Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Yule Island by Johana Gustawsson

Good morning, readers! Today I'm a stop on the Random Things tour for Johana Gustawsson's latest, Yule Island

Emma Lindahl is a young and ambitious art expert recently hired on at Von Dardel's, a small but prestigious auction and appraisal house. Through this new position, she's been assigned a fabulous opportunity: cataloging and assessing the Gussman collection at their remote home on Storholmen island. 

But the Gussmans are strange. Her hours are severely limited, her access is confined to specific rooms, and her interaction with the family is all but nonexistent. 

Then there's the island history itself and the fact that a girl was found murdered on the grounds less than a decade before.

Emma tries not to let all of this get to her, but when another body is found nearby, it becomes clear there's something very wrong on Storholmen.

Yule Island is so much creepy fun!

A manor house with dark secrets, a remote island with very small community, and the most fabulous dark Scandinavian lore! Plus, Gustawsson pulls off some truly amazing twists!

The story alternates POVs between Emma; Karl, a local cop; and Viktoria, an employee at the manor. 

Emma is hesitant about her job. And with good reason. The Gussmans are an off-putting family who almost seem to resent her for being there to do the job they hired her for. It's a strange environment, to say the least. 

Karl worked the still open nine-year-old murder case and it haunts him to this day. When another body is found, he's called in even though his own wife has recently gone missing. And yet, the work keeps him busy, keeps him away from their home and their memories, and maybe even gives him a chance at the personal redemption he needs in the wake of the earlier unsolved crime. 

Viktoria has always worked in high-end resort hotels, but the opportunity for a live-in position with the Gussmans offers both her and her daughter a chance to escape her overbearing and emotionally abusive husband. But that doesn't keep him from turning up asking for money occasionally. She gives us a fly-on-the-wall view of the residents of the manor, which becomes increasingly strange and fascinating for the reader!

As I mentioned, Gustawsson has some excellent twists in this book. Some are the kind a savvy reader may see coming while others are a complete surprise. Either way, they make for an intense read. 

And then there's the lore I mentioned. As a whole the book is a wonderful read, but this piece makes it such a stand out. I know next to nothing about Yule lore (the celebration that predates Christmas) and honestly just eat up things like this, begging for more!

Gustawsson hooked me with her previous release, The Bleeding, and as a result Yule Island was already in my must read list and I have to say it did not disappoint!

Friday, December 1, 2023

Dead Sweet by Katrín Júlíusdóttir

It's December, readers! And today I'm kicking off the Random Things blog tour for Katrín Júlíusdóttir's Dead Sweet!

Óttar Karlsson's girlfriend is thrilled to throw him a surprise party for his 50th birthday. She's hired out caterers to make an American barbecue feast, in honor of Óttar's having earned his degree in the States. She's even gone to the trouble to track down old friends from school. And no on is more shocked than her when the guest of honor fails to show up. 

Then Óttar's body is found on the beach. After making quite a name for himself in Icelandic politics, the police are sure someone must have wanted revenge for one of his policies. And yet his coworkers all sing his praises and the polls showed support from many of voting citizens. In short, the police are a bit stumped. 

Sigurdís has been working the beat for a while and is eager to prove herself and move up in the rankings at the department. But she's sidelined early on in the investigation. That is until she discovers a hidden safe in the victim's condo with some very interesting evidence. Soon the police have a number of motives that could have prompted the killing. But which one will pan out?

This is the first in a brand new Icelandic crime series! Interestingly, the author has a background in politics, making her well informed for the kind of plot she's built in Dead Sweet. Or at least part of it!

Because politics isn't the only thing driving this mystery. As Sigurdís ensures she's heavily involved in the case, she uncovers more and more secrets about the acclaimed politician. As the reader would expect, the man is anything but squeaky clean. But it's well hidden. And in some cases, deeply hidden!

And yet part of Sigurdís's strength as an investigator is the fact that she has a keen intuition when it comes to investigations. It's earned her the respect of her colleagues, even after an incident that lands her in very hot water with the department. 

All of that said, she can't understand why her boss keeps relegating her to the sidelines. 

But Sigurdís and her boss have a history that soon comes to light as well, making it clear that he feels an obligation to the young officer. 

As Sigurdís's personal story unfolds, so does the victim's. And the author does a very good job building parallels between multiple characters and their varying stories. To say more would, I fear, give too much away, but after the final page I couldn't help but reflect on each parallel that led up to that point. And it makes Sigurdís a very interesting character indeed!

I look forward to seeing what will happen next and how the events of this book will affect the determined young officer down the line!

Shout out to translator Quentin Bates! He's done another excellent job bringing the author's words to us English readers. 

Tuesday, November 7, 2023

The Wolf by Samuel Bjørk

Good morning, readers! Today I'm super excited to be a stop on the Random Things tour for the latest in Samuel Bjørk's Munch and Krüger series, The Wolf!

As an aside, over a decade since I was introduced to this series with the amazing I'm Traveling Alone and to this day it remains one of my favorites!

The Wolf is actually a prequel to the existing series. It is the story that starts it all: Mia Krüger being recruited to Munch's team at the ripe old age of 21. Her dreams to be the first female Delta sidelined when she's approached with an offer that turns out to be too tantalizing to resist. 

Two boys have been murdered. Their bodies found in a bizarrely laid out scene with a dead fox placed between them. It mirrors a still unsolved case from Sweden with one exception: the animal there was a hare. 

As Munch and his team comb the growing crime scene as well as case files from outside of Norway, the head of the police academy flags Mia Krüger as a potential candidate Munch who might interest Munch. And while he's not looking to expand his team at the moment, Mia's skills of observation prove to be truly unique. After just forty minutes with the crime scene photos, she's made an observation everyone missed. 

Solving the case is anything but easy. No trace evidence at either scene, no connection between the victims in Sweden and Norway, and an eight-year gap between the crimes complicates things, to say the least. And yet, Munch's team is determined.

Bjørk, aka Frode Sander Øein, excels in creating dark and disturbing puzzles of plots for his characters to unravel. And he also excels in building fascinating and well-rounded characters. 

I've noted before that although this is commonly referred to as the Munch and Krüger series, it is in fact a larger cast of characters, all of whom get a careful amount of focus and build. (Though Munch and Krüger do take the spotlight.)

In the case of The Wolf, Bjørk even adds a bit of a forward that sent me on an internet search to see if it was in fact real, which is actually something I love. It means the author has done such a great job at putting together their story that it does feel as though it could be seated in reality!

I will warn you that this series is dark. And by dark I mean it probably needs ALL of the trigger warnings. But if you're a fan of Nordic Noir, this is truly one of the best series I can recommend!

To date there are actually five installments in the series. The fifth has only just released this year and has yet to be translated (so I don't have a title), but the reading order now is:

The Wolf
I'm Traveling Alone
The Owl Always Hunts at Night
The Boy in the Headlights
Book 5 

Friday, November 3, 2023

The Leftover Woman by Jean Kwok

Happy Friday! Today I'm a stop on the Random Things blog tour for Jean Kwok's latest, The Leftover Woman

Jasmine has left her life behind and come to America in hopes of finding her daughter, Fiona. But first, she needs to find a way to pay off the people who got her out of China. And stay out of notice of anyone who can alert her husband, Wen, of her whereabouts. Which is why it's a shock to run into her old friend, Anthony, while job hunting in the city. 

Rebecca is a high-powered editor who wants to have it all: family and a successful career. But after an embarrassing incident with one of her authors, she's finding it more difficult than ever to balance those variables. If she can land a big author at auction, she can get her career back on track. But she can't help feeling like she's losing her grasp on things at home. 

One thing connects Jasmine and Rebecca: Jasmine is the biological mother of Rebecca's adopted daughter. 

The Leftover Woman is a character-driven suspenseful narrative that explores oh so many things! Primarily womanhood, motherhood, and Asian culture. Which is a terrible simplification of the book. 

Jasmine is a daughter from a country that historically does not value its daughters. In spite of this, women are a commodity as wives. And her parents essentially sold her into marriage. And at first things are ok. But when she discovers her husband has betrayed her in the worst way imaginable, it marks the end of their union in her eyes. 

Rebecca is a legacy in the publishing world. And determined to stay that way. But if she can't land a hugely desirable author, she may be in danger of losing her job. It doesn't help that she feels disconnected at home. Jealous of her daughter's affection for her nanny and concerned that she's losing ground in her relationship, she soon finds that juggling all of these pieces is harder than she'd imagined. 

There is a mystery involved here (which I've not gone into). And a definite underlying tension that makes what is sort of a slow burn, utterly gripping. And all of that wrapped in a lovely lyrical package. The Leftover Woman isn't a pretty story, but I have to say that Kwok's writing is. 

The Leftover Woman is one of those magical books that's perfect for a broad range of readers: a cross-genre read with lots of emotion. At times it made me sad and at others it stressed me out. Throughout, I found myself rooting for these two very different women, unsure how things could possibly work out for both of them but very much wanting it to be so. 

The Leftover Woman is out now in the UK from Viper!

Thursday, October 26, 2023

The Christmas Appeal by Janice Hallett

Happy Thursday! Today I'm a stop on the Random Things tour for Janice Hallett's delightful novella, The Christmas Appeal

The Fairway Players are back and up to their old tricks. With the loss of their leaders, Sarah-Jane MacDonald and husband Kevin are co chairs of the organization, much to the dismay of Celia and Joel Halliday. Mustn't forget that's Joel Halliday, OBE.

It's Christmas now and they're prepping for their annual pantomime. This year it's to be Jack and the Beanstalk—all money raised will go to fixing the church hall roof after an unfortunate bat incident. And Sarah-Jane is determined that this will be the best production yet, going all out and even securing a massive beanstalk set piece. 

As it turns out, the beanstalk itself could be a problem with rumors of asbestos swirling around the emails and apps behind the scenes. But it's the dead body that's discovered the night of the play that's the real issue!

So apologies, readers, as I've not posted a review of The Appeal, this book's predecessor as of yet. But I will do so very soon as it is quite fun and highly recommended!

The Christmas Appeal is wonderful! Literally laugh-out-loud hilarious at parts and overall a very lighthearted read. 

If you've read The Appeal, the characters you know and love are back and feisty as ever. 

Sarah-Jane has a new baby, which hasn't slowed her down at all. Celia is at her throat, at least passive and not so passive aggressively. And the Players are recruiting new members now that they're down quite a few. It's a good thing two new housing developments have gone up even though some of the members would rather not recruit from the other side of the Tesco. 

As with The Appeal, the book is built through texts, emails, and WhatsApp, and other ephemera with Charlotte and Femi once again reading alongside trying to untangle the various clues to determine a. what crime has actually been committed and b. who committed said crime. 

Honestly, delightful only begins to describe this one. The Christmas Appeal is out and out fun! Definitely recommended, though if you haven't read The Appeal just yet, you might want to dive into that one first so you can get to know the characters and the first case a bit more!

The Christmas Appeal is out now in the UK and in the US. Happy reading!

Monday, October 23, 2023

Stigma by Jørn Lier Horst and Thomas Enger

Happy Monday, everyone! Today I'm am super excited to be a stop on the Random Things tour for the latest in the Blix and Ramm series by Jørn Lier Horst and Thomas Enger, Stigma!


Things are grim for former cop now inmate Alexander Blix. Losing his daughter has been such a blow that serving time for killing her killer barely even registers. He's lost weight. He's lost interest. And Emma Ramm is one of his only regular visitors. 

But when his former boss approaches him for help, he can't resist. 

It seems a serial killer has escaped prison in Germany and may be on his way to Norway. How do they know this? Their one clue is the name of a man serving time alongside Blix. In fact, it's the one inmate he's had the most trouble with since arriving. 

Meanwhile, Emma ends up looking into the same escaped prisoner, by way of looking for an advantage for Blix with his problematic inmate. And the case is all kinds of twisted. 

With threads that stretch back to 2004 and a tourist camping spot, Emma becomes entangled in a web on the outside while Blix faces the challenges of investigating from behind bars. 

I have reviewed the majority of the books in this series and I don't know how many more ways I can sing its praises! I love Blix and Ramm!

I warned you above and highly suggest reading these books in order. However, if you don't mind MAJOR spoilers for book three, you can dive in with Stigma

While all of the books pretty perfectly illustrate the partnership between Blix and Ramm, this one does so in such a great way! Blix is in prison. There's not much he can do beyond the connections he makes with a particular inmate. And so he is reliant on Fosse to share info and on Emma and the research she can do online and on the ground. 

Both characters shine throughout the series, but pitting them both against the challenges they face here truly does show why this is such an amazing series!

There is also the appeal of gaining insight into Norwegian law. Blix's case, which is under appeal at the time the book is set; the intricacies of chasing a convict across country lines; even the small town cops Emma has to navigate in her own digging. All of it is such a fun escape for someone like me who has never been to Norway. (Which might sound funny since this is a thriller, but it's true!)

I don't want to give too much away, but I will say this one kept me guessing. I truly did not see the twists coming!

As ever, the authors and translator, Megan E Turney, and all of the folks at Orenda have done such a fantastic job here. I cannot recommend this series highly enough! And if you'd like to start from the beginning, the series order is:

Death Deserved
Smoke Screen

Friday, October 6, 2023

Short Fiction Friday: Mama Bird by Clay McLeod Chapman

Bringing back my short fiction posts!

As I've mentioned before, I am a literary agent. So during the week, in an attempt to reign myself in and focus on work, I try to stick to short stories and novellas. ('Cause if I get into a novel, I'm going to binge read until I finish, at the expense of work I need to be doing!)

Every parent knows the worry that comes from picky eating kids. Are they getting enough nutrients and protein? Are they going to be hungry? It plagues you. 

And for this mother, whose daughter struggled to regain her birth weight and eschewed food, when she finally finds a solution, she grabs hold of it. Even if it isn't quite what you'd expect...

You're probably familiar with Clay through his novels, The Remaking, Whisper Down the Lane, Ghost Eaters, and the newly released What Kind of Mother. But this first of his chapbooks, published by Shortwave, came to my attention just before StokerCon. 

It's a short tale. One that can definitely be read in one sitting. But it is a lot to chew on. 

And as a mom, it hits on something I myself have had issues with since day one: providing nourishment for my child. Worrying about his development. And stressing about the importance of my own role in that regard. 

Course I've never quite had to deal with the things this mom experiences!

A little plug for Shortwave—they are a special indie press putting out fantastically packaged chapbooks, novellas, collections, and novels. I've been reading a bunch of their titles, so you'll be seeing more from them on the blog!

Thursday, October 5, 2023

White as Snow by Lilja Sigurdardóttir

Happy happy Thursday! Today I'm a stop on the Random Things tour for the third in Lilja Sigurdardóttir's series, White as Snow

A shipping container has been found on public land containing the bodies of five women. Except upon further investigation, one of the women is hanging on by a thread. Malnourished and suffering from terrible frostbite, the police do their best to keep news of her survival out of the press. As their main witness, they understand all too well that the people responsible for putting her there will do anything to find her and keep her quiet. 

Daníel was supposed to be spending the next ten days with his children, but a case this big can't be pawned off. But he also knows that something this dark and twisted is going to loom heavy over him for a while. 

At the same time, Áróra, still trying to figure out where she stands with Daníel, has been asked to look into his ex-wife's new partner. The man, Sergei, is quite a bit younger than Elín, an artist who happens to be Áróra's own father's cousin. Though Elín is admittedly smitten, her father is insisting on a pre-nup to protect her assets. And yet Sergei is not only pushing for marriage, under the auspices of needing to be an official resident to get a job, he's against the pre-nup as well. And so it's Áróra's job to find out if there's something shady about the Elín's love interest.

As both Daníel and Áróra's cases go on, there becomes hints of a connection. At first, it's an old case that both worked on in the past and links to the shipping container. But as they move forward, the links between the two cases become even stronger. 

