Book Review: Surrender the Dead by John Burley

Book Review: Surrender the Dead by John Burley

Thank you to William Morrow books for sending me a free copy of Surrender the Dead in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

Synopsis:

When Erin Reece left Wolf Point fifteen years ago after graduating high school, she’d planned to never set foot in her childhood hometown again. But an urgent phone call from her father’s doctor leaves Erin with no choice but to return to a place filled with painful memories and wounds that never closed. Two decades ago, people in Wolf Point started disappearing without a trace—including Erin’s mother—and no explanation was ever found.

It’s been years since the last disappearance, but the town is still steeped in suspicion and haunted by the ghosts of the missing. No one is thrilled to see Erin back, including her former best friend, Robbie, who has changed from a spirited, fearless boy to a reclusive shut-in.

Then a body is discovered, buried in a makeshift grave for years . . . on the Reece family’s land. The police reopen their investigation, and the evidence against Erin’s father is damning. After such a long time without answers, the community wants justice. It’s up to Erin to clear her father’s name, but the path to the truth will force her to unearth long-buried secrets and confront a terrible evil. Because in Wolf Point, everyone knows more than they are letting on . . . 

My Review:

Sometimes when a book is described as a slow burn, I think, “Ok, it’s slow paced, I won’t like it”. I always prefer a faster paced book, and can only handle a slower novel if it’s done right. Surrender the Dead is one that is done right! And it is causing me to realize that people use the phrase “slow burn” too frequently and inaccurately. In order to really call a book a slow burn novel, it has to have that tension simmering just below the surface. It has to keep you invested and wanting to keep reading. Maybe it doesn’t move at break neck speed, but you can just tell everything is all building up to something cacophonous!

That was exactly the case with Surrender the Dead. This was one of those books that I carried around with me, trying to sneak in a chapter between every adult responsibility I had, I just couldn’t put it down! A lot of back story gets filled in between the present day chapters, and some chapters were outright terrifying as they described some of the abductions that occurred in the small town of Wolf Point 20 years prior. But the back and forth of timelines wasn’t confusing and I had no problem following along.

The characters were well developed and gave me a sense that Burley really cares about his characters and what happens to them. The relationships were very natural and endearing and added such emotional depth to this thriller, which is not common in the genre. It was heartfelt and thought provoking and a really nice change of pace for me. The ending was wild, full of twists and so much fun! I highly recommend this one!

Book Review: Every Last Fear by Alex Finlay

Book Review: Every Last Fear by Alex Finlay

Thank you to the publisher for providing me with a free digital copy of Every Last Fear in exchange for my hoenst review. All opinions are my own.

Synopsis:

“They found the bodies on a Tuesday.” So begins this twisty and breathtaking novel that traces the fate of the Pine family, a thriller that will both leave you on the edge of your seat and move you to tears.

After a late night of partying, NYU student Matt Pine returns to his dorm room to devastating news: nearly his entire family—his mom, his dad, his little brother and sister—have been found dead from an apparent gas leak while vacationing in Mexico. The local police claim it was an accident, but the FBI and State Department seem far less certain—and they won’t tell Matt why.

The tragedy makes headlines everywhere because this isn’t the first time the Pine family has been thrust into the media spotlight. Matt’s older brother, Danny—currently serving a life sentence for the murder of his teenage girlfriend Charlotte—was the subject of a viral true crime documentary suggesting that Danny was wrongfully convicted. Though the country has rallied behind Danny, Matt holds a secret about his brother that he’s never told anyone: the night Charlotte was killed Matt saw something that makes him believe his brother is guilty of the crime.

When Matt returns to his small hometown to bury his parents and siblings, he’s faced with a hostile community that was villainized by the documentary, a frenzied media, and memories he’d hoped to leave behind forever. Now, as the deaths in Mexico appear increasingly suspicious and connected to Danny’s case, Matt must unearth the truth behind the crime that sent his brother to prison—putting his own life in peril—and forcing him to confront his every last fear.

