Book Reviews

Posted in All Book Reviews, Crime fiction, Mystery, Thrillers

Book Review: The Woods Are Waiting (By Katherine Greene)

A big thanks to NetGalley and Crooked Lane for an ARC of The Woods are Waiting by Katherine Greene. This was my introduction to the author, and the premise was incredibly intriguing. Read on to find out how this thriller fares.

Genre: 

Thriller, Mystery

Blurb:

Cheyenne Ashby has lived under the shadow of her mother’s eccentricities all her life. Constance Ashby is the protector of the small town of Blue Cliff, keeping at bay the evil entity that haunts the surrounding forest. When three children are found dead in the forest, out-of-towner Jasper Clinton is convicted. But Cheyenne, unable to bear the weight of her family traditions, superstitions, and responsibilities, leaves her town and turns her back on her mother and on the two people who matter the most to her – Natalie and Jackson.

Five years later, another child goes missing. The event leaves Constance Ashby a wreck. Cheyenne returns to fulfill her duty and take care of her mother. She faces her past once again and tries to rebuild the broken relationships with those that she still loves. But, as Cheyenne and Natalie realize, there’s only one way to bury that past and resolve the events that have pushed the town into an increasing frenzy of fear and anger – face the evil that lives in the woods.

Overall Rating:

8 out of 10 stars

Plot:

9 out of 10 stars

Characterization:

10 out of 10 stars

Primary Element:

10 out of 10 stars for its mystery; 7 out of 10 stars for its thrill

Writing Style:

10 out of 10 stars

Part of a Series: 

No.

Highlighted Takeaway:

A great mix of mystery, creepiness, and the emotional struggles that come with life’s tough decisions, The Woods Are Waiting is an excellent debut by Katherine Greene, making her an author to watch.

What I Liked:

The Woods Are Waiting does justice to a not-uncommon theme – a small town set in its ways and beliefs, plagued by hauntings of an unknown being, and rife with unrest in the aftermath of tragedy. What it gets right is:

  • the characterization of the two protagonists and multiple supporting persons, each holding their own, with their own voice, and their own growth,
  • the emotional conflicts that accompany the tough decisions you have to make sometimes and their aftermath,
  • the vulnerability and strength in relationships of all kinds,
  • the setting, especially that of the forest, and its impact on the people and the events they experience,
  • a mystery that keeps you guessing right till the end

What I Didn’t Like:

While there was little to specifically dislike in Katherine Greene’s debut thriller, the only thing that would have made it better was a little more creepiness. There was significant focus on the ‘creature within the woods’, but there was just something lacking in the effect the narrative had; it left you curious more than unsettled, which is what I was expecting given the setting and theme.

It also moves steadily, but at a slow(ish) pace, picking up in intensity after the 70% mark. That doesn’t in any way affect the outcome, but I definitely found the ‘face the evil’ aspect to be introduced much later than the blurb had me believe.

Who Should Read It:

You’ll enjoy Katherine Greene’s work if you like thrillers with emotion and mysteries with supernatural elements. It’s perfect for fans of Tim Weaver’s David Raker series (because of their similar settings, especially The Dead Tracks) or Mark Edwards (because of their similar themes, especially The Retreat).

Who Should Avoid:

Trigger Warning: The Woods Are Waiting does involve crimes against children, although it is non-violently handled. However, if that’s a particularly sensitive topic for you, I’d definitely recommend avoiding this one.

You could also skip this if thrillers with supernatural themes aren’t a favorite.

Read It For:

A story that excellently combines a creepy mystery and the complexities of relationships and emotions.

I really enjoyed The Woods Are Waiting and finished it within a couple of days. It’s definitely a book that keeps you turning the pages. If you’re looking to try a new author with immense potential, you can pre-order your copy of Katherine Greene’s debut here. It goes on sale in July 2023.

Share recommendations of your favorite thrillers in the comments below. And, as always, thank you for stopping at The Book Review Station!

This post contains affiliate links. The Book Review Station may earn a small commission, at no additional cost to you, if you use these links to purchase books. Thanks!

– Rishika

Posted in All Book Reviews, Crime fiction, Mystery

Book Review: Snowblind (By Ragnar Jónasson)

Snowblind, by Ragnar Jónasson, was an impulse pick-up for me at my library. (Yes, I do spend a lot of time at the library, which probably isn’t a surprise at this point!) The blurb and setting were interesting, especially as the weather outside more or less mimicked that within the pages of the book. The book is a translation from the original and has been translated into English by Quentin Bates (who has also translated Books 2 to 5 in the Dark Iceland series.

How did my introduction to Ragnar Jónasson’s work go? Read on to find out.

Genre: 

Thriller, Mystery

Length: 

320 pages

Blurb:

Rookie policeman, Ari Thor, leaves behind his home and girlfriend in Reykjavik and takes up his first assignment in the remote village of Siglufjordur. Often snowed in during winter, the small fishing town has little in the way of crime. Until an elderly, famous writer – a resident of Siglufjordur – falls to his death, and a young woman is found half-naked, unconscious, and in a pool of her own blood, all within the span of a few days. As a snowstorm rages on, cutting off the only path into and out of the village and, Ari Thor faces more than a growing sense of claustrophobia – he faces the close-knit community of Siglufjordur that tells little and hides a lot. What price will he need to pay before he finds the killer among them?

Overall Rating:

8 out of 10 stars

Plot:

8 out of 10 stars

Characterization:

8 out of 10 stars

Primary Element:

4 out of 10 stars for its thrill; 8 out of 10 stars for its mystery

Writing Style:

7 out of 10 stars

Part of a Series: 

Yes, this is Book 1 in the Dark Iceland series, featuring Ari Thor. The books are in a different order in the Icelandic version and in the translated, English version. Snowblind is the starting point for readers of the English version (while being the second book in the Icelandic series), but it does not feel like it picks up mid-series.

Highlighted Takeaway:

A character-driven whodunit that pulls you right into its bleak, snowy setting, Snowblind is probably best enjoyed in the winter months with a cup of hot coffee, tea, or cocoa by your side.

What I Liked:

The setting of Snowblind is one of its highlights. It is perfectly crafted and sets the stage for the entire story, making each dialog and action that much easier to envision and connect with. Another highlight is its characterization. Moving through multiple POVs, the book gives you incredible insight into each character and their motivations, without becoming overwhelming.

What I Didn’t Like:

The only thing I would say I didn’t like is how the book is represented in its blurb – its genre assignment. Although stated to be a thriller, Snowblind doesn’t exactly keep you on the edge of your seat. While that doesn’t make it a bad book, it definitely results in you having to adjust between what you expect and what the book really is.

Who Should Read It:

If you like whodunits or character-driven mysteries, you’ll really enjoy Snowblind. It keeps you invested in the characters and their personal battles as it slowly unfolds. You’ll also really enjoy it if you like stories set in remote areas and that take place under the wrath of Mother Nature.

Who Should Avoid:

If you prefer your mysteries to be more thriller-oriented, you should skip Snowblind.

Read It For:

Its setting, and characters that will stay with you after you turn the last page.

I was quite torn when rating Snowblind. The main reason was (as mentioned) that its pitch is very different than its story. Eventually though, when rating it for what it is – a whodunit, not a thriller – I am compelled to give it a high rating. It’s a book that most readers of classic mysteries will thoroughly enjoy. If you liked Agatha Christie’s work, you’ll enjoy Ragnar Jónasson’s.

If you’d like to get your own copy of Snowblind, you can do so here. If you’d like to check out another Icelandic author who combines mystery with some thrill, read my review of The Doll by Yrsa Sigurdardottir.

What are some of your favorite mysteries? Tell us in the comments below. And, as always, thank you for stopping at The Book Review Station and reading this review!

This post contains affiliate links. The Book Review Station may earn a small commission, at no additional cost to you, if you use these links to purchase books. Thanks!

– Rishika

Posted in All Book Reviews, Crime fiction, Mystery, Thrillers

Book Review: Find You First (By Linwood Barclay)

I discovered Linwood Barclay when I came across Elevator Pitch. That book had been a fast read, with a lot of connected story arcs, and a satisfying end (check out its full review here). It also got me interested in Linwood Barclay’s other works. Which is how I ended up reading Find You First.

How did it compare to Elevator Pitch? Read on to find out.

Genre: 

Thriller, Mystery

Length: 

438 pages

Blurb:

Tech millionaire, Miles Cookson, had little time for things other than the business empire he built and his success. Until he was diagnosed with a fast-progressing terminal illness. Now, Miles needs to redefine his priorities and address an unexpected challenge – a fifty percent chance that his illness is passed on to the next generation. As a sperm donor in the past, Miles has nine children that he’s never met, nine adults who could be carrying his illness. Determined to equip them with the knowledge of their potential future and a part of his fortune, Miles begins his search for his biological children.

Chloe Swanson, an aspiring film documentarian, knows that her mother used a New York sperm bank to become pregnant twenty-two years ago. And she’s determined to find her biological father and any biological siblings.

