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

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Review: Dead Drift (Chesapeake Valor #4) by Dani Pettrey

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Synopsis from GoodReads:

Private Investigator Kate Maxwell never stopped loving Luke Gallagher after he disappeared. Now he’s back, and together they must unravel a twisting thread of secrets, lies, and betrayal while on the brink of a biological disaster that will shake America to its core. Will they and their love survive, or will Luke and Kate become the terrorist’s next target?

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

I’ve really enjoyed Dani Pettrey’s Chesapeake Valor series and I thought Dead Drift was a great conclusion.

While I initially didn’t really love the terrorism plot line that first appeared in book two of the series, I thought it worked really well here. It really takes center stage and I was invested it. The secondary mystery circled back to an on-going investigation from the first book and the killer of Griffin’s little sister was finally revealed. I thought the mixture of the urgency and the emotional were balanced much better here than in the previous book, which was probably my least favorite of the series.

I really liked Luke. I was excited for him to finally take a central role and he didn’t disappoint. I would’ve loved to hear a little more of his time away, but I thought the reasons for his disappearance and silence for seven years was well explained, as well as how he felt about it. I liked Kate more than I thought I would, but she’s definitely not my favorite female lead of the series. I loved seeing the whole gang all together. They are a very likable group and I will miss reading about them.

I only have two real complaints. I didn’t like that we didn’t get very much time with Parker and Avery at all. All the other characters got a good amount of page time, but I didn’t feel like they were very present which disappointed me because they’re my favorite couple of the series. I also didn’t like that there’s a really big moment in the conclusion of the terrorism plot line that was just mentioned after the fact instead of being able to experience it with the characters. I thought Pettrey did a really good job with the all the action scenes up to that point and would have liked to have seen that important moment.

Overall, I really enjoyed Dead Drift. I thought the mysteries were intriguing and I really liked getting Luke’s POV. As always, I thought Pettrey did a good job with the Christian elements of the story. It’s never preachy, but just an organic part of the characters’ lives. I’m really going to miss these characters and look forward to the author’s next series.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

Review: Hangman (Detective William Fawkes #2) by Daniel Cole

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

How do you catch a killer who’s already dead?

Eighteen months have passed, but the scars the Ragdoll murders left behind remain.

DCI Emily Baxter is summoned to a meeting with US Special Agents Elliot Curtis of the FBI and Damien Rouche of the CIA. There, she is presented with photographs of the latest copycat murder: a body contorted into a familiar pose, strung up impossibly on the other side of the world, the word BAIT carved deep into its chest.

As the media pressure intensifies, Baxter is ordered to assist with the investigation and attend the scene of another murder to discover the same word scrawled across the victim, carved across the corpse of the killer – PUPPET.

As the murders continue to grow in both spectacle and depravity on both sides of the Atlantic, the team helplessly play catch up. Their only hope: to work out who the ‘BAIT’ is intended for, how the ‘PUPPETS’ are chosen but, most importantly of all, who is holding the strings.

Ragdoll was my favorite book of 2017 and I have been anxiously waiting for the follow-up ever since. Though the American release date is not for a couple more months, I won a giveaway for a book of my choice and was very excited to see I could get a UK edition of Hangman. While it didn’t quite live up to all my expectations, it was a well-written, engrossing mystery.

I’m going to get what I didn’t like about it out of the way first. You know how some people say “religion in a book ruins it for me”? Well, I am kind of the opposite. A strong Anti-God theme and mocking religion can ruin it for me. The book basically starts out with a character saying there is no God and it really just started me off on the wrong foot with the story. Any mention of God or religion throughout the book was condemning and I found it kind of offensive. While I wouldn’t say the atheism was a strong theme throughout the plot or anything, it was kind of brought up several times and I have to say it diminished my enjoyment a bit.

I thought the overall mystery was well-done. It was methodical and intriguing and suspenseful. Cole did a good job of making the atmosphere very tense and – at times – creepy. There was still some of the dark humor I appreciated from Ragdoll, but I didn’t think it was as funny as the first book.

After the events of Ragdoll unfolded, I really didn’t know how this William Fawkes series could continue. Hangman shifts focus to really shine the light on Baxter. I kind of hated Baxter in the first book and I have to say I don’t really like her any better here. She is smart and determined, but she’s deeply paranoid, self-centered, and abrasive. She is an interesting character, but it was kind of hard to care about her. Thankfully, my dear, sweet Edmunds was back, too. I absolutely adored him in the first book and continued to in this one. I also really enjoyed the introduction of CIA Agent Rouche. He was quirky and sad and I kind of loved him.

