Review: The Hiding Place by C.J. Tudor

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Review from Goodreads:

The thrilling second novel from the author of The Chalk Man, about a teacher with a hidden agenda who returns to settle scores at a school he once attended, only to uncover a darker secret than he could have imagined.

Joe never wanted to come back to Arnhill. After the way things ended with his old gang–the betrayal, the suicide, the murder–and after what happened when his sister went missing, the last thing he wanted to do was return to his hometown. But Joe doesn’t have a choice. Because judging by what was done to that poor Morton kid, what happened all those years ago to Joe’s sister is happening again. And only Joe knows who is really at fault.

Lying his way into a teaching job at his former high school is the easy part. Facing off with former friends who are none too happy to have him back in town–while avoiding the enemies he’s made in the years since–is tougher. But the hardest part of all will be returning to that abandoned mine where it all went wrong and his life changed forever, and finally confronting the shocking, horrifying truth about Arnhill, his sister, and himself. Because for Joe, the worst moment of his life wasn’t the day his sister went missing.

It was the day she came back.

With the same virtuosic command of character and pacing she displayed in The Chalk Man, CJ Tudor has once again crafted an extraordinary novel that brilliantly blends harrowing psychological suspense, a devilishly puzzling mystery, and enough shocks and thrills to satisfy even the most seasoned reader.

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

The Hiding Place will be available February 5, 2019. 

What Worked For Me

-I’m a big fan of Tudor’s writing style. I love the banter, the dark humor, the well-executed multiple timelines. Even though I felt like the pacing was a little too slow for much of the book, I still wanted to keep reading. There’s just something compelling about it.

-Joe. Joe was not exactly a likable character, but I actually liked him a lot. He comes across as an underdog and how can you not root for the underdog? I loved his sense of humor, even it was kind of dark. He’s had a lot of bad things happen in his life and I liked that even though he kept making a lot of bad decisions and was pretty cynical, he still had a sense of hopefulness.

What Didn’t Work For Me

-So, you all know how much I hate it when a surprise supernatural element pops up in a story. I go from reading a believable mystery/thriller to something I can’t take seriously. I honestly think this would work much better marketed as Horror instead of Mystery. I mentally just put it in the Horror category and so it didn’t bother me as much as something like this normally would.

-While there were some surprises at the end of the book, I didn’t really see the point in some of them. It’s hard to explain it without getting spoilery, but I really felt like what happened in Arnhill when Joe was young and why he’s back were the heart of the story, and tacking on an extra reveal at the end that you didn’t even realize you were supposed to be trying to figure out seemed unnecessary.

Overall

Overall, I did enjoy The Hiding Place. I liked the writing and the characters – namely Joe. However, the supernatural angle and the unnecessary final twist did sour me a bit. Still, I think fans of Tudor’s previous work will enjoy this one, as well.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3.5 Stars

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Review: My Lovely Wife by Samantha Downing

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

Dexter meets Mr. and Mrs. Smith in this wildly compulsive debut thriller about a couple whose fifteen-year marriage has finally gotten too interesting…
 
Our love story is simple. I met a gorgeous woman. We fell in love. We had kids. We moved to the suburbs. We told each other our biggest dreams, and our darkest secrets. And then we got bored.

We look like a normal couple. We’re your neighbors, the parents of your kid’s friend, the acquaintances you keep meaning to get dinner with.

We all have secrets to keeping a marriage alive.

Ours just happens to be getting away with murder.

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

My Lovely Wife will be available March 26, 2019.

Well, this story was delightfully messed up. My Lovely Wife is compulsively readable with an anti-hero you know you shouldn’t root for, but still do.

This was definitely a fun variation on the serial killer novel. Here the killers are a husband and wife team, though they’re a little lacking on the team aspect. They both have secrets from each other and at various times throughout the story you will be trying to figure out just which one is more sinister. While I did think a lot of things were pretty obvious and was not really surprised with how it all ended up, it did have a couple of nice little reveals throughout that kept me on my toes.

One thing I thought was kind of odd is that we are never told the husband’s name. The story is told through his first person POV and I honestly didn’t even notice his real name was never mentioned until I sat down to write this review and couldn’t remember it. This is not the first book I’ve come across that doesn’t share the main character’s name and I have to admit that I just don’t understand what the impact is supposed to be? Maybe it’s supposed to make me identify more with the character?

