BLOG TOUR REVIEW: The Collector – by John Maher #blogtour #InkubatorBooks @damppebbles #damppebblesblogtours

Hello and welcome to my stop of the The Collector damppebles blog tour! A huge thanks to Emma Welton for inviting me to be part of this blog tour. I always love a good detective thriller and knew I just HAD to try The Collector as soon as I saw that new lead character is a forensic linguist. And I definitely liked what I found! Want to know why? Please join me while I share my thoughts…


Title: The Collector
(Detective Lucy O´Hara #1)

Author: John Maher
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: July 5th 2020
Publisher: Inkubator Books
Finished reading: June 23rd 2020
Pages: ?

“But that was the problem with asking yourself awkward questions. You never seemed to get a straight answer.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and Inkubator Books in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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I always love a good detective thriller and I knew I just HAD to try The Collector as soon as I saw that the new main character is a forensic linguist. Some might already know that I’m a philologist and I’m always interested in anything involving linguistics… I just couldn’t wait to see how this element was developed in the story and the actual criminal case in this first book of a new series sounded like a cracker too. Instincts told me that I was going to enjoy this one, so I jumped on the chance to join the blog tour and help spread the word. My bookish radar definitely didn’t fail here! The Collector is without doubt an excellent start of a new detective series with an international touch.

There is a lot to love in The Collector. The first thing that stands out for me is the international feel of both the plot and the characters. While the story mainly takes place in Ireland (both Dublin and other places), the plot also takes us abroad. We get a glimpse of both Hamburg (Germany) (which brought back great memories of our Eurotrip in 2018), Alicante (Spain) and flashbacks to Cairo (Egypt) for example… As someone who loves travelling, the different international settings were definitely a bonus.

The same international feel is represented in more than one character as well. First up is of course our new detective lead Lucy O’Hara, who has an interesting personal background with her French mother and Irish dad as well as growing up living in a bunch of different countries due to her father’s job. Lucy speaks multiple languages as a consequence, and I loved the forensic linguist details she helped bringing into the plot (although I kind of wish there would have been even more focus on this element). Lucy is not the only character with an international vibe though. The most obvious ones are the Lithuanian thug Lukas Petraskas as well as his Polish helper, but we also have more than one German character in play for example. On top of the setting and characters, The Collector also offers us little phrases in multiple languages throughout the story to help reinforce this same international vibe.

The plot has a multiple POV structure; the three main POVs are probably the detective and forensic linguist Lucy O’Hara, the Lithuanian Lukas Petraskas and the collector (der Sammler), but the POV of most of the characters in play will make their appearance at least once before you reach that final page. Having so many different POVs and characters to juggle might seem a lot, but their introduction felt natural and I personally didn’t have any issues keeping them apart. The writing is engaging and managed to draw me right in; the use of short phrases in multiple foreign languages added a little something extra and helpt giving the international feel of the story credibility. I liked the development of the plot, the building up of suspense was solid and the plot twists were mostly effective. I did guess part of the truth earlier than expected, but overall I had an excellent time with The Collector.

If you are looking for a new detective series with an original touch, you should definitely consider meeting up with detective Lucy O’Hara. I will definitely be looking forward to read more about her in the future myself!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

John Maher has published five novels and a collection of short stories. He has won national awards for radio play and short story with RTE in Ireland. His novel, The Luck Penny, was shortlisted for debut novel on BBC Radio 5.

A former teacher and lecturer, he holds a Phd from the School of Oriental and African Studies (London).

He lives in a small Irish village, between the Atlantic and the Irish Sea, from which he steals away, from time to time, to visit the world outside the island.

THE COLLECTOR will be his first novel published with Inkubator Books.

SOCIAL MEDIA

Website

PURCHASE LINKS

Amazon UK // Amazon US


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ARC REVIEW: How To Save A Life – by Liz Fenton & Lisa Steinke

Title: How To Save A Life
Author: Liz Fenton & Lisa Steinke
Genre: Fiction, Contemporary
First published: July 14th 2020
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Finished reading: June 14th 2020
Pages: 303

“I’m struck by how much I take life for granted. How easily I – or anyone I care about – could be a part of any of these stories that make the papers.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and Lake Union Publishing in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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I knew I wanted to read How To Save A Life as soon as I read the blurb and saw the mention of the Groundhog Day element. It reminded me of one of my all time favorite books The Seven Deaths Of Evelyn Hardcastle and I was immediately curious how this element would be developed into the plot. It’s without doubt also the reason this story will stay with me for quite some time! The Groundhog Day element gives the story a surreal touch as well as raising an interesting question as mentioned in the blurb: how far would you go to save the life of someone you love?

The main reason this story worked for me is that same Groundhog Day element. How To Save A Life starts out as an ordinary romantic contemporary when Dom meets his ex-fiancé Mia again after ten years… While this does sounds like a bit of a cliche, it’s a tolerable cliche and it was interesting to see the two react to their sudden meeting and what some might call fate. The plot thickens after the introduction of the Groundhog Day element, and it gave the story that magical realism vibe as you wonder if the things that are happening are real or if it is all in Dom’s head.

The story is told in a series of repeat Thursdays as Dom wakes up and experiences the same day all over again. This might sound repetitive, but there are enough changes in the events as well as enough growth in Dom’s character to keep you interested. By doing things different each Thursday, we slowly learn more about Dom, Mia and their past as well as the other characters in play. I didn’t particularly like the hint at the love triangle nor the stack of cliches used throughout the story, but overall I was intrigued enough by how it would all end to keep reading.

As for the characters… I’m still not sure if I actually like them, but they were all well developed and felt mostly realistic. I had a great time getting to know Dom and Mia better over time… It was also interesting to see the dynamics between the different characters, and I actually quite liked the ending too. How To Save A Life proved to be a very interesting read; a mostly character driven story about Dom trying to save the love of his life while also learning more about himself. It’s definitely not your ordinary lost love story!


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ARC REVIEW: The Heatwave – by Katerina Diamond

Title: The Heatwave
Author: Katerina Diamond
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: June 25th 2020
Publisher: Avon
Finished reading: June 20th 2020
Pages: 400

“There are places I haven’t been yet because I am afraid. It’s not the places I fear though, it’s the memories that come with them.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and Avon in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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I admit that I was curious about The Heatwave as soon as I first read the blurb, and after reading the first positive reviews I couldn’t resist requesting a copy. I still think that both the blurb and the premise of this story are rock solid, and The Heatwave is by no means a bad read… But somehow, even though I can’t put my finger exactly on the why, the story didn’t manage to convince me completely in the end. I’ll try to explain below why.

First of all I have to stress that a 3 star rating by no means turns this psychological thriller into a bad read, but rather represents my personal reaction to The Heatwave. It might just be that it’s time for me to take a little break from this kind of psychological thrillers, as I’m still not sure why I didn’t enjoy the story as much as I thought I would. The elements are definitely there, with an interesting premise, lots of secrets, plenty of lies and a missing girl cold case from 16 years ago. The story uses a dual storyline structure, where it switches between the present and flashbacks to 16 years ago to slowly discover more about what happened that summer. The past and present are linked both through the main characters and the two different missing girl cases… And it was interesting to see the two storylines collide and develop over time.

That said, I did found part of the plot to be quite cliche or at least nothing new, and especially the flashback chapters were slowgoing and could get pretty frustrating. Likewise, I didn’t like the present POV all that much either, as the main character was simply too frantic and mysterious about why she HAD to go back after 16 years away. I know the lack of explanation is used to try and add more suspense as well as increase the effects of the plot twists, but I failed to connect to the main character as a result and it made me enjoy the story less. I also thought that the final reveals were a bit over the top and they didn’t really match the pace and intensity of the rest of the story. Sure, they were shocking and mostly unexpected, but I didn’t really think it was a credible outcome to be honest…

I mentioned the main character and my lack of connection to her before, and this is basically what happened with every single character in play. I wasn’t sure about their development either, mostly because with more than one there were cliches involved and I wondered about the credibility of their actions and reactions to events. The whole seducing/grooming a minor in the flashback chapters left me with a bad taste in my mouth and overall the characters didn’t exactly make it easier to stay invested and properly enjoy The Heatwave.

In short, while I confess that still struggle to properly point out all of my issues, somehow I sadly wasn’t all that impressed by The Heatwave despite the promising premise. It might just be me having read too many similar psychological thrillers and needing a break from the genre, but it is what it is I guess.