Overall, I did enjoy Hangman. I really like Cole’s writing and how he can mix humor in with such dark subjects. I liked the mystery and most of the characters. While I was offended by the mocking of religious beliefs and it did lessen my enjoyment a bit, it didn’t all out ruin the book for me. The very ending really has me looking forward to what will happen next.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

Review: What You Want to See (Roxane Weary #2) by Kristen Lepionka

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Read the synopsis on Good Reads:

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

What You Want to See will be available 5/1/18. 

I really enjoyed Kristen Lepionka’s debut book of the Roxane Weary series, The Last Place You Look, and I think I liked this one even better.

I’m not going to share the synopsis here because I think it gives way too much of the plot away. While I think it would be best to start with the first book in the series to have a better handle on Roxane’s relationships, romantic and otherwise, the mystery is self-contained to this book and could be read as a standalone. Roxane is a private investigator who recently closed a very high profile case. She’s taken a much more low-key job – trailing a possible cheating fiancé. The case spirals into something much more dangerous and Roxane finds herself caught up in the middle of it.

I really enjoyed the twisty mystery in this. There were just so many layers that kept being revealed. It had the potential to get really out of hand, but Lepionka juggled it all really well. In a lot of mysteries I read these days I have everything all figured out pretty early on, but this one kept me guessing. While there were a few things I might have predicted, there were lots of other things I didn’t. I kind of liked just reading it and being surprised, instead of trying to figure out every little thing. I thought the pacing was well done and there was never a time I felt like something drug on too long. I did think the ending was jut a tiny bit rushed, though, and thought there were a couple of loose ends that weren’t tied up quite as neatly as I would’ve liked them to have been.

I thought Roxane was a little more likable in this book, as well. She seems to be working on her alcohol issues (most of the time, anyways) and she appears a little more self-aware. She had some good character growth, which I appreciated. I’m still not thrilled with her romantic interests, though (yes, there’s two). I really, really disliked Catherine in the previous book. She just seemed like an awful person who was no good at all for Roxane. She was a little better and a little more self-aware, too, this time around, but I think she’s still technically married and I’m just not on that ship. I do like Tom, as a character, but he also is in a relationship with someone else. To be fair, there were not any real romantic moments between he and Roxane in this book, but there’s still obvious chemistry that seems a little inappropriate given his relationship status. If he breaks up with his girlfriend, though, I think I could really root for him to be with Roxane.

Overall, I really enjoyed What You Want to See. It was well-paced and well-written, with a really interesting mystery. I also love that this book is set in Columbus, OH and I recognized a lot of the areas mentioned. I definitely recommend this series to Mystery fans and am looking forward to reading more from Lepionka in the future.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

Review: The Kept Woman (Will Trent #8) by Karin Slaughter

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

Husbands and wives. Mothers and daughters. The past and the future.

Secrets bind them. And secrets can destroy them.

The author of the acclaimed standalone Pretty Girls returns with this long-awaited new novel in her bestselling Will Trent series—an electrifying, emotionally complex thriller that plunges the Georgia detective into the darkest depths of a case that just might destroy him.

With the discovery of a murder at an abandoned construction site, Will Trent and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation are brought in on a case that becomes much more dangerous when the dead man is identified as an ex-cop.

Studying the body, Sara Linton—the GBI’s newest medical examiner and Will’s lover—realizes that the extensive blood loss didn’t belong to the corpse. Sure enough, bloody footprints leading away from the scene indicate there is another victim—a woman—who has vanished . . . and who will die soon if she isn’t found.

Will is already compromised, because the site belongs to the city’s most popular citizen: a wealthy, powerful, and politically connected athlete protected by the world’s most expensive lawyers—a man who’s already gotten away with rape, despite Will’s exhaustive efforts to put him away.

But the worst is yet to come. Evidence soon links Will’s troubled past to the case . . . and the consequences will tear through his life with the force of a tornado, wreaking havoc for Will and everyone around him, including his colleagues, family, friends—and even the suspects he pursues.

Relentlessly suspenseful and furiously paced, peopled with conflicted, fallible characters who leap from the page, The Kept Woman is a searing novel of love, loss, and redemption. A seamless blend of twisty police procedural and ingenious psychological thriller, it marks Karin Slaughter’s triumphant return to her most popular series, sure to please new and diehard fans alike.

I was late to the party with the Will Trent series. The first book of the series I picked up was the book prior to this one, Unseen. It was actually one of the first books I reviewed on this blog. After that, I went back and read the whole series. And loved it. And have been (impatiently) waiting for the next installment ever since. After three years, Slaughter finally gave us more Will Trent and it was definitely worth the wait!