Told through multiple points-of-view and alternating between past and present, Alex Finlay’s Every Last Fear is not only a page-turning thriller, it’s also a poignant story about a family managing heartbreak and tragedy, and living through a fame they never wanted.

Review:

Over the last few years I have become much more selective on the thrillers I pick up. There are just so many out there, yet they all seem to contain many of the same elements: husbands and wives who lie and cheat, murder for money, or any other nature of scandalous behavior you can cook up. In my opinion, they tend to be a little over the top and unrealistic for my liking.

So the fact that I decided to pick up Every Last Fear should already be an indication to you that it might be a cut above the rest. And boy did it deliver! I loved the combination of small town scandal, mixed with the NYU student trying to leave the past in the past. This novel woven an intricate web to develop a plot that left me guessing until the end.

Matt and his NYU friends added a nice heartwarming component to what would otherwise be a stone cold murder mystery. It was interesting to see Matt grapple with what had happened in the past and with the murder of his family in the present, and seeing how he was trying to grow from it. The support of his motley group of friends was endearing and a nice personal touch.

I also enjoyed the past and present timelines, as well as the multiple viewpoints. Sometimes in books that do that, I tend to crave one particular viewpoint over another but that wasn’t the case with Every Last Fear. It actually felt necessary to hear from everyone to get the full scope of what was going on. The ending was a giant bombshell that pulled everything together! I really enjoyed this one and highly recommend it!

Book Review: The Dead Season by Tessa Wegert

Book Review: The Dead Season by Tessa Wegert

The Dead Season by Tessa Wegert

This is the second installment in the Shana Merchant detective series, and while it was extremely different from the first book, I enjoyed this one just as much!

Synopsis:

After leaving the NYPD following her abduction by serial killer Blake Bram, Shana Merchant hoped for a fresh start in the Thousand Islands of Upstate New York. Her former tormentor has other plans. Shana and Bram share more than just a hometown, and he won’t let her forget it. When the decades-old skeleton of Shana’s estranged uncle is uncovered, Bram issues a challenge: Return home to Vermont and solve the cold case, or the blood he spills next will be on her hands.

As Shana interviews members of her family and the community, mining for secrets that could help her solve her uncle’s murder, she begins to realize how little she remembers of her childhood. And when Bram grows impatient and kidnaps again, leaving a trail of clues Shana alone can understand, she knows his new victim will only survive if she wins the psychopath’s twisted game. In order to solve one mystery, Shana must wade into her murky past to unravel another.

My Review:

I think the best way to come at this review is to tie in the first book in this series Death in the Family. In Death, Shana and Tim head to a remote island in New York’s Thousand Island region to investigate a murder in the only house on the island. The family who lives there have gathered for a reunion, and one of the members turns up missing under suspicious circumstances. A locked room type mystery, inspired by Agatha Christies’ And Then There Were None, I extremely enjoyed it, and also felt similar vibes to the movie Knives Out (but without the humor).

So why the need to mention Death in the Family first? There’s a good answer for that: Shana is suffering from PTSD during that novel, from an abduction shortly before the investigation. Her PTSD symptoms flare in the isolated setting and she makes some poor choices during the investigation but is thankfully rescued by her colleague Tim.

The circumstances of Shana’s abduction are only hinted at in Death, but in The Dead Season, they are addressed head on. In this second novel, Shana is on leave in order to recuperate her mental state. When she gets news that the remains of her long lost uncle are recovered in her hometown, she makes the drive back home to help the local police investigate. However, she quickly realizes that her abductor, who was never caught, has lured her there to toy with her.

I absolutely loved this set up! A more traditional approach would be to start a series learning about the main detective, but I loved that Wegert set up a little mystery surrounding Shanna first, and didn’t reveal her dark past until the second book. Some of the best detective novels have strong, stoic characters whose troubled pasts always make them better at their jobs. This series does just that, and after just two books in the series, I am fully vested!

In The Dead Season, all the characters in Shana’s hometown are examined as possible suspects, and I feel that this was really well by Wegert. Rather than introduce one character after another to the point where the reader can’t keep them straight, she introduces just one or two at a time and weaves them into the story seamlessly. I honestly didn’t know who to suspect and was surprised to find out who really had killed Shana’s uncle 20 years before.

I highly recommend this series and cannot wait to see where it goes from here! But a fair warning: The Dead Season ends in a major cliffhanger! Happy reading!

Good Girls Lie by J.T.Ellison

Good Girls Lie by J.T.Ellison

B140B5D4-7460-47E0-99D5-9D13F94763D6Thank you MIRA books for sending me a free copy of Good Girls Lie in exchange for my honest review.  All opinions are my own. 

Synopsis:

Perched atop a hill in the tiny town of Marchburg, Virginia, The Goode School is a prestigious prep school known as a Silent Ivy. The boarding school of choice for daughters of the rich and influential, it accepts only the best and the brightest. Its elite status, long-held traditions and honor code are ideal for preparing exceptional young women for brilliant futures at Ivy League universities and beyond.

But a stranger has come to Goode, and this ivy has turned poisonous.

In a world where appearances are everything, as long as students pretend to follow the rules, no one questions the cruelties of the secret societies or the dubious behavior of the privileged young women who expect to get away with murder.

When a popular student is found dead, the truth cannot be ignored. Rumors suggest she was struggling with a secret that drove her to suicide.

But look closely…because there are truths and there are lies, and then there is everything that really happened.

My Review:

This was a fun thriller packed with just as much drama as you would expect for a story about an exclusive all girls prep school. Good Girls Lie is full of well developed characters and will keep you guessing until the end. In my opinion, JT Ellison is a master at building a realistic thriller plot, which is a refreshing relief compared to the endless list of one-size-fits-all unrealistic domestic drama thrillers out there these days.

There is a lot going on in this novel: catty school girls, a orphan in their midst, high stakes education, secret societies.  The many facets of this story made it a fun and compulsive read. What makes Good Girls Lie special is the ever undulating light the main character, Ash, is shining in.  The reader doesn’t know whether to like her or not, to trust her or not. I was guessing until the end and the last two pages tied up every single lose thread. I greatly enjoyed this one and read it fairly quickly as well. I recommend to it anyone who likes suspenseful reads and novels with a good amount of drama.

The Killer In Me by Olivia Kiernan

The Killer In Me by Olivia Kiernan

BA7B5157-31A4-48C6-BC60-84A782B2A113Thank you to Dutton books for sending me a free copy of The Killer In Me in exchange for my honest review.  All opinions are my own. 

Synopsis:

Murder convict Sean Hennessy is released from prison to return to a seaside community in Dublin. He has always professed his innocence. But within months of his release, two bodies appear in the peaceful suburb of Clontarf.

With a TV documentary pushing the public’s sympathies in Hennessy’s direction, the original evidence against him is called into question and Detective Frankie Sheehan finds herself doubting her original analysis of the case.

But when another, fresh victim connects the two cases and the threat closes in around her family, Sheehan must look deep within herself in order to spot the killer who hides in plain sight.

My Review:

Wow! The Killer In Me is an extremely well done detective thriller. Compared to the first novel in this series, TKIM shows off how much Kiernan has grown as a writer. What I liked most about this novel is how much more I was able to connect with the characters. All of the characters were realistic and well developed, so much so that I was rooting for a few of them to pull through and be ok.

Police and detective procedural mysteries tend to have lots of harsh and gruesome crimes. The crimes in this book were no different, yet the reader has the chance to look at the personal reasons and choices that led a person to commit such heinous acts. I was actually reminded slightly of Inspector Gamache in the Louise Penny mystery series, who is always looking for the passion behind the crime as a means to solve them.

The ending of this book was fantastic, I didn’t see it coming yet it made total sense! Multiple characters and storylines all came crashing into each other so perfectly, I felt like I should have seen it from the start. I highly recommend this book to anyone who likes crime fiction! ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️