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, 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!

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: Walk the Wire (By David Baldacci)

Walk the Wire is Book #6 in David Baldacci’s Amos Decker series. If you’ve read any of my previous reviews on the Amos Decker books, you already know that he’s one of my favorite literary characters – a decent person who is just trying his best against the odds he’s facing. Ever since his introduction in Memory Man, I’ve followed his story arc dedicatedly. In fact, I even completed the Will Robie and Jessica Reel series prior to reading Walk the Wire because those characters make an appearance in this one.

So did Book #6 meet expectations? Read on to find out.

Genre: 

Crime fiction

Length: 

422 pages

Blurb:

Amos Decker and his partner, Alex Jamison, are sent to London, North Dakota to solve the murder of a young woman. The victim was perfectly autopsied before being dumped in the open. Decker and Jamison have no idea why they were sent in to investigate a single local murder. But what they find is a thriving fracking town with its share of oddities. A mysterious government facility, home of a local religious sect, and a business rivalry that stretches into the past are a few of the things skewing the investigation. And things only get more complicated when Jamison and Decker learn that the victim was a schoolteacher by day, and a prostitute by night. As they persevere in their pursuit of the truth, Jamison and Decker find themselves in graver danger than ever before. Will assistance from an unexpected ally keep them safe? Or is the truth larger and more dangerous than any of them could ever imagine?

Overall Rating:

3 out of 10 stars

Plot:

3 out of 10 stars

Characterization:

4 out of 10 stars

Primary Element:

3 out of 10 for its suspense and mystery, not because it didn’t have any, but because whether it did or not is made irrelevant.

Writing Style:

5 out of 10

Part of a Series: 

Yes. This is Book #6 in the Amos Decker series.

Highlighted Takeaway:

Walk the Wire does an excellent job (and by far the best I’ve seen) in absolutely ruining an incredible character and their story arc.

What I Liked:

It had Amos Decker, who I (still) like. But only because there are a few (very, very few) sections that do justice to the character you’ve come to appreciate.

What I Didn’t Like:

Okay… There are quite a few things here, so let’s make a list.

  1. The story is just all over the place. While multiple angles is often common in Baldacci’s work, Walk the Wire had so many things going on that it began to feel like additional angles were only added in because the main story had limited depth.
  2. The main story had limited depth. It was something that probably seemed like a good mystery at some point, but had little in the way of suspense and intrigue, leading to a weak premise and the need for so many tangents.
  3. Did David Baldacci really write this? I’ve mention in my past reviews on Baldacci’s more recent works that it’s increasingly seeming like he’s relying on ghostwriters. And the style, pace, unnecessary tangents, and weak premise of Walk the Wire make it seem like this is no different.
  4. Whoever wrote it did not know Amos Decker. The (beloved) character is anything but himself. You could literally replace him with anyone – known or unknown – and have the same result. Occasionally, whoever wrote this book seemed to remember what made Decker interesting; they then wrote some basic paragraph about him, and went back to forgetting about his capabilities.
  5. Writing style was just blah. In spite of so much going on, including a potentially intriguing murder mystery, the writing style was too blah to evoke any interest. It took some effort to keep reading.
  6. The cringe dialog. Sometimes, “cool” dialog can be fun. But if you’re going to use the same line and same situation for a character’s “cool and heroic” entry every time, it’s going to become pointless. And that’s what happens with the Reel and Robie angle.

Who Should Read It:

If you’re terribly bored and have read every other book there is, then (and only then) would I recommend reading Walk the Wire. And this holds true even if you’ve read other books in the Amos Decker series.

Who Should Avoid:

If you’ve not read the Decker series before, don’t let this one be your starting point. If you’re a big Baldacci fan, avoid this one. It might have his name, but it has nothing else of his style. And if you’re a fan of the Memory Man, avoid Walk the Wire. It adds nothing to the series and actually manages to completely ruin an amazing character.

Read It For:

Passing time that you should probably spend reading something better. Even the extended Robie and Reel cameos do nothing to save it.

