Review: They Never Learn by Layne Fargo

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

From the author of the “raw, ingenious, and utterly fearless” (Wendy Walker, USA TODAY bestselling author) Temper comes a dynamic psychological thriller about two women who give bad men exactly what they deserve.

Scarlett Clark is an exceptional English professor. But she’s even better at getting away with murder.

Every year, she searches for the worst man at Gorman University and plots his well-deserved demise. Thanks to her meticulous planning, she’s avoided drawing attention to herself—but as she’s preparing for her biggest kill yet, the school starts probing into the growing body count on campus. Determined to keep her enemies close, Scarlett insinuates herself into the investigation and charms the woman in charge, Dr. Mina Pierce. Everything’s going according to her master plan…until she loses control with her latest victim, putting her secret life at risk of exposure.

Meanwhile, Gorman student Carly Schiller is just trying to survive her freshman year. Finally free of her emotionally abusive father, all Carly wants is to focus on her studies and fade into the background. Her new roommate has other ideas. Allison Hadley is cool and confident—everything Carly wishes she could be—and the two girls quickly form an intense friendship. So when Allison is sexually assaulted at a party, Carly becomes obsessed with making the attacker pay…and turning her fantasies about revenge into a reality.

Featuring Layne Fargo’s trademark “propulsive writing style” (Kirkus Reviews) and “sinister, of the moment” (Chicago Review of Books) suspense, They Never Learn is a feminist serial killer story perfect for fans of Killing Eve and Chelsea Cain.

I received a copy of this title via NetGalley. It does not impact my review.

They Never Learn publishes October 13, 2020. 

I’ve been struggling lately to find books that keep my attention and when I picked up They Never Learn I didn’t have very high expectations. So it took me completely by surprise by how addictive and compelling this story turned out to be.

There have been a lot of #MeToo type of stories to come out over the last couple of years. While it’s obviously an important topic, I have to say I’ve been getting a little bored with it. None of these books have really brought anything new to the table and it feels like reading the same thing over and over again. The Never Learn definitely took a different spin on the subject. A serial killer who targets sexual predators? It was like a feminist Dexter and I was here for it.

The chapters alternate POVs between Scarlett, a college professor/serial killer, and Carly, a college Freshman. I thought the alternating POVs were done pretty well. The story was very character driven and I felt like I got to know them pretty well. There were several twists throughout the book and the first one actually ended up surprising me. I felt a little mad at myself for not figuring it out earlier – in hindsight you’ll definitely see the clues – but I like that it surprised me because it doesn’t happen that often these days. The rest of the twists are a little more subtle and not as shocking, but I thought they were pretty well done. I don’t feel like I can say too much about how the story plays out because it will be too spoilery.

Overall, I really enjoyed They Never Learn. I always enjoy a good serial killer story and I especially liked how it made a #MeToo storyline a little more fresh. While the characters weren’t always very likable, they were compelling and I was invested in seeing how things would turn out for them. This was my first book by Fargo, but I’m definitely going to go back and read her debut book and will look forward to whatever she does next.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

Review: We Are All the Same in the Dark by Julia Heaberlin

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

The discovery of a girl abandoned by the side of the road threatens to unearth the long-buried secrets of a Texas town’s legendary cold case in this superb, atmospheric novel from the internationally bestselling author of Black-Eyed Susans.

It’s been a decade since Trumanell Branson disappeared, leaving only a bloody handprint behind. Her pretty face still hangs like a watchful queen on the posters on the walls of the town’s Baptist church, the police station, and in the high school. They all promise the same thing: We will find you. Meanwhile, her brother, Wyatt, lives as a pariah in the desolation of the old family house, cleared of wrongdoing by the police but tried and sentenced in the court of public opinion and in a new documentary about the crime.

When Wyatt finds a lost girl dumped in a field of dandelions, making silent wishes, he believes she is a sign. The town’s youngest cop, Odette Tucker, believes she is a catalyst that will ignite a seething town still waiting for its own missing girl to come home. But Odette can’t look away. She shares a wound that won’t close with the mute, one-eyed mystery girl. And she is haunted by her own history with the missing Tru.

Desperate to solve both cases, Odette fights to save the lost girl in the present and to dig up the shocking truth about a fateful night in the past–the night her friend disappeared, the night that inspired her to become a cop, the night that wrote them all a role in the town’s dark, violent mythology.

