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 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.

REVIEW – A Mother’s Lie by Sarah Zettel

If you’re looking for a quick, heart-racing thriller, this is the book for you! Beth has worked so hard to keep her daughter Dana safe – which has meant keeping her away from Beth’s family. When a woman approaches Dana claiming to be her grandmother, everything unravels.

I read this in less than 24 hours – it’s definitely a page-turner with quick, punchy chapters that kept me wanting (NEEDING!) to know what was going to happen next.

As far as the thriller genre goes, I wouldn’t say this one is particularly memorable, but it is one of those great books that’s perfect when you’re searching for an easy thriller read.

Thank you Bibliofinder and Grand Central Publishing for sending me a copy of this book.

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!)

REVIEW – What It Seems by Emily Bleeker

What It Seems is a nerve-wracking little book – this had my heart beating fast during a few points in the plot. Mother is terrifying. Tara sometimes makes decisions that make you want to yell at her (but you also understand why she does what she does and thinks what she thinks).

Tara is 20 and has basically been held captive by “Mother” for the past 12 years (under the guise of being a foster child). When she finds an opportunity to intern with her favorite YouTube family, she figures out a way to escape Mother’s grasp and attempt to start a new life.

She quickly learns that things aren’t always as they seem – the “perfect” family well…isn’t. (But I also didn’t think their issues were really THAT bad). The overall plot of this book is good. It meanders a bit and doesn’t quite deliver what I was expecting, but it’s a good, quick thriller read. I’m definitely interested in reading more of Bleeker’s books!

Content warning: sexual assault, abuse (especially severe abuse of a child).

Thank you Books Forward PR for sending me a copy of this book!

REVIEW – Have You Seen Me? by Kate White

This has such a great premise – Ally shows up at work one morning, only to be told she hasn’t been employed there for five years. She spends the entire book piecing together the bits of her lost memory. There’s a cold case from her childhood that plays a role here, and overall I was interested to see where the story ended up.

However…it didn’t really end up anywhere. Do we figure out where she was? Yes. Do we find out what triggered her memory loss? Also, yes. (I don’t see these as spoilers, as it’s pretty much explained in the synopsis.) However, the tone of the book shifts in the last 100 or so pages and I found myself going “seriously?” during a few parts.

I think there’s an audience for this book – those who are new to the thriller genre or those who want to read a thriller without too much complexity or gore.

Thank you Harper/Harper Perennial for sending me a copy of this book!

REVIEW – Eight Perfect Murders by Peter Swanson

Eight Perfect Murders starts off with a plot that aligns perfectly with the current era – it seems that a murderer is following a blog post that Mal wrote some years ago, detailing the “eight perfect murders” from classic thriller and mystery books.

The book is written somewhat as a memoir – we experience everything through Mal’s perspective. From his present-day investigation of the murders, to past memories featuring his deceased wife.

I was intrigued by the overall storyline – I was curious to see who the murderer was, and I definitely had my suspicions. However, although the reveal was surprising, I still found it a bit lackluster.

Regardless of my issues with this book, this was still a decent read. It’s slower than your typical thriller and has a bit of a noir feel to it, if that’s your cup of tea.

I won an ARC of this book through a Goodreads giveaway.