Crime of Privilege by Walter Walker
Official Summary: “In the tradition of Scott Turow, William Landay, and Nelson DeMille, Crime of Privilege is a stunning thriller about power, corruption, and the law in America—and the dangerous ways they come together.
A murder on Cape Cod. A rape in Palm Beach.
All they have in common is the presence of one of America’s most beloved and influential families. But nobody is asking questions. Not the police. Not the prosecutors. And certainly not George Becket, a young lawyer toiling away in the basement of the Cape & Islands district attorney’s office. George has always lived at the edge of power. He wasn’t born to privilege, but he understands how it works and has benefitted from it in ways he doesn’t like to admit. Now, an investigation brings him deep inside the world of the truly wealthy—and shows him what a perilous place it is.
Years have passed since a young woman was found brutally slain at an exclusive Cape Cod golf club, and no one has ever been charged. Cornered by the victim’s father, George can’t explain why certain leads were never explored—leads that point in the direction of a single family—and he agrees to look into it.
What begins as a search through the highly stratified layers of Cape Cod society, soon has George racing from Idaho to Hawaii, Costa Rica to France to New York City. But everywhere he goes he discovers people like himself: people with more secrets than answers, people haunted by a decision years past to trade silence for protection from life’s sharp edges. George finds his friends are not necessarily still friends and a spouse can be unfaithful in more ways than one. And despite threats at every turn, he is driven to reconstruct the victim’s last hours while searching not only for a killer but for his own redemption.”
Crime of Privilege by Walter Walker is a legal thriller that traces the ramifications of one man’s decision to help cover up a crime for a prominent family during his youth. When George Becket finds himself at a party at the Palm Beach home of one of America’s most beloved political dynasties, he hardly knows what to think. This is hardly the crowd that he normally spends time with and he is predictably impressed with all of the trappings of their wealth and power. But when he witnesses a horrible crime at this party, he must decide whether to give in to pressure to ignore what he saw and help the family to sweep it under the rug or follow his conscience.
But, once he has made the difficult decision to go against his moral compass on behalf of the family, he discovers that they are not the only powerful people in the picture and there are those who want to see that this one fateful decision follows him for the rest of his life. Torn between two powerful groups of people, George will find himself embroiled in another controversy nine years later that echoes that horrible night in Palm Beach and will once again test his morality.
In many ways, Crime of Privilege is a fairly standard legal thriller. It takes place in a world of power, privilege and wealth, where the rich and the politically connected play by totally different rules than the rest of the world. Primarily centered around a murder that occurred on Cape Cod, the book spans the globe as George tries to sift through all of the lies and subterfuge to find the underlying truth. Manipulated from all sides, George starts out as a fairly naive young man who becomes increasingly paranoid as he realizes the degree to which outside forces control his destiny. The book draws the reader in by alternating between time periods and locations to slowly reveal important details. But, while it will keep you guessing for quite some time, I found that certain minor plot points were telegraphed from early on. The book also felt as though it went on for a bit too long, adding a few too many plot twists and events that added to the George’s (and the reader’s) sense of confusion, but didn’t ultimately add all that much to the story. None of the characters in this book were entirely innocent and the villains of the piece are in some cases a bit one dimensional, but Walker does a good job of making George’s decisions somewhat understandable if not admirable. Readers might not agree with his choices, but they will want to find out what happens next.
If you enjoy legal thrillers, particularly those with a political conspiracy angle, you will enjoy this very readable entry in the genre. Overall it is a fast read that will make a good choice for your vacation this summer.
Check it Out: Crime of Privilege will be released on June 18th.
Note: Review based on ARC from publisher.
Spies and Prejudice by Talia Vance
Official Summary: “Pride & Prejudice meets Veronica Mars in this slick romantic spy-thriller where nothing’s as it seems.
Berry Fields is not looking for a boyfriend. She’s busy trailing cheaters and liars in her job as a private investigator, collecting evidence of the affairs she’s sure all men commit. And thanks to a pepper spray incident during an eighth grade game of spin the bottle, the guys at her school are not exactly lining up to date her, either.
