Category Archives: Atria Books

Review: Beneath the Stairs by Jennifer Fawcett

Title: Beneath the Stairs by Jennifer Fawcett
Publisher: Atria Books
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense, Horror
Length: 352 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Edelweiss


In this spine-tingling, atmospheric debut for fans of Jennifer McMahon, Simone St. James, and Chris Bohjalian, a woman returns to her hometown after her childhood friend attempts suicide at a local haunted house—the same place where a traumatic incident shattered their lives twenty years ago.

Few in sleepy Sumner’s Mills have stumbled across the Octagon House hidden deep in the woods. Even fewer are brave enough to trespass. A man had killed his wife and two young daughters there, a shocking, gruesome crime that the sleepy upstate New York town tried to bury. One summer night, an emboldened fourteen-year-old Clare and her best friend, Abby, ventured into the Octagon House. Clare came out, but a piece of Abby never did.

Twenty years later, an adult Clare receives word that Abby has attempted suicide at the Octagon House and now lies in a coma. With little to lose and still grieving after a personal tragedy, Clare returns to her roots to uncover the darkness responsible for Abby’s accident.

An eerie page-turner, Beneath the Stairs is about the trauma that follows us from childhood to adulthood and returning to the beginning to reach the end.


Beneath the Stairs by Jennifer Fawcett is a ghostly mystery that is quite chilling.

Clare Madden returns to Sumner’s Mills, NY when she learns her estranged childhood friend, Abby Lindsay is in the hospital. Once inseparable, Clare and Abby lost touch after a terrifying incident at an abandoned house near their town. They first went into the house with their friends, Lori and Monica, but they are shaken by a frightening event. Later that night, they end up returning the Octagon House and Abby is never the same. Twenty years later, Abby inexplicably goes back into the house and afterward,  her parents ask Clare to come visit her in the hospital. At loose ends, Clare agrees to come back so she can try to finally put the past to rest.

Clare is a teacher and currently lives in Chicago. Her father has recently moved from Sumner’s Mills and when she is ready, he will sell her childhood home. Clare has never resolved the guilt she feels over what happened in the dilapidated house. When Abby sent her a few emails several months back, Clare’s nightmares about their childhood trips to the Octagon House begin again.

Upon returning to Sumner Mills, Clare agrees to meet Lori for the first time in years. During their discussion about Octagon House, she discovers unsettling information about the home’s history. Once she learns the identity of the house’s owner, Clare hopes to find answers about what happened to the person who built the house. Uncovering startling details, Clare knows the only way to get answers about why Abby was in the house is to return there herself. Will Clare finally understand exactly what exactly she believes she saw all those years ago? Can she find out the truth about Abby’s reason for going back into a place that inarguably changed the course of her life?

Beneath the Stairs is a spellbinding mystery with a slight element of horror. The small -own setting is a little claustrophobic and adds tension to the unfolding story. Clare is a sympathetic character whose habit of ignoring her problems and pushing away loved ones leaves her feeling very alone. Her investigation into Octagon house is quite compelling but will she be able to accept what she unearths? Seamlessly weaving both and forth in time, Jennifer Fawcett brings this suspenseful novel to a fully satisfying conclusion.

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Filed under Atria Books, Beneath the Stairs, Contemporary, Horror, Jennifer Fawcett, Rated B+, Review, Suspense

Review: The Family Plot by Megan Collins

Title: The Family Plot by Megan Collins
Publisher: Atria Books
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Suspense
Length: 320 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Edelweiss


From the author of The Winter Sister and Behind the Red Door, this “masterpiece of gothic suspense and horror, filled with dark family secrets and stunning twists” (Michele Campbell, author of It’s Always the Husband) follows a family obsessed with true crime as they gather to bury their patriarch—only to find another body already in his grave.

At twenty-six, Dahlia Lighthouse is haunted by her upbringing. Raised in a secluded island mansion deep in the woods and kept isolated by her true crime-obsessed parents, she is unable to move beyond the disappearance of her twin brother, Andy, when they were sixteen.

