THE MURDER OF MR. WICKHAM by Claudia Gray

From New York Times bestselling author Claudia Gray—a summer house party turns into a thrilling whodunit when Mr. Wickham, one of literature’s most notorious villains, meets a sudden and suspicious end in this brilliantly imagined mystery featuring Jane Austen’s leading literary characters.

The happily married Mr. Knightley and Emma are throwing a house party, bringing together distant relatives and new acquaintances—characters beloved by Jane Austen fans. Definitely not invited is Mr. Wickham, whose latest financial scheme has netted him an even broader array of enemies. As tempers flare and secrets are revealed, it’s clear that everyone would be happier if Mr. Wickham got his comeuppance. Yet they’re all shocked when Wickham turns up murdered—except, of course, for the killer hidden in their midst.

Nearly everyone at the house party is a suspect, so it falls to the party’s two youngest guests to solve the mystery: Juliet Tilney, the smart and resourceful daughter of Catherine and Henry, eager for adventure beyond Northanger Abbey; and Jonathan Darcy, the Darcys’ eldest son, whose adherence to propriety makes his father seem almost relaxed. In a tantalizing fusion of Austen and Christie, the unlikely pair must put aside their own poor first impressions and uncover the guilty party—before an innocent person is sentenced to hang.


Title : The Drowned Woods
Author : Claudia Gray
Format : eARC
Page Count : 320
Genre : historical fiction / mystery
Publisher : Vintage Books
Release Date : May 3, 2022

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 3 star review

I’m sure I’m not alone in wishing a slow painful death for Mr. Wickham, he of Pride and Prejudice and Austen infamy. And while this didn’t quite deliver in that exacting way, he’s still dead! Three cheers for that.

What also drew me to this title, vicious longing for murder aside, was the idea of all of Austen’s famous couples gathered under one roof and subject to, essentially, a locked room mystery. Would they get along? Who would be the first suspect? Who would actually do it.. and why? I mean, we don’t need a why but would there be a why we wouldn’t see coming?

And, overall, this was good fun. I liked that Gray gave each couple very real conflicts, outside of the mystery, that did not seem fabricated and instead were likely issues that had plagued these characters or, due to circumstances, had caused certain issues to come to light. Each couple were in various stages of their HEA; some were long married, with grown children, some had only been married a few years, and others, only months. Each was a different perspective on their “what comes after” and each with their own concerns and issues. I really enjoyed it. Some, of course, more than others because we all have favourites.

Equally, we also see some secondary characters visit. Some we probably weren’t fans of to begin with but, at least, none so loathsome as Wickham.

I never guessed the culprit or the motive, by the way. I was just along for the ride. But it was completely realistic and not remotely out of left field — in case you are worried.

Gray is not a new or untried author to me, I’ve read much of her YA backlist, but this particular venture was a surprise. I have no idea if she’s shifting to adult permanently, or even historical fiction in general, but I’ll be keeping my eyes peeled for what comes next.

** I received an ARC from NetGalley and the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **

THE DEEPEST OF SECRETS by Kelley Armstrong

It’s not always easy to live in the hidden town of Rockton, something Detective Casey Duncan knows firsthand. Tucked away in the Yukon wilderness, the community survives―and thrives―because the residents’ many secrets stay just that―secret.

But what happens when these secrets start to come out? Overnight, no one is safe. It’s not a question of if your secret will come out―but when

Casey and her boyfriend, Sheriff Eric Dalton, need to find the culprit while protecting those who have been thrust into the spotlight. For a place built on privacy and new beginnings, Rockton isn’t handling these revelations very well. People are turning on one another, and when one of the loudest complainers turns up barely alive, it’s clear that their trickster is actually a murderer. 


Title : The Deepest of Secrets
Author : Kelley Armstrong
Series : Rockton (book seven)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 352
Genre : mystery/thriller
Publisher : Minotaur Books
Release Date : February 15, 2022

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 2.5 star review

This wasn’t at all how I thought this series would wrap. I mean, in some ways, yes, because we’ve known the end of Rockton was literally nigh for these characters but.. between the somewhat meandering mystery and cases to solve and how it does, actually, end? Rather disappointing.

What makes it extra sad is that book six had felt like a resurgence in a series that hadn’t been satisfying me like the early instalments had. So my hope had been restored we would go out with a bang. Instead it was a bit of a whimper, both with the villain(s) of the week and any kind of romance element. There just wasn’t much here.

This is still such an interesting series overall, with a great and exciting and challenging concept, and if you’re looking for something different amongst all the various procedural mysteries, this is definitely one to try. I just had much higher hopes for how we would say goodbye to these characters and what their futures would look like.

** I received an ARC from NetGalley and the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **

ONE STEP TOO FAR by Lisa Gardner

From #1 New York Times bestselling author Lisa Gardner, a thrilling new novel that sends Frankie Elkin into the woods in search of a lost man–and the shocking truth about why he went missing in the first place.

Frankie Elkin, who readers first met in Before She Disappeared, learns of a young man who has gone missing in a national forest. Law enforcement has abandoned the search, but a crew of people led by the young man’s father are still looking. Sensing a father’s desperation, Frankie agrees to help–but soon sees that a missing person isn’t all that’s wrong here. And when more people start to vanish, Frankie realizes she’s up against something very dark–and she’s running out of time.


Title : One Step Too Far
Author : Lisa Gardner
Series : Frankie Elkin (book two)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 400
Genre : crime/mystery
Publisher : Dutton
Release Date : January 18, 2022

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4 star review

When I started this follow-up instalment in Gardner’s new series, featuring something of a lone-wolf cold case investigator (though not a professional one, just a concerned and capable citizen), I did not expect to cry as much as I did. But maybe that’s just me being a softie as always.

Now, the emergency whistle.”
I have a whistle! I carry it around tough neighbourhoods all the time.”
Your idea of self-defence in an urban environment is a whistle? Are you trying to die?

This particular case that Frankie stumbles her way into is so very different from the first we experience through her. Gone are the mean streets of Boston; say hello to the wilds and dangers of Wyoming. She hears about the fifth year anniversary — and final hail mary search — of a missing man who went camping with his groomsmen for their bachelor party and later disappeared. She manages to negotiate her way into the hiking expedition and from then on it’s exhaustion, sweat, secrets revealed, and everything going wrong.

I hate pity.”
Then stop being so pathetic.”
I hope Bigfoot kicks your sorry ass.
Wouldn’t that be something? Please take video.”

As I feel is often the case with Gardner mysteries, I did not see the reveal for this one coming. I had suspected something very different and was way off base. But this wasn’t one of those twists that come totally out of left field, either. So I loved that.

I thought you mountain-guru types were supposed to be able to sniff the dirt, lick a pine cone, then state unequivocally who came here at what date and time, not to mention their favourite food and astrological sign.
I know you’re a Virgo, does that help?
How do you know that?
Because you’re a pain in my ass.

I also loved all the new characters we were introduced to. Which is probably why I cried so much. Plus there’s a dog! But in addition to the new faces, I still really liked Frankie — or rather, maybe stated to like her more, as I don’t know if I appreciated her in book one the way I did in this one. Her internal monologue is a little repetitive when she gets going and thinking about her past, her life up until now, but it also makes sense considering her pile of regrets and the fact that she’s a recovering alcoholic. But I like the concept of her, this rogue individual, the fact that she’s lived a hard life and is committed to doing for other people, and also that she’s middle aged and not a spring chicken.

If a dog can do this, I tell myself, than I can, too. Of course, the dog has had way more training.

The whole unravelling of this mystery worked so well; the stakes were high, the players all had varying levels of expertise and capabilities, and again, the reveal? So good. I also really enjoyed how contemplative Frankie was near the end and how this story wrapped. That whole section was lovely.

Why do I do what I do? Because at the end of the day, the people left behind matter as much as the ones who are missing. We mourn the ones we’ve lost, but we agonize over the pieces of ourselves they took with them.

I’m always excited for new releases from this mystery/thriller author and I am happy to say I’ll now be as excited for a new Frankie book as I would be for a new DD book. Give me anything from this author. Looking forward to the next!

** I received an ARC from NetGalley and the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **

THE MAID by Nita Prose

Molly Gray is not like everyone else. She struggles with social skills and misreads the intentions of others. Her gran used to interpret the world for her, codifying it into simple rules that Molly could live by.

Since Gran died a few months ago, twenty-five-year-old Molly has been navigating life’s complexities all by herself. No matter—she throws herself with gusto into her work as a hotel maid. Her unique character, along with her obsessive love of cleaning and proper etiquette, make her an ideal fit for the job. She delights in donning her crisp uniform each morning, stocking her cart with miniature soaps and bottles, and returning guest rooms at the Regency Grand Hotel to a state of perfection.

But Molly’s orderly life is upended the day she enters the suite of the infamous and wealthy Charles Black, only to find it in a state of disarray and Mr. Black himself dead in his bed. Before she knows what’s happening, Molly’s unusual demeanor has the police targeting her as their lead suspect. She quickly finds herself caught in a web of deception, one she has no idea how to untangle. Fortunately for Molly, friends she never knew she had unite with her in a search for clues to what really happened to Mr. Black—but will they be able to find the real killer before it’s too late?

A Clue-like, locked-room mystery and a heartwarming journey of the spirit, The Maid explores what it means to be the same as everyone else and yet entirely different—and reveals that all mysteries can be solved through connection to the human heart.


Title : The Maid
Author : Nita Prose
Format : ARC
Page Count : 304
Genre : contemporary mystery / thriller
Publisher : Ballantine Books
Release Date : January 4, 2022

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 3 star review

I think readers are going to be a bit split on The Maid. For die-hard crime/mystery enthusiasts this might be a bit of a letdown because when it comes down to it.. this is very simplistic. And a bit slow. But it’s both of those things because of our perspective and narrator.

Molly Gray is different. It’s never stated outright but I would maybe judge she’s somewhere on the spectrum? She’s needed her grandmother to guide her through many exchanges or situations throughout her life and now, with her grandmother recently dead, she’s a bit at loose ends. Which makes the fact that she gets caught up in murder rather poor timing, what with the fact that no one has her best interests in mind and she’s seemingly friendless.

What was most interesting, besides Molly herself, was how what we thought to be true of some of the people and dynamics around her was decidedly the opposite. As a reader, some moments were painful, others were just sad, but the way it was done through the use of only one POV was really great. I won’t say more because I enjoyed the reveal but maybe everything I’ve said up until now will give you an idea.

I don’t know if I would classify this as a cozy mystery but it might be somewhere in the same realm. Molly herself inspires both some heartbreak and some warm and fuzzies and there does come to be something of an ensemble in the end and that, too, was warm and fuzzy inducing.

Everything unique about this story was a definite highlight, and the writing was easy to churn through, but for all the unique elements I don’t think this will be particularly memorable. I would pick up the author again, though; and despite the lower rating than I expected to dole out, if this kind of vibe seems like your thing, I would encourage you to pick it up.

** I received an ARC from the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **

IF WE WERE VILLAINS by M.L. Rio

Oliver Marks has just served ten years in jail – for a murder he may or may not have committed. On the day he’s released, he’s greeted by the man who put him in prison. Detective Colborne is retiring, but before he does, he wants to know what really happened a decade ago.

As one of seven young actors studying Shakespeare at an elite arts college, Oliver and his friends play the same roles onstage and off: hero, villain, tyrant, temptress, ingenue, extra. But when the casting changes, and the secondary characters usurp the stars, the plays spill dangerously over into life, and one of them is found dead. The rest face their greatest acting challenge yet: convincing the police, and themselves, that they are blameless. 


Title : If We Were Villains
Author : M.L. Rio
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 368
Genre : contemporary mystery
Publisher : Flatiron Books
Release Date : April 11, 2017

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 4 star review

Considering I only recently read The Secret History, after years of build up and anticipation, and had it bomb, I opened my hold of If We Were Villains with some two-fold trepidation; one, because they are so often compared so if I hated (it was one star) the first one, wouldn’t I hate this one? And two, did it make sense to read these so close together, regardless of how I enjoyed them?

And yet here we are with four stars. Which is additionally surprising because for the first third I don’t know that I was really in this story, just along for the ride. But somewhere along the lines it grabbed me and would not let go.

Also, yes, I cried at the end. Let’s just get that out of the way.

But wow, yes, so my biggest takeaway/recommendation would be don’t classify this in the same category as The Secret History. They are definitely aesthetic cousins and there are similarities with the studious fanatic ensemble element but honestly that’s where, for me, it ends. Because in addition to those differences the writing was also vastly superior. I enjoyed these characters, I enjoyed how the narrative was set up, the mystery of it all, and well.. pretty much everything. Except the stuff that broke my heart, that was rude. But in a good way.

Probably the strangest thing, however, was that the majority of this book takes place in 1997 and yet it never felt like it. Neither timeline felt like any particular time and so it feels strange to even mention a distinct year. It will likely help it to endure, to not be bogged down by referenced, but I wonder why the distinction was ever made. I’ll have to check out reviews and see if my little brain missed something.

Having said that, my brief skimming of reviews did reveal that the biggest hurdle of this book for other readers was a lack of familiarity with the subject matter; and while I get that, I cannot claim to be an expert or even an intermediary on the subject of Shakespeare, and yet it still worked for me. I think this is going to be a very hit or miss thing for each reader with or without knowledge of the Bard. But that’s just my two cents.

I will be very keen to read whatever this author comes out with next and, being that this released back in 2017, I’m sure there’s a very long queue to join in anticipation over whatever that might be.

FALSE WITNESS by Karin Slaughter

AN ORDINARY LIFE

Leigh Coulton has worked hard to build what looks like a normal life. She has a good job as a defence attorney, a daughter doing well in school, and even her divorce is relatively civilised – her life is just as unremarkable as she’d always hoped it would be.

HIDES A DEVASTATING PAST

But Leigh’s ordinary life masks a childhood which was far from average… a childhood tarnished by secrets, broken by betrayal, and finally torn apart by a devastating act of violence.

BUT NOW THE PAST IS CATCHING UP

Then a case lands on her desk – defending a wealthy man accused of rape. It’s the highest profile case she’s ever been given – a case which could transform her career, if she wins. But when she meets the accused, she realises that it’s no coincidence that he’s chosen her as his attorney. She knows him. And he knows her. More to the point, he knows what happened twenty years ago, and why Leigh has spent two decades running.

AND TIME IS RUNNING OUT

If she can’t get him acquitted, she’ll lose much more than the case. The only person who can help her is her younger, estranged sister Callie, the last person Leigh would ever want to ask for help. But suddenly she has no choice…


Title : False Witness
Author : Karin Slaughter
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 512
Genre : contemporary / crime-thriller
Publisher : William Morrow
Release Date : July 20, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 4.5 star review

Even though she writes some of the most disturbingly dark and twisty stories, there’s really nothing like sinking into a Slaughter. And this was no different.

Due to the subject matter, I couldn’t possibly recommend this (check for triggers or, you know, just don’t read from this author..), but the way this story unfolded was so well done. And that started right from the beginning.

I don’t read many summaries in general but I never do for this author and so I had no idea where we were starting or where we were going. Unlike her usual procedurals, there’s no real investigation to be done in False Witness because the crimes have already been committed and there’s no question who has done it. We watch as Leigh Collier, a defence attorney, is faced with an unexpected criminal trial where the accused happens to feature a face from her past. But this isn’t a nostalgic reunion but instead someone who, it seems, knows Leigh’s darkest secret. Worse, this connection to her past is now trying to use that secret against her in order to get away with horrible acts.

This was uncomfortable, I’ll be honest, and not just because of what happened in the past, or what the present-day villain was doing, but because Slaughter is so good at writing horrible horrifying terrifying characters. The subtle menace in how she describes their behaviour, their expressions, it’s palpable.

That said, for all this wasn’t a mystery to solve, there were quite a few surprises along the way. One of them being how the beginning narrative makes you think one thing, only to realize another. But in other ways, too.

Also? For all the darkness, this was heartbreaking, lovely, and so sad. The connection between these sisters, the struggle Leigh’s sister, Callie, faced every day. Everything that had been stacked against her. And yet she was so.. kind. Sweet. Caring. And their relationship, and what these two sisters were willing to do for each other.. I definitely got choked up.

Unexpectedly, COVID has a very real presence in this story. I wasn’t sure I liked that at first but actually it worked. It was taken seriously, with everything still happening in real time, not just as a flippant or off the cuff reference, or used as a plot device. That said, if you don’t want to deal with that in your fiction, this is your warning.

If Slaughter wants to churn out some more standalones like this between now and the next Will Trent? I wouldn’t be mad at all.

DON’T BREATHE A WORD by Jordyn Taylor

Present Day:
Eva has never felt like she belonged… not in her own family or with her friends in New York City, and certainly not at a fancy boarding school like Hardwick Preparatory Academy. So when she is invited to join the Fives, an elite secret society, she jumps at the opportunity to finally be a part of something.

But what if the Fives are about more than just having the best parties and receiving special privileges from the school? What if they are also responsible for keeping some of Hardwick’s biggest secrets buried?

1962:
There is only one reason why Connie would volunteer to be one of the six students to participate in testing Hardwick’s nuclear fallout shelter: Craig Allenby. While the thought of nuclear war sends her into a panic, she can’t pass up the opportunity to spend four days locked in with the school’s golden boy. However, Connie and the other students quickly discover that there is more to this “test” than they previously thought. As they are forced to follow an escalating series of commands, Connie realizes that one wrong move could have dangerous consequences.

Separated by sixty years , Eva’s and Connie’s stories become inextricably intertwined as Eva unravels the mystery of how six students went into the fallout shelter all those years ago . . . but only five came out. 


Title : Don’t Breathe a Word
Author : Jordyn Taylor
Format : ARC
Page Count : 352
Genre : YA mystery contemporary/historical
Publisher : HarperTeen
Release Date : May 18, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 3 star review

This was an interesting dual-timeline story, that later connects, of an event in the past that is the catalyst for the creation of a secret society at a boarding school. It mashes up Cold War paranoia with present day priviledge and the new girl at said school who is brought into the society and uncovers the crime at the heart of the organization.

I found this an easy read and enjoyed it when I didn’t think too hard about the unlikeliness of the whole thing enduring through the decades. Also the fact that no one had uncovered anything in the decades since? Like with most stories, suspend some disbelief and you’ll have a good time.

At it’s heart, however, is a good message for teens — and those of us non-teens who sometimes forget — that people worth your time, be them friends or family or peers, won’t demand sacrifice or secrets or for you to bury your discomfort just to be in their presence. Friendship, love, respect.. these are not conditional.

While this wasn’t perhaps all that surprising or original, except for the circumstances taking place during the historical timeline, if you like secret societies, boarding school settings, and mysteries for YA protagonists to unravel, you should give this one a go.

** I received an ARC from the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **

THE IVIES by Alexa Donne

Everyone knows the Ivies: the most coveted universities in the United States. Far more important are the Ivies. The Ivies at Claflin Academy, that is. Five girls with the same mission: to get into the Ivy League by any means necessary. I would know. I’m one of them. We disrupt class ranks, club leaderships, and academic competitions…among other things. We improve our own odds by decreasing the fortunes of others. Because hyper-elite competitive college admissions is serious business. And in some cases, it’s deadly.

Alexa Donne delivers a nail-biting and timely thriller about teens who will stop at nothing to get into the college of their dreams. Too bad no one told them murder isn’t an extracurricular.


Title : The Ivies
Author : Alexa Donne
Format : eARC
Page Count : 320
Genre : YA thriller
Publisher : Crown Books for Young Readers
Release Date : May 25, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 3.5 star review

This is exactly the kind of thing that would make a great mini series. Mostly because it felt not unlike a Gossip Girl and Pretty Little Liars mashup (I say this without ever having watched or read PLL, so I could be off base, but from random ads I’ve seen it has the thriller vibes needed). Except throw in the Gilmore Girls education focus that Rory and Paris had in their final year at Chilton.

There were ruthless students before us — they just weren’t as well organized.

All that to say, this was a hot twisty priviledged backstabby underhanded mess and boy was I enthralled. I think what worked against it, though, and why I’m not rating higher, is I felt our protagonist was just a little too inconsistent in both her feelings and her reactions. I don’t know if maybe that was on purpose, particularly with how this ended, but.. it made for strange reading sometimes. But the cliquey Ivies, the school itself, it was all so messed up but so fascinating.

Equally, I think, had this been done (or when it’s done? who knows!) in a television format I think we could’ve had some extra nuance or layers that maybe would’ve rounded this out a bit. The mystery itself wasn’t too straight forward, despite the red herrings or supposed red herrings, but there were a few other twists I found rather easy to see coming. But, again, maybe that was on purpose so we didn’t guess the other? Hard to say.

Do you know how hard it is to be a rich, above-average white guy in college admissions?
Oh, wait, you’re being serious? Sorry.

I also found it interesting how much this actually said about the whole college admissions mania. Not being American I’ve only ever really seen this portrayed in fiction and this definitely took it up a notch or twelve but I think there’s a lot of reality buried into this fictional narrative, too.

I probably could’ve done without the two or three throwaway references to the pandemic but as this is an ARC who knows if that feedback will make it up the chain or not.

I had a fun time with this, though, and it was the perfect twisty ride to pass a gloomy afternoon.

** I received an ARC from the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **

WHAT THE DEVIL KNOWS by C.S. Harris

Sebastian St. Cyr thought a notorious serial killer had been brought to justice until a shocking series of gruesome new murders stuns the city in this thrilling historical mystery from the USA Today bestselling author of Who Speaks for the Damned.

It’s October 1814. The war with France is finally over and Europe’s diplomats are convening in Vienna for a conference that will put their world back together. With peace finally at hand, London suddenly finds itself in the grip of a series of heinous murders eerily similar to the Ratcliffe Highway murders of three years before.

In 1811, two entire families were viciously murdered in their homes. A suspect–a young seaman named John Williams–was arrested. But before he could be brought to trial, Williams hanged himself in his cell. The murders ceased, and London slowly began to breathe easier. But when the lead investigator, Sir Edwin Pym, is killed in the same brutal way three years later and others possibly connected to the original case meet violent ends, the city is paralyzed with terror once more.

Was the wrong man arrested for the murders? Bow Street magistrate Sir Henry Lovejoy turns to his friend Sebastian St. Cyr, Viscount Devlin, for assistance. Pym’s colleagues are convinced his manner of death is a coincidence, but Sebastian has his doubts. The more he looks into the three-year-old murders, the more certain he becomes that the hapless John Williams was not the real killer. Which begs the question–who was and why are they dead set on killing again?


Title : What The Devil Knows
Author : C.S. Harris
Series : Sebastian St. Cyr (book sixteen)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 336
Genre : historical fiction / crime mystery
Publisher : Berkley Books
Release Date : April 6, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 3.5 star review

I’m rather tempted to round up on this one, at which point this intro will be deleted, but for now (or for good), I am a little hesitant. I don’t know if I’m thinking more fondly of this experience because it’s been a year since the last installment, around the same time I binged like.. fourteen of these back to back (which was just too much), or because it was just a little better than the last few.

We had a few moments of what I refer to as “copy paste” scenes which Harris seems to include in all her books but overall, much like the last book, there were quite a few less than usual. I was delighted.

The murder mystery itself was.. kind of all over the place. In the sense that there were so many pieces and moving parts and you really don’t see the big picture until the end. I both love and hate these kind of mysteries because I find the complexity very artful but it also means that if you aren’t being compelled by the new clues, you’re just sorta being dragged along. Which wasn’t quite the case here but it was close.

What saved said mystery from feeling too out of place from too many pieces of the puzzle were some familiar, and new, faces that tie into Sebastian’s personal life. I was curious why we were reunited with a few of them but oh you understand why come the end. I can’t say I totally saw that coming but neither was it a complete surprise. There was another event that finally came to pass that I think means we might finally be building up to something else (why am I even expanding on these vagueries..) that has been brewing for, I swear, like four or five books now. When is that confrontation going to happen! Will it ever! Why do I ask the same rhetorical questions in every review for this series! I’m not mad I’m just making a point about my own ridiculousness.

Much like some other series I’m keeping up with, I wonder how many more are still to come in the Sebastian St Cyr series. However unlike those other series, I’m not currently mad about this one.. well, continuing on. Despite some of the rehashing and a new murder mystery of the week duds, somehow, I’m still looking forward to more. Maybe because I just want to payoff of everything that we’ve come to expect will (one day) be revealed. Any hints on when that might be, Harris..? No? Cool. Cool cool cool cool cool. See you next year.

** I received an ARC from NetGalley and the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **

BEFORE SHE DISAPPEARED by Lisa Gardner

From #1 New York Times bestselling author Lisa Gardner, a propulsive thriller featuring an ordinary woman who will stop at nothing to find the missing people that the rest of the world has forgotten

Frankie Elkin is an average middle-aged woman, a recovering alcoholic with more regrets than belongings. But she spends her life doing what no one else will–searching for missing people the world has stopped looking for. When the police have given up, when the public no longer remembers, when the media has never paid attention, Frankie starts looking.

A new case brings her to Mattapan, a Boston neighborhood with a rough reputation. She is searching for Angelique Badeau, a Haitian teenager who vanished from her high school months earlier. Resistance from the Boston PD and the victim’s wary family tells Frankie she’s on her own–and she soon learns she’s asking questions someone doesn’t want answered. But Frankie will stop at nothing to discover the truth, even if it means the next person to go missing could be her.


Title : Before She Disappeared
Author : Lisa Gardner
Format : eARC
Page Count : 400
Genre : crime/mystery
Publisher : Dutton
Release Date : January 26, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 3.5 star review

Incase you’re wondering how this fits into Gardner’s DD Universe, or various connected series, surprise! It doesn’t. BEFORE SHE DIED is a standalone from this prolific author and stands apart (at least for now?) and in a sense our protagonist, Frankie Elkin, feels like a combination of all Gardner’s other leading ladies.

What Frankie does is investigate missing persons cases, specifically people of colour, whose disappearances have remained unsolved, long gone cold. This definitely gave me a bit of a Flora vibe, minus the vigilante thing, because Frankie has no investigative experience, isn’t pretending to be a cop or a private detective. She is a full on civilian, leaning into the perks of having no red tape to contend with, while somehow managing to ask the right questions, poke the right bears, and use her single-minded focus as an limitless resource to do what the police can’t : find answers. And though she is without training, and heeds no rules, she gave me serious DD vibes with her wit, and her addiction, as a recovering addict, made me think of Rainie. See? Little bit of everyone.

Did I like her though? I don’t know. Sometimes. She definitely has a bit of mystery of her own, some backstory that haunts her, and haunts us too with teasing little moments that make us wonder what happened, what would possess a middle aged woman to be transient, traveling from city to city, state to state, working odd jobs to make a living wage for the length of time she needs to search out the missing person, only to pick up and leave. I love the idea of this. I love how Gardner leaned into the loneliness of it, the fixation, a different form of addiction — one she doesn’t resist, one she feeds, even as she fights the call of a drink — and yet I never truly.. felt her, understood her. Maybe that’s realistic, though. Maybe we’re not supposed to. No one else seems to.

The mystery of this story? So unique. I’m not sure I’ve read one like it. It twists and turns, the pieces never seem to quite fit, much less seem to actually belong to the same puzzle, and yet it did all inevitably make sense.

What I liked almost as much as the concept? The setting and, as it went hand in hand, the supporting cast. This takes place in a very multicultural area in Boston and the mix of neighbours, the various people Frankie befriends, orbits around, they all felt rich, solid, like people I would want to know. It makes me sad that even if we get another story featuring Frankie, it won’t be with these other characters. Or, rather, unlikely to be. Because that defeats the concept of her existence, of her mission.

Overall this was really solid, though I definitely found the first half more compelling, and while it probably won’t make the cut if I ever did a Top Ten Gardner Books list? I still had a good time with it.

** I received an ARC from NetGalley and the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **

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