The Devil You Know (Detective Margaret Nolan: Book 3) by P.J. Tracy

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press, Minotaur Books

Date of publication: January 17th, 2023

Genre: Mystery, Fiction, Suspense, Thriller, Crime, Mystery Thriller, Contemporary, Adult

Series: Detective Margaret Nolan

Deep into the Dark—Book 1

Desolation Canyon—Book 2

The Devil You Know—Book 3

Purchase Links: Kindle | Audible | B&N | AbeBooks | Alibris | Powells | IndieBound | Indigo | BetterWorldBooks

Goodreads Synopsis:

LAPD Detective Margaret Nolan returns in The Devil You Know, the next book in the series where P. J. Tracy “seems to have found her literary sweet spot” (New York Times Book Review).

Los Angeles has many faces: the real LA where regular people live and work, the degenerate underbelly of any big city, and the rarified world of wealth, power, and celebrity. LAPD Detective Margaret Nolan’s latest case plunges her into this insular realm of privilege, and gives her a glimpse of the darkness behind the glitter.

The body of beloved actor Evan Hobbes is found in the rubble of a Malibu rockslide a day after a fake video ruins his career. It’s not clear to Nolan if it’s an accident, a suicide, or a murder, and things get murkier as the investigation expands to his luminary friends and colleagues. Meanwhile, Hobbes’ agent is dealing with damage control, his psychotic boss, and a woman he’s scorned. But when his powerful brother-in-law is murdered, he and Nolan both find themselves entangled in a scandalous deception of deadly proportion that shakes the very foundation of Hollywood’s untouchables.


First Line:

The ocean was singing in the hushed undulating tones of low tide on this still, damp night.

The Devil You Know by P.J. Tracy

While reading this book, I realized I need to read more mysteries that are only mysteries. I read romance, paranormal, and horror mysteries but never just plain secrets (if that makes sense). So, I was eager to read The Devil You Know. While I liked the book (and the story), I needed clarification during parts of the book. I don’t particularly appreciate being confused when I am reading. That did make for a less-than-ideal reading situation for me.

The Devil You Know had an exciting plotline. Detective Nolan has been assigned a disturbing case. A famous actor has been discovered dead in a rockslide. The death is suspicious because the day before, he had been the subject of a deepfake video that ended his career. Within a few days, the top executive where that actor worked is found murdered. The person that links the actor and the executive: the agent representing him and his family ties to the executive. It is up to Nolan to determine if the actor was murdered, committed suicide, or died in an accident. While doing that, she is assisting in the murder investigation of the executive. What Nolan finds out is so earth-shattering that it will shake her to the core. What does she find out? Who was willing to frame a well-liked actor in a deepfake video? Why? And how is the executive’s death connected to it?

The Devil You Know is the 3rd book in that Detective Margaret Nolan series. While readers can read this as a standalone, I recommend reading the books in order. Some parts of the book made me scratch my head because I didn’t know the backstories.

The characters in The Devil You Know were well-written, but I felt a certain disconnect with them. If I had read the first two books, I would have understood more about Nolan’s background. I also would have understood more about some of the secondary characters.

  • Detective Nolan—I liked her. She was smart, and she worked well with others. But there was also a sad element to her character. I feel it was because of her brother’s death (which is linked to another secondary character). She also emphasized with the victims’ families and, weirdly enough, the murderer. I loved seeing her process of finding out who the murderer was.

The Devil You Know fits perfectly in with the mystery genre. I loved the red herrings that she put out!! Talk about distracting, and I did feel bad for those two women (as vile as they were). The author kept me guessing until the end.

The storyline with Detective Nolan, the actor’s death, the deepfake, and the investigation were wonderfully written. The author had me double guessing if it was an accident (because of testimony from his friend/hostess of the party). Even when it was determined a murder (and no, not a spoiler, the detectives figured it out fairly early), I loved watching the investigation turn to suspects. There was another murder (with the same MO) and the revelation of the murderer. I was shocked at who it was because I didn’t see it coming. I also did feel bad for that person because of the trauma that person endured. But still, no excuse. Oh, and let’s not forget the deepfake. That was the cherry on top of this whole investigation. Once they figured out who it was, it was all downhill.

The storyline with Detective Nolan, the executive’s death, and the investigation were as wonderfully written as the first investigation. The author kept this one more under wraps than the other investigation. But still, I liked seeing how the detectives investigated it in tandem with the actor’s murder. There was a twist to that plotline that wasn’t revealed until the very end of the book. One that made me go, “Holy crap.” Because whoever went to jail for his murder didn’t kill him. The real killer’s identity stunned me.

The storyline with the agent, murders, his relationship with the movie star, and then his murder did take me for a ride. For the longest time, I thought the same thing Detective Nolan did. He did it and covered it up. Of course, there were a few red herrings sprinkled in that storyline. The big twist in that one was how the detectives figured everything out. I won’t say what, but he was a pretty intelligent guy for doing what he did.

I went back and forth on putting a trigger warning on this book. I ultimately decided to do it because what was discussed was disturbing. My trigger warnings are mentions of child pornography, deepfake videos, drug use, and alcohol use. If any of these triggers you, I highly suggest not reading this book.

The end of The Devil You Know was okay. The author wrapped up the first two storylines, and I thought they were over. But then the author tacked on that final chapter that blew everything about the second murder out of the water. It was indeed a twist that took me by surprise.

I would recommend The Devil You Know to anyone over 21. There are language, violence, and sexual situations. Also, see my trigger warnings.

I want to thank St. Martin’s Press, Minotaur Books, NetGalley, and P.J. Tracy for allowing me to read and review The Devil You Know. All opinions stated in this review are mine.


If you enjoyed reading The Devil You Know, you will enjoy reading these books:

The Nightmare Man by J.H. Markert

Publisher: Crooked Lane Books

Date of publication: January 10th, 2023

Genre: Horror, Fiction, Adult, Thriller, Mystery, Suspense, Mystery Thriller, Crime, Writing, Books about Writing, Holiday, Halloween

Purchase Links: Kindle | Audible | B&N | AbeBooks | Alibris | Powells | IndieBound | Indigo | BetterWorldBooks

Goodreads Synopsis:

T. Kingfisher meets Cassandra Khaw in a chilling horror novel that illustrates the fine line between humanity and monstrosity.

Blackwood mansion looms, surrounded by nightmare pines, atop the hill over the small town of New Haven. Ben Bookman, bestselling novelist and heir to the Blackwood estate, spent a weekend at the ancestral home to finish writing his latest horror novel, The Scarecrow. Now, on the eve of the book’s release, the terrible story within begins to unfold in real life.

Detective Mills arrives at the scene of a gruesome murder: a family butchered and bundled inside cocoons stitched from corn husks, and hung from the rafters of a barn, eerily mirroring the opening of Bookman’s latest novel. When another family is killed in a similar manner, Mills, along with his daughter, rookie detective Samantha Blue, is determined to find the link to the book—and the killer—before the story reaches its chilling climax.

As the series of “Scarecrow crimes” continues to mirror the book, Ben quickly becomes the prime suspect. He can’t remember much from the night he finished writing the novel, but he knows he wrote it in The Atrium, his grandfather’s forbidden room full of numbered books. Thousands of books. Books without words.

As Ben digs deep into Blackwood’s history he learns he may have triggered a release of something trapped long ago—and it won’t stop with the horrors buried within the pages of his book.


First Line:

Detective Winchester Mills smelled the Petersons’ barn before he saw it.

The Nightmare Man by J.H. Markert

Horror is one of my favorite genres to read. I love getting scared just from reading a book. Of course, that does backfire on me when I read these books alone and before bed. But that is something I have learned to deal with over the years. So, when I got the invite to review The Nightmare Man, I jumped on it. I am glad that I did because this book was creepy and scary at the same time.

The Nightmare Man had an exciting plotline. Ben Bookman (don’t you love his name!!) is signing books at his local Barnes and Noble when a local farmer approaches him, accuses him of stealing his nightmare, and commits suicide. Meanwhile, Detective Winchester Mills and his estranged daughter, Detective Samantha Blue, are investigating a series of murders identical to the last book Ben has written. This investigation sets into motion a series of events that cause Ben to question his sanity. It also strains an already rocky relationship between Detective Mills and his daughter to the breaking point. But, it also reveals a common source. All murderers had been treated at the Asylum that Ben’s grandfather founded. And there are ties to the disappearance of Ben’s younger brother, Devon, years earlier. How is everything tied together? Why has to crime rate gone up so much in recent years? And why can’t Ben remember the night his grandfather took him into the room with the tree? How does that tie into Devon’s disappearance? And what about the books? What is so special about them? Everything is answered in the jaw-dropping ending.

The Nightmare Man is a fast-paced book in the creepy town of Crooked Tree. I missed where this book should be set (if it was even mentioned). But, if I had to guess, I would assume it was one of the mid-western states.

I loved the characters in this book. Every single one of them, except for Ben’s daughter, was damaged in some way. Also, the main characters (Ben and Detective Mills) are unreliable narrators, with Ben being more unpredictable than the Detective. That added to the general air of confusion going on in the book. I LOVED it!!

  • Ben—I initially didn’t like him and believed he could have done the murders. His marriage was on the rocks, with him thinking that his wife (who was pregnant) was cheating on him, and to add a cherry on top, he was the prime suspect in the murders of a family in Crooked Tree. Years earlier, he was also a suspect in his brother’s disappearance, but Detective Mills couldn’t make anything stick. When he finished his last book, he was on a coke and booze binge and couldn’t remember what happened at Blackstone that weekend. By the end of the book, my view of him did 180. Things were revealed that made me do a double take.
  • Detective Mills—Again, this was another character that I initially didn’t like. He was gruff, a functioning alcoholic, and had a history of abuse toward his daughter. But, he was also pitiful. The love of his life died before him, his relationship with his daughter deteriorated after he hurt one of his grandsons, and he kept having nightmares. He was one hundred percent gunning for Ben for the murders in the barn, but he was also savvy enough to know that something wasn’t right. There was a neat twist in his plotline that didn’t make sense at first. But, at the end of the book, it did, and in a way, he did redeem himself.

The Nightmare Man fits perfectly into the horror genre. The author did a great job thinking up new spins on old fears turned nightmares. I will never look again at scarecrows or the Tooth Fairy the same way. His spin on those (and others) was enough to cause me not to sleep at night. I will never get the visual image of a woman pulling teeth out of a young kid’s mouth and laughing out of my head.

There were two significant storylines in The Nightmare Man. The one with Ben, his demons, his family, and what happened that weekend at Blackstone. The other one was the investigation of the murders, Detective Mills’s relationship with Blue, and the past cases in which he made arrests. Everything is tied together at the end. And after they are tied together, the author throws in a couple of twists that made me question everything I had read.

There are trigger warnings in The Nightmare Man. They are mental illness (and how it was portrayed in the book), drugs, alcohol, torture of children, torture of imprisoned people (in the Asylum), cutting, and implied grooming of a child.

The end of The Nightmare Man was utter chaos. There was so much revealed that it was almost too much to unpack. I had to reread the ending three times to understand what had happened. There were a couple of twists that took me by surprise. There was also a death that I wasn’t expecting. I liked the epilogue, and from the final lines of that, I got the vibe that there may be a sequel. You can’t end a book the way the author did, and there not be a sequel!!

I would recommend The Nightmare Man to anyone over 21. There is explicit violence, explicit language, and moderate sexual situations. See also my trigger warnings.


If you enjoyed reading The Nightmare Man, you will enjoy reading this books:

Fatal Intent by Tammy Euliano

Publisher: Oceanview Publishing

Date of Publication: March 22nd, 2022

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Medical, Fiction, Suspense, Mystery Thriller, Audiobook, Crime

Purchase Links: Kindle | Audible | B&N | AbeBooks | Alibris | Powells | IndieBound | Indigo | BetterWorldBooks

Goodreads Synopsis:

End-of-life care—or assisted death

When her elderly patients start dying at home days after minor surgery, anesthesiologist Dr. Kate Downey wants to know why. The surgeon, not so much. “Old people die, that’s what they do,” is his response. When Kate presses, surgeon Charles Ricken places the blame squarely on her shoulders. Kate is currently on probation, and the chief of staff sides with the surgeon, leaving Kate to prove her innocence and save her own career. With her husband in a prolonged coma, it’s all she has left.

Aided by her eccentric Great Aunt Irm, a precocious medical student, and the lawyer son of a victim, Kate launches her own unorthodox investigation of these unexpected deaths. As she comes closer to exposing the culprit’s identity, she faces professional intimidation, threats to her life, a home invasion, and, tragically, the suspicious death of someone close to her. The stakes escalate to the breaking point when Kate, under violent duress, is forced to choose which of her loved ones to save—and which must be sacrificed.

Perfect for fans of Kathy Reichs and Tess Gerritsen

While the books in the Kate Downey Medical Mystery Series stand on their own and can be read in any order, the publication sequence is:

Fatal Intent
Misfire
 (coming January 2023)


First Line:

I dreaded weekends. That alone set me apart from my colleagues-from humans in general-even without all the rest.

Fatal Intent by Tammy Euliano

Medical thrillers are not a genre that I typically read. It’s not that I don’t like them (I do); it’s just that they don’t show up on my radar very often, even when I am looking for a new book to read. So, I was intrigued when I was invited to review Fatal Intent. After reading the blurb, I knew I wanted to read this book. I am glad that I did because it was a great read.

There are trigger warnings in Fatal Intent. The huge, most obvious one is the angel of mercy killings. There are brief mentions of the death of a spouse and child through a drunk driver and the miscarriage. The author also talks about assisted death quite often during the book. This is a touchy subject and one that I am not going to discuss in this blog.

Fatal Intent is a fast-paced medical thriller that takes place in Florida. Kate is an anesthesiologist working at a university (or teaching) hospital. Kate lives with her great-aunt Irma, an eccentric German transplant, and her black lab, Shadow. Kate has had a rough couple of years. Her husband, Greg, severely injured by a bomb while deployed, has been in a coma for a year. She miscarried their daughter because of that. And the cherry on top, the chief of staff, Dr. Walker, dislikes Kate and makes her life miserable at work. Things start to snowball when Kate discovers several suspicious deaths on and off the hospital grounds. At the same time, Kate is accused of misconduct with a student and malpractice by an unpleasant surgeon, and Greg’s brother, Adam, is going ahead with a lawsuit to take Greg off life support. As Kate fights the lawsuit, the inquiry, and the malpratice accusation, she realizes everything is connected. Determined to get to the bottom of everything, Kate soon finds herself in a situation where she needs to make an impossible choice. What choice does Kate have to make? How is everything connected? Did the hospital have an angel of mercy?

The main characters of Fatal Intent surprised me. I was prepared to be annoyed or even not like them. But, right from the beginning, the author made them relatable. Also, she wasn’t afraid to kill off a couple of who I considered main characters. It made what happened at the end of the book so much more poignant.

  • Kate—I liked and connected with her. She had a great relationship with her great-aunt Irma and 98% of her coworkers. She treated her patients respectfully and wasn’t afraid to speak up when she thought something wasn’t right. Her relationship with the chief of staff did confuse me a little at the beginning, but once the author explained it, a lightbulb went off. The only thing that she had a conflict of interest in was Greg. She didn’t want him to die starving to death. But her brother-in-law, Adam, thought otherwise. As for her investigating the deaths, she didn’t intend to become embroiled in that scheme. She was doing what she thought was right. My heart broke for her at the climax of the book. She had to make an impossible decision. No matter what she decided, it was going to hurt her.

I say this in every review, but the secondary characters made this book. Every single one added extra depth to the plotline. I liked how these secondary characters also tied into the main storyline. They had clues about who the killer was, why Kate was being singled out at work, and why Adam was insistent on taking Greg off life support. Secondary characters rarely do that.

If you look above, you see that I put a lot of genres down that this book fits into. The top three out of that group would be medical fiction, mystery, and thriller. Fatal Intent fits perfectly into those genres.

So, a little bit of a warning, the review will get a little longer here. Several main storylines in Fatal Intent are merged about halfway through the book. I didn’t understand why the author had so many until the end. Everything became crystal clear here.

The storyline with Kate, the medical student, and the accusation of misconduct made me so angry. I knew the medical student was up to no good from the moment the author introduced him. There was a point in the book where I thought that Kate would end up losing her job, but the author pulled out her hidden ace. It was mentioned, and I didn’t even think about it until it was mentioned. Of course, the ending to that storyline was very satisfactory and did tie into the storyline with the malpractice, Dr. Walker, and the angel of mercy.

Speaking of that, I was so angry about the malpractice inquiry that Kate found herself in. The surgeon was full of himself, and I couldn’t believe that the chief of staff would side with him instead of remaining impartial. I found it suspicious. Of course, this storyline ended the way I thought it would but still. I wanted to smack that surgeon upside the head and tell him to take it down a notch.

The storyline with Dr. Walker, Kate, and the deaths left a bad taste in my mouth. As I said above, Dr. Walker was so suspicious. His treatment of Kate was borderline abuse of power, and everyone in that hospital knew it. He didn’t want to listen to her when she brought up credible evidence about a new hire. Also, he was too involved with the medical student’s accusation and the inquiry. I wasn’t surprised by what was revealed during Kate’s investigation. I did like that what she turned up had an effect…haha. I was thrilled with how everything turned out. Dr. Walker reaped what he sowed.

The storyline with Kate, Greg, and Adam was one of the saddest ones I have ever read. I got why Kate didn’t want to take Greg off life support. I agreed with her that starving to death was a painful way to go, even if you were in a coma. And like Kate, my distaste for Adam was there from the beginning.

The end of Fatal Intent was heartstopping. The author was able to meld the above storylines together in a way that took me by surprise. A colossal twist (and a heartbreaking decision made) took me by surprise. It is hard to get one past me with thrillers; the author certainly did!! I didn’t see it coming and felt that I should have.

I would recommend Fatal Intent to anyone over 21. There is violence, non-graphic sexual situations (kissing), and language.

I want to thank Tammy Euliano and Oceanview Publishing for allowing me to read and review Fatal Intent. All opinions stated in this review are mine.


If you enjoyed reading Fatal Intent, then you will enjoy reading these books:

Don’t Look for Me by Wendy Walker

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Date of publication: September 15th, 2020

Genre: Thriller, Mystery, Mystery Thriller, Fiction, Audiobook, Suspense, Adult, Psychological Thriller, Contemporary, Crime

Purchase Links: Kindle | Audible | B&N | AbeBooks | Alibris | Powells | IndieBound | Indigo | BetterWorldBooks

Goodreads Synopsis:

One night, Molly Clarke walked away from her life. The car abandoned miles from home. The note found at a nearby hotel. The shattered family that couldn’t be put back together. It happens all the time. Women disappear, desperate to leave their lives behind and start over. She doesn’t want to be found. Or at least, that’s the story. But is that what really happened to Molly Clarke?

The night Molly disappeared began with a storm, running out of gas, and a man in a truck offering her a ride to town. With him is a little girl who reminds her of the daughter she lost years ago. It feels like a sign. And Molly is overcome with the desire to be home, with her family—no matter how broken it is. She accepts the ride. But when the doors are locked shut, Molly begins to suspect she has made a terrible mistake.

When a new lead comes in after the search has ended, Molly’s daughter, Nicole, begins to wonder. Nothing about her mother’s disappearance makes sense.

Nicole returns to the small, desolate town where her mother was last seen to find the truth. The locals are kind and eager to help. The innkeeper. The bartender. Even the police. Until secrets begin to reveal themselves and she comes closer to the truth about that night—and the danger surrounding her.


First Line:

The sky grows dark as I drive.

Don’t Look for Me by Wendy Walker

I have had Don’t Look for Me on my TBR for a long time. I originally had gotten it as an ARC before the pandemic started. I ended up not reading it because I got overwhelmed with being stuck inside and teaching three heartbroken kids. I didn’t read anything for almost a year (until I sent my youngest back to school). So why review Don’t Look for Me now? It was two things. The first one: I decided to try and clean up any/all of my NetGalley reviews from that period (and earlier this year, yikes). If I had to pay for the book, it was all good; I’ll pay for it (which ties in with the second thing). The second: I decided to get Kindle Unlimited. The first thing I did was go through all sixty-something books and download what was on KU. And that brought me to reading and reviewing Don’t Look for Me. I absolutely couldn’t put this book down!! It was that good!!

Don’t Look for Me had two exciting storylines. One storyline follows Nicole and her quest to find her missing mother, Molly. As she digs into Molly’s disappearance, she sees similarities to another woman who went missing ten years previously. What is the connection between the disappearances?

The second storyline follows Molly, the events leading up to her kidnapping, and what happened to her afterward. Molly is drowning in guilt over her nine-year-old daughter’s accidental death four years ago. That death shattered her family, who all blamed her. The night she is kidnapped, Molly accepts a ride from a stranger with a daughter the same age her daughter was when Molly accidentally killed her. That ride leads to her imprisonment. As Molly plans to escape, she is forced to deal with her daughter’s death. Will Molly escape?

Don’t Look for Me is a fast-paced book set in the fictional town of Hastings, Connecticut. This book starts a little slow. That allowed the author to explain Molly’s backstory. Once the author explained, the book picked up the pace and didn’t slow until the explosive end.

The characters in Don’t Look for Me were not likable. I cannot stress this enough. Except for Molly, I was not too fond of any of the main characters. Each character had complex issues the author could go into without taking away from the storylines.

  • Molly—My heart broke for her. I want to clarify; she was the only character in this book I liked. She didn’t deserve the scorn and hatred of her husband and children over what happened. It. Was. An. Accident. I cannot stress this enough. I loved seeing her gradually come to terms with her child’s death and her role in it. I also liked that she resolved not to leave Alice behind when she finally escaped. Of course, she used her resources as a chemistry teacher to do something I had no idea could be done. Honestly, I wanted to google it but was afraid I would get put on some watch list….lol.
  • Nicole—I didn’t like her. Scratch that; I couldn’t stand her. The things she said to Molly during their last confrontation were horrible. She self-medicated with alcohol and sex. I figured out why she was doing that early in the book. But, as much as I didn’t like her, I did like her resolve to find Molly. Nicole had seen something in Molly’s notes that changed everything, and she was determined to bring her home. But, she was like a bull in a china shop with her investigation.
  • Jared Reyes—-He was shady AF. Right from the get-go, I didn’t like him. He was almost too helpful to Nicole. It made me wonder what he was hiding. I did think his backstory was awful. It made his dedication to his job and Chief Watkins understandable. Still, I thought something was off with him.
  • Alice—She annoyed me. No nine-year-old talked the way she did. I have a nine-year-old, and I know she doesn’t have the vocabulary that Alice did. I also thought she was very messed up. She kept bringing up Molly’s dead daughter and telling Molly how bad Molly was for causing her death. I had a WTF moment while reading that. What typical nine-year-old would say that?

The secondary characters in Don’t Look for Me added the extra oomph that the book needed. The author did a great job of having them cast red herrings all over the place.

Don’t Look for Me fit perfectly into the psychological thriller genre. I also thought it fit into the mystery genre (Molly’s disappearance).

The author amazingly wrote the storyline with Molly, her kidnapping, her family, and her youngest daughter’s death. I did not figure out who kidnapped Molly. So, when it was revealed at the end of the book, I was shocked. As for her youngest daughter’s death, I was heartbroken by how much pain Molly was in. And I was disgusted by how her husband and surviving children treated her. DISGUSTED!!! There was a point in this plotline that I wondered if Molly would have been better off staying with the kidnapper and Alice.

The storyline with Nicole, Molly’s kidnapping, and her detective work was also as well written as Molly’s. I didn’t like Nicole, but I understood she was hurting. I also understood that she felt guilt over Molly disappearing and blamed herself. I enjoyed reading about her working through her emotions and realizing that she might need help. She was a good detective. I didn’t see the twist in her plotline coming, either. That also took me by surprise.

The storyline with Molly, Alice, and the kidnapper was exciting but less interesting than the other two main storylines. Again, another twist in this book took me by surprise. I didn’t expect what happened to happen.

The end of Don’t Look for Me was chaotic. The author brought together and then closed everything storyline in the book. She did it in such a way that I was left satisfied as a reader. I loved the epilogue but didn’t like what Molly felt she had to or wanted to do. But it was a closure I didn’t know I needed until I read it.

I recommend Don’t Look for Me to anyone over 21. There is language, mild to moderate violence, and sexual situations.

I want to thank NetGalley, St. Martin’s Press, and Wendy Walker for allowing me to read and review this book. I got this book first as an ARC and then downloaded it on KU to read.


If you enjoyed reading Don’t Look for Me, you will enjoy reading these books:

The Split by Sharon Bolton

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press, Minotaur Books

Date of publication: April 28th, 2020

Genre: Thriller, Mystery, Fiction, Mystery Thriller, Crime, Suspense, Psychological Thriller, Audiobook, Health, Mental Health, Mental Illness

Purchase Links: Kindle | Audible | B&N | AbeBooks | Alibris | Powells | IndieBound | Indigo | BetterWorldBooks

Goodreads Synopsis:

Tense, gripping and with a twist you won’t see coming, Sharon Bolton is back in an explosive new standalone thriller about a woman on the run in The Split.

No matter how far you run, some secrets will always catch up with you…

The remote Antarctic island of South Georgia is about to send off its last boat of the summer – which signifies safety to resident glaciologist Felicity Lloyd.

Felicity lives in fear – fear that her ex-husband Freddie will find her, even out here. She took a job on this isolated island to hide from him, but now that he’s out of prison, having served a term for murder, she knows he won’t give up until he finds her.

But a doctor delving into the background of Felicity and Freddie’s relationship, back in Cambridge, learns that Felicity has been on the edge for a long time. Heading to South Georgia himself to try and get to her first is the only way he can think of to help her.


First Line:

It’s not a ship. It’s an iceberg.

The Split by Sharon Bolton

When I got the invite to review The Split, I wasn’t sure what I would be reading. The blurb described it as a woman on the run from an abusive ex-husband. Since I like reading thrillers like that, I accepted the invitation. But as I got into the book, I began to realize that this book was nothing like the blurb. I was a little grumpy about that, but at the same time, I loved the direction this book was going.

The Split had two exciting plotlines. Felicity is a glaciologist working at her dream location – South Georgia in the Antarctic. But Felicity constantly looks over her shoulder after getting a letter from Freddie. Freddie has been released from prison and is coming to South Georgia to meet with Felicity.

The secondary plotline follows a doctor, Joe, who treats Felicity for fugue states and anxiety months before she is due to leave. Joe, recovering mentally and psychically from being attacked by an obsessive patient, notices several inconsistencies in Felicity’s mental state. Felicity needs a good mental health evaluation to accept the job in the Antarctic. Soon, Felicity is the prime suspect in a series of murders of homeless people across Cambridge. With no evidence (of the murders or the mental illness Joe suspects), Felicity is cleared to go to South Georgia. But, soon after she leaves, a huge bombshell is dropped. Joe immediately leaves to find Felicity.

Along with his police detective mother, Joe leaves for South Georgia, hoping to get to her in time. What did Joe discover? Is Felicity the murderer? Who is Freddie, and what does he want from Felicity?

The Split is a fast-paced psychological thriller set in both Cambridge, England, and South Georgia Island, Antarctic. I was thrilled to read a book that was set in the Antarctic. The author did a great job describing the island and letting the readers know how isolated it was.

The main characters in this book were well-fleshed out. I could connect with each character, which is not something I usually do.

  • Felicity—At first, I was a little ambivalent about her. But as her character grew and I got a better handle on her personality, I started to like her. When her entire backstory was revealed, I was horrified. I cried. How could someone do that to a baby? I do wish that the author had talked more about Felicity’s job. I found her being a glaciologist fascinating.
  • Joe—I will admit this, but I got creeper vibes from him at first. In my eyes, he became overly attentive to her. But, the more I read about him (and it was complicated with the jumping around), the more convinced I became that he knew something was wrong with Felicity and he wanted to help her. It became more apparent when he made the connection and then jetted to South Georgia Island.
  • Freddie—While he wasn’t in most of the book (the beginning, a couple of chapters in the middle, and the entire end), I felt he was a significant presence. He was Felicity’s boogeyman. But I didn’t get that feeling during his scenes. So, I settled down and waited. I won’t say much more, but I will say that you need to view his character with open eyes and mind.

The secondary characters added more depth to the book. From Bamber to Shane to Joe’s police detective mother, I eagerly waited for them to show up.

The Split fits perfectly into the thriller/suspense/mystery genres. I was enthralled with what I was reading. I couldn’t put this book down.

The storyline with Felicity and Freddie was heartbreaking. It took me a while to fully understand what was happening (because the book kept bouncing around from past to present). I can’t say what was going on because of the spoilers. There is a massive twist in that plotline that I didn’t see coming. It took me by surprise. After that twist, there were several other twists. While they weren’t as jaw-dropping as the main one, they were still shocking into themselves.

The storyline with Felicity, Joe, the homeless people, his mother, and the murders was interesting. I wish it had focused more on Joe and Felicity’s therapy sessions, but I did understand why the author wrote it the way she did. It was a giant red herring!! I had a feeling I knew who was murdering the homeless people, but I didn’t know why. Well, that feeling turned out to be wrong. Again, a big twist in the plotline that I didn’t see coming. Also, the twist with what Joe figured out about Felicity. I did not see it coming. But once it was revealed, it made so much sense!! I felt like kicking myself after the book was over.

There are trigger warnings in The Split, but some are spoilers. The one I can reveal is murder. The other ones will give away too much about what is going on.

The end of The Split almost made me have an anxiety attack. But, the author calmed me by wrapping each storyline up in a way that did the book justice.

I would recommend The Split for anyone over 21. There are mentions of sex and sexual behavior, language, and violence. Also, see my trigger warning paragraph for other triggers (or, in this case, lack of them because of spoilers).


If you enjoyed reading The Split, you will enjoy reading these books:

Before You Knew My Name by Jacqueline Bublitz

Publisher: Atria Books, Atria/Emily Bestler Books

Date of publication: November 1st, 2022

Genre: Fiction, Mystery, Crime, Thriller, Mystery Thriller, Contemporary, Adult, Book Club, Feminism, New York

Purchase Links: Amazon | Audible | B&N | AbeBooks | Alibris | Powells | IndieBound | Indigo | BetterWorldBooks

Goodreads Synopsis:

This is not just another novel about a dead girl. Two women—one alive, one dead—are brought together in the dark underbelly of New York City to solve a tragic murder.

When she arrived in New York on her eighteenth birthday carrying nothing but $600 cash and a stolen camera, Alice Lee was looking for a fresh start. Now, just one month later, she is the city’s latest Jane Doe. She may be dead but that doesn’t mean her story is over.

Meanwhile, Ruby Jones is also trying to reinvent herself. After travelling halfway around the world, she’s lonelier than ever in the Big Apple. Until she stumbles upon a woman’s body by the Hudson River, and suddenly finds herself unbreakably tied to the unknown dead woman.

Alice is sure Ruby is the key to solving the mystery of her short life and tragic death. Ruby just wants to forget what she saw…but she can’t seem to stop thinking about the young woman she found. If she keeps looking, can she give this unidentified Jane Doe the ending and closure she deserves?

A “heartbreaking, beautiful, and hugely important novel” (Rosie Walsh, New York Times bestselling author), Before You Knew My Name doesn’t just wonder whodunnit—it also asks who was she? And what did she leave behind?


First Line:

You will already have an idea of me. There are enough of us dead girls out there.

Before You Knew My Name by Jacqueline Bublitz

I am a huge true crime junkie. I listen to various podcasts, watch ID Discover, and read fictional mysteries/suspense/thrillers. So, when I got the Before You Knew My Name invite, I accepted it. No hesitation, I downloaded this book to my Kindle in record time. I am glad I did because I enjoyed reading this book a lot.

Before You Knew My Name was an exciting book. This was the story of Alice, an eighteen-year-old girl from Wisconsin who had traveled to New York City. Alice was murdered and left for dead on a rocky pier. She is determined to help the woman who discovered her, Ruby, find her murderer and get justice. But this is also the story of Ruby. Ruby, from Australia, had been stuck in a rut for a while when she decided she needed a new start. And for her, it means traveling to New York City. But Ruby is the one who discovers Alice’s body, and Ruby is the one who pushes the police for answers. Will Ruby find herself in New York City? Will Alice get her justice?

There are trigger warnings in this book. The trigger warning is underage sexual contact/situations, cheating, mentions of sexual abuse, suicide, child abuse, and drinking. If any of these trigger you, I suggest not reading this book.

Before You Knew My Name was a medium-fast-paced book set in New York City. It starts fast, slows down in the middle of the book, and then picks up towards the end. The pacing was perfect for this book. Any faster, and I would have had an issue keeping up. Any slower, and the book would have dragged.

I wasn’t sure what to make of Alice and Ruby when they were both introduced. Alice seemed like an unreliable narrator. At the beginning of her story, she glossed over a lot. Ruby was a hot mess, and you know what? I related to her.

  • Alice— As I mentioned above, I wasn’t too sure about Alice at the beginning of her storyline. She was very unreliable and kept glossing over her earlier years. But, as the book went on and she opened up about her life pre-New York City, I started to like her. I did think she was too trusting (mainly with Noah, but he ended up being a teddy bear). When the killer killed her, it did hit me hard. I was a freaking mess. Then I got mad and hoped the police would catch the killer soon.
  • Ruby—I liked her right from the beginning. She was a hot mess but relatable (as I described above). I wasn’t that shocked that she up and left Melbourne. She needed a new start. But her fresh start didn’t exactly go as planned when she found Alice. I loved how her character grew after finding Alice. She became almost obsessed with finding the killer, and she did have a great support system (a found family) in New York. My only quibble with her was Ash. He was like a drug to her, and she needed to let him go.

There were many memorable secondary characters in Before You Knew My Name. They each brought added depth to the plotline. There were some that I wished had more book time (Noah and Tina were two), and others (like Alice’s teacher/lover) needed less book time.

Before You Knew My Name was a combination of mystery and thriller. It fits perfectly into those genres. I think there could have been a tad more thriller, but that’s just me.

Alice’s storyline was poignant. But it also made me unbelievably mad during some parts. Alice had some awful things happen to her, but she dealt with them with a grace that I know I wouldn’t have had. But, once she arrived in New York with that camera and found Noah, she turned into a different girl. She began to see a future. And that is what made me so unbelievably angry when she was murdered. The killer snuffed out her light too soon.

Ruby’s storyline was just as poignant but in a different way. She needed a change. She was stagnating in her life in Australia. So, her going to New York City and starting over was good. And, in a way, finding Alice’s body was a good thing too. Because if she didn’t, she would have never gone to the support group. She would have never met Lennie, and she would have never joined The Death Club. She also would have never met Josh, Susan, or even Noah.

The storyline with Alice’s killer was interesting. The author kept his identity and motive under wraps until almost the end of the book. Ruby had a hand leading the detectives to him when she remembered something crucial about the night she found Alice.

The end of Before You Knew My Name was poignant. The author was able to merge all the storylines, and she ended them in a way that tugged at my heartstrings. From beginning to end, this book will make you think about all the John and Jane Does out there.

Three Reasons You Should Read Before You Knew My Name:

  1. It was a true mystery. The author kept Alice’s killer under wraps until the end.
  2. The book had a great pace to it. It made reading and keeping track of the different storylines very easy.
  3. The characters were very relatable.

Three Reasons You Shouldn’t Read Before You Knew My Name:

  1. The trigger warnings.
  2. Alice being murdered. I was so angry about that (even though I knew it would happen).
  3. Ruby being a hot mess.

I would recommend Before You Knew My Name to anyone over 21. There is language, nongraphic sexual content, and violence. Also, see my trigger warnings.


If you enjoyed reading Before You Knew My Name, you will enjoy reading these books:

The Prisoner by B.A. Paris

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Date of Publication: November 1st, 2022

Genre: Thriller, Mystery, Thriller Mystery, Fiction, Psychological Thriller, Suspense, Adult, Contemporary, Audiobook, Crime

Purchase Links: Amazon | Audible | B&N | AbeBooks | Alibris | Powells | IndieBound | Indigo | BetterWorldBooks

Goodreads Synopsis:

Amelie has always been a survivor, from losing her parents as a child in Paris to making it on her own in London. As she builds a life for herself, she is swept up into a glamorous lifestyle where she married the handsome billionaire Ned Hawthorne.

But then, Amelie wakes up in a pitch-black room, not knowing where she is. Why has she been taken? Who are her mysterious captors? And why does she soon feel safer here, imprisoned, than she had begun to feel with her husband Ned?

With Behind Closed Doors, B.A. Paris takes the psychological thriller to shocking new heights. Now she’ll hold you captive with this stunning new thriller about one woman wed into a family with deadly intentions.


First Line:

I sense the shift of air beneath my nose, a millisecond before something-thick, sticky tape-is clamped over my mouth, silencing the scream that would have ripped from me.

The Prisoner by B.A. Paris

I am a massive fan of psychological suspense. I love having my mind messed with while reading a book (outside the book, not so much). I have my favorite authors and B.A. Paris happens to be on my top ten list. So, any book from her gets automatic approval on my end. And I am thrilled that I got to read this book. It was that good!! In one of my WWW Wednesday posts, I said it took under 2 hours to read. I could not put it down.

The Prisoner had an exciting plotline. Amelie is a tough cookie. She has to be, surviving the death of her parents and trying to make it on her own, at 16, in London. Thankfully, she meets an angel named Caroline, who takes her under her wing and allows Amelie to flourish. After getting a job working for Ned Hawthorne, a billionaire playboy, Amelie is approached by him with a business deal: Marry him for one year, and he will pay her enough money to cover all of her university fees and beyond. But there is a sinister reason why Ned wants to marry her, and Amelie finds that out soon after the wedding. With Ned becoming unstable and isolated from her friends, Amelie wonders when he will kill her. Things come to a head when Amelie and Ned are kidnapped, blindfolded, and taken to an unknown location. But, for some reason, Amelie feels safe with the kidnappers. Who kidnapped Ned and Amelie? What is their end game?

The Prisoner is a fast-paced book that mainly takes place in London. But the last scenes take place in New Zealand (for reasons I cannot get into, spoilers!!!).

There are trigger warnings in this book. The most obvious one is kidnapping. The other ones are the death of a parent from cancer, the death of a parent during childbirth, the death of a sibling, sexual harassment, talk of rape (several times), physical abuse, mental abuse, murder, and discussion of murder. If any of these trigger you, I suggest not reading the book.

I enjoyed the main characters in The Prisoner. They were well-written and, for the most part, well-fleshed out.

  • Amelie: I liked her a lot. She cared deeply for her friends and never stopped trying to protect them from Ned and his cohorts. I loved her post-nuptial prenup. It was brilliant!! I also loved how she tried to stay one step ahead of Ned after discovering what a scumbag he was. There was a point in the book where I kept yelling (in my head), “Trust your instincts” regarding the kidnappers. She turned into a total boss at the end of the book too!!! I loved her.
  • Ned: God, was he sleazy. He didn’t come across like that at the beginning of the book. Instead, Ned was very charming. It was strange how he asked Amelie to marry him and how he laid it out. But his sleaziness wasn’t on display until after they married, and Ned isolated her from her friends. The things he did to her and threatened her with made my skin crawl. And after they were kidnapped, Ned quickly told them to kill her instead of him. He deserved everything he got and then some in this book.
  • The kidnappers: I can’t give names, but I was shocked at who they were. After I got over that shock, different parts of the kidnapping made sense. I also understood why they did what they did. If someone I loved had been targeted by Ned and then disappeared, I think I would have had the same reaction. Plus, they had the resources (all I will say about that).

A bunch of notable secondary characters added extra depth and understanding to the kidnapping storyline and Amelie’s recovery storyline. I wish some had stuck around and the author had introduced others earlier in the book.

The Prisoner was a perfect fit for the psychological suspense genre. It messed with my head pretty well. Also, add to that is that I didn’t want to put the book down. I needed to find out who the kidnappers were, why they did what they did, why Amelie was treated differently (even though I had a slight suspicion), and what Amelie’s recovery would be like.

The storyline with Amelie and her life before the kidnapping was well written. I loved seeing a carefree Amelie who had a great life and friends. She might have been a little naive, but her heart was in the right place. She had endured so much up to meeting Ned that all I could think was, “Man, she needs a break.” Then she met Ned, found out what her friend accused him of (along with a couple of other girls), and her life went sideways. Still, it was nice to see how she was before.

The storyline with Amelie, her kidnapping, and her life afterward broke my heart. This bright, cheerful girl who had her life ahead of herself turned into a shadow of herself. It didn’t matter if her kidnappers kept her safe from Ned; it was still a kidnapping. She still had to deal with everything by herself. I did like the two twists that the author threw into that storyline. One was about her deceased parents, and the other was about the kidnappers’ identity (plus why they did it). Both made me go, “Oh snap,” when it was revealed. And you know, I don’t blame her for thinking she had Stockholm Syndrome. I would have felt the same way.

The end of The Prisoner both blew me away and disappointed me. It blew me away because of who the kidnappers were. I did have a slight feeling it was those people but nothing concrete. The disappointment angle came with what Amelie decided to do at the very end. She had to get home because of an incriminating letter, but at the same time, she made plans to see that person again. I was like, “Are YOU SERIOUS? No wonder you think you have Stockholm Syndrome.” It was 100% frustrating for me to read because of the hint of a love connection. Ewww, no. Girlfriend needs therapy, not dating that person!!!!

Three Reasons You Should Read The Prisoner:

  1. It was a good read. It kept me glued to the book.
  2. Amelie. She was a tough cookie.
  3. The twist at the end of the book

Three Reasons You Shouldn’t Read The Prisoner:

  1. Ned. He was a dirtbag.
  2. The triggers.
  3. At the end of the book, the implied love connection (well, at least to me, it was implied).

I would recommend The Prisoner to anyone over 21. There is language, sex (implied but not discussed), and moderate violence. Also, see my trigger warning.


If you enjoyed reading The Prisoner, you will enjoy reading these books:

All Dressed Up by Jilly Gagnon

Publisher: Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine, Bantam

Date of publication: September 6th, 2022

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Mystery Thriller, Fiction, Contemporary, Adult, Audiobook, Suspense, Relationships, Crime

Purchase Links: Amazon | Audible | B&N | AbeBooks | Alibris | Powells | IndieBound | Indigo | BetterWorldBooks

Goodreads Synopsis:

The weekend getaway at the gorgeous manor hotel should have been perfect. But Becca is freshly smarting from her husband Blake’s betrayal and knows this is just an expensive attempt at an apology. She may not be ready to forgive him, but the drinks are strong, the estate is stunning, and the weekend has an elaborate 1920s murder mystery theme. She decides to get into the spirit of things and enjoy their stay. What could go wrong?

Before long, the game is afoot: famed speakeasy songstress Ida Crooner is found “murdered,” and it’s up to the guests to sniff out which of them might be the culprit. Playing the role of Miss Debbie Taunte, an ingenue with a dark past, Becca dives into the world of pun-heavy clues, hammy acting, and secret passages, hoping to at least take her mind off her marital troubles.

Then, the morning after they arrive, the actress playing Ida’s maid fails to reappear for her role. The game’s organizer–that’s Miss Ann Thrope to you–assumes the young woman’s flakiness is to blame, but when snooping for clues as “Debbie,” Becca finds evidence she may not have left of her own free will.


First Line:

The mansion changed at night, all the rigid lines and hard surfaces of the daytime melting into something softer, more secret, a little strange.

All Dressed Up by Jilly Gagnon

When I read the plot for All Dressed Up, I was immediately intrigued- a mystery that takes place during an immersive 1920s-themed murder mystery. I couldn’t hit that accept button fast enough. I was looking forward to reading bad puns (and yes, there were plenty) and solving the actress’s disappearance. But, this book fell short of my expectations. Not to say I didn’t like it (I did), but it was the characters (mainly Becca) who made me “meh” about this book. Everything else was perfect.

All Dressed Up did have an enjoyable and exciting plotline. The story centers around Becca and her husband, Blake. Blake had arranged a weekend getaway to an immersive murder mystery. But Becca isn’t exactly thrilled about it. Blake and herself are going through a rough patch in their marriage, and she is still furious about what happened. But once there, the magic of the mansion and the mystery draw her in. But, a real-life mystery draws her in when one of the actresses goes missing. Becca is determined to find out what happened to her. But is she getting in over her head? Can Becca solve the fictional murder mystery as well as the real-life one? And, while she’s at it, can she forgive her husband for what he did?

All Dressed Up is a fast-paced mystery that takes place on in a mansion somewhere in New York state. I didn’t catch the town’s name (or there wasn’t one). But with the talk of New York City and going upstate, I figured it was in New York.

The characters are the main reason I was “meh” about All Dressed Up. Individually, they all got on my nerves, and together, that nerve was stretched to the max. I will not discuss each character. I will focus on the main ones, Becca and Blake.

  • Becca: I had mixed feelings about Becca. On the one hand, she was a great detective (both in and out of character). She genuinely cared about the missing maid. But her detective work bordered on obsessive. However, she was awful to Blake. Yes, I get that he cheated on her, and I understood her behavior for the first 25% of the book. But every overture he made, be it doing something she liked and that made him uncomfortable, she was awful to him about. She was mean and spiteful, which didn’t gel with me.
  • Blake: Out of all the characters, I did like him the best. He acknowledged and owned that he screwed up badly. He was willing to do whatever it took to work on his marriage. But there is a line between constantly apologizing for one thing and taking the brunt of Becca’s anger for everything. Becca crossed that line before the book started.

As I mentioned above, the secondary characters got on my nerves as much as the main ones. But, they did add extra depth to the plotline and did provide a few red herrings to the mystery.

All Dressed Up fit perfectly into the mystery and suspense genres. The author did a fantastic job of keeping me guessing who the killer was in the game and why the maid went missing. As I mentioned in the previous paragraph, several red herrings were thrown out by the secondary characters.

The author wrote the main storyline well with Becca, the other guests, and the fake mystery. I loved the puns (even if they were groan-worthy at times). I also really liked how the people running the show made the guests work for the clues. Because, on my end, I am also trying to figure out who the killer was. I made notes, and it wasn’t who I thought it was.

The other storyline was well written, with Becca investigating the actress/maid’s disappearance. The author did keep me guessing about what happened to her. I did figure out what happened by the middle of the book, but I didn’t expect who. Talk about a big twist in the plot there. A “no freaking way” was thrown out when it was revealed. And the reason this person did it was heartbreaking.

The end of All Dressed Up was typical of the genre. I liked how the author revealed who the killer was in the fake mystery, why the maid disappeared, and who was behind it. As I mentioned above, it was a twist that I didn’t see coming. Also, what I didn’t see coming was something to do with Becca and Blake. I wasn’t sure if I liked it, but it did tie up that storyline.

Three Reasons You Should Read All Dressed Up:

  1. The murder mystery storyline.
  2. The puns. As bad as they were, I was dying laughing when they came up.
  3. The twist at the end of the book. I didn’t see that coming..

Three Reasons You Shouldn’t Read All Dressed Up:

  1. Becca. I felt terrible for her, but I couldn’t stand her.
  2. Blake. I explained why above.
  3. The other characters. They got on my nerves.

I would recommend All Dressed Up to anyone over 16. There is no sex, mild language, and mild to moderate violence.


If you enjoyed reading All Dressed Up, you will enjoy reading these books:

Steel Fear (Finn Thrillers: Book 1) by Brandon Webb and John David Mann

Publisher: Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine, Bantam

Date of publication: July 13, 2021

Genre: Thriller, Mystery, Fiction, War, Military Fiction, Suspense, Mystery, Crime, Mystery Thriller, Contemporary

Series: Finn Thrillers

Steel Fear—Book 1

Cold Fear—Book 2

Purchase Links: Amazon | Audible | B&N | AbeBooks | Alibris | Powells | IndieBound | Indigo | BetterWorldBooks

Goodreads Synopsis:

An aircraft carrier adrift with a crew the size of a small town. A killer in their midst. And the disgraced Navy SEAL who must track him down . . . The high-octane debut thriller from New York Times bestselling writing team Webb & Mann—combat-decorated Navy SEAL Brandon Webb and award-winning author John David Mann.

The moment Navy SEAL sniper Finn sets foot on the USS Abraham Lincoln to hitch a ride home from the Persian Gulf, it’s clear something is deeply wrong. Leadership is weak. Morale is low. And when crew members start disappearing one by one, what at first seems like a random string of suicides soon reveals something far more sinister: There’s a serial killer on board.

Suspicion falls on Finn, the newcomer to the ship. After all, he’s being sent home in disgrace, recalled from the field under the dark cloud of a mission gone horribly wrong. He’s also a lone wolf, haunted by gaps in his memory and the elusive sense that something he missed may have contributed to civilian deaths on his last assignment. Finding the killer offers a chance at redemption . . . if he can stay alive long enough to prove it isn’t him.


First Line:

Shivers rippled over Monica Halsey’s naked skin as she peered into the steel mirror and splashed water on her face.

Steel Fear by Brandon Webb and John David Mann

I DNF’d this book the first time I read it. I stopped reading at around 40%. The reason was pretty simple; I wasn’t a fan of how slow the book was. Fast forward to a couple of months ago. I decided to go through my NetGalley Will Not Give Feedback section and read/review all the books on that shelf. I am a little anal with keeping my NetGalley ratio on the higher side of 90. And since Steel Fear was one of those books, I decided it would be one of the first ones I read/review.

Steel Fear is a military mystery/thriller set on the USS Abraham Lincoln. Finn is a Navy Seal sniper who is being sent home for a debriefing after a raid goes wrong. With his memory of the events compromised, Finn settles for the voyage back. But soon, he is embroiled in a mystery when several seamen (and women) are found murdered in various areas of the ship. With the ship on lockdown and people beginning to think he is the murderer, Finn decides to take matters into his own hands and solve the murders. But with the body count piling up, can Finn stay one step ahead of the MPs and solve the murders? Or is he the one they are looking for?

Finn’s character was interesting to read. He was a very unlikely Navy Seal. He wasn’t tall, jacked up, or loud. Instead, he was average height, had an average body build, and was very quiet. He was so quiet that people often forgot he was there. What intrigued me the most about Finn was that he was an enigma to everyone, including the ship’s captain. No one knew why he was on board or where he was going. The authors chose to reveal almost all of Finn’s background slowly. His childhood, the horrific thing that happened, and what happened to his team were slowly revealed. And the more that was revealed, the more I needed to know.

As I mentioned in the first paragraph, this book was a DNF for me because of how slow it was. And, yes, it was still slow. But with the second reread, I noticed that the authors were weaving the story with several of the secondary characters. About halfway through the book, the pacing does pick up, and my interest in the plotline picks up with it. By the last chapters of the book, I was utterly hooked. It was more about the serial killer/murders than the ship.

The mystery angle of the book was well written. While I figured that Finn didn’t do it, I was at a loss for who it was. So when the serial killer was revealed, I was shocked. The authors did keep what happened to Finn on his last mission to the bare facts and what Finn remembered. So, there was nothing new was learned there.

The suspense angle of the book was as well written as the mystery angle. I was glued to the book, wanting to know who it was. I couldn’t hit my Kindle button fast enough.

This is a military book, and with it comes military jargon and talk. I wasn’t very interested in that and did skim over some parts of it. But, I did find it fascinating that the authors chose to highlight how women were treated in the Navy (and military). Let’s say that the women in this book weren’t treated very nicely by their COs. It goes with everything I have heard and seen on the news (rapes, coverups, etc.).

The end of Steel Fear was interesting. The authors were able to wrap up the serial killer/murders plotline in a way that I liked. I felt that person got what was coming to them. But I also liked where the author took Finn’s story. There was also enough left with his story for book 2 (which I will read).

I would recommend Steel Fear to anyone over 21. There is no sex. But there is strong language and graphic violence.


If you enjoyed reading Steel Fear, you will enjoy these books:

Daughter by Kate McLaughlin

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press, Wednesday Books

Date of publication: March 8th, 2022

Genre: Young Adult, Thriller, Mystery, Contemporary, Suspense, Crime

Purchase Links: Amazon | Audible | B&N | WorldCat

Goodreads Synopsis:

Scarlett’s life is pretty average. Overly protective mom. Great friends. Cute boy she’s interested in. And a father she’s never known – until she does.

When the FBI shows up at Scarlet’s door, she is shocked to learn her father is infamous serial killer Jeffrey Robert Lake. And now, he’s dying and will only give the names and locations of his remaining victims to the one person, the daughter he hasn’t seen since she was a baby.

Scarlet’s mother has tried to protect her from Lake’s horrifying legacy, but there’s no way they can escape the media firestorm that erupts when they come out of hiding. Or the people who blame Scarlet for her father’s choices. When trying to do the right thing puts her life in danger, Scarlet is faced with a choice – go back into hiding or make the world see her as more than a monster’s daughter.

Kate McLaughlin’s Daughter is a novel about trying right deadly choices that were never yours to begin with.


First Line:

Dayton Culver was well aware he was trespassing when he and his golden retriever, Lulu, veered off the path in the woods.

daughter by kate mclaughlin

When I first saw Daughter on NetGalley, I was mildly intrigued. But, at the time, I didn’t request it. I figured that if the book gods wanted me to read this book, they would make it happen. Well, it happened. I got the invite from SMP, and I was pretty excited to read it. But I got it at a pretty bad time. I had some personal things going on and had to push this book to the back burner. It sat on my TBR for almost two months, and during that time, I kept seeing reviews for it everywhere. Nearly all were favorable, and that kept me amped to read it. I was blown away when I read it. It lived up to my internal hype and the hype I kept seeing.

Daughter had an exciting plotline. Scarlet is your typical seventeen-year-old. She has a great group of friends, a boy that she is interested in, and a mother who is beyond overprotective. That is blown away when Scarlet finds out that her life is a lie. She has been in hiding her entire life. Why? She is the daughter of a serial killer. That same serial killer is dying and wants to talk to Scarlet. The FBI is hoping that he tells Scarlet about his remaining victims and hopes to keep her identity under wraps. But that is blown when pictures of Scarlet and her mother are leaked to the press. Overnight, Scarlet’s life is ruined. She is stalked by the paparazzi and groupies of her father. Most of her friends turn on her. But Scarlet feels connected to her father’s victims and is determined to find her way through this mess. What will Scarlet do?

I will admit, I am a true crime junkie. I watch everything and anything on serial killers. But I have never seen anything that discusses what the families of the serial killers go through. I have seen plenty of speculation but never what their trauma was and how they coped with it. So, reading a book from the perspective of a serial killer’s daughter was interesting.

The author chose to interweave news articles, web forums, and podcasts throughout the book. It made me upset and very uncomfortable to read those articles. I also got mad that one outlet released Scarlet and her mother’s home address, city, and state. I also was a little irritated by how cruel some of those articles/forums/podcasts were. Scarlet was a baby. She had nothing to do with her father’s crimes and was actively helping the FBI. What else did they want her to do?

Scarlet was a powerful young woman. Her reaction to what her mother and the FBI told her was nothing short of what I would expect from a teenager. She handled everything else with grace. I did think what the FBI asked of her was a little too much. But she was a boss when it came to talking with her father. She couldn’t have handled it any better. I also loved her idea of honoring the victims. I thought it would be healing not only for Scarlet but for the loved ones the victims left behind.

Jeffery Lake was an absolute monster. My skin crawled when I read his interactions with Scarlet, and I wanted to throw up when he told Scarlet the reason behind her “real” name. And what he did after he died, I have no words.

The thriller angle of Daughter was a bit slow at times, but it was there. It did ramp up when Scarlet and her mother traveled to Raleigh—not knowing what Lake would do or say added to that.

The suspense angle of Daughter was excellent. I never knew what direction their conversations would take. Would he give her another name, or would he play mind games with her? It was that part of the book that kept me glued to it.

The end of Daughter was a bit anti-climatic. I was waiting for the other shoe to drop or something to happen (different than the storage unit deal). Nothing happened, though. I liked seeing how Scarlet and her mother were thriving now that Lake was dead. The legacy he had left was awful, but they both were learning to live with it.

I would recommend Daughter to anyone over 21. Drug use, alcohol use, language, description of necrophilia, language, sexual situations, and mild violence.