I am physically upset that David Baldacci ruined Amos Decker as a character with Walk the Wire. If you’re a fan of the series, I would recommend stopping at Book #5. You won’t get anything new from the sixth instalment.

Walk the Wire also led to the end of my fandom with Baldacci. I may still finish the John Puller and Atlee Pine series, which I began a while ago, only because I want to see how their continued arcs end. But, it’ll be a while before I get to them (while praying that their characters haven’t been ruined by Baldacci).

Let me know your thoughts on David Baldacci and his works in the comments below. And as always, thank you for stopping at The Book Review Station and reading this 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, Thrillers

Book Review: What Lies Beneath (By J.G.Hetherton)

Thanks to NetGalley for a complimentary copy of What Lies Beneath. This is an honest review.

I’m going to do this review a little differently. For those of you who’ve read a lot of my previous reviews, you’ve probably guessed that that means it wasn’t a great book and there’s a list coming up…

And you would be right!

So, without further ado, let’s get into the review of What Lies Beneath, penned by J.G. Hetherton.

Genre: 

Mystery, Thriller

Length: 

320 pages

Blurb:

I have to deviate significantly from the blurb on Goodreads because that one almost seems like it’s for a different book. You can check that one out here.

My blurb goes like this: Journalist, Laura Chambers, gets called in to identify the remains of an accident victim. Except, the body is so broken and damaged that Laura can’t recognize the woman. Then Laura discovers that the woman’s last call had been to her. And so begins Laura’s descent into chaos. Hell-bent on finding answers, she bends rules where required, faces off against a police officer who hates her guts, and discovers that a friendship from her long-forgotten past has ties to her present. Who was the woman who died on the highway? Why had she called Laura? And what did any of it have to do with an old friend that Laura had lost touch with decades ago?

Overall Rating:

3 out of 10

Plot:

6 out of 10

Characterization:

3 out of 10

Primary Element:

6 out of 10 for its mystery

Writing Style:

4 out of 10

Part of a Series: 

Yes. This is Book #2 in the Laura Chambers series. However, most people who’ve read it said it stood on its own without much concern. I don’t know if the first one was any better, especially on the characterization, but I did feel like I may have lost out a bit by not having read the first one – especially regarding getting a feel for any of the persons involved.

What Worked and What Didn’t:

  1. What Lies Beneath has an incredible start. It jumps right in and gets you hooked. The first couple of chapters are thrilling as heck!
  2. The rest of the book just plods along. I remember thinking, at one point, “This is moving really slowly. Maybe I should stop.” And then I saw that I was 56% in. At which point I realized that it was not moving slowly, but that was its actual pace – a lot of nothing happening.
  3. I feel like the main reason for that emotion was that the story was so vastly different from the blurb. For instance, there was no mention of Laura thinking that the picture she found was of “someone she had imagined”. There was very little confusion between her fact and fiction – more like questions about why things that happened (and that she remembers happening) had happened.
  4. I have never disliked so many characters in a single book. Okay, maybe I disliked the ones in Win by Harlan Coben more (review here), but this was a close second. Laura, in spite of being a victim, was so selfish and annoying that I could not find myself rooting for her at any point.
  5. That’s not to say that there were no glimpses of her ‘goodness’. They were just so rare that she’s just an unlikeable person. And having a main character you can’t root for makes it that much more difficult to be invested in the book.
  6. There’s also a lot of assumed characterization. Relationships and emotions spill over from the previous book, but none of it is explained. As a result, you feel like you’ve walked into the middle of a conversation where everyone is mad at everyone, irrational, and intentionally obtuse. I’m not saying Hetherton should have given the entire plot away. But some introduction would have been good at specific points to help understand what was happening. I’ve started a lot of series midway and have seen most authors do this, specifically to help with characterization.
  7. Plus, the writing style gets super weird at times. The author seems to get taken in with his own similes, and I often found myself lost in paragraphs that didn’t add anything to anything.
  8. Overall, the book is okay. It moves very slowly, doesn’t really fill you with active interest to know what happens next, and is oftentimes exhausting in both narration and conversation. All in all, worth a pass.

