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!

REVIEW – A Good Marriage by Kimberly McCreight

“That’s the hardest part about marriage isn’t it? Somebody else’s problems become your own. It doesn’t always feel fair.”

I frequently choose thrillers for my Book of the Month picks, and they usually don’t disappoint. This was no exception – although not my favorite thriller, A Good Marriage was well-paced, interesting and twisty.

I did think it did a little TOO much towards the end. It’s like there was one connection too many for the plot to feel plausible (but I guess that’s the fun of fiction). Overall, I would recommend this book to anyone who is looking for a good thriller that will make them think and surprise them until the very end.

REVIEW – The Ancestor by Danielle Trussoni

When Bert Monte receives a mysterious letter in the mail (it’s gilded and it’s in Italian) she quickly learns she has inherited a noble title and a castle in the Alps overlooking a small village. Sounds like a grown-up Princess Diaries, right? Not exactly…

This book starts off strong. There’s an ominous vibe right from the beginning – even Bert mentions a sense of impending doom and considers throwing the letter away. But, she doesn’t. And we get to learn the secrets of the Montebianco family.

At first it’s like a dream come true – a whirlwind trip to Italy on a private jet, a stay in an opulent hotel, instant wealth, prestige. But, something’s not right. If you’re a thriller reader (and if you read the synopsis of this book) you probably have some theories in mind, even as you read this review. I mean, we’ve all read books about rich families with deep dark secrets, literal skeletons in their closets, you know the drill. Trust me when I tell you – with The Ancestor, you DO NOT KNOW THE DRILL. You couldn’t POSSIBLY even begin to imagine what you’ll uncover throughout the course of this book.

I’m not going to even begin to explain what happens here, because I think going in as blind as possible will just make the reading experience better. I can tell you this: the castle has major Beauty and the Beast vibes. The story of the Montebianco family is dark. There are some horrific parts, some incredibly gruesome parts, and some deeply sad moments. There’s a paranormal element here. You might be able to piece some things together near the beginning (I did – somewhat). But then you’ll end up down a path you didn’t expect.

This book isn’t going to be for everyone. It gets weird (especially in the last quarter of the story). The first half was a real slam dunk for me, and the last bit…wasn’t so much. My overall feelings about this book are positive – I read it in the course of a day, partly because the writing flowed so easily and partly because I just had to find out what was going to happen next.

REVIEW – The Guest List by Lucy Foley

“If I can’t move heaven, then I shall raise hell.”

Weddings are supposed to be happy occasions right? WRONG. (At least in the case of this book.) The setting is dark and unsettling right from page one.

The Guest List serves up HEAVY modern-day Agatha Christie vibes with a remote island and an overall feeling of dread where everyone is a suspect. We flash back and forth between the “NOW” (at the wedding reception, after a body has been found) and the “THEN” which encompasses about a day and a half prior to the murder.

“It feels personal, this storm. It feels as though it has saved all its fury for them.”

The island and house (the Folly) feel like characters in their own right – there’s a lot of history on the island and it adds the perfect dash of supernatural spookiness to the entire thing.

“I have my own ghosts. I carry them with me wherever I go.”

Pretty much everyone in this book is a horrible person (some more than others, of course). Not a single one is likable but it just makes the reading experience more fun. Maybe this is a little ridiculous or far-fetched, but if you suspend disbelief for 300-or-so pages, you’ll have a great time reading this story.

Content warning: abortion, talks of suicide, self-harm.

REVIEW – The Better Sister by Alafair Burke

Phew, what a premise! Our main character Chloe is married to her sister’s ex-husband, Adam, and is raising her nephew/stepson, Ethan. Got that straight? When Adam is murdered, suspicions quickly turn to Ethan and we follow a twisty narrative that includes family drama, secrets and a court case.

This story did not go in the direction that I expected, and I really enjoyed it! It gave me some Jodi Picoult vibes – a court battle, moral ambiguity, family secrets, etc. It really comes down to this – how far would you go to protect the people you love?

I think this is a great summer mystery for thriller lovers and newbies alike. Burke’s writing keeps the reader interested, and the short, punchy chapters made for an incredibly fast reading experience.

Thank you Harper Perennial/Harper Books for my copy of The Better Sister!

COZY MYSTERY REVIEW – Hot Fudge Murder by Cynthia Baxter

Looking for a quick, mindless read? This fits the bill. Hot Fudge Murder is frothy fun – focusing a bit more on the ice cream shop than the actual murder mystery, these books don’t offer a lot of substance but they will leave you craving a scoop or two of your favorite flavor.

Other than the delectable descriptions of a wide variety of ice cream flavors, the real star in this series is the relationships between the characters. Kate’s relationship with her grandmother and niece is heartwarming and fun. There are definitely cozier mysteries out there and more mysterious cozies, but this is a great option for something to read while spending a lazy day at the pool or beach.

Thank you Kensington Books for sending me a copy of Hot Fudge Murder!

REVIEW – The Holdout by Graham Moore

“In the stories, there’s always an answer at the end. Resolution. …But out here – it’s not like that. Out here, maybe somebody goes to jail. Maybe somebody doesn’t. But we never know the truth. The real, whole, definite truth. It’s impossible.”

This one started strong for me, dragged a bit in the middle, and finished with a relative bang.

“What sort of lunatic God would put these people in a room together?”

The Holdout is sure to be a memorable thriller for many due to its unique premise – 10 years after issuing a “not guilty” verdict in what seemed to be one of the biggest trials of the century, members of the jury are brought back together to work on a documentary series with a well-known murder podcast. When one of the jurors is found dead, our main character has to work to clear her own name, find the killer and attempt to solve the original disappearance/murder.

I had some of the plot here pegged from the beginning (I’m hard to surprise, sorry). I enjoyed the reading experience overall – I flew through this book over the course of one afternoon/evening. I think many thriller readers will love this one. It’s twisty and fun.

COZY MYSTERY REVIEW – Murder Can Confuse Your Chihuahua by Rose Pressey

{Available April 28, 2020} I found myself in need of a quick, light cozy and this fit the bill! Murder Can Confuse Your Chihuahua had me laughing from the opening of chapter one.

As Celeste is prepping for a weeklong craft fair, she comes across a dead body by the river. What unfolds throughout the next few days is a twisty whodunnit, filled with suspicious characters. There’s also a slight supernatural element in this story.

There were a few repetitive parts – one plot point in particular was revealed twice, but I assume that will be fixed in the final copy.

Thank you Kensington Books for the ARC!

REVIEW – Mystic River by Dennis Lehane

I do not give away five-star ratings lightly. This book EARNED it. Every step of the way. Mystic River is a heartbreaking, suspenseful story about three childhood friends (as close as three 11-year-old boys can be for about a year) who are torn apart by a terrifying event that changes their lives forever.

We quickly flash forward 25 years. The boys are now men – with their own lives and families. They each have their own demons to face throughout the book. A horrific, deeply personal murder occurs and brings Sean, Jimmy and Dave back together.

Man oh man this book is VISCERAL. A gloomy, desolate tone is set early on and it never lets up. It feels like you’re viewing the events through a smudged lens. The grief in this book is palpable – each man has something he’s lost (some losses are more raw and cut deeper than others, of course).

There’s a lot to be said about blame and the need for closure here. One character in particular – I found myself not liking him throughout the majority of the book, and then I felt so terrible for him and so deeply sad for how his life turned out. This book will make you feel things. Uncomfortable things. Sad, hopeless things.

Maybe I’m just 20 years late to the party, but if you haven’t read Mystic River yet I urge you to give it a try. (And I plan on watching the movie soon!)