Book Review: The Guest List By Lucy Foley

The Guest List By Lucy Foley is slow build thriller filled with lies and secrets bursting at the seems. A wedding party on a remote island, what can go wrong? A scream to the sight of a murdered body is what starts off The Guest List. By the end you will know who is murdered and who the murder or murders are. The book is told through 6 perspective wedding guest each with his or her own secret and motive. It’s a fun who done it? where you the reader get to play the detective. This was my first Lucy Foley book, she came on my radar after last year’s The Hunting Party, which I want to read now. I have to say I wasn’t blown away I guessed early who the killer or killers would be and were right, there were some details that I did not get right that kept it enjoyable for me. After you know who the murder or murders, there’s still a little bit more like are they going to get away with it and I liked that bit.

The Plot: On the a storming evening there is a black out on the wedding night, when the lights come on there is scream from the island of someone finding a dead body. We meet all the main players of the wedding, the uptight control freak bride Jules, the charming TV star groom Will, the university dropout Jules’ sister and bride’s maid Olivia, the estranged party boy best man Johnno, the stay at home mom and plus one of Charlie her husband and Jules’ best friend, the wedding planner and Chef Aoife and Freddy, and four of Will’s drunk best mates from boarding school, Duncan, Pete, Femi, and Angus. That’s the guest list, list of suspect, and also list of possible murder victims.

What I Liked: The perspectives of the six individuals worked really well, I only got confused once, and it was for a short time. The setting of Cormorant Island comes with its own haunted past and adds to the isolation of being trapped. I enjoyed learning all the secrets and how some strangely connected. The ending was really good how one character ended up getting a comeuppance for their part in a secret that hurt others even though they were not involved with the murder. Good writing keeps this from not being a typical murder mystery.

What I Disliked: I was able to guess the murderer or murderers pretty easily, I t just made the most sense, like I said in my first thoughts it was still interesting, but I kind of wanted to be wrong.

Recommendations: I would recommend others check The Guest List out. If you like a good Murder Mystery and train wreck of secrets all coming out at a secluded island than this is the book for you. I compared this book to Ruth Ware’s In a Dark, Dark Woods, which I rated similarly. I rated The Guest List by Lucy Foley 4 out of 5 stars. I will definitely try to read The Hunting Party when I have a chance.

Book Review: The Eighth Detective by Alex Pavesi

The Eighth Detective by Alex Pavesi is about murder stories taken place before World War II. The Eighth Detective is a story within stories, it works as both a short story anthology and an over-arching narrative. The novel is very clever in the way twist are laid out, the end is filled with so many twists they actually where’s out their welcome. There are 7 short stories in this novel all involving murder and a mathematic formula to make a murder mystery work. The short stories are borrowed from mainly Agatha Christie stories, I’m sure for legal reasons the story could not mention her by name. The short stories are good with some being great, but I enjoyed the conversations after the stories more, where the story is broken down and discussed. Thanks to Netgalley and Henry and Holt Company for granting me a copy. The Eighth Detective was published on 8-4-2020.

Favorite Quote: “Chess is a cheap metaphor. It’s what men use to talk in a grandiose way about conflict.”

The Plot: Grant McAllister, a professor of mathematics, worked out a theory thirty years ago about how to create the perfect murder mystery stories. After the theory was published, he quietly wrote a book of 7 short stories testing the theory called The White Murders . The book has came and went, but now 30 years later a young editor Julia is interested in republishing the book and wants access to the Grant McAllister who lives a quiet life away as a recluse. Grant is real iffy on his past not really wanting to discuss it. They start reading his short stories and breaking them down after exposing little truth and some he can’t or won’t answer like the similarity in the title and the real murders called The White Murders.

What I Liked: The conversations on the breakdown of stories are so good. The first short story is really good and immediately had me hooked. There’s one short story that takes place on the remote island after the aftermath of one of my favorite Agatha Christie stories And Then There Were None. I liked this one it intrigued me because it would be so hard to figure out what happened, and the perfect place for murder. This story was the only direct clone the ending’s of The Murder on the Orient Express and The Murder of Roger Ackroyd are part of the perfect endings. The language and lines of dialogue are good and through out the short stories. The main twist is really good with how clever it is.

What I Disliked: The first thing that intrigued me was the comparison to the White Murders, it’s kind of answered but I wanted more facts. How do you not think or acknowledge Agatha Christie in the Foreword or Afterword. I thought at the end there was too many twist that did not involve the short stories we just analyzed.

Recommendations: I’m going to barely recommend this one, the short stories for the most part are good and the conversations after are even better. If you like classic murder mystery that involves thought and deduction and not forensics then this novel is for you. You’re never going to be as good as Agatha Christie but it is still enjoyable. This book is getting unfairly compared to The 7 and a half Murders of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton who reinvented the murder mystery and told it in a unique way, the Eighth detective just has a unique telling. This was another hard review for me to place, I kept going back and forth between 3 and 4 stars, but eventually settled on a number barely making it to the threshold. I rated The Eighth Detective by Alex Pavesi 4 out of 5 stars. I will look for Pavesi books in the future, I see a lot of promise in the writing.

Book Review: Home Before Dark by Riley Sager

Home Before Dark by Riley Sager is a top notch thriller wrapped in a ghost story. Home Before Dark reminded me of why I love Riley Sager so much, good writing that for the most part keeps me guessing while adding that level of believability, that it could happen that way. I felt like this book was a good return to form after I was let down by Lock Every Door which was released last year. Home After Dark offers two accounts one of a book written 25 years ago that is a nonfictional ghost story called House of Horrors that written by Ewan Holt that tells of the Baneberry House haunting of him and his family; the other is Maggie Holt that was five at the time of House of Horrors returning after 25 years to see what was real as her family won’t speak of the book. This book is high suspense with more twist than a Tilt-A-Whirl.

The Plot: Maggie Holt has just been called to her father’s will reading. Maggie’s dad is infamous because he wrote a book 25 years ago called House of Horrors about him and his family buying their first home the Baneberry house. The family only last 25 days as they were haunted by ghost. Maggie has asked her father and mother many times through her life what was real? What really went down? Even on her father’s death bed when asked all he could say was he’s sorry? Maggie is shocked when goes to the will reading and the Baneberry house is in the will to her. She still can’t believe he had it in his name still for 25 years, and shocked further still when she finds out her father visited one day everyone of those 25 years. Maggie who is in real estate plans to fix up the house and sell it, while also investigating what is real or not. Maggie unearths secret after, secret, was every word written true? or a clever lie?

What I Liked: The twist were really good I had a couple of the theories, but all were proven false, I liked the end. The narrative of bouncing back from Maggie to her dad’s voice was a little disjointed at first but I really enjoyed it as we would learn more about what was true. I liked the conspiracy theories that came out of the ending. I liked Maggie and the closure she got at the end. The snake scene is terrifying, both of them. I loved the ghost aspect.

What I Disliked: Petra and what was theorized especially in the beginning, and the justification being how much she is in the book, but she’s barely in the book. I thought there was going to be more than one alone time with Ewan, but that’s it. I liked everything else but I wanted more scenes of Ewan and Petra together.

Recommendations: I really enjoyed this one it’s a good mix of horror and mystery. The twist are good and through out, which makes for an easy fast paced read. This was my second favorite out of four that Riley Sager has written, and already can not wait until next summer to read another one. He remains the king of summer. I rated Home Before Dark by Riley Sager 5 out of 5 stars. Since I have read all other books written by Riley Sager here’s mr order of best to worst: The Last Time I Lied, Home Before Dark, Final Girls, and Lock Every Door.

Book Review: The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James

The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James is a nonstop thriller that mixes elements of a ghost story with a mystery. The pace was nonstop from the beginning, and did not let up as it reached the climax. The story is really fun, I enjoyed finding out more about the ghost and why they haunted the Sun Down Motel. The twists are plausible and well thought out to fool the audience. This book has been hyped recently, and I have to say I really enjoyed it, it doesn’t reinvent the genre, just tells a good story in a way that is easy to read and picture. This is a fast read that was a breeze to consume one afternoon.

The Plot: In 1982 Vivian starts working the nightshift at the Sun Down Motel in Fell, NY. The town is quiet but it has a string of missing and murdered young women, and Vivian is the next victim. She has been missing for 37 years when Carly her niece travels to Fell to investigate. She always knew her aunt was missing, but upon her mother’s death, she finds old news clipping about the crime that her mom would never get a straight answer. Carley’s investigation cause her to live in the same apartment as her aunt and take a job working the night shift at the Sun Down Motel. Carley discovers secrets of ghosts old and new. Carley wants the truth, but she may risk her life to get it.

What I Liked: I loved the ghost and their personalities. I love how focused this novel was, I felt no scene was wasted. I like the flipping back from 1982 to present day. I liked how the personalities of Vivian and Carley complimented each other. I liked the roommate Heather, how she still powered on after her panic attacks upon investigation. I loved the investigative photographer and the role they play in everything. This novel was about female power and I loved it!

What I Disliked: After the climax the wrap up took a little too long, but It didn’t effect my review too much, since I was so entertained by 90% of the story.

Recommendations: This is a really fun thriller that delivers. The narrative is easy to follow and the pace doesn’t let up. I wanted a decent mystery and I got a ghost story that is surrounded by a mystery, which was more than I expected. I rated The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James 5 out of 5 stars.

Book Review: What Lies Between Us by John Marrs

What Lies Between Us by John Marrs is one crazy book, that you can’t predict or put down. Characters flip from being good to bad, as the reader learns more secrets. This book has some of the most cringe worthy scenes, not because of gore or anything horrid, but because you are reading about a character that keeps digging themselves into holes. This is family disfunction at its finest. What would it take for you to chain your mother in her room? The answers come quickly but the reasons behind them stay buried in lies. This is the second novel that I have by John Marrs, last year I read Passengers about driverless car taking 8 people hostage to murder them as people choose who lives or dies. Passengers rifted me while What Lies Between Us rocked me to my core. A huge thanks to Netgalley and Amazon Publishing UK for letting me read a novel that has taken my top spot in favorite books of 2020. The screen writes were picked up by Renee Zellweger’s production company, which would have a juicy role as the daughter who chains her mother, while exposing a lifetime of secrets and lies. What Lies Between Us is to be published on May 15th 2020.

The Plot: Maggie is believed to be a shut in that relies on her doting daughter Nina to get her through her days, then the chain is revealed. Maggie is not a shut in by choice. Her daughter Nina has been chaining her up in the attic which she soundproofed for two years. Nina is convinced her mom murdered her father years ago, and is determined to lock her up, in replacement for the last 21 years of her life since her father disappeared.

What I Liked: How crazy this novel got, there were many times where I was astounded of the places this novel went. There’s so many twist, I guessed a couple of them, but there were sometimes twist on twist. I enjoyed the ending, I felt like everything wrapped up in a very messed up bow. Never have I been so back and forth with characters, you will read one thing and be like Maggie had a point and then read another where I was like how could Maggie do that to Nina. The back and forth go almost to the end.I liked the side character of Bobby and how he fit in to the mother and daughter fight. The party scene was one of the most cringe worthy scenes I’ve ever read, and I kind of loved every minute of it. The scene was like a slow train wreck, you just have to watch. The way this novel was written getting into Maggie’s and Nina’s heads was perfect and helped explain a lot about the characters and their motivation.

What I Disliked: There was disappearance scene that the police don’t have a suspect, and we know the last text that go the person there and an incident that happened just weeks before the disappearance, I found it very unlikely that this character would not be the main suspect. The police go to the house but there were all these red flags that the police wouldn’t be ale to overlook. I hate that we never knew how high Jon was during the incident, or didn’t look into his appeals. I didn’t like the cover, it looks mediocre.

Recommendations: I really connected with this thriller and could not put it down. The only thing I would caution readers with is the characters given their reasons remain mostly unlikeable. I can still love a novel even if the character’s are difficult to like, but I know some can not. I think this is a can’t miss thriller that kept me on the edge of my seat. I did not want to stop reading. I rated What Lies Between Us by John Marrs 5 out of 5 stars. So far this is my top book of the year.