So first off, the thing on just about every series reader's mind: yes, if you're new to Lilja Sigurdardóttir's work, you can start here fairly easily. You are missing character development, particular in the case of Áróra as her sister's disappearance continues to be a main focus of hers. Some spoilers, but you can easily read White as Snow as a lead in to the series. 

Technically this is referred to as the third in the Áróra Investigation Series (Cold as Hell, Red as Blood, White as Snow). But what seems to be common with Nordic Noir in particular is the fact that the series does not focus exclusively on Áróra herself, but rather a whole cast of characters. Daníel and his fellow officer, Helena, get just as much page time as Áróra herself. Which is something that I really love because you not only get backstory on all of them, but the interactions between them become more rich and detailed. 

In this particular outing, you also get Bisi, the survivor. A Nigerian cut off from her family and seeking refuge, she falls prey to the worst kind of people. Her story comes out in two parts: past (before the container) and present. And she plays her cards close, in part because she's reliant on the officers and immigration to keep her safe. 

White as Snow is an excellent addition to what is a fantastic series! If you haven't discovered it yet, do dive in here. Or start from the beginning and read them in order (my recommendation!) for the full experience!

Wednesday, October 4, 2023

The Hollows by Daniel Church

Everyone knows the Harpers are trouble. And it's not unusual for the ones still allowed at the local pub to get wasted and pick a fight. But Tony Harper was one of the better ones. 


Now Tony's been found dead, frozen in the snow, and it's up to Constable Ellie Cheetham to share the bad news. 

What Ellie doesn't know is that Tony won't be the last. Something has begun. Something that puts all of them at risk. The Harpers know. They've passed the knowledge down from generation to generation. And they're thrilled to allow the rest of the village, the outsiders, suffer what's to come. 

The Hollows is snowed-in folk horror! 

So a horrible storm is looming, a dead body has been found, and Ellie Cheetham, a capable cop working under a boss who's basically just keeping his chair warm. 

He's ready to chalk this up as an accident. And it's not out of the realm of possibility that a Harper walking home drunk, fell and froze in the snow. Except there are some very strange details about the crime scene that Ellie can't ignore, even when pressed to do so. 

Her conversation with the Harpers devolves very quickly, adding another danger to the locals as the storm brews. And then a house on the border of the village is found ripped apart. 

There are so many excellent characters here. Ellie is of course a favorite, but there are others who stand out as well. 

And the lore! Holy moly! I absolutely love the created lore in this one. I say created, but forgive me if there's a kernel of actual folklore to this one, I'm not fully versed on UK folklore. Either way, it's a very cool bit of terror to pit against a poor little cut off village with limited competent officers!

Daniel Church is fabulous and I look forward to more (pretty sure I heard there are definitely more to come from Church via Angry Robot!).

Order a copy from Bookshop today!

Sunday, October 1, 2023

Devil's Creek by Todd Keisling

I've been very neglectful of the blog, really only posting tour posts. Why? Because I've been a bit overwhelmed! And yet, as someone who works in publishing, I of all people am aware of the need to post reviews! So I'm back! And I"m trying to do better. 

Also, IT'S SPOOKY SEASON! Which seems like a great time to get back into blogging! And I'm kicking it off with, full transparency, one of my new clients. 

As an aside, I did not actually work on this title. It was already out in the world well before I started working with Todd. But it was one of the first things I read by him and I adore it, so I can't help but post. I will be posting more from Todd and other clients. I'll always put a header so you're aware. And they won't be reviews, per se, since I do work with them.

Everyone knows about the dark history of Devil's Creek. That back in the 80s there was a church there that burned to the ground. Almost everyone in the congregation died. 

Jack Tremly did not. In fact, he was one of the Six. Siblings that survived the fire. Illegitimate kids whose mothers blindly followed Jacob Masters and his cult. And all of them fathered by Jacob himself. 

Jack was raised in nearby Stauford by his grandmother. One of the handful who turned against Jacob and his teachings. And as soon as it was feasible, Jack left town to start a life well away from his dark past. 

But now Jack is back. His grandmother has passed and as her only living relative able to settle her estate, he must reluctantly return to Stauford. And with her death, and Jack's return, Jacob Masters's plans are revived. 

Fair warning, this book is dark. Keisling does include an author's note at the start with a pretty hefty content warning.

Another small note, there is an earlier edition of the book that might still be floating around. My post here is for the Cemetery Dance edition that released in 2023. 

So this one popped up on more than one recommended reading list that I'd come across and was in my must have list when I went to StokerCon in June. And amazingly, Todd was the first author I was introduced to there. 

I snagged a copy at the mass author signing (got mine signed) and brought it back to my hotel room at 2am. I made it through the opening chapter before I fell asleep and had nightmares as a result. 

I kid you not!

I devoured this book! And a few cool things about it: 

Keisling is a designer as well as an author and he fully designed the interior. It's not something you usually see in books and it's a super cool affect that amplifies the reading experience. 

This book and Stauford are part of Keisling's Southlands world. And part of a mythos he's building within said world. A lot of his work ties into this mythos, which I find exceptionally awesome!

Devil's Creek is a hefty read. And again, it's dark. It deals with trauma and a lot of other stuff. But it's also well deserving of the Stoker nomination it earned and the praise so many authors have for it, including Ronald Malfi who wrote the new intro. 

So even if you don't want to take my word for it, S. A. Cosby, Eric LaRocca, John Langan, and more can't be wrong!

And for more of the Southland Mythos, be sure to check out Todd's new collection, Cold, Black & Infinite, as well as his novellas The Final Reconciliation and Scanlines!

Order a copy from Bookshop today!

Tuesday, August 29, 2023

The Phoenix King by Aparna Verma

Hi, everyone! Today I'm a stop on the Compulsive Readers tour for Aparna Verma's The Phoenix King. The first installment in the Ravence trilogy.

A king unwilling to give up his throne. A would-be queen certain she'll never be accepted. And an assassin who yearns for freedom. 

These three and their stories intertwine to make up Verma's debut, The Phoenix King

When we meet Yassen Knight, he's on his last assignment. The last one before he's out of the business. Unfortunately things go very wrong and Yassen ends up on the run. Which is how he ends up in service to the Ravences. 

For Elena, the throne is her birthright. And yet, it seems everything, including her own father, is working against her claiming her place as leader. 

To that end, Leo is not at all ready to give up his seat or his power. 

But war threatens their kingdom, and an ancient prophecy could upend all of their plans. 

The Phoenix King has an interesting history, all things considered. Verma self published the title as The Boy With Fire, gaining popularity and fanbase enough to catch the attention of trad publishers (a perfect storm, in other words). 

And rightfully so! Verma weaves political intrigue, romance, and Hindu mythology into a book and a world that are quite unlike anything else I've read of late!

The Phoenix King is a perfect example of the power of new voices in fiction! Voices that tell stories we haven't heard over and over again. I'd be lying if I said this wasn't one of my most anticipated fantasy debuts of the year—and the book delivers on every possible front!

This is the first in a trilogy and so far I've not seen a date for the release of book 2, but it's already on my mental must have list!  

Tuesday, August 8, 2023

Whalefall by Daniel Kraus

Seventeen-year-old Jay Gardiner had what you would absolutely call a troubled relationship with his father. But Mitt Gardiner was such a local legend that no one, even his own family, quite understands. Especially in the wake of his father's illness and suicide.

In a last ditch effort to gain back some respect, Jay has decided to find his dad's body. But what should be a typical dive for someone as trained as Jay becomes a harrowing survival tale when he's swallowed by a sperm whale. And it's up to Jay to remember all the things Mitt taught him if he's going to survive.

As someone who knowingly suffers from thalassophobia, I knew this was going to be a tense one, but I think this is the most anxiety-inducing thing I have ever read! Which might make you wonder why I even subjected myself to it. You should know that as a habit I do read and watch just about everything focused on deep sea horror, exploration, and killer creatures. I'm terrified of it but equally fascinated by it!

And oddly enough, both of my parents were divers. 

Lest you think this is just a creature feature, it is not. In fact, the bulk of the story is actually the relationship between Jay and Mitt. And being trapped forces Jay to reckon with something he's been trying to escape for a long time: facing down his issues with his father. 

So yeah, it's a story about being swallowed by a giant whale. But it's also family relationships, trauma, and one determined teen!

This is 100% binge read material and perfect for fans of Peter Benchley, Nick Cutter, and pretty much anything in between!

Order a copy from Bookshop.org!

Wednesday, August 2, 2023

Zero Days by Ruth Ware

Happy Wednesday! Today I'm excited to be a stop on the Random Things blog tour for Ruth Ware's latest, Zero Days

Jack and Gabe are known for being experts in testing security systems. But a regular job turns out to be anything but when Jack finds Gabe murdered in their home. 

The night starts like any other. They are testing security systems at Arden Alliance. Jack on site and Gabe at home manning the computers. But Jack makes a mistake that leads to her getting caught, which means having to convince security and the police that she is not in fact a criminal but was hired to break in. And it seems Gabe has fallen asleep because he isn't answering calls to back her up. 

After finally being released, Jack returns to the job site to pick up her car. Then, tired from the long night, takes a few wrong turns. Looking forward to calling it a night, she finally arrives home to find Gabe has been brutally murdered. And the scene suggests a professional hit.

Except Gabe doesn't have any enemies Jack can think of. And he hasn't been involved in anything that would attract the attention of professional killers. Unfortunately for Jack, the police decide her timeline of the night in question doesn't quite add up. And with no one else to seriously consider as a suspect, the detectives turn their eyes to her. 

As the primary, and easy, suspect, Jack knows the police are focused on pinning the crime on her. Which means the real killer will get away. And that's something Jack won't stand for. 

Ruth Ware has done it again! And by it, I mean bringing readers another impossible to put down thriller that will keep them guessing through to the end!

Jack is quite a fun leading character. She's trained in evading security. Which means she has (excuse the use of the cheesy phrase) a certain set of skills that are pretty perfect for avoiding police capture while also digging into a completely unfathomable crime. 

But she's not alone. She has the support of her sister's family as well as Gabe's best friend Cole. Even still, staying off the grid pushes her to her limits. 

And not only does she have to figure out who murdered Gabe, but also why

Zero Days proves once again that Ruth Ware is truly one of the best in the thriller business!

Wednesday, July 26, 2023

You Can't See Me by Eva Björg Ægisdóttir

Good morning, everyone! Today I'm a stop on the Random Things tour for the prequel to Eva Björg Ægisdóttir's Forbidden Iceland series, You Can't See Me.

On what would have been the family patriarch's 100th birthday, the Snæberg family has scheduled a reunion at a posh new hotel in rural Iceland. Modern and stark, the hotel is nonetheless breathtaking. But certain family members are less than impressed. 

With a storm looming and alcohol in the mix, tension is particularly high. And then one of the guests goes missing. 

