Before She Knew Him by Peter Swanson: Book Review

Before She Knew Him  by Peter Swanson
Published March 5, 2019 by William Morrow
320 Pages

From Publisher: an exquisitely chilling tale of a young suburban wife with a history of psychological instability whose fears about her new neighbor could lead them both to murder . . .

My Thoughts: I should probably apologize in advance for this extremely vague review BUT this is most definitely a book you don’t want to know much about going in. Trust me. Also, I loved/hated this book so rather than be super confusing with my details as to why I’ll just give you a quick overview.

As I said, I loved this book so much…up until I didn’t.  For much of the book,  I couldn’t wait to pick this back up when life intervened. But then a plot development happened and I’ll admit, I got pretty mad.

Hen and her husband Lloyd are new in the neighborhood and have been invited to their neighbor’s house for a party. When Hen notices a statue on the shelf in their den, she’s convinced it belonged to a boy who was murdered years ago. A case Hen had previously been completely obsessed with. You see, Hen has her own mental health issues but she’s determined to find out if her neighbor Matthew is a killer. 

I absolutely love how Swanson writes in your face psychopaths and mentally unstable people who may or may not be reliable. Truly, he’s brilliant at it. I found the fact that he shined a bright light on these characters and put the crazy front and center so  refreshing. There’s no beating around the bush about who’s not playing with a full deck. And I was totally happy about that.  In fact, I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough to see how it all played out. Until one major plot point left me feeling manipulated on such a level that rather than feeling like oh you totally got me I felt angry about what I believed to be pure gimmick. This had been such an intricate, interesting story up until that point. When I read thrillers I don’t mind being kept in the dark and being surprised by the resolution (in fact I prefer it) but I don’t want to feel tricked by the author’s use of a gimmick and that’s how this one left me feeling. I know I’m being vague but I don’t want to give a single detail away. Read this for yourself and see what you think, then message me to discuss. Overall,  this was an addictive, page turning read but I was disappointed in the end. 

Thanks to William Morrow via Netgalley for my copy in exchange for an honest review 

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Monday Reading Update

 

Hi All! Hope you had a good weekend. We’re still waiting for warmer weather here in Ohio, so in the meantime I’ve been taking advantage of reading under my favorite cozy blanket. I had a SUPER productive reading week last week, finishing 3 books, 2 of which I really liked although none were 5 star reads…close but not quite.

RECENTLY READ…

The River   was way more literary than I expected. I don’t mean that in a bad way because the writing was excellent but I thought it would be more thriller like and it really wasn’t. I appreciated the author’s obvious knowledge of canoeing on a river and wilderness survival along with his ability to create extremely realistic scenes. I wanted to read this book because I love nature and stories about wilderness survival because I would never ever want to go camping or rafting on a river…ever. I felt like I was there while reading this story though. However, I thought there was something lacking. I’m not sure if it was the third person narration which made me feel less connected to either Wynn or Jack but I was left feeling underwhelmed when I should’ve felt several other emotions.

Before She Knew Him was one of my most anticipated winter reads and it definitely ended up being addictive reading. I love how Swanson writes characters who are wacky and completely in your face about it! BUT, I ended up having thoughts…many thoughts…I’ll have a review up soon.

The Last Act was a such a fast paced, action filled read. The blurb for this contained so many of my favorite buzz words (FBI, prison, undercover, ) I knew I would love it…and I did. Review up (hopefully) tomorrow for pub day

 

TRIED BUT WASN’T FEELING…

American Spy also had so many of my favorite buzz words in the publisher blurb…espionage, spy thriller, FBI, passionate romance and betrayal…yes please! After the opening scene, however, the plot quickly fizzled for me with WAY too much telling and a second person narrative structure I didn’t like.

 

CURRENTLY READING…

The Devil Aspect  came on my radar after I saw Katie’s review at Basicbsguide  on Instagram. This creepy story centering around the “criminally insane” sounds like something I’ll love. I’ve just started it but I can say it’s drawn me in from the first page. Let’s hope my luck with quality thriller reads continues!

