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Chasing the Boogeyman

Title: Chasing the Boogeyman

Author: Richard Chizmar

Genre: thriller, mystery

Thank you Netgalley for this book!

I was introduced to Richard Chizmar because of his collaboration with Stephen King on Gwendy’s Button Box, which was great. I’ve also read his sequel, Gwendy’s Magic Feather, and am really excited for the next Gwendy book. I follow him on Twitter, but haven’t read much else of his. But when I saw that Netgalley was offering this one, I jumped at the chance to read more of his work. And, my gosh, did I love this one.

From Goodreads: In the summer of 1988, the mutilated bodies of several missing girls begin to turn up in a small Maryland town. The grisly evidence leads police to the terrifying assumption that a serial killer is on the loose in the quiet suburb. But soon a rumor begins to spread that the evil stalking local teens is not entirely human. Law enforcement, as well as members of the FBI are certain that the killer is a living, breathing madman—and he’s playing games with them. For a once peaceful community trapped in the depths of paranoia and suspicion, it feels like a nightmare that will never end.

Recent college graduate Richard Chizmar returns to his hometown just as a curfew is enacted and a neighborhood watch is formed. In the midst of preparing for his wedding and embarking on a writing career, he soon finds himself thrust into the real-life horror story. Inspired by the terrifying events, Richard writes a personal account of the serial killer’s reign of terror, unaware that these events will continue to haunt him for years to come.

This book is amazing. One of the best I’ve read this year, honestly. Even though it’s a work of fiction, Chizmar’s family, parents, siblings, wife, kids, etc that he mentions in the book are all real. The town eh grew up in and the streets, locations, etc are real. But the events are not. He says at the end (no spoilers here) that as he was thinking about this book, he knew that his younger self just had to be the narrator. And it works. Who better to tell a story of your hometown? The plot is great, with Richard and his journalist pal, Carly, trying to solve the murders of these girls. The story isn’t true, but it reads exactly like a true crime book. There are even photos of the “victims” and other people involved. Chizmar, I think, writes horror, but this one isn’t horror at all. It’s just a good old-fashioned mystery. Sure, girls being killed is pretty awful, but this book is not graphic at all. I’ll definitely be recommending it to my true crime/thriller fellow readers.

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The Chalk Man

Title: The Chalk Man

Author: CJ Tudor

Genre: thriller, murder mystery

When I read and loved The Burning Girls, I made a point to get Tudor’s other book from my library. You guys, I burned through this book in two days. I absolutely couldn’t put it down. Not only was it a great story, tightly written, interesting characters, etc, it has a ton of Stephen King Easter eggs. He actually tweeted his recommendation of this book, and I imagine him giggling at the eggs as he’s reading. Even without the eggs, the book was excellent.

From Goodreads: In 1986, Eddie and his friends are just kids on the verge of adolescence. They spend their days biking around their sleepy English village and looking for any taste of excitement they can get. The chalk men are their secret code: little chalk stick figures they leave for one another as messages only they can understand. But then a mysterious chalk man leads them right to a dismembered body, and nothing is ever the same.

In 2016, Eddie is fully grown, and thinks he’s put his past behind him. But then he gets a letter in the mail, containing a single chalk stick figure. When it turns out that his friends got the same message, they think it could be a prank . . . until one of them turns up dead.

That’s when Eddie realizes that saving himself means finally figuring out what really happened all those years ago.

The story is told from Eddie’s perspective in both past and present, but the chapters are labeled as such, so it’s really easy to follow. Eddie is a great character, flawed but likable, so you still cheer for him. He has a dark side, though, too, probably due to various incidents as a child. Finding out the truth behind the dismembered body was a fun journey. So far, Tudor is two for two in my book. I can’t wait for her next book!

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The Broken Girls

Title: The Broken Girls

Author: Simon St. James

Genre: mystery, thriller, ghost story

PopSugar Reading Challege Prompt: a genre hybrid (part ghost story, part murder mystery)

I read The Sun Down Motel last year and really enjoyed it. I thought it was well-written and spooky but still plausible. When I heard some buzz around The Broken Girls, I thought I would give it a chance. And I’m happy to report that I enjoyed this book even more!

From Goodreads: Vermont, 1950. There’s a place for the girls whom no one wants–the troublemakers, the illegitimate, the too smart for their own good. It’s called Idlewild Hall. And in the small town where it’s located, there are rumors that the boarding school is haunted. Four roommates bond over their whispered fears, their budding friendship blossoming–until one of them mysteriously disappears. . . .

