Goodreads Monday – The Shadows by Alex North

Welcome back to Goodreads Monday! It’s been a very hot minute since I did one but I figured I might as well get back into it! This weekly meme was started by @Lauren’s Page Turners and it invites you to pick a book from your TBR and explain why you want to read it. Easy enough, right? Feel free to join in if you want to! I’ll be using a random number generator to pick my books from my insanely long GR Want-to-read list.*

*Sorry if a book has been featured twice. I need to make better note of which ones I’ve done already!

This week’s featured book is The Shadows by Alex North. This is a mystery/thriller with some horror that was published in 2020.

Continue reading “Goodreads Monday – The Shadows by Alex North”

The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton – #BookReview

Goodreads: The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle
Genre: Crime, Mystery, Thriller, Historical Fiction
Panda Rating:

“Gosford Park” meets “Groundhog Day” by way of Agatha Christie – the most inventive story you’ll read this year.

Tonight, Evelyn Hardcastle will be killed… again.
It is meant to be a celebration but it ends in tragedy. As fireworks explode overhead, Evelyn Hardcastle, the young and beautiful daughter of the house, is killed.

But Evelyn will not die just once. Until Aiden – one of the guests summoned to Blackheath for the party – can solve her murder, the day will repeat itself, over and over again. Every time ending with the fateful pistol shot.

The only way to break this cycle is to identify the killer. But each time the day begins again, Aiden wakes in the body of a different guest. And someone is determined to prevent him ever escaping Blackheath…

I guess it’s time for my unpopular opinion because this one has received really great ratings on GR. This book was chosen as the January read by the Goodreads group for the 2019 Popsugar Reading Challenge following the prompt: “a book revolving around a puzzle or game”. I was really excited to start reading this, especially for my first reading challenge book of the year; but unfortunately, I think this book just really wasn’t for me.

Continue reading “The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton – #BookReview”

The Snowman (Harry Hole #7) by Jo Nesbø – #BookReview

Goodreads: The Snowman
Genre: Crime, Mystery, Thriller, Fiction
Panda Rating:

Soon the first snow will come
A young boy wakes to find his mother missing. Outside, he sees her favourite scarf – wrapped around the neck of a snowman.
And then he will appear again
Detective Harry Hole soon discovers that an alarming number of wives and mothers have gone missing over the years.
And when the snow is gone…
When a second woman disappears, Harry’s worst suspicion is confirmed: a serial killer is operating on his home turf.
…he will have taken someone else

This was my first Harry Hole novel and my first book by Nesbø, and while I enjoyed The Snowman and its compelling plot, I also found I struggled with the writing and it took me longer than expected to get through the book. I enjoyed it though and I’m even curious enough to one day check out more of Nesbø’s novels, especially the ones involving Harry Hole! I’m certainly wondering what’ll happen to him next.

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Bury the Lede by Gaby Dunn, Claire Roe – #eARC #BookReview

Goodreads: Bury the Lede
Publish date: 08 October 2019
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
Genre: Crime Thriller, Mystery, Graphic Novel, LGBTQ+
Panda Rating:

Twenty-one-year-old Madison T. Jackson is already the star of the Emerson College student newspaper when she nabs a coveted night internship at Boston’s premiere newspaper, The Boston Lede. The job’s simple: do whatever the senior reporters tell you to do, from fetching coffee to getting a quote from a grieving parent. It’s gruelling work, so when the murder of a prominent Boston businessman comes up on the police scanner, Madison races to the scene of the grisly crime. There, Madison meets the woman who will change her life forever: prominent socialite Dahlia Kennedy, who is covered in gore and being arrested for the murder of her family. The newspapers put everyone they can in front of her with no results until, with nothing to lose, Madison gets a chance – and unexpectedly barrels headfirst into danger she never anticipated.