When Miles and Chloe meet, they both find some of the answers they’ve been searching for. They also find that someone is killing off Miles’ children. Will they find out who is behind the terrifying events unfolding around them before Chloe becomes the next target?

Overall Rating:

7 out of 10 stars

Plot:

8 out of 10 stars

Characterization:

8 out of 10 stars

Primary Element:

6 out of 10 stars for its mystery; 6 out of 10 stars for its thrill

Writing Style:

8 out of 10 stars

Part of a Series:

No. 

Highlighted Takeaway:

A well-paced crime fiction that may not produce a lot of thrills, but definitely keeps the pages turning with its suspense.

What I Liked:

Linwood Barclay always manages to weave tales with numerous layers in a compelling and taut manner. Find You First is no different. The way the story comes together is great, made better by the fact that its characterization definitely has you invested.

One of the most intriguing (and surprising) parts of the story was one character who was definitely created in the image of (or at least heavily inspired by) an infamous predator who made the news in the past few years. It made the story much more believable and realistic.

What I Didn’t Like:

Like Elevator Pitch, there’s nothing to specifically dislike in Find You First. It checks all the boxes for a mystery and thriller. It isn’t creepy, nor does it give you the chills (like Dead Silence), but it keeps the pages turning. It just isn’t the best mystery or suspense out there and does seem to drag a bit at times.

Who Should Read It:

If you enjoy crime fiction, mystery, and serial-killer-themed books, you’ll probably enjoy Find You First. It also has some emotional aspects that work really well. It is one of those books that you can read over a weekend or carry along on vacation and relax with for a few hours every day.

Who Should Avoid:

If you’re not a big fan of crime fiction or consistent-paced thrillers (instead, preferring to stick to those that make your skin crawl a bit), I’d recommend skipping this one. You could, instead, try Alex North’s The Whisper Man, if you haven’t read it already.

Read It For:

A multi-arced story that keeps you engaged and guessing.

I’m definitely going to be following Linwood Barclay and his books, even if they won’t be my first choice for a “thriller”. They’re excellent comfort reads when you want to follow an interesting story that is gripping but that does not leave you looking over your shoulder.

If you’d like to grab a copy of Find You First, you can get it here. Or get a copy of Elevator Pitch here. Want to share your thoughts on Linwood Barclay and his books? Leave us a comment below. And as always, thank you for taking a quick break at The Book Review Station.

This post contains affiliate links. The Book Review Station may earn a small commission, at no additional cost to you, if you use these links to purchase books. Thanks!

– Rishika

Posted in All Book Reviews, Horror, Science fiction, Thrillers

Book Review: Dead Silence (By S.A. Barnes)

I’ve always loved science fiction, especially stories set in space. Little beats the plot of space travel gone wrong due to an unknown enemy and a preceding crew that disappeared under mysterious circumstances.

So when I came across S.A. Barnes’ Dead Silence, I delved in expecting a lot! Read on to find out if this sci-fi met expectations.

Genre: 

Science fiction, Thriller, Horror

Length: 

343 pages

Blurb:

Claire Kovalik knows little more than her job. Team lead on a repair ship, space is all she’s known or wanted. But now, she’s on her last job, made obsolete by technology, and with no foreseeable future for which to return to Earth. So when her ship picks up a distress signal, she and her team decide to investigate. What they find is the Aurora – a luxury cruise spaceship that disappeared twenty years ago on its maiden voyage. Their salvage claim could solve the entire team’s problems and take away all worries about the future. But when Claire and the others go onto the Aurora, they find words scrawled in blood, strange movements, and horrors unlike what they’ve ever seen. What happened on the Aurora twenty years ago? What happened to the hundreds of guests and staff? And will Claire and her team escape facing the same fate… or will history repeat itself?

Overall Rating:

10 out of 10 stars

Plot:

10 out of 10 stars

Characterization:

10 out of 10 stars

Primary Element:

10 out of 10 for its thrill and sci-fi, 8 out of 10 for its horror

Writing Style:

10 out of 10 stars

Part of a Series: 

No.

Highlighted Takeaway:

A brilliant mix of horror, science-fiction, and psychological thriller, Dead Silence will keep you reading late into the night, while making you look over your shoulder at every sound and leave the lights on.

What I Liked:

S.A. Barnes does justice to the various genres that Dead Silence crosses. Some parts are absolutely terrifying, but the book eventually settles into a very intriguing thriller, with the suspense keeping you hooked until the last page.

