William Morrow | 2019
Opening Hook: No one cares about your sports trophies in real life.
Main Character: Catching a killer has never been so boring.
Plot Twisty-ness: Over-the-top, yet done to death.
The first book I ever read by Peter Swanson was The Kind Worth Killing and it totally impressed me enough to grab a four-star rating from my crabby, judgmental ass. Despite the characters being dull as hell, the plot was completely engrossing and the twists, duelling narrations and dark Strangers on a Train-like premise kicked me right in the crotch.
Since then, I’ve picked up Swanson’s work a few more times with optimistic expectations and have struggled with each reading. Fuck me for being positive, I guess. Before She Knew Him is no exception to that struggle. It’s better than All the Beautiful Lies (which was a goddamn snoozer,) but it’s still not touching me the way my first time with Swanson did (that’s what she said.)
This, like a lot of Swanson’s work, seems to borrow heavy inspiration from Hitchcock, but just isn’t doing it as well as the original or adding anything new to the template. Before She Knew Him has serious Rear Window vibes when Hen and her douchebag husband, Lloyd, move to a small town outside of Boston so that Hen can find some peace and quiet while attempting to get the symptoms of her bipolar disorder under control. She’s an artist who works from home, and wouldn’t you just know it, she eventually suspects her neighbour, Matt, is a serial killer. BUT NO ONE BELIEVES HER dun dun dunnnnn…
Also, a serial killer named Matt? Bruh.
Continue reading “Review: Before She Knew Him by Peter Swanson”
HarperCollins | 2013
Opening Mystery: Seriously, WTF happened to Shannan Gilbert?
Main Creep: Peter Hackett has some attention issues.
Plot Truthy-ness: A humanizing portrait.
I’m pretty fascinated by the Long Island Serial killer case. It’s been some time since we had an evil, undetectable serial killer case to watch in real-time. Though it’s faded from the news and been replaced by, well, mostly Trump for fuck’s sake, this is certainly a story to keep a spotlight on. There are dozens of women whose lives have been cut short with zero progress towards justice of any kind.
The more cynical side of me might say that because they were escorts and sex workers that their cases are deemed “less important” to solve compared to other things cops are coming across every day involving people with more “societal value.” That’s the more cynical side.
I’ve seen a couple documentaries on this decades-old unsolved mystery, watched a few interviews and have a general idea of who is suspicious AF (I’m looking at you Dr. Hackett, you shady motherfucker,) so, I wanted to read this novel by an award-winning investigative reporter because I thought I would be getting a really in-depth overview of the case as it stood in 2013, and some theories about what the actual fuck is going on.
Continue reading “Review: Lost Girls – An Unsolved American Mystery by Robert Kolker”
Opening Hook: Church will kill you.
Main Character: Drunky McHypocrite.
Plot Twisty-ness: You never know what Priests are up to.
My endless struggle to catch up on NetGalley arcs continues with this book I received in January of 2017.
Seriously I’m just the fucking worst. Please don’t leave me!
The Missing Ones wasn’t the worst. But it wasn’t great either…
First of all, it’s way too long considering the substance of the story which is pretty typical and occasionally flat, albeit mixed with moments that were kind of disturbing. Consider this your warning for baby murder.
Detective Lottie Parker is heading up a team looking for a murderer who has killed a woman in a church and tried to make another man’s death look like a suicide. The deaths are all connected in some way to a former Catholic children’s home, St. Angela’s, that is disturbing as fuck as one would expect a religious children’s home to be. There’s a land developer involved, some business partners and a few shady priests.
I mean, in a nutshell, you could say the theme of this book is: Catholics really know how to fuck people up.
This should come as a surprise to literally no one who is on the outside looking in. Listen, if you’re here for some eggshell walking around religion, you’ve found the wrong book reviewer.
Continue reading “Review: The Missing Ones (Detective Lottie Parker, #1) by Patricia Gibney”
Flatiron Books | 2019
Opening Hook: Pool cues and brass knuckles
Main Character: Guilt-plaguing with tight jeans and a purpose
Plot Twisty-ness: A little off the Silicon Valley rails, and I don’t mean cocaine.
I was committed and ready, and completely open, to falling head over heels in love with Nikki Griffin, bookseller and badass P.I. with some serious anger issues.
But, unfortunately, this didn’t totally live up to everything I wanted it to be. Call it a victim of my high expectations if you want, but I found this to be a just okay, middle-of-the-road thriller.
The star highlight for me is the main character of Nikki Griffin. I think she was complicated but real. She came with a dark backstory and a closed-off, tough-as-nails personality that didn’t slip away the moment she met a guy. For being a novel written by a man, I was pleased to find she didn’t talk about how her nipples felt or looked at any moment, since that seems to be a thing male writers are typically preoccupied with when writing female leads. Any comments that she makes about her body seemed to me to be in relation to men looking at her and their sexual thoughts, and were less about sexually describing herself.
The way Nikki is introduced is pretty canon the whole way through the novel. She likes privacy, but she’s not dead inside. She keeps things close to the chest, but isn’t afraid to be vulnerable with the people she trusts. She’s strong, smart and professionally violent. All things I probably am, but just way less cool about it. Like, I daydream about breaking a man’s arm for hitting a woman, but really I just eat cookies about it.
Continue reading “Save Me From Dangerous Men (Nikki Griffin, #1) by S.A. Lelchuk”
Thomas & Mercer | 2019
Opening Hook: It’s a blasty-blast.
Main Character: If Sherlock Holmes lacked a personality.
Plot Twisty-ness: Technically good, missing the feeling.
*shakes fist at sky* I just want to read a legitimately strong female character! Just one!
Okay, so I liked this and it’s also a disappointment in some big ways so… *fart noises*
Here goes my ranty review. I’ll try to highlight the positive stuff, but we all know that’s not my strong suit.
I could give some line about my expectations being too high when it comes to female-led crime fiction, or it’s not the book, it’s me. But I won’t because I refuse to apologize for wanting to find a female character who isn’t desperately crippled by a man in some way which doesn’t allow for robust characterization to occur outside of what revolves around that man. It’s fucking annoying me at this point.
Ziba MacKenzie is former special forces and an expert criminal profiler. SPECIAL FUCKING FORCES. She has a huge brain stuffed with lots of knowledge that is both practical and theoretical. Like, she can recite facts about serial killers but can also save lives in dire situations.
Continue reading “Review: Blood for Blood (Ziba MacKenzie, #1) by Victoria Selman”
Viking | 2018
Opening Hook: Full “once upon a time” style.
Main Character: A young stepmother who my stepkids should be nicer to!
Plot Twisty-ness: As slow as watching kids warm up to dad’s new wife.
Just like other reviews aplenty will tell you, this novel is inspired by another classic novel and blah blah blah. I don’t know the book. I might know the author’s name? I’ve never read it and I didn’t know any of this “inspiration” shit going into the book so it really makes zero difference to me whatsoever.
Look, I never claimed to be a refined reader.
I read this novel purely for the gothic feel of the synopsis and because I’m a stepmother married to an older(ish) man and those themes resonate with me. I haven’t found many stories centring on stepmothers/second wives, which are actually mystery/thrillers that don’t paint people like me as some ridiculous evil creature to be feared and ousted.
I wagered, because this book was told from the stepmother’s point of view, there was a good chance she wasn’t the villain per se. And thankfully, I was right! The stepmother isn’t the villain for once! She’s more of a saviour, which is totally how I see myself, just with less doing things that make anyone’s life better, and more being so peeved that I never get to play my PlayStation anymore that I bought a second one out of passive aggressive spite. It’s how I roll.
Continue reading “Review: The Winters by Lisa Gabriele”
Thomas & Mercer | 2018
Opening Hook: A subway nightmare, and I’m not talking about Jared.
Main Character: Trying to do it all, failing.
Plot Twisty-ness: Twisty, but in a depressing way.
I don’t know why I thought this was going to be a serial killer “thriller”… I mean, in some ways it is. There is a serial killer. And cops. And stuff is happening.
But, holy shit, this might be the most depressing crime fiction novel I’ve ever read. This just hit me right in all my sad feels like a British episode of This Is Us or some shit.
