Imagine a cruise ship sailing in the middle of the ocean, no land visible in any direction. It’s a dark and dreary night. There’s a small cramped cabin on the boat. This is where Lo Blacklock finds herself staying on the inaugural sailing of the Aurora.
The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware shares the story of Lo, a travel journalist about to set off for her first big story covering a high-end cruise. Just before the trip, her apartment is broken into and she’s left very shaken. While on the ship she’s still very anxious and wakes up in the middle of the night to a mysterious sound from the cabin next to hers, cabin 10. Then, unbelievably, she hears a large splash… No one on board believes her – could she be losing her mind? Lo is determined to find out what happened in cabin 10.
I liked the pace of The Woman in Cabin 10 and the eerie cruise ship setting. The thought of being trapped below water is horrifying! I also thought that this book is better than Ware’s first book, In a Dark Dark Wood, because the storyline was more unexpected. At the same time, there were aspects of the book that felt disconnected and too coincidental, i.e. unlikely to happen.
Overall, I recommend this one for a quick, engaging mystery read!
A river runs through the town of Beckford and within that river, there’s The Drowning Pool. The pool lives up to its bleak name when a mother and a teenage girl are both found dead within the water’s depths one summer. There’s a large cliff above that leads to the question: Did they jump? Paula Hawkins’ latest release, Into The Water, shares the story of the women who’ve been lost to The Drowning Pool.
When Nel Abbott died, her daughter is left alone in a large creaking house with an estranged aunt who she’s never met. It turns out that Beckford, like many small towns, is filled with underlying connections and affairs. Throughout the book it seemed like half the town was looking for answers as to how these women died while the other half was keeping secrets.
My feelings about Into The Water are mixed. On the one hand, I was fascinated (and horrified) by the idea of The Drowning Pool and the myths that it’s a place where “troublemakers” are “taken care of.” The writing was infectious and I didn’t want to put the book down (similarly to Hawkins’ previous book, The Girl on the Train). On the other hand, the book is told from at least 10 different perspectives and all of the switching back and forth between characters took away from the depth of the story. I was lucky enough to attend an author event with Paula Hawkins a couple weeks ago and these alternating perspectives was an aspect of the book that she experimented with while writing.
Overall, I recommend reading Into The Water, but I also recommend having a pen and paper handy in order to jot down quick notes of each of the characters mentioned.
“Beckford is not a suicide spot. Beckford is a place to get rid of troublesome women.”
“It must take a strange sense of entitlement, I would have thought, to take someone else’s tragedy like that and write it as though it belonged to you.”
“We’re all waiting to die aren’t we?” – What You Don’t Know
What You Don’t Know by JoAnn Chaney made my skin crawl. It’s one of those stories where almost every character is disturbed and quite interesting at the same time. It’s all very dark, but that makes for a good crime novel right?
Detective Hoskins and Loren are looking for a serial killer. They’re unlikely partners, but Hoskins is the only one who can put up with Loren. The book begins as they arrest Jackie Seever, a man who had done unspeakable things. Seven years later, people begin dying again in ways similar to Seever’s victims. The problem is that Seever is still in jail and detectives are stumped.
The book switches between quite a few points of view including detectives, reporters, and even the wife of the serial killer. Everyone is a suspect and as the story moves forward, some of them move further from reality.
The pace of What You Don’t Know was a little slower than I would have liked, but I was intrigued by the dark story and twisted ending.
Dead Letters by Caite Dolan-Leach is enchanting with a punchy voice, quick pace, and unexpected twists. I didn’t want to put down this vibrant book!
Ava and Zelda, twin sisters, come from a wacky family filled with alcoholics who have expensive taste and very little work ethic. The mother, Nadine, is psychotic and sharp while their father, Marlon, is charming when he wants to be and absent the rest of the time.
The book begins when Ava receives an email calling her home from Paris because Zelda has died in a fire. Whoa. Although she’s shocked, Ava doesn’t panic because she doesn’t believe it. Once she returns home mysterious emails, letters, and clues from Zelda appear that lead her on a wicked scavenger hunt. We eventually learn why Ava had left their home in the first place and what Zelda has planned for her.
