Pretty Girls – KARIN SLAUGHTER

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Slaughters’ fans surely know that she is a unique author who doesn’t necessarily need a good plot to peek her readers’ interest. The book could be about nothing at all and still be the year’s best thriller.

Twenty years ago, Claire Scott’s eldest sister Julia went missing. It was a mystery that was never solved and it tore her family apart. Now another girl has disappeared, with chilling echoes of the past. And Claire is convinced that Julia’s disappearance is linked. But when she begins to learn the truth about her sister, she is confronted with a shocking discovery, and nothing will ever be the same.

Pretty Girls isn’t just another fast paced thriller that’s all about a plot and a twisted ending; it’s more than that. Karin plays with the details and you slowly become aware of how immensely important they are. The writing is engaging and is easily an inspiration for aspiring writers.
I especially loved how the characters’ internal thoughts and reactions are raw and brutally honest.

Things become interesting when Claire starts to divulge things about herself and decisions she made in the past and a new cast of actors are thrusted into the story.
There are parts in the book where I was not only interested in what happens to the sisters and their discoveries. Instead, I find myself wanting to read more about a few specific characters. I found that the most chilling and engaging paragraphs are the ones narrated by the sisters’ father Sam. It was always soothing how he told his own story.

At the ending, when we’re finally face to face with a major shocking truth, the suspense surely doesn’t cease to exist. I personally found myself immersed inside the final war between the guilty and the innocent within the last gripping pages.
I’m completely bracing myself for diving into more of Karin’s work.
I recommend this for fans of Harlan Coben and S. J. Watson.

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UNSUB – MEG GARDINER

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Twenty years ago, a well-known serial killer – referring to himself as The Prophet – went on a complete killing spree in the Bay Area, leaving cuts and carved Mercury signs on his victims’ flesh.
And now, he’s back. With newer skills and plans for the city he has once left for good.
Caitlin Hendrix takes on the investigation – the same one that destroyed her father a long time ago- and is determined to solve the case as the killer continues to send her messages that she’s compelled to decode, along with mind games The Prophet likes to play.

What was The Prophet doing all these years? Was he just on the run, or was he conspiring for something even more sinister and terrorizing?

This read was with no doubt worth my time, as it was nothing like what I’ve read before.
UNSUB isn’t just another typical crime novel, and The Prophet surely isn’t just another fictional serial killer. His precision is sharp, and his endeavors are beyond expectations. With the killings he commits, he proceeds to put on a show for all the world to see on their home televisions – as the crime scene is still in motion when the Detectives arrive.
The author gives us insight on where the serial murderer comes from, and includes his point of view that features his thoughts later on in the book and only through a medium chapter, which is enough to make the reader shiver and look over their shoulder.
The ending was a definite page-turner, as the reader is not only fascinated by the outcome of the final battle between The Prophet and Detective Hendrix, but the shocking realization that is discovered afterwards.

As for Caitlin Hendrix; she’s so far one of my favorite fictional Detectives. Cait is easy to like; she’s down-to-earth and kind, and the author shows to us how her personality grows and strengthens through the tragedies that come to occur to the ones around her and the killer’s mind tricks that almost drive her to complete madness. I’m tremendously eager to read more about her and what’s in store for her in the second book.

Fans of Beukes’ The Shining Girls or readers who await for Mark Edwards’ upcoming book The Lucky Ones, will immensely appreciate this book.

***Thank you to Penguin Group Dutton and Netgalley for my copy of UNSUB in exchange for an honest and unbiased review***

 

The Black Painting – NEIL OLSEN

 

Fifteen years ago, the Morse cousins left the family estate right after the theft of a painting that is known for its ancient evil history, with the power of killing the beholder after viewing it. And now the cousins are summoned back to their old home.
The story starts with one of them, Teresa, discovering their grandfather dead body in his study. And now, after the entire family gathers inside the house, she sets on finding clues about the painting’s thief and her grandpa’s mysterious death, with the help of An investigator.
Is the Goya painting truly capable of such doing? Can she trust her family, from whom she’s been estranged since she was a child?
But how can Teresa – having been stuck with a mental condition she believes she’s inherited from her long-gone father- those around her when she can’t even trust herself?

As I began to read this, it started to feel like Hawkins’ Into The Water, except where the case here is ‘the demonic painting’ instead of the ‘Drowning Pool’.
The author created Teresa as a like-able character, relatable in some ways but also unreliable often. And so is the rest of the characters (rebellious Audrey, introverted James,…) as you continue to dive through the pages, and it’s fascinating how they take turns divulging particular secrets about themselves that makes it harder for the reader to recognize who to trust and who the guilty ones are.

What I liked most about The Black Painting, aside from the beautifully written paragraphs and its just-one-more-page effect, is that it’s not only a thriller but is also mixed with a cinematic-like horror experience. Completely pulling you in until the last page.

With this read, Neil Olson takes psychological thrillers to a whole new level and I think it’ll make fans of such genre very happy, for the concept is completely original and with a suspense development that almost turns its fictional characters into real ones into the mind of the reader.

If you enjoyed reads like Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn or Into The Water by Paula Hawkins, then this is one is a must-read.

***Thank you to Netgalley, Harlequin and Hanover Square Press for providing me with an advanced reading copy of The Black Painting in exchange for an honest review***

Since We Fell – DENNIS LEHANE


The story follows the protagonist Rachel Childs’ quest to uncover the identity of her father despite her mother’s endeavors to keep it away from her. After she meets her new husband, she becomes aware that he is not who he says he is. And then the suspense takes place and twists start to emerge.
Since We Fell begins with a slow start, unraveling Rachel’s struggles investigating who her father is. Throughout the first 250-300 pages (right before Chapter 23: Dark), the writing continues on the same slow pace and it starts to sound a little like Maria Semple’s Today Will Be Different, but you get to admire Rachel’s character, therefore begin to be immersed in her story and become eager to find out what happens to her eventually.
This was my first Lehane book. I loved everything about it. Though I wished the author could have spent more time on some parts in the story rather than others. Anyhow, I loved how Dennis creates his characters, especially Rachel.. I liked her and was ready to learn more about her. Also. the author’s writing is unique, and I’d love to read his future work.

I’d definitely recommend this book. It’s gripping and engrossing and everything a psychological thriller needs.

The Lucky Ones – MARK EDWARDS


*4/5 Stars*
The story is about a serial killer who has a unique way of murdering his victims – the lucky ones. Dead bodies begin to pile up, and DI Imogen is compelled to identify the pattern used by the murderer, that is resulting in corpses with eyes open and smiles engraved on their faces. 

The author takes us on a journey of cat-and-mouse games between the killer and the detective.
I think what I regretted the most after reading this is that I have never been able to bring myself to read Mark Edward’s work before.

The actors in the book are worth reading about. My favorite character is Ben’s, because of how relatable the author made him; he’s drowned in multiple life problems. He lost his job, his home, his wife and he can’t help but feel like a failure. However, he hopes his efforts will make things right again. Though, it doesn’t really turn out as he wishes. Nevertheless, it is only when they do, that other predicaments that are out of the ordinary begin to merge from out of nowhere.
PROS
Mark Edwards throws you into the mind of a serial killer; how he works and how he thinks. His carefully plotted methods. 

The way it ended is what struck me, because it is only when I thought it was all over, a twist happens. It was jaw-dropping. It becomes that kind of just-one-more-page read.
CONS
None.
The Lucky Ones is perfect for fans of Beukes’ The Shining Girls and Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn. 
*Thanks to Netgalley and Thomas & Mercer for kindly offering me an advanced reading copy of the book in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.*

The Watcher – ROSS ARMSTRONG


***5 STARS***I am shocked at how a thriller could be written so brilliantly.

Honestly, there is nothing I haven’t liked about The Watcher. It has all the ingredients for an enthralling and heart-thudding, edge-of-your-seat psychological thriller, with a uniquely altered way of narrating events of a complicated and twisted story.
Lily is a female voyeur who finds solace in watching her neighbors opposite her apartment through her binoculars. One night, she goes to visit one of them, Jean, whose body is discovered dead the following morning. Lily is convinced Jean had been murdered, which is when she begins to use her voyeuristic skills to catch the killer. Eventually, the female protagonist realizes there might be something wrong her, mentally. 

Can she trust herself? Can she trust what she sees? 
Through impressive descriptions of the actors’ characteristics and emotions, the author uses a bit of a Hitchcock-ey vibe while telling the story, sort of like a modern version of Rear Window but that is original in its own way. This is the kind of read that is vivid, invigorating and does not cease to make you feel eager to know what happens next.

At one point midway through the book, the author abruptly gives up on the intensity of suspense, but I later concluded that this specific duration represents a pause that is necessary for the reader to divulge the true self of the protagonist along with her back story, in order to justify her thoughts and actions. 

The heart-thumping moments begin to merge, slowly converting to an unexpected and ambushing twist. It is then when the writer brings you face to face with a prolonged and perfectly plotted one-on-one confrontation scene between the watcher and the killer. The horror messes with your mind completely.
On the other hand, Lily isn’t just another female character in a suspense novel but she is deeply flawed and given such a horrifying and dark personality that will often make you shiver. Although, I couldn’t help but feel tremendously attached to Lily’s character as I reached the ending.
If you’re familiar with Talese’s The Voyeur’s Motel, this will interest you widely. But most importantly, this is for readers who are looking for something more disturbing than what they would usually read.

It’s strange to think of this as my current comfort read but, as of now, Ross Armstrong is truly one of the few accomplished writers that are worth my time.

Undertow – ELIZABETH HEATHCOTE


4/5 Stars!!This was my first time reading Elizabeth Heathcote’s work. And I am very happy with Undertow. It’s got a dark feel to it, there’s drama and there’s suspense -though one that isn’t as razor-sharp as I wished it would be.
The books follows the story of a happily-married couple, Carmen and Tom. However, the narration slowly converts to Carmen’s curiosity about her husband’s ex-girlfriend’s skeptical death. She therefore dives into an adventure to seek the truth about Zena, the woman who came before her, while taking unimaginable risks and preparing to lie to those around her in order to find out the truth. How did Zena die? Can she trusts her friends? Can she trust this new family that she married into? Are her endeavors leading her directly to what she desires or right into plain danger itself? Will the truth set her free or destroy her?
There is no doubt that Heathcote’s writing is captivating and thrilling.

In Undertow,the suspense might not hit you instantly but it features gradually as it’s described vividly throughout the story in a way it’ll give you vertigo.

In the beginning, you might think you know the truth, because of the presence of too much focus on early facts and clues that could lead to a certain theory, but the author created a twist so shocking I couldn’t bring myself to absorb it.
As I have mentioned, this thriller isn’t violent or disturbing. But the characters can be very relatable, especially Carmen’s. I loved Carmen. She’s strong and vulnerable, she lacks confidence but doesn’t often let it show, although she’s ready to do anything to satisfy her demands. Also, I appreciate that the author forges powerful subjects that matter like family relationships, what it takes to tear them down or strengthen them even more.
This read is perfect for fans of thrillers like Paris’ The Breakdown and Delaney’s The Girl Before. If you enjoyed those, Undertow will be the perfect addition.
Thank you so much to Netgalley and Harlequin for providing me with an advanced reading copy of Undertow in exchange for an honest review.