ARC REVIEW: The Rules Of Murder – by Rob Sinclair

Title: The Rules Of Murder
(DI Dani Stephens #2)
Author: Rob Sinclair
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: January 9th 2020
Publisher: Canelo Hera
Finished reading: December 20th 2019
Pages: 318

“What did it say about her that she was still fighting away, still determined to prove to everyone that she could be a good copper, even after all that she’d suffered?”

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

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I was part of the blog tour for The Essence Of Evil back in September, and I really enjoyed my first meeting with DI Dani Stephens. I have been curious about what would happen next to her character ever since, so of course when I was invited to read the sequel I had to say yes immediately. I’m definitely not regretting that decision, because there is no doubt that The Rules Of Murder is another solid and pretty brutal serial killer thriller! Oh yes, fans of heart racing and suspenseful thrillers will definitely be in for a treat.

The first thing that stands out in this series is its main character Dani Stephens. While in a way you can see her as the typical damaged detective lead, her character has so much more dept than that. Not only is she a detective with a serial killer twin who actually tried to kill her, but she also suffered brain damage as a result of that attack and is still struggling with the consequences. It is fascinating to follow her on this journey and while the real progress regarding the brain damage matter was developed in book one, it is still a pretty important element in the sequel. The psychological aspect of the story in general plays a big role throughout the story, although the focus is mostly shifted towards the killer in this case.

Dani’s murdering twin brother Ben once again plays a role in The Rules Of Murder. He is a truly fascinating character and definitely provides for a very interesting angle in this sequel. What does he know about this killer? Or is he simply lying about having any knowledge? It definitely added a whole different layer of mystery and intrigue to the plot. And talking about the plot: if you are looking for a fast, shocking and disturbing plot with brutal murders that simply chill you to the bone, you will be more than satisfied with The Rules Of Murder. The murder scenes are definitely not for those with a weak stomach! The plot itself is quite complex and definitely has quite a few twists and turns, although I do have to say that I saw some of the plot twists coming pretty early on… The action and suspense mostly made up for that though.

The story is told through two different POVs: Dani and the killer. We mostly stick with our detective lead, with intermittent chapters that give us a glimpse inside the disturbed mind of our serial killer. And boy, those chapters are pretty twisted! The writing reflects the state of mind of the killer brilliantly and I felt these chapters added a little something extra to the story as well. The story ends with a bit of a cliffhanger, leaving you wanting to know more and how certain plot developments will continue in the future… The Rules Of Murder is by no means a meek story and it will have plenty of action, suspense and properly twisted and graphic scenes for you in store. If you like your detective/serial killer thrillers fast and dangerous, you should definitely try this series!


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ARC REVIEW: Bitter Falls – by Rachel Caine

Title: Bitter Falls
(Stillhouse Lake #4)

Author: Rachel Caine
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: January 21st 2020
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Finished reading: December 16th 2019
Pages: 336

“Women are always, somehow, to blame for the acts of men; that’s more true now than it ever has been.”

*** 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 a fan of this series ever since the first book came out, and the first two books are on my list of all time favorites. Book number three, while solid, didn’t have that same wow factor for me and I was hoping that missing spark would be present again in book number four… But unfortunately I’m starting to think that maybe this series has been going on for too long, and maybe it’s just better to leave things as it is? Don’t get me wrong, I still think this series as a whole is brilliant and Bitter Falls is without doubt another solid read. BUT. I guess you can only have that many bad things happening to the main characters before it starts becoming REALLY unbelievable.

Like I said, I still think the writing itself is brilliant and Bitter Falls is without doubt an intense, twisted and thrilling ride. I still devoured every single page and the story once again had that unputdownable vibe, but I also started looking a bit more critical at certain aspects of the plot and that is never a good sign. Basically book four, like book three, misses some of that spark that turned the first two books into all time favorites for me. With everything that has happened already to Gwen, Sam and her kids, it is extremely hard to put together another believable plot and create a new life threatening situation they have to get themselves out of. The plot of Bitter Falls and its cult element is without doubt intriguing and definitely has that disturbing and twisted feel. It links back to things that happened in the previous book and gives us another backdrop for a story that will have your heart racing the whole ride. BUT. Like I also said, I started wondering about the credibility of it all and especially the ending felt a bit over the top. I’m still on the fence as to what to think of the second half of Bitter Falls… It was without doubt highly entertaining, filled with action, suspense and a lot of disturbing scenes, but unfortunately once again that wow factor I was hoping for wasn’t present for me.

In short: I had a great time reading Bitter Falls and it is without doubt a solid and simply thrilling crime thriller, but sadly didn’t live up to the sheer brilliance of the first two books. If you are a fan of Gwen Proctor and the other main characters and keep those expectations in check, you will find yourself having a great time though! A little note: this is one of those series that has to be read in order, because you will be missing out on too much background information and character development otherwise… And trust me, you definitely don’t want to miss out by not reading the first two books especially!


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ARC REVIEW: The Secret Messenger – by Mandy Robotham

Title: The Secret Messenger
Author: Mandy Robotham
Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance
First published: December 12th 2019
Publisher: Avon
Finished reading: December 12th 2019 
Pages: 400

“Whether or not they are dead and gone, history defines us. It makes us what we are.”

*** 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 was already swamped with pending ARCs when I received an invitation to read The Secret Messenger, but as I have a (probably already well known) weak spot for WWII historical fiction I just couldn’t resist adding this title to my TBR anyway. Especially since my reading experience with her debut A Woman Of War last year turned out to be a positive one, and I do love a lesser known WWII setting… Because let’s face it: Italy isn’t exactly the star of the show in most WWII historical fiction stories, and I don’t think I’ve read a WWII story before set in Venice. Which was probably one of the key reasons I was especially excited to pick up my copy of The Secret Messenger. Now I’ve had the chance to read The Secret Messenger, I’m not sure what to do with my thoughts. I was fully expecting to love this story, and there were definitely certain elements that managed to provoke that love, but there were also other elements that didn’t work all that well for me. In short: surprisingly enough, I ended up having mixed feelings about The Secret Messenger. I’ll try to explain why below…

First of all I have to say that the setting in Venice is without doubt the true star of this book. The descriptions are detailed, thorough and really made the magic of the city come alive for me… Both in the present and past. Sadly I haven’t been able to visit the city myself just yet, but Mandy Robotham made it feel as if you were right there along with the main characters. Venice is a truly magical city and I loved learning more about its history through the characters of this story. The Secret Messenger uses a dual timeline with two different POVs: Stella in 1943-1944 Venice and Luisa in 2017 UK and later Venice as well. Dual timelines are always tricky to get right, and sadly I don’t think this technique worked all that well in this case. I felt the balance of the two different timelines was off; there was a whole lot more of Stella and Luisa’s chapters fell mostly flat for me until those final chapters set in Venice. To be honest, I think The Secret Messenger would have been a stronger story if it would have been just Stella’s POV, as she is clearly the star of this story and already takes up so much space in the plot to begin with. Luisa’s chapters only distracted from the ones set in the past, and to be honest I never really liked her character all that much either.

I also have to say that the pace was considerably slow during most of the story, only picking up towards the ending as things are getting more intense especially in Stella’s chapters. This slow pace made it harder to stay invested in the story and it took me a lot longer than usual to finally reach that final page… And it mostly thanks to Stella, the Venice setting and its fantastic descriptions and history that I decided to keep on reading. The whole story of the war in Venice and how the resistance tried to do their thing was fascinating, and I truly wish the sole focus would have been on Stella and her story. Luisa didn’t really add much to the plot for me other than slowing down the pace considerably and I don’t think her character was fleshed out enough to be a true asset to the story.

In short, there were things I loved in The Secret Messenger, including the WWII setting in Venice, its history and the story of the resistance and Stella’s story as a whole. There were also things that didn’t work for me, incluiding the slow pace during most of the story, the dual timeline and Luisa’s POV in general. As a result, I ended up having mixed thoughts about The Secret Messenger despite the fact that this story should have been a perfect fit, but fans of the genre should definitely give it a go as most people seem to react a lot better to the elements that didn’t work for me personally. I guess it was unpopular opinion time once again?


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ARC REVIEW: Snakes And Ladders – by Victoria Selman @amazonpub

Title: Snakes And Ladders
(Ziba MacKenzie #3)
Author: Victoria Selman
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: November 21st 2019
Publisher: Amazon Publishing UK
Finished reading: December 13th 2019
Pages: 382

“Caring makes you human. It’s the one thing that differentiates us from the monsters we hunt.”

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

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As soon as I read the first line of the blurb on Netgalley I was sold. I mean: Psycho meets The Silence Of The Lambs… How on earth would I be able to resist that?! Add the promise of a serial killer and profiler angle, and I just HAD to add it to my shelves. I confess I wasn’t aware that Snakes And Ladders was actually the third book of a series when I requested a copy, but thankfully it turns out that this story works really well as a stand-alone as well. A fair warning though: it is most likely that you will end up adding the first two books to your wishlist anyway afterwards, as you will be left wanting for more!

So, Snakes And Ladders. Of course, thanks to my mistake, I didn’t have the background of the main characters and past cases when I started reading, but despite this lack of knowledge I was able to dive straight in anyway. I’m not lying when I say that I was hooked after only a couple of pages! This is one of those thrillers that will draw you right in and won’t let you go until the very end. Snakes And Ladders has it all: intriguing main characters, not one but TWO disturbing serial killers, a fascinating case, a profiler angle, lots of suspense and plot twists, solid writing and plot development… Oh yes, there is a lot to love in this third book and it was definitely a huge success for me.

Ziba MacKenzie is without doubt a very strong lead and one of the reasons this story worked so well for me. Even though I missed some of her background information, I was still able to warm up to her almost instantly and I’m definitely a fan. I love how she is a profiler and gives us a slightly different angle on the typical murder investigation in detective thrillers. The profiling and psychological aspect in Snakes And Ladders is without doubt fascinating and definitely gives this story its unique touch! Likewise, I loved the fact that we had not one, but TWO serial killer characters involved. Vernon Sange is of course behind bars, but not less dangerous and he makes a fantastic villain. The Pink Rose Killer on the other hand is of course the main focus of this story, identity unknown and his case active. The flashback chapters give us some insight in his past and how he became the person he is today… But is he in contact with Vernon Sange? Why does he kill? And who is he? You will find yourself going round and round as cleverly designed plot twists keep misleading you.

Vernon Sange’s angle gave the plot more dept and added a whole different layer of danger both for Ziba and those close to her. It also gave us not one, but TWO riddles to unravel: who is the PRK and what is Vernon up to? Both riddles made me keep turning those pages and I managed to finish Snakes And Ladders in record time. And that ending! My eyes couldn’t believe what they had just read; while I saw some twists and reveals coming, that cliffhanger ending definitely was a true shocker. I’ll be waiting impatiently for book four to discover what will happen next, but not before I catch up with the first two books of course! Fans of darker, complex and twisted serial killer thrillers who love a profiler and psychological angle will have a great time with Snakes And Ladders.


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ARC REVIEW: The Blossom Twins – by Carol Wyer

Title: The Blossom Twins
(Detective Natalie Ward #5)
Author: Carol Wyer
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: December 12th 2019
Publisher: Bookouture
Finished reading: December 10th 2019 
Pages: 399

“Natalie had worked some tough cases in her time, but none had left their mark as much as the Blossom Twins.”

*** 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 said it before that it seems like you can’t go wrong when it comes to Carol Wyer‘s detective thrillers, and the announcement of every new title always make me feel giddy with delight. I’ve been following Detective Natalie Ward since the beginning, so of course I was very excited when I heard Natalie was ready to give us her fifth adventure… After how things ended in her personal storyline in book four, I was definitely most curious to see how things would continue. And as I’ve been enjoying my time with Natalie Ward so far, the decision whether to read book number five was simply a no-brainer. I’m not sure why it took me longer than expected to actually get to it, but there is no doubt that The Blossom Twins is another solid sequel with and ending that left me completely shellshocked, flabbergasted and simply destroyed.

So, The Blossom Twins. First of all I have to say that you can technically read this story as a stand-alone, although you will be missing certain key background information about the main characters and you might not get certain clues and character dynamics. You will be able to follow the case itself easily though. I felt that the balance in The Blossom Twins was slightly different than in the previous books, with a little more focus on Natalie’s personal situation at home. We definitely get a good glimpse at their current situation as well as quite a few changes… I don’t want to reveal too much to avoid spoilers, but let’s just say that things won’t be static in book five. That said, I did have an issue with how the current situation was described and portrayed by the characters involved. There was quite a lot of complaining and nagging going on in The Blossom Twins, both by Natalie and those around her and both on a personal and professional level. I can understand a bit of bickering and frustration, but it soon became a little too much for me and it started to affect my reading experience negatively.

I still can’t put my finger on the why, but The Blossom Twins wasn’t my favorite of the series so far. Part of this had to do with the bickering and probably also the current team and work situation at the station. The whole ‘enemy’ and ‘sneaky’ colleague element came over as a bit of a cliche for me and I found myself soon very annoyed with the whole situation… Also, I thought it distracted from the case itself, which on its own is without doubt both shocking and spine-chilling. A serial killer hunting teenagers and seemingly leaving no trace behind… Without doubt the worst nightmare of any parent! Things were a bit slow to start developing, but once the ball started rolling it was on a collision course and ready to bowl you over without warning. I wasn’t kidding when I said before that the ending left me shell shocked, flabbergasted and unable to render a word! Oh yes, the ending will most likely destroy you and it left me personally especially desperate to find out what will happen next in Natalie’s life.

In short, while The Blossom Twins wasn’t my favorite Natalie Ward installment so far, there is no doubt that it is still a solid serial killer thriller that ends with a bang the size of an atomic bomb. Fans of the genre and series will enjoy spending more time with Natalie Ward!


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ARC REVIEW: Nine Elms – by Robert Bryndza @amazonpub

Title: Nine Elms
(Kate Marshall #1)

Author: Robert Bryndza
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: November 14th 2019
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Finished reading: December 6th 2019
Pages: 396

“Kate wondered if that’s what happened after a long time in the police. You shut youself off from the horrific stuff, ad you sweat the small things.”

*** 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 a huge fan of the Erika Foster series ever since the first book came out, so of course as soon as I discovered that Robert Bryndza was going to publish a new thriller series I added the title to my list of most anticipated releases. I’ve been waiting impatiently for its release ever since, and I was over the moon when I received the email that my request for an ARC of Nine Elms was actually approved earlier this month. Guess who changed her reading plans and pushed this first book of a new thriller series straight to the top of her TBR pile?!

Now that I’ve had the chance to read Nine Elms, I can definitely say that my meeting with new main character Kate Marshall was an absolute success. What a read! Robert Bryndza‘s writing style has yet to disappoint me, and this book has once again showed me why he is on my list of favorite thriller authors. Let’s just dust off the reviewing cliches shall we? Because they definitely all apply: grabbed me from the start, hooked me from the beginning, unputdownable, read it in one sitting… I could keep throwing those one-liners at you, but you will probably get the gist of what I’m trying to say here. The only reason I didn’t actually read Nine Elms in one sitting is because I had almost no free time and no way to clear my schedule enough to be able to do so. Which was basically excruciating, as Nine Elms kept calling to me and I literally wanted to spend every free minute reading the next chapter to try and discover what was going on.

What I loved of Nine Elms is the shift in perspective as main character Kate Marshall isn’t an active detective during the present timeline. Instead, we have an ex-detective and current lecturer at a university who is suddenly drawn into her old world and nightmares again after fifteen years… Kate Marshall without doubt makes for an absolutely fascinating character and a solid lead for the rest of the story to be build around. Despite her flaws and not always easy personality, I managed to warm up to her character almost immediately and she is without doubt one of the reasons this story worked so well for me. I also loved the dynamics between her and Tristan; I’m definitely curious to see how this will evolve in the future!

Another thing that is fascinating is the plot itself, the Nine Elms killer and his connection to the main character. Flashbacks to the past slowly help us understand better what exactly happened fifteen years ago and how this influenced and made Kate into the woman she is today… Likewise, it was fascinating to get a little look inside the head of a serial killer and both past and present murders are both brutal, shocking and absolutely fascinating. The plot itself is complex and filled with twists and turns to keep you guessing, although I did see certain things coming early. That said, the plot is fast, complex and highly suspenseful and Nine Elms definitely isn’t for those with a weak stomach or if you scare easily. Dark, disturbing and delightfully twisted: the exact right thriller cocktail to keep you on your seat as you race through those pages.

There was a lot to love in Nine Elms, and it was without doubt an excellent start of a new thriller series I already have a feeling will be a new favorite. If you like your thrillers fast, dark, suspenseful and engaging with an unique touch and plently of plot twists, you should definitely meet Kate Marshall ASAP!


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ARC REVIEW: Down The Darkest Road – by Kylie Brant

Title: Down The Darkest Road
(Cady Maddix Mystery #2)

Author: Kylie Brant
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Detective
First published: December 10th 2019
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Finished reading: December 2nd 2019
Pages: 396

“All of a sudden, the best night of his life seemed like a distant memory.”

*** 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 really enjoyed my first meeting with Cady Maddix last year, so of course I couldn’t resist adding the sequel to my list as soon as I saw it was available on Netgalley. I’ve been looking forward to meeting up with her again, and I can now say that Down The Darkest Road is definitely a solid sequel and a very entertaining and thrilling ride. While I do think I enjoyed the first book a tiny bit more, there is no doubt that this sequel is a superfast thriller with a lot of action and suspense to keep you on edge.

Technically you could read Down The Darkest Road as a standalone, but as you would be missing background information on the main characters I wouldn’t recommend doing so. Without this information, you won’t be able to appreciate the complexity of Cady Maddix’s character fully… Because she is definitely one of the reasons why this thriller is so successful. With a traumatizing past that has marked her and haunts her to this date, her loyal dog Hero and her determination and fierceness while doing her job, Cady Maddix makes for a very intriguing deputy US marshal to follow. The main characters in general are easy to connect to despite their flaws, making them only feel more realistic in the process.

The plot itself is complex and filled to the brim with action scenes, suspense and a bulk load of plot twists and secrets. It has a very high entertainment level while also having quite a few shocking surprises for you in store… I do have to say that I’m not sure about the credibility of certain aspects of the plot and certain details did become a bit to fantastical, but there is no denying that Down The Darkest Road is a lighting fast and thrilling ride. The new case Cady Maddix becomes involved in definitely ticks a lot of killer thriller boxes. Bruce Forrester is the perfect villian for this story and it was fascinating to learn more about his character, his crimes and how he is able to escape justice for so long along the way. Dylan’s story was interesting as well; the witness turned victim as he has been moving around hiding and running from Bruce during the last five years… It shows just how little authorities can do to protect witnesses and what it is like to live in fear for so long. This aspect of the story was without doubt well developed.

In short, while I had some minor issues with the credibility of certain aspects of the plot, there is no doubt that I had a great time reading this sequel and I’m definitely looking forward to see how Cady Maddix’s character will develop in the future. If you like your thrillers suspenseful, dark and lightning fast, this series is an excellent choice!


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