Review: The Widowmaker (Black Harbor, #2) by Hannah Morrissey


Minotaur Books | 2022

Filed Under: Nobody better lay a finger on my Butterfinger!

A snowy fucked up mystery? Don’t mind if I do!

This is the second novel in a series, but it can totally be read as a standalone (definitely over Christmas if you want the full vibes,) because the town of Black Harbor is really what’s tying everything together.

You say “harbour” and it will immediately make me wistful for living by the water with a chilled lake breeze, wearing chunky sweaters on the beach and maybe solving a cozy local mystery like I’m Jessica Fucking Fletcher. Someone bring around my pink classic cruiser bike with the basket on the front – I’m picking daisies and pursuing justice!

I need to stop getting high before writing reviews. Things really go off the rails pretty quickly.

Anyway, this novel has none of those cutesy, cozy things because the vibe is actually super fucking dark. Sorry, J. Fletch.

Morgan Mori is starting over, and in some ways going backwards, as she moves in with her mom and tries to get a new business as a freelance photographer off the ground. She gets a cryptic note with a mysterious key and a job photographing the Christmas party of Black Harbour’s wealthiest family in quick succession. Then there’s a Santa who I really expected to be a pervert, and by the end of the night of her first job, Morgan is witnessing a murder in a convenience store when all she wanted was a Butterfinger.

Morgan was missing some levity and personality in her characterization, so it read to me like something was missing from this novel overall. Just a little spice. Like, I didn’t really care for Morgan one way or the other as an MC, and that’s not what you want. But the plot survives without, propped up by a more complex secondary character in Det. Ryan Hudson.

As for everything else, the novel goes hard to give you atmosphere and twists, and even a sexy moment or two.

You get a dying town, lost cameras, adoption, mysterious keys, lockboxes, stolen cars out of gas, Porches in the lake, cold cases, murdered cops, child abuse, men being perverts because what’s new, gratuitous Fight Club reference, convenience store robberies, grandfather chauffering, flirtatious drinks, missing orbital bones, wealthy people nonsense, family secrets, shady characters, Ambien popping, admit-one tickets, Christmas parties with Santa, film negatives, special K, revenge, branding, blackmail, law-breaking relatives, mother’s disapproval, kitchen sex, bedroom sex, awkward run-ins with your boss, crossing professional lines, Butterfingers, Bart Simpson dolls, private investigations, lakeside McMansions, snowmobiles, informants who don’t inform very well, sleepwalking vibes, so much snow, anonymous notes, hidden notes, dollar-dollar bills, DVD players because those are still a thing thank you, axes to the skull, singing like a bird and plane tickets.

The pacing is perfection. There is literally no chunk, no chapter and no scene that didn’t provide something to the plot or the characters. The intricacy of the mystery was layered and can keep you guessing, but it sometimes had an unrealistic vibe – like it was just a little bit weird. A few moments were written too vaguely, and that led to what I call smidgens of confusion. Gonna trade mark that. Like what are you talking about, what fucking place are you at now, Morgan?

The ending was maybe a tad over-complicated, but the depictions of police work in Hudson’s POV seemed legit, not hokey, and that was totally captivating, creating a really good grounded anchor for the more dramatic, wild family stuff that was going on with Morgan.

Intense, gritty, and Christmasy with a dark mystery and some weird vibes that help this novel stand out from the rest, this was an excellent read. With a more vibrant main character (possibly wearing a knit sweater on the beach?) this could have been pure fireworks.

A wealthy family shrouded in scandal; a detective tasked with solving an impossible cold case; and a woman with a dark past collide in Hannah Morrissey’s stunning new Black Harbor mystery, The Widowmaker.

Ever since business mogul Clive Reynolds disappeared twenty years ago, the name “Reynolds” has become synonymous with “murder” and “mystery.” And now, lured by a cryptic note, down-on-her-luck photographer Morgan Mori returns home to Black Harbor and into the web of their family secrets and double lives. The same night she photographs the Reynolds holiday get-together, Morgan becomes witness to a homicide of a cop that triggers the discovery of a long-buried clue.

This could finally be the thing to crack open the chilling cold case, and Investigator Ryan Hudson has a chance to prove himself as lead detective. If only he could stop letting his need to solve his partner’s recent murder distract him. But as Morgan exposes her own dark demons, could her sordid history be the key to unlocking more than one mystery?

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