I love discovering new graphic novels and I requested this because the cover hooked my interest, plus I don’t think never read a crime noir graphic novel/comic before! Bury the Lede was mostly what I anticipated it to be, although there were some elements that really grated on my nerves and that’s what made me only give it three stars.

Continue reading “Bury the Lede by Gaby Dunn, Claire Roe – #eARC #BookReview”

TH1RT3EN (Eddie Flynn #4) by Steve Cavanagh – #eARC #BookReview

Goodreads: TH1RT3EN (Eddie Flynn #4)
Publish date: 13 August 2019
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Genre: Crime Thriller, Mystery
Panda Rating:

The serial killer isn’t on trial.
He’s on the jury…


They were Hollywood’s hottest power couple. They had the world at their feet. Now one of them is dead and Hollywood star Robert Solomon is charged with the brutal murder of his beautiful wife.

This is the celebrity murder trial of the century and the defence want one man on their team: con artist turned lawyer Eddie Flynn.

All the evidence points to Robert’s guilt, but as the trial begins a series of sinister incidents in the courtroom start to raise doubts in Eddie’s mind.

What if there’s more than one actor in the courtroom?
What if the killer isn’t on trial? What if the killer is on the jury?

Wow, what an incredible ride! Again, I’m facepalming myself for not reading this as soon as I got it on NetGalley because I loved every minute of this fast-paced courtroom drama and crime thriller. This book was like reading an episode of Criminal Minds and I could so clearly picture everything unfolding before me as if I watching it on TV. I knew I had to read this one as soon as I read the synopsis and saw that “the killer isn’t on trial, he’s on the jury”! I mean, is there a cleverer way of catching the reader’s attention with a blurb like that? It definitely worked it’s magic on me.

Continue reading “TH1RT3EN (Eddie Flynn #4) by Steve Cavanagh – #eARC #BookReview”

The Whisper Man by Alex North – #BookReview

Goodreads: The Whisper Man
Genre: Thriller, Crime Mystery
Rating:

After the sudden death of his wife, Tom Kennedy believes a fresh start will help him and his young son Jake heal. A new beginning, a new house, a new town. Featherbank. But the town has a dark past. Twenty years ago, a serial killer abducted and murdered five residents. Until Frank Carter was finally caught, he was nicknamed “The Whisper Man,” for he would lure his victims out by whispering at their windows at night.
Just as Tom and Jake settle into their new home, a young boy vanishes. His disappearance bears an unnerving resemblance to Frank Carter’s crimes, reigniting old rumors that he preyed with an accomplice. Now, detectives Amanda Beck and Pete Willis must find the boy before it is too late, even if that means Pete has to revisit his great foe in prison: The Whisper Man.
And then Jake begins acting strangely. He hears a whispering at his window…

A creepy thriller with supernatural elements that will have you questioning what’s real and what’s not. This one will have you sleeping with the lights on and making sure that all the doors and windows are locked tight!

I’m a big scaredy cat, so when I read the tagline for this book, my brain immediately shouted in big bold letters: DO NOT READ! But then I saw it everywhere on bookstagram and… I guess FOMO and bookstgram made me do it? 🤷🏻‍♀️ Also, I was trying everything possible to get out of my two-week book slump! In the end, I’m really glad that I didn’t listen to my inner whimp because this turned out to be more of a thriller with some supernatural elements, rather than the full blown horror story that the tagline would have you believe. And at least for me, that wasn’t a bad thing at all! I still totally slept with the lights on and kept all doors/windows firmly shut though 😅 Sorry in advance for the possibly shoddy review that won’t tell you much about this book 🙃

If you leave a door half open, soon you’ll hear the whispers spoken.
If you play outside alone, soon you won’t be going home.
If your windows left unlatched, you’ll hear him tapping at the glass.
If you’re lonely, sad, and blue, the Whisper Man will come for you.

