REVIEW: THE COUPLE AT THE TABLE, BY SOPHIE HANNAH

Jane and William are enjoying their honeymoon at an exclusive couples-only resort…

…until Jane receives a chilling note warning her to “Beware of the couple at the table nearest to yours.” At dinner that night, five other couples are present, and none of their tables is any nearer or farther away than any of the others. It’s almost as if someone has set the scene in order to make the warning note meaningless—but why would anyone do that?

Jane has no idea.

But someone in this dining room will be dead before breakfast, and all the evidence will suggest that no one there that night could have possibly committed the crime.

curl up and read thoughts

 

In a stunning and twisted story, The Couple at the Table takes the reader through a series of events that lead to the murder of one of them.

Lucy’s husband was stolen by Jane, her life has turned upside down, and even her vacation at a resort she loved had changed everything for her.

But when Jane is murdered during that vacation, everyone is a suspect, including Lucy, but Simon Waterhouse and Charlie Zailer are determined to find the truth.

So many twists and turns carry the reader through until the truth unfolds in strange ways. 4.5 stars.

***

REVIEW: THE DARKNESS OF OTHERS, BY CATE HOLAHAN

Imani Banks lives in a posh Brooklyn Heights neighborhood that has just been rocked to its core. An acclaimed movie director has been murdered, and his blond trophy wife—Imani’s closest friend—is missing. Their neighbors, along with the media, jump to the conclusion that Melissa Walker has killed her husband in a fit of rage and is on the run.

Fortunately for the missing actress, Imani is a psychiatrist as well as a steadfast friend. She will never give up her search and is determined to prove Melissa’s innocence. It shouldn’t take a degree in human behavior to know that Melissa would never leave her daughter behind.

Recently, Imani and her chef husband rented some extra rooms in their house to a struggling waitress from his restaurant. Tonya Sayre has moved in with her teen daughter and the convenient timing and her suspicious behavior soon lead Imani to suspect that the true killer is living right under her own roof. Now all she has to do is prove it.
 
 
 
curl up and read thoughts

A story set in the Pandemic, The Darkness of Others takes the reader into the midst of the characters’ struggles. Narrated alternately by major characters Imani, Tonya, and Melissa, with supporting characters Philip and others, we soon begin to understand the conflicts and how what is happening to them in this new world order has intensified their lives.

As I followed the journeys of the characters, I felt for each of them, especially Tonya and Imani. These two are at odds with one another because of the circumstances of their lives, but I rooted for them both. I believed that their conflicts were stoked by the events of the world in which they live and the other characters whose issues are adding to their own challenges.

As the story escalates, we soon begin to realize how each of them is endangered by the actions of others. What happened to one of the characters and who actually murdered him heightens the story and keeps us guessing. A tempting tale that earned 5 stars.
 
***

REVIEW: LONG GONE, BY JOANNA SCHAFFHAUSEN

Chicago detective Annalisa Vega shattered her life, personally and professionally, when she turned in her ex-cop father for his role in a murder. Her family can’t forgive her. Her fellow officers no longer trust her. So when detective Leo Hammond turns up dead in a bizarre murder, Annalisa thinks she has nothing to lose by investigating whatever secrets he hid behind the thin blue line.

Annalisa quickly zeroes in on someone who had good reason to want Hammond dead: a wealthy, fast-talking car salesman who’d gotten away with murder once and wasn’t about to let Hammond take a second shot. Moe Bocks remains the number one suspect in his girlfriend’s brutal unsolved death, and now he’s got a new woman in his sights—Annalisa’s best friend.

Annalisa is desperate to protect her friend and force Bocks to pay, either for Hammond’s death or his earlier crime. But when no one else believes the connection, she takes increasingly risky chances to reveal the truth. Because both Hammond and Bocks had secrets to die for, and if she doesn’t untangle them soon, Annalisa will be next.

 

curl up and read thoughts

When Annalisa focuses on finding the perpetrators in some old and new murders, her ex-husband and current partner is about to transfer. So will he be Long Gone before they are able to find the answers?

As we follow the clues and find no proof to substantiate what they believe, we begin to realize that there is much more to the cases than we had believed. Convoluted and twisted events take us in many directions, and Annalisa’s badge and her life are at risk. Finally, however, the answers come from unexpected sources. A 4.5 star review.

***

REVIEW: THE FAMILY REMAINS, BY LISA JEWELL


Early one morning on the shore of the Thames, DCI Samuel Owusu is called to the scene of a gruesome discovery. When Owusu sends the evidence for examination, he learns the bones are connected to a cold case that left three people dead on the kitchen floor in a Chelsea mansion thirty years ago.

Rachel Rimmer has also received a shock—news that her husband, Michael, has been found dead in the cellar of his house in France. All signs point to an intruder, and the French police need her to come urgently to answer questions about Michael and his past that she very much doesn’t want to answer.

After fleeing London thirty years ago in the wake of a horrific tragedy, Lucy Lamb is finally coming home. While she settles in with her children and is just about to purchase their first-ever house, her brother takes off to find the boy from their shared past whose memory haunts their present.

