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, Thrillers

Book Review: The Chase (By Candice Fox)

A big thanks to NetGalley for an ARC of The Chase by Candice Fox. The blurb of the book was really interesting and I got into it as soon as I received the book. So, without further ado, let’s get into what it’s about, what works, what doesn’t, and why you should (or shouldn’t) read this book.

Genre: 

Mystery/Thriller

Length:

432 pages 

Blurb:

John Kradle is on death row for the murder of his wife, son, and sister-in-law. The Supervisor in charge of the row, Celine Osbourne, has always had a special hatred for him. And when a hostage situation leads to all 600 of the Pronghorn Correctional Facility inmates going free, Celine is determined to capture Kradle on priority. But Kradle is determined to stay one step ahead – because this is his last and only chance to prove his innocence. While other departments swoop in to help with one of the biggest manhunts in US history and chase down some of the most dangerous criminals ever captured, Celine and Kradle become entrenched in a game of cat-and-mouse. Is Kradle really innocent? Will Celine’s past keep her from seeing the truth, whatever that may be? And how many innocents will die before the manhunt comes to a successful end?

Overall Rating:

6.5 out of 10

Plot:

7 out of 10

Characterization:

5 out of 10

Primary Element:

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

Writing Style:

6 out of 10

Part of a Series: 

No. Although, it could become the first of a series.

Highlighted Takeaway:

Candice Fox weaves an engaging tale of how personal demons and traumas can both make and break people, influencing everything big and small that they do.

What I Liked:

The main story – that of John Kradle, Celine Osbourne, and their interactions – was the most interesting part of The Chase. While the rest of the book covered the other criminals’ storylines, with a large part of the book focusing on non-Kradle stuff, the main pitch remained the strongest.

What I Didn’t Like:

While the characterization of Osbourne and Kradle was good (with Kradle’s being better), I found the rest of the characters to be very limited. Plus, some of the characters were incredibly unlikeable and, in my opinion, probably more so than intended. There were so many story arcs that the book couldn’t really get into too much detail of anyone, but at the same time tried to share a lot of information. The end result was that the story seemed very choppy in quite a few places, being more ‘telling’ than ‘showing’.

Who Should Read It:

Anyone who likes manhunt-style stories will definitely enjoy The Chase. You’ll probably also like it if you like the ‘justice seeking vigilante’ stories. I read The Chase without too many breaks – it moved along briskly, kept me engaged, and definitely kept me wanting to discover the truth. In spite of the few issues it had, it was an interesting read and I’d definitely read more from Candice Fox.

Who Should Avoid:

If you don’t like stories that have numerous arcs, multiple storylines, and a few unstable characters, I’d recommend avoiding this one.

Read It For:

A fast-moving, easy-to-read page-turner that is perfect as a travel-time read or to curl up with while the storm rages on outside.

Got any book recommendations for new or old thrillers that you’d like to share? Let us know in the comments below. And, as always, thank you for taking the time to stop by the Book Review Station and read my review!

– Rishika

Posted in All Book Reviews, Crime fiction, Mystery

Book Review: Treachery Times Two (By Robert McCaw)

A big thanks to the author, Robert McCaw, and Oceanview Publishing for a free ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Treachery Times Two brings to the forefront one of the biggest ongoing arcs in the Koa Kāne series – Koa’s one mistake that made him who he is, but the revealing of which could take away everything that he’s earned. Does the book do the arc justice? Read on to find out.

Genre: 

Mystery

Length: 

361 pages

Blurb:

Numerous bodies are unearthed in an old, abandoned cemetery when a volcanic earthquake disrupts Hawai’i island. In them is the mutilated body of a woman, unrecognizable, and clearly buried only days ago. Chief Detective Koa Kāne’s investigation into the woman’s death leads him into the world of a politically connected defense contractor, an incredibly powerful and secret military weapon – Deimos, and an FBI espionage investigation. Forced to defy his Chief of Police in his search for justice for the victim, Kāne faces a new threat – that of his thirty-year-old secret being revealed. Years ago, Kāne had killed his father’s nemesis – the man who’d been responsible for Kāne’s father’s death – and covered up the murder. Now, the grandson of the dead man has arrived, and Koa is forced to investigate the homicide he had committed. Until another man is falsely accused of the murder. Can Koa stand by and watch an innocent man pay for his crime? Or will he accept his guilt before everyone, losing the chance to find justice for the mutilated, forgotten woman, and losing the woman he loves, the respect he’s earned, and everything he has ever held dear?

