Tag: thriller

Book Review: The Stranger Inside, by Lisa Unger

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Image belongs to Harlequin/Park Row.

Title:  The Stranger Inside
Author:  Lisa Unger
Genre:   Thriller
Rating:   4 out of 5

When Rain Winter was 12, she barely escaped the clutches of a murderous madman with her life. Her two best friends, Hank and Tessa, were not so lucky. Hank was forever scarred by his experiences that day, and Tessa never came home. When the killer was released, Rain lived in fear—until someone killed him.

Now Rain is a stay-at-home mom who does her best not to think about those dark days, although she misses her time as an investigative journalist. Then another man who got away with murder ends up dead, and Rain starts to wonder if there’s any connection between this case—and the one from her own past.

The Stranger Inside had quite the twist I never saw coming. Rain is a nuanced character, both longing for her journalist days and yearning to give herself completely to motherhood. I found Hank fascinating—and likable—despite his issues, and I enjoyed the twining of past and present to show the reader the rest of the story.

Lisa Unger is a bestselling author. The Stranger Inside is her newest novel.

(Galley provided by Harlequin/Park Row in exchange for an honest review.)

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Book Review: 29 Seconds, by TM Logan

 

29seconds
Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title:  29 Seconds
Author:  TM Logan
Genre: Thriller
Rating:  4 out of 5

Sarah is a mother trying to adapt to being a single parent. She’s also a young professor fighting to earn a permanent place at the university she works at. A university controlled by Alan Hawthorne—charming, famous, and powerful, and therefore untouchable. Sarah has heard the rumors about his treatment of women behind closed doors, but now she’s become his next target.

Hawthorne pulls in million-dollar grants for the university, so no one will listen to a word Sarah says. She has nowhere to turn and no way to keep away from Hawthorne. Until one night she rescues a young girl from would-be kidnappers and the girl’s father turns out to be a businessman with powerful connections. He offers Sarah a burner phone and a choice.

“Give me one name. One person. And I will make them disappear.”

This book centers around moral grey areas, and that’s a hard subject for me, as I’m a black-and-white kind of person. It’s either wrong or right, there are no grey areas to me. But Sarah is stuck between a rock and a hard place and she makes the best choice she can. What comes next is more than she ever expected.

TM Logan is an award-winning, bestselling author. 29 Seconds is his newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of St. Martin’s Press via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: State of Lies, by Siri Mitchell

 

state of lies
Image belongs to Thomas Nelson.

Title:   State of Lies
Author:   Siri Mitchell
Genre:   Mystery, thriller
Rating:   4 out of 5

Georgie Brennan is a physicist, a mother, a wife, and the daughter of the next possible secretary of defense. Then her husband Sean is killed by a hit-and-run driver, and she can barely make it through each day. Her son is struggling to cope with his father’s death. Her parents are consumed with their ambitions for her father’s career. And getting out of bed sometimes just seems like too much effort.

Then Georgie discovers that Sean was lying to her about where he was going the day he died. She realizes his computer—and his knife—is missing. She hears strange noises under the house and starts seeing strange faces in the neighborhood. Soon Georgie realizes she can’t trust a soul:  not her parents, not her friends, and, as the mysteries pile up, maybe not even herself.

I liked Georgie from the first page of State of Lies. She’s smart—very smart, which is always a plus in a protagonist—and even when dealt a crippling blow, she keeps moving forward. The writing is tight, and the plotting kept me guessing what was really going on up until the end—and there were several surprises I never saw coming. This will keep you reading even if you’re supposed to be doing something else.

Siri Mitchell has a business degree and experience working in the government. State of Lies is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Thomas Nelson via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Never Have I Ever, by Joshilyn Jackson

never have i ever
Image belongs to HarperCollins/William Morrow.

Title:   Never Have I Ever
Author:  Joshilyn Jackson
Genre:   Domestic suspense
Rating:   4.5 out of 5

Amy Whey is happy with her life:  professor husband, fifteen-year-old stepdaughter, baby son, best friend Charlotte. Sure, she doesn’t get to dive as much as she used to since the baby was born, but she wouldn’t trade her family for anything. She’s helping Charlotte with the neighborhood book club when new neighbor Roux shows up.

Roux charms the neighborhood women, and soon they’re drinking wine and spilling secrets. They all think it’s innocent fun, but Amy knows better. She sees the darkness in Roux’s eyes  and sees the first tiny ripples of hurt she causes. When Roux tells Amy she knows the truth about what Amy did years ago—and she’ll tell that horrible secret if Amy doesn’t give her exactly what she wants—Amy wonders if she can beat the devil at her own game.

Secrets upon secrets unravel as Amy races to find out the truth about Roux before the women spills Amy’s secrets and ruins her life for good.

I do love Joshilyn Jackson’s writing, and, while I’m disappointed this one isn’t Southern fiction (my favorite), Never Have I Ever is an excellent, engrossing book. Amy’s been running from the truth for a long time, and she’s desperate to keep her secret and the life she loves safe. Roux is a terrifying kind of evil—if only she’d used her powers for good!—and Amy will do whatever is necessary to keep her family—and her secret—safe. Highly readable, and I cannot recommend this enough.

Joshilyn Jackson is an award-winning author. Never Have I Ever is her newest novel.

Book Review: The Seekers, by Heather Graham

The Seekers
Image belongs to Harlequin/MIRA.

Title:   The Seekers
Author:   Heather Graham
Genre:   Mystery, suspense, paranormal
Rating:   4 out of 5

Kerri Wolfe writes meticulously researched books about crimes of the past, but she’s been invited to join The Seekers, a team of paranormal investigators, as they investigate a supposedly haunted old inn. In the 1920s, the inn was the site of brutal ax murders—and that investigation uncovered even more ghastly crimes.

Kerri wants to find out the truth about the old murders. She’s not there for ghosts. But when the team discovers a horrifying—and recent—murder scene in the basement of the inn, she finds herself involved in a murder investigation in the present. What she really wants is an explanation for the apparition she keeps seeing.

Joe Dunhill knows how she feels. As the newest member of the Krewe of Hunters, he’s still adjusting to being able to see and talk to the dead. The small town where the inn is located is full of old rumors, legends, and superstition, and he’s not sure how to find the murderer without knowing the truth of the past.

I rarely read anything creepy or scary—because I’m a chicken—and the beginning of The Seekers is a bit of both…but I made it through. The setting was fascinating, although I’ve no plans to stay in a haunted inn anytime soon (or ever).  Lots of threads tangled together here, past and present, and this was an engrossing, thrilling read.

Heather Graham is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author. The Seekers is her newest novel, #28 in the Krewe of Hunters series.

(Galley courtesy of Harlequin/MIRA via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Justice Makes a Killing, by Ed Rucker

justice makes a killing
Image belongs to Chickadee Prince Books.

Title:  Justice Makes a Killing
Author:   Ed Rucker
Genre:   Legal thriller
Rating:   4 out of 5

Kate Carlson is an L.A. lawyer who’s been accused of murder in a small town, so Bobby Lee thinks he knows what to expect when he takes the case:  as a criminal defense lawyer, his job is to negotiate a plea deal for his client, get paid, and go on with his life.

But Kate insists she’s been set-up. Her supposed crime happened in a prison which supports most of the small town’s economy. The billion-dollar private prison industry is no joke—nor is the prison guard’s union. As Bobby Lee starts asking questions, he soon finds his reputation and his very life is in danger as he fights against a conspiracy no one wants to talk about in a battle for Kate’s life—and his own.

I know of the private prison industry, and that’s about it—like all businesses, it exists to make a profit—so I had no preconceived ideas going into this. I have lived in a small town—and one dependent on a single employer—so the people’s loyalty to the prison worked for me. It seemed like every time I thought things couldn’t get worse for Kate, I was wrong. This book also made it seem like basically everyone was a horrible person willing to lie, cheat, and kill for their own personal interests.

Ed Rucker is a former criminal defense lawyer. Justice Makes a Killing is the second book in the Bobby Lee series.

(Galley courtesy of Chickadee Prince Books  in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: The Mother-in-law, by Sally Hepworth

the mother-in-law
Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title:  The Mother-in-law
Author:  Sally Hepworth
Genre:  Domestic suspense
Rating:  4 out of 5

When Lucy married Ollie ten years ago, she couldn’t wait to become part of his family. But his mother, Diana, had other plans. She kept Lucy at arm’s length, always said exactly the wrong thing and made Lucy feel never-good-enough, and prioritized her job aiding refugees. Who could compete with that? Not stay-at-home mom Lucy.

Now Diana has been found dead of an apparent suicide, a note beside her blaming advanced cancer. But the police aren’t so sure. There are traces of poison in her system—and no trace of cancer. Things aren’t adding up, and every member of the family is under scrutiny—especially Lucy, whose tumultuous relationship with Diana is no secret from anyone.

I was kind of on the fence about this one. I know every mother-in-law isn’t evil—they’re just typecast that way—and I wasn’t sure I wanted to read something predictable. This was not a predictable read. It’s told in alternating viewpoints—Lucy and Diana—then and now, gradually revealing the truth of the relationship between the two—and what drove someone to kill Diana.

Sally Hepworth is a bestselling author who lives in Australia. The Mother-in-law is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of St. Martin’s Press via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Between the Lies, by Michelle Adams

between the lies
Image belongs to St.Martin’s Press.

Title:  Between the Lies
Author:  Michelle Adams
Genre:  Thriller/mystery
Rating:  3 out of 5

Chloe Daniels wakes up in the hospital with no idea how she got there, who she is, o what happened to her. She doesn’t recognize the strangers who call themselves her family, and she desperately wants to find out who she is.

As Chloe starts working to recover, some things just don’t make sense, and she realizes her family is keeping secrets from her. Life-shattering secrets. About her life. Her past. And what really happened the night of the car wreck.

Chloe’s family is horrible, frankly, and they made this novel difficult to read because I disliked them so much. I had trouble relating to Chloe as well, but she’s lost all memories of herself, so that’s a bit understandable. This is a pretty bleak read, but it does have a lot of secrets in it.

Michele Adams was born in the U.K., but now lives in Cyprus. Between the Lies is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of St. Martin’s Press via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Beautiful Bad, by Annie Ward

beautiful bad
Image belongs to Park Row.

 

Title:  Beautiful Bad
Author:  Annie Ward
Genre:  Psychological thriller
Rating:  3.0 out of 5

An aborted 911-call brings an officer to a quiet house, with signs of a struggle and blood. Lots of blood. A terrified child and two frightened, battered women, along with the dead husband of one of the women tell the same story:  crazy, ex-military man snaps and tries to strangle his wife’s best friend, so his wife kills him in self-defense.

But to get the whole story, you must go back in time to when Maddie and Ian first met, back in the war-torn Balkans where she and Jo lived and worked and played, and Ian was a bodyguard. Back to when Maddie came home after 9-11 and struggled to start her life over, and Ian abandoned her for nine years. Back to their fledgling relationship and new marriage, when Ian wanted a quiet country life and Maddie wanted to travel and explore, and instead they had a baby. Back to that night in the forest camping, where Maddie was injured, but she doesn’t remember how.

Only by going back do you learn what happened now.

I finished reading this, but it was a struggle. Maddie is an unreliable—and for me, unlikable—narrator, and Jo is…erratic. So is Ian. Basically, none of the relationships in this story made sense to me. Obsession, maybe, dependence, surely, but love and caring? Nope. Didn’t see it. The ending is supposed to be a shock, but…it wasn’t. The signs are there all along and aren’t exactly subtle.

Annie Ward lived and worked in the Balkans, was a Fulbright Scholar, and now writes novels. Beautiful Bad is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Park Row via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: The Perfect Liar, by Thomas Christopher Greene

the perfect liar
Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title:  The Perfect Liar
Author:  Thomas Christopher Greene
Genre:   Thriller
Rating:   3.5 out of 5

Susannah’s first marriage was to an older man—her therapist—who spent a lot of time “helping” her work through her issues. Now, she’s married to handsome and charming Max, an artist and speaker whose new job at a university took them out of New York City to a small Vermont town where she hopes her 15-year-old son will thrive.

One morning, Susannah finds a note on the door. “I know who you are.” The note triggers her anxiety, and she worries her family is in danger, but Max thinks the note is just a prank. All the same, he starts looking at his coworkers and their neighbors with new eyes—do they know his secret? When a couple visit for dinner, Susannah finds Max’s behavior suspicious, and, a few days later, the man dies tragically while on a run with Max. Then, a second note appears. “Did you get away with it?”

Susannah knows Max is hiding dark secrets, but she has secrets of her own she wants to keep hidden. Who is leaving the notes? And just which secret is he or she talking about?

I was intrigued by the premise of the book, and the writing was solid, but I couldn’t stand the characters. Susannah had a history of mental health issues as well as abuse, and I felt sorry for her, but I didn’t like her at all. She let life happen to her—except near the end of the book—instead of making choices and moving forward. Max was just creepy to me. I really wish I’d liked the characters more. I finished the book, which speaks to the quality of the plot and the writing, but the characters just didn’t work for me.

Thomas Christopher Greene was born and raised in Massachusetts. The Perfect Liar is his newest novel.

(Galley provided by St. Martin’s Press in exchange for an honest review.)