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Jar City

I have a bit of an addiction to Nordic thriller tv shows on Netflix. Their police procedurals are excellent. Frequently, the women are in charge, the red herrings aren’t too ridiculous, and the storytelling is top-notch. I’ve read a handful of books from the area but have more on my list. Somehow, I stumbled on this one from Iceland, which isn’t an area I’ve ever read about.

From Goodreads: When a lonely old man is found murdered in his Reykjavík flat, the only clues are a cryptic note left by the killer and a photograph of a young girl’s grave. Inspector Erlendur, who heads the investigation team, discovers that many years ago the victim was accused, though not convicted, of an unsolved crime. Did the old man’s past come back to haunt him?

As the team of detectives reopen this very cold case, Inspector Erlendur uncovers secrets that are much larger than the murder of one old man–secrets that have been carefully guarded by many people for many years. As he follows a fascinating trail of unusual forensic evidence, Erlendur also confronts stubborn personal conflicts that reveal his own depth and complexity of character. 

This thriller was great. Although it uses the “grumpy old white guy” detective trope, he had some good reasons to be grumpy, so at least it was legitimate. The murder itself and the discovery of who was behind it was really creative and plausible, so no crazy far-fetched, nonsensical storytelling, thank goodness. This book was just a tightly written, interesting mystery.

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Lock Every Door

I now have read every Riley Sager book. I started with Final Girls, next was The Last Time I Lied, then Home Before Dark and now this one. I was a bit bummed by the first two because I didn’t think they were as good as the hype that surrounded them. However, Home Before Dark was really good, and I appreciated the creative way the story was told, but Lock Every Door is my favorite. It. Was. Bonkers.

From Goodreads:

No visitors. No nights spent away from the apartment. No disturbing the other residents, all of whom are rich or famous or both. These are the only rules for Jules Larsen’s new job as an apartment sitter at the Bartholomew, one of Manhattan’s most high-profile and mysterious buildings. Recently heartbroken and just plain broke, Jules is taken in by the splendor of her surroundings and accepts the terms, ready to leave her past life behind.

As she gets to know the residents and staff of the Bartholomew, Jules finds herself drawn to fellow apartment sitter Ingrid, who comfortingly, disturbingly reminds her of the sister she lost eight years ago. When Ingrid confides that the Bartholomew is not what it seems and the dark history hidden beneath its gleaming facade is starting to frighten her, Jules brushes it off as a harmless ghost story—until the next day, when Ingrid disappears.

Searching for the truth about Ingrid’s disappearance, Jules digs deeper into the Bartholomew’s dark past and into the secrets kept within its walls. Her discovery that Ingrid is not the first apartment sitter to go missing at the Bartholomew pits Jules against the clock as she races to unmask a killer, expose the building’s hidden past, and escape the Bartholomew before her temporary status becomes permanent.

The big reveal (no spoilers, but this book is a mystery, so you expect there to be a resolution) is crazy, and I didn’t see it coming at all. Jules is a great character, not only trying to solve the mystery, but also having to deal with her past. Sager does a great job putting little hints in the story here and there that give you a little insight into the big twist, but even as I picked up on them, I still didn’t see where it was going. If you’re new to Sager’s books, this is a great one to start with.

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The Trespasser

And here we are. The end. The last. The final Dublin Murder Squad book. Even though this book and the one before it weren’t as good as the first four, I did enjoy the series and still recommend them to anyone. In the Woods, The Likeness, Faithful Place, Broken Harbor, and The Secret Place all lead to this final book. Tana French cleverly weaves the books together by putting one character from the previous book as the main character in the next book, except the last two. They both feature Detective Moran and Detective Conway, but The Secret Place is told from his perspective and this one from hers.

From Goodreads:

Being on the Murder Squad is nothing like Detective Antoinette Conway dreamed it would be. Her partner, Stephen Moran, is the only person who seems glad she’s there. The rest of her working life is a stream of thankless cases, vicious pranks, and harassment. Antoinette is savagely tough, but she’s getting close to the breaking point.

Their new case looks like yet another by-the-numbers lovers’ quarrel gone bad. Aislinn Murray is blond, pretty, groomed-to-a-shine, and dead in her catalog-perfect living room, next to a table set for a romantic dinner. There’s nothing unusual about her—except that Antoinette’s seen her somewhere before.

And that her death won’t stay in its neat by-numbers box. Other detectives are trying to push Antoinette and Steve into arresting Aislinn’s boyfriend, fast. There’s a shadowy figure at the end of Antoinetteʼs road. Aislinnʼs friend is hinting that she knew Aislinn was in danger. And everything they find out about Aislinn takes her further from the glossy, passive doll she seemed to be.

Antoinette knows the harassment has turned her paranoid, but she can’t tell just how far gone she is. Is this case another step in the campaign to force her off the squad, or are there darker currents flowing beneath its polished surface?

Det. Conway is an unreliable narrator to the extreme. As good of a detective she is, she has terrible insight into her own co-workers. She can’t see the forest for the trees. She thinks each and every one of them are out to get her, including her own partner at times. This perspective gets old really quickly, and I was constantly frustrated by inability to look at things objectively. The book takes some good turns that I wasn’t expecting, which is always appreciated, but overall it was just okay.

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In the Dark

I’ve never read Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None. Now I don’t have to because this book entirely spoils the plot. That said, the book is 80 years old, so spoilers for it have long passed. My own fault, not the author’s. I had no idea going into this book that it was a retelling of anything, let alone one of the most famous murder mystery books of all time.

This book was offered as a Kindle first selection at some point, which I didn’t select, but it sounded interesting enough that I add it to my “to read” list and discovered it was available to me via Prime reading, which is a great resource. I’m glad that I found this book because it was excellent.

From Goodreads: The promise of a luxury vacation at a secluded wilderness spa has brought together eight lucky guests. But nothing is what they were led to believe. As a fierce storm barrels down and all contact with the outside is cut off, the guests fear that it’s not a getaway. It’s a trap.

Each one has a secret. Each one has something to hide. And now, as darkness closes in, they all have something to fear—including one another.

Alerted to the vanished party of strangers, homicide cop Mason Deniaud and search and rescue expert Callie Sutton must brave the brutal elements of the mountains to find them. But even Mason and Callie have no idea how precious time is. Because the clock is ticking, and one by one, the guests of Forest Shadow Lodge are being hunted. For them, surviving becomes part of a diabolical game.

I loved this book because I truly had no idea what was going to happen. I had no idea what the secrets were, who was behind the entire trap, how this was going to resolve. You know that at least one person survives because you meet her in the first chapter. But who that person is and how she was involved isn’t revealed. The layers of the plot are revealed cleverly and nicely with a big twist at the end that I didn’t see coming. I highly recommend this one!

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Miracle Creek

I do not want to read a medical thriller. When I saw that prompt on the PopSugar Reading Challenge, I was sunk. I knew I was going to have to fudge this one. I have anxiety and can’t watch medical shows on tv. I have no desire to read anything medical related. A lot of people read The Silent Patient for this prompt, but I read that last year, so I was struggling to find something. Finally, some people in the reading challenge FB group mentioned this one, and I was sold. It’s mostly a legal thriller, light on the thrills, but it involves a medical situation. I had also been hearing what a good book it was, so off to my library I went.

Not only does this book have a legal focus, it also it an own voices book. The family involved is Korean, as the author, so she’s able to provide an authentic story of the family. The story follows the trial of a woman who is accused of murdering her autistic son. She has been trying an experimental treatment for him which puts him in an oxygen chamber twice a day to help his neurological processing. He’s in the chamber with several people who are also undergoing the treatment for various reasons. An explosion occurs, and the woman is accused of setting the fire.

The story unfolds with one secret revealed after another. As the trial progresses and new information is brought to light. you begin to see how twisted together all the participants are. The Korean family who owns the chamber as well as their clients are wrapped together in more ways than you expect. By the end, you really don’t know who set the fire because it could have been anyone, since they all seemed to have some hand in the crime, whether directly or indirectly.

This book was great. It was tightly written, kept me guessing, and was captivating from the first chapter. Whether you enjoy legal stories, own voices books, or a good mystery, this book will be perfect for you.

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The Secret Place

Teenage girls can be the worst. My apologies if you are one of the good ones, because there are some amazing girls out there. I taught hundreds of them. But some are just wretched. They are mean and spiteful and a nightmare to be around. Unfortunately, this book features some awful girls, which greatly increased my dislike of the book. And although I love this series, this book grated on my nerves.

The entire plot is to figure out who killed this teenage boy who attends an all-boys school. The girls of the sister school are being interviewed, since they have a lot of contact with the boys. They are simply asking the girls if they know anything. These girls are clams. They won’t say a word, but enough slips out, a tiny bit at a time.

The plot is fine. Just another unsolved mystery. The detectives are clever and likable, and we get to see a very familiar face at one point. But the girls. Ugh. The two cliques involved are just so mean. Sadly, French captures this perfectly. I have known plenty of girls like this. She is spot-on with her portrayal. But I hated most of these girls so much that it just distracted me from my enjoyment of the book.

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A Good Marriage

It’s rare to find a thriller that’s from a lawyer’s perspective, or at least rare by what books I’ve read. So, when I selected this one for my most recent Book of the Month club pick, I was looking forward to it simply for that reason. I appreciate books that are told from a bit of an unusual perspective. Murder mysteries are usually told from a victim’s family or a police detective, so a defense attorney at least provides a different viewpoint.

Zach and Lizzie are old friends, so when Zach is arrested after the murder of his wife Amanda, he reaches out to Lizzie to defend him. She has to retrace Amanda’s footsteps and dig into her secrets, as well as deal with some secrets of her own. The story is told in past/present alternating chapters. Present is from Lizzie’s perspective and past is about Amanda’s life leading up to her murder.

There is a wide cast of friends in Amanda’s life, who you really don’t know whether or not to trust. Any one of them could have been the murderer, including Zach himself. The story is tightly woven and some good twists, turns, and reveals, and I found myself really enjoying this and not knowing where the plot would end up. Definitely recommend this one!

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Broken Harbor

Tana French writes excellent books. Her Dublin Murder Squad is some of the best of the murder mystery genre. And what’s great about these books is that even though they are connected, the link is thin and not critical to understand. Each book focuses on a murder and the detectives who work it. The next book features a character from the previous book, so one person is familiar, but the rest of the characters and the story itself are new. And you really don’t have to know much about the character to figure out the story. I am reading them in order, but you really just don’t have to.

Broken Harbor kept me guessing. I really had no idea how this case was going to be solved. The detectives in charge are trying to solve the murders of a family who seem to have it all. Three members have died, one is in intensive care, and there are absolutely no leads. And halfway through the book, when a big reveal is made (no spoilers), I had no idea where the book was headed after that.

These books are so well-written. Not just the plot, but she has some fantastic prose within them. They avoid the annoying tropes that a lot of mystery books use, and they all, so far, have lead me down a path that I never saw coming. I appreciate the slow-burn level her books provide. I’m hooked in pretty quickly, and instead of being jerked around by red herrings and meandering plots, the plot moves forward at every step. When people want a good place to start when venturing into the genre, these are the ones I recommend.

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Curse of the Poppy

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Fun fact: I’m allergic to heroin. No, I don’t know this by experience. Sort of. I’m allergic to codeine, which is derived from the poppy, as is heroin. Thankfully, I never had a desire to try heroin, so I’m still alive. So no purple drank for me. Also, no Jagermeister, which contains various herbs and spices, but poppy seeds are one of them. I’m okay with poppy muffins and bagels, but that’s where I draw the poppy line. Thankfully, there are no more opium dens, so I don’t have to worry about stumbling in to one of those anytime soon. Our heroine, Penny Green, isnt’ a fan of opium either. Get it? Heroin.. heroine? *wink wink*

Book five of the series (reviews for previous books Limelight, The Maid’s Secret, and The Inventor) finds Penny trying to solve yet another crime with her Scotland Yard crush, James. We find James still engaged to Charlotte, Mr. Edwards still desperately in love with Penny, Penny in love with James, and Penny’s sister trying to push Penny to see how wonderful Mr. Edwards is. It’s just one big circle of unrequited love. The murders in this book revolve around the opium trade, and more characters get involved than you would expect.

These books are really just so much fun. Penny is a fantastic main character, but the secondary characters are just as intriguing. With three books left (apparently the ninth will be out at some point), I can’t wait to see how Penny and James continue to work together, even with his impending marriage, whether or not Penny and her sister ever find out what happened to their long-lost dad, and whether Mr. Edwards ever becomes the man that Penny could love. Please check these out, especially if you have Kindle Unlimited because they are free to borrow there.

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The Cruelest Month

Armand Gamache returns! I first met him in Still Life, then in A Fatal Grace, and now he has returned to Three Pines to solve yet another murder. Somehow for being idyllic, Three Pines sure does have bad luck, especially for where it all began- the Hadley House.

This time, the house is the scene of a seance, and someone dies. At first glance, it appears as if she was scared to death, but during a toxicology report, a vast amount of ephedra was found in her, and combined with a heart condition, proved fatal. Enter Gamache and his team to try to solve the murder.

What I really like about these books is that there is always something else going on. In these first three books, you realize that Gamache isn’t perceived by all as the greatest guy, but you are uncertain why. Each book reveals a bit more of his backstory, which creates depth to the character and the story. There is some great dramatic irony in these books, but much is also hidden from the reader, keeping your brain working not just to solve the murder, but also to figure out what is happening behind the scenes of the police department Gamache works for. It’s also nice to see some characters that I’ve grown to enjoy returning each book. Despite the murders, Three Pines is charming and a place I would love to visit.