ARC REVIEW: Cold Fear – by Mads Peder Nordbo

Title: Cold Fear
(Greenland #2)

Author: Mads Peder Nordbo
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: March 17th 2018
Publisher: Text Publishing
Finished reading: October 23rd 2019
Pages: 357
(Originally published in Danish: ‘Kold Angst’)

“Sorry is the most useless word ever invented.”

*** 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 really enjoyed the first book The Girl Without Skin despite its brutalness last year, so as soon as I saw there was going to be a sequel I knew I had to add it to my wishlist. Main characters Matthew and Tupaarnaq are without doubt fascinating to follow, and I’ve been looking forward to discover what would happen to them next… Before I discuss my thoughts on Cold Fear, I first have to stress that this is one of those series you have to read in order, because this sequel wouldn’t make much sense if you try to read it as a standalone. Trust me, you wouldn’t do yourself a favor if you pick up Cold Fear before reading the first book!

That said, let’s continue with my thoughts on Cold Fear. After enjoying the first book, I was totally expecting to have a good reading experience with the sequel as well… But it turns out I ended up having mixed thoughts about it. First of all I have to say that the Greenland setting really complements the plot in many ways. Instead of being just a random setting for the story to take place, the harsh, brutal and almost ominous Greenland setting is almost omnipresent and almost feels like yet another character taking part in this story. Between the many descriptions and the role of the Greenland setting in the plot, it really made the different places mentioned in Cold Fear come alive for me… And it turns this series into a fantastic example of the powers of the unforgivable Nordic setting that makes reading nordic noir so special.

One of the things that stands out in Cold Fear is the sheer brutality of the plot. Almost excessive violence, murder, canibalism, abuse, rape, child abuse, rape, drug abuse… All of this and more is included into a plot filled with graphic scenes and this story is definitely not for those with a weak stomach. I myself don’t mind things getting bloody and violent, but I did start to wonder if this story went a little too extreme and took it one step too far… Some scenes just seemed excessive, especially those set in the bunker and everything related to the (child)abuse and rape. Trigger warning are definitely in place! Related to this, I also felt the plot itself was a bit too over the top, farfetched and the story itself lacked cohesion for me. Even with the knowledge of the first book, I had a hard time following the story at times and I guess the 1990s flashbacks didn’t really help either. Things can get a little confusing and I personally wasn’t all that satisfied by certain explanations nor how the story ended. I would have liked to see less seemingly useless violent graphic scenes and more background and plot building… As it was, the story just jumped all over the place for me, without giving a satisfying direction or justifying said violence and deaths.

As for the characters… Matthew and Tupaarnaq are without doubt fascinating characters, but I felt their development lacked more fleshing out in the sequel. Especially when it comes to Tupaarnaq, who didn’t seem to present and mostly reverted to cliches when she did appear in the plot. Likewise, Tom and the other more important characters also lacked fleshing out for me. I felt that the focus point of Cold Fear was basically on the extreme violence and making this story as brutal and shocking as possible, and as a consequence I don’t think the sequel reached its full potential nor lived up to expectations for me. Others did react better to Cold Fear though, so take my rambles with a grain of salt and don’t hesitate to try it if you think you can stomach the graphic scenes…


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ARC REVIEW: Deadly Silence – by OMJ Ryan

Title: Deadly Silence
(Detective Jane Phillips #1)

Author: OMJ Ryan
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: October 26th 2019
Publisher: Inkubator Books
Finished reading: October 26th 2019
Pages: 311

“We all feel like that, Guv. He has a very punch-able face. The trick is not to let it show.”

*** 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 think it has become pretty obvious I have a weak spot for a good serial killer thriller… It turns out I was craving another dose without even knowing so, because when I read Meggy’s review of Deadly Silence I immediately caved in and somehow a copy of this new detective series ended up hanging out on my kindle. My current read wasn’t really working for me, so I decided to put that on hold and start reading Deadly Silence instead. Best decision ever! Meggy always makes the best recommendations, and this new series is without doubt fabulous and right up my alley!

