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Reviews of what you should be reading next.

Category: Thriller (page 1 of 2)

The Argument by Victoria Jenkins

It happens to every mother. One day, the daughter whose whole world you once were, becomes someone you barely know. And you don’t know the secrets she’s hiding…

One hot summer night, 15-year-old Olivia comes home late from a party she was strictly forbidden from going to, and she and her mother, Hannah, start arguing. Soon Olivia speaks the words that every parent has heard from their teenage child:

‘I hate you. You’ve ruined my life. And I’m never speaking to you again.’

Olivia has never been an easy child, a sharp contrast to her easy-going, happy-go-lucky little sister. But Hannah thinks Olivia’s outburst is the end of a normal family argument. In fact, it’s only the beginning of a nightmare…

After one day of silence, Hannah thinks Olivia is taking a teenage sulk too far. After two days, she starts to feel anxious that something more serious could be going on. After a week, when her daughter still hasn’t spoken, Hannah knows that Olivia is hiding a bigger darkness – something that could threaten to tear their precious family apart…

The Argument is an unputdownable psychological thriller that asks how far we can push our families before they finally break. Perfect for fans of Gillian Flynn, The Woman in the Window, and The Silent Patient.

Thanks to NetGalley for this reviewer’s copy!

The premise of THE ARGUMENT is simple – teenage girl goes out to a party, parents disapprove, teenager tells parents she hates them and refuses to talk to them any more. If it only were that innocent!

Hannah is the stodgy, no-fun mother of Olivia and Rosie. Olivia is a normal 15-year-old testing the boundaries of parental control. Rosie is still young and is the favored child, much to Olivia’s chagrin. Everyone appears to be a reliable narrator so far, despite the titular argument.  The book flows along with minimal ups and downs until about 60% gone – then the first twist is uncovered and Hannah becomes a sympathetic character while Olivia becomes a selfish, annoying little girl, still believing that if her parents didn’t treat her the way they did, she would not have had to sneak out to that party. Soon after that, the second twist happens – hold onto your book, because it’s a doozy! My sympathies changed ever so slightly towards Olivia at this point, despite the fact that she was still a selfish teenager. At this point, I was not putting the book down until it was finished; it was that good! Then the author drops another twist into the mix, making Hannah even more sympathetic.

Hold those emotions close, though, as from here on in they will be changing and spinning out of control. By the end of the book every character but one is deserving of pity, more or less. Each character (except Rosie, who is quite the innocent throughout) has their demons and their false beliefs. One is a narcissist, another is a control freak, and the other is selfish. Actually, they are all selfish and broken in their own way.

THE ARGUMENT is an unputdownable psychological thriller that starts slow, but ends with multiple jaw-dropping twists. The author is adept at creating simmering tension that boils over midway through the book – and the ending will have you shaking your head at Hannah’s final words. I look forward to reading more of the author’s work. You can pick up your copy here.

You Are Not Alone by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen

You probably know someone like Shay Miller.
She wants to find love, but it eludes her.
She wants to be fulfilled, but her job is a dead end.
She wants to belong, but her life is becoming increasingly isolated.

You probably don’t know anyone like the Moore sisters.
They have an unbreakable circle of friends.
They live a life of glamour and perfection.
They always get what they desire.

Shay thinks she wants their life.
But what they really want is hers.

Thanks to NetGalley for this review copy!

This is a difficult review to write. Overall the book was a pleasant read with areas of suspense, but for the most part the plot took a while to advance and there were a lot of characters to keep straight. It also seemed that Shay was prone to make bad decisions or choose no course of action at all. I found myself wishing that she would have more of a backbone. Towards the end she seemed more in touch with reality, once she figured everything out.

I felt a little uncomfortable with all the stalking Shay did; it advanced the plot, but I kept thinking that there was no way she would have been able to get away with it in real life. I also was anticipating the police (or the sisters) would eventually catch up to her at the worst possible moment.

Multiple characters mean multiple POV’s. This changed with each chapter and at times it was difficult keeping everyone’s story straight, especially some of the more minor characters.

What I did like: The suspense kept building up until the end – the last 25% of the book was the best part. I could not guess the ending until almost the last pages; once I did, I was very glad things turned out the way they did. I enjoyed hating Jody, Shay’s roommate’s girlfriend. She definitely was someone to keep your eyes on and her despicableness did not disappoint.