Overall, I enjoyed My Lovely Wife. This is one of those books where I don’t feel like I can share too much more than I already have without really starting to give things away. I liked the main character, even though he was very messed up and I knew I shouldn’t. He still managed to be just empathetic enough that I could almost overlook the bad things he’s done. I liked the focus on the family and how the parents’ actions were impacting their children. While the mystery may not shock seasoned readers of the genre, I think the compulsive writing and interesting characters will still make this an enjoyable read.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

Review: My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

Satire meets slasher in this short, darkly funny hand grenade of a novel about a Nigerian woman whose younger sister has a very inconvenient habit of killing her boyfriends.

“Femi makes three, you know. Three and they label you a serial killer.”

Korede is bitter. How could she not be? Her sister, Ayoola, is many things: the favorite child, the beautiful one, possibly sociopathic. And now Ayoola’s third boyfriend in a row is dead. Korede’s practicality is the sisters’ saving grace. She knows the best solutions for cleaning blood, the trunk of her car is big enough for a body, and she keeps Ayoola from posting pictures of her dinner to Instagram when she should be mourning her “missing” boyfriend. Not that she gets any credit.

A kind, handsome doctor at the hospital where Korede works, is the bright spot in her life. She dreams of the day when he will realize they’re perfect for each other. But one day Ayoola shows up to the hospital uninvited and he takes notice. When he asks Korede for Ayoola’s phone number, she must reckon with what her sister has become and what she will do about it.

Sharp as nails and full of deadpan wit, Oyinkan Braithwaite has written a deliciously deadly debut that’s as fun as it is frightening.

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

My Sister, the Serial Killer will be available November 20, 2018. 

I always enjoy a good serial killer thriller. This one was a little different than others I have read before and from what I was expecting, but I enjoyed it just as much.

I absolutely loved Oyinkan Braithwaite’s writing style. I love short chapters and she was able to really use them effectively. I flew right through this book because I was never able to say “just one more chapter” and actually mean it. Even though the plot was never exactly harrowing, there was definitely a tense atmosphere and I had to do know what would happen next. It also managed to not be a really heavy or somber read. It was just really entertaining.

So how is this different than other serial killer stories? It’s told from the point of view of Korede, the sister of the killer, Ayoola. Korede is the older sister who has always taken care of Ayoola, even into adulthood. That includes cleaning up after her murders. Ayoola always claims self defense, but Korede has kind of stopped believing her. While no deep, psychological explanation is given for Ayoola’s behavior, we do explore the sisters’ childhood with their abusive father that we get to draw our own conclusions from. The story is really more about Korede’s relationship with her sister, who she both loves and resents and the choices she must make when the man she has feelings for falls into Ayoola’s web.

Overall, I really enjoyed My Sister, the Serial Killer. I loved the writing, the short chapters, and the interesting characters. I enjoyed reading about a different culture, as well. The only thing I didn’t really like about it is that I felt it left a few more things open-ended than I like. While it wasn’t the kind of story I was expecting it to be, it was really enjoyable and I definitely recommend it. I look forward to reading more from Braithwaite in the future.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

Review: The Craftsman by Sharon Bolton

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

Sharon Bolton returns with her creepiest standalone yet, following a young cop trying to trace the disappearances of a small town’s teenagers.

Florence Lovelady’s career was made when she convicted coffin-maker Larry Grassbrook of a series of child murders 30 years ago in a small village in Lancashire. Like something out of a nightmare, the victims were buried alive. Florence was able to solve the mystery and get a confession out of Larry before more children were murdered., and he spent the rest of his life in prison.

But now, decades later, he’s dead, and events from the past start to repeat themselves. Is someone copying the original murders? Or did she get it wrong all those years ago? When her own son goes missing under similar circumstances, the case not only gets reopened… it gets personal.

In master of suspense Sharon Bolton’s latest thriller, readers will find a page-turner to confirm their deepest fears and the only protagonist who can face them.

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

The Craftsman will be available October 16, 2018. 

Sharon Bolton has written some of my favorite books and I have been eagerly anticipating The Craftsman for quite awhile. Like I have come to expect from Bolton’s books, it was a well done, suspenseful mystery. It was even a little creepy at times. But it definitely took a departure into the supernatural that I was not expecting.

I have to say I was not a fan of the whole witch angle. It would have been one thing to have groups that fancy themselves witches, but Bolton makes the characters credible witches who perform magic. Now, I’ve read a good deal of paranormal books that included witches and been fine with it because there were also things like vampires and werewolves and what-not, and those books were always solidly in the fantasy column. I don’t feel this book is supposed to be considered paranormal at all, though, and that kind of made the conclusions a little hard to take seriously. However, I don’t feel this theme was made really prevalent until the last part of the book, so it didn’t ruin the rest of the book for me, it just made me a little more dissatisfied than I hoped.

