In Bloom [review]

In Bloom - C J Skuse

Title: In Bloom
Author: CJ Skuse
Series: Sweetpea
Publisher: HarperCollins UK

[Synopsis]

If only they knew the real truth. It should be my face on those front pages. My headlines. I did those things, not him. I just want to stand on that doorstep and scream it: IT WAS ME. ME. ME. ME. ME!

Rhiannon Lewis has successfully fooled the world and framed her cheating fiancé Craig for the depraved and bloody killing spree she committed. She should be ecstatic that she’s free.

Except for one small problem. She’s pregnant with her ex-lover’s child. The ex-lover she only recently chopped up and buried in her in-laws’ garden. And as much as Rhiannon wants to continue making her way through her kill lists, a small voice inside is trying to make her stop.

But can a killer’s urges ever really be curbed?

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[My Review]

Can anything follow the sheer, utter brilliance of Sweetpea(If you missed it, read my review here). I am so pleased to say that the sequel, once again following serial killer Rhiannon, is in my opinion even better!

It’s another dark, crazy and laugh-out-loud-funny story which I didnt want to put down Rhiannon is as brilliant as ever, with razor sharp observations and utter disdain for certain aspects of human relationships and nature and just everyday life. Her ‘kill lists’ are always entertaining and the fact that she is now ‘with child’ takes nothing away from the level of dark humour; in fact I’m amazed to say that it’s even more crude, even more shocking and even more twisted than Sweetpea was. I love the different take on the serial killer genre, turning various conventions on its head with one bolshy character.

The plot is incredibly engaging and the pace is perfect; if you haven’t read Sweetpea then I say enjoy that first, then jump into In Bloom. I devoured it in (almost) one sitting. Highly recommended!

[Rating: 5/5]

Thank you to HarperCollins UK for providing a copy of this novel on which I chose to write an honest and unbiased review.

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Now You See [review]

Now You See

Title: Now You See
Author: Max Manning
Series: Detective Dan Fenton
Publisher: Wildfire

[Synopsis]

I, Killer has posted two photos of his first victim online – Before Death and After Death. They’ve gone viral before DCI Fenton’s team even discovers the body.

Soon, another victim’s photo is similarly posted…and so begins the killer’s following.

DCI Fenton is determined to discover the identity of I, Killer. Then the murderer makes the hunt personal, and Fenton’s search becomes a matter of life or death for him and his daughter.

But as I, Killer‘s body-count rises, his number of online followers is growing – and he loves to give his fans what they want…

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[My Review]

This is a really solid, entertaining new crime series which grabbed me from the first page until last. The characters are well-crafted and likable – though Fenton wasn’t hugely memorable, he’s a solid detective who you have faith in, and I really liked (perhaps preferred?) Blake.

I particularly like the fact that it wasn’t all centered around the police, and seeing Blake’s side gave it a different slant. I also really enjoyed seeing into the mind of the serial killer – it’s been done before but I feel that it’s done really well by Max Manning here.

The plot is fun to read and the social media element is a little different too. The short chapters are great at making you think ‘just one chapter’, until suddenly it’s the middle of the night and you’ve got work in the morning!

Overall I found Now You See an engaging and fun read, and am looking forward to future installments in this series!


Many thanks to Wildfire for providing a copy of this novel on which I chose to write an honest and unbiased review.

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Briguella by @AuthorVickiFitz [review]

Briguella - Vicki Fitzgerald

Title: Briguella
Author: Vicki Fitzgerald
Publisher: Creativia

[Synopsis]

After seven women fall victim to a serial killer, journalist Kate Rivendale becomes embroiled in the manhunt. The authorities have no suspect, only one forensic link dating way back to the 1930s.

Detective Chief Inspector William Beckley needs to salvage his career; he has too many deaths on his conscience. Beckley entices Kate to go undercover, a decision which backfires with devastating consequences.

While DCI Beckley reaches a horrifying conclusion about the murderer Kate enters a desperate fight for her life… while battling to keep her own secrets buried.

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[My Review]

Briguella is a gripping crime debut from Vicki Fitzgerald, an author I’ll certainly be following!

The novel itself has two main narrators: DCI William Beckley and reporter Kate Rivendale, and having both of these characters tell us their side of the story means the readers gets just the right blend of police procedural elements and ‘non-police’ actions and jargon. I really warmed to Kate, though she had her faults, and found myself caring what happened to her. I have to say, I wasn’t a big fan of Beckley due to the way he treated some characters and really mooned over *someone* (I found this rather irritating but I don’t want to be more specific as I don’t want to give away any elements of the plot). He just grated on me  – and don’t get me started on Kate’s mother and sister – no excuses for their behaviour! At times I felt the descriptions were a bit too long and flowing, but nevertheless I hugely enjoyed reading about the police’s (at times very flawed) investigation into the mysterious serial killer terrorising Westhaven’s streets. The plot it moved along at the right pace and kept me really wanting to read on.

There’s elements of gore and some pretty nasty parts – it is about a serial killer, after all -but this didn’t feel too over the top. I had guessed the killer’s identity towards the end of the book but it didn’t hamper my enjoyment at all, and overall I am hugely impressed by this brilliant debut which I would definitely recommend!

[Rating: 4/5]

Many thanks to Vicki for providing a copy of this novel on which I chose to write an honest and unbiased review.

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Cold Blood [review]

Cold Blood - Robert Bryndza

Title: Cold Blood
Author: Robert Bryndza
Publisher: Bookouture

[Synopsis]

She fell in love with a killer, now she’s one too.

The suitcase was badly rusted, and took Erika several attempts, but it yielded and sagged open as she unzipped it. Nothing could prepare her for what she would find inside…

When a battered suitcase containing the dismembered body of a young man washes up on the shore of the river Thames, Detective Erika Foster is shocked. She’s worked on some terrifying cases but never seen anything like this before.

As Erika and her team set to work, she makes the link with another victim – the body of a young woman dumped in an identical suitcase two weeks ago.

Erika quickly realises she’s on the trail of a serial killer who’s already made their next move. Yet just as Erika starts to make headway with the investigation, she is the victim of a brutal attack.

But nothing will stop Erika. As the body count rises, the twin daughters of her colleague Commander Marsh are abducted, and the stakes are higher than ever before. Can Erika save the lives of two innocent children before it’s too late? She’s running out of time and about to make a disturbing discovery…there’s more than one killer.

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[My Review]

Robert Bryndza has done it again; Cold Water lives up to the great writing and utterly addictive storyline of the previous four novels in this seriesand, side note, I can’t believe there have been that many already, it only seems like 5 minutes since the brilliant The Girl In The Ice came out! (Scroll to the bottom of the page to read my reviews for each previous novel).

Of course, Erika is a great character – one of my favourite detectives, and even better than she’s a strong female character! She’s back on great form here, as usual disregarding the rules when she feels it’s necessary (or just wants to), but she has some personal problems that are causing her some worry and is another layer of heartache on top of the constant sadness for her ex-husband’s death.

The story itself is dark and gritty, featuring a serial killer who Erika and the team must link to the string of dead bodies turning up, all the time working against the clock. It takes a dark turn when the children of someone Erika knows well are kidnapped. This definitely adds a menacing touch to the story, and the writing is as gritty and tense as always.

I finished this novel in no time – the next instalment can’t come quickly enough! Cold Water is another great release in this stellar series and I’d highly recommended it!

[Rating: 5/5]

Many thanks to Bookouture and Netgalley for providing a copy of this novel on which I chose to write an honest and unbiased review.

See my reviews for titles in this series:
The Girl In The Ice 
The Night Stalker  
Dark Water
Last Breath


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The Fourth Monkey [review]

The Fourth Monkey - J.D. Baker

Title: The Fourth Monkey
Author: J.D. Barker
Publisher:  Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

[Synopsis]

Se7en meets The Silence of the Lambs in this dark and twisting novel from the author Jeffery Deaver called, “A talented writer with a delightfully devious mind.”

For over five years, the Four Monkey Killer has terrorized the residents of Chicago. When his body is found, the police quickly realize he was on his way to deliver one final message, one which proves he has taken another victim who may still be alive.

As the lead investigator on the 4MK task force, Detective Sam Porter knows even in death, the killer is far from finished. When he discovers a personal diary in the jacket pocket of the body, Porter finds himself caught up in the mind of a psychopath, unraveling a twisted history in hopes of finding one last girl, all while struggling with personal demons of his own.

With only a handful of clues, the elusive killer’s identity remains a mystery. Time is running out and the Four Monkey Killer taunts from beyond the grave in this masterfully written fast-paced thriller.

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[My Review]

There’s nothing I enjoy more than a fantastic, well-written new crime novel to add to my favourite list, and which I can really shout about. This is definitely one of them!

The Fourth Monkey has some great characters – I loved Detective Sam Porter and his great team – and a gripping storyline which features both Porter and the police’s progress in trying to find the latest victim of the 4MK (4 Monkey Killer), and also diary entries from the 4MK himself. I found both narratives so interesting to read, which I find isn’t often the case – there’s usually one or the other which I’d rather read more of , and I find myself wishing the secondary sections were shorter so we can get back to the main storyline. In The Fourth Monkey, however, I loved reading about 4MK’s early life, even the quite gritty, horrible parts, and as a result of this I found that this was a novel which I enjoyed every page of, from front to last!

It’s fast paced without being confusing, but still manages to include plenty of police procedural details which I really enjoy in books like this. It’s creepy, it’s dark and it’s so much fun to read, leaving you gasping for air at the end.

If you’re a fan of gritty crime – or even if you’re not – you’re likely to love The Fourth Monkey. It’s a great read for 2017 and one which I’m not surprised has already been optioned for TV/ film versions. Now I’d like more Detective Sam Porter, please 🙂

[Rating: 5/5]

I received an ARC copy of this novel. All opinions are my own and my review, as always, is completely honest and unbiased.

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Sweetpea [review]

Sweetpea - C.J. Skuse

Title: Sweetpea
Author: C J Skuse
Publisher: HQ

[Synopsis]

“The last person who called me ‘Sweetpea’ ended up dead…

I haven’t killed anyone for three years and I thought that when it happened again I’d feel bad. Like an alcoholic taking a sip of whisky. But no. Nothing. I had a blissful night’s sleep. Didn’t wake up at all. And for once, no bad dream either. This morning I feel balanced. Almost sane, for once.”

Rhiannon is your average girl next door, settled with her boyfriend and little dog…but she’s got a killer secret.

Although her childhood was haunted by a famous crime, Rhinannon’s life is normal now that her celebrity has dwindled. By day her job as an editorial assistant is demeaning and unsatisfying. By evening she dutifully listens to her friend’s plans for marriage and babies whilst secretly making a list.

A kill list.

From the man on the Lidl checkout who always mishandles her apples, to the driver who cuts her off on her way to work, to the people who have got it coming, Rhiannon’s ready to get her revenge.

Because the girl everyone overlooks might be able to get away with murder…

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[My Review]

Sweetpea is an odd but brilliant mix of humour, darkness and general fun! I listened to it on audiobook, which I don’t usually do, but found I enjoyed every minute and it made me want to enjoy more books in this format. Anyway, back to the story itself…

Sweetpea is shocking, un-PC and could be a little bit offensive at times, but the narrator, Rhiannon, is so flippant and freshly honest (in her descriptions, anyway – not to people’s faces!), and really amuses me! She has a real ‘don’t care’ attitude, in part due to the fact that she’s obviously a psychopath but doesn’t realise it herself!

Her relationship with her cheating boyfriend Craig, her annoying friends, and her work colleagues are so entertaining to read about, and I know that I shouldn’t applaud anyone for being a serial killer… but I really like Rhiannon, I can’t help it! I love her lists of people she hates, I love her comments on annoying things other people do (some of which I have to say I’ve noticed myself), and I love her confidence. She’s harmed a lot of people over the years and she’s a massive bitch herself, but you kind of feel they deserved it… sort of (uh oh, what does that make me…?). Regardless of what she’s done, she made me laugh, and for that I have a real fondness for her.

I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of this book and would recommend it to anyone (who’s not easily offended, that is!). It’s fun, fresh, and a little bit cheeky…

[Rating: 4/5]

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[Guest Post] Familial DNA in ‘The Death of Anyone’ & real life!

The Death Of AnyoneI’m a BIG fan of crime novels, and I particularly love learning more about the techniques they use. I always wonder which techniques are really used in the police force, and in real life. So I’m really excited to welcome author DJ Swykert to the blog, to tell us about Familial DNA searches, a case when it was used in real life to catch a serial killer, and  his great new novel, The Death of Anyone

Title: The Death Of Anyone
Author: DJ Swykert
Publisher: Melange Books

Over to DJ…

“The underlying theme in The Death of Anyone, Melange Books, poses the Machiavellian question: Does the end justify the means? Bonnie Benham, the lead detective in my story, has her own answer. But the legality of this question was answered in a real life courtroom in the California trial of a serial killer dubbed by the media: The Grim Sleeper.

Lonnie David Franklin, the Grim Sleeper, was caught because his son’s DNA was the closest match to DNA collected at the crime scenes in the database. Investigating Franklin’s son led them to investigate Lonnie Franklin. But there was no direct DNA evidence that linked Lonnie to the crime scene until they obtained a sample from him after his arrest. Lonnie Franklin is the first person in the U.S. to ever stand trial for murder based on this type of evidence, and its admissibility issues were thoroughly tested by defense attorneys.

Only two states at this time, California and Colorado, have a written policy concerning the use of Familial DNA in an investigation. The admission of Familial DNA, with its potential Fourth Amendment violations, has never been tested in court. The California trial of Lonnie David Franklin will become a landmark case for the future use of Familial DNA Searches by law enforcement agencies nationwide.

Lonnie David Franklin, AKA, The Grim Sleeper, was arrested on July 7, 2010. The Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office charged him with ten counts of murder, one count of attempted murder, and special circumstance allegations of multiple murders in the cases. A grand jury indictment was issued on March 23, 2011. The Grim Sleeper has been resting comfortably in jail since his arrest awaiting trial; the large quantity of evidence in this case, some dating back thirty years, has caused a lengthy pretrial discovery. The trial was originally scheduled to begin the summer of 2014, but was put on hold. It was rescheduled for June 30, 2015, but that didn’t happen. On Monday August 17, 2015, at a pretrial hearing, the trial was rescheduled for October 14, 2015. Finally, in the late spring of 2016, The Grim Sleeper was convicted in May of 2016 and received the death penalty. The death sentence was later upheld by the court in August of 2016. A long appeals process, which might ultimately end up with the Supreme Court, is expected.

I first heard of the technique while working as a 911 operator in 2006. It came up in a conversation with our CSI investigator in our department. I thought at the time it would make an interesting premise for a book. I began writing the mystery some three years later after leaving the department. I had just finished editing a first draft of The Death of Anyone in the summer 2010 when news of The Grim Sleeper’s capture in Los Angeles was released. I read with interest all the information pouring out of L.A. regarding the investigation and the problems confronting prosecutors. All of which are explored in The Death of Anyone.

In my fictional story Detroit Detective Bonnie Benham has been transferred from working undercover in narcotics to homicide and is working the case of a killer of adolescent girls. She is a straight forward investigator who describes herself as a blonde with a badge and a gun. CSI collects DNA evidence from the scene of the latest victim, which had not been detected on the other victims. But no suspect turns up in the FBI database. Due to the notoriety of the crimes a task force is put together with Bonnie as the lead detective, and she implores the D.A. to use an as yet unapproved type of a DNA Search in an effort to identify the killer. “

The Death of Anyone is available on the Melange Books website and also on Amazon in Kindle and print, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords and Kobo.

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ABOUT DJ:

meDJ Swykert is a former 911 operator writing and living in the Cincinnati area. His work has appeared in The Tampa Review, Detroit News, Coe Review, Monarch Review, the Newer York, Lunch Ticket, Gravel, Zodiac Review, Barbaric Yawp and Bull. His books include Children of the Enemy, Maggie Elizabeth Harrington, Alpha Wolves, The Pool Boy’s Beatitude, Sweat Street, Justice in the Street, Nude Swimming and The Death of Anyone.

Find out more:

Website: www.magicmasterminds.com/djswykert
Twitter: @djswykert
Facebook: David J. Swykert

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The Beautiful Dead [review]

The Beautiful Dead - Belinda Bauer

Title: The Beautiful Dead
Author: Belinda Bauer
Publisher: Grove Atlantic

[Synopsis]

TV crime reporter Eve Singer’s career is flagging, but that starts to change when she covers a spate of bizarre murders—each one committed in public and advertised like an art exhibition. When the killer contacts Eve about her coverage of his crimes, she is suddenly on the inside of the biggest murder investigation of the decade. But as the killer becomes increasingly obsessed with her, Eve realizes there’s a thin line between inside information and becoming an accomplice to murder—possibly her own.

A seamlessly-plotted thriller that will keep readers breathless until the very end, The Beautiful Dead cements Belinda Bauer’s reputation as a master of heart-stopping suspense.

[My Review]

I’ve never read any of Belinda Bauer’s novels before, but have heard so much about how amazing she is – at the top of her game and leading the way in the crime genre. So, I was really excited to read her newest novel, The Beautiful Dead, and see if it is a winner.

It definitely is!

This novel features a serial killer, crime reporters and murder victims, which – let’s face it – have all been done before. But somehow Belinda Bauer has managed to make this feel completely new and fresh. It stands miles apart from some of the other novels in this genre which, in contrast, seem a little overdone and tired. I am so impressed with this novel, from the first page to the last.

I love the characters, particularly (of course!) Eve. She’s such a great, strong female lead and I really enjoyed reading about her and her lovely colleague Joe. They work so well together. The fact that Eve isn’t a policewoman, but instead a crime reporter for the local news, means that she doesn’t always have to follow the rule (and she certainly doesn’t!) She can go off-piste and not worry about following procedure, and pick up on things that the police might not. I love a well-written police procedural as much as any other novel, but this difference in the ‘usual’ occupation of the main character is a welcome and fresh change.

The story itself is fast moving and really ramps up the tension, without feeling overly dramatised. I love reading about serial killers (I am a big crime fan) and this one has buckets of suspense, which makes for a great read – and plenty of grit and gore at times. It even had a good dose of humour in there too – and all this without feeling over the top and ridiculous. All in all, that’s some impressive writing!

I feel that The Beautiful Dead is a fantastic read and a great introduction to Belinda Bauer’s work – I’ll definitively be reading more by her novels in the future!

[Rating: 5/5]

Many thanks to Grove Atlantic for providing a copy of this novel, on which I chose to write an unbiased and honest review.

Black Eyed Susans [review]

Black Eyed Susans by Julia Heaberlin

[Synopsis]

As a sixteen-year-old, Tessa Cartwright was found in a Texas field, barely alive amid a scattering of bones, with only fragments of memory as to how she got there. Ever since, the press has pursued her as the lone surviving “Black-Eyed Susan,” the nickname given to the murder victims because of the yellow carpet of wildflowers that flourished above their shared grave. Tessa’s testimony about those tragic hours put a man on death row.

Now, almost two decades later, Tessa is an artist and single mother. In the desolate cold of February, she is shocked to discover a freshly planted patch of black-eyed susans—a summertime bloom—just outside her bedroom window. Terrified at the implications—that she sent the wrong man to prison and the real killer remains at large—Tessa turns to the lawyers working to exonerate the man awaiting execution. But the flowers alone are not proof enough, and the forensic investigation of the still-unidentified bones is progressing too slowly. An innocent life hangs in the balance. The legal team appeals to Tessa to undergo hypnosis to retrieve lost memories—and to share the drawings she produced as part of an experimental therapy shortly after her rescue.

What they don’t know is that Tessa and the scared, fragile girl she was have built a fortress of secrets. As the clock ticks toward the execution, Tessa fears for her sanity, but even more for the safety of her teenaged daughter. Is a serial killer still roaming free, taunting Tessa with a trail of clues? She has no choice but to confront old ghosts and lingering nightmares to finally discover what really happened that night.

Shocking, intense, and utterly original, Black-Eyed Susans is a dazzling psychological thriller, seamlessly weaving past and present in a searing tale of a young woman whose harrowing memories remain in a field of flowers—as a killer makes a chilling return to his garden.

Black-Eyed Susansblack_eyed_susans_detail_web_

[My Review]

Black Eyed Susans is a creepy, intriguing read which has had a lot of hype, so I was excited to finally read it and see if it’s as good as I expected.

It was a fairly simple book in many ways; the narrative is quite straight forwarded, focussing on Tessie who was a victim of a serial killer in 1995- but he didn’t kill her, she made it out alive- but with memory loss. It’s not hugely fast moving because it keeps returning to the past and we already loosely know the outcome of what happened in court because we have seen the results in the present day narrative. However, the story doesn’t need to be hugely fast-moving with action in every scene because Julia Heaberlin creates a great atmosphere and air of mystery throughout. Plus as the present day narrative continues Tessie learns more and more about what really happened to her.

The novel can be a little confusing at points because it goes back in time to 1995 when it all actualy happened, and to the court case surrounding it, but then returns to the present day with Tessie wondering what happened to her friend Lydia, who exactly the other victims were, and, of course, who the killer really was. Someone’s serving time on death row for it, but is it the right person? The chapters are clearly marked though with the dates, so you just need to make sure you notice what time period you’re in- not too tricky really!

The writing is easy to read and avoids being too cliché, though the author does use a lot of metaphors and similes. The story really drew me in; I loved the way it slowly revealed more and more, with a few surprises thrown in along the way, and didn’t at all rely on violence to keep the reader hooked. In fact, there’s very little described violence- some is inferred, but it builds suspense rather than gore.

I really enjoy reading books about serial killers- real life or fiction, I love them!– because they just intrigue me so much. This novel doesn’t reveal much about the serial killer until right near the end when you find out who it is. Because of this, there’s a lot of mystery surrounding what happened and why, and this kept me gripped.

I’d recommend this book to fans of this genre as it’s got a great storyline and I felt it was pretty original too, unlike some other novels springing up in this genre!

[Rating: 4/5]

Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for providing a copy of this book in return for an honest review.

Find her - Lisa Gardner

Find Her [review]

Find her - Lisa Gardner
[Synopsis]

Flora Dane is a victim.

Seven years ago, carefree college student Flora was kidnapped while on spring break. For 472 days, Flora learned just how much one person can endure.

Flora Dane is a survivor.

Miraculously alive after her ordeal, Flora has spent the past five years reacquainting herself with the rhythms of normal life, working with her FBI victim advocate, Samuel Keynes. She has a mother who’s never stopped loving her, a brother who is scared of the person she’s become, and a bedroom wall covered with photos of other girls who’ve never made it home.

Flora Dane is reckless.

…or is she? When Boston detective D. D. Warren is called to the scene of a crime—a dead man and the bound, naked woman who killed him—she learns that Flora has tangled with three other suspects since her return to society. Is Flora a victim or a vigilante? And with her firsthand knowledge of criminal behavior, could she hold the key to rescuing a missing college student whose abduction has rocked Boston? When Flora herself disappears, D.D. realizes a far more sinister predator is out there. One who’s determined that this time, Flora Dane will never escape. And now it is all up to D. D. Warren to find her.

Find Her (Detective D.D. Warren, #8)

[My Review]

Find Her by Lisa Gardner is the 8th novel in the Detective D.D. Warren series, so I was keen to see if this would have any effect on the way I enjoyed the book, or whether on reflection I should have started from the first novel, Alone. Having finished this (and raced through it pretty quickly!) I can say that I hugely enjoyed this novel, and though it referenced what I assumed to be past book’s events, I didn’t feel this hampered my enjoyment.

There are gruesome parts to this story, but it’s not horrendous- a lot is implied. You can imagine what’s happening to a Flora, though later in the novel the author spells out the sexual assault she goes through, and it’s quite disturbing, even as someone who reads a lot of crime. The characters were interesting to read about, though you don’t feel like you learn very much about D.D.’s personal life as she’s so focused on the case in hand- but I liked her. She isn’t perfect and has her faults but is interesting to read about and you are rooting for her and her colleagues to find the missing girls before it’s too late!

I found the kidnapper in this novel really chilling as you can imagine him being just an outwardly normal, but actually horrendous man who you could easily bump into anywhere. You really get a sense of Flora’s desperation as weeks go past locked up with him, but her determination to stay alive is amazing. She is a proper ‘bad-ass’ female character and it’s great to read about someone like this, and D.D too, instead of women always being helpless and in need of being rescued!

The narrative is fast paced but didn’t rush or feel too hasty, meaning I never felt bored or impatient and really enjoyed this novel. I would definitely read more from Lisa Gardner, and others from this series.

[Rating: 4/5]

Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for providing a copy of this novel in return for an honest review