In this twisty psychological thriller, Julia Heaberlin paints unforgettable portraits of a woman and a girl who redefine perceptions of physical beauty and strength.

I received a copy of this title via NetGalley. It does not impact my review. 

We Are All the Same in the Dark publishes on August 11, 2020. 

We Are All the Same in the Dark started off so strong for me. The writing was addictive, the atmosphere was tense, and the mystery was intriguing. Unfortunately, it lost steam for me about halfway through. It wasn’t a bad book, but it ended up disappointing me after giving me such high hopes in the beginning.

The story was told in five parts and through three different POVs. I really enjoyed the first two parts and POVs. As I mentioned, I was really interested by the mystery and I thought Heaberlin did a great job of keeping the tension high. I found both Wyatt and Odette really compelling characters and was intrigued by their shared past and lasting connection. And then Part Three happened. It’s hard to talk about without revealing spoilers, but I found the transition to be really jarring. I didn’t really like that the third narrator got about the last half of the book. I thought the pace slowed down and the story started to drag. I also thought the identity of the murderer became pretty obvious long before the reveal.

I wanted a tense mystery/thriller and I while the story did start out that way, I felt like it shifted almost more into Women’s Fiction for a great deal of the book. The heart of the story are three strong, but damaged women. They are all special snowflakes type of ladies, that are are beautiful and clever and brave, but have been damaged physically, psychologically, or both. A lot of time is spent on what happened to them in their youth and how they cope. I wouldn’t necessarily say that I didn’t care about that, but I thought it would have been better placed in a different genre. I felt like the message got in the way of the development of the mystery sometimes and made the pace drag.

Overall, We Are All the Same in the Dark ended up being just ok for me. It started off really strong, but seemed to lose focus of the mystery and started to drag about halfway through. I think if you don’t mind a heavy handed lesson being handed out with your thrillers, you will enjoy this one a little more than I did.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3 Stars

Review: The Wife Who Knew Too Much by Michele Campbell

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

From Michele Campbell, the bestselling author of It’s Always the Husband comes a new blockbuster thriller in The Wife Who Knew Too Much.

Tabitha Girard had her heart broken years ago by Connor Ford. He was preppy and handsome. She was a pool girl at his country club. Their affair should have been a summer fling. But it meant everything to Tabitha.

Years later, Connor comes back into Tabitha’s life—older, richer, and desperately unhappy. He married for money, a wealthy, neurotic, controlling woman whom he never loved. He has always loved Tabitha.

When Connor’s wife Nina takes her own life, he’s free. He can finally be with Tabitha. Nina’s home, Windswept, can be theirs. It seems to be a perfect ending to a fairy tale romance that began so many years ago. But then, Tabitha finds a diary. “I’m writing this to raise an alarm in the event of my untimely death,” it begins. “If I die unexpectedly, it was foul play, and Connor was behind it. Connor—and her.”

Who is Connor Ford? Why did he marry Nina? Is Tabitha his true love, or a convenient affair? As the police investigate Nina’s death, is she a convenient suspect?

As Tabitha is drawn deeper into the dark glamour of a life she is ill-prepared for, it becomes clear to her that what a wife knows can kill her.

I received a copy of this title via NetGalley. It does not impact my review.

The Wife Who Knew Too Much publishes July 28, 2020.

I really enjoyed Michele Campbell’s last book, A Stranger on the Beach, so I was pretty excited to get my hands on The Wife Who Knew Too Much. While the story didn’t go quite the way I had expected, it still had that addictive writing that kept me completely hooked.

In the beginning, we get both Nina and Tabitha’s POV. I liked the flashbacks to how both of their relationships started with Connor and then to the events leading up to Nina’s death. I kind of wished Nina didn’t die so soon because I wanted to spend more time with her. I liked that both women seemed sympathetic, but also a little untrustworthy. It kept me on my toes and I liked that.

The story didn’t quite unfold in the way I thought it would. The synopsis mentions Tabitha finding Nina’s diary warning of her untimely death, but that doesn’t actually happen to about the 80% mark. The book was a lot less gothic, claustrophobic drama than I expected. There was perhaps a little too much time spent of Tabitha just doing whatever Connor told her and not being nearly as suspicious as she should be. I also came up with my theory pretty early on in the story, which ended up being correct. Thankfully, the writing was still really addictive and compelling and I couldn’t stop reading it.

