Frankie Elkin is a recovering alcoholic with more regrets than belongings. But she spends her life doing what no one else will--searching for missing people the world has stopped looking for.
A new case brings her to Mattapan, a Boston neighborhood with a rough reputation, to search for a Haitian teenager who vanished from her high school months earlier. Frankie will stop at nothing to discover the truth, even if it means the next person to go missing could be her.
Frankie reminded me of a real person named Lissa Yellow-Bird Chase, who I learned about some time ago on a This American Life podcast (ep. 706: A Mess to be Reckoned With -- I highly recommend you give it a listen!!) Chase is a tough-as-nails woman who stops at nothing to find the missing. It turns out that Gardner read a BBC article about Chase and was influenced to write this novel based on people like her, amateurs who seek out the missing.
Frankie Elkin is a tough female character who doesn’t just move the needle forward for feminism, she blows up the whole damn record player. She reminds me of what Ibsen did with Nora in “A Doll’s House” back in the late 1800s: shocked us with a completely different view of how a woman can live her life. Or Frances McDormand’s character in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, who showed us that a woman can be flawed and not what the patriarchy might define as ‘nice,’ yet be a heroine because of her sheer determination to make sure that justice prevails.
This is the type of company that Frankie keeps, and she MAKES this book for me. This character is bold and rebellious and *everything*
I also love the way the densely packed and diverse urban communities within Boston come alive on the page.
This is a fast-paced and heart-pounding thriller that had me hooked from beginning to end.
You should get this if you like thrillers with strong female characters or gritty crime dramas.
It hits the shelves Jan. 19, 2021!
Thank you to PENGUIN GROUP Dutton and NetGalley for the ARC!
Sera is obsessed with one particular true crime podcast, listening to it morning, noon and night, as she attempts to escape a life filled with disappointments. The host of the podcast, a young woman named Rachel, lives and records on her parent’s ranch in a remote area of Northern California, until she suddenly vanishes.
Sera gets into her car and travels to the place Rachel was last seen, determined to discover what happened to her. But the more Sera learns about the isolated ranch, the more uneasy she feels about what may be happening there. Rachel may not have been the first woman to disappear from the ranch, and she may not be the last...
This book had me from page one! The last book that hooked me so quickly was “A Stranger on the Beach” by Michele Campbell, but for very different reasons. This immediately pulled me into the dysfunction of Sera, revealing how obsessed and subsumed she is by the podcast, to the point of teetering on the edge of reality. Her mixture of desperation and neuroticism reminds me of characters in the stories of Shirley Jackson, who I sort of consider the queen bee of psychological fiction.
What struck me most about the book is how evocative the writing is. There’s an enormous amount of figurative language weaved into the prose, which lends a great deal of specificity, setting it apart from other books in the genre.
I got a slight “House of Leaves” feel while reading this, which is interesting because the story isn’t similar at all. I think what I was responding to was a mix of playful formatting (the story is peppered with former podcast episodes and quotes), as well as Sera’s unrelenting sense of isolation, which is mirrored in the setting.
One theme it explores is the feeling of seclusion versus connection, including the ways in which we muffle or mute ourselves to become what we think others would like us to be in order to fit in. Or, on the extreme end, how we may even give over control of our own lives, at times, to relieve ourselves of the weight of responsibility.
I recommend this for any fans of psychological thrillers, true crime or mysteries!
Emmy is an Instamum, crafting and curating her experience raising her two children for the ‘squares.’ Her husband Dan is skeptical of her lucrative online persona, and it’s creating a rift in their marriage. When one of Emmy’s followers becomes obsessed, everything she’s built is threatened, along with her family itself.
What stood out to me most about this book was the insider look at what life is actually like for one of these influencers. And man oh man, I’m not going to lie, it was equal parts fascinating and nauseating.
I personally know someone who took a crack at doing the Instamum thing, and I’ve got to say, this book NAILS what it entails. There’s the perfectly sculpted backdrop, every aesthetic of your life planned and produced, then one little posed ‘oopsie’ that allows people to relate and say, “See, she’s human and struggles just like me.”
