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, 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, 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, Thrillers

Book Review: The Shadow at the Door (By Tim Weaver)

The Shadow at the Door is different from Tim Weaver’s other books. It’s a collection of short stories, with some shared characters. While Weaver’s main protagonist, David Raker, makes multiple appearances, the stories go beyond him. Read on to know what works and doesn’t in this gorgeous-looking collection of four short stories.

Genre: 

Thriller, Crime

Length: 

496 pages (Hardcover)

Blurb:

Four short stories come together in this collection by Tim Weaver. In the first one, David Raker is searching for a man who walked upstairs to his bedroom one night and simply disappeared. Months later, there’s still no trace of him and his desperate family turns to Raker. In the second story, a night patrolman on the London Underground finds something dreadful, but that’s only the beginning. Next is a story about a years-old case that revolves around a key recurring character. Can the past catch up to ruin the present? And lastly, another familiar face makes an appearance in a story where a personal vacation ends up becoming a whole lot more.

Overall Rating:

8 out of 10 stars

Plot:

Story 1: 10 out of 10 stars

Story 2: 10 out of 10 stars

Story 3: 8 out of 10 stars

Story 4: 8 out of 10 stars

Characterization:

10 out of 10 stars

Primary Element:

9 out of 10 stars for all stories’ suspense and thrill

Writing Style:

10 out of 10 stars

Part of a Series: 

Yes. This picks up a little after Book #10 in the David Raker series, No One Home, and does have older characters come up.

Highlighted Takeaway:

A different take on the David Raker series, The Shadow at the Door shines the limelight on other known characters too.

What I Liked:

Tim Weaver’s short stories are slightly different in style than his novels… but in a good way. They’re just as enthralling and filled with twists. I especially enjoyed how Weaver delved into stories of secondary characters.

What I Didn’t Like:

There is nothing specific to dislike in this book.

Who Should Read It:

If you’ve been reading the Raker series, I would highly recommend picking this one up. It is definitely a good addition to the arc development of David Raker as well as other key characters.

Who Should Avoid:

The Shadow at the Door is probably not the best starting point if you’ve not read any of the David Raker series. And I don’t think it’ll be spectacular as a standalone either.

Read It For:

One of the best insights into a secondary character that you come to care for over the past books.

I got my copy of The Shadow at the Door at Book Depository. They deliver across the world and I had to have this ‘collector’s edition’ style hardcover. Click here to buy a copy. And, if you want to get into Tim Weaver’s latest book in the David Raker series, buy your copy of The Blackbird here.

Want to add something about Tim Weaver or other crime and thriller writers? Got recommendations? Leave us a comment 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, Crime fiction, Mystery, Thrillers

Book Review: End Game (By David Baldacci)

End Game is the last (as of now) in the Will Robie and Jessica Reel series. As some of the characters are supposed to make an appearance in his other series on Amos Decker (Memory Man), I wanted to wrap this one up and not run the risk of missing anything.

The last book in the series – The Guilty – had its ups and downs, although it was more good than bad. End Game was not too different. Read on to find out what worked and didn’t work, for me, in this David Baldacci book.

Genre: 

Mystery, Thriller

Length: 

408 pages

Blurb:

Jessica Reel and Will Robie return in End Game. But, instead of being out of the country taking down its enemies, these two government assets are sent to rural Colorado on a much more personal mission. Blue Man, their handler, superior, and friend, has gone missing when he had taken a rare fishing vacation to his hometown of Grand. When Reel and Robie arrive, they find a town with a stagnant economy, an understaffed police force, and camps recruiting people with dangerous ideologies. As they delve deeper into the mystery behind Blue Man’s disappearance, they find themselves facing an adversary who has a home and firepower advantage. Will they find Blue Man before it’s too late for themselves?

Overall Rating:

7 out of 10 stars

Plot:

8 out of 10 stars

Characterization:

8 out of 10 stars

Primary Element:

8 out of 10 for its mystery

Writing Style:

7 out of 10 stars

Part of a Series: 

Yes. This is Book #5 in the Will Robie series and, from what I can tell, possibly the last one.

Highlighted Takeaway:

A well-crafted tale that brings together mystery, suspense, and the results of social, political, and systemic issues.

What I Liked and Didn’t Like:

I’m combining the two sections that are usually separate in my blog posts because there were a lot of things I liked, but that at the same time could be considered out of character and strange for a David Baldacci book.

The primary one is the Reel/Robie arc. End Game picks up very differently on their relationship than where its prequel, The Guilty, ended. And their relationship remains off as the book progresses, often with irrational behavior. While I actually sort of enjoyed the personal angle, I did find it odd – it simply seemed to be an ‘extra’ to keep readers vested in the characters… something that was just not the norm with Baldacci. And I’m still not sure if it was needed. You could have taken that whole angle out and the book would have not really been much different. Consequently, the other personal/relationship angles that the story went into seemed a bit forced.

The mystery and suspense were good, with a lot of arcs that offered surprises. But, a lot of it was also unrealistic. At this point, Robie and Reel seem more superhuman than skilled (and uncharacteristically boastful too). Their character arcs seem to now be driven by someone who’s crushing on how cool they are. Which is off-brand for them. So there’s that contradiction, which is enjoyable (I mean, cheesy dialog has its moments) but not the norm for these characters.

The tale reads well (better than The Guilty), while still seeming to be written by not-Baldacci. Overall, a good story with a satisfactory (sort-of) end to the Robie/Reel books.

Who Should Read It:

If you’ve been reading the Will Robie series, I’d definitely recommend reading End Game and seeing it through. Also, if you like political mysteries and thrillers in general, the series is a good one (just probably not the best ever).

Who Should Avoid:

If you’ve not read any of the previous books in the series, I’d recommend passing on this one. It will work as a standalone, but you’ll miss out on a lot of the early character development, and that will take a lot out of the story.

Read It For:

The conclusion (again, assuming this is the last one) of the Robie and Reel series. Both are likable characters, even if often unrealistic.

You can get your copy of End Game by David Baldacci in paperback here, and in hardcover here.

Got something to share about David Baldacci’s books or other thrillers/mysteries? Drop us a comment below. And as always, thanks for stopping by 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, Thrillers

Book Review: The Book of Cold Cases (By Simone St. James)

I can’t remember exactly where I saw the blurb for The Book of Cold Cases the first time. But I do remember finding it really interesting, especially that it was based around the concept of true crime.

So when I finally got the book from my library, I dove right in. Read on to know if it met expectations. Before we get to that though, a quick disclaimer.

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!

Genre:

Crime, Thriller

Length: 

344 pages

Blurb:

Shea Collins is a receptionist by day and a true-crime blogger by night. Her passion for her blog – The Book of Cold Cases – is fueled by the attempted abduction she escaped as a child. A shy, anxious adult, Shea is pulled out of her comfort zone when she meets Beth Greer.

30 years ago, Beth had been arrested for the brutal murder of two men who had been shot, strange notes left by their bodies. In spite of a witness claiming that he’d seen Beth fleeing the scene, the rich, easily-judged twenty-three-year-old was acquitted. And she spent the rest of her life alone, in her mansion, away from prying eyes.

Yet when Shea asks her for an interview, Beth agrees. They meet at Beth’s mansion, and Shea begins to notice strange happenings – things move when she’s not looking, she sees a girl outside the window, and the house seems to have a life of its own. Slowly, Shea is pulled in by Beth’s charm, resisting her own intuition that something is off. But is it Beth who’s manipulating Shea, or is there something more sinister in the Greer mansion?

Overall Rating:

7 out of 10 stars

Plot:

7 out of 10 stars

Characterization:

8 out of 10 stars

Primary Element:

8 out of 10 stars for its thrill and mystery

Writing Style:

9 out of 10 stars

Part of a Series: 

No.

Highlighted Takeaway:

An interesting mix of thriller, horror, and mystery, The Book of Cold Cases will be most enjoyed by readers/viewers of true crime.

What I Liked:

The characters were really well done, with the range of their emotions being realistic and easy to understand, even when you didn’t like them. The story itself is told from multiple points of view, and all of them hold their own. A few different arcs run in parallel, and they’re tied together really well at the end. All in all, the book moves at a good pace, keeps you engaged, and keeps you guessing.

What I Didn’t Like:

While there isn’t anything to specifically dislike in The Book of Cold Cases, there were two things that stuck out for me. One, the book does everything it should do to be a good read, but somehow it isn’t phenomenal. Two, the horror aspect is just a given – it’s there, you have to accept it, and there is little focus on it other than how it affects the characters and their emotions.

Who Should Read It:

Anyone who enjoys crime fiction and true crime would like this book. It is the first book of Sime St. James that I’ve read and I enjoyed it enough to want to read more of her work. The mix of horror and mystery works!

Who Should Avoid:

If you’re not a fan of crime-related content, I’d recommend giving this a skip.

Read It For:

The relationship between the protagonist and antagonist, and how it affects them individually.

I explored some more titles from Simone St. James, and although I’m not a big fan of horror (as I am, in fact, a scaredy-cat), I’ll be reading more of her work for sure. In the meantime, if you’d like to get a copy of Simone St. James’ The Book of Cold Cases, you can buy it here.

Share your thoughts on The Book of Cold Cases or other books and series on true crime in the comments below. And as always, thanks for stopping at The Book Review Station and giving this review a read!

– Rishika

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

Book Review: No One Home (By Tim Weaver)

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.

Published in 2019, No One Home is one of the most recent books in the David Raker series. The next full-length novel in the series, The Blackbird, comes out mid-2022. (You can pre-order that one here.) Between these two, Tim Weaver published one standalone thriller – Missing Pieces – and one collection of short stories featuring David Raker – The Shadow at the Door.

The reason I bring all of this up is that when I realized I was almost completely caught up and would now have to wait months and years for the next installment in the series, I was both happy and sad. But if you haven’t read any of Tim Weaver’s books yet, or if you’ve just read a few here and there, I would really recommend reading the entire series, and starting from the first one. The David Raker series remains one that meets the bar almost every time.

Genre: 

Thriller

Length: 

400 pages

Blurb:

The village of Black Gale has four homes and nine residents. On Halloween night, they meet at one of the houses for dinner. Photos of the night show them happy – drinks and smiles all around. Then, none of them are ever seen again. Two and a half years later, the police still have no clue about what happened to the entire village, and the media focus has died down. So the families of the missing people turn to David Raker. And Raker makes their obsession his own. With every case, David Raker has been moving closer to his own destruction. He knows this truth. He accepts it. But nothing could have prepared him for the mystery of Black Gale.

Overall Rating:

9 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

Writing Style:

10 out of 10 stars

Part of a Series: 

Yep, this is Book #10 in the David Raker series. I wouldn’t really recommend reading it as a standalone. After around Book #5, they’ve become more and more connected, and you’re likely to have spoilers for the prequels if you read them out of order.

Highlighted Takeaway:

An unconventional mystery, supported by numerous characters that are all shades of gray, and enhanced through its perfect setting.

What I Liked:

No One Home has two stories running simultaneously, far apart in setting and time. Both are interesting, and both have their own protagonists. This dual approach is incredibly engaging.

Then there is also the fact that, as with previous works, David Raker’s character grows more and more with every successive novel. And #10 in the series has some of the most interesting character development yet. Never before has the series had you so concerned.

What I Didn’t Like:

I didn’t really find much to dislike. Quite a few twists and turns that keep you guessing right up until the end.

Who Should Read It:

If you’ve read and enjoyed even one of the David Raker books, I’d recommend giving the entire series a read. And if you haven’t read anything by Tim Weaver as yet but enjoy thrillers, mysteries, and crime fiction, especially those with gritty settings, then I’d highly recommend this series.

Who Should Avoid:

If you don’t enjoy crime fiction that focuses on cold cases or that can become a bit dark, I’d recommend avoiding this one.

Read It For:

Some shocking developments in David Raker’s story arc, and interesting ones in those of other favorite characters.

Unsurprisingly, I actually ended up reading The Shadow at the Door, which is set after the events of No One Home. Its review will be up soon but before that will be the review of Simone St. James’ most recent book. You might have heard of this one if you like the crime and thriller genres, especially true crime. Stay tuned!

Got something to share about Tim Weaver, David Raker, or other books? Or just want to say hi? Drop a comment below!

And as always, thank you for stopping at The Book Review Station and reading this review.

– Rishika