Stalking Around the Christmas Tree (Christmas Tree Farm Mystery: Book 4) by Jacqueline Frost

Publisher: Crooked Lane Books

Date of publication: October 17th, 2023

Genre: Christmas, Cozy Mystery, Mystery, Fiction

Series: Christmas Tree Farm Mystery

Twelve Slays of Christmas—Book 1

‘Twas the Knife Before Christmas—Book 2

Slashing Through the Snow—Book 3

Stalking Around the Christmas Tree—Book 4

Purchase Links: Kindle | B&N

Goodreads Synopsis:

Tis the season to solve a murder—and innkeeper Holly White knows she’ll have to make her list and check it twice if she wants to catch the killer in the fourth Christmas Tree Farm mystery from bestselling author Jacqueline Frost.

For inn keeper Holly White, Christmas time in Mistletoe, Maine, is the ultimate holiday gift. Business at the Reindeer Games Inn is booming, her wedding to Sheriff Evan Gray is nearly here, and the annual parade is about to begin. The town is lucky to have another gift this year with the state’s ballet company staying for several performances of The Nutcracker. But disaster strikes when Tiffany, the lead ballerina, shows up dead on a float during the parade, the Rat King’s mask nearby. Holly will have to spruce up her sleuthing skills if she wants to catch the killer before Christmas—and her wedding day.

Immediately, Holly discovers that Tiffany had more than a few secrets. She finds out that the star of the show had a super fan that no one knows anything about. And the show’s understudy slips some other intriguing information Holly’s way: not only was Tiffany secretly seeing someone romantically, but there seems to be more than one rat in this company. When Holly discovers a secret passage leading to Tiffany’s dressing room, with footprints leading out; she wonders if this is evidence of a secret lover—or a stalking killer.

With an impending snowstorm and the ballet company on the way out of town, Holly must act quickly if she wants to find the person responsible for this terrible murder. Will she be able to save Christmas—or will her investigation turn cold like the weather?

First Line:

“Hold that pose, Mrs. White,” my best friend, Caroline, called.

Stalking Around the Christmas Tree by Jacqueline Frost

Christmas in Mistletoe, Maine, is always special; this year is no exception. With an upcoming wedding to plan, charities to donate to, and a booming business to run, Holly doesn’t have a minute to breathe. Things get even more hectic when the prima ballerina, Tiffany, collapses during the town’s annual Christmas parade and is later pronounced dead from arsenic poisoning. Holly immediately starts investigating and finds several clues pointing to a superfan, the choreographer, the Rat King, and the understudy. Will Holly uncover who killed Tiffany?

Stalking Around the Christmas Tree is the 4th book in the Christmas Tree Farm series. You can read this as a standalone book. But, and I always say this, I do recommend reading books 1-3 first. That way, you better understand the characters and their backstories.

Stalking Around the Christmas Tree was a fun read for me. I wasn’t expecting it to be, if I am going to be honest. I am not a fan of picking up books mid-series. In my experience, I usually end up missing something when I do that. But this is a rare case of that not happening. The plot was fast-paced, the characters were well-fleshed out, and the mystery was twisty.

Stalking Around the Christmas Tree’s main storyline centers around Holly and her investigation into Tiffany’s death. The author didn’t veer from this storyline too much and kept it focused on its objective: To find Tiffany’s killer and the motive. The storyline was well-written, and it kept me glued to the book.

There were several secondary storylines in Stalking Around the Christmas Tree. The two main secondary storylines were Holly’s wedding and Libby’s stalker. The author kept both secondary storylines separate from the main storyline and the author did something that surprised me. She kept the storylines separate throughout the book. Did they crisscross? Absolutely but in no way did either storyline join the main one, and I loved it.

The storyline with Tiffany’s murder and Holly’s investigation was twisty. The author did a great job of keeping how the killer was under wraps until the end of the book. I was surprised at who it was and why that person did it. Oh, and how they did it too.

The storyline with Holly’s wedding was sweet. Since this has been a storyline that continued from the last book, I am sure that readers of the series were thrilled with how it ended. I know I was!!

The storyline with Libby and her stalker was sad. Again, this was a storyline the author carried over from the previous book (maybe books?). Once Holly confronted Libby with what was happening, I figured out who the stalker was. It did break my heart a little bit to read the ending scenes (where the stalker is caught) because of why this person did it.

The end of Stalking Around the Christmas Tree was terrific. I loved how the storylines ended. I hope there is another book in the series.

I recommend Stalking Around the Christmas Tree to anyone over 16. There is mild violence, mild language, and fade to black sexual situations.

Many thanks to Crooked Lane Books, NetGalley, and Jacqueline Frost for allowing me to read and review Stalking Around the Christmas Tree. All opinions stated in this review are mine.

If you enjoyed reading this review of Stalking Around the Christmas Tree, then you will enjoy reading these books:

Other books by Jacqueline Frost:

Last Word to the Wise (Christie Bookshop: Book 2) by Ann Claire

Publisher: Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine, Bantam

Date of publication: October 3rd, 2023

Genre: Mystery, Cozy Mystery, Fiction, Adult, Family, Books about Books

Series: Christie Bookshop

Dead and Gondola—Book 1 (review here)

Last Word to the Wise—Book 2

Purchase Links: Kindle | Audible | B&N | AbeBooks | WorldCat

Goodreads Synopsis:

The Christie sisters and their bookshop cat, Agatha, flirt with cold-hearted crime when bookish matchmaking turns into a date with death.

Sisters Ellie and Meg Christie share a love of books, reading, and their new roles as co-caretakers of the Book Chalet, their family’s historic bookshop tucked midway up a scenic Colorado mountain. But romance? That’s another story. Ellie and Meg joke they’re in sisterly competition for worst relationships. So, when their cousin signs them up for her newest business endeavor, matchmaking based on bookish tastes, the sisters approach their blind double dates with foot-dragging dread.

While Ellie’s date meets her low expectations, Meg’s match, a book-loving romantic straight out of classic literature, charms her over a lovely dinner. The next morning, Meg is giddy with anticipation of a second date—until she’s stood up without a word. She fumes that she should have known better. However, her date had a good reason for ghosting her. He’s dead. Murdered, the police later confirm.

As the last known person to see the victim alive, Meg becomes a prime suspect in his death. She grimly quips that at least her dating record can’t get any worse. But it does. A thorn from Meg’s romantic past returns to little Last Word, espousing motives too sweet to believe.

To sleuth out the truth, the sisters must sift through secrets deeper than the February snowfall. Clues accumulate, but so do suspects, crimes, and betrayals. Ellie and Meg can’t afford to leave any page unturned. Romance may not be their forte, but hearts and lives are on the line, and the Christies know how to solve a mystery—especially when murder is involved.

