will only get better as she writes more novels.

Review: Heart of the City

Heart of the City (Detective Greene, #5)Heart of the City
Author: Robert Rotenberg
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Genre/Themes: Mystery
Release Date: August 1st, 2017
Format: Ebook

 

 

Synopsis

When Detective Ari Greene was charged with the murder of the woman he loved, he stopped at nothing to clear his name and uncover the real killer. After his acquittal, Greene fled to London to get away from it all, but now he’s back. And he’s not alone—with Greene is his twenty-year-old daughter, Alison. The child he never knew he had.
Determined to leave his life as a cop behind him, Greene gets a job on a construction site for one of Toronto’s many new condos. But when Greene stumbles upon the corpse of hated developer Livingston Fox, he is plunged back into the life he tried so hard to leave behind. As the body count rises, Greene is forced into a reluctant reconciliation with his former protégé, Daniel Kennicott. The pair must delve into the tight-knit world of downtown development, navigating tangled loyalties, unexpected corruption, and family secrets, some of which are closer to home than Greene could have ever imagined.

Review

I absolutely love this mystery series. I was introduced to them a few years ago, and I quickly read them all because I was fascinated with how Canadian centered they were. Not only did we get to see how Canadian homicide detectives handled cases, we also got a healthy dose of courtroom drama centered around the Canadian legal system. The author, Robert Rotenberg, is a criminal lawyer based in Toronto, so I assume that he knows of what he speaks.

I liked this story, but not as much as previous novels. I just didn’t think the plot was as strong, and a lot of my favourite characters weren’t present in this novel. The new character introduced, Ari’s daughter, Alison, was a good character, but I didn’t see the point of introducing a random daughter into his life. It just seemed so out of the blue and highly…unnecessary? Daniel Kennicott was also not as interesting to read about this time around.

The mystery was really well done, and once again, I had no idea who the murderer was until the very end. It was a satisfying plot and a meaty mystery, but it felt a little rushed at times and there were a lot of threads that were left open. I assume they will be further fleshed out in future novels, but it was a little dissatisfying at the end of this book. There were also no courtroom scenes, which are my favourite scenes in the book.

Of course, I will continue to follow this series until the very end, but I hope the next book has the same magic the first four books in the series had.

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

 

Review: Final Girls

Final GirlsFinal Girls
Author: Riley Sager
Publisher: Dutton
Genre/Themes: Thriller, Psychological Thriller
Release Date: July 11th, 2017
Format: Ebook

 

 

Synopsis

Ten years ago, college student Quincy Carpenter went on vacation with five friends and came back alone, the only survivor of a horror movie–scale massacre. In an instant, she became a member of a club no one wants to belong to—a group of similar survivors known in the press as the Final Girls. Lisa, who lost nine sorority sisters to a college dropout’s knife; Sam, who went up against the Sack Man during her shift at the Nightlight Inn; and now Quincy, who ran bleeding through the woods to escape Pine Cottage and the man she refers to only as Him. The three girls are all attempting to put their nightmares behind them, and, with that, one another. Despite the media’s attempts, they never meet.

Now, Quincy is doing well—maybe even great, thanks to her Xanax prescription. She has a caring almost-fiancé, Jeff; a popular baking blog; a beautiful apartment; and a therapeutic presence in Coop, the police officer who saved her life all those years ago. Her memory won’t even allow her to recall the events of that night; the past is in the past.

That is, until Lisa, the first Final Girl, is found dead in her bathtub, wrists slit, and Sam, the second, appears on Quincy’s doorstep. Blowing through Quincy’s life like a whirlwind, Sam seems intent on making Quincy relive the past, with increasingly dire consequences, all of which makes Quincy question why Sam is really seeking her out. And when new details about Lisa’s death come to light, Quincy’s life becomes a race against time as she tries to unravel Sam’s truths from her lies, evade the police and hungry reporters, and, most crucially, remember what really happened at Pine Cottage, before what was started ten years ago is finished.

Review

The final girl trope in horror movies is one of my favourite tropes. I like the idea of one strong, kickass woman taking down the killer and surviving. In fact, this trope was turned into a movie called The Final GirlsThe thing is, you never see what happens to the final girl after the murderer is dead and she begins her new life.

Enter Riley Sager. Riley Sager is a pseudonym for a (famous?) published author, which I found interesting. This book is an imagining of what happens when the final girls, the lone survivors of serial killers and mass murderers, are forced to come to terms with what happened to them. Obviously, there is a lot of psychological trauma that comes after such experiences and this book is about how different women react to horrific events.

I absolutely loved this novel. Everything about it works so well. The characterization in this novel was absolutely fantastic. The main character, Quincy, is trying so hard to be normal and live her life, but she has this hidden trauma that comes to the surface once one of the Final Girls is killed. She’s forced to examine the life she’s built and see just how much she’s lying to herself and everyone around her. I also really liked the character of Sam because she was so different from Quincy. You got to really delve into the lives of the Final Girls and see what kind of people they had become. You saw how differently tragedy can shape a person.

The plot was so fast-paced and exciting. There are so many twists in this book and it feels like a race to the conclusion. Quincy has blocked out the events of Pine Cottage, and the reader realizes things just as Quincy does. There are snippets of the past juxtaposed with the present, which I thought worked really well. I thought I knew where this book was going and I thought I knew exactly what had happened, but I wasn’t even close to guessing the truth. It was a really dark and complex story, but still quite exciting. I think this book could be turned into a really interesting movie if done correctly.

I was focused on the writing of this novel too because I was trying to guess who the author was. While the writing is good, there’s nothing very distinctive about it. It’s perfectly written for a thriller, but this isn’t a literary novel at all.

I think this book is going to be really huge this summer. It has all the markings of a big summer thriller that everyone has rave reviews for. I’m so eager to read anything else this author decides to write. I highly recommend this novel to people who like slasher movies, psychological thrillers, or fast paced thrillers in general.

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

Review: The Child

The ChildThe Child
Author: Fiona Barton
Publisher: Berkley Books
Genre/Themes: Mystery
Release Date: June 27th, 2017
Format: Ebook

 

 

 

Synopsis

As an old house is demolished in a gentrifying section of London, a workman discovers a tiny skeleton, buried for years. For journalist Kate Waters, it’s a story that deserves attention. She cobbles together a piece for her newspaper, but at a loss for answers, she can only pose a question: Who is the Building Site Baby?

As Kate investigates, she unearths connections to a crime that rocked the city decades earlier: A newborn baby was stolen from the maternity ward in a local hospital and was never found. Her heartbroken parents were left devastated by the loss.

But there is more to the story, and Kate is drawn—house by house—into the pasts of the people who once lived in this neighborhood that has given up its greatest mystery. And she soon finds herself the keeper of unexpected secrets that erupt in the lives of three women—and torn between what she can and cannot tell…

Review

I was introduced to Fiona Barton through her debut novel, The Widow, which came out last year. While I enjoyed the story, I didn’t love it. I’m happy to say that her second novel is far more engrossing and interesting than her previous one.

In The Child, the reporter, Kate Waters, from The Widow is back, but the stories aren’t connected at all. There’s no need to read the books in order. I was really intrigued by this premise and I really enjoyed how this book takes place through the different viewpoints of four women. It’s really easy to keep track of the four characters since they have such different mannerisms.

This is a really fast-paced mystery, but I figured out what was going on long before Kate did. That usually never happens for me, but it didn’t decrease my enjoyment of this book at all. I was still really curious to know why and how it happened.

While the characters were all well-written, I didn’t like them all of the time. Just like in the previous book, I was bothered by Kate’s single mindedness about getting the story without considering who she was hurting. I hated Jude from the beginning and I never changed my mind. I pitied Angela, and was bothered by Emma’s weakness. I liked how the characters transformed by the end, but they never felt extremely well-developed. This may be that due to the narrative shifting between them all, we never got to know them very well.

Overall, this was still a highly enjoyable mystery and I know that if people liked The Widow, they will continue to support Fiona Barton by reading her second novel since it brings the same kind of story. It may not be as unique or nuanced as her first book, but overall, I found the reading experience to be better due to it being more fast-paced. I will continue reading all of Fiona Barton’s novels.

I received this book through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This has affected my review in no way.

Review: You Will Know Me

You Will Know MeYou Will Know Me
Author: Megan Abbott
Publisher: Little Brown
Genre/Themes: Contemporary, Mystery
Release Date: July 26th, 2016
Format: Ebook

Synopsis

Katie and Eric Knox have dedicated their lives to their fifteen-year-old daughter Devon, a gymnastics prodigy and Olympic hopeful. But when a violent death rocks their close-knit gymnastics community just weeks before an all-important competition, everything the Knoxes have worked so hard for feels suddenly at risk. As rumors swirl among the other parents, revealing hidden plots and allegiances, Katie tries frantically to hold her family together while also finding herself drawn, irresistibly, to the crime itself, and the dark corners it threatens to illuminate.

Review

Over the years, I’ve heard a lot of amazing things about Megan Abbott’s books. I’ve heard that she’s extremely talented at writing women and their relationships with each other. Due to these recommendations, I had high expectations for You Will Know Me. While I enjoyed the novel a lot, I found myself a little underwhelmed with some of it.

I’ve always had a soft spot for books about gymnastics or dance. There’s something about sports competing against other women that cause really dynamic, interesting relationships to write about. This novel was full of those strange interactions, and I have to agree that Megan Abbott has an innate talent for getting to the heart of characters and their motivations. She’s able to get into the heads of each of her characters and having them respond to situations and process emotions in a really complex, yet genuine way. While I didn’t like any of her characters as people, I understood them and saw what made them the way they were. I really thought the characterization was spectacular.

The part that left me underwhelmed was the plot. I knew the resolution to the mystery aspect pretty quickly, and I could see all the red herrings as well. I know that the point of this book isn’t really about what happened with the death, but how everyone got to that point, but it still bugged me. I wanted more from the plot, I wanted there to be more to the story. I wanted something original, and I didn’t get that with this book.

Since Megan Abbott’s writing is so beautiful and poetic, and her characterization so raw and intense, I know I’ll be reading her other works. For the most part, I really enjoyed this novel, and I recommend it to those who want a book with great characters and sharp writing.

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