An English manor home with secrets. A family history mired in murder and mayhem. And a steamy romance just waiting to erupt...
Before I get into anything at all about this book, I'd like to state for the record that I'm still a Kristen Ashley mega fan. Not a single month goes by without me reading a new KA book or rereading an old favorite for comfort. So if this is the first review of mine/others that you're seeing for a book from this author, I encourage you to check out my other reviews. Just because this one didn't become a new 5-star favorite read of mine doesn't reflect on my very high ratings of her other books. Check those out, and try this one for yourself!
Daphne Ryan, American billionaire heiress to her retail tycoon father, is on her way to a remote English manor house with her stepmom, Lou. They're both not looking forward to their destination. But family duty calls....
Portia is Daphne's spoiled younger sister. The one who's a pain in the ass, pouts and acts out to get what she wants, and is constantly at odds with her sister because according to their late father's iron-clad will, it is Daphne and Lou who hold the strings to Portia's inheritance.
Portia's asked Daphne and Lou to come to Duncroft, the English estate of her new boyfriend and his family, to impress the parents and show off how well she's doing in life to get Daphne to loosen the noose on her money. They've been invited for an entire week. No distractions—just Portia, her family, and David's entire family. At Duncroft.
Mhmm, awkward yet?
Add into the mix: Ian Alcott. David's older, sexier brother. Ian hates his role in the aristocracy, he's had enough of David and Portia's bullshit, and he's been invited to stir up further trouble. And he's got his eyes on new prey... Daphne.
But Duncroft isn't just a silent setting for this complex family drama played out over one idyllic week. This manor house has secrets, and it goes bump in the night. And it has some unsolved mysteries that it wants solved.
Daphne and Ian are about to get a whole lot more than they bargained for in this week. And it's going to get steamy...
Too Good to Be True was an entertaining read. Kind of like spending a fun week with characters playing house in those stately estates featured in our favorite British TV shows and movies, I enjoyed the vibes of this story a lot. Who murdered the mistress off of the balcony? Was it the lord of the manor in the Turquoise Room? The younger brother in the Brandy Room? Etc. Etc. As a Clue, Pride and Prejudice, and Agatha Christie fan, I had a very fun time with these fun little details and the engaging mini-mysteries.
In terms of the actual plot and romance—sigh, okay, you've got me. I had a slightly harder time here.
I think it was the fact that this full-length novel was originally written as a Kindle Vella. The mini-episodic story structure—Vellas are produced in short segments, like old newspaper story installments, over time—was definitely still at play here in this longer novel. As a marathon/endurance reader who reads books in as few sessions as possible, this was a hard sell for me as I was very aware of that structure going in and it felt like it repeated its own structure ad nauseum in the middle of the narrative.
However, that being said, I think this a fun read for those who just want to rest their brain a while with these fun characters in a very classic setting. There's a dash of mystery, a dash of historical, a dash of family drama, and a dash of steamy romance. It is a very fun sampler platter of a lot of good tropes!
Thank you to the author for my copy in exchange for an honest review.
The first book from this author from a male point of view?? And a heavy mystery plot?? Kristen Ashley is really branching out, and I'm here for it.
Enjoyment: ★★★ 1/2
Writing style: It's a KA book, so keep this in mind as her writing style is Very Dramatic and she loves a good one-sentence paragraph (like, REALLY loves it)
The Girl in the Woods is the sequel to The Girl in the Mist. Yes, you could start with this one first as it's a new story arc—but it's a richer reading experience if you read them in order.
Rus is an FBI detective on the hunt for the Crystal Killer. He's tired, he's jaded, and he's pretty sure he's done with FBI work in general. And he's definitely done with murderers.
But when the Crystal Killer strikes in Misted Pines, a small town in the Pacific Northwest that's already seen their fair share of shit, Rus has no choice but to make the trek.
And it's another murdered girl. (Rus is bone-weary of finding cold girls in the dark.)
Unfortunately for Rus, there's a twist to this murder: while it's done in the style of his Crystal Killer, it's not...quite... right. So now Rus has a copycat killer on his hands AND the worrisome wrath of the real murderer to come once he finds out someone's got his calling card.
Suffice to say, things are not going well for Rus.
But things look up when he meets the local burlesque club owner, Lucinda (Cin) Bonner. She's everything Rus could want in a woman, and she's a level of competent that he can't help but want to have at his side.
Misted Pines might have more for Rus than just his ticket out of dodge. It might be what he was looking for all along...
Y'all, this series continues to be unlike any of this author's prior works. It's obviously a KA book—swoony men, drama-drama, and her characteristic writing style that drives me nuts but keeps me coming back--but there were several things in this one that really shook up her canon. And I loved it.
1.) The ENTIRE story was from the male perspective?? Rus is running the show, we don't get Lucinda's POV. This was fresh for KA and honestly fresh for most indie romances I've read. Rus was a very interesting and clearly male gaze for us to have. I liked it, I wouldn't mind seeing more of this.
2.) Of all the Kristen Ashley romances I've read, this pairing was the most mature and lowkey of all of them. Lucinda was an adult who made sound choices, Rus was an adult who made very reasonable choices, and their romance itself was solid. No spoilers, but let's just say there is usually more drama in the romance itself for KA stories. (I love that drama, but this was interesting and I liked it more than I thought I would.)
3.) It completely blurred the line between a mystery/thriller and a romance story. Was it romantic? Yes, as much as I could find a sole-male POV window romantic from my cis-het female perspective. Was it also a gory, descriptive, and pulse-pounding thriller? Also yes. In fact, if I had to pick one shelf for this series to sit, I'd actually place The Girl in the Woods on my thriller shelf, because that's the more natural spot for it to sit. The romance took a backseat to the plot in this one. Which ALSO surprised me, by fact that I loved that too more than I assumed I would.
Overall, another winner in the KA index for me. (I am a very biased audience.) Pick this up if you like male POVs, thrillers, and well-rounded romance leads.
Thank you to the author for my copy in exchange for an honest review.
Loved the concept, loved most of the execution—I think this debut slightly fumbled the landing. BUT that being said, the vibes and concept were enough to keep this a personal favorite.
You visit an island. Something is off about it. The people are nice, albeit your standard rural area standoffish vibe. The island itself is a beautiful piece of land off the coast of Northern Wisconsin.
But there's something about these people—their clothes are dated, their cars are all rust buckets, their music is 20 years out of date. And weirdest of all... you can't find anything more tech savvy than a Walkman and a boom box.
You realize the town is acting like it's 1994.
And when you catch some members of the town captivated by seemingly "live" coverage of OJ Simpson's car chase in California—and then you catch them watching it multiple nights in a row—you realize something is seriously, seriously weird here. Because the entire town KNOWS it's not actually 1994. But they're acting out the scenario anyway.
And then you find out that people sometimes disappear.
Welcome to Clifford Island. You might not make it off...
Dead Eleven is a horror release that I found out about randomly on Goodreads one day, and IMMEDIATELY knew that I needed to have it. From that pitch you just read, can't you see why?? What a concept.
Layered into that killer concept was a mixed-media, brother/sister, and past/present timeline angle that I found too good to resist. So I bought this and read it almost immediately.
Ultimately, I think this debut did a few things perfectly: the vibes, the lingering/creeping dread, the pulse-pounding "I need to know what happened" element that keeps you reading late into the night.
Where this book fumbled was in the ending. I think it wasn't bad, but it wasn't as spectacular as its first half implied it would be. But then... maybe it will for you. Let me know!
Eagerly looking forward to more horror mixed media from this author.
Long-time fans of Kristen Ashley will be pleasantly surprised—I sure was! Very plot-forward and emotionally wholesome, The Girl in the Mist is the start of a new leg for KA.
Emotional angst: ★
Let's get two things out of the way right at the top: This book felt EXACTLY like a Kristen Ashley book in many ways. It also, surprisingly, did not.
Ashley's extremely distinctive writing style was present here—in particular, her dramatic pacing of single sentences as paragraphs used in a blatant way for dramatic layering of thoughts. This is a "love it or hate it" style, and I'll be honest, I have to be in the perfect mood for it. (I also seem to feel differently about it based on the format I consume the story? Kindle is the way to go, folks. The printed page really highlights this style and drives me nuts to look at from a distance, whereas the ebook format disguises this technique and you get into the groove.)
However, the distinctive KA styling aside... I was taken aback by this story. The Girl in the Mist was a different type of romance for my expectations, and the setting/plot/characters were a refreshing experience.
Unlike many, many other KA stories, this one makes a fantastic entry point into the KA universe and could be read as a standalone series too.
Delphine LaRue is a famous actress-turned-author who has a stalker. At the beginning of this novel, we learn that Delphine's stalker has escalated to the point where she needs to leave town and go lay low for while—she's not in the witness protection program, but she's in the KA commando version of it. (Longtime fans will recognize some names, even though none of the names are actually present as active characters in this story.)
So Delphine escapes to a cabin on the lake in the small Pacific Northwest town of Misted Pines.
It's a small town where everybody knows everybody. And everybody already knows Delphine LaRue.
This interesting, small town vibe aside, Delphine also has an interesting development. She meets her smoking-hot neighbor—single dad and retired FBI profiler, Cade Buchanan.
When a local girl is discovered dead, Misted Pines circles the wagons and Cade Buchanan gets involved. Delphine, being an empty-nest mother herself and an independent woman of means, also gets involved.
Sparks fly and situations escalate as the murder mystery at the core of this small town exposes the rotten roots of the "picture perfect" Misted Pines neighborhood.
I have some complicated feelings for this story. On the one hand, I think it's one of the most well-plotted and well-built worlds that I've read from this author. The mystery had some twists that I didn't see coming. The characters experienced quite a lot of emotional growth and unique situations. The town as a character was strong.
But... your girl loves drama. (Me, it's me, I love the drama.)
And I come to Kristen Ashley for that bad-boy, ridiculously Alpha male drama that involves a lot of running around, relationship drama complete with fights, making up, and all that jazz.
And Delphine and Buchanan just...didn't engage in any of that. I think it was a combination of their ages (they've done that before, they're wiser, they don't have the time for that B.S.), and the fact that the romance wasn't the core of this story. Their real-life drama was the murder mystery, so they didn't bring that into the home space.
Which was... fine. But there were several moments where Delphine and Buchanan had lots of reasons to have a lovers' drama and/or at least a playful dialogue about things and KA just... dropped it. We didn't get any of those highs and lows. This was emotionally wholesome to the point of being flat for the romantic pairing.
And, because of that, I found myself taking forever to finish this book. (Forever in KA standards, at least, whereas I usually start a KA book and don't put it down until it's done.) I think this book will have a wide readership, and it deserves it, but I do hope that the further books in the series give us a little Drama Drama for my drama-queen soul. Lol!
I went to from super hyped about this concept last year...to a lukewarm reading experience....and then a few days later to the realization that—despite my love for Roshani Chokshi—I just did not like this at all. I think this has a certain readership, and I'm sad I'm not one of them.
Sense of uniqueness: ★★
Investment into the characters: ★
Once upon a time, a man who believed in fairy tales married a beautiful, mysterious woman named Indigo Maxwell-Casteñada. He was a scholar of myths. She was heiress to a fortune. They exchanged gifts and stories and believed they would live happily ever after—and in exchange for her love, Indigo extracted a promise: that her bridegroom would never pry into her past.
Indigo is the beautiful and enigmatic muse woman of everyone's dreams. She's too flawless, clearly a bit dangerous, and so beautiful that you can't look away. The Bridegroom certainly can't. He loves his wife more than life itself and is willing to follow her into the dark.
One day, Indigo receives a message that her aunt is dying in her childhood home, the House of Dreams. Taking her bridegroom with her—this man is never named, so apologies for using "bridegroom" over and over again, it's a part of the dream-style repetition in this novel—they arrive at the surreal and darkly Other house.
It's while we're exploring this elaborate house filled with the echoes of secrets that we meet our second POV: Azur.
Azur's timeline is during Indigo's childhood, and she was Indigo's everything. A childhood spent surrounded by magic and twin ties and secrets and oaths, Azur and Indigo were two sides of the same coin. It was going to be Indigo and Azur, forever and ever.
But there's no Azur here with Indigo and the bridegroom.
As the bridegroom explores the House of Dreams, Azur's tale unfolds in the chapters in between. The House of Dreams has witnessed a lot of secrets, and it has some secrets of its own.
Will the bridegroom be able to keep his promise?
Or will he look back into the dark and find out the truth about Indigo's past?
Alright. So I'm not going to dissect the plot or anything here. I think this is a story that is intentionally like a fable, and more importantly, intentionally like the echoes of a story arc that some of us readers have likely read before. It's also a story that cares more for its ominous atmosphere and sense of lyrical flow than its concrete plot.
There's nothing wrong with any of that. But I will say that I wish this book had brought some more things to the table. For how drawn out it felt, for the amount of actual plot that happened in its pages, I needed more as a reader. I wanted something surprising, I wanted this very familiar arc to bring something fresh as a payoff for its very slow pacing. I needed to feel closer to these characters that felt, emotionally, like they were separated from me by layers and layers of glass. I just needed... more.
So, if you're like me and the above items bother you, I'd skip this one. But if you like the concept and don't mind that kind of thing, I do still recommend this one.
This was an intentionally messy story. And for...why? I don't know, and the more I sit with this the more I find myself bothered. (But who knows, that's likely the point.)
Overall message: ★★★
The best thing about this novel is its title. That's not as mean as it sounds, hear me out. I Have Some Questions For You relates to our main character's profession—she's a podcaster, she is literally paid to ask questions as talking points—and it also clearly relates to how this book is both posing its own questions at its audience and also meant to make us, as audience, ask questions.
A never-ending chain of questions, if you will.
And that's where this novel frustrated me to no end.
It's 2018. Bodie Kane has accepted a job at her old high school alma mater. Granby, a prestigious and private boarding school for elite high school students, has called her back as a short-term teacher for a podcasting class.
Bodie's got complicated feelings about Granby and her relationship to it.
In 1995, her one-time roommate was murdered. Thalia Keith, the beautiful and enigmatic girl whom everyone liked. The police quickly convicted the Black gym assistant, an early 20-something man who was convicted on hearsay, drug charges, and trace amounts of DNA.
This story is one that you've heard before. As the novel brings up throughout its pages, "you know the one." The one where she asked for it. The one where she was on birth control, and therefore consented. The one where she was found in the pool / the basement / the trunk / the woods. The one where it was the man she trusted. The one who was a beautiful white girl who died. The one where there was a Black man present, and that was enough.
Now armed with middle-aged wisdom and a 2018 lens on gender interactions, police bias, racism, and more, Bodie has feelings about this case. And she's never been able to let that go.
Her podcasting class sees 1995 as ancient history, so when one of her students asks Bodie if she can cover the infamous case of Thalia Keith, Bodie agrees. She's worried that this might be too biased. She's worried about her position of power as a teacher and if this will open up a can of worms she won't be able to justify. But like many things in Bodie's life, she lets it happen around her anyway and she justifies it to herself.
Tangled up in this story are themes of inappropriate conduct, gender imbalances, racism, unsolved justice, the #MeToo movement, messy relationships, and flawed perspectives. And all of the above sits in a messy knot, endlessly looping from one thing to the next and getting tighter and tighter as the novel progresses.
I don't know. I honestly don't. This novel covers understandably heavy topics that are meant to provoke an emotional response. I think it does this element well.
But I think that this novel boils down to one thing: it was messy and unsatisfying.
I Have Some Questions For You seemed to want to poke at everything and everyone indiscriminately—look at all of this injustice, look at all of this bias, look at all of these selfish people protecting themselves, look at this racism, look at this misogyny, look at this horror of endless fetishized female murder.
Every single piece of this story—Bodie's home life, Bodie's work life, Thalia's timeline, the narration style, the side characters, the endless plot points meant to mirror the core themes—seemed to want to simultaneously be a thesis moment confirming the story's overall message and also serve to be its own counterpoint in the argument.
I don't want to spoil this story, so I'll stop there, but let's just say that I did not feel like this tangled knot was justified, and I don't think it did anything to aid the genre or cultural dialogue. It just shone a light on all of the mess, which I guess highlights that I don't like those types of stories where their purpose is just to yell.
I recommend this story more to literary fiction fans as opposed to mystery fans.
Wow, what a honey-slow, menacing descent into the edges of one town's humanity. This book's unique flow, storytelling, and surprising mystery made for a stunning read.
Actual flow of story: ★★★★★
Enjoyment: I couldn't put this down, I read it into the night
I am utterly and entirely entranced by this story. From the reading experience to the well crafted mystery to the ominous and never-ending undertone of death, We Are All the Same in the Dark is a mystery/thriller that I will remember.
Trumanell Branson disappeared from the Branson home in rural Texas ten years ago. A bloody handprint was found on the doorframe, but no body was ever recovered. Her father, the unpopular and abusive Frank Branson, also disappeared that fateful night. The only Branson who made it out of that night alive was Wyatt, the younger brother whose mind cracked that night and no one could ever prove fully innocent (or guilty).
Odette Tucker's past is tied up in that bloody night like a bundle of chicken wire—one that she refuses to forget and yet can never fully solve. Her father was the policeman first on the scene at the Branson home. Odette herself was dating Wyatt Branson. And Odette's alibi for the night of Trumanell's disappearance is bloody—she was in a rollover car crash a few miles from the Branson property.
Now a partial leg amputee and haunted by that night for personal and professional reasons, Odette's turned into the Tucker legacy: a cop for the local community. And she's never let go of the Trumanell case.
Tangled up with guilt, a personal pressure to solve the unsolvable, and the sense that what's happened in the past might be happening again, Odette's not as surprised as she should be when Wyatt—now an unstable adult still living in the fateful home—discovers a young woman on the side of road with a dangerous past.
They call her Angel, and she's unknowingly brought everything crashing down in this tiny town.
I really, really can't say more of the plot without ruining some of the magic. Let's stop there.
I thought this novel did a few things brilliantly. One: the narrative voice. It's a spoiler to say WHY I am calling out the narrative voice as the best part of this novel, but just trust me on the fact that there are some unique surprises in just who is telling the story (and mystery fans, it's not that unreliable narrator nonsense).
Two: the almost hypnotic sense of reality vs. storytelling at play, and the constant sense that we have, as the reader, that there's elements of the story that we should know (but don't) and that there are things being told to us via these characters that they feel is obvious (but we can't really tell what that is). This is hard to describe, but I've seen it as a negative in other people's reviews when, for me, it was a huge positive. I like a level of confusion, especially when it's done as spectacularly as this.
Fans of intelligent mystery/thrillers with a dash of the gothic, pick this up.
This historical mystery series is criminally underrated—I LOVE it, y’all. Queer rep, 1940s noir with a modern edge, witty as hell, and so much fun you can’t stop reading/listening/laughing. I highly recommend the audiobook.
Audiobook experience: ★★★★★
This is the third installment in the Pentecost and Parker mystery series. While they each can be read as standalones, the first two books are great too and I recommend starting there.
Pentecost and Parker are back! And there's a new series of murders in town....
Willowjean 'Will' Parker and her boss, Ms. Lillian Pentecost, are a private detective duo operating in 1940s New York City as two women with a reputation for solving New York's most troubling and unsolved cases. They're a unique crime-fighting duo for the 1940s—two single women, one older with a multiple sclerosis diagnosis and one in her 20s with a passion for crime and for love affairs with both men and women—and their passion for helping women, people of color, and those in special circumstances has given them a boatload of cases and a sensational relationship with the press.
In Secrets Typed in Blood, the case for Pentecost and Parker starts with a high body count and a ticking clock. There's a copycat murder on the loose, killing New Yorkers in a sensational way and ripping their crimes from the fictional stories of one particular crime writer.
Holly Quick pens crime stories for a local paper under many pseudonyms. When she notices a disturbing link between her fictional murders and some real-life headlines, she calls up Pentecost and Parker. Her one stipulation? No police.
Will and Ms. Pentecost are very aware that Holly's hiding secrets of her own, but the mystery of the copycat killer is too enthralling to pass up. They take the case.
Y'all! My neighbors could hear my scream of happiness when this latest book appeared on my doorstep. This series—and in particular, these characters—have my heart and I've been an advocate for them since my first read last year.
The perfect hybrid between cozy mystery and noir, Pentecost and Parker fulfill an interesting niche in the detective story scene. They're historical and filled with banter, but they're not your grandmother's predictable tea shop cozy. They're intricately plotted and their murders are ghastly, but it's not the grim never-ending darkness of today's modern detective mystery/thriller.
There's something about this series that hits all of my buttons.
This particular installment was nicely paced and a fresh mystery for the iconic duo to solve. I liked the interplay between the copycat murderer and the social mystery behind Holly Quick's backstory.
I also liked that the slow-burn unsolved mystery that emerged in the early books continued in the background of this one--similar to Sherlock with Moriarty, Pentecost and Parker have a "big bad" that they're chasing behind the scenes of their current drama. I'm excited to see that play out in future books.
Don't sleep on this story—pick it up! And for my listening friends, I can't recommend the audiobook highly enough, it's fabulous.
*I receive a small commission from Libro.fm if you use my link above.
Medieval history secrets, ancient tarot decks, a dark academia museum setting, and a close-knit group of coworkers who blur the lines between personal and professional... I'd love to live in this version of higher academia, please, potentiality for murder be damned.
Use of history: ★★★★★
"Death always came for me in August."
Ann Sitwell, a recent college graduate from Nowhere Important in small town Washington, has arrived in New York City. She's an art history graduate with a passion for esoteric Renaissance and late Medieval pieces with a bend toward the arcane—her niche topic isn't necessarily the most relevant, her internship opportunities slim. So when she arrives at the Metropolitan Museum of Art to find out that they don't want her anymore, she's paralyzed.
But then, a fortuitous chance meeting with the enigmatic head curator at The Cloisters, Patrick, changes Ann's trajectory forever.
The Cloisters, a gothic museum settled right in the heart of Manhattan and incongruously secluded, is a museum unlike any Ann has ever laid eyes on. Its history seeps from the walls, and priceless collections, artifacts, and archives all tailored to Ann's areas of interest seem like an unbelievable dream.
There's Patrick, the established curator and head of The Cloisters, who has amassed a small and cloistered—pun so very intended—group around him for his current passion project in the occult. He's searching for hints of the earliest tarot decks and their potential links between the Medieval and Renaissance periods. He's searching, unbelievably, for a hint of true magic amongst the earliest of divination decks.
There is Leo, the gardener for the magical copse of deadly plants in the center of The Cloisters' museum structure. Surrounded by plants used historically in poisons, medicines, and aids to the divine, Leo's orbit as the non-academic in this seat of hushed knowledge is an itch that Ann just might find herself scratching.
And then there is Rachel, Patrick's other assistant. Beautiful, ethereal, unbelievably wealthy and connected Rachel. Rachel is also interested in this same field of study and welcomes Ann into the fold like a sorority sister inducting a new member, teaching her all of the tricks and ways of life in this small, set apart academic pocket.
When academic stakes meet deadly games, Ann just might find that she's found more than she bargained for...
Welcome to The Cloisters.
I'll keep my thoughts short and sweet on this one, because it's all high praise. This honey-slow, lingering, and deathly divine story was one that I could not stop reading. The Cloisters is a novel that breathes, sharing its secrets and obsessive drive with you. Ann's journey through grief, her enmeshing into this closed system of claustrophobic academics, and the ultimate unraveling of it all was such a treat to read.
Obvious comparisons have been made between this novel and other dark academia titans like The Secret History. I agree with those comparisons—if you like the standard favorites in the genre, then this novel is likely going to work for you. But I'd like to expand that filter a bit. If you're interested in magic and its weavings throughout our actual history, if you're interested in tarot, if you're interested in the study of the arcane in any way... this novel will likely work for you also.
Looking forward to more novels from this author.
A secluded lake. Death and secrets. And a house with glass walls hiding something sinister inside... Keep your eyes focused on the house across the lake.
Casey Fletcher is at her family's lake house for the summer for a forced recuperation from the press. A character actress who has spent the past year burning down her life with alcohol and bad decisions, she's drinking her way through her own personal lockdown in rural Vermont.
It's an interesting place for Casey to attempt to find her center, as it's the location of her husband's death by drowning.
Grieving, drinking, and trying her best not to think about her past, Casey doesn't have much to do while sitting in the house by herself. So she watches the residents around the lake.
In particular, there's a house across from hers with an entire side of glass windows facing the lake—and therefore facing her. At night, the lit-up box is like a real-life dollhouse complete with the movements of its two real-life inhabitants: tech mogul Tom Royce and his former model wife, Katherine.
Casey witnesses some very odd things in the Royce house when no one is looking.
And then Katherine disappears.
With unsteady hands and yet a drive for the truth, Casey's decided she can't let this lie—what's happened to Katherine? And why is her husband, Tom, acting like nothing is wrong?
Casey isn't prepared for the lid to blow off of Pandora's Box. But it's coming for her anyway.
Be careful what you spy on... You might not like what you see.
I think it's no secret that I am a huge fan of Riley Sager. Compulsively readable, engagingly paced, and ultimately fantastic fun, his stories are ones that I look forward to reading each year. His characters are the right level of flawed yet relatable. His plots veer from the mundane to the fantastical. And his settings drip with atmospheric tension.
The House on the Lake delivered, again, another Sager hit.
Without veering into spoiler territory, I really can't address the plot beyond what is mentioned above. I'd go into this story as blind as you can—it makes the ending more fun!
I will say, the ending completely surprised me. I don't know if I read this on the right day or what, but that ending completely side-swiped me in left field as I confidently thought I had it all figured out. The surprise was a good one, for me, and I loved that the author caught me off my guard.
The only thing that dragged this story down for me was the first half's pacing coupled with the heavy dose of Casey's alcoholism. Representation of her struggles was—to my limited knowledge—well done and accurate, but because the setting was so limited AND not much was happening beyond establishing the scene repeatedly, it made the alcohol references feel like they were repeating all over the place. I wish we'd had more going on in the early sections of the story to dilute that element of the plot.
Overall, a fantastic read. Ready for the next one, Riley!
Amy Imogene Reads
Just someone looking for her own door into Wonderland.