What I absolutely loved about the book, though, was the characterization. Each character held their own, regardless of the size of their role. They were complex and very real, making them easy to associate with, even as they all existed across various shades of gray. And, the best thing about the characterization was how well the author handled the main character, Claire. In a lot of women-led books, the primary characters become difficult-to-care-about, frustrating people instead of the complex characters the authors are trying to portray them as. I found this especially true for The Girl on the Train (by Paula Hawkins) and Before She Disappeared (by Lisa Garnder) (among many others). S.A. Barnes, though, weaves an amazing character arc for Claire and the others, making you dislike, love, pity, and root for her all at once, and keeping you completely engrossed. She doesn’t attempt to be “strong”. She just is; a combination of all her faults, virtues, fears, strength, and good intentions. And that took Dead Silence to a whole other level.

What I Didn’t Like:

I found nothing to dislike in the book. Even negative characters that can often cause a disconnect from the story did quite the opposite, adding depth to the story because of how well they were created.

Who Should Read It:

While it’s not very heavy on the ‘horror’ element, it definitely has some very scary sections that will keep you up at night (or for a few nights if you’re a scaredy-cat like me). So if you enjoy the creepy-horror type of narrative, and science fiction + thriller books such as Michael Crichton’s Sphere or Obscura by Joe Hart, or movies in the same genre such as Alien, Prometheus, or Life, you should definitely give Dead Silence a try.

Who Should Avoid:

Dead Silence does become violent and graphic just pages in. So if that’s not something you can easily digest, I’d recommend proceeding with caution.

Read It For:

Excellent characterization, an intriguing storyline, and great mystery and thrills.

Although it did keep me up for a night or two, Dead Silence introduced me to an author whose work I really enjoyed. I’m definitely going to be looking out for more of S.A. Barnes’ work. Get your hardcover copy of Dead Silence (with free global shipping) here. Or get a paperback copy here.

Let us know what you thought of Dead Silence, or just drop us a comment to tell us about your favorite science fiction books and movies. And as always, thank you for taking a break at The Book Review Station!

This post contains affiliate links. The Book Review Station may earn a small commission, at no additional cost to you, if you use these links to purchase books. Thanks!

– Rishika

Posted in All Book Reviews, Crime fiction, Mystery, Thrillers

Book Review: The Doll (By Yrsa Sigurdardottir)

I came across The Doll while strolling through my library. It caught my interest immediately thanks to its potential serial killer theme and its very creepy cover image. Written by Icelandic author, Yrsa Sigurdardottir, The Doll has been translated for its English-language audience by Victoria Cribb.

Without further ado, let’s jump right into the review of this thriller.

Genre: 

Thriller, Mystery

Length: 

464 pages

Blurb:

Years ago, a mother takes her young daughter on a fishing trip – an opportunity for the girl to bond with her mother after the devastating loss of her father. They catch nothing but a horrific broken doll that has spent years in the ocean. The mother wants to return it to the seabed, but the young girl’s pleading forces her to bring it home. That night, the mother posts an image of the doll on social media. That night, the mother dies… and the doll disappears.

Present day, Detective Huldar is investigating the identity and cause of death of a skeleton pulled out of the ocean. As the case inches forward, he is drawn into another one – a homeless drug addict’s violent murder. Children’s Home psychologist, Freyja, is assisting in the investigation of a third case – child abuse by the caretaker in a foster care home. As Freyja and Huldar end up helping each other with their cases, they discover that all three are linked by a single person, a vulnerable and missing witness – the young girl who found and kept the doll all those years ago.

Freyja and Huldar frantically search for the girl. But will they be able to untangle the cases as they get increasingly convoluted, or will their failure lead to the loss of more lives?

Overall Rating:

7 out of 10 stars

Plot:

9 out of 10 stars

Characterization:

9 out of 10 stars

Primary Element:

8 out of 10 stars for its thrill; 9 out of 10 stars for its mystery

Writing Style:

8 out of 10 stars

Part of a Series: 

Yes, this is Book #5 in the Freyja and Huldar series, also called the Children’s House series. There are 6 books in the series, all of which have been translated into English by Victoria Cribb for the UK market (available outside of the UK too) between 2017 and 2022.

However, it can be read as a standalone. There are some references to past events, but nothing that seemed like a massive spoiler.

Highlighted Takeaway:

Primarily a police procedural, The Doll offers a few nightmares, excellent mystery, and engaging suspense, making it the entire package for fans of crime fiction.