Overall Rating:

9 out of 10

Plot:

10 out of 10

Characterization:

10 out of 10

Primary Element:

10 out of 10 for its mystery

Writing Style:

9 out of 10

Part of a Series: 

Yes. This is Book No. 4 in the Koa Kāne series. The books are connected and are best read in order, but can be enjoyed as standalone-s too. Check out the review for Book No. 1, Death of a Messenger, here, and Book No. 3, Fire and Vengeance, here.

Highlighted Takeaway:

Even better than its prequels, Treachery Times Two brings everything you’ve come to love about the Koa Kāne series – mystery, culture, and characterization – and ups the ante.

What I Liked:

There were three things that I liked the most in Treachery Times Two:

  1. It’s got the perfect mix of culture and story, with neither outshining the other.
  2. It showcases Koa Kāne in his rawest, most human form – flawed yet morally strong.
  3. It has multiple storylines and brings them all together perfectly.

What I Didn’t Like:

There is nothing I can say I actively disliked in the book. I found it to be even better than the earlier books in the series (except for Book No. 2, which I am yet to read), and feel that it’s set the bar higher for the series.

Who Should Read It:

If you like mysteries, especially those that have multi-layered plots, you’ll definitely enjoy Treachery Times Two and other Koa Kāne books.

Who Should Avoid:

I don’t think anyone would really dislike this book, unless you absolutely do not enjoy mysteries.

Read It For:

Koa Kāne’s ultimate test – professional and personal. And the always-enthralling representation of Hawaiian culture.

Treachery Times Two releases in January 2022 – pre-order it from most online bookstores or Amazon.

Got questions or something to share about Robert McCaw’s Koa Kāne series or Treachery Times Two? Drop a comment below! And as always, thanks for stopping by The Book Review Station and reading this review!

– Rishika

Posted in All Book Reviews, Crime fiction

Book Review: A Study in Crimson (By Robert J. Harris)

A big thanks to Robert J. Harris and Pegasus Books for a free copy of A Study in Crimson in exchange for an honest review. I’ve always been a fan of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson; I’ve read most of Arthur Conan Doyle’s novels and short stories, and have watched the Robert Downey Jr. movie adaptation and the Benedict Cumberbatch series. I haven’t, however, seen the Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce movies (around which this book is primarily based) but those who have say that the tone and vibe of A Study in Crimson perfectly encapsulates their essence.

There a lot of Sherlock Holmes adaptations out there, in books, movies, and television. So does A Study in Crimson stand out as one of the better ones? Read on to know!

Genre: 

Mystery, Crime

Length: 

256 pages

Blurb:

It’s 1942 and the streets of London are blacked out every night in an effort to avoid devastating bombings. But in the dark, a new danger arises. A man calling himself Crimson Jack is murdering women on the same dates as Jack the Ripper, and Scotland Yard turns to Sherlock Holmes to solve the case. But the killings have a ripple effect and people high up in power have their own reasons for wanting the case solved, and fast. Can Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson solve this mystery before more women die? Or will the killer disappear into oblivion, never identified, as his predecessor did?

Overall Rating:

9 out of 10

Plot:

9 out of 10

Characterization:

9 out of 10

Primary Element:

9 out of 10 for its mystery

Writing Style:

9 out of 10

Part of a Series: 

No. But it is based around the films starring Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce. I felt like there were references to some of those films and characters specific to them (not having seen any of them, I can’t say for sure), but you don’t feel lost at anytime and it doesn’t take anything away from the story.

Highlighted Takeaway:

With all the expected quirkiness of the main characters and the charm of the original author, Robert J. Harris’ A Study in Crimson will be an easy and enjoyable read for fans of Holmes and Watson.

What I Liked:

The story moves steadily and has no lulls, leaving you quite engrossed. The writing style is very reminiscent of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s work; adjusted for the change in period, but not having lost any of its charm. It’s also wonderfully descriptive, allowing you to really imagine what the city and settings look like. I also found that the (possible) references to the related movies were done perfectly so that someone who hasn’t seen them can still enjoy A Study in Crimson, with the right amount of depth to all the additional characters and enough detail to not leave you confused in the least. And if these weren’t references, they still came across as well-detailed, with all characters contributing immensely to the story.

What I Didn’t Like:

There was nothing to really dislike in Harris’ book – it moves along well and is a really good adaptation of some of the most popular characters in literature.