POSSIBLE NEXT READS…

    OR  

I think I’m about ready for a thriller break before I start having nightmares about all the psychopaths I’ve been reading about! Both of these sound promising and would be much lighter reads.

Did you read anything great last week? Have anything that sounds amazing coming up? Let me know in the comments!

Have a Great Week!!

An Anonymous Girl by Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen: Book Review

An Anonymous Girl  by Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen
Published: January 8, 2019 by St. Martin’s Press
384 Pages
Affiliate LinkBuy on Amazon 

From Publisher: When Jessica Farris signs up for a psychology study conducted by the mysterious Dr. Shields, she thinks all she’ll have to do is answer a few questions, collect her money, and leave. But as the questions grow more and more intense and invasive and the sessions become outings where Jess is told what to wear and how to act, she begins to feel as though Dr. Shields may know what she’s thinking…and what she’s hiding.  Caught in a web of deceit and jealousy, Jess quickly learns that some obsessions can be deadly.

My Thoughts: I’ll admit, every now and then I really let myself get swayed by all the hype surrounding a book as was the case with this one. It’s everywhere.  Going against my instincts and the fact that I don’t really enjoy psychological thrillers, I decided to give this a try. The verdict: I’m glad I read it so I don’t have to wonder if I’m missing out BUT my instincts were correct – this wasn’t the book for me.

The blurb tells you all you need to know about how Jessica gets involved with Dr Lydia Shields. From the get go, I wasn’t really into the psychological study aspect. I found it strange and unbelievable. I have no problem suspending my disbelief, but for me, this entire plot was just TOO unbelievable. Maybe it’s because I have a background in psychology but the Dr’s in this book were so far out of the realm of realistic, I just couldn’t be on board with most of the plot.

As for Jessica, I would say she was the most developed character but I would’ve liked more character development with everyone overall. Around the 50% mark I started to enjoy the cat & mouse that developed when Jessica finally started to take matters into her own hands and stopped being so passive when it came to Dr Shields and another character. The story is told through alternating perspectives of Jessica and Dr Shields; however, Dr Shields speaks in the second person for her sections – as if she’s talking directly to Jessica – I wasn’t crazy about this technique.   This very much boiled down to a story of  manipulations, lies upon lies, and who’s really the dangerous one. For me, I found it to be too drawn out (I skimmed here and there) and ultimately predictable.  However, the very reasons this wasn’t for me are the reasons so many are loving this (especially if you love psychological thrillers), so I highly encourage you to head to Goodreads and check out some of the many 5 star reviews for an alternate opinion.

Thanks To St Martin’s Press via Netgalley for my copy in exchange for an honest review

 

REVIEW: SUNBURN By Laura Lippman

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Published Feb 20, 2018 by William Morrow 

One is playing a long game. But which one?

They meet at a local tavern in the small town of Belleville, Delaware. Polly is set on heading west. Adam says he’s also passing through.

Yet she stays and he stays—drawn to this mysterious redhead whose quiet stillness both unnerves and excites him. Over the course of a punishing summer, Polly and Adam abandon themselves to a steamy, inexorable affair. Still, each holds something back from the other—dangerous, even lethal, secrets that begin to accumulate as autumn approaches, feeding the growing doubts they conceal.

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Isn’t that cover fantastic?! It’s what drew me to take a closer look at this one and then to go against my self-imposed ban on psychological suspense/thrillers. I’ve been wanting to read Laura Lippman for a few years so this seemed like the perfect time to give her a try.

From the opening pages I was very taken with the whole cat and mouse vibe this story has going on! Within the first 50 pages I realized it reminded me of the tone of The Kind Worth Killing by Peter Swanson (loved). That is, no one was especially likable or trustworthy but I couldn’t stop reading . In Sunburn, you have Polly AKA Pauline and Adam, both with rather shady pasts and even murkier intentions in their current situations. In an effort to be concise and quick I’ll sum up my main points about what I really enjoyed…

  • The web of deceit playing out between Polly and Adam left me off balance with not knowing who to trust
  • The story is told in alternating perspectives (POVs) between Polly and Adam with a sprinkling of other POVs which surprisingly didn’t bother me
  • The instability of the characters….who was playing who?
  • Lippman’s ability to tease the reader with tidbits thrown here and there, creating heightened confusion and layers of questions
  • Small town setting
  • This story felt original and had me guessing about everyone’s motives and end games
  • The ending…loved it and NOT what I expected.

What you should know before diving into this one is, it’s a SLOW BURN of the highest level. I’m not saying that in a negative way, only that if you’re looking for a fast paced thriller this isn’t it. This novel is high on introspection depending on the POV and Lippman takes her time peeling away the layers of the characters and story. It works. I think many readers are going to love this and I highly recommend it if you’re looking for  psychological suspense with an underlying mystery and an intriguing game of cat and mouse

Many thanks to William Morrow via Edelweiss for my copy

 

 

REVIEW: ALMOST MISSED YOU By Jessica Strawser

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To be Published March 28, 2017 by St. Martin’s Press

Violet and Finn were “meant to be,” said everyone, always. They ended up together by the hands of fate aligning things just so. Three years into their marriage, they have a wonderful little boy, and as the three of them embark on their first vacation as a family, Violet can’t help thinking that she can’t believe her luck. Life is good.

So no one is more surprised than she when Finn leaves her at the beach—just packs up the hotel room and disappears. And takes their son with him. Violet is suddenly in her own worst nightmare, and faced with the knowledge that the man she’s shared her life with, she never really knew at all. Told through alternating viewpoints of Violet, Finn and Caitlin, Almost Missed You is a powerful story of a mother’s love, a husband’s betrayal, connections that maybe should have been missed, secrets that perhaps shouldn’t have been kept, and spaces between what’s meant to be and what might have been.

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I want to start by saying I LOVE that cover! That’s what drew me to this book several months ago when it popped up on Netgalley. This is Jessica Strawser’s debut novel and what a debut it is. I had this novel, along with several other upcoming new releases, on my radar and being the mood reader that I am, I decided to read the first few chapters of each and see what hit me the most. I was on vacation last week so I NEEDED something to really catch my interest. After reading the first few pages of Almost Missed You I had a winner!

The novel begins with Violet, mom to 3 year old Bear (ok I’ll admit his name really bugged me…it’s not a nickname) and wife to Finn. She’s relaxing by the pool on vacation and enjoying a rare few moments to herself to read and enjoy a drink as Finn has volunteered for nap duty. I think all moms can appreciate this set up! Violet is pondering the idea of fate and all the instances life had to add up just right for she and Finn to end up where they are…she loves her life and appreciates how the stars have seemed to align to bring her to this place of happiness. Can you just feel the coming of catastrophe??

I was immediately drawn in with the author’s writing style in this opening scene. It was engaging and I felt a connection to Violet right away. For me, a connection is a must to get me to continue reading! It really is interesting to think about all the ways life could’ve turned out differently if just one thing hadn’t happened or happened in a different way…and that’s where the author really captured my attention from the get go.

Needless to say, when Violet gets up to their hotel room her life effectively implodes and she’s left shocked and at a loss to figure out where it all went wrong. Where is her husband and child? It doesn’t take long for her to then ask herself… how is it she never really knew her husband?  More importantly, what is he hiding from his past that has led him to kidnap their child and basically drop a bomb on their happy life??

There is so much to like about this book. The characterization is strong in that I knew I had to find out what led to Violet and Finn’s downfall. The secondary characters…Violet’s “Gram,” their best friends George and Caitlin were also fairly multidimensional. Now, that being said, that doesn’t mean I liked all of these characters or really understood a lot of their motivations. In fact, I really only liked Violet and Gram. I thought Caitlin was probably the worst best friend anyone could’ve asked for and her decision making abilities and complete lack of common sense grated on my nerves. I should probably back up a little and say that the story is narrated from the alternating perspectives of Violet, Finn, and Caitlin…that’s how I got to know (and not like) Caitlin and Finn. The narration also flips back and forth between time periods from past (many years ago) to present. I thought this method worked very well for this story.

I don’t want to discuss any more of the plot because I think you should read this without any hints as to what went wrong or what ends up happening. I will tell you,  I stayed up SUPER late reading the first half of this book, the pace was spot on and I just had to KNOW more. The second half, however, began to unravel for me and I found myself skimming to get to dialogue. There was a lot of character introspection and descriptive details of events that I just didn’t care about or think added to the plot. Basically, I wanted more dialogue and less introspection. Also, I just expected more when it came to the resolution of “why” Finn did what he did.  I know I’m being vague but I don’t want to give anything away.  In addition, the final scenes seemed somewhat implausible to me and a little too ‘over the top’.  I honestly don’t know how I feel about that ending and would LOVE to discuss it with others after you read this book.  For the ending alone, I think this would make a great selection for book clubs! Overall, this is a well-written debut and I will definitely be reading Jessica Strawser’s next novel!!

Many thanks to St Martin’s Press & Netgalley for my copy of Almost Missed You, I’m happy to provide an honest review

REVIEW: NEVER LET YOU GO By Chevy Stevens

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Published March 14, 2017 by St Martin’s Press

Eleven years ago, Lindsey Nash escaped into the night with her young daughter and left an abusive relationship. Her ex-husband was sent to jail and she started over with a new life. Now, Lindsey is older and wiser, with a teenage daughter who needs her more than ever. When her ex-husband is finally released, Lindsey believes she’s cut all ties. But she gets the sense that someone is watching her. Her new boyfriend is threatened. Her home is invaded, and her daughter is shadowed. Lindsey is convinced it’s her ex-husband, even though he claims he’s a different person. But can he really change? 

 

**I’ve got a super busy family week ahead this week so I apologize in advance if I miss sharing reviews and/or commenting on posts, I’ll catch up at the end of the week! **

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This review has been somewhat tough for me to write. You see, I’ve read most of Chevy Steven’s books (except Those Girls) and have massive love for Still Missing which I regularly recommend to those looking for a thrilling mystery. That Night is another favorite. So you could say I was pretty excited when I got my hands on this one. I went into this with a vague idea of the fact that it’s about an abusive marriage in which the wife manages to escape and then the husband gets out of prison and things start to go downhill for her.

If this sounds like a familiar storyline it’s because it is of course. Domestic thrillers have been taking over the psychological thriller genre for quite some time and in terms of movies, there’s the hugely popular Sleeping with the Enemy. I was convinced Chevy would bring something new to the table, something that might make me hold my breath and feel tense throughout. Unfortunately, for me, that just didn’t happen. I’ve thought for the last 4 days about why this book didn’t grab me and I can’t come up with one specific reason. I think, maybe, it’s a combination of factors, including a lack of character connection on my part and a dislike of the narrative structure.

The story starts off from Lindsey’s perspective in 2005 and we are immediately submersed in the dance of destruction and manipulation that is her and Andrew’s marriage. To make matters worse, their young daughter Sophie is witness to it. I wondered if I would’ve felt differently had she chosen to start the story in the past when they first met which is where it eventually jumps to. So while I’m on the subject, if you’re a fan of frequently alternating perspectives and multiple jumping timelines then you’ll probably really like this narrative structure. I’m not and I think that’s another reason I wasn’t engaged with the story. The novel goes back and forth between Lindsey’s perspective and her teenage daughter Sophie’s, as well as shifting time perspectives from the past when they met to the past during their marriage to present day. There is LOTS of jumping around which, for me, led to a lack of feeling connected and engaged with the plot and characters. Also, I’m not sure I completely bought into Sophie’s motivations of totally disregarding everything her mother said about her violent dad. This and the rest of the teenage angst storyline fell flat for me.

So, here’s the interesting part about my reading experience with this book….I read it in about 4 hours…that’s how incredibly “readable” it is. Chevy Steven’s writing just flows, there’s something about the way she writes that makes you stay glued to the pages and turning them as quickly as possible.  In terms of the mystery, there isn’t a lot of possibilities as to the who so you very well may figure that out (as I did) but the why and how played out in an interesting fashion. I was very impressed with how the author pulled together all the loose threads into a tight conclusion! Overall though, I just felt underwhelmed with this one but it very well may be a case of wrong book wrong time for me as the reviews on Goodreads and Amazon are excellent. Give this a try if you like fast paced psychological thrillers with alternating timelines and perspectives.

3/5 Stars

Many thanks to St. Martin’s Press via Netgalley for my copy, I’m happy to provide an honest review 

REVIEW: A SUITABLE LIE By Michael J Malone

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Published January 1, 2017 by Orenda Books

Andy Boyd thinks he is the luckiest man alive. Widowed with a young child, after his wife dies in childbirth, he is certain that he will never again experience true love. Then he meets Anna. Feisty, fun and beautiful, she’s his perfect match, and she loves his son like he is her own. When Andy ends up in the hospital on his wedding night, he receives his first clue that Anna is not all that she seems. Desperate for that happy-ever-after, he ignores it—a dangerous mistake that could cost him everything. 

 

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I’ve had this book for a few months and debated whether I wanted to tackle another psychological thriller centered around domestic violence. What I can say is this is no ordinary psychological thriller! The author has taken an often taboo subject and turned it on it’s head, resulting in a very uncomfortable and often infuriating read in my opinion.

I was immediately taken with the engaging writing style and the way the author introduces us to Andy during the prologue, which was one of the best prologues I’ve read in recent memory. It drew me to Andy and I had to know what had led him to such a desolate, desperate place in his life. Moving on, we get a first hand seat to the love affair of Andy Boyd and Anna. A whirlwind romance you could say and all the while I just kept hoping Andy would slow down, take his time, I mean he has a 4 year old child, what’s the rush?? But you just KNOW Andy is taken with Anna and he lets his lust and attraction blind him to some very subtle red flags. I was definitely feeling apprehensive at this point in the story, knowing that at any time the other shoe was going to drop for Andy and I really didn’t want to be a witness to that!

The too good to be true feelings the author managed to create worked perfectly to set up what follows for Andy once he’s married to Anna.. oh yes, the other shoe dropped hard.  Through use of detailed, descriptive writing along with just the right pacing, I was on the edge of my seat, literally feeling tightness in my chest as things start to go very wrong in the Boyd household. As someone with a background in mental health, specifically working with children from abusive and neglectful homes, I found myself thinking time and again that both Anna and Andy had some serious mental health issues going on between the 2 of them. Don’t get me wrong, I LIKED Andy, I felt for him, but I wanted to SCREAM at him for not seeing what the violence and lies within their home was doing to his young son Pat. Hence, my feelings of infuriation!!

The story is told from Andy’s perspective which really allowed us a close up view as to his thoughts and what drove his decisions.  We meet his family and are also privy to a pretty detailed work storyline involving his job in the banking industry. I have to say, I thought the subplot involving work was going to go in a completely different direction and I was somewhat disappointed in how it resolved itself in the end. The ending itself also seemed somewhat rushed, where things happened rather quickly and a little conveniently.  This, along with so much repetition of the word “wee” throughout the novel are my main critiques.

Overall, there are many things to like about the way the author chose to tell this story. I think what stood out the most for me was the characterization and the fact that by getting to know all the characters involved, I felt so many emotions ranging from hopefulness at one point to just plain sadness and infuriation at so many others. I can honestly say I haven’t felt such strong feelings about characters in a book since reading Gone Girl! If you’re in the mood for a psychological thriller that will put you through the emotional wringer, I’d suggest giving this a try.

4/5 Stars 

Many thanks to Karen Sullivan at Orenda Books for my copy, I’m happy to provide an honest review. 

THROWBACK THURSDAY PICK OF THE WEEK

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I began this Throwback Thursday meme as a way to share some of my old favorites as well as sharing books that I want to read that were published over a year ago. You know, the ones waiting patiently on my TBR list while I continue to pile more titles on top of them:)! I like that these older books are usually much easier than new releases to get a hold of at libraries and elsewhere. If you have your own Throwback Thursday recommendation feel free to jump on board, you’re welcome to use my pic as well. If you’d just link back to me I’d so appreciate it

My Pick this week is:

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Published Feb 2001 by William Morrow

My Rating: 5/5 stars

When they were children, Sean Devine, Jimmy Marcus, and Dave Boyle were friends. But then a strange car pulled up to their street. One boy got into the car, two did not, and something terrible happened — something that ended their friendship and changed all three boys forever.

Twenty-five years later, Sean is a homicide detective. Jimmy is an ex-con who owns a corner store. And Dave is trying to hold his marriage together and keep his demons at bay — demons that urge him to do terrible things. When Jimmy’s daughter is found murdered, Sean is assigned to the case. His investigation brings him into conflict with Jimmy, who finds his old criminal impulses tempt him to solve the crime with brutal justice. And then there is Dave, who came home the night Jimmy’s daughter died covered in someone else’s blood.

A tense and unnerving psychological thriller, Mystic River is also an epic novel of love and loyalty, faith and family, in which people irrevocably marked by the past find themselves on a collision course with the darkest truths of their own hidden selves. 

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Well , Dennis Lehane, one of my very favorite authors, has now had 2 books profiled on my Throwback Thursday post!!  I was chilled by this story. The 3 boys just hanging out doing what young boys do when that car pulls up and nothing is ever the same! What I find extra interesting about this story is that the premise is based on an actual event in Dennis Lehane’s real life. I heard him speak when I attended a book signing about 3 years ago at a local university (yes I fangirled all evening) and he told how the idea for this story came about…when he was a young boy he and 2 friends had an incident with a stranger in a car and while everything turned out fine (the man ended up being a cop I believe) the feelings, especially his mother’s reaction, stayed with him and many years later became the basis for this fantastic book and then a movie. This book kept me on the edge of my seat and I remember not figuring out any part of the mystery!! Always a plus. To me, this is what a psychological thriller is all about and I loved everything about it!!

Happy Reading!

Have you read this or think you’d like to? I’d love to hear from you in the comments

For more Throwback Thursday recommendations visit Rebecca The Book Whisperer at Boofsbooks

REVIEW: IN HER WAKE By Amanda Jennings

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Published April 2016 by Orenda Books

*My Book Club’s January Pick*

A perfect life … until she discovered it wasn’t her own.

A tragic family event reveals devastating news that rips apart Bella’s comfortable existence. Embarking on a personal journey to uncover the truth, she faces a series of traumatic discoveries that take her to the ruggedly beautiful Cornish coast, where hidden truths, past betrayals and a 25-year-old mystery threaten not just her identity, but also her life.

Chilling, complex and profoundly moving, In Her Wake is a gripping psychological thriller that questions the nature of family – and reminds us that sometimes the most shocking crimes are committed closest to home. 

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I’ve been thinking about how best to write this review without giving away any parts of the plot because as we bloggers so often say, this book is best read without knowing anything other than what’s in the blurb above. So, how to discuss what I feel is a quintessential psychological suspense novel?  I’ll start by tossing out some adjectives that have been circling around in my head since I finished this book…compelling, haunting, atmospheric, heart wrenching, captivating…I’ll start with these. Any one of those (or all) can be used to describe this story. What begins as Bella’s search for identity after her devastating losses and betrayals soon becomes a journey of self discovery for many characters.  As their lives connect, their stories will intertwine and I think you’ll be hard pressed to put this book down until you know if, when,  and how they will all be resolved.

Bella’s journey takes us to Cornwall, a place I’ve never been but could vividly picture in my head thanks to the exquisite writing of Amanda Jennings. I can’t emphasize enough how the details of her writing will take you to the cliff’s edge with Bella as soon as she arrives, where you’ll smell the sea and feel the depth of her longing for answers as she looks down at the jagged rocks and breaking waves below and contemplates how it would feel to fall down into the water. What?! It was at this point I began to feel tense and started to worry…I feared that this was foreshadowing what Bella might return to do if her emotional turmoil became too great. As I was so invested in her journey by this time, I could only hope this didn’t turn out to be true.

To me, this is just one of the many facets of psychological suspense the author manages to create with her characterizations and setting details. In fact, there wasn’t any of the reader manipulations that seem to be present in other psychological thrillers lately , where it seems every character knows what’s going on and talks in circles so the reader (me) is left feeling like I’m the only one who doesn’t know what’s going on. In this story, I was there with Bella as she sought answers and struggled with knowing who to trust and how to move on.  I was there when she meets Dawn, Alice, Mark, Greg, and even Phil the barista who quickly became one of my favorite characters. Side note: when an author can make you care about a secondary character like Phil you know you’ve struck gold. I have to say that while I truly felt for Bella, in the end , I found I was most connected to Dawn which was surprising because she’s rather unlikeable when you first meet her. Her story, however, is heart breaking and I wanted her to feel some measure of happiness. Will she? Will anyone in this saga achieve peace? Of course, you’ll have to read to find out.

If you’re looking for what I would call a classic tale of psychological suspense that pulls you in with captivating writing and characters you will care about then this book is for you. And for those of you needing a good twist to make your psychological thriller complete, the author delivers on that as well.  I can’t wait to see what Amanda Jennings has in store for us with her next novel…I’ll be impatiently waiting!

5/5 STARS

Many, many thanks to Karen Sullivan at Orenda Books for my copy of In Her Wake. I’m happy to provide an honest review. 

REVIEW: FATAL By John Lescroart

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From New York Times bestselling author John Lescroart, a riveting standalone novel about the unexpected, shattering, and lethal consequences of a one-night stand on a seemingly happily married couple.

Kate loves her life. At forty-four, she’s happily married to her kind husband, Ron, blessed with two wonderful children, and has a beautiful home in San Francisco. Everything changes, however, when she and Ron attend a dinner party and meet another couple, Peter and Jill. Kate and Peter only exchange a few pleasant words but that night, in bed with her husband, Kate is suddenly overcome with a burning desire for Peter.

What begins as an innocent crush soon develops into a dangerous obsession and Kate’s fixation on Peter results in one intense, passionate encounter between the two. Confident that her life can now go back to normal, Kate never considers that Peter may not be so willing to move on.

Not long after their affair, a masked man barges into the café Kate is sitting in with her best friend, firing an assault weapon indiscriminately into the crowd. This tragedy is the first in a series of horrifying events that will show Kate just how grave the consequences of one mistake can be.

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What drew me to this book was that awesome cover and title. It just seems to scream doom and gloom and the possibility of creepiness. Based on the blurb, which is enticing although somewhat misleading , and my past enjoyment of stories centered around the consequences of infidelity…think Presumed Innocent, Fatal Attraction, Unfaithful, The Kind Worth Killing…I was excited to give this one a go. I have to say, for the first 30 percent (kindle reading:) I was engaged with the story and feeling that there was definitely a set up of dire consequences coming for Kate and Peter. A possible Fatal Attraction type of scenario felt imminent and I was excited. I was, however, also ignoring my small reading voice that said there are parts here that don’t add up and the motivations of Kate and Peter’s characters aren’t really making sense. I won’t give away any of the plot but I will say my hopes for where the story might be going didn’t pan out. In fact, for me it took some odd turns.

As the story progresses and we get to know a rather large cast of unlikeable characters, there was one character I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know and that was Beth, Kate’s good friend and walking buddy. Beth is also a cop and will come to feature prominently in the mystery that ensues. Beth and her partner Ike were (thankfully) two people I could root for. As I said,  Beth plays a large role in the story as there occurs a particular crime where the list of possible suspects is endless. I always enjoy a good crime puzzle with lots of potential suspects so that part of the story worked for me. I had many theories as to who the guilty party was and they kept changing as new evidence came to light. Although the story didn’t at all go where I thought and hoped it was going to, I managed to stay engaged with the narrative but the farther along the plot progressed, the harder it became to do so. It felt like there were too many threads that didn’t connect or if they did they felt forced for the sake of trying to make parts “fit.”  In addition, there were a couple subplots that I just didn’t care about and I was left wondering how they contributed to the overall plot. I’m still not sure.

Overall, what really worked for me was Beth’s character and the fact that the narrative was told in a linear framework; there were no back and forth perspectives or past/present switchbacks which I appreciated. I also thought the setting was perfect for the story and the dialogue was top notch. Unfortunately, too many other parts just didn’t work for me including the ending which I will let you all judge for yourself.

2.5/5 Stars

This book will be published January 24 by Atria Books

Many thanks to Atria Books via Netgalley for my copy. I’m happy to provide an honest review.