Overall, I enjoyed The Wife Who Knew Too Much. I really enjoyed the writing and the multiple POVs and timelines. The ending went in a slightly different direction than I was expecting, which disappointed me, but I don’t think most readers will be upset by it. If you’ve enjoyed Campbell’s other books, I definitely recommend this one. I look forward to whatever she writes next.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3.5 Stars

Review: The Vacation by T.M. Logan

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

In The Vacation, a captivating thriller from T. M. Logan, the bestselling author of Lies and 29 Seconds, four lifelong friends on a luxurious vacation come face-to-face with an explosive secret.

It was supposed to be the perfect vacation, dreamed up by Kate as the ideal way to turn 40: four best friends and their husbands and children, spending a week in a luxurious villa under the blazing sunshine of Provence.

But there is trouble in paradise.

Kate suspects that her husband is having an affair—and that the other woman is one of her best friends. One of these women is willing to sacrifice years of friendship and destroy her family. But which one?

As Kate closes in on the truth in the stifling Mediterranean heat, she realizes—too late—that the stakes are far higher than she ever imagined. And someone in the villa may be prepared to kill to keep their lies hidden.

I received a copy of this title via NetGalley. It does not impact my review.

The Vacation will be published July 21, 2020. 

Addictive writing, a steady pace, and a teasingly revealed mystery made The Vacation an unputdownable read for me.

The characters were all mostly awful people, but I felt invested in finding out what happened with them. Kate has been noticing that her husband has been acting off recently and when she stumbles upon messages on his phone, she suspects he’s having an affair with one of her three best friends, all of whom they are on vacation with. She spends a lot of time trying to figure out which of her friends is lying to her and there are suspicious things about each of them. It doesn’t help that her husband, Sean, remains cagey when she eventually tries to confront him. Thrown into the mix are the group’s children and a subplot you might be tempted not to pay too much attention to, but should. All of the children were even more awful than their parents, with the exception of sweet, innocent Daniel, Kate and Sean’s son.

The story is mostly told through Kate’s POV, but interspersed are chapters from other characters’ point of views and I thought it was done very well. It helped keep the pace steady and move the mystery along. I will say, though, that I thought things dragged on a little too long. While I didn’t guess everything that Kate eventually discovers, I was certain that things weren’t all they appeared to be. The clues that something more was going on felt pretty obvious, which made me a little frustrated with how long it took to get to a resolution. That said, I thought everything did come together nicely and I enjoyed it.

Overall, I enjoyed The Vacation. I thought the writing was addictive and I loved the use of multiple POVs. While I wish there was a little more of a twist, I was surprised by how things wrapped up and I liked that. I definitely recommend this one and look forward to Logan’s next book.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

Review: The Night Swim by Megan Goldin

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

After the first season of her true crime podcast became an overnight sensation and set an innocent man free, Rachel Krall is now a household name―and the last hope for thousands of people seeking justice. But she’s used to being recognized for her voice, not her face. Which makes it all the more unsettling when she finds a note on her car windshield, addressed to her, begging for help.

The small town of Neapolis is being torn apart by a devastating rape trial. The town’s golden boy, a swimmer destined for Olympic greatness, has been accused of raping a high school student, the beloved granddaughter of the police chief. Under pressure to make Season Three a success, Rachel throws herself into interviewing and investigating―but the mysterious letters keep showing up in unexpected places. Someone is following her, and she won’t stop until Rachel finds out what happened to her sister twenty-five years ago. Officially, Jenny Stills tragically drowned, but the letters insists she was murdered―and when Rachel starts asking questions, nobody seems to want to answer. The past and present start to collide as Rachel uncovers startling connections between the two cases that will change the course of the trial and the lives of everyone involved.

Electrifying and propulsive, The Night Swim asks: What is the price of a reputation? Can a small town ever right the wrongs of its past? And what really happened to Jenny?

I received a copy of this title via NetGalley. It does not impact my review. 

The Night Swim publishes August 4, 2020.

I found The Night Swim to be a very average read. I didn’t love it, but I didn’t hate it. The writing was fine, but the pace was so slow. The plot was timely, but only mildly intriguing. The good and bad parts kind of canceled each other out and leaves you with a moderately entertaining, if ultimately forgettable read.