There is a lot to love in Deadly Silence, but let’s just start with the fact that this first installment of a new detective series is so damn readable! I found myself hooked from the very first chapter and flying through those pages like there was no tomorrow… The only reason I didn’t finish it in one sitting is that I started it too late in the evening to do so, because this story definitely makes you want to keep reading. Engaging, well written, suspenseful, shocking and even a dash of dark humor here and there… The writing was definitely everything I could have wished for and more. The plot itself was without doubt well developed as well. The case Jane and her team have to investigate is a tricky one, and as key information has been hidden for you, you won’t be able to form a proper idea about the motive behind the killings straight away. Instead, plot twists and secrets are used to misguide you… Quite successfully as well, although I do have to admit I guessed who was behind it quite early on. Somehow I didn’t mind too much though, as the story itself was engaging enough to keep me focused and make me want to discover if I was right all along.

As for the characters… Jane Phillips without doubt makes for a very intriguing main character. Things can be said about her being the typical damaged detective lead, but I personally liked her sass and attitude towards the investigation and life in general. The other members of her team were easy to like as well, with the big exception of Brown of course. He is truly exasperating and will make you want to hit things sooner than later… Also, I don’t get how he could actually function as a DCI, but I guess he does make for the perfect ‘enemy’ to be pitted against our main character Jane. The character development in Deadly Silence in general is solid and I really liked the message behind the motive of the killer and the story. Keeping silent and doing nothing can be just as damaging… Silence can be deadly, especially if the silence lasts for a long time.

As you might have guessed, I really enjoyed my time with Deadly Silence and I will be looking forward to the next book. If you are, like me, a serial killer and detective thriller fan, you should add definitely add this title to your wishlist! Thanks again Meggy for putting Deadly Silence on my radar. ❤


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YVO’S SHORTIES #124 – The Passengers & The Unbound

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around a new release and a backlist title, both my favorite authors. The Passengers by John Marrs turned out to be an absolutely brilliant read and one of my 2019 favorites… And while I was surprised that I didn’t enjoy The Unbound as much as the first book, it was without doubt still a solid read.


Title: The Passengers
Author: John Marrs

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: April 1st 2019
Publisher: Berkley
Finished reading: August 31st 2019
Pages: 416

“Nothing disappears any more,’ shrugged Cadman. ‘Everything is somewhere. All that’s private becomes public in the end.”


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I’ve been excited to read The Passengers ever since I first read that first raving review a while back… I couldn’t wait for my pre-order to arrive, but somehow I didn’t pick it up straight away when it did… I’m kicking myself now, because the reviews were absolutely right: this is an absolutely brilliant read. I’ve read his work in the past and I already knew I was going to like it, but The Passengers simply blew me away. What a read! The writing, the plot, the near-future setting, the twists, the characters… I loved it all, found myself to be glued to my seat and couldn’t stop reading until I discovered how it would all end. Some scenes are pretty brutal, but only show just how dire the situation the characters find themselves in is. The development of the near future is excellently done and I feel they give us a (terrifying) glimpse of what the future could be. I’m personally not sure if I would want driverless cars or having my whole life available online; and especially not after finishing The Passengers… Both plot and character development are well executed and there are so many secrets and twists involved that you will never guess what is going on or who is behind it all… I liked how this story was divided into three different parts, and the ending was satisfying. The Passengers is an absolutely brilliant book and hands down one of my favorites of 2019… If you haven’t read this one, you definitely should give it a go!


Title: The Unbound
(The Archived #2)
Author: Victoria Schwab

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Paranormal
First published: January 28th 2014
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Finished reading: September 1st 2019
Pages: 368

“Doubt is not a crime, Agatha. It is only a tool to test our faith. It can break us, but it can also make us stronger.”


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I decided to pick up the sequel of this series while memories of the first book were still fresh for a change… I loved The Archived and have been looking forward to dive into the world again. And while I have to say I didn’t enjoy The Unbound as much as the first book, I can’t deny it was still a solid book. The worldbuilding is still strong, the urban fantasy feeling with a paranormal touch right there and center, and I really like the idea of the Narrows, the Archived and the Keepers and Crew using doors to move around and do their job. The writing is of the same high quality I’ve become used to with Schwab‘s books, and it was really easy to keep turning those pages. My main issue is with the new direction of this story and the focus shifting towards the ‘real’ world, including a lot of private school scenes, cliches and even a love triangle. I get that Mac is a mess after what happened to her in the first book, but I wasn’t a fan of how her character behaved in the sequel. I also guessed the big plot twist really early on, which kind of put a damper on things… This is by no means a happy read and I did have some minor issues with this sequel, but overall it is still a very solid read. I’m definitely looking forward to see if she will write a third The Archived book!


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BOOK REVIEW: Keeper – by Johana Gustawsson @Orendabooks

Title: Keeper
(Emily Roy & Alexis Castells #2)
Author: Johana Gustawsson
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: March 15th 2017
Publisher: Orenda Books
Finished reading: August 27th 2019
Pages: 300
(Originally written in French: ‘Mör’)

“The news had hung in mid-air for a moment, a millisecond of incomprehension and doubt when reality only existed in words, as if it were gearing up to hit you where it hurts.”


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And it happened again… As with the first book of the Emily Roy & Alexis Castells series, I’ve been struggling to get a word on paper after finishing Keeper last week. Such is the power of these books! Many fellow bloggers have recommended this series to me over time, and I’ve definitely become a fan. Keeper has only reconfirmed my love for this series, and even a week after I’m still recovering from the shock of this absolutely brilliant and without doubt disturbing read. But it’s time for me to stop procrastinating as I really want to dive into my copy of Blood Song, so let’s see if I can put together a somewhat coherent review…

Like in the first book, the first thing that stands out in Keeper is the combination of two of my favorite genres: historical fiction and crime fiction. And not just any historical period: this sequel involves the infamous Jack The Ripper! That alone is a huge bonus for me, but having both genres merged so successfully really turns this series into something special. Both past and present are excellently developed and Johana Gustawsson has a way of making you feel like you are right there next to the characters. The historical chapters are described realistically and in great detail; I really loved how she incorporated the Jack The Ripper references into the plot as well. The historical chapters give this crime thriller an unique touch and once again really enhanced the reading experience for me.

Another thing I loved is the international setting. Having part of the story set in Sweden definitely added more dept to the story, especially with similar murders being discovered in both London and Sweden. Descriptions of both the Swedish setting and culture are thorough and give you the perfect backdrop for this blood chilling read. Because there is one thing for sure: you will have to prepare yourself for a particularly harrowing and brutal read…Trigger warnings are in place for themes including (child) abuse, addiction and (extreme) violence. Oh yes, this is not just another ‘simple’ serial killer case, and the things you will learn about the past and present will leave you flabbergasted. Keeper is definitely a keeper, but only for those with a strong stomach! You will get some relief though in the form of new favorite characters Emily Roy and Alexis Castells. Apart from the fact that I love that they are not the typical detective leads, but instead are a profiler (Emily Roy) and a true-crime writer (Alexis Castells), I really like both their dynamics and their personal development in this sequel. There was another character that really stood out for me in Keeper though: Aliénor. She really added a little something extra to the present chapters set in Sweden and I hope we will see more of her in the future… That said, the other characters are likewise well developed and it was fascinating to learn more about the who, how and why behind the murders as well as trying to discover how it could be connected to the events in 1888.

The structure of the plot is complex and has multiple POVs, flashbacks and different settings. This only adds to the richness of this story and it is one of the reasons this series in general is one of my favorite new discoveries this year. The chapters are well balanced despite the multiple POVs and settings… Since you already know quite a lot of characters from Block 46, it is really easy to just dive in, forget about pending chores and fully immerse yourself into the story. The writing is simply beautifully and the pace is just right; it was hook, line, and sinker from the very first chapter and I finished this briliant read in no time at all, albeit with a few fingernails less than before. Why? I can guarantee that the excellently developed plot twists, well placed moments of suspense and shocking paragraphs will have you biting your nails and checking your blood pressure repeatedly in no time at all.

