THE THURSDAY MURDER CLUB by Richard Osman

Four septuagenarians with a few tricks up their sleeves
A female cop with her first big case
A brutal murder
Welcome to…
The Thursday Murder Club

In a peaceful retirement village, four unlikely friends meet weekly in the Jigsaw Room to discuss unsolved crimes; together they call themselves The Thursday Murder Club. Elizabeth, Joyce, Ibrahim and Ron might be pushing eighty but they still have a few tricks up their sleeves. 

When a local developer is found dead with a mysterious photograph left next to the body, the Thursday Murder Club suddenly find themselves in the middle of their first live case. As the bodies begin to pile up, can our unorthodox but brilliant gang catch the killer, before it’s too late? 


Title : Thursday Murder Club
Author : Richard Osman
Series : Thursday Murder Club
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 382
Genre : crime / mystery
Publisher : Penguin
Release Date : September 3, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4 star review

Well this was as delightful as it sounds, really!

This is definitely (maybe? I think..) on the cozier side of murder mystery novels but doesn’t feel too silly, either. While it might be easy to just enjoy the antics of the seventy year olds poking their noses about and unearthing secrets and hatching plots to solve the case (well, cases), there’s also some very real observations and contemplations concerning their mortality and minds and how much time they, and those around them, have left. In a somewhat related way, too, there were tears shed. For a few different reasons. But they still have a good time, too. It was just.. I mean, I said it before, but : delightful.

I’d welcome a burglar. It would be nice to have a visitor.”

I was absolutely enamoured by all of the characters; the Murder Club, the officers drawn into their orbit, even some characters who might have been suspects. It was all very gently compelling. Which makes the fact that I have the sequel, or the second in the series, all ready to go because I am not ready to leave these old crafts dears and their fellows.

This might not satisfy readers who are more into thrills, chills, and chases, but if you like a good mystery to unravel, and like to read about some unconventional leads, this is a must for you to read.

AS GOOD AS DEAD by Holly Jackson

The highly-anticipated finale to the A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder series, the instant bestsellers that read like your favorite true crime podcast or show. By the end of this mystery series, you’ll never think of good girls the same way again…

Pip is about to head to college, but she is still haunted by the way her last investigation ended. She’s used to online death threats in the wake of her viral true-crime podcast, but she can’t help noticing an anonymous person who keeps asking her: Who will look for you when you’re the one who disappears?

Soon the threats escalate and Pip realizes that someone is following her in real life. When she starts to find connections between her stalker and a local serial killer caught six years ago, she wonders if maybe the wrong man is behind bars.

Police refuse to act, so Pip has only one choice: find the suspect herself—or be the next victim. As the deadly game plays out, Pip discovers that everything in her small town is coming full circle . . .and if she doesn’t find the answers, this time she will be the one who disappears. . . 


Title : As Good As Dead
Author : Holly Jackson
Series : A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder (book three)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 464
Genre : YA mystery
Publisher : Delacorte Press
Release Date : September 28, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 3 star review

If not for the fact that I feel obligated to review this, as the first two books are on the blog, I would probably take the coward’s way out and just not review; because I have no idea how to process my feelings about this. Or, rather, I am still processing them.

In hindsight all the extremes we visit in this finale do make sense. The argument could definitely be made that it was all building to this. But I wish we could’ve had the same result via a different means. I wish we hadn’t needed to see those extremes. It added a whole other thriller-y layer to this series, that’s for sure, but it’s hard to settle with.

It does prove that age old adage true, though. I won’t tell you which one, though; it would be a spoiler.

I’m going to slap this with a three because I think the craft and calculation behind this series, and this finale, is well done. And I would definitely read this author again. Especially if she writes in this genre. But the way this one fell out is just a little too.. well. Too something.

However, if you’re looking for a YA thriller/mystery series that definitely gets darker as the series goes on, with mixed media elements, with strong will-go-to-hell-and-back friendships aka found family presence, I would actually recommend.