I had a lot of expectations going into What Lies Beneath, but I wouldn’t really recommend the book to anyone. If you love thrillers and mysteries, there are other, much better ones out there. And I’m definitely not going to be reading more from J.G.Hetherton. His style may be great for some, but it just didn’t suit my tastes.

Have you read What Lies Beneath or Last Girl Gone? Tell us what you thought in the comments below. And, as always, thank you for stopping at The Book Review Station and reading this review.

– Rishika

Posted in All Book Reviews, Crime fiction, Thrillers

Book Review: The Guilty (By David Baldacci)

I’ve been reading a lot of David Baldacci lately. Part of the reason for that is that he’s another of my “comfort” reads authors. His books are generally engaging with interesting plots. The second reason is that I’m midway on multiple series, including the Will Robie and Jessica Reel, Amos Decker, John Puller, and Atlee Pine series. And I want to wrap them up before moving on to his newer ones. Right now, though, I’m focused on the Will Robie series, mainly because Robie makes an appearance in the next Amos Decker book and I just have to finish the Robie series and get to the Decker one in order. Make of that obsession what you will.

Anyway… let’s get right into the book review of The Guilty.

Genre: 

Thriller, Crime fiction

Length: 

420 pages

Blurb:

When elite government assassin, Will Robie, finds himself unable to pull the trigger on a mission, he finds himself adrift. His entire life has been about the job, and without his skills… he’s almost nothing. To recover his skill, he needs to resolve what’s holding him back – his past. He needs to return to Cantrell, Mississippi, the town he had left behind without another look twenty years ago. He needs to return to his father, because of whom he’d left town in the first place. Dan Robie had been elected town judge in the years since Robie left. But now, he was arrested and charged with murder. With the entire town sure of his guilt, Dan Robie offers no defense. Will’s return to the town is met with suspicion, by strangers and his own father. Yet Will perseveres. Supported by Jessica Reel, he begins his own investigation and soon discovers that Cantrell has a lot to hide. Can Will Robie prove his father’s innocence? Or is Dan Robie truly guilty? And will either live long enough to repair their bond?

Overall Rating:

7 out of 10

Plot:

8 out of 10

Characterization:

8 out of 10

Primary Element:

6 out of 10 for its suspense

Writing Style:

6 out of 10

Part of a Series: 

Yes. This is Book #4 in the Will Robie series. Jessica Reel makes her first appearance in Book #2.

Highlighted Takeaway:

With an unexpected look into the past that makes Will Robie who he is, The Guilty brings a personal perspective into an otherwise inscrutable character.

What I Liked:

The Guilty has an interesting plot that mixes past and present really well. It also brings the multiple layers you expect from a Baldacci book, with the arcs tying together neatly. While it’s not the most unpredictable, the story does pack its share of surprises.

What I Didn’t Like:

This was something I never thought I’d say about David Baldacci, but it really seemed like this was ghostwritten by someone else, with his name just added in at the end. The style was obviously different at the outset. While it still is a good read, it’s just not what you would expect. Whether it’s Baldacci trying something different or a mismatched ghostwriting attempt, it definitely affects the reading experience.

Who Should Read It:

If you’ve come this far in the Will Robie series, give The Guilty a shot. It’s a good addition to the story. Anyone who enjoys crime fiction and mysteries will also like The Guilty – at its core, it is a murder mystery.

Who Should Avoid:

If the recent David Baldacci books haven’t been meeting your expectations, I suspect this one too would do the same. Best to avoid if you’re not a fan of Baldacci, the Robie series, or mysteries in general.

Read It For:

The continuation of Will Robie and Jessica Reel’s story. (Really, at this point, it looks like the series is moving to a conclusion on their characters and storylines, after the event in Book #1, which was the catalyst for the change in the status quo.)

Although The Guilty wasn’t as great as I’d hoped, I’m still going to see the series through. And then move on to completing the Amos Decker series (which I hope to God is maintaining its quality). Share your thoughts on all these series and Baldacci, or any of your favorite books, in the comments below.

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

– Rishika