As they all race to discover answers to these convoluted mysteries, they will come to find that they’re connected in ways they could have never imagined.

In this masterful standalone sequel to her haunting New York Times bestseller, The Family Upstairs, Lisa Jewell proves she is writing at the height of her powers with another jaw-dropping, intricate, and affecting novel about the lengths we will go to protect the ones we love and uncover the truth.

 

curl up and read thoughts

As we begin the journey with The Family Remains, we are introduced to characters that are connected to events from the past, and in some ways, their lives have intersected. At first, we meet Henry Lamb whose past centered around an old house where terrible things happened. We slowly meet other characters connected to him, most of whom are apparently hiding things. And Henry is diligently searching for someone from his distant past, who keeps eluding him.

The story also begins with the discovery of a body in the Thames, which seems to be tied to that same old house.

How will all of these characters finally come together, and what do their secrets tell us? How did their lives go wrong, and how did they all manage to keep their pasts at bay? The stories unfold in different timelines, and in many ways, they were convoluted, but as we learn more about how the characters are connected, we are intrigued. A sometimes confusing story, this one earned 4 stars.

***

REVIEW: STAY AWAKE, BY MEGAN GOLDIN

Liv Reese wakes up in the back of a taxi with no idea where she is or how she got there. When she’s dropped off at the door of her brownstone, a stranger answers—a stranger who claims to live in her apartment. She reaches for her phone to call for help, only to discover it’s missing. In its place is a bloodstained knife. Her hands are covered in scribbled messages, like graffiti on her skin: STAY AWAKE.

Two years ago, Liv was thriving as a successful writer for a trendy magazine. Now, she’s lost and disoriented in a New York City that looks nothing like what she remembers. Catching a glimpse of the local news, she’s horrified to see reports of a crime scene where the victim’s blood has been used to scrawl a message across a window, similar to the message that’s inked on her hands. What did she do last night? And why does she remember nothing from the past two years? Liv finds herself on the run for a crime she doesn’t remember committing. But there’s someone who does know exactly what she did, and they’ll do anything to make her forget—permanently.

A complex thriller that unfolds at a breakneck speed, Stay Awake will keep you up all night.

curl up and read thoughts

As we follow the journey of a traumatized woman in Stay Awake, we are definitely intrigued…and unable to stop reading.

Liv had a great life until someone tried to murder her. After awakening from a coma, she is plagued by amnesia: every time she awakens from sleep, her short term memory is erased.

The story flips back and forth in time, from two years ago with events leading up to Liv’s trauma, to recent days and weeks as she tries to piece things together.

The tale also alternated between Liv’s experiences and the detectives pursuing the case of a recent murder that eventually connects to some of what has happened to Liv.

I couldn’t wait to see what would happen.  5 stars.

***My e-ARC came to me from the publisher via NetGalley.

REVIEW: THE IT GIRL, BY RUTH WARE

April Clarke-Cliveden was the first person Hannah Jones met at Oxford.

Vivacious, bright, occasionally vicious, and the ultimate It girl, she quickly pulled Hannah into her dazzling orbit. Together, they developed a group of devoted and inseparable friends—Will, Hugh, Ryan, and Emily—during their first term. By the end of the year, April was dead.

Now, a decade later, Hannah and Will are expecting their first child, and the man convicted of killing April, former Oxford porter John Neville, has died in prison. Relieved to have finally put the past behind her, Hannah’s world is rocked when a young journalist comes knocking and presents new evidence that Neville may have been innocent. As Hannah reconnects with old friends and delves deeper into the mystery of April’s death, she realizes that the friends she thought she knew all have something to hide…including a murder.

 

 

curl up and read thoughts

As we follow this mysterious story of The It Girl, we are led on a journey into the past and the present, by way of narratives labeled Before and After. Sometimes the pursuit takes us to interesting places, but we also begin to find it a little slow going, as so much continues to be hidden behind more secrets and lies.

Who can Hannah trust, as she tries to find answers? As I lost myself in the questions, I also found the victim, April, to be a horrible person so much of the time. Beneath her charm, beauty, and hidden beneath the protections of her money and things, was a cruel streak that came out on a regular basis. Not that we want to blame the victim, but so much of what happened to her had to result partially from her own behavior.

Nevertheless, there were many who wanted the truth. So Hannah pursues it. In the end, the twists and turns kept us going until finally we do get the stunning answers. I thought I had it figured out, but at the last minute, there was a definite turn in an unexpected direction. I am giving this one 4.5 stars, mainly because it was tedious at times. I had to keep going, though. I wanted to know!

***

REVIEW: THE SECOND HUSBAND, BY KATE WHITE

After losing her husband, Derrick, in what appears to have been a random street crime, thirtysomething Emma has built a new life with widower Tom, who is kind, handsome, driven, and successful. Emma is finally able to feel safe again, both in her relationship with Tom and in the home they’ve made together on the Connecticut shore.

Then one day a homicide detective shows up at Emma and Tom’s door asking questions. Though Emma had been cleared of her husband’s murder, it appears that law enforcement is taking another look at her and the case.

What do they know? Are they on the right track this time? And most importantly, will the renewed investigation ruin Emma’s chances of a happy life?