Karin Slaughter has such a great style of writing. Her use of shifting POV and timelines is always used to the greatest effect possible and is done with such skill. I’m a little embarrassed to admit that I decided to put this book off until a library book became available instead of buying it because I read a review that (incorrectly stated) the second half of the book was told from Angie’s (Will’s “wife” and resident psycho) POV. I’ve always hated Angie and didn’t think I could stomach half a book from her (not to mention being a little annoyed of only getting half a book from Will, Sara (his girlfriend), and Faith (his partner)). But, of course, I should have had faith in Slaughter’s storytelling. We get Angie’s POV at the beginning, middle, and end of the book. The middle, where we go back in time a bit and find out just what Angie was up to, was definitely one of the best parts of the book. Yes, I still hate Angie. Yes, she’s still a psycho. But I actually really loved being able to get in her head and plot-wise it was pretty intense.

The mystery of the book was really well done. I loved the build up and the little reveals. There were several things that completely surprised me and I love that. As a fan of the series, I also love the character development. Will Trent is such a complicated character and his relationship with Angie is so complicated, as well. I really enjoyed the exploration of their twisted relationship and how it affected those around them.

Overall, I really loved this book. Slaughter never disappoints me and I am so happy that we finally got another book in this series. I definitely recommend it to fans of mystery/suspense/crime. I already can’t wait for the next one!

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

4 stars

Review and Giveaway: Black-Eyed Susans by Julia Heaberlin

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Synopsis from Good Read:

For fans of Laura Lippman and Gillian Flynn comes an electrifying novel of stunning psychological suspense.


I am the star of screaming headlines and campfire ghost stories.
I am one of the four Black-Eyed Susans.
The lucky one.

As a sixteen-year-old, Tessa Cartwright was found in a Texas field, barely alive amid a scattering of bones, with only fragments of memory as to how she got there. Ever since, the press has pursued her as the lone surviving “Black-Eyed Susan,” the nickname given to the murder victims because of the yellow carpet of wildflowers that flourished above their shared grave. Tessa’s testimony about those tragic hours put a man on death row.

Now, almost two decades later, Tessa is an artist and single mother. In the desolate cold of February, she is shocked to discover a freshly planted patch of black-eyed susans—a summertime bloom—just outside her bedroom window. Terrified at the implications—that she sent the wrong man to prison and the real killer remains at large—Tessa turns to the lawyers working to exonerate the man awaiting execution. But the flowers alone are not proof enough, and the forensic investigation of the still-unidentified bones is progressing too slowly. An innocent life hangs in the balance. The legal team appeals to Tessa to undergo hypnosis to retrieve lost memories—and to share the drawings she produced as part of an experimental therapy shortly after her rescue.

What they don’t know is that Tessa and the scared, fragile girl she was have built a  fortress of secrets. As the clock ticks toward the execution, Tessa fears for her sanity, but even more for the safety of her teenaged daughter. Is a serial killer still roaming free, taunting Tessa with a trail of clues? She has no choice but to confront old ghosts and lingering nightmares to finally discover what really happened that night.

Shocking, intense, and utterly original, Black-Eyed Susans is a dazzling psychological thriller, seamlessly weaving past and present in a searing tale of a young woman whose harrowing memories remain in a field of flowers—as a killer makes a chilling return to his garden.

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

Black-Eyed Susans will be available August 11, 2015

Heaberlin effortlessly weaves together past and present into one suspenseful tale of a woman trying to outrun her monster. Ignore the Gillian Flynn comparison. Julia Heaberlin’s Black-Eyed Susans is so good it doesn’t need it.

Black-Eyed Susans is not your usual serial killer story. Details to what exactly happened to Tessa when she was taken at sixteen are kept vague. The horrors the other girls in the grave may have faced are also not expounded upon. There is no grand speech from the killer explaining what made him/her the way he/she is. The story is really more about Tessa’s journey to recovery, which after almost twenty years, is still not quite finished.

Tessa is the lone survivor of the Black-Eyed Susan killer. She testified against the man who is now on death row with very little time left. When Tessa finds the out of season black-eyed susans planted outside her bedroom window she believes it’s the work of the killer, her monster. And it isn’t the first time it’s happened. She joins the team working to free the man she helped convict before it’s too late. In doing so she is forced to confront secrets she’s kept and memories she’s repressed.

Tessa was a likable heroine. Other than being super protective of her teenage daughter and that the other “Susans” talk to her in her head, she’s not as crazy as you might think she would be. She’s paranoid (maybe even rightfully so), but she’s functioning and has made a good life for herself and Charlie, her daughter. Adding to the paranoia brought on by the flowers she finds outside her window, she starts receiving gifts from her childhood friend Lydia, who she hasn’t seen since the trial ended about twenty years ago. Lydia and her family disappeared into the night and no one had heard from them since.

The story is told in alternating chapters of Past and Present. I’m a big fan of multiple timelines and it’s done excellently here. There were several chapters that ended in cliffhanger moments and the next chapter you were in a different timeline. It definitely kept me turning the pages, feeling unable to stop because the story was continually suspenseful in at least one timeline at any given time. After the first two parts of the story, the third is told in Tessa’s Present and Lydia’s Past, and one chapter from The Monster which was also very effective story telling.