The book is broken up into three parts. It starts in 1999 with Florence at the funeral of the serial killer she helped put away thirty years ago. The bulk of the book is the second part, which flashes back 30 years to the investigation. I really have to hand it to Bolton for keeping the suspense high during this time. We already know how the case ended, what atrocities Florence faced, and how her romantic life turned out. But none of that kept me from turning the pages as fast as I could to see what happened next and kind of loving the guy that I knew I shouldn’t be shipping her with. The third part goes back to the “present” (1999) where I felt the events of the synopsis finally kicked in. I thought it was a little bit rushed at the ending, but everything was tied up well enough.

Overall, I enjoyed The Craftsman, but it’s not my favorite of Bolton’s books. I appreciate that she took a chance to write something a little different than normal, but the whole witch thing isn’t really my cup of tea. There were some small twists and turns that surprised me, but most of the reveals I guessed well before they were revealed and one made me super sad (but would be too spoilery to expand upon).  However, I do love Bolton’s writing style, the alternating timeline, and the characters. I’m definitely looking forward to reading more from Bolton in the future.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

Review: The Promise (DS Imogen Grey #4) by Katerina Diamond

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

‘All hail the new Queen of Crime!’ Heat

When troubled teen Connor moves to Exeter from the US to escape his past, he finds himself embroiled in a world of popular kids and easy girls. Everyone wants to be his friend, but they don’t know about what he did…and they don’t know about his father.

As Connor’s life in England begins to unravel, DS Adrian Miles and his partner Imogen Grey are working up against the clock to catch a serial killer who dates his victims before he kills them. Determined to uncover the truth, Imogen is forced to act as bait – but will she take it too far and risk her own life?

Katerina Diamond is back with a bang in this dark, twisted novel, perfect for fans of M.J. Arlidge and Karin Slaughter.

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

The Promise will be available September 20, 2018.

Last year I read and fell in love with the DS Imogen Grey series and The Promise was one of my most anticipated books of 2018. I’m so happy to report that it completely lived up to my expectations.

I just love Diamond’s writing style. The mysteries are always so well done and also really character driven. Even though the book was kind of long, I just flew right through it. I never wanted to put it down. I will say that this is the first of her books that I figured things out well before they were revealed, but I was so invested in all the characters that I didn’t mind not being surprised like I have been before.

While the story is told through several different viewpoints, we get quite a lot of Connor’s POV. I think we actually hear more from him than from Imogen or Adrian and while I expected that to upset me, it didn’t. As I mentioned earlier, I was heavily invested in the characters and that included Connor. I felt so bad for all that he went through and just wanted to see him catch a break. Though he plays an integral role in the mystery and the lead up to the resolution, I thought his own ending was left a little more open than I like. Though I don’t anticipate it happening, I really wouldn’t mind seeing more of him in future books.

There were a few developments in Imogen and Adrian’s personal relationships and their partnership, as well. Adrian is still grieving from the events of the previous book. Imogen struggles with making the decision  between keeping her relationship with Dean or moving along in her career. In addition, their own relationship begins to change and neither of them are sure about what’s happening. I don’t want to get too spoilery, but I am very, very anxious to see how things develop in the next book.

Overall, I really enjoyed The Promise. I’m afraid this little review doesn’t come close to expressing how much. I loved the writing, the mystery, and the characters. While this book still had plenty of dark content, it wasn’t as dark as some of the other books in this series and I liked that. Katerina Diamond has really become one of my favorite authors and I definitely recommend her to mystery and crime fans. I am really looking forward to the next book in the series.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars 

Review: Lies by T.M. Logan

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

What if you have the perfect life, the perfect wife and the perfect child—then, in one shattering moment, you discover nothing is as it seems? Now you are in the sights of a ruthless killer determined to destroy everything you treasure.

It’s the evening drive home from work on a route Joe Lynch has taken a hundred times with his young son. But today, Joe sees his wife meet another man—an encounter that will rip two families apart. Raising the question: Can we ever really trust those closest to us?

Joe will do whatever it takes to protect his family, but as the deception unravels, so does his life. A life played out without any rules. And a cunning opponent who’s always one step ahead.

In the tradition of The Girl Before by J. P. Delaney and Behind Closed Doors by B. A. Paris, T. M. Logan’s Lies is an unputdownable thriller that will keep readers guessing until the jaw-dropping finale.

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

Lies by T.M. Logan will be available September 11, 2018. 

Lies is a well-paced, entertaining thriller that managed to surprise me. The chapters were short and snappy and mostly ended in cliffhangers which made me keep saying “just one more, chapter” every time I thought I would put the book down. I thought the mystery was pretty well done, as well. I definitely guessed some of it, but not all of it, so I really enjoyed the reveal at the end. I did think it dragged just a bit in the middle, though, and could’ve been a little shorter.

While I liked Joe, I did have some issues with him. Here’s the thing about a lot of books with the whole “ordinary guy in extraordinary circumstances” thing. They try to play detective and think they know better than everyone else and EVERY. SINGLE. THING. they do makes them look bad. Joe fell heavily into this trope and he kind of drove me crazy for most of the book. I just couldn’t believe how he couldn’t realize he was basically shooting himself in the foot every time he opened his mouth or followed up some lead. That said, he was still a sympathetic character I couldn’t help but root for.

Technology and social media is an important part of the book and it’s really made me want to go live off the grid. Things like Amazon’s Echo products that listen to you all day every day already kind of freak me out, but I don’t usually think much of all the information my phone records. Technology is terrifying and the way it was so easy to manipulate it to make Joe look so guilty was chilling.

Overall, I enjoyed Lies. I loved that the chapters were so short and suspenseful. While Joe did frustrate me, he was still a likable character that I wanted to see vindicated. I’m upping my overall rating a bit because the end managed to surprise me. I definitely recommend this one if you’re looking for a fast and entertaining mystery.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

Review: Pieces of Her by Karin Slaughter

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

The #1 internationally bestselling author returns with a new novel in the vein of her New York Times bestsellers Pretty Girlsand The Good Daughter—a story even more electrifying, provocative, and suspenseful than anything she’s written before.

What if the person you thought you knew best turns out to be someone you never knew at all . . . ?

Andrea Cooper knows everything about her mother, Laura. She knows she’s spent her whole life in the small beachside town of Belle Isle; she knows she’s never wanted anything more than to live a quiet life as a pillar of the community; she knows she’s never kept a secret in her life. Because we all know our mothers, don’t we?

But all that changes when a trip to the mall explodes into violence and Andrea suddenly sees a completely different side to Laura. Because it turns out that before Laura was Laura, she was someone completely different. For nearly thirty years she’s been hiding from her previous identity, lying low in the hope that no one would ever find her. But now she’s been exposed, and nothing will ever be the same again.

The police want answers and Laura’s innocence is on the line, but she won’t speak to anyone, including her own daughter. Andrea is on a desperate journey following the breadcrumb trail of her mother’s past. And if she can’t uncover the secrets hidden there, there may be no future for either one of them. . . .

I received a copy of this title from the publisher (Thanks William Morrow!). It does not impact my review. 

I always look forward to a new Karin Slaughter book. I used to get a little upset whenever one of her upcoming titles was not a Will Trent book, but I have really enjoyed all of her standalone novels and have learned to appreciate getting something a little different as I wait for more Will. And Pieces of Her was definitely different than anything I’ve read from  Slaughter before. The mystery is not so much a Whodunnit as a Whydunnit. While there are still surprises and suspense, it made the tone of the story different than I expected.

I really liked the use of multiple POVs and timelines. Slaughter utilizes this style so well. It’s one of my favorite things about her writing. I thought the issues were pretty timely, even though one timeline was set 30+ years ago. It shines a light on the corruption of the powerful, as well as the misguided, violent atrocities people commit in the name of social justice. While I liked both of the main characters and timelines, I have to admit I liked the 1980s chapters a little more. While there was maybe a little more action in the present, the real heart of the story happened 30 years before.

She had always believed – vehemently, with great conviction – that the only way to change the world was to destroy it. 

I found the character of Nick fascinating. Horrible, but fascinating. The cult like adoration he managed to manipulate out of people and the  control he was able to hold over them, even when they knew they were being manipulated, was kind of horrifying. Even though they were under his spell (and had an abundance of issues themselves) I really liked Jane and Andrew. In the present chapters, I found Andrea a little hard to understand at times. I am not somebody who should be judging someone for being quiet, but she really took it to extremes. I often wondered if she had some kind of mental disability, but it’s never addressed. However, she was still a sympathetic and interesting character. While the circumstances are different, I really related to the sudden discovery of learning everything you thought you knew about your parent was a lie.

Overall, I really enjoyed Pieces of Her. While it was different than I’ve come to expect from Slaughter, it still had the excellent writing, clever twists, and compelling characters she’s known for. My only struggle with it was how long the chapters were (there are close to 500 pages and there are only 15 chapters, plus an epilogue) which is not my favorite thing, but I’m sure many other won’t be bothered by it. I still definitely recommend this one to mystery/thriller fans and am eagerly anticipating more from Slaughter.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars