Category Archives: Suspense

Review: Daughter by Kate McLaughlin

Title: Daughter by Kate McLaughlin
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Genre: Contemporary, Young Adult, Suspense
Length: 334 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

Kate McLaughlin’s Daughter is a thrilling YA novel about trying to right deadly choices that were never yours to begin with.

Scarlet’s life is pretty average. Overly protective mom. Great friends. Cute boy she’s interested in. And a father she’s never known—until she does.

When the FBI show up at Scarlet’s door, she is shocked to learn her father is infamous serial killer Jeffrey Robert Lake. And now, he’s dying and will only give the names and locations of his remaining victims to the one person, the daughter he hasn’t seen since she was a baby.

Scarlet’s mother has tried to protect her from Lake’s horrifying legacy, but there’s no way they can escape the media firestorm that erupts when they come out of hiding. Or the people who blame Scarlet for her father’s choices. When trying to do the right thing puts her life in danger, Scarlet is faced with a choice—go back into hiding or make the world see her as more than a monster’s daughter.

Review:

Daughter by Kate McLaughlin is a brilliantly clever young adult novel.

Seventeen-year-old Scarlet Murphy is an excellent student who chafes against her mom Gina’s strict rules.  Scarlet suffers from anxiety and sometimes turns to unhealthy ways to manage it. But when the FBI shows up on their doorstep, her typical worries fly in the face of discovering the truth her mother has been keeping from her. Scarlet is the daughter of prolific serial killer Jeffrey Lake and her mom was married to him while he was actively kidnapping and murdering young women. Lake has been on death row for several years and now that he is dying, he will only reveal the names and locations of his other victims to Scarlet. Wrestling with her conscience, Scarlet decides to meet with him so the families of the victims can put their loved ones to rest. But does Lake have any intention of living up to his end of their bargain?

Scarlet’s horrifying visits with her father are juxtaposed against her introduction to grandparents and other family members. Despite her anger at her mother for keeping her past a secret, she relies on Gina’s support after Lake’s vile revelations. Scarlet is grateful for her new friendships with FBI Agent Andy Logan’s kids, Darcy and Luke. Agent Logan also gives her advice that help provide a new perspective on the secrets she has recently learned.

Daughter is an engrossing young adult that is very suspenseful. Scarlet grows and evolves throughout her sometimes-contentious meetings with Lake. She is also more understanding of her mother’s past behavior while also being a little angry about Gina’s deception. Lake is a thoroughly reprehensible man who is not to be trusted under any circumstances. Kate McLaughlin brings this thought-provoking novel to an unexpected yet satisfying conclusion. Recommended for older teen and adult readers.

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Filed under Contemporary, Daughter, Kate McLaughlin, Rated B, Review, Suspense, Wednesday Books, Young Adult

Review: Don’t Get Close by Matt Miksa

Title: Don’t Get Close by Matt Miksa
Publisher: Crooked Lane Books
Genre: Contemporary, Domestic Terrorist, Suspense
Length: 347 pages
Book Rating: C+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

An infamous reincarnation cult resurfaces in the wake of a deadly bombing, and it’s up to an FBI novice to learn its true aim—and uncover its dark past before it consumes her. 

Special Agent Vera Taggart walked away from a promising career as an artist to join the FBI, and she impresses her new colleagues with her eerie ability to divine conclusions from the grisliest crime scenes. Taggart’s first assignment is a decades-old cold case centered on a cult of suicide bombers known as the Sons of Elijah who believe they’ve been reborn hundreds of times, going back centuries. It seems like a low-risk assignment until a bomb tears apart a crowded Chicago restaurant. The Sons of Elijah have returned—and now it’s up to Taggart to stop their modern-day reign of terror.

Taggart’s investigation begins with Dr. Seth Jacobson, a renowned psychiatrist who claims to help people remember past lives through hypnotherapy. Jacobson had treated two of the Sons of Elijah’s founders before they’d gone on to commit a series of horrific murders. Desperate to understand how these ordinary patients could have taken such a violent path, Taggart agrees to undergo similar treatment with Jacobson.

Through her hypnosis sessions, Taggart comes to suspect the Sons of Elijah are targeting a high-tech government laboratory that could expose the group’s greatest secret with a controversial experiment. To save millions of innocent lives, Tag must come to grips with the shocking truth about the cult and her own puzzling role in its timeless mission. The fate of humanity rests on her ability to determine which threats are real and which exist only in her mind—and to decide whose side she’s really fighting for.

Review:

Don’t Get Close by Matt Miksa is an intriguing mystery.

FBI Agent Vera Taggart has just completed training when she is assigned to the Sons of Elijah case. This doomsday cult has been quiet for decades but Caleb Miller’s domestic terrorist bombing revives interest in the case.  Vera has a vested interest in catching Caleb and she is sometimes reckless as she pursues him and questions his psychiatrist Dr. Seth Jacobson. With time slipping away, Vera must figure out what the cult’s next target might be but will she uncover the truth in time?

Vera’s desperation for answers takes her down an unexpected path with Dr. Jacobson. She also learns shocking information about the people who were originally part of Sons of Elijah cult. Vera and the other agents are puzzled by the resurgence of the cult and why it originally went dormant. Unbeknownst to her, Special Agent in Charge Gina Butler has an ulterior motive for recruiting her and a shocking discovery leaves Vera reeling.

Don’t Get Close has a unique premise that is quite interesting. Vera is a well-drawn character that is unusual but appealing. The other characters are well developed and the Chicago setting springs vibrantly to life. The storyline is a bit convoluted and some of the passages slow down the pacing. With unforeseen twist and turns, Matt Miksa brings this suspenseful mystery to a dramatic conclusion.

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Filed under Contemporary, Crooked Lane Books, Domestic Terrorism, Dont Get Close, Matt Miksa, Rated C+, Review, Suspense

Review: What They Don’t Know by Susan Furlong

Title:What They Don’t Know by Susan Furlong
Publisher: Seventh Street Books
Genre: Contemporary, Psychological Thriller, Suspense
Length: 274 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Edelweiss

Summary:

A picture-perfect suburban life fractures . . . and a darker reality bubbles beneath the surface.

Mona Ellison’s life is as perfect as the porcelain dolls lined up on her shelves. She has a successful husband, a loving son, a beautiful home, and a supportive group of girlfriends ever ready for their weekly wine night.

But when Mona’s son gets entangled with the wrong crowd and runs away from home, her blissful suburban world begins to unravel. She tells her friends that boys will be boys, that he’ll be back as soon as his money runs dry . . . but deep down she knows there’s something else going on.

Then the police show up at Mona’s door. A young girl has turned up dead in their quiet town, and her missing son is the prime suspect.

Determined to reunite with her son and prove his innocence, Mona follows an increasingly cryptic trail of clues on social media, uncovering a sinister side of suburbia and unveiling lies and betrayal from those she trusted most. And as Mona spirals further from her once cozy reality, a devastating revelation shatters everything she thought she knew. Now the only thing she’s sure of is that she can’t trust anyone . . . not even herself.

With unrelenting psychological suspense and a wicked twist, What They Don’t Know marries small-town thriller and domestic mystery—suburban paranoia at its best.

Review:

What They Don’t Know by Susan Furlong is a diabolically clever psychological thriller.

With their son, Gus, absent from the house, Mona Ellison and her husband Ben are selling the home they have lived in for years. After she and her friends, Tara, Alice and Selma’s final book club, Mona becomes a bit untethered with moving day approaching. Ben is out of town for business and she becomes rattled after the police drop by asking questions about Mia Jones, a teenager recently murdered nearby.  Why do the detectives want to talk to Ben? And why does Mona get the feeling that Gus might somehow be involved?

Mona is taking a cocktail of drugs that are not doing her mental state any favors. She becomes increasingly paranoid and suspicious as she tries to locate Gus. Instead of preparing for the move, Mona becomes obsessed with locating Gus and attempting to find the connection between him and Mia. Highly agitated, she is comforted by the dolls in her collection. With her friends becoming more ad more worried about her, Mona is frightened and unnerved but she slowly begins to unearth the truth about her family.

What They Don’t Know is a suspense-laden thriller that quite riveting. Mona is a brilliantly developed character whose narration might not be reliable. The secondary characters are well-drawn with interesting backstories. The storyline is tautly written and easily draws the reader into the unfolding story. With cunning twists and shocking turns, Susan Furlong brings this intriguing psychological thriller to a chilling conclusion.

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Filed under Contemporary, Psychological Thriller, Rated B+, Review, Seventh Street Books, Susan Furlong, Suspense, What They Dont Know

Review: The Murder Rule by Dervla McTiernan

Title: The Murder Rule by Dervla McTiernan
Publisher: William Morrow
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery
Length: 304 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Edelweiss

Summary:

For fans of the compulsive psychological suspense of Ruth Ware and Tana French, a mother daughter story—one running from a horrible truth, and the other fighting to reveal it—that twists and turns in shocking ways, from the internationally bestselling author of The Scholar and The Ruin.

First Rule: Make them like you.

Second Rule: Make them need you.

Third Rule: Make them pay.

They think I’m a young, idealistic law student, that I’m passionate about reforming a corrupt and brutal system.

They think I’m working hard to impress them.

They think I’m here to save an innocent man on death row.

They’re wrong. I’m going to bury him.

Review:

The Murder Rule by Dervla McTiernan is a captivating mystery.

Law student Hannah Rokeby is willing to go to great lengths to become part of a Virginia college’s Innocence Project. Once she is accepted, she is willing to take extreme measures to be assigned to work on the death row case of Michael Dandridge. Which leads to an intriguing question: exactly why does Hannah so desperately want to work on this particular case?

Hannah has long taken care of her alcoholic mother Laura who is quite fragile without her daughter by her side. Hannah is smart and offers a bit of a different viewpoint than the other students she is working with on the Dandridge case. She is also willing to take risks that put not only herself, but others, in danger. They uncover shocking information but will they learn enough details in time for an upcoming motion trial?

The Murder Rule is an engrossing mystery that moves at a fast pace. Hannah is an interesting character who believes she is doing the right thing, but can anything justify the actions she is taking? The secondary cast of characters is well-drawn and appealing. Diary entries written in the past alternate with the chapters in the present and prove to be quite fascinating. The storyline is completely enthralling and Dervla McTiernan brings this suspenseful mystery to a twist-filled conclusion.

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Filed under Contemporary, Dervla McTiernan, Mystery, Rated B+, Review, Suspense, The Murder Rule, William Morrow

Review: The Patient by Jane Shemilt

Title: The Patient by Jane Shemilt
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Genre: Contemporary, Domestic Mystery, Suspense
Length: 320 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Edelweiss

Summary:

A shocking and twisty novel of psychological suspense about a boundary-breaking love affair between a doctor and her patient, by Jane Shemilt, Edgar-nominated, #1 international bestselling author of The Daughter.

What price would you pay for falling in love?

Rachel is a respected doctor who lives in a picturesque and affluent English village where her husband Nathan teaches at an elite private school. Competent, unflappable, and nearing 50, Rachel has everything in her life firmly in her control, even if some of its early luster has worn off. But one day a new patient arrives at her practice for emergency treatment. Luc is a French painter married to a wealthy American woman who’s just bought and restored a historic home on the edge of Rachel’s posh neighborhood. The couple has only recently arrived, but Luc is struggling with a mental disorder, and so he goes to the nearest clinic…to Rachel.

Their attraction is instant, and as Rachel’s sense of ethics wars with newly awakened passion, the affair blinds her to everything else happening around her. A longtime patient appears to be following her every movement, turning up unexpectedly wherever she goes. Her somewhat estranged adult daughter Lizzie is hiding a secret—or at least, hiding it from Rachel. Nathan has grown sour and cold as well—or is that merely Rachel’s guilty conscience weighing on her? But when one of her colleagues winds up murdered and Luc is arrested for the crime, everything Rachel didn’t know about her life explodes into the open—along with her affair with her patient—a disgrace and scandal that will have consequences no one could have predicted.

Review:

The Patient by Jane Shemilt is a riveting domestic mystery.

Local GP Rachel Goodchild is mostly content with her life until her path crosses with new patient Luc Lefevre. The cracks in her marriage become more obvious as she realizes how attracted she is to Luc, who is also married with a stepson. Rachel has always felt safe in her town but she cannot shake the feeling that someone is watching and following her. She becomes more fearful after she and Luc embark on a whirlwind affair and people close to her are murdered. With suspicion falling to Luc, can Rachel trust her instincts about the man she has fallen in love with?

The storyline weaves back in forth in time over the course of several months. From her sizzling first meeting with depressed Luc to their passionate affair, Rachel gradually emerges from her colorless life. As she faces increasingly hostile questions after Luc’s arrest, her mistaken suppositions become clear in hindsight. With this new self-awareness, can Rachel now trust her judgment as she learns new information?

The Patient is a clever mystery that is quite atmospheric. The characters are well-drawn but not all of them are likable. Rachel is a bit of an unreliable narrator as she begins questioning certain events. The storyline is engaging and the tension builds with every chapter. With one shocking plot twist after another, Jane Shemilt brings this suspense-laden domestic mystery to an unanticipated conclusion.

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Filed under Contemporary, Domestic Mystery, Jane Shemilt, Mystery, Rated B+, Review, Suspense, The Patient, William Morrow Paperbacks

Review: This Might Hurt by Stephanie Wrobel

Title: This Might Hurt by Stephanie Wrobel
Publisher: Berkley
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Suspense
Length: 336 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

From the USA Today bestselling and Edgar-nominated author of Darling Rose Gold comes a dark, thrilling novel about two sisters—one trapped in the clutches of a cult, the other in a web of her own lies.

Welcome to Wisewood. We’ll keep your secrets if you keep ours.

Natalie Collins hasn’t heard from her sister in more than half a year.

The last time they spoke, Kit was slogging from mundane workdays to obligatory happy hours to crying in the shower about their dead mother. She told Natalie she was sure there was something more out there.

And then she found Wisewood.

On a private island off the coast of Maine, Wisewood’s guests commit to six-month stays. During this time, they’re prohibited from contact with the rest of the world—no Internet, no phones, no exceptions. But the rules are for a good reason: to keep guests focused on achieving true fearlessness so they can become their Maximized Selves. Natalie thinks it’s a bad idea, but Kit has had enough of her sister’s cynicism and voluntarily disappears off the grid.

Six months later Natalie receives a menacing e-mail from a Wisewood account threatening to reveal the secret she’s been keeping from Kit. Panicked, Natalie hurries north to come clean to her sister and bring her home. But she’s about to learn that Wisewood won’t let either of them go without a fight.

Review:

This Might Hurt by Stephanie Wrobel is a captivating mystery featuring two slightly estranged sisters.

Natalie Collins is hard-working career woman who goes in search of her sister Kit after receiving a threatening email. Natalie has not heard from Kit since she went to Wisewood, a self-improvement retreat on an island off the coast of Maine. The sisters’ lives have been completely different with Natalie focusing on her career while Kit cannot quite seem to find her niche. Despite their lack of contact, Natalie is not only worried her sister learning her secret. She is also very concerned about Kit’s well-being. In hopes of bringing Kit back home, Natalie immediately sets off for the isolated island.

Natalie is not exactly welcomed by the other members of the retreat. The people are reluctant to provide her any information about Kit nor will they direct her to Wisewood’s owner. Natalie has the eerie sensation someone is watching her in her cabin and while on the retreat grounds. She is also unnerved when she discovers someone has been in her room. The weather is not aiding her cause as a storm threatens her departure.

Passages from Kit’s perspective detail the journey that led her to Wisewood. Despite Natalie’s disapproval, she keeps firm in her decision to spend six months at the retreat. Kit is soon taken under Wisewood’s owner’s wing and she is soon taking on more duties. She is at peace for the first time in a long time and Kit does not miss the outside world.

Chapters from an unknown person’s point of view reveal shocking abuse for two sisters. One sister is more acquiescent than the other so she experiences less cruelty at the hands of her father. The other sister can never do anything to please her malicious father. She finds an outlet that she hopes will be her escape from her family. Her rise and eventual fall eventually span several decades and her identity is not revealed until around about halfway into the story.

This Might Hurt is a riveting novel that moves at a fast pace. Natalie and Kit are well-drawn women whose relationship has always been strained. The unknown woman’s story arc is interesting and a little better developed than Natalie and Kit’s. Wisewood is somewhat creepy and the worsening weather adds another layer of tension to the story. With well-placed plot-twists, Stephanie Wrobel brings this suspenseful mystery to a shocking conclusion.

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Filed under Berkley, Contemporary, Mystery, Rated B+, Review, Stephanie Wrobel, Suspense, This Might Hurt