Vermont, 2014. As much as she’s tried, journalist Fiona Sheridan cannot stop revisiting the events surrounding her older sister’s death. Twenty years ago, her body was found lying in the overgrown fields near the ruins of Idlewild Hall. And though her sister’s boyfriend was tried and convicted of murder, Fiona can’t shake the suspicion that something was never right about the case.

When Fiona discovers that Idlewild Hall is being restored by an anonymous benefactor, she decides to write a story about it. But a shocking discovery during the renovations will link the loss of her sister to secrets that were meant to stay hidden in the past–and a voice that won’t be silenced. . . . 

I don’t believe in ghosts at all, but I enjoy reading ghost stories, especially ones that aren’t too horrifying. This book was a great blend of unsettling supernatural and solving a murder mystery. All the characters were interesting, and I loved how both the 1950 and 2014 stories came together. This story kept me reading and guessing. Definitely recommend this one!

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The Eighth Detective

Title: The Eighth Detective

Author: Alex Pavesi

Genre: detective mystery

PopSugar Reading Challenge prompt: a locked-room mystery

Holy smokes this was a great book. I discovered it via Twitter because Jeff VanderMeer (he wrote The Southern Reach trilogy, Borne, City of Saints and Madmen) recommended it. Anytime an author I like recommends something, I make a note to check it out, if it’s a book I would normally enjoy. And not only was it a great book, it filled the locked-room mystery prompt of the PopSugar Reading Challenge. Most of the locked-room mystery books recommended, I’ve already read. There are actually seven different locked-room mysteries in this one. I’m really surprised this book doesn’t have more people talking about it.

From Goodreads: There are rules for murder mysteries. There must be a victim. A suspect. A detective. The rest is just shuffling the sequence. Expanding the permutations. Grant McAllister, a professor of mathematics, once sat down and worked them all out – calculating the different orders and possibilities of a mystery into seven perfect detective stories he quietly published. But that was thirty years ago. Now Grant lives in seclusion on a remote Mediterranean island, counting the rest of his days.

Until Julia Hart, a sharp, ambitious editor knocks on his door. Julia wishes to republish his book, and together they must revisit those old stories: an author hiding from his past, and an editor, keen to understand it.

But there are things in the stories that don’t add up. Inconsistencies left by Grant that a sharp-eyed editor begins to suspect are more than mistakes. They may be clues, and Julia finds herself with a mystery of her own to solve.

Every other chapter is a short murder mystery, in between short chapters of conversation between Julia and Grant. Julia sees small errors in each mystery, but Grant chalks them up to carelessness. The unraveling of the inconsistencies is so much fun. And by the time I had gotten through all seven mysteries and realized I still had a chunk of the book left, I really had no idea what else I was in store for. I really loved this book. It’s creative, well-written, clever, and intelligent. I will be recommending this one to anyone!

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The Lucky Ones

Title: The Lucky Ones

Author: Mark Edwards

Genre: thriller, murder mystery, police procedural

I love Kindle First Reads. Because I have a Prime account, I get a free book every month from a not as well-known author. I’ve read some great ones like Beneath a Scarlet Sky, In the Dark, The Collector Trilogy, A River in Darkness, I Choose You, The Winter Over, Find Me, and plenty more that I haven’t gotten around to, yet. And I love the fact that these are authors that I haven’t heard of, but once I am aware of them via this program, I end up reading more of their work. Such is the case here. I have purchased several of Mark Edwards’s books just because this one was so great.

From Goodreads: It was the happiest day of her life. Little did she know it was also the last.

When a woman’s body is found in the grounds of a ruined priory, Detective Imogen Evans realises she is dealing with a serial killer—a killer whose victims appear to die in a state of bliss, eyes open, smiles forever frozen on their faces.

A few miles away, single dad Ben Hofland believes his fortunes are changing at last. Forced to move back to the sleepy village where he grew up following the breakdown of his marriage, Ben finally finds work. What’s more, the bullies who have been terrorizing his son, Ollie, disappear. For the first time in months, Ben feels lucky. But he is unaware that someone is watching him and Ollie. Someone who wants nothing but happiness for Ben. Happiness…and death.

Everything worked for me in this book, which says a lot because I’m so picky. The characters were great. Ben’s a good guy who you want to see happy. Imogen is a no-nonsense detective, but you can see she truly cares about her job and helping people. The plot was tight, and by the time you find out just what’s happening and why, it all makes sense because Edwards created the path right to it, without you really knowing it.

I am constantly frustrated by “famous” authors writing crappy stories and getting away with it, when people like Edwards or Loreth Anne White who wrote In the Dark aren’t as well known. But these two authors wrote two of the best thrillers I read this year…. and I’ve read dozens….it’s my go-to genre. But they both did it spectacularly well, and I can’t wait to read more from them.

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The Shining Girls

Title: The Shining Girls

Author: Lauren Beukes

Genre: murder mystery, thriller, time travel

I am a pretty snarky person. I’d like to think that it’s funny rather than mean. That’s certainly how I intend it to be, at least. And snark is hard in print, however, this book’s main character manages it perfectly, so well done Lauren Beukes! Kirby is funny, smart, and a badass survivor.

From Goodreads: In Depression-era Chicago, Harper Curtis finds a key to a house that opens on to other times. But it comes at a cost. He has to kill the shining girls: bright young women, burning with potential. Curtis stalks them through their lives across different eras until, in 1989, one of his victims, Kirby Mazrachi, survives and starts hunting him back.

Working with a former homicide reporter who is falling for her, Kirby races against time and reason to unravel an impossible mystery. 

The time-travel aspect is a bit confusing at first, even though the chapters are labeled with a date and the character it focuses on. The events are told out of order, so you see the result of something before you see the actual event happen. But if you keep reading, it all comes together. The book is definitely worth sticking with. I really enjoyed this creative thriller. Through the non-traditional narrative, I was left guessing and thinking about what was going on. I would love to read more from Beukes and definitely recommend this one!

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The Night Swim

I’m loving The Book of the Month. (feel free to use my code to join. https://www.mybotm.com/da1c17916444?show_box=true I’ve gotten some really great books that might not have ended up on my radar. Books like The Shadows, The Sun Down Motel, A Good Marriage, and The Guest List have been a lot of fun to dig through. The Night Swim joins that list.

From Goodreads: After the first season of her true crime podcast became an overnight sensation and set an innocent man free, Rachel Krall is now a household name―and the last hope for thousands of people seeking justice. But she’s used to being recognized for her voice, not her face. Which makes it all the more unsettling when she finds a note on her car windshield, addressed to her, begging for help.

The small town of Neapolis is being torn apart by a devastating rape trial. The town’s golden boy, a swimmer destined for Olympic greatness, has been accused of raping a high school student, the beloved granddaughter of the police chief. Under pressure to make Season Three a success, Rachel throws herself into interviewing and investigating―but the mysterious letters keep showing up in unexpected places. Someone is following her, and she won’t stop until Rachel finds out what happened to her sister twenty-five years ago. Officially, Jenny Stills tragically drowned, but the letters insists she was murdered―and when Rachel starts asking questions, nobody seems to want to answer. The past and present start to collide as Rachel uncovers startling connections between the two cases that will change the course of the trial and the lives of everyone involved.

Electrifying and propulsive, The Night Swim asks: What is the price of a reputation? Can a small town ever right the wrongs of its past? And what really happened to Jenny?

This book is a “ripped from the headlines” type. Popular swimmer (think Brock Turner), nearly unconscious girl, true crime podcaster, etc, but the dual storylines of past and present were really what made the story interesting. Neither one really could have stood alone, but how they intertwined was great. There were a few plot points that were implausible (notably that a high school girl who was mostly sober not noticing that the soda she was drinking was heavily spiked with vodka) but overall the story was really good, and both plots left me guessing.

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The Shadows

Hooray for Book of the Month. I’ve only gotten 8 boxes, but I’m hooked. So far, each month I’ve had no trouble picked a book that I am excited to read. The new hardback is only $15 and if you want to add another book, either another monthly pick or an older selection, that’s only $10. Mostly, I pick whatever horror/thriller book is offered, but there are a few other genres that I’ll test out from time to time. This thriller was one that I enjoyed quite a bit.

From Goodreads: You knew a teenager like Charlie Crabtree. A dark imagination, a sinister smile–always on the outside of the group. Some part of you suspected he might be capable of doing something awful. Twenty-five years ago, Crabtree did just that, committing a murder so shocking that it’s attracted that strange kind of infamy that only exists on the darkest corners of the internet–and inspired more than one copycat.

Paul Adams remembers the case all too well: Crabtree–and his victim–were Paul’s friends. Paul has slowly put his life back together. But now his mother, old and senile, has taken a turn for the worse. Though every inch of him resists, it is time to come home.

It’s not long before things start to go wrong. Reading the news, Paul learns another copycat has struck. His mother is distressed, insistent that there’s something in the house. And someone is following him. Which reminds him of the most unsettling thing about that awful day twenty-five years ago.

It wasn’t just the murder.

It was the fact that afterward, Charlie Crabtree was never seen again…

There were some definite plot holes and tropes that I could have done without, bur overall the book really comes together in the end. The urban legend presented in this book was really interesting, as was its origin story. I’ve heard of Alex North because of his first book, The Whisper Man, which I will be reading because I enjoyed this one so much.

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The Sun Down Motel

I’ve been hearing fun things about this book, mostly that it was a good, creepy book. When I opened to the dedication, I was sold. It’s dedicated to odd girls, nerdy girls, and murderinos. For those not in the know, fans of the podcast, My Favorite Murder are affectionately called Murderinos. With over 500 episodes, the hosts, Georgia and Karen, and certified celebrities in the true crime podcast world. As they should be. They are hilarious, honest, and just like your best friends. The Sun Down Motel, written for people like me (I fit all those categories in the dedication) was as much fun as I was hoping for.

From Goodreads:

The secrets lurking in a rundown roadside motel ensnare a young woman, just as they did her aunt thirty-five years before, in this new atmospheric suspense novel from the national bestselling and award-winning author of The Broken Girls.

Upstate NY, 1982. Every small town like Fell, New York, has a place like the Sun Down Motel. Some customers are from out of town, passing through on their way to someplace better. Some are locals, trying to hide their secrets. Viv Delaney works as the night clerk to pay for her move to New York City. But something isn’t right at the Sun Down, and before long she’s determined to uncover all of the secrets hidden…

The story is told from the perspectives of Viv in 1982 and her niece, Carly, in present day. Carly heads to Fell to find out what happened to her aunt. The story is cleverly written that when Viv finds out something interesting, Carly does as well. And there are tiny hidden clues that are easy to miss, but become really important in the long run. This book was exactly as described, a good, creepy book. Part haunted house/motel, part murder mystery, part girl detective. I definitely recommend this one. SSDGM.

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Every Last Fear

Thanks to NetGalley for this ARC.

I’ve been on a NetGalley spree. There are just so many books that sound great, so I request a bunch and see what happens. Usually they will trickle in here and there, but right now I have 5 books to read and review. All sound intriguing, and I’m really excited to discover some new authors. The first book I started was missing some chapters. Either that or the plot was so bad that entire chunks of info were left out. My guess is the former, but in any case, I couldn’t finish it because I was so confused as to what was going on. Thankfully, this one was cohesive.

From Goodreads:

“They found the bodies on a Tuesday.” So begins this twisty and breathtaking novel that traces the fate of the Pine family, a thriller that will both leave you on the edge of your seat and move you to tears.

After a late night of partying, NYU student Matt Pine returns to his dorm room to devastating news: nearly his entire family—his mom, his dad, his little brother and sister—have been found dead from an apparent gas leak while vacationing in Mexico. The local police claim it was an accident, but the FBI and State Department seem far less certain—and they won’t tell Matt why.

The tragedy makes headlines everywhere because this isn’t the first time the Pine family has been thrust into the media spotlight. Matt’s older brother, Danny—currently serving a life sentence for the murder of his teenage girlfriend Charlotte—was the subject of a viral true crime documentary suggesting that Danny was wrongfully convicted. Though the country has rallied behind Danny, Matt holds a secret about his brother that he’s never told anyone: the night Charlotte was killed Matt saw something that makes him believe his brother is guilty of the crime.

When Matt returns to his small hometown to bury his parents and siblings, he’s faced with a hostile community that was villainized by the documentary, a frenzied media, and memories he’d hoped to leave behind forever. Now, as the deaths in Mexico appear increasingly suspicious and connected to Danny’s case, Matt must unearth the truth behind the crime that sent his brother to prison—putting his own life in peril—and forcing him to confront his every last fear. 

I was really impressed by this unknown author’s ability to reveal hints and clues throughout the plot. Alex Finlay is the pseudonym, and this is his/her first book (as far as we know…maybe he/she published under a real name), which impressed me. Oftentimes, new authors end up being not so great. But this book was a fun read, had a great twist, and really kept me guessing.