REVIEW – The Residence by Andrew Pyper

“It was the dead who did it. The house was full of them.”

Something terrifying is happening in the White House (I mean, the jokes just write themselves at this point…) But seriously. Not long after Franklin Pierce is elected president, his son dies in a horrific train accident. When Franklin and his wife, Jane, move into the White House, that’s when the real terror begins.

PHEW. This book is a doozy. It’s definitely creepy but, more importantly, it’s incredibly sad. It’s hard enough reading about grieving parents, but when you add some really terrifying, demonic elements to that, it’s gut-wrenching. The opening especially is just chilling and heartbreakingly sad.

You see, Jane accidentally summoned some sort of malevolent presence when she was a young girl, and this presence has been tormenting and influencing her ever since. Is it responsible for the tragedy in her life? Probably. This presence seems to feed off of terror and grief and sadness. The book does seem a little repetitive at times (especially the scenes in the boy’s staged bedroom) but there are some parts that will stick with readers long after they’ve left the White House.

Also I would HIGHLY recommend reading the Author’s Note at the end! It’s absolutely terrifying and makes the book that much better. I mean, is it really hard to imagine that the White House is actually haunted?

Content warning: death of a child, suicidal thoughts

Thank you Gallery Books / Skybound Books for the finished copy!

REVIEW – Do Not Disturb by Claire Douglas

It’s been a little while since I read a good whodunit kind of mystery/thriller, and this was a great way to get back into the genre! Do Not Disturb is set in the Welsh mountains and the guesthouse (and town) are equal parts charming and sinister.

Kirsty moves her family out of London after a traumatic event. They decide to start fresh by purchasing a guesthouse (in America we’d call this a “bed and breakfast”) and going into business with Kirsty’s somewhat overbearing (but well-meaning) mother.

When Kirsty’s estranged cousin Selena shows up, some interesting things start happening (dead flowers left at the doorstep? No thank you). Kirsty is skeptical of Serena’s arrival, and the cousins haven’t spoken in years ever since they had a falling out when they were 18.

I was basically suspicious of EVERYONE at some point or another in this book, which made for a fun reading experience. Do Not Disturb is a twisty, spooky read, ideal for thriller lovers looking to get something just a tad bit different.

Content warning: sexual abuse/rape, attempted suicide, child abuse

Thank you Harper Perennial for the ARC!

REVIEW – They’re Gone by E.A. Barres

Deb and Cessy come from different backgrounds, different marriages and have different experiences. And yet when the unthinkable happens, it causes them to connect in an effort to save their lives.

They’re Gone focuses on two very different women who have one thing in common – both of their husbands were murdered on the same night. As you can probably imagine, these murders uncover long-buried secrets that lead to some very dangerous people.

Overall, this is a solid thriller. It’s twisty and exciting. The “big” twist is relatively easy to guess, but I found myself just wondering when and how the reveal would happen, which made it fun to read.

Thank you Books Forward PR for the digital ARC!

REVIEW – Invisible Girl by Lisa Jewell

I was so excited to get a chance to read the new Lisa Jewell book early! I LOVED The Family Upstairs and had high hopes for this one. Did I love Invisible Girl quite as much? No. But it was still an enjoyable read, and I think a lot of Lisa Jewell fans are going to love it.

We follow Saffyre, a teenage girl with a complicated family history and a dark past; Cate, a mother of two and her husband Roan; and Owen, who is arguably the most interesting character in the book (and i’m sure parts of his story are going to be polarizing for readers!)

Saffyre goes missing and Owen is the last person who saw her. As you can imagine, all of these characters are interconnected in some way, and the answer to Saffyre’s disappearance isn’t as cut and dry as you may think. I’d recommend going into this book as blind as possible! I was really intrigued to find out what happened next, and the turns this book takes really caught me off guard.

That being said, I think it fell just a little flat. Maybe we didn’t get enough time with the characters. Or maybe some themes and ideas just weren’t as fleshed out as I would have liked. But if you’re a Lisa Jewell fan (or a thriller fan in general) you’ll probably want to pick this up!