This is a very character-driven novel, which I loved. I feel like we really got to know Tessa, even though she was not always the most reliable narrator. I liked all of the side characters, her daughter Charlie, their neighbor (and comic relief) Effie, the lawyer and love interest Bill, Charlie’s father Lucas, and the forensic scientist Jo. I also felt the side characters from the Past, Lydia and the therapist that is helping prepare Tessa for trial, are very well done.

There’s not much more I can say that wouldn’t involve spoilers. Overall, I really enjoyed Black-Eyed Susans. It was a well paced, character-driven, suspenseful novel that I couldn’t stop reading. And during the few times I wasn’t reading – for silly things like work – I was thinking about reading it. I would definitely recommend it to fans of Suspense and character-driven novels.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

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Now for a Giveaway!

Enter the rafflecopter below for a chance to win a copy of Black-Eyed Susans! Please note that if you win, your information will be forwarded on to the publisher so they can mail out the copy. US only (sorry international friends)!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*SPOILERS*SPOILERS*SPOILERS*SPOILERS*SPOILERS

I can’t help myself and have to mention one more thing. THIS DOES CONTAIN SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the book, please don’t read any further.

While we find out who the killer is, we never get his/her name at any time throughout the book (I went looking for it while writing my review because I couldn’t recall it and realized only pronouns or his title was used). I think this is a brilliant, subtle narrative device which reinforces the theme of the story being about Tessa and not the serial killer.

That said, I still wish there would have been a little more info on the killer as to the how’s and why’s. But, as I mentioned earlier, this story isn’t really about him and it doesn’t really detract from the story not knowing those things.

Review: Speak of the Devil (Anna Curtis #3) by Allison Leotta

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

On the very night she gets engaged to the man she loves, sex-crimes prosecutor Anna Curtis’s professional life takes a shocking turn that threatens everything she holds dear. A few miles away from where she’s enjoying her romantic dinner, two separate groups are gearing up to raid a brothel. A vicious killer known as Diablo—the Devil—leads one group. A few minutes later, Anna’s own investigative team heads in to search the brothel, as part of an ongoing fight against human trafficking in DC. Both groups are caught off guard, with deadly results.

As Anna investigates the bloody face-off, the boundaries between her work and home life begin to blur when she discovers a web of long-buried secrets and official lies that lead straight to her doorstep. And everything Anna counted on—the happiness she seemed so close to securing—comes into question as Diablo moves in for yet another kill.

Allison Leotta draws on her experience as a DC sex-crimes prosecutor to take you into the back rooms of the US Attorney’s Office, the hidden world of the Witness Protection Program, and the secret rituals of one of America’s most dangerous gangs.

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After finishing this book I am now caught up on the Anna Curtis series (since the first book I read was #4). I think it’s safe to say that Allison Leotta has gotten better with each book. I enjoyed Law of Attraction, I devoured Discretion and thought it was basically everything a DC-based crime novel should be, and Speak of the Devil keeps up with the crime/mystery aspect I expect while also really delivering on the emotional front.

Any book in this genre includes some scenes that are hard to read and when one features a gang who’s mottos is “Kill, Rape, Control”, you know you’re in for some heart wrenching situations. Not only do we get the violent POV of some of the gang members, we get the POV of one of those gang members who wants out. His character development was very strong and really conveyed the intensity of his emotions. I was really rooting for him throughout the book.

There are also big things happening in Anna’s personal life. Now, I’ve read A Good Killing (book 4), and know what the outcome of these personal developments would be, but I was not expecting how emotionally invested in it I would be. I’ve always been a little ambivalent towards Jack, but in this book we find things out about him that made me start to dislike him. And he handles things pretty poorly. But still. Anna really loves him and wants to marry him and I found myself hoping things would go her way.

In addition to the personal storylines, the actual crime/mystery part of the book was very well done. Leotta continues to impress me with her writing of the legal specifics, never going overboard on the details, but making it realistic and easy to understand. There are also several very suspenseful chapters that made me curse my 1/2 hour lunch break. The crime story itself had several layers that all came together well in the end, including a twist involving the murder of Jack’s wife, Nina.

Overall, I really enjoyed Speak of the Devil. It was an incredibly well-written, well-paced story that really tugs on the heartstrings. I’m looking forward to re-reading A Good Killing, to see if I feel any differently now that I know more of Anna’s background. I recommend this series to fans of crime/mystery/suspense. If you’re not reading this series yet, you should be!

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

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*There’s still a couple days left to enter my 2 Year Blogaversary Giveaway-Ending 6/26*