Who Should Read It:

Robert J. Harris’ A Study in Crimson can be enjoyed by readers who like:

  • whodunits
  • classic mysteries
  • anything Sherlock Holmes-related
  • stories based during World War II

Who Should Avoid:

If you prefer your mysteries to be based in modern times, full of forensic evidence, and bad-a** cops or detectives, A Study in Crimson might not be the perfect fit for you. (That is not to say that Sherlock Holmes isn’t bad-a** but that that this book might not be the best fit if you’re looking for more violent or action-filled cop/detective mysteries.)

Read It For:

The classic Sherlock Holmes de-mystifying you would expect (and love)!

I really enjoyed Robert J. Harris’ A Study in Crimson, and I would definitely read more of his work. Share your thoughts on Harris and his books (or any other Sherlock Holmes’ adaptations) in the comments below. And as always, thanks for stopping by and reading my review!

Before you go, I’ve got some news! The Book Review Station is undergoing a bit of a revamp and rebrand. A new look, a new name, and all new categories of content! This move is still in its nascent stage and I will post regular updates as we go on. You will still be able to find all of the old posts on the new platform. Until then, the reading and reviewing will continue right here 🙂

– Rishika

Posted in All Book Reviews, Crime fiction, Thrillers

Book Review: Broken Heart (By Tim Weaver)

Continuing with the David Raker series by Tim Weaver, we’re talking about Broken Heart this time. Read on to know if this book fails in comparison to its prequels or if Tim Weaver can keep the momentum going.

Genre: 

Mystery, Thriller

Length: 

451 pages

Blurb:

Security footage from one of the headlands overlooking the Devon coast shows a woman enter in the morning. Her car is found in the parking lot days later. The woman is not seen or recorded leaving from the only entrance and feasible path in and out of the area, and yet she’s never found again. Months later, David Raker is hired by her sister, who lives halfway across the world, to find out what happened to her, if she’s even alive, and where she may be. What led the woman, widowed from a reclusive film director, to disappear… and how exactly did she disappear? An already complicated case gets even more so as Raker digs deeper and decades-old secrets begin to emerge. Someone has kept these secrets hidden until now and, as David starts to discover, no cost seems too high to keep them buried. Raker finds himself caught in an intrinsic and dangerous web. And yet, that may not be the cause of Raker’s destruction. Because the demons and memories of his past are slowly catching up.

Overall Rating:

8 out of 10

Plot:

8 out of 10

Characterization:

10 out of 10

Primary Element:

7 out of 10 for its mystery, 9 out of 10 for its thrill

Writing Style:

9 out of 10

Part of a Series: 

Yes. This is Book #7 in the David Raker series. It can, to some extent, be read as a standalone. But the development of David’s character is best read in order, starting at at least Book #4 – Never Coming Back.

Highlighted Takeaway:

Tim Weaver is the master of ‘skeletons in the closet’ tales – and his talent in bringing these to life is undeniably evident in Broken Heart.

What I Liked:

The creepy factor – the narrative in many parts of Broken Heart leaves you feeling unsettled, and with the feeling that someone is around you but just out of sight, providing the perfect ‘thrill’. Another aspect that’s really enjoyable is the depth of information (narrated entertainingly) about the movie industry and its evolution (from technical and cultural aspects). Both these elements manage to pull you in and keep you turning the pages.

What I Didn’t Like:

I did feel like the book could have been a few pages shorter, that some chapters were lengthened without cause. But it didn’t really take too much away from the momentum of the story.

Who Should Read It:

Anyone who loves thrillers and mysteries will enjoy Broken Heart, and the entire David Raker series.

Who Should Avoid:

There are a few graphic parts that do make your stomach turn. So if you’re easily put off by violence, I’d recommend avoiding this one.

Read It For:

Unsurprisingly, David Raker. Without giving too much away, I will say that his character development is becoming interesting and even unexpected. But it leaves you wanting to know that much more about what happens next!

Love the David Raker series? Or have recommendations for similar works? Drop a comment below. And as always, thanks for stopping by and reading my book review!

– Rishika

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

Book Review: Every Last Fear (By Alex Finlay)

Every Last Fear by Alex Finlay sounded like the perfect book that brought together mystery, thriller, and true-crime documentaries (especially around wrongful convictions). It took me around four days to read the book – which is quite long at 368 pages – because it definitely manages to hold the reader’s interest (and I had a long weekend!). So what’s good, what’s bad, and what’s unputdownable about it? Read on to know.

Genre: 

Mystery, Thriller

Length: 

368 pages

Blurb:

Seven years ago, Matt Pine’s elder brother, Danny, had been convicted of the murder of his teenaged girlfriend. Danny swore innocence. His parents and younger sister stood by him and so did the rest of the country as they followed the case – portrayed as one of wrongful conviction – in a viral true-crime documentary. Matt didn’t know what to believe because he saw something the night that made him suspect his brother’s guilt. Now a student at NYU, Matt is trying to pick up the pieces of the life left in the aftermath of the documentary that villainized the town, forced his family out of the city, and drove a wedge between him and his father who had centered his life around proving Danny’s innocence. Until he wakes up after a night of partying to learn that most of his family – his parents, younger sister, and kid brother – were dead, killed in an accidental gas leak when taking a rare holiday in Mexico. Numb and shocked, Matt is forced to face the past as he attempts to bring his family’s bodies back home and give them a proper funeral. But as suspicions surrounding his family’s death arise, the past and present crash… and Matt is left fighting for his own life and facing hidden fears. When the truth behind his family’s deaths, his brother’s conviction, and behind what he saw that night finally surfaces, will Matt, Danny, and the Pine family receive their redemption… or will it destroy them and their memories forever?

Overall Rating:

7 out of 10

Plot:

8 out of 10

Characterization:

8 out of 10

Primary Element:

9 out of 10 for its mystery, 6 out of 10 for its thrill

Writing Style:

8 out of 10

Part of a Series: 

No. (Could be in the future given that one of the main characters has a lot of potential to become a leading protagonist in their own series.)

Highlighted Takeaway:

Emotional, Insightful, and a Page-turner Every Last Fear successfully maintains the mystery and keeps the reader guessing.

What I Liked:

If you’ve read enough mysteries and thrillers, you learn to pick up on the subtle clues. But Every Last Fear doesn’t let that happen. It takes a while before you figure out the primary mystery, and the many other smaller ones unfolding alongside. The main characters really shine in all their glory and all their darkness – their flawed but hopeful outlook making them seem very human and very relatable. There also exists an idealistic outlook – the author normalizes choices, expression, and actions that are otherwise only part of ongoing social issue debates. Seeing these matters as a ‘given’ was just… really nice!

What I Didn’t Like:

The story is told from the point of view of multiple characters and over past and present periods, which takes some getting used to. There are also quite a few references to Linkin Park and other pop culture, which was good, but at times came across as a little forced. These issues are easy enough to get over though, and a few chapters in, you can get easily find yourself engrossed.

Who Should Read It:

Anyone who likes mysteries and thrillers will enjoy Every Last Fear. You’ll also really enjoy it if you like true-crime shows, especially The Staircase or The Innocent Man.

Who Should Avoid:

If you don’t like violence at all, I would recommend avoiding this one. It’s not got a lot of it, but the amount it has is hard-hitting.

Read It For:

A fast-paced, well-layered mystery that definitely manages to surprise.

One of the things that Every Last Fear by Alex Finlay touches upon is the effect of a true-crime documentary on the persons that the documentary covers. The documentaries that are famous on Netflix and other platforms don’t always show the after-effects of their airing on the people concerned, and this take on the matter, although fictional, was definitely interesting. I found the highlighted issues about the justice system easy to believe and accept as fact because of the many true-crime documentaries that have brought to light similar matters. These are problems that need to change, and it’s interesting to see more work – fictional and non-fictional – being dedicated to their awareness.

Love true-crime documentaries or thrillers? Share your thoughts on your favorites in the comments below. And as always, thanks for stopping by and reading my review. Coming up next… a review of either The Zookeeper’s Wife by Diane Ackerman or Broken Heart by Tim Weaver.

– Rishika

Posted in All Book Reviews, Crime fiction, Mystery

Book Review: Salvation of a Saint (By Keigo Higashino)

The first book of Keigo Higashino that I ever read was The Devotion of Suspect X (the English translation). And I have recommended it to everyone since (review here). So when I picked up Salvation of a Saint (I just couldn’t resist picking this over the other options), I had a lot of expectations. Read on to know how it (finally) went!