MURDER MOST ACTUAL by Alexis Hall

From the author of Boyfriend Material and Rosaline Palmer Takes the Cake comes a cozy mystery that revisits the Golden Age of detective fiction, starring a heroine who’s more podcaster than private eye and topped with a lethal dose of parody — perfect for fans of Clue, Knives Out, and Only Murders in the Building!

When up-and-coming true crime podcaster Liza and her corporate financier wife Hanna head to a luxurious hotel in the Scottish Highlands, they’re hoping for a chance to rekindle their marriage – not to find themselves trapped in the middle of an Agatha Christie-esque murder mystery with no way home. But who better to take on the case than someone whose entire profession relies on an obsession with all things mysterious and macabre? Though some of her fellow guests may consider her an interfering new media hack, Liza knows a thing or two about crime and – despite Hanna’s preference for waiting out the chaos behind a locked door – might be the only one capable of discovering the killer. As the bodies rack up and the stakes rise, can they save their marriage — and their lives?


Title : Murder Most Actual
Author : Alexis Hall
Format : eARC
Page Count : 302
Genre : Cosy Mystery/LGBTQIAP+
Publisher : Kobo Original
Release Date : November 9, 2021

Reviewer :  Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 3 star review

Headlines:
Marriage on the rocks
Murders around every corner
Banter for days

Cosy mysteries aren’t really my thing but Alexis Hall’s books are totally my thing, so I thought I’d give this read a try. I liked it, but I didn’t love it.

Murder Most Actual was purposely farcical and far fetched but the characters, particularly Liza and Hanna had you buying into the story. The dialogue and banter between these two was honestly hilarious and had me laughing out loud numerous times. I enjoyed the background depiction of a marriage stalled and their attempts to find their way back to common ground. The murders pretty much thwarted this plan though.

“Did you not hear the scream?”
“Yes, I heard the scream.” Hanna was giving her a what-the-fuck look.
“That’s why I’m staying in bed.”

The cast of characters were an eclectic mix to put it mildly with only Hanna and Liza likeable. As bodies began to fall, working out the perpetrator was on the one hand, simple and on the other hand, more complex than I thought. Expect to be stretched to ridiculous ends and just go with the flow.

I loved the chapter headings, cluedo-style. While this cosy mystery didn’t always float my boat, Alexis Hall brought his signature humour to the table and made me like it more than I would have without his wit and intelligence behind the pen.

Thank you to Kobo/netgalley for the early review copy.

https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/murder-most-actual

WHITE SMOKE by Tiffany D. Jackson

The Haunting of Hill House meets Get Out in this chilling YA psychological thriller and modern take on the classic haunted house story from New York Times bestselling author Tiffany D. Jackson!

Marigold is running from ghosts. The phantoms of her old life keep haunting her, but a move with her newly blended family from their small California beach town to the embattled Midwestern city of Cedarville might be the fresh start she needs. Her mom has accepted a new job with the Sterling Foundation that comes with a free house, one that Mari now has to share with her bratty ten-year-old stepsister, Piper.

The renovated picture-perfect home on Maple Street, sitting between dilapidated houses, surrounded by wary neighbors has its . . . secrets. That’s only half the problem: household items vanish, doors open on their own, lights turn off, shadows walk past rooms, voices can be heard in the walls, and there’s a foul smell seeping through the vents only Mari seems to notice. Worse: Piper keeps talking about a friend who wants Mari gone.

But “running from ghosts” is just a metaphor, right?

As the house closes in, Mari learns that the danger isn’t limited to Maple Street. Cedarville has its secrets, too. And secrets always find their way through the cracks.


Title : White Smoke
Author : Tiffany D. Jackson
Format : eARC
Page Count : 384
Genre : YA psychological thriller
Publisher : Katherine Tegen Books
Release Date : September 14, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 3 review

Throughout this read, I was definitely in the ‘like’ camp more than the ‘love’ and had it been the opposite I would’ve been far more disappointed by the ending than I was. But it was still a huge, abrupt, bummer.

This story is half horror and half psychological anxiety fuelled discomfort. It also has a less than fun new blended family dynamic which was grating in a whole different way, too. While I enjoyed this when it was a horror, I was equally horrified by the circumstances that had plagued this town, the violent gentrification that had occurred (and was still occurring) at the expense of others; but at the same time this particular plot sort’ve went off the rails in an unbelievable way (not the criminalizations, that, unfortunately is very believable, but the shady corporate conspiracy and the specifics of what they had set up..? yeah, no) — which, considering I was reading about ghosts and hauntings and potential possession, says a lot.

As a haunted house story, this was great. For someone with an anxiety, reading about Mari’s phobias, it was just as unsettling. Everything else, and the ending.. I don’t know. Equally in the ‘I don’t know’ pile of things is the reluctance for Mari to jump to the very obvious conclusions about what was happening around her. Why she was so slow to pick up on this, to resist it when others were more convinced, I have no clue.

This one gets a cautious recommend out of me, I think. I absolutely don’t want to dissuade you from picking it up but at the same time I’m not going to encourage anyone to read it.. just incase it’s even less a hit for you than it was for me.

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

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. **

GOOD GIRL, BAD BLOOD by Holly Jackson

Pip is not a detective anymore.

With the help of Ravi Singh, she released a true-crime podcast about the murder case they solved together last year. The podcast has gone viral, yet Pip insists her investigating days are behind her.

But she will have to break that promise when someone she knows goes missing. Jamie Reynolds has disappeared, on the very same night the town hosted a memorial for the sixth-year anniversary of the deaths of Andie Bell and Sal Singh.

The police won’t do anything about it. And if they won’t look for Jamie then Pip will, uncovering more of her town’s dark secrets along the way… and this time everyone is listening. But will she find him before it’s too late?


Title : Good Girl, Bad Blood
Author : Holly Jackson
Series : A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder (book two)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 388
Genre : YA mystery
Publisher : Delacorte Press
Release Date : March 2, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 3.5 star review

So this wasn’t quite the amazing, out of this world, sequel I had expected it to be, or been led to believe it was, but that’s just my opinion so, as always, grain o’salt.

This particular mystery plot was definitely a bit less of a disbelief stretch, though still a little wild, and even though I was far from crying or even tearing up somehow this ended up also being more emotional. There were some incredibly moving scenes from events leftover from the previous book and specific to this book’s plot and all that just made everything really solid.

I felt this particular installment also had a chance to really dig deep into both the main character and some of the characters on the periphery. I liked the changing, evolving, and surprising, direction of certain dynamics and am very interested to see how that all plays out in book three.

I also appreciate that Jackson isn’t leaving the main character unscathed by these rather unprecedented events. She’s almost sorta spiraling into self-destruction, but not quite, and battles a bit with coming to terms with who she really is, what she’s willing to do, and also forgive, and those were really interesting moments. Another thing I’ll be curious to see play out.

Overall this is a really solid series that definitely sucks you in. This installment might even be a four star. I may come back and change that later.

A GOOD GIRL’S GUIDE TO MURDER by Holly Jackson

Everyone in Fairview knows the story.

Pretty and popular high school senior Andie Bell was murdered by her boyfriend, Sal Singh, who then killed himself. It was all anyone could talk about. And five years later, Pip sees how the tragedy still haunts her town.

But she can’t shake the feeling that there was more to what happened that day. She knew Sal when she was a child, and he was always so kind to her. How could he possibly have been a killer?

Now a senior herself, Pip decides to reexamine the closed case for her final project, at first just to cast doubt on the original investigation. But soon she discovers a trail of dark secrets that might actually prove Sal innocent . . . and the line between past and present begins to blur. Someone in Fairview doesn’t want Pip digging around for answers, and now her own life might be in danger.

This is the story of an investigation turned obsession, full of twists and turns and with an ending you’ll never expect.


Title : A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder
Author : Holly Jackson
Series : A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder (book one)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 389
Genre : YA mystery
Publisher : Delacorte Press
Release Date : February 4, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 3.5 star review

Was this the epic murder mystery contemporary I have seen everyone else say it is? Maybe not. Was this hella engrossing and did I finish it in a record breaking timeframe? Yes.

I’m sure the Veronica Mars comparisons have all already been done ad nauseum and so I won’t say much more about it. But I will say that while it’s far and away from a direct lift of season one’s plots and concepts, you might still get some of those vibes. I sure did.

You, of course, have to suspend a bit of disbelief around some of this, as one might expect going into a YA murder mystery, but I’m okay doing that. It does, overall, maybe keep it from being the perfect read, though. Hence the rating. While some of the twisting and turning plots and schemes and secrets might elicit some side-eye, though, I enjoyed the cast of characters and the multimedia aspect of the story telling. While the Marshmallow comparison is an obvious one, the media element also did give me a small amount of Sadie vibes, and one particular event felt like a throwback to a certain nineties movie franchise I can’t hint at further for spoiler reasons.

So, yes, I did like this! Obviously. I’ve heard, though, that book two is even better than and because I’m on a completed-a-book-in-one-sitting high, I’m diving right into the sequel.

A STRANGER IN TOWN by Kelley Armstrong

In #1 New York Times bestselling author Kelley Armstrong’s next Rockton book, A Stranger in Town, the biggest mystery is the fate of the town itself.

Detective Casey Duncan has noticed fewer and fewer residents coming in to the hidden town of Rockton, and no extensions being granted. Her boyfriend, Sheriff Eric Dalton, presumes it’s the natural flux of things, but Casey’s not so sure. Something bigger is happening in the small town they call home.

When an injured hiker stumbles from the woods, the sole survivor of a hostile attack, it’s all hands on deck. Even a member of the elusive Rockton council comes in to help. This council member also comes bearing news: Rockton is being shut down due to the hostile situation.

Casey and Eric must now race to save the town that has allowed residents to have a fresh start, away from the mistakes of their past, while also getting to the bottom of this latest attack. 


Title : A Stranger in Town
Author : Kelley Armstrong
Series : Rockton (book six)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 368
Genre : mystery/thriller
Publisher : Minotaur Books
Release Date : February 9, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4 star review

Realistically I should not have liked this so much, particularly considering the last two books in this series were somewhat of a disappointment (but only in the grand scheme of the series, I mean, and when compared to books one to three). But the plot got so.. I won’t say wildly but quite a bit out of control, much suspension of disbelief required, and yet I had a great time anyway.

To more or less copy over from my previous review’s summation, this series is about an off-the-grid town in the Yukon, called Rockton. Rockton being a town populated by people who have escaped horrors, are on the run from something in their pasts, and have found a place where they can disappear for a few years. Sometimes, too, they are the ones who caused the horrors and just paid enough to a particular group in order to be admitted in order to lay low. Our lead protagonist is Casey Duncan, who arrived to this town to help her friend escape her ex, and has become one of the three detectives who help to police the outlaw-esque locals and keep the peace. Each book has juggled conflicts from within the town but also dealt with those who run the program that allows this to exist, as well as outside elements; as in, literally the outsider weather elements but also.. more.

This was the first since installment since book three that actually felt true to the origins of the series. Yes, via Casey, two years in, we are now settled into the running of this town, but equally her involvement has shed much to light — in a multitude of directions. Specifically this mystery, this adventure, while it had so many moving parts, it managed to juddle them without ever feeling overwhelming, and watching them come together was ever so satisfying; even though for some of them I was tapping my foot waiting for the characters to clue in. It was a smug kind of foot tapping, though, not the impatient kind.

Additionally, this book has broader impacts to the series at large, making me wonder if maybe Armstrong really is trying to wrap things up soon. She must have an end in mind and I wonder if maybe we’re nearing that now. Because if the characters go down a particular path they are considering, especially now that a particular element is more or less out of the way, well.. that would be it, wouldn’t it?

Either way, I’ll be eagerly anticipating that upcoming journey, no matter how it looks.

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