Ellory Lloyd is a husband and wife writing team, both of them seriously strong writers. They’ve done their research, and I would not be surprised if they also know someone personally who is an Instamum, leading to their understanding of the machinations behind it. They know this. They get this.
This is a cautionary tale about the ways in which social media can overwhelm our lives, dictating the choices we make. The more we become editors of our own little ‘magazines,’ the less we stay connected to the present and perhaps even to ourselves.
The end is brilliant but haunting, containing the notion that any one of us can be seduced by social media, sucked in by the deep need for adoration, drained by all it demands.
This was hands down my favorite read in awhile!! I read it in twenty-four hours and couldn’t put the damn thing down.
Mira is travelling for the holidays when a terrible snow storm forces her to get stuck for the night during a layover in Newark. Harper, Mira’s slightly older and unflappable seatmate from the flight, has decided she can’t wait out the storm, so she hatches a plan to get a rental car and continue on.
Soon, Mira finds herself in a rental car with Harper and three other young strangers from the flight. As they attempt to drive through Pennsylvania in the middle of a terrible blizzard, strange things start happening. People’s belongings are disappearing. Alliances seem to be forming. And someone in the car is clearly lying.
If she wants to make it home alive, she’ll need to uncover the truth about these strangers before this nightmare drive turns fatal.
This is a read that will keep you on the edge of your seat!! It is like the Young Adult version of No Exit. Or perhaps even an updated, dark thriller version of The Breakfast Club.
It happens almost in real time, following what seems like just a few hours of a treacherous drive during the middle of the night in which one bad thing after another happens, forcing Mira and the others to make difficult -- and potentially deadly -- decisions.
It was especially fun to watch Mira attempt to get a read on these four strangers, while her opinions, suspicions and alliances continued to shift. Each of the characters was pleasingly complex and specific, and their lives and secrets were revealed in a slow and intriguing way, giving the reader -- like Mira -- reasons to suspect and fear each in turn. At certain points, you just sort of suspect EVERYONE.
Overall, I REALLY felt like I was in the hands of a very capable writer. This is the first book I’ve read by Natalie D. Richards, and it will NOT be the last. I intend to go back and read others now!!
Also, this needs to be a movie, STAT! Who’s working on that? Is anyone working on that??
I really can’t recommend this one enough. It’s such a fun, wintery thrill!!
This is a BOTM pick for December, so I’m sharing my thoughts on it now in the hopes that you’ll choose this book!!
Jane arrives in Birmingham, Alabama in need of money, so she walks dogs for residents in a wealthy enclave called Thornfield Estates. She’s treated as ‘the help’ amongst the country club set in this community, but she rests easy knowing that they don’t take enough interest in her to find out that Jane isn’t her real name.
Then she meets a handsome widower named Eddie, whose wife Bea drowned in a recent boating accident. Eddie is immediately drawn to Jane, and she is soon pulled into his life, struggling to fit in amongst the wealthy lifestyles of those at Thornfield.
Jane is increasingly concerned about the fate of Eddie’s wife, as well as the secrets about herself she’s tried to keep hidden. When it comes to their future, it seems like her past -- or his -- may pose a deadly threat.
This was a very fun read!! I’ll read Rachel Hawkin’s writing any day. As an author, she is decisive and playful, and she comes across with such confidence in her narration. Her skill at writing YA translates very well into a psychological thriller!!
The emotions of Jane are incredibly heightened and swing wildly, and there’s some YA-type sass, too, to some of her dialogue and internal thoughts. This puts us into the mind of a main character who is boldly crafted, flawed and unreliable (my favorite type!).
This has a southern gothic element, with a backdrop of Birmingham McMansions owned by wealthy athleisure housewives. It’s fun to watch Jane try to shoe-horn herself into the lifestyles of the wealthy, ladies-who-lunch set.
This story has parallels with “Jane Eyre,” although it’s definitely a modern retelling. There’s some similarities with Daphne Maurier’s “Rebecca,” too.
I highly recommend this for those who love psychological thrillers, but also those who enjoy well-written YA, New Adult and even romance.
This hits the shelves on Jan 5, 2021 or you can get it as an early release with BOTM right now, for the month of December!!
Thanks so much to #netgalley and #stmartinspress for the ARC!!
Cate is a middle-aged woman who gave up her career ambitions to raise her daughter and son, who are now both teenagers. Her husband works long hours at his psychology practice, providing therapy to children with sociopathic tendencies, and this fans the flames of Cate’s paranoia, as she is constantly worried that he’s cheating on her.
But Cate has also been casting a suspicious eye towards Owen, their strange neighbor across the street who has just been suspended from his job as a teacher after accusations of sexual misconduct, which he strongly denies, and has become sucked into the dark world of incel—involuntary celibate—forums.
When a young girl named Saffyre goes missing on their street, Owen seems the obvious suspect, since it seems he was the last person to see her alive. But Saffyre is a former patient of Cate’s husband, and what neither of them know is that she’s been stalking them for quite some time, unwilling to sever their connection. And now she seems to have vanished in thin air...
This is a bit more of a slower-paced mystery with one toe dipped into literary fiction than it is a full-on, heart-pounding thriller. But there’s plenty of intrigue and a few fun twists, and in exchange for the slower pace, you get deeper character development and strong arcs. That’s a trade off I’ll take any day!! Lisa Jewell’s writing -- and understanding of human psychology --is top notch.
The book explores some interesting themes, like the difference between being anonymous vs. being invisible, and the different types of love, such as needing someone vs. a more ‘pure’ form that doesn’t require anything from the other.
This book also sent me down the disturbing rabbit-hole of incels, who are involuntarily celibate, heterosexual men who blame their lack of romantic success on women and society. This is a real thing. There are websites dedicated to it. This is fascinating to know, but also scary and disturbing and I’m never leaving the house again.
This is a great read for fans of mysteries & thrillers, or people who enjoy getting into the skin of flawed - and not always ‘likable’ - characters!
Lila Ridgefield seems like the perfect wife from the outside, but she and her husband Aaron both have troubled pasts. When he goes missing, she’s very confused. She was the last person to see his body, and now he’s not where she put it.
Her small town in upstate NY is thrown into the spotlight when - on top of Aaron’s disappearance - a true crime podcast focuses on a teenage girl who also went missing in the area. Soon it’s discovered that more girls are missing, and it’s beginning to look like all of these missing persons cases may be linked. Lila is now the object of national media attention, and she has to figure out what has actually happened to her husband before she is found out -- or worse.
This domestic suspense thriller alternates between past and present, and flips between the POV of Lila and Ginny, the detective who is determined to uncover the truth. It has some Gone Girl vibes, which I love. The character of Lila is strong and sexy and complex and flawed, and I am here for it!
The premise is fantastic and unique, so the book starts off with a bang. The middle did drag a bit for me, but the pace picked up again during the climax. I did predict the ending, but I’m not necessarily bothered by that, especially since it closed with such a satisfying theme of female empowerment. Plus, there was an extra twist that I didn’t see coming that was very dark and disturbing.
(This may be a good place to add a trigger warning for those who’ve experienced abuse or sexual assault).
This is a popcorn psychological thriller. Like many commercial thrillers, the emphasis is on plotting and shocking twists more than character, making it one of those easy and fun reads you can devour in one sitting while you escape the world for awhile.
I’d definitely read the next book by Darby Kane! And I’m so grateful for the inspired and creative people like her who can craft stories that allow us to escape things like, oh say, global pandemics and contested elections.
I was interested in this book because the author has had an amazing career law enforcement: “Isabella was a graduate of the FBI National Academy in Quantico and the first Latina in her department to attain the rank of captain, she served as a patrol officer, hostage negotiator, spokesperson, recruit instructor, patrol supervisor, gang council coordinator, and district station commander.”
Makes me think this is definitely a woman with some stories to tell, right?
Nina Guerrera is an FBI agent who managed to get away from a serial killer at the age of sixteen. The man was never caught and has remained obsessed with her over the years. When she gains attention from a viral video, the man who abducted her is determined to play a game of cat and mouse with her, killing other women and leaving a trail of clues in his path, while the world watches. Nina and a team of experts at the FBI must discover who this man is and find him before he finds her and carries out his threat.
What I appreciated most about this book is that there’s definitely a lot of insider detail, told in a tone that is hard and real, giving it the feel of a police procedural a la Criminal Minds or NCIS. I found the elements of the case incredibly believable and interesting.
I was left wanting more of an emotional connection with Nina and the other characters.
This was released Nov. 1 by Thomas & Mercer, @amazonpublishing
Thank you #netgalley for the ARC of #thecipher
I’ve read all four books by Riley Sager (some of them twice), and I will continue to read whatever he writes. He is fantastic when it comes to pacing. He adds just the right amount of sharp detail -- and not a bit more than needed -- to help you visualize the story. And he is a master of plotting, redirects and twists.
In this latest, he does NOT disappoint.
The set up of this story is very similar to the Netflix series The Haunting of Hill House. This isn’t a bad thing, for those (like me!) who loved that series. If you also liked that series, or the source material -- the late, great Shirley Jackson’s incredible novel of the same name -- you’ll most likely really enjoy this gothic, perfect-for-Halloween read.
Maggie Holt is an interior designer who has just inherited a large house in Vermont, called Baneberry Hall, after the recent death of her father. Twenty-five years ago, her family fled the home in terror, and her father wrote a bestselling nonfiction book called House of Horrors, which outlined the incredible experiences they had with the supernatural at Baneberry.
The book alternates between Maggie’s present-day return to Baneberry Hall and chapters from her father’s terrifying bestseller, so that the two experiences unfold in parallel. Originally, Maggie plans to fix up the house and sell it, but as she gets pulled deeper into the secrets of the house, she becomes determined to uncover the truth of what happened in the house so many years ago, even if it kills her.
I really didn’t see the twists and turns coming. I thought I did. I thought I was all smart and had it all figured out, but I was fooled more times than I care to admit. Which is what I love about a great thriller.
Sager’s last book, Lock Every Door, remains my favorite because it is so unique and the characters so bold and specific. Still, I devoured this latest in about a day and loved every page of it. It really is the perfect gothic, super-creepy, haunted house read for October!
It goes without saying that Jonathan Lethem is a talented author. This latest from him is without a doubt imaginative and odd, like most of his work.
The Arrest takes place in a near future in which electricity stops working. Transportation is no more. There is now way for individuals around the world to communicate, beyond seeing each other face to face.
After this tragic turn of events, Sandy Duplessis, who now calls himself the Journeyman, is living in rural Maine. His life, now simple, involves delivering food grown by his sister and assisting the butcher. But before The Arrest happened, he was a screenwriter living in Los Angeles, working with a producer named Peter Todbaum, who is a bit of a morally questionable force of nature.
Now, after The Arrest, Todbaum resurfaces in his life -- for better or worse -- after having driven clear across the country in a retrofitted tunnel-digger powered by a nuclear reactor. While those in Sandy’s community are awed by this machine -- a rare vehicle in a future in which they no longer exist, Sandy and his sister begin to question Todbaum’s motives for being there.
I always appreciate a writer who has the capacity to imagine a world unlike our own. I did find the backstory of Todbaum and Sandy interesting, as well as their strange reunification, but I felt myself distracted by what seemed to me like too much description of this semi-dystopian future.
If there was going to be so much space and time dedicated to describing the world, I wanted for a more boldly painted dystopia. There’s some interesting themes clearly being explored here through Todbaum, his contraption and people’s reactions to him, but I kept feeling lost in lengthy descriptions of the land, the new lifestyle in this area of Maine and some of the supporting characters.
Overall, I was unable to push through and finish this, and I stopped past the midpoint. At some point, I may go back and finish it, and I will definitely continue to read Lethem’s work. This one, perhaps, just wasn’t for me.
Thank you Netgalley and HarperCollins for the ARC!