One Small Sacrifice

One small sacrificeAuthor: Hilary Davison

Series: Shadows of New York #1

Publisher: Thomas & Mercer

Release Date: June 1, 2019

Rating: 4. 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A dark and twisty thriller that is written with skill and easily draws readers into a web of deception.

For over a year Sheryn Sterling has been trying to find enough evidence to make a conviction stick on Alex Traynor after his friend Cori fell to her death. Even though her death was ruled a suicide, she has never believed that to be true. Alex, a wartime photographer is struggling with PTSD and Sheryn refuses to let him get away with murder. When Alex’s fiancée, Emily, goes missing he is once again the prime suspect. With each new clue Sheryn finds, her theories as to what happened to both Emily and Cori fall apart and a new mystery begins bigger than anything she has investigated before.

Alex has so many issues to deal with, the biggest is his PTSD, throughout the story it is obvious Davidson has done research to help bring about the most realistic portrayal for readers dealing with such issues. I wasn’t as pulled in by Alex as I was Sheryn and even the chapters with Emily. Those little glimpses kept me turning the page to see what was going to happen next. Seeing Emily in trouble and trying to figure out what happened to her was more entertaining than Alex trying to find her and figure out what was going on. As a detective, Sheryn Sterling had a good start in this novel.  She is smart, witty and persistent to find out the truth no matter the cost. At times Alex was a little annoying as he dealt with his issues but as the chapters progressed the story picked up speed and the action took off causing me to not want to put the book down. As the start to a new series, I can see following the characters and what is to come for several books. It could also be read as a standalone and enjoyed without missing out on anything. I would recommend this book to those that enjoy a good thriller but don’t mind a little language throughout.

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

The Sea of Lost Girls

sea of lost girlsAuthor: Carol Goodman

Publisher: William Morrow

Release Date: March 3, 2020

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

An interesting thriller with one of the most satisfying endings I’ve read in a long time!

All Tess wanted was to leave her past behind her with her seventeen-year-old son Rudy. Her husband is a professor at the same boarding school she teaches at and Rudy attends. Life is so much better now than she ever thought it could have been a decade ago. Rudy has had a troubled past and finally Tess thinks he is thriving when she gets a call in the middle of the night from Rudy asking for her to come get him at their safe place. Rudy’s girlfriend is then found dead and Rudy becomes the prime suspect. That one phone call sets off a chain reaction that causes Tess’s world to slowly fall apart. With each day that passes and each new clue that turns up, Tess can see what is happening to her family and how it all connects to the past she thought was behind her.

The Sea of Lost Girls is a psychological thriller full of twists and turns with a satisfying ending rare in books such as this. There book format includes back and forth excerpts between Tess’s past and present giving readers a puzzle piece at just the right time in order to finish the whole puzzle. I really wasn’t sure what to think of Rudy or several of the characters at first, but as the story progressed, each character’s puzzle started to make sense and brought the whole story together by the last few pages. Goodman did a great job shaping these characters, even the characters that were irritating and dislikable. Each of these characters were written with their flaws evident but also in a way that made them relatable and easy to connect with. It can be easy to connect with the good and likable characters, but it isn’t always as easy to connect with the unlikeable characters. I had no trouble connecting with each and every one of them throughout the novel. A few of the minor characters you might think are unnecessary until you get to the end and see how they do play a crucial role in the overall story. While this was good, I wouldn’t say it was great, nothing really stood out as blowing me away, but nothing was particularly rough either. I recommend this to readers that enjoy a good psychological thriller with an ending just as satisfying as the entire story.

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher. The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

Before She Knew Him

Before she knew himAuthor: Peter Swanson

Publisher: William Morrow

Release Date: March 5, 2019

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

One of the first books that kept me guessing and surprised until the very end in a very long time. I didn’t see that twist coming and I loved it! Before She Knew Him is one that will keep readers up at night!

Henrietta has had a troubled past, especially after being diagnosed with bipolar disorder. She finally feels like she has her medication in order and her life in control until she and her husband meet their neighbors next door. She starts to suspect the husband, Matthew, might be a killer when she recognizes an object in his office that belonged to a murdered man who lived close two years ago. The murder was never solved, and she has been fascinated by it ever since. Hen (short for Henrietta) wonders if Matthew could be the killer, and if so, has he only killed once? Or is there a string of bodies hiding in his past? As her fascination with him grows, she follows him and tries to figure out if he is planning another murder. Hen tries to tell someone, but with her troubled past no one believes her. Hen knows she can’t let him kill again without doing something. She vows to stop him, hopefully without becoming his next victim.

Before She Knew Him starts strong and ends even stronger. Even though Hen has a troubled past, she doesn’t let that keep her down. Her strength is what makes her a strong protagonist and kept me rooting for her throughout the entire story. I am happy to say that I didn’t see the twist coming until seconds before it was revealed. The story was written so well I wouldn’t have been able to figure it out if I had been looking for it. One of the first times this has happened in a very long time. When it was revealed, I just got a big smile on my face for how well Swanson pulled it off. Readers will find this somewhat similar to Hitchcock; you think you know what the mystery is early on but really there is so much more to it. There is a little bit of harsh language throughout, something readers that don’t prefer in their writing need to be aware of but it could have been so much worse. If you are someone who enjoys a great psychological thriller you will definitely want to add this to your list!

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher. The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

Dead to Her

dead to herAuthor: Sarah Pinborough

Publisher: William Morrow

Release Date: February 11, 2020

Rating: 3 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A web of lies and dark secrets makes for a very interesting read with an ending that will leave readers satisfied.

Marcie Maddox is thrust into the high life when she has an affair with Jason Maddox and marries into his luxurious life. She has secrets from her past she would like to keep hidden from her new husband and everyone else. Even though she married into the world of money, she feels she will never be able to fit into it. When Jason’s boss comes back from a trip to London with a young new wife, Keisha, Marcie’s world is turned upside down. Keisha is wild and quickly brings Marcie into her crazy antics. Marcie loves her husband but is intrigued by Keisha and the more time the two spend together the closer they become. As lies come to the surface and emotions are heated, Marcie sees her lavish life start to fall apart. Now she must decide what she is willing to do to keep it.

,This book is not for the faint of heart. A large portion of it spent on sexual acts between many of the characters and the language can get very harsh at times. The story itself was good and very involved with the way the mystery intertwined between the timelines and different characters. Descriptions flowing throughout helps readers to put themselves in the shoes of these characters. I had trouble getting past the many sex scenes and language, which for some readers that is no big deal. Unfortunately, for me that tends to take me out of the story. At times I did feel sympathy for Keisha and Marcie and what they were going through; however, some of the other characters I really had no connection with and could have enjoyed the book more if they were not in it. The fact that Pinborough saved some of the best twists for the last few chapters helped to redeem the book a little for me. I would recommend this to readers that love psychological thrillers and don’t mind the sex scenes or harsh language.

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher. The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

The Lying Room

The lying roomAuthor: Nicci French

Publisher: William Morrow

Release Date: October 1, 2019

Rating: 3.5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Secrets and lies weave a dangerous web that can catch multiple people.

Neve Connolly has played her part throughout her marriage. She’s been more of the bread winner allowing her husband to chase his dreams early on, but as of late they have both become tired and depressed. Neve built a publishing company with three friends from college and they have always struggled to keep it going, so when the company gets bought out, they are secretly relieved that they are becoming just employees instead of business owners. Neve’s life had become mundane with work and raising three kids and her oldest Mabel having a tough time falling into the wrong crowd and using drugs. So, when her new boss Saul takes a sudden interest in her, it doesn’t take much for her to fall under his spell and become tightly wrapped up in an affair. One morning she receives a text from Saul to come to his flat one morning before he leaves for a conference. After she enters the flat, she discovers Saul’s body and finds the murder weapon nearby. Neve realizes that if the affair were to come out, it would devastate her family, so she works to erase all traces of herself from the flat. As the police begin to investigate, the lead detective seems to think that Neve is somehow involved and continues showing up at random times and seemingly unraveling any alibi she can concoct. As the investigation continues, Neve realizes that she may be the next target for the killer and she must unravel the mystery before the police can connect her to Saul’s murder.

One thing I have found about Nicci French books is that they always start out with a bang and The Lying Room was no exception. Within the first few pages, readers discover that Neve is being unfaithful to her husband with an affair and she then discovers the dead body of her lover. Even though the book is told in third person, it centers on Neve and her thoughts about what is going on and how to try to salvage her image to her husband and children. As the evidence seems to close in on her, she begins to discover more secrets that involve her husband and close friends. This was a very interesting psychological thriller that also read quickly. After the initial start of the book, it took about another one hundred pages to really set the pace, but once it did, it really took off. There is quite a bit of foul language and some implied sex that renders this book more acceptable for a mature audience.

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher. The views and opinions express within are my own.

Only Ever Her

Only ever herAuthor: Marybeth Mayhew Whalen

Publisher: Lake Union Publishing

Release Date: May 7, 2019

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

The wedding of the century for a small South Carolina town becomes a search when the bride goes missing and the suspects are endless. 

Annie Taft has been the town sweetheart ever since her mother was murdered leaving her to be raised by her Aunt. With her wedding in four days, the town has come together to celebrate. Things are going according to plan until Annie disappears. No one knows where she is or what could have happened to her. To make matters worse, the man that was accused of killing her mother has been found innocent after all these years and released from prison right as Annie goes missing. Is he somehow responsible for Annie’s disappearance or once again being falsely accused?

As far as psychological thrillers go this one ranks high for me. There are a lot of characters to keep up with and at times it did get a little confusing, but by the end things tied together in a nice way. I must admit I did not see the little twist at the end coming, very nicely done on that part. I usually see twist coming but that one snuck up on me. The pace of the book was good, at times there seemed a bit much narration, which slowed the pace just a little. The frequent character changes and short chapters were nice to keep things moving. I was a little surprised there wasn’t more with Annie; I know the book is about her disappearance, but I felt a little mislead by the opening with her and how she was portrayed and how it ended. Several of the minor characters really brought the scenes to life and kept the story flowing when I might have been tempted to put it down. But I was glad I kept with it and let the story play out in its entirety. I read this in two days and enjoyed the story, I probably could have finished it in one sitting if life and kids needs hadn’t gotten in the way. I think it is one for readers that enjoy psychological thrillers and a good mystery. There is some adult content so I don’t recommend it for a younger audience, but the adult audience will enjoy the read.

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

Beautiful Bad

beautiful bad

Author: Annie Ward

Publisher: Park Row Publishing

Release Date: March 5, 2019

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A compelling read that will keep readers guessing until the very last page and maybe even past that.  Just as the title states, this is beautifully written and full of fascinating characters from the beginning until the very end.

 Maddie is working oversees as a travel writer and spends her down time visiting her best friend, Jo. While hanging out with Jo, Maddie meets Ian who she is instantly attracted to but unsure if it is wise to pursue a romantic relationship in the war-torn middle-east. Nearly two decades later, they are married and living a somewhat perfect life in Middle America. After a recent camping trip that leaves Maddie with a bad injury and scared for her life and that of her young son, she attends a writing therapy session and tries to determine how to proceed. With a back and forth from Balkans to England and back to the U.S along with past to present timeline, everything comes together on the day of the killing with a shocking crime to solve and a sordid past uncovered.

 If you are the type of reader that enjoys a fast-paced thrill ride with tight scenes and characters that are full of surprises at every corner, this is one you won’t want to miss. From the first page with the back and forth in timelines and across the country, we see the characters grow and change. I have to say this is one of the best written novels with character growth that kept me guessing that I have read in a very long time. The first half of the book spends time setting up the relationship between the characters to bring everything full circle by the end. Throughout the pages, readers are left questioning why we love the way we do and what we are willing to do for those we love. There are two sides to every story and two sides to every person. We all have our best sides and our worst, which side we let take over says a lot about us. The back and forth between character and timelines might be a little confusing for some, but if you can keep up it will be worth it in the end. These characters, especially Maddie are so complex and full of surprises readers won’t have a choice but to be pulled into the story and feel a deep connection with what they are reading. I recommend this to readers that enjoy a psychological thriller with twists and turns at every corner.

 I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

When Through Deep Waters

When through deep watersAuthor: Rachelle Dekker

Publisher: Tyndale House

Release Date: July 3, 2018

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Tackling the difficult topics of grief and mental illness, Rachelle Dekker has written a book far removed from that of her first trilogy, but in all the right ways. Dekker has found her voice as a writer in a way I have been waiting for.

It’s hard to live your own life when you are always trying to please someone else. Alicen McCaffrey has the life her mother wants for her, but its not the life she wants.  With a wildly successful husband, California home, and a daughter she adores, things seem perfect, until it all falls apart.  Alicen feels completely responsible and hits rock bottom feeling she has nothing left to live for.  Almost everyone abandons her and she turns to the one person she has left, a childhood friend who takes her back to their childhood home in Red Lodge, Montana.  Memories of their good times spent together and her grandmother who lived there come flooding back.  However, the good times aren’t the only things that come back.  Alicen starts hearing voices and seeing things that aren’t there and she fears she is losing it completely just as her grandmother was rumored to have done.  Is any of it real?  Or is this going to be more than she can take?

The name Dekker for me always draws me to books by Rachelle’s father, wo is one of my all time favorite authors with stories like no one else writes. The first books Rachelle wrote reminded me all too well of her father’s writing which disappointed me, I was hoping for her own voice.  In When Through Deep Waters I finally saw that individual voice of hers coming out.  There was a moment or two she tried to put tie-ins to her father’s writing that could have been left out, but readers who haven’t read anything by him won’t even notice.  This story hit really close to home for me because I read it right after my son had been in an accident that could have been catastrophic; luckily it wasn’t, but the emotions were at a passionate high point anyway.  I felt a solid connection with the characters more than in any of her previous novels and could really see a growth in the writing.  A great deal of detail helped make the setting and the characters mesh in just the right way and brought the story to life.  I not only enjoyed Alicen as the main character, but also several of the secondary characters as well.  Labeling it as a thriller might be a stretch since that didn’t happen until close to the end; regardless, it is a book worth reading and keeping on the shelves for a long time.  I recommend this book to fans of both Dekkers’ and those that enjoy the writing of Tosca Lee and James Rubart.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. The views and opinions expressed with are my own.

The Doll Funeral

The Doll FuneralAuthor: Kate Hamer

Publisher: Meville House

Release Date: August 15, 2017

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A strange, interesting tale that will leave readers deep in the woods of the story and not wanting to come out.

When Ruby turns thirteen she gets what she has wanted all her life, finding out her parents are not her real mother and father. Ruby makes it her mission to find her real parents and get out from under the abuse she has suffered her entire life.  Ruby sets off into the forest with her imaginary friend she calls Shadow boy and finds a group of siblings who have been living alone and welcome her to join them.  The longer she spends with them, the more she realizes they need her as much as she needs them and the reasons make it difficult to determine what is real and what is not.  Told from Ruby’s time and point of view and also that of her mother when she first became pregnant, The Doll Funeral is a tale that will engage the imagination and leave the reader wondering long after the last page.

This is a book that is very compelling, confusing and entertaining all at the same time. Ruby is a girl that sees much more than most her own age.  Ruby has an imaginary friend that helps her along the way with the troubles she goes through.  This relationship helps the story along giving the reader much more insight into the mindset of the characters.  All the characters in this book go on a very emotional journey and the writing brings the reader along to feel each of the emotions as the character experiences them.  Going back and forth between the timeline of Ruby and her mother shows how the actions of one trickles down to affect others.  A back and forth timeline can sometimes be a difficult thing to write but Kate Hamer has done an excellent job giving this duel timeline taking the story forward and engaging the reader.  There were a few pages throughout that I skimmed through to get back to the story but overall not much was to be missed.  This is a story I will recommend to readers that enjoy a thriller with a little bit of the supernatural sprinkled in throughout.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

Dear Mr. M

dear-mr-mAuthor: Herman Koch

Publisher: Hogarth

Release Date: September 6, 2016

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

If you like to think while you read, you will love this book!

Mr. M is an elderly Dutch author who has written many books in his lifetime, but none have lived up to the hype of his early novel Payback.  Written based on a factual account of a young teacher who coerced a young female student into a relationship.  When she ended the relationship, he couldn’t fathom why she left him for the student he did and become obsessed with her.  When the teacher and two students end up in a deserted vacation home during Christmas vacation, the teacher ends up disappearing without a trace, bringing the two students under suspicion of murder, but no conviction is ever made.  People loved the book and even a movie was made from it.  But someone from the story surfaces and begins writing to the author.  The notes aren’t particularly amusing and could even be considered threatening.  What if dear Mr. M got it all wrong?

This has definitely been one of the more thought provoking reads of the year! Told from five different viewpoints throughout the story with little to no warning of who is suddenly taking over the narration.  It also switches between past and present without warning when changing sections of the book, so be warned.  However, Koch is a master story teller as I had no idea the full story until I read the whole story.  I was making conjectures throughout, but something always felt off.  Something didn’t quite make sense until the last few pages put it all into perspective.  The entire book makes it seem as though Mr. M is this washed up little talent author with the exception of two books: Payback which the book is centered on and then one about his ex-wife leaving him.  But maybe this old dog of an author isn’t all that unintelligent.

The story is primary a narration being told to the reader. There is some dialogue in a few parts that takes place here and there, so it can be a little difficult to follow at times.  There was some adult content included, both in harsh language and in implied sexual content.  The book is mostly set in the Amsterdam area, which I admit to having little to no geographical knowledge of prior to this book, which is always fun to help expand my horizons.  Overall an interesting read, but recommended for mature audiences due to the language and sexual content.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

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