What I Liked:

While The Doll is an interesting read overall, some things do stand out:

  • good characterization, unaffected by the fact that this book is mid-series,
  • multiple storylines that come together well for a complex yet clean mystery,
  • great cultural and practical insight into the Icelandic region

What I Didn’t Like:

There was nothing that was pointedly wrong with The Doll. The only thing that didn’t make it a 10 out of 10 star rating for me was that it was a good book, but it wasn’t as good as other thrillers and police-procedurals I’ve read.

Who Should Read It:

If you like crime fiction with a creepy touch, suspense, or thrillers, you should definitely try The Doll. You will probably discover an author you may not have followed so far, but whose books may just make it on your list of series to catch up on.

Who Should Avoid:

If you don’t like gore or violence, I would recommend avoiding this one. It’s not got a lot of blood and mayhem, but the few bits that get a bit graphic can be a bit much if you’re not a fan.

Read It For:

Learning about a different culture, and a multi-layered mystery that holds you till the last page.

I’ve read a few translated works, especially by Nordic authors – The Bat by Jo Nesbø and The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson being two that come to mind. I’ve enjoyed both authors’ works. And now, I can definitely say that Yrsa Sigurdardottir is another author to watch if you like crime fiction and thrillers. I’m definitely going to be catching up on the previous books in the Children’s House series.

If you’d like to get your own copy of The Doll, you can buy it (with free global shipping) here. And if you’d like to start with the first book in the series, The Legacy, instead, you can buy a copy here.

Got recommendations on thrillers or crime fiction you’d like to share? Drop us a comment below. And as always, thank you for stopping at The Book Review Statoin for your book review break.

This post contains affiliate links. The Book Review Station may earn a small commission, at no additional cost to you, if you use these links to purchase books. Thanks!

– Rishika

Posted in All Book Reviews, Crime fiction, Mystery, Thrillers

Book Review: The Night Shift (By Alex Finlay)

I’d read the blurb of The Night Shift by Alex Finlay a few months ago and was immediately intrigued. I’d really enjoyed his earlier book, Every Last Fear (read its review here), so my expectations were definitely high going into this one. Read on to find out if they were met!

Genre: 

Mystery, Thriller

Length: 

312 pages (Hardcover)

Blurb:

1999. Linden, New Jersey. Four teenage girls are attacked in the late hours of the night at the Blockbuster video store where they work. Only one survives. The suspect is quickly identified. But he manages to flee and is never seen again.

Fifteen years later, another attack at an ice cream store in the same town leaves three teenage girls dead and one survivor. Both survivors recall the killer’s last words. “Goodnight, pretty girl.”

In the aftermath, four lives intersect: the survivor of the most recent attack, who is battling her own demons and the bad hand life has dealt her, the survivor of the first attack who is forced to relive her own tragedy as she gets involved in this one, the brother of the original suspect who is adamant of his brother’s innocence, and the FBI agent who is determined to solve both cases.

All four of them are after the truth. And none of them know the price they will have to pay to uncover it.

Overall Rating:

10 out of 10 stars

Plot:

10 out of 10 stars

Characterization:

10 out of 10 stars

Primary Element:

10 out of 10 stars for its mystery

Writing Style:

10 out of 10 stars

Part of a Series: 

No.

Highlighted Takeaway:

An intriguing mystery that manages to hit hard emotionally.

What I Liked:

There was a lot to like in The Night Shift. First, its story – a good premise, handled really well. Second, its pace – moves well, doesn’t drag in spite of many arcs running in parallel, and keeps you turning the pages. Three, the mystery – you don’t see a lot of it coming and it definitely manages to surprise. Last, and definitely not least, is the emotional punch – there are aspects of the book which leave you with a heaviness in your stomach that you carry long after.

What I Didn’t Like:

There was nothing I specifically disliked in The Night Shift. There was one character that I didn’t particularly like, but their backstory provides enough support to make their flaws seem accurate, and the character eventually grows on you.

Who Should Read It:

Anyone who likes a good mystery or suspense will definitely like Alex Finaly’s The Night Shift.

Who Should Avoid:

Although not too gory, some parts can come across as too raw or graphic. So if that’s something you absolutely cannot digest, I’d recommend avoiding this one.

Read It For:

How well the many arcs come together, and the story’s emotional punch.

With The Night Shift, I have definitely developed an interest in Alex Finlay’s work and will be exploring more of it. You can buy a copy of The Night Shift here (hardcover) or here (paperback).

If you’d like to share any author or book recommendations, or tell us your thoughts on Alex Finlay and his work, please leave us a comment below. And, as always, thank you for stopping at The Book Review Station and reading this review.

This post contains affiliate links. The Book Review Station may earn a small commission, at no additional cost to you, if you use these links to purchase books. Thanks!

