Thanks to @tlcbooktours & the author for my complimentary finished copy. All opinions provided are my own.
A high-risk pregnancy. A dangerous secret. When her case turns deadly, can this investigator avoid racking up a fatal debt?
PI Kelly Pruett’s search to locate a former classmate’s missing father ends in what appears to be a tragic accident. But putting the pieces together that led to that fateful night will require Kelly to play a high risk game of chance with a killer willing to gamble everything to win.
Private investigator stories are always fun to me—even more so when the lead is getting her sea legs & proving her instincts & mettle not only to herself but to those who don’t think she can handle it.
Denied is the second in Mary Keliikoa’s Kelly Pruett series. It’s entertaining, it’s layered, and the mystery is compelling, opening when lead Kelly takes on a case to look for a former classmate’s dad. When she arrives at his home she doesn’t find him but she does see lots of evidence of gambling & a severed finger in his trashcan.
Questions abound & the case is made more poignant to Kelly—& more interesting to the reader—by the parallels Kelly makes between this missing dad & her own complicated father who recently passed away & who owned their PI company.
Whereas Kelly had a rookie learning curve in the first book, in this one she’s obviously grown as an investigator & she hasn’t lost her tenacity or her bravery. She’s all too willing to pursue wherever the case’s leads take her to find her answers & that makes for a fun ride.
Romance readers: there is a romantic relationship in this series but it’s kissing only & not a real focus. The sweet spot of Denied for me is in offering a single mother heroine who isn’t afraid to take risks in order to give her clients the answers they’re seeking. A PI with integrity & a lot of guts.
4 ⭐️. Out now!
Where to Get Your Copy.
About the Author.
Mary Keliikoa is the author of the Lefty and Agatha award nominated PI Kelly Pruett mystery series and the upcoming Misty Pines mystery series featuring Sheriff Jax Turner slated for release in September 2022. Her short stories have appeared in Woman’s World and in the anthology Peace, Love and Crime: Crime Fiction Inspired by Music of the ‘60s. A Pacific NW native, she spent a part of her life working around lawyers. Combining her love of legal and books, she creates a twisting mystery where justice prevails.
When not in Washington, you can find Mary on the beach in Hawaii where she and her husband recharge. But even under the palm trees and blazing sun, she’s plotting her next murder—novel that is.
Find out more about Mary on her website, Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.
Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for the complimentary ARC. All opinions provided are my own.
Whew. He Said/She Said is quite a ride. Before I really get started I want to make it clear that this book contains disturbing acts of violence toward women, including alleged rape (the latter of which is a major plot point in this thriller).
This psychological thriller is told largely from the perspective of Laura and her husband Kit over a period of time starting in 1999 & ending in 2015.
Laura and Kit are eclipse chasers & during one viewing when they’re just dating, Laura believes she’s seen a rape.
She serves as a witness at the trial where the alleged perpetrator maintains his innocence. During the trial Laura lies in an effort to put the alleged rapist behind bars, an act that she’s desperate to keep from Kit.
Also during the trial Laura makes contact with the alleged victim Beth, another thing she must hide.
After the trial is over, Beth makes herself part of Laura and Kit's life, only things with Beth aren’t quite as they initially seem & that’s what the book explores in each tense chapter as Laura & Kip wrestle with the past & its shadow over the present.
This book is intense, compelling, not entirely easy to read. There are scenes that left me with visceral dismay & distress & at the end I returned to certain details, piecing things together in ways I hadn’t been able to before. The poignancy of Laura & Kit’s relationship is moving & adds a lot to the thriller arc.
I definitely think that this book is doing really interesting things & I also can see how there’s a lot of potential to upset many readers by how those interesting things are being done. As one character articulates, whether or not Beth gave consent is questioned throughout the trial—but it’s questioned after, as well—& men’s manipulation (& worse) is considered at length throughout the novel.
Though there are some moments that feel a little too simplistic to me overall this is an engrossing read with a well-done twist that left me thinking “nooooo.”
4.5 ⭐️. He Said/She Said is available now.
Thanks to the publisher & Netgalley for the complimentary ARC. All opinions provided are my own.
In Dead Dead Girls by Nekesa Afia 1920s Harlem is the backdrop for a mystery starring an intrepid 26 year old named Louise Lloyd, also known as Harlem’s Hero.
At 16, Louise rescued herself & other Black teen girls from a kidnapper. Now, ten years later, she works at a cafe, loves to go out dancing with her friend & lover Rosa Maria, & is alienated from her family after angering her strictly religious father.
But things grow much more complicated for our heroine when young Black women are murdered & placed outside Louise’s work & she’s forced to help investigate their deaths.
There are lots of things about Dead Dead Girls that captivate: the intriguing setting & how it’s captured w/ little details; how independent Louise is & her punchy one-liners; her striking observations about how Black women are treated & how white police officers discriminate against Black residents of Harlem.
I love when she takes off on her own investigations, how ingenious she is in making use of her clothes for hiding things.
The glitz of the flapper lifestyle & Louise’s personality draw me in but overall, the mystery itself doesn’t feel as tight as it could be, particularly at the end.
Dead Dead Girls offers a compelling backdrop & a resourceful, glamorous heroine, but the mystery doesn’t hit quite as hard as I’d like.
3.5 ⭐️. Release date: 06/01
Q: what “read” percentage of a book makes you stay up to finish it? When I’m reading a romance on my Kindle & hit 65% I almost always finish it that day.
My husband wanted to watch Schitt’s Creek last night & I said sorry, my friend, I’m 81% into a thriller & I have to find out who the killer is. Especially since throughout the course of this charismatic book I suspected probably 7 different from people. (I am a suspicious reader 🤣.)
Nalini Singh’s Quiet in Her Bones is seductively creepy, much like the characters themselves. It’s got twists & turns & it all revolves around the reality that people are complicated, to put it mildly, capable of kindness & care & harm & secrets & for at least one of the people in the book, murder.
Famous writer & personality Aarav Rai is recovering from surgery at his father’s home when he receives word that human remains have been found in a Jaguar car in a forest & all signs indicate that they are those of Nina Rai—Aarav’s tempestuous & also, as he says, loving mother who disappeared 10 years ago.
Aarav is determined to solve her murder & summarily continues watching neighborhood going-ons from his window, interviewing the same neighbors who lived amongst them 10 years ago, & trying to piece together his own memories.
A carousel of suspects offer themselves up to Aarav & the reader, including his toxic father. The tension is high, the paranoia is sublime (unreliable narrator who also repeatedly refers to himself as a sociopath, anyone?), the Auckland imagery is atmospheric & used to great effect.
I have to say, while I generally stick to the HEA side of things this was great fun. In that uncomfortable, everyone-could-be-a-murderer kinda way.
4.5 ⭐️. Quiet in Her Bones releases on 02/23/21. Thanks to Berkley Publishing & Netgalley for the complimentary ARC. All opinions provided are my own.
Hi and welcome to my stop on the blog tour for Megan Goldin's The Night Swim! Keep reading for a synopsis, review, *and* info about how to grab a copy for yourself.
In The Night Swim, a new thriller from Megan Goldin, author of the “gripping and unforgettable” (Harlen Coben) The Escape Room, a true crime podcast host covering a controversial trial finds herself drawn deep into a small town’s dark past and a brutal crime that took place there years before.
Ever since her true-crime podcast became an overnight sensation and set an innocent man free, Rachel Krall has become a household name—and the last hope for 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 new season of Rachel's podcast has brought her to a small town being torn apart by a devastating rape trial. A local golden boy, a swimmer destined for Olympic greatness, has been accused of raping the beloved granddaughter of the police chief. Under pressure to make Season 3 a success, Rachel throws herself into her investigation—but the mysterious letters keep coming. 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 insist she was murdered—and when Rachel starts asking questions, nobody in town wants to answer. The past and present start to collide as Rachel uncovers startling connections between the two cases—and a revelation 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?
[CW: rape, murder, & sexual assault.]
Last week I ventured back into the world of the thriller with Megan Goldin’s The Night Swim. I was immediately hooked by this engrossing & emotion-provoking story that revolves around a violence we’ve unfortunately seen or heard parts of play out all too often before.
Rachel Krall, the host of the Serial-like podcast Guilty or Not Guilty, ventures to Neapolis to cover the trial of alleged rapist Scott Blair & to research & recount the sequence of events the night of the alleged rape of K.
While she’s there, Rachel is contacted by a stranger named Hannah, who begs her to investigate the murder of her sister Jenny at 16. The town says Jenny drowned & 25 years later, in the present-day, she’s still gossiped about & slandered for supposedly being promiscuous. Hannah has part of Jenny’s story to tell—her memories from that long ago summer when she was only 9—& it’s horrifying.
Rachel’s busy with her podcast, with giving her listeners the opportunity to decide if Scott is guilty of having raped K. But she’s caught up in Jenny’s story too, with what really happened to her.
The Night Swim is a powerful, disturbing story of the ongoing sexual violence done toward women & as Rachel expresses to her listeners, the further pain they experience being forced to offer “proof” that violence was done to them.
It’s also about victim-shaming; the narrators reveal how men & women frequently jump on a malicious gossip band-wagon & how it’s not uncommon for communal judgment toward perceived sexual acts &/or assumed lapses in judgment to often be primarily directed toward females.
In terms of the mystery I was genuinely surprised by a big reveal, but I did question Rachel’s reporting methodology on at least a couple of occasions. The fine storytelling held my interest as did the way Goldin plays with genre, using letters & podcast transcripts to further pull the reader in.
While the book & the stories of the girls & women told in it are often dark, there are gestures made toward hope too. But it’s a kind of hope that’s still touched by the reality of being a woman living in the world described above.
4⭐️. Thanks to St. Martin’s Press & Netgalley for the complimentary ARC. All opinions provided are my own.
Where to Get Your Copy.
About the Author.
Follow Megan Here:
A big thanks to St. Martin's Press for my complimentary ARC of The Night Swim & all promotional materials. All opinions provided are my own.
Thanks to Social Butterfly PR for these promotional materials. All opinions provided are my own.
You all, I'm so excited about the release of the fabulous Kerrigan Byrne's The Business of Blood. I can't wait to see what the queen of the uber-emotional, holds-your-heart-in-her-hands historical does with a murder mystery...especially one involving Jack the Ripper! Read on for a blurb and info about where to find this beauty (hint, hint: it's even on Kindle Unlimited!).
London, 1890. Blood and death are Fiona Mahoney’s trade, and business, as they say, is booming.
Dying is the only thing people do with any regularity, and Fiona makes her indecorous living cleaning up after the corpses are carted away. Her childhood best friend, Mary, was the last known victim of Jack the Ripper. It’s been two years since Fiona scrubbed Mary’s blood from the floorboards, and London is no longer buzzing about the Ripper, but Fiona hasn’t forgotten. She hasn’t stopped searching for Jack.
When she’s called to a murder in the middle of the night, Fiona finds a victim mutilated in an eerily similar fashion to those of the Ripper, and only a few doors down from Mary’s old home. The relentless and irritatingly handsome Inspector Grayson Croft warns her away from the case. She might have listened, if she hadn’t found a clue in the blood. A clue that will lead her down a path from which there is no return.
As a killer cuts a devastating swath through London, a letter written in blood arrives at her door, and it is only then that Fiona realizes just how perilous her endeavor is. For she has drawn the attention of an obsessive evil, and is no longer the hunter, but the prey.
Fiona Mahoney is in the business of blood. But she’s not the only one.
With intriguing twists, blood-chilling discoveries, and dazzling prose, USA Today Bestselling author Kerrigan Byrne shows that a woman’s work is never done, even when is sleuthing out a serial killer.
Where to Find It
Download your copy today or read FREE in Kindle Unlimited!
Amazon Worldwide: http://mybook.to/BusinessofBlood
Amazon Paperback: https://amzn.to/31q7Q9T
Add to GoodReads: http://bit.ly/2qfPPhw
Kerrigan has done many things to pay the bills, from law enforcement to belly dance instructor. Now she’s finally able to have the career she’d decided upon at thirteen when she announced to her very skeptical family that she was going to “grow up to be a romance novelist.” Whether she’s writing about Celtic Druids, Victorian bad boys, or brash Irish FBI Agents, Kerrigan uses her borderline-obsessive passion for history, her extensive Celtic ancestry, and her love of Shakespeare in almost every story.
She lives in a little Victorian coast town on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State with her wonderful husband. When she’s not writing you can find her sailing, beach combing, kayaking, visiting wineries, breweries, and restaurants with friends, and hiking…okay…wandering aimlessly clenching bear spray in the mountains.
Connect with Kerrigan
Stay up to date with Kerrigan by joining her mailing list: http://bit.ly/33VpuF0
There you have it. I can't wait to read this one and hope to check back in soon with a review!
I received a complimentary ARC of this book via Netgalley but all opinions provided are my own.
Ghostly visions of the past. A dangerous magical mirror and pearl. Family secrets coming to light like monsters in a bedroom. *Sings These are a few of my favorite things. To read about.
Nicola Cornick’s House of Shadows was a delightfully eerie surprise when I discovered it nestled deep in my Kindle history the other day. Told from different perspectives—historical and present-day—and containing the gothic and romantic elements that I adore in Susanna Kearsley & Kate Morton’s books, House of Shadows had me enraptured from the word go to the final, satisfying lines.
I’ll try to keep the plot’s description simple though Cornick grandly pulls off a big story. Part of the book surrounds Queen Elizabeth Stuart, a 17th-century monarch who’s been sent off to royal exile and dreams of a better world, one she and her husband hope to create through the use of a magical mirror and pearl. And then we have Holly Ansell in the present-day, whose brother Ben is missing, and who runs into other mysteries as she looks for him: like the aforementioned mirror and pearl, the diary of a courtesan she discovers on her search (that’s the novel’s third perspective), and the ghostly visions she keeps seeing as she lives and works in the village her brother was last in.
House of Shadows reads like a detective novel of sorts, with Holly on the search for her brother, feeling like every clue she solves in this larger mirror & pearl historical mystery is taking her closer to finding him. Cornick’s historical descriptions are lush and lovely and her depictions of complicated women interesting and astute. I love how she captures different personalities in this book and how she not only makes aha connections between the characters but also links them to moments in time. These women feel the weight of their personal (and sometimes global) histories, and that’s part of what makes them so compelling to watch—and root for.
Like Morton’s books, Cornick’s features a “historical” romance and a “contemporary” one. I had some slight issues with the pacing of the contemporary one but then it turned suspenseful in the way that I adore.
House of Shadows is a scrumptious treat, and one I heartily recommend as we run headlong into fall. Give me all the ghost stories (with romance and magic and mayhem!).
4.5 out of 5 stars
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher but all opinions provided are my own.
Would you like your hero and heroine to be overall decent people but slightlyyyyy sketchy? And they live in a black+white=gray world, where they’re willing to risk everything to do what they feel like is right (even if it’s something that’s not technically legal?) And how steamy do you want it? Sexy and bold, with heroes who usually aren’t super expressive, even in the ending, but who would do anything for their partner?
You’ve come to the right place.
Outfox is Brown’s latest release, a dramatic, high-octane, high-stakes ride.
Drex Easton has a personal stake in finally capturing the con-man/serial killer he’s been following for years. When Drex’s partners tell him they think they’ve found the killer in Charleston, South Carolina, he’s only too willing to risk everything—including a superior FBI agent’s wrath—to try to take this guy down. Drex’s case is pretty slim, especially since the guy Jasper is married, which would be a pretty big breach in the alleged con-man/serial killer’s MO.
Jasper’s wife is Talia Shafer, and as soon as Drex sees her, bam, it’s instalust all the way. Does she know that her husband is almost definitely the murderer Drex has been chasing? Is she complicit in his crimes? Or is she an innocent victim?
Sandra Brown really knows how to write alpha heroes who are instantly stricken by the heroine, and I love it. The slick, manipulative personality that Drex takes on is no match for his lust and while his devotion to his admirable mission is stronger, he can’t help but want Talia in every way.
But there was a pretty big problem for me. On one hand, it’s uber sensual/exciting/passionate, how Drex’s drawn to her even though he knows he shouldn’t be and vice versa. On the other, Talia’s married, and she’s the wife of the man he’s hunting, so it’s not even close to being aboveboard. It’s part of that whole black+white=gray world I mentioned earlier.
Like in all of Brown’s books that I’ve read, the mystery is compelling and Brown’s writing is smart and punchy, but there are some aspects of the plot that I wasn’t as convinced by. There was at least one substantial conclusion that Drex and his partners seem to jump to, and I’m obviously not an expert, but I was surprised no one was saying, let’s wait before we get totally crazy here.
And a bigger lapse for me is that I wanted more from Talia’s characterization throughout the book. She’s beautiful and warm and ambitious—all the good things—but without getting too spoiler-y, the twists she takes later would have been even more convincing had there been more notice before. As it is, there were moments when her responses almost seemed shallow because they felt a little too spontaneous.
These plot quibbles aside, Outfox is uber romantic (if you can ignore that whole already-married thing--hey! her husband is probably a serial killer), with one of Brown’s more expressive heroes, and a really lovely Epilogue. All-around it’s a 3.5-4 star read for me, a gray area that I’m happy to leave gray.
I received a complimentary ARC of this book via Netgalley but all opinions provided are my own.
It’s been a while since I’ve read a mystery-thriller where a secondary character is murdered and the hunt for his killer does not guarantee—and likely will not include—a romantic Happily Ever After (HEA). What I did feel assured of in reading Jane Harper’s The Lost Man was a resolution to the mystery—an answer to the questions that had been assailing me from the first pages—and it hit me with the force that Harper likely intended.
Harper is a stand-out mystery-thriller writer, and The Lost Man is devastatingly powerful, a whodunit where the focus is pretty small—a household of family members and three employees—and the stakes are proportionately higher: the killer of Cameron Bright is someone they all know. Someone they still eat meals with. Someone who mourned at the funeral.
The expansive, isolated, brutal Australian outback is the setting for this story and the place of Cameron’s death. A beloved member of his community, Cameron is found dead on a sweltering hot Australian afternoon at the Stockman’s grave—the site of a local myth/ghost story. Initially his death looks to be suicide, but questions abound, and Cameron’s semi-estranged brother Nathan can’t help but try to answer them.
Harper is a stellar mystery writer and here she writes so intimately. Family secrets are exposed. Family grief is complicated by the weight of their shared drama. And someone in the house—someone who has been mourning Cameron’s death—is the same person who left him to die an extremely painful death at the Stockman’s grave. All the while we learn about this family, Harper is turning the screw tighter, heightening the tension.
For me, that’s the real thrill of Harper’s books: how exquisitely she captures her characters and their setting. You feel like to come to know them, even if there are some parts of their story you’d like to shy away from. And like Kristin Hannah’s The Great Alone, which blew me away earlier this year with Hannah’s absolutely incredible descriptions of the great wild, Harper portrays the Australian outback fantastically. It’s dangerous and beautiful. It’s a place where rules apply and people are punished by not following them, but the rules have been adapted by living in a place where most people wouldn’t/couldn’t.
As I tore through the pages of The Lost Man, I was reminded again and again of how talented Jane Harper is, how she makes the world her characters inhabit come alive in a fierce/dramatic/unputadownable way, and how I am not meant to live in the Balamara region of Australia. At all.
Q: Do you have a favorite thriller-mystery writer? One of my other favorites is Tana French. You have to read her if you haven’t already!
Content Warning below:
Rape. Physical & emotional abuse.
I won a beautiful hard-copy of this book from a Goodreads contest. Thanks, Goodreads & Gallery Books!
PI Kira Vance sustains no major injuries when someone starts shooting people in the house where she’s working on a case, but her employer-mentor Ollie Novak dies. What had he just found out about the murder case they were working on, and did it get him killed?
Within hours Kira’s hired to discover the answer to those questions. Keeping her safe is Jeremy Owen, a former soldier and current bodyguard of sorts who Kira’s also dangerously attracted to.
So let’s see: so far we have an urgent mystery *ticks fingers*, danger, and a sweeeet romance plot. Everything that I needed to keep me reading Laura Griffin’s Her Deadly Secrets and finish it in one day.
Some of my friends like thrillers but haven’t necessarily made the leap to romantic suspense. Laura Griffin is a great place to start. Like Karen Rose’s romantic suspense books or Kylie Brant’s Mindhunter series, Griffin’s books are smart and gripping, plus they have kissing!
The mystery angle of Her Deadly Secrets is adeptly written, with a cast of main and secondary characters who are both knowledgeable and committed to discovering the answers behind Ollie’s murder. Griffin unravels the whodunit clue by compelling clue, as the exceptionally competent Kira and Jeremy race around the city following leads and trying to avoid getting killed next.
Although I wanted a bit more at the end, the romance plot, too, is satisfying. Griffin builds up the sexual tension between Kira & Jeremy, as mainly Jeremy tries to resist acting on the feelings between them and possibly being taken off Kira’s security. When they finally relent, it’s lovely and passionate, and has an obvious layer of “deep-like-maybe-more” underneath it all, which I am all here for. But Griffin keeps up the suspense here too: will the physical attraction and their feelings be enough to keep them together, even after the case is *hopefully* solved?
Kira and Jeremy are just the latest in a line of Griffin’s heroes and heroines who gave me the heart-eyes, and whom I hope to encounter again, the next time that someone faces danger in a future Griffin book. And I will be reading more, because Griffin writes thoughtful & sexy romantic suspense, and if I haven’t told you that enough, that’s my thing.
Q: do you think you'd like to be a PI? I actually thought to myself yesterday--at the beginning of the book--that I would, but I was reminded by the end why I couldn't/shouldn't.
Give me that HEA, please.
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