Genre:

Mystery

Length:

330 pages 

Blurb:

Yoshitaka Mashida is on the verge of divorcing his wife. But before he can do so, he dies of being posioned by arsenic-laced coffee. His wife, Ayane Mashiba, becomes the prime suspect. Except for one problem – she was hundreds of miles away the day that Yoshitaka was murdered. When Detective Kusanagi begins his investigation, he faces an unexpected challenge – he is smitten with the prime suspect and believes her to be innocent. But Junior Detective Kaoru Utsumi holds onto her belief that Ayane is guilty. Their difference of opinion, however, turns out to be the smallest of their problems in a case that becomes increasingly unsolvable as it unfolds. And so, Utsumi does what her boss has always done in such tough situations – she turns to Kusanagi’s brilliant friend, Professor Manabu Yukawa, known by the Tokyo Police as Detective Galileo. Will Yukawa be able to help Utsumi and his friend solve another seemingly unsolvable case? Or has he finally met his match in Yoshitaka Mashiba’s killer?

Overall Rating:

9 out of 10

Plot:

10 out of 10

Characterization:

10 out of 10

Primary Element:

10 out of 10 for its mystery

Writing Style:

10 out of 10

Part of a Series:

Yes. Salvation of a Saint is the second English-translated book in the Detective Galileo books, although it stands at #5 in the original (Japanese) series. It can easily, however, be read as a standalone or even as a starting point of the series.

Highlighted Takeaway:

Salvation of a Saint is unputdownable with twists that keep you guessing and questioning your earlier guesses, before coming to a brilliant and satisfying end – simple, but deadly!

What I Liked:

The cultural aspects were really beautiful. They give you so much insight into a completely different culture than what you may be used to if you usually read crime thrillers and mysteries from North America or the U.K.

The writing style is beautifully simple, and equally impactful. I just could not keep this one down and took every opportunity I got to read a few pages.

The representation of gender equality (in, I am given to assume, a male-dominated culture) while still being able to showcase (and celebrating) the strengths of each gender.

Lastly – the story. Keigo Higashino continuously manages to create complex stories that are simply presented. In fact, in both of his books that I’ve read, I’ve always started with wondering how he can stretch out and add mystery to something that seems obvious. And yet, he repeatedly does just that, leaving you with a sense of deep satisfaction when the mystery is finally solved.

What I Didn’t Like:

There was nothing that I really disliked about Salvation of a Saint, but I did feel like it fell just under The Devotion of Suspect X in my list of preferences. It was great but not as phenomenal as the latter.

Who Should Read It:

Anyone who loves a good mystery. You should especially give Keigo Higashino’s books a shot if you like/liked Agatha Christie novels and other whodunits.

Who Should Avoid:

Anyone who doesn’t enjoy a good whodunit-style mystery.

Read It For:

A writing style that manages to highlight some of the most terrible aspects of people and humanity with simplicity that seems to be right at odds with the heinousness, and that yet manages to perfectly encapsulate it.

Share your thoughts on Keigo Higashino, Salvation of a Saint, or any of his other works in the comments below. Recommendations for similar books are very welcome! Coming up next… either a review of Tim Weaver’s Broken Heart or Nir Eyal’s Hooked.

As always, thanks for stopping by and reading my review!

– Rishika

Posted in All Book Reviews

A few drawbacks, but an interesting read: A Review of Death of a Messenger by Robert McCaw

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Death of a Messenger is not the first Robert McCaw book I’ve read, although it is the first in the Koa Kāne Hawaiian Mystery series. I had earlier read and reviewed Book #3 in the series – Fire and Vengeance. You can read its review here. The first two books were on my TBR, so I was quite excited when I received this book for a review. Read on to know more.

Genre: 

Mystery

Length:

352 pages 

Blurb:

Detective Koa Kāne is called in to investigate a murder when a body is discovered in a lava tube at Pohakuloa, the army’s live-fire training area. In his many years on the force, Koa has seen a lot of horrific sites, but the mutilated body with signs of a ritualistic killing is one of the worst. Koa is determined to find the person capable of such horror while forced to fight against an ineffective ME, hostility from both nativists and westerners, and personal demons born of his own past actions. With grave robbers, thieves, astronomers, and nativists falling into the suspect pool and everyone concerned to the case sharing more lies than truth, Koa needs to use every skill, intuition, and bit of experience to find out who the victim was, why he was murdered, and who is behind the heinous mutilation.

Overall Rating:

7 out of 10

Plot:

8 out of 10

Characterization:

9 out of 10

Primary Element:

8 out of 10 for its mystery

Writing Style:

5 out of 10

Part of a Series: 

Yes. This is Book #1 in the Koa Kāne series, followed by Off the Grid and Fire and Vengeance.