Book Review: Long Bright River by Liz Moore

Long Bright River by Liz Moore was a slow burn mystery that uses a real town and the topic of addiction, to make this mystery compelling. The slow pace reminded me of In The Woods by Tana French and The Widow by Fiona Barton. The mystery is not as good as it could have been and takes a backseat to addiction, but addition and the characters that are dealing with it are what make this novel stand out. The novel isn’t a fun read it stays pretty serious while staying on the dangers of addiction and the effect it can have on those around you. This is not a novel of big twist, but tiny little ones that build up. I was glad to be wrong on my guess of the killer, and that twist was pretty good. Paula Hawkins wrier of The Girl on a Train and Dennis Lehane writer of Mystic River praise Long Bright River on the cover in blurbs.

The Plot: Mickey works as a cop in the Kensington, Philadelphia, a town where she grew up. Kensington is a placed rocked by the opioid crisis, it effected her mom, her father, and her sister. She doesn’t remember much of her parents who passed away when she was young, and raised by her Grandmother Gee. Mickey and Kacey had the same life but she became a cop and her sister a junkie prostitute. Mickey stumbles into a case of a dead young hooker, that is the start of a serial killing. As more girls off the street start showing up dead, her sister Kacey has vanished. Is it she the next victim, or is there something else? Mickey risk everything to locate her sister before it is too late.

What I Liked: I liked the characters, Mickey, Kacey, and Grandma Gee are all well rounded characters with real problems. I liked the way the opioid crisis was handled in the book. The look on addiction and the link of heredity was really great. I loved, loved the final scene of this book it nailed theme of addiction starting early so hard, that scene will stay with me a little while. I liked the look on community and how they come together and try to help. Kensington, PA is a real place with a real crisis, but the city is portrayed as broken down but still with a heart that I admired. I have had friends and family that have gone through addiction some have lived through it while others have succumbed; which made this story very relatable to me.

What I Disliked: Liz Moore chose not to use quotations on any lines of dialogue, which I found really distracting and had to read some passages over to understand it. This was a writer or editor’s choice but it didn’t work for me. The serial killer’s plot fell to the wayside for too long, I thought it could have dealt with that storyline together with addiction. The serial killer’s was not really compelling and didn’t do really anything to hide it.

Recommendation: I really think the character’s over the mystery make this novel one to check out. I found the difficult subject right on point and very real, which kept me reading. I think this book will allow addicts to look at what they put people that love them through, while giving the people that take care of them more insight into why addicts are addicts. I rated Long Bright River by Liz Moore 4 out of 5 stars. This was my first Liz Moore book, but I will soon check out more.

Book Review: Are Snakes Necessary? by Brian De Palma and Susan Lehman

Are Snakes Necessary? by Brian De Palma and Susan Lehman is a thriller novel filled with quirky characters but forgot the thrills. This book spends too much time establishing the characters, when they finally meet stuff starts to finally happen, but too little too late. I love Brian De Palma and his films, Scarface, Carrie, Carlito’s Way, Blow Out, Sisters, The Phantom of Paradise, Dressed to Kill, and The Untouchables, that list can go on and on. He can tell a good story on the screen, and I think I would have appreciated this story a lot more on screen it oozes in sex, lies, and seduction, but on the page it is just too slow. The character are interesting but I really don’t care about them. The story follows about 8-9 characters at at the end connects them, the climax works but the lead up is very slow. This is my third book I read in the Hard Case Crime Series, I hated The Colorado Kid but enjoyed Joyland both by Stephen King. Are Snakes Necessary? falls in the middle as a missed opportunity.  Martin Scorsese wrote a blurb review on the cover that reads, “It’s like having a new Brian De Palma picture.” which had me intrigued to read this book.  Are Snakes Necessary? was published on March 17 2020

The Plot: Is Lee Rodgers is a scandalous man at first he was governor and now he is running for Senate, and he can just not keep it out of his pants. His Chief of staff Brock learned of his indiscretions and tried to exploit Rodgers, but he turned the tables, but hired Brock because of the way he thought. Brock’s first job is making the woman he tried to blackmail Rodgers go away, and creating an enemy in Elizabeth. Brock’s new task his keeping the new affair down, but when the woman decides to hideout and appears missing messes all that up, Brock needs to eliminate the woman before she can be a liability.

What I Liked: The character’s are fun and there some moments of great dialogue. The climax works well with some of the characters evolving. There is one twist that got to me and it was such a Brian De Palma twist. The sex scenes are plenty and written like a De Palma directed scene.

What I Disliked: The story gave thoughts from too many minor characters and was a bit distracting. The plot moved slow and it take too long for the characters to start connecting, I wondered if I was ever going to get the pay off from the set up. The Elizabeth character I had a hard time believing she would be discovered in a Mc. Donald’s and then get a Dear Abby like column, Dear Dottie, Sitting next to some one on a bus that wants to give it up the column and talks to her for ten minutes while declaring she is the one, felt laughable.

Recommendations: Being a really big fan of De Palma’s work I found moments hat I personally enjoyed, but there wasn’t enough for be to recommend. Do your self a favor and check out one of this man’s films they’re incredible, but pass on this book, which kills me to say. I rated Are Snakes Necessary by Brian De Palma and Susan Lehman 2 out of 5 stars. I’m a big enough fan to give him one more chance but I won’t rush out to buy it like I did this one.

Book Review: Midnight At the Bright Ideas Bookstore by Matthew Sullivan

Midnight At the Bright Ideas Bookstore by Matthew Sullivan is a mystery/general fiction with a really good hook. A homeless man Joey commits suicide at a bookstore the clerk that he would interact with him finds him, along with his body he has a picture of the clerk, Lydia when she was a teenager. This book has great insight on the homelessness situation, but not much about actual books. I was hoping for a lot more book talk since there’s a code using books, this book is more about personal tragedy and connections. The pace of the book is uneven at times, the mystery wraps in a nice little bow, and it didn’t need, it makes the connections that I feel didn’t need to be connected. Midnight At the Bright Ideas Bookstore is Matthew Sullivan’s debut novel.

The Plot: Joey is known as a “bookfrog” a drifter that comes in all the time to the bookstore and good to different sections and reads, with occasionally buying something. Lydia is a clerk that treats the bookfrogs nice and has a nice relationship with them. She and another associate find Joey hanging from the rafters with a pile of books nearby. While searching for a suicide note Lydia finds a picture of herself as a teenager right before a tragic event that changes her life. She gets in the paper and a people from her past start reaching out. She is given Joey’s things by his landlord which are books from her store with words cut out. She discovers this is a code book that uses other books to fill in the blanks and could lead to answers to why he committed suicide and answers to her own past.

What I Liked: The codes are really clever, I had a fun time trying decipher the words before the text told me. I liked Joey’s past I thought it was very heartbreaking and effective. Everything about the Hammerman was interesting and set up a pretty compelling mystery in its self on who the killer was in the end. I liked the character of Raj and Plath the best, good secondary characters very loyal to Lydia and added some much needed comic relief. The hook of the book got me to pick this one up, and it was a highlight of the book. I appreciated that this book starts with a bang, the first chapter really free me in.

What I Disliked: The pacing in this novel dragged a lot in the middle, the beginning and end are really good and well paced, but not the middle. I didn’t understand why Lydia checked out on her dad Tomas, I felt he was doing a lot to make sure she had a life. The book got away from the codes that part was interesting, but the codes didn’t reveal much of anything.

Recommendation: I wanted to like this story a bit more not great but good. I did not like it enough to recommend. I think people will enjoy it more than me if you are in to word codes. This book is being marketed more as a mystery but it is more of a standard fiction than mystery. I rated Midnight At the Bright Ideas Bookstore by Matthew Sullivan 3 out of 5 stars.

Book Review: You Are Not Alone by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen

You Are Not Alone by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen is a great thriller about power and manipulation of a young woman who doesn’t want to fell so alone. Last year I read Anonymous Girl from Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen and I was blown away just how great that thriller was, it had a load of plot twist and the story went in a direction I was not expecting. Anonymous Girl was in my top five of new novels from last year, so I was ecstatic when I got approved for an advanced reader copy for You Are Not Alone from Netgalley and St. Martin’s Press, So thank you to both. This novel did not let down, it had the twist I was looking for, great main characters, compelling reason behind the crimes, and it was a fun unpredictable ride. You Are not Alone is the third book collaboration between Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen. You Are Not Alone was published on March 3 2020.

