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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.

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The Other Side of the Door

Thanks Netgalley for this copy!

I’ve never read anything by Nicci French, who I’ve learned is really a husband and wife writing team. Cool! But something about this book make me request it on Netgalley. I wish I could say it was worth the read, but I was really disappointed.

From Goodreads:

Who is more dangerous? An enemy? A friend? Or a lover?

Bonnie Graham stands in the open door of her friend’s apartment. She is alone, except for the dead body lying in a pool of blood on the floor. What happened? What will Bonnie do now? Whom can she turn to? And what role has she played in the murderous events?

Bonnie is a music teacher who has spent a long, hot summer in London rehearsing with a band to play at a friend’s wedding. It was supposed to be fun, but the band members find the complicated knots of their friendships–some old, some new–unraveling as the days themselves unwind. What was meant to be a summer of happiness, love, and music turns deadly as lovers betray one another, passions turn murderous, and friendship itself becomes a crime. Everyone tells lies. But is anyone prepared to tell the truth to uncover a murderer?

Nicci French, the author of eleven internationally bestselling novels including Killing Me SoftlyCatch Me When I Fall, and Losing You, delivers a sexy, intricate thriller about the temptation of secrets, the weight of lies, and the price of betrayal and suspicion.

The story is told in alternating Before and After chapters, before the murder and after. In the before chapters, you get to know Bonnie, the band she has haphazardly put together, and her friends and relationships. In the After chapters, you learn about the murder, namely who and why, and the aftermath and impact it has on Bonnie.

The characters were obnoxious. Every single one of them was awful, aside from Bonnie’s former student Joakim, who was a bright spot. Every other character lacked any kind of conscience, self-awareness, or moral compass. Because of this, I didn’t care about them. I kept reading to see all the secrets revealed, but the reasoning behind the murder and aftermath was just ridiculous. I was hoping for an interesting thriller, but this one didn’t deliver.

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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.