First Line:

Never had I so dreaded a trip to the library.

Last Word to the Wise by Ann Claire

Things you need to know before reading the review:

Last Word to the Wise is the second book in the Christie Bookshop series. Last Word to the Wise can be read as a stand-alone book. But I suggest reading the previous book to understand the characters and their backstories.

Last Word to the Wise is a medium to fast-paced book. The pacing of the book suited it. The author was able to speed up and slow down the plotline without losing my attention or creating too much lag. There was some lag towards the middle of the book. But, it wasn’t enough to distract me or make me lose any enjoyment in reading the book.

There are no trigger warnings in Last Word to the Wise.

Sexual Content: There is no on-page sexual content in Last Word to the Wise.

Language:  There is no graphic or offensive language in Last Word to the Wise.

Setting: Last Word to the Wise occurs entirely in the fictional city of Last Word, Colorado.

Plot Synopsis (as spoiler-free as I can get):

Ellie and Meg Christie are doing great as co-caretakers of their family’s bookstore in Last Word, Colorado. But, in the romance department, they could be doing better. Ellie hasn’t been in a relationship since before she moved back to Last Word, and Meg, well, she hasn’t been in one since she was stood up at the altar by her daughter’s father fourteen years previously. So, they reluctantly agree when their cousin asks them to test the water of her new business, matching people together due to their reading habits and tastes.

For Ellie, her date was a disaster, but she had been expecting that. But Meg, on the other hand, her date was excellent and a perfect match. But, when her date doesn’t show up for brunch like he promised, Meg figures he either forgot or ditched her. Well, as it turns out, it was neither. Her date had been murdered. Since Meg was the last person to see him alive, she is the prime suspect.

Determined to prove her sister’s innocence, Ellie digs into the victim’s background. What she uncovers shocks her and gives her a list of scorned lovers. Can Ellie prove her sister’s innocence? Can she figure out not only who killed the victim but why?

Main Characters:

Ellie Christie: I liked Ellie and how she supported Meg, even when all the evidence was pointing to her. Ellie was the main person who chased down leads. She was a great sister, aunt, and granddaughter. Ellie is also the main person who puts everything together (well, with the help of her cat at the end of the book). She did bumble through most of the investigation, but she also made some surprising connections between Joe’s murder and other townspeople.

Meg Christie: I like Meg. But man, did she have it coming from all sides. First, with Joe’s murder, then being told she was a prime suspect, and her ex (her daughter’s father) showed up. I was shocked that she didn’t have a breakdown. I also felt terrible that the first date she went on in years ended like it did.

Joe Darcy: While Joe was only alive for the first chapter or so of the book, his murder had a vast (and negative) impact on the Christie sisters’ lives. He was not a good guy. That’s all I can say about him without giving away major spoilers.

Secondary Characters: As with other books, the secondary characters supported and enriched the storyline. The characters that stood out the most to me were Lorna, Dr. Waldon, Rosie, Gram, Detective Sam Iberra, Sheriff Sunny, and Cameron.


I enjoyed reading Last Word to the Wise. I enjoy reading cozy mysteries and have been drawn to them in the past year. There is something about reading a book about a closed-room mystery and figuring out who did it and why. And Last Word to the Wise pushed those buttons for me.

The main storyline is centered around Meg, Ellie, Joe Darcy’s murder, the police investigation, and Ellie’s investigation/quest to clear her sister’s name. It was well-written and easy to track, even when Ellie’s investigation went haywire. I was very surprised by who the murderer was, but I wasn’t surprised once I read that person’s confession. I was a little sad, to be honest.

The mystery angle was well-written and kept me on my toes while reading it. I went to the end of the book thinking it was one person and was surprised when it was another. It is challenging to get one over on me, mysterywise, and Last Word to the Wise did that. As I said above, I was surprised and then sad by who the murderer ended up being.

The end of Last Word to the Wise was interesting. The author wrapped up the main storyline in a way that I liked. She also left enough there for me to hope for another book.

Many thanks to Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine, Bantam, NetGalley, and Ann Claire for allowing me to read and review this ARC of Last Word to the Wise. All opinions stated in this review are mine.

If you enjoy reading books similar to A Traitor in Whitehall, then you will enjoy these books:

Other books by Ann Claire:

Overdue or Die (The Haunted Library Mysteries: Book 7) by Allison Brook

Publisher: Crooked Lane Books

Date of publication: October 10th, 2023

Genre: Cozy Mystery, Mystery, Family, Ghosts

Series: The Haunted Library Mysteries

Death Overdue—Book 1

Read and Gone—Book 2

Buried in the Stacks—Book 3

Checked Out for Murder—Book 4

Death on the Shelf—Book 5

Dewey Decimated—Book 6

Overdue or Die—Book 7

Purchase Links: Kindle | B&N

Goodreads Synopsis:

Carrie Singleton has a wedding to plan, a killer to catch, and a conspiracy to uncover in this charming seventh novel of Agatha Award-nominee Allison Brook’s Haunted Library mysteries.

Carrie Singleton has more than her fair share on her plate: her job at the Clover Ridge Library, preparing for her wedding to Dylan Avery, and hoping that the local art gallery doesn’t steal away one of her part-time employees. Her fiancé Dylan accompanies her to the beautiful home of Victor Zalinka—art collector and successful businessman—to select paintings for an art show at the library. While Carrie muses that Victor’s home would be the perfect wedding venue, Dylan spots a forgery among the paintings in Victor’s collection.

Then Martha Mallory is found murdered in her art gallery. With the assistance of Evelyn, the library ghost; the resident cat, Smoky Joe; and the office manager of Dylan’s private investigation company, Carrie comes up with a suspect list long enough to rival the size of an encyclopedia. During her investigation, Carrie stumbles across a terrible truth: Martha’s murder was part of something far bigger and more dangerous than she could have ever imagined. And it all leads back to the art gallery.

How far will Carrie go to find the killer and uncover the truth? If the killer finds her first—will Carrie finally be taken out of circulation?

First Line:

I gazed down at Great-Uncle Bosco in his bed in the Cardiology Care Unit of South Conn Hostipal, trying to process the fast that he’d suffered a heart attack.

Overdue or Die by Allison Brook

Life isn’t boring for Carrie Singleton these days. Between planning her wedding, working, and worrying that a local art gallery will steal her assistant, Carrie has a lot on her plate. And when a local art gallery owner, Martha Mallory, is found murdered, Carrie can’t help but get involved. With the help of a ghost, Carrie discovers that Martha’s murder is just the tip of the iceberg. What was Martha involved in? What got her killed? And can Carrie live long enough to find out who the killer is?

Overdue or Die is the 7th book in The Haunted Library series. While this can be read as a standalone book, I recommend reading books 1-6 first. That way, you can understand what is going on in the book. This is something that I wish I had done.

I needed help getting comfortable reading Overdue or Die. I couldn’t connect with any of the characters. The mystery was written well, but I felt it was drawn out in places. I feel the same way about the secondary storylines as well.

The main storyline in Overdue or Die centers around Carrie and her investigation into Martha’s murder. While I liked the storyline and felt it was interesting, I couldn’t get into it. Much was happening besides Martha’s murder, and I thought it took away from the main storyline.

The mystery angle in Overdue or Die was interesting. But, again, it was overshadowed by everything else that was going on in the book. I was taken by surprise at who Martha’s killer ended up being and what the motive was. But, the reveal was at the end of a meandering plotline that did go off course several times during the book. There are a couple of twists that did take me by surprise.

The end of Overdue or Die was run of the mill. The reveal of the killer and Carrie’s involvement in it was interesting. I am not sure if I want to read book eight or not.

I would recommend Overdue or Die to anyone over 16. There is language, violence, and fade to black sexual situations.

Many thanks to Crooked Lane Books, NetGalley, and Allison Brook for allowing me to read and review Overdue or Die. All opinions stated in this review are mine.

If you enjoyed reading this review of Overdue or Die, then you will enjoy reading these books:

Other books by Allison Brook:

A Traitor in Whitehall (Parisian Orphan: Book 1) by Julia Kelly

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press, Minotaur Books

Date of publication: October 3rd, 2023

Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery, Fiction, Historical, Mystery Thriller, Adult Fiction, World War II, Historical Mystery, Thriller, Cozy Mystery

Series: Parisian Orphan

A Traitor in Whitehall—Book 1

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

Goodreads Synopsis:

From Julia Kelly, internationally bestselling author of The Last Dance of the Debutante, comes the first in the mysterious and immersive Parisian Orphan series, A Traitor in Whitehall.

1940, England: Evelyne Redfern, known as “The Parisian Orphan” as a child, is working on the line at a munitions factory in wartime London. When Mr. Fletcher, one of her father’s old friends, spots Evelyne on a night out, Evelyne finds herself plunged into the world of Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s cabinet war rooms.

However, shortly after she settles into her new role as a secretary, one of the girls at work is murdered, and Evelyne must use all of her amateur sleuthing expertise to find the killer. But doing so puts her right in the path of David Poole, a cagey minister’s aide who seems determined to thwart her investigations. That is, until Evelyne finds out David’s real mission is to root out a mole selling government secrets to Britain’s enemies, and the pair begrudgingly team up.

With her quick wit, sharp eyes, and determination, will Evelyne be able to find out who’s been selling England’s secrets and catch a killer, all while battling her growing attraction to David?

First Line:

“Miss Redfern!” snapped Miss Wilkes, causing me to jerk up and my pencil to skitter across the page of my notebook.

A Traitor in Whitehall by Julia Kelly

Important things you need to know about the book:

A Traitor in Whitehall is the first book in the Parisian Orphan series. Since it is the first book in the series, you don’t have previous books to read. You can dive into this without worrying about previous storylines or characters appearing and throwing the main storylines off.

A Traitor in Whitehall was a medium-paced book for me. There were some areas (mainly towards the end) where the pacing did speed up. But it was consistently medium-paced throughout the book. There was some lag in the middle of the book (during Evelyne and David’s investigation). It didn’t affect my enjoyment of the book.

There are trigger warnings in A Traitor in Whitehall. If any of these trigger you, I suggest not reading the book. They are:

  1. Bullying: While Evelyne didn’t experience Jean’s bullying tactics, the other women in the typing pool did. Jean caused one woman to quit her job because she threatened to expose her secrets—several other women experienced blackmail by Jean.
  2. Death: Besides the obvious (Evelyne finding Jean’s body), the book details the questionable death of Evelyne’s mother.
  3. Divorce: Evelyne remembers her parents’ contentious divorce and custody battle over her. It had made the papers, and the newspapers painted her mother badly.
  4. Murder: Evelyne and David are investigating Jean’s murder. Evelyne suspects that her mother was murdered.
  5. Sexism: Evelyne experiences era-appropriate sexism.
  6. War: A Traitor in Whitehall takes place in World War II. Evelyne experiences drills, blackouts, rations, and bombing throughout the book.

Sexual Content: There is no on-page sexual content in A Traitor in Whitehall. It is alluded that Jean is having affairs with some ministers and their staff.

Language:  There is no graphic language in A Traitor in Whitehall.

Setting: A Traitor in Whitehall is set in World War II in London, England.

Plot Synopsis (as spoiler-free as I can get):

Evelyne Redfern is working in a munitions factory in World War II-era London. A chance meeting with a childhood friend of her absent father, Evelyne finds her working as a secretary in a top-secret location for Winston Churchhill’s war department. Soon after her arrival, Evelyne stumbles upon the body of one of the secretaries (Jean). That starts Evelyne’s investigation into Jean’s murder and puts her in the path of the mysterious David Poole. When David reveals that he is undercover investigating a possible mole and that Jean could be a link, Evelyne and he team up. Can they discover who the mole is? Can they figure out who killed Jean? And lastly, can they connect the mole and Jean?

Main Characters

Evelyne Redfern: I liked Evelyne. She was bright, loved reading mysteries (Agatha Christie was her favorite), and didn’t miss a thing. She was also straightforward to talk to, which was helpful when she and David were interrogating people. Evelyne used her real-life contacts and what she learned from the mysteries she loved to read to figure out parts of Jean’s murder that otherwise would have gone missing. I also enjoyed that Evelyne liked looking at David (he was good-looking) and wasn’t ashamed about it. She did have faults, though. She tended to go off alone (surprising David at the gambling hall was one) and pushed boundaries (Charlotte and Patricia’s stories come to mind).

David Poole: I initially didn’t know what to make of him. He was very mysterious and was often abrupt with Evelyne. But the more he appeared in the book, the more I liked him. He let Evelyne take the lead in Jean’s murder investigation. I liked how he low-key put people in their place so they would answer her questions. I also liked how David asked for and listened to her input about the mole. He was always there, backing her up, and was instrumental in helping catch Jean’s murderer and the mole. I also liked how the author slyly brought him into Mr. Fletcher’s work.

Secondary characters: There were numerous secondary characters mentioned throughout the book. Each character added their nuance and depth to the storyline. The characters that stood out the most to me were: Mr. Fletcher, Mrs. White, Moira, Irene, Patricia, Aunt Amelia, Mr. Pearson, Inspectors Maxwell and Plaice, Caroline, Mr. Faylen, and Charlotte.

My review:

I enjoyed reading A Traitor in Whitehall. I have a weakness for World War II-era books, and when I read the blurb for this one, I knew I wanted to read it. I am glad I did because this book was a good read.

The storyline centering around Jean’s murder and Evelyne’s investigation was well written. I couldn’t figure out who the murderer was. The author had so many red herrings that I thought it was someone other than who it was. I was shocked at who was revealed and the motive behind the person killing Jean.

The storyline centering around the mole was interesting. Later in the book, it is introduced and intertwined with Jean’s murder. I did figure out half of this storyline reasonably early. But I was surprised at who else was involved. Again, it took me by surprise.

Both storylines merge at the end of the book. I won’t talk about what happened, but I will say this: the murderer and the mole are the same person. There is someone else involved, too.

As I stated above, the mystery/thriller angle was well written. The author kept me on my toes for the entire book. It isn’t very often that I can’t figure out who the killer is.

I may be imagining this, but I saw a possible romance between Evelyne and David. Their chemistry was beautiful in the book, and I can’t wait to see how they work together in upcoming books.

The end of A Traitor in Whitehall was great. I liked how the author united and solved Jean’s murder and who the mole was. But it was after that mystery was solved that I loved it. I can’t wait to see Evelyne and David work together again!!!

Many thanks to St. Martin’s Press, Minotaur Books, NetGalley, and Julia Kelly for allowing me to read and review this ARC of A Traitor in Whitehall. All opinions stated in this review are mine.

If you enjoy reading books similar to A Traitor in Whitehall, then you will enjoy these books:

Other books by Julia Kelly

A Cold Highland Wind (Lady Emily Ashton Mysteries: Book 17) by Tasha Alexander

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press, Minotaur Books

Date of publication: October 3rd, 2023

Genre: Mystery, Historical Fiction, Fiction, Scotland, Mystery Thriller, Historical Mystery, Historical

Series: Lady Emily Ashton Mysteries

And Only to Deceive—Book 1

A Poisoned Season—Book 2

A Fatal Waltz—Book 3

The Bridal Strain: Emily and Colin’s Wedding—Book 3.5

Tears of Pearl—Book 4

Dangerous to Know—Book 5

A Crimson Warning—Book 6

Death in the Floating City—Book 7

Behind Shattered Glass—Book 8

The Counterfiet Hieress—Book 9

Star of the East—Book 9.5

The Adventuress—Book 10

That Silent Night: A Lady Emily Christmas Story—Book 10.5

A Terrible Beauty—Book 11

Death in St. Petersburg—Book 12

Amid the Winter’s Snow—Book 12.5

Uneasy Lies the Crown—Book 13

Upon the Midnight Clear—Book 13.5

In the Shadow of Vesuvius—Book 14

The Dark Heart of Florence—Book 15

Secrets of the Nile—Book 16

A Cold Highland Wind—Book 17

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

Goodreads Synopsis:

In this new installment of Tasha Alexander’s acclaimed Lady Emily series set in the wild Scottish highlands, an ancient story of witchcraft may hold the key to solving a murder centuries later.

Lady Emily, husband Colin Hargreaves, and their three sons eagerly embark on a family vacation at Cairnfarn Castle, the Scottish estate of their dear friend Jeremy, Duke of Bainbridge. But a high-spirited celebration at the beginning of their stay comes to a grisly end when the duke’s gamekeeper is found murdered on the banks of the loch. Handsome Angus Sinclair had a host of enemies: the fiancée he abandoned in Edinburgh, the young woman who had fallen hopelessly in love with him, and the rough farmer who saw him as a rival for her affections. But what is meaning of the curious runic stone left on Sinclair’s forehead?

Scotland, 1676. Lady MacAllister, wife of the Laird of Cairnfarn Castle, suddenly finds herself widowed and thrown out of her home. Her sole companion is a Moorish slave girl who helps her secretly spirit out her most prized possessions from the castle: her strange books. Her neighbors are wary of a woman living on her own, and when a poppet—a doll used to cast spells—and a daisy wheel are found in her isolated cottage, Lady MacAllister is accused of witchcraft, a crime punishable by death.

Hundreds of years later, Lady Emily searches for the link between Lady MacAllister’s harrowing witchcraft trial and the brutal death of Sinclair. She must follow a trail of hidden motives, an illicit affair, and a mysterious stranger to reveal the dark side of a seemingly idyllic Highland village.

First Line:

At first glance, blood doesn’t stand out on tartan. At least not on the tartan worn by the dead man sprawled next to a loch on a Highland estate of my dear friend Jeremy Sheffield, Duke of Bainbridge.

A Cold Highland Wind by Tasha Alexander

Lady Emily, her husband, and their three sons are vacationing at their friend’s castle in Scotland. On the first night there, the body of the gamekeeper is found murdered on the beach of the adjoining loch. And curiously, there is a runic stone sitting on his forehead. Who killed the gamekeeper and why? And what is the connection between a former Moorish slave, the former lady of the castle, and a trial for witchcraft in 1676 and the murder in 1905?

I am a sucker for Scotland and will buy/read any book set there. So, when I saw this book in the SMP Influencer email, I accepted the invite. I didn’t know (mainly because I didn’t pull it up on Goodreads) that this was the 17th book in the series. I admit I had second thoughts about reading it. But the lure of Edwardian-era Scotland was too big of a pull, and I dove right in.

A Cold Highland Wind is the 17th book in the Lady Emily Ashton Mystery series. Yes, you read that right, book 17. But, surprisingly, readers can read this book as a stand-alone. There are mentions of past cases that stay just mentions.

A Cold Highland Wind is a slow-paced book. I tend to read books relatively fast; this book took me two days to read. But, the slow pace worked. There were parts of the book where I wanted it to move more quickly, but that was just me.

The first storyline centers on Lady Emily’s investigation into the gamekeeper’s death. This well-written storyline had me guessing who killed the gamekeeper (and the housekeeper later in the book). She was a thorough investigator who left no stone unturned during the investigation. The lead-up to the big confession was heartbreaking (for all involved), but what happened after shook me. I was teary-eyed at the end of that storyline.

The second storyline held my attention more than the first one. It follows Tansy (or Tasnim), Rosslyn, and a witchcraft trial. Again, this was a well-written storyline. But Tansy’s plight kept my attention more than the 1905 storyline. She was kidnapped, sold as an enslaved person, suffered unimaginable situations, and ended up in Scotland. I was astonished at how this storyline ended up. From how it began and what it ended up as was different from what I expected.

The characters in A Cold Highland Wind were interesting. I liked that Lady Emily and Tansy bucked the traditional perceptions of women of their times. I did find some of the secondary characters a little flat, but they weren’t the ones that were important.

The author keeps the two storylines separate for the entire book. They are only connected at the end of the book when Lady Emily’s friend mentions items prevalent in the second storyline.

The mystery angle of A Cold Highland Wind was terrific. The author did a great job of keeping me guessing what would happen in the 1676 and 1905 storyline. With 1676, I expected the last half of the storyline to go differently than it did. I thought it was going to go another way. In the 1905 storyline, I did not expect the killer to be who he was or what that person did. As I stated above, I was distraught by what happened and got teary-eyed.

The end of A Cold Highland Wind was typical. The author wrapped up both storylines and connected them. I liked how she left enough room to wonder if another book would be.

I recommend A Cold Highland Wind to anyone over 16. There is violence and a very mild sex scene but no language.

Many thanks to St. Martin’s Press, Minotaur Books, NetGalley, and Tasha Alexander for allowing me to read and review A Cold Highland Wind. All opinions stated in this review are mine.

If you enjoy reading books similar to A Cold Highland Wind, then you will enjoy these books:

Other books by Tasha Alexander:

The Intern by Michele Campbell

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Date of publication: October 3rd, 2023

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

Purchase Links: Kindle | Audible | B&N | AbeBooks | WorldCat

Goodreads Synopsis:

A young Harvard law student falls under the spell of a charismatic judge in this timely and thrilling novel about class, ambition, family and murder.

Madison Rivera lands the internship of a lifetime working for Judge Kathryn Conroy. But Madison has a secret that could destroy her career. Her troubled younger brother Danny has been arrested, and Conroy is the judge on his case.

When Danny goes missing after accusing the judge of corruption, Madison’s quest for answers brings her deep into the judge’s glamorous world. Is Kathryn Conroy a mentor, a victim, or a criminal? Is she trying to help Madison or use her as a pawn? And why is somebody trying to kill her?

As the two women circle each other in a dangerous cat-and-mouse game, will they save each other, or will betrayal leave one of them dead?

First Line:

She loved the way her professor moved.

The Intern by Michele Campbell

Important things you need to know about the book:

The Intern is a fast-paced book that burns through the storyline. For the most part, the storyline keeps up with the author’s fast dialogue and pacing. But, it does get a bit choppy (not laggy, choppy) in the middle of the book (during Kathryn’s storyline, when her co-worker gets blown up). The choppiness didn’t affect my enjoyment of the book, but it did distract me from what was happening.

The Intern is told from a dual point of view: Madison in the present day and Kathryn in the past. When the author switches, she clearly states who it is and, in most cases, where that person is. I did not have an issue following the storyline back and forth.

There are trigger warnings in The Intern. If any of these triggers you, I suggest not reading the book. They are:

  • Violence: This book has a lot of violence, both on and off the page.
  • Gore: Again, the gore is both on and off the page.
  • Abusive Relationship: I did go back and forth when deciding to put this as a warning. But Kathryn is in an abusive relationship with her half-brother and his mother. It goes back years (to when she was 12 years old). The abuse is primarily verbal and psychological, but there are instances of physical abuse.
  • Assault: In prison, Madison’s brother, Danny, is assaulted. There are attempts of assault on Madison throughout the book.
  • Cancer: Kathryn’s mother had leukemia in the past and present of The Intern.
  • Death: There is a lot of death in The Intern. The deaths range from accidents to murder.
  • Gun Violence: There is gun violence throughout the book, both on and off the page.
  • Police Brutality/Corruption: This is a massive theme throughout The Intern. Almost every police officer/correctional officer, except a couple, is in cahoots with Charlie.

Sexual Content: There are some light kissing scenes, mainly between Kathryn and her deceased husband. There are implications of Kathryn’s mother sleeping with Eddie at the beginning of the book.

Language: There is explicit language.

Setting: The Intern is set in Boston and the surrounding suburbs (northeast and south). Some scenes are set in Washington, D.C., New York, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire. The author didn’t give a ton of detail about Boston or any of the other states. However, the author provided enough for me to agree that the author did her research.

Plot Synopsis (as spoiler-free as I can get):

A Harvard student, Madison is thrilled to be in a class taught by her idol, Judge Kathryn Conroy. She is even more delighted when the judge offers her an internship in her chambers. But Madison’s joy turns to disbelief when her brother, arrested on drug charges, tells her that Kathryn is dirty. Then, he goes missing. So, it is up to Madison to find out where he is and if Kathryn is dirty. But Kathryn has her secrets. With Madison wary and looking for answers and Kathryn needing to protect hers, there will be a showdown, and someone will get hurt. When the dust settles, who will be left standing?

Main Characters:

Madison Rivera: I liked her, even if I did find her slightly annoying. She had to work hard to get to where she was. But, once her brother dropped his bombshell, Madison immediately acted. She was determined to help him and find him when he disappeared. Her determination, her wanting to network, and (if I’m going, to be honest) her being nosey were a massive part of why Madison ended up embroiled in Kathryn’s issues. There was a point in the book where I wondered if she would become expendable, but that was put to rest by the end. I am glad that her storyline ended the way it did.

Judge Kathryn Conroy: I am not going to mince words here. She had a crap life up to the age of twelve. Her mother was self-absorbed and an awful mother. Her father treated Kathryn like a dirty secret. Uncle Ray skeeved me out. The worst thing that could have happened to her was her mother getting sick and her going to live with Eddie. Kathryn was set up from that age on to become a part of a vast criminal network, and no matter how many times she tried to get out, they found ways to pull her back in. I didn’t judge her for doing what she did after her husband’s death. I would have done the same thing if I were in her shoes. I was just surprised she kept it a secret from Ray for a long time. I also would have struck the same deal that she did with Madison.

My review:

The Intern was a well-written thriller that kept me glued to the book. I didn’t know where the plotline would take me from one page to another. When I finished the book, I felt like I should double-check the locks on my doors. I was that unnerved.

The mystery/thriller angle was terrific. As I said, I didn’t know what I was getting from one page to another. There were some interesting and surprising twists thrown in throughout the book. But the one that surprised me was what happened with Ray at the end of the book. I was expecting something else.

The end of The Intern was typical. I liked how the author wrapped up the storylines. I had no issues believing the end of Madison’s storyline. The end to Kathryn’s was a little more unbelievable, but it didn’t matter. I enjoyed it.

Many thanks to St. Martin’s Press, NetGalley, and Michele Campbell for allowing me to read and review this ARC of The Intern. All opinions stated in this review are mine.

If you enjoy books similar to The Intern, then you will enjoy these:

Other books by Michele Campbell:

Have Yourself a Deadly Little Christmas (A Year-Round Christmas Mystery: Book 6) by Vicki Delany

Publisher: Crooked Lane Books

Date of publication: September 19th, 2023

Genre: Mystery, Christmas, Cozy Mystery, Contemporary

Series: A Year-Round Christmas Mystery

Rest Ye Murdered Gentlemen—Book 1

We Wish You a Murderous Christmas—Book 2

Hark the Herald Angels Sing—Book 3

Silent Night, Deadly Night—Book 4

Dying in a Winter Wonderland—Book 5

Have Yourself a Deadly Little Christmas—Book 6

Purchase Links: Kindle | B&N | Kobo

Goodreads Synopsis:

It’s beginning to look a lot like murder in the sixth installment of this charming cozy mystery series, perfect for fans of Donna Andrews and Jacqueline Frost.

It’s the beginning of December in Rudolph, New York, America’s Christmas Town, and business is brisk at Mrs. Claus’s Treasures, a gift and décor shop owned by Merry Wilkinson. The local amateur dramatic society is intensely preparing a special musical production of A Christmas Carol. But it’s not a happy set, as rivalries between cast and crew threaten the production.

Tensions come to a head when a member of the group is found dead shortly after a shopping excursion to Mrs. Claus’s Treasures. Was someone looking to cut out the competition? Everyone in the cast and crew is a potential suspect, including Aline, Merry’s mother, and Merry’s shop assistant Jackie O’Reilly, who was desperate for a starring role.

It could be curtains for Christmas—and for Merry—unless the killer can be ferreted out of the wings.

First Line:

There are two types of people in the world: those who love picnics and those who hate them.

Have Yourself a Deadly Little Christmas by Vicki Delany

Christmas is taken very seriously in Rudolph, New York. It has been named America’s Christmas Town, and the month of December is when tourism is at its peak—knowing that, the local theater group decides to put on a musical version of A Christmas Carol. But tensions are rampant throughout the cast, with rivalries threatening the production. Things get even more perilous when the actress playing Mrs. Crachit is murdered in Merry’s shop. With a short time until the musical debuts and needing to get her shop reopened, Merry must find out who the killer is and why. Can Merry do it? Or will the musical and Christmas be ruined?

Have Yourself a Deadly Little Christmas is the sixth book in The Year-Round Christmas Mystery series. While it is book six, you can read this as a stand-alone. But I suggest reading the first five books before picking this one up. I wish I did because I needed clarification about different characters. On the plus side, the author does not refer to the previous books, which was enjoyable. I was just left to muddle out the characters.

I loved the premise of this book. A town where Christmas is celebrated year-round is adorable. Plus, I loved the name Rudolph. The author also explored what it was like to live in a small town in Have Yourself a Deadly Little Christmas. The gossip and information grapevine was terrific and mostly on point. I also liked that Merry was friendly with most other people in town (except for the grumpy bookstore lady).

The main storyline of Have Yourself a Deadly Little Christmas centers around Merry, the murder of Paula Monahan (Mrs. Crachit), and Merry’s amateur investigation into the murder. It took a while for the murder storyline to get going. The author did an extensive job of laying down Paula’s backstory (and how unlikable she was). While the storyline was well-written and well-fleshed, the author could have trimmed down some aspects, like the journey to the neighboring town or Merry finding out that Ian was cheating on his wife. Neither had any bearing on the storyline (except to distract from who the killer was). But I do wonder if they will be part of the next book.

I liked Merry, and I could see myself being friends with her. She was grounded and an average person. Her reaction to her mother’s theatrics was funny (did I say that out loud was said a lot). She truly cared about the townspeople, even if some of them (Jackie) drove her up the wall. I also liked the way that she looked into Paula’s murder. She didn’t do it as a super sleuth but as an average person trying to figure it out. I loved seeing her thought process and the moment she realized who it was.

The secondary characters made the book. They were each fleshed out and had distinct personalities and quirks. They made the book so much more interesting to read. I also suspect that Noel (Merry’s father) is Santa.

The storyline of the musical did make me laugh. It was a realistic look at what happens when a group of passionate people get together. It also showcases how egos can ruin a show and how people must take constructive criticism. Aline, Merry’s mother, was the only one who stayed out of the pettiness, and that was because she was a famous opera singer. She dealt with that type of stuff for years. I loved that she put the verbal smackdown on the group towards the end. Someone should have done it sooner.

The mystery angle was terrific. I wasn’t a fan of it getting off to a slow start, but the author showcased all the suspects and the motives. I had a plethora of people to pick a suspect from. But I couldn’t. The author did an excellent job of throwing out red herrings. I was blindsided by who the killer was. It was the last person I would have even suspected. And that person’s motive was ridiculous.

The end of Have Yourself a Deadly Little Christmas was great. The author wrapped up the murder storyline in a spectacular way. I also liked how the murderer confessed (twice). It was like that person could have cared less about being in jail.

I would recommend Have Yourself a Deadly Little Christmas to anyone over 16. There is mild language, violence, and no sexual situations.

Many thanks to Crooked Lane Books and Vicki Delany for allowing me to read and review this ARC of Have Yourself a Deadly Little Christmas. All opinions stated in this review are mine.

If you enjoy reading books similar to Have Yourself a Deadly Little Christmas, then you will enjoy these:

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The Golden Gate by Amy Chua

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press, Minotaur Books

Date of Publication: September 19th, 2023

Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery, Fiction, Thriller, Historical, Crime, Mystery Thriller, Adult, World War II, Historical Mystery

Publication Links: Kindle | Audible | B&N | AbeBooks | WorldCat

Goodreads Synopsis:

Amy Chua’s debut novel, The Golden Gate, is a sweeping, evocative, and compelling historical thriller that paints a vibrant portrait of a California buffeted by the turbulent crosswinds of a world at war and a society about to undergo massive change.

In Berkeley, California, in 1944, Homicide Detective Al Sullivan has just left the swanky Claremont Hotel after a drink in the bar when a presidential candidate is assassinated in one of the rooms upstairs. A rich industrialist with enemies among the anarchist factions on the far left, Walter Wilkinson could have been targeted by any number of groups. But strangely, Sullivan’s investigation brings up the specter of another tragedy at the Claremont, ten years the death of seven-year-old Iris Stafford, a member of the Bainbridge family, one of the wealthiest in all of San Francisco. Some say she haunts the Claremont still.

The many threads of the case keep leading Sullivan back to the three remaining Bainbridge heiresses, now Iris’s sister, Isabella, and her cousins Cassie and Nicole. Determined not to let anything distract him from the truth―not the powerful influence of Bainbridges’ grandmother, or the political aspirations of Berkeley’s district attorney, or the interest of China’s First Lady Madame Chiang Kai-Shek in his findings―Sullivan follows his investigation to its devastating conclusion.

Chua’s page-turning debut brings to life a historical era rife with turbulent social forces and groundbreaking forensic advances, when race and class defined the very essence of power, sex, and justice, and introduces a fascinating character in Detective Sullivan, a mixed race former Army officer who is still reckoning with his own history.

First Line:

Inside an alabaster palace one January afternoon in 1930, a six year old girl hiding inside a closed armoire felt truly alone for the first time in her life.

The Golden Gate by Amy Chua

Detective Al Sullivan is at the elegant and luxurious Claremont Hotel when one of the staff informs him that one of the guests, a former presidential candidate, Walter Wilkinson, has been the target of an assassination attempt. Moving his room and posting police outside, Al heads home, only to be called back because Wilkinson has been killed. While investigating that murder, Al finds links to another death ten years earlier—Iris Stafford, the granddaughter of the hotel owner. He also finds ties to a local Communist party and an underground railroad hiding Japanese citizens from internment. How does everything fit together? Who killed Walter and why? The answers he uncovers could send a ripple effect across Berkely.

Before I get into the review, I want to let you know there are trigger warnings. They are racism (explicit and on page), bigotry (explicit and on page), poverty (explicit and on page), mental illness (on and off page), and child abandonment (on page).

I love reading good historical fiction. I also like reading mysteries and books in the World War 2 era. So, when St. Martin’s Press sent me the widget, I decided to download the book after I read the blurb. I was curious how the author would meld everything together and keep my attention.

There are two storylines that The Golden Gate is centered around. I liked how the author intertwined these storylines. She did so gradually by letting hints about Iris’s death appear in the investigation of Walter’s murder. By the end of the book, both storylines are entangled together.

The storyline centering around Iris and her death was heartbreaking. From flashbacks to the written testimony of Mrs. Bainbridge, you get to see how Iris’s life was up to her death. The author also showed how Iris’s death affected everyone around her. But the author did something clever. She held off telling exactly how Iris died until the end of the book. And you know, even then, I doubted whether her death was an accident or not. The confession at the end of the book, tied to Walter’s murder, didn’t sit right with me.

The storyline centering around Al and his investigation into Walter’s murder was a ride. The twisty plotline made me guess who could have killed him. Every so often, I forget that this book was set in 1944, so when Al just entered a house to get information or threatened a Hispanic worker with deportation and taking her kids, I was shocked. But, it did go right with how things were in that era. I did like that Al wouldn’t let go of this case and kept looking for a motive. As I mentioned above, this was a very twisty plotline, and the author didn’t give up the murderer until the very end of the book.

I liked Al and felt terrible that he had to hide the fact that he was mixed race (Mexican and white). But, in that era, you couldn’t get ahead in life if you were anything but lily-white. So, he did what he thought was right. That meant changing his last name to his mother’s maiden name and passing himself as white. What I also liked about Al is that he is flawed. He said and did things in the book that he regretted later on (the scene where he told Miriam he wasn’t her father broke my heart). He was also a good detective and determined to solve Walter’s murder and Iris’s death. By the end of the book, I felt that Al had matured. He was steps closer to accepting who he was. He also did something that I didn’t see coming.

The secondary characters truly made this book pop. From accurate historical figures (and the author has a very cool connection to one of them) to fiction, they added depth to this book.

The historical fiction angle was terrific. You could tell that the author did her research. I could picture myself standing among these people and not having an issue believing what she wrote.

The mystery angle was just as good as the historical fiction angle. The author did something that happens next to never: she stumped me on Iris’s death and Walter’s murder. Not only was it not who I thought it was, but it ended up being the last person I would have expected. I loved it. I was a little disappointed that Walter’s murderer wouldn’t face justice.

The end of The Golden Gate was terrific. The author brought together Iris’s death and Walter’s murder (see what I wrote above). I liked how she ended it with something very positive. But how she ended made me wonder if another book might be written in this universe. If so, I would love to read it. Also, the afterword was wonderful and detailed all the research she put into the book.

I would recommend The Golden Gate to anyone over 16. There is language, violence, and very mild sexual situations. Also see my trigger warnings above.

Many thanks to St. Martin’s Press, Minotaur Books, NetGalley, and Amy Chua for allowing me to read and review this ARC of The Golden Gate. All opinions stated in this review are mine.

If you enjoy reading books similar to The Golden Gate, then you will enjoy these:

Other books by Amy Chua:

Dreambound by Dan Frey

Publisher: Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine, Del Rey

Date of publication: September 12th, 2023

Genre: Fantasy, Fiction, Adult, Science Fiction, Mystery, Mystery Thriller, Adult Fiction, Science Fiction Fantasy

Purchase Links: Kindle | Audible | B&N | Kobo | WorldCat

Goodreads Synopsis:

In this thrilling contemporary fantasy novel, a father must uncover the secret magical underbelly of Los Angeles to find his daughter, who has seemingly disappeared into the fictional universe of her favorite fantasy series.

When Byron Kidd’s twelve-year-old daughter vanishes, the only clue left behind is a note claiming she’s taken off to explore the Hidden World, a magical land from a series of popular novels. She is not the only child to seek out this imaginary realm in recent years, and Byron—a cynical and hard-nosed reporter—is determined to discover the whereabouts of dozens of missing kids.

Byron secures a high-profile interview with Annabelle Tobin, the eccentric author of the books, and heads off to her palatial home in the Hollywood Hills. But the truth Byron discovers is more fantastical than he ever could have dreamed.

As he uncovers locations from the books that seem to be bleeding into the real world, he must shed his doubts and dive headfirst into the mystical secrets of Los Angeles if he ever hopes to reunite with his child. Soon Byron finds himself on his own epic journey—but if he’s not careful, he could be the next one to disappear…

Told through journal entries, transcripts, emails, and excerpts from Tobin’s novels, Dreambound is a spellbinding homage to Los Angeles and an immersive

First Line:

Dear Mom and Dad, If you’re reading this, I’ve already left.

Dreambound by Dan Frey

Byron Kidd’s world was turned upside down when his twelve-year-old daughter, Liza, disappeared. But he soon has hope. Then, an Instagram picture of his daughter in Los Angeles surfaces. Using his investigative journalist skills, Byron heads to Los Angeles to find his daughter. When it becomes apparent that the fantasy series his daughter loved has roots in reality, Byron must discard everything he knew about the world to save his daughter. Can he find Liza? Or will he disappear like his daughter?

I was not prepared for how much I enjoyed reading this book. I had seen it on the Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine’s NetGalley page, read the blurb, thought it was exciting, and wished for it. When I got the email that the wish was granted, I was happy but not overly so. Then I read the book, and I was hooked.

Dreambound isn’t written in your standard novel format. The author chose to write it differently. He used interviews, journal entries, text messages, emails, excerpts from Annabelle Tobin’s books (it is a series), and excerpts from a folktale book to tell the story. At first, I admit, I was a little iffy about it. I had read several books in this format (mainly journal entries) and wasn’t impressed with them. But the author made it work and did it in a way that kept me glued to the book.

The main storyline of Dreambound centers around Liza, her disappearance, and Byron’s search for her. It is a fast-paced storyline that has a ton of twists and turns to it. It is also well-written, and I loved the lore the author created.

I didn’t like Byron at first. I sympathized with him, but he was such a dick during the book’s first half (and well into the second). His ego was enormous, and his drinking was out of control. But, even though I didn’t like him, his love for his daughter showed through. He was willing to do whatever it took (faking emails from a publisher/breaking and entering) to find Liza. By the end of the book, my dislike of him did lift a little, but it never went away.

Liza broke my heart because I could see myself (at twelve) in her. She was awkward, loved reading, and loved anything fantasy. Liza used fantasy to cope with her father’s drinking and her parents fighting. So, it wasn’t a stretch for me to believe she could have been groomed by someone she met online and lured to Los Angeles.

The fantasy angle of Dreambound was fantastic. I couldn’t get enough of it. The author used a lot of folklore/myths to create the Hidden World and explain some of what was going on in the real world.

The end of Dreambound seemed almost fever-dreamish. What happened to Byron and what he did was nothing short of heroic for the Hidden World and Earth. I liked that the author had Byron’s story turn out the way it did. After everything that he went through and did, it made sense for what happened. The book section (where Annabelle reads the first chapter of her new book) of the ending was trippy, too. And lastly, what Liza did at the end made me wonder if there will be a book two or another book in this universe.

I would recommend Dreambound for anyone over 16. There is no sex or sexual situations. But there is language and violence.

Many thanks to Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine, Del Rey, NetGalley, and Dan Frey for allowing me to read and review this ARC of Dreambound. All opinions stated in this review are mine.

If you enjoy reading books similar to Dreambound, then you will enjoy these:

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Scenes of the Crime by Jilly Gagnon

Publisher: Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine, Bantam

Date of publication: September 5th, 2023

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Mystery Thriller, Fiction, Contemporary, Adult, Whodunit

Purchase Links: Kindle | Audible | B&N | Kobo | WorldCat

Goodreads Synopsis:

An ambitious screenwriter tries to solve her friend’s disappearance by recreating their fateful final girls’ trip in this riveting locked-room mystery from the author of All Dressed Up.
A remote winery. A missing friend. And a bunch of sour grapes.

It should have been the perfect spring break. Five girlfriends. A remote winery on the Oregon coast. An infinite supply of delicious wine at their manicured fingertips. But then their center—beautiful, magnetic Vanessa Morales—vanished without a trace.

Emily Fischer was perhaps the last person to see her alive. But now, years later, Emily spots Vanessa’s doppelganger at a local café. At the end of her rope working a lucrative yet mind-numbing gig on a network sitcom, Emily is inspired to finally tell the story that’s been percolating inside her for so long: Vanessa’s story. But first, she needs to know what really happened on that fateful night. So she puts a brilliant scheme into motion.

She gets the girls together for a reunion weekend at the scene of the crime under the guise of reconnecting. There’s Brittany, Vanessa’s cousin and the inheritor of the winery; Paige, a former athlete, bullish yet easily manipulated; and Lydia, the wallflower of the group.

One of them knows the truth. But what have they each been hiding? And how much can Emily trust anything she learns from them… or even her own memories of Vanessa’s last days?

Suspenseful, propulsive, and interspersed with scenes from Emily’s blockbuster screenplay, Scenes of the Crime is an unforgettable mystery that examines culpability, the shiny rearview mirror of Hollywood storytelling, and the pitfalls of female friendship.

First Line:

I’d made it about thirty precent of the way through the most glaringly insane round of script notes known to man when a ghost walked into the coffee shop.

Scenes of the Crime by Jilly Gagnon

Emily is struck by inspiration after seeing the doppelganger of her missing friend in the cafe where she was revising a television script. She decides that Vanessa’s (her friend) story needs to be told. But to do that, Emily must solve a fifteen-year mystery: What happened to Vanessa the night she went missing? The answers lie with three other people there that night: Brittany, Paige, and Lydia. Emily leans on Brittany to have a girls’ weekend at the vineyard where they last saw Vanessa. But not everyone wants to be there, and everyone has secrets about that night. Will Emily be able to tell Vanessa’s story? Will she solve what happened that night fifteen years ago?

When I read the blurb for Scenes of the Crime, I knew I wanted to read this book. I, along with millions of other people, love reading about cold cases. This book would be just that: the reopening of a cold case. And it was. But it was also a story about secrets, friendships, and how those secrets can destroy lives.

What was interesting about Scenes of the Crime was how the author wrote it. The author told the present-day story from Emily’s POV, with Brittany, Paige, Vanessa, and Lydia having their chapters. But, it was also written as a screenplay to tell the story fifteen years ago, complete with editing notes. I liked it because it gave insight into the girl’s frame of mind the night Vanessa disappeared and the girl’s weekend.

The main storyline was well-written and kept my attention up to the point when the author started to reveal the girls’ secrets. Everything after that, though, I thought was overkill. I had figured out what happened to Vanessa reasonably early in the book. So, to add that extra bit of drama about her grandparents disowning her and the will didn’t do it for me.

The mystery angle of the book was well written, but the author stretched it thin. How? Well, at one point, five different mysterious scenarios were going on. The author did a great job of keeping them separate, but I still got them jumbled up. The primary angle (what happened to Vanessa) was twisty, turny, and often unbelievable. I wasn’t surprised at the considerable twist that occurred almost at the end of the book (see previous paragraph), but I was surprised at who was involved. Then, I was astonished at what happened to that person. It was almost too much.

The end of Scenes of the Crime was almost anticlimactic, and I wasn’t a fan of it. With everything that went on that weekend, this is how it ended up. I was happy for Emily, but dang.

I would recommend Scenes of the Crime to anyone over 21. There is language, violence, and sexual situations.

Many thanks to Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine, Bantam, NetGalley, and Jilly Gagnon for allowing me to read and review this ARC of Scenes of the Crime. All opinions stated in this review are mine.

If you enjoy reading books similar to Scenes of the Crime, then you will enjoy these books:

Other books by Jilly Gagnon: