BEFORE SHE WAS FOUND – Heather Gudenkauf

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If Fiona Barton, J. P. Pomare and Sara Shephard wrote a book together, BEFORE SHE WAS FOUND would be it.

The author doesn’t waste any time. Right off the bat, we’re getting a glimpse of what happened on that bloody night, we get to know our important characters then instantly plunge into the heart of the story, which is narrated through text messages, journal entries and multiple POVs.

Particular things that I loved:
1) The addition of the “urban legend” element.
2) Psychiatrist Madeline’s character: her character felt very real and I always looked forward to her POV as she helps the injured teenage victim recover from the trauma, and investigate who the perpetrator could be.
3) The sessions between Dr. Madeline and Cora: These sessions are one of the things that gripped my attention the most.

A “what if?” kept niggling at me all throughout the book, but I just thought it would be too creepy (and impossible!) to happen. However, the author proved herself and challenged all of my expectations, leaving me stunned in the process.

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The final pages were pretty traumatizing as we’re given a full account of what happened on the night in question.
This book made me re-read the entire final lines of the ending over and over again, then go back to re-read the prologue and struggle to wrap my head around what I’ve just what just happened.

I’m categorizing this one under “one of the most mindblowing, twistiest endings I’ve EVER read.”
Highly encouraging you to pick this one up, fellow readers!

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THE STARTER WIFE – Nina Laurin

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Claire can’t help but feel like she’s living under the shadow of her husband’s first wife, Colleen, who died under very strange circumstances. This woman was reported to have jumped into the water one night, presumably as a suicide attempt. Her body though…It just vanished.

This is not your typical domestic thriller, it sure starts out as one but then BAM!…completely catches you off guard – that horrifying twist at the end, like a slap in your face. I remember just blankly staring into space afterwards. I loved that there was no elaboration on the utterly shocking final reveal; it is left to the reader’s interpretation, making you go back and re-read those early inexplicable/odd occurrences that happened to the protagonist in order to put the pieces of the puzzle together. If you do that, you’ll just feel even more unsettled.

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This book kept me alert all throughout and super invested until the end. The first half gives us major “The Wife Between Us/The Breakdown” vibes, and the second half -where it seems like the protagonist’s attempt to learn the truth might bring her to a sinister end – is just this pack of explosive revelations, one after the other. The book suddenly veers off into a direction you were never expecting.

The Starter Wife is an absolute must-read for fans of domestic thrillers. As much as it messed with my head, it was so much fun to go through. It’ll most definitely spark different reactions from readers, and I am so looking forward to knowing what other people think.

THEY ALL FALL DOWN – Rachel Howzel Hall

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A luxurious trip gone wrong? A possibly-paranoid protagonist? A group of unlikeable characters? Sign. Me. Up!

Rachel Howzell is brilliant. She created this beautiful, imperfect and funny character as this mystery’s protagonist and I instantly fell in love with her. The author nailed the prologue, it was claustrophobic and suspenseful enough to compel me to go forward and figure out what the heck just happened.

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THEY ALL FALL DOWN is a binge-worthy mystery full of twists and turns. We have unexpected revelations creeping up on us in each chapter – horrible things are happening in the mansion where the travelers are set to reside, and no one can make sense of this unstoppable craziness- each one compelling us to wonder…
“Why were these people really brought to this house in the middle of the ocean?”, “Who will be the last one(s) standing?” And I was definitely stunned at the creative ways in which each guest has met their fate.

As the story progresses, it is clear that our protagonist Miriam will not sit back and let these strangers get to her head. It’s only a matter of time before she puts on her detective hat and begins to uncover the truths behind this trip’s mystery, stunning us readers with the discoveries she’s making within the halls and rooms inside of this house. This travel journey has now turned into a murder spree, but how had it come to this?! It was supposed to be the trip of a lifetime!

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Readers, pick this one up and enjoy watching these (quite intriguing) people run for their lives in a mansion on a private Island in the beautiful green Sea of Cortez.

BEAUTIFUL BAD – Annie Ward

“I remember being held under water, my face just inches under the surface, eyes bulging and air so close and inviting that I opened my mouth to breathe…”

In BEAUTIFUL BAD (out March 19th), Maddie (a travel writer and English teacher), Ian (who works in The British Army) and their son Charlie are living the perfect life in a suburb in Kansas City. But when a mysterious accident while camping in Colorado leaves Maddie badly scarred, she begins attending writing therapy, where she gradually reveals her fears about Ian’s PTSD, and her concerns for the safety of their young son, Charlie.

To sum up Maddie’s character, she is a mother who suffers a traumatic brain injury due to a camping accident. She forgets to do things, the words she picks are wrong, she can easily be frightened and panic attacks are something she encounters very often. We understand that this accident had damaged her face and her eye very badly, and that’s when we’re able to start suspecting that there might be more to her “accident” than we think, and the concept of the book begins to progressively shape up from that moment on. And the author almost never lets you move on to the next chapter without a chilling line that precedes it.

In this storyline, we are given three timelines:

The Day of The Killing: featuring the main event, where a daunting 911 call is made.

12 weeks prior to that day
About two decades earlier: where we become acquainted with how our couple Maddie and Ian met.

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The book opens with a scene filled with horror – representing The Day of The Killing – featuring a 911 call made by a mother who, as far as we know, is urging her child to “go hide upstairs” and the police officer on the other line to come to her rescue right before her phone clatters to the floor and the line dies.

And then the book continues with a slow pace, so what follows during the upcoming pages are events where we get to know our characters and begin to form our suspicions and knowledge of what truly is going between the mother, her husband, son, and closest friend. But you can also feel the on-going suspense like a soundtrack in your head preparing you for what’s to come. Once you get past your first hundred pages, BEAUTIFUL BAD comes back to its full action-packed mode, it pauses and then continues withmaximum doses of suspense, all while maintaining excellent writing.

The scenes from The Day of Killing come in small portions throughout the book, but when they do, they are raw, powerful and will compel you to stick around for the very final reveal. When this main event isn’t occurring, we are offered detailed backgrounds of each of the characters, what makes them who they are now, how they met and the nature of the relationships they share. So the author lets us readers guess and form our suspicions about what could’ve possibly gone wrong in this seemingly perfect marriage!

Now, you must understand that there are lots and lots of flashbacks to the time when Ian and Maddie just started seeing each other, and you might wonder what purpose those parts of the book could possibly serve, but when all is revealed, you’ll find that they’re an essential factor that subconsciously makes you understand why this read ends the way it does, and the ending also contains a couple references to that particular timeline.

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At approximately the third half of the book, we are rewarded with a thorough account of what really happened on the day of that chilling 911 call.
You see, that’s when things get a lot more interesting, because you start to get a hunch that things aren’t exactly over yet. That’s when stay-up-all-night, hard-to-forget revelations begin to pile up unstoppably one after the other!
In a nutshell, the ending is bone-chilling!!

On the other hand, this isn’t only a domestic thriller, this read is also a brutally dark portrayal of parent-child relationships, the bright and dark sides of friendships and other dark subjects such as PTSD and abuse.

I can’t recommend this book enough. This is the kind of read that stays with you. It will render you breathless. You’ll find yourself gasping as you leaf through the final chilling pages.

***Thank you to Quercus Books and Annie Ward for providing me with a copy of BEAUTIFUL BAD in exchange for an honest review ***

THE DARKNESS – Ragnar Jonasson

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⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

A young woman was found dead on the seaweed rocks of Iceland. She was an Asylum seeker, and Hulda Hermannsdóttir is the Detective who re-opens this case which, she later finds out, contains many unexplained gaps that lead her to start an investigation that has a fresh Agatha Christie feel to it.

I enjoyed this read very much, and the atmospheric setting added a perfect amount of flavor to the mystery.

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In THE DARKNESS, we’ve got a mysterious case that no one among DI Hulda’s colleagues or even her boss seem to care about. But Hulda is determined. She knows there’s much more to our young woman’s death than what was uncovered by the previous detective who was in charge of this case.

The writing is beautiful, with small chapters that never fail to keep you on edge, especially when we are given passages from what happened to the victim a day earlier, leading us to her inescapable final fate. I also enjoyed Pétur and Hulda’s relationship and am curious to see how it develops in the next book, THE ISLAND, which I’m so looking forward to diving into!!

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***Thank you to Flatiron Books for providing me with a copy of The Darkness in exchange for an honest review***

Saving Meghan – D. J. PALMER

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“It was obvious what she had to do now. They had much to plan. They’d left her no choice.”

SAVING MEGHAN is a domestic thriller filled with manipulation, deceit, family drama, and the dangers a mother would risk to protect her child. The story is much more complicated than that, but that’s the point that is being conveyed in the most razor-sharp way throughout the book.

Halfway in, things suddenly take a twisty turn and start to shockingly get out of hand.
What will be Meghan’s mom Becky’s next move? Is she a devoted mother trying to save her child or is there something entirely jaw-dropping that we don’t know about?

All of this is expressed in an overly dramatic yet terrifyingly realistic way. Too many revelations will leave you stunned. This book is at times heart-wrenching, but for the most part, invigoratingly addictive and compelling.

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The mother in this book is such an extraordinary character. Her determination and daring behavior compelled me to be invested in her entire journey as she attempts to save her daughter.

I felt just as interested in Meghan, she’s fearless and super clever. The book psychologically explores her character in the most raw way possible.

This unputdownable read is truly exploring every parent’s fear. The Gerard family will grip your attention instantly, you will most definitely find it impossible to lose interest in these people after acknowledging the horror that they’re going through. This book gets more anxiety-inducing with every chapter. The ending is insane. So much action-packed craziness goes on, so grab a snack and plunge into some pretty darn good page-turning fun!

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I highly recommend this read.
Full suspenseful ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ for this one!

 

***Thank you to St. Martin’s Press and D. J. Palmer for providing me with a copy of SAVING MEGHAN in exchange for an honest review***

PAST LIFE – Dominic Nolan

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PAST LIFE by Dominic Nolan (Out today!) revolves around Detective Abigail Boone, who is a victim of a traumatizing occurrence that led her to forget her own identity. And revisiting an old case regarding the mysterious disappearance of another young woman might be the only way to find out what REALLY happened to her.

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I love plots that discuss memory loss and the synopsis drew me in instantly. A couple of pages in, it feels as if this read is giving out a bundle of effects; at times it’s a police procedural, other times it’s fully a mystery, and a splash of suspense is thrown in here and there; so the reader gets the opportunity to experience a little bit of everything from the POV of the main character.

I highly recommend this for fans of crime fiction who are prepared to dive into a character-driven novel, dominated by a group of strong women – one of them endeavoring to get her memory back through life-altering risks. Along with great writing, and a thrilling and freshly executed plot.