Review: In the Darkness (Zoe Bentley Mystery #2) by Mike Omer

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

A forensic psychologist fights a mental war against two serial killers in this disturbing thriller from Mike Omer, Washington Post and Amazon Charts bestselling author of A Killer’s Mind.

An online video of a girl clawing at the ceiling of her own grave could be the worst thing FBI forensic psychologist Zoe Bentley has ever seen. Perhaps even more disturbing is the implication of the video’s title: “Experiment Number One.”

Zoe and her partner, Special Agent Tatum Gray, work as fast as they can to find the monster behind the shocking video, but soon another one shows up online, and another girl turns up dead. Meanwhile, a different murderer is on Zoe’s mind. Rod Glover has been tormenting her since childhood, and his latest attack is a threatening photo of himself with Zoe’s sister. As Glover’s threats creep toward action, Zoe’s torn between family and duty.

Zoe must think fast to prevent another murder. With her own family’s safety on the line, Zoe feels she’s never been in more danger. And while she’s always known her job could send her to an early grave, she always assumed she’d be dead first.

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

In the Darkness will be available June 25, 2019. 

What I Liked

  • I’m not sure what it says about me as a person, but I love a good serial killer novel and Mike Omer definitely delivered. In the Darkness is an entertaining mystery that managed to surprise me.
  • The story is told through multiple POVs. We get chapters from both Zoe and Tatum, as well as the serial killer and several other supporting characters. I often times prefer a story to be told through first person POV, but the third person really worked for this story.
  • I really enjoy Zoe’s partner, Tatum. He pretty much makes this series for me. He’s smart, protective, and often times brings the comic relief. I also like his relationship with his crazy grandfather, Marvin.

What Didn’t Work for Me

  • I have a hard time connecting with Zoe. I feel like there’s been a fair amount of character development done with her throughout the series so far, but for some reason she still feels a bit one-note and cliched. Her reactions to things are often inconsistent as she swings between almost total lack of empathy and major emotional melt downs.
  • While I found the story pretty entertaining, I felt like the writing could have used just a bit more editing. The dialogue sometimes felt a little off. It also felt a little longer than it needed to be.

Overall

Overall, I enjoyed In the Darkness. Though I thought the writing could use just a bit more editing at times, the mystery was well done and I was a little surprised with who the serial killer turned out to be. I like the partnership between Tatum and Zoe and look forward to seeing how it evolves as the series continues.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

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Review: Those People by Louise Candlish

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

From the author of the international bestseller Our House, a new novel of twisty domestic suspense asks, “Could you hate your neighbor enough to plot to kill him?” 

Lowland Way is the suburban dream. The houses are beautiful, the neighbors get along, and the kids play together on weekends.

But when Darren and Jodie move into the house on the corner, they donʼt follow the rules. They blast music at all hours, begin an unsightly renovation, and run a used-car business from their yard. It doesn’t take long for an all-out war to start brewing.

Then, early one Saturday, a horrific death shocks the street. As police search for witnesses, accusations start flying–and everyone has something to hide.

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

Those People will be available June 11, 2019. 

Those People started off very strong for me, but lost a little of it’s steam along the way. However, it was still a highly entertaining story that I enjoyed.

Who hasn’t had a horrible neighbor? As a long time renter, I’m used to sharing walls and ceilings and though I do get frequently frustrated, I have a pretty high tolerance for other people’s noise. There has only been one neighbor that was so awful I complained to management about, but it was nothing compared to what happened with the people on Lowland Way. The street is idyllic with neighbors that all know each other and get along. They even have a standing agreement to close off the street every Sunday so the kids can play without fear of cars. Everything gets turned upside down, though, when the Booths move in. They play loud music while working on noisy home renovations at all hours of the night and take up all the parking spots on the street with their questionably legal car business. They also don’t care at all what anybody else thinks of them. They are completely unapologetic about the mess and the noise they make or how it effects anyone else. This causes all the “sensible” people on the street to lose their minds a bit.

The story is told through multiple POVs, rotating mostly between Ralph, Tess, Ant, and Sissy. For about the first half of the book, each chapter begins with a short excerpt from a police interview. It gave me serious Big Little Lies vibes and I loved it. I loved seeing how the neighbors all interacted with each other and the gradual reveal of the mystery of who was killed. Where it started to lose momentum for me was after the victim was revealed and the investigation took over the focus. I wasn’t terribly surprised by any of the reveals after that and I felt it was a little longer than it really needed to be. What I did like, though, was seeing how the situation started to drive everyone to madness. It was fascinating seeing how different people reacted to the stress.

Overall, I enjoyed Those People. I loved the multiple POVs and the inclusion of the police interviews. I wish that format would have been kept up the whole way through. Though it did end up being a little longer than it needed to be and the little surprise at the end does not compare to the twist at the end of Our Houseit was still a really enjoyable and addictive read. I definitely look forward to more from Candlish.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

Review: The Last House Guest by Megan Miranda

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

From the acclaimed New York Times bestselling author of All the Missing Girls, a suspenseful new novel about an idyllic town in Maine dealing with the suspicious death of one of their own—and her best “summer” friend, who is trying to uncover the truth…before fingers point her way.

Littleport, Maine, has always felt like two separate towns: an ideal vacation enclave for the wealthy, whose summer homes line the coastline; and a simple harbor community for the year-round residents whose livelihoods rely on service to the visitors.

Typically, fierce friendships never develop between a local and a summer girl—but that’s just what happens with visitor Sadie Loman and Littleport resident Avery Greer. Each summer for almost a decade, the girls are inseparable—until Sadie is found dead. While the police rule the death a suicide, Avery can’t help but feel there are those in the community, including a local detective and Sadie’s brother, Parker, who blame her. Someone knows more than they’re saying, and Avery is intent on clearing her name, before the facts get twisted against her.

Another thrilling novel from the bestselling author of All the Missing Girls and The Perfect Stranger, Megan Miranda’s The Last House Guest is a smart, twisty read with a strong female protagonist determined to make her own way in the world.

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

The Last House Guest will be available June 18, 2019. 

I’ve been reading a lot of Contemporary lately and have started getting a little bored with it. I wanted to change things up a bit and The Last House Guest was just the addictive mystery that I needed.

Megan Miranda’s writing is really addicting. Though there were times I thought it was a little repetitive and that she was trying maybe just a little too hard to create a creepy atmosphere, there is just something really compelling about her writing. Even when I figured things out much sooner than they were revealed, I had to keep reading.

The story is really character-driven, which I have come to expect from Miranda. This isn’t a fast-paced suspense, but there are plenty of small, impactful reveals along the way to keep you reading.  One of the “big” reveals towards the end of the book was my very first guess early on in the story. I thought it was so obvious that I was kind of annoyed that it took so long to come out. However, there was another twist soon after that I had only recently begun to suspect, so I liked that it was still able to surprise me a bit, even though I guessed most things.

When you’re reading a story so character-driven, the characters can really make or break the book. Fortunately, I found Avery likable enough. She had some issues, but she was compelling and I wanted to see good things happen for her. Where it lost me a bit was with Sadie’s character. Right from the start she comes across as the “poor, little rich girl” cliche. She acted out to get attention from her family. She was also calculating and it was pretty obvious to everyone but Avery that Sadie had an agenda when it came to her. It was really hard to care about whether Sadie was murdered or not. It was also kind of frustrating to see how much Avery cared about Sadie when the friendship did not mean the same to Sadie.

Overall, I did enjoy The Last House Guest. Even though the mystery was not as surprising as I hoped and I had a hard time caring about Sadie, I liked Avery and I found the writing really addictive and compelling. I never wanted to put the book down and that is why I’m bumping my rating up to 4 stars. I think if you have liked Miranda’s previous books, you will enjoy this one, as well.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

Review: The Escape Room by Megan Goldin

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

For fans of JP Delaney’s The Girl Before and Ruth Ware’s The Woman in Cabin 10 comes this hair-raising novel of deception and revenge that will blow readers away.

Vincent, Jules, Sylvie, and Sam are ruthlessly ambitious high-flyers working in the lucrative world of Wall Street finance where deception and intimidation thrive. Getting rich is all that matters, and they’ll do anything to reach the top.

When they are ordered to participate in a corporate team-building exercise that requires them to escape from a locked elevator, dark secrets of their team begin to be laid bare.

The biggest mystery to solve in this lethal game: What happened to Sara Hall? Once a young shining star—now “gone but not forgotten”.

This is no longer a game.
They’re fighting for their lives.

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

The Escape Room will be available August 6, 2019. 

The Escape Room started out well, but seemed to lose steam as the story progressed. While it was still overall an enjoyable read, it didn’t quite live up to it’s potential, or my expectations.

