Book Review: First Born by Will Dean

Book Review: First Born by Will Dean

I received a free copy of First Born form the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Synopsis:

Sisters. Soulmates. Strangers.

Molly Raven lives a quiet, structured life in London, finding comfort in security and routine. Her identical twin Katie, living in New York, is the exact opposite: outgoing, spontaneous, and adventurous.

But when Molly hears that Katie has died, possibly murdered, she is thrown into unfamiliar territory. As terrifying as it is, she knows she must travel across the ocean and find out what happened. But as she tracks her twin’s final movements, cracks begin to emerge, and she slowly realizes her sister was not who she thought she was and there’s a dangerous web of deceit surrounding the two of them.

My Review:

What a fun ride! First Born was a very fast paced thriller that kept me entertained from first to last page! I already knew going into this one that I like Will Dean’s writing, which makes it extra satisfying to continue enjoying his work! I have read half of his Tuva Moodyson series, and now both of his stand alone thrillers, and the talent this author has is evident. His crime fiction series feels very different from his stand alone thrillers, which I think is very impressive. It shows just how dynamic Dean’s stories can be. If you like crime fiction, check out Dark Pines!

First Born tells the story of twin sisters, one of whom mysteriously turns up dead. The surviving sister does all that she can to find out what happened to her departed twin, and all the loose threads she chases made for a hard to put down book! The pacing was absolutely perfect, it was non stop action and super fast! There were lots of fun twists throughout and the ending is mind bending!

This is one of those books that is so twisted that it’s hard to write a more detailed review without giving too much away, but just know that this was a very fun read! If you like thrillers and sister stories, you will love this one! This one will be on my list for favorite books of 2022!

Book Review: The Binding Room by Nadine Matheson

Book Review: The Binding Room by Nadine Matheson

I received a free digital copy of The Binding Room from the publisher in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

Synopsis:

When Detective Anjelica Henley is called to investigate the murder of a popular preacher in his own church, she discovers a second victim, tortured and tied to a bed in an upstairs room. He is alive, but barely, and his body shows signs of a dark religious ritual.

With a revolving list of suspects and the media spotlight firmly on her, Henley is left with more questions than answers as she attempts to untangle both crimes. But when another body appears, the case takes on a new urgency. Unless she can apprehend the killer, the next victim may just be Henley herself.

Both fans of The Jigsaw Man and readers coming to Matheson’s work for the first time will get swept away in this heart-pounding thriller. Drawing on her experiences as a criminal attorney, Nadine Matheson deftly explores issues of race, class and justice through an action-packed story that will hold you captive until the last terrifying page.

My Review:

The Binding Room was my number one most anticipated book of 2022 so I was ecstatic to get an advanced digital copy from the publisher! Thank you Hanover Square Press! With that being said, I was almost nervous going into this one, hoping and praying that it would live up to the perfection of Matheson’s first book The Jigsaw Man and I am happy to report that it did! It absolutely did!

There are so many elements to gush about with this book and this series. First off, it was a delight to get to spend more time with Inspector Henley and her humble and lovable partner Ramouter. Book two gave even more personal story to these two characters and I loved getting that vulnerable side to each of them and I look forward to reading more about them in future book in the series.

The plot of The Binding Room left me in awe of Matheson’s ability to string together so many loose threads that all add to the plot and the mystery, without any red herrings. Every piece of information has a place somewhere in the mystery. Nothing is left to waste, and I absolutely love that. Nothing annoys me more in a book than to have an author spent copious amounts of time and pages feeding the reader clues that end up having nothing to do with the final outcome. I always feel like I wasted my time with a book like that. The Binding Room obviously does not do that, Matheson is an incredibly talented crime fiction writer and I would compare her mysteries to the Lars Kepler Joona Linna series, in case you need a good reference.

This book is a long one, but it is so worth it. I will always read any crime fiction Matheson puts out! I have a feeling she will soon become one of the household names in the genre!

Book Review: Unmasked by Paul Holes

Book Review: Unmasked by Paul Holes

Thank you to Celadon Books for sending me a free copy, all opinions are my own.

Synopsis:

PAUL HOLES: I started getting involved in what became known as the Golden State Killer case back in 1994. My interest in the case started out more akin to a passing hobby, but the last 10 years, it turned into a raging passion that consumed me. This case was one that I took on — no boss at the Sheriff’s Office assigned it to me, so it was not considered part of my job responsibilities. I had to work on my obsession whenever I could, often at home, taking me away from family. 

While at work, I would sneak out of the office to track down leads, always anxious that my bosses would find out I was halfway across the state when they thought I was in my office. The obsession (after I became attached to some of the killer’s victims and their family members, it turned into an obligation) would take over all my thoughts, both at work and at home. I neglected my family and my own mental health. 

No question, capturing DeAngelo was an accomplishment I’m proud of, but most readers are unaware of the toll that working a case of this magnitude for so long had on me. The book will give readers insight into what I was exposed to during my career, along with the all-consuming nature of the Golden State Killer case, and how those factors really had a negative impact that will stay with me for the rest of my life.

My Review:

This is going to be a short review, because all I can really say is this book is excellent. This is a must read if you like true crime and even more of a must read if you read Michelle McNamara’s I’ll Be Gone In The Dark. That wildly popular true crime book about the Golden State killer mentions Paul Holes. Both McNamara and Holes became friends as they worked together to solve that case: Holes as a detective looking into cold cases and McNamara as an investigative journalist. 

Much of Unmasked covers his time investigating the Golden State killer. But there’s much more. This memoir style book talks candidly about Holes’ start in police work and his journey throughout. He humbly mentions the toll his work has taken on his personal relationships and his family and I really appreciated his reflections about it. 

The book is very well written and very readable, I highly recommend it to all non-fiction, true crime, and crime readers! Thanks to Celadon Books for my free copy!

Book Review: The Long Weekend by Gilly Macmillan

Book Review: The Long Weekend by Gilly Macmillan

I received a free copy of The Long Weekend from the publisher, all opinions are my own.

Synopsis:

Three couples

Two bodies

One secret

Dark Fell Barn is a “perfectly isolated” retreat, or so says its website when Jayne books a reservation for her friends. A quiet place, far removed from the rest of the world, is exactly what they need.

The women arrive for a girls’ night ahead of their husbands. There’s ex-Army Jayne, hardened and serious, but also damaged. Ruth, the driven doctor and new mother who is battling demons of her own. Young Emily, just wed and insecure, the newest addition of this tight-knit band. Missing this year is Edie, who was the glue holding them together, until her husband died suddenly.

But what they hoped would be a relaxing break soon turns to horror. Upon arrival at Dark Fell Barn, the women find a devastating note claiming one of their husbands will be murdered. There are no phones, no cell service to check on their men. Friendships fracture as the situation spins wildly out of control. Betrayal can come in many forms.

This group has kept each other’s secrets for far too long.

My Review:

The Long Weekend is one of the twistiest thrillers I have read in a long time. And it wasn’t just one big bang at the end: there were twists sprinkled all throughout that had me audibly saying “Whaaaat?”

What starts as a very atmospheric long weekend vacation in a remote countryside location turns into a very tense situation with the arrival of a threatening note. But then the backstory builds for each character until you are constantly suspecting everyone, and the finally outcome is downright scary. This is one of those kind of reviews that is hard to write for fear of giving too much away because the book is just that dynamic!

While it did start to feel a little drawn out in the middle, I don’t feel like it made me enjoyed it less, and I will be looking for more from Macmillan in the future! The format of this one might also be a little different for some, although it didn’t bother me once I got into it: There are no chapters. The book is just sectioned off by days in the long weekend. There are spaces between short chunks of text as the POV changes. It really did not bother me once I got used to it, but I thought I would put that out there.

Overall, a very solid and well done thriller! I highly recommend it!

Book Review: I’ll Be You by Janelle Brown

Book Review: I’ll Be You by Janelle Brown

I received a free digital copy of I’ll Be You from the publisher, all opinions are my own.

Synopsis:

“You be me, and I’ll be you,” I whispered. 

As children, Sam and Elli were two halves of a perfect whole: gorgeous identical twins whose parents sometimes couldn’t even tell them apart. They fell asleep to the sound of each other’s breath at night, holding hands in the dark. And once Hollywood discovered them, they became B-list child TV stars, often inhabiting the same role. 

But as adults, their lives have splintered. After leaving acting, Elli reinvented herself as the perfect homemaker: married to a real estate lawyer, living in a house just blocks from the beach. Meanwhile, Sam has never recovered from her failed Hollywood career, or from her addiction to the pills and booze that have propped her up for the last fifteen years. 

Sam hasn’t spoken to her sister since her destructive behavior finally drove a wedge between them. So when her father calls out of the blue, Sam is shocked to learn that Elli’s life has been in turmoil: her husband moved out, and Elli just adopted a two-year-old girl. Now she’s stopped answering her phone and checked in to a mysterious spa in Ojai. Is her sister just decompressing, or is she in trouble? Could she have possibly joined a cult? As Sam works to connect the dots left by Elli’s baffling disappearance, she realizes that the bond between her and her sister is more complicated than she ever knew. 

My Review:

Janelle Brown is carving her own path in the thriller world, she writes novels that stand apart from other more gimmicky popcorn thrillers. I’ll Be You is another wonderful book under her belt. This one blends a story of twin sister, their lives both together and apart, both in the past and the present. The paths these two sisters have forged leads to some poor choices, life mishaps, and then: one gigantically horrible mistake. While each sister is guilty of her own misdeeds, they aren’t what you would expect.

I enjoyed getting to read about these sisters and see how they were there for each other, whether they were together or apart. I found their relationship to be very realistic; that is to say, it was far from idyllic or perfect. The first half of the book did start to lull just a bit for me, but the second half I couldn’t read fast enough. I appreciated the honestly, the rawness and the thrilling elements of this book. I want to call it a literary thriller, because it goes much deeper than you would expect for the genre. I highly recommend this book and others by Brown.

Book Review: The Book of Cold Cases

Book Review: The Book of Cold Cases

Thank you to Berkley for having me on the blog tour for The Book of Cold Cases and for providing me a free digital copy of the book! All opinions are my own.

Synopsis:

In 1977, Claire Lake, Oregon, was shaken by the Lady Killer Murders: Two men, seemingly randomly, were murdered with the same gun, with strange notes left behind. Beth Greer was the perfect suspect – a rich, eccentric 23-year-old woman, seen fleeing one of the crimes. But she was acquitted, and she retreated to the isolation of her mansion.

Oregon, 2017Shea Collins is a receptionist, but by night, she runs a true crime website, the Book of Cold Cases – a passion fueled by the attempted abduction she escaped as a child. When she meets Beth by chance, Shea asks her for an interview. To Shea’s surprise, Beth says yes.

They meet regularly at Beth’s mansion, though Shea is never comfortable there. Items move when she’s not looking, and she could swear she’s seen a girl outside the window. The allure of learning the truth about the case from the smart, charming Beth is too much to resist, but even as they grow closer, Shea senses something isn’t right. Is she making friends with a manipulative murderer, or are there other dangers lurking in the darkness of the Greer house?

My Review:

The Book of Cold Cases is my favorite by Simone St. James yet! It was spooky, mysterious, inspiring, emotional, and all other manner of good things. It was perfectly balanced and paced and just an all around great book!

This one is a combination of past and present times lines. When books are set up this way, sometimes one timeline stands out over the other. Or, my least favorite, one gets most of the focus. Neither of those scenarios was the case with The Book of Cold Cases. The present timeline gets built up enough in the beginning that when the past timelines begins, you need to know what happened to make sense of the plot in the present and both timelines equally play a part in the story and are well balanced.

I also got a lot of female empowerment from this book, which I really enjoyed and I liked that the main character Shea, while not exactly thriving, wasn’t the typical drunk and unreliable narrator. Beth was equally strong. Unconventional, but strong! I loved them both.

I felt like the plotting in this novel was very well done, and while it felt very readable, by the end I was so impressed with how intricate and detailed it all ended up being. I liked St. James’ first two books, but I loved this one! This is the one that has made me a die-hard fan! Can’t wait for whatever she comes up with next!

Book Review: The Heights by Louise Candlish

Book Review: The Heights by Louise Candlish

Synopsis:

The Heights is a tall, slender apartment building among warehouses in London. Its roof terrace is so discreet, you wouldn’t know it existed if you weren’t standing at the window of the flat directly opposite. But you are. And that’s when you see a man up there—a man you’d recognize anywhere. He may be older now, but it’s definitely him.

But that can’t be because he’s been dead for over two years. You know this for a fact.

Because you’re the one who killed him.

My Review:

Talk about slow burn thriller done right! This is the second novel by Candlish that I’ve read (I read last years The Other Passenger) and I think I liked this one more! The whole premise is unique, a woman spots the man she had paid to be killed, and the backstory combined with the present slowly feed the reader the whole sordid tale. The characters played off of one another well and added to the mystery and suspense.

And surprisingly, this thriller gave me some deeper thoughts to ponder such as the relationships between mothers and sons and the plight of the tighter mom. And I always love when a book makes me wonder: what would I do in this situation? I felt like Candlish strongly developed not only the characters and the plot, but the way each supported the other. The ending was a little abrupt, but I did enjoy the book within a book aspect.

Book Review: The Other Family by Wendy Corsi Staub

Book Review: The Other Family by Wendy Corsi Staub

Synopsis:

It’s the perfect home for the perfect family: pretty Nora Howell, her handsome husband, their two teenage daughters, and lovable dog. As California transplants making a fresh start in Brooklyn, they expected to live in a shoebox, but the brownstone has a huge kitchen, lots of light, and a backyard. The catch: its previous residents were victims of a grisly triple homicide that remains unsolved.

Soon, peculiar things begin happening. The pug is nosing around like a bloodhound. Nora unearths a long-hidden rusty box in the flowerbed. Oldest daughter Stacey, obsessed with the family murdered in their house, pokes into the bloody past and becomes convinced that a stranger is watching the house. Watching them.

She’s right. But one of the Howells will recognize his face. Because one of them has a secret that will blindside the others with a truth that lies shockingly close to home–and to this one’s terrifying history.

My Review:

The Other Family is a nice, easy thriller. Not too suspenseful, not too unrealistic, no eye rolling twists, nothing too graphic or violent. All around an easy to read, easy to enjoy thriller. I liked the buildup of backstory and getting to know each of the characters in this family that moves to New York to try and start over. Add in some quirky neighbors and there was enough going on that I was constantly guessing about what all the underlying secrets were and who was keeping them.

This would honestly make a great beach read, because while it was engaging enough to keep me entertained from start to finish, it was also easy to pick up and put down when needed.

I received a free copy of The Other Family from the publisher, all opinions are my own.

Book Review: The Appeal by Janice Hallett

Book Review: The Appeal by Janice Hallett

I received a free copy of The Appeal from the publisher, all opinions are my own.

Synopsis:

ONE MURDER. FIFTEEN SUSPECTS.
CAN YOU UNCOVER THE TRUTH?

There is a mystery to solve in the sleepy town of Lower Lockwood. It starts with the arrival of two secretive newcomers, and ends with a tragic death. Law students Charlotte and Femi have been assigned to the case. Someone has already been sent to prison for murder, but they suspect that they are innocent. And that far darker secrets have yet to be revealed…

Throughout the amateur dramatics society’s disastrous staging of All My Sons and the shady charity appeal for a little girl’s cancer treatment, the murderer hid in plain sight. Will Charlotte and Femi solve the case? Will you?

My Review:

This was one juicy and fun whodunnit! I am not usually one for the drama, but The Appeal was full of it and I soaked up every page! This is an epistolary novel, told completely through letters between characters. To add a modern twist to that style, The Appeal is a mix of text messages, emails, voicemails and handwritten notes. I found this very entertaining to read and often humorous when one character would say something to another, then send a completely different message to someone else. You get to see just how the rumor mills turn.

Just as the synopsis states, all of the evidence is laid out before you, so you actually get the chance to solve the case yourself as the reader. The Appeal is so unique and perfect for any mystery lover. I honestly couldn’t read this one fast enough, however the last 30 pages or so kind of slowed down as the two law students are conversing over their thoughts on the case and a lot of information is restated and rehashed. The final outcome is very good, however, it’s scandalous but also completely believable and the evidence was there all along. I would recommend this book to just about anyone, I think many readers would enjoy it.

Book Review: As The Wicked Watch by Tamron Hall

Book Review: As The Wicked Watch by Tamron Hall

I received a free copy of As The Wicked Watch from the publisher, all opinions are my own.

Synopsis:

When crime reporter Jordan Manning leaves her hometown in Texas to take a job at a television station in Chicago, she’s one step closer to her dream: a coveted anchor chair on a national network.

Jordan is smart and aggressive, with unabashed star-power, and often the only woman of color in the newsroom. Her signature? Arriving first on the scene—in impractical designer stilettos. Armed with a master’s degree in forensic science and impeccable instincts, Jordan has been able to balance her dueling motivations: breaking every big story—and giving a voice to the voiceless.

From her time in Texas, she’s covered the vilest of human behaviors but nothing has prepared her for Chicago. Jordan is that rare breed of a journalist who can navigate a crime scene as well as she can a newsroom—often noticing what others tend to miss. Again and again, she is called to cover the murders of Black women, many of them sexually assaulted, most brutalized, and all of them quickly forgotten.

All until Masey James—the story that Jordan just can’t shake, despite all efforts. A 15-year-old girl whose body was found in an abandoned lot, Masey has come to represent for Jordan all of the frustration and anger that her job often forces her to repress. Putting the rest of her work and her fraying personal life aside, Jordan does everything she can to give the story the coverage it desperately requires, and that a missing Black child would so rarely get.

There’s a serial killer on the loose, Jordan believes, and he’s hiding in plain sight.

My Review:

I received a free copy of As The Wicked Watch from the publisher, all opinions are my own.

Well color me surprised, this novel was better than I expected! Sometimes when people who were on TV before they became authors, their writing can feel like it was meant for TV. Do you know what I mean? But As The Wicked Watch felt every bit the thrilling suspense novel of a more seasoned author!

I didn’t know who Tamron Hall was before picking this up (I am not a TV watcher) but I learned that she is a TV journalist and she brought all of her expertise into this novel. I really enjoyed reading this mystery from a journalists’ point of view. If what she wrote is true to the job, media journalists put way more effort into their work than I previously thought! The journalist point of view also allowed for much more focus on the families of the victims, which I feel like isn’t as much of a focus in other police procedural type novels, and I really liked that fresh take.

The main character, journalist Jordan Manning was extremely well developed. At times, it did feel like a little too much: Ms. Hall really loves this character! But I think this novel has set up the rest of the series really well. I feel like I really know Jordan and I look forward to reading more in this series for sure!

Finally, I was very happy that Hall included so much information, reflection and anecdotes on being a Black woman, being a Black woman in the work force and in the public eye, and the comparison of how crimes involving Black people are not focused on nearly as critically as crimes against white people. This is a perspective that needs to be continually brought up until we start to see some change. I appreciated that nuanced way that Hall wove these threads throughout the entire novel and appreciated learning new insights myself.