So when arrogant—and gorgeous—Tanner Halston rolls into town and calls her “nothing amazing,” it’s no loss for Berry. She’ll forget him in no time. She’s more concerned with the questions surfacing about her mother’s death.
But why does Tanner seem to pop up everywhere in her investigation, always getting in her way? Is he trying to stop her from discovering the truth, or protecting her from an unknown threat? And why can’t Berry remember to hate him when he looks into her eyes?
With a playful nod to Jane Austen, Spies and Prejudice will captivate readers as love and espionage collide.”
Spies and Prejudice by Talia Vance is the first book about Strawberry “Berry” Fields, a teen who has graduated to running her own stake outs and investigations for her father, who is a private detective. Together with her friend Mary Chris, who develops spy gear for her, Berry is in the midst of one of these stake outs when she happens to see Mary Chris’s father in the midst of a suspicious meeting. As she digs a bit deeper into this meeting, unresolved issues surrounding her own mother’s death, which was ruled a suicide, are brought to the forefront and she rapidly becomes obsessed with her mother’s death all over again. Berry is a girl who has always avoided any romantic entanglements, and just as she begins her new investigation, her life is further complicated by two mysterious boys who have appeared at her high school. Figuring out their motivations proves to be almost as difficult as finding her mother’s murderer.
This story does a good job of explaining Berry and how her mother’s death impacted every facet of her life. While this is obviously a great feature of the book, I felt that it actually made it more obvious that several of the secondary characters were not as well-developed. This didn’t take too much away from the plot arc of the book, and is somewhat understandable given that the entire story is told from Berry’s point of view, but I would have liked some additional information about the other characters. Additional details would be particularly helpful in making readers more invested in the plot twists and surprise reveals that happen later in the book. However, overall, these complaints don’t tip the balance against this book, particularly for those who enjoy the private detective genre.
Spies and Prejudice is advertised as a play on Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice, but even without the sly nods towards that story, it would be able to stand on its own as an entertaining mystery story that follows a teen detective who is intent on solving one case over all others - the case of her own mother’s death. I would definitely recommend this to young adult mystery fans who are looking for a new investigator to follow. The book seems as though it leaves the possibility of a sequel in the future, but for now, this is the only novel about Berry, which also makes this a great option for those who are tired of starting lengthy series.
Check it Out: Spies and Prejudice will be released on June 11th.
Readalike: If you enjoy Spies and Prejudice, try Vance’s other novels, starting with Silver, the first in the Bandia series or, for another option with even more of a spy bent, try Also Known As by Robin Benway.
Note: Review based on ARC from publisher.
Ripper by Stefan Petrucha
Official Summary: “You thought you knew him. You were dead wrong.
Carver Young dreams of becoming a detective, despite growing up in an orphanage with only crime novels to encourage him. But when he is adopted by Detective Hawking of the world famous Pinkerton Agency, Carver is given not only the chance to find his biological father, he finds himself smack in the middle of a real life investigation: tracking down a vicious serial killer who has thrown New York City into utter panic. When the case begins to unfold, however, it’s worse than he could have ever imagined, and his loyalty to Mr. Hawking and the Pinkertons comes into question. As the body count rises and the investigation becomes dire, Carver must decide where his true loyalty lies. Full of whip-smart dialogue, kid-friendly gadgets, and featuring a then New York City Police Commissioner Teddy Roosevelt, Ripper challenges everything you thought you knew about the world’s most famous serial killer.”
In Ripper by Stefan Petrucha, Carver Young is an orphan teen who has been wondering about his father for years. He has always been fascinated by detective stories and deduction, but when he is “adopted” by an eccentric ex-Pinkerton detective mostly on the strength of his investigative skills, he is thrust into the center of real mysteries that plague the city. In particular, he is tasked with assisting the investigation of a serial killer who is brutally murdering socialites in Manhattan. As Carver investigates the murders and the mystery surrounding his own father, he begins to wonder whether he may have more of a connection to the killer than he ever guessed. Along the way, he will meet famous detectives and politicians, live in an asylum and work in a high-tech, hidden headquarters.
Ripper is an action packed mystery that incorporates famous historical figures into a somewhat fantastical story that is nevertheless full of suspense. Details about the mystery of the murders are slowly revealed over time and will keep readers guessing and on the edge of their seat, while the historical details that are scattered throughout bring the setting to life. In addition to Carver, Petrucha has populated the book with a strong cast of supporting characters that serve as good foils for Carver. All aspects of the book tend to be a bit over-the-top, but as a whole, it works well and proves to be a pageturner. Readers won’t be able to wait to find out what happens next.
Ripper is a great book for mystery fans, Jack the Ripper aficionados and those who enjoy historical fiction. After the end of the story, the book includes the full text of an actual historical letter that was allegedly written by Jack the Ripper saying that he had arrived in New York City as well as notes explaining some of the historical facts that underlie the story. I would definitely recommend it to anyone looking for a historical thriller.
Check it Out: Ripper is currently available.
Readalike: If you like Ripper for its focus on Jack the Ripper, try The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson. If you found the serial killer mystery intriguing, try I Am Not A Serial Killer by Dan Wells or I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga.
His Majesty’s Hope by Susan Elia MacNeal
Official Summary: “For fans of Jacqueline Winspear, Laurie R. King, and Anne Perry, whip-smart heroine Maggie Hope returns to embark on a clandestine mission behind enemy lines where no one can be trusted, and even the smallest indiscretion can be deadly.
World War II has finally come home to Britain, but it takes more than nightly air raids to rattle intrepid spy and expert code breaker Maggie Hope. After serving as a secret agent to protect Princess Elizabeth at Windsor Castle, Maggie is now an elite member of the Special Operations Executive—a black ops organization designed to aid the British effort abroad—and her first assignment sends her straight into Nazi-controlled Berlin, the very heart of the German war machine. Relying on her quick wit and keen instincts, Maggie infiltrates the highest level of Berlin society, gathering information to pass on to London headquarters. But the secrets she unveils will expose a darker, more dangerous side of the war—and of her own past.”
The third book in the Maggie Hope series, His Majesty’s Hope by Susan Elia MacNeal, picks up soon after the second book ended. Maggie is preparing to undertake her first spy mission on the continent in Germany itself. Juxtaposed with her preparations for this mission are the daily lives of two nurses in Germany. Both work at a hospital in Berlin, where they treat both soldiers who have been wounded in battle and young children. One of the nurses is devoutly religious with plans to become a nun after the war against the wishes of her mother, who holds a prominent place in the Nazi government. The other is married to a Jewish doctor who has been forced out of the medical field. The story of the book envelops all of these characters as they work to survive in a country where one false move can spell immediate disaster. Back in England, MacNeal also shows readers what life is like for those who work to help the war effort from within Great Britain.
As a fan of MacNeal’s books, I went into this third volume with the highest of hopes and somehow His Majesty’s Hope still managed to exceed my expectations. Maggie has always been a strong character, but this book shows her growing further into her role as a spy, both in terms of the training that she now has and in terms of the experiences that she gains in the field. The book combines an exciting plot that will keep you on the edge of your seat with additional character development for both recurring and new characters. The inclusion of all of these characters might seem as though it would overwhelm the book, but I felt that all of the myriad pieces of the story worked perfectly together to create a more nuanced story than is often seen in the mystery genre. MacNeal tackles aspects of World War II that are often glossed over, including the Nazi Action T4 as well as the shortcomings of both Great Britain and the United States. Readers have an opportunity to learn about aspects of World War II that they may not be particularly familiar with while enjoying a great story at the same time.
This book is definitely my favorite in the series and it won’t disappoint existing fans of the books. It is written such that those who are new to the series won’t have any trouble diving directly into this book, but given how good the first two installments in the series are, I would highly recommend reading the entire series in order. But, however you may decide to read the books, I would just encourage anyone with any interest in World War II or in mysteries to rush right out and get this book.
Check it Out: His Majesty’s Hope will be out on May 14th.
Readalike: If you haven’t read the first two books in the Maggie Hope series, I would highly recommend them, even before starting this book. If you are looking for another series after you are caught up on this one, try the Her Royal Spyness series from Rhys Bowen or the Maisie Dobbs series by Jacqueline Winspear. If you are simply looking for another amazing book about World War II, you can’t go wrong with Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein, which is an excellent choice even for those who don’t typically read young adult books.