– Rishika

Posted in All Book Reviews, Mystery

Book Review: What July Knew (By Emily Koch)

A big thanks to NetGalley and Kate at Penguin Random House UK for an ARC of Emily Koch’s What July Knew.

I went into this mystery not too sure what to expect other than that it would probably be good. I’d previously read If I Die Before I Wake by the same author and had quite enjoyed the story and the unique perspective (check out its book review here). What I got was something quite different.

Genre:

Mystery

Blurb:

In 1995, ten-year-old July Hooper receives a summer assignment to write a report on any family member. She wants to write about her mother. Because July knows only eighteen things about her mother, memories collected over time through excerpts of conversations she’d caught. Her father never spoke about her mother, and she wasn’t allowed to ask him about her. She has a hidden list of those memories and the second one on that list is that her mother died in a car accident when she was small. Unsure of how to even begin asking her father, July almost gives up on the idea, until she receives a note.

She didn’t die in an accident.

July decides that she wants to know the truth. And if her father won’t help her, she’ll find it out herself. She begins her own search, returning to the neighborhood where she was born, and where her mother died, and asking questions to whoever she can. Until she meets someone who might have the answers she’s looking for. But can she trust this stranger’s side of the story? Is there a really good reason her family has been hiding the truth from her? And is she prepared to know the truth?

Overall Rating:

10 out of 10 stars

Plot:

10 out of 10 stars

Characterization:

10 out of 10 stars

Primary Element:

8 out of 10 stars for its mystery, and 10 out of 10 stars for its unexpected emotional impact

Writing Style:

10 out of 10 stars

Part of a Series: 

No.

Highlighted Takeaway:

Emily Koch has this amazing ability to pull you right into the world she’s created, whether she’s telling the story from the point of view of a person in a coma or a ten-year-old child. And the star of What July Knew will have you incredibly invested in her tale.

What I Liked:

A simple concept, told beautifully, What July Knew has a good mystery that keeps you turning the pages. What I really loved though was its emotional impact. The characterization is subtle yet accurate, and makes the entire scenario seem extremely real. Trigger warning: it goes into the topic of domestic violence and emotional abuse in a painfully realistic way. But that very authenticity packs the emotional punch.

What I Didn’t Like:

There was nothing to dislike in this tale.

Who Should Read It:

If you enjoy mysteries, psychological thrillers, and stories told in a simple but genuine style, you should definitely read What July Knew.

Who Should Avoid:

The book does go into topics that some people could find traumatic. If you’re uncomfortable with stories that contain domestic violence and emotional abuse, I would recommend steering clear from this book.

Read It For:

The unique, endearing perspective of ten-year-old July, and her tenacity and strength.

Emily Koch’s What July Knew will go on sale in February 2023. Make sure to pre-order your copy in Paperback here, or get a Hardcover version here (free global shipping).

Let us know which other books you’d like us to review in the comments below!

And, as always, thanks for stopping at The Book Review Station and reading this review!

This post contains affiliate links. The Book Review Station may earn a small commission, at no additional cost to you, if you use these links to purchase books. Thanks!

– Rishika

Posted in All Book Reviews, Mystery, Thrillers

Book Review: Before She Disappeared (By Lisa Gardner)

I’d heard a lot about Before She Disappeared by Lisa Gardner before I picked up this thriller. What intrigued me the most about the main character – Frankie Elkin – was her similarity to one of my favorite literary characters, David Raker.

(If you haven’t read any of his books, you should definitely try them out. Reviews of most of the books in the series by Tim Weaver are available on this website.)

Like Raker, Elkin lived for a single obsession that not many understood – searching for missing persons that the world had all but forgotten. I dove into Before She Disappeared with a lot of expectations. Read on to find out if they were met.

Genre:

Mystery, Thriller 

Length: 

400 pages

Blurb:

Frankie Elkin is a recovering alcoholic and middle-aged woman who moves from place to place in search of persons who’ve gone missing. Once the police give up, the media forgets, and the world moves on, Elkin begins her search. One such mission brings her to Mattapan, Boston, a neighborhood with a rough reputation, and the home of missing Haitian teenager, Angelique Badeau. Elkin had expected the resistance from the local police and tight-lipped responses of those she spoke to. And neither of them manage to dampen her spirit. Elkin pushes for answers even as the danger grows and comes closer. Will Elkin find Angelique? And if she does, will she be enabling a reunion or a funeral?