Two days later, the police are on site. But what happened between the guests' arrival and then?

The story alternates in timeline and POV. Some of the narrators include Petra, an interior designer, her daughter Lea, who may have been followed to the hotel by an online stalker, and Irma, a hotel employee (to name a few). 

The book begins with a prologue of sorts, set on Sunday, November 5, but then jumps back to Friday, November 3, the day the family is set to arrive at the hotel, and the reader is given a brief introduction to the family by way of Irma, who's done ample research to prepare for the family's stay at the hotel. But then the story jumps back to Sunday and the arrival of the detectives. 

So less than three days before what's supposed to be a family reunion turns into something much more sinister!

The author perfectly sets the stage for a snowed in thriller that's excellent fun! And there's plenty of ominous foreshadowing for what's to come!

This is a perfect entry and introduction to the series for readers who are new to Ægisdóttir. If you're a fan of dark crime fiction and/or Yrsa Sigurdardottir and Ragnar Jónasson, you need to be reading Eva Björg Ægisdóttir!

As mentioned, this is a prequel to the Forbidden Iceland series. Reading order, after You Can't See Me is:

The Creak on the Stairs
Girls Who Lie
Night Shadows

Tuesday, July 25, 2023

The Dive by Sara Ochs

Good morning, readers! Today I'm a stop on the Random Things tour for Sara Ochs's The Dive!

It's supposed to be a normal work day for dive instructor Cass. And yet it's anything but. 

Cass has lived and worked on the island of Koh Sang in Thailand for two years. And in that time she's made great efforts to keep her background under wraps. And she's done well in that regard, finding friends and a family of sorts among the other expats who work on the island. 

That is until she receives an ominous message: someone knows about her past. 

Things take a significant turn for the worst when a member of her latest dive class is found dead in the water. Cass soon becomes convinced that the death is tied to the note she received. Unsure of the note writer's motive, Cass, along with another expat, Brooke, decides to find out more about the tourist's death. And when another person turns up murdered near the resort and Cass receives another note, she's more certain than ever that the two are connected. 

With the locals and the police determined to keep their island tourist friendly, Cass knows she can't turn to the authorities with her suspicions. Solving the case is her only option. 

Conspiracies and murder in paradise! If you're a fan of The Beach, this is the summer read for you! (If you haven't read The Beach, definitely pick it up—even Cass herself has a nod to the book/movie.) 

The reader is introduced to Cass the morning after she's become engaged to another expat, Logan. And we quickly learn that Cass hasn't told Logan everything about herself. Whatever she's keeping is big. Big enough that she's afraid of losing him. Big enough that someone can use it as blackmail. 

The reader is also introduced to our second narrator, Brooke, who is (surprise) also keeping secrets. Posing as a travel influencer, Brooke has been getting to know Cass and her friends for the past few weeks. But Brooke has bigger aspirations than Instagram. And when a guest at the resort is found dead, Brooke's interest is piqued. 

Though the death is ruled an accident, it is actually the second tourist death in recent weeks. A connection neither Cass or Brooke can overlook as they become involved in digging up info on the latest death. 

I loved The Dive! The setting is fabulous: a small dive resort on a less popular Thai island where business lives—or dies—by its reputation. And with so many people running from their pasts (yep, it's not just Cass and Brooke that are hiding things), the list of possible suspects and motives isn't as small as you'd think. 

Given that it does take place on a (fictional) island, there's an automatic urgency to the story. An insular community, made so by language and cultural barriers, tied together simply by way of their all speaking English. And those nasty secrets none of them wants revealed are all in danger of being spilled!

The Dive is great fun! Perfectly paced and super fun! It's out now from Bantam Press in the UK and will be out in the US early next year. 

Sunday, July 23, 2023

Eye for an Eye by M. J. Arlidge

Happy Sunday, everyone! Today I'm a stop on the Compulsive Readers tour for M. J. Arlidge's latest, Eye for an Eye. 

I'm a little under the weather, so here's a bit about the book from the publisher:



'Emily' is a devoted single mother.
'Jack' starts a new job in a new town.
'Russell' may be falling in love.

They all share the same secret: none of them are who they say they are.

They are among only nine criminals in the UK who have been granted lifelong anonymity, for their own safety, because of their terrible crimes.

But what if someone exposed their true identities to the families of their victims, who are desperate for revenge?

Probation officer Olivia Campbell is caught in the crossfire of this unprecedented crisis - and as the hunt for the mole behind it all intensifies, so too does the search for the vigilante killers let loose by the leaks...

Everyone is a suspect. Anyone could be a killer.
Who deserves justice? And who gets to decide?

I have been a big fan of Arlidge's work since the Helen Grace series debuted back in 2014 (2015 in the States). 

This latest is a standalone that presents an excellent premise. What would happen if criminals who have served their time and been given a new identity were suddenly outed. 

Given that the readers have the chance to get to know each of the characters, it becomes an even bigger question. They've rebuilt their lives, have new families and friends, and suddenly their darkest secrets have come to light. 

But don't those around them deserve to know their truths? The chance to reveal that has been taken away from them by someone else...It's an interesting question. And one that begs the reader to ponder what they themselves would do in both situations. 

Eye for an Eye is out now from Orion Books!

Thursday, July 20, 2023

Goddesses by Nina Millns

Good morning, everyone! Today I'm a stop on the Random Things tour for Nina Millns's Goddesses.

Ayesha and her friend Yaz are off for a weekend hen do. But it's anything but the average bachelorette party. No, this one is a goddess retreat, complete with cleansed auras, transformations, and a strict schedule to adhere to. 

Yaz is something of an outsider, a comic who is friends with Ayesha, but invited nonetheless. They'd been classmates, but were reunited on the comedy scene. 

Ayesha, after going viral calling out a heckler at one of her shows, was brought into the fold of a activism group headed by Frankie. Alone with her partner, Joni, and another activist, Jessica, the group made headlines doing interviews on the #MeToo movement and women's rights. But a falling out is what introduced them to India, the bride to be. And India's friend Clemmie plays host for the weekend. 

Things begin awkwardly, but ok. As the weekend progresses, however, things go further and further off kilter until Ayesha finds herself stuck in the middle of nowhere, afraid for her life. 

Goddesses is a book that's understandably being touted as Bridesmaids meets Get Out, which is a simplistic but fair comparison as the audience gets a good sense for what to expect. Except that it's also SO MUCH MORE!

Goddesses is a story that can be read and enjoyed in layers. You can take the basic comedic horror, dipping into the odd vibes of the weekend and the ultimate creepiness that comes into play. You can also delve deeper into the social commentary about white feminist activism, cultural appropriation, generational trauma...

Whichever approach you take, you're in for a ride!

Dark humor is almost always a hit for me, as is horror containing social commentary (pretty sure all horror comes out of social commentary of a sort anyway). And this really is the hen do from hell! I can say without a doubt I'd be miserable from the moment of arrival and easily empathized with Ayesha and her car full of unwelcome pink party favors! Plus the book starts out with her not quite sure where she stands with the rest of the group, with the exception of Yaz.

And awkward doesn't even begin to describe what Ayesha is in for! The minute they walk through the door, its a practice in masking offense and excusing things that pile on until it can no longer be excused or denied. 

Like I said, it's a ride and I was along for every snarky bit of it!

Word has it tv rights have been sold for this one. I cannot wait to see it! 

Goddesses is out now from Simon and Schuster UK. No US release date as of yet, but I really hope it'll get a chance here!

Monday, July 17, 2023

Burn the Negative by Josh Winning

Laura makes a living covering entertainment for Zeppelin. She's spent years making a name for herself as a journalist. 

But there's a part of Laura's past that she's kept hidden for decades. Laura used to be an actress. In fact, she starred in the notoriously cursed film The Guesthouse. But in the aftermath, she and her family relocated to the UK where she'd be less likely to be recognized. And eventually, she legally changed her name as well. 

All that's to say that Laura has gone to great lengths to erase any connection between herself and that film. And yet, she's been assigned to cover the "reinterpretation," It Feeds

Her plan is to get what she needs for the story and get out of LA as quickly as she can. But when she's found on set after a tragic accident, it seems her return home is going to be delayed. Convinced It Feeds has fallen under the same curse as the original film, Laura knows she needs to figure out what's going on or she might die trying!

There have been a bevy of cursed film movies of late and I am so here for it!

Burn the Negative introduces us early on to Laura, our leading lady. She's on a plane to Los Angeles when she finally looks over the press material she's been sent for her latest job and discovers it's a remake of The Guesthouse. Which she starred in. And which is said to be cursed because so many people involved in the film died. Not only that, their deaths mirrored deaths in the film!

That was decades ago. Laura has lived an entire liketime since then. And she's worked hard to put that, and the trauma she experienced, way behind her. So to say she's none too pleased about this assignment would be putting it lightly. 

It also means that she suspects her secret has been blown. 

But that becomes a bit of an afterthought when people start dying on set! And the deaths started as soon as she arrived!

Burn the Negative makes for a quick read. I loved the extra design aspect that goes along with the book: pieces of ephemera throughout that give more info on The Guesthouse and other aspects of the curse! The page numbers also appear within a little film reel!

I also loved that the book deals with trauma. Multiple kinds of trauma and how that can affect our life as we grow older. 

This is a super fun read for horror movie fans—pure popcorn entertainment! 

Order a copy from Bookshop!

Thursday, July 13, 2023

The Bleeding by Johana Gustawsson

Happy Thursday! Today I'm a stop on the Random Things tour for the first in a new series by Johana Gustawsson, The Bleeding!

2002, Quebec: Detective Maxine Grant wasn't supposed to be back from maternity leave quite yet, but when a murder suspect requests her at the scene, she can't refuse. 

The accused is a former schoolteacher and a well-respected community member married to a professor. Together they were the epitome of a perfect couple. At least to the people around them. But then why would she brutally stab her husband over thirty times? As the investigation proceeds, the police make a gruesome discovery in the couple's home that leads to even more questions. 

1949, Quebec: A young girl being bullied by her classmates finds solace and friendship with an old woman in a care home. The woman opens the girls eyes to secrets that are nothing less than profane. 

1899, Paris: A mother loses her two daughters to a tragic house fire. In its aftermath, she seeks the guidance of mediums and other spiritual guides to connect with her children. 

Who could resist such a tempting and mysterious plot?! Certainly not me! Also, look at that fabulous cover!

As you might guess, the way the three stories come together is a big part of the story. But we begin with the professor's murder. After that, chapters alternate between three narrators: Maxine in 2002, Lina in 1949, and Lucienne in 1899. 

It becomes clear pretty early on that this book is headed in an unexpected direction. I don't want to spoil it, but I was quite pleased by the way the story played out. And it was fun trying to see if I could figure out the connections before they were revealed! (I was right in a few cases and totally wrong in others!)

Quick shout out to David Warriner for a wonderful translation!

I cannot wait to see how this will develop into a series! In the meantime, Gustawsson has another book due out from Orenda later this year and a previous series to sink my teeth into while waiting for a follow up to this one. 

The Bleeding is out now from Orenda! Fair warning for bedtime readers: if you start this late at night, you're going to want to stay up reading til the end!

Wednesday, July 12, 2023

The After-Death of Caroline Rand by Catherine Cavendish

Hello, readers! Today I'm a stop on the Random Things blog tour for Catherine Cavendish's latest, The After-Death of Caroline Rand

It's been years since Alli last saw Nancy. But when Nancy friends her on Facebook and then invites Alli to her new house for a weekend getaway, it all happens at just the right moment. 

The house in question once belonged to Caroline Rand, a singer from the late sixties. And as tribute, the house party is sixties themed. It's just Alli, Nancy, and two others. But the small get together quickly turns odd when Alli finds herself not at Nancy's house, present day, but at Mama Cass's California home during a party featuring a number of musicians who have long since passed away. 

Soon, Alli finds herself back at Nancy's. But the slips in time continue. And Alli finds herself woven into Caroline's own past. But to what end?

This was a fun one! It's a little horror lite in the beginning, but the why is a big pull.

Why is this happening to Alli? Why is she essentially traveling through time? And why is it linked to Caroline's past?

These questions become more pressing considering it's not the house's past that Alli is tied to—she arrives at a house in rural England, only to find herself in the famed Laurel Canyon! Different time, different house, different country!

Thankfully, all of this expectation builds to a very satisfactory end!

The After-Death of Caroline Rand is out now from Flametree!

Monday, July 10, 2023

One by Eve Smith

Hello, everyone! I'm late for my tour stop for Eve Smith's latest, One

Huge apologies as this was a very anticipated title in my TBR!

In the future, climate change and other crises have resulted in mass shortages of resources. Only the UK's one child policy has worked in curbing this and making life generally better for all its citizens. 

Or so they'd like you to think. 

Kai is one of the enforcers of this one child policy. As an enforcer with the Ministry of Population and Family Planning, it's her job to make sure families stick to the policy. But when a 50% match to her own DNA is flagged and quickly disappears, she has two weeks to find out what's going on. 

So first off, if you're a fan of Black Mirror, this is most definitely a book for you!

And if you couldn't tell:

A. the one child policy is not the great thing for change it's chalked up to be. 


B. this is definitely a bit of a bleak read in terms of a pervasive THIS MIGHT ACTUALLY HAPPEN ONE DAY feeling!

Kai is all about the rules. In her world you have to be, unless you want to live on the dangerous fringes of society and/or be punished. And her whole life it's seemed her parents are the same.

Until Kai learns she has an illegal sibling. 

As you might expect for someone who is so staunch about the rules and has a job enforcing them, the discovery doesn't sit well with her. But she has limited time in which to do anything about it. 

As you might expect, this scenario is pretty much the only thing that can force Kai to open her eyes to the reality that is her society. 

Eve Smith has a knack for putting together stories that are highly disturbing looks at very potential real world threats. As with Off Target, I found myself both completely sucked in and more than a little unsettled. 

Smith is such a great talent! And again, this could easily be a Black Mirror episode. Which isn't a bad thing considering the show forces viewers to consider, even just for a little while, the outcome of certain policies, technologies, and powers. 

One is a lot to consider and a lot to take in! I have to say, though, that I truly do love Smith's writing and highly recommend each of her books!

Friday, July 7, 2023

Lowbridge by Lucy Campbell

Happy Friday! Today I'm a stop on the Random Things tour for Lucy Campbell's Lowbridge

In 1987, a girl goes missing in the small town of Lowbridge. The case is never solved. 

Cut to 2018. Katherine and her husband have come to Lowbridge in the wake of terrible loss. Facing a growing problem with sleeping pills and alcohol, Katherine stumbles on the local historical society and throws herself into helping set up events highlighting Lowbridge history. 

When she sets her sites on the opening of the women's health center in the mid 80s, she unwittingly opens a can of worms the whole town would rather see buried. And in doing so, she becomes obsessed with not one, but two missing girls from that decade. 

I have a confession to make: I'm a little obsessed with Australian and New Zealand crime fiction!

This one is a bit quieter than some of the others I've read. It's a slow burn even though it starts with a girl going missing. 

But after that tragic beginning, the story jumps back to the months leading up to the event and alternates between 1986/87 and Katherine's story in 2018. 

Campbell teases out the story, hinting at the tragedy Katherine and her husband (who grew up in Lowbridge at the time of the missing girls) have suffered. But it takes a bit for that to come truly to light. Mostly, it's the affect of their loss that's the focus. And Katherine is really in a bad place. Though she keeps this to herself, she finds distraction in learning about her new home and friendship with the women of the historical society. 

And it's here that we get the first hint about the identity of the the missing girl(s). Because the 1980's story focuses on three girls (two in particular), Louisa, Sim, and Tess. 

Like I said, it's a bit of a slow burn, but I really enjoyed how the story unfolded. The anticipation of Katherine finding the story, all the while following the girls and wondering about their fate. 

Lowbridge is an excellent debut, one I highly recommend to anyone looking for an intriguing story with a rich, small town setting.