Note: Review based on ARC from publisher.
Red Handed: The Fine Art of Strange Crimes by Matt Kindt
Official Summary: “Welcome to the city of Red Wheelbarrow, where the world’s greatest detective has yet to meet the crime he can’t solve—every criminal in Red Wheelbarrow is caught and convicted thanks to Detective Gould’s brilliant mind and cutting-edge spy technology.
But lately there has been a rash of crimes so eccentric and random that even Detective Gould is stumped. Will he discover the connection between the compulsive chair thief, the novelist who uses purloined street signs to write her magnum opus, and the photographer who secretly documents peoples’ most anguished personal moments? Or will Detective Gould finally meet his match?
Matt Kindt operates with wit and perception in the genre of hard-boiled crime fiction. Red Handed owes as much to Paul Auster as Dashiell Hammett, and raises some genuinely sticky questions about human nature.”
Red Handed: The Fine Art of Strange Crimes by Matt Kindt is an unusual mystery story. It follows “the world’s greatest detective” as he solves each and every crime in Red Wheelbarrow using both skills and technology. But, as the book opens, a series of random crimes plagues the city and defies even his amazing analytical powers. As the book proceeds, the reader watches these bizarre crimes unfold wondering what exactly is happening while also seeing glimpses of Detective Gould’s successes mixed in with these unsolvable crimes. As these disparate pieces come together, both readers and Detective Gould will come to understand exactly what all of these events mean.
The mysterious nature of Red Handed becomes obvious very early on. Within the first few pages of the book, readers will be both fascinated and confused as they watch strange events take place over the course of beautifully drawn panels. And, rather than becoming more clear over time, the mystery only deepens as even more seemingly unrelated crimes are introduced to further obscure what is happening. The story is clearly a carefully crafted and plotted puzzle because it is impressive how all of the little details prove to be important to untangling the core mystery at the heart of the book. Even if you somehow don’t find yourself drawn in by the complex plot, the beauty of the book will make it clear why the subtitle of the book refers to “fine art.” The style of the drawings varies over the course of the book and always complements the elements of the story. All of these pieces come together to create a satisfying graphic novel that is perfect for both mystery fans and those who appreciate the artistic side of the genre.
Check it Out: Red Handed: The Fine Art of Strange Crimes will be released on May 7th.
Note: Review based on ARC from publisher.
Escape Theory by Margaux Froley
Official Summary: “Sixteen-year-old Devon Mackintosh has always felt like an outsider at Keaton, the prestigious California boarding school perched above the Pacific. As long as she’s not fitting in, Devon figures she might as well pad her application to Stanford’s psych program. So junior year, she decides to become a peer counselor, a de facto therapist for students in crisis. At first, it seems like it will be an easy fly-on-the-wall gig, but her expectations are turned upside down when Jason Hutchins (a.k.a. “Hutch”), one of the Keaton’s most popular students, commits suicide.
Devon dives into her new role providing support for Hutch’s friends, but she’s haunted by her own attachment to him. The two shared an extraordinary night during their first week freshman year; it was the only time at Keaton when she felt like someone else really understood her. As the secrets and confessions pile up in her sessions, Devon comes to a startling conclusion: Hutch couldn’t have taken his own life. Bound by her oath of confidentiality—and tortured by her unrequited love—Devon embarks on a solitary mission to get to the bottom of Hutch’s death, and the stakes are higher than she ever could have imagined.”
Escape Theory by Margaux Froley is a new young adult mystery from Soho Press. Set in a prestigious boarding school, Escape Theory opens with an obituary for Jason “Hutch” Reed Hutchins, a student at the school, and then jumps back in time to 2010 when Hutch and Devon, the story’s narrator, were first starting out at the school. Alternating between the fateful night that Devon and Hutch spent locked in the school’s kitchen and the aftermath of Hutch’s suicide, the story follows Devon’s investigation into the events leading up to Hutch’s death. As a peer counselor at the school, Devon is tasked with trying to help her classmates come to grips with Hutch’s death, while simultaneously struggling with her own feelings about him. In this role, Devon, who always questioned the official account of events, discovers dark secrets about many of her classmates and begins to wonder whether she might have been right that this wasn’t suicide after all.
While boarding school novels are fairly common, Escape Theory takes a slightly different approach with its focus on Devon’s work as a peer counselor at the school’s new pilot program. This offered a way for Devon to collect clues in a more seamless manner than in most mysteries, but at the same time, I felt that at times this part of the plot seemed a bit unbelievable. Many of the decisions that Devon makes in the course of her counseling are questionable, in a way that feels believable for a high school student, but the same cannot be said for the behavior of the faculty at the school. While they are largely ignored in the book, when the faculty and other adults do make appearances, they behave in ways that don’t seem fully thought-out. While this detracted somewhat from the book, overall, the book was entertaining with characters that readers will really care about.
If you enjoy mysteries or boarding school books, you’ll definitely like this book. While the mystery is resolved by the end of the book, the plot is left open for a sequel in a way that will appeal to both readers who like standalone books and those who enjoy series.
Check it Out: Escape Theory will be released on March 12th.
Readalike: If you enjoy this mystery, try What We Saw At Night by Jacquelyn Mitchard or, if you like a bit of humor and the supernatural added to your mysteries, The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson.
Note: Review based on ARC from publisher.
The Nightmare Affair by Mindee Arnett
Official Summary: “Sixteen-year-old Dusty Everhart breaks into houses late at night, but not because she’s a criminal. No, she’s a Nightmare.
Then Eli’s dream comes true.
Now Dusty has to follow the clues—both within Eli’s dreams and out of them—to stop the killer before more people turn up dead. And before the killer learns what she’s up to and marks her as the next target.”
The Nightmare Affair by Mindee Arnett introduces readers to Dusty Everhart as she is in the process of creeping into an acquaintance’s bedroom to feed off of his dreams. As weird as it seems to the reader, it seems almost as weird to Dusty who is still adjusting to her new powers as a Nightmare, a particularly rare type of supernatural being. Or more precisely, she is a half-Nightmare on her mother’s side. But, now that she has unexpectedly come into her powers she is a student at a boarding school for magickind and finds herself climbing into random people’s bedrooms to feed. Unfortunately, she doesn’t get to pick who she feeds off of, so she finds herself drawn to Eli, a former classmate, whose dreams show her a murder. When that murder actually happens both Dusty and Eli will find themselves drawn into the world of magickind and struggling to prevent future deaths.
I have to say I loved this book from the first page. Arnett did an excellent job of explaining the background necessary to understand Nightmares, a unique type of paranormal character, in a way that doesn’t feel like an infodump. I found that I was pulled into the story from page one and couldn’t wait to see how it would end. The setting in a boarding school is reminiscent of many other young adult series, but in this case it gives Arnett an opportunity to introduce not only a wide range of other types of supernatural beings, but also a whole separate world and government populated by these beings. The mystery itself offers enough red herrings to keep the reader guessing without seeming like the ending comes out of nowhere.
I highly recommend this book for fans of stories with paranormal characters. Arnett has created a fun and compelling universe populated with great, well-developed characters. I personally can’t wait for more books in this same universe!
Check it Out: The Nightmare Affair will be released on March 5th.
Note: Review based on ARC from publisher.
The Madness Underneath by Maureen Johnson
Official Summary: “After her near-fatal run-in with the Jack the Ripper copycat, Rory Devereaux has been living in Bristol under the close watch of her parents. So when her therapist suddenly suggests she return to Wexford, Rory jumps at the chance to get back to her friends. But Rory’s brush with the Ripper touched her more than she thought possible: she’s become a human terminus, with the power to eliminate ghosts on contact. She soon finds out that the Shades—the city’s secret ghost-fighting police—are responsible for her return. The Ripper may be gone, but now there is a string of new inexplicable deaths threatening London. Rory has evidence that the deaths are no coincidence. Something much more sinister is going on, and now she must convince the squad to listen to her before it’s too late.
In this follow-up to the Edgar Award-nominated THE NAME OF THE STAR, Maureen Johnson adds another layer of spectacularly gruesome details to the streets of London that will keep you on the edge of your seat until the very end.”
In The Madness Underneath, a sequel to The Name of the Star (NOTE: this review assumes you have read The Name of the Star - there will be spoilers if you haven’t and it’s good, so read it before reading this review), Maureen Johnson picks up very shortly after the end of the first novel. Rory is in Bristol with her parents recovering from her run-in with the Ripper and trying to avoid telling her therapist anything. Just as she is beginning to question how to proceed, her therapist suddenly changes her tune and recommends that Rory return to Wexford to finish out the rest of the semester. Not surprisingly, she discovers shortly after returning to Wexford that the Shades, the “ghost-fighting police,” have arranged for her re-enrollment. But, she quickly discovers it isn’t as simple as picking up where she left off. Three weeks is a long time to miss in the middle of a semester and then there is the small matter of a mysterious murder that happened just around the corner from her school while she was gone. Perhaps even weirder, Charlotte is suddenly both relaxed and eager to ensure that Rory is handling her return well. Rory is left trying to figure out her place in a life that had seemed so manageable just a few weeks earlier.
The Madness Underneath is definitely intended for those who have already read The Name of the Star. While you could probably pick up this second book and figure out the basics of the plot, it is definitely worth starting at the beginning of the series. As more than one person told me before I started this book, it is very much a second book in a series. It works well in that capacity and does resolve many of the open plot points from the first book, but it also offers at least as many questions as it answers. By the end, it feels as though the world of the Shades is much more complex and fully described than it previously was. It also ends on a cliffhanger, so those who can’t stand waiting for resolution may want to wait until the next book is released before starting this one.
The Madness Underneath left me waiting eagerly for the rest of the series, but as a stand-alone book it likely won’t work as well. However, if you have read The Name of the Star, I would highly recommend this sequel.
Check it Out: The Madness Underneath is being released today.
Readalike: Fans of Maureen Johnson’s writing style may want to try some of her other books; there are many to choose from but 13 Little Blue Envelopes is a good place to start. Those looking for another supernatural story set in a boarding school will enjoy The Nightmare Affair by Mindee Arnett, a great book that will be released on March 5th.
Note: Review based on ARC from publisher.
What We Saw At Night by Jacquelyn Mitchard
Official Summary: “Like the yearning, doomed young clones in Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go, three teenagers with XP (a life-threatening allergy to sunlight) are a species unto themselves. As seen through the eyes of 16-year-old Allie Kim, they roam the silent streets, looking for adventure, while others sleep. When Allie’s best friend introduces the trio to Parkour, the stunt-sport of running and climbing off forest cliffs and tall buildings (risky in daylight and potentially deadly by darkness), they feel truly alive, equal to the “daytimers.”
On a random summer night, while scaling a building like any other, the three happen to peer into an empty apartment and glimpse an older man with what looks like a dead girl. A game of cat-and-mouse ensues that escalates through the underground world of hospital confinement, off-the-grid sports, and forbidden love. Allie, who can never see the light of day, discovers she’s the lone key to stopping a human monster.”
What We Saw At Night by Jacquelyn Mitchard is a surprisingly tense and exciting thriller that leaves you wondering but nevertheless glad that you found such a fun story. Allie, Rob, and Juliet have been best friends for years after bonding over their shared diagnosis of Xeroderma Pigmentosum (XP), a severe allergy to light that keeps them trapped indoors all day but free to wander at night. Juliet, always the daredevil of the group, convinces Rob and Allie to take up Parkour, an intense physical discipline that has them diving off of buildings and jumping obstacles. While out “tracing” one day, they see a mysterious blond man and an unconscious, or dead, woman. From there the plot continues to build in tension as Allie tries to sift through the lies to determine the truth about her friendships and the mysterious blond man.
This book combines the action of Parkour, the medical drama of XP, and the tension of a potential serial killer into a page turner that will keep you breathless up to the cliffhanger at the end. Before I even started reading, I was intrigued by the combination of the very physical pursuit of Parkour with a life-threatening illness. But the book far exceeded my expectations. Mitchard quickly gets readers invested in Allie’s life and the lives of her friends and family. She does a convincing job of explaining both XP and Parkour without ever slipping into a lecturing tone or resorting to an info dump. She paces the book so that questions just keep piling on top of each other with many chapters ending on impressive cliffhangers. Is the blond man a serial killer? What exactly did Allie witness? Where does Juliet always disappear to? All of these questions will keep you guessing to the end of the book and beyond.
