ARC Book Review: The Night Shift By Alex Finlay

From Goodreads:

It’s New Year’s Eve 1999. Y2K is expected to end in chaos: planes falling from the sky, elevators plunging to earth, world markets collapsing. A digital apocalypse. None of that happens. But at a Blockbuster Video in Linden, New Jersey, four teenage girls working the night shift are attacked. Only one survives. Police quickly identify a suspect who flees and is never seen again.

Fifteen years later, in the same town, four teenage employees working late at an ice cream store are attacked, and again only one makes it out alive.

Both surviving victims recall the killer speaking only a few final words… “Goodnight, pretty girl.”

In the aftermath, three lives intersect: the survivor of the Blockbuster massacre who’s forced to relive her tragedy; the brother of the original suspect, who’s convinced the police have it wrong; and the FBI agent, who’s determined to solve both cases. On a collision course toward the truth, all three lives will forever be changed, and not everyone will make it out alive.

Twisty, poignant, and redemptive, The Night Shift is a story about the legacy of trauma and how the broken can come out on the other side, and it solidifies Alex Finlay as one of the new leading voices in the world of thrillers

Review:

I received an ARC of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

I could NOT put this book down! The initial mystery grabbed me by the throat and kept me in a stranglehold until the very end! Then, as layer upon layer was added, deepening the intrigue, my finger started blistering from turning the pages so fast! This one will keep you guessing (and on the edge of your seat) until the very end! I liked ‘Every Last Fear’, but I LOVED ‘The Night Shift’. This is definitely an author to watch!!!

Book Review: Hold Back The Night By Sean Lynch

Two escaped convicts, a raging wildfire, and an innocent family in both of their paths . . .

One word is all I need to describe this book – intense. From the SWAT scenes to the criminal element to the fire, this book will keep you on the edge of your seat, breathless, not sure whether you should beg for it to stop or beg for more. I chose more and was quite satisfied with the outcome.

From Goodreads:

As wildfires blaze in Northern California, a female SWAT team operative hunts two escaped convicts in a heart-pounding thriller inspired by real-life cases and crackling with authenticity from bestselling author and law enforcement veteran Sean Lynch.

If you think you’re scared now…wait until dark.

Three unsuspecting women. Two escaped convicts. One shocking night of escalating terror. From acclaimed crime writer and law enforcement veteran Sean Lynch…

It begins with a spark. A simple act of carelessness that ignites the autumn grass of the Sierra Nevadas. In minutes, the flames spread. A raging wildfire sweeps down the mountain, engulfing a van from the local prison–giving two chained convicts a chance to escape…
Two desperate men. Psychologically disturbed. Extremely dangerous.

In Farnham County live three very different women. Marjorie Guthrie, a wealthy suburban housewife fleeing an abusive marriage; Mary Hernandez, her troubled, rebellious sister; and Leanne Strayer, a young SWAT deputy with a dark past. All three share one thing in common: they are in the wrong place at the wrong time….
Today, their worst fears come true. Tonight, the nightmares come home.

Book Review: At First Light By Barbara Nickless

Gritty murders full of symbolism. Viking lore and ruins. An academic and a detective hot on the killer’s trail.

This was a smart book that read like watching a movie and kept me guessing until the end! The characters were great, well developed, perfectly flawed, and interesting. The plot was enthralling, and the Viking history, semiotics, and lore were fascinating! This is the first in a brilliant new series that is sure to be a success!

From Goodreads: Ritual murder. Archaic clues. A visionary killer. In this heart-stopping novel by the Wall Street Journal and Amazon Charts bestselling author of the Sydney Rose Parnell series, words can kill.

On the muddy banks of the Calumet River, a body has been found posed next to a series of mysterious glyphs and bearing wounds from a ritualistic slaying. Chicago detective Addie Bisset knows only one man who can decipher the message left by the killer: her friend Dr. Evan Wilding. A brilliant forensic semiotician, Evan decodes the etchings as Viking Age runes. They suggest either human sacrifice or righteous punishment. But to what god? And for what sins?