In short, if you enjoy a well written, expertly crafted and unique crime thriller with a historical twist, you should definitely schedule yourself a meeting with Emily Roy and Alexis Castells. Both Block 46 and Keeper are exceptional books I can highly recommend to any fan of the genre.


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BLOG TOUR REVIEW: Wolves At The Door – by Gunnar Staalesen #blogtour #RandomThingsTours #WolvesAtTheDoor #VargVeum #NordicNoir @Orendabooks @annecater

Hello and welcome to my little stop of the Wolves At The Door Random Things blog tour! A huge thanks to Anne Cater for inviting me to be part of this blog tour. I’ve been meaning to plan a meeting with Varg Veum for a long time now, and when I was invited to the blog tour I saw it as a sign I should no longer pospone it. I’m definitely kicking myself for waiting this long to meet him now! Want to know why? Please join me while I share my thoughts on Wolves At The Door.

Title: Wolves At The Door
(Varg Veum #21)
Author: Gunnar Staalesen
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: April 13th 2019
Publisher: Orenda Books
Finished reading: June 10th 2019
Pages: 276
(Originally published in Norwegian:’Utenfor er hundene’)

“Someone was lying to me, and one thing was sure: in such cases as this I seldom gave up until I found out who it was. And why.”

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

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I think one problem all of us book bloggers have to face is the fact that there are so many fantastic sounding series and books out there and hardly enough time to even make a dent into the pile of unread priority titles. Meeting Varg Veum has been on my to-do list for a long long time now, but somehow other books always got in the way… I think the first time this Nordic Noir series appeared on my radar was with the publication of book number eighteen, Where Roses Never Die, back in 2017. While I prefer reading a series in order, with each publication fellow book bloggers kept promising the books can be read quite satisfactory as a standalone as well. So when I was invited for the blog tour for Wolves At The Door, I decided to jump in the deep end and finally meet Varg Veum without further excuses. (And let’s face it, there was no way I would be able to find time to read the first twenty books and catch up in the first place.)

Wolves At The Door is already the twenty first installment of the Varg Veum series, but as I was promised with the previous books, the story works really well as a standalone as well. The only thing that is bound to happen is that you, like myself, will be left wanting to spend more time with a new favorite character and end up reading the previous books anyway as soon as you can find time for them… Because such is the power of Varg Veum. I can understand why this series has been going on for as long as it has, because Varg Veum is a force to reckon with. He is one of those characters that I connected to immediately and profoundly. As soon as you read the first chapter, he feels familiar and it’s as if you have known him for ages already. His description, his way of seeing the world, his attitude, the way he speaks, reacts and deducts information from what he learns along the way, his humor… Meeting Varg Veum was like seeing an old friend again after a long time apart, knowing you won’t let him slip this easily from your life again now he’s back in the picture. I don’t often feel a connection this strong to a character after such a short time, but consider me officially on #TeamVargVeum from now on.

Varg Veum is not the only thing that makes Wolves At The Door into such a success for me. A lot of it had to do with both the writing style itself and the many detailed descriptions making the cold Nordic setting truly come alive. I haven’t had the chance to visit Norway yet, but I feel like I really got to know Bergen and its surroundings while reading Wolves At The Door. The detailed descriptions of not only the setting, but also the characters added a lot of dept to what was already an intriguing plot and gave the story a ominous and sinister atmosphere. The writing itself is excellent; we have the wonderful translation by Don Bartlett to thank for that, because we wouldn’t have been able to enjoy this Nordic Noir gem otherwise. While the pace is slower in especially the first half of the story, it never really slowed me down as I saw it as an opportunity to get to know Varg Veum and other key characters better. The writing style and humor was spot on for me and I’ve become an instant fan of Gunnar Staalesen‘s work. As things are getting more heated for Varg Veum, the pace as well as the suspense pick up… Making you move towards the edge of your seat while you keep your fingers crossed everything will work out in the end.