My only complaint about the book is the fact that the cliffhanger ending has left me anxiously awaiting the sequel. Readers who don’t like waiting for resolution may want to wait to start this series until the sequel has been published because the book ends on one of the more abrupt and impressive cliffhangers I have read in quite a while (much like Shadowlands - cliffhangers seem to be popular this week). But, I highly recommend this book regardless of whether you read it now or wait until the sequel has been released.
Check it Out: What We Saw At Night is currently available.
Note: Review based on ARC from publisher.
Shadowlands by Kate Brian
Official Summary: “Rory Miller had one chance to fight back and she took it. Rory survived … and the serial killer who attacked her escaped. Now that the infamous Steven Nell is on the loose, Rory must enter the witness protection with her father and sister, Darcy, leaving their friends and family without so much as a goodbye.
Starting over in a new town with only each other is unimaginable for Rory and Darcy. They were inseparable as children, but now they can barely stand each other. As the sisters settle in to Juniper Landing, a picturesque vacation island, it seems like their new home may be just the fresh start they need. They fall in with a group of beautiful, carefree teens and spend their days surfing, partying on the beach, and hiking into endless sunsets. But just as they’re starting to feel safe again, one of their new friends goes missing. Is it a coincidence? Or is the nightmare beginning all over again?”
Shadowlands by Kate Brian will keep you on the edge your seat from the very first page until its shocking conclusion. As the book opens, you are immediately into a violent attack, even before any of the characters are introduced and this heart-pounding pace never lets up throughout the entire book. After these initial tense chapters, readers are introduced to Rory Miller. A smart studious girl who has dreams of being a cancer specialist, Rory is completely taken by surprise when her math teacher, a man she considers a mentor, attacks her in the woods one day. Little did she know that he was secretly a serial killer who has been on the run from the FBI for over a decade. Though she manages to escape, her relief is short-lived when the FBI agent in charge of the investigation explains that this particular killer never stops once he has chosen a victim. She and her family are forced to enter the witness protection program in a bid to escape from this monster. Relocated to an isolated island, they quickly adjust to the pace of their new life, but Rory is still on edge convinced that she is being watched and having a hard time knowing what is real and what isn’t.
Shadowlands is a creepy and totally engaging thriller. It will keep you guessing, and turning pages, until the very end. The book opens from the point of view of Rory’s attacker, which immediately gives the reader a sense of his obsession and makes the threat seem more immediate. The second chapter then retells the same attack, this time from Rory’s point of view to give the reader a more complete sense of the experience. Even when you are reading through the attack for the second time, Brian manages to keep the experience engaging and to continue to build tension. After this, throughout the book, she periodically returns to the serial killer’s point of view, which adds an element of suspense to the book since the reader has access to more information than Rory does.
While the book initially seems like a standard story of a serial killer and his prey, something that has become somewhat of a mini-trend in YA publishing these days, this book goes far beyond this genre. Once Rory is “safely” hidden on the island, the suspense continues to build as weird behavior from the locals and strange disappearances make her question her sanity and struggle to connect to those around her. Throughout this, Brian does an excellent job of keeping her readers on the edge of their seats and magnifying the creepiness of the setting. I found that this was one book I couldn’t put down. My only two minor complaints were that I felt that there was a minor plot hole near the beginning of the book that made me question some of what came later and the ending was a bit abrupt (probably to leave readers eager for the next book in this new series). But even these minor issues couldn’t keep me from enjoying the book.
This is the perfect read for those who love creepy settings and edge-of-your-seat action. It will keep you guessing throughout and will leave you anxiously waiting for the next book in the series.
Check it Out: Shadowlands was released today.
Readalike: If you are intrigued by this book, you might want to read Kate Brian’s other books, such as the Private series. For other thrillers with serial killers, try Paper Valentine or take a look at the list compiled on Teen Librarian’s Toolbox.
Note: Review based on ARC from publisher.