Overall Rating:

2 out of 10 stars

Plot:

8 out of 10 stars

Characterization:

6 out of 10 stars for every character, 2 out of 10 for Frankie Elkin

Primary Element:

8 out of 10 stars for its mystery

Writing Style:

6 out of 10 stars

Part of a Series: 

Yes, this is Book #1 in the Frankie Elkin series. Book 2, One Step Too Far, was released on 18 Jan 2022.

Highlighted Takeaway:

A good mystery, which is unfortunately tainted by outdated stereotyping and a blatantly superficial attempt at being socially sensitive.

What I Liked:

Before She Disappeared, at its core, has a good mystery and story. But that might be the only good thing about it.

What I Didn’t Like:

I might be one of the few who didn’t like this acclaimed novel by Lisa Gardner. But those that felt the same did so for more or less the same reason – the unnecessary and never-ending focus on Frankie Elkin being a white woman and everyone else being a person of color. Literally every person is introduced by their race, and then most are painted with outdated, typical characteristics under the label of ‘culture’.

There was a statement where Elkin called herself the ‘superior gender’; there was also some stuff where she rambled on (in her never-ending thoughts) about how, even though she was an alcoholic and had a pretty terrible life she was ‘privileged’ because she was white, while the people she was trying to help – and she focuses on cases only concerning ‘marginalized communities’ – were oppressed.

I found the whole thing to be nothing more than an attempt to capitalize on social issue trends, as determined by social media research. Not to mention, Frankie Elkin, as a character, is just not likable and comes across as someone with a pretty toxic savior complex.

Who Should/Shouldn’t Read It:

I would not recommend Before She Disappeared to anyone. If you want to read books about missing persons, you would definitely enjoy Tim Weaver’s work more. If you want to read books about strong but flawed and/or strongwomen, you could opt for Iris Johansen, Rebecca du Maurier, Mary Higgins Clark, or even Harlan Coben.

Before She Disappeared was meant to be (I think) about a person who cared about those people that the world forgot. It ends up being anything but.

I know that this review may sound incredibly harsh. But the fact remains that Gardner actually had a great story, where readers could have rooted for a flawed protagonist and felt deeply for the victims of a crime. Instead, you’re left with characters that are toxic in the name of being strong and badly stereotyped in the name of culture.

All in all, in my honest opinion, Before She Disappeared seemed like wasted potential. I genuinely tried to like this book and pushed through hoping it would get better in spite of some cringe-worthy statements. I’m really disappointed that it didn’t, and I don’t think I’m going to be reading any more of Lisa Gardner’s work.

What did you think about Before She Disappeared or Lisa Gardner’s other work? Let us know in the comments below!

And as always, thanks for stopping by and reading this book review!

– Rishika

Posted in All Book Reviews, Crime fiction, Mystery

Book Review: Stone Bruises (By Simon Beckett)

I’ve been a huge fan of Simon Beckett’s work. His David Hunter series has always been great, the setting brooding and gray – the perfect thriller setup, with a very human, easy-to-associate-with protagonist. So when I saw that he had published other standalone books, I was intrigued.

And picked up Stone Bruises. Does it meet expectations? Read on to know.

Genre: 

Thriller

Length: 

316 pages

Blurb:

Sean is running from something. He finds himself in France, where he abandons his blood-stained car on a backroad before starting his efforts at hitch-hiking to anywhere but here. But then his foot gets caught in an animal trap leaving him delirious, ill, and almost dead near a rundown farm. When he wakes up, he realizes that he’s been taken in by two women. Their father, the owner of the farm, is livid at having a stranger on his property. But his caretakers persist and Sean begins his slow recovery on the farm. Its solitude and seclusion are welcoming, promising to take him away from his own troubles. Until he realizes that that very solitude means that no one knows what’s happening on the farm… which means that no one will ever know if he never makes it off the land. What secrets does the farm hold? What secrets do its occupants harbor? Is Sean really safe on the farm? Or is it the lesser of two evils when compared with what Sean has left behind in the outside world?

Overall Rating:

4 out of 10 stars

Plot:

6 out of 10 stars

Characterization:

7 out of 10 stars

Primary Element:

2 out of 10 stars for its thrill

Writing Style:

7 out of 10 stars

Part of a Series: 

No.

Highlighted Takeaway:

Not exactly a thriller, Simon Beckett’s Stone Bruises is more of a slow burn that has some surprises along the way.

What I Liked:

The basic story is interesting, with enough twists you don’t see coming.

What I Didn’t Like:

Stone Bruises really plods along slowly. It’s a slow-paced drama-suspense mix, with a higher percentage of the former. The characters are intriguing enough, but not so much that you feel a lot of (any) emotion when anything happens. The elements of suspense and mystery fall pretty flat – there is a lot of buildup, especially as the book shifts between past and present, but the revelations seem anticlimactic. This is also why the twists, although surprising at times, don’t hit all that hard either. Overall, it’s not a book that leaves you rooting for any character, nor against any. It’s oddly linear in its story-telling, going along at a slow pace until it just… stops.

Who Should Read It:

If you like slow burns centered around family secrets and mystery-drama, you’ll probably enjoy Stone Bruises.

Who Should Avoid:

If you’re looking for an edge-of-your-seat thriller or even something that is similar in mood and setting to Simon Beckett’s other works like the David Hunter series, you’ll probably not love this one.

Read It For:

A comfortable read that you can follow along easily enough but don’t have to be too invested in.

Although a disappointment, Stone Bruises hasn’t turned me away from Simon Beckett entirely. I still find him to be a great author, but I’d probably be sticking to his more graphic thrillers.

Share your thoughts on anything book-related in the comments below. And, as always, thanks for stopping at The Book Review Station and reading this review.

– Rishika

Posted in All Book Reviews, Science fiction

Book Review: Dark Matter (By Blake Crouch)

I discovered Blake Crouch when I first came across the Goodreads page of Dark Matter, even though I only added it to my TBR pile at the time. I ended up reading Recursion first, and absolutely loved it. You can see its review here.

Finally ended up getting a copy of Dark Matter in July this year, and I delved right in. Did it meet expectations and was the novel everyone raves about better than Recursion? Read on to know.

Genre: 

Science Fiction, Thriller

Length: 

352 pages

Blurb:

Jason Dessen is happily married with an amazing son. His career as a college physics professor is satisfactory. His wife is an art teacher who enjoys her work. By all accounts, they’re happy… he’s happy. Except, a part of him wonders if his wife’s unplanned pregnancy and their consequent decision to give up his research and her attempt at being a full-time artist was the right choice. What could they have achieved if they’d made different choices? Would they… he… have been happier?

Of course, those are just thoughts… everybody has them.

Except, Jason is attacked one evening when he’s walking home to his family. When he wakes up, he is himself, but not in a world he knows. He’s not married, he has no son, and he’s not a professor. But, he is a known and celebrated genius who pursued his research to phenomenal results. He tries to make sense of his surroundings even as memories of his life seem to fade away.

What is this new world? Who is Jason Dessen in this world? Where is his family? And, most importantly, was the world he knew real… or is this the real one?

Overall Rating:

8 out of 10 stars

Plot:

10 out of 10 stars

Characterization:

10 out of 10 stars

Primary Element:

9 out of 10 stars for its sci-fi and its thrill

Writing Style:

10 out of 10 stars

Part of a Series: 

No.

Highlighted Takeaway:

A roller coaster of a sci-fi ride that’s as strong on evoking introspection as it is on keeping the pages turning.

What I Liked:

Blake Crouch brings sci-fi and fragile humanity together, and weaves stories that are not just interesting but thought-provoking too. He does just that in Dark Matter. The book also has some great characterization – subtle but powerful, that makes each character impactful, regardless of how much visibility they have. The story and the basic premise are intriguing, taking the age-old question, “What if?” to a brilliant level.

What I Didn’t Like:

There is nothing really wrong with Dark Matter. In my opinion, it just wasn’t as edge-of-your-seat as Recursion. That’s the only reason I’ve rated it lower than a full 10.

Who Should Read It:

Anyone who likes science fiction will enjoy Dark Matter. Especially if you like sci-fi that delves into the beauty and ugliness of human psychology. I’ve always found Michael Crichton’s work to be that perfect mix of sci-fi and psychology (especially how people behave when driven by greed while influenced by their own histories). I’ve found Blake Crouch’s work similar in its approach to the combination, although he explores human psychology in different ways. If this is your first shot at sci-fi, I’d definitely recommend checking out Blake Crouch.

Who Should Avoid:

If you’re not a big fan of sci-fi, especially multi-timeline / multi-universe stories, I’d recommend skipping Dark Matter.

Read It For:

A glimpse into what someone can truly be capable of when pushed to different limits.

I’m definitely going to keep reading more of Blake Crouch’s work, including his older and newer novels. I’m especially excited about his latest release, Upgrade, even though it has been getting mixed reviews on Goodreads.

Recursion, Dark Matter, and Upgrade are all available in beautiful hardcovers. You can get them delivered across the world for free through Book Depository using the following links:

Let us know what you thought of Dark Matter or other works by Blake Crouch in the comments below. And as always, thanks for stopping at The Book Review Station!

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– Rishika