The story follows famous podcast host Rachel, as she reports on a rape trial. We’re supposed to believe she’s an incredible journalist and investigator, so I was surprised by how thoroughly distracted she let herself get by messages from the mysterious Hannah, who wants Rachel to investigate a murder that happened decades prior. Rachel blows off parts of the trial on multiple occasions to investigate Hannah’s claims. The cases have similarities and and ultimately some of the same players. The clues are given out methodically, but slowly and I found myself pretty bored for most of the book.

I had a hard time connecting with any of the characters. We get very little personal information about Rachel and her role seems more as a narrator than anything else. This could have been by design, as she’s supposed to be an impartial host, laying out the facts for her audience. However, it kept me from ever really caring that much about her. She also was far from being impartial. I also found Hannah a frustrating character. She tells her story in fits and starts and I didn’t really understand why it had to be drawn out so long.

The story spends a lot of time on commentary about how rape accusations are handled and trials are conducted. I think a lot of good points are made, but it doesn’t say anything new. Especially with the number of books that center around #MeToo topics these days, this has nothing that makes it stand out among the others.

Overall, The Night Swim was just ok for me. The writing was fine, but I thought it was too slow paced and was much longer than it needed it to be. The mysteries were interesting enough, but the lack of character development really kept me from getting invested. It was a thoroughly average book that I think many people will spend a few days enjoying, before completely forgetting about it.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3 Stars

Review: The Patient by Jasper DeWitt

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

The Silent Patient by way of Stephen King: Parker, a young, overconfident psychiatrist new to his job at a mental asylum, miscalculates catastrophically when he undertakes curing a mysterious and profoundly dangerous patient.

In a series of online posts, Parker H., a young psychiatrist, chronicles the harrowing account of his time working at a dreary mental hospital in New England. Through this internet message board, Parker hopes to communicate with the world his effort to cure one bewildering patient.

We learn, as Parker did on his first day at the hospital, of the facility’s most difficult, profoundly dangerous case—a forty-year-old man who was originally admitted to the hospital at age six. This patient has no known diagnosis. His symptoms seem to evolve over time. Every person who has attempted to treat him has been driven to madness or suicide.

Desperate and fearful, the hospital’s directors keep him strictly confined and allow minimal contact with staff for their own safety, convinced that releasing him would unleash catastrophe on the outside world. Parker, brilliant and overconfident, takes it upon himself to discover what ails this mystery patient and finally cure him. But from his first encounter with the mystery patient, things spiral out of control, and, facing a possibility beyond his wildest imaginings, Parker is forced to question everything he thought he knew.

Fans of Sarah Pinborough’s Behind Her Eyes and Paul Tremblay’s The Cabin at the End of the World will be riveted by Jasper DeWitt’s astonishing debut.

I received a copy of this title via NetGalley. It does not impact my review.

The Patient publishes July 7, 2020.

Despite knowing that I have a hard time appreciating books that fall under the Horror genre, I thought the synopsis for The Patient sounded too intriguing to pass up. Unfortunately, it was just another book that proved this genre isn’t for me.

I just found the story really boring. I was not, at any point, even the smallest bit freaked out or spooked by what I read. I thought at the very least there would be a creepy atmosphere around the hospital, but I didn’t really get that. I thought the mystery surrounding Joe seemed interesting, but it was approached in such a clinical way at first, that it never felt scary. Even when the story morphed into something that was obviously supernatural, I was still just kind of bored with it. It did sometimes have some graphically gross descriptions, but gore doesn’t really make up for lack of suspense or thrills for me.

I also thought there was a real missed opportunity in the formatting of the story. Parker is supposed to be sharing his story in multiple online forum entries. He makes reference to people’s comments to his posts, but we don’t actually ever see those comments. I felt it would have lent some credibility to the format to include those. As it was, other than the date that begins each chapter and Parker explicitly stating at the beginning of each entry that he’s writing this on the internet, there’s nothing about the storytelling that makes it any different than a normal narrative.

Overall, The Patient was a letdown for me. It didn’t live up to it’s intriguing premise and I didn’t really understand the narrative choices. However, you should keep in mind that this isn’t really my genre and maybe die hard Horror fans will think differently.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 2 Stars

Review: The Girl from Widow Hills by Megan Miranda

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

A suspense novel about a young woman plagued by night terrors after a childhood trauma who wakes one evening to find a corpse at her feet.

Everyone knows the story of “the girl from Widow Hills.”