Content warning: self harm, sexual assault, incel culture

Thank you Atria for the NetGalley ARC!

REVIEW – Goodnight Beautiful by Aimee Molloy

Before you read any further, this is important: go into this book as blind as possible! Reading the synopsis is okay, but i’d avoid any thorough reviews until you’re done. I’ll tell you my thoughts without giving anything away:

  1. This book surprised the heck out of me.
  2. I really enjoyed reading it!

That’s kind of it. It’s a solid, classic thriller/suspense novel and a quick, fun read.

Thank you Harper Books for the ARC (and finished copy) of Goodnight Beautiful!

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!

REVIEW – The Bright Lands by John Fram

“We inherited this town. We all did. That don’t mean we have to love everything about it.”

The Bright Lands is…something different. It’s marketed as sort of a thriller/horror, and there’s for sure a Stephen King vibe at work here. Told from multiple perspectives, The Bright Lands is a slow burn that eventually leads to something pretty horrific (and, much like in King novels, the most horrific things could be entirely feasible in real life, at least to a point).

Joel has returned to his small hometown in Texas after some concerning text messages from his younger brother, Dylan. You see, Dylan is the quarterback for the local high school football team. The most promising athlete to come out of their tiny town, with the NFL being a very real possibility in his future. But Dylan doesn’t want to play football anymore, and he says a few things that remind Joel of why he left Bentley ten years before.

I won’t spoil too much, but i’ll give you a basic overview: Dylan goes missing. His friends and teammates seem to know more than they let on. Some of the adults are super shady and a little too involved with the lives of the local high school kids. I’ll let you guess what happens from there, but I doubt you’re right.

Some parts of this book are incredibly uncomfortable to read – it’s one of those books where you’re dying to know what happens but you’re relieved to finish the book because the atmosphere is so creepy.

Content warning: racism, homophobia, sexual assault, hate crimes, drug addiction/abuse, the list goes on…

REVIEW – Behind the Red Door by Megan Collins

{Available August 4, 2020} The opening of Behind the Red Door will grab you immediately (I believe I emitted a “holy sh*t” before I finished the first page). It’s dark. It covers some traumatizing topics, kidnapping being the least horrific, honestly.

Fern Douglas is a social worker with pretty intense anxiety (not the best mix…). Her past is a bit fuzzy, but we know she has a very strange relationship with her parents (i’ll get to that in a second). The story really kicks into gear when we learn that Astrid Sullivan, a woman who was kidnapped as a child but was returned after a brief period of time relatively unharmed, has gone missing again. Did the original kidnapper take Astrid again? Will she be returned this time? Does her disappearance have anything to do with her recently released memoir detailing her kidnapping 20 years ago? And why does Fern think she’s met Astrid?

We do get to read a few chapters of Astrid’s memoir throughout the course of the book, and we slowly learn what really happened to her.

Fern heads back to her hometown to help Ted (her dad, but she calls her parents by their first names) pack and move to Florida. Oh boy. Ted. Ted is an academic psychologist who can’t focus on anything beyond his Experiments (yes, with a capital “E”). We slowly learn that Fern’s parents were incredibly neglectful, and downright horrible people. Fern can’t see that she’s a victim of extreme parental abuse. Ted has often drawn the line between physical (what he considers “real”) abuse and other varieties – and they’re all so blind to it that it’s incredibly frustrating as a reader. But maybe it’s rooted deeply in reality. Victims of abuse often block or downplay their experiences because they refuse to see themselves as just that – victims.

Fern decides to investigate Astrid’s disappearance and uncovers some incredibly horrific truths. I had an idea of where this book was headed right from the jump, and I was (mostly) right, but the experience of uncovering the mystery of Astrid’s disappearance and Fern’s history was more than worth the read. I was SO ANGRY for parts of this book – it takes a great writer to elicit that kind of experience.

Content warning: abusive parent/child relationships (one with a religious undertone), abduction of a child.

Thank you Atria Books for the NetGalley ARC of Behind the Red Door!