Caite Dolan-Leach writes beautifully, casting an eccentric line of characters in a beautiful (albeit unsuccessful) vineyard in a small town. Images of the vineyard, the lake beyond, and the endless glasses of wine and booze came easily to mind. Beyond the mystery of the story, it was thoughtful as Ava (and Zelda) reflect on their relationships with one another and their family.
I really liked Dead Letters with all of the intensity, vibrancy, and would like to re-read it.
“I’m pretty sure he thinks that birthdays and funerals and dishes and housework are all magically arranged by some sort of domestic deity who oversees life’s practical considerations.”
“…Maybe this was how she though about parenting us: as an unbalanced checkbook where she never got the sum she earned.”
“…That Zelda was unknowable, that any intimacy you thought you shared with her was a fiction she graciously let you maintain.”
This twisty, psycho-thriller will make you question relationships and the intentions of those within them. Even the title of the book, My Husband’s Wife by Jane Corry, is eerie.
Lily and Ed are newlyweds, and after a very brief engagement, they have hopes for a happy future together. While living in London, they be-friend a young girl named Carla who lives in their building. We quickly learn that Carla knows how to keep a secret and tell a well-placed lie.
When Lily takes on her first murder case as a lawyer, she’s catapulted into a world of crime and deceit. Her client (Joe Thomas) both captivates and scares her at once. Although Lily may not see it upon meeting him, Joe goes on to play a part in her life for years to come.
Throughout the book it’s very clear that Lily has a big secret that she’s hiding from everyone – her husband, her friends, even herself at times. When Carla comes back into the lives of Lily and Ed (more than a decade later) everything Lily has worked to hide is at risk of coming to light.
The book is told from both Lily and Carla’s perspectives and without giving away any spoilers, I can say that my predictions had crossed back and forth quite a few times by the end of the book.
Quotes that stood out to me:
“But that’s how lies start. Small. Well meaning. Until they get too big to handle.”
“It occurred to me then, as it occurs to me frequently, that one never really knows a person properly. Especially ourselves.”
“If I was in my right mind, I’d go straight to the police… But instead I’m going to pay a visit. To my husband’s wife. “
So. Good. I didn’t want to put down Jane Harper’s suspense novel, The Dry, until the mystery was solved. Set in a small town in rural Australia, this chilling whodunit novel follows multiple unexplained deaths spanning 20 years.
Aaron Falk fled from his hometown 20 years ago when Ellie Deacon, one of his close friends, was found dead. The kicker? A note with Falk’s name and the date of her death was in Ellie’s pocket. When Aaron couldn’t provide an explanation, he was pegged as a killer. In response, he avoids the town for years, that is until his childhood best friend, Luke, and his family are found dead. Only then does Aaron finally return. Despite his best efforts to leave, he’s pulled back into this secret-filled town.
The small town setting (where everyone knows everyone else’s business and memories span decades) really contributed to the development of the story. When Aaron returns to the town, it’s experiencing a serious draught, which contributes to the high tensions. Through Harper’s vivid descriptions, I could almost feel the dry air and heat. I mean seriously, I felt like I needed a water bottle while reading.
I was surprised by the ending in a way that only a good mystery novel can evoke. The writing style was interesting as well. For the most part, the book is written in third person from Aaron’s perspective with scene snippets from other characters’ perspectives throughout the last 20 years. I thought this was a great touch because it gave the audience visibility beyond what Aaron was experiencing.
I really enjoyed The Dry and would happily recommend it!
Tana French is a name one hears floating around a lot in the book world. She’s a bestselling mystery author and I’ve finally read one of her books: In The Woods. This mystery novel stood apart from others I’ve read because of the two intertwining (but at the same time, separate) mysteries within one story.
Schools out for the summer and a trio of best friends fill their days by playing in the woods of the Dublin suburb where they live. One evening, when it’s time for dinner, the children are nowhere to be found. The parents panic, the police are called, and only one of the three children is found and he has no memory of what’s happened.
20 years later, Rob (the boy who was found in the woods) is a detective on the Dublin Murder Squad when a girl is found dead in those very same woods. Rob and his partner, Detective Cassie Maddox, are on the case to find what (who) happened to this little girl. Although Rob doesn’t remember what occurred that terrible day 20 years ago, he has the eerie feeling that it might be connected to his current investigation. Throughout the story, Rob attempts to find the little girl’s killer as well as solve the mystery that’s been haunting him for two decades.