Only one thing is clear from the disturbing runic riddles: there are more victims to come.

As Evan races to determine the identity of the Viking Poet, he and Addie uncover the killer’s most terrifying secret yet: the motive. This startling discovery puts Evan’s life in mortal danger, and verse by ancient verse, time is running out. 

Book Review: One By One By Frieda McFadden

Three couples leave for a rural resort vacation, but when their car breaks down they find themselves stranded and lost in the woods . . . but are they alone?

This is the second book I’ve read by this author, and while the plot was no less compelling than the first, I found the writing a little weaker in this one. I was so drawn in by the story, however, that I barely noticed the little hiccups after a while as I sped through the pages!

From Goodreads: One by one, they will get what they deserve…

A night spent sleeping on dirt and leaves is not how Claire Matchett expected to spend her vacation.

She thought this would be a break from the stresses of work and raising her young children. A chance to repair her damaged marriage. A week of hiking and hot tubs with two other couple friends. It sounded like heaven.

Then Claire’s minivan breaks down on a lonely dirt road. With no cell reception, the group has no choice but to hike the rest of the way to their hotel. But it turns out the woods aren’t as easy to navigate as they thought.

Hours later, they are lost. Hopelessly lost.

And as they navigate deeper into the woods, the members of their party are struck down mysteriously one by one. Has a wild animal been hunting them? Or is the hunter one of them?

But as more time passes, one thing becomes clear:

Only one of them will return home alive. 

Book Review: The Girl In The Moss By Loreth Anne White

An ex-cop strives to find her new normal as she reconciles recently recovered memories about her traumatic past, tries to earn her P.I. license, and her feelings about her engagement to a man who’s still with the force. A new client’s cold case may be just what she needs – if it doesn’t end up getting her killed.

This thriller had twists out the wazoo! Just when one revelation was made, everything was turned upside down by the next! Not my favorite by this author, but a solid, suspenseful read.

This is the 3rd book in a series, which I didn’t know when I picked it up. It definitely wasn’t necessary to read the previous books, but it probably would have helped with certain aspects of the MC’s backstory.

From Goodreads: A shallow grave exposes deadly secrets as bestselling author Loreth Anne White brings her thrilling series of romantic suspense to its shocking conclusion…

Disgraced ex-cop Angie Pallorino is determined to make a new start for herself as a private investigator. But first, she and her lover, newly promoted homicide detective James Maddocks, attempt a quiet getaway to rekindle a romance struggling in the shadows of their careers. The peace doesn’t last long when human skeletal remains are found in a nearby mossy grove.

This decades-old mystery is just what Angie needs to establish her new career—even as it thrusts her and Maddocks back into the media spotlight, once again endangering their tenuous relationship.

Then, when Angie’s inquiry into the old crime intersects with a cold case from her own policing past—one that a detective on Maddocks’s new team is working—the investigation takes a startling twist. It puts more than Angie’s last shot at redemption and a future with Maddocks at risk. The mystery of the girl in the moss could kill her.

Book Review: Do Not Disturb By Freida McFadden

After committing a horrible crime, a woman goes on the run before the police find out. When a blizzard forces her off the road, she seeks shelter at out of the way, creepy, rundown Baxter Motel, where the cute owner is friendly, but the tenants have a history of winding up dead.

I’ve found a new author! One who writes suspenseful, Hitchcockian-type books that keep me on the edge of my seat! You may think you have this one figured out, but you may be wrong! Parts were not completely unpredictable, and I wasn’t a huge fan of the epilogue, but there’s no denying that this twisty thriller had me hooked! (I may have immediately bought another book by this author. And I may have immediately started reading it. My apologies to the hordes of unread books I have that have been patiently waiting their turn. #sorrynotsorry )

From Goodreads:

Quinn Alexander has committed an unthinkable crime.