The story is told in alternating chapters between past and present. In the present, we get the third person perspectives of investment bankers Vincent, Jules, Sam, and Sylvie who are stuck in an elevator in what they were led to believe is a team building escape room challenge. The past chapters are from the first person POV of Sara Hall detailing how she came to work at the firm with the others and what it ultimately led to. At first, I had a hard time caring about Sara’s chapters because she felt removed from the more pressing action going on in the elevator. After awhile, though, I became more invested in her.

While I was initially much more interested in what was going on with the group in the elevator, their appeal wore off rather quickly. The clues for the escape room were few and far between and what should have felt suspenseful and nerve-wracking just became a little boring and drawn out. Most of the chapters were made up of character exploration, which isn’t a bad thing in itself, but when each and every one of the characters are so detestable, it’s kind of chore to get through. There was absolutely nothing sympathetic or redeeming about any of them. They were all selfish and shallow and manipulative. It made me not care about the stakes because I didn’t really care what happened to any of these characters. I also wish the atmosphere was a little more claustrophobic and stressful. For the most part there was a lot of repetition about how they bumped into each other in the dark and the heater was on really high and it didn’t really do anything for me.

Overall, I did find The Escape Room enjoyable, but it fell a little flat for me. The character development was really well done. I just wish that any of characters were worth caring about. I figured out what I think was supposed to be a twist pretty early on in the story and I found the ending a little anticlimactic, as well. However, I think there will be a lot of people that find this a fun summer read and I would be interested in seeing what else Megan Goldin does in the future.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3 Stars

Review: The Winter Sister by Megan Collins

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

In this spellbinding and suspenseful debut, a young woman haunted by the past returns home to care for her ailing mother and begins to dig deeper into her sister’s unsolved murder.

Sixteen years ago, Sylvie’s sister Persephone never came home. Out too late with the boyfriend she was forbidden to see, Persephone was missing for three days before her body was found—and years later, her murder remains unsolved.

In the present day, Sylvie returns home to care for her estranged mother, Annie, as she undergoes treatment for cancer. Prone to unexplained “Dark Days” even before Persephone’s death, Annie’s once-close bond with Sylvie dissolved in the weeks after their loss, making for an uncomfortable reunion all these years later. Worse, Persephone’s former boyfriend, Ben, is now a nurse at the cancer center where Annie is being treated. Sylvie’s always believed Ben was responsible for the murder—but she carries her own guilt about that night, guilt that traps her in the past while the world goes on around her.

As she navigates the complicated relationship with her mother, Sylvie begins to uncover the secrets that fill their house—and what really happened the night Persephone died. As it turns out, the truth really will set you free, once you can bear to look at it.

The Winter Sister is a mesmerizing portrayal of the complex bond between sisters, between mothers and daughters alike, and forces us to ask ourselves—how well do we really know the people we love most?

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

The Winter Sister will be available February 5, 2019. 

I’m sorry to say that this one did not live up to my expectations. I’ve seen some great reviews for The Winter Sister mentioning the beautiful writing and shocking secrets and both fell a little flat for me.

The story is not really anything new. Nothing at all about the mystery plot line surprised me in any way. However, where the book shined was in the interpersonal relationships. Even though Sylvie and her mother, Annie, drove me crazy, their dysfunctional relationship was kind of fascinating. Annie’s story of toxic love and the emotional and psychological impact of it to not just her, but her children was compelling and frustrating. The only character that I really liked was Ben and I mostly just felt sorry for him, too.

Overall, The Winter Sister was just not for me. I was looking for a mystery and surprising twists, but it ended up being much more domestic drama. The writing wasn’t bad, but it didn’t blow me away, either. I also found the ending a little more open-ended then I prefer. Most people have seemed to enjoy this one much more than I did, though, so it still might be worth your time to check out, especially if you are interested in more domestic driven stories.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 2.5 Stars

Review: The Smiling Man (Aidan Waits Thriller #2) by Joseph Knox

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

‘Packing a punch from the very first page. You will love The Smiling Man’ Jane Harper, author of The Dry

From the bestselling author of Sirens, Detective Aidan Waits is on the hunt to find the identity of The Smiling Man.

Disconnected from his history and careless of his future, Detective Aidan Waits has resigned himself to the night shift. An endless cycle of meaningless emergency calls and lonely dead ends. Until he and his partner, Detective Inspector Peter ‘Sutty’ Sutcliffe, are summoned to The Palace, a vast disused hotel in the centre of a restless, simmering city.

There they find the body of a man. He is dead.

And he is smiling.

The tags have been removed from the man’s clothes. His teeth filed down and replaced. Even his fingertips are not his own. Only a patch sewn into the inside of his trousers gives any indication as to who he was, and to the desperate last act of his life…

But even as Waits puts together the pieces of this stranger’s life, someone is sifting through the shards of his own.

When the mysterious fires, anonymous phone calls and outright threats escalate, he realises that a ghost from his own past haunts his every move.

And to discover the smiling man’s identity, he must finally confront his own.

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

The Smiling Man will be available January 15, 2019. 

I have been looking forward to reading The Smiling Man for awhile now and I’m happy to report that I liked it even more than the first book in the series.

Aidan Waits is such an interesting character. I was glad to see he was more sober in this book. His life is still a mess, but I feel he’s at least trying to get things in the right direction. I enjoyed his dysfunctional relationship with his shift partner/superior officer, Sutty. Their banter brought a little bit of levity to the otherwise heavy story, even though it was more of a dark humor. I was into it, though.

I thought the writing in the first book could be a little scattered and hard to follow at times, but I didn’t feel that way about this one. While there are several threads that I didn’t really see the connection in until the end, they all made sense. I really do like Knox’s writing style. It’s pretty addictive and when I gave myself time to sit down and read this book, I never wanted to put it down. I loved how short most of the chapters were, too.

Overall, I enjoyed The Smiling Man. Knox’s writing style is unique and addictive and I am eternally fascinated by Aidan Waits. I thought the mystery was well done, but I could’ve spent a little less time on some of the side mysteries, even though they all play in to the bigger picture. I am definitely looking forward to more in this series.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

Review: Watching You by Lisa Jewell

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A copy of this title was provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Watching You will be available December 26, 2018. 

Normally with my reviews I share the synopsis of the book, but I’m not going to do that for this one. I do have a warning, though. Apparently the edition I marked as “Want to Read” on Goodreads was the one edition that had a very inaccurate synopsis. It very clearly stated which character is murdered, however that character is not the victim. I was kind of livid about this synopsis and couldn’t understand why no other review I found was complaining about it. And then after checking 3 different book seller sites and the other editions of the book on Goodreads, I realized this was the only place I could find this wrong synopsis. So my warning to you, don’t read the synopsis on Goodreads in case you get the wrong edition (though I’m hoping this will be corrected before the book is published).

Ok, now that my little PSA is done, let’s get on to the book. Watching You follows the intertwined lives of residents in a small English town. Joey is kind of a hot mess who moves in with her brother and sister-in-law when she returns home with a new husband in tow. When she first notices her neighbor, charming and charismatic Tom, she develops an instant crush. Freddie is Tom’s son and he likes to spend his time watching and keeping tabs on the townspeople from his bedroom window. He doesn’t believe his father is the great man everyone in town seems to think he is. Jenna is a student at Tom’s school. Her best friend has a crush on Tom and Jenna finds his interactions with her friend a little inappropriate. Additionally, her mother has paranoid delusions that Tom has initiated gang stalking of her and wants everyone in town to know what a fraud he is.

I’ve read some reviews that said there were way too many people to keep track of in this book, but I have to disagree. I did not have trouble keeping the characters straight at all. Jewell is excellent when it comes to writing character development and that skill is on full display here. However, I do have to say that I did have kind of a hard time connecting to any of the characters. I didn’t feel a real attachment to any of them. I wanted to find out what happened, plot-wise, but didn’t care that much about what kind of fall out the characters faced. There were a couple of side character I did enjoy, though. Joey’s brother, Jack, and her husband, Alfie, were both really sweet. I wouldn’t have minded getting to see more of them.

Overall, Watching You kept me turning the pages, but the mystery was not as satisfying as I hoped it would be. I did like how the story showed how easily our personal perceptions could be wrong and Jewel’s writing is always enjoyable. I just felt like the conclusion was a little lackluster and the book didn’t have much of the creepy “You’re being watched” vibe that I was expecting. I also think that my overall feelings for the book were negatively impacted by that incorrect synopsis I read. I still recommend this one to Lisa Jewell fans, though, and fans of character-driven mysteries.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3 Stars