First, I want to say that I enjoyed this book. I thought the characters were believable (and at times likable) and the plot was well constructed. However, this wasn’t an un-put-down-able mystery for me. It was slow going.
I’m not going to share any spoilers – however, the ending left me both satisfied and unsatisfied at the same time. I’m tempted to pick up the next book in the series just to get some answers! I recommend buddy-reading In The Woods with a friend who you can discuss all these plot twists with.
I sped through I See You by Clare Mackintosh like I was in a race. It was easy to get into, with a thrilling plot and conversational tone, so I couldn’t put it down beyond breaking for snacks.
As Zoe Walker is commuting home on the London Tube from her 9-5 job, she sees her photograph in the classifieds section of the newspaper. This both shocks and disturbs her because the advertisement seems to be for a dating service that she didn’t register for. The next day another woman’s photograph is in the ad followed by a different woman the day after that. When one of these photographed women winds up dead, Zoe begins to panic…
Readers are brought along on an eerie twist-filled ride as Zoe discovers what her photograph in the advertisement means and just how it got there without her consent.
A common theme in I See You is the idea of our routines, especially commuting to and from work each day. In particular, the things we don’t pay attention to because we’re each absorbed in our own thoughts as we’re trying to get from one place to the next, hopefully without delay. This really sparked my interest and Mackintosh spun a gripping story from it.
I had high expectations when I started reading because I loved I Let You Go (one of my favorite reads in 2016), which is another book by Clare Mackintosh. I See You did not disappoint, although the plot twist wasn’t quite as stunning as the one in I Let You Go.
I definitely recommend I See You by Clare Mackintosh and if you haven’t already read it, I Let You Go as well! I can’t wait to see what she comes up with next.
The Last Good Girl by Allison Leotta hits home. These days the news is filled with stories of sexual assault on college campuses; Leotta has created a mystery novel that brings this issue to light through a gripping chase. I want to point out that this is the fifth book in the Anna Curtis series, however it’s the first one I’ve picked up and it was easy to read as a standalone.
Emily Shapiro, A freshman at Tower University, is excited to go to her first college party. A party filled with dancing, maybe a little drinking, and boys. Little does she know that the party won’t hold the happy memories she hopes for – instead she is drugged and raped. When Emily goes missing, prosecutor Anna Curtis is called in.
Emily was last seen on video running away from her accused rapist and the story spirals from there. The book is told from multiple perspectives. From Anna, from Emily’s video blogs leading up to the time she went missing, and from a freshman pledge in the fraternity where Emily was raped. These were really contrasting perspectives that gave the story some depth.
The Last Good Girl kept me hooked, because of the horrifying and terrible occurrences of sexual assaults on college campuses, and by the chase to find Emily. I definitely recommend this book (warning: there’s some graphic content) and would read another by Allison Leotta. I appreciate her ability to write a gripping mystery novel that brings attention to such a serious issue – for that, I want to thank her.
“She turned and, for the first time ever, he looked at her like he knew she was lying. Which she was, though she wasn’t sure why. But in that look, his eyes dark and sad, she knew something had ended, that great parental loss, the moment they realize you’re not perfect, and maybe even a little worse.”
You Will Know Me by Megan Abbott is one of the Book of the Month Club December selections. This story is about the Knoxes, a family that revolves around the gymnastics career of the daughter, Devon, who has dreams of going for Olympic gold. While Devon spends countless hours training for this dream, her family spends just as many transporting her to and from practices, events, and more. It’s a huge commitment and because of this, the gymnastics community is tight knit and gossip-filled. When a member of this group dies, it sends the community spiraling and threatens to ruin everything that Devon, and her family, has worked for….
Filled with lies, rumors, and betrayals, You Will Know Me is a fast-paced chase to find out how a man died and whether Devon has what it takes to make it to the top.
Despite the interesting dynamic of the ultimate gymnastics dream, this book underwhelmed me in the end. It was a quick read, which I appreciate in mystery novels, but the plot twists were a bit predictable and most of the characters (besides the youngest Knox child, Drew) were unlikeable to me. Overall, You Will Know Me is a quick-paced mystery from a unique perspective, but it wasn’t one of my favorites this year.