The Whisper Man wasn’t the fast paced thriller I was expecting, but it still hooked me from the start. The story is told from multiple perspectives: DI Pete Willis was the original detective who caught The Whisper Man, but he has been haunted by his own personal and professional perceived failures. DI Amanda Beck is the new detective in charge of finding the new missing boy and catching the copycat.Tom and Jake Kennedy are grieving the loss of wife/mother and have moved to a new town, home and school to start fresh. We also get short chapters from the killer’s perspective, which was interesting albeit a bit sad/pitiful. I thought North did a good job developing all the character arcs and there were a few surprises that I didn’t expect at all! Maybe it’s because I also haven’t read a thriller in several months (and honestly, I think I just really suck at guessing whodunit from the start), but I only figured out who the killer was shortly before the characters in the story did too. There were a few swear out loud ‘oh shit’ moments that kept me on my toes and racing towards the end to find out what happened, and I have to say that I was pretty satisfied with how it ended the story. It was pretty creepy and I would hate knowing that was coming for me!

We were going to be safe here.
We were going to be happy.
And for the first week, we were.

I actually didn’t know there would be supernatural elements in this as there’s no hint of it in the synopsis. When I realised, fairly quickly, that this was going to have those elements, I did push myself to continue and not put it down. It wasn’t the scariest I’ve ever come across, but it was still spine tingling, especially when they move to the new house! And I always think scary stories with children involved in them are just… The worst lol But I did appreciate how Alex North revealed the importance of these supernatural events; it was surprising and touching. Also, it’s very creepy to know that this story was inspired by the author’s son who one day claimed that he was playing with ‘the boy in the floor’….Um… yeah. Excuse me, what? 👀

Overall, I’m really glad I read this book. The Whisper Man isn’t only about a serial killer and psychopath, it also explores the important relationship between parent and child, particularly between fathers and sons, and I think North did a great job of exploring the topic. I’ll definitely be keen to read more by him in the future!

Have you read The Whisper Man? Loved it? Hated it? Felt ‘meh’ about it?
Leave me a comment below and let’s chat!

Book Review: The Dry by Jane Harper

Goodreads: The Dry
Genre: Crime, Mystery/Thriller
Rating: ★★★★★

In the grip of the worst drought in a century, the farming community of Kiewarra is facing life and death choices daily when three members of a local family are found brutally slain. Federal Police investigator Aaron Falk reluctantly returns to his hometown for the funeral of his childhood friend, loath to face the townsfolk who turned their backs on him twenty years earlier. But as questions mount, Falk is forced to probe deeper into the deaths of the Hadler family. Because Falk and Luke Hadler shared a secret. A secret Falk thought was long buried. A secret Luke’s death now threatens to bring to the surface in this small Australian town, as old wounds in bleed into new ones.

Let me start of by saying WOW I absolutely loved this book. There’s something about reading a story based in a country I used to live in for six incredible years that has struck a very nostalgic chord in me. I’m surrounded by a lot of Australians here in Bali, so it’s not like I’ve missed the accent or the people or anything like that. Granted, I was also as city as you could get living and studying in Melbourne, but reading about the outback and the environment really brought out a familiar sense of longing for a home that I’ve missed. It’s a feeling I haven’t felt in years! …And with that little bout of nostalgia out of the way, let’s get to the review! 😬

With this book, Jane Harper has written such a spectacular story that drew me in completely from the start with her riveting and hypnotic prose. It’s definitely a slow burn murder mystery, so if you’re expecting a fast paced thriller, this isn’t for you; but the journey was so worth it! What impressed me the most were her descriptions of the punishing temperatures of the Australian outback. The pervasive drought that struck Kiewarra, the small Australian farming town where the story is set, and the surrounding area has sucked all the moisture out of the ground and most of the life out of its citizens. There’s a sluggishness and desperation in the people that’s been created as a result of their environment, and never has a spotless blue sky been so agonizing and terrifying. There’s no escape from the dry heat that seeks you out through every small crack and crevice. Harper has created an almost tangible atmosphere with her vivid descriptions, which serve to add to the sense of wrongness that surrounds the town, and it is woven so brilliantly through all parts of the story.