I don’t want to give up any spoilers, but I will say this: one of the main reasons I love crime fiction so much – besides the psychologically fascinating elements – is that the good guys win and the bad guys lose.
The world is shitty enough and bad guys seem to win a lot, especially lately. So, it’s nice to be able to immerse yourself in a world where the bad guy is going to get his just desserts. That’s why these stories work for so many people. We want to know, despite the evidence around us, that good will triumph over evil.
And for that to not necessarily happen in a way that feels satisfying like it usually does with novels of this kind, it’s a little bit of a punch in the gut.
Kudos to John Marrs for bringing everyone down, I guess.
Continue reading “Review: Her Last Move by John Marrs”
It seems like everyone who settles down is miserable. They’re either broke or stressed or plagued with a sense of duty to someone who doesn’t appreciate them.
Bloodhound Books | 2018
Opening Hook: Kill your family for freedom!
Main Characters: Whiny bitches, but like, I totally get it.
Plot Twisty-ness: Twisty, but almost doesn’t make sense.
This book is going to cut with different women in different ways because the content is so heavily focussed on the various “caregiver” roles that women play. Wife, mother, friend, sister, lover.
It focuses on those roles with a decidedly negative lens. Like, suuuuuuuper negative. Like, if you were thinking about getting married, this will give you pause. If you were are on the fence about having kids, this will confirm your worst fears.
The story is told by four women – Jo, Shayla, Ellie and June – who all live on Oleander Way. Some know each other, some don’t, but they are connected by their neighbourhood.
We open on a murder. A husband and two children have been gutted in their home in the middle of the day. But who’s husband and children? And why did it happen? As the story unfolds, this mystery seemingly becomes less important than all the other crazy shit that happens to these four women.
Continue reading “Review: Pretty Ugly Lies by Pamela Crane”
“Today, we are going to be playing a little game of Murder.”
Hanover Square Press | 2018
Opening Hook: Basically a classic Kesha song.
Main Character: If Maury and Robert Stack had a baby, but that baby was drunk all the time.
Plot Twisty-ness: Jigsaw would be proud.
I went into this novel with every intention of loving it completely. I swear to the god of thunder. But okay, obviously I didn’t completely get there. Story of my life. No one is shocked.
Guess Who started off as a five-star read until I passed the halfway mark and that’s when things fell off the chart. For the first half of the book, it is very much SAW meets Clue, just minus the horror element. It creates a sinister, frantic pace and tone that definitely had me hooked. It’s a locked-room mystery that feels both extravagant and desperate at first, and that definitely worked for me in a totally non-sexual sexual way.
Morgan Sheppard is a TV star who has made a living doing a Maury meets Unsolved Mysteries-style show called Resident Detective. As a child, he solved the murder of his math teacher and created a very successful career riding (read: exploiting) that wave. Through his fame, he’s turned into an alcoholic, drug addict and womanizer. The only problem is, Sheppard has been full of shit for a very long time. And someone knows it. And someone hates him.
This villain, known as The Evil Man who wears a goofy fucking horse mask, locks Sheppard, and five other people, in a hotel room with a dead body in the bathtub. Sheppard has 3 hours to find the killer – one of the people in the room – and prove what kind of detective he really is, or the hotel will be blown up.
Continue reading “Review: Guess Who by Chris McGeorge”
Titan Books | 2017
Opening Hook: Running through the woods, Jason style.
Main Character: Drinks a shit load of tea.
Plot Twisty-ness: Like a half-assed pretzel.
I’m wavering between 2 and 3 stars for this one because on one hand, it’s not a bad book. The writing is good, the characters don’t suck, the setting is kind of spooky and the crimes were unique, not something I’d ever read about before.
But then on the other hand, if I think about it, this book was super formulaic, there was nothing different about the plotting, the villain’s reveal. And although the crimes were in-depth and thought out with great detail, the ending was also pretty predictable (read: typical.)
Nothing about this book was outside the box, which is disappointing because it had every opportunity to be considering it was working with a partly supernatural storyline.
Continue reading “Review: Wychwood (Wychwood, #1) by George Mann”