ARC REVIEW: The House Guest – by Mark Edwards @amazonpub

Title: The House Guest
Author: Mark Edwards
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: June 3rd 2020
Publisher: Amazon Publishing UK
Finished reading: May 20th 2020
Pages: 294

“I felt like I was turning into a new version of myself. One who lived in a world where violence was expected. Where anyone who passed by could be part of this secret, threatening alternate reality.”

*** 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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The holy guacamole is back! Oh yes, The House Guest turned out to be one of those reads that left me completely mindblown and gulping for air… I literally finished reading it in one sitting, unable to stop before reaching that final page. Unputdownable indeed! My first experience with Mark Edwards’ work last year, Here To Stay, made me an instant fan, and this story only reconfirms my love for his writing.There is no doubt whatsoever that The House Guest is an absolute must-read for fans of intense psychological thrillers!

There is so much to love in The House Guest… The first thing that stands out is both the plot and its cult element. I really liked the structure of the plot in general with multiple parts; each with a different vibe while also complementing each other. The story starts out with that ominous feel that something is bound to go wrong sooner than later; basically true psychological thriller material that sets the tone for the rest of the story. Afterwards, we have the mysterious missing person case and more action involved as well as a private detective vibe… Only for things to turn even darker and dangerous with the introduction of the cult element. I just loved how the whole cult element was developed in general, and it definitely gave the story an unique touch. It’s also quite hard to put The House Guest into a specific genre box, and this multi-dimentional feel is another reason this story stands out for me.

Like I said before, the cult element is basically the star of the show, but in the beginning the main focus is mostly on the main characters. This is a great way both to get to know the characters in play as well as preparing you for what is yet to come… The story is mostly told from Adam’s POV and it was fascinating to see him develop and react to the events as they occur. His girlfriend Ruth is likewise interesting, and through her we get to know more about what happened after she disappeared. Eden is someone I failed to trust from the very beginning, but guessing and learning more about her story and motivation was without doubt entertaining enough. As a whole, not every character is exactly likeable, but they all played their role and felt realistic. It’s the perfect cast to tell this story and The House Guest will probably stay with me for a long time.

The writing itself is excellent. I literally wasn’t really in the mood to read, told myself to try the first chapters so I would get an idea of what the story would be like, and suddenly hours had past and I found myself staring at the last page. I was hooked from the very beginning, and this is definitely one of those stories you should clear your schedule for. Both the building up of suspense, the placement of the plot twists and the technique of witholding information only to be released at a crucial moment were simply spot on. You get that ominous feel, you get a missing person case, you get a cult, you get a conspiracy plot, you get danger… And you definitely get that satisfied feeling after reading a brilliant story. And talk about an explosive ending! I’ll repeat it again: The House Guest is an absolute must-read.


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BLOG TOUR REVIEW: This Is How I Lied – by Heather Gudenkauf @parkrowbooks #blogtour

Hello and welcome to my stop of the This Is How I Lied blog tour! A huge thanks to Lia Ferrone for inviting me to be part of this blog tour. I’ve been meaning to try Heather Gudenkauf‘s books for a while now and just couldn’t resist the blurb of This Is How I Lied… And it turned out to be an excellent first impression of her writing! Want to know why? Please join me while I share my thoughts…

Title: This Is How I Lied
Author: Heather Gudenkauf
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: May 12th 2020
Publisher: Park Row Books
Finished reading: May 11th 2020
Pages: 352

“Dark places made it so much easier to be cruel, to exact revenge.”

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

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I’ve been meaning to try Heather Gudenkauf‘s books for a while now and just couldn’t resist the blurb of This Is How I Lied when I received the blog tour invitation… I’ve been looking forward to read this story ever since, and I wasn’t disappointed by what I found. It turned out to be an excellent first impression of her writing, and I will definitely be wanting to read more of her work in the future! This Is How I Lied is a suspenseful and addicting story that will speak to detective and psychological thriller fans alike.

So, what made This Is How I Lied so successful for me? The first thing that stood out for me was the writing, which is both engaging, flows naturally and manages to draw you right in. While I do feel that this is a slower read than expected and mostly focuses on the characters, the story did have a healthy dose of suspense and action in store for you as well. I guess this dual approach has something to do with the fact that This Is How I Lied can be seen as a mix of a cold case detective thriller and a dark psychological thriller, and you basically get the best of both worlds offered as you read.

This Is How I Lied is not afraid to go dark and has more than one difficult topic incorporated into the plot, including abuse, grooming, mental illness, hoarding, dementia, violence and what some may consider a form of animal cruelty. This might seem as a lot, but each topic is woven into the plot with care and contributes to the background of certain characters… Together they turn this story into a considerably complex and multi-faceted read.

This complexity also has to do with the structure of the plot: the story is told with the help of multiple POVs as well as flashbacks to 1995-1996 (when Eve was killed and the original investigation took place). The story switches between Maggie and Nola in the present and adds Eve’s POV in the past… This structure is used to hold back certain details while slowly revealing other facts as well as secrets, and it definitely added to the whole building up of suspense. Eve’s murder has in fact multiple viable suspects and more than one is quite unlikeable too… The interesting part is that the twist is revealed quite early on to help build tension between certain characters, which was both kind of a letdown as well as an intriguing technique at the same time. Why? Well, you didn’t get the full truth either and you were kept wondering how the character would deal with having the secret threatened to come out after so long… It’s definitely a different take on the typical ‘whodunnit‘ stories.

I have to be honest here and say that the ending did end up being a letdown for me. Especially when the story shows you a certain truth at first and sticks with it, but you are also kept uncertain about who really killed her (there are at least four viable suspects at all times), only to have the DNA bomb dropped at the last possible moment to confirm who actually did it. This honestly felt like a huge anti-climax after such an intense read and especially after the scenes before the final reveal… And I can’t say I found it a satisfying ending after all that happened. That said, I do think this was my only main issue with this book.

A quick note about the characters… While they are not exactly likeable, I did find them to be well developed and with their flaws and issues they felt realistic. It was easy to worry about both Maggie and Eve (although you already know it will end badly for Eve), which made it easy to stay invested in the story itself. Furthermore, we have a long string of suspects and basically unlikeable characters, including Nick, Cam Harper and Nola herself. Abuse, grooming, maiming and dissecting animals, violence, mental health issues… Oh yes, those characters are no picnic indeed. Maggie’s father and former chief is another interesting character with his dementia, as you wonder why he never sold Eve’s murder case and if he knew more back then… Especially now those memories are seemingly lost forever.

In short, This Is How I Lied is a multi-dementional and suspenseful mix of a cold case detective thriller and a dark psychological thriller that isn’t afraid to drop some heavy topics on you as you try to discover what happened in Grotto all those years ago. Recommended for fans of the genre!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Heather Gudenkauf is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of many books, including The Weight of Silence and These Things Hidden. Heather graduated from the University of Iowa with a degree in elementary education, has spent her career working with students of all ages. She lives in Iowa with her husband, three children, and a very spoiled German Shorthaired Pointer named Lolo. In her free time, Heather enjoys spending time with her family, reading, hiking, and running.

BUY LINKS

Harlequin // Barnes & Noble // Amazon // Books-A-Million // Powell’s

SOCIAL LINKS

Author Website // Twitter: @hgudenkauf // Instagram: @heathergudenkauf // Facebook: @HeatherGudenkaufAuthor // Goodreads


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BLOG TOUR REVIEW: Ash Mountain – by Helen Fitzgerald #blogtour #RandomThingsTours @Orendabooks @annecater

Hello and welcome to my stop of the Ash Mountain Random Things Tours blog tour! A huge thanks to Anne Cater for inviting me to be part of this blog tour. I keep hearing fantastic things about Helen Fitzgerald‘s work and the blurb of Ash Mountain was simply irresistible… It turned out to be an excellent first experience with her writing. Want to know why? Please join me while I share my thoughts!

Title: Ash Mountain
Author: Helen Fitzgerald
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: March 14th 2020
Publisher: Orenda Books
Finished reading: May 7th 2020
Pages: 210

“This town is no more shit than any other place. It’s just that when you live in a small town, you know everyone, you know their tragedies, and you feel their pain.”

*** 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 keep hearing excellent things about Helen Fitzgerald‘s writing, and I just couldn’t pass up on the opportunity to join the blog tour for her most recent title as the blurb of Ash Mountain simply sounded irresistible. The Australian setting, the bushfire, the combination of domestic noir and disaster thriller… Oh yes, bring it on! I was mesmerized as soon as I started reading and this feeling didn’t go away at any point. Brazen, sharp and a dose of humor mixed with an emotional rollercoaster as well as a topping of danger… Without doubt a mind-boggling thriller sundae with a truly unique flavor, and something you shouldn’t miss out on!

The first thing that stood out for me was the writing. It’s my first experience with her style, and I must say that I’m a fan. The sharp and sometimes even snarky and self-deprecating humor added an interesting tone to this story that is part domestic noir and part disaster thriller. You get the best of both worlds as you learn more about the town and its inhabitants, while also knowing that danger is just around the corner… The bushfire really gave the story that sense of foreboding as you got to know the characters and wonder where they would be on the day of the fire and if they would survive… It also gave the story a sense of urgency and stressed the vulnerability of those characters.

I loved the structure of the plot. Not only do we have multiple POVs of different people in Ash Mountain, but we also have a lot of timehops and flashbacks to deal with. As the bushfire is basically the main event that affects everyone in town, each timeframe is compared to the day of the fire, going back days and sometimes years in the past. The story starts with a proper bang as Fran experiences the bushfire… I mean, the story is basically on fire from the very start! Afterwards, we get to see the events both days before the fire and 30 years in the past back when Fran was 16. Time and character hops keep you on your toes without being confusing, and it is truly fascinating to learn more about the people in town while only YOU know the threat that hangs above them. The sense of foreboding definitely added a healthy dose of suspense; the building up to the day of the bushfire was brilliantly done and it’s easy to say that the story both started and finished with a bang.

The setting in the Australian outback is brilliantly described. The descriptions really made the small Ash Mountain town come alive for me and I loved the use of Australian words to make the story feel more authentic. The same goes for the thorough descriptions of the bushfire and its aftermath. I’ve heard of bushfires before of course, but I would never have pictured it this well without the brilliant descriptions of Helen Fitzgerald. The wall of fire, the smoke, the seemingly random path of destruction… An image of fear, helplessness and danger and very current after the terrible fires in 2019. I particularly loved the story behind the cover too, as it was an actual photo taken during those fires.

Ash Mountain also had a very interesting cast of characters and I had a great time getting to know them. Fran is the main focus of the story, and we can see her features both in the flashbacks as well as the present. That said, the story also shares multiple POVS to help you to get to know the people in town as well as learn more about several events in the past and present. The story furthermore includes difficult themes as child abuse, teen pregnancy, sickness and death, although the bushfire is the actual star of the show and its danger is omnipresent. The story does show that even a small town has secrets you can’t run away from…

This book turned out to be a real firecracker! Unique, sharp and with that ominous feel, Ash Mountain is the perfect balance between domestic noir and disaster thriller set in a small Australian town. Highly recommended!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Helen FitzGerald is the bestselling author of ten adult and young adult thrillers, including The Donor (2011) and The Cry (2013), which was longlisted for the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year, and is now a major drama for BBC1. Her 2019 dark comedy thriller Worst Case Scenario was a Book of the Year in both The Guardian and Daily Telegraph. Helen worked as a criminal justice social worker for over fifteen years. She grew up in Victoria, Australia, and now lives in Glasgow with her husband.


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ARC REVIEW: The Girl Beneath The Sea – by Andrew Mayne @amazonpub

Title: The Girl Beneath The Sea
(Underwater Investigation Unit #1)
Author: Andrew Mayne
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: May 1st 2020
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Finished reading: May 8th 2020
Pages: 328

“Sometimes you don’t get to choose your struggles – they choose 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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I’m always in for a good detective thriller, and I admit that I was sold as soon as I saw the Florida police diver angle. It sounded like a mix of CSI Miami and one of my favorite action thriller series Lori Anderson, especially with the treasure hunter and diver angle as well as the promise of a kickass female main character. And I definitely liked what I found! The Girl Beneath The Sea turned out to be exactly the thrilling and exhilarating dose of action and detective thriller I didn’t even know I was craving until I started reading it.

I love that it’s not just your average detective thriller. Not only is the main character Sloan McPherson a police diver and not a detective, but her father is a treasure hunter and her uncle is actually currently in jail. Talk about a colorful background for a colorful character who without doubt kicks ass! Sloan is very easy to connect to and I really liked both her attitude and her resourcefulness in general. She is not an official cop perse, and mostly lended out to help other police forces when an expert diver is needed. This gives the story an unique and very entertaining angle indeed… And when faced with danger, Sloan is not scared to take things in her own hands either and investigate unofficially. This whole premise makes for some very entertaining and action-packed reading!

I loved both the diving and treasure hunt angle, and especially just how big of a role both played in the plot as a whole. These elements give the story an unique touch and the Miami setting definitely helps setting the right tone for this extremely fast and sharp action thriller. I also liked how the diving element is incorporated not only through the fact that Sloan is a police diver and we see her at work, but also through her father and his treasure hunts as well as later on in the plot as it evolves. This isn’t just your plain detective case and things are bound to get very wet and perilous indeed! Especially towards the ending as the tension and danger are about to explode… Definitely make sure to brace yourself for a thrilling ride that doesn’t even give you room to breathe until you are desperate to come up for air.

The plot itself is entertaining, action-packed and basically a mix of a detective and action thriller with that mafia vibe and a hint of a conspiracy plot thrown in as a bonus. It has that lightning fast CSI Miami vibe and plenty of threats and action around every corner… It has plot twists in store for you as well, although the main focus is mainly on the action itself and Sloan trying to solve the case and save their lives. If you like your thrillers fast and dangerous, you will be in for a treat with this first book of a new series!


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ARC REVIEW: Swipe Right – by Stephie Chapman

Title: Swipe Right 
Author: Stephie Chapman
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
First published: May 13th 2020
Publisher: Hera Books
Finished reading: May 4th 2020
Pages: ?

“I try and compartmentalise the way Ollie makes me feel but whichever way I look at it I end up confused because the lines are so blurred it makes it impossible to fit into tidy little boxes.”

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

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My reading mood has changed in these strange times and I’ve been craving more contemporaries than usual… I was in the mood for a proper romcom and I thought I had hit the jackpot as soon as I read the blurb of Swipe Right. It sounded like such a cute and fun read, and I have been looking forward to it ever since I first heard about it. I’m not sure why, but somehow I ended up having mixed feelings about this story instead despite the fact I was in the mood for the genre… First of all I have to stress that Swipe Right is by no means a bad read and I’m having a feeling romance fans will absolutely love this story. Especially since contemporary romance isn’t my favorite genre in the first place and despite being in the mood for this type of read, some elements just might have been too much for me… I’ll try to explain what worked and didn’t work for me below.

I have to say that I really liked the idea behind the blurb, the vibe of Viral Hive and all the characters involved. Fran, Ollie and their colleagues are easy to like and that makes it really easy to stay invested and fly through those pages. I also quite like the whole ‘friends to lovers’ trope, especially as the dynamics between Fran and Ollie work so well… BUT. Directly related to this are all those cliches that keep being thrown at you along the way. Romance cliches, the bad dates, more than one love triangle (and you all know how I detest those in the first place!), the cheating, sexy scenes… Each of these on its own would already bother me, but having all those elements thrown at me without space for a little breather started to irritate me more and more. I would have loved to see more focus on the growing relationship between Fran and Ollie instead of all the love triangle related mess and the whole cheating angle too… And while the bad dates can be seen as funny, they were just too cliche and basically cringeworthy for me.

That said, I know my reaction is a bit biased as I’m allergic to both love triangles and the cheating angle in my romcoms… And you all know it’s not exactly my favorite genre in the first place. Fran and Ollie are lovely though and there were a lot of things I did enjoy about Swipe Right, so I’m having a feeling anyone who enjoys a good romcom will probably have an excellent time with this story.


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BLOG TOUR REVIEW: The Creak On The Stairs – by Eva Björg Ægisdóttir #blogtour #RandomThingsTours @Orendabooks @annecater

Hello and welcome to my stop of the The Creak On The Stairs Random Things Tours blog tour! A huge thanks to Anne Cater for inviting me to be part of this blog tour. I have a weak spot for nordic noir and as soon as I read the blurb of The Creak On The Stairs I knew I just had to read it. Especially since two fellow trusted bloggers had already raved about it too… And now I’ve had the chance to read this first book of a new series, I can say that they were absolutely right to do so. Want to know why? Please join me while I share my thoughts!

Title: The Creak On The Stairs
(Forbidden Iceland #1)
Author: Eva Björg Ægisdóttir
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: April 24th 2018
Publisher: Orenda Books
Finished reading: April 25th 2020
Pages: 315
(Originally written in Icelandic: ‘Marrið í stiganum’)

“She had to remind herself that she wasn’t a little girl anymore.

That the real evil wasn’t to be found lurking in dark corners but in the human soul.”

*** 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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It’s no secret that I love my nordic noir and I’m always looking for new authors to discover. I admit that I was sold as soon as I read the blurb of The Creak On The Stairs, and the raving reviews of two fellow trusted bloggers (yes, Eva and Kelly, YOU!) only confirmed to me that I made the right decision to join the blog tour. I have been looking forward to read The Creak On The Stairs ever since I read those reviews and I now completely agree this is a fantastic start of a new nordic noir series.

There is a lot to love in The Creak On The Stairs… The first thing that stands out is the Icelandic setting. I love foreign settings as it makes me feel like I’m travelling from the comfort of my own reading chair… And the atmospheric and extensive descriptions did just that and really made Iceland come alive for me. Thanks to the thorough descriptions, it is very easy to visualize the different Icelandic settings and it makes it feel as if you were right next to the main characters seeing the world through their eyes. The Icelandic setting was the perfect backdrop for this story and gave the plot that cold and daunting feel any nordic noir fan will be delighted with.

I also loved both the plot and the writing. And that means the writing in general, and not just the previously mentioned descriptions… The writing is enticing, well paced and very successful at drawing you in from the very first chapter. The plot itself is intriguing and I really liked the structure of the story in general. You are thrown in without knowing much of the main characters and have different POVs and flashbacks to juggle, but it only added to the suspense and intrigue instead of slowing you down. The complex structure of the plot allows the story to hide things from you, with the result that you have more than one secret to unravel. The woman showing up dead, who is behind it, the secrets of her past, the secrets of our new lead character Elma… There are a lot of puzzles to solve and isn’t that the best thing while reading a detective thriller?

As for the characters… It looks like we have another lead character detective with a complicated past on our hands, although we are not exactly told what happened in her past and this definitely added to the intrigue around Elma. We actually don’t get to know her all that much in the first Forbidden Iceland book, but the bites we get offered were more than promising and leave you wanting for more. I liked the dynamics of the detective team in Akranes in general too. The other characters in play were all well developed and felt realistic, and even though most were not all that easy to like, I wasn’t too bothered by that as they all played their roles flawlessly. Especially Beta turned out to be an absolutely fascinating character study.

The Creak On The Stairs also isn’t afraid to go dark and this includes difficult topics such as (child) abuse and alcoholism. Especially the first plays quite a big role and might be a turn off for some… But the element was developed realistically and played an important role in both the plot and the character development. The plot twists and reveals of the different secrets are well balanced out in the plot, and the ending definitely left me wanting for the next book of the series. Because while the case in the first book was solved, I’m more than ready to see more of Elma and her team!

Dark, ominous and atmospheric, this first book of the Forbidden Iceland series shows us an image of Iceland any nordic noir fan would love to discover. It’s an excellent start of a new series that is more than worth being on your radar if you enjoy the genre!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Born in Akranes in 1988, Eva moved to Trondheim, Norway to study my MSc in Globalisation when she was 25. After moving back home having completed her MSc, she knew it was time to start working on her novel. Eva has wanted to write books since she was 15 years old, having won a short story contest in Iceland.

Eva worked as a stewardess to make ends meet while she wrote her first novel. The book went on to win the Blackbird Award and became an Icelandic bestseller. Eva now lives with her husband and three children in Reykjavík, staying at home with her youngest until she begins Kindergarten.


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ARC REVIEW: Little Whispers – by K.L. Slater

Title: Little Whispers
Author: K.L. Slater
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: May 21st 2020
Publisher: Bookouture
Finished reading: April 19th 2020
Pages: 259

“But how far should we go in our quest? What should we put up with, or hide, to stop our kids from hurting or facing the truth?”

*** 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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It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of anything K.L. Slater writes, and I’m always looking out for any of her new psychological thrillers. Having the chance to read two new titles in less than a month is definitely a huge bonus for me! I was intrigued by the premise of Little Whispers and I have been looking forward to pick it up. And as always, the writing is most definitely solid and it turned out to be an entertaining psychological thriller. Definitely a great pick for fans of domestic thrillers with a fair share of secrets!

While I confess that this story isn’t my favorite Slater and I did feel that some of that spark was missing when I read the story, I still think Little Whispers is a more than solid read. It might just even be that these kind of domestic psychological thrillers just are not a good match for me right now… Because let’s face it: in these strange times my reading taste has been all over the place and can hardly be trusted. That said, let’s see if I can explain briefly what made me feel this way. First of all, I liked the premise of the story and the idea of ‘outsiders’ moving into a new posh neighborhood and trying to fit in makes for an intriguing story. The main focus is on the secrets and gossip of course… And I liked how the tension and suspense was slowly build up without giving away those secrets and twists.

That said, I do have to say is that I found some of the reveals to be quite an anti-climax, and especially those secrets relating to Janey’s past. Somehow I was expecting something a whole lot more daunting? Sure, it was shocking and all, but I don’t see why it should affect Janey that much as it didn’t involve anything she did or could have influenced personally. It did raise an interesting question though: how far are we accountable for the actions of others? This question is also raised by the actions of her husband of course, and in a lesser way in Tracy too. In fact, we have a big cast of characters with things to hide, and as a consequence a lot of secrets and lies to unravel along the way…

The story uses a separate POV (in cursive) to add an ominous feel to the whole situation, as the woman in question seems to be in accute danger and you wonder how she fits in with the rest of the story. Switching between her and the other characters in play definitely added more suspense as well as making the plot feel more complex. As for the characters… I have to be honest here and say I wasn’t really able to connect to any of them, but their development was well handled and their personalities fitted the part they played in the plot. And there were definitely a couple plot twists I didn’t see coming! Especially those relating to the final reveals and the whole situation involving what Janey’s husband was up to…

In short, Little Whispers is without doubt a solid psychological thriller that has that domestic vibe. While it’s not my favorite of hers, I can still recommend it to anyone who enjoys reading the genre.


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