Highlighted Takeaway:

The depth of information regarding traditional Hawaiian practices and traditions. Like other books in the series, Death of a Messenger stays true to showcasing the various facets, past and present, of the region in which it is set.

What I Liked:

Death of a Messenger is a classic whodunnit. Or, as Captain Holt of Brooklyn Nine-Nine says, a ‘who has done this’. A series of suspects, all of whom have motive, keeps the story moving and the reader, guessing.

What I Didn’t Like:

Maybe it’s because this is the first book in the series, but I noticed that it had a lot of “tell, not show” instead of it being vice versa. There were random mentions of back stories when, instead, the point being overly-repeated could have simply been shown in character development after a couple of mentions. I found the writing style in those segments really strange and off-putting, and think the story could have done a lot better without the excessive repetition. (Much like this paragraph, you may be thinking!)

Who Should Read It:

Anyone who likes mystery, learning about new places (Death of a Messenger does not stray far from reality in setting and history), and suspense will enjoy this Koa Kāne story. In spite of its few shortcomings, it is an interesting read.

Who Should Avoid:

Anyone uncomfortable with gore or violence – while not over the top, there is some violence in Death of a Messenger that can be a bit too graphic for those who are uncomfortable with it.

Read It For:

Koa Kāne. The leading character in the series is a relatable, likable, and kind-hearted person, with enough shades of gray to make you want to follow his story.

Want to share something about the Koa Kāne series or my review? Leave a comment below 🙂

Coming up next is a review of The Alienist (the book, not the TV show). Stay tuned to find out if the historical suspense fiction meets expectations. And, as always, thanks for stopping by and taking the time to read this review.

Rishika

Posted in All Book Reviews

Better to avoid: A review of No One Will Hear Your Screams by Thomas O’Callaghan

A big thank you to NetGalley for an ARC of this book. I thought the blurb was really interesting and I tried really hard to like the book. But at the end of it, No One Will Hear Your Screams by Thomas O’Callaghan was just a disappointing read.

I’m taking a slightly different approach in this review, primarily because I found it a bit difficult to get through the story. I didn’t want to close it as a DNF, so I’m just going to summarize what I felt after ensuring I completed it.

Genre:

Mystery, Suspense

Length: 

352 pages

Blurb:

Lieutenant John Driscoll begins investigating a series of murders in NYC. The perpetrator is twisted, as evidenced by his actions. But what’s driving him? And will Driscoll win the fight against the evil that the murderer epitomizes?

Overall Rating:

1 out of 10

Plot:

1 out of 10

Characterization:

1 out of 10

Primary Element:

2 out of 10 for its few random plot twists that did end up adding some elements of surprise.

Writing Style:

2 out of 10

Part of a Series:

Yes, it’s the third book in the John Driscoll series but can be read as a standalone.

A little more:

No One Will Hear Your Screams has some great reviews. Unfortunately, it just did not work for me. Here are a few reasons why:

  1. Characters were very one dimensional. There was good, there was bad, and there was very little depth to either. Maybe that was because the character of the protagonist, Driscoll, has been developed over the series, maybe not. Either way, there was little in way of development that made you really associate with the characters, consequently leaving you un-invested in anything that happened to them.
  2. Random arcs that went nowhere. I’m not even sure why these plot points were added other than for shock value.
  3. Which brings me to my next point – random shock value. There were some seriously graphic scenes, which could affect even those who’ve read tons of violent suspense. They could have honestly added a whole other layer to the story but didn’t, because they were incredibly haphazardly placed instead of being part of the theme and the antagonist’s MO.
  4. One small, but extremely irritating, point was the constant and childish interaction between two characters that were, until that point, shown to be capable, functioning adults. Put together, they become bickering toddlers. Not only was it uncharacteristic, it was just cringey to read because literally no one behaves like that.
  5. Lastly, the writing, story, and persons were just all over the place. Connections between characters, motives, psyche, and even the past of the characters (which was shown to have some effect on the present) were just explained enough to take the story a step forward without really painting a picture. With nothing being delved into, you just end up reading a series of loosely tied events.

Should you read it?

Writing a book is tough work, which is why I really tried to find something that I liked in No One Will Hear Your Screams. It just didn’t work for me though. I would not personally recommend it to anyone because there are a lot of mystery and suspense novels out there that would probably be a better choice.

Drop a comment below if you’d like to share why you loved or hated No One Will Hear Your Screams by Thomas O’Callaghan. As always, thanks for stopping by and taking the time to read my review!

Until the next read…

– Rishika