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.

Book Review: What You Never Knew by Jessica Hamilton

Book Review: What You Never Knew by Jessica Hamilton

Thank you to Crooked Lane books for providing me with a free digital copy of What You Never Knew in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

Synopsis:

Idyllic Avril lsland, owned by the Bennett family, where their hundred-year-old cottage sat nestled in acres of forest. Forty-year-old June Bennett believed that the island had been sold after the summer of her father’s disappearance when she was only twelve years old. It’s months after the shocking death of her older sister May in a fatal car accident, that June finds out that the cottage was never sold. Avril Island is still owned by the Bennett family and now it’s hers.

Still reeling from the grief of losing her sister, June travels back to Avril lsland in search of answers. As she digs, she learns that the townspeople believe her father may in fact have been murdered rather than having abandoned his family in the dead of night, as she was led to believe by her mother. And that’s when she begins to notice strange things happening on the island–missing family possessions showing up, doors locking on their own, unexplained noises in the night, shadowy figures disappearing into the woods. It takes June no time at all to realize that her childhood summers at Avril Island were not at all what they had seemed to be.

My Review:

I am a sucker for an atmospheric novel and this one hit the spot. June’s childhood summer cottage is on it’s own private island, in the middle of a lake. Having been closed up for 30 years, she heads back to see what is left of it, and also to find some answers to her unconventional upbringing. What ensues is a story about a woman starting over, finding herself, and also dredging up dark secrets from the past.

I really enjoyed this one, and it was a quick read. The author did a good job of building up the characters of this unusual family, especially considering all but one of them are dead. The chapters alternate between June and her sister May as a spirit. However, I don’t feel like that gave it a supernatural feel, it was more like the reader could feel just how close the two sisters were, and I felt that those parts were very well done. The mystery elements adding a nice air of suspense that of course I loved, and the twist at the end was fun, but not all that surprising.

However, I don’t feel like this one was correctly marketed. It’s out there as a dark and ominous thriller. This was not a thriller. Yes, there is a mystery surrounding June’s past and there are some shady characters, but I felt like the focus of this book was more on June’s recovery and how she is dealing with the grief of loosing her beloved sister. I did like the book, but if you are looking for a fast paced thriller, this is not the one. But if you are in the mood for something engaging but a little lighter, you might really like What You Never Knew.

Eight Perfect Murders by Peter Swanson

Eight Perfect Murders by Peter Swanson

FA81249A-555B-446A-826C-AD78FC55685EWhat you could almost call a ‘cozy mystery’, Eight Perfect Murders is a clever whodunit that I greatly enjoyed reading.

Synopsis:

Years ago, bookseller and mystery aficionado Malcolm Kershaw compiled a list of the genre’s most unsolvable murders, those that are almost impossible to crack—which he titled “Eight Perfect Murders”—chosen from among the best of the best including Agatha Christie’s A. B. C. Murders, Patricia Highsmith’s Strangers on a Train, Ira Levin’s Death Trap, A. A. Milne’s Red House Mystery, Anthony Berkeley Cox’s Malice Aforethought, James M. Cain’s Double Indemnity, John D. Macdonald’s The Drowner, and Donna Tartt’s A Secret History.

But no one is more surprised than Mal, now the owner of the Old Devils Bookstore in Boston, when an FBI agent comes knocking on his door one snowy day in February. She’s looking for information about a series of unsolved murders that look eerily similar to the killings on Mal’s old list. And the FBI agent isn’t the only one interested in this bookseller who spends almost every night at home reading. The killer is out there, watching his every move—a diabolical threat who knows way too much about Mal’s personal history, especially the secrets he’s never told anyone, even his recently deceased wife.

To protect himself, Mal begins looking into possible suspects . . . and sees a killer in everyone around him. But Mal doesn’t count on the investigation leaving a trail of death in its wake. Suddenly, a series of shocking twists leaves more victims dead—and the noose around Mal’s neck grows so tight he might never escape.

My Review:

What book lover doesn’t love a book about books!!?? No one, right? This mystery that revolves around a bookseller’s list of the best eight murders in mystery novels was such a unique take on all of the suspense novels out there right now and I loved it. This one made you think.  It was a very cerebral experience reading this book because the characters are all playing mind games.  There are no gruesome scenes, no unbelievable plot twists.  Just some very smart thinkers piecing clues together.

This was not what I was expecting, but I was pleasantly surprised!  I have only read one other book by Swanson, last year’s Before She Knew Him, so I can’t attest to his style of writing just yet, but I can say that this book was nothing like the suspenseful Before She Knew Him.  If you are looking for a thriller like that, you won’t find it here.  But Eight Perfect Murders is a fantastic classic mystery with strong Agatha Christie vibes.  I loved it and definitely plan to read more from Swanson in the future!