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ARC REVIEW: Left For Dead – by Caroline Mitchell

Title: Left For Dead
(DI Amy Winter #3)
Author: Caroline Mitchell
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: July 8th 2020
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Finished reading: June 6th 2020
Pages: 336

“She was blind to the danger of her situation; in denial about the trouble she might be in. Her mind was focused on only one thing: apprehending the Love Heart Killer, before he struck again.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and Thomas & Mercer in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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I’ve been turning to Caroline Mitchell’s thrillers for years now whenever I’m in the mood for a thrilling ride. I first met DI Amy Winter back in 2018 and I was instantly intrigued by the background of this character. I think that it’s no secret that I have a weird obsession with serial killer stories… Having a main character that is first adopted by a cop and now a DI herself, but on the other hand having her biological parents being a twisted serial killer duo? Talk about a background that had me hooked immediately! We learned more about Amy’s past in the first two books, and her personal storyline continues to develop in this third installment. This is one of the reasons why I would recommend reading the first books before tackling Left For Dead, as it would be a lot more difficult to get a proper grip on the dynamics between and development of the various characters in play. Plus, if you like intense detective thrillers with a dark twists, you will be in for a treat with all three in the first place.

Left For Dead continues where book two ended and once again we hear quite a lot of Amy’s biological mother Lillian Grimes and her appeal. The main focus is on the new case and the new dynamics in Amy’s team with the appearance of Donovan as the new DCI of course, but you will feel that Lillian’s presence is never far away and always lurking in the background. I like how the balance shifted a little and we see more of Donovan, although I hope these new dynamics won’t slow Amy down in the future… In book three Amy is still as fierce as ever though and I like how she uses her background and intimate knowledge of the twisted minds of her parents to get inside the heads of other serial killers. She definitely has an instinct for hunting and isn’t afraid to go off the books to get results… Even if it brings danger in the picture.

Left For Dead has a multiple POV structure, helping us follow both sides of the law as well as allowing the story to hide certain facts until the plot is ready to reveal the truth. The plot itself is interesting, and while the identity of the killer is revealed very early on, it was still very much a thrilling ride as Amy and her team try to catch him. The story has lots of twists and turns and while there are no major surprises to speak of, it was still a very satisfying detective thriller read as a whole. The ending was a shocker too, and I definitely can’t wait to discover how things will continue now.

The DI Amy Winter series has provided one solid and dark detective thriller after the other so far, and Left For Dead is no exception. In this third book, we have another twisted case on our hands as well as developments relating to Amy’s mother and her appeal… Recommended if you enjoy the genre.


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BLOG TOUR REVIEW: Before I Die – by Jackie Morrissey #blogtour #damppebblesblogtour @damppebbles

Hello and welcome to my stop of the Before I Die blog tour! A huge thanks to Emma Welton for inviting me to be part of this blog tour. I was intrigued by this story as soon as I read the blurb; a carer like Dolores would be anyone’s worst nightmare without a doubt! Want to know what my reaction was to this story? Please join me while I share my thoughts…


Title: Before I Die
Author: Jackie Morrissey
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: June 21st 2020
Publisher: Inkubator Books
Finished reading: June 9th 2020
Pages: ?

“A sense of unease ran through her, born of some instinctive recognition of threat.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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I confess that Before I Die won me over as soon as I read the blurb. Dolores sounded absolutely fascinating as a character with that possible angel of death angle (nurse or carer turned serial killer). You all know how I can’t resist a good serial killer story, and it has been a while since I last read one with this angle. While the whole angel of death plot has been done before, I liked the direction the premise of Before I Die took and it’s without one of the strongest aspects of this story. It definitely helped adding a healthy dose of suspense as well as a hint of forboding! And this story is thoroughly creepy both for anyone depending on a carer as well as for those who have loved ones under care. Imagine having to deal with your own personal Dolores! Before I Die is a solid psychological thriller with a dark angle, and while it was slightly predictable in parts and not too credible in other areas, I still found it to be an entertaining read.

As for the characters… I mostly ended up having mixed thoughts about them. I did like how the story had multiple older characters as well as Dolores and the younger son of a friend with a heroin addiction, as it added a level of dept to the story. Their development in general is quite thorough and the colorful and diverse cast of characters made the story feel more complex, but they weren’t exactly likeable and not every action or reaction could be considered credible. I’m sorry, but I just can’t believe Maureen never stood up for herself; especially in the beginning when Dolores still doesn’t have a big influence on her. I can believe Dolores having the power to manipulate others so successfully, but Maureen letting her walk all over her straight away without putting up a fight just didn’t feel credible at all to me. I also wondered if the Spanish Dolores didn’t come over as too much of a stereotype. The story makes it seem like she left Spain long ago (or at least that is how I interpreted it after finishing this story and knowing all the facts), and somehow she still seems to speak all halted… I liked the added Spanish words in the text, but the sentence structure used to describe her dialogues felt a bit too much like building a foreigner stereotype cliche. This might just be a personal reaction to her character though.

The writing is easy on the eye and I managed to finish reading Before I Die in no time at all. The plot itself has a multiple POV structure which makes it easier to get to know the different characters in play… The same structure is of course also used to hide certain facts and secrets until they are ready to be revealed. The story will have a couple of surprises for you in store even though it’s a bit of a shame you can basically guess the truth about Dolores straight away. I had my doubts about the credibility in certain parts, and the ending felt a bit too over the top and intense after a slower psychological thriller vibe during most of the story… Still, it was intriguing to see the whole situation develop and find out how both Maureen and Dolores react to the things that happen. The story definitely turned out to be a lot darker than I thought it would be! I don’t think that is a bad thing though. If you like a good twisted psychological thriller with an angel of death angle, Before I Die is a solid choice.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jackie Morrissey lives in County Dublin and worked for many years in adult education. Her job took her into colleges and prisons all around Ireland, and introduced her to a range of interesting people. She loved the buzz of teaching, but came to hate the tyranny of correcting assignments. She has written throughout her adult life and has had many short stories published, one of which won the Molly Keane Short Story award. She has also been a regular contributor of short pieces for the Irish radio program Sunday Miscellany. About four years ago, she took the decision to write full time. The psychological thriller Before I Die is her first published novel.

PURCHASE LINKS

Amazon UK // Amazon US


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ARC REVIEW: What I Know – by Miranda Smith

Title: What I Know
Author: Miranda Smith
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: June 24th 2020
Publisher: Bookouture
Finished reading: June 3rd 2020
Pages: 285

“It’s wildly unfortunate we live in a society that waits for bad things to happen before doing anything.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and Bookouture in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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I always love a good psychological thriller and I was intrigued by the blurb of What I Know, so I decided to request a copy on a whim. “My brother was thirteen the first time he tried to kill me.”: talk about one heck of an opening line! I’ve been looking forward to read this story ever since and had quite high expectations for this one, but somehow the actual story ended up falling a bit flat for me. I still can’t put my finger exactly on the why, but I will try to explain below what worked and didn’t work for me.

First of all, I have to say that I still love the premise of the story and the blurb is without doubt a corker. I also liked the dual storyline structure, where we get to see main character Della in the present with Zoey and follow her back to the past with her brother Brian. This structure is used to draw parallels between both characters as well as adding a healthy dose of suspense… And definitely took the story to the next level. You are initially kept in the dark about the true extent of Brian’s darkness, although it is quite easy to guess how far it would go after reading the blurb and catching the first few hints. That’s probably why the final reveals around his character in the past were a bit of an anticlimax to be honest… The present storyline focusing on Della and Zoe was a lot more successful at keeping you on your toes though.

While the writing flows and makes it really easy to keep reading, I wasn’t always sure about the pace. Certain plot twists were really easy to guess, and drawing out the reveal of those twists slowed the story down instead of adding suspense… Or at least that was the effect it had on me. I always like it when a story is able to mislead me and keep me guessing, and that was not what happened here as I somehow had the characters figured out really early on. The lack of surprises was a bit of a letdown for me, and I honestly felt that it was a bit too convenient that nobody but Della saw the truth behind certain characters. It didn’t feel credible and the same goes for certain parts of the plot as well as the ending.