To avoid spending her life in prison, Quinn makes a run for it. She leaves behind her home, her job, and her family. She grabs her passport and heads for the northern border before the police can discover what she’s done.

But when an unexpected snowstorm forces her off the road, Quinn must take refuge at the broken-down, isolated Baxter Motel. The handsome and kindly owner, Nick Baxter, is only too happy to offer her a cheap room for the night.

Unfortunately, the Baxter Motel isn’t the quiet, safe haven it seemed to be. The motel has a dark and disturbing past. And in the dilapidated house across the way, the silhouette of Nick’s ailing wife is always at the window. Always watching.

In the morning, Quinn must leave the motel. She’ll pack up her belongings and get back on the road to freedom.

But first, she must survive the night.

Do Not Disturb is a Hitchcock-style psychological thriller that will keep you tearing through the pages until you reach the shocking conclusion!

And The 2021 Al Blanchard Award Goes To . . .

. . . alas, not me but someone else! But I was one of the top 4 and received an honorable mention for my crime/mystery short story, “Lady Killer,” so that’s pretty cool. I was unable to attend this year’s Crime Bake convention in Massachusetts, but they sent me this award certificate to commemorate the achievement.

This is the second time I’ve made it to the top 10 of the Al Blanchard Awards, but my first time as a finalist, and I have to say, it was pretty exciting!

The award submission period opens each January and is open to all writers living in New England or writers who have written a story in the mystery, thriller, suspense, caper, or horror genre that takes place in New England. Find out more info here.

For those who don’t know who Al was: (as taken from the Crime Bake website)

“Al Blanchard was MWA-NE chapter president and a member of Sisters in Crime when he and then-president of Sisters in Crime New England Gin Mackey seized the initiative to organize a regional mystery conference for New England. He then served as co-chair for the first three New England Crime Bake conferences.

Al exemplified everything great about mystery writing. He was the grateful recipient of mentoring and advice from writers who came before him, and he was always ready to reach out to new and aspiring writers to share his experience and knowledge. He was a dedicated and prolific writer whose career was exploding at the time of his tragic death in 2004.

The New England Crime Bake Committee established the Al Blanchard Award in his memory to annually honor the best crime short story by a New England writer or with a New England setting.”

To all those genre fans out there, happy reading and happy writing!

Book Review: A Dark Lure By Loreth Anne White

A woman who escaped her long-term abduction by a serial killer leaves her old life behind and starts over at a ranch in a remote part of Canada. Although her captor was arrested and died in jail, she still can’t let her guard down, and now the patriarch who runs the place where she calls home is dying, threatening her new way of life – but her actual life is also in danger.

I’m not entirely sure why I liked this book so much. It’s dark, and dreary, and has trigger warnings for days. It also has light, and hope, and the promise of new beginnings. Plenty of suspense and tension kept me hooked, crafty twists kept me guessing, and I stayed up way too late reading the end. This author’s been a bit hit or miss for me, but this was a hit!

From Goodreads:

Twelve years ago, Sarah Baker was abducted by the Watt Lake Killer and sexually assaulted for months before managing to escape. The killer was caught, but Sarah lost everything: her marriage, her child, and the life she loved.

Struggling with PTSD, Sarah changes her name to Olivia West and finds sanctuary working on Broken Bar Ranch. But as her scars finally begin to heal, a cop involved with her horrific case remains convinced the Watt Lake Killer is still out there. He sets a lure for the murderer, and a fresh body is discovered. Now Olivia must face the impossible—could the butcher be back, this time to finish the job?

As a frigid winter isolates the ranch, only one person can help Olivia: Cole McDonough, a writer, adventurer, and ranch heir who stirs long-dormant feelings in her. But this time, Olivia’s determination to shut out her past may destroy more than her chance at love. It could cost her her life.

Book Review: Every Last Fear By Alex Finlay

The premise of this book alone is enough to creep under your skin – a family featured in a true-crime documentary is found dead while on vacation in Mexico. While at first glance their deaths appear to be a tragic accident, a closer look, especially when taken in the context of what was going on in their lives, reveals something more sinister at play.

This one was fast-paced and twisty, with enough going on that as a reader I never really found sure footing. Anything could have been the truth, anyone could have been guilty, and the author would have had me believing it. I found myself liking the supporting characters more than the MC, and certain scenarios were a little far-fetched, but hey, this is a thriller and I was happily along for the ride!

From Goodreads:

In one of the year’s most anticipated debut psychological thrillers, a family made infamous by a true crime documentary is found dead, leaving their surviving son to uncover the truth about their final days.

“They found the bodies on a Tuesday.” So begins this twisty and breathtaking novel that traces the fate of the Pine family, a thriller that will both leave you on the edge of your seat and move you to tears.

After a late night of partying, NYU student Matt Pine returns to his dorm room to devastating news: nearly his entire family—his mom, his dad, his little brother and sister—have been found dead from an apparent gas leak while vacationing in Mexico. The local police claim it was an accident, but the FBI and State Department seem far less certain—and they won’t tell Matt why.

The tragedy makes headlines everywhere because this isn’t the first time the Pine family has been thrust into the media spotlight. Matt’s older brother, Danny—currently serving a life sentence for the murder of his teenage girlfriend Charlotte—was the subject of a viral true crime documentary suggesting that Danny was wrongfully convicted. Though the country has rallied behind Danny, Matt holds a secret about his brother that he’s never told anyone: the night Charlotte was killed Matt saw something that makes him believe his brother is guilty of the crime.

When Matt returns to his small hometown to bury his parents and siblings, he’s faced with a hostile community that was villainized by the documentary, a frenzied media, and memories he’d hoped to leave behind forever. Now, as the deaths in Mexico appear increasingly suspicious and connected to Danny’s case, Matt must unearth the truth behind the crime that sent his brother to prison—putting his own life in peril—and forcing him to confront his every last fear.

Told through multiple points-of-view and alternating between past and present, Every Last Fear is not only a page-turning thriller, it’s also a poignant story about a family managing heartbreak and tragedy, and living through a fame they never wanted. 

ARC Book Review: These Deadly Games By Diana Urban

As high schooler Crystal and her friends prepare to compete in a gaming contest for huge amounts of prize money, she gets a text challenging her to play a different game – with her younger sister’s life as the prize!

This book is a page-turner! Everybody’s a suspect in this rollercoaster of a thrill ride where the stakes are high and the games are deadly! Urban pulls no punches in this one, ruthlessly torturing her characters with every twist and turn on the pages. I’m not into video games, so I was a little worried that there would be sections that would bore me to tears, but that wasn’t the case at all! If you love YA mysteries that keep you guessing until the very end, check this one out!

Thanks to Diana’s Street Team, NetGalley, and the publishers for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

From Goodreads:

Let’s play a game.

You have 24 hours to win. If you break my rules, she dies. If you call the police, she dies. If you tell your parents or anyone else, she dies.

Are you ready?

When Crystal Donavan gets a message on a mysterious app with a video of her little sister gagged and bound, she agrees to play the kidnapper’s game. At first, they make her complete bizarre tasks: steal a test and stuff it in a locker, bake brownies, make a prank call.

But then Crystal realizes each task is meant to hurt—and kill—her friends, one by one. But if she refuses to play, the kidnapper will kill her sister. Is someone trying to take her team out of the running for a gaming tournament? Or have they uncovered a secret from their past, and wants them to pay for what they did…

As Crystal makes the impossible choices between her friends and her sister, she must uncover the truth and find a way to outplay the kidnapper… before it’s too late.

Author of All Your Twisted Secrets, Diana Urban’s explosive sophomore novel, These Deadly Games, will keep you riveted until the final twist is revealed.

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