Wolves At The Door deals with a very difficult topic, one that is trigger warning worthy: child abuse. An emotionally harrowing topic and very hard to write or read about, but I feel that Gunnar Staalesen has tackled the subject in an honorable and realistic way. It doesn’t make it easier to read about both the past case (I imagine has been discussed in the previous book I can’t wait to read now) and the new discoveries our main character Varg Veum makes as he follows his intuition… But it justifies going down that road and explore such a sensitive theme. The story will probably provoke strong emotions though, and you will definitely feel anger towards certain characters and events before you reach the final page. Of course, it’s always a good sign a story is able to make you feel such strong emotions in the first place… And there is no doubt whatsoever that Wolves At The Door is a brilliant piece of Nordic Noir and a harrowing story that will touch even those with the coldest heart.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

One of the fathers of the Nordic Noir genre, Gunnar Staalesen was born in
Bergen, Norway in 1947. He made his debut at the age of twenty-two with
Seasons of Innocence and in 1977 he published the first book in the Varg
Veum series. He is the author of over twenty-three titles, which have been
published in twenty-six countries and sold over five million copies. Twelve film
adaptations of his Varg Veum crime novels have appeared since 2007, starring
the popular Norwegian actor Trond Epsen Seim, and a further series is
currently being filmed. Staalesen, who has won three Golden Pistols (including
the Prize of Honour) and the Petrona Award, and been shortlisted for the CWA
Dagger, lives in Bergen with his wife.


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BLOG TOUR REVIEW: The Pumilio Child – by Judy McInerney #randomthingstour

Hello and welcome to my little stop of the The Pumilio Child Random Things Tour! A huge thanks to Anne Cater for inviting me to be part of this blog tour. The Pumilio Child has first been published last year and has been put in the spotlight during the blog tour which started on February 25th and will continue until March 6th. Please join me while I share my thoughts on The Pumilio Child

Title: The Pumilio Child
Author: Judy McInerney
Genre: Historical Fiction
First published: September 20th 2018
Publisher: Unbound Digital
Finished reading: February 23rd 2019
Pages: 405

“It is nature. And the will of the Divine. That’s how life is. Cruel and unfair. We may question the injustice, but we both know we are powerless against it.”

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

Ya Ling’s cultured life of privilege in Beijing is cruelly cut short when she is abducted and shipped to the slave market in Venice. When Mantegna sees her chained to a post, his initial intention is to paint her exotic beauty, but he soon he desires her company for pleasures of a more private nature. Ya Ling has two ambitions, to ruin Mantegna, then to escape back to her family in China. However, Mantegna’s latest commission, two huge frescos for the ruling Gonzaga family, make him invincible.

Will Ya Ling survive? And can she succeed?

Give me the promise of a historical fiction story with a foreign setting and other cultures to explore and I’m sold without needing to know more. This is exactly what happened when I first heard about The Pumilio Child and its mix of Chinese and Italian culture. The setting on its own is fascinating, and I loved the little glimpses of 15th century Mongol/Han culture in Beijing and life in the same period in Italy. The writing is quite engaging and includes lots of descriptions of both places. I did find the timelapses in especially the part set in Italy to be quite random and without warning though; sometimes days, months or even years passed between one sentence and the other just like that. This made the story feel less coherent and disturbed the flow of the plot. The ending was a bit abrupt; especially if you consider the fact that a lot of the plot was quite slow and the story dragged in parts.

As for the characters: I’m not completely positive Ya Ling is that credible as a character. She seems overconfident and able to overcome enormous obstacles so far from home even after such a shelted childhood in a completely different country and culture… The way she acted and some of the things she did just didn’t manage to convince me. I loved the details about the healing and different plants as well as the details about the Asian culture though. On the other side we have Mantegna. I confess I don’t know anything about the real Mantegna, so I wasn’t offended by the fact that he is supposedly nothing like the character as described in The Pumilio Child. He is absolutely despicable in the story, but I guess every story needs a villain… I loved the many descriptions of the art though. Trigger warnings are in place for (child) abuse, rape, discrimination and violence among other things. Then again, the story is set back in the 15th century, so we are all aware of the fac tthat women (and especially slaves) are not treated the same way back then.