As for the characters… I found them to be very hard to like, which made it more difficult to connect to the story in turn. Some were ment to be unlikeable of course, but I was never able to connect to Della either both due to her attitude and actions. Initially I thought both Della and Danny would be a perfect match for me, as you don’t see too many stories about childless couples who made the decision not to have any children… It’s something I can relate to personally as with my hubby we stand by the same decision (have been for years as we just don’t see ourselves with children, or at least not in the forseeable future). I was a bit miffed to be honest to have Della suddently being saddled with an unplanned pregnancy; both because of Danny’s reaction and people judging how she feels about it. I know this is a personal reaction, but still… It made me enjoy the story and characters considerably less.

In short, What I Know is a psychological thriller with a dark edge: using a dual storyline, it switches back between past and present and introduces us to two twisted minds… What I Know has without doubt a lot of potential, and while the story sadly fell flat for me, others do seem to enjoy it a lot better.


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ARC REVIEW: The Republic Of Birds – by Jessica Miller

Title: The Republic Of Birds
Author: Jessica Miller
Genre: MG, Fantasy, Magic
First published: March 3rd 2020
Publisher: Text Publishing
Finished reading: May 28th 2020
Pages: 304

“Am I glad to be here? I really can’t say. I guess I’m in what Great Names in Tsarish Cartography would describe as uncharted territory.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and Text Publishing in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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I know I don’t read a lot of middle grade stories to begin with, but I’m trying to change that and read at least 10 before the end of the year. I was mesmerized by The Republic Of Birds as soon as I saw the cover, and when I read the blurb and saw the mention of Russian folklore I thought this story would be a perfect fit. What I didn’t expect is that I would end up having mixed thoughts instead… I’ll try to explain why below.

First of all I have to say that I love the idea behind The Republic Of Birds. The winter setting in high fantasy Tsaretsvo, the Republic Of Birds, the discord between humans, birds and yagas, the Russian folklore references… It definitely set the right tone for this story and it was the perfect setting and backdrop for Olga’s story. BUT. I was kind of left wanting for more when it came to the worldbuilding as a whole. We get some descriptions, and we get glimpses of the different parts of Tsaretsvo, but I would have loved to have more as some parts seemed rushed while other parts were basically info-dumps and stopped the flow of the story. The second both applies to the excerpts of a history book included between chapters and certain scenes in the book (for example the whole Bleak Steppe setting). I really feel like the worldbuilding and story could have been so much more with a little more development, although I guess long books with more descriptions might not work as well with a middle grade audience…

As for the characters… I’m not sure what to make of them. While I really liked the idea of the magic behind the yagas as well as Olga’s magic, I would have loved to see it developed a little more. I felt like the short time in Bleak Steppe was used as an excuse to rush things and continue with Olga’s journey as quickly as possible, ignoring the potential of a slower route. I also found it a bit hard to connect to Olga in the first place. Sure, she is the true heroine of this story, and I could really appreciate her love of maps as well as her magic, but her character came over a bit flat and the solutions she found were a bit too convenient to be fully believable. The same goes for the other characters; most lacked more development and didn’t feel well rounded as a consequence. Like with the worldbuilding, I think this story would have benefitted greatly if it would have spent more time developing the characters and the magic in a credible way.

The Republic Of Birds is a middle grade high fantasy read, and as a consequence there is never true danger and things are wrapped up rather quickly. It’s a story about a girl trying to save her sister while also discovering herself and her hidden powers. If you are looking for an extensive and lush worldbuilding and lots of Russian folklore elements, you might end up feeling a bit disappointed… The story didn’t really flow as I hoped either, mostly due to the info-dumps, but I do think a middle grade audience might react better to the lack of details and seemingly quick solutions. It sure is a fast read though!


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ARC REVIEW: Somebody’s Daughter – by Carol Wyer

Title: Somebody’s Daughter
(Detective Natalie Ward #7)
Author: Carol Wyer
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: July 9th 2020
Publisher: Bookouture
Finished reading: June 4th 2020
Pages: 379

“Victims of physical and mental abuse are strangled by their own inability to break free. They believe, for some bizarre reason, they actually deserve the hatred, the beatings and the sexual degradation. They lose their self-worth to the point they firmly believe they are worthless and they deserve to suffer.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and Bookouture in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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I’ve been a fan of Carol Wyer‘s detective thrillers for quite some time now, and I have been following detective Natalie Ward since the very beginning back in 2018. Somebody’s Daughter is already book number seven of this series, and without doubt another thrilling ride! I can always rely on this series to give me a couple of hours of solid entertainment. A little warning: technically you can read this story as a stand-alone, but you will be missing out on quite a lot of background information about the main characters and you will probably not get the full experience if you don’t read the previous books first. Especially since the last two books focus on some very drastic developments in Natalie Ward’s private life as well as the development of some the other recurring characters in play. Plus, if you are a fan of the genre in the first place, you will be missing out on hours of detective entertainment!

I’ll be keeping this review short to avoid spoilers, but those who have had the chance to read the previous books will know what I mean when I say that life has been no picnic for Natalie Ward so far. Both book five and six had absolutely shocking developments that left me reeling, and definitely had a huge impact on Natalie’s private life…  Somebody’s Daughter once again focuses on the developments in Natalie’s private life as well as the new case. As she is now a DCI, and other known character Lucy has taken over her DI position, the balance between the characters in the team has shifted a little and we see more of Lucy than Natalie in the investigation. This gives the story a slightly different vibe, but I personally didn’t mind too much as it gave the story a fresh angle too.

The writing makes it really easy to keep turning those pages, and while the pace might be a tad slower in points, things will get more intense as the investigation gets more complicated. We have multiple POVs, flashbacks and plot twists to provide us with hurdles to overcome, and the story is packed with secrets to unravel. What seems like an easy case with an easy to identify suspect soon becomes a lot more complicated… The bodies start piling up and the question is how they all connect and if the team is really on the right track. While we see less of Natalie now she is a DCI, we still get the rest of her team and she still makes her appearance throughout the case. Certain aspects of the plot made you wonder about the credibility of it all, but overall the entertainment factor won me over. Somebody’s Daugher can get a bit graphic in points and includes difficult themes as grooming, abuse, rape and addiction. This is definitely  not a story for those with a weak stomach!

This detective thriller series has been highly entertaining and suspenseful from the very first book, and Somebody’s Daughter is already book number seven and no exception to the rule. Natalie and her team have another complicated case to solve, and the bodies are starting to pile up very quickly… Dark, twisted and highly entertaining if you enjoy a good detective thriller with a disturbing angle. If you enjoy the genre, you will most likely have a great time with this series!


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ARC REVIEW: Saving Ruby King – by Catherine Adel West

Title: Saving Ruby King
Author: Catherine Adel West
Genre: Fiction, Mystery
First published: June 16th 2020
Publisher: Park Row
Finished reading: June 8th 2020
Pages: 352

“The world takes so much, sometimes words are all one can possess.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and Park Row in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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I was invited to read Saving Ruby King last month, and I found myself to be immediately intrigued by the blurb of this title. Especially considering recent events in the world… Because we can’t have enough own voices stories out there to help educate us more. That said, I have to say that I’m having a really hard time rating this book, and I ended up having mixed thoughts about the story as a whole. I’ll try to explain below what worked and didn’t work for me.

On one hand, Saving Ruby King is undeniably a very important and powerful read: an own voices debut set in both present and past Chicago that helps give us some insight in the race problematics and issues black people have to face even to this day. This element was the driving force behind this story and the main reason I kept reading. BUT. On the other hand, a big part of the story also focuses on religion. There is nothing wrong with that, but I personally have a huge aversion to stories that focus on religion, and even more if they start sounding preachy. This has nothing to do with the quality of this story, but instead is rather a personal reaction to an element I wasn’t expecting to be so present… But the fact remains that I struggled to keep reading every time religion came in focus, which was a lot.

Apart from my obvious issues with the focus on religion, Saving Ruby King is a fantastic debut. The writing, the complexity of the plot, the multiple POV structure, the character development, the mystery around and secrets of multiple characters, the race problematics, the story of abuse, the violence and also a note of hope… This story has so many elements and it makes for a multi-faceted and rich story. The plot follows multiple characters both in past and present, and it can be a bit of a juggle in the beginning to keep track of how they all fit together, but Saving Ruby King provides us with helpful family trees to make things easier. I also particularly liked the perspective of the church, which was both unique and gave us a more neutral insight in past events.

This is not an easy story to read, and will most likely make you feel uncomfortable. I applaude Catherine Adel West for the realistic development of the plot and characters, and for not being afraid to show the ugly truth and for the characters and elements to go dark and unsettling. This is a story about race problematics as well as a story of domestic violence, child abuse, self harm, murder as well as a spark of hope… Beautifully rendered, and if you are not bothered by the strong presence of religion in the story, you will be blown away by this story. Trust me, this book is worth reading for the black voices and focus on race problematics alone. I’ll leave you with a couple of quotes that stood out to me…

“We’re a minute blip on someone’s television. Sixty seconds and my friend is ruined, or ruined even more than she already was.”

“They know they won’t be held accountable for their actions. America doesn’t need ropes and trees anymore to kill us. They have cops.”

“It’s a melting pot jigsaw puzzle with very distinctive boundaries. And those invisible lines still carve up the city, separating black, brown and yellow from white, opportunity and a void of such things.”

“I’m black. That’s what matters. Cops cover for cops. Blue covers blue. Blue doesn’t cover black.”


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ARC REVIEW: Fifty Fifty – by Steve Cavanagh @orionbooks

Title: Fifty Fifty
(Eddie Flynn #5)

Author: Steve Cavanagh
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: July 9th 2020
Publisher: Orion
Finished reading: May 20th 2020 
Pages: 368

“No one is infallible. Everyone can be conned. Even me.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and Orion in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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I first met Eddie Flynn last year reading Thirteen, which made me an instant fan of the former con artist and clever lawyer. I decided to do a series binge-read of the first four books of the series in May, and I just couldn’t help myself reading the ARC of Fifty Fifty straight after even though it’s not due for quite some time… Because one thing is true: these books are seriously addicting. You’ve been warned!

Fifty Fifty is no different than the previous books, and reads almost like an action movie. Book number five gives us another mindblowing case to lose ourselves in… Although this book does have a different feel than the previous books. Instead of focusing on Eddie Flynn as the main POV, Fifty Fifty opts for a multiple POV structure where both Eddie, new character and lawyer Kate and the murderer (named ‘She’) share the spotlight. On top of that, we have other POVs popping up as needed, both to add suspense and give us clues of what is going to happen next… But the main focus is always on both Eddie, Kate and the killer. This new POV structure by no means made me enjoy the story less though, and it made for a very interesting change in tone of this series.

I liked that the Fifty Fifty title made reference to more than one aspect of the plot. How? Well, not only do we have two sisters and a 50% probability of guessing right which sister is guilty, but we also have Eddie now having to share the attention fifty fifty with new character and lawyer Kate. While in a way I was a bit sad to see less of Eddie, I did like the introduction of Kate and her friend and investigator Bloch. Both are strong female characters that added their little something to the plot, and I hope to see more of them in the future!

Talking about the characters… Apart from being introduced to new characters, old favorites like Harry, Eddie and Harper make their appearance again too. Every time I start a new Eddie Flynn book it feels like meeting up with old friends, and these characters are definitely part of the reason this series is one of my favorites. The characters are realistically developed and feel rounded, especially since they have flaws as well as strength. Fifty Fifty does have a twist involving one on the characters that completely shocked me and left me feeling sad even after I finished the story… I don’t want to give away too much to avoid spoilers, but those who have already read Fifty Fifty will know what I’m talking about.

The writing itself draws you right in and the different POVs allow different angles to be brought to attention while also making you doubt what is true and which sister is guilty. Fifty Fifty is no ordinary legal thriller, and while part of the focus is on the court case, you will also get plenty of action, violence, a serial killer and a conspiracy plot to frame their sister. Basically, the story has a lot going on at once, will keep you on your toes and the danger grows as it becomes clear that those who know too much about the case tend to lose their lives… The building up of the suspense is simply spot on and that vibe of foreboding and danger is omnipresent.

There is a lot to love in Fifty Fifty and while I do think Thirteen is my absolute favorite of the series so far, Fifty Fifty comes a close second. This is without doubt one of the most exhilarating legal thriller series I’ve read to this date and I definitely can’t wait to find out what Steve Cavanagh has in store for Eddie Flynn next.


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