“To look out and see not another soul between you and the horizon could be a strange and disturbing sight.”

The characters were complex with interesting backstories. There were those with the typical small town mentality, the usual assholes and douchebags, and the few good guys that made the town more bearable, which contributed to understanding what living in such a small ‘town’ would feel like; where everyone knows each other and incidents from twenty years ago are still deeply etched in memories. I found myself really invested in Aaron Falk’s character. His backstory and past connection to the town was so compelling, and it created such a well of sympathy in me for him. I just really wanted to reach out and give him a hug most of the time (lol). Also, unpopular opinion time but I also found myself liking Luke’s character. There were times I’d find reading about his attitude disturbing, but there was a magnetism and charm in the way that Harper wrote him that made his character so appealing. Both sides of Luke’s person was painted so vividly, that it was easy to understand how quickly people could demonize him, but also be so enthralled by his attention. I loved how Harper’s characters really came to life for me, and made me feel connected to them.

“He stood on shaky legs, his vision blurred, as all around the cockatoos whirled and screamed into the scorching red sky. Alone, in that monstrous wound, Falk put his face in his hands and, just once, screamed himself.”

The big reveal was something that I honestly didn’t see coming. Maybe I’m just really bad at figuring out the whodunnits in thrillers? But I think with about 80% of the thrillers I read, it’s usually pretty predictable. Even though at one point I pretty much suspected everyone Falk came into contact with, the culprit took me so much by surprised that it was refreshing to be fully thrown by it! Even if you might’ve figured out the who, I’m not sure you would’ve figured out the why. It literally had me exclaiming in shock while reading on my lunch break—you can bet my colleagues found my reactions amusing. The pace in the last 30% of the book really sped up and rapidly fed detail after detail of the reveal that had me racing through to get to the finish. In the end, the conclusion to the story was pretty satisfying and gave me a sense of peace knowing the truth of what happened, and that it would be brought to light so that after 20 years, justice could finally be served.

If it isn’t clear by now, I was completely taken with this book. The characters, the setting, and the story all made this a consuming, thrilling and unputdownable read. Harper was able to create one of the most atmospheric works I’ve ever had the pleasure to read and it’s really hard to believe this was her debut novel. It makes me so excited to find out what else she has in store for us with Force of Nature and The Lost Man (which I’m currently reading and equally loving!). I have no doubt that this will be one of my top reads this year and if all her books get the same reaction from me, it’s safe to say Jane Harper has made it onto my auto buy authors list!

Have you read The Dry or is it on your TBR? I’d love to know your thoughts!

Book Review: My Sister, The Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite

Goodreads: My Sister, The Serial Killer
Genre: Crime-Thriller-Mystery, Africa, Contemporary Fiction
Rating: ★★★½ (out of 5)

@dinipandareads

One evening, Korede gets a call from her younger sister Ayoola asking for her help. It’s a call she hoped she’d never receive again but, you know, life. Ayoola has killed another man and so Korede takes her cleaning supplies and goes to help her sister cover up a crime she claims was an act of self-defense. Does Korede believe her sister—even after three men have now died by Ayoola’s hand—or does she do something about it? Korede loves Ayoola, but she also wonders how her sister ended up this way–does she have more of their abusive father’s blood running through her veins, compared to Korede? Although she is fraught with worry about being found out, Korede is convinced the police don’t need to be involved; that is, until the day Ayoola attracts the attention of the man Korede loves and she finds herself torn between obligation to her sister, and a moral duty to not only protect the man she loves, but all the menfolk of Nigeria.

“Have you heard this one before? Two girls walk into a room. The room is in a flat. The flat is on the third floor. In the room is the dead body of an adult male. How do they get the body to the ground floor without being seen?”

I want to start by saying that I love the title and cover of this book. Not only is the cover eye-catching, but the title definitely piqued my interest and these elements alone were enough to convince me to read it! I had also seen it a few times on bookstagram this year, so there was additional interest generated from positive reviews, and I was definitely ready to pick it up.

Oyinkan Braithwaite writes a compelling novel that explores the complicated relationship between sisters, the moral dilemmas that come from being complicit in a crime and male impropriety that spans across cultures. The big question she was posed though was: Just how far would you go to protect the one(s) you love?

This was a fast and easy read filled with lots of dark humor, which left me laughing out loud just as often as I’d mumble with disappointment at Korede’s enabling and be appalled at Ayoola’s remorseless and sociopathic tendencies. I found the novel’s exploration of male impropriety rather amusing, actually. All the men in the book had little to no character outside from being caught in Ayoola’s orbit. She was the ‘centre of everyone’s universe’ and it didn’t matter that she was fickle, narcissistic, a cheater, and cared for little other than herself, men loved and wanted her because she was beautiful. Ayoola had it right, “all they want is a pretty face”, but this pretty face knew that and used it to her advantage, and clearly, to their detriment. Although, to be fair, even the women were enraptured by Ayoola’s beauty, so maybe the issue is more about society’s acceptance of beauty on the outside, excusing the ugly on the inside? Because in this book that outer beauty literally lets you get away with murder.

The most enjoyable part of the book for me was in the realness of sibling relationships, particularly between sisters. No matter how much you care for your sibling and no matter how well you get along, there are always feelings of insecurity, jealousy, and bitterness, but also of love and the overpowering need to protect and defend. Korede’s struggle to reconcile her morals with being a big sister whose instinct is to protect her little sister, captured the complexity of these relationships very well. As much as she felt bitterness and jealousy towards Ayoola for her beauty and for having a relationship with the man she loved, Korede never seriously thought of exposing her sister to the public, no matter how desperate she was to do so. That said, their relationship was very messed up and there was a lot of underlying resentment and obvious manipulation between the two.

What I struggled with the were the characters because I didn’t particularly like any of them. I wonder if that was done purposefully because they all had highly unfavorable character traits that made it difficult to find any redeeming qualities in them. Most of the times I wanted to slap them really hard in the faces and shake them “awake”.

Ayoola, as princess of the family, has gotten away with everything her whole life because of her looks. She’s conceited, narcissistic, and selfish (also, a serial killer) and takes everything for granted. It was astounding that even in the face of getting caught, she so vehemently denied any wrongdoing by spinning absurds tale that everyone seemed to believe because of her extraordinary beauty. Korede’s character was even worse because of how she enabled Ayoola by falling into the same ‘trap’ she criticized everyone else for. Despite knowing the manipulative nature of her sister, she still allowed herself to be taken advantage of and constantly stepped on. Although at times I felt sorry for her because of that, Korede had such a cold and impersonal, ‘holier than thou’ attitude towards everyone—boxing herself off from those who could have potentially been her allies—that it rubbed me the wrong way and made it difficult to feel sympathy for her character. The men, especially dreamy Dr. Tade, were thoughtless and shallow. Apparently, all men really care about are your looks and you can cheat, act crazy, be cold and heartless until it suits you to be warm, as much as you want as long as you’re beautiful. Even a brilliant, charming doctor is not exempt.

“We are hard wired to protect and remain loyal to the people we love. Besides, no one is innocent in this world. …’The most loving parents and relatives commit murder with smiles on their faces. They force us to destroy the person we really are: a subtle kind of murder.’”

I honestly thought that Korede would take a different route, especially after the (unsurprising) climax, so that was a bit of a letdown. But despite the unlikeable characters, I still enjoyed this read—which is rare for me to say because characters are everything! I do still feel like certain elements could have been explored better to give the book some more meat. Overall though, I thought this was a great debut by Braithwaite, that presents a daring, funny, but dark family drama that explored larger elements which other readers can perhaps relate to.

Have you read My Sister, the Serial Killer or is it on your TBR?