Arden Maynor was just a child when she was swept away while sleepwalking during a terrifying rainstorm and went missing for days. Strangers and friends, neighbors and rescue workers, set up search parties and held vigils, praying for her safe return. Against all odds, she was found, alive, clinging to a storm drain. The girl from Widow Hills was a living miracle. Arden’s mother wrote a book. Fame followed. Fans and fan letters, creeps, and stalkers. And every year, the anniversary. It all became too much. As soon as she was old enough, Arden changed her name and disappeared from the public eye.

Now a young woman living hundreds of miles away, Arden goes by Olivia. She’s managed to stay off the radar for the last few years. But with the twentieth anniversary of her rescue approaching, the media will inevitably renew its interest in Arden. Where is she now? Soon Olivia feels like she’s being watched and begins sleepwalking again, like she did long ago, even waking outside her home. Until late one night she jolts awake in her yard. At her feet is the corpse of a man she knows—from her previous life, as Arden Maynor.

And now, the girl from Widow Hills is about to become the center of the story, once again.

I received a copy of this title via NetGalley. It does not impact my review.

The Girl from Widow Hills publishes June 23, 2020. 

I always look forward to a new Megan Miranda book and I found The Girl from Widow Hills an addicting read with an intriguing premise.

When Olivia was a child, she went missing for several days and the search to find her caught national attention. Twenty years later, she’s moved away, changed her name, and wants to forget everything that happened. Her carefully cultivated new life is threatened, though, when she discovers the dead body of someone from her past on her property. Throw in some intense sleepwalking incidents and gaps in her memory and we’re not really sure if Olivia is guilty of more than she knows. The mystery was a bit of a slow burn, but the addictive writing made that ok. I liked the characters, especially Olivia’s neighbor, Rick, and her friend/co-worker/possible love interest, Bennett. I would have liked a little more resolution when it came to those characters, though.

Overall, I enjoyed The Girl from Widow Hills. Even though the mystery was a bit of a slow burn, I felt invested in Olivia and everything that was happening. I didn’t 100% guess the ending, which is always a win for me these days. I did find the ending a little underwhelming, though. I would have liked an epilogue. While this wasn’t my favorite Miranda book, it was still enjoyable and I’m looking forward to her next book.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3.5 Stars

Review: The Heatwave by Katerina Diamond

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

One summer. One stranger. One killer…
Two bad things happened that summer:
A stranger arrived. And the first girl disappeared.

In the wake of the crime that rocked her community, Felicity fled, knowing more than she let on.

But sixteen years later, her new life is shattered by the news that a second girl has gone missing in her hometown.

Now Felicity must go back, to face the truth about what happened all those years ago.

Only she holds the answers – and they’re more shocking than anyone could imagine.

The heatwave is back. And so is the killer.

I received a copy of this title via NetGalley. It does not impact my review. 

The Heatwave publishes June 25, 2020. 

I’m a huge fan of Katerina Diamond’s DS Imogen Grey series and I was excited for her first standalone book. Though it meant I have to wait longer for more Imogen and Adrian, The Heatwave was an enjoyable book.

The story is told in past and present timelines. In the present, Felicity feels compelled to return to her hometown and investigate when she finds out another teenage girl has gone missing. In the past, Jasmine tries to discover what the strange new lodger her parents have invited to live in their guest house is hiding. I have to say that I found the past chapters much more interesting than the present. The characters were more fleshed out and I felt invested in what happened to them. I thought Tim’s character was intriguing and wanted to learn more about him. In the present, I just didn’t really care much about Felicity. She honestly didn’t really do much besides drinking and wandering aimlessly around town, talking to whoever she happened upon. I found it frustrating that she was so vague and all character development was really saved for the end.

There was a reason for the vagueness, though. Things needed to be that way so the twists and turns revealed towards the end have an impact. However, if you’re paying attention, you will guess one of the biggest surprises very early on in the story. I did, and found myself just waiting for it to finally be revealed and I think that hindered some of my enjoyment of the story. While I did figure out almost every other twist, it did take me a little longer.

Overall, The Heatwave was enjoyable. I especially liked the past chapters. I think if you’re able to just sit back and take everything as it comes, rather than trying to figure things out, you will enjoy this one.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3.5 Stars

Review: The Bright Lands by John Fram

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

The town of Bentley holds two things dear: its football, and its secrets. But when star quarterback Dylan Whitley goes missing, an unremitting fear grips this remote corner of Texas.

Joel Whitley was shamed out of conservative Bentley ten years ago, and while he’s finally made a life for himself as a gay man in New York, his younger brother’s disappearance soon brings him back to a place he thought he’d escaped for good. Meanwhile, Sheriff’s Deputy Starsha Clark stayed in Bentley; Joel’s return brings back painful memories—not to mention questions—about her own missing brother. And in the high school hallways, Dylan’s friends begin to suspect that their classmates know far more than they’re telling the police. Together, these unlikely allies will stir up secrets their town has long tried to ignore, drawing the attention of dangerous men who will stop at nothing to see that their crimes stay buried.

But no one is quite prepared to face the darkness that’s begun to haunt their nightmares, whispering about a place long thought to be nothing but an urban legend: an empty night, a flicker of light on the horizon—The Bright Lands.

I received a copy of this title via NetGalley. It does not impact my review.

The Bright Lands publishes July 7, 2020. 

Ok, let me first say that when I requested this book, I was binging Friday Night Lights and I didn’t exactly read the full synopsis. I saw football and Texas and secrets and that was enough for me. The Bright Lands ended up being much different than I was expecting. It wasn’t exactly the kind of book I usually go for, but the characters made me keep reading.

This review is going to be short because most of my thoughts on the plot would be full of spoilers. So what can I actually say? The story was told through multiple points of view and I think those were well done. It really moved the story along and I was invested in all the characters. Early on in the story I wasn’t sure if this was a book I wanted to finish, but the characters kept me going. I expected a small town mystery, but there were definite Horror vibes, too. Horror is not really my genre, so take it with a grain of salt when I say it made me take a lot of things way less seriously than I otherwise would have. There are also major themes of hypocrisy and  homophobia, along with a lot of drugs, violence, assault, pedophilia, and demons (some metaphorical, one real). We spend most of the book waiting to find out what the mysterious Bright Lands are and while I did come to have my suspicions, it ended up being another eye rolling disappointment.

Overall, The Bright Lands wasn’t really for me. I didn’t appreciate the horror aspects and the overall tone of resentment and regret made me a little more depressed during already depressing times (though you can also take that as a compliment to the writing, I guess). I did really like the multiple POVs and was invested in the characters, though. While the story itself wasn’t really my cup of tea, I think there are a lot of readers out there that will enjoy this one a lot more than I did.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 2.5 Stars

Review: He Started It by Samantha Downing

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

Beth, Portia, and Eddie Morgan haven’t all been together in years. And for very good reasons—we’ll get to those later. But when their wealthy grandfather dies and leaves a cryptic final message in his wake, the siblings and their respective partners must come together for a cross-country road trip to fulfill his final wish and—more importantly—secure their inheritance.

But time with your family can be tough. It is for everyone.

It’s even harder when you’re all keeping secrets and trying to forget a memory—a missing person, an act of revenge, the man in the black truck who won’t stop following your car—and especially when at least one of you is a killer and there’s a body in the trunk. Just to name a few reasons.

But money is a powerful motivator. It is for everyone.

I received a copy of this title via NetGalley. It does not impact my review.

(NOTE: Updated Release Date) He Started It publishes July 28, 2020. 

Ever since reading Samantha Downing’s debut, My Lovely Wife, I have been looking forward to her next book. I have to say that He Started It wasn’t really at all what I was expecting. But that’s ok, because I found it completely addicting.

Siblings Beth, Eddie, and Portia, along with Beth’s husband Felix and Eddie’s wife Krista, have to replicate a cross-country road trip they took when they were kids in order to receive their inheritance from their grandfather. As they progress in the present, we learn what happened on the original trip, which was a little messed up, to say the least. Along the way, lies are told and secrets are revealed and you’re never quite sure who you can trust.

If you want to feel better about your own relationship with your siblings, this is the book to read. Beth, Eddie, and Portia have very dysfunctional relationships. They are constantly lying to each other and paranoid about being lied to. They shift alliances at a drop of a hat and definitely kept me guessing. While there are some small shocks and surprises, the story really revolved around the Morgan family and how that road trip in their youth affected all of their lives in different ways. The writing was super addicting and I ignored a lot of things I was supposed to be doing so I could keep reading it.

Overall, I really enjoyed He Started It. While it wasn’t what I was expecting, it was still a compelling, addicting story that kept me guessing the whole way through. I loved the writing. My only real complaint was that I was a little underwhelmed with the ending. However, the rest of the book was enough to make up for it and I’m really looking forward to reading more from Samantha Downing in the future.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars