She Be Damned (Heloise Chancey Mysteries #1) by M. J. Tjia

She Be Damned (Heloise Chancey Mysteries #1) by M. J. Tjia
Publisher/Year: Legend Press, Ltd., 2017
Format: E-book (Hoopla)
Pages: 223
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐


London, 1863: prostitutes in the Waterloo area are turning up dead, their sexual organs mutilated and removed. When another girl goes missing, fears grow that the killer may have claimed their latest victim.

The police are at a loss and so it falls to courtesan and professional detective, Heloise Chancey, to investigate.

With the assistance of her trusty Chinese maid, Amah Li Leen, Heloise inches closer to the truth. But when Amah is implicated in the brutal plot, Heloise must reconsider who she can trust, before the killer strikes again.

What I thought

I loved this book, everything about it. I’m actually feeling sad to have finished it, but then I remember it’s part of a series–yay! I simply haven’t had enough of Heloise Chancey.

So where to begin? Let’s talk setting first. M. J. Tjia absolutely brought Victorian London to life, seedy parts and all. Between the description of her surroundings and the variety of true-to-life characters we meet, I loved the feeling of authenticity and of being transported somewhere while I read.

As for the crime-solving, murder mystery aspect–folks, this story was gruesome. In lieu of listing every trigger warning in the books, let me simply advise you to tread lightly here. There were parts that were extremely difficult for even me to read, and that’s saying something. As for the mystery, although the reveal did feel slightly abrupt, it was no less horrifying. And kudos to the author–I never saw it coming.

My favorite part of this book, hands down, was Heloise. She was strong, independent, and witty. She was confident, almost to the point of being arrogant, and she embraced (and was proud of) her sexuality and her femininity. And of course I loved her feminist attitude. I couldn’t help but rage with her over the plight of sex workers, and women in general, of the time. For as gruesome and disheartening as this story could be, I couldn’t help but admire Heloise because she was also funny and raunchy and sexy and lively and kind. She was the kind of character who felt like a friend.

Despite all of my rambling, suffice it to say–I loved this book and truly can’t wait to read the next one. This book was so much more than the run-of-the-mill cozy mystery I was expecting. As I mentioned, this book won’t be for everyone–you can feel free to message me with any questions. But if you’re comfortable, I wholeheartedly think you should give it a try. I promise: you haven’t met a character before quite like Heloise!

Salvation Station by Kathryn Schleich

Salvation Station by Kathryn Schleich
Publisher/Year: She Writes Press, 2020
Format: Paperback
Pages: 313
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐


Despite her years of experience investigating homicides for the force, Captain Linda Turner is haunted by the murders of the Hansen family. The two small children, clothed in tattered Disney pajamas, were buried with their father, a pastor, in the flower garden behind a church parsonage in Lincoln, Nebraska. But Mrs. Hansen is nowhere to be found–and neither is the killer.

In St. Louis, the televangelist Ray Williams is about to lose his show–until one of his regular attendees approaches him with an idea that can save it. Despite his initial misgivings, Ray agrees to give it a try. He can’t deny his attraction to this woman, and besides, she’s assured him the plan is just–God gave her the instructions in a dream.

Multiple storylines entwine throughout this compelling mystery, delving into the topics of murder, religious faith, and the inherent dangers in blindly accepting that faith as truth. While Reverend Williams is swept up in his newfound success and plans for his wedding, Captain Turner can only hope that she and her team will catch the Hansens’ cunning killer–before more bodies surface.

What I thought

Thank you to She Writes Press and Book Publicity Services for a free finished copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

This was a good, solid debut, and I’m glad I had the opportunity to read this one! The first thing that caught my attention with this book was its cover–how deliciously creepy! I was also drawn in because in a world of thrillers, Salvation Station certainly stands out with its unique premise. This turned out to be an easy read with writing that flowed well and an interesting plot that kept the story moving forward. One thing that I do want to note is that rather than being described as a murder mystery, this is more of a suspense novel. You find out almost immediately “who did it,” and the question shifts to “will they catch the culprit before it happens again?” Still, I enjoyed the multiple perspectives employed to tell the story. I will say that I much preferred Linda’s section about solving the crime. I found that the heavy religious tones, although not necessarily preachy were a bit much for me.

Overall, I’m glad I had the chance to read this one and it was a good debut entry into the suspense genre!

Firewatching (Detective Sergeant Adam Tyler #1) by Russ Thomas

Firewatching (Detective Sergeant Adam Tyler #1) by Russ Thomas
Publisher/Year: Putnam, 2020
Format: ARC – paperback
Pages: 358
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐


A taut and ambitious police procedural debut introducing Detective Sergeant Adam Tyler, a cold-case reviewer who lands a high-profile murder investigation, only to find the main suspect is a recent one-night stand…

When financier Gerald Cartwright disappeared from his home six years ago, it was assumed he’d gone on the run from his creditors. But then a skeleton is found bricked up in the cellar of Cartwright’s mansion, and it becomes clear Gerald never left alive.

As the sole representative of South Yorkshire’s Cold Case Review Unit, Detective Sergeant Adam Tyler is not expected to get results, but he knows this is the case that might finally kick-start his floundering career. Luckily, he already has a suspect. Unluckily, that suspect is Cartwright’s son, the man Tyler slept with the night before. To further complicate matters, tied up in his investigation are an elderly woman with dementia who’s receiving mysterious threats referencing a past she can’t remember, and am ambitious young Muslim constable seeking to prove herself on a force of good old boys.

Someone in the city knows exactly what happened to Gerald. Someone who is watching from the shadows. Someone who has an unhealthy affinity with fire…

What I thought

Thank you to Putnam for a free ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review!

Hello, reader friends! Today I’m bringing to your attention an excellent debut novel and a solid addition to the crime fiction genre.

I want to start out by saying that I haven’t read much crime fiction, but I have always wanted to read a detective series from the beginning because there’s nothing I love more than getting to know and becoming attached to a character over time. After having finished this book, I can already tell that this is going to be the case with DS Tyler. His character was my favorite part of this book! This is going to be a weird comparison, but if you know, you know–Adam’s personality reminded me of Geralt from The Witcher. And I love me a gruff lone wolf with a sarcastic, begrudging sense of humor!

As for the mystery, I’m never good at figuring them out, but the reveal at the end took me TOTALLY by surprise. I think I had suspected nearly every character but that one. I do want to point out that the pacing of this one is sort of slow (at least until the end), but I think that is more to do with me–one of the last books I read was a psychological thriller, which flew by. Firewatching is not so much a thriller, but rather a crime fiction/police procedural/mystery. These stories tend to progress a little slower, but they’re just as good. I’m merely pointing out that the juxtaposition of the two different genres made the pacing a little jarring for me, but I soon settled in and found myself absorbed.

Overall, I really enjoyed this read, and I think crime fiction junkies will, too. I’ll be anxiously awaiting the next installment!

The Whisper Man by Alex North

The Whisper Man by Alex North
Publisher/Year: Celadon Books, August 2019
Format: E-galley
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐


In this dark, suspenseful thriller, Alex North weaves a multi-generational tale of a father and son caught in the crosshairs of an investigation to catch a serial killer preying on a small town.

After the sudden death of his wife, Tom Kennedy believes a fresh start will help him and his young son Jake heal. A new beginning, a new house, a new town. Featherbank.

But the town has a dark past. Twenty years ago, a serial killer abducted and murdered five residents. Until Frank Carter was finally caught, he was nicknamed “The Whisper Man,” for he would lure his victims out by whispering at their windows at night.

Just as Tom and Jake settle into their new home, a young boy vanishes. His disappearance bears an unnerving resemblance to Frank Carter’s crimes, reigniting old rumors that he preyed with an accomplice. Now, detectives Amanda Beck and Pete Willis must find the boy before it is too late, even if that means Pete has to revisit his great foe in prison: The Whisper Man.

And then Jake begins acting strangely. He hears a whispering at his window…

What I thought

Thank you to NetGalley & Celadon Books for the free e-galley of this book! This does not affect my opinion presented here in this review.

I read my first Stephen King novel at the ripe old age of 13. Since then, I’ve read through a majority of his works. All of this is simply to say–unless it’s written by Uncle Steve, I’m generally not phased or spooked by much. That’s why it absolutely blows my mind that this novel gave me the serious creeps, so much so that I had to only read it in the morning in order to avoid the nightmares it was giving me. I mean, come on:

If you leave a door half open,
Soon you’ll hear the whispers spoken.
If you play outside alone,
Soon you won’t be going home.
If your window’s left unlatched,
You’ll hear him tapping at the glass.
If you’re lonely, sad, and blue,
The Whisper Man will come for you.

ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME? I refuse to go into more detail because it’s truly better if you go into this book blind. Just know that the hair on the back of my neck stood up frequently while reading this one. Children are creepy, serial killers are spine-chilling, that nursery rhyme above is nightmare-inducing, and imaginary friends are horrifying.

Besides all of the “scary stuff,” this book was just SO GOOD. As a psychological thriller, the twists and turns and multiple POVs really kept the pace moving so quickly that I could barely stand to put this down. And North’s character development was just impeccable. The characters here absolutely came to life, which added to the horror. Where this book goes above and beyond, and in my opinion is reminiscent of King himself, is that The Whisper Man is not “just” a scary book. North examines grief and father-son relationships in such a poignant way that it will evoke emotion out of just about any reader.

Like I mentioned earlier, it is absolutely unfathomable to me that this book isn’t even out yet (it debuts on August 20th), and I already can’t wait to read his next one! This book has landed squarely on my favorites of 2019 list–you’ll not want to miss this one. It was just announced as one of the August picks for BOTM, too. Whatever you have to do–get your hands on a copy of this book!

Stolen Things by R. H. Herron

Stolen Things by R. H. Herron
Publisher/Year: Dutton, 2019
Format: E-galley (via NetGalley)
Rating: ⭐⭐


A sensational crime, a missing teen, and a mother and daughter with no one to trust but themselves come together in this shocking debut thriller by R. H. Herron.

“Mama? Help me.”

Laurie Ahmadi has worked as a 911 police dispatcher in her quiet Northern California town for nearly two decades. She considers the department her family; her husband, Omid, is its first Arab American chief, and their teenaged daughter, Jojo, has grown up with the force. So when Laurie catches a 911 call and, to her horror, it’s Jojo, the whole department springs into action.

Jojo, drugged, disoriented, and in pain, doesn’t remember how she ended up at the home of Kevin Leeds, a pro football player famous for his on-the-field activism and his work with the CapB–“Citizens Against Police Brutality”–movement. She doesn’t know what happened to Kevin’s friend and trainer, whose beaten corpse is also discovered in the house. And she has no idea where her best friend Harper, who was with her earlier in the evening, could be.

But when Jojo begins to dive into Harper’s social media to look for clues to her whereabouts, Jojo uncovers a shocking secret that turns everything she knew about Harper–and the police department–on its head. With everything they thought they could rely on in question, Laurie and Jojo begin to realize that they can’t trust anyone to find Harper except themselves…and time is running out.

What I thought

Thank you to NetGalley and Dutton for the free e-galley of this book! This does not affect my opinion presented here in this review.

Unfortunately, this book turned out to be just “okay” for me. There were aspects of it that I did like, but then there were others that I didn’t, so let’s just dive in. There’s a lot going on in this novel: racism, feminism, rape, LGBTQ rights, police brutality, police corruption, mental health, and more. And while this speaks to today’s society and current events, it just felt like too much. I am all for using one’s voice to make a difference, but to me, it was just laid on too thick. It felt gimmicky, like the author was just throwing hot topics in there to get your attention.

All of that being said, my biggest issue with this novel was that so much of it felt, frankly, unbelievable. I know this took place in a “small town,” but it just seemed to me that there’s no way that Laurie and Jojo could have gotten away with some of the measure they took. Maybe I’m wrong–I have never worked for a police department–but I don’t buy it. I do want to give credit where credit’s due–what I did enjoy about this book was that, at times, it got my heart pounding, and I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough. I do want to warn readers that this one does get pretty graphic. Even I felt uncomfortable at some parts. One final point I wanted to make was that the ending felt kind of abrupt. The final chapters built up to this almost maddening pace, which was great, but then it was just over, with very little resolution.

As you can see, I felt pretty torn about this one. I didn’t hate it, but I also didn’t love it. Again, Stolen Things was just okay for me. If this one sounds like something you enjoy, I say go for it because it was a heckuva thriller. I just don´t think that personally I´d be interested in other books by this author.

The Ice Princess (Patrik Hedström #1) by Camilla Läckberg

The Ice Princess (Patrik Hedström #1) by Camilla Läckberg
Publisher/Year: Pegasus Books, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 393
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐


Returning to her hometown of Fjallbacka after the funeral of her parents, writer Erica Falck finds a community on the brink of tragedy. The death of her childhood friend, Alex, is just beginning. Her wrists slashed, her body frozen in an ice-cold bath, it appears that she has taken her own life.

Erica conceives a book about the beautiful but remote Alex, one that will answer questions about their shared past and lost friendship. While her interest grows steadily into an obsession, local detective Patrik Hedström is following his own suspicions about the case. But it is only when they start working together that the truth begins to emerge about this small town with a deeply disturbing past…

Already a sensation across the globe, Camilla Läckberg and her penetrating portrayal of human nature at its darkest are sure to place her alongside Scandinavian greats like Henning Mankel and Stieg Larsson.

What I thought

I couldn’t have asked for a better introduction to Scandinavian crime fiction! This one seems to be hit or miss with readers, but I, for one, enjoyed it immensely. This was my latest “work” read, and I had the hardest time putting it down when breaks would end. I was just absolutely immersed in this one. The characters came to life, and the mystery kept me guessing the entire time. I know that some found fault with the way that clues were “revealed,” but I just found that to be the author’s style, and it didn’t bother me. If anything, it just kept me flipping pages to find out what had been discovered. I also enjoyed the subplots here, as well, and I liked that the added depth helped to develop the characters more. I especially found myself attached to Erica and Patrik, and I’m glad that the series continues to follow them. I can’t wait to read the next book! It’s actually nice that this book didn’t end on some big cliffhanger–there’s enough left open to make me want to continue the story, but at my own pace and when I’m in the mood for the genre again, instead of almost feeling coerced by an abrupt cliffhanger ending. One final thing I wanted to note was that I was also impressed by the seamless translation. Overall, this was a great, entertaining read and a perfect introduction to a genre that I’m looking forward to reading more often!

Twisted Reasons (Twisted Trilogy #1) by Geza Tatrallyay


Twisted Reasons (Twisted Trilogy #1) by Geza Tatrallyay
Publisher/Year: Deux Voiliers Publishing, 2014
Format: E-book
Pages: 317
Rating: 🌟🌟


Synopsis (from Goodreads)

TWISTED REASONS, the first in a trilogy of international thrillers based on arms and human trafficking from a modern ‘rogue’ Russian state, is the tale of two college friends who get drawn into the heist of nuclear material from a former Soviet site. Arriving in Vienna to find his friend Adam Kallay, an official at the International Atomic Energy Agency, presumed dead, crime novelist Greg Martens teams up with Interpol Agent Anne Rossiter and Julia, Kallay’s Russian girlfriend, to solve the case and track the disappearance from a former Soviet nuclear site of enough uranium to make a bomb. The story moves from espionage entrepȏt Vienna to radioactivity contaminated Chelyabinsk and to front-line Georgia, as the three combat arms merchants allied to Russian secret police to prevent the stolen uranium from getting into the wrong hands. Along the way, Greg learns brutal truths about himself and his family.

What I thought

I’m going to be honest, this book just wasn’t for me. It was okay. I do think there are readers who would enjoy this. It really was an intriguing & suspenseful storyline. I am not very familiar with the history or the layout of the area of the world where the story takes place, so it was a little hard for me to follow at times. Again, that’s something that was more of a personal preference than any fault of the book. It was very clear that Mr. Tatrallyay knew his material, and he came across as very knowledgeable. There were some scenes that made me uncomfortable but I think that’s because this book was not something I’d normally read. I did find this story very entertaining though & I think this would be a great read for fans of crime thrillers with a touch of history.

Note: I did receive a free copy of this book from the author. This in no way affected my review.