PositiveBookPage... an unflinching, unapologetically feminist glimpse into the world of professional ballet ... Despite all of this, The Ballerinas is not a bleak novel. Delphine, Lindsay and Margaux begin to push back against the system that has oppressed them, coming to terms with their past and moving forward into a world in which they have agency over their bodies and careers. It is to Kapelke-Dale’s credit that this empowering ending feels earned, rather than naively optimistic.
PositiveBookPageTold from multiple perspectives (even those of individual children), Rader-Day\'s novel is in many ways a portrait of grief and trauma. Each character is suffering due to displacement, rationing and German bombings. There are no real monsters, just people forced into circumstances they never thought possible. Bridey is a particularly compelling character—the reluctant detective, longing to move on with her life, but unable to let sleeping dogs lie ... as taut as a bow string, with every character capable of snapping at a moment\'s notice.
L. Alison Heller
RaveBookPageHeller excels at the complex characterization required to engage readers, resulting in a book that’s truly impossible to put down. The myriad anxieties her characters feel—fear for their children, their reputation, their community—are entirely relatable. A sense of dread and foreboding permeates the narrative ... With such a wonderful buildup and a truly surprising finish, The Neighbor’s Secret is a delight to read.
RaveBookPageWhile this historical mystery can easily be read as a standalone, odds are readers will immediately seek out Kiki’s first adventure...after being enchanted by Lunney’s charismatic heroine ... As engaging and suspenseful as Kiki’s mission is, Lunney makes the mystery of the mother Kiki barely knew equally fascinating ... Lunney’s prose is beautifully atmospheric, capturing a collective sense of postwar trauma but also hope as Europe enters a new age.
RaveBookPage... is as much about communal trauma as it is about the anguish of the Ito family, who are at the story’s center. The grief of the Japanese community in Chicago infuses the atmosphere of this novel, offering a compelling, nuanced tale of loss.
PositiveBookpageUnlike a traditional mystery, we know who Nick’s attacker is within the first few chapters. The real mystery in The Damage is what happens after the assault. The book jumps between the months after the 2015 attack to 2019, when the detective assigned to the case, now facing a terminal diagnosis, looks for answers as to what really happened in the aftermath. The man suspected of Nick’s attack has long since vanished, and the detective believes Julia may know the truth. The Damage stands out for its depiction of the still taboo subject of male rape ... The Damage carefully and expertly captures the collective trauma of a close-knit family when one of its members is victimized, and the lengths to which they’ll go to find justice and healing.
RaveBookpageAlma Katsu, known for her spooky historical novels, showcases her versatility in Red Widow, an espionage thriller ... Security Agency, and her insider perspective lends nuance and depth to the plot. Many spy thrillers depend on globe-trotting adventures, car chases or action sequences, but Red Widow zeroes in on the inner workings of the CIA and the FSB. Lyndsey never leaves Langley, which could have made the story feel airless and limited, but Katsu’s extensive knowledge of this world creates a deeply immersive experience instead ... Katsu’s real-life experience and skill at maintaining taut, nail-biting tension make Red Widow a standout espionage thriller.
PositiveBookPageWhile it certainly works well as a mystery, its humor is reminiscent of the late Terry Pratchett, and its satirical tone will appeal to readers who aren’t typically among the historical mystery crowd ... Initially the setup for these different threads feels a bit tedious, but once they are woven together the pacing picks up considerably, to the extent that the end of the novel is explosively compelling ... While many historical mysteries focus on the upper class (genteel ladies solving murders or intrepid police inspectors navigating the world of the ton), O’Donnell examines the world of working-class Victorian London and champions those who inhabit it. The missing women here are all working class and overlooked, but their plight is no less important to Cutter or Octavia. It’s a vividly painted atmosphere that feels so real to the reader, you can almost smell the gin and coal dust ... The characters and humor that make The House on Vesper Sands shine would lend themselves well to a series—this novel is sure to make readers hunger for more.
RaveBookpageThe perfect read for winter’s extra-dark nights ... It’s necessary to read the first book in the Natalie Lockhart series, Trace of Evil , to fully grasp the events of The Wicked Hour ... The Wicked Hour is a carefully plotted procedural that invites readers to examine each clue along with Natalie. As those clues come together and the novel progresses toward its climax, readers will be rewarded with a suspenseful and memorable finale.
RaveBookPageMatthew Hart’s debut thriller, The Russian Pink, feels especially timely given its subject matter: a fraught presidential election and a Russian conspiracy ... This novel plays out like an action movie, fast-paced and globe-trotting from New York City to Antwerp to South Africa. Hart’s compelling hero isn’t afraid to resort to violence, and we see him engaging in everything from sword fights to falling off the balcony of a skyscraper’s penthouse. There’s also a dash of romance to temper the action scenes. The Russian Pink is a fast read, never once allowing the reader to catch their breath. Perfect for fans of Robert Ludlum and David Baldacci, this thriller will have readers anxiously awaiting Hart’s next novel.
RaveBookPage... meanders its way into a mystery with a deliberate patience ... It’s this nuance, a signature of French’s writing, that makes this novel more than just a mystery; it’s also an exploration of rural poverty and the closely intertwined lives of people who are just trying to scratch out a living ... What sets The Searcher apart from French’s earlier novels is its depiction of how deeply intertwined the residents of the village are—with young people leaving the area, farms struggling and poverty and drug use plaguing the area, each person is somehow dependent on his or her neighbors for survival. This is not a place where Cal can bury his head in the sand. Evocative and lyrical, The Searcher is a mystery worth reading slowly to savor every perfectly rendered detail.
PositiveBookPage... a personal crisis that explodes into a compelling thriller ... Mina’s novel stands out in a genre that commodifies the dead bodies of women. Her characters are nuanced, complicated and never stereotypes, and her portrayal of the world of sex work isn’t lurid or voyeuristic. Furthermore, Margot is not the middle-class savior some would mistakenly believe that these women need. And although Margot’s mother was a victim of a violent crime, Mina juxtaposes her murder with the stalking of Margot’s best friend, Lilah, showing that women are the subjected to violence by the men in their life at every socioeconomic level ... at once a gripping thriller and an examination, and vindication, of a group of women who are often faceless, unsympathetic victims.
PositiveBookPage... a coming-of-age story, a thriller, science-fiction and a Gothic novel all at once. These elements should feel incongruous, but in the strange world of Catherine House they blend together in a way that makes perfect internal sense ... employs that wonderful Gothic convention of an inexplicable sense of wrongness, which pervades the narrative ... There is never a moment when Ines, or the reader, can fully let her guard down and trust that any of Catherine House’s strange rituals and traditions are benign, and as Ines’ curiosity about plasm becomes a fixation, the atmosphere of the novel takes on an even more sinister feel ... Much of Catherine House is devoted to building the world that Ines and her friends inhabit, a narrative strategy that delays some of the suspense. However, by crafting a truly immersive experience, Thomas ratchets up the sense of dread as both Ines and readers begin to see Catherine House for what it truly is. With a compelling narrator and truly inventive setting, Catherine House embraces Gothic conventions even as it defies expectation and utilizes them in new and exciting ways. It challenges the genre while embracing it and takes readers on a truly unique journey.
PositiveBookPage... begins a new series—but [Jones\'s] signature humor and suspense remain ... Jones has a real talent for balancing suspense with laugh-out-loud humor, never losing the tension from either. Sunshine’s past is grim, as is the truth about Auri’s father, yet the book never feels bleak. The humor, sometimes absurd (like a basket of cursed muffins), never detracts from the gravity of the case Sunshine is investigating. It’s a delicate balancing act, and it’s pulled off with aplomb ... With its wit and suspense, A Bad Day for Sunshine is a one-night read that left me craving the next installment in the series, especially after its truly surprising final reveal.
PositiveBookpageGytha Lodge’s sophomore thriller delivers an opening worthy of Hitchcock ...The beauty of Lodge’s writing is her ability to juxtapose the careful sleuthing of a police procedural against an emotional deep dive into the lives of her characters. Zoe is not just a body and a point of focus for Lodge’s male detective; rather, she is granted a complex identity. In a genre that often commodifies the bodies of dead women, the care given to Zoe’s character feels especially important ... As the novel wraps up, secrets are revealed and characters exposed for who they really are, the reader can fall back on Sheens’ reliability in an atmosphere where no one is trustworthy. Lodge’s autopsy of complicated friendships and love affairs feels occasionally tragic, but the justice that Sheens and his team deliver is eminently satisfying.
PositiveBookpageIt’s almost impossible to properly summarize The Tenant; the careful plotting ensures that the mystery unfolds deliberately, with surprises constantly woven into the narrative ... The intensity of the relationships between characters...realistically depict the irritations and idiosyncrasies of people who live and work together. Unlike many other crime-solving duos, the heroes of this novel occasionally grate on each other’s nerves, never quite settling into anything other than a bristly professional relationship ... Despite its darker elements, The Tenant is a police procedural, not a thriller, and readers should prepare for a mystery that takes its time unfolding. That is not to say this novel lacks suspense; the easy pace actually lets the horror of Julie’s murder sink in, rather than getting lost in break-neck action. Engberg’s English language debut promises a gritty, unflinching procedural series, and will leave readers craving the translation of Kørner and Werner’s next adventure.
RaveBookPageEven the most die-hard thriller reader will be surprised at the direction The Wife and the Widow takes, but even without its truly shocking reveal, White’s thriller stands out for its penetrating examination of marriage and the lies that build between spouses ... White’s eerie, patient unraveling of small deceptions makes The Wife and the Widow a hypnotic reading experience ... heartbreaking and contemplative.
PositiveBookPageBlanchard launches a promising new series and delivers an airtight police procedural with deeply macabre elements. This is a read-in-one-sitting book that will refresh readers who are potentially burned out on the genre ... a procedural that expertly balances three mysteries at one time with tight plotting and enough clues and red herrings to keep the most experienced of mystery readers conjuring up theory after theory. And truly, Blanchard doesn’t need to utilize the supernatural to make her novel chilling. From the deeply disturbing aspects of the nine disappearances to the teenage obsession with witchcraft, the terror here is tied to people who feel so detached from the world around them that they normalize horrifying violence ... Adding to the perfectly executed mysteries and the real-world terror is Blanchard’s careful world building. This is the first book starring Natalie Lockhart, but she appears on the page like a friend readers have known forever. She is the lens through which we view her small town, and she adds an element of empathy to characters who might otherwise feel unsympathetic to the reader. Then there’s the frisson of forbidden sexual tension between Natalie and her boss, a subplot that promises to unwind later in the series. It may seem like a lot to balance within one novel, but Trace of Evil delivers all of these elements without a single misstep.
PositiveBookPageThe moment you think you have the latest Valerie Hart thriller figured out, Saul Black takes the narrative in a new and stunning direction. Exquisitely plotted, this police procedural unravels with the deftness and striking prose that Black fans have come to expect ... There’s an icy self-awareness and a self-deprecation to both Valerie and Sophia that helps them transcend typical femme fatale stereotypes. Black gives Sophia, in particular, a complex and sometimes unsettling back story that makes her feel like more of an anti-heroine than a villainess. By the time Valerie is closing in on her quarry, we are so invested in both of these characters, and in the incredibly intricate plot, that it is almost a disappointment to see the mystery solved. Black blends nuanced characters, immersive prose and complex plotlines so skillfully that it feels practically magical. When Valerie and Sophia finally meet face-to-face, readers will be breathless with anticipation and the promise of delicious secrets being revealed.
PositiveBookPageIf you take the John Wick and Sons of Anarchy series, blend them with the movie Taken and then dial the intensity up to 11, you have Seven Crows ... This plot sounds dark, and it is, but it’s also surprisingly satisfying ... opens with a bang and doesn’t slow down. Spanning only a few days, the action is compressed into a breathless timeline ... This novel is staggeringly violent, but its violence feels almost cathartic, rather than gratuitous ... I must add the caveat that, in keeping with its tone, the book references sexual assault in a candid and descriptive way that may be off-putting to some readers ... vicariously experiencing Killian’s brutal form of justice feels just right, rather than too much.
PositiveBookPageIt’s evident from the first page of Clear My Name that Paula Daly’s heroine, investigator Tess Gilroy, is as adept at keeping secrets as she is at uncovering them. Between Tess and Carrie, the woman she’s trying to prove innocent of murder, we’re left with two narrators who are simultaneously sympathetic and also inherently unreliable. Add exquisite pacing and a plot with some real twists, and you have a recipe for a book bound to keep you up all night ... Eventually Tess’ and Carrie’s narratives collide in a way that is genuinely shocking. The last quarter of this mystery doesn’t so much as unfold as it explodes; the tension is at a fever pitch and the final revelations are genuinely surprising ... With a wonderfully executed mystery and two unreliable narrators, Clear My Name straddles the line between psychological thriller and good old-fashioned whodunit.
PositiveBookPageCooper’s focus on atmosphere gives the novel the tight pacing of a thriller, while also producing a constant feeling of unease more typically found in the horror genre. This is not the book for a cozy mystery fan. Sayer stands out in a largely whitewashed genre as a woman of color, and her awareness of how her race affects others’ perceptions of her is present but never overly evangelized to the reader ... By depriving Sayer of departmental resources and deus ex machina forensic breakthroughs, the narrative focuses on her brilliant profiling and detective skills, making Buried feel like an old fashioned whodunit as the reader pieces the clues together along with Sayer.
RaveBookPageRuth Ware’s homage to The Turn of the Screw is filled with all of the best gothic elements ... compulsively readable and will keep readers guessing until the very last page ... Ware expertly weaves in a supernatural element as well ... All of these twists and turns might feel unwieldy in the hands of another writer, but Ware is adept at managing multiple plot threads and using them to shock her reader. The beauty of The Turn of the Key is in how it takes the tropes central to the gothic genre, like the isolated haunted house, and gives them a 21st-century spin while still managing to feel fresh and surprising to even the most gothic-averse reader. Straddling the line between horror and thriller, this novel will delight fans of both genres.