The Paris Apartment by Lucy Foley

“It’s not about where you came from. What kind of shit might have happened to you in the past. It’s about who you are. What you do with the opportunities life presents to you.”
― Lucy Foley, The Paris Apartment

The Paris Apartment is a locked room mystery that centers around the people living in a Paris apartment building. Jess needs a fresh start, especially since she doesn’t have a job anymore. After calling her half-brother Ben to ask if she can come crash with him, Jess is surprised that he isn’t there to greet her when she eventually shows up to his apartment building in Paris. He didn’t sound excited that she wanted to come last minute, but he’s family. Ben always keeps his word and would never leave her stranded.

When Jess eventually makes her way inside the building, she finds a very nice apartment that she is honestly surprised that Ben can afford. After all, he’s a journalist who mainly writes restaurant reviews and this is a fancy place. She searches his apartment, but there is no sign of Ben. Time passes and Ben still doesn’t show up. Jess starts digging into Ben’s life, starting with his neighbors. They are a slightly weird bunch, eclectic to put it nicely. Plus they’re not friendly. Jess’s innocent questions about Ben’s whereabouts put them on edge, which only prompts her to ask more questions. Why are they acting so cagey? And where is Ben?

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The Collective by Alison Gaylin

“None of these monsters are evil. It’s the evil of others that makes them powerful. Beaten down by the world, shunned, robbed of what they love, they don’t curl up and die. They don’t apologize. They fight back. They get bigger, stronger, more terrifying. You are a monster. We all are. Be grateful for THAT.”
― Alison Gaylin, The Collective

Alison Gaylin’s latest mystery novel, The Collective, tells the story of mothers who are angry. Camille Gardener is obsessed. Her daughter died five years ago at the hands of a young man. Fed up with the empty platitudes from the people who surround her and her marriage’s dissolution, Camille is still obsessed with the young man she believes is responsible for her daughter’s death. She has been following him and his family all these years, wanting to keep up with what they have been doing.

Camille’s actions finally cross a line and she ends up in the spotlight of a secretive group of women called the collective. It starts out innocent enough with a Facebook group, but then ends with Camille being drawn into the dark web. She finds a group of mothers sharing their devastating stories of loss and their intense desires for justice. They all feel wronged by the world – how dare no one hold the perpetrators responsible?! They demand justice and retribution for the unimaginable loss they have been put through.

Rage motivates them. Soon Camille discovers that the group is responsible for many seemingly random killings that are actually incredibly precise, plotted, and planned by group members who are instructed to follow different tasks without knowing what the others are doing. All of their individual tasks culminate into the completion of a plan: the murder of someone who had done them wrong.

When Camille first joins the group, she debates whether or not the collective is a game or reality. The more she becomes involved, the more her feelings shift. Are these women monsters or righteous avengers? There are truths that lie beneath the surface that have the power to destroy the small amount of comfort Camille found within the collective. It all depends on what she believes.

When We Believed in Mermaids by Barbara O’Neal

“This happens all the time. Anyone who has lost somebody they love has experienced it—the head in the crowd on a busy street, the person at the grocery store who moves just like her. The rush to catch up, so relieved that she is actually still alive . . . Only to be crushed when the imposter turns around and the face is wrong. The eyes. The lips.”
― Barbara O’Neal, When We Believed in Mermaids

When We Believed in Mermaids by Barbara O’Neal is the story of a family ripped apart by tragedy and how the ones left behind try to pick up the shattered pieces.

The Bianci women are the only ones left. Josie, the older sister, was killed fifteen years ago during a terrorist attack while on a train overseas. Her younger sister Kit works as an ER doctor in Santa Cruz. She was left to help their mother as the two worked through their grief. Kit’s steady life comes to a crashing halt when she sees Josie on the TV news during a broadcast from New Zealand. Her mother saw Josie too. Doubt comes creeping in. In the background of television news coverage of a club fire in Auckland, the two saw a woman walking through smoke who bears an uncanny resemblance to Josie. It has to be her.

Kit is slammed by a flood of emotions: anger, grief, and loss. How could Josie lie to them for the past fifteen years? How could she abandon them? She let them believe she was dead. Kit has to find Josie and get answers. She has to go to Auckland.

After landing in New Zealand, Kit is unsure where to start. Once she is in the country where she thinks Josie is, she isn’t even sure if she really wants to search for her. As she begins the physical process of looking for Josie, Kit allows herself to fall into past memories. Josie and Kit’s childhood was far from idyllic, but there were some good parts: days (and nights) spent on the beach and a lost teenage boy who showed up one day and then never left. Among the good lie the bad: multiple tragedies and traumas that scarred the girls and left their family in ruins. Each family member carries their own baggage, their own secrets from long ago that they have carried for years.

Rock Paper Scissors by Alice Feeney

“If every story had a happy ending, then we’d have no reason to start again. Life is all about choices, and learning how to put ourselves back together when we fall apart. Which we all do. Even the people who pretend they don’t.”
– Alice Feeney, Rock Paper Scissors

Rock Paper Scissors  is Alice Feeney’s latest twisty psychological thriller that centers around how well you really know the people you are in a relationship with. Everyone has little secrets tucked away, things they don’t necessarily see as lies, but they keep them hidden nonetheless.

Married couple Mr and Mrs Wright are on a holiday away. Amelia won a weekend away to a refurbished chapel in Scotland, thinking that this trip will be just what the couple needs to get their marriage back on track. Her husband Adam isn’t quite as sure. He is a screenwriter who suffers from face blindness whose work consumes him.  Adam can’t recognize anyone, so he has to rely on other body clues to try to place who they are. This trip to a chapel in the middle of nowhere during a snowstorm is not how he wants to spend his time. He has so much work to do.

The couple has a unique tradition for each of their anniversaries: they exchange traditional gifts for each year (gifts that fall as paper, cotton, pottery, tin, etc). Each year Adam’s wife also has her own tradition: she writes Adam a letter talking about how their marriage progressed during the last year. She has never let Adam read those letters until this trip. Each person has their own reasons for wanting to take this trip, but they also both know that this weekend away will result in either their marriage surviving or resulting in a break-up. The longer they stay at the chapel, the more it becomes obvious that one of them is lying and may even be actively sabotaging the other.

How well do you know your partner?

“Enjoy the stories of other people’s lives, but don’t forget to live your own.” – ― Alice Feeney, Rock Paper Scissors

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Dava Shastri’s Last Day by Kirthana Ramisetti

Domestic fiction is one of my favorite subgenres, especially novels that are set in situations that are different than my normal life. Domestic fiction is usually written by, for, and about women. It is also usually told through multiple viewpoints. My latest read fits all the above criteria!

Dava Shastri’s Last Day tells the story of Dava Shastri and her family. Dava Shastri is one of the world’s wealthiest women. Devastated by a brain cancer diagnosis at the age of seventy, Dava is determined to approach her death like she approaches everything else in her life – with planning and determination.

Dava’s reputation has always been important to her. She wants her name to live on for generations. Both her public and private legacies are of utmost importance, but her family members don’t feel quite as strong about keeping the Shastri name alive.

Dava summons her four adult children, their spouses, and children to her private island where she tells them her news. In addition to having a terminal illness, Dava has also arranged for the news of her death to be released early, so that she can read the obituaries and articles written about her before she dies. Since she spent her life dedicated to the arts and to the empowerment of women, Dava expected that the articles written after her death would focus on those topics. Instead she finds the articles to be significantly more scandalous, focusing on two secrets that have the power to destroy her life, secrets she hoped would stay buried forever.

Now that her secrets are published, her children know and the fallout is not great. Dava must use what little time she has left to come to terms with the life she has lived and the various decisions that have led her to this point.  Most importantly she must use that time to talk it out with her family and make peace with their past, present, and future.

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The Good Sister by Sally Hepworth

“Sisterly relationships are so strange in this way. The way I can be mad at Rose but still want to please her. Be terrified of her and also want to run to her. Hate her and love her, both at the same time. Maybe when it comes to sisters, boundaries are always a little bit blurry. Blurred boundaries, I think, are what sisters do best.”
― Sally Hepworth, The Good Sister

The Good Sister tells the story of fraternal twins, Rose and Fern Castle. The two have relied on each other for their entire lives ever since their dad left and their mom was left as their sole caregiver. Their childhood wasn’t ideal or perfect, but they made it through together. Rose always looked out for Fern, but there was one time when Rose wasn’t there for Fern which resulted in a deadly mistake that has haunted Fern her entire life.

Flash forward to the present. Fern now works at her local library. She has a sensory processing disorder which means that she works hard to avoid crowds, loud noises, and bright lights as much as she can. Fern loves routine and structure, so she carefully plans out her life. She has dinner with Rose three nights a week, visits her mom, and participates in some recreational sports. Life is going on a perfectly normal steady pace. Until it isn’t.

One night at Rose’s house for dinner, Fern learns that Rose cannot get pregnant. She has a medical condition that means she will most likely never get pregnant. After researching Rose’s condition, Fern decides that she has finally found a way to pay Rose back after her years of looking out for her. Fern has decided to have a baby for Rose, but now she needs to find a father. That should be fairly easy to do!

Since Fern has made a plan, she begins putting it into motion. This journey throws up some road blocks though as Fern learns some things about her family that lead her to question what she knows to be true.

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The Soulmate Equation by Christina Lauren

‘Statistics can’t tell us what will happen, they can only tell us what might happen.’ – Christina Lauren, The Soulmate Equation

Christina Lauren’s latest published novel, The Soulmate Equation, is an exploration into love, science, and how the two intertwine. This romantic comedy is a delightful romp about what you would do if your soulmate ended up being the last person you expected them to be.

Jess is a freelance statistician. She has always loved numbers. They make sense to her when nothing else in her life does. A single mother to a young girl named Juno, Jess has managed to make life work with the help of her grandparents and her best friend Fizzy. While she finds fulfillment raising seven-year-old Juno and running stats for her clients, her love life has been basically non-existent. After yet another failed date, Jess decides she doesn’t need to find love to feel complete.

When Jess and Fizzy learn about a new matchmaking company called GeneticAlly whose chief science officer frequents the same coffee shop as them, Fizzy decides they need to discover more about what the company is actually offering. The two are invited to the company’s headquarters where they learn about the science behind GeneticAlly’s new love app. This startup claims to find your soulmate based on DNA compatibility rating thousands of  emotional and biological markers. In a desperate sad moment, Jess spits into the DNADuo kit, sends it in, and promptly forgets about it.

When a notification pings on her phone alerting her that the company has requested a meeting with her, her initial reaction is that they might want her to help running statistics. As soon as she shows up though, it’s clear that there is something else they need to discuss. Jess learns that she has 98% compatibility with another subject in the database, a number that is hard for her to believe to be true. Another item to add to her skepticism: Jess has matched with GeneticAlly’s founder and chief science officer, Dr. River Pena. River seems just as skeptical as her, but the two turn to the numbers to verify what they have been told. After all, numbers never lie.

Jess has a hard time believing that River is her soulmate, mostly because she already knows him. He is the stuck up and stubborn man who has come into the coffee house she frequents for months. How could he be her soulmate?! Genetically has a deal for her though: They will pay her to get to know River. They will expect her to go to events, do interviews, and spend one-on-one time with River. The more time the two spend with each other, the more Jess realizes why River behaves the way he does. The science doesn’t necessarily have to be at odds with the love and emotional aspect of life. River is more than she seems and so is his life’s work.

‘Destiny could also be a choice, she’d realized. To believe or not, to be vulnerable or not, to go all in or not.’ – Christina Lauren, The Soulmate Equation

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The Overnight Guest by Heather Gudenkauf

Heather Gudenkauf is an author of eight novels. She is Edgar Award nominated, which honors the best in mystery fiction, non-fiction, and television. Heather is also a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author. Her debut novel was an instant bestseller and spent 22 weeks on the New York Times list. Her books have been published in over 20 countries and have appeared on many book lists.

Heather was born in South Dakota, but moved to Iowa at the age of three with the rest of her family. Heather was born with a profound unilateral hearing impairment. As a result, she turned to books as a way to relax and retreat. She read many many books as a child, which helped fuel her desire to become a writer. Heather currently lives in Iowa with her family and her dog, Lolo.

Her latest book, The Overnight Guest, is the story of a true crime writer searching for answers. Suffering from writer’s block while working on her latest book, Wylie Lark decides to escape to an isolated farmhouse in Iowa to hopefully finish her book. She has worked to keep her distance from the residents of Burden in order to not have to answer questions about what she’s doing there and why she’s staying at such an isolated location. When Wylie learns that a big snowstorm is rolling in, she isn’t too worried. After all, she came prepared. She has a fireplace, silence, and a dog to keep her company. She also needs to finish writing her book which is more than enough to keep her busy. The only hiccup to her perfect plan: twenty years ago in the house that she is staying, two people were murdered and a girl disappeared without a trace.

The storm becomes much worse than Wylie expected. She finds herself trapped in this haunted house, trapped with the secrets of who killed those two people and trapped with her own reasons for wanting to escape her family back home. On one of her trips outside, Wylie makes a shocking discovery: a small child lying in the snow. When Wylie brings the child inside to warm them up, she immediately starts searching for answers as to why and how they ended up stranded in the middle of nowhere outside the farmhouse. While she questions them, the storm rages outside bringing more than snow, wind, and ice to her door. Wylie discovers that she isn’t as isolated as she thought she was and what she thought was true was all a lie.

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Author photo credit: Erin Kirchoff

Apples Never Fall by Liane Moriarty

Liane Moriarty is known currently for her book, Nine Perfect Strangers, which was made into a limited Hulu series. She has nine adult novels that have been translated into forty languages and have sold more than 20 million copies all over the world. Moriarty has also written three books for children. Her latest adult novel had me on my toes until the very end.

Once you’ve hit a ball there’s no point watching to see where it’s going. You can’t change its flight path now. You have to think about your next move. Not what you should have done. What you do now. – Liane Moriarty, Apples Never Fall

Apples Never Fall is her newest novel, published in 2021. The above quote stuck with me throughout the book as it served as a metaphor both for tennis, which features predominantly in this book, and for life. This is a novel about marriage, siblings, and family, and the confusion and betrayal we feel when those we cherish lash out and hurt us.

The Delaney siblings are at a loss. Amy, Logan, Troy, and Brooke are all grown and out of their parents’ home, yet they all have a strong pull back to where they grew up, especially now that their mother has gone missing, seemingly without a trace and for no good reason.

The Delaneys are well known in their community. Stan and Joy, the parents, are tennis stars who set up their own tennis academy. They have been married for fifty years and people constantly talk about what a good match they are both on and off the court. Now they have sold the tennis academy and aren’t quite sure what to do with the rest of their lives. Their four children were all tennis stars, in their own right, of course, but Stan never truly believed any of them had the ability to truly make it. It’s okay though because they are all, mostly, settled into their adult lives and seem to have a handle on the future. At least on the surface they are, but even the happiest surfaces can be hiding secrets underneath.

Everything starts to bubble up when a strange young woman named Savannah shows up on Stan and Joy’s doorstep begging for help, bleeding after a domestic violence incident with her boyfriend. Stan and Joy take her in with almost no questions asked, much to their children’s chagrin.

Flash forward: Joy goes missing and Savannah is also nowhere to be found. All the children and Stan have been questioned. The police immediately hone in on Stan because he seems to be hiding something. Their children are also not being fully honest with the police and with each other. It doesn’t help that two of them think their father is innocent while the other two think that he may have hurt their mother. The more questions that are asked, the more each family member is forced to closely reexamine what they believe to be their family truths and core memories.

I particularly enjoyed this novel because it flashes back and forth between past and present. Each major characters’ point of view is also presented, including some peripheral random characters to add some color to the story. I listened to the audiobook version and really enjoyed the Australian narrator Caroline Lee.

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A Flicker in the Dark by Stacy Willingham

“There are so many subtle ways we women subconsciously protect ourselves throughout the day; protect ourselves from shadows, from unseen predators. From cautionary tales and urban legends. So subtle, in fact, that we hardly even realize we’re doing them.”

A Flicker in the Dark is Stacy Willingham’s debut novel. It’s a twisted psychological thriller that bounces a bit between past and present; the story of a killer of young teenage girls and the devastating consequences for all involved.

Chloe Davis is working to get her life together. When she was twelve, six teenage girls went missing in her small town in Louisiana. At the end of that summer, Chloe’s father ended up confessing to the crime and was sent to prison. Her family was utterly destroyed. Her mother struggled with the truth and ends up abandoning her family when she couldn’t deal with what had happened. Chloe and her older brother Cooper are left to try to pick up the pieces of their shattered lives by themselves.

Flash forward tweny years, Chloe is working in Baton Rouge as a psychologist. She is recently engaged and preparing for her wedding. Chloe has a life of her own, a house she has worked hard on, and a job she enjoys. She worked tirelessly to get to this point of her life: to escape from her father’s shadow and have a name of her own. Sometimes though, Chloe feels out of control and like she has no idea what is happening around her. She relates a lot to her teenage patients who are troubled and trying to figure out their own lives.

Chloe’s life starts to spiral when a local teenage girl goes missing. Soon after another young girl also disappears. Chloe has flashbacks to the summer that ruined her. When Chloe tries to bring her concerns to the police and to a journalist, she is afraid that they will write her off and tell her to stop getting involved, given her history. Chloe repeatedly sees parallels between her past and present that she isn’t quite sure are real, but if they are, the idea of another killer is horrifying to her.

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