BOOK REVIEW: The Willow Woman – by Laurence Westwood #buddyread

Title: The Willow Woman
(Philip Ye #1)

Author: Laurence Westwood
Genre: Mystery, Thriller
First published: January 7th 2019
Publisher: Shikra Press
Finished reading: August 8th 2019
Pages: 440

“He plays the game very well. But anyone who thinks Philip Ye is not his own master is blind. As a friend I would never turn my back on him, as an enemy I would never underestimate him.”

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*** First of all I have to say thank you to Kelly for introducing me to The Willow Woman and hosting a giveaway a while back and to the author Laurence Westwood for sending me a wonderful signed copy!! ❤ This hasn’t influenced my opinion about this book. ***

It doesn’t matter that there is a whole ocean and thousands of kilometres between us, thanks to the wonder of Twitter Nicki (Jersey in the Channel Islands) and myself (Argentina) are always able to make our buddy reads work. With only a few hours time difference, it was easy to catch up, discuss what was happening in the story, guess what would happen next and of course share the necessary photos of both book and the obligatory dose of sugar we found ourselves needing occasionally. 😉 It was without doubt another successful buddy read!! Make sure to read Nicki’s review as well if you want to find out exactly why and if we felt the same about this story.

I was curious about The Willow Woman as soon as I first saw Kelly mention it on her blog. I’m always in for a good detective thriller and the fact that the story has a (for me) foreign setting is a huge bonus. I haven’t had the chance to read many stories set in China before, and The Willow Woman was therefore a little goldmine filled with local culture. Oh yes, this story will transport you right to Chengdu with excellently elaborated descriptions of both the setting and Chinese culture in general. Both the local culture as well as the spirituality play a very important role in the development of the plot and the plot twists you will encounter along the way. Especially the spirituality was a very interesting touch, with many references to the spirit world and main character Philip Ye actually asking the spirits of the deceased to help him with the case. His beliefs are then contrasted in Xu Ya, who seems more pragmatic and doesn’t seem to believe in the paranormal. The inclusion of both Chinese culture and the paranormal aspect without doubt gave this detective story an unique twist and made this story stand out for me.

Another thing you notice almost straight away is just how complex this story is, and in a good way. While it’s true that the sheer amount of characters can be intimidating in the beginning, The Willow Woman has a very helpful index to check who is who and how they are related when in doubt. Trust me, you will find the index very helpful especially in the first couple of chapters! It will make juggling all those different characters so much easier and allows you to properly enjoy the story from the beginning. This story isn’t just complex due to the amount of characters though. The Willow Woman has an abundance of storylines and different point of views to revel in. These are used to build the plot and plot twists brick by brick and help you keep guessing about what is really going on. While it’s true that I made certain predictions about for example the professor and the boy that ended up being true quiet early on, there were also a lot of twists I could have never guessed. The story was getting more intriguing, complicated and intense by the minute and we both had to ease the tension with a dose of sugar more than once… Never underestimate the power of cake!

As for the characters… While there are a lot of them, the ones that stood out most for me (and won over my heart almost straight away) were probably Philip Ye, Xu Ya, Fatty Deng, Ma and Mouse. Each is well developed and plays an important role in this story, although the role of some might not seem as important straight away. I’m not sure I agreed with certain decisions of some characters, including Xu’s actions towards the ending, but that was more me biting my nails and shouting ‘why would you do that?!‘ rather than a reason to enjoy the story less. You will have to ready yourself for some intense moments, especially towards the explosive ending! But I really liked how everything was wrapped up. I also really appreciated how references to the so-called Willow Woman were incorporated into the plot and how this element was ultimately explained.

In short, The Willow Woman is both excellently written and well constructed; the intricate plot, foreign setting with insights in Chinese culture and spirituality, abundance of characters and what you can roughly call a conspiracy angle making for a most fascinating read. If you are a fan of detective thrillers and are looking for a story with an unique twist, you should definitely schedule yourself a meeting with Philip Ye.


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ARC REVIEW: What You Did – by Claire McGowan

Title: What You Did
Author: Claire McGowan
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: August 1st 2019
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Finished reading: August 4th 2019
Pages: 282

“We always think we want to know secrets, but what we forget it that they come with their own weights, heavy as millstones, and if you aren’t careful this weight can crush you.”

*** 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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After being bombarded by positive reviews during the respective blog tour, I just couldn’t help giving in and request a copy when I saw it on Netgalley… There is no doubt that the premise of What You Did sounds absolutely intriguing and I couldn’t resist picking up this story almost immediately. And while I ended up having mixed thoughts myself, I can also see why others have a more positive reaction to this story.

It’s all in the characters. What You Did fits the definition of a slower paced and character driven psychological thriller perfectly, and this means that your reaction to the different main characters as a reader is fundamental and directly linked to your experience with a book. Sadly, it wasn’t ment to be between the main characters of What You Did and me. Out of all the main characters, I think the only one I actually liked was Bill, and I still wanted to hit him for certain actions and basically for having no backbone. The other characters… Sigh. Where do I even begin? I don’t want to give away too much to avoid spoilers, but let’s just say it involves things like a love triangle, lying to someone for twenty five years, abusing the trust of someone close to you, forgiving someone even though they don’t deserve it at all… I could go on and on, but I don’t want to spoil the fun. Ali was so so frustratingly ignorant and stupid and I basically wanted to shout at her to get a grip and open her eyes already. I don’t think her actions and reactions were natural at all and she managed to frustrate me A LOT. Likewise, Karen, Mike and Callum were basically disgusting and I really didn’t care about what was happening to their characters as they were unable to raise sympathy at all. I know some of them were ment to be unlikeable, but still… My feelings of frustration prevented me from enjoying this story as much as I thought I would.

As for the plot… At first I liked the idea of six university friends meeting again after twenty five years during a reunion. These situations always make for an interesting backdrop and gives the story a lot of posibilities; both by introducing possible flashbacks and character development and growth in general. What You Did gives us both, but not to the degree I would have liked to see… The flashbacks to the events of their final ball of the final university year, 1993, felt rather rushed and I would have liked more background and development here. I guess the main focus of this story is on the present and what happens during their reunion… I wasn’t sure up to what point certain aspects of the plot were completely credible though, and I did see some twists coming quite early on, but as a whole I guess the plot was entertaining enough if you enjoy slower paced stories with a few bursts of suspense.

The writing itself is engaging enough and made it quite easy to keep turning the pages despite my reaction to the characters. These were my personal feelings about said characters though, and if you can stomach unlikeable characters and enjoy a good character driven psychological thriller that packs a punch, you might consider adding What You Did to your wishlist.


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ARC REVIEW: The Sixth Wicked Child – by J.D. Barker @jdbarker

Title: The Sixth Wicked Child
(4MK Thriller #3)
Author: J.D. Barker
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: August 27th 2019
Publisher: Hampton Creek Press
Finished reading: August 12th 2019
Pages: 560

“You can bury a bad thing, but those bad things have a tendency to claw their way back out of the dirt.”

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

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!! Happy publication day !!

Hello, my name is Yvonne and I’m addicted to serial killer thrillers. Don’t ask me how, don’t ask me why, but every time I see the word serial killer mentioned in a blurb, my heart starts beating faster and I can’t help myself but to read the whole story as soon as possible. The more disturbing, twisted and gruesome the serial killer, the happier I end up feeling after I finish it… I’m not sure what that says about me and my (possibly?) disturbing mindset, but you won’t be able to stop me from getting my dose of serial killer thrillers like you can’t you keep me from my cheese or chocolate either. And addicted or not, there is no doubt that this trilogy is the crème de la crème when it comes to serial killer thrillers. Holy cow, what a read!

The first thing you have to know about this trilogy is that it’s an absolute must reading the three books in order, because you won’t be able to follow the story or get the references otherwise. Rather than three separate stories, we deal with one big plot devided into three parts and past information is crucial to keep following Sam Porter and Anson Bishop’s story and properly enjoy the ride. And with each book being more twisted and brilliant than the previous one, you will be in for a treat with all three if you haven’t started them yet. Exactly because this is such a fluid story divided into three parts, it is very hard to discuss the plot and character developments without giving away the plot twists of the previous two books while discussing The Sixth Wicked Child. I will keep it short to avoid spoilers, but if you haven’t read the first two books yet, I suggest you skip the rest of this review just to be on the safe side.

Remember those giant cliffhangers at the end of book one and two? The Sixth Wicked Child picks up right where the second story left, and starts with a bang at that. From the very first page, I found myself glued to my seat and I couldn’t help myself devouring those pages like there was no tomorrow. 560 pages might seem a bit long for a thriller, but trust me, you won’t find a boring minute in this brilliant final episode of the 4MK trilogy and you will enjoy every suspenseful minute of the ride. You thought the first two books were intense? Guess what, J.D. Barker found a way to take the intensity up a notch and make this third book the strongest 4MK yet. Disturbing, twisted, dark, hair-raising, shocking and one heck of a crazy ride: this series is not for the weak-hearted and it will include a healthy dose of graphic scenes, abuse and violence in general.

As for the characters… I’ve grown close to Sam Porter, Ansom Bishop and the others over time and I enjoyed seeing them develop in The Sixth Wicked Child. I love how this final book gives us the necessary background information of Ansom’s childhood and connects all the dots that were still missing. The main characters are basically all flawed, but described and developed in such a way that you cannot help yourself rooting for them and hoping everything will turn out to be okay in the end. The Sixth Wicked Child makes multiple references to the first two books, and it was great seeing everything connect and work towards the big finale. There will be a lot of twists and intense moments involved, and with the help of the diary and different POVs it’s easy to get the full scope of what is happening. Guessing those twists will be another matter though, and this story will definitely have a few plot twist bomb surprises for you in store. If you have a taste for dark and disturbing thrillers and haven’t had the chance to meet 4MK yet, I can highly suggest remedying that ASAP. Why? All of the above, but in short: this series is an absolute must-read for serial killer thriller fans. Go, go, GO!


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ARC REVIEW: Date Night – by Samantha Hayes

Title: Date Night
Author: Samantha Hayes
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: August 20th 2019
Publisher: Bookouture
Finished reading: August 10th 2019
Pages: 350

“My thoughts are all over the place. Finally, my head catches up with the panic in my heart.”

*** 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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After being blown away by The Liar’s Wife last year, I couldn’t help myself and requested a copy of Date Night as soon as it was available. I mean, the blurb alone sounds absolutely fantastic: a missing girl, a murder, lots of secrets and a possibly innocent and wrongly accused main character… How could I resist that? And I’m glad I didn’t, because Date Night turned out to be a highly entertaining read. This is a psychological thriller created to mess with your mind and this story will make you doubt every single fact you thought you learned as you keep turning the pages. The strength of this story is in the complex and well crafted plot, designed to mislead you and hide certain facts from you to keep you guessing. And while it’s true that the whole unreliable narrator technique is getting a bit old, I found the idea of having a possibly innocent main character wrongly accused very refreshing and definitely fascinating.

Date Night starts like most domestic psychological thrillers, with the typical family of two successful working parents and their children and this balance being disrupted by a turn of events. In this case in the form of a ominous note left for the wife, Libby. What you first think is a simple cheating husband or ‘someone with a grudge’ scenario soon turns out to be a whole lot more complicated as their babysitter Sasha goes missing… And a few weeks later somehow the police thinks that Libby killed her. Date Night switches between the (recent) past and present, making full use of the unreliable narrator technique while slowly revealing more facts about what really happened that night and exactly what secrets are in play. And trust me, there will be a LOT of those. Oh yes, Date Night is basically a web full of lies and secrets you will find yourself trapped in, trying to untangle the truth while you wonder if Libby is really innocent, and who could have been behind Sasha’s disappearance otherwise. And while it’s true I guessed part of the final twists right, there were other aspects I wasn’t able to guess at all.

There is one thing that made me enjoy this story slightly less though: the characters. I know it’s common for unreliable characters to be unlikeable as well, and sadly in this case I wasn’t able to connect to the main characters at all. I found especially Libby’s behavior in general to be very frustrating, and while her flawed character worked well to hide those twists and keep the suspense up, not being able to connect to her made me care less about her possibly being wrongly accused. I wasn’t a fan of the other main characters either… But with an intricate and well developed plot, excellent writing and lots of secrets and twists to discover, I had a great time reading Date Night anyway. Fans of the genre will enjoy this one!


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BLOG TOUR REVIEW: The Escape Room – by Megan Goldin #blogtour #TheEscapeRoom @stmartinspress

Hello and welcome to my little stop of the The Escape Room blog tour! A huge thanks to Kelly Klein (St. Martin’s Press) for inviting me to be part of this blog tour. There was just something about this story that caught my eye immediately and as soon as I saw the positive reviews popping up I knew I had made the right decision to read this title.  And it was without doubt a thrilling ride… Want to know why? Please join me while I share my thoughts!

Title: The Escape Room
Author: Megan Goldin
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: July 30th 2019
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Finished reading: July 20th 2019
Pages: 352

“If we all knew the truth, it would bring out our worst, most primitive instincts. We’d turn into feral animals. We’d consume one another.”

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

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I admit that I was sold as soon as I read the blurb. I mean, we are dealing with a Wall Street angle combined with a potentially lethal escape room setting here; how am I supposed to resist that?! You guessed right, I didn’t, and it turned out to be a very interesting ride. There are a lot of good things I can mention about The Escape Room, and also a few minor issues, but overall it is without doubt a story I can recommend to fans of the genre.

The first thing that stands out in The Escape Room is of course the setting in the financial world. This story mostly takes place in New York, with a focus on Wall Street and just how brutal the financial sector is. Ambition is an understatement and people will crush their competitors and crawl over their dead bodies if that means they could add more money to their already generous paycheck that way. Addiction comes in many forms, and this story shows us that there is definitely such thing as money (and power) addiction. This insight in the Wall Street lifestyle of the elite is without doubt one of the most fascinating aspects of this story. The work that goes behind the multi million deals, the possible consequences for those involved, the competition, the discrimination and sexism still involved in the financial world, the physical and emotional toll the sheer pressure of the job has on those involved… All these elements and more are incorporated into the plot of The Escape Room.

We mainly learn more about the financial world through the chapters told from Sarah Hall’s POV. While we are not sure in the beginning exactly what role this character plays in the whole escape room situation, Sarah’s POV is essential to understand more about the background and events leading up to the escape room. Sarah’s chapters are altered with those set inside the elevator where the escape room is situated. These chapters have a more acute feel as there seems to be an underlying feeling of danger present at all times… And since you already know some basic facts about how things will end, because it’s right there in the very beginning of The Escape Room, you will find yourself wondering how things could have escalated to that point. I personally didn’t mind already knowing the ending before the story had even started, because it was intriguing to slowly try to discover why those specific characters ended up in the elevator and how Sarah’s character fitted in. The actual suspense is more subtle that way, in the sense that we don’t have a pile of crazy plot twists to recover from, but I could personally really appreciate how the plot itself was constructed.

Next up one of my issues with The Escape Room, and it has all to do with the main characters. I’ve never met a bunch of main characters that were each and every single one completely and utterly unlikeable and frustratingly irritating. Ok, I’m lying, I did mostly like Lucy as a character, but she wasn’t as present as the other five (Sarah, Vincent, Sylvie, Jules and Sam) so technically she doesn’t count right? There is a lot of complaining going on by all five characters before you reach the final page. Complaining about money: wanting more money, not having enough money, wanting to make more than their colleagues…Complaining about their situation in the elevator: they have better things to do than being stuck in an elevator, why them?, it’s not fair! etc. etc… Complaining about the job: the pressure, not receiving the recognition they deserve, blaming the job for their addictions… And I could go on and on. Each of the five of what I call the principal characters have a whole lot of negative personality traits and negative behavior we are forced to deal with and it makes it a lot harder to make yourself care about both what is happening in the elevator and about Sarah’s story as a whole.

I also had some issues with the credibility of it all, as some aspects of the plot are extremely farfetched and will make your eyebrows work overtime if you are looking for a credible and realistic thriller. On the other hand, if you are looking for an fast and crazy pageturner that will keep you entertained all the way, you will find yourself more than satisfied by what you find. It’s true that I would have liked to have more focus on the escape room itself, with less bitching and complaining of course and more secrets and clues to solve (some of the existing ones were really easy to guess), but there is just something about The Escape Room that made me enjoy the ride anyway despite the fact I saw the end coming quite early.

In short, if you don’t mind your stories on the insane side and think you can stomach the unlikeable characters, you will find yourself having a great time reading about what you can call a conspiracy plot mixed with an intense escape room situation.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Megan Goldin worked as a correspondent for Reuters and other media outlets where she covered war, peace, international terrorism and financial meltdowns in the Middle East and Asia. She is now based in Melbourne, Australia where she raises three sons and is a foster mum to Labrador puppies learning to be guide dogs. The Escape Room is her debut novel.

CLICK HERE TO BUY


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ARC REVIEW: The First Girl Child – by Amy Harmon @amazonpub @aharmon_author

Title: The First Girl Child
Author: Amy Harmon
Genre: Fantasy, Romance
First published: August 20th 2019
Publisher: 47North
Finished reading: July 22nd 2019
Pages: 400

“I’ve come to believe that home is not a place. Home is inside of us. Home is the people we love. Home is what we strive for.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and 47North in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I consider Amy Harmon to be one of my absolute  favorite authors and her stories never fail to blow me away. What makes her books stand out is that with each new title we get offered a completely unique story belonging to a wide variety of genres. There are not many authors who can pull off more than one genre, and Amy Harmon is able to do so with utter and total success. The First Girl Child has once again proven to me that she truly is a brilliant writer. I already fell in love with her 2019 historical fiction release, What The Wind Knows, earlier this year, and this new fantasy title is the second book to receive the full five star rating this year. Want to know why you should add The First Girl Child to your wishlist straight away?

This is already my sixth Amy Harmon book and my first time reading one of her fantasy stories (I’ve been meaning to read The Bird And The Sword for ages though), and I was completely blown away by it. I know already that The First Girl Child will stay with me for a long time… Its high fantasy world being one of the favorite places I’ve been lucky enough to visit so far this year. Oh yes, the worldbuilding in this story is absolutely brilliant. Using Norse mythology influences, Amy Harmon has created a new God and son of Odin named Saylok, and has shaped the fantasy world around his story. I loved the idea behind the star-shaped island of Saylok, with its different clans named after the different animals representing the children of Saylok. And the animals are not just for decoration, as the inhabitants of each clan bear a resemblance to their respective animal in both a physical way and through their customs. You will find many many references to the Nordic culture and myths as you are reading Bayr’s story, and this was personally a huge bonus for me as I have a weak spot for Norse mythology and Nordic culture in general.

While the different clans and the inner workings of life in Saylok might have that historical feel, The First Girl Child also gives us a proper dose of fantasy with the help of the magic of the Keepers and the Runes. The fact that we don’t know a lot about the history behind the Runes and its power, other than that it’s basically blood magic, only adds to the mystery around the Keepers and the role they play in protecting Saylok. The Keepers play a big role throughout the story, with the main character Bayr growing up with them, and Temple Hill was a fascinating backdrop for Bayr’s story in general. The plot is well constructed and is build around the curse his dying mother put on Saylok and all its inhabitants. No girls will be born from the day she voiced her curse and died, and Bayr will be Saylok’s only hope… With no further explanation about how he is supposed to save Saylok available straight away, I kept eagerly reading and I loved seeing the future slowly unravel. Years pass in a fluent way, and the pace is kept at a speed that will make you turn those pages like there is no tomorrow. The brilliant writing only adds to this feeling and gives The First Girl Child the high quality I’ve come to expect when it comes to Amy Harmon‘s books.

But this story is nothing without its characters. Bayr, Alba, Ghost, Dagmar… Those are only a few of the characters that will win over your heart and make you fall in love with this story. The main stars of The First Girl Child are Bayr and Alba, and I adored both their characters and their relationship together. The character development in general is brilliantly done and shows them evolving realistically over time. The fact that nobody but Dagmar knows about the curse gives the story an interesting twist, and that is not the only secret that is being kept from the other characters. Things slowly escalate as years pass without another girl child being born, and I had a fantastic time learning all about Bayr and Alba’s story. The First Girl Child ended with a bang and without doubt left me wanting for more… And I’ll keep my fingers crossed we’ll get to visit Saylok and its characters again some time in the future.

The worldbuilding, the Norse mythology influences, the characters and their development, the plot, the writing… Oh yes, there were plenty of reasons that made me give The First Girl Child the full five stars it deserves. I can highly recommend this story to anyone who loves a good fantasy story with characters you cannot help but fall in love with and a healthy dose of Nordic references. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed.


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ARC REVIEW: Her Silent Cry – by Lisa Regan @bookouture

Title: Her Silent Cry
(Detective Josie Quinn #6)

Author: Lisa Regan
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: August 14th 2019
Publisher: Bookouture
Finished reading: July 24th 2019
Pages: ?

“Every one of us goes through our days looking straight at people and things but not really taking them in.”

*** 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 this series ever since I read the first book about eighteen months ago. With each new meeting with Detective Josie Quinn, my love for this series is only reconfirmed all over again and each book brings the promise of yet another intense and suspenseful ride. Her Silent Cry is no exception to the rule, and already the sixth successful installment of this detective series. Want to know why?

First of all, the simple fact of being able to meet up with some of your favorite characters again is always a fantastic feeling. Josie Quinn and her team managed to win over my heart from the start, and with each new story it feels as if you are meeting up again with old friends. You can see their characters develop over time, the events of the different books leaving its mark on their characters as well as the dynamics between them. While it’s true you can technically read Her Silent Cry as a stand-alone with only minor loss of background information, you will miss out on references to the past and might not fully get the dynamics between the different characters. And with the first five books all being thrilling and intense rides, there’s no excuse not to catch up with the past before diving into the newest Detective Josie Quinn!

In Her Silent Cry you will find new developments relating to the personal life of Josie Quinn, and that part of the storyline definitely left me wanting for more! Josie, Noah, Gretchen and even Misty and Trinity play a role throughout the story, although the main focus is on the new case that started developing right under Josie’s nose. It’s a missing child this time around, and a case that turns out to be a lot more sinister and complicated than you might think when little Lucy first goes missing… The little chapters with nameless characters give you a hint, but you’ll find yourself wondering how everything actually connects as you keep turning those pages and things are getting more and more critical. A fast pace is combined with a suspenseful and twisted plot filled with secrets and turns and together they will make the intensity level go through the roof. Josie Quinn and her team are finding themselves in a race against the clock, desperately trying to find Lucy alive and stop more people from getting hurt… But things are not that simple as certain people seem to be hiding crucial information that could potentially help them get Lucy back. As always, you might wonder about the credibility of certain aspects of the plot, but I myself was too busy flying through the pages and enjoying myself to really stand still by that. If you are a fan of intense and thrilling detective thrillers that pack a punch, you should definitely schedule yourself a meeting with Detective Josie Quinn soon!


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