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Reviews of what you should be reading next.

Tag: psychological suspense

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.

The Wives by Tarryn Fisher

Imagine that your husband has two other wives.

You’ve never met the other wives. None of you know each other, and because of this unconventional arrangement, you can see your husband only one day a week. But you love him so much you don’t care. Or at least that’s what you’ve told yourself.
But one day, while you’re doing laundry, you find a scrap of paper in his pocket—an appointment reminder for a woman named Hannah, and you just know it’s another of the wives.
You thought you were fine with your arrangement, but you can’t help yourself: you track her down, and, under false pretenses, you strike up a friendship. Hannah has no idea who you really are. Then, Hannah starts showing up to your coffee dates with telltale bruises, and you realize she’s being abused by her husband. Who, of course, is also your husband. But you’ve never known him to be violent, ever.
Who exactly is your husband, and how far would you go to find the truth? Would you risk your own life?

And who is his mysterious third wife?

Thanks to NetGalley for this review copy!

This is the story of Seth and his three wives. The story is told in the voice of (legally married) wife #2; sometimes amorous, sometimes regretful. Seth explains his polygamy with the explanation that he grew up in Utah and with the sentence I love you all differently but equally. One day wife #2 discovers a piece of paper in Seth’s coat and discovers information about wife #3, named Hannah. Wife #2 snoops some more and tracks her down, eventually, ironically, becoming friends with her. They share breakfasts and family stories without discovering they have a husband in common. However, Hannah starts showing up to their meetings with visible bruises, and wife #2 has questions. Lots of them. Seth has never been violent with her before, and she starts wondering more about the man she married. She also continues to snoop, finding wife #1 on Facebook and other social media sites. It’s like she’s addicted to hurting herself with this information.

The author paints a perfect picture of a woman with a polygamous man; insecure one moment and in love the next. Wife #2’s internal monologues are spot-on, just another woman wondering about what her husband is thinking and what he’s doing when he is away from her. The twist here is that none of the narrators are reliable, and you don’t know what is going to happen next. I thought I had the story straight, then suddenly there was a plot twist and it changed EVERYTHING. After that some things made more sense, while others didn’t make sense at all. I was torn between feeling sorry for wife #2 or thinking about her scornfully. Seth is no gem either, despite the fact that wife #2 keeps hanging on to him even though she is crazy jealous of his other two wives.

This book lived up to all the hype – there is drama and psychological suspense galore. Towards the end, all the characters start to decompensate, which provides for an amazing and shocking ending. I literally spent the entire day reading this book, which is something that I don’t normally do. I’m eagerly awaiting Ms. Fisher’s next work. You can pick up your copy of THE WIVES here.

The Only Child by Mi-ae Seo

An eerie and absorbing novel following a criminal psychologist who has discovered shocking and possibly dangerous connections between a serial killer and her stepdaughter.

Criminal psychologist Seonkyeong receives an unexpected call one day. Yi Byeongdo, a serial killer whose gruesome murders shook the world, wants to be interviewed. Yi Byeongdo, who has refused to speak to anyone until now, asks specifically for her. Seonkyeong agrees out of curiosity.

That same day Hayeong, her husband’s eleven-year-old daughter from a previous marriage, shows up at their door after her grandparents, with whom she lived after her mother passed away, die in a sudden fire. Seonkyeong wants her to feel at home, but is gradually unnerved as the young girl says very little and acts strangely.

At work and at home, Seonkyeong starts to unravel the pasts of the two new arrivals in her life and begins to see startling similarities. Hayeong looks at her the same way Yi Byeongdo does when he recounts the abuse he experienced as a child; Hayeong’s serene expression masks a temper that she can’t control. Plus, the story she tells about her grandparents’ death, and her mother’s before that, deeply troubles Seonkyeong. So much so that Yi Byeongdo picks up on it and starts giving her advice.

Written with exquisite precision and persistent creepiness, The Only Child is psychological suspense at its very best.

 

Thanks to NetGalley for this ARC!

THE ONLY CHILD is a very dark book that explores the mind of a fictional serial killer while contrasting his behavior with Hayeong, the main character’s stepdaughter. Seonkyeong is a criminal psychologist who is summoned to prison to interview the notorious killer Yi Byeongdo. As she delves deeper into his mind through his stories, she notices how his mannerisms mirror that of 11-year-old Hayeong, who has recently come to live with her and her husband after a fire destroys her house.

The story is told from multiple points of view, with a concerted effort to make Byeongdo appear somewhat sympathetic. Hayeong is a manipulative little girl and I disliked her immediately. Seonkyeong’s husband brings his daughter into the house and soon becomes an absentee father, only seeing the “good” side of the girl.

The plot could have used a bit of tightening up, as it takes a while to establish Hayeong’s dark side. There is a longish portion regarding the “punishment” of a cat which could have been shorter yet still convey the latent evil that was lurking that day. There is also a series of dithering by Seonkyeong in which she alternately fears the girl, then feels sorry for her due to the tragedies that have befallen her. She seems almost blind to the danger that Hayeong poses to her family.

Most of the action occurs around the last 15% of the book, as the serial killer escapes jail while the tension between the psychologist and the girl comes to a head. The ending itself is a shocker yet I felt it wasn’t a surprise.

None of these characters are truly given life; I am not sure if it is due to the original work being translated, or if it is the writer’s style. (Click here for information on more Korean mysteries being translated into English.) There is only the briefest of backstory and Seonkyeong is not portrayed as a strong female character. Certainly someone of her background would have better sense regarding Hayeong’s penchant for evil. Again, this could be due to the culture, as Asian women are not known for taking the lead and being dominant. In any case, I wish she had been given more of a backbone, especially as she began discovering Hayeong’s secrets.

I would like to see a sequel to this book to see what happens next with the characters. The ending does leave room for another story, and I can imagine different plot twists taking place. All in all, not a bad read. Want your own copy? You can pick it up here.

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