With twists and turns all the way to the last page, this fast-paced, expertly plotted novel will have you asking that age-old question: how well do you really know the ones you love?


curl up and read thoughts
From the very first page of The Second Husband, the reader is thrust into mysterious events surrounding the first husband’s murder. And as the cold case reheats, we are unsure about what Emma’s second husband might have had to do with it all.

As each new piece of the mystery leads us down one twisty path after another, we are definitely uncertain about what to believe. The intensity grows and until the very last page, we are wondering what will unfold next. A page turner that earned 5 stars from me.

***

REVIEW: REPUTATION, BY SARAH VAUGHAN

As a politician, Emma has sacrificed a great deal for her career—including her marriage and her relationship with her daughter, Flora.

A former teacher, the glare of the spotlight is unnerving for Emma, particularly when it leads to countless insults, threats, and trolling as she tries to work in the public eye. As a woman, she knows her reputation is worth its weight in gold but as a politician, she discovers it only takes one slip-up to destroy it completely.

Fourteen-year-old Flora is learning the same hard lessons at school as she encounters heartless bullying. When another teenager takes her own life, Emma lobbies for a new law to protect women and girls from the effects of online abuse. Now, Emma and Flora find their personal lives uncomfortably intersected…but then the unthinkable happens.

A man is found dead in Emma’s home. A man she had every reason to be afraid of and to want gone. Fighting to protect her reputation, and determined to protect her family at all costs, Emma is pushed to the limits as the worst happens and her life is torn apart.
 
 
 
curl up and read thoughts

The price of a Reputation is high, and in our story, MP Emma Webster is about to find out how a life can unravel so quickly and totally when someone makes a poor choice or two along the way.

Emma was trying to protect her teenage daughter, whose own poor choices had led to a stain on her reputation. As more and more layers are added to the bad moves made by these characters, the suspense ratchets up as we wonder how it will all play out.

When someone is murdered, will the secrets go on after the death of that individual? And will Emma and her daughter’s reputations survive?

A lot of twists and turns along the way take us to a semblance of order, but there will always be the possibility of more secrets being revealed. A 5 star read.

***My e-ARC came from the publisher via NetGalley.
 
***

REVIEW: THE LONG WEEKEND, BY GILLY MACMILLAN

Three couples

Two bodies

One secret

Dark Fell Barn is a “perfectly isolated” retreat, or so says its website when Jayne books a reservation for her friends. A quiet place, far removed from the rest of the world, is exactly what they need.

The women arrive for a girls’ night ahead of their husbands. There’s ex-Army Jayne, hardened and serious, but also damaged. Ruth, the driven doctor and new mother who is battling demons of her own. Young Emily, just wed and insecure, the newest addition of this tight-knit band. Missing this year is Edie, who was the glue holding them together, until her husband died suddenly.

But what they hoped would be a relaxing break soon turns to horror. Upon arrival at Dark Fell Barn, the women find a devastating note claiming one of their husbands will be murdered. There are no phones, no cell service to check on their men. Friendships fracture as the situation spins wildly out of control. Betrayal can come in many forms.

This group has kept each other’s secrets for far too long.

curl up and read thoughts

The Long Weekend begins as three women travel to a barn they will be renting as a retreat. Their husbands are supposed to join them the next day.

But soon things go awry, and just when we think nothing can get worse, it does. A threatening letter, supposedly from one of the women in their group who was not invited, stirs things up and soon paranoia and fear dominate them all.

Ruth deals with her feelings by drinking too much, to the point of blackouts; Emily is focused on trying to get in touch with her husband; and Jayne is aloof and dealing with her own problems silently. In addition, the owners of the property are struggling with health issues.

Meanwhile, an unidentified narrator leads us down a path to his own twisted and dangerous ending.

As the twists and turns get darker and more frightening, we are not sure how or when anyone will find safety. 4.5 stars.

***

REVIEW: THE OVERNIGHT GUEST, BY HEATHER GUDENKAUF

True crime writer Wylie Lark doesn’t mind being snowed in at the isolated farmhouse where she’s retreated to write her new book. A cozy fire, complete silence. It would be perfect, if not for the fact that decades earlier, at this very house, two people were murdered in cold blood and a girl disappeared without a trace.

As the storm worsens, Wylie finds herself trapped inside the house, haunted by the secrets contained within its walls—haunted by secrets of her own. Then she discovers a small child in the snow just outside. After bringing the child inside for warmth and safety, she begins to search for answers. But soon it becomes clear that the farmhouse isn’t as isolated as she thought, and someone is willing to do anything to find them.
 
 
curl up and read thoughts

A chilling mystery with several layers to unfold, The Overnight Guest kept me rapidly turning the pages throughout. The alternative narratives spotlighted characters that seemed mysterious and unknown until the very end. Slowly we learn what happened to Josie Doyle and her family, and how her “overnight guest” and best friend managed in the intervening years.

I was holding my breath as we approached the conclusion and while our protagonist fights for freedom and release. I gave this one 4.5 stars instead of 5 because I struggled to figure out the various narratives. But in the end, the story did not suffer from a little confusion.
 
***