The Plot: Shay is not living the best life she is very single, still pining for her roommate Sean, that spends almost every night with girlfriend Jody. She has no permanent job and has been temping. the only thing that gives her life solace is a book in which she rights statistics of everyday occurrences, like in your lifetime you will meet 12 murders, and 60% of relationships start out as friends. Her life is about to take a turn when she briefly meets Amanda before she jumps in front of the subway train. Shay is shocked and can’t let the suicide go she she starts be curios who Amanda was? she attends her funeral meets her friends, visits her mom, and visits her old work. She draws concern over the detective investigating the suicide. What she wasn’t expecting is that Amanda’s old friends have taken to her and want to help her to not be so alone. She starts changing every thing about herself is it for her or for her new friends. The one question Shay never tried to figure out was why did Amanda commit suicide?

What I Liked: I really liked the way this book looked at revenge. The way the story is told bouncing from different characters perspectives really worked well to add to the tension, and worked really well to show not just Shay is being manipulated, but a whole group of people. I did like how every piece fit, it took a while for it to all make sense, but when that moment comes it was a masterpiece. The climax worked, I figured out the main twist but I liked the way it played out. I liked where the manipulation of Shay lead to.

What I Disliked: I had a hard time keeping up with all the girls reasons for revenge, and who did what to who? The ending would have worked better if there was a reminder of the revenge. The flow for this story was a little disjointed at times.

Recommendations: You Are Not Alone is a fun suspense filled ride. This book has moments that will leave you breathless, the authors really write the characters in to a corner. If you enjoy strong female characters then this book will be for you. I did enjoy Anonymous Girl a little more than You Are Not Alone, but if you were a fan of that book, then you have to check out this one. I rated You Are Not Alone by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen 4 out of 5 stars. I do own The Wife Between Us which is their first collaboration, and plan to up that on my TBR pile.

Book Review: Snapshot by Brandon Sanderson

Snapshot by Brandon Sanderson is a Science Fiction Novella that tells a futuristic Neo Noir detective story. I was reminded a lot of a Phillip K. Dick meets George Orwell, especially The Eye, the story Minority report is based on, and 1984. In the near future a computer program can simulate an entire day of the past for every person , police step into this world to gain to find evidence in the real time, but every interaction with someone from the real time causes deviations in the day. This story takes place in the program 10 days before present day. The idea of this story is amazing, with such a short story it has some good twist.

The Plot: Davis and Chaz are detectives in the Snapshot. The Snapshot is the name for the program that can simulate any entire day for every person in the city. The cases aren’t difficult they will watch and document a domestic disturbance, and they will watch where a murder suspect flees to it drops the murder weapon. They can communicate to the real world that is in the same time but different day. The way the program works they have to spend a day there, so they have safe houses to go to if need be. They end one case early and instead of go to the safe house, they explore. Davis still wants to be a detective, where Chaz enjoys the Snapshot. Davis read about an odd event that occurred this day on a conspiracy blog and wants to investigate. They find multiple bodies and a killer that knows how the Snapshot works.

What I Liked: The plot to this story is so good. The idea is cool, Sanderson is known for writing some big books, and this story could easily been expanded. Davis took me a couple pages to figure out but I loved his character, and loved where his story arc went. I liked the idea of the Snapshot, I wanted to know more about it. The twist towards the end of this story are really good, it really reminded me of a Phillip K. Dick twist ending. I loved the reveal on Davis leaving the real life police force, and the reason he turns off the machine each night. I loved use of the deviations and what element to the story they introduced.  The badge that shows you this world is not real was a well thought out device.

What I Disliked: It took me a while to visualize the main characters, and it took me longer than it should in a novella to identify with the characters. A slow beginning, there’s a fair bit of exposition in explaining how the Snapshot works, which is interesting but out getting to know the characters on the back burner.

Recommendation: This story was right up my alley, if you’re like me and love mind bending science fiction then this story is for you. It is short and well worth the time reading. I have yet to read a bad Sanderson story, I love Mistborn series and Stormlight Archive series. I rated Snapshot 4 out of 5 stars. I bought it for my kindle for 1.99 and it was well worth it!