REVIEW – The Eighth Detective by Alex Pavesi

“I don’t approve in happy endings in crime stories. Death should be shown as a tragedy, never anything else.”

The Eighth Detective is a unique murder mystery in which we are given seven “fictional” murder mysteries laced throughout a “real life” narrative. Editor Julia Hart is working with Grant McAllister, writer and mathematician, on republishing his book. You see, Grant wrote a series of murder mysteries using mathematical principles.

As Julia reads the stories, she starts to pick up on inconsistencies. And those inconsistencies slowly turn into clues that point to something far more sinister.

The murder mysteries are mostly interesting, if a bit too long at times. There was one in particular that I really enjoyed, but I thought the conclusion Julia comes to seemed like she was missing a main point of that particular story.

The writing can be a bit clunky at times throughout this book, and the overarching story is difficult to figure out before all of Grant and Julia’s secrets are revealed. But what it lacks in execution, it makes up in premise and it’s a relatively quick read.

REVIEW – The First to Lie by Hank Phillippi Ryan

The First to Lie is a twisty thrill-ride of a book! We’re introduced to two primary characters, Nora and Ellie. One is a glamorous pharmacy rep with a hidden past, and the other is a reporter for a new news station in Boston who seems to be alone in the world. They both have their secrets and things quickly unfold through each chapter. Throw in a pushy, nosy neighbor turned coworker, quick and impactful flashback chapters and a corporate coverup that has an unending ripple effect, and you have a recipe for a thriller that’s sure to delight readers and keep them guessing.

There are twists here that I called early on, and some that I never saw coming. Ryan’s writing is easy and smooth, and her short, punchy chapters kept me turning the pages way past my bedtime!

Content warning: infertility/fertility treatments, forced miscarriage/abortion

Thank you Forge Reads and Get Red PR for sending me an advanced copy of The First to Lie!

REVIEW – Salvation Station by Kathryn Schleich

When three bodies (two small children and their father) are found buried in the backyard of a church parsonage, Captain Linda Turner vows to track down their killer. The crime is one of the worst she’s ever seen and Linda ends up on a chase unlike anything she’s dealt with before. We also meet Ray Williams, a televangelist with a struggling TV show – that is, until one of his regular attendees approaches him with ideas to ensure the show’s growth and success.

I’ll tell you this much: you’ll know where this book is going pretty early on. You’ll spend most of your time just wanting to know how it all plays out. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I think it’s important to know before you read. This isn’t really a twisty thriller, it’s a sleepy investigative novel that picks up considerably in the final third of the book.

This is one of those books that would make a great episode of Criminal Minds or another investigative crime show. (America’s Most Wanted, maybe?!) Our villain is truly despicable and readers will surely be anxiously waiting for justice. There’s also a strong theme of religion in this book, and using faith to manipulate others. The book is also set in the early 2000s and features some brief mentions of 9/11 and the Enron situation. The choice to have the events in the book take place nearly 20 years ago is an interesting one, but it makes sense given the general MO of the villain and the plausibility of their actions.

Content warning: murder/death of small children, brief mention of animal cruelty, narcissism, manipulation within a romantic/marital relationship.

Thank you Book Publicity Services for sending me a finished copy of Salvation Station!

COZY MYSTERY REVIEW – Three Widows and a Corpse by Debra Sennefelder

Food blogger Hope Early is settled back into her hometown of Jefferson, Connecticut, except for the fact that she keeps finding dead bodies…

When a local real estate developer is found dead during the annual scavenger hunt, Hope inserts herself into the investigation (despite the warnings of her sister…and boyfriend…and best friend…and everyone else in town). The best part? Three women claim to be married to the murder victim, and they all had the means, motive and opportunity to take him out.

I really liked the mystery in this one! It kept me guessing and although I had a hunch early on, Sennefelder did a good job of throwing me off the trail. I also loved the secondary characters and the town in general. This book hits all of the quintessential cozy mystery elements, and I look forward to reading the next book in the series.

Thank you Kensington Books for sending me a copy of Three Widows and a Corpse!

COZY MYSTERY REVIEW – 15 Minutes of Flame by Christin Brecher

{Available August 25, 2020} Someday i’ll get to visit Nantucket for real. For now, i’ll settle for “visiting” the island via Christin Brecher’s Nantucket Candle Maker Mystery Series!

15 Minutes of Flame is the third book in the series (and my second read – I still need to read the first book…). I was so excited to pick this up because it’s set near Halloween. You see, it’s been incredibly hot here in my state for a few weeks, and i’m aching for a cool fall breeze, pumpkin everything and spooky vibes. This fit the bill – complete with 150-year-old skeletons, ghosts (!?), a spooky old house and a murder to top it off.

There were some laugh out loud moments in this book (just get to the part where our heroine starts doing shots to get information from a suspect…) and the historical aspect of the story was a fun little touch.

Thank you Kensington Books for providing me with a NetGalley ARC of 15 Minutes of Flame!

REVIEW – The Second Mother by Jenny Milchman

{Available August 18, 2020} Oof. This was a lot. And it was a lot of things that didn’t work for me. I went into this expecting something a bit more thrilling and a bit more heart-racing and it just didn’t deliver. This book is LONG. Given there are a lot of descriptions of the island, a lot of repetitive incidents and a lot of buildup for a plot twist that could have been introduced 200 pages sooner.

The writing isn’t bad – this book just suffers from trying to accomplish too much, and in the end accomplishes very little. I also felt that the ending of the book didn’t uphold the overall vibes of the beginning. For how long the book is, the end wraps up a little too fast and a little too neatly.

Thank you Books Forward PR for the NetGalley ARC!

REVIEW – The Kept Woman by Karin Slaughter

“Forever was never as long as you thought it was.”

I was already firmly on the Karin Slaughter bandwagon, but this book makes me want to fight to take over the driver’s seat. The Kept Woman is book eight in the Will Trent series. Confession: I’ve only read two books so far in this series (eight and nine…yeah, out of order and with a devil-may-care attitude). My intent is to go back and start at the very beginning, but first I need to order all of those books, and then somehow fit them into my reading schedule…but I digress.

If you are a fan of thrillers and suspense and crime and INTENSITY, you need to read these books. Okay, so….we start off with a dead body (I mean, of course we do). He’s a former cop which automatically increases the interest in investigating his death and supposed murder (is this actually fair? I mean, not really. But that’s the way the system works). There’s a lot of blood at the scene, but it’s quickly discovered that the blood doesn’t belong to the dead body. If that doesn’t hook you, I can’t help you.

“We seek comfort from the very people who do us harm.”

Do you have a literary character you just hate? Not because they’re a bad character, but because they’re so GOOD at being absolutely despicable that you can’t help but love their story but hate them as a human being? You might have a new favorite (least favorite? Most hated?) after reading this book. Phew. People are MESSED. UP. And the worst people can’t help but force their misery upon everyone else. But you also might find a new favorite (actual favorite, a character you root for) in this series too. I just want to hug Will and protect him. And his whole crew – Sara, Amanda, Faith – I LOVE THEM. I want infinite books with these characters.

There are so many side stories crammed into this book but they all fit together and it never feels like too much is going on. Because Karin Slaughter is a writing deity sent to bring us amazing books. There’s no other explanation.

And THAT ENDING. There’s more in store for these characters and I can’t wait to find out what happens.

Content warning: mentions of rape, domestic abuse, child abuse, suicide. Overall gore and violence.

REVIEW – Fire and Vengeance by Robert McCaw

Missing going to the movies? Looking for a summer-y action-packed blockbuster of a book? Fire and Vengeance might be the pick for you!

When a volcanic vent explodes (right under an elementary school…) Koa Kane has some damage control to take care of. First of all, many families are grieving the loss of more than a dozen students and a handful of teachers. Second, why would anyone approve the construction of a school (or any building for that matter) over an active volcanic vent?

As Koa digs into the investigation, he uncovers a decades-long scandal that includes some powerful people in Hawaii. Powerful people who will stop at nothing to cover their own asses.

In addition to the investigation, Koa is also dealing with some family issues. His brother, currently serving time in prison, collapses due to an undiagnosed brain tumor. I actually liked the brother/family storyline more than the main plot of the book, but I still enjoyed my overall reading experience.

McCaw packs a lot of action and intrigue into this book, and you’ll feel like you’re sleuthing right alongside Koa Kane.

Content warning: death of children, brief mentions of suicide, brief mentions of real life school shootings.

Thank you FSB Associates and Oceanview Publishing for the ARC of Fire and Vengeance!

REVIEW – The Mother-in-Law by Sally Hepworth

“I am aware of my limitations. I’m not warm, i’m not especially kind. but I can be strong.”

Okay PSA: This is NOT a thriller. It seems that it was marketed as one, but it’s more of a domestic drama/mystery. If you go into this book knowing it’s not a thriller, odds are you’ll enjoy it.

“We have issues because we care too much.”

I had a LOT of feelings over the course of reading this book – at first, I was annoyed that it was primarily based on conflict between two people who are really terrible at communicating. But oh boy, did I end up LOVING this! It’s so entertaining and unexpected.

The story is sad but oddly heartwarming in some places, and it feels fairly realistic (maybe a slightly exaggerated bit of reality). It’s fascinating and nuanced. And I am officially on the Sally Hepworth bandwagon!

REVIEW – Dark August by Katie Tallo

Dark August is a gritty mystery thriller with a relatively isolated vibe for the first chunk of the book. Our main character Gus receives word that her last living relative has died, and she heads back home (leaving behind a pretty pathetic life) to take care of her great-grandmother’s estate. When she uncovers clues from a cold case her late mother was working on, Gus quickly begins an investigation of her own that leads to some dark and twisty places.

There was one part of the mystery that seemed like more of an afterthought, but overall this book was good. It builds slowly and you do wonder where the heck it’s going to end up, but STICK WITH IT. This book surprised the heck out of me in the last 50 pages or so. It’s not often a book catches me off guard, but I have to give credit when a thriller is able to pull a fast one on me.

Dark August should definitely be on your summer thriller tbr!

Content warning: mentions of rape, domestic abuse, suicide, mild animal abuse.

Thank you Harper Perennial for sending me an ARC of this book!