I enjoyed the authors’ other books and will look forward to reading the next one. They are masters of the psychological twist and you can be sure each book will leave you thinking about the characters for a few days after you are done.

Want your own copy? You can pick it up here.

Bloody Genius by John Sandford (Virgil Flowers #12)

Virgil Flowers will have to watch his back–and his mouth–as he investigates a college culture war turned deadly in the latest thriller from #1 New York Times-bestseller John Sandford.

At the local state university, two feuding departments have faced off on the battleground of PC culture. Each carries their views to extremes that may seem absurd, but highly educated people of sound mind and good intentions can reasonably disagree, right?

Then someone winds up dead, and Virgil Flowers is brought in to investigate . . . and he soon comes to realize he’s dealing with people who, on this one particular issue, are functionally crazy. Among this group of wildly impassioned, diametrically opposed zealots lurks a killer, and it will be up to Virgil to sort the murderer from the mere maniacs.

Thanks to NetGalley for this review copy!

No one is getting Virgil’s jokes. This is because he is knee-deep in academia land, investigating the murder of a well-respected but also generally disliked professor. Apparently those who work at the University of Minnesota do not have a well-rounded sense of humor.

Virgil teams up with Detective Trane from the Minnesota police department, a partnership that starts out shaky but solidifies when Virgil proves himself to be an affable companion. Trane is at a dead end until Virgil discovers some evidence that starts the ball rolling, leading to some of the strangest characters ever seen in a Flowers novel.

I felt that the book was slow going until the last third, when the action started to pick up a bit and the loose ends started to come together. There are a lot of characters and subplots, and unless you keep them straight it will end up being confusing.

The plot blurb notes there is an interdepartmental feud going on, but I found that portion of the story a bit underwhelming. There is less going on there than the publisher would have you believe. I feel it would have benefitted the book to have noted there was a murder on campus and Virgil had to deal with a lot of functionally crazy people; after all, the murder does take place in the beginning of the book and the rest is just smoke and mirrors until the end. At times I wanted to skip ahead, looking for more action and less talking, but I was afraid I would miss something.

Flowers novels are like pizza – it may not always be the best tasting, but it’s pizza. Despite the flaws I noted above, it is always good to see what Virgil is doing. Hopefully the next outing will be more suspenseful and action packed.

Want your own copy? You can pick it up here.

Neon Prey by John Sandford (Davenport #29)

Lucas Davenport pursues a prolific serial killer who has gone undetected for years in the newest nail-biter by #1 NewYork Times bestselling author John Sandford.

It was a relatively minor criminal matter, all things considered, but enough that the US Marshals obtained a warrant to enter the home. They didn’t expect to unearth trophies from a score of killings.

Now Davenport is on the trail of a serial murderer, one who was able to operate for years without notice or suspicion. But there’s even more to this killer than meets the eye…

 

Thanks to NetGalley for this ARC!

It’s hard to believe that this is Davenport’s 29th adventure. He’s gotten shot, stabbed, punched numerous times, and suffered various other indignities. In NEON PREY he and his fellow Marshals Bob and Rae are hot on the heels of a cannibal. Multiple bodies have been found in the yard of Clayton Deese, and the Marshals want to ask him some questions. Deese, however, is not cooperating.

When Lucas and Co. discover that the livers from the bodies are missing, and the barbeque grill from Deese’s house has been used, they realize that they are not looking for a typical run-of-the-mill killer. Bob, Rae, and Lucas share the spotlight equally, which is different from previous books. It almost seems as though Lucas is part of the supporting cast rather than the main character. Even his “cop talk” is secondary to that of Bob and Rae.

Las Vegas is a quirky setting that provides both sparkle and squalor. There is a section of the book where Deese and his crew hang out at a friend’s ramshackle trailer. As I read on, I could hear the banjos from “Deliverance” in the background – it was that eerie!

My thoughts on this one is that it’s a firm middle-of-the-road Prey novel. What stood out for me was that Davenport seems to be feeling his age (both mentally and physically) here. No spoilers; but I was not ready for some of the plot twists. Kudos to the author for keeping his characters human with relevant emotions.

I’d love to know what you think of #29 – leave me a comment with your thoughts. You can pick up your copy here.

