ARC REVIEW: Keep You Close – by Karen Cleveland

Title: Keep You Close
Author: Karen Cleveland
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: May 28th 2019
Publisher: Random House UK
Finished reading: January 28th 2020
Pages: 352

“It was the idea of the law that I loved. Rules that everyone followed. Consequences for breaking them. The law was black-and-white. It was fair.”

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

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I have heard so many wonderful things about Karen Cleveland‘s debut Need To Know and I have been curious to try out her books. As soon as I read the blurb of Keep You Close, I was immediately intrigued and just couldn’t resist trying this story first. I thought I was going to be in for an intense and action-packed ride, and I have been looking forward to read a proper action thriller with possible espionage/conspiracy plot elements again as it has been a while. I kind of wish I sticked with just trying her debut now instead, because I have to be honest here and say that I was seriously underwhelmed by Keep You Close. I’ll try to explain below why…

I’m still not sure if it was just me, or actually the book, but the fact is that Keep You Close and me definitely didn’t get along. I normally like action-packed stories and I’m a sucker for a good conspiracy plot, so this story should have been right up my alley… Instead, I was left with feelings of frustration and lack of interest for the duration of this book. It’s hard putting my finger exactly on why I had such an averse reaction to this story, but there were definitely a few elements I had issues with. Because it wasn’t just a lack of connection to and interest for the story… There were quite a few elements that just didn’t work for me.

The first thing I can mention is the plot and general structure of the plot. I felt that both the plot, structure and also the flashbacks were simply all over the place. POV switches and flashbacks are kind of dropped on you as you are trying to follow what FBI agent Stephanie Maddox is up to; this is highly distracting, makes the plot feel chaotic and slowed down the pace. Instead of adding the tension and suspense I guess was the intention of using those techniques, especially those POV switches only distracted from the plot itself. Talking about the plot, I also didn’t think both the plot and the plot twists were credible at all and mostly way over the top. I get the whole conspiracy plot and the complicated situation Steph finds herself in, but this mostly seemed like a cliche and caricature way of describing it all, with over the top Hollywood spy movie scenes and twists. The ending left way too many questions unanswered and wasn’t satisfying at all either… I’m not sure if this book just wasn’t for me despite my love for conspiracy plots, but either way Keep You Close was definitely a miss for me.

As for the writing: I can’t say that I was a fan. While I can’t deny that it was a fast read despite the pace slowing down in places (especially during those flashbacks and sudden POV switches), I can’t say I was enjoying myself while reading it. This is probably a personal reaction to her writing style though, as most people seem to love her writing (or at least those reviews I read about her debut). I guess it’s unpopular opinion review time again? Anyway, that was not all. The characters likewise ended up letting me down. I felt that they were underdeveloped and described mostly using cliches; flat and one-dimentional characters I had a hard time connecting to. Steph is the typical ‘strong female main character’ with a messed up past but fierce at her work. She really isn’t being developed all that beyond that, and that is truly a shame. Likewise, the other characters in play are not really developed beyond basic information and cliches either, which makes it hard to connect to them. The focus is instead on the over the top and not credible at all plot, which I clearly wasn’t a fan of either.

I guess my instincts are not always right… I really thought I was going to love this story, especially since I love my conspiracy plots and action-packed thrillers, but Keep You Close was most definitely not my cup of tea. Unpopular opinion or not, I guess we can’t like them all, can we?


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ARC REVIEW: The Summer Children – by Dot Hutchison @DotHutchison @amazonpub

Title: The Summer Children
(The Collector #3)
Author: Dot Hutchison
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: May 22nd 2018
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Finished reading: April 14th 2018
Pages: 302

“Scars mean we survived something, even when the wounds still hurt.”

*** 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 have been following this series ever since I read the first book back in 2016. The Butterfly Garden blew me away with one of the most disturbing and twisted serial killer cases I’ve encountered to this date. And somehow, I think The Summer Children is my new favorite of the series. Because while I remember having some doubts about the pace in the middle of the first book, it was literally hook, line and sinker with The Summer Children. I practically devoured this third book of The Collector series and couldn’t let go until the final page. Dot Hutchison has created another intense, disturbing and painful case, and this time things are getting really personal for Mercedes Ramirez. The Summer Children is intense until the very last page and despite the heavy subject I loved every single minute of the ride. Why? First of all, the writing style is just as strong as ever, engaging, gritty and with a perfect mix of suspense, shocking moments and a healthy dose of bantering and a dash of humor. I also loved the mix of normal chapters with the thoughts in cursive! The characters are both well developed and very easy to like and I just love the dynamics between Mercedes and the rest of her team. And no, I’m not just biased by the fact she consistantly uses Spanish phrases and words in her dialogue (don’t worry, non-Spanish speakers will still be able to understand the dialogue perfectly!) The characters in general feel very realistic and all have their flaws and history, making them that much more human and very easy to warm up to. The serial killer in this case has an underlying message that will make you think… A trigger warning is in place for graphic scenes and child abuse for those who can’t stomach these elements in stories. But not without a note that these elements are very well incorporated into the story and not abused in any way. There are also lots of twists and turns included as they try to figure out who is behind it all. The Summer Children was strong from start to finish and this is the main reason this third book is now my new favorite of the series. And I just can’t wait to find out what the next book has in store for us next year.

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WARNING: Possible spoilers! Please don’t read this summary if you haven’t read the first two books yet. I’ll keep the summary super short but it’s impossible to keep it completely spoiler-free…

FBI agent Mercedes Ramirez has no idea what she has just gotten into when she finds an abused little boy on her porch, both covered in blood and clutching a teddy bear. He tells her an angel killed his parents and then brought him to Mercedes’ house so she can keep him safe. But it wasn’t just murder, it was a complete bloodbath; and the poor boy was forced to watch as the crime was committed. They have never seen something like this before… And things become even worse when more children start arriving on her doorstep.

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I thought it was going to be hard to outshine The Butterfly Garden, since it’s one of the best/most disturbed serial killer characterizations I’ve come across. But somehow, I think The Summer Children is the best book yet. From a consistant and superfast pace to likeable and realistic characters, a well developed plot and another intriguing and disturbing case… This third book just ticked all the boxes for me. Add the joy of revisiting old favorite characters and their bantering, and you have a new favorite The Collector book. Can you guess already I can recommend this one if you can stomach the graphic scenes and child abuse triggers?


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