After several years away and following her father’s death, Dahlia returns to the house, where the family makes a gruesome discovery: buried in their father’s plot is another body—Andy’s, his skull split open with an ax.

Dahlia is quick to blame Andy’s murder on the serial killer who terrorized the island for decades, while the rest of her family reacts to the revelation in unsettling ways. Her brother, Charlie, pours his energy into creating a family memorial museum, highlighting their research into the lives of famous murder victims; her sister, Tate, forges ahead with her popular dioramas portraying crime scenes; and their mother affects a cheerfully domestic facade, becoming unrecognizable as the woman who performed murder reenactments for her children. As Dahlia grapples with her own grief and horror, she realizes that her eccentric family, and the mansion itself, may hold the answers to what happened to her twin.


The Family Plot by Megan Collins is a chilling mystery that is very atmospheric.

For the first time since leaving home, twenty-six-year-old Dahlia Lighthouse returns following her father Daniel’s death. She also comes face to face with her much older siblings Charlie and  Tate. Dahlia also hopes her twin brother Andy will also join them. He left ten years earlier and with the excerption of his goodbye note, no one has heard from him since. With funeral preparations underway, they are absolutely shocked when a body is discovered in their father’s burial plot. Despite her fervent hopes to the contrary, the remains are Andy’s and even worse, he was murdered. Who killed Andy? And does his murder have anything to do with the end of the notorious Blackburn Killer’s murderous killing spree?

Dahlia wants to find out who killed Andy but she reels from every new detail she learns about him. Her brother could not wait to leave Blackburn Island and escape their mother’s preoccupation with murder. Before his disappearance, Dahlia could not understand why Andy wanted to leave. But having lost the one person she always felt a deep connection to, she now lives in town on the mainland.

After Andy’s body is recovered, their mother frantically bakes cookies and ignores reality. Charlie spends his days drinking as he prepares to showcase their murder memorabilia during a one-day open house. Tate immediately goes to work on a diorama of Andy’s murder scene. She has a popular Instagram account where she displays her dioramas of the various murders they learned about growing up. Dahlia veers between trying to uncover Andy’s murderer and ignoring information that does not fit her perspective of her brother.

In the meantime, Detective Elijah Kraft keeps popping in and questioning the Lighthouse family. He is convinced they know more about Andy’s murder and the Blackburn Killer than they are revealing. The infamous Blackburn Killer murdered several women then abruptly stopped killing several years ago. Dahlia resents Elijah’s intrusion yet she cannot let help but wonder if there might be truth to some of his theories.

The Family Plot is a spellbinding mystery with a very unusual premise. The cast of characters is eclectic and their life on Blackburn Island is quite insular. None of the Lighthouse kids escaped from their dysfunctional and downright creepy childhoods unscathed.  As the truth about what happened to Andy slowly begins to emerge, the family’s shocking secrets are also unearthed. With absolutely head spinning revelations, Megan Collins brings this diabolically clever mystery to a satisfying conclusion.

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Filed under Atria Books, Contemporary, Megan Collins, Mystery, Rated B, Review, Suspense, The Family Plot

Review: Where the Truth Lies by Anna Bailey

Title: Where the Truth Lies by Anna Bailey
Publisher: Atria Books
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Suspense
Length: 384 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Edelweiss


When a teenaged girl disappears from an insular small town, all of the community’s most devastating secrets come to light in this stunningly atmospheric and slow-burning suspense novel—perfect for fans of Megan Miranda and Celeste Ng.

The town of Whistling Ridge guards its secrets.

When seventeen-year-old Abigail goes missing, her best friend Emma, compelled by the guilt of leaving her alone at a party in the woods, sets out to discover the truth about what happened. The police initially believe Abi ran away, but Emma doesn’t believe that her friend would leave without her, and when officers find disturbing evidence in the nearby woods, the festering secrets and longstanding resentment of both Abigail’s family and the people of Whistling Ridge, Colorado begin to surface with devastating consequences.

Among those secrets: Abi’s older brother Noah’s passionate, dangerous love for the handsome Rat, a recently arrived Romanian immigrant who has recently made his home in the trailer park in town; her younger brother Jude’s feeling that he knows information he should tell the police, if only he could put it into words; Abi’s father’s mercurial, unpredictable rages and her mother’s silence. Then there is the rest of Whistling Ridge, where a charismatic preacher advocates for God’s love in language that mirrors violence, under the sway of the powerful businessman who rules the town, insular and wary of outsiders.

But Abi had secrets, too, and the closer Emma grows to unraveling the past, the farther she feels from her friend. And in a tinder box of small-town rage, and all it will take is just one spark—the truth of what really happened that night—to change their community forever.


Where the Truth Lies by Anna Bailey is a complex, enthralling mystery set in a small Colorado town.

The disappearance of seventeen-year-old Abigail “Abi” Blake is the catalyst for shocking secrets in Whistling Ridge to come to light. Her best friend Emma Alvarez deeply regrets leaving Abi at the fateful party in the woods. Abi’s mother Dolly is beaten down by life with an abusive husband and she feels incredibly guilty over her absent parenting and failure to listen when her daughter needed her. Abi’s oldest brother Noah also carries a heavy burden of remorse that he refused to forgive her for an unintended mistake that cost him his chance to escape their dysfunctional home. Youngest brother Jude is conflicted about speaking up about something that might be critical to the investigation. Samuel instills fear of violence in his family as he drinks to forget a dark secret that has haunted him for much of his adult life.

Many of the ultra-conservative townspeople are also very religious. Pastor Ed Lewis stirs up plenty of bigotry and hatred during his sermons. Emma experiences the town’s xenophobia every day at the hands of her classmates. With her only friend missing, she turns to the other outcast in town, Romanian immigrant Rat Lă custă who eventually becomes a scapegoat for the town’s fears. Emma is also surprised when popular student Hunter Maddox befriends her and offers to assist her as she searches for the truth about what happened to Abi. During her quest for answers, Emma is hurt when she uncovers her best friend was keeping shocking secrets that may have led to her disappearance.

Where the Truth Lies is a multi-layered mystery that exposes the seamy underbelly of Whistler Ridge. Emma is a lonely young woman whose struggles to find her place in Whistler Ridge are heart-wrenching. Her loneliness if palpable as she tries to make sense of Abi’s life in the month leading up to her disappearance. The violence in the Blake household is well known in town yet no one steps in to offer any assistance. Chapters from before Abi’s disappearance gradually reveal the jaw-dropping reason for her possible murder. With a final stunning flashback, Anna Bailey brings her captivating debut to a very unanticipated conclusion.

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Filed under Anna Bailey, Atria Books, Contemporary, Mystery, Rated B+, Review, Suspense, Where the Truth Lies

Review: Dead Man Dancing by John Galligan

Title: Dead Man Dancing by John Galligan
Publisher: Atria Books
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Suspense
Length: 301 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley


In this sequel to the “gritty, brash, and totally gripping” (The Real Book Spy) thriller Bad Axe County, Sheriff Heidi Kick is investigating an illicit cage fighting ring with ties to white nationalism when her husband suddenly goes missing.

It’s a time for celebration in Bad Axe County as the town gathers for the annual Syttende Mai—or Norwegian Independence Day—festival. During this rollicking family-oriented event filled with dancing and food, Sheriff Heidi Kick discovers a dark and shocking event—a migrant worker has been savagely beaten but refuses to explain what happened. Then, a sudden murder of a band member shatters the festival. Something is deeply wrong in Bad Axe County.

As she looks for answers, Heidi plunges into a secret underworld where high-stakes cage fights double as combat training for the White Nationalist movement. Then all hell breaks loose for Heidi when her husband disappears and a secret he’s been keeping from Heidi is revealed.

A timely portrait of the deep divisions and simmering tensions brewing in our country today, Dead Man Dancing takes you into the dark heart of a movement defined by violence and hate. Featuring John Galligan’s signature “striking prose, engaging characters” (Kirkus Reviews, starred review), and unforgettable twists and turns, Dead Man Dancing is a breathless thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat.


Dead Man Dancing by John Gallighan is a topical small town mystery. Although this newest release is the sequel to Bad Axe County, it can be read as a standalone.

Sheriff Heidi Kick is preparing for the town’s annual Syttende Mai festival.  She is also struggling with balancing work and home. She is devoted to keeping the Farmstead, WI residents safe and her husband, Harley, is frustrated by how many hours she spends working. With the Syttende Mai festival kicking off, Heidi plans to take a couple of days off and spend with her family. But her plans are complicated with the discovery of a worker who has been severely beaten and the inexplicable murder of town favorite Augustus Pfaff.  Equally upsetting is the sudden influx of White Nationalists to Farmstead. With tensions running high, Heidi and  Chief Deputy David Morales are working around the clock to catch a killer and prevent the growing unrest from spilling into over violence. And when Harley disappears, Heidi will do almost anything to find him before it is too late.

Heidi is tenacious, dedicated and stubborn. She loves her children and Harley but her first concern is the townspeople.  Unlike the residents, she is doing everything she can prepare herself and the Sheriff’s office for dealing with the influx of Latino workers. Heidi is no stranger to people’s racism and xenophobia and she does not hesitate to arrest anyone who is trying to trying to stir up bigotry in Bad Axe County.

Heidi is upset at the tragic death of Augustus and she begins questioning possible suspects.  Visitor Neon Shivers is a person of interest since he is known to have been trying to locate Augustus the night of his murder.  Heidi also wants to question Francis “Ivy” Kafka so she can rule him out as a suspect.  She is also hoping he will have information that might help figure out who is responsible for Pfaff’s death.

Meanwhile, racism and xenophobia are raising their ugly heads in Farmstead.  Outside forces are arriving and they are prepared to continue causing racial strife.  While Heidi is quick to realize this is a growing problem, the town’s board members are somewhat in denial. Certain trouble is planned during the Syttende Mai celebration, and Heidi attempts to cut off trouble before it can begin, but is it already too late?

Dead Man Dancing is an intriguing mystery with a realistic storyline that is ripped from today’s headlines. Heidi is a likable lead protagonist  who is sometimes a little too obstinate for her own good.  The various story arcs are interesting but the story is a little slow-paced. With all of the various pieces finally falling into place, John Gallighan brings this clever mystery to a satisfying conclusion. Hopefully readers will see more of Heidi Kick in future novels.

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Filed under Atria Books, Contemporary, Dead Man Dancing, Dead Man Dancing by John Galligan, Mystery, Rated B, Review, Suspense

Review: Your Life Is Mine by Nathan Ripley

Title:Your Life Is Mine by Nathan Ripley
Publisher: Atria Books
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Suspense
Length: 304 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley


Instant national bestseller Nathan Ripley follows up the success of Find You in the Dark with another suspenseful page-turnerthis time about a woman whose notorious father died when she was a child, but whose legacy comes back to haunt her.

Blanche Potter never expected to face her past again—but she can’t escape it.

Blanche, an up-and-coming filmmaker, has distanced herself in every way she can from her father, the notorious killer and cult leader, Chuck Varner. In 1996, when she was a small child, he went on a shooting spree before turning the gun on himself.

Now, Blanche learns that her mother has been murdered. She returns to her childhood home, where she soon discovers there’s more to the death than police are willing to reveal. The officer who’s handling the case is holding information back, and a journalist who’s nosing around the investigation is taking an unusual interest in Blanche’s family.

Blanche begins to suspect that Chuck Varner’s cult has found a new life, and that her mother’s murder was just the beginning of the cult’s next chapter.

Then another killing occurs.


Your Life Is Mine by Nathan Ripley is an engrossing mystery.

Blanche Potter is the daughter of a notorious cult leader who went on a spree killing then committed suicide. She no longer has contact with her mother, Crissy, and Blanche has changed her name in order to keep anyone from knowing her true identity. Which is why she is so angry when Crissy tracks her down in New Orleans where Blanche and her best friend and business partner Jaya Chauhan are filming their latest true crime documentary.   Then a few weeks later, she is furious when she is broadsided by a journalist Emil Chadwick who essentially tries to blackmail her into co-operating with his current project. But what really takes Blanche off guard is discovery that Crissy was murdered in her home right after her visit to her daughter. Blanche returns to Stilford, CA where she meets with Officer Dan Maitland to try to learn more information about Crissy’s death. But can she trust that Maitland is being completely forthcoming with her? And if he is not, what reason does he have for withholding information?

As a child, Blanche is extremely close with her murderous father, Chuck.  He indoctrinates her with his crazy ideas and theories and she is present when he goes on his killing spree in the local mall.  Despite numerous visits by social services and police, Blanche remains living with Crissy after Chuck’s suicide where her mother continues brainwashing her with her father’s philosophies. Blanche’s life finally becomes normal in her late teens when she moves in with Jaya and her mother. Blanche wants nothing to do with those long ago events but with Crissy’s murder, she has no choice but to try to understand if her mother’s death is the end or the beginning of another killing spree.

Blanche has always been very closemouthed about her childhood. She has kept much of her past a secret from Jaya and she tries to keep her friend from becoming mixed up with Crissy’s murder. She returns to Stilford by herself and she is immediately assailed by horrifying memories from her childhood. Blanche has no doubt that her mother’s murder is tied to the cult, but Dan is quite evasive when she tries to get information from him. Despite not having all of the details, Blanche has absolutely no doubt that Crissy’s death is meant to draw her back to Stilford.  While waiting to see what will happen next, Jaya unexpectedly shows up and Blanche is eventually forced to tell her friend the painful and devastating truth about her life with Chuck and Crissy.

Although a little slow-paced, Your Life Is Mine is an intriguing mystery with a suspenseful and somewhat dark storyline. Blanche is an interesting character who has worked hard to rise above her tragic childhood.  Does the truth about what is happening in the present lie in the detritus of her shattered past? Nathan Ripley provides the answer that this very pivotal question in the novel’s absolutely stunning dénouement.  I greatly enjoyed and highly recommend this compelling mystery to fans of the genre.

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Filed under Atria Books, Contemporary, Mystery, Nathan Ripley, Rated B, Review, Suspense, Your Life Is Mine

Review: House on Fire by Bonnie Kistler

Title: House on Fire by Bonnie Kistler
Publisher: Atria Books
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Suspense
Length: 416 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley


In the bestselling tradition of Jodi Picoult and Celeste Ng, a tightly wound and suspenseful novel about a blended family in crisis after a drunk driving accident leaves the daughter of one parent dead—and the son of the other parent charged with manslaughter. 

Divorce lawyer Leigh Huyett knows all too well that most second marriages are doomed to fail. But five years in, she and Pete Conley have a perfectly blended family of her children and his. To celebrate their anniversary, they grab some precious moments of alone time and leave Pete’s son Kip, a high school senior, in charge of Leigh’s fourteen-year-old daughter Chrissy at their home.

Driving back on a rainy Friday night, their cell phones start ringing. After a raucous party celebrating his college acceptance to Duke and his upcoming birthday, Kip was arrested for drunk driving after his truck crashed into a tree. And he wasn’t alone—Chrissy was with him.

Twelve hours later, Chrissy is dead and Kip is charged with manslaughter.

Kip has always been a notorious troublemaker, but he’s also a star student with a dazzling future ahead of him. At first, Leigh does her best to rally behind Pete and help Kip through his ordeal. Until he changes his story, and claims that he wasn’t driving after all—Chrissy was, and he swears there is a witness.

Leigh is stunned that he would lie about such a thing, while Pete clutches onto the story as the last, best hope to save his son, throwing his energy and money into finding this elusive witness. As they hurtle toward Kip’s trial date, husband and wife are torn between loyalty to their children and to each other, while the mystery of what really happened that night intensifies.

This richly conceived and tightly plotted exploration of family and tragedy will have you racing toward its shocking and thought-provoking conclusion


House on Fire is a fascinating domestic suspense debut by Bonnie Kistler.

Divorce lawyer Leigh Huyett and second husband Pete Conley are on their way home from their anniversary getaway when they find out their two youngest children have been involved in a minor accident. Pete’s son, eighteen year old Kip and Leigh’s fourteen year old daughter Chrissy crashed their vehicle after swerving to avoid hitting a dog. Kip is arrested for DUI and Leigh hires her best friend Shelby Randolph to defend him. What begins as a case that will most likely result in a suspended sentence turns serious when Chrissy dies from a brain aneurysm the next day. Kip is arrested for manslaughter but he blindsides Leigh and Pete when he changes his story about who was driving. Leigh is incensed that he would blame Chrissy for the accident while Pete immediately begins helping Kip locate the person whom his son claims can confirm his story. The once happy and well-blended family are torn apart as Kip’s trial approaches. Will Kip and his defense team locate the mystery person who can back up his story? Can Leigh find a way to forgive Kip for what she considers a lie in order to save himself? Is Pete and Leigh’s marriage destined to end in divorce? Or can they find a way to overcome the chasm between them?

Leigh never imagined her happy family and marriage could ever be torn apart.  She and Pete have successfully managed to blend their five children into a cohesive unit in which everyone likes and respects one another. Her oldest sons are twins who are away at college and Pete has visitation with his youngest daughter leaving Kip and Chrissy living with the two of them full time. Chrissy is a happy young woman who is a bright light to the rest of the family. Kip is charming but he has managed to get himself into trouble before. With a history of lying to protect himself, Leigh is quick to assume he is being untruthful about a potential witness at the scene of the accident. Her relationship with Pete deteriorates quickly as she is overwhelmed with grief over Chrissy’s death. She never imagined their marriage would fall apart so quickly, but she cannot see a way to overcome the divide between them.

Pete might occasionally harbor a few doubts about Kip’s story, but for the most part, he believes his son. He is absolutely stunned by Leigh’s reaction when he supports Kip, but he continues trying to keep the lines of communication open between him and his wife.  However, as the weeks and months pass, he begins to realize they might not able to save their marriage. Pete has no intention of abandoning his son, but as the trial looms closer, he starts to panic.  If Kip is found guilty, he is looking at spending time in prison but is there anything Pete can do to save his son?

As Leigh gradually returns to work, she finds herself embroiled in a few interesting cases. She is helping her neighbor’s daughter navigate a complex divorce from her wealthy husband but the young woman is resistant to her advice. A diplomat’s wife would like to divorce her husband, but the situation is extremely complicated.  Her client’s circumstances are soon becoming dire, but will Leigh find a way to help her? A highly decorated veteran is seeking assistance in gaining custody of his young son and Leigh is soon in awe at his ability to procure vital information to help move his case along. In a shocking twist, these cases collide in an unexpected manner that is dangerous yet provides Leigh with stunning clarity about her family’s situation. But is Leigh’s sudden epiphany too late to save Kip, her family and her marriage?

House on Fire is a character driven mystery that explores grief and the dynamics of blended families.  Leigh is a sympathetic character who finds herself in the untenable situation of supporting her stepson at the expense of her daughter’s memory.  She finds help from an unexpected source but will she take his well meaning advice to heart? Pete is a dedicated father and husband whose loyalty to Kip will resonate with readers.  Bonnie Kistler brings this compelling mystery to an action-packed yet unanticipated conclusion. I highly recommend this well-written, engrossing novel to fans of the genre.

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Filed under Atria Books, Bonnie Kistler, Contemporary, House on Fire, Mystery, Rated B, Review, Suspense