 

Scared To Death by Rachel Amphlett

Scared

A serial killer murdering for kicks. A detective seeking revenge.
When the body of a snatched schoolgirl is found in an abandoned biosciences building, the case is first treated as a kidnapping gone wrong. But Detective Kay Hunter isn’t convinced, especially when a man is found dead with the ransom money still in his possession. When a second schoolgirl is taken, Kay’s worst fears are realised.
With her career in jeopardy and desperate to conceal a disturbing secret, Kay’s hunt for the killer becomes a race against time before he claims another life. For the killer, the game has only just begun…
Scared to Death is a gripping fast paced crime thriller from author Rachel Amphlett, in a new series introducing Kay Hunter – a detective with a hidden past and an uncertain future…

 

Thanks to the author for gifting me this book in exchange for an honest review!

I loved this book! Chapter one was crazy intense, with plenty of action to set the tone of the story. Kay Hunter is a determined, capable woman with some job conflict in her past. The kidnapper is a sociopath on a mission, full of devious ways to murder his victims.

Amphlett knows how to grab the reader’s attention by using strong character development and by keeping the plot moving. There are never too many people clogging up the pages; I really struggle with books that require a scorecard to keep track of characters. I also love that she believes in a strong female lead. Hunter knows what she wants and she trusts her intuition, no matter how much others may think it incorrect.

Setting the crimes in an abandoned building warmed my heart.  What creepier place could you find to make a victim consider her own death? I’m an urban explorer and could visualize the locations easily. What an excellent idea to use these places as a focus point for drama!

SCARED TO DEATH is a win on so many levels; I truly have nothing bad to say about this book. This is the type of story that you sit down to read and suddenly regret not having cleared your calendar prior to starting. The plots twists keep you guessing; even when the real kidnapper is identified, it’s never a guarantee that he will be captured.

Equal parts of suspense, humor, drama and action make this book one of the best ones I’ve read this year so far. The ending leaves the door wide open for the next book in the series to be awaited eagerly – I, for one, can’t wait to see what happens. I also have a theory about who caused the gun to go missing in her previous case – but I’ll keep that to myself and see what happens.

You definitely need to get your own copy – you can pick it up [easyazon_link identifier=”099443376X” locale=”US” nw=”y” tag=”gimmethatbook-20″]here[/easyazon_link].

 

The Empress of Tempera by Alex Dolan

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The feud began forty years ago. On one side: one of the wealthiest families in America. On the other: an artist known as Qi, heralded as the next Andy Warhol. After an acrimonious falling out, a Cold War began between these two families, and very few people remember the artist at all. Until a piece by Qi appears in New York.
Outside the Fern Gallery, a man stabs himself in the heart while staring at the last Qi, a painting of a young Chinese empress. Paire Anjou, a young art student fresh to the city, stands so close, her dress is freckled with blood. The resurgence of Qi’s art stirs up widespread curiosity and attention. Much like Michelangelo’s David, the portrait evokes powerful reactions from people. Patrons pass out, write love letters, and try to vandalize it. Since the day she saw it, Paire can’t stop ruminating about the painting.
The descendants of both families converge, and Paire, who covets the Empress, is woven into an escalating blood feud. Paire Anjou is herself a descendant of criminal parents with a predilection for theft. And she has decided that she needs to possess the Qi for herself.

Thanks to Diversion Books for gifting me this book for review!

EMPRESS is the kind of book that has a dark undercurrent running through it. The darkness may ebb and flow, but it’s always there. Paire is a character who may be sympathetic at times, and other times she will make you cringe and wonder what you ever saw in her in the first place.

The titular Empress is the sun around which everyone’s world revolves. Dolan’s description of her is so precise, so fawning, that it makes you wish you could see her for yourself and become obsessed. As Paire slowly sinks into lustful infatuation with the Empress, the darkness flows into her and also makes her stronger. Paire gets involved with illegal activities, all the while with the painting at the back of her mind.

The darkness envelops other characters as well, and begets betrayal, or violence. It seems as though the painting is like a Rorschach drawing; people see what they want to see, while the image affects them all differently. I especially enjoyed this aspect of the book – watching everyone decompensate is a delicious, voyeuristic experience.

Another enjoyable facet of this story is the art and artist setting. New York is the perfect backdrop for this beleaguered gallery and its employees. There also was a great deal of authentic art discussion that taught me things and enriched the reading experience.  Any time I can learn something from a book, it’s a plus for me. This shows that the author is not just trying to create a story; he is doing his hardest to immerse the reader in a believable world where things occur because of the setting, not despite it.

THE EMPRESS OF TEMPERA was a compelling and brilliantly conceived story. I loved it! Definitely a must read this year. You can pick up your copy [easyazon_link identifier=”1682302970″ locale=”US” nw=”y” tag=”gimmethatbook-20″]here[/easyazon_link].

The Sea Crystal and Other Weird Tales by Susan Berliner

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Welcome to Susan Berliner’s world. It’s a place where strange things–both good and bad–happen. Meet some of the inhabitants:

* Doreen. It’s time for her wedding but where is everyone? (Doreen’s Wedding)
* Neal. The face he sees in the mirror is no longer his own. (Mirror Image)
* Deb. All she does is recite four Latin words. How bad can that be? (The Rapunzel Effect)
* Ben. Everything he says sounds like gibberish. (Wordless)
* Mary. Her sweet dreams become nightmares and then the nightmares become real. (Dare to Dream)
* Kayla & Dan, Lisette & Omar. Two vacationing couples, one white and one black, form a bizarrely close relationship. (The Sea Crystal)
* Alicia. She waters office plants for a living. It’s a stress-free job, right? (The Plant Whisperer)
* Isabel. The man in a red sports car looks exactly like her long-lost husband. (Nathan’s Return)
In this weird world, you’ll encounter a variety of genres from thriller and horror to fairy tale and humor. Enjoy your visit!

 

Thanks to the author for gifting me this book for review!

Once I started reading these stories, I could not put my Kindle down. Short stories are always good, because you can read one and pick up again with a brand new story. However, once you start reading anything written by Ms Berliner, you had better clear your calendar. Her characters are haunting, memorable, and real. Despite the horror/thriller undertones in some of the stories, each character seems authentic.

As I read, I kept thinking of the Twilight Zone, with offbeat stories that started out normal, but always had some strangely plausible but unsettling ending.  THE SEA CRYSTAL is just like that. Normal people: a bride, an office worker, couples on vacation — what could be so strange about that?

You are in for a real treat. It takes a special talent to be able to create a scene in a few pages, from beginning to end, and this is where the author excels. As soon as the story begins, you are thrust into a little microcosm where things look ordinary…mundane, even.

But then…plants start talking, or someone disappears, or someone who is there turns out that they were never even there in the first place!

Much like a riddle or a brain teaser, these tales will get under your skin and not be shaken off that easily. One of the stories in particular, DOREEN’S WEDDING, left me with a queer little ache in my heart. Entirely plausible, simply done, and utterly gripping. I challenge anyone to read that and not be moved.

Berliner is a talented weaver of stories, and I guarantee you will love this book. Click [easyazon_link identifier=”0983940150″ locale=”US” nw=”y” tag=”gimmethatbook-20″]here[/easyazon_link] and pick up your copy RIGHT NOW.

 

The Widow by Fiona Barton

widow

For fans of Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train, an electrifying thriller that will take you into the dark spaces that exist between a husband and a wife.

When the police started asking questions, Jean Taylor turned into a different woman. One who enabled her and her husband to carry on, when more bad things began to happen…
But that woman’s husband died last week. And Jean doesn’t have to be her anymore.

There’s a lot Jean hasn’t said over the years about the crime her husband was suspected of committing. She was too busy being the perfect wife, standing by her man while living with the accusing glares and the anonymous harassment.
Now there’s no reason to stay quiet. There are people who want to hear her story. They want to know what it was like living with that man. She can tell them that there were secrets. There always are in a marriage.
The truth—that’s all anyone wants. But the one lesson Jean has learned in the last few years is that she can make people believe anything…

Many thanks to NetGalley for offering this ARC to me!

One of the best things about THE WIDOW is that you don’t really know what is happening until the very end. The unreliable narrators seem sympathetic, then horrid, then sympathetic again, until your emotions are all twisted this way and that. It’s wonderful.

Both Jean and her husband Glen live a quiet life, despite Glen’s “nonsense” (Jean’s term for the Bad Thing that is the crux of the book). She is a quiet woman that can be manipulated; first Glen wraps her up in his little world, then the press cajoles her into giving a coveted interview. Jean’s inner monologue shows a strong but conflicted personality, with a critical weakness that holds sway over her emotions until the last page.

Barton’s writing style is smooth and her dialogue is easy to follow. There isn’t an overload of characters to remember; the ones that are there are well developed. We learn about Jean and Glen’s life together as each chapter goes by in the form of flashbacks, each one building upon the next until you are almost sure you know what is going to happen–then Barton leads you down a different path.

I completely, thoroughly, loved THE WIDOW.  Exploring the theme of “suburban life conceals dark secrets” (some a deeper hue than others) was glorious and satisfying.  We have all been that neighbor curious about the goings on next door, and perhaps some of us have been that friendly neighbor that slowly pulls away once misdeeds beget misgivings.

The sub plot of the manipulative reporter, worming her way into Jean’s life and maybe even her heart, along with the beleaguered detective who brings the case home every night (to the constant disappointment of his wife) round out the story perfectly, and give the reader a respite from the subtle creepiness of Glen’s “nonsense”.

This is a story that you can (and will) devour in one or two sittings.  Fiona Barton is an author to be celebrated, discussed, and most importantly, supported. I loved her freshman effort and look forward to her next work.

Want your own copy? You can pick it up [easyazon_link identifier=”1101990260″ locale=”US” nw=”y” tag=”gimmethatbook-20″]here[/easyazon_link].

 

Crimson Shore (Pendergast #15) by Preston & Child

crimson shore

A secret chamber.

A mysterious shipwreck. A murder in the desolate salt marshes.

A seemingly straightforward private case turns out to be much more complicated-and sinister-than Special Agent A.X.L. Pendergast ever could have anticipated.

Pendergast, together with his ward Constance Greene, travels to the quaint seaside village of Exmouth, Massachusetts, to investigate the theft of a priceless wine collection. But inside the wine cellar, they find something considerably more disturbing: a bricked-up niche that once held a crumbling skeleton.

 

Many thanks to NetGalley for providing this ARC copy for review.

Pendergast almost turns this case down because he feels it’s too pedestrian for him. But once he hears about the priceless wine being offered as payment, he decides to travel to Massachusetts after all.

He and Constance stick out like sore thumbs, skulking about and dressed in black, manipulating everyone in sight.   His sarcastic comments and glittering eyes will make every Penderpeep sigh with joy, and we see Constance’s emotions stirred as well. There is an episode where the two of them share wine together, and I read it holding my breath. No spoilers here, though! (I’m actually not sure I want to see the two of them together, as I fear it may change my perception of both of the characters.)

One of Preston and Child’s trademarks is the extensive research done to ensure the environment is described well, and CRIMSON SHORE is no exception. It was easy to hear the pounding surf and feel the sullen stares of the townspeople due to the stellar depiction of the desolate surroundings. There is a perfect balance of action, conversation, and description, just enough of everything to keep the plot moving forward and place the reader firmly in the salt marshes.

Constance is not happy to sit and wait for Pendergast to do all the work, as she takes on responsibilities of her own and helps things along by doing extensive research on the history of witchcraft that’s endemic to the area.

That’s when the plot veers off to the supernatural and violent. Almost all the loose ends are tied up when, suddenly new things appear and Pendergast must brave the marshlands to rescue Constance. This is where the suspense ratchets up quite a bit and things start happening quickly.

Earlier books had Pendergast sporting almost superhuman strength, and these last few show him in a different light. This one is no exception, as I was prepared to see him put up a good fight but suffer in the process.  There is the almost mandatory cliffhanger ending that draws in elements from other books, written deliberately cryptic to keep us all guessing.

I enjoyed this latest outing even though it got sidetracked to the supernatural. The spotlight is centered firmly on Pendergast and Constance here – with humor, suspense, witchcraft and even a cooking lesson, there is a great deal to get your mind around. Preston & Child are continuing to create quality work with consistency and no lack of interesting plotlines. Exactly what the doctor ordered.

Want your own copy? You can pick it up [easyazon_link identifier=”1455525928″ locale=”US” nw=”y” tag=”gimmethatbook-20″]here[/easyazon_link].

Holiday GIVEAWAY! A present from GTB and author Ellie DeFarr!

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What better gift than a book? And what better book than THEY CALLED HER PAPERBACK ROSE by Ellie DeFarr? She’s becoming one of my favorite authors, so my gift to you is a chance to win one of THREE e-copies of her latest mystery. Enter the giveaway below.

Here’s my review of PAPERBACK ROSE. I loved it, and so will you! See below to enter.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
PaperbackRoseCover_300wGood luck and happy holidays from all of us here at gimmethatbook. Endless thanks to author Ellie DeFarr for thoughtfully providing these gift copies for our giveaway– we love you, Ellie!

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