‘One of Us is Dead’ by Jeneva Rose

“She was a forgive-and-forget kind of person. I, on the other hand, always believed there was another option on the table. Forgive, forget, or fucking never let it go.”
― Jeneva Rose, One of Us Is Dead

The above quote perfectly summarizes Jeneva Rose’s novel, One of Us is Dead. This is a twisty piece of psychological fiction that tells the story of female friends and the manipulative behavior that runs rampant in their town. I enjoy reading novels that have multiple narrators, especially when some of them prove to be unreliable. This book gave me strong Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty vibes – rich women, close-knit neighborhood, and secrets galore.

Shannon used to be the queen bee of Buckhead. Her husband Bryce is a politician with big goals – eventually he would love to be president. Everything is perfect until Bryce hit a midlife crisis, dumped Shannon, and replaced her with a much younger woman named Crystal. Even though Crystal and Bryce are now married, Shannon is convinced that Bryce will come back to her and if not, she wants revenge.

Crystal is a young innocent woman from Texas who had no idea that Bryce was married when the two of them got together. She has no idea what she’s in for as she tries to make in-roads with the women of Buckhead. Don’t count her out though – Crystal’s past is not as innocent as everyone thinks.

Olivia believes she should be the one in charge in Buckhead. When she came to Buckhead five years ago, Shannon said something to her that Olivia took offence, setting the two women on a collision course of competition ever since. Olivia wants to take everything from Shannon. With Bryce effectively neutralizing Shannon’s power by divorcing her, Olivia isn’t afraid to pull out every nasty manipulative, backstabbing, and underhanded trick at her disposal, no matter the cost.

Jenny may not be one of the rich women of Buckhead, but the fact that she owns Glow, the most exclusive salon in town, means that Jenny knows all of her clients’ secrets and desires. She sees it all, remembers it all, and carries the ammunition she needs to take down whomever she chooses in the group, especially if they threaten her livelihood.

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.

Dark Roads by Chevy Stevens

Chevy Stevens’ latest novel Dark Roads is a dark and unsettling novel. It tells the stories of the missing and the dead, those left behind and those struggling to prove the truth.

Women have been going missing for years in British Columbia. The Cold Creek Highway runs almost five hundred miles through the wilderness in British Columbia. Locals pass warnings to women who decide to travel along the highway. Hitchhiking is strongly discouraged, but both motorists and hitchhikers alike have been disappearing for decades. No one has been brought to justice and women continue to live in fear.

Hailey McBride and her family have lived in Cold Creek for years. Her father instilled in her many truths: how to respect the wilderness, survive the land, and to, most importantly, never travel the highway alone. After he died, Hailey spiraled out of control. Stuck living with her aunt, her young cousin, and her aunt’s police officer husband, Hailey yearns for some normalcy. Her aunt’s husband wants to control Hailey. He keeps showing up wherever she is, issues vague threats, and gives off strong menacing vibes. Hailey starts traveling the highway alone to hangout with friends. Soon she becomes overwhelmed with everything and decides to vanish into the mountains with the help of her friend. Hailey hopes that the locals will believe she left town, but rumors start spreading that she was instead taken by the highway killer.

Flash forward a year – Beth Chevalier arrives in Cold Creek. Her sister Amber, who was friends with Hailey, was found murdered in Cold Creek and Beth needs closure. Beth starts waitressing at the local diner, just like Amber had done. Beth needs answers, but as she begins digging, the truth she seeks puts her in incredible danger. If Beth isn’t careful, she could end up a victim of the highway killer too.

This book is available  in the following formats:

A Slow Fire Burning by Paula Hawkins

‘She felt quite light-headed. Low blood sugar, maybe, or perhaps it was the dizzying effect of watching her horizons, narrowed for so long, expanding once again.’

Paula Hawkins’ latest thriller A Slow Fire Burning is a book that messes with your mind, but in a good way. Hawkins has written a book that talks about how far someone is willing to go to find peace (or revenge).

Someone has been killed. A young man was found gruesomely murdered in his London houseboat. When the authorities start investigating, questions begin to mount surrounding three women who knew him and the others living in his periphery.

Laura is a troubled young woman who was the last person seen both with the victim and in his home. Their one-night stand was fraught with violence, something that Laura admits to the police when questioned. Laura was in a devastating car accident when she was young that left her hot-tempered, rash, and dangerous. Others judge her, something that has left Laura living as a loner.

Miriam knows all too well about how easy it is to get caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. As the person who lives in the houseboat next to the dead man, Miriam has a unique insight into his life, plus she’s nosy. She also knows that just because she saw Laura leaving the houseboat covered in blood, that doesn’t mean she killed him. Miriam has been taken advantage of one too many times, so she will do whatever it takes to clear Laura of any wrongdoing.

Carla’s nephew was just brutally murdered. Her sister died in an accident eight weeks earlier. So much tragedy in such a short amount of time has left her completely stricken and at a loss. Carla no longer trusts anyone and views those around her as damaged creatures. All she wants is peace. Or does she?

Others circulate behind the scenes: Carla’s husband Theo and the women who lives next door to the deceased man’s mother. Everyone in this story is filled with resentment. While their reasons may be varied, they all desire to right the wrongs perpetrated against them. Their journeys to revenge will lead them to peace or destruction, risks they are all willing to take.

This book is also available in the following formats:

Local Woman Missing by Mary Kubica

Mary Kubica’s latest thriller Local Woman Missing ends with a twist I didn’t see coming. Women in a tight-knit community keep disappearing without a trace, leaving those they have left behind scrambling for any clue to their whereabouts.

Shelby Tebow was the first to go missing. Ten days after, Meredith Dickey and her six-year-old daughter Delilah disappear just blocks away from where Shelby was last seen. No one knows what happened to these three. Since they disappeared in the middle of the neighborhood, people are noticeably fearful that a kidnapper and/or killer is at loose in the area. Since the incidents happened so close together, rumors swirl that the two may be connected. Searches are conducted all over town and instead of bringing answers, more questions are unearthed. The cases goes cold.

Flash forward eleven years. Delilah has returned. No one knows where she came from, who took her, or what happened to her while she was gone. The more the police question her, the more convoluted the whole situation becomes. Just when answers seem to be right at their fingertips, the case takes a turn that no one expects.

This novel is told through several people’s timelines, both in the past and present. Told from multiple points of views, readers are privy to their wide range of emotions. They are confused, hurt, scared, tired, resentful, and unreliable. The adults are flawed, the children need champions, and the mysterious cold cases only add to the terror. I’m glad the author chose to tell this story through multiple viewpoints and by bouncing between past and present. It left me wanting to know more about certain characters and what would happen to them in the future.

This book is also available in the following formats:

My Lovely Wife by Samantha Downing

Have you ever wondered about the secret lives of serial killers? Samantha Downing’s debut novel My Lovely Wife examines what would happen if a married couple decided to start killing.

Tobias and Millicent are a normal couple. They met, fell in love, had kids, and moved to the suburbs. They have everything a family could ever want. Only it wasn’t enough. They got bored.

Millicent and Tobias look like a normal couple. They are active in their communities, have goals for themselves, and do all the normal things that families and couples do. They even have secrets to help them keep their marriage alive. The only hiccup: their secrets are, shall we say, different than others. They get away with murder.

It’s exciting. The whole process. Finding a target, following them, figure out how they want to murder. It’s definitely spiced up their marriage. Everything is perfect until the moment when it all comes crashing down and they realize that what brought them together as a couple has the potential to tear their family apart forever.

This book is also available in the following formats:

The Girl from Widow Hills by Megan Miranda

Megan Miranda examines the effect of media sensationalism in the aftermath of a tragic event in her latest book, The Girl From Widow Hills. Everyone may think that they know the true story, but in reality, the truth is more twisted than anyone could ever believe.

Arden Maynor is the girl from Widow Hills. When she was six years old, Arden was swept away by a rainstorm while she was sleepwalking in the middle of the night. She went missing for days. While her story may have begun locally, it quickly gained traction and became national news. People from all over flocked to Widow Hills to help search for Arden. Prayer vigils and search parties were set up as rescuers combed the area searching for any sign of where she could be.

Against all odds, Arden was found days later alive and clinging to a storm drain. After her rescue, she became a living miracle. Her mother wrote a book. Fame swallowed what little sense of normalcy Arden had left. People sent letters, both positive and negative, as they all demanded that Arden make something important out of her life since she had survived. They wanted recompense for all the time and money that they poured into the search for her and for her recovery after she was found. On the anniversary every year, the publicity worsened. It all became too much.

Arden disappeared. She changed her name and tried to make a new life for herself. Now living hundreds of miles away from Widow Hills, Arden goes by Olivia. She has has stayed out of the media’s attention for years and started a new life. As the twentieth anniversary of her rescue creeps ever closer, Olivia is sure that the media will track her down and force her to live out the horrors of that time and the subsequent messiness after her rescue. Becoming increasingly uneasy, Olivia believes she is being watched. She has started sleepwalking again, sometimes waking up outside her house. One night, Olivia wakes up in her yard with the corpse of a man she knows from her past laying at her feet. What has she done? Why is he there? Olivia soon realizes the tranquility she has had for the last few years is going to disappear and havoc will rush back into her life. She is once again going to become the center of the story and there is nothing she can do to stop it.

This book is also available in the following formats:

Dead to Her by Sarah Pinborough

Once a cheat, always a cheat.

Dead to Her by Sarah Pinborough is a twisty psychological thriller that tells the story of a crafty second wife who will do anything to come out on top.

Marcie is determined. Determined to keep her husband interested in her so he won’t leave her. Determined to keep the life of luxury that she currently has forever. Determined to never end up back the way she started. Marcie has secrets and those secrets could destroy the life she’s created. Lucky for her, Marcie has had years of practice keeping those secrets and the stakes are even higher for her now.

Marcie worked hard for her marriage with Jason. Never mind the fact that Marcie and Jason’s relationship began as an illicit affair and that she is much younger than him. When she moved to Savannah, Georgia to start her new life with Jason, she had to deal with backlash from his ex-wife, their joint friends, and the people that Jason works with. Her new life filled with country clubs, yachts, and giant houses is getting harder and harder for her to maintain no matter how hard she tries. Her relationship with Jason is becoming strained as well.

Their relationship becomes even more strained when Jason’s boss comes home from his trip to London with a brand new wife in tow. The new Mrs. William Radford IV has some big shoes to fill and she is definitely not what everyone expected. Keisha is gorgeous, young, attractive, sexy, reckless, and black – and most importantly she quickly takes over Marcie’s place as the beautiful and best looking second wife.

Marcie begins to feel uneasy when she notices the spark between Jason and Keisha. The two have an instant magnetic connection that puts Marcie immediately on edge. She starts working harder to keep Jason’s interest, but nothing she does seems to be working. Keisha and Jason begin to get closer and closer while Marcie tries to destroy the bond the two have cultivated from the inside. Marcie decides the only way to survive is to get revenge on the two. Insecure in her relationships, Marcie knows that if she loses Jason, she will find herself struggling to maintain even a fracture of her current lifestyle. She may have married into Jason’s world, but she will never truly be a part of it. How dare Keisha try to steal her life from her! Keisha has no idea who she’s messing with.

This book is also available in the following format:

Home Before Dark by Riley Sager

Maggie Holt was too young to remember the terrifying time she spent at Baneberry Hall, the expansive Victorian mansion her parents purchased in rural Vermont nearly 25 years earlier.  Maggie, along with her parents Ewan and Jess, lived at Baneberry Hall for only three weeks before sheer terror drove them to flee in the middle of the night.  Now nearly 30, Maggie has to face the reality of not only the recent death of her father, but yet again she has to face the skepticism and criticism regarding his best selling book, House of Horrors.  Her father’s book detailed the paranormal activity and deep secrets of the home’s history.  Author Riley Sager merges the past and present as well as the suspenseful and supernatural in Home Before Dark.

On her father’s deathbed she learns that she is the new owner of Baneberry Hall.  As a restorer of old homes, Maggie’s goal is to make the needed updates and sell the home as quickly as possible.  Upon moving into the house temporarily, Maggie begins to  doubt that her father invented many of the stories detailed in House of Horrors.  She begins to meet many of the townspeople portrayed in his book.  They have long memories and still harbor mixed emotions toward her family and the book.  As odd occurrences begin to spook Maggie, she begins to question everything that she has doubted her entire life – are there sinister evil spirits in Baneberry Hall or did her father invent the phenomenons that he claimed were true?

Home Before Dark is the second Riley Sager book that I have read and have thoroughly enjoyed both titles.  I would highly recommend his books if you enjoy the psychological suspense genre peppered with a little horror and supernatural elements.  In addition to the print book, Home Before Dark is also available as an eBook through Overdrive.

 

Take Me Apart by Sara Sligar

The lives of famous artists has always fascinated me. You get a tiny glimpse of their lives when you visit museums, but that’s hardly the full story. Sara Sligar’s debut book, Take Me Apartlets readers look into the background of a photographer as people try to figure out what really happened to her.

Take Me Apart by Sara Sligar talks about the history of a famous photographer through the eyes of an ex-journalist hired by her son. Miranda Brand is a famous photographer who died mysteriously when she was at the peak of her career. Miranda left behind a grieving husband and a young son who had to pick up the shattered pieces of their lives. The whole community of Callinas, California was shocked and wondered what really happened to Miranda. Her artwork became even more priceless and her agent was able to sell what he had left of hers for very high prices.

Decades later, Miranda’s son Theo heads back to the house where he grew up. His father has recently died and Theo has decided to clean up the house. He hires ex-journalist Kate Aitken to archive Miranda’s work and personal effects. She begins the arduous process of organizing her materials and finds herself at the center of the rumor mill surrounding the Brand family and their house. The community is still telling stories full of rumors and somewhat shocking details about Miranda’s life, while Kate is finding out bits and pieces of her true life. Miranda seemed to be crumbling under the pressures of family, marriage, and trying to balance her artistic ambition with being a new mother. While she works to catalog all of Miranda’s papers, Kate is continuously haunted by secrets from her own past. When a surprising discovery related to Miranda falls into her lap, Kate’s curiosity begins to tip out of her control, leading her down a spiral that concerns all those around her.