There were things I liked in this story, including the foreign culture and many references to the healing abilities of Ya Ling and her family. There is a lot to say about the plot as well, with the various surprises it has in store and twists you probably won’t see coming. The story didn’t seem to flow all that well though, mainly due to the sudden timelapses and jumping in time. When you see a characters with lots of details about daily life and a really slow pace, only for them to suddenly be days/months/years in the future in a completely different situation, this can become a bit confusing. Also, after such a slow-paced and character driven start, the final part of The Pumilio Child (starting with their final time at the court) felt a bit rushed and the ending was too abrupt for me.

That said, The Pumilio Child is by no means a bad read and historical fiction fans who like character driven stories with a foreign setting will have a great time discovering all about Ya Ling’s unfortunate life.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Judy McInerney has lived and worked in London for most of her professional life. Living in the Middle East, she managed to get lost in the desert, and to live through a military coup. After teaching in Abu Dhabi and starting her own business in Turkey, she returned to London and completed a creative writing course at Goldsmiths. Writing for food and travel guides has enabled her to justify travelling and eating out far too often

As a frequent traveller to China over the last thirty years she has seen the country undergo massive seismic changes, – from the times of Mao jackets and vast shoals of bicycles meandering along every hutong, to the present day, where Beijing is bigger than Belgium and has six million cars. She still travels in China each year to keep in close touch with family there. She also has a longstanding love affair with Italy, particularly the Renaissance cities of the north. Mantua is an undiscovered gem, both magical and macabre.

Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Pumilio-Child-Judy-McInerney/


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ARC REVIEW: Cold Dark Places – by Kylie Brant @amazonpub

Title: Cold Dark Places
(Cady Maddix Mystery #1)
Author: Kylie Brant
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: December 4th 2018
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Finished reading: November 18th 2018
Pages: 350

“People didn’t always act the way they should. Not even grown-ups. Sometimes the people who were supposed to protect you from monsters were monsters themselves.”

*** 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 admit I was sold as soon as I saw the cover and read the blurb. A stunning cover AND the promise of meeting a new twisted serial killer? Yes please! I have been looking forward to start Cold Dark Places and there is no doubt that the story delivered. This complex, action-packed and heart stoppingly good thriller was everything I hoped for and more… The perfect start of a new series. What I liked is that Cold Dark Places isn’t just another detective thriller and instead treats us to a multiple POV story where we get to follow four different characters including the killer, two different law inforcement angles and a young woman with mental health issues. And that is not all: we also get a dose of flashbacks helping to reveal more about the past. This seems like a lot to stuff into just one thriller, but somehow Kylie Brant makes it work. A lot of this has to do with the excellent writing and a fast pace that will sweep you away until you have somehow reached the final page. The plot development and use of suspense and plot twists is also spot on: being able to create a constant atmosphere of urgency, danger and suspense. There is a lot of action involved as the hunt for the escaped killer is on, but this is not the only angle of the story. It is also about Eryn, her past and her mental issues, and we get indirect hints about Cady’s past as well. It was interesting to see how the different storylines slowly connected, and Cold Dark Places definitely has some shocking surprises in store for you. If you like your thrillers fast, action-packed, disturbing and suspenseful, this new series definitely is for you. Trigger warnings are in place for sexual and child abuse, violence and graphic scenes in general.

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When child killer Samuel Aldeen breaks out of a well guarded facility for the criminally insane, it is all hands on deck and everyone is called in to aid during the hunt. The authorities believe he had accomplices both on the inside and out, and it’s a race against the clock to find out their identities. Cady Maddix is one of the persons called in to track all of them down. When an unexpected lead brings her to Eryn Pullman, a young woman recently released from a closeby psychiatric facility, it not only brings back flashbacks of her own past but also more questions about the killer’s true motive behind his escape…

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I had a good feeling about Cold Dark Places and it turns out my instincts were right. I do love my detective thrillers, but I also love when a story is able to bring something original to the mix. Being able to get a glimpse inside of the head of both the serial killer Samuel and Eryn as well was simply fascinating. Another bonus was that both other POV characters Cady and Ryder were easy to like… The writing is spot on, the pace is superfast, the plot twists are brutal. Oh yes, this was one hell of a ride and an excellently constructed and complex